Archive for October, 2011

The Working Principle of Jubilee

October 30, 2011

In ancient Israel, the land was understood to be a posession of God, with its owners being stewards, or caretakers. When a parcel was sold by one Israelite to another, its transferrance was considered a lease of the land’s use–that is to say, a sale of future crops therein–not an absolute ownership, since that domain was reserved to the Creator alone.

In order that the people of God might establish a manageable economy, their Creator mandated a fifty year cycle–a system of seven revolving seven-year periods, plus one extra year, later called the (50th) year of “jubilee.” By this revolving arrangement the natural inclination of human productivity toward inflation would be neutralized with a built-in systematic deflation. A sale of land in year 1 of the cycle would obstensibly be worth 49 times its value in year 49, since 49 prospective crops were understood to be the virtual substance of the transaction.

Furthermore, the working out of this economy also required that existing debts among Israelites be cancelled every seven years, and also that indentured servants or slaves be freed in that same seventh (sabbath) year. In the 50th year, at the end of the cycle, the land itself was returned to its original family of ownership of fifty years ago.

By this means, incentives for upward mobility of productive people were woven into the economy, and periodic debt forgiveness eliminated accruals of huge, unsurmountable debt among the working people. Accumulations of vast landed estates and monopolistic entities were also prevented, if the system was working as the Creator had designed it.

In this way, the followers of God were set up to prosper, both individually, familially, and collectively, according to the respective levels of their own chosen productivity and stewardship. And a constant deliverance of the poverty-stricken (unemployed) persons from a poorhouse fate would preclude a permanant underclass.

In real time, it didn’t exactly work out that way, but the theoretical principles of Sabbaths, Jubilee, systematic deflation (not as bad as it sounds), and debt forgiveness might be worth considering in light of our presently hyper-leveraged circumstances.

The principle of regular sabbath renewals goes back to God’s original creative work as it is figuratively documented in Genesis. God revealed himself to humans as a Creator. A definitive part of that creative process included rest and introspective recovery for the sake of developmentally corrective alignment.

If you care to learn more about this divine economy, and perhaps to consider its applications to modern existence, read Leviticus 25 and Deutoronomy 15, in the Bible.

Glass half-Full

The Ghost

October 29, 2011

That Occupying spirit face, it hauntifies my mind–
a smirky mask with painted smile upon its face of ghastly white.
Oh! what a ghostly site.
With black-lined clownish bizarrity
it mocks authority,
and conjures up signs of somethin happnin here;
what it is aint exactly clear.
Now fhe windmills of my mind  crank out shadowy spectres from long ago:
the port huron statement and
four dead in ohio.
I see the ghost of  My Lai massacre;
it stalks my g-generation like a smear–
blood on our hands from the tip of an agent-orange-spiked spear.
Out damned spot!
Have you come to splotch us again?
Out, I say, with the dire trespass of dow jones culpability
and exploding napalm fire like some howling banshee.
As puff the magic dragon who used to frolic in autimn mists
so our innocence has spiraled up in smoky days,
with unwelcome images from a Gulf of Tonkin haze.
Deja vu
I feel this wallstreet visitation is a spectre of impending trouble:
calling into question all the blood guilt ever known by man, double
and all the carnage ever splattered on to span
upon a waste and wanton land;
Who’s responsible for this?
And my mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in the stars
shall bitterly begin
with these Occupying rebels
whose consensual zeal would snuff out the wallstreet conniption fit
of capitalism’s big collateralized debt obligation zit,
as if the heart of depraved man could be improved upon a bit.
Oh shit!
This protest, in its collective sensibility,
is presumed more pristine
than corporate culpability,
with its globalized guile and leveraged guilt.
Does their urgent cry for egalité
cloak some fateful guillotine strategé?
A reign of terror from the tyrrany of the ninety-nine
to thrash out the fattened one-percent piggy kine?
Will this produce a future gulag or a forced labor camp,
a cultural revolution led by a raging tramp?
Who’s responsible for this?
this fermenting mobbish contagion
transgression upon our convulsing nation.
It renders ashen white our neo-wallstreet mask
and calls us to blot out the bloody task
of human business.
Out! damned spot, we cry unto the whispering wind.
lay on us no more collateral damage to offend.
And ask not for whom that damned bell  tolls;
now it peels again and again unto our restless souls.

Our ancestral refugees left ghoulish tales from long ago and far away
of the dachau and  the auschwitz and the hitlerian birkenau.
And we hear ghastly tales from the so-called other side
of how they perished in stalin’s gulag, and in the mao’s “cultural revolution” millions died.
By their calculated rearrangements of the classified human chain,
they bound our bloody attempts to declassify into some ghoulish arbitrary game,
where the shedding of guilty blood, for the intent to make everything right
became an instant reply of human cruelty, sprinkled with bloody fright.

Now we the piggy capitalists, have we crossed that same damned line?
Have our reckless swapping one-percent cast unbearable load upon the ninety-nine?
Do you Occupyers now propose to judge their fatcat games
with social restructurings to expunge their selfish shames?
Good luck with that;
it’ll be a cold day in hell
when we know for whom that bell
Our capitalist souls?

Glass Chimera

Gift of Soul, and so on…

October 23, 2011

If you think people evolved from lower life forms,  then please understand that this creative work was revealed long ago–before science was invented– when it was written very simply that “the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground.”

And if you think that hominids such as Neanderthals or Cro-magnons lived on earth before Adam and Eve, then please wrap your mind around the fact that at a certain selected point in time,  the Creator– the One who had written the double-helixed codes of life itself–touched a man and gave him an essential gift–something very new and unprecedented. God placed within the man, Adam, a gift that would forever define the quality and direction of human life.

We call it soul. From that point on, men and women became less like the animals, more like God.

“God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

This gift of soul set men and women apart from other life forms, as its metamorphosing wonder formed within them self-consciousness and God-awareness. This had never been possible in the animal existence.

The soul-enabled path of  higher development now available to us through God’s shared creative work led ultimately to a new requirement–the need for law.
Through Moses, Law was given, so that we might civilize the world and live peaceably and productively within it.

The subsequent progress that sprung up through law-enabled civilization– and its incessant entropy toward downfall– led ultimately to a new epiphany–the need for Spirit, and not just any spirit, but a holy and righteous Spirit.

Through the life, death, and resurrection of  Jesus, the holy Spirit was given. Are you ready for this?

Judah and Israel

October 22, 2011

Settling back into the Appalachian homing crib now, after a west coast week turnaround, I’m puzzling about the few days I spent observing the Occupyers at Seattle and Vancouver.

Yesterday I get an RSS email from Phyllis Chesler pronouncing the Occupy movement antisemitic.Whoa!

She presents some convincing evidence in her 5-page posting, with video quips of two Occupy LA  protesters whose statements about bankers reveal some authentically deliberate Jew-bashing, and there’s a lengthy, detailed sign about the old bogey Illuminati/Freemason conspiracy, whch was a dark strain of allegedly hidden connections that I had investigated briefly about 33 years ago.

So I get to hypertexting around on the net, and sure’nuff, there’s more to this Occupy movement than meets the all-seeing eye. More evidence shows up on Jeff Dunetz’ yidwithlid blog:
Yid with Lid wrote:
“The MSM (mainstream media) worked very hard to brand the Tea Party Movement as Racist, but it wasn’t. They are working just as hard to ignore the blatant Antisemitism and libelous demonization of Israel coming out of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and they are. It is not just a few nuts within the Occupy Wall Street Movement who are bashing Israel and Jews, it is the leadership and founders.”
A few more clicks mouses us around to a different point of view, the other side of the shekel, from Dave Weigel at Slate:
Weigel wrote:
“There is a problem: The movement isn’t anti-Semitic. It started in New York. Its ideological hero is Naomi Klein. This is a movement studded with liberal Jews! Here’s one video that’s gotten less play than the one of the irate anti-Semitic dipshit with the “Nazi bankers” sign: The Kol Nidre in New York, at the Occupy camp.”

If Naomi Klein is such a formidable player in this Occupying wave, and she is Jewish, then how can the movement itself be antisemitic? Furthermore, If you view the 3-minute video (Kol Nidre, above) that Weigel posted, in which a large group of obviously Jewish dancers joyously stepped into Yom Kippur, it is obvious that the Hebraic delegation is untimidated about putting their best feet forward in the Occupy WallStreet festivities.

So we see one group of Jews who are out to change the world with their involvement in, among many other leftist movements, Occupy WallStreet etc; its the J-Street apologist contingent, the old socialist/labor cadre, the Yid liberal strain whose purpose is to confront the slings and arrows of world injustice and equality, and by opposing end those evils.

And we see another group of Jewish people,  including the grand old man of anti-defamation exposé Elie Wiesel, who have detected (accurately) within that same broad Occupy movement, an insidious strain of nascent nazis nestled nefariously in the shadows of  the sign-wielding rabble. Yes, the Jew-haters are in there; they lurk among thousands of protesters.

So is the Occupy WallStreet movement antisemitic? Yes and no.That makes it like just about any other political movement  in this melting-pot that we call America.
The Judah-apologist school of Judaism and the Israel-defensive school are strange bedfellows nestled within the same religious/ethnic heritage; one is reformative and communitarian, the other is orthodox and conservative. Oy vey. What else is new? It’s been this way since Rehoboam and Jeroboam.

The tension that exists between these two camps of Judaism, as represented by the activist Golda Meir strain and the prosperous Alan Greenspan strain, is as old as the Judean hills, and they have lived with it long enough to convince the world that they are here to stay.  Either way, they’re not going away. Thank G_d.

The contemporary quarrel between liberal and conservative branches of political Judaism is reconcilable when surveyed through this proverbial wisdom  from Yid with Lid:

“Jewish tradition respects economic success, so long as it is obtained honestly, and proper respect is shown for the social responsibility that comes with it. That social responsibility is a personal duty and a job for the community led by its religious leaders, but not for the government.”

Last link. Over two millenia ago, the prophet Zechariah posted this on his website:

“…I took for myself two staffs, the one I called Favor and the other I called Union…I took my staff Favor and cut it in pieces, to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples…then I cut in pieces my second staff Union, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”

And its been that way ever since. But hey! Mazel tov and L’chaim!.
But if you want to see what occupation really looks like in the here and now, look at this pic I snapped at Occupy Jerusalem six years ago:

Wailing Wall

Glass half-Full

Organizing the 9%

October 18, 2011

As much as the Occupy movement would aspire to represent  99% of the  people, they can claim to persuasively echo the opinions and active strategies of…maybe 9%.

Although far more than nine percent of people have become disgruntled because Congress bails out the corporate cronies, and although far more than nine percent of folks are frustrated with ecological disasters and abuses that have been mismanaged through gov/corp collusion, and although far more than 9.1% of the people feel as if their labor and resources are  being jerked around by the soulless machinations of greedy, outsourcing corporations, there are really only about nine percent of  We the People who are willing to be associated with and directed by Occupation activists.

However, if the Occupyers could manage somehow to effectively represent, say, a mere 9% of the people, that is nine times as many  as the 1% whose bank accounts they are trying to siphon. But their first major hurdle in that wealth redistribution quasi-socialist quest would be to get organized. That is no simple task, as I recently witnessed firsthand. In fact this whole movement will be a marathon of dedicated organizing if it is ever going to amount to anything besides a series of sign-wielding collective walks in the park.

At the stone staircase of the Vancouver Art Museum on Saturday and Sunday, I watched as a core group of intense activists initiated in their city what has become the Occupy movement’s “achieving consensus” process. It is a tedious sequence of speaker/crowd interactivity that appears, from my observer perspective, laboious and perhaps somewhat self-defeating.

Nevertheless,  the agenda-writing nucleus of organizers seemed quite intent on building consensus from their small activist cadre outward amongst the gathering legion of discontents. They wanted it done a certain way, at the risk of appearing, to an instant-breakfast world, disorganized.

The use of amplified sound through use of a microphone was a point of subtle contention among two factions of the the leader group. It took a few hours on Saturday morning as well as Sunday to work out the kinks. A speaker-call / crowd-repeat procedure that must have originated with the wallstreet cadre had already become dogma for some of the agenda-setting core, while other initiators among them obviously preferred the pragmatically loud use of the microphone. Technological enhancement uncovers undesirable bourgeois luxuries. Such subtle concessions to capitalist convenience can easily lead to domination of the gathered crowd by gifted orators, or “showboaters” as one humble speaker referred to them. Amplified rhetoric can enable, theoretically, opportunitstic demogogs to  manipulate the assembled masses. Thus can the ideal of egalitarian democracy be undermined by silver-tongued soapboxers. Not good.

I observed with interest as a purist group within the agenda-setting core labored tediously to lay a foundation of simple unamplified call/response democratic consensus building. It was, let’s face it, primitive, although I could surmise the solid ideologic basis for it. Over the course of two disjointed hours, however, the pragmatic faction was able to procedurally insert selective use of the microphone into the nascent consensus process. This distant listener thought the microphone use lent a definite improvement to their presentations.

By and by, the Vancouver Occupy agenda-setters were able to establish a sequence of procedures by which  their two-hundred-or-so core of gathered faithful (while hundreds more of curious bystanders watched) could voice some procedural decisions about where this thing was headed.  Past mid-afternoon on Sunday, I don’t know what Occupy Vancouver did, but their inception was fascination for this detached observer.

I departed the scene several hours later, thinking it would be a long time before this movement accomplishes anything substantial. Leaderless democracy, which appears to be the gold standard among this movement’s initiators,  initially produces apparent chaos. At least that’s the way it seemed to me as I witnessed the Occupy Vancouver public inception. What fundamental organization may have been established beneath that irresolute exterior, only time will tell.

After a dusky train ride with wife and son back to Seattle, I returned on nippy Monday morning, with journalistic curiosity, to the Occupy site in Westlake Park, downtown. Previously, I had witnessed parts of the Wednesday and Thursday daytime sessions there. The Seattle crowd seemed, to me, much scruffier and streetish than the intense Vancouverites. A rag-tag band of pierced, tattood occupyers hung out where the podium had been last week. They were  meagerly holding on to this public square, insofar as it was possible amidst the gently ominous peripheral police presence. While most lingerers were milling around in apparent aimless expectation, an ameobic bundle of them languished near the low stone platform that had been the focal site of last week’s rallying excitement. A pervasive attitude of don’t let this magic moment slip away hung in the air like contraband smoke.

A plethora of handmade signs was constant, hundreds of them, in both Vancouver and Seattle, many of them quite clever. By mid-afternoon on Monday, I saw from my Starbucks perch a bearded Seattle protester  with a large, neatly lettered green on white that read: PROSECUTE BANKSTERS. It was a distilled message that indicated what might become an actual judgemental plank of the emerging Occupy platform. This was the goal that I had heard a week or two ago, spoken by Michael Moore in an NPR interview.

Such an indictment would materialize only through a very long, drawn out campaign by the Occupyers.

Canadian columnist Conrad Black wrote insightfully in last Saturday’s National Post:
“Assessing blame is complicated. This (the wallstreet meltdown of ’08 and its economic fallout) was not a case where an easily identifiable group committed monstrously illegal acts in the manner of Bernard Madoff….financiers cannot be prosecuted for mere acts of stupidity. There have been prosecutions, most of them unsuccessful, and the whole retrubitive effort has been mired in the name-calling between the financial and political communities.”

My present uptake from all this observation is that the derivatives-wielding wallstreet 1% better clean up their act before the radical rabble 9%, claiming to speak for the 99, decides to ditch the consensus process and take matters into their own revolutionary hands.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Wealth Distribution

October 16, 2011

Karl Marx said religion is the opiate of the people. He must have noticed that its believers were generally more prone to forgive the wicked than to overthrow them. But Marx had formed his theories long before the narcoticizing power of the televesion age, which neutralizes the masses with affordable luxury and meaningless pop culture . You can’t organize a dictatorship of the proletariat among a herd of virtual contented cows.

What the revolutionaries really need to redistribute bourgeois wealth is a herd of boshevik bulls who can throw their weight around in the delicately stratified china shop of societal order. But the problem for revolutionaries in north America has always been that the bulls–the real movers and shakers– sided early on with the capitalists, and they all ended up on wallstreet building productive companies and  prosperous portfolios, instead of revolutions.

Although the revolutionaries are loath to admit it, the capitalist system has actually distributed wealth quite broadly and plentifully during the last hundred and twenty years or so.

That wave of growing prosperity, unprecedented in world history, has not been distributed equally. Broadly and plentifully, yes, but not equally. This is nothing new; wealth accumulation has never in human history been egalitarian. And it never will be, no matter what the professor says, no matter what the Occupy speaker in the public square says.

While the bulls have been kicking up gold dust on wall street for a couple of centuries, mom and pop were setting up shop down on main street catching a piece of the action. That’s how it has been in north America.

The fact that the system now fails to deliver goods and services at levels previously enjoyed is undeniable. Suddenly, in the space of a few years, there doesn’t seem to be enough wealth to go around. But we the people are not powerless. I prefer to believe we can act, individually and collectively, in love and kindness, and yes–in peace and self-control– toward every person, and every group of persons we meet.

Many millenia ago, a fearless speaker spoke about a coming Messiah. Isaiah prophecied that the promised one would “judge the needy with righteousness. With justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his mouth he will slay the wicked.”

I, a Christian believer, am willing to await Messiah’s decision on these matters of justice, instead of taking matters into my own sinfully selfish hands. That position renders me as “religious” in the eyes of a secularly evolving world.

Now I’ve keyed up enough here for one Sunday morning session at Starbucks. I’ll take a walk, one block along Georgia Street to the art museum, where the Occupy Vancouver crowd gathers. Let’s see what those who claim to speak for the 99 have to say about the one.

Glass Chimera

I am the 50%

October 12, 2011

Our hard times polarize us, but I am the 50%.
Pat and I deplaned this afternoon at Sea-Tac airport, caught the rail to downtown Seattle. We ascended the stairs from Westlake Station up to street level, and walked, as chance would have it, into Occupy Seattle. Imagine that. I saw a crowd of people there and heard some speeches.

America used to be a young democratic republic, starting 235 years ago when those upstart colonials convened in Philadelphia and cut the tether that George III had used to keep us bound in unrepresented  taxation.
But now we are aging, becoming every day more and more like our European forebears, taking upon ourselves those classic ideological divisions of left and right. With hard times upon us, its not really about democrats and republicans any more. Its about socialists and libertarians, and everything in between. Just let me say: I am the 50%(ile).

Being a baby boomer, happenstancing today upon the Occupy crowd at Seattle, I caught a whiff of, and recognized, the old 60s counterculture zeitgeist. I remember it from back in college days, but of course it is different now. The spirit of anti-war anti-establishment discontent is the same, but the issues are different; the costumes are different. Whereas we were flower children back in the day, all about peace and love, these days the mood is edgy and punky, and definitely socialist. A little more threatening, or maybe thats because I’m older, and more comfortable, and Christian.

The first speaker was actually a rather pleasant surprise. A young fellow named Michael started out his message speaking of Moses and delivering his people from slavery in Egypt. I can relate. I do not want want to diminish the passionately eloquent appeal about  very real economic issues that he made to the hundreds of mostly young occupiers gathered there. He was encouraging the people to get involved with the movement.

But what this old guy (me) appreciated at the end of Michael’s speech was his exhortation to keep it peaceful. I appreciated that, although Michael said much more about what’s happening now than just work in the system and be non-violent.

Not all the speakers were as peacefully oriented.

I am, btw, a person whose worldview is defined by the original non-violent resister, Jesus.  Athough  Y’shu haMeshciach was much more than that,  since he was also the redeemer of all mankind, or  the redeemer of, all those mankind who are inclined to receive his redemptive, resurrected grace.

Anyway, once the Occupy rally got cranked up, and they got the microphone going, I’m just old-fashioned enough to appreciate speakers who can be heard and have something to say, which is better than the un-amplified call and response drill that I had earlier seen on the news of Occupy Wherever  a few days ago.
Bottom line about the speakers: We are definitely dealing with a brave new paradigm here,  of socialism vs. conservatism in America. And so I say it again: I am the (of) the 50th percentile. I’ll walk the middle road as long as I can, even though after every speaker a young very attractive Latina got on the mic, and she would lead, exuberatly, the crowd, in chants about the gathered ones being the “99%.

In spite of the anti-establishment mood, one young man encouraged the gathered protesters to work toward passage of a new Glass-Steagall Act in Congress. I was impressed with the constructivity of that. I think the basic message there is let the bankers and the wall street crowd eat their own losses, instead of hitting up the taxpayers for the bill, based on the “too big to fail” bluster. Yeah, right. I never did appreciate that midnight deal that Hank Paulsen talked the Congress into bailing out the banks back in ’08. I would think even some Tea Partiers out there would find common ground on that.
In a way, I guess that’s what got this whole thing going, that bank bailout in ’08. Its what the Republicans call crony capitalism, as opposed to true capitalism, which is what mom and pop used to do on main street, not wall street, back in the day, before Disney co-opted Main Street as a theme park in Orlando and Anaheim.

Next, and olf guy, Joe, older than me, went up to the mic and spoke of his dad and mom raising him  in the socialist movement in New York City back in the 30s. This fellow had  later gone on to a career in the movies. He worked with Ronald Reagan in the movies, in the movie Hellcats of the Navy. He spoke glowingly of Reagan , and how friendly and charismatic Reagan was (surprise! at Occupy Seattle) but said that Reagan had changed and gone over to the other side, to follow “the money” instead of his heart.
Joe also spoke about F.D. Roosevelt–who has taken on a kind of sainthood in this retro-new-deal environment in which we are now finding ourselves. According to Joe, Franklin sent his wife Eleanor out to scope out the country, shortly after he was elected. She went all over the country and talked to a lot of folks, came back and, according to Joe, reported to her husband FDR that the communists would be taking on a bunch of support among workers during those hard times if something wasn’t done to relieve the desperation  and unemployment and poverty that was so rampant during that time, the “Great” Depression. And that’s where the New Deal came from.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it. Our present President is in the same predicament, and that’s why this whole Occupy thing is going down now.
And I’m thinking of John Lennon, the working class hero who’s dead,  but really it reminds me of Ringo, in his post-Beatle role. He did a commercial in which he told some young lady “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”
This is not your father’s politics either.  This is something new and different. America, get ready. The times they are a polarizin’. And I’m just praying there’s no Kent State thing that’s gonna happen.
These Occupiers may the 99%, and the Republicans may be the 1%.
As for me and my house, we are the 50%ile, and proud of it. As we southerners used to say: Well, shut my mouth.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress


October 8, 2011

Turkey is, as Mr. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says, “in the middle of everything.”
It truly is–geographically, religionally, and culturally–at the crossroads of the world, where every thing meets, at some time or another, every other thing. These days it seems that mediating position  encompasses, more relevantly than ever, the political realm.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Oct 8 article on Prime Minister Erdogan, when the Turkish leader was in Cairo last month he challenged his Muslim neighbors: “”The Turkish state is in its core, a state of freedoms and secularism. The world is changing to a system where the will of the people will rule – why should the Europeans and the Americans be the only ones to live with dignity? Aren’t Egyptians and Somalians also entitled to a life of dignity?”

This unique approach to governance  is not new in today’s Muslim world. It arises predictably from the heart of modern Turkey, which had been established as a purposefully secular government  when the “Young Turks” took over in 1908. Their revolution overturned the authority of Abdulhamid II; the Sultan’s removal from power precipitated a final demise of the withering Ottoman empire. From that political takeover, and then through the trauma of World War I which followed a few years later,  restive nationalists emerged in a surge of Turkish military confidence. But they were called immediately to another struggle–to extricate their fledgling state from postwar Allied ethnic partitioning. The Young Turks managed to focus their movement in a strong way that united a diversity of  ethnic groups. By the time the Republic  was established in 1924, one unmistakably popular soldier arose  as the definitive leader of the Turkish people: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
His story, which had begun in 1880 at Salonica, across the Aegean on the Macedonian coast, is a fascinating one. I have been reading about it in M. Sukru Hanioglu’s biographical book Ataturk.

Kemal Ataturk, more than any other person, steered the young-old nation’s identity, during the 1920s and ’30s, toward democracy and secular objectivity; it is a favorable precedent that survives to this day. Perhaps in our time the Turks will, from this perspective, guide the Muslim world to a position of moderate exchange with the democratic world, instead of taking a jihadist anti-Israel turn.

So very rich is the history of their homeland, which is known also by the name of its central plateau, Anatolia. To begin with,  Noah’s Ark settled on Turkish earth as the flood waters receded several millenia ago. Its pitch-covered frame is said to be nestled somewhere in the crags of antiquity  up on Mt. Ararat.

More recently I am informed, through enquiries into my Christian heritage, that Turkey (“Asia” of the New Testament writers) was the birthplace of apostle Paul (of Tarsus, on the east Mediterranean coast). It’s no wonder that the dyed-in-the-wool Phariseic Jew had such a burden to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ resurrection among the Gentiles. He had grown up among them. In Antioch (now Antakya), across the Iskenderun Corfezi bay from Tarsus, “Christians” were first called by that name.

Over to the west, in the Lydia region which slopes down to the Aegean, the sites of nascent Christian identity are found. This is the area where believers in Jesus took their earliest solo flights from the Judaic runway back in Jerusalem. The “seven churches” to whom Jesus addresses his salutory letters in Revelation are here in Turkey. They are the churches that Paul and others had established in Ephesus, Smyrna (Izmir), Pergamum (Bergama), Thyatira (now Akhisar), Sardis, Philadelphia (now Alasehir), and Laodicea (now Denizli).

Since that churchly inception nineteen hundred years ago, the dizzying experience of peoples of Anatolia has included administration by four military empires: Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman. This last empire originated in Turkey itself, in the central plateau, Anatolia. The Ottoman empire began in the thirteenth century C.E. and spanned six centuries of time until its end after World War I. The Armistice of Mudros 1918 Oct 30 “marked the end not only of the Ottoman participation in the Great War, but effectively also (the end) of one of the longest-lasting empires in history.”(M. Sukru Hanioglu, p.86)

Here are a few more notable facts about Turkey:
~ Troy, the ancient fortress city beseiged by the Greeks and conquered under the shadow of the infamously deceptive “Trojan horse,” (See Homer’s Iliad) is on the northwestern Aegaen coast.
~ When Emperor Constantine left Rome in 330 C.E., he relocated the empire in what is now Turkey, on the Bosporus strait waterway between Black Sea and Meditteranean; The ancient city there–Byzantium–he renamed Constantinople, after himself. From 395-1453, it was the seat of the Byzantine empire, and was ecclesiastical center of  the Orthodox Christian Church.
~ The Ottoman Turks took Constantinople in 1453, and it became known as Istanbul, which was the seat of the Ottoman empire until after WWI, when the capital of the new Republic of Turkey was moved to Ankara, in the Anatolian heartland.
~ The six-century-long Ottoman empire encompossed the Arab world and beyond, with its zenith during the 16th-century under Suleiman II, after assuming the Moslem caliphate in 1517. The northward thrust of the empire extended as far as Austria, but was defeated by the rising Hapsburg dynasty near Vienna in 1683.  This European repulsion is considered by many to have been the deliverance of European Christendom from Moslem dominance, and thus a turning point in history.

I’m glad the Austro-Hungarians were able to turn the Moslems around before they got to Vienna, so that Europe, and my ancestors, retained a Christian heritage. Over on the other end of the Continent, my Francish namesake Roland had been instrumental in turning the Mohammedans back from Spain about six hundred years earlier.

Here and now, in the 21st-century, I wish the Turkish people and their Prime Minister well. May God’s blessings be upon them. And I hope they can convince the rest of the Muslim world not to force Israel, whom Mr. Erdogan calls “the West’s spoiled child” from their ancient Jewish homeland.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Pandemic bailout blues

October 6, 2011

Michael Shulman posted some seriously insightful analysis on Seeking Alpha today, and it set me to thinking. But before I tell you about my molehill thoughts, I’ll tell you about his mountainous observations. He wrote:

“If Greece defaults – they will, next year – most European banks, including the Germans, will take a huge hit on their balance sheets and will need to raise capital, which will not be available from private investors so they will need to be bailed out. This will anger taxpayers more than bailing out those wayward Greeks. So, to date, the politicians have put off the inevitable, more money for the banks.”

Sound familiar?
This is just the sort of bailout with which our government set its regrettable precedent back in 2008, after the Lehman/BearStearns/AIG et al collapse and/or we’ll-never-know-how near collapse. Although our present Treasury Secretary, Mr. Geithner, implies this week that European debt problems could lead to negative repercussions here in the good ole USA , in fact we are merely facing the boomeranged consequences that we ourselves set in motion (haha) with our frantic escape from shredded red-ink bank balance sheets, through taxpayer-fueled faux liquidity, three years ago.

Today in the USA, all those angst-ridden “occupy wall street” people out in the streets, along with their democratic sympathisizers and labor union manipulators–they’re clueless about the fundamental issues here–the long-wave cycle of economic expansion/contraction and the inevitable conflicts of wage differentiation between developED and developING naions. They’re failing to appreciate their own heretofore high-flying lifestyles , which have been enabled by fat-n-happy debt-fueled free-lunch bubblebath corporate-couched, union-padded opulent prosperity.

And so, now that the party’s over and the punch bowl has run dry, they’re out in the streets, pawns in the game instead of being free-will mainstreet initiators, wanting to pull down the “greedy capitalist” powers that be, mainly because they have nothing else to do since they’re unemployed, or horror of horrors, underemployed. They’ve had all they can take of the Would you like the combo with that BigMac, sir? blahblah.

This month, the Occupiers will be be further empowered by news from across the pond, angsty tidings from their wobbly European comrades who are now being given an excuse to take to the streets. After all, the Europeans, especially les Francais, are old hands at this. The Germans and French doppelganging crowd will be charged up because their resources are being diverted to bail out the too-big-to-fail bourgeois financiers who have carried the Greeks, who’ve been retiring early and consuming ambrosia and soaking up euro-drachmas in their Mediterranean sunshine.

What’s lamentable is that in the midst of all this, Steve Jobs passes on to that great apple grotto in the sky. Now, due to the thick veil of media mourning and igadget reminiscing, we’ll be caught up into the cloud and never know what kind of deal really will have gone down this coming weekend. Since the neutrinos in Cern have been clocked at a speed faster than the speed of light, Steve’s visionary past will eclipse our hyper-leveraged future, even as his foresight had earlier overshadowed Microsoft’s (and everybody else’s) present debt-fogged windows on the world.

Soon we’ll have another Western ideology identity struggle on our hands. But this time it won’t be between Apple and Microsoft; it won’t pit Ford against Chevy. This time, the battle will be waged between the liberté egalité fraternité mob and the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness militia.

I’m headin’for the hills; actually, I’m already there.

Glass Chimera

Uganda has come a long way since Idi Amin.

October 5, 2011

The nation of Uganda has come a long way on the path to civilization since the dark days of Idi Amin’s regime. Although that dictator had attempted, back in the ’70s, to impose his blood-shedding will upon his fellow Ugandans, his murderous manipulations were foiled by the neighboring Tanzanians. They ran Idi and his gang of thugs out of Africa when he tried to export his cruel program across their border in 1979. Thank God they put a stop to his campaigns of killing.

This is the first thing I think about when Uganda is mentioned, because I’m a sixtyish baby-boomer who has kept, through the years, an eye on world news, and I remember this about Uganda: the murderous dictator, Idi Amin, who had been assisted by the Libya dictator, Qadhafi, and how he killed hundreds of thousands of his people just for the sake of…for the sake of …whatever it is that tyrants are trying to do when they set their killing machines into motion.

But these days, Uganda is, thank God, a very different place. Just a month or two ago, my daughter Kim visited that nation and its capital city, Kampala. She was working there–assisting in, and reporting on, the Operation Christmas Child gift distribution. Kim, trained at UNC School of Journalism, was able to utilize some of her documentary skills, as you will see from these photos, which are accompanied by her report upon the Samaritan’s Purse work there.

Yes, Kim’s facebook update about this situation in a formerly war-torn Uganda brings good news. And I received that news with a kind of deja vu, because it reminded me of when my other journalist daughter, Katie, had sent similarly upbeat reports from Vietnam a few years ago. Katie and her team of world-tromping Christian companions had been welcomed with open arms, in that country of Vietnam, which had been torn to bloody hell during the civil war of the ’60s and ’70s in which we had a dismal role.

Now these days…well, we live in dark days–hard times–in which the ominous clouds of depression and unrest seem to grow heavier every day upon our lowering prospects for peace and prosperity. But somewhere in the world today, children are joyful because the love of Christ is being extended to them. Uganda is such a place (who’d have thought it?), thanks to the persistently beneficial work of Samaraitan’s Purse, and other Christian outfits who reach out to underpriveleged folks everywhere.

I’m so happy that my Kim is an integral link in that worldwide network of mercy and provision. God bless ’em.

Glass half-Full