Lorena and I spent the night with Kelly in Seattle on Tuesday night so we could drive to the Birch Bay Enrollment Center of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security to be interviewed. We did not get much sleep because we talked with Kelly until very late in the evening, then got up at 4:00 to get to our appointment on time at 8:00 AM. It was really pretty uneventful. The arrogance of the first guy we met to turn in our papers was offset by interviews with very nice agents with both the U.S. and Canadian border services. We still have a couple more steps to get through the process, but when we are done we will get to go through the TSA Precheck at airports in the U.S. and global entry lines which are almost always a lot faster. There is another certification I can get to get through customs in participating Asian-Pacific countries. I think it will be worth it if I continue with the expected travel to China.
The new header I put up (you can still see it here when I change it again). It seems appropriate that this was the view of the mountain out our window this 16th anniversary of the cowardly murder that took place at the Twin Trade Towers in New York in 2001. The header picture was taken at 6:00 AM and the picture to the left was taken an hour later. It all reminded me of that power of God. I read a factoid yesterday about the power of hurricanes, that an average hurricane expends way more power than the sum of all the man made power in the entire world for an entire year. Looking out the window and reflecting on the understanding that Mt. Ranier thousands of years overdue for an eruption it makes me realize how small and inconsequential is the raging of men. I understand the Mount St. Helens explosion was 1600 times as big as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World Wart II. This coming eruptions of Mt. Ranier is prognosticated to be much bigger than that. It is never too early to get one’s house in order.
All that being said, I think some seemingly inconsequential events are much bigger deals in light of eternity and judgment. I was thinking of what a great thing it was for Kelly to receive the benefit of an amazing and spiritually edifying trip to visit family in Mexico. But, on some levels, even more than that was an after church dinner to which we got invited at Bob and Gena’s house yesterday. We were very grateful to be included in that. I went from there straight home to the computer to work on contract work–good, helpful work that will save lives. I missed the afternoon Gospel meeting because of that and could not get past the thought that seemingly small spiritual things are so much more important and powerful than whatever else is going on in our lives have a greater eternal impact than world events and work. Even these world shaking events like terrorism, hurricanes, volcanoes or the solving of sickle cell disease pale in comparison.
Google, in the minds of many, is pretty much the devil. I have started to come around to that opinion myself. There are lots of people who believe this. The problem is there has never really been any other option. After the most recent spate of ignorance and draconian overreach when Google fired a guy for expressing an idea that is objectively true, I decided to see if I could bail out of use of the Google search engine because, in my opinion, they censors what is good and true to promulgate evil. I found out that is kind of a hard thing to do. There are some searches for my work at which Google is better than anything else available. That led me to the idea that I need to minimize my Google searches to those for which there is no other alternative.
The good news is that I found a solution. I wrote earlier (here) about what I believe to be malfeasance on the part of Mozilla in their treatment of a very good man. That man, Brendan Eich, got fired from Mozilla for unconscionable pretexts. Because he believes in and supports “traditional marriage” (just marriage for non-double-speak people), he got fired from Mozilla. He immediately started a competing browser company named Brave. I tried that browser when it first came out, but it really was not ready for prime time. I tried it again today because I was so feed up with Google and Mozilla and I have to say that if it is not yet ready for prime time, it is very, very close. In addition, they have a way to set my browser (I use DuckDuckGo to avoid Google for the vast bulk of my searches) and Google only for those where it works best–stuff where they cannot impose their extreme hard left-wing bias. Brave facilitates all of this and I am grateful. Check it out. Don’t get swallowed by the Borg.
My first thought when I read Thomas McArdle’s article in The Stream entitled Deconstruction is that the subject of the article, an academic named Paul de Man, would have been a worthy addition to Paul Johnson’s book Intellectuals. Kelly, Christian and I all read Intellectuals as part of our homeschool efforts. In the words of a reviewer at Amazon, the book profiles some famous thought “leaders” who held themselves “as having a special capacity to determine proper behavior and beliefs and to use this capacity to enlighten their neighbors” at the same time they lived decadent and tawdry personal lives.
Actually, the article in The Stream is about a biographical play about Paul de Man, a Nazi sympathizer who was a kindred spirit of those discussed in Intellectuals. He is introduced this way in the article:
The Antwerp-born Paul de Man came to America after the Second World War and Blitzkrieged the study of literature by pioneering the postmodern theory of deconstruction — which, among other things, put morally-relativistic modern man in the place of a murdered God.
According to the play, De Man certainly appears to have lived according to his morally-relativistic philosophy, lying about his Nazi sympathies to get the academic positions he wanted, living the exact same decadent and tawdry lives as the bulk of the “intellectuals” described in Paul Johnson’s book. It sounds like a fascinating play. I really would like to see it sometime, but I might just be relegated to reading it. Given the progressive proclivities of the theatric community in our country, it might not be widely performed.
Whenever grandpa ran a stop light or forgot to put on his blinker when he changed lanes he said, “I like to follow the spirit of the law. The letter kills.”
We were all pretty skeptical about that, but today we ran into a situation we think might qualify for a Grandpa Milo type approach. I order my prescriptions from the only mail-order place approved by our insurance. They have good prices and represented that after they confirmed my identification and the validity of the prescriptions, most of the time they would just send them. The service has really been pretty good, but they have sent an email every month asking me to call in to confirm new information (or, in most cases, stuff I had already confirmed). The drugs I need are nothing more the benign high blood pressure, high cholesterol medications, nothing heavy at all.
Last month, I was slammed, so Lorena called in for me. They said even though she was my wife, they needed to talk to me. This month, with everything going on, I asked her to tried again.
When she called, a lady told her, “We cannot talk to you, we have to talk to Kenneth.”
She said, “I am Kenneth.”
The lady said, “Mame, are you really Kenneth?”
She said, “I am.”
After a series of fairly intense questions they went ahead and sent her the prescription. I told her afterward she should have acted mad that they did not respect her gender. I think Lorena has that “spirit of the law” thing down pat, but I probably should be ashamed of myself.
The appraisal for our house purchase came in fine yesterday. We signed off on all the improvements required for the sale. The only thing left is to close. The close will occur, God willing, at the end of the month. So now we are are excited about making the move. We know a lot about that part of the world, but not so much about the particular place we chose. We love everything we have seen in our visits and within a two hour drive of our house we have a gazillion old friends. Right in town it surely seems like we have a great and growing group of new friends we look forward to getting to know better.
We are some what apolitical these days, or at least we are trying to be. Still, we know we are moving to the belly of the beast when we go back to the Pacific Northwest. Portland and Seattle with all their natural beauty are notorious for their lack of decorum and reason with respect to the hard left politics of at least a plurality of their populations. We want to live on the west side of the mountains and avoid some of the lack of tolerance in those places so that restricted our choice a little. The place we chose is almost the exact center between the two, maximizing the distance to both of them. The picture in this post is of Kelly stirring the pot more than of Kelly making a political statement. It was a brave thing to go dressed like that to school in Seattle. She needs the haven just as much as us. We were assured by our new friends in our new town we will fit right in and it surely seems like they are right from what I have seen so far.
I dropped Lorena off at the airport at 5 AM this morning to go spend a week with Christian in Phoenix. They have a great time when they get together. It seems like every time Christian turns around there is another road block that seems insurmountable. This morning, he goes in to serve jury duty. And it is not just jury duty, it is grand jury duty. That means if he gets picked he will be stuck there for four months. He is scheduled to move to Boston in a couple of months in his first pass working for MIT. I hope they let him out of it because if they do not, it means he will almost certainly have to stay in his program for an additional year due to classes they only give once per year, missed research opportunities and the need to drop all his classes for this semester which is half way complete. I surely hope he does not get saddled with this burden.
Update: Woo-hoo! Christian dodged the jury duty bullet. He told the judge he was in classes that were only given once every two years (true) and he had an internship in Boston at MIT Lincoln Labs that started half way through the four month jury duty term (true) and the judge said, “Goodbye.”
There is a grating song/beat poem that came out in 1970’s that was some sort of a theme for a certain element during my college years. You can see it here (if you must). It is called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The thing that is going on in our country is put into context in a truly ironic way by Lloyd Marcus in an article titled The Trump Revolution Will Not Be Televised. He has enough years to have written this article based on personal knowledge. I am not sure that those who were not there and paying attention in the seventies will be able to understand and appreciate how much joy an article like this brings to those of us who were conservative, but were doomed to come of age in the hippie generation. Here is an excerpt, but you should read the whole thing:
Trump’s election ushered in a new tone for America. Feeling emboldened, people are pushing back against the tyranny of political correctness by just saying, “no”. But you will not hear this widely reported in the leftist-controlled mainstream media. Panicked, the Left is desperately and frantically working to keep us believing that their extreme ideas are mainstream majority opinions.
This is why for the next four years, half a dozen protesters showing up to oppose Trump or his policies will be treated like a major news event by the media. Relentlessly, the Left will sell us their lie that Americans hate Trump and what he is doing. Therefore, the Trump revolution will not be televised.
There is a very interesting post on the state of war and violence in the world over at the Strategy Page site (h.t. Bayou Renaissance Man). The whole post was very educational for me because it describes the source of violence in a lot countries around the world with ancillary information you can view by clicking the country name. I cannot speak to what is happening in most of those countries, but the site built a lot of credibility because of their spot-on take on what is going on in Mexico. The drug cartels are a thing, but few understand the interplay between the cartels, a corrupt government culture and local militia that has formed to protect citizenry from the horrible violence. When the Mexican government legitimized those militia due to their success, a very important byproduct was the spotlight that got thrown on the culture of corruption that is winked at and/or perpetrated by the government itself. That section on Mexico is worth the price of admission (free), but the whole article is just stellar.
The selection of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton yesterday is the strangest ever election season in my experience. It is not so much that way because of who is running or what is at stake for the county although that does to be quite monumental. It is more because, even though the stakes are monumental, it really is because my mindset on this election and maybe even elections in general has changed fairly dramatically. It would be wrong to say I do not care what happens or that I should not participate. I think I should participate. It has more to do with the fact that my mother is on her death bed and I have been focused on bigger and much, much more important issues than just the election of a president.
At the same time, I have gotten a kick out of watching my family watch the election. None of us think Trump will be much good, but we do think he will be better than what would have been perpetrated on us by a Hillary administration. The thing that has been interesting is how much of a kick Lorena got out of the election, the horror of the illegal Mexican community of our acquaintance here in the US and the very interesting reaction of our close family in Mexico who are certainly not Trump fans, but believe the Mexicans who reside here illegally are getting what they deserve.
All said, this is the first election since I had the right to vote that I went to bed early and did not get the result until the next morning with only mild interest. Sadly, I think we are living in the interesting times alluded to in that famous Chinese proverb.
I just read an article, ironically titled Question The Stories You Tell Yourself About Terror Attacks And Police Shootings, that said one’s chance of getting hit by lightning are greater than getting killed by a terrorist attack. That is neither true for the United States nor the world. On average, 51 people per year get struck by lighting in the US for 20 year average of 1020. For the years 1995 to 2014, 3264 people were killed in the US by terrorism for an average of over 163. Of course, that is greatly inflated by the 3000+ killed on 9/11, but the point remains. It is even worse for the rest of the world. It is hard to estimate the number of lighting strikes around the world, estimates ranging from 6000 to 24,000 per year. The number of terror attack deaths as estimated by the US State Department for 2015 was 28,328. This is a big and growing problem, not caused by the Amish nor the Lutherans.
My brother-in-law worked in São Paulo, Brazil for a couple years, right at the turn of the millennium. Here is an article from 2007 in Vanity Fair titled City of Fear. It talks about a very dangerous series of events that happened there five or six years after he returned to Mexico. There was a continuous string of attacks on the police that created chaos that caused a panic, shutting the city down for days with people locked in their homes cowering in fear with traffic jams everywhere until people got home. It is an interesting read about a scary situation. Peter Grant from the Bayou Renaissance Man blog makes the case that all the stars are aligning that could allow the same kind of event to happen here in the United States. In his article titled US cities are becoming much more dangerous places, he talks about how the BLM movement, the influx of illegals from many chaotic and violent places and the way the law enforcement community has had to respond to what is a no-win situation for them means some version of this kind of chaotic event could arrive in large cities in the US. Read the article. He makes a compelling case.
Update: Turns out, my brother-in-law was on a business trip in São Paulo when this was all happening. I cannot wait to get together with him and hear the story.
A brilliant article titled The Intellectual Yet Idiot, written by a guy named Nassim Nicholas Taleb puts in words something that has been in my mind as well as the minds of others, more thoughtful than my myself for a long, long time. I have written about the pontifications of the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Mark Borg, Bart Ehrman and some others with respect to subjects in which I am interested, but the people about whom Taleb writes live in every segment of our society. At some level, they are all Social Justice Warriors. Even, if not especially, our the current president of these United States fits very comfortably into this category. The article starts off like this and just gets better and better the further one reads:
What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.
But the problem is the one-eyed following the blind: these self-described members of the “intelligenzia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island, meaning they aren’t intelligent enough to define intelligence hence fall into circularities?—?but their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them. With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.
Update: This fascinating and fun article titled Global Warming Alarmists Promote XKCD Time Series Cartoon, Ignore Its Mistakes from The Stream perfectly makes the point with respect to global warming.
A website I frequent wrote about what one should do during a terrorist attack if authorities demand you “shelter in place.” That is the advise given on Twitter by the U.S. Consulate in Munich with respect to today’s terror attack at a mall there with the attackers still at large.
We strongly advise all to shelter in place. Munich police are reporting multiple shooting incidents in the city.
— US Consulate Munich (@usconsmunich) July 22, 2016
This is what The Bayou Renaissance Man had to say about that idea on a blog post about the recent Nice terror attack in France. He listed things you really should and should not do when there is such attack. His advise on whether you should “shelter in place” is item number 3 in a list of 7. I think he is exactly right. Why die if you can avoid it? Read the whole thing.
3. A “lockdown” is tantamount to herding people into coffins! Pay no attention to “orders” to “shelter in place,” nor to “remain calm and stay where you are.” That is where your body will be found! Get out any way you can and as quickly as you can, and don’t worry about who likes the idea!
There is a good article in the Federalist that captures the thoughts of many of us relative to the the upcoming election, politics in the USA and around the world and our inability to have much control over any of it. The article gets some things right:
As my 88-year-old neighbor, a lifelong Republican, put it: “Well, I’m not voting for Hitler.” She paused. “But I could never, ever bring myself to vote for Clinton.” She threw her hands up: “What to do!”
This is a big problem. Many politically minded people are feeling unrepresented, exhausted, and out of options. Unfortunately, this disillusionment likely will continue beyond November.
This is exactly how I feel about the current situation. The article also says some things about the centralization of national government and the decentralization of virtually everything else in the country that resonates with me. All this feels like something new is happening. That or something old and bad, but on a much bigger scale and it leaves me feeling disoriented–not knowing what I should do about it. The article gives the good advice to get involved locally over those things you are able to influence. At the same time it gets some stuff monumentally wrong:
The breakdown of Washington can be seen in the failure to adequately address: Worker displacement from globalization and technological change; providing a sound primary education and affordable secondary education; an entitlement system that can adapt to changing demographics; a safety net that helps the poor rise up the ladder of economic independence; a regulatory architecture that thwarts cronyism. And so on and on.
In that, I think the problem is that many, probably most government bureaucrats believe it is within the purview of national government to address these things when they are actually the source of the problem, particularly when they meddle in the affairs of family by taking away educational choice and try to take away the mandate of state governments to manage the bulk of the rest of these problems. Nevertheless, I liked the sentiment of the article and plan to continue to follow the advice to stay away from the main stream media and try to do more in my own personal community (local, church, family and friends).
13. Within the next decade we will have a global war and it will stem from American weakness and a lack of seriousness.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) July 17, 2016
My view of the current state of the world is not much different from that of Erick Erickson of The Resurgent and (formerly) RedState fame. He put up a post on The Resurgent that consisted entirely of a series of tweets he made titled War is Coming. And We Will Cause It. The 13th tweet in the series says out loud (figuratively speaking) what a lot of us fear. The other tweets say a lot about what is happening that gave him cause to make that prediction.
Last week, I found an article on a completely different venue (Life Site News–a great site that I check with regularity). It was more about intranational decay than the international variety discussed by Erickson in his series of tweets, but horrifying just the same. The article was a repost from another site titled How bad will it get? Bracing for religious persecution in the West. It talks about what is very likely headed down the pike toward us along with some things to expect and, probably more importantly, some expectations you might have that could disappoint you if you hold them too tightly. I think she is spot on with everything she says.
The backdrop for all this is continuing terror attacks (Nice, Baton Rouge and Dallas as well as many others) a failed coup in Turkey that could have just been another Islamist leader consolidating control and the on-going comedy of the absurd that is the 2016 presidential election. As a result of looking into all this I found out what the word maranatha means. That, really, is the answer.
Update: Just found this in a new commentary on the Baton Rouge killings (emphasis mine):
Black Lives Matter might care to think about that. If this blows up into racial conflict, the numbers are all against them. They can’t possibly win – they can only take as many as possible with them when they go down. From that sort of conflict, there will be no winners at all. I know this. I learned it the hard way in another country. Unfortunately, few (if any) BLM activists have any experience of just how bad things can (and probably will) get. I fear they’re about to find out.
In the aftermath of some very sad violence, I found the following graphs from an article at the American Enterprise Institute title Chart of the day: More guns, less gun violence: between 1993 and 2013. The graphs are very explanatory and the article puts it in context.
Kelly sent me the following instant message last night when I was starting to shut down the computer to go to bed:
are you seeing what’s happening in dallas right now??
I looked briefly and saw there was a shooting going on of some kind, but it seems like there is always a shooting going on in the rougher parts of the Dallas area. I was tired, so I went to bed instead of investigate further. I woke up this morning to headlines that said, Snipers Kill 5 Dallas Officers, Wound 6 During Protests. When I started to write about it this morning, I noticed yesterday’s post on Spiritual Decline In America and the West. Today does not feel much different than yesterday even though I am only a few miles from an obscene indicator of our moral decline. What can be done to fix something that requires a fundamental change in heart and world view? All we can do is fix ourselves.
Maybe the Scandinavian countries are not so hot after all. There are a couple of articles that came onto my radar six or seven months ago that made credible something that I have wondered about for a long time. I am just getting around to writing them up. For years, we have heard about the wonders of living in Scandinavia and that the quality of life there is better than in the United States by just about every measure. It turns out that is just not true. Articles have trickled out saying there is trouble in paradise (see here and here), but the idea that the emperor has no clothes at all is a subject that has only started to receive traction in the last year or so.
An article titled Debunking the Myth of Socialist “Success” in Scandinavia reviews a book on the subject. It is a great article and definitely worth a read. Amazingly, the book it reviews, Scandinavian Unexceptionalism: Culture, Markets and the Failure of Third-Way Socialism, is available online for free at the time of the writing of this article. I had followed this subject some because of my interest in Sweden’s horrible record with respect to persecution of homeschoolers and their failed attempt to catch up with Finland in public education. In addition to all the schooling problems, it turns out that socialism continues to fail everywhere it is tried, too, Scandinavia included.
Lorena is visiting her family in Mexico and the kids are getting together for the Fourth of July weekend in Seattle. Kiwi the remaining cat sister and I are holding down the fort here in Texas. That has given me time to read and reflect. Writers on the websites and blogs I read are writing about what it means to be American and live in America as we approach the Independence Day celebration. The current state of our country and the world has helpfully reminded me that it is God how is great, not America. Any greatness that can be attributed to any country, America included, is nothing more nor less than the extent to which the people in that country reflect God’s glory through their relationship with him.
The state of the nation and world had me in a state of despair and confusion until I read the book of Esther in the Bible a couple of weeks back. The whole book was a great encouragement as is the book of Job where I am reading now. The Jewish people in captivity in Esther had every reason to despair as did Job when he lost everything, not due to disobedience, but to the gift God gave them to be used by Him in a way that accrued to good and continues to have a positive influence, even to this day. Mordecai’s admonishment to Ruth when the situation was grave and there was little hope seemed especially appropriate for Christians in America and around the world at this time of unrest.
Esther 4:14 – For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Steve Berman is an excellent writer who captures this feeling very well in a post titled The Proper Response When All Outcomes Lead to Ruin*. I used to read his personal blog, SGBerman, but it appears he has upped his game and now writes for, Erick Erickson’s The Resurgent website. He says:
We’ve put too much faith in our own leaders and not nearly enough in God for far too long. The Republican Party is not a church, and it’s not God’s party. The political leaders we choose are not God’s anointed, as we would like to think. We are not Samuel pouring oil over Saul’s head or choosing David from among the sons of Jesse.
I think that statement is equally true for all of America, not just the Republican party. I would also like to add that I love America, unequivoaclly. I believe America, while not perfect, has done great good in her role in the world and the governance of her citizens. Nevertheless, it is not trite to say that we tread very dangerous ground when we, as a country turn from God. Lots of people who loved and served God went into captivity in Babylon. Lots of Christians died for their service to God–our Bible study last Wednesday was Acts 12:1 where it says “And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.” It seemed like just a passing note in the prose. There had to be a much bigger story behind it all. Our allegiance to God might cost us our lives. For most of my life time, a strong argument could have been made that allegiance to God was not incompatible with allegiance to America. That seems to be becoming less true daily.
*I especially liked his mixed, Star Wars-LOTR metaphor.