Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Well the paper had the first “God did it to punish the sinners” letter today. I’ve always loved the meat ax school of theology. Considering the state of the Gulf and Gulf coast part of our oil industry we could just as easily argue that God did it to remind us how fragile our oil based energy economy is. Or we could argue that overextending our economy to fight a war that didn’t need to be fought leaves very little margin for disaster. None of these are true.


We live on a world rich in earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, blizzards, nor’easters and yes, hurricanes. If Katrina has any meaning it’s to remind us how little we understand any of those events, how preparations no matter how extensive may never be enough, and how much we depend on each other.


If the Creator has anything to do with these events it’s to lend us the strength to get through the tragedies, to try and find some comfort when comfort is in pitifully short supply, to rebuild where we can and move on if we have to.


If these words aren’t enough, I suspect we’re in a realm beyond words. There are times when words, no matter how well meant or well intentioned are never enough.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


I think I’ll start with Edith Pargeter who wrote the Brother Cadfael mysteries under the pen name of Ellis Peters. I will say up front that I am not a fan of mystery stories just because they’re mysteries. If it’s a good story with marvelous characters and fantastic writing that just happens to have a mystery attached, don’t call me I’ll call you.

The twenty novels and three short stories are set in the monastery attached to the church of Saints Peter and Paul in the Shrewsbury of mid-12th century England.  The monastery was established in the early 1090?s and flourished until it was suppressed in 1540 during the reign of Henry VIII.

You don’t have to read the books in order, but it helps. One mystery often leads to another, characters pop up again and the common background thread to all the books is the on again off again civil war between two of William the Conquerors grand children over who has to right to plant their royal posterior on the English throne.

Williams’ youngest son Henry had outlived one brother (rumor had him helping big brother into the afterlife) and out fought the other to finally claim both England and Normandy. He had several illegitimate sons who were granted titles and estates but when both his legitimate heir William and his other son Richard were lost in a shipwreck he named his daughter Matilda (aka Maud) as his heir and convinced most of his nobles to swear to recognize her claim to the throne and swear oaths of allegiance.

When Henry died in 1135 his nephew, Stephen moved first. With lands in both England and Normandy, Stephen was the wealthiest of the Anglo Norman nobles. With the support of his brother Henry, Bishop of Winchester, Stephen used his status as the son of the Conquerors’ daughter Adela to seize the throne. Matilda had the claim of being Henrys’ daughter and her oaths of allegiance. Stephen had the right gender, a claim through his mother and more oaths of allegiance. The nearly twenty-year struggle over the throne dragged England into civil war.

The back and forth feuding, skirmishing, pillaging and general mayhem form the backdrop for Cadfael born in Wales, former crusader, sometime Mediterranean boat captain, and now a brother in the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul to practice both his talents for herb gardening and mystery solving.

Now in his sixties, Brother Cadfael has found a safe harbor in the religious life. But, if he has to choose between the spirit and the letter of the rules of the abbery he’s likely to obey the spirit and tidy up the letter of the law later. As the monastary herbalist he overseas the herb garden that provides varous remedies as well as seasonings. For many of the poorer members of the community, he’s the closest thing to a doctor available.

Peters paints vivid word pictures that bring the characters to life. The following short excerpt is from a short story, The Price of Light from the volume A Rare Benedictine. The story takes place before the individual stories in the novels.

Hamo FtizHamon of Lidyate held two fat manors in the northeastern corner of the county, towards the border of Cheshire. Though a gross feeder, a heavy drinker, a self-indulgent lecher, a harsh ladlord and a brutal master, he had reached the age of sixty in the best of health, and it came as a salutary shock to him when he was at last taken with a mild seizure, and for the first time in his life saw the next world yawning before him, and woke to the unesy consciousness that it might see fit to treat him somewhat more austerely than this world had done. Though he repented none of them, he was aware of a whole registeer of acts in his past which heaven might construe as heavy sins. It began to seem to him a prudent precaution to acquire merit for his soul as quickly as possible. Also as cheaply, for he was a grasping and possessive man. A judicius gift to some holy house should secure the welfare of his soul. There was no need to go so far as endowing an abbey, or a new church of his own. The Benedictine abbey of Shresbury could put up up a powerful assault of prayers on his behalf in return for a much more modest gift. ……….there follows a paragraph discussing his bestowing ot the rent from one of his properties to support the cost of candles for the Lady alter in the church and the gift of a pair of silver candle sticks to be presented at Christmas (very publically presented) and then……….

Abbot Heribert, who after a long life of repeated disillusionments still contrived to think the best of everybody, was moved to tears by this penitential generosity. Prior Robert, himself an aristocrat, refrained out of Norman solidarity, from casting doubt upon Hamos’ motive, but he elevated his eyebrows, all the same. Brother Cadfael, who knew only the public reputation of the donor and was sceptical enough to suspend judgement until he encountered the source, said nothing and waited to observe anddecide for himself. Not that he expected much; he had been in the world fifty-five years, and learned to temper all his expectations, bad or good.

I’ve taken the time to set the background for the stories because I believe that time and place are important to how the characters act. In the case of the short story that follows the exerpt. the candle sticks end up stolen (of course). They had been made by one of Hamos’ serfs, a silversmith, with the promise of permision to marry and freedom. Hamo, of course, hadn’t kept his end of the bargain and a little “intervention” divine or otherwise was required.

The characters come alive. They make mistakes. They learn, they grow, they fail, and they make wrong choices.  Sometimes the results are disastrous. Sometimes the outcome is something wonderful.  They’re just as real as the neighbor down the street. (Brother Jerome, the Priors’ clerk and general monastery busy body, doesn’t seem to learn anything new, but there are people like that.)

I suspect that our Neocon super individualism would be as incomprehensible to the people of Cadfaels' day as his world would be to us. A world that travelled only as fast horse, wind or feet could carry you. Where most folks seldom traveled more than a days’ journey from where they were born.


Ok, there's some folks that have been visiting me that might have fun stories to tell about what they like to read.

How 'bout the wonderful gal from Midlife Matters,

or Gayla from SoMuchMore-when she has time between homework assignments

or Dave from Random thoughst from a Progressive Mind.

or Robbie from Robbies Ruminations

or Dave at Inner and Demons

Sorry, guys I am a Mac person and the journals don't work quite the same as for pc's. I can put links to other sites in my e-mail but they don't seem to work quite the same in the journal. :-(

If somebody can tell me how to get links in the journal proper I'd love it.

Looking forward to hearing what you like to read.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Thank the guardian angel of creativity for lunch hours and internet connections.


I’m not trying to duck Lisas’ tag but I’m running into some roadblocks in on the road to cyber space. I have my ideas but the entry appears to have its own take on nature of the beast. Since I started this journal I’m discovering more and more that the words have lives of their own and they can be very stubborn about how and where they “live.”


This has happened before with term or research papers. I would have my vision of how the work should go. The paper itself would simply refuse to go where I wanted it to go. Once I realized what was happening I would give in and just let the words flow. Truthfully, I usually got better results that way. Maybe it was my subconscious and I gave the paper a personality. I have never written a last draft of a paper and then copied it. The version I ended up turning in was just the last draft I had time to write before the deadline.


The new entry (entries) and I are negotiating. As usually happens, the entry will probably win. Something along the way these entries are heading has been knocking around in my mental pending file for a while. The last month or so have been really hairy at work so the idea just kept rattling. I’d hear the cage doors clink every now and then and tell it to be patient. Actually, I’d give it a few thoughts for breakfast and tell it shut the heck up, darn it.


What may happen is a series of entries on an author or authors. A special book, perhaps. You know the kind I’m talking about. The book that owns you as much or more than you own it. The ones you’ll part with only after they fall to pieces or if you can find another copy. (Alibris, you are a Godsend.)


Lisa, you were on target about college lit classes. I wasn’t a lit major so my exposure was limited to the Intro to whatever lit classes and Shakespeare. Intro classes in large universities are divided into lectures and discussion sessions. The discussions are led by grad students who are just full to the brim with similes and metaphors and kind of impatient when you don’t see the same picture they do. I loved Shakespeare. The only book I remember from the lit classes is Lady Chatterley’s lover and I’m still trying to figure out what all the fuss was about. I was bored stiff.


They didn’t cure me of my love of reading, but I didn’t always want to read what they wanted me to read. Three cheers for Cliff Notes. So, please be patient with me, I’m a work in progress. Also, I’m trying to figure out who to “tag” myself. Hmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Sometimes AOL reminds me of an irritating relative. You know the one. The get under your skin cousin who continually insists on pointing out the obvious.

It's bad enough getting dumped without the little notice coming up to tell me that AOL has unexpectedly quit. I tihnk I can figure it out for myself. Having everything disappear and losing the little red dot on my AOL icon at the bottom of my computer screen is a really big tip off.

I'm still working on the reading thing. It's statement week at work and frankly most of my brain is pan fried. I just LOVE this new computer system. Everything is broken into more little pieces than it used to be. Making sure I have all the pieces or I've created all the pieces so that it all fits in the end is a little more intense than it used to be. As they say this too shall pass. So do a lot of other things. But, this is a family journal so I'll leave it al that. LOL

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I've been tagged part 1

Lisa tagged me to do an entry about my love (passion) for reading. While I’m working on that, here is the opening passage from one of my favorite books, Cry the Beloved Country. It was written in the late forties by an English South African, Alan Paton. If you have a love of the land this may be one the saddest things you’ll ever read.

A note some of the words. Ixopo is the name of a village. The x is pronounced with a ck sound. The veld is an open plain. The pronunciation is almost like fvelt. A kloof is a steep sided gully or small valley. The tithoya is a small bird like a plover and the name sounds like the birds’ call. Ingeli, Umzimkulu and Griqueland are pronounced pretty much as they are spelled.  The style in this novel is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s almost as if someone is writing down a spoken story. It probably breaks half the rules of conventional writing and that may be why I love it so much. The book is about people, the land, love, loss, forgiveness and acceptance.

So, here goes.

There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it. The road climbs seven miles into them, to Carisbrooke; and from there, if there is not mist, you can look down on one of the fairest valleys of Africa. About you there is grass and bracken and you may hear the forlorn crying of the tithoya, one of the birds of the veld. Below you is the valley of the Umzimkulu, on its journey from the Drakensberg to the sea: and beyond and behind the river, great hill after great hill; and beyond and behind them, the mountains of Ingeli and East Griqueland.

The grass is rich and matted, you cannot see the soil. It holds the rain and the mist, and they seep into the ground, feeding the streams in every kloof. It is well-tended, and not too many cattle feed upon it; not too many fires burn it, laying bare the soil. Stand unshod upon it, for the ground is holy, being even as it came from the Creator. Keep it, guard it, care for it, for it keeps men, guards men, cares for men. Destroy it and man is destroyed.

Where you stand the grass is rich and matted, you cannot see the soil. But the rich green hills break down. They fall to the valley below, and falling, change their nature. For they grow red and bare; they cannot hold the rain and mist, and the streams are dry in the kloofs. Too many cattle feed upon the grass, and too many fires haveburned it. Stand shod upon it, for it is coarse and sharp, and the stones cut under the feet. It is not kept, or guarded, or cared for, it no longer keeps men, guards men, cares for men. The titihoya does not cry here any more.

The great red hills stand desolate, and the earth has torn away like flesh. The lighting flashes over them, the clouds pour down upon them, the dead streams come to life, full of the soil that is left, and the maize hardly reaches the height of a man. They are valleys of old men and old women, of mothers and children. The men are away; the young men and the girls are away. The soil cannot keep them any more.

Alan Paton, 1948

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

WHAT THE ?????????

This is one of those entries that are hard to put a catchy title to. I thought of "What are they thinking?" But, it's pretty obvious and I don't want to get any deeper into these folks twisted little psyches than I have to. I considered " The Sheep and the Goats." But even though it's in the bible I don't have anything against goats. They're great animals. Very bright, sometimes very funny. I remember watching them watching us at the fair. Comparing them to these folks would be insulting. To the goats.

Sorting the pieces had an entry last weekend about the funeral of a the brother of a family friend. The young man was in the service in Iraq and died in the line of duty. If you’ve heard of Westboro Baptist Church’s “ministry” of picketing anything and everything to do with gays, you may not have heard of their wider ministry. (Incidentally the “church” consists of Fred Phelps, most of his children and their families.) Their websites have to be seen to be believed. I think I’d feel cleaner if I took a dip in the castle moat at high noon on the hottest day of the year or dove headfirst into the trash pile at the local dump.

Apparently their church was fire bombed recently and they have announced that along with God hating f@#’s He also now hates America, too. In a way you kind of have to admire their chutzpah. Their latest schtick is to show up at the funerals of service people with their picket signs and venom. They blow into town, spend an hour or so spreading their own unique brand of “fellowship” and get the heck out of Dodge leaving the opposite of sweetness and light behind. Personally, I believe that dragging small children along on these little minesterial visitations is very close to emotional abuse but I guess you can claim freedom of religion and get a free ride on that. That, and their habit of sueing the pants off anyone who opposes them.

For a long time I've believed that heaven or hell is having to truly face the fruit of your actions. A time will come when these people will have to face the pain they've caused others. Matthew 25 is very clear about how the sheep and the goats will be divided. I don't remember seeing picketing funerals on the list. The activities do include caring for the sick, visiting the prisoners, feeding the hungrey, comforting the widows and orphans (falling down on that one folks) and clothing the naked. "By their fruits you shall surely know them. "

I truly believe hell would be being able to see the Creator but your spirit has become so alien to what the Creator envisioned that you are invisible. Forever on the outside, looking in, unheard and unseen. I gotta chew on that one for awhile

I was wondering how these folks would react to a nice silent prayer vigil. Apparently all they got at this location was turned backs. Apparently it didn’t faze them at all.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


“Even though I'm a Christian and to believe there is a Creator (or Designer), the anti-evolution people really bug me with trying to include their point of view in science classes.  It scares me because I see our country going downhill in science.  Much of our country's greatness and progress and innovation has come about because of great science, and if we lose our competitive advantage in that area, we are really in trouble.”

This comment was left on one of my journal entries and I couldn’t agree more, but I believe that the problem goes deeper than the Creationist crowd. There’s something missing. Something that has disappeared in the last twenty years or so.

There were a series of excellent documentaries on PBS in the seventies and eighties. It started with the excellent English series, The World at War. It included the Body in Question produced Jonathon Miller. The Ascent of Man produced by Jacob Bronowski. Bronowski’s work also included books and lectures on human intelligence and philosophy. David Attenborough produced two gems, Life on Earth and the Living Planet. Carl Sagan’s thirteen episode Cosmos still holds up very well in the post Hubble universe. The first Connections series and the Day the Universe Changed with James Burke are delightful if opinionated. The delight is in the British humor and being opinionated doesn’t bother me as long as the author lets me know where he’s coming from.

All these documentaries had several tings in common. All the producers had a passion for their work and were driven to share what they loved. There is a drive and a fire that shines through every frame.

They also believed that the material they were presenting was accessible to any interested viewer. There is magic in their work that I just don’t see anymore. Where we had work on how the world works, we’re stuck with documentaries on UFO’s, Nostrodamus, tanks, and warships. This Old House still tries to show you how to rehab or even build a house. But too many shows focus on buying one. They don’t even go into how to buy a house just show you someone looking at houses and not being impressed.

I love the documentaries of Ken burns. They are beautifully done. The photography is spectacular, the music well chosen, and the use of archived photos fantastic. But there is something missing for me. The fire just isn’t there. I can still hear David Attenborough in his first documentary about tribal art. He was in New Guinea in pursuit of masks made by a particular tribe. He and his crew had climbed x number of mountains, crossed y number of rivers and “if we don’t get out before the rainy season starts, we’re going to be here for awhile.”

I think the missing magic is part of the problem with science education in this country. That and a few other things. When I was a kid we had two TV stations, one theater, and no video games. I did have access to fairly decent school and public libraries. Books on history, rivers, mountains, other countries, science fiction or science fact passed through  my eager little hands. If it was that black on that white my name was on the check out card and my library card was a little tattered.

My five nephews are all very bright boys and get good grades. Unfortunately, they all seem to have a lamentable lack of curiosity and spend far more time playing video games than reading any more than they have to.

I don’t care how good these games are for eye-hand coordination. They are reactive, no proactive. From what I’ve seen looking over their shoulders they’re more about blowing things up than building them. None of them show any interest in careers in math, science or anythng creative. At an age when kids should be chasing bugs and turning over every rock these kids are pushing buttons.


I did some number crunching this morning on that 20th century casualty list. Of the 160,000,000 I subtracted the conflicts that could be defined at least loosely as country to country. I also subtracted the approximately 11,000,000 who died in the Nazi concentration camps. Most of these people were sent there either because of political beliefs or because of who they were. The Holocaust is horrific enough but others were targeted too. Gypsies, gays, Marxists, Slavs. I shocked, but not really surprised, to discover that Poland’s Slavic population was targeted for extinction once the war was over and their labor no longer needed. Basically anyone who didn’t fit in the Nazi vision of a purified Europe was slated for the Nazi death machine.

Sadly, their own neighbors targeted many of these people. With minimal Nazi supervision the Vichy French sent their Jewish neighbors to the camps. However, I also ran across a story of an area in France, mainly Protestant, that had its own history of religious persecution. These folks hid or transported many Jews. And as long as they didn’t have to notice what was going on the local Nazi’s turned a blind eye to what was going on.

There were other stories of heroism too. The Danes smuggled nearly all their Jewish neighbors across the straits to Sweden. Apparently with the tacit aid of the country’s SS governor. When his superiors were disappointed that only 400 or so Jews (mainly elderly people who couldn’t be gotten out in time) had been arrested out of several thousand, he let his superiors know that he had been told to make sure Denmark was free of Jews and it was. He probably didn’t tell them that he’d chosen to interpret his orders as liberally as possible. He’d even ordered his troops not to enter houses where no one answered the door. Wouldn’t want anyone accused of stealing anything if belongings came up missing.

Italy managed to save 80 percent of its Jews.

A papal nuncio in Hungary signed blank baptismal certificates and gave them to the underground. Angelo Roncalli helped save approximately 50,000 people. He’s better known as Pope John XXIII.

Actually, I’m constantly surprised that so many get saved in the face of determined efforts to kill. And the truth has a way of coming out. Chili and Argentina are proving that.

Anyway, I admit my criteria for selection of numbers is purely personal and probably open to other interpretations. I come up with approximately 98,000,000 people done to death or “disappeared’ by their own governments or neighbors. Sent out of this world by those they should have been able to trust or turn to for help.

We’re finally realizing that individuals have a greater chance of facing violence from a family member or someone they know. It appears that it’s true on a national scale too. When a national family starts to break apart or fails to make a coherent picture out of the ethnic puzzle pieces you’re in more danger from the people you know than the foreign boogey men the politicians keep threatening us with.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


After my last entry, I found that I kept coming back to the estimated toll from WWII, almost fifty million. Some scholars raise the estimate to some fifty four million and add in the Chinese civil war that was going on at the same time.

I found myself wondering what a Viet Nam style memorial would look like. How far would it reach, that sort of thing. The fact that we don’t have names for many of the casualties. In my cyber wanderings I came across a site with casualties from all the wars, civil wars, ethnic cleansings, ad nauseum from the American Civil War to what is essentially the Civil War in Iraq. Many of the numbers look fairly accurate. I would imagine that our administration would argue about the figures for the Iraqi Civil War. A few tens of thousands in a possible total of 160,000,000 probably wouldn’t make much of dent. The site does include a small bibliography.

To put things in perspective: If you laid the casualties  end to end and allowed six feet per person you could circle the earth more than seven times. If you recited either names or said something like “known only to the creator” and allowed five seconds per person you’d be going 24/7 for more than nine thousand years. Yes, that’s thousand. I know, it took my breath away too.

What is heartbreakingly appalling is that a big chunk of the total is the result of governmental policies against their own people. The Stalinist purges, China’s Great Leap Forward, Rwanda, you name it. I’m not making this entry make people lose heart but to put what we’re doing to each other into some kind of perspective.

If anyone has suggestions on how we can put some sand in the gears or sugar in the gas tank of the steamrollers that go beyond praying my little heart out and voting very carefully I’m listening.

Wars and Genocides of the 20th Century

by Piero Scaruffi

160 million people died in wars during the 20th century

(See also 1900: A century of genocides)

1860-65: American civil war (360,000)
1886-1908: Belgium-Congo Free State (3 million)
1899-02: British-Boer war (100,000)
1900-01: Boxer rebels against Russia, Britain, France, Japan, USA against rebels (35,000)
1903: Ottomans vs Macedonian rebels (20,000)
1904: Germany vs Namibia (65,000)
1904-05: Japan vs Russia (150,000)
1910-20: Mexican revolution (250,000)
1911: Chinese Revolution (2.4 million)
1911-12: Italian-Ottoman war (20,000)
1912-13: Balkan wars (150,000)
1915: the Ottoman empire slaughters Armenians (1.2 million)
1914-18: World War I (8 million)
1917-21: Soviet revolution (5 million)
1928-37: Chinese civil war (2 million)
1931: Japanese Manchurian War (1.1 million)
1934: Mao's Long March (170,000)
1936: Italy's invasion of Ethiopia (200,000)
1936-37: Stalin's purges (13 million)
1936-39: Spanish civil war (600,000)
1939-45: World War II (55 million) including holocaust and Chinese revolution
1946-49: Chinese civil war (1.2 million)
1946-49: Greek civil war (50,000)
1946-54: France-Vietnam war (600,000)
1947: Partition of India and Pakistan (1 million)
1948-1958: Colombian civil war (200,000)
1948-1973: Arab-Israeli wars (70,000)
1948-: Kashmir's civil war (40,000)
1949-: Indian Muslims vs Hindus (20,000)
1950-53: Korean war (4 million)
1952-59: Kenya's Mau Mau insurrection (20,000)
1954-62: French-Algerian war (1 million)
1958-61: Mao's "Great Leap Forward" (30 million)
1960-90: South Africa vs Africa National Congress (?)
1961-2003: Kurds vs Iraq (180,000)
1962-75: Mozambique Frelimo vs Portugal (?)
1964-73: USA-Vietnam war (3 million)
1965: second India-Pakistan war over Kashmir
1965-66: Indonesian civil war (200,000)
1966-69: Mao's "Cultural Revolution" (11 million)
1966-: Colombia's civil war (31,000)
1967-70: Nigeria-Biafra civil war (800,000)
1968-80: Rhodesia's civil war (?)
1969-79: Idi Amin, Uganda (300,000)
1969-02: IRA - Norther Ireland's civil war (2,000)
1969-79: Francisco Macias Nguema, Equatorial Guinea (50,000)
1971: Pakistan-Bangladesh civil war (500,000)
1972-: Philippines vs Muslim separatists (120,000)
1972: Burundi's civil war (300,000)
1972-79: Rhodesia/Zimbabwe's civil war (30,000)
1974-91: Ethiopian civil war (1,000,000)
1975-78: Menghitsu, Ethiopia (1.5 million)
1975-79: Khmer Rouge, Cambodia (1.7 million)
1975-89: Boat people, Vietnam (250,000)
1975-90: civil war in Lebanon (40,000)
1975-87: Laos' civil war (184,000)
1975-2002: Angolan civil war (500,000)
1976-83: Argentina's military regime (20,000
1976-93: Mozambique's civil war (900,000)
1976-98: Indonesia-East Timor civil war (600,000)
1976-: Indonesia-Aceh (GAM) civil war (12,000)
1979: Vietnam-China war (30,000)
1979-88: the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan (1.3 million)
1980-88: Iraq-Iran war (1 million)
1980-92: Sendero Luminoso - Peru's civil war (69,000)
1980-92: El Salvador's civil war (100,000)
1980-99: Kurds vs Turkey (35,000)
1982-90: Hissene Habre, Chad (40,000)
1983-2002: Sri Lanka's civil war (64,000)
1983-2002: Sudanese civil war (2 million)
1987-: Palestinian Intifada (4,500)
1988-2001: Afghanistan civil war (400,000)
1988-2004: Somalia's civil war (550,000)
1989-: Liberian civil war (220,000)
1989-: Uganda vs Lord's Resistance Army (30,000)
1991: Gulf War - large coalition against Iraq to liberate Kuwait (85,000)
1991-97: Congo's civil war (800,000)
1991-2000: Sierra Leone's civil war (200,000)
1991-: Russia-Chechnya civil war (200,000)
1991-94: Armenia-Azerbaijan war (35,000)
1992-96: Tajikstan's civil war war (50,000)
1992-96: Yugoslavia's civil war (200,000)
1992-99: Algerian civil war (150,000)
1993-97: Congo Brazzaville's civil war (100,000)
1993-: Burundi's civil war (200,000)
1994: Rwanda's civil war (900,000)
1995-: Pakistani Sunnis vs Shiites (1,300)
1995-: Maoist rebellion in Nepal (10,000)
1998-: Congo/Zaire's war - Rwanda and Uganda vs Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia (3.8 million)
1998-2000: Ethiopia-Eritrea war (75,000)
1999: Kosovo's liberation war - NATO vs Serbia (2,000)
2001: Afghanistan's liberation war - USA & UK vs Taliban (25,000)
2002-: Cote d'Ivoire's civil war (1,000)
2003: Iraq's liberation war - USA, UK and Australia vs Saddam Hussein (14,000)
2003-: Sudan vs Darfur (180,000)
2003-: Iraq's civil war (113,000)

Arab-Israeli wars

I (1947-49): 6,373 Israeli and 15,000 Arabs die
II (1956): 231 Israeli and 3,000 Egyptians die
III (1967): 776 Israeli and 20,000 Arabs die
IV (1973): 2,688 Israeli and 18,000 Arabs die
Intifada I (1987-92): 170 Israelis and 1,000 Palestinians
Intifada II (2000-03): 700 Israelis and 2,000 Palestinians

Main sources:

Charny: Genocide - A Critical Bibliographic Review (1988)
Stephane Courtois: Black Book on Communism (1995)
Clodfelter: Warfare and Armed Conflicts (1992)
Elliot: Twentieth Century Book of the Dead (1972)
Bouthoul: A List of the 366 Major Armed Conflicts of the period 1740-1974, Peace Research (1978)
R.J. Rummel: Death by Government - Genocide and Mass Murder (1994)
Matt White's website

Several general textbooks of 20th century history

Back to world news | Back to history

Sunday, August 7, 2005


This month will see the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. There have been the usual columns from both sides. Should we have used the bomb? Should we have not used the bomb? I can’t say what my decision would have been if it had been mine to make based on the information that was available in August of 1945.

I don’t think it’s fair to judge based on what we’ve learned since the end of the war. All we had to go on was the cost in casualties that had occurred already. The Americans had 800,000 casualties and counting. The Japanese, over 1,000,000, My mom lost a classmate at Tarawa. My uncle got blown off one baby aircraft carrier and woke up on another one. There had been approximately eight million civilian casualties in the areas of Asia occupied by Japan alone.

We’d managed to totally devastate German cities like Dresden and Hamburg with conventional weapons and were well on our way to doing the same thing to the Japanese cities. In some ways it was horrifyingly easier to do the job. Most of their cities were built of wood. Nice well-seasoned wood. Aside from their Kamikaze pilots Japan had lost control of the airspace over their country.

One raid on Tokyo in the spring of 1945 destroyed sixteen square miles of the city and killed nearly 80,000 people. And that was one raid. The general commanding the Army Air Force estimated that the bombers would run out of useful targets by September of 1945. The low, that’s the low estimate of Allied casualties in an invasion of the Japanese home islands, was 30 to 35 percent.

The worst-case scenario we beloved we were facing was that the Japanese army was planning to mobilize the entire surviving population to resist the invasion planned for the spring of 1946.

The last major battle before the invasion of Japan was the battle of Okinawa ending in July of 1945. Approximate casualties-72.000 American, 130.000 Japanese, and 150.000 civilians.

There were no indications that invading Japan was going to be any easier. And there had never been a successful invasion of the Japanese home islands.

We know now that the civilian members of the Japanese government were trying to open negotiations through the Soviets. Unfortunately they didn’t know that the Soviets had promised to enter the Pacific War within three months after the end of the war in Europe and had no intention of negotiating on their behalf or acting as an intermediary.

In some ways I’m afraid the Japanese were stuck in God’s little acre. West of the American rock and East of the Soviet hard place as both sides maneuvered for post war positions of power. The Americans were hoping to end the Pacific War before the Soviet’s entered the war and had the chance to carve up parts of east Asia they way they were carving up eastern Europe.

I can understand the decision to use the bombs in 1945. What I have never been able to understand are the decisions to not only keep building atomic bombs but to upgrade to hydrogen bombs. To build so many of those demons' spawn that we could not only destroy ourselves but every other living thing on the planet.

I’ve seen some statistics that place the total casualties from WWII at close to fifty million. The Viet Nam War memorial has fifty thousand names on it. I wonder how far a similar memorial would reach with fifty million names on it.

I think that at this point everyone was so exhausted by the war that it was easier to make the decision to use the bombs than it should have been.

This entry has been hard. It refuses to come easily but it's the best I can do. Sixty years, who can believe it.

Saturday, August 6, 2005


It’s midsummer alright. There are certain sounds and smells that have always said “midsummer” to me. Something beyond the roses, sweet williams and dry grass. There used to be the click thunk of the knife cutting corn off the cob. The hiss from the pressure cooker as the water heated and air in the cooker exhausted. The odd steamy smell of the steam from the processing. Corn in the canner doesn’t smell anything like corn. The faint pop of the lids as they sealed. We used to find dried corn kernels in the oddest places for the next week or so. We finally wised up and just set up the workstation in the driveway. The kernels could go wherever they wanted and all it took was a hose to clean it up.

There’s the snippy sound as you stem green beans and break them into smaller pieces. Mom said the heck with it this year and we skipped the blanching step. So what if we don’t get quite so many beans in each jar. The blanching semi par boils the beans and makes for a tighter pack. It’s also steamy work and it was going to be hot enough in the kitchen already. Same little pop pop as the lids sealed, Too bad there was a big loud pop as one of the Mason jars decided it was time to head for a better incarnation and broke in the canner. Nice clean break at the bottom. Since most of the beans just floated it was easy enough to salvage them. I think that jar may have been older than I am. I know the pressure cooker is. My folks bought two things right after they were married. Mom doesn’t remember if it was the sewing machine or the pressure cooker. It still has the original wooden handles.

We’re lucky. In about twenty-five minutes we can be buying produce from the folks who grew it. Peaches are just coming on and the summer apples. I swear the zucchini plants in the front yard have grown a foot in the last week. Some things adore hot weather. I hope we don’t find the squash that tried to eat Springfield out there later in the month. There’s always at least on that manages to hide until it’s big enough for a cat to hide behind.

The blackberries by the bike path are beginning to change color. I know some of them are ripe because the car next to me at work had really pretty purple splotches on it. Obviously a bird or two had found some early ripe ones.

I don’t think we save much money by doing it ourselves but they taste too much different from what you can get in the can. I know we don’t do anything resembling the five hundred jars a year we used to do when I was in my teens. Hard work? Yeah. But, you got a little scent of midsummer in January. And that was hard to beat.

Friday, August 5, 2005

TRUTH or truth?

I ran across this recently but I’ve been dipping in and out of several books and I’m not sure who wrote it. There’s a good chance it was either Kathleen Norris or Malcolm Boyd. The gist of the passage was that when we try tie truth with a capital T to provable fact we end up distorting both.


When extremely conservative religious scholars-unfortunately they’re usually Christian-insist that certain stories in the Bible are fact they end up distorting their science beyond all recognition.


The earth is about 25,500 miles around. Even if it’s an unmoving ball at the center of the universe you can’t make the sun stand still without destroying the star closest to us. Once you put the earth in its orbit around the sun and set it spinning at the more than one thousand miles an hour you need for a twenty four hour day-well let’s just say that more that the walls of Jericho would have fallen down. The walls, both armies, the trumpets, the Jordan River, and the Mediterranean would have ended up somewhere on the other side of Persia. Along with everything else that was and wasn’t nailed down. The truth of the story? God may have promised the Hebrews a land of their own but they couldn’t win it without His help. And by the way it’s purely a tribal story. I can’t read about the body count of the conquest without cringing. The idea of collateral damage isn’t anything new. As long as they aren't "us" who's counting?


The story of Noah has at least two versions/authors and both were apparently drawing on an earlier Babylonian myth. One problem is that the Babylonian mythology puts the flood at about 430,000 years ago, the Biblical version at about 4,300 years ago. Somebody misplaced a couple of zeros somewhere along the line.


If you Google the term “The Black Sea Flood” you get links to a fascinating story. The short version is this. Approximately 7,500 years ago there was a fresh water lake in the area where the Black Sea is now. Recent archeological finds show the shores were heavily populated with farmers who were ancestors of the early Semites (Hebrews, Babylonians etc.) and Indo Europeans. The Mediterranean and Sea of Marmara were over 400 feet higher than the lake. The higher waters were held back by land on the banks of the Bosporus River. The seas rose as the last of the great glaciers melted and the seawater broke through. What started as a trickle became a flood. The final flow is estimated at the volume of 200 Niagara Falls. Every day for at least 300 days. The lake level would have risen six inches a day and spread a mile a day in some places. It’s estimated that the roar of the falls would have been heard over one hundred miles away. The effect on the people living next to the lake, especially the ones closest to the original break through would have been devastating. Imagine trying to keep ahead of the rising water. Salt water now, not fresh. Moving every day, day after day for nearly a year. Trying to keep family, flocks and what you could carry on your backs together. Talk about a wallop to the tribal psyche.


It doesn’t matter whether somebody named Noah built an ark. The truth is that the rift between Creator and Creation had become so wide that the Creator considered wiping the slate clean and starting over. But there is hope even in destruction and the whole of creation wasn’t destroyed. But, trying to make physical truth conform to spiritual truth leads to truth with a small t and distortions of science that would send a double jointed contortionist screaming for the Advil. And more liberal theologians get caught in the same trap. Only on the other side. By concentrating on picking out everything that couldn’t possibly happen and focusing on what can be proven both sides get caught in the fact trap and lose sight of the Truth. Oh, and while God basically promises not to wipe us out Himself, there’s nothing said about stopping us from doing it to ourselves if we really put our minds to it in a fit of collective insanity.


I’m going to go out on a limb here. I don’t think it matters whether a teacher named Jesus really existed. I’d like to believe that He did. It doesn’t matter whether miracles were performed. I’d like to think they were. Sitting people around a table usually implies family or those very close to you. The Truth is that there is room for everything and everyone at the Creator’s table and the distinctions disappear. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, gay, straight, fat, thin, black, white, pink, purple, Hebrews, Canaanites, humans or the rest of Creation. Of course, the theory is great, we’re having big problems carrying it out (imagine Atlas with the world on his shoulders), and nobody can hurt you like family.


Now that I think about it (insert tired sigh and a slump here) a lot of the back and forth shouting begins to sound a lot like “mom and dad love ME best.” (the sound effects here are optional and only limited by your imagination)

Thursday, August 4, 2005


I see the prez has given his opinion on Intelligent Design. I have no problem with teaching this in a philosophy, history, or history of science class. I do have big problems with teaching it in any kind of experimental science class.

In an ideal world there is a way that science is done. I know that this is far from an ideal world but be patient with me. Calling something a theory doesn.t mean it hasn’t been proven. In a way it’s a carry over from the times that modern science was getting started.

Let me use the boiling temperature of water as an example. It.s something that can be tested using a thermometer and a barometer. Incidentally, this experiment probably was never done or at least published in Italy until after the influence of the Roman Church had begun to decline. You see both use something that the church said couldn’t exist-a vacuum. But, that’s a story for another day.

Say a curious scientist notices that when water is heated vapor comes off of it and if you heat it long enough it boils. He does this under controlled conditions, takes its temperature and gets a consistent result of 212 degrees. For the sake of argument, the scientist is English and lives in London. London is as close to see level as you can get.

Say our Englishman writes regularly to a colleague in the Scottish Highlands and he spends his time perched a thousand feet or so higher. He tries the same experiment but doesn’t get quite the same results. They scratch their heads and both write to a mutual friend perched on the top of a Swiss Alp. He tries the experiment and gets a different and lower temperature. Finally, one of them has a glowing light bulb moment and realizes that the decreased temperature is tied to the decrease in air pressure as elevation increases.

That’s how science is supposed to work. Someone gets an idea and designs an experiment to test it. The results are shared. Somebody else follows the same steps and either gets the same results or they don’t. At that point they hash it out, start over and work on it until the original results are either verified or they aren’t. Trying to force science to conform to a particular dogma only results in bad science. It doesn’t help faith either.

Claiming that there is more than one side to an argument and it's only fair to present all of them works in a philosophy class. It doesn't belong in science class.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005


Sometime this year there is a fifty-year anniversary. If I wanted to dig through the stored National Geographics I could find the exact month we started taking them. I think it was July actually. There were two constants when I was growing up. No matter how tight things were the subscriptions to the Geographic and Reader’s digest were renewed. We still take the Geographic; we’ve always taken at least two newspapers. I can’t remember when I was introduced to the local library. It wasn’t half bad for a logging town of about 3500 people.

I used to joke that I was born with a book in my hands and I’d read darn near anything. Books about rivers, mountains, submarines, other countries, dog stories, cat stories, historical novels, science fiction, fantasy, encyclopedias, aspirin labels, the first aid book. If it was that black on that white I answered the siren call. I’m not sure that my folks always knew what to make of me. I went to Ben Hur in the fifth grade and promptly went to the library and checked out the book-the unabridged version. I never much cared for romances though.

You may ask what brought on this little meditation. I’ve got five nephews and I don’t think any of them read just for the fun of it. They all get excellent grades; they pass their tests with flying colors. They play sports: the whole modern child hood bit. Video games all that great expensive stuff but the magic isn’t there. Henry VIII is as real to me as Bill Clinton. Paul Revere’s Boston as familiar as down town Eugene, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern is as real as my back yard. (I’ve always had a thing for dragons.)

Oh, well I keep hoping lightning will strike.

Monday, August 1, 2005


There's something that puzzles me. I guess I notice this because I'm kind of in the same fix.

I see a lot of folks that obviously have trouble getting around but don't use anything to help. I.E. a cane. Lord knows they aren't expensive. In my case, I sort of inherited it. Of all the things that dad left behind I don't think it crossed his mind I'd end uup toting his "third leg" around.

Are those folks shuffling down the sidewalk afaid using a cane will make them look old or something. Are they afraid they'll look silly? Believe me, I'll take silly.

I've had some problems for years. I didn't get mom's bust line, I got dad's knees. It didn't help when I was bringing in a load of laundry from the drier, dropped a hanger, stepped on the hanger and went down like a ton of bricks. I'm about a hundred pounds lighter than I was then (this was about three years ago) and getting around better. But, that cane goes to work with me every day. I don't need it 98 percent of the time, but oh that 2 percent. Parking is at a premium at the dealership and when you come right down to it the employee lot is about three blocks from my desk.

I've taken to parking on the farside of the lot and taking the long way into the building in the mornings. I can get in about a quarter of a mile that way. I've been trying to total at least a mile during the day. More if I can, I tend to seize up by the end of the week but it's getting better.

We have a great set of bike paths in this area and there's a stretch near where I live that I can get a mile circuit in. It's paved and I'm thankful for that. That's for weekends. Actually it's next to the river, so it's shady, there's birds and lots of other critters-two legged and four legged.

If using that cane means I can get my mile or so in on the weekends I'll swing it along with the best of them and thank dad for his great investment anyday.