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HOW DO WE FLATTEN THE CURVE ON PANIC? The president should listen to experts in other fields, too. A country is more than an economy, but it’s also more than a virus. If we listened only to emergency room doctors, we might come away convinced that we have to completely ban cars, alcohol and gummy […]

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Member Post

 

It has often been said that women need to express and share their feelings, while men just want to fix stuff and move on. This is most elegantly captured in The Parable of The Nail.  I am seeing this in the WuFlu coverage right now. Women are sharing their experiences. They are shoring each other […]

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The Work of Millennia

 

When some prehistoric man, wounded and hungry (as he always was), stepped out onto the plain, he could find around him what he needed to survive. He could find plants and animals to eat, and those plants and animals would provide him with just enough energy to find more plants and animals, and when a little energy was left over, he could find some material to shelter him from the elements.

But of course, the animals didn’t lay down and offer themselves to him. The rocks cleaved to the earth; the plants tried to hold fast in the ground. The sad fact is that work was required. Work, stone-cold work, made the difference between life and death. But at least he could do it. And with each hard meal, and with each driving rain or bitter cold snap that he passed warm and dry, prehistoric man gained another day. But only having another day was not enough to satisfy him, not enough to convince him to rest.

As it turned out, underneath this man, above him and all around, lay everything needed to do much more than survive another day. Indeed, there was everything a man needed to build a world beyond his imagination – to build castles, to build farms, and to build ships that could cross oceans. All he had to do was keep working.

And so he did keep working, and so did his descendants. Eventually, man did enough work, experimented with enough of the Earth’s material, to become Historic man. He would eventually even learn to make some of the animals do some of the work for him, and the results of his work were thus multiplied. He was wounded and hungry less often now. Now, man could store up for himself, not just another day or two, but a whole season. But this still was not enough to satisfy him.

Time passed, days and years, on and on, and man and beast toiled away. And then one day, man discovered it wasn’t just animals, and other people, that could work for him. Certain little black rocks, and certain seeping liquids, had secret properties that held the key to an immense expansion of work. For in those little rocks was pressed all the energy of a billion years of life on this planet, a billion years of tiny seeds growing into great forests, falling and growing again, over and over. And, of course, a billion years of the surging bloody energy of beasts, great and small, thrashing and killing. All of that energy pressed and compressed, just waiting for a little fire to spring forth.

And so man brought that fire, and he captured that power, and he unleashed all that Jurassic rage. He made new great metal beasts that thrashed and killed – trains and pounding presses, machine guns and bombers, race cars and mauling tanks. Work, energy, was now measured in revolutions per second, kilotons and megatons. From the earth which at one time seemed to only offer animals and plants, man could now make machines that recorded sounds and images, that compressed libraries of information into tiny pieces of plastic, that could travel all the way to some of those mysterious points of light at which prehistoric man could only shrug. Historic man became Modern man. Modern man was now rarely wounded and hungry, and barring something truly unfortunate, man could now expect many years of life.

Predictably, though, Modern man is still not satisfied, and the work will surely go on. Man is drawn like a magnet to some future when he will finally get to rest. But as far as he has come, it seems there is still a long way to go.

An Outsider’s Ode to America

 

Snow is blowing in from the west across the country road I’m walking on, which runs north-south, leading to the county airport. Not much snow though — if I took a photo I could probably count flakes. To my right (west) is a cornfield that rolls like chocolate that has melted and solidified again. It has the texture of bran — in dips where the rain has settled that’s exactly what it looks like — and is the same color a Labrador would be if you covered it in hair gel. Nothing tall is growing on it, so I have a clear view across to Walmart.

To my left is another field intersected about halfway — about 50 feet from where I am — by a 10-foot-high black wire fence that runs the perimeter of the airport and that Bill — my American father in law — says cost millions to build. I believe him. It must be five miles long. At this end, I once saw two coyotes cross like meteors in dim evening light. They were heading northeast at the speed of a marathoner pacing himself. They ran like they owned the world.

A couple of dozen Canada Geese have flown overhead since I left the house. I’m guessing it’s seen a million now because the Civil War was still two decades away when it saw its first. Back then the house was in the spot the parking lot by Walmart sits now. Two decades ago, Walmart decided they wanted that spot — paid out the old owners for it — and Bill bought it for a dollar and had it shifted it a half-mile around the corner to where it sits now facing northeast in a funnel of Ash, maple, sycamore, and walnut.

Looking from the front, you’d be standing on an acre of mown grass seeing the funnel’s left side extend around and out of view to a downward sloping hill. On the right side, you see around the back of a two-story garage that uses the same color scheme as the house — white with green trim and roof.

There’s a rumor the house was part of the Underground Railroad. I don’t know if that’s true. There’s another that Richard Nixon stayed in it. That might be true. If so, he probably knew its layout no worse than his own home’s. If memory serves me, whilst touring guests around his own house he unsuccessfully announced in front of two closed doors “and here is my study” — opening them into rooms that clearly were not.

But he did successfully do two things — at least as it relates to the town I’m in.

When President, he signed an executive order protecting coyotes that cross roads like meteors in dim evening light.

When Vice President, he opened the library at DePauw. Hence why the rumor he stayed there might be true. I’m in Greencastle, home of DePauw, and this is my ode to America.

This is the land where an awkward man with an ordinary background can become President. This is the land you can buy a house he might’ve stayed in for a dollar. This is the land where you can walk a half-mile and find thousands of other things in the same place for the same price. This is the land where law is passed and it means something — even for wild animals. This too is the land where prejudice made Underground Railroads necessary. But to paraphrase MLK — whose life’s fight a century later was made necessary by the presence of that same prejudice — this is the land where progress was made by it being “truer to what it said on paper.”

Snow is blowing in from the west across the country road I’m walking that runs north-south leading to the county airport — and I am grateful.

Quote of the Day: Rage and Realization

 

“There is a story of a great Samurai who comes to visit the Zen master, Hakuin. The Samurai approaches the Zen master and bows dutifully, asking, ‘Sir, I wish to understand the difference between heaven and hell.’ The Zen master looks at the Samurai and, eyeing him from head to toe, says, ‘I would tell you but I doubt that you have the keenness of wit to understand.’ The Samurai pulls back in astonishment. ‘Do you know who you are speaking to?’ he huffs. ‘Not much,” says the Zen master, “I really think you are probably too dull to understand.’ ‘What?’ says the Samurai. ‘How can you talk to me like this?’ ‘Oh, don’t be silly,’ says the Zen master. ‘Who do you think you are? And that thing hanging by your waist. You call that a sword? It’s more like a butter knife.’ The Samurai, becoming enraged draws his sword and raises it over his head to strike the Zen master. ‘Ah,’ says the Zen master. ‘That is hell.’ The Samurai’s eyes shine with recognition as he bows and sheathes his sword. ‘And that,’ says the Zen master, ‘is heaven.’” — Stephen Levine, Who Dies?

Stress is running through America like a restless stream, breaching its boundaries. Unless you live in a cave, you’re not immune. And the stress craves a voice, a way to make itself known. It shows up when we voice our impatience at our spouse, or yell at a child for a minor issue, or rant at a co-worker. Many of our actions may be bloodless, but they are leaving tiny wounds in those we care about. Those of us who normally have long fuses are erupting, surprising ourselves and those around us.

But then we suddenly wake up. We notice a person’s hurt look, experience an unusual push-back, or even a person’s tears. And we realize that our stress, frustration, or fear has decided to strike out. If we own our own behavior, we apologize. But more than apologize, we can vow to be more aware, to take responsibility for the difficulties all around us, to empathize with those who are concerned just as we are. We can vow to be engaged.

We can choose heaven or languish in hell.

Respecting Work: The Wisdom of “The Essential Craftsman”

 

There’s a story about a young man who hopes someday to be an airline pilot. Having to pursue his dream “from the ground up,” he finds himself servicing the lavatories for small jets on a private ramp. Employed by a penny-pinching manager, there’s an unresolved repair ticket on the waste pump hose. Due to this malfunction, about once a week the young man gets sprayed with a combination of “blue-juice” and human waste. One evening he comes home after work, stinking of disinfectant and poo. His bride suggests that maybe he should look for a new job. “What!” he exclaims, incredulously, “and get out of aviation?”

Unlike a driven young man in the focused pursuit of aviation dreams, for many young people, it takes longer for their gyroscopes to stabilize. I remember telling schoolteachers that I planned to be a ditch digger when I graduated. Not the version of ditch-digging that involves operating heavy equipment – no, I meant digging a hole with a shovel. My intent was mainly to deflect any questions on my plans – the future was scary.

What these smart remarks revealed was not only ignorance about the technical know-how required to be successful in excavation work, but common youthful ignorance about the larger context of what it takes to learn and become proficient in any craft or occupation.

After falling off a ladder (about 40 years after high school) I had to become more serious about careful preparation in my do-it-yourself projects. YouTube offered, for no cost other than my time, a lot of content on how to perform certain tasks. As I searched for more I began to recognize the qualitative differences not only in video production but also which channels were effective in explaining objectives and in orienting novices. There was one channel, however, that my searches kept returning to that offered something even more, “The Essential Craftsman” (EC). I can’t describe that “something more” better than the site does in its “about” tab:

The purpose of the channel is to showcase the knowledge that is gained through experience and encourage respect for the craftsmen, their tools, and history.

Since I have become a regular viewer of the EC YouTube channel and a listener to the podcasts, I have come to appreciate and better understand so much more of my immediate physical world (i.e., my house) — and not just or even primarily in the details of technical know-how. I don’t know if the trades necessarily lend themselves better to something more common (or organic) in the human experience but I sense that the lessons and perspectives on the EC channel – as the outcome of the experience of work, apply more broadly to improvement and growth in life generally.

The channel does not confine itself to technical issues – especially the podcasts get into things like back pain, the “learning curve,” and the changes brought on by IT. These podcasts often feature not only the host (Scott) but also his son (Nate) the producer. Nate brings a generational perspective from an unusually open and introspective young man.

In a task to write a piece about work for Ricochet, I could not think of a better subject than to introduce The Essential Craftsman to those not already familiar. If you find yourself with spare time while hiding from the virus, you could do a lot worse than exploring this channel. Also, if you’re going to spend any of that time on a ladder, you may want to watch  How Not to Fall Off a Ladder.

This Week’s Book Review – Catastrophe at Spithead

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘Catastrophe at Spithead’ examines loss of warship Royal George

By MARK LARDAS

Mar 14, 2020

“Catastrophe at Spithead: The Sinking of the Royal George” by Hilary L. Rubinstein, Naval Institute Press 2020, 352 pages, $38.95

One memorable incident during the Wars of American Independence was the loss of the warship Royal George. A three-deck ship-of-the-line, it capsized in harbor undergoing minor repairs. Six hundred to 1,000 drowned, including may civilians aboard, and Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt. The sinking inspired a major poem by William Cowper, a famous English poet.

“Catastrophe At Spithead: The Sinking of the Royal George” by Hilary L. Rubinstein captures the sinking and the events surrounding it.

Rubenstein follows several threads. She traces the career of Kempenfelt, who had gained the reputation of a brilliant naval commander by the time of his death in 1782. She examines the circumstances surrounding the ship’s sinking. She follows the aftermath of the sinking, examining its consequences and the careers of the survivors. She places everything within its context as part of the Wars of American Independence and the Royal Navy of King George III.

The book is fascinating for several reasons. Rubenstein offers an interesting study on the causes of the sinking. Its loss, anchored in a sheltered harbor on a calm day, was unprecedented. The impact it had on 18th-century Britain was similar to that experienced in America following the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

It’s also a fascinating examination of 18th-century British society. Kempenfelt’s Royal Navy career progress was slowed by several factors. His father, although gently born, was of foreign origin. Richard Kempenfelt lacked sufficient interest within the Royal Navy’s hierarchy to achieve quick promotion. His capabilities eventually secured promotion, but he achieved flag rank too late for important command early in the American Revolution. His abilities might have led to greater British naval success in the war’s critical early years.

In addition to its crew, Royal George was filled with vendors, sailors’ wives and children and workmen supplying the ship. Rubenstein uses these to examine the lives of the period’s ordinary people.

Well-written and approachable, “Catastrophe At Spithead” offers readers otherwise uninterested in naval or 18th-century history a fascinating peek at this now-obscure accident. It’s a surprising reminder that the type of technical mishaps that plague today’s society have been common throughout history.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

The Path is Gone

 

The Path is Gone

The way through the forest seemed sure
the light on the peak shined pure,
but then, the path was gone.

I sought the sun to shine on me
A hard climb to victory
but now, the path was gone.

I spin, I search, I turn
I hear, I look, I learn
and still, the path is gone.

I cry out “What is the way?”
I bow, I ask, I pray
and yet, the path is Gone.

I am not lost.
I know who I am
it’s just the path is Gone

Behind me lays the trail I made
Before me lay the trails I’ll make
the path is Mine!

Greater Love Has No One Than This….

 

Father Giuseppi Berardelli died in Italy from the Coronavirus. He was a Catholic priest. To the world, he was an average victim; that is, a senior citizen of around seven decades old, or 72 as they say in normal tongue. But there was nothing normal about this man.

Fr. Berardelli contracted the Coronavirus this month and was severely stricken by it. His parishioners saved up and bought a ventilator for him to aid his recovery. In an extraordinary act of self-sacrifice, the padre asked that his ventilator be given to a younger man in the hospital other than him. He did so knowing he could pay the ultimate price for it.

Sadly he did. But he died like a true shepherd and priest. Can you say a prayer for him? I have no words for how this makes me feel. Other than tears and admiration. One thought does echo in my mind “Greater love has no one than this, that one would lay down his life for friends….”

 

UPDATE: There is some speculation the above MAY NOT HAVE OCCURRED. Two accounts say there was no ventilator swapping at all. If not accurate I’m sorry. RIP padre.

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And just like that, it was over.  We’d been on total lockdown for less than 10 days when it happened.  @max, wielding his awesome killing power, shut down the PIT. I’d say that these were new and fearful times, but we’d been through this before.  As the longest running thread on Ricochet, we know the […]

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RSR 13! Atomic Terror Over the African Coast

 

Pour a beverage, turn down the lights, and pull up a chair! Tonight, we begin the thirteenth series of Ricochet Silent Radio, fan fiction about Ricochet members written as scripts inspired by the spirit of old-time radio. This week’s three-part tall tale is Atomic Terror Over the African Coast, a tip of the hat in tribute to veteran RSR star Hank Rhody’s own 2016 entry in imaginary media, Atomic Terror Over the Pacific. We’ve recruited a few more feature performers from the overstocked pool of fascinating characters on the Member Feed, and we’re always looking for a few more!

Plus, of course, we’ll never neglect RSR’s longtime audience favorites. In view of the ongoing national emergency, this program may be interrupted by Ricochet editors at any time for news bulletins. Our sponsors will present this program with minimal commercial interruptions.

But first–(Recorded ad theme) Take a breath…it’s springtime! The cares of winter are over. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, we’re tending a crop of the world’s finest tobacco for you and you, Mr. and Mrs. America. So taste the flavor, and savor the springtime with Salem!

(Network announcer) And now, tonight’s program. Tales From the PIT Presents:

Atomic Terror Over the African Coast!

The purple mountains outside Albuquerque looked postcard perfect. It was dusk at the end of a brilliant afternoon in early spring. A retro red neon sign of a high-kicking, mini-skirted cowgirl and an orange mushroom cloud was perched on top of a bar in Skyline Heights, premises of the Bombs Away Beer Company. D. Newlander, a tall dark-haired man in his mid-forties, came in from the parking lot and nodded at the owner standing behind the bar. Happy hour just started and the place was nearly empty.

“H’lo, Johnny”, the newcomer said as he took off his sunglasses and put on a pair of wireframe glasses to get accustomed to the cool darkness. The bartender gestured towards a private room. Two young women were waiting, none too patiently by the looks of it. As the tall man put on a smile and entered the room, John the owner discreetly closed the door behind him. A picture of John as a younger man in Air Force blue hung on the wall. It was captioned “USAF Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician”.

Raven-haired Shanna, the taller of the two women, greeted Newlander frostily. “You’re late”, she said, her dark eyes flashing. “Jackie and I have been here for half an hour. -And I work later tonight cross town at the Tilted Kilt. As you should well know, since you’re my most dedicated bar customer”. D. Newlander (no name; just D) slid into the booth and pulled out a pair of manila envelopes. “We do this one job together, and none of us will ever have to work again”.

Jackie, shorter and blonde, opened her envelope. Inside was a fake passport, an air ticket, and a packet of money–$25,000. “Just the down payment”, he said. Both women looked at D, amazed and wary. “So this is real? Your professor friend is real?” Newlander nodded. “Yes, he’s real. He’s five minutes away from here, ready to brief the team. Let’s be on that team. All three of us want to change our lives. What do you say?”

Their destination was within sight of the bar. A futuristic building’s impressive façade read National Museum of Nuclear Sciences and History. It was just closing, but the guard waved them in. They were ushered into a conference room, where more than a dozen strangers regarded each new member of the group with curiosity and caution.

The clock in the plaza was chiming six as the doors were closed. A striking-looking young man, maybe thirty years old, moved to the mike with easy confidence. “I’m Perry Samblock, the director of this museum. This community will always have a special place in world history because of the terrifying, world-changing capabilities of the bombs we have created here. We have a proprietary interest in that legacy. When times demand it, this brotherhood of the bomb will step in. We have nothing against official agencies. We like those guys. In many cases we’ve had their jobs; we are those guys. But in this, shall we say, irregular form, we can move a lot faster”.

“Many of you already know the man I’m introducing, a great friend to the sciences and to the creation of this museum in particular. You’ve seen his shows on PBS and the Learning Channel, like the How to Build a Computer series, or God and Science Reconciled online. You’ve read his bestseller, Atomic Terror Over the Pacific, or watched the adaptation on HBO. Ladies and gentlemen, Hank Rhody”.

Bearded, bespectacled Hank Rhody walks into the spotlight and takes the microphone. He hangs a diagram of a weapon on the conference room whiteboard. It read “ThUG”.

“ThUG” stands for “the uranium gun”. It’s not much of a gun. It fires only one bullet that destroys itself, plus everything a half-mile around it. ThUG’s the simplest kind of atomic bomb. It was Hiroshima’s executioner”, he said quietly. “South Africa built seven of them in the Eighties. They are the only nation in the world that is known to have destroyed their entire stock of nuclear weapons”. He paused. “Or was known to”.

Hank unrolled a map. “We have friends and kin in the extended network of Lutheran and other German-speaking missions in this part of Africa. They’ve got some contact with Dutch Reformed and Afrikaners. They know the Rhodys have an ear for news. They brought us some”. He pointed to a place on the map. “There’s an old professor outside Durban who was once a second-rank science advisor in the former white government. He worked on the bomb project like hundreds of other people. He wasn’t one of the leaders. The Mandela government cleared him to teach physics at the University of the state of Natal. He stayed clear of politics”.

Hank continues. “Last year he received a fatal cancer diagnosis and he sold some collector’s items to raise cash for his granddaughter and her kids. Many of the items were Third Reich paraphernalia, legal at the time of purchase but illegal in the new South Africa. The website that bought the items was in Europe, so EU and Interpol paid attention to the prof’s atomic connection. Maybe he deserved a second look, but there are plenty of legitimate military history buffs. The case was closed. Three months ago, he died. Then his house was broken into. Well, more accurately intelligence broke into it, and we were convinced he’d kept the seventh bomb. There’s paperwork that it was dismantled and destroyed. The paperwork was faked. So we pursued the bomb. We found it. At least, we found out who has it. Now it’s up to us to get it from him. Here’s how we’re going to do it–”.

(Voice fades)

(Network announcer): You’re listening to a Tales From the PIT presentation. We pause for station identification.

(Local announcer): This is KRCH 810 AM, your Ricochet station in Los Angeles.

(Network announcer): And now back to Atomic Terror Over the African Coast!

(Narrator): Two hours went by. The streets outside were dark. The plaza clock chimed 8. Inside the conference room, things were wrapping up.

Hank, answering someone’s question, leaned forward. “They’ll be on guard and they know every trick. It’s locked up tight. How do we get it out? We can’t! But he can! D. Newlander and Shanna are the prime team. We have to give him the opportunity for him to double-cross someone first. That’ll be you, Samblock, and you, Jackie.” Her face lit up with an incandescent smile. Samblock clearly liked the idea of being partnered with her. “That’s just one set of roles”, Hank said. “There will be a couple of them”.

Shanna said, “You realize, of course, that the property transfer has to be real. The Swiss won’t fake the certification”. Hank nods vigorously. “Smart lady! You’re right, we have to go through with the real thing. Of course, I know a way to get it back later”. D. Newlander smiled with brotherly pride. His protégé was already making good.

RightAngles, an aptly named model and artist, read her instructions. “All right, it’s a la mode Francaise”, she asked, “Which ‘me’ do you want?” Hank didn’t hesitate a second. “I need you to be the ultimate haughty hottie”. RightAngles laughed. “Got it”. She recognized someone at the end of the table. He clearly knows her. “Roberto”, she said. He smiled and nodded. “And you’re, uh, called the Right Everything, right? Long time no see”. She laughed again. “You know perfectly well who I am, buster”.

Hank Rhody gestured towards a thoughtful, tough-looking westerner in suit and tie. “Take a good look, because he isn’t going on this trip. We need someone to handle secure radio traffic on this end. That’s him. He’s also our contact with the agencies, to the limited degree they can help us along the way. Call him the Canadian Lieutenant, because his cryptonym is a mouthful—ltpwfdcm, allegedly”. The group murmured a hello. Ltpwfdcm acknowledged it. “Got a secure base for this yet?” Hank asked, “I mean, rock solid?” Ltpwfdcm shrugged and smiled in affirmation. “Not going to be a problem, Hank”.

Computer expert Dave Barsham, a strong man with a gentle southern accent, asked: “Hank, can’t we get a more exact idea of what hardware we’re going to face?”

“No, Dave, unfortunately we can only narrow it down to a handful of vendors who sold mainframes to the university in that time period. Between you and Judge Mental, we think we have a good shot of being ready for anything. Judge is also piloting”.

“Lucky me”, said Matt Balzer dryly. “I’m the co-pilot. Which reminds me; where’s the plane?” Hank rolled up his diagram and maps. “My brother Sam is with it in Africa right now”, he said. “It’s the oldest jet in our fleet, sort of spent the last twenty, thirty years in the corporate backwaters. It’s got a quiet ICAO file. Perfect for this kind of work”.

“The repaint job on the jet?”, Matt asked.

“My brother found a fleet services company there that was happy to get the work”.

Dave Barsham frowned with honest doubt. “Couldn’t we give what we know to the South African intelligence agencies and let them take care of it, Hank? It’s their country. It ought to be up to them. Hasn’t this guy broken their laws?”

“A very reasonable point of view, Dave. Normally I’d agree. But he’s broken all sorts of laws in his time, and he’s paid off high-level connections. We can’t be sure a police raid wouldn’t get leaked. If we can obtain and present information, digital information tying him in with atomic smuggling, the courts would prosecute”.

“There’s another reason we don’t want to tell the South Africans what we’re doing. They don’t have nuclear weapons. The new Black government signed a treaty thirty years ago renouncing them. But if they suddenly discovered that they still possessed one, it might be an irresistible temptation. Conflict over its possession could destabilize the government”.

Hank concludes the meeting by opening a bottle of champagne. Flutes of the good stuff are offered all around. He raises his arm in a toast. “Our next stop is King Shaka International Airport in Durban. The next time we meet, most of us will have to pretend we don’t know each other, so good luck—and here’s to Operation Ricochet!”

And so it begins! For the next two nights, tune in Ricochet Silent Radio for the next chapters of our exciting adventure, Atomic Terror Over the African Coast!

Ricochet members mentioned or featured in tonight’s introductory episode include @dnewlander, @samuelblock, @hankrhody, @samrhody, @rightangles, @lessersonofbarsham, @mattbalzer, @judgemental, @roberto and @ltpwfdcm. Our disclaimer: RSR stories are fan fiction. The dialog, actions, and personal history of these characters are purely imaginary. RSR is not an official activity of Ricochet. Your imaginary network radio announcer is Johnny Donovan. The voice of RSR is @raykujawa.

Remember, three chimes mean good times on Ricochet Silent Radio.

Day 64: COVID-19 “Shelter-in-Place”

 

Today the screengrab is featuring a different data site: https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus. I am also focusing on the death count because, to the first order, the fear of catastrophic death counts is what is driving the politicians to restrict liberty for their various populations. While politicians seek praise, they fear blame.

The President at the virus press briefing yesterday squarely addressed the issue of trade-offs between fighting the virus and killing the economy. Of course, the press wants to act incredulous that he would even consider “money” versus lives. But the reality is that impoverishment kills. I don’t know that the President is the most articulate spokesman for the economic arguments. But if you were watching and have concerns about trashing the economy in the process of fighting the virus, you took comfort in his words. The press wants to believe that Trump just wants to preserve his economic record, is just throwing a tantrum over what the necessities of fighting the virus have done to his singular achievement.

Maybe Sen. John Kennedy put it better when he highlighted that we love our children and our grandchildren and are concerned about what kind of America we are leaving to them. That, as a senior himself, he would far rather take the risk of death than to destroy the country in the name of preserving older citizens. If that is the trade-off what is the question? Why would we condemn our young to a life of impoverishment to add a few days, months, years to us who are superannuated?

And this assumes that the projections for the pandemic are true. If, as Richard Epstein has capably argued, the virus is not as deadly as supposed by those who are tanking the economy, we are making a mistake of incredible proportions if we persist in shuttering Main Street for an extended period. President Trump accepted a 15-day period of extreme measures, but he is clearly worried about letting it go on much longer. Never bet against this man’s instincts.

The press wants to lock him into following the most conservative medical advice he is getting. The press wants to portray him as cavalier about the lives of so many. The press are idiots, ideological idiots. And the climbing numbers will support them in the short run. If we wait for an undisputed “all clear” signal, we will emerge only to see desolation. The call needs to be made while the risks still remain. President Trump will do that, but we need to have his back.

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

12 Weeks

 

This is approximately how long my business can run with no revenue on the amount of liquid cash assets I have on hand. 12 weeks. What is at the end of that 12 weeks? Unknown. At that time, will we be in a recovery phase enough to plod on? Will sufficient revenue return to dig out of the pit of the Wuhan reckoning? Will there be enough cash left to pay the IRS in July? Or will 12 weeks result in little change and I just walk away and lock the doors, let the bank have my building back, wish my employees well in their lives and bid adieu to 15 years of sweat equity?

My husband and I work together…we often tell how we started our business in 2005 with two laptops (bought on credit), a donated desk ,and a card table in a shared office space. I left a job in government with a guaranteed paycheck and benefits to join my husband on this adventure. (Our four young children at the time didn’t know how lean those years were.) We started with no employees, existed on a bank credit line, then hired one employee, then two, rented our own space….survived 2008-2010 recession…hired a third employee…bought our own building….hired more employees…opened additional locations…hired more employees…plowed our “profits” right back into our business in salaries and development and hiring of staff, expansion, and buying goods and services from other businesses.

Last year, our business supported 18 families and put $1M in payroll into the pockets of our employees. My husband’s 2014 Chevy has over 200,000 miles on it from going hither and yon to support the business, and he and I work six days a week most weeks. While with us, our employees have supported their families — they have had babies, sent kids to college (and graduated them!), taken a real vacation for the first time, helped their senior parents, bought their own houses and quit renting. We are a “work family.” Three employees will be let go this week, two others will be asked to go part-time. In 12 weeks, my work family could be torn apart.

At the end of the day, my husband and I will be ok together. Our children are all young adults now – one in the military, two in college, and one in trade school. They will survive too. I am grateful for the ride we have had and am proud of what we have done together. I hold out hope that this will pass and we can continue. Whichever way it goes, I’ll know more in 12 weeks.

It’s the Culture, Stupid! How We Got the Wuhan Coronavirus

 

With Novel Coronavirus spreading like wildfire everywhere in the world now, perhaps you are wondering where this virus came from in the first place. You might wish to know how it was that last fall in China, someone in the medical establishment there noticed some cases of a particularly nasty pneumonia cropping up around Hubei Province in central China; the capital city of Wuhan in particular.

Let’s start, then, at the beginning. Chinese culture is very old, going back many centuries, and many of the culinary characteristics of today’s China are throwbacks to a much more primitive time. In the long past, like in most countries, the Chinese people lived closer to the forests. In those forests lived many species of animals, and the people killed and ate those animals. When the Chinese people became more civilized and moved into villages and then into cities, they brought many of their culinary tastes with them. Chinese people today still have a taste for unusual foods like pangolin, bats, and shark fins. It is well-known that Chinese will pay good money for some very unusual foods, and that has led to their encouraging of poaching of some endangered species.

Cultures in Africa also have a taste for some exotic wildlife, and many tribes today still live in or near jungles and forests, where they hunt and eat wild animals, sometimes including primates. Here is a picture of a market stall in Africa, where they are selling exotic wildlife for food.

In Africa, this is called “bushmeat”, and you can see the face of a primate among the specimens in this market. It is well-known that some diseases can be spread by the consumption of exotic animals, and that eating the flesh of primates may carry what is known in humans as Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. This is a particularly gruesome, incurable condition that causes the brain to deteriorate.

Getting back to the beginning, scientists for decades have known that many exotic species of forest and jungle wildlife carry their own kinds of viruses and bacteria. In these species, the pathogens often do not cause any kind of adverse effects or illnesses. In fact, we humans also carry many harmless, and sometimes beneficial, viruses and bacteria (bacteria are what actually allows us to digest our food). It is only when humans consume, or live among, these exotic species that their viruses and bacteria can “jump” to humans, and then they can cause very harmful diseases. This process is called “zoonosis”.

In the early 20th Century, it has been determined, the virus that causes AIDS first jumped from African primates to humans. It remained localized for a long time, but eventually made its way into civilization, and was spread very rapidly by homosexual humans and their multiple sex partners (the original “spreader” was a flight attendant who boasted of over 2,500 partners). The Ebola virus, whose name refers to a river in Africa, was spread by Africans and their penchant for eating bushmeat, and it remains a stubborn low-level epidemic in multiple parts of Africa. Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a virus found in horses that can spread to humans, and African Swine Fever has recently decimated the pigs of China (it is similar to Ebola in humans). Scientists and wildlife experts have been trying for decades to get Africans to stop eating bushmeat, but their efforts have been in vain. Culture is just too powerful.

Well, the same kind of situation holds in modern China. The Wuhan Wet Market is an institution in the large capital city of Hubei Province, where citizens can buy all manner of wild animals for food. Investigators have determined that the virus that is now propagating everywhere in the world originated in bats sold in the market. And the Chinese people have proven similarly resistant to giving up their cultural taste for exotic food. The Communist Party has closed the market for now, but the culture does not change that quickly. Here’s a new interesting article.

China has been a Communist country since 1949, and the Party has added another layer of culture over the original Chinese culture. Their culture of secrecy and arrogance contributed in large part to the spread of this new disease. However, their very-Chinese concentration on “saving face” also helped in a big way to keep this world-wide pandemic going. The Communist Party’s prime directive is tranquillity-they will do anything to avoid unrest in the population. So they did things like suppress news of the disease outbreak, and put the doctor who originally told his medical colleagues about it under isolation, making him sign a confession to “spreading rumors”, and condemning him to death from the virus.

Communism is Evil, and it can lead to situations like we are seeing now. People all over the world are succumbing to this previously-unknown virus, and their deaths can be attributed in part to Chinese and Communist Culture.

Crossposted at RushBabe49.com; always welcoming visitors and potential followers]

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From the Police Blotter: The Wrong Buyers

 

Portland Police Bureau photo

From the Oregonian:

Police say they’ve arrested a man accused of trying to sell thousands of face masks intended for hospital workers that were stolen earlier this month. Police said someone took 20 to 25 cases of N95 respirator masks from The ReBuilding Center in North Portland on March 7. Each case contained 400 masks.

Protective equipment for health workers is in short supply amid the coronavirus pandemic. The nonprofit ReBuilding Center diverts building materials from landfills and offers them for reuse. Court records indicate the victim of the theft was Mercy Corps, another Portland nonprofit.

The masks were going to be donated to Mercy Corps. The day after the theft the victim of the theft found the masks for sale on Craigslist. The victim contacted the seller and arranged a meeting with the seller to purchase the masks. The victim then contacted the Beaverton Police Department. The seller did not meet the buyer he was looking for; instead, he met Beaverton police officers.

He was booked into the Washington County Jail on suspicion of first-degree theft by receiving stolen property. Officers recovered six boxes of masks. After further investigation, Portland police on Saturday recovered seven more boxes of masks stored in a Northeast Portland house. The remaining boxes of masks haven’t been found.

Police said the investigation continues, and more arrests are possible. The masks recovered have been donated to local hospitals.

Coronavirus Graphs Update: Pray for the Big Apple

 

There has been a very significant increase in reported WuFlu cases out of New York City during the last few days. I’ve been monitoring the spread of this disease carefully for a bit over a week, and this new NYC data has been the greatest cause for concern that I have observed. I had to find a new data source to address this, from Johns Hopkins (technical note in the comments).

Pray for New York. Pray for Gov. Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio to lead the people of NYC with wisdom and resolve. Pray for President Trump, and other federal authorities, to provide them with the assistance that they may need.

NYC has 15,793 reported cases as of yesterday (March 22), up from 2,495 cases just 4 days earlier (March 18). NYC had zero reported cases prior to March 10. NYC now has almost half of the cases reported in the entire US:

The next graph shows total reported cases in the US and in NYC, since Feb. 23. This is not adjusted for population, but is the total count of reported cases. Remember that fewer than 9 million out of 330 million Americans live in NYC.

It is possible that this significant increase in reported cases in NYC is an artifact of the data, reflecting the rapid implementation of testing in a very short period. This caveat applies to all of the data that I’ve reported thus far, but perhaps the testing roll-out has been unusually recent and rapid in NYC. If true, this should become apparent in the next 4-7 days, as the rate of increase will decline. But I don’t think that we can count on that.

NYC now has the highest number of cases per capita of any major jurisdiction (and of any jurisdiction that I have seen). The number of reported cases in NYC, per million, is almost twice that of Italy. (It is possible that things are worse in the Lombardy region of Italy, and in specific Italian cities and towns, for which I do not have separate information.)

Here is the comparison of reported cases per million in NYC, Italy, and Spain, starting when each location passed 10 cases per million. I selected Italy because it has the most cases per million, and Spain because it has experienced the highest growth (among the major countries that I have been tracking).

Notice that the NYC trendline starts on Day 3, rather than Day 1. I offset the NYC trendline by two days because on Mar. 10, the first day in which it reported any cases at all, NYC was already at 20.6 cases per million. I have been starting the graphic trendline, for various countries, at 10 cases per million. Italy and all of the other countries I have analyzed were at around 20 cases per million on Day 3 (range 16.8 for the UK to 22.9 for Spain).

Of further concern, the growth curve in NYC is in the very early period, with average daily growth close to 45%. Here is the same data on cases per million, comparing NYC, Italy, and Spain in logarithmic scale. Remember that exponential growth looks like a straight line in a logarithmic graph. I have added trendlines for 45% and 20% daily exponential growth, for comparison.

This is a very important graph. You can see the trendline for Italy (blue) curving gradually down, toward the 20% daily growth line (Italy’s daily growth rate has actually under 20% for a fully 7 days). The trendline for Spain (light blue) is also trending down. But in NYC (orange), it is presently tracking the 45% daily increase line.

So NYC is in a period of exponential growth. We have seen this before, at the early stages for most countries, and the growth line has eventually bent down.

One thing to notice in the NYC trendline, in the logarithmic graph above (the last one), is the upward curve on Days 9-12. That represents daily growth well above 45%. The growth rate has declined a bit from this extraordinary level, curving down slightly on Days 13-15, but this remains a very high level.

I will continue to monitor and report on the situation.

God bless the people of the City of New York, the greatest city. Just the greatest, in the world, of all time, bar none. Fear no darkness.

On the Media and Asking the Right Questions

 

I always thought that one of the basic jobs of a reporter is supposed to be asking questions. Don’t just report a bunch of random facts or assertions; look at them and see if they suggest something meaningful, or maybe something that remains unexplained. Just today I’ve seen three different news stories that leave me with questions that I would have thought were obvious. But nobody asked them.

First: today Fox News breathlessly announces that the U.S. has passed 35,000 cases, making it the “third-highest infected nation in the world,” after China and Italy. But comparing the absolute number of infections across three nations with vastly different total populations is utterly meaningless. Since the U.S. is, in fact, the third most populous nation on the planet, having the third-highest number of infections is exactly what you would expect, neither particularly good or bad. The unasked question, of course, is why Italy, which is twenty-third in total population, should be in the top three. That seems to me to be very important, and far more significant than the “dog bites man” story that the third-largest nation has the third-highest number of infections.

Second: all day I’ve been seeing news reports about how the Trump administration is talking about lifting the restrictions and allowing the economy to restart, depending on how things look after the crucial fifteen days are up. OK, fine; but all of the business closures and stay-in-place orders are state-level things, and the federal government has no authority to alter them. So what exactly is the administration considering doing? I’m sure there’s an answer, but nobody asked. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that the federal government can do anything.

Third, and most puzzling to me, is something I just saw on the local TV news. First, they ran down the current stats for North Carolina: 336 total cases, with 11 hospitalizations. Then, a few minutes later, a story about how hospitals are asking for donations of protective equipment; we heard from a local nurse who said that in the clinic she works in, they have only one N95 mask that they all have to share. Huh? We have a total of eleven hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state, and somehow this has caused a shortage of masks? How exactly does that happen? Are all of the masks going to the hotspots like New York? Do we have a problem with distribution or poor planning? No idea, and once again, nobody asked.

There’s a difference between data and knowledge. The news media do a fairly poor job of delivering the first, and it seems to me that they make no effort at all at the second.

The Covenant, the Covenant, and the Covenant: Understanding Christian Theology in Context

 

Sometimes we think theology is supposed to answer the questions Who or what is G-d, and how can we have a happy afterlife? That’s actually not all that Biblical. The questions we should be asking if we’re going to do specifically Biblical theology are more along the lines of What has G-d done, what has He promised, and how will those promises be kept?

This is part of the reason Christian theology is so often misunderstood. Take this idea: If you do a lot of good in this life, you can have a happy afterlife! It seems a reasonable enough idea on its face. It shows up in Greek philosophy, but it’s not actually in the Bible.

Or this one: In the Old Testament we have a religion of law and punishment, but that didn’t work out very well, so the New Testament replaces the Old, and now we can have love instead of law, and grace instead of punishment. The Old Testament also talks about G-d’s love, and the New also talks about punishment. And the keyword for understanding what the New Testament does to the old is not replaced, but fulfill; the New Testament’s new covenant is explicitly tied into the covenants of the Old.

Then there’s this: If you accept and follow Jesus as your Lord and savior, you can go to heaven instead of hell when you die. This theology at least does turn up in the New Testament. But there is very little in the New Testament about a disembodied life after death in heaven–maybe two or three sentences. The real emphasis of life-after-death passages in the New Testament is on bodily resurrection.

What then is the Gospel about?

Here’s one of the standard formulas, often used by Protestants: Jesus/Yeshua died for our sins, and if we have faith in him (which includes repentance from sin and following him) we can have our sins forgiven and not fear the just punishment for our sins.

That’s not bad, but one of the more succinct summaries from the New Testament may sound a bit different. Paul states the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared” to various witnesses.

Then there’s the shorter formula “Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, is Lord,” a summary from N. T. Wright.

But the New Testament must be understood in the context of the Old Testament. The OT covenants are particularly important. The covenant with Abraham leads to the covenant with Moses, which leads to a new covenant. Only in light of these covenants can Christian theology be fully understood.

Abraham and Moses: Two Covenants

Here are some of the key passages on the covenant with Abraham. (My default setting is to quote from the English Standard Version.)

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:4-6)

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:15-18)

I do not read these as separate and distinct covenants, although some do. I think it’s the same covenant in all three chapters–the same covenant renewed, reaffirmed, maybe expanded, and definitely elaborated on.

Some major points of the covenant are:
–G-d will give Abraham many descendants;
–G-d will make a great nation of the children of Abraham;
–and through Abraham G-d will bless all the peoples of the world.

Then, of course, we have the Mosaic covenant or the covenant at Sinai. (Again, I do not read different passages on this covenant as presenting distinct covenants, but as re-presenting the same covenant.)

There are many, many passages on this, but two of the major passages are Deuteronomy 11 and Deuteronomy 29. And, of course, the Ten Commandments given in Exodus 20 are really important. And–very important–note that this covenant can be broken by the people’s disobedience.

The Mosaic Covenant in Its Abrahamic Context

One of the key themes of Christian theology, as shown by Paul in Galatians 3, is that the Mosaic covenant was part of an older covenant with Abraham. It was a means to an end (which is not to say that it was only a means).

The Torah confirms that the Mosaic covenant is rooted in the covenant with Abraham. Consider the following passages about what happens in the Exodus:

From Genesis 13: The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

From Genesis 15: Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

From Genesis 50: And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but G-d will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “G-d will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

From Exodus 3: And he said, “I am the G-d of your father, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at G-d. Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. . . . “Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the G-d of your fathers, the G-d of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt,and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’ “

From Exodus 6: G-d spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your G-d, and you shall know that I am the Lord your G-d, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’”

From Deuteronomy 29: “You are standing today, all of you, before the Lord your G-d: the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord your G-d, which the Lord your G-d is making with you today, that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your G-d, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, but with whoever is standing here with us today before the Lord our G-d, and with whoever is not here with us today.”

The repeated theme is that the Exodus from Egypt and the establishment of the people in the land of Canaan are promised as part of the covenant with Abraham. These things are not separate from the Mosaic covenant; they are part of it, or at least part of the process of completing it. G-d says (Ex. 6) that He will by his power and with “great acts” bring the people out of Egypt, making this people His people and establishing them in the land–all in fulfillment of the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The covenant under Moses (Deut. 29) is “as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

This latter covenant is part of the fulfillment of the earlier. But not the whole. Not yet–not until all the blessings come through Abraham’s seed to all the families of the earth.

A Third Covenant

In Deuteronomy 30, after predicting the Exile, G-d predicts the Return from Exile:

And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your G-d has driven you, and return to the Lord your G-d, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your G-d will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your G-d has scattered you.

G-d also says that the hearts of His people will be circumcised:

And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the Lord your G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

The Return from Exile will be accompanied by a change: Instead of G-d commanding the people to obey and then circumcising their bodies as a sign of the covenant, G-d himself will circumcise them–not by a bodily sign of keeping the covenant, but a spiritual change to the לֵבָב/lebab/mind/heart/will to enable the people to keep the covenant.

The inability of the people to keep the covenant is clear from very early on. Joshua chapters 23-24 reviews the terms of the covenant and has Joshua reminding the people in 24:19 that they will not be able to keep the covenant. We need the heart’s circumcision.

Fast-forward to the later prophets.

Isiah 61:8: For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

From Jeremiah 31: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

From Ezekiel 36: And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Here we learn:
–that the circumcision of the heart involves G-d writing his law on our hearts,
–that it involves G-d’s Spirit living in us
–that it also involves a New Covenant,
–and that this covenant is eternal.

This covenant is thus, and explicitly, “not like the covenant” with Moses.

Note also that the Mosaic covenant can be broken and this one cannot. Indeed, with G-d’s Spirit in us and his law on our hearts, the occasion need not even arise.

Not that it necessarily replaces the old. We can see from Haggai 2:5-6 that the Mosaic covenant is still in place; Haggai ministers at the time of Zerubbabel–after the return from Babylon. In the New Testament, in Acts 6, we are told that it was a slanderous lie that Christians were preaching that Jesus/Yeshua was to destroy the temple and change the customs taught by Moses.

Not that this guarantees that the Mosaic covenant cannot ever be ended; the Torah establishes that it can. But we should be careful concluding that it’s the New Covenant that would do it.

What we can say for sure is that these three covenants are all linked together. The Abrahamic covenant establishes the Mosaic covenant, and the Mosaic covenant establishes the New Covenant. The Mosaic covenant is part of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic, and the New is, in turn, a fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant’s prophecy from Deuteronomy 30. We could say that the Mosaic Covenant contains the New Covenant and that the Abrahamic Covenant contains them both–bearing in mind that spatial language like this is a bit metaphorical.

The New Covenant in Christian Theology

Christian theology is about these covenants. The New Testament teaches a direct link between the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant.

Paul explains in Galatians and Romans that the Gospel is just the completion of the ancient, former, unconditional, and unbreakable covenant with Abraham.

One of the important questions in New Testament interpretation is whether the Moscaic covenant is canceled or whether it continues for Jews. (I don’t think anyone thinks it applies to Gentiles.) There are reasons to think it may still be in place, including the aforementioned passage in Acts 6, Paul’s practice of Jewish rituals in Acts, his circumcision of Timothy, and his consistent profession of his identity as a Pharisee.

There are reasons to think it might not be in place, including the linkage of this covenant to the land and to the sacrificial system. The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us that the sacrificial system is now obsolete, and the New Testament starting as early as its third chapter is written as a prophecy of the loss of the land (which happened with the Roman military action in A. D. 70).

I can’t promise I won’t sort this stuff out, but . . . don’t hold your breath. (Last time I didn’t even get as far as defining “supersessionism!”)

But one thing that is very clear in the New Testament is the relation of the New Covenant to the old ones. The Gospel is the good news that the New Covenant has begun, a covenant going back through Moses all the way to Abraham. According to the New Testament, Jesus/Yeshua, John, Paul, and Christians today are all part of Genesis 12 and Genesis 15.

And there’s this: Whatever the status of the Mosaic covenant, the Mosaic revelation stands. It finds in the Gospel its fulfillment–using a standard New Testament term for Old Testament revelation in relation to Christ, its being made full. It is not discontinued. It stands at least as long as heaven and earth shall stand.

There’s more to the covenants, of course. There’s the covenant with David. There’s Psalm 2, Psalm 110, and more.

Perhaps . . . another time.

One Thing Is Clear: It’s Time to Shut China’s Wet Markets

 

The world must demand that China shut down its wildlife farms and wet markets.  Now.

With the emergence of SARS in 2003 from a wet market in China, it was recognized that these farms and markets were perfect breeding grounds for coronaviruses and we were warned that future pandemics would come from these sources.  I traveled extensively in China post-SARS and, when asking about the farms and markets, was told the government felt it would cause too much social disruption to close them.  Seventeen years later, the world is paying the price for that decision.  And COVID-19, however bad it turns out to be, is not nearly as horrible as the worst-case coronavirus that could emerge from China.

Regardless of whether you think our current reaction to COVID-19 is overheated, too cool, or just right, we should all be able to agree on the importance of China finally taking responsibility and action.

What Is Facing Our Leaders

 

January 28, 2014, was Atlanta’s “snowpocalypse,” a day when snow and ice accumulated faster and worse than predicted. The entire metro area ground to a halt with cars abandoned on the freeway. It looked like a movie about the end of the world.

It took my wife an hour to drive the kids home from school two miles away. I was fortunate. I was at a meeting close to home. After it was canceled it “only” took 45 minutes to travel a mile. Many people never made it home, sleeping with friends, or worse, stuck in cars. It was a day that burned itself into the memory of the citizens of Atlanta.

By the next day, government leaders were being blamed for not shutting things down sooner. Schools were blamed for not closing that morning. Across the nation, Atlanta was the source of many jokes about how two inches of snow caused such turmoil.

The general consensus was clear: Our leaders did not act with enough caution.

The next winter, with the threat of heavy weather, no one was taking any chances this time. Schools were closed. Government offices shut down. The metro area was ready for the next great coming of snow and ice.

It rained all day.

Immediately, there was criticism of the schools and government for overreacting. All that productivity was needlessly lost. Again, Atlanta was subject to ridicule for not being able to manage the weather. The general consensus was clear: Our government leaders overreacted.

I was part of a decision-making team in 2014 and 2015 at the Cobb and Douglas Community Service Board. In 2014 I hesitated to recommend closing, and because of that, some of my own staff did not make it home on the night of the 28th. In 2015, I strongly advised we close our doors. As a result, we lost money and clients were delayed in getting their medications.

The problem with leadership in crisis is that the leaders never have enough information to make the best decisions possible. The facts are limited. None of us can predict the future, yet we rely on leaders to make choices that will change the future.

After the fact, it may be easy to see what the best course of action would have been. Even then, people may still second-guess a decision. Y2K was a real issue with computers. There were thousands of hours and millions of dollars spent to correct it. As a result, Y2K had a minimal effect when the year 2000 arrived. This led people to look back and wonder what the fuss was about, but without it, there would have been serious problems.

Right now, the world is going through a crisis. Some say this is a real pandemic posing a real threat, others say it is all panic and overblown. I have no idea where the actual truth is. What I do know is that leaders are faced with tremendous pressure to make decisions that will change the future.

If they had clear choices, which were all good with no negative side effects, they would take them. That is not what is before us. What is before us, as is usually the case, are all paths come with pain. Which pain do we choose: 20 million jobs in jeopardy or a million dead from a novel virus, is the sort of weight on the shoulders of our leaders right now. All the facts on this virus are not known and cannot be known until it has run its course.

Leaders have to act, based on what is known now, and make their best guess.

Some will be condemned for guessing wrong. Others may well be praised for guessing right. There will be partisan influences on how we all choose to view it.

What I hope is that we look back with grace and not with smug wisdom.

With talking about what is facing our leaders, next time we will look at what to do as a leader in these sorts of situations.

Bryan G. Stephens is a former executive on a mission to transform the workplace. He is the founder and CEO of TalkForward, a consulting and training company, utilizing Bryan’s clinical and management expertise to develop managers and teams in a corporate environment. As a licensed therapist with strong understanding of developing human potential, he is dedicated to the development of Human Capital to meet the needs of leaders, managers, and employees in the 21st Century workplace. 

Bryan has an Executive MBA from Kennesaw State University, Coles School of Business, and both a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

This was originally posted at TalkForward.

At Last! I Can Help!

 

Hello, my friends! My stepdaughter, the ICU nurse, texted this morning to ask whether I’d be willing to make her some DIY surgical masks, because these are in seriously short supply in her state. Naturally, I’m springing into action!

Want to join me? I looked it up, and there are YouTube videos on how to do it. Very simple materials and sewing — even I can manage this:

  • Cloth
  • Elastic, for the ear-bands.
  • Lightweight fusible interfacing. (I’ve seen patterns without the interfacing, but I think it probably helps with virus filtering, so I’m going to try to get some today).

And yes, in spite of what they said in “Men’s Health” magazine two weeks (that is, a lifetime) ago, apparently they’re “better than nothing” in a clinical setting, that is, one where social distancing isn’t an option. (I might make a few for my cop-daughter and her buddies, too, since they’re low, and one or two for me in case I get called out for something and need to protect my peeps from … me).

Apparently, the best fabric to make them out of is either t-shirt fabric or ordinary cotton-shirt fabric. I couldn’t find further details, but I’m going with ordinary cotton, of the dishtowel weight. (Link here.)

Member Post

 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Announces Start of Chloroquine Test Trials in New York State to Treat Coronavirus New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that New York State has acquired 70,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine, 10,000 doses of zithromax and 750,000 doses of chloroquine to implement drug trials to treat patients with coronavirus, which will begin on […]

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Government Cheese

 

During the early ’80s, part of my cheese business was cutting and packaging government-owned 40-pound cheddar blocks in 5-pound pieces. We also processed 500-pound cheddar cheese barrels into 5-pound American cheese loaves. There was a huge glut of these products in storage and it was getting larger. The Federal government gave it to the states for free distribution. Each state did it differently but the cheese ended up in many households. It was a good product and many people loved it.

Although I am long retired, I sort of keep up with the industry. The Government now has 1.5 billion pounds of cheese in storage again. That’s enough to give 5 pounds to every man, woman, and child in America. Although it disrupts normal supply channels it may be time for the COVID-19 cheese giveaway. What say you, Ricochet?