Interesting Observations in Chanchung; Wordless Wednesday

In 2017, for all the wonders of technology in Chanchung, China, it is still a sleepy “developing” part of the Sleeping Giant.  Amazing tech in Jilin University!  And good ideas for hygiene to aid guys’ aim a little; it actually seems to help.  Clean, but distinctively non-Western style toilets.  But they still have a way to go for plumbing!  Note the lack of traps and unsealed drains which is why the men’s room kind of smelled, even with the better aim. 😉  Hoping no one lights up a cig in there, as methane gas is explosive and the main component of sewer gases!

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Will Vaccine Passports Control Your Daily Life?

Former Clinton Adviser: Mandatory Vaccine Passport Could Lead to ‘End of Human Liberty in the West’ – by Jack Phillips  March 29, 2021

Former Clinton adviser Naomi Wolf said that mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passports that have been proposed in recent days would be the “end of human liberty in the West if this plan unfolds as planned.”

“‘Vaccine passport’ sounds like a fine thing if you don’t understand what those platforms can do. I’m [the] CEO of a tech company, I understand what this platform does,” Wolf, who’s also an author, told Fox News on March 28. “It is not about the vaccine, it’s not about the virus, it’s about your data. Once this rolls out, you don’t have a choice about being part of the system. What people have to understand is that any other functionality can be loaded onto that platform with no problem at all.”

Wolf said such data can be “merged with your Paypal account, with your digital currency,” adding that “Microsoft is already talking about merging it with payment plans.”

Wolf noted that it happened in Israel, “and six months later, we’re hearing from activists that it’s a two-tiered society and that basically, activists are ostracized and surveilled continually. It is the end of civil society, and they are trying to roll it out around the world.”

“It is absolutely so much more than a vaccine pass, it is — I can not stress enough that it has the power to turn off your life, or to turn on your life, to let you engage in society or be marginalized.”

Going a step further, Wolf likened such plans to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) surveillance of its population and promotion of a “social credit score.”

2021-04-02 Vaccine PassportsA handout image shows the Excelsior Pass, a platform that lets New Yorkers present proof of COVID-19 vaccination at events. (Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo)

“How does [the CCP] keep a billion people under the thumb of a totalitarian regime?” she asked. “The CCP can find any dissident within five minutes, and that can happen here literally within months.”

Wolf referred to reports about Biden administration officials proposing the idea. The Washington Post and CNN — citing anonymous, unconfirmed sources — have suggested that the administration is working toward developing a national vaccine passport standard. New York state has proposed its own “Excelsior Pass” that would be used in large-scale venues such as Madison Square Garden. The plan has been lambasted by civil liberties groups and proponents.

On March 29, White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed the claims, saying the administration doesn’t see a federal mandate for vaccine passports. “We believe it will be driven by the private sector,” she told reporters.

In other countries, such passports have already been created. Israel set one up in February to grant people access to gyms and hotels, Iceland now uses a passport to allow foreign travel, and Saudi Arabia has an app-based passport for people who are inoculated.

“The thing underpinning all of this is, what are you going to use it for?” said Melinda Mills, director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Is it for international travel? Is it for getting a job? Is it for buying milk?”

Jilin University Wordless Wednesday (well, almost)

Changchun is a medium city in China, but the largest in Jilin Province.  The view from our hotel for the summer, a night view up the street and the entry to “our part” of Jilin U’s campus (~75,000 students in 2017).  Photographers documented every meeting, and I played “gotcha” with one of them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jilin_University

 

 

Intermezzo: Fresh Strawberry/Walnut Cupcakes and Strawberry Butter Frosting

Well, spring WAS in the air . . . until Monday morning, when Anita and I started to go on our first of two one-mile walks.  We stepped outside without having checked the weather app, and immediately ran back inside!  The 55-60⁰F (13-15⁰C) temps we enjoyed on Sunday were gone, and the 40⁰F (4.5⁰C) bluster was blowing down to a 32⁰F (FREEZING) wind chill.  So after putting on our winter coats and Mongolian hats, we headed back out.  “There’s no such thing as too cold; only inadequate clothing!” (Ron Gifford, Canadian) 😁

So that has nothing to do with this “food blog” today.  Sunday afternoon the “baking bug” bit me again as I was ogling the strawberries Anita had bought, and wondering if I should try another pie or something new.  Thinking of the pie as more of a wintery treat, I decided on cupcakes, but with some idiosyncratic attempts to make them “my own.”  (Some would say “idiotic” but we’re not listening to them! 😂)  This blog, btw, comes on the heels of Smitha’s Bake Love’s blog which has such fantastic floral buttercream cupcakes that I could almost taste them on the computer screen.  Please read about my cupcakes before visiting her site, as once there you will find delicious cakes, breakfasts, breads, cookies, and even soups, salads and almond milk and you may never leave!  She politely tried to encourage me as a beginner, but I guess that’s what happens when you see what the pros can do 😞.

As usual, start with getting everything together to make sure you have what you need.  Yields 12 cupcakes.

  • 1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour (300 mL)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (5 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (2.5 grams)
  • 5 tablespoons softened unsalted butter (65 grams)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (120 mL)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (2.5 mL)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk (60 mL)
  • 3/4 cup medium chopped strawberries (180mL)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (120 mL)

   

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350⁰F (175⁰C).
Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
In a larger bowl, beat the butter, vanilla and sugar together at medium speed until it is as fluffy as the sugar will let it get.  Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl with each stage of the beating.
Add the first egg, blending it completely for at least one minute.  After it is fully blended, add the second and thoroughly blend it as well, again scraping the sides.  Beat for at least one additional minute on medium speed.

Add about 1/3 of the dry flour mixture and beat at medium speed to fully mix.
Follow this with about 1/2 of the milk and again beat to fully mix.
Repeat with the remaining dry mixture and milk, and beat until the batter is smooth.
Add the walnuts and then gently fold in the strawberries without beating.

 

Spoon into lined a muffin tin pan, filling each cup about 3/4 to 4/5 full.
Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops are cracking and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before removing.

Cook’s privilege. 😉

For the Strawberry Butter Frosting you will need:
1/2 cup of pureed strawberries
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar (confectioners)
3/4 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt

Directions:  While the cupcakes are cooling, place the strawberries and brown sugar in a blender to puree.  I tried to use my Cuisinart Smart Stick chopper, but it was not nearly fine enough, so I put it in the Osterizer blender and pulsed it to thoroughly puree it.

If you want reeeally smooth frosting, press the mixture through a fine mesh sieve before heating, but since the only sieve I have as yet is not very fine, I just put the mixture into the saucepan over medium heat for five minutes.  Once it begins bubbling, stir very frequently to constantly to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  The puree should reduce to about 1/3 cup. (Note: in my picture I made waaaay too much because I started with 1-1-2 cup of chopped strawberries! 😱)
After removing from heat, cool the mixture completely in the refrigerator or freezer.

Beat the butter and powdered sugar together with the vanilla and salt until it is light and fluffy.
Once the puree is cold, add it to the butter mixture and beat on high speed for three minutes or until it is very fluffy.
If it is too thin gradually add more powdered sugar until it reaches a slightly firm consistency.  Remember, it will set a little more when it is refrigerated and the butter congeals.
However, if it is too thick, thin it down by adding little by little a few drops of milk.
Spread the frosting on the cupcakes and enjoy!  If you want it really fancy like Smitha’s Bake Love, you will have to get an icing pipe with its various tips which I do not have yet.
Since fresh strawberries are in the mixes, the cupcakes should be refrigerated.  If you have leftover frosting (and I had a LOT!), store it in the fridge as well and use if for buttering toast or spreading on bagels.

I topped each of the cupcakes with a strawberry that had been marinated with sugar for an hour.
Since Anita does not care for sweets much, I left half the cupcakes unfrosted, but actually the strawberry butter is not too sweet, certainly not as sweet as Anita. 😊

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Science, Politics, and COVID: Will Truth Prevail?

This is a rather lengthy guest blog, over 3000 words, compared to my usual blogs of about 1000, but Dr. Atlas is well worth a little extra time to read.
by Dr. Scott W. Atlas, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University
The following is adapted from a speech delivered on February 18, 2021, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Phoenix, Arizona.

Corona VirusThe COVID pandemic has been a tragedy, no doubt. But it has exposed profound issues in America that threaten the principles of freedom and order that we Americans often take for granted.

First, I have been shocked at the unprecedented exertion of power by the government since last March — issuing unilateral decrees, ordering the closure of businesses, churches, and schools, restricting personal movement, mandating behavior, and suspending indefinitely basic freedoms. Second, I was and remain stunned — almost frightened — at the acquiescence of the American people to such destructive, arbitrary, and wholly unscientific rules, restrictions, and mandates.

The pandemic also brought to the forefront things we have known existed and have tolerated for years: media bias, the decline of academic freedom on campuses, the heavy hand of Big Tech, and — now more obviously than ever — the politicization of science. Ultimately, the freedom of Americans to seek and state what they believe to be the truth is at risk.

Let me say at the outset that I, like all of us, acknowledge that the consequences of the COVID pandemic and its management have been enormous. Over 500,000 American deaths have been attributed to the virus; more will follow. Even after almost a year, the pandemic still paralyzes our country. And despite all efforts, there has been an undeniable failure to stop cases from escalating and to prevent hospitalizations and deaths.

But there is also an unacknowledged reality: almost every state and major city in the U.S., with a handful of exceptions, have implemented severe restrictions for many months, including closures of businesses and in-person schools, mobility restrictions and curfews, quarantines, limits on group gatherings, and mask mandates dating back to at least last summer. And despite any myths to the contrary, social mobility tracking of Americans and data from Gallup, YouGov, the COVID-19 Consortium, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have all shown significant reductions of movement as well as a consistently high percentage of mask-wearing since the late summer, similar to the extent seen in Western Europe and approaching the extent seen in Asia.

With what results?
All legitimate policy scholars today should be reexamining the policies that have severely harmed America’s children and families, while failing to save the elderly. Numerous studies, including one from Stanford University’s infectious disease scientists and epidemiologists Benavid, Oh, Bhattacharya, and Ioannides have shown that the mitigating impact of the extraordinary measures used in almost every state was small at best — and usually harmful. President Biden himself openly admitted the lack of efficacy of these measures in his January 22 speech to the nation: “There is nothing we can do,” he said, “to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”

Bizarrely, though, many want to blame those who opposed lockdowns and mandates for the failure of the very lockdowns and mandates that were widely implemented.

Besides their limited value in containing the virus, lockdown policies have been extraordinarily harmful. The harms to children of suspending in-person schooling are dramatic, including poor learning, school dropouts, social isolation, and suicidal ideation, most of which are far worse for lower income groups. A recent study confirms that up to 78 percent of cancers were never detected due to missed screening over a three-month period. If one extrapolates to the entire country, 750,000 to over a million new cancer cases over a nine-month period will have gone undetected. That health disaster adds to missed critical surgeries, delayed presentations of pediatric illnesses, heart attack and stroke patients too afraid to go to the hospital, and others — all well documented.

Beyond hospital care, the CDC reported four-fold increases in depression, three-fold increases in anxiety symptoms, and a doubling of suicidal ideation, particularly among young adults after the first few months of lockdowns, echoing American Medical Association reports of drug overdoses and suicides. Domestic and child abuse have been skyrocketing due to the isolation and loss of jobs. Given that many schools have been closed, hundreds of thousands of abuse cases have gone unreported, since schools are commonly where abuse is noticed. Finally, the unemployment shock from lockdowns, according to a recent National Bureau of Economic Research study, will generate a three percent increase in the mortality rate and a 0.5 percent drop in life expectancy over the next 15 years, disproportionately affecting African-Americans and women. That translates into what the study refers to as a “staggering” 890,000 additional U.S. deaths.

We know we have not yet seen the full extent of the damage from the lockdowns, because the effects will continue to be felt for decades. Perhaps that is why lockdowns were not recommended in previous pandemic response analyses, even for diseases with far higher death rates.

To determine the best path forward, shouldn’t policymakers objectively consider the impact both of the virus and of anti-virus policies to date? This points to the importance of health policy, my own particular field, which requires a broader scope than that of epidemiologists and basic scientists. In the case of COVID, it requires taking into account the fact that lockdowns and other significant restrictions on individuals have been extraordinarily harmful — even deadly — especially for the working class and the poor.

“There is a land full of wonder, mystery, and danger. Some say, to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter. Which, luckily, I am.” — Mad Hatter
Optimistically, we should be seeing the light at the end of the long tunnel with the rollout of vaccines, now being administered at a rate of one million to 1.5 million per day. On the other hand, using logic that would appeal to Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter, in many states the vaccines were initially administered more frequently to healthier and younger people than to those at greatest risk from the virus. The argument was made that children should be among the first to be vaccinated, although children are at extremely low risk from the virus and are proven not to be significant spreaders to adults. Likewise, we heard the Kafka-esque idea promoted that teachers must be vaccinated before teaching in person, when schools are one of the lowest risk environments and the vast majority of teachers are not high risk.

Worse, we hear so-called experts on TV warning that social distancing, masks, and other restrictions will still be necessary after people are vaccinated! All indications are that those in power have no intention of allowing Americans to live normally — which for Americans means to live freely — again.

And sadly, just as in Galileo’s time, the root of our problem lies in “the experts” and vested academic interests. At many universities — which are supposed to be America’s centers for critical thinking — those with views contrary to those of “the experts” currently in power find themselves intimidated. Many have become afraid to speak up.

But the suppression of academic freedom is not the extent of the problem on America’s campuses.

To take Stanford, where I work, as an example, some professors have resorted to toxic smears in opinion pieces and organized rebukes aimed at those of us who criticized the failed health policies of the past year and who dared to serve our country under a president they despised — the latter apparently being the ultimate transgression.

Defamatory attacks with malicious intent based on straw-man arguments and out-of-context distortions are not acceptable in American society, let alone in our universities. There has been an attempt to intimidate and discredit me using falsifications and misrepresentations. This violates Stanford’s Code of Conduct, damages the Stanford name, and abuses the trust that parents and society place in educators.

It is understandable that most Stanford professors are not experts in the field of health policy and are ignorant of the data about the COVID pandemic. But that does not excuse the fact that some called recommendations that I made “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science.” That was a lie, and no matter how often lies are repeated by politically-driven accusers, and regardless of how often those lies are echoed in biased media, lies will never be true.

We all must pray to God that the infamous claim attributed to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels — “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” — never becomes operative in the United States of America.

All of the policies I recommended to President Trump were designed to reduce both the spread of the virus to the most vulnerable and the economic, health, and social harms of anti-COVID policies for those impacted the most — small businesses, the working class, and the poor. I was one of the first to push for increasing protections for those most at risk, particularly the elderly. At the same time, almost a year ago, I recognized that we must also consider the enormous harms to physical and mental health, as well as the deaths attributable to the draconian policies implemented to contain the infection. That is the goal of public health policy — to minimize all harms, not simply to stop a virus at all costs.

The claim in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) opinion piece by three Stanford professors that “nearly all public health experts were concerned that [Scott Atlas’s] recommendations could lead to tens of thousands (or more) of unnecessary deaths in the U.S. alone” is patently false and absurd on its face. As pointed out by Dr. Joel Zinberg in National Review, the Great Barrington Declaration — a proposal co-authored by medical scientists and epidemiologists from Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford — “is closer to the one condemned in the JAMA article than anything Atlas said.” Yet the Great Barrington Declaration has already been signed by over 50,000 medical and public health practitioners.

When critics display such ignorance about the scope of views held by experts, it exposes their bias and disqualifies their authority on these issues. Indeed, it is almost beyond parody that these same critics wrote that “professionalism demands honesty about what [experts] know and do not know.”

I have explained the fact that younger people have little risk from this infection, and I have explained the biological fact of herd immunity — just like Harvard epidemiologist Katherine Yih did. That is very different from proposing that people be deliberately exposed and infected — which I have never suggested, although I have been accused of doing so.

I have also been accused of “argu[ing] that many public health orders aimed at increasing social distancing could be forgone without ill effects.” To the contrary, I have repeatedly called for mitigation measures, including extra sanitization, social distancing, masks, group limits, testing, and other increased protections to limit the spread and damage from the coronavirus. I explicitly called for augmenting protection of those at risk—in dozens of on-the-record presentations, interviews, and written pieces.

My accusers have ignored my explicit, emphatic public denials about supporting the spread of the infection unchecked to achieve herd immunity — denials quoted widely in the media. Perhaps this is because my views are not the real object of their criticism. Perhaps it is because their true motive is to “cancel” anyone who accepted the call to serve America in the Trump administration.

For many months, I have been vilified after calling for opening in-person schools — in line with Harvard Professors Martin Kulldorf and Katherine Yih and Stanford Professor Jay Bhattacharya — but my policy recommendation has been corroborated repeatedly by the literature. The compelling case to open schools is now admitted even in publications like The Atlantic, which has noted: “Research from around the world has, since the beginning of the pandemic, indicated that people under 18, and especially younger kids, are less susceptible to infection, less likely to experience severe symptoms, and far less likely to be hospitalized or die.” The subhead of the article was even clearer: “We’ve known for months that young children are less susceptible to serious infection and less likely to transmit the coronavirus.”

When the JAMA accusers wrote that I “disputed the need for masks,” they misrepresented my words. My advice on mask usage has been consistent: “Wear a mask when you cannot socially distance.” At the time, this matched the published recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). This past December, the WHO modified its recommendation: “In areas where the virus is circulating, masks should be worn when you’re in crowded settings, where you can’t be at least one meter [roughly three feet] from others, and in rooms with poor or unknown ventilation”—in other words, not at all times by everyone. This also matches the recommendation of the National Institutes of Health document Prevention and Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Infection: “When consistent distancing is not possible, face coverings may further reduce the spread of infectious droplets from individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection to others.”

Regarding universal masks, 38 states have implemented mask mandates, most of them since at least the summer, with almost all the rest having mandates in their major cities. Widespread, general population mask usage has shown little empirical utility in terms of preventing cases, even though citing or describing evidence against their utility has been censored. Denmark also performed a randomized controlled study that showed that widespread mask usage had only minimal impact.

This is the reality.
Those who insist that universal mask usage has absolutely proven effective at controlling the spread of the COVID virus and is universally recommended according to “the science” are deliberately ignoring the evidence to the contrary. It is they who are propagating false and misleading information.

Those who say it is unethical, even dangerous, to question broad population mask mandates must also explain why many top infectious disease scientists and public health organizations question the efficacy of general population masking. Tom Jefferson and Carl Heneghan of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, for instance, wrote that “despite two decades of pandemic preparedness, there is considerable uncertainty as to the value of wearing masks.” Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta says there is no need for masks unless one is elderly or high risk. Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya has said that “mask mandates are not supported by the scientific data. . . . There is no scientific evidence that mask mandates work to slow the spread of the disease.”

Throughout this pandemic, the WHO’s “Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19” has included the following statement: “At present, there is no direct evidence (from studies on COVID-19 and in healthy people in the community) on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.” The CDC, in a review of influenza pandemics in May 2020, “did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.” And until the WHO removed it on October 21, 2020 — soon after Twitter censored a tweet of mine highlighting the quote — the WHO had published the fact that “the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider.”

My advice on masks all along has been based on scientific data and matched the advice of many of the top scientists and public health organizations throughout the world.

The Politicization of the Search For Truth
At this point, one could make a reasonable case that those who continue to push societal restrictions without acknowledging their failures and the serious harms they caused are themselves putting forth dangerous misinformation. Despite that, I will not call for their official rebuke or punishment. I will not try to cancel them. I will not try to extinguish their opinions. And I will not lie to distort their words and defame them. To do so would repeat the shameful stifling of discourse that is critical to educating the public and arriving at the scientific truths we desperately need.

If this shameful behavior continues, university mottos like Harvard’s “Truth, Stanford’s “The Winds of Freedom Blow,” and Yale’s “Light and Truth” will need major revision.

Big Tech has piled on with its own heavy hand to help eliminate discussion of conflicting evidence. Without permitting open debate and admission of errors, we might never be able to respond effectively to any future crisis. Indeed, open debate should be more than permitted — it should be encouraged.

As a health policy scholar for over 15 years and as a professor at elite universities for 30 years, I am shocked and dismayed that so many faculty members at these universities are now dangerously intolerant of opinions contrary to their favored narrative. Some even go further, distorting and misrepresenting words to delegitimize and even punish those of us willing to serve the country in the administration of a president they loathe. It is their own behavior, to quote the Stanford professors who have attacked me, that “violates the core values of [Stanford] faculty and the expectations under the Stanford Code of Conduct, which states that we all ‘are responsible for sustaining the high ethical standards of this institution.’” In addition to violating standards of ethical behavior among colleagues, this behavior falls short of simple human decency.

If academic leaders fail to renounce such unethical conduct, increasing numbers of academics will be unwilling to serve their country in contentious times. As educators, as parents, as fellow citizens, that would be the worst possible legacy to leave to our children.

I also fear that the idea of science as a search for truth — a search utilizing the empirical scientific method — has been seriously damaged. Even the world’s leading scientific journals — The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, Science, and Nature — have been contaminated by politics. What is more concerning, many in the public and in the scientific community have become fatigued by the arguments — and fatigue will allow fallacy to triumph over truth.

With social media acting as the arbiter of allowable discussion, and with continued censorship and cancellation of those with views challenging the “accepted narrative,” the United States is on the verge of losing its cherished freedoms. It is not at all clear whether our democratic republic will survive — but it is clear it will not survive unless more people begin to step up in defense of freedom of thought and speech.
____________________________

2021-03-09 Dr. Scott AtlasScott W. Atlas is the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He previously served for 14 years as professor and chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center. He earned his B.S. from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and his M.D. from the University of Chicago School of Medicine. An ad hoc member of the Nominating Committee for the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology, he was a senior health care advisor to a number of presidential candidates in 2008, 2012, and 2016. From July to December 2020, he served as Special Advisor to President Trump and as a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. He is the editor of Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain and Spine, now in its fifth edition, and is the author of several books, including Restoring Quality Health Care.

Intermezzo: Ode to Dr. Seuss on Dr. Seuss Day

I am certainly not the brilliant versifier that Dr. Seuss was, but here is my small and feeble attempt to pay homage to a man now being canceled for his crimes against the “woke.”

2021-03-02 Ode to Dr, Seuss

It must be a very very sad day
When people say that you cannot say
The very kind things in your mind today.
It must be a very sad sad day.

Poems so innocent and sweet
Intended for people to use to greet
Each other whenever their faces meet,
Instead are accused of a terrible deed.

Using words one should not teach
To children as they are beyond their reach
To understand what old folks preach
That some words should not be in your speech.

Maybe Babar boosts the Taliban.
Should Jack and Jill from our schools be banned?
Mother Goose may be a madam
And Father Christmas too much a man.

I guess the woke will get their say
To shut down any other way
Than what they allow in your essay,
But I say it is a sad sad day.

Cancel Culture in the USACancel Culture in the USA

Intermezzo Blog: Three Minutes and 33 Seconds That May Change Your Life

2021-02-16 Lent Fast from Social MediaRare indeed is more than one intermezzo blog between my usual Saturday’s.  But with the CCP virus still keeping us homebound and with beautiful snow again layering on the ice outside, and with a friend’s blog (Communion Table) hitting me in the head, I had to share this with all y’all.  (Just for the record, “y’all” in Kentuckian is singular; “all y’all” is the plural. 😉)  Whatever your liturgical history or viewpoint I had to share this today! 

Lent is not usually on evangelicals’ calendars.  It is the season before Easter starting with “Ash Wednesday” and commemorates Jesus’ 40 day fast in Matthew 1, Mark 1, and Luke 1, usually celebrated in “high church” traditions such as Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran gatherings.  Details about Lent, e.g. the reason for the name, its relation to Resurrection Sunday, etc., can be found here at this link if you are interested.

 Social media is probably one of the most evil devices the devil has ever foisted on humanity (close second and third go to computers and automobiles, but those are for other blogs 😂).  So here is a suggestion, whether you practice Lent in a religious tradition or if you just want a break from the constancy of tweets, Likes and defrienders. 

Taking a 40 day break from social media could change your life!  Check it out, even if you don’t buy the Christian Audio, you can plug in for 3.33 minutes and get a sample that is enough to get you started.   Forget ice bucket-, exploding watermelon-, trust walk- or makeover-challenges.  Here is an “I dare you to try” that can change your life.

https://christianaudio.com/40-day-social-media-fast-wendy-speake-audiobook-download?

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Dr. Victor Hanson on Biden’s Amerika

2021-02-15 Bidens AmerikaRazor wire and fences still surround the U.S. Capitol at sunrise. (Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

2021-02-15 Victor Davis HansonThe World Goes On While America Sleeps
Victor Davis Hanson /
/
Dr. Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and author of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.  You can reach him by e-mailing authorvdh@gmail.com
.

The Democrat-controlled Senate spends thousands of collective hours conducting an impeachment trial against a citizen who is no longer president.  The acquittal is predetermined, as in the first impeachment effort a year ago — and known to be so to the Democratic prosecutors.  The constitutionally mandated presiding judge — the chief justice of the Supreme Court — refused to show up.  Chief Justice John Roberts apparently believes an impeachment trial of a private citizen is either a waste of time or unconstitutional — or both.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is busy ferreting out purportedly extremist Republican House members.  For the first time in memory, one party now removes committee members of the other.  Yet for each Republican outlier, there is a corresponding Democratic firebrand member who has either called for violence or voiced anti-Semitic slurs — and yet will not be removed from House committees.  So the asymmetrical tit-for-tat continues.

The subtext to this madness is that the Democratic Congress, the new administration, the administrative state, and the political left are obsessed with dismembering the presidential corpse of now citizen Donald Trump.  Apparently they fear that one day he will rise from the infernal regions to wreak his revenge.  Meanwhile, life in America goes on.

Yet few of our leaders are very worried about the existential crises left unaddressed by their obsessions with the ghost of Trump.  Take the debt.  It is now nearly $28 trillion, and it is growing by almost $2 trillion a year.  No one in Washington talks about reducing the annual budget deficit.  Nor do officials find ways to balance the budget.  The idea of paying off the monstrous debt remains a fantasy.  Instead, our elected representatives argue over whether to borrow another $1 trillion, or more likely $2 trillion, without worry of where it comes from or how it will be repaid.

But money is not completely a construct.  We will eventually pay for our profligacy either with steeper taxes, higher inflation, 1970s-like stagflation, or permanent zero interest.  Or eventually America will renounce its debt and destroy the credibility of the U.S. government.  Meanwhile, hundreds of billions of dollars and countless hours of once-productive labor are diverted to unproductive ideological censorship, career canceling, and indoctrination.

Our allies, such as democratic France, warn America that it is cannibalizing itself — and becoming dangerous to others.  Our enemies, such as the totalitarian Chinese, are delighted with our suicidal wokeness.  The cost is not just the expense of cleaning up the billions of dollars of destruction from the summer riots, the thousands of memorials and statues destroyed and defaced, and the hundreds of schools and buildings to be renamed.

Far more consequential is the suppression of creative thinking — from humanistic study to scientific research.  The Islamic world, as the historian Bernard Lewis once observed, stagnated in the 19th and 20th centuries once radical Islamists began squelching all free inquiry.  Humanities and science were perverted from 1932 to 1945 in Germany by the pollution of Nazi racial censors.  What was written or advanced in communist Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union is largely discredited, given that commissar hacks determined the rules of publication and research.  Something similarly frightening is now occurring in the United States.

Scholars, journalists, artists, and educators feel they must mouth politically correct platitudes.  They constantly hedge their public discourse in fear of career cancellation.  They strain to synchronize their research with some approved woke ideology to save their livelihoods.  When professors must write “diversity statements” and hire, promote, and fire on the basis of race, the model is not the U.S. Constitution, but something out of contemporary China.

No one pays much attention that our capital is now weaponized with soldiers in camouflage and barbed wire.  Not since the Civil War has Washington resembled such a vast police state.  Ex-military officers who once warned Trump not to deploy federal troops to ensure the safety of the White House from Antifa and Black Lives Matter demonstrators now are silent about a veritable army deployed in Washington.

President Joe Biden has signaled that all new pipeline construction is over.  Fracking on public lands is taboo.  The border is to become wide open.  Federal immigration law is now effectively nullified.  Americans may soon have to be tested for COVID-19 before flying into or out of the country.  But illegal immigrants will not be COVID-19-certified when — illegally — they cross the border.  Iran is bankrupt, isolated and roundly despised by most of the countries in the Middle East.  Now America is doing its best to resuscitate the most radical and anti-American regime in the world — at the expense of our allies in the Arab world, Israel, and America’s own interests.  While we are busy devouring each other, China is smiling because once-feared American capitalists have become laughable Keystone Cops.

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