The State is Still Mother. The State is Still Father. All Hail the State.

Last July, I wrote about the case of little Charlie Gard, and how when the UK’s National Health Service had given up on him, his parents had raised a considerable sum of money to seek an alternative, admittedly highly experimental, treatment to prolong his life.  The NHS refused to allow that and the UK government backed them up, basically running out the clock on Charlie Gard’s life.

Now they’re doing it again.  This time it’s a toddler named Alfie Evans who is fighting for his life in a hospital in the UK.  He was (was!) on life support, but the hospital “pulled the plug”, yet as of this writing he continues to hang in.

The hospital basically threw up its hands at trying to save him.  The parents looked elsewhere.  Pope Francis stepped in and offered care to little Alfie in Italy.

The hospital said “no.”

They had given up and yet they refused to let him go elsewhere where someone else was at least willing to try to save the boy.  And how were they able to prevent the parents from taking him elsewhere?  Why, because of the British Courts, which ruled that Alfie was too ill to travel.

What?  They’ve taken him off support to let him die but they’re afraid of the risk of travel?  Will the travel make him more dead than the not treating him at all that they’re doing now?

In what universe is this even a sane decision?

The parents appealed to a higher court, which rejected the appeal and confirmed the lower court’s ruling.

And it gets better.  The sane people who are hearing about this case are understandably upset.  Many have spoken in anger about it.  So what do the Merseyside police say? (Link saved via archive.is–what happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet).

We’ve issued the following statement following reports of social media posts being made in relation to Alder Hey Hospital and the ongoing situation with Alfie Evans:

Chief Inspector Chris Gibson said: “Merseyside Police has been made aware of a number of social media posts which have been made with reference to Alder Hey Hospital and the ongoing situation involving Alfie Evans.

“I would like to make people aware that these posts are being monitored and remind social media users that any offences including malicious communications and threatening behaviour will be investigated and where necessary will be acted upon.”

Yep, that’s right.  Speaking out against this terrible crime is going to be investigated.

This is an outrage.  This is what happens when you give the government too much power over individuals.  Any power that can be abused will be abused.  And any power can be abused.

Private insurance can, at worst, refuse to pay.  It doesn’t stop you from raising funds elsewhere or seeking alternatives.  Only government, with its license to use force, can do that.

How many more Charlie Gards?  How many more Alfie Evans?

This has to stop.

 

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Coming Soon: Alchemy of Shadows (Cover reveal)

Mostly the mechanics of getting it up on Amazon and Createspace.


I was born in the year 1215 in a small town in Westphalia.  As a boy, my parents apprenticed me to the famed alchemist Albertus Magnus. Under his tutelage I grew to adulthood and learned the mystical secrets of alchemy including the manufacture of the Elixir of Life. I have gone by many names through the centuries.

I was already centuries old when I encountered the creatures of darkness made manifest that I know only as Shadows. They have chased me down through the years for reasons I have never understood.

Light was the only weapon I had against these Shadows, light that could drive them back but not harm them. And so I ran. Every time the Shadows caught up with me I fled to a new identity, a new life, until inevitably they found me again. At long last, with nowhere left to run, I had to find some way to fight the Shadows, not just for myself, but for the people I had come to care about.

My name is Adrian Jaeger. This is my story.

alchemy of shadows ebook

Feeding the Active Writer: Spicy Garlic Chicken Strips/wings

This is a recipe I’ve been experimenting with.  It’s got what for me is a comfortable level lf “heat”.  Most of the heat comes from the cayenne and the hot sauce.  You can adjust those to get the desired heat level.  Also, if you use sugar rather than sweetener, you might want to use somewhat less since, while sucralose is less affected than most others, most sweeteners become less sweet from cooking and I use enough to compensate for that loss.

This can either be done with wing pieces or chicken meat cut into strips.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 lbs chicken wing pieces or chicken meat cut into strips.
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce, I use Cholula original
  • 1/2 cup finely minced garlic (I buy it in jars pre-minced and scoop it out with a fork to let it drain before adding to the measuring cup)
  • 1/2 cup Splenda brand sweetener (the powdered kind which measures like sugar) or equivalent
  • 2 Tbsp ground paprika
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Cook the chicken in a skillet until done or nearly so.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Beat the eggs into a medium mixing bowl.  Add and beat in the other ingredients until well mixed.

Put the cooked chicken into a large mixing bowl and pour in some of the sauce mixture.  Mix together.  Add in some more of the sauce and mix.  repeat until the chicken is well coated with the sauce.

Arrange the chicken in a baking pan.  Ideally the pieces will not touch (may require several batches depending on the size of your pan).  Bake for about 5 minutes at 450.

Enjoy.

Note that this recipe made a lot more sauce than necessary to coat the chicken I used.  Next time, I’ll either have a lot more chicken (it keeps well for reheating–one of the things I look for in a “feeding the active writer” recipe) or half the sauce recipe.

Also, because of the risk of contamination from uncooked eggs, I would not recommend using the sauce uncooked.  Thus the baking after coating.

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Taxation is Theft?

That “taxation is theft” is a common statement of anarcho-capitalists.  And while, from a certain perspective, that has an appeal, in the real world it doesn’t work so well.  A complete lack of government (defined here as some form of organization with the license to use, and initiate, force) simply does not last.  We have seen many governments break down throughout history and in no case has anything resembling the lack of system that extreme anarcho-capitalists dream of come from it.  When existing governments break down you almost immediately end up with a collection of rival “warlords”–each one being a despotism.  Some “strong man” imposes his will on those around him.  He gathers followers willing to be loyal to the “strong man” in return for the privilege of lording it over the others (basically license to steal, kill, and rape within whatever generally broad limits the warlord/despot sets).   What you end up with is pretty much the exact opposite of what the anarcho-capitalists propose.

Complete anarchy is simply too unstable to exist “in the wild” for more than a fleeting instant.  People are people and some of them are venal, grasping individuals who upset the applecart as it were.

But then government, any government, also tends toward totalitarianism.  Any government will seek to aggregate to itself more and more power until, left unchecked (we’ll get to this shortly) it will itself become a despotism wielding absolute power over the people within its reach.

Some people will say establish a limited government in order to preserve liberty but once established such government immediately begins to push at the limits, to seek avenues past them, and to grow beyond the original bounds.  Depending on the limits initially established and the checks placed against them, the process may be slowed, but it cannot be stopped.  All “limited” governments eventually, if not forcibly stopped, break past their limits and head toward despotism.

Anarchists look at this and say “see, any government eventually ends in despotism.  There is no government where the rights of the people are safe.”

Others look at where governments collapse and invariably turn into collections of despotisms and say “see, getting rid of government ends in despotism so only with government are the rights of the people safe.”

They are both right.  And they are both wrong.

Neither philosophy leads to liberty as both end in despotism.  It is only in the conflict between the two that liberty is found:  the interplay between those seeking to tear down government and those seeking to expand it.  This interplay is not stable.  You rarely get the two forces in balance, and never for long.  In short order, one obtains ascendance and government moves in the direction of that “side”.  Historically, the side to obtain ascendance has almost always been that of the “government growth.” There have been exceptions but that has been the general trend.

So, the wise man who wishes to have and benefit from a free society must look both at where we stand and where we are going.  Once one has made the determination of which direction society and government need to go, look for those who are going the same way and make common cause with them.  It matters less whether you agree with how far one should, or should not go, only that they are going in the “right” direction.

It’s like the game on the computer where you try to “balance a ball” by using the right and left arrow keys.  You have to keep watch of not just where the ball is but which way it’s moving and try to move it back toward the center without going too far or so fast that you cannot recover before it goes off the other end.  Perilous, difficult, requiring constant attention.  And you can never rest.

One might almost say “Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty.”

I need a Hero: A musical interlude

In moments of dark humor I will sometimes snark that unlike Jim Kirk, I do believe in the no-win scenario.  However, I also believe in heroes, those who stand against the overwhelming odds and sometimes even manage to pull victory out of the no-win scenario.

So let’s go sing of heroes.

On the lighter side, Heroes come in all shapes and sizes:

And bringing it around full circle, we have the group Van Canto, who style themselves as “Hero Metal” with Holding out for a Hero:

Scary stories

The late Kenneth Macgowan in “A Primer on Playwriting” said “We go to the theatre to worry.” This is true of all sorts of fiction, whether novels, short stories, movies, TV shows, or plays.  We read/watch/listen to these things in order to worry.  We worry about whether boy will get girl (or boy get boy, or girl get girl, or human get alien or…).  We worry about whether the “caper” will come off.  We worry about whether the hero will defeat the villain.  We worry if the unspeakable terror will devour the young ingenue.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the genres of “scary stories”–horror, thrillers, what have you.  For the space of our involvement with that fiction we can experience our fears, in a safe environment, and come out at the end safe and hale, having vicariously overcome them.  It can be remarkably cathartic.

I like scary stories, tales of ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggedty beasties and things that go bump in the night.  Unfortunately, so much of what I’ve seen misses the mark.  There are several common things that drive me away from a story, that get me to put the book down or turn off the program or even walk out of the theater.  They just…bleah.

So, here are my big pet peeves.  They are my  pet peeves, no one else’s.  Your mileage, as always, may vary.

First, “jump scares”. I don’t mind them used sparingly.  At the right point, they can be quite effective.  But, frankly, they’re easy.  Look, I have a strong “startle” reflex.  I don’t go a week without at least one good “jump scare” in my daily life.  In fiction?  They come across to me as cheap, lazy writing.  They’re easy building suspense through immersion is a challenge.  Having the monster, or just a cat, jump out of nowhere without warning?  Easy.

Second, over reliance of blood and dismembered body parts.  Make a big mess with fake blood, coils of intestines scattered about, various implements cutting/stabbing/drilling into people’s bodies?  Rotting corpses shambling across the scenery.  An easy “shock” scare.   The problem, of course, is that people soon become inured to any given level of blood and gore so you have to ramp it up.  More blood.  More body parts.  More graphic and violent deaths.  All to get the same effect.

Third, idiot plots.  When the plot requires that the characters be idiots for the plot to work just turn me off (and are likely to get me rooting for the monster). Any variation on “let’s split up” (however disguised).  Walls bleeding and disembodied voices saying “get out”?  I’m out of there.  Any place where you scream at the characters saying “don’t do that!” If you, as a reader/viewer can think they shouldn’t do that, then they should be able to figure that out too.  Oh, sure, you can finesse it a bit when the reader/viewer knows things that the character doesn’t.  An example would come from Brahm Stoker’s novel “Dracula”.  After Johnathan Harker hook up with Van Helsing and Company his new wife Mina is dismissed from their counsels in how to defeat the vampire.  By modern standards that would be a major faux pas, but in the setting of the novel and when it was written, that would be normal and expected.  We, unlike Johnathan, have seen what happened to Lucy.  So when the same things start happening to Mina, we know what they portend.  Johnathan, not having seen what happened to Lucy, reasonably does not.  And Van Helsing and company, aren’t seeing what is happening to Mina so they aren’t aware.  A mistake, but not a stupid one on the characters’ parts.  Very little turns me off a story more than stupid characters.

Fourth excess nihilism.  I hate stories where the situation is utterly hopeless.  The key is worry.  That requires the interplay between hope and fear.  And the hope has to be a rel one, not a “he only thought he had a chance.”  It’s one thing for themain character to lose because of mistakes he or she made(so long as they are not stupid mistakes; see above).  It’s another when they were going to lose no matter what they did.  Where there’s no hope, there’s no worry.  Where there’s no chance, there’s no catharsis.  There’s a reason that tragedies traditionally are built around the main character’s “tragic flaw.” Had they overcome their flaw (Hamlet’s indecisiveness, Macbeth’s ambition, Othello’s anger management issues, etc.) and chosen differently, they would not have reached that tragic end.  The same with a victorious ending.  Whatever ending has to come from the choices the character makes with the very real possibility that different choices would have led to a different end.

Now, maybe you like those things.  Maybe you like stories about idiots wandering through a hopeless situation filled with bloody violence and jump scares.  More power to you.  This is what turns me off a scary story, stories in general for that matter, but “horror” and “thrillers” seem to be particularly prone to them.

But when you have intelligent, capable characters, involved in situations where their actions matter and they have some control over their destiny, some agency, and you rely on craft to build suspense and tension rather than cheap theatrics, you can make magic happen.  You get results like Brahm Stoker’s Dracula or John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There.”

You get stories that can send a delightful shiver up the spine time and time again.

Today Should be a National Holiday, a Big One: starting an annual tradition.

I’m not kidding.

Back in the 1770’s unrest was growing in the American colonies, at least those along the Atlantic Seaboard from New Hampshire down through Georgia.  Protests over taxes imposed without the taxed having any voice in the matter, complaints about a distant monarch and legislative body making rules and laws over people to whom they are not beholden.

There had been clashes which fed that unrest, including the famous “Boston Massacre” where British troops fired into a rioting mob resulting in several deaths.  Think of it as the Kent State of the 18th century.

In an effort to quell the unrest, or at least have it be less of a threat to British officials, General Thomas Gage, Military governor of Massachusetts, under orders to take decisive action against the colonists, decided to confiscate firearms and ammunition from certain groups in the colony.  His forces marched on the night of April 18, 1775.

The colonists, forewarned of the action (the Longfellow poem, which children learn in school–or they did when I was in school–is historically inaccurate, but it sure is stirring, isn’t it?), first met the British troops at Lexington Massachusetts where John Parker, in command of the local Colonial Militia said, according to the recollection of one of the participants, “Stand your ground.  Don’t fire unless fired upon.  But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

Whether Parker actually said those words, the first shot was fired.  No one knew who fired it, whether British or Colonial.  In the ensuing, brief battle the British regulars put the Colonial militia to flight.

The British then turned toward Concord.

A small unit of militia, hearing reports of firing at Lexington marched out but on spotting a British unit of about 700 while themselves only numbering about 250 they returned to Concord.  The Colonial militia departed the town across the North Bridge to a hill about a mile north of town where additional militia reinforcements continued to gather.

The British reached the town and began searching for the weapons they came to confiscate.  They found several cannon, too large to be moved quickly, and disabled them.  Other weapons and supplies had been either removed or hidden.

On seeing the smoke of the burning carriages from the cannon, the Militia began to move.  It is not my purpose here to go into detailed description of their movements but in the end the British regulars found themselves both outnumbered and outmaneuvered.  They fled, a rout that surprised the Colonial Militia as much as the British regulars.  Again, I simplify but in the end they marched back to Boston continuing to suffer casualties from what amounted to 18th century sniper fire from the surrounding brush.  The frustration of the British soldiers led them to atrocities, killing everyone they found in buildings whether they were involved in the fighting or not.

Eventually the British forces fought their way back to Boston where they were besieged by Militia forces numbering over 1500 men.

And the Revolutionary War had begun.

And so, on this day in 1775, the nascent United States took the course that would lead eventually to Independence.

And that’s why April 19 deserves to be a National Holiday on a par at least with Independence Day.  The latter was recognition of what became fact on the former.