Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Quick Run Around The Web (12/23/2020)

VIDEO: "The Great Earthquake in the Last Days before the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ"--Gospel Lessons (11 min.). While the author of this video contends that a large meteor strike could be the cause of the extensive natural upheavals, the micro-nova postulated by Ben Davidson of Suspicious Observers seems to me to be a more likely mechanism. Also, although the author supposes that the area around Liberty, Missouri will become mountainous, the term "mountain" is also used in the scriptures to refer to a country or kingdom.

  • "Your Tactical Training Scenario: A Pistol Whipping and Gun Disarm"--Active Response Training. Short version is that a man with a concealed handgun was attacked, pistol whipped and knocked to the ground, and searched by the robbers who found his handgun and fled with it. Greg Ellifritz observes that the man is lucky to be alive, and notes circumstances where compliance will probably not work and you need to fight for your life even against overwhelming odds:

1) A criminal tries to take you to another location

2) A criminal tries to restrain you

3) A criminal puts you on the ground

4) A criminal attempts to search you

The good news is that Vista Outdoor has purchased the ammunition factory in Lonoke, AR—formerly owned by Remington Outdoor—and churning it back toward production at or near full capacity. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports 300 employees furloughed by the former owner of the plant will soon be recalled to join nearly 400 still working at the facility.
  • One of the classic cartridge debates: "Head to Head: .308 Winchester vs. .30-06 Springfield" by Philip Massaro, American Hunter. As with other articles debating these two, the two are so similar that the determination of the winner comes down to which offers the advantage to the reloader: the .30-06 winning because of case capacity. This allows hotter loads and/or heavier bullets than in the .308. 
  • Speaking of cartridge debates: "Is the .40 S&W Dead?" by Richard Mann, Shooting Illustrated. Mann lists many of the reasons why demand for .40 S&W is declining, but doesn't go so far as to say that the .40 S&W is dead. Rather, he writes, "[t]he .40 S&W is an excellent cartridge for the defensive handgun, it has just proved to be not enough better than the easier-carrying, higher-capacity, and softer-shooting 9 mm to matter." I've always believed that the main reason that the .40 S&W saw the popularity it did was because of the 10-round magazine limit during the era of the federal assault weapon's ban. If you are limited to 10-rounds, you might as well make each round bigger and more powerful. But the sheer number of firearms made for .40 S&W will keep it around into the foreseeable future. In fact, due to the glut of low cost .40 S&W handguns that have hit the markets over the last few years--law enforcement trade-ins as well as companies offloading extra stock--I know shooters that have built up their defensive handgun collection around the .40 S&W. 
  • "What’s The Best Way To Clean Brass?" by Art Merrill, Shooting Sports USA. The correct answer is "it depends." The article looks at the pros and cons of vibratory tumblers, ultra-sonic cleaners, and stainless steel pin rotary tumblers. I've had several readers recommend the steel pin route. 
  • "What's the Fastest Way to Reload Your Revolver?" by Chris Christian, Shooting Illustrated. An explanation of how to perform reloads with both the strong hand method and the weak hand method.
  • "Rear Sight Tool Works at the Range"--Shooting Sports USA. The Rear Sight Tool (RST) is a product made by Eneko allowing you to install or adjust push adjustable rear and front sights on semi-automatic pistols. I purchased one after coming across this article this past summer and, so far, it has worked great. The article mentions an MSRP of $120, but I believe I paid $105 on Amazon if my memory is correct. In any event, the RST works by clamping onto the slide, and then using a drift screw to push the sight. It comes with three different push heads to match the angles of commonly available rear sights. They also sell a repair kit for about $25 which contains extra push heads and ram screw in case you break or lose one (which I almost did one day when shooting in the desert--I accidently dropped a push head on the ground). What I like about this is that you can easily use it at the range: just lock the slide back, tighten the RST onto the slide (making sure to adjust it so the ram screw and push head clear the top of the slide), and make your adjustments. It also avoids the danger of breaking a tritium vial using a brass punch to drift a sight.
  • "Marlin Lever Gun Furniture by British FORM Rifle Stocks"--The Firearm Blog. These are laminate wood stocks that feature a push button adjustable cheek riser for those who mount an optic on their lever action rifle.
  • "A few more notes on the AR-15 platform"--Bayou Renaissance Man. Peter Grant answers some common questions he receives about building an AR and/or buying one assembled by someone else. He also responds to a question of what happens if a Biden Administration (spit on floor!) is able to pass a ban on ARs. As to the latter:
I'm not going to tell anyone to break the law.  That's a personal decision each of us has to make.  However, I'll point out three things.
  1. For almost as long as the USA has existed, and particularly during the Civil Rights era, civil disobedience became part of the American political and legal lexicon.  Laws were deliberately defied if they were seen as oppressive or discriminatory.
  2. When New York passed its "NY SAFE Act" in 2013, requiring the registration of all so-called "assault weapons" (including AR-15's), civil disobedience was - and remains - massive.  "Based on an estimate from the National Shooting Sports Federation, about 1 million firearms in New York State meet the law’s assault-weapon criteria, but just 44,000 have been registered. That’s a compliance rate of about 4 percent."
  3. When Connecticut passed new gun control legislation in 2013, the same thing happened.  "The governor's new gun law is a dismal, unmitigated failure.  According to figures recently released by the state police, approximately 50,000 out of an estimated half-million "assault rifles" in the state of Connecticut were registered under the new gun law.  That is a compliance rate of only about 10 percent ... The figures are even more acutely low for large capacity magazines. The compliance rate for large capacity magazines appears to be considerably less than 1 percent of the estimated number of affected magazines."
  • "New KP-15 Polymer Lower Receiver For AR-15 Rifles From KE Arms"--The Firearm Blog. "The KP-15 is a monolithic polymer AR15 style receiver made from injection molded 30% glass filled nylon incorporating the buttstock, buffer tube, pistol grip, and trigger into the receiver design as integral components." The stripped lower is $109, but remember that this includes lower, pistol grip, stock, and buffer tube with no need for a castle nut. This seems like it would be good for an lightweight build or an inexpensive build.
  • "Importance of Sternum Strap on Backpack" The author explains:
The primary reason to wear a chest strap for the backpack is it provides support for the rest of your body. As even long time backpackers will tell you, carrying a full backpack is going to put a lot of strain on your shoulders. By using a chest strap, you will be able to ease the pressure on your shoulders, essential when you’re trekking for long distances.
    No matter if you are going to the most peaceful protest ever, remember that ANTIFA in particular will attack. It's right there in their handbook. (Read the ANTIFA handbook. I did.)

    1) Always wear boots. Period.

    2) Wear ballistic eyewear. Rocket-type fireworks shot again Saturday in crowds of people. You will have zero time to react. I don't care if you are Bruce Lee. You ain't that fast.

    3) Do NOT bring anything you cannot afford to lose. This includes cameras with memory cards of family photos, off-record interviews, etc. Always format your stuff before taking in, and remember that formatting does NOT erase the data. If you have sensitive information that was on the memory card, either completely wipe it first, or use a new card. We are entering into a war situation. Loose chips sink ships.

The recommendation for boots is because they can't easily be pulled off and lost. He relates: "How many times last year in Hong Kong did I point the camera down at the ground and show all the abandoned shoes, iPhones, glasses, backpacks, and more? Blood. Shredded feet." He also warns that the longer the protest goes, the more dangerous it can become as people become irritable, tired, and hungry; and that 10 p.m. is a witching hour during which the chance of violence goes up exponentially. 
  • "12 Homemade Booby Traps When SHTF"--Online Barracks. I would characterize most of these as alarms, but they could easily be modified to activate something more dangerous than an alarm. The last several entries are for actual traps that could be used to harvest game or maim or kill a person.
  • "Gun Detection AI is Being Trained With Homemade ‘Active Shooter’ Videos"--Vice/Motherboard. The author begins by describing the process one company is using to digitize images of firearms from different angles and in different lighting or weather conditions. It continues:
    The point of creating this vast portfolio of digital gun art is to feed an algorithm made to detect a firearm as soon as a security camera catches it being drawn by synthetically creating tens of thousands of ways each gun may appear. Arcarithm is one of several companies developing automated active shooter detection technology in the hopes of selling it to schools, hotels, entertainment venues and the owners of any location that could be the site of one of America’s 15,000 annual gun murders and 29,000 gun injuries.

    Among the other sellers are Omnilert, a longtime vendor of safety notification software, and newcomers ZeroEyes, Defendry, and Athena Securities. Some cities employ a surveillance system of acoustic sensors to instantly detect gunshots. These companies promise to do one better and save precious minutes by alerting police or security personnel before the first shot is fired.


    Theoretically, the vast array of distortions and alterations in images feeding Arcarithm’s algorithm would account for ways a gun is obscured in real footage—by hands, by climate, or by distance. Through seeing so many common guns so many ways, the algorithm would supposedly become so familiar with guns, it could spot one instantly.

    To test if their algorithm responds to the intended stimuli, Arcarithm staffers have staged armed invasions of their own headquarters using airsoft guns, which use condensed gas to shoot tiny, non-lethal plastic pellets. They’ve also taken to a nearby field to record themselves. It is programmers and desk employees cosplaying as criminals or militiamen. “All the guys are doing it,” said Riley. “They usually work on the development end.” He adds that they warn the sheriff’s department, which usually sends an observer.

I'm reminded of a story my father related of some "clever" college students that decided to play a prank on a highway department's car counter. These use a hose that is draped across a road and counts each time it is driven over. The students thought that it would be funny to drive across the hose with the front of the car, then carry the backend over the hose so it wouldn't register, believing that the highway department would be puzzled by the 1/2 car registered. Except any person with a bit of common sense would realize that there are plenty of vehicles and trailers out their with an odd-number of axles. So too, in this case: a gun carried in a pocket or bag wouldn't register. A pistol that is painted in a dazzle pattern also might not register. 

VIDEO: "Why Arab-Israeli ties are normalizing"--Caspian Report (12 min.)
The author explains that two initiatives, the Tracks for Regional Peace and Neom city, seek to  physically connect Israel to the Arab world, and in the process normalize those ties.


Unfortunately, running to about 5,600 pages, no one will know what is in this monstrosity of pork until after it is passed.
    Congress is likely to pass the big COVID “relief” bill like the world’s second-largest kidney stone. My colleague Victoria Taft already highlighted some of the most egregious spending included in the bill, such as the horseracing regulations and the new cars for HIV/AIDS workers overseas. That one’s worth more than $193 million, begging the question of just how many restaurants, movie theaters, and other small businesses in these United States might have been helped with that money.

    A lot, I’d venture. Enjoy your $600, America. Don’t spend it all in one place!

    In addition to the $10 million for gender programs in Pakistan and the lavish spending on receptions that Victoria noted, there’s more.
... $135 million to Burma, $85.5 million to Cambodia, $1.4 billion for “Asia Reassurance Initiative Act,” $130 million to Nepal. $700 million for Sudan too. And $10 million for “gender programs” in Pakistan, which you know is a racket somehow. Might have all been necessary to get other things, like Border wall funding. Still, imagine how much cheaper everything would be if the anti-Americans and those lining their own pockets off foreign aid were to be gotten rid of. UPDATE – the bill also makes meme-sharing illegal, and supercharges copyright trolling. 
    During a special session of the Oregon legislature called by Democrat Gov. Kate Brown, protesters descended on the building to attempt to enter. Several police agencies responded with officers in riot gear, MRAPs, and pepper spray to enforce the governor’s order to close the building due to concerns about the Wuhan CCP coronavirus pandemic. Patriot groups organized a gathering to protest the continued draconian lockdowns across the state, as well as the unconstitutional legislative session that excluded public oversight.

    State Rep. Werner Reschke (R-Klamath Falls) tweeted that keeping the people of Oregon out of the session violates the state constitution [provision requiring that the meetings be open to the public].
    In Japan, more people are dying of suicide than from COVID-19. National statistics show suicides surged to 2,153 in October alone, marking the fourth straight month of increase. More than 17,000 people have taken their own lives this year in Japan. Suicide rates among men are up 20%. Suicide rates among females, often the ones dealing with the brunt of the issues caused by the lockdown have risen by 80%.

    The same trend is being seen here at home. Experts warned from the outset of the lockdown that the stay-at-home measures and disruptions to daily life would likely lead to increases in suicides, drug overdoses and domestic violence. All those warnings appear to be coming true. 
    “There is a mental health wave to this pandemic,” Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of the National Alliance for Mental Illness, told ABC News. “We as a species don’t do well with uncertainty.”

    The opioid epidemic has also worsened since the virus outbreak. More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic struck, according to the American Medical Association. Overdoses have increased 20% over 2019.

    Reports of domestic violence are also on the increase. In New York City calls to the domestic violence hotline are up 76% over a year ago. The United Nations has issued a warning that lockdown measures will likely undermine its efforts to reduce domestic abuse worldwide.

    Concerns about these kinds of impacts and the broader effect on the physical well-being of individuals kept under extended lockdown have prompted a growing number of physicians and scientists to call for an end to the measures. Literally tens of thousands of physicians and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens have signed onto a document called the Great Barrington Declaration demanding an end to lockdowns.

    “As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies,” the declaration states. “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.”

    The website on which the Declaration is posted adds, “There are many physical harms from lockdowns. Medical care visits have plummeted, with people avoiding needed medical care. This includes lower childhood vaccination rates, less cancer screening, skipped cancer treatments, fewer preventive cardiovascular disease visits, just to name a few. Many of the consequences of these missed visits will not show up in the mortality statistics for this year but is something that we will have to live with over a long period of time.
    Millions of Chinese residents have been left without heating in the middle of winter as cities ration electricity amid a blockade on Australian coal. 

    Australia provided 57 per cent of China‘s thermal coal imports in 2019, which is used to generate electricity in power stations. 

    But last month, Beijing blocked Australian coal imports, which has resulted in 80 ships carrying more than $1.1billion in blacklisted cargo being stranded off the Chinese coast.  

This is not a rational decision. This is a what an enemy would do to a nation, not what that nation would do to itself.

    I know a lot of conservative or prepping bloggers scoff at the idea of China weakening, pointing to past predictions of China's real estate market collapsing or other systemic weaknesses in the government and military that failed to materialize. What they are skipping over is that most of these past "predictions" were not predictions per se--that is, saying that China's real estate bubble would pop on thus-and-thus date--but identifications of structural problems. China can paper over these structural weaknesses and problems as long as it continues to experience a certain level of growth. It might even be able to reform them given enough time, but a reversal in fortune could bring these structural weaknesses to the forefront. 

    The United States is similarly beset by severe financial weaknesses that promise to cripple the nation going forward, as well as other factors and trends that promise increased domestic tribulation. If China and the United States were to be severely weakened, I could easily see growth shift to modernizing Middle-Eastern countries, particularly as new peace deals open up and normalize trade within the Near- and Middle-East. Saudi Arabia is expending vast sums on modernizing its economy and expanding its infrastructure. Israel and Egypt will become key to transporting energy products (gas and oil) and other products to Europe. Israel will likely become a new Silicon Valley, while the planned economic zones and new cities planned for Saudi Arabia may well become financial and banking hubs to compete with or even replace New York and London--a new civil war in the United States would likely push most American Jews to emigrate to Israel. One development to keep your eye on is the planned economic region and city of Neom (meaning "new future"):

    Saudi Arabia recently announced plans to construct this new mega-city near the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba in the northwestern corner of the nation. An investment of around 500 billion dollars, the ambitious city of Neom hopes to link to neighbors Jordan and Egypt.

    The name itself — meaning “new future” — is a reference to the country’s drive to prepare itself for a post-oil economy. The new city will host an array of industries to fulfill this goal, including biotechnology, digital services, advanced manufacturing, entertainment, water and food. Automated technology will be used in public transportation, and the city will harness the power of solar and wind energy to provide power.

    In addition to these economic changes, Neom will also further the goals of the nation’s 2020 program and Vision 2030 through social reform, increasing women’s participation in the workforce and role in the economy. With these goals and projects will come immense business opportunities in this key development region

It is of some interest that this area is just to the south of Mount Sinai where Moses was given the tablets containing the 10 Commandments. Some scholars of Bible eschatology believe Neom will be the City of Babylon destroyed at the Second Coming.

    To many, the notion that China is a faltering power is laughable. It has not only risen meteorically to the commanding heights of the international pecking order, it now looks poised to ascend to the very apex of that order.

    But appearances can be deceiving. While it has not yet quite peaked, all the signs are that China’s relative power is nearing the high-tide mark and will soon begin to ebb.

    Whether as a result of the “middle-income trap,” the imminent prospect of “growing old before growing rich,” the suffocating effects of the ever-more intrusive and pervasive surveillance state, or all three, China will soon peak. Soon thereafter it will sputter, then fade, all long before it is able to muscle the United States aside and remake the international order in its own image.

    While from an American perspective this might seem like good news, a faltering China might also be a dangerous China. For one thing, a China that realizes that its reach has exceeded its grasp is likely to do everything in its power to lock in whatever geopolitical advantages it currently enjoys, before its ability to Sino-form the world begins to wane. This includes redrawing the map in the South China Sea and Himalayas; transforming international organizations to reflect Chinese values and interests; and generally working to reorder the global balance of power in its favor.

    Perhaps even more ominously, a China that sees the brass ring of global supremacy begin to recede may well respond as Germany did when facing a similar situation in 1914. German leaders saw their Russian adversary growing demographically, developing industrially, and building the kind of rail and road infrastructure necessary for rapid mobilization in time of war. This terrified them.

    It terrified them so much they decided to trigger a war sooner, because then they might have some chance of defeating Russia and its allies, whereas later, after they entered a period of relative decline, they would simply be at their adversaries’ mercy. Peak China today, like peak Germany in 1914, might feel its hand similarly forced.
    A Google presentation also said if the company couldn't 'avoid competing with' Facebook, it would collaborate to 'build a moat,' the draft states. 

    According to the Journal, the lawsuit said that Google and Facebook were aware that their agreement could trigger antitrust investigations and discussed how to deal with them.

    The companies agreed to 'cooperate and assist each other in responding to any Antitrust Action' and 'promptly and fully inform the Other Party of any Governmental Communication Related to the Agreement,' according to the draft suit. 

    A Google spokesperson told the Journal that such agreements over antitrust threats are extremely common.

    The unredacted draft version of the lawsuit, which the Journal said it reviewed, also said that Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg signed the deal with Google.  
Recently concluded investigations and preliminary hearings for the cadets resulted in two cases being dismissed for lack of evidence and four dropped because the cadets resigned. Of the remaining 67 cases, 55 cadets were found in violation of the honor code and enrolled in a program for rehabilitation Dec. 9. Three more cadets admitted cheating but were not eligible to enroll in what is called the Willful Admission Program. 

So, there is toleration of cheating as long as the cadets can get into the Willful Admission Program and write an essay about their experience.

    "Hibernators may suffer from rickets, hyperparathyroidism, and osteitis fibrosa if they do not possess sufficient fat reserves. These diseases are all expressions of renal osteodystrophy consistent with chronic kidney disease."

    The researchers believe this may have been the fate of some human ancestors whose remains were discovered in a Spanish cave called Sima de los Huesos – the chasm of bones. This deep shaft in the Cave Mayor of Sierra de Atapuerca is home to an incredible number of fossils, with archaeologists having discovered thousands of hominin skeletal remains that are around 430,000 years old.

    This is long before Homo sapiens walked the Earth, and although there's some debate about which human ancestor the fossils are from, at least some are H. heidelbergensis.

    Working out if human ancestors once possessed a form of a hibernation-like state thousands of years after the fact sounds like an impossible task, but the team thinks they have found some tell-tale marks on the fossils.

    "The evidence of annual healing caused by non-tolerated hibernation in adolescent individuals [points] to the presence of annually intermittent puberty in this population," the researchers write, explaining that other signs of vitamin D deficiency from lack of exposure to sunlight are evident in bone defects like the 'rotten fence post sign'.

    "The hypothesis of hibernation is consistent with the genetic evidence and the fact that the Sima de los Huesos hominins lived during a glacial period."

    The idea is that these ancient hominins might have been trying to sleep through the colder months, and so their bones show the scars of months of sleeping without enough fat stores, a lack of vitamin D, and - in teenagers - weird seasonal growth spurts.
  • I thought the science was settled: "Unknown species of whale 'as big as a horse' that may have been on the planet as long as humans is discovered living off the coast of Mexico"--Daily Mail.
  • "Learning To Love God"--Roosh Valizadeh. Roosh V. notes that "[a]s a new believer, a big part of my faith was to avoid the pain of eternal punishment, but this book helped me understand that it’s better to love God as a son instead." He then lists and explains several tips he found for learning to love God. One thing that has helped me not only keep a more positive attitude but also, I hope, come closer to God is to replace a negative thought with "God loves me".
  • A reminder that we live in the 21st Century: "Researchers Have Achieved Sustained Long-Distance Quantum Teleportation"--Vice-Motherboard. Per the article, "[l]ed by Caltech, a collaboration between Fermilab, AT&T, Harvard University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the University of Calgary reports the successful teleportation of qubits, basic units of quantum information, across 22 kilometers of fiber in two testbeds: the Caltech Quantum Network and the Fermilab Quantum Network." The article also reports that "[t]he researchers say their experiment used 'off-the-shelf' equipment that is compatible with both existing telecommunications infrastructure and emerging quantum technologies." "Quantum teleportation does not involve the actual transfer of matter," the article explains. "Rather, quantum particles are entangled (dependent on each other, even over long distances) and somehow know the property of their other half."
  • "Obama’s Secret Stay Behind Army"--St. Paul Research. From the article:
    ... on December 15th, 2015, six months after Donald J. Trump declared his candidacy for president and began to rise in the polls…

    Former President Barack Obama signed what at the time, appeared to be an innocuous executive order.

    However, Obama’s intentions were much more complex and sinister.

    Because with that single executive order, Barack Obama launched an accelerated purge of thousands of American patriots from virtually every government agency — including our intelligence services and the military —while replacing them with party loyalists and political operatives loyal not to the country and the Constitution, but to him and his globalist and progressive-socialist agendas.

    It was a purge of patriots and a takeover of government that began early on in his first term…

    A purge that began by transforming an obscure federal agency hidden deep within the bowels of government, into what soon became a private, stay behind army.

    An army of political operatives committed to two things:

    The complete political, cultural and economic transformation of America as promised by Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign.

    And the overthrow of a Donald J. Trump presidency should he be elected.

The group is called the Senior Executive Service, or “SES,” created on September 19, 1979, under the Carter administration.

    It was originally formed to professionalize career civil service, while attracting the nation’s best and brightest in an effort to improve and modernize the management of the federal bureaucracy.

    A position within the “SES” is considered the equivalent to general officer or the flag officer ranks in the U.S. Armed Forces.

    For that reason, they are often referred to as our “civilian generals.”

    Their pay scale starts above the top level of civil service (GS-15), with base salaries ranging from a minimum of $127,914 to a maximum of $192,300.1

    Ostensibly, the SES was to be a corps of non-partisan, career managers who serve as the executive management of federal agencies…

    Their job being to implement policy, not create it.

    At least it was until then President Barack Obama changed that with a mere flick of his pen…

    Making SES members nearly impossible to fire, once hired.

Read the whole thing. 

    The latest Republican to say he will do so is Rep.-elect Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), who will be a part of the House when it convenes in early January.

    He implored other Republicans to also challenge the results in a video message.

    “I have a message for all other Republicans across the country,” Cawthorn said. “If you are not on the record calling for fair, free and just elections now and in the future, I will come to your district and I will fund a primary opponent against you.”
    The eruption of the suspected supervolcano underneath the Aleutian Islands, also known as the Islands of the Four Mountains, could have severe global consequences as seen in the past with the Yellowstone Caldera in Wyoming and the Okmok Caldera in Alaska. 

    ... The eruption of the Okmok volcano in 43 BC disrupted the Roman Republic.

    Now it is believed that the suspected caldera underneath the Islands of Four Mountains could be larger than the Okmok, which suggests how destructive its possible eruption would be.

    Six stratovolcanoes make up the Islands of the Four Mountains. These six composite volcanoes are Carlisle, Cleveland, Herbert, Kagamil, Tana and Uliaga.

    Of the six composite volcanoes, Mount Cleveland was the most active one in North America for about 20 years. Mount Cleveland alone spewed ash as high as 15,000 and 30,000 feet above sea level in the past.  

    A group of scientists believes that the suspected massive volcano is the one responsible for the continuous activities seen from Mount Cleveland. They concluded that if the supposed hidden massive caldera would erupt, the consequences would be catastrophic not just in the Alaskan region, but worldwide as well. Its possible explosion could even affect the Earth's climate and cause dangerous upheaval by releasing a huge amount of ash and gas into the atmosphere.
    My purpose here is not to cast aspersions on this woman because of her weight, though. I, certainly, am not one who could honestly cast the first (or last) stone in such case. Besides, casting stones is too much work! We, unfortunately, live in a time when it is easy to get fat and hard to get thin, even ignoring other health issues a person may have that contribute to weight gain. It seems clear that diets lacking in iodized salt, but rich in corn syrup, vegetable oils, soy proteins, and whatever else the medical community has deemed "healthy" over the last 50 years, cause obesity.
   What interests me is the push to embrace "body positivity." We live in a time when we get to see the literal fulfillment of Isaiah 5:20, which states: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Or, I would add, deem what is ugly to be "beautiful" and beautiful to be "ugly." But that is where we are at. It started long ago--the first time someone decided that a Picasso rated as high (or higher) than a Rembrandt. But at least there seemed to remain a shared aesthetic as to what constituted human beauty. No more. Pray that John Wilder does not use this woman in his next bikini graph.
  • Speaking of Wilder: "America: Walking The Razor’s Edge"--Wilder, Wealthy & Wise. A great discussion of the knife edge America walks with national ruin or tyranny on either side. An excerpt:
    What people misunderstand is that Trump isn’t at all the cause of our problems today.  Trump is a symptom.  Without Trump, the answer would have been (yet another) Bush, this time Jeb, versus (yet another) Clinton, this time Hillary.  Oh, the excitement for electing ¡Jeb!

    The difference between another Clinton and another Bush?  Nothing, really.  And America didn’t want that – so America elected Trump.  If anything, Trump cleared the fog, and made the knife edge we were walking clearer.

    And now, we are walking, and the knife-edge is sharper and narrower than the one that I walked to get to the top of that mountain on July 4th a couple of decades ago.

    We have left the bounds of Constitutional governance some time ago – people think it’s quaint when I bring the entire idea of the Constitution up.  Is there a path back to an actual Constitutional government?

    Sure.  It’s narrow – a knife-edge.  But so was getting that Constitutional government in the first place.  But getting that original Constitution depended upon men climbing a mighty steep mountain several hundred years ago.  Were they afraid when they saw the cliff’s edge, the price of failure?

    I’m sure they were.  But yet they continued.  And when it was time to thread that final few steps to the summit?

    They did, and damn the dangers on either side.

    We face the same knife-edge.  Where are we going? 

    Consent-based political systems require shared, fundamental “ends.” In his 1957 study of democracy, Anthony Downs wrote: “A two-party democracy cannot provide stable and effective government unless there is a large measure of ideological consensus among its citizens.” The “means” may sustain dispute, but foundational assumptions must be shared.

    The American nation has a unique identity, in which values and principles play a central role. We do not all share blood, soil, or a thousand years of common history. True, we are not solely an idea. We do share some blood, soil, and centuries of history in complicated, varied ways. But Gunnar Myrdal wrote in 1944 that Americans had “something in common: a social ethos, a political creed.” He called it the American Creed. Jack Kemp called it The American Idea. A combination of liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and free markets created a “civil religion,” a “nation with the soul of a church.”

    For older Americans (like me) this was a civic inheritance. The World Wars and the Cold War provided all-too-real storybook villains who made explicit by contrast what America stood for. America’s education systems, grade school to university, supported the Idea. Homo Americanus shared a political genome.

    But what if the American Idea lost its power? What if it came to seem antiquated? What if it was even an outright lie? When America asks, “who are we?” the problem is not that we cannot answer. The problem is we hear two answers.

    In my lifetime, America shared basic ends. One issue, abortion, created sharply drawn camps driven by unappealable convictions. These are “ideological oppositions,” and they create division that, in the words of Vox’s Lee Drutman, “devolves into a pure contest between ‘us’ and ‘them’—[where] there is no bargaining, because there are no negotiable principles, just team loyalties.”

    Today, many issues divide us just as starkly as abortion. Is America exceptional, a rare gift, or a systemically racist abomination? Are the police murderers or under-appreciated, trustworthy public servants? Will climate change immolate mankind or is it a hysterical overreaction? Do all the guns in America reflect an embarrassing anachronism or a natural right? Should we retain an “old nationalism” or a borderless, multicultural world? The truth the mind knows, or the truth the spirit knows?

    According to Drutman, “over the past half century or so, partisan identities have become much more closely aligned with other social identities. Partisan divides now overlay religious divides, cultural divides, geographic divides and racial divides.” Already in After Virtue (1981), Alasdair MacIntyre noted that “patriotism cannot be what it was because we lack in the fullest sense a patria [ed: i.e., native country or homeland--something impossible once the doors to immigration where thrown open in the 1960s].” He foresaw that a lack of shared foundational values would lead to unresolvable conflicts between fragmented communities within what had once been one nation.

    The vehemence of that conflict is exacerbated by the hypertrophy of government. The side in power controls a gargantuan fiscal and administrative apparatus that shapes our livelihoods, health, religion, education and family itself.  For anything not touched by the bureaucracy, the winners appoint the judges that shape everything else.

    Sociology and technology also conspire against us. Democracy is interpersonal. But, to cite one example in the genre, we now “bowl alone.” Technology has accelerated an atomizing, individualizing transformation. I comprehend this firsthand. Facebook cultivates rage; the algorithm is for division. Technology is a delivery with a “no return” policy.

    Washington is a standoff.  Yes, conflict is part of our political history. Brooks caning Sumner in the Senate is the favorite “it has been worse” anecdote. But it is worse. In decades observing the House and Senate, I have never seen today’s pettiness, enmity, and dysfunction.

    When the Article III branch legislates for the Article I branch, the Supreme Court assumes unintended powers. Nominations to the Court become national un-maskings, not of our worst selves but our true selves. The lesson from the Kavanaugh confirmation was cautionary: America listened to simple testimony and reached precisely opposite conclusions. With respect to Amy Coney Barrett, on both sides we heard, “they would do the same thing to us.”  This sounds like a rationale for genocide, not republican government.

    Our Constitution created a republic designed to protect the “natural rights” of individuals.  The rights precede even the will of majorities. The Progressive movement, old and new, harnesses majoritarianism to expert administration to achieve its positivist goals. Individual rights are often a hindrance.

    The difference is essential. The gridlock we see today does not reflect a failing Constitution but one performing as designed. The Progressive agenda is grinding against inalienable rights. We hear the rumbling in the pillars of our system; why should North Dakota get two senators? Why shouldn’t the District of Columbia be a state? The Electoral College should be abolished. A “packed” court looms.

    There is commonality among our partisans today. Watch CNN or Fox News: “Liars,” “hypocrites,” “unstable,” “totalitarians bent on destroying democracy.” Change the proper nouns and the outrage is identical.

    Historically, a report from someone like Robert Mueller held non-partisan sway. But we are in a post-truth era. Counselor Durham could find almost anything, the tally of Hunter Biden’s largesse keep mounting, and half the country will dismiss it all. According to Pew, 72% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans agree that the sides “cannot agree on basic facts.”  We now speak “my truth.” This is not cognitive dissonance: it is cognitive division.

Basically, the author argues, the nation has reached a point where finding an agreed upon middle-ground is impossible. 

    We feel like two people because we are two people. The signs are unmistakable. Our most divisive issue is our symbol of unity. Factions like BLM and blue lives matter have their own flags. Our heritage, revered by half of America, is being vandalized and toppled by the other half. Our most popular sport now begins with two anthems.

    America is like an old married couple. The kids are gone. In a long, imperceptible process, we have grown apart. We do different things, like different things, and have become different people. Habit, inertia and memories of our past obscure the implications. Clear eyes see what we do not—a separation is as sad as it is inevitable. The hard question is not, “how do these two Americas live together?” They don’t. The hard question, the right question, is: “how do they live apart?”

But the author also offers a solution. The author goes on to argue for a Separation: "an orderly agreement allowing Red and Blue America political living space while acknowledging the practical bonds of geography, commerce, currency, debt, diplomacy and military force." This Separation would be a return to principles of federalism and limiting the power of the federal government by amending the Constitution via a Convention of States: 

The Separation can be effected with a limited number of amendments to the Constitution: 1) a new amendment circumscribing the federal mandate to conform with the core functions above [national military, foreign policy, and a national treasury], 2) adjustment of the 16th Amendment to tie the taxing power to these functions, 3) elimination of the 17th Amendment so the state legislatures again elect Senators, 4) a new amendment formally providing the Supreme Court the power of judicial review but focusing that power on matters related to federal and interstate issues (i.e., the final word on the right to bear arms, free speech and abortion would be in state courts), and 5) a new amendment providing federal term limits.

And then there is the bad. In this regard, the first thing that struck me were the arguments why Blue and Red states should agree to a separation. The author describes Red America thusly: "Your base is older, less educated, poorer, and barely growing." While, in regard to the Blue states: 

You have the momentum; you are winning the strategic battle. You have marched through the institutions and are closing on Ideological Hegemony. Your enemies are in general retreat. But advances have roused your opponent, and the easy victories are in the past. They now feel Silicon Valley constricting their political oxygen. For some time their leaders seemed uninspired, complacent, sheepishly mumbling lines about tax cuts. But Donald Trump is evidence this has changed. They will fight like people who understand they have everything to lose.

This is a load of bull crap. The dynamics of Blue regions--particularly California--is simple inertia from when those states actually encouraged business innovation. These states are slowing, and we see more and more technical and innovative industries fleeing Blue states to escape to Red states, e.g., Tesla and Space X. Similarly, the trope of the Democrats/Left being more educated versus the Republicans/Right. What is that based upon? Surveys and polls of voters. As the Christian Science Monitor "reported" back in October:

    The polarization among white voters by educational levels has since grown wider, putting more pressure on Republicans to turn out non-college-educated white voters, a demographic that is shrinking within an increasingly diverse and educated electorate. To gain a second term, President Trump likely needs to get even more of these voters to the polls, as well as win back some disaffected college grads.  

    The “diploma divide” in U.S. politics predates Mr. Trump. But like many partisan fault lines, from gender to religion, it has gaped wider under his presidency – sending into hyperdrive a decadeslong realignment of the Democratic and Republican parties. These shifting partisan coalitions, in turn, are scrambling everything from long-standing party policy positions to traditional advantages and disadvantages when it comes to campaign cash and the electoral map. 

What does this great divide look like? The Brookings Institute released exit poll data from this year's elections that includes information on education level. 9% of female college graduates favored Biden over Trump, but only 3% of male college graduates favored Biden over Trump. That is not a huge amount. And it should be noted that "college graduates" necessarily includes college degrees in social work, women's studies, political science, education, and other non-academically rigorous programs. You know, the people that work as baristas in Seattle and San Francisco, and asked all the stupid questions in your college history classes. (Yes, there are stupid questions). "Credentials don’t make an incorrect argument right, and the lack of them can’t make a correct argument wrong." Thus, to suggest that this proves that the Left is more educated, let alone more intelligent, than the Right is ludicrous. I would, in any event, contend that the person that has gone through an apprenticeship in the trades or been trained in mechanics or electronics is more intelligent and better educated than the majority of liberal arts majors.

    In addition, the plan is unworkable. Our federal government is the result of special interests who determined it was easier to buy politicians at a national scale rather than doing the same state-by-state. Lost tax revenue would impoverish countless firms and consultants that benefit from huge quantity of money that the federal government shovels into its gaping maw each year. Vast federal bureaucracies would have to be eliminated (and those jobs are considered by the law to be "property" to those that hold them!), along with all the statutes and public laws that created those bureaucracies. Linear miles of regulations would need to be abandoned. Nearly the whole of the Supreme Court Reporter would have to hauled off to landfills having been deemed null and void. Most importantly, the Left would have to agree to let the Right alone. Even if you could get a majority of states at a convention to agree to make such changes, and get the opposing states to accept such changes, there is no way that the elites and the Deep State would give up that power and the money that comes with it without a literally bloody fight. As William Briggs sums up: "It will never happen. The people of the gods would never let us go, for the gods of those people are themselves, and they are jealous gods." Indeed.

    It is better to try and fail than to fail to try, but I see no realistic way out of this logjam while keeping the country united short of a Sherman's march through the Blue cities and states. 

    The curious case of Texas v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was a short-lived but portentous controversy. Forty percent of the states joined forces to challenge the presidential election results maintained by roughly another 40 percent of states, with roughly 20 percent of states caught somewhere in the middle. The Supreme Court punted the case. 
    The Supreme Court seems to have made peace with its own irrelevance vis-à-vis the irremediable schism between two halves of the country. The Texas-led half is not, despite some people’s surface reading, a resurrection of the confederacy. Territorially the states that joined Texas’s case form a column reaching from the Mexican to the Canadian border, including the northernmost state, Alaska, and Indiana. Georgia and North Carolina, obviously, are not aligned with Texas anymore, while several northern states like Ohio are moving toward alignment with the red camp. 

    In cultural terms, the California-led states have reversed their historic position on civil rights and now oppose the fundamental purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment and equal protection under the law (which I review in some detail here.) In their successful pleading to the Supreme Court, they rejected the notion that outside forces can intervene in a state’s voting or judicial process, thereby resurrecting the arguments from former confederate states about their right to block African Americans from suffrage through practices like a poll tax, literacy test, or KKK-style voter intimidation. 

    “But the courts said so!” is a cold argument to raise given the history of Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Korematsu v. United States.

    Similarly, the California-led states continue to claim that hundreds of sworn affidavits by allegedly disenfranchised Trump supporters are not real evidence. Most 19th century slave narratives were written by African Americans who fled to the north. Many slave narrators detail how southern courts would not permit black people’s eyewitness accounts as testimony in any case. Even though the narratives usually included authenticating documents as an appendix. White people had to attest to the truthfulness of black people for their accounts to be accepted as proof of anything. 

    Because Trump supporters haven’t been enslaved or, in most cases, descended from people who have, the blue states seem to believe that it is acceptable to treat their testimony as weightless, but the basic inequality of due process nonetheless undoes much of the civil rights movement.

    The nation’s current divide is partly geographic but mostly cultural and juridical. The Texas-led states, despite including parts of the former confederacy, now stand for the rule of law and the civil rights protections of the 1868 14th Amendment. The California-led states now seek to undo over 150 years of human rights laws so that they can override the suffrage and petitions of a “suspect class” (Republicans).

    Polling indicates that neither side is budging on the question that best serves as a litmus test: whether the election of Joe Biden is legitimate. About half the country believes it was not because they share Texas’s understanding of what citizen rights are and what constitutes evidence. Half the country believes the election was legitimate because they share California’s understanding of citizen rights as framed by context and by goals, with any means being justified by the right goals, depending on the group involved. 

    For the first time in anyone’s living memory, we have to contend with the real possibility that the United States will split into separate nations. The split will not look like the 19th century Civil War and may not even be a war at all. Looking at history, I’ve come upon the following possible precedents in history that may help us understand the potential outcomes.

The author then looks at two historical examples--the split of the Roman Empire into east and west and the division of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms--and compares them to what is happening now.

    I would again point out that a geographical split will not be so easy. The Roman Empire was split at the voluntary direction of Roman emperor into two large administrative zones; Solomon's kingdom split along easily demarcated tribal zones. In this case, we are looking at the split of two (or more) intermixed peoples. Like in Yugoslavia.


  1. RE: "[W]hat happens if a Biden Administration (spit on floor!) is able to pass a ban on ARs." The communist Biden/Harris team have promised to curtail many fundamental rights.

    Embrace the power of "No!"


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