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!

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 is 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 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 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.

Some Thoughts on Luke 15

(Updated 201402022058UTC-6: There were, as is most usual, things I missed at first, and there likely remain other things I missed, so here’s a little more to the story.)

(At our small group meeting next week, the focus will be on Chapter Fifteen of the Gospel According to Luke. As we have been encouraged to read the chapter daily, I’ve decided to put down some thoughts that have come to me ahead of time.)

The chapter contains three parables:

  1. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (vv. 4 through 7).
  2. The Parable of the Lost Coin (vv. 8 through 10).
  3. The Parable of the Prodigal Son (vv. 11 through 32).

Of course, everyone is familiar, to some degree, with each of the three parables, simply because they have been the texts of so many sermons through the years. There have been fights, divisions, and all manner of other evil through the centuries radiating from various interpretations of the stories; everyone has an idea about what one or more of them really means, what they are intended to teach. Many consider parables to be simple stories told with the intention of conveying simple ideas; others believe they are more complex because they teach more complex ideas than are readily apparent upon first reading or hearing. The truth, I believe, lies in the receptiveness and honesty of the hearer or reader at least as much as it does in the fabric of the stories.

In the first parable we have a shepherd, charged with care of one hundred animals. One wanders away from the flock, and the shepherd goes to find and rescue it. Upon meeting with success, the shepherd, after having left the remainder of the flock in “open country” and therefore vulnerable, to find the lost sheep, is thankful for the reclamation and demonstrates his gratitude by throwing a party for his friends and neighbors. End of story? Not quite, because this is a story being told by Jesus Christ, and he drives home a point:

I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (NIV)

I notice that the lost sheep, now found and returned, is at this point being compared somehow with a repentant sinner. How do I suppose that the sheep represents a person who has repented? The silly animal had wandered away from the safety of the flock, and the shepherd had to leave the others behind, go and find the wanderer, and bring it back, “on his shoulders”! That honestly doesn’t sound like a very good picture of “repentance” to me. The thought occurs that this just might be a picture of grace.

The parable of the lost coin is short and concise, telling of a woman who has “lost” one of her ten silver coins, and finds it after a diligent and careful search. Upon finding it, she, like the shepherd, calls together friends and neighbors and invites them to rejoice with her over the recovery of the coin. And again, Jesus brings a close to the story:

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (NIV)

Now, as if the idea of a repentant sheep is not strange enough, this coin, lost and found, is also held in comparison with a repentant sinner! The sheep is, at least, a living being, but this silver coin has never been alive for one instant! If the idea of a dumb animal performing such a feat as repenting is difficult to comprehend, that of a coin “repenting” is certainly off the scale of believability. The coin was, and is, and forever more shall be, a dead thing. Possibly another portrayal of grace?

Finally we come to the parable concerning the prodigal son, who also is lost, and gone to a far land, and in very dire straits. He finally comes to his senses and returns, repentant without doubt, to beg for a servant’s place in his father’s house. But his father sees him coming, and rejoices in compassion and forgiveness, and apparently completely ignores the boy’s confession in his haste to call in the whole countryside for a great celebration. This is clearly grace in action. But there is another demonstration of grace in this parable.

The boy, it seems, has an elder brother, one who has been faithful to his father, to the family, the work, in all ways. Who can not identify with his feelings at this point? He even refused to join the celebration! But their father tells him:

My son,… you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. (NIV)

And that is the first picture of grace we see in Luke 15 with utter clarity. Their father treats both graciously! We are not told if the elder brother did join the celebration, but he has been given the invitation, and the reason for it.

Now, here is point number one. The sheep, having wandered away from the protection of the shepherd (and the remainder of the flock), into the wilderness, was as good as dead. The coin never lived. The father described the younger son as having been dead, and having returned to life. Dead things do not choose. Dead things do not think. Dead things remain dead, unless life is given to them from another source. The shepherd gave life to the wayward sheep by finding it and returning it to the fold. The woman found and reclaimed her lost coin. The prodigal son was given enough life to turn from his lifestyle and return to a true life.

Those are stories of grace.

There is a point number two. But first we should observe that there are two very basic principles one should observe in the matter of interpreting parables. To ignore either principle will ultimately weaken the teaching power of the story, or lead to unreasonable and unfounded interpretations and other confusion. These principles are:

  1. Each parable has a single audience. (It is not a corollary that all parables speak to the same audience.)
  2. Each parable teaches a single truth. (It is likewise not a corollary that all parables teach the same content, or teach in the same way.)

In Chapter Fifteen we have three distinct parables, or stories. The principles stated above require that there be onetwo, or three audiences, and some mixture of truth(s), whether they be onetwo, or three in number. From the complete narrative it appears that two distinct groups of people are involved in this chapter: the religious leaders (Pharisees and scribes), and the common people (tax collectors and “sinners”). Further, it is clear that the religious leaders were there to find fault with Jesus’ teaching, His methods, and His agenda, while the common people were there to learn from Jesus. Therefore it seems obvious that the number of audiences is either one or two. But which is it?

The English text provides an important clue with the introductory clause “So He spoke this parable to them, saying:” (v. 3). What is the antecedent of the objective pronoun “them”? Standard English usage would require that “them” refer to the most recently used nominal(s) in the text, and that would be “Pharisees and scribes” (v. 2). In the usual flow of narrative this would be the case as well, for verse one mentions the “tax collectors and sinners” who had come to hear Jesus teach, and verse two tells of an interruption of sorts brought by the religious leaders in their criticism of Jesus based on the “company” he was keeping. The conclusion is that what follows verse three was addressed to the Pharisees and scribes, so as to dismiss their interruption quickly and effectively in order to take up the matter of teaching those who had come to hear the Master.

But note the subjects of the two parables Jesus then tells the religious crowd. The first is a shepherd who seeks and finds a lost sheep, at the peril of losing others that have not left the flock. Those “religious” would have been familiar with the context of this parable, at least insofar as they considered themselves to be the “shepherds of Israel”, and they believed their criticism of Jesus to be an indication of their “care for their flock”. Even so, we find them here, not trying to reclaim the “lost sinners and tax collectors” who were eager to hear Jesus’ teaching, but preferring to leave them all lost “in the wilderness” rather than risk their elevated positions in society. Having completed the story with the joyous reclamation of the lost sheep, Jesus makes His point with verse seven:

I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (NKJV)

Another short parable follows the first to make the point more strongly by telling of a woman who has lost one-tenth of her treasure, amounting to one small silver coin. With their emphasis on the Law as they understood it, the religious would have instantly thought of the tithe, the one-tenth portion they would have considered to belong “to the Lord”, and of the fact that this woman had misplaced that much. They would have been pleased, possibly, to hear the outcome, to know that the tithe was safe. But they likely did not notice that the sheep, being no more than a dumb animal prone to wander from the flock, represented some portion of the crowd of “sinners” who had come to hear Jesus; even less would they have noticed that portion of the crowd who, like the coin were utterly incapable of being aware of their lost condition, or to the duty and obligation of care owed to the entire crowd by those very same leaders. Further, they do not appreciate that they each are as much in need of repentance as is any of those “sinners”! Jesus again punctuates the matter with verse ten:

Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (NKJV)

Finally, here is point number two: Earlier in Chapter Fifteen we are told that the Pharisees and the scribes didn’t much care for the fact that Jesus Christ was spending time with what they called “sinners”; those “sinners” happened to be listening to him, and eagerly. While the three parables are possibly only stories, even if told to illustrate serious truths, we have the historical fact laid before us in verse three. Two of those parables were told for the benefit of these religious leaders who had not noticed that the “sinners” were under their care. Jesus took time to tell them these two stories, with the purpose of illustrating their own lost condition, while a large crowd of followers waited to hear their own parable.

Then Jesus told them this parable:

That is grace.

Symbols in the Day of Atonement

“What’s that?” you might have asked.

“Hamartiology” is a big word. It’s complicated. Dictionary consultation might be in order if you don’t know its meaning. (What? I have to look up a word I’ve never heard of, and one that looks like it’s just “made up” anyway? I think I’ll just piddle around looking at the pretty pictures and funny jokes all my dear friends posted on Gabba-Jabber in the last few minutes. Yeah, that’ll be a lot more fun!)

Of course, I’m not going to just let it fade away to nothing, because, see, I started getting this idea after hearing Rev. Jean F. Larroux’s sermon on Sunday, and the whole idea became very interesting to me after I thought it over for a while, read the text a few times, and thought about it some more. So, since I want to learn new things, and pass them on to others who might want to know them, well, no, I’m not going to drop it and forget the whole thing. Some things are worth thinking about, and I happen to believe this is one of them.

This bigcomplicated word is an Anglicized portmanteau word derived from two Greek words, hamartia (sin) and logos (word). It turns out to be the theological term for the doctrine of sin. I could not hope to compose one word per one hundred million words already written on this subject by those far superior to me in theological study and thought, and will probably add nothing to what is already known by the vast majority of those who might read this posting. So, if you’re certain you’ll learn nothing new by reading this, I invite you to employ your time more wisely than you would by continuing to read. Still friends, right? After all, even if you don’t read it, I have the privilege of writing my thoughts; that’s called a win-win.

I won’t argue the point that hamartiology is an important field of study. Either you believe that sin is a real and horrible thing, that all of humankind (and by incorporation all of Creation) are ruined and undone by sin and sinfulness, that God the Father Almighty hates sin in every single one of its manifestations, and that sin and sinfulness demand either a perfect payment or a permanent punishment, or you believe none of it. Either you believe that the breadth and depth of sin require an infinitely more effective satisfaction, or you don’t. I happen to believe all of these things, and think it would be a good thing for you to examine the ideas; but I won’t attempt to force you–that’s not my job. I just want to write about this interesting topic.

Still here? I appreciate it, because sometimes I take a while to get to my point. I will hasten to the second part of my title, the Day of Atonement.

Indeed, atonement is also a big and complicated word, but it is probably not of Greek origin. Some scholars believe William Tyndale derived it from an English phrase, atonen (“in accord”), for his English translation of the early Sixteenth Century to convey the idea of “agreement”. But this agreement is not something like a business deal, wherein two equal adversaries compromise from their disagreement to something like trust. This agreement is one that is between God and Humankind, but it is one of those special arrangements wherein God, being Sovereign, makes the deal, and the dealing is finished; that is called a covenant. Humankind, in its “ruined and undone” state, you see, had nothing to bring to the table, nothing to offer in return, no leg to stand on, so to speak. (That’s the way things tend to be when people deal with the Supreme Being.)

So now we’ve dealt, quite superficially, with the ideas of sin and atonement. But we’re not quite through to the “Day of Atonement”, or its connection with the doctrine of sin, or hamartiology.

Anyone even minimally aware of Jewish culture and history knows that the High Holy Day of the Jewish year is Yom Kippur, or in English “The Day of Atonement”; some prefer “The Day of Atonements”. I believe that most who are aware of even that much remain blissfully unaware of the importance of the Day, and of the activities of the Day, in Jewish cultural history. There is a huge amount of cultural history attached to the purpose and the activities of Yom Kippur, not least that the High Priest of Israel could do one thing on that day of the year, and on that day only, and that was to enter the Holy of Holies, the Holiest Place, within the Temple curtain (or the Tabernacle during the wilderness wandering period), for the most sacred purpose of making atonement for his own sins, and for those of Israel. And those are not the only things the High Priest is required to “make atonement for”…

Of course, that brings us to a critical point, for I am about to mention that thing very disliked, even despised, by most readers, The Bible, and in particular the Old Testament book of Leviticus, at chapter sixteen. It is at this critical point that many readers, having made it this far, will simply abandon the project. My temptation is to say, “That’s okay,” and continue with my writing. The fact is that I do not particularly think it is okay for you to stop reading simply because I’ve mentioned The Bible, but of course, it is your choice, your decision to take. Should you take leave of me at this point, I will only say, “Live long and prosper,” with all the sincerity of a Mister Spock. But there is some fascinating information in that sixteenth chapter of Leviticus, and I honestly believe you might profit from taking some note of it.

Exodus, chapters thirty-five through forty, describes the Wilderness Tabernacle’s construction details and layout in minute detail. A knowledge of these facts is helpful toward understanding the activities of the Day of Atonement, since such knowledge provides sense of movement and scale to the description in Numbers sixteen. From the outside it appeared to be a rectangular enclosure with a single entrance that also served as the exit, always placed in the center of the eastern end of the enclosure. The ratios of length to width to height of the external structure were 25:12.5:1, and the entrance occupied 40% of the eastern end.

Upon entering the courtyard so constructed and proceeding westward, one first encountered the bronze altar of offering, an elevated structure which served only one purpose: this was the place where animal sacrifices were slain. Further west was the laver, a large bronze bowl filled with water, in which the priests washed their hands and feet before entering the tent containing the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The Holy Place contained, along with the Most Holy Place, three other objects. To the left stood the menorah, the seven armed stand whose lamps burned throughout the night and provided the only source of physical light within the tent. To the right was the table of showbread, set weekly with twelve loaves of bread which, having been consecrated, were consumed by members of the priesthood at the end of the week. Directly west, just before the veil protecting the Most Holy Place, stood the golden altar of incense, upon which was burned the consecrated spice mixture each day at the time of the morning and evening sacrifices on the bronze altar in the courtyard. Immediately to the west of the altar of incense stood the Holy of Holies, the place occupied by God Himself, and the place that only one man, the High Priest, could enter, and then only after suitable preparation and only on the Day of Atonement; the Holy of Holies was protected by its veil. Within the Holiest Place stood one piece of furniture, consisting of the Ark of the Covenant and the atonement cover, or mercy seat, which served as the lid for the Ark. Within the Ark were three objects of great significance in Jewish history: the pot of manna, the rod of Aaron, and the stone tablets upon which were written the Ten Commandments.

Here is a link to Leviticus 16, in the New International Version. This page will open in a new window or tab. (There is a handy drop-down menu at the site, by which many other translations may be found.) I will not attempt a verse-by-verse analysis of the chapter, as that is frankly above my exegetical abilities by many orders of magnitude. My purpose is to elucidate, in a very small way, some of the high points.

1 The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord.

The first thing we notice is that this text provides historical context. Something had happened: the two sons of Aaron had died. This had happened for a reason: they had approached the Lord. Then Moses received a message, from that same Lord:

2 The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

This explains the reason Aaron’s sons had died, for it proclaims that Aaron himself, the High Priest of Israel, would die for the same reason, should he come at the wrong time into the Holiest Place. Even the person of the High Priest was to be prepared suitably before encountering the presence of God Himself. This preparation is most explicit in detail, and the fine granularity of the detail requires complete adherence.

3 “This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

It is important to notice here that the first thing Aaron is required to do before entering the Holy of Holies is to prepare offerings, of the proper type, and to “bring” them. Aaron would have brought the animals through the entrance and presented them to the Lord, to be held at the bronze altar until the time of their sacrifice.

4 He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on.

The preparations continue with the ritual washing and donning sacred clothing. Aaron has now brought the offerings, a job that might of itself have involved becoming dirty, so he must wash before he dons the priestly garments.

5 From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

Now, Aaron is already washed and clad in the sacred garments, so “take” here likely means “accept”. The High Priest is to receive the offerings from the Israelites, since he is acting in his capacity as High Priest, being the intermediary between God and the Nation. Possibly this requires that he leave the Tabernacle proper, even after the washing and donning the sacred garments, but this is not clear to me, particularly in light of verse seven; for the High Priest to exit the Tabernacle at this point implies a reversal of his progress toward the actions that are to follow. It seems more likely that the goats have already been brought inside the entrance prior to this time, and are being held there.

6 “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household.

Now we learn the reason for the sin offering of the young bull. It is to atone for the sins of the High Priest himself, and for those of his household as well. Even the High Priest must not only be clean, and clothed properly, but his sins and those of the ones closest to him must receive atonement before he can continue the ritual. However, prior to the actual sacrifice of the bull, Aaron must deal with the two goats.

7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. 9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

That at least answers the inevitable question: Why two goats? And why is one, the goat chosen by lot for the Lord, to be killed as a sin offering, but the other one driven “into the wilderness as a scapegoat”? More mysteriously, how is the one sacrificed to be a sin offering, but the one sent away, after being presented alive to the Lord, to make atonement? It begins to appear that there are two “atonements”, two different kinds of “agreement” in play at this juncture. I hold all of that in abeyance for now, for it may just come up again…

11 “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering.

It is very important, I think, to notice here that no sacrificial animal has been killed until now, when the High Priest must slaughter the young bull as “his own sin offering”, “for himself and for his household”. He cannot proceed until this crucial step has been completed.

12 He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. 13 He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die.

Finally the High Priest may, after he sacrifices the young bull, enter safely behind the veil, into the presence of the Lord, being properly prepared with the burning coals and the incense to cover himself, as it were, from the Holiness of God and His wrath, a wrath that is just even after an atoning sacrifice.

14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.

Now the High Priest has brought the atoning blood of the young bull into the Most Holy Place, and he has sprinkled some of that blood directly upon the mercy seat as well as in front of it. Having completed this act, he may now proceed to the next steps in the ritual.

15 “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

Only after completing the act of atonement for his own sin, and for that of his family, the High Priest may now kill the goat set aside by lot for the sin offering of the people, but this requires that he go back into the courtyard, to the bronze altar, and there collect the goat’s blood. Having returned into the Holiest Place, he sprinkles the people’s sin offering upon the mercy seat.

17 No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

This is a very interesting and illuminating point, I think. Since there may be no others within the Tabernacle while the High Priest is performing the central duties of his office, and since the enclosure is quite large, the High Priest was alone, in human terms. God, the High Priest, and two goats are the only witnesses!

18 “Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. 19 He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites. 20a “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar,…

A very startling thing is here. The bronze altar itself requires atonement. No, that is a stunning revelation. The altar “before the Lord”, the altar of sacrifice within the Tabernacle, has itself been tainted by the sin, the sinfulness, the uncleanness of the people. Every single horn on the altar must be covered with the blood of two animals. The altar itself must be “consecrated” for its holy purposes. This is demonstrative of the effects of humankind’s sin upon the whole of Creation, that even those things set aside for holy uses are affected by that sin. Even the tent of meeting, or the Tabernacle, must have atonement. Most incredible of all is the fact that the Most Holy Place, the sanctum sanctorum, the dwelling place of God Almighty, has required atonement. (N.B.: The lesson ought to be clear and plain to any reader.)

20b …he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

Notice that now is the time that the scapegoat, the live goat, receives its reward. It seems incredible to “modern” people, I’m sure, but after all of this sacrifice, all of this washing and dressing and going in and going out and sprinkling of blood and all of that, the goat that is left alive now has all of the sins of Israel laid upon it, and it is taken away to fend for itself, “in the wilderness”. The point is that the sin has not been destroyed, eradicated, has not been forgotten by God, is still a reality, even after atonement has been made. The live goat must still leave the camp, and go into the wilderness, never to be seen again, probably to die. Notice as well that the goat receives the sin of Israel in public, outside the Tabernacle enclosure, with witnesses observing. But even now, not everything is finished, for “life goes on”.

23 “Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. 24 He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.

The activities of the Day of Atonement are, for all intents and purposes, completed once the High Priest divests himself of the sacred garments, washes once more, and dons his usual clothing. He must still sacrifice both for himself and for the people! Was there no purpose for all of that preparation, all of that choosing of animals that were perfect, the rituals? Of course there was a purpose, but there is also a deeper truth in play.

26 “The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.

This is part of that deeper truth. The handler who has taken the live goat away is now unclean and cannot re-enter the camp of Israel before he cleanses himself and his clothing. Why is he not clean? He has followed the formula, the ritual, done the Lord’s bidding, but still is required to make himself clean? My idea is that he has handled the goat who received the sins of Israel, and has himself been made unclean by that handling. But that is not all.

27 The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up. 28 The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.

The remains of the young bull and the sacrificed goat must also be destroyed by fire, and that “outside the camp”, and the one who performs this holy service must likewise become clean again before he may return. The bull, the goat, and the one who burns them, have all performed a sacred service and duty during all of this, and they are still to be destroyed or cleansed. Sin has tainted the bodies of all concerned, and the remainder must be cleansed, in the one case by fire, in the other with water.

Then comes the final exclamation point upon the whole thing:

29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. 32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.

We now have an ordinance for Israel that is to last for all time. The Day of Atonement is established, along with the rules for that day, and the priestly line of succession is defined. Furthermore, the text reiterates the reason for the Day of Atonement once more.

34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.

To finalize everything, the text then repeats itself, though with fewer words.

All of which leads one to ask about the idea of “secret sin”, the sin that supposedly “hurts no one but the sinner”. Can there be such a thing as a sin, or sinfulness itself, that does not infect all of Creation? In light of Leviticus, chapter sixteen, I would have to answer in the negative.

The Only Winning Move is not to Play

Aficionados of the teen angst, Cold War, rebel with or without a cause, give-peace-a-chance, et al., type of talkie will recognize, immediately and practically without apparent cognitive effort, the title as the conclusion reached by a supercomputer dubbed WOPR (War Operation Plan Response) by the MIC (Military Industrial Complex), or “Joshua” by its creator and others, in a hugely successful 1983 movie called War Games. The story is pretty simple:

  1. Military personnel, tasked with pushing the buttons, turning the keys, etc., and thereby starting the final conflagration of global thermonuclear war in simulations that have gone slightly awry, have refused to comply with their standing orders and have not unleashed the (admittedly simulated) war birds.
  2. An official, played by Dabney Coleman, has succeeded in instituting a program whereby a supercomputer can, through artificial intelligence and various simulations, “learn” to choose properly, based on probabilities of success, whether to continue with the order, or not.
  3. A less than stellar high school student (as far as high school goes) succeeds in hacking the school system’s computers and changing a few grades. Then he manages to discover something he finds odd and interesting in Silicon Valley. When he hits a wall beyond which he cannot go in his search, he proceeds to get himself into NORAD by certain expedients, and learns of the problems being caused by WOPR/Joshua, which/who has suddenly developed a desire (of some kind) to bring the game to an end state.
  4. Young student and his girlfriend embark upon an expedition, rushing to the Pacific Northwest to convince WOPR’s creator to return with them and lend a hand in bringing the unruly child under control.
  5. Because retired PhDs like Dr. Falken often accede in the wishes of adolescent trouble-makers, Falken returns to NORAD and convinces Joshua to play Tic-Tac-Toe against itself. Simultaneously, Joshua/WOPR is trying to “crack” the launch code to bring off a world ending war, and is running all of the simulations again.
  6. Before the code is cracked, WOPR/Joshua realizes that the “game” he is playing is one that cannot be won, and utters the words comprising the title of this piece. Then he offers to play “a nice game of chess”.

Silly in the extreme? Or prophetic? I think neither, but rather allegorical. For I think I see the same kind of thing playing out week after weary week, year after weary year, in our national demise, said demise accelerating rapidly over the course of time.

This week the big controversy is that one Phil Robertson, a cast member of a rather popular cable television show, has been placed on indefinite hiatus by the network that owns the franchise, called Duck Dynasty. In the way of most such controversies, boycotts have been urged by certain elements of the population, and the focal points of those boycotts have begun to grow outside the boundaries of the network and their presumably contracted employees, the cast of the show, and in particular the person who is now being called the “patriarch” of those contracted employees. One or more companies have apparently decided to suppress their involvement with the show by removing certain items from their store shelves, at least for now, or reducing their prices. So where’s the controversy?

A very few days ago, the big controversy was over a few events connected with the Nelson Mandela funeral, memorial service, etc. What was that all about? Oh, yes, it was that a sitting President of the United States and a sitting Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, indulged in taking “selfies” surrounding the very attractive head of the government of Denmark. The result was that the President’s wife apparently rearranged the seating, and just by the way did not look very pleased with some events or others.

Now, I’m wondering if anyone remembers the big controversy preceding the Mandela thing? No? I didn’t think so. How about Snowden and the NSA? That was last Spring. Lots of things between then and now. Uh, the “failed” “Obamacare” rollout, from the Website to the policy cancellations and everything else? The Presidential, Congressional, and other lies about the Affordable Care Act? Various shootings in public places, including elementary and high schools? Benghazi? September 11, 2001? The housing bubble? The dot-com crash? Don Imus saying silly and stupid things about a female college sports team, or Rush Limbaugh saying silly things about a professional law school student? The Grenada invasion, or Panama? The Bork or Thomas hearings? Maude worrying about abortion? Race and gender based quotas in everything there is?

Don’t the big controversies go back, uh, forever?

We, the people, are focusing on things that have very little real significance, all spoon fed to us by a willing and complicit media working busily for whoever their masters may be, and we are losing, ever more rapidly, the focus on the really important things, such as governance of the Nation.

I submit that, apart from a knowledge of and an adherence to, the Constitution of the United States, one is totally ignorant of just which “controversies” are of any importance at all. If some tempest in a tea-kettle doesn’t affect the Constitution, it’s just not worth much notice.

At the same time, I submit that whenever such tempests consume our energies and our time, we have already lost the central focus, and we really don’t give a tinker’s dam about the Constitution, our liberties, or the future.

You’d better choose. I hope you choose not to play.

George Washington Opposed Presidential Term Limitations?

As a Professor of History and Education in New York University’s Steinhardt School, Jonathan Zimmerman [4][5] should be much more honest and transparent in his treatment of the historical record regarding President George Washington’s imaginary opposition toward limiting the number of years a person might serve usefully and rightfully in the office of President. In his op-ed piece [2] of November 28, 2013 (revised on November 29, 2013), Professor Zimmerman quotes from a letter [1] written by the future President to the Marquis de Lafayette as follows:

I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the service of any man who, in some great emergency, shall be deemed universally most capable of serving the public.

For his reasons alone, the professor chose to omit the surrounding context from the quotation, which is as follows:

There are other points on which opinions would be more likely to vary. As for instance, on the ineligibility of the same person for President, after he should have served a certain course of years. Guarded so effectually as the proposed Constitution is, in respect to the prevention of bribery and undue influence in the choice of President: I confess, I differ widely myself from Mr. Jefferson and you, as to the necessity or expediency of rotation in that appointment. The matter was fairly discussed in the Convention, and to my full convictions; though I cannot have time or room to sum up the argument in this letter. There cannot, in my judgment, be the least danger that the President will by any practicable intrigue ever be able to continue himself one moment in office, much less perpetuate himself in it; but in the last stage of corrupted morals and political depravity: and even then there is as much danger that any other species of domination would prevail. Though, when a people shall have become incapable of governing themselves and fit for a master, it is of little consequence from what quarter he comes. Under an extended view of this part of the subject, I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the services of any man, who on some great emergency shall be deemed universally, most capable of serving the Public.

Please read that quotation much more closely than you might have. Please notice that George Washington, more than a year before he became President of the United States of America under the Constitution of 1787, expressed certain far-reaching qualifications toward his alleged opposition to Presidential term limitations. The most telling of those qualifications seems to be that Washington considered it impossible, under the conditions he desired, and possibly expected, to obtain, for a person to “continue himself one moment in office,…” He is explicit in describing the conditions he definitely desires not to prevail:

…but in the last stage of corrupted morals and political depravity.

Furthermore, at such a passage of events, he declares:

…any other species of domination would prevail.

To make the point in greater depth, he then adds:

…when a people shall have become incapable of governing themselves and fit for a master,

Then Washington caps his remarks with:

…it is of little consequence from what quarter he [the master: Ed.] comes.

First, please observe again that George Washington feared the last stage.

Please further observe that George Washington, when he uses the words “a master”, is most definitely and explicitly not referring to some person who would serve as President; to think of a President as a “master” rather than a servant would have been anathema to him. No, he refers instead to the would-be slave holder who holds in her or his hands the possibility of giving to someone, in Washington’s future, the unparalleled office of President of the United States of America, for the purposes of base gain, political motivation, and power over an entire population, its treasure, and its future in a time characterized by him as of “corrupted morals and political depravity”.

Does one not see that Washington is not referring here to the one who desires to be a slave “owner” whose morals are certainly corrupted and whose politics are depraved, but rather to a populace, and in particular to a populace having the inestimable privilege of suffrage, a populace largely consumed by material gain and power over their brethren in the body politick? The one who would be the master of other humans is already morally corrupt and politically depraved! But a populace which has become so is only a collection of “useful idiots” capable of transferring that power and gain to the actual slave holder through the elected puppet. But that populace derives from the slave owner the same corruption and depravity.

In President George Washington’s Farewell Address to the Nation [3], he spoke a most serious warning:

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Now: Right now. Without waiting, please ask yourself if this body politick has not become the matter of the very worst of Washington’s nightmares, a populace which wants only material gain, and to that end will exercise political power to realize it. It is a very serious question, and an honest answer will require soul-searching and more. Ignore the question at the peril, not only of yourself, but of this once great Republic and of all who live here.

The question will not disappear.

May God Almighty bless the United States of America.


  1. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=848&chapter=102006&layout=html&Itemid=27
  2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/end-presidential-term-limits/2013/11/28/50876456-561e-11e3-ba82-16ed03681809_story.html
  3. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp
  4. http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty_bios/view/Jonathan_Zimmerman
  5. http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/profiles/faculty/jonathan_zimmerman


The Untidy Case of Miss Ida May Fuller, of Ludlow, Vermont

The subject of our story is one Miss Ida May Fuller, who did retire in late 1939, having paid Social Security taxes for a smidgen shy of three years. The payroll tax for Social Security had gone into effect in January, 1937, and she, as a legal secretary, had paid precisely $24.75 into the Social Security system prior to her retirement, as is shown in her record at the Social Security Administration Website. (Her employer(s), presumably, had paid the same amount, under the law current at the time, so a grand total of $49.50 had been “contributed” to Social Security, if not entirely upon her behalf, at least because of her employment situation.)

Our dear Miss Fuller was one of those who lives a rather long time, as she died at age 100, in 1975, and so she collected Social Security pension, or old-age, payments for thirty-five years or so. By the time Miss Fuller had shuffled off this mortal coil she had collected precisely $22,888.92 from the Social Security Administration, from her “contribution” of $24.75 between January, 1937, and late 1939. That is quite a remarkable feat for any investor, would you not say, to increase an investment by 92,480% over the course of thirty-five years? Yes, well, one supposes she had some help in that regard, even without knowledge of the precise source of that “help”.

All of these numbers and such can, and often do, inflame the imaginational juices to flow, and so your correspondent got down to a little computation, what his Pastor might call “shucking the corn right down to the cob”. So I went online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount, and looked at my account, where I found that, as of the end of 2012, I had paid just a little more than $83,000 in Social Security taxes, and that does exclude Medicare taxes during my working lifetime to this point. Of course this figure set the muse’s boat to rocking, and after a quick calculation wherein I determined that Miss Ida May Fuller had received 924.8 times the amount she had personally “paid in” to Social Security in benefits, I simply had to do the multiplication on my own account, assuming I could retire tomorrow.

I’ve paid $83,000 in Social Security taxes.

$83,000 * 924.8 = $76,758,400 – so that’s what I, based upon Social Security payout recipient number one, should receive during my retirement years. Wow! That’s. Just. Incredible.

Suppose I live another thirty-four years post-retirement? (Not thirty-five years, since my “official” retirement age is now sixty-six.)

That comes out to $76,758,400 / 34 years = $2,257,600 / year. Again, that’s just unbelievable. Now we’re going to “shuck a little closer to the cob”, and find out something else.

$2,257,600 /year divided by 12 months per year comes out to $188,133.33 a month. Or $6,719.05 a day in three Februaries out of four, and as little $6,068.82 a day in January, March, May, July, August, October, and December. All in all, that’s a pretty doggone attractive corn cob!

(The reader will note that I have omitted to mention the “employers’ contributions” herein, as they seem not to have a part in these calculations based upon the figures revealed by the Social Security Administration.)

Of course, the Untidy Case of Miss Ida May Fuller is not the kind of thing Social Security was supposed to bring to pass. The House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee hearings make it perfectly clear that it was all about economic recovery, and helping the poor, and the down-trodden, and above all the children in those awful “post-Depression” times. And yet. And yet. Miss Ida May Fuller did most certainly receive that multiplier of 924.8 upon her “contribution”, is it not so? She was one of the blessed few who become centenarians before they are finished, and most of us are not of that number. Even so.

Was not Social Security about fairness? About the “New Deal” for the “little guy” and the “working man” and the “impoverished family”? Do we not still have the “little guy” and the “working man” today? And do we not have, as well, that “impoverished family” today? Why does a Miss Ida May Fuller get to enjoy this kind of largesse from the rest of us, but we do not get to expect the same in our declining years?

I am thinking that, upon the date set for my “official retirement”, which will be November 14, 2017, I should bring suit against the Social Security Administration (and anyone else a team of good lawyers can haul into the thing) for immediate payout of the complete and total amount that I will have, at that time, “paid in to” Social Security, multiplied by the “Ida May Fuller” factor of 924.8.

Why don’t you consider doing the same kind of thing? It seems we’ve already lost anyway, so what is there to lose?

Be sweet.

Incapable of Annihilation

Having begun this first day of the 238th year of the independence of the United States of America in the way I have now practiced for forty consecutive Fourths of July, anything to follow will be denouement for the remainder of the day, for the tradition I follow on this anniversary centers upon a reading of the Declaration of Independence. At times I have added the original United States Constitution, including of course the Bill of Rights, the Articles of Confederation, and other documents, but the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia on this date in 1776, is for me the proper focus of attention today, as it expresses the genius of the Founders with a clarity and fullness unmatched in other merely human literature.

In some cases I have considered every word in the Declaration, reflecting upon each one’s meaning within its phrase or sentence and within the entire document. Today I thought about larger elements, and found myself drawn, several times, to the third through the sixth grievances against George III, and particularly to the sixth, with the utterly fascinating phrase:

“…incapable of Annihilation…”

Without context, this phrase is perfectly meaningless, for nearly everything is, in some sense, annihilable, or at least convertible to a form having a different character, other physical qualities, etc. Having read the Declaration many times, I trust not only its veracity, but its sensibility, implicitly. Furthermore, the Founders were educated men, many of whom had read their Empedocles (“For it is impossible for anything to come to be from what is not, and it cannot be brought about or heard of that what is should be utterly destroyed”) and Epicurus (“[T]he totality of things was always such as it is now, and always will be”), and almost certainly some had encountered Lavoisier’s work in the realm of conservation of matter and energy. The Founders were not discussing chemical and physical phenomena, though; this thing that is “incapable of Annihilation” was not for them, and is not for us, an object capable of responding to force, or a force capable of exerting influence upon an object.

This thing that can not be annihilated, obliterated, destroyed utterly once and for all time, is, in fact, a combination of many elements concerning natural law, humanity, governance, and justice, all existing for the Founders as realities having a fundamental nature transcending that of mere matter and energy. The realm of discourse of the Declaration of Independence is dual, the object is singular.

Idea, the Formal Basis of the Declaration of Independence

I humbly submit that the Founders would never have approached the heights they achieved apart from their lifetimes spent in struggle with the philosophies, the informing genius, the lofty ideas, of the giants of thought on whose shoulders they most assuredly knew they stood during the late Spring and early Summer of 1776. Their education, whether in schools or otherwise, had rewarded them with foundations in the Ancients, and the Schoolmen, and the Moderns of their age. This is not to say they were all equal geniuses of thought, but rather that the fortuitous combination of their lives at that time, in that place, facing that common enemy and crisis did mold them into a political force such as the world had never before seen, and probably would never see again.

The clear language throughout the Declaration, in the English indicative mood, bespeaks a reasoned civility balanced with a firm strength of character. It is difficult to imagine this harmony occurred by sheer chance, but however it came about, the proof of its existence is in the words of the Declaration itself. The Preamble, which I take to be in two sections, is almost apologetic in its preparation of the reader for that which is to follow: “When…it becomes necessary…to separate…a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires” the kind but firm warning and challenge that will issue in the end.

With the somewhat apologetic language comes one step in the logical progression after another. “Self-evident” truths and “unalienable rights” lead directly to mankind’s place in the universe as a creature of “Nature’s God”, and thus the dependent but inherent value of humans, transcending by means of natural law any encroachment upon that truth, those rights, that value, by any government instituted by mankind; to the contrary, governments rule only “by the consent of the governed”. Because governments tend to hold the governed in low esteem, by depriving them of the means of seeking the happiness attendant upon realizing each person’s fullest potential rather than legislating or commanding that people be happy, the inevitable end of the conflict is either human slavery or human freedom. In order to be fully human, it therefore is always the right of “the people” to examine their government to determine if it is doing their will, and if it is failing in that regard, “the people” then have a duty to throw off even the accustomed and comfortable form of government and establish a “new government” they believe capable and desirous of supporting the ideals of liberty (“happiness”) and security in a perfectly balanced way.

King George III and his government having failed to meet the standard demanded by natural law, the Founders had no recourse but to follow their conscience, and that was a matter of established fact at the time, but they continued upon the path of civility and logic and set forth their grievances against the government then set over and against them. The list is twenty-seven items in length, each more serious and harmful to the common weal than those previously named, and it indeed does detail “a long train of abuses” whose end is the establishment of an “absolute tyranny” over the American Colonies of Great Britain. That list reads much more like a formal set of charges against a criminal than it does anything else, and the details become ever more tyrannical. But there is a breaking point in the list, in my mind’s eye, and that occurs in the third through the sixth grievance, wherein the detail is that the government of Great Britain, with George III at the helm, had arrogated to itself the power to annihilate that which is not annihilable: the right, under the Law of Nature and of Nature’s God, for humans to pursue happiness as they choose, and not as it is thrust upon them.

In simple terms, the 27 grievances are an indictment. The American Colonial citizens of Great Britain, acting corporately as a kind of grand jury, had produced a “true bill” of indictment against the government and King of Great Britain. In particular, since the King had illegally nullified their natural law right to self-government, they had understood correctly that the legislative power, intended to be representative, had in fact become directly the province of “the people”.

Furthermore, they had decided that their cause was anything but “light and transient”, the British crown and government were unfit to rule “a free people”, natural law and God the Lawmaker and Judge was the true source of their liberty and security, and on July 4 did declare, that they would take the matter to trial, not least on the battlefield and the high seas. In other words, they would take action commensurate with their findings and their judgment, having taken all possible steps to explain their judgment and findings to “a candid world”, and to effect that action did pledge, each and corporately, their “Lives, … Fortunes and … sacred Honor.”

Action, the Functional and Immediate Outcome of the Declaration of Independence

“The British Colonials in North America declared war against the British Empire on July 4, 1776.”

That is the popular view. It is also false. In point of fact, the war had been engaged more than a year earlier, particularly on April 19, 1775, in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and on June 17, 1775, in the Battles of Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill. These were respectively the beginning and end of significant military action during the Boston Campaign of September 1, 1774, the date of the “Powder Alarm”, through March 17, 1776, when British Troops abandoned their occupation of Boston following George III’s royal assent to the Massachusetts Government Act vacating the royal charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Patrick Henry delivered his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech to the Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church in Richmond on March 23, 1775. Here is the final paragraph of that speech, which leaves no doubt that a state of war existed long before July 4, 1776:

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Another commonly repeated idea is as follows:

“By proclaiming the independence of the United States of America, the Colonists became rebellious Subjects of the Crown.”

That is a similarly popular view, and it is likewise false. On August 23, 1775, George issued A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition in response to British losses in the Battles of Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill. In the text of that proclamation King George charged the colonists with “traitorously preparing, ordering and levying war against” the Crown. The official stance of the British Empire at the time the Declaration of Independence was adopted was that the Colonies had already been in a state of rebellion for more than ten months.

If war and rebellion were not the functional, structural outcomes of the Declaration, then what was it the Founders started on July 4, 1776? The answer is strikingly simple. The Founders began the long struggle to ensure that human liberty would always be framed within the lattice of Law, Reason, and Civility based upon worth naturally inherent to mankind; that human endeavor would gain benefits forever precisely because it would be forever protected from tyranny, either of an aristocracy, an oligarchy, or a bureaucracy; that the paradigm of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” would forever remain the sole pursuit of human governance.

Liberty, the Ultimate Object of the Declaration of Independence

The ultimate objective of the Founders was the continuance of liberty. Before a thing may continue in fact, it must exist in reality, and when opposition arises to this end, war is the inevitable result. During the long history of humanity, the war has raged without interruption, in one way or another, because, as the Founders knew fully well, mankind will forever partition itself into two groups: those who desire to live within a framework of respect, and righteousness, of growth and advancement, of maximal effort for maximal good; and those who desire to control and own other people. There is no other way to divide the thing.

If the Founders had left us nothing else, the Declaration of Independence would stand forever as the finest achievement of human governance. But they left us something else, of at least equal importance, and that is the legacy of their common resolve and good-will in the face of daunting and overwhelming force. That common purpose was not then, 237 years ago, a common thing, and it is likely not nearly as common today as it was then.

But there are Sons and Daughters of the Revolution, of Patrick Henry, of Thomas Jefferson, and all the others among us in these degraded times. We desire nothing more than the promise of Micah 4:4, “…but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid…” But we must remember and cherish and practice the words of our Founders in order to reach that estate in this life:

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Finally, we must remember and cherish and study the words of President Abraham Lincoln following the Battle of Gettysburg, paraphrased as follows:

We here highly resolve that [what has been is not] in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

When we have met that challenge, we will indeed have become

Incapable of Annihilation