Update From Kenya

giraffe_nairobi_natl_parkFemale Offspring Unit #2 is settled in Nairobi with a sweet family headed by a local pastor there. She hit the ground running and has been too busy to even think about being homesick.

The apartment complex in which her host family lives is modern and, by her eyewitness report, “very cute.” But there is just one wrinkle.

Kenya is in the throes of a desperate drought. As a result, the apartment only gets water every third day. On the days in which they have water, they draw and store enough for three days drinking and cooking. This means she gets two short showers per week in that hot, dusty environment.

It’s been two years since the country got any decent rain, and some experts predict that up to 10% of Kenya’s rural population could die in the next year if they don’t get a break.

Keep her, the ministry, and the believers of that nation in your prayers.

One Giant Leap for Conspiracy Theories

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July 20, 1969. I’m nine years old and on the backside of the first of what would turn out to be the three “best summers ever.” On this night, I get a special dispensation to stay up past my bedtime to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take a walk. Like countless other kids (and adults) that night,  around 9:00 p.m. I walked outside and found the gibbous waning moon, low on the Western horizon and preparing to set, and marveled at the thought that two men were on that thing walking around.

Unless they weren’t. Which is what an astonishing number of Americans believe.

Yes, to this day, many Americans hold tenaciously to the conviction that the moon landings were faked–carried out on some secret Hollywood soundstage. As is the case with all conspiracy theory true believers, no amount of evidence or logic will move them. “That’s just what they want you to think,” invariably comes the reply.

Ahh, yes. “They.”

There seems to be a deep, hard-wired hunger in most human brains to believe that powerful, shadowy figures within every authority structure are putting one over on us all. Perhaps it’s born of the embarrassment of learning that Santa Clause was all an elaborate hoax perpetrated by our parents.

Online communities like AboveTopSecret.com (linked to above) are a cornucopia of discussion threads built around “evidence” that the government is covering up: pick one:

Evidence of civilizations on mars

Mind control programs using chemical spraying through jet contrails (chemtrails!)

Alien visitation.

Jewish plans for world domination.

Bilderberger plans for world domination.

Reptilian plans for world domination.

I actually find lurking and trolling around these conspiracy sites a guilty-pleasure type of entertainment when I feel like goofing off. Since I’ve swam around in these fever swamps of suspicion, I thought I’d go ahead and offer you a concise reference guide and cheat sheet to the current world of conspiracy. You can print this out and hand it to anyone you know who’s starting to be seduced down the path of paranoia. That way lies madness.

  • A classified military balloon made of new mylar-like materials crashed near Roswell in 1947. When the crash was found by civilians, the Intelligence guys floated a bogus UFO story to cover the top secret project.
  • Americans did indeed land on the moon in 1969 and on several occasions thereafter.
  • One lone wannabe communist nut-burger-with-cheese killed JFK. (In a less chaotic, Hollywood-scripted world momentous, history-changing events like this would have some grander meaning. But we do not live in that world. Sorry.)
  • Like Swine Flu, the AIDS virus jumped from animals to humans in Africa. (In was not created in U.S. government labs nor did Jewish doctors ever engage in a program of injecting inner-city folks with it.)
  • High-flying jets form condensation trails when conditions are right for the development of cirrus clouds. (Some low-flying airplanes do spray chemicals, though. It’s called crop dusting and mosquito control.)
  • In 2001, a loose network of Islamic terrorists headed by Osama Bin Laden managed to hijack four commercials airliners, three of which hit buildings in Manhattan and Washington, DC. Ironically, the unique structural design of the World Trade Center towers which made them able to withstand the impacts of these jet strikes also made them vulnerable to collapse after fires weakened steel trusses which had had their fireproofing knocked off in the explosive impact. Both towers collapsed. Fires and the two massive shockwaves produced by the collapses of the towers weakened WTC #7 and ultimately led to its collapse as well.
  • George Bush is neither an evil genius nor an idiot pawn.
  • After Hurricane Katrina, levees in New Orleans failed because they were either old, poorly engineered, damaged by the storm and its accompanying tornadoes, or a combo of all three. There was lots of unnecessary suffering primarily due to the incompetence of New Orleans’ mayor and city government. (By the way, George Bush almost certainly does care about black people. Kanye?)
  • The Boxing Day tsunami that devastated Indonesia, India, et. al., was triggered by an earthquake. (Not, as many Arab news services have confidently asserted, a U.S. government electromagnetic pulse technology.
  • Denver International Airport is not built above a top secret subterranean labyrinth created to be a base in a post-apocolyptic America.

Ask anyone who’s worked in the highest level of government or been in the boardrooms of the world’s largest corporations and they will all affirm this truth, people there are just like you and me and all the other people we know. That is: clueless, bumbling, fallible, self-centered, forgetful, gossip-prone, boastful and inconsistent. In other words, incapable for cooperating successfully to carry out a conspiracy for more than three weeks or keeping quiet about it if it happens to succeed through dumb luck or Providence.

That doesn’t mean they don’t try. Nixon and his campaign staff spiraled out of control and broke laws. Then, when the bumbling burglars got caught, they conspired to cover it up. We all know how that worked out.

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Just How Twisted is the Iranian Islamic Theocracy?

Even sicker than you think. Mark Steyn at The Corner points us to this report from journalist Sabina Amidi about an Iranian prison guard with some problems with his conscience:

He said he had been a highly regarded member of the force, and had so “impressed my superiors” that, at 18, “I was given the ‘honor’ to temporarily marry young girls before they were sentenced to death.”

In the Islamic Republic it is illegal to execute a young woman, regardless of her crime, if she is a virgin, he explained. Therefore a “wedding” ceremony is conducted the night before the execution: The young girl is forced to have sexual intercourse with a prison guard – essentially raped by her “husband.”

“I regret that, even though the marriages were legal,” he said.

Why the regret, if the marriages were “legal?”

“Because,” he went on, “I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their ‘wedding’ night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning. And they would always fight back, so we would have to put sleeping pills in their food. By morning the girls would have an empty expression; it seemed like they were ready or wanted to die.

The Tom Hanks Conundrum

As he often does, James Lileks wrote something last night that almost perfectly articulates something I think, but have never expressed. In this case, it is the dichotomy that is Tom Hanks.

As an aside when mentioning that he was re-watching HBO’s “John Adams,” Lileks wrote:

Now and then I hear Mr. Hanks say something that makes me scratch my head and sigh, but it doesn’t matter. When you look at the stuff he’s produced or been involved with – “From the Earth to the Moon,” “Band of Brothers,” “John Adams,” and even the slight but wonderful “That Thing You Do,” I feel a love and reverence for the country and the culture I share completely. Without blinders and without reservation. He does good work.

Yes he does. And yet expresses stunningly wrong-headed political opinions from time to time. But he’s also stayed married to the same woman in Hollywood for decades. He usually exudes the vibe of a decent human being. And as James rightly noted, Hanks is clearly drawn to projects that celebrate some of the noblest aspects of our amazing country.

In Sean Penn’s Hollywood, that ought to count for something.

My Bleg of a Few Weeks Ago

Dear readers,

The response to my request a few weeks ago for help in the form of book reviews over at Amazon has been stunning. Just not in a good way. By way of reminder, I wrote:

If you’ve ordered and read the Paul Harvey book, would you be so kind as to go to the Amazon page for the book and write a review? (Preferably a favorable one!)

So far we have three reviews. Two of them are by work-mates who have to look me in the eye every day. The other is by my brother-in-law.

Yes, I’m being needy and self-absorbed. We all have lives. I also realize that of the few hundred people who read this blog each week, only a few dozen are likely to have ordered the book. And that among those, only a handful will have had time to read it yet. And that one of more of those may not have cared for it much.

So . . . may I kindly implore the three remaining folks to go here and write a short “Hey, I liked it!”? That will double the current review count!

I also found out today the somewhere between me, the publisher and the publicist they hired, a ball was dropped. About 60 review copies of the book that were supposed to be sent to targeted media figures were not sent. (Sigh.)

Good people are scrambling now to rectify the situation.

As always, I’m grateful, humbled and baffled by your faithful patronage of BWR.

Tuesday Blather, Bunk and Bloviation

Forecast says only 104 today. A couple of days ago the high hit 107, although the shaded thermometer on my back porch was reading 111. I know this because that would be the thermometer right by the gas grill where Mrs. Blather had me grilling chicken for dinner. I should have conserved propane and just laid the chicken bits down on the flagstone.

No complaints though. As I write here in air conditioned comfort high atop my stucco tower overlooking the roundabout that defines the heart of downtown Colleyville, Mrs. Blather is at home bailing out the water feature in preparation for a pump repair visit tomorrow.The water is green, putrescent and mighty in its stench-edness. The job she’s doing would make a Guadalajaran day laborer weep.

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The book signing party last Thursday night was fun, humbling and surreal all at once. Great fun because a good number of dear friends turned out on an absurdly hot night to support and buy a couple of books. The humbling and surreal part was signing them.

I’m told by people knowledgeable about these things that now is the time for me to propose my next book project to publishers. The vital question is, what should that project be? I’d like to write a book titled, Dear America, Please Put the Grownups Back in Charge Before It’s Too Late. But in order to come out before the 2010 elections it woudl already need to be written. And it’s not.

Part of the calculus in this decision is the question of how I want to be positioned in the marketplace. Am I a “religious writer” for the Christian market? I certainly have numerous inspirational and theological books I’d like to write at some point.

Am I a writer of biographies and history who happens to be a believer? I certainly love both genres and the Paul Harvey book could be seen as a step in that direction.

Or am I a guy who writes about the intersection of faith, media, culture and public policy? The PH book could be seen in that light as well. If the last 200 or so blog posts are an indicator of my passion and purpose, then that is the territory I should stake out.

If you have any words of advice or insight, dear reader, please feel free to share them in a comment or email.

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Just a quick observation about the Sonia Sotomayor nomination to the Supreme Court. . .

Much as been made of the nominee’s “wise Latina woman” comment. The fact is, Judge Sotomayor has made frequent references in speeches and writings through the years to being a “wise woman” or to the virtues of “wise women.” This is clearly a pattern and a strong theme that runs through her thinking about the way she views her job.

My assumption–and this is something I have not heard discussed anywhere in the media or online though I may have missed it–is that Sotomayor has imbibed deeply at the well of feminist mythology.

In university “women’s studies” programs and permeating feminist writing, much is made of the goddess Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, and how she predates all the masculine gods that have helped create all our patriarchal, war-mongering societies. Reading through that literature is a journey through a primal forest of Mother-Goddess-y, Earth-Mother-y, Wiccan-y, thought and speculation.

Quasi-Christian feminists join the parade by pointing out that in the book of Proverbs, “Wisdom” is referred to in feminine terms: “Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square . . .”  This tends to lead to books like this one. Here’s an excerpt from a review:

Schroer attempts to make the figure of Divine Wisdom available as a resource for feminist spirituality. Indeed, this is one of her major contributions. In almost every essay she includes suggestions for how the figure of Wisdom may be appropriated (or not, in the case of the Book of Jesus Sirach) for feminist spirituality.

Included in this group of essays are two small gems: close readings of often neglected texts about wise women in the First Testament, Abigail and the wise woman of Abel of Beth-maacah. Together with a third article, “Wise Women and Counselors in Israel: Models for Personified Hokma,” these two articles show the office of Wise Woman in ancient Israel provided some of the background to the development of Divine Wisdom.

I’ll bet you dollars to donuts Judge Sotomayor has been soaking in such works of “feminist spirituality” for decades– and thus the constant references to the “wise woman.”

Ya'll Come! Paul Harvey's America Book Signing Party

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Some dear friends have graciously offered to host a book signing party this Thursday night in their Grapevine, Texas home.  If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I would be thrilled and appreciative to see you there.

It’s “come and go.” If you have already purchased the book, bring it and I’d be honored to sign it. Our local Border’s books will also have plenty of books on hand for purchase if you’d like me to sign one for a parent or friend.

Here’s the What/When/Where:

Paul Harvey’s America Signing Party

Thursday, July 9

7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Home of Doug and Cheryll Duffie

3104 Joyce Way

Grapevine, TX 76051