December 12, 2009

Never Conform!

This will be a long post. I've been stewing again. I'm continually shocked at the Gadarene Swine of liberalism, racing to the nearest cliffs in formation; obedient to the current theme, fad or effect (without cause) that liberalism dictates to the troops in its little paper armies. Whether it's the charade in Copenhagen, The Senate, or your local waste disposal committe, they're busy devising some morally unassailable scheme to steal from you, or proudly scaling some moral gradient on your behalf, whether you want them to or not.

The liberals of my generation, now fixed like dried blood on the pelt of America - in the universities, in the news bureaus and entertainment industries,- and throughout the towers of government, once claimed to be rebels. Today they're more dangerous to individual liberty than the totalitarians of the last century. You know who and what they are. We don't need to list their demands. Their asssumptions are so awful, political correctness was rigged to shield them from scrutiny and the tools of perception through ordinary language.

These folks "dropped out" (I know; I was there) by dropping in to a counter-culture which was already in place and a creation of the capitalism they claimed to despise. They considered themselves courageous for having adapted to a permanent masquerade party. Except for some skirmishes in the Civil Rights movement, they never fought against anything that posed a real danger.

Like jackals they snapped at the heels of dazed returning veterans, the hard-working bourgeoisie, or more broadly, at the soft, basically decent American culture and the squeamish authority of parents who were busy building the modern world. When these conformists discarded the tie-dye uniforms, they rode the wave of post-war prosperity into professions and material ease as no generation before them, and believed that they had something to do with it.

Now they're in Act II, Scene III of their lives and they plan to go out oppressing and controlling everything in sight. They're in charge almost everywhere, their ideas are the default ideas of the lazy, the stupid and the "idealistic", and the cancer of following the prevailing mood grows and grows. Consider the following, from "The Art of Non-Conforming" (1953) by British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge:

"If I were to write the Confessions of a Non-Conforming Man, they would begin with an assertion that the mid-twentieth century, far from being a period of enlightenment, has been notable for credulity and servility to a quite exceptional degree. It would be necessary, I should go on, to go back at least to the Dark Ages to find a generation of men so given over to destruction, superstition, and every variety of obscurantism...

Questioning, thus, the basic assumptions of the age, the Non-Conforming Man cannot but find its pretensions particularly derisory. Ironically, ignorance seems to grow with education and freedom seems to decay to the accompaniment of protestations and devotions to its cause...

Civilization presupposes the integrity and inviolability of each separate human being, and it is contemporary neobarbarisms like Fascism, Nazism, and Communism which have sought to destroy the individual in favor of the collectivity...the materialists, the power-worshipers, the demon-demagogues of our time, insist that individual men and women are of no account, and have no destiny of their own apart from mankind's...

Against such a trend, the impulse not to conform constitutes a kind of resistance movement, whose practitioners...are liable to be forced to become cautiously on the fringes of society. Without them, collective assumptions may pass unchallenged, and there may be no one to puncture the pretensions of established authority.

The basic failure of our time, future historians may well decide, has lain in the too ready acceptance of current orthodoxies, whether through fear of being suspected of rebelliousness and consequently punished, or just as a result of mass persuasion...Conformity is more and more the order of the day, inevitably bringing with it that subservience to prevailing fashions of thought, values and behavior which prepares the way for - to use the sombre expression by Belloc more than four decades ago - The Servile State.

To a civilized and free mind any enforced orthodoxy is abhorrent. It is inconceivable that the last word should ever be said about anything, or that history should reach any sort of finality. Non-conforming is a recognition that Man and all his works are inherently imperfect, and therefore susceptible to criticism, if not ridicule.

...Non-conforming is the basis, the very fount, of all humor. A totally conformist society never laughs - laughter itself being a kind of criticism, an expression of the immense disparity between human aspiration and human performance. As such, it is intolerable to all orthodoxy enforcers from Torquemada to Stalin... the twisted fiend Harry Reid, the spider Nancy Pelosi and the monstrous Albert Gore. Today, this is the difference between them and us. They're the end of time, the death of imagination and free thought. We're not. Persuasion won't change them. This is war.

Have you ever felt as if someone was looking out for you?

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find an internet cafe in the Old City of Jerusalem? It's like trying to find a Christmas tree in Berkeley.

OK... it's time to come clean. I didn't come to Israel for the waters, nor the nightlife. Some months ago I realized that major life changes are in my future. Jerusalem is my pilgrimage. It has confirmed my faith and made me all the more confident in my decision.

Since my childhood I have heard many spiritual and downright breathless tales of visits to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The church includes within its walls the last 5 Stations of the Cross:

10..........The site where Jesus is stripped of His garments

11 & 12...The site of Christ's crucifixion and death on the cross

13...........Where His body was removed from the cross and prepared for burial

14...........Jesus' tomb

That's my preface. Read about the place. It's amazing.

A friend of mine told me that he had heard that, through the centuries, there have been times when pilgrims have been allowed to stay within the church after it had been locked and secured for the evening, allowing for an an exceptional opportunity for prayer and worship. It requires permission from a whole lot of religious folks who don't always get along. I had contact leads from US officials, and other recommendations from religious mucky-mucks. I was told that approval was a slam dunk. When I arrived here, I learned that was not the case. I was told "It can't be done".

For a week I appeared at the Church twice a day... each time requesting permission and each time being refused. After a week of requesting, the Franciscan priest near the entrance rolled his eyes and said "Be back here at 5:00 tonight. No promises. We'll see."

OK, here we go. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered the most holy Christian site on the face of the planet. Every Christian in the world would, once in his life, like to stand and worship where Christ was crucified and died, and pray at the tomb from which he rose. There is no chance of getting to view the tomb without a lengthy wait and some level of security.

The small tomb, of course, is decorated with priceless collections of gold, icons, lamps etc. There's a priest eyeballing the waiting throng for suspicious characters. There's also a priest inside keeping the process moving... no dawdling, keep moving, don't touch that, etc. No bags, backpack or purses are allowed. There is usually a line of pilgrims from all over the world, hundreds deep, waiting to spend 10 seconds in the tomb. It was my hope that my overnight visit would allow me to horn in on the Carmelite nuns' ever-present nighttime vigil to allow myself a reasonable amount of time to complete a prayer.

When I appeared at 5:00, Makmoud (the young Palestinian doorkeeper whose family through the generations has been given the responsibility of locking and unlocking the Church) escorted me to meet what seemed to be the Friar-on-duty. He had a New York accent.

So you want to stay the night?


We close the doors at 7. Be here at 6:45 and sit on that bench. That will tell the police that you'll be staying. Bring a bottle of water, something to eat, and dress warmly. We'll let you out when we reopen at 4 in the morning.

That was pretty straightforward, so I did as he said. I was there on time. The friar came over and sat with me and waited while the Israeli police cleared the church.

Here are the rules. First, no singing. The acoustics here sometimes tempt people to break into song. Second, no sleeping. Third, don't light any candles. The Greeks (the Greek Orthodox priests) will be here at 11:00 for a mass. When you see them starting to gather, leave the tomb. Otherwise, you have the tomb for four hours, 7 to 11. The Greeks will be out of here by 1:00. After that, you will be the only one in the church. The priests will all begin reappearing at about 3:00. Go where you want to go. Pray where you want to pray. Touch what you want to touch. Take all the photos you want. Just don't break anything.

(I couldn't believe what he was saying.)

And the nuns?

Not tonight. It's all yours.

Don't you have any paperwork? Do you want my name?


(My head was actually thumping with excitement.)

I won't share (and I'm not capable of sharing) what happened during those 4 hours or the hours at Golgotha (Calvary). I will tell you that many of you and your children were included in my prayers. Even you, Odie.

I do miss blogging and look forward to battling the dark forces again when I return after Christmas.

Happy Hanukkah and Shalom


December 10, 2009

Your Congress at Work: Fixing the BCS

Yes, friends, it's true. Congress is hard at work -- not trying to defend national security or protect us from confiscatory taxes or stifling regulations -- but rather at fixing the Bowl Championship Series of college football. What a relief.

Of course, I jest. Actually, it's ... What a disgrace.

We start with the obvious: Yes, we know the college football system for crowing a national champion is flawed. So, what else is new? Last year, my beloved Longhorns were denied the right to play Florida for the title because pollsters and computers deemed Oklahoma (a one-loss team like Texas) worthier -- even though Texas had beaten OU on a neutral field by 10 points. Cry me a river, TCU, Cincinnati, Boise State, whoever. That's college football and life.

But it's not just football, tough luck or life to our beloved Joe Barton (Allegedly R-Texas). You see, Joe's district (TX-6) cuts a wide swath through Aggieland and ends up in Arlington and south Fort Worth. And also ... the TCU Horned Frogs (this year's dissed Cinderella) hail from Fort Worth.

And don't you know ... those Texas Aggies don't like Texas (who did get the nod to play in the BCS Championship Game vs. Alabama). And it just so happens that Joe is a Texas A&M graduate. Golly!

You know, on one level you could argue it's just sour grapes by those who favor certain teams, like I favor the Longhorns.

But on another level, it's deeply disturbing that we have fallen so far from a clear understanding of the proper role of the federal government.

It's outrageous. How can Republicans stand and argue that the Demos are reaching too far with their attempted takeover of health care when they simultaneously argue the government should interfere with even our recreation and sports?

Remember these characters preening for the cameras when that goofball Roger Clemens was making an ass of himself?

Where are the statesmen?

December 9, 2009

Take heart, Goomba Nation

Here's a good post regarding potential good news in the wake of Reid's health care wrangling and shenanigans in the Senate.

It appears that Reid is desperate and trying to cobble together the 60 votes he needs (the brilliance of our system shows itself again), but he keeps running into roadblocks.

Key point made by Bill Kristol is that Reid is trying to create a sense of inevitability ... and thus cause certain dominoes to fall. So far, it's not working. Stay strong.

December 8, 2009

Goomba-Bubba Summit: A Pictorial Essay

SAN FRANCISCO -- We knew the Left wouldn't be expecting the GBS to be held here, so we could talk in private (and with no protesters). With two conservative blogging titans in town, it was somewhat akin to Bush flying into Baghdad under cover of darkness -- a grand plan designed to lift the morale of conservative bloggers everywhere.

On the morning of the Goomba-Bubba Summit, fog rolled in from the Bay, per usual.

Flags unfurled on a breezy, cold morning ...

I took to the streets in search of Goomba, who told me simply to look for the first German bar I could find. He would be wearing some sort of unique hat, he said. It was just like him, but fortunately I am both an an experienced land navigator and investigator.

Pretty city. I couldn't find a taqueria, though.

I found evidence of the quaint celebration of Christmas past. Very beautiful tree.

We're not in Texas, any more.

Right next to the California bear stood Old Glory.

Assuming I could find him, I had to stop in here so I could pay for lunch.

Evidence of decaying infrastructure was everywhere ... as seen in these cracking streets.

Wow, I wondered if that was it. I think it must be. It was the only German place I could find.

Upon meeting Nick, I was overcome with joy. I found the man in the hat. But he was much taller in person than I expected.

Inside our summit location ... We covered a lot of ground here and made this a place to be remembered.

Nick was kind enough to take me back to the airport. On the way back, there was a stalled truck on the freeway. If you look at the sign, it says (no kidding) that "this truck uses alternative fuel." We looked at each other, laughed for a long while, and then decided ... that was put here by God for us to post about.

On the street ... these two characters were found charging women passing by to take their picture. One guy insisted that every one have on their favorite team gear. The girls just squealed and loved it. These guys made $3.27 in just two hours.

Leaving the beauty of the bay ...

As my plane banked back to the east, I was glad I had done something I had wanted to do since 2004 -- meet the Great Goomba. I thought of his plane heading for Israel tomorrow ... and I prayed for him.

So, at the summit, we decided: 1) We are glad for and amazed at the power of the internets; 2) We are grateful for this blog to vent, inspire, and inform, and we enjoy the banter with all of you; 3) Nick is going to come to Texas to visit the Cutter clan; 4) God has blessed us both in unique ways over the course of some twisting trails and trying travails; and 5) Most importantly, we love each other.

Talk to you again, soon, my brother.

December 7, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words

Remember Pearl Harbor

And put it in perspective in the modern sense as we are assailed by a government bent on our destruction. In the instant case, we have met the enemy and he is us.

Pausing today to remember ...

It's as apppropriate as ever to do so. The free do not have to outnumber the tyrants. But they do have to be stronger and remain vigilant.

In honor of Pearl Harbor Day, the report of my meeting with Goomba will be up tomorrow.

See you then.

December 6, 2009

Getting Stupider and Stupider

If you flip a coin 99 times, and it comes up heads every time, what is the probability that the 100th flip will come up heads? My guess is not 99 to 1, but 50 - 50. Am I wrong? Why?

Take this. Last summer the Ad Council in Connecticut told us that "900 kids a year drown in swimming pools". Not an average of 900 kids a year, but 900 kids a year! This is ridiculous, because it means that a kid's chance of drowning in a swimming pool shrinks as the number of mortalities expand. And over time, the families whose indifference to water safety reduces their numbers, will be socially Darwinized out of bodies of water, therefore lowering the number even more. The questions and implications surrounding a fixed number of deaths are many.

The Ad Council has probably told us, somewhere, that there are 47,000 kids killed by guns every year, a similar number killed in auto accidents. Some charitable organization in New Haven makes regular claims, by radio, that "every 1 in 5 babies is born dangerously premature". This is a mixture of the more stupid factoid that "every fifth baby is born dangerously premature" and the proveable statistic that"1 out of 5 babies is born dangerously premature". They're all different. But the first claim is numerically ridiculous, and syntactically idiotic, but it rolled off an copywriter's keypad, and it points to the odious nature of what is known as a Public Service Announcement.

PSA's, don't impart knowledge, because they're not meant to. They substitute information disguised as knowledge. The information is not quite wrong and not quite right; it's un-wrong and un-false but not exactly right and not exactly true. It's propaganda. As such, PSA's fall at the nexus of dogma and convenient fact, where tax dollars for the public good can be leveraged out out of a deceived population. In that way they're evil, and are indistinct from cynical, dishonest evangelism.

If you think that a more enlightened, educated population would be immune to the charlatanry of the PSA, you'd probably be wrong. Take the evidence gathered by Dan Gilbert in his 1991 article "How Mental Systems Work" (Google it). Hammer through the cement of academic jargon, and you'll learn something about yourself (the rational skeptic), and that other guy, the credulous nitwit.

You'll learn that, for most people, belief precedes doubt and doubt requires more mental effort than belief. Belief is a default state; it's passive. It occurs with simple comprehension. Even a negation statement like "the sky is not yellow" requires that the mind affirm the yellowness of the sky, and then evaluate the validity of the proposition. Truth or verification require work and guts.

Consider the advancement from gullible childhood to skeptical adulthood. Skepticism arrives late in the human mind, and under pressure it's one of the the first things to go. Distraction, stress, psychological manipulation; all of them disable the evaluative process of the human mind, and allow the default position, belief, to prevail. It's easier.

There's a whole lot more in Gilbert's article - thoughts on visual perception, the evolutionary value of immediate belief over doubt, thoughts on the"mind" and more. Just imagine...people who rule us know this stuff inside and out. I believe that's depressing.