Condoning the Present to Condemn the Past

I belong to a few veteran's forums that focus on different parts of my years in the military; e.g. one of the forums is for soldiers stationed in Germany during the 1980s, another forum is for soldiers who served in the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment, etc. Since I spent eight years as an Army linguist, another of the forums to which I belong is reserved for former military linguists, where the topics of discussion focus on general interest subjects that are centered around learning languages and using languages.

It is with that general spirit in mind that someone posted the following article, which describes how the People's Republic of China has been trying to destroy the native Tibetan language since it conquered Tibet in the 1950s:

Killing a language: China won’t let Tibetans study in their own language

This behavior is nothing new for Communists. Lest we forget, the Soviet Union launched these same sorts of language purging campaigns in all of their republics during the USSR's reign of terror. When I was in language school, I knew several teachers from Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, etc., all of whom were all forced to learn Russian in school as their primary language. Some were given the option to learn a second language, with their options being English or their native language. (And all of them opted for English, because the "West was cool.") The goal behind suppressing native languages is to remake the culture of conquered territories resemble the culture of the conquering nation. With that in mind, China is simply following the decades-old Communist playbook by killing the local language of Tibet in order to force its citizens to sound more like they're Chinese. As the article that was posted suggests, this is a horrible human rights violation.

However, any topic with possible political ramifications in this day and age will attract any number of Internet trolls, and the forum thread in this particular situation was not immune to infiltration. The thread hijacker in this instance attempted to steer the conversation away from a discussion on China's present-day transgressions to accuse the United States of having suppressed the native languages of conquered indigenous peoples from a century ago. While English has undoubtedly been a required language in schools across the nation in the centuries since its inception, (to include schools on Native American reservations), the United States has also taken bold steps in its efforts to preserve indigenous languages through legislation like the Native American Languages Act of 1990.

However, as with most misguided social justice warriors in today's "react first / research later" generation, none of that mattered. Nor did China's transgressions. All that mattered was that the United States should be ashamed of itself, because: America = Bad. Bad. Bad.

Needless to say, I took exception to this troll's ill-informed and self-righteous attitude. I wholeheartedly believe that there is nothing wrong with saying "This or that bad thing happened in the past," just as there is nothing wrong with saying "This or that bad thing is happening right now." However, I also steadfastly believe that there is something wrong when someone tries to prevent people from discussing something bad that's happening right now by shutting down conversations and accusing people's ancestors of wrongdoing.

For the record, my Irish American ancestors had nothing to do with the moral crimes of the past that this knee-jerk troll seemed hell bent on pushing as the prominent issue. My ancestors arrived far too recently and settled nowhere near the affected areas, so I feel no personal responsibility to apologize for the sins and stupidity of unrelated strangers. However, I seriously resent the accusation that I am guilty of some sort of moral failure or hypocritical behavior when I look at an atrocity that is taking place in the present and correctly label that behavior as "atrocity" without simultaneously calling out every other similar atrocity across the history of humanity.

Let me be clear, the United States has done many, many things wrong during in its sordid past. I have not forgotten the faults of our nation's founding fathers, but even if I had, that should not prevent my ability to call out evil when I see it. When someone's myopic gaze is so laser focused on the past sins of others that they cannot or will not see what is happening today, then they are just as guilty of subjective hypocrisy as those who would forget or ignore the past.

It's all about Perspective

One of my former colleagues recently posted a link to the following blog, which I thought does a great job of putting a lot of our current situation into a better perspective:

However, that blogger cites the source as unknown, so he wasn't the original author. With that in mind, I think it's fair to reprint the contents here:

For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. When you are 14, World War I starts and ends on your 18th birthday with 22 million people killed. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until you are 20. Fifty million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

When you're 29, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, global GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren't even over the hill yet. When you're 41, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war and the Holocaust kills six million.

At 50, the Korean War starts, and five million perish.

At 55 the Vietnam War begins, and it doesn't end for 20 years. Four million people die in that conflict. Approaching your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, could well have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening. As you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900.

How do you survive all of that?

A kid in 1985 didn't think their 85-year-old grandparent understood how hard school was. Yet those grandparents (and now great grandparents) survived through everything listed above. Perspective is an amazing art. Let's try and keep things in perspective. Let's be smart, help each other out, and we will get through all of this.

That article, in summary, lists all the ways that the 20th century would have tried to kill you if you had been born in the year 1900. Between world wars and devastating diseases, the previous century was a terrible time to live.

And yet, I cannot help but think that the fatality numbers in that blog mostly reflect only the situations where the Western Hemisphere was somehow involved; they fail to address other mass repressions and genocides like:

  • The Stalinist Purges in Russia (approximately 30 million deaths)
  • The Chinese Cultural Revolution (approximately 30 million deaths)
  • The Cambodian Genocide (approximately 2 million deaths)
  • The Khmer Rouge repressions (approximately 2 million deaths)
  • The Armenian Genocide (approximately 1.5 million deaths)
  • The Rape of Nanking (approximately 500 thousand deaths)
  • And I have no accurate sources to estimate the number of deaths in South America and Africa due to famines, diseases, genocides, and civil wars

In other words, if you had been born in the 1900, but you had lived somewhere other than North America during the 20th century, your chances of meeting with a violent death would have increased even more dramatically than the original article would suggest. I mention that because I met several people when I was stationed overseas who had survived many of those devastations; I knew Germans and Britons who had survived World Wars, depressions, repressions, famines, diseases, etc., yet today's over-privileged youths act like the world is ending if their Internet is too slow. As the writer of that blog suggested, it's all about perspective.

Anyway, it's food for thought.

Thinking smile

Remembering the Fall of the Wall

Today is November 9, 2019, which is exactly 30 years since the opening of the East German border; that event has since become known as "The Fall of the Wall." I was stationed along the East German border when it was opened, and I still have vivid memories of what the world was like at that time.

Tensions in East Germany had been building for some time, and thousands of East Germans had already fled through neighboring Warsaw Pact nations like Hungary and Czechoslovakia. When the border was opened unexpectedly on November 9, 1989, hundreds of thousands of East Germans poured into West Germany, where they were met with open arms by crowds of joyous West German citizens and US military personnel.

Within a few short years, the two Germanys were reunited, and the Soviet Union collapsed - which was the greatest manifestation of Communism's many, many failures. However, as a reminder of what the border was like before it opened, you might want to watch the following video.

Just two short months ago, a small group of my fellow 511th MI Company veterans and I met for a reunion at the former inner-German border. It was great for us to stand in erstwhile enemy territory next to the abandoned guard towers that had once kept the nation of East Germany prisoner. It was somewhat poetic that these relics of a bygone era are reduced to mere tourist attractions. (And by that I meant the guard towers, not us.)

2019-Reunion-Mosaic

Posing by the former border towers.

Not to beat a dead horse on the subject, but this is a chunk of the East German border fence that I have had in my office for the past three decades. I personally cut that section off the fence after the border was opened, and it's a nice little reminder that the plans of evil men everywhere will eventually fail.

Border-Fence-Plaque

The text is a little blurry, but it quotes Psalm 146:7 "The Lord sets the prisoners free,"
with the dates of 13 August, 1961 to 9 November, 1989.

Minor Debates About the Shroud of Turin

Someone recently posted the following challenge about the Shroud of Turin in a forum that I follow:

"When somebody explains to me without supposition what process produced the image on the cloth with the characteristics that it actually has, I'll consider it conceivable that it was produced by medieval artists. Until that's understood, calling it a medieval forgery is effectively punting; it's an argument from ignorance. Why would anybody produce a forgery manifesting some characteristic with which nobody was familiar? E.g., why would a medieval artist who'd never seen a camera produce a photographic negative? Why would a modern artist produce an image that suggests imprinting by an unknown process? Forgers work by reproducing known characteristics, not unknown ones. The truth is that no MODERN artist could produce those images, nor would any of them try, because nobody understands how they got there. This does not prove that the image is authentic, but 'medieval forgery' isn't even plausible."

I thought that this was a worthwhile challenge/question, and I've actually studied a bit about that over the years. With that in mind, I posted the following two responses:

"There have been several documentaries over the past few decades wherein various scientists and archeologists have demonstrated how to achieve the same results; see How to Fake the Shroud of Turin [from the Smithsonian Channel] for just one such example. One particular documentary that I saw on the shroud many years ago went one step further with the assertion that this technique was commonly-used by medieval sculptors to create facsimiles of statues that they had created. When potential customers would come by their shops, they could look at the facsimile images that were captured on cloth in much the same way that present-day customers might look through a catalog."

"That being said, I make no claims where the Shroud of Turin is concerned. For starters, the shroud is double-sided, which would be atypical for the facsimile theory. In addition, the body depicted on the shroud would be a rather uninspiring statue for a sculptor to have made; the subject is lying on its back and nude, so if this was a facsimile of a sculpture, there would have been a very limited number of places where it could have been displayed. It is plausible that - if this was the facsimile of a statue - then it might have been for an effigy, which would explain the recumbent position, and effigies were quite popular in the Middle Ages. However, Medieval effigies were traditionally clothed, so that would also be a problem with the statue/facsimile theory."

effegies

My response seemed to anger the original poster, and he responded with the following retort:

"Never mind how it's done. Why would a Medieval forger produce a photographic negative, having never imagined, let alone seen, a camera?"

I found his response rather confusing, because his original challenge had been to explain how a medieval artist might have created the shroud, and I had just done so. With that in mind, I responded with the following series of responses:

"Did you not read what I just wrote? Put aside all thoughts of forgeries (which I did not suggest), as well as any present-day thoughts of photography or negatives or whatever. What I mentioned was that some historians have shown that there was a method by which sculptors recorded their works. It had nothing to do with being a 'negative,' it was just a way to record their work during a time when there was no other way to do so. Creating a duplicate of a sculpture would be too costly and take up too much space, and hiring someone to draw/paint a facsimile of a sculpture would be similarly expensive and not resemble the original. Whereas, taking a rubbing of a statue would produce a facsimile of the original, and people continue to employ similar techniques around the world when they make brass rubbings or gravestone rubbings."

"One additional point of note, we tend to think of the shroud as a negative, because when someone photographed it years later, the white-on-black 'negative' of the photo appeared to be a positive (and somewhat 3D-looking) image. However, sculptors used the black-on-white technique to record their work, because the resultant image looked more like their original artwork. So for them, it was never about a negative; to them, the facsimile was exactly what they were going for. Take a look at the following image; we tend to think of the shroud as the face on the right, because it seems 'corrected' to us based on our present-day presuppositions. However, the face on the left looks like a cloth-based representation of a bas-relief sculpture. Sometimes you need to put aside your modern interpretation and look at it from the perspective of someone who lived one or two thousand years ago."

Shroud_of_Turin_Positive_and_Negative

"This brings me back to why I weighed in on this discussion; you had asked for someone to explain a way that medieval artists might have created the shroud. I have pointed out that several scientists and archeologists have done just that; they have positively demonstrated HOW this was possible. What's more, several historians have described the more important question of WHY medieval artists used this technique: to record their work as a means of future advertising. The part that seems the most-difficult for you to grasp is that none of this has anything to do with your modern-day understanding of photography and negative images; the appearance of the shroud as it exists is exactly what medieval artists were trying to create."

"Just to round out the discussion, I never said that I believed the shroud was the work of forgers. Actually, I never weighed in on the veracity of the shroud at all; I was simply answering your questions with several facts that it appears you were unfamiliar with. Which leaves this discussion with the question of whether I believe the shroud is genuine or not. And my answer is - I'm not sure; there is plenty of evidence either way. But that being said, whether the shroud was the burial cloth of Jesus or a medieval artist's record of a statue is immaterial to me. I believe whole-heartedly that Jesus died and rose again, and that's what's most-important here."

Not to beat a dead horse on the subject, but here are my personal thoughts about the Shroud of Turin:

I actually lean in the direction that it might be valid, though it's more like 70/30 split for me. I've studied a lot about it over the past few decades, and I've never been convinced either way. For the longest time I was more like a 50/50 split; I simply wasn't sure at all. When the carbon dating yielded an estimate of sometime around the 13th-century, that made me lean more toward a 20/80 split; but I still wasn't fully convinced either way.

Since then I have watched several documentaries and read several articles about how the carbon dating was done incorrectly, and also about the increasing scientific analysis of chemicals in the shroud that can only be found in Israel. Armed with that knowledge my opinion has shifted more toward the veracity of the shroud than at any other time in my life.

Outside of personal word from God, I am fairly certain that I will never be fully-convinced either way. With that in mind, I have no problems sharing facts that I have learned that either corroborate or negate the shroud; I try to remain open to either possibility. But in the end, the point I made in the discussion thread is still what's most-important: I believe whole-heartedly that Jesus died and rose again, and He is my personal savior.

Or as it is written in the Nicene Creed:

"I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father;

By whom all things were made;

Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;

He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead."

That sums up what I believe quite nicely.

The Sad Life and Strange Disappearance of Madalyn Murray O'Hair

Some Observations of Atheists

Throughout my life I have known my fair share of atheists, all of whom have fallen into two categories:

  • Genuine Atheists - these people truly do not believe in God, and in my experience they have typically been polite people with great attitudes, and with whom anyone might want to be friends.
  • Faux Atheists - these people actually believe in God, despite their protests to the contrary, and they have typically been awful people with whom most people would hate to associate.

Faux Atheists are interesting character studies, because their professed disbelief does not actually match what they appear to believe behind their gruff facade. Every Faux Atheist whom I have known is actually a believer, but they are mad at God for some perceived cause that is too severe for them to reconcile with the image of a loving, benevolent Creator. Here are the primary justifications that I have encountered for these atheists:

  • Most often the source of Faux Atheists' hatred is the death of a loved one - usually an immediate family member, (e.g. a parent, spouse, sibling, or child). These atheists believe that God is the direct cause of their loved one's death, and their only recourse is to curse God incessantly.
  • Fairly often the source of Faux Atheists' hatred is self-condemnation for a lifetime of bad life decisions that they have made. These Faux Atheists generally lack self-reflection, and blaming God is much easier than learning to consider their contribution to their current situation.
  • Less often the source of Faux Atheists' hatred is a vain attempt to justify a lifestyle that they know is objectionable, and therefore a disbelief in God gives them the 'freedom' to do as they please. However, these atheists know deep down that they are doing something wrong, so they lash out at God in an effort to rid themselves of the guilt that they feel.
  • The least often source of Faux Atheists' hatred that I have seen is the perception of persecution; these atheists believe that society is 'too religious,' and all of the 'religious' people around them are oppressing them. I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I find these atheists extremely amusing to converse with, because their claims of being a 'victim' and taunted mercilessly by the Christians around them are almost-always the by-product of a pre-existing victim mentality. These atheists invariably encounter situations where they already believe that they are being persecuted, and therefore they misinterpret everything that does not go their way as additional persecution. (Quite often a little reasoning with these atheists will deflate a situation, but sometimes they are too convinced of their misfortune to see clearly.)

All of these Faux Atheists create an interesting paradox, for despite all of these atheists' hatred and never-ending rhetoric about how terrible all the 'Religious People' are, it is usually the atheists who are behaving badly. (Please do not misunderstand me, there are plenty of 'Christians' who are also terrible people; being a terrible person is not a prerequisite for being an atheist or a Christian.) The Faux Atheists that I have known seem to make it their life's mission to publicly ridicule every Christian (and most of the Jews) they know.[1]

All of this discussion brings us to Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair

To put it bluntly, Ms. O'Hair was a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur. She was addicted to the acclaim that she received as a champion of radical causes. She relished her title as the 'Most-Hated Woman in America.' She founded the American Atheists (AA) organization under the guise of educating and supporting fellow atheists, but the simple truth is that she was a megalomaniac who was embezzling from her organization. There were several dramatic ironies in her life, and her erratic, abusive and paranoid behavior eventually became her undoing.

Madalyn's Earlier Years

According to a book[2] that was written by Madalyn's son, William J. Murray, Madalyn was born into a family with an alcoholic father as the patriarch, and she often fought viciously and vociferously with her father. Before entering public life, Madalyn had:

  • Married young just before the onset of WWII
  • Joined the Army after the war started (while her husband joined the Marines)
  • Had an affair with a married officer that resulted in an out-of-wedlock child (at a time when these actions were cause for public scorn)
  • Divorced her first husband hoping the officer would marry her (which he didn't)
  • Had another relationship that resulted in an out-of-wedlock child

According to Madalyn's son, each of these poor decisions were the source of countless family arguments.

Madalyn's children subjected the extended family to additional financial strains and care-giving necessities, which were largely ignored by Madalyn. Adding insult to injury, Madalyn could not keep any job for longer than a few months; she was continuously forced to leave one job after another because she felt that everyone above her was stupid, and she needed to be in charge. Her attitudes may have angered her bosses, but some of Madalyn's proclamations of her superiority found welcome recipients among her coworkers, which led to Madalyn embracing Socialism and Communism. Meanwhile, Madalyn began to work her way through law school by taking classes on the side, and even though she graduated, she never passed the bar exam. As a result, she remained in a long line of dead-end jobs, and her extended family was forced to live in decrepit, low-income housing.

According to William, it was during this time period that Madalyn formulated her special brand of atheism, and it was shortly thereafter when she would infamously enter public life.

The 'Most-Hated Woman in America'

In 1963, Madalyn sued the Baltimore public school system, where her son William was a student, over the fact that students were required to listen to daily Bible readings and recite prayers in class. Madalyn's lawsuit was eventually elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States, where it was decided that mandatory prayer in public schools was unconstitutional.[3] This catapulted Madalyn into the public arena, and she used her new-found fame to create the American Atheists (AA) organization, over which she presided (and from which she profited) for the rest of her life.

Throughout the ensuing decades, Madalyn filed numerous lawsuits in attempts to prevent NASA astronauts from reciting Bible versus or prayers during the space program, to remove "One Nation Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, to remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency, to remove nativity scenes from government property, etc. All the while, Madalyn relished the attention that was showered on her publicly. However, her paranoia continued to grow in private, no doubt from an ironic sense of betrayal when her son, William, the boy for whom prayer was outlawed in American schools, became a born-again Christian and abandoned her. Madalyn summarized her feelings on the subject when she said of William, "One could call this a postnatal abortion on the part of a mother, I guess; I repudiate him entirely and completely for now and all times. He is beyond human forgiveness." However, as if this irony wasn't already sufficiently palpable - William's daughter, Robin, rejected him and was subsequently legally adopted by Madalyn.

In the mid-1990s, things were not going well for Madalyn. By that time, AA was being run from its headquarters in Texas by Madalyn, her younger son from her second pregnancy, Jon Garth Murray, and her granddaughter, Robin. However, many AA employees complained of vicious arguing and constant profanity between the three family members, as well as abuse of the employees. Adding insult to injury, Madalyn's paranoia was increasing, so in addition to doling out abuse and profanity, she had chain-link fencing with barbed-wire coverings installed to keep out her imaginary 'persecutors.' All of this was far too much for several employees, many of whom eventually quit. Because of the toxic work environment, Madalyn tended to hire ex-convicts, because they were desperate for work, and therefore a little more willing to tolerate the profanity, abuse, and low wages.

Over the years, Madalyn had gone through a spate of legal woes, all of her own doing, and while she was away from town settling the details of another harassment suit that had been filed against her, the AA was robbed. The anonymous thief had stolen several thousand dollars' worth of computer equipment, and police determined that the thief was probably an AA employee. Shortly thereafter, the AA office manager quit, and Madalyn promoted David Waters, a two-year veteran at AA, to office manager. While the Murray-O'Hairs were away settling legal disputes again, Waters laid off the entire AA staff, and stole 12 bonds worth around $5,000 apiece.

Waters was brought to trial, where he cut a plea bargain for a single count of theft, and was sentenced to several years' probation, with no restitution to be made. In order words: Waters walked away from the crime with no jail time and no fines. This did not sit well with Madalyn, who used the AA newsletter to publicly expose Waters' long criminal record in a six-page article, which included tales of attempted murder and domestic battery against his mother. Waters had been attempting to put together a new life in the community after his trial had ended, and Madalyn's article effectively killed any chances he had to do so.

Madalyn's fiery temper had finally gone too far.

Disappearance and Theories

In August of 1995, one of the AA employees arrived at work to find the building locked and a note on the door staring the Murray-O'Hairs had left town for a family emergency. This seemed more than a little odd to the AA staff, and the mystery deepened when staffers visited the home that was shared by the Murray-O'Hairs; they discovered an unfinished breakfast, Madalyn's diabetes medicine on the counter, and Madalyn's three dogs had been left unattended. Two of the board members were eventually able to reach Jon Garth via his cell phone, and Jon tried to assure everyone at AA that nothing was wrong. Robin also spoke to a few people, but despite her similar assurances that nothing was amiss, those who spoke to her could tell that something was seriously wrong. Over the next few weeks, the Murray-O'Hairs' credit cards were slowly maxed out, and Jon and Robin occasionally spoke to various members of the AA staff, but all calls ceased near the end of September.

A few weeks passed, and AA was in full denial mode. One of the AA board members, Ellen Johnson, had assumed the presidency at AA, and despite mounting public opinion that the Murray-O'Hairs were dead, Johnson assured the public that nothing was wrong. In the meantime, AA staffers continued to put the business back in order. As the AA staffers continued to go through the business records, they found that Madalyn had been greatly exaggerating her membership numbers; 2,400 instead of her claims of 50,000. In addition, the Murray-O'Hairs were in trouble with the IRS, who questioned whether Madalyn had been using the organization's finances as her personal account.

One of the staffers had discovered that the Murray-O'Hairs had been funneling money to a bank in New Zealand, and it was easy to suspect that Madalyn might have other offshore accounts as well. Because of this, one theory emerged that the Murray-O'Hairs had simply taken the money and ran. One of the largest problems with this theory was, however, the fact that the Murray-O'Hairs had left all of their personal belongs, their pets, and their personal bank accounts.

Another theory was that Madalyn had left town to die. She had often remarked that she didn't want Christians making a fuss over her death. (And by that she meant that she wanted no Christians to pray at her funeral.) That left Jon and Robin, who might have tired of the life they were forced to live in Madalyn's shadow, and they might have taken their newfound freedom to do something a little more private with their lives.

The most-prevailing theory was - of course - that the Murray-O'Hair family had met with foul play. It was no secret that Madalyn had made a large number of enemies throughout her life - many of whom would have had sufficient cause to seek retribution; as William stated, "She was just evil. She stole huge amounts of money. She misused the trust of people. She cheated children out of their parents' inheritance. She cheated on her taxes and even stole from her own organizations." Madalyn's entire life would have provided more than enough motive for many people. Several people bought into Madalyn's paranoia and believed that Christians or operatives of a Christian-backed, theocratic governmental agency had silenced the Murray-O'Hair family.

Stalled Investigations

And as the months passed on into years, nothing was found of the family members. A month after the disappearance of the Murray-O'Hair family, a body had been found by a river in Dallas with its head and hands missing, but the authorities were able to determine that it did not belong to anyone from the Murray-O'Hair family. Madalyn's remaining son, William, eventually filed a Missing Persons report, but since the police found no actionable evidence of foul play, there was nothing that they could do. In their estimation, "It's not against the law to be missing in Texas."

A San Antonio reporter, John MacCormack, picked up the story around the one-year anniversary of the family's disappearance, and he discovered that AA had covered up the fact that Jon Garth had withdrawn $600,000 before his disappearance, and then sold his Mercedes through a classified ad. All of this amounted to an enormous amount of money, which had put AA in a difficult position financially. However, such a large sum of money cannot remain unnoticed for long, so MacCormack teamed up with a private investigator, and the two of them were able to determine that Jon Garth had used the $600,000 to purchase 1,500 gold coins (at $400 apiece) from a local jeweler. Jon had picked up the coins in person, which was the last time that anyone saw any member of the Murray-O'Hair family alive.

Solving The Crime

Several years after the disappearance, Waters - the former AA employee - was living in a run-down apartment and cooperating with authorities by providing documents from AA that he had kept with details from the Murray-O'Hairs about their financial misdealings, and he had been enjoying a recent spate of popularity with reporters as a former associate of the missing family. Around that time, MacCormack received an anonymous tip from someone who knew a con artist named Danny Fry. The anonymous tipster claimed that Fry had disappeared around the same time as the Murray-O'Hairs, and at the time he had been working with Waters. Even more revealing was that the anonymous tipster stated that Waters had kidnapped the Murray-O'Hairs and was afraid that Fry had shared their fate.

MacCormack was able to piece together a prison association between Waters and Fry that refuted Waters' statements to the authorities that he barely knew Fry, and MacCormack was able to trace Fry's last whereabouts to a hotel in San Antonio by using the phone records from Fry's calls to family members. MacCormack was also able to discover that Waters had purchased a Cadillac with cash around the time that the Murray-O'Hairs' credit cards were being maxed out. But the most-important item that MacCormack was able to uncover that motivated the authorities to re-think their investigation was when MacCormack was able to have the anonymous body found near the river in Dallas tested for Danny Fry's DNA - which was a match.

The authorities raided Waters' apartment, wherein he had another former prison mate staying with him named Gary Karr, and the two of them were quickly behind bars. Karr's ex-wife and Waters' ex-girlfriend provided the authorities with their knowledge of the kidnappings, about which they had remained silent for years. Once all of these primary actors were talking to authorities, a picture was pieced together about the fate of the Murray-O'Hair family in their final month.

What Happened To Everyone

I will keep this section sparse, because it's not a pretty picture. Madalyn and her family were kidnapped at gunpoint and taken to the hotel from where Fry had called his family members, and they were held as prisoners there for an entire month. Madalyn and Robin were sequestered in their room for the duration, whereas Jon was allowed to travel around with Waters' accomplice, Karr, in order to drain all of the bank accounts to which he had access, and then he gave all of that money to Waters and his group. However, Madalyn and Jon did not reveal all of their accounts, ostensibly in the hope that they would survive their ordeal. This was - of course - hope in vain.

At the very least, Waters and Karr killed the entire family: Jon and Robin by strangulation, and Madalyn by blunt force trauma, which was undoubtedly part of Waters' revenge. Waters had hatched the entire plan - as many suspected - in retribution for Madalyn's article in the AA newsletter. Waters' ex-girlfriend stated that Waters had described his fantasies about torturing Madalyn in various ways, and whether he fulfilled any of those fantasies is open for speculation, because the reality of their situation required a fair amount of logistical planning: the three ex-convicts needed to get three people (alive or dead) from a public hotel without arousing suspicion, then take them somewhere else either to be killed or simply dismembered, then their body parts were loaded into 50-gallon barrels, driven over a hundred miles to a remote ranch, and buried. Then Waters and Karr killed Fry, and dumped his partially-dismembered body in Dallas.

What happened to the money is an interesting story by itself: of the $600,000 in gold coins that were purchased by Jon Garth, only $500,000 were collected. The balance was on order, although they were never picked up since Waters and his associates had already killed the Murray-O'Hairs by the time the jeweler received the second lot of gold coins. Waters and Karr took $80,000 from their heist, and they stashed the rest in a storage locker. After that, they spent the next several days partying in town - buying fancy suits and Rolex watches. But in a quirky twist of fate - when Waters returned to the locker at a later date, he discovered that the rest of the money had been stolen. (Police eventually tracked down those thieves, who had spent all but one of the gold coins.) In the end, Waters had taken out his revenge on Madalyn, but profited very little from his crimes, and he died of cancer in prison a few years after his arrest.

Final Thoughts

I mentioned in my opening paragraphs that - in my observations - atheists generally fall into two categories, and Faux Atheists seem to be the most-violent in their opposition to those of faith, which is usually due to denial or blame-shifting. Madalyn Murray O'Hair spent a lifetime cursing God and Christians for situations that she believed were unfair, yet she failed to realize that fairness is subjective. Madalyn never took ownership for her plethora of bad decisions; it was her choices and her actions that left her single and poor with two fatherless babies to care for. Madalyn's lot in life was not God's fault - it was her fault - and by her example we see what will happen whenever every vestige of a moral compass is removed from society.


Footnotes

  1. Atheists tend to avoid ridiculing Muslims, because that might get them in trouble. More often than not, antagonistic atheists only attack Christians.
  2. From the book My Life Without God, by William J. Murray. (See the bibliography.)
  3. In principle, I agree with the SCOTUS' decision; I do not believe that anyone should be required to pray. However, the consequences of this landmark decision cannot be understated; the fabric of American society has been indelibly damaged by the removal of God - and thereby a concrete moral standard - from our schools.

Bibliography

Reflections on an Mi-24D Hind

I recently saw this old warhorse at the Pima Air and Space Museum outside Tucson, AZ:

Mi-24 Hind

The Mi-24D was a formidable enemy in its day, so my first thought was that this once-mighty gunship living out the rest of its years as a rusting museum piece seemed such an ignoble end for this amazing aircraft. And yet - like the empire this beast once served, its days of usefulness have long passed.

With that in mind, this ancient relic seems a fitting epitaph for the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Its fortuitous demise and relegation to the junk heap of history should serve as a stark reminder of the atrocities committed in the name of Communism during the 20th-century's flirtations with that particular brand of unspeakable evil.

My hope is that future generations will leave this aircraft, and the failed political system that it represents, in the past - where they belong.

If You Think You're Having a Bad Day…

I just read this article, Pompeii victim crushed by boulder while fleeing eruption, which details a recent archeological discovery in Italy. The unfortunate soul in these photos from that article has to be one of the least-lucky people to have ever walked the face of the planet:

The Unluckiest Man in Pompeii

This doomed individual survived the initial eruption of Mount Vesuvius near Pompeii, only to have his head crushed by a rock during the subsequent eruption.

Sometimes, it's just not your day...

Do you think that the Russians want war?

In response to Vladimir Putin's recent proclamation that Russia now has "Invincible Nuclear Weapons," someone posted a link to Dick Gaughan's 1983 song "Think Again:"

The problem with songs like Gaughan's is that they do a tremendous injustice to what was actually going on in the world when that song was written. At the time, there were a great deal of songs written to protest the Cold War and to encourage everyone to "give peace a chance." The problem with naive statements like "give peace a chance" is that many a conquered nation has wanted peace at all costs, but their desire for peace did not prevent their eventual destruction. Appeasement of Hitler prior to WWII is a perfect example: most of Europe did nothing as Hitler stormed through country after country because everyone else remembered WWI, and the rest of Europe would rather stand by and let a madman conquer the world than upset their personal peace.

Which brings us back to Gaughan's song and it's central question: "Do you think that the Russians want war?" The target of Gaughan's lyrics was the policymakers in the West, who have largely done nothing whenever madmen went to war, because the West typically seeks peace at all costs. The West wanted peace with Hitler, and peace with Stalin, and with Khrushchev, and with Brezhnev. The West may not have approved the actions of these madmen, but the West would much rather have peace than declare war on every psychopath who comes along. But here's the thing: even though the West wanted peace, the Russians - in the form of the Soviets - very clearly wanted war.

15 countries ceased to exist with autonomy in the name of Russian/Soviet war: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the Ukraine. These countries did not want war, but Russia gave them war anyway. As a result, these conquered territories became the 14 satellite republics of the Soviet Union. But let us not forget that Afghanistan also did not want war, yet the Russians/Soviets invaded anyway. Afghanistan was destined to become the 16th Soviet republic, until clandestine meddling from the United States helped turn that war in favor of the Afghanis, (and thereby bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union, but that's another story).

But it doesn't end there, because the Russians/Soviets also brought war to Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. These countries were conquered by the Russians/Soviets to serve as sacrificial "buffer states" in the event of hypothetical invasion from the West, (rather than becoming formal Soviet republics).

While Gaughan's lyrics pontificate about the 20 million people slaughtered by Nazi invasion, it does nothing to address the 30 million or so of their own countrymen killed by the peace-loving Russians/Soviets, nor does begin to account for all of millions of people slaughtered senselessly during the Russian/Soviet invasions of the countries previously mentioned, nor does it account for the hundreds of thousands of casualties incurred during the brutal suppressions carried out by the Russians/Soviets whenever one of those countries fought for their independence. (Nor do those numbers address the additional tens of millions of people slaughtered by the USSR's allies in the Far East and South/Central America; but let us refrain from digression and stick to Russia, shall we?)

People can claim that the "Average Russian" did not want war, and that all of these atrocities were caused by the actions and ideologies of their leaders. I must admit, there is undoubtedly a grain of truth to that perspective. But then again, you have to realize that millions of "Average Russians" actively participated in conquering of all of the countries that I have mentioned. Those countries wanted peace; Russia brought them war. As a result, those millions of "Average Russians" are no less guilty than the millions of "Average Germans" who brought the Nazi War Machine to peaceful Europe.

I have quoted this poem before in other contexts, so please forgive my repetition here; following WWII, the German pastor Martin Niemöller expressed the folly of "Average Germans" doing nothing about the Nazis when he wrote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.

Niemöller's sentiments may not be a call to arms, but they certainly condemn the cowardice of those who do nothing while their fellow countrymen commit atrocities.

Gaughan's song attempts to lay the desire for war at the feet of the West's leaders because - as he put it - we didn't "like their political system." To restate what I have said earlier, no one liked Russia's political system. But the Russians/Soviets forced their political system on millions of innocent people through decades of violent bloodshed. Gaughan conveniently ignores all of that.

I have stated many times before that Russia is never more than one madman away from becoming the Soviet Union again, and we're seeing that come to fruition. Under Putin's leadership, Russia has once again annexed the Ukraine, and it has violently suppressed dissension in other former Soviet republics. And once again, the West has done nothing, because despite the flowery rhetoric of naive dreamers like Gaughan, the West still desires peace more than war. But Gaughan ignores all of that, too.

As I have mentioned all along, the West has almost always wanted peace; that much is clear from the staggering amount of reticence that it has shown whenever another madman has come along and started conquering its neighbors. The West attempted to intervene in the Far East, with disastrous results, and we have learned our lesson. As a result, the West typically does nothing now, because most people in the West believe in peace at all costs. But as the saying goes, "Peace is a fleeting fantasy, embraced by fools, signifying nothing." A desire for peace does not prevent war; at best it only delays the inevitable.

With that in mind, to answer Gaughan's question: even though the West wants peace, Russia has always wanted war.

Pima Air Museum

This aircraft museum is pretty much in our backyard, so to speak. We used to live a few miles from it, and if you're into airplanes, it's a great way to spend the day...

Description:
A vast oasis of aircraft lies deep in the Arizona desert
(http://cnet.co/2qA4mo1)
Slideshow:
Vintage aircraft under the desert sky: Yeah, it's worth the heat
(http://cnet.co/2CL0xS2)

pima-air-museum

Saying Goodbye to an Old, Trusted Friend...

I was going through some boxes recently, where I discovered the following book…

Natural History Book

My parents gave me this book in the early 1970s when I was eight years old, and I carried that book everywhere. Way back then, my life’s ambition was to become a paleontologist, and this book had some excellent chapters on dinosaurs which I read over and over again.

However, my copy of this book was definitely showing its 45 years of age; it’s binding had worn away to nothing, countless pages were torn… even though I didn’t check, I’m pretty sure that some pages were missing. There is no doubt – this was a well-loved volume of knowledge back in its day; but now it was little more than a shadow of its former self, and a sad relic of days gone by.

Natural History Book

Still, though, it’s amazing the history through which this book persisted in my personal (albeit negligent) care… when I received this book as a gift, Richard Nixon was President of the United States, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was 39 cents, the United States was still embroiled in the waning years of the Vietnam War, Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon, and the biggest single of the year was “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” by Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Nevertheless, this compendium of natural history knowledge had outlived its usefulness several years ago, and it was time to say goodbye. So with a heavy heart I unceremoniously dispatched my once-faithful companion to the recycle bin, where I hope that some part of it might wind up as another book which will spark another child’s imagination in decades to come. Or perhaps that’s just what I tell myself in order to feel a little less guilty…

Sad smile