Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"If they are not Islamic fanatics, what are they, Martians?"

Judge Jeanine Pirro
The keynote speaker at the ACT for America conference on September 11, 2014 was Judge Jeanine Pirro. ACT for America is a non-profit organization led by Brigitte Gabriel, author and terrorism expert.

Judge Pirro’s speech centered on the threat of ISIS, mirroring the non-profit organization’s goal of fighting Shariah Islamic Law in the United States and maintaining our freedoms and our Judeo-Christian foundation as intended by our Founding Fathers.

Echoed by many speakers during the three day conference, Judge Pirro challenged the deliberate misrepresentation that ISIS, the Islamic terrorist army alleged to number 30,000 in Iraq and Syria, is not about Islamic fanaticism. “If they’re not Islamic fanatics, what are they, Martians?” asked Pirro.

“The President says ISIS is not Islamic. Really? What is it, German? Have your read the Quran. Read the d-n thing and you’ll figure it out.”

Pirro criticized in her speech the administration’s domestic policy in regard to Islam. “They’ve removed all references to Islam and jihad from the training manuals and label the shooter of Fort Hood as committing an act of workplace violence,” even though the jihadi major talked to Anwar al-Awlaki, “a guy who was so dangerous that we had to kill him,” and the major carried around business cards with the words, “Soldier of Allah.”

She questioned this administration’s true allegiance and intent as reflected by U.S. actions in Egypt.

“We take out Mubarak who was actually an ally. We take out Gadhafi. We supported the Arab Spring, and it wasn’t democratic. But, Morsi gets elected. Obama’s first speech he gave in Cairo was about apologizing for who we are. We support Morsi because he was democratically elected. So was Hitler. They kick out Morsi and elect al-Sisi and the administration is still holding back. The administration is angry that the Muslim Brotherhood is out in Egypt. The Egyptians had the strength to throw out the Muslim Brotherhood! Shame on us because we don’t have the strength to throw them out of the U.S.”

Emphasizing that we need to be “morally right,” not “politically correct,” Judge Pirro said, “The people who started this country are turning over in their graves asking what in the world they did all of that for.” She repeated her warnings that the jihadist killing Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East “are coming for us,” here on U.S. soil, and are probably already here, entering through the southern border sieve.

Judge Pirro discussed the Benghazi attack and its implications. “I think about Benghazi. I wonder if the people in our government really want to protect us.” The four Americans who died two years ago “didn’t choose to be victims of that attack. Then our President and Secretary of State blamed the Benghazi attack on a video. Are you kidding me?”

It was certainly moving to hear the heartbreaking testimony of Tyrone Woods’ father. Tyrone chose to disobey orders and tried to save Ambassador’s Stevens’ life, paying with his own life in the process.

Judge  Pirro explained how the administration “took Islam out of the talking points on Benghazi because we didn’t want to offend Muslims,” and how a video was purposefully blamed for the vicious attack even though, she reminded the audience, if a video was the culprit, which it was not, we still have freedom of speech in this country.

Why would officials deliberately misrepresent the reality that Islamists are out of control worldwide? “What do they gain by lying to us? They gain political office by lying to us,” Judge Pirro emphatically stated. Spending taxpayer money to apologize to the man who made the video was a fantasy to cover up for the claim that “Libya was normalized.”

She criticized the fact that this administration took two years to capture the mastermind of Benghazi. “They could not get him because he would say they were stupid for believing that a video caused it. The mastermind would say that we are stupid. It doesn’t take a video to make them hate us!”

Referring to the CIA operative, identified as Bob, who ordered the stand down and delay to save our trapped men, Pirro asked, “Who’s the stupid idiot that we have in our government that would order something like that?”

Judge Pirro ended her speech by warning Americans about the weakness of the electric grid, a grid vulnerable to terrorist physical and cyber-attacks. She reminded the audience about the attack on Silicon Valley a year ago when two individuals lifted heavy concrete slabs and cut the fiber optic cables underneath, and then shot transformers with AK47s. She told the audience that an “attack on the power lines left the entire nation of Yemen (23 million people) without power for a day.”

According to Forbes, “shortly after the damage of the first attack was repaired, militants reappeared for a second round, which led to the national power outage. The military responded with an operation that killed two attackers while wounding another six.”  http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdetwiler/2014/06/19/terrorist-attack-left-all-of-yemen-in-darkness-last-week-another-wake-up-call/

 

 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Butler on Business September 11, 2014

I discuss the GAO report on the social cost of CO2-driven global warming and how the government arrived at arbitrary consensus numbers. I come on at the 34 minute mark.
http://host1.cyberears.com//27621.mp3

If You are Illegal, Passport and Social Security Numbers in One Day

I spent three hours yesterday at the Consulate, trying to obtain a passport renewal for my 82 year old mother who wants to travel to visit her sister and brother she had not seen for a long time. It may be her last trip.

Because her passport had expired in 1998, it must be verified that she is still a Romanian citizen and that she has not given up her citizenship to another country without their knowledge, even though I provided them with her resident alien U.S. re-entry permit (a form of passport for legal immigrants) that also expired in late 90s, and her resident alien card.

The Consulate must check that she is a legal entity, that she exists, that she’s still a Romanian citizen, said the condescending clerk in the consular office, for the fee of $81 in cash.  How do they know that she has not sworn allegiance to another country in the interim?

After an alleged wait period of 60 days, she will be eligible for a new passport, providing that the right paperwork, filled out correctly according to bureaucratic speak, name and surname, her deceased parents, my deceased father, her life story, etc.  will be filed. I have no clue what the fee will be or how long that would take, hopefully her siblings will still be alive and mom will be ambulatory and/or able to travel.

But that is not all. I must then proceed with the renewal of her U.S. re-entry permit, facing the legal immigration bureaucracy gauntlet of the United States, and I have no idea how long that would take, considering the backlog of 4 million legal immigrants who are awaiting patiently the resolution of their cases, and the priority that the flood of illegal aliens from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador are receiving.

If mom was an illegal alien freshly arrived from Mexico, she would be getting her passport and visa on the same day, and from the Social Security office.

That is exactly what happened to a busload of Mexicans who arrived from Laredo in Memphis, Tennessee. According to the video posted by therightscoop.com, an American citizen confronted some of the members of the group who spoke no English, had been in the U.S. one day, but already had Social Security numbers and new Mexican passports issued not by the Mexican Consulate but by the Social Security office in Memphis. http://therightscoop.com/report-obama-admin-giving-illegals-new-passports-and-social-security-numbers-video/

As the videographer says in his citizen video, “They should get these [passports] in Mexico. We need jobs, we have no money in our country, we are giving it all away, and look at this, our tax dollars hard at work, there’s your bus full of people, there’s the Social Security office, and they are giving passports away to illegals.

Chances are, after writing about this egregious issue and the concerned American citizen videographer, my mom will never get travel papers from the United States.  

We have to stop the flood of illegal aliens into our country who claim bogus refugee status.  They are here for jobs because of bad economic conditions in their countries, and to receive welfare from the strapped American taxpayers. American businesses want illegals here for cheap labor, replacing American workers. We have our own severe economic problems in the United States and our middle class is struggling under the heavy burden of taxation, the loss of jobs, and the lack of job creation.

 

 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon-Driven "Consensus" Global Warming

March 17, 2014 Snow
Photo: Ileana Johnson
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released a 36 page review on August 25, 2014 about the regulatory impact the “development of social cost of carbon estimates” would have on our economy and what methods the developers used to assess the social cost. www.gao.gov/assets/670/665016.pdf
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Council of Economic Advisors led a working group composed of four offices from the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and six federal agencies:  the EPA, the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Transportation, and the Treasury. The working group had expertise in economics, climate science, and academic modeling.
“Social cost of carbon, measured in dollars per metric ton of carbon dioxide, is the monetized net effects (damages and benefits) associated with an incremental increase in carbon emissions in a given year.” Estimates vary widely depending on how data is used and what computer modeling calculates them.

The use of the word “carbon” is deceptive. Carbon is a chemical element whereas carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas exhaled or released in the atmosphere, the gas of plant life found to be in a concentration of 0.04 percent.

Damage categories can include projected changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, and property damage from “increased flood risk due to increased carbon emissions.” The first legitimate question that pops in my mind is, in a truly scientific study, how do you control for other variables that affect agricultural productivity, human health, and property damage in order to tell with accuracy that carbon dioxide is the culprit?

The methods used by the working group were based on three values:
      
1.       Decisions were made using “overall consensus” when developing the 2010 and 2013     estimates.
2.       The working group “relied largely on existing academic literature and models” to develop its estimates. They used three “prevalent academic models that integrate climate and economic data to estimate future economic effects from climate change.” 

The EPA, with help from the model developers (the academics), calculated the estimates once the group “reached agreement.” Model assumptions and features were not changed, only updated to incorporate new scientific information such as “sea level rise and associated damages.”

Three different models converted carbon dioxide emissions scenarios into changes in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, then the gas concentration changes into temperature changes, and finally temperature changes into damages and benefits. Each of the three models used its own method to estimate the above effects.

The three models are cited often in peer-reviewed literature and by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its climate assessments. (p. 13)

The three key inputs used to run each model were:

-          scenarios for future population and economic growth

-          how the climate responds to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in atmosphere

-          discount rates.

The discount rates of 2.5, 3, and 5 percent were chosen to reflect the current academic literature because there was no “consensus” about the appropriate rate. It seems rather arbitrary and non-scientific to leave out so many other variables. GAO’s report says that “academic literature shows that the social cost of carbon is highly sensitive to the discount rate chosen,” but there is no consensus on the appropriate rate.
 
3.       Disclosures about limitations and incorporation of new information.

The Technical Support Document suggested that estimates should be revisited when “substantially updated models become available.” Decisions are thus made using imperfect “scientific consensus.” Consensus does not constitute fact, it is just an opinion.
Executive Order 12866 directed federal agencies to make public the economic effects of their proposed “significant regulatory actions,” and to disclose if the regulation’s benefits justify the cost. (EO 12866, 58 Fed. Reg. 51,735, September 30, 1993)

DOT was told by a federal appeals court in 2008 to “update a regulatory impact analysis with an estimate of the social cost of carbon.” The social cost referred to was the “dollar value of the net effects (damages and benefits) of an increase in emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.” (GAO-14-663 Social Cost of Carbon)

The DOE, the EPA, and DOT developed separately estimates of the social cost of carbon, derived from academic literature; they ranged from $0 to $159 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted. Some estimates included domestic and global cost. The median value for the social cost of carbon emission per metric ton was $19 (in 2006 dollars), calculated by using five different discount rate scenarios. (GAO-14-663, Social Cost of Carbon, p. 6)

Academics agreed by “consensus” and “settled science” that carbon dioxide is a “major contributor to climate change.” Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases trap heat in the air and prevent it from returning to space.

According to GAO, the working group consulted with the lead authors of a chapter on climate change sensitivity that appears in The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_ipcc_fourth_assessment_report_synthesis_report.htm

GAO pointed out that “none of the three models accounts for damages from wildlife loss or ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide emissions.” The jury is still out on ocean acidification being caused by atmospheric CO2.

“The models cannot completely predict how technology may adapt to warmer temperatures.” Some models factor damage from sea level rise. The report continued, … “the models may not fully consider the effects of damages due to potential catastrophic events, such as the melting of Antarctic ice sheets,” resulting in underestimating damages from increased carbon emissions. (pp. 18-19)

In 2007 Al Gore predicted, “The ice cap is falling off a cliff. It could be completely gone in as little as seven years from now.” In the last two years, the Summer Polar Ice cap has grown by 43 percent, an area of 5.62 million square miles from the previous 3.91 million square miles on August 25, 2012.

Climate Depot showed remarkable satellite images from the University of Illinois Cryosphere project. Marc Morano quoted Judith Curry, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, who said, “The Arctic Sea ice spiral of death seems to have reversed.” http://www.climatedepot.com/2014/08/30/paper-myth-of-arctic-meltdown-stunning-satellite-images-show-ice-cap-has-grown-by-an-area-twice-the-size-of-alaska-in-two-years-despite-al-gores-prediction-it-would-be-ice-free-by-now/

“As the end of the southern winter draws closer, Antarctic sea ice extent remains higher than average.” http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

Natural variability, oceanic currents, solar flares, and volcanic eruptions are often overlooked variables in global warming modeling.
                                                                                        
Does this “consensus” modeling deal with cooling temperatures? Does modeling value other greenhouse gases? Does it factor in the increased ice surface? Has the modeling been independently reviewed?

At the end of the day, consumers are going to pay more taxes and higher prices for all goods and services because of “consensus” global warming and its social costs as determined by omnipotent governments, academicians, and the United Nation’s IPCC. The science is not settled but the fix on our pockets is.
Copyright: Ileana Johnson
 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Tattoos, Artistic Expression, Fashion Statement, or Self-Mutilation

Tattoos used to represent gang affiliation, prison time, or brotherhood in the military. Hollywood’s narcissistic behavior has changed that; imitation has become a misguided form of flattery.

Tattoos are a billion dollar industry. Considered now a form of self-expression, my body is my canvass, tats are not cheap. Tats are so desired that unemployed and partly-employed youth go into debt to pay for tattoos.
Tattoos and body piercings are considered a rite of passage in primitive cultures, and are more painful and more expensive to remove in western cultures. Some Christians object to tattooing because it defaces the perfect body that God has created.
On any given day, it is hard to scan any crowd without finding more and more people of all ages with visible and huge tattoos, body piercings, hooks, horns, chains, facial holes, gauged piercings, and other forms of body enhancement. There has been an explosion of young people covering their arms, their legs, their backs, necks, faces, and hands with colorful tattoos and body piercings in painful places.

A few tats are beautiful, masterfully done by skilled artists, some are ugly caricatures or stretched blotches of black ink, others picture words in foreign scripts the wearer does not understand, some represent kinship or brotherhood with an organization, a few make delicate or indelicate fashion statements, some are obscene, others represent prison time, the number of people murdered and gang affiliation, and others pay homage to a place, a person, a special date, a life-altering event, or a decision made while inebriated. No matter what the reason, tattoos become an indelible part of how that person is perceived for a lifetime regardless of their good, imperfect, or bad character.

Pirates had only one ear pierced because they believed it improved their visual acuity.

Holocaust victims at Auschwitz had numbers tattooed on their forearms by their jailers and torturers, a vivid expression of the utter brutality of Nazism and its attempt to dehumanize Jewish people.

When I first saw Otzi, the Iceman, the well-preserved mummy of a man who lived about 3300 B.C., in Bolzano, Italy, I focused on many details besides his belongings. Discovered in 1991 on the Austrian-Italian border between Bolzano and Innsbruck, Otzi had 57 tattoos. Scientists revealed that some tats were located near modern acupuncture points and they may have treated his degenerative arthritis. If that is indeed true, tattooing for medicinal purposes, a form of rudimentary acupuncture, occurred way before acupuncture was known to be in use in China around 1000 B.C.
“Otzi had several carbon tattoos including groups of short, parallel, vertical lines to both sides of the lumbar spine, a cruciform mark behind the right knee, and various marks around both ankles.” http://www.crystalinks.com/otzi.html

Two mummies, a man and his wife, from 2,500 years ago remained frozen in Pazyryk on the Altai steppes near the Mongolian border and western Siberia until it was found by Russian archeologist Sergei Rudenko in 1948. The man’s body was covered with tattoos, his arms, legs, and trunk – “monsters with wings and cats’ tails, lion-griffins with snakelike bodies, deer with huge antlers and eagles’ beaks.”
The Scyths (Scythians), Iranian equestrian tribes, who lived in central Asia from 7th to 3rd century B.C., were famous for their tattoos. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.) wrote, “the whole mass of the Scyths, as many as are nomads, cauterize their shoulders, arms, and hands, chests, thighs, and loins, for no other purpose than to avoid weakness and flabbiness and to become energetic.”

Tattooing then was a painful status symbol for Scythians. Skilled tattooists punctured deeply into the flesh of their customers elaborate designs of real and imaginary creatures and then “filled the holes with a black liquid.”
Another Pazyryk people discovery was made in 1993 in Novosibirsk, a 25 year old blond princess preserved in the Siberian permafrost. The Ukok Princess had perfectly preserved 2,500 year old tattoos on both arms. Dr. Polosmak postulated that tattoos were a means of personal identification, status and position in society, as well as the ability for the people of the same clan to find each other in the afterlife. “The more tattoos were on the body, the longer it meant the person lived, and the higher was his position.”

Other bodies found in 1929 in the Siberian permafrost, such as that of a man, exhibit animal tattoos from head to toe:  mountain sheep called argali, griffons with vulture beaks, winged snow leopards, and fish.


(Photo: The Siberian Times reporter, August 14, 2012)
 
 
This is the photograph reconstructing a warrior’s tattoos, warrior found on the same plateau as the Ukok Princess. The drawing of tattoos was made by Elena Shumakova of the Institute of Archeologyand Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science.

The princess’ tattoos were highly intricate and artistic, representing mythological animals and fantastical creatures: “a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. The antlers are decorated with the heads of griffons. And the same griffon’s head is shown on the back of the animal. The mouth of a spotted panther with a long tail is seen at the legs of the sheep. She also has a deer’s head on her wrist, with big antlers. There is a drawing on the animal’s body on the thumb on her left hand.” http://siberiantimes.com/culture/others/features/siberian-princess-reveals-her-2500-year-old-tattoos/

Tattoos are as old as our civilization and, for whatever complicated reasons humans seek and get tattoos today, they appear to be an outer expression of the inner self screaming to be noticed.

 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Artsy Cows

Pennington corn fields
On a partly cloudy Labor Day weekend, we drove to rural New Jersey.  After passing through Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, we arrived at our destination, a pastoral heaven with corn fields, small towns, farms, dairy cows, luscious gardens, and farmer’s markets.

As I scanned the peaceful fields looking for signs of life, my attention was drawn to a colorful cow at the edge of a pasture. It was the most unexpected place to find a statue in the middle of nowhere.  I could see a tall hill in the distance, an extinguished volcano whose caldera is now filled with the water of a huge lake.

To say that this is was serendipity on a day that was turning drizzly, it is an understatement. My husband stopped the car and I had to walk through knee-deep grasses in my sandals to photograph the unusual open air exhibit consisting of one ornate and artistic ox, staring at the country road. Unanswered questions swirled in my mind. Who would place a fiberglass cow in the middle of a pasture? It was evident that the artist had spent a great deal of time to create his highly ornate cow with a whimsical name.

As we reached Pennington, New Jersey, more artsy cows with creative names popped in the most unexpected places, a bank, a visitor’s center, a museum, a garden center, businesses, and a day care; a theme and a purpose emerged.

Hopewell Valley Arts Council had organized The Stampede Outdoor Exhibition from August 15 through October 19, 2014, turning the entire area into an outdoor museum that exhibited 68 fiberglass oxen. Originally white, these oxen were painted, drawn, collaged, armored, and decorated by local artists. An online auction will open September 19-October 19 to bid for some of the oxen on display. A live auction and gala will be held at the Grounds for Sculpture on January 24, 2015. Proceeds from the select auctioned oxen will go to the development of the Hopewell Valley Arts Council. http://www.hvstampede.org/

Because some of the exhibits are delicate, exposure to the elements requires temporary removal and repair. There is a map guiding visitors to each exhibit displayed around the township. It is so much more entertaining and fun for kids and adults, who follow giddily the marked numbers as a “treasure hunt.” The oxen have fanciful names such as Jersey Strong, Beaux Vine, Think Inside the Ox, Ox Populi, Ox Nouveau, Van Gox, Cointreau on the Ox, Newton, and Babe the Blue Ushi.

This is America that I love, creative, bold, artistic, colorful, thinking outside the ox, and down to earth.

                 Van Gox by Cindy Laliwala, Britanny Pezillo, Vince Di Paolo, and Cait Higgins
                                                             Newton by Guy Ciarcia
                                                        Ox Nouveau by Cecile Vidican

                                                           Ox Populi by Joann Lee Kim

                                         
                                      Greetings from Hopewell Valley by Kit Greener and Kyle Willie

                                                   Cointreau on the Ox by Mike & Sara Keeler

                                                  Babe and Blue Ushi by Kate Eggleston

                                    “Lenni Lenapi” Our Native Residents by Morris E. Docktor
© Ileana Johnson 2014

 


Saturday, August 30, 2014

This is like Heaven, But not Good Enough for Progressives

Photo: Andrei Pandele
My 1977 English teacher who said I would never amount to anything because my English was not British enough, taught me how to type on an old Remington typewriter with each letter attached to a striking metal arm. These armed letters often tangled if I typed too fast. When the school was allowed a few IBM SELECTRIC typewriters, I felt like we had arrived. I could type really fast, 85 words per minute. One of the big shots in the Communist Party had a child in our class and nothing but the best was provided for his progeny; so all 36 students got lucky.

Come to think of it, maybe my English teacher in Romania was right. In my 30th year of teaching in the U.S. my supervisor gave me a pretty shocking evaluation possibly born by her total scorn for my conservative, anti-communist bad attitude. On a scale of 1-5, 5 being the best, she rated my ability to speak, read, and comprehend the English language as a 1. At the same time, one of my colleagues who hailed from a Central American country spoke very grammatically poor English, with students who struggled to understand his lectures, received a 5. He was sincere enough to brag about it.

It was hard to describe to my blue collar parents what an electric typewriter looked like and how fast we could type government-approved propaganda. To top it off, we learned short-hand just in case we were required to take dictation. I can’t say I’ve ever used short-hand except in college but I used typing constantly. It was probably the most useful skill the commies taught me. My daughter still remembers me practicing short-hand with my fingers in the air when she was a child. I have not forgotten the symbols to this day.

I could never see myself as a secretary, typing all day for a commie apparatchik boss because I could not sit still that long and I got bored easily, I needed intellectual stimulation, but that was the only option for the child of blue collar parents unless I could win one of the few seats available at the university. College education was free but numbers were limited and controlled. It was not that blue collar children were not smart, capable, or great achievers in school; the children of Communist Party members of the right pedigree received priority over the rest of us, the proletariat.

Today I get frustrated when something does not download fast enough or gets stuck in cyberspace. I have the world’s libraries and books at my fingertips. Very small children are adept at using and programming computers. Taking a trip one day in elementary school to the computing ministry was an experience I will never forget. The computer that I hold in my lap or in the palm of my hand today occupied then an entire building. I think my cell phone probably has more capabilities today than the building housing the data cruncher for the country then. Our car onboard computers are probably more sophisticated. They can self- diagnose, have a black box, can be manipulated from afar, and makes driving a comfortable breeze. Why would an against-the-people government with an environmental agenda want to restrict our freedom of mobility by taking roads out of commission, not maintaining them, not repairing bridges, and taxing us per miles driven? How is it better to go back to walking, biking, wagons, and horse riding? Who is going to benefit from reverting to less civilization?

Not long ago, when I did my doctoral dissertation at 28, I had to use computer-punch cards.  One single search with carefully chosen key words produced an entire drawer of cards. They had to be kept in the right order for them to be properly read. All it took is dropping one bundle on the ground and the search work had to start all over again for $28 per search.

I never dreamed that one tiny cell phone in the 21st century would be my TV, computer, radio, calculator, game board,  picture album, correspondence, file cabinet, friends chat, flash light, agenda, grocery list, scanner, camera, notebook, library, store, shopper, recorder, and compass. This global positioning system device comes in handy when I get lost and it helps NSA keep track of where I am, what I say wherever I happen to be, what I do, whom I am doing it with, what I think, and keep a general tab on my life. One ad was promoting on radio the idea that Utah should turn their water off and the spying would stop.

In the 20th century, the commies had to do hard work to spy on us – hire snitches, informers, detectives, plant listening devices in walls, bug personal belongings, phone receivers, interrogate us, open and read our mail – an entire army of employees on the payroll of the dreaded Securitate, a junior KGB arm. It kept people off the streets, “gainfully” employed, and meagerly fed.

Even a one-year old knows now what a remote control does. Back then we had to get up out of the uncomfortable wooden chairs we owned and switch off the channel by hand to the other channel. The president was on both channels spewing communist propaganda lies, but we had TV. Once a week, the entire block would gather to watch a movie or soccer game at one ground-floor apartment that had a black and white TV large enough for a big crowd. When too many showed up, the TV was moved outside which was a bit unfriendly on account of the nearby dumpster and flies buzzing around. But the cheap home-made wine and beer were plentiful. The stores were always empty of basic foodstuff but wine and beer were never in short supply.

We played outside in dirt, mud, and snow with total disregard for our heads. Nobody thought about buying us helmets or covering the one electric plug to protect a curious and investigative toddler who might stick a pin inside the socket. Two hundred and forty volts deliver a pretty serious and painful jolt but, some of us survived. I still remember the excruciating pain though. I was bored watching mom press clothes with her wrought iron with a handle, heated every so many minutes on the open flame on the stove. It was progress from grandma’s version that had a chamber filled with burning coals. It is not hard to imagine we wore clothes sometimes with the curious shape of the iron in a brown-burned outline.

We had one notebook, one pencil, one eraser, and one pencil sharpener when we went to school. It was really special if we had a pen or a nice fountain pen with black ink. Blue ink was much cheaper. A rudimentary quill was made of wood and the replaceable metal tips we dipped in ink to write with were expensive. No calculators to perform the most sophisticated operations in calculus. We had to use our brains and basic skills of computation, no Chinese beaded abacus.

Uncle John, studying engineering, had a slide ruler that made complex calculations. I never took the time to learn how to use it although I was familiar with the compass and other simple tools used in geometry.

Laundry was painfully done by hand with lie soap in the tub when water was available and the tub was not occupied with chilling watermelons and wine bottles. Those who could afford a fridge were hampered by its dorm size. In the country, laundry was done with the washboard and a wooden tub by the river. Today the old country has washing machines but everything comes out extremely wrinkled. Although available, driers are not used because the electricity to drive them is too expensive and EU rules mandate power use in such a way that it short-circuits the entire block if someone does try to use a drier in conjunction with another kitchen appliance.

I sit in the elegant and clean metro car ferrying Washingtonians to their bureaucratic jobs and I remember the crowded, overflowing buses, with bodies hanging out the open doors, filled to capacity with the stench of sweaty bodies mixed with Diesel fumes. They were building a metro when I left in 1978. I am told that it is extremely crowded today.

The comfortable and mostly on time VRE trains whisk Virginians comfortably on their daily commute to work and home. Every time I see one pass by, I still see in my mind’s eye and can smell the soot of the commuter train I took for three years to the university long time ago in another life. It was standing room only for 60 km. We knew each other by name and where we commuted. Once, a fellow passenger, a railroad employee, saved my life. The train had started to slowly move and people were still jumping on. I did the same, I did not want to miss the five o’clock but I miscalculated the iced steel handle. My hands slipped and I would have wound up under the train tracks had it not been for this man grabbing the fur collar on my green winter coat and pulling me up inside the train. Thank God I weighed so very little back then!  I still remember the train’s whistle that day. I get nauseous just thinking about it.

I can get in my car and go anywhere I want today as long as I can find and have money to buy gas. There was always a longing to go places when I was growing up under communism. But we were only able to go on a small radius, as far as our meager salaries allowed, most of which was spent on food, rent, and utilities. No luxuries for travel or fancy clothes, just enough to cover our bodies and keep us warm. No designer shoes, no purses, no style changes every three months. Everyone got one pair of sandals and one pair of winter boots each year until we outgrew them or they wore out. It was an odd curiosity to watch the president’s wife carry a purse. Generally women carried a shopping bag. My first purse was a black beaded clutch Dad bought me for the prom. I still have it today. I could not stand to part with it no matter how many other purses I may own.

We get mad when our flights get canceled or delayed. We were so exploited and controlled by the commie elites, we could not fly anywhere. We were not allowed to go outside of our national borders and passports were refused for travel. Only exceptional athletes, musicians, translators, actors, ballerinas, and Communist Party members of the upper echelon could fly but each had a security detail and assigned tails at all times.

I remember gawking at an artistic display of fruits in Galleries Lafayette, on a trip to Paris as an American. They were selling cherries on Christmas Day for 80 euros a kilo. Nobody gives it a thought and takes it for granted how well most Americans live today. They’ve never had to suffer hunger or shortages of anything. They get annoyed if they have to stand in line to pay for their groceries. They should thank God for living in a country that is so successful and most things are abundant and available year around.

We take for granted the electricity in our homes and clean water. We expect lights to come on and water to flow out of the tap. It is a disaster when a storm strikes and these services are temporarily interrupted. Nobody stops to think what it would be like when electricity and water will be rationed because of the misguided push towards solar and wind energy, parasitic forms of energy that would never supply the power needed for our huge economy and swelling population.

Even the most decrepit hospitals in this country are considered Club Med in most countries and everybody, legal or illegal, gets free care in the ER. Yet progressives don’t think our system works, it is “socially unjust” just like our entire country, we must nationalize health care, ration it, and force the formation of black market medicine with envelopes stuffed with cash.

It is heaven how we live today but it is not good enough for progressives because spoiled brats have no point of reference or baseline to compare to and appreciate their windfall of prosperity.

Forgotten are the wagon trails, the pioneers who sacrificed so much in the 19th century, the early 20th century prospectors, farmers, cattlemen, businessmen, industrialists, miners, steel manufacturers, road and bridge workers, and other laborers who built such a prosperous nation while living in squalor, poverty, uncertainty, exposed to the elements, without light and water, on horse and buggy, or covered wagons, riding horses, riding trains that were often robbed, walking, suffering and sacrificing so that the brats of today can complain with a Starbucks latte in one hand and a smart gadget in another what a terrible country America is, how unjustly crony capitalism exploits the 99 percenters, and how ashamed they are of being American. I don’t know what’s stopping them from giving up their passports and moving to the socialist paradise of their choice.

They should be ashamed of their appalling ignorance of their own history and of their blind allegiance to foreign and domestic nefarious elements who are out to destroy our civilization that others before them had built with sweat and tears, never demanding “entitlements” they had not earned.