Saudi Arabia: pampered pet gone feral

A real country dog lives at the Delta outpost. When I forget to feed her, she just finds a rabbit or squirrel for dinner.  Now and then she brings home the haunch of a deer. And she doesn’t come in the house. Country people don’t allow dogs in the house. Let pets in the house and you are headed down the slippery slope to spoiling them.  Then watch out or they will become like Saudi Arabia.

buka miniskirt

Dogs and cats and horses are great to have on the farm. But treat them too well and they will control your life. At Meadowcreek, we had a resident who loved her chickens.  So much so, she brought them inside. They had the run of her house. And we had to clean it up after she left. Cats are probably not as bad, but they sure do leave a lot of hairs on the furniture of cat lovers.  Dogs are fine inside if you ignore the little accidents they will have now and then.

Saudi Arabia resembles a city pet spoiled by the West. Eighty years ago, nearly all Arabs were primitive goat and sheep herding tribes who had turned their lands into deserts and were continually raiding each other. The heyday of Muslim science and mathematics (algebra or al-jabr in Arabic was first systematized by the Arabs and our numbers are still called Arabic numerals) was long gone. Creativity, enterprise and science were stifled by strict religious hierarchies.

On their desert peninsula, this control was exercised by the Saud family who had defeated all the other tribes. Before oil was discovered, Saudis produced nothing of value to the outside world.  The royal family and their government was supported by taxes on imports and pilgrims to Mecca and the other Muslim holy sites. The land was a few tourist sites in the midst of the goat and sheep herders.

Then oil was discovered. After the Second World War, American oil companies developed and managed oil production.  The oil facilities were manned by Americans and other foreigners trained by Americans.  American companies created a new company, Arab-American Oil Company or ARAMCO to extract wealth from the world in exchange for oil.  In return, all the Saud family became a pampered pet.  The Saudis did nothing except let the American companies operate and extract profits as they wished.

But the xenophobic Sauds were gradually able to get more and more control and profit from the Americans. Then the riches really started to pour in.  Nearly all the work in the Kingdom was done by foreigners. Meanwhile arch-conservative religious extremism–known as Wahhabism–continued to control all life in Saudi Arabia.  The most popular major in their new colleges was religious studies. Saudi wealth enabled them to establish Wahhabist schools throughout the world.  These schools provided employment and a base for proselytization by the graduates of Wahhabist schools.

I’ve only been to Saudi Arabia once.  On the flight in, all alcohol, Bibles and other forbidden materials were ordered locked up as long as the plane was in Saudi air space.

The most extreme version of Wahhabism was suppressed in Saudi Arabia itself because it threatened the rule of the Saud family.  Instead it flourished in Wahhabist schools in Afghanistan (where the 9-11 plot was hatched) and Iraq (where it gave rise to ISIS).

Saudi Arabia once was a pampered pet maintained in luxury by its American oil company masters.  Then it grew more and more demanding until the former master was almost the slave to the pet.  Now the pampered pet has become a violent beast still supported by the wealth pouring in through the system established by its former masters.

Saudi Arabia has long executed scores of people every year for crimes including atheism, adultery, sorcery and witchcraft. Until recently they have limited their executions to their own country. Now it appears they may have executed a journalist in their consulate in Turkey.  The pampered pet first took over the house, made its former master its lackey, and then began spreading its spawn across the world.  When will we wake up to the danger it represents?

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Snakes make the best snake hunters

Nobody likes snakes. Just like nobody likes politicians. But sometimes they are useful.  Like when they are killing other snakes.

A few days ago, I almost stepped on a copperhead when I was cleaning some weeds next to our picture window.  Copperheads and water moccasins have to go when they are close to the house.  So I got a shovel and cut the head off that beautiful copperhead.  No matter how beautiful, it had to go.  I left the body in a brush pile.

When I got back inside I looked out the window toward that brushpile only to see a king snake rearing up looking at the brush pile and then hurrying over to it.  Probably to have a nice meal.  Sorry I deprived it of its kill.

King snakes are the only snakes I let live around our house.  They hunt down and eat all poisonous snakes.  Having them around means that we don’t run into many poisonous snakes. You don’t have to like them to know they are good to have around.

Some people vote for politicians because they like them.  They could see having a beer with them. She’s friendly and approachable.  They are voting for pet rabbits when maybe they should be voting for snakes.

Or they vote for someone who can speak well. Someone who is clean cut, presentable and seems highly intelligent.  They are voting for a valedictorian when maybe they should be voting for a snake.

In a world filled with snakes, the best politicians are king snakes. They hunt down and destroy other politicians who would do us harm.

So if you know a politician who seems like a snake, ask whether he is doing a good job getting rid of other snakes.  Maybe you should be glad he’s getting rid of snakes like ISIS and neutralizing others in Asia and finally standing up to the biggest threat of them all.  Naive, well-meaning Presidents have given snakes a pretty free range in previous administrations.

That doesn’t mean you will ever like that particular politician, just as you’ll never like snakes. But you can recognize the the best snake killer is another snake.

Happy Columbus (Indigenous?) Day!

On this beautiful Columbus Day 2018 comes the news that Columbus, Ohio, no longer celebrates Columbus Day.  Instead they are succumbing to the post-liberal orthodoxy. They have changed the name to Indigenous Peoples Day. I’m all for celebrating and learning about indigenous people. I go to Toltec Mounds State Park every chance I get. The question is: exactly which indigenous people are we celebrating?

megafauna-of-north-america

 

Five waves of different peoples have invaded North America in the last 12,000 years. The first humans to leave any calling cards on the North American continent migrated from Asia.  They are called paleoindians or Clovis people after the arrowhead first found near Clovis, New Mexico.

The Clovis people were wiped out by another wave from Siberia–the more advanced Hopewell people. The Hopewell people knew how to garden a little (so they could stay healthier than the Clovis people when game got scarce due to over-hunting) and they made captivating mound art.  This would be a great people for Columbus, Ohio, to celebrate since one of the best Hopewell mounds is in southern Ohio–the famous 1330 foot long earth sculpture called the Serpent Mound.

Or, maybe the Columbus city council mean to honor the tribe which wiped out the Hopewell.  I could see the politically correct honoring this culture (called the Mississippian).  This tribe invaded from Mexico  with an extremely resilient agricultural system. They grew corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and gourds.  They kept turkeys for food and feather coats and dogs for food and pulling travois.

Most likely, the Columbus city council was thinking of the tribes which were in charge when Europeans peoples settled the region.  These were the peoples who learned how to ride the horses they stole from the Spanish and used their new skills to raid and destroy the vast towns of the sedentary mound-builders.

So changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day means celebrating destructive raiding tribes who destroyed a strong culture stretching from Mexico across the US.  That doesn’t seem very politically correct.

If they really want to celebrate something indigenous instead of Columbus, why not celebrate the huge indigenous wild animals which dominated North America before the “indigenous” peoples arrived.  When the Clovis folk first set foot on the continent they began hunting the mastodon, woolly rhinoceros, mammoth,  horse, tapir, ground sloth, giant bison, giant beaver, giant tortoise, American lion, short-faced bear, and saber-toothed tiger. Over-hunting caused the mass extinction of these animals, More than thirty species of large animals became extinct. By about 10,500 years ago, megafauna no longer roamed North America. Only the relatively puny buffalo remained.

I don’t think the name “Indigenous Megafauna Day” will ever catch on. But why celebrate the invading people who killed off all these fascinating species?  That would be like glorifying the Chinese for wiping out the rhinos in Africa today.

Columbus represents just one of the many waves of invaders who controlled North America for brief periods of time.  Columbus wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last.

I guess I just know too much about “indigenous peoples” (who are all related to ancient Siberians and not really indigenous at all) for my own good.  It just makes it really hard to figure out why the city councils are honoring these blood-thirsty sun worshippers over some blood-thirsty Christians.  They were both pretty horrible to modern, politically correct sensibilities.

It must be some kind of self-hatred since most of these city council folk are white people.  Or maybe it’s an anti-Italian dog whistle. Is an attack against Christopher Columbus an attack against all Italians?  I’ll let the always-indignant illiberal liberal mob figure out that conspiracy theory.

As for me, I’ll spend the day visiting the Toltec mounds and imagining the splendor of the thirty indigenous animal species wiped out by the invaders from Asia.

Fire ants, Kavanaugh and college football

Yesterday was historic because I destroyed a two foot tall fire ant mound in my yard and our country finally resolved the festering Supreme Court debacle.  My focus this week has been on gardening. But Saturday in the fall means college football.  So I turned on the tube to see a battle of semi-literate behemoths from a couple of the colleges where I used to work. Before I could find the right channel, I stumbled on the news.  It was long after the vote and I was hot and sweaty from the fire ant cauterization and getting raised beds ready for next year.  The situation was so similar to the last Presidential election, Then, I was at Meadowcreek with no TV.  We’d grilled steak and no one mentioned the election all night.  Word finally filtered in from outside the next morning.

Dealing with fire ants is much easier than our political battles.  There is no choice between the lesser of two evils. It’s just good versus evil.  And no remorse when hundreds of beings perish under the flames of my charcoal fire ant eradication method.  I did have some problems because the mound was so big.  I didn’t want to dig into it and risk hordes of fire ants attacking me.  So I got a fire going over the whole mound first.  This enabled me to destroy gradually the mound as I scraped off the burnt layers to find still living ants and started the fire anew on top of them.

Finally I got down to the egg and winged ant (future queen) level.  There I piled in the charcoal and, with lighter fluid, eradicated the heart of the nest where the queen lived.  When I came back and no ant survived, I guess I felt like the anti-Kavanaugh folks would have felt had they won.  Or maybe like some folks felt when Hillary lost.

But I didn’t drink a beer as many Kavanaugh supporters did.  Nor did I cry in my wine as the anti-Kavanaugh did. I just enjoyed college football and relaxed knowing I’d destroyed the fire ant colony.

Of course, now that fire ants have reached as far North as our part of Arkansas, i know another mound will appear in the future and I hope I’m here to destroy it. I just wish the attitudes and animosities which are destroying our country were as easy to identify and control.

We do know the source of our country’s destruction.  Some say it’s in the same colleges which let over-muscled thugs escape any hard learning so they can have winning football teams. The Know Nothing liberal arts authoritarians dominating nearly every university limit  discussion and try to limit thought to one topic: how to rid the country of what they see as the problem–the racist, misogynist conservatives.

Both sides think they have identified the fire ant mounds.  And both sides are doing their best to destroy those mounds at any cost.

I hope you are among those who know both sides are partly right and partly wrong. Neither is the fire ant mound which threatens our country and needs to be destroyed.  Our common enemy is the belief that we are right and they are wrong and we must do anything we can to destroy them.  As long as both sides have this belief, the descent into unbridled tribalism will continue.  Sadly, the leaders on both sides are stoking the fires.

Each side sees the other as evil fire ants which must be destroyed. And that attitude can only lead to destruction of the nation.  Even if one side does win, it will identify an Other within its ranks. Then the tribalism and destruction will begin anew,

“We are totally right and they are totally wrong” is the attitude of tribalism and mutual assured destruction.  The American Indians were divided into thousands of tribes which nearly all fought with each other even as the advancing Europeans took over their lands.  Something similar is happening in the US today.  Because we are so busy fighting with each other instead of working together to conquer our many challenges, other tribes are invading and taking over more and more of our country as we fight with each other.

So enjoy your college football, your Kavanaugh victory and your beer while the other side plots your demise. One thing our universities can still do well is create enjoyable spectacles for the masses. And they also produce graduates who are making more and  more good beers

Fire ant and politician control

Fire ants can sure ruin a beautiful day. They are a lot like politicians.  They don’t care about the people and they will never admit they did wrong. Actually, fire ants are more altruistic than politicians. Fire ants will sacrifice themselves for their group.  Rare is the politician who sacrifices himself for anyone. Many politicians today don’t have real friends; they’ll throw anyone under the bus.

If you don’t know about fire ants, you soon will. They have been spreading across the country since they arrived in Mobile, Alabama from Brazil.  They are now as far north as Arkansas, Kentucky and Delaware.

In recent years we’ve discovered them on the edge of our property. A couple of weeks ago, after a rain, the first mounds popped up in the yard.  At the beginning the mounds aren’t so big, but let them go and they can reach more than two feet tall.  When they first invade your property, you will probably accidentally disturb their mound.  Then you’ll notice a burning sensation like your skin is on fire. If you don’t get them off you, they will continue to bite and inject venom.  Each ant has enough venom to inject you thirty times. The venom burns immediately and then turns into intense itching and a nice big scab.

Fire ants can be hard to get rid of.  Most people want to save their lawns, so they use poison, which doesn’t always work. There is one sure way to get rid of fire ants.  It has worked every time for me. Dig down in the mound until you see the eggs. That’s where the queen is. Then cover the depression with charcoal.  Spray lighter fluid generously on the coals and let it burn.  When the fire dies down, spray more lighter fluid and light it again.  Let it burn until the coals are ash.  You’ll ruin your lawn in that spot, but I guarantee you’ll get rid of the fire ants. You kill the queen, you kill the colony.

Why don’t more people use this fire ant cure?  They want to save their lawn.  But sometimes you have to cauterize a wound.

Getting rid of worthless politicians is tougher.  Like fire ants, politicians also congregate in groups—typically in buildings with domes in major cities. But setting their mounds on fire won’t help. Getting rid of one politician, even a bunch of politicians, won’t solve the problem. Others just replace them. To get rid of a fire ant mound, you have to get the queen.  If you don’t eliminate her, she will just lay more eggs and reestablish the mound.  So to eliminate bad politicians, we have to eliminate the source of those politicians. They don’t have a queen, so we have to look elsewhere.

And that’s the problem, the source of corrupt politicians is a corrupt electorate. Politicians reflect those who elect them. Our nation, our states, our cities get the politicians we deserve. Many Americans have become violent, unlawful and corrupt.  When I was growing up, kids played alone anywhere and were safe.  Parent could leave their children in strollers outside a store and know they would be safe.  Many stores in small towns had an honor system.  If the owner wasn’t there, you could take what you needed and leave the money on the counter.  We seldom went over the speed limit.  Most everyone you knew was a good Christian or at least followed the Ten Commandments.

Today, most of our country has passed the stage decried by the prophets of old: “Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; they will be brought down.”

Our nation was founded by men and women who loved God, respected others, and shared a moral compass based on the Ten Commandments. That moral culture was the foundation of the Constitution of the United States. That moral culture is enables  America to be resilient. The problem we are facing today was anticipated by one of the authors of the Constitution, John Adams. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Why is America in such moral, social, and political turmoil today? It is because many among us are no longer moral and religious. Many Americans no longer fear God, respect man, or have a shared sense of even the most basic morality. Some wear Hester Pryne’s scarlet letter “A” as if it were a badge of honor. Some proudly don T-shirts that read, “I had an abortion … and I don’t regret it.” Many sing rap songs that glorify abuse, rape, murder, necrophilia, and blasphemy. Many of us never blush.

Nineveh, the capital city of the wicked Assyrians, was a place where the people did not know how to blush. Due to all their wickedness and immorality, the people were in the cross hairs of rightful judgment. A reluctant Jonah let them know their lease on life was up. Surprisingly, the people received the message, humbled their hearts, and repented of their sins. And their lives and nation were spared.

The same is true for us today.  Our only hope is that enough Americans will recognize their wrong-doing and reawaken in the freedom of following basic moral, natural laws. “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.”  May we walk in the light and speak the truth in love before all hope for our country is gone.

Fire ants don’t care how you feel when they sting you.  The stings are just natural consequences to stepping on a fire ant mound. Nature can be cruel. There are also natural consequences for a people who are violent and corrupt.  They will not last.  When a violent, immoral and corrupt nation dissolves, Nature doesn’t care. It’s just a natural fact.  And it will happen to the USA if we don’t wake up.

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For the context for John Adams comment, see his address to the Massachusetts Militia in 1798: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-3102

For more on Jonah and Ninevah, see  Jonah 3: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jonah+3&version=NIV

For more on wicked nations whose people do not even blush, see Jeremiah 8:12: https://biblehub.com/jeremiah/8-12.htm

Regarding the importance of repentance, see Luke 13:3: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/Luke/13/3

 

Sunday in the garden

 

Today is a perfect morning to weed the garden. It’s a clear September day in Arkansas, so the sun will be getting hot later. That means any weeds I pull will quickly wilt and turn into mulch and compost. I use the cool of the morning and the heat of the afternoon to turn weeds into compost.

summer-garden-summer-garden-wallpaper-arrangement-summer-garden-vegetable-summer-garden-party-decorations

And while I’m doing it, I forget everything else. I’m just focused on pulling those weeds. How much better life could be if our culture promoted everyone spending more time with the natural cycles of life, instead of being so caught up with shopping, social media and politics.

Have you ever had a day in the garden you hoped would never end? A day when the peaches and marigolds jumped with color and the trees and shrubs so green against the blue sky. Maybe a day when the honeysuckle makes the air sweet while you prune and hoe and plant seedlings. It’s a kind of day that leaves you feeling calm, collected, and aware.

If you’ve ever had a day like this, there’s a good chance you’ve achieved, at least for a few moments, a mental state known as mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness is about being more aware of what is happening both inside and outside ourselves.
I know you’ve experienced the opposite of mindfulness. Maybe you watched a video of your child’s graduation. And realized the one who took the video—you—remembered none of it.

Or maybe you’ve had the experience of realizing you missed your freeway exit long after it had disappeared in your rear-view mirror. Or maybe you have finished an entire meal without really tasting any of it because your mind was somewhere else, sacrificing both the experience of deliciousness and the opportunity to savor time.

Mindfulness is really just paying attention to what is happening around you and within you.

Some come to mindfulness via eastern religious traditions and practices. But early Christians loved mediation and mindfulness, too. Today, many of all religions almost avoid the present. We live either in regretting the past or striving toward the future, never appreciating the present.

The perfect activity to appreciate the present, to genuinely engage with the world around me, can be right outside the back door – your garden. Traditional mediation is fine, but nothing connects me more to my surroundings than gardening. When all the plants around us are reaching toward the sky, when the soil in the vegetable beds runs richly through our hands, we feel totally connected to the present moment. There is a calm in gardening which cannot be found anywhere else.

My self disappears as I garden. I enter the state some call “flow”– when you are completely absorbed in an activity. When I’m lost in the act of gardening, it has my total attention.

All our senses are working in the garden. What gardener has not closed their eyes to inhale the gentle fragrance of a flower? When I’m harvesting early peas. It’s always exciting to pull the first one from the vine, pop open the pod, tip my head back, and with a flick of my thumb pour a handful of sweetness into my mouth. Then there’s the other senses: the dazzling sight of cherry blossom in spring or the sound of leaves dancing in an autumn breeze or buzzing bees totally ignoring me as they gather nectar.

These experiences are not the preserve of the elite; nature is all around us. Gardens can be in the city, the suburbs, small towns or the country.

That is a beauty of gardening—it’s an activity which is available to almost anyone. Most of us do not have acres of land, but most of us do have access to some kind of garden. For those who do not have any outdoor space, there are community gardening plots in most communities. With a little effort and a decent trowel, we can all find our little piece of awareness.

Many aspects of modern life we do want to disconnect from – long monotone office meetings, spreadsheet filled computer screens, traffic jams. Due to the stressful and fractured nature of life, people often want to be somewhere else. It doesn’t need to be like this. If you want something that reconnects you to the world around you, which makes you more mindful of the present moment, then look no further than the soil outside your door. It may be the perfect place to reconnect with yourself, Nature and Spirit.

Woolly bears say mild winter ahead

One sure sign of fall has already appeared: woolly worm caterpillars. Leaves were already beginning to turn on the Canadian border last week, though still lush green in Arkansas. Temperatures have dropped.  Rains have returned after the June-July dry spell. Caterpillars and young people are deciding where to spend the winter.

woolly bear caterpillar

Late summer is a good time to observe caterpillars other examples of the r phase of the adaptive cycle.

The woolly worm is the most well-known fall caterpillar in the South; they are called woolly bears in the Midwest. They are bristly, a couple of inches long with a brown band in the center and black tips. We pick up each woolly worm to see how long the brown band is. If they are all black or the brown band is small, the winter is supposed to be long and hard. So far, it seems the brown band is longer, so maybe the winter won’t be so bad.  One I saw this morning had barely any black on it at all.

Caterpillars hatch from eggs laid by butterflies in warm weather. The caterpillars eat as much as they can and then search for overwintering sites under bark or inside cavities of rocks or logs. That’s why you see so many woolly worms crossing roads or paths or on your screen door in the late summer and fall.

Also everywhere in late summer around here is the red-spotted purple butterfly or Limenitis arthemis. The top is mostly blackish purple with an iridescent blue stripe on the hind wings. The underside has orange-red spots. The butterflies feed on moisture from damp ground. You’ll often see them when you go swimming in the creek in the late summer.

The females lay eggs on the tips of leaves of deciduous trees–especially birch and black cherry. They hatch out in less than a week and feed on the leaves, growing into a one and a half inch long caterpillar which looks like bird droppings. Great way to look distasteful to birds.

There are lots more fascinating late summer caterpillars here. They are all examples of the fast growing r phase of any living system. They eat a lot and build themselves up so they can turn into the mature butterfly stage.

The human equivalent is the teenager or young adult–fast-growing, fascinating and preparing for the mature stage. We see a lot of young people come and go at Meadowcreek. They have lots of energy, build interesting structures and usually move on.

The long-term Meadowcreek residents welcome the young folks, get attached to them and hate to see them go. But we know they will be replaced with new youth in good time or they will come back when they are ready to settle down.

4box-adaptive-cycle1Resilience research is built on the four phases of the adaptive cycle: alpha or α, r, K and omega or Ω. In the α phase, the system is organizing itself. In newly cleared or burnt-over ground, this is when new species cover the ground, protecting it for the next phase. In cultivated fields, this phase is when fields are planted. The seeds establish themselves and grow rapidly. In human life, this is childhood. Patterns are laid which will determine the fate of the adult.

Grasses and invasive species dominate, saplings get established. In natural ecosystems, the established young trees then enter the fast growing r phase. Resources are accumulated as wood and roots until the tree is well rooted, strong and tall. In cultivated fields this is seen as the plants reach their full height. In humans, the young quit growing, finish their schooling and settle down.

Then the K phase begins. This phase of maturation is the mature forest, the crop field setting seed, the adult human establishing a home. Offspring are created in this phase and sent off to establish new homes or wait till a place opens up for them.

The Ω phase is when resources are released to provide a foundation for a new system. In forests, the Ω phase is a forest fire or a clear cut. In wheat, corn or rice fields, it is the harvest. In businesses, it is the retirement of the boss. In farms, it is passing on the land to the next generation.

At Meadowcreek, we watch the adaptive cycle in the forests, the fields, the caterpillars and the young residents. Our task is to help the gardens and beds move through the cycle to provide food for us. To harvest the mature trees for firewood and biochar. And to help the young people lay a solid foundation of knowledge and experience so they can contribute to a resilient world wherever they go.

Right now, though, we’re paying attention to woolly bears.  If you see any, measure the bands and drop us a iine or two: meadow@deltanetwork.org.  They sure are saying its going to be a mild winter here.