Archive for May 2017

Interview with Theresa Snyder   1 comment

Today’s interview is with Theresa Snyder. Welcome to the blog.  Tell us something about yourself.

Theresa Snyder author picI live in the Pacific Northwest with my elder father, cat and an occasional dragon house guest. I run the printshop at the local community college, which just happens to be about five blocks from my doorstep. I consider all my student staff at work ‘my kids’ and they help me with everything techie that an indie author needs to know. They are constantly pushing and opening doors for me on social media. The latest is Snap Chat. They keep me young.

 

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I have been writing since I was a youngster. My mother gave me a journal and encouraged me to write. However, I don’t think I really considered myself an author until I wrote my first book in 1990 and then didn’t talk about being an author until I was published in 2013. I know, twenty-three years, but sometimes things that are worth doing take some time and are worth waiting for.

 

Theresa Snyder DragonTell us about your writing process. Do you have a special place you write?

I am a morning writer. I wake up with ideas and want to get them down on paper. I spend a lot of time writing in my head before I start in on the keyboard, so there is no outline and the characters might take me a totally different direction then what I have planned. If I stumble, and don’t know where to go, I take a nap. My brain keeps working and I wake with the answer. I like writing while listening to instrumental music, piano, cello, classical guitar. I can’t write with the radio on, I want to stop and sing along. I have a writing room that is all decked out in a Moroccan motif. I love it there – rich colors and stimulating atmosphere.

 

What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

I don’t have a favorite genre to read. I read everything. I am voracious. As for writing, I love the genre I am with at the moment. Right now, I am really into wrapping up my paranormal/fantasy series and therefore I live, eat and breathe everything from shape shifters to dragons and hippogriffs to fire demons.

Theresa Snyder Beast Within

Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

I am a sponge. I get the inspiration and ideas for my novels from friends and family events and conversations, news articles or broadcasts, people watching and hypothesizing about their lives and relationships, documentaries and other programs on television. My most recent scifi book, The Beast Within came from two ideas. I saw a newscast on the homeless children in Brazil and I was watching one of those challenge programs on tattooing. To find out how that all connects, you will have to read the book. No spoilers here.

 

If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

I write very character-driven novels. My scifi is low tech like “Firefly.” My fantasy can be enjoyed on multiple levels depending on how deeply you want to think about it. I am not an epic writer. My books move very quickly and the one complaint I get, in spite of my 4 and 5 star reviews, is they are over too fast. In that case, I just tell folks to pick up the next in the series. After all, I have twenty-four books in print.

Theresa Snyder Farloft_Collection_General

Wow, 24. That’s amazing. What point of view do you prefer to write, and why?

I have grown to love writing first person. My favorite character currently is Cody/Scar my shape-shifter in the Twin Cities Series. His books are all from his point of view and I love seeing the world through his eyes whether as a human or as a wolf.

 

I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

I would write. I often escape to a small town in the woods to spend a week writing in a log cabin with the river running past the door. If there is electricity at your cabin then I would bring my laptop and my favorite throw for keeping my feet warm. If no electricity is available then my suitcase would be filled with paper and pens. The only thing other than that would be something to play music on. If I have my laptop, it is loaded, or my phone, or my tablet or my MP3 player – I have music everywhere. If no electricity is available, perhaps you could hire Adam Hurst or Gary Jess to play for me while I write.

 

Theresa Snyder Star Traveler Series

You might have to settle for the babble of the creek. You would prefer that over the chug-chug-chug of the generator. Talk about your books individually, or … since you have 24, how about just an overview of each series.

The 1st book of each series is permanently free on all platforms in e-book.

“The Farloft Chronicles”A dragon series for all ages. A series for anyone who has ever loved or loves a dragon. They will find Farloft irresistible. For those who enjoyed “How to Train Your Dragon” no matter what their age.

“The Star Traveler Series” – Action, adventure, romance and intrigue; it all began with a friendship between Jake, a battle-worn, middle-aged human mercenary and a young alien named Arr. From that friendship sprang the foundation of a series that will envelope you in its character-driven stories and fast-paced, paging-turning momentum.

 

“The Twin Cities SeriesThe Realms refers to a parallel dimension hidden between Minneapolis and St. Paul where creatures, humans think of as only mythical, roam free. Cody is a shape shifter with some monumental problems that all started when he died. He’s escaped to The Realms from the midlands between Heaven and Hell only to find his best friend is potential food for the resident vampires, his girlfriend only loves him in his wolf form and her mother… well that’s a whole other story. It isn’t easy being Cody, but like a good wolf he’ll do what he can to protect his pack even if it kills him. Wait… he’s already dead.


Theresa Snyder Both In2Minds

“In2Minds”The home world’s sun is going to explode and Commander Tait is the last hope for a one-way mission to terra-form a distant planet. The only catch is the accident that buried him alive. With only his computer to assist him, will her survive?

“We 3” Non-fiction – is a collection of stories – sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious, always authentic – about a baby boomer caring for her aging parents.

 

 

Theresa Snyder Twin Cities Series

What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

I would like them to be so involved with the characters that they can’t wait to download or order the next book to find out what happens. I would like them to be hungry for more adventure whether in the future of the universe, the fantasy land of dragons, or The Realms where all things humans think are fantastical, paranormal or magical actually live.

 

 

What influenced your decision to self-publish?

I planned to just format my books, print and bind a copy for myself. After all, I do run a print shop, but my writing group convinced me to self-publish and I have never looked back.

 

What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

Theresa Snyder WE 3 (1)You are in total control. That might be the greatest disadvantage too. It is great to be able to produce at your own rate, chose your own cover design, form your own marketing campaigns, but you must see it as a small business. It is something most of us will work at for years before it shows any return other than the joy of interacting with your readers on social media.

 

Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

Supposedly, you have the backing of the marketing department of the traditional publisher, but I have talked to authors who did not have much assistance even though they were published traditionally. I think the main thing a traditional publishing would do for me would be to raise my books above the notion that all self-published books are inferior. You fight this all the time, because frankly there are people who call themselves author, but put either poorly written or poorly edited work up for sale. A reader will only buy a limited amount of these ‘inferior’ books before they start going back to the traditional publishers where they either know the author is good or they know the quality of editing is worth their money.

 

Completely agree. With the number of self-published books increasing by such a huge rate, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?

I start with a quality product – a sound plot, careful editing, attractive covers, and an eye-catching blurb. After that it is a matter of marketing. That, my friends, is like gardening, everyone has an opinion on how to do it. You just have to find your ‘groove.’

 

I like that. Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

This is certainly achievable. I started “Affordable Proofreading & Editing Service, LLC” to assist authors in making their work shine. The better the quality, the more chance we all have of being read. As I said in the question above, the readers will only tolerate inferior works for so long before they go back to the names they know. If you got a raw hamburger three times in a row from the local diner, you would be headed back to McDonald’s in not time. I advocate cooking the book thoroughly before serving.

Where do readers find you and your books?

Website: www.TheresaSnyderAuthor.com

Books Available on Amazon / Smashwords / CreateSpace / Google play

  • “Scifi reminiscent of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein”
  • “Paranormal like a breath of fresh air in a genre that has become formatted”
  • “Fantasy beautifully written with complex characters that children to adults can appreciate”
  • “Memoirs that are heartwarming, funny and soothing to the spirit”

Link to Moroccan Room Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qFQL6-Yf-c

Link to Affordable Proofreading & Editing Service, LLC: http://affordableproofedit.blogspot.com/

Link to Media Kit for Bio Picture: http://www.theresasnyderauthor.com/media-kit/

Trailer

 

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Little Known Facts in Education History   Leave a comment

Meme Horace Mann

Horace Mann is considered by many to be the great champion of education. Is that true or is it just something we’ve been taught to believe?

For generations, children learned in their homes, from their parents, and throughout their communities. Children were invaluable contributors to a homestead, becoming involved in household chores and rhythms from very early ages. They learned important, practical skills by observing and imitating their parents and neighbors and engaged in hands-on apprenticeships as teens. They still managed to learn the 3 R’s around the fireside.

The literacy rate in Massachusetts in 1850 (two years prior to the passage of the country’s first compulsory school attendance law) was 97%.

The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that the Massachusetts adult literacy rate in 2003 was only 90%.

In advocating for compulsory schooling statutes, Horace Mann and his 19th century education reform colleagues were deeply fearful of parental authority. You don’t have to believe me. You can go out and read what they wrote. Here’s a snippet.

“Those now pouring in upon us, in masses of thousands upon thousands, are wholly of another kind in morals and intellect.” That’s the Massachusetts state legislature regarding the new Boston Irish (Catholic) immigrants whose diversity challenged existing cultural and religious norms.

In Horace Mann’s Troubling Legacy, University of Vermont professor, Bob Pepperman Taylor, elaborates further on the 19th-century distrust of parents — particularly immigrant parents — and its role in catalyzing compulsory schooling. Pepperman Taylor explains that “the group receiving the greatest scolding from Mann is parents themselves. He questions the competence of a great many parents, but even worse is what he takes to be the perverse moral education provided to children by their corrupt parents.” (Pepperman Taylor, Bob. Horace Mann’s Troubling Legacy: The Education of Democratic Citizens. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2010, p. 33.)

Mann and his colleagues intended that forced schooling correct those “corrupt parents.” He apparently didn’t think morally superior parents like himself needed such help, because Mann continued to homeschool his own three children with no intention of sending them to the common schools he mandated for others. As Mann’s biographer, Jonathan Messerli writes:

“From a hundred platforms, Mann had lectured that the need for better schools was predicated upon the assumption that parents could no longer be entrusted to perform their traditional roles in moral training and that a more systematic approach within the public school was necessary. Now as a father, he fell back on the educational responsibilities of the family, hoping to make the fireside achieve for his own son what he wanted the schools to accomplish for others.” (Messerli, Jonathan. Horace Mann: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972, p. 429.)

As mass schooling expanded over the past 165 years, parental empowerment precipitously declined. Parents have largely been replaced by institutions and the consequences are telling. Children are now swept into the mass schooling system at ever-earlier ages with the expansion of government-funded preschool and early intervention programs. Most young people spend the majority of their days away from their families and in increasingly restrictive, test-driven educational environments. And society is beginning to recognize that these institutional environments damage many of the children it claims to be helping. Boston College psychology professor, Dr. Peter Gray, writes in Salon, of all places:

“School is a place where children are compelled to be and where their freedom is greatly restricted–far more restricted than most adults would tolerate in their workplaces. In recent decades, we have been compelling our children to spend ever more time in this kind of setting, and there is strong evidence (summarized in my recent book [Free To Learn]) that this is causing serious psychological damage to many of them.”

For teenagers, the impact of mass schooling can be even more severe. Largely cut off from the authentic adult world in which they should begin interacting, many adolescents rebel. Some kids engage in anger, substance abuse and suicide, while others become so overwhelmed with the homework that they go from being A students to wanting to drop out. As Dr. Robert Epstein writes in his book, The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen: “Driven by evolutionary imperatives established thousands of years ago, the main need a teenager has is to become productive and independent. After puberty, if we pretend our teens are still children, we will be unable to meet their most fundamental needs, and we will cause some teens great distress.”[5]

It is time to hand the reins of education back to parents and once again prioritize authentic learning over mass schooling. Parents know best. They should be able to choose freely from a wide variety of innovative, agile education options, rather than rely on a one-size-fits-all mass schooling model. By positioning parents to take back control of their children’s education–to reclaim their rightful place as experts on their own children–we can foster more education options and better outcomes for children and society.

But, of course, we can’t do that unless we stop holding up parents for education taxes that exclusively go to the public schools.

Worldview in a Nutshell   7 comments

This week’s Open Book Blog Hop topic is “What’s Your Motto For Life?”

What words of wisdom do you live by? Use those as inspiration for sections and flesh out a post that shares your philosophy.

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I don’t have just one motto for life. Like most intelligent people, I’m way more complex than a single motto. I think everybody is, actually. So I have seven mottoes I subscribe to … today. Not that my philosophy changes a lot or anything, but God could teach me something new next week and these mottoes would just become interesting historical artifacts.

What If … Wasn’t. That leaves me with what-is.

“What If … Wasn’t” is actually the title of a novel I’m working on, but in examining it, I realize it is part of a life philosophy I’ve had for a long time. It may possibly be attached to an AA slogan – no regrets, no apologies – and it definitely comes from the 2 Corinthian passage about the church forgiving the sinner and never bringing the sin up again. The thought shows up in several of my writings.

So what does it mean? We can’t fix the past, so why do we cry over it? It’s okay the mourn, but not for too long. At some point you have to deal with what is happening right now. Don’t get so focused on “what if” that you aren’t dealing with “what is.”

Image result for image of not regretting the past

Winter is Coming

Yeah, that’s the Stark family motto, but it’s also an Alaska mantra. Winter is always coming. Summer is just starting. Can winter be far away? I have lived through years where summer and winter were less than three months apart. You have to be prepared for it here or you won’t survive. But it’s also a great motto for life because there are so many things that go wrong that would be completely avoidable if we just prepared for them. The financial crisis of 2008 was horrible for a lot of people. Brad and I almost didn’t notice because we were … gasp … debt free. We didn’t have a lot of money in the bank, but we had food in the freezer and on the shelves. Preparation is a good thing.

Related imageI am able to do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Life’s hard and we struggle because the world is bent, but if God’s given me a task to do, I can do it because He will walk with me. It’s important to realize the role of God in all of this. There are many tasks and quite a lot of them are worthy, but God doesn’t give us every task in the world. He gives us each what He believes we can handle. So, sometimes, if I seem to stumble and fall, it may be that I have undertaken a task that God has not given me to do … or that I am trying to do it on my own, without His guidance.

It’s important for me to consult God before I do things and recognize that there’s a lot I have done that I would not have been able to do without God’s strength. No person is an island and we shouldn’t pretend that we are.

I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

Robert Heinlein said it, but I agree with it. We live in a time when it is fashionable to “blame the other guy” for just about everything we do.  If I have a moral failing, well, it’s my parents’ fault. My neighbor “made me angry”, therefore I’m “not guilty” of whatever I did in response. I’ve been “abused.” I’m “misunderstood.” It’s “not fair.”

I don’t buy into that cultural milieu. I am the one responsible for my own actions. Conversely, you’re the one responsible for your own actions.

You don’t get what you wish for; you get what you work for.

Image result for image of hardworking ballerinaThis meme was posted on the wall of my daughter’s dance studio and it showed a ballerina on point, sweat running down her neck. I couldn’t find that picture, but you get the point.

It doesn’t matter what our goals are in life … wishing doesn’t make them happen. You have to put in the hard work.  Ray Bradbury suggested would-be writers to write a short story every week for a year because it’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. You also learn a lot from doing it over and over again, even if you fail to make the goal. Every time you fail, you learn what not to do and that puts you that much closer to learning what to do.

Today, perfection is not an option. What a relief!

There’s only been one perfect person in history and I’m not Him. Thank God … literally! I’m serious about this. Life would be so much easier for … well, everybody … if we’d give up this notion that perfection is achievable. We can be the very best person we can be, but we’ll never be perfect and we  ought to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to try and accomplish the unachievable.

Society without opt-outs is servitude.

Image result for image of voluntaryismYes, I’m a libertarian and I believe in voluntaryism. That’s where I am not forced to go along with the agendas of others just because there are more of them than there are me. We are extremely pleased with ourselves as a country that we have abolished slavery, but the truth is, we haven’t. We’ve just transformed it. Many people in this culture would rather be doing other things than paying taxes and getting prepared to die, but our belief that it’s okay to force others to join in our causes prevents them from being free to pursue their own interests. Who am I to decide that my societal causes are more important than theirs? And, the same goes the other way.

So, there you have it … my mottos for life … and I suspect long-time readers of this blog are not surprised by this.

Posted May 29, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Sex Is Good   Leave a comment

In our sex-obsessed society, it is perhaps a shock that sex is a touchy subject. Equally shocking for some people is that the Bible talks about sex A LOT. Though the Bible handles this subject matter much differently than the secular world, it does have much to say on the subject. I can only think of one reason for matters pertaining to sex to be so frequently discussed in the Bible—sexuality must be very closely related to spirituality.

Now with regard to the issues you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of immoralities, each man should have relations with his own wife and each woman with her own husband. A husband should give to his wife her sexual rightsand likewise a wife to her husband. It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife. Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayerThen resume your relationship, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-controlI say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that everyone was as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one this way, another that.  1 Corinthians 7:1-5

The beliefs and practices of the Corinthian saints seem to vary greatly when it comes to matters of sexual values and conduct. Paul rebuked the liberal extreme for failing to exercise church discipline on a man living in an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife. In chapter 6, Paul confronted those who felt that having sex with a prostitute is not contrary or detrimental to one’s spiritual life. There are those in Corinth whose sexual values are shocking, even to the pagan Corinthians (see 5:1).

Image result for image of christian marital sexOur current text indicates there were some believers who used spirituality as a pretext for sexual immorality, while for others spirituality meant abstaining from sex altogether. By the way, this is where the water hits the wheel with our friend who caused us to start this series. He believes he’s found support in the Bible for his sexual immorality. So far, he has yet to show us convincing evidence of his belief.

In chapter 7, Paul turned his attention to those who seem to regard all sex as dirty, and who therefore advocated celibacy. For those who are single, it means staying single and, unlike today, celibate as well. For those who are married, it seems to mean that these couples should also refrain from sexual relations. I see a touch of gnosticism in this — the idea that the flesh is evil and must never be indulged.

In the matter of sexual conduct, the Corinthians lived in a very troubled world, not unlike our own era. The ancient world of Paul’s day had a very distorted view of women, sex, and marriage. Prostitution was an essential part of Greek life. Demosthenes had laid it down as the common and accepted rule of life: “We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately, and having a faithful guardian for all our household affairs.”

The Roman sexual ethic was no better. By Paul’s era, Roman family life was wrecked. Seneca wrote that women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married. In Rome the Romans did not commonly date their years by numbers. Women called them by the names of their husbands. Martial the Roman poet tells of a woman who had ten husbands; Juvenal tells us of one who had had eight husbands in five years; Jerome declares it to be true that in Rome there was a woman who was married to her 23rd husband and she herself was his 21st wife.

One would hope the Jews would be exemplary in matters of sex and marriage, but it wasn’t the case. In Paul’s day Judaism reverenced neither women nor marriage. Josephus wrote, ‘The woman is worse than the man in everything’ (Josephus, Contra Apionem, 2, 201).

In the age of the coming of Christianity, even with Judaism the marriage bond was in peril so great that the institution of marriage was threatened. Jewish girls were refusing to marry at all because the position of the wife was so uncertain. The ancient ritual of “female circumcision” was practiced then too. This (cough) surgical procedure doesn’t benefit the woman at all, but prevents her enjoyment of sex. It seems that in the minds of those men who impose this on women, it is the woman’s place to give pleasure to the man, but never the woman’s place to receive pleasure from the man. While we may not mutilate our women in the United States, many American men expect their wives to give them sexual pleasure at any time, but feel little or no obligation toward fulfilling their wives’ sexual pleasure.

Paul’s words concerning sex and marriage were desperately needed in his day and no less needed in our own day.

From the Book of Proverbs, we know that God designed marriage and sex not only as a means for bringing children into this world, but also as God’s appointed means for a man to find pleasure in his wife:

Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. Proverbs 5:15-19.

In the New Testament, Jesus attended a wedding and then miraculously provided wine when their supplies were exhausted (John 2:1-11). The Apostle Paul assumed that elders and deacons would be married with children (1 Timothy 3:2, 12). Paul also encouraged younger widows to marry (1 Timothy 5:14). He claimed the right as an apostle to “lead about a wife” (1 Corinthians 9:5). The writer to the Hebrews also held marriage in high esteem, and the proper realm for sexual enjoyment between husband and wife. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

In the Bible, marriage is viewed as the norm, and the single life as the exception. Marriage is viewed as holy, righteous, and good. Those who seek to prohibit marriage as something evil are identified as false teachers by Paul (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Marriage is a good gift from God that many Christians gratefully receive and enjoy.

We know that there was a previous letter from Paul to the Corinthians and it is reasonable to assume that the Corinthians wrote a letter to Paul asking his advice on certain matters. Beginning with the statement, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote…” suggests Paul was answering their questions. In studying for this lesson, I ran across a textual critic who notes that Paul doesn’t say he’s answering a question. He says he is responding to what they wrote. There’s a difference there.

Some people ask questions which are not meant to be enlightening. Many questions are asked in a way which cleverly “teaches” the one who is asked or others who are listening. Some seek to undermine the teaching or authority of the one asked. Remembering the Corinthian factions, it is entirely possible that the Corinthians were asking gotcha questions or it could also be that they wrote him what they thought was true and expected him to agree with them.

Were they, in their enlightened wisdom, attempting to teach Paul? It’s possible. Could they be writing to Paul as their spiritual father and mentor, wanting to hear his wisdom and heed it? I’m inclined to view their communication with Paul with suspicion.

We know from Paul’s words in chapter 5 that when a Corinthian church member was living with his father’s wife and that the church had not exercised church discipline, but instead were proud of their accepting attitude (5:2). Some Corinthians were proud as a result of sin and their response to it. When Paul raised the issue of sex and marriage in chapter 7, he was dealing with the opposite extreme in the church … those who have overreacted to fleshly lusts, seeking to overcome them by asceticism. These folks were just as proud of their asceticism as the others named in chapter 5 were of their fleshly indulgence. Perhaps these ascetics had become so smug they assumed Paul would applaud them. After all, when it came to sexual abstinence and remaining single, Paul stood out among the apostles, and among those in the churches (see 1 Corinthians 9:4-5). They may not have agreed with Paul on many matters, but these ascetics might well have wanted Paul’s endorsement here. Paul’s words in response to their communication probably shocked them.

Before attempting to interpret Paul’s words in verse 1, we must pause to point out that the translation of the NIV is inaccurate. The expression, “not to touch a woman,” is a reference to sexual intercourse, not marriage, and thus the NIV is in error when it translates as it does.

The idiom ‘to touch a woman’ occurs nine times in Greek antiquity, ranging across six centuries and a variety of writers, and in every other instance, without ambiguity it refers to having sexual intercourse. There is no evidence of any kind that it can be extended or watered down to mean, ‘It is good for a man not to marry.’71

The Corinthian ascetics didn’t sanction sexual immorality. Instead, they didn’t sanction sex. They felt sex is dirty, whether within marriage or without. This tells us more about the ascetics than it does about biblical morality: “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15). Having concluded that all sex is evil, these folks followed out the implications of their false doctrine. If all sex is evil, then it is evil to enjoy sex in marriage. Husbands and wives should abstain from sex, unless for the bearing of children … if that. And those who are single should avoid the “temptation to have sex” by avoiding and abstaining from marriage. Paul refused to endorse such a view.

It would have been really easy for Paul to come on strong with these Corinthians, but he was gentle in his rebuke, clearly distinguishing between his personal convictions, his counsel (advice), and his authoritative apostolic commands (see 7:6-7, 40). His approach was to introduce the issue at hand and then gently correct the errors. In later chapters (e.g. 8-10), Paul’s initial gentleness leads to a very clear and forceful conclusion.

The ascetics of the Corinthian church had overreacted to the immorality of their day and city, concluding that all sex is dirty and should be avoided, even within marriage. When Paul says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” I think he is repeating the position held by the Corinthian ascetics. It was another of those slogans introduced in Chapter 6. Paul repeated the statement, not because he agreed with it in its entirety, but because he agreed with it in part. Celibacy has its benefits, but not inside of marriage.

Questions for “#theresistance   1 comment

Image result for image of mike penceIt’s a two-parter. And, yes, this is research for a novel.

  • If you somehow manage to impeach Donald Trump, will you be satisfied with Mike Pence being the president or will you continue to demand that a Democrat be in the White House?
  • If you get your wish in getting that Democrat in the White House before 2020, how do you think Trump voters should react?

African Cities Are Being Built for Wealth Consumption Not Creation | Daniel Knowles   Leave a comment

A few days before Christmas, I had the most tense journey to an airport of my life. I was in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I had been reporting on the end of President Joseph Kabila’s term (he had refused to step down, despite being constitutionally limited to two terms).

My flight back to Kenya wasn’t due to take off until the mid-afternoon, but that morning my driver and I set out to the airport at 6 am. Along the Boulevard du 30 Juin, what used to be the city’s Belgian core, but is now a vast and smooth Chinese-built highway, rocks littered the road. We drove past lorries full of police officers in navy blue. On the corners, young men stood in small groups. Occasionally, we’d hear the pop of a teargas grenade being flung into the neighborhoods along the road.

Getting out of Kinshasa then was particularly stressful. But when I got inside the terminal and looked up at the forlorn departure boards, I was reminded that, even at the best of times, leaving Congo’s capital isn’t easy.

Urbanization Without Economic Growth

Kinshasa is only slightly better connected to the global economy than the North Pole.

This is Africa’s third biggest city. At 12 million, its population is bigger than London’s. Yet it has almost no connections to the outside world. On normal days, there are only 11 international flights out of Kinshasa per day. At Heathrow, the figure is around 1,400.

Image result for image of kinshasa slumsApart from the airport, the only other way into this vast megacity is the rickety ferry from neighboring Congo-Brazzaville. If you were extremely brave, you could try the road to the Atlantic Ocean. But that’s about it. Kinshasa can burn and most of the world doesn’t notice, because Kinshasa is only slightly better connected to the global economy than the North Pole.

And yet somehow it is one of the world’s fastest growing cities. Kinshasa is a particularly extreme example of how Africa is urbanizing without globalizing. Sixty years ago the whole of sub-Saharan Africa had no cities with a population of more than a million people. Now it has dozens.

But unlike the English peasants who moved to factory cities in the 19th century or Chinese ones in the 20th, the people moving to African cities are not moving to new global metropolises.

Africa’s urbanization is not driven by economic growth. Instead, people are moving to miserable mega-cities, with crumbling infrastructure and corrupt political systems, and which export almost nothing. Two-thirds of Africa’s urban population growth is accounted for by slums. Changing that may well be the biggest challenge facing African governments in the 21st century.

Glitz, Glam, and Slums

The problem with African cities is that they are generally built for the rich elite. Kinshasa is dotted with football stadiums, grand theatres, and spectacular government buildings – all the crumbling remains of president Mobutu Sese Seko’s attempt to build a pan-African capital.

Image result for image of kinshasa slumsAfrican cities are built for consuming, not creating, wealth.

In that, it is hardly alone. Dakar, in Senegal, has a ludicrous “African Renaissance” statue, built by North Korea. Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, has a growing number of glitzy housing estates for the wealthy, reclaimed from the lagoon. The most spectacular, Eko Atlantic, reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean by a Lebanese-Nigerian family, wants to be a new financial capital to rival Canary Wharf.

Yet all of these cities lack the basics. Roads are jammed up; power is erratic; there is often little in the way of sewage systems or clean water.

As a result, few competitive businesses want to move to African cities. Manufacturing is all but absent: the power and logistics are simply not good enough for factories. But neither are the service sector businesses that have boomed in Indian cities taking off, despite educated populations who speak English and French. The trouble is that the cost is simply too high.

According to one survey, of the 10 most expensive cities in the world, three are in Africa. Nobody expects New York City to be cheap, but that is because it has everything else a business could possibly want. N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, is pricey precisely because it has nothing a business needs.

Surviving on Natural Resources

Extreme inequality isn’t so much a product of the system; it is the cause of it.

What most African cities get by on is money from natural resources. As the Brookings Institution explains here, African cities are built for consuming, not creating, wealth.

The elite who capture oil or mining revenues have to live somewhere – and they concentrate their spending in cities. That is why the nightlife and restaurant scene in Kinshasa is so good, even though nothing else works. It’s the main thing the city produces. The poor flock in, hoping to feed on the scraps. Extreme inequality isn’t so much a product of the system; it is the cause of it.

Elsewhere in the world, cities which work well are expensive precisely because they are productive. London costs a fortune in part because so many good jobs are based there. What cities create is the possibility of specialization.

In a village, most people have to be farmers; in a city, you can do anything. And the wealthiest cities in the world are part of a network. As long as the developing world’s cities remain turned in on themselves, they will never be a part of that. Globalization, which is making the rest of the world’s metropolises more pleasant, exciting (and expensive) places to live, will pass Africa by.

Source: African Cities Are Being Built for Wealth Consumption Not Creation | Daniel Knowles

An Intelligence Cabal?   1 comment

I am ambivalent about President Donald Trump. If I could advise him on doing his job, I would tell him to close his mouth and still his Twitter thumbs for a half-hour before doing, saying or posting anything. He’s his own worst enemy because he lacks self-restraint and any sort of nuance.

Image result for image of nsa-cia-fbi cabalJames Comey needed to be fired, but it could have been handled more delicately, thus potentially avoiding the firestorm of criticism that followed. I don’t know what happened between the two men, and I don’t entirely care. Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation smacked of elitist favoritism and needed to be addressed with his removal. To the extent that Trump really plans to drain the DC swamp, this looked a little like it and I applaud that, even as I wince at the way that he went about it.

In the aftermath of the firing, Trump added fuel to the fire by complaining about the seemingly endless investigation into his administrations possible ties to Russia. That got the Democrats’ knickers in a knot, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense as an explanation of Comey’s firing. Trump has advisors (Mike Pence, for example) who would have told him that firing Comey wouldn’t end that investigation and that it was likely to inspire greater FBI intensity toward the investigation … which is exactly what happened. If you subscribe to the “Trump is an idiot” view of things, you might believe he’s dumb enough to dig himself a deeper hole, but nobody who has been as successful in business as President Trump has been is that stupid. I just find the theory that he became stupid upon entering the White House to be flimsy.

Some of my skepticism flows from my firm conviction that Wikileaks was the source of the DNC emails, not the Russians. Julian Assange has a reputation and if you know that reputation, you know that he doesn’t peddle in information of questionable provenance. As I’ve said before, he’s all about shattering the comfort that elite organizations have with communicating with each other. It wouldn’t serve his ends to help Russia spread information they wanted spread … unless of course he could see them being discredited by linking them to it. Feeding the government conspiracy theory beast isn’t an Assange goal.

The constant innuendo that Russia “hacked” our election with Trump’s full knowledge also doesn’t resonate with me. The glory of a republic with a decentralized electoral system means it is impossible for Russia to have affected the actual vote and I applaud whoever released the emails because the American voters had a right to know what our rulers think about us and to act upon that knowledge. I might wish they’d voted for Gary Johnson instead, but Donald Trump is no worse than Hillary Clinton would have been.

 

The fact is that Hillary was deeply embedded with the Deep State, which should cause all of us to wonder … what if there really is a conspiracy against Donald Trump being orchestrated within the various national security agencies that are part of the United States government?

President Trump has been complaining for months about damaging leaks emanating from the intelligence community and the failure of Congress to pay any attention to the illegal dissemination of classified information. Whenever the government and the media poo-poo something like that, I get suspicious. Donald Trump was a highly successful businessman. He’s not stupid. Why do we assume that he couldn’t have become aware of a conspiracy to delegitimize his election and somehow remove him from office?

President Trump has also been insisting that the allegation of Russian influence in the election is a made-up story, which I don’t disagree. What if senior officials of the Obama White House orchestrated a stealth coup that continues today under the guise of the Deep State? I’m not the only one who thinks Comey might have been party to such a conspiracy, in which case his dismissal would have been perfectly justified based on his demonstrated interference in both the electoral process and in his broadening of the acceptable role of his own bureau.

Two well-informed observers of the situation have recently joined in the discussion, Robert Parry of Consortiumnews and former CIA senior analyst Ray McGovern of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. McGovern has noted that there is one individual who has been curiously absent from the list of former officials who have been called in to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. That is ex-CIA Director John Brennan, long considered an extreme Obama/Hillary Clinton loyalist and rumored to be at the center of the information damaging to the Trump administration gathered by friendly intelligence services, including the British.

McGovern suggests that Brennan and Comey may been at the center of a Deep State CIA-NSA-FBI cabal working to discredit the Trump candidacy and delegitimize his presidency. Brennan was uniquely well placed to fabricate the Russian hacker narrative that has been fully embraced by Congress and the media even though no actual evidence supporting that claim has been produced. As WikiLeaks has now revealed that the CIA had the technical ability to hack into sites surreptitiously while leaving behind footprints that would attribute the hack to someone else, including the Russians, you don’t have to be a fiction writer to consider that the alleged trail to Moscow might have been fabricated. This false intelligence has proven to be of immense value to those seeking to present “proof” that the Russian government handed the presidency to Donald Trump.

Robert Parry asked in a May 10th article whether we are seeing is “Watergate redux or ‘Deep State’ coup?”. He followed up on May 13th with “The ‘Soft Coup’ of Russia-gate”  

So, the question is:

is this all a cover-up of White House wrongdoing similar to President Nixon firing of Watergate independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox and the resignations of both the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, or

is it an undermining of an elected president who has not actually committed any “high crimes and misdemeanors” to force his removal from office.

I am a reluctant conspiracy theorist because I think conspiracies are hard to keep secret. The federal government leaks like a sieve and bureaucrats are notorious gossips. Any large group of CIA operatives meeting in secret would become public knowledge within a week. Alternatively, this could be a loose arrangement between individuals driven by a common objective, which would reduce the need for meetings in the CIA parking garage. 

Parry suggests the three key players in the scheme are:

  • John Brennan of CIA, Director of National Intelligence
  • James Clapper
  • James Comey of the FBI.

Comey’s role in the “coup” was key because it consisted of using his office to undercut both Hillary Clinton and Trump, neither of whom was seen as a truly suitable candidate by the Deep State … Trump because he’s not a life-long government operative and Hillary because she is … well, “unstable” comes to mind.

Parry speculates that a broken election might well have resulted in a vote in the House of Representatives to elect the new president, a process that might have produced a Colin Powell presidency as Powell actually received three votes in the Electoral College and therefore was an acceptable candidate under the rules governing the electoral process.

Parry carefully documents how Russiagate has developed and how the national security and intelligence organs have been key players as it moved along, often working by leaking classified information. President Barack Obama de facto authorized the wide distribution of raw intelligence on Trump and the Russians through executive order, which would suggest plausible deniability if anyone got caught. Parry notes that to-date no actual evidence has been presented to support allegations that Russia sought to influence the U.S. election and/or that Trump associates were somehow co-opted by Moscow’s intelligence services as part of the process. Nevertheless, anyone even vaguely connected with Trump who also had contact with Russia or Russians has been regarded as a potential traitor. 

Parry’s point is that there is a growing Washington consensus that consists of traditional liberals and progressives, Democratic globalist interventionists and neoconservatives who believe that Donald Trump must be removed by any means necessary. The interventionists and neocons in particular already control most of the foreign policy mechanisms but they continue to see Trump as a possible impediment to their plans for aggressive action against a host of enemies, particularly Russia. As they are desirous of bringing down Trump “legally” through either impeachment or Article 25 of the Constitution which permits removal for incapacity, it might be termed a constitutional coup.

The rationale Trump haters have fabricated is simple: the president and his team colluded with the Russians to rig the 2016 election in his favor, which, if true, would provide grounds for impeachment. The steady drumbeat is that Trump must be removed “for the good of the country” and to “correct a mistake made by the American voters.” The mainstream media is completely on board with the process.

Could we all calm down for just a moment. President Trump is the duly elected president. George W. Bush and Barack Obama did plenty of things that in retrospect should have upset a wide swath of the American public. The provocative views of Ray McGovern and Robert Parry bear consideration. These are not friends of the White House or apologists for the Trump administration. McGovern has been strongly critical of current foreign policy, most particularly of the expansion of various wars, claims of Damascus’s use of chemical weapons, and the cruise missile attack on Syria. Parry describes Trump as narcissistic and politically incompetent.

What if the Deep State is moving us in a direction that is far more dangerous than anything Donald Trump might do? A soft coup engineered by the national security and intelligence agencies would be far more dangerous to our democracy than anything coming out of the Oval Office. 

Posted May 25, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Government, Uncategorized

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