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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Are the Amish a Cult?

Way back in July 2007, I wrote the following:
Some articles I'm tossing around in my head right now include:
Are the Amish a Cult?
What is a Mixed Language?
Is Linguistic Taxonomy Eurocentric?

I've been asked to publish the first, so here goes.

First of all, let's define our terms:

1) Amish - any one of a number of Christian denominations with the following characteristics:
a) Rooted in the Anabaptist movement and specifically that led by Jacob Amman.
b) Clergy are appointed from among the married men of each congregation, without any prerequisites of vocational training or calling, for the duration of good behavior.
c) Church membership is entered by effusion by the bishop upon agreement with and submission to the denomination's beliefs and standards, after attaining the age of accountability (usually 16 years old).
d) Denominational rules not only set lines of fellowship between congregations, but serve to unify the various members with similar lifestyles, uniforms, and possessions.
e) Church discipline consists of shunning and excommunication, imposed by the bishop.
f) Continued membership is dependent on following the rules of the denomination, which are agreed upon among the bishops and imposed on the various congregations.
g) Even where it is otherwise legal, marriage to a first cousin--or a non-member--is prohibited.

Now, when people say "Amish," they almost always mean "Old-Order Amish." So lets define our terms a bit more narrowly:

2) Old-Order Amish denominations are those that limit the use by their members of modern technology, usually by prohibiting them from having a public utility connected to their residence, and by limiting the kinds of technology they are allowed to own, requiring a certain uniformity in those modern inventions that are permitted. Furthermore, due to the restrictions on Sunday travel, congregations are delineated geographically, with a married male bishop serving each district.

3) Usually when people say "Amish," they further mean what are also referred to as "Fancy Amish" (by outsiders) or "High-Living Amish" (by the Amish themselves). These are Amish congregations that allow their members to mix freely with outsiders for work, school, and shopping purposes. They allow their members to pay Social Security taxes, ride in cars, watch movies, submit insurance claims, have telephone numbers, and advertise their businesses in secular publications. They observe Daylight Savings Time, subscribe to the newspaper, and often hire outsiders to teach their children--even sending them off on the bus to public school every morning. They can own tractors, as long as they are not used to pull farm equipment or passenger vehicles. They can have electricity, as long as it's not hooked up to the grid or their residences. They can have indoor plumbing, as long as it's not hooked up to a municipal sewage system. They can use pneumatic tires and bucket seats on a vehicle, as long as it's neither self-propelled nor enclosed. They can even own computers and manage websites, but only for strictly commercial purposes.

Okay, now that we've defined whom we're talking about, we can briefly list some Amish groups that are now excluded from this discussion.

-Beachy Amish
-New-Order Amish
-Reformed Amish

So, on to our question: Are the Amish a Cult?

Well, clearly the Amish do share certain cultish characteristics. For example, they believe that they are The Only True Church, and that to leave the church is to forfeit salvation. This is clearly a mark of a cult. Also, they shun anyone who leaves the Church--another typical characteristic of a cult. But these alone are not in and of themselves proof that the Amish are a cult.

Let's look at Biblical Discernment Ministries' Marks of a cult and see how the Amish measure up:

1. Extrabiblical Authority: Not officially. Many Amish use extracononical books, like the 6th and 7th Books of Moses, but these are part of their folk religion, not part of their Christianity.

2. Works Salvation/Legalism: Apparently. Amish believe that there is no salvation outside the Church. This boils down to claiming that if you don't follow their rules, you can't be saved.

3. No Assurance of Salvation: Absolutely. This is an oft-stated Amish doctrine.

4. Guru-Type Leader/Modern Prophet: Not usually, but some have arisen from time to time. And Amish seem as susceptible as anyone to following them; more so if they appear from within the Amish (Acts 20:29).

5. Vacillating, Ambiguous Doctrines/Spiritual Deception: Absolutely not. Seekers know pretty much exactly what they are getting into.

6. Exclusivity from/Denunciation of Other Groups (leaving the group is, in the minds of the cult member, tantamount to leaving God): Yes; see above.

7. Claims of Special Discoveries/Additional Revelation: This is essentially the same as #1, but we should note here that unlike Protestants, the Amish use the Apocrypha as Scripture. The Book of Tobit is part of their marriage liturgy.

8. Defective Christology: No.

9. Defective "Nature of Man": No.

10. Out-Of-Context Scripture Use as Proof-Texts/Segmented Biblical Attention: Not so much.

11. Erroneous Doctrines Concerning Life After Death and Retribution: No.

12. Entangling Organization Structure: Absolutely not. The various denominations are completely separate.

13. Financial Exploitation: Absolutely not. There's no central fund.

14. Pseudomystical/Spiritistic/Occultic Influence: Yes. Occultism is not a part of official Amish doctrine, but pow-wowing is an intrinsic part of their culture that is never preached against and often excused.

So, how do they rate on a scale of 1 to 13? Four. I would have to say that the Amish are not a cult, but do share a few characteristics with classic cults. The strongest correlation is in the great difficulty that it is for Amish to become converted and start following the Bible. They will, in most congregations, be shunned for it and cut off from their own family members--even their spouses and children. In that sense only, Amish are extremely similar to a classic cult.

April 7, 2014
Well, blogspot doesn't appear to be letting me post comments, which makes it hard to  join the conversation below. But I will address the anonymous comments of 7/30/2012 and 4/05/2014.
Here goes:
Q: "Where did you get your information from?"
 A: A combination of the MennoHof museum, newspaper reports, emails from Anabaptist organization, and personal knowledge of Amish and ex-Amish people. I'm very familiar with the Beachy Amish and realize that they are very different from Old Order Amish Mennonites.
Q: "NO Amish would ever allow a member to watch movies."
 A: Sorry, I have it on the word of Howard Schmucker, who told me as he was watching an R-rated movie about Amish that his OOAM church was okay with it. And of course the wild Amish youth watch worse stuff than that.
Q: "The Amish are nothing more than a church of Lutheranism mixed with fashion."
 A: This is a genetic fallacy. The Amish have nothing in common with Lutheranism, other than both being a splitoff from the German Catholic Church of the 16th century. The Amish do retain some of their Catholic heritage, such as following the Julian calendar for Christmas, Easter, and Ascension Day. But they don't share any Lutheran distinctives. Luther was a bitter enemy of the early Anabaptists.
Q: "Only Christ can save. No Amish principle or way of living can. And because they still wrap themselves in laws, they are not saved. It is that simple."
 A: No, not quite that simple. Some Amish are saved through Christ, but keep the law out of respect for their countrymen--just as the Apostle Paul did.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

M, F, or O?

I just noticed it today, but for some weeks now the local law enforcement website has stopped categorizing arrestees by "Race." This, along with a removal of the "Age" field. The purge hasn't reached the statewide database yet. Question: does the Emergency Response Service still ask if suspicious persons are "Black, White, or Hispanic?" And is this a nationwide movement?

What's next--the elimination (or expansion) of the "Sex" category?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Don't blame Huck!

Four police officers and a real estate mini-magnate are dead in Seattle, Washington, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is being blamed for it.

Or perhaps I should say that an alleged felon who allegedly used to be an inmate in an alleged prison in the alleged state of Arkansas while Mike Huckabee was allegedly the governor has allegedly shot some alleged police officers. Now, have we gotten enough allegations out of the way so that we can speak plainly from here on out? No, I guess I need to say that another alleged police officer went on to allegedly murder the alleged murderer, so that case is now closed. Except that no one is alleging that murder was involved this time, as the suspect allegedly didn't freeze when the alleged officer allegedly told him not to move, which invokes the self defense clause (why is it that police officers, the only people allowed to carry loaded guns inside city limits, are such poor shots that they're allowed to shoot first and then check to see if the corpse was even armed? If I ever turn out to be a firearm fatality, it will probably be because I was reaching for my driver's license and the arresting officer had such a low confidence in his ability to defend himself that he shot me full in the chest, just in case I had a firearm tucked inside my billfold). There, that should take care of all the allegations, and then some.

The point is that Marice Clemmons would not have been able to kill anyone were he still in an Arkansas prison. And that is where he should be today, because Governor Huckabee only brought forward his release date from 2098 to 2047. That's right, if prison sentences mean anything, Maurice Clemmons should have been kept locked up for crimes committed as a teenager until he was 75 years old.

But that's not how it happened. Reducing his 'prison term' from 108 years to 47 meant that Clemmons walked free, on parole. Let's see how well he's stayed out of trouble so far in the first 9 years of his parole:
-He committed robbery and theft in 2001, for which he was given another 10 years of warp time, but his attorney was able to convince the judge that it somehow didn't qualify as breaking parole. By the time the dust had settled he was back on parole, two paroles this time being served concurrently. This is kind of like having to write "I will not throw spitwads in class" 1000 times on the blackboard, all concurrently.
-He committed sexual assault in Washington State, at which time he was recommended to be returned to serve out a few more days of his original Arkansas sentence. The official in Arkansas, no longer involved in a Huckabee administration, said that Arkansas didn't want him back. Washington already had plenty of evidence to lock him up for a long time.
-He was subjected to a psychological exam at Western State Hospital, which concluded that he was a grave danger to society. But they sent him back home to prepare for his trial, once he was able to raise the paltry $15,000 it took to bail him out (despite his long record of failing to appear in court).

If Mike Huckabee bears any blame for Maurice Clemmons' actions on November 29, 2009, he has a lot of people to share it with--foremost of all, those who cooked the books on prison sentences to render them essentially meaningless. Ironically, even had Mr. Clemmons lived to stand trial for the four police murders, and probably even if he was convicted, he would still be eligible for parole before 2047, the date Governor Huckabee (and I'm going to mean it this time when I say this) allegedly set for him to be released from prison for burglary and other acts of teenage hoodlumry.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Thou hast appealed to Caesar--but unto Caesar shalt thou go?

Steven Dale Green has appealed his conviction for leading a gang of off-duty American soldiers in raping and murdering an Iraqi girl, base on the alleged unconstitutionality of a law which allowed him to be tried in Kentucky as a civilian for a crime he admits he committed in Iraq as a member of the occupying army.

I don't know about whether the federal law that allows discharged soldiers from being tried by American courts for crimes committed abroad is constitutional or not; that's the sort of thing that no one ever seems to know but five of the nine members of the Supreme Court. But I can definitely tell that it is un-American to allow a member of an occupying Army to be immune from prosecution in the country where he commits a crime. Just read the Declaration of Independence:

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has . . . . kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

One of the complaints that impelled the colonies to declare independence was that British soldiers could commit the very sort of crime that Private First Class Green did, without having to face a local judge and jury to answer for their crimes. Instead they were either given a military trial and sent back to duty after a slap on the wrist, or even--in the case of officers--returned for trial in England where there would be no witnesses against them.

It was kind of hard to get witnesses to the Mahmudiyah murders, since the perpetrators had killed them all. But it can be safely assumed that had the killers gone on trial in an Iraqi court, at least their leader, PFC Green, would have received the death penalty--something the Kentucky jurors who heard his case didn't quite think he deserved. Now, granted, Green isn't asking to be tried in an Iraqi tribunal, but an Army one--where he thinks he could get away with even less than the lifetime in prison that the federal court handed down.

You have appealed to Caesar, Mr. Green: watch out. If the judges have to go all the way back to the Constitution to nullify the law that convicted you, they might just keep on reading and decide that it's also wrong to allow you to escape prosecution in the jurisdiction under which you committed your crimes. If our founding fathers had any say in the matter, Mr. Green, you'd be on the next plane to Baghdad, in shackles.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Berean Believers: Men, Women, or Jews?

Inasmuch as this blog's posts on the TNIV continue to be of interest to Zondervan and even the CBT itself, I feel compelled to complete as many posts on it as I can in time for consideration before the Newer and Improveder NIV comes out in 2011.

I've been reading the NIV again after having set it aside for a couple of decades, and of course one thing that frequently comes to mind as I go through it is, "I wonder how the TNIV changes this?" Such was the case this morning while reading Acts 17. And what do you know--when I went online to check the TNIV, I found a change from the NIV that actually appears to be for the better. Don't get too excited about it, though, until you've heard me out.

Acts 17:10-12 NIV
As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Now, the common English text just had "these" as the subject of 'were' in v. 11, but in replacing it with a proper noun for the NIV, the CBT looked all the way to the sentence before the previous one to find an antecedent for the Greek pronoun outoi. But in looking the passage over again to update the gender reference, it appears that someone on the CBT noticed that the actual referent was probably the Jews who met at the synagogue; it's actually the noun just previous to the pronoun in the Greek text. Thus the following change in the TNIV, which, I will agree, corrects the overgeneralisation of the NIV:

Acts 17:10-12 TNIV
As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Okay, so of course 'brothers' had to become 'believers', a change from the specific to the general, consisting at least implicitly of an elevation of women to an influential position of leadership in the Thessalonian church which is in no wise implied in the Greek text itself. "The Berean Jews" as a change from the general to the specific is warranted, however, but only because the previous change from the specific to the general wasn't. I will grant, though, that the TNIV makes the identity of those noble Bereans more explicit than did the KJV and most of its revisions.

It was no innovation, however, for Zondervan had pinned the same label on the noble Bereans in its Amplified New Testament back before it had even taken over sponsorship of the NIV. In other words, the NIV was a step backward in translation excellence, and all the TNIV did was bring it forward to a previous standard of several decades earlier--a time span during which the English language had supposedly changed so much that a new rendition was warranted.

Looking further in the NIV, we find the missing 'Jews' in v. 12, where they are in contrast to the Greeks who believed along with them. The TNIV was able to dispense with the label here, having put it back where it belonged--although even there it is only implicit, not explicit, in the Greek text. But that's fine, as it fits the CBT translation philosophy.

What isn't fine, though, is that the decades-old gender-insensitive reading at the end of v. 12 was left uncorrected. Of course the CBT in the TNIV never tampered with explicit references to women, only with masculine references that they felt should explicitly include women. So "a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men" was just fine as-is. Or was it?

What the Greek literally reads is:

many therefore of them believed and of the hellenic women the honorable ones and of the men not a few

If I had no knowledge of Greek beyond what a lexicon would supply, I would probably assume that there were three classes of new believers mentioned here:

1. Many of the Berean Jews who had searched the Scriptures
2. The honorable ones among the Berean Greek women
3. Not a few Berean men

But really, I doubt this is how any translator actually understood it. The genitive phrases link three groups to the verb 'believed': 'them', 'the Greek women', and 'the men'. Thus the verse should be punctuated to read:

Many therefore of them believed, also of the Hellenic women (the honorable ones), as well as of the men--not a few.

This is the most likely reading of the KJV rendition:
Therefore many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

But translators have generally understood this to refer to the following three classes of new believers:

1. Many of the Berean Jews who had searched the Scriptures (implicitly just the men)
2. Many of the prominent Berean Greek women (mentioned in a place of emphasis)
3. Many of the prominent Berean Greek men

You can read a lot into this understanding of the passage; for instance, among the nobility the women were the first to respond to the gospel, and then went on to lead their husbands to Christ. But this isn't how the CBT saw the situation. Despite the above three classes being explicit in the Amplified Bible, Zondervan went on to sponsor a rendition which has yet to be revised, and yields the following classes of new believers:

1. Many Berean Jews (gender left unspecified as per TNIV philosophy)
2. A number of prominent Greek women
3. Many Greek men (these last two classes, by implication at least, also being Bereans)

The problem again is one of referent. The Greek plural adjectives (which in the genitive case are gender-neutral) ellhnidwn (Greek) and euschmonwn (honorable) are only found once in the passage, but the TNIV does not apply both of them to men and women equally. This, even though they take just two mentions of 'numerous' and apply them to all three classes.

In other words, the CBT translations--like a straightforward reading of the KJV, implicitly depriving the Berean men of their prominence--nonetheless grant them an explicit Greek identity. This they do differently than the KJV, which allows the possibility of the Berean men being honorable, but not being Greeks. While I wouldn't want to encourage one approach or the other, either is allowed in the complex world of Greek-to-English translation, and most revisions of the KJV up to the present decade have retained its ambiguity. One of the most recent of these, however, the NRSV, while attempting to make more explicit the honor due the men, practically went the other way with the women. In trying not to mention the women in their usual grammatical place (after the men), the NRSV comes to within a single comma of implying to the English reader that they weren't prominent, even though that is explicit in the Greek:

Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing.

This revision also perpetuates the NIV's overgeneralisation of including Greeks in the class of Scripture-searching Bereans--even though it calls them 'Jews' in the previous verse!

If I might add one more dig here, consider the refusal of the CBT to include a woman named Damaris in a class called 'men' in light of The Message's take on this passage, which, like the NRSV, includes Greeks in a class called 'Jews' (something not entirely impossible in biblical English, but certainly not understandable as such to Today's Young Person):

The Jews received Paul's message . . . . A lot of them became believers, including many Greeks who were prominent in the community, women and men of influence.

In Acts 6, Eugene Peterson referred to the two classes of Jewish believers as "Greek-speaking believers--'Hellenists'" and "Hebrew-speaking believers." I don't believe he actually intended to equate the two here; had he consulted the NIV instead of the RSV in preparing this paraphrase, he probably would have caught the inconsistency.

Now in conclusion, I have to say that the CBT may very well have made a conscious decision not to include 'men' in the class of honorable Bereans--at least not in verse 12, that is. And it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility to translate the text thus--the NLT did it as well, though not as explicitly. But there are actually two levels of inconsistency here, at least one of which is inexcusable.

First of all, the TNIV identifies the men as Greek, but not as honorable--although their honorable status is fully as implicit in the text as their Greek identity. This perpetuates a grammatical inconsistency in the RSV, which was apparently a favorite version of quite a few of the original members of the CBT. But at least the RSV, unlike the revision that replaced it, was able to keep the Jews straight from the Greeks.

Secondly, the TNIV, again like the now-defunct RSV, restricts the application of the adjective 'honorable' to just the Greek women of Berea. While this may be an acceptable translation, it shows a glaring inconsistency in the CBT's translation philosophy as it comes through in the TNIV. In the TNIV, the CBT has bent over backward to include the women in every possible explicit reference to men, but has made no such effort not to overlook the men whenever women are explicitly mentioned.

In the process of fixing a grammatical inconsistency of racial identification in the supposedly gender-insensitive NIV, the CBT has perpetuated the very philosophical inconsistency that made it insensitive to gender identification--but couldn't seem to see it through their pink-colored glasses. Is this not always what happens when, in an attempt to forcibly eliminate entrenched discrimination, those who tamper with societal norms must needs send the one class down in order to bring the other up?

Friday, 20 November 2009

America's first Muslim President

Someone has put together a ten-minute video (you can skip the last 3 minutes) of actual footage of Barack Hussein Obama talking about Islam, speaking to Muslims, quoting from the "Holy Qur'an," paying homage to the Protector of the Two Holy Sites, and visiting a cathedral that had been confiscated and turned into a mosque (that's most of the last 3 minutes).

It suffers from the typical out-of-context truncation of sound bites, but it's very clear that President Obama considers Islam to have at least an equal claim on America as Christianity does. Actually more of a claim, because he just appointed a federal judge who ruled that praying in the name of Allah is okay, but not in the name of Jesus.

President Obama also says that Islam has been a part of America since its founding. Unfortunately, this is true, because the very first war of aggression that the fledgling nation of America was forced to defend itself against was waged by Islamic pirates who took over American ships on the high seas and held them for ransom in Islamic-controlled ports. Alas, little has changed in 200 years. Even then, debate raged in the halls of government whether the US should give in to the pirates' demands, or fight back. Even then, there were those who asserted that since the US was "not a Christian Nation," the pirates shouldn't feel such a need for animosity against us. But then as now, when carefully applied force met greedy cowardice, the pirates were easily thwarted.

As if 'being a Christian nation' has anything to do with it. Did the emir of Kuwait rush to assure Saddam Hussein that "they weren't a Christian nation" before his forces crossed their mutual border? When Muslim nations stop attacking each other, only then will it be time to suspect that their imperialistic tendencies might be checked by claiming not to be a Christian nation. Muslims don't have a special animosity towards Christian nations; they hate all infidels more or less equally, with a special hatred for infidel Jews and those who try to protect them from Islamic genocide. It's the poor nations they leave alone, other than to plunder their populations for the slave trade.

This was the response of the Islamic ambassador to the American envoys sent by Congress in 1785 in an attempt to pay off the pirates:

"It was written in [ou]r Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every Muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise."

After Congress had spent all its money in dane-geld (a whopping 20 per cent of the federal budget for 15 years) and still not gotten rid of the dane, after envoy after envoy had returned with empty assurances, Congress finally dropped the diplomatic approach and sent in the Marines. Their landing on "the shores of Tripoli" should have decided the matter, but those hell-bent on appeasement had the last word: Sixty Thousand Dollars were handed over to the losers to induce them to give up their prisoners.

And guess what. Less than ten years later, having spent their loot and greedy for more, the pirates went back to their old habits. This time Europe stepped in and saved America from having to play the victim again.

President Obama, by his continued reassurances of good will toward America's enemies, is only serving to prolong the war on America that has been waged by Islam on and off since America's very beginning as a nation-state. In seeking to appease the enemy, he has only guaranteed their continued animosity. Unless some other nation steps in to rescue us from ourselves, America is doomed to perpetual victimhood as long as men like John Jay, John Adams, and Barack Obama are calling the shots--or calling them off, as the case may be.

Monday, 16 November 2009

A German's View on Islam

I received this thought-provoking email, which has been making the rounds of the internet for a couple of years. It reminded me of a National Geographic article written under the heavy censorship of World War Two. Penned by a Navy Admiral, it was a report on the progress of the war at sea. Almost nothing whatsoever to do with world geography, but something to fill the pages when not much of anything else could be reported on. The article included a number of color photographs, provided by the US Navy of course, depicting 'our boys in action'. One of these was rather chilling. Taken from a plane bombing a U-boat, it showed a young white man, probably still a teenager, manning the deck gun on a submarine that was about to be sent to the bottom. The caption identified him as a Nazi.

Come on. Being in the German Navy in 1943 no more made one a Nazi than being in the American Army in 2002 made one a Republican. But this boy was fighting a Nazi war, defending a Nazi government. He may have never lived as a Nazi, but he certainly died as one.

Consider this as you read the article.


A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.

"Very few people were true Nazis," he said, "but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen.

Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories."

We are told again and again by "experts" and "talking heads" that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant.

It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectra of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

The hard quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the "silent majority," is cowed and extraneous.

Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority was irrelevant.

China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a war mongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel and bayonet.

And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were "peace loving"?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts: the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

Lastly, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just deletes this email without sending it on is contributing to the passivity that allows the problems to expand. So, extend yourself a bit and send this on and on and on! Let us hope that thousands, world wide, read this and think about it, and send it on before it's too late.

And remember, the first thing the fanatics will do to the silent majority, is to disarm them.

Gerhard Grünewald Franzensbader
Str.19 14193 Berlin

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Mrs. A. J. Wilder on Women Voting

Laura wrote this in April 1916:

"I see by the papers that one of the suffrage leaders of the state will tour the Ozarks this spring in the interest of women suffrage, bringing light into the dark places, as it were.

"A great many seem to regard the securing of the ballot as the supreme attainment and think that with women allowed to vote, everything good will follow as a matter of course. To my mind the ballot is incidental, only a small thing in the work that is before the women of the nation. If politics are not what they should be, if there is graft in places of trust and if there are any unjust laws, the men who are responsible made them and their wives usually have finished the job. Perhaps that sounds as if I were claiming for the women a great deal of influence, but trace out a few instances for yourself, without being deceived by appearances, and see if you do not agree with me."

It appears that she was always ambivalent about women having the vote, but once they received it, she resolved to make the best of the situation and support the issues she cared about by faithful attendance at the polls.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ingalls and Wilder on women voting

I don't have the book with me today, but near the beginning of Little Town on the Prairie there's a dialog at the Ingalls home on the scandal of alcohol and the negative influence of DeSmet's two saloons. Catherine remarks that if women just had the vote, they'd outlaw such things. Interestingly enough, by the time she penned these words, Laura had already seen women get the vote, and--in at least one case--vote to make their city even wetter than before. Even without women voting, though, Dakota Territory was able to outlaw the retail sale of alcohol--and it was one of the first laws passed in South Dakota, the new state of which DeSmet, with its two holders of $400 retail liquor licenses, formed a part.

In her Little-House takeoff Free Land, Rose Wilder Lane gives us the following conversation involving Eliza Wilder, Almanzo's bossy big sister, as they travel an inconveniently long distance to file their respective claims for free land:

"Well, I must say!" said Eliza. "It comes with a pretty grace from you men, finding fault with what you do yourselves." If women had the vote, she stated, things would be done differently.
"That shows how much you know," David retorted. Somebody in Washington decided where to put the land offices. [sic] "If you think voting has anything to do with it, you've got a bee in your bonnet."

Finally, another opinion along these lines was put in the mouth of Mrs. McKee in These Happy Golden Years:

"I don't know why the law makes us do this," she said. "What earthly good it does, to make a woman stay on a claim all summer."
"It's a bet, Pa says," Laura answered. "The government bets a man a quarter-section of land, that he can't stay on if for five years without starving to death.
"Nobody could," said Mrs. McKee. "Whoever makes these laws ought to know that a man that's got enough money to farm, has got enough to buy a farm. . . . All it means is, his wife and family have got to sit idle on it, seven months of the year. I could be earning something, dressmaking, to help buy tools and seeds, if somebody didn't have to sit on this claim. I declare to goodness, I don't know but sometimes I believe in women's rights. If women were voting and making laws, I believe they'd have better sense."

Alas, good sense is not the prerogative of either sex, and whatever sense people have tends to leave them once they get behind the reins of power. The problem here was one of the government giving away something that wasn't theirs to take, and yet the recipients of the government's largesse must grumble and complain about how much work it is to grab it before somebody else does, and then to hang on to it long enough to keep anyone else from being able to take it away.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The TNIV and The Leading Men of the City

I really do intend to get back to Laura at the end of this post--but for now, I need to say one more thing about the TNIV.

One of the main arguments the TNIV supporters give for translating 'men' as 'people' (where the YNIV had not already dropped the word entirely) is based on the use of andres in Acts 17:34, in which a named woman is included in a class that is labeled 'men':

Acts 17:34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

The CBT translates andres in such cases as 'people'--never as 'men and women'. But the implication is clearly that women are meant to be included. In literature supporting the TNIV, scholars have defended the idea that Damaris was one of the leading citizens of Athens who heard Paul's address on Mars Hill. But 'people' is, in my opinion, a very poor translation. Other scholars have shown that andres can carry the idea of a 'citizen' of either sex, and I think this is clearly its meaning here. The idea is that this class of andres, of which Damaris is a member, are leading citizens of Athens. Andres in Acts 17:22&34 could be translated 'citizens'. [UPDATE 7/7/2010: Upon further reflection--this being a census year and all--I believe an even better translation of andres into modern American usage would be 'heads of households.']

But what happens when Luke makes mention of some leading citizens of a city, and doesn't use the word andres? Then it would be okay to call them 'people', wouldn't it? Oops, the TNIV calls them "men":

Acts 13:50 But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city.

There is no word for 'people' in this verse, much less 'men'! A much more sensible--and sensitive--translation would be:

But the Jews incited the religious women of high standing and the leaders of the city.

By translating 'leaders' as 'leading men', the CBT has categorically denied to the women of Pisidian Antioch the very role they assert for the women of Athens four chapters later.

Would Laura Ingalls Wilder have approved?

Monday, 9 November 2009

Rose Wilder Lane on the Right to Vote

The White Man is on a Laura Ingalls Wilder kick right now, so the next few posts will probably be on that general topic. I wrote earlier on Laura's views on voting as of 1919. I'll get back to her later, but for now, here's what her daughter Rose wrote in the early 1940's, in her epic work The Discovery of Freedom, p. 202ff (emphasis mine):

WHEN American politicians took the election of the President of the United States into their hands, they had no idea that this would be the result. No one then imagined that everyone should vote, or ever would vote. In all the States, voting was restricted.

Today, voting is an American superstition. Hardly anyone ever thinks about it. Americans take it for granted that every human being has a natural right to vote. Of course this is not true. No one has a natural right to vote. Everyone is born with inalienable liberty, but nobody is born with an inalienable ballot. . . .
Then what is the actual value of an American's legal right to vote? The Constitutions restrict this Government. Voting can restrict it further, but only when voters elect delegates to conventions to make their Constitutions stronger. Or, when voters have an opportunity to elect men who will repeal laws and reduce Government's area of activities.

Voting for Congressmen can not repeal laws. Voting can never control Government. Men in public office are individuals, and nothing outside an individual can control him. The Constitutions limit the time that a man may stay in office, but during that time he controls himself. At the end of that time, a majority of voters can put him out of office. So an American's legal right to vote can be used as a threat to office-holders who want to be re-elected. 

But a majority of voters can never use that threat. A majority can not even know what their Congressmen are doing. Human beings must use their energies in productive work, and they want to, and they do. The more freely they can act, the more energetically they improve their living conditions, and the less attention they give to anything else. The fact is that Americans pay no attention to Government so long as it does not interfere with them. Normally they never think of it except at election time. Americans are busy; not half of them even know the names of their Congressmen. Ask the next forty persons you meet, if you doubt it.

So the threat of the vote does not operate to restrict Government and protect human rights. The fact is that pressure groups use it to increase Government and restrict the use of natural human rights.
Every American politician is constantly assailed by small groups fiercely determined to make the men in this Government exceed the Constitutional limits of their use of force. Stupid men believe that force can improve other men's morals; they want force to stop men's drinking, or smoking, or gambling. Superstition clouds their minds; they imagine that force can produce economic results; they demand that police clubs control the growth of crops, and the making of goods, and wages and prices and trade. They dream that because a law can make any action a crime, it can stop that action. (Though they know nothing of the history of smuggling and graft, they should be able to remember the law that stopped drinking in these States.)

To these ardent reformers who want to do good (as they see good) by using force upon the greatest number of their inferiors, add the groups of those who want to rob others by force without risking going to jail. Since Government has the only legal use of force, all these groups try to persuade and compel the men in Government to use force as these reformers and these thieves want it used. Their weapon is a threat to use the vote, at the next election, to put out of office the politicians who resist them.

And whenever they succeed, and do increase the Government's use of force, they reduce the area of every American's free action. They decrease the productive use of energy in this country. And they weaken the only legal protection of every American's property and liberty and life. Groups have been trying to do this ever since the first Congress met. The Constitutions, and the morality and patriotism of a few politicians—who are almost never thanked—have all this time protected the natural human rights of Americans, from these pressure-groups who use the threat of the vote.

The majority of Americans can not use that threat. They haven't time, they are too busy, they are making their livings and supporting the Government; they can not spend their time in Washington or in their State capitals, watching Congressmen. Now and then, in a crisis, they can send up a roar from this whole country, and they do. But their voting can not undo anything that Congressmen have done.

If there is a candidate who promises to repeal laws and to reverse a course of action begun by men in Government, then voting can elect him. But electing him is no guarantee that he will keep his promise. He may not be able to keep it. He may be one of those politicians who make promises only to get votes. An average citizen has no means of knowing a candidate personally; no means of knowing how honorable he is.  In any case, while he is in office he controls himself; the voters have no control over him.

On the whole, of course, this is fortunate. For why does anyone suppose that a majority of citizens should control their Government? No one imagines that a majority of passengers should control a plane. No one assumes that, by majority vote, the patients, nurses, elevator boys and cooks and ambulance drivers and interns and telephone operators and students and scrubwomen in a hospital should control the hospital. Would you ever ride on a train if all passengers stepped into booths in the waiting-room and elected the train crews by majority vote,as intelligently as you elect the men whose names appear in lists before you in a voting booth?

Then why is it taken for granted that every person is endowed on his twenty-first birthday with a God-given right and ability to elect the men who decide questions of political philosophy and international diplomacy? This fantastic belief is no part of the American Revolution. Thomas Paine, Madison, Monroe, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, did not entertain it for a moment. When this belief first affected American Government, it broke John Quincy Adams' heart; to him it meant the end of freedom on earth; it made him doubt the goodness of his God.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Republican Protest Votes fail to deny Owens a seat in Congress

Well, Doug Hoffman failed to take the victory in the Special Election to fill a vacancy Barack Obama created in the 23rd NY district of the US House. Democrat Bill Owens appears to have won without even getting a majority of the votes cast--most appear to have been split between the Republican and Conservative candidates. This despite the fact that he was actually endorsed by the Republican candidate!

Here's how things broke down:
Republican Candidate: Endorsed by Republican Party. Got just enough protest votes (5.6%) to deny the Conservative Candidate a majority.
Conservative Candidate: Endorsed by Conservative Party and Republican heavyweights. Came in a close second (45%).
Democratic Candidate: Endorsed by Democratic Party, Democratic heavyweights, and Republican Candidate. Picked up enough Republican-endorsed votes to win, but without a majority (49.4%).

There are at least a couple of lessons here. One, for the Democrats: don't expect to win the 23rd district unless you can get the Republican candidate to endorse you. Then for the Republicans: Don't be so stupid, ever again, as to run a candidate who will bow out of the race and endorse her opponent at the last minute. Finally, for the Conservatives: Keep trying; every time your candidate denies the Republican party's liberal candidate a win, it's a good thing for your cause. But remember the rule: a Conservative never wins a recount effort, and a liberal never loses one--unless the Courts step in to stop it in time.

Monday, 2 November 2009

The Tipping Point for Third-Party Politics

In the first eighty years of its constitutional existence, the American Federal Government was controlled by no single party or even pair of parties. Some national elections boasted as many as five strong candidates for the same position. Gradually, though, one party consolidated a grip on power, to the point that only a single united party could hope to break it. This was the party of the Jacksonian Democrats, which by the end of this period was known as the Democratic Party. Opposition to it had by then pretty much coalesced around what had only a couple of election cycles earlier been not only a third party, but a minor one: the Republican Party. One or the other of these parties has dominated national politics ever since.

A crack appeared in this wall of national access when socialist Bernard Sanders attained to the House in 1991 as an independent--the first independent to be elected to Congress in forty years, half of which time Sanders had been trying to get into the Senate without having to go through a national party. He attained this goal in 2007, thanks to the help of the Democrats, who never mounted a serious challenge against him. In both elections, he won a seat being vacated by Jim Jeffords, who had always run as a Republican, but voted more like a Democrat. By the time he delivered his Senate seat to Sanders, he had already left the Republican Party in name as well as in deed.

So, until the last election cycle, "Independent" has been a euphemism for a person whose political ideals fall somewhat to the left of the line dividing the two ruling parties. That began to change when Joseph Lieberman had to leave his party to retain his Senate seat. But he still caucuses with the Democrats, as has every "Independent" for the past half century.

But a further change seems to be in the offing. Doug Hoffman, an accounting manager with no political experience, has pulled into the lead in a 3-way race for the New York seat being vacated by Republican Congressman John McHugh, the newly appointed Secretary of the Army. When Dede Scozzafava, one of the most liberal Republicans in the history of the New York State Assembly, got the nod from the Republican Party, ground-level support for her candidacy evaporated, and Doug Hoffman soon found himself the front runner, with even more popular support than Obama-endorsed Independent-turned-Democrat Bill Owens. Once Scozzafava found herself a distant third, she bowed out of the race. So far Owens, despite an unprecedented endorsement from Scozzafava herself, hasn't picked up any of her supporters; Hoffman already shot five points ahead in the polls, while the rest of Scozzafava's former supporters remain undecided--not a very influential place to be on the eve of the election. The Republican Party, which had not only failed to line up support for their candidate but saw such conservative heavyweights as former presidential running mate Sarah Palin speaking out in support of the front-runner, is now scrambling to adjust to the new reality of an Independent in Congress operating to the right of their own party.

This is a new reality, indeed. The Republican Party has shown itself so inept at picking a winning candidate, and with such a long history of drumming up support for legislators who ended up switching parties, that its role as one of two reigning parties is fast approaching obsolescence. It faces the same fate as the Whig Party, whose fortunes it overthrew in only two consecutive election cycles a century and a half ago. Whether the Conservative Party--or another of a large number of minor third parties presently in the mix--will end up taking its place, remains to be seen.

Update: As mentioned, the Republican candidate, seeing she could not take this seat herself, gave it to the Democrats rather than allowing a true independent to take it. Bill Owens won with 49 per cent of the vote; Dede, still on the ballot, herself still got six per cent, enough to deny Hoffman the victory.
But that's not all. Dede even tried to give up her own NY Assembly seat in favor of her Democrat opponent, but failed; now a Republican holds it.
It gets even crazier. In 2010, Hoffman was stupid enough to run, first as a Republican, then on a third-party ticket when he lost the Primary. He was able to keep Bill Owens down to only 47% of the vote this time.
In 2012, the North State voters showed once again that they weren't interested in being represented by a liberal Democrat:  for the third election in a row, Owens won with less than half the votes cast (although enough votes were disqualified to give him a bare majority), and then only by getting enough urban votes to offset losing eight of the twelve counties in his district. This time, Hoffman sat out the race, and Green Party candidate Donald Hassig got to be the spoiler.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Obama declares National Health Emergency, but with no data to cite for it

Have you received a flu shot? I hope not, because the last time the US Government pushed nationwide vaccination in view of a potential flu pandemic, many people died. Not from the flu--there was not a single confirmed death anywhere in the world at the time the vaccine was released--but from the vaccine itself, and its toxic adjuvants and preservatives.

In 1979, CBS broke the news that the vaccination campaign had not only been a disaster, but that the whole scheme became part of a massive government cover-up. This time around, CBS has disclosed that probably only 1% at best of people diagnosed with swine flu actually have it. And of those who do get it, they are most likely to die of something else--like a reaction to the drugs used to treat it.

The White Man will be staying as far away from his government's flu vaccine as possible, remembering that the worse case of the flu he ever got was the year he received his first flu vaccine. No thanks, Mr. Obama. You can have your National Health Emergency; I'm keeping my health.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The folly of relying on a machine to think

It seems that six months do not pass by anymore without an airline incident in which the primary cause was the pilot relying on a computer to fly the plane for him. In a day in which it costs years of training and upwards of $100,000 to become a commercial pilot, pilots increasingly have less flying and more paperwork to occupy their attention. A case in point is the recent incident in which Northwest Airlines Flight 188 overshot its target by 150 miles while in a self-imposed cone of silence. Why? Both flight officers were busy working on their laptops while they let the computer fly the plane. Paperwork had so consumed their working life that a machine had been left to do their job--but without having access to the tools it needed to do it right.

What is so ridiculous about this is that although GPS has been available for over two decades, it's still not used to control the computers that fly all commercial airliners to their destinations. Although the technology is certainly available to prevent this sort of incident, nobody suggests using it. Instead they blame the pilots, when it is the system more than anything else that is broken.

In yet another classic, but far more tragic, example of this, a Navy minesweeper ran aground in the sacred waters of a Philippine reef. The cause? Relying on a GPS to tell them where the reef was, rather than looking at the sea charts. The GPS being a mere 8 miles off in its approximation has resulted in the sacking of the ship's commanding officer, executive officer, quartermaster, and officer of the deck--and a cost of at least $27 million to the US Navy. That's $25 million to scrap the ship, and $2 million to placate the reef's patron goddess.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Jewish Idolatry rears its ugly head

One common thread in idolatry is the deification of people after they are dead. Caesar liked the idea of deification so much that he went ahead and proclaimed himself god while he was still alive, and commanded all his subjects to pray to him. That's the extreme case, but more common are cases like Martin of Tours and Geat the Saxon. Adored (or feared) in life, they were prayed to (or worshiped) in death.

Others lived rather quiet, unassuming lives, but for various reasons were granted the attributes of deity long after their deaths, especially if their tombs were preserved to be later turned into shrines. Such is the case of Rachel the Matriarch. Many of her descendants will be traveling to her shrine this week to pray to her.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Another reason why this is an anonymous blog

Charles Wesley, who wrote thousands of hymns, penned the following:

"I beg leave to mention a thought which has been long upon my mind, and which I should long ago have inserted in the public papers, had I not been unwilling to stir up a nest of hornets. Many gentlemen have done my brother and me (though without naming us) the honor to reprint many of our hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome to do so, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them, for they are really not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense or the verse. Therefore, I must beg of them these two favors: either to let them stand just as they are, to take things for better or worse, or to add the true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the page, that we may no longer be accountable for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men."

So you see, if what I write turns out to be of enduring value, we had just better expect it to be reprinted without authorization or even attribution. But, in many cases, with emendation. So it is just as well, I suppose, that it start out without being tagged to any one author, and let it take on a life of its own should it will.

Some time later, it may emerge in such a twisted form that I will have to refute it myself, and all the better then, that it was never attributed to me.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Where was Zbigniew Brzezinski on June 8, 1967?

Are we just going to sit there and watch? ... We have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren't just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a 'Liberty' in reverse."
--Zbigniew Brzezinski, referring to rumors that Israeli jets may overfly Iraq on their way to taking out Iranian nuclear reactors.

There are several things interesting about this quote. Number one, who is Zbigniew Brzezinski? He was National Security Adviser under, of all people, Jimmy Carter. Pat Robertson saw him as the tail that wagged the dog. If he is still being taken seriously 30 years after leaving office, obviously that man has some serious clout far and beyond any government position he's ever held.

Secondly, he's referring to the Liberty incident as one that was 'a deliberate accident'. I've thought this all along, but the official position of both the US and Israel is a) Israeli jets and torpedo boats didn't realize that the ship in international waters flying an American Flag was one of ours until after they tried to sink it, and b) Everything regarding the incident remains sealed under the highest levels of secrecy [until now anyway], even after most of the people involved 42 years ago are already dead.

This also raises the question: Where was Zbigniew Brzezinski on June 8, 1967?

It's interesting that only this year--four decades after the action--was a Silver Star medal finally awarded to Terry Halbardier in which Israel was actually mentioned as the nation whose jets were strafing him as he strung a makeshift antenna so that the Liberty could get out the message that it was under attack. It was only due to his actions that the Sixth Fleet was alerted and Israel was forced to stop shooting the survivors. And this came only 3 years after Halbardier finally received the Purple Heart for injuries suffered in the strafing run.

Inasmuch as Halbardier has always been a "Liberty Incident Truther" about the attack, the fact that he has finally received what should have been virtually automatic recognition for his valor implies that official US attitudes on The Liberty Incident are softening.

If I live long enough--about another 40 years--I expect to find a similar softening of the lid of secrecy that has remain clamped over the 9/11 incidents.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Man without a country

We now know that Barack Hussein Obama II was not born to Barack Hussein Obama and Stanley Ann Dunham on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii--this despite many assurances we have received to the affirmative.

How do we know? Because this is the information on the Certificate of Live Birth that his surrogates have posted images of online (he himself has never made any of these claims under oath). Images that have been closely examined and declared without doubt to be fraudulently manipulated. Were this information true, there would be no reason whatsoever to forge it.

There is no reason to doubt that Ann was his mother; and little reason to doubt that Barack was his father. Therefore there is only one line on the forged COLB that can't be true, and that is the date and location of his birth.

The conclusion is inescapable: Barack Obama is America's first African president.

[UPDATE 02 Sept 2011: Subsequent release of another altered birth certificate did not settle the question. But unless information has been stolen from B.H.O. I's INS record, the birth did in fact take place in Hawaii, on or about the date indicated. Something has been altered, however, and we can only guess what it was. Perhaps the baby's last name was not Obama, and it took a retroactive tampering with the certificate to avoid the nasty complexities of a legal name change. Search on "Obama" for the full account on this blog.]

Thursday, 8 October 2009

How Africans got black skin

I once heard this story from an authority on West African oral culture, and since it doesn't seem to have made its way online yet, I thought I might as well share it with the world. I hope someone will come along with a better version that I can link to.

In the beginning, God made everybody the same: they all had black skin. But God appointed a time when everyone could come to the watering hole and wash the blackness off their skin. He set the time at ten o'clock in the morning.

Now, the European had a watch, so he made sure to be on time. But the African didn't worry so much about the time, and he got there late. Alas, by the time he arrived, the European had used up almost all the water washing the blackness off his skin. There was only enough water left to wipe the blackness off the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet.

This is why Africans to this day are black everywhere but their hands and feet. And it is also why the Europeans always go by the clock.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Cracking the Google Bar Code

It's been more than 20 years since I sat down one day with a pile of envelopes and cracked the Zone Improvement Plan bar code. Excited, I then turned my hand to cracking the Universal Product Code, but soon gave up in frustration. The series of thick and thin bars seemed to carry no information corresponding to the digits beneath them.

Well, today on the 57th anniversary of the official recognition of the bar code, I finally did it. The key turned out to be that the thick and thin spaces between the bars also carry information, and, even more importantly, there are extraneous digits at the beginning, middle, and end of the code. Furthermore, there are always an odd number of digits (in order to begin and end the series with a bar rather than a space), so in the last half of the code the numerals begin with a space rather than a bar.

This all came about because today the GOOGLE logo is a bar code. I haven't been able to crack it yet, but I've gone to all the work of teasing out the digits. I don't know yet whether they are base-2 or base-4 binary, but nothing I've tried so far has worked. I welcome suggestions!

Here are the digits:


There are 55 digits, which to me probably signifies that 211 and 112 are the beginning and ending markers (which is more ZIP code than UPC code), and that the central digit, 1, marks the middle. That leaves 12 numerals of 4 digits each. They can't be read as UPC code numerals, which always consist of 4-digit sequences that add up to seven. How that is supposed to spell Google, I don't know. Maybe instead it's a date: 10-07-1952/2009.

Or, the end markers could just be the digit 2 and there are 13 numerals. Please help!

Added on October 8th:
Well, I was on the right track. The end marker '2' is only there to allow the code to end in a bar; barcodes for that reason always have to have an extra digit as long as the characters contain an even number of digits. This particular code is rather consistent, in that all other characters contain six digits. So I was a bit short on the end-markers; the symmetry of their outside digits was only coincidental.

But the extraneous 'g' truly is a mystery. In the science of textual criticism, this would be referred to as dittography, but of a rather unusual kind.

The entire barcode translates as follows:
-begin sequence-Googleg-end sequence-.

I don't see that it would have been all that hard to decode only 49 characters instead of 55, especially given that the key was freely available online. And the notion of a checksum doesn't seem to fit, as it is only used with numeric codes like UPC.

I'll check back in if anyone can solve the mystery. And yes, a malicious website in China ( has hacked into many of the sites discussing this mystery!

Friday, 2 October 2009

As phony as a three-dollar bill

I have as of late been electronically sitting at the feet of certain historians so called, who have endeavored to enlighten me in the true history of the Americas. This experience has indeed been enlightening, as well as entertaining. But at length I have felt the need to pull back and peer into the history of this movement to re-write the ancient lore of this hemisphere. And behold, along the way I found the history of this movement to include, of all things, a phony three-dollar bill. I even saw with the eyes of my understanding, a facsimile thereof, though I have yet to have hefted it.

It can be found on the plate following page 148 of this book.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Of Kittens and Kids

The queen at our farm gave birth to kittens several weeks ago. That was welcome news to the cat's owner, who absolutely adores kittens. This is her third litter and, for the first time so far, all have survived. In all our years of owning cats, we've never had too few or too many; but we do have enough already, and these four are welcome to move out once they pass the cute stage.

That's right, she had four kittens. If she lived in many cities of the United States, that would already make us criminals; many town ordinances ban owning more than four pets per residence. I'm glad that residents of these towns are presumed innocent of this offense unless somebody complains; but a criminal in hiding is no less a criminal.

And we also have children at our farm. In all our years of having children, we've never had too few or too many; but we do have enough already, and the oldest ones are welcome to move out once they are ready to start families of their own. But I don't recommend they move to St. Louis to do so.

The City of St. Louis restricts families from having more than two children per bedroom. Which means that for some home owners, amid the joys of a baby sibling arriving comes the realization that the new little one has rendered the rest of his family criminals--or exiles.

Sigh. Read the opening chapters of Exodus to get an idea of what God thinks of such a policy.

Friday, 25 September 2009

The Day That Has No Name

Ah, it's that maddening time of the year again, when people start to talk about The Day That Has No Name. I'm referring, of course, to the Holiday that everyone has to talk about but no one seems allowed to specify. Take, for instance, the following email received from the United States Postal Service (I can't seem to find any of this information on their website):

2009 Holiday Shipping Cut Off Dates
Class/Product Cut Off Date
First Class Mail Dec-21
Priority Mail Dec-21
Express Mail* Dec-23
Parcel Post Dec-16
DBMC Drop Ship Dec-19
DDU Drop Ship Dec-23
International Mail**
Express Mail Military APO/FPO**
* Some Express Mail destinations may have extended service commitments
** See additional information

and so on. Notice how all the dates converge at a point about a week before the end of December. As everyone knows, mail cannot be delivered on Dec. 25th, because this date is a federal holiday. But which federal holiday, you may ask? Well, the USPS is not about to tell you, even though they sell a whole series of "holiday" stamps, many with the word "Christmas" printed right on them.

I am more determined that ever, this year, every time someone wishes me "Happy Holidays," to respond with a quizzical look and the question, "Which Holidays do you have in mind?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A Great Mind That Didn't Go to Waste: A Lesson from History

Growing up, The White Man never considered the possibility that he would not attend college. It was, after all, what people in his social class did after graduating from high school. And he certainly would never have dreamed of stopping his education short of a high school diploma--especially with his level of intellect. In fact, he early on set his sights on that pinnacle of academic achievement, a doctoral degree.

But while he was in college, getting to know the woman was soon to become his wife and the mother of their large brood of children, he began to reconsider the whole idea of a formal education. After all, neither of his parents had graduated from a four-year college. And none of his grandparents even had high school diplomas--not even the schoolteacher who considered 11 years of formal schooling quite sufficient preparation for enrolling in summer courses at the state college that eventually granted her a degree in elementary education.

So it is that none of the White Man's children have attended college--nor even matriculated into high school. And it's unlikely that any of them will, with the way public education has gone in the past half century.

Let's step back just three generations, to when my children's four great-grandfathers reached school age. They were farmers, all of them, which meant that by age six or seven they were already participating in the daily and seasonal chores that were vital to their families' livelihood. School was a building usually no more than a mile or two away, taught by a young person, usually single, who boarded with one of the local families. Fellow scholars were neighbors of varying social strata and educational ambition, but a good education could be had by those with the time and determination to receive it.

Time could be a problem. One boy was repeatedly needed on the farm, even during those few months every year when school was in session, and as a result it usually took him around two calendar years to advance one school year. By age fourteen, when he left the schoolhouse for good, he had not yet attained the fourth grade. This lack of education was a disappointment to him for the rest of his life, as he was never able to attain to the profession of his choice, but was doomed to a live of drudgery in the factory or on the farm. Another boy, however, never aspired to anything higher, and was glad to be free of the schoolroom once he reached the upper limit for compulsory education. The others got somewhat farther, one of them even making it through high school by riding his horse every day into the nearest city.

But what all these boys had in common was the expectation that they would leave their home on a more or less daily basis to get their educational needs met by, and with, their neighbors. And this arrangement did not extend beyond eighth grade, at least for country folk. There were no school buses; one ancestor boarded in town, only eight miles away, in order to attend high school; she being a girl, a daily horseback ride of that length was out of the question. And those who did attend high school only did so in order to reach a specific career objective, like teaching in a modern big-city school.

Fast forward a hundred years to the present day. The neighborhood schools have all been closed, the buildings themselves now fallen into ruins or housing farm machinery. Now gigantic school buses, each one containing several times the number of children formerly enrolled in a country school, lumber down country roads, blocking traffic in all directions while they pick up children as young as five years old. These they disgorge at a spacious campus to be educated with and by people unknown to their parents. But in order to even get in the door, the tots will need a birth certificate, a shot record, proof of guardianship, and, within a few more years, a state-issued photo ID linked to a federal registry. These barriers to entry are enough to keep out any children who don't see public school as their best route to the career of their choice--and whose parents support their independent mindset.

And such is the case with my family. My children would far rather spend their time learning at home and on the job than be cooped up in a classroom, and, as one who spent eighteen years as a full-time student, I can't say I blame them. Within the lifetimes of the older ones, school has stretched out from the 9 months it was when my parents were children to the current 10 months of the year. The 3 R's are still taught--after a fashion--but more time is devoted to social engineering of malleable young minds. Rather than being something temporary a young person does to get started in the workforce, schoolteaching has become a profession with certification, continuing education, and union membership. School has become so expensive that, were I to pay for enrolling even half my school-aged children, it would cost more than I make. And alas, with all this, children graduating from high school--and often, even college--are no better prepared to make it in life than my grandfathers were, working sixty or more hours a week by the age of fourteen.

If there were a community school within walking distance, charging perhaps one fortieth of my income per child, without any of the modern barriers to entry, I'm sure that some of my children would attend it. And it would no doubt be of considerable educational benefit to those who took advantage of it. But alas, that era is gone and unlikely to ever return. My children are still receiving an education--and a considerably good one--but not the sort of education they will ever be able to pass on to anyone but their own children and grandchildren; even though, with modern technology, they won't ever have to work nearly as long or hard to make a living as their great-grandfathers did, leaving plenty of time for self-study and self-improvement for as long as they live. But let's step back and look at one man, contemporary with my children's great-grandfathers, who grew up in that environment and, as such, was able to share the fruits of his learning with the entire world.

Linus Pauling (1901-1994) did not grow up in the country, but moved from city to city with his parents while his father was settling on a career. His father died only a few years after Linus began school, but lived long enough to see that his son was destined for greatness; he advertised in The Oregonian for suggestions of reading material for young Linus, who devoured every book he could get his hands on.

Without the drudgery of farm chores, Linus was able to learn as much or more outside the classroom as in it. He wandered over to a shuttered steel mill and helped himself to enough chemicals to set up a basement laboratory, and mastered the art of testing milk for butterfat content when barely a teenager.

By age 16, Linus had learned everything the city high school would teach him--even then, he was frustrated by the administration's refusal to let him take the classes of his choosing--and he dropped out of high school to enroll in college. I love this part: the high school that wouldn't cater to his educational plan granted him a diploma forty-five years later, after he had become the first (and still the only) person to win two separate Nobel prizes, in different fields, all in his own right. I'm sure he didn't think much of the oft-repeated mantra that high school dropouts are doomed to the lowest strata of society.

Linus showed such ability that he began teaching college courses while still a student--sometimes a course that he himself had only just completed. And he was able to earn enough while a student to completely pay for his college education--another norm that has essentially been lost forever. I barely earn enough, even working a full-time job with seniority and benefits, to pay for just the tuition costs of one student--with nothing left over for living expenses.

Linus Pauling was a groundbreaking researcher in three scientific fields--chemistry, biology, and physics--in addition to being a forerunner in the field of grass-roots politics. He first conceptualized the helical structure of DNA, being barely beaten out by colleagues Watson and Crick in determining that it was a double rather than triple helix. He was even involved in the development of the atomic bomb, but later led the drive to end above-ground nuclear testing when he realised the danger that it posed to the public health.

In 1941, at the height of his scientific career, he developed a then-incurable kidney disorder and turned his attention to the role of diet in preventing disease: specifically vitamins, which were unknown when he began studying chemistry in the first decade of the 1900's. His research and experiments on his own body were so successful that he was able, at age 86, to write How to Live Longer and Feel Better. He actually lived longer after the diagnosis of fatal renal malfunction than he had prior to it.

By living when he did, Linus Pauling was able to become one of The Twenty Greatest Scientists of All Time. He grew up in an age where a teen was free to experiment, innovate, and even teach college as a high school dropout. That age, like the man himself, has now passed into history.

What if a child today, with the same gifts Linus Pauling enjoyed, were to try to succeed under the current barriers to education and scholastic employment?

What if, but for those barriers, one of my children might be the next Linus Pauling?

Friday, 18 September 2009

Let's pick on somebody else today!

This blog has been described as my own personal rant. I must say, that does hurt my feelings, but as much as I may have desired for it to become an online discussion, it hasn't turned out that way. I do join in other discussions, yes--but at least this is a place where I can share my uncensored views on a number of topics. My regular readers may be interested to know that over the past year, the top five searches that drive people to this blog have been along the lines of:

Corey has money scam / Travis made cash
Obama chronology / Habiba Akumu
Michael Pearl / Gap fact
Arthur Blessitt divorce Sherry
Several others take turns in fifth place, but overall it has most often been Ussher's Chronology.

The second and third have consistently been the top two from week to week, but I got hundreds of hits on the first the week I put it up and it continues to draw readers in--somewhat sporadically, I've noticed.

Well, although this blog has attracted the attention of Biblica and Zondervan, I actually get relatively few hits on the New International Version--mostly from links to my comments on other blogs. Yet this topic has drawn the ire of commenters more than any other. Not content to direct my batteries all to one side of the debate, I now turn them upon the other. This post is going to be a critique of the supporters of the King James Version.

I came across a website today that I can best describe as pitiful. As someone who has read through the entire King James Version in the original language (1611 London edition), I can hardly understand how someone could claim this version as the only true Bible. It is obvious that those who make this claim typically have never so much as seen it, much less read it. For example, the following gems from the aforementioned website:

Just give us the text that has established itself as the standard text of the Holy Bible, an old fashioned, Christ exalting, devil kicking, Authorized King James Bible. To the best of my understanding this is the 1769 edition of the 1611 King James Bible with a few minor printing errors and spellings corrected along the way in the 1800's.

The eyes of his understanding indeed need to be enlightened. For one thing, minor printing errors are a feature of any given printing, not any particular edition. And one can hardly say that spellings were corrected during the 17th century, when spelling in the English language had not yet been standardised. In fact, it has not been standardized yet, as evidenced by the two different, yet correct, ways I have spelled the word itself.

For another thing, there was nothing particularly special about the 1769 edition, except that it pretty much became the standard for subsequent printings by the Oxford University Press, and subsequently for early printings in the United States. The previous edition continued to be printed by Cambridge University Press from 1762 up until the waning years of the last century. Mr. Kizziah was quite put out to find that Cambridge had gone back to doing what it had done for the first century and a half of printing the KJV, which was to "correct the spelling."

Now, it may come as a great shock to Mr. Kizziah, but these spelling changes are nothing new in the history of the KJV. I have before me a KJV Bible published in the 19th century by the International Bible Agency in New York, and it contains many of the same "spelling corrections" that caused him so much consternation in a 1993 Cambridge edition. Indeed, some of these changes go back to the middle of the century before last, and have been standard features in American KJV Bibles for much longer than Mr. Kezziah or his grandmother have been alive.

Mr. Kezziah writes,
The seven-letter Saviour is the only begotten Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. The six-letter Savior is the son of perdition, the anti christ. He wants to be like the most High (Isaiah 14:14,) but not in a good way, but in an evil way. He is not a follower. He's a counterfeiter. Therefore his final destination is the lake of fire. The new versions, along with the new age movement, and some of the King James Bible counterfeits are preparing the way for this six-letter so called Savior. That's the way he will spell his name, S-a-v-i-o-r not S-a-v-i-o-u-r. No thank you Satan. I'm sticking with the seven-letter Saviour as portrayed in the old black Book that I inherited from my forefathers.

Oh boy. This is the sort of pseudoscience that one would expect from a pagan--not a christian. Didn't he read on the cover that this was a Holy Bible? That feature at least impresses the people who use it as a talisman.

He goes on,
The rules of English grammar may change but the King James Bible is fixed in a moment of time (the 1800's, the 1900's and for ever more) and is unchangeable. This is the standard text and there is no other. This is the Book that spread the gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world. This is the Book my grandmother had and her grandmother had and her grandmother had without any alterations (editing) whatsoever. It is basically the same Book that rolled off the printing press in 1611. The only differences being it was changed from Gothic type to Roman type, printer's errors were corrected and spelling was stabilized. The King James Bible is a very old Book.

The KJV has never been fixed. The first two printings in 1611 differed from each other in hundreds, if not thousands, of places. Before the end of movable type, every printing was unique. And if something that came out in the 1600's and was standardised in the 1700's could be "fixed" in the 1800's, what's wrong with even more changes in the 1900's? He seems to be shooting himself in the foot with his contradictory speech.

And finally,
Now consider this: the scriptures have been translated into over 1,200 languages. Of all these over 800 languages had it translated straight from the Elizabethan English of the King James Bible. Not from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Not from the Latin, not from the German, but straight from the Authorized King James.

This is all hogwash. He must have pulled these numbers out of thin air. I know of only a couple of Bibles at most that were translated straight from the KJV entire, without reference to the original languages. That is only about 1% of the number of languages with full Bibles in print.

Well, if it's any consolation to those who welcomed the TNIV as the best and most accurate translation ever, I have to admit that I have far more in common with them than I do with those who believe the same, and more--far more--about the KJV. If that were all they believed about the KJV, I could enjoy sweet fellowship with them around the Word. But given their absolute frowardness over what can only with twisted logic even be considered to be God's Word in the English language, I can't even carry on an intelligent conversation with them about it. And believe me, I've tried.

I really do hope for better than that with the supporters of the now-defunct TNIV.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Keep the schools, close the prisons

Michigan is probably not as safe a place to be as it used to, now that the goverment has decided to close prisons in order to open more schools. Closing schools, of course, would mean releasing former students into the general population. Michigan's governor Granholm sees that as a greater risk to public safety than releasing former prisoners--many of them sex offenders--into the general population. But hey--maybe they'll go back to school--as high school Health & Human Reproduction teachers, maybe?

They will be monitored by the State, of course. Just like the State of California "monitored" regular sex offender Phillip Garrido.

Parents in Michigan, I suggest you keep a close eye on your children. And whatever you do, don't assume that they'll be safe in a public school.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The NIV and the King of Sheba

The Washington Post
reports that a secretary in D.C. is now the king of a village in Ghana.

There's a problem with this; she's a woman. Not a problem for the people who allegedly elected her, but a problem for the English language, which has never referred to a woman as king before.

The word queen has always had an exclusively female connotation, even before it took on specific reference to royalty. In recent centuries it has been used both for the consort of a male monarch and for a female monarch; queen mother is now used for the mother of the monarch (a distinction already made in the NIV). But the editors of the Washington Post now want to call a female monarch king--without bothering to mention what they will call her husband. Or, actually, husbands; kings in Ghana are always polygamous.

The Committee for Bible Translation believes that literary English changes measurably every generation; certainly this is a new English term for female monarch, and they had better take it into consideration for their upcoming revision of the NIV: "Queen of Sheba" is sexist, outmoded, and discriminatory. Time to start getting used to calling her "The King of Sheba," or the New and Improved NIV will be obsolete before the ink has finished drying on its pages.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Parenthood is not a civil right

An American-born baby has been taken away from his mother because she doesn't understand English well enough to call 911. The only bright spot in the story is that the child is guaranteed American citizenship, but only by virtue of having been born in an American hospital.

There's a problem here. Being able to call 911 is not a fundamental right, but parenthood is. In America, where the woman has been liberated from being under the control of the father of her children, she is now under bondage to the State instead--a State that grants her custody of her own child only if it deems her a suitable parent. And the list of disqualifiers for that role is apparently infinite.

I, for one, do not consider this an improvement.

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Updated, Newly Revised, Politically Correct, Cutting Edge Version of the Bible--for the next three to five years anyway.

Oh boy. I'm not surprised to hear that Biblica (fka the International Bible Society of New York, about 3 name changes ago) will cease publishing the TNIV. It just hasn't been selling. The good news is that they are admitting that they went too far in the translation itself. The bad news is that they aren't admitting how stupid it was to push the TNIV as the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. It was that, more than anything else, that turned me so much against it. Of course, in the same breath they were admitting that no translation is perfect, especially one over 30 years old, so it was a foregone conclusion that the TNIV would go out of print later if not sooner.

But what really twists my shorts is the admission that it was a mistake to promise not to ever change the NIV again (this announcement made shortly before the original release of the TNIV). They already bombed changing the NIV last time, and they're already planning to do it again? This is not going to help Zondervan's market share at all.

Douglas Moo, a professor at Wheaton College and chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation, said the group is committed to "a complete review of every gender related change."

"I am not sure how it's going to come out," Moo said. "We have a genuine, authentic review process ... Everything is on the table." Most changes will have nothing to do with gender inclusivity, Moo said.

Yeah, right. That's pretty much what they said last time.

Well, the market will decide which version is best. But if they really take the 1984 NIV out of print, I don't think we'll ever see a Biblica edition of the Bible at the top of the sales charts again. There are just too many other options that weren't there in 1984.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Citizens are getting involved in Government--whether They like it or not!

Note to Government officials: If you open a meeting to the public to discuss a controversial legal proposal, you'd better count on at least 500 people showing up to oppose it.

Last night the city of Goshen, Indiana had to move the venue of their city council meeting to the local high school in order to accommodate the crowd that showed up to oppose an ordinance forbidding Goshen businesses from keeping female impersonators out of the ladies' restrooms. And even then, police were already turning people away at the door by the time the meeting was to begin. Most of the attendees weren't Goshen residents, but that should come as no surprise: most of the people who patronize Goshen businesses aren't either. Since these customers can't vote for Goshen City Council, this was their only chance to make their voice heard, before having to vote with their gas pedals and pocketbooks should the ordinance pass. The meeting went on for over six hours, with over 100 people speaking out against the ordinance, before the Council finally voted on it.

And it would have passed, had not the council members received from a pastor in a neighboring town a book exposing the likely legal consequences of such a law. Upon reading it, one of the ordinance's co-sponsors, Chic Lanz, reversed his vote and the motion failed, 3 to 4.

Voting is both a right and a privilege, but an even more powerful right, enshrined in the First Amendment, is to communicate one's concerns to government officials without fear of reprisal. Barack Obama has made that a little more difficult--his campaign once sent the Secret Service after a woman who voiced her reasons for refusing to donate to it--but this is one case where the pen, skillfully wielded, was more powerful than the ballot card-punch.