The Bookworm Beat 12/4/14 — Plumber days and party nights edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingI spent a large part of my day hanging around waiting for the plumber to come and, once he came, hanging around while he did his thing. Surprisingly (for me, at least), this is not a complaint. I’m fortunate enough to have found a wonderful plumber (Marin residents can email me separately for referral info), and I’m just so happy to have my pipes in trustworthy hands.

How trustworthy? This is the plumber who, even though in a position to get an $11,000 job re-piping the main sewer line, said “Don’t be ridiculous. All you need to do is preventive rootering once a year plus RootX once a year. Problem solved.” I love this man and his team.

As for the party night . . . one of my soccer dad friends, going way back to when my kids were small, turns out to be a conservative. Not only that, he’s just a totally great guy — intelligent, kind, thoughtful, and the whole megillah of other positive adjectives. He’s hosting a little get-together tonight for a few of Marin’s hidden conservatives. I’m so looking forward to being in a room in which I can debate issues, rather than being baited about issues.

But before I go, I’m trying to jam out a few links I think you’ll enjoy. Forgive typos, ’cause I’m really rushing this one:

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The Bookworm Beat (10/24/14) — Friday’s New York “E-bowling” wrap up

Woman writingMy friend Sally Zelikovsky came up with the pun about a new sport called “E-bowling” after word emerged that the New York physician, who was ostensibly “self-isolating” himself, actually trawled all over the New York, using subways and Uber, to engage in activities ranging from dining out to bowling. I laughed when I read her pun, but I can’t escape the feeling that the real sport here is the game that our government playing with the American people’s health and well-being.

What stops shooters is guns

Those assembled in the Canadian responded appropriately when Kevin Vickers appeared before him: They applauded long and hard for the man who brought a shooter down with a single shot:

There was another shooting today, in a Washington state high school. A 15-year-old managed to kill one girl and wound several others before a bullet stopped him too — in this case, the bullet was self-inflicted.

My son, ruminating on the Seattle school shooting, and still a little shaken by the false-alarm lock-down in his own school, said to me, “I’m not afraid of being shot. What makes me crazy is the feeling of helplessness.” I agreed, pointing out that, even at his school, where everyone is unarmed, their teachers, who genuinely believed a shooter was on campus, fought against that helplessness by improvising weapons made out of whatever projectiles they had in their class.

Shooters who kill for pleasure or to score political/terrorism points, always go where there are helpless victims. They won’t achieve any of their calculated, sick, and/or sadistic goals if people have the capacity to defend themselves.

What stops these shooters is gunshots.  Sometimes the gunshots come from third parties (usually police who arrive had the scene long after the shooter has gotten a good run for his money).  Such was the case in Austin, Texas (“As Martinez fired, McCoy jumped to the right of Martinez and fired two fatal shots of 00-buckshot with his 12-gauge shotgun, hitting Whitman [the killer] in the head, neck and left side.”); Salt Lake City, Utah (“When Talović turned around and aimed his shotgun towards the team, Scharman and Olsen fired again and killed him. Talović’s body was later found to have been struck a total of 15 times by bullets fired by police.”); Santa Monica, California (“He was fatally shot by officers inside the library and then brought outside where he died.”); and Isla Vista, California (“Rodger was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head; police said he had apparently committed suicide.”).

And sometimes, if the police are pressing in on the killer, or he’s run out of ammunition, the killers use their own bullets on themselves.  We saw this in downtown San Francisco (“The attack continued on several floors before Ferri committed suicide as San Francisco Police closed in.”); in Columbine, Colorado (“Both had committed suicide: Harris by firing his shotgun through the roof of his mouth; Klebold by shooting himself in the left temple with his TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun.”); in Newtown, Connecticut (“The police heard the final shot at 9:40:03 a.m, and believe that it was Lanza shooting himself in the lower rear portion of his head with the Glock 20SF in classroom 10.”); and, today, in Marysville, Washington (“Fryberg, 15 a freshman at the school, died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said”.)

It’s a great irony — and an untenable one for Leftists — but the only thing that stops a shooter, whether he’s crazy, a criminal, or a terrorist, is a gun. The reality that Leftists don’t want to accept is that, until we have 100% certainty that no bad guys currently have or ever will have guns, we are safest when, in a moral society, lots of other people — good and moral people — are armed.  Since that certainty can never be achieved (absent, perhaps, the Barnhouse effect), the safest society is the one in which people of good will carry guns.  By the way, Chicago is a perfect example of what happens when only the bad guys, the ones without any decency or moral compass, have guns.

Let’s make sure the cops aren’t the only ones with guns

There’s nothing in the Constitution that says only police officers may have guns. Indeed, the Second Amendment sees the right to bear arms as one inherent in every individual. This is a good thing and all people should do everything they can to make sure that police don’t become our overlords.

I don’t have any particular bone to pick with police. I appreciate that there are people who are willing to go into often dangerous and often disgusting situations to help make our communities better. I do, however, have a very big bone to pick with police who have become so flush with power that they no longer think they’re the public’s servants but, instead, think that they’re the public’s overlords. Kevin D. Williamson details some appalling examples of instances in which police (with the whole criminal justice system backing them up) got confused about their place in the hierarchy.

The problem isn’t just that the police SWAT some houses here and there, without any citizen recourse.  There’s a much broader downstream problem because of the police’s unfettered strength.  As Williamson notes, the police, like all bullies, go for the easy targets — and in America, those easy targets are law-abiding citizens:

The strange flip-side — the second half of Samuel Francis’s “anarcho-tyranny” — is that the brunt of government abuse falls on the law-abiding. Illinois, for example, makes it difficult for an ordinary citizen to legally carry a gun for self defense — up until a couple of years ago, doing so was categorically prohibited. But Illinois police seize thousands of illegal guns from criminals each year, and the state prosecutes practically none of those weapons cases. The law-abiding — by definition law-abiding — citizens applying for concealed-carry permits get treated like criminals, and the actual criminals do not. If you follow the law and inform Illinois authorities that you have a gun in the home, you invite all sorts of intrusion and oversight. If you don’t, nobody’s really looking. Meanwhile, the streets of Chicago are full of blood, going on 1,600 shootings this year and it’s not even Halloween. Nobody is held responsible for that carnage, but if you put an eleventh round in your legally owned rifle in Oak Park, you’re looking at jail time.

Frank Serpico (yes, the real Serpico) has an article out about the appalling corruption in New York when he was a young cop, about the fact that he is still a pariah amongst New York cops, and about the fact that this corruption continues today, with out-of-control police.

What’s different now from Serpico’s time is that the police don’t even have to bother to pal up with the criminals to get cash.  Thanks to seizure laws, the police can be the criminals, shaking people down for all the money they’ve got.  Already a decade ago I was working on cases about civil forfeiture laws that enabled federal and state police to seize cash, cars, jewelry, homes, and anything else that was valuable with impunity just upon suspicion of certain crimes.  Worse, because the money raised this way goes into local, state, or federal bank accounts, judges went along with these seizures because they get paid out of the same pot.  At long last, though, the MSM may be catching up with this particular abuse of power.

The “Allahu Akbar”-ness of the hatchet swinger in New York

Turning to those honorable police who are in the front line between citizens and criminals, I haven’t had the chance to see how the media is playing the case of Zale H. Thompson, the man who used a hatchet to attack four police officers in Queens, slashing one officer’s arm and giving the other a terrible head wound before he was shot dead by two other officers. (You see, guns not only stop shooters, they also stop hatchet wielders.) I’m willing to bet, though, that the media will try to distance itself from Thompson’s Facebook page, which is a veritable treasure trove of fealty Allah and jihad. Fortunately, Zombie is paying attention, and captured the images for posterity.

There are common threads to all mass shooters or random attackers:

Class 1, which seems to be the smallest class, is composed of people who are genuinely and completely disconnected from any semblance of reality. They’re out there killing because they’ve received a message from Zomblot of the Planet Xdafjsiokd, and that message is to kill all glowing pink rocks . . . and you, clearly, are one of those rocks.

Class 2, which often shows up in schools, is young, male, either a Democrat or from a Democrat home, with divorced parents or a completely absent father, and using psychotropic drugs of one type or another.

Class 3, which the media claims is as fictional as the Loch Ness monster, is the one the rest of us are seeing all over the place, on every continent except for Antarctica: He’s male, probably young (no older than his late 30s), Muslim (either by birth or conversion), and he’s utterly fascinated by jihad, so much so that his attacks are often accompanied by the cry of “Allahu Akbar.”

In all cases, gun control works to the attacker’s advantage, because he has the pleasant sensation of aiming at fish in a barrel, none of whom are equipped to fight back.

The vicious misogyny of the American left

I have to admit that I paid very little attention to the screaming headlines about the alleged Palin family brawl. There’s nothing new about the MSM salivating over any story, true or not, that casts a negative light on a woman who was a vice-presidential candidate six years ago and who, since then, has taken up permanent residence in Leftist heads.

By ignoring the Palin brawl story, though, I missed the real story, which is the vicious, gleeful misogyny that so-called “feminists” display when it comes to Palin women. You see, it turns out that Bristol Palin was, in fact, quite brutally attacked. CNN anchor Carol Costello, who routinely takes up the feminist flag for stories about girl-friend beating in the NFL, reacted with unseemly joy when she had the opportunity to share with her viewers the footage of Bristol Palin’s tearful recounting of a man’s violent attack against her:

“Sit back and enjoy!” Costello exclaimed as she introduced her audience recently to the audio in which Bristol Palin recounts how she was attacked. “You’ll want to hear what she told cops about how it all started.”

Costello also confided in her audience that she had a “favorite part” of the audio which could later become courtroom evidence. Ghoulish.

Charles C. W. Cooke, who freely admits to disliking Palin as a political candidate, wrote a splendid attack against the media’s passion for Palin pain, not to mention the double standard that sees a media blackout when Vice President Joe Biden’s progeny engage in disgraceful and illegal activity:

To take potshots at clownish figures such as Lena Dunham, we have learned, is to invite indignant death threats. And yet, when a veritable legion of male comedians elects to use foul, carnal, and, yes, “gendered” language to dismiss Palin and her family, our contemporary Boudiceas shrug at best and offer endorsements at worst. Sarah Palin, as the abominable bumper sticker has it, “isn’t a woman, she’s a Republican.”

[snip]

If it is a sign of poor “judgment” to choose as veep someone whose children are a mess, why does Joe Biden get a pass for the conduct of his son, Hunter, who was kicked out of the Navy Reserve for having been discovered using cocaine?

Breaking my usual rule of keeping National Review off my real-me Facebook page (because Leftists would never dream of reading it), I posted Charles Cooke’s post there, along with a comment to the effect that disliking Sarah Palin cannot justify laughing at a brutal physical attack on her child. The response from my Leftist friends was predictable. Since they couldn’t possibly say anything to exonerate this misogyny, they were completely silent.

For more examples of MSM glee in a woman’s brutal assault, check out Ashe Schow’s round-up.

And the vicious misogyny of the Muslim Middle East

This video’s been kicking around for a while, but I only saw it today. It shows a Saudi family hanging an Ethiopian maid up by her heels and beating her with a bat, like a living, breathing pinata. I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure I heard some of the people assembled to watch this beating laughing as the maid screamed in agony.

The CDC has admitted that the immigrant flood correlates to measles outbreaks

The MSM doesn’t want you to know this, but conservative news outlets are reporting that the CDC has conceded that there’s definitely a correlation between the illegal Central American immigrants that the Obama administration shipped all over the country without pausing for silly little stuff like quarantines and new measles cases. Other diseases are also following in the illegal immigrants’ tracks:

Measles, respiratory illness, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases continue as a prime concern for the millions of Americans conflicted about the perpetual arrivals of illegal immigrants pouring into the country. While some diseases have emerged from the Philippines, Africa, Asia and Europe, the unprecedented amount of undocumented aliens is a major issue.

Even Hollywood is taking notice as actress Tori Spelling was reportedly admitted and placed in quarantine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California Monday for respiratory concerns that some media say could be Enterovirus related.

Hospitals throughout America are reporting record breaking numbers as their emergency rooms are overwhelmed beyond capacity. Figures as of October 20, 2014 show the largest reported cases of these mystery illnesses included over 4,300 children at Children’s Hospital Colorado. In just one day 540 children visited the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and 340 cases were reported by a Mobile, Alabama children’s hospital. Many hospitals have ceased admitting children temporarily as they determine ways to deal with the outbreaks.

Medical labs testing confirm many of these cases are Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). The Obama Administration has been working overtime to keep the reporting and narrative away from blaming the ongoing illegal and undocumented immigrant invasion into the country. Media reports show at least eight known deaths from EV-D68 in the U.S. in 2014.

Perhaps the White House doesn’t want Americans to know that out of over 70,000 illegal immigrant children who crossed into the U.S. almost 48,000 came from Honduras, Guatemala and Salvador. In these countries measles and the EV-D68 virus are quite common. If we include these children’s family and friends, not listed an “unaccompanied,” over a quarter of a million people from Central and South America have entered the U.S. illegally this year.

Incidentally, eight people have now died from the Enterovirus.

The American medical establishment may be way too complacent about Ebola

We expect the Obama government to tell us that everything is under control when it comes to Ebola. Yeah, sure, if “under control” looks like this:

Meanwhile, even as some doctors are also insisting that our medical system is more than capable of handling and isolating Ebola cases, never mind the possible “E-bowling” habits of infected people, one doctor, who started working in Russia and then came here (and became a Republican), is not so sanguine. He thinks that the medical establishment is grossly underestimating the demands more than 20 Ebola cases would have on our medical system:

When the kidneys no longer work, we start patients on dialysis but how do you safely do it while caring for a patient with Ebola. The answer is you don’t.

The only facilities that could attempt something like this are BL4 isolation wards where the staff practice such techniques while wearing spacesuits. They have dedicated machines that are separated from the other hospital patients. There are only 4 such facilities in the country and the number of such beds is around 20; that is all there is, for the entire country.

Read the rest here. (Hat tip: Wolf Howling, who is on hiatus from blogging)

When it comes to Ebola research, the irony is so thick you can taste it

A lot of conservatives have been pointing out that part of our problem with Ebola is that the CDC has been so busy spending money on trendy things that it’s had little left for old-fashioned epidemic disease control. In other words, it’s been focusing on salt in diets, obesity, and cigarettes to the exclusion of just about everything else.

Here’s the irony: to the extent that the CDC was able to squeeze in a little actual contagious disease research alongside all its trendy lifestyle work, it did so because of . . . Dick Cheney. Bloomberg explains.

We may start changing our minds about working or partying when sick

When I was a little girl — well, actually even through high school — when I got sick, my mother kept me home. She did so because when she was growing up it was considered extremely rude to spread the cold or flu amongst your classmates, colleagues, and social group.

The results of my mom’s policy were two-fold. First, I started malingering because all I had to do to miss school was say “I don’t feel good.” Second, between real and faked illnesses, I missed way too much school, which affected my grades. It was only when I was in college and beyond that I figured out that, whether at school or at work, unless I was actually keeling over, staying at home would hurt my grades or my career too much.

When my kids were little, I sent them to school when they had colds because keeping them home until the sniffles ended would have meant keeping them home for weeks. All the other moms did the same, and that was fine. Obviously, if the kids had fevers, or vomiting, or diarrhea, things would have been different. But for colds and general yuckiness . . . school it was for the kids (and work for the parents).

During all those elementary school years, none of the kids got terribly sick, and all of us felt that we were doing the appropriate thing by giving our kids’ immune systems a work-out. In addition, because the kids brought everything home, we parents gave our own immune systems a work-out too. Once my kids hit middle school, all of us pretty much stopped getting sick.

What I’m working up to is the fact that, in America, going out into the world when you’re a bit sick means you don’t miss important things and you buff up your immune system. Certainly, no one dies. And really, that’s always been the big difference between my generation and my mother’s generation. In Mom’s time, when people, including kids, got sick, some of them died. They got polio (in America), and measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, and scarlet fever. Getting a cold could mean pneumonia and, in a pre-antibiotic era, pneumonia could mean death. The risks of illness were so high they outweighed any potential benefits from attending more school or work.

I mention all this because a Russian-born writer, looking at the E-bowling document in New York, is asking why Americans go to school, and work, and social activities when sick. The answer is that, right up until this disease summer, the downsides were limited and the upsides were huge. I foresee things changing….

Charles Krauthammer says something wonderful about Obama’s bystander presidency

For those of us who have been paying attention, there’s nothing new in Charles Krauthammer’s most recent article about the fact that Obama seems to be a bystander to his own presidency. We know that Obama is always more surprised and then more angry than anyone else, as if the endless management failures during his administration aren’t his fault.  If he was a good manager, these things wouldn’t happen.  But if he was even a manager who just showed up for work every day, at least he wouldn’t be surprised and the one he would be angry at would be himself.

What’s new is this exquisite paragraph that Krauthammer wrote (bolded emphasis mine):

The one scandal where you could credit the president with genuine anger and obliviousness involves the recent breaches of White House Secret Service protection. The Washington Post described the first lady and president as “angry and upset,” and no doubt they were. But the first Secret Service scandal — the hookers of Cartagena — evinced this from the president: “If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I’ll be angry.” An innovation in ostentatious distancing: future conditional indignation.

John Kerry is the rotten fish head at the top of the State Department hierarchy

Hillary was bad; Kerry is worse. (I haven’t forgotten Hillary’s role in the deaths of the Benghazi four. I’m just talking general about her role as leader of the State Department.) Just as a fish rots from the head down, the State Department under Kerry has gone from vaguely hostile to Israel to actively hostile to Israel. Moreover, working in tandem with the rest of the anti-Israel Obama administration, this active hostility is resulting in severe damage to Israel, which is America’s long-standing, most reliable ally in the Middle East — not to mention the only truly free country in that dark, bloodied, benighted region.

John Hinderaker catches Rob Stein, founder of Democracy Now, speaking the truth about power

The Left is always nattering on about “speaking truth to power.” What’s incredibly rare is to catch one of them speaking the truth about power. Rob Stein, however, did do so. I won’t spoil the surprise of this rare burst of honesty. You need to follow this link.

When it comes to Michael Brown’s family, you can’t make these things up

Even before Drudge latched on to it, Joshua Pundit caught the fact that Michael Brown’s family — the one in Ferguson — has come to blows about which family members have the right to milk his death for cash.

Natural selection and vegetarians

I’ve always known that, if you examine a human’s teeth, digestion, and overall health, it’s very clear that we humans are biologically programmed to have meat as part of our diet. What we know now too is that, when it comes to men, the downsides of vegetarianism hit even closer to home.

Meryl Streep to bring Florence Foster Jenkins to the screen

I’ve posted here before about Florence Foster Jenkins, the fabulously wealthy opera aficionado who booked herself into Carnegie hall to share her tuneless, aimless arias with the world. Meryl Streep has been tapped to play Jenkins in some sort of biopic. Little is known about the proposed movie, but I actually think this is a perfect movie for Streep. Because Jenkins lived in pre-media era, Streep will have to be an actress, not just a mimic, and she’s always at her best when she stops parroting other people’s mannerisms and just acts.

San Francisco in her pre-modern heyday

Fred Lyon, a native San Franciscan and professional photographer, loves to take pictures of his home town. The results can be seen at his website and, when it comes to pictures of San Francisco in the 1940s and 1950s, his work is spectacular. Whether one loves the City that once was, as I do, or simply enjoys beautiful black-and-white photography, this is an album that’s worth checking out.

Nature’s colorful bounty

You’ve probably seen most of these pictures before, but they’re so lovely, I wanted to share with you a post that puts all of them together in one place.

The devastation that is the anti-vaccination movement

African children with polioIn pre-modern times, an average of 50% of all children born in the Western world died before the age of five.  They died from bad milk, spoiled food, infections, accidents, and epidemic disease.  Nowadays, in theory, the only reason children anywhere in the world “should” die is unavoidable accidents.  Otherwise, we have pasteurization for milk, refrigeration for food, antibiotics for infections, and vaccinations for epidemic diseases.

The problem is that theory only gets one so far.  In poverty-stricken parts of the world, pasteurization, refrigeration, and antibiotics simply aren’t available, so children die . . . and die . . . and die.  Even in America, the anti-pasteurization “raw food” movement puts children at risk of contracting the horrible diseases that Louis Pasteur’s insights ought to have ended.

And as for that vaccination thing . . . oy!  In the Middle East and Africa, as well as in Muslim enclaves in Europe, imams preach that polio vaccinations carry AIDS (planted by Americans and Zionist agents), and insist that children not get vaccinated.  They’re willing to enforce this ukase with murderous violence.  Measles vaccinations are treated with equal disrespect and are, in any event, often unavailable in African and Middle Eastern hinterlands.

Sadly, in America, vaccinations are also missing.  They’re not missing because of violence or poverty but, instead, are missing because of a malevolent strain of ignorance, fully comparable to that the imams preach from their pulpits.  Middle class American parents have bought into fully debunked and discredited studies about vaccination’s association with autism.  In addition, a generation of parents that has never seen the scourge of an epidemic disease is more afraid of the small likelihood that a child might react to a vaccination than appropriately fears an actual epidemic.

There’s not doubt that, every time I vaccinate my children, I am taking the 1/10,000 or 1/50,000 or 1/100,000 risk that my child might die from that vaccination.  Of course, every time I put my child in a car, I’m also taking a risk, and a significantly larger one (1/84 chances of that happening).  Somehow, though, we manage to discount the car driving risk, but freak out over the vaccination one.  These freak-outs blind modern parents to the fact that a good epidemic, once it gets a foothold in society, can kill at rates between 10% and 50% before it burns itself out.  (In the 16th century, measles killed half the population in Honduras.)

Thanks to this all-American ignorance, measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping cough, all of which can be fatal in the short or long term, are on the upswing in America.  They’re not on the upswing because vaccinations don’t work; they are rising because American parents are exceptionally poor at risk evaluation.  They’re also on the upswing in Africa, Europe and the Middle East (along with polio) thanks to both war and prejudice:

The Council on Foreign relations prepared this graphic to show measles outbreaks around the world

The Council on Foreign relations prepared this graphic to show measles (purple) and whooping cough (green) outbreaks around the world

Learn more about the terrible dangers of the anti-vaccination movement here.

The Leftist delusion of a world without danger

Thomas Hobbs, who was born into the waning years of the 16th Century and lived three-quarters of the way through the 17th Century, in his great work, Leviathan, characterized man’s life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” He was not an optimist.

William Hogarth's Gin Lane

Hobbs may have been a pessimist, but he was also quite accurate.  In a pre-industrial, pre-scientific era, half of the children lucky enough to survive childbirth would die before their fifth birthday, with death usually resulting either from disease or accident (falling into an open fireplace or drowning in a well or waterhole were accidents common to the pre-modern era).

If one was lucky enough to survive early childhood, life still didn’t get much easier.  Even in stable communities, food supplies were unreliable; crime was prevalent; war had a nasty habit of breaking out all over; disease stalked everyone; childbirth was the scourge of young women; lightning and cooking caused deadly fires that swept through wood-built communities; and weather forecasts were nonexistent and weather deaths (cold, heat, lightening, floods, winds, etc.) were commonplace.  Old age was a rarity — or at the very least, was defined differently, with a toothless crone in her late 40s qualifying as “old.”

For those who managed to avoid premature death, life was dark indeed.  I mean that literally.  Except for the very rich, who could enj0y beeswax, the poor lit their homes (which usually had no windows) with smoky fires or tallow lights that left everything smelling like an old fryer at McDonalds.

Personal cleanliness was viewed with suspicion (as a sign of moral debauchery) so it wasn’t uncommon for people to go a lifetime without bathing.  Nor was this filth limited to the lower classes who had no access to running water.  James I of England was famous for his certainty that bathing would kill him.  Even the marginally clean English found his personal habits distasteful.  Streets and sewers were interchangeable, with people in buildings tossing the contents of their chamber pots into the streets, regardless of passing pedestrians.

Child Labor minor miners

The Hobbesian world began to change with the industrial revolution.  Wealth was no longer tied to the land and, therefore, finite.  It was suddenly infinite.  Although the initial transition from agricultural to industrial wrought appalling havoc for the poor, by chaining them to factory labor or coal mines in conditions that were little better than slavery, working their children to death, and herding them into filthy urban ghettos, overall the standard of living rose for everyone.  The rich, of course, benefited first, but the poor did too, to the point at which (at least before the endless Obama recession) even the poorest in American (unless they were insane homeless people) were able to buy cool shoes and disposable cell phones at Walmart.  Poverty became a matter of discomfort, not death.

Louis Pasteur

Things became even better when the scientific revolution picked up steam.  Suddenly, scientists and physicians had the comforting illusion that, when it come to the mysteries of disease, they could see all and know all.  Bacteria were visible and, with Penicillin, vulnerable.  Ailments originating within the body (a hot appendix, a bladder stone, even a damaged heart valve) could be fixed.  Viruses bowed down before vaccinations.  We were going to live forever.  Indeed, even though we 21st century residents haven’t actually achieved immortality, our modern lifespans would have been unimaginable only a century ago.

Battledore and Shuttlecock in 1845

One of the most stunning byproducts of the industrial and scientific ages was childhood, not just as a biological reality, but as an intellectual construct.  Past times recognized infancy and early childhood (until about 7 years old) as times of necessary development and dependency.  After that, though, right up until the Victorian age, children older than 7 or 10 years were regarded as mini-adults.  They were put to work in field or factory, indentured to trade, married in their mid-teens, and generally given responsibilities that, nowadays, we still consider too extreme even for “children” in their mid-20s.  Even twenty years ago, people would have laughed at the thought that “children” of 26 were dependents for insurance purposes.  Go back a time a few more decades than that, and the rules were simple:  if you survived childhood, you headed rapidly into adulthood.

These very positive historical trends have left us with one very wrongheaded delusion:  the belief that we can insulate ourselves and, especially, our children from all danger.

Old-time football player

Sometimes, the very act of insulation creates greater, counter-intuitive risks.  Those of us who don’t remember football being so dangerous in decades past are right.  It’s not just that we were less aware of the risks, it’s that football players had less protective gear.  It was a speed and passing game, one that favored smaller players and less aggressive contact.  Leather helmets provided some protection, but did not encourage players to pretend that they were big horn sheep who could engage in serious headbutting.  Once players became enswathed in protective gear — high-tech helmets and shoulder pads — they began to play a more aggressive game, one that favored big players and high impact tackles.  In other words, the counter-intuitive result of more protective gear in football is a higher, rather than a lower injury rate.

19th century boxers

The same is true in the boxing world.  When boxers were bare handed, they couldn’t land a hit harder than their own knuckles would bear.  As between a solid jaw bone and a knuckle bone, the jaw usually won.  Even with the advent of gloves, the early gloves were thin enough that the striker still had a risk about equal to that of the person on the receiving end.  It was only when the boxing world shifted to massively padded gloves, which successfully insulate the knuckles, that boxers were able to land such devastating strikes against their opponents’ jaws, eye sockets, and temples.

Tony Peitrantonio knockout

We’ve also over-protected ourselves is in the battle between antibiotics and bacteria. After a seventy year run in the antibiotics’ favor, the bacteria have regrouped and are coming back strong. One regularly reads upsetting stories about treatment-resistant bacteria.  Tuberculosis has the potential to become a scourge again; MRSA haunts hospital hallways; and many of us our digging out our grandmothers’ household hint books to find out how people treated garden-variety infections (cuts and ear aches) in the era before antibiotics came along.  In the same way, we’re facing the ugly truth that, due to a combination of parents resisting vaccination, and diseases resisting vaccination, old childhood scourges such as chicken pox, whooping cough, and measles are on the upswing.

We can’t win for losing.  Or rather, we have become so confident of our victories that we forget that the enemy — even one that lacks cognitive abilities — is as intent upon its own survival and is as adaptable as we are.

The above are, in a way, mechanical protective reflexes, where industrialism and science enable us to place barriers between us and objects or pathogens that are dangerous.  What is a peculiarly Leftist foible is believing that we can ignore entirely Nature writ large, human nature, or cultural pathology.

Going back to the topic of childhood mortality, the sad fact is that, while kids once fell prey to disease, they now fall prey to all sorts of other things, some new and some old.  Here’s a 2007 snapshot of the things that killed American children who survived congenital diseases in infancy:

Car accidents:  6,683 deaths
Firearm homicide:  2,186 deaths
Suffocation/strangling:  1,263 deaths
Non-firearm homicides:  1,159
Drowning:  1,045 deaths
Poisoning:  927 deaths
Suffocation suicide:  739 deaths
Firearm suicide:  683 deaths
Fires/Burns:  544 deaths
Firearm accidents:  138 deaths
Poisoning suicide:  133 deaths

What may leap out at you is how many children died in 2007. What leaps out to me, since I’ve always bathed my brain in history, is how few children died in 2007.  Although each of the above numbers represents indescribable grief, the percentage of child deaths is infinitesimal compared to the overall population of children in America.  Moreover, by far the largest number of deaths occurred in a peculiarly utilitarian way:  car accidents.  These were unintentional deaths that resulted from an object that is integral to our society’s functioning.

Bloods gang member with gun

The next highest number of deaths, as any Progressive would point out, is indeed from guns.  But here’s what the white liberals ignore until there’s a Columbine or Sandy Hook that makes them feel vulnerable  In that same year (2007) that 3,345 American children were murdered, here are the statistics for male youth deaths within the black community:

52.3% of black, male 15-19 year olds who died were murdered.
15.5% of black, male 10-14 year olds who died were murdered.
6.3% of black, male 5-9 year olds who died were murdered.
14.3% of black, male 1-4 year olds who died were murdered.

The situation is better, but not much, for black girls in 2007, as they are less likely to die as teens, but more likely to die as toddlers:

18.3% of black, female 15-19 year olds who died were murdered.
9.3% of black, female 10-14 year olds who died were murdered.
6.5% of black, female 5-9 year olds who died were murdered.
15.3% of black, female 1-4 year olds who died were murdered.

In other words, we don’t have a gun problem:  we have a black-children-are-getting-murdered problem. Those liberals who pay any attention at all to deaths that don’t involve white suburban children, never bothered looking at human nature in order to determine how to deal with the problem.

They didn’t look at the way welfare renders stable, earning males obsolete, thereby breaking down the family unit and forcing young men to find other ways than family and maturity to prove their “manliness.”  They didn’t consider that if you attack Judeo-Christian morality without providing an alternative morality, you end up with no morality.  They didn’t consider that advancing abortion in all-black communities is a subliminal message that black lives are disposable.  Instead, they ignored the human factor entirely and decided that, if they made weapons illegal, the communities would instantly become hippie-like communes of peace, with a little pot on the side.

Because Progressives thought they could bring a mechanical solution to a human problem, even more black children died.  Think of it this way:  Getting rid of bacteria doesn’t make them go away.  They come back stronger in different ways.  Likewise, getting rid of guns doesn’t make murder vanish.  Humans get creative with other forms of murder, and guns go underground and, removed from law and morality, get applied in ever more violent ways.

We cannot protect ourselves into safety.  The world is a dangerous place, albeit infinitely less dangerous than it has ever before been.  We are deluding ourselves if we believe that, either through hyper-safety mechanisms or bans (bans on bacteria or bans on guns) we can instantly make things safer.  In fact, it’s often the case that eradicating the danger entirely is either a delusion (bacteria are still out there) or creates worse dangers than that we originally sought to avoid.

What we can do is try to modify certain behaviors in order to decrease (although never eliminate) risk.  If antibiotics are becoming less useful, let’s wash our hands more often.  If violence is plaguing a community, let’s try to temper the community by giving people constructive purposes in life and by creating a sensibility that values life.  Getting rid of guns will not get rid of violence.  Valuing life might just diminish it somewhat, though.

The herd immunity theory of unions

Immunization

When we think of herd immunity, we think of vaccinations.  Fewer parents are vaccinating their children nowadays because of their fears about negative reactions to vaccinations (including the now-debunked theory about vaccinations causing autism).  Those parents skipping vaccination point triumphantly to the fact that, despite their children’s vaccination-free status, there hasn’t been a huge upsurge in measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chickenpox, or any of the other diseases that can now be prevented with a shot or nasal mist.

What these parents fail to realize is that the diseases haven’t stopped simply because they’re rare; instead, they’re rare because other children are getting vaccinated.  Because there are a sufficient number of immunized children within a given population, these former childhood scourges cannot the necessary foothold to become endemic or epidemic.  It’s this perfect balance — where just enough kids are vaccinated to defeat a disease’s onslaught — that we call herd immunity.  This balance is also very tenuous.  If the number of vaccinated children drops below the magic herd immunity point, dangerous diseases come back in a hurry.

Accepting the unions’ premise that unionization is a good thing, one can apply the same argument.  The opposite of right-to-work laws is mandatory unionization.  That means that, if you want to work in a specific industry, whether as an electrician or a teacher, you must join the union.  The theory behind this is that unions are so good at ensuring that workers are well treated, that all workers benefit and all workers should therefore contribute to the union.  It wouldn’t be fair for some workers to pay dues, and then for all workers to benefit.

Just as with vaccinations, however, a lot of workers lately have been complaining about the side effects from the unions’ role in their industries.  These side effects include economic demands so parasitical that they kill the host and the unions’ habit of going far beyond their initial mandate, so that union members find their funds supporting political ideologies that are antithetical to their own beliefs.  In right-to-work states, these people are allowed to opt out.

The union screeches are because they believe that it is unfair for non-union members, in effect, to benefit from herd immunity.  They don’t have to suffer from the downside of unionization (i.e., paying dues), but they get the upside benefits (i.e., better employment conditions).

The thing is that unions are not vaccinations and working conditions are not diseases that can become epidemic or even pandemic.  Instead, there is a marketplace balance:  if too many people don’t join the union, breaking part the herd immunity, the marketplace will shift.  In that case, rather than inevitably getting worse as happens when a toxic disease breaks out, things might actually get better or they might get worse, or they might just get different.

Tradeoffs are not the same as a polio pandemic.  As Charles Krauthammer points out, union states have higher wages and lower employment; right-to-work states have lower wages and higher employment.  In other words, both systems have benefits and both have failings.  The employees ought to be able to determine which system they prefer at a given workplace.

Having the government impose mandatory union membership perverts the marketplace and prevents workers from making choices about the system that works best for them.  Certainly, given union threats and hysteria, one suspects that the unions are worried that they won’t be able to compete in a free market.  With increasing worker mobility and communication skills, we don’t have the stagnant local employment market that allowed 19th and early 20th century employers to abuse a trapped labor market.

Union thug hitting Steve Crowder