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You don’t get the moral high ground. There is no moral high ground.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall

 

IndivisibleOften attributed to Voltaire, English Evelyn B. Hall biographer coined that famous phrase back in 1906 in her work, “The Friends of Voltaire”. Nothing sums up my feelings regarding yesterday’s events in Charlottesville better.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about (and my international readers may not), here’s what happened:

In response to plans by the City of Charlottesville (Virginia, United States of America), a protest is organized by noted agitator, white supremacist, and anti-Semite Jason Kessler to be held on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at Emancipation Park. Earlier in that week, Kessler learns of plans by city officials to move the protest to a different park. On Thursday, August 10, 2017, Kessler filed suit against the city, contesting that it has no right to move the protest out of Emancipation Park.

Friday, August 11, 2017

  • A federal judge rules that the rally can be held in Emancipation Park
  • Virginia governor Terry McAullife places LLE and the National Guard on standby for Saturday’s protest.
  • Hundreds of people, carrying tiki torches, March on the University of Virginia. People reported hearing chants of “White lives matter” and “blood and soil”. LLE disperses the crowd.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

  • Both alt-right and antifa protesters arrive at Emancipation Park hours before the scheduled start time. It is reported that LLE, in riot gear, make no effort to separate the two groups.
  • Violence breaks out between the two groups. It is unclear what happened. Some reported seeing an alt-right punch a black woman in the face after she threw her drink in his face. Other’s reported hearing a “loud, sharp thud” followed by people screaming and trying to flee. Bystanders intervene among various incidents, but LLE does not get involved.
  • Around 1130EDT, LLE officially rules the gatherings as “unlawful” and begin to attempt to disperse the crowds.
  • At ~1150EDT Gov. McAuliffe declares a local state of emergency in Charlottesville. The University of Virginia cancels all on-campus activities for the day.
  • Some hours later, around 13:30EDT, a grey Dodge Charger plows into a group of counter-protestors, killing a 32 y/o woman and injuring 19 others. The car does not stop at the scene, but is picked up by police some hours later. James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, of Ohio, is arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Fields Jr., a military veteran, may be aligned with the alt-right, though his mother claims she would “be surprised” if this were the case but admitted she “doesn’t talk politics” with her son. A glance at the Facebook page of the suspect by this author shows dozens of violent and anti-woman posts.
  • 1500EDT: President Trump speaks in New Jersey, saying “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He later followed with this Tweet: “We ALL must be united & condemn all what hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”
  • Shortly before 1700EDT, a Virginia State Police helicopter crashes, killing two troopers. The crash is under investigation.
  • Saturday night: Virginia police announce the arrests of three others in conjunction with the day’s protests: 21y/o Troy Dunigan of Tennessee  (disorderly conduct), 21y/o Jacob L. Smith of Virginia (misdemeanor assault and battery), 44y/o James M. O’Brien of Florida (carrying a concealed handgun). In addition to the 19 injured by Fields Jr., 15 people are hospitalized with various injuries. Local citizens hold a candlelight vigil.

(Sources: Timeline of Events for Unite the Right rallyCharlottesville Attack: What, where, and who?White Supremacist Rally Erupts in Violence; Alt-Right Vows to ReturnThree More Suspects Arrested after “unrest” in CharlottesvilleCharlottesville rally deaths and arrests, what we know SundayCharlottesville tries to pick up the pieces after day of deadly unrestSouthern Poverty Law Center)

Then this exchange happened:

post1post 2post3

I’ll let you figure out which one is me in that thread.

The actions of both the alt-right group and antifa groups were wrong. No one is going to deny that.

What I will deny is that this incident is one-sided. Is the guy carrying the Confederate flag and the sign that says “Jews are Satan’s Children” wrong? Yes. Is the guy across the way wrong for giving the Nazi salute? Well, idiotic, maybe, but not wrong. Is speeding a car into a group of people because you disagree with their ideals wrong? Actually, I’d say criminally evil. Is physically fighting someone because you disagree or loathe their beliefs wrong? Definitely. Believing you are better than someone on the basis of your race, color, creed, or sex is wrong. Crying out for the injury or death of others is wrong.

That last part was the one thing my anonymous aqua friend probably shouldn’t have mentioned if she was condemning this incident, specifically. I didn’t ask, but I wonder if this person also would condemn the BLM for their anti-cop rhetoric that has resulted in outright murder? (NYPD, you deserve better.)

Agree, or not. Protest, or not. Speak out, or not. It is a right granted to ALL Americans.

EDIT: For what it’s worth, the “Unite the Right” group DID have a permit for their gathering.

 

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Guns. Also, Math and Facts are Hard.

I saw a claim today that, in a bid for stricter gun control, estimated that the United States of America contains 5% of the world’s population and 50% of its guns. Is this accurate, and how does it impact local and global violence?

The Small Arms Survey, a group in Switzerland that keeps track of these things, includes “revolvers, self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, assault rifles¹, sub-machine guns and light machine guns”, as well as “heavy machine guns, hand-held under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft guns, portable anti-tank guns, recoilless rifles, portable launchers of anti-tank missiles and rocket systems; portable launchers of anti-aircraft missile systems (MANPADS) and mortars of calibres less than 100mm.” Recently, “To this list, the Survey has added single-rail-launched rockets and 120 mm mortars as long as they can be transported and operated as intended by a light vehicle.”

According to the Small Arms Survey, the United States is one of the most transparent nations when it comes to reporting weapons imports and exports (including military grade), and only Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands have higher “transparency” scores. The least transparent countries are Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. It is safe to say that the United States is excellent when it comes to reporting what happens with its firearms.

Most studies you will read place about 270,000,000 (270 million) legally owned firearms in the hands of American civilians. With the current population of the United States hovering around 323,100.000 (323.1 million), basic math will show you that’s about 85 legally owned guns per 100 people. Subtracting the population under the age 18, it comes out to roughly 92 guns per 100 adults. That does indeed sound like a lot. The Small Arms survey estimates somewhere in the middle of these two numbers, with 89 firearms per 100 residents.

Meanwhile, the global population is somewhere around 7.5 billion (7,500,000,000). According to the small-arms survey, there are roughly 650 million privately owned firearms. The USA is at the top of this, followed by Yemen (55), Switzerland (46), Finland(45), and Cyprus (36). Since we know that fifty percent of 650 million is 325 million. As the USA has 270 million privately owned firearms, this is less than the 50% statistic quoted above. It comes out closer to 42%. At 323.1 million, the US also has roughly 4.3% of the global population, after China (18.5%) and India (17.9%).

The United States of America contains 4% of the world’s population, and owns 42% of the world’s civilian firearms.

Let’s break this down further. The following countries prohibit gun ownership or so heavily restrict it so as to make ownership near impossible except in certain circumstances,  to ordinary citizens. Listed also are countries that prohibit ownership for self-defense. Numbers in parentheses denote percentage of world population:

  1. Taiwan (0.3%)
  2. India (17.9%)
  3. Israel (0.1%)
  4. Kuwait (0.1%)
  5. Malaysia (0.4)
  6. East Timor (0%)
  7. Indonesia (3.5%)
  8. Japan (1.7%)
  9. North Korea (0.3%)
  10. Singapore (0.1%)
  11. South Korea (0.7%)
  12. China (18.5%)
  13. Turkey (1.1%)
  14. Cyprus* (0%)
  15. Iceland (0%)
  16. France* (0.9%)
  17. Germany* (1.1%)
  18. Netherlands* (0.2%)
  19. Romania* (0.3%)
  20. United Kingdom* (0.9%)
  21. New Zealand (0.1%)
  22. Brazil (2.8%)
  23. Chile (0.2)
  24. Australia (0.3%)
  25. Canada (0.5%)
  26. Denmark* (0.1%)
  27. Finland* (0.1%)
  28. Hungary* (0.1%)
  29. Ireland* (0.1%)
  30. Norway (0.1%)
  31. Ukraine (0.6%)
  32. Vietnam (1.3%)

Statistics for African countries not available. This list, however, legally prohibits or heavily restricts 53.3% of the world’s population from possession of a firearm, most notably, hand guns. This percentage puts those 650 million guns into the hands of only (approximately) 3.5 billion. Now, let’s remove the United States from the equation, leaving 380 million firearms in the hands of 7.2 billion people. Clearly, this still leaves the United States on top for private gun ownership, but in the overall picture, what, exactly, does this mean?

Next: Global gun ownership and crime.

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High-Stakes Testing, Turning Brains to Zombie Fodder…

This month and next, all around the country, children in various grades will be subjected to state and government mandated standardized tests. Some of these are the most infamous and panic-inducing names and acronyms ever to enter a classroom. Regents. MCAS. FCAT. I-STEP+. MontCas. NECAP. STAAR. WESTEST. PAWS. Finally, the Common Core aligned PARCC (pronounced “park”).

Standardized testing is nothing new to me, as I spent a week every other year since first grade doing the Iowas, or the CAT-5s, and then switching over to the state-sanctioned standardized test when it was approved. Mine was the last class that didn’t need to pass it to graduate, and as I was out on medical leave the year it was given to my class, I never even saw the test. I made up for my lack of standardized testing with two rounds of PSATs and 2 rounds of SATs, just to be on the safe side. Since my own high school days, nothing has driven teachers, staff, and students into a bigger frenzy than testing season.

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and guardians, this is where you come in:

The PARCC testing is not mandatory. You may opt your child out of these tests at any time.

In my state, the education commissioner sent out a memo last year that although not highly publicized, reminded building administrators that parents did have a right to instruct their child not to take the test and to provide an alternate educational setting. The only tests the students need to take are, like in New York, the Regents required for graduation in English, math, and science. To opt your student out, a simple letter stating that you have told your child not to take the test and a simple, polite request to the building principal for separate work is all it takes. Please do your research and Google “opt-out, PARCC”. It’s so easy to find the material. Not only will you save yourself and your child a lot of hassle, but you will be pushing back against the Education Establishment and reining some degree of control back into your life and family.

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Matthew 5:11-12

“When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

In the blazing Age of Information, when our children can manipulate tablets and smart phones as soon as they can hold their heads up, allow me to offer one piece of advice:

Never let social media, text, or email stand in the way of actual conversation, because nothing will convolute thoughts, meanings, intents, and interpretations faster than words on a screen. 

You will never regret doing so.

 

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Nature: 3, Blonde: 0

As previously stated, I’ve been on vacation and out of the realm of the interwebs the last two weeks or so, except for a day here and there to do laundry. This jaunt started with a whirlwind trip to upstate New York to visit some amazing friends* and continued with my traditional camping ** trip in the wilds of northwestern Massachusetts.

There is a memorable scene in Titanic in which Rose attempts to commit suicide by jumping off the back of the ship. Jack, in trying to distract her, describes ice fishing and claims he thought she was “more of an indoor girl”. As much as I like the beach, hiking, horseback riding and swimming… I like those things as afternoon activities or at most, day trips. Camping and I go together about as well as oil and water. This has always been the case, so I don’t know why I was so darn surprised this time around.

My first camping experience came when I was nine years old and in Girl Scouts. Somewhere there is a picture of me on my front porch, proud as can be with my backpack, pillow, and Barbie sleeping bag. We were going to tell scary stories around the campfire and sleep in tents. This lasted all of one night, because the heavens opened up and it POURED. The troop, all fourteen of us plus our three troop leaders, got moved into a cabin. That second night, one of the girls stayed up all night vomiting. It wasn’t a simple food poisoning, or stomach bug, or even home-sickness.

Scarlatina. More than half of us came down with it, myself included. I missed a week of school. My ballet recital was that week, and I remember sitting with another girl backstage with paper bags and buckets until we could go do our dance and then leaving immediately. I don’t recall ever*** being so sick.

Nature: 1, Blonde: 0

A year or so later, a went camping for a week with family friends. Surely, the first time was a fluke and this was really a great way to vacation. We were on an island in Maine, almost right on the beach. Sure, it was a hike to the restrooms, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

Unless you get food poisoning.

Nature: 2, Blonde: 0

I (wisely) didn’t go camping again until I was in high school and went away to “God-Camp”. I loved it. I went for two consecutive years without a problem, and during the school years, volunteered with the organization that ran the camp. For the last five years, I babysat some of the younger members -children of those who run it but aren’t old enough to be campers yet. It’s a ton of fun and I enjoy being up there. I never really considered babysitting there to be “camping”. I sleep in a lodge with indoor plumbing, electricity, and hot water. I sleep on an air mattress with real sheets, blankets, and pillows. There’s a mouse or two, but a cat would take care of that problem. I can shower daily without worry. No big deal.

Famous last words. The first week I was there was great. Normally I’m only up there for one week because of my work schedule, but fate allowed me to stay for two this time around. First, by the start of week #2 I was tired and my ears were bothering me, but I had just done three rock concerts**** in less than a week. I wore earplugs everywhere the main group was gathered, from the meeting hall to the mess hall. Monday I dealt with mutated daddy long legs crawling down my neck and into my shirt. Tuesday I found a tick embedded in my scalp. Wednesday I was so overtired I thanked God for the earplugs and managed (just barely) not to doze off during rock concert #4. Thursday I woke with a sinus infection, slept most of the day, and ended up having to call my dad and my brother to pick me up early. After hacking up a lung all Thursday night and most of Friday morning, a visit to the doctor confirmed my suspicion of sinusitis.

Nature: 3, Blonde: 0

Next vacation I take is going to be in a 5 star hotel on a really, really nice beach somewhere.
*the type who pick you up when you’re stranded for a ride, even when you neglected to mention that you were in the area
** “camping” – queen sized, double thick air mattress with sheets and pillows in a lodge with indoor plumbing and electricity
*** Until I had menengitis in college
****and guess who sat really close to the speakers at the first three concerts, including “Panic! At the Disco”

 

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Out of Office

In case I neglected to mention earlier –

The Blonde has been on vacation the last week, and with the exception with this brief stop at home to do laundry, will be out enjoying that vacation for the next two weeks with very little access to the interwebs. I’ll be back mid-August sometime when I finally reach the point I need a vacation from my vacation.

So you won’t miss me too much, here’s one of my favorite silly Star Wars edits:

star wars company

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Bono: Not Just for Music Anymore

This clip was featured in Dinesh D’Souza’s new film “America: Imagine a World Without Her”, which I saw this evening. I can’t recommend it enough, for liberals and conservatives alike. It tackles many of the things that people say are “bad” about America, and why we shouldn’t be proud of our great nation, from the early treatment of the aboriginal population, to slavery, to our current foreign policy, and capitalism. The film interviews people who have a stake in each of those opinions, and then reviews each of them from a historical perspective, speaking with historians, economists, scholars, military veterans, and more.

And then, there’s Bono, who really just summed up everything.

 

 

America. I can’t live with or without you? Scratch that. Just can’t live without her.

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