Kamala, O’ Kamala!

I belong to an organization called AHEPA. That is the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. It is closely associated with the Greek Orthodox Church but not officially tied to it. The proximity is due to the fact that most of our members are Greek-American and thus the relationship is strong. This is unlike the Knights of Columbus, a philanthropic charitable organization which is wholly a part of the American Catholic Church.

The knights are currently in the cross hairs of the presidential ambitions of one Senator Kamala Harris, recently California Attorney General and also recently highly visible in the Kavanaugh debacle. There, in spite of her beaming campaign photos, she displayed an icy, almost reptilian demeanor when interrogating Judge Kavanaugh.

And she is at it again. Since she is still a member of the Senate Judiciary committee, she is now raising objections to the nominee, Omaha attorney Brian Beuscher, based on his membership in the Knights of Columbus. The Knights, being an element of the Catholic church, follow the teachings of the church in regard to abortion, among other things. Ms. Harris’s interrogation of the judicial candidate focused on those issues as if the Knights were some far right extremist organization bent on a return to the medieval world.

Predictably, a howl went up from pundits on the right, as this was a clear violation of article 6 of the US constitution, which expressly forbids any religious test for public office. What has gone unmentioned is that it is certain that Harris knows this and was not attempting to expand her knowledge of Catholic doctrine. Given her presidential ambitions, this was an exhibition aimed at pandering to her -possible- base and shore up her credentials as the standard bearer of the far left.

It does have more ominous implications, however. She was joined in this attack by Senator Mazie Hirono, and this is not an isolated exception. Numerous similar attacks have been recorded in which Democrat Senators question the propriety of nominees involvement in religiously based organizations. Matthew Continetti, writing for the National Review, detailed many of these incidents. As he summarized it,

“No longer is the debate over Christianity in the public square. It is over Christians in the public square. And this is an argument in which people of every faith have a stake in the outcome.”

Looking on this as an AHEPAN and an Orthodox Christian, I can only shudder at what might come to pass under a Harris administration.

The Steyer Mire

Silicon Valley Big Tech gazillionare Tom Steyer is on a tear to impeach Donald Trump. He has committed some $40,000,000.00 to the effort and can be seen regularly (at least on day-time TV) flogging his lame idea. On my deepest dark side, it would be a delicious outcome to be tiptoeing across the feces flecked Union Square in San Francisco, the heart of darkest leftism, and encounter an impoverished Tom Steyer begging for handouts having blown his fortune tilting at the windmill that is Donald Trump. I don’t hold out much chance of this. I suspect that $40M is but chump change to him and besides, he didn’t get that much cash by being fiscally stupid. More’s the pity…

Certainly there is much about The Donald that is off-putting. He has not stayed in the proper lane through life or even in office. His bluster and braggadocio does little or nothing to increase his base and, according to many pundits, his reelection is likely in jeopardy. But impeachable? That requires some reflection.

The Founding Fathers were certain that an impeachment process was necessary to good government. Elected officials must be accountable to the people and be removable if circumstances warrant. But they shied away from being definitive and instead used the term of art high crimes and misdemeanors instead. They did so to make impeachment essentially a political act, not a statutory one. (Here I would suggest you look up the commentary of Andy McCarthy at National Review. He has examined this issue at length from his knowledge as an attorney and as a federal prosecutor. It will be worth your trouble.)

In his TV pitch, Steyer claims that he has a list of ten impeachable acts, though he doesn’t cite anything specific. This is where his whole campaign falls apart. The deliberately unspecific specification has never been followed by any legislation detailing what might constitute high crimes and misdemeanors, and the fact that presidential impeachments have been so rarely used means that Steyer’s list is of no merit. In short, Steyer could claim that any act of Trump is impeachable and it would be nothing but the ranting of a loon with too much money and time.

Finally, it must be noted that Steyer started his campaign even before Trump was sworn in. It is a “hang ’em first and find a reason later” effort. That is evidently from his generic distaste for Trump, coupled with delusion that the election was somehow illegitimate. But Trump was legitimately elected. One may question the effectiveness of the electoral college system, but it is sheer fantasy to argue that the 2016 election was erroneous.

So keep on, Tom Steyer. Squander your fortune on your effort. And if it comes to it, I will keep an eye out for you in Union Square.

Fishing

Saturday was a fishing day. The FFFC, Fresno Fly Fishers for Conservation, held a monthly outing at Avocado Lake. It is a popular swimming and recreation location and fishing spot. The lake itself was not the target for the day as the Kings River flows right nearby. This stretch of the river is designated as a catch and release area, meaning that any fish caught must be returned to the water, preferably alive. Moreover, only artificial lures may be used -no bait! Trout is the dominant species so it is popular for fly fishing, of which I am a devotee -of sorts. (Another blog will give you an idea of the area. http://www.keepcalmandflyfish.com/2016/12/visit-to-lower-kings-river.html.)

I have been fishing ever since childhood. Kings Canyon was a frequent choice for family outings and we would make our way there once or twice a year from San Francisco, an arduous journey. I remember arriving late at night with the stars shining through the tall trees. Camping in Cedar Grove became a family tradition. My first trip there was in 1946 in old Studebaker sedan. Sadly I do not have pictures from any of those trips though I am certain they still exist.

My father was an ardent fly fisherman but in my earliest days, he provided me a bait casting rod and reel meant for little guys like I was. It was not until my teens that he began to introduce me to the gentle art. I have been fly fishing ever since and greatly prefer it, especially dry flies.

Michael's first fish for 2019
Michael with his first fish of the year, a 20″ beauty taken from the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam.

However, I have been anything but diligent, fishing only infrequently over the years. Until recently. Allow me to introduce my grandson, Michael. How and when he discovered fishing I do not know, but a few years ago, he discovered the FFFC. The club (which you can find at http://www.fresnoflyfishers.org) has for a number of years held a youth academy. The Roger Miller Youth Academy is an annual event during which interested young people are taught the basics of fly fishing and fly tying. Michael applied with the stated purpose of being able go fishing with his grandfather. We have been members ever since. (There is more to the story, but that is for another time.)

This day, however, Michael could not participate. His schoolwork is pretty intense and he has to devote considerable time to it and give it first priority. We did get out earlier this year, with a very satisfying result -for him, at least. For myself, Saturday was quite productive. We found a hole right near our picnic site where a large school of trout were holding. They must have been hungry (I think they were recent transplants) as several of us were able to take (and release) fish. I caught three, the largest about 13″ and a strong fighter. I was not disappointed. It was a very good day.

I know Where the Grinch Lives…

The BBC Internet news feed featured an item recently, a story about a panel of “experts” warning  parents not tell children about Santa Claus. The story must have got some push back because it disappeared rather quickly. Stories on the Beeb often linger for days, sometimes weeks but this one vanished almost as soon as it was posted.

Those experts stated that parents should not lie to children as it might do irreparable psychological harm to the kiddies when they finally realize they have been deceived. They are right, of course. Parents shouldn’t lie to their children.

Except…

Anyone who is or has been a parent knows that it is not that simple. Not every child’s questions should be answered, or can be answered in a way a young child can comprehend. And then there are those questions parents would rather not deal with right at the moment. Kicking the can down the road is a useful strategy, and sometimes a little deception satisfies. (Ask my grandsons about the gypsy detector…)

So what brought on the BBC article? One might keep in mind the ever present need to generate copy, and the ever present desire for a little attention and publicity among those “experts”. But take them seriously for a moment, even if it is a stretch.

First, if this is a problem, there ought to be evidence of the consequences. But there is no crisis of confidence, no traumatized tykes rioting in the streets because they have been told that Santa isn’t real. Instead we are treated to the sight of Santa being joyously greeted at the annual Macy’s parade. Parents scramble to get the kids to sit for pictures with “the jolly old elf” and Christmas programs abound in churches and schools (in spite of the ongoing grinch-like effort to euphemize them into “holiday” programs).

The simple fact is that Christmas and Santa flourish regardless. Parents find that Santa motivates toddlers to some semblance of good behavior. Children look forward to Christmas and the mad exchange of gifts of every magnitude. In short, Christmas and Santa go together and, even with all the frenzy of gift shopping, it is happily anticipated by one and all, no matter what they think or know about Santa.

But there is a dark side to this matter. Those “experts” are up to something more than quashing a harmless little fiction. I look back to a Christmas short story that became a family tradition when I was young. In the telling, a preacher in a country church explains to his Sunday school class how Santa came to be. As the preacher told his young charges, Jesus is for grownups but Santa Claus is for kids.

There in a nutshell is the whole issue. The reality is that Santa Claus is a stand-in for God and what the experts really want is to destroy the faith of children. Implicit in their argument is that, as Santa is not real, God does not exist and all children should be raised to be happy atheists. Sadly, too many have followed that path.

Still, Christmas and Santa persist. Sure, we make up fictions about Santa and the North Pole. Sure, no expedition to the North pole has stumbled upon a vast toy factory or flying reindeer or any of the rest of it. But the Santa story teaches children to understand faith in the face of relentless secularism. And, as one Facebook meme put it, they go from believing in Santa to becoming Santa. The whole concept of generosity is wrapped up in the annual gift giving binge. No one can participate in the spirit of the holiday if they cannot enjoy both getting and giving. Experts fail to see that but children absorb the idea that there will be gifts under the tree and from that grow to understand and have faith that God will  provide.

For me, I still hear the bell even though I know that Santa Claus is the modern manifestation of the true story of a generous ancient bishop. The generosity of St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra is legendary and he has been greatly revered throughout history. We honor him still. I, for one, do not think that Christmas or Santa will fade  away. It will be a cold day in this world if Christmas is reduced to a mere winter holiday. And while I dream of Christmases past, I wonder what story Charles Dickens might have told had he listened to the experts.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Loyal to… ?

A recent poster on Facebook lamented the possibility his son might have to join the service under that “moron-in-chief” obviously referring to the current president. What he seems not recognize is that every president in recent times has been disdained by some portion of the populace. Thus the epithet would have been used in regard to presidents every party.

This is a minor matter but there is a an underlying principle that is being forgotten. Those who join our military services swear an oath to “preserve and protect” the constitution. This oath remains in force regardless who is in the White House. In fact, many military members serve through the terms of more than one president and no repeat oath is needed.

Why is this? As I stated, the oath is to preserve the constitution not the president, or any other person for that matter. The founding fathers wanted no royalty and that oath is an expression of that desire. Thus presidents, governors and all the rest can come and go but “the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper-sheathed, one and indivisible” as Stephen Vincent Benet phrased it in The Devil and Daniel Webster.

There will always be those who find it onerous to serve a particular president and that will be true of presidents of either party. This will not be a problem unless it develops as a widespread sentiment. But that will only happen if the military lets up on its dedication to serving the country.

Das Boot, Max!

This is not about submarines or the movie Das Boot. It is about the strange journey of one Max Boot, late of the conservative world and his conversion to a fire breathing true believer of climate change.

Max Boot was a familiar figure in the conservative world and was generally recognized as well versed in Middle East matters. He was, that is, until 2016, late 2016. Evidently nonplussed by the victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, Max went deep into the “Never Trump” camp and pretty much vanished from the pages of the various conservative sites to which he was previously contributing.

He had company. Among others, writers such as George Will, columnist for the Washington Post, and Bill Kristol, editor and founder of The Weekly Standard, abandoned the Republican Party on the grounds that the GOP had become unmoored from its professed principles. They had a point, as The Donald certainly displayed no perceivable moral principles. But in the minds of many Trump supporters, the Democratic Party’s continuing support for Bill Clinton seemed to negate that as a matter of concern. Sort of an “if they can do it, so can we” stance.

That obviously did not sit well with Max who began issuing a stream of vitriolic laden commentary making it clear that he was against Trump and any who might side with The Donald even slightly. Conservative pundits have taken note of this and have, here and there, commented on him. Now it seems, he has completely rejected the conservatism he once espoused and has embraced the progressive side. The climate issue is only the latest manifestation of his “conversion”.

There are others in the Never Trump camp who have been on the receiving end of Boot’s ~and others’~ disdain. Jonah Goldberg, for example, has been subjected to endless anti-semitic assaults. he gets it from both sides, the right for being against Trump and the left for being on the right and thus supposedly pro-Trump. it is a messy scene.

So climate alarmists* ought to think twice before deifying max Boot. It is hardly likely that he is concerned about climate above all else. Characteristic of his stance since 2016 is a clearly reflexive opposition to Trump. If the Donald goes to McDonalds, max will prefer Burger King. There is not one matter nor one event about which Max will allow himself to agree with Trump, no matter the outcome or the ultimate facts. Goldberg, while clearly and emphatically not in favor of Trump, will at least give due credit when Trump gets something right. Max Boot  has simply gone off the deep end and completely changed his supposedly closely held philosophy simply because of Trump. The contrast between him and Goldberg is stark. Jonah opposes Trump because The Donald does not appear to hold true conservative values. Max opposes Trump only because he is Trump.

*So you think the term climate alarmists is a slur? Please then explain why the term climate deniers is not. Those who use it are either utterly tone deaf to the obvious comparison to Holocaust deniers, or are deliberately taking a cheap shot. The argument that “you are a Nazi because…” appears over and over again. It is unwise and undeserved. The use of alarmists, on the other hand, is not pejorative. In fact, if you truly believe there is an approaching climate catastrophe, being called an alarmist would be appropriate. On the other hand, being called a denier is to be excluded from any possible dialogue. This is a matter of science, not dogma. No scientific proposition should ever be accepted without question. It is shameful how much the “scientific community” has abandoned the principles of true scientific inquiry.

IOT: Internet of Trouble

As I dabble in electronic gadgetry, owing to my professional occupation, I frequently am made aware of the so called Internet of Things. In this universe, gadgets of every imaginable purpose are designed so as to be accessible and controllable through the Internet. Just add the appropriate interface and the code to match and Voila, you can turn on your oven from half a world away, from the moon even, should you ever get there.

Why is this so wonderful? Certainly it satisfies the curious and the tinkerers. There is a comical scene in a Big Bang Theory episode when the boys, true geeks that they are, make it possible to control their lights in this way, not to mention the RC cars similarly enabled. In their case, nothing untoward occurs, but it ought to be recognized that much mischief might result.

What provokes this line of thinking is an article on the Weekly Standard website discussing how Internet connected driver-less cars might be turned into WMDs. The thrust of the article is to insist that more must be done for cyber security but never asks the question as to why they should be connected at all. One troubling possibility is that the desire to inform the rider that there are three coffee shops nearby or the nearest McD is just 1.5 miles away overrides the obvious potential for disaster.

On a larger scale, occasional mention is made that there just might be cyber attacks on the power grid. Our entire power generating capacity is Internet connected, but why should we give access in any form to hostile actors. Really, does anyone ~anyone~ in Kazakhstan need to know what PG&E or Southern Cal Edison are doing? And worse, should it be possible for them under any circumstances to be able to control any element of that or defense systems or anything?

Perhaps we need to step back and address the wisdom of the IOT concept. There is little benefit to be had from connecting a myriad of devices that heretofore were working just fine thank you without remote control. It might just be time to start disconnecting things from the Internet. Do we really need our lawnmower ~or the neighborhood nuclear reactor~ to be at the mercy of someone in say, Tehran?