Geeky Bob

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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.

Posted: Apr 08 2019, 21:47 by Bob | Comments (0)
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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' are 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 public 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 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

Posted: Oct 15 2018, 22:42 by bob | Comments (0)
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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.

Posted: Jun 19 2018, 15:39 by Bob | Comments (0)
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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...

Posted: Jun 02 2018, 09:34 by Bob | Comments (0)
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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.

Posted: Mar 01 2018, 03:15 by Bob | Comments (0)
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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

Posted: Jan 06 2018, 15:47 by Bob | Comments (0)
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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

Posted: Jul 14 2017, 03:25 by Bob | Comments (0)
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If D-Day had happened in 2017...

Given the increasingly-ridiculous levels of political correctness and unnecessary inclinations towards white guilt, here is a bit of alternative history for today, which examines how the contemporary mainstream media might have handled the D-Day invasion if it had happened in the present:

7:30am, Tuesday, June 6, 1944
From various World News Services
:

This just in - American and Allied forces, undoubtedly with imperialist ambitions, are currently attacking hundreds of undermanned and outgunned German soldiers, who are now desperately fighting for their lives amidst an onslaught of unprovoked Anglo-Saxon aggression. Just four years earlier, these same German forces successfully liberated France from centuries of colonial and imperial oppression, and yet they now find their comrades senselessly slaughtered on the beaches of Normandy while trying to defend the innocent people of France from foreign invaders.

American soldiers landing on the coast of France under heavy Nazi machine gun fire.

Joseph Goebbels, the distinguished spokesman for the widely-popular German National Socialist Party, condemned the heinous atrocities of the invaders by stating, "This is a sad day for Europe. German sovereignty has been deliberately and ruthlessly challenged in a cowardly, pre-dawn surprise attack by those who wish to see Europe returned to the Dark Ages. After we have forced these intruders back into the sea from whence they came, history will remember this as a triumph for humanity, and henceforth remember this day as 'Deutschland-Day!'"

General Eisenhower, the duplicitous 'commander' of the invading forces, could not be reached for comment.

Posted: Jun 06 2017, 04:26 by bob | Comments (0)
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Attending the Apollo 16 Launch

Early on the morning of April 16, 1972, which was exactly 45 years ago from today, my parents woke my brothers and me, bundled the three of us into the back seat of our family car, and started the long drive from the west side of Florida to the east. I was only six years old at the time, so I had no appreciation for what was to happen later; I simply wanted to remain asleep. But my dad had a bolder vision for us that day as he drove our family from Tampa to Cape Canaveral in order to watch Apollo 16 lift off for the second-to-last Lunar Mission.

Apollo-16-LOGO

When we arrived at the Kennedy Space Center, we were not VIPs, and therefore we had to watch the launch from a distance. We pulled up to the edge of Indian River, where we parked along with hundreds of other spectators to wait for the show to begin. In those early hours before the launch, my brothers and I played in the water, chasing skates around the shallows while my mom admonished us to avoid getting stung.

As the time for the launch drew near, my dad pulled us over to the car where he had a radio tuned to a station where we could hear the news coverage for the countdown to lift off. When an appropriate time arrived, my dad pointed across the water and told me, "Watch that big thing that looks like a smokestack, it's a rocket that's going to fly to the moon."

The countdown continued, and when the clock approached 00:00:00, the sky surrounding the massive Saturn V burst into flames in a colossal and terrifying display of unbridled power. Seconds later the mighty rocket slowly lifted off as it clawed its way into the air, fighting the earth's gravitational pull for each and every inch of altitude. If you watch the news coverage in following video, the footage from 1:48 to 2:20 shows what the launch looked like from my vantage point.

Moments after the Saturn V left the ground, the deafening roar from the first stage engines reached us and the whole earth seemed to quake. Too many years have passed since that day so I do not recall for sure, but I am willing to bet that a great deal of cheering from the assembled multitudes was taking place at the time.

As the launch vehicle soared higher and higher into the sky, our family joined the hundreds of spectators gathered around us as we collectively stood motionless while we craned our necks to catch our last glimpses of the rocket as it climbed out of sight. Shortly thereafter it was gone, and the crowds of spectators slowly began to pack their things and head off in whichever direction their homes were located.

In the past 45 years I have grown to appreciate the significance of that day's events, even though I was too young at the time to discern the magnitude of what I had just seen. Nevertheless, I am extremely thankful that my dad woke my brothers and me early that morning and made the multi-hour drive across the state for us to watch the launch; it has remained one of the most-impressive displays that I have ever seen.


PS - Here are a couple of extra notes:

  • 35 years after the launch of Apollo 16 I was able to attend the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis (mission STS-117) as it carried part of the International Space Station into orbit; this launch was also an amazing spectacle to behold.
  • Another view of the Apollo 16 launch from NASA's footage is available at http://youtu.be/KKbljFi0WBc. The footage in this video does not shift every few seconds like the news coverage; most of the footage is from a single vantage point, which makes it somewhat easier to appreciate the sequence of events from a spectator's point of view.
Posted: Apr 16 2017, 04:45 by bob | Comments (0)
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The Truth about Che Guevara, Castro, T-Shirts, and Motorcycle Diaries

After the recent long-awaited and highly-anticipated death of Fidel Castro, I must admit that I was shocked at the number of "famous people" who were emanating never-ending streams of revisionist history drivel about Castro's many "accomplishments," while falling over themselves in futile attempts to outdo each other with undo praise for this despicable despot. Make no mistake - Castro was a terrible, wicked, horrible dictator who sent thousands of innocent people to their graves.

However, on a completely related note is the number of misinformed idiots who walk around wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the following logo:

che-guevara-large-face

For those who are too stupid to know better, wearing a t-shirt like this in public is exactly like wearing a t-shirt with Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin printed on it. The subject of this ridiculous memorial attire is Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who was one of the worst mass-murders in the 20th century. Countless multitudes of gullible and easily-swayed malcontents read books like Guevara's "Motorcycle Diaries," and they fall victim to his knee-jerk deceptions about how much he cared for the plight of the poor in South America. While I completely agree that the corruption in South American politics is pervasive and often horrific, most people do not realize that the terrors which were brought about by Guevara were far worse than anything about which he had complained.

That being said, I recently discovered the following article which illustrates some of what I mean; this is a great article, and you should take a few minutes to read it:

The Truth About Che Guevara

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/michael-j-totten/truth-about-che-guevara

To put it mildly, Guevara was a spoiled, upper-class brat who became one of the worst mass murderers in Communism's long history of putting innocent people to death simply for having a college degree and/or being able to think for themselves. There are no two ways about it - if you lived in a country where Guevara had helped to overthrow your government, you simply would have been killed. No trial, no appeal - just executed.

All of this is to say - there is nothing admirable about wearing a t-shirt with Guevara's faced printed on it; the only thing that it signifies is that the person wearing the shirt is an idiot.

Posted: Jan 02 2017, 07:45 by bob | Comments (0)
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