National Geographic visits Patagonia

Many years ago I lived in a small town located right by the South Atlantic Ocean in Patagonia. The coast was rocky, the tide ranged about four meters (13 feet). When the tide went out, we could see the sea retreat more than a kilometer and uncover a flat area covered with dark rocks. The natives called it "La Restinga".

 La Restinga at low tide

One day I was driving towards the center of town on the coastal road, had  already crested the hill where an  idiot driving a Citroen had dared to hit my Ford Falcon from behind, and I saw a large crowd  facing the ocean...


Revolutionary Meetings Every Saturday

When I was young I was taught about Marx, Lenin and Engels at school. They conducted these classes on Saturdays, they were called "Revolutionary Meetings".  Plenos Revolucionarios, Translate it if you can. 

Revolutionary meetings looked like this

I was trained by my parents to keep a straight face and watch my body language to stay out of trouble with the communist authorities.  My parents  were giving me books  by George Orwell and other writers to read at the same time, and they inoculated me against the communist bullshit I was being fed. 


The day we ate a cat

That day I was sitting with my friend Lenin and other neighborhood kids in front of the pharmacy. They had diverted traffic from 26th Avenue  to fix the sewer, and traffic flow wouldn´t  let us play on the street. We had fun watching the people trying to  get across, sneaking between the slow moving  cars.

Then we saw a large bus run over a cat. The poor animal had gotten under the bus, and had the misfortune of being crushed by the rear wheels. It was a quick thing, just a little squeal and a faint crunch. My friend Lenin, who spent his time reciting the statistics and achievements of the revolution, was a restless boy. He stood up, looked at the dead cat, and said:

"I think cats can be eaten"

Cat sitting inside a cooking pot (Photo by J. Leza)


War as I remember it

When I was six years old I lived in Santa Clara.  If you want to see where it  is on the map, Fidel Castro´s  dictatorship changed the name to Villa Clara.  At that time we were having a civil war, and around Christmas 1958 rebel troops approached the city. I will write the story of the battle of Santa Clara  as I remember it. I don´t  know if what you can read or  see in the movies is true, because history tends to be rewritten, and this battle isn´t  famous.

B26 Bomber

I remember well the first day. Classes were over. That morning my mom woke me up, and with a straight face told me I couldn´t go out to play with my friends....


Welcome to Venezuela

Travel to Venezuela is extremely risky. Violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive, both in the capital, Caracas, and in the interior. The country’s overall per capita murder rate is cited as one of the top 5 in the world. 

According to the non-governmental organization Venezuelan Violence Observatory (VVO), there were 24,763 homicides in Venezuela in 2013, amounting to a rate of 79 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, among the highest in the world (the US equivalent is 4.7 per 100,000; Spain´s is 0.8 per 100,000).   In Caracas, the homicide rate is even higher at 134 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Monica Spear, far right, was murdered by road hijackers 
with her husband while returning from the beach. 

According to Venezuelan government statistics, 583 kidnappings were officially reported to officials. Police sources indicate that as many as 80% of kidnappings go unreported, meaning that the official figure of 583 kidnappings in 2012 is likely much lower than actual numbers.

Armed robberies take place throughout Caracas and other cities, including in areas generally presumed safe and frequented by tourists. Well-armed criminal gangs operate widely, often setting up fake police checkpoints.

Maiquetía International Airport: Travel to and from Maiquetía Airport, the international airport serving Caracas, can be dangerous. Both arriving and departing travelers, including foreigners, have been victims of personal property theft and muggings in the airport.

The Embassy has also received several, credible reports of victims of “express kidnappings” occurring at the door of the airport, in which individuals are kidnapped and taken to make purchases or to withdraw as much money as possible from ATMs, often at gunpoint. Furthermore, there are known drug trafficking groups working from the airport.

Road between the airport and Caracas. 
Hijackers like to work at night, close to the tunnels. 

The road between Maiquetía Airport and Caracas is particularly dangerous. Visitors traveling this route at night have been kidnapped and held captive for ransom in roadside huts that line the highway. Because of the frequency of robberies at gunpoint, travelers are encouraged to arrive and depart only during daylight hours. Travelers should be aware of chokepoints inside tunnels and avoid obstacles in the road.

The British government has similar warnings: International airlines in Venezuela have recently reduced the availability of flights to and from the country. This has made it more difficult and expensive to buy flight tickets, especially if paid in local currency. 

From Diario El Amanecer reports on crime in Caracas

Levels of street crime are high. Armed muggings and ‘express kidnappings’ are a regular occurrence. Resistance to robbery has resulted in victims being shot dead. Take care at all times, especially when arriving in the country.

The Australian government warnings seem to mirror the UK´s: We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Venezuela because of high levels of serious crime and ongoing political uncertainty. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Australians in Venezuela should be aware that ongoing social and political tensions could prompt unpredictable violent incidents. Since February 2014, demonstrations have occurred regularly in major urban centres throughout Venezuela, particularly in Caracas, Valencia, Maracay, Merida, San Cristobal. These have been associated with violence and have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries.

Several major international airlines have reduced or suspended flights to/from Venezuela. Australians in Venezuela should contact their airline or travel provider for information on possible disruptions.

Venezuela has one of the world’s highest crime rates. Violent crime, including murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and carjacking, occurs frequently throughout Venezuela. Due to high levels of serious crime in Venezuela, Australian officials have been instructed to adopt enhanced security measures when travelling by car.

Genesis Carmona being taken to the hospital after being 
shot in the head by a government official during a protest

The road between the Maiquetia Simon Bolivar airport and Caracas is particularly dangerous due to violent crime. There have been reports of muggings and kidnappings by criminals posing as taxi drivers.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Venezuela. 


I almost died in Llancanelo

Around the time that Bill Fisher was incinerating the penguin, my friend Horacio and I went to visit Mendoza province in Argentina. Horacio was overweight,  at least 60 years old, and I was 28, which meant he was the boss and I carried his bags.  We flew from Buenos Aires to the city of Mendoza. There we rented a Ford Falcon, and drove to a small town near the Neuquen border, San Rafael, where we got two rooms in the best hotel in town.

The purpose of our trip was to snoop around YPF´s  Mendoza oil fields, because they had announced plans to  allow private companies to obtain service contracts. San Rafael is in the Andes foothills, so even though the scenery was a bit dry we had beautiful views of snow capped mountains due West of town.  

Andes foothills, due West from 
the plain where Llancanelo Lake is located 

Driving from our hotel base in San Rafael we started visiting the Andes foothills, collecting rocks and taking pictures.  We went to  remote places. For example, one day Horacio, who had the map and gave directions, remarked we were pretty close to the hillside where a plane full of Uruguayan rugby players had crashed (this was the crash whose  survivors had eaten the bodies of the dead). 

The last day of our visit, before returning to Mendoza, Horacio wanted us  to visit the Llancanelo lagoon . Today the lake is a bird sanctuary, a tourist spot, but at that time it was isolated and had no visitors. That lagoon is salty, because it gathers water flowing from the Andes, but there´s no outlet, and the terrain around it is desert-like. 

The day before going to the lake we  had been roaming the hills. The climate was cool but very dry, so we had drunk almost all our water bottle supply, and where down to one liter.  So, as we were heading out the hotel I suggested we stop and buy water jugs  and oranges for the trip. Unfortunately, Horacio  refused and added: "We are only going 50 km, we´ll look over the place, take photographs, and be  back for a late lunch."

And thus it came to pass that we departed San Rafael without water or oranges, on our "short" trip to  Llancanelo lake. I was driving while Horacio looked at his map and took pictures,  the trip was enjoyable and time went by very fast.  The landscape was barren, dusty, and dry,  partly covered by volcanic rocks. To be honest, on the way I felt it was ugly,  the best scenery was provided by the Andes, located behind our backs as we drove East towards the lake.

Llancanelo Lagoon

Eventually we saw the lake in the distance, and as we got closer I realized the ground was getting pretty soft. The Ford Falcon was a city car, and didn´t  have good traction in the sandy soil, which led to my suggestion that we stop and walk to the lake.

But Horacio was pretty tired,  said his feet hurt, and we should keep going.  I shrugged my shoulders, drove another  100 to 200 meters, where the ground got even softer,  which made the car  begin to shimmy and shake.

I warned Horacio  there was no way we could keep driving over that stuff, and started making a full turn to escape from that quagmire,  but it was too late: when I made the turn  the car lost speed, ran out of traction, and got stuck in the sand. We came to a full stop.

Imagine our horror when we realized  we had been driving on a layer of soft sand which lied on a layer of hard sand about  10 cm thick. The hard layer in turn floated on top of  a mixture of quicksand which  looked like a vanilla milkshake. And the car had sunk into that crap up to the damn axles.

Horacio, seeing the our condition, shouted, "Mother of God, this is hopeless, we're screwed!"

We were screwed alright...

I tried to calm him down, but after checking the map I realized we were  dozens of  kilometers from the paved road. We had a liter of water, no food, and the sun was starting to burn us.  In those days we didn´t have cell phones and we didn´t even  have a flare pistol or a way  to make smoke signals….. Horacio was right....we were screwed.

Horacio decided immediately  it would be impossible to remove the Falcon from the  vanilla shake into which  it had fallen, and said we should walk out to see if we could somehow reach the paved road, because no one was going to find us by the lake.  I reminded him that in the desert it´s  better to walk at night and hide from the sun during the day.  By then we had drunk our lonely water bottle, and  it was about 11 o'clock in the morning.  That was  by far the worst time of the day  for a fat 60 year old  to try to walk several dozen kilometers.  I was in good shape, but I wasn´t  willing to walk in the midday desert sun.

Horacio got really  angry with me and told me he wasn´t  going to wait, because he didn´t think he could survive the day in the sun, and the Falcon was an oven. For my part I said I would rather see if I could get the car unstuck. After fifteen minutes of arguing and fighting, Horacio decided he would go alone, and so he left, walking slowly.

I was young, so  I  was convinced I was going to survive. I knew the mud under the car was very soft and I had to find solid material to put under the wheels until the wheels had traction. So I got to work.

 I emptied a burlap sack that we had in the car where Horace had his rock collection, tied it with a rope around my  waist, and  started walking around the car in spirals, looking for suitable material to put under the wheels.

I found many useful things walking those spirals.  I must add that  I´m  very grateful to the pigs who had visited the place for so  many years, and had left behind cans, grills, broken chairs, pieces of wood, and all kinds of trash around the lake (I am sure that today the place is cleaner because Argentines are more respectful of the environment, but at that time they were a bit sloppy). 

 I was picking up trash, bushes, everything that could get in the sack and then drag back to the Falcon. Imagine my delight when I found a mummified rhea (guanaco)! As you know, the rhea is a pretty big bird, and in the desert the dead are either eaten by vultures or they mummify. I grabbed that big bird´s mummy,  dragged him back to the Falcon,  and concluded  I had enough junk to get to work.

Ñandu or Rhea (alive) 

First I had to lift the car, to put the wheels alightly above ground level rather than have them buried in the mud. 

That´s easy to say, but it took a lot of work to do it, because the jack would sink in the mud and failed to raise the car an inch. Then I thought of Archimedes, and placed the jack on a half barrel someone had used as a grill. 

I put the jack in the middle of the half drum, and when I jacked the Falcon rose! I repeated this wheel by wheel. Once each wheel was above ground level, I put the  garbage I had gathered in the pit where the wheel had been buried. And I put the rhea and a bunch of cans under the Falcon´s single traction wheel.

I  had worked on this project  for four to  five hours, and I was nearly dead. I took a little air out of  the tires (I had learned this trick while getting stuck  and out of trouble on the beach in Florida), I gathered  all my things, and I sat behind the wheel.

At that moment I felt like an astronaut riding on top of a Saturn V, ready  to fly into space. If the trick didn´t  work, I was going to be royally screwed.  By then I was convinced that Horacio was dead, and if I didn´t  didn´t get that car to move they would find me mummified like the  rhea.  

But luckily when I stepped on the accelerator the  Falcon started throwing garbage and pieces of rhea, lurched forward,  and reached harder ground in seconds. I was so scared I kept driving away from the lake at least one kilometer before I stopped to see what  the hell I had left behind.

Then I noticed vultures circling a few kilometers away  and started to worry about Horacio. I was nearly dead, and  convinced that Horacio, given his  age and fatness, couldn´t possibly be alive.

I continued driving towards  the place where I saw the vultures, imagining horrors. It bothered me intensely to be  aware that I  was too weak to lift Horacio´s corpse and put it in the trunk. It  didn´t  seem such a good idea to tie Horacio  by the feet and drag him behind the car all the way  to the paved road. And if I  left Horacio there, the vultures were going to eat him.  I was pained by thoughts of  Horacio´s wife cursing me because I  had left him behind.  

Vulture grabbing a bone

I was thoroughly  convinced that I would eventually  find a dead man, so I was really surprised when I saw four men on horseback in the distance. As they got closer I found out the group was three Mapuche Indians carrying Horacio. The Mapuches  had found him half dead, dehydrated, sunburned, and they were bringing him back to find my corpse. You see, Horacio was convinced I had already died of thirst, or lied crushed under the Falcon.

That evening was had a really good time. The Mapuches were were part of a group that had crossed the Andes after one of those earthquakes which devastate Chile occasionally, had hidden in the desert, and  scratched a living  selling goats in San Rafael.

They were really friendly, took us to their settlement, and gave us  food and water. I took their photos, which later  I sent to the San Rafael post office (but don´t  know if those Mapuches ever got them). 

These Indians were good people, and in the past they have been  treated badly. But they helped us and didn´t seem to give it  much thought. So I want to dedicate this to that group, because  I'm sure they saved Horacio´s life  and saved me from having to carry his body back to his wife.

Below I´m placing the  photo of Chief Lautaro, a Mapuche who became famous fighting for his people. And I want to add that if I ever have the opportunity to help some of them in return I will do it, because they deserve much better than what they got. 

Chief Lautaro of the Mapuches


Welcome to Cuba

Canadians seem to be the most frequent foreign visitors to Cuba. The Cuban government has a webpage to sell them a vacation in Cuba 

Cuban government propaganda webpage 

Like most tourists, Canadians seem to be quite oblivious to the fact that Cuba is ruled by an ugly dictatorship. Either that, or they back it because they share similar political beliefs. 

Fidel I and Raul I Castro, the first
 two members of the Castro dinasty 

However, I wonder if these tourists would be so supportive if they understood the regime is a military-fascist hereditary dictatorship? 

Military Parade (from Reuters)

These guys like to sell themselves as communists, but the truth is a lot uglier: Fidel was a Stalinist, but his brother Raul inherited power and today he´s trying to implement his own ideas. And as I mentioned above, this involves a turn towards capitalism, a fascist like use of central power to control private enterprises, a single party, and eventually handing power to the next Castro generation...namely, his son Alejandro Castro Espin. 

Prince Alejandro Castro
 (from Cubanuestra1 blog)

So if you are contemplating a visit to Cuba, I suggest you do learn how the population is treated by the Castro dinasty, and consider helping out by distributing subversive literature.  Copies of Orwell´s  "1984" and "Animal Farm" in Spanish are highly recommended. Take several copies hidden in your suitcases, and I wish you good luck as you go through Cuban customs. Thank you. 

Update: Slowdown in Tourist Arrivals to Cuba continues in July 2014

This shows it´s important to point out the facts of life to naive would be tourists. Do your part and don´t cooperate with dictatorial regimes. There are plenty of places to visit elsewhere. 


Happy Birthday, Fidel

I think Fidel Castro is senile, makes little noises with his throat, and drools. However once in a while we hear somebody had a conversation with the ancient dictator, they say “the old man is still thinking”, “he sure remembers Stalin!” and things like that.

Fidel being exhibited in public

As talkative as he was, if he could speak in public he would do it. Because he doesn´t, I think those shots of pluripotent rat cells he got didn´t work out. This is the reason why nowadays they pull him out of his room and try to make believe he´s talking sense. But he is so disconnected from reality he thinks the Soviet Union exists, that China is communist, and doesn´t even realize his brother Raúl sold the rights to use him in  Guaraná soft drink propaganda. 

Fidel selling Guaraná Antarctica soft drink 


Cooking the warming books

The climate wars involve intense media propaganda campaign waged by both extremist sides. However, there´s an interesting group in the middle which seems to be rather ignored.

All sides in the climate wars claim they get unfair coverage, this includes whining papers reported upon by The Guardian (a UK leftist paper I like to read), in which the authors complain their climate war opponents get more coverage than they should.

New Mexico Chili cooked Mexican Style

So, I´m going to show you how the climate warming books are cooked, and how the media tends to ignore the moderate 23 % of experts who think the CO2 causes moderate warming rather than the extreme position shown by 66 % who think CO2 causes “strong warming” (the remaining 10 % think CO2 doesn’t cause much warming, but to keep things simple I´ve focused on  the “strong” versus “moderate” groups).

First I´ll show you the graph shown at the Guardian to claim their “strong” group gets poor coverage.

Graph with data cooked Guardian style to show 
unfair  treatment for “strong” warming experts
(taken from  the Guardian here)

But the public isn´t told very much about a rather large group of experts who think CO2 causes moderate warming. So to show you how this works, I eyeballed the figures from the Guardian´s graphs, ignored the 10 % which thinks CO2 doesn´t have much of an impact (these guys are labeled "deniers", a rather insulting tag), and prepared this graph with the results for the moderates (good guys like me) versus the strongs (sometimes labeled "extreme warmists").

As you can see, even if I use the Guardian´s raw data (which may itself be cooked), I can see the moderates are getting less coverage than the extremists.

Graph I prepared with the Verheggen et al data used by the Guardian,
cooked to compare strong warmist to moderate media exposure,
this shows the good guy moderates tend to get ignored

The moderates, as reported in this study, are 23 % of the total.  This seems to be an important group, and I have the suspicion the moderates are the ones who are probably right.  So when you see the two extremes going at each other as if they were Mexican wrestlers in a dirty match, don´t forget somewhere in the background are very upstanding people who tend to like the middle rather than the extremes. They are scientists and experts who are like most of us.

Mexican Wrestlers (altered from the Guardian) 


The nature of Jesus

When talking to Christians about religion one can get quite confused,  because the majority adhere to beliefs that don´t  fit well with the Christian church´s official line. This seems to happen because the Bible includes passages which describe Jesus´ nature  vaguely or in what appears to be conflicting points of view.


Not even the great Apostle  Paul of Tarsus  could write a lot or that clearly  about Jesus: Jesus was born, lived an ordinary life for a while, then began to preach and perform miracles, was crucified and then resurrected and ascended to heaven.

Paul (Saint Paul for Catholics) was a leader who was consulted by Christians in  his time to explain what he thought about Jesus. In  2 Corinthians 5: 16 Paul wrote:

"So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!"

Jesus at dinner time with a couple of friends 

Paul never met Jesus during his human life, this means he couldn´t  write much about Jesus the man. He could only describe Jesus  as a divine being whom he met when he was on his way to Damascus.  Paul is the intellectual force in the New Testament. But he couldn´t hold all Christians together as his followers.

Almost immediately after Jesus´ascent  into heaven,   Christianity fell apart  because Christians couldn´t  accommodate the multitude of opinions that emerged about his nature.  At that time Christians could believe  that Jesus was:
  1. An ordinary man who had become God after dying and rising from the dead.
  2. An ordinary man born, who became divine  sometime  during  his human life.
  3. A divine being from conception.
  4. A divine being who always existed (this is the official belief of Christians today).

These  diverse opinions were supported by the Bible, which lends itself to  confusing interpretations. For example, in Acts 2, Peter says:

"People of Israel, listen to my words: God attested Jesus of Nazareth to you. Made him perform miracles, wonders and all sort of  signs you already know about. You, however, turned him over to the Gentiles to be crucified and die on the cross, and thus the plan that God had arranged  was fulfilled. But God delivered him from the agony of death and raised him from the dead,  because it wasn´t  possible that He be held by the power of death. "

This type of comment can be seen in other books in the Bible. They are what led many in the past  (and lead many today)  to choose belief No. 1 be (Jesus became God after dying and rising). The logic used is quite simple. If the Apostle Peter said that God delivered Jesus from the dead then Jesus wasn´t  divine neither  when alive nor when He was dead when after the Crucifixion.

I don´t want to get in  trouble and get everybody mad at me, but I must point out that when you one reads  the Bible carefully, the existence of Jesus as the  part of the Holy Trinity called the Son (the others being the Father and the Holy Spirit) is based on the Gospel of John, and specifically in the part that says:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. "

This was officially interpreted to support  belief # 4 (Jesus was a divine being who always existed).  Nowadays anybody who  wants to be a good Christian has to get # 4 inside the head and can´t  have any doubts about it.  If you do have doubts then you  run the risk of becoming a heretic,  which can have serious consequences.

Anybody  can search the Bible quotes of  the apostles and other writers to support his beliefs. It´s very  easy to ignore what  other Christians believe, when their belief is  different,  even though they too use the Bible to support their opinion.

For almost 2000 years Christians have killed each other in droves to decide which is the best way to interpret the Bible.  

Christians fighting with each other

Violence does seem to solve these problems. For example, take Arianism.  Followers of Arianism  backed options # 1 or # 2. However,  today they barely exist, they  aren´t  organized, and many of them don´t  even realize they are considered  heretics.  

The  persecutions the Arians suffered in the Roman Empire´s dying years, and the subsequent defeat of the  Arian Visigoth  kingdom in Spain by Muslim invaders did a number on them.  By the time the Catholics finished cleaning out the Iberian peninsula the last of the Arian Christians was either dead or a firm believer in Catholicism. 

Go ahead,  search the word  Arian, and most of the time you´ll see it linked to the words heretic and heresy. If one didn´t know Christian history it would be easy to think they were a small bunch of nuts, when instead they may have been the Christian majority prior to the 4th century.

I'm no expert on the subject, but I'm quite inquisitive, and I read the Bible (well, the interesting parts), and I think the nature of Jesus will continue to be a topic of debate for a long, very long, time. 

Further reading: 

The Bible 


The monkey selfie legal battle

The famous monkey selfie photograph has caused a legal battle between the camera´s owner, David J Slater, and Wikimedia. Wiki management claims the photo is available for free distribution because the monkey pressed the shutter. Mr Slater claims he owns the copyright because it was his camera, and he was taking monkey pictures.

The monkey selfie Photo: David J Slater/Caters

I tend to agree with Mr Slater. If he loses his legal battle all indy photographers are screwed if they allow their camera to be used by monkeys.  

This Australian  photographer  now faces $15 thousand* in legal bills as he tries to secure his rights to the monkey selfie. Popular opinion on this matter seems to be divided, with 43 % thinking the copyright belongs to Mr. Slater, while 41 % think it belongs to the monkey.  

Poll results from The Telegraph, 
(to  vote: Telegraph Poll is here)

By the way, the monkey is an Indonesian macaque. From the looks of it, I think it may be a crested macaque, but I didn´t research its family tree. If we go by the poll results that macaque owns almost  half the copyright for its selfie. This means the macaque would be the richest monkey in the world. Like they say in New Zealand, that´s a lot of kiwis.

*10000  british pounds, 10800 euros, 90000 yuan



The Devil´s Excrement travels from Caracas to Aruba

This is a plug for the Devil´s Excrement´s author, Miguel Octavio. His last post, "Venezuela Drifting Away from the World",  is one of his better pieces. It describes his last trip from Caracas to Aruba. 

Miguel Octavio´s blog, The Devil´s Excrement,  is a must read for those who want to understand what´s going on in Venezuela.  I added this post to my list “Highly Recommended Heartbreakers” because it reminded me of the way things were when I left Cuba.

You see, my departure from Havana was quite similar. We had a nightmarish set of checks and were treated like animals by government officials. I was on a special KLM charter carrying 152 children and four Dutch adults who came along as chaperones. The plane was a DC-8, something like this:

KLM DC-8 at Amsterdam´s Schiphol Airport.

As was customary, once the plane lifted off from the runway nobody said a word, and we counted the minutes until the pilot announced: “We have now reached the point of no return, if the plane breaks down we will land outside of Cuba”. At that point all of us started cheering and hugging each other. We had escaped.


Miguel Octavio´s Blog, The Devil´s Excrement is here

The Devil´s Excrement Blog Screen Print


Arms Control in the US of A

We all know  the U.S. of A.  has some interesting laws to control gun ownership.   The law is different in all fifty states. Therefore it is difficult to make a nation wide comment about state laws. 

But I  can  explain what happens at the national (i.e. federal) level.  The U.S.of A. Constitution´s Second Amendment says that "because a well armed militia is necessary, the right of people to bear arms shall not be limited." That´s it all,  more or less.  This  amendment is what allows Americans to own and use weapons of all kinds.

For example, the Waco massacre got started  when the authorities tried to carry out an investigation at David Koresh´s camp. Koresh was said by his followers to be the second coming of  Christ. This guy  made a living from  his folowers´donations  and selling weapons, including .50-caliber machine guns like this

.50 caliber machine gun (from walkingdead.wikia.com)

Because the  second amendment is so short and lacks detail,  and in the U.S.  of A.  there is a tradition for people to own  weapons,  some states have laws which  allow some individuals  to use heavy weapons. For example, here is a man who will do a demonstration of his personal  105 mm cannon. Look at the size of the bullet.

Old man demonstrating a 105 mm cannon

I wonder, why would a guy  be interested in something like this?  Those rounds  must be very expensive, and it  sure seems a bit exaggerated to shoot a stranger at long distance with a 105 mm cannon.  But the way this works, that cannon´s owner can blast you to kingdom come if you enter his property without asking for pemission (In some states he has to post signs saying something like “Do not enter, if you do the owner will  shoot at you with a 105 mm howitzer”).

I don´t  like to live near someone like that. The Lord knows he looks sane, but hey, one mistake and there goes MY property.  Let me show you an example: here we see him with his assistant preparing to fire that cannon of his:

Old man preparing to fire a 105 mm cannon

And here we see the results of this  demonstration. The cannon round  flew over 5 km and fell quite close to a car stopped in the old man´s  property. This means it was quite legal for the round to hit the car and blow it apart.

Round strikes the ground near a parked vehicle 

What else can I say? To live in a place where people are armed like that  you have to be crazy. Or at least one needs a very  well-fortified house, as we see below. Because if an old drunk comes around  and starts shooting a .50 caliber machine gun or a howitzer,  a house with extremely thick walls and roof sure comes in handy. 

House with very thick walls and roof 


The birth of Scientology

Last year I found the way Scientology was invented by L. Ron Hubbard when I  was looking up old science fiction stories I could download. Just be sheer accident I found a web page which copied a post in alt.religion.scientology newsgroup, dated May 2nd, 1995.

Famous Scientologist (from the NY Post)

The following excerpt was taken from a magazine called "Saturday Evening Wings," which was printed for awhile in the 1970s. In this interview Harlan Ellison, the science fiction writer, claims to have been present the night L. Ron Hubbard decided to write "Dianetics." Note: Dianetics is  the first Bible of Scientology.

Portions of Ellison´s  interview in “Wings” follow:

Ellison: Scientology is bullshit! Man, I was there the night L. Ron Hubbard invented it, for Christ Sakes! I was sitting in a room with L. Ron Hubbard and a bunch of other science fiction writers…he was famous among science fiction writers because he was the first one to have an electric typewriter.

Battlefield Earth, Hubbard´s second most popular book

Wings: He claimed to have written "Dianetics" in a weekend, and nobody can deny it.

Dianetics, Scientology´s Bible

Ellison: That's true. He wrote "Dianetics" in one weekend…We were sitting around one night. ... who else was there? Alfred Bester, and Cyril Kornbluth, and Lester Del Rey, and Ron Hubbard, who was making a penny a word, and had been for years. And he said "This bullshit's got to stop!" He says, "I gotta get money." He says, "I want to get rich".

….And somebody said, "why don't you invent a new religion? They're always big."

We were clowning! You know, " You'll make a fortune!"

He says, "I'm going to do it." Sat down, stole a little bit from Freud, stole a little bit from Jung, a little bit from Alder, a little bit of encounter therapy, pre-Janov Primal Screaming, took all that bullshit, threw it all together, invented a few new words, because he was a science fiction writer, you know, "engrams" and "regression", all that bullshit. And then he conned John Campbell, who was crazy as a thousand battlefields. I mean, he believed any goddamned thing. He really believed blacks were inferior….and he got him to run this article on Dianetics, the new science of mental health.

Wings: Dianometry was the first article, I believe.

Ellison: Right. And science fiction fans will go for any goddamm thing. They'll believe anything, man, they will believe in the abominable snowman and the Bermuda Triangle, in Pyramid Power, in EST, in Scientology, in the Second Coming, they'll believe in any goddamm thing, they don't give a shit. They go to see "Star Wars"; they think it is for real!

The Invaders Plan, sold at
 comic shop dot com

So science fiction fans picked it up, they began proselytizing, he started making money, when he had made enough money he was able to spread out a little more….Then he wanted to get tax-exempt status, so he called it "The Church of Scientology".

Now, they've gotten so big that they own property all over the country, and it is impossible to stop it. They infiltrated the FBI, they infiltrated the tax department, ... the funny thing is, Ron Hubbard and I still occasionally communicate with each other. Every once in a while, a couple or three times a year, we exchange letters. And I write to him, you know, and I say, "Hey Ron, when is this bullshit going to cease? and he says, "It's the good work, it's the good work."

….I guess he got too busy counting his money…..

Source: http://www.islets.net/faq.html#Anchor-Was-47857