Open letter to Glenn Beck

February 4, 2015

Dear Mr. Beck,

I have never turned any of your broadcasts off in anger, until today, at 11:25 or so.

You were discussing the latest atrocity by the Califake, and the necessity for an Islamic Reformation. And you said (as nearly as I can quote from memory), “What if there had never been a Martin Luther time? We’d be back in the Crusades.”, thus equating Catholicism with radical Islam, and in the process insulting a large swath of your listeners.

There’s so much wrong with this that I scarcely know where to start. But let’s start with those Crusades. Do you think they were a BAD thing? Yes, bad things happened during them (and some Crusaders were excommunicated for those bad things.). But would you say that 4 centuries of Muslim aggression demanded a response, or not? Anyway, they were long over by the time of the Reformation. Constantinople had fallen 64 years before the 95 Theses, and if there was a final “we lost the Crusades” point, that was it. But of course, Muslim aggression didn’t end there. Hungary fell within Luther’s lifetime. There was the great Catholic naval victory at Lepanto in 1571 … during which the Protestant Dutch were cheering on the Turks, saying  Liever Turks dan Paaps (“Rather Turkish than Papist”) Luther himself denounced the Crusades, on the grounds that “to fight against the Turk is the same thing as resisting God, who visits our sin upon us with this rod.” He saw Catholics and Moslems as morally equivalent, much like America-hating progressives today. And there was the Battle of Vienna, where the siege was lifted by the Catholic Polish king Jan Sobieski. In short, those Crusades and after-crusades battles kept Europe Christian.

And how was that Catholic Church? Evil, and becoming more evil? Actually, the eve of the Reformation was a high point in Church history. Yes, there were abuses; there had always been abuses. But popular piety and the stability of the Church had never been higher. It’s even been argued that the energized laity contributed to the Reformation, by wanting “more”, Anyway, there was the Counter-reformation and the Council of Trent, which itself was no big deal (arguably, Vatican II was more radical in practice). They clarified some doctrines in contrast to Protestantism, curbed some abuses, simplified and unified the liturgy, ordered Gregorian chant to be bowdlerized. What made the Counter-Reformation a big deal was the saints that it inspired to New Evangelization, 16th-century style….saints frequently at loggerheads with the hierarchy.

Did the Church, in combination with the secular arm, do things that we consider barbaric? Sure. EVERYONE did.  The Calvinists and Lutherans were just as enthusisatic about witch-burning and Jew-killing as Catholics were (and it was a Jesuit, Friedrich Spee, who was one of the first to speak out against the witch trials).  What about punishment and religious freedom?  There’s “bloody Mary” and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. But then came Elizabeth, and Catholicism was considered high treason…the punishment for which was drawing and quartering. Tell me, Glenn, if you can: between that and burning a guy alive in a cage, which is worse? Tough call, isn’t it?

OK, look: you got excited and said something stupid. We all have done that. But we generally only say stupid things if we’re carrying around stupid assumptions. And the stupid assumption of most Protestant supporters of Islamic reformation is that the Reformation was a good thing, and the Catholic Church was a bad thing. Thus, an Islamic reformation will replace a bad thing with a good thing.

On the contrary, this is the Islamic Reformation. What was the Christian Reformation about? It was about getting rid of “doctrines of men” and returning to the pure state of the first-century church as enshrined in a holy book compiled several centuries later. Isn’t that what radical Islam is about? Doing what Mohammed did, obeying the Koran to the letter, bringing back the glory days? If an Islamic Reformation were about everyone interpreting the Koran for themselves, and letting everyone do their own thing, it might be worthwhile…for us. Several centuries from now, we’d have an Islam split into 40,000 pieces, claiming that Mohammed didn’t really mean all that violent and anti-woman stuff (and the Koran was a forgery from several centuries later anyway), and where a few people went to the mosque to drink coffee and talk about being nice.  But that’s not the Islamic Reformation we have in front of us, and it’s not the kind of religion that will effectively counter it.

Bill Ayers pollutes my county

May 6, 2013

Apparently a terrorist visited the embarrassing part of Portage County on Saturday, and said embarrassingly stupid things to the hippies. Apparently Sheriff Doak couldn’t find probable cause to arrest him. I didn’t know about it, which was a good thing, as I don’t have time to do what needs done this week anyway.

In reply to his comments:
1. Two wrongs don’t make a right. “what I did was some destruction of property to issue a scream and cry against an illegal war in which 6,000 people a week are being killed.”

2. You only committed property damage through incompetence. Your buds blew themselves up making a nail bomb (not an anti-property weapon) to use at a soldier’s dance (how, to blow up the venue before anyone arrived?) The difference between your girlfriend and the Blew Brothers was that the Tsarnaevs got better training.

3. All indications are that there was nothing nihilistic about the Tsarnaevs; they believed passionately in a cause. Indeed, the label fits the Weathermen better.

4. “How different is the shooting in Connecticut from shooting at a hunting range?” Ayers said. “Just because they use the same thing, there’s no relationship at all.” Better analogy: Boston is to your bomb as Sandy Hook is to the Peter B. Lewis shooting, which was not a mass murder only because Biswanath Halder bought cheap guns.

Mr. Ayers, I hope you find Jesus and repent of your youthful sins. Otherwise, you can (and will) go straight to Hell. In the meantime, shut up.

Back to the future

October 31, 2012

So what is this allergy that the Obots have about the 1950s?

This has been a recurring theme in the Obama campaign, and I really don’t understand it. It works because most Americans didn’t live through it and don’t know their history.

1950s: near full employment.  Married women didn’t HAVE to work (but could). Lower crime. Stable families. Much lower rate of divorce and out-of-wedlock births. HIgh point of the Catholic Church in America, and a better time for churches in general. Strong unions that weren’t Communist, and a Democrat Party that was not a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CPUSA. Real money made out of precious metals. Journalists who at least pretended to report. Millions of babies not being murdered in the womb. No War on Poverty programs creating a permanent underclass. A vigorous space program. Mail-order guns. Classical music on commercial TV and radio. Ven. Fulton Sheen. Few chain restaurants.

Negatives: segregation. Restricted access to birth control (not sure that’s a negative, but I’ll give it to them). The Cold War (we have one of those too, only it’s religious). High taxes to pay off WWII. Nightmares about mushroom clouds. More boring (but healthier?) food. The beginning of Richard Nixon’s career. Electric coffeepots that cost as much or more than the modern ones in fixed dollar terms, but brewed less good coffee (they did last longer though).

Technology doesn’t count. No society has ever willingly abandoned a technology, so if Romney takes us “back to the 50s”, we’ll still have Internet, cable, MRIs, etc.

Given that, just why again shouldn’t I regard this as a Romney campaign ad?

On the last morning of free America

September 11, 2012

A repost from the old CWRU blog, so that maybe I’ll find it next year. This was written on the 5th anniversary.

I got to work just before 8:30, as usual, opened up the library, got my email and dealt with it, opened Netscape, around 9…and there on the home page was something about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. Shrug. Tragedies happen all the time, and I don’t pay much attention to them. A few people die, life goes on. Some drunk or crazy private pilot, probably. I didn’t click on the headline; I did whatever I’d opened the browser for.

I don’t recall who called first, whether it was my girlfriend (now wife) Rusty, or Mary Burns from Special Collections (who I think had the day off). But they both let me know that this was not your typical tragedy, that something very big was happening. And I wanted to know more. So I hit the Net, just like every other person in every other office in America. And I learned that broadband avails not when every news server in the country is being bombarded. Web sites took hours to load, or so it seemed. So I tried broadcast. No TV in Kulas (we had a straight video monitor for tapes and DVDs). We had a room full of receivers, but none had antennas, and none brought in anything but static. Mary and Rusty kept calling, people coming through to the music department were pumped for details and provided with what I had. I’m a librarian, damnit, let me do my job of transmitting information. Work keeps me sane. Yes, I’ll show you how to find Rite of Spring, if you really care today. Nobody did.

German class at 11:30, was it? And that bastard Benseler dropped the lesson plan and had us talking about it, in English yet. Nein. Fick das. Ich kann die Wörter für dies auf Englisch kaum finden. Wie schwerer konnte es auf Deutsch sein? Lass uns über Flugzeuge und grosse Gebaüde reden, ja, selbst über das Turkenproblem (and I note that my old German-English dictionary has no entries for Moslems or Islam). Es klingt ferner, wie Dresden oder Auschwitz oder der Heimatssicherheitsdienst (Ach! Das war nicht in der Vergangenheit, sondern in der Zukunft.)

Shortly thereafter, the University sent us all home. And the RTA made us leave the Rapid at E. 34th, to get on busses to sit on Public Square forever so that, in that hypothetical moment when the plane hit the Terminal Tower, only half of it would fall on our heads. And finally home, to the deafening silence of an nearby airport with no planes (and the stark terror three days later when I heard the first one fly over), to the TV that I couldn’t watch and couldn’t turn off.

In days after, I checked friends in NYC. The composer Jeff Harrington saw the smoke from his office. My old love Beth Marker was working as a toxicologist for NYC, and was stressed. As I later learned, baritone Stephen Poulos, a schoolmate at University of Michigan (though I didn’t know him) had decided there was more money in computers than in singing, and was in one of the towers.

It hasn’t happened again. Does this mean the government has done a good job? I haven’t flown since then either, since I don’t care to be treated as a criminal. On 9/10/01, we weren’t discussing NAIS, or Real ID, or a hundred other assaults on liberty only tangentially connected to radicals hot for their 72 Virginians. It was the day that we as a culture learned how to fear, and we ran towards anything that would promise safety. Judged by that, it was the most successful terrorist act in history.

My colleague Mano Singham sees all the commemoration as false sentimentality. Not here. I don’t, can’t in any real sense mourn 3000 people I never knew. The only difference between them and any other random sample of people is that they died earlier and more unpleasantly. I mourn the free country I grew up in, freedom that has been going downhill for years but which was given a good kick downward 5 years ago today.

Show me the pictures!

May 2, 2011

I woke up this morning and was as shocked as anyone by the news about the late Mr. bin Ladin.  It was particularly ironic that it was announced on Doubting Thomas Sunday. Now, I’m not saying that I need to put my fingers in the bullet holes before I’ll believe. But as a general rule, if this government says, “The sky is blue”, I’m going to look up.  And we’d already had one major revelation this week, the birth certificate. So, “We got Osama” was not particularly evidentiary.  Matters were complicated by the fact that the military, out of deference to the Muslims, made sure he was buried at sea before 24 hrs were up. Now, I can see the wisdom of “make him go away completely”; you don’t want a shrine. And there’s certainly a limit to how far you want to rub their noses in it.  If we were 19th-c Americans, his body would be plasticized and he’d be on tour with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, who would doubtless charge a silver quarter per throw to pelt him with raw sausage. But we’re not that, for better or worse. The man does merit a Christian burial (note: not a Muslim one necessarily; we’re not obligated to perform another religion’s rituals)

Now, I don’t have any grand conspiracy theory about how the government just made it up.  That might explain parts of the hinky dance we’ve been doing with Pakistan. But really, it’s not credible that the government would make up something that could be so easily falsified, though Al Qaeda couldn’t falsify it without a major cover-blow. Still, We the People have no independent confirmation that what happened,  happened. Asking for that doesn’t make us “deathers” or any other kind of loon; it’s just asking for what we got for the Nazis and the Iraqi Baathists

We’ve had pics of Osama’s sugar shack, complete with blood stains. But nothing of the O-man himself, except for a 2 year old Photoshop.  Now it turns out that, as you would expect, the government has pictures. They are hesitant to release them because, well, they aren’t pretty; they involve brains leaking out. And if they pretty them up for public consumtion like they did those of the Saddam boys, they’ll get the same criticism.

So they’re gross? ‘Scuse me, but I remember one whole day when all you could see on the TV was people diving out of burning towers; are they grosser than that? I think that every one of us who lived through that day have a right to see Osama in his gore (particularly if we knew somebody who didn’t live through that day). Yeah, maybe the creeps will put the pics on their shrines. But they’ll do that anyway; if they see Bloody Obama instead of vigorous young Obama, it might make them think twice about the wages of jihad. I’m willing to keep the kiddies out of it; save them for the 11 o’clock news if you must. But we adults have a right to know he is really and truly gone.

Dodgy Hitler quote du jour

March 14, 2011

“We must close union offices, confiscate their money and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce workers salaries and take away their right to strike” – Adolf Hitler, May 2, 1933

That got posted as an old high school friend’s Facebook status. I countered with this:

‎”In the present state of affairs I am convinced that we cannot possibly dispense with the trades unions. On the contrary, they are among the most important institutions in the economic life of the nation. Not only are they important in the sphere of social policy but also, and even more so, in the national political sphere. For when the great masses of a nation see their vital needs satisfied through a just trade unionist movement the stamina of the whole nation in its struggle for existence will be enormously reinforced thereby. Before everything else, the trades unions are necessary as building stones for the future economic parliament, which will be made up of chambers representing the various professions and occupations.” -Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter 12.

Look up German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF), the union that Hitler established after disbanding the independent Weimar unions for corruption (probably the context of the above quote). Until the war, the DAF was actually pretty effective in improving the workers’ lot. It was in charge of the Strength through Joy movement, and Hitler established Germany’s first national Labor Day holiday. It didn’t help the corruption much though; the DAF’s drunken leader Robert Ley enriched himself. He also skimmed off union money to build the first VW plant after Porsche couldn’t bring in the project to sell for under 1000 Marks.

One could make the claim that this was not an independent labor union. It was independent of the private-sector manufacturers though, which created problems at first with those who most believed in the “socialist” aspect of the National Socialists. One could also question whether a public employee union is truly independent when they campaign for the people who will be their management.

Well, then I got curious. You’ll notice that there’s no real citation there, just a date. So I decided to go online to see what I could find. Then I posted this:

A web search does not find it in any of the collection of Hitler quotes; it only come up in the context on the Wisconsin business. In fact, it looks a lot like the Hitler gun control quote that was making the rounds several years back, which was also “too good to be true” (at the time of the alleged quote, Germany was still under Weimar Republic gun control law). I didn’t see it at Snopes yet. So I call BS on the quote, and would suggest that it’s still a sin to bear false witness against Hitler, even if he richly deserved it.

The reply from the other Facebookers involved? Crickets.

The Mikkelsons are plenty liberal, and probably aren’t in a hurry to debunk this, particularly since doing so would require wading through Hitler’s speeches to discover what if anything he was saying on May 2, 1933. There was a sighting of the Loch Ness monster on that day though. And indeed, the former labor unions were disbanded on that date, so Hitler could have said something like this. It’s not consonant with the way he treated labor immediately afterwards, though.  And there’s no citation. So lefties, if you want to throw this quote all over the Net, put up or shut up.

25 years ago

January 28, 2011

…about this time, I was at Refrigeration Research in Brighton MI, the place where I used to work, trying to peddle some junk-bond-based mutual funds for First Investors, the place I was working for at the time. I don’t recall if I found out there, or when I got back to the car. I hadn’t paid much attention up until then; people had been going into space, mostly successfully, most of my life, and it was no big deal anymore. Sure, there was all that “first teacher in space” hoopla, but I’d grown up being unimpressed by teachers, and saw no reason I should be impressed then. So when it happened, I sorta went “Oh shit…that’s really sad”, but  it never occurred to be to write a Challenger memorial piece.

At the time it was (and became more so) All About Christa.  If you ask the man on the street who was on the Challenger, the list will begin (if it begins at all) and end with McAuliffe (unless you’re an Akronite, in which case you might remember Judith Resnik). At the time, we sensed there was something wrong with that, which is where the jokes all came from.

What were Christa McAuliffe’s last words? “Gee, what does THIS button do?”

Did you know Christa McAuliffe had blue eyes? One blew here, one blew over there.

The tragedy wasn’t in the lives lost, unless they were friends or family. How many times have we lost 7 or more military at a time? We don’t commemorate that 25 years later. The tragedy was that it ended our belief in technological miracles. We learned that NASA was just as screwed up as any other part of government, that private engineers could say there was a problem but the suits upstairs would reliably bend over for the state. That loss of innocence is worth remembering and mourning today.