Maybe the Turks Will Unfurl the Banner Named Barack

For those of us with long memories, an old conflict resurfaces:

The shooting down of a Russian jet by Turkey is a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists”, Vladimir Putin has said.

The Sukhoi Su-24 was warned 10 times before being downed near the Syrian border by two Turkish F16 jets for violating the country’s airspace, according to the Turkish military.

In Ottoman/Tsarist times, the two countries were serious rivals.  And the Ottomans, Muslim caliphs though they were, had the support of “Christian” Britain and to a lesser degree France against the Russians.  That was what the Crimean War was all about, and that too is in play again these days.

Given Erdoğan’s Islamicist tendencies, perhaps he’ll want to unfurl the banner named Barack, as Sultan Abdul Hamid II did at the start of the Russo-Turkish war:

The banner of the Caliphate, to which the Sultan alludes in his speech, is that which the Turks call ‘the Heavenly Standard,’ and, in their language, ‘Bairack.’ (Barack) Its color is green, and they believe it to have been the banner of the Prophet Mohammed, delivered to him by the angel Gabriel, through the medium of Ayesha, as an indubitable token of victory over their enemies. This standard was formerly laid up in the Treasury of the Sultan of Constantinople, but Is now kept in the Mosque at Eyoob (Eyub), where the new Sultans on the day of their coronation gird on the sabre of the Caliphate. In case of any serious struggle, a religious duty compels the Sultan to give orders to the ‘Mullas,’ (Mullahs) or Mohammedan clergy, to display the Prophet’s standard before the people and army, and proclaim ‘Al Jehad,’ (Jihad) or the holy war, by exhorting the Moslems to be faithful to their religion and defend their Kingdom.

If Erdoğan is not careful, he’ll get the same result as Abdul Hamid did, i.e. lose.  He has squandered two legacies of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey: a secularist state and a strong military.

But this is a dangerous situation.  People always speak of a Sarajevo-like event to plunge the world into war, and this is one of them.  That’s especially true if Barack answers the call of the banner that bears his name.

The Persian Origin of the Title “King of Kings”

Today is the feat of Christ the King, and it’s right to consider the title “King of Kings”:

From his mouth comes a sharp sword, with which ‘to smite the nations; and he will rule them with an iron rod.’ He ‘treads the grapes in the press’ of the maddening wine of the Wrath of Almighty God; and on his robe and on his thigh he has this name written– ‘KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’ (Revelation 19:15-16 TCNT)

The title “King of Kings” might seem redundant to some, since, in the absolutist world some of us live in, there is only one king.  But the title has a meaningful origin, and dates back to the time of the Medes and the Persians.  As Michael Axworthy explains in his book A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind:

The provinces were rules by satraps, governors who returned a tribute to the centre but ruled as viceroys (two other officials looked after military matters and fiscal administration in each province, to avoid too much power being concentrated in any one pair of hands).  The satraps, who often inherited their offices from predecessors within the same family, ruled their provinces according to pre-existing laws, customs and traditions.  They were, in effect, provincial kings, while Darius was king of kings (Shahanshah in modern Persian). (p. 21)

Artaxerxes was also referred to in this way: “From: Artaxerxes, king of kings To: Ezra the priest, a scribe for the Teachings of the God of Heaven: I wish you peace and prosperity!” (Ezra 7:12 GW)  How this played out could be seen vividly in Nehemiah’s conflict with Sanballat (Nehemiah 4).

In its early years at least, the Persian Empire’s power distribution was surprisingly loose.  This puts the lie to the idea that strict top-down authoritarianism is the Biblical model, especially at a point in Biblical history so auspicious to the Jews.  The application of the title to Our Lord and Saviour also puts some interesting twists on the idea of his authority and how he plans to exercise it after his return.

So next time you hear the title, just thank a smart Iranian for coming up with the title and the concept.  And remind him or her at what point in history it came in…

Party Animals Turned Jihadis

It happened in Paris:

Just a day after her death, family and acquaintances gave extraordinary accounts of a young woman with a ‘bad reputation’ who was known for her love of alcohol and cigarettes rather than devotion to Islam.

Her brother Youssouf Ait Boulahcen said that she had had no interest in religion, never read the Koran and had only started wearing a Muslim veil a month ago.

This is pretty much the same pattern we saw here in Chattanooga last summer with Mohammad Abdulazeez, the electrical engineer who shot up the unarmed (!) military recruiting centres.  Abdulazeez was facing drunk driving and drug possession charges, his family had problems and he had lost his job.  People attribute his action to his mosque, but that’s not quite true: Islam in Chattanooga is as respectibility-obsessed as its Christian counterpart has been in the past.  What I think happened was that he realised that he was about to shame his family and himself with his actions.  He goes online and sees jihadi websites extol the virtues of killing for Islam, the eternal rewards for doing same, etc., and decides to recover his and his family’s honour by killing and dying for Allah.  But he ends up shaming his family and his mosque even further.

And these two aren’t the most important party animals turned jihadis either:

Thinking about engineering students in the 1970’s should make a person think about one in particular. The scion of a successful family, he wandered about his native region as a student, visiting various places of sin on the way (sangria at the Mexican restaurant was about as far as most of us got in that.) At one point, this engineering student had a religious experience that changed his life and catapulted him in a trajectory that ended up crediting him with a well-publicised “engineering” feat: the destruction of two of the world’s tallest buildings. The student, of course, is Osama bin Laden, and the buildings were the World Trade Centre, destroyed on 9/11. The religion is Wahhabi Islam.

So, if you’re looking for the next jihadi in your midst, perhaps you should look in the bar and not the mosque.

In the interest of completeness, I have known many people who have turned from a life of drinking and partying to Jesus Christ, but not one of them have gone out and blown things and people up unless they joined the military.

Will the Real Islam Please Stand Up?

Boomers whose brains have not been completely fried by the mind-altering substances (and that number is small) will remember the game show To Tell the Truth.  In it three contestants were lined up, all were supposed to be a single person but (usually) only one was.  The panel, by quizzing the contestants, were supposed to figured out who was the real person and who were the impostors.

Although attacks by Islāmic groups and individuals against non-Islāmic targets get the most attention, it’s easy to forget that a larger number of victims in the war on Islamic careerism are Muslims.  It’s true that Christians, Yazidis and secular French and Americans are in the crosshairs, but, since there are more Muslims than others to kill in the Middle East, the number of Muslims that have perished has been greater.

The idea of jihad, to fight the infidel under the banner named Barack, was ostensibly meant for non-Muslims.  But it’s amazing how often “infidel” gets defined by the type of Islam that is not to one’s taste.  Once the label is applied, the fighting begins.

The largest divide is, of course, the Sunni-Shi’a divide.  Although the divide goes back to the very beginnings of the religion, Shi’a Islam didn’t really crystallise as a major part until the eighteenth century, and of course is the religion of the Islāmic Republic of Iran.  Salafis (and that includes both the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia and ISIS) don’t believe that Shi’a Muslims are Muslims at all, which certainly justifies jihad.  (The Ottomans didn’t either).  Shi’a Muslims still nurture the grievance of the killing of Hosein, Muhammad’s own descendant.

Although it isn’t a big problem, Shi’a Muslims are divided between the “Twelvers” (those who believe that the 12th Imam will reappear at the end) and the Ismailis, the “Seveners” who believe there were only seven successors. On the Sunni side, we have the Salafis, the followers of Qutb, etc. On the edges we have the Druzes and Alawis who are an important part of the complexity of Syria and Lebanon, and the Yazidis who have borne a great deal of ISIS’ wrath.

Somewhere in the mix are the Sufis, who at one time or another have been on both the Shi’a and Sunni sides of the divide.  The Sufis have attempted to infuse Islam with a more personal relationship with God, which is lacking in the Islam of the imams.  The imams response to this has been mixed but has drifted to more hostility in modern times.  Sufi Islam, like many personal religions, tends to go against institutionalism, and the institutionalists don’t like it.

Then we have ethnic differences.  ISIS believes, for example, that the caliph must come from the Arabs, while the most successful caliphate was that of the Ottomans, who were Turks.  We normally think of Islam as an Arabic religion, but the various ethnic and national blocks such as the Iranians, Turks, Berbers, Pakistanis, Indonesians, Sudanese, etc. each look at things a little differently.  One of the major conflicts going on in Islam these days is between those who want to continue Islam as they have practiced it and the well-funded Saudi Salafis who insist that their strict way is the only true Islam.  Hostility towards the Arabs is not unknown among Muslims, as my Algerian lab assistant reminded me.

One could go on ad infinitum about these differences, but they create conflict.  When mixed with politics, it leads to war. And, like many conflicts, the bystanders can get hurt or killed themselves.  That is what is happening in many parts of the Middle East today.

The realities of these should put away many of the fallacious concepts that float around our culture.  For example, some tell us that ISIS is not Islāmic, when in fact a)they certainly think so and b)it depends on how one defines one’s Islam.  Others speak of “moderate” and “extreme” Muslims, but both characterisations must be placed in the context of the kind of Islam you’re talking about.  People ask me whether Shi’a or Sunni Islam is more extreme, but there are moderates and extremists in both.  And some very hard-core Muslims have decided that the violence that stalks the planet isn’t the best way to live or propagate Islam.

And so, if we were to impanel representatives of the various groups within Islam and have them on a To Tell The Truth format, at the end they would all stand up, and probably fight.

What we need to do is to make clear what behaviour is acceptable in our countries and what is not and to enforce it, instead of engaging in online parlour games about “moderates” and “extremists.”  To do that would need a lot stronger leadership in the West than we have now, one which actually believes in the civilisation we have.  Until then we will engage in the futile pursuit of asking the real Islam to please stand up.

Ending Authority Has Never Been the Problem

David Fowler’s generally incisive piece on the current mess our institutions of “higher” learning are in repeats, unfortunately, a misconception that needs to be challenged.  Down in the article he states the following:

Relativism, by definition, must question anything that purports to be authoritative, and, of course, nothing can be authoritative if there is no source of authority. Consequently, today’s public universities and “elite” private colleges must therefore implicitly, if not explicitly, call into question all sources of authority.

Getting rid of authority has never been the goal of collegiate revolutionaries or anyone else on the left.  That was true in the 1960’s and 1970’s and it is still true today.  That faulty idea has been perpetuated in both liberal and conservative circles and has created problems for both.

Let’s start with the conservatives.  In the wake of the student uprisings of the 1960’s and the rebellion the Boomers instigated, conservatives in general and Christians in particular responded by attempts to “re-establish authority”. In Christian circles the main apostle of this idea was Bill Gothard, and his authoritarianism has created problems that dwarf his sexual misconduct.  Politically the most egregious responder to this was George W. Bush, who allowed a major expansion of government during his administration, which in turn facilitated its continuation under Barack Obama.

To say that campus rebels in the 1960’s and now are promoting freedom gets liberals off of the hook for what they are really doing, which needs to be seen through the lens of their reliance on statism to carry out their agenda.  Moreover anyone who suppresses speech in the name of freedom is duplicitous.

There are anti-authoritarian strands on both sides.  But both are now out of the mainstream of their respective political communities.

What we had fifty years ago and have now is not a rebellion against authority but trying to supplant one group of people in power with another.  Christians don’t like to think of things in this way, and for spiritual warfare that’s good, but when we enter the realm of politics, we must understand that the name of the game is for us to be in power and for them to be out of it.  Perhaps this is why the New Testament exhorts us not to fight with “flesh and blood”; it’s part of getting out of the power holder/power challenger dynamic that dominated the Middle East then and now and which has widely infected our own system.

In politics ideas are ultimately embodied in people, however imperfectly; replacing one group with another will ultimately replace one idea with another.  Chairman Mao said that revolution was the replacement of one class with another, and as a revolutionary he was no slouch.

The sooner we understand this, the sooner we can either play this game to win or, better for the Christian, find another one.

The Problem with “Going Dark” in the Technical Literature

When starting out on a major research project in science or engineering, the first thing to do is to go through “the literature” (which usually means the peer-reviewed body of articles and published books, although internet stuff is becoming increasingly important) and try to figure out the current “state of the science” (we used to say “state of the art” but people are less inclined to use that expression than they used to be).  From here we proceed to do new things which will hopefully advance the state of whatever field of endeavour we are operating in.  As I stated in my master’s thesis:

In any investigation such as this the ideal goal is to come up with something truly novel, and many of such works emphasize their novelty to the denigration of those who have gone on before. While in some fields of endeavour this might be appropriate, in this case such sweeping novelty cannot be claimed. This work fits the mould as outlined by Pascal above: it takes the work that has been done before, advances it a step while realizing that there are many more steps before “perfection” is achieved.

But stepping back to those who have “gone before”, the scientific and engineering literature isn’t as transparent as one would like.  In recent years fraud and misrepresentation of results has required any researcher to be careful as to what he or she believes.  There are also situations where stuff that looks really good at one point in time get abandoned later for various reasons; we have to make sure our research takes a long sweep in time as well as topic.  We also have the problem of “non-novel” papers, which are really rehashes of stuff figured out a long time ago but put back into the literature to give glory to someone else.  These don’t do much for the originality reputation of their writers but, sometimes, can be useful, putting back into currency things which have “gotten lost in the shuffle” over the years.

But one serious problem that deserves some attention–and one that doesn’t get a lot of press–is the matter of “going dark” in the literature.  An overview of the pattern of scientific and engineering advance is in order.

Generally speaking, in any given field there are “seminal papers” (usually more than one), which is where the field was kicked off.  From there we have what comes after, which usually refers back to the seminal paper.  In my field of pile dynamics, we have one paper that gets cited in just about everything written on the subject.  From here the science and technology are developed and things advance.  And then, without much fanfare, the literature “goes dark”.

That doesn’t mean that people stop publishing anything on a given topic.  Far from it; however, it’s like a line from Hogan’s Heroes, when Gestapo Col. Hochtstetter tells Klink that he can make Hogan talk.  Klink’s reply was, “You can make him talk.  He just doesn’t say anything”.  A lot of the literature is little better than fluff or promotion of a new idea without substantive detail on how these “new” improvements really work.  The obvious question is why.

One reason is that the material is classified for military or national security purposes.  Generally speaking, however, the literature doesn’t go dark as much as it’s dark to start with and it’s only later when things come to light.

Another reason is that the field has become inactive, usually temporarily.  There are a number of reasons this happens.  In my field, wave propagation in driven piles was discovered in the early 1930’s in Australia, and the English carried out some research later in the decade.  (The Americans got into a food fight on the subject).  But things went dark for a very big reason: World War II, which focused the participants on other matters, such as rational soil classifications and nuclear weapons.  After that conflagration, things resumed and progressed to the current state.

In my experience, however, the biggest reason the technical literature goes dark is because of commercialisation.  In the early stages, the research is the “property” of academic institutions, individuals and the government (especially since World War II) which funds it.  In these conditions there is a relatively free exchange of ideas and expression of these ideas in articles and books.  However, when technologies are commercialised (especially when it’s done by a relatively small number of organisations) things start getting proprietary, and then things start getting secret.  Although it’s possible to have patents and copyrights to protect oneself in some cases, it’s not possible to copyright an idea; it’s easier to simply use trade secrets, even if those trade secrets are derivative from research from more “open” sources.

The fact that a technology can be commercialised is a good thing in that it shows that it works and is useful.  Over time, however, it happens that organisations use institutional inertia and human habit–to say nothing of our tort system, which stifles innovation by punishing experimentation which can go wrong–to make their proprietary method a “standard” and keep its true nature under wraps to discourage its replacement or even improvement.  In time this slows the advance of science and technology in ways that are not obvious to most people.

Researchers who set out to try to advance methods in areas which have “gone dark”–assuming they can get funding for their work in the first place–face a number of obstacles.  First they must realise that beyond the dark literature are doubtless some improvements the nature of which are obscure.  They may find themselves “reinventing the wheel” in an unavoidable way.  If they get past that, they find that they lack the benefit of the learning curve which those who actually use the existing method.  The road to advancement can be a perilous one under these circumstances.

But advancement is what science and engineering is supposed to be about, isn’t it?

The Anglican Communion and the English Breakfast

Oliver Pritchett’s piece on dumping brunch and bringing back the English breakfast has me thinking of many things English, American and otherwise.  That’s especially true with the upcoming Anglican Primates’ meeting and Justin Welby’s last throw at getting everyone to play nice.  In particular, this statement from the Curmudgeon piqued my interest:

And it can no longer be called “Anglican”, because while that term may once have taken its meaning from the doctrines and worship of the Church of England, that body’s ever-dwindling membership, too, is no longer of one mind on just what its doctrines and worship should be…Having left the Episcopal Church (USA) on account of its adoption of blasphemous marriage rites, I no longer even have a formal tie to the wider Communion…

That, I think is the core problem with ACNA’s whole approach to the Church of England: they’re fixated on communion with Canterbury, which they see as the tie to the “wider Communion.”  Getting Foley Beach to the Primates’ meeting was a major step in that direction; getting TEC out of it will be, as the Curmudgeon points out, an entirely different matter.

That’s where the English breakfast comes in.

I’m one of these people who, with exceptions, eats pretty much what is put in front of me.  That’s a product of upbringing, where even criticising the food was, as the Chinese would say, buxing. That’s held me in good stead during my travels in China, Russia and other interesting places.  But it was another matter with many of my working colleagues, and the following story illustrates that point.

In 1982 two of my field service people and I went to Rotterdam, the Netherlands on a major repair project.  We stayed in the Novotel and were regaled with the “Continental breakfast” of cold cuts and hard bread.  (The Finns and Russians raise the stakes with smoked salmon, I must admit).  One of my service people was a country boy from Stevenson, AL, who was just starting out in field service.  He had had enough of the “baloney sandwich” for breakfast and demanded a bacon-and-eggs production like he had back home.  My senior man and I looked at each other with one of those “this should be interesting” looks.

The Novotel came back with bacon and eggs, all right, but it was the “English breakfast” and not the “Southern breakfast”.  And there are important differences.  Right off the bat there’s the definition of “bacon”, although the Canadians have tried to broaden our view of same.  (Sausage, with its German, East European and Southern variants, complicates things further). Then we have the grilled tomato, which I don’t mind but in a region where the ne plus ultra of tomatoes are the fried green kind, it doesn’t go over very well.  Finally much of this food is, by our standards, barely cooked, with the eggs runny and the fat glistening in the “bacon”.

My junior man got through his breakfast, but he never asked for it again.

Implicit in the idea that the Anglican Communion revolves around the Church of England is the idea that the CoE is the”reference standard” for everyone else.  But the British Empire, which the Communion is one remnant of, doesn’t support that idea.  As I’ve noted elsewhere, the British Isles, for all of their storied castles and history, managed to fill up two continents with people who wanted or had to leave.  And the former colonies represented at the Primates meeting are, in various ways, an improvement over the mother country, which is why people from the UK keep moving to these places.

Quite a bit of that improvement is the food.  Most white Southerners (like Foley Beach) are descendants of people who came from the British isles, but they modified and (IMHO) improved the cuisine from the mother country in many ways.  (I’ll bet that, while in the Greater London area, Beach and his colleagues won’t search out the English restaurant). In the meanwhile they improved a few other things, such as a written Bill of Rights that addressed some shortcomings of English law, and they disestablished the beloved Church of England, which ended up being a boon for Christianity in general and the Episcopal Church in particular until the latter lost its way.

The idea that Anglicanism can be improved by getting away from Mother England may come as a shock to some, but there are some possible benefits.  To look at a parallel situation in another part of Christianity, we should look to Russia and the sad story of the Old Believers.  This started when the Patriarch Nikon decided to impose the ways of the Greeks on the Russian church, and ran into vehement opposition, which he and the Tsar brutally suppressed.  It never occurred to Tsar or Nikon that the Russians, isolated for centuries after their “baptism” by the intervening Mongols and Turks, had practices more authentically in line with traditional Greek practice than the Greeks did!  I suspect that the Russians regarded the Greeks as the “mother church” and felt that they had to “keep up with the Joneses”.  Well, the Greeks were under the Ottomans, the Russians had (and have) a larger church, and the Russians would have done themselves a favour to realise that they were the Joneses!

The divisions in the Anglican Communion are far larger than those faced by Nikon, Avvakum and others in their day.  Ultimately, however, the weight of the Communion, both in numbers and in future, is in the African provinces and their allies elsewhere.  They need to put in forcefully to Justin Welby that they, like the Russians of old, are at the centre of this part of Christianity and that either he gets with their program or he will end up isolated in his own Constantinople, dominated by the same religion that took the last one.

That’s what I’d like to see in this Primates’ meeting.  The North Americans in particular need to put sentiment–and really ancestral ties–aside and realise that the only blood line that really matters is the one that flows from the Cross.

Who knows, unlike my field service man, we may get a decent breakfast in the bargain.

Those Swell-Headed American Academics

In this midst of his critique of current Roman Catholic academic “theology”, Adam deVille makes the following observation:

As someone trained in the Anglo-Canadian academic system, I note certain curiosities about Americans and academics. Americans turn degrees and “credentials” into an absurd fetish and repository for all kinds of misplaced faith. Holders of these degrees are magically assumed to have all sorts of insights and skills which, in practice, they often do not. And yet they brandish these credentials like buckler and shield to ward off an impudent Douthat, who temerariously dared to question their arguments. Their de haut en bas treatment of him reveals nothing more than their own insecurity.

That “absurd fetish” extends beyond theology; it permeates our entire élite view of society, buttressing their wish to turn this country into a mandarinate where they are the mandarins.

And, closer to topic, I hate to say it, but “Protestant theology” is, if anything, in worse shape than its Catholic and Orthodox counterpart.

T.R. Glover on Tertullian

From the end of his Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire:

By his expression of Christian ideas in the natural language of Roman thought, by his insistence on the reality of the historic Jesus and on the inevitable consequences of human conduct, by his reference of all matters of life and controversy to the will of God manifested in Nature, in inspiration and in experience, Tertullian laid Western Christendom under a great debt, never very generously acknowledged. For us it may be as profitable to go behind the writings till we find the man, and to think of the manhood, with every power and every endowment, sensibility, imagination, energy, flung with passionate enthusiasm on the side of purity and righteousness, of God and Truth; to think of the silent self-sacrifice freely and generously made for a despised cause, of a life-long readiness for martyrdom, of a spirit, unable to compromise, unable in its love of Christ to see His work undone by cowardice, indulgence and unfaith, and of a nature in all its fulness surrendered. That the Gospel could capture such a man as Tertullian, and, with all his faults of mind and temper, make of him what it did, was a measure of its power to transform the old world and a prophecy of its power to hold the modern world, too, and to make more of it as the ideas of Jesus find fuller realization and verification in every generation of Christian character and experience.

I’ve caught it from my “lefty” opponents for using Tertullian, but I make no apologies.

It’s Time for Cleveland to Lose “Tall Betsy”

We’re coming upon Halloween, that time of year when things get scary.  (I’ll throw in the fact that Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses and started the Reformation on Halloween, something that Bossuet could appreciate.)  In any case “ghost stories” make their way to the surface.  In Cleveland, TN, that means “Tall Betsy,” a story initiated by another Cleveland legend, Allan Jones.  According to the “official website“:

Tall Betsy was a very tall woman who walked the streets of Cleveland, TN in the early 1920s. She always wore black and was referred to by the townspeople as Tall Betsy, Black Betsy, and the Lady in Black. Marie used the stories of Tall Betsy to get young Gincy to be home before the street lights came on because that is when “TALL BETSY” comes out.

Since score-settling about past offences is the rage these days, I think it’s time to do so on Betsy’s behalf.

I come from a family of tall people in general and tall women in particular.  My mother was 5′-11″ and my wife is 5′-9″.  It’s not been easy to be a tall woman.  Growing upon in Palm Beach (where Allan Jones has his digs just down the street from where my grandmother lived), we’d watch a show on WPTV called “Call the Doctor”.  Television moved a lot slower in those days; all this amounted to was a physician and a moderator sitting in front of the camera taking live calls about medical issues.  One caller was distressed that her daughter was shooting up so fast and wondered what could be done.  The doctor’s first response was brief: “Tall men”.  (Worked in my family…) But then he went on to say that there were drugs and other treatments that could stunt growth, and many women in the day were subjected to that kind of thing.

The sad truth was that, in a culture where men hated to look up to a woman in any way, tall women were regarded as freaks.  That’s compounded in this part of the country by the fact that the Scots-Irish, among their other characteristics, tend to be vertically challenged.  They had a few defenders, though: J.R.R. Tolkien conceived of the Lady Galadriel at 6′-4″.  Had she grown up in these hills, she would have gotten many phone calls from Pat Summitt.

Summitt and the Lady Vols did a great deal to advance the cause of women, tall and otherwise.  It’s hard to argue with winners.  But sooner or later those winners will go shopping, and in Knoxville that meant the Tall Gallery.  Near the West Town Mall, it was one of my wife’s favourite “tall shops”, which have pretty much disappeared from the landscape.  Owned by two elderly women who barely reached the ground, it was a place for hours of hunting through the clearance racks (and for me they had the best waiting area of just about anywhere where my wife has shopped).  Greeting everyone who came into the place was a 7′ or so stuffed giraffe in the display window, an example that it’s possible to turn a put-down into a mascot.

Now, in fairness, there are tall women who are really scary.  Leading the pack these days is Samantha Power, our ambassador to the UN, who along with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett and John Kerry, have made a complete mess of American foreign policy with their combination of pseudo-moralism and passive-aggressive behaviour.  Thanks to them and others, every day in the Middle East is Halloween without the treat.

So if Allan Jones wants to promote some Gothic horrors (or maybe Celtic horrors, she’s from Ireland) about “Tall Samantha” we’d all be better off.  In the meanwhile it’s time to put away the fears (and the shortening drugs) and, as our TN-3 congressman Chuck Fleishmann knows all too well with his South Dakota colleague Kristi Noem, celebrate leadership we can look up to.

Sailing the Last Voyage with Newton and Pascal

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