Author: Eli Ring

More Harm Than Good?

I have been poking around in a lot of COVID data and “information” for the last week or so, trying to satisfy my confirmation bias that Oregon has botched its COVID response. In my interweb wanderings, I came across a video produced by the Canadian Covid Care Alliance in which they analyze Pfizer’s Original Trial Report, published December 31, 2020. According to a couple of sources, Dr. Robert Malone was booted from Twitter for posting this video. If so, it is easy to see why the infocensors would want to suppress it. It is the sort of thing that leaves you scratching your head wondering if maybe it is time to break out the torches and pitchforks.

maybe it is time to break out the torches and pitchforks.

The video uses Pfizer’s own reports to show how the effectiveness of the vaccine was over-hyped and the potential safety risks were ignored. If the information is correct, the vaccine should have not received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

Watch the video. You will find it informative and disturbing. Here is the link to the CCCA website. The video is about halfway down the page. There is also a link to a PDF version of the information they present.

If you are interested my first post on Oregon’s COVID response, you can find it here — “Oregon Botched Its Covid Response–Part 1″ .

PS —My book “Trail to Peril” is available on Amazon.

Oregon Botched Its Covid Response, Part 1

It is said that hindsight is twenty-twenty and that it is easy to be an armchair quarterback. Both are true, but I am going to unabashedly engage in both for a bit. Back in January/February 2020, I, like a lot of people began following the news about the Wuhan/COVID-19 virus as the pandemic blossomed in Wuhan, China. I remember reading about the ham-fisted measures taken by the communist government, (mass lockdowns of large cities, quarantines, and masking requirements), and thinking it would never happen in America, the “Land of the Free”. Boy was I wrong. I badly overestimated the competence and intelligence of the Oregon state government. Here, in a few posts, are the ways they blew it.

First, their statistics suck.

A quote often attributed to Peter Drucker is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. Measurement does not solve the problem. That takes intelligent and timely action by policymakers. Oregon lacked two things. The state lacked good metrics, and it lacked a Governor and state health officials capable of intelligent and timely action, or when warranted, no action.

“…their statistics suck.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was an attempt by the state government to measure the spread of Covid. Oregon Health Sciences University began what they called “The Key to Oregon” study by monitoring 100,000 Oregonians by having them report their daily temperatures through a website. The goal was to “help local leaders better track, test and map the prevalence of COVID-19 across the state”. They were only able to recruit around 10,000 volunteers.

The “Key to Oregon” study, which was launched on May 1, 2020, was highly touted by the Governor and then it was dropped roughly three months later because of some sort of racial equity issue involving concerns from the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Decolonizing Research and Data Council, (I did not make up that name).  OHSU’s press release is linked below. In other words, the state’s only serious effort to gather real-time information on the pandemic was stopped early because the Governor decided it was racist or something. I took part as a volunteer in the study, and all I got out of it was my time wasted and a free electronic thermometer.

Looking at the “Key to Oregon” press release more than a year later, one wonders if the racial disparity issue, which makes no sense, was real or if it was a pretense for halting the study for other reasons. Perhaps the results they were getting didn’t jib with the political narrative coming out of the Governor’s office and Oregon Health Authority. Maybe the “Key to Oregon” study was never meant to accomplish its stated purpose. Was it was a public relations ploy to give Oregonians the perception that state government was on top of the “crisis”?

I don’t know what the story really is if the official line is a lie, but whatever the case, Oregonians were left with a tyranny driven by metrics flowing out of the Oregon Health Authority, and a close look at those data brings to mind words like “fraud” and “incompetence”. But that is a subject for my next post.

“Key to Oregon Study press release” https://news.ohsu.edu/2020/08/27/key-to-oregon-study-transition-6812195  

Review– The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, is thoughtful, enlightening, and inspiring. Reading it was like sitting down with a trusted friend or mentor and listening as they dissect the barriers to what you want in life and then offer good advice to move forward. There are a couple of books out there that writers should read on a regular basis. Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” is an example. The War of Art should also be on the list, particularly when you suddenly realize your daily literary output has been sitting at zero for a couple of weeks. It is a short book and a quick read. Pressfield does not waste the reader’s time with the type of non-essentials that pad many “self-help” books. He gets to the point and does it in a clear style.

Reading it was like sitting down with a trusted friend…

If I have any criticism, it is that Pressfield is a really poor theologian. If you look past his views on the nature of man and God and treat them as useful fictions that he wields to get to a deeper truth, the book is incredibly helpful.

Playing Games in the Maricopa County Election Audit

Here is the game that Democrats may be playing with the audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County.

Let’s suppose that you run Maricopa County elections, and you know that election fraud occurred. You also know that if forensic auditors get unfettered access to election documentation, they will expose the scam. What is your best course of action in today’s political environment?

The purpose of any audit is to answer a question. An example is when a company’s financial statements are audited; the question is–are they presented in accordance with accounting standards? The question in the Maricopa audit is probably something like this. Was there was a correct tally of all legally cast votes in the election in Maricopa County in the 2020 election?
The auditor plans the audit and designs an audit program to answer the question. An audit program is a list of procedures that have to be performed to collect enough evidence to lead to a reasonable conclusion. The auditor performs the procedures, assesses the results, and then issues a report communicating their conclusions.

…fabricate a façade of uncertainty.

What happens if the auditor is not able to complete the audit program? What happens if significant evidence that must be examined to answer the question is not available? In that case, the auditor hits a wall with what’s called a scope limitation. He cannot issue an opinion because he does not have enough information to answer the question. He could probably submit a report with detailed descriptions of any discrepancies found, but he could not express a conclusion, yes or no, on the fundamental question.

Why is this significant?

The answer is that if you are Maricopa County elections and get away with withholding key audit evidence, you create a scope limitation. By doing this, you prevent the auditors from issuing a definitive conclusion on whether the tally was correct, and you fabricate a façade of uncertainty that gives you political cover. Political allies, such as Democrat politicians, the left-leaning media, and social media platforms then use the uncertainty to attack any notion that there is a problem.

The net result is that claims of election fraud are marginalized as conspiracy theories, Maricopa County election officials stay out of jail, Democrat politicians remain in power, journalists get access to those in power, and social media platforms avoid costly Congressional and regulatory scrutiny.

The losers in all this are the American people who may have had their votes nullified by criminals.

How to Plan Your Novel–Scene Design Part 2

My last post, “How to Plan Your Novel — Scene Design”, provided a list of things you might want to think about before you start writing. It also focused on one of those things in particular– the importance of establishing goals for the characters in the scene.

Once you have decided on a goal, it is time to give some thought to how to crush any hopes and dreams the character may have of achieving or benefiting from accomplishing the goal. This is called “the disaster”. The basic formula is GOALS –> CONFLICT –> DISASTER. The drama that gets your readers to turn the page is rooted in conflict and disaster. The oft-quoted metaphor that you should get the protagonist up a tree and then throw rocks at him applies here. Maybe a better way to think of it is to throw your character in a hole and try to bury him before he can dig his way out.

There are four basic answers to the question–will the character achieve his goal in this scene? They are “yes”, “yes–but”, “no”, and “no–and”. The first answer–“yes” should rarely, if ever, be used before the ending of the book. A few months ago, I read an action thriller with a pretty good premise and plot and some decent characters. It could have been a good novel, but the story’s glaring problem was that the protagonist was successful at everything he did. The answer to every goal he had in the book was yes, and that lack of drama made for a mediocre story.

There are three appropriate answers to the question in the middle of a novel. The first is in the “be careful what you ask for” department. The answer is “yes–but”. In this scenario, the character achieves the goal she is pursuing in the scene, but there are unpleasant consequences to that success. Maybe the gal gets the guy, but she also gets a dose of the clap.

…throw your character in a hole and try to bury him before he can dig his way out.

An example of this is in the book “Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris. The protagonist, Clarise Starling, an FBI academy trainee, fulfills her goal to get a role in the Buffalo Bill investigation. That success nearly costs her a chance to graduate from the academy and subjects her to an internal affairs complaint that threatens to ruin her career before it even gets started.

“No” is the second answer that creates a disaster. In this case, the character is seeking something and gets the metaphorical door slammed in her face. In “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo, Michael Corleone meets with mobster Moe Greene to tell him the family wants to buy out his casino share. Greene’s response is, “I’ll buy you out. You don’t buy me out.” His answer is a firm no that throws an obstacle in the way of Michael’s goal to move the family to Vegas. It also provides the impetus for a dramatic scene with lots of great conflict and sharp dialog between characters.

The scene with Moe Greene in The Godfather is notable in that not only does Moe say no, but Michael says no to the no of Moe. (Sorry for the bad poetry.) Michael’s no is an example of the third type of disaster–“no–and”. This disaster is perhaps the most effective. Not only is the goal of the character blocked by a firm no, but there are far-reaching consequences from the character’s desire and attempts to accomplish the goal. In Moe Greene’s case (spoiler alert), the no he receives from Michael costs him both his share of the casino and his life.

So as you plan your scenes, know what the characters in the scene want and use one of the three disasters to dash their hopes. Hit them with the shovel as they try to dig their way out of the hole.

Check out my book, Trail to Peril.

Available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback.

How to Plan Your Novel–Scene Design

In “An Easy Way to Outline Your Novel,” I describe a simple process to start organizing a novel where you layout brief descriptions of the story’s scenes into the beginning, middle, and ending sections. When you finish, it’s time to start writing, right? You can, but some other things would be good to know before you start pounding the keyboard.

Structure a scene like the whole novel. Fictional works have similar structure at different scales, sort of like fractal geometry. The story will have a beginning, middle, and end. Likewise, the beginning, middle, and end of the story all have a beginning, middle, and end. Scale it down further to scenes, and we find the same pattern. You can think of a scene as a sort of micro-novel. It has all of the elements of the larger work of which it is a part.

This means you will need more columns in your spreadsheet because there are some other things to think about before you start writing. Here are some of the items in mine.

What do the characters in the scene want?
What is the disaster that occurs to the characters in the scene?
What is the point-of-view?
Where does the scene take place?
What time of the day?
What is the duration of the scene?
What characters are in the scene?
What characters are off-stage?
What is the emotional condition of the characters?

Nearly every novel features the hero or protagonist struggling to accomplish a goal.

The plan is to discuss all of these. For now, let’s look at the first one–what do the characters want?

Nearly every novel features the hero or protagonist struggling to accomplish a goal. Think of examples like, Clarice trying to find the serial killer in “Silence of the Lambs”, or Paul Atreides seeking revenge against the Emperor and the Harkonnen in “Dune”. Nearly every scene in your novel should likewise have goals for the characters that appear in it. In “Life of Pi” there is a one-sentence chapter/scene where he sings Happy Birthday to his mother. In one poignant sentence that constitutes the whole scene, the author expresses his goal–to be reunited with his family–and the grief he feels at realizing his hopes are fruitless.

The character’s goals in each scene set up the conflict between characters that make a story exciting and show the protagonist’s struggle to accomplish the overriding goal of the whole novel.

Check out my book, “Trail to Peril”. It’s available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

An Easy Way to Outline Your Novel

There are many approaches to writing a novel. Some writers like the “seat of the pants” approach. They take an idea and start writing to see where it will go. I tried it. I ended up with a 70,000-word first draft that may or may not get edited and published. It was exciting writing it, but the result was a mess that will require a lot of rewriting. I prefer to plan novels, and here is the simple approach that I have used a few times.

Novels should generally have structure. That structure often includes these elements:

  1. A compelling event.
  2. Plot point one at about 1/4 through the novels.
  3. The midpoint.
  4. Plot point two at about 3/4 through the story.
  5. A dark moment, one or more scenes after plot point two.
  6. Resolution

The novel has a beginning, middle, and ending divided at plot points one and two. This means that the beginning and end of a novel are about a quarter of the story each. Half of the story is in the middle, that great void between plot points.

You may meticulously plan the novel, and in the adventure of writing it, find a wonderful path you never considered in your planning. Take it.

The plot is a series of scenes. Scenes are what I consider the building blocks of a story. A scene is a portion of the story in which characters interact in action or dialog. I usually plan scenes to be around 830 words. This goes back to writing novels for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where I was writing a 50,000-word first-draft novel in 30 days. At a word count of 830, I would write two scenes a day and stay on track. You can use that word count to plan the length of your epic work. If you want 100,000 words, plan 120 scenes, 30 scenes for the beginning and end, and 60 scenes for the middle.

Since I am an accountant, and the solution for everything for accountants is a spreadsheet, I use Excel for planning. If I plan a 100,000-word novel, I pull up a blank spreadsheet and set up a column numbered 1-120. Then I add a second column called “Description”. In row number 30, I indicate that it is the first plot point in the description column. At row 60, I show the midpoint, and at row 90, I indicate the second plot point. That is the easy part.

The hard part is coming up with two or three-line descriptions of 120 scenes that will carry my characters and readers from the compelling event to the story’s resolution at the end. I usually have at least a vague idea of what the plot will be. I typically know the compelling event of the story. That will generally be the first scene because you use it to hoodwink the reader into engaging in the story. Whether I have a good idea of where the story is going or not, I will usually write vague, tentative scene descriptions for the plot points, the midpoint, and an ending. It is easier to concoct 30 scenes that get you from scene one to the first plot point than to think about how you will get clear to the end. 

This process may seem to be rather rigidly structured, but it shouldn’t be. The scenes can be shorter or longer. The number of them could be lesser or greater. You are free to change the plot points, the midpoint, or the ending. This approach is a guide, not a constraint. You are free to use whatever artistry serves the telling of the story. Sometimes you are in for a surprise. You may meticulously plan the novel, and in the adventure of writing it, find a wonderful path you never considered in your planning. Take it.

Check out my book, “Trail to Peril”, available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

The American Republic is Dead

The American Republic is probably dead. This prognosis comes from the understanding that we are often doomed to repeat the mistakes of history. If you look at the parallels of recent American events with events in Rome around the time of Julius Caesar and following the similarities are stunning. If the Democrats succeeded in ousting President Trump, 2021 could even turn out to be the American year of the four emperors similar to Rome’s in 69AD. (Note 1)

American politics are no longer about electing selfless men and women dedicated to doing the people’s work for the common welfare. It has devolved into a civil war between wealthy, powerful, political dynasties for supremacy. It’s a war between the houses of Bush, Clinton, Obama, Biden, and the upstarts, who must be crushed at any cost, the Trumps.

Consider these similarities with Rome.

In 49BC, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his legions in violation of Roman law and tradition. In 2021, President Trump supposedly incited his supporters to storm the US Capital to influence Congress’s Presidential election certification. The difference here is that Caesar acted deliberately. The accusation against Trump is pure political theater.

The American Republic is probably dead.

In 44BC, a group of Roman Senators stabbed Julius Caesar to death at a Senate meeting. In 2021, Nancy Pelosi and the US House rushed to impeach President Trump for the second time, supposedly for starting, what they called, an insurrection. The impeachment is a symbolic assassination. It is probably fortunate that the President didn’t visit the Capital. More than a handful of Congressional Democrats and a few Republicans are willing to wield a shiv in defense of their power. Et tu, Liz Cheney.

In Rome, populism was power. Emperors and rival factions vied for the support of the masses with give-aways, usually bread and entertainment. In 2021, the give-away is coming in the form of multi-trillion dollar “Covid relief” packages, forgiven student loans, and guaranteed incomes. The American norm now is to bribe voters with their own money.

Just as civil wars and conflict raged between the Julii, the Scipii, and the Brutii in Rome’s days, there is a dynastic battle brewing for the American Republic’s control. The Trump Dynasty has been beaten back for now, but it is the strongest in potential direct family succession. It is also the biggest threat to the status quo and power of the other dynasties.

A corrupt dotard heads House Biden with a drug-addled reprobate for an heir. House Biden is an offshoot of the Clinton Dynasty. Sort of like when Don Corleone allowed Clemenza and Tessio to start their own families. Kamala Harris is the adopted heir, but this dynasty effectively ends with Joe.

House Clinton is a two-headed monster. It features a former President with a reputation for sexual harassment and assault and a bitter, power grubbing former Secretary of State who has never come to terms with losing to Donald Trump in 2016. With Hillary’s loss and Chelsea the Dull for an heir, this family is left with using surrogates to maintain its influence.

House Bush had a good run and may do so again. Their hopes were dashed when George IIs brother Jeb turned out to be a nonentity in the 2016 Republican primary races. Bush family roots run deep, and they have many relatives, allies, and surrogates, so don’t count them out. One wonders if the Bush camp did not orchestrate the unrelenting attacks on House Trump to keep control of the GOP.

Finally, you have the House Obama. It may not even be a thing. It has minimal potential for dynastic control. Obama was a weak, poor leader whose legacy was systematically dismantled by the Trump administration. He was more of a place holder for Hillary of the House Clinton, then the founder of a new dynasty.

Those are the contestants. Regular Americans should stay out of it and let the rich and powerful fight it out and hopefully destroy each other. Instead of backing these pampered, privileged clowns, Americans should start looking for leaders who are courageous enough to keep the collateral damage from these dynastic wars from spilling over and destroying the country.

Check out my book, “Trail to Peril”, available in Kindle and paperback on Amazon.

Note 1 — In 69 AD Rome had four emperors — Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. If the Democrats succeeding in removing Trump before the inauguration, 2021 would have been Trump, Pense, Biden, and potentially Harris, given Biden’s physical and mental health.

Websites for Conservative Social Media Refugees

Roughly twenty-four hours later, the attack on free speech by “big tech” continues. The major development is Amazon’s action against Parlor, which bills itself as an alternative to Twitter. Parlor is now suing Amazon for antitrust violations and breach of contract. The petty stuff also continues. Facebook announced it will ban anything mentioning “the steal”, which refers to alleged election fraud.

It is time to turn Facebook and Twitter into leftist echo chambers. The lifeblood of social media is content and users. Deny them both and consider some alternatives. I closed my Facebook account down several weeks ago because I got tired of misleading and mistaken so-called “fact checks”. I haven’t missed it. I also quit advertising my book and website on Twitter. Here are some sites you might consider instead of FB or Twitter.

Parlor.com has been considered the go-to place for Twitter refugees for months. I would provide a link, but they are currently shut down, thanks to Amazon. I opened a Parlor account several weeks ago but found it difficult to use and dominated by a few users who made the site a conservative echo chamber. It may just be me. This site is supposed to be back on-line tomorrow, but we will see.

It is time to turn Facebook and Twitter into leftist echo chambers

gab.com is the latest social media refugee camp for conservatives. Reports are that they gained half a million users yesterday. They apparently run on their own servers, so they are not subject to the approval of the tech masters. I opened an account yesterday and got a brief look. I like the layout better than Parlor. Right now, the downside of this site is that they are having trouble scaling up their server capacity, and the site is slow. Hopefully, they will get a handle on it soon.

mewe.com is another site that bills itself as pro-free speech. I have not used it, but I have some friends who highly recommend it.

Freerepublic.com has been around for a long time. I have been on it for twenty years. It is more of a libertarian site than conservative. I find that the users are not as in lockstep with popular conservative thought as other sites such as Parlor or even Twitter. I find the discussions to be more thoughtful, civil, and diverse than other more prominent sites.

Signal.org received an endorsement from none other than Elon Musk as an alternative to big tech message and texting services. I have quite a bit of experience with their service. I have a couple of sons in the military, and we use it as a family to keep in touch. My oldest is an Army Intelligence officer. He recommended Signal when he was being deployed to Europe because it is encrypted and secure, so we did not have to worry about inadvertent operational security issues in our family discussions. Loose lips sink ships.

Duck Duck Go is a good search alternative to Google if you are looking for a search engine that provides some privacy. I have used it for years, and it is an excellent service.

Protonmail.com is an alternative free e-mail service that I use. It is based in Switzerland and offers privacy, end-to-end encryption between Proton users, and anonymous accounts.

If you have any other suggestions, let me know.

Check out my book, “Trail to Peril”, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon (unless Amazon shuts me down).

The Purge is On

Tragic events that many have feared has been going on the last couple of days. It is the logical culmination of the “political correctness” movement we have been contending with for years. It has been brewing for months with the “fake news” scares that spawned a fetid nest of self-appointed arbiters of truth. Now we have misguided and misleading social media “fact-checkers”. There is also the widespread practice of suspending and banning people and organizations from social media sites such as Twitter when their utterances are proscribed by our wiser masters, Jack Dorsey at Twitter and Zuckerburg at Facebook.

The most recent outrage is the apparent purge of conservative voices, including a ban on the President of the United States by Twitter and reports of disappearing followers among his supporters. It is not just attacks on MAGA supporters either. There have been attempts to suppress dissenting opinions on everything from voter fraud and climate change to Covid-19. Powerful forces in the media and Big Tech are silencing people with significant and compelling points of view.

Free speech in America is circling the drain.

Sometimes it is going beyond silencing and extends to ruining careers and lives. The conclave of hypocrites and scoundrels that make up the badly misnamed “Lincoln Project” is a pathetic example. They just announced that they would be making up a blacklist of those who worked for the Trump administration, intending to keep them from finding employment in the private sector.

It is chilling. Free speech in America is circling the drain. For those of you nodding your approval and politely applauding from the sidelines because you disagree with those who are being silenced, keep in mind that we have the 1st Amendment right to free speech to avoid the necessity of shooting each other.