Wish I'd said that!

In recent decades, the ACLU has used its so-called "wall" to fight tooth and nail to prevent government sponsorship of the Pledge of Allegiance, memorial crosses, Ten Commandments displays, nativity scenes, Bible displays, and virtually every other acknowdgement of America's religious heritage.

At the same time, it is worthwhile to note that there have been some instances in which the ACLU has endorsed public displays of religion. For example, When New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani threatened to cut taxpayer funding from the Brooklyn Museum of Art for displaying a painting of the Virgin Mary with cow dung and pictures of female sexual organs pasted all over her body, the ACLU was first in line to defend the display. U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon ruled that New York City's elected officials were not allowed to place conditions on the museum's funding.

In another instance, the ACLU offered its support to the taxpayer-funded National Endowment for the Arts, after the agency sponsored an art show featuring "Piss Christ" - an exhibit consisting of a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine.

In the ACLU's myopic world, it appears that the only permissible publicly-funded displays of religion are those which blatantly mock or disparage the Christian faith.

-- Indefensible: 10 Ways the ACLU is Destroying America, Sam Kastensmidt, 2006

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Out of the Frozen Wasteland

Reporting from the frozen Northeast! We've just ended our participation in the latest event celebrating global warming.

Just kidding. After two and a half days, we finally had our power restored after the recent ice storm that paralyzed millions in the Northeast. Many thousands are still without power. Crews are working heroically to get things back to what we sardonically refer to as 'normal'.

It reminded me of my younger days when my buddies and I went winter camping, only this time my unusually patient wife and I were watching our frosty breath in our own living room. I've always had an interest in survival, and this was a good practical test. Thankfully we survived. No electricity (and no heat), but we did have hot water thanks to a gas water heater, and we were able to use the gas range for simple cooking, although the oven has an electric gas valve and was of no use. We were sleeping with flannel sheets, three blankets and a quilt while wearing long-johns, and I wore a wool cap to keep my dome from freezing (did I mention how much I hate the cold?). Most of our refrigerated food went bad because I neglected to simply open the door to keep the food cold. A real 'duh' moment.

To keep from going stir-crazy we spent the afternoons touring malls and visiting friends who happened to have a generator (and heat). Stepping out of the hot shower in a cold bathroom was an adventure while getting ready for church Sunday morning. I've never seen such dense fog indoors. If there was any actual heat in the room I'd have thought I was in a sauna.

I hope my wife is no longer annoyed at my penchant for accumulating survival books and camping equipment. All those flashlights finally came in handy, as did my iPod when I used it to pass time with her during the long, cold evenings. We huddled under blankets on the sofa, listening to music and watching recorded TV shows. It helped fill the darkness and silence, and was backdrop for a brief time of real intimacy as we teamed up to battle the frigid winter nights.

For me, the best part is that we didn't take the easy road out by going to a public shelter. That's not to say I wouldn't if it really came down to it, but we chose to hold out, the two of us. I think that's a part of our American (and a bit of Canuck) heritage I don't want to give up; I don't want to become dependent on the State for our survival. I will state clearly that I'm thankful to God for changing my life and giving me the experiences, faith, disposition, patience, sense of humor and wife which all combined to get me and us through this bump in life's road.

Which brings up the topic of preparedness. If you were caught in it as we and a couple of million others were (and tens of thousands are still waiting for a return to normalcy as I write this), being ready for the next time carries a new urgency, or at least, I hope it does. And for those who weren't affected by the storm, take note and make your own preparations, because somthing like it or worse will happen to most of you at some point; especially if government continues its meddling and intrusiveness.

I've noticed that a lot of folks don't bother to stock extra, non-perishable food, extra blankets, an alternate means of heating, first aid supplies, means of receiving emergency information during a power failure, and so forth. This is shortsightedness and can lead to being forced to seek government help in a crisis. Such dependency not only makes you more vulnerable, but it also strains the resources for those truly in need or unable to fend for themselves.

Allow me to make a few recommendations which may come in handy:

1. Study survival under all circumstances; wilderness, urban, nuclear, etc. You can find numerous resources in your local library (unless their shelves are too full of useless fiction and liberal tomes on how little we can do for ourselves without government) or on the internet, such as http://www.lastalive.com/index.htm. There are no guarantees of success in survival, but the guarantee of failure for not trying is virtually 100%. Of course, some people are truly unable to fend for themselves and will need assistance, but if you don't mind trusting your life to strangers (who may not have your personal best interests at heart) and circumstance, be my guest and remain ignorant and unprepared. No doubt, your family will love you all the more for leaving them completely defenseless and contributing to the sense of overwhelming panic and drain on the economy.

2. Get training in first aid, self-defense, and any other skills that you think may come in handy. You don't have to be an expert in everything (or anything), but try to gain at least minimal proficiency in as many skills as possible. By pooling talents with likeminded individuals -- including family members -- you dramatically increase your chances of overcoming adversity, and having companions helps you avoid the lonliness and sense of hopelessness that going it alone often produces. Learning essential new skills can also help you to feel less vulnerable in emergencies.

3. When you go shopping for food, pick up a couple of items to establish your reserves. Getting a couple of cans of soup, beans, fruits and the like each time you go to the market and setting it aside will provide a great buffer against hunger in an extended emergency. Get precooked items that need minimal preparation, and rotate your stock to avoid spoilage. Don't forget to stash a couple of rolls of toilet paper, a couple bars of bath soap, a tube of toothpaste, etc. If you have babies, be sure to stock up on disposable diapers, trash bags, and sanitary wipes.

4. Clean several empty gallon juice jugs and fill them with clean drinkable water. Try to have enough for at least one gallon per day per person for drinking, food preparation and basic washing. Lay in enough for several days. Change the water at least once a year.

5. Gather first-aid items such as antiseptics, bandages, ointments, pain relievers and other medications. Take a Red Cross first aid course, of if you're more ambitious, become an EMT or Paramedic (often, a volunteer fire or ambulance company will sponsor your training if you join them).

6. Take self-defense training that specializes in practical combat techniques, not competition (although the new MMA techniques are aggressive, unnecessary grappling is to be avoided in a real fight -- you want to finish it quickly and get away, especially in the case of multiple attackers). Regardless if you're going to learn to use your body or weapons (I recommend both), train with someone who is competent and who can understand your reason for learning and can teach appropriately. Also, any training is useless if you don't practice. If you are attacked on the street, in your home or elsewhere, there will be no ring boundaries, no rules, no time-outs, and probably no mercy. You must act as though the cavalry is not coming over the hill to save you, because it probably isn't.

7. Start collecting items for light and warmth; several flashlights (and extra batteries), more blankets and pillows than you think you'll need, warm clothing (wool or cotton; no synthetics - they melt too easily). Also stock a few of the chemical light-sticks; they last overnight, are virtually unbreakable and won't start a fire. Stock up on matches and cheap lighters. Get a small propane space heater/cookstove and extra fuel cannisters, but use it with caution.

8. Get fire extinguishers and learn how to use them properly. I strongly recommend a minimum of one 5 lb ABC extinguisher on each floor of the home. Keep it easily accessible, don't store it near the most likely fire hazard, and don't use it as a doorstop or coat-rack. Also keep fresh batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, if appropriate.

9. Get a battery-powered AM-FM radio to keep in touch, and again, don't forget extra batteries. Try to get one equipped with a hand-crank charger. If you have a cell-phone, get an external battery pack as a backup, and limit use to emergencies.

10. Collect some basic hand tools and learn how to use them for simple repairs. Cordless power tools are great, but keep all rechargeable items charged, even if you don't use them often.

There is a lot more information to learn, but this isn't the right forum. Do the research; not only will you learn useful skills, but you'll build your self-confidence, and may even find it an interesting hobby (that could one day save your life and perhaps your family's).

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