Saturday, July 30, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, July 30

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


HILLBILLY ELEGY - A TERRIFIC INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR: Understanding poor whites and Trump. This interview has received the most traffic in the history of the 'American Conservative' site.

ON PICKING A WHITE MALE INSTEAD OF FEMALE OR LATINO AS HER RUNNING MATE: Here is a quote from Hillary Clinton that sounds like she judges other ladies and the many black and Latino office holders filling the Democratic Party as not really ready for the top office. Our hypersensitive press will not wince when Hillary uses genetics to explain why she picked a white over those who might have diversified the ticket and made it look more like America and a lot more like the Democratic Party? If only Donald Trump had said it.

From the New York Times: "Ultimately, Mrs. Clinton, who told PBS that she was “afflicted with the responsibility gene,” avoided taking a chance with a less experienced vice-presidential candidate and declined to push the historic nature of her candidacy by adding another woman or a minority to the ticket.” That's the New York Times explaining.

Feminists Rejoice and Reflect.  No one has asked if there is any good reason all our presidents and war generals have been male. From the giddy Fox females to the serious elderly matrons of PBS, all agreed this is long overdue. Other views to follow once the wave has crested.


COSMOPOLITANS VS. PATRIOTS; WORKINGMAN AND NEW ELITE: From Crisis magazineRealignment of the Working class and Donald Trump by Stephen Young. The real alternatives in foreign policy - Is Bushism dead? Donald Trump by his ghostwriter - not a flattering tale. Trump interview on foreign policy - a different look at NATO, NAFTA, and Korea. The new class of risk adverse credentialed; immobility for the poor.


VIETNAM WAR DEAD: 58,000 men, 8 females.

SUDAN - TRIBES REEMERGE: The nations divided by religion and South Sudan now divides by ethnic group.

TURKEY - THE COUP THAT FAILED AND THE ERDOGAN COUP THAT CONTINUES: Erdogan consolidates Islamic but non-ISIS government.

CHINANew nationalism.

GREECE-RUSSIA ORTHODOX ALLIANCE IS STRONGER THAN LEFT RIGHT PARADIGM: This writer thinks Europe should work against the strong alliance of Greece and Russia. The fact is that leftist Greece and nationalist Russia have deep ties and many personal ties now among leaders. The Russians helped the Greeks when they broke from the Ottoman Empire (Independence day is on the feast of the Annunciation Mar 25, 1821). Orthodox Russia helped the orthodox nation of Greece break from the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Greek nationalism pitted against the superstate of the EU once again finds the Russian nation as their ally against Empire.

SAUDIS AND A STRIKE AT WAHHABI PRACTICE: The story the Saudis may allow more reverence at holy sites will be resisted if true.


GOD IS DEAD - THE ROLE OF BOENHOFFER - THE TRIUMPH OF GODLESS PROTESTANTISM: Rod Dreher on Matt Rose First Things article. I note especially that part of the death of God movement was to replace all that was authoritarian about the Christian Gospel with a service motif. Do not bring the authoritative message of God made man... just be like Jesus and serve man. We cannot deny that "servant leader" is a Christian term, but the notion that leadership can be reduced to service to the will of others is a trap of democratic thinking, which is a trap of autonomous thinking which is the essence of diabolical thinking.

The eclipse of White Christians is a demographic fairly clueless piece at Atlantic Monthly. But if we couple this article with the above history of how "the God is dead" theologians morphed into the diversity human rights establishment, we begin to see what has really happened. White Protestant Christianity (WASPS) has morphed into the godless West gender ideologues who dominate our media, educational, and governmental institutions. They have hold of church bureaucracies even if their pews are emptying. That doesn’t matter - they are taking their spoiled kids to sports games on Sunday morning anyway. The godless white Protestants are represented by the Democratic party. Blacks and tribal Catholics accompany them. Their most important military arm is NATO, aimed against both Orthodox Christians to their east (Russia and Serbia) and various actors in the Muslim world. The Obama presidency and Sanders movement are rebellions against the smugness of the elite, but not a true revolution since both adopt the godless gender ideology at the heart of the death-of-God White Protestant movement.

The alternative to this is understanding multicolored global Christianity as the real Christendom and nations as their military arms.

VIRGINITY AND ITS MARTYR - WHY DOES MARIA GORETTI GET SO MANY PEOPLE MAD: What is it about virginity -- physical and spiritual -- that is such a dangerous sword?

CATHOLIC NUNCIO BLOCKS INVESTIGATION OF HOMOSEXUAL ARCHBISHOP: St. Paul-Minneapolis facts uncover the secret no one will touch at the heart of Catholic sex abuse scandal: the undercover homosexual subculture in Catholic clergy. They can pose as anti-gay and orthodox or pro-gay and progressive but there is no truth in them and they are covered by very high officials.  Archbishop Nienstedt, Nuncio Vigano and the bishops and lawyer priest who tried to tell the truth.

THEOCENTRIC WORSHIP AND EDUCATING THE SOUL: Liturgical reform - orienting man to God and truth.

PRIEST-MARTYR IN FRANCE: French Catholic priest killed during Mass in Normandy. May he RIP and may the nations respond. A report from France.

WHITE BOY PRIVILEGE AND BLACK MAN ANGER: Ladders and Bridges. Travis Smiley, black TV journalist, on listening to the killers. Gavin Long and Micah Xavier, black, male, military. Gavin Long, before black power gets your momma, gotta kill the cops.

BLACK PASTORS REJECT GAY ANALOGY: Gender ideology is not civil rights.
Sheriff Clarke and BLM and CNN.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday BookReview -- Robert Caro is the finest 20th century biographer

[first published June 25, 2013]

Robert Caro is close to 80 now, and working away at the fifth and final book in his biography of Lyndon Johnson.


Having read the other volumes, I am several chapters into Master of the Senate, and my awe of Mr. Caro only increases. It took me a few years to fully appreciate him, but he is an eagle who soars higher than Catton or Tuchman, Shelby Foote or McCullough.

One facet that jumps out: even though the author is a thoroughly liberal New York intellectual, his commitment to truth runs deeper than his ideology. Each Caro book you pick up has devastating revelations about LBJ – as well as other chief executives who prided themselves as lions of progress: Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson.

A couple anecdotes from Mr. Caro about the political misuse of the IRS:

** In 1934 President Roosevelt asked his Treasury Secretary to examine the taxes of publisher William Randolph Hearst. So, Henry Morgenthau pored over the returns of Hearst and his Hollywood mistress, Marion Davies – and "advised FDR to mount a preemptive attack" on the pair.

** A decade later, congressman Lyndon Johnson was able to engage the String-Puller-in-Chief to keep his political goose from being cooked.
The first LBJ volume (The Path to Power, chapter 35) tells how he, with his longtime friend and lawyer Alvin Wirtz, had a private audience with President Roosevelt – and the next day the IRS investigation, that had been looking into the illegal money which poured into Johnson’s unsuccessful senatorial campaign, was quashed!

[Mr. Wirtz was at one point the #2 man at the Interior Department under Harold Ickes. Wirtz was a type of genial thief who, after hammering out a contractual deal, secretly "adjusts" some of the wording before the parties actually sign the document].

UPDATE: Check out this earlier post regarding the hatred between LBJ and Bobby Kennedy, covered by Mr. Caro in the fourth book.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bravo for Latvia!

Archbishop Vanags (second from right)

A leading player in the tiny nation of Latvia (pop. 2 million) is pushing back against modernity's 'gender ideology.’ The Lutheran archbishop leads Latvia’s largest Christian group: Lutherans (33 percent). They are part of the Nordic Reformation tradition; while 25 percent of Latvians are Catholics, more influenced by Poland. Most Orthodox in Latvia are Russian-speaking and associate with the Russian Orthodox Church.

[This article from a decade ago gives some of the background].



"Poland [to the southwest] conquered Latvia's territory in the mid-16th century, and occupied it until Sweden took over the land in 1629, ruling for a century. The land then passed to Russia for two hundred years. 

The Russian Revolution of 1917 gave Latvia the opportunity for freedom, and the Latvian republic was proclaimed the following year. The republic lasted for twenty years. 

The country was occupied by Russian troops in 1939. German armies occupied the nation from 1941 to 1944 -- when Russia again took control. 

In 1991, Latvia declared its independence."


Dark Rye Bread -- rupjmaize

"Latvian meals are always served with bread of some type -- usually dark bread -- it's the national staple. People eat it with potatoes, soups, jams, butter, cheese, salad... Actually with almost everything. Latvians treat food, especially bread, with great respect -- because we know it's not something that can be taken for granted and if the slice of bread falls on a floor, a Latvian will kiss it when picking it up."


Here is a statue of beloved artist Voldemars Irbe ("Irbite"), who for most of the year would stroll the Latvian capital barefoot.
He was killed by shrapnel on the last day of the Battle for Riga in 1944, when the Soviets captured the city from the Germans.


In Latvia and Estonia, roughly a quarter of the population is ethnic Russian -- while Lithuania, to the south, has less than 5 percent Russians.

("Russians make up almost a half of the population of Latvia's capital, Riga. In the second largest city Daugavpils [down by Belarus], Russians now make up the majority") !

UPDATE: 'Touchstone' magazine interviewed Archbishop Vanags at length in 1999.

Monday, July 25, 2016




by A. Joseph Lynch

To many people, the word 'Turk' refers to the old Ottoman Turkic Empire and its ambitions to conquer eastern Europe and control the Mediterranean. Its more modern connotation places it with the NATO-member state of secular Turkey. While Turkey is of course a Turkic state, it stands at the far western edge of the broader Turkic steppe peoples that share a common language and generally share (with the exception of Shia Azerbaijan) a common Sunni Islamic faith. Despite their Sunni background, Sunni Arab states view them generally as outsiders due to their ethnic and linguistic differences.

Geography was also no help to the integration of Turks within the broader Islamic world as the Turks of central Asia are separated from the Sunni Arab states by the Caspian Sea and Shia Iran dominating the Iranian Plateau. Landlocked, these nations fell under the rule of Soviet communism, and are to this day drawn between Russian, Chinese, and the greater Islamic orbits. At its farthest east reaches, Turks find themselves directly under Chinese rule in Xinjang Province where Turks make up 45% of the population. China invests heavily in central Asia, in large part to keep Chinese Turks from finding an ally in its brother nations of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The most important Turkic player in the Mideast core is, of course, Turkey. Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Turkey maintained a European orientation, joining NATO and hoping to join the EU. As the War on Terror intensified and EU membership slipped out of Turkey's grasp, Turkey's renewed Islamic faith reoriented the nation to the Mideast. At first an outsider, Turkey won renewed favor among its brethren by supporting the Palestinians and working to resolve tensions with Tehran. Having played a vital role in Islamic leadership since defeating the Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071 through the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Turkey has returned from its roughly hundred-year European orientation to seek leadership in the broader Islamic world once more.

One cannot fully understand the events in the Islamic world without understanding the underlying communal loyalties of Arab, Persian, and Turkic Muslims in their Sunni and Shia faiths.

This third and final part of our series was preceded by posts on the Sunni Arab States and Persia-Shia Islam.

[This article first appeared on Anthropology of Accord on May 11, 2015]

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, July 23

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

A profile of the policeman.

Many traffic stops for Mr. Castile.

More details.

A damning video.

Giuliani on saving black lives.

The Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Hoax -- a liberal black reporter admits he got it wrong.

The two gun cultures by Cain Pence.

Policeman at home kills bipolar intruder after email exchange on BLM: white shooter and black victim.

President Obama at memorial of five slain officers.

President Bush at memorial.

Radical Islam Black Lives Matter and leftist transformation.

A popular black writer sees tit for tat in execution of Dallas police officers.

Two cardinals from Africa mince no words.

A brief history of cardinals from Taylor Marshall.

Putting God at the center of worship -- a Catholic debate.
Speaking of Catholic debates, Dr Pence and Fr John Echert debate on You Tube: on Pope Francis and marriage.
Blessedly unpredictable.

From same author: good description of religious actors in Ukraine.

Reevaluating the hysteria about Russia and Vladimir Putin.

US and Russia pledge more cooperation in Syria against ISIS. This is a very positive development which should not be met with an oppositional partisan reflex.

The murky world of Congressional endorsements, speaker fees, and Saudi lobbying.

Turkey and President Erdogan have the potential to play a very good or very bad role in the reformation of Sunni Islam. It is very important to have an accurate view of the Gulen movement. Toward that goal -- some different views. Is it a moderate front or a more malignant form of Islam?  or the "moderate Islam" so many of the West are seeking.

Global civics and Islam.

Are Erdogan foreign policy mishaps a possible cause of coup?

Best analysis post coup from War on Rocks.

The court rules as expected.

Watch that map: South China Sea and competing claims.

China joins US in ignoring a law the US refused to agree with.


ISIS not the major security concern of Israel.

A new Sunni state may be needed in the Mideast but it shouldn’t be cut out of Israel. It is highly likely that a Trump candidacy will reject the two-state solution which has so paralyzed American foreign policy in the Mideast. Here is a highly negative view of this development, but an accurate view of what may be coming. It would be a change of policy, indeed.  

How Trump changed Republican platform.

We have not written about the Dallas shootings and the police shootings of two black men (in Minnesota and Louisiana) which triggered the Black Lives Matter rally and then the Black Power sniper. This breakdown of civic brotherhood is at the core of our concerns here at AOA. We are still taking in what happened. Here are some previous writings:

 The betrayal of Selma and black men.

 The Benedict Option: Christian Fraternity.

 Joshua or Barak: Betraying the Promise.

 Heather McDonald on stopping the demonizing of the police. The amplification of the exception in order to obfuscate the obvious.

One profile.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday BookReview: The many ways we trip over Africa

[first published October 24, 2014]


“I prefer clarity over agreement.”  (Dennis Prager) 

One of the best smackdowns to appear in the 'New York Times' in recent years was when travel writer Paul Theroux took on Irish musician Bono.


The opening line, plus a few others:
"There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can't think of one at the moment." 
"I got a dusty reception lecturing at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation when I pointed out the successes of responsible policies in Botswana, compared with the kleptomania of its neighbors... Mr. Gates has said candidly that he wants to rid himself of his burden of billions. Bono is one of his trusted advisers. Mr. Gates wants to send computers to Africa - an unproductive not to say insane idea. I would offer pencils and paper, mops and brooms: the schools I have seen in Malawi need them badly." 
"Africa is a lovely place - much lovelier, more peaceful and more resilient and, if not prosperous, innately more self-sufficient than it is usually portrayed. But because Africa seems unfinished and so different from the rest of the world, a landscape on which a person can sketch a new personality, it attracts mythomaniacs, people who wish to convince the world of their worth. Such people come in all forms and they loom large. White celebrities busy-bodying in Africa loom especially large. Watching Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie recently in Ethiopia, cuddling African children and lecturing the world on charity, the image that immediately sprang to my mind was Tarzan and Jane."

What happens when an American newspaper sends a black reporter to cover Africa, and it turns out his allegiance to political correctness is negligible? A fine book results: Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa.

Author Keith Richburg, a native of Detroit, says:
"I'm tired of lying. And I'm tired of all the ignorance and hypocrisy and the double standards I hear and read about Africa, much of it from people who've never been there, let alone spent three years walking around amid the corpses... Talk to me about Africa and my black roots and my kinship with my African 'brothers' and I'll throw it back in your face... Thank God that I am an American [and] thank God my ancestor survived [the] voyage [to America on the slave ship]..."

Some excerpts from a review by Arch Puddington (1997):
[I]t is his observations on the pathology of African politics, and how that pathology intersects with our own racial perplexities, which ultimately make Out of America not only a provocative but an important book. Richburg has a powerful and very American sense of right and wrong, and he is especially sensitive to the cynical and manipulative use of the racial trump card in relations between Africans and Americans. The brazen exploitation of racial guilt by the thieves and murderers who are the continent’s despots especially appalled him... 
Richburg was present at a 1993 conference in Gabon attended by leading black American civil-rights activists. Among the guests of honor, he reports, was the continent’s youngest dictator, Valentine Strasser of Sierre Leone, a twenty-eight-year-old soldier who had seized power through a coup and proceeded systematically to arrest and execute officials of the previous regime. When Strasser strode into the hall, garbed in the standard-issue outfit of African strongmen—a camouflage uniform and Ray Ban sunglasses—the Americans erupted into cheering and frenzied applause...  
From Douglas Wilder, the first black governor of a Southern state, came the observation that “We cannot and should not expect [African governments] to undergo a metamorphosis in seconds . . . our job is not to interfere.” Benjamin Chavis (now Chavis Muhammad), then-director of the NAACP, warned against attempting “to superimpose a Western standard of democracy.” And Jesse Jackson heaped accolades on the ruthless Nigerian dictator Ibrahim Babangida, calling him “one of the great leader-servants of the modern world in our time.”

Jesse Jackson in Ivory Coast

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Defending Pope Francis: Amoris laetitia debate Dr. Pence and Fr. Echert at AOTM

Certainly one of the most vibrant men's groups in Minnesota is the Argument of the Month Club. It is based at St. Augustine parish in South St. Paul, under the guidance of Father John Echert.

Recently, David Pence engaged Father in a rousing debate over the contents of Amoris laetitia -- the Pope's lengthy reflections regarding the Synods on the Family, held in 2014 and 2015.

Fr. Echert is not a fan of the document, but Doc Pence gave him a stream of reasons not to be too dismissive. Browse some of the video; it's entertaining as well as illuminating.

The Holy Father with some of the African cardinals at the Synod

UPDATE: This book review by Pence, from last year, lays out some of the ways that Francis is such a unique occupant of the Chair of St. Peter.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Map on Monday: TURKEY

[first published on July 13, 2015]

Stratfor - short for Strategic Forecasting, Inc. - is a private global intelligence company that offers geopolitical insight into the interplay of nations. Stratfor has developed an excellent series of short (~2-4 minute) videos which provide the viewer with a specific nation, along with its basic history, geography, culture, and geopolitical allies and adversaries. In the following video, they present the geographic challenges facing Turkey.

Turkey: A non-Arab Sunni state resacralizing and reorienting towards the Islamic world 

by A. Joseph Lynch

Turkey has 80 million people and is the eighth largest military in the world-the largest (rated by Global Firepower) in the Mideast. It  is geostrategically situated at the crossroads of three civilizations: Orthodox Russia, the Islamic Middle East, and the atheist-superstate (and successor to the Soviet Union) that is the European Union. With one foot in Europe and another in Asia, Turkey controls the important waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Aegean. Occupying what has been called 'Asia Minor,' Turkey was once part of the ancient Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires before comprising the heartland of the Christian Byzantine Empire and thereafter the Muslim Ottoman-Turkic Empires. With its empire dissolved following World War I, the modern state of Turkey was forged by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk whose secularizing principles sought to incorporate Turkey into modern European society and away from its historically Islamic past. Turkey became a member of NATO in 1952 and today has the second largest standing military in NATO after the United States (all males are required to serve and conscientious objection is not accepted). Turkey has also long sought entrance into the European Union, but despite its efforts to mimic the atheist West, Turkey is still seen as an outsider and its entry has never been approved.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as Turkey's current President has spearheaded a movement to return to Turkey's Muslim roots and reorient itself towards the Islamic world. Here, however, Turkey is also somewhat of an outsider. Despite its Sunni Muslim faith, the vast amount of Turkey's population is ethnically Turkic rather than Arab. Turkey is thus not a member of the Arab League; nor, due to geography, the Gulf States. Egypt and Turkey are regional rivals and Turkey's Sunni faith puts it at odds with Shia Iran, Syria, and Yemen. Turkey also has centuries of bad relations and wars with Orthodox Russia to the north and its allies in the Caucasus (particularly Armenia). Turkey itself is comprised of around 20% Kurds, who have expressed a deep desire for autonomy. This has led to Turkey often turning a blind eye in regards to ISIS and even expressing worries over recent Iraqi-Kurdish gains against ISIS along Turkey's border with Syria.A key educational and cultural movement in Turkey is an Islamic global network called the Gulen. Understanding them and their relation to the present government is a key communal loyalty to decipher. The link is to their web page. There are many other perspectives on their role.  Here  was a good piece of reporting from 2010.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, July 16

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

MEN, RACIAL VIOLENCE, AND THE AMERICAN NATION: Is there a lesson from St Benedict? by Dr. Pence on the saint’s feast day.  Avoiding 1968 by Dreher.  Clear talk from Giuliani. Police and black shootings by the numbers. Using a robot to blow up the shooter.

ON DALLAS -- SOCIALIZING MICAH: Profile highlighting his military experience.

He went in a Christian and a patriot with no racial hatred. His mother’s take that he came out a hermit looking for a different cause than protecting his country.

We have seen this very bad deal of trading Christian American brotherhood for the thin gruel of black power. It was the beginning of the betrayal of the civil rights movement. The civic element was lost and racial identity came to the fore with disastrous effects.

His military experience became a sad saga of jilted love and humiliation instead of brotherhood. This missed socialization is not just a loss for black men but young white men as well. From an excellent review of 'Hillbilly Elegy'.

"For most boys, however, becoming a man is The Big Journey. And their needs are being forgotten today—with the result that many, not just Vance, are scrabbling. My three decades at the U.S. Naval Academy, which is part of the world of privilege Vance manages to join, have shown me that most midshipmen also arrive chasing a vision of masculinity that the Naval Academy quickly kills, leaving them burnt out and rootless at an early age.
"The military is a structured existence that still relies on its PR image of macho striving to attract volunteer recruits. That includes the upper echelons, like midshipmen. These young men, and also many of the women, like Vance, also (in my experience) long for the relentless drill instructor, the challenge to overcome insecurities, the sense of pride in challenges surmounted. What they find is an institution obsessed with a million pointless regulations that puts on parades for tourists, where physical challenges have been watered down to take account of our new gender neutrality, and where the politically correct embrace of any gender -- and sexual orientation-self identification has caused the men to wonder what happened to the macho. Most are bitterly disappointed to find themselves also-ran cast members in a taxpayer-funded military Disneyland for tourists. They came thinking it would be their Parris Island, and it isn’t. Where’s their role model?"

While the military may be losing its core message, Black hate groups are staying on point and Micah Xavier got the message.
THE USE OF DISGUST: Smell is a primitive instinct that protects us from certain poisons. A sense of moral disgust, like a sense of shame, is a primitive and necessary shield in responding to certain evils. Anthony Esolen is certainly one of America’s greatest contemporary Catholic writers.

BREXIT AND IMMIGRATION: "It is impossible truly to understand the Brexit vote without first understanding the significance of the changes wrought by immigration in the UK over the last few decades. The speed and scale of the demographic transformation that immigration has brought to Britain is truly remarkable. Each year, Britain takes in more immigrants than it did in the entire period between 1066 and 1950."

PAT BUCHANAN AND HIS ILL-FATED DEFENSE OF THE ETHNIC WEST: "Is it over for the West?" asks Pat Buchanan. President Obama decries nativism and nationalism and the Brexit vote. But, then, Pat Buchanan agrees it is all about defending the shrinking fates of white people. Buchanan has no sense of the burgeoning Christian southern populations and doesn’t seem to see their rise as proof of the resiliency of Christianity. He seems not to see the importance that most of America’s immigrants are Christian. He seems not to see that Christianity is growing faster than Islam worldwide. There are so many times that Buchanan writes when he seems the only voice of sanity. But on ethnicity vs. religion as the heart of culture he is persistently wrongheaded. When he defends the Anglo-white races does he not know that none of those Anglo defenders thought of the Irish as part of the advanced white race? Not at all! It was only Christianity and the peculiar American nationalism of brotherhood that allowed his forefathers into the club. He needs to learn something from those other great American Catholic Irish tribesmen -- John and Robert Kennedy.

A NEW SPOKESMAN AT THE VATICAN: American layman and Opus Dei.

CHINA AND US IN SOUTH CHINA SEA: A way to get along.

The pages have been released.
Why the Saudis are our enemies, and have been for decades.

One take on the Gulen movement which President Erdogan blames for the July 15th coup attempt.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday BookReview: MOBY DICK -- America's majestic novel

"To the Sea, to the Sea! The white gulls are crying,
 The wind is blowing, and the white foam is flying..."
    (the elf Legolas in Lord of the Rings)

Here is the 30th chapter of Herman Melville's story -- a single page entitled 'The Pipe':
When Stubb had departed, Ahab stood for a while leaning over the bulwarks; and then, as had been usual with him of late, calling a sailor of the watch, he sent him below for his ivory stool, and also his pipe. Lighting the pipe at the binnacle lamp, and planting the stool on the weather side of the deck, he sat and smoked. 
In old Norse times, the thrones of the sea-loving Danish kings were fabricated, saith tradition, of the tusks of the narwhal [a large fish with a unicorn-like, long sharp twisted tusk sticking out of his head]. How could one look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones, without bethinking him of the royalty it symbolised? For a Khan of the plank, and a king of the sea, and a great lord of Leviathans was Ahab.
Some moments passed, during which the thick vapor came from his mouth in quick and constant puffs, which blew back again into his face. "How now," he soliloquised at last, withdrawing the tube, "this smoking no longer soothes. Oh my pipe! hard must it go with me if thy charm be gone! Here I have been unconsciously toiling, not pleasuring, -- aye, and ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to windward, and with such nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale, my final jets were the strongest and fullest of trouble. What business have I with this pipe? This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapors among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I'll smoke no more." 
He tossed the still lighted pipe into the sea. The fire hissed in the waves; the same instant the ship shot by the bubble the sinking pipe made. With slouched hat, Ahab lurchingly paced the planks.

"Reality outran apprehensions; Captain Ahab stood upon his quarter-deck."

Take a look at this short video of Nathaniel Philbrick's overview of the novel.

Queequeg, son of a cannibal chieftain

Some excerpts from a review by Chris Riddell:

I had known about Moby Dick for a long time, but until last year I never attempted reading it. The reason I picked it up was because an editor friend recommended it to me along with a list of other classic literature...

Moby Dick begins with one of the most famous opening lines in all of literature: “Call me Ishmael.” He is the story’s narrator throughout the Pequod’s three year voyage on the seas led by the monomaniac Captain Ahab. As a lowly deckhand, he does not often take action but mostly is a passive observer in much the way that a journalist would report a news story. He is on the side lines watching and telling us the story. In many ways, he is the perfect narrator. At times digressive, insightful, and vulgar he takes us inside the whaler’s world.

It is dense, and long, but also transcendent. Moby Dick is one of those books that every aspiring author should read. Herman Melville created a work so timeless that people today can still learn a lot about the craft of writing from it. Every line is like poetry. Take this passage for example explaining how Ahab lost his leg, and why he so fervently hates the whale.
"And then it was, that suddenly sweeping his sickle-shaped lower jaw beneath him, Moby Dick had reaped away Ahab’s leg, as a mower a blade of grass in the field. No turbaned Turk, nor no hired Venetian or Malay, could have smote him with more seeming malice. Small reason was there to doubt, then, that ever since that almost fatal encounter, Ahab had cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale, all the more fell for that in his frantic morbidness he at last came to identify with him, not only all his bodily woes, but all his intellectual and spiritual exasperations."
The book is filled with writing like this. But one of the frustrating things for many people who try to read Moby Dick is in how Melville focuses on very specific aspects of the whaling industry and describes them to extreme detail and length...

There are many times when his style works very well. For example, there is one entire chapter called 'The Whiteness of the Whale,' which is over 3000 words and only talks about the color white with an inexhaustible compendium of metaphors and similes. You can’t help but wonder where he comes up with this stuff.
"This elusive quality it is, which causes the thought of whiteness, when divorced from more kindly associations, and coupled with any object terrible in itself, to heighten that terror to the furthest bounds. Witness the white bear of the poles, and the white shark of the tropics; what but their smooth, flaky whiteness makes them the transcendent horrors they are?"
All throughout Moby Dick, Melville demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of whales and the whaling industry. At times it’s hard to figure out what the hell he’s taking about because of all the technical terminology. Thankfully there are footnotes and endnotes... Not only is Moby Dick a novel, but it also doubles as a textbook on the practice of whaling. Entire chapters are devoted to things like the whale’s teeth, or the valuable oil the crew extracts from their bodies.

At its core, Moby Dick is about obsession and self-destruction. Ahab’s quest to find the whale sends them all over the world and he will stop at nothing until he drives his spear deep into the whale’s heart. Hence the famous line in the final chapter: "From hell’s heart I stab at thee. For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee." Ahab puts aside the safety of his own crew, and even his own mortality in pursuit of vengeance. In the end, one cannot take revenge on an animal and we see Ahab’s final doom in the futility of it all.

Moby Dick suffers from being one of those books that is studied rather than enjoyed, but there is tremendous value in here for anyone...The enjoyment of this book lies in Melville’s elegant prose, and the beauty contained in each passage. I put it down with a great feeling of achievement, as if I had come home from a long journey...



One of my favorite characters is Father Mapple, pastor of the Whaleman's Chapel in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

"He had been a sailor and a harpooner in his youth, but for many years past had dedicated his life to the ministry." He ascended to the pulpit via a perpendicular side ladder, "as if ascending the main-top of his vessel." Then, he would "deliberately drag up the ladder step by step, till the whole was deposited within, leaving him impregnable in his little Quebec... Yes, the world's a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow."

Father Mapple leafed through his Bible, and proceeded to deliver a sermon on Jonah:
"Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters -- four yarns -- is one of the smallest strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures. Yet what depths of the soul does Jonah's deep sea-line sound! what a pregnant lesson to us is this prophet! What a noble thing is that canticle in the fish's belly!" 
He reminds his flock that "all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to do... and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavours to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists." 
"Sin not; but if you do, take heed to repent of it like Jonah... [After the whale vomited him out on dry land] the word of the Lord came a second time; and Jonah, bruised and beaten -- his ears, like two sea-shells, still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean -- Jonah did the Almighty's bidding. And what was that, shipmates? To preach the Truth to the face of Falsehood! That was it!" 
"Woe to him whom this world charms from Gospel duty! Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God has brewed them into a gale!... Woe to him who would not be true, even though to be false were salvation! Yea, woe to him who, as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself a castaway!" 
"But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of every woe, there is a sure delight; and higher the top of that delight, than the bottom of the woe is deep. Is not the main-truck higher than the kelson is low?"

Moby Dick continues with Ishmael setting out for the island where so many whaling vogages commenced. Accompanied by his new best friend, the South Sea harpooner Queequeg, they board a packet schooner in New Bedford, and "... after a fine run, we safely arrived in Nantucket. Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore... Look at it -- a mere hillock, and elbow of sand; all beach, without a background. There is more sand there than you would use in twenty years as a substitute for blotting paper. Some gamesome wights [a living being] will tell you that they have to plant weeds there, they don't grow naturally... that pieces of wood in Nantucket are carried about like bits of the true cross in Rome... that one blade of grass makes an oasis, three blades in a day's walk a prairie... "

"Praise Him, you that sail the sea;
 praise Him, all creatures of the sea!"
                    (Isaiah 42)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Russian-Armenian painter Ivan Aivazovsky


It's surprising that Mr. Aivazovsky, who died in 1900, is not more famous than he is. Take a minute to ponder this large wave (above).

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, July 9

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


THE FBI AND MRS CLINTON HAVE A "REVIEW" MEETING; HILLARY BRINGS FIVE LAWYERS: Accompanying Mrs. Clinton into the meeting were her lawyer David E. Kendall; Cheryl D. Mills and Heather Samuelson, longtime aides who are also lawyers; and two lawyers from Mr. Kendall’s firm (Williams & Connolly), Katherine Turner and Amy Saharia.

THE FBI DIRECTOR COMEY AND A.G. LYNCH - BLURRING DUTIES: James Comey has submitted his FBI report and made a most succinct televised report in his presentation answering a lot of questions. The FBI did not have a way to retrieve the 20-30,000 emails that Mrs. Clinton and her lawyers scrubbed before releasing her server for public view. “Thousands of work related emails” and three classified emails not submitted by Clinton were found  on email accounts of other officials investigated.

The decision how to enforce the law then fell into the Attorney General’s hands. No matter what she said after the Clinton airplane meeting she could not turn this duty of her office  over to the FBI. She had plenty of disciplinary actions available.  Comey's recommendation was that she not press charges, but other sanctions were available (see his clear statement on that below). Even though she is a woman and Mr. Comey is a man, she should not defer her duties to the obvious dominant male. A good place to start would be to revoke Mrs Clinton's security clearance in the same way that Mr. Clinton’s perjury led to the suspension of his Arkansas law license and his disbarring from the Supreme Court practice. Mrs. Clinton cannot be trusted with the secrets of our country nor the role of protecting our statesmen or soldiers. When there was a decision to safeguard her career or safeguard the country - her choice was clear. That is what the FBI reported in no uncertain terms on July 5, 2016. A day later AG Lynch said the matter is now closed.

Some of Comey’s remarks:
It is also likely that there are other work-related e-mails that they did not produce to State and that we did not find elsewhere, and that are now gone because they [HER LAWYERS] deleted all e-mails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

Only a very small number of the e-mails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked “classified” in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it. While not the focus of our investigation, we also developed evidence that the security culture of the State Department in general, and with respect to use of unclassified e-mail systems in particular, was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.

Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.

In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.

To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.

As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.

Mr. Comey came to public fame with his prosecution of Martha Stewart in 2003. This was part of his statement at that time:
At a news conference announcing the charges against Ms. Stewart, James B. Comey, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said, ''This criminal case is about lying - lying to the F.B.I., lying to the S.E.C., lying to investors.'' Addressing a question that has long hovered over the investigation, he added, ''Martha Stewart is being prosecuted not for who she is, but because of what she did.''
How Republican-appointed Jim Comey became FBI chief in Obama administration.


ISIS IN AMERICA - MINNEAPOLIS SOMALI TRIAL: Scott Johnson of Power Line looks at what the media missed. Mr. Johnson, who attended the trial, is struck by the anti-American insularity of the Somali immigrants and the normalcy of young males picking ISIS as a career choice. For now that meant going overseas, but what will happen when the strategy is to "fight where you are"? According to Mr. Johnson and the Minnesota FBI there are probably 100,000 Somalis in Minnesota.

Saudi officials have said that Mateen made two pilgrimages to the country, first in 2011 and again in 2012, to perform Umrah, a religious pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. The trips lasted between eight and 10 days each. Details about the first trip couldn't be learned.

Pilgrims flock to Mecca and Medina year-round for the Umrah. The pilgrimage is optional, and many worshipers prefer to make it during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Around five million people from around the world visit Saudi Arabia every year for Umrah. Commonly known as the lesser pilgrimage, it can be performed at any time. By comparison the hajj, the major Muslim pilgrimage, is mandatory once in every Muslim’s life and takes place at a specific time each year.
Syed Rizwan Farook, the main suspect in a mass shooting that killed 14 people in San Bernardino last year, visited the kingdom twice in 2013 and 2014 to perform hajj and Umrah, Saudi officials have said.
DEATHS OUTSIDE OF WAR ZONES: A report on the drone war mostly targeting male groups in Pakistan.

ISIS ATTACK IN MEDINA: The one Ramadan attack which deliberately killed Sunnis was aimed at the Saudi role in guarding the Holy Places. They don’t think the Saudi royal family should control the Holy Places because they are hypocrites. They teach Salafist jihad, but don’t allow it in the kingdom. It is certainly true that the Wahhabi-Salafists of Saudi Arabia should no longer be the keepers of the Holy Places if Muslims around the world want to distinguish following the will of God (ISLAM) from the slaughter of Jews, Shiites, foreigners, and Christians.

BOMBING IN BAGHDAD WAS DELIBERATE RELIGIOUS SLAUGHTER: Iraq reminds the world that Muslims are the chief victims of ISIS, and ISIS reminds Iraq which Muslims they are after. "The raids of the mujahedeen [holy warriors] against the Rafidha [Shia] apostates will not stop."

SALAFIST JIHAD ATTACKS IN TURKEY AND BANGLADESH - TWO LARGE SUNNI NATIONS: If we learn to define the war we are in, there will be Sunni nations who will help us destroy the demonic ideology of the Salafist jihad. Every time a body of Sunnis establish a nation (Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Egypt) with real borders they set themselves against the Salafist jihad ideology. We have not made this clear enough. Islamic civilization, like Christian civilization, has been the soil of many distinct nations. This is in keeping with the will of God and Divine Providence. Those who would destroy the spiritual nature of national entities in the name of Western gender-ideology or Salafist jihad are the natural enemies of religion and the nations.

“You don’t need to be so tense,” one of the men told them. “We will not kill Bengalis. We will only kill foreigners.” At that, Mr. Barai’s gaze flicked to the floor of the restaurant, where he could see six or seven bodies, apparently shot and then sliced with machetes. All appeared to be foreigners. Even as they killed the foreigners, the attackers were unfailingly polite and solicitous with the restaurant staff and other Bangladeshis, Mr. Barai said.

They took the staff into their confidence, complaining that foreigners, with their skimpy clothes and taste for alcohol, were impeding the spread of Islam. “Their lifestyle is encouraging local people to do the same thing,” a militant said.

“They were all smart and handsome and educated,” he said. “If you look at those guys, nobody could believe they could do this.” In the predawn hours, the militants lectured their captives on religious practices, instructing the kitchen staff to say regular prayers and study the Quran.

Early in the morning, the gunmen released a group of women wearing hijabs and offered a young Bangladeshi man, Faraz Hossain, the opportunity to leave, too, said Hishaam Hossain, Mr. Hossain’s nephew, who had heard an account from the hostages who were freed.

Mr. Hossain, a student at Emory University, was accompanied by two women wearing Western clothes, however, and when the gunmen asked the women where they were from, they said India and the United States. The gunmen refused to release them, and Mr. Hossain refused to leave them behind, his relative said. He would be among those found dead on Saturday morning.


FOURTH OF JULYTwo Georges. John Ireland, Patriarch and Patriot. Fulton Sheen on America as revolution or the sacred.  America the Beautiful - Crowning Brotherhood with Elvis Presley.





CONSERVATIVE INTELLECTUAL ELITES - WHY SUCH HYSTERIA ABOUT TRUMP AND SUCH AMBIVALENCE TOWARD GENDER IDEOLOGY: Who says commentators like George Will, David Brooks, and Charles Krauthammer are the true conservatives? They are all so troubled by Donald Trump. There is something deep here which we have not yet touched. None of them believe in God. Two openly support marriage between males. If Christians think they are losing the culture wars, it might be because the warriors in our front line on the BIGGEST CULTURAL ISSUE are "intellectuals," not men under God. They are not fighting our fight. He who does not see God may have trouble understanding that politics is about brotherhoods under God. There are many men who do not believe in God,  who do believe in murderous brotherhoods. All three of our conservative commentators think ISIS and Hitler and the KKK are outrageous. But they will never understand the fraternal spirit under the Great Patriarch that will defeat those powerful forces.

ECONOMIC ELITES - BREXIT FALLOUT: From the Daily Beast: "The Brexit vote reflected the class aspect of the Rebellion. The London Times post-election analysis , notes socialist author James Heartfield, found the upper classes 57 percent for remain, the upper middle class fairly divided, while everyone below them went roughly two-thirds for leave. It doesn’t get much plainer than that... This dissent reflect the consequences of the globalization celebrated by elites in both parties. Britain’s industrial workforce, once the wonder of the world, is half as large as it was as just two decades ago..."


Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday BookReview: "Shop Class as Soulcraft"

(first published June 19, 2015)

"It is the essence of genius to make use of the simplest ideas."
- Charles Peguy


Some excerpts from Francis Fukuyama's review of Shop Class as Soulcraft:
[This] is a beautiful little book about human excellence and the way it is undervalued in contemporary America. 
Matthew B. Crawford, who owns and operates a motorcycle repair shop in Richmond, Va., and serves as a fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, notes that all across the United States, high school shop classes teaching mechanical arts like welding, woodworking or carpentry are closing down, to free up funds for computer labs. There is a legion of experts denigrating manual trades like plumber, carpenter and electrician, warning that the United States labor force needs to be "upskilled" and retrained to face the challenges of a high-tech, global economy. Under this new ideology, everyone must attend college and prepare for life as a "symbolic analyst" or "knowledge worker," ready to add value through mental rather than physical labor. 
There are two things wrong with this notion, according to Crawford. The first is that it radically undervalues blue-collar work that involves the manipulation of things rather than ideas. Expertise with things permits human beings to have agency over their lives — that is, their ability to exert some control over the myriad faucets, outlets and engines that they depend on from day to day. Instead of being able to top up your engine oil when it is low, you wait until an "idiot light" goes on on the dashboard, and you turn your car over to a bureaucratized dealership that hooks it up to a computer and returns it to you without your having the faintest idea of what might have been wrong. 
The second problem with this vision is that the postindustrial world is not in fact populated — as gurus like Richard Florida, who has popularized the idea of the "creative class," would have it — by "bizarre mavericks operating at the bohemian fringe." The truth about most white-collar office work, Crawford argues, is captured better by "Dilbert" and "The Office": dull routine more alienating than the machine production denounced by Marx. Unlike the electrician who knows his work is good when you flip a switch and the lights go on, the average knowledge worker is caught in a morass of evaluations, budget projections and planning meetings. None of this bears the worker’s personal stamp; none of it can be definitively evaluated; and the kind of mastery or excellence available to the forklift driver or mechanic are elusive. Rather than achieving self-mastery by confronting a "hard discipline" like gardening or structural engineering or learning Russian, people are offered the fake autonomy of consumer choice, expressing their inner selves by sitting in front of a Harley-­Davidson catalog and deciding how to trick out their bikes. 
This glorification of manual labor would seem patronizing but for the author’s personal biography. Crawford grew up in a commune in the Bay Area with a theoretical physicist for a father, and worked his way through high school and college as an electrician. Along the way he picked up the ability to rebuild the engines of old Volkswagens, something that stayed with him even as he went on to get a Ph.D. in political philosophy at the University of Chicago...  
Crawford argues that the ideologists of the knowledge economy have posited a false dichotomy between knowing and doing. The fact of the matter is that most forms of real knowledge, including self-knowledge, come from the effort to struggle with and master the brute reality of material objects — loosening a bolt without stripping its threads, or backing a semi rig into a loading dock. All these activities, if done well, require knowledge both about the world as it is and about yourself, and your own limitations. They can’t be learned simply by following rules, as a computer does; they require intuitive knowledge that comes from long experience and repeated encounters with difficulty and failure. In this world, self-­esteem cannot be faked: if you can’t get the valve cover off the engine, the customer won’t pay you. 
Highly educated people with high-­status jobs — investment bankers, professors, lawyers — often believe that they could do anything their less-educated brethren can, if only they put their minds to it, because cognitive ability is the only ability that counts. The truth is that some would not have the physical and cognitive ability to do skilled blue-collar work, and that others could do it only if they invested 20 years of their life in learning a trade. "Shop Class as Soulcraft" makes this quite vivid by explaining in detail what is actually involved in rebuilding a Volkswagen engine: grinding down the gasket joining the intake ports to the cylinder heads, with a file, tracing the custom-fit gasket with an X-Acto knife, removing metal on the manifolds with a pneumatic die grinder so the passageways will mate perfectly. Small signs of galling and discoloration mean excessive heat buildup, caused by a previous owner’s failure to lubricate; the slight bulging of a valve stem points to a root cause of wear that a novice mechanic would completely fail to perceive. 
Crawford asserts that he is not writing a book about public policy. But he has a clear preference for a "progressive republican" order in which the moral ties binding workers to their work or entrepreneurs to their customers are not so readily sacrificed at the altar of efficiency and growth. He argues that there is something wrong with a global economy in which a Chinese worker sews together an Amish quilt with no direct connection with its final user, or understanding of its cultural meaning. Economic ties, like those between a borrower and a lender, were once underpinned by face-to-face contact and moral community; today’s mortgage broker, by contrast, is a depersonalized cog in a financial machine that actively discourages prudence and judgment. 
In the end I must confess that it would have been hard for me not to like this book. While I make my living as a “symbolic knowledge worker,” I have both ridden motorcycles and made furniture — my family’s kitchen table, the beds my children slept on while growing up, as well as reproductions of Federal-style antiques whose originals I could never afford to buy. Few things I’ve created have given me nearly as much pleasure as those tangible objects that were hard to fabricate and useful to other people. I put my power tools away a few years ago, and find now that I can’t even give them away, because people are too preoccupied with updating their iPhones. Shop class, it appears, is already a distant historical memory.

Dr. Pence, you say that today's culture could use a big dose of the spirit of Thomas Edison. What do you admire about him?

Edison studied materials. He experimented with them. He understood their practical properties. The light bulb was not a summation at the end of a mathematical calculation, nor did it come from the so-called scientific method of hypothesis, experiment, observation, and conclusion. Needed was a material that responded to electrical current with much more illumination than heat -- a slow bright burn, if you will. Edison's work-space looked a lot more like a farmer's work bench than a university laboratory. He knew how lots of things worked. He tried things out.


What is science?

In general I think there are many sciences. They are bodies of knowledge about defined subjects based on categories and definitions accepted in each field. I don't believe there is a Science with a capital S. That is an epistemological claim of modernists who have abandoned the disciplines of theology and philosophy. There is a branch of philosophy called epistemology which is about how we know what we know.
. Most “scientists” who talk about Science with a capital S as the only way to know reality have never heard of epistemology and are  really quite puerile in discussing the subject.  I think here especially of Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins.

Is there an American science or American sciences?

I think historically there is an approach to the physical world and the various sciences which is peculiarly American. Celestial navigation, wood work, surveying, metal work, and the agricultural sciences were worked in with traditional school subjects in certain colonial schools. This was a pretty unique American approach. They didn't start as vocational tracking or class-based disciplines. I wrote my Educational Masters Thesis on the history of shop, agricultural classes and home economics in American education. I argued to reintegrate these tactile disciplines in a renewed, more integrated, approach to teaching the sciences. When we think of that peculiar American genius for different sciences, I see farmyard inventors, kids on computers late at night, and bicycle mechanics before I see German professors on their blackboards.

Come on, Pence, try imagining America's atomic bombs without German physicists scribbling on blackboards!  

Actually, that's one of my favorite examples.  We needed certain physicists (not at all like Einstein) who were working with uranium as a material, and we needed General Leslie Groves of the Army Corps of Engineers to actually make them. The making of the bomb was a huge technical enterprise which we often forget. But, you are right; I will concede in this case a good deal of credit to the German blackboard.

One of the big initiatives in science education is STEM -- a program to stimulate more interest in engineering and the sciences among secondary students. As a high-school science teacher, what was your take on that?

It was too focused on pushing kids into more math. It needed more of the Engineering E in its name, and much less of the ideology of science. If it could have stressed the tactile arts-shop, woodworking and electronics (including the use of  power tools), it might have discovered  a real untapped group of boy scientists and engineers. Instead, the special focus on girls in the sciences was another victory of ideology over reality. The focus of math over manufacturing was a victory of the cerebral and theoretical over the practical and tactile.

Is there any political or educational movement that might address these concerns?

Some community and vocational colleges are trying to get much earlier pathways for their institutions into the  high-schools. Those vocational schools have the trained staff and facilities which have been driven out of our high schools. The vocational colleges actually grew out of local school boards, not state institutions. This is a kind of full circle. A significant group of high-school boys would gain if this movement by vocational college teachers and counselors could reach them to  free them from the mechanical deficiencies and institutional biases of their high-school teachers and the ever more bizarre colleges of education which shaped them. I don’t mean to sound so anti high school teacher. I am not . But there a group of great teachers in vocational schools down the street from our high schools who know important skills our high school kids need. They are being kept out of daily teaching contact with high school students because of institutional sluggishness and union protectionism.

"Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys." 
         - Sam Walton


UPDATE: On Ron Schara's outdoors program (show #741 -- go to the 6:30 mark), they had a good four-minute segment about city kids who put their heart and soul into learning the craft of boat-building.