REMEMBERING THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING

A couple of days ago, we were at the post office and I noticed the flag was flying at half-staff. I conferred with Garry. Finally, we realized it was the second anniversary of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Patriot’s Day, 2013.

"1st Boston Marathon blast seen from 2nd floor and a half block away" by Aaron Tang - http://www.flickr.com/photos/hahatango/8652829335/sizes/o/in/set-72157633252445135/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1st_Boston_Marathon_blast_seen_from_2nd_floor_and_a_half_block_away.jpg#/media/File:1st_Boston_Marathon_blast_seen_from_2nd_floor_and_a_half_block_away

“1st Boston Marathon blast seen from 2nd floor and a half block away” by Aaron Tang – http://www.flickr.com/photos/hahatango/8652829335/sizes/o/in/set-72157633252445135/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent related shootings were a series of attacks and incidents which began on April 15, 2013, when two pressure cooker bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon at 2:49 pm, killing 3 people and injuring an estimated 264 others. The bombs exploded about 12 seconds and 210 yards (190 m) apart, near the finish line on Boylston Street. (Wikipedia)

That was the day that a lot of the joy went out all public events. The traditions continue, but there are shadows. There will always be shadows, fear, worry connected with any public gathering in Boston and in every city in this country. In the world.

Nothing is safe, nothing is sacred. The bombs were intended to inflict maximum injury, maiming, and death.

If there was a political point, I missed it.

The bomber, the remaining brother of the two perpetrators, has been convicted in a Federal Court. All that remains is deciding the punishment — death or life without parole. Neither seems quite enough.

DRINK THE KOOLAID: THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE

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The story of the Jonestown Massacre is true. From it grew a saying everyone uses. “Drink the Kool-Aid” or “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.” I wonder how many people who say it so casually, referring to products, buying into a corporate culture, or political philosophy, realize to what they are referring?

I’ve written this before, but this is a major revision and it bears repeating. It’s true. It happened. We need to make sure it never happens again.

Drink (or don’t drink) the Kool-aid

The popular expression “drink the Kool-Aid” has become a common verbal shorthand in American business and politics. Roughly translated, it means “to blindly follow or accept a set of beliefs.” At work, it means you endorse what your bosses tell you. In politics, it means you fully buy into the platform.

It carries a negative connotation, but not as negative as it ought.

Kool-Aid was the drink for children on summer afternoons in the 1950s. The saying is now just bland rhetoric, stripped of its context and thus the horror it ought to evoke.

The Peoples Temple

Jim Jones, cult leader and mass murderer, was a complex madman. A communist, occasional Methodist minister, he founded his own pseudo-church in the late 1950s. He called it the “Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church,” known in short as the “Peoples Temple.”

The lack of a possessive apostrophe was intentional. The name supposedly refers to “the people of the world.” Jones called it a church, but it was a twisted version of a Marxist commune. At first, it combined with miscellaneous Christian references Jones used in his diatribes, er, sermons.

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It was not a church. The Peoples Temple was a straight-up cult requiring total personal commitment, financial support, and absolute obedience. The characteristics which define a cult.

Jones was the leader. A homicidal maniac, but he had positive qualities. Jones and his wife, Marceline, favored racial integration. They adopted kids from varying racial backgrounds and were the first white family in Indiana to adopt an African-American boy. They also adopted 3 Korean children, a Native American child, and a handful of white kids. They had one child of their own.

Jones called his adopted kids the “Rainbow Family.” He made a name for himself desegregating institutions in Indiana. Before you get all dewy-eyed, note that this climaxed in murdering these children.

The Peoples Temple expanded through the 1960s. Jones gradually abandoned Marxism. His preaching increasingly focused on impending nuclear apocalypse. He specified a date — July 15, 1967 — and suggested after the apocalypse, a socialist paradise would exist on Earth. Where would the new Eden be?

Jones decided on Redwood Valley, California. Before the expected Big Bang, he moved the Temple and its peoples there.

When the end-of-the-world deadline came and went, Jones abandoned his pretense of Christianity and he revealed himself as a madman using religion to lend legitimacy to his views. He announced “Those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion must be brought to enlightenment — socialism.” Prophetic words in view of the fact that Jones was a drug addict .

As media attention increased, Jones worried the Peoples Temple’s tax-exempt religious status was in danger. He was paranoid about the U.S. intelligence community — with good reason.

Jonestown aerial view

In 1977, Jones moved the Temple and its people again. This was a major relocation. He took them out of the United States and resettled everyone in Guyana, a poor South American nation. He modestly named it “Jonestown.”

It was a bleak, inhospitable place. On 4000 acres of poor soil with limited access to fresh water, it was too small for the number of people it had to support. Jones optimistically figured “his” people could farm the new utopia. He had put together several million dollars before getting to Jonestown, but didn’t share it with his followers. He barely used any of the money at all, and lived in a small, bare-bones shack.

All Hell Breaks Loose

U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown in November of 1978. Rumors of peculiar goings-on were leaking out of Jonestown. Ryan decided to investigate the allegations of human rights abuses in Jonestown.

Jonestown headline Milwaukee

Ryan didn’t go alone. He took a contingent of media representatives including NBC News correspondent Don Harris and other reporters, plus relatives of Jonestown residents. During his visit, Congressman Ryan talked to more than a dozen Temple members, all of whom said they wanted to leave. Several of them passed a note saying: “Please help us get out of Jonestown” to news anchor Harris.

If the number of defectors seems low (there were more than 900 people in Jonestown), but the congressional party was unable to talk to most of the “fellowship.” It’s impossible to know how many might have wanted to leave.

Ryan began processing paperwork to repatriate Temple members to go back to the States. In the middle of this, Ryan was attacked by Don Sly, a knife-wielding Temple member. This would-be assassin was stopped before injuring Ryan. Eventually the entire Ryan party plus the group of Jonestown defectors drove to a nearby airstrip and boarded planes, intending to leave.

Jim Jones had other plans. He sent armed Temple members — his “Red Brigade,” after the Congressional party  These creepy “soldiers of the Temple” opened fire, killing Ryan, a Temple defector, 3 members of the media, and wounding 11 others. The survivors fled into the jungle.

jonestown massacre anniversary

When the murderers returned to Jonestown and reported their actions, Jones promptly started what he called a “White Night” meeting. He “invited” all Temple members. This wasn’t the first White Night. Jones had hosted previous White Night meetings in which he suggested U.S. intelligence agencies would soon attack Jonestown. He had even staged fake attacks to add a realism, though it’s hard to believe anyone was fooled by the play-acting.

Faced with this hypothetical invasion scenario, Jones told Temple members they could stay and fight imaginary invaders, or they could take off for the USSR. Another tempting alternative would be to run off into the Guyana jungles. Finally, they could commit mass suicide as an act of political protest.

On previous occasions Temple members had opted for suicide. Not satisfied, Jones had tested their commitment and gave them cups of liquid they were told contained poison. They were asked to drink it. Which they did. After a while, Jones told them the liquid wasn’t poison — but one day it would be.

Jonestown Koolaid

Indeed Jim Jones had been stockpiling cyanide and other drugs for years. On this final White Night, Jones was no longer testing his followers. It was time to kill them all.

(Don’t) Drink the Kool-Aid

After the airstrip murders outside Jonestown, Jim Jones ordered Temple members to create a fruity mix containing a cocktail of chemicals that included cyanide, diazepam (Valium), promethazine (Phenergan — a sedative), chloral hydrate (a sedative/hypnotic sometimes called “knockout drops”), and Flavor Aid — a grape-flavored powdered drink mix similar to Kool-Aid.

jonestown_massacre

Jones urged his followers to commit suicide to make a political point. What that point was supposed to be is a matter of considerable conjecture.  After some discussion, Temple member Christine Miller suggested flying Temple members to the USSR.

Jones was never interested in escape. There was only one answer he would accept. Death. Lots of it. He repeatedly pointed out Congressman Ryan was dead (and whose fault was that?) which would surely bring down the weight of American retribution. An audiotape of this meeting exists. It is as creepy as you’d expect.

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Then it was time for the detailed instructions which the followers followed. I will never understand why. Probably it means I’m not insane.

Jones insisted mothers squirt poison into the mouths of their children using syringes. As their children died, the mothers were dosed too, though they were allowed to drink from cups. Temple members wandered outside where eventually more than 900 lay dead, including more than 300 children. Only a handful of survived — primarily residents who happened to be away on errands when the mass suicide/massacre took place.

Jones, his wife, and various other members of the Temple left wills stating that their assets should go to the Communist Party of the USSR.

Jones did not drink poison. He died from a bullet to the head. It’s not clear if it was self-inflicted. Jones likely died last or nearly so. He may have preferred a gun to cyanide, having seen the horrendous effects of death by cyanide.

Why Kool-Aid?

In the wake of the tragedy at Jonestown, the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” became a popular term for blind (or not-so-blind) obedience. Temple members had apparently accepted their cups of poison without argument or objection. Various accounts say the beverage used at Jonestown was mostly Flavor Aid, sometimes “Flav-R-Aid”). It doesn’t matter, does it?

Kool-Aid was better-known than Flavor Aid. It was introduced in 1927 in powdered form, so when Americans thought of a powdered fruity drink mix (other than “Tang”), “Kool-Aid” sprang to mind.

Jonestown-Tomb-Flower

Kool-Aid and Flavor Aid were at Jonestown, but the phrase “(don’t) drink the Kool-Aid” is popular lingo. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Does it help sell Kool-Aid?

I never touch the stuff.


 Deep Throat: The Blacklight Candelabra

I’ve written about Jonestown before, but given the state of politics today, not only in the US but around the world, it bears repeating. It’s a cautionary tale for our times, reminding us where fanaticism leads. Over the course of history, fanatics and those who blindly follow without questioning those who lead, have caused millions of deaths. Untold misery. Incalculable harm. It isn’t harmless. It isn’t “just blowing off steam.”

NET NEUTRALITY BECOMES THE LAW OF THE LAND| ZDNET

Kindle and iPad

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to accept FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal that the Commission “use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open Internet protections.” Or, to put it in plain English, your ISP must provide equal broadband access to you or any site — Amazon, Netflix, etc. — without slowing down or speeding up sites for additional fees.

As expected, the vote to treat ISPs as common carriers passed by a party line vote of three Democrats over the two Republicans. Under this regulation, broadband Internet services will be governed by Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Mobile broadband vendors, such as 4G providers AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless will also be regulated as common carriers based on Title III of the Communications Act. It should also be noted that since Wheeler made his proposal, the FCC has redefined broadband as delivering at least 25-Megabits per second (Mbps).

The Republicans claimed that the FCC was over-reaching its authority by putting in a secret Obama plan for net neutrality. Wheeler dismissed this as nonsense in his final speech. He summed up, “This is the FCC using all the tools in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers; to ban paid prioritization, the so-called fast lane. [This] will not divide the Internet into haves and have-nots.”

Source: www.zdnet.com

This is something which affects all of us. It appears we finally have a victory. Let’s hope this is the last we hear of it!

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

OO-BLA-DI, OO-BLA-DA

No news is not good news. It’s just no news.

We are in a slow news period. It’s not as if nothing is going on. It’s just that nothing is going on in which anyone is especially interested.

2014’s elections were the usual vicious, contentious, nasty business. We used to get outraged, upset, furious about elections. Now, they come. They go. Everything changes, but nothing is different. This time, when the elections ended, it got quiet in a hurry. Bring on Christmas.

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The holidays came and went. All through February, the weather (pardon the pun) has been the hot topic. And who Prince Harry is (or isn’t) dating. “Deflategate” is being beaten to death on the sports networks, but is anyone listening? Do we care? As memories of the Super Bowl fade, spring training begins. Can the Sox pull themselves out of the tank? Is there hope for 2015? That’s the most interesting question on the news horizon.

We’ve had a lot of snow.

snow window poster february 2015

I’m sure a national calamity was predicted for this year, but I forget what it was. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, the sky isn’t falling, unless that’s really what all that white stuff is … the sky falling, I mean.

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So there are no fresh disasters. Whichever huge controversies were with us last year and the year before are still lurking, along with a few tired, sleazy scandals. It’s the same old, same old. Back to the everyday struggles of a tired population hoping things will get better and suspecting they won’t. A new year is rolling along. Oo-bla-di, oo-bla-da.

WHAT A GAME!

Brady-Brady-Brady

I’m sure that those who hate the Patriots will find a way to “prove” that they cheated. But really, if Seattle hadn’t made that bad play, we’d have lost. We were losing. Seattle, we couldn’t have done it without your help! You got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do when you get home!

As for Brady, it’s good to be the king.

ST. OLAF CHOIR RETURNING TO MECHANICS HALL ON FEB. 4

Anton and GarryIn 1972, Anton Armstrong’s pastor “kind of dragged me, not wanting to go” to a concert by the St. Olaf Choir at New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

One problem was that Armstrong also had tickets for a show that night featuring the Moody Blues at Madison Square Garden. But it wasn’t a question of balance. His mother decided the matter. “My mother said ‘You need to go,’ ” Armstrong recalled. Namely, go to the concert by the choir of St. Olaf College from Northfield, Minn.

The decision has definitely had life-changing destiny attached to it. Not only did Armstrong end up going to St. Olaf College as a student and graduating with a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance, he is now celebrating his 25th year as conductor of the St. Olaf Choir..

Source: www.telegram.com

Garry’s illustrious younger brother, the renowned Dr. Anton Armstrong, will bring his world-famous choir to Mechanics Hall, in Worcester, Massachusetts this coming February 5th!

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

SNOW IS FALLING, FALLING, FALLING

Embrace the Ick — Think of something that truly repulses you. Hold that thought until your skin squirms. Now, write a glowing puff piece about its amazing merits.


I guess it would depend on how you feel about blizzards. I love them. I do. The excitement, the crazed, hyper meteorologists practically foaming at the mouth with enthusiasm. They do truly live for storms and it’s contagious. Briefly, before I get into the actual dynamics of what is about to happen, I’m a child again. No school! For like, a week!

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Then, I remember I am not a kid. I’m a senior citizen trapped in the house until we can find someone to plow out our ski slope (aka, the driveway). It would make a pretty good bunny slope, actually and I have often thought of how we could earn a few bucks from it. Never quite worked out the details, but I haven’t stopped hoping.

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At nine in the morning …

When I went to sleep last night, the predictions for this area had gone down to just about 18 inches, but when I got up this morning, it was obvious we had exceeded the predictions.

At three in the afternoon …

Since it’s still snowing to beat the band and isn’t going to stop until sometime late tomorrow, we may actually get the prize for total accumulation, though for sheer ferocity and damage, Cape Cod, Cape Ann, Hull, Scituate, and other places on the edge of the Atlantic are getting thoroughly trounced.

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So, enjoy the pictures. If you are in New England or New York, you probably have your own pictures. It’s hard to argue with the beauty of a major snow event. Snow is elegant. It produces naturally monochromatic images that can be quite breathtaking. I couldn’t get more than a couple of feet from any door and some of the doors proved nearly impossible to open, what with the snow piled up against it.

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All of these pictures are taken from our deck, out one of the windows, or from the bottom of the driveway. There’s nowhere else to go. Owen and Garry did some digging in the front yard so the dogs could get out, but even our snow-loving Australian Shepherd seems to think a nice, indoor nap is a better idea. I’m with him.

I’ll make pasta sauce later. The smell of the sauce should make us all feel cozy and warm. Meanwhile, the snow is falling, falling, falling.

BLIZZARD!!

Living in New England, in the heart of winter, there’s nothing unusual about a storm on the way. Apparently what’s unusual about this one is its magnitude. It’s supposed to be really big. How big?

blizzard 2015 map

Huge. Stretching up and down the entire coast and way out to sea. That is, until it comes ashore, something it is in the process of doing right now. They have cancelled school throughout New England for the next three days. Children are rejoicing throughout the region, but their parents are not quite as thrilled.

Blizzard-Warning-graphic

The threat of hurricane force winds combined with massive snow accumulations makes most adults anxious. Or worse. It doesn’t matter how well prepared you are. Past a certain point, it’s not up to you. What will be, will be and you’ll just have to ride it out.

power outage warnings

I don’t remember so many super storms in the past. They happened, it’s true, but not storms the size of a continent. Not storm that affected most of the country at the same time. You can be as deep in denial as you like, but our weather has gotten weird, wild, and a bit frightening. We can argue as much as we like about whose fault it is, but it’s hard to ignore the evidence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is snowing as I write this. Not as hard as it probably will later in the evening, but the roads are already slippery. It’s the layer on top of the layer that was left from a few days ago. That’s the way it goes here. Each snow becomes the ice layer under the next until eventually, the pavement is a distant memory.

Assuming I can get one of the doors open tomorrow, I’ll take some pictures. Very white pictures. I’m sure they will be beautiful.