25 February 2014

Birthday Boy

Last Wednesday was my birthday. I'm 60 years older than Henry, who also had a birthday Wednesday. As I have done once or twice in the past, I looked up my co-celebrants. Many on the list were unknown to me, though touted as being celebrities. I did recognize a few, though.

Prince Andrew of England was born on February 19, 1960.

On that date in 1916, famous jockey Eddie Arcaro was born. For author Amy Tan, 1952 was the year. The list goes on, but there is one name I want to give special attention. That would be Nicolaus Copernicus, born on what would become my birthday in 1473.

Copernicus, a Pole, was a mathematician and an astronomer. He was also trained to become a church official. His uncle, who raised him, was a Bishop. But, Nick ran afoul of the church for his views on the universe. He, you see, was the astronomer who declared the universe heliocentric. In other words, he proposed that the Sun was in a stationary position and a all the other heavenly bodies of our solar system (including earth) revolve around it. Many in the church hierarchy disputed this view. While he was not persecuted during his life, Nick's book De revolutionibus erbium coelestium ("On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres") was banned by the Roman Catholic church shortly after his death in 1543.

According to Biography.com, even Martin Luther was hostile to Copernicus's ideas.  
When De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was published in 1543, just before Copernicus's death, religious leader Martin Luther voiced his opposition to the heliocentric solar system model. His underling, Lutheran minister Andreas Osiander, quickly followed suit, saying of Copernicus, "This fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside down."(http://www.biography.com/people/nicolaus-copernicus-9256984?page=3)
Later exonerated, Copernicus has been called the Father of Modern Science.

Happy Birthday (OK, two days late), Birthday Boy.

21 February 2014

Ukrainian Situation Continues

There is a lot of information coming out of Kyiv (Kiev) right now. We cannot be sure of the veracity of all of it. What we do know is that the situation is still unstable. We also know that the Obama regime continues to do nothing at all.

Allow me to share some of the most important (IMHO) dispatches from Maidan, the nerve center of the protest activity. Euromaidan reports:
People on the Maidan are not pleased with the results of the agreement signed today. One of the leaders of the Self Defense units interrupted the speech given by the opposition leader and demanded that Yanukovych resign by February 20th -- otherwise an armed resistance would begin. 
The Ukrainian Parliament just voted overwhelmingly to re-enact the Constitutional amendments passed in 2004, and then cancelled by the Yanukovych-controlled Constitutional Court in 2010. In other words, Ukraine just became a Parliamentary-Presidential republic again.
There are conflicting reports on whether the current truce is holding. Claims and counterclaims are being made regarding the use of rubber bullets aimed at legs or AK 47s aiming to kill.

A positive note was seen in the response in several European capitols. 

Even more encouraging is the FoxNews report that clergy of several denominations have been out in the streets braving bullets and bullies, setting up tents as chapels and offering solace and prayer to the people in the Independence Square.

The report quotes Roksolana Stojko-Lozynskyj, of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America stating,

“They are there as pastors looking over their flocks,” Roksolana Stojko-Lozynskyj, of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, told FoxNews.com. “Although they are not in [an official] leadership [role], they are well-respected in the community."

Continue to pray, friends. This is not over by a longshot. What happens here may spread to other nations. A taste of democracy has a way of encouraging people to risk all. Americans, in particular, note well what lengths people will go to to attain and/or protect freedoms. Note also the lengths to which despots will go to protect their nefarious reigns.

Connecting Some Critical Dots - Ukraine Connection

Ukraine is burning. I wonder if the kindling is now being laid at the feet of the American Republic. Is the match already lit? Allow me to elucidate some of the thoughts which lead me to these questions.

First, Ukraine is in the middle of a full-blown revolution. To me it makes the various "Arab spring" incidents look like marshmallow fights. Most likely you have read of or heard something about this. It certainly should trump news about the Winter Olympics (except perhaps the news that some Ukrainian athletes have dropped out of the Sochi Olympics in solidarity with their countrymen). The basics of the situation are these:

  • President Viktor F. Yanukovych is a pro-Putin despot. While the people of Ukraine long to throw off the memory of their Soviet-era enslavement, Yanukovich wants stronger ties to Russia. Vladimir Putin, a former KGB leader, is striving to rejuvenate the "glories" of the Soviet empire. The fact that Ukraine is leaning westward and has aspirations to membership in the European Union, means that Russia could lose access to oil and natural gas deposits as well as the pipelines connecting Russian oil with the west.
  • Barricades are up and governments troops have been battling protesters in the streets of the capitol, Kiev. Hundreds are dead (it's difficult to keep up with the mortality count). According to FoxNews,"... fresh clashes between both sides have left at least 33 dead, bringing this week’s death toll in Kiev to 59. Dr. Oleh Musiy, the coordinator for the protesters' medical team, claims that Thursday’s [20 February] death toll alone is at least 70, but there is no way to independently confirm his statement."
  • A truce was allegedly agreed to on Wednesday, but didn't last 24 hours.
This is a deadly situation, Kiev is literally on fire and under fire. For another view on the situation, read here.

Thought number two has to do with the media in the United States. The Federal Communications Commission has announced plans to put "monitors" in newsrooms across the country. This includes radio, TV, and newspapers. According to the ACLJ,
Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs," or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about "the process by which stories are selected" and how often stations cover "critical information needs," along with "perceived station bias" and "perceived responsiveness to underserved populations."
Who will decide what the stations should be reporting? Why should these "monitors" be allowed access in the first place. This, friends, is a totalitarian tactic. I studied modern revolutions as a graduate student in history. One of the first objectives of a revolutionary force is to seize control of the communications media. (See Lenin's "Manual to Seize Control of a Society"). In days gone by this has been done by military troops. In the US today, it is being done by means of FCC "monitors." Perhaps the First Amendment to the US Constitution has no meaning in the current regime.

What ties this all together? Maybe nothing. Obviously, however (at least I think it's obvious), I don't think that "nothing" is the correct answer. The United States is on a great swing to the left. It seems to this humble observer that the current leadership in the United States is every bit as "pro-Putin" as the President of Ukraine. While US government officials have made some noises about "the situation" in Ukraine, nothing has actually happened. Government forces in Kiev continue to kill citizens who dare to stand up and call the regime to account. At least the European Union is discussing "sanctions," as lame as that may be. It reminds this student of history of the Hungarian uprising of 1956. Hungarians were dying in the streets of Budapest in front of Soviet tanks. They were sending pleading radio messages to the west. Nobody, most notably the US - which had in a sense encouraged the revolution - lifted a finger. Many died. The Soviet Union prevailed.

I think that all freedom-loving individuals should have an interest in these stories. For me it's a matter of freedom, dignity, human rights, and just plain fair play. I have worked as a journalist. I wish the US could return to the days when journalists were journalists. I once worked as a managing editor of several newspapers. I had a (protected) reporter working for me whose sole job, in his estimation, was to publish the press releases he received. He was ahead of his time. That seems to be the main source of alleged news today. The press releases are all coming from the same, government-controlled, sources.

I now live in a nation with a Soviet past. The Czech Republic was once a part of the evil empire (to coin a phrase). The first directly-elected president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, is pro-Russia and pro-Putin. Communists have gained a new foothold in the nation in recent elections. Is it possible that beautiful Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) could go up in flames? I'm not predicting this. I don't expect it. We all must protect against such situations in whatever way we can, however.

Barack Obama is being quiet, but he is not silent in these several situations. The worst thing that could happen to him, however, is to be successful in his agenda. After all he, like the rest of us, cannot serve two masters. I'm not questioning his claim to be a Christian. That's God's province. However, to be in the service of a Pro-Soviet style Russia and Pan-Muslimism is not a tenable position. While many pundits claim that Islam is the new Communism, the resemblance is merely skin deep. At it's root, Communism is against all religions. Modern Russia's several wars have been almost exclusively against Islamic nations (Afghanistan and Chechnya are the leading examples). Islam cannot countenance Communist doctrine. Here is just one viewpoint on this basic animosity.

Just a few thoughts on several burning issues. Pray for the people of Ukraine, my praying friends. Pray also for the people of the United States and the Czech Republic. There is no greater power than prayer; there is no greater mediator than God Almighty.

18 February 2014

Ethnicity please

So, my “million mile medical tune up/service” continued this morning with a CT scan. I have experienced a wide variety of such scans in the past six months. This one involved strangely warming dye being injected into my body. It was no problem. I’ve become accustomed to such things.

The real issue began before I got onto the table that drove me into the machine. I had to fill out yet another form/survey. I could not believe the stupidity of some of the questions. I can only assume that this was some government-inspired way to get lots of personal information about me.

Here was the worst of the questions, in my opinion. The question asks: “What is your ethnicity?” Possible answers were, of course, supplied. The choices? “Hispanic or Latino”; Not Hispanic or Latino”; “US Ancestry”; “Unknown”; “Declined”; “Other”.

So MY questions include, what does "US Ancestry” mean? Why are neither African-American nor Caucasian listed? Evidently Asians don’t need to be counted, either. Who created this questionnaire? Then there is the question we taught our children to ask, “who wants to know?”

Is there an agenda here? I went to “Uncle Google” (actually Goodsearch) to find some info. The agenda was not clearly revealed. I found very little having to do with hospitals and other medical facilities. What I did find was that the US Census Bureau has mandated ethnicity questions since 1997.

U.S. federal government agencies must adhere to standards issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in October 1997, which specify that race and Hispanic origin (also known as ethnicity) are two separate and distinct concepts. These standards generally reflect a social definition of race and ethnicity recognized in this country, and they do not conform to any biological, anthropological, or genetic criteria. The standards include five minimum categories for data on race: "American Indian or Alaska Native," "Asian," "Black or African American," "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander," and "White." There are two minimum categories for data on ethnicity: "Hispanic or Latino" and "Not Hispanic or Latino." The concept of race reflects self-identification by people according to the race or races with which they most closely identify. Persons who report themselves as Hispanic can be of any race and are identified as such in our data tables. (http://www.census.gov/population/hispanic/about/faq.html).
So race and ethnicity are different. Not only that, but "Hispanics" can claim any racial group they like. I would imagine that to give quite an advantage in some aspects of life - like seeking scholarships, grants, or other quota-driven benefits.

Is there a subtle racism (or ethnicism) going on here? I don't know. I do know that this was one of the strangest surveys I've ever seen. And it disturbed me. 

BTW, I answered "Other: Western European."

"Press 1 for English."

14 February 2014

ExPat Life

I was working on some things related to the renewal of our residency permit (visa) this morning. If you've ever lived in a foreign country, you know that this is not a simple process. If you have never experienced this, you really have no clue.

This can be a daunting and frustrating experience. Once accomplished, there is a sense of accomplishment, maybe even exhilaration. But, if you are going to live in a foreign country legally (the recommended way) you simply have to go through the bureaucratic steps.

  • First, in our situation at least, the rules change frequently. You must have a knowledgeable national working for you as a visa agent. 
  • Costs can be high. You must pay the agent, of course. You will also have fees to pay to the government and pay for translation services of various documents you will need to supply.
  • Time frames are fluid. You may meet all your deadlines, but be frustrated by the fact that the government in question does not.
  • In our case, we need to have health insurance, from a company approved by the Czech government. The policy must cover the entire period of the visa and has to be paid for up front. For us that's four years worth of insurance premiums at one time. When you reach our ages, the premiums skyrocket.

These are just a few of the regular issues being faced by your friends who live in countries of which they are not citizens. Please don't get the idea that I am complaining! These are simply part of the cost of living (legally!) in another country. The rewards are also great.

Chelsea Fagan wrote this about the experience of being an expat (expatriate; one living in a country away from his/her own place of birth and citizenship)
When you live abroad, you realize that, no matter where you are, you will always be an ex-pat. There will always be a part of you that is far away from its home and is lying dormant until it can breathe and live in full color back in the country where it belongs. To live in a new place is a beautiful, thrilling thing, and it can show you that you can be whoever you want — on your own terms. It can give you the gift of freedom, of new beginnings, of curiosity and excitement. But to start over, to get on that plane, doesn’t come without a price.
To read the entire article, click here. I don't agree with everything she writes, but it is a good look at expat life.

I will follow up in coming weeks with some more snippets of life in a foreign milieu. Let me know what you think and what you may have experienced.

11 February 2014

What a Nag!

So, you think you may have a bit of a problem. She' always on your case, you perceive. Well, maybe Ben has some thoughts for you to consider. He starts his latest blog entry this way:

Uh-oh. Your spouse is at it again, telling you what you’ve done (or not) and what you need to do to fix it. Like some sort of self-appointed personal improvement counselor, your spouse thinks they know exactly what’s wrong with you and is not afraid to tell you what you need to do to fix it. They then get angrily frustrated that you just won’t listen!
Maybe we should read this together. To join me go to  http://tinyurl.com/ppdbxek.

04 February 2014

The Greening of America

A few months back, I began a series of blog entries regarding global warming and associated myths. Titled "Is God Green," the series was truncated by a number of factors, including my recent illnesses. Now it's time to start back in on this important subject.

As I type these words, the temperature outside has warmed up to 30 degrees fahrenheit. This "warming trend" is only expected to last one day, then it's back to single digits. The relationship between the Global Warming alarmists and the environmentalist movement is well-documented. In this installment I'd like to give some attention to historical examples of environmentalism, primarily in the American experience.

While I’m sure that there have always been those who were interested in cleaning the cave or saving some aspect of life that seemed to be going extinct, we should probably date what we would call Modern Environmentalism from the industrial revolution. New levels of pollution and disease caused by manufacturing and living in close quarters sparked protests and attempts to mitigate the ill effects.

In the US, the philosophical foundations for environmentalism were established by such men as Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot.   

Organized environmentalism began with the conservation movement in the late 19th century.  State and national parks and forests, wildlife refuges, and national monuments were created to preserve natural treasures. Early American conservationists included President Roosevelt, Pinchot, and John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club. Several other groups, such as the Audubon Society were created early in the 20th century.  With WWII behind us, and many folks beginning to feel the freedom of the post-war world, activism began to become commonplace with some projects such as dams, being halted due to the outcry. Environmentalists do not like dams.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the public was becoming aware that conservation of wilderness and wildlife was but one aspect of protecting an endangered environment. Concern about air pollution , water pollution , solid waste disposal, dwindling energy resources, radiation, pesticide poisoning (particularly as described in Rachel Carson's influential Silent Spring, 1962), noise pollution , and other environmental problems engaged a broadening number of sympathizers and gave rise to what became known as the "new environmentalism." Public support for these issues culminated in the Earth Day demonstrations of 1970.

The new movement had a broader goal—to preserve life on the planet. The more radical groups believe that continued industrial development is incompatible with environmentalism. Other groups, notably Greenpeace
 , which advocated direct action to preserve endangered species, often clashed violently with opponents. Less militant organizations called for sustainable development and the need to balance environmentalism with economic development. 

Environmentalists like to call upon scientists – and pseudo (non-)scientists (think Al Gore and Michael Moore) to provide a foundation for their claims.  
Since the late 1960's and early 1970's, environmentalist scientists have been predicting various ecological doomsdays. Very few, if any, of these disasters have befallen mankind. In another blog entry we will take a look at some of the hot-button issues.