Today it was announced a man in Dallas is infected with the Ebola virus (he had recently traveled to Liberia, Africa).
As with breaking news of this type, people’s responses range from “we’re all going to die!!!” to “nothing to see here, move along.”
Of course ‘don’t panic’ is always good advice.
It reminds me of 1991, when Magic Johnson announced he was infected with HIV (Johnson used an unfortunate choice of words when he said “…I will now become a spokesman for the HIV virus.”)
It was a time of some fear and uncertainty where the Hollywood crowd resorted to ‘air-kissing’ one/another so as to avoid direct skin contact.
NBA players expressed concern about playing with someone infected with HIV for fear of getting infected themselves.
At the same time, in my corner of the world (environmental/wastewater treatment) I attended a seminar on waterborne diseases, intended to be a review of the more well-known ones, including dysentery, shigellosis, typhoid, Hepatitis A, etc.
The speaker was an epidemiologist/communicable disease expert. He went through his presentation in a dry monotone not unlike that of Ferris Bueller’s teacher.
Finally, he wrapped up his presentation and said, “Questions?” I could see many people were about to burst and hands instantly shot up throughout the room.
“What about AIDS?” many exclaimed, with many others murmuring “Mmm hmm” and other affirmations.
The speaker took quite a bit of time to answer the flurry of that one question, reviewing the relevant science that was known at the time of how HIV is transmitted (blood to blood, exchange of body fluids, frailty of the HIV virus outside the human body, etc.).
I could see the speaker was getting a little frustrated at the same question being asked repeatedly and was making a determined effort to maintain his dry professionalism.
Finally, he said: “Look. The only way you can get AIDS from wastewater is if you have sex with an infected person in the influent channel.”
And with that, the questions ceased and the presentation came to a close.
Of course, Ebola is a different virus from HIV, but we do know much of how it’s transmitted and how to prevent infection, so similar to our experience with HIV, I’m putting my money on sound science, enlightened public health policy (we’ll see here) and compassionate care for the afflicted.
President Obama is at it again.
Last night Obama appeared on the CBS news show ’60 Minutes’ and said that his spies let him down by underestimating the abilities of the totalitarian Islamist group ISIS and overestimating the abilities of the Iraqi army.
A former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat of Islamist groups was astonished by Obama’s remarks, saying “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting” (Please see this piece from Eli Lake at the Daily Beast):
Ron Fournier, a prominent left-leaning journalist, described Obama’s comments as “I, me, my, it’s their fault. I, me, my, it’s their fault. I, me, my, it’s their fault”…
Just so. It’s vintage Obama to use personal pronouns, especially when taking credit for something, but when the fit hits the shan, “I” and “me” becomes “we” and “they”.
Five and a half years into his presidency, Obama has enjoyed unprecedented deference from a main stream media made up in large part of those sympathetic to his world view, but some are waking up.
A recent example is a report from NBC’s Richard Engle, who is having none of the stage-managing and excuse-making of Obama and his surrogates when it comes to the threat ISIS poses, and it is devastating:
It is a serious problem that Obama believes his own bovine scatology. The estimable Neo-Neocon nails it here:
UPDATE: ABC News reports, 3 Times Obama Administration Was Warned About ISIS:
During a recent bout of insomnia I was channel-surfing and found the movie, ‘Sideways’ was just beginning, so I put the remote down, thinking this is a movie I’ve seen bits and parts of through the years (it debuted in 2004) and it felt ‘comfortable’ and would help me to fall asleep.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Maybe it was because this was the first time I caught the movie at the beginning, but it kept my attention into the wee hours of the night.
The protagonists of the movie are Miles and Jack, two friends approaching middle-age who were roommates in college who take a week-long trip to the picturesque wine country around Buellton, California (about 2 hours north of Los Angeles) before Jack gets married the following week.
Miles (Paul Giamatti) is knowledgeable about wine and is an aspiring author who pays the bills as a junior-high school English teacher. Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is clueless about wine and is an actor who once had a big part in a popular soap opera but now does mostly small-time bits like voice-overs and commercials.
Miles is neurotic and depressed because of the divorce from his wife two years ago and her remarriage to another man. Jack is a simple, happy-go-lucky man and also a womanizer who announces to Miles he’s going to “get laid” on the trip before he marries his fiancée back in Los Angeles (Jack harbors doubts if getting married is for him or not).
A big part of the charm of ‘Sideways’ is the completely different personalities of Miles and Jack and how they interact with one/another. They couldn’t be two more different men, yet they are good friends.
This scene encapsulate Miles and Jack:
Later, Miles and Jack meet up with two local women, Maya (Virginia Madsen) and Stephanie (Sandra Oh) where they have dinner at an upscale restaurant then go back to Stephanie’s place where Miles and Maya pair off and talk while Jack and Stephanie retire to Stephanie’s bedroom for wild sex.
Maya asks Miles about his ‘thing’ for Pinot Noir wine and Miles the author waxes eloquent:
Maya responds by talking movingly about ‘The life of wine’, and the scene ends on an awkward note, with Miles withdrawing from Maya:
Miles, Jack, Maya, and Stephanie are all looking to have their deepest desires fulfilled in ways humanity typically does, through career and relationship experiences that are meaningful to them.
As the movie proceeded in its alternately deep and comedic moments, it was apparent that what they were all restlessly looking for was a sense of comfort, a sense of peace, a sense of belonging, a sense of utter fulfillment that was perceptible and yet elusive.
Noted author and pastor Tim Keller would say they were expressing ‘The longing for home’, or as St. Augustine put it, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
This is the heart of the matter and the ultimate problem we humans face is that we look for ultimate fulfillment in things that were not designed to provide it.
Sex, money, power, relationships, notoriety, position, achievement – all of these things are not per se bad or evil, but people find out sooner or later that these things don’t provide the ultimate peace or sense of belonging and home we’re all restlessly looking for but find so hard to find and experience.
Fortunately, there’s something (or more accurately, someone) who can bear the full weight of your soul and give you the sense of home you’re looking for:
In 2009, Barack Obama, the newly elected President of the United States, won the Nobel Peace Prize, not on any concrete achievement towards peace, but purely on his soaring rhetoric.
Apparently the Nobel Committee, tired of the years of George W. Bush’s perceived cowboy-ism and bellicosity was impressed with Mr. Obama’s anti-war, inclusive rhetoric, including that of reaching out to the Muslim world.
In both the 2008 and 2012 presidential races, Obama campaigned on being the anti-Bush, pointing out that where Bush started wars, he would end them; where Bush deployed troops, he would pull them out.
On the 2012 reelection sawdust trail, Obama grandly proclaimed he ended the war in Iraq and pulled out all U.S. troops from there, in fulfillment of his campaign promise.
A favorite Obama slogan at the time was “Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive”. Obama triumphantly exclaimed Al Qaeda is “decimated” and “on the run.”
There was only one problem with Obama’s grandiose assertions that totalitarian Islamism was essentially defeated: It wasn’t true. Obama forgot or never learned a fundamental rule of war: The enemy gets a vote.
It was retired Marine Corps General James Mattis who said:
“No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it’s over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”
“The Enemy” with a vote is totalitarian Islamism; In particular, an off-shoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq who go by the name of The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS).
And ‘vote’ they did. When Obama pulled out U.S. troops from Iraq (against the advise of his Secretary of Defense and his military/national security team) to fulfill a campaign promise, he created a power vacuum where Islamists, already battle-hardened in the brutal civil war in Syria now moved east into Iraq, where they confronted a feckless Iraqi military who abandoned their positions and allowed ISIS to capture billions of dollars worth of U.S.-supplied arms and supplies.
Team Obama, caught with their pants down and seeing the disaster that was the direct result of not leaving a residual force of U.S. troops in Iraq, panicked. Reports from the White House of “intelligence failures” started to surface, But NBC News’ correspondent Richard Engle was having none of the Obama White House’s attempts at spin and stage managing:
As Engle points out, ISIS’ development was over a period of three years and he and other journalists regularly reported on it, and called Team Obama out on not having a strategy to deal with ISIS as being “quite ridiculous” which of course it is.
In a somewhat surreal turn of events, Obama laughably claimed it was not his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq even though it was a central theme of his 2012 reelection campaign that he repeatedly invoked at campaign events:
Obama’s poll numbers cratered, especially in the area of foreign policy. Polls also indicated Americans were increasingly concerned about the threat that ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other totalitarian Islamists organizations posed to the U.S.
So on September 10, 2014, Obama delivered a speech from the White House, saying “Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”
So with that, President Obama, the anti-Bush, the man elected to end wars and bring troops home, was dragged kicking and screaming into the land of real-ville – a place where the enemy gets a vote – to became a war-time president for the remainder of his term.
Does Obama have it in him to be a war-time president? Would he be able to, FDR-like, communicate with the American people on the inevitable disappointments, set-backs, and outright failures that all wars bring and provide ‘Hope’ as he so effectively campaigned on in 2008 in the context of waging a righteous war?
If past performance is an indication of future results, I am not optimistic about Mr. Obama, but I’m thankful I don’t have to be.
I *am* hopeful, even in the dark realization that the U.S. and the western world is engaged in a continuation of what will probably be a long fight for freedom and liberty against totalitarian Islamism and other bad actors.
This clip from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ speaks to this kind a hope; a hope that confirms that even when bad things happen and we’re in a place we’d rather not be, there is a higher purpose that provides strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
♦♦♦Update, Friday 5-15-15♦♦♦
This piece from Max Boot is a must-read. Some excerpts:
Ramadi was really where the Anbar Awakening began—the movement, started by Colonel Sean MacFarland in Ramadi in 2006, to mobilize Sunni tribes against AQI. After having lost hundreds of American soldiers in Ramadi and its environs since 2003, US efforts finally appeared to have paid off. AQI had been routed of the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate, and would soon be routed out of the rest of the Sunni Triangle. Victory was in sight.
It is all the more heartbreaking, therefore, to read now that the Islamic State—AQI’s successor organization—has seized the government center in Ramadi. Islamic State extremists detonated a series of suicide car bombs on Thursday to punch their way through fortifications protecting the government headquarters. Reports were that, after the headquarters fell, black-clad fanatics were going to door-to-door, executing tribal fighters who opposed their onslaught. Government security forces and many civilians were fleeing in panic. As Michael Auslin of the American Enterprise Institute points out, it’s as if the Marines, having taken Iwo Jima, had abandoned it and the Japanese had lowered the stars and stripes on Mount Suribachi (bold and italics added).
Today we are fast falling into an ever worse abyss—and it is one to which, by all indications, President Obama and his senior military commanders and civilian aides are utterly blind. Perhaps we should be talking about that rather than about what happened 12 years ago.
President Obama has been and is a train wreck, particularly in the area of foreign policy. Here’s law professor and radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt’s take on Obama:
I recently saw a combined photo of a newlywed couple and the same couple taken on their 50th Anniversary and thought it was poignant, so Kelly and I decided to do the same for our 30th Anniversary.
The photos were taken at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego (on Coronado Island) where we spent our honeymoon in 1984. We didn’t stay at the “Hotel Del” as some shorten it for our 30th anniversary for budgetary reasons (a Bloody Mary runs $16.00 plus gratuity). It is a lovely, historic facility in a lovely part of the country and I’m glad we had the opportunity to stay there for our honeymoon (the movie, ‘Some Like It Hot’ was shot there).
Last night Kelly and I attended the wedding of a business associate and friend of mine I’ve known for some years (her previous husband passed away after an extended illness). She and her new husband were married in the church they both attend and are involved in ministry. It was a perfectly lovely ceremony.
On a humorous note, she’s black and her new husband is white, so the pastor referred to them as being “pepper and salt” to the congregation and after the pastor pronounced them man and wife, they proceeded out of the sanctuary with Paul McCartney’s and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Ebony and Ivory’ playing over the sound system.
I know something of the years of troubles, trials, tribulations and travails my friend had gone through, so it was particularly satisfying and enjoyable to see her in a place of happiness, fulfillment, and joy.
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, it reads, “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”” (Genesis 2:18).
Loneliness sucks. I don’t believe any amount of learning, notoriety, career success, travel, experiences, etc. can compensate for it. I don’t mean to say that those who are single and happy are somehow less happy or fulfilled than married couples; some are content in their single-ness while open to having a mate and others are happy to be single for their entire lives.
I am saying that for the majority of men and women, being together in marriage appears to be the arrangement that offers the best antidote to loneliness.
In a world that can be pretty cruel and heartless, having a spouse who is unconditionally dedicated to you is a distinct advantage in that it is a source of strength, comfort, inspiration, and courage.
My friend’s wedding was a reminder of the inherent goodness of the institution of marriage and of how much I love and appreciate my wife, and I am grateful for it.
The reader is encourage to examine this piece by Joshua London, author of Victory in Tripoli: How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation
London recounts the problem of Muslim pirates from the Barbary Coast plundering U.S. ships and killing or enslaving passengers and crew members.
Americans didn’t understand why their shipping was being targeted by Muslim pirates, but in a 1786 meeting between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (then ambassadors to France and England, respectively) and Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the Tripolitan ambassador to England, Adja told the two why the raids were happening and Jefferson/Adams reported back to the Continental Congress what Adja told them:
that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.
In other words, these Muslims were living out the tenets of their beliefs as they understood it from their history, tradition, and text they held sacred.
London goes on to make an excellent point:
Note that America’s Barbary experience took place well before colonialism entered the lands of Islam, before there were any oil interests dragging the U.S. into the fray, and long before the founding of the state of Israel.
It is fashionable these days for the left to invoke any one or a combination of the above three ’causes’ to ‘explain’ much of today’s Islamist aggression in the world today, but London’s example from history reveals that such thinking is largely clever manipulation on the part of leftists who are sour on western civilization and/or Islamist apologists who peddle their narrative to their naïve target audience, who, interestingly, seem to be made up largely of intellectuals.
It is very easy to chalk it all up to regional squabbles, economic depression, racism, or post-colonial nationalistic self-determinism. Such explanations undoubtedly enter into part of the equation: They are already part of the propaganda that clouds contemporary analysis. But as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams came to learn back in 1786, the situation becomes a lot clearer when you listen to the stated intentions and motivations of the terrorists and take them at face value.
Hello, Barack Obama? John Kerry? Hillary Clinton?
Those of us who inhabit the developed world have full lives and tend to take our high standard of living for granted. The house we live in, the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the food we eat, the time we have to pursue things we want to do; the amazing fact is that it is not due to ‘luck’ or some accident of history—rather, we are the beneficiaries of a political, cultural, moral, and economic system that has a proven track record of increasing human flourishing.
One of the foundational building blocks of our high standard of living is the infrastructure that collects and treats sewage generated by the those who live in the community. Without this system, waterborne diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery would be commonplace, as it unfortunately is in much of the underdeveloped world today.
According to a 2009 World Health Organization (WHO) report, “every year more than 3.4 million people die as a result of water related diseases, making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world. Most of the victims are young children, the vast majority of whom die of illnesses caused by organisms that thrive in water sources contaminated by raw sewage.” http://www.voanews.com/content/a-13-2005-03-17-voa34-67381152/274768.html
The story of the development of the collection, treatment, and recycling of sewage is in some ways ancient and in others cutting-edge. For an example of the ancient, consider the Romans who were master engineers and builders. Through their ingenuity they built what they referred to as the ‘Cloaca Maxima’, which literally means ‘Greatest Sewer’. The ‘Cloaca Maxima’ was used to drain marshes around the city of Rome and transmit sewage to the River Tiber. Without the ‘Cloaca Maxima’ and the network of sewers that transmitted foul water away from where people lived, the City of Rome would have been a place of squalor, disease, and social upheaval.
Sewage treatment as we know it in the west got its start due in large part to the Industrial Revolution that began in Great Britain. People began to move into the cities to work in factories, and the concentration of humanity had an obvious effect: In the early 19th century, the Thames River in London (or as the locals called it, ‘The Great Stink’) became an open sewer and in 1854 caused a public health disaster with a Cholera epidemic. In the ensuing years London built a complex system of sewers, and as a result, incidents of Cholera diminished.
Then In 1913, two engineers from Great Britain, Edward Ardern and W.T. Lockett, developed a sewage treatment process called ‘Activated Sludge’, which is the standard way sewage is treated in the developed world to this day.
The ‘Activated Sludge’ process uses naturally-occurring bacteria to ‘eat’ the waste in the water, resulting in treated water that doesn’t foul the environment or cause human disease. The bacteria that ‘eat’ the waste need a place to grow and oxygen to breath, so sewage treatment plants using the ‘Activated Sludge’ process have large tanks where the bacteria live, suspended in the water they’re treating while an air supply system injects air into the tanks so the bacteria can carry on the treatment process.
These days, sewage treatment has become more efficient and less costly through advances in engineering, increased knowledge of microbiology, and other improvements of the ‘Activated Sludge’ process. A generation ago, sewage treatment was concerned mostly with responsible disposal of treated sewage, but with increases in technology and know-how, treated water is increasingly being used to supplement drinking water resources by using highly-treated recycled water instead of drinking water to irrigate parks, golf courses, freeway greenbelts, cemeteries and crops used for animal feed. This is particularly important in areas of the country that have low annual rainfall such as the southwest portion of the United States.
How did this overlooked, often taken-for-granted ‘miracle’ of sewage treatment occur? In much the same way we, over time, enjoy more technologically-advanced smart phones, high-definition television sets, and personal computers at reduced cost: People were free to pursue and share knowledge and apply that knowledge in a way that led to their efforts being rewarded which also resulted in a direct benefit to society.
So whether it’s sewage treatment or smart phones, the society that has a political, cultural, moral, and economic system that places a high value on human freedom and rewards innovation results in greater human flourishing.
*Marshall Power Locke has been involved in the environmental field in the area of wastewater treatment since 1985. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org