Get Congress Fixed: A Call for an End to False Civility

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It doesn’t take much to see that the United States Congress, House and Senate are broken. The Democrats are ineffective, and the Republicans do nothing but Nay-Say. And the Tea-Partiers… well, they are the worst of the worst, the minions of the Koch Brothers.

What can we do to restore sanity and effectiveness to our Legislature? How can we get Congress fixed (and, I mean repaired, not the Euphemism we use when people neuter their pets). Well, Hmmm? …Yeah, Repaired I guess. Darn!

I’ve written at great length in this Blog about all of the elaborate steps we need to fix our government. But there is one very simple thing that could help, immediately.

Have you ever seen a session of the British Parliament? Here’s a clip:

This is real people debating real issues. None of the fake niceness and “civility” our House and Senate practice.

I am calling for an immediate end to civility in Congress, both Houses. False Civility isn’t working. When John Boehner gets up and spouts some of his stupidities, I want to hear a chorus of “Liar!” from the chamber. When Ted Cruz rises and proposes one of his absurdities, I want the other Senators to shout him down. Enough is enough. And I know the Conservatives will do the same thing. Fine. Let’s bring it. I have confidence that truth will out in the marketplace of ideas. Finally, C-Span will be interesting!

BkZfP9_CUAART3w.jpg-large…And in the Supreme Court I do not want the Justices to be buddies. The clear heads on the Court need to call Antonin Scalia the Fascist that he is to his face. I bet some of those Justices could give him and his sycophant Clarence Thomas a tongue lashing!

(In 2010, Boehner, Scalia and Thomas attended a “retreat” hosted by the Koch Brothers. All three should have been removed from Office. Let’s begin telling them to their faces. No more fake niceness.)

We know that Political Washington is the cesspool so vividly and hilariously depicted in one of our favorite shows, the brilliant Veep on HBO. Here’s a trailer (Warning: they use bad language just like real politicians do):

State Capitals are just mini-DCs, so they are at fault too. Come to think of it, let’s drop fake civility in State Legislatures too. The current approach certainly isn’t working, so something that wakes people up is an improvement.

I do draw the line at physical violence in the Legislative Chamber. You’ve seen the videos of that from around the world:

I sympathize with the shoe thrower, but we can’t go there as a society. Words are enough.

And by the way, Good reflexes Dubya! You learned something at Yale.

Ok, that’s my rant for today.

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant



Change or Dystopia

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Global_Warming_CartoonContinuing my thoughts on our ongoing Ecological crisis, it has become abundantly clear that we have reached the end of the road. Not just about the Fossil Fuels Industry, but about our worldwide economic system as well. Allow me to elaborate.

Appellatio Fraternitatis, the historic 5th Rosicrucian Manifesto (2014).

Appellatio Fraternitatis, the historic 5th Rosicrucian Manifesto (2014).

As the 5th Rosicrucian Manifesto makes very clear, the most pressing problem in the world is Global Climate Change caused by human industry, and in particular, the Fossil Fuels Industry. If we do not solve this problem, all of the other world problems will pale in comparison.

Sooner, rather than later, all of our coastal cities are going to be impacted by rising sea levels. Venice will be gone, the Maldives will be gone. Millions and millions of people will be displaced. This is not theory. It is happening already and will only get worse.

Everyone with an open mind knows that this is happening. All we have to do is look around…is the weather the same as it was when you were a kid?  What is preventing us from acting? Why hasn’t the US signed the Kyoto Protocols? Why do so many in our Country deny what is obviously right in front of their faces?



One Answer:

The Fossil Fuels Industry.

The FFI is incredibly wealthy, and incredibly powerful. The perfidious Koch Brothers are only the tip of the Iceberg (one that unfortunately, is NOT big-oil-5-300x279melting). They are using their wealth to buy politicians and bamboozle the gullible part of the US population (a big segment). I used to respect the old Republican Party (Eisenhower, Rockefeller, Goldwater) even if I did not agree with them. The current crop are thoroughly bought and paid for by the FFI, and cannot deviate from the FFI Orthodoxy: Global Climate Change is a Hoax. And as if their hold wasn’t tight enough, the Koch Brothers and their ilk created the Astroturf fake Tea-Party to control any politicians who might want to stray from their Orthodoxy.

Do you remember the tobacco industry claiming for years, and “proving” it with their biased paid “scientific” studies that cigarettes had no connection to cancer and other diseases? This is exactly the same thing. Gov. Perry and his fellow Republicans are either dumber than dust, or, what is more likely, deliberately lying about Global Climate Change under the impetus of the FFI. And my own Democrats are incapable of doing anything effective about it, and are certainly themselves sometimes partiers at the FFI’s trough.

We have a brief and rapidly retreating moment of opportunity here, while the World’s democracies are still functioning. We can change things by legal means. It won’t be easy, as the evil and cunning of those running the world (the mega-corporations) is very old and powerful. If we do not act, here is the future:

The Hunger Games' Capitol

The Hunger Games‘ Capitol

As sea levels rise, the wealthy will relocate to high ground inland, and have a great time in many Hunger Games style Capitols, while the displaced millions migrate slowly further and further inland. The Capitol dwellers will buy up the new coastal land and sell it to the poor. With infrastructures destroyed and the weather worsening, the majority of the people will languish in “The Districts,” like sheep.  If you think those in “The Capitol” will care about what happens to the rest, you are dreaming. Think about the Saudi Royal Family and the Bushes…’nuf said.

So what do we do about this?

I have already elaborated a comprehensive plan in previous posts. I’ll be a bit more case-specific here.

Warren Buffet and the Gates.

Warren Buffet and the Gates.

1. The Good Wealthy–the Giving Pledge: Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet and (at this point) 127 other civic-minded Billionaires have pledged to give ½ their wealth in philanthropical work. I call upon them to put some of their great wealth into combatting the FFI money keeping the US from acting on Global Climate Change and freedom from fossil fuels. Until we can remove money from politics totally, we need to fight fire with fire.

2. Vote out any politicians of any party that won’t act effectively on Global Climate Change and Green Technology issues. We must break free of dependence on fossil fuels now. There’s no more time.

3. Impeach and Remove any Supreme Court Justice that will not remove Corporate Personhood from Corporations and will not go along with the means needed for the measures needed in #2. Remember that Impeachment and conviction/removal are political processes, not judicial. All you need is a simple majority in the House of Representatives and ⅔ of the Senate to remove someone for any reason we want.

4. Use the huge power of the media (TV, Film, Internet) to demonize the FFI and anyone trying to keep us from Green Technology and renewable energy. Just as we have made smoking a disgusting habit in our society, let’s make dependence on Fossil Fuels disgusting too.

religious-symbols25. The world’s religions and spiritual traditions must stand united in this fight. Stop worrying about who sleeps with whom, and enforce your already existing theologies of responsible stewardship of our planet. Denounce this Corporate Sin from the pulpit, and put all the other issues on the back burner for now.

Other Countries must take similar steps according to their social and governmental structures. Once we have accomplished energy independence and  stop the run-away CO2 and other emissions, we can set about trying to save our coasts, and reforming our political and economic systems.

If we do not do these things, the world as we know it is going to fade from memory. Really.

Let’s do it!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor Consultant

And God Said: “I sent you a rowboat…”

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vice-on-hbo-watch-episode-1-630x419I just watched an episode of one of our favorite shows, Vice on HBO. It’s a video version of the acclaimed and ground-breaking investigative documentary magazine Vice, founded in Montréal in 1994 and now operated from Brooklyn. Vice comments on the condition of the world as they really are. It’s as free of political spin as I can find.

This episode was “The Resource Curse and Deliver Us from Drought.” The first segment, about how the discovery of natural resources in Papua New Guinea has resulted in the Resource Curse affecting them is worth a Blog too, and that will come one of these days. I want to focus today, more briefly than I usually do, on the second segment, about the horrendous Drought in Texas and the utter denial of most of that State’s politicians and people about the situation. Here’s the debrief… see the full episode on HBO!

(By the way, in this and most of my Posts, clicking on the pictures will usually give you further information on the topic.)

VICE_GovPerryThe parts of the exposé about the deliberately obtuse elected officials so far in the pocket of the oil / energy industry that they consciously and with full malice aforethought lie to everyone denying the human role in global climate change are old hat.

What is my interest today is the Evangelical Christian response shown in the episode. Mostly, they also refuse to accept as fact Global Climate Change. They appear to do this because, for some, it contradicts their non-scientific religious views that God directly controls the weather in some kind of anthropomorphic, rather than God’s having created natural laws to operate in a discoverable fashion. More mainline churches (Eastern Orthodox, Roman and Eastern Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Anglicans, High Church Protestants) understand that there is no real conflict between religion and science, and that God has given us reason to figure the world out.

Screen-Shot-2014-05-20-at-4.36.33-PMThese Evangelical Protestants are sincere and good people, and as the episode says, they turn to the only authority figure not in the pockets of the oil and gas industry for help: God. They pray for rain. And that’s good, but not good enough.

It reminds me of the old sermon chestnut that I have cited many times in my talks and workshops. It goes like this in a classic version from Comedy Central, slightly adapted:

It was flooding badly. As the flood waters were rising, a man was on the stoop of his house and another man in a rowboat came by. The man in the rowboat told the man on the stoop to get in and he’d save him. The man on the stoop said, no, he had faith in God and would wait for God to save him.

The flood waters kept rising and the man had to go to the second floor of his house. A man in a motorboat came by and told the shutterstock_100995136_350man in the house to get in because he had come to rescue him. The man in the house said no thank you. He had perfect faith in God and would wait for God to save him.

The flood waters kept rising. Pretty soon they were up to the man’s roof and he got out on the roof. A helicopter then came by, lowered a rope and the pilot shouted down in the man in the house to climb up the rope because the helicopter had come to rescue him. The man in the house wouldn’t get in. He told the pilot that he had faith in God and would wait for God to rescue him.

The flood waters kept rising and the man in the house drowned. When he got to heaven, he asked God where he went wrong. He told God that he had perfect faith in God, but God had let him drown.

“What more do you want from me?” asked God. “I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat, and a helicopter.”

In Texas, land of by ancestors, and in fact, all over the world, God is saying: “What more do you want from me? I sent you science as a tool to figure out the natural world. I sent you climatologists who have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that humanity is not fulfilling its duty of stewardship of your planet, and I sent you the technology to produce clean energy.”


Click on image to get the full story!

Click on image to get the full story!

But the sad punchline is that we are not listening. We continue to vote in the same people, because those politicians know that if they scare the people with the boogeyman of Hippies, San Francisco liberals, and the wedge issues of Gay Marriage, Abortion, and Undocumented Immigration they will distract them from the much more serious real issues that threaten our very existence on this planet.  Just so that the Politicians have plenty of Mammon in their pockets. They consume everything like locusts, which are a plague. They are part of the Kleptocracy. (And I know, the other side is problematic too.) Kleptocracy, by the way is Greek for “Rule by Theives,” κλέπτης – kleptēs, “thief” and κράτος – kratos, “power, rule.”


Read these cards carefully!

So my dear Texans, whence my family comes, and everyone else, including yours truly: Wake up! Listen to what God is really saying, vote the jerks out, and join together to resume good stewardship of this most wonderful planet we have been given! It is a disgrace that these politicians continue to hold office. They and their ilk are either befuddled or liars, and therefore, their father is the Father of Lies and the Master of Deception, or as St. Ignatius of Loyola says, “the Enemy of Human Nature.” I don’t care which Party politicians belong to, just so they are good, rational, capable and honest people who can help solve our global problems.

Appellatio Fraternitatis, the historic 5th Rosicrucian Manifesto (2014).

Appellatio Fraternitatis, the historic 5th Rosicrucian Manifesto (2014).

The Fifth Rosicrucian Manifesto, Appellatio Fraternitatis is clear that Ecology is the most pressing problem in the world. There will be no more humanity to have spirituality and humanism if we don’t solve this.

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant


Iraq Need Not Be One Country

Colin Powell's infamous UN Speech

Colin Powell’s infamous UN Speech

Well, the Quagmire of our involvement in Iraq is back. Pottery Barn Rules, as former Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “You break it, it’s yours.” (He admits it was a mistake, but I sure would like to hear him come forward and admit that the Cheney/Bush White House deliberately lied bald-face to him and all of us about WMDs, and played him for a fool. Or maybe he was complicit. I hope not.)

In any case, people have continued to die in Iraq since we pulled out, and now even more are dying. And we are getting drawn back in. What are the causes of this problem.

Ground Rules:

First, there is no excuse for terrorism. The Jihadist, Wahabist ISIL/ISIS are opportunistic thugs, and need to be completely eliminated from the playing field. Al Qaida’s leadership are cowardly demagogues perverting their faith so that the old males can stay in power. You can tell the tree by its fruits: Al Qaida has spawned ISIL and Boko Haram, to name just a couple. ‘Nuf Said. Nothing that has happened in the past can excuse their perfidy.

Innocent hard-working, honest, moderate Iraqis and Syrians are suffering as ideologues battle in their streets. This has to stop.

But Situations have Causes

Sherman and Mr. Peabody with the Wayback Machine!

Sherman and Mr. Peabody with the Wayback Machine!

While being quite clear that these right-wing militant movements in Islam are dead wrong, how did they get a chance to get a foothold? For example, in the US, we know that the obstructionist Neo-Cons (from the Reagan era forward) got a foothold because good people were asleep at their posts, and were too nice and complacent, and politicians and the major news media of all stripes are bought and paid for.

What allowed the horrendous situation that Islam (and in particular the Arab World) finds itself in. We could examine Christianity in the same way, but right now, they are not at the forefront of world problems (they were in previous eras, and might be again…but I hope not!).

I’m sure my faithful readers know that we are going to get into the WayBack Machine and find out what major historical mistakes were made to bring us to today’s impasse. I’ll speak in general terms, but my primary focus is on Iraq, the disaster of the moment.

Late Antiquity

First Council of Nicaea (325)

First Council of Nicaea (325)

Everything goes back to Late Antiquity in the West (India to Ireland, more or less, and now extending to the New World).  For these purposes, I define Late Antiquity as Peter Brown does, from the 2nd to the 8th Centuries.

Around 284, the Roman Emperor Diocletian drew a line dividing the Empire into West and East. We are still fighting across that line today. Croatia is on one side of the line, and Serbia is on the other. In 320, Emperor (St.) Constantine moved the capital of Rome to his new city Constantinople, and Christianity, which Diocletian had persecuted so severely, became first tolerated, and then the State Religion. In 380, Emperor (St.) Theodosius I declared not just Christianity, but Nicene Christianity (as defined at the Council of Nicaea–325) to be the Only State Religion of Rome. By 394 he closed all the Pre-Christian Temples. No more religious syncretism and toleration, as Julian II had argued for, and as had been practiced for thousands of year in the West. (The reason the Jews and Christians in the early Roman Empire were persecuted because they would not offer sacrifices to the State Gods, not due to theological issues.)

This intolerance, even within Christianity would end up splitting the Church, first at the Council of Ephesus when the far eastern Christians (Persia and India) could not accept the Christological definitions in 431. Then in 451, the Council of Chalcedon left the Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, and Syriac Christians out in the cold when they could not accept its definitions. These disputes are today seen as primarily linguistic, and politically and economically motivated.

In Western Europe, Roman Rule gradually faded, finally being extinguished in the 6th century as the Barbarians took over.

The Muslim Conquest

The Caliphate. Note that "Byzantine Empire" should be "Roman Empire."

The Caliphate. Note that “Byzantine Empire” should be “Roman Empire.”

Egypt and Syria were more and more persecuted by the central Roman Government, and they were greatly disadvantaged ecumenically. Politically correct “Roman Orthodox” Hierarchies were set up in these areas as well to compete with the native Christians. By the 600s, Egypt and Syria were chafing under oppressive Roman “Orthodox-Catholic” rule. It should be no surprise that as the newly created Muslim armies swept across the Middle East and Egypt in the mid 600s, the native Christians did not see loyalty to the Roman Empire as much worth fighting for. In those days, Islam was rather tolerant, especially toward Jews, Christians, and Sabians (Peoples of the Book). By 750, they held all the way to Spain and Portugal in the West to some parts of Western India in the East. If Christianity had not been divided by doctrinal intolerance, fueled by politics and economics, history would be different.

At this point, and for centuries following, Islam preserved the ancient learning, as did Constantinople and the Christian Roman Empire (in the East). Islam became the most cultured and scientifically advanced civilization in the west. The Roman Empire kept defending its Eastern borders. In Spain and Portugal, Islam respected the native Christian and Jewish population, although it was clear who was in charge.

The Disaster of the Crusades

Ravenna--the Perfidious Sack of Constantinople in 1204 by the 4th Crusade

Ravenna–the Perfidious Sack of Constantinople in 1204 by the 4th Crusade

The first watershed disaster was the beginning of the Crusades. Largely to stop the Western European Kingdoms from fighting one another, armies (sometimes well organized, sometimes not), urged on by Pope Urban II in 1095 came from Western Europe to reclaim the middle eastern lands lost to Christianity. They conquered Jerusalem in 1099 killing the Jewish, Christian and Muslim population without mercy, and then began setting up Western Kingdoms, instead of returning the lands to the Roman Empire. These disastrous military adventures continued on and off through the 15th Century. Rather than actually helping the beleaguered Romans, the Crusades weakened the Empire. In 1204, the Fourth Crusade actually sacked Constantinople and set up a Latin Kingdom, massacring the Christians of The City, and pillaging and desecrating the Churches. God protect us from our friends. Ultimately, the Crusaders lost everything they had conquered.

Of the two great adversaries of the early crusade period, Richard the Lion-Hearted and Salah-al-Din, Saladin was the far more impressive figure.

The Crusades left a lasting wound in Muslim-Christian relations. Ignorant Westerners, like George W. Bush, used the word Crusade after 9/11 which only made things worse. Yes, as I said above, there is no excuse for terrorism (and 9/11), but the President of the United States needs to know history:

At left, Constantine XI, at right, Mehmed II.

At left, Constantine XI, at right, Mehmed II.

On Tuesday May 29, 1453 the Roman Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks. In 1492, the Reconquista of Spain and Portugal was completed, and the Christians, not as tolerant as Islam had been, expelled all the Muslims and Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. My family was awarded the knightly name “Escontrias” for our efforts in the Reconquista.

Meanwhile, the Ottoman domination of Islam did not fare well. The high culture and science of previous ages declined. Women were disrespected. Minorities were persecuted. Already for Centuries, the touted toleration of the Peoples of the Book had given way to forced or coerced conversions. From the 1380s to 1638, the Ottoman Turks captured Christian Children and raised them as Muslims, and made them the crack troops of their Empire, the Janissaries, since their own troops were not as reliable.

As Islam declined, things got worse. Read What Went Wrong for an excellent analysis by Muslim Scholars themselves.

Civility had broken down on all sides. The Muslims held their territory, Western Christians held most of Europe (minus Greece and the Balkans), and Orthodox Christians held the Central and North East portions of Europe (extending into Asia eventually all the way to Alaska).

World War I

Let’s fast forward our time machine to 1914-1918. The European Monarchs, all Cousins, started a war against one another. The Ottoman Empire sided with Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Bulgaria against the Allies. As part of the struggle, the Western Powers, including the United States, promised the Arabs of the Middle East and North Africa their own Kingdoms if they would side with us against the Ottomans (see Lawrence of Arabia: T.E. Lawrence). They did, and we betrayed their trust.  Britain and France made a secret pace, the Sykes-Picot agreement, which divided all of the captured Arab lands between them as colonies and protectorates in 1916. When the plot was exposed in 1917 by the Bolsheviks, America tacitly accepted it.

1849_Mitchell_Map_of_Turkey_(_Iraq,_Syria,_Palestine_)_-_Geographicus_-_TurkeyAsia-m-1849Iraq is a perfect example of how the Europeans carved up the Ottoman Empire. They had learned how to do this in Africa during long years of colonialism, and this paternalistic approach of “We know better than the people who live there” was continued.

Ottoman Iraq had been three Provinces,

Mosul Vilayet
Baghdad Vilayet
Basra Vilayet

It was the British who made it one unified area, ignoring the differences between Sunis, Shias and Kurds. This set the stage for the situation we are in now.

I need to make something clear at this point. I support the existence of the State of Israel, and I support an independent Palestinian State (the two-state proposition).  I just wanted to make that clear, since this European mismanagement is involved in that story too.

Now, the WWI allies are not the only culprits in the area. Let’s look at the Saudi Kingdom.

From Wikipedia: “In that 1744, Muhammad ibn Saud, the tribal ruler of the town of Ad-Dir’iyyah near Riyadh, joined forces with the religious leader Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, the founder of the Wahhabi movement – a radical form of Islam.  This alliance formed in the 18th century provided the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion and remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today.”

From that time, through the revolt against Ottoman Rule, and finally between the World Wars, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formalized in 1933. The problem is this. Wahhabism is perhaps the most debased and despicable form of fundamentalistic Islam. It is decried by Sunnis, Shias and Sufis alike. And we support the Saudis. Wahabism spawned Al Qaida.

What Are We Doing?

Why are we continuing the colonial mistakes of Great Britain in Iraq, just as we tragically decided to support French Colonialism in Viet-Nam? Why not let Iraq divide into three Countries, or at least three autonomous provinces, perhaps not exactly along the lines of the Ottoman Provinces, but something fair for all three groups, with an agreement to share the oil revenues justly?

7_deadly_sins_by_subhraj1t-d4eaws6To do so would be to admit openly that (1) European Colonialism was in most cases very destructive, and (2) We, as part of the WWI Allies, betrayed our Arab allies and did not fulfill our promises to them after the World War I. Instead, we acquiesced in the extension of Colonialism to the Arab world. This has to stop, as it has opened the door to something very evil. The inherent instability of an artificially united Iraq has allowed “demons worse than the first to enter”:

Ὅταν δὲ τὸ ἀκάθαρτον πνεῦμα ἐξέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, διέρχεται δι’ ἀνύδρων τόπων ζητοῦν ἀνάπαυσιν, καὶ οὐχ εὑρίσκει. τότε λέγει· Εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου ἐπιστρέψω ὅθεν ἐξῆλθον· καὶ ἐλθὸν εὑρίσκει σχολάζοντα σεσαρωμένον καὶ κεκοσμημένον. τότε πορεύεται καὶ παραλαμβάνει μεθ’ ἑαυτοῦ ἑπτὰ ἕτερα πνεύματα πονηρότερα ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ εἰσελθόντα κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ· καὶ γίνεται τὰ ἔσχατα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκείνου χείρονα τῶν πρώτων. οὕτως ἔσται καὶ τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ τῇ πονηρᾷ.

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.  — Matthew 12: 43-45

Saddam was bad. ISIL (ISIS) is worse.

The Newest Threat to Peace

From the BBC, July 2014

From the BBC, July 2014

The utter corruption of the Syrian Government under Assad, and our mistaken duct-tape and bailing-wire job of continuing the British mistake of creating one Iraq from the three Ottoman provinces have opened the door to the neo-jihadist ISIL/ISIS.  The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), alternately translated as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is an extremist jihadist group so terrible that even Al Qaida denounces them! They have declared themselves to be the ancient Caliphate reborn, and that they have authority over all Muslims worldwide. They were born from the Muslim Brotherhood, which recently attempted to take over Egypt, and intend to undo all of the post WWI divisions. (See, they remember the history we conveniently forget.)

Most recently, ISIL has told the indigenous Christians in their captured territories in Syria and Iraq that they must either convert to Islam, pay the “protection tax,” or be killed. Here is the BBC’s report. “We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the Isis statement said. They are turning the clock back to the 7th century.

So many Americans, Iraqis, and our allies have paid the price of death and maiming to free Iraq from tyranny. Whether or not the pursuit of the second Iraq War was justified, it happened. Far worse than the feckless prosecution of the War by the cowardly “W” administration (remember parents having to buy suitable equipment to send to their children fighting in IRAQ?) was Bush/Cheney’s complete lack of a plan for Nation Building and exit. Now they sit back with their Saudi pals and laugh, and the world has to figure out how to exorcize the far worse ISIL demons from Iraq and Syria.

I don’t have a neat solution, but ISIL certainly must be completely eliminated. I think the other Muslim Nations may need to clean up this mess, and the Europeans and Americans must fess up to having set the stage for this complete debacle. And most certainly, we need to support the Kurds in their quest for an independent Kurdistan in the Middle East. Watch this episode of Vice on HBO: “A Syria of their Own,” to see why they are the ones to back!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant





Corporate Persons Acting on their Religious Beliefs?

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The 5 Supremes who have sold out to the Corporations in their new robes

The 5 Supremes who have sold out to the Corporations in their new robes

So our Nine Supremes (funny, there were Nine Nazgûl too!) have decided that Hobby Lobby can refuse to pay for female contraceptives based on their “Christian” Beliefs… First of all who is the Government to decide which religious doctrines are OK to enforce in public life?

But wait. Hmmm? Maybe we should take a second look at this.

If Hobby Lobby is a “Religious Corporate Person,” then all the rest are too. Let’s look at one case in the news right now.

As we all know, Detroit has defaulted and is in bankruptcy.  Now, two of the biggest creditors, Financial Guaranty Insurance Company:

A. Edward Turi, III, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel
Timothy S. Travers, Executive Vice President
Derek M. Donnelly
Michael C. Haines, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Office

and Syncora:

Susan Comparato, Chief Executive Officer and President
Michael Corbally, Senior Vice President
James W Lundy Jr, General Counsel & Secretary
Claude L. LeBlanc, Chief Financial Officer/Chief Restructuring Officer
Drew D. Hoffman, Senior Vice President
Orlando Rivera, Senior Vice President

are demanding that Detroit sell its World Class Art collection housed at the Detroit Institute of the Arts to pay off their debts. A recent thorough study by Artvest has suggested that even if the collection could be sold (many pieces cannot legally be sold because of donation contracts), it would only raise something under 2 Billion, a pittance to the total owed.

Detroit Institute of Art

Detroit Institute of Art

Not only that, but the sale would most likely result in the art masterpieces being taken away from the people, and going into the private collections of the obscenely rich.

Now I would be willing to bet, that given probabilities and looking at their names above, the leadership of Financial Guaranty and Syncora are either Christian, Jewish or Muslim. I guess like Hobby Lobby, that makes the Corporations members of the one the Abrahamic Faiths. And what do the Abrahamic Faiths teach about what one must do when you hold a dept over someone who has fallen on hard times?

Here’s what Byzantine Christians (Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Greek Catholics) sing during the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified during the first week of Great Lent:

While fasting physically, brethren, let us also fast spiritually. Let us loose every knot of iniquity. Let us tear up every unrighteous bond. Let us distribute bread to the hungry, and welcome into our homes those who have no roof over their heads, so that we may receive the Great Mercy from Christ our God.

Lenten Presanctified Liturgy. Photo by Julia Makoveitchuk

Lenten Presanctified Liturgy. Photo by Julia Makoveitchuk

These verses, in turn are based on the Hebrew Book of Isaiah, which is accepted as Sacred Scripture by all Jews, Christians and Muslims:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator[a] shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Great Isaiah Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls

Great Isaiah Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.

— Isaiah 58: 6-12

There is also the Jewish custom of the Jubilee year, when all debts are forgiven, described in Leviticus 25.

shrewd_manager-297x300Following this, the Master Jesus told the parable of the clever steward, illustrating that debts are less important than human relationships:

Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητάς· Ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν πλούσιος ὃς εἶχεν οἰκονόμον, καὶ οὗτος διεβλήθη αὐτῷ ὡς διασκορπίζων τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ. καὶ φωνήσας αὐτὸν εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Τί τοῦτο ἀκούω περὶ σοῦ; ἀπόδος τὸν λόγον τῆς οἰκονομίας σου, οὐ γὰρ δύνῃ ἔτι οἰκονομεῖν. εἶπεν δὲ ἐν ἑαυτῷ ὁ οἰκονόμος· Τί ποιήσω ὅτι ὁ κύριός μου ἀφαιρεῖται τὴν οἰκονομίαν ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ; σκάπτειν οὐκ ἰσχύω, ἐπαιτεῖν αἰσχύνομαι· ἔγνων τί ποιήσω, ἵνα ὅταν μετασταθῶ ἐκ τῆς οἰκονομίας δέξωνταί με εἰς τοὺς οἴκους ἑαυτῶν. καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος ἕνα ἕκαστον τῶν χρεοφειλετῶν τοῦ κυρίου ἑαυτοῦ ἔλεγεν τῷ πρώτῳ· Πόσον ὀφείλεις τῷ κυρίῳ μου; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· Ἑκατὸν βάτους ἐλαίου· ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Δέξαι σου τὰ γράμματα καὶ καθίσας ταχέως γράψον πεντήκοντα. ἔπειτα ἑτέρῳ εἶπεν· Σὺ δὲ πόσον ὀφείλεις; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· Ἑκατὸν κόρους σίτου· λέγει αὐτῷ· Δέξαι σου τὰ γράμματα καὶ γράψον ὀγδοήκοντα. καὶ ἐπῄνεσεν ὁ κύριος τὸν οἰκονόμον τῆς ἀδικίας ὅτι φρονίμως ἐποίησεν· ὅτι οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου φρονιμώτεροι ὑπὲρ τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ φωτὸς εἰς τὴν γενεὰν τὴν ἑαυτῶν εἰσιν. καὶ ἐγὼ ὑμῖν λέγω, [ἑαυτοῖς ποιήσατε φίλους ἐκ τοῦ μαμωνᾶ τῆς ἀδικίας, ἵνα ὅταν ἐκλίπῃ δέξωνται ὑμᾶς εἰς τὰς αἰωνίους σκηνάς.

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. — Luke 16: 1-9

The Mainline Christian Churches (Eastern Orthodox, Roman and Eastern Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Anglicans, Protestants) all teach some form of forgiveness of debts.

BmLjV7AIIAAU9c7.jpg-largeHere is an example from 2000:

The existence of a foreign debt which is suffocating quite a few countries of the American continent represents a complex problem. . . . The Church in her pastoral concern cannot ignore this difficult situation, since it touches the life of so many people. . . . I too have frequently expressed my concern about this situation, which in some cases has become unbearable. In light of the imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and recalling the social significance that Jubilees had in the Old Testament, I wrote: “In the spirit of the book of Leviticus (25:8-12), Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations.” — (St.) John Paul II, The Church in America (Ecclesia in America), post-synodal apostolic exhortation (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1999), no. 59.



Reject Calvinism!

Of course, hardcore Calvinism teaches that riches are the sign of God’s favor, and show that the Rich are predestined to salvation, while poverty is the sign of God’s hatred, and show that the poor are predestined to damnation. Social Calvanism, as we have discussed in this Blog before, is the secular religion of American Government and Commerce. Since this, as well as some other Calvinist tenets, directly contradict huge portions of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, I can only consider this kind of hardcore Calvinism to be a hideous distortion of the message of Christianity, and should be jettisoned by all.





Islam also teaches this forgiveness of debts.

Surat 2:280

Surat 2:280

If the debtor is in difficulty, grant him time till it is easy for him to repay. But, if ye remit it by way of charity, that is best for you if ye only knew.—Qur’an 2:280

Here is further commentary on this verse:

Ibn Katheer  said in his Tafseer: “It is recommended to cancel the debt of the debtor and Allaah Promises the one who does this much good and great reward as He Says (what means) {But if you give [from your right as] charity, then it is better for you, if you only knew}. ‘But if you give charity’ means: but if you leave your capital completely and relieve the debtor of paying it back (then it is better for you). There are also many Hadeeths of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi was sallam to this effect…” He then gave a lengthy account of the Hadeeths that highlight the virtue of giving respite to an insolvent debtor. It is narrated on the authority of Abu Umaamah  that the Prophet , said: “Whoever would be pleased that Allaah Would Shelter him under His Shade on the Day when there will be no shade except His, let him alleviate the debt of an insolvent person or grant him remission.” [At-Tabaraani]

So no matter which of the Abrahamic Faiths Financial Guaranty Insurance Company and Syncora belong to, Debt Relief is part of that Faith.

In the statistically unlikely case that Financial Guaranty Insurance Company and Syncora are Buddhist, Hindu or some other religion, there are no doubt equally compelling mandates to forgive debts.

So Financial Guaranty Insurance Company and Syncora, stay with Hobby Lobby’s example, and follow your faith’s tenets. Forgive Detroit’s debt today.


Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

A View From The 5th of July

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The Boston Pops fireworks erupt over the Charles River on July 4, 2011. (Flickr/Kunal Mukherjee)

The Boston Pops fireworks erupt over the Charles River on July 4, 2011. (Flickr/Kunal Mukherjee)

I have enjoyed watching the many Fireworks shows across the nation for our Country’s 238th Birthday, and noted a couple of things that got me thinking.


Gandalf as portrayed by Sir Ian McKellan

Who doesn’t love Fireworks? Remember that Fireworks were Gandalf’s specialty, as he was the bearer of the Ring of Fire. Tolkien describes him in an essay on the Istari (Wizards) in Unfinished Tales:

 “Warm and eager was his spirit (and it was enhanced by the ring Narya), for he was the Enemy of Sauron, opposing the fire that devours and wastes with the fire that kindles, and succours in wanhope and distress; but his joy, and his swift wrath, were veiled in garments grey as ash, so that only those that knew him well glimpsed the flame that was within. Merry he could be, and kindly to the young and simple, yet quick at times to sharp speech and the rebuking of folly; but he was not proud, and sought neither power nor praise… Mostly he journeyed unwearingly on foot, leaning on a staff, and so he was called among Men of the North Gandalf ‘the Elf of the Wand’. For they deemed him (though in error) to be of Elven-kind, since he would at times work wonders among them, loving especially the beauty of fire; and yet such marvels he wrought mostly for mirth and delight, and desired not that any should hold him in awe or take his counsels out of fear. … Yet it is said that in the ending of the task for which he came he suffered greatly, and was slain, and being sent back from death for a brief while was clothed then in white, and became a radiant flame (yet veiled still save in great need).” — J.R.R. Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, 390-391.

During more than one Fireworks this year, the soundtrack included some music celebrating us as a nation of Immigrants:

The first is Neil Diamond’s modern Classic, “Coming to America”:

The second is an instrumental cover of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Brilliant “America” from West Side Story:

And concluding with some of the bars from the show’s signature song, the moving “Somewhere”:

I presume everyone knows that West Side Story is an update of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. If you’ve never seen it, see it on stage or DVD. The genius of Shakespeare is matched by that of Bernstein and Sondheim.

zuckerbergWith all of this celebration of us as a Nation of Immigrants, it is time for (my old friends) the Republicans to stop their blockage of Immigration Reform. Good for the President for working to get things done. And Boo! to those Murrieta CA protesters who blocked the busloads of immigrants whom the border service wanted to lawfully process to return to their home countries. “America for Americans,” they shout, ignorant of the fact that we are strong because we come from so many other places.

The former Deacon of my old Parish, Fr. Gerry Sondergaard, told the story of his Irish Grandfather getting off the boat in New York, not yet even processed for immigration, who criticized the Italian-American dock workers who were speaking Italian. “Listen to that, they can’t even speak English!” he said. I suppose there have always been rivalries between immigrant groups, as West Side Story illustrates, but our Immigrants are our shining treasure.

In the DC 4th of July Celebrations, the fabulous Patti LaBelle sang “Over the Rainbow” in celebration of the movie’s 75th Anniversary this year. Here’s a 1989 version:


1900 First Edition Cover

1900 First Edition Cover

1900 Title Page

1900 Title Page

And that, of course, got me thinking about The Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 by Baum and Illustrator W.W. Denslow. It was a huge hit, and has been translated to stage and most famously, the 1939 Movie Musical starring Judy Garland.

Baum and his wife were esotericists, members of the Theosophical Society since 1892, and were supporters of Women’s Suffrage and the Rights of Native Americans. They believed in God, but thought that religious decisions should be made by mature minds, rather than religious authorities.

His spiritual views are well represented in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and translate well to the silver screen. The culminating message of Interior Gnosis has been taught to young and old for over a century:







The First Four Poppins Books

The First Four Poppins Books

And he isn’t alone. P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins novels, was a follower of the Fourth Way (Gurdjieff and Ouspensky). As she wrote:

 Many are those down the ages who, sorrowing for their own lack of watchfulness, have too late learned what it means to pay attention, that it is not something that simply happens, nor to be had by chance…

If man has within him the potential, if only as a germ, to share in the consciousness of the universe, even to glimpse at moments certain aspects of the Unknown (behold, I show you a mystery!) above all, to learn to know himself, can this be done without attention?

And what of that word “pay”? First of all the whole person, all the functions closely cohering—thought, feeling, bodily sensation—must be ready, vigilant, alert; and to preface this ingathering there must be present in us—one can sum it up in one single word: attention’s closest kin, intention.  P. L. Travers, Sunflower, Parabola Magazine, Vol. XV, No. 2, Summer 1990, p. 84.





Mary Poppins from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

It is no wonder that as the Mary Poppins series went on, the heroine became more and more obviously associated with Divine Wisdom. I’m not just making this up. In the Graphic Novel series, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, she appears in her full Divine Role:

“Thus the caring, motherly side of God, in the form of Mary Poppins, came down from the heavens to destroy the Antichrist. She did this by altering reality to transform the Antichrist into a chalk drawing. With the words “splish, splash”, she summoned a rainfall to wash away the chalk drawing. Mary Poppins appears to represent Shekhinah, Binah, or Sophia. Mary Poppins is a personification of all these concepts, and as such, she represents the feminine side of God that cares for the welfare of mankind. Mary Poppins reveals her godly status by informing the Antichrist that she is on ‘every page’ of the Bible, whereas he is in ‘just the one book’).” —

Now that’s Supercalifragalisicexpialidicious!

Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series Cover for MacDonald's Lilith

Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series Cover for MacDonald’s Lilith

George MacDonald (Congregationalist), C.S. Lewis (Anglican), J.R.R. Tolkien (Roman Catholic), Charles Williams (Anglican & Esotericist), Dorothy Sayers (Anglican), Madeleine L’Engle (Episcopalian), and J.K. Rowling (Anglican) are all very spiritual authors. MacDonald rejected predestination and taught universal salvation (Apocatastasis), as did L’Engle. He also rejected the “Penal Substitution” theory of Christ’s Salvation of All. Charles Williams was initiated into A.E. Waite’s Salvator Mundi Temple of the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross.

I mention this because Right-Wing Christian Religious groups often warn against this kind of children’s literature as having an agenda.

Let me clarify. By Right-Wing Christian Religious Groups I mean the kooky far-right fringe of Christianity. Certainly the worst is the Westboro “Baptist” Church, but there are many others. It isn’t only Islam that has nutty fundamentalists. We do too. The difference is that, happily, for the most part, we keep ours sidelined, while a country like Saudi Arabia is in full league with them (the Wahhabis). We must tolerate these extremist Fundamentalist Christians, but for heaven’s sake (literally), don’t let them have any control over our life as a people.

Well, I am here to tell you that, of course, the reasonable and loving spiritual beliefs that authors like Baum, Travers and the others mentioned above come through in their writings. Of course I hope that your children listen to the message and reject your ignorance. As my old professor Jaroslav Pelikan wrote:

“Tradition is the Living Faith of the Dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”goldwater

Right-thinking and God-loving people of good will, the natural opponents of fanatics and fundamentalists, have always wanted to influence the young to the benefit of the children, who are our future, the Spes Gregis (Hope of the Flock). Perhaps the most famous person who was accused of “corrupting the youth,” was Socrates, who was only trying to show people the errors of their ways.  Who would not want to let young people being raised in willful ignorance by their benighted parents, know that there is a better way?

φόβος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ, ἀλλ’ ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη ἔξω βάλλει τὸν φόβον, ὅτι ὁ φόβος κόλασιν ἔχει, ὁ δὲ φοβούμενος οὐ τετελείωται ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. — 1 John 4:18.

fundyFundamentalists of all Creeds are filled with Fear, as they instinctively know that their grip on the world is loosening, and they are bound to fail as their “faith” is baseless. I most certainly hope that the children of these communities listen to the message proclaimed by such authors as I have mentioned, and keep hope alive for when they are free to move beyond their parents’ ignorance and fear.  Perfect Love really does cast out Fear, in our world just as it does in Oz, Middle-Earth and Hogwarts.

So that’s what I’m seeing from July 5! Let Freedom Ring!




Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Membership Services