Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Russian Story-Adelaide magazine

Adelaide magazine

A short story titled, A Russian Story by Steven Pelcman
Adelaide magazine June 2017 Volume 2

The story of a Russian family residing in Moscow looking forward to their vacation in the countryside.

(click on link to access magazine)


Amazon link for purchase



Monday, May 29, 2017

A feel good story

A Complete Stranger Saved This Mom and Her 4 Kids but Wanted 1 Major Thing in Return

After Tawny Nelson's car broke down at night in the pouring rain with her four young daughters crying in the back, countless people just drove by as she begged for help.

The single mother of four explained that things had been rough since her partner left - her vehicle was in such bad shape that she only drove if absolutely necessary and her cell phone was disconnected. She and her children desperately needed groceries so they made a quick trip to the store. However, one of her girls accidentally left a light on in the car and they returned to a completely drained battery. "I must have asked more than twenty people in the course of two hours for a jump," she wrote to Frank Somerville, which he shared on his Facebook page. "They all ignored me. Not even a no. [They] just acted like I didn't exist."

As her newborn screamed, her 2-year-old cried from hunger, and her 9-year-old desperately tried to help, Tawny described that she started to break down herself. "I was bawling and felt like the worst Mom ever," she recalled.
At that moment, a 74-year-old man with a bad limp knocked on the window. He handed her a plate of food and bottles of water for her family and let her know that a tow truck was on its way and that his wife was going to drive them home. The next day, the gentleman returned to her house with a mechanic and they made multiple repairs to her car.

After the kind stranger left, Tawny asked the mechanic if she could set up a payment plan, but he informed her that the man had already taken care of the bill.

"He said that the only payment the older man wanted was for me to never give up and keep being an amazing mom," Tawny wrote. "I've never cried so hard in my life. Things had been absolutely awful, more so than I care to explain, and without knowing us or our situation this kind man helped us in ways he will never know."

Tawny is grateful to the man for restoring her faith in humanity when she says she was falling apart. And while she knows that she can never repay him - he wouldn't even take a hug - she hopes to one day do for another what he did for her.

Lauren Levy, Popsugar

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A call for Republicans of valor and integrity

Neil Buchanan: What Will It Take for Republicans To Dump Trump?

Newsweek/Dorf on law

Everyone is still trying to figure out what to make of the last two weeks of nonstop news about Donald Trump's unraveling presidency. His trip abroad is generating a bit of news (including his curtsy to a Saudi ruler), but until he inevitably becomes unhinged by the rigors of travel and diplomacy, the rest of the world will have some time to digest the multitude of shocking revelations that led to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the Trump/Russia mess.

The overarching question that has generated serious political commentary is whether and when any Republicans will turn against Trump. Until that happens, he is in no danger of being forced from the White House. Of course, even something short of Trump's removal from office is a win for sanity, both because nonstop drama will derail the Republicans' regressive policy agenda and because it will keep Trump's supporters on the defensive in the 2018 midterm elections.

Still, it is reasonable to wonder what exactly it will take to shake a few Republicans loose. As it happens, this is a subspecies of a question that I have been asking for the past few years, which is when the Republicans' headlong rush into fact-free extremism will push enough people to oppose them.

In late 2015, for example, I wrote " At This Point, Would Any Republican Ever Leave the Party? " along with three follow-up columns on Dorf on Law ( here, here, and here ). I focused there on whether the Republican Party is still home to any moderates, in a sense of that word that is more meaningful than simply "not quite as far out on the right fringe as the others."

Once Trump emerged as the Republican nominee and then shocked everyone by stumbling into an Electoral College win, the question was whether the supposed leaders of the Republican Party would actively oppose anything that he did. Needless to say, they have instead been cowering in their offices and refusing to criticize their new overlord.
With everything that has recently come to light, however, the question again becomes whether any Republicans will rouse themselves into action, putting true patriotism above party and political careerism. We are seeing some mild stirrings, but it is far too early to have any confidence that anyone will stand up and be counted.

One way to think about this is to look at the specific people whose reputations and track records make them the most obvious candidates to oppose Trump. Unfortunately, the Bush family, Senators John McCain and Susan Collins, and a few others have consistently failed to live up to their hype.

And sure enough, just when McCain made headlines last week by calling the current situation of "Watergate size and scale," he immediately weaseled away from his almost-brave maverickiness.
As CBS News put it : "But in an interview with Fox News's Chris Wallace on 'Fox News Sunday,' McCain appeared to walk back his previous comments, saying he was referring to the administration's managing of the situation, and not the scandal itself." Profiles in courage this is not, at least so far.

Rather than focusing on specific individuals who might ride to the rescue, however, it might make more sense to describe the conditions—both internal and external—that would lead a Republican to break with Trump.
In other words, we need to think about a Republican office-holder or grandee who is being confronted with the ongoing embarrassments and evidence of possible crimes and treason by his or her president and who finally says, "No more."

These people, we must remember, are still Republicans, which means that they have not been driven away by the climate change denialism, the dog-whistle racism that became Trump's open bigotry, the efforts to give to the rich and take from the poor, the aggressive attempts to control women's bodies and so on. For most of the party, those are their reasons for being Republicans, after all, rather than reasons to quit.

So, we are asking what the conditions are that would make an extreme conservative possibly turn against Trump, which would possibly lead to setbacks in Republicans' policy and electoral goals.

Although it is true that most Republicans live in the Fox News bubble, it does not appear possible that they are able to remain blissfully unaware of what is going on. Even a congressman from one of the most pro-Trump districts in the country had recently begun to wonder whether "[t]his Trump thing is sustainable."

That particular Republican congressman, it turns out, happens to watch CNN. But most of his constituents do not, so when only one of a series of his town hall meetings had any anti-Trump acrimony, the congressman decided that there was little downside to sticking with Trump.

None of which is surprising, nor is it meaningful for assessing Trump's future. A first-term congressman from rural Kentucky does not hold the key to the impeachment process.

The point is that Republican officeholders cannot escape the news about Trump. Even those who insist on listening only to friendly news sources are confronted by reporters asking about the latest controversies. The vast majority will be unmoved, but their " epistemic closure " is not sufficient to allow them simply to remain ignorant about what is happening.

What really will make the difference? That is, what factors could come together to allow some Republicans to break ranks?

The most obvious possibility is for someone who is nearing the end of the political road to decide to do the right thing. For example, when the Republican leadership needed to find enough Republican votes over the last few years to pass increases in the debt ceiling, they would rely on the handful of retiring House members each term to do the right thing.

This, indeed, is a recurrent theme in literature and cinema, with the grizzled and compromised anti-hero suddenly standing up for what is right. Think about movies with contract killers and other bad guys who want at long last to do something good and decent before they die.

A variation on this theme was Clint Eastwood's film "Gran Torino," where he played what we might call a "casual xenophobe" who learns that he is dying and sacrifices himself to save an immigrant family.

Of course, not everyone who is leaving office is suddenly going to find their integrity. Some are so morally compromised by years of political gymnastics that they simply do not know what integrity means. Others, such as the hyper-partisan Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, are young and almost certainly clinging to delusions of future political greatness. Even so, Chaffetz has shown some mild signs of breaking with Trump before he leaves office next month.

Short of retirement, some politicians might feel some safety in breaking from Trump if their own reelection races are years away. Republican senators who are not up for reelection until 2020 or 2022 would fall into this category, especially that earlier group, because they need to ask themselves whether they want to run for reelection down the ballot from Trump.

Neither of these conditions—being near retirement or being far away from facing the voters—is sufficient, of course. John McCain won reelection in 2016, after all, and he will either retire in 2022 or run again at age 86. Even so, as noted above, he is at best wobbly right now.

Then there are the people who will run for reelection very soon but are simply scared that backing Trump will be worse for them than abandoning him. That one Kentucky congressman is not in danger, but many in somewhat competitive districts are. For them, the balance is between risking a challenge in their primaries and being stained with the R label in a general election.

Perhaps the most difficult question is how to find Republican officeholders who would be willing to sustain the punishments that would come from turning against Trump. There are all kinds of institutional punishments that can be meted out against turncoats, from losing prime committee assignments to the pettiest matters of being given bad office space and losing parking privileges.

But the more important punishments are external. There is unfortunately a large faction of Trump supporters who will immediately attack anyone who weakens on Trump. Although I do not engage with social media, I am not one to downplay the fear that the Republican targets of these onslaughts must feel—especially because such attacks sometimes include death threats.

In short, unless some huge new revelation turns this into a full-on run for the exits by Republicans, Trump will go down only when there are enough Republicans in the House and Senate who in one way or another do not care about their political futures and are willing to deal with the professional and personal harm that they will risk to themselves and their families.

On the other hand, politicians are often looking for a way to build a legacy. People today do not remember the vast majority of Republicans who stuck with Richard Nixon to the bitter end, but newspapers have recently been filled with Howard Baker's name, recounting his history-turning role in the Watergate hearings.

Again, most Republicans seem perfectly happy to be on the wrong side of history when it comes to voting rights, climate change, inequality, women's rights, same-sex marriage (although that has notably shifted) and so on. They also seem largely unworried by Trump's manifest unfitness for the presidency.

But some number of them could wake up one day soon and say: "Some things are too big to ignore. I love my country and the Constitution. When my story is told, I want to be remembered as a patriot."
Will there be enough Republicans who finally decide that the country must be saved?

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a professor of law at George Washington University. He teaches tax law, tax policy, contracts, and law and economics. His research addresses the long-term tax and spending patterns of the federal government, focusing on budget deficits, the national debt, health care costs and Social Security.

June poem of the month

She looked up
counting the first snow flurries
twirling, some crumbling
across the blackness

thinking they could be permanent
if you could only count them
before they landed
and dissolved.

They fell the way she and
her friends fall;
light-hearted and clumsy,
the earth swept away

under their feet
like ballerinas
spinning in a dream
but instead she opened her mouth

and felt the wetness press against
her lips to make them shine,
and said “there, the flakes now live
inside me” thinking she too

could learn to fall forever
and never have to
touch the earth again,
to count and count

and swallow whole
the darkness
and dance in the air
for all time.

Steven Pelcman

Foliate Oak Literary Magazine USA  April 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trump's budget based on lies???

A Republican Congressman Just Destroyed Trump's 'Lie' Of A Budget Michael McAuliff, HuffPost

(Finally, a Republican Congreesman who takes on Trump and his budget and someone you can believe in)

WASHINGTON ― Citing the Bible and expressing his sympathies in advance, Republican South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford savaged President Donald Trump’s budget proposal Wednesday as a “myth” and a “lie,” hammering the White House’s spending plan more thoroughly than any Democrat.

Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina who has a contentious relationship with the White House, simply did not accept the contention offered by Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in a House Budget Committee hearing that the economy is going to grow at 3 percent for the next 10 years.

The White House uses that growth estimate to argue that, despite cutting taxes dramatically for the wealthy, tax revenues will actually rise so that the budget will balance in 10 years. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates growth rates of just 1.9 percent.

“I have looked every which way at how you might get there, and you can’t get there,” Sanford told Mulvaney.
The South Carolinian, who describes himself as a budget hawk, went on to lay out all the ways that using a bogus estimate is terrible.

“What it does is it perpetuates a myth that we can go out there and balance the budget without touching entitlements,” Sanford said. “It’s not only a myth, it’s frankly a lie.”

Sanford offered some basic history to challenge Mulvaney’s assumptions. For starters, he noted that the average economic expansion in all U.S. history lasts about 58 months. The current expansion begun under President Barack Obama has been underway for 94 months. The Trump budget, Sanford noted, assumes that will continue uninterrupted for an additional 214 months.

“This budget presumes a Goldilocks economy, and I think that’s a very difficult thing on which to base a budget,” Sanford said. He also noted that the Bible cautions against building a house on sand.

Sanford took specific aim at the unemployment, growth and inflation rates the budget relies on.
“Can you guess the last time we had an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent, growth at 3 percent, and inflation held at 2 percent?” Sanford asked. “It’s never happened,” he answered, when Mulvaney didn’t.

After pointing to other assumptions in the budget that have never happened, Sanford argued that to get the growth rates assumed by the budget, it would take a return to economic and demographic circumstances that haven’t existed since the 1950s and 1960s. That was when women were entering the workforce, highways were being expanded, appliances were first flooding the markets, productivity was skyrocketing, and the Baby Boomers were going to work, rather than retiring en masse.

“Even if we went to 1990 numbers, we would only see one-quarter of what is necessary to achieve 3 percent growth,” Sanford said.

Sanford said there was a reason he took a blowtorch to Mulvaney’s numbers ― because Congress can’t have a real debate about making cuts if it’s using phony numbers.

“Literally, the speaker of the House [was] talking today about the notion of 3 percent growth and how we can balance the budget,” Sanford said to offer an example of bogus rhetoric being used.

“For us to have a real debate, we have to base it on real numbers,” he said. “I’m a deficit hawk, as you well know, and if you’re wrong on these numbers, it means all of a sudden we’ve created a $2-plus-trillion hole for our kids and grandkids.”

Sanford would have kept going, but fortunately for Mulvaney, he ran out of time, and submitted the rest of his facts in writing to be included in the record.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Political opinion

A few words about politics:

As a young man I learned a long time ago that when your friend is the driver of a car but is drunk or just unstable, you do not get in the car "hoping" he won't kill me. That is just foolish, somewhat ignorant but mostly, false hope.

 As a writer I also learned a long time ago that because someone can write poetry well it does not mean that their talent in that realm can immediately transfer to another realm of writing, such as novels. Talent, such as in business should never be taken for granted that it can easily be transferred elsewhere.

And when anyone speaks as poorly as Trump whose level of vocabulary and shallow understanding of almost everything also tells me that they cannot alter their lifestyle or habits, weaknesses or even strengths simply because circumstances change. The inability to think deeply and find language that showcases intellect, emotional stability and an overview understanding of what is going on reveals emotional weaknesses and fuels a person’s personal “issues”!

I disliked Clinton and agreed she was crooked and manipulative and a liar but I also knew she had a deep understanding of politics and even though I knew she'd make mistakes she would have the ability to be a fair if not great president. I knew she'd read briefs and fully be up-to-date on what was going on everywhere. Knowledge is the only base to work off of.

When you read my poems you know I am saying something, something with depth, with tenderness even if dark, with vision, something that offers insight to the human condition, the world, the truths of life-hopefully it makes my work worth reading. Trump never represented depth, knowledge or vision-he truly never offered anything nor did he really ever say anything other than slogans. That is not knowledge, it is marketing.

For those that wanted him to shake things up; he has but not positively-he was never capable of doing it positively-you have to know what you are doing to be positive and he does not know what he is doing-he has no interest in governing as president-he just likes being president. So, he has produced a nightmare in only 4 months, it must be a record. He is as one should have known him to be, a rather crude, ignorant and not really a very smart man who could only logically produce what he has.

Everyone learns on the job; we all know and have experienced that but generally most people when taking a job want to learn. When you choose to not learn, to not understand, to not be bothered, to delegate and let others do your work for you, you are really saying you do not want the job, certainly not as the job has been outlined to be. As a regular person you have the choice to make those mistakes and act irresponsibly but when you represent hundreds of millions of people, do you really still have the choice to act that way? I think not!

When you meet someone who is crude, ignorant, uses foul language as a manner of regular lifestyle, someone who when speaking speaks with shallowness, is often repetitive, rarely has facts and vision to philosophically support arguments, has a narrow sense of the world and possesses an ideology that is extreme, manufactured to gain attention to be liked but unproven to succeed or be fully encompassing, someone who reveals pretenses and is then supported by those in power who do not like or respect him but are quite happy to use him to fuel their own agendas and you watch these people service one another’s personal and selfish interests you know that the person in question is certainly not anyone you want to know, be a friend of or interact with.

I do not challenge or have issues with anyone who is religious as long as their religious convictions are not used to define and judge others or are used to create an “us vs them” world vision. That is what dictators do to their citizens. That is what society does to the convicted felon. That is what a parent can do to a child and as you can see in certain situations and relations it is correct behavior but in others it is not. When society finds a felon guilty of a crime and proves it with fair justice then society has the right to put that person in prison. When a parent is trying to teach a child to be honest, responsible and learn the differences between right and wrong it is proper parenting. But when a dictator pushes his/her vision of power, government, sense of “justice” in order to be abusive, extremist, maintain power by using fear; power and illegal tactics then you must know it is wrong, evil and a violation of the human condition.

Religion used extremely has brought the world’s history many acts and time periods full of war and inhumane and destructive consequences as any slave or murdered individual refusing to be forced to convert could attest. The Reformation, missionaries trying to convert Indians, the Holy Crusades, etc. have all proven that historically. In America there is supposed to be a separation of church and state and the Founding Fathers knew well whay that should be the case as anyone would know that many world conflicts have been driven by the extreme beliefs in religion which is often what the world is witnessing today.

Every age has offered evolutionary insight to define its time in world history and in today’s world, IT, discoveries in science, a deeper and better understanding of the planet, the human body and innovation in technology are guiding us going forward. We need leadership that has deeper insight and visionary understanding that acknowledges how humans have evolved, what their needs truly are, what the true condition of the planet is, how human relationships have altered and what direction life on earth should go in.

President Trump plays no role in any of this other than the negatives he represents and if there is political leadership that supports him, neither do they. The world can only be as good as the people living in it. A positive future can only be attained with positive thinking that is open, possesses true understanding and has recognition of our failures and needs. At no time in history has anything extreme ever succeeded or taken mankind positively forward. Extremism is a failed position to take. It benefits no one other than extremists preferring to live in a limited and controlled state of life and how does that define happiness or honestly living? Since when has anything closed ever brought happiness?

Steven Pelcman

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Life and Times of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (partial bio) (German: [ˈdiːtʁɪç ˈboːnhœfɐ]; 4 February 1906 – 9 April 1945) was a German pastor, theologian, spy, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity's role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship has become a modern classic.[1]

Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler's euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews.[2] He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and then executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing.

Still too young to be ordained, at the age of 24 Bonhoeffer went to the United States in 1930 for postgraduate study and a teaching fellowship at New York City's Union Theological Seminary. Although Bonhoeffer found the American seminary not up to his exacting German standards ("There is no theology here."),[3] he had life-changing experiences and friendships. He studied under Reinhold Niebuhr and met Frank Fisher, a black fellow-seminarian who introduced him to Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where Bonhoeffer taught Sunday school and formed a lifelong love for African-American spirituals, a collection of which he took back to Germany. He heard Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., preach the Gospel of Social Justice, and became sensitive not only to social injustices experienced by minorities, but also the ineptitude of the church to bring about integration.[4] Bonhoeffer began to see things "from below"—from the perspective of those who suffer oppression. He observed, "Here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of God...the Black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision." Later Bonhoeffer referred to his impressions abroad as the point at which he "turned from phraseology to reality."[3] He also learned to drive an automobile, although he failed the driving test three times.[5] He traveled by car through the United States to Mexico, where he had been invited to speak on the subject of peace. His early visits to Italy, Libya, Spain, the United States, Mexico, and Cuba opened Bonhoeffer to ecumenism.[6]

After returning to Germany in 1931, Bonhoeffer became a lecturer in systematic theology at the University of Berlin. Deeply interested in ecumenism, he was appointed by the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches (a forerunner of the World Council of Churches) as one of its three European youth secretaries. At this time he seems to have undergone something of a personal conversion from being a theologian primarily attracted to the intellectual side of Christianity to being a dedicated man of faith, resolved to carry out the teaching of Christ as he found it revealed in the Gospels.[8] On 15 November 1931—at the age of 25—he was ordained at the Old-Prussian United St. Matthew's Church (German: St. Matthäuskirche) in Berlin.

Back in Germany, Bonhoeffer was further harassed by the Nazi authorities as he was forbidden to speak in public and was required to regularly report his activities to the police. In 1941, he was forbidden to print or to publish. In the meantime, Bonhoeffer joined the Abwehr (a German military intelligence organization). Dohnányi, already part of the Abwehr, brought him into the organization on the claim his wide ecumenical contacts would be of use to Germany, thus protecting him from conscription to active service.[29] Bonhoeffer presumably knew about various 1943 plots against Hitler through Dohnányi, who was actively involved in the planning.[29] In the face of Nazi atrocities, the full scale of which Bonhoeffer learned through the Abwehr, he concluded that "the ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live."[30] He did not justify his action but accepted that he was taking guilt upon himself as he wrote "when a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it... Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace."[31] (In a 1932 sermon, Bonhoeffer said: "the blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness."[32])

Under cover of the Abwehr, Bonhoeffer served as a courier for the German resistance movement to reveal its existence and intentions to the Western Allies in hope of garnering their support, and, through his ecumenical contacts abroad, to secure possible peace terms with the Allies for a post-Hitler government. His visits to Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland were camouflaged as legitimate intelligence activities for the Abwehr. In May 1942, he met Anglican Bishop George Bell of Chichester, a member of the House of Lords and an ally of the Confessing Church, contacted by Bonhoeffer's exiled brother-in-law Leibholz; through him feelers were sent to British foreign minister Anthony Eden. However, the British government ignored these, as it had all other approaches from the German resistance.[33] Dohnányi and Bonhoeffer were also involved in Abwehr operations to help German Jews escape to Switzerland. During this time Bonhoeffer worked on Ethics and wrote letters to keep up the spirits of his former students. He intended Ethics as his magnum opus, but it remained unfinished when he was arrested. On 5 April 1943, Bonhoeffer and Dohnányi were arrested and imprisoned.


On 13 January 1943, Bonhoeffer became engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer, the granddaughter of his close friend and Finkenwalde seminary supporter, Ruth von Kleist Retzow. Ruth had campaigned for this marriage for several years, although up until late October 1942, Bonhoeffer remained a reluctant suitor despite Ruth being part of his innermost circle.[34] A large age gap loomed between Bonhoeffer and Maria: he was 36 to her 18. The two also spent almost no time alone together prior to the engagement and did not see each other between becoming engaged and Bonhoeffer's 5 April arrest. Once he was in prison, however, Maria's status as fiancee became invaluable, as it meant she could visit Bonhoeffer and correspond with him. While their relationship was troubled,[35] she was a source of food and smuggled messages.[36] Bonhoeffer made Eberhard Bethge his heir, but Maria, in allowing her correspondence with Bonhoeffer to be published after her death, provided an invaluable addition to the scholarship.
For a year and a half, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned at Tegel military prison awaiting trial. There he continued his work in religious outreach among his fellow prisoners and guards. Sympathetic guards helped smuggle his letters out of prison to Eberhard Bethge and others, and these uncensored letters were posthumously published in Letters and Papers from Prison. One of those guards, a Corporal named Knobloch, even offered to help him escape from the prison and "disappear" with him, and plans were made for that end. But Bonhoeffer declined it fearing Nazi retribution on his family, especially his brother Klaus and brother-in-law Hans von Dohnányi who were also imprisoned.[37]

After the failure of the 20 July Plot on Hitler's life in 1944 and the discovery in September 1944 of secret Abwehr documents relating to the conspiracy, Bonhoeffer's connection with the conspirators was discovered. He was transferred from the military prison Tegel in Berlin, where he had been held for 18 months, to the detention cellar of the house prison of the Reich Security Head Office, the Gestapo's high-security prison. In February 1945, he was secretly moved to Buchenwald concentration camp, and finally to Flossenbürg concentration camp.
On 4 April 1945, the diaries of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, were discovered, and in a rage upon reading them, Hitler ordered that the Abwehr conspirators be destroyed.[38] Bonhoeffer was led away just as he concluded his final Sunday service and asked an English prisoner Payne Best to remember him to Bishop George Bell of Chichester if he should ever reach his home: "This is the end—for me the beginning of life."[39]


Bonhoeffer was condemned to death on 8 April 1945 by SS judge Otto Thorbeck at a drumhead court-martial without witnesses, records of proceedings or a defense in Flossenbürg concentration camp.[40] He was executed there by hanging at dawn on 9 April 1945, just two weeks before soldiers from the United States 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions liberated the camp,[41][42] three weeks before the Soviet capture of Berlin and a month before the capitulation of Nazi Germany.

Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothing and led naked into the execution yard, where he was hanged, along with fellow conspirators Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Canaris's deputy General Hans Oster, military jurist General Karl Sack, General Friedrich von Rabenau,[43] businessman Theodor Strünck, and German resistance fighter Ludwig Gehre. Bonhoeffer's brother, Klaus Bonhoeffer, and his brother-in-law, Rüdiger Schleicher, were executed in Berlin on the night of 22–23 April as Soviet troops were already fighting in the capital. His brother-in-law Hans von Dohnányi had been executed in Sachsenhausen concentration camp on 8 or 9 April.

Eberhard Bethge, a student and friend of Bonhoeffer's, writes of a man who saw the execution: "I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."[39]

This is the traditional account of Bonhoeffer's death, which over the decades went unchallenged.[44] But many recent biographers see problems with the story, not due to Bethge but his source. The purported witness was a doctor at Flossenbürg concentration camp, Hermann Fischer-Hüllstrung,[45] who may have wished to minimize the suffering of the condemned men to reduce his own culpability in their executions. J. L. F. Mogensen, a former prisoner at Flossenbürg, cited the length of time it took for the execution to be completed (almost six hours), plus departures from camp procedure that would probably not have been allowed to prisoners so late in the war, as jarring inconsistencies. Considering that the sentences had been confirmed at the highest levels of Nazi government, by individuals with a pattern of torturing prisoners who dared to challenge the regime, it is more likely that "the physical details of Bonhoeffer's death may have been much more difficult than we earlier had imagined."[46]
Other recent critics of the traditional account are more caustic. One terms the Fischer-Hüllstrung story as "unfortunately a lie," citing additional factual inconsistencies (the doctor described Bonhoeffer climbing the steps to the noose, but at Flossenbürg the gallows had none), and observing that "Fischer-Hüllstrung had the job of reviving political prisoners after they had been hanged until they were almost dead, in order to prolong the agony of their dying."[47] Another charges that Fischer-Hüllstrung's "subsequent statement about Bonhoeffer as kneeling in wordy prayer . . . belongs to the realm of legend."[48]


Bonhoeffer's life as a pastor and theologian of great intellect and spirituality who lived as he preached—and his killing in opposition to Nazism—exerted great influence and inspiration for Christians across broad denominations and ideologies, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, in the United States, the anti-communist democratic movement in Eastern Europe during the Cold War and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.

Bonhoeffer is commemorated as a theologian and martyr by the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and several church members of the Anglican Communion including the Episcopal Church (USA) on the anniversary of his death, 9 April.
The Deutsche Evangelische Kirche in Sydenham, London, at which he preached between 1933 and 1935, was destroyed by bombing in 1944. A replacement church was built in 1958 and named Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Kirche in his honor.[49


The Life and Times of Helen Keller

Helen Keller was an author, lecturer, and crusader for the handicapped. Born physically normal in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Keller lost her sight and hearing at the age of nineteen months to an illness now believed to have been scarlet fever. Five years later, on the advice of Alexander Graham Bell, her parents applied to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston for a teacher, and from that school hired Anne Mansfield Sullivan. Through Sullivan’s extraordinary instruction, the little girl learned to understand and communicate with the world around her. She went on to acquire an excellent education and to become an important influence on the treatment of the blind and deaf.

American educator Helen Keller overcame the adversity of being blind and deaf to become one of the 20th century's leading humanitarians, as well as co-founder of the ACLU. Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. In 1882, she was stricken by an illness that left her blind and deaf. Beginning in 1887, Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her make tremendous progress with her ability to communicate, and Keller went on to college, graduating in 1904. In 1920, Keller helped found the ACLU. During her lifetime, she received many honors in recognition of her accomplishments.

Born physically normal in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing at the age of nineteen months to an illness now believed to have been scarlet fever. Five years later, on the advice of Alexander Graham Bell, her parents applied to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston for a teacher, and from that school hired Anne Mansfield Sullivan. Through Sullivan’s extraordinary instruction, the little girl learned to understand and communicate with the world around her. She went on to acquire an excellent education and to become an important influence on the treatment of the blind and deaf.

Keller learned from Sullivan to read and write in Braille and to use the hand signals of the deaf-mute, which she could understand only by touch. Her later efforts to learn to speak were less successful, and in her public appearances she required the assistance of an interpreter to make herself understood. Nevertheless, her impact as educator, organizer, and fund-raiser was enormous, and she was responsible for many advances in public services to the handicapped.

With Sullivan repeating the lectures into her hand, Keller studied at schools for the deaf in Boston and New York City and graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1904. Her unprecedented accomplishments in overcoming her disabilities made her a celebrity at an early age; at twelve she published an autobiographical sketch in the Youth’s Companion, and during her junior year at Radcliffe she produced her first book, The Story of My Life, still in print in over fifty languages. Keller published four other books of her personal experiences as well as a volume on religion, one on contemporary social problems, and a biography of Anne Sullivan. She also wrote numerous articles for national magazines on the prevention of blindness and the education and special problems of the blind.
In addition to her many appearances on the lecture circuit, Keller in 1918 made a movie in Hollywood, Deliverance, to dramatize the plight of the blind and during the next two years supported herself and Sullivan on the vaudeville stage. She also spoke and wrote in support of women’s rights and other liberal causes and in 1940 strongly backed the United States’ entry into World War II.

In 1924, Keller joined the staff of the newly formed American Foundation for the Blind as an adviser and fund-raiser. Her international reputation and warm personality enabled her to enlist the support of many wealthy people, and she secured large contributions from Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, and leaders of the motion picture industry. When the AFB established a branch for the overseas blind, it was named Helen Keller International. Keller and Sullivan were the subjects of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Miracle Worker, by William Gibson, which opened in New York in 1959 and became a successful Hollywood film in 1962.

Widely honored throughout the world and invited to the White House by every U.S. president from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson, Keller altered the world’s perception of the capacities of the handicapped. More than any act in her long life, her courage, intelligence, and dedication combined to make her a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

Keller suffered a series of strokes in 1961, and spent the remaining years of her life at her home in Connecticut. During her lifetime, she received many honors in recognition of her accomplishments, including the Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal in 1936, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and election to the Women's Hall of Fame in 1965. She also received honorary doctoral degrees from Temple University and Harvard University and from the universities of Glasgow, Scotland; Berlin, Germany; Delhi, India; and Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Additionally, she was named an Honorary Fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Keller died in her sleep on June 1, 1968, just a few weeks before her 88th birthday. During her remarkable life, Keller stood as a powerful example of how determination, hard work, and imagination can allow an individual to triumph over adversity. By overcoming difficult conditions with a great deal of persistence, she grew into a respected and world-renowned activist who labored for the betterment of others.



Book Review Founding Brothers

With all the conflicts and heated discussions, daily news broadcasts and newspaper articles about Trump, his cabinet and the possible constitutional concerns, here is a book to consider reading as it takes you back to the roots of America and the people that helped to form a nation.

The Pulitzer Prize winning author, Joseph J. Ellis in his book titled, Founding Brothers (The Revolutionary Generation) offers a diverse, well written and stimulating account of the lives of those great individuals that were among the founders of the American Republic.

George Washington, John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are all intertwined as they are a part of perhaps America’s greatest decade, the 1790s. Key events, historic moments that helped to shape a nation are revealed and analyzed. The characters and personalities of these men play a crucial role in the evolution of a nation. It is a must read among many others that help to clearly establish the building of a country destined to shape the structures that would shape world history.

Joyce Appleby of the Washington Post Book World says:

“A distinguished biographer of both Jefferson and Adams, Ellis has here abandoned the single painting for the group portrait, posing his patriots adroitly as he trains his practiced eye on a few telling moments in their political careers. In lesser hands the fractious disputes and hysterical rhetoric of these contentious nation-builders might come across as hyperbolic pettiness. Ellis knows better, and he unpacks the real issues for his readers, revealing the driving assumptions and riveting fears that animated Americans’ first encounter with the organized ideologies and interests we call parties.”

Jay Winik of The Wall Street Journal says:

“Where (Ellis) most excels is in his enthusiasm as a historian. It is infectious. Like an energetic tour guide or a dedicated detective, he clearly loves the task of seeking out the facts and bringing an illuminating story alive. He gives us (the Revolutionary generation) affectionately but unsentimentally, unvarnished but thoughtfully, from our modern vantage point but, equally important, from theirs as well.”

Monday, May 15, 2017

All about Pleasure

A happy life is built on pleasures such as sex and food, but also company and variety   

Pleasure, despite being central to human experience and evolution, is quite hard to define. Aristotle argued that what we call pleasure is comprised of least two distinct aspects, hedonia (pleasure) and eudaimonia (human flourishing or a life well-lived). However, as Morten Kringelbach, professor at the department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford in the UK and at the Centre for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University in Denmark, points out this instalment of Aeon’s In Sight series: ‘It’s surprisingly difficult to show that somebody who is happy is also somebody who has had a lot of pleasure.’

Kringelbach’s research into how pleasure works in the brain seeks to find the connections between experiencing hedonistic pleasure – food, sex, drugs – and living an eudaimonic life. When all is well, he discovered, there is a system of give and take between different regions of the brain that yields experiences of pleasure that cumulatively contribute to feelings of wellbeing. However, imperfections in the mechanisms that govern pleasure in the brain leave us susceptible to conditions such as addiction, an unhealthy fixation on the pursuit of pleasure, or depression, in which both the desire for pleasure and pleasure itself are significantly diminished. A common characteristic of these and other affective disorders is that they take people away from what Kringelbach argues are the two key – often overlooked – aspects of pleasure: variety and community. Ultimately, he thinks, variation in pleasure, together with sharing that enjoyment with others, is what’s needed for a well-balanced, eudaimonic life.

Click on link and open video


Producer: Kellen Quinn
Interviewer: Nigel Warburton
Editor: Adam D’Arpino

aeon magazine

Does God Exist?

Does God Exist? Some Scientists Think They Have Proof

Robert H. Nelson

The question of whether a god exists is heating up in the 21st century. According to a Pew survey, the percent of Americans having no religious affiliation reached 23 percent in 2014. Among such “nones,” 33 percent said that they do not believe in God—an 11 percent increase since only 2007.

Such trends have ironically been taking place even as, I would argue, the probability for the existence of a supernatural god have been rising. In my 2015 book, “God? Very Probably: Five Rational Ways to Think about the Question of a God,” I look at physics, the philosophy of human consciousness, evolutionary biology, mathematics, the history of religion and theology to explore whether such a god exists. I should say that I am trained originally as an economist, but have been working at the intersection of economics, environmentalism and theology since the 1990s.

Laws of Math

In 1960 the Princeton physicist—and subsequent Nobel Prize winner—Eugene Wigner raised a fundamental question: Why did the natural world always—so far as we know—obey laws of mathematics?
As argued by scholars such as Philip Davis and Reuben Hershmathematics exists independent of physical reality. It is the job of mathematicians to discover the realities of this separate world of mathematical laws and concepts. Physicists then put the mathematics to use according to the rules of prediction and confirmed observation of the scientific method.

But modern mathematics generally is formulated before any natural observations are made, and many mathematical laws today have no known existing physical analogues.

Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity, for example, was based on theoretical mathematics developed 50 years earlier by the great German mathematician Bernhard Riemann that did not have any known practical applications at the time of its intellectual creation.

In some cases the physicist also discovers the mathematics. Isaac Newton was considered among the greatest mathematicians as well as physicists of the 17th century. Other physicists sought his help in finding a mathematics that would predict the workings of the solar system. He found it in the mathematical law of gravity, based in part on his discovery of calculus.

At the time, however, many people initially resisted Newton’s conclusions because they seemed to be “occult.” How could two distant objects in the solar system be drawn toward one another, acting according to a precise mathematical law? Indeed, Newton made strenuous efforts over his lifetime to find a natural explanation, but in the end he could say only that it is the will of God.

Despite the many other enormous advances of modern physics, little has changed in this regard. As Wigner wrote, “the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it.”

In other words, as I argue in my book, it takes the existence of some kind of a god to make the mathematical underpinnings of the universe comprehensible.

Math and Other Worlds

In 2004 the great British physicist Roger Penrose put forward a vision of a universe composed of three independently existing worlds—mathematics, the material world and human consciousness. As Penrose acknowledged, it was a complete puzzle to him how the three interacted with one another outside the ability of any scientific or other conventionally rational model.

How can physical atoms and molecules, for example, create something that exists in a separate domain that has no physical existence: human consciousness?

It is a mystery that lies beyond science.

This mystery is the same one that existed in the Greek worldview of Plato, who believed that abstract ideas (above all mathematical) first existed outside any physical reality. The material world that we experience as part of our human existence is an imperfect reflection of these prior formal ideals. As the scholar of ancient Greek philosophy, Ian Mueller, writes in “Mathematics And The Divine,” the realm of such ideals is that of God.
Indeed, in 2014 the MIT physicist Max Tegmark argues in “Our Mathematical Universe” that mathematics is the fundamental world reality that drives the universe. As I would say, mathematics is operating in a god-like fashion.

The Mystery of Human Consciousness

The workings of human consciousness are similarly miraculous. Like the laws of mathematics, consciousness has no physical presence in the world; the images and thoughts in our consciousness have no measurable dimensions.
Yet, our nonphysical thoughts somehow mysteriously guide the actions of our physical human bodies. This is no more scientifically explicable than the mysterious ability of nonphysical mathematical constructions to determine the workings of a separate physical world.

Until recently, the scientifically unfathomable quality of human consciousness inhibited the very scholarly discussion of the subject. Since the 1970s, however, it has become a leading area of inquiry among philosophers.
Recognizing that he could not reconcile his own scientific materialism with the existence of a nonphysical world of human consciousness, a leading atheist, Daniel Dennett, in 1991 took the radical step of denying that consciousness even exists.
Finding this altogether implausible, as most people do, another leading philosopher, Thomas Nagelwrote in 2012 that, given the scientifically inexplicable—the “intractable”—character of human consciousness, “we will have to leave [scientific] materialism behind” as a complete basis for understanding the world of human existence.
As an atheist, Nagel does not offer religious belief as an alternative, but I would argue that the supernatural character of the workings of human consciousness adds grounds for raising the probability of the existence of a supernatural god.

Evolution and Faith

Evolution is a contentious subject in American public life. According to Pew, 98 percent of scientists connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science “believe humans evolved over time” while only a minority of Americans “fully accept evolution through natural selection.”

As I say in my book, I should emphasize that I am not questioning the reality of natural biological evolution. What is interesting to me, however, are the fierce arguments that have taken place between professional evolutionary biologists. A number of developments in evolutionary theory have challenged traditional Darwinist—and later neo-Darwinist—views that emphasize random genetic mutations and gradual evolutionary selection by the process of survival of the fittest.

From the 1970s onwards, the Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould created controversy by positing a different view, “punctuated equilibrium,” to the slow and gradual evolution of species as theorized by Darwin.
In 2011, the University of Chicago evolutionary biologist James Shapiro argued that, remarkably enough, many micro-evolutionary processes worked as though guided by a purposeful “sentience” of the evolving plant and animal organisms themselves. “The capacity of living organisms to alter their own heredity is undeniable,” he wrote. “Our current ideas about evolution have to incorporate this basic fact of life.”

A number of scientists, such as Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “see no conflict between believing in God and accepting the contemporary theory of evolution,” as the American Association for the Advancement of Science points out.

For my part, the most recent developments in evolutionary biology have increased the probability of a god.

Miraculous Ideas at the Same Time?

For the past 10,000 years at a minimum, the most important changes in human existence have been driven by cultural developments occurring in the realm of human ideas.

In the Axial Age (commonly dated from 800 to 200 B.C.), world-transforming ideas such as Buddhism, Confucianism, the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, and the Hebrew Old Testament almost miraculously appeared at about the same time in India, China, ancient Greece and among the Jews in the Middle East, groups having little interaction with one another.

The development of the scientific method in the 17th century in Europe and its modern further advances have had at least as great a set of world-transforming consequences. There have been many historical theories, but none capable, I would argue, of explaining as fundamentally transformational a set of events as the rise of the modern world. It was a revolution in human thought, operating outside any explanations grounded in scientific materialism, that drove the process.

That all these astonishing things happened within the conscious workings of human minds, functioning outside physical reality, offers further rational evidence, in my view, for the conclusion that human beings may well be made “in the image of [a] God.”

Different Forms of Worship

In his commencement address to Kenyon College in 2005, the American novelist and essayist David Foster Wallace said that: “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

Even though Karl Marx, for example, condemned the illusion of religion, his followers, ironically, worshiped Marxism. The American philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre thus wrote that for much of the 20th century, Marxism was the “historical successor of Christianity,” claiming to show the faithful the one correct path to a new heaven on Earth.

In several of my books, I have explored how Marxism and other such “economic religions” were characteristic of much of the modern age. So Christianity, I would argue, did not disappear as much as it reappeared in many such disguised forms of “secular religion.”

That the Christian essence, as arose out of Judaism, showed such great staying power amidst the extraordinary political, economic, intellectual and other radical changes of the modern age is another reason I offer for thinking that the existence of a god is very probable.

Robert H. Nelson is a Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland.