Somebody is Watching You

Hummingbirds are always hungry, but they are also curious. I watch them when they come to feed at the window feeder, and they take a long look at me through the window. The camera remote allows me to stay out of view while I snap the photos.


The Snowman

Forget about Waldo. Where’s Edward? He has been so very hard to find lately, especially for a guy known to hang out at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. And it all may well be a pointless concern at a number of levels.

Sheremetyevo Airport photo from Wikipedia

1. Any damage he was prepared to do to this country has already been done or will be done regardless of whether Edward Snowden returns to face trial and punishment. If he took anything material of interest to foreign powers, they have it by now. The Chinese may have treated Mr. Snowden cordially during his short and embarrassing stay, but former agents of the Soviet KGB are not known to be so nice. When they say, “Give me what you’ve got,” you give them what you’ve got.

2. There is the distinct possibility Snowden does not have much more materially than what he has already disclosed: The NSA is monitoring communications traffic in American and foreign markets.

3. The aforesaid information should not have been news to anybody. Prior to Snowden’s dropping a dime on the NSA I could have told the Manchester Guardian that we were monitoring everybody’s communications. And I have said so before. Of course, coming from somebody on the inside, Snowden’s story carries more weight than my idle musings. As it is, Snowden can now say anything he wants to, true or not, about United States monitoring activity, and nobody can deny his statements without revealing the actual nature of the operation. And that is something that cannot be done, because that would require  disclosing classified information, just the thing Snowden is facing charges for.

4. Leaving Snowden to dangle in the hands of Russian intelligence or to languish in some backwater country would give me, and should give the government, greater satisfaction than would bringing him back to prosecute and incarcerate. For one, it would save us all a lot of money, and for another the longer he festers among some of the world’s least agile proponents of civil rights, the less credibility he retains. Beyond a point, disconnected from his previous sources of information, the less of what he has to say is pertinent or believable. And he would be able to take a life example from the fictional Philip Nolan character.

Snowden’s father has, through a lawyer, petitioned the government to accept Snowden back on terms: Snowden to remain free prior to his trial, no gag order, a trial venue of Snowden’s choosing. None of these conditions the United States government is likely to accept. Meanwhile, Snowden’s situation seems to be slipping further from his control.

PORTOVIEJO, Ecuador (AP) — Edward Snowden is “under the care of the Russian authorities” and can’t leave Moscow’s international airport without their consent, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa told The Associated Press Sunday in an interview telegraphing the slim and diminishing possibility that the National Security Agency leaker will end up in Ecuador.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has distanced himself from the case since Snowden arrived in Russia last week. But Correa portrayed Russia as entirely the masters of Snowden’s fate.

Putin insists the 30-year-old former NSA contractor remains in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and that as long as he has not legally entered Russia, he is out of the Kremlin’s control.

However, the Kremlin also said Sunday that it will take public opinion and the views of human rights activists into account when considering Snowden’s case, a move that could lay the groundwork for him to seek asylum in Russia.

How many different ways are there to spell “exile?”

Here is what is interesting. I would think that for all his claims about being the protector of our civil rights and exposing the evils of the world he should get more support from the liberal public and media. That does not appear to be the case.

My Facebook “friends” are a collection of conservative and liberal advocates, and from both sides I regularly see the most posts of wildly extreme claims. To date none of my “friends” have posted in favor of Snowden. It could be that, because the alleged activity of the NSA was proposed by a Republican president and further endorsed by a liberal Democratic president and has been endorsed by Congress and has not been successfully challenged in any court, then Snowden is beginning to look like the odd man out. Philip Nolan may soon have company.

Standing Pat

I just love Pat Robertson, I really do. I love him so much. I would be terribly disheartened if the Lord took him from us, because he is such a source for us all. Source of what is another matter, but he is especially a source for me. Here is what he had to say recently:

Robertson warns on LGBT marriages: God could do something ‘drastic’ like Sodom and Gomorrah

Televangelist Pat Robertson on Thursday reacted to two landmark Supreme Court decisions favoring same sex marriage by suggesting that the court’s swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, may have law clerks “who happen to be gays.”

Of course I knew what was coming, because I am psychic. OK, I am not psychic, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn once. Predicting how Robertson will react has become gum ball machine reliable. Some of the fun has gone out. Well, not all of the fun.

Robertson had more to say:

“Unfortunately it’s been cast as a civil rights struggle, and once you say civil rights, you look back to Martin Luther King and the others and say we’ve got to stand for the oppressed,” he shrugged. “So ladies and gentlemen, your liberties are in danger because read the Bible about Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s where the term comes from, Sodom.”

“Look what happened to Sodom. After a while, there wasn’t any other way, and God did something pretty drastic.”

Last year, Robertson told his viewers that homosexuality “is somehow related to demonic possession.”

I think I have this straight. This is the person making the foregoing comments:

Robertson has a distinguished career as the founder of several major organizations and corporations as well as a university: The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the International Family Entertainment Inc. (ABC Family Channel), Regent University, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), the Founders Inn and Conference Center, the Christian Coalition, a Boeing 757 Flying Hospital, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, and CBN Asia. He is a best selling author and the host of The 700 Club, a Christian News and TV program broadcast live weekdays on the ABC Family Channel via satellite from CBN studios, as well as on channels throughout the United States, and on CBN network affiliates worldwide.

That is a lot of stuff accomplished by somebody just ten years older than I am. And he has not yet caught on to the fact demons are mythical beings and that Sodom is a mythical place?

The historicity of Sodom and Gomorrah is still in dispute by archaeologists, as little archaeological evidence has ever been found in the regions where they were supposedly situated. Strabo states that locals living near Moasada (as opposed to Masada) say that “there were once thirteen inhabited cities in that region of which Sodom was the metropolis”. Strabo identifies a limestone and salt hill at the south western tip of the Dead Sea, and Kharbet Usdum ruins nearby as the site of biblical Sodom.

Wait, I have something to more to say about this. The primary reference to a place called Sodom is in the Book of Genesis, well known to be a fictional narrative. The story that gives Sodom its significance is bizarre beyond belief.

GENESIS 19 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said,  “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

Crossway Bibles (2011-02-09). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References) (Kindle Locations 1633-1651). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

So, the story is that two angels (mythical beings) came to Lot’s home in Sodom, and he put them up for the night. But, before anybody could get comfortable all the men (and boys) of the town came to Lot’s home and demanded he send out the two stranger so they could bugger them. Well, Lot would hear none of that, because the two men (mythical beings) were guests in his home, and he would not submit to their being buggered by all the men and boys in the town. But, Lot had a better idea. Lot had two daughters who had never been screwed, and he offered them to the men and boys of the town if they would leave hist two guests (mythical beings) at peace.

Of course, you know the rest of the story, and the Lord warned Lot to take his family and flee the town of Sodom, because the Lord was going to rain fire and brimstone down on it and destroy it and all the buggers living in it. And the Lord warned Lot that nobody should look back after leaving the town, but Lot’s wife, being as wives are, could not help but look back, and the Lord kindly turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, for which Lot had no use.

So, that left Lot alone in the wilderness with only his two daughters, so he ended up screwing them, instead. And I guess the Lord was OK with that.

And that’s a great story, and that’s the basis for the existence of Sodom. And Pat Robertson takes it at face value, and that’s why I just love Pat. If Pat did not exist I would have to create him, because I need somebody, I desperately do need somebody, to hold up as an example of what an otherwise healthy mind can come to.

Readers, take a lesson from Pat, and don’t let this happen to you. You think Lot’s wife got a raw deal? Take a look at Pat.

The Grand Alliance

I am reading Winston Churchill’s book The Second World War, and the third volume is The Grand Alliance. The tale is told by a person who was there and who took an immense part in this historical episode from the very beginning. Churchill’s view during the war was necessarily restricted to his own part, but following the war the entire workings of the Third Reich fell into the victors’ hands. Churchill made much use of this documentation, which included private correspondence between major players of the axis powers.

Post war revelations from these documents laid bare for the world what could only be conjectured during the events, and they exposed a level of perfidy and back dealing that would be the envy of any modern criminal gang. That people like these came to such power in major nations at the time is one aspect that makes the history of the Second World War such fascinating reading.

England and France declared war on Germany in 1939 due to the German invasion of Poland. Previously German Chancellor Adolph Hitler had successively broken portions of the Treaty of Versailles and had made aggressive moves against neighboring countries. Each time the victors of The Great War had backed down, not wanting to start another war with Germany. Poland had been the final straw and England and France belatedly began to prepare for military conflict. It was too late, and in 1940 Hitler struck at Norway and Denmark, then a month later at The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, all without any prior warning. France was quickly invaded and subdued, and England fought on alone, the sole major power to continue to oppose Germany. The United States remained neutral. No American politician could get elected without declaring American neutrality in the war.

When England would not accept peace terms with Germany, Hitler launched air attacks on England with the idea of a cross-channel invasion to follow. However, England won the air battle and gave German forces their first setback of the war. Then England went on the offensive. Seeing which way the wind was blowing, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini pitched his lot in with Hitler and began a grab for French, Balkan, Greek and African territory. The English went on the offensive and dealt the Italian army in North Africa a severe and embarrassing defeat. The year 1941 dawned with the opposing powers preparing their next moves.

In The Grand Alliance Churchill presents the text of a letter Hitler sent to Mussolini on the last day of 1940. The letter runs to several pages and has numbered sections. Hitler deals with different aspects of his current outlook, and the section pertaining to Russia (the Soviet Union) is most interesting:

Russia. Given the danger of seeing internal conflicts develop in a certain number of Balkan countries, it is necessary to foresee the extreme consequences and to have ready machinery capable of avoiding them. I do not envisage any Russian initiative against us so long as Stalin is alive, and we ourselves are not victims of serious setbacks. I consider it essential, Duce, as a premise of a satisfactory conclusion of this war that there should be in existence a German army sufficiently strong to deal with any eventuality in the East. The greater the strength of this army appears the less will be the probability that we shall have to employ it against an unforeseen danger. I would like to add to these general considerations that our present relations with the U.S.S.R. are very good. We are on the eve of concluding a trade treaty which will satisfy both parties, and there is considerable hope that we can resolve in a reasonable manner the remaining points at issue between us.

Churchill, Winston (2010-07-01). The Grand Alliance (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 308-314). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

What is so interesting are the last two sentences. Relations with the U.S.S.R. are good, and Hitler is negotiating a trade treaty that will be beneficial to both parties. Really? Hitler’s duplicity was something he could not share even with his partner in crime, Mussolini. The truth is that nearly a month prior, on 5 December, Hitler had already approved plans for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion and destruction of the Soviet Union.

On 5 December 1940, Hitler received military plans for the invasion, and approved them all, with the start scheduled for May 1941. On 18 December, Hitler signed War Directive No. 21 to the German High Command for an operation now codenamed “Operation Barbarossa” stating: “The German Wehrmacht must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign.” The operation was named after Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire, a leader of the Third Crusade in the 12th century. The invasion was set for 15 May 1941. The plan for Barbarossa assumed that the Wehrmacht would emerge victorious if it could destroy the bulk of the Red Army west of the Western Dvina and Dnieper Rivers. This assumption would be proven fatally wrong less than a month into the invasion.

If Mussolini was deceived, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was doubly so. The Brits had access to a person, whose identity has never been discovered, who knew of the invasion plan. Stalin, the cold blooded killer and consummate schemer, refused to believe the warnings about his German co-conspirator until German forces opened fire at the Soviet border in the predawn hours of 22 June 1941.

If there is any consolation to all this, both parties quickly experienced deep regret. Stalin suffered enormous military and civilian losses before he was able to turn the tide. “The German invasion of the Soviet Union caused a high rate of fatalities: 95% of all German Army casualties that occurred from 1941 to 1944, and 65% of all Allied military casualties from the entire war.”

Hitler’s blunder was an enormous contributor to the Allied victory in the European theater of World War Two.

DOMA and Dumber

That’s about what it was. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a crude attempt by a conservative element in this country to stick a finger in the eye of people who were not straight like them. The fact that from time to time some of these straight people turned out to be not so straight is beside the point. But I will make this side bar.

First examine former Senator Larry Craig from the state of Idaho:

The American Conservative Union rated Craig’s 2005 voting record at 96 out of 100 points, while the Americans for Democratic Action rated him at 15 points. Craig supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, which barred extension of rights to same-sex couples; he voted for cloture on the amendment in both 2004 and 2006, and was a cosponsor in 2008. However, in late 2006 he appeared to endorse the right of individual states to create same-sex civil unions, but said he would vote “yes” on an Idaho constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages when pressured to clarify his position by the anti-gay rights advocacy group Families for a Better Idaho. Craig voted against cloture in 2002, which would have extended the federal definition of hate crimes to cover sexual orientation. This legislation was passed in 2007 in both the House and the Senate as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. Craig voted against the measure. The LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign issued guides to candidates’ voting records in 2004. The Human Rights Campaign group gave him a 0 rating.

Well, that pretty much shows which side of the fence Senator Craig is on when it comes to the “Gay Agenda.”

On August 27, 2007, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call revealed that Craig had been arrested for lewd conduct in the men’s restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on June 11, 2007, and entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct on August 8, 2007. Despite firmly stating that he was not and never had been gay, Craig announced his intention to resign from the Senate at a news conference on September 1, 2007, but later decided to finish the remainder of his term.

And that pretty much does it for the duplicity of some of those opposing the “Gay Agenda.”

Let me give you Ted Haggard. Take him, please.

In 2006, Haggard and his church supported “Amendment 43” to the Colorado Constitution. It provided, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.” Although Colorado law already defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, Haggard and other gay marriage opponents sought to enshrine the prohibition in the state constitution, so that the Colorado Supreme Court would not have the power to declare the statute unconstitutional. In the movie Jesus Camp, Haggard says, “we don’t have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity. It’s written in the Bible.” Haggard initially opposed same-sex marriage, but supported civil unions for homosexual couples. He later came to support same-sex marriage as a civil institution, saying that while he still believes it is forbidden under Biblical law, he feels that “we need to be careful not to inculcate [biblical law] into civil law.”

Under Haggard’s leadership, the NAE released “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility” in late 2004, “a document urging engagement in traditional culture war issues such as abortion and gay marriage but also poverty, education, taxes, welfare and immigration.” The NAE has stated that “homosexual activity, like adulterous relationships, is clearly condemned in the Scriptures.”

Obviously this country needs more people like Ted Haggard to protect our national morality and to protect the sanctity of marriage. Really?

In November 2006, escort and masseur Mike Jones alleged that Haggard had paid him for sex for three years and had also purchased and used crystal methamphetamine. A few days later Haggard resigned from all of his leadership positions.

After the scandal was publicized, Haggard entered three weeks of intensive counseling, overseen by four ministers. In February 2007, one of those ministers, Tim Ralph, said that Haggard “is completely heterosexual.” Ralph later said he meant that therapy “gave Ted the tools to help to embrace his heterosexual side.” On June 1, 2010 Haggard announced that he intended to start a new church in Colorado Springs. In the February 2011 issue of GQ, however, Haggard said “…probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual.”

And that pretty much does it for relying on our religious leaders to protect the national morality and the sanctity of marriage. So, who do we turn to? The courts, maybe?

Photo from

I got involved in this back in 2008, and did I ever step into a minefield. It came about this way. Some local governments in California took it upon themselves to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. If you have ever been married (and there are fewer of you all the time) you will have glanced at the application form. I recall there is a place for the name of the husband, and there is a place for the name of the wife. Nobody said it hundreds of years ago when these forms were first drafted, but it was presumed the husband would be a man (biologically), and the wife would be a woman. Only they forgot to say so.

Citizens of California became alarmed. This must not be allowed. So the citizens (OK, some politicians) drafted Proposition 8 and submitted it to the electorate for ratification. California is one of those states that rules a lot by citizen referendum. Proposition 8 passed, and same-sex marriage became de jure disallowed. The gay rights crowd in California became incensed over this result, as did gay activists across the nation. There was a big push to overturn Proposition 8.

That’s when I weighed in.

One of my liberal friends circulated an e-mail urging a call to arms to support the repeal. My blunt response was that I thought Proposition 8 was a dumb idea, and the push for repeal was equally dumb. Of course, the shit hit the fan.

Since this was a mass mailing I received a lot of response, none of it complimentary to me. My liberal friend, for whom I have great respect, responded to me saying something to the effect that Proposition 8 prevented homosexuals from getting married.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but I have a great aversion to facetious arguments. No, I responded. It is not illegal for homosexuals to get married. I could have pointed to the married Larry Craig and the married Ted Haggard, but in fact I personally know a homosexual man who married a woman. So it was not before, and it is still not illegal for homosexuals to get married.

My friend immediately sought to set me straight (no pun intended). No, no, no. The law prevents homosexuals from marrying each other. Although I have no counter examples, I unwisely pointed out that two homosexuals could marry each other, provided that one was a man, and the other was a woman.

About this time my friend compared me to a creationist, and the dialog broke off. Being compared to a creationist is the one insult I will not tolerate, but that is not why I broke off the dialog. The temperature was just getting too high for what should have been a rational discussion of the issues.

Others on the e-mail list insisted that marriage was a constitutional right and made similar arguments. One recounted how the rights of homosexuals have been abused by the government in the past. The Stonewall Inn raid was mentioned.

Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. The Stonewall Inn, at the time, was owned by the Mafia. It catered to an assortment of patrons, but it was known to be popular with the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, male prostitutes, and homeless youth. Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn, and attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.

This was mentioned to me as though I were unaware of it. In fact, I had heard of this episode in American history, but I did not know it to the detail my correspondent obviously did.

Anyhow, I restated my position that denial of same-sex marriage does not rise to the level of a civil rights issue on par with voting rights and those freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights. Putting same-sex marriage at the level of the Stonewall raid would have the effect of taking this abuse of power down a notch rather than elevating same-sex marriage rights.

Also, I mentioned, I am also opposed to heterosexual marriage rights. Since when does the government feel the need to get into the marriage business? I have long had an issue with this.

I served some time on an aircraft carrier at sea. It’s not an easy life. If you are married it is doubly not easy. I was single, so I was in a better position than some. A few in my division were married. And here is what I noticed. Married guys (no women on the ship) got a little extra in their paychecks because they were married. It was called something like a marriage allowance. I did not get this money. The government obviously thought the married guys worked longer, harder, better than I did, and deserved more. No, the government just took pity on married guys and paid them something to compensate them for their misery.

Well, maybe that statement is a little extreme. Later in life I noticed extra benefits of being married. At various times in this country there has been an income tax benefit for being married. Sometimes being married was worse.

The marriage penalty in the United States refers to the higher taxes required from some married couples filing one tax return (“married filing jointly”) that would not be required by two otherwise identical single people with the exact same income. Multiple factors are involved, but in general, lower to middle income couples usually benefit from filing as a married couple, while upper income couples are often penalized. The percentage of couples affected has varied over the years, depending on shifts in tax rates.

Then there is the inheritance benefit.

United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013), is a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York’s decision in Windsor v. United States, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, as it defines the term marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife”.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in December 2012 and heard oral arguments on March 27, 2013. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Windsor on June 26, 2013, striking down Section 3 of DOMA and declaring the provision unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment.

That brings us up to today. The Supreme Court has gutted DOMA and has also ruled against petitioners in support of Proposition 8. After Proposition 8 in California was ratified, the political climate changed, and the state government quit enforcing the law. Today the Court ruled against supporters of Proposition 8, effectively nullifying it.

A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel affirmed the decision that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. The stay has remained in place as the appeals continued to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on March 26, 2013.

On June 26, 2013, in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that supporters of the measure did not have the legal standing to appeal the lower court’s ruling, clearing the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.

Today gay rights activists are celebrating this double victory in the Supreme Court, and we can expect same-sex marriage to eventually become legal across the land. The reaction has been predictable. Here is my take.

Gay activists are using phrases like, “Now you can marry the person you love, regardless of sexual orientation.”  No, now you can marry another person regardless of their sexual orientation and regardless of whether you love them or not.

The law cannot give you love. The law can only give you material benefits. Edith Windsor had to pay $363,000 in taxes when her love interest died. If they had been legally married, she would have had to pay no taxes. That’s a substantial material benefit. She correctly pointed out in a TV interview today that if she had met Mr. Spyer and married him the day before he died instead of having met Ms. Spyer and living with her for 40 years, she would have had no tax bill. Something seemed unjust about the whole business. The government, by getting into the marriage business, was denying a tax benefit purely for sexual reasons. Anyhow, that is no more. Edith Windsor is about to get a tax refund.

Gay activists say that now their lifelong commitments are going to be recognized by society, and they will be able to cast off the stigma of living in sin. No they will not.

If you are homosexual Senator Craig is still not going to like you and neither is Ted Haggard. Their own lifestyles notwithstanding, people like Craig and Haggard have been raised to believe homosexuality is wrong, sinful, an abomination, and a disgrace in the eyes of the Lord. And it’s not just Christians. Muslims cast a squinting eye on homosexual activity. In some places homosexuality carries the death penalty. The parish priest is not going to give you holy communion and Tim Wildmon is not going to invite you to his Christmas party.

We are deeply saddened by today’s decision to not only allow but encourage same-sex marriage in our country—a country that was founded on biblical principles. We mourn for America’s future, but we are not without hope . . . Our next line of defense is to vigorously protect our religious liberty. The homosexual lobby and agenda is running rampant across America, and is even pervading our elementary schools. . .

On the other hand, if I hear it correctly from the Religious Right, defeat of DOMA will spell the doom of traditional family values. It will be the end of one man, one woman marriage.

No it will not. I have news for these guys. The end of one man, one woman marriage was thousands of years ago. The earliest Christians were Jews. That’s not a contradiction. Jesus was not a Christian, he was a Jew. Anyhow, that’s another story. Jews were polygamous as was the offspring Christian sect. When the Christians edged into the Roman Empire, the Romans put an end to that. Romans are notorious for doing a lot of sleeping around, but on marriage, for inheritance and property law purposes, they insisted on one man, one woman for marriage. And Christians were largely monogamous from that time on. Until…

Until even quite recently. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints embraced polygamy, which makes recent politics that much more interesting. Enter ostensibly Religious Right presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Romney labeled Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe”, and asserted that preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability should be America’s “highest national security priority”. Romney stated his strong support for Israel. He planned to formally label China a currency manipulator and take associated counteractions unless that country changed its trade practices. Romney supported the Patriot Act, continued operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and use of enhanced interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists. Romney opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions, although he favored domestic partnership legislation that gives certain legal rights to same-sex couples, such as hospital visitation. In 2011, he signed a pledge promising to seek passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. [My emphasis added]

Of course, Romney is a Mormon, and spectators at the most recent election experienced great delight in watching him defend DOMA on religious grounds, said religious grounds being about as stable as a bed of quicksand.

Romney’s family tree is rife with polygamists on the paternal side, though there is no indication of polygamy on the maternal side of his family. According to a research by The Salt Lake Tribune, Romney’s ancestry harbors six polygamous men with forty-one wives. Romney, however, is a confirmed monogamist and polygamy has been absent in his family background for more than two generations.

The idea that the death of DOMA will end “traditional” marriage seems absurd on the face of it. I am married (to a person of the opposite sex) and intend to remain so. However, this afternoon I am going to drive downtown and see if there is a long line of people waiting to file for divorce in light of today’s Supreme Court rulings. Just kidding. I am going to take a nap.

Motorcycling Excitement

Forty years ago I used to write a column for a local TV listing. The publication was called TV Preview, and the publisher wanted something in it besides TV talk, and I was supposed to provide that. Anyhow, the column was called Motorcycling Excitement, hence the title of this post.

Motorcycling Excietment

That was so long ago, and there is not so much excitement in my life. I have not been to a motorcycle race in over three years, and I don’t even have a motorcycle anymore. What is still exciting these days is what today’s riders are still doing after all this time but with the newer and faster machines.

So, to get you interested, here are a few clips from You Tube. The first seems to be a mix of Ulster Grand Prix (Northern Ireland) and Isle of Man TT, mostly the Northern Ireland race. It’s hard for me to tell the difference just looking at the scenery, but the best way to know you are not at the IOM TT is if you see a bunch of riders together. The IOM race is really a session of time trials, with riders starting singly a few seconds apart. I am sure this is to eliminate any track congestion, which would prove fatal on the narrow country roads of the IOM.

The Ulster Grand Prix is run on the 7.4-mile Dunrod circuit, of course on the streets and country roads of Northern Ireland. It’s supposed to be the fastest motorcycle race in the world. Anyhow, here is the first clip. One thing I like about this is the cute song that’s played over the action.

This next clip is entirely the IOM TT. The clip opens with a view of the famous Manx coat of arms. The course is about 37 miles around. It starts in the port town of Douglas and heads down Bray Hill, thence to the small village of Union Mills and around the island’s country lanes. It passes through Ramsey, then up through the mountain section. You are going to see a couple of sequences of a bike sliding off the course along the mountain road. Supposedly the rider did not get killed in this adventure, but others have not been so lucky. They have been running this event for about 100 years, and over 200 riders have been killed. Another clip I will show later notes that one year seven people were killed, three riders and four members of the public. Enjoy.

Putting The Shine On

The item is right. The price is right. It’s time to make a deal.

Any exchange of goods and services for money can be agreeable to both sides. I enjoy finding just what I want for what I am prepared to pay. Sellers like this confluence, as well. Often times there is something more to throw into the deal. Something extra. The deal is already attractive. Let’s make it even more attractive. Let’s polish it up a bit. I have a term for this extra added gloss. I call it “putting on the shine.”

Here’s why sellers like “the shine.” It may cost them little or nothing. The added profit is something else. If an item is being offered at a very thin margin, then putting on the shine can wonderfully swell the profit on the deal.

I see this a lot, and I typically recognize this extra is nothing but shine, and I pass it over. Money changes hands, and I am out the door. Sometimes I don’t pass it over, and sometimes it makes an interesting story. This is my story.

It was not a dinette set we were looking for. We had plans to replace a living room sofa that had proved unsatisfactory after a couple of years, and we were in Star Furniture on I-10 in San Antonio. We saw an attractive sofa, but it was not time to buy. We decided to think about it and to look some more. Then we saw the dinette set.

There are few times the spouse and I agree on anything, and this was one of those times. The table has an inlaid travertine stone top, and the chairs have a matching panel in the backs. Colors, style, materials—everything matches with our kitchen, where we want to replace the glass top table. It was on sale! The deal was quickly done.

And the sales woman offered to put a little shine on the deal. To protect the chair seat fabric from future stains, the store would treat the fabric and provide a warranty for five years. With the special fabric treatment, if within five years we experienced a stain we could not clean, then the store would make it right. Only $110. And if after five years we had no need for recourse to the warranty, then we would be able to apply the $110 to a credit at the story. A nice bit of gloss.

Being an engineer and being very practical, I was thinking, “The fabric is not already treated at the factory?” Also, “What kind of fabric treatment costs $27.50 per chair seat?” The spouse was in charge, and I stood back, as I often do. This way I avoid any home side conflict, and also I sometimes get a good story out of it. Such as now.

So a few days later we picked up the dinette set at the store where it had arrived from the warehouse in boxes. Some assembly required. We took the purchase home and set about assembling. Did I mention I was a mechanical engineer in a previous life?

I started pulling pieces out of the boxes, and one of the first things I noticed was that the seat cushions were still in their factory sealed plastic bags. I discussed this with the spouse. At what point in the process did these chair seats get a $110 dollar stain protection treatment? What was it we had paid $110 for? We were beginning to think the $110 was a wager with the store against some future unpardonable stain. Maybe nothing more. And if we lost, and the store never had to make good on repair or replacement, then we would be enticed back to the store with a $110 credit. Repeat business. A very nice bit of shine.

First of all the spouse and I were not pleased at paying extra for an application that came with the chair seats from the factory. A quick phone call to the store got a determination to make the situation right. On appointment a man from the store would come and, while we watched, would treat the chair seats. On Saturday the door bell chimed.

The man from the store was very pleasant, and he spread a protective covering on our living room floor and took the chair seats in turn, which we had not yet bolted to the frames. He took out a spray bottle and squirted each seat, and the deed was done. And the man from the store was gone.

The interesting thing was the man from the store only squirted some liquid from his spray bottle on each seat. I observed there were areas of fabric that did not get any of the spray. How was this going to work? We wondered at this, and the idea for a great blog post came to mind.

A follow-up phone call to the sales woman at the store obtained the assurance that the chair fabric was now well-protected. Absent our satisfaction, we could get the $110 refunded. That we did today at the loss of any shine on the furniture transaction. But a great topic for a blog posting. Which is what this is.

Bad Joke of the Week

So, just how many dogs does it take to change a light bulb? That depends on the breed:

Golden Retriever: The sun is shining, the day is young, we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, and you’re inside worrying about a stupid burned out bulb?

Border Collie: Just one. And then I’ll replace any wiring that’s not up to code.

Dachshund: You know I can’t reach that stupid lamp!

Rottweiler: Make me.

Boxer: Who cares? I can still play with my squeaky toys in the dark.

Lab: Oh, me, me!!!!! Pleeeeeeeeeze let me change the light bulb! Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Huh? Can I? Pleeeeeeeeeze, please, please, please!

German Shepherd: I’ll change it as soon as I’ve led these people from the dark, check to make sure I haven’t missed any, and make just one more perimeter patrol to see that no one has tried to take advantage of the situation.

Jack Russell Terrier: I’ll just pop it in while I’m bouncing off the walls and furniture.

Old English Sheep Dog: Light bulb? I’m sorry, but I don’t see a light bulb!

Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can still pee on the carpet in the dark.

Chihuahua : We don’t need no stinking light bulb.

Greyhound: It isn’t moving. Who cares?

Australian Shepherd: First, I’ll put all the light bulbs in a little circle…

Poodle: I’ll just blow in the Border Collie’s ear and he’ll do it.. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.


Bad Joke of the Week

I don’t make these up. Most I get from contributors by e-mail. This is from a friend in Jakarta.

It was entertainment night at the Senior Citizens’ Center..

After the community sing-song, led by Alice at the piano, it was time for the Star of the Show: Claude the Hypnotist!

Claude explained that he was going to put the entire audience into a trance.

“Yes, each and every one of you – and all at the same time” Claude thundered.

The excited chatter faded into silence, as Claude carefully withdrew from his waistcoat pocket a beautiful antique gold pocket watch and chain.

“I want you to keep your eyes on this watch” said Claude, holding the watch high for all to see. “It is a very special and valuable watch that has been in my family for six generations”.

He began to swing the watch gently back and forth while quietly chanting “Watch the watch – Watch the watch – Watch the watch”.

The audience was mesmerized as the watch swayed back and forth. Tiny lights twinkled, reflected from its gleaming surfaces.

A hundred and fifty pairs of eyes followed the movements of the gently swaying watch. And then, suddenly, the chain broke!

The beautiful watch fell to the stage and shattered on impact.

“Shit!” screamed Claude.

It took them three days to clean the Senior Citizens’ Center.

And Claude was never invited to entertain again.

The American Anthem

OK, confessions first. I do not like our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. It does not have that rousing appeal to patriotism I would hope for a country such as ours, nor are the lyrics and the melody particularly appealing.

The tune is from a period drinking song, which might explain the pitch range required to render it. I am thinking you have to have a few under the belt to attempt all those octaves. The person who wrote the lyrics was not at the time nor was he ever the poet laureate of the United States, and there is a reason. The song is devoid of any poetic device.

Think what you will of the French, they have one rousing national song:

Allons enfants de la Patrie, Children of the Fatherland, let’s go,

From here on I am going to omit the French and keep the English translation.

The day of glory has arrived!
Tyranny is against us,
The bloody banner is raised,
The bloody banner is raised!
In the countryside do you hear
The roar of these ferocious soldiers?
They come into your arms
To kill your sons, your companions!

To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let us march, let us march!
So that an impure blood
Will water our furrows!

What does this horde of slaves,
Of traitors and conjured kings want?
For whom are these vile chains,
These long-prepared irons? (repeat)
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What fury it must arouse!
It is us they dare plan
To return to the old slavery!

To arms, citizens…

Foreign cohorts
Would make the law in our homes!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would strike down our proud warriors! (repeat)
Great God ! By chained hands
Our brows would yield under the yoke
Vile despots would have themselves
The masters of our destinies!

To arms, citizens…

Tremble, tyrants and you traitors
The shame of all parties,
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will finally receive their reward! (repeat)
Everyone is a soldier to combat you
If they fall, our young heroes,
The earth will produce new ones,
Ready to fight against you!

To arms, citizens…

Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,
You bear or hold back your blows!
You spare those sorry victims,
Who arm against us with regret. (repeat)
But not these bloodthirsty despots,
These accomplices of Bouillé,
All these tigers who, mercilessly,
Rip their mother’s breast!

To arms, citizens…

Sacred love of the Fatherland,
Lead, support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished Liberty,
Fight with thy defenders! (repeat)
Under our flags, shall victory
Hurry to thy manly accents,
That thy expiring enemies,
See thy triumph and our glory!

To arms, citizens…

(Couplet des enfants) (Children’s Verse)
We shall enter the (military) career
When our elders are no longer there,
There we shall find their dust
And the trace of their virtues (repeat)
Much less keen to survive them
Than to share their coffins,
We shall have the sublime pride
Of avenging or following them

To arms, citizens…

That’s not the whole of La Marseillaise. There are some rough parts the French left out of the anthem. But the lullaby was very popular about the time of the French Revolution. It was from the album Songs to Chop Heads By. Compare that to “Oh say can you see,” and you really can see. The French did not pull back from putting their war-like spirit to song.

And you can sing it, as demonstrated in the great movie about freedom and French fighting spirit, Casablanca. To make the film director Michael Curtiz had his actors sing the song, or at least the first few bars. Not a voice cracked. I am no musicologist, but the tune would appear to fit within a couple of octaves easily. Gentle as it went, however, the first time they sang it in Rick’s Café Américain the police closed the place down. I do not recall any time a placed was closed for singing The Star Spangled Banner, but I am sure there must have been some renditions that would close a biker bar.

I have personally campaigned for changing the national anthem. This came up on The Dallas Morning News editorial blog several years back, and I recommended Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land. That didn’t go over, of course, because Guthrie was a sort of political radical, much like the signers of the Declaration of Independence, but without all the wealth. Also, some of Guthrie’s lyrics parallel the sentiments of La Marseillaise.

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.

Well, that part strikes too much like socialism, and the following bears too strongly on equal opportunity.

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

Anyhow, it’s a nice tune, and you can sing it, and you can march to it, but unless you can fit in allusions to victory on land, sea and in the air you are never going to get it as the national anthem.

So for now we are stuck with The Star Spangled Banner, and hapless vocalists are forced to screech through it at ball games, and some murder it with imaginative variations, and millions of sports fans choke on it each year, but we struggle on.

Except that one person has nailed it, and that’s what this whole post is about.

In the town where I live they have this basketball team called the Spurs, and they’re in the championship and have just played two games locally (1 – 1), and the fans are going nuts. And the franchise found a kid who has really got a handle on The Star Spangled Banner, and at the first home game he belted it out of the stadium. He is eleven year old Sebastien De La Cruz, and he is a sensation. Of course, it would take a pre-adolescent male to pull up the tonal range needed for the anthem. Sing it while you you can, Sebastien. In a few months that voice is going to go.

Of course the crowd loved the rendition, even if they could not vocalize along. What a sensation! What a wonderful feeling.

But wait:

An Augusta [Georgia] firefighter’s tweet questioning the citizenship of an 11-year-old singing the national anthem at Game 3 of the NBA Finals in San Antonio on Tuesday gained national attention – and controversy – after it was picked up by news Web sites and blogs.

“How you signing the anthem lookin like an illegal immigrant,” tweeted Andre Lacey, who appeared to have since deleted his twitter account, @AndreLacey.

An Augusta firefighter since 2007, Lacey wasn’t working at Fire Engine Co. 5 on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard mid-Thursday and couldn’t be reached for comment.

WTF! Looking like an illegal immigrant? Sebastien was born here in San Antonio. He was wearing the costume of a classical mariachi singer. The Georgia firefighter likely has not had a chance to see much of the world, because if he ever came to my town for a visit he would quickly notice that in San Antonio music looks like this.

Mariachi band at the River Walk

So, fireman Lacey can live in his own version of reality and stew in his own juices, and the real world will continue about its business. Except…

Except, there’s more:

Shelby H. Watford (@shelbywatford):

There is a mini Mexican singing our national Anthem.

Blake Jackson Warner (@Uncle_Rico25):

You really had Mexican sing the national anthem? Go to hell San Antonio.

Will Zix (@will_zix98):

Who tf is this Mexican Boy?? This is America dammit

Steven David (@AIR_STEVEN):

Is this the American natinal Anthem or the Mexican Hat Dance? Get this lil kid out of here.



Riley (@R_D_M_15):

Bet u that little beaner hopped the border just to sing the national anthem

Well, that just about does it for traditional American good will and fellowship. I don’t know from what dark recesses these tweeters crawled, but apparently it did not take much to smoke them out. Wait, wait, don’t tell me. Let me guess. OK, I’ve got it. These are the same guys who still can’t get over the president is black.

Of course, I did not print every example of the game night commentary. Need I say that there was more where this came from? Wow, what a place we live in. That does it for me. Shut my face the next time I start mouthing off about the intellectually-challenged Taliban and their backward kin. Obviously I have no need to rake the Afghanistan back lands for exemplars of human regression. Thanks, fellow Americans, you saved me a trip.

My home town seems to be a world apart and centuries advanced from some other places in this country. Not only did the San Antonio crowd appreciate and applaud young Sebastien’s rendition, they invited him back for game four and cheered as he turned in another stellar performance. I am guessing we will be seeing more of him in the San Antonio music scene. Looking forward to it.

For the sour puss tweeters who seem to appreciate only people like themselves, I know just the place for you. You may need a translator to communicate with your new neighbors, but at a certain level you will find you both speak the same language.

Their Finest Hour

The major airport north of Paris, France, is named after Charles de Gaulle, and it is small wonder. No other French citizen had more impact on the republic during the 20th century than de Gaulle.

Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (/ˈtʃɑrlz/ or /ˈʃɑrl dəˈɡɔːl/; French: [ʃaʁl də ɡol] ( listen); 22 November 1890 – 9 November 1970) was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969. A veteran of World War I, in the 1920s and 1930s, de Gaulle came to the fore as a proponent of mobile armoured divisions, which he considered would become central in modern warfare. During World War II, he earned the rank of brigadier general (retained throughout his life), leading one of the few successful armoured counter-attacks during the 1940 Battle of France in May in Montcornet, and then briefly served in the French government as France was falling. De Gaulle was the most senior French military officer to reject the June 1940 armistice to Nazi Germany right from the outset. When his superior, the maréchal Pétain gave a radio address to convince the French people to give in to allow the Germans to take over, he happened to be in Britain for military reasons and responded to it the next day by giving a famous radio address, broadcast by the BBC on 18 June 1940, exhorting the French people to resist Nazi Germany and organized the Free French Forces with exiled French officers in Britain. As the war progressed, de Gaulle gradually gained control of all French colonies except Indochina. By the time of the Allied invasion of France in 1944 he was heading what amounted to a French government in exile. From the very beginning, de Gaulle insisted that France be treated as a great power by the other Allies, despite her initial defeat. De Gaulle became prime minister in the French Provisional Government, resigning in 1946 because of political conflicts.

In his book, The Caine Mutiny, author Harman Wouk tells how great events can turn on fine hinges:

The story begins with Willie Keith because the event turned on his personality as the massive door of a vault turns on a small jewel bearing. [page 1]

The book was fiction, but real life often operates in this manner. Such was the course of history and Charles de Gaulle. I am reading Winston Churchill’s book in six volumes The Second World War, and the second volume details the conquest of France by the German army in 1940. There were a critical few days when the French government was collapsing and preparing to capitulate to the Germans, and Churchill was trying to salvage what was possible from the debacle so that England would be prepared to take on Germany by itself.

Amazon Kindle Edition

British troops still in France had been hastily evacuated to England at a cost of several thousand killed and hundreds more taken prisoner. Arms shipments from the United States headed for France were rerouted to England. England was rapidly cutting its ties with the sinking republic. British General Edward Spears was in France doing cleanup. It was June 1940 on the day France formally surrendered and became subject to Nazi rule. Churchill recounts how de Gaulle stepped lightly from defeat and subjugation into world prominence.

On the morning of the 17th I mentioned to my colleagues in the Cabinet a telephone conversation which I had had during the night with General Spears, who said he did not think he could perform any useful service in the new structure at Bordeaux. He spoke with some anxiety about the safety of General de Gaulle. Spears had apparently been warned that as things were shaping it might be well for de Gaulle to leave France. I readily assented to a good plan being made for this. So that very morning—the 17th—de Gaulle went to his office in Bordeaux, made a number of engagements for the afternoon, as a blind, and then drove to the airfield with his friend Spears to see him off. They shook hands and said good-bye, and as the plane began to move de Gaulle stepped in and slammed the door. The machine soared off into the air, while the French police and officials gaped. De Gaulle carried with him, in this small aeroplane, the honour of France.

Churchill, Winston (2010-07-01). Their Finest Hour (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 3247-3253). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

And history took it from there.

State of the Department

OK, I just reviewed a copy of the United States Constitution, and here’s what I found.

We can take people’s money. And we don’t have to give it back. This process is disguised using the word “tax,” but the consequences are the same. There is nothing in the Constitution that says the government person doing this taking and not giving back is to be punished in any way.

We can kill people. This killing of people is disguised in the form of the word “war,” and there does not appear to be anything in the Constitution that specifies a punishment for those government people doing the killing.

The Constitution does not mention any involvement in the prostitution industry. There is nothing that says the congress or the judiciary or even the executive branch must promote, advance, praise, support or subscribe to the sale and purchase of sexual favors. Neither is the word “hookers” to be found in the Constitution. Neither is any prohibition relating to prostitution mentioned in the Constitution. Not even in connection to the Department of State.

Which seems to explain this:

An active U.S. ambassador “routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” the memo says. The ambassador’s protective detail and others “were well aware of the behavior,” the memo asserts. When a diplomatic security officer tried to investigate, undersecretary of state for management Patrick Kennedy allegedly ordered the investigator “not to open a formal investigation.”

“[N]ot to open a formal investigation?” And why should they? The Constitution does not specifically require this. It does not even mention prostitutes and minor children. Maybe we should let sleeping dogs lie.

A State Department security official in Beirut allegedly “engaged in sexual assaults” against foreign nationals working as embassy guards. The security official, the Office of the Inspector General says, was also accused of committing “similar assaults during assignments in Baghdad, and possibly Khartoum and Monrovia.” The office’s memo says that an inspector general’s investigator who went to Beirut to try to conduct an investigation was not given enough time to complete the job.

Apparently the State Department security official was not given enough time to finish his job, either, what with being bounced around from one post to another, never having the opportunity to establish stable and lasting relationships with the objects of his affection. What kind of Department of State is this?

A member of [Secretary of State] Clinton’s security detail allegedly “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries.” The inspector general’s agent assigned to investigate “concluded” that the “prostitution problem was endemic.”

I looked up the word “endemic.” It’s another way of saying “goes with the territory.” That’s saying something, because the State Department’s territory includes most of the civilized world, but, of course, not the United States.

So, here’s the problem. How come these people can’t get everything they want right here in their own country. What’s wrong with the label “Made in the U.S.A.?” Is the Department of the Interior, or better yet, the Department of Commerce, even concerned? Are these people aware that our tax money is being used to procure products and services from abroad that are readily available right here in the U.S.A., particularly on 42nd Street in New York City? What is our government doing to support American industry?

We need to root out those individuals who are supporting foreign workers, all the while drawing a salary on the backs of the American tax payers. We need to find these people and bring them back home immediately. Just not to my neighborhood.

Majority of One

Friday I posted an item about the government’s program to data-mine network (and phone and radio) traffic. This post was occasioned by unauthorized revelations about the program by an unknown person. A weekend has come and gone, and the person is no longer unknown.

Not so SECRET anymore (from Google images)

Edward Snowden has come out publicly as the person who obtained employment with government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii and worked as a system administrator under a government security clearance on an NSA contract. He worked at this job for three months before disclosing classified information to to The Guardian and The Washington Post. He left the United States and has been living in Hong Kong. He faces criminal charges for his actions.

Snowden said his leaking of PRISM and FISA orders related to NSA data capture efforts was an effort to blow the whistle on what he believes is excessive government surveillance of the American people. He traveled to Hong Kong before the leaks were publicized, expressing hope of eventually being granted asylum in Iceland. The U.S. Department of Justice has classified Snowden’s involvement in the PRISM surveillance program as a “criminal matter”, and his fate remains unclear.

Snowden has seen something that is wrong with this country, and he has acted to correct it. From his point of view. The issue is currently being batted about in the halls of government, and some are saying PRISM and FISA are bad, and some are saying they are good. The discussion will likely go on for some time, and in the end some disagreement is sure to persist.

In the mean time Snowden has nullified all those other votes with his one vote. He has become a Majority of One. It would appear that sometimes it is necessary to destroy one part of democracy in order to save another part.

Listening to statements by Snowden I get the idea he considers himself a martyr for his cause. We have a slight divergence on our definitions of the word “martyr.” My definition includes the martyr dying. Snowden’s definition seems to include moving to a place beyond the reach of United States law and living out the rest of his life doing as he pleases. My take is this would be martyrdom at its most cushy.

And the people all said sit down

I dreamed last night I was on a boat on the path to knowledge.

Barton, a historian?

And David Barton had brought his bible along.

And there he stood, and he hollered “Someone fade me, because I have no facts behind this book.”

[fade:] term from from the dice-game craps, related to losing. The player rolling the dice must have someone to fade them (i.e. to put up money against the money they are gambling). If you are faded, you have lost

But the passengers they knew right from wrong.

David Barton (born 1954) is an American evangelical Christian minister, conservative activist, and author. He founded WallBuilders, a Texas-based organization which promotes the view that it is a “myth” that the US Constitution insists on separation of church and state. Barton is the former vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas. He has been described as a Christian nationalist and “one of the foremost Christian revisionist historians”; much of his work is devoted to advancing the idea, based upon research that many historians describe as flawed, that the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation.

And the people all said sit down.
Sit down you’re rockin the boat.
The people all said sit down.
Sit down you’re rockin the boat.

David Barton has a lot to say, and what works best is to let him say it.

Christian Historian David Barton: AIDS is God’s Penalty on ‘Shameful Sexual Acts’ (Audio)

By Michael Allen, Mon, May 20, 2013

Speaking on his ‘WallBuilders Live’ radio show today, debunked Christian historian David Barton claimed that AIDS was God’s penalty for those who engage in “shameful sexual acts” (audio below).

However, Barton made no mention of people, including children, who contract AIDS via blood transfusion or babies who are born with HIV because their mother was infected.
Barton added that if a cure is discovered for AIDS, then new diseases will kill people per Romans 1:27 in the Bible, noted

Romans 1:27 states: “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

Barton claimed that “receiving in themselves” means diseases such as AIDS, but the Bible doesn’t actually say “disease.”

And the people all said sit down.
Sit down you’re rockin’ the boat.

Barton’s views on history are most striking.

Thursday’s edition of WallBuilders Live, a religiously slanted history podcast founded by David Barton, addressed just-war theory, which Barton defines as “what you have to do to secure justice and the protection of life and liberties for your citizens.”

One of the wars he used to demonstrate his point was King Philip’s War, which he says started because missionaries were trying to get Indian tribes to stop using torture.

“The Indian leaders said ‘they’re trying to change our culture’ and so they declared war on all the white guys and went after the white guys and that was King Philip’s War,” Barton says. “It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture and so we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said “oh, got the point, you’re doing to us what we’re doing to them, okay, we’ll sign a treaty.”

One of the many things Barton leaves out is what really started King Philip’s War, which was European encroachment on Wampanoag land. Read more about King Philip’s War here.

And the people all said sit down.
Sit down you’re rockin’ the boat.

Warren Throckmorton & Michael Coulter have written Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President. They illustrate Barton’s use of word play rather than historical pragmatism to make the case for his version of history.

Barton says that “deconstructionism is a steady flow of belittling and negative portrayals of Western heroes, beliefs, values and institutions.” Here, Barton is referring to deconstruction, which has long been associated with the French literary critic Jacques Derrida and was proposed as an “activity of reading” rather than a system of beliefs. One can say that as an activity of reading, deconstruction is concerned with uncovering the full meaning of a term or concept and discovering what has been disregarded or covered over in the standard use of a term. As Jack Balkin, who is cited by Barton, states, “Deconstruction does not show that all texts are meaningless, but rather that they are overflowing with multiple and conflicting meanings.”

Barton seems to characterize deconstructionism as the kind of historical presentation of the United States as found in the work of Howard Zinn, wherein figures and events traditionally respected are criticized and exculpatory evidence is not cited. This is, most certainly, an idiosyncratic usage of deconstructionism. The Christian scholar should seek a proper reading of the facts, without regard for reputation, even if that activity places traditionally important figures in a negative light. In our view, Barton engages in the process he criticizes, except he obscures facts to make Jefferson look good.

And the people all said sit down.
Sit down you’re rockin’ the boat.

Trouble for Starbucks coffee. Full disclosure: I do not patronize Starbucks. Wait, there’s more. I do not drink coffee, so there is little reason for me to patronize Starbucks. Wait, there’s more. I once patronized Starbucks. I ordered a cup of tea.

Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX [FREE Stock Trend Analysis]) CEO Howard Schultz firmly defended his company’s support of same-sex marriage at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on March 20.

Schultz understood that his open support of gay marriage would hurt company earnings, but with over 200,000 people employed in the company, he stated, “we want to embrace diversity,” and that “This was not an economic decision.”

This did not go un-noticed by Barton. The issue was clear:

Corinthians 6:9 ESV
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,

Leviticus 20:13 ESV
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

1 Timothy 1:10 ESV
The sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

Romans 1:26-28 ESV
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Leviticus 18:22 ESV
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

It is perfectly obvious from this that homosexuals of all stripes are second class citizens, and any accommodation of homosexuality is not to be tolerated.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala (WZDX) – During a sermon at Whitesburg Baptist Church, guest pastor David Barton told Christians to stop visiting Starbucks because of the company’s support of gay marriage.

“Biblically there is no way a Christian can help support what is attacking God. I am sorry. You have to find something else to drink. You can’t drink Starbucks and be biblically right on this thing. It is just a real simple principle,” the former Texas Pastor said during the sermon given May 19th.

I guess it will be tea for me always and forever. Thanks, David.

While Barton may have gotten his biblical quotes right, others have noted his quote problems related to real history. Here is one example from one available source attesting to Barton’s lack of diligence in getting his facts straight.

Barton cities Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878), for the proposition that the Supreme Court has recognized Jefferson’s “wall” as being “one-directional.”

This is simply not the case. Reynolds quotes Jefferson and then proceeds to ensconce Jefferson’s wall metaphor into American Jurisprudence. The court observes, “Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured.” Id. at 164. Again, if anything, Barton’s citation to Reynolds disputes, rather than supports, his position.

Sad to say, there are consequences to poor scholarship. Barton’s publisher has withdrawn  his book The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson from the market. And that’s too bad, because I was planning on picking up a copy for myself. Donations accepted. It’s not that sales of the book were weak, it was a New York Times Best Seller in 2012. The publisher decided it was just too wrong.

Since its initial publication, historians have debunked and raised concerns about numerous claims in Barton’s book. In it, Barton calls Jefferson a “conventional Christian,” claims the founding father started church services at the Capitol, and even though he owned more than 200 slaves, says Jefferson was a civil rights visionary.

“Mr. Barton is presenting a Jefferson that modern-day evangelicals could love and identify with,” Warren Throckmorton, a professor at the evangelical Grove City College, told Hagerty. “The problem with that is, it’s not a whole Jefferson; it’s not getting him right.”

The book’s publisher came to the same conclusion.

And the people all said sit down.
And the people all said sit down.
Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down. Sit down, you’re rockin’ the boat.

Bad Joke of the Week

OK, we all enjoy a humorous story about the supernatural from time to time. Here is one from the British Isles.

A researcher was giving a talk about ghosts, and he started off with a question:

“Who here has ever seen a ghost?”

A large number of hands went up in the audience.

“Well, that’s encouraging,” the speaker said. “Now tell me, who here has ever had physical contact with a ghost?”

This time only a few hands went up.

“That’s to be expected,,” the speaker observed. “Now this. Who here has ever had sex with a ghost?”

Only a single hand went up in the back of the auditorium.

“Well now. That’s interesting,” the speaker observed. “Sir, can you tell us your name and where you’re from?”

“I’m Thomas Murdoch, from Cardiff, Wales.”

“And you have had sex with a ghost?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said goat.”

The Awful Truth

Many of my statements begin with, “Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but…” This is one of those.

Big Brother may not be watching you, but I am.

First some background. I grew up in a small town. We had moved there from an even smaller town. If you have ever lived in a very small town there is something you should have noticed. There is no privacy. Everybody knows everybody and everybody knows everybody’s business. And minds it.

Example: Fresh out of the fourth grade and into summer I was riding my bike on the other side of town. That was maybe six blocks from my house. My mother got a report that I was riding my bike down the middle of the street, and did I ever catch it over that.

The lesson is if you do something in public you have no expectation of privacy.

Skip over a few decades, and it’s a new century and a new millennium. And a new city. I have lived in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. All major cities with hundreds of thousands of people. It’s easy to get lost in a big city—even a smaller one. You can do a lot of stuff in towns like these, and your parents will never find out. Walk a few blocks, and you’re in another world.

The problem is this gives people the mistaken belief they are doing something private when they step outside their front door. There are some examples:

A woman’s car was stolen, so she probably had to bum a ride to her job at the fast food joint. And who should pull up to the drive-in window? The jerk who stole her car, driving her car. A quick call the the police, and the thief’s expectation of privacy was over for the next few years.

Wait there’s more. I won’t cite the specifics, because these are grist for Internet humor. A thief steals some stuff and brags about it on social media. WTF? A young woman poses for some risqué photos on the beach and posts some images on social media. The photos are brought to her attention at a subsequent job interview. It’s for a government job that requires a security clearance. Teenagers engage in disgraceful behavior and post photos on social media.

People, in case you have not heard, the Internet is not private.

Back to my life in a small town. Our town was so small we did not have dial phone service. You wanted to make a phone call you picked up the receiver and waited for an operator to notice and say, “Number please.” That was my mother. My mother and the women working the switch board with her knew every time every person talked to another person on the telephone in my home town. Phones in the town numbered into the hundreds, and my mother knew every number. You did not need to know the number. You could just ask my mother to connect you to a certain person, and she knew the number. The scary part is, if the person was not home at the time, my mother might also know this information and could connect you to the residence where that person was spending the night. When a famous Hollywood western actor phoned a friend in our network, my mother was pleased to let us know at dinner that night.

There were safeguards, of course. Federal law prohibited the operators from giving out information they learned at the switchboard. This was important, because the operators did not need a wire tap to listen in. All they had to do was to flip a switch and they were in on the conversation.

So people should feel safe making a phone call and planning a bank robbery. Or a terrorist attack. Well, not so much so. If the police can get a search warrant they can install a tap and record all traffic on a specified line. Or group of lines. All it takes is the signature of a judge. Stress here the necessity of an independent judiciary. There are even safeguards here. If a rogue judge authorizes a tap, for example, without probable cause, the police can record the conversations, but the content cannot subsequently be used in court. Furthermore, if the information obtained illegally is subsequently used to capture burglars in the act, the arrest will be declared illegal, and the burglars will walk. They still have to give the stolen goods back to the owner. So, we need not only an independent judiciary but a righteous judiciary. It’s a good combination.

Now comes the point of this post. Government agencies are monitoring social media and, even more, Internet traffic and phone traffic. All legally. In other words, the government is doing what Microsoft, Google and a host of other private concerns have been doing from the get-go. And we are shocked. Shocked!

What I am shocked at is that people are shocked. You are, for example,  putting your secrets out on the Internet, and you expect them to remain private? People, if you use the Internet for communications, here is what you are doing. You are standing on a hilltop and shouting, “This message is for Freddie Spencer and for nobody else, so nobody else better listen in, because if you do I’m going to be very sore at you.” That’s about how private the Internet is. And you expect more? Get real.

When your government wants to keep something private, here is how it does it, or is supposed to do it. First you take the thing you want to keep private, and you wrap it in a brown paper package and seal it with tape and put some appropriate stamps on the package. Then you wrap that package in brown paper, and you put some innocuous label on the outer package. You do all of this inside a secure place where nobody who is not supposed to see the private item can get into.

Then you take the sealed package with you, and you leave the secure place, and you keep your hand on the package all the time, and when you are driving in your car you keep the package on the seat beside you or else inside the car where you can keep it under your control, and if along the way you need to stop and pee, you have to go beside the road so you can keep your eyes on your car all the while, and you cannot stop and go into a nice restaurant and have a meal, because you have to keep your eyes on your car all the time. You keep this up until you arrive at another secure place that is approved to hold the private item, and if that place is locked when you get there you have to wait with your package until you can get in. And this is how to keep something private, and I have done this. Airplanes are even more fun than cars. Please experience the joy of taking a sealed package aboard an airliner.

You, on the other hand, send an e-mail over the Internet, a mail whose packets pass through multiple servers maintained by concerns of doubtful character and managed by individuals who have never had the FBI go around and talk to all their friends and neighbors to verify they did not engage in criminal activity and are not using drugs and are not so deeply in debt they will sell the greatest secret for the smallest pittance. And this e-mail is not to your wife, but it is to a very good friend of yours who only charges a few hundred dollars every time you spend the night with her, and you expect your wife will never see the contents of this e-mail? Divorce courts must be clogged with poor examples of this wrong-headed thinking.

I have seen some absurd examples of this false expectation. Here is one. I had an e-mail dialog with a creationist. In his mail to me he said of me all sorts of what he thought to be derogatory comments, and he called me things he considered to be insults. Now, I did not object to these things, because some of them were true, and the others I considered to be compliments. Anyhow, my response was to post the dialog on the Internet. To this the creationist strongly objected, and called me more names and threatened me. He said his e-mail was private, and I had no right to post it on the Internet. Really? He attempts to insult me over the Internet and expects me to keep this dialog private? I informed the creationist that once his e-mail landed in my in box it became my e-mail, and I would do with it as I pleased.

To protect the creationist’s privacy I am not going to reveal his name, and I am not going to reprint what he said about me.

Wait. I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to reveal everything now. His name is Steve Rudd, and here is what he had to say:

John Blanton, head slanderer for the North Texas Skeptics
Atheist, evolutionist, humanist, Bible hater, North Texas Skeptics staff.
John Blanton is on staff for the North Texas Skeptics and through this organization is directly associated with: [names of many NTS members]
There is absolutely no question about it that this organization as a whole, is either ignorant of what their organization publishes and the facts that underlie, or is deliberately slanderously dishonest and a promoter of lies.
Although John Blanton falsely accused Patton of misquoting most of his scientific references, Blanton has never supplied any shred of evidence to support this claim. Countless challenges have been made to him and his organization to come clean. Yet his organization continues to make this false unsubstantiated claim. Such is as evil as it is slanderous. We have had many different groups preen through these very quotes and in the end are satisfied Blanton’s claims are as unscholarly as they are vacuous.
Although John Blanton falsely accused Patton of having a phony college degree. Blanton also stated that Patton has no formal training in geology and accused Patton of having a fake degree. When he was later directed to our page that details Dr. Patton’s credentials, he called Patton a lair. When Key authentic original documents were presented to Blanton, he accused Patton of forging these documents to support, “his phony degree”. Blanton actually contacted Jan Williamson, believing this person to be as fictitious as the letter. To Blanton’s horror, Jan Williamson was not only a VERY REAL PERSON, but also verified the letter was authentic. When Jan Williamson told John Blanton directly that the accreditation of the school where Patton earned his Ph. D. was valid, like Satan himself, Blanton continued speaking these lies against Patton. Rather than withdraw the charge as false and unsubstantiated, John Blanton, continues to this day with his slanderous accusations.
Blanton and the North Texas Skeptics live by the rule, “If you say something false enough times, people will begin to believe it.” Or “throw enough mud and people will look dirty.” To this day, the North Texas Skeptics publishes documents that accuse Patton of having a phony degree, yet other than the 5 word title, there is no other information supplied. This is a well known internet scam trick to get the slanderous headlines into web crawler search engines. Such illustrates just how black a heart Blanton and his organization must really have to allow such things to exist at all!
While openly slandering the name of Patton around the world, John Blanton cleverly keeps his name out of sight. John Blanton likes to cower in the dark caves of anonymity only surfacing to make slanderous, evil, unsubstantiated claims he knows, for sure are false. We know he knows they are false, because we have directly shown them to be false. But truth is not something he values. So in addition to being a dishonest liar, John Blanton is a coward. The North Texas Skeptics has no credibility or integrity because of it.

These are the nice things he said. Only, this is not from his e-mail but what he posted on his Web site. The e-mail was along the same lines and is posted on the NTS Web site. Sorry, Steve. May Jesus be with you in your journey through life.

Back to the main story. I first learned about the NSA when I was getting ready to graduate from college, and the NSA was coming around to interview prospects. The word has long been out that one of the biggest purchasers of super computers is the NSA, and the top mathematicians and programmers go to work for the NSA. If you think you have developed an unbreakable cypher, then you need to think of the letters NSA and think again.

Finally, am I now alarmed to learn the NSA and other government agencies are tracking message traffic? No. No, because all along I figured they were doing it, and furthermore that all who believed otherwise were either foolish or self-deceived. Do I fear for my privacy? No. If I want something kept private the Internet is the last place I will put it.

Take my Facebook page, for example. There is nothing there I would not want my worst enemy (of which there must be many if I am doing my job) to know. Take that birth date, for example. It’s fake. I am so sorry. Did you put your real birth date on your Facebook page?

Another reason I am not worried. Who cares? I never put anything out to the Internet I would not want to see later on 60 Minutes. I once worked for a huge international company, and we were made aware that all our use of the Internet was subject to being monitored. A co-worked had the apt response. “I have now learned there is somebody in this company whose job is more mind-numbing than mine.”

Amen, Brother. Amen.