May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

There seems to be a few folks out there who can't be bothered to check their facts before reporting on something. These agenda-driven, ideological zombies are declaring that the recent National Defense Appropriations Act will authorize the president to declare war anywhere at any time. It does not do so. Here are two links to the bill itself:

H.R. 1540 .pdf at "The Hill"
H.R. 1540 at "Open Congress"

But that is a sidenote and a distraction. Today is Memorial Day.

I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to men and women currently serving in the U.S. military as well as everyone who has ever served in the U.S. military. Most especially I would like to take a moment to remember the fallen and those who live with the physical and emotional scars that combat inevitably leaves behind. Your sacrifice is honored and respected here.


May 27, 2011

Social Engineering Comes to Pre-school $500 Million for Race-to-the-Top Early Learning Challenge

Social engineering is doomed to fail. It does not matter how early you start or how much money you spend. Genetics goes hand-in-hand with nurturing and individual enculturation in the development of personality over the course of a person's life. There is no human way to control all of the many variables that determine what kind of personality any given individual will wind up with. Efforts aimed at perfecting human society are doomed to fail because the human animal cannot be perfected and it is precisely this aspect of humanity that has allowed us to rise from the muck and mire into sentience. Imperfection is a natural and necessary byproduct of genuine sentience and freedom of choice. It is our imperfections that make us human.

I understand the dream of so many educators to have classrooms filled with bright, eager minds ready and willing to absorb the knowledge they are imparting. I have taught English to all age groups from pre-school to post-retirement. I have taught leadership to young men and women starting out on their first real career as well as the middle-aged managers who would be supervising them. I know what it means to teach and I have some very strong opinions about the difference between a good teacher and a bad one. Nonetheless, the only correct assumption in the "No Child Left Behind" program is that the most important element in the learning equation is always the student. This new program by the Obama administration (first proposed in 2009) will do nothing but line the pockets of Marxist social engineers attempting to bring about their humanist utopia by indoctrinating young children.

They are coaching it in terms of helping children, but that is not how the program is outlined. The outline of the program is clearly a desire to create an unrealistic situation where every child in a classroom is a star pupil. It simply cannot happen. Science cannot perfect the human animal, regardless of how much money you throw around and how many people get rich trying. Not only it is impossible, it is completely undesirable because it is in fact our very individuality that gives our species as a whole it's unique position in our world.

A key quote from Secretary Sebelius is this:
"Our collective health and financial security as a nation will depend on high quality investments during the critical early years of a child's life."

Collectivism assumes, without any basis in reality, that every individual is exactly the same and is born with exactly the same potential. Any individual that cannot respond to the collectivist's well-intentioned desire to help them reach that potential is defective and is therefore less than human. The only real-world result of this "scientific" initiative will be even more broken children committing suicide and killing their playmates than we have now. This program will make all of the problems with drugs, violence, and bullying that infect our current education system even worse.

The Japanese have had a centralized, "scientific childhood development" program in place since long before World War Two. The program was "improved" after World War Two. The net result: Japan now has the highest pre-teen and adolescent suicide rates in the entire world. Instead of drug gangs they have mothers killing their kindergarten-age children's playmates because they are prettier, ten year-olds chopping the heads off younger children just for the fun of it, and teachers who justify lethal physical abuse on the basis of poor socialization skills. Is that really the direction we want our schools to move in?

May 23, 2011

On an unrelated note

Sometimes I write poetry. Some of it winds up in "Shards", an online collection of scraps, thoughts, jots, and other random bits of poetry that I either don't feel like working into a proper composition or don't know how they relate to other things I am working on. I've published a few poems here and there, both in print and in cyberspace, but nothing worth bragging about. Recently I've begun learning how to play guitar, so naturally I've looked into some of the differences between songwriting and poetry.

I'm never going to see my name on a gold or platinum record, of course. I have no illusions about that! It is fun to play with words and forms, though. So today I decided to try writing a song about The Ugly Duck. It's a small watering hole with great food, friendly people, and a rather schizophrenic ambience that can't decide if it wants to be a sports bar, a cowboy bar, or a country pub. On Thursday nights they have karaoke from 9:00 p.m. and $1 tacos all night long. I usually get there about five, order four tacos, and then drink myself into courage while waiting for the karaoke to start. By the time nine o'clock rolls around I'm wasted enough to believe I can out-sing Toby Keith and out-perform Robert Plant. I can do neither, naturally, but at my age it's good to hold onto a few fantasies!

After playing around with ideas and metaphors, I abandoned all hope of adhering to any proper form and just started scribbling words down on a notepad. After an hour or so, this is what I came up with:

There's an Ugly Duck in Wooster
Down on Old Lincoln Way
Where bikers, bankers, and dancin' girls
Come to sing the night away

They gather there on Thursdays
When the rest of town is quiet
To feast on beer and pizza
And ignore their doctor's diet
For life belongs to the living
Memory to those who've passed away
You can find me with the living
At the end of each long day
So come on down to Wooster
And sing the night away
We'll toast your health and mine
And celebrate the day

There's an Ugly Duck in Wooster
Down on Old Lincoln Way
Where bikers, bankers, and dancin' girls
Come to sing the night away

Thursday night is taco night
A dollar for each one
Order five or ten or a dozen
And sing, "The Rising Sun"
Perhaps you prefer a ballad
Of diamonds, love and gold
Stairways that climb to heaven
Or a hip-hop style love song
With lyrics brash and bold
You'll always love your favorite
And it's even better when it's sung

There's an Ugly Duck in Wooster
Down on Old Lincoln Way
Where bikers, bankers, and dancin' girls
Come to sing the night away

So come on down on Thursdays
It's karaoke night
Tacos, beer, and pizza
It's livin' life done right

There's an Ugly Duck in Wooster
Down on Old Lincoln Way
Where bikers, bankers, and dancin' girls
Come to sing the night away

I know, I know. It's laughable and childish. I think it turned out kind of cute, though. With a little more time and some careful thought, I can probably come up with a simple melody to go with it. Nothing worth trying to publish or anything, but a fun challenge that one day might serve as the cornerstone for something more serious.

May 21, 2011

Time, times and half a time

CNN: Netanyahu to Obama, "No return to 1967 lines."
Wikipedia: The Six-Day War website

When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach.
---Revelation 12:13-14

For two thousand years Christian theologians have been arguing over the role of the Jewish people. During World War Two, a pope and a broad spectrum of Christian leaders argued persuasively that the role of the Jewish Sanhedrin in the crucifixtion of Christ was sure proof that Adonai Elohei Yisrael had abandoned his people. Some didn't. Among those that opposed the prevailing theology was Dietrich Bonhoeffer and he paid for his dissent with his life.

My journey to faith began as a child bored to death in the pews of Presbyterian and Reformed Mehodist churches. If it had stayed there, I would not be the man I am today. I am never surprised when boredom leads children raised in Christian homes to abandon religion entirely. I've been there. I know exactly how it feels.

My exposure to the Southern Baptist church in my hometown changed all that. The pastor was vibrant, the youth ministry was me and the pastor's two daughters which meant the church was wide open to my suggestions. Never before had I encountered a minister who both approached the Bible as worthy of lifelong study and who took me seriously when I asked questions. Pastor Fred Harms gave life to a dead book and always inspired me to look deeper, so I did. At sixteen I gave my life to Christ and although it has been a bumpy road with periods of doubt and disbelief, I have never regretted the time I spent learning theology under his tutelage.

That inspiration to look deeper has been at the root of some of the most painful moments in my spiritual life. After I left the small Southern Baptist church in my hometown behind me I found more and more Sunday Christians, rainy-day Christians, and narcissistic Christians than genuine believers. It was a cold shock to realize that most American Christians have never read more of their Bible than what they covered in childhood Sunday School lessons. They talk of faith and the power of God, but they worship at the altar of consumerism and social status.

Do not misunderstand me! Hard work, discipline, and material success are not evil in and of themselves. There is nothing sinful about working hard and enjoying the fruits of your labors. On the other hand, there is something very wrong with using your success as an excuse for depravity, condescension, and disdain. But the ethics of success is not the purpose of this post, so I'm going to leave that discussion unfinished.

The important item today is the passage from Revelation quoted above. The very first time I read that passage I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that America was the patron of the modern Israel and the day we abandoned her would be the beginning of the end. Great Britain did much to secure territory for the newly created Nation of Israel, but without American financial and logistical support she never would have lasted beyond the first decade. Ironic though it seems, it was the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty during the Six-Day War that secured for Israel the political and material support which has carried her through the past four and a half decades. America, to me, has always been the "two wings of a great eagle" that made it possible for Israel to enjoy the season of prosperity covering "time, times, and half a time."

Next month (June 10, 2011) will mark forty-four years since the conclusion of the Six-Day War and the real beginning of the season of prosperity that Israel has enjoyed as a nation. Securing the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the Old City of Jerusalem gave the young nation the breathing room she needed. Her alliance with the United States and the corresponding promise of military aid should the surrounding nations attack her again secured those borders and helped make them strong enough to resist encroachment by the nations who hated her.

I no longer run Biblical numbers trying to ascertain the schedule for the end times. I do, however, remain sensitive to the signs and signals which the Bible clearly lists as preludes to the end of Satan's reign and the beginning of the new world. I also realize that these kinds of events are common to any great transition of political power. It is entirely possible that Biblically these events stand more as metaphors than literal truths. Nonetheless, there are six days in a Jewish week with a seventh day added on for rest and worship. Is it mere coincidence that the war which gave birth to the modern nation lasted a perfect week?

Now, here we are forty-four years later (a natural generation by Old Testament reckoning) and thanks to the most Marxist president in American history, America has effectively withdrawn support for her most important ally in the Middle East. This year has also seen the rise of "popular" revolts throughout the Arab nations, the death of Osama bin Laden, and the ascendance of a theocratic Iran as a major player in the region. Are all these mere coincidences as well?

It looks to me like someone is setting the stage for the Biblical Armageddon and then daring the main star to make his appearance. A very dangerous gambit indeed to my way of thinking.

When I was young, I preached the end of the world was at hand and meant every word of it. Now I am old and I see unfolding before my very eyes the exact timeline that I proposed all those decades ago. I have to say, I am not at all happy to see how things are unfolding. I was supposed to be wrong about all this. I was told over and over again by people who had studied longer and harder and under better teachers that my eschatology was delusional and logically flawed. After awhile, I learned to believe my critics.

Ever since a fruit vendor in Tunisia ignited a flame that spread through the Middle East I am no longer certain my critics were as wise as they appeared. There have been too many coincidences over the past five months, the timeline is too exact for me to ignore. If two men show up outside the Wailing Wall preaching the coming of the Jewish Messiah only to be stoned to death by the crowds, I'm pulling my bets and going back to my original position.

History is pretty clear, any nation that challenges Adonai Elohei Yisrael reaps the whirlwind of his judgement. The Assyrians, the Medes, the Hittites, and the Babylonians all challenged his authority. Every last one of them was wiped from the pages of history until the only place they appeared was on the pages of the Tanakh. It was only in the past century and a half that humanity "rediscovered" these proud, defiant nations. I do NOT want to see my nation follow their example.

Update on June 20, 2011:

So I was checking over my stats today and discovered that someone, somewhere had stumbled across this post while searching for an explanation of "time, times, and half a time". Curious, I ran the search myself. It turns out that according to some theologians (both Jewish and Christian), "time, times, and half a time" is equal to forty-two months.



May 17, 2011

Al Jazeera Gets It Right

Al Jazeera's "Inside Edition": North Korea and Iran Exchanging Nuclear and Missile Technology Through China

Now I am not a big fan of Al Jazeera, especially not their "Inside Edition" program which tends to feature social issues like adultery and thievery in the streets of Cairo. This morning, however, every western "news" media is fixated on Arnold Schwarzenegger's love child, Queen Elizabeth's visit to Ireland, and the massive flooding in Louisana. Of the three, the only real story is the ongoing flooding along the Mississippi River and it is getting so little television time anyone who relies on the television for their news might be tempted to think it has ended.

Naturally, the ongoing technology exchange between North Korea and Iran is of interest to Al Jazeera primarily because Iran has become one of the most powerful and pugnacious nations in their region. Nonetheless, both of these nations (Iran and North Korea) should be of interest to the entire world because both of them are dedicated to bringing down the modern industrialized west. The fact that China is helping both of them improve their missile and nuclear programs should be of great importance to the rest of us because China is both a major trade partner and a political powerhouse that would profit greatly from the disappearance of the United States, the European Union, or both. The Chinese also have an ancient history testifying to their reliance on extreme long-term planning and their ability to carry through on multi-generational political and military strategy. Their willingness to aid both North Korea and Iran must figure into some long-term strategy to restore themselves to political centrality. It would be naive to think otherwise.

An interesting aspect of the Al Jazeera report is the inclusion of a fellow from Norway named Bjornar Simonsen. He is billed as a representative of the "Korean Friendship Association" and fills in as a voice defending North Korea's drive to obtain better missile technology and more efficient production of weapon's grade plutonium. Although I find his position delusional, he does have a right to hold it and express it. It is also fitting that someone stand up and represent the North Korean position because they, like him, are certainly entitled to their paranoia and their desire to be seen as a major player on the world stage. As the half-hour program unfolds, the discussion is frank, civilized, and thankfully free of the name-calling and flaring tempers that have become the mainstay of morning news-centered talk shows on every major American network.

I still feel that more often than not Al Jazeera functions as little more than the propoganda arm for the Saudi and Jordanian royal families. I'm not saying that they are in fact nothing more than defenders of Arabian aristocracy, I'm only saying that from my perspective, that is the role they usually wind up fulfilling. It was refreshing to see them compile and broadcast such a thorough, indepth report on a very serious problem that is only getting worse as time goes on and is certainly far more important than the love child that caused the Schwarzenegger-Shriver divorce. I suppose the Queen's historic visit to Ireland is newsworthy, but I don't understand why it gets top billing over flooding in the American south, Denmark imposing immigration restrictions on other EU member nations, and Iran's ongoing quest to destroy Israel.

May 16, 2011

Next stop, Jerusalem

Glenn Beck: Coming this Summer: Restoring Courage
Glenn Beck: The Road to Restoring Courage

I've always wanted a reason to visit Israel. I've always known that someday, someway I would stand before the Western Wall and offer thanks for the trials, tribulations, and blessings of my life.

Now I have a really good reason.

It's going to take a lot of planning. I'm going to have to save some money and I might even have to sell some things. My family is going to think I'm crazy. Still, if I start planning now, it should be possible for me to attend Restoring Courage.

It's good to have a goal.

May 14, 2011

Chaos, Confusion, and World War Three

The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

AP: Christian-Muslim Affair Tests Egypt's Revolution
WP: Egyptian Liberals Worry About Loss of Clout
IT: The Christian Predicament in Syria and Egypt
WP: Egypt Moves to Re-open 48 Churces Closed Under Mubarak
RS: Kamal Saleem, a Muslim Who Came to America to Wage Cultural Jihad

During the Summer Olympics of 1972, a group of Palestinian fighters who called themselves "Black September" took the Palestinian struggle global when they kidnapped and eventually killed nine Israeli athletes in an event that has since become known as the Munich Massacre. Although none of us realized it at the time, this was the opening battle of World War Three. Now, almost four decades later, this war has claimed millions of innocent lives and created powerful nation-states like Iran (dedicated to the creation of a new Islamic caliphate), Saudi Arabia (dedicated to spreading Wahabism through global creation of Islamic schools and media outlets), and Jordan (dedicated to modernizing their nation at any cost). Lebanon has become a permanent battlefield that erupts into violence on a regular basis, Turkey cannot decide if it wants to remain a member of the modern world or help build Iran's caliphate, while smaller states like Abu Dahbi and United Arab Emirates work hard to join the modern world only to find themselves gasping in horror when the entire region erupts in revolution. World War Three went fully hot a decade ago when the United States invaded first Afghanistan and then Iraq in response to 9/11. Pakistan (like Turkey) has spent the entire war trying to simultaneously join the modern world while helping to build Iran's caliphate only to find itself failing in both.

All of these conflicts along with the tumultuous politics that created them, the revolutions that many have dissolved into, and the economic struggles they are birthing, are front line battlegrounds in an ideological war that has been waged for a thousand years. It began with greed when merchants in Venice frustrated by their inability to gain direct access to spices, teas, and porcelains, convinced the Pope to launch a war against Islam. The Crusades ended in disaster for the European powers, but the ramifications, hatred, and resentments they created are still with us today. The problem that everyone in the modern media has failed to realize is that this ancient conflict was reignited at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Scholars like Samuel P. Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order) and Francis Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man) have tried to point it out to us, but we remain willfully ignorant of their message. Instead of dealing directly with the ideological underpinings of this global war, we celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden and weave intricate conspiracy theories about 9/11, neither of which addresses the very real issues of why Al Qaeda was formed in the first place and how they became so deadly.

America's huge deficit, the wave of revolutions sweeping the Middle East, and even the massive flooding we are experiencing here in the United States all share a common foundation. They are all the direct result of human meddling in natural forces in a vain, arrogant, and ultimately useless effort to bring about utopia. Our deficit is the result of social engineering programs designed to eliminate poverty. The revolutions sweeping the Middle East are the result of pouring massive funding into the coffers of corrupt leaders in order to manufacture a false stability. The flooding, massive thunderstorms, and other weather-driven disasters our world is experiencing are all a direct result of cloud-seeding in a dozen countries throwing the natural hydraulic cycle into complete disarray.

Last year I planted more than 50,000 wildflower seeds on my property. I got a dozen poppy plants and nothing more. So far this year I have a few hundred Devil's Paintbrush, a couple dozen Farewell to Spring, and two Johnny Jump-up. Next year, if everything goes as planned, my little hillside will be covered in colorful blossoms. This is how natural processes work. They take time, they build up, and then they explode. Right now the most important thing people living in democracies can do is stop voting for candidates who promise utopia. We must give up our dreams of perfecting our societies and recognize that the only way we can bring a better world is by increasing freedom to the point where the best and brightest among us rise to prominence while the least qualified drift off into obscurity to die from exposure or substance abuse beneath our bridges and hidden away in abandoned subway tunnels. We cannot control natural processes. We can work with them or we can work against them, but we cannot change them.

World War Three, with all its chaos and confusion, is the product of our search for utopia. The only way to bring this global conflagration to an end once and for all is to back off and stop trying to manufacture a paradise on Earth. Let the foolish starve. Let the violent burn themselves out killing one another. The role of government is to protect private property, isolate the violent, and prevent the successful from using their achievement to steal the freedoms of their fellow citizens. Nothing more and nothing less. The longer we continue trying to engineer a perfect society the wider the chaos and confusion will spread. It has already inflamed half the world and impoverished two-thirds of it. How bad does it have to get before we realize that we are failing and the reason we are failing is because we are fighting against the ebb and flow of natural systems that have always been, and always will be, outside our control?

Humans will never be gods. It is high time we realized it.

May 02, 2011

The day after Osama bin Laden died

CNN: The hunt for Osama bin Laden
CNN Parag Khanna: Bin Laden assassinated, not martyred
CNN Tech: Twitter user unknowingly gave live updates
CNN Wire Staff: How U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden

I could go on and on. BBC, Al Jazeera, Russian Times, and everyone else are flooding our media with reports, analysis, and opinion. Naturally conspiracy theories are already being formed. So far, Al Qaeda is quiet, but Hamas has already responded in shock and horror.

As for myself, I am cautious about rejoicing. I am glad Osama bin Laden is dead, but I also know the beliefs surrounding the 12th Imam and I have read Revelation 13 hundreds of times. It is easy for critics to laugh at both and call them myths or fantasies (although both have more in common with nightmares). The problem is, either they are real or they are not. If they are real, then the resolution will determine which religion is true and which false (my bets are on the side of Christianity). If they are not real, then another danger entirely arises. People like myself who believe and wait are not a problem. No, the problem is those who lust after the last days so desperately they will do everything in their power to bring them about, creating human conditions that brutally mimic the worst nightmares of the end times.

It just so happens that one of those people is Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. If he sees in the death of Osama bin Laden a golden opportunity to force the hand of Allah and compel the coming of the 12th Imam, then we are in for a world of hurt.

The next forty-eight to seventy-two hours are critical. Forces great and small are moving through the shadows of our world, some intent on massive destruction, some intent on bringing a Marxist utopia. Let us not forget that a few years ago these two forces joined hands and are now working together. Osama bin Laden is dead, and that is a good thing that I am happy to see come to pass. Now let's gird ourselves for battle and prepare just in case those who see in his death an opportunity for chaos decide to bring their dark fantasies to life.

May 01, 2011

Early reports on the death of Osama Bin Laden

AP Report: Osama Bin Laden is dead

Details are still sketchy, but it appears that American assets discovered Osama Bin Laden hiding in a mansion in Islamabad, Pakistan and killed him. Although this is good news, there is every possibility that Al Qaeda will respond quickly and dramatically.

A major initial concern for me is that he was found in the capital of what is supposed to be one of our strongest allies in the so-called "war on terror". If he'd been found in Afghanistan or in the tribal areas of Pakistan that would be less problematic in terms of global strategy. His presence right under the nose (and probably protection) of Pakistani intelligence services is extremely prejudicial evidence for close ties between Pakistan's government and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Does this mean we will be invading Pakistan? Under a different president there is no doubt in my mind that the next move by the president would be a request to Congress for either war funding or a full declaration of war. Under this president with his tendency to defend radical Islam and bow to Arab leaders, war is unlikely, unless Congress forces it on him.

Things could get very tense over the next few days. Consequences of this action, although it was necessary, will be global in scope.

I suppose I should point out that this also explains the weirdness of the events surrounding the arrest and release of Raymond Davis back in February. I suspected then, and I am convinced now, that the two men he killed were not robbing him. They were no doubt Pakistani intelligence agents attempting to stop him.