Archive for January 2018

Open Book Blog Hop – January 15th   Leave a comment

Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

This week we have to share a recent travel experience or anecdote.

I suppose it’s got to be the morning of Sunday December 10th, when my eldest son Leon drove me 200 miles from the centre of Manchester to where we live in Suffolk, East Anglia.  We had been to see Queen + Adam Lambert the evening before at the Manchester Arena.

Snow had been predicted on the previous day’s weather forecast, but there was no sign of it as we set off southbound on the M6 around 9.30am.  However, after about an hour into the journey sure enough snow was falling, and by the looks of it had already been falling for some time.  High winds had blown snow across the motorway and the outside lane was blocked with a thick slush.  Traffic had slowed down, but some cars were risking the outside lane and skidding.

Thankfully Leon was…

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Posted January 15, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Northern Adventures   2 comments

January 15, 2018 – Share a recent travel experience or anecdote.

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I heard recently that about 40% of Americans have never traveled outside of the United States and about 11% have never left the state they were born in. Wow! When you live in Alaska, which has no land connection to the contiguous 48-states, travel is sort of required to live.

The OP for this blog hop, however, says a recent travel experience. I flew down to Seattle a couple of months ago, but Seattle is just a gateway city for Alaska where my mother’s family happens to live. Kind of boring – Pike’s Market is only super exciting if you live in the vegetable-deprived northland, although I really do want to explore the Puget Sound area more thoroughly when I have time and a car and no relatives suggesting sights within Seattle’s urban environs. The west side of Puget Sound looks cool to me … a mystery that must be explored.

Alaska, however — most everybody thinks that’s sexy. So, digging back into our summer travels -we drove the Dalton Highway this summer.

I do say that living in Alaska is the adventure of a lifetime. Even our Sunday drives can be exciting. We realized that our son had never driven the Dalton, so we decided it was time. Brad has driven it many times as an electrician on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, but I hadn’t been above Yukon River Bridge for several years. Not a lot has changed since the days when we called it “the haul road” (because the Legislature took decades to name it), but memories fade and I was excited to renew an old acquaintance.

We got up early on Friday morning of the four-day weekend we had planned. It’s 400 miles one direction and this is not a road to be driven quickly, so we were prepared for it to take all four days. At 6:30 in the morning, the June air was crisp and clean and the sun was already up over the roofs to the east, having barely dipped below the horizon from midnight to 2 am the night before. It was sunny and the Jeep was packed. Really, all we had to do was put our toiletries kit and cooler in the car, let the dog and 18-year-old into the back seat and stop for breakfast. I always make a thermos and pack at least one meal before we go because there are not a lot of services outside of Fairbanks, but by tradition, we stop for mochas and something to eat on the way out of town. It’s like a final hurrah to civilization, even if we’re just taking the paved Parks Highway to Anchorage. We had filled up with gas the night before and Brad had checked all the tires, including the spare, and the fluids. We rubbed each other down with sunscreen in anticipation of the day and we made sure we had plenty of water and food. In case you’re wondering, our dog eats dry kibbles off the ground on road trips. As a final step, even though it was June, I checked 511 for the road conditions. You just never know with Alaska roads. A previously planned trip the year before had been canceled when the Dalton washed out at spring breakup.

The first 84 miles of the trip is technically not on the Dalton, which doesn’t start until you get to the mining community of Livengood. It’s a lovely drive on paved highway through alpine regions and we stopped in Livengood for an early lunch/late breakfast from the cooler at which point Brad decided he wanted a nap, so I became the driver with Keirnan shot-gun and the yellow Lab sitting on the floor in the backseat with her chin on Brad’s stomach.

Image result for image of yukon river bridgeThe highway parallels the pipeline for the most part. It’s one of the most isolated roads in the United States. There are only three towns along the corridor and fuel stops are few. The road is mostly gravel. Still, despite its remoteness, the Dalton carries a fair amount of truck traffic, about 160 trucks a day in summer and twice that in winter. Trucks have the right of way and I’m not about to argue with them about it. I signaled every truck that pulled up behind me to let them pass and pulled over whenever I could to make their lives easier.

I have seen the TAPS plenty of times and so has Keirnan, so we didn’t stop until we reached Yukon River Bridge. We went into the visitors center so Keirnan, who is a budding engineer could view the pipeline’s attachment to the bridge and I could use the port-a-pots. Goldeneyes took a dip in the river and Brad woke up. It was too early in the season to pick blueberries, but they were in full pink flower, scenting the air with their candy-like fragrance. We walked down the trail to the viewing deck to take some photos. Then we lost our minds at that point and decided to splurge on lunch at the Hot Spot Cafe. Great burgers, fresh salads, and homemade desserts. By this time, it was midday and we decided to let Keirnan drive since he has a learners permit and needs the practice.

Image result for image of finger mountain wayside alaskaIt’s boreal forest on both sides of the highway, some of which was devastated by forest fires in 2005 and 2006. There’s a lot of new-growth brush with charcoal trees standing above, like wicks in a tub candle. We saw a lot of scraggly black spruce, several moose, a fox, a lot of snowshoe hares, and a family of black bears. After a truck scared the daylights out of Keirnan, we pulled over at Finger Mountain Wayside and hiked the trail to the summit. We dawdled taking photographs and then we stopped and hiked to a small lake to fish for our 5-fish limit of arctic grayling. We stopped for the night (though it was pretty early) at the Arctic Circle. This is an undeveloped campground with a nearby viewing deck and picnic area. There’s no water, but there was an outhouse and trash containers.  We cooked the foil-wrapped grayling over a campfire with pan-fried potatoes on the side. Because this is bear country, we pitched our tent a good distance from where we ate and locked up all food in the car.

Related imageWe didn’t rush to get up in the morning. The sun never really went down, which isn’t a problem if you’re used to it. So we lazed about in the tent until the sun began to warm the air. Then we had eggs scrambled with cheese and thick slices of homemade bread slathered with butter and reloaded the Jeep for our second day of travel. We ate grapes during our morning drive.

We stopped at Gobblers Knob because Brad confessed he never had. I’d swear we stopped there once a long time ago, but he is apparently a victim of memory wipe. He had also never stopped (or more accurately, never gotten out of the truck) at the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center. It is such a quintessential tourist stop I just had to do it and we did learn about a fishing stream he hadn’t known about before.

Coldfoot was established as Slate Creek in 1898 by miners. In 1902 it was a toddling little town with two roadhouses, two stores, seven saloons, a gambling house and a post office. By 1912, it was a ghost town. The town revived for a short while during the 1970s during the TAPS construction and then faded. But in 1981, Iditarod musher, Dick Mackey set up a hamburger stand for truck drivers and now it’s an important stop along the highway, but since we’d blown our first day’s food budget at the Hot Spot, we just topped off with very expensive gas and ate sandwiches from the cooler instead. It’s on our return itinerary.

Image result for image of black jeep cherokee along dalton highwayWe stopped for photos and some short hikes along the way, finally pulling into Wiseman, which has about 20 people living in it these days. Most of Coldfoot’s buildings were sledged to Wiseman after the town died, so it’s still a lot of fun to poke around there. I do have some friends who live up in the mountains west of Wiseman, but the Jeep, which a great wilderness vehicle, is not a truly off-road one, so we decided not to attempt a visit. It would have taken us all the rest of the day to travel that far anyway.

We stopped at Sukakpak Mountain. Brad and I climbed it years ago and wanted to give Keirnan, an accomplished rock-climber a shot at it. I made dinner while they climbed and then Goldeneyes and I did a little bouldering while the fish simmered over a low fire. The mountain is an incredible limestone deposition of absolutely gorgeous marble.

Image result for galbraith lakeWe didn’t camp at Sukakpak because the mosquitos were a little heavy – marshy land surrounds the mountain — but also because it was still way too early to stop for the night. We continued northward to Atigun Pass, which is the Continental Divide of Northern Alaska, a narrow wind slot through the awe-inspiring Brooks Range.  Just south of there we passed the last tree on the Dalton Highway. That’s sort of a misnomer. North of there, the tundra doesn’t support tall trees, so trees you and I might know – birch and willow for example, only grow to knee height or so. The mountains to either side of the road are austere, beautiful in a lonely kind of way. Not far past Atigun, just at the start of the Arctic North Slope, is Galbraith Lake where another undeveloped campground with spectacular views of the Brooks Range awaited. We slept there. It was lovely ….

Sometimes during the night, the dog asked to come into the tent because she was afraid of dying of hypothermia. Keirnan had to towel ice off her fur before we could all go back to sleep. It was cold and rainy when we woke up the next morning. Not taking off our shorts and tank tops, we layered on our polar fleece and rain gear. We spent a good bit of the morning hiking around and didn’t leave until mid-morning.

The North Slope is a broad, mostly flat, treeless plain that tilts north from the Brooks to the Arctic Ocean. It’s a subtle place – a land of browns and tans and shifting shadows. Fog glittered around us when we woke up and then the sun peeked through the clouds, sending rainbows dancing.

Image result for galbraith lakeWe arrived at Franklin Bluffs by the Sagavanirktok River (we just call it the Sag). The east bank of the Sag is this rich yellow-tan-orange hue from heavy iron deposits. While I was utilizing nature for a natural activity, I spotted the young lady to my right. It’s not safe to interact with Arctic fox because rabies is endemic, but she was willing to pose for a photo.

Brad has been this way many times, so has more photos from more trips. Here are some of the sights he has seen along the Sag. Those are caribou, not reindeer and they were just a few feet off the highway when he snapped the photo.

Image result for sagavanirktok

But Keirnan got this picture while hiking away from our camp.

Related image

Yes, that’s a muskox. He was farther away than it seems. Keirnan has a telephoto. And we was also part of a herd of about five. No doubt there were more that Keirnan didn’t see.

By design we made Deadhorse in the early afternoon. You can go further north if you pay for a tour that will allow you to see the Arctic Ocean and we did – but I might want to use that tour of the oil fields some other time. The public road ends here. We had lunch at Brower’s Restaurant (the sweet tea was really good and we took soft serve ice cream with us).

And then we turned south and drove all the way to Coldfoot where we had two rooms rented for the night. The rooms are very pipeline man camp-ish and the only reason Brad wanted to stay there is that he can’t stand baby wipe baths for more than two nights. Keirnan and I have dry, curly hair, so it doesn’t bother us, but Brad likes to shower. The breakfast was GREAT and it was so lovely to wake up on the sunny side of the Brooks Range.

Related imageIt was now Monday morning and I needed to be back to work the next day, so we drove pretty steadily back south, taking turns behind the wheel, but stopping for photos from time to time and to get the dog wet. She is happiest when her fur is damp. We stopped at that fishing stream near the Interagency Visitors Center. It was a bust for fishing, but a pleasant place to picnic.

Technically, it’s not on the Dalton, but on the Elliott, but we stopped at Hilltop Restaurant and Truck Stop for dinner. Their pies are to die for – unfortunately, Brad and I are reaching the age where we do need to watch our calories. The sun was still above the trees to the west when we turned back onto the New Steese Highway for the last 10 miles to home.

“So what do you think, Keirnan?” I asked, as I was driving and he was my copilot (Brad having climbed into the back with the dog cuddled to his chest this time).

“The state just got bigger, Mom. I’m sort of use to the idea of it taking seven hours to drive to Anchorage and six hours to drive to Chitina (where we go salmon fishing), but now — wow.”

You can live in that state your whole life and never see all of it, which I guess is as good excuse as any for living here your whole life. I love to travel out and away, but there is something about the road untraveled in Alaska … I can just imagine what it must have been like for the early pioneers seeing it for the first time and smelling the blueberries in bloom and thinking “This is heaven.”

Heaven with the capacity to bite you on the bum anyway.

Posted January 15, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Tell the Truth   Leave a comment

Image result for image of telling the truthMinisters and ordinary Christians face a constant temptation to tell people what they want to hear rather than what they need to know. Sermons that confront a congregation with their spiritual shortcomings don’t usually result in a pat on the back. Instead, they quite often yield criticism and hostility. That’s why strong evangelical preaching and discipleship has largely fallen by the wayside these days. To preach in a way that serves Christ and not people’s egos takes courage and it is easy to become disheartened when people turn a deaf ear to preaching that tells it like it is.

Thereforesince we have this ministryjust as God has shown us mercy, we do not become discouraged. But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of Godbut by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God. But even if our gospel is veiledit is veiled only to those who are perishing among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselvesbut Jesus Christ as Lord, and  ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For Godwho said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Paul repeatedly had to deal with discouragement in his ministry. There were plenty of preachers whose motives were less than honorable and who would do whatever they thought would gain a following. There were also churches who were readily seduced by flattering speech and winsome ways. It would have been all too easy for someone who remained faithful in preaching Christ and not themselves to grow weary of the downside of human nature.

Paul didn’t give in to discouragement. What heartened him were two things: the character of his ministry and the mercy of God.

Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, he says, we do not lose heart (v. 1). Paul looked on his ministry as something he received not because of any personal merit but on account of God’s favor. Nor was this a matter of theoretical knowledge. Paul experienced God’s mercy firsthand when he was stopped dead in his tracks while pursuing Jewish Christians who had fled Jerusalem for the safer haven of Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). Then there was the surpassing splendor of the new covenant (this ministry). The privilege of being a minister of such a covenant more than compensated for the trials and tribulations that he experienced as an itinerant preacher.

As a result, Paul did not lose heart (enkakoumen, v. 1). The Greek verb means “to act badly” in the face of difficulties; “to give up” or “grow weary” while pursuing a worthwhile goal. Paul wouldn’t allow any obstacles inside or outside the churches to pressure him into abandoning his ministry. Instead of giving in to discouragement, he deliberately and categorically “renounces” the kind of behavior that characterized much of the itinerant speaking of his day. He described this behavior as secret and shameful (v. 2). The phrase is literally “the secret things of shame.” “Secret things” are a person’s innermost thoughts and intentions. These are deeds one hides because of their shameful character.

Paul rejected two types of shameful deeds. First, he does not use deception. Use is literally “to walk” (peripateo)–a verb that occurs frequently in Paul’s writings to describe the Christian life. The Greek term for deception means “capable of anything” (pan + ourgia). In the New Testament it refers to those who use their ability unscrupulously and denotes cunning or slyness. Not only does Paul not resort to deception, but, second, he does not distort the word of God. The verb distort (dolow) is commonly employed of adulterating merchandise for profit. Paul refused to follow in the footsteps of others who tamper with God’s word in order to make it more palatable to the listener or more lucrative for themselves.

Paul eschewed any behavior that was not according to the character of the gospel that he preached. His opponents, had no such scruples. They quite willingly exploited the Corinthians for financial gain (2:17; 11:20). Paul, instead, set forth the truth plainly. The Greek term translated “set forth” (th phanerwsei) refers to an open declaration or full disclosure. The contrast is between a straightforward and open message as opposed to a deceptive presentation of the gospel.

Paul told it like it was and we should tell it like it is.

By setting forth the gospel in a plain-spoken way, Paul “commended” himself to every person’s conscience.The conscience is where conviction takes hold that what one is hearing is the truth. Paul didn’t seek to commend himself to a person’s ego or intellect but appealed to their capacity to distinguish between right and wrong. He didn’t simply trust human judgment but commended himself in the sight of God. He was aware that what he did was done under the perpetually watchful eye of the Lord.

Paul went on in verses 3-4 to deal with the accusation that his message is veiled (kekalymmenon). It would appear–if we can read between the lines–that Paul’s critics reasoned from the absence of large numbers of converts (especially from among his own people) to some fault in his preaching. Paul was the first one to recognize that he was not an overly impressive speaker, as speakers go. This was deliberate on his part, as he would have his audience know only “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). So it isn’t surprising that he didn’t deny the charge. The conditional form that he chose acknowledged their claim: If [as you claim] our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing (ei + indicative). But what he didn’t allow was that there was some fault with the message that he preached. If the content of his preaching was veiled, it was not because he didn’t present the truthes of the gospel plainly (v. 2).

The fault lie rather in three areas. First, the audience was at fault. If there was a hidden aspect to what he preached, it only appeared so to those who were perishing. As in 2:15-16, Paul divided humanity into two groups based on their destiny:

  • those who are on the road to destruction (tois apollymenois)
  • by implication, those who are on the road to salvation.

To the one the gospel makes no sense (v. 3), while to the other it is plain as day (v. 6).

The fault lies, second, with the situation. The minds of those who are perishing have been blinded. The blindness is inability to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (v. 4). As the Mosaic covenant shone with glory, so the gospel shines with glory. Of Christ is plausibly construed as objective: “the glorious gospel about Christ.”

Christ is further described as “the image of God.” To be an image is to be a true representation. We say today that a child is the “spitting image” of his father or mother. Wisdom is similarly described as “a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God and an image of his goodness” (Wisdom of Solomon 7:26). Paul stated that Christ is, not was, God’s image, for He alone brings to visible expression the nature of an invisible God (Col 1:15). To see Christ is to see God and to not see Christ is to not see God.

The fault lies, third, with the source of the blindness. Unbelievers cannot see the gospel’s light because their minds have been blinded by the god of this age (v. 4). This is the only place where Paul referred to the adversary of God’s people as a god. He was usually called Satan or the devil–although in Ephesians 2:2 he was named “the ruler of the kingdom of the air.” It could well be that these are traditional formulations Paul used because of their familiarity to his readers. But there is no denying the power of this being. He can destroy the flesh (1 Cor 5:5), masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14) and empower his servant, the antichrist, to work all manner of miracles, signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Paul’s thorn in the flesh is attributed to him (2 Corinthians 12:7), as is tempting (1 Corinthians 7:5), scheming against (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11) and trapping (2 Timothy 2:26) the believer. On more than one occasion Paul experienced firsthand his active opposition to the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:18).

The Christian, especially preachers, in our media-oriented society is pressured to use the pulpit as a stage for displaying eloquence, dramatic skill and fine oratory. Congregations add to this pressure with their desire to be amused and entertained. As a result, preaching is often seen by outsiders as just another stage performance. And what is hailed as a successful ministry is sometimes little more than good acting. But to his credit Paul said of himself and his coworkers in Christ, that “we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (v. 5).

The emphasis in terms of word order is on not ourselves (ou heautous khryssomen, “not ourselves do we preach”; v. 5). It is hard to determine whether Paul was on the offensive or defensive here. He certainly accused the Corinthian intruders later in the letter of putting on airs (10:12-18). But he also appears to have been faulted for ministerial arrogance (3:12–4:3)–although his claim to preach Christ and not himself was not an idle one. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 he reminded the Corinthians that on his founding visit he did not come to them with eloquence, superior wisdom or wise and persuasive words. This was so that they might know nothing while he was with them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Now he is concerned that they know not only the crucified Christ but also Jesus as Lord, that is, Jesus as master of their congregational life.

What then is Paul’s role? In 1:24 he said that he didn’t not lord it over the church but worked together with them. Here he goes even further in defining his role as that of a servant (doulos). As an apostle of Christ, he could have merely said the word and commanded their obedience. Domination was not Paul’s style. He was there to serve them and used a command only as a last resort.

This is an important reminder for pastors today. If Christ is to be truly Lord of the church, then pastors must be content with the role of servant.

Paul went on to explain why he preached Jesus Christ as Lord. For God . . . made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (v. 6). The familiar caricature of sudden understanding as a light bulb going on in a person’s mind captures the idea. Knowing what, however? In verse 4 it was knowing the good news about Christ. Here it is “knowing God” –or more specifically, knowing “God’s glory”.

This knowledge, Paul said, God made shine in our hearts. It is commonly thought that Paul referred to his Damascus Road encounter, but Luke described that experience as “a light from heaven [that] flashed around him (Acts 9:3), while here it is a light that illumines the heart. Paul also uses the plural our hearts, indicating that this was (and should be) the experience of all gospel ministers. Some aspect of his conversion experience is undoubtedly in view. Perhaps it was the point at which “God was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles” (Gal 1:15-16).

Paul pictured the conversion experience as a new creation (v. 6). For it is the God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, who illumines the human heart through knowledge of himself. The key thought is that God’s light dispels darkness, whether it be the physical darkness of night or the spiritual darkness of human ignorance. The idea of light dispelling darkness is a recurring one in the Old Testament. Perhaps the most familiar texts are Isaiah 9:1-2, where it is promised that those who walk in darkness in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali will see “a great light,” and Isaiah 49:6, where it is said that God will make his “servant . . . a light for the Gentiles.”

The light that dispels darkness in the human heart is found in the face of Christ. Paul was undoubtedly thinking of the Incarnation. The face is the image that we present in public. Christ’s face, then, is what He presented during his earthly ministry. This is the second time Paul linked knowledge of God irrevocably with Jesus Christ. The connection is a relatively simple one: To know Christ is to know God; to not know Christ is to not know God.

Non-Aggression in Politics   Leave a comment

So, it was New Years Day and we were invited to a friend’s house for food and fun. Mostly we paid Risk. There were several people there who we didn’t know and this one woman asked me if I’d signed some Internet petition demanding that President Trump be removed from office.

Image result for image of government aggression

Why, no, I haven’t. So, she assumed I’d voted for Trump and things got a little tense there for a moment. Fortunately, our son was sitting with me at the time and he spoke up before hostilities could resume.

“Nope, she voted for Gary Johnson.”

Thanks, Kiernan. The hostile conversation turned abruptly toward my “utopian” principles. Well, actually, it started with “Who is Gary Johnson?” and sort of went from there.

Image result for image of government aggressionI used to care about politics, but these days, I mostly care about the philosophy behind politics. I came to the conclusion when President Obama and the Democrats took the entire government down the primrose path that voting is the tyranny of a narrow majority against everybody who voted against taking that path. When Obama had a dismal four years as economic leader and foreign policy leader and still won the 2012 election, I realized that our system of elections is apparently rigged. It made no sense to me that state after state had flipped to Republican control at their governor- and legislative levels, but this incompetent was still our president. I had decided at the last moment that I couldn’t support Mitt Romney because until he won the nomination he’d never had more than 40% GOP support and there were some much better-qualified candidates who could have been nominated. So, I voted for whoever was running under the Libertarian ticket at the time. I didn’t expect him to win and there’s no evidence votes for him swayed the Obama-Romney contest at all, but I just couldn’t bring myself to cast a vote between an incompetent and a man who didn’t seem to represent conservatives in the least.

Image result for image of government aggressionSo, in 2016, there were no good choices after the nomination. There were some good choices in the primaries, but that all went away after Super Tuesday. I definitely would have voted for Rand Paul or, had Malcolm O’Malley won the Democratic nomination, I might have voted Democrat against Donald Trump. So, I planned by the weekend after Super Tuesday that I was voting for the Libertarian candidate. I actually think Gary Johnson would have made a good president, though his vice-presidential mate was such a progressive Republican he should have been a Democrat.

This is where I have evolved to over the last few years in the political realm. It was the answer I gave to my host’s sister when she asked me how I could not have taken sides in the election of 2016 and the year following.

I don’t believe that some humans — let’s call them “rulers” — should get moral sanction to use violence against other people – we’ll call them (“the ruled”) — to get what they (“rulers”) want.

If that doesn’t sound controversial to you, you probably agree with me (you’re reading my blog afterall). But it is possible that, like my friend’s sister, you aren’t paying close enough attention to how politics works.

Image result for image of government aggressionAlthough I don’t believe the world is non-violent by nature, I think we should strive to not exert violence on our fellow human beings. Which casts all governments into doubt, because force is the essence of all governments from top to bottom. How did Louis XIV funding the palace of Versailles? Force) When George III raise an army to crush a revolt, he used force to make that happen. Vladimir Lenin redistributed confiscated land by force. Your local police officer enforces any number of laws through the use of threatened force, which amounts to the same thing. In every instance where government operates, you’re talking about people who rely on violence or the threat of violence to achieve compliance for their plans. They ultimately do not ask or require your consent. Their authority ultimately rests on the implied threat that they will beat you up if you don’t do what they say.

Somehow we came to believe that this was a normal state of affairs. It’s not okay to rob people in the park even if it is to pay for mowing the park grass, but it is okay to elect people who rob your bank account for taxes to pay for mowing the park’s grass. I’ve recognized the hypocrisy of that and I reject it. Just because we exert force upon each other through politics rather than guns to the head doesn’t mean we are acting non-violently toward each other. The threat of force makes it violent.

My views are pretty radical because a consistent commitment to non-violence means I don’t think “governments” as we know them should exist. Governments are easily the most organized and pervasive violence-users on the planet. 

Ideals like mine often get confused with utopianism. We’ve all been there. We’ve all heard the refrains – “The world has always been like that,” “Human beings are violent by nature,” and “Human beings always create violent systems/governments, though!” It all boils down to “But that’s utopian!”

With due respect, you’re missing the point entirely.

I believe violence exists and is one of the world’s biggest problems. I even warn you in advance that I believe in the right to self-defense. Since the Fall, humans have been a violent species. Human history is bloody, and we only get better at devising new ways to use violence to kill and manipulate each other. I’m not against violence because I believe that the humans are inherently good or peaceful. We’re not. Treating each other without aggression is not, from my viewpoint, going to make us better at root. We are what we are and we are prone to push each other around. But why shouldn’t we condemn aggression even if we can’t get rid of it?

Why shouldn’t I oppose aggression regardless of our tendency to use it? If humans are indeed corrupt by nature, why wouldn’t I want to limit our access to violence and tools of aggression like government?

Yes, government is a tool of aggression and violence. Consider how a majority of the population was opposed to the ACA prior to its passage, but the ruling class forced us to accept it and now some of us have gotten used to it, regardless of whether others have a different opinion. That was aggression in action – some people (rulers) forcing others (the ruled) do do what the rulers wanted.

Now consider this last year of Trump. What are people rioting in streets for? They fear that the Trump administration will force them to participate in things they don’t want to participate in. And, if they’re right, then government is an instrument of aggression and they are right to resist it.

Think about the problem of police brutality. It existed in the Bush 2 administration, seems to have gotten worse in the Obama administration and has not gone anywhere in the Trump administration. Is the problem who is in charge of the police or is it that the police exist at all? Well, we’ve tried to put different people in charge without a lot of change, so maybe the problem is that the police have the power to conduct violence against everyone else and it is their existence that is the problem.

I don’t think doing away with government will somehow create a society without violence. Human beings will always be able to turn to violence to get what they want. I don’t see a way around it. But that doesn’t mean that reducing government violence would make the situation worse. There’s an awful lot of Americans behind bars for “victimless” crimes that would not be behind bars if police didn’t have a mandate to use violence against them. Those people come out of prison unable to get jobs, which increases their propensity to use violence to get what they need to live. It’s easy to say “if they just didn’t break the law”, but was the law even necessary for a peaceful society and what might happen if we stopped using government to force people to live as we want them to live? You see, my opposition to violence isn’t contingent on a fairy-tale wish fulfillment of a society free of violence. I’m focused on harm-reduction.

There are plenty of things we choose to consistently oppose on ethical grounds: murder, rape, theft, child abuse, etc. These crimes will never go away completely. We don’t make an ethical exception for these acts because they’re inevitable. We condemn them roundly regardless of our inability to completely eliminate them.

So my question is this: why shouldn’t condemn violence even if we can’t get rid of it? So, why shouldn’t we condemn violent governments even if we can’t get rid of them?

 

The accusation of utopianism misunderstands both utopianism and nonviolence.

The actual utopians we’ve seen in history were social planners. They had a vision for a world they would build, usually from the top down. The communists and the Nazis were by-the-book utopians, as have been the social organizers and religious leaders of hundreds of social experiments and colonies. The really earnest utopians loved to use violence (or the threat of violence) to get the magical new world order they wanted. They weren’t nice guys. They made life hell for everyone around them.

 

The non-aggression principle is a counter-cultural ideal, resting entirely on the premise of “non aggression.” It doesn’t rule out self-defense against the violence of others. It’s not a vision for what a society should be. It’s not a plan for how millions of people should make their billions of daily decisions. It’s only a prohibition on one way – the destructive way – to relate to other people. It’s a humble way of living with other humans, and it’s effectively a prohibition on utopianism because it’s grounded in realistic optimism

The history of the world is full of darkness and violence, but there have also been flashes of peace and creativity. I don’t think human nature really changes, but it does vary a lot. The countries with the most authoritarian governments are rarely the most peaceful and creative. Think the USSR or China when it was a full-fledged communist regime. And, truthfully, we’ll probably always have some forms of authoritarian system because some people feel comfortable with governments, gangs, warlords and the like. But just because violence and the systems that organize it won’t go away doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for the ideal.

 

 

When I ask people to join me in condemning politics, I’m asking them to do the same thing. The great joke about libertarianism is that we are plotting to take over the world and leave you alone. I have no desire to plan a society or create a new human being from scratch. I don’t see utopia ahead. I see a long, slow chain of day-to-day ethical decisions where individuals choose not to agress on one another. Even today, individual people choose in every moment of their political lives whether they will use violence, participate in violence,  or cheer on the “popular” violence done by someone in a government promising them safety or wealth or peace or …. well, name that political campaign.

As for me, I won’t sanction it. Maybe you’ll decide that you won’t either. if enough of us start doing things differently, we might just make the world better. Whether we succeed or not (in our lifetimes or a dozen generations from now), we still have to make a choice for ourselves. I choose non-aggression, and I guess that makes me a radical, but I reject the notion that I am utopian because utopians tend to be aggressive in their attempts to establish the new world order they envision.  

A Common Law “Country”   Leave a comment

When you say you’re a libertarian, you usually soon get asked the question “If your ideas work so well, why has no country ever tried to implement them.” My answer is always “Because people like to be in power and they never give freedom a chance for very long.”

 

Viable efforts to establish new countries that could actually be taken seriously are everywhere. Separatist groups in Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Spain want to create their own independent states, to name just a few movements across Europe. The most advanced efforts are in Catalonia, which in October voted overwhelmingly to separate from Spain. Its efforts to become independent were put down by force by the Spanish government.

But perhaps the most successful new country is one that you may have never heard about. It’s called Somaliland, and it is carved out of the territory of the war-torn nation of Somalia.

Here’s what it looks like:

You’ve no doubt read quite a lot about Somalia, which claims sovereignty over Somaliland, in recent years. The government that the international community recognizes is riddled with corruption and effectively controls only a small portion of its official territory. When Islamist militants seized Somalia’s capital Mogadishu in 2006, a coalition of African countries intervened to restore the so-called “legitimate” government.

Unfortunately for citizens of Somalia, the government hasn’t been able to restore the rule of law. Just a few weeks ago, Mogadishu experienced the worst terror attack in Somalia’s history. More than 300 people were killed.

Somalia is not a place you’d want to invest in or visit. Yet, this is the Somalia the world recognizes as a sovereign state.

However, the northern region of the country – Somaliland – is very different. Crime is low, terrorism is almost non-existent, and the standard of living is higher. A series of peaceful elections has reinforced democratic rule for more than 25 years. While nearly all the residents of Somaliland are Muslim, disputes are settled under a traditional tribal system called Xeer. Like the common law that America inherited from England, Xeer is based on legal precedent and local customs.

While the world continues to acknowledge the corrupt government of Somalia, Somaliland has quietly prospered, despite lack of international recognition. It has its own currency and issues its own passports, which enjoy (limited) recognition.

That’s not all Somaliland has going for it. It claims a territory of 68,000 square miles and has a population that exceeds 3.5 million people. And crucially, it has the ability to defend its territory, with more than 35,000 soldiers.

Somaliland’s economy recently got a huge boost when one of the world’s largest seaport management companies, DP World, agreed to develop a new port there.

Part of the agreement provides for DP World to create a free trade zone in Berbera on the Gulf of Aden. It will be modeled on Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone, currently the largest free trade zone in the Middle East.

The fact that a major company like DP World is willing to make a big bet on Somaliland represents a pivotal vote of confidence for the country. It just might be the ingredient needed to compel the international community to recognize Somaliland as a sovereign nation. That’s especially true as conditions in “official” Somalia continue to deteriorate.

Certainly, Somaliland will continue to face challenges in the months and years ahead. But the fact that its government is looking to the example of Dubai, one of the world’s most prosperous regions, is a bellwether for the future. And it just might be a model for other new countries to follow.

Posted January 11, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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When Did the Tea Party Really Start?   Leave a comment

December 16, 2017 is the tenth anniversary of the modern Tea Party.

Naw, that can’t be true! According to the mainstream narrative the Tea Party began on February 19, 2009 when Rick Santelli, live on CNBC from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), declared a rebellion against “socialism”. It was one month into the Obama administration.

Image result for image of tea party december 16 2007Take a pause. Think about this. Rick Santelli on establishment NBC lit the spark of an anti-establishment rebellion. Yeah, I always found that hard to believe too. Obama was merely proposing bailouts for mortgage holders and it was just four months after most conservatives were either silent or defending George W. Bush’s $700 billion TARP bailout of Wall Street.

I always thought it didn’t really seem right and over the years I’ve run into people who will insist they were tea partiers before Obama was president. Are they just delusional or was there reality behind their tales? What really happened ten years ago and how was the Tea Party transformed from a libertarian grassroots movement to today’s controlled-almost-to-death establishment version? And are there lessons to be learned from this?

The ground-zero event in the formation of the Tea Party occurred when supporters of Ron Paul’s first presidential campaign registered the Web address TeaParty07.com on October 24, 2007/

tp1.png

Twelve days later, on November 5, Guy Fawkes Night, Paul supporters held the first “money bomb” fundraiser, which (for Internet fundraising) raked in a record $4.3 million. Days after this came the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Paul supporters in Boston re-enacted the dumping of tea into Boston Harbor and a newcomer to politics, ophthalmologist Rand Paul, spoke at Faneuil Hall. A second money bomb held on this commemoration of the Tea Party raised over $6 million, shattering the previous record set eleven days before.

At root, this schism of the American right was a rebellion against the Bush Republican party’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, drunken-sailor federal spending (e.g., a $500 billion unfunded expansion of Medicare for a new prescription drug program), and a burgeoning post-9/11 federal spy and police state (e.g., the Patriot Act of 2001).

By February 2009, the GOP lay in complete tatters. In addition to its endless wars and domestic spending spree, it had added a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street after the financial crisis of 2008. (Never mind a series of smaller outrages such as a ban on incandescent light bulbs and the TSA, which should have been a private effort, if at all, from the beginning).

On top of all that, instead of nominating Ron Paul in 2008, the GOP had nominated conservative “war hero” John McCain and Alaska governor Sarah Palin. A war-weary public completely rejected the ticket in favor of a younger, articulate Barack Obama who promised (falsely) peace and a revived economy.

The Santelli rant sparked the conservative and GOP establishments to transform a marketing vehicle that would serve to not only distract the public from their recent colossal policy failures, but also serve as a gold mine of self-enrichment: t-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, Taxed Enough Already (TEA) yard signs, fluff books from the conservative pundit class, Glenn Beck rallies promoted by the Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh iced tea, and children’s books.

As Sarah Palin replaced Ron Paul as the face of the movement, a surreal change in advocacy followed. The anti-interventionist Tea Party, once outraged about the endless occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, was now wanting the U.S. to attack and invade Iran. Rally chants of “End the Fed” eventually disappeared.

By 2014, the faux Tea Party’s fifth anniversary, it was clear that the mainstream media were firmly devoted to advancing the new establishment narrative, as 2014 headlines such as “Tea Party Marks Fifth Anniversary” make clear.

Still, glaring inconsistencies remained. The grassroots Paulist Tea Party began on December 16, 2007, the 234thanniversary of the original Sons of Liberty protest of 1773. The conservative and GOP forgery of February 19, 2009 was not connected to anything but the advancement of the corporatist interests of the mainstream GOP. Even its supposed founder, Rick Santelli, was quickly pushed offstage while the Fox News Channel, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and others took center stage.

And, here in Alaska, where Paul had strong support, people like me were often confused by stands of the Tea Party when we knew so many “tea partiers” who didn’t agree.

While the Ron-Paul Revolution, from the spread of homeschools to Austrian economics, continues on in educating people around the world, the Tea Party is all but completely dead. In the age of Donald Trump, its lessons are more vivid than ever.

The two-party U.S. duopoly, which insulates itself from competition and outsiders through regulatory barriers such as ballot-access laws, front-loaded primaries, and super delegates, presents obstacles even to billionaires who wish to challenge it.

Trump was an outsider who promised a less interventionist foreign policy, full repeal of Obamacare, and a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The two-party cartel not only sunk these promises that Trump supporters wanted, but installed a special prosecutor to investigate wild allegations of Russian hacking to help elect Trump. Make America Great Again has yielded to bizarre rabbit holes such as bombing Syria and moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

On the opposite side of the aisle, the Democratic Party’s sinking of Bernie Sanders holds the same lessons. Had progressives pursued decentralization instead of Obama’s empty promises and the mirage of a Sanders presidency, California, Vermont, and Oregon could be much better prepared to separate from the rest of the U.S. and pursue their preferred policies from collectivist health care to sanctuary cities unhindered by the Trump administration.

Decentralization and autonomy is what the U.S., going back to the Articles of Confederation, was originally about. Those paths, instead of trying to wrest control of leviathan, would be far more effective in getting all sides much of what they want. As Brexit has shown, postponing the process only makes it more difficult to implement later on.

Posted January 9, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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RIP, Net Neutrality   Leave a comment

Net Neutrality is gone.  Yay!

Let’s try to understand what Net Neutrality is really all about.

Image result for image of net neutrality destroying the internetContrary to popular belief, the evil ISPs were not creating a have/have not divide in Internet access prior to Barack Obama’s interference in the Internet. What Net Neutrality really did was create massive subsidies to the biggest bandwidth hogs on the planet – Facebook, Google, Twitter, Netflix and … yeah, the porn industry.

Under Net Neutrality these platforms flourished along with the rise of the mobile internet, which is now arguably more important than the ‘desktop’ one in your home and office.  Google and Apple control access to the mobile web in a way that net neutrality proponents can only dream the bandwidth providers like Comcast and AT&T could.

Comcast & AT&T never had that power. Ultimately, consumers decide how much bandwidth costs. We decide how much we can afford for these creature comforts like streaming Netflix while riding the bus or doing self-indulgent Instagram videos of our standing in line at the movies. The ISPs can’t charge us more than we’re willing to pay and a great many of us were not willing to pay, so Netflix and Google began advocating for Net Neutrality, which took the pricing of bandwidth out of the hands of consumers and handed the profits from it to Google and Facebook and their advertisers.

By mandating ‘equal access’ and equal fee structures the advertisers behind Google and Facebook could spend their budgets without much thought or care.  Google and Facebook ad revenue soared under Net Neutrality because advertisers’ needs are not aligned with Google’s bottom line, but with consumers’.

Because of that, the price paid to deliver the ad, i.e. Google’s cost of goods sold, thanks to Net Neutrality, was held artificially low.  And Google, Facebook and the Porn Industry pocketed the difference, allowing Google and Facebook to grow more powerful.  That difference was never passed onto the ISP who could then, in turn, pass it on to the consumer. Thus our Internet access costs increased, while Facebook’s advertising costs were held stable.

All thanks to Net Neutrality.

With the rise of the mobile web, bandwidth should have been getting cheaper and easier to acquire at a much faster rate than it has.  Net Neutrality didn’t allow for that. It kept rates of return on new bandwidth projects and new technology suppressed. Money the ISP’s should have been spending laying more fiber, putting up more cell towers, building better radios went to Google to fritter away on endless projects that never see the light of day.

Net Neutrality guaranteed that the infrastructure for new high-speed bandwidth would grow at the slowest possible rate, still governed by the maximum the consumer was willing to pay for bandwidth, rather than what the consumer actually demanded.

Think it through, Net Neutrality not only subsidized intrusive advertising, phishing scams and on-demand porn but also the very censorship these powerful companies now feel is their sacred duty to enforce because the government is now controlled by “the bad guys”.

Getting rid of Net Neutrality will put the costs of delivering all of this worthless content back onto the people serving it.  YouTube will become more expensive for Google and all of the other content-delivery networks.  Facebook video will eat into its bottom line.

The ISP’s can and should throttle them until they ‘pay their fair share,’ which they plainly have not been. Yes, your ISP may temporarily charge you more for Netflix or Hulu … although it’s more likely Netflix and Hulu will have to charge you more. We’ll then find out the real cost of delivering 4k streaming content to your iPhone actually costs.

Meanwhile, those costs will filter down to the ISP’s such that they can respond to demand for more bandwidth.  Of course AT&T will overcharge us because they are just as bad as bad as Google and Facebook, but … here’s where the rubber hits the road … consumer have a right to say “no” and stop using the services the way Net Neutrality’s mispricing of service encouraged us to. If the ISP’s want more customers then they’ll have to bring wire out to the hinterlands.

Net Neutrality proponents kept telling us this was the way to help keep the Internet available to the poor and the rural.  That’s ridiculous. I’m surrounded by rural and can say confidently that Net Neutrality kept the Internet from expanding properly into the countryside. While Fairbanks has cable and DSl, my brother who lives only about eight miles out of town has neither. He’s 10 or 15 years behind everyone else in getting decent bandwidth, yet he lives in a fairly densely built neighborhood. He has never streamed Netflix because the wiring to his house cannot support it. Instead,  he gets cable television from Dish Network, with a signal so weak it’s been known to cut out during a spring rain. (That’s not Dish’s fault, really, but a factor of their satellites barely being over the horizon at this latitude.

 

We’re still waiting for the phone provider in our residential area to upgrade the bandwidth.  We even installed a second line for Internet service, but the service is so overloaded, it dropped two or three times every evening. So we switched to cable, even though we don’t want cable television. Why are we still a half-decade or more behind the rest of the nation? The return on new lines isn’t high enough for them.

If Google was passing some of the profits from Adwords onto the ISPs, I’d have multiple choices for high-speed Internet versus just one DSL provider, and maybe I’d also have more than one choice for cable. And maybe it would be affordable. I currently pay $90 a month for Internet only, no cable television. It would be another $80 if we wanted to watch television. But we can stream Netflix and Hulu if we’re willing to pay the price.

As always, whenever the political left tries to protect the poor they wind up making things worse for them.

The news of Net Neutrality’s demise is good for a variety of reasons. With Net Neutrality gone, a major barrier to entry for content delivery networks is gone. Blockchain companies are building systems which cut the middle man out completely, allowing content creators to be directly tipped for their work versus being supported by advertising no one watches, wants or is swayed by.

Services like Steemit and the distributed application already built and to be built on it point the way to social media cost models which are sustainable and align the incentives properly between producers of content and consumers.

Steem internalizes the bandwidth costs of using the network and pays itself a part of its token reward pool to cover those costs.  So, all that’s left is content producers and their fans.  Advertisers are simply not needed to maintain the network.

Net Neutrality was a Trojan horse designed to replicate the old shout-based advertising model of the Golden Age of print and TV advertising.  It was a way to control the megaphone and promote a particular point of view.

Look no further than the main proponents of it.  George Soros and the Ford Foundation are two of the biggest lobbyists for Net Neutrality.  Only the political left and its Marxian fantasies of evil middle men creating monopolies fell for the lies.

The rest of us were like, “Really?  This is not a problem.”  And it wasn’t until you looked under the hood and realized all they stood to gain by it.

Now, with Net Neutrality gone the underlying problem can be addressed; franchise monopolies of cable and phone companies in geographic areas.  These laws are still in effect. They still hang like ice fog over the entire industry.  Like Net Neutrality, these laws concentrate capital into the hands of the few providers big enough to keep out the competition.

So, instead of championing the end of franchise monopolies, which county governments love because they get a sizable cut of the revenue to fund non-essential programs, the Left made things worse by championing Net Neutrality.

That also needs to end.  Even if you believe that franchise monopolies were, at one point, necessary, they aren’t now.  IP-based communication is now fundamentally different than copper wire for discrete services like phone and cable.  Let people run all the copper and fiber they want.  There’s plenty of room in the conduit running under our sidewalks and streets.

Then and only then will the Internet be free.

Posted January 9, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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