Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Merry Digital Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Moving on in faith . . . and in life -- Part 5

This is a response to a question/objection raised by my brother Pete.

You can find this post--and the entire series--on my Forbidden Questions blog.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Don't wring your hands in despair; you CAN do something worthwhile (A different perspective on the killings in Connecticut)

One of my friends has posted several rather sad comments about the Newtown, CT, shootings. She says she just doesn't know what to do that might really make a difference other than pray for the people who have been so hurt by this evil deed, and to post articles about how guns hurt people and we need better mental healthcare.

Then I just saw an article by another friend titled A different perspective on the killings.

Yowza! I encourage you to read it.

One key section:
You wanna talk about the world going to hell in a handbasket? Let’s talk about Lenin and Stalin. Let’s talk about Mao’s China and his “Great Leap Forward” and his “Cultural Revolution.”

Those guys, in their quest for power, didn’t kill 27 innocent people every now and then. They killed 27 innocent people EVERY 15 MINUTES. FOR SIXTY YEARS.

Sixty million total.

Now here’s the punchline:

How did they accomplish this?

They accomplished it by exploiting peoples’ existing despair over their existing circumstances, convincing everyone that all was hopeless — hopeless without a fearless all-powerful leader who would finally and ultimately purge the world of the ‘bad guys.’

They received their power because hundreds of millions of ordinary people, who were really no different than you and me, GAVE UP and CAPITULATED TO DESPAIR and gave their assent to the idea that the world really was going to hell in a handbasket.

Long before they had guns and armies, power was literally surrendered to these tyrants by the people who listened to their words.

The common people were seduced by the power of despair.

That is why – no matter what your opinion about guns or mental hospitals or how we might have rescued some killer’s dying inner child – you must not give an inch to this creeping sense of helplessness and victimhood.
My friend makes some practical recommendations. I encourage you to read the rest of his article.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961


As I am looking for the best photos to go in my revision of Dr. Daniel Boorstin's The Landmark History of the American People, I came across an article that riveted me: Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961 from NPR. Truly astonishing the things various brave people have done for the sake of justice.

I put myself, in my mind's eye, on that bus as it entered Anniston, Alabama, on Sunday, May 14, 1961:
Hank Thomas did not recall seeing anyone on the streets. He did remember the strange feeling that he and the other Riders experienced as the bus eased into the station parking lot just after 1:00 P.M.

The station was locked shut, and there was silence — and then suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a screaming mob led by Anniston Klan leader William Chappell rushed the bus. Thomas thought he heard Jones encourage the attackers with a sly greeting. "Well, boys, here they are," the driver reportedly said with a smirk. "I brought you some niggers and nigger-lovers." But it all happened so fast that no one was quite sure who was saying what to whom.

As the crowd of about fifty surrounded the bus, an eighteen-year-old Klansman and ex-convict named Roger Couch stretched out on the pavement in front of the bus to block any attempt to leave, while the rest — carrying metal pipes, clubs, and chains — milled around menacingly, some screaming, "Dirty Communists" and "Sieg heil!"

There was no sign of any police, even though Herman Glass, the manager of the Anniston Greyhound station, had warned local officials earlier in the day that a potentially violent mob had gathered around the station. After the driver opened the door, [two plain-clothes Alabama State Troopers (whose identities were unknown to the Freedom Riders] hurried to the front to prevent anyone from entering. Leaning on the door lever, the two unarmed investigators managed to close the door and seal the bus, but they could not stop several of the most frenzied attackers from smashing windows, denting the sides of the bus, and slashing tires.

"One man stood on the steps, yelling, and calling us cowards," [one of the Riders] noticed, but her attention soon turned to a second man who "walked by the side of the bus, slipped a pistol from his pocket and stared at me for some minutes." When she heard a loud noise and shattering glass, she yelled, "Duck, down everyone," thinking that a bullet had hit one of the windows. The projectile turned out to be a rock, but another assailant soon cracked the window above her seat with a fist full of brass knuckles. Joe Perkins's window later suffered a similar fate, as the siege continued for almost twenty minutes.

By the time the Anniston police arrived on the scene, the bus looked like it had been in a serious collision. Swaggering through the crowd with billy clubs in hand, the police officers examined the broken windows and slashed tires but showed no interest in arresting anyone. After a few minutes of friendly banter with members of the crowd, the officers suddenly cleared a path and motioned for the bus to exit the parking lot.

A police car escorted the battered Greyhound to the city limits but then turned back, once again leaving the bus to the mercy of the mob. A long line of cars and pickup trucks, plus one car carrying a news reporter and a photographer, had followed the police escort from the station and was ready to resume the assault.

Once the entourage reached an isolated stretch of Highway 202 east of Bynum, two of the cars (one of which was driven by Roger Couch's older brother Jerome) raced around the front of the bus and then slowed to a crawl, forcing the bus driver to slow down. Trailing behind were thirty or forty cars and trucks jammed with shrieking whites. Many, like Chappell and the Couches, were Klansmen, though none wore hoods or robes. Some, having just come from church, were dressed in their Sunday best — coats and ties and polished shoes — and a few even had children with them.

The whole scene was darkly surreal and became even more so when a pair of flat tires forced the bus driver to pull over to the side of the road in front of the Forsyth and Son grocery store six miles southwest of town, only a few hundred yards from the Anniston Army Depot. Flinging open the door, the driver, with Robinson trailing close behind, ran into the grocery store and began calling local garages in what turned out to be a futile effort to find replacement tires for the bus.

In the meantime, the passengers were left vulnerable to a swarm of onrushing vigilantes. Cowling[, one of the Alabama State Highway Patrolmen,] had just enough time to retrieve his revolver from the baggage compartment before the mob surrounded the bus. The first to reach the Greyhound was a teenage boy who smashed a crowbar through one of the side windows. While one group of men and boys rocked the bus in a vain attempt to turn the vehicle on its side, a second tried to enter through the front door.

With gun in hand, Cowling stood in the doorway to block the intruders, but he soon retreated, locking the door behind him. For the next twenty minutes Chappell and other Klansmen pounded on the bus demanding that the Freedom Riders come out to take what was coming to them, but they stayed in their seats, even after the arrival of two highway patrolmen. When neither patrolman made any effort to disperse the crowd, Cowling, Sims [the other Highway Patrolman onboard], and the Riders decided to stay put.

Eventually, however, two members of the mob, Roger Couch and Cecil "Goober" Lewallyn, decided that they had waited long enough. After returning to his car, which was parked a few yards behind the disabled Greyhound, Lewallyn suddenly ran toward the bus and tossed a flaming bundle of rags through a broken window. Within seconds the bundle exploded, sending dark gray smoke throughout the bus. . . .
The story continues. Not only about the Greyhound bus in Anniston, but about the fate of the Riders on a Trailways bus that wound up in Birmingham. (Horrifying.)

But I began this post with a comment about brave people seeking justice.

How's this for a 12-year-old girl in Anniston as she reached out with basic human kindness to the victims of the bus bombing? I haven't quoted the discussion of the choking smoke that filled the bus as the menacing mob seethed outside.

When one of the bus's gas tanks exploded, the people on board finally tumbled out.

I'm skipping more of the story, more gory details. But then there was this:
One little girl, twelve-year-old Janie Miller, supplied the choking victims with water, filling and refilling a five-gallon bucket while braving the insults and taunts of Klansmen. Later ostracized and threatened for this act of kindness, she and her family found it impossible to remain in Anniston in the aftermath of the bus bombing.
I am humbled. Would I exhibit that kind of bravery?

I urge you to read the rest of the article for yourself. Very powerful.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

We're not in Kansas anymore: US National Debt and the Fiscal Cliff

I saw this in my inbox this morning. Combined with Jeff Opdyke's commentary about the difference between a real social safety net and the Social Security system the United States (and virtually every other western country) has today, and Laurence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns's The Clash of Generations, and I think my own views concerning the current so-called "debate" between Democrats and Republicans are coming into sharp focus.

I see so many of my Democratic friends touting the "compassion" and "love" being shown by their favorite politicians, and I think: "Really?"

It's all well and good to speak of compassion. But who can pay for this so-called compassion--much less who is willing to pay for it (with their own money)? Please don't talk to me about your great compassion when you are willing to saddle future (not-yet-able-to-vote and/or not-yet-aware-enough-to-vote) generations with massive debt that they will never be able to repay [that's the message I get from Kotlikoff and Burns; good summary of their book here]. And please don't talk about compassion when the supposed social safety net is being used, today (and for the foreseeable future--unless Congress decides to change the system) as a primary vehicle of retirement funding [the message I get from Jeff Opdyke's article].

The following, by Alexander Green of InvestmentU in last Friday's Investment U Plus newsletter, provides further perspective, I think:
Imagine that your 18-year-old son goes off to college for the first term of his freshman year. You are happy to pay for his education costs - room, board, tuition, books, etc. - but you also give him a credit card "in case of emergencies."

When he comes home for Christmas, you discover that he has run up $70,000 on his MasterCard. You hit the roof and demand an explanation.

"Now hold on, Dad," he says. "Before we start talking about how much less I might spend, let's talk about how much more money you [really ought to be giving] me."

Consider your response - and whether it would be printable in a family paper. Yet Congress makes our hypothetical spendthrift look like a piker.

Most reasonably well-informed Americans know that our $16.1-trillion federal budget deficit is now larger than the nation's GDP. But what most don't realize is this figure doesn't include the unfunded liabilities for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Prescription Drug Benefit. That's another $121.6 trillion. [According to Kotlikoff and Burns, it's actually more than $200 trillion. But what is $80, $90, or $100 trillion between friends? --JAH] Combine the federal budget deficit with the unfunded liabilities for current entitlement programs (excluding ObamaCare) and it comes to a mindboggling $1.2 million per taxpayer.

Some will argue that this is exactly why we need to stick it to the ultra-rich, an approach that has clear populist appeal. But here's a bit of perspective. Less than a hundred years ago, the nation's richest man, John D. Rockefeller, could have written a personal check and paid off the entire national debt, every penny accumulated since 1776. Today the government could confiscate the entire net worth of the nation's wealthiest man, Bill Gates, and it wouldn't pay six weeks' interest [NOTE: That's interest! --JAH] on the national debt. . . .

Writing in The Wall Street Journal this week, former Congressional Committee Chairmen Chris Cox and Bill Archer note that even if the government confiscated the entire adjusted gross income of every individual and corporation in America, it still wouldn't cover U.S. entitlement obligations. Yet the first order of business according to President Obama, Senator Reid and Mr. Buffett is not to reform entitlements or rein in spending but to raise tax rates? You might as well try bailing out the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon.

Congress has a world-class spending addiction, but then so do most other Western democracies, including Canada, Britain, Western Europe and Japan. In every case, politicians on both sides of the aisle have learned that promising lush government benefits paid for by "someone else" is a big winner at the polls.

As for the current fiscal cliff negotiations, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that raising the top marginal tax rate to 39.6% - as Obama proposes - would generate approximately $70 billion a year. That's not an inconsequential sum. But it won't come close to fixing this year's $1.1-trillion federal budget deficit. Where would we get the other $1.03 trillion?
And why did I title this post "We're not in Kansas anymore"? 

Because I get the impression that the American empire has run its course. It can no longer maintain the illusion. Reality is beginning to set in. The U.S. cannot continue to inflate away its debt problems and expect its citizens not to feel the impact. We all--wealthy and poor--are going to experience the results of almost  three decades of spending beyond our ability to pay.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Just in time for the Holidays! Best iPad sales presentation ever!

It's in German. I'm afraid I would have to spend too much time watching and re-watching it to figure out what the guy is SAYING, but . . . you don't have to understand German to be absolutely THRILLED with the guy's [highest quality professional sleight-of-hand] "demonstration" of the iPad's amazing capabilities.

Enjoy! 5:24. No filler.

With thanks to my brother Ted for the link!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Moving on in faith . . . and in life -- Part 4

Yep. One more in my series. I should probably do a better job of trying to "sell" you on what I've been thinking about. But I don't feel particularly motivated to push you.

Let me say, simply, that this series has to do with a radical rethinking of my beliefs about the Bible. I would say that is a fair summary.

You will find my latest post here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Moving on in faith . . . and in life -- Part 3

I encourage you to read my third post in the series I began several weeks ago.

Check it out on my Forbidden Questions blog.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Next in my series about "moving on" in faith and life

My second (lengthy post) about my new faith paradigm. Or, perhaps more accurately, about how I have come to--or am coming to--a new faith paradigm.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moving on in life . . . in thought . . . in faith

I've been involved in what to me has been a most unpleasant project for the last 12 or 13 years. I am hoping, finally, that maybe it is coming to an end.

I blog about it here.

If you want to know about one of those once-in-a-decade (or less frequent) major changes in outlook that a guy like me might go through, you may want to take the time to look.

The "so-called" presidential debates

I rather appreciate(d) Charles Goyette's comments on the--what he termed--"so-called" Presidential Debates yesterday:
Maybe Tuesday night’s presidential debate wasn’t a game-changer, but at least Republican nominee Mitt Romney didn’t get to debate Clint Eastwood’s empty chair.
President Barack Obama showed up this time instead.

And while two candidates in a debate are better than one, three candidates would be a big improvement. That way, someone could hold the Republicans and Democrats accountable for generations of vote-buying and deficit spending.

The last time that happened was in 1992 when Ross Perot was the third candidate in the debates. Perot responded to attacks on his experience by saying, “They’re right. I don’t have any experience running up a $4 trillion debt.”

“It’s not the Republicans’ fault,” said Perot of the incipient debt crisis. “And it’s not the Democrats’ fault. What I’m looking for is, who did it?”

This year’s second presidential debate was a tasty little treat for the media people, who love a good comeback story.

But for more serious people, those who understand America will be shaken to its core by economic calamity, the debates are like junk food meals of empty calories.

What About the Fed?

Once again, there was not a word about the Federal Reserve, and not a word about QE III.

This is a most-peculiar oversight.

It’s like Perot’s description of the crazy aunt kept down in the basement. “All the neighbors know she’s there, but nobody wants to talk about her.”

The country is mired in an economic malaise, and both candidates wish to be seen as holding the keys to our recovery. But neither candidate uttered a word about monetary conditions or the monetary authorities.

Since money is half of every commercial transaction, the failure to address the subject is more than a casual oversight. It means that there is a taboo against addressing 50% of the nation’s economic activity.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from this studious avoidance of monetary policy is that, regardless of the election’s outcome, the fundamental policies that boom and bust the economy will still be decided by the Federal Reserve on behalf of the banking cartel.

So-Called Debates Yield So-Called Solutions

I watched the debate remembering the words of Ron Paul this week, when he suggested that our future could hold results more-severe than what we’ve seen in the streets of Greece.

That’s why, Congressman Paul says, he gets so annoyed with “the so-called debates” that are going on now. . . .

“How often have you heard in the last couple of weeks or couple of months of the campaign about the seriousness of the debt and the debt crisis, the dollar crisis, the financial crisis?” [Paul asked.]

“We’re at the end of the line when it comes to debt. When the markets recognize this, we won’t be able to print money to get out of it.”

In the 1992 debates, Perot said that “giant sucking sound you hear” is jobs leaving this country. Today we have Depression-era levels of unemployment and our manufacturing base has been hollowed out.

Back then Perot was the only one of the candidates to address the nation’s growing debt seriously. “The facts are,” he said, “we have to fix it.”

Still Broke . . .

That was 20 years ago. Nothing has been fixed.

Twenty years ago, Perot concluded that, since the Republicans and Democrats were both shirking and disclaiming responsibility for the nation’s debt, it must all have been the doing of extra-terrestrials.

Must be. The debt has quadrupled since then and nobody else has been in charge except Republicans and Democrats.

Clearly, we need a third man in the debates again. I nominate Ron Paul.
I'll buy that.

Monday, October 08, 2012

"Do not look here."

A friend of mine is going through radiation therapy for cancer. He told the following story. I thought it merited "passing along":
On the first day of treatment, I was lying on the radiation table. There’s not much to do there and I saw a sign above me. Since I didn’t have my reading glasses on, I couldn’t make out the words very clearly, but by dint of hard effort -- craning my neck and squinting my eyes -- I was finally able to make out the sign. It said, ‘Warning: Laser aperture. Do not look here.’ I think there’s some kind of lesson for us there although I’m not quite sure what it is!
Thanks for the laugh, Tim. And praying your therapy is successful.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

What's wrong with Social Security?

I have been aware since the early '80s of the idea that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme . . . and why. I have understood how the government has played games with the Social Security "fund"--counting the Social Security tax as a supposed "insurance premium" if (and only if) and when (and only when) it was convenient, but, yet, then, treating it as a general source of current government income if and when that was more convenient . . . and so the Social Security "fund" is really composed of government IOU's that future taxpayers will have to pay off if current recipients of Social Security payments are to receive what is their promised "due." . . .

I have understood that. And because I have understood that, I have realized that I ought never to figure I would receive a penny in benefits from Social Security. It is a forced Ponzi Scheme, a tax, and the government will do with those funds what it will, but it will, most likely, not be paying me whatever it pretends it is promising.

But this morning I saw a new perspective on Social Security that I had never seen or thought of before. And I thought it was worth sharing.

From Jeff Opdyke of the Sovereign Society:

I agree that society must deploy safety nets to catch the fallen. [My opposition to the idea that society, collectively, has a responsibility to provide a lifestyle to any particular individual or group of individuals] has nothing to do with people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in need of society’s munificence. But the safety nets should not be so large that they encourage reliance among those who see falling as the easier path – which is precisely the effect our safety nets have today.

Worse, they’re ill-designed and over the decades have spawned among Americans a warped sense of entitlement. Social Security is, perhaps, the best example. In a recent note, reader Lee S. wrote to say that, because he and his wife have paid into Social Security for years, “we are entitled [his emphasis] to what was removed from our salaries.”

To which I say, no – absolutely not.

Government – under [Franklin D.] Roosevelt – originally designed the system as social insurance. And insurance in its purest form pays out only as a failsafe, when a monetary need arises. Homeowners and drivers do not expect their policies to provide a source of income just because they pay premiums. They expect a payout only when, in an emergency, the cost of replacing or repairing a house or car exceeds the policyholder’s financial capacity.

Social Security should follow an identical principle.

For those without a meaningful source of income to draw on in retirement because of factors beyond their control, Social Security should ensure a certain level of economic wellbeing. But to believe that everyone should access the system just because they paid into it is ludicrous; it’s the reason the program is structurally unsound today. It’s a question of fairness, ultimately. If my assets generate, in retirement, an annual income of $30,000 or more – roughly double the poverty line for a family of two – am I entitled to even more money from a government that must, through increased taxation, dispose of the estates of others?

Without question, no!

Before the entitlement mindset ran amok in this country, Americans once felt a sense of personal shame falling into a government safety net. In a personally responsible society, Americans would purposefully be more frugal – instead of purposefully more consumerist – to build up a nest egg over the years. The personally responsible would see reliance on Social Security as a personal failure and the pathway to a diminished lifestyle that they would want to avoid at all costs.

In that world, the liberty of the individual, as encouraged by the state, would supersede the desire of others to live a life unearned. As it stands now, though, it is an immoral system that requires government to take from the individual a penny more than is needed to provide a basic standard-of-living to those unable to provide for themselves. It is an immoral system when government taxes the individual to provide anything to those fully capable of providing for themselves.

I think he's hit something on the nose!

Clearly, Social Security is not (and never was) set up as an investment vehicle. It was not--and is not--set up to acquire and/or produce assets that can generate income. No. Almost from the very beginning it was (and is) an income redistribution plan--taking from current earners to make payments to people who used to earn. (Even as the earlier earners made payments into the "system" to cover payments made to even earlier participants.)

Insurance policies and plans don't work that way.

So where do we go from here?

And when will either the Democrats or the Republicans begin to "talk straight" about what it is we are up against?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A political parable from life . . .

Saw the following story on Facebook. It was a bit more partisan than the slightly edited version I have reproduced here. I'd prefer to leave out the distracting political commentary so we can focus on the concepts or worldviews.
I recently asked my friends' little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President of the United States.

"If you were President, what would be the first thing you would do?" I asked.

She replied, "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people."

"Wow! What a worthy goal," I told her. "But I have an idea. You don't have to wait until you're President. If you come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my driveway, I'll pay you $50 and take you over to the grocery store where a homeless guy hangs out. You can then give him the $50 so he can use it toward food and a new house."

She thought that over for a few seconds, then looked me straight in the eye. "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work himself?" she asked. "Then you can pay him the $50."

This got me thinking: If I want "the government" to do something, is it because it is the legitimate province of government and/or something that only the government can (and should) do? Or is it because I think it is a "good idea" . . . just so long as it is "someone else" who (or someone else's money that) is doing it "in my behalf"?

Put another way: If I am free to do something and I am able (both morally and physically/mentally/spiritually) to do something but I am unwilling to make the sacrifices on a personal level to achieve that end [other than to call upon "the government" to do it in my behalf], then is my vote or political agitation really a morally right thing? Why or why not?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meditation on apples and peaches with worms in them . . .

We have enjoyed a bumper harvest, so far, of peaches and apples off of one of the peach and two of the apple trees in our yard. What astonished me--at first, anyway--was the number of fruits that had worms inside.

Here are a couple where the damage is more than obvious. In fact, before I took the shot, I "simply" sloughed off the wholly rotten portions of the apples by scooping/scraping it off with the top of my thumbnail. . . .

What strikes me about the whole experience: I haven't seen worms in apples in . . . years. Probably not since I was a young boy.

Why's that?

. . . More in a moment.

So here's an apple that you know has been invaded by a worm. That's a wormhole up there at the 12:30 position (with respect to the stem).

Where did the worm go?

After cutting into a couple of apples, I formed a hypothesis that has proven almost infallible. I don't understand why, but it is true: the worms almost always head almost straight for the core. They don't generally cut "across" the apple or "across" the meat; they cut a path down and through the meat to the core:

There. You can see the "nest" in the core . . . and the "exit" from the borehole into the "nest."

Cut out the core and you see the hole. . . . And carefully chop a small chunk from the core out to and around the entrance hole and . . . 

Oh, yeah! The entire pathway. Complete with worm droppings. . . .

Okay. A few more careful slices with a rinsed knife . . . and a quick rinse with water and you have one of the tastiest apples I have had in a long, long time.

. . . And that's when it hits me: I haven't seen worms because professional apple growers have learned that consumers will ALWAYS buy worm-free apples before apples that may--or, almost always, do--contain worms. Indeed, consumers will pay a premium for such pretty apples.

So the apple producers spray the apples with pesticides. And apples are now--and have been for years--right at the top of the list of the "Dirty Dozen" foods--foods most heavily laden with pesticides. For the last two years, they have been at the very top of the list: #1 most contaminated.

I am coming to the point where I would rather deal with the worms than eat the pesticides, "thank you very much."


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Entitlement States of America

There's plenty of blame to go around. We know the rich as well as the poor are leaching off the government . . . i.e., whoever is "stupid" enough actually to pay taxes.

I didn't realize it was quite this bad, however.

From the August 5 Sovereign Digest published by The Sovereign Society:
Maybe this is Just a Conspiracy Theory, But . . . Have you ever wondered whether the government – both Democrats and Republicans – secretly wants a nation addicted to welfare? Sure would make for a more-compliant bunch of voters when the bulk of Americans are dependent on Uncle Sam for their bread and tuna.

I tucked away a report earlier this year that tracks a dependency index, and among the latest findings it showed that those who take from the government (let’s call them Thy Brothers) received benefits of about $32,700 from the government in 2010. Those who earn money and pay taxes in America (let’s call them Thy Brothers’ Keepers) earned on average about $32,400.

Is it just me, or is there a terminal flaw in the system when Thy Brothers are living larger than Thy Brothers’ Keepers?

If you want to see the true impact of this addiction to dependency, look no further than the $1 trillion Farm Bill the House passed last month. A huge chunk of the spending has nothing to do with farms or farmers. It’s earmarked for food stamps.

We, Thy Brothers’ Keepers, now spend about $80 billion a year on food stamps.

In the 1970s, one in 50 Americans received food assistance from the government. Today, it’s a stunning one in 7. But to see just how broken the system really is, dig a bit deeper. Half of all the folks receiving food assistance have been on the program for more than eight years. That, dear reader, is a sign of dependency.

In all, more than 67 million Americans – about 22% of the country – depend on the government for their livelihood. That number will only grow as more Boomers fall into Social Security, as Obamacare lassos more Americans into a government health network, and as failed economic policies create more Americans who are (wink wink) permanently disabled.

Sooner or later, we reach a point where the Entitlement States of America runs out of other people’s money. Then what?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Seeds of success: An encouraging word from a noted neurosurgeon . . .

Saw this in the latest World magazine. From an interview with Dr. Ben Carson (upon whose story the movie Gifted Hands, starring Cuba Gooding, was based). Carson was raised, from the third grade on, by a mom who was married at 13 and never went beyond third grade herself. And if you want additional strikes against him: he's black.

This is a brief, edited section from an hour-long interview available on YouTube. (See below.) This section, however, particularly struck me. I think those of us who are involved in educating the next generation(s) [which, I hope, is virtually all of us!], I think the message is vital.

(NOTE: The section below comes from 6:04 into the video and ends at 10:55.)
Were you really considered the dumbest kid in the class in the fifth grade? I was the safety net: No one had to worry about getting the lowest mark on a test as long as I was there. My nickname was Dummy. Once we were having an argument about who was the dumbest person in the school. It wasn't a big argument—everyone agreed it was me—but then someone tried to extend that argument to who was the dumbest person in the world. I said, "Wait a minute, there are billions of people in the world." They said, "Yeah, we know that, and you're the dumbest."

On that particular day, to make matters worse, we had a math quiz and you had to pass your paper to the person behind you. They would correct it and give it back to you. Teacher would call your name and you had to report your score out loud. Great if you got 100 or 95! Not so great if you got a zero and just had an argument about who's the dumbest person in the world.

I started scheming: "When teacher calls my name, I will mumble and maybe she'll think I said something and write it down." The quiz had 30 questions. When she called my name I said, "neimnmm." She said, "Nine! Benjamin you got nine right? Oh, this is wonderful, I knew you could do it if you just applied yourself. Kids, I want you to understand what a significant day this is. Benjamin got nine right. If he can get nine right anybody can."

Finally the girl behind me couldn't take it any longer. She stood up and said, "He said none!" The kids were rolling in the aisles. If I could have disappeared into thin air never to be heard from again in the history of the world, I would gladly have done so. But, I couldn't. I had to sit there and act like it didn't bother me—but it did. Not enough to make me study but it did bother me.

My mother saw all these failing grades. She didn't know what to do, but she prayed and asked God to give her wisdom to know what to do to get her young sons to understand the importance of intellectual development. She then let us watch only two to three TV programs each week. With all that spare time we had to read two books apiece from the Detroit Public Library and submit to her written book reports. She couldn't read them but we didn't know that—she would put little checkmarks and highlights and underlines.

I hated it in the beginning, but after a few weeks I began to enjoy it. We were desperately poor, but between the covers of those books I could go anywhere, be anybody, do anything. I began to imagine myself in the laboratory conducting experiments; discovering new galaxies, microcosms, knowing stuff that nobody else knew. Within a year and a half I went from the bottom of my class to the top, much to the consternation of all the students who used to call me dummy. The same ones who called me dummy in the fifth grade would come to me in the seventh grade, "Benny, Benny, Benny! How do you work this problem?"

. . . I had the same brain but a very, very different outlook. As I began to read about people of accomplishment, it dawned on me that the person who has the most to do with what happens to you in life is—you. It's not the environment. It's not somebody else. You can take control of your own life. I started having a very different philosophy than a lot of the people around me.

A lot of them called me nerd, Uncle Tom, all kinds of things. I would shut them up by saying, "Let's see what I'm doing in 20 years and let's see what you're doing in 20 years." They must have believed me because when I graduated from high school they all voted me most likely to succeed—which means they knew what was necessary to succeed, but were too lazy and trifling to do it themselves. That's what negative peer pressure is all about. The more young people we can get to understand that, the more people of accomplishment we will see.
You can watch the entire interview here:

Monday, August 20, 2012

"I'm just a bill" - traditional and modern versions

I first saw "I'm just a bill" about a year ago.

I thought at the time: "Yeah. If only. That's not the way things work nowadays."

You get SOME idea of what I was thinking about if you see what I just wrote to Blaise Ingoglia, of Government Gone Wild!, whose videos Land of the Freebies, Home of the Enslaved and Special Interests...Exposed! I watched this morning:

I've enjoyed the videos I have seen. However, I would VERY MUCH appreciate seeing you handle the "other" form of welfare that various viewers have mentioned: the CORPORATE welfare so completely embedded in our federal government . . . from Monsanto's headlock on the USDA (; look for "revolving door"), to FDA's control by and doing the bidding of Big Pharma (, to--of course--the (formerly unbelievable) bailouts of the "too-big-to-fail" banks and their bankster managers . . .

You've done a great job on the "little guys" who have been co-opted by Big Government. I appreciate your video about the growing number of government employees who make obscene amounts of money. But I'd like to see you do a similarly wonderful expose on the "big guys" who are (not being co-opted BY the government, but who are) co-opting the government.

WOW! If you were to make a similarly powerful video on THAT, I think all the liberals would have to acknowledge: "This guy is the real deal!"

Well . . . now I've found a catchy video that explains how at least SOME of the "new" government works. It's a modern version of I'm just a bill. . . . Please excuse the few relatively minor profanities. . . .

Thursday, June 14, 2012

End of an era, 8 1/2 years later . . .

Just came across this video. Kind of brings a tear to my eye, even though I never flew on the plane.

Were there any benefits to the Concorde aircraft? Should the planes have been grounded? What is the future of supersonic flight as a new era of energy abundance seems to be upon us?

Monday, June 11, 2012

There is much more in the world than what comes out to grab you

As I mentioned, I've begun the 100-Day Challenge. Sunday evening, Blair sent me a link to a video, Celebrate What's Right with the World.

It's a gorgeous, 22-minute-long, vision-expanding presentation by Dewitt Jones, a 20-year veteran photographer from National Geographic. Well worth your time for anyone. But if you're a photographer, I think you will particularly enjoy it. Everyone else, especially if you think, "I don't have time for this!," check out two stories in particular: the one that begins at 14:17, about Jones' experience with Marion Campbell (ends at 17:30) and the one about Henry Gray that begins at 18:30 and ends at 21:00. Very moving.

For the photographers: beginning at about 12:25--"the difference between a good frame and a great frame is measured in millimeters, not miles."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Wow! . . . Concerning Rand Paul's endorsement of Mitt Romney

Eloquent. Passionate. Thoughtful. Insightful. Historically reasoned.

Jack Hunter responds to my shock and dismay to hear Rand Paul--Ron Paul's son--endorse Mitt Romney. Hunter's response: Ron Paul is Becoming Something More Important than President.


Whoever this young guy, Jack Hunter, is, he has a big vision and pretty amazing insight. Great historical perspective as well.

So. Was it--will it be--a waste of all the effort, money and time that Paul supporters invested in "their" candidate? Not according to Hunter!

"We have elections every few years," says Hunter toward the end of his presentation. "We have very few revolutions during our lifetime."

"Ron Paul will not be president. He will instead go down in history . . . as the man who redefined what future presidents will be, what the [Republican] Party will be, what the country will be."

"It all started with Ron Paul, but it doesn't end with Ron Paul."

Here's his strategic perspective:

Here's his more direct commentary on Rand's endorsement, as well: "Why Rand was Right to Endorse Romney":

Great political wisdom. And principle. Clearly, I lack his understanding. But I'm willing to learn.

"There is no shame in compromising politically to advance principle. But we can never compromise our principles simply to advance politically."

Drive me nuts!

My Pandora station has been running a bunch of anti-Romney ads recently: "Romney Economics: It didn't work in Massachusetts, and it won't work now":
Mitt Romney ran for governor claiming his corporate experience made him uniquely qualified to grow the economy and decrease debt.

Here’s what Massachusetts got instead:
  • Long-term debt: Increased more than $2.6 billion
  • Bigger government: State spending increased more than $6 billion
  • Slower job growth: 47th out of 50 states in job creation
  • Higher taxes and fees: Increased by $750 million per year
Powerful. Hard-hitting. And there are plenty more stories and statistics where those come from, complete with references--about Romney's dismal record of increased debt as governor of Massachusetts; his dismal "reform" record; his astonishing expansion of government in Massachusetts ("six times the rate of private sector jobs"); his retrograde tax policies . . . and so on and so forth.

Oh. And I have only touched on his government record. You may not want to look at his record at Bain Capital. That appalls me as well. Truly shocking. If you think the banksters' and large corporations' rip-off of taxpayers over the last four or five years was worthy of at least a few tsk-tsks (if not some hardcore lawsuits for fraud: How dare these men who drove their companies into the ground demand government aid to keep their companies going even as they pay themselves multi-million-dollar bonuses?!?) . . . --Maybe you want to look at Romney's record at Bain as well.

Oh, yes, there are only a "few" examples of open malfeasance and absolute destruction. But read the stories. They certainly give me pause.

And the Republicans want to offer this guy as an alternative to Obama?

What is particularly galling, however, is that this entire negative ad campaign and website isn't--and never was--sponsored by a Republican opponent of Romney. It's sponsored by the Obama campaign! Indeed, the Pandora ads end with Obama approving them.

Amazing! And he offers us something better than Romney? I don't think so! Do we have to go through the next five months of electioneering?

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Seeking to improve

I signed up last night for the 100-Day Challenge with Gary Ryan Blair.

I have no question, it will be worthwhile. At the same time, Blair kind of drives me nuts with his sensei- [Japanese martial arts instructor] style aphoristic speech. Everything--or just about everything--he says comes across as some kind of pithy, final, distilled, definitive "word of wisdom." And he fills his speech with beautiful, high-sounding language: "Excellence. Dedication. Decision. Commitment. Persistence. Inspire. Promote. Celebrate. Define. Choose." Almost too dense for me to assimilate.

I can get over that stylistic problem. I "simply" have to take careful notes, or listen twice . . . or three or four times.

But what pushed me to blog here about his program was these three sentences that appear on p. 10 of the Orientation's (Day O's) MAP (Massive Action Plan) document.

Blair writes:
Our world is filled with people with every conceivable type of handicap and liability but who have gone on to build wonderful lives for themselves.

Often people around them have ascribed their good fortune to luck. But if you talk to these people and you trace their stories from where they began to where they are now, you will find that luck had nothing to do with their success, and it has nothing to do with yours.

As I wrote on his website,
I appreciate the intention to have me take responsibility for my actions, and the need to have me make a wholehearted commitment to pursue a goal. But philosophically and practically--and, let me say, religiously/theologically, not to mention historically--I am convinced that, in the end, none of us is the master of his or her own fate.
We all come up against events beyond our control--whether hurricanes or earthquakes, tsunamis or economic crises, or any of a myriad of different obstacles. OR, by contrast, sometimes God is simply extra generous to us and gives us breaks that no human being has the right to expect.

On at least one of his recordings, Gary acknowledges this. He speaks of “luck” and “Acts of God.” But yet, there is that prior statement: "luck ha[s] nothing to do with . . . success." And I say, "Not so!"

I am "lucky" I was born in the United States and not the son or daughter of an uneducated farmer in Madhya Pradesh, India. That, right there, puts me on a completely different path than the little boy who was born in Madhya Pradesh within hours of me back when I was born. . . .

So, while Gary wants me to sign some kind of (seemingly crazy) "faith" contract: "I am making a quantum leap. I know exactly where I am going. And I am open to the unexpected."

I will write a modified version of the same. Something about desiring to make a quantum leap and knowing exactly where I think or believe I want (and I believe God wants) me to go. But yet acknowledging that where I think I want to go may, somewhere in the middle of the path, turn out to be very definitely NOT where I want to go. And so, indeed, I want to be "open to the unexpected."

I don’t want to give myself a lot of wiggle room and opportunities for excuses or what we might call "justified failure." At the same time, I really do want my commitments to be solid and, if you will, sacred.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Brilliant overview: Why you vote the way you do

The Week does it again with a brilliant summary/introduction to Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind.

I'm skipping the fascinating genetic analysis. Consider only Haidt's summary of the heroic "grand narratives" liberals and conservatives have adopted to explain their views.

From the liberal/progressive side:
[T]raditional societies were unjust, repressive, and oppressive. People who valued autonomy, equality, and prosperity struggled against the forces of oppression, and established modern, liberal, democratic welfare societies. But the struggle for a good society in which individuals are equal and free to pursue their self-defined happiness is not over.

. . . Authority, hierarchy, power, and tradition are the chains that must be broken to free the "noble aspirations" of the victims.

In my research, I have sought to describe the universal psychological "foundations" of morality. My colleagues at and I have identified six in particular, six clusters of moral concerns — care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation — upon which all political cultures and movements base their moral appeals. . . .

Smith's liberal narrative derives its moral force primarily from the care/harm foundation (concern for the suffering of victims) and the liberty/oppression foundation (a celebration of liberty as freedom from oppression, as well as freedom to pursue self-defined happiness). In this narrative, fairness is political equality (which is part of opposing oppression). Authority is mentioned only as an evil, and there is no mention of loyalty or sanctity.
Now, says, Haidt, contrast that with a typical modern conservative narrative. This one, Haidt says, was extracted by Emory University clinical psychologist Drew Westen from major speeches by Ronald Reagan:
Once upon a time, America was a shining beacon. Then liberals came along and undermined America by building up the federal bureaucracy and choking off the free market. They opposed God and faith. They took money from hardworking people and gave it to welfare queens. They worried more about the rights of criminals than those of victims. They pushed the sexual revolution and weakened the family by promoting first a feminist agenda and then a gay one. They cut military spending, disrespected our soldiers, and burned the flag. Then Americans decided to take their country back from those who undermined it.
With such wildly disparate narratives, can these two groups even talk effectively one with (or to) the other?

Sorry! You'll have to read the article to find out!

Oh, how I love The Week! (By the way, the "four free issues" offer is still open. I just checked.)

Freebie: While I'm on the subject of loving The Week, let me note their weekly Contest in which they ask people to come up with answers to questions related to current news articles. Totally for fun.

For example, the next (June 8) issue of the magazine, due any day now, will contain answers to the following question: "Facebook and Twitter are so addictive because they tap into a hardwired human instinct to tell other people about ourselves, new research at Harvard has found. Please come up with the next blindingly obvious thing researchers will find out about humankind."

Last week's contest--and the two answers (of three printed in the magazine) that most tickled my funny bone:

The number of PhDs receiving food stamps and other public aid tripled to 34,000 over a recent, three-year period. We asked you to come up with the title of an arcane PhD thesis least likely to result in a job.

THE WINNER: Modern Heraldry: Deconstructing the Seemingly Apolitical Lapel Pin's Post-Modernist Semiotic Signification -- Carla Holtz, Stanardsville, VA

THIRD PLACE: Urinary Tract Infections of the Common Earthworm: Implications for Organic Farming -- Russell A. and Kathleen I. Joki, Meridian, ID

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Land of the free? Death by Regulation

I get way too much email. I received a copy of the following story back on April 29. It was first published on April 4th. Now that members of my family have begun to raise chickens in their yards, I have to confess this one hits a bit too close to home for me!

I will begin a very brief partial quote at the fourth paragraph:
The whole ordeal began only a few years ago, when [Andrew] Wordes [of Roswell, Georgia,] began to keep chickens in his backyard. His property was on 1 acre, but it was surrounded by secluded woods. He loved the birds, sold and gave away eggs to people and enjoyed showing kids the animals. He was also very good at this job, and being something of a free spirit, he chose to make something he loved his profession.

The city objected and came after him. In 2008, the zoning department issued a warning about the chickens on his property. This was odd because he was violating no ordinance at all; indeed, the code specifically approved chickens on properties of less than 2 acres. Even the mayor at the time objected to the department’s claim, but the department went ahead anyway. A year later, and with the assistance of former Gov. Roy Barnes, Wordes won in court!

But then look: The city council rewrote the law with no grandfather clause. It forbade more than six chickens on any lot, and specified that all chickens have to be in a permanent enclosure. He had tried to get approval for an enclosure, but because his house was on a flood plain, the city would not issue an approval. In the midst of this controversy, a flood did come to his house, and he had to use a Bobcat to move dirt around to save his house and his chickens.

Sure enough, the city then issued two citations for moving dirt without a permit and having illegal, unrestrained chickens. Then, the city refused to submit to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) his request for reconstruction funds after this storm (individuals on their own cannot get money of this sort). Next, the city contacted his mortgage holder, who was a friend and who had carried his mortgage for 16 years, and pressured her to sell the mortgage to stay out of legal trouble.

Do you get the sense from this that Mr. Wordes was being targeted? Absolutely. And he knew it, too. The Roswell Police Department pulled him over constantly and issued as many tickets as possible for whatever reason, tangling him in more difficulties. Police cars would wait in front of his house and follow him. And when he didn’t cough up enough money (he was nearly bankrupt after all this), they would book him and throw him in jail. This happened on several occasions. Meanwhile, the city itself filed several more suits against him.

It gets worse. The city planners came up with a “Roswell 2030 Plan” that posited a parks area exactly where his home was. Hearing of this, Wordes offered to sell his home to the city, but the city refused. They clearly planned to drive him out of it with this legal barrage. It didn’t matter that Wordes won every legal challenge or managed to get the suits thrown out in court — that only made the city angrier. Eventually, the city managed to a get probated sentence, setting up a tripwire that would eventually destroy his livelihood.

He posted on his Facebook account that he was going to be a attending a political event. While he was gone, his chickens were poisoned. Also poisoned were the baby turkeys, 10 of which were actually owned by the mayor, who was a friend. At this point, he had lost his means of support. While panicked about what to do, he missed a probation check-in. He was ordered to serve the remainder of his probated sentence in jail for 99 days.

While in jail, his home was ransacked and looted. Of course, the police did nothing. In fact, they probably approved it. Also while in jail, the new mortgage holder foreclosed on his home. His entire life was now in shambles. . . .
Read the title of this article. The story doesn't end prettily. And, sadly, I'm afraid it provides fodder for the comments Fabius Maximus makes about people's preferences concerning freedom and slavery. Are we really willing to fight for freedom? Or, are we more like Martin Niemoller in his famous observation:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
I'm afraid Maximus is correct (for the very reasons to which Niemoller alludes):
A theme of the original Star Trek is that humanity was not meant for slavery; we always rise up and fight for freedom. That seemed plausible when I watched those shows as a child. Unfortunately, history shows that rebellions against internal elites are rare. Successful revolutions are still more so (even partial successes, such as France 1789). In fact subjects in well-managed societies (eg, tyrannies, oligarchies) wear the yoke comfortably.

More common is evolution in the other direction, our subject for today. The transition from citizen to subject is a bitter one.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Applaud a brave judge . . .

"Fabius Maximus" is one of the most clear-headed analysts I've read. I thought his plaudits for Judge Katherine Forrest were well-deserved on her part and well-written on his.

Yes, we are in desperate need of more judges like her!

The U.S. government is going the way of the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Think note? Please be sure to check out the linked article about Abu Zubaydah. You think you couldn't possibly be him?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Amazing use of water and light . . .

Engrish Brog brought this to my attention. It is a water fountain clock at the Osaka JR Line Train Station, Osaka, Japan.

The light source is constant. What changes is water flow, obviously controlled by computer.

Brilliant! Fun! And as one commenter notes, "I'm afraid I would miss my train."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pretty amazing . . .

Perhaps you've seen this picture before? . . . At least one like it:

It always amazed me how relaxed these high-steel "skywalkers" were when in their element. No safety harnesses. Totally relaxed.

Of course, people--the building developers, general contractors, as well as most of the workers--pretty much assumed and accepted that one or two men (or possibly more) would die on every construction job. Those were "just" the risks you had to accept. It was a risky profession. (Interesting case study on the subject available here. Also well worth reading: High Steel by Jim Rasenberger. See, especially, places like p. 247 where you find stories of the workers' own opposition to safety regulations.)

I could continue down that path, but that wasn't, actually, the reason I wanted to show this picture. The reason I wanted to show this picture is . . . well, please take another look.

Anything bother you visually about it? If not, it should.

The photo has been manipulated. Can you discern how and where?

Besides being flipped (notice that all four guys are "lefties"), there's something else "wrong." Indeed, impossible.

Take your time. You'll get it.

See it?

It's an impossible object like the Penrose Triangle or Devil's Tuning Fork:

. . . --the kind of thing M.C. Escher specialized in.

But now in photos?!?

. . . The problem is, I can't figure out how the manipulator did this (I'm assuming it's a him, though, of course, it's a possibility a woman might do such a thing. But, for some reason, I get the feeling this is the kind of thing men do more often than women). . . .


Here's the original:

Perhaps I need to flip the manipulated image back and then superimpose the two photos so I can discern what is going on. . . .

Hope you had fun!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pachelbel's Canon in D

An insightful and passionate rant about one of the most famous pieces of classical music . . . by musical comedian Rob Paravonian.

Excuse the language. . . .

Friday, May 11, 2012

Awe-inspiring dance

I will confess I am not normally a fan of ballet, but . . . sometimes . . .

Maybe this one will bring a gasp to your mouth or a tear to your eye.

How do you do an en pointe while standing on someone's shoulder? Or on his head? And a pirouette in the same position?!?

Another one of those performances that leaves you shaking your head wondering "How do they do that?!?"

I would hate to be the woman in this dance. Although I would hate to be the man, too. If he made one false move, could he live with himself?

INCREDIBLE Swan Lake Dance - Like you have never seen before! from hulahan on GodTube.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oh, man! Break your heart . . . and/or make you pursue a higher goal

I dragged the scroll bar forward about 10 seconds every 2 seconds of watching; I can read the cards faster than she flips them. But . . . oh! What a message!

Tears in my eyes.

May I never be so cruel.

Video. (Sorry. No tool to embed it.)

And a link to her website: About Lizzie: Be Beautiful, Be You.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gold standard inevitable?

John Butler, CIO of the Amphora Commodities Alpha Fund, claims we may be seeing an international gold-backed currency as early as 2013. Is he crazy? Maybe. But Reuters is willing, apparently, at least to countenance the possibility he is sane.

Check it out:

For a deeper discussion of the issues, check out Butler's article The Buck Stops Here: A BRIC Wall. Or Butler's fascinating historical presentation at his recent book launch . . . which is just one among many in a whole series of articles and interviews by or about Butler on the Amphora website.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gorgeous time-lapse sequences of Earth from space

One of those serendipitous finds:

I don't know how NASA got the rights to Howard Blake's "Walking in the Air," but that's the ethereal background soundscape to this series.

Sequences include:
  :01 – Stars over southern United States
  :08 – US west coast to Canada
  :21 – Central Europe to the Middle East
  :36 – Aurora Australis over the Indian Ocean
  :54 – Storms over Africa
1:08 – Central United States
1:20 – Midwest United States
1:33 – United Kingdom to Baltic Sea
1:46 – Moonset
1:55 – Northern United States to Eastern Canada
2:12 – Aurora Australis over the Indian Ocean
2:32 – Comet Lovejoy
2:53 – Aurora Borealis over Hudson Bay
3:06 – United Kingdom to Central Europe

Original (plus a whole lot more) at the NASA Video Gallery.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why you should do what you love

I'm sure you have heard the advice to do what you love rather than love what you do. I thought the following podcast from RadioLab did a great job of explaining the logic behind it.

Regular speed.

Double speed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Doormat warning

Occasionally you bump into something unexpected. This was unexpected. A doormat. Available at

Yes. A bit of morbid humor. A reference to John Donne's Meditation 17, a meditation on death:
All mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language, and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. . . .

If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. . . .

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.