Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Forget The Resolutions! Let's Tell Some Good Science Jokes

     The Preacher wrote, among other things, that there is a time to laugh.

     I am reminded of the old joke, "How do you make an old Englishman laugh? . . . Tell him a joke when he is young."  (I know, I know.  But think about it . . . )

     This selection comes from Great Britain.  That would explain why they are "favourites," I suppose.  Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Maybe It's Time

. . . we had a second political party in the U.S.

. . . we stopped acting like the U.S. Government was the Church.

. . . we stopped acting like the Church was the U.S. Government.

. . . we acted like we really believed in personal liberty.

. . . we acted like we really believed in personal responsibility.

     Now I actually believe each of the above propositions to be a good one -- but on the other hand, Maybe It's Also Time . . .

. . . we stopped using the "assumed inclusive" we  pronoun so much (as well as the over-used, "assumed other" they ), and instead,

. . . I used more specific pronouns, such as I, you, he.

. . . I learned to keep more of my opinions to myself: write and talk less, think and do more.

. . . to praise the Virtues, and the Gifts, less; and to practice them more.

. . . to pray for, and expect, a Blessed New Year.

     Call them my Ten Suggestions for the coming year.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Season's Greetings

     Whoever and wherever they are, the ones who enforce the rules are the real Rulers;  and the ones who dictate the narrative are the real Dictators.

     Who is running our lives?  And why, and how?


Saturday, December 14, 2013

When A Soldier Makes It Home

     The Keepers Of The Narrative don't like it when folks get "off message" -- but they haven't completely shut them up yet, at least on the subject of war.

     Wendell Berry has a great short-story, "Making It Home," about a Kentucky farmer who survives the Second World War in Europe and manages to muster out of the army, catch a bus, and then walk the last few miles back to his family farm, alone, thinking about what he has seen.  It is Berry's propensity for telling stories like this, I think, that keeps him at arm's length from the political-media establishment in this country -- and the church establishment as well.  Of course, I could be wrong about that: no doubt there are other, better reasons.

     Anyway, I was listening to Arlo Guthrie today on You Tube, and this song that I am about to link to made me think of Wendell Berry, and war, and where we all are in all of this -- right in the middle, whether we admit it or not.

     Arlo Guthrie video:  When A Soldier Makes It Home.

     Lyrics here.

     Have a listen, while the "corporate"-government censorship of YouTube is only moderately stifling.  The video is about seven minutes long.

*       *       *

     Wendell Berry was recently interviewed by Bill Moyers.  Here are two men of letters, the same age,  who chose somewhat different roads.

     While we are talking about Bill Moyers, he just recently posted something about the threat to our democracy from a takeover by the "mercenary class."  An interesting read.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why I Am Not Going To Buy A Kindle

Guest post by Justin Adams

To whom it may concern:

This is in response to your recently advertised 30-day trial for Kindles.

I am a teacher and have used Kindles in class in conjunction with book studies.  They have not been at all conducive to the classroom.  Students cannot take them home (since purchased at such high cost), so I cannot assign reading at home and must therefore rely on class time for students to read.  It has tripled the normal time it would take for my class to read a book.

Inconvenience aside (ironic considering the device's touted convenience), I also do not support Kindle, or any other reading/book app, regardless of platform, because the popularity of such technology could very well lead to the elimination of physical books in the near future, which a company's demand for limitless growth must necessitate.

Physical books possess the innate capacity to survive decades without a reliable power source.  If the electricity goes out, physical books retain all usefulness.  Kindles (and the like), on the other hand, would quickly consign themselves to no more than expensive plastic paperweights in such an event.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Chase Madar: The Over-Policing Of America

     Once upon a time, most Americans could recognize secular power-groups with a desire to dominate and control.  They were often called, perhaps inaccurately, commies and nazis.

     Today, more and more, I see churchians who see the police-state as their patriotic protector, in the same place and at the same time where I see encroachments and looming shadows of oncoming tyranny.

     Whatever the outcome of this situation may be, Chase Madar (from the website, Tom Dispatch) has weighed in with his own views about the criminalization of everyday life in America. I think that he is not overstating the problem.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bill Moyers Interviews Wendell Berry

     My good friend Kirk Brooks called to tell me that he was listening to a Wendell Berry interview on the radio, and I might want to listen to it, too.  I did; and turned the radio on right away, not knowing how far into the interview he was, and what I might have already missed.

     It turned out that the radio program was the sound portion of a very recent and very rare video interview that was done by Bill Moyers.  Rare, because Mr. Berry does television interviews only rarely;  and recent, because the video has apparently just been released to the internet.  One quick on-line search, and I found it.  And so, as it turned out, I got to both hear and watch the entire presentation.

     I think that people who are familiar with Wendell Berry's life and writings will enjoy watching this interview; and for those who have not yet made his acquaintance, this might be a good time.  The presentation runs for a little less than an hour.

     Here is the link to the Bill Moyers interview with Wendell Berry.

*       *       *

Your comments are most welcome.

Monday, December 2, 2013

What's Wrong With The World

     About a century ago, some organ of the British press raised the question, "What's Wrong With The World?", and invited comment.  All things considered (such as, who were doing the asking, and of whom they were asking it), I think it was both an appropriate and a necessary question.  After all, the Brits had conquered and controlled -- forgive me, I meant to say developed and civilized -- a pretty good chunk of the world and exercised H. M. 's authority over all living things that dwelt upon the face of the same; so, if there was a perceived wrong, they were good candidates to deal with the question.

     G. K. Chesterton famously answered the question in two words:  "What's wrong with the world?  I am."  And then he proceeded to write a fine book which addressed the question, which I heartily recommend to any and all.

    I might have suggested to him (had I been living at the time) that an equally good alternative would have been to box up a few hundred cheap hand mirrors and mail them in to the newspaper, for distribution around the City of London as they saw fit, beginning at the sanctuary, so that they could have reflected upon the question, and the answer, at their leisure.  But that suggestion might not have accorded with Chesterton's sense of charity, so I withdraw the suggestion.  He said that he was the problem, and so I will defer to him on that.

     Nevertheless, for whatever may have been true in his time and place, he is long gone.  And God is still in His heaven, and all is still not quite right with the world, so I am casting about for other answers than putting all the responsibility upon Chesterton's broad (but absent) shoulders.

     Before I go too far afield here, I want to say that I think that there is much that is right with the world, very much in fact, and all that is right with the world should be acknowledged, understood, loved, admired, encouraged, preserved, cultivated, left alone, and so forth.  The world has lots of good and beautiful places, and good, generous, loving and true-hearted people, and a still abundant joy of life and living things.  This must be said, and said repeatedly.

     Still, the more I actually like the world and the good folks in it, the more I notice that very, very much is wrong. 

      Take world cultures, for example.  The more I like England, the less I like the City-of-London establishment.  The more I find to like about the Russians, the less I like the Bolsheviks who imposed mass violence upon them in the name of some "historical imperative."  The more I personally interact with good people from China, the less respect I have for the policies of the Party that governs them.

     As for America?  The more I like what the Constitution says (even if it is flawed, as it may be), the less I like what Washington, D.C. says either for it or against it.  The more I think about the real virtues of "free enterprise" (and I think they are many), the less I find to like about those "entrepreneurs" who are all about starting some big deal, but with the intent to quickly "cash out" and live on the proceeds. Nor am I impressed by the much-touted "daring venture capitalists" who courageously finance them with other people's money.  (And given the Fed and the World Bank, it is all other people's money, and Monopoly money at that.)

     I could go on, but you get the idea.

     Now I know I might be fairly charged with being merely "another idealist who has been mugged by reality,"  -- you know, like the guy who says, "I like the human race, it's just people I can't stand" -- but I don't think that this is true in my case.  And I doubt that it is true in your case, either.

     I think that what is disturbing me about the world is the prevalence of "Spider Consciousness," if I may call it that.

     Not that I have anything against natural spiders and how they think, either the beautiful garden spiders who weave their predatory webs across trails, or the dangerous fiddle-backs, or even the black widows who are said to devour their husbands on their wedding day.  No doubt they all have their necessary place in the natural order.

     But I have something against people who imitate spiders, spinning webs of deceit, and paralyzing and devouring their prey.  Anyone who manages to get caught in their web is seen as a lower life form, a perfectly legitimate victim, to have the life sucked out.  And when it is to their personal advantage, they will readily devour their own.

     Spider Consciousness thinks something like this:

     1.  There is no such thing as cooperation, except as an expedient to further my Spider-Self-Interest.  And healthy competition is a dangerous enemy.  In fact, healthy anything is a threat, except as it serves as a meal for me.

      2.  I'll buy up a company, strip it of assets, and bankrupt it.  I'll pay my employees less than a full wage for the value of their work; then take the "legitimate profits" and sock them away in the Cayman Islands.

     3.  In fact, not only will I not pay a full wage, I won't even pay a minimum wage.  I'll smuggle poor "illegals" into the country, pay them a pittance, and keep them hostage to the fact that I might stop "protecting" them.  Then, I'll even fight the "amnesty laws," since my hold over them requires that they be considered "illegal."

     4.  Since I can see that mutual greed might be even more profitable than my own solitary version, I will bargain with my fellow Spiders on matters of mutual interest.  In certain circumstances, several webs carefully arranged may be more productive of . . . food . . . than if they were in isolation.  So let us invent, and play, and sell, The Corporate Spider Game.

     5.  We will create and staff government agencies charged to perform some real or imagined "social good," like building urban housing.  Offer good bureaucratic jobs to our people.  Have them contract with our companies to do the work, and then we won't do it.  We'll just take the money.  If there is an investigation (unlikely), we will obstruct it.  If there are "whistleblowers" (unlikely) we will intimidate them with threats from "higher up" -- and they know that we can and will deliver on our threats.  If they are too stupid, or principled, to understand this, then we will frame and prosecute them.

     6.  We will make a web out of the law, and then use it to entrap people.  Forbid drug dealing and then run "sting" operations.  We will forbid "illegal plants" (like marijuana); and then run aerial surveillance and ground searches on private property, so we can confiscate the property of people -- even if we have to plant the "evidence" ourselves.

     7.  We will use special ops to corner the drug production market at the production end, as in Colombia or Afghanistan; use Air America and "national security" protection to ship the drugs into the "Homeland"; once there, we will (using the government, which we have made permanently schizoid) selectively carry out our well-funded "drug war" in order to eliminate our rivals and protect our monopoly.

     8.  We will buy up friends and contacts in law enforcement, and run our child prostitution and slavery rings with impunity.

     9.  We will create internet sites for sexual solicitations.  We will lure people onto these sites.  If they take our bait, we will turn them over to our secret police and prosecutors and judges to be dealt with.
We will make sure that looking at pornography (the kind that is certified and distributed by the movie industry) is greatly advertised and encouraged and widespread; while possession of homemade or downloaded porn is an extremely serious prosecutable offense; a felony, in fact.  We may produce and sell it to the masses; but if they are caught possessing it, it is a grave crime.

     10.  We will subvert the rest of the world with loan-sharking, illicit favors, and economic hit men.  We will shamelessly take from their poor -- their land, their natural resources, their way of life.     If their governments resist us, we will engineer coups d'etat.  We will sell their governments arms to put down "internal subversion" and "domestic terrorism" that we will incite.  We will endlessly play two or three sides against each other.  The rich elites who are trying to run impoverished countries will be encouraged to run up enormous debts to us; they will default; and we will demand repayment from their poor.

     11.  We will infiltrate enemy countries and governments with FBI and CIA men, forcing our contemptuous (and contemptible) notions on their people, their liberties, and their governments.  We will train their police to use our methods, and sell them on our standards of crime and punishment.
     12.  In fact, we will develop our own complete agenda:

     If our enemies hunger, we will sell them genetically damaged food and patented seeds;

     if they thirst, we will regulate, fluoridate, and poison their drink with nuclear wastes;

     if they are naked, we will arrest them for public nudity;

     if they are sick, we will regulate and ration their healthcare;

     if they are in prison, we will overcrowd them, rape them, deny them decent medical care, confine them in harsh conditions, suicide them, and "privatize" them to some prison-industrial corporation that will provide the cheapest possible "service" to the prisoners, while maximally charging the state.

     And if the Lord tries to come back, on our watch, to call us to account for what we do, we will kill Him -- watch.

     With all due respect to G. K. Chesterton, I don't think that he was ever "what's wrong with the world." 


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Briefly On The Assassination

     Friday, November 22, 1963.  The circumstances surrounding the death of President Kennedy, fifty years ago, gives rise to a couple of brief thoughts.

     There are two separately interesting things to me -- the crime and the cover-up.  The crime was committed in a few seconds; the cover-up has lasted for fifty years.

     The crime was plotted in secret, but committed in the open air, in broad daylight, with a hundred witnesses, and yet we still can't be sure who did it.

     The cover-up has been orchestrated behind closed doors, but necessarily performed across the media and across the world, by highly visible speakers and writers and actors; there are a billion witnesses to this, and we can watch them do it, still doing it after fifty years.

     Amazing.  How do they pull these things off?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fred Reed Considers Complexity

     I almost always enjoy reading Reed. (Not always: he is capable of laying the occasional bad egg: but not too often.)

     Why do I enjoy him?  you ask.  I reply, "I give you the following reasons.

     "1.  His point of view is very much his own.  I think that the word I am looking for is, 'idiosyncratic.'

     "2.  He comes up with great turns of phrase, usually witty, and sometimes downright wise.

     "3.  I can think of a bunch more reasons.  In fact, I was just writing them down; but by the magic of word processing, I succeeded in intentionally deleting them.  (No need to thank me.)"

     So, having done with replies, I direct you to a recent post of his -- uncharacteristically long, and uncharacteristically serious -- entitled, with a certain flightiness, "The Bugs Of Darwin."

     Read it through, and you will come upon these bon mots:

     "Stupidity beyond a certain point is intractable."

     "We are not as wise as we think. I reiterate Fred´s Principle: The smartest of a large number of hamsters is still a hamster."

     "When people become accustomed to things that make no sense, they begin to seem to."

     "I can perhaps imagine an Airbus 380 assembling itself. I cannot begin to imagine the foregoing evolving on its own."

     "Descartes famously said, 'Cogito ergo sum.' Ambrose Bierce less famously but more insightfully said, 'Cogito cogito, ergo cogito sum. Cogito.'"

     Ah, you say, now that I have served up the bon-bons, there is no need for eating the rest of what is on the plate, the meat and potatoes of the thing.  If that is what you think, I give you this one of Fred's radishes:

     "You have to be smoking Drano."



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

C. M. Sturges: Woe To The Little Boys

     Some of you know about John Taylor Gatto, the highly regarded, highly experienced, highly qualified educator who is also very outspoken about what is deeply wrong in the American educational system today. Mr. Gatto did not write the link that is referenced below, but he is quoted prominently — I think his opinions are very much worth paying attention to.

     The further discussion by the writer of the post -- C. M. Sturges -- includes, but is not limited to, the use of Ritalin to control the behavior of school boys.

     The link was recommended by a reader.  I urge that it be carefully read by fathers, educators, and church leaders (and anyone else). It's title, “Woe To The Little Boys,” is more truth than hype.  Our young boys in America are in a very bad situation, and I for one don't see a workable way out for many of them.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Christians, Drug Use, And Death

     A few years ago, I attended the funeral of a friend who died in a single-car accident.   The accident took place in the middle of the night -- about 3 a.m. -- on a quiet highway in the country.  His vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed, he missed the tight turn, he hit the trees.  He survived for an hour or two.

     He was familiar with the road; he had driven it his entire life, and he was long since retired.  His beloved wife of over forty years had died a couple of years earlier.  He was known to be grieving her loss.  He was, himself, seriously ill.  Suicide, perhaps?

     Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Because of his own illness, he was on several strong medications -- doctor's prescriptions, doctor's orders -- that were, among other things, "mood altering."  Who could blame the doctor for what he thought was in the patient's best interests?  Perhaps those prescriptions were the very best that "modern research" can provide.  At least, they were government-approved.

     The man had complained to his children, a few days before, that the medicines, or their interactions, were affecting his mind, his judgment.  He had been having strange thoughts, and he didn't like that.  He wasn't sure that he ought to be taking them.  But he was the kind of old fellow who "follows doctors' orders," after all.

     And then, suddenly, he was gone.  Thankfully, no one else was injured in the accident.  He received a Christian burial, as of course he should.

     This is not meant to be a blame game:  I am entirely unwilling to assign any blame to anyone, in this case.  Doctors certainly know more about serious illnesses than I do, and face hard questions in difficult cases.

     But I would like to raise a question about other cases, where "blaming" is already quite intense, not only in the mainstream media, but in the conversations I hear among Christian people.  I have observed that both groups, the media people and the Christian people, are famously sure that they have all the answers, not only for themselves, but also for the rest of "society."  They have answers regarding drug use, and death, that include lawsuits, prison terms, public condemnations, and anticipations of the Final Judgment.  (I said, "they," as if I were speaking of others than myself -- I readily grant that I am a member of both groups.  I have been a practicing Christian, and a practicing writer and speaker, for the greater part of my life; so I might as well have said, "we.")

     What do we think, then, when we find out that young men who break into schools, theaters, and army bases -- and kill dozens of people -- are on strong (prescription) medications -- medications that have, and are sometimes intended to have, known, severe mood-altering effects?

     What, when on the other hand, we impose felony-class prison sentences on people for mild drug use, in which no real crime has been committed?

     What, when we treat drug use and drug addictions as crimes in and of themselves, rather than as obligating us, as caring people -- let alone Christians who are under a strict command to heal the sick, forgive sins, and practice charity in all cases -- to act in ways that ameliorate tragedies and avoid the perpetuation of injustices, rather than making matters worse, and casting burdens, punishments, and sanctions upon relatively ordinary, relatively harmless people and their families?

     But I think that I am speaking into the wind.  A strong wind that is blowing in the opposite direction.



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Devin Brown: A Life Observed

A book review

     Devin Brown, a professor of English at Asbury University, has just published (2013) A Life Observed:  A Spiritual Biography Of C. S. Lewis.  He was in town last month, along with Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham (now in his late sixties), to talk about the famous Christian writer, and his life, and the new book.  I went to the presentation, enjoyed listening to both Brown and Gresham, and bought the book.  It is good.

     The book lives up to its title, and exceeded my expectations:  it is, indeed, a spiritual biography, weaving Lewis's life experiences, the development of his personality, his long and indirect journey to faith, his imaginative and spiritual insights, his friendships, and his feelings, from his birth in Ireland in 1898 to his death in England in 1963.  I have read several other biographies, or commentaries, on the life of Lewis, and they have been pretty good; but I would rate Dr. Brown's recent book as the best.

     I am one of many thousands of Christians who have been decisively influenced by C. S. Lewis.  I remember discovering him when I was about nineteen.  I picked up two of his books on the same day: Screwtape Letters, and Miracles.  It was Miracles that did it for me; it was as if Lewis had awakened my mind; and from then on I would see things differently, and think differently.  In the years following, I read just about everything that Lewis had written; and I would venture to say that there have been very few years since then that I have not re-read one or two of his books.  Like anything by G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Wendell Berry, and a handful of others, they can always be counted upon to be a benefit and blessing to the mind.

     Brown's biography of Lewis avoids the temptation to be a hagiography, and it avoids the opposite temptation to "reassess" Lewis or "reinterpret" him.  It is simply a well-written history of his life and the development of his thinking.  Here is a paragraph where he quotes Austin Farrer, speaking at Lewis' funeral:

     "Farrer commented that, as a writer, Lewis had a unique way of integrating his thoughts, emotions, and imagination -- not compartmentalizing them -- and that it was this 'feeling intellect' and 'intellectual imagination' that gave power to the many works Lewis had left behind.   'There lived in his writings,' Farrer told those who had come to honor their friend,  teacher, and colleague, 'a Christian universe which could be both thought and felt, in which he was at home, and in which he made his reader at home.' "

     At the book-signing, I said to Douglas Gresham that I hoped that one day I would get to read his biography.  He immediately replied that I could: it is called Lenten Lands, and he wrote it many years ago.  I was able to get hold of a copy, and enjoyed it, too.  His focus is on his childhood and teenage years in the Lewis household, but he goes on to talk about his own later life, travels, marriage, and family.  His stories are interesting, insightful, and well told.

     In times like our own, when George Orwell's prophetic warnings about our society's nature are especially and immediately troubling, remembering C. S. Lewis is a good thing.


Friday, October 4, 2013

One Cheer For Post Modernism

     I am going to raise one cheer -- only one -- for Post Modernism.  And it is for this reason: it is replacing Modernism.  Modernism?

     Modernism.  It is a mindset that has dominated the West for most of the past two centuries.  In natural philosophy, it became Scientism.  In moral philosophy, Relativism.  In economics, Consumerism.  In religion, Unbelief.  In psychology, soulless Behaviorism.  In domestic politics, Bureaucracy.  In world affairs, Globalism.  In art, the Absurd.

     It is the offspring of the unholy trinity of Mammonism, Mechanism, and Moloch. It demands our tribute.  It claims to be our Source and our Reason for Being.  It compels our worship of its idols of  iron, clay, and stubble.  Why defend Modernism, on any grounds?

     If it were a ship, it would be the Titanic.  If it were a computer, it would be HAL.  If it were a continent, it would be Atlantis.  If it were a book, it would be 1984.

     I could go on.  In fact, I will go on.  But not with modernism, insofar as I can help it.

     The Post-Moderns may, or may not, have found Truth.  They may not even be looking for it.   But I'll agree with them about this much:  Modernism is a Big Lie.  And that's a pretty big truth right there.

     So for that, I give them one cheer.  A big one.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Looking Behind The Curtain Of Obamacare

     Since the New Deal began in the 1930s, about 90% of all federal laws are "administrative," meaning that they are manufactured, published, and enforced by bureaucrats.  Congress is kept in "idle" mode, and the job of the federal judiciary is to sort it all out and make sense of it all.  And the responsibility of the Supreme Court is to "ratify" it all as "constitutional." (Remember Chief Justice John Roberts' crucial fifth vote on Obamacare?  He knew what he had to do.)

     Obamacare was conceived in some obscure think tank somewhere; and here we all are.  And how are we going to shut down a think tank?

     Actually, this way of generating federal law was all old hat even in the late 60s, which I remember.  The system was set up and put in place long before my generation, the Baby Boomers, were even born -- in fact, before my parents' generation was even old enough to fight in World War II.  So far as I know, nobody has figured out what to do about it -- as in, how to stop it, let alone reverse it.

     By the way, I'm not mad at anybody who hasn't "taken the Red Pill" yet.  Most people don't even know that there is a Red Pill.  But this is "The Matrix," folks.

     If you doubt the truth, or significance, of what I am saying, I refer you to the ever-growing "Federal Register."  See what laws you are responsible to obey in this country, and see who promulgated them.  Good luck and happy reading.  I'll bet your eyes glaze over.  I'll bet you won't be able to make sense of even half of it.  I bet you'll say, "I can't believe anybody has time to even read all this stuff."  And I'll bet you're right.

     Not really trying to make excuses for my generation.  Just saying. YMMV.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Linking To The Mendeleyev Journal

     When I find a very interesting link, or website, I like to pass it on to the readers of Sycamore Three.  I just found another one.  (The website has been in existence about five years, and has received hundreds of thousands of hits; so I'm late to the game, as usual.)

     If you are interested in historical, cultural, or religious affairs in Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe, I think this is a great resource.   Hosted by an American journalist who has been in "the former Soviet Union" for some years, and who has been privileged to travel regularly, as a member of the foreign press, with the very top recent Russian leaders, Medvedev and Putin, the information given is of good quality.

     This link will get you to the "About" page of the Mendeleyev Journal.  Take it from there.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Will Grigg's Interesting Discovery

Will Grigg posted this personal story on Facebook, and has generously allowed me to repost it here.  Will regularly posts at his own website, Pro Libertate, and often contributes to the libertarian website, Lew Rockwell.


"I'm trying to find Vonda Bentley," I explained to the small woman who answered when I knocked on her door in Pocatello, Idaho.

"I'm Vonda," she said, treating the large, brown stranger in her doorway to a look that contained a small measure of skepticism but not a trace of fear.

"My name is Will Grigg, and I live with my family in Payette," I quietly explained. "I was born in Burley in February 1963."

"I had a baby in Burley in February, 1963," Vonda said, a smile beginning to creep across her face.

"Then I would be your son," I replied, returning her smile.

"I've been trying to find you for a long time," she said. "I actually tried to get you back after you were born, but I was too young and I couldn't take care of you."

"I know -- my adoptive parents explained that to me," I told her, struggling to retain my composure. "I've been trying to find you for a long time, as well -- to say, thank you."

"For what?" she inquired.

"For having me," I responded with a tiny chuckle.

"That's good -- sometimes things like this don't turn out this way, sometimes the children feel as if they were abandoned --"

"I want you to know that my adoptive parents, Dick and Angie Grigg, told me when I was very young that my adoption wasn't an act of neglect, or rejection, or abandonment -- but rather one of sacrificial love," I assured Vonda. "They also told me that you did want to take me back, but that you couldn't take care of me."

"That's true -- I was too young and didn't know what to do," she explained. "Your first crib was a dresser drawer, and I knew that I had to find someone to help. So you were originally being cared for by an aunt, but she couldn't give you what you needed." Vonda eventually explained that she took me to a Dr. Sutton (she doesn't remember his first name) in Burley, who could help arrange an adoption.

"How did you find me?" Vonda asked.

"Well, when I was about four or five, I went through my Dad's files trying to find my adoption papers," I recounted. "I learned that my birth mother's name was Vonda Bentley, and for decades I tired to find you and contact you. A few months ago, a very kind friend of mine who is a private investigator, and has access to specialized databases, generously offered to help me track you down."

I told Vonda that my curiosity about my adoption was triggered by the recognition that I "didn't look anything like my parents."

"You didn't look anything like them -- well, you're Hawaiian, you know."

No. I hadn't known that.

Nonplussed, I turned to my friend Scott Watson, who had come with me to Pocatello (after a trip to report on a horrible story of police abuse in Idaho Falls -- watch for details in Pro Libertate).

"I'm not Mexican?" I said, stunned by this revelation.

"No, you're Hawaiian and Spanish -- and Cherokee -- as well as Irish on my side. You have grandparents named Watson --"

"Watson?!" Scott exclaimed. "That's MY name!"

"I was born in Alabama, and lived in Chicago and then California," Vonda continued. "My folks were from Georgia, and their grandparents owned a plantation -- but they didn't have slaves."

Pausing for a second, Vonda said: "Yes, you have Jerry's build."

"`Jerry'?" I said in puzzlement.

"Yes, your brother -- well, your half-brother. He's inside sleeping."

Vonda went into her apartment and roused a fellow who didn't seem particularly eager to come out. (I would later learn that Jerry had worked the graveyard shift, and was able to get only a few hours' sleep.) A few minutes later a very broad man came out and shook my hand. Jerry is 44 years old, Vonda's son from a marriage that ended tragically in 1972 when her husband was killed by a drunk driver. Twenty years later, my half-sister, Lee (or Lea -- I didn't get the spelling) was killed the same way in an accident in Las Vegas.

This might explain why one of the first questions Vonda asked me was: "Do you drink?"

"No -- never, not at all; alcohol makes me nauseous," I assured her.

"Good," she said, nodding her head in satisfaction.

We spoke for about a half-hour, discussing Korrin and our children, my adoptive parents and family, and Vonda's experiences growing up in a home ruled by a very intelligent man with a severe drinking problem. I discovered that my biological father was Hawaiian and, from Vonda's description, most likely Basque ("He wasn't Mexican, but he was Spanish, and he was dark-skinned with a very unusual last name that sounded French or Italian").

Antony, the biological instigator of my physical existence was also -- no other word is adequate -- a gangster.

"He was into some bad stuff," Vonda recalled. "I knew I had to get away from him. I would sleep in a room with lumps under the carpet, and when I'd lift it up I'd find rolls of money, and large numbers of checks, and a stamp with 'bonded' on it so he could cash them, and he was burying furs and other things in the yard outside our house. I knew he was going to wind up in prison, and that if I didn't leave I would have wound up there as well."

Vonda asked what I do, and I explained it to her. As I described my work in reporting on civil liberties issues and police abuse, she nodded in weary, familiar acknowledgement.

We hadn't chatted for more than fifteen minutes before she mentioned the Constitution and the right of self-defense. A few minutes later she lamented that "this country is turning Communist."

"I'm of the opinion that we've already arrived," I said, turning to Scott and commenting that this conversational turn somehow seemed appropriate, if not inevitable.

Vonda is 69 years old. She is youthful, perspicuous, well-spoken, and not intimidated by anybody. She gave birth to me exactly one week before her 19th birthday. She is also very eager to meet my wife and her grandchildren. This is going to happen, very soon.

As we left, I asked if I could give her a hug. She smiled and reached up to me, and we clung to each other for several seconds. Then she caressed my cheek, and urged us to drive carefully back to Payette.

When Vonda last saw me, I was a six-week-old infant named Kevin. She immediately accepted the 50-year-old man who is now called Will. In the intervening decades, she never gave up trying to find me.

I woke up this morning believing that I was half-Irish and half-Mexican; I drove home to inform Korrin that she had married a man who is actually Hawaiian/Cherokee/Basque/Irish -- and who had just been blessed to meet the woman who loved me enough to give birth to me under very trying circumstances, then to find others she could trust to raise me when she realized that she couldn't.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

America's Masked Men

     "Supporting al-Qaida" can get you in trouble.

      People in America have been prosecuted for contributing to Muslim charities, even "government approved" ones, on some legal theory that they are really funding "terrorists,"  like Al-Qaida.

      "Ties to al-Qaida" was public justification enough to decide that Saddam Hussein must be overthrown by war.

     On the other hand, the CIA can covertly, or even openly, send money and ship weapons (including WMDs like poison gas) in support of the very same al-Qaida.  They cut deals, and break deals, with whomever they want, with no respect to any law.

     But speaking of law,  US federal law makes it a crime to even reveal who they are, to common citizens such as ourselves.  High government officials are liable for serious prison time if they should dare to name names.  (Remember "Scooter" Libby, the guy in the Bush Administration who got prosecuted for that?)

     Don't be surprised to find out that they can threaten journalists, congressmen, presidents, and private citizens who get in their way.

     Who are these masked men?



Friday, September 13, 2013

Vladimir Putin's Impressive Op-Ed

Guest post by Ben Carmack

My sense of history in the making is roughly as poor as anyone else's but I wanted to record here Vladimir Putin's op-ed in the New York Times. The Russian president made a number of excellent points, and showed himself to be a true world leader, appealing to international cooperation and international law as the key for solving problems of violence and warfare, rather than aggressive American military intervention in other countries.

For most Americans I suspect (though a lot of people have been waking up lately, and reacting strongly against the proposed Syria strike) Putin's observations about how America is perceived abroad will come as an unpleasant surprise, which they may or may not accept. What remains is that Mr. Putin's observation is simply true. The world tires of America's intervention in other nations' internal affairs. They tire of "American exceptionalism." They seek nuclear weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction, in order to be free of the fear of being invaded and messed with themselves.

Putin observantly, again probably surprising his American readers, points out that the poison gas used in Syria was likely used by the Syrian rebels to make it appear as though the Syrian government used it, in order to provoke an intervention from the U.S. to topple Bashar al Assad's regime. Unlike most Americans, Mr. Putin is aware that "false flag operations" exist. He is aware that international intrigue is a "real thing." He saw, and the world saw, though America in her media fog did not, that the people of America were being suckered into another foreign conflict for trumped up concocted reasons. Mr. Putin acted to stop it.

Putin began his first term as president of Russia in 1999, when he took over for Boris Yeltsin. Early in his presidency, I recall George W. Bush meeting with Putin and saying something to the effect of "I look into his eyes and can see he is a good, God-fearing man." Mr. Bush was made fun of for his naivete, but I think there was something to it. I think George W. Bush, before 9/11, before the neocon handlers in his administration completely took over, had a pretty good read of the world. It was Bush, after all, who promised a "humble foreign policy" when he first ran for president in 2000.

Mr. Putin has shown himself the good man in this drama, but I think there's more going on here than meets the eye. The United States has been prevented from doing something that, for over 20 years now, it has taken for granted: the right to strike or invade any country at any time. Could it be that after years of a bad economy, crippling debt and deficits, unwinnable foreign conflicts and suchlike, America has been weakened, while Russia and China have been growing stronger? Could it be that the old unipolar world is giving way to a multipolar world? We will see. But the winner of "the hearts and minds" this week was clearly Vladimir Putin, with Obama coming in far behind.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Some Thoughts On The Merits Of Virtue

     In his short but important book, The Abolition Of Man, C. S. Lewis proposed a kind of tri-partite view of man that went like this:  At the top was the Head, the home of the intellect and rational processes, including the ability of ideation and the aquisition of rational ideals.  Lower down was the Belly, the seat of (necessary, but necessarily selfish) bodily appetites and the fulfillment of personal physical needs, such as hunger, reproduction, and the like.  Between them, and mediating between them, was the Chest, which he proposed was the seat of virtue and those other things which integrate the activities of the head and the belly and produce a healthy, whole human person.  He suggested that modern man (specifically, the man produced in the prevalent western-modern culture he was familiar with, in the first half of the twentieth century) was defective with respect to the chest, the seat of the virtues.  He called his first essay of the book, "Men Without Chests."

     He further proposed that the educational system, the one that was in place in Britain in his day, was partly to blame for this -- that it was systematically (whether consciously or unconsciously -- as I recall, he believed consciously) destroying the very possibility that the young men of his time could grow up with healthy "chests."  Modern education was, in effect, destroying virtue by denying its existence.  In Lewis' own words, "We laugh at honor, and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."

     In his final essay he invoked the "Tao," the Way, as a possible means of recovery.  When I first read this book, as a young college student, it caught my attention.  I knew nothing whatever of the concept of the "Tao," and certainly had no idea of its relevance to someone such as myself.  I guess I had read some brief reference in a high school "World History" course -- but I had dismissed it as some antiquated notion of the always inscrutible and certainly irrelevant Chinese.

     Lewis more or less "universalized" the Tao -- if "universalized" is the right word here -- by showing that it was present, or at least implicit, in the writings and traditions of many ancient cultures -- I particularly remember references to the early Egyptian culture, as well as the later Nordic pagans.  For the purposes of his book, he roughly equated Tao with what we sometimes call "natural law" -- that "rule" that is there, that we all more or less acknowledge, that exists above, or with, our mere "selves."

     Eventually, this got me interested in Laotse, the Chinese philosopher (circa 500 BC) whose name is most closely associated with the Tao.  So I read the Tao Te Ching.

     I think that it is useful to roughly equate "natural law," in Lewis's sense, with the Tao of Laotse, as long as we remember that, to Laotse, Tao is not only all-pervasive, it is inherently mysterious and undefinable; indeed, the opening sentence of his book says, "The Tao that can be named, is not the true Tao."  It is in some sense spiritual, or at least transcendant -- or at least, it transcends language.

     Laotse proposed a kind of hierarchy of value:  the Tao, whatever it is, is the Highest.  Law and legality are the Lowest, except perhaps for anarchy and chaos.  Somewhere between them, he said, was Virtue.  Because men forget Tao, they become merely Virtuous; because they abandon Virtue, they are left with  Law.  (Yes, scholars, I know I am simplifying here; please forgive me.)

     So, we have the philosophers Laotse and Lewis somehow in rough agreement about the importance of Virtue.  And in the absence of Virtue, pace Lewis, there is the danger that the Belly will rule; or pace Laotse, mere Law (legalism) must be invoked to control it.

     What is virtue?  To the Latins the word meant something akin to "manly goodness,"  and that is the sense in which I will use it.

    The English Bible uses the word in several instances.  When the Woman With The Issue Of Blood touches the hem of Jesus' garment, He stops and says, "I perceive that virtue went forth from me."  One senses that it was a kind of energy, almost a chi.

     St. Peter, in one of his Epistles, stipulates a spiritual progression for the Christian that begins with Faith and ends, several steps later, with Love.  In his words, Faith is to proceed with Virtue, Patience, and so forth, before it culminates in Brotherly Kindness and Love.  In this case, it is more like an activity or a state of mind (or of the soul).

     Christian tradition has long emphasized the importance of the virtues, and has enumerated them.  Traditionally there are seven (of course), set in opposition to the Deadly Sins.  The lists vary.  One popular source gave the list as: Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility, which is practically a conflation of St. Peter's progression.  In this view, it is the Virtues that overcome Sin.

     And there is the other, very similar list of seven virtues, consisting of the Four Cardinal Virtues of Temperance, Wisdom, Justice, and Courage, along with the Three Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity.  The emphasis here seems to be, aspects of character.

     Manly goodness, in the best sense then, seems to be possessed of an energy, an activity, and a state of being.  It mediates between -- or gathers within itself -- rationality and mere appetite, the ideal and the physical, mind and matter.  It actualizes the Good.  It aspires to rise above Law to acknowledge the mysterious Way.

     If we have lost it, or are in danger of losing it, as Lewis suggests we are, then we must anticipate conflict between rational mind and mere appetites, and a drift toward Law -- that is, mere legalism -- in a vain expectation of controlling ourselves, or being controlled.  I fear that this is, in effect, a Falling from Grace.



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Time To Keep Calling Out The BS On Neo-Cons And Saudi Arabia

     It's that time of the year again -- the anniversary of "September 11,"  the event that "changed everything."

     Well, did it change everything? No, but I'll be one of the first to agree that it changed a lot.

     One of the big things that changed was that it put the Neo-conservative wing of the Republican Party firmly in control of the agenda of the Bush-43 administration; and thereby put the neo-cons in control of the Consensus National Narrative; and thereby put the neo-cons in charge of the Media-Government, with all its power to control diplomacy, create wars where none existed, lie to the people whenever they want to, and to do the rest of whatever it is they do, whether in secret behind closed doors, or in the open all over the airwaves.

     Their word for it, not mine, is "full-spectrum dominance."  We thought they meant "full-spectrum dominance" over the Bad Guys.  Not really -- it's time to meditate on the real meaning of "full spectrum dominance," sports-fans.  I am part of the "full spectrum" they are dominating.  So are you.  So are our families, our friends, and the people we work with.  We're all in the "full spectrum"  Oh.  Whoa.

     Most people understand, at some level, that the neo-con agenda is a sort of three-legged stool.  Always, without exception, they (and by extension "we", their subjects) are expected to be

     1) Reflexively pro-Wall Street investment bankers --that is to say, Standing For Our American Entrepreneurial Way Of Life
     2) Reflexively pro-Israel -- that is to say, Standing For A Few Hot-heads Who Have Entirely Too Much Influence In The Only Democracy In The Middle East
     3) Reflexively pro-Big War --that is to say,  Standing For the Great Crusade For The Four Freedoms Around The World

     Okay, I understand that a lot of folks are very okay with all of that.  Fine, we'll save that for some other time.

     What some people seem to have overlooked is Point Four.   It is easily overlooked because it is not often mentioned in polite company, or on the talk shows.  Here is Point 4:  The neo-cons are also

     4) Joined at the hip with the (rather wealthy, influential, and ambitious) intelligence network that is the geo-political backbone of the Saudi royal family.

     Remember with me, for a moment, the following facts and factors surrounding September 11, just twelve short years ago.

     A.  Roughly fifteen of the nineteen "hijackers with box-cutters" were from -- remember? -- Saudi Arabia.  ( Read: not Iraq, not Iran, not even Afghanistan)  Why didn't we attack Saudi Arabia?

     B. On September 11, when the entire civil air fleet of the nation was grounded, jets bound for Saudi Arabia were cleared to depart the US and fly away unrestricted.

     C. The Carlyle Group (oil investors, among other things) includes the Bush family and the Bin Laden family, who are their personal friends.  Look it up.  The Bin Ladens are from Saudi Arabia.

     D. The Media-Narrative immediately blamed Osama Bin Laden for 9/11, before any evidence could possibly have been investigated.  Highly placed government people such as Vice President Dick Cheney chimed in.  Osama was a supposedly "rogue" member of the Bin Laden Oil Family.  He may have been "rogue," for all I know -- he was certainly at odds with some of the more materialistic and secular views of his brethren.  What is known is that at the time of the September 11 attacks, he was seriously ill with kidney disease, he was on dialysis, he was in frequent contact with the CIA, and with Pakistani intelligence (also our friends at the time), and his days were numbered.  Knowledgeable people both inside and outside the "intelligence community"  -- that worldwide network of the Keepers Of The Secrets -- noted that he died in December, 2001.  Can we say, "conveniently soon-to-be-unavailable scapegoat," eminently useful to direct attention away from the true perpetrators of the attack?

     E. Nevertheless, the Media-Government Narrative, ten years later, "attacked Osama Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan," then "our Navy Seals killed him," the event was "documented" with suitably staged and re-touched photographs, and "his body was buried at sea," in accordance with "Muslim wishes."  We know all this because Our President Barack Obama and Our Secretary of State Hilary Clinton "saw it happen in real time!"

    Fast forwarding to the present.  Which nation is most actively financing, arming and directing the "rebels" in Syria?

     Hint.  It isn't Turkey.  It isn't Russia.  It isn't Britain or France.  It isn't Israel.  It isn't even the good old US of A.  Now: three guesses -- which nation is most actively arming, training, and directing the "rebels" in Syria?

     Set aside, for a moment, your personal beliefs and commitments, whether for or against, points 1, 2, and 3 above.  Let's go to point 4.  Do you feel a deep personal and patriotic commitment to support the aims and aspirations of the king and government of Saudi Arabia?  (If so, why?  Fun fact:  the US does not need Saudi oil. Not now, and never has at any time in the past.)

     Question to ponder for a moment.  Why do our leaders put US foreign policy at the service of the Saudi royal family?  Is this some sort of Mob thing -- do our guys owe the Saudis big-time for some bad debts?  Or have they secretly converted to the Wahhabist "faith"?  Or is this some kind of world-wide conspiracy?  Or is it just the ignorant goofiness that the top-level Republicans and Democrats always seem to have plenty of?

     I don't know either.  But when things are as weird as they are right now -- when government leaders are doing all kinds of things that are not in the best interests of the people of the United States, I'm asking more questions than ever, and I'm also turning on the BS-meter.  Right now, it is pegging out.

     Some of you have been doing the same thing.  I'd say we represent about 10% of the population, on a good day.  If I had been writing this as recently as two weeks ago, I might have said that now that people are hurting economically, maybe the numbers are climbing to about 20%.

     But here is an interesting thing:  the most recent polls show that over 80% of the people of the United States are opposing our government over its Syria policies and its well-advanced plans for war.

     Over eighty-percent. (Some polls indicate over 90%.)  This means that a clear majority of the people, in just about any demographic you care to name -- poor, middle-class, conservative, liberal, Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist -- are starting to ask questions and express doubts -- perhaps as many as four out of five people you and I know and work with on a daily basis.

     So if you know -- or if you have any good idea -- about what is really going on, I think now is a really good time to keep on calling out the BS whenever and wherever you smell it.  Other people are starting to notice it, too.  Help them out.

     And I suggest that we all keep an eye on the neo-cons and the Saudis.  --it happens.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Paul Craig Roberts Says 'The West Is Dethroned'

     Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during the Reagan Administration, and author of the book, The Tyranny Of Good Intentions, has just written a dramatically worded commentary on what has happened at the G20 summit the past few days.

     Over the last several years I have read many of Mr. Roberts' posts on matters political and economic (and I have also read his book).  He is a good, sober thinker and writer, and has a pretty good take on where we are, as a nation, and how we got there.  I take him seriously.

     If the long-term consequences are as severe as he foresees -- then indeed the S has already started to H T F.

     Here is the link to his article.

     My personal guess is that we will see a more-or-less managed down-slide in the economy in the next few weeks and months, rather than outright financial disintegration, as we move into a long and hard Second Depression.  But I could certainly be wrong about that.  Some sort of rapid disintegration, some "black swan" event, might be in the cards.

     Now might be a really good time for folks to track back and find out what really happened on 9/11/2001, since we have, as a nation, been carefully avoiding this up till now.  Mr. Roberts provides some very clear statements, if you are paying careful attention.

     I have mentioned something about this myself.  Here and here.  Happy 12th anniversary of the 9/11 Lie, America. Day after tomorrow.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Current Events In Syria, And The Persecuted Church

     In light of the current peculiarities in the relations between the US Government and Syria, a good friend raises a good question.  He writes, in response to my last post:

The question I have is about personal strategy. How should Christians behave in a world that is at war? Many tens of thousands of Christians left Iraq to escape persecution and went to Syria where they are now the buffer zone in an even more dangerous hostility. The Christians in other Muslim controlled countries have to keep a low profile to avoid being targeted by extremists. Is there anything we can do to help them and to identify with the suffering persecuted church?

     As I said, I think that this is a good question, and one that mindful Christians ought to be addressing very seriously.   As with many practical, real-world questions of this kind, I note that the general situation is complex -- tangled, even -- and it should not be surprising that the answers are complex as well.

     I do not think that I have all the answers, or indeed, perhaps, any answer; and at the end of this post, all I expect to do is suggest a part of an approach.  I will focus my thoughts on the first statement, and on the last question.

     (I suspect that my comments will, at the beginning, tend to come across as complaining or blaming, but I sense that they are necessary to frame the situation, at least as I see it.  Bear with me.)

     Let us begin with the last question:  "Is there anything we can do to help them and to identify with the suffering persecuted church?"

     My first response would be, with a touch of anger in my tone, "The very first thing that we can do to help them and to identify with them is to recognize that they even exist -- which American Christians that I know have not done."  And right there begins a problem for me, since my response consists of a gross generalization, and an implicit general criticism, and I know that it does not even apply to my good friend and brother who raised the question.  Nevertheless, I would note, a gross generalization can be true as a gross generalization, even if it is false as to important exceptions.  (And I am writing for a very small, but very world-wide audience.) At any rate, I am here talking about bad ideas rather than seeking to blame "bad people," so again I ask you to bear with me, and believe that I am not attacking persons as persons.  I am trying to separate bad ideas from good people (or ordinary people).  I am seeking to disentangle a bad knot from a good shoe-string, if you will.

     My first response, then, reading it backward, is that American Christians have generally not even recognized that the Christians in the Middle East exist at all.  Yes, I know that there are wonderful exceptions.  I know that Shane Claiborne was on the ground in Iraq with the Christians (and Muslims) before the "shock and awe" fell from American bombers in 2003, and stood with them in that ordeal.  I know that Brother Andrew has been in contact with Christians (and Muslims) in Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine for many years.  I know that Carl Madearis has, too.  No doubt there are many others, and I have personally met some of them.  But these are exceptional cases of people who have actually taken it upon themselves to go to the locations in question, and get first hand experience.  For most American Christians, this is simply not the case.  They have not even heard of the Syrian Orthodox Church, or the Assyrian Church, or Maronites.  A few may have heard of the Copts, but they know next to nothing about them.

     If an American Christian, myself included, wants to know what is going on in the world around him, he is pretty much totally dependent on the available media outlets, and on the pulpit.  The media outlets are usually limited to the nightly-news, supplemented with some talk-radio and perhaps a newspaper subscription.  All of these are heavily influenced by what I shall call the Consensus Narrative, or more simply the Narrative, which, if not controlled by Controllers, is at least influenced by Influencers.  And I would argue, and I think most of us would agree, that this Narrative is capable of misinformation and even disinformation.  This Narrative is not interested in talking about the "persecuted church," or even the Church at all, in anything like a truthful or positive light.  (At least, I did not hear much in the media about the concerns of the "persecuted church" during "Operation Iraqi Freedom" in 2003, or thereafter.)   So that is a part of the problem -- the media-government Narrative is strongly biased.  We must deal with it.

     The second source of information for most American Christians is the pulpit -- which I am extending here to include most other Christian media -- Christian talk-radio, Christian publishing, Christian music concerts, and the like, which disseminates a "Christian world-view" to its audience.  That world-view has been formed, in large part, by "end times" rhetoric and an all-American and Israel-centric theology that has completely obscured the existence and the role of the Church in the Middle East.  This is much too broad a topic to address in a single post, so I shall not try.  I simply mention that this world-view exists.  I would add that it is generally -- another gross generalization -- pervasive in the American Church.

     With that I conclude, for the moment, my comments on the final question.  As I said, I am only suggesting a part of an approach.

     I'll turn to the first sentence in the reply: "The question I have is about personal strategy."  I can only give my own.

     My own personal strategy has been to re-examine myself and the world around me, and to raise fundamental questions about what is going on.  And I have taken the time (years) to search for answers, and to wait for them if necessary.  In my case, I have found this personally helpful.

     I will admit to some personal biases.  My personal biases include the following.

     1.  I do not trust a single thing that my media/government says or does, and haven't for many years.  This personal viewpoint has led me to do quite a bit of personal inquiry and research over some years, and I have found that my government has lied to me, and to my friends and neighbors, on so many matters of importance, for so long, that I am sticking with this bias.

     2.  I mostly do not trust the spokespersons of the modern American church.  They come across as entertainers, preferring appearance over substance.  Their "prophecy conferences" do not impress me or enlighten me.  Their "worship events" leave me cold.  Their constant affirmations of "America's Godly Heritage" is a 95% lie.  Their "revelations" and "anointings" I find shallow and unfruitful.  Their "proclamations of the gospel," while frequently containing important truth, are too often crippled in their public delivery by ignorance coupled with arrogance.

     (This has not, so far, shaken my own faith.  I fully believe in everything that I read in the Apostles' Creed.  I attend church regularly.  I read the Holy Scriptures, and I believe them.  I pray, and see remarkable answers.  I walk in love.  I am kindly to people with whom I disagree -- I do not use such blunt remarks (as I used in #2 above) in face-to-face conversations with brothers in Christ.  (Of course, they don't often ask for my opinion, either.)  In brief, I seek to trust Christ.  But I no longer trust the Church.)

     Have I said enough?  I do not think that the American Church is in any position to help the persecuted Christians anywhere, at all.  For one thing, they are not even inclined to do so.  Rather, they are a contributing cause of the persecution of the persecuted Christians, by repeatedly praying to God to bless our all-American-all-Israel-all-righteous invasions of their home countries, placing them under even more hostility and suspicion than they have had before.

     Since that is the way that I think right now, all I can suggest is personal strategy.  I've suggested a part of my approach.  I have some personal intentions and future objectives.  I invite you to develop your own.  Perhaps you can find a way to influence your local congregation.  I would suggest an approach:

     1.  Question the Narrative yourself.  (Perhaps you already have.)  Ask lots of people lots of questions.  Ask them what they have found.  Take notes on what you find.

     2.  Question the Christian (churchian) Narrative.  Ask lots of Christians lots of questions.  Ask them what they have found.  Take notes on what you find.

     After all that, and based on your findings, it might be time to:

     3.  Strongly encourage other Christians, preferably in private or in very small groups, to begin to question the Narratives. Ask people.  Take notes.

     4.  Take it from there.     

     Notice that I do not get around to proposing some major action in the larger American Church to "help the persecuted Church."  What help can Laodicea give to Smyrna?

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 Your comments are always welcome.  Usual courtesies apply.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Strong Pictures, Strong Words

     It's time to switch from the NFL openers, sports fans.  It's time to shut off the Disney Channel, Christians.  Time to stop watching all the survivor shows, reality-tv addicts.

     Here is a still photo (and accompanying article) of Syrian-rebel atrocities.  It was clipped from a lengthy video that made some of the staff at New York Times "sick." And even this video, they say in the article, was redacted -- they blanked over the worst parts.  Furthermore, you can probably find it on YouTube if you look (I'm not recommending that), because that's where, several weeks ago, I found the one where the rebels ("our guys," you know) beheaded a Christian bishop, the event fully captured by a cell-phone camera.  Yes, it was very sickening.  Obscenely sickening.

    I'd like to say, to those Masters of the Narrative at New York Times,  "This is the first time you saw?  This is the first time you knew?"

    Even if you happened to somehow miss that other recent video I just mentioned,  I still don't think so.  I have a long memory -- long enough to remember the circumstances that gave rise to a song with these lines:  "How many times can a man turn his face, And pretend that he just doesn't see?"   It wasn't just a song -- it was a pointer to a muddy, bloody reality -- a totally unnecessary war. 

     Let's get real, people.  Sports are fun; Disney is entertaining; we may even be learning "something" from reality-tv.  I'm not asking anybody to permanently abandon their innocent amusements.

     But take the time to see this and process it.  And ask yourself, as a fully alive human being:  "What does my body -- my living human body -- think about what is going on here?  Can I put myself in the mindset, and in the body-set, of this situation?", because this is strong stuff.

     And the whole world is watching.  You can bet, in the recent summit, that Obama, Putin, Cameron, and their staffs -- everybody knew.  These pictures cut through a ton of bureaucratic drivel, diplomatic posturing, military "intelligence estimates," nightly-news-spots, and political horse-shit.

     Yes, I said horse-shit, on the civil, friendly, and intelligent pages of this blog.  I don't often do that.  (And I want any comments to be restrained: I'll do the ranting here.)  But it is far better to talk about it now, in plain, strong, manly language, than to wait until the real thing hits the fan, when we are finally forced to realize what has been really going on, so badly, for so long -- and our own "Media-Government-National-Security" people's complicity and connivance in the whole thing, because we hadn't been paying attention.

     Which brings me to George Carlin.  He talked about this kind of stuff years ago.  Some people listened, but not enough -- he was not polite.  I suggest that some men around here need to listen to what he says, so I've provided a link below.  Women and children, I don't advise.  His language is awful.  But just remember he is trying to talk about awful truth.

     If you don't think you can take the language, don't click the Carlin link, I'm warning you.  Head back to ESPN, Disney, and reality-tv.  But something is still going to hit the fan -- and it already is.


     The US Government has no legitimate business, no moral right, and no "national security" reason to involve itself at all in the ghastly war that is going on in Syria.  Our hands are already bloody, and our "bipartisan" leadership is guilty, for arming anybody in this tragic and unnecessary conflict.

     The rebels are an unholy mixture of hotheads, recruits, mercenaries, and agents of Saudi Intelligence, carrying out their long mission to establish Wahhabi-faction supremacy over as many of their neighbors as they can.  Our agents have been supporting them, and giving them arms and encouragement.  They want to overthrow and replace the Alawites who control Syria.  They have much innocent blood on their hands.

     The Alawites do not want to be conquered.  They also have blood on their hands.

     The common people do not want war.

   If America has any role at all, it ought to be: to help to reduce and resolve conflict, not to provoke it.  Remember Iraq?



The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range

     It's time to dust off the old disk and listen to the song again.  The title says it all, in one sense; but the song says it better -- read and listen!   Lyrics here.  Video here.  Maybe they could start playing it in the coffee shops and sports bars -- or in the halls of power in Washington, where ignoring consequences, and "being out of range," is a pastime (or mindset).  It's time.

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Thanks to LRC for the heads-up.  Lyrics by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Syria On-Going: Three Similar Perspectives

     I hesitate to make this further post about Syria, because I do not want this site to become merely political comment and counter-comment.  Whatever the Great Conversation may be, and whatever our small part in it, it must remain, in my view, something more and better than merely "current events," or even a discussion of war and my own anti-war views; and I have already posted my thoughts on Syria (here and here.)  That is to say, this "further post" may be hardly more than self-distraction on my part.

    I am indeed working on some other posts, with other themes, that I am not ready to publish, delayed partly because the considerable current reportage about the conflict in Syria, and the conflict over Syria, are much in the news -- as they should be, in my way of thinking -- and finally raising fresh lines of questioning that are long overdue.  So I am readily admitting to some self-distraction here.

     I am here posting several recent links that I have run across, or that have been sent to me by much respected friends.  I recommend them to your reading and consideration.

     "No Syrian War To Save Obama's Face!" by Patrick Buchanan.  Extremely current (September, 2013), and providing interesting information about the past use of poison gas in previous wars.  I often agree with Pat Buchanan on matters concerning foreign policy (though not necessarily on matters domestic or partisan), and this is one of those times.

     "Syria And Byzantine Strategy," by Robert Kaplan.  Extremely current (September, 2013), and with an important (because rare) look at certain successful long-ago political strategies in that part of the world.

     "Those Old Colonial Lusts," by Eric Margolis.  This was written in June, 2013, and might seem dated; but since it provides much historical background that we have either never known, or have just forgotten, it remains quite timely.

     Each of the writers of the links above is a man having long political engagement, and much direct real-world experience.  Their thinking is much better informed than we can usually expect from bright youthful journalists who read the predigested printouts from the press-wires to us, or retired old generals who comment authoritatively from power-point scripts handed out by the Pentagon.

     Each of these essays can help us rise above the sound-bite-level, tomorrow-morning, either/or-snap-decision mentality that seems to be just about all that the U.S. main-stream-media affords.

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Comments are always welcome.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Attack on Syria: Brief and Limited

     This post will be brief and limited.

     In a post entitled, "Loose lips on Syria," the Wall Street Journal Online has announced, in a sort of regretful way, that "U.S. leaks tell Assad he can relax.  The bombing will be brief and limited." The subtext is ambiguous, at least to me.

     They would like for Assad to "not relax"?  Or, they would like for there to be no war, under the circumstances?  Or, they are opposed to this prospective war on principle?  Or, they want an all out war, and they are afraid that this pre-limited method of entry won't quite do it?

     Is the bombing a done-deal?  Or is it not?  Is this article a last-minute trial balloon to test public reaction?  Or is it a justification-in-advance for some future "We-told-you-so,"  given several possible endings to the "scenario"?

     The Wall Street Journal, much like the New York Times, serves as a generations-old media agency for the American-British-Israel Establishment.  It is used both to inform and to disinform.  I do not know what it is doing at this time (or ever).

     I will confine myself to this remark:

     The September 11, 2001, attacks upon targets in the United States were also brief, and limited.  Point being . . . ?

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     I have written more extensively on this subject in my post of April 27, 2013: "Syria, Chemical Weapons, And The West."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

James Altucher and Two Lifehacks

     I like to write about other writers that I enjoy reading, and post something about them, or by them, here.

     Why, you ask. 

     1.  Because I think they have something interesting and different to say -- something that I haven't thought of myself (and might not in a hundred years), because I think you might like it, and either (a), get to their writings on a more frequent basis, or even, (b), be tempted to get back here with some positive or negative comments.

     2.  Because sometimes I'm right in the middle of some ideas myself, but I'm not ready to post anything yet, I need another week or two, and it seems a shame to keep the same older posts up at the top over-long, even though they are (always) good.

     So.  James Altucher has written a post titled, provocatively enough, "Two Lifehacks That Will Get People To Like You," and you may have missed that post.  You may even have missed James Altucher himself until now.

     I'll not try to introduce, much less explain, James Altucher.  He is very gifted at explaining himself.  Enjoy the link.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Laurence Vance: Can Conservatives Be Libertarians?

     Laurence Vance is a Christian libertarian whom I have referred to several times on this blog.  He has written a recent article which can be found here:

     My own first reaction is, I doubt it.  The "social conservatives" and "fiscal conservatives" and "religious conservatives" that I know best are so heavily invested in the absolute proven rightness of their political cause(s), that nothing short of a conversion experience in their political philosophy -- and that is what we are talking about, political philosophy -- I say, nothing short of a conversion experience will move them: not losing court battles, not losing budget fights, not dwindling church attendance -- nothing that I can see.

     Oh, I'd like to be wrong, of course.  And I praise Mr. Vance for this essay; that is why I am providing a link on this blog.  I like the way he thinks, I like his reasoning, I like his courage, I like his hopefulness.  I like that he thinks that it should and could happen.

     I just think it isn't going to happen, except on the very smallest scale.  And, odd as it might seem, I'm pretty sure that is for the best.  

     I myself would like to see a few good converts to libertarian thinking.  The operative word for me is, a few.  I don't trust mass anything.  In fact, politically, I don't trust anything much.  Not anymore.

    Please, we don't need any crusades right now, we don't need any Atlas-Shrugged-thumpers, we don't need any demagogues on talk shows, or anywhere else.  And just about the last thing we need is a bunch of "born-again" neo-neo-libertarians stampeding in from anywhere, telling us all that they just got the old time religion, and the very next thing they're coming up with some great idea, some program, that we've all gotta do.  As soon as they pull that, you know they're the same old neo-cons; they haven't changed a bit.  And the very last thing, please, no Big Money.   (Not that Mr. Vance is suggesting, or hoping for, anything of the sort.  He isn't.)

     But enough of my pessimism.

     Back to Mr. Vance's essay.  He gives what I would call an excellent treatment of three issues that concern many conservatives -- same sex marriage, legalized abortion, and illegal-drug use -- where conservatives think they have fundamental disagreement with "libertarians."  He shows the sharp distinction between having a truly libertarian philosophy, and supporting the so-called "Libertarian Party."  (This is not hard for me:  if I believe in true democracy, this does not mean that I believe in the Democratic Party.  If I believe in a constitutional republic, this does not mean that I believe in the Republican Party.)

      He treats the communication problems that arise from ambiguous notions and slogans.  He shows how the strong libertarian commitment to personal liberty relates to the health of personal beliefs and morals, and how it constrains our thinking about expanding government power.

     On all points, I find his reasoning is clear enough, his explanations are effective enough, and his prose is good enough that he is . . . persuasive.  Maybe.

     I honestly hope that Mr. Vance is able to persuade some political conservatives where their true best interests lie.  Maybe conservatives can be libertarians.

     But if they can -- I pray that they don't start some kind of movement.  Please.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

United We Fall?

Guest post by Charles Upole

As long as groups of people have existed there have been those who belong to the group and those who don’t. When someone ridicules a family member, the family will normally bond together to comfort and protect its own.  Schools and small towns form rivalries with other schools and small towns.  College students are trained to despise their rivals and nations when scrutinized by another nation will typically unify behind its leadership.  Its human nature, right?  We all, for the most part, want to belong; we want to be part of a group in which we can identify.  When faced with external threat strange alliances take place, brothers who are in a fight with each other are suddenly the best of friends when the town bully picks on one of them.  Teenagers see one of their classmates in the mall getting picked on by kids from a rival school will come to their rescue; we tend to have a tendency to put any differences aside when faced with a threat.  People from all sorts of backgrounds when faced with the prospect of war will put their differences aside to form a united front against a common enemy.  Keep this in mind.

Ever notice, especially in this country, how we see so much division and groups of people pitted against each other?  We see rich vs. poor, old vs. young, men vs. women, black vs. white, republican vs. democrat, etc., etc., etc.  Each one of these groups takes on the characteristic above of protecting their own at all cost.  This is actually a tactic called the Hegelian Dialectic, where there is a thesis, and anti-thesis and a synthesis.  The goal of synthesis or resolution can only be achieved through the negative friction between the two factions.  We see groups of people pitted against each other all over the world seemingly simultaneously going through the fever pitched negative phase of the Hegelian Dialectic.  One must wonder if this is in fact some sort of social engineering.

While we have these smaller divisive groups that form against one another we also have an overarching call for worldwide unification against common threats such as global warming, terrorism, hunger, AIDS, cancer or some other worldwide epidemic.  The problem is that every single call for worldwide unification is in response to fear.  People who are in the smaller groups fighting one another, unify under one of these “super groups”.

Is the big picture beginning to take shape?  Our cultures, philosophies and values are being synthesized out through the negative friction of the Hegelian Dialectic tactic while corporately we are being unified in fear against a greater “threat”.  I’m not going to debate whether or not these perceived threats have any merit or not, but what freedoms have we already given up because of them?  What liberty have we surrendered because of terrorism or global warming?  How many unnecessary vaccinations are floating around in our bodies in fear of the next epidemic? How many GMOs are in our food supply because of perceived “world hunger” that could be solved with one week of our “defense” budget?  Isn’t it time we start asking questions rather than blindly following our basic human instinct to belong?

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.  The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.  Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.  There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.  Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.  Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.  ~Psalm 14

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Comments on this and all posts are most welcome.