West Nile Virus in Midtown Tucson

I am writing not from the “hot zone”, but from the smaller “red hot zone” of West Nile Virus cases here in the Old Pueblo. In fact, last year I received a written warning, with the threat of a fine, for having some tufts of grass over seven inches tall in my yard (gasp!). I also noticed the installation of a mosquito trap across the street from my house. This, apparently, all related to West Nile outbreaks in the area.

In the interest of finding out what the heck was going on, I went to a presentation regarding the West Nile Virus at the Ward VI office yesterday evening. I was all set to be frustrated over the lack of effort regarding mosquito eradication, but I was pleasantly surprised.

As it turns out, mosquito eradication is the focus of governments’ approach to battling the disease. The governments include both the City of Tucson and Pima County. Their approach is to eliminate standing water and tall grass (and other “lush” vegetation) from government property, then enforce similar standards on private properties. Pesticide will also be used in some areas.

Hold it, I know what you’re thinking, “Does this mean that they’re going to pour used motor oil on puddles in the washes?” No, contrary to what the Luddites think about technology, it has provided us with a really cool new chemical for killing mosquitoes. It’s hard to imagine a pesticide being “cool”, but this new stuff really is.

This new stuff is called BTI, and no, I do not know the chemical for which the acronym stands. It kills mosquito larvae in the water by disrupting the inner digestive track. The beauty of the stuff is that it only dissolves and becomes effective only when exposed to the precise ph of the mosquito larvae’s guts; thereby presenting no threat to dogs, cats, children and other living things (including other insects). That’s cool!

There was, of course, a laundry list of things one ought to do to help one’s self and the community:

1. Remove all standing water – even minute amounts. In ideal conditions, mosquitoes can go from egg to adult in three days.

2. Cut back “lush vegetation”, including tall grass. They do not breed here, but the adults like to hang out there.

3. Continue to maintain the chemical treatment of swimming pools. The government folks have a technical term for poorly maintained pools, it is “green pools”.

4. Assist your neighbors with all of the above.

I don’t know how effective this will be regarding the disease, but it sure would be nice to be able to sit outside in the evenings again.

Note to fans: There is a new column entitled “What Magna Carta?” in the “Articles” section

Cultural Crevasse

A friend forwarded the following to me in an email:

“mt hood has always felt like an extra room in my house – a great big
playroom – intimate, familiar…home. i feel as if a crime has now
happened inside my demense – a murder, a rape, an unspeakable act of
violence – i fear that it will be a long time before i will be able to
walk on that hill i love so much without seeing the ghastly fingerprints
of the tragedy. i want to go back now very soon – as soon as the
mountain clears again i will return, if only to excorcise the demon that
has temporarily claimed it. i don’t need to look like some voyoeur on
the crime scene. i need to forgive the mountain, and try too to forgive
myself for the things i am inexorably drawn to do to those who love me.

perhaps it’s best not to anthropomorphize the mountain? – it is afterall
only an immense piece of frozen lava thrust high up into the rarified
and stormy pacific airflow – it doesn’t care about me or you or anyone –
it has no sense of self, no spirit – it is rather for we humans,
especially we climbers, to infuse that lifeless mass of rock and snow
with the charity and warmth of human endeavor, with a soul of memories
from countless excursions up its graceful flanks – undboutedly that glow
will dim for awhile, but it will not die – as long as men and women feel
the nebolous desire to test themselves in tempestous places it will be a
home – i hope for all of us, most particurarily the families of the lost
(a band of the bereaved that includes many more than just the families
from this most recent tragedy), that the seasons will renew in us the
love of nature that was our birth-right, that time will erase the
memories of the horror and confusion and agony of this terrible theft,
and leave us in the end with only the cherished memories of happier
times and the people we shared them with, when the fate that hangs over
all our heads was not known to us, when it seemed that the smiles could
never die.

the mountain will live longer than all of us. longer than our children.
longer than our race. it will last longer than any tombstone. it is
therefore a fitting and appropriate memorial for all who have left their
lives there. please don’t look towards it with hate. let that go. go
there again soon, with me if you want, or alone which is often much
better – go there and look up from timberline, or make tracks up the
long slope – go there and remember it is a place of dreams, even if
sometimes they turn to nightmares – in the morning we will all wake and
it will better – believe it.” -ivan

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that mountains, and other places, can have great spiritual significance. In some places you can feel the presence of Grace.

What offends me is a man (I assume he’s a man with the name “Ivan”) writing a crybaby missive like some jilted girl. He was correct to criticize himself for anthropomorphizing the mountain. He is also worthy of criticism for making the death of the climbers some great personal tragedy. It is a tragedy, but not his. It is a tragedy for the climbers and their families. It is not some great sin committed by the mountain for which the mountain must seek forgiveness – forgiveness that Ivan appears to be prepared to offer, after much wringing of his hankie.

I know what you’re thinking, “Dang Sammy! You’re really going off on the guy!” Well, not really, I don’t know “Ivan”. I do know that the sort of self-absorbed emotionalism on display in his note exemplifies a type of cultural decline. It’s quite bad, for the individual and society at large, to have no higher purpose, no vision, and little awareness beyond his own emotional roller coaster.

In another time, the families would be supported by those close to them, while the climbing community would learn as much as possible about the tragedy, in the hope that a similar event might be avoided in the future. That’s it, no more, no less.

Look, I don’t intend to criticize Ivan personally. I’m sure that he’s a regular guy and doesn’t watch “The View” while having his nails done, or anything like that.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the last of the American religious holidays. It’s about gratitude; more specifically, it’s about thanking God. Expressing gratitude to God should not be a dry practice. It is a practice that is full of love and joy. Few things reach the core of the heart more than song, and few songs have been sung in celebration of Thanksgiving than “We Gather Together.”

Captivating melodies often originate in folk tunes, and such is the case with “We Gather Together”. It’s origins have been traced back to sixteenth century Netherlands. There, new lyrics were put to the melody to celebrate the end of Spanish oppression of the local protestants. It has been speculated that the Pilgrims may have actually been familiar with the song, having spent time in the Netherlands before sailing for Virginia and ending up in what was to become Massachusetts.

I don’t want to give away my age, but I am old enough to have fond memories of singing this hymn every year for the Thanksgiving concert at my local government school (we also sang Christmas carols in Latin, but that is a story for another time).

Actually, “fond” is an understatement. When I hear it, I get choked up and tears come to my eyes. If you want to see what I mean, click the following link and read the lyrics while the melody plays:

http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh131.sht

Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you God.

More Post-Election Thoughts

Sometimes…no, often the most interesting feature of an election, or any event of consequence, is that which does not happen. I fully expected that there would be much Democrat wailing and gnashing of teeth on the night of the election, and the morning thereafter – the usual claims of voter fraud, intimidation, racism, Diebold, homophobia, blah, blah, blah. I expected these because the Dems have established this pattern of behavior around Republican victories, of which I assumed there would be some of note. There were not, and there was no Democrat uproar. What does this reveal? The revelation is that Democrat accusations have nothing to do with facts, and are merely an attempt to de-legitimize Republican victories.

Speaking of voter fraud, this election begged for it. It is in very close elections that the few extra votes from the dead people, or the absentee ballots disqualified, that can really make the difference. As the title of Hugh Hewitt’s book succinctly puts it, “If It’s Not Close, They Can’t Cheat”. Almost all the pivotal races had razor thin margins.

So, did the Republican fix with the Diebold machines swing it, or did the people who voted six or seven times and the fake ballots from the reservations win it for the Democrats?

The answer is in the results.

If you ever hear another lefty whine about Republicans and the Diebold company, please smack ‘em.

A Great Darkness Fell on the Land

Our country is entering a period of darkness. I’m referring, of course, to Britney’s divorce…just kidding. As I was saying, our country is entering a period of darkness, but we have endured similar states of affairs in my lifetime, the Carter administration comes to mind, and have come through them O.K.

Speaking of Jimmy Carter, can we put him under house arrest or something? I mean, he goes to North Korea and puts a deal together for President Clinton that helped create the problem we face today by handing them nuke technology, and looking the other way while the initiated their bomb program. Always warm for the dictator, he certifies the election in Venezuela that delivered Hugo Chavez to power. The “Carter Center” certified the election without checking the computer vote totals against the paper totals – as you recall, there were “problems” with the computerized machines, so officials had to go in and “fix” them in the middle of Election Day. Now Daniel Ortega, Soviet supported commie strongman from the eighties, gets elected in Nicaragua, and Jimmy has already had his first suck-up meeting with him. Unbelievable!

Carter is considered by some to be the first anti-American president. Now, we may have the first anti-American Congress. With committee chairmanships going to the likes of John Dingle, John Conyers, Charlie Wrangle, Henry Waxman …I must stop, the nausea is starting.

What will this mean? A veritable subpoenarama! Everyone in the Bush administration will be up for grabs. Impeachment is a definite maybe. Republicans were hurt by the impeachment of Clinton, so the Democrats may hold off until they are sure that the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post has softened everyone up enough. John Conyers is “chompin’ at the bit”, as the President might say, to move forward with it, though he can’t move forward alone.

What happened? Well, the Republicans thought they had it made, and began acting like it. There is a reason that the Democrat and Republican parties are referred to as the Evil Party and the Stupid Party respectively.

This libertarian was stunned at the knowledge, wisdom of a renowned leftist

This was originally published in the Tucson Weekly
Border issues are on everyone’s mind as November approaches. Many candidates are making immigration the centerpiece of their campaigns. So you can imagine my delight when I heard that the founder and PR guy for Humane Borders, the Rev. Robin Hoover (no relation to J. Edgar, to my knowledge), was to be the keynote speaker at an event entitled “Information for Action: Social Justice.” The University of Arizona College of Public Health MPH Internship Conference hosted the event.Now, this actually had two hooks for me: One, I am fascinated by the success of the notion that luring illegal border crossers deeper into the desert, where they are less likely to find help, is humane; two, “social justice” is a code phrase that means “leftist politics spoken here,” and I’m fascinated by leftists.

At the event, the Rev. Hoover looked quite dapper with his white hair and beard matching his white clothing. His presentation was superb. He spoke in an informal, direct manner, with just enough jocularity to keep his audience captivated.

He spent a fair amount of time on his biography. He left home at age 18 and went to work in a hospital as a nursing assistant–performing procedures that only doctors would perform today. Went to school. Went to graduate school. Helped create the Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries in Los Fresnos. He became, as he put it, a “professional troublemaker.”

His academic resume does, however, betray his priorities. While he does have a master’s degree in divinity, he has a doctorate in political science.

Like most leftist ministers, he quotes biblical verse when it can be construed to support his politics, but did not mention any spiritual significance or meaning. He said, “Marx taught us” that knowledge was not enough, and that we had to “change the system.” I do not recall any mention of what Jesus taught us, outside of Hoover’s biblical quotations. He misrepresented the term “general welfare” in the U.S. Constitution in the standard way. He even expressed disappointment in Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s loss in the Mexican presidential election, and suggested that he really won. (The graduate students all nodded in agreement.) He sees a day when the world will socialize medicine, “hopefully with single-payer systems.”

None of this was a surprise. Think about it: What Christian minister would be invited to the UA to speak on the subject of “public health” while quoting the Bible? Only a lefty would receive such an invitation.

What I found truly interesting, however, was the depth of the Rev. Hoover’s work. His work goes far beyond simply placing water tanks in the desert. He has worked with everyone involved with the border, from politicians on both sides (of the border), to law enforcement, to conspirators planning to enter the U.S. illegally. He has a realistic view of the situation, and thinks in terms of realistic remedies.

He advocated emergency call boxes. This surprised me, because such boxes might actually save lives–unlike the water tanks. He has a guest-worker plan that makes sense–as opposed to the truly stupid plan our Senate created. Hoover’s plan would create incentives for workers to earn money, and then return to their families in Mexico without creating new lives for them here, or starting them on a path to citizenship. As he pointed out, with workers crossing at the ports of entry, law enforcement could be more aggressive in the outlying desert, since the people crossing there would primarily be pharmaceutical importers and terrorists. His plan is a real-world solution that was clearly developed by someone who knew the score.

I believe the Rev. Hoover to be a good man whose knowledge and expertise in the area of border issues are incredibly valuable. He would be an asset to anyone developing border policy.

Too bad his politics are so screwed up.

Guns don’t kill people; murderers kill people

This was originally published in the Tucson Weekly

Christopher Cottle was murdered by one of a group of men who entered the convenience store where Mr. Cottle was working. The police report stated that Mr. Cottle was murdered when he attempted to prevent the group from shoplifting.

One cannot help but think, “What sort of pathology could lead a man to commit such a crime?” After all, there was no known relationship between the perpetrator and Mr. Cottle, and Mr. Cottle was behaving in a perfectly normal and predictable manner. Apparently, murder was the object of the exercise. How do people bring themselves to do that?

Not all in the Old Pueblo are asking these sorts of questions. Some local commentators are, predictably, blaming the crime on the pistol. The pistol was not blamed directly, of course, but there was the implication that had the perpetrator not been in possession of the pistol, the crime might not have happened … well, yeah, and if the man did not have his car by the schoolyard, the child may not have been abducted.

It must take some real mental acrobatics to ponder what the outcome might have been if the perpetrator had no pistol, while ignoring what might have been had Mr. Cottle possessed one. How hard it must be to accept the fact that the perpetrator brought the gun on purpose–it did not leap into his pocket as he passed by the coffee table. He knew what he was doing. He is a murderer. Some 70 percent of the murders in Tucson may be committed with guns, but 100 percent of the murders in Tucson are committed by murderers.

There is also the truly bizarre implication that pistols have some dark corrupting metaphysical power that turns choirboys into cold-blooded killers. (If this is true, they must be taken from police immediately.) This notion is fostered by certain government agencies that track “crime guns”–guns that have been used in crimes and are thus forever tainted and must be destroyed. One wonders why the government sells motor vehicles that have been confiscated from drug smugglers. Why are they not labeled “crime cars” and squashed into those metal cubes during ceremonies when police chiefs give speeches about how they are doing their part to keep the “crime cars” off the streets?

There is the assumption, sometimes stated outright, that “getting guns off the street” reduces violent crime. This big lie has been repeated so frequently that it has taken on the air of truth. In-depth studies, however, such as professor John R. Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws, prove the opposite. It is not a coincidence that the murder capital of the country, Washington, D.C., is the same city that has banned pistols.

At least these commentators are not suggesting that the government censor violent video games or movies that may desensitize people to horrific crimes. That is not consistent with a free people, or the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. We can assume that the commentators understand that. What seems odd is the collapse of that understanding when they move from the First Amendment to the Second Amendment.

In the early ’70s, here in Tucson, a group of high school thugs thought it would be good sport to beat up a gay man. The most well-known gay bar at the time was the Stonewall on First Avenue (named after the famous Greenwich Village club). The thugs hid along the perimeter of the property and waited. A couple of men left the bar and walked into the parking lot. One of them returned to the bar while the other waited by his car. The thugs seized the opportunity and jumped the lone man. They beat him up pretty well, and he collapsed to the ground. Having had their fun, they left him alone–all but one. One thug, the murderer, continued kicking the unconscious man. The murderer delivered a violent kick to the head–the deathblow. So, where was the gun that transformed the assault into a murder? There was no gun present, but there was a murderer. You do not need a gun to commit a murder, but you do need a murderer.

If our commentators were to suggest that potentially deadly jack boots be reserved for government agents only, I would not argue the point. It’s already too disturbing.

It’s Worse than I Thought

One of the beauties of the blogoshpere is that fellow travelers are quick to help each other maintain high standards of truth and accuracy.

After I made a posting regarding a Democrat propaganda book targeting children, my friend Jim sent an article from the New Republic to me that reports on a series of Republican “children’s books” that denigrate Democrats. You can read the article here The books appear to be as repugnant as the one about which I originally reported.

Perhaps the article is a joke… well, probably not.

I made the assumption that this sort of thing would occur only with Democrats, since that’s what they do.

I also want to stipulate that, in both cases, I do not see rank and file party members as complicit in the actions of the leadership/activists.

I do not know why this whole thing has me so enraged. After all, I’m a big fan of Gran’pa Jack. Perhaps the difference is that Gran’pa Jack really does teach principles, rather than claim them.

So, What’s a citizen to do? Well, there is always the Libertarian Party…

Confessions of a “24” Junkie

Let me first start by saying that my wife and I do not watch television. It’s not the hardware – we do rent movies – it’s the content. I am a big fan of the new media, and am a regular listener to talk radio.

I first heard of “24” on the Rush Limbaugh Program. I remember “America’s Anchorman” spending a big chunk of broadcast time talking about the show. He told about visiting the set, and generally yucking it up with Kiefir (is “kiefir” a type of liquid yogurt, or marijuana pollen? I forget) Sutherland, the writers, and the directors. I made a mental note.

Within a few weeks, Hugh Hewitt, talkshow host, author, constitutional law professor, and blogger extraordinaire discovered the show. People called in to share in his excitement, and described themselves as being “hooked” on, and “addicted” to the show. A few days later, Hewitt sounded almost giddy when he reported that some blogger of prominence described him as the “Jack Bauer of talk radio.” At the time, I had no appreciation of the magnitude of the compliment – for those of you who don’t know, Jack Bauer is the hero/protagonist of 24.

So, when it became time to rent a movie, I said to my lovely wife, “Let’s try something different. Let’s check out this television show about which everyone is talking.” She said, “O.K.”, and our fate was sealed.

Our intent was to try an episode. After forty-five minutes (no commercials on DVD), the first episode ended. We looked at each other, and without saying anything, I punched up the next episode. We watched all for episodes on the disk – and would have continued on had we disk number two.

8:08 P.M. Nine days before the California primary

I rented disk two. My wife cried desperately, “Will there be any resolution at the end !?!”

“No, it never ends,” I said flatly. My hands trembled slightly as I placed the disk in the player. The haunting techno theme music began.

“O.K.,” she said with a hint of fear in her voice, “but I can’t watch just this from now on, we’ll have to watch a chick flick.”

“Of course,” I said, doing whatever was necessary to buy some time… Jack would approve.

9:28 P.M. Nine days before the California primary

Things seemed to be going well, then, after a mere two episodes, a wrenching twist in the plot: “I have to get ready for bed,” she said as she rose from the couch, then added, “I don’t think I can keep watching this. You know, the things you see affect you.”

I had to think fast. “You know, if you stop us now, you will never know how the season ends – I’m your only chance,” I said.

She gave me an odd look, “I’m not saying that we can never see it again – ”

“Nina, there isn’t time – “

“Did you just call me ‘Nina’ – “

“Look, I promise everything is going to be O.K. I have to go now, I’ll call you back when I know something.”

“Are you alright? When was the last time you meditated?”

Cue the theme music

Have Government Issued Photo ID, Will Travel

Arrrrg. I am suffering from re-entry. My lovely wife and I just returned to the Old Pueblo after a ten day trip abroad. Well, technically not abroad, we were in New England.

The countries…sorry, the states over there are puny and overpopulated. At one point, we took a trip to Martha’s Vineyard and drove in three different states in less than four hours.

Martha’s Vineyard, you may recall, is where the Clintons posed for pictures while pretending to dance on the beach in swimsuits, passed out the pictures to media friendlies, then acted distressed that their privacy was invaded. Martha’s Vineyard includes Chappaquiddick Island where Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge and abandoned a girl to suffocate on his partially submerged car while he engaged in damage control. More recently, John Kennedy Jr. died tragically when his light plane crashed at sea in bad weather en route to Martha’s Vineyard.

No one would argue that New England is not rich in American History.

Martha’s Vineyard suffers from the same problems from which all particularly beautiful and desirable places suffer. Its towns are composed primarily of small buildings in an ultra-quaint New England style – imagine Mystic Seaport without the tall ships. It is an island with beaches facing both the mainland and the open ocean, providing all sorts of beach/surf combinations; combine this with a multitude of salt water lagoons, and you have a real scenic marine playground. All this adds up to heap big magnet for tourists and vacationers.

As in Tucson, the vineyard has a small group of residents who are actually natives! They have the “Native” bumper-stickers with outlines of the island, like the natives in many western states. They also have bumper-stickers that say, “Slow down, you’re not off-island anymore!” They are also being squeezed between draconian efforts to maintain quaintness, and market pressure to develop as land values climb higher and higher (sound familiar?).

The ocean acts as a bit of a natural moat – you can only get there by boat or plane. This does not keep the cars away – we drove onto a ferry, rode it for forty-five minutes, then drove onto the island – but it does make it more of a production, and more expensive, to go there. Though tourism is huge in the summer, I imagine that the inability to drive there conveniently keeps many people away, just as the inability to carry a sixty-four quart cooler conveniently keeps many people out of the Arizona backcountry.

Martha’s Vineyard even has a logo. It’s a profile of a black dog. It’s even called “Black Dog”. I don’t know what the original entity behind the Black Dog logo is, or was, but there is a store where you can buy all sorts of clothing – from sweats to socks – with the Black Dog logo. You have probably seen people around Tucson wearing a either a tee-shirt or sweatshirt with a large profile of a black dog on the front. It is the equivalent to OB-with-a-bird logo for the Ocean Beach neighborhood in San Diego, California. In Tucson, we usually see the OB logo on decals on the rear windows of cars from California, instead of on tee-shirts and sweatshirts.

I am glad that Tucson does not have a logo, at least none of which I am aware. At least, I haven’t seen any tee-shirts with Brown Coyotes on the front, or decals with the letters OP (Old Pueblo) and a turkey vulture. We have a cool nickname, “The Old Pueblo,” and that is enough. We may not have the ocean, but we have deserts and mountains. More importantly, we have yet to lose our frontier heritage. Unfortunately, New England has.