Sunday, June 24, 2018

Betsy DeVos's America

I went for a walk in Betsy DeVos's America today.  They don't have much use for government.

Not counting vehicles, there was somebody selling something every half mile.
In Betsy DeVos's America, the honor system works because people feel shame when they take something they did not earn.

In Betsy DeVos's America, money comes from getting off your ass and doing for other people.  'Doing for' doesn't necessarily mean 'giving away'.

In Betsy DeVos's America, people don't angle to find positions with a good salary.

They find good fields and plant celery.
I caught one person wetting down the plants he had out for sale.  I commented on the honesty of the people in Betsy DeVos's America.  He said I gave them too much credit.  He said he was selling those plants because the Big-Box store had returned them without paying after did not sell.  He could have put them on the compost pile and written off the loss.  Less pain, less effort, less gain.
I think the man wetting down the plants was embarrassed that I caught him working on Sunday.  Betsy DeVos's America is funny that way.
Betsy DeVos's America is a hot-bed of industry and entrepreneurship.  You don't need to go to Chinatown to find people who want to work.  Betsy DeVos's America is a fine example of the differences between "Work" and "Jobs".
Oh, and they did have vehicles for sale.  Here is a sampling.
I know this is hard to fathom, but there are places that are not like Betsy DeVos's America where you cannot leave vehicles outside, unattended.  They are vandalized.

Not sure if these count as vehicles

And don't let me hear you say that the people in Betsy DeVos's America have hearts of stone.

The Americans in Betsy DeVos's America don't want a government that takes money out of their pocket to fund wastrels and sluggards.  They don't need much government to enforce civil behavior.  The last thing they need are bureaucrats measuring length of cordwood or size of plant pots or the ratio of BBQ sauce-to-meat.

Betsy DeVos's America is a great place if you have hustle and vision.  It is not such a great place if all you have are excuses and are paralyzed by fear.

Maybe you live someplace like Betsy DeVos's America.  The race hustlers and Big-Government folks say places like this are a fantasy.  I disagree.  I walked in Betsy DeVos's America today.

Mocha cools off in Miami

"Oh boy!  I am going on a play-date"
"What?!  Nobody said nuthin' about no bath."

"And it was in-and-out-and-in-and-out, an the musics alright.."

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Protective Factors (continued)

Somebody pointed out that the social support that church communities can give is a huge protective factor.

Humans, like sheep, are social animals.  Most of us get a little bit skittish when we don't have enough social time.  Some need less time than others but we all seem to need at least a little.

Sadly, all of the traditional support systems for adolescents seem to be under attack.  Asimov wrote that the improbable becomes inevitable when dealing with infinite numbers.  Stated another way, large populations will contain deviant members.  The miracle of the internet guarantees that we will hear about every incident in excruciating detail.

Adolescents are at high risk because they are pushing away from their families and joining new "tribes" at school.

Sometimes the adolescent will create a horror fiction about his family to justify their "divorce" and remarriage.

And then the adolescent learns that the new tribe is unstable and ruthlessly engages in pecking order games.

Yeah, it sucks to be an adolescent. 

That is why traditional cultures pack a lot of padding around those years.  12 year old girls are not ready to date.  14 year old boys are not ready to be men.

Our new, enlightened culture is busy deconstructing that padding.  And then they wonder why middle and high schools are war zones.

Yup, makes a lot of sense.  A "science" discipline founded on a knowledge base with a half-life of five years immolating a culture that has endured 4000 years.  Smart.  Real smart.

Friday, June 22, 2018


This is a simple model.  Individuals are not static.  They move around like moths circling a street light.

  • If you are thinking about hurting or killing yourself call 9-1-1 or the Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • If you are considering hurting or killing someone else, call 9-1-1.
  • If you have credible evidence that somebody is considering hurting or killing himself or others then call 9-1-1.
  • If you suspect somebody might be considering hurting or killing himself or others then consult with another person and compare observations.  If warranted, call 9-1-1.

Whew!  I am glad that is out of the way.

Gun rights and Suicide

Suicide is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody is talking about.

As a person who values firearms you can have all the facts on your side.  You can have impeccable logic.  You can be totally, 100% in the right....and we will still lose.

That is because nobody wants to engage in dialog about the 800 pound gorilla.

Fools rush in...
Suicides are the vast majority of firearm related deaths.  Suicide is a form of violence.  Failure to productively grapple with issues around suicide are similar to a football team with fantastic "special teams" but no offense or defense.  That team is missing the core of the game.

Perhaps the biggest reason for folk's inability to have dialog about suicide is because suicide is both intimately painful to the survivors while remaining shrouded by "privacy issues" related to the main actor(s).

One reason I remain anonymous is so I can discuss these kinds of issues.

A short history of ERJ
At one time we had a suicidal person living under our roof.

For one year we had no firearms on our property.  We had no kitchen knives or screwdrivers or hammers in the house.  All medications, yes even the ibuprofen, were locked in our bedroom.

You might suggest that nobody has ever committed suicide with a hammer.  The problem is that suicide is homicide and a person capable of suicide is also capable of murder.  While you might scoff, would you want to make that judgement and be incorrect?

Then, for a couple more years the only firearm in the house was a muzzle loader.  I was able to convince Mrs ERJ that it was "safe" by showing her all the steps required to load the device.  Then I inserted a 209 primer (used) into the primer pocket and pointed the gun at the ceiling.  The primer fell out due to the effects of gravity and an oversized primer pocket.

What was the point of aiming at the ceiling?  The only way a person can commit suicide with a long barreled firearm is to put the barrel of the gun in his mouth pointing upward and to pull the trigger with his toe.

I share this not seeking pity.  I share this information to establish my credibility.  We were there.  We did what needed to be done.

A linking of causes
I want you to give me some slack here so I can paint a background.

I propose that Suzie Soccermom's willingness to liquidate personal freedoms and the increasing rate of suicide are linked by a shared foundation.

That shared foundation is the carte blanche dismissal of Western Civilization as "irrelevant".

I see it every day in young people.  Anything new is better than everything that is old.  Cell-phones, video games...everything important.

What could be newer than the idea that just popped into my head?  That thought has to be better than what cavemen came up with.

It never occurs to our young person that every human who live beyond age 15 also shared, and dismissed, the very same thought that spontaneously bloomed in his cranium.  His 'spontaneous' thoughts are not new but as old as humanity.

Baby with the bathwater
Religion can be a 'protective factor' against suicide.
I intend to discuss those protective factors along two axis:
  • Decreasing stress
  • Increasing stress tolerance
That is, moving the individual's trajectory so its center-of-gravity is toward the green end of the diagonal arrow.   I will speak specifically to Christianity since that is what I am most familiar with.

Religion and pianos
Suppose you had one piano and it was played, in turn, by Ludwig von Beethoven, Camille Saint-Saëns, Scott Joplin, Paul McCartney and George Winston.

Any major religion is similar.  You get totally different experiences depending on how you slice a section through the body of work.  Think of it as being photographic photo-planes if you prefer.  I will slice one such plane through Christianity.  For all of the readers who are Christians, this should be a 40,000 foot flyover.  Please don't get exercised if I leave something out or "misrepresent" a detail.  Just address it in comments.

Suppose Iron Man (Tony Stark) flew down to an asteroid where Suzie Soccermom's 16 year old son was being held by the evil Emoticrums.  A nearby star had just supernova-ed and SS's son was about to be ionized.

Iron Man quickly removes his suit and insists SS's son wear it to escape certain death.  Iron Man, now the very mortal Tony Stark faces down the Emoticrums while SS's son escapes. It is like a cowardly fighter being given a blood transfusion with both Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor's blood.

What are the odds of SS's son deciding to end-it-all after watching Tony's sacrifice? Who could sanction such a colossal waste?

This is the fundamental message of Christianity.  Christ died for us.

Chalk this up as increasing stress tolerance.

Codes of personal conduct
Christianity and Judaism both come with a set of "codes" for personal conduct.

Humans are social animals.  We can act in ways that cause conflict to escalate or we can act in ways that tamp-down conflict.  If you consider that the Judaic codes were forged as a small group were trapped in an elevator lost in the desert for forty years, then you start to appreciate how finely honed the codes are.

Chalk up the codes of personal conduct as "increasing stress tolerance."

We swim through a sea of Secular Humanism, subjective morality and Self-Actualization.  You don't hear much about sin and forgiveness.

People know that sin is real because they have been injured by sin.  What they don't have are the tools to deal with the scar tissue caused by sin.  They don't have a path to forgiveness.

The scar tissue accumulates like plaque in our arteries and we become incapable of functioning.  Suicide is the ultimate expression of non-functioning.

Christianity offers a path to forgiveness.  Personally, I think we, as human organisms, need to atone and we need to hear a fellow human say the words, "You are forgiven" for us to truly feel forgiven. 

Consider steps 4-through-10 of AA's Twelve Step process
  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Chalk this up as "decreasing stress".

(Parenthetical note:  Our suicidal resident was extremely antagonistic toward all religion.  He/she felt 'judged'.  The resident did admit to a therapist that he/she had not committed suicide because he/she believed that he/she would go to hell...that is, if there was a hell.  He/She did not want to take a chance.)

Forgiveness Part II
Christian Theology tells us that we must forgive others. That can be tough.

The advantage from a "protective factors" standpoint is that nursing grievances is toxic.  It hurts us more than it hurts the people who did us dirt.

Forgiving people makes us bigger than them.  Holding a grudge against them gives them our power to choose other paths.  Holding a grudge marinades us in the juices of victimhood.

There is a bit of nuance here.  Forgiveness does not mean passively rolling over and allowing yourself to become a victim again.  As a Christian, we have a responsibility to not lead others into temptation.  That means we must armor ourselves against future victimhood.

Chalk this up as "decreasing stress".

God does not judge us by human standards
The Jewish Testaments tell us that God does not judge by human standards.  The Jewish Testaments also tells us that God knew us as he knit us together (cell-by-cell) in our mother's womb.

In the Christian Testaments, Jesus hangs out with tax collectors, hookers and fishermen.  He reminds us that God has counted every hair on our head.

Bottom line:  I have inherent value in the eyes of God even if I am a nerd, dweeb, loser, emotional, short, fat, crooked teeth, bad complexion and cannot spell.

One "theology" to be wary of is "Prosperity theology".  That particular focal plane suggests that worldly success is proof that God loves us and is based on the quote "I have come to give life and give it more abundantly."  The nasty backlash is that adherents are likely to despair when confronted by worldly setbacks.  They might see that as proof that God hates them.

Chalk this up as "decreasing stress".

If you are depressed, seek professional help.  This post is not a substitute for professional help.

If you are Suzie Soccermom and are concerned about Biff or Muffy killing his/herself then it is more productive for you to research "religion" than it is for you to attempt to eliminate guns.  And eliminate knives and screwdrivers and hammers and antifreeze and acetaminophen and rope and lamp-cords and broken glass and speeding vehicles and....

If you are in a heated debate with Suzie Soccermom regarding the Second Amendment rights, take a minute and ask her if she believes there might be a God.  If she categorically denies the possibility than you are not going to have very much luck discussing inalienable, God-given rights.

If she mumbles that she is open to the possibility that there is a God then you can broach the issue of suicide and start talking about the issue that really haunts her rather than knocking down meaningless straw-men.  Incidentally, I have a muzzle-loader for sale...

If you walked away from the church of your childhood and are concerned about suicide then you might do a little bit of research.  Various flavors of Christianity look slightly different when you concentrate on the "suicide" focal plane.  You might find some flavor of Christianity that more precisely meets your current needs than the flavor you grew up with.  Think of it as switching from McCartney to Saint-Saëns.

Installment 7.6: Does it really matter?

“This is Brigid Barkley From the Front Line.  Today we are reporting from Loyola Marymount University.  I am interviewing Professor Joachin Luzon, Society of Jesus, Dean of the School of Psychology.  Members of the 'Society of Jesus' are more commonly called 'Jesuits'. Professor Luzon is also known as Father Luzon, a Roman Catholic priest.  Hello Professor Luzon.”

“Hello Brigid.  Thanks for having me.” Professor Luzon said.

“Earlier today we learned that many of the migrants are leaving Sedelia because of reports of an apparition of the Blessed Lady.  What can you tell me about these phenomena?” Brigid asked.

“First of all, it is my personal preference that we not use the word  “Apparition” when speaking of the Blessed Lady.” Professor Luzon corrected.  "Even though it is commonly used, the nuance of the word ‘apparition’ is of a ghosts and ghouls.  A legitimate appearance of the Blessed Virgin  should not be dismissed as a common ‘ghost’ story.”

“Second, appearances of the Blessed Mother are far more common than generally believed.  Most of her intercessions are small, private matters.  What is uncommon is that the Blessed Mother is telling her audience to to go forth and spread the message.” Professor Luzon said.

“Can you give me an example of ‘small, private matters’?” Brigid asked.

“Certainly.” Professor Luzon said.  “I was providing spiritual guidance to a student at the University when her apartment was robbed and her jewelry box was stolen.  She was heartbroken because one of the items in her jewelry box was a rosary that was her grandmother’s.  The rosary had no monetary value but it was the only thing she had left to connect her to her grandmother due to a house fire.

“She prayed to the Virgin.” Professor Luzon continued.  “One day, while crossing the ‘quad’ in the middle of the campus she saw the Blessed Virgin standing in a garden and pointing down.  The thief had thrown the rosary beneath a rose bush.”

"In another case" Professor Luzon continued, "a co-worker had a child who could not drink milk. A week before the Holy Mother appeared to my co-worker, his four-year old child had been at a birthday party and had been served ice cream.  His child was up half the night vomiting."

"The Virgin Mary appeared to him as he was driving to work.  This was before Cal-exit.  He can tell you exactly where on the freeway.  Mary said, 'Warren can now drink milk.' " Luzon said.

"My co-worker called his wife.  She poured half of the water out of the bottle they kept in the refrigerator and replaced it with milk.  Warren drank it just fine.  When it was half gone she topped it off with milk and Warren had no problem with that, either."  Luzon said.  "After that, they served Warren cow's milk and other dairy products and never had a problem."

Brigid observed, "That seems so...pedestrian, so ordinary."

Professor Luzon said, "The Bible tells us that God counts every hair on our head and that we should not invoke publicly invoke his power.  Why should we be surprised when the woman he chose to bear his son follows His guidance?  Besides, think about Jesus's first public miracle:  Changing water into wine after being asked to do so by his a host is not humiliated.  Surely not a huge thing in the eyes of the world but a very big thing to the person who received the miracle."

“Do you believe the reports that Arielle and Lailia Guzman and Alejandro Quinteri saw the Virgin Mary are legitimate?” Brigid asked.

“If you ask me as Father Luzon, Society of Jesus I will tell you that I believe that the Blessed Mother is very capable of making these kinds of appearances.  We certainly live in tumultuous times.” Professor Luzon said.

“What if I ask you as Professor Luzon?” Brigid asked.

“Stepping away from the jargon that mental health professionals love to use...I, as Professor Luzon, believe that the human mind can sense...can intuit... things that are impossible to measure objectively. 

“Did you know that pure silver wire makes the best antennas?” Professor Luzon said, abruptly changing topics.

“No.” Brigid said.  “Why is that?”

“It is because pure silver has no resistance.  It will pick up and resonate any signal no matter how faint.” Professor Luzon said.  “Certain people, often young ones, are like silver wire.  Their minds are not filled with the buzz that drowns out faint messages.”

“Whether the message is from the Virgin Mary or from the God-given ability to sense the collective gestalt, I am not sure it really matters.”  Professor Luzon said.

“What would the Vatican say about this duality you expressed?” Brigid asked.  She was genuinely curious and his answer would be easy enough to edit out.

“The Roman Catholic Church is a very big tent.  The Vatican is perfectly happy with Professor Luzon's professional view as long as I recognize God created those finely attuned intuitions and gave us eyes, and ears and intellect to discern His creation.” Professor Luzon said.

“And, as a scientist, I must honor and respect the reality of the migrants.  Who am I to dispute their reality.  I was not there.  Multiple groups report the same observations.  Science says I must respect that.  And so does the Vatican.” Professor Luzon said.

"What stands out to me" Professor Luzon said "is that God and the Virgin Mary deviated from their regularly scheduled programming of small, intimate acts of mercy and made a Public Service Announcement.  In my mind, that should give one pause to think and pray."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Belladonna got a C on a test

Belladonna got a C on a test and I am proud of her.

She took Sociology in her summer session at college.  The instructor is a rabid socialist.

The test involved short paragraph answers to topic sentences selected by the instructor.  Bella's answers reflected her relatively conservative beliefs about rewarding effort and results.

The instructor also stated that all antipsychotic and reactivity modulating meds are due to greedy pharmaceutical companies "creating" disorders.  Bella knows several people who start throwing heavy objects through windows and stud-walls when they are late for their med drops.  I suspect that one of the short paragraphs reflected that first-hand knowledge.

"So Bella," I asked "why didn't she give you a D or an F if you were so wildly in disagreement with her?"

Bella took it all in stride.  "Probably because I wrote in complete sentences and spelled words correctly.  You know, that and capitalizing and punctuation.  It is pretty hard to flunk a student who can write coherent answers and pass a bunch of students who cannot."

The other thing that gives Bella comfort is the knowledge that the half-life of knowledge in the social sciences is approximately five years.  Presumably, only 25% of what the instructor "knows" is still considered factual ten years later.

The rabid instructor is trapped in her fantasies just surely as those ants trapped in amber.  Belladonna is moving on.

Faces come out of the rain...

My dad continues to be dazzled by what is available on the internet.

I told him about my project to walk home from Allendale and he asked me if it would be possible for me to swing through the cemetery in New Salem, Michigan.  That is where most of his mother's side of the family is buried.  It is also the location of the church where his parents were wed and where he was baptized.

I printed off the records/map of where name redacted were buried and he was simply amazed.

You darned betchya I can swing through that cemetery.  Every day with my parents is a gift.

Dad is 92 and does not buy green bananas.  I figured, "Heck, New Salem is not that far away.  I can drive over there after our shift of elder-care, take pictures and have them developed before our next elder-care shift."

Stained glass
You don't get the pictures of the grave stones.  You get pictures of the stained glass.
Photo of altar.  Note the boy angel holding the candle on the left side of the altar (as seen from the pews) and the girl angle holding the candle on the right side.
Then next five photos are of the 6' tall stained glass windows around the altar.

Christ in the surprise there.

Now starting from the left-rear of the worship space
The four foot choir-loft railing suggests that these windows are easily 12' tall.  St Isidor with a plow.  There is a pun buried in the window...North Dorr is just east of New, get it.

St Margaret (of Scotland?)

St Wendelin with sheep.  Farm community, don't ya know.

St Aloysius Gonzaga patron saint of basketball

Along the right side from the front

St Rose of Lima

St Christopher

St Barbara patron saint of artillery and armor

St Anthony patron saint of lost things
Not bad for a little, country church with a seating capacity of 72.  I wonder how many pails of milk those farmers had to sell to pay for all of those windows.

Just how "country"?
This is the hamlet of New Salem.  I counted 28 driveways.  That is a small town by Michigan standards.

The trip there

Another stop my dad asked me to make was in North Dorr (pronounced "North Door").

People in North Dorr have an odd sense of humor; they call themselves "Door Knobs".  I stopped at the general store and it was like stepping back into time.  They left the price of gas at 99 cents a gallon .and. the background music was that group with Jim Morrison as the lead singer.  Yeah, that group...

And then my truck would not start.  It has a hot-start problem.  I think the A/C compressor clutch seizes up and stalls out the engine.  Starts fine when it is cool.

So I flirted with the pretty girl behind the counter a little bit.  She had painted her nails three different colors.  I asked her if she had run out of polish and she took the ribbing good naturedly.  Then I cracked the hood of the truck and went for a walk.

The truck started just fine when I came back, even if they were still playing The Doors.