Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Welcome to 2015

We are one year closer to the end of everything!

This year's goals (besides working and church):

1. Continue swimming in the lake regularly throughout the winter.

2. Finish another semester of Greek.

3. Dabble regularly into Hebrew.

4. Keep up a steady diet of reading and blogging.

This is all progressing nicely at the moment.  Today's Greek Linguistics readings featured this note:

"Two arguments are used in support of the eight-case system - one historical, the other linguistic.  First, through comparative philology (i.e. the comparing of linguistic phenomena in one language with those of another), since Sanskrit is an older sister to Greek and since Sanskrit has eight cases, Greek must also have eight cases." - Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics, by Daniel Wallace

Apparently it is necessary to study Sanskrit in order to understand Greek, according to some linguistiticians.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pondering Anti-Semitism Part II: Gathering Data

"For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge." - Proverbs 6:34

"Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" - Proverbs 27:4

The sources I have used for this quick survey is the 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica article on Anti-Semitism and The Shield: Russia and the Jewish Question - Russian Intellectuals on Anti-Semitism, published in 1916.  Between these two, I certainly have a good collection of English and Russian views prevalent around the earliest part of the 20th century.

The point that these articles both agree upon is that Anti-Semitism was a German export that seems to have begun with Hegel.  Blaming things on the Germans, however, is really too easy and doesn't at all explain why nearby countries should have embraced German Anti-Semitism while rejecting bratwurst, sauerkraut and Octoberfest.   Banking was an industry that was dominated by Jews making them quite prominent as wealthy capitalists, even though most Jews were working class.  Socialism (and its twin, Fascism) was also on the rise at this time, thus, making the Jews the perfect bogey man for the demagogues. Thus, in much of Europe the anti-semites were closely allied to the socialists, including some parties that went by the name "Christian Socialist".

Russia seems to have been where the most action was taken during this period, and is also the most complicated.  The dysfunction of the Tsar's government was combined with the other agitations of the demagogues resulting in many of the Jewish bankers exiting the country, and this caused a further spiral down of the economy, which provided more fodder for the demagogues.  The Jews who stayed seem to have sided with the revolutionaries, and the revolutionaries were leftists, thus, making it hopeless to categorize the Jews, unless we want to label them as "Leftwing Capitalists".

The Shield emphasized the inherent Russianness of the Russian Jews, which is in direct conflict with the racist assertions of the Anti-Semitic movement.  Likewise, the German Jews were German, and this undoubtedly was true throughout Europe.  The end result of the period was that a disparate group of people who had not considered themselves a race were coerced by the fanatics to embrace such an identity:

"So far from injuring the Jews, it has really given Jewish racial separatism a new lease of life.  Its extravagant accusations, as in the Tisza Eszlar and Dreyfus cases, have resulted in the vindication of the Jewish character.  Its agitation generally, coinciding with the revival of interest in Jewish history, has helped to transfer Jewish solidarity from a religious to a racial basis." - Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1910.

Thus, the irony of the modern Jews having viewed themselves principally as a race, based on shoddy accusations by uneducated and/or malicious anti-Jews.  The holocaust was still to come at this point, but the Zionist movement is well underway.

As a Christian, some comments are needed about this period.  In Western Europe, modernist protestantism was dominant with its belief in the superiority of man's intellectual over the Bible, making it little more than atheism under a thin religious veil.  Catholicism with its emphasis on ritual and ritual and ritual wasn't really in any good position to intellectually address anything.  Russia still didn't have any kind of serious education system for the masses, so the people were not in a good position to study what the Bible taught for themselves.  In the US and to a lesser extent England, the study of the Bible was more common, which I believe to be the best remedy against anti-semitism.  This situation - that of Biblical literacy - however, has been confronted head on in the US so that those graduating from high school in the US today have never been taught anything correct about Christianity unless they were part of the tiny fraction that attended Sunday School at a plausibly Christian institution.  The same can be said for a good portion of America's Doctors of Philosophy, including many with theology degrees.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Afghan Wars 1839-42

This is a story of the madness of the English as they sought to, well, they don't seem to be quite sure, so neither should I be.  So far the English have managed to displace a popular tyrant in Cabul with an unpopular one who is known for a "mixture of timidity and duplicity" that leaves him despised and hated while the English are compelled to stay and keep him propped up.  The logic seems to have been something like the enemy of the enemy ... of my enemy is certainly going to be my friend, although the character of this leader is such that he would have had trouble being the friend of anyone, while the former ruler wasn't the enemy of the English.  The author gives this little note at the start:

"The Duke of Wellington pronounced with prophetic sagacity, that the consequence of once crossing the Indus to settle a government in Afghanistan would be a perennial march into that country."

Afghanistan wasn't any kind of western centralized government, but instead a collection of tribal groups that supported a central monarch.  Maybe.  Dealing with these leaders is what required an expert leader, which unfortunately was the one the English had just ousted.  Then there is this note on the character of the Afghan leaders:

"When historians write of Afghan treachery and guile, it seems to have escaped their perception that Afghan treachery was but a phase of Afghan patriotism, of an unscrupulous character, doubtless, according to our notions, but nevertheless practical in its methods, and not wholly unsuccessful in its results."

At the end of chapter three, the first year of the occupation has now ended, the former ruler, Dost Mohammed, has just given himself up.  The English can feel smug, and the catastrophe is still to come.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Birds

Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the coming of Christ.  Since many are fond are quoting sentimental things from the Bible, I will need to do the opposite.  Jesus said:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Matthew 10:34-39

And so Christ promises peace between his followers and God, in exchange with conflict with the world, reaching even into family relations.  I find this to be more reflecting of the times than the sentimental versions.  And yet it is the peace with God that is the most precious.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pondering Anti-Semitism Part I: Etymology

This will (hopefully) be a series of short notes on this subject, which is more or less along the lines of the Protestant Dispensationalists.  This is a distinct view from the Eastern Orthodox, Romanist, and European state churches and is one of a few areas where I deviate from classical orthodoxy, although this is certainly not a central doctrine to classical orthodoxy.  Some of this is a reflection on a modern Russian Orthodox article, which was brought to my attention by Max.

The phenomenon of persecution of Jews is one that I want to get to, although admittedly I have very few original sources to go on, which really is crucial in properly understanding the subject.  Perhaps some will turn up along the way.

Etymology of Anti-Semitism:

Although the phenomenon of Anti-Semitism can be quite distinct from the origin or the word, the choice and origin of the word often gives some additional insights or nuances to the discussion.

We must begin with the root word "Semite".  This goes back to a Biblical origin with the names o the sons of Noah.  Shem (שם) is the father of those who settled in the middle east.  Shem gave birth to Eber (עבר), which I understand is the origin of the word, Hebrew (עברית).  Although perhaps technically a term referring to a people group and race, we primarily use Semitic to refer to a common set of languages that have similar patterns.  This includes Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Babylonian, Akkadian and Ugaritic, and Amharic.  It does not include Persian, Hittite or Egyptian.

What has always been puzzling to me is why the term "Anti-Semitism" was chosen in the first place, since this clearly refers to a group that is both broader and perhaps distinct from those who have been the target of the attacks.  Checking Dr. Wiki, it seems that the first usage of the term Anti-Semitism was by a German Jewish Scholar, Moritz Steinschneider, in response to a French Scholar, Ernest Renan.  Both seem to be experts on Middle Eastern languages.  A follow up on this topic would be to read what both of these men had written.

The wiki article asserts that Renan was a proponent of the idea of Aryan superiority, which leaves me wondering if this notion is of French origin!  He also asserted that the European Jews were of Turkish descent, which would leave them as neither Aryan nor Semitic.  Reading between the lines, Renan was an atheist, and engaged in the sort of intellectual malpractice regarding the Bible that atheists are famous for.  At the same time, he had not fully distanced himself from the church, like most of the other modernists both in Europe and America.

I should stop here and give some sort of a wrap-up.  It is clear that the modern term Anti-Semitic is a reaction to atheist views of racial evolution that were prevalent in the 19th century.  The irony here being that even if I accept atheist notions of the independent evolution of different races, the concept of Semitic as applied to European Jews is deserving of an F.

Personally, I should prefer the term anti-Jewish to anti-Semitic, as this is much more accurate.  Anti-Zionist might be an alternate, to refer to those who are opposed to the Jewish state, but aren't necessarily anti-Jewish, like the orthodox Jews.  And so here is a list of the eras to which this category belongs:

Classical Era:  This would range from Antiochus IV to the Bar Kokhba revolt and would be characterized as a conflict between Judaism and Pagan rulers.  As the Pagan rulers always had a tight merging of religion and state, a religion that was distinct from the state and would not submit to the state was hopelessly conflicting.

Intermediate Era:  This is the various anti-Jewish events in the Christian world.

Modern Era:  There are two distinct types of anti-Jewish in the modern era with entirely different motives.  The first is the modernist Christian / atheist view which is hostile to Jews and/or Israel for reasons that are unfathomable to me.  Perhaps the visible claim that God exists and would work through a people group is sufficient to outrage them.  The second is the Mohammedan view, which is likewise hostile, but this relates to the tenets of their religion, especially that of Jihad, and the fact that it is mandatory for clerics to stir up jihad fervor in this religion, while it is always "safe" to direct this fervor at the Jews and/or Israel.

As a Christian, it is the era when the Christian religion was dominant and Jews were treated badly that deserves some exploration.  I don't think I will quite get there in this series, but at least I should start working in that direction and perhaps find out where the sources are for this.

Postscript:  Having written this, I checked my 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica and found that they had a lengthy article on this topic which is certainly valuable since it predates most of the modern political correctness and revisionism.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why there must be One China.

This comes from Herbert Giles' (1845-1935) "China and the Chinese", which was a series of lectures given at Columbia University in 1902.

"Theoretically speaking, the Empire of China is ruled by an autocratic monarch, responsible only to God, whose representative he is on earth.  

Once every year the Emperor prays at the Temple of Heaven, and sacrifices in solemn state upon its altar.  He puts himself, as it were, into communication with the Supreme Being, and reports upon the fidelity with which he has carried out his Imperial trust."


"And just as the Emperor is responsible to Heaven, so are the viceroys and governors of the eighteen provinces-to speak only of China proper-nominally responsible to him, in reality to the sex departments of state at Peking, which constitute the central government, ..."

Elsewhere, it appears clear that there can only be one legitimate ruler and one empire, because of this unique relationship between the emperor and heaven.

This generates some curious conclusions as we fast forward to our current era.  For example, the communists are technically atheists, so on what basis do they derive a "one China" principle?  As for Taiwan, their current leaders seem to be too muddled in their thinking to contemplate such lofty notions as a Heaven and how their authority might be related to it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Looney DNA Analysis

This came from my sister from her DNA test:

"Great Britain 59%, Scandinavia 24%, European Jewish 8%, Ireland 6%, Finland/Northwest Russia 2%, Europe West 1%".

I was in some doubt as to whether or not Jewish was a race, but it seems to be.  Clearly my foray in to Russian history was needed to explore my "roots".  And it is good to know that my name, Looney, is connected to Ireland by DNA.

I am much disappointed that there wasn't any Vulcan or Klingon DNA found.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lenin: "The revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry"

Having finished this work, I now have some sort of understanding of what it is that he is trying to say, although Lenin insists that no one who is a member of the Bourgeois is capable of gaining such an understanding.  Of course Lenin himself came from the Bourgeois classes, as did all the other communist leaders, but we must let this bit of cognitive dissonance pass or we won't get through things.

Much of the thesis that Lenin is putting forward is that the Mensheviks want to have a democratic assembly and work with the liberal democrats (i.e. capitalists), and Lenin sees a hidden hypocritical agenda in this:  The Mensheviks will necessarily be coopted and assimilated into the Czarist/Bourgeois agenda, and the proletariat will be cheated out of their revolution.

Then there are the anarchist who see revolution as the end, and that action must always be from the lowest levels.  This Lenin sees as problematic.  The revolution isn't the end.  The revolution is the means to the end.  The end must have unlimited power to reform, thus, it must end in dictatorship.  The end must also have complete legitimacy, hence, it must be a democracy, never mind that democracy and dictatorship are mutually exclusive.  Lenin tries to merge these two by noting that dictatorship need not be that of an individual, and by extension proves that the dictatorship can include everyone, provided they are all empowered.  Finally, it must specifically enumerate who the dictatorship is allegedly for, and who it is not for.  Thus, it is for the factory workers and the peasants.  Only.  Don't ask any more questions.  Period.

Some of this discussion reminds me of America's persistent problem with RINO's (Republicans In Name Only).  They seem to have a somewhat opposite mentality to what Lenin claims will happen with the Mensheviks in that the RINO's routinely compromise with the Socialists, although Lenin honors the Mensheviks more by implying that they would need to be coopted first, whereas the RINO's don't even need that as an incentive.  The parallel breaks down if you go any further, because Lenin and the Anarchists are for completely overthrowing the legal framework, whereas America's Tea Party is for restoring the legal framework.

Another thing I sense from these writings is that the socialist in various groups have been brooding over power for a very long time, and this has caused them to carefully study history and generate a vocabulary for themselves.  The French Revolution figures very high on this, as well as the Paris Commune and the German Revolution of 1848.  Thus, to really put their thinking into perspective will require a more careful study of these events, along with the writings of Marx and Engels.

A final note is that there is not one reference to Christianity or the church in all these writings, which if I recall correctly was true to Trotsky's "From October to Brest-Litovsk" also.  This contrasts strongly with Leo Tolstoy's hatred for Christianity in his religious writings that were done towards this period.  Where was the church?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Vladimir Lenin: Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution

This work describes gives an account of the disputes over methods of accomplishing the communist takeover of Russia that were being proposed in the year 1905.  It is also a very sarcastic work, so I am having a little difficulty at times knowing if Lenin is advocating a position or citing a position for the purpose of mocking it.

The way I understand it is that Lenin is in favor of an armed overthrow of the government only, whereas others wanted a progressive set of changes towards socialism.  In this discussion a distinction that I wasn't aware of before shows up in the vocabulary.  The proletariat are the working poor of the cities, whereas the peasantry are the working poor of the country.  Lenin believes that these two large groups can be aligned in their revolutionary dreams, which is contrary to the belief of the other communists.

The problem as Lenin sees it is that Bourgeois democracy (i.e. capitalism) will both ally with the Tsar and co-opt the socialists, thus, precluding a revolution.  Thus, his insistence on armed revolution as being the only way to achieve communism.  What I found surprising in this was the degree to which Lenin was worried about capitalism:

"Since the rule of the bourgeoisie over the working class is inevitable under capitalism, it is quite correct to say that a bourgeois revolution expresses the interests not so much of the proletariat as of the Bourgeoisie.  But it is entirely absurd to think that a bourgeois revolution does not express the interest of the proletariat at all.  ...

In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. ... The working class is therefore decidedly interested in the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism."

Then it launches off into some confused speculation about how this should lead to Socialism. The only reasoning that would make sense to me is that having tasted the good life of Capitalism, and craving more, the masses should proceed to vote to get more, which leads to the transition to Socialism.  Throw in a few mendacious politicians who quietly change the laws to undermine capitalism, then blame the chaos they caused on capitalism, from which they are then given a populist mandate to implement socialist policies while enriching themselves, and there seems to be a logic to Lenin's thesis:

"The more complete and determined, the more consistent the bourgeois revolution, the more assured will be the proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie for Socialism.  Only those who are ignorant of the rudiments of scientific Socialism can regard this conclusion as new or strange, paradoxical."

I am about half way through this work.

Herbert Giles: Religions of Ancient China

Herbert Giles (1845-1935) was a Cambridge Professor and Sinologist who left us with the Wade-Giles phonic system for Chinese.  This work is much too short for my liking, but at the same time contains a number of curiosities, along with perhaps a caution that his scholarship might be no more accurate than his phonic system.

Religions of Ancient China begins with a description of the oldest Chinese religion, which he asserts to be monotheistic with two separate names for God.  One is an abstract one, 天, while the other refers to a more animate deity, 上帝.  Gradually a large number of other spirits appeared, but the earliest Jesuit missionaries found these original terms to be so similar in concept to Christianity that they adapted them, although the Pope insisted on the variant, 天主, "Lord of Heaven", which confusingly matched another Chinese deity.  Confucianism tried to manage the multiplication of deities, but then Confucius was deified and a mess ensued.

Taoism had its beginnings primarily as a philosophical endeavor in speculating about theological matters.  But then Buddhism came along as a distinct religion, and we have this note:

"Each religion began early to borrow from the other.  In the words of the philosopher Chu Hsi, of the twelfth century, 'Buddhism stole the best features of Taoism; Taoism stole the worst features of Buddhism.  It is as though one took a jewel from the other, and the loser recouped the loss with a stone.'

From Buddhism the Taoists borrowed their whole scheme of temples, priests, nuns and ritual.  They drew up liturgies to resemble the Buddhist Sutras and also prayers for the dead.  They adopted the idea of a Trinity, consisting of Lao Tzu, P'an Ku, and the Ruler of the Universe; and they further appropriated the Buddhist Purgatory with all its frightful terrors and tortures after death."

Reading between the lines, Buddhism didn't have any significant philosophical theology until it encountered Taoism.  All this just sets up a big red flag in my mind regarding how little I actually know about Buddhism and Taoism, but it certainly reaffirms my suspicion that modern Westernized Buddhism is even further from original Buddhism than I had thought.  There is also a note that Chinese Buddhism would have been unrecognizable to Buddha.  My problem is that I have zero confidence in westerners to properly teach this subject, while the original texts aren't accessible to me.

Exodus. In 3D.

There is plenty wrong and much right in the story line, but I will leave that to others to talk about.  I just found the movie a visual treat, especially with swarms of locusts flying at you in 3D.  Too bad they didn't do this with the crocodiles.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tolstoy: Resistance is Futile

Getting towards the end of Tolstoy's work, his rhetoric gives way to rage against the church, whether Eastern Orthodox, Romanist, or Protestant.  He then pronounces them to be so utterly corrupt that their destruction is inevitable.  Non-judgmentalism in action?

But let's rewind a bit.  There is a long winded Ecclesiastes style rant where he mocks all those who have not brought their life to a clear meaning and purpose.  Presumably he has found his own clear meaning and purpose, but I can't actually find a quote in this work.  Maybe I will run across this in a different work.  He vents against the idle rich and notes that their physical and mental health problems vastly exceed those of the working poor, while medicines cause them more problems than they solve.  While I can certainly appreciate this viewpoint, I wonder what he would think of today's large percentage of idle poor who suffer from obesity, STDs and various addictions, all fueled by government policies that are in turn inspired by his spiritual descendents in moralizing.

As for his true view of Jesus, we have this in Tolstoy's commentary on Jesus feeding 5,000:

"That many had brought provisions with them is evident from there being twelve basketfuls gathered of what remained, as we read in all the four gospels.  (If nobody had had anything except the boy, there would not have been twelve baskets in the field.)  Had Christ not done what He did, that is, the 'miracle' of feeding thousands with five loaves, what now takes place in the world would have taken place then.  Those who had provisions with them would have eaten all they had and would have over-eaten rather than see that anything should be left.  ..."  What I Believe, by Leo Tolstoy

And so Tolstoy reinterprets the text in order to eliminate the miracle:  In the Tolstoy retelling, many were secretly carrying food, and were enticed into sharing due to the example of Christ.  Based on this statement and several others, I think it is safe to say that Tolstoy was an atheist.  He did not believe that Jesus had any supernatural powers.  He was simply a teacher.  Where this gets problematic is that the disciples - the same fools or charlatans who twisted the story of the feeding of the 5,000 - these idiots are the ones who told us of the moral code that Jesus taught, apparently leaving nothing to the imagination by employing a pure literalism, which they completely failed to do elsewhere.  At this point it is important to note that Tolstoy is pretty much giving us a straight Mainline Christian teaching.  He goes on to prophecy the doom of the church:

"The life of the world in our time follows its own course, independently of the teaching of the Church.  That teaching has remained so far behind that men of the world hearken no more to the voices of the teachers; and indeed, there is nothing worth listening to, because the Church only gives explanations that the world has already grown tired of - explanations of an organization that is rapidly decaying."

Fast forwarding to our era, Christianity certainly has had a struggle, but this has mostly been due to atheists infecting the schools, seminaries and pulpits and systematically mis-teaching Christianity.  Yet contrary to Tolstoy's prophecy, Christianity is still growing in spite of the storm.

"All religious creeds, except that of the Christian Church, enjoin, besides the observance of certain rites, good deeds and forbearance from evil ones."

This is a fascinating statement in that it is in direct contradiction to those faiths which exist only for the purpose of providing health, wealth, and prosperity to their adherents, and the others which command their followers to kill, maim, enslave and torment others until world domination is achieved.  Still others demanded human blood or immoral sex acts.  But Tolstoy will have none of this.  All religions are good, except for the single exception, which is Christianity.  And if the non-Christian philosophies promote evil, it is only - in his mind - because they have accepted the teaching of the church.  This does remind me of Augustine's assertion that there were no moral teachings in the Pagan religions of his time.

I still have another 40 minutes of this rant to listen to.  One thing to note is that Tolstoy's religion has neither judges nor courts of any kind, so that there is "no controlling legal authority" for anything.  There is also no resurrection, and thus no final judgment after death, so he needn't worry if anything he says isn't quite correct.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tolstoy: Religion in the Borg Collective

"This is the reason why those who believe in the happiness of an individual life cannot believe in the doctrine of Christ."  - What I Believe, by Tolstoy

The novel part of this work is the notion that there is no literal, bodily resurrection of the individual.  Tolstoy further claims that Jesus never taught the doctrine of any bodily resurrection, and he proceeds to dismiss all the statements that indicate Jesus did teach bodily resurrection as being figurative.  All the remaining new testament statements on this subject are ignored, while Tolstoy claims that Jesus was correcting the Pharisees in their erroneous notion of resurrection, which he deems to be a holdover from the most primitive and barbaric forms of religion.  The faith in a resurrection and heaven are mocked as a heretical perversion of the Christian religion and there is apparently no need in Tolstoy's religion to even speak of a judgment or hell.  In his view, we only have the now to do good and any energy expended in a hope for the hereafter will only distract from doing good in the present and, perhaps worse, tempt us to believe that we needn't give everything now in our struggle for good when there is a future in which we will be made perfect.  Instead, death is simply a state when our soul is assimilated into the collective oneness of God, as happened to Christ on the cross.

I see this as an attempt to merge an atheist theology with a pseudo Christian morality in a mix that more or less follows Mainline Christianity.  Since Tolstoy doesn't claim to have discovered this "correct" teaching of Christ until he was 55, it becomes much easier for him to imagine that he could fulfill the requirements.  Yet why bother?  His claim is that by following Christ's commands in detail we should have greater personal happiness.  Yet he ignores what Jesus really said, "take up your cross and follow me", as if this were to be a source of joy without the hope that Tolstoy denies nor the work of a Holy Spirit, which has not yet been mentioned in this work.  And if a madman deems that he will find personal satisfaction in robbing and killing his neighbor, he will never face a judgment, which is really where this religion is hopelessly defective.

One thing I did like that Tolstoy mentioned was the need to literally understand Christ's teaching regarding adultery.  He doesn't dwell on this like he does the other, unfortunately.  Today, the mainliners who follow this line of rhetoric have pretty much abandoned any attempt to restrain immorality and completely committed themselves to a doctrine of perversion.  Doing good to others is all about using someone else's money.  I still have a few chapters to go, so we will see what else is exciting here.  Will resistance be futile?  I can't be sure yet, but Tolstoy has accused the church of resisting Christ's teaching for 1,800 years.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

San Francisco Bay Area Drought Flood Warning

It is always one extreme or the other here in California.  The storm with flooding warning is here.  There is a drought story here from today's San Jose Mercury.  I included a photo of one of my neighbors who is happy to get outside after the current series of rains.

I don't know any songs about rain in Northern California, so this one from Southern California will have to do.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Greek Semester 1: Complete

What a relief.  There are two more semesters to go, but I will delay until the summer before starting the second one.  The first semester had us go through all the basic Greek grammar along with a few hundred vocabulary worlds.  The second semester supposedly has us going through the material again with an eye on the linguistics aspects.  I will get the books for the second semester and study ahead.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Tolstoy: What I Believe

This work was written by a 55 year old Tolstoy and is nearly 30 years removed from his trilogy on childhood.  From his testimony, he spent considerable time studying the Bible, reading commentaries and theologies, and discussing theology and moral principles with those around him.  The result is something that might be termed Tolstoyanist Dogmatics, except that it is presented more as a novelist might do rather than as a blinkered theology professor.  I have listened so far to about 1/4 of this work, so will give my preliminary impressions.

A key theme that Tolstoy is developing in the early part of this work is that the Biblical command, "do not judge", is an absolute command that covers all possible human judgements, whether individually or collectively.  He goes on to judge that almost all Christian thinkers prior to himself have judge wrongly in their judgement of the meaning of this phrase, which he judges to be a primary Christian imperative.  And he judges that he judged correctly.

From this description it should be clear as to what I think is the subtle flaw in his thinking:  Humans have a brain and a free will so that we might make judgments, and I have no doubt that Tolstoy made tens of thousands of judgments in the process of writing his work that condemned judging. Don't we judge what would be the most persuasive choice of words in order to entice others to judge that our judgment is the correct one?  And if he hadn't judged that his writing was worthwhile to others, would he have published it? Thus, he has already fallen into the trap of the Academic philosophers who dogmatically asserted that all dogmatic assertions are false.  Only the dead can escape judging.

The problem that Tolstoy stumbles over is fairly basic.  He quotes Matthew 7:1-2, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you."  We must interpret this in a way that is consistent with the rest of scriptures.  Thus, we go down a few more verses and we see Matthew 7:15-16, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits".  Is this not a command to judge?  And if I judge wrongly with respect to a false teacher, will this not potentially be catastrophic?

The there are the contrasting verses, such as John 7:24, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment".  The issue here is not that judging is wrong, but rather that we should not expect to escape a final judgment where whatever standards we used are thrown back at us.  It is a command to judge correctly, because we ourselves will not escape judgment.  There are countless other verses to support this point, and once we go this way we are much more in conformance with Old Testament teaching.  Thus, I take this command more as a "Beware when you judge!".  Especially to be avoided are judgments that needlessly make pronouncements on the character of others.  But how is a novelist to function if he never makes a judgment regarding the character of those he writes about?  Stop it!  Looney, you may not be directly judging, but you are implying that he is a hypocrite and thus judging by stealth!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

"About 100 brains missing from University of Texas"

It seems to me that brains becoming lost in institutions of higher learning is a problem that has been with us since the beginning of the university system about a thousand years ago.  Yet for the first time in history, a university is beginning to take notice, identify and quantify the losses, and take precautions to avoid a recurrence.  Maybe there is hope for the future?

Pondering Riots

The recent Ferguson events have me thinking of the 1992 LA riots.  I was flying back from the east coast and went into LA at night, which is usually a mass of lights going forever.  The situation was visibly different, since many blocks were blacked out due to the vandalism.  We normally make the final approach into LAX going from the land, due to the sea breeze coming off the ocean.  In this instance, however, the landing was reversed because air traffic control didn't permit the planes to fly low over the neighborhoods where shots were constantly being fired.  Eventually I got home to my worried wife with nothing more remarkable to note.

So has there been any progress since 1992?  One observation is that the chaos spread far and wide after Ferguson so that even San Francisco was treated to protests and vandalism, although formerly they had been safely separated from the chaos in Oakland.  In terms of the rhetoric, the main difference seems to be that the voices of the anarchists, social justice theologians, and ethicists are much stronger in pointing out the obvious fact that if there were no law enforcement, then there wouldn't be any police brutality.  And while we are at it, if there were no laws, then there would be no law breaking.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Regarding The Imminent Chocolate Apocalypse

I am not quite sure what the cause of the crisis is.  Perhaps it is due to global warming as the leftist say.  Or maybe it is due to misguided legislation regarding "conflict chocolate".  The issue is certainly one to shake up the usual left-right political alliances, since even the Libertarian Cato Institute was advocating government intervention to address the issue.  Perhaps The Walking Dead should be re-themed to account for the much more fear inspiring chocolate shortage.  My only recommendation is that the United Nations take up the issue by declaring chocolate to be a fundamental human right.

Tolstoy: The Three Kinds Of Love

This is a paraphrase of some remarks made in Tolstoy's work, Youth, which is one of his first works.
1.  The first kind is the love between males and females, which he doesn't see necessary to expound on much.  He simply notes that in desiring to gain their own fulfillment, people convince themselves that they care for another.

2. The second kind is the heroic, suffering lover.  This person will deny themselves sleep for a week while sitting at the side of someone who is sick.  It is almost as if they need sick people, so that they can sleeplessly sit by their side and prove how heroic they are, yet they generally are oblivious to the real concerns of people otherwise.

3. The third kind of love considers the needs and wants of others in minute detail and performs actions accordingly.  The complication being that such lovers expect reciprocity.

Tolstoy's three works, Childhood, Boyhood and Youth, are some of his earliest works.  I am wondering if he discovered any additional types of love as he got older.  There are parts of this trilogy that are of interest to me, given the upper class lifestyle and transition to universities that occurred during this era.  It seems that the university was exclusively for men.  What annoys me in these works is the constant need to psycho-analyze every gesture, movement of the eyes, utterance, or tone of utterance.  Only the dogs and horses are spared.  Perhaps this is just my dull nature, yet I am not convinced that so much information is conveyed, and if it were conveyed and I were to analyze everything, I would undoubtedly come to the wrong conclusion in every case, so that I would still be better off in not having attempted this kind of analysis.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Xenocracy: Governance in the Galactic Federation

Can differing life forms that experience wholly other realities embrace a mutual government for a shared destiny?  This seems to be the experiment that we have embarked upon.  For example, in the former experiment of the coalition government involving the sheep and the wolves, there was agreement on the concepts of "teeth" and "biting" that provided a certain framework for communication and negotiation.  In the current situation, even this modest degree of shared beliefs cannot be relied upon.

For example, the Washington Post lamented that the president was "impotent" regarding the events in Ferguson, since people had placed all kinds of unreasonable expectations on the first black to be elected to the office.  And they whine, "Obama never actually promised to bind up the nation's racial wounds =- that was a hope others placed upon him, far too naively".  Yes, the campaign of "hope and change" never happened.  It was a fabrication of Fox News.  Blacks and minorities are angry because they have lost the right to vote in the Washington Post's reality.  The American conservative's reality, however, states that the current administration has taken race baiting to an entirely new level and used the justice department to engage in endless warfare against civilization on behalf of anarchy, while the dead are often more faithful voters than the living.

Then there is The Economist, who took offense at the notion that the US was headed towards tyranny due to the government no only refusing to enforce immigration laws, but also litigating against states that are trying to gain control over the hordes that are flooding in.  The alternate reality, however, is that the US never has had any laws regarding immigration, and this is entirely the fault of the Republicans, who have unilaterally refused to make and pass any laws on the subject.  All this begs the question as to whether left and right have a shared concept of "law".  Given that they don't have a shared concept of "US Constitution", it would be more surprising if the notion of a "law" were agreed upon.

The latest one brought to my attention is a clever saying, "If Obama came out in support of oxygen, Republicans would suffocate themselves."  Thus, implying that Republicans are purely reactionary in thinking, whereas Obama is a faithful supporter of ancient traditions of unknown origin.  Then there is the other reality, which states that the Republicans are brainless, knuckle dragging traditionalists who certainly wouldn't understand the concept of oxygen.  This later reality seems to be embraced by the same smart ones who embraced the former reality, so that the number of distinct realities in a Xenocratic legislature can exceed the number of legislators.

Given that this level of difference is clearly otherworldly, I can only take the current news as a sign that we are part of some extraterrestrial experiment in governance where mutually antagonistic viewpoints have been deliberately implanted for the purpose of seeing whether or not lifeforms with alternate realities are capable of mutual cooperating in government.  Hopefully they will send me a copy of their final report.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Executive Action Regarding Open Borders

I can't understand why conservatives don't get it.  Obama's speech had nothing to do with Amnesty, and it was only a reiteration of what he has been doing for the last 6 years.  Leftists don't believe in Amnesty.  Leftists believe in a post-national universalism that obsoletes national borders.  Everyone is free to migrate anywhere and vote and shop for the best social benefits.  Leftist intellectuals have been writing about this for decades and now are implementing it.  After the speech, I was tuning in to CNN where the moderator was discussing the fact with a Hispanic activist that the US has - until Obama - never actually had any immigration system.  To many Americans this is nonsensical, but when you realize that the only immigration that makes moral sense is a pure open border system, it becomes clear that America has never really had any system for handling immigrants.

Then there are those small minded people who think they are being clever by pointing out that the president took an oath to uphold the US Constitution.  Do they really think that the US Constitution is some silly document written in 1787?  Seriously.  The Constitution of the US is the US Constitution that is determined by the intellectual elites, thus, our president always, by definition, upholds the US Constitution in whatever action he takes.  i.e., Our president is an intellectual elite.  This US Constitution alone is to be upheld and treated as sacred, which is exactly what our presidents take the oath to do.

So where does this leave me?  Being a Christian first, I must look at this from a Christian perspective.  For example, Pharaoh too upheld the Constitution, in spite of the temptations that Moses offered him to do otherwise.  The end result accomplished God's plan, which was apparently to destroy the Israelites in the wilderness, until Moses talked God out of it.  Thus, my end conclusion is that I should relax and realize that I am likely in the middle of a great epic story of some sort and God will eventually bring the outcome to something good.  Meanwhile, I just need to be on the lookout for opportunities to do good to others and show kindness.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pondering Beheadings

Since I watched a news clip this morning with a statement from Peter Kassig's parents, and my head is still in sufficient proximity to my hand, I have been scratching it in wonder.  Certainly Peter's service is something to be admired, and his death to be lamented.  Then there is the grief of Peter's parents, which I can certainly empathize with.   

What puzzled me were the statements regarding faith that came from Peter's parents:  "The world is broken, but it will be healed in the end.  And good will prevail as the one God of many names will prevail."  May God grant them peace.  Yet at the same time, I am not accustomed to referring to God as "the one God of many names", since this isn't from the Bible.  Nor does the Bible teach that the world will be healed, but rather says that it will be destroyed.  Good will prevail, but only through the authority of Jesus Christ manifested during his second coming.  Another article referred to the statement having being given at Epworth United Methodist Church in Indianapolis.  Checking the web site, there is no statement of faith as Christian churches normally provide, which shouldn't be too surprising, since this is a United Methodist religious group.  But to their credit, they don't have a formal declaration of salvation by total depravity as many of their sister churches do, and I believe there are a few Christian clergy and churches among the United Methodists.  I just can't tell what religion this church is.

Another puzzling statement from the news article reads: "He also married and quickly divorced.  And he felt stirrings of a higher calling even then."  My reaction could certainly change if I knew more about the circumstances, but it seems that being a good husband is a higher calling.  Or at least it was until a generation ago.  

Then there is this from a conservative article regarding Peter Kassig:  "It suggests that he denied his murderers the pleasure of a kneeled submission."  This wouldn't bother me, except that Peter also converted to Islam while in prison.  So which act is the greater one of submission?  To bow to your executioner?  Or to bow to the religion of your executioner?  But then again, Peter was raised Methodist, so perhaps there was nothing to lose in the conversion?  

I don't intend to answer any of those above questions, while I suppose many more could be asked.  And if I misunderstood, given that what I have learned has come through fallible sources, I will be happy to be corrected.  The main thing that stands out in all this is the clear thinking of ISIS, Jihadi John, and the caliphate, which contrasts with the total confusion of western thinking.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Childhood by Tolstoy

This is the prequel to the previous post on Boyhood, featuring the same characters, and almost certainly written first.  Behind the stories of the children there is the nature of serfdom which I must wonder at, having never experienced anything of the sort.  An example of this relates to a young lady who had been in the service of the grandfather, and sought to marry a young man who was also a servant:

"At last she ventured to go and ask my grandfather if she might marry Foka, but her master took the request in bad part, flew into a passion, and punished poor Natashka by exiling her to a farm which he owned in a remote quarter of the Steppes. At length, when she had been gone six months and nobody could be found to replace her, she was recalled to her former duties. Returned, and with her dress in rags, she fell at Grandpapa's feet, and besought him to restore her his favour and kindness, and to forget the folly of which she had been guilty--folly which, she assured him, should never recur again. And she kept her word."

Natashka returns and is a simple, loyal, and single servant for life.  As a practical matter, she is a slave, but her entire being is wrapped up in the taking care of the household, including the children and grandchildren.  This has me wanting to compare these circumstances with the experience of American slavery, but that will need to wait.  Thankfully the serf system was done away with in Russia about the same time the US put an end to slavery.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Boyhood, by Tolstoy

The order of reading Tolstoy's works should have been Childhood, Boyhood and Youth, but the mp3 player brought them up in alphabetical order.  Boyhood is the story of the antics, imaginations and trials of a boy as he transitions from 14 to 16 years old.  The boy being a younger son of an aristocratic family in 19th century Russia.  Education is accomplished by private tutors in this family, which should induce all the Asian tiger moms in my neighborhood to be consumed with jealousy if they had only known that such an education was possible.  The second tutor for this boy is a Frenchman, who the young lad didn't get along with.  This dislike rapidly transmorgified into hate, followed by a long, slow thaw.  I had presumed this story was about Tolstoy himself, but if so, it would only loosely be the case.  Much of what I enjoyed were the philosophical ponderings that he attributes to this young man.  One senses a Christian background, but the consciousness of God that I had growing up is largely absent from Tolstoy's discourse.  There really is just this remark after a well-earned punishment:

"The the idea of God occurred to me, and I asked Him boldly why He had punished me thus, seeing that I had never forgotten to say my prayers, either morning or evening.  Indeed, I can positively declare that it was during that hour in the store-room that I took the first step towards the religious doubt which afterwards assailed me during my youth (not that mere misfortune could arouse me to infidelity and murmuring, but that, at moments of utter contrition and solitude, the idea of the injustice of Providence took root in me as readily as bad seed takes toot in land well soaked with rain)."

The idea that the punishment could have come from God as a blessing seems to have been completely missed from our aspiring young philosopher.  Getting back to the French tutor we have a gem of a quote:

"Judging coolly of the man at this time of day, I find that he was a true Frenchman, but a Frenchman in the better acceptation of the term.  He was fairly well educated, and fulfilled his duties to us conscientiously, but he had the peculiar features of fickle egotism, boastfulness, impertinence, and ignorant self-assurance which are common to all his countrymen, as well as entirely opposed to the Russian character."

Having worked for a French company for a few years, there is part of me that wants to agree with this.  Yet I also enjoyed this time and had not felt particularly bothered by those traits.  And at the same time, I have found the Russians I had worked with sharing many of the same characteristics of being loud and overconfident, although seemingly managing this without exuding the "me-ness".  Anyway, if I were to proceed further in judging this matter, I should undoubtedly exceed both the Russians and the French in hypocrisy, so I will merely note that this topic was commented on.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

End of the Swimming Season.

Well, not quite.  The Shadow Cliffs lake temperature is now in the upper 50's Fahrenheit, which means that we are a bit colder than the San Francisco Bay at the moment.  The water level is more than 6 feet below normal, but there is still sufficient for swimming.  Today was the last day when my mid-week swimming partner would be there until April.  He said good bye to the park attendants and I put in a last 2 kilometer swim.  From now on, when I swim I must stay in the swim lanes, which is much more tedious than a loop around the lake.

This time of year the early morning workout gets challenging.  There is nowhere to get warm and the end of the swim is a cold outdoor shower to get cleaned up before heading to work.  The showers will continue for another month until the first good freeze.  Then they will shut down the shower for a few months.  Perhaps I should sign up for the winter Alcatraz swim again.  We shall see how far will power can go in the struggle with hypothermia.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Bethink Yourselves, by Tolstoy: Christian Pacifism?

"Then I saw and the lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, 'Come.'  I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer." - Revelation 6:1-2

Tolstoy had seen enough of war up close to earn a hearing.  This is his response to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 that ended badly for the Russians.  To a large extent it is a religious work also providing his view on religion and what he sees as perhaps a path to hope.  In this he finds that Jesus provides the answer, that we are to love one another.  So far so good, but let's hear Tolstoy in his own words:

"If we indeed love our enemies, if even now we began to love our enemies, the Japanese, we would have no enemy."

Um, really?  Didn't Jesus say that the whole world would hate us?  But perhaps the notion of enemy is strictly an existential one that exists only in ourselves, so that even though others might plot evil against us, we can still declare that they are not our enemy.  Then there is the smarty in me who wants to suggest that if we didn't have any enemies, we couldn't fulfill the command to love them, thus, perhaps we should work to have more enemies so that we have more opportunities to love them!

But Tolstoy gives us something more:

"To love the yellow people, whom we call our foes, means, not to teach them under the name of Christianity absurd superstitions about the fall of man, redemption, resurrection, etc., not to teach them the art of deceiving and killing others, but to teach them justice, unselfishness, compassion, love--and that not by words, but by the example of our own good life."

This a clear profession that Tolstoy's religion is Modern-anity.  i.e., it is a selective rendering of a few of the teachings of Jesus out of context, mixed in with a complete rejection of everything that Jesus did.  War will always be with us, because man is fallen.  Without a resurrection, there is no judgment, and with no judgment, it is meaningless to speak against war and to command love.  Tolstoy rejects the sacraments of the church, apparently in ignorance that they are emblems of the love Jesus showed us by dying for us.  At the same time, Tolstoy sees "religion" as the answer and rejects "science", which in this context means the scientistic pretentions of the intellectuals.  He also implies that Buddhism has the same lofty principles as Christianity, apparently ignorant that Buddhism has no principles of any consequence.

The end of the Japanese Russian war was a major defeat for Russia and Japan was empowered to continue its brutal conquest into Korea, China and beyond.  The timing of this work is also striking, since it appears that the social revolutionaries used a phony call to pacifism to further their ruthless aims.   And so fanatics will keep on going out conquering and to conquer.  May Christians find ways to offer relief.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

From October to Brest Litovsk by Leon Trotsky, Conclusion

This work ends with Trotsky's apology for the Brest Litovsk treaty that conceded large portions of the Russian Empire to Germany along with reparations and brings Russia's participation in World War 1 to an end.  Trotsky's explanation is that Russia was too weak industrially and militarily to resist.  Germany's goal that Trotsky mentions is that of splitting off as many people groups from the Russian Empire as possible into separate nations.  The other goal that Trotsky didn't mention was to free up German soldiers for the Western front.  He portrays things almost exclusively as an effort to placate a power crazed imperial Germany, without recognizing Germany's problems beyond mentioning a strike.

That Russia's military and economy were too weak seems true, but there is something missing:  Before the October Revolution started, Russia's factories and military were already thoroughly compromised by social revolutionaries and anarchists, as Trotsky informs us.  So we are left to wonder whether the failure of the Russian military-industrial complex was the inevitable result of an incompetent Tsar and a costly war, or was it the result of deliberate sabotage by the social revolutionaries, or some combination?  From the later histories of Trotsky, we see that his pacifist rhetoric in this work is replaced by a ruthless use of military power.

A final observation is the fury that is directed towards the fellow social revolutionaries who share ideology, but not necessarily methods and power structures.  In spite of the rhetoric of a government by the working classes, it is clear that only His government of the working classes is acceptable.  Compromised be damned.  Literally.  The end of this work is some hope in the future.  The inefficiencies resulting from duplicate production will be removed, and a central planned economy will determine what is to be produced and who will get what.  The proletariat of the imperial burgoie powers will rise up and overthrow the tyrants.  The future is full of hope.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

From October to Brest Litovsk, by Trotsky (continued)

Since I just listened to an earlier Russian history, my impression is that the Russian revolution is simply a repeat of the earlier episodes in Russian history where a disputed monarchy resulted in lots of princes appealing to the masses and then leading armies to stake their claim.  It was always "for the people", whether it be a leader from a thousand years ago or a modern leftist politician who spends his time on the golf course and hobnobbing with billionaires.  So the Proletariat leadership were all from the Bourgeoisie.  Since this work was written in 1919, Trotsky is still sticking clearly to the "for the people" text.  To do otherwise would not have been possible at that time.

There is some awkwardness to the "for the people" slogan that should be noted.  Trotsky proclaims that the Soviets were the only legitimate democratic institutions since they were most connected to the masses.  Of course democracy was never their intent, and the entire episode of this book is dedicated to the crushing of a more pluralistic system.  Trotsky gives us this little treat: "We issued our first decree, abolishing the death penalty ..."  Which sounds like one thing on the surface, but perhaps the real meaning was that they abolished the legal proceedings on the death penalty, thus, eliminating an annoyance regarding carrying the death penalty out.  We can ask the descendants of the Tsar if there is any doubt on this matter.  He whines a bit about the efforts of the Bolsheviks being sabotaged, as if that hadn't been exactly what the Bolsheviks were doing to the central government.  The "Bourgeois Press" is forever criticized for stating that the Bolsheviks were for armed overthrow, as if this wasn't what they were for.  So Trotsky continues: "In civil war, more than in any other, victory can be insured only by a determined and persistent course.  There must be no vacillation.  To engage in parleys is dangerous; merely to mark time is suicidal.  ...  And only by these means of aggressive charges can victory be achieved ..."  That probably gets closer to Trotsky's true sentiments.

As an American, I generally admire our procedure to independence.  We declared independence.  We fought the war.  When things finally settled down, we established the government in a more calm and thoughtful atmosphere.  The Russian revolution of 1917 was entirely to the opposite.  In the middle of a war with economic collapse, the Bolsheviks determined that their bloody minded course of action was the only one that was acceptable.  The part that I wonder about still is the manner in which the Bourgeois Bolshevik leadership managed to communicate with the peasants and persuade them to give them their souls.  Trotsky presents it as a spontaneous uprising, which I don't believe.  In the US, the education system along with much of the media and half the clergy are dedicated to feeding this propaganda to the masses.

And so I will conclude with this:  "The vigilance of the Red Guards was beyond all praise.  They stood on watch about small camp fires, rifle in hand, hours at a time.  The sight of these young armed workmen by the camp fires in the snow was the best symbol of the proletarian revolution."  What did they think they were fighting for?  And how did they come to believe it?  Trotsky provides us no answers to the most important questions.  According to my Google stats, there are a number of Russian and Ukrainian observers to this blog.  I am wondering if any of them might be able to provide anymore insight.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

From October to Brest Litovsk: Remedial Work

The discussion of late 19th century / early 20th century socialist movements involves numerous characters, technical terms, events, and publications so that having a working knowledge would take quite a time investment.  Trotsky mentions the Zimmerwald Conference, which I had never heard of, so this became the starting point.  Ostensibly, this was to oppose World War 1, and their conference resulted in the Zimmerwald Manifesto.  WW1 was certainly a good starting point, since even, I after looking at the history multiple times, view it as an utterly pointless war for the sake of having a war.  There weren't even any implausible pretexts.  So here is the evaluation of the cause per the socialists:

"The ruling forces of Capitalist society, in whose hands were the destinies of the nations, the monarchical and the Republican Governments, secret diplomacy, the vast employers' organizations, the middle-class parties, the Capitalist Press, the Church - all these forces must bear the full weight of responsibility for this war, which has been produced by the social order nourishing them and protecting them and which is being carried on for the sake of their interests."

Blame everybody.  The workers alone remain untainted in this, which is where the problem lies:  How many tradesman were at the Zimmerwald Conference?  Almost certainly zero.  (Peter the Great was the only Russian tradesman to have achieved power.)  And what do the socialists have on offer to replace the list of evil institutions above?  Democracy as a means to social unity had already lost its luster due to the challenges of reality.  With economic collapse and despair on offer, the socialist apparently just offered up Revolution! as the final answer.  Just throw out the bums, and we will give you "hope and change".  What this fails to recognize is that whoever ends up in power after the revolution is just the next tyrant, and he will not be able to govern without establishing a new ruling class.

Another elephant in the Zimmerwald room was that of nationalities.  The Ukrainians being a typical example.  As long as social revolution was in its pre-revolt position, appealing to tribal instincts was in their interest.  As soon as power was achieved, the opposite sentiment took hold, culminating in the Ukrainian famine.  Which brings us to the point of recognizing that the socialists aren't any different then what went before.  They just exploited the gullibility of the uneducated classes.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Mojave Sunrise

Yes, I was there.  It makes the news a little more real.

Friday, October 31, 2014

From October to Brest Litovsk, by Leon Trotsky

And suddenly we jump from the Crimean War (1855) to the Communist takeover of Russia (1917).  I pulled out the 1910 Encyclopedia Britannica (EB) to help fill in missing details.  After the Crimean War, there was a brief period of reform, which was quashed under Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicolas II.  A policy of Russianization was promoted across the empire, while conquests of new territories continued.  The Revolution of 1905 came along in which another attempt was forced onto Nicolas II to establish a constitutional republic.  Efforts to establish a legislature (the Duma), however, failed due to the fact that every bonkers opinion of Western Europe was being promoted and nothing sensible could possibly result.  What isn't in the EB article due to when it was written is a description of World War I and its consequences on the economy and morale of Russia.

With that as a context, Trotsky provides an analysis of events from 1917 to 1918.  Being a communist, the article is full of techno-babble worthy of a Star Trek script, which makes this a little challenging to follow and will always leave me somewhat in doubt as to whether or not I understand what it is that he thinks he understands, or at least that I understand the message that he intends for me to understand.  Or maybe it is his intent that I misunderstand what it is that he understands.  One can never quite be sure with communists.

In the beginning of this book, Trotsky discusses how the collapse of the czarist regime is accompanied by various middle class educated types being looked to for guidance by army units and soviets.  The EB article, however, maintains that there was no real "middle class".  Trotsky portrays his movement as being against that of "Bourgeois Liberalism", which I understand to be classic Liberalism, which is what we would label Reactionary Tea Party Conservatism today.  As is clear from EB article, this never really ever got a foothold in Russia, so we have the classic leftist reaction against a fictitious hegemony that is supposedly ruling, but in fact never existed.  The czarist regime's bureaucracy is denounced, while the educated middle class is deemed incompetent, and thus the only hope Trotsky sees remaining is leadership and authority coming from the oppressed serfs.  As if the uneducated serfs might spontaneously produce a profound and workable concept of empire governance out of a vacuum.  

So this work is just starting on my play list.  I doubt that I can begin to grasp this period sensibly from one book.  It remains a great wonder that a people who were utterly exasperated at universal slavery under a hereditary nobility should have embraced a promise of freedom, only to find themselves under a new system of universal slavery under a communist thugocracy.  This thugocracy remained until recently when Russia finally embraced "Bourgeois Liberalism", not as BL was intended, but as the communist intellectuals misrepresented it.  So let's listen to more of Trotsky's blathering.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sevastopol, by Tolstoy

Since I haven't gotten enough of Russia yet, I thought this work by Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) would be a good follow on.  It is a story of the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War told through the eyes of soldiers.  Since Tolstoy was an officer during this war, he is perhaps one of the best to tell this kind of story.  My main sense is how the thoughts and feelings have some resemblance to what I would expect.  On the other hand, the Christian view of death is everywhere along with a fear of cowardice, which I would not consider to be so universal today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Empire Of Russia: Peter The Great through the Crimean War

I had to drive for many hours on a trip, and the story of the Empire of Russia was too gripping to let go.  So Poland had a great empire, followed by Sweden, but Peter the Great brought this to an end.  Catherine II was the next truly outstanding leader, but there were also czars who nearly did as much damage as these greater ones achieved.  The fear of anarchy was always in the back of the mind.

Something that stood out to me was the diplomacy of the Napoleonic wars given primarily from the Russian and French perspectives.  Then there was the back and forth wavering of Russia between the various European powers.  In spite of all the persistent efforts of some of the czars to modernize, however, we see that the Russian military is still quite backwards compared to the rest of Europe, which persists from the time of Peter the Great through the Battle of Jena.  The weaponry advanced while the Russian soldier is brave, but training and tactics seem always on the side of Western Europeans.

This book finishes with the Crimean War where the British and French unite with the Turks in an effort to humiliate Russia.  Russia was justifying their actions based on the goal of freeing the Greek Orthodox church, although the expansionist tendencies of Russia were also prominently on display.  Of course the British and French weren't exactly any better, while the Ottomans refrained from conquering only because they were too weak.

I should probably come up with a rating scheme.  If I had one, then this book would likely get a four and a half loons out of five.  The main deficiency being that I can't really know where the original sources were.  But then again, I am not sure I would want to hear large quantities of footnotes read out loud in my audio book.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Got Water?

Today I was driving from Northern California to the Mojave Desert and decided to take a peek at the San Luis Reservoir water level.  You can see my picture below.  We are nearing the end of our annual dry season and the level is 20% of capacity according to the state statistics.  I would have guessed that it was less than 10% from viewing the lake.  This lake controls the flow of irrigation water to much of the central valley and the water is used for agriculture.  San Luis reservoir mostly gets its water pumped in from elsewhere by the California Aqueduct.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Empire of Russia: From Ivan III

My previous observation that Russia had not had a single constructive interaction with the West changes with the Pope sending the Greek princess Sophia to marry Ivan III.  What happens over the next several decades is a gradual transformation of Russia into a united kingdom with laws.  Under Ivan IV, siege is given to the Mohammedan Tatars of Kazan who are defeated (1552).  According to Dr. Wiki, the Tatars were immediately slaughtered.  According to this history, Ivan tried hard to make peace, but the spiritual need to commit terror caused the population to continually engage in war, thus, he was eventually compelled to convert them, expel them, or let them fight to the death.  Further terror raids would continue for more than a century from other Tatar hordes, thus, leaving much of the adjacent regions of Russia as depopulated wastelands for hundreds of miles.  The success against Kazan, however, allows Russia to expand all the way to the Pacific Ocean, since there wasn't any significant population in Siberia.

For a time it appeared that the Mongols were settling (early 1,300's), becoming civilized, and embracing Christianity.  But then they converted to Islam en masse, and renewed the practice of seeking out any settlement to burn, kill and capture victims for the slave market, which continued into the 18th century.  Eventually Russia gets enough strength to slaughter much of the horde by the Caucasus.  Shortly afterwards, this horde together with the Turks manages to take Moscow, which they pillage, burn and then kill 150,000 or so civilians.  This last episode they termed "revenge", as if this had been some sort of tit for tat fight all along.  The Cossacks make their appearance during this phase as militarized bands who wander the unsettled areas of Russia that were periodically swept by the Tatars.  Their allegiance to the Eastern Orthodox Church would make them a natural enemy of the Tatars.

During this period, Russia is anxious to bring in learning from the West and various craftsmen and artisans were enticed to come to Russia to further this aim.  Trade and friendly relations begin with England and Holland, although clashes with Poland and Sweden are the norm.  Considering the propaganda I was taught growing up, the distinctive here is that all the learning that arrives in Russia is from the West, and it is to the West that Russia turns when it seeks learning.  Another contrasting item is the relatively constructive role of the Russian church.  I suspect that one of the reasons is the rules regarding married clergy in the Russian church.  Whatever the cause, it seems that the Russian clergy were constructively leading their flocks during periods where the Roman clergy were sexually abusing and robbing those who were put into their care.  This is likely the reason that the Reformation was a Western European phenomenon.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Diwali 2014

My wife and I like to take a walk each night.  The lights and candles scattered throughout the neighborhood reminded me of this annual celebration, and checking the net, I see that today is the day.  At least one in ten houses in my neighborhood celebrate this, although it seems to have merged with Halloween decorations in a few cases.  My wife was wondering why the Indian neighbors were so enthusiastic to get Christmas lights going so early.  All is clear now.

The only question in my mind:  Is the arrival of the goddess of wealth and prosperity a blessing or curse in this wealthy land?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

California: Number One For Poverty?

Clearly we are not looking at the world wide rankings.  Only the US ones.  Keeping that in mind, the poverty rate per the census bureau's "supplemental measure" is 23.8%, which is the highest in the nation.  We also have about 12% of the population, given that California is the largest state, meaning that we are a major contributor to the overall US poverty rate.

The reason for the supplemental measure is that the original method for measuring poverty focussed on food only, while the new measure takes into account additional costs.  Medical marijuana?  Anyway, the initial reaction is to wonder how the most pure social justice government in America could manage this.  And even more puzzling, this is a complete non-issue in the upcoming election.  To make things even more fun, the gap between rich and poor as ranked by the Gini index has California at the 7th largest gap, beating out Texas.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Getting back into the Swim

Sickness was my normal state for 6 weeks beginning about September 1st.  The last two weeks have allowed me to get back to a "normal" swim distance, which now is a bit less than 3 kilometers, but will increase to 4.5 kilometers next week.  The park opens at 6:30AM, which allows for a fairly dark start using the stars as guides.  The lake temperature has dropped to 67 degrees, which unfortunately is a level where something is happening in the water that makes me itchy.  This should go away once the lake gets a little cooler, giving me an incentive to look forward to the winter lake with its cleaner water.  My warm weather partners all tell me they will stop mid-week swimming on November 1st.  Thus, I may switch my swims to Lake Del Valle since I can swim where I want with no restrictions there, except that I need to respect the limits of hypothermia.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Empire of Russia: Facing the Horde

The period of two and a half centuries that the Russians faced the Tatars and Mongolians is something that I vaguely know happened, but there are few details.  Listening to the story in more detail is something that makes for a transformation in thinking.  It is a bit like growing up in America and learning only about Patton, D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, thinking that these were the key events of World War II in Europe, only to learn that more Russians died in the Battle of Moscow than all the American casualties during the entire war.

So there were these trivial skirmishes called the Crusades, but they were as nothing compared to what the Russians experienced from the Horde.  Even the 30 Years War seems tame compared to what Russia went through.  During this time, the Papists were as helpful as could be expected:

"The grand duchy of Lithuania, bordering on Poland, was spread over a region of sixty thousand square miles.  The grand duke, Jaghellon, a burly pagan, had married Hedwige, Queen of Poland, promising, as one of the conditions of this marriage which would unite Lithuania and Poland, to embrace Christianity.  He was married and baptized at Cracow, receiving the Christian name of Ladislaus.  He then ordered the adoption of Christianity throughout Lithuania, and the universal baptism of his subjects.   ...   These converts were received, not into the Greek church, which was dominant in Russia, but to the Romish church, which prevailed in Poland.  Jaghellon became immediately the inveterate foe of the Russians whom he called heretics, ..."  - The Empire of Russia, by John Abbott

Dr. Wiki says that Jaghellon introduced Christianity gradually, which is not what this history says.  Perhaps it would be good to read first sources, but this will need to wait.  After reading listening through 5 centuries of Russian history, it seems that the only constructive dealing with a foreign country was with the Greeks in Constantinople, but Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1453, so they are all alone now.  The reign of Ivan III (Ivan the Great) is next.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Empire of Russia: Greek Christianity

The history tells of a ruler named Vlademer (958-1015AD) who invites Christianity into his empire by the strangest stratagem.  As a pagan, he sends his army to send an army to threaten Constantinople.  In the suing for peace, a Christian princess is reluctantly sent to marry Vlademer, who then announces his acceptance of Christianity while receiving a gift of distinguished clergy.  "The ceremony of baptism was immediately performed in the church of St. Basil, in the city of Cherson, and then, at the same hour, the marriage rites with the princess were solemnized.  Vlademer ordered a large church to be built at Cherson in memory of his visit.  He then returned to Kief, taking with him some preachers of distinction ..."  Christians are so easy to fool.

The Greek influence is thus what started Christianity in Russia, but things were not to remain so simple:  "Nearly all the pastors of the churches were Greeks from Constantinople, and Yaroslaf, apprehensive that the Greeks might acquire too much influence in the empire, made great efforts to raise up Russian ecclesiastics, and to place them in the most important posts."  It looks like the Russian Orthodox church is having its foundations laid.

At this point the Russians are twice removed from the Popery of Rome, but Rome finds a pretext through the woes of a ambition crazed prince whose schemes have backfired:  "The banished prince thus disappointed, turned his steps to Rome, and implored the aid of Gregory VII, that renowned pontiff, who was ambitious of universal sovereignty, and who had assumed the title of King of kings.  Ysiaslaf, in his humiliation, was ready to renounce his fidelity to the Greek church, and also the dignity of an independent prince.  He promised, in consideration of the support of the pope, to recognize not only the spiritual power of Rome, but also the temporal authority of the pontiff".  Ysiaslaf (1024-1078) raises another army and gets himself killed.

Having spurned Papism for the moment, I was struck by the Mariolatry, as another genocidal madman, Mstislaf, attacks the city of Novgorod (113x?AD) which was in no mood to surrender themselves to a brutal execution.  To aid in the coming battle, the following event is recorded: "The clergy in procession, bearing the image of the Virgin in their arms, traversed the fortifications of the city, and with prayers, hymns and the most imposing Christian rites, inspired the soldiers with religious enthusiasm".  God granted victory to the city, and the attacking horde perished as it retreated 200 miles back through the desert wasteland they had created.  Which leaves me wondering what image we would carry about our modern fortifications if The Army of Doom were at our borders.  And who would be our honored clergy?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Empire of Russia: Exploring my Russian Roots.

Yes, Russia is part of me.  It is all due to being in the band in high school.  We had to practice Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture until it became part of our genetic makeup.  Thus, I have long had a need to read a history of Russia and this was provided with Librivox's recording of The Empire of Russia from the Remotest Periods to the Present Time, by John Abbott (1805-1877).  I am only about 10% of the way into this work.

What I have learned so far is that my path to becoming Russian is much less brutal than what the Russian people experienced.  The challenge for the ruler of this nation was to be both cunning and ruthless in dealing with the threats that were constantly falling onto the nation, yet tender and wise in managing the people through good Christian leadership.  A short coming in the first area would result in a short reign, while a short coming in the second would be a catastrophe for the people.  Sadly few leaders were able to accomplish this impossible mix.  But it perhaps reflects a bit on Putin and his position as a Russian leader, which is considerably less severe than his ancestors.

And so we have a ruler early on named Sviatoslaf whose mother encouraged him to be a Christian, but he refused until later in life.  His goal was to conquer.  Thus, it says of him:  "He accustomed his body, Spartan-like, to all the fatigues and exposures of war.  He indulged in no luxury of tents or carriages, and ate the flesh of horses and wild beats, which he roasted himself, over the coals.  In his campaigns the ground was his bed, the sky his curtain, his horse blanket his covering, and the saddle his pillow; and he seemed equally regardless of both heat and cold."  Ah, the good old days, when leaders led by example.

For amusement, here is a link to a youth band doing Marche Slave.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Beowulf: Something Light?

Admittedly it is a bit of a struggle for me to listen to poetry.  Add in the older English constructions, and Beowulf is quite a challenge, especially since I am listening to the audio version while I am driving and can't really slow down listening or re-read a few lines.  It is a story of warriors and heroes of old fighting monsters and comes down to us as the oldest work of English literature from a mysterious older time.  Then there is a reference to Middle Earth.  Tolkien wrote an essay on the work and it seems that Beowulf was very much influential for his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, especially in the naming conventions.  

There isn't much remarkable for me to comment on in this work.  It is a fantasy from an earlier time, with some of the language reflecting Christian themes regarding the Creator and Hell, yet the story is set in a pre-Christian era.  There is an honoring of heroes, along with the funeral rites that provide some peculiar imagery for us today.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Economics: Learning from Etymology

Something I learned from Greek is that Economics is a compound words made of of Oikos = House, and Nomika = Rule.  Thus, Aristotle in his Economics begins his study by considering the house, and from there how it builds into a nation.  An orderly management of the home is presumed to be a foundation for the orderly management of the state.

This reminds me of Paul's instruction on elders:

"But if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?" - 1 Timothy 3:5

Thus, the elder must be able to manage the oikos, although the Greek word for manage is not nomika here.

For our local situation, the latest news is that the local school board was forced to abandon an introduction to pornographic lifestyles textbook, otherwise known as "sex education", which was to be given to all high school freshmen.  The irony here is that the opposition of the conservative Christians was rejected, but the noise from the Indian and Muslim immigrants seems to have forced a reversal.

In terms of the upcoming election, I am still primarily screening those who I vote for as to whether or not they have any regard for the oikos, or whether or not they think an oikos to be less valuable to society than an immoral tryst.  For the Democrats, this question is automatically answered.  Republicans should be clear on this matter, but for whatever reason they are quick to abandon their principals.  

So for California Controller, we have Ashley Swearengin running.  Checking around at her positions, it seems that she views that the oikos is completely and utterly worthless.  This makes the choice easy.

Lieutenant Governor candidate Ron Nehring looks more promising and he is up against Gavin Newsom who has quite a reputation in these matters.  The Secretary of State position has Pete Peterson, who seems somewhat promising to me on many areas.  He is also he only Republican that seems to have a chance of winning in the statewide elections.

Monday, September 29, 2014

In California, Yes means Yes. Maybe. You Decide.

Having seen some headlines on this latest law out of Sacramento, I decided to take a look at the actual text.   This also references a federal law which is here.  As I understand it, the law is intended to govern what happens when someone passes out during a party with drinking and drugs that almost certainly had sex on the agenda.  It also governs the appropriate behavior for a young fornicating couple that sleeps together regularly.  The law seems to be well written, in that it can involve n-participants of any gender, thus covering most potential relations short of bestiality.  What remains undefined is "sexual activity", "sexual assault", "dating violence" and "stalking".  Perhaps Bill Clinton could be hired as a consultant to refine the text?

The bill doesn't directly cover such behaviors, but only states that four types of California Institutions, independent universities, the community colleges, the California State Universities and the University of California, must provide regulations and procedures that address the specified topics.  Good thinking, since the feminist professors in these institutions are the experts.

What makes this fun is that my wife and I are covered under these same sexual behavior regulations, since I am taking a class with a Christian seminary that has a California branch. Thus, a domestic dispute of a married couple must now be given the same sort of solemn judicial consideration by the school faculty as would formerly have been given only to someone who serially and randomly abducted and raped students walking home from school at night.  Another feature of the college tribunals is that "innocent until proved guilty" is replaced with "guilty until proved innocent" in the academic context.  Since the new campus culture is something that I don't understand, I won't try to make any judgments as to whether males, females or alternative genders are more culpable.  But if the lives of modernist professors are filled with mandatory listening to the petty disputes of the hyper-promiscuous along with a flood of false claims, it will be well deserved.  This is the utopia that they fought for.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

California "Drought" Update

Many of the yards are brown now, like the surrounding hills.  Of course the hills turn brown every year during the dry season, so the normal climate reality is gradually seeping into the life style of the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley rich.  Thankfully the large Fremont public park and golf course are still green, which means that there is plenty of feed for the geese and ducks.

The Alameda Country Water District sent me a mild threat. Actually my water usage is about as low as it can get, given that my yard is a rock garden and I take many showers elsewhere.  The only families more exemplary than us have an empty house and live elsewhere.  Yet the note contained a warning that those using more than certain thresholds would be assessed increased penalties on the added use.  Thus, a larger or extended family would likely be slapped.  Per the usual rules, any solution is worthy of consideration as long as it doesn't involve free market mechanisms.

This article has some of the proposals from elsewhere in our state.    The note I enjoy the most is this:  "In Santa Monica, the City Council passed a first-reading in August of an ordinance that would apply an indoor water allocation of 68 gallons per-person-per-capita for every single-family home with four people, said Gilbert Borboa, water resources manager for the city of Santa Monica".  Wow.  Let's get specific, but ignore the outside water usage.  But apparently in Santa Monica there are multiple per-persons per-capita, or perhaps that is multiple per-capitas per person.  Of maybe per-capita refers to pets?  Or is that cars?  And if a car is washed outside, is it a different water allocation than washing it inside?  What if I take my showers outside?  Fortunately Santa Monica has many lawyers who can assist in sorting this out.  And Hollywood is nearby, so there is no shortage of creative thinking.

California's legal crops seem to be taking a hit.  What would be helpful is to get a read on the number of hectares of marijuana that are under cultivation, and whether that is increasing or decreasing relative to last year.  Then there is the fish happiness index which undoubtedly relates to the amount of water that is flowing from the dams into the Sacramento Delta.  Thus, it is still hard to get a complete read on the impact of the "drought".