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We Could Have Used Some Extreme Vetting

As a matter of policy I deliberately eschew blogging about current events and politics, but the occasional exception must be made when either include a deeply personal component. In the last 24 hours the news has been full of reports concerning the [latest] terrorist attack on American soil, which just happened to occur at Ohio State University, which is literally down the street from where I currently reside.

For those not in the know, and for the record, the attack was apparently carried out by a lone wolf, who rammed his car into a crowd of people who just happened to be exiting a building due to a fire alarm (caused by either a gas leak or suspicion of a gas leak).  After jumping the curb and coming to a stop, one of the dazed – and naïve - onlookers approached and actually asked the driver if he was OK.  Whereupon the driver exited the vehicle, produced a large butcher knife, and promptly began stabbing anyone within reach.  Within a couple minutes a nearby campus police officer appeared, confronted the attacker and then fatally shot him when he refused to divest himself of the knife.  Eleven people had to be hospitalized.

As usual, information was initially sparse, and slowly trickled in over the course of the day.  That didn’t stop Senator and would-be Vice President Tim Kaine from using it as a knee-jerk excuse to advocate for more gun control, as he tweeted: “Deeply saddened by the senseless act of gun violence at Ohio State this morning.  Praying for the injured and the entire Buckeye community.”  Actually, Tim – the gun violence was the sensible part – it stopped the guy with the knife!  What a douche.

The attacker turned out to be an 18 year old man, and was initially described as such.  I noted without surprise but with disgust that CNN left out the pertinent details as long as they possibly could, long after other news outlets.  His name was Abdul Razak Ali Artan.  He was a Muslim – specifically a Somali Muslim, and not a citizen, but a refugee who had originally left Somalia in 2007 for Pakistan and then somehow got permission to come to the U.S. in 2014.  Looks like we could have used some of Trump’s “extreme vetting” back then, huh?

I’m going to give fair warning now: I’m a bit touchy about this, probably because I had been on campus a mere two days before the attack to attend the Ohio State-Michigan football game.  In fact, I had walked right by where it happened.  In fact, the Watts Building (from where the victims had just emerged)
, which houses Material Science, had been where one of my best friends – who was with me at the time because it was he who procured the tickets to the game – had gotten his doctorate, and in fact he had just been in that building two weeks prior!  So, that would be the personal component.

Some people are going to take the “it’s not terrorism - it’s mental illness” route.  BULLSHIT.  Especially when he posted stuff like this on FB just before the attack: “I can’t take it anymore. America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah.  We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that….If you want us Muslims to stop carrying lone wolf attacks, then make peace. We will not let you sleep unless you give peace to Muslims.”  http://abcnews.go.com/US/osu-attack-suspect-identified-abdul-razak-ali-artan/story?id=43827435 Well I guess he showed us, didn’t he?

Other people are going to take the “but it’s only one guy.  There’s thousands of Muslims – and many Somalis in Columbus, and they haven’t done anything like that!”  Except…just this year, on February 4th, to be exact, there was ANOTHER attack in Columbus, by a Somali Muslim, with a machete (these Africans really like their edged weapons, don’t they?).  30 year old Mohammed Barry carried out his attack in a local restaurant, presumably after he discovered that the restaurant owner was from Israel.  He also was killed by police, but not before sending four to the hospital and injuring a married couple so badly that they had to have limbs amputated. http://freedomdaily.com/flashback-somali-man-attacked-people-with-machete-in-ohio-in-february/ Of course this nugget has remained completely unmentioned by the media at large.  I remembered it, so I did a search and discovered this on an obscure website that probably will be marked by Facebook as “fake news” so it be scrubbed from the newsfeed.

What’s worse is that Artan was interviewed by the Lantern, the OSU student paper, at the start of the semester where he had the audacity to say HE was worried that he would be viewed with distrust because he was Muslim: “I was kind of scared with everything going on in the media. I'm a Muslim, it's not what media portrays me to be," he told the newspaper. "If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don't know what they're going to think, what's going to happen.”   http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/11/28/somali-student-behind-car-knife-attack-at-ohio-state-university-that-injured-11.html We now KNOW what was going to happen, and yeah, it pretty much confirmed our justified biases!

Since 9/11 almost 100,000 Somalis have been settled in the US, with 38,000 alone in Central Ohio.  They have brought violence and dyscivic behavior to Columbus and Minneapolis, where they ruined the Mall of America. Now we have 100,000 Syrians, too. I swear, when are people going to wake up?  Smell the damn coffee!  Why are we doing this to ourselves?    How much longer are we going to let these outrages be perpetrated against our communities?  Islam is not compatible with the West. It is a regressive ideology that gives losers moral cover to undertake deadly attacks against innocent people and non-combatants.  I suppose that is the lesson: there are no more non-combatants.  We must be on our guard; this is an existential struggle between rival civilizations.  We must acknowledge that, and start acting appropriately.

I have been trying to tell people how the election would shake out for over a year. No one listened to me; in fact, many simply became agitated in response, so I gave up about three months ago. I'm not surprised by this outcome whatsoever. I'm even collecting on an election wager today, made back in May by a coworker who repeatedly insisted that Clinton would win - even though he was a Trump supporter himself(!). When I tried to explain why I thought he was mistaken he pressed me to bet on it. So, now I'm $50 richer.

You bought the Narrative. You swallowed it hook, line and sinker. But don't feel too bad - there are tens of millions of people just like you - on both sides actually, who also believed what the media told them. Except here's the deal: the vast majority of the Big Journalism establishment, the pundits, the talking heads, the people writing the columns and editorials, the pollsters - that jackass Nate Silver who leftists insisted was some sort of genius, - they were all utterly wrong and had no f**king clue what they were talking about. Either that or they DID know and they lied to us in the cynical assumption they could manipulate public opinion to manufacture the consensus they desired. Either way they should be purged from their profession, exiled to obscurity - no more appearances on camera, no more speaking fees or book deals, no more bylines in the newspaper. There should be consequences for such monumental incompetence. If I showed such appalling misunderstanding in my job people would DIE.

FFS, "Newsweek", that moldering, zombified corpse of the legacy media, issued a magazine BEFORE the election with Hillary Clinton and the title "Madame President" on the cover; they were so sure of themselves. Such a 'Dewey Defeats Truman' moment should not be possible in today's modern age. Yet there it is.

At a very minimum, the world of journalism should engage in some serious soul-searching. Some self-reflection is called for. I don't know if the ones who populate that world are even capable of it. I suspect the sad thing is that the media is going to ask the same people that got everything completely wrong what they think happens now. They should all be fired en masse. (Hey look, Michael Moore and I agree on something!)

Maybe it's because of my near obsession with discovering the Truth - so that I may achieve understanding as a path to Wisdom - that whenever I interface with or am exposed to the Media, I first invariably ask myself if the intent of the content is to persuade or to inform. Usually it is the former, which makes it immediately suspect. And because I have always been wary of even my own desires, I attempt to remain alert to the possibility that I am believing something because I WANT to believe it, rather than because it reflects Reality. I have noted that I seem to be rather unique in this regard, which rather than making me feel special demoralizes me.

Addendum:  Look, here's a sterling example of "the Narrative" inaction: http://www.unz.com/.../at-nyt-talented-reporters.../ Best line: "We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line. Reality usually had a way of intervening."

Some Drive-By Reasoning

A LJ friend recently posted concerning a discussion with a grad student colleague about ethics, namely where does ethics come from? As merzb elaborated, "Someone said that they were in a debate where this Christian physicist said that ethics came from nature. R--- said that's a load of bollocks and that ethics does not come from nature, because in nature we see all this abberant behaviour which we would deem as unethical, that ethics comes from history and society."

This seriously got me to thinking, which almost seems like a luxury to me these days.  Here was my commentary, which I thought worthy of preservation:

I shall adjudicate this.

Conceptually, ethics straddles the line between etiquette and justice.  Personally I have been more concerned with the manifestation of justice, in particular the transition that modern societies make between an honor-based justice system and a justice system based on the uniform application of a set of laws.  But I digress...

Firstly, your colleague is engaging in a logical fallacy here: he refutes nothing by saying “there’s all sorts of fucked up shit in Nature”, i.e., “Nature exhibits some bad things, thus everything Nature offers is bad – and so something good like ethics could not have arisen from Nature.”  Some weak sauce, there (I trust that is obvious, assuming his position was properly characterized).

Your friend is in error.  Ethics has been around as long as Man has been around – even longer.  While many predators are solitary (and hence have no need for ethics), humans, along with their primate forebears are, literally, social animals.  This premise forms the basis of the logical progression of human relations: from family to clan, clan to tribe, tribe to nation, and so on.  Anyone who studies primates is well aware that ethics, or a code of conduct, exists in the animal kingdom.  The principles may be simple, but important: do not be violent unless you yourself are willing to risk violence upon yourself, don’t take things that don’t belong to you (or are being used/consumed by another in the group), look after not only your own young, but the young of others in the group, reciprocal grooming, even adhering to the (often rigidly imposed ) socio-sexual hierarchy that governs mating behavior is an indication of ethics, that is to say, an agreed-upon system of regulating behavior between members of the group that is understood by all group members.  This remains the case even if we are merely discussing a bunch of gorillas squatting in the jungle, a herd of elephants sidling up to a watering hole in the Serengeti or a pack of wolves in the Russian taiga.  Seen through this filter of understanding, it is difficult to dispute that ethics does indeed arise from Nature, and is not merely an artificial construct fashioned by men later.  In fact, those who oppose this view can reasonably be accused of confusing cause and effect:  civilized man was not the creator of ethics; ethics actually permitted – and was indispensable for - the creation of civilized man. Taking a step backwards, ethics might be seen as a form of social capital, a technology if you will, that confers an evolutionary advantage to those who practiced it.  Those who didn’t failed the rigors of Natural Selection.

In conclusion: ethics does originate from Nature.  The existence of ethics was a prerequisite FOR the formation of society, and by extension history.

Random Thought

It occurred to me this morning that the fact that there is not only sugar free pumpkin spice flavored creamer but also pumpkin spice breakfast cereal and tortilla chips readily available definitively and conclusively proves Leibniz's theodicy, and that this is the best of all possible worlds.

Autumnal Constitutional

Yesterday morning I got the chance to stroll about one of the local parks, which I attempt to do every October.  The fall colors have not peaked yet, but it behooves me to seize the opportunity when it presents itself, as it might not come later on.  I'm not the best photographer, but some of my efforts had merit in my eyes...

There is a group of wild turkeys that I see every year in this park, although this year I only saw a pair, scratching away at the forest floor like chickens.  They are accustomed to people, so you can get rather close to them.  This is where I wish my phone's camera could zoom in closer!
Photos below the cut...Collapse )

Arbeitsfotos IV

This fearsome edifice (which would make a fine tower for a sorcerer) originally served as a water tower for the water treatment plant of Fostoria, Ohio, and was capped by a riveted steel tank demolished in the 1950's.  A standard asphalt shingle/timber roof was installed on top after the tank was removed but it has been leaking and rotting the last several years.  I was supposed to go up and inspect it, take measurements and design a new roof structure for it.

I could tell just by looking at it that it was an 1880's structure - the roughly hewn, cyclopean blocks of stone, the 3 foot thick walls were a dead giveaway.  Inspired by my favorite architect, H.H. Richardson, romanesque buildings in this manner sprouted up all over the U.S. during that time.  Almost every college campus has one.  The problem is that in the meantime, the ornate Victorian cast iron stairway on the inside had corroded and was partially collapsed and hence not usuable.  The solution was to have the local fire department come out with a ladder truck and hoist me up there.

Since there was piping from the plant buried in the yard outside the tower footprint the [very heavy] fire truck had to park across the street, extend the ladder over the street, and up the four story height to the roof.  A further problem?  The day I was at the site there were 35 mph winds!  After watching the ladder sway ominously back and forth in the buffeting gale, the fire chief said he was not willing to risk the safety of any of his men.  Of course, my project manager helpfully volunteered to still risk MY safety and said I would be more than glad to still attempt it!  Fortunately the fire chief shot down that proposal.  Someday I am supposed to go back up there and attempt to mount the apex and poke around - without falling through the rotten deck.  You can be sure that I am arranging my schedule such that someone else will have to go in my place!

Arbeitsfotos III (Doors Edition)

Finally, a door sufficiently secure and robust for my taste (No, that's not me in the photo).

It's in a 1920's era building that used to be a bank, but is now owned by Lake County, Ohio (I was on a walkthrough with a design team tasked with coming up with scope items for an upcoming renovation). That part is used by the county board of elections and they actually store voting documents inside. (Reminded me of Gringott's of Harry Potter fame.)  After barging behind the counter of the elections officials I then subsequently waltzed through the county prosecutor's office in the midst of an extortion investigation (apparently) and then in another chamber disrupted the meeting of the county commissioners. Finally i found an unlocked roof hatch and scaled several ladders so i could navigate various rooftops - all so i could closely examine some cracked masonry.  I'll be honest, it was inordinately exhilarating.

Lastly, this wins the award for the creepiest door to a basement - scratch that, sub-basement - that I have ever seen (same building).

Doubtless cobbled together by a sadistic blacksmith that specialized in dungeon hardware, it's like those old freezer doors (you know, the type that used to trap small children and suffocate them?) in that it is three inches thick, insulated to maintain temperature (and to muffle sound?), and can only be unlatched from the OUTSIDE.  Pulling the door open pulls the chain which lifts the counterweight; when letting go the weight insures the door slams shut. It was disconnected at the top, presumably because too many people had been locked in, only to die from starvation or thirst.

Arbeitsfotos II

On some level I knew it was probably wrong to wax rhapsodic to my coworkers about the light playing off the algae and dripping slime while being lowered into a septic tank, so I didn't.

Admit it, though, the mottled yellows and greens are striking!

Arbeitsfotos I (A New Feature)

I have decided to start posting some photographs from various projects at work that I deem interesting in some way.  I'm going to call these Arbeitsfotos (German for "work photographs").  Not saying my job is necessarily exciting or anything, but maybe some of you might get a kick out of them.

Here is a photo of a construction site in "downtown" Wellington, OH, a village that saw its prime in the late 1800's.  We were redoing a major intersection that went under a railroad line, and I had to design a large pump station (30 foot diameter, 40 feet into the ground) to remove any stormwater that could flood the intersection. While I was on site a train happened to pass by, and the arrangement of the scene had appealing geometry and colors (even the blue "port-O-potty"!).  I like old towns like this, where you can see the vestiges of past industrial activity - note the old clay tile grain silo, purposefully situated near the tracks so the grain could conveniently be hauled away. It just reminds me of some American Regionalist painting from the 1930's.
And a diesel locomotive going the other way while piles are being driven:
Just being at the construction site while all this was going on made me feel rather manly.

Kill It With Fire!

Recently I noticed something really strange happened to one of my coneflowers: an emerging flower, instead of turning pink/purple, remained a bright green - and then started sprouting little "satellite" flowers around the main one.  Weirdest thing I've ever seen in my garden.

The fact that it only occurred on one stalk out of over a hundred, and the "healthy" green color almost lead me to believe it was some kind of mutation heralding a new species rather than a disease, but I am not so conceited to think that my yard would be host to an emerging species, so I gave my older brother a ring and texted him the photo, thinking someone else has seen these bizarre symptoms before.  Sure enough, ten minutes later he informed me it was unquestionably a case of the dreaded "Aster Yellows", caused by a bacteria-like organism called a phytoplasma, that is spread by a gnat-like insect called a leaf hopper as they feed on the plant.


There is no cure for this, and it definitely spreads.  So, thoroughly freaked out that the rest of my otherwise thriving population would be tainted, I cut the offending stalk down to the ground and took it right to the trash can - no composting this time! (Sadly, due to proximity to neighboring plants fire was not an option).

So, this is a cautionary tale, I suppose.  Good thing I didn't adopt my usual approach of "let's see how this plays out"!  For all you gardeners out there, file this under "live and learn".