Search Results

WELL, THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY, YOU KNOW: Helping Brain Cancer Patients Survive Longer by Sending Electric Fields Through Their Heads.

Optune’s tumor-treating fields (TTFs) offer an entirely new type of treatment. Unlike chemo, this electrical treatment doesn’t cause collateral damage in other parts of the body. Yet many oncologists remain skeptical of the technology. “The adoption rate has not been stellar to date,” admits Eilon Kirson, Novocure’s chief science officer.

Last Friday’s announcement could change things. At a neuro-oncology conference, researchers reported the results of Optune’s big clinical trial, which looked at survival rates among 695 patients with glioblastoma. Two years after beginning treatment, 43 percent of patients who used Optune were still alive, compared to 30 percent of patients on the standard treatment regimen. Four years out, the survival rates were 17 percent for Optune patients and 10 percent for the others. “To patients, that’s a big difference,” Kirson says. “That’s worth fighting for.”

I remember reading John Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud, where he remarks that any brain cancer with the prefix “glio” is bad news. Sadly, over 50 years later, that’s still true. But this is something.

LET ME SING THE SONG OF MY PEOPLE: Survival Guide for the Conservative, Classically Liberal, & Libertarian Science Fiction & Fantasy Author.

JOHAN NORBERG: Why can’t we see that we’re living in a golden age? If you look at all the data, it’s clear there’s never been a better time to be alive.

If you think that there has never been a better time to be alive — that humanity has never been safer, healthier, more prosperous or less unequal — then you’re in the minority. But that is what the evidence incontrovertibly shows. Poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, child labour and infant mortality are falling faster than at any other time in human history. The risk of being caught up in a war, subjected to a dictatorship or of dying in a natural disaster is smaller than ever. The golden age is now.

We’re hardwired not to believe this. We’ve evolved to be suspicious and fretful: fear and worry are tools for survival. The hunters and gatherers who survived sudden storms and predators were the ones who had a tendency to scan the horizon for new threats, rather than sit back and enjoy the view. They passed their stress genes on to us. That is why we find stories about things going wrong far more interesting than stories about things going right. It’s why bad news sells, and newspapers are full of it.

Books that say the world is doomed sell rather well, too. I have just attempted the opposite. I’ve written a book called Progress, about humanity’s triumphs. It is written partly as a warning: when we don’t see the progress we have made, we begin to search for scapegoats for the problems that remain. Sometimes, in the past and perhaps today, we have been too quick to try our luck with demagogues who offer simple solutions to make our nations great again — whether by nationalising the economy, blocking imports or throwing out immigrants. If we think we don’t have anything to lose in doing so, it’s because our memories are faulty.

Look at 1828, when The Spectator was first published. Most people in Britain then lived in what is now regarded as extreme poverty. Life was nasty (people still threw their waste out of the window), brutish (corpses were still displayed on gibbets) and short (30 years on average). But even then things had been improving. The first iteration of The Spectator, in 1711, was published in a Britain whose people subsisted on average on fewer calories than the average child gets today in sub-Saharan Africa.

Karl Marx thought that capitalism inevitably made the rich richer and the poor poorer. By the time Marx died, however, the average Englishman was three times richer than at the time of his birth 65 years earlier — never before had the population experienced anything like it.

Fast forward to 1981. Then, almost nine in ten Chinese lived in extreme poverty; now just one in ten do. Then, just half of the world’s population had access to safe water. Now, 91 per cent do. On average, that means that 285,000 more people have gained access to safe water every day for the past 25 years.

Related: Richard Fernandez:

The question isn’t whether the state is irrelevant but whether it is less important than formerly or whether it is significant in a different way. Certainly Lou Dobbs’ question “why would anyone vote for a FBI certified liar who’s refused to hold a press conference for 258 days?” can only be met by supposing an indifference or resignation over political outcomes. One possible explanation for this comes from a Reason Magazine citing a Pew poll that “millennial support for the Libertarian Party nominee is damn near astonishing.” It’s not hard to see in this a suggestion that government become less important in the 21st century than it was in the 20th.

The idea of the state as the “locomotive of history” is relatively recent. George Orwell’s 1984 saw state resting on the pillars of police power, a command economy and the ability to rewrite the Narrative. The most important of these was the ability to rewrite the factual record. In fact 1984’s protagonist was employed full time to rewrite newspaper articles. In Orwell’s view the mutability of the past was the foundation of tyranny. “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” To ensure this the Ministry of Truth was honeycombed with Memory Holes into which any inconvenient fact could be dropped and be disappeared.

But just to illustrate how things have changed for the State we now know that Orwell was wrong. The mathematically dominant method for recording transactions, whether they involve the transfer of financial assets, intellectual property, health records or any type of information is probably going to be the blockchain. It has three important properties. First the entire record can be reproduced by anyone from a Genesis cryptographic starting point such that all records will have the same signature if and only if they are the same. Second, no part of the record can be altered without regenerating the entire block chain from the the branch. Third, it is impossible to rewrite the block chain without incurring enormous real costs in electricity and computing power, as guaranteed by the laws of thermodynamics.

The first property means that blockchain by nature is a public ledger. The second ensures the database can only be falsified in its entirety from the point of change. The third makes it prohibitively expensive to do so. Readers of Ray Bradbury’s The Sound of Thunder will recognize these attributes. From his story we learn you can’t change the past without altering everything; that by crushing a butterfly in the Jurassic we alter not one item in the record but create a whole alternate history.

The possibility of a immutable record is revolutionary in itself.

Well, stay tuned. I think that one of the reasons why people are pessimistic is that it is now much harder to escape the realization that all the Top Men (and Women) are really pretty incompetent. So believing that maybe they don’t matter as much is grounds for optimism.


Shot: Modern Media Has Turned the USA Into the Divided States of America.

—John Ziegler, Mediaite, July 4th.

Chaser: Partisanship and tribalism are ruining our conversations about art.

—Sonny Bunch, the Washington Post, June 30th, 2016.

The demassified TV industry needs divisiveness to bring ratings, and the movie industry needs films that bring out large groups of the same tribe (American Sniper on the right, feminist Ghostbusters on the left) when it doesn’t have an old mass media-era franchise (such as Star Trek, Star Wars, James Bond and films with familiar comic book stars like Batman, Superman and the Marvel gang) to promote. That both methods lead to bad programming is secondary to the continued survival of media that are long past their sell-through dates.

UNEXPECTEDLY: The Battle Against ‘Hate Speech’ on College Campuses Gives Rise to a Generation That Hates Speech:

During his 18 years as president of Lebanon Valley College during the middle of the past century, Clyde Lynch led the tiny Pennsylvania liberal arts institution through the tribulations of the Great Depression and World War II, then raised $550,000 to build a new gymnasium before he died in 1950. In gratitude, college trustees named that new building after him.

Neither Lynch nor those trustees could have predicted* there would come a day when students would demand that his name be stripped from the Lynch Memorial Hall because the word lynch has “racial overtones.” But that day did come.

* * * * * * * * * *

Graduates of the Class of 2016 are leaving behind campuses that have become petri dishes of extreme political correctness and heading out into a world without trigger warnings, safe spaces and free speech zones, with no rules forbidding offensive verbal conduct or microaggressions, and where the names of cruel, rapacious capitalists are embossed in brass and granite on buildings across the land. Baby seals during the Canadian hunting season may have a better chance of survival.

Their degrees look the same as ever, but in recent years the programs of study behind them have been altered to reflect the new sensitivities. Books now come with trigger warnings—a concept that originated on the internet to warn people with post-traumatic stress disorder (veterans, child abuse survivors) of content that might “trigger” a past trauma. Columbia’s English majors were opting out of reading Ovid (trigger: sexual assault), and some of their counterparts at Rutgers declined an assignment to study Virginia Woolf (trigger: suicidal ideation). Political science graduates from Modesto Junior College might have shied away from touching a copy of the U.S. Constitution in public, since a security guard stopped one of them from handing it out because he was not inside a 25-square-foot piece of concrete 30 yards away from the nearest walkway designated as the “free speech zone”—a space that needed to be booked 30 days in advance. Graduates of California public universities found it hard to discuss affirmative action policies, as administrators recently added such talk to a list of “microaggressions”—subtle but offensive comments or actions directed at a minority or other nondominant group that unintentionally reinforce a stereotype.

* * * * * * * * * *

American college campuses are starting to resemble George Orwell’s Oceania with its Thought Police, or East Germany under the Stasi. College newspapers have been muzzled and trashed, and students are disciplined or suspended for “hate speech,” while exponentially more are being shamed and silenced on social media by their peers. Professors quake at the possibility of accidentally offending any student and are rethinking syllabi and restricting class discussions to only the most anodyne topics. A Brandeis professor endured a secret administrative investigation for racial harassment after using the word wetback in class while explaining its use as a pejorative.

Yes, the degrees may look the same, but as Iowahawk has tweeted, that’s par for the course once the left has thoroughly captured an institution.


And note that the author of this piece is Democrat operative with a byline Nina Burleigh, who famously said in 1998, “I would be happy to give him [Clinton] a blow job just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.”

This time around, the theocracy is entirely on your side of the aisle, Nina. But all revolutions eventually devour their own eventually.

* Really? George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Allan Bloom and Peter Hitchens all would have predicted it.

UNDER SOCIALISM, BUYING EVEN ONE ROLL IS A PRIVILEGE: The Privilege of Buying 36 Rolls of Toilet Paper at Once.

“One of the great ironies in modern America,” writes Mehrsa Baradaran in her 2015 book How the Other Half Banks, “is that the less money you have, the more you pay to use it.” Baradaran, an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s law school, was referring to the outrageously high fees that low-income workers must pay to “fringe” banks just to access and manage the money they’ve earned.

Her point—that when people don’t have much, a single dollar in some ways doesn’t go as far as it otherwise would—extends to several other parts of Americans’ financial lives, including how they shop.

In a recent working paper, the University of Michigan’s A. Yesim Orhun and Mike Palazzolo, point to how two of American shoppers’ (and marketers’) favorite money-saving strategies, the limited-time offer and buying in bulk, come with savings that are more accessible to some consumers than others. Choosing to buy things when they’re on sale or packaged in huge quantities is something lots of shoppers may take for granted as a matter of preference, but for many, these purchases—and the savings that come with them—are out of reach. . . .

These differences produce a striking pattern: Orhun and Palazzolo calculate that because low-income shoppers don’t take full advantage of sales and buying in bulk, they end up paying about 6 percent more per sheet of toilet paper than high-income households. At the same time, lower-income households seem to be compensating for this premium by buying cheaper brands—a trend working in the other direction, saving them about 9 percent per sheet, compared to high-income households. “Therefore,” Orhun and Palazzolo write, “about two-thirds of the savings low income households accrue through brand choice is forfeited by their relative inability to utilize intertemporal money-saving strategies.” (Whether products with fancier brand names are truly better, and whether it’s a loss to miss out on them, is another matter.) . . .

On top of that, Orhun and Palazzolo’s data suggests that poorer and richer consumers aren’t just buying products in different quantities—they’re sometimes doing so at different stores entirely. At corner stores, the price per sheet of toilet paper (or paper towel, or tissue, and so on) is much higher than at warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club—stores where the average customer tends to be somewhat well-off.

You can offset a lot of this via Dave Ramsey style money management, better meal planning, and strategic shopping. If you’re too poor for those, your poverty probably stems from deeper problems like drugs or mental illness. And, of course, one reason people are poor is that they have trouble making and sticking to plans.

OCCUPY LE CORBUSIER! “Will a silent majority rise against architecture’s elite?”, David Brussat asks at the American Conservative:

In most cities and towns, the way new buildings look is not influenced by public taste, which is generally traditional. Instead, it is the purview of municipal and institutional facilities committees, design-review panels, the developers who hire architects who cater to the tastes of officialdom, and the local circle of professionals, academics, and journalists who may be relied upon to cluck at any deviation from the elite fashion in the design of new buildings.

Maybe we should be glad that voters are not faced with yet another set of reasons to shout at each other, as building design stays absent from public debates. But it is far from clear that traditional architecture and urban design, if they became a political issue, would be as divisive as immigration, abortion, or gun control. In fact, such an agenda would likely prove appealing across ideological divides—so the first party to politicize architecture could steal a march on its rival.

Architecture is not intrinsically conservative or liberal, let alone Democratic or Republican. Yet a quiet consensus favors traditional styles in architecture. It seems an awful lot like a “silent majority.”

Except that, as Tom Wolfe noted in From Bauhaus to Our House 35 years ago, virtually all modern architecture flows from the early socialist worker housing concepts drawn up inside the Bauhaus, the pioneering modernist German design school, which lasted from 1919, when it was founded by Walter Gropius, until it was shuddered by the Nazis in 1933, when its last leader was Mies van der Rohe. As historian Jonathan Petropoulos wrote last year in his book Artists Under Hitler: Collaboration and Survival in Nazi Germany, both Mies and Gropius, dedicated avant-garde socialists in the 1920s, were much more willing to stay onboard with the National Socialist regime that succeeded the socialism of Weimar-era Germany than most-postwar historians were aware of. At least until 1937, when Hitler finally made hatred of modernism official Nazi policy via his very public attendance at the infamous Degenerate Art exhibition in Berlin that year.

Even as he was championing European modern architecture in America in the 1930s (in particular, introducing Mies’s work to the US), via his perch as the first director of architecture for the nascent Museum of Modern Art in New York, Philip Johnson (1906-2005) was an open admirer of the Nazis. Writing as a correspondent to Father Coughlin’s publication Social Justice*, Johnson accompanied one of the Nazis’ raids on Poland in the fall of 1939, after which, he chilling wrote in a letter to a friend, “The German green uniforms made the place look gay and happy. There were not many Jews to be seen. We saw Warsaw burn and Modlin being bombed. It was a stirring spectacle.”

Eventually, he too came to his senses and worked very hard to expunge this period of his past; it wasn’t until very late in his career, when first Spy magazine in 1988 and then in 1996, veteran architectural historian Franz Schulze began writing about Philip’s dark past as the Zelig of Liberal Fascism. In the 1920s, France’s Le Corbusier, the subject of the witty title of the above-linked article, began his hothouse career designing beautifully minimalist white stucco homes for wealthy patrons such as Villa Stein (built for the sister-in-law of Gertrude Stein), and coining the phrase the ur-1920s modern architectural aphorism that “the home is a machine for living in.” But in 1932 he entered into (and subsequently lost) a design competition to build Moscow’s Palace of the Soviets, before volunteering his services to the Nazi-puppet regime of Vichy France in 1940. As Henry Samuel of the London Telegraph wrote last year on a recent French biography of Corbusier titled, Le Corbusier, un fascisme francais, “In August 1940, the architect wrote to his mother that ‘money, Jews (partly responsible), Freemasonry, all will feel just law’. In October that year, he added: ‘Hitler can crown his life with a great work: the planned layout of Europe.’”

In America, because of the influence of Mies and Gropius as instructors to a whole new generation of architecture, as Tom Wolfe noted, virtually all pre-modernist architectural styles died in the public sphere and as a medium for large-scale corporate architecture. Long before today’s college campus began to live out the nightmare “thoughtcrime” and book-burning scenarios depicted in Orwell’s 1984 and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, postwar modern architects were all too eager to self-lobotomize.

The best of the pre-war European architecture designed by Corbusier, Gropius and especially Mies was remarkable stuff, and postwar American modernism could produce, on occasion, handsome buildings such as Mies’ legendary Seagram building. And modernism is still inspiring to many today. But there’s no doubt, as Brussat writes, a vast swatch of the American public feels left out of the debate.

So Occupy Le Corbusier? It’s certainly an idea that the grandmasters of European modern architecture would all have endorsed during the radical early years of their careers.

* Gee, with a title like that, it’s as if Father Coughlin was a leftist himself. Who knew?!

ARCHITECTS OF FORTUNE: James Lileks links to a photo of the sleek white, Corbusier and Bauhaus-influenced, moderne NBC building that existed from 1938 until the mid-‘60s on the corner of Sunset and Vine in L.A. and writes:

In 1931, nothing in the vicinity looked as modern as this. Nothing could. So you had this bright technological future appearing like an iceberg floating out of the fog, and around it was tired brick with a few historical pastiche-details. Here’s the future, citizen-units! But the future was stalled; the economy had crashed, the engine had sputtered, and clumsy hands were under the hood trying to rewire it all without realizing quite what they were doing. The very idea these buildings embodied — the bright, rational, technocratic future — were the very ideas that kept it from happening, because the technocrats were busy trying to reshape the economy* instead of let it work.

That’s a great observation; in Europe, as art historian Jonathan Petropoulos wrote last year in Artists Under Hitler: Collaboration and Survival in Nazi Germany, both Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, the founder and the last director of the Bauhaus, respectively, were heavily involved in German socialist politics during the hothouse Weimar era of the 1920s, and would have happily built buildings for the successor National Socialist regime. It wasn’t until 1937 when Hitler’s very public attendance at the infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibition in Munich sealed the fate of modern art in Germany, and both men fled to America. Le Corbusier, their counterpart in France would go on to collaborate with Vichy, the Nazis’ puppet French Government, during World War II.

As Tom Wolfe wrote in From Bauhaus to Our House, Gropius’s postwar American architectural firm, which he ran while simultaneously teaching at Harvard, “was not called Walter Gropius & Associates, Inc., or anything close to it. It was called ‘The Architects Collaborative.’” He would end his career designing the monolithic Pan Am building on Park Ave. (Thus aiding not only capitalism but unfettered “binge flying” to boot. Doubleplus ungood, Walter!) And while architectural historians Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst give little discussion of Mies’ politics after emigrating to America in their otherwise extremely well-researched recent biography, I’d love to know what was going through his mind in the 1950s, when his career as a working architect, largely left for dead outside of designing the Chicago campus for the Illinois Institute of Technology was revived in the 1950s through office buildings for the Seagram and Bacardi liquor corporations, and Toronto-Dominion Bank.


NEWS YOU CAN USE: Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times.

ON DEBLASIO’S FIRST FULL DAY AS MAYOR: Should We Rebuild Cities After Disasters?

Okay, it’s actually about Susan Kieffer’s new book.

SURVIVAL SKILLS: How To Open A Can Without A Can Opener. (Via David Brin on Facebook).

JAMES TARANTO: You’ve Come a Long Way, Elska: The truth about the “best countries for women.”

The report, as per Gummow, ranks countries “across four primary areas including economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival.” It uses a 1-point scale, with “1 representing total gender equality and 0 depicting inequality.” The U.S. gets a 0.7392, “which is actually worse than the score it received the year before when it was ranked 22nd.”

This exercise is silly in many ways, the funniest of which is the false precision. In reality, “gender equality” is not susceptible to quantitative measurement. The WEF derives its number by applying a made-up formula to an arbitrarily chosen group of data sets such as sex ratios within national legislatures. . . .

Gummow lists the 10 countries that received the highest “equality” scores from the WEF. Every Scandinavian country makes the top 10, and the top 4 are, in order, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Denmark is a slight laggard at No. 8.

That is consistent with the common stereotype of “a female Paradise on earth,” as Alison Wolf puts it in her new book, “The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World.” Wolf observes that “Scandinavians are seen by the world, and they see themselves, as flagbearers for sexual equality. They are peaceful, egalitarian and economically successful; and they pioneered social programs designed to guarantee opportunities for women.”

But there’s trouble in paradise. One measure the WEF study doesn’t use to gauge equality is occupational “gender segregation”–the degree to which men work in “male jobs” and women in “female” ones. Guess what? “The highest levels of gender segregation anywhere in the developed world are found in the labor markets of egalitarian welfare-state Scandinavia,” Wolf reports. “The International Labor Organization . . . has calculated that if you wanted to make all occupations ‘gender neutral,’ about a third of all Scandinavian workers would have to move to completely different occupations,.”

As Wolf explains, that inequality is a consequence of Scandinavia’s commitment to equality. Nordic women are well-represented in the kind of high-status professional jobs on which feminists tend to focus their attention. That is in part because the welfare state eases the temporal burdens of motherhood by providing extensive day-care services. Day-care workers are mostly female. And low-status traditionally male occupations have remained so; there aren’t a lot of female truck drivers in Iceland or Sweden.

So the Scandinavians have promoted equality in the elite workforce by diminishing it among nonelite workers.

That’s pretty much the feminist agenda in a nutshell.

A HOLLOWED-OUT MILITARY? Losing a ‘life-or-death skill’? Proponents fight planned changes to combatives training.

Planned changes to combatives training have proponents fighting for the survival of the program and the “life-or-death” skills it teaches.

These hand-to-hand skills save lives, and lives are at risk without those abilities developed over the course of the combatives program, they say.

The Modern Army Combatives Program, headquartered at Fort Benning, Ga., consists of four skill-level courses — a weeklong basic course, a two-week tactical course, and a basic combatives instructor course and a tactical combatives instructor course, each of which is four weeks long.

Proposals from Training and Doctrine Command call for eliminating all four levels of training and creating a master combatives trainer course that would be no more than two weeks long.

On Facebook, this suggestion from Jason van Steenwyk in response: “They should have rebranded as a self-defense course for women, gays and transponders to empower them to protect themselves against barracks bullies and rapists. Then they’d get plenty of funding and Big Army would require an 8-hour combatives stand-down for every unit in the MTOE.”

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: College Enrollment Falls as Economy Recovers. “Hardest hit are likely to be colleges that do not rank among the wealthiest or most prestigious, and are heavily dependent on tuition revenue, raising questions about their financial health — even their survival.”

All is proceeding as I have foreseen.

AT AMAZON, bestsellers in Survival Skills.

A TABLET COMPUTER FOR SURVIVALISTS? “Android tablets are mostly dull; Asus, Samsung, Sony, and the rest are typically just pumping out versions of the same platform. Earl, from a startup called Sqigle (sic), is quite a bit different: it’s designed top to bottom for use in the wild. To that end, it starts off with an electrophoretic display, an exceedingly low-power technology that’s used in the black-and-white ebook readers like the Kindle and Nook. A tablet’s screen drains the most battery, by far, so using a low-power screen like this is a great way to extend the battery life. Of course, that means you also get extremely low refresh rates and no color, so you can pretty much forget about watching video on this thing, but as a wilderness guide? That’s not nearly as important as battery life.”

AT AMAZON, bestsellers in Survival Skills.

Also, today only: Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series, $39.99 (60% off).

AN ANSWER TO THE FERMI PARADOX: Humans May Be The First Generation of Advanced Life In The Milky Way.

That would actually be good, since if aliens exist, they probably want to destroy us.

I recommend this piece by Gregg Easterbrook. Key bit:

James Trefil, of George Mason University, has cautioned that if evolution functions approximately the same way on other worlds that it has functioned here — conferring survival upon the fittest — advanced extraterrestrials might still be aggressive, territorial, and quick to reach for the sword. In that case, counting on poor alien marksmanship might not be prudent. Even if a message arrived from a great distance, we might for defensive reasons be compelled to assume that the senders knew something about the speed-of-light barrier that we didn’t, and withhold our reply.

The most disquieting aspect of natural selection as observed on Earth is that it channels intellect to predators. Most bright animals are carnivores: stalking requires tactics, pattern recognition, and, for social animals, coordinated action, all incubators of brainpower. Though the martial heritage of mankind has been exaggerated in popular fiction (there’s no proof, for example, that our Cro Magnon ancestors waged war against the vanished Neanderthals), it’s reasonably certain that the forebears of modern Homo sapiens were hunters, and it’s definite that man has been savage during the historical era. This isn’t much of a testimonial to “intelligence.”

Well, not as tending to nonviolence. On alien invasions generally, a good fictional treatment is in Greg Bear’s The Forge Of God, For the more technically-inclined, there’s Ernst Fasan’s Relations With Extraterrestrial Intelligences, or some chapters in McDougal, Lasswell, and Vlasic’s Law and Public Order In Space. Kind of old, but still good. A more recent popular treatment that’s worth your time is Ben Bova and Byron Preiss’s Are We Alone in the Cosmos? The Search for Alien Contact in the New Millenium.

if aliens just don’t like us, there’s no need to invade. They could send a half-pound of deadly nanodevices on a stealthed probe. We probably wouldn’t even recognize what was happening as an alien attack.

AT AMAZON, bestsellers in Survival & Disaster Preparation.

Also, bestsellers in Dress Watches.

WHAT WITH HURRICANE SANDY, ETC., several readers have asked for links to my disaster preparedness posts. Okay. Here’s a post on low-budget disaster preparation. Here’s one on bug-out bags. Also, stuff to keep in your car or SUV. Also, recommended preparedness books.

And, by the way, I just got the latest Consumer Reports and they really like the Generac GP5500 generator, which they say “performed almost as well as the top-rated portable generator for hundreds less.” But read the reviews on Amazon before you buy.

UPDATE: Reader Charles Cheek writes:

Bought one last year after losing about $500 worth of food due to a storm and the resulting power outage. Bought it online at for $200 less than what Home Depot was advertising at the time. Delivery was free, and the truck driver put it right where I wanted it. I had to install the wheels and put the oil (which was supplied) in it. It cranked over on the second crank and has served us incredibly well through several storms and outages since, the latest just last week ( 6 days with Hurricane Sandy), usually starting on the first crank, always by the second. It is powerful enough to provide my whole house with power. I haven’t yet installed a transfer switch, although I am considering it. It runs 14 hours on 5 gallons of gas (or less), is relatively quiet, and maintenance is easy. I highly recommend the Generac GP5500.

Not bad.

MORE: Generator advice from Popular Mechanics.

AT AMAZON, bestsellers in Survival & Disaster Preparation.

PAYING IT BACKWARD: Kristine Katherine Rusch, whose blog I’ve linked here before, gave me — and a lot of other writers — a start in the field with her writing workshops.  Now she and her husband Dean Wesley Smith are doing the same for a generation of indie-publishing writers.  And Kris has contributed to helping writers with Her Freelancer’s Survival Guide.

We don’t always see eye to eye in politics (though both of us have changed so much the last ten years, who knows anymore? [Me?  I’m now a small l libertarian]) but she’s a great teacher and always a great writer.  She is also prolific, so there’s something for everyone.   First there’s Blowback, which is on audio first and will be in print in December.  Then there’s her acclaimed Retrieval Artist SF series, of which the first book is The Disappeared.  If you read romance, try Charming Blue, a light, sweet romance.  For darker Romance try  Assassins in love: Assassins Guild.  Her mysteries are being reissued, starting with Dangerous RoadAnd she has FREE stories on her blog every Monday.   Free is always good, particularly these days. Give her a try.

NOBODY STEPS ON A CHURCH IN MY TOWN: On Monday, I linked to Dave Carter’s lengthy post at Ricochet, which expanded upon Camile Paglia’s recent Wall Street Journal article on the collapse of the art world. Carter used the magnificent 700-year old  Cologne Cathedral as an example of art and architecture at its finest, and a reminder of everything that’s wrong with what passes for art today.

In the comments, Michael Malone of Forbes, ABC and PJM reminded readers of how the church managed to survive World War II:

I hate to burst anybody’s bubble about the ‘miraculous’ survival of Cologne Cathedral in WWII, but it was anything but that.  When my parents were touring the cathedral years ago and the tour guide began describing this miracle, my father, who actually had bombed Cologne, whispered to my mother, “We left it standing because it was perfect for targetting the rest of the city.”  On the same trip, sitting at a cafe enjoying his morning weiss beer and veal sausage, a local struck up a conversation with him, eventually asking, “Have you been to Cologne before, Herr Malone?”  My father casually replied, “No, but I’ve flown over it a couple times. . .”

Heh. As one of the commenters at Ricochet quipped, and now you know the rest of the story…

(For my recent interview with Michael, focusing on his new book on the centennial of the Eagle Scouting program, click here.)

AT AMAZON, bestselling books on Survival Skills.

AT AMAZON, bestselling books on survival skills.

Also, The Complete MacGyver Series, $85.74.

AT AMAZON, bestselling books on survival skills.

READER DEIRDRE MUNDY WRITES: “It’s probably time for a zombie preparedness post. Patient zero has appeared in Miami.”

A Miami police officer on Saturday fatally shot a naked man who was chewing on the face of another man on a downtown causeway off-ramp, police and witnesses said.

If you want to be prepared, you might go here. And here.

ANOTHER READER KINDLE BOOK: My Last Testament. A doctor meets the Zombie Apocalypse. 99 cents.

A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO, I plugged reader Lloyd Tackett’s post-EMP disaster novel, A Distant Eden, and although I haven’t gotten around to reading it in my largely nonexistent spare time lately, it produced this praise from reader Doug Strunk:

Glenn, since I ditched my cable TV last week I’ve been reading lots. I started Hunger Games night before last … then I saw your link to Tackett’s new e-book. I read the preview from their site and bought it immediately. As soon as I got home from work, I began in earnest. Wife finally made me put it down around 2am. Overslept and had to work late to catch up… but tonight I’m probably going to finish it in a few hours. Very fast read.

The book’s prologue gives all the valid warning you need. It’s not the typical story telling arc of character development. When the Apocalypse happens, there’s no time for a learning curve. I hope to never find out, but in that world if you’re not in survival mode you’re dead quick. The author makes that point early and often throughout the book. I’ll be giving the book very high review stars on Amazon.

Tell Tackett he better be writing the next one already…

You heard him, Lloyd.

READER LLOYD TACKETT EMAILS: “I just released a book on Kindle for 99 cents. I am hoping you will give me a plug on your site. It is a post apocalyptic survival story/manual using a solar storm as the event. I know you get zillions of emails, so I will stop here.” Here’s the link. Enjoy! Nice cover.

UH OH: New research on Japanese quake ominous for Pacific Northwest.

Detailed analyses of the way the Earth warped along the Japanese coast suggest that shaking from a Cascadia megaquake could be stronger than expected along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, researchers reported Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The Cascadia subduction zone can be seen as a mirror image of the Tohoku area,” said John Anderson, of the University of Nevada.

Anderson compiled ground-motion data from the Japan quake and overlaid it on a map of the Pacific Northwest, which has a similar fault – called a subduction zone – lying offshore.

In Japan, the biggest jolts occurred underwater. The seafloor was displaced by 150 feet or more in some places, triggering the massive tsunami. But in the Northwest, it’s the land that will be rocked hardest – because the Pacific coast here lies so close to the subduction zone.

“The ground motions that we have from Tohoku may actually be an indication that there could be much stronger shaking in the coastal areas of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon,” Anderson said.

Cities like Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, B.C., are far enough from the coast that they might dodge the most violent hammering. But all of the urban areas sit on geologic basins that can amplify ground motion like waves in a bathtub.

And remember — earthquake concerns aren’t just for the West Coast, what with recent East Coast shocks, and of course the threat of a big New Madrid quake.

Here’s my earlier post on earthquake preparedness. More here. Plus, some recommended gear. More here. Also, here’s some advice from the LAFD, although their excellent PDF booklet seems to have vanished.

UPDATE: Here’s the LAFD booklet, thanks to reader Tim Ryan.

AT AMAZON, bestselling books on Survival Skills.

LIST: 20 books on survival.

AT AMAZON, bestsellers in Survival Skills.

AT AMAZON, bestselling books on survival skills.

NEWS YOU CAN USE: 30 Minutes to a Sleek Physique: The No-Equipment Workout You Can Do Anywhere.

Sounds sort of like the Convict Conditioning approach.

AT AMAZON, bestselling books on survival skills.

AT AMAZON, MARKDOWNS ON bestselling books on survival skills. It’s interesting how many of the top books involve surviving a financial collapse, as opposed to natural disasters, etc.

INTERESTED IN DISASTER-PREPAREDNESS? You might want to drop by Bill Quick’s discussion forum. And here’s a list of “must-read” survival books.

KEVIN WILLIAMSON ON THE DEBT: The Democrat Downgrade: Reality and Repercussions.

Question: How many U.S. banks and insurance companies do you think will remain rated AAA if the U.S. government gets downgraded?

That is not a rhetorical question.

The direct consequences of a downgrade of Uncle Sam’s credit on U.S. public finances would be pretty bad. But, as with natural disasters, the aftershocks of this man-made catastrophe might prove more devastating than the main event. In this case, imagine a tsunami of rolling corporate downgrades following the earthquake of a Treasury downgrade, a run on the banks, a discredited FDIC, frozen money-market funds, and a plunging dollar.

It’s not Beijing that’s going to take it in the shorts — it’s our still-fragile financial system.

Standard & Poor currently gives AAA ratings to six major insurance companies: New York Life, Northwestern Mutual, etc. Those companies already are on the watch-list for a downgrade, simply because of their extensive holdings of U.S. Treasury securities — regardless of the fact that Treasuries themselves have not yet been downgraded. . . . The thing that has not been sufficiently understood, I think, is this: The United States is not on a downgrade watch because the markets fear we won’t raise the debt ceiling in time to avoid a default; the United States is on a downgrade watch because the markets believe the debt-ceiling debate presents the last real opportunity for the government to enact a meaningful fiscal-reform program before it is well and truly too late to avoid a national crisis. The credit agencies, wisely or not, aren’t worried about the short-term political fight leading to an immediate default, but about the near- to medium-term fiscal situation, which is plainly unsustainable.

Read the whole thing. And note that some ratings agencies have already downgraded the U.S.:

Credit rating agency Egan-Jones has cut the United States’ top credit ranking, citing concerns over the country’s high debt load and the difficulty the government faces in significantly reducing spending.

The agency said the action, which cut U.S. sovereign debt to the second-highest rating, was not based on fears over the country not raising its debt ceiling.

Instead, the cut is due the U.S. debt load standing at more than 100 percent of its gross domestic product. This compares with Canada, for example, which has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 35 percent, Egan-Jones said in a report sent on Saturday.

You have been warned. Meanwhile, reader Michael McFatter writes with a troubling thought:

I’m worried. See if you follow my concern. Thus far the Democrats have proved intractable on these negotiations. But more than that, they seem to be living in denial as regards the national debt and more importantly the deficits. Right now we’re projecting deficits of 1.5 trillion every year for the next ten years. But those projections are based on growth rates of something like 3 – 3.5% from 2013 onwards. Which is unrealistic when you consider the current debt load plus piling on 1.5T more every year. It’s obvious that these projections are pure fantasy. They’re in denial about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid sustainability and about Obamacare. They genuinely believed O-care was going to “bend the cost curve”! It’s ridiculous.

Now, we all know this. None of this is new information. What has me worried is the idea that the Democrats ACTUALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS IS THE END OF THE ROAD. What if they actually aren’t capable of recognizing when they’ve lost? Or when we’ve run out of other people’s money? None of these people work for a living. Their concept of where money comes from and how wealth is created (and destroyed) is completely divorced from reality because they live in a government bubble. And the very small minority among them that do understand this from previous jobs and experience are okay with Progressive policies aimed at leveling/equalizing/delivering-economic-justice because they just assume that the economy can handle some siphoning. And usually it can. But not at this volume or for this time scale.

Here’s the position I think we may be in. We’ve been negotiating with the President and The Democrats in Congress on the assumption that they’re sane. It’s okay to play hardball with these guys because eventually, whether they like it or not, reality insists upon itself and they have to cave. It’s a painful process so you expect some tantrum throwing and caterwauling, but eventually they HAVE to accept reality. Except if they’re not sane. If they want five apples and there’s only two plus two but they CAN’T ACCEPT that two plus two equals four. Orwell wasn’t just writing a parable about the eventual end point of IngSoc. He was describing what human psychology can drive Ministers to inflict upon the populace for the sake of “justice”. I’m worried they’ll pull the trigger on default as just one more “political” step in the march towards freedom from want or whatever other principle they’re operating under. They’re playing this game as if they could win, as if taxes in a downturn are a good idea with benign consequences. As if debt equivalent to GDP is survivable for the world’s anchor economy/currency, let alone sustainable.

And so maybe, just maybe, Republican strategy (what little there is of it) has badly misread the opposition. Obama tried to add 400 billion in taxes to a deal he had already agreed with Boehner at the last minute. Boehner walks out cause Obama is negotiating in bad faith and has been all along, but what if Obama is actually incapable of good faith negotiation? I think right now that it’s actually possible we won’t see a deal at all. Because the Republicans are looking at the math and at reality and saying “Okay, Democrat demands can’t be serious because they can’t possibly work” and Democrats are looking at politics and how it works and saying “We don’t have to give in cause that’s not how you win these things. You pin it on the other guy politically and then reap the political dividends.” I wasn’t around for the start of WWI, but I get the feeling I understand Kennedy’s fascination with Tuchman’s Guns of August. I’m not talking about a shooting war, but about leaders overestimating and underestimating and just plain misjudging each other in a brinksmanship scenario. In short, it could be too late to do anything when people finally wake up. The crisis may have already arrived with an economic and fiscal momentum all it’s own that no amount of dealing or compromise or statesmanship can stop..

Actually, Tuchman’s The March Of Folly seems equally applicable. Or maybe you just want to skip Tuchman and go straight to Dave Voda’s How To Protect Your Money From The Coming Government Hyperinflation. . . .

UPDATE: Jim Bennett emails: “What problem? All they have to do is find Scrooge McDuck’s money bin and haul it away in trucks to the Treasury, and that fixes everything. Except that they haven’t been able to find it yet. But it’s there, it really is.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Warren Bonesteel writes:

“The crisis may have already arrived with an economic and fiscal momentum all it’s own that no amount of dealing or compromise or statesmanship can stop”
Sorry, but its too late. We’re already there. Embrace the doom. The ‘crisis’ has already arrived. …but no one wants to admit it. That’s the real insanity of the situation. Were it a house fire? The fire has already engulfed the building. There’s nothing left to save. We must begin anew, from scratch.

People keep looking for a magical solution or for a ‘saviour’ or a hero. We’re it, I’m afraid…and no one else is going to show up and magically save us from our own folly. Even a decade ago, it was too late. Twenty or thirty years ago? Yeah, we could’ve changed our trajectory and altered the outcome. Now, it is simply too late. Stock upon the beans, bullets and band-aids and get to know your local prepper/survivalist.

I hope that’s wrong.


I have neither interest nor opinion on the Casey Anthony acquittal.

No offense to those who followed the trial. It is interesting. We all love a “truth-is-stranger-than-fiction” tale. (My weaknesses are natural disasters and survival stories.)

I do have an opinion on the reaction to the acquittal, though. The word that best describes this reaction: visceral. On Facebook, folks are lamenting how stupid we Americans are, or at least twelve particular Americans, and how broken our system is, and how really terribly awfully difficult it was to watch that terrible awful woman’s reaction to the verdict that frees her.

I’m thinking: why are you watching then? Why does her reaction matter to you? Who can judge a human’s reaction to the announcement of her fate? . . . I repeat, the system is set up to err on the side of letting the guilty free. It stinks, sometimes. The murderer gets away with it, sometimes.

That fact is proof that the system is still working.

We should be more alarmed about an unchecked prosecuting government than an unhinged partying woman who may have killed her own child.

Cold? Maybe. But it’s cold comfort for the innocent whom the state still managed to wrongfully convict, even under the “reasonable doubt” standard.

Which is worse? The guilty going free, or the innocent getting convicted? As a liberty lover with a healthy suspicion of state power, I say: the innocent getting convicted.

Read the whole thing.

Plus, a related question: “The last time you were summoned to Jury did you go or did you look for an excuse to duck it?”

DISASTER PREP AND THE 3G KINDLE: Reader Robert Woodard emails:

Surprised you missed a chance to mention the 3G Kindle in your link to the story on Joplin. One of the reasons I bought the new 3G Kindle is the fact that the Whispernet works in places and at times where/when other forms of communication may not be available. Certainly it’s not the optimal email platform, but in an emergency being able to get in touch with your loved ones through a Kindle when all other forms of communication are unavailable is a huge advantage (I worked in NYC during 9/11 and the blackout two years later, and currently commute to the East Coast from the Midwest during the week (thanks Obama!) so communication capability means a lot to me).

Yes, I recall some people managed to get email through after the Japanese earthquakes by using a 3G Kindle when nothing else was working.

UPDATE: Reader Donald Gately emails:

A month or so ago, you linked to a page that had a bunch of pdf versions of emergency first aid books (“Where There is No Doctor” and “Medical Aid at Sea” were two of them). I downloaded them and put them on my Kindle.

While it would be ideal to also have hard copies, having a selection of emergency first aid books and other disaster/survival manuals on a device that has a multi-week battery life (if the wifi is off), could come in pretty handy. Especially if a disaster strikes when you aren’t at home, or if you have to leave in a hurry.

Maybe Amazon should start working on a ruggedized Kindle with an even longer battery life – or the ability to take AAs.

Or a solar charger.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Steve Bohn writes:

Glenn, regarding your emergency charging options for Kindle post, thanks to a link from you I bought an Emergency hand-cranked powered radio on Amazon and it included a USB charging cable.

Yes, a lot of those devices support USB charging now.

THAT’S NOT YOUR MOMMY ANYMORE: A Zombie Survival Book For Kids. So does this mean that Zombiemania has finally jumped the shark?

A BOOK FOR OUR TIMES: So Now You’re a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead.

Well, with even the CDC warning about zombie outbreaks, I guess it’s time to take all this zombie-prep stuff more seriously. . . .


JUST A REMINDER: When you shop through Amazon links on this site, or using the searchbox in the right sidebar, you put a little money in my family’s pocket at no cost to yourself. It’s much appreciated! And yes, if you bookmark that link it’ll work that way, too.

UPDATE: Reader Brian Weigand emails:

Please keep the Amazon links coming. In the last couple of years I’ve gotten good to excellent deals on products ranging from external hard drives to survival kits. Most recently, I purchased a Panasonic ES8228 razor at about 2/3 off the normal price. I had no idea that an electric razor could produce such a fine result. That a small amount of the purchase price goes to you is just an added feature. Thanks for the help!

p.s.: I can’t believe that I ever questioned whether or not Amazon Prime was worth the money. Doh!

Thanks! Yeah, it’s changed the way I shop. (Bumped).

LIST: Basic Disaster Survival Items.

Plus, recommended preparedness books.

SCIENCE: Study: If aliens exist, they probably want to destroy us. Well, that’s heartening. But not unusual thinking.

I recommend this piece by Gregg Easterbrook. Excerpt:

James Trefil, of George Mason University, has cautioned that if evolution functions approximately the same way on other worlds that it has functioned here — conferring survival upon the fittest — advanced extraterrestrials might still be aggressive, territorial, and quick to reach for the sword. In that case, counting on poor alien marksmanship might not be prudent. Even if a message arrived from a great distance, we might for defensive reasons be compelled to assume that the senders knew something about the speed-of-light barrier that we didn’t, and withhold our reply.

The most disquieting aspect of natural selection as observed on Earth is that it channels intellect to predators. Most bright animals are carnivores: stalking requires tactics, pattern recognition, and, for social animals, coordinated action, all incubators of brainpower. Though the martial heritage of mankind has been exaggerated in popular fiction (there’s no proof, for example, that our Cro Magnon ancestors waged war against the vanished Neanderthals), it’s reasonably certain that the forebears of modern Homo sapiens were hunters, and it’s definite that man has been savage during the historical era. This isn’t much of a testimonial to “intelligence.”

Nor are herbivores necessarily non-aggressive, and they can certainly be territorial.

On alien invasions generally, a good fictional treatment is in Greg Bear’s The Forge Of God, For the more technically-inclined, there’s Ernst Fasan’s Relations With Extraterrestrial Intelligences, or some chapters in McDougal, Lasswell, and Vlasic’s Law and Public Order In Space. Kind of old, but still good. A more recent popular treatment that’s worth your time is Ben Bova and Byron Preiss’s Are We Alone in the Cosmos? The Search for Alien Contact in the New Millenium.

if aliens just don’t like us, there’s no need to invade. They could send a half-pound of deadly nanodevices on a stealthed probe. We probably wouldn’t even recognize what was happening as an alien attack.

SO YESTERDAY’S POST ON LOW-BUDGET DISASTER PREP has produced still more email. Mostly it’s suggestions for what more people can do. That, of course, goes all the way up to a custom bomb-shelter / retreat in the mountains somewhere. But for most people, resources are limited. What are some things you can do that go beyond just keeping some extra groceries and bottled water? But not too far beyond?

You can keep a case or two of self-heating MREs around. They last a long time, they aren’t bad, and they’re more portable than canned foods if you have to leave home, but they don’t need separate water to prepare them like freeze-dried foods.

You might invest in a water filter, which will let you turn iffy water into drinkable water.

You should stock first-aid supplies and extra needed medications, in case you can’t get prescriptions refilled.

You might want some sort of backup power, ranging from a big uninterruptible power supply (keeps laptops and internet going for a long time, recharges cellphones, etc.) to a generator. Generators take annoying degrees of maintenance; a UPS can back up your computer or modem/wireless router until needed for more. But they put out a lot less power than a generator, and won’t keep your freezer from thawing. But generators cross the line into “more serious” as opposed to “slightly serious” preparedness, which is what this post is about.

Some additional source of heat. If you have a gas fireplace, make sure you know how to start it without an electric igniter. If you have a woodburning fireplace or stove, make sure you have plenty of wood, and matches and kindling, etc. (Woodburning fireplaces aren’t much good for heat, really; stoves on the other hand put out a lot). A backup kerosene or propane heater is good, too. Propane is easier to store than kerosene, and there are some propane heaters that are supposed to be safe for indoor use — though I’d invest in a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector to go with any kind of backup indoor heat. Also, extra blankets. And wool socks! Maybe even a Snuggie or two. In case the power goes out in the summer, make sure you have screens on your windows so that you can open them without filling your house with bugs. A small battery-powered fan is nice, too — clip it on to the headboard of your bed and it’ll be easier to sleep on a sticky night. Keep plenty of batteries, too.

Backup lamps and lanterns. One nice thing I have are plug-in nightlights that turn on when the power goes off, so that stairs, etc., remain navigable. I have them at the top and bottom of stairs, and in parts of the house that would be really dark if the power went off. They double as flashlights. These look good, too.

A list of phone numbers for family, friends, neighbors, and various services — plumbers, doctors, etc. — that you won’t be able to look up on the Internet if the power’s out.

A shovel, a crowbar, a water shutoff tool that fits your hookup — make sure you know that it works, how to use it, and where your hookup is in advance — and other simple tools.

A couple of tarps. During the Great Water Incident of a couple of years ago, one of these saved my basement carpet when water started coming out of the ceiling. . . .

Duct tape, duct tape, duct tape. And extra plastic garbage bags. Very versatile.

Any other reader suggestions for things that don’t cost too much, but would take disaster-prep up a level from yesterday’s post?

UPDATE: Reader Thomas Leahy writes: “Don’t forget a little extra food for the pets.” Good point.

Reader Peter Gookins emails:

This goes a bit beyond “prep on the cheap,” but you asked…

Generators-most people get one that’s much bigger than they actually need. Back north, I needed a large 240 volt generator (Honda ES 6500) to power the well pump, fridge and freezer when power went out (“locked rotor current,” which is the technical name for the high amperage required to start an electric motor from rest, on a 1 HP deep well pump is a LOT higher than the 8-12 amps (which, at 240 volts, is 1/2 the amperage it would be at 120; figure starting draw on most motors will be about 4X-5X running current; the 6500 puts out 52 amps and at pump start you could tell it picker up a lot of load) it takes to run the pump, and don’t forget that some stuff – like most -but not all- deep well pumps – are 240 volt only); here in Florida I’m on county water. During the 2004 hurricanes I loaned the big one to a neighbor, and it wound up feeding three houses for refrigerators, fans and TVs. I ran off a portable 120 volt 3K watt portable Honda RV generator (EU 3000) just fine, which powered the fridge, fans, lights and and a window AC at night for sleeping. Since then I’ve picked up a 2K watt Honda to use as “an infinite extension cord” at the gun club – it’ll power ONE saw, or a couple of floodlights and a fan, run cordless drill battery chargers, etc, and it weights 47 lbs. so it’s portable. Turns out it will run my fridge, some lights and a fan OR my window AC and some lights, all on less gas than the 3K watt Honda used. The fuel tank is small, but the RV crowd has solutions for that, just Google “EU2000+fuel tank.” And, Honda sells kits (but it’s cheaper to make your own) that allow tying two EU2000s together to get 3200 watts at 120 volts (about 26 amps) steady output. RVers do it all the time.

Remember, the smaller the generator the less fuel it uses. You can get aftermarket propane conversion kits for the Hondas, which I’ve considered doing with the 6500 when I move back north next year, because even with wheels under it it’s not very portable. I haven’t considered doing it with the 3K or the 2000 because having to drag around a propane tank reduces the portability, but if one expected a semi-stationary use, a propane conversion kit and a couple of 70 lb propane tanks would be a good investment. If I were staying in Florida I’d convert from electric water heater to propane tankless, and replace the electric range with a dual-fuel range, and stick a 250 gallon propane tank in the back corner of the yard. All the propane dealers here brag about how their trucks are propane-powered and they never missed a delivery during the hurricanes.

Speaking of well pumps…there is a great advantage to replacing the small well tank ( about 3.5 gallon draw down – one flush with old style toilets, so your pump is starting up a lot) builders always put in because it’s cheap with multiple large tanks. Well-X-Trol makes one that has a 46 gallon draw down from full before the pump needs to start and refill it. I put in two back north; in daily use the pump starts fewer times and runs longer, which extends its life, and when the power went out I ran the pump on generator until the tanks were full, which gave us 92 gallons before we needed the pump again. With water saving shower heads and minimal flushing we could get through an entire day (BTW, with a little judicious circuit breaker adjusting, one can power only one of the heating elements in an electric water heater with one’s generator, preferably the bottom element; takes a little while, but in 30 minutes or so you have a tank full of hot water. Check what wattage the elements are and replace the bottom one with a 4500 watt or 3800 watt (assuming the original is a 5500 watt) to ease the load on the generator. During normal use you won’t notice the difference.

If I were building my house from scratch, I’d consider putting in an underground propane tank and running everything off propane instead of natural gas, with a propane-powered generator thrown into the mix. A couple of deliveries a year and you’re semi self-sufficient.

Reader Anthony Swenson writes with a low-budget point that’s more in the spirit I meant for this post:

One of the cheapest things you can do – it won’t cost you anything but a nice smell in your laundry – is to make sure you always buy plain, unscented, unflavored chlorine bleach.

“In an emergency, think of this (one gallon of Regular Clorox Bleach) as 3,800 gallons of drinking water.”

Yeah, bleach is good for sanitizing stuff, too. I keep extra around — but it’s harder and harder to find plain old Clorox bleach anymore amid all the scented, splash-resistant, etc. stuff on the shelf. Read the label carefully. . . .

UPDATE: Reader Henry Bowman writes:

Another item to consider if you have a hybrid vehicle: a large inverter. I read an article a couple of years ago about a fellow in Connecticut who ran many of his electric appliances in his house for three days off his Prius, with inverter. He claimed it cost him 5 gallons of fuel. Seems like an inexpensive backup, and one for which you don’t need to worry about starting often, as is the case with a portable generator.

My sister and brother-in-law, who live in the Houston vicinity, were without power for 13 days after Hurricane Ike. They have two Priuses: they could have used a couple of inverters.

A big inverter is a lot cheaper than a comparable generator, and probably safer, too. And you can use it to recharge your UPS. But the hybrid thing isn’t as easy as it sounds. The guy you mention modded his Prius, because the big honking battery that drives the electric motors doesn’t put out 12v DC, and the 12v power system that starts the motor in the Prius (or in my Highlander) is separate. So I’m not sure there’s any special benefit to having a hybrid unless it’s modified, but correct me if I’m missing something.

Speaking of cars, think about when you’re not at home. Reader Mike von Cannon writes:

A note about disaster kits: I work for the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office and starting the morning of Dec 26 our dispatch center was flooded with calls from tourists in rental cabins who were stranded and running out of food (it was even worse during the blizzard in 93, which also hit on a weekend), so even on vacation it would pay to buy extra in case we get more snow than you expect. many tourists who thought they’d be going home sunday were stranded til Wed or Thur.

Good advice. And you should travel with at least a bit of helpful stuff. I keep some emergency stuff in the back of the car — some food bars, water, a spare pair of shoes in case mine get nasty while changing a tire, etc., and assorted minor toiletries and hygiene products and, very important, a roll of toilet paper — which helps. (And if you can produce tampons in a pinch, you can be a hero to women everywhere.)

I use these food bars, because they stand up to the heat in the summer better and they’re not appetizing enough that people will snitch ’em just for a quick snack, and these water packets because they don’t burst if they freeze. Most of this stuff never gets used, but being stuck by the side of the road for an extended period just once makes it worth having.

Also: Some survival blankets, some basic tools, and a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman. (Make sure it’s one with a can opener/bottle opener). And a roll of duct tape! I keep all of this in a small pack that takes up very little room in the back; there’s one in Helen’s car, too.

Reader Gary Saffer writes:

A couple of things that I didn’t notice in your disaster preparedness posts.

Chemical light sticks. A friend of mine suggested these for general use. They’re cheap, they provide enough light to move around, and they save batteries for more light intensive tasks. And of course, you can get them at Amazon.

Consider that under most circumstances, it’s going to be 48-72 hours before rescue or relief shows up. If you are planning for much longer periods of being off the grid, consider moving to a rural area where you can build you entire house around being off the grid for long periods of time.

Firearms. You don’t mention them, but everyone should have a means of self defense. The veneer of civilization is thin at the best of times, it vaporizes in a real emergency. The predators will be out fairly quickly because their disaster plan is to use your prepared material to survive on. They don’t know specifically who you are, but they’ll keep looking until they find someone who has the stuff they want. Or a firearm they want no part of.

Yeah, light sticks are cool, even if Joe Biden thinks they’re drug paraphernalia. The gun issue is a whole separate post, but a gun (or several) is important disaster-prep, but that moves beyond the “easy steps” focus of this post. And the rural retreat approach goes way beyond it.

Reader Tina Howard writes:

For those who actually have a landline: an old-fashioned, non-electric telephone that plugs into the phone jack & has the handset attached to the phone. Easy to identify because there is no electric cord with it. Our phone lines worked after 2003’s Hurricane Claudette but the cordless phones wouldn’t. Very cheap at Salvation Army Thrift shops.

In the same vein, keep the necessary cords to plug a computer directly into the phone modem, because the wireless router is also electric. We were able to get online and check weather and news reports, as well as make posts to update others.

Good advice. Yeah, an old-fashioned landline phone that uses line power is good to have. Cellphone batteries die. Phone company line power is more reliable than utility power. Some multi-handset wireless phone setups or answering machines have a handset at the base that still works when the power is out. (Mine does). Most don’t. You can also hook the base into a big UPS — they don’t draw much power so they’ll work for days that way if you do. Ditto your cable/DSL modem and wireless router.

Reader J.R. Ott writes:

Three lengths of sturdy rope,5/8 climbing rope,inexpensive clothesline type,for bundling up stuff,para chute chord,All three are handy for bug out 50′ min and a few short hunks.Each bundle of rope has a snap knife taped to it (about a dollar each from the paint dept) . . . . Lastly if folks can afford it a Westie dog or a Shepard,good alarm and a Westie will shred an attacker as they are very possessive Terriers and if the dogs women folk are attacked you would not believe how damaging the dog can be.

Dogs are good to have around. More advice on low-cost preparation here, from a reader.

I should also note that while having extra stuff is handy — if the roads are blocked, and you don’t have enough food, there’s not much you can do — it’s also important to have skills. Most of the survival books are aimed at somebody lost in the woods, but, again, a low-budget approach means being able to deal with home-based small-scale disasters. This book, When Duct Tape Just Isn’t Enough, is a good focus. My own skillset is nothing to brag about: I can do basic plumbing, electrical, and carpentry stuff, but I don’t really like it because I’m a perfectionist, but not skilled enough to make it perfect very fast so I get frustrated. (Plus, I’ve usually got an article I should be writing, or something) However, it suffices for quick-and-dirty solutions to problems like clogged or burst pipes, etc. Being able to deal with that sort of thing is a big leg-up, and that’s the kind of thing this book addresses.

FINALLY: Good advice from reader Spencer Reiss: Keep some cash around. Preferably in relatively small denominations: “The universal solvent–gets anything else you need. and no power, no phone=no ATM, no credit cards. Post-Andrew desperate Miamians were driving halfway to Orlando to get some (and in some areas systems were down for up to two weeks). Much easier/smarter to keep $1000 stashed somewhere.”


For breakfast, I usually have a cappuccino—espresso made in an Alessi pot and mixed with organic milk, which has been gently heated and hand-fluffed by my husband. I eat two slices of imported cheese—Dutch Parrano, the label says, “the hippest cheese in New York” (no joke)—on homemade bread with butter. I am what you might call a food snob. My nutritionist neighbor drinks a protein shake while her 5-year-old son eats quinoa porridge sweetened with applesauce and laced with kale flakes. She is what you might call a health nut. On a recent morning, my neighbor’s friend Alexandra Ferguson sipped politically correct Nicaraguan coffee in her comfy kitchen while her two young boys chose from among an assortment of organic cereals. As we sat, the six chickens Ferguson and her husband, Dave, keep for eggs in a backyard coop peered indoors from the stoop. The Fergusons are known as locavores.

Alexandra says she spends hours each day thinking about, shopping for, and preparing food. She is a disciple of Michael Pollan, whose 2006 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma made the locavore movement a national phenomenon, and believes that eating organically and locally contributes not only to the health of her family but to the existential happiness of farm animals and farmers—and, indeed, to the survival of the planet. “Michael Pollan is my new hero, next to Jimmy Carter,” she told me. . . .

And so the conversation turns to the difficulty of sharing their interpretation of the Pollan doctrine with the uninitiated. When they visit Dave’s family in Tennessee, tensions erupt over food choices. One time, Alexandra remembers, she irked her mother-in-law by purchasing a bag of organic apples, even though her mother-in-law had already bought the nonorganic kind at the grocery store. The old apples were perfectly good, her mother-in-law said. Why waste money—and apples?

The Fergusons recall Dave’s mother saying something along these lines: “When we come to your place, we don’t complain about your food. Why do you complain about ours? It’s not like our food is poison.”

Nope. In fact, organic veggies aren’t any more nutritious than the regular kind. I favor good food, and I don’t mind people who want to support local artisan producers. But I’d much rather dine on spam than on the self-congratulation of pretentious strivers.


Malaria has always been one of humanity’s biggest killers, but it may be far bigger than we realised. An unprecedented survey of the disease suggests that it kills between 125,000 and 277,000 people per year in India alone. In contrast, the World Health Organization puts India’s toll at just 16,000.

Other countries using similar accounting methods, such as Indonesia, may also be underestimating deaths from malaria. That means it could be killing many more than the WHO’s official estimate of nearly 1 million people a year worldwide, suggesting more money should be spent to fight it.

It’s too bad the malaria eradication efforts were allowed to fail.

UPDATE: Reader Kevin O’Brien writes:


Just FYI I am a contractor for USG working on novel-pathogen preparedness issues. This contract has caused me to dig deep into the books (my background is not in biology, but as a Special Forces operator, and my education is in history and business, undergrad and grad). The problem is: eradicating diseases is a very very brutally difficult thing to do. Most bacteriologists, virologists and parasitologists will tell you that in the end-game that they see, the bugs might well win. And malaria is a bastard of a hard pathogen to eradicate.

First, these things are organisms and Ma Nature disinclines them to shuffle gently off the world stage. They adapt and mutate. What we see as extermination forces, the organism experiences as environmental pressures, to which its response is selective adaptation. In other words, we have to hit it hard as the hammers of hell or there will be survivors who may have a survival trait that breeds generations we can’t kill. (True, this is more a problem with fast-mutating viruses, say, than it is with a more complex parasite like plasmodium. But the same principles are at work in all organisms, just at different velocities).

Second, most of them have multiple hosts. That means that even if we get them out of the human population we need to persistently inoculate and/or treat every new cohort of humans, or the thing comes roaring back from its reservoir in other animals (where it may be benign). We were able to eradicate natural smallpox with a combination of surveillance and inoculation, but it took 20 hard years of international effort, and variola major has no other host than humans. (This is a double-aged sword: it means if we can kill off the virus in humans, we’ve made it extinct in nature; but it also means we haven’t had usable animal models for it until recently, when bioterror concerns motivated some research). Of course, one problem now is that no one has immunity any more, but stocks of the virus still exist, and it’s also possible in theory to synthesize it in the lab, since its genome has been published. Pleasant thought, eh? An engineer rebuilding it might even decide to alter it for greater pathogenicity, or resistance to attack by the antibodies created by current vaccines.

Third, eliminating one organism may create an evolutionary, life-niche vacancy that becomes an opportunity for a new parasite or pathogen. This is true not only of the pathogen itself, but also of its vectors or non-human hosts, if that’s where we choose to attack it.

Yeah, the best way to attack plasmodium is probably to attack the mosquito that’s its vector (from a human standpoint) and its host for a key part of its life cycle. And the best way to attack the skeeter remains that vilified molecule, DDT. But eliminating a human scourge has only been done once — variola — and it’s only been done because of that germ’s peculiar vulnerability as a human-only pathogen.

You know, back from its kickoff in 1959 through the US entry in 1965, the smallpox eradication program almost didn’t start, because a previous malaria-eradication effort failed. There was also cold-war politics: the USSR favored eliminating smallpox, but the USA was focused on malaria. But the malaria eradication effort (even with DDT) choked, and people were not willing to try another eradication program… but somebody talked LBJ into backing it, and when the US swung around to agree with the USSR on eradication targets, the world as a whole was able to beat this monstrous plague. In 20 years of massive effort.

If you want to learn about the smallpox eradication project, you’re in luck. The guy that ran the project was an American from CDC, D.A. Henderson, and he’s written a great, readable book on the subject, Smallpox: Death of a Disease.

Here’s a Smithsonian article about him:

There’s a list of his academic publications on this page. As you see, his interests span a much wider range than just smallpox.

And he’s also discussed at length in Richard Preston’s The Demon in the Freezer. I make new guys on our project read all of Preston’s bio-hazard stuff. Not like it’s a hard penance, Preston’s a compelling writer.

Finally, if you want to look at malaria in particular, some of the difficulties are brought out in a July 2007 National Geographic article that’s available online.

Now, Henderson himself has come to believe that further eradications are not possible.

While I understand and respect his reasoning, I still support eradication efforts for reasons that I know you understand. We cannot decide to shrink from massive tasks because we might fail. (Cue the Stripes Pearl Harbor speech….) But we need to be aware of how we might fail, and what victory short of pathogen extinction looks like. Because we can’t work to eradicate all pathogens at once: we need to prioritize our work. And certainly, probability of success has to be part of that prioritization. I think malaria is a good next target, but it’s a dreadfully hard one.

Remember when you say, “faster, please,” there’s a lot of really good people out here pedaling as fast as we can. One thing we sure could use is more young Americans taking up hard sciences. I expect a lot of progress from molecular biology as the cost of DNA/RNA sequencing drops, the speed increases, other molecular analysis tools open up, and human knowledge and bioinformatics capability expand. But there’s always room for more smart folks in biology. I’d sure rather see the kids here in this field than mired in the law-school bubble, destined for hating life on doc review in a basement somewhere on a case where only the litigants care about the outcome.


INTERESTED IN DISASTER PREPARATION? Check out Bill Quick’s new discussion forum.

And here’s a list of recommended survival books.

SARAH PALIN’S BOOK remains #1 on Amazon. Quite impressive, given the media hostility.

On the other hand, James Wesley Rawles’ survival book is still #4 based almost entirely on roll-your-own publicity, which is more impressive, really.

SARAH PALIN IS UP TO #2 ON AMAZON, proving that her publisher knew something.

On the other hand, James Wesley Rawles’ survival book is up to #4, with virtually no traditional press attention.

BOOKS GETTING A BOOST FROM OBAMA: Obviously, Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny, and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. But also Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, and Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. And Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man. Others?

UPDATE: Reader Michael Nevers writes: “Heinlein’s Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I’ve read suggestions to read it recently in Tea Party comment threads, so I did. Decent book on the whole and wonderful for something written in the 60’s.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Alan Martin writes “Common Sense is #44 at Amazon.” And reader Doc Duke writes: “The 5000 Year Leap, both the original edition, and the 30 year anniversary edition.”

MORE: Reader John Richardson writes: “My vote for a book that is doing well in sales due to Obama would be James Wesley, Rawles’s “Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse.” According to, it is #13 in Contemporary Fiction and #5 in Mystery and Thrillers. Not bad for a book that is coming from a small press with very little publicity other than in forums and blogs.” Yeah, but kinda depressing given what it’s about.

A PROFILE of Neil Strauss, author of Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life.

But would you buy a book on survival from the author of this book? Well, they’re both about dog-eat-dog worlds. But he paid way too much for that shotgun . . . .

SO I GET AN EMAIL PROMOTING The Financial Collapse Survival Guide and Cookbook. But there’s something odd about the format. See if you can spot it . . . .


Survivalists have a long history in the United States. But what used to be the preserve of anti-establishment loners, cultists and gun nuts has gone mainstream. . . . “The cross section of the readership is changing too. Before, most of my readership was conservative Christians. We’re seeing a lot more left of center.”

I guess that explains why books like this one are doing so well. But, please, won’t somebody remember the zombies?

And, yes, I was ahead of the curve on this story.

IN LIGHT OF THE CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES, some disaster preparedness reading: Amanda Ripley’s The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why.

Ripley also has a blog.

UPDATE: Reader Debbie Eberts writes:

Glenn, I’ve read Amanda Ripley’s book. It’s interesting, but a little dry. I also recommend “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why” by Laurence Gonzalez. In it, he looks at more individual cases. For example, 4 people trapped on a raft in the middle of the ocean, why only two survive. Gonzalez’ theory is how your brain responds to severe stress will determine your likelihood of survival. The people best able to endure are those that can bifurcate between their logic and their emotion and not let the emotion overcome the logic. I’m not doing the book justice – it’s a fascinating look at survival and also why seemingly intelligent people do seemingly stupid things when they are in a crisis. (Hint: from their vantage point, it does not seem stupid at all). Thanks for all your great work!

Thanks! I think I posted something on that a while back.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ah, yes, here.

THE NEW YORK TIMES looks at the mainstreaming of survivalism:

Survivalism, it seems, is not just for survivalists anymore.

Faced with a confluence of diverse threats — a tanking economy, a housing crisis, looming environmental disasters, and a sharp spike in oil prices — people who do not consider themselves extremists are starting to discuss doomsday measures once associated with the social fringes.

They stockpile or grow food in case of a supply breakdown, or buy precious metals in case of economic collapse. Some try to take their houses off the electricity grid, or plan safe houses far away. The point is not to drop out of society, but to be prepared in case the future turns out like something out of “An Inconvenient Truth,” if not “Mad Max.”

I actually wrote a column on this very phenomenon a couple of years ago. It’s real.

UPDATE: More on disaster preparedness here and here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Lou Wainwright emails:

Also, don’t neglect the impact of World War Z! Evaluating my family’s future prospects in light of a Zombie War has been humbling – especially living in Boston, as far as possible from the natural barrier of the Rockies. Having read the book I’m giving significantly more consideration to the depths of our reserves, perimeter defense, surrounding geography, and survival without gas or electricity…not to mention researching the purchase of a katana and other suitable decapitation tools.

Maybe that explains the interest in knifeblogging! But don’t worry Lou, I’ve gotcha covered.

MORE: Reader William Casey emails: “Almost every book on survival preparedness talks about having a year’s supply of food stockpiled. What if you have to evacuate the area hurriedly and permanently?”

You should have a “bugout bag” with necessities, and you might also want some MREs you can throw in the trunk. But obviously you can’t take more than a week or two worth of food when evacuating. The rest, alas, will be left for the zombies, who won’t properly appreciate it. . . .

Here’s a helpful instructional video on the subject from (who else?) the Zombie Squad. And some further suggestions here. You may also wish to include firearms. Note that shotguns, according to Hollywood, are the only firearms generally effective against evil. Here’s a big bugout bag roundup, including firearms, from Say Uncle, though he unaccountably neglects the zombie angle, somewhat diminishing his credibility.

STILL MORE: Background on the Zombie Squad.


A fierce storm swept through central and northern California on Friday, cutting power to more than 1 million homes and businesses, closing major roads and canceling flights at several airports.

The storm may dump as much as 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.5 metres) of snow through the weekend in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada, and up to 2 feet (0.6 metre) at the popular tourist spot of Lake Tahoe, forecasters with the U.S. National Weather Service said.

Southern California braced for possible flash floods and mudslides in areas that burned in the October wildfires. Total rainfall could reach 5 inches (12.5 cm) in Los Angeles and 10 inches (25 cm) in the mountains of Southern California — the most significant rainfall in the region since January 2005, and on the heels of the driest year on record.

“It is very important, since there is so much land that has burned, that we are prepared for mudslides,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said after being briefed by the Office of Emergency Services.

Hope they’ve done their disaster-preparedness in advance, because it’s too late now.

UPDATE: Snow in Mexico?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Readers think this storm is being, er, overblown:

Being here in the brunt of the storm, I can attest that this is the biggest storm to hit California since, oh, March.

I’m not sure what the news here is. Yes, the winds have toppled trees all over town. This happens EVERY year. The TV reporters were measuring the depth of the water in the gutters; it was up to 4 inches. (Sacramento people usually dump yard waste in the street, causing storm drains to be clogged. Again, this happens EVERY year.) We joke – but it isn’t really a joke – that in California, our four seasons are Earth, Air, Fire and Water; mudslides, Santa Ana winds, forest fires and floods.

This isn’t _disaster_ preparedness, Glenn; this is _winter_ preparedness. EVERY year we have wildfires. EVERY year, we have mudslides when the rains soak the fire-ravaged hillsides. EVERY year we have strong winds, generally starting about now, that blow down a few trees and power lines. Every year, hikers and skiers get trapped by “unexpected” snowstorms in the mountains and have to be rescued. And any person with an IQ in triple digits knows enough to have flashlights, battery powered radios, and the minimal basics of storm preparedness.

You remember the old children’s song about the “Eeensy Weensy Spider”? That’s us.

Ah, to live in idyllic California! And reader Rodney Graves emails:

Here in South San Jose the area around us is without power (including my data center [about a mile from here], which is still running on generator power), while our new housing development is powered.

The storm has been very windy, and we had some gusts I would estimate at more than 50kts here on our hill. Rainfall has also been heavy.


Not all that unusual for our rainy season here. Worst in six years, twelve worse than this in the last fifty. More of a pain in the posterior than a threat to life and limb for most.

Bad weather news overhyped? Say it ain’t so! And speaking of weather alarmism, John Tierney has some thoughts: “It would be nice to think that we, unlike the ancients who propitiated the gods with human sacrifices, could accept the fact that it’s natural for unusual weather to occur — that the weirdest year of all would be one in which no record was set anywhere.”

MORE: Dr. Stanley Tillinghast emails:

In the few hours my MacBook Pro’s battery has left, I went first, of course, to Instapundit.

I appreciated the dose of reality from your Sacramento reader. This is our winter; we won’t freeze to death, but may get wet.

My wife and I are cocooned very snugly, thank you, in our vacation home on the northern California coast. Last night the storm was howling, today the surf was high, but we had a little breakthrough sun just before sunset.

Our necessary ‘survival’ equipment so far has included: (1) an Aladdin oil lamp that puts out a light via its mantle that is bright enough for comfortable reading; (2) a Coleman propane stove; (3) our Lopi wood-burning stove. The Mountain Green LED lantern is very useful but not as cozy as the Aladdin lamp.
We do have the two cookbooks you recommended for when the power goes out, but are too lazy to actually cook up anything as long as the canned soup and PB&J makings hold up.

We don’t quite have the emergency radio thing worked out, though. I think the local radio station lost power too.

Power outages are expected here on the coast; the full-timers have their generators, but we’re very happy with our books and the light to read them by.

Just finished reading Robert Zubrin’s Energy Victory, BTW, and highly recommend it.

I have one of these hand-crank radios. But the radio station should have a generator. . . .

IT’S A SPECIAL THANKSGIVING SURVIVAL EDITION of PJM Political. Listen online, or pick it up on XM Satellite Radio, channel 130, at 6 pm eastern today.

Among other things, advice from the Insta-Wife on holiday political arguments, and James Lileks talking about his new book.

IF YOU LIKED THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS, you might like Tony Woodlief’s latest, Raising Wild Boys Into Men: A Modern Dad’s Survival Guide. I haven’t read it, but I’m a fan of Tony’s work, so I expect it’s worth your time.

MORE KIDS’ BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS, from a children’s librarian who also happens to be my mom:

Kids in the intermediate and middle school grades can be a hard sell for reading fiction. But fiction is pain-free way to vicarious experience, and experience is what these kids need to find, safely, outside their comfort zone.

In one way or another, most serious fiction for this age falls into the “coming of age” genre, not because authors set out to teach lessons, but because writers know that we’re all “coming of age” as long as we live. That is say, we all struggle to get a handle on managing the various choices and constraints we deal with daily. Here are a variety of novels whose characters deal seriously, and often humorously, with their own coming of age:

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. Houghton Mifflin, 1995 (hardback); Simon Pulse (paperback), 1999.

Even the most reluctant reader will be hooked by Paulsen’s opening in which 13-year-old Brian takes off with a bush pilot to spend the summer with his estranged father in the North Woods. When the pilot dies at the controls, Brian survives a crash into a lake and manages to stay alive for 54 days and to bring about his own rescue. To do that, Brian has only a hatchet given by his mother, the untried strengths of his own character, and the words of a teacher who reminded him that all he’d ever learned would be there when he needed it. Brian learns that what he has is all he needs.

(Sequels: The River, Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return, and Brian’s Hunt.. Outside this series but with the same theme are The Voyage of the Frog, Tracker, Dogsong, and many others by Paulsen).

Lest you think Paulsen is one of those rugged survivalists who ask no help from any quarter, the middle reader shouldn’t miss these nonfiction memoirs:

My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen. Yearling, 1999.

From Cookie, the sled dog who rescued him from the icy waters of the Arctic, to Caesar, the Great Dane who hid in terror of trick or treaters, the stories of Paulsen’s real-life pets make you laugh out loud or blink back a tear as he relates how much they had to give..

The Cookcamp by Gary Paulsen. Scholastic, 2003.

In this reminiscence with the dreamlike quality of early childhood memory, Paulsen tells how he (“the boy”) recalls being sent to live with his Norwegian grandmother, a camp cook for a World War II construction crew who are, in the boy’s mind, as mythic and mighty as tall tale heroes, yet more loving and protective than his own parents.

(Tie-ins from Paulsen’s autobiographical works for the persistent nonfiction reader: Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, Harvest Paperbacks, 1995, in which he describes his two entries into this epic dogsled race; Dogteam, (illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen) Dragonfly, 1995, an evocative pictural description of the blending of human and dog in a wild night ride; and Guts, Laurel Leaf, 2002, in which he relates the personal experiences (including repeated encounters with Joe, the moose with a personal vendetta), that became parts
of the narrative of Hatchet.

Meanwhile back in suburbia, kids also have to deal with choices and constraints:

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos. Harper Collins, 1998.

Joey’s ADD means that he’s always “wired bad, or wired mad, or wired sad, or wired glad,” but Joey is a strong and sweet kid who survives in a situation in which, in the words of his dying, manic grandmother, “…you got better, and the rest of the world didn’t.” (Sequels: Joey Pigza Loses Control and What Would Joey Do?)

Lunch Money, by Andrew Clements. Simon and Schuster, 2005.

Money-loving Greg thinks he’s got a sure thing turning his artistic talents into Chunky Comics to sell at school. Then, aargh, his arch enemy Maura starts selling her sappy unicorn sagas and cuts into his profits, and then, whoa, the principal says no selling comics at school. But, wait, Maura really knows how to move product, and, wow, she points out that the school-sponsored book club is hawking paperbacks from a big publisher. It all comes to a conclusion at a heated school board meeting, and Greg learns a few things about navigating the pitfalls of business, education, and life. (See also by Andrew Clements: Frindle, The School Story, The Report Card, A Week in the Woods, The Last Holiday Concert, The Landry News, and more.)

For slightly older Clements fans:

Things Not Seen,
by Andrew Clements. Puffin, 2004.

A lot of students feel like they are invisible to their peers, but Bobby really is! He wakes up one morning and–he’s not there in the mirror! Bobby seeks a sort of refuge in the library and finds the only person to whom he’s, like, real, a blind girl named Alicia. Bobby and Alicia pool their talents to hack the Sears corporate computer and get him back to the visual realm, and Bobby learns a bit about who he really is. (Semi-Sequel: Things Hoped For by Andrew Clements, Philomel, 2006.)

Even in the world of fantasy, there’s no escape for the plucky protagonist! For example:

Ella Enchanted,
by Gail Carson Levine. HarperCollins, 1997, 2004.

Cursed by “that fool fairy Lucinda” with a spell that makes her always obedient to any command, Ella has to contend with an absent father, an evil stepmother, and abusive step-sisters, not to mention the handicap of always having to be, if not willing, at least compliant with any order. How she manages to fight her way through the usual fantasy foes and rescue her prince proves a girl’s gotta have game! Levine turns the Cinderella story on its head with humorous and page-turning results. (See also by Gail Carson Levine: all of the Princess Tales, (singly or boxed setsHarperCollins; The Wish, HarperCollins, 2002, and her newest, Gifted, HarperCollins, 20, 06.)


I’m hoping to talk her into starting a children’s book-blog. Maybe the reaction to these recommendations will help!

MY EARLIER POST linking to Stanley Kurtz’s “Fallout Shelter Future” article generated a lot of emails like this one from reader James Ivers:

Dean Ing, in the 1970s published a series of articles called “Gimme Shelter” in a series of paperbacks edited by Jerry Pournelle in which he listed a largish number of things an individual could do independently to survive attacks by what we now call WMD. I think I possibly still have copies of many of them.

He lists simple things like having a bicycle generator and a bike to charge up low-power radios and such, and how to radiation-proof (at least a little usefully) your basement for the 3-4 days of maximum danger from fallout, etc. How to use rolls of toilet paper and other stuff to build a servicable air filter quickly.

Anyhow, it looks like someone should look into updating this sort of stuff. Many people I knew at the time were convinced that in case of nuclear attack we’d all die. Ing said, “not so,” and explained how those even a little distance from the blast effects could increase their chances of survival. Same for CBW attacks.

I think we’re a long way (er, well, at least a medium way) from needing to prepare in Cold War fashion. But I remember the Dean Ing articles, and I believe they’re collected in Pulling Through, which is still available.

Something that we did in the 1950s and 1960s that would be worth redoing now, though, is stocking public buildings (as the designated “fallout shelters” were) with water, food, and emergency supplies, which would be useful against all sorts of disasters, natural or manmade. As we learned in Katrina, evacuations don’t get everyone out, and the people who remain are often those least able to take care of themselves or prepare for emergencies.

UPDATE: Reader John Lynch emails:

The king of the DIY nuclear survival books is Cresson Kearny’s Nuclear War Survival Skills. On Amazon, but NOT copyrighted (intentionally) and available for download legally. For obvious reasons, I’d rather have a bound copy around than one on my hard- drive.

The book is full of exact instructions on how to build a fallout shelter, how to store food, how to build your own geiger counter from a coffee can ( really ) and it has all been tested by the Oak Ridge lab. They even had some families test it out. Very readable and very useful.

Yes, I believe Kearny’s work was the basis for Dean Ing’s articles, but I’d forgotten this book if I ever knew about it. I’m not sure that this stuff is really called for, though I suspect that most of what passed for even basic nuclear-survival knowledge in the Cold War has been forgotten by nearly everyone. A basic public-education effort on duck-and-cover lines would do some good at relatively low cost.

WITH BLACKOUTS IN ST. LOUIS AND NEW YORK, and hurricane season still looming, it’s time to talk disaster preparedness again. Here’s a blackout survival guide from Popular Mechanics, and here are some guidelines for safe home generator usage. Still more on disaster preparedness from the PM folks can be found here.

Here’s a disaster survival kit put together by Target and the American Red Cross, and here’s a somewhat more comprehensive one, though both lack sufficient food and water. I’ve got this emergency radio and it seems to be pretty good. You should have at least a week’s worth of those. There’s some good advice on other items — and be sure to keep a stash of cash in small bills — from Amy Langfield, too.

For general knowledge, you can’t do better than the U.S. Army Survival Manual, though it’s not really adapted to disaster recovery. There’s lots of good information here, though. I haven’t read this book, but it sounds pretty good. There are also a lot of useful recommendations from the American Red Cross. And here’s more from Winds of Change.

I will stress, though, that as important as having adequate supplies is, it’s not enough to buy stuff. You’ve got to think ahead, and acquire the basic skills to get along in times of trouble. The books help, of course, but there’s more to it than that. With luck, any effort you put into this will be entirely wasted. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get to use it. But that’s still a lot luckier than needing those supplies and skills, but never having bothered to acquire them.

Meanwhile, some earlier posts that you may find useful are here and here.

UPDATE: Here’s a worthwhile post from Les Jones, and here’s some useful information from the Mormons, who take this subject seriously.

DISASTER KITS: My earlier post on radios produced more emails with suggestions. Here’s one, from reader John Jones:

One of the first things I would grab in an emergency is the water filter that I normally use for camping. A filter like this is small, and can easily produce enough potable water for a family for weeks. The only problem I would foresee in a major flood is the presence in the water of chemicals such as pesticides and oil that the filter cannot remove. Still, for filtering rain water or questionable water from a city water supply, a basic water filter could literally be a life saver. I prefer this one.

Yeah. Stored water’s best, of course — and you don’t have to be rich to store water, all you need are old milk jugs and a few drops of bleach. You can also store bleach, and use it (in higher concentrations) to purify water, though it won’t get rid of chemicals.

I don’t think there’s much of anything that would clean out the toxic sludge in New Orleans. This list of survival goods may be over the top, though.

UPDATE: Reader Stanley Tillinghast, MD emails:

The MSR Miniworks is a good filter but doesn’t kill viruses. This system includes a small bottle of bleach that is added to the water that chlorinates it, killing viruses.

That would be better for emergencies. I’m pretty sure that nothing would make that New Orleans floodwater safe to drink, though.

Meanwhile, reader Sarah Marie Parker-Allen sends this link to emergency water storage advice from the University of Wisconsin. Plastic 2-liter soft drink bottles are better than milk jugs, it says.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Robert Davis emails:

I’m mystified by all the instructions for cleaning milk jugs, filling them with water, spiking them with bleach . . .

For about $7 you can pick up three 2.5-gallon bottles of water next time you’re at the supermarket — enough to last one person a week in an emergency.

It’s sterile and you don’t have to worry about the top popping off. Your time would need to be worth practically nothing to have the do-it-yourself version make economic sense.

True, but whenever I post on disaster prep I get emails saying “that’s all fine for rich guys, but poor people live hand-to-mouth, yada yada yada.” I’m not sure that this is true in a relevant way — poor people in America are disproportionately likely to be fat, suggesting that access to food, at least, isn’t an issue. But the other point is that if you put things off until the last minute, store shelves will be empty while taps still work. And most people have bleach around.

Several readers also note that there are other emergency sources of water. Brad Mueller writes:

All fine and good, but most households also have a water heater which holds 40 gallons of potable water and the toilet tank holds about 3 gallons of drinkable water. A small amount of preparation could have prevented a lot of suffering. I’m left wondering if there isn’t a segment of our population that, for whatever reason, steadfastly refuses to helped.

Well, yes, there is. Note that you should turn off the supply valve to protect the water heater from backflow of dirty water through the lines — or leakage — if lines are damaged. (Er, and turn off the heat!) Jugged water is also more portable than water in heater or toilet tanks — but it’s good to remind people that it’s there.

It’s aimed at earthquakes, primarily, but here’s a page on disaster preparedness from the Los Angeles Fire Department. And here’s a much longer PDF booklet from the LAFD, too, with instructions on water heaters, etc. Excerpt:

To those of us who live and work in the Greater Los Angeles area, earthquakes and other natural emergencies are a reality. In order to deal with this situation, emergency preparedness must become a way of life. In the event of a major earthquake or disaster, freeways and surface streets may be impassable and public services could be interrupted or taxed beyond their limits. Therefore, everyone must know how to provide for their own needs for an extended period of time, whether at work, home, or on the road.

That’s reality. Take note. (Thanks to reader Susan Kitchens for the links).

IN THE MAIL: Three very different books. First, Brig. Gen. Ezell Ware’s By Duty Bound: Survival and Redemption in a Time of War, about racism in the Vietnam war. Second, Back in Action: An American Soldier’s Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude, about the first amputee to return to active command in Iraq. And finally, Craig Symonds’ Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles that Shaped American History. I don’t know why the publishers decided to flood my inbox with military memoirs, but they all look pretty interesting.

KATE EXPLAINS why she hates them.

Why don’t we hear more of this kind of thing from feminists?

(Via Suburban Blight).

UPDATE: Meanwhile Amir Taheri points out why they hate us:

September 4, 2003 — ‘IT is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy.” This is the message of a new book, just published by al Qaeda in several Arab countries.

The author of “The Future of Iraq and The Arabian Peninsula After The Fall of Baghdad” is Yussuf al-Ayyeri, one of Osama bin Laden’s closest associates since the early ’90s. A Saudi citizen also known by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad, he was killed in a gun battle with security forces in Riyadh last June.

The book is published by The Centre for Islamic Research and Studies, a company set up by bin Laden in 1995 with branches in New York and London (now closed). Over the past eight years, it has published more than 40 books by al Qaeda “thinkers and researchers” including militants such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s No. 2.

What Al-Ayyeri sees now is a “clean battlefield” in which Islam faces a new form of unbelief. This, he labels “secularist democracy.” This threat is “far more dangerous to Islam” than all its predecessors combined. The reasons, he explains in a whole chapter, must be sought in democracy’s “seductive capacities.”

This form of “unbelief” persuades the people that they are in charge of their destiny and that, using their collective reasoning, they can shape policies and pass laws as they see fit. That leads them into ignoring the “unalterable laws” promulgated by God for the whole of mankind, and codified in the Islamic shariah (jurisprudence) until the end of time. . . .

Al-Ayyeri says Iraq would become the graveyard of secular democracy, just as Afghanistan became the graveyard of communism. The idea is that the Americans, faced with mounting casualties in Iraq, will “just run away,” as did the Soviets in Afghanistan. This is because the Americans love this world and are concerned about nothing but their own comfort, while Muslims dream of the pleasures that martyrdom offers in paradise.

Calling them “the Klan with a Koran” is perhaps too kind. Or unfair to the Klan.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Buffy would know what to do with this guy.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: On the “Klan with a Koran” front, Michael Ubaldi emails “You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie!”

STILL MORE: Meryl Yourish says if I don’t hear feminists, it’s because I’m not listening.

Well, she’s right and wrong. When Martha Burk thinks that the threat to women by Islamic fundamentalism is as important as gender integration at Augusta National, then I’ll have what I was asking for. You see, I’m not listening to Martha Burk, et al., but I can’t help hearing them anyway. And that’s the sign of a movement in action.

SURFING IN CLASS: Boy, this topic is generating the email. Here’s some more — none of which, I hope, was actually sent from a classroom. Certainly this first one — which comes from one of my former students — wasn’t:

To quote Woody Allen’s famous aphorism, “Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.” As a 1999 grad of UTK law, I was quite happy to see my classmates playing Solitaire in class, as I knew that they might as well have stayed home. We did not have wireless Internet in those days, but I suspect that the end result is about the same: those who do not show up (whether in mind or in body) end up paying the price with their class rank and their job prospects. Incidentally, I did extremely well in law school (mostly by showing up and sitting in the back row), notwithstanding the fact that you gave me my lowest grade. : )

Oh, well. Here’s another observation:

I’m a 1L at the University of Virginia Law School.

I deliberately avoided the problem you mention by purchasing an ethernet card with a cable. While many of my classmates feel tempted to surf, I can’t.

At Virginia, few people complain about others surfing, because (like many schools) the class rows are placed on steeply inclining levels, as one would find a sporting event.

Two other points: (1) Females are much worse than males about emailing, instant messaging, and surfing during class. (2) Only a tiny percentage of our students do it at all (maybe 10% at any given moment), even though students in the middle or bottom of the class have an excellent chance of getting decent jobs. The academic culture here harshly punishes the unprepared. It’s a matter of honor.

I was a visiting professor at Virginia (loved the school, but as a then-single guy found Charlottesville deadly) and they do take their honor seriously, though I actually found the students there somewhat less studious than the ones at Tennessee, perhaps because of better job prospects for those in the middle. But that may well have changed since then. Here’s more:

I am a 1l at the Ohio State University College of Law, and most classrooms are equipped with a wireless network. I sit in the back of the class in most cases, due to alphabetical seating, so I get a good perspective on the laptop habits of my classmates. I would say that in terms of distracting neighbors, the larger culprit is the games. Solitaire of course is popular, but more and more I see people playing web based flash and java games, ROMs of old nintendo and genesis games, and even internet games through the MS or Yahoo gaming service. If people think that someone checking their email or reading CNN is distracting, they will have big problems when sonic the hedgehog is running across their neighbor’s screen. That being said, I have no problems concentrating or ignoring the distractions, and fail to see how someone who has made it all the way here cannot possess the mental dicipline to not spend the whole class period staring at their neighbor’s computer.

As for cheating, I have yet to see anything that even smells of cheating with the net or with laptops. Part of the reason is that the school appears to have disabled the wireless network in the classrooms, yet not in the whole building during exams. The result is that the network connects even in the hallway, but when you enter the classroom, it disconnects. Even during earlier tests however, when the network was working during the tests, I never saw anyone with explorer open, let alone cheating. In the end, our tests are open book, and so cheating would be near impossible anyway, unless one opened an instant messenger conversation with another student or something like that.

Yes, law school exams don’t lend themselves to cheating, which has the unfortunate side effect of making them harder to grade (and we don’t use graders, unlike people in some other disciplines — we plow through all those bluebooks ourselves.)

Where surfing is concerned, the blame-the-professor angle surfaces:

Having just graduated from UCLA (and done quite well), I can positively state from my own experience that in-class websurfing usually has little to do with any particular student’s desire to learn. Law school professors have not been chosen for their ability to teach, especially the professors that have been around for awhile. In-class websurfing is a survival tactic designed to keep the student awake as the professor explains for the fourth time the policy implications of granting ex-parte TROs in highly unlikely hypothetical situations.

Well, speaking as someone who is generally regarded as an “entertaining” teacher, I do have to point out that entertainment isn’t the test of good teaching. One of my best professors in law school was deadly dull, but things that he said still bubble up in my brain from time to time. But several readers felt that way. Here’s another:

I am no longer a law student, thank God, but when I was reading your blog and the posts on the subject of web-surfing in class, I was shocked that law students were doing that. Here at the University of Memphis, we just don’t have that capability. However, I have noticed more and more laptops in the classroom. One student in particular used to pound the keys of her ancient laptop with the fervor of Jerry Lee Lewis in concert. It was very distracting. The newer models of laptops have much quieter keys, but their presence is still annoying when you see people playing video games during class. However, I think this problem of not paying attention in class could easily be solved by teachers at the university level actually teaching and not just droning on and on at the front of the class at a lectern.

I had a teacher at the University of Tennessee who constantly moved around the class as he taught and he asked the students questions and most of the students were attentive.

I had a law professor at the University of Memphis who lectured from the lectern and never moved. He always called on students in alphabetical order, so the rest of the class never paid attention. I, myself read the paper, did crossword puzzles, and passed notes with my fellow students. It did not matter as far as grades went because I knew people who studied hard and paid attention, but made C’s and people like me who did relatively nothing and made B’s.

However, my point is this: college professors who are researchers and not teachers will not demand or keep students’ attention. Professors who are dedicated to teaching will demand and keep their students’ attention. A little fear is not a bad thing for a teacher to instill in their students. I was terrified of Robert Banks throughout my law school career, but I studied harder for his classes than any of the rest.

By the way, I had you for a BARBRI session and you were pretty good at keeping the attention of burned out, jaded law school graduates.

Thanks, though the fear of flunking the bar (BAR/BRI is a bar-review course) probably helped hold people’s attention, too. . . .

Then there’s this example of how wireless networking can produce a “smart mob” that the professor isn’t even aware of:

As a recent graduate of Harvard Law (’02) I would like to report that having the internet in the classroom built a collegial atmosphere that stayed with my class for our three years in the school. As you may know, our first year is spent divided into sections each with its own schedule. This meant that we went to every class with the same group of 150 students for basically the entire year. With many of us having seen the Paper Chase before coming to school, imagine our collective relief when we say the numerous Instant Messages that would pop up as the professor bore down with questions. You could pretend to be looking at your notes or materials as you searched the IM’s for the consensus answer or to find messages from those you trusted. No longer was it the harsh professor against the lone, scared, student. The entire class helped clandestinely fight every battle, it was all of us against him/her and the professor didn’t even know it. Perhaps the positive job market at the time lessened the urge to compete mercilessly, or maybe we were really relieved to find the classroom stocked with normal easygoing people instead of the arrogant cuthroats we heard so much about, but this experience brought our section together. The only danger was that occaisionally, as the Professor kept you on the hook, someone in the class would send you a remark by IM that could never be said aloud. It would take all your effort not to openly crack up, and I distinctly remember at least one time when even that effort wasn’t enough. It’s kind of hard to explain to the prof. what is so funny about an “easement in perpetuity.”

Yeah, it’s only the “easements by necessity” that are really funny. Finally, an observation from the pedagogical side about computers in general from a University of Texas faculty member:

I’ve been reading–with parochial interest–the discussion of students surfing the Web during class. Our school also has a ubiquitous wireless system and my take is similar to your own: a student who fails to pay attention in class, for whatever reason, does so at his own peril. (Or as our technology dean put it, before they were surfing the web they were doing crossword puzzles in my class. Same difference.)

But since I teach the research and writing class, I figured I throw in an observation about another way that law students’ affinity for computers can damage their legal education. I’ve been teaching this class for 10 years and as you would expect students have become far more computer-literate in that time. I now rarely encounter students who are afraid to use online legal research services (Lexis and Westlaw) as I did 10 years ago. Also, because students are familiar with search engines they pick up the mechanics of Lexis and Westlaw searching much more quickly.

On the down side, students in my more recent classes have a much harder time mastering the analytical side of research because they assume that they already know how everything there is to know about online research. In fact, mostly what they’ve learned to do is enter a query and get a more-or-less relevant hit. There may be more relevant sources out there and there may be better quality sources, but for their purposes those distinctions haven’t mattered. When they begin doing legal research, however, suddenly relevance and quality matter a lot and getting just ANY hit isn’t enough. Furthermore, legal research often requires them to research slippery and abstract concepts that don’t lend themselves to keyword searching. In this environment, if they confine themselves only to what they already know how to do, they aren’t likely to get any hits at all. My conversations with practicing lawyers tell me that as a result a lot of new law-school graduates are almost “research-illiterate.”

Over the past several years we’ve been revamping our teaching of legal research to completely integrate use of online services so that students better understand their power and their limitations and are able to rationally choose between print and electronic resources. I can’t really say at this point whether we’ve been successful: it’s a work in progress.

That’s very true. I have to constantly remind students that just because electronic research is easy doesn’t mean it’s sufficient. There are many things still to be found in books that are not available on the Web or on commercial services.

The email continues to pour in. I may post more on this later.

OUR FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE: I haven’t read the book in question, but this review makes Timothy Ferris’s Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space, and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril sound pretty cool. And it’s certainly true that amateur astronomers (whose operations are in some ways as sophisticated as the professionals’) are the ones most likely to spot some dangers, such as an asteroid or comet aimed at Earth.

If Ferris makes one point, he makes it again and again: Don’t overlook “the backyard stargazer who searches with a telescope for previously undiscovered asteroids and comets.”

These thought adventurers gazing up at the night sky from backyards all over the world are “simultaneously engaged in two missions — a study of our origins and a reconnaissance that just might bear on our survival.”

There have even been some efforts to harness these amateurs in a more organized fashion, via prizes for discovering earth-crossing asteroids. As individuals get richer, and as technology extends their capabilities, informal groups of interested amateurs are likely to become the main means of addressing some important problems. In fact, as this example makes clear, they already have.

MORE ON HAUERWAS: Okay, it’s not generating email the way the men in college post did, or the SUV and interracial marriage posts did, but it’s generated a fair amount. Some samples:

Reader Angie Schultz is a bit hard on Telford Work:

I was prepared to respect Work’s attitude, but no longer. In that link you posted:

> Firing off a missile or two to “send a message” was a common enough

> response from the Clinton Administration. It projected the image (and

> the reality) of a country dismissive of its foes, arrogant about its

> power, and complacent about its future. It enraged and encouraged

> America’s enemies.

No, indeed, it projected the image of a country insecure in its power, hesitant to march overseas and deliver its enemies the ass-kicking they so richly deserved. (And I’ll point out that, though I wasn’t paying much attention, I thought at the time that firing a couple cruise missiles was either too little or too much.)

It did encourage our enemies, but only because it made them think us weak.

> At my school’s memorial service, even before we knew who had

> perpetrated the act, we instinctively repented of our triumphalism,

> arrogance, and complacency

That’s right, we are automatically to blame, no matter what happened, no matter who our enemies are or what their ultimate goals. Osama et al want to set up the Caliphate, for Chrissake, where no doubt Christians would be put to the sword, as in Saudi Arabia (Osama thinks the Saudis are a bunch of pansies), and Work and his oh-so-pious ilk are sorry we are not more accomodating of them.

He also says he hopes Christians would fight non-violently. Forgiving the oxymoron, most of Americans consider themselves Christian, however lightly or fervently they hold the religion. Guess this would mean actually defending the country would fall to Jews and atheist, plus whatever small percentage of other non-pacifist religions remain in the country. Unless of course by “Christian” Work means (as so many Christians do) “my brand of Christianity which is the only legitimate one”. Those other “Christians” (who aren’t really, you know) can go do the hard and bloody work. He sounds like a damned Eurominister.

By the time he’s reminding us that we need to be humbled for relying on our own power, rather than God’s, I’m done. Experience and history show that people and nations who rely solely on God’s intervention, rather than developing their own powers, are doomed.


In case you haven’t gathered, I’m an atheist, and I’m really pissed


Well, I think Work is thoughtful and serious. Hauerwas. . . well, I’m not so sure. I think he’s gotten caught up in the act.

Reader Chris Moseley writes:

I’m a Christian and I also agree with you about Hauerwas’ prayer.

I once heard Hauerwas give a paper at Duke. What one needs to realize about him is that he sees himself as a gadfly (in the Socratic sense) for the church. His schtick is to make outrageous statements that get attention; if challenged by coherent criticism, he retreats or deflects the challenge, but the purpose has been served. What I’ve read of his work appears not to be scholarship but the maintenance of a carefully crafted pose.

I recall that at the talk I attended, Hauerwas likened middle-class white Christians (the sort who might listen to ‘Jars of Clay’, say) to Nazis. This was part of the schtick, but it may also reflect genuine hatred on his part.

However, what he may hate and fear above all else is to be ignored. From what I’ve read of his writing, he has reason to fear this.

I don’t think that Hauerwas hates middle-class America. But by all appearances he doesn’t respect it, or its beliefs, as much as he respects those who do hate America. The Nazi analogy is also in this article: “Americans are, for the most part, good, decent and hardworking people, Hauerwas says, but ‘so were the people that supported the Nazis.'”

Reader James Dixon says I’m wrong:

Prof. Reynolds:

> The 9/11 attacks, in other words, seem to have been exactly what

> Hauerwas was praying for.

Uhm, no. I’ll quote:

“Sober us with the knowledge that you will judge this nation, you will humble this nation, you will destroy this nation for our pride.”

I would argue that the 9/11 attacks had, if anything, exactly the opposite effect.

Perhaps it wasn’t America’s pride that God chose to humble. That doesn’t change what Hauerwas was praying for.

In addition, while Hauerwas did ask for specific outcomes in his prayer, he left the matter of how best to achieve those outcomes entirely in God’s hands (note the “if it be your will”). I doubt that even Hauerwas would consider the deaths of thousands of innocents to be a method God would choose.

I don’t know. Read the prayer. How else do you “humble” a great nation? Historically, it has usually involved fire and blood. As for the “if it be your will,” that’s the usual weasel-phrase people add after asking God to do their will.

Glenn, Hauerwas is arguing from a theological perspective. As much as I like your blog, you are not qualified to debate him on those terms, anymore than he is to debate you on Constitutional law. While I am not a trained theologian either, I can confidently state that his positions are in fact based on accepted Christian doctrine. The positions themselves are extreme, in that they would not be those reached by most reasoning Christians, but few Christians would argue the doctrine from which they are derived.

Yeah, but so what? Personally, I think that Constitutional discourse should be comprehensible to everyone. I feel the same about theological discourse. I agree that Hauerwas argues from a Christian tradition (one that I don’t share) but I don’t feel that gives his opinions on secular questions, like the war, any additional authority. At any rate, Hauerwas is someone who has chosen to take his positions beyond the seminary walls. That makes him fair game — and to his credit, I don’t think he would try to maintain that only those with union cards may debate him. I repeat: I think I’m doing him credit by taking his ideas seriously, rather than simply ignoring them.

I personally do not agree with him, as I consider the Afghan conflict to be a “just war”.

As to why he is taking these positions, he is reminding Christians that they are Christians first and Americans second. For a Christian, the commandments of Christ take precedence over all else, even the survival of the United States. He is simply pointing this out to them. You can argue all you want that this is unwise, but this is a matter of faith, not wisdom, so whether it is wise or not is beside the point to believing Christians (and his arguments are aimed squarely at believing Christians, anyone else they reach is a side benefit).

Anyway, I doubt I’ve cleared the matter up any, but I thought I should try. Thank you for taking the time to share your views with us. Oh, and if you would rather be addressed as Dr. Reynolds, please let me know. I personally consider Professor to be the more respectful title.

I’m happy with all non-profane titles of address. Law professors don’t use “doctor,” though, even though the degree is a doctorate, for reasons based in history (at one time the law degree wasn’t a doctorate) and professional rivalry (the whole medical doctors versus lawyers thing).

It’s fine for Hauerwas to tell Christians that they’re Christians first and Americans second — so long as he’s willing understand that by doing so he puts himself, and Christians who agree with him, in the position of being dismissed as people who, well, put America’s interests second to their own religious beliefs. Kind of like Pat Robertson.

Brent Hardaway writes:

I enjoy your site and I’m an evangelical Christian who thought that your prayer in response to Hauerwas was most appropriate and on target. It is not any “cautionary note”. I spent seven years in a Mennonite denomination where a strong minority of the members are pacifists. I’m sad to say that the modern manifestation of Christian pacifism has nothing to do with it’s more noble past. I think that it makes most of them very bitter that America has the power to secure itself by the use of military force, because it’s much more difficult to go around saying “violence begets violence” when in fact violence can neutralize the enemy. Their words seem to imply that they would like America to be defeated in a war. Well, at least as long as their personal safety would remain intact.

Yes. There’s rather a lot of arrogance in this position. It’s wrong to say “The United States will destroy a nation that threatens its beliefs.” But it’s okay to say, “The United States should be destroyed as a nation because defending it threatens my beliefs.” The former, we’re told, is nationalistic arrogance — the latter, presumably, is piety of some sort.

Screw it. You want to be a martry for Christianity, fine. Get a load of Bibles and take them to Saudi Arabia. But don’t fool yourself that the rest of us share your beliefs, or desire your fate. My own belief is well captured by a passage from the Tennessee Constitution: “the doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”

There’s an interesting email exchange over at Kieran Lyons’ site that’s worth reading, too.