Archive for December, 2013

So There Really Is a Slippery Slope

December 20, 2013

When a Salon author was hammering on one of the Osmonds for standing up for traditional marriage, I made a comment that opening up traditional marriage to homosexuals could lead to a malleable definition of that institution.  Once something is redefined, I reasoned, what is there to prevent it from being further redefined?  Why not marriage between a man and two more men, or a man with several women?  Or a man and a child? I was digitally assaulted with ad hominems and put downs, for, as the commenters at Salon calmly explained, how could I be such a idiot?  No one was pushing for marriage between anything other than two consenting, loving adults.  My point was a non sequitur to throw off the discussion.

Well, it didn’t take long to see the branches of the homosexual marriage advocates bear strange but predictable fruit.

(Fox News) Advocacy groups for polygamy and individual liberties on Saturday hailed a federal judge’s ruling that key parts of Utah’s polygamy laws are unconstitutional, saying it will remove the threat of arrest for those families.

…The ruling was a victory for Kody Brown and his four wives who star in the hit TLC reality show “Sister Wives” and other fundamentalist Mormons who believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

This unsurprising ruling (in light of the pressure homosexual marriage advocates are exerting nationwide) seemed to confirm many conservatives’ suspicions about redefining marriage.  It certainly confirmed mine. Changing the definition of marriage will result in it becoming anything society says it is.

An alliance, albeit a loose one, appears to be forming between two very different camps.

On one side, the progressive left agitates for homosexual marriage. On the other side, a strange mix of entertainment moguls and strange real-life apostates push for polygamous marriage.  When I first heard about Big Love on HBO, I had assumed that Hollywood would portray polygamy as a “Mormon” thing in order to show that Mormons are cult whackjobs.  Produced by Tom Hanks, Big Love made it painfully obvious to any real Mormon that its agenda was to show Mormons as controlling, neurotic despots over their flock, be it their wards or families.  The protagonist polygamist, although cast in a sympathetic light, nevertheless is weird enough to keep the attention of viewers curious for the salacious details of living with multiple wives.  The little I saw of the series bored me to distraction, so I gave up trying to see what Tom Hanks really thought of the Mormons.  Fortunately,  he provided a quote to help me understand his views on Mormons who support traditional marriage:

“the truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop-8 happen, There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them.”

Tom’s agent (who must have realized that Mormons are not quite as small a minority as Tom may have thought) I’m sure convinced him to retract his statement that Mormons who supported Proposition 8 were un-American.  To his credit, he did retract, but I believe Mr. Hanks allowed us a glimpse into his thinking in an unguarded moment.

Now TLC  produces a reality show, Sister Wives, about the day to day doings of a Utah polygamist and the show seems quite sympathetic to Kody’s plight.  He’s a polygamist living in fear of arrest every day.  Poor, poor Kody!  I think it is interesting that in both Big Love and Sister Wives, the producers choose the polygamist himself as their hero.  My, have we come a long way from when the polygamist was the aging Brigham Young, preying on poor, defenseless virgins for his great lust!  Contrast Hollywood’s present day take on polygamy with that of the history of the early Mormon church— polygamy was one of the main curmudgeons used by the press to hammer the weird Mormons and call for their extermination.

What strange bedfellows politics have made.  Homosexual marriage advocates alongside polygamists.  That slope had to have been pretty slippery for those two groups to find common ground.

Book Review: One Second After by William R. Forstchen

December 12, 2013

As an amateur prepper, I was excited when my sister lent me a copy of One Second After.   I had heard good things about the book and read a few reviews on amazon.  It seemed like a prepper’s classic.

One Second After excels in its portrayal  of the human cost of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse)-caused disaster.  Forstchen distills a massive continental cataclysm into the struggle to find insulin for his daughter.

Another good aspect of the book is its understanding of post-disaster politics that will most likely develop.  Strongmen will fill the vacuum of the nonexistent government and the clans will fight for territory and resources.  Unlike Mad Max, most of the survival will be boring farming activities and common sense sanitation.  Forstchen nails this.  The central importance of medications and pharmacies was very well done. But it seemed a little weird  that the pharmacist had a gun but where was her husband?  Of course, the protagonist uses his manly strength to help the poor little woman pharmacist clear out the riffraff, thereby earning the right to get more insulin than others.

This brings up a good point.  When is it moral to take more than your ration?  Or to get it before others? The movie Contagion brilliantly delved into the moral dilemma of a health care provider getting access to the cure before others.  (If you haven’t seen Contagion, please watch it.  About as accurate as a disaster movie will get.)

One Second After gets the “Big Picture” right, but since it is a novel, the long passages of “telling” come across as dry and didactic.

The book falls flat (on its face) in a couple of technical errors and the military final battle.

First, the book describes all vehicles (except old diesels) becoming irreparably inoperable due to the EMP.  This will not happen.

In the EMP Commission Critical National Infrastructures Report done in 2008, 18 cars were tested with artificial EMP’s of up to 50,000 volts per meter (by the way, most researchers do not believe the voltage would exceed this in an EMP).  Only a few of the running cars were affected.  All but one restarted immediately.  All cars that were not running survived the experiment without any harm to the vehicles’ microelectronics.

Having the majority of vehicles undamaged would change the book dramatically even if the gas pumps were not working.  (Hand pumps, anyone?)  Long term, of course, fuel transportation would dribble to nothing.  So, whatever fuel was left in pumping stations would not last long.  But initially, most people would have the fuel in their tanks to use.  And, like so many disaster movies before and after, in One Second After, bicycles have inexplicably vanished from the earth.  It’s either ride in a car or walk.  No alternative!  I guess it’s difficult to make your protagonist “cool” if he’s riding a ten-speed.

Forstchen’s credentials would lead the reader to believe he’s got a grasp of strategy and tactics of war (he’s a professor of military history) but his protagonist becomes “too stupid to live” when he and a few good guys decide to risk everything by using the only operating car(!) to explore a dangerous, lawless locale.  What is the pressing, nay, critical need to risk their lives?  To “check things out“.  I’m sure the author would argue that they needed to begin a dialogue with those in the city but, why would they risk it?  Why not send a courier with a letter and a white flag?  At least then you only lose one messenger.   But no, it has to be the leaders themselves, lightly armed.  They start assaulting guards at a check station.  D-uh.  The guards are of course imbeciles.

The other letdown was the final battle.  The book’s entire buildup ramps up to this final conflict and then Forstchen skips it!  He just describes the mopping up sequence.  He missed out on all the tension the approaching army would have created, especially if the battle could have gone against the protagonists.  Ah well.

I’m glad for the book, but all preppers be advised, your car will probably work after an EMP.  And don’t go exploring during a breakdown in society to “check things out.”  It might be slightly hazardous to your health.