Independence Day

July 4, 2020

The Fourth of July is the day on which the American people celebrate their independence from Great Britain. It is not actually clear why Independence Day is the Fourth. Congress actually passed the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. It has often been thought that the Declaration was signed on the fourth, but that doesn’t seem to be true. There wasn’t any one time when the members of Congress signed the Declaration and there were a few who didn’t get around to signing it until August. Nevertheless, the fourth is the date that stuck. As John Adams wrote to Abigail.

English:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

And so it has been, for the last 244 years. May God bless America and grant us many more years of freedom.

Happy Independence Day.

You Say You Want a Revolution

June 17, 2020

I think that everyone agrees that the death of George Floyd was a heinous act of murder and that the officer responsible, Derek Chauvin, ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. This is a literal no-brainer. I would also like to think that everyone agrees that looting and rioting are bad things, unlikely to have positive results. Somehow, this is not as obvious. There seem to be a fairly large number of people who have been taking to social media to excuse, justify, and encourage the rioters.

These people don’t really seem to be all that concerned with Black Lives. They don’t seem to care much about the Black lives that are destroyed when Black neighborhoods are burned down. Instead, they seem to be most interested in living out some role-playing fantasy of revolution. Since these people are fools who don’t have any idea of what they are leading the country into, I am going to explain just what living in a country where the people have decided they would rather kill each other rather than live in peace is really like.

Is this what you want?

Wars, revolutions, and civil disturbances are interesting to read about in history books. Movies and books make war and revolution exciting, glamourous, even romantic. Who wouldn’t want to be like Luke Skywalker or Katniss Everdeen, leading the good fight against the Evil Empire? Real life is very different. In real life, civil conflict is not exciting and glamorous. It is frightening, ugly, and brutal. Just look up some of the places in the world where the people have decided that they prefer to kill each other than living in peace. Here is a shortlist of recent examples; Syria, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, The Congo. There are many more. Look up the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Mexican Revolution for just a few, not so recent examples. You do not want to be living in a country that has torn itself apart. Trust me, you really don’t.

Let me give you an idea of what it is like to live in a country where people have decided it is better to resolve their disputes violently rather than peacefully. Let’s imagine you are living in America about ten years from now.

You wake up early to go to work. It used to be about a thirty-minute commute into the city to the office, but that was before the Uprising and the fighting. These days you never know how long it will take if you can make it at all. There hasn’t been much fighting in this part of the country lately. Just the usual terrorist bombings and attacks by the Resistance forces hiding out the country. The government says they have the situation under control and the Resistance is losing. They have been saying that a lot.

On the way to work, you have to veer into the next lane to avoid the crater left by the bomb that went off last month. They say the Resistance was targeting a military convoy. If so, they must have set the timer wrong because the bomb took out three cars full of people going to work, just like you. You saw the explosion from a distance. You were late to work that day because it took the emergency responders three hours to clear away the wreckage. They had to be careful. Sometimes the Resistance plants second bombs to kill the people trying to save the victims.

You are stopped twice at military checkpoints. Each time you show your ID to the soldiers and explain that you are on your way to work. You try to keep calm and not act suspiciously. Under the State of Emergency, the police and military have the power to detain anyone they suspect of aiding and supporting the Resistance for seventy-two without charges. Each time, the soldiers check your ID against the online database and let you pass. It is getting harder to move around these days. You are lucky to be working in the same county you live in. If you lived in another country they would be checking your ID more closely and asking if you really need to cross a county line to work. It is very difficult to cross a state line these days. You would need to demonstrate a legitimate need to travel to receive your travel permit. This is all very inconvenient, but if it helps stops the terrorists, maybe it is worth it.

At work, you overhear some of your co-workers talking about politics and recent events. That can be dangerous. Expressing sympathy for the Resistance could get you a visit from the police if you are lucky. If not, you could simply disappear one night. No one really knows what happens to the people who disappear, though there are stories. Maybe they are shot and buried out in the country. Maybe they are taken to work camps in North Dakota. Who knows? Its also not safe to show too much support for the government. The Resistance has been known to assassinate people who speak out against them. You are just glad you have no close family in the police or military. More than one cop or soldier has come home to find the mutilated corpses of his family waiting for him, murdered as a lesson or in retaliation. It’s best to stay quiet and mind your own business.

You have to stop at the grocery store on your way home. There is not much on the shelves and what little there is, is terribly expensive. War and terrorism play havoc with supply chains. You also have to stop at a gas station to refuel. You hate to do this since gasoline is over $10 per gallon, after the refineries in the Gulf were blown up. Before you can pull in, you are stopped by policemen. They ask you to get out of your car so they can search it. It seems that the Friends of the Earth have taken to leaving car bombs at gas stations to fight global warming or something. Its strange, but last winter was the coldest you can remember. Maybe that was because you couldn’t afford heating though.

 

At home, you turn on the television. the President is giving a speech about the recent capture of a major Resistance leader. He looks old. He has been president for a long time, almost nine years. The Uprising began right after the last election. Resistance fighters seized control of several American cities and declared themselves to be the Socialist Republic of North America. Fighting broke out all over the country. The Capitol was bombed while Congress was meeting and the twenty surviving members of Congress voted unanimously to suspend the constitution and grant the president emergency powers. The President ordered the military to take back control of the cities by any means necessary. The Uprising was crushed but the Resistance lived on. The fighting has continued to the present day.

The power goes out abruptly. This is a regular occurrence. Maybe a power line was cut or a transformer blown up. Maybe no one has the time to keep up maintenance on the infrastructure anymore. You decide to go to bed early. As you lay in your bed, you hear the distant sound of gunfire. The Resistance has emerged from their hiding places and is fighting the military. You hope the fighting doesn’t spread to your neighborhood like it did last year. Its hard to get any sleep in the basement, hoping no one decides to loot or burn down your apartment building. With that thought, you drift off to sleep.

Does this sound like fun or exciting to you? Is living in a country that is fighting itself likely to improve anyone’s life? And keep in mind that that was a fairly optimistic scenario with the government was mostly intact and fighting limited to terrorism and guerrilla war. I can imagine worse scenarios. Imagine how bad it would be to live in a country with no functioning government, just rival gangs or militias fighting it out all over the country. Or imagine if different factions of the US military took different sides in a civil war. How would you feel watching a race-based militia doing door to door, dragging out your neighbors who happen to have the wrong skin color and shooting them in the street? How would you like fleeing for your life from such a militia with nothing but the clothes on your back? Do you think you would enjoy living in a refugee camp because your home was bombed?

Revolution is not exciting or romantic. It is terrible. You do not want to be living in the middle of a civil war, yet that seems to be the way our country is heading. We have got to decide to step back from the cliff. No matter how bad you think the president is, or how much you think the Republicans or the Democrats are screwing things up, the alternative is far, far worse. You say you want a revolution. You have no idea what you are wishing for.

Lead by Example

May 28, 2020

Earlier this month around two hundred celebrities signed on to an editorial in the French newspaper Le Monde calling for a radical transformation of the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. I read about it in James Barret’s article in the Daily Wire.

A collection of over 200 Hollywood stars and scientists have signed an editorial this week calling on world leaders and citizens to embrace “radical transformation” of our economies and values post-coronavirus crisis in order to avoid what they say will be “the massive extinction of life on Earth.”

Among the signatories of the alarmist message are several high-profile actors, including Robert De Niro, Madonna, Cate Blanchett, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes, Eva Green, Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Willem Defoe and Joaquin Phoenix.

The usual gang of celebrity idiots.

The editorial, published in the French paper Le Monde on Wednesday, presents the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to “examine what is essential” and to recognize that “the massive extinction of life on Earth is no longer in doubt, and all indicators point to a direct existential threat.”

I am glad that Mr. Barrett provides a translation of the editorial since my French skills are limited to Je m’appelle David and J’aime parler francais.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a tragedy. This crisis is, however, inviting us to examine what is essential. And what we see is simple: “adjustments” are not enough. The problem is systemic.

The ongoing ecological catastrophe is a meta-crisis: the massive extinction of life on Earth is no longer in doubt, and all indicators point to a direct existential threat. Unlike a pandemic, however severe, a global ecological collapse will have immeasurable consequences.

We therefore solemnly call upon leaders — and all of us as citizens – to leave behind the unsustainable logic that still prevails and to undertake a profound overhaul of our goals, values, and economies.

What precise steps should we be taking?

The pursuit of consumerism and an obsession with productivity have led us to deny the value of life itself: that of plants, that of animals, and that of a great number of human beings. Pollution, climate change, and the destruction of our remaining natural zones has brought the world to a breaking point.

For these reasons, along with increasing social inequalities, we believe it is unthinkable to “go back to normal.”

The radical transformation we need – at all levels – demands boldness and courage. It will not happen without a massive and determined commitment. We must act now. It is as much a matter of survival as one of dignity and coherence.

For these reasons, along with increasing social inequalities, we believe it is unthinkable to “go back to normal.”

The radical transformation we need – at all levels – demands boldness and courage. It will not happen without a massive and determined commitment. We must act now. It is as much a matter of survival as one of dignity and coherence.

I have a suggestion. If these people are so concerned about the fate of the Earth and are willing to make a radical transformation, there is a simple thing they can do that might make life better for all of us. They can retire from show business. Actors can stop making movies. Musicians can stop going on tour. I don’t think there is any industry other than the entertainment industry that consumes so much of the world’s resources and has so large a carbon footprint while being completely nonessential.

What’s more, the lavish lifestyles of these celebrities affect the environment far more than the lives of the ordinary people they keep scolding. Why don’t these entertainers give up their huge mansions, their private planes, and whatever other luxuries they spend their money on and live the life of an ordinary middle-class American? In fact, if they are really so concerned about social inequality, why not give up their multi-million dollar salaries and work for the American median income? After all, as a wise man said, “At a certain point you’ve made enough money”. If the world is really in so much danger from ecological collapse, why not give all their money away and decrease their environmental footprint to a bare minimum by adopting the lifestyle of a third world peasant. Let them lead by example.

They won’t of course. These people are actors playing another role, speaking lines written for them, which is why we shouldn’t pay too much attention to entertainers. If they want us to believe that there is some great crisis necessitating a radical transformation of our society and economy, they should act like it and take the first step. I won’t be holding my breath waiting.

Memorial Day

May 25, 2020

Today is Memorial Day, the day we honor those who have fallen fighting for their country and for freedom.

Memorial Day first started to be observed after the Civil War. That war was the bloodiest in American history and the casualties of that war were unprecedented. The number of killed and wounded in the three previous declared wars, the War of Independence, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War, were insignificant compared to the slaughterhouse that the Civil War became. After the war people in both the North and South began to commemorate the soldiers who died for their country. The date of this commemoration varied throughout the country until it settled on May 30.

In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill. This law moved the dates of four holidays, including Memorial Day, to the nearest Monday to create three-day weekends. This, I think, was unfortunate. I believe that converting the day on which we honor our fallen heroes into a long weekend tends to diminish the significance of this day. It becomes no more that day to take off work and for businesses to have sales. There should be more to Memorial Day.

Nativity Scene at Brownstown

May 15, 2020

Here is some Jackson County local news from the local newspaper.

A federal judge recently ruled a Nativity scene displayed on the Jackson County Courthouse lawn in Brownstown during the holidays each year cannot be displayed.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed Dec. 28, 2018, in the New Albany division of the Southern District of Indiana, U.S. District Court.

That suit, filed by Rebecca Woodring of Seymour, asked the court to rule the Nativity scene violated her civil rights as she felt county government was promoting Christianity to her and other county residents. According to court records, Woodring is an atheist and believes government should not be involved in religious activity.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued the ruling supporting Woodring’s contention Friday.

In her ruling, Pratt said the display needed to be removed from future display on the courthouse lawn.

“Jackson County has violated the rights of Woodring and its other citizens by displaying a religious symbol on government property in violation of the First Amendment,” Pratt said in her ruling. “Jackson County is hereby enjoined from displaying the crèche as presently presented on the lawn of the historical courthouse.”

Woodring, represented by attorney Kenneth J. Falk with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said she was happy to learn the judge had ruled in her favor.

“This is a huge win for everyone who believes religion and government should be separated,” she said.

I suppose the legal reasoning is sound, so far as it goes, and is in line with other rulings on this issue. However, I do not understand why having a nativity scene on a courthouse lawn during the Christmas season is such a big deal. In this case, the components of the Nativity scene are owned by the Brownstown Ministerial Association and cared for by the Brownstown Lions Club. No taxpayer funds are used to maintain the Nativity scene. No government at any level is endorsing Christianity by permitting private citizens to place it on public property. Why can’t these atheists let people have their Nativity scenes? They are not being harmed by these inanimate objects, are they?

Jackson County moved to dismiss the suit on precisely the ground, that Ms. Woodring had not suffered any damage as a result of the Nativity scene. Judge Pratt wasn’t having it.

The county then asked Pratt to dismiss Woodring’s complaint in October 2019 contending she had not suffered any damages and making the Nativity scene part of an overall holiday display was constitutional. The judge dismissed that motion, stating the display of the Nativity scene continues to give the impression of a religious endorsement.

As for Ms. Woodring, she claimed that she was suffering serious psychological harm from being forced to see the insidious display.

Woodring said in her suit she had to pass the Nativity scene often for her work duties, which includes T-shirts she has printed to be delivered in the Brownstown area.

She also claimed she had to use a nearby county office for part of ongoing divorce proceedings and collection of child support payments.

Because of those activities, she would either have to be forced to view the display or considerably alter her behavior to avoid it, each of which could cause her to suffer psychological injury.

The county, defended by the Liberty Counsel of Maitland, Florida, free of charge, contended Woodring had no necessary business that forced her to visit the courthouse.

The county also claimed she could still participate fully as a citizen and fulfill her legal obligations while avoiding the display since everything associated with her divorce was done in the county’s new judicial center. According to them, this would neglect the claims of possible psychological injury.

The court found Woodring would have to considerably alter her behavior to avoid it because of how close the judicial center is to the courthouse. This led to the ruling that the Nativity scene needed to be removed from the courthouse lawn.

Really? This woman is so fragile that even the sight of a religious display might cause psychological damage? Well, I’ll tell you what causes me psychological distress; bullying atheists who believe that they have the right to impose their views on the community by suing to prevent religious believers from practicing their faith. Ms. Woodring may be in the right in a strictly legal sense but in any community of diverse beliefs and practices, we must all show respect and tolerance for one another. Ms. Woodring is not showing respect and tolerance but is trying to force the community to do things her way, ignoring the rights and feelings of the majority of the people in her community.

I do not believe that Ms. Woodring truly desires separation of government and religion. She seems to want the government to endorse her lack of religion. The claims of psychological damage indicate to me that she is motivated more by animus against Christianity than by a desire to enforce the constitutional separation between church and state. Then again, maybe she is a grinch who hates the whole Christmas season. Whatever her reasons, Ms. Woodring has succeeded in taking away something that harms no one, least of all, herself, and gives joy to the community.

I notice that this ruling has generated some bitter feelings on social media. I hope that no one, especially no Christians take it upon themselves to harass this woman. There is no need to make her look like a martyr, the victim of intolerant and bigoted Christians, and, in any case, our King commands us to pray for those who oppose us. We do not need a nativity scene at the courthouse to celebrate Christmas, and it may be that focusing on the manger rather than the One in the manger is missing the point.

 

To Open or Not to Open

May 5, 2020

To open or not to open, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler to suffer to open up

And suffer the slings and arrows of COVID-19

Or shelter in place against a sea of viruses

And by opposing end them.

Okay, so I am no William Shakespeare. Still, the question remains, how long must this quarantine and sheltering in place last? We cannot remain closed down indefinitely. Small businesses and the people who they employ are suffering badly. Before too much longer, they will not be able to reopen. Every day that we remain closed down presents a greater risk of a recession or even a depression occurring later in the year. Yet, if we open everything too soon before the pandemic has run its course, we run the risk of suffering a second wave of coronavirus resulting in more sickness and deaths. Shutting the economy down again late this summer could do more damage to the economy than keeping things shut down a little longer this spring. This is not an easy decision, no matter what some people who are not in the position to make the actual decisions and be responsible for the consequences might believe. I wouldn’t want to be the person who has to decide.

Hamlet pondering on whether to reopen Denmark after the coronavirus pandemic

You wouldn’t think that responses to the coronavirus epidemic would be along partisan lines, but then what isn’t along partisan lines these days? I have noticed that Democrats and leftists generally seem to be in favor of extending the lockdowns for as long as possible and seem to favor stricter guidelines for social distancing, while Republicans and conservatives generally seem to want the lockdowns to end as soon as possible. Perhaps the Democrats tend to be more concerned with the population’s health while the Republicans are more concerned with the nation’s economy. Or maybe Republicans have actual jobs and would like to get back to the business of providing for themselves and their families. I think everyone not on the fringes is starting to get a little frustrated.

Out on the fringes, the lunatic right seems to believe that the Wuhan virus is some sort of false flag operation by the government to impose socialist tyranny on the country. All of the lockdowns and shelter in place orders are just to prepare the sheeple to follow the government’s orders no matter how negatively they affect their lives and circumstances. When the blue-helmeted UN ‘peacekeepers’ arrive in their black helicopters after the disputed election of 2020, most people will be conditioned to do as their told and offer no resistance to the invaders. I wish I were making all of this up.

On the other hand, the idiot left does seem to be taking advantage of the disruptions in everyday life to push their agenda. Now is the perfect time for work stoppages, rent strikes, gun safety measures, freer access to abortion, a wealth tax, open borders, and who knows what else. None of this has anything to do with the pandemic, though I imagine that a country in the sort of economic collapse that would ensue if the left’s policies were adopted might find it more difficult to protect its citizens from disease.

Some governors, especially in the Blue States seem to be enjoying the power which the crisis has given them. They seem to relish having the power to decide which jobs and businesses are essential and telling people how they can interact with one another, setting up snitch lines, getting the police to note the license plates of people who have dared to attend religious services, threatening the Jews, etc. I wonder if these governors will ever reopen their states. They seem to be having too much fun unleashing their inner authoritarians. Besides, if we end up in a Greater Depression, it might cause Trump to be defeated in the upcoming election. Tens of millions of Americans permanently out of work and without hope is a small price to pay for defeating the bad orange man, and it is a lot easier to set up the new socialist America if people have to depend on the government for every necessity. We can’t have a free people who rely on themselves. That’s racist or something.

For my part, I think there has been a lot of overreaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chinese coronavirus just doesn’t seem deadly enough to justify the lockdowns and the general panic. Still, better safe than sorry and I would prefer to err on the side of doing too much than too little. After all, when this crisis started, we had no way of knowing how bad it might get. The Chinese government has not been too helpful in providing the information we needed. I think we need to start opening things up now, not just because of the economy, but because I sense the American people are getting impatient and frustrated. I think the nation’s governors are going to have to plan to start opening things up right now before people start simply ignoring them and opening up on their own. Already we read of protests. That’s the signal for our leaders to get out and lead, or we’ll just start leading ourselves.

Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2020
Charge of the Mexican Cavalry at the Battle of...

Charge of the Mexican Cavalry at the Battle of Puebla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Today is Cinco de Mayo or the Fifth of May. Contrary to what is commonly believed, (including by myself), Cinco de Mayo is actually more of an American, or at least a Mexican-American, holiday than a Mexican one. Cinco de Mayo is only celebrated regionally in Mexico, primarily in the states of Puebla and Vera Cruz. Schools are closed on this day, but it is not an official national holiday in Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of  Puebla on May 5, 1862. In 1861, the Mexican government was bankrupt and President Benito Juarez suspended payments on Mexico’s foreign debt. In response, Britain, France, and Spain sent naval forces to occupy the city of Vera Cruz and demand payment on the debts Mexico owed them. Juarez managed to come to an arraignment with Britain and Spain, but the French, ruled by Emperor Napoleon III had other ideas.

Louis Napoleon III was the nephew of Napoleon I Bonaparte. He had somehow managed to get himself elected as president of the Second Republic of  France in 1848, but he decided that president was not a grand enough title for a Bonaparte, and in 1851 he seized dictatorial power in France and named himself Emperor. Despite being the nephew of Napoleon I, Napoleon III was not a particularly aggressive Emperor and was mostly content to have France at peace with other European powers. With the crisis in Mexico, however, Napoleon III saw an opportunity for France to gain an empire in Latin America. The United States was involved in the Civil War and was in no position to try to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. In fact, an additional benefit to the French occupation of Mexico would be to give France a base with which to send aid to the Confederate States, keeping the nation divided and unable to resist the French conquest.

 

The French army invaded Mexico with 8000 men under the command of General Charles de Lorencez late in 1861. This army marched from Vera Cruz in April of 1862 and defeated Mexican forces led by Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin on April 28. Seguin retreated to the city of Puebla where the Mexicans had two forts. Seguin had only 4500 badly armed and trained men to defend the city. It seemed likely that the French would crush the Mexicans and march on to Mexico City without and further resistance.

 

On May 5, Lorencez attacked the forts with 6500 men. Against all odds, the Mexicans successfully defended the forts against three assaults. By the third assault, the French artillery had run out of ammunition, so the infantry had to attack without artillery support. They were driven back and the French had to fall back. Then, Seguin attacked with his cavalry while the Mexican infantry outflanked the French on both sides of their positions. The French were routed with 462 men killed, while the Mexicans only suffered 83 dead. This unlikely victory has been an inspiration for Mexican patriots ever since.

 

The victory was a short-lived one. Napoleon III sent reinforcements to Mexico and the French were able to conquer the country. Napoleon III placed the Austrian Hapsburg Maximilian as the first Emperor of the Mexican Empire. He was also the last Emperor since as soon as the United States was finished with the Civil War, the US government made it clear to Napoleon III that it would not tolerate a French colony on the southern border. Since Napoleon III did not want to fight a war against battle-hardened Civil War veterans, he removed the French troops. Maximilian, even though he sincerely tried to govern Mexico well, was quickly overthrown and executed.

 

Although Benito Juarez declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be a national holiday, Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated by Mexicans in the American Southwest, the territories the US gained in the Mexican War. The former Mexicans began to celebrate Cinco de Mayo both as a way to express their Mexican identity and to show their support for the North in the Civil War. It may seem odd that these unwilling Americans would care about a war half a continent away, but the Mexicans were against slavery, and Hispanics insisted that California enter the United States as a free state. Cinco de Mayo gained popularity in the 1960s with the rise of Latino activism and still more in the 1980s when beer companies realized that the celebratory nature of the holiday would be a good marketing tool to sell more beer.

 

So happy Cinco de Mayo, or should I say Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

 

 

 

 

Biden His Time

April 26, 2020

Now that Bernie Sanders has dropped out, Joe Biden is the last man standing. I hardly expected that to be the outcome. I thought that Bernie would stay in longer. Actually, I was hoping that Bernie Sanders would stay in longer, at least long enough that we would have an actual choice here in Indiana. One of the disadvantages of living in Indiana is that our primary comes so late that the contest has already all but been decided before we vote. I don’t think it is fair that the people in Iowa and New Hampshire and the states that have their primaries on Super Tuesday get to pick the party nominees, while other states get no choice at all. Maybe state primaries should be on some sort of rotating schedule so that other states can get the first choice.

Joe Biden

My guess would be that Bernie Sanders was not really running to be president but to move the Democratic Party further to the left. He must believe that either Biden has moved far enough to the left to suit him, and is unlikely to move to the center as president, or that it does not matter much what Biden says or does since he won’t be the one making the decisions. He may be right. Joe Biden has never been know to be particularly smart, and it seems that he is suffering from some sort of dementia. Perhaps, Joe Biden is meant to be a figurehead. Those Democrats who have dropped out and endorsed Biden may be hoping for cabinet positions or be the real power in a Biden administration. If so, many of them, especially Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, are surely extreme enough to suit Bernie.

If this is the case, then the Democratic Party has completed the transition from a center-left party made up of a coalition of the White working class and various racial and ethnic minorities to a hard-left, Socialist Party dedicated to fundamentally transforming the United States from a constitutional republic based on individual freedom and the rule of law to a socialist utopia based on the preeminence of the state above all else. This transition, begun with the McGovern campaign back in 1972 has proceeded slowly as the radicals have climbed their way into the Democratic Party power structure and was somewhat delayed by the relatively moderate New Democrats such as Bill Clinton, but greatly accelerated by the rise of the radical Barack Obama has transformed the Democratic into a totalitarian party with no place for dissenting moderates. Even such past luminaries as Roosevelt or Johnson might find it difficult to fit into the contemporary Democratic party. John F Kenedy might be more comfortable as a Republican today. Even George McGovern, who was not, in fact,

These old Democrats, whatever their faults were patriots who loved their country and respected the institutions that made it great and free. They may have been liberals, but they were not radical enough to want to destroy those institutions, just reform them to make them better. Even though many of their policies were wrong-headed, they were sincerely interested in expanding opportunities to the disadvantaged. The contemporary Democratic Party seems to be led by virtue-signaling coastal elites and tech moguls, environmentalist wackos, and the genderqueer obsessed. They seem to be more about restricting opportunities rather than expanding them, keeping the disadvantaged down in their place rather than lifting them up. They seem to hate America and want nothing more than to tear down every institution and constitutional check as merely in the way of their goal of obtaining absolute power to remake the country as they see fit.

It is all a shame, really. The was some good in the Democratic party of old. There is nothing good in this new, neo-Bolshevik party, no matter who is the nominee. The Democrats need to be defeated this November. A Democratic president with a Democratic Congress would be a disaster for the country and for the cause of freedom in the world It is not going to be enough for Trump to win, the Democrats need to face a shellacking big enough to make them reconsider their leftward drift into Socialism. It won’t happen. I’m afraid that the days of 49 state landslides are over and even if the Democrats face a defeat on the scale of McGovern’s or Mondale’s, they will likely simply blame Biden for being too moderate and double down on the crazy.

Can Biden win? As the presumptive Democratic nominee, he certainly has some chance of being the next president. Biden is not a very impressive candidate, even when he was younger, and as I’ve mentioned, he seems to be deteriorating fast. There are a lot of people on the left who really hate Trump, though, and many of them would vote for a head of lettuce if that is what it takes to deny Trump a second term. On the other hand, there were a lot of people on the right who really hated Clinton and Obama and who voted for the uninspiring Bob Dole and Mitt Romney, yet Clinton and Obama both won reelection. Joe Biden is a good deal weaker as a candidate than either Dole or Romney. I suppose much will depend on who is selected to be Biden’s running mate. Whoever it is might be seen as the real candidate who might be expected to take over if Biden is obliged to resign.

There has been some speculation that Biden will be replaced by a more suitable candidate at the Democratic National Convention, perhaps Hilary Clinton or New York governor Andrew Cuomo. I don’t see how the Democrats are going to be able able to pull that off. Joe Biden has the most delegates pledged to him and as the only candidate still in the race, will have a majority by the time the primaries are over. It seems to me that the Democrats would have to discard their own rules for nominating a candidate to ditch Biden. Maybe they will, but I wonder if a candidate nominated under such unusual circumstances would really be a stronger candidate than Joe Biden. I guess we are just going to have to bide our time and see what happens.

Easter

April 12, 2020

We left the story of Jesus of Nazareth last Friday. He had been executed in the most painful and degrading way possible. His closest followers were dispersed and in hiding. It must have seemed that Jesus and his movement had ended in utter failure. But then, something remarkable happened. This something is commemorated by the Easter holiday. Although Christmas is the more popular Christian holiday, Easter is actually the most important holiday in the liturgical year as the celebration of Christ’s resurrection is theologically more important than his Nativity. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The Gospel of Mark has the most concise account of what happened that first Easter.

1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,out of whom he had driven seven demons.10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country.13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.17 And these sign swill accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons;they will speak in new tongues;18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:1-20)

Mark 16:9-20 seems to be a later addition. At any rate, the earliest manuscripts do not have those verses. Whether the original ending has been lost or Mark intended to end his account so abruptly is unknown.

Matthew has more details.

1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The Guards’ Report

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:1-20)

Luke and John have more to say of Jesus after His resurrection but I won’t quote them here.

The date of Easter has been a matter of some controversy in past centuries. The date of Easter is related to the date of Passover. The calculations on which the date of Easter is determined are based on a lunisolar cycle like the date of Passover but the cycle is not the Hebrew calendar. Generally, Easter falls about a week after Passover but it occurs about a month later in three years of the nineteen-year cycle. Various groups of Christians have had different methods of calculating Easter over the years and these differences have led to bitter disputes. There is still a different date for Easter among the Eastern churches since they use the Julian calendar for the liturgical year while Catholics and Protestants use the Gregorian calendar.

Among Catholics and some Protestants, Easter is generally celebrated by an Easter vigil beginning the previous evening. At dawn, a mass or service begins, etc.

And, of course, many people celebrate Easter by finding Easter eggs and eating candy delivered by the Easter Bunny.

 

Good Friday

April 10, 2020

Today is Good Friday, the day of Jesus’s crucifixion. It may seem strange to call it “Good” Friday since being crucified wouldn’t normally be considered as part of a good day but the word good is used in an obsolete sense meaning holy. Good Friday is generally celebrated with fasts and vigils. In the Roman Catholic church, no mass is held on this day.

Once again, I will be using the Gospel of Mark to tell the story.

Mark 15

1Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13Crucify him!” they shouted.

14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:1-15)

It would seem that this meeting of the Sanhedrin at night and before Passover was highly irregular and some have questioned the historicity of the Gospel accounts on that basis. I think that if the elders and priests of the Sanhedrin believed Jesus to be on the point of declaring himself the Messiah and leading a rebellion, they might not have been too concerned with fine points of legality in the face of a national emergency. Little is known of Pontius Pilate but in the historical accounts of Josephus and others, he does not seem to be the sort of man who had any scruples about putting a trouble maker to death even if he wasn’t certain of the man’s guilt. It is possible that he was impressed by Jesus’s force of personality. On the other hand, Josephus makes it clear that Pilate was a tactless man who did not like the Jews much. He was eventually recalled because his actions seemed likely to cause rebellions. Perhaps Pilate resented having the High Priest and others, who he might have considered semi-barbarians, insist on his crucifying a man he believed to be innocent. He might have refused just to be obstinate.

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.

27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. [28][a]29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.(Mark 15:16-32)

Luke has one of the thieves taking Jesus’s side.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[d]

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

Crucifixion is probably the most painful method of execution ever devised. The victim is slowly asphyxiated as he hangs on the cross. It was not uncommon for a man to linger for days writhing in pain the whole time. In addition to the pain, crucifixion was meant to be a humiliating, shameful punishment. Only the lowest of the low were crucified, which might have been a stumbling block to early Christian proselytizing.

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[c] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,[d] and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

Those words were the first verse of Psalm 22. Matthew’s account parallels Mark’s but Luke and John report different last words.

46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[e] When he had said this, he breathed his last.  (Luke 23:46)

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.(John 19:28-30)

John adds another detail.

31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”[c]37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (John 19:31-37)

Strange as it may seem, the breaking of their legs was an act of mercy since they would die sooner. It was surprising that Jesus had died after only being about six hours on the cross.

42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid. (Mark 15:42-47)

To anyone on the scene, this must have seemed the end of the matter. Jesus of Nazareth was dead and his followers scattered. It would seem that, at best, he would only be a minor footnote in history.

 


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