Friday, July 07, 2017

Smart Growth and the Future of Communities

Here's an oldie from 2003.  (This was an editorial for the Riverside Press Enterprise)

"Smart Growth" and the Future of Communities
by Don Cicchetti

It sounds good, doesn't it?  The colorful descriptions we often hear of the development issues facing Southern California cities and towns.  Usually, the issue is cast as a case of big developers squaring off against small towns, with the quality of life in those towns hanging in the balance. 

It makes for a great story but what is the real-world  result of limiting the building of new houses?   

The movement and desire to master-plan all growth in communities and limit new and individual construction is called "smart growth".   The operative scary-word in the "smart growth" movement is sprawl.   But what is sprawl, really?    Sprawl, is your house, if it is built after the houses belonging to the smart-growth folks and if they have to see your new house while relaxing on their porches with a latte.    Their houses are, of course, "appropriate" to the rural character of the community, while the house you are planning there is damaging and offensive to that character.   Sprawl is anything that is not master-planned, out of place, not perfect, idiosyncratic, owner-built, painted differently, and worst of all, commercial and/or industrial.   "Smart Growth" is basically applying the worst attributes of homeowner's associations to entire communities, and it kills them as dead as Downtown Disney after closing.   They become a prop, a movie set, whose residents demand higher sound walls to protect them from the noise of the poor souls commuting out to where they can actually afford housing.   

The life of communities cannot be so carefully planned out, as anyone who has tried it finds out.

As a recent letter to the PE said, they want to preserve the "rural atmosphere and quality of life" and "the visual qualities of the hillsides".  (FYI, the town in question was Calimesa)  And of course, to do so, the smart-growth folks want to make sure that you do not come live there, by requiring that all future development meet with their esthetic opinions and ever-escalating environmental agenda.   What happens in real communities when these values are enforced is that the cost of property inside the magic "smart-growth, no big-bad developers allowed" line goes through the roof, and those who already live there are instantly rich while all the other poor fools (that's you and me if you don't live there already) can go commute to Hades for all the "I've got mine" crowd cares.

This is exactly what happened to Portland OR. and it has become a distopian nightmare with little 1940's stucco houses inside "the line" going for 400K and above and everyone else commuting down an endless 2-hour line of headlights every day.    You can live in an apartment, forever, or you can commute (unless you are rich of course), but the dream of middle-class home ownership is dead as dirt inside the city.

Let's not do that to SoCal.   It is not who we are.   Do we always build perfect communities?   Nope.  But we build real communities, with room for new Californians and the not-rich who want to buy a house.    After all, what do developers actually do?   They build houses.  For Californians.  That sounds pretty good to me.   I would rather have imperfect communities full of first-time homeowners (some of whom actually work on the car in the driveway!  (horrors!!) than little perfect poodle-towns full of pretentious utopians and the ever-vigilant esthetics-police, as lifeless and quiet as a movie set.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Chris Cornell: This is what it sounds like to be Lost.

Chris Cornell, the multi-octave singer for Soundgarden, Audioslave, and solo work, has died.  It appears to be suicide at this point.  In reading various obituaries and seeing hundreds of forum posts about him, the theme repeats of how shocking such an early death is.  The one word I heard over and over to describe people's reactions was "gutted".   Not one soul, out of hundreds, expressed hope that Chris had gone to heaven.
Now, I am not saying that Chris was lost.  Only God knows that, and I hope, I really hope, he wasn't.  But I can tell you that a lot of his music sounds like someone who once had hope and optimism, but has lost them and has learned to make art out of utter despair.  Yes, much art has been made of utter despair, and some of it is good art indeed, but today's despair has a singular hopelessness.  That hopelessness did not happen by accident.  Theologian Dallas Willard said: "the enemy of souls works through the power of bad ideas, and those ideas are self-perpetuating, being repeated from one person to another". It's the culture.  We often cannot even see these bad ideas because they are the lens we see the world through, being brought up in this culture with this music as the backing track to our lives. But this hopelessness has a source. It is the result of losing Jesus in the name of spirituality and losing the cross and repentance in the name of a false love that never lasts or brings peace.  It's the result of John Lennon singing "imagine no religion" and Bono reducing the Creator of the universe to another nice guy who came "in the name of love", and finally Chris Cornell singing this: (from "Preaching the End of the World")

With no commitment and no confessions and,
no little secrets to keep.
No little children or, houses with roses,
just the end of the world and me.

Cause all has been gone and, all has been done,
and there's nothing left for us to say.
But we could be together as they blow it all away
and we could share in every moment as it breaks.

This is nothing but lonely dancing in a house that is burning down and the only solace it offers is being together as we die.  If that does not horrify you, especially knowing that his death was chosen, not forced upon him by cancer, murder, or stroke, then these bad ideas are invisible to you too.  Yes, drugs were involved and perhaps even prescription drugs intended to help him, but in the end, that only reinforces the concrete reality of our time: there is no hope.  It's a lie.

The culture has lied to us, equating Jesus Christ with the imperfect human church. 

The culture has lied to us saying that there are many ways to God, when that view always ends with their being no way to God. 

The culture has lied to us, telling us that knowledge of God is simply "spirituality" and we are free to make that up as we go along according to our dark and blind expectations. 

The culture has lied to us, saying pot is harmless and psychedelics are here to help us learn more about ourselves and even find the divine. 

The culture has lied to us, telling young people that sex is what you do on the third date (or sooner) leaving us bereft, depressed and suicidal, because no matter what, we always end up alone.

And finally, the culture has lied, a million times, telling us that we are merely meat puppets, having no soul and the universe is purely mechanical, having no miracles in it, when there are miracles every day.
Jeremy Camp is also a rock singer, but he sees the world differently from Chris Cornell.  But Jeremy also knows what it is like to have your heart broken; his young wife died of cancer when she was 21.  Here is what he wrote following her death:

Scattered words and empty thoughts
Seem to pour from my heart
I've never felt so torn before
Seems I don't know where to start
But it's now that I feel Your grace falls like rain
From every fingertip, washing away my pain

I still believe in Your faithfulness
I still believe in Your truth
I still believe in Your holy word
Even when I don't see, I still believe

What is the difference?  Hope.  Knowledge of God. Experience with God.  A future.  Salvation.
“For all the wealth in Europe, I would not see another atheist die.” 
- Famous Atheist Voltaire's nurse at his passing. 
Me neither.  I would love to never again see the hopeless, sad death of a rock star, but I will, and so will you. Right now there are souls at stake, people we know, who have yet to hear the wonderful idea that Jesus was real, that Jesus lives, and Jesus still saves, no matter what John Lennon said.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cecil Pinkerton Part 1

In 1981, I was very adrift. I realized I fit in nowhere and the liberalism of my teen and college years looked more ridiculous by the week. My role models were my karate teacher and a couple of my professors who would not lie down for the great brown wave of leftism taking over academia, but none of us were close and then my girlfriend broke up with me. Hard times. But I refused to get all depressed about it and kept a positive attitude for the most part. One day, I was at the San Bernardino police pistol range, a lovely facility I went to a few times a month to work on my shooting skills, and my little Beretta .32 kept jamming. Constant failure to feed jams, driving me bats. Out of frustration, I turned to the guy on the next lane, and blurted out "does anyone know a good gunsmith around here?"
Oh yeah... See that old guy down there at the end of the line? He's the best there is. So I made the Beretta safe and went down to the end of the shooting line to ask this gunsmith for help. Wizened old man, clearly in his 80's, skinny arms and liver spots on the back of his hands, shooting a 1911 .45, and all the bullets seemed to be going into the same hole on the target... hmm. When he was done, he turned around and sized me up.. 
Excuse me, I'm Don Cicchetti and my little Beretta here keeps failing to feed, can you help? He took the Beretta, and looking askance at the aftermarket magazine said "you don't need a gunsmith, you need an original magazine. These aftermarket magazines are terrible. Go to the gun show in Pomona and find a couple of original mags and your problem will be over." Wow, thanks I said. He said "if you need a gunsmith someday, here is my card."
Cecil Pinkerton, but they call me Pinky, he said, extending his hand. I shook it and said goodbye. Nice guy I thought and I'll bet he's right about the mags.
Next gun show, I picked up a couple of original Beretta magazines for a few bucks and the gun ran perfectly from then on.
So, when I was looking for a nice .357 I gave him a call for recommendations. He invited me over, and not only sold me a lovely S&W 65 in 4-inch, but he became a good friend over the next few months. Every Friday afternoon, I would go over to his house and shoot the bull and he would tell me stories. He had been a guard (being a Pinkerton and all) on the trains near the turn of the 20th century in the old west. Yes, a cowboy. A real one, not a Hollywood one.
Learned an enormous amount of penicillin-grade wisdom from him, and I never again regretted checking out of the hippie era.
I learned so much from him. Pinky stories? I got a bunch of 'em. 
More to come...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Arm the Innocent

As published in the American Thinker.

Arm the Innocent
By Don Cicchetti

At 9:40 PM, November 13, 2015. Bataclan Theater in Paris, France, a car pulled up and three men with AK pattern rifles jump out and began firing, first at the Bataclan Café, then entering the theater next door. The men ran to the mezzanine shouting“Allahu Akbar!” and methodically sweeping the crowded floor with fully automatic fire and throwing hand grenades into the crowd. For twenty minutes the attack went on -- people dying, people bleeding, with some pretending to be dead in hopes they would be left alone. At about 10:00 PM the attackers took 60 to 100 people hostage and threatened to decapitate a hostage every
five minutes. As first responders arrive, they are also attacked. Heroic actions on the part of the responding police and tactical units ended the assault, but not before 89 people died.

Twenty of the survivors are still in the hospital a year later.

Many bodies of the dead were so torn up that some believe they were mutilated and tortured. No one really knows whether it was that, or the effect of multiple explosions and bullet impacts.

This gruesome scene was the cumulative result of bad policy, weak government, and low national resolve, combined with
explosives and high velocity bullets impacting human flesh and bone. It is a massive failure of government’s first and most important role: keeping citizens safe. If you have a strong stomach, do a Google search for images of Bataclan to see its reality.

Jihadis (along with the mentally ill and the aggrieved and obsessed) are planning more mass murders. Perhaps at your favorite music club, bar, or even your church or synagogue. 

Or a preschool.

At Bataclan, an anonymous security guard (he would not reveal his name out of fear) lay unwounded amid the dead and dying, hoping for a break in the gunfire. When it came, he heroically hustled survivors out the side door. Then the first police officer arrived on the scene and shot dead the terrorist on the stage. The heroic security guard spent the next 2-1/2 hours leading people safely away from the now bloody concert venue as the remaining Jihadis holed up in the building with hostages.

Let me ask you a question: would you prefer, or not prefer, for that brave soul to have been armed? Would you prefer, or not prefer, that 20-30 of the concertgoers had been armed? If you cannot easily say that yes, you wish they had been armed, then you are either allowing your ideology to hold sway over your morals, or you are simply not morally serious. 

What does it mean not to be morally serious? It means to value your view of yourself as peaceful/pacifist, or simply morally superior, more than you value other people’s lives.

T.S. Eliot said:
"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm, but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

Since the 1960s, it has become acceptable, in one instance after another, to allow others to die in the name of our personal purities and pieties. In the name of a strange equivalence that sees all violence as morally equal, we grant these killers an unbeatable advantage over the civilized.

John Lott shows, in his revelatory book The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You've Heard About Gun Control Is Wrong, that public mass shootings drop to zero (or close to it) where there is a realistic expectation that the public is armed.

Those who commit these crimes select sites, cities, and nations where the public is likely to be unable to defend themselves as gun-free zones) for their murders. Each of us, if we care about the truth of this issue, should read that book.
Perhaps it is time to arm the innocent. I prefer that the next ghouls who break into a meeting of good and decent people, as in San Bernardino, be met with a hail of returning gunfire. Let’s have the next jihadi who hates gay Americans and plans to kill as many as he can at a club or bar, as in Orlando, met with 20 gay people with guns. 

The police cannot stop these attacks. They arrive far too late to do so. A couple of unarmed security guards, no matter their heroism, do not constitute protection from this threat. Even a couple of armed security guards is inadequate for today’s realities. 

I was in Orlando just after the attacks there, and there were slogans all over the city on shirts, and hats, and up on walls. They said: “Orlando Strong.” San Bernardino had them too, right next to the sad displays of flowers and candles mourning the dead on Waterman Ave. 

Really? Strong? What is strong about this? 

Wouldn’t armed resistance to murder be strong, and in more than words? Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach confronted murderer Adam Lanza when they heard gunshots in their school. Principal Hochsprung actually lunged at Lanza in an effort to disarm him. 

He killed her. 

Would you prefer that heroic woman to have been armed -- or not? 

The ghoul Lanza, when police were closing in, killed himself, which is what mass murderers often do when brave men and women with guns show up. The presence of guns in the hands of a couple of brave sheepdogs (such as the janitor who, risking his life, ran up and down the halls, warning the classrooms) might have meant a whole different ending to Sandy Hook.

The Eagles of Death Metal singer and guitarist Jesse Hughes was front and center at Bataclan when the massacre started. He escaped without injury but the experience changed him, and for a brief moment, the truth shot right through the media wall of leftist thinking when he said:

“I’ll ask you: Did your French gun control stop a single [expletive] person from dying at the Bataclan? And if anyone can answer yes, I’d like to hear it, because I don’t think so.” As he continued: “It just seems like God made men and women, and, that night, guns made them equal. Maybe until nobody has guns, everybody has to have them.”

Of course, the media responded with the usual assorted tsk-tsks and the issue quieted down, but Jesse’s statement still remains: singular, and almost startling in its truth. There are sheepdogs (the brave, who are willing to risk their own lives to save others) in every group of people. Why do we refuse to allow them to defend us?

Sting performed at the just-reopened Bataclan on November 12 of this year. I am glad nothing happened at that show, but the we in the west have not learned our lessons -- we still prefer liberal pieties and “peace-talk” to arming the innocent and a having chance at living.

The Holocaust Museum

Part of a series in how I left liberalism behind.

We went to the Holocaust Museum here in Los Angeles a while back.  Have you seen it?  You are given a picture card of a Jew from that era, but you would not know if they lived or died until you got through the exhibit.  The exhibit consisted of dioramas of pre-war Jewish neighborhoods with period music playing, as they told the story of these lost places.  As you would advance through the exhibit, things got grimmer, and then you ended up in a camp.  And then in a gas chamber, where they locked you in and played the sound of gas being pumped in.  But by the time I got out of the "gas chamber”, I did not feel sorrow, nor sympathy, not even fear, but a black rage that almost cannot be described. 

Just then a wizened little old man with a tattooed number on his forearm came out to speak to us.  He asked several of us about our experience and then asked the following:

“Do you think this could happen again?”

Yes, said almost everyone.

“Do you think it could happen in America?”

Yes, again from almost everyone.  I was shaking my head “no” and I noticed another guy was too.

The old Jew pointed at me and asked me “why do you think this could not happen here?”

and the rage within me spoke:

Because I will rise up with my rifle and take the life of anyone who tries such a thing here…

I was expecting a stern lecture on non-violence, “love” and such, and instead, appearing to lose 40 years, standing on his tiptoes, he shouted:

If this does not happen here, THAT IS THE REASON WHY!”  While pointing at me…

It was a transformative moment for me.  I am certainly not the reason a holocaust does not happen here, but the collective spirit of the Minutemen and the right to bear arms certainly is. 

I think I lost the last of my sympathy for the left that day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

And a little child shall lead them

Went to church yesterday.  By chance there happened to be a pretty little girl with shoulder-length brown hair in in the seat in front of us who was busily attending to her 2 dolls.  One was bald, but the other had shiny auburn hair and the girl was happily working on her hair, putting a barrette in here, combing there, and arranging over there, until she was satisfied, occasionally looking at one of us for a smile.  A scene of pure bliss and domesticity.  It reminded me of our experience with our 2 daughters.  I remembered also how we never, ever, told them to “act like girls” in any way.  We didn’t have to; girls is who they were and are, and it showed very early in their lives.  Anyone who has raised children, can tell you that girls are simply and fundamentally different from boys.

Why is this important?  Because nature and history both teach us that women are the great civilizers of the world.  Women are the core meaning of the word “home”. That little girl in front of us with the dollies was practicing for making a home of her own.  Wives, Moms, Grandmas are absolutely irreplaceable.  Women can indeed do many things, but there is nothing they are as perfectly designed for as the role of Mom, Aunt, Grandma and Daughter. 

How do I know this?  Because I’m a guy.  The little girl playing with the doll brought out a huge heart of protectiveness in me.  As with my own daughters and my wife, I want to be sure that no one hurts the little girl (or woman) who makes the home.  I would stand up and take a bullet rather than see her be hurt.  That’s because I’m a boy and it’s how we are also.  God created a whole and complete world (even though it is fallen) with a vital role for each of us to play.

Children genuinely don’t understand that the world has wicked people in it who would hurt them.  They’re not supposed to understand.  Neither are we, not in our original form.  Perfection, pure innocence, was what Adam and Eve possessed in the Garden before the fall.  It wasn’t a matter of striving and trying really hard not to do evil; it just never occurred to them.  If you had said “now make sure you don’t kill Eve” to Adam, he would not have said “I promise I will not do that because I’m trying to be a good person”, but rather would have responded with “why would anyone do that?” because evil was unthinkable.  That’s what the knowledge of good and evil means and why it was forbidden to Adam and Eve.  Children, in their innocence are a little glimpse back into the garden, and forward to the redeemed New Jerusalem. This is why Jesus loves children so much.

Matthew 19:13 (NLT) One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.

What a contrast to the “nasty women” in the Women’s March recently!  How can she make a home or civilize a frontier, in a vagina suit?  Spouting profanities?  Threatening to blow up the White House?
Their big issue, of course, was some crudities spoken by Mr. Trump on a TV production set 12 years ago.  Fair enough, he deserved censure for that, and he got it; from his own wife and daughter.  He apologized and was forgiven by them.  But not by the left.  The left never forgives even nominal conservatives.  Not because conservatives are unrepentant for their mistakes, but because conservatives are the enemy in the long struggle of leftism to gain power in our nation.  If Mr. Trump had not spoken that crudity, (and who among us would want every word we have spoken in private broadcast anyway?) they would have called him a “racist” or a “greedy” or “angry” white man who only loves the rich, or any other of the grab-bag of leftist names they assign to conservatives with no necessary connection to reality.   But the stupid comments Trump made were only window dressing.  The real issues of the march was abortion and support for the Palestinians that the founder of the march Linda Sarsour favors. (not to mention the sharia law she supports)

Want to settle your mind about abortion?  Imagine showing a live abortion to a 5 year old girl.  Of course, you could never do such a thing, but thinking about it is still useful.  What would she say about the baby trying to get away from the forceps as her limbs are torn off?  Mommie!  They’re hurting the baby! Or “Why are they hurting the baby?”.  “Why would you do that?” in other words.  It takes a lot of what passes for education today to turn us into adults who can defend such a barbaric practice.  In reality it is part of the loss of our very souls.  From any sane perspective accepting such a thing is not education at all, but a terrible brainwashing.  But many of us no longer have a sane perspective.  Same for sharia law with its inherent mistreatment of women.  Where are the “women’s marches” against Sharia? In fact, many women made a point of donning Islamic headscarves for the march.  Presumably different women than the ones dressed as vaginas.

What would a little girl say to a bunch of women dressed as vaginas, spouting profanity?

I suspect she would also say “Why would you do that?”

Well honey, (I would say) they do that because women are the gift God has given the world to make homes out of our little lives and the devil hates women because of the beauty, kindness, and families they bring us.  So, Satan finds ways to degrade them, to reduce them to their private body parts and to sputtering, raging, unhinged profanity.  He convinces them that this is sophisticated and wise, and full of knowledge, but it’s clearly just a lady dressed up like her privates giving vent to the wickedness within.  Wormwood (in the Screwtape Letters”) would be very proud of any apprentice demon who pulled this caper off, and rightfully so.

But no, it’s about Trump making crude comments, I can hear them say.  Then why weren’t there marches against the actual, real-life assaults on women by Bill Clinton?  Why no marches against the practices of honor killing, female genital mutilation, the throwing of acid in women’s faces, the beheadings of women based upon unfair and corrupt legal practices in Islam? Oh wait, Trump is a conservative, and the founder of the march is a Muslim.  The left always makes sure that the correct ox is gored no matter the pretzel they must bend themselves into to think in such a way.

But, thank God, there’s a way out of the hall of mirrors that leftism has become in its corrupt and venal final days.  Even a gentle step backwards from leftist orthodoxy will show it for the creepshow it is.  Apply the same critical reasoning to the left that one applies to the right, and all will be well.

There were undoubtedly genuinely suffering women in the ranks of those marchers.  Rape victims, domestic violence victims, and more.  The question is, what solution are the pied pipers offering? and the answer seems to be nothing but lies, degradation, and Islam.  In this and so many ways, leftism is a disservice to suffering people. 

Draining the swamp, that over-used phrase, must include robust moral and intellectual responses to the leftism of our day if it is to be effective.  That war is far from over.  The fact that so many people could be taken in by such utter rubbish as that “women’s march” is conclusive evidence of that.