God for Sale

You asked for it. You got it. You kept saying we should not exclude God from our public lives. You wanted God to be front and center, not tucked away in some back corner of society. You got it. God is now for sale:

Mingle

Forget about those other sex-connect sites. Forget about eHarmony:

eHarmony

See that? eHarmony’s got the hot babes like Christian Mingle, but there is something they do not have. They don’t have God. God is what makes the difference. Only Christian Mingle’s got God. And we all know, God is good. Some would say God is Great, but those people often say that right before they kill somebody. Go with eHarmony, go with Christian Mingle. Either way you’re going to get screwed. But when you go with Christian Mingle you know you have the blessing of The Lord. It’s the ultimate product endorsement.

This is but one of an emerging line of Holy endorsements, and we can only hope it will not be the last. When something so touches our lives as a little nookie, it’s well advised to seek an acknowledged source. And a blessed one. Take for example the matter of self defense, so close to our hearts. For the sake of your own safety and for your family’s future you need to know what assault rifle Jesus recommends:

Last fall, the Family Research Council’s Jerry Boykin spoke at the WallBuilders’ Pro-Family Legislators Conference where he declared that when Jesus comes back, he’ll do so carrying an AR-15 assault rifle.

As Boykin explained once before, Jesus was a tough guy and real “man’s man,” and that is because he is a warrior who will come back covered in the blood of his enemies and carrying an assault rifle … which is why every Bible believing Christian must own one as well.

This is only the beginning of a long campaign to put God back into our daily lives. For a number of years we have been getting a foretaste of what’s in store:

Would Jesus Drive an SUV?

In an ad campaign that will air in four states, the group says Christians have a moral imperative to preserve the environment by giving up their gas-guzzling SUVs, minivans and pickups.

“Too many of the cars, trucks and SUVs that are made, that we choose to drive, are polluting our air,” the commercial says. “And endangering our health, especially the health of our children.”

The television ads, which will run in Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and North Carolina, include a question: “What would Jesus drive?”

If this is any indication, then we are in for some exciting times. That is right up to the end of times, if you know what I mean.

Just think:

  • Jesus condoms (for immaculate non-conception)
  • Payday loans (available at your nearest temple)
  • Holy Water (Culligan, you are so out of here)
  • Vodka (when you really want to get stoned)
  • Apples (share one with a friend)

Those are all possibilities, but we first need to get past some present-day concerns, chief of which may be the answer to the burning question, “Which really is the Party of God?” Democrats, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you’ve been scooped on this one. The other party has captured all the big issues:

  • Creationism
  • Prayer in schools
  • America as a Christian nation

And what do the Democrats wind up with? Global warming and gay rights. You need to decide now which you would rather be: In the right or in office.

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Ecolink Z-Wave PIR Motion Detector

MotionDetector

A little change of pace here. It’s time for a product review. This is the Ecolink Z-Wave PIR Motion Detector, and I will recount my experiences with the product and also provide some insight into working with it.

A few months ago I installed some Z-Wave components in my home and also a VeraLite controller. I did two short write-ups then:

It’s not science fiction anymore. Home automation is here already, if not complete home automation. For that you would need to go to Ray Bradbury’s short story There Will Come Soft Rains. But automation enough for your immediate needs is available.

Here’s what is available: Home automation can give your home a lived in appearance even when you are away. It can do that by turning lights on and off on a computer-controlled schedule so that from the outside it does not appear you just have your lights on a timer. It can respond to various sources of stimulus, such as motion detectors and temperature sensors and activate lights and other appliances as appropriate. A home automation system can also incorporate a compatible thermostat and a security video camera.

Various home automation technologies are available, including X-10 and Z Wave. X-10 has been around for maybe 30 years, and its components communicate with each other through the house’s electrical wiring. Z Wave technology is newer and uses a low-power radio network. I have previously used some X-10 components, but I’m only going to discuss Z Wave. In particular, this discussion will involve a low-end controller called VeraLite.

More recently there was an attempted home invasion at my house. Somebody used a trick key to open our front door at three in the morning. Barbara Jean frightened the intruder away, but the incident got me to thinking about some extra safety features. What I wanted was something to detect when somebody was on the front porch, before they used a trick key to open the lock. Ecolink seems to have a good solution. I ordered one through Amazon, put it in my system, got a feel for how it worked, then ordered two more. Here are the details. See the photo above.

  • Passive infrared (PIR) sensing
  • Not weather resistant
  • Radio link operates at 908.42 MHz.
  • Range (radio link) 100 feet line of sight
  • Detects motion up to 39 feet away
  • Battery operated
  • Battery: 3V Lithium CR123A (3-year life)

It’s about the size of a deck of playing cards, only four times as thick. It has a plastic body and seems to come only in a neutral off-white color. It comes with a plastic bracket you can mount on a wall somewhere (corner or flat surface). You mount the bracket with screws then snap the unit in place. The unit can be dismounted from the bracket for service or adjustment. You can also just set the sensor unit on a table or book shelf where it will be out of the way but still effective.

What is most fun about this unit is removing the cover. It snaps off, but you need to know to pry up on the top tab with your fingernail and gently rotate the cover back and toward the bottom, being careful not to break the two bottom tabs.

One feature is pet forgiveness. It’s expected you are mainly interested in husky burglars, and you don’t want your rottweiler to be all the time tripping it. There are three settings:

  • Do not ignore anything, even hummingbirds.
  • Ignore large pets but not people.
  • Ignore small pets, but do not ignore large pets.

The pet setting is performed by opening up the unit and placing a jumper in the correct position. There are three positions for the jumper:

  • Small pet
  • Large pet
  • Test mode

If you don’t want to ignore small pets, then take the jumper off completely. A jumper comes with the unit, and to ignore nothing I just parked the jumper on a pin where it did not make a connection. That way the jumper is always available, and I don’t have to go searching for it if I later need it.

The device works this way: When it detects motion it goes into the tripped mode. Ordinarily it stays in the tripped mode for four minutes, after which it reverts to the not tripped mode. If you want the unit to revert immediately to the non tripped mode, then put the jumper in the test position. This lets you test the unit without having to wait four minutes for it to enter the not tripped mode.

Adding the sensor to your Z-Wave network is straight forward. Bring the sensor close to the Z-Wave controller. Place the controller in the inclusion mode, then install the battery into the sensor unit. This places the sensor in the inclusion mode. Then press the button (or whatever is needed) on your controller to tell it to accept the sensor and then save the status on your controller. Replace the cover on the sensor unit and take it to wherever it’s going to be used.

Setting up the operation of the sensor is through your Z-Wave controller interface. Here is how it appears on my control panel:

SensorPanel

You can see the unit reports battery status. You can also associate alerts with the unit, one of them being battery level. I have set the controller to alert me when battery level gets to 20%. VeraLite will also send me an email when a sensor is tripped. For this to happen I had to set up an account with Micasaverde (free so far) and give them the email address. I tested this, and it works. Here is the message I received when I ran a test:

Your trigger “Sensor 1 tripped” occurred.

The originating device ID:13 Front Door Sensor in room:

The ID is: 3584723292
Code: Tripped Value:1
Serial #35012892

This is a standard email, so it came with a time stamp, which would allow me later to tell the police when somebody came to my front door.

Be aware that responses are not edge-triggered. They are not associated with transitions. They are based on combinatorial logic. So when you come into your house and immediately go to the VeraLite controller and arm the sensor, it will trigger an event. That’s because the sensor has not had time (four minutes) to exit the tripped mode. If somebody trips the sensor and continues to move about in its viewing range, the sensor will not alert again for another four minutes, at which time it will go not tripped and will then trip again.

The sensor can be placed in the armed and unarmed states by the Z-Wave controller. My VeraLite controller allows me to set up a scene based on absolute time, so the controller will arm soon after I leave my house and will disarm shortly before I am scheduled to return. Micasaverde provides a free app for Android and Apple devices, which makes it most convenient to manage my sensors and lights while sitting comfortably watching TV or reading.

I paid $37 plus change for tax on each of my units. I’m guessing the price will go down in the future as usually happens with new technology.

Bad Movie of the Week

This could have been a good movie. But somebody was trying to imitate Mickey Spillane. Or Dashiell Hammett. It turns out that somebody was Steve Fisher and Oliver H.P. Garrett. Or possibly Gerald Drayson Adams and Sidney Biddell, who wrote the original story. It’s Dead Reckoning from Columbia Pictures in 1947.

Dead_Reckoning_(1947)_film_poster

Keep in mind, this is right after we and some other countries won World War Two in a big way. Everybody was still feeling good two years later, and lots of movies of the time had a tie-in with the victory. Only this one is tragic.

In the opening scene Captain Warren “Rip” Murdock (Humphrey Bogart) comes into a church late at night to seek out a noted Army chaplain, a Catholic priest still in uniform. The priest is in the 101st Airborne Division, and Rip is in the 82nd Airborne. Both men have jumped out of airplanes into combat, so Rip feels he can talk to the priest. He starts to tell the priest his story, just in case something happens to him, because his story is not over.

The story is that Captain Murdock had recommended Sergeant Johnny Drake for the Congressional Medal of Honor, and a special B-17 flight brought them back from Europe so President Truman could make the award at the White House. Only nobody has told Sergeant Drake, and when he finds out what is about to happen he bolts, hopping another train out of town. See, Johnny Drake had originally enlisted to escape the police, who wanted to prosecute him for murder. It’s the last we see of Johnny Drake in the movie.

The last we see of Sergeant Johnny Drake

The last we see of Sergeant Johnny Drake

Murdock sets out to find Sergeant Drake, and his hunt quickly leads him to Gulf City and just as quickly leads him to discover that Johnny’s body has been found burned to a crisp in a wrecked automobile. Murdock’s investigation also leads him to a night club owned by a man named Martinelli. Here he meets the lusciously beautiful Coral Chandler (Lizabeth Scott), rich widow of the man Drake supposedly killed. Murder and intrigue follow for the remainder of the film.

Rip meets the luscious Coral

Rip meets the luscious Coral

As you watch the film you will, as I do, wonder: “Did people ever really talk like that?” Here are some of the Captain’s notable lines:

  • You know, the trouble with women is they ask too many questions. They should spend all their time just being beautiful.
  • I’m the brass-knuckles-in-the-teeth-to-dance-time type.
  • [coming to from a drugged stupor] Coming out of it was like after being tapped on the button. Everything foggy – fur in my throat, an anchor on my head, and ringing in my ears.

In the film Murdock is slipped a knockout drug in his drink and framed for murder. He confronts Martinelli and is conked on the head from behind. He is beaten up and taken at gunpoint to his hotel by Martinelli’s henchman Krause, where they meet the police out front. Krause assaults one of the police officers and flees in the car.

At this point Murdock’s tale to the priest ends, and the plot reverts to real time. This is about half way through the movie. We later see Krause still working at Martinelli’s place, and the police have not hauled him in for assaulting an officer. Does anybody besides me find this strange?

The romance between Rip and Coral falls apart as the truth comes out, and everything ends tragically for Martinelli, Krause and Coral. Murdock instructs the Army that Johnny’s Medal of Honor needs to be awarded posthumously.

They do not make movies like this anymore. And there is a reason

Charm School Dropouts

All right then. We have all seen the videos. We have all studied the news reports of atrocious behavior. The threat “We will raise the flag of Allah in the White House,” has caught our attention. What then to make of this new face of religious fundamentalism?

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel lightly put it “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen. So we must prepare for everything.” He is speaking of ISIS, Islamic State in Syria, which can most generously described as a bunch of frat boys with Kalashnikov rifles.

From Google Images

From Google Images

Of course the big question is how to respond. That is to say, how to respond to this college prank that’s gotten out of hand? That requires a little history. The Secretary thinks we have not seen anything like this before. I think he means we have not seen anything like this before in the 21st century. Prior examples abound.

  • From about 1600 years ago we have the Huns under their famous leader Attila. For some odd reason Attila’s motives seemed to have been tangible as opposed to religious. Nevertheless, he and his Huns were then and are still now viewed as most disagreeable fellows. They made war on everybody available to make war on, and they extracted tribute in exchange for not making war, sometimes increasing the required tribute in reprisal to real and imagined offenses. When they met resistance that murdered everybody who survived the battle, including all civilians. They looted as though looting were about to go out of style.
  • More recently we had the Nazis, those 20th century sadists who worked hard at giving “nasty” a bad reputation. Without abandoning their religion (Gott mit uns) they set out to make war on their neighbors whenever expedient. They murdered millions of people they disliked, including their own citizens, and they looted as though looting were about to go out of style.
  • The Japanese Empire found it expedient to make war on China, and they looted and murdered as though these practices were about to go out of style. When the rest of the civilized world expressed shock and dismay and imposed sanctions, they attacked the remainder of the civilized world, with the exception of the Soviet Union and the Empire’s own partner in atrocity, Nazi Germany.
  • Communist dictator Joseph Stalin, more as an individual initiative than as a social movement, inflicted on his citizens a massive purge (murder) in the 1930s. Subsequently mass graves yielded approximately 200,000 corpses, the work of just a few days by the Japanese Empire.
  • Pol Pot’s reform movement in Cambodia in the 1970s exterminated, through murder and mistreatment, 1 to 3 million.

ISIS does not come close to the accomplishments of these past miscreants, but we do need to give them their due. This is not a vagabond group of disaffected atheists. These are true followers of the God of Abraham. I have not seen the videos, but I am sure these people pray on their knees five times a day. Furthermore they are bringing biblical tradition to the 21st century. For example, when they are victorious in battle and defeat a town of religious deviants, they are known to sell women and young girls into slavery.

How, then, can civilized 21st century society deal with these religious crackpots. It helps to see a comparison with traditional terrorists groups of recent times:

  • Small base, fewer than 1000 followers
  • Operating in a region with strict rules of conduct and police power to enforce these rules
  • Marginal material and monetary support

ISIS sidesteps these drawbacks:

  • Large base, thousands of fanatical followers
  • Operates in regions with rules of conduct that can best be described as laissez-faire and little or no police power to enforce even laissez-faire
  • Significant material acquisition from capture in battle and generous monetary support from outside benefactors

Here are some significant terrorist groups we have defeated recently:

  • Red Brigades: Formed in 1970, they carried out murders and robberies for over a decade before being run down and imprisoned or exterminated by the Italian police.
  • Weather Underground: Formed as an offshoot of the Students for Democratic Society, they conducted bombings and armed attacks on United States government and local government agencies starting in 1969. The explosion of a bomb factory in New York City killed three prominent leaders, and police work eventually ran the remainder to ground. Survivors of the group have reintegrated in to civilized society.
  • Symbionese Liberation Army: Initially gaining notoriety with the ambush murder of a school official, they devolved into robbery and kidnapping to gain material support. A second murder occurred during a bank robbery, and members committed a number of bombings. The group was virtually exterminated in a shootout with police in Los Angeles in 1974.
  • Baader-Meinhof: Actions of the Red Army Faction resulted in 34 deaths from 1970 to 1998. Aggressive German police action eventually exterminated or captured most of the gang. The Red Army Faction had a fanatical communist ideology and suffered greatly from the fall of communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Al-Qaeda still exists as an earnest enterprise seeking to make mischief on the civilized world. They differ significantly from ISIS in that they never sought to form a state, a country, a political entity with established borders. ISIS seems to be doing exactly that. In religious terms this is defined as a caliphate. This is the main difference, the main strength, of ISIS. It could also be its solar plexus.

What made the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Red Army Faction so intractable were their lack of an identifiable target. In comparison, seventy years ago we had a bead on the Nazis and the Japanese Empire. We ended their reigns of terror by the expedient of bombing them back almost to the Stone Age. If ISIS were ever to take root and apply for membership in the United Nations we could consider the Curtis LeMay Option. Of course, the CLO has the downside of killing a disproportionate population of civilians, but it’s not as though it has never been used.

Putting aside for a moment the CLO, what other options are there?

Nailing itself down to a define locale with defined borders has a definite downside for ISIS. They have to eat. It has been noticed that ISIS has particular skills at kidnapping, dynamiting, shooting and beheading, none of these things puts food on the table. Unless the Holy Caliphate of ISIS, as I have chosen to name this new state, sees living out its future herding goats for subsistence, I don’t see much future for it.

Its actions so far—did I mention public beheadings and the slave trade—have lost it the sympathies of (most) of the civilized world. Without resorting to the CLO, we could just box them up and wait them out. So far they have captured some significant cities, but most of what they have is desert. They (for now) can boast they have some oil fields, but these are what the civilized world views as targets. What would it take to starve ISIS back to sensibility?

  • You really have to get control of the surrounding territory. ISIS cannot be allowed to make new conquests. This goal is feasible in principle. To advance toward anywhere in Iraq they are going to have to take to the roads. This has not been a good idea for an advancing army for the past 70 years. We can do this in Iraq, but Syria remains a problem.
  • ISIS is fighting battles, and fighting consumes resources. You need to keep ISIS engaged and continue to drain it. Again, Syria is a problem. In Syria ISIS is up close to its supply of captured weapons (Syrian army plus other insurgent groups) and also to its supply of purchased and donated weapons.
  • You are going have to keep ISIS from obtaining additional funding. ISIS gets money from donations and also from countries willing to pay ransom for hostages. When this money heads toward an arms purchase it should be tracked and confiscated.
  • You are going to have to put pressure on nations and individuals that provide aid to ISIS. ISIS may be immune to military attack, but their outside friends are not. Arms that are seen heading for ISIS can be confiscated. You are going to lose some friends with such high-handed tactics, but these are not the friends you want to keep.
  • Make sure ISIS has nothing to sell. If they produce some oil, do not buy it. If somebody buys it, confiscate it. Lose some friends, defeat ISIS.
  • Bottle them up. We are talking, at least for the coming five or more years, of an army of occupation. Nobody in, nobody out. ISIS does not yet have an airline. If it does, then make sure it has no airfields.

By now you should be getting the picture. You may also be asking, “How well has this worked in the past?”

Not always so well. See North Korea.

North Korea is the closest thing we have to the Holy Caliphate of ISIS. This little spot of Hell on Earth has been under containment for the past 60 years. To the north are the borders of China and Russia, whom they have no interest in pissing off. To the south is the border with South Korea, which is defended by an occupying force that includes 30,000 American troops. For various reasons the isolation of North Korea has never been complete:

  • As of 1991 it is a member state of the United Nations.
  • The population of North Korea includes millions of people effectively held hostage by the dictatorship and representing unacceptable collateral damage in case we ever saw fit to use full military action.
  • North Korea has a number of powerful allies in the civilized world, said allies likely to respond if we took appropriate action against the dictatorship.
  • Unlike the HCI, North Korea has considerable natural resources, a sizable population and the wherewithal to produce salable goods, specifically modern weapons of war.

The threat that North Korea poses is that sells weapons of war to rogue groups like Hamas and likely ISIS. North Korea’s isolation has made it immune to the disfavor of enlightened society.

To gain the dubious status now held by North Korea, ISIS will need to acquire considerable territory, including territory with an intact infrastructure. The toilets are going to have to flush, because ISIS can’t fix them without supplies from civilized sources. Such an acquisition could be attained if ISIS were to prove victorious against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. That presents a tricky situation. We want Assad and his ISIS wannabes out, but it’s quite possible ISIS will be there waiting when they leave.

From Wikipedia: ISIS territory as of 24 August 2014

From Wikipedia: ISIS territory as of 24 August 2014

All that said, what’s going to happen? My prediction:

ISIS in Iraq will be defeated. Iraq is going to see that it’s existence hangs on a workable government that puts aside partisan ambitions and starts working toward its next 100 years.

ISIS, as a concept, will never go away. Defeated in Iraq and possibly in Syria, ISIS will go to ground and make mischief for the rest of the world for decades to come. It’s rooted in the mysticism of a deep past. It’s a cause to die for. It’s an idea whose time has come.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

No one believes seniors . . . everyone thinks they are senile.

An elderly couple was celebrating their sixtieth anniversary. The couple had married as childhood sweethearts and had moved back to their old neighborhood after they retired.. Holding hands, they walked back to their old school. It was not locked, so they entered, and found the old desk they’d shared, where Andy had carved “I love you, Sally.”

On their way back home, a bag of money fell out of an armored car, practically landing at their feet. Sally quickly picked it up and, not sure what to do with it, they took it home. There, she counted the money – fifty thousand dollars!

Andy said, “We’ve got to give it back.”

Sally said, “Finders keepers.” She put the money back in the bag and hid it in their attic. 

The next day, two police officers were canvassing the neighborhood looking for the money, and knocked on their door. “Pardon me, did either of you find a bag that fell out of an armored car yesterday?”

Sally said, “No”.

Andy said, “She’s lying. She hid it up in the attic.

Sally said, “Don’t believe him, he’s getting senile”

The agents turned to Andy and began to question him.

One said: “Tell us the story from the beginning.”

Andy said, “Well, when Sally and I were walking home from school yesterday ….”

The first police officer turned to his partner and said, “We’re outta here!”

Is Paris Burning?

This is a significant 70th anniversary. I’ve pulled the title of this post from a book and a movie:

Is Paris Burning? (French: Paris brûle-t-il ?) is a 1966 film directed by René Clément, starring an ensemble cast, about the liberation of Paris in August 1944 by theFrench Resistance and the Free French Forces during World War II. The script was based on the book of the same title by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.

[Some links deleted]

In a previous post I related the high point in the career of American general George S. Patton. Patton took charge of the American Third Army on 1 August 1944 and proceeded to make history. Given free reign, his troops, spearheaded by tanks, swept around south of German forces facing off against the Normandy Invasion force. In three weeks the German forces that had occupied France since 1940 were on the run, those that had not been trapped and annihilated in the Falaise Pocket.

Screen shot from The World at War documentary

Screen shot from The World at War documentary

I have seen the movie and read the book, but I don’t have either. So I will cite a lot of the content from memory, with help from on-line counts:

As late as 11 August, nine French Jews were arrested by the French police in Paris. On 16 August, collaboration newspapers were still published and, although food was in short supply, sidewalk cafés were crowded.

In contrast, by 18 August, more than half the railroad workers were on strike and the city was at a standstill. Virtually all the policemen had disappeared from the streets. Several anti-German demonstrations took place and armed Resistance members appeared openly. The German reaction was less than forthright prompting small local Resistance groups, without central direction or discipline to take possession of police stations, town halls, national ministries, newspaper buildings, and the Hôtel de Ville on 19 August.

There were about 20,000 Resistance members in Paris, but few were armed. Nevertheless, they destroyed road signs, punctured the tires of German vehicles, cut communication lines, bombed gasoline depots, and attacked isolated pockets of German soldiers. But being inadequately armed, members of the Resistance feared open warfare. To avoid it Resistance leaders persuaded Raoul Nordling, the Swedish consul-general in Paris, to negotiate with the German military governor of Groß-Paris and the commander of the Paris garrison, General Dietrich von Choltitz. On the evening of 19 August, the two men arranged a truce, at first for a few hours; it was then extended indefinitely.

The arrangement was somewhat nebulous. Choltitz agreed to recognize certain parts of Paris as belonging to the Resistance. The Resistance, meanwhile, consented to leave particular areas of Paris free to German troops. But no boundaries were drawn, and neither the Germans nor the French were clear about their respective areas. The armistice expired on the 24th.

[Some links deleted]

What we see first in the movie are some French youths heading out to join the Resistance. They load into the back of a truck, but when the truck stops they find themselves facing a German machine gun squad. It was a trap abetted by a French Nazi. They are all killed.

The title derives from the command given to General Choltitz to destroy Paris before evacuating his troops. The remarkable thing is that he did not carry out that order, but surrendered himself to Allied forces.

In June 1940 Paris had been surrendered to the Germans without firing a shot. During the four years following Parisians endured the humiliation and the insult of German occupation. The killing of the would-be French Resistance fighters was typical of German tactics. By August 1944 the French in Paris were ready to settle old scores. The Allies had decided to bypass Paris. Their objective was German forces, not geography. However, by 19 August the Germans began pulling out. Columns of trucks threaded down the famous Champs-Élysées. The French had few weapons, but those came out now. Apparently the Resistance fighters did have movie camera, and photographers recorded the battles. Here are a few screen shots from the World at War documentary series:

Fighters take aim in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral

ParisBurning-02

Following two: French civilians motorized to do battle

ParisBurning-06

ParisBurning-03

Firing on the run

ParisBurning-05

End of the line for a German soldier shot dead in the street

ParisBurning-07

There was tragedy in abundance. Prior to the German occupation a Frenchman told his wife he was going out for cigarettes. He never came back. The next his wife heard from him he was calling from a phone. His tank had just entered the city. He was killed before he saw his wife.

A German tank was situated at the Place de Concorde at one end of the Champs-Élysées. The tank commander spotted an allied tank at the Arc de Triomphe. He ordered his gunner to set the range at 900 meters and fire. The gunner recalled from a school lesson that the distance from the Place de Concord to the Arch de Triomphe was 1000 meters, and he overrode the command and hit the Allied tank.

Victory was official on 25 August, and Allied troops marched down the Champs-Élysées. But they did not stop. They marched directly into battle, just a few miles away. For many it was their first and last view of Paris.

About the same time, 70 years ago, another “liberation” was ending in treachery and tragedy:

The Warsaw Uprising (Polish: powstanie warszawskie) was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistanceHome Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa) to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The Uprising was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union’s Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces. However, the Soviet advance stopped short, enabling the Germans to regroup and demolish the city while defeating the Polish resistance, which fought for 63 days with little outside support. The Uprising was the largest single military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II.

The Uprising began on 1 August 1944, as part of a nationwide plan, Operation Tempest, when the Soviet Army approached Warsaw. The main Polish objectives were to drive the German occupiers from the city and help with the larger fight against Germany and the Axis powers. Secondary political objectives were to liberate Warsaw before the Soviets, to underscore Polish sovereignty by empowering the Polish Underground State before the Soviet-backed Polish Committee of National Liberation could assume control. Also, short-term causes included the threat of a German round-up of able-bodied Poles, and Moscow radio calling for the Uprising to begin.

Initially, the Poles established control over most of central Warsaw, but the Soviets ignored Polish attempts to establish radio contact and did not advance beyond the city limits. Intense street fighting between the Germans and Poles continued. By 14 September, Polish forces under Soviet high command occupied the east bank of the Vistula river opposite the resistance positions; but only 1,200 men made it across to the west bank, and they were not reinforced by the bulk of the Red Army. This, and the lack of Soviet air support from a base 5 minutes flying time away, led to allegations that Joseph Stalin tactically halted his forces to let the operation fail and allow the Polish resistance to be crushed. Arthur Koestler called the Soviet attitude “one of the major infamies of this war which will rank for the future historian on the same ethical level with Lidice.”

[Some links deleted]

It became readily apparent to all that Stalin did not have in mind the liberation of Warsaw. He correctly saw the Polish Resistance fighters as a future, democratic, threat to his postwar plans for Poland as a communist satellite of the Soviet Union. All efforts by Britain and the United States to supply or to aid the Polish forces in Warsaw were blunted by the Soviets. Stalin expressed the opinion these fighters were criminals and not true patriots. He warned that Allied planes attempting to fly in aid would interfere with Soviet military operations in the area. It’s the same kind of talk we get these days from Stalin’s 21st century successor.

From Wikipedia: After the Warsaw Uprising, 85% of the city was deliberately destroyed by the German forces.

From Wikipedia: After the Warsaw Uprising, 85% of the city was deliberately destroyed by the German forces.

In 1939 England and France went to war because Germany had invaded Poland. In the end nothing was done to help Poland. Poland remained under the heels of an occupying power until 1989.

NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man

Number 9 in a series. Concerning the outrageous TV special NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man, I previously told the story of Tiahuanacu, the archaeological site 12,000 feet up in Bolivia. Purported to be 17,000 years old by a couple of dubious researchers featured on the show, it is, in fact, less than 2000 years old, in keeping with what is known about the history of human habitation on the American continents.

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Host Charlton Heston states:

Mysterious metal clamps revealed a level of technology far beyond their time.

Meso-American Archaeologist Neil Steede reminds us:

The antiquity and the technological sophistication of Tiahuanacu should make each and every one of us fully question the origins of civilization.

Actor and host Charlton Heston wants to know:

Where did the Tiahuanacans learn all of this complex process?

Then he proposes to answer his own question:

The answer may lie half way around the world in one of Man’s most mysterious monuments…

Finally, we get around to talking about the Sphinx. We were all wondering when NBC’s mysterious special would get around to the Sphinx. I count this 32 minutes into a 51-minute video clip.

Heston:

Is it possible there was an advanced civilization on this planet thousands of years before history tells us?

Notice it’s a question, not a statement. This is called plausible deniability. We next meet “investigative journalist” Graham Hancock, author of Fingerprints of the Gods.

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There’s a lot of stuff here, so I’m going to have to summarize:

  • We see Hancock at the Stonehenge archaeological site in England.
  • He has “dedicated nine years of his life to tracking down the evidence.”
  • This monument is one of a category of such monuments in the world.
  • They have a number of things in common.
  • They have large stone components, some weighing hundreds of tons.
  • They have “very precise, scientific astronomical alignment.”
  • In all cases we don’t know who built them.
  • “We are looking at a common influence that touched all of these places long before recorded history began.”
  • This unknown intelligence left behind a legacy in all of these places.

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Back to the Sphinx. Host and narrator Charlton Heston explains further, but I will here just repost from other sources. We are introduced to John Anthony West:

John Anthony West (born January 1, 1932 in New York) is an American author, lecturer, guide and a proponent of Sphinx water erosion hypothesis in geology.

Influenced by R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, in 1993 his work with Robert M. Schoch, a geologist and associate professor of natural science at the College of General Studies at Boston University was presented by Charlton Heston in a NBC special called “The Mystery of the Sphinx” that won West an News & Documentary Emmy Award for Best Research and a nomination for Best Documentary. The documentary contends that the main type of weathering evident on the Great Sphinx (pictured) and surrounding enclosure walls could only have been caused by prolonged and extensive rainfall during the time period from 10,000 to 5000 BCE and was carved out of limestone bedrock by an ancient advanced culture (such as the Heavy Neolithic Qaraoun culture). This challenged the conventional dating of the carving of the statue circa 2500 BCE. West suggested that the Sphinx may be over twice as old as originally determined, whereas Schoch made a more conservative determination of between 5000 and 7000 BCE.

[Some links deleted]

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And Robert Bauval:

Robert Bauval (born 5 March 1948 in Alexandria, Egypt) is a Belgian author, lecturer, and Ancient Egypt researcher, best known for his Orion Correlation Theory.

Bauval is specifically known for the Orion Correlation Theory (OCT). This proposes a relationship between the fourth dynasty Egyptian pyramids of the Giza Plateau and the alignment of certain stars in the constellation of Orion.

One night in 1983, while working in Saudi Arabia, he took his family and a friend’s family up into the sand dunes of the Arabian desert for a camping expedition. His friend pointed out Orion, and mentioned that Alnitak, the smaller more easterly of the stars making up Orion’s belt was offset slightly from the others. Bauval then made a connection between the layout of the three main stars in Orion’s belt and the layout of the three main pyramids in the Giza necropolis.The theory, known as the Orion Correlation Theory or OCT, was first published in Discussions in Egyptology (DE, Volume 13, 1989)

However the Orion Correlation Theory has been challenged within mainstream archaeology and history as a form of pseudoscience. Among his more notable theories is the possible connection with the Giza necropolis and the epoch of 12,500 years ago. Several Egyptologists have however entertained the general idea that some astronomical correlations may have figured in or been represented by certain physical features and orientations in Ancient Egyptian monuments. In particular, the aspects of the OCT which claim there is a link between the Ancient Egyptian structures at Giza and the constellations as they looked some 12,500 years ago are yet to find support from many within the field.

[Some links deleted]

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The similarities between Egyptian and American sites are hard to escape, according to Heston:

  • Huge pyramids precisely aligned
  • Temples with megalithic stones
  • Extremely find joints (between stones) with less that 1/50 inch gaps
  • Similar style royal headdresses
  • Construction using L-shaped corner blocks
  • Same style metal clamps to hold stones together
  • Use of mummification to preserve dead bodies

Except the metal clamps were not so similar. Other than that, we find that diverse groups solved identical problems in the most logical and identical way to be remarkable. I mean, if you don’t build a pyramid, then you’re going to have to build a sphere or a rhomboid. That would really show off the influence of an advanced intelligence.

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What does all this point to? Glad you asked. There must have been a sophisticated group of sea-faring people who crossed the Atlantic and brought the same advanced intelligence here. That gets us to the Piri Reis Map:

The Piri Reis map is a pre-modern world map compiled in 1513 from military intelligence by the Ottoman admiral and cartographer Piri Reis (pronounced [piɾi ɾeis]). Approximately one-third of the map survives; it shows the western coasts of Europe and North Africa and the coast of Brazil with reasonable accuracy. Various Atlantic islands including the Azores and Canary Islands are depicted, as is the mythical island of Antillia and possibly Japan.

The historical importance of the map lies in its demonstration of the extent of exploration of the New World by approximately 1510, and in its claim to have used Columbus’s maps, otherwise lost, as a source. It used ten Arab sources, four Indian maps sourced from the Portuguese and one map of Columbus. More recently it has been the focus of pseudohistoric claims for the premodern exploration of the Antarctic coast.

[Some links deleted]

640px-Piri_reis_world_map_01

What is so amazing about this map, according to the narrator, is its accuracy. It was a long time after this map was produced before clocks were invented with enough accuracy to allow navigators to compute longitude. Yet this map shows the coasts of Africa and South America within a half a degree of longitude. In case you are wondering, half a degree at the equator is about 36 miles.

There’s only a slight problem as I see it, looking at the map of Piri Reis. The coast lines are not even close to what is depicted in modern maps. Another way of saying that is the coast lines in the Piri Reis Map are wrong by a whole lot. Forget about half a degree. Let’s talk about hundreds of miles off. If it was an advanced technology behind the creation of this map, then we are going to need a new definition for the term advanced technology. Graham Hancock is eager to remind us this an accuracy we can hardly match today. I am eager to remind you let’s hope not.

That’s enough of Egypt, the Sphinx and Meso American archeology. We need to get on to Charles Hapgood. But you will have to wait until the next post.

MIOS

Old NTS Logo

This comes under amusement only. I attended a number of meetings of the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS), a young Earth creationist group in Dallas. Usually the programs were presented by Don Patton, maybe one of the leading YEC proponents in the North Texas area until the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) moved there from Santee, California, in 2010.

This is one of the times the program was presented by David Bassett, who seems to have had some scientific training, though he never allowed it to interfere with his Christian faith. I originally posted this in the September 1997 issue of The Skeptic, the newsletter of the North Texas Skeptics.

Living Dinosaurs at MIOS

by John Blanton

We sort of lost touch with MIOS (Metroplex Institute of Origin Science) while I was preoccupied with other matters, so on February 4th I dropped in for their monthly meeting. David Bassett was their speaker for the night, and the subject was “Living Dinosaurs.” David heads up the science department at the Ovilla Christian School south of Dallas. His talk centered on the idea that (if I may paraphrase) “Evolutionists tell us that dinosaurs have become extinct, but since they existed up into modern times, the evolutionists must be all wet and so is evolution itself.”

David Bassett presented a number of cases he said argued for the existence of dinosaurs in recent times. Winged dinosaurs, he said, are evidenced by many instances in literature. He exhibited an illustration of the hilt of Beowulf’s sword, which showed a winged serpent-like critter, an obvious reference to a pterodactyl or a pterosaur. Beowulf, who lived from 495 slew Grendel, who was likely a modern dinosaur-like beast. He also cited many references to “flying snakes,” which were surely sightings of the same animals. Further, the February 8, 1856 “Illustrated London News” showed a live pterodactyl found in France, and 1886 and 1890 issues of the “Tombstone Epitaph” contained a photo of a pterosaur and told of some local riders who encountered and killed a pterosaur that had an 8-foot long head. Finally, Basset cited Carl Baugh’s reports on pterodactyls in New Guinea last year (see the related story on the Creation Evidences Museum in the September 1996 issue of The Skeptic).

Bassett did express some concern about these flying pterosaur sightings. Creationists have concluded that the dense atmosphere preceding The Flood made it possible for these huge creatures to fly, so how could they have been flying in the 19th century!

The recovery by Japanese fishermen in 1977 of the remains of a plesiosaur is further proof that the supposedly extinct dinosaurs are still among us. Japanese scientists, who are not so hung up on evolution as American scientists, pleaded for the preservation of their find. However, the fishermen could not stand the stench and deep-sixed their catch after taking photos. The Loch Ness Monster is an additional example of a living plesiosaur. In fact, the 35 to 45- degree north latitude is the lake monster’s home ground from June through August. They winter in the Indian Ocean.

Additionally, there is the remarkable evidence of living dinosaurs in the Congo region. Although Polaroid photos of these specimens were ruined by the awful climate there, Bassett did have a copy of a copy of an audio tape that was made by a recent expedition. On this tape we could clearly hear the popping sound made by the dinosaurs as they bellowed just a short distance away in the forest. The high atmospheric pressure in this region accounts for the viability of these ancient species. The pressure there is 1.3 to 1.5 times normal atmospheric pressure. This is because of the dense vegetation, which keeps the air quite humid. Of course, water vapor is denser than dry air, David Bassett told the audience.

When he is not contributing to the science education of students at Ovilla Christian School, Bassett works the front desk at Carl Baugh’s Creation Evidences Museum near Glen Rose. Check it out. Also, while at the MIOS meeting I took the opportunity to purchase a copy of D. Russell Humphreys’ recent book Starlight and Time. Humphreys is a legitimate Ph.D. working at Sandia National Laboratories, and his book explains how we can be seeing light from stars and galaxies millions of light years away while the universe is less than ten thousand years old. Watch for a review in a coming issue of The Skeptic.

NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man

This is the 8th in a series. Previously in my review of NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man I had some fun with the story of Michael Cremo and Richard Milton. They wanted to discredit “Darwin’s theory of evolution,” otherwise known as basic 21st century biological science. They did it by demonstrating the fact of biological evolution.

Next up, host Charlton Heston introduces us to the ancient city of Tiahuanacu. First he reminds us that traditional history has civilization beginning in the Old World (Africa, Asia, Europe) and spreading to the New World (North and South America).

But there is evidence that humans were building cities in the New World thousands of years before history tells us.

Jericho is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city:

Jericho (/ˈɛrɪk/; Arabic: أريحا ʾArīḥā [ʔaˈriːħaː] ( ); Hebrew: יריחו Yeriẖo; is a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank. It is the administrative seat of the Jericho Governorate. In 2007, it had a population of 18,346. The city was occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967, and has been held under Israeli occupationsince 1967; administrative control was handed over to the Palestinian Authority in 1994. It is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of more than 20 successive settlements in Jericho, the first of which dates back 11,000 years (9000 BCE), almost to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch of the Earth’s history.

[Some links deleted]

It would appear that Tiahuanacu is far older. Maybe 17,000 years old.

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How do we know? We next meet Neil Steede, Meso-American archaeologist.

Neil Steede, a scientist living in Missouri, calls himself a “contractual archaeologist” and is frequently paid by institutions or museums to examine controversial claims. Since he has no vested interest in the results, his approach is refreshing and usually unbiased. His look at this collection, up close and in detail, is the subject of an extremely well documented video, Jurassic Art, available at BC Productions. In this video, Steede confirms the date of the clay figures, but points out some possible flaws in the dating and analyses. Although he does not confirm or repudiate the authenticity of this find, his discussion of their implications is both shocking and controversial.

According to Steede, either our human history goes farther back in time than we ever imagined or the existence of dinosaurs– a species believed to have been extinct for 60 million years– survived to more recent times in human memory and mythology. Steede questions whether or not the carbon dating reflects the time when the figurines were made and fired, or whether the test simply indicates when the clay itself was formed by nature.

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Host Charlton Heston first fills us in on the story’s background. Main stream science considers Tiahuanacu to have been constructed by the predecessors to the Incas in the region about 2000 years ago:

However, around the turn of the century [1900], Bolivian scholar Arthur Posnansky began a 50-year study at the ruins of Tiahuanacu. Using the science of astronomy, Posnansky came to the amazing conclusion. He calculated that Tiahuanacu had been constructed more than 17,000 years ago, long before any civilization was supposed to have existed.

He continues:

Even though the accuracy of Posnansky’s measurements was confirmed by engineers, his conclusions about the age of Tiahuanacu have never been accepted.

Neil Steede to the rescue. Steede stepped in to rework Posnansky’s research. Steede noticed something others have—that stones used in the construction are amazingly well-formed and are fitted together with nary a thin gap. Furthermore, Adjacent stones are locked together with metal “staples” formed by pouring molten metal into cavities carved into the stones.

Tiwanaku monumental architecture is characterized by large stones of exceptional workmanship. In contrast to the masonry style of the later Inca, Tiwanaku stone architecture usually employs rectangular ashlar blocks laid in regular courses. Their monumental structures were frequently fitted with elaborate drainage systems. The drainage systems of theAkapana and Pumapunku structures include conduits composed of red sandstone blocks held together by ternary (copper/arsenic/nickel) bronze architectural cramps. The I-shaped architectural cramps of the Akapana were created by cold hammering of ingots. In contrast, the cramps of the Pumapunku were created by pouring molten metal into I-shaped sockets. The blocks have flat faces that do not need to be fitted upon placement because the grooves make it possible for the blocks to be shifted by ropes into place. The main architectural appeal of the site comes from the carved images and designs on some of these blocks, carved doorways, and giant stone monoliths.

[Some links deleted]

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Steede explains this remarkable practice would have required bringing a metal refractory right up to the construction site, a tremendous undertaking. Or else, the stones could have been carved and their links poured at a central location and then moved to the construction site, the most likely explanation.

The ancient date arrived at by Posnansky and confirmed by Steede rests on the amazing fact that the structures were crafted with such precision. Steede concludes from their passion for precision the ancients must have sought to align the site astronomically. The problem is, the alignment with the sun is not perfect. It’s off by some. In fact, it’s off by an amount that would have existed 17,000 years ago, when the Earth’s axis was aligned differently.

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Forget about a body of archaeological evidence that the civilization responsible for Tiahuanacu’s construction only lasted from 300 to 1000 AD. Charlton Heston is pleased to tell us the story of the Spanish Conquistadors asking the Incas if they built this site. The Incas were happy, in return, to tell their future murderers that somebody else built the city thousands of years earlier. That information is remarkable, considering:

The site was first recorded in written history by Spanish conquistador Pedro Cieza de León. He came upon the remains of Tiwanaku in 1549 while searching for the Inca capital Qullasuyu.

The name by which Tiwanaku was known to its inhabitants may have been lost as they had no written language. The Puquina language has been pointed out as the most likely language of Tiwanaku.

Modern civilization, with all its resources, is just barely able to retrieve history from just 3000 years ago, yet the Incas kept records going back over 10,000 years? It’s certain the builders did not leave a written record, because they had no written language.

So what does all of this to do with the Sphinx? I’m glad you brought that up. I will cover that in the next post.

The Ape-Man Within

TheApe-ManWithin

Husband and wife writing team Sprague and Catherine de Camp moved to Plano, Texas, about 25 years ago in semi-retirement. We got to know them, and they joined our group, The North Texas Skeptics. This was Sprague’s next to last published book, and I received a copy in the mail for review. The following review appeared in the January 1996 issue of The North Texas Skeptic.  It’s The Ape-Man Within.

L. Sprague de Camp.  Prometheus Books, Buffalo, 1995.  266 pages (bibliography).  $25.95.

Reviewed by John Blanton

Where we came from has made us what we are.  This is the theme of Sprague de Camp’s latest non-fiction work.  Our ancestors were wild animals who somehow domesticated themselves and ratcheted their way up in steps to what we know as civilized society.  We dress ourselves in fine silk and go to the opera and to the ballet, and we probe the depths of the atom and visit nearby planets, but our daily actions belie all this pretense and show us to be the product of our forefathers after all.

The “theratics” were the hunter-gatherers, little removed from roving packs of ground-dwelling apes.  Next came the “georgics,” who improved their lot over the theratic existence by staying in one place and obtaining reliable sources of food from the land and from captive animals.  Then came the “astics,” builders and inhabitants of cities.  The development of crafts is prominent in this stage.  Finally, we have become the “dynatics,” exerting our power over our environment.  This progression has come as a consequence of, and often in spite of, the psyche we inherited from our unwashed predecessors.

Critics of social Darwinism stand clear, for your nemesis runs free in this book.  Darwinism explains all:  love, jealousy, rage, hatred, racism, and even self-sacrifice.  Whether the connections be cause and effect or just post hoc rationalization, the reader cannot deny the compelling arguments.  Why do people kill without profit?  Why do we divide ourselves by erecting artificial boundaries of race and culture?  Why does belief in religion persist in the face of overwhelming counter evidence?
In this book we are pointedly reminded of much that we already know (or should know).  There is less genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees than there is between chimpanzees and gorillas, and in the social and sexual antics of chimps and other apes we see reflections of our own society.  Despite all this, the author emphasizes that heredity does not excuse antisocial activity; morality, after all, being a human invention.  There are also some surprises for those of us who haven’t checked out the sections on archeology and anthropology in the library.  For example, the tales of Moses and the exodus from Egypt seem contrary to evidence that the people involved really migrated down from the North.  (Furthermore, if the Jews did migrate from Egypt, they forgot to tell the Egyptians they were leaving, or else the Egyptians forgot to write it down.)  And finally we are told more about a certain female gorilla named Congo than we really wanted to know.

Do not look here for hope and reaffirmation.  On this matter the writer is gloomy and more pessimistic than I can allow myself to be.  Sprague de Camp’s views on religion are no secret, and one would expect to find in him a general condemnation of it.  However, with surprising cynicism he acknowledges its necessity.  Never having inherited real altruism, we require an imaginary, authoritarian presence to continually threaten us with punishment and to cajole us with the promise of reward in order to keep us from seeking short term gain through socially destructive conduct.

This book is not based on objective science, though there are research citations aplenty to establish its modern knowledge base.  Prominent Darwinists, Stephen Jay Gould included, will disagree with many of its conclusions.  Instead, this is a statement of the philosophy, the observations, of a modern man.  It is told, not in narrative form, but more as a diary, as though the author is gathering a lifetime of experience and revealing it in a conversation with the reader.  Several points are restated frequently throughout the book whenever discussion of a new subject recalls them.  Read this as the wisdom of one who has trod the length and breadth of the Twentieth-Century.  You will hardly find a better perspective.