Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Thoughts on Tennessee's Education Dilemma.

It would seem that many of Tennessee's public school teachers are upset about recent legislation regarding teacher pay. You can get the details here, and then read my comments below.

First off, let me begin by saying I am not an educator. I say this because I myself hold in contempt those who venture to comment on subjects they know nothing about. I try not to jest at wounds I have never suffered. If you choose to stop reading this upon those grounds, you are justified. In the past, I have been, de facto, offered positions in both the public and private sector to teach the skills of my own vocation (technical drawing and engineering graphics, like CAD, solid modeling, parametric modeling, etc) at higher education levels, but I have never actually taught. The point is, my qualifications for making some of the statements I am about to make are questionable at best.

Second, let me make clear at once that I am a libertarian who believes education would be better managed on a local level instead of being managed under the broad umbrella of State or Federal Bureaucracies. Better yet, I believe that education completely out of the hands of any government, at any level, and delegated to the private sector (private schools) would better educate our children. If you’re a proponent of government involvement in education, if you could kindly explain to me how a bunch of bureaucrats with I-Phones, briefcases, and Armani suits, typically hundreds of miles away are contributing to the education of your child, I will be glad to recant my stance on government regulated education. But until then, I think government and education make poor bedmates.

In such a scenario, private schools would compete for children the way private colleges and universities do. Competition drives innovation. And in order to be competitive, schools would have to have a proven track record of top-notch education. In such a scenario, there would be no need for government standardized testing or government regulations. The competition would keep the stakes high.

For years now… In fact, one can probably trace it all the way back to Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” legislation, teachers in the public school system have been plagued with standardized testing. Now while I agree that teachers do bear some accountability, I think the grades of students are not good barometers for gauging a teacher’s abilities or effectiveness. Of course, if education was privatized, as stated in my second paragraph, teacher accountability would be cut-and-dried. Teacher evaluations would be handled in the same manner all employees of private companies are evaluated. But as it is, the majority of our childrens’ education is conducted in the public sector, so we have the hurdle of how to properly gauge the performance of teachers.

Let me give you my prescription on a possibility of how this can be done.

I presume every public school has its own autonomous administrative staff. Why not let the local administrative staff determine how teachers are to be evaluated? Perhaps it could be done through live classroom monitoring. Or maybe it can be done through annual teacher evaluations based on parental complaints. There are myriads of ways for employees to be evaluated, just ask any company manager.

True, this opens doors for greasy hands, lecherous liaisons, and various and sundry other corruptions to take place to preserve one position in the hierarchy. But hey, you are the one that wanted to work for the government. Political ousting is a time-honored tradition among the politically elite. And no government worker is immune.

Think about it like this. How do the cafeteria ladies or the school nurse get evaluated? Are they graded on how fat the children are, or how sick the children are? Such an asinine notion, and yet this is precisely what standardized testing does. Evaluating teachers based upon test scores is like evaluating the cafeteria ladies on how fat the children are, or evaluating the school nurse on how sick the children are.

The point being, too much of the result lies beyond the control of the teacher. A teacher can be the best of the best. But that doesn’t mean their students will pay attention, apply themselves, or do their homework at night. This is beyond the teacher’s control.

In some ways, it is ironic. When I was in school, some of the best teachers were marked by students with low scores. It didn’t mean the teacher was bad. It meant the teacher was tough. The class they taught suggested that students that were genuinely interested only need apply. The classes these teachers taught were not mere time fillers, but required the whole of one’s intellect.

It is funny when you think about it. If test scores determine a teacher’s performance level, and consequently, their pay level, what teacher in their right mind would want to teach advanced classes? Couple this with the fact that the Tennessee Legislature has removed all motivation for educators to further their job skills by acquiring additional degrees. How can we compete unless we challenge the students? Challenging the students can only be done with teachers with high degrees. Now that there is scarcely a reason for a teacher to pursue education beyond a Bachelor’s Degree, can students really be challenged?

There is one aspect to all this that no one is talking about, but is actually quite prominent. When I was in school, I could always tell a good teacher from a bad one. There was something that I can only describe as a spark. This spark transcended all subject matter being taught. These teachers had the knack for taking the students beyond the subject material into realms of understanding that isn’t found on any test. The indomitable, “Why?” and, “What for?” of education. I had precious few of these teachers during my time in school (some of whom I daresay will read this), and I thank God for them.

In fact, I could write an entire blog about some of them. I could mention my fifth grade teacher who was the first to undertake reading to us a little every day from a book. It is doubtful that I have been without a book on my person since. Or perhaps my freshman English teacher, who read us Greek Mythology, which nurtured my interest in ancient cultures. Or my Algebra teacher, who somehow kept me signing up for her classes, even though it seemed like a perpetual struggle just to get a passing grade. Or the seventh grade history teacher who brought history to life, instead of just giving us dates and events to memorize.

We have all heard of the phenomenon called “Teaching to the test”. This is what occurs when a teacher knows their job, and their pay grade, relies on the results of a test, so they simply emphasize those aspects of the subject matter to the children they know will be on the test, while leaving other aspects of the subject untouched, or breezed over. The product of this type of teaching is children with a head full of facts, but no real intellectual mechanism to parse and critically analyze those facts.

In summary, standardized testing destroys the transmission of “critical thinking”, which should be an intrinsic aspect of any subject.

You can tell a child that 2+2=4. But what do you tell the child when he asks why 2+2=4, and what he is supposed to do with it? If you’re a teacher, and you teach a child that 2+2=4, are you teaching the child in such a way that he will commit it to memory so that when he sees “2+2=” on a standardized test, he will know the answer, or are you teaching them in such a way as to lay the groundwork for higher mathematical and logical reasoning, which serves as the foundation for what’s to come in higher education and various vocational fields of study? Are you merely inputting data the way one might input data in a computer, or are you creating the “spark”?

None of the books read in the fifth grade, or the Greek Myths I learned in my freshman year, were on any standardized test. And I could have graduated just as easily, nay, easier, if I had only taken the required years of algebra instead of doubling up on it. And I cannot recall ever answering a question about Longstreet’s march through Bean Station to Knoxville on a standardized test. I doubt those “long-in-the-tooth” old-fart bureaucrats know who Lee’s old warhorse even is.

But, it is these things that nurtured me. That is because these teachers were not teaching to the test. They were attempting to create the spark.

C. S. Lewis, the famous Christian apologist and literary author, wrote a small book based upon a series of lectures entitled “The Abolition of Man”. I highly recommend it to any educator who hasn’t read it. In it, he outlines the necessity of taking education beyond the mere intellect. He argues that a proper education must pervade the intellect and the viscera of an individual. If you’ve never heard the word “viscera”, it simply is in reference to man’s more instinctive “animal” nature, symbolized in man’s stomach the way the intellect is symbolized by a man’s head. Lewis argues that education should saturate and stimulate both the head (intellect) and the stomach (viscera), and should have open and free commute between the two. The path connecting the two is through the chest, obviously.

The most troubling aspect of the whole treatise is that he defines an education system where this isn’t the case, where educators essentially create “men without chests”, or in other words, where education is confined, most often in the head, and not permitted to pervade the whole of the man. No critical thinking. No mechanism for utilizing an education. No way to incorporate an education into an adult life. A world of “men without chests” is not a scenario for social stability in a world where education determines your place on the world’s totem pole. It brings about the true "Abolition of Man".

What concerns me is that the actions of the past decade in regards our education is seemingly bringing Lewis’ dystopian predictions to fruition. Even our institutions of higher education, which must meet Federal regulations to be “accredited”, seem to be engaged in what I call “shotgun” teaching. Today’s graduates of both high school and college seem to have heads crammed with more facts than even the graduates of my own generation had. But they seem so ill prepared in their proper use. “Outside the box” thinkers are practically extinct. Critical thinkers are a dying breed. They know 2+2=4, but they don’t know why and what to do with it. Students are trained to parrot what schools teach them, and to never even test the tolerances of known rules. This will eventually kill true innovation. Consider, while we have grown rather adept at improving existing inventions and ideas, how long has it been since something new came down the pike? Something like the car, or the computer, or the telephone, or the light-bulb? Yeah, we have improved our cars and telephones and light-bulbs. But has there been anything new that isn’t simply an improvement or derivative of an existing design?

I honestly cannot think of anything.

Are we, perhaps, further into Lewis’ dystopia that even I am willing to speculate?

To end, I predict that as long as education lies in the power of government to regulate, things will not change and will only get worse. And with government, as with all ruling bodies of men, acquired power is not easily relinquished.

In the end, it is up to educators to bind together and make a change. It may take something radical, like a mass walkout. Or, if principals and administrators are level-headed enough, it might only take a few good, well-informed, and eloquent people to really outline the problem and how Tennessee’s prescribed treatment will only perpetuate and worsen the problem. And then, most importantly, outline the real solution.

I admit I am not hopeful. This transition from educating to indoctrination seems to be close to complete. At risk of sounding conspiratorial, and sounding like an outright fruit-loop, it seems engineered. This erosion in our education seems to be on a fast track, and is a result of planning and design. I might have just discredited everything I said in saying that. But I’d rather be honest about how I feel about it.

But if I am right, the next question will be the indomitable, “Why?” Why is our educational system being structured in this way? What is hoped to be accomplished? Conspiracy theorists call it the "dumbing down" of America, but I think it goes deeper. Our graduating students have never had more quantified facts in their brains, so you really cannot, objectively speaking, say they are dumber. I think they want people who don't think, at least, not for themselves. They want mainstream thoughts in the minds of people. Constrained thoughts, based on constrained facts. This paralyzes any intellectual dexterity the mind might have possessed. The mind loses its pliability, unable to process information outside the mainstream. Perhaps we have already seen the firstfruits. Creative television programming has given way to mindless "reality telelvision". Interesting and provocative movie plots have been forfeited to "remakes" and "reboots" with more pretty, and less plot. Our culture is giving us all the warning signs of this academic atrophy. But whose able to recognize it?

It is all somewhat reminiscent of Orwell's "Thought-Police". But will there be anyone around who will be able to ask, "Why?" when the time comes?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Obama's Chess Game

Chess is an ancient strategy game that has been played for centuries by nobles and peasants alike. I have always loved Chess because of the ability to project its meanings and strategies upon so many other areas of our lives. I have never been good at it personally, due to my intellectual and cognitive impediments.
For the purpose of this post, I would like to look at the possible political nuances of the game. Chess is essentially political, as it represents various wings of opposing powers struggling to gain total control of the board. Here are my political interpretations of each piece.

The King: The weakest piece of the board, but also the most powerful. The King represents the player, and as such, has the power to control the other pieces in their efforts to protect him and capture other pieces. Politically, the King represents the concentrated central political authority, whether it is an actual king, prime minister, president, etc.

The Queen: The most versatile and, rationally, the most powerful piece on the board, this represents the King’s primary protector and aggressor. Depending on the political structure, this is the King’s warhorse. This is what Joab was to King David, or what Longstreet was to Robert E. Lee.

The Rook: Political Power, including legislative, judicial, and even propaganda machines. Any mechanism a ruling entity can use to control or suppress their subjects can be symbolized in the rook.

The Knight: The military might of a ruling entity.

The Bishop: The religious power of a ruling entity. Don’t be too quick to discount this possibility. The inclination to tyranny compounds exponentially when the ruling entity claims to speak on God’s behalf.

The Pawn: The ordinary people.

Everyone who has ever excelled at Chess has learned a few fundamental strategies. Chess is not a game of reaction. In fact, if a player can force his opponent into playing a merely reactive game, their victory is certain. A good player anticipates many moves ahead, and endeavors to set up a Chess board with pieces strategically placed and to make their opponent’s King indefensible. Good Chess strategies cannot be gauged by the mere quantifying of captured pieces. That is a key fact. Unlike Checkers, where the simple accumulation of captured pieces is the goal, in Chess, one must capture the right pieces at the right time, and in such a manner that doesn't jeopardize their own key pieces, while moving their own pieces into positions that jeopardizes your opponent’s king, which is a good segue into my next point, which is critical to good Chess tactics… and that is knowing which pieces to sacrifice, and when. If your own piece is impeding a setup to checkmate your opponent, you must sacrifice it.

Often, when you allow pieces to be sacrificed, especially powerful pieces, like rooks and queens, it gives the opponent a false sense of security, and more importantly, is a distraction from a potential setup to deal the lethal blow. The ancient Greeks called this forced susceptibility “Hubris”. Make your opponent think he is winning, causing them to relax their guard. All the while, you are setting up for the kill. Your opponent will be blinded by his hubris until you say the word “Checkmate”. Allowing pieces to be captured can provide adequate distraction from your real strategies.

Now, I would like to analyze Obama’s presidential administration, what some have called his “regime”, in light of a Chess match. Obama’s presumed opponent is, of course, Republicans. I don’t mean the genuine, small-government, conservatives, who believe in individual liberties and a traditional interpretation of the U. S. Constitution, instead of Loose Constructionism (a. k. a. Living Constitution). Republicans have done their best to sever this small wing of their party. In fact, if Republicans had thrown as much effort into defeating Obama’s regime as they have thrown into castigating and ostracizing the libertarian wing of the Party, Obama wouldn’t stand a chance.

Typical of a Chess match, some of Obama’s first moves after his initial election were pawn movements. He created a cult-like following of near religious devotion. In the minds of his proselytes, he can do no wrong. These movements are still happening, and Obama’s Republican opponent is doing little to neutralize this action.

President Obama’s first moves on the national stage involved the economy, and the passage of his healthcare plan. This could be equated to brilliant moves of his rooks. Countermoves by Republicans to capture or neutralize the rooks failed, and now the rooks of the economy and government run healthcare are ensconced in safe positions, ready to be deployed against Obama’s opponent at a moment’s notice. With institutions like the TSA hiring convicts to grope our children and grandmothers, with no real action being pursued to neutralize this threat to our individual liberties, the security of Obama’s rooks isn't really debatable. Only a scandal could jeopardize them. But read on.

Also, he escalated existing military deployments worldwide, while simultaneous promising de-escalation. Truly brilliant moves. Move your knights around into seemingly innocuous positions. The movements themselves distract, while other movements are more subtle, and more damaging.

During the whole of his presidency, it could be observed that one of his two knights represents a foreign military presence, while the other knight represents a burgeoning military presence on the home-front  targeting what has become known as “home-grown” terrorists. In fact, the use of the word “terrorist” has been redefined as anyone or anything that would stand, not necessarily against America, but against American government. Using the power of government, he has purchased billions of rounds of hollow-point ammo, presumably for use in live-fire training exercises.  It is difficult to understand why such high-quantities are needed for training, and why they need be hollow-points, when full metal jacket cartridges are significantly cheaper, and less lethal in the case of an accidental hit. And the use of hollow-point ammo is prohibited by the Geneva Convention in foreign military deployments, so hollow-point rounds must be used domestically.

Combine this with the added powers given by the 2012 passage of the NDAA, to the executive branch of government to target Americans for assassination, bypassing due-process and the Fourth Amendment, and the production and purchase of armored troop haulers (MRAP) by DHS, which is a domestic security force, and you will see that Obama is banking hard on his knights.

The question is, has Obama forgotten what every seasoned Chess player knows… that is your opponent’s pawns are your knights’ biggest threat. The next question is will Obama’s Republican opponent be smart enough to use pawns to neutralize Obama’s knights? Yes, Obama knows who the threat is, which is why he is going after guns. In regulating our Second Amendment rights, he is using rooks to capture pawns that would otherwise be a threat to his knights. And no, the Republican Party is playing defensive Chess, and therefore do not have the know-how to use pawns against Obama’s knights. Expect no Paul Reveres, Thomas Jeffersons, George Washingtons, or Thomas Paines among today’s Republican Party.

Lately, Obama has played even more brilliantly than ever before. His administration has caught the full force of various scandals. In the “Fast and Furious” scandal, the Federal Government was caught selling firearms to Mexican drug cartels, presumably to track them with tracking devices in the weapons themselves. This failed, as did their defense. But is he using these scandals to his benefit?

Unfortunately, Republicans failed to push their advantage, and now only a narrow esoteric group of political junkies even remember Fast and Furious.

And now, it is the Benghazi Controversy. In a nutshell, the U. S. Embassy (which is considered U. S. soil) in Benghazi underwent a terrorist attack, and received no military support from the United States military, in spite of repeated requests. For reference, imagine your local courthouse undergoing a siege by Islamic Jihadists, and the Federal Government doing nothing, in spite of numerous requests for military support. Both Obama and Hillary were in the spotlight in a bad way. This is all compounded by the fact that the IRS was recently caught targeting conservative groups for tax audits, and Department of Justice wiretapping the phones of AP reporters. Such a scandal should have been near Checkmate for Obama, as it was for Nixon. Unfortunately, the Republicans have no real advantage in the Benghazi scandal, as their pieces are all bark and no bite, and as most of their pawns probably couldn't locate Benghazi on a map.

So what does Obama do?

He has already proven to be a formidable Chess player. He sacrifices his queen, Hillary Clinton, and concedes the fact that these slip ups (if indeed they are slip ups) will compromise one of his rooks. Was this sacrifice planned? That is the question the Republicans should be asking. In politics, as in Chess, what’s taking place in the mainstream often is just a distraction from the real strategy. Maybe the sacrifice of Queen Hillary is a set up for a possible third term, which would be in keeping with his religion. With Hillary bidding on a Democratic run in 2016, she was simply an impediment to this end.

Meanwhile, the board has been set up perfectly in his favor. The only piece Obama hasn't played is his bishops. Being a Sunni Muslim, when Obama decides to play these pieces, it will be an interesting day for us Christians. Look at the United Kingdom, which has become almost completely secular, and the only measurable religious presence in the UK is Islam. The secularization of America is well underway, ahead of schedule in fact.

Meanwhile, the bishops of conservatives were the first pieces Obama was able to capture, with the cultural perception that Christians, and the Church, is obsolete, irrelevant, and intolerant (which isn’t too far removed from the truth). Every single day, the Church grows more and more impotent. They continue to gauge their effectiveness by how many buildings they have, and how big they are. They, like the Republicans, have quit dealing with individuals, and have come to deal with humanity as a collective whole. They have traded away the Great Commission given by Christ to make disciples, for the Great Commission given by society to create social change and accumulate “numbers”.

Indeed, the Republican bishops were toast before the game began. There was really no need to bother putting them on the board at all. The Christian Church in America is a gelding who still thinks it is a stallion. The salt has lost its savor.

So far, in either of Obama’s terms, Republicans have played a mere reactionary game. They have simply attempted to parry all of Obama’s moves. They have no offensive strategy to take the King or to isolate it from the pieces Obama has so strategically placed across the board. They have done little to take his pieces from him.

What is Obama’s endgame? Well, I have theories, but I won’t share them. I will let you take all this and form your own ideas as to how this Chess game will come to fruition in the next few months and years. I will say this. I think we still are in for a few surprises.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

My Early Childhood Memories of my Mother.

Mom and I horseback riding
during my early adult years.
When one undertakes to write down memories of their mother, most often they begin in the early teen years. I suppose this stems from the idea that this is when a mother becomes a resource in solving many of the mysteries that come with adolescence and the transition from childhood into adulthood. I am an exception to this rule.

My younger brother arrived when I was 9, and at that point, my mother’s attention was split between him and I afterwards, if indeed it didn't favor him most of the time. No doubt, this is why my fondest, and clearest, memories of my mother are actually from those years prior to my brother’s arrival, when I was 3 to 8 years old.

Let me make one thing clear. I grew up poor. Now don’t misunderstand me, I never went hungry ( I practically lived on Bean-and-Bacon soup and peanut butter sandwiches during those years). But, by comparison to my peers, I was poor. Things did steadily improve after my brother arrived, but until then, Mom became very good at juggling expenses and stretching dollars.

The year I got my Fisher-Price
and a Big-Wheel.
Mom loved extravagant
Christmases and birthdays.
Check out the Christmas morning
bed head!
But one thing remained true. During special occasions, like Christmas and birthdays, Mom loved to splurge on me and my brother, much to Dad’s chagrin. Even during Halloween, she loved dressing us up best she could. I think it was her way of apologizing for not being able to buy me everything that caught my fancy. I soon learned not to request toys during the “off season”, and learned to keep a running list in my head so I could pick what I really wanted when the special occasions became imminent.

In spite of being financially challenged during those years, one thing my mother never denied me was a request for a book. Literally, as soon as I could read, she showered me with children’s magazines like Highlights for Children and Sesame Street Magazines. I never requested them. They just showed up our mailbox every month, and I was more than happy enough to devour them. When the scholastic flyers came around in school, she would always let me buy one book. Even then, I wouldn't press it, and I would often let the flyer come and go without buying a book. I was probably more aware of the burdens of parents than a child should be during that time, and I adapted accordingly. I knew the pain in a parent who has to tell their child, “No.”, so I saved my parents the struggle most of the time. And even though I had an idea that she would scrap until she could get me the book, the very act of scraping tainted the book, and therefore it was very often that I would defer my requests until the next time the flyer was released.

Taking a nap in my toy box.
(which I still have, and yes, that
is a doll.)
I never understood why Mom was so willing to buy books for me, but not toys. Although she would occasionally read to me before I could read myself, she was not a particularly bookish person herself. She had a few books, most of them unread. She read the Bible quite often; although I never got from her that she had a deep theological interest. She did read it intensely, I recall, for hours on end, as if she was attempting to solve a mystery or engaging in some research where she was just one fact away from a life-changing epiphany. I never questioned her about this.

Summers were spent at home during those ages of 3 to 8, which would have spanned the late 70’s and into the early 80’s. I never was bored at home. We had family nearby, including a cousin my own age. There were typically enough neighborhood kids to have a game of football, softball or basketball in the evenings. We were surrounded by woodlands and farmlands, with endless streams, sinkholes, and caves to explore. My cousin and I, with shorts, no shirts, and wore-out shoes, were regular Tom Sawyers and Huck Finns.

Mom and I, getting
ready to go to town.
Mom was at home most of these years. In the summer months, it was a normal occurrence on Friday to go “Yard-Sale-ing”. What that meant was that early on Friday morning, Mom and I would pile into our old Plymouth and head to her mother’s, my grandmother’s, house in Morristown to eat breakfast. From there, we would leave to patrol the neighborhoods of Morristown, and sometimes Bean Station, looking for yard sales.

These excursions were beyond boring for me. But keep in mind, a young boy with endless energy, cooped up in the back seat of an old car while Mom drives around looking for sales. I am amazed at the details of those years that are embedded in my memory. I have poor recall. I seldom can tell you what I had for dinner yesterday. Yet, I can vividly remember those days. The wind blowing throw my hair through the car window. The smell of the car's hot vinyl. Mom complaining at red lights. Even the nuances of my mother's driving habits.

Many times my grandmother would go with us. This made the trips much better. Grandmothers tend to be generous with their grandchildren, and I sometimes asked her to buy me things I wouldn't dare ask Mom to buy.

It was during these excursions that most of my clothing was purchased. I embarrassed my mom to pieces once at my pediatrician’s office. He complimented my shirt, at which point I retorted, quite nonchalant and matter-of-fact, that Mom bought it for me at the “rummage sale”.

Often, our pilgrimages would lead us into some of Morristown’s more affluent neighborhoods, at that time. It always amazed Mom at how much broken down old junk was being proffered to the public, in exchange for much more money that most items were worth, at these ostentatious homes. I always found this observation to be counter-intuitive. One would think that the rich would replace their junk before it was completely unusable, and sell it at a fair price. But, as it turns out, it is the poor and middle-class that is more likely to do this. She always viewed the rich as a different breed. At the time, I didn't care. I was just wanting Mom to hurry up and get hungry so we’d stop by McDonald’s for lunch and I could get a Happy Meal.

As we drove through the labyrinths of far-too-complex architectural structures in these affluent neighborhoods, she would always turn to me and say, “Some people get their mansion on Earth. Some get their mansion in Heaven.”

In spite of my young age, the implication of what she was saying was not lost on me. Seldom, if ever, do people get mansions in both places. Although I never took Mom for a theologian, this precept does seem to have the sanction of Scripture (Luke 18:24). I don’t know if this was even an original thought Mom had, or something she heard someone else say.

Sometimes, these excursions yielded little fruit, and Mom would then turn to some of the department stores that were around back then. Anyone reading this who is my age (39) or older will remember long gone department stores like Roses, Knox-Williams, Big-K (when it was in what is now HealthStar), and Sky City. Times when we would go to these stores had its redeeming factors for me, for although the toys couldn't be purchased, I could still walk through and look at them. It was a means of staying on top of what was currently popular, along with the wish-books my mother received in the mail from various department stores.

Mom had a knack for going into a trance in a store, walking in circles, sometimes looking at the same rack two or three times. This often freed me up to roam the store alone, which I whole-heartedly did. I almost always gravitated to the toys or sports section, with longings and wishes. Afterwards, I would end up in trouble, because Mom would not buy a stitch of clothing for me unless it was tried on, and I couldn't try it on if I was absent.

Dad kept me on
motorcycles, even
when I was in diapers.
This was taken by Mom
at the house I spent the first
two years of life in.
Ironically, the house
across the street
(the one in the photo)
is the house I live in today.
These excursions usually ended with meeting up with Dad at the end of his work shift, and either going grocery shopping before going home, or sometimes meeting family at the campground. We camped a lot back then, and would camp from Friday night all weekend long. Other times, we would visit my grandmother on Dad’s side, and often I would spend the night with her. Sometimes, they would end with us going out for supper, but never at a sit-down restaurant. That was very rare during those years. I remember Mom and Dad once decided to try one of the nicer restaurants in Morristown at the time. One look at the prices on the menu, and we quietly, nonchalantly, walked out. Don't worry, I was too young to be embarrassed.

As I said earlier, Halloween was a interesting time when I was young. Mom was very fond of dressing me up. Sometimes, the costumes were in very poor taste, and if pictures of them were ever made public, I could forget ever becoming president. But it was her opportunity to let her imagination run completely wild. I never missed a year's "trick-or-treating", and often would be involved in whatever school activity was going on during Halloween. This awkward tradition was passed on to my brother when he arrived, and he caught the brunt of mom's imaginative costumes after that. I was released from that dreadful duty, for although I did enjoy the candy, I was never actually fond of the costumes or trick-or-treating.

Although times were tough back then, I can say that I remember Mom smiling more back then than any other time in her life after I came along. I would dare-say it had to do with her being young. She was quite jovial and light-hearted back then, before she entered into middle-age.

Mom loved dressing me up
at Halloween. This was the year
of the clown costume, which was
completely homemade.
So, yes, I can definitely say that my fondest memories of my mother were those times when she actually had the least to give in material things. That is likely another counter-intuitive point to some, perhaps most, modern parents. For parents these days are prone to give their child every little gizmo and gadget and doo-dad coming and going, all in the name of “giving them what I never had”, and leaving their children to be entertained and essentially babysat by whatever gadget they have been given. To be honest, although my mother indeed splurged on my brother and me during Christmases and birthdays, I struggle to remember any of those times, especially during my teen years. But the time spent with her as a younger child come quickly to my mind with startling clarity. It was the time spent with her that made the lasting impression, and it was time spent at a stage of life when one feels they are not making impressions. I wonder if she had any inkling how much I'd remember those years when once I reached middle-age. If she had known, I wonder what she'd done differently.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Exo-Vaticana - My Review

I have been a fan of Tom Horn for a few years now. When he brought Cris Putnam on board with the previously released Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here, I thought Cris might bring a little more skepticism to the content, as well as more fluid prose to the writing. As it turns out, I was correct.

I hadn't read the aforementioned "Petras Romanus", simply because I had done enough research on it myself to satisfy me. I thought Malachy's prophecy too narrow to be expounded in 500 pages.

Not so with "Exo-Vaticana". The scope of this book is broad. And although Exo-Vaticana is a book of considerable size, I am sure it could have been twice as thick if Horn and Putnam hadn't tempered themselves.

I noticed that the addition of Putnam has really brought Horn into focus. If you have read some of Horn's other writings, like Apollyon Rising 2012: The Lost Symbol Found and the Final Mystery of the Great Seal Revealed, you have noticed that Horn throws facts, figures, and correlations out there in a more or less machine gun fashion (The incomparable, and late, David Flynn also used that BANG BANG BANG writing style of slinging facts and figures).

The writing is more refined now, and presented more objectively. Everything is presented as a "could be" scenario, instead of presenting it in the affirmative. Also, Putnam has reined in Horn's zeal. Horn, who seems to have a natural predisposition for the supernatural, sometimes let's his zeal want to confirm what hasn't been confirmed yet. Not too often, I concede, but I have seen it. Of course, Horn isn't nearly as bad as Steve Quayle, who seemingly wants to slap a "Thus saith the Lord" bumper sticker on everything that gives him a goose-pimple. Horn still knows that the end-game is still just speculation at this point.

I guess that is an over-complicated and roundabout way of saying I think Horn and Putnam are a great team. They seem to keep each other in check. It has been my experience that in friendships, Christian brotherhood, and in accountability, the best pairings are those pairings where one party wants to take the knowledge and epiphanies and run to proclaim it to the world, while the other party, being the more introverted, skeptical, and intellectually cautious, says, "Wait just a minute, let's stop and think this through first." That seems to be Horn and Putnam's relationship. Putnam has brought scholarly respectability to Horn's material, and Horn has given Putnam a medium and platform in which to reach the world. "Iron sharpening iron" is the image that comes to mind when I consider Horn and Putnam's investigative partnership (and friendship).

As to the content, I will not spoil it if you want to read it. But I will say that, like most of Horn's writings (as well as writings in this vein by other esoteric authors like L. A. Marzulli, Rob Skiba, Dr. Chuck Missler and Dr. Michael Heiser), the subject matter is nostril deep in the metaphysical, and as such, probably cannot be properly digested by your average, "Old Rugged Cross" singing, Psalm 23 reciting, bread and milk, modern Christian. I am not saying that only smart people can read it properly (my own IQ is only a mere 80 or so). I am just saying that most of the Church is on intellectual lockdown, and such material is anathema to them. I believe that most Christians will experience "Cognitive Dissonance" if they read this book. That is, they will experience the discomfort that comes when one's beliefs are cast in the sharp relief of an opposing, yet highly compelling, light.

What Tom and Cris have given us are views that are rarely presented in America's churches. And, since the esoteric nature of subject matter leaves little room (or reason) to continue to grasp existing traditions, predispositions, and preconceptions about the mechanism in which eschatology could potentially manifest, most Christian will reject this book as either, at best, extraneous complexity to what is already a complex subject, or at worst, the deliberate demonizing of the Roman Catholic Church. I reject both notions, on the grounds that the researched material is vetted through the Roman Catholic Church itself, and that if the coming great deception (2 Thess. 2:11 & Matt. 24:24) is to be successful in creating the mass conformance Scripture claims it will accomplish, it MUST be something metaphysical. And yet it must be, as Cris has so aptly said, "clothed in the respectability of science."

Most evangelicals will likely jettison such material, and choose to believe the paucity fed to them by their church. Of course, that is the disinformation that Christianity no longer has a stake in the metaphysical world. Until you are educated about the nature of the metaphysical, you are susceptible to embracing any exhibition of power that is sourced in the metaphysical, be it Godly, or unGodly. We need to educate ourselves in discerning the difference. After all, the deceiver is scheduled to appear with supernatural acts (2 Thess. 2:9). If he carries a look of benevolence, are you sure you will be able to distinguish him from Christ? Jesus said that His sheep know his voice (John 10:3-5 & 27). This deceiver, perhaps the Anti-Christ himself, will wield the sword of the metaphysical in one hand, and the warhammer of politics in the other. I am concerned for those who refuse to educate themselves, and elect rather to rely on a more "visceral" perception (or "feelings") to keep them during this time, should they enter this time in their lifetime.

Do you think the devil unable to speak with a voice so similar to Christ's... so tender... so benevolent... so deceptive? The forbidden fruit in the garden had every appearance of being delicious and healthy (Genesis 3:6). It is doubtful that a sweeter fruit has ever touched human lips than the forbidden fruit of Eden. But at what cost?

Paul chastised the Ephesians for not having "learned Christ" (Eph. 4:20). Have you "learned Christ"? Will you be able to distinguish His voice from other voices if things manifest in a way even slightly similar to the way this book suggests? Or are you content to carry an unstudied flop-eared Bible to Church a few times a week, listen to a diluted sermon, while your spiritual and intellectual acumen erodes? As C. S. Lewis said, "God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers".

Apologies for the rant. I am very cynical about the Church these days, and sometimes that cynicism comes to the surface in the most bellicose ways.

It is really a shame that the Church (as a whole) has largely neglected the metaphysical. There are those of us who recognize the deficiency, and purposefully look for means to compensate for the Church's neglect of these areas. Horn, and authors in this "niche" provides the cure for us. (I affectionately call it the "Nephilim Niche", since its proverbial habitues seem to be highly invested in a more literal translation of Genesis 6 than the more traditional fundamentalist "Sethite" view. Mention the Sethite view to these guys, and they'll likely start casting demons out of you.)

At bottom, I highly recommend the book. I am neither condoning or condemning the proposed viability of the book's subject matter. I am saying that the evidence Horn and Putnam provides is difficult to refute.

The book reads differently in different areas. At some points, it seems to retain Horn's original style of popping off researched facts and correlations like a automatic rifle. At other points, you feel like you've dived into a scholarly dissertation. In other places, it seems like you are reading history. And, in some places, you even feel like you are reading a written sermon.

I will say that this book, like "Petras Romanus" before it, seems to be simply a book to make us cognizant of the diabolical forces at work. Technically, if true, the events that may occur isn't something that can be avoided. Not like a political book that might say, "If you elect so-and-so, this is what will happen, so let's work hard to ensure so-and-so isn't elected."

As Christians, all we can do is pray about it, build up our spiritual constitution, and make our peace-calling and election sure during the times ahead of us. I am not sure how much, if any, we should work to resist such evil from coming to fruition. For it is when this evil comes to fruition that the "Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13)" is supposed to manifest.

Scripture says to WATCH, and this book is a great way to gauge the spiritual and metaphysical climate of our society. By reading this book, I think one is essentially "watching". At least, you are learning what types of things to watch for.

Here is a 3-hour interview on the Hagmann & Hagmann show with Tom Horn, Cris Putnam, and Steve Quayle that was done on February 14, 2013. Keep in mind, this was after Pope Benedict's retirement announcement and before Pope Francis' election. Apologies in advance for Quayle's self-promoting and cavalier demeanor and zeal.

More links...

PID Radio - 02/14/13 - Next Up, Peter the Roman
Prophecy in the News - 04/04/13 - Gary Stearman, Tom Horn, and Cris Putnam
Prophecy in the News - 04/16/13 - Gary Stearman, Tom Horn, and Cris Putnam - Part 2

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Libertarian Dilemma

I will convert the political principles to mathematics, to simplify it for those inclined to mathematics, but not inclined to political science.

Danny says 1+1=4
Ralph says 1+1=3
Larry says 1+1=2

Danny has, through mostly nefarious means, convinced the majority that his answer is correct, and therefore 1+1=4 remains the reigning philosophy of the day.

Ralph knows he needs Larry in order to create the majority needed to dethrone Danny.

Larry acknowledges that Ralph is closer to being correct than Danny, but still wrong in actuality. Larry's cruel dilemma is that he knows most people will refuse to believe 1+1=2. Should he concede and unify with Ralph and those who believe 1+1=3, in order to create a unified majority against Danny, or should he stick to the truth of the matter, that 1+1=2?

If Larry concedes:

Ralph and Larry might eventually dethrone Danny, but Ralph and Larry will inevitably disagree about what the truly correct answer actually is, and a fragmentation of the unity will repeat itself, likely with more resolve to remain seperate entities than before. Every effort on Larry's part of convincing Ralph that his answer is still wrong falls victim to the "majority" argument. Ralph strongly suggests that a division based upon the dogmatic idea that 1+1=2 equates to a rigid belief that 1+1=4.

If Larry does not concede and sticks to his idea, that 1+1=2:

No majority occurs, Danny's answer remains the reigning philosophy, and then Ralph accuses Larry of being the reason Danny's idea remains prominent, and in some cases, even accuses Larry of believing 1+1=4.

Now, to convert this back to politics.

Danny = Danny the Democrat
Ralph = Ralph the Republican
Larry = Larry the Libertarian