fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
This is without a doubt the most horrifying piece of news yet to come out of the Western side of the Cold War.
it seems that the American military had effectively worked to remove the supposed control over nuclear weapon from the President, and effectively allow any four officers who wished to to launch a missile. The considerations behind this piece of total insanity were purely military: suppose the C-in-C were disabled or otherwise unable to react, there could be no effective response to any kind of Soviet aggression. Well, DUH!! If the President had been taken out of the equation, then the war leadership would be probably gone, and all that would be left would be stupid, uncoordinated slaughter. Besides, the point with atomic weapon was not to use them, but to avoid using them, and above all to prevent the other side using them. Say what you will about mutual assured destruction, but it kept two power groups that hated each other's guts from replying the horrible, destructive folly of the two world wars.

But never mind the "Dr.Strangelove" option with four junior officers just deciding to go off and fire a Minuteman rocket on their own. Do you have the least idea what would have happened if this piece of idiocy by US armed forces had ever got out? NATO would have been finished, that's what. Are any of you old enough to remember the huge pacifist demonstrations of 1980-1982? I was there, and I can tell you what they were about. They were not Communist-led or pro-Russian; almost everyone who took part despised Soviet Russia as a backward, vicious tyranny. They were about the feeling that the USA were playing dice with the lives and future of Europeans. If WWIII ever came, it would have been fought in Europe. Every one of us was aware of that; many had been through military service - most European armies at the time were still conscript - and we were all aware that we were constantly staring down a lot of Russian barrels. We hated the idea that the American forces could essentially use our countries as a nuclear chessboard. That being the case, I can tell you with absolute certainty that if the European public had known that the armed aliens in their midst could launch nuclear strikes virtually at will, and that they had deliberately cut out both the US civilian leadership AND the European governments, there would have been a political earthquake. No country from Norway to Turkey and from West Germany to Portugal would have allowed a single American soldier to remain on its territory. It would have been the end of the alliance. And for that alone one has to say that the generals who had this bright idea were stupid beyond criminality.

Yet more evidence that "war is too important a matter to leave to generals" (Georges Clemenceau said that, and he knew a thing or two about it). It is an ugly thought that, today, an army that was capable of such folly remains the most respected - or at least least despised - institution in America. A few generations of corrupt and incompetent politicians have salted the fields of democratic institutions, making half the population hate one half of government and the other half the other. Let us just hope that we don't pay for this collective loss of faith.
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I HAVE just been reading what is not only a very excellent biography, but a very much-needed book. It. is a study of ‘George the Fourth’ by Mr Shane Leslie. It is in no sense what even shallow people would call a whitewashing of George IV, though it is the restoration of a blackened portrait. It has not the tone of an advocate for the defence any more than for the prosecution. But it is a criticism of the critics of George. And it is a very dam aging criticism too.

The truth is that poor George has been the victim of a prolonged effort of Propaganda. It was partly Whig and partly Victorian propaganda. But because it went on for a very long time and enlisted many literary men of what may be called the Whig patronage, it has come to seem to many of my generation and the next a normal truth of English history. It is quite obvious that, long before we come to the really fine qualities of the man, even his ordinary qualities were caricatured in the most unscrupulous and scandalous fashion. In weakness and in strength he was very much of a man — of what we call a man’s man. He has not only been represented as a ladies’ man — which perhaps he was; he has been talked of as a lady-killer almost in the literal sense of Bluebeard. The truth is that George’s conduct, while wrong by a Christian standard, was very far from being exceptionally wrong by the ordinary heathen standard of hundreds of such men of the world. Very few of those men have risked so much as he did for the one heroic love of his life; and, if he had risked more, he might well have been called a hero. But he was not a hero; he was a very human being; a man, but not a monster. Yet it certainly is as a monster, swollen, bloated, and abominable, that he haunted even our nurseries like a nightmare.

A coincidence of two causes, I think, produced this lurid transformation and tradition. The first was aristocratic and the second democratic; and together they turned both the Whig and the Radical against the King’s memory. The first was that he had been in every sense, and even remained in some sense, a Radical himself. At least he was once a Liberal even with a large ‘L’, and was always a liberal with a small one But he had changed sides in the ordinary party sense, and joined in the ordinary shuffling and inconsistency of the party system. The Whigs hated him for having been a Whig more than for being a Tory. But the aristocrats who had known him knew he was intelligent, knew he had understood what he was doing and what he was undoing His very intelligence let him in for a charge of intellectual treason. That was the sort of monster he was — a constitutional monarch who could not act for himself, and yet could think for himself.

The second cause that coincides with this was the genuine popular legend of the pathos and innocence of Queen Caroline. Now about that the King may have been wrong, but he certainly was not inhumanly or inconceivably wrong; and the wrong certainly was not all on one side. George was really wrong not in divorcing Caroline, but in marrying Caroline. In divorcing her, as a matter of fact, he was simply ceasing to be a bigamist. For he was already married to a much better woman. But the mob has a mysterious sort of power of hitting the right nail with the wrong hammer. George was very properly pelted for being false to his wife; only he was really being false to quite another wife. Anyhow, his popularity with posterity was killed by those two combining forces. It was killed by the horror of the populace who knew nothing about him, and the jealousy of the gentry who knew too much about him. But the time has come when a more rational and reliable estimate can be made than was possible to the Whig tradition which Thackeray inherited from Macaulay; and with admirable wit, sympathy, and compact criticism, Mr Shane Leslie has made it.

In truth, there is a great deal to praise in George IV. At any rate, there was a very great deal to praise in the Prince Regent. It was not entirely his fault if there was less to praise in the King than there had been in the Prince. If ever a man’s life was broken and brutally mismanaged by other people, it was his. His father was a fool who repeatedly relieved the monotony of that fact by becoming a lunatic. If anything, he was quieter and less mischievous as a lunatic than he was as a fool. He pestered and oppressed his children, and drove them into dark and devious ways. Yet even here there is a good example of the way in which the world is unjust to the Prince Regent. It has often been repeated that he wanted his child to be trained to be truthful, and admitted that he had fallen into lax ways in such matters, through the false position into which the old family tyranny had forced him in his youth. This is used as evidence against him — that he had himself confessed to being a liar. But no real liar ever confesses to being a liar. The confession is not a proof of how false he was, but of how candid he was.

He was forbidden by bigots and tyrants to call his wife his wife, and that is a situation which no man’s sense of honour will ever perfectly survive. It broke George’s career across the middle; and the second half was a crippled thing. Yet even as a cripple he did things that the active and ambitious around him did not think of doing. Mr Shane Leslie, among his many admirable phrases, uses one that is especially vivid and veracious; George had ‘a fierce streak of humanity’. His acts of mercy were abrupt, angry, and even militant. They had the flash of finality; they were absolute renunciations or abject apologies. He was devoted to pugilism; but when a pugilist was killed in the ring at Brighton he took a vow never to see a prize-fight again. He had a profoundly Christian hatred of the callous spirit in the criminal law, which executes men as if by clockwork, and he paved the world with pardons for condemned men. He pardoned them not in a patronizing and facile fashion, as much meaner enemies have implied, but, on the contrary, with vigilance and vivid worry and a sort of insomnia of responsibility. He sat up all night looking for a loophole in the law by which he could let some obscure criminal free. He took trouble in exactly the type of cases in which most men (especially men of his position) would never think of taking it. He happened to turn down a street where a man stood in pillory for a political offence — having, indeed, been put there by the police and the lawyers for a libel upon George himself. George was so much distressed at the thought that he might conceivably be supposed to have triumphed ungenerously over his slanderer that he wrote a personal letter apologizing for the ‘indelicacy’ of his conduct. A man moved in such a case to such an apology ought not to be called, merely with a sneer, the First Gentleman of Europe.

George’s liberality was anything but a mere party pose and the making of a cabal against his father. He was liberal about the very things on which most party Whigs were not liberal at all — for instance, he sympathized with the point of view of the Irish. If he could have come to the throne with his real wife as a Queen, it is possible that the whole tragedy of a hundred years might have been averted. There are a great many good things that might have happened if the younger and more generous George could have become a normal and national King. There is nothing that can be done now except do reasonable justice to his memory; and it was long before anybody thought of doing it. But nobody who reads Mr Shane Leslie’s lively and pointed paragraphs has any excuse for thinking that Thackeray exhausted the subject or that there is no picture of George except in the cartoons of Gilray. He will know well enough that the man who kept a complete set of Jane Austen in each of his houses, that he might read at any moment, was not a coarse and comic drunkard understanding nothing but bruisers and cock-fighting. He will know that the man who endangered his crown out of chivalrous devotion to a devout and religious woman was not an utterly selfish satyr whose very appetite was cold. He will know that the friend of Fox and Sheridan cannot possibly have been a mere dummy dressed up as a dandy; and that the man whom Canning and Castlereagh often thought too clever for them can hardly have been entirely a fool.
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EXCUSE ME, SIR - by Paul Greenberg

You can never tell when one of them might approach you. Sometimes you see them coming from afar off. Or they can suddenly materialize at your side. "Got a match?" "Sir, I'm stranded here and just need a few more dollars to get a bus to...." "Could you help a...."

The homeless, they're called now. Which only distances us from them further, putting them in a neat socio-economic category, reducing them to paperwork, field studies, articles in journals of sociology. ... When they actually approach, we may hurry on. Who's got the time? We have so much to do, especially four days before Christmas. When there is still so much to do, lists to check off, cards to address, packages to send....

It was a another December 21st more than 40 years ago now. Dec. 21, 1967. That's when they found him out by the railroad tracks that freezing morning.

Unbidden, untended, unnoticed, he lay there. Who knows how long? He'd come at a most inconvenient time -- just four days before all Christendom celebrates the birth of Him who said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me."

But what would have been a convenient time? He would have been a bother any day. Just another bum down on his luck, riding the rails, and sick at that. He was heading West, but Pine Bluff, Ark., would prove the end of the line.

He wasn't sick enough for the hospital to take him in, but he was too sick for the Salvation Army to accept him. So, all through the short, waning hours of that December 21st, the shortest day and longest night of the year, he was trundled back and forth, from one station of his cross to the next. Until by nightfall, there was no place for him but the county jail. Not because he belonged there, God knows, but because he didn't belong anywhere else.

And night fell.

That cell would be the last place he would know in this life. He would die there unattended, in the darkness, some time during the long night. As alone as any of us in the end. When they found him, they shipped out the body, no questions asked, before an autopsy could be performed. And he was gone, as silent as he had arrived.

That might have been the end of it.

But the newspaper got wind of the story. It took a while for a dogged reporter to confirm the basic facts, and even longer to ferret out the details.

In the end, more would be known about how he had died, hour by hour, than how he had lived, year after unrecorded year. For his was an unimportant life by the world's spotty reckoning -- a forgotten grayness punctuated here and there by a vague brush with the law, the traces of a family, an illness no one ever quite diagnosed ... all the ordinary desperations of such a life. Or rather existence.

It took the longest time just to discover his name: Joe Telles, as in Tell Us.

It was as if the only mission he'd ever completed had been reserved for that last, mercifully shortest day of the year. He had passed through like a messenger unheeded, yet every December 21st I think of him.

Strange how things work out. And how you never know, really, why you should be in a certain place at a certain time. There are no coincidences, a rabbi once told me. Maybe I'm not here to think Deep Thoughts and write about Big Issues and New Paradigms and The Next Big Thing. Maybe I was just meant to say kaddish for Joe Telles every December 21st.

What a strange gift Joe Telles was -- unrecognized, even rejected and resented. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.

One year a local businessman stopped by the newspaper office with an impressive list of complaints about the paper's editorial positions -- political, economic, aesthetic, miscellaneous, you-name-it. ... Oh, and one more thing: He was sick and tired of having to read every year about that bum they found out by the railroad tracks. Why couldn't I write about something positive for a change?

And, no, he couldn't recall the guy's name.

I should add that the caller was a friend, charitable in all outward respects -- and always a good man of business, as Scrooge told Marley's heavy-laden ghost. He just couldn't see some things.

The light shined in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.

Yet the darkness still has not overwhelmed the light, even so many years later. It happens every December 21st, four days before Christmas: Joe Telles arrives again in my mind.

He's sick unto death, at the end of his rope, one of the poor in spirit. I was blind when he came so many years ago, but now I see. And for one rare, blessed moment realize what really matters. Amazing grace.

'Tis the season. We seek the Star, and may not perceive the light of every day, or hear that lonesome whistle, and see our brother approaching.
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What follows is a special column written for The Paris News in Paris, Texas (theparisnews.com) that was widely forwarded by e-mail. It's written by former Paris News sports writer Greg Thompson, now director of corporate communications for Chick-fil-A.

Thompson reflects on the extraordinary life of retired football coach Gene Stallings' son, John Mark "Johnny" Stallings, who died Aug. 2 at Paris Regional Medical Center of a congenital heart condition related to Down syndrome. Gene Stallings and Sally Cook wrote a book in 1997 on the subject: "Another Season: A Coach's Story of Raising an Exceptional Son."


By Greg Thompson

All I ever really needed to know, I learned from Johnny Stallings.

You can go to the finest schools and get any advanced degree they offer. Or you can read all of the business and self-improvement books you want. But for a Ph.D. in true wisdom, take a look at the life of Johnny Stallings.

You may have never heard of Johnny. He had Down syndrome. When he was born, 46 years ago in Alabama, the doctors said he wouldn't live even a year or two because of a severe heart defect. Other well-meaning doctors advised his parents to put him in an institution. "In a year," they said, "you'll forget you ever had him."

But fortunately for all of us, Gene and Ruth Ann Stallings didn't take their advice. They chose to treat Johnny as a vital part of their family.

And we are all the better for it.

As his father advanced his football coaching career -- first at Alabama, then to Texas A&M, the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals and finally to a national championship in 1992 at Alabama -- Johnny was an integral part of the team. To Johnny, the most important person was the trainer.

"Trainers take care of the players," he once said. "You can't win without trainers."

To the day he died, Johnny Stallings wore a massive, diamond-encrusted National Championship ring on his frail fingers, which were tinged a grayish blue from the lack of oxygen caused by his heart condition.

Johnny was front and center in that National Championship team photo. In fact, he was a part of every team his father coached, including the storied Dallas Cowboys. The players drew inspiration from him. When Johnny turned 40 years old, for example, his birthday party was attended by a Who's Who of former NFL stars.

Johnny had some accomplishments of his own. He was featured with his father on a popular national United Way TV commercial, has a playground named for him at the RISE center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., had the athletic training facility at Alabama named for him, and won a "Change the World" award from Abilene Christian University.

But perhaps the most important thing that Johnny Stallings accomplished is this: He taught us that it doesn't matter what awards you win, or what worldly accomplishments you achieve, it is how you live your life that matters most.

So what can we learn from Johnny Stallings?

• Every life matters.

The life of Johnny Stallings teaches us that God can use anyone, no matter how insignificant in society's eyes, to make an impact on others. Johnny had none of the things that you and I take for granted, but Johnny touched countless lives in ways none of us can even begin to imagine. Our materialistic, success-driven culture doesn't really know what to do with people like Johnny. Society certainly didn't know what to do with Johnny when he was born 46 years ago. But God did.

• See the good in everyone. "Be my friend."

When Johnny got to know you, you became his "friend." And he never forgot you. Despite being mentally disabled, Johnny never forgot a name or a face. Johnny literally saw no evil in people. Johnny had more friends in his short lifetime than any of us will ever enjoy.

• Walk openly, simply and humbly with God.

The Bible tells us, "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." That describes the way Johnny lived. He could barely read or write, but Johnny Stallings prayed the sweetest prayers you ever heard. He didn't necessarily know the fine points of theology, but you could tell that he knew God. He walked with God, openly, simply and humbly. And everybody knew it, whether they acknowledged that God or not.

• Love unconditionally.

In Johnny's world, you didn't keep score or attach strings to love. He loved unconditionally, all of the time.

• Smile. Laugh. Hug.

The last time I saw Johnny, we brought him a T-shirt from Dreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa, one of his favorite places to eat. Johnny hugged us. He patted us. He smiled all of the time. Johnny was one of these people who always made everyone feel better just for having been around him. Who among us can say that about ourselves?

• Treasure every moment.

Johnny, of course, was supposed to be put away in an institution. Doctors told them Johnny wouldn't make it to age 4, and when he did, they then said he wouldn't live past 11 because of heart and lung issues common to people with Down syndrome. Then we always heard that Johnny wouldn't live past 16. And on and on. So with Johnny, you treasured every moment.

• Little victories are the ones that matter the most.

Everyone focuses on the championships, but with Johnny, you celebrated all of the little victories. Then, after a while, you realized that those are the ones that really matter the most.

• Trust God because He really does know best.

Despite being frail and disabled, Johnny Stallings wore a National Championship ring. Every member of that 1992 Alabama team will tell you of Johnny's impact on that team. Johnny Stallings literally changed the world and made everybody he met a better person -- if only for that moment.

Gene Stallings, a star football player, championship coach and tough enough to be one of Bear Bryant's legendary Junction Boys, probably used to dream of a son who would be an impact player, who would change the world, make a difference and someday maybe -- just maybe -- wear a National Championship ring.

"I prayed to God that he would change Johnny, but he changed me," Coach Stallings once said in a speech.

He added that if God offered him the choice of going back and having a "perfect" son without a disability or having Johnny, "I'd take Johnny every time."
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INTRODUCTION: For the few who may not know it yet, Warren Buffett is probably the most successful businessman alive, and one of the richest. His success comes from shrewd long-term investment in promising businesses, and I would say that he has probably done more real job and business creation than the whole political elite of the planet. I hate his views on abortion and related matters, but when it comes to business and economic growth he must be allowed to know what he is talking about.

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich


Published: August 14, 2011

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.
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...having found among my papers, for no reason I can imagine, this item - obviously written by someone who is - I was too charmed not to share it.

If a dog were your teacher, you would learn stuff like this:

When loved ones come home, always run and greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure extasy.
Practice obedience - when it's in your best interests.
Let others know when they have invaded your territory.
Take naps and stretch before rising.
Run, romp and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie down under a shady tree.
When you're happy, show it. Dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout... run right back and make friends.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you've had enough.
Be loyal.
Nver pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want is hard to get, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
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...has written a furious and largely justified response to the ongoing assault on the Pope (in which Rupert Murdoch's media are taking a disgraceful prominence). http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/05/pope-benedicts-critics-dont-care-about-kids/ ONe point he made particularly struck me: where were all the stern defenders of innocent childhood when Michael Jackson was buried in a golden coffin and all the world's media wept crocodile tears?
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One can forgive a lot to a man who is so constantly and unhesitatingly on the side of liberty. Even his garbage about Christianity and his folly about global warming.
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...except that it hardly applies only to America.

Read more... )
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All readers are warned: if, in spite of my clear statement that what is behind the cut is offensive and contains a thoroughly unpopular attitude, you still go and read it, do not dare, afterward, write angry or offended comments or e-mails. They will be not only deleted, but replaced with appropriate comments on the absurdity of such attitudes. I am not saying not to criticize; comment away. But do not dare take a wounded attitude; if free thought on sexual matters offends you, do not read it; and if you do, on your own head be it. Worst of all will be treated those who are silly enough to say, as I have known some people to say, I am not offended, but I am angry. Distinctions without differences strike me as being no better than masks for use in the mirror, pretending to be one thing when you are very much another.

Read more... )
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(NOTE by FPB: this is particularly significant for me because I have long had big trouble with the notion of Cro-Magnon Man being closely associated with, or even the same species as, Neanderthal Man)

History of modern man unravels as German scholar is exposed as fraud

Flamboyant anthropologist falsified dating of key discoveries

Read more... )


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