Well! That was Fun!

July 10, 1965, I returned from Boy Scout Camp at a place called Camp Westmoreland in Eastern Lauderdale County, Alabama, to my family home in Athens, Alabama (about a 40-mile trip). The problem? Well, the problem was this…

I had the old “skeleton key” in my pocket, and it opened the back door on Sanders Street there. That opened the laundry room, but there was no washer or dryer in there. Into the kitchen. There was no refrigerator there, and no table and chairs. Then the living room, which held no furniture. My Mother’s/Sister’s bedroom–no furniture. My bedroom–ODD–there was my bed, my desk, my hanging clothes, and such.

I was pretty conflicted by all of this. So I went across the street and asked Mrs. Hudson to use her phone for a long-distance call. Called the house in Huntsville, and was told, “We’ll get over there to pick you up later.” (That was about 3 in the afternoon; they showed up after 9 at night. From 25 miles away.)

Now, my Mother had been seeing this fellow, a pretty dandy Down-Easter New Englander from Saco-Biddeford, Maine, for a few months, and he (with his business partner) had bought a big old 1892-built house in NW Huntsville, a house some called “Kildare”, but I called “McCormick/O’Shaughnessy”, mainly because Michael O’Shaughnessy was the Minneapolis businessman who had recognized Southern labor (mainly in cotton mills) as a fine source of income.

I used the word “it”, and maybe that was wrong, for I’ve always used feminine pronouns for O’Shaughnessy–she is a great lady, which I would dearly love to own again. (Not that I’ve ever “owned” her–I was simply privileged to live in her in 1966-67.)

In Spring, 1967, the man who was to become my step-father in November, 1968, lost O’Shaughnessy, and we moved out to a little rental house on Glasgow Road. It was a crappy year, with some pretty good music, of course, but it was still a pretty rotten year. I was privileged to live in the Glasgow Road house for about a week without heat (on account of “gas costs money”, don’t you know?) in a very cold April. Okay, we all lived through it, I’d guess.

I just remember O’Shaughnessy as the only truly great house I’ve ever known. Exploration inside was always exciting. Exercise (breaking up a concrete floor in the basement) was always invigorating, especially on Independence Day when the other kids were off swimming somewhere. There’s always the memory of the 4th weekend in Madison County, Alabama, of January, 1967, when we marked our all-time low temperature of -27 degF, and the coal-feeding augur for the furnace had broken on Friday and couldn’t be replaced until at least Monday, and I got to go to the furnace every 30 minutes all weekend to feed 10 large shovels full of coal into the furnace–that was FUN. Scraping sloppily applied paint from exterior window frames was always fun (especially with the single- and double-edged razor blades). Dealing with 30-year old refrigerators, and seeing a 1000 square foot kitchen in the basement where a family of eight could have slept atop the wood-burning stove, and you could cook Thanksgiving Dinner for 500 people there, but no food was being cooked there, maybe that didn’t hurt me a whole lot.

Yeah, it’s been a good life. (If I ever win the MegaMillions or PowerBall I’ll be buying “her” for me. She will be treated properly.)

If Not Consequences, and Not Unintended, at Least Unexpected

(Today I had lunch with a co-worker and friend at a locally owned German restaurant after a successful inspection at our Company’s local office. I’d call it a celebration in the sense that “we” received a “passing grade” on the inspection. We engaged in small talk for most of the lunch, but I found myself telling her some of my life story, a part that I have told other people about, but have never put it into a written record. To be honest, I have been developing this story for more than 14 years, and mentioned I might write this part of the story; she encouraged me to do so. So, here we go…)

In May, 1978, I was near to graduating from the University of North Alabama with a double major in music and education, and had already earned an 8-year teaching certificate from the Alabama Department of Education. Between my student teaching assignment at my high school alma mater, singing with the Huntsville Community Chorus, getting ready for my senior tuba recital, and simply trying to eat right, I was pretty busy. One day my supervising teacher asked me to pick up some supplies from a music store nearby, to which I readily agreed.

The proprietor met me as I entered, satisfied my purchases, and then said, “Can I ask you something?” “Well, sure,” I replied. The question was, “Do you have a job yet?” Answer: “No, I don’t.”

He came back with, “Well, do you want Berry?” I was stunned, of course, as Berry High School in Birmingham was one of the premier band programs in the State, so I said, “Of course!”

Then he said, “No, I don’t mean WA Berry. I mean Berry High School in Fayette County.” (Okay.)

I’d been “on the ground” in Fayette County exactly once, during my work in 1970 on an Alabama gubernatorial campaign. My memories did not precisely reverberate into enthusiasm, for I remembered it as two or three small towns, a lot of forest and empty meadows and fields, and a few fairly impressive hills. Even so, I asked for more information, and was rewarded for my query.

He told me about the Town of Berry, 600 souls overnight and on weekends, and 1200 when school opened at 0800 and all the way until 1500 during the school year. It was a “poor town”, with lots of poverty, lots of people living on disability payments of one kind or another (particularly “black lung” payments due to the large and very productive underground coal mine on the outskirts of town). He told me that the high school’s band room had burned after a lightning strike in 1951 (the year I was born), destroying instruments, uniforms, and sheet music, and that there had been no band program there since that time.

He also told me that for many years residents and friends had been asking the county board of education to reinstate instrumental music in that town and had always been rebuffed–until recently. The county board had changed their “minds” after a Band Boosters meeting had disclosed that the people of that Town had amassed a very substantial sum of money to support a renewed Berry High School Band.

Now, you ought to understand that in Alabama a school board, once it has decided to allow a curriculum, has now and had then only two obligations: (1) Hire and pay a teacher, and (2) Provide a classroom space. Musical instruments cost money, regardless of the time period, as do sheet music and uniforms and required tools, etc. When the board learned that the Band Boosters had amassed that much money they agreed to fund the teacher and the space. So this brought me to my conversation with this music store owner. Understand, he was a product of Fayette County, and he had coached the current high school Principal in baseball a while earlier. I thought for maybe a microsecond, and told him I was up for the game if he was.

A couple of days later I met him and another fellow at his store and we drove to Berry for an interview with the Principal, Guidance Counselor, and the Board of Trustees. (Trustees are a few community leaders, usually successful business persons, and they have the actual control over who gets to interact with their school children; I don’t think that’s a bad idea, you know. If they don’t approve of the applicant it’s not likely the Superintendent will ever grant an interview. The only questions I received from those three men were, “Are you an Alabama [football] fan, or Auburn?” and “How long will it take you to put a marching band on the football field?” [As it was a grade 5-12 situation I told them it would take at least a year to put a band on the field, and they wouldn’t be marching and playing at the same time. For the college football question I took the shot that Berry was about 45 miles from Tuscaloosa, and a long distance from Auburn, and answered accordingly. I’d guess I answered correctly.)

So, from Berry we drove 20 miles West to the county seat of Fayette, and I met with the Superintendent. He asked me no questions about pedagogical ideas or practice, what my dreams and illusions and expectations were, or anything else, for I suspect that he already had a “positive report” from the Trustees. The interview might have lasted 20 minutes, if that long, and at the end the Superintendent told me to make sure they had my phone number, and that they would be in touch. This meant little to me other than that I hadn’t been told to get lost.

I had no phone in my studio apartment, but when I got home from student teaching the next day I had a note on my door telling me there was a message for me at the apartment office. I rushed over and found that I needed to call the Fayette County Superintendent of Education. So I went to the pay phone and called. Mr. Superintendent had a simple message for me: “If you want the job, you’ve got it. When can you be here?” I told him that I very much wanted the job, and that it would take a few days to get there, but that I would work with the Principal to make that happen.

Not long afterward someone knocked at my door, and the message was that I needed to call the senior pastor of the Berry Methodist Parish, from whom I learned that he wanted a “summer youth director”, offered living arrangements and a pretty darn good salary, all of which I thanked him for and said I had a couple of things to tie up before I could move [like college graduation], and asked, “When can you be here?”

I had been offered musical directorship for the Community Chorus’s production of “Carnival” in the upcoming Summer, and I had accepted the position. So I had to call that guy and beg off from my commitment; he graciously understood and released me. It took a couple of days to arrange for a U-Haul truck and some loading help on the Huntsville end, and some on the Berry end.

So, with the help of all of those School Trustees and a few Band Booster parents I got installed into the old parish house a couple of blocks from the school and 250 feet from the Church. Did a reach-out for a meeting in the parish house on Sunday for the following week, and got things going. It was a bit disappointing that when I asked for ideas about activities the most common answer was, “Let’s get drunk and go to the mud races!” The activities turned out to be me accompanying them to see “Grease” at the Alabama Theater in Tuscaloosa, and going bowling once. I also had a few days before “school’s out for the Summer” to arrange a few informal meetings to get the 70 or so children I had kind of introduced to reading music, listening to themselves and their classmates, that kind of thing. I used very cheap “recorders” (sort of a flute, but as I said, very cheap).

Things went downhill after a powerful thunderstorm destroyed the air conditioning in the parish house and in the Church building, for that was an awfully hot Alabama Summer. Well, the Parish Stewards had to fix something, and the parish house was not the more important thing; I get that. It was a huge expense, and as I think I have mentioned, this was a pretty “poor town”. So I was given the opportunity to live in the house, but without duties and without salary, until I could make other arrangements. Creative financing came about in short order, and I moved to the county seat.

I suppose all of the above is nothing more than the back-story. I taught in that school for three years, and apparently had some success. The third year I received the assignment to teach 8th grade Business Law and Civics in addition to other duties (bus watch, club sponsorship, teaching, etc.). With me being a Constitutionalist who had voted Libertarian in 1980, I’m sure those children got a brand of Civics they had never imagined before–possibly some of them learned something.

During that third year’s second semester the Principal called me in to explain that he could not justify my salary for a fourth year due to my “small number” of 70 or students. He offered that, if I would take an unpaid leave of absence, go back to school and get math and science certifications, he could “probably” rehire me afterwards. It didn’t take much thought to realize that was nothing like a deal, and if it was it was a very bad deal, so I offered my resignation on the spot. The Board of Education accepted it a few days later. Okay.

Now we get to the meat of the story.

Late in May, 1981, I drove away from Berry High School for what I thought was the last time. I cried just about all of the 20-mile drive back home. You see, when I took that job, I had the idea that I would build a full career in it, build a fine instrumental music program, and then hand over the reins and go to my dotage. That is not the way it turned out, though. I had given them three years, and my efforts were not enough. Again, okay.

So I moved back to Huntsville, with a lot of help from young guys I had known and worked with at my second job in a chain department store in Fayette. (Yes, there was beer involved!) I took a FORTRAN course that Summer, and headed on into UNIVAC Assembly Language Programming, but there were zero junior programming jobs here at that time. An old college friend, having won “Best in Class” with his middle school band a couple of years in a row, and who was returning to school for an MA in music education, offered me his job on a “gentleman’s agreement” for one year. I was interested, met with the Principal, and took the job.

The school year of 1981-82 was largely uneventful, except for the District and State Band Competitions, in which my band took full Superior ratings, to great joy, and the Six Flags over Georgia Competition (the previous two years the band had won “Best in Class”, mind you) where we took a solid “Class III”. Well, again, “school was out for the Summer”, and I had courses to take–Precalculus I/II, Discrete Structures in Computer Science, Advanced UNIVAC Assembly Language Programming–and then on to graduate school. But that’s not really part of this, except to support the memory that eventually I got a job with Sperry Corporation late in 1982. Things kind of took off. Until…

In June, 2003, I took the extremely stupid step of smarting off to a Defense Security Service agent during a 10-year review of my security clearance. Less than two weeks later I had no security clearance. Two days later I had no job, because you just don’t work in “high tech” in Huntsville without a proper clearance. So, things rolled on.

In September, 2003, I got a phone call from Tommy, a man who had been one of my trombone players at Berry High School. He told me that, as it was at that time 25 years since I had “started” the band program there, some of them wanted to have a reunion at a football game late in October. We talked about that a little while, and I said that I would enjoy that a very great deal. So I made plans, getting a hotel room in Jasper (a really rotten little city about 35 miles from Berry), and driving that 150 miles after a short work day on a Friday.

Now, picture this, if you will. Leaving Jasper the route was West along “some” highway, South on Alabama 18, through Oakman and Corona and up the big hill into Berry. As I topped the crest of that hill, I saw something mostly white hung up over the width of the highway; as I approached I saw that it was a banner said “Dennis Glover Day”. It’s a very short distance to the high school from there, and I parked, noticing a new field house and some stadium improvements. Within seconds, Tommy parked near me and we met, shaking hands and all of that Southern stuff. We went into the school cafeteria, where we found a “chili dinner” (execrable stuff, but I was hungry). I saw and spoke with a few parents and students in the cafeteria, and eventually Tommy asked if I’d like to see the band room.

Well, of course I’d like to see it, Tommy! This is a room I spent the entire Spring Break of 1981 building instrument and music folder racks in, using just about all of my discretionary budget for wood, screws, glue, and such. As we exited the cafeteria into the hallway toward the band room I saw the 20 feet of floor-to-ceiling display cases holding literally hundreds of trophies, awards, ribbons and such that band had won since I had left. (We certainly never earned any of that during the time I was there!) That was more than I could take in, to be honest.

We entered the band room, and all was chaos, as is expected with high school musicians on a football night. I met up with some of the old students and we talked a few minutes. Then the band director came in, and came over to me. After exchanging pleasantries, she made the most extraordinary offer, “Mr. Glover, would you care to conduct the National Anthem before tonight’s game?” Believe me, that was a tearful reply: “It would be nothing but an honor, Ma’am!”

She got the band kind of settled down and warmed up, then introduced me, telling them that they/we had to rehearse the Anthem before we could perform it. And by the way, the Band was joined by maybe 20 of my former students using those instruments they had used years before. I asked her if she had a baton, simply because I like a baton (stick) when there’s a spread formation. She replied that she had no baton, but I could use the claw-hammer underneath her desk if I wished! Pretty delightful lady there, I think.

So we assembled and marched to the stadium (to a cadence I and my drummers had composed more than 20 years before this night). The band director and drum major had charge of things after I rather tearfully conducted “The Star-Spangled Banner”, but as the football team came on the field I heard immediately the strains of the “Aggie War Hymn”, the “fight song” I had chosen, along with “Notre Dame Victory March” as our school fight songs in 1979. (See, back then, most people wanted to use “Yea, Alabama”, but I feared there might be some more powerful Auburn fans in the crowd, so I just chose sort of neutral music.)

All right, the first half was over, and the visiting band finished its halftime show. As the Berry Band took the field, I heard the PA announcer say, “Mr. Dennis Glover, our guest, please join the Drum Major and Berry High School Band at the 50-yard line.” What could I do? I was there, and had already participated in this thing, so I went.

Then the PA announcer said, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Mayor of the Town of Berry, and the City Council!” (This was getting more than weird.) “Mr. Mayor, Mr. Glover, please meet on the sideline.” We met and greeted each other, and he produced a Proclamation naming October 24, 2003, as “Dennis Glover Day” in the Town of Berry.

You know, sometimes you feel like a total failure, as I did late in May, 1981. But, if you have done some good, as often as not that good “catches up with you”, as it did to me on that night. I didn’t feel like a total failure late on the night of October 24, 2003.

To the Town of Berry, its residents and citizens: I have held hard thoughts against some of you from time to time. It’s been a long time since I’ve held those thoughts, for you have proved that you are decent and honorable people. Thank you for letting me know you all!

“The Summer of ’69” is not just a Brian Adams Song; It Happened

I graduated from high school in May, 1969. The next day I flew from Huntsville to Atlanta to Boston, so I could spend the Summer living in Bedford, Massachusetts, with my step-father (DOSF) and two step-brothers (TSB). DOSF already had me a job lined up in the Raytheon plant in Wayland, not that far from Bedford. Upon arrival at Logan DOSF informed me that I was driving, that the 1962 VW microbus was my graduation gift, and we needed to move on. Okay, that’s fine, and thanks, by the way.

“Roundabouts”, the method of handling “right-of-way issues” on US-1 at the time, were entirely new and shocking and surprising things to me, as I had never been outside Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, or Mississippi at the time (and I’m not sure I’d ever been to Mississippi, for that). My guess is that they were attempts to control chaos (as if that’s achievable outside the South and without firearms, but okay). So US-1 to Route 128 it was, Northward, Northwest, and Southward toward the “Concord Road” to get to DOSF’s house (actually half of a duplex, of which we had four rooms, and the other family had the other six or eight; it was a pretty nice house, just the same).

The VW did pretty well on that short trip, as did I (for I have no “crash” record in Massachusetts), so we got home and settled down. A couple of days later I was hired by Raytheon as an “automated drafting technician”, expected to learn and operate the Gerber VT-522 Autodraft machine working the SAM-D (Surface to Air Missile-Defense) program’s needs for PERT plots and radar signature diagrams and the like. That was cool, on account of they paid me $2.50/hr. (It was 1969, you understand.)

I was happy to “own” a car, even one that was 7-8 years old, on account of the fact that it moved when I could expect it to, and the visibility was excellent, and all of that. Then there was the first weekend. DOSF decided we would take the VW to visit some of his family in Riverside, RI. It’s not a long trip, and wasn’t a difficult one at the time… unless the driver (me) knew about the fingernail polish covering the “Oil Pressure” idiot light, making it impossible to see. For, upon the return trip, Sunday night, the fingernail polish worked just as designed and intended, and I saw no oil pressure warning light, and then the VW had lost all power, and I was on the side of Route 128. Upon opening the engine compartment it became rather evident that something had gone horribly wrong, especially with the drips of oil falling onto the pavement.

DOSF sprung for a taxi or something, for we all got home that night. A couple of days later we took his 1959 Ford 3/4-ton stepside pickup truck with about 50 feet of logchain on the bed back over to tow the VW home. We pulled the engine, cracked it, and learned that, sure enough, oil had gone to zero, and I had a thrown rod and a broken piston and cylinder. Side-lined, as it were.

That weekend we went to the VW dealer and bought parts and stuff, so we could rebuild the engine. (I was soon to learn that rebuilding is not so much about making it work as it is about rebuilding it right. See, DOSF, being an engineer of the aeronautical type, oddly didn’t care so much about measuring tolerances and the like, so the first rebuild failed with a seized crankshaft–after a few seconds.)

It turned into an interesting Summer, for I got to do things I’d never imagined. Visit the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Watch DOSF plant the starboard wing of his ’39 Stinson over-wing during solo trials at the Nashua airfield, after which the plane was certainly not air-worthy. Burn my feet and get bitten by sand crabs on Revere Beach only to come up like a blue icicle extremely soon after entering the water on Independence Day. Walk beaches in Old Orchard, Biddeford, and Saco, Maine. Meet and fall madly insane over a 14-year old step-cousin in New London–yes, I was only 17, but that’s just crazy, you know. Watch the Apollo 11 landing on July 20 via a crappy little 12-13″ TV with only rabbit ears for antennae. Be nearby when Ted Kennedy took his magical mystery tour at a place called Chappaquiddick Bridge. Miss not only Chet Atkins playing with the Boston Pops but Woodstock, less than 200 miles away. See the Red Sox-Seattle game that went longer than 20 innings on that same aforementioned TV. Hear “In the Year 2525” and “A Boy Named Sue”, both incessantly, on Boston radio. Drive past Walden Pond just about every work day, and play with the Concord Town Band. Meet a few firefighters at an old firehouse in Lexington on the Concord Road. Eat pizza sold by the slice in Chelmsford. Read The Pearl and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy under a shrub in the back yard. Not a bad Summer.

On the other hand, the total number of rebuilds on that VW engine that Summer came out to be five. Never threw another rod after the first, but did seize a couple of crankshafts. Then the engine ran, sort of, but had very little power (as if a 40HP engine ought to have power, of course). Finally, late August came around and I needed to get back to Alabama to start college.

Problem. The VW engine was blown again. So my TSB and I decided that we’d rebuild it once more and get it right, no matter what else. Early one morning we arose, dropped the engine, cracked it, and decided the kind of rebuild that was needed, went to the VW dealership, got parts and stuff, went back home, and in fact rebuilt it. We took it over to the Hanscomb AFB field and drove the daylights out of it for a little while, and decided to trust it. Took it back to the house, packed, and slept a few hours. About 1400 that day we left, heading in a round-about way for Alabama.

Massachusetts Turnpike, Berkshire and Upstate sections of the NY thruway, a tiny bit of Pennsylvania, Northern Ohio, and finally to the tiny and upsettingly awful little burg of Angola, Indiana, where the mother of one of the TSB/step-mother of the other TSB “lived” in a largely burned-out farmhouse in utter squalor. (And I don’t forget the 10-12 MPH pace we were able to make uphill facing the Adirondacks.)

Late Summer in Northeastern Indiana is decidedly not the same as late Summer in central New England. It was still hot, and the “bugs” were still flying, but it was endurable for a couple of nights. Then, DOSF having joined us a while after we got there, he arrived in his ’59 Ford 3/4-ton truck, we decided that we were going to Alabama, and he acceded. Loaded up and got out of there. Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, who cares? I think it was Richard riding with me, and we stayed ahead the whole trip. Arrived at my Mother’s and DOSF’s house a few hours ahead of DOSF and the other TSB. I was ready to sleep for two days minimum.

As I parked on the driveway (and how weird is it that we “park” on a “driveway” and “drive” on a “parkway”? well, it’s not a new observation, you know) an unknown car, driven by an unknown guy parked on the street, jumped out of the car, and demanded, “Where the h*** you been? We been tryin’ a find you more’n a week! We got band camp tomorrow mornin’!” Okay, that’s the way it went that magical Summer.

At band camp I met a young woman, Perlina Belle, and promptly named the ’62 VW microbus “Perlina Belle”. I sold her (the microbus, not the young woman) about a year later, just before I joined the Navy.

Barbarians Inside the Walls

So, today on the Internet the “big news” was KRACK, the “Key Replacement AttaCK” (get it?); I learned about it from WordFence here: https://www.wordfence.com/blog/2017/10/krack-and-roca/?utm_source=list&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=101617. In point of truth there were two large vulnerabilities announced today, the other being “ROCA” (see https://www.reddit.com/r/netsec/comments/76pv2s/roca_vulnerable_rsa_generation_cve201715361/).

(If you’d rather I provided shortlinks, I suppose I can do that. But, since no one ever comments on here I don’t guess I’ll ever know that you would have liked that…)

So I was able to work for four hours today, and already knew about these things when I went in; being “part-time on-call” allows me to sort of be undefined ahead of time in terms of work hours, reporting time, etc., you see. But they were kind of on my mind for the four hours I was there, and I started looking into it after I got home.

Now, here’s the thing, folks: If you’ve got some kind of Internet service, and any part of it is wireless (meaning you have even one device that is connected by anything other than a Cat-5, Cat-5a, or Cat-6 wire, then the likelihood is that you’re vulnerable to some kind of attack unless you get it under control. Soon. Likewise, if you use “wireless hotspots” ever, not only are you vulnerable, but anyone else using such are likewise vulnerable, until and unless the hotspot “provider” has attended to the problem and got it under control.

Until this thing is fixed, any router/gateway using WPA2-AES (WiFi Protected Access II-Advanced Encryption Standard) or WPA-TKIP (WiFi Protected Access-Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) is vulnerable in the extreme to any attacker who is within the 100m physical range of your wireless router’s/gateway’s point of presence. Got it?

Does your smart phone manage bank accounts for you in any way–do you charge tickets to movies or sports events or anything else through them, for example? Do you pay bills via your smart phone? Do you know that the people (banks, merchants, etc.) are at the same time cripplingly honest and also so hardened in a security posture and protocol that they cannot be used as a vector usable by a miscreant to learn, harvest, and have your personally identifiable information? Do you really know that?

I humbly submit that you cannot know that!

I also submit that there are two, and only two ways, that you can protect yourself and all that you hold dear against the type of attack vector that was announced today.

  1. You do not engage in any kind of “eCommerce” until you know that your finances, your life, yourself are protected.
  2. You never use a smart phone to read a “QR” code, or to “pay your bill” at a merchant. I mean, seriously, don’t even install the “FREE APP” that can do that, for you don’t know what that “free application” is actually doing!

What I’ve done since I got home from my four hours of work today has largely been about ensuring, as best I can, that this problem is mitigated and can not affect me.

Apple Computers tells me that this vulnerability in the very WPA/WPA2 protocols was mitigated in an “earlier beta” in the MacOS Sierra operating system, and I have the latest release of that on both Macs already, so I hope I can safely “feel good” about that whole thing.

I’m also running Pibuntu (derived from Ubuntu 16.04) on two Raspberry Pis, and was able to “apt-get upgrade” both suspect packages, particularly “wpasupplicant” earlier. I “feel pretty good” about that.

Then I upgraded my router’s GUI Language and Firmware to the latest version, which is always frightening.

Finally I upgraded my iPhone to iOS 11.0.3, in hopes that Apple have taken care of this “not-so-little” problem.

I wish you the best!

The Bezzle Has Been Bizzle

Chapter 1

Discovering precisely what I meant by the term “bezzle” possibly took longer than it might have, had I been more awake and attuned. Afflicted as I am by the common human blind acceptance of cognitive dissonance, delivered from any and every quarter and with increasing frequency over a long span of time, I failed to notice for a likewise extended span of time that the blind acceptance of the common lie, what everyone knows and simply accepts had accomplished extreme damage against America. The common lie is, of course, that everybody does it and its accompanying common excuse is that no one can do anything about it. As usual, this kind of blind acceptance is wrong, willful, pig-headed, just plain stupid, and destructive (but only horribly so). And so, a stultifying and destructive accepted cognitive dissonance is the source of the power of the Bezzle.

Here is an example demonstrating the concept, first from a positive viewpoint, then from a negative:

A prospective customer engages an auto mechanic, a carpenter, a plumber, a landscape worker, in short a skilled trades worker, to discuss terms, conditions, schedule, a scope of work, and a bill of materials for a given job or task (wheel alignment, clearing a clogged drain, building a set of shelves, mowing the lawn). During this period, which I will call discovery, the customer describes the requirements, the acceptable costs, a schedule, that she or he expects of the trades worker; likewise the trades worker tries to understand the complete details of the activity under consideration. The two will reach agreement, or they will not, regarding the things to be done, the materials to be used, the time constraints, etc. If agreement is reached in discovery, the talk may proceed to price, material, and schedule negotiation, followed by acceptance of guarantees and the like. This is the normal and usual pattern in such arrangements, and in fact is a legal requirement for the trades worker, who for example cannot change terms during the performance period, and in particular cannot “bait-and-switch” or play pricing games with the customer. Very significant, strong, and punitive legal remedies await visitation upon the trades worker who attempts any such thing.

So, suppose I want a new deck built onto my house, and engage a contractor for that purpose. If, after the steps of discovery, negotiation, and acceptance we have reached an agreement, no terms or conditions may be changed by either party except in accordance with the agreement and the Law. No trades worker will engage in deception, over-charging, switching materials, and the like, without running afoul of the Law.

Now, suppose I contact a contractor and ask that we follow these steps, and the contractor tells me that she or he doesn’t do business that way, that he is free to bill whatever he or she wishes upon (or before) delivery, or that he does not guarantee completion or delivery, or that he must be able to dictate changes during the course of work. At that point my option is extremely clear to forego his “services” as he has claimed a non-existent privilege or right to cheat me in any way, to leave the work incomplete, to deliver what was not promised, and that she or he may deliver a final bill that differs from any “offer” or “contract”, and is in very point of fact telling me that I will be cheated. I would be the most foolish person on the planet were I to accede in any such “arrangement”, and therefore abandon my clear option to report such behavior to any proper authorities.

Unfortunately, there are very large sectors of the economy who are, in fact and on an ongoing basis, engaging in precisely this kind of business behavior and in so doing have very largely destroyed the Gross Domestic Product*, the federal and State budgets, the very fabric of trust on which all business and commerce must depend in order to enjoy a truly free society. These sectors continually and egregiously engage in precisely those illegal practices of collusion, price-fixing, and suppression of competition against which the antitrust laws of U.S. Code: Title 15 – Commerce and Trade oppose with extremely severe penalties intended to prevent any business engaging in these proscribed behaviors, as well as making provision for steps to be followed when businesses do engage in those practices, including the ultimate step of the utter and final destruction of businesses so engaging. (And yet they get away with these practices, and apparently expect to continue to get away with engaging in them in perpetuity. There will be more on this topic in the future.)

The sectors to which I refer are the medical (doctors, dentists, nurses, medical and dental school, clinics, hospital, laboratories, imaging centers, all of them involved in delivering health services and products to patients), pharmaceutical (creators, testers, marketers, sellers, buyers, of any and all medical supplies, preparations, and drugs, pharmacists and pharmacy stores and chains), and medical/health insurance (sellers, brokers, actuaries, marketers, plan and benefits administrators, executives, and anyone involved in medical and health insurance businesses). Let me illustrate the depths of this corruption and damage to you (the Customer-patient), and to this Nation.

I expect we have all experienced the kind of exchange wherein we, being in need of medical services, or of products, supplies, equipment, or medication, ask the type of question we regularly ask of skilled trades workers with full expectation of an honest and complete answer. The auto mechanic’s question, for example, would be, “How much does an engine rebuild, or a brake job, cost?”, and the plumber’s question, “What will you charge me to clear a filled and clogged septic tank and field lines?” We ask these kinds of questions at every turn, and expect a straightforward and honest answer to them. When answers are not offered, or they are not properly detailed or perfectly clear we are completely free to walk away and engage a provider of our preferences, an honest provider, and please notice that these questions are in the realm of items which may be of great interest to us, but do not involve our health, our treatment for illness or injury, and the like.

We have probably also experienced the “lost feeling” common among people asking perfectly reasonable and helpful questions of precisely the same kind, with the same end in view, of “health providers” in every category, in medical, in pharmaceutical, in medical/health insurance. We have asked our questions, to be met with a solid wall of resistance, obfuscation, and utter refusal to provide what every honest and ethical trades worker understands is our right to ask, as it is our right to receive a truthful answer for the asking. If you have asked a doctor, “What will this medication cost?”, the answer is going to be a variation on, “It depends on your insurance and on what the pharmacy charges for it.” If you have then asked the insurance company, the answer will be of the form, “It depends on the prescription the doctor writes, and on what the pharmacy charges for that medication.” If you have then asked the pharmacy, you will have heard, “It depends on what drug the doctor has chosen and on what the insurance company will cover under your policy.” (Please note that this is simply a case of everyone involved saying, “It’s not my problem, and not my fault, so it shouldn’t be your problem.” Unfortunately, money-out-of-my-pocket is absolutely my problem!) This is the Bezzle at work and at its most destructive!

I expect I have brought on a blood pressure spike simply by having written the previous paragraph and your having read it. (In a way that was my intent.) You know exactly what I mean, for most of you have dealt with such situations, and have come away with, not at all oddly, an elevated blood pressure! (As well you should have: No one is equipped for that level of frustration.) This obfuscation and “structured covering” among the three sectors was developed, is designed, and works in any way but in your interests, or in the interests of the American Republic. Let us see what some of the outcomes of these kinds of practices has been over an extended term of years. You must remember, mathematics is not a liar!

What percentage of Gross Domestic* Product was consumed by healthcare spending in 2007? What percentage in 1991*? What were the raw numbers in those years? What percentage of the federal and State budgets (and spending) was consumed by Medicare, Medicaid, and other healthcare spending in those years? Again, what were the raw numbers in those years? What has been the year-to-year growth of these spending measures during the intervening time? Above all, what do these percentages, raw numbers, and growth rates mean in terms of the Republic’s fiduciary health and security, and what might be accomplished in terms of economic power change by a few extremely simple policies enforced under the Rule of Law? (I will eventually get to the subject of policy proposals and such.) I think I have an answer in this graph.

(Source: Wolfram Alpha Pro Premier, April 1, 2017.)

Do you see that, since 1960 and into 2007, federal government healthcare spending has trended ever higher in comparison with general government consumption? That trend has continued, and will continue, if it is not checked, stopped, and reversed. Now let us see another graph.

(Source: Wolfram Alpha Pro Premier, April 1, 2017.)

This is a graph of United States health spending in all sectors plotted against the Nation’s Gross Domestic Product (the sum of every dollar spent during a given year), and we see here that spending for healthcare was apparently pretty healthy between 1960 and 1990, topping at $750B against $5.75T GDP in 1990. But in 2000 healthcare was $1T against $10T in 2000, and $2T against $13.5T in 2007.

The fidelity in these graphs is far from easy to understand and possibly it is difficult to believe, so I will look at figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis for as much of the 1960-2007 time frame as is possible. (Remember, what is to follow is what our federal government has reported to us, purportedly as the truth.)


* I have chosen the term “Gross Domestic Product”, and the year 1991 as my baseline in these considerations as the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 1991, chose to abandon a different term (“Gross National Product”) and use the term used herein, noting, “that GDP provided an easier comparison of other measures of economic activity in the United States and that ‘virtually all other countries have already adopted GDP as their primary measure of production'”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_national_product


The Bezzle of the Day

My first thought is that at no time in history has the bezzle been more ubiquitous than it currently is.

The next thought is less than comforting: At no time in the future will the bezzle be less widespread than it currently is. Have I proof? Maybe not, but I surely have anecdotal evidence.

Today I had occasion to deal with “healthcare insurance”. It was a less than pleasant, but certainly informative, experience. I do believe I am going to tell you about it here. (It’s my blog, you know; you don’t have to read it or anything, but I get to write it. That’s what I call perfect balance.)

Here’s the thing: I have taken a medication, propranolol, with the trade name Inderal, for about twenty years now. My old, now retired general practitioner, prescribed it for what he called a “benign familial intention tremor”. (I could explain what all of that means, but choose for now to forego the exercise.) In very point of fact the medication did have a good effect in that I could eat a great deal more soup than I spilled from the spoon upon the tabletop or upon my shirt.

Under the “healthcare insurance” of the day, propranolol 80mg LA cost about $25 per month, and that was not completely out of bounds, for it did help me not to spill my soup, or coffee, or something. (Just by the way, that was for two doses per day, and I’ve been taking one dose per day for at least 10 years now.)

Since August 31, 2017, I have had no “healthcare insurance” other than “Medicare Part A (Hospitalization)”. No dental, no vision, no pharmaceutical, no “major medical”. Therefore I wondered how it would go, should I have this prescription for propranolol filled. Three days ago I went looking online for something like a deal. (Remember, even with insurance the drug has cost me $45/month at times…) So I found this site (goodrx [dot] com), and they gave me “comparison prices” for WalMart (Wally World), Costco, CVS, Walgreen’s, Buy-Wise, and so on. Wally World’s “price” beat the rest by high percentages, so I printed the coupon, but didn’t try to use it. I printed the coupon on October 9.

Today, driving toward town to get lunch, I noticed that my driving, while not erratic per se, was lacking in something I’ll call confidence. I-565 does that to me sometimes, you see, for lots of people think of that little stretch of highway as the functional equivalent of the Talladega Speedway. (It’s likely more problematical that a whole lot of central North Alabama drivers consider themselves the functional, moral, and actual equivalents of Dale Earnhardt, say.)

Well, after lunch (which got my blood sugar level to a more reasonable level, I’m sure–Cheese’n’eggs, country ham, a little bit of hashbrowns at Waffle House–with the senior discount it’s pretty cheap, plus if you mention that it seems too cold in there they will bring down the A/C, and it’s fun to watch 3-4 workers actually do a good job). I went a few blocks East to my “standard Mom’n’Pop pharmacy”.

Been giving them business since 1997 or so, and I like them a lot, because while the store is bigger than a lot (it’s a “supermarket”, too), it also reminds me of some “neighborhood grocery stores” I had occasion to see when I was a young child. Well, I had my coupon, so I asked Stephanie if they accepted it. The answer was in the negative. She then disclosed that “they” used a discount card for people who lack “health insurance”. I told her to try that, and received the promise that she would call me to tell me the price.

A little while later I heard my name called. Stephanie was no longer “on the case”, but Sandra was, and she had the bottle, with its little label showing my name and prescription number and all of it, and the capsules inside. I told her I needed to know what the price was, as I no longer have “health insurance”. She said, “Well, it’s $59.90.” You might imagine my reply (but I hope you don’t). I explained, and she asked if I wanted the prescription transferred to Wally World. I said I would like to try that so long as I could demand it be transferred back in case that didn’t work out so well–see, some of us old guys do figure out a thing or two along the way.

Now this little market is about six blocks South of the barber shop/styling salon where I rather-less-than-often get my hair cut. But this barber shop/styling salon has a comfortable and shaded front porch with a padded swing, a hard wooden bench, and a sort-of-padded chair; it also has a couple of very clean bathrooms I can use when the occasion requires, as it often does. I like to go there and sit on the front porch, sometimes talking with people, or just watching the traffic in Dallas Mill Village on its way to Five Points, smoking a few, drinking some Diet Dr. Pepper, and “thinking my thoughts”. Today I stopped there and “my” chair was not occupied, so I took up residence therein.

I figured that, after 30 minutes or so, Wally World should have received my transferred prescription, and that it would take about 30 minutes to get there (because I had to stop at the credit union to deposit the huge $15.00 refund check I got from my auto insurer on account of an “over-payment” [like I’m not going to be paying them again next month!]) (Well, one digresses too often, possibly.)

About 1630 (I use military time here, and if you can’t figure out how to subtract 12 from 16 I can’t help you understand that means 4:30PM CDT today; it is what it is) I headed off on Stevens Ave, Dement St, McCullough Ave, Andrew Jackson Way, I-565, and US72 East toward Wally World after detouring onto Shields Rd and Winchester Rd. (No, you don’t need to know the route; I wanted to describe it. Okay?)

Got to WW about 1700 (remember–subtract 1200 and you get 5:00PM CDT). Two pharmacists and two assistants inside. ZERO customers. What luck! But the pharmacists were heatedly discussing their boyfriends, and, since I was anticipating an already transferred and filled prescription, I went to the “Pick Up” window. Ten minutes later one of the pharmacists got bored enough (or something) with the horribly detailed discussion and noticed me. (Of course her leviathan-class weight caused her to take two minutes to travel the maybe 8 meters between her desk and my location; this is Wally World, right?)

I showed her my ID (concealed carry permit, don’t you know?) and explained the thing in what I think was a fairly lucid manner. She said, “I’ll look around.” (This is not a particularly good sign, I think.) “Nope, we don’t have it. Let me ask the assistant over there at ‘Drop Off’.” YES! Ms. Assistant has “just finished” receiving the transfer–I don’t know how to parse that, but I don’t care that much. So now I have to go over to “Drop Off” and give my “information”. Okay. That’s how “these things are done” in a perfectly and horribly screwed-up world such as we have in the United States of America these days.

Ms. Assistant doesn’t recognize a concealed carry permit as legal identification…it’s good enough for any policeman, deputy sheriff, fireman, or anyone else, but not good enough at Wally World!!! Amazing! So I produced my driver license (which, of course, contains precisely and exactly the same information about me), and gosh-a-mighty she can accept that! Okay, we’re on our way now, I guess!

So, after I’m all checked in to “the SYSTEM”, I get to explain that I want the prescription filled, but I want to know how much it’s going to cost (because, you know, I still remember that October 9 price of $12.50 and all of that). “Sure,” she chips out (though no one carrying her weight out to chip out much more than “MORE POPCORN, with LOTS of BUTTER!!!!”). I got out of her face to let her and the other troops do what they could.

Well, by gosh and by golly, they had to wait until they had transmitted all of the information to goodrx (dot) com, and until they had received an answer, to give me a price. During that 20 minutes of hellish fascination I looked around at “product” in the immediate area of the pharmacy. Hmmm, they didn’t have my brand of Opti-Free artificial tears, but they did have the Opti-Free disinfectant/rinse. To be fair, the “Equate” brand was less expensive, but I’m not sure I trust their formulations, you see.

Then I saw a section with the sign “Diabetic Supplies”, and found there so many (I’m certain) essential products. You know the kind of thing, I’m sure: Sugar Free cookies! Of course there is so much of “sugar alcohols” (mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, etc.) in those things that a Type I diabetic who consumes them is BEGGING for an insulin coma, and a Type II is looking for someone to stick him/her with the emergency stabber! Then there is the “raw shelled hemp seed” which shows ZERO dietary fiber and 3 grams of sugar per serving containing 3 grams of carbohydrate! (That would be only two examples, by the way.)

On the other side of that display were all the “protein supplements”. Most were nothing more than sugar supplements. Oh, well, it provided an interesting if horrifying survey of the situation in Wally World.

During the aforementioned survey there was an encounter between a customer and a “pharmacy assistant”; as the verbiage exchanged was not particularly suited to a family-oriented blog and certainly was NSFW, I won’t describe much of it other than to mention that the “customer” finally left, apparently assuaged. When she came to the corner to the store’s exit she encountered a woman holding a toddler’s hand in each of her somewhat amazingly obese hands, and the “customer” shrieked (much in the way I can imagine ancient Greece’s Harpies did), “What beautiful and sweet kids they are!” (Both “kids” being much more akin to “fattened calves” of more ancient times.)

Finally, about 40 minutes in, the assistant calls me over to explain that the price will be $25.60. By that time I’m defeated and know it, so I tell her to fill it and let me get out of there. I wonder (and will ever do so) why it took another 10 minutes for one pharmacist to package 30 capsules into a wonderfully-made and amazing container, but I’m mighty awful glad the price didn’t increase another 50% during that ten minutes.

I will, in fairness, say that the assistant kindly pointed out the way to the mens’ room, as I might by that time have had to employ extraordinary, extreme, and possibly illegal measures to relieve my bladder after all of that.

First question for anyone reading:

Why does a medication cost anything other than a posted, well publicized, easily known price at EVERY PHARMACY in the United States? Isn’t anything other than THAT, as a STANDARD, the VERY DEFINITION of DIFFERENTIAL PRICING? How is differential pricing anything OTHER than price fixing?

And: How does that not violate the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act, and the Robinson-Patman Act, collectively called 15 USC 1?

You’re buying it? I’m not. I’m pissed off, and you dam’ better be, too.

Peace. Blessings.

The Critical Step We Now Must Take

Americans’ attention spans divide sharply among issues, controversies, and opinions, abounding on every side, assailing from every direction. The dearth of common goals and actions toward preserving and keeping the Republic alive will, in fact, shortly bring about the end of the Republic, and with it the end of the American dream, the Rule of Law, and any hope of prosperity and survival. It is now the time to decide and to act.

While we are all fixated on our concerns, very few have noticed the most destructive danger we face. Indeed, we have allowed this danger to grow without surcease for fifty years or more, and have rarely been interested to examine the source of the problems, or the damage they cause to the GDP, to federal and State budgets, and most particularly to our personal incomes, our health, and our prospects toward a future for America. For the overwhelming majority of us, as America goes, we go, for good or ill.

“Managing healthcare cost” has been the focus of multiple laws, policies, and practices, for as long as we remember. Indeed, these costs have grown exponentially for at least fifty years, and despite all past legislation the growth continues. As the costs increase production suffers, as does our actual standard of living. This single element of the economy right now has power to destroy this Republic, and all of us with it.

The critical step we now must take is to bring healthcare costs under check, decrease them rapidly, and free the economy and the budgets to function as they must. We will not accomplish these goals by passing new laws. Laws succeed only when they are enforced. Witness the huge number of laws on the books, both federally and in the States, and particularly laws whose intent is to prevent antitrust actions on the part of individuals, companies, and corporations.

The laws exist, but executive branches of governments fail to enforce those laws, thereby making them in a practical sense null and void. The federal body of law governing antitrust is 15 U.S.C. § 1, and includes the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890), the Clayton Antitrust Act (1914), the Federal Trade Commission Act (1914), the Robinson-Patman Anti-Discrimination Act (1936), and the Celler-Kefauver Act (1950). These are the laws left unenforced by Presidents and Departments of Justice, and that failure to enforce these laws allows the entire medical industry, including health insurance, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, clinics, and doctors to continue the process of destroying the economy and the Republic. These are the laws that must be enforced, and yet they have not been enforced to any lasting effect toward controlling the “costs of medical care”.

Truly enforcing 15 U.S.C. § 1 would result in indictments, prosecutions, judgments (civil/criminal), both convictions and punishments (criminal), and very likely the destruction of the entire medical cartel. More, enforcement would bring actual hope for reducing medical costs radically and rapidly.

This is the critical step that we must take, that cannot be ignored, that failure to take will cost us the Republic, our lives, and our health. We must take this step, and now.

Will we take this critical step?

The Destruction of America

(20161218223800 Update) The original title contained the words “Part 1”. That was in July, 2015. My initial vision was to write about 18 parts in a series. Then Donald J Trump was elected to the presidency, and I started to believe again that there was true hope to be grasped and fought for in a meaningful way; this was a thing I had not believed since January 20, 1989, for the obvious reasons. I still think it might have been a useful series of posts, but no longer think it is utterly critical to the Republic. Therefore I am amending this title, provisionally, so it does not contain the “Part 1” notation, in simple recognition that this is the way I was thinking 17 months ago, but was enabled to believe differently in the early morning of November 9, 2016. I do still have the general outline and the initial thought, and will hold them close until such time as I deem them to be of need. But, as of this time, I do not believe that this destruction is inevitable, and will continue to hold that hope dearly, as I did when I wrote the original piece.


No special talent is required to see, in the United States of America of this second decade of the third millennium AD, its culture, politics and politicians, economic practices, education and healthcare systems, businesses of every kind, entertainments, industry (and the all but complete absence of industriousness of its people), governments at all levels, fully degraded attitudes toward every possible subject but especially toward any productive, moral, ethical, or philosophical thought or action, and on and on absolutely ad infinitum, what must appear to any sentient being as the very nearly final end-state of a people of almost unimaginable powers of self-destruction wishing, if not demanding, of itself, an existence ranging somewhere between eternal abject poverty at one extreme, and death at the other.

I do not apologize for having composed a sentence of that many words, as it is in fact a simple English sentence in the indicative mode all native speakers should have gained the capacity to parse, process, and understand perfectly before any had completed the fourth grade of elementary school. No one nominally an adult should find any challenge in grasping its meaning and its intent upon the application of a few seconds’ to a very few minutes’ time to the effort. (To be fair, there are precisely two Latin words, “ad infinitum“, translated loosely as “forever”, this meaning being in fact transparently clear to anyone who has successfully entered the fifth grade.)

My strongest suspicion, and my greatest fear, is that very few Americans, upon encountering that sentence, would have made it past the first, or possibly the second, comma before deciding that there could be no benefit in continuing, and go back to their game, television show, or other entertainment/distraction. Should it eventuate that I am correct in my suspicion and fear then my first thesis has already been proved in respect of those who forego to continue the exercise.

First Thesis

It is clear to me that America is, at this moment, on the very knife edge of the precipice into oblivion, destruction, slavery, and death.

Insofar as I can tell precious little in the way of “encouragement” would bring about the end of America in any meaningful sense, and this demise will affect to the utmost every stratum of American society and culture, with the possible exception of the very uppermost of the uppermost crust of the elite, and even those “favored few” will sooner or later fall off the same cliff.

I can not name, define, characterize, sort, or quantify this “uppermost uppermost”, but they must exist now, and absent what they might consider “the servant and inferior classes” to provide their various supply chains, etc., they must likewise perish. If it should come about that they become the “unfavored few” comprising a tiny population mass they will likely characterize and sort themselves into a new upper crust and new servant and inferior classes, and they will devise their own criteria for answering the question, “Who shall remain on top now, and who shall serve the top?” They, having once used all of the “useful idiots” up in their quest for whatever it was they desired, will then many of them become useful idiots for the new uppermost class; then the cycle will repeat until there are no more breeding pairs, no more idiots to be made, and the race will have disappeared.

The First Thesis Expanded

The current populace of every stratum, class, and condition inhabiting the United States of America is not now, and has not been for a very long time, acting as if America in its “body politic” sense, in its simple “whole population” sense, or in its “members of the human race” sense, should be preserved so as to tend to the survival of the particular sense chosen; it is simply too much trouble and the status quo is too easy to continue.

Reasons Adduced in Defense of the First Thesis

Political, religious, cultural, educational, business, and every other sort of leaders are in the main corrupt internally, externally, and from top to bottom. Uniformly they desire above all else their own power, aggrandizement, adulatory worship from their supposed “inferiors”, adoration, emulation, and every other possible expression and indulgence of false pride, greed, gluttony, and ease of life possible. Diogenes would have expended an infinity of searchlights seeking an honest person among these, and would have come away with nothing but darkness to show for his troubles, the final outcome nothing more than the guarantee of shipwreck upon the shoals and rocks of every dark and dangerous shore, the sickening assurance that his efforts had gone for nothing.

The great and unwashed “middle class”, having inherited the mindset of the “leaders” have now become little more than “legends in their own time”. Our roadways are much less safe with all of the self-imagined NASCAR drivers than with at least as many 0.06% BAC drivers, since almost everyone behind the wheel takes chances on the public streets and highways that no professional driver would take on any track in the world (saving the possibility of a demolition derby field); it has long been my contention that no one should be granted a driver license until successful completion of a first-year college course in physics with calculus, simply so that every driver has some conception of the destructive capacity resident in the masses and forces they vainly imagine they “control” in their vehicles.

Listening to conversations around me at work and in the marketplace, I do not hear discussions of anything more profound than “what I saw on television last night”. High-level engineers and analysts can talk for hours about how they defeated a certain enemy in one video game or another, and then go home and continue playing the game into the night, as if any of this accomplishes anything useful. Both men and women freely discuss their intimate life details, their divorces and all attendant upon them, their plans to guarantee through some dating Website or another that the next time they will get it right, the imperfections and failures in their children in contrast with their own supposed perfections, as if in sharing such discussions loudly and openly to any who might hear the proof their own narcissism had not already revealed the empty shallowness of their characters and of their souls. People ask for help making their computers work right at work, and have absolutely no interest in learning anything more than “a simple checklist” or the like; I no longer even attempt to bring theory or principles into such conversations, because they want only the quick fix and will have nothing to do with why it happened to go wrong and how to avoid it in future.

And this horror only occurs when people are actually talking with each other, you know. How many times have I seen a table occupied by six or eight people, having a meal together, and every single one of them is busily tapping away on their iPhones, Galaxies, and CrackBerries, texting, tweeting, facebooking, playing their games, and on and on. Oh, words are being exchanged, but no conversation is occurring. Everyone has their “Transmit Data” permanently pinned to TTL SEND, and “Receive Data” therefore gets no chance.

Diogenes still has his problem.

As to the (let’s at least be civil) “Free Stuff Army”: Far outnumbering the “middle” and “upper” “classes”, they are the most difficult of all even to consider as being fully human, for truly all they care about is their “government paid” lives of ease and leisure, their EBT/food stamps, their free phone and its service, their free medical care without the bother of maintaining insurance coverage, their $1.00 prescription drugs, their subsidized (if substandard) housing, and all of the rest of it. As long as they can “vote in” the “right man”, they’re going to stay well! And now they are numerically sufficient always to “vote in” their “right man”.

Having lost all conception of the future, they appear to believe that it will go on as long as it goes on, and then it will stop, and then it won’t matter. These are the ultimate narcissists, the most perfect solipsists, in America today; their motto is, “I’m here all the time. You people come and go.” And they have been given the means to imagine that such is the case, by the “upper crust” who desire above all to stay in power, and by the “middle class” who only wish to display and live the fact that “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”.

Yes, girls are still having fun, and poor old Diogenes still has not found an honest person, after using three infinities of searchlights.

Why Are We Here?

The longer we ignore this question and fail to put substantial and meaningful energy into asking it and seeking answers, finding the answers to it, the more we will fall into the rapidly expanding nadir of our nation’s demise. That we, as a people, a body politic, have ignored it for far too long, is incontrovertible, in the same way that the Law of Entropy is not questionable in the physical realm. The fact is that we are where we are, and we got to this place by some means. Those means are either of our doing, or they are not. (See Aristotle’s “Law of Non-Contradiction”, if you doubt this, please; it will be worth your time.) So we had to get here somehow.

I posit as a given that until we ask, seek, and find the answers, we cannot possibly continue to the utterly necessary next step: applying what we have learned to the problems and rising from the quagmire in which we now find ourselves!

Some “conspiracy theorists”, “ancient astronaut theorists”, and the like, are only too happy to lay it all off on “them“. That is human nature, of course. If it is their fault, then it cannot be our fault. In particular, it cannot be my fault. Shall we, as they say, “look at the record”, and attempt to glean enough of the Truth from that to proceed to something constructive? I can promise you that, with me finding a way and leading, it will be a bumpy trip, but possibly an enjoyable one.

The Corpse on the Cross of Calvary and the Five Points of Calvinism

The one who denies the Total Depravity of Man looks at the Corpse on the Cross of Calvary and says,

There was no need for You to do that!

The one who denies the Unconditional Election looks at the Corpse on the Cross of Calvary and asks,

Why did You think it necessary to do that?

The one who denies the Limited or Particular Atonement looks at the Corpse on the Cross of Calvary and says,

If that wasn’t for everyone then You are unjust!

The one who denies the Irresistible Grace of God looks at the Corpse on the Cross of Calvary and asks,

How am I supposed to believe that You accomplished anything there?

The one who denies the Preservation or Perseverance of the Saints looks at the Corpse on the Cross of Calvary and says,

You didn’t do enough!

But. That is not the end of the story. There’s much, much more.

Sola Scriptura. Sola Fide. Sola Gratia. Solo Christo. Soli Deo Gloria.