May 16, 2008

Home Again…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:48 pm


“Home is where you can say anything you please,
because nobody pays any attention to you anyway.”

—Joe Moore

Well, I’m back home after my eventful, memorable trip. And back in the old routine. Things at home were as I left them. An overflowing desk at work. Building schedules completely messed up by the rain. My yard needed mowing. And the intransigent tenant remains ensconced upstairs, obstinately refusing to move until the last possible day. Which should be late this month sometime. About which I’ll have plenty to say, all in due time.

The wet, cold rainy spring continues. It’s awful cold for late May. During my trip through the Midwest a few weeks ago, I drove past thousands upon thousands of acres of soggy, unplanted farmland. I heard murmurings of how the farmers are worried they may not get to plant at all. Corn prices will skyrocket. Especially if we keep burning it for fuel.

I left Cabool, MO early on Saturday morning, May 3, and started the long trek back to good old PA. Out of the five day trip, I spent a good part of four days on the road, driving hard. It was OK. But I was glad to be home.

A brief correction from last week’s post. I am very embarrassed. My rental car was not a Ford Focus, but a Ford Fusion. The next step up from the Focus. This fact was pointed out to me by alert reader Rosa Miller, my nephew Ira Lee’s girlfriend. She was also at the wedding. And happens to own a Fusion.

I guess the Fusion is a lot more sporty and substantially more powerful than the Focus, which is essentially just a little tin can on wheels. I probably wouldn’t even have fit in a Focus.

The Kentucky Derby was run the Saturday I left MO. I had been afraid that I’d miss it, what with traveling and all, but around 5:30 I stopped at a Holiday Inn an hour west of Columbus, OH. I checked in and found the Derby channel. Then I went to the lounge to eat some dinner and watch the race.

I watch three horse races each year. The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. The Big Three. Other than that, I pretty much wouldn’t care if horses didn’t exist. Or horse races.

The big screen TV on the lounge wall clamored with all the talking heads extolling Big Brown to win. I knew little about this year’s crop of horses, but felt that Big Brown was as good a pick as any. I liked his name. Kind of like Big Blue, my truck. I noticed that Hillary Clinton had picked the only filly in the lineup to win.

At about 6:20 the gate was loaded. And they were off. Big Brown lurked on the far outside for about three quarters of the distance. Then he turned it on and passed everything in front of him. Won easily.

The poor filly, a beautiful horse, ran her heart out and came in second. At the very end, she stumbled. I saw a flash on the screen as she lay flat on the ground. She’d broken both front ankles. She was dispatched on the spot, a huge loss for her owner. And just a tragedy overall.

I thought to myself that her unfortunate end did not bode well for Hillary, the politician.

The Preakness, the second of the Big Three races, is scheduled for this Saturday after-noon. I’ll be watching keenly to see if Big Blue, oops, I mean Big Brown, can take the second leg on his way to the Triple Crown. I’m betting he will.

There must have been a virulent cold bug floating around at the wedding, because after arriving home I came down with a savage head cold. I rarely catch a cold at all, what with taking Superfood every day, but this one really got to me. In the head. Clogged sinuses. I could hardly breathe.

Around the second day, still stuffed up, I remembered that Dr. Schultze, the inventor of Superfood, has always claimed his Echinacea drops kill a cold. I happened to have a bottle in my desk at work and began taking it that morning, mixed with water. So help me, by that evening, my cold was all but gone. I could feel it burning away inside me. Unbelievable. I still had a few sniffles, but kept taking the Echinacea for a few days until the cold was completely knocked out. The stuff works. (See link to site on my Links page.)

The local newspapers have been atwitter lately with the story of a local ex-Amishman, Levi Stoltzfoos, who was charged and put on trial for money laundering. Seems like he deposited over half a million dollars in ten banks. All in amounts under $10,000, and all in cash. The government claimed he was laundering drug money and that he accumu-lated the cash through other illicit means.

The prosecution publicized all kinds of accusations to turn public opinion against Levi. He was a sordid sneaky man of low repute.

But strangely, at the trial, all charges were dropped except the ones associated only with the cash deposits. Strictly on those alone, he was convicted by a jury and will serve jail time. For fifty-eight felonies.

Turns out he got the cash from selling a house. Legitimately. Slightly paranoid by nature, he didn’t want anyone to know he had it. Because he was afraid it would be taken from him. That’s why he deposited it in small amounts in various banks.

Now he doesn’t have any of it. The government confiscated every penny. And brought charges. An idiotic jury convicted him. For the crime of depositing his own money in cash in various banks. Deprived of his money and now destitute, he faces up to one thousand years in prison.

Now that, folks, is tyranny.

Pure, simple, raw and savage. And staggeringly, breathtakingly unjust. It happened in this “free” country. It happened in this “conservative” county. The case should never have been pursued, but it was. The stain of shame for this cruel injustice will never be wiped away.

The law is necessary for a just and peaceable society. When enforced by a just gov-ernment. But when wielded as a club by unscrupulous prosecuting hooligans, the law works exactly the opposite. It destroys lives and innocent people. Indiscriminately. As Levi Stoltzfoos is learning. As the rest of us watch in disbelief and fear and horror.

I don’t know Levi Stoltzfoos. He may not be the brightest bulb in the house. He is unquestionably paranoid. For good reason, it seems. But that is neither here nor there. And should have no bearing on the matter. He has a right to privacy, to conduct his affairs as he sees fit. The right to be left alone.

He is now representing himself, suing the state of PA for $10 billion dollars. I hope he gets a few millions, at least. But his chances for that are exactly zero.

A recent “New York Review of Books” had an interesting article about the history of plague and its role in human affairs in the distant past. A pandemic swept through the Roman empire, beginning around 541 AD, decimating the West for two centuries. Beginning in the 1400s, bubonic plague wiped out great swathes of the population in Europe. Again, over several centuries.

Modern historians encounter great difficulty interpreting what actually happened during those pandemics, even to the point of being unable to identify the specific type of plague. So little evidence remains. Even bones interred in the earth from those times provide few hard clues. The passing of years and decades and centuries simply wipes away the details of what occurred so long ago.

As I reflected on the article, I thought, how true. We know little or nothing of our own ancestors even two generations ago. No one remembers, few details are passed on. The living are busy living, going about their daily lives, and seeing to their own affairs. And rightly so. The sands of time will cover them too, in due time.

And yet, modern scientists confidently proclaim that the earth is billions of years old. They firmly date dinosaur bones right down to the nearest millennium. And speak authoritatively of this age and that age, when these dinosaurs phased in and those phased out. Seems a bit strange that they can pinpoint so precisely what happened millions of years ago, but know so little about the plagues that decimated human populations in relatively recent recorded history.

But that’s just me. What do I know? The two issues are likely not even related or com-parable. I’m only a layman, and not trained in these things. I’m just saying, is all.



  1. Concerning Levi Stoltzfoos; I guess we just thought we live in a free country. Couldn’t they, whoever they are, just apologize and return his money? Well, maybe they have to save their face.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — May 18, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

  2. I highly suspect that there’s more to Levi Stoltzfoos’ story that the newspeople haven’t yet caught on. We heard one side. The court don’t always reveal ALL the edviences. And Levi can always talk to make himself look good. I would investigate WHY the gov kept the money- maybe Levi isn’t fully cooperating with them? And because of Levi’s privacy issue, gov may not be telling us why they’re still keeping his money. Just like YFZ Ranch people…. they aren’t fully cooperating with the gov and so, the gov is taking time to weasle out the truth before gov could rightly restore children or find good home for them.

    Oh, by the way, Mark is brewing an article to add to this post. It is relating to plague you mentioned. He has been reading up on Spanish Flu (1918 – 1920).

    Comment by Jean Hersch — May 18, 2008 @ 11:15 pm

  3. I don’t have to tell you how much it upsets me to hear about cases like Mr. Stoltzfoos. I had to think of a quote I read recently. “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get me”.

    Comment by Patrick — May 18, 2008 @ 11:55 pm

  4. If we would abolish the IRS, return to sound money, and limit the current Central, National government to a Federal government of limited powers (as Congressmen and President swear to do), the Levi Stoltzfoos’ of the world would not need to worry about snoopers of bank deposits. It is not a crime to have money. No evidence of a crime? No reason for government to do anything.

    Such a change sounds like a pipe dream, perhaps. But Ron Paul (still campaigning), and now Chuck Baldwin (Presidential nominee of the Constitution Party) have the same dream. So did the early Americans, upon whose shoulders the remains of our freedoms stand.

    And, no, this is not politics. It is solid Christianity, applied as in Pss. 2, 72, and 110, as well as the book of Revelation. Christian history is the spiritual struggle to free people of sin, in every area of life. From that awakening, people start taking responsibility again, and building society. It’s inevitable, and, I believe, God ordained. Because it is profoundly, fundamentally spiritual, we often find ourselves standing against political tides. Matthew 16:18. If unbelievers join in, at least it is something in the right direction, of benefit to all, and allows another area in which we might share the gospel person to person. Politics is not the answer, and that’s just the point.

    By the way, The Revolution: A Manifesto shot to #1 on Amazon within a week of its release. Simple explanations, too, I’m told. I know he keeps a plaque which reads “PRAY” in full view of the hall as you walk through the Capitol. I wonder if he’s also a postmillennialist!

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — May 22, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  5. The role of disease in human history is immense but literature and history are rather sparse as to accounts of what are the worst natural disasters in human history to happen after the flood (that was the big one as that humanity was reduced to eight individuals who provided the genetic material to have 6.5 billion of us around in 2008). I wonder if pandemics receive little notice in literature and history compared to their death tolls because survivors want to put something so ultimately horrible out of their minds so quickly that they deny it happened at all or if they think, “Why would it be necessary to waste time putting pen to paper to describe something so indelibly seared into the memories of everyone?” I will now point to some notable pandemics in history and see if you can remember hearing of them.

    In 429 BC, a plague visited Athens when that city state was one year into the Peloponnesian war (this war was from 430 to 404 with Athens technically defeated by Sparta and its allies although Sparta’s “victory” was truly Pyrrhic when all was said and done in the next century). This plague lasted until about 425 and was well written about because Herodias, the first Historian, wrote his account of this war and because it killed Pericles, Athen’s greatest leader of all. The plague is not known but the most informed guess is a virulent strain of smallpox. This left Athens unable to thrust for early victory in the war. The plague did not lose the war for Athens but may have robbed it of victory. Fortunately for posterity, Athens only was a loser for about four years starting in 404 then made a strong comeback. If Athens would have been defeated as Troy was defeated, our Western concept of democracy may have been put at peril.

    Ira mentioned a plague in the Roman Empire in 541 AD. This was a Bubonic Plague pandemic that came out of Ethiopia or Egypt to bring the Roman Empire to its knees. This was the Roman Empire based in Constantinople or the Byzantine Empire. The Western half of the Roman Empire, including Rome, had fallen to Germanic hordes such as the Vandals, Goths and Visigoths in the 400’s . This plague killed about 40 percent of Constantinople and 25 percent of the people in the Byzantine Empire. Emperor Justinian I (or The Great) had just had General Belisarius (thought to be the most capable general in history by many modern historians) reconquer the western end of the old Roman Empire and briefly restore the full glories of Rome before that victory was lost by both the paranoid emperor who thought everyone was out to get him and the plague destroyed tax base.

    In 1347, a death ship drifted into Venice harbor. There may have been two crew still alive, at least one as that the ship was steered into the harbor. Out of its holds sprang a legion of black rats carrying an army of fleas that harbored an unholy strain of Bubonic Plague towards which European immune systems were entirely virgin. When this plague changed into a milder version and receded into the background by 1351, one-half of Europe was dead. Even the milder form of the plague would spring up every so often and kill 30 percent of a city or small nation. London was visited by a great fire in 1666 followed by a great plague that killed about 30 percent. Isaac Newton was driven out of London by this plague and appears to have had his insight into universal gravitation during this exile. The plague scourge did not leave Europe alone until the brown Norwegian rats drove out their black cousins. The fleas on Norwegian rats do not vector plague. However, Bubonic Plague is still out there, even in the United States, residing with black rats and squirrels. This 14th Century plague is still held in the collective race memory because the term Black Death can still inspire fright in Westerners, even when they do not know what the Black Death is. Europe almost lost it all here.

    Smallpox, a deadly but not civilization ending disease in Europe by the 1700’s, was brought to North America by European settlers. When introduced into the immune virgin Native American population, it would infect 100 percent and kill up to 95 percent of all people. Some Europeans noticed this and intentionally gave infected blankets to some tribes so that this genocide would make land acquisition much easier. If the Black Death would have had a 95 percent mortality rate in Europe, Western civilization would have disappeared as the population sank well below the critical mass needed to reproduce civilization in the next generation.

    The largest pandemic of all in terms of people killed was the Spanish Influenza (or H1N1 Influenza virus) Pandemic of 1918 – 1920. This H1 virus apparently appeared in Haskel County, KS in March, 1918. It is called the Spanish Influenza because the uncensored peace time press of Spain (neutral in the Great War or WWI) was the first to significantly report on this illness when it jumped to its super lethal stage. The virus definitely appeared at Camp Funcston in eastern Kansas but most epidemiologists believe it was brought there by Haskel County soldiers returning from leave or reporting to duty for the first time. The county doctor in Haskel County was a progressive practitioner and wrote a warning letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association concerning a strong strain of influenza that laid the county low in March, was worst in young people between late teens and mid thirties and even killed a few people. Since the United States was at a war footing with a population mobilized for total war, people were constantly moving, packed in close proximity in military camps and frequently traveling to Europe. The virus quickly spread to the east and to Europe and this new strain of influenza made people miserable. What was not known then was that the changed gene sequence in this H1 virus, bred in the birds, pigs (possibly not needed for this influenza) and humans of Haskel County, allowed this virus to hide from the immune system of the virgin population, now exposed to the deadliest thing in human history since the flood, far longer than the usual influenza virus. As it spread through the world giving people a bad few days of flu, it changed slightly with every passing day, adapting to more efficiently infect its victims before their immune systems could throw off the attack. Finally, this exquisite killer was ready for one last gene change. In three widely separated places on earth in August, 1918, in a period of one week, the virus changed this one last time and a bad case of the flu changed into the Pale Rider on the Pale Horse. In the next twelve weeks, this Pestilence of the Apocalypse killed most of the people it ever would. It stuck around until early 1920, killing a lot more but gradually losing its virulence and finding less and less live victims whose immune systems were not ready and waiting because of their survival with a previous bout with the Spanish Lady. There is still a distant cousin, a H1 type virus floating around in nature but the H1N1 went extinct. That was until 2005. The National Institutes for Health and the Center for Disease Control analyzed the gene sequence of the fossil virus found in the remains of an Eskimo buried in the permafrost of Alaska in 1919 and recreated the H1N1 from scratch by resequencing an influenza virus. The tests on animals showed that yes, this was the H1N1 virus, come back from extinction by the wisdom of man and just as lethal as during those twelve weeks in 1918. We now have our very own self replicating doomsday machine on ice at the CDC’s BSL4 lab in Atlanta, GA (and you are worried about the Iranian’s getting nukes? We are close to being able to modify the H1N1 influenza or some other lethal disease so it only attacks and kills people of Aryan (Persian, Iranian) lineage. The only problem with unleashing that kind of tailored death is that natural selection works very fast in a virus and it will likely mutate into a version that will come home to roost).

    WWI killed 16 million from battle wounds, Spanish Infuenza deaths among military members, other disease deaths among military members, the Armenian genocide and famine attributed to the effects of the war. One of every ten men between the ages of 18 and 35 in Britain, France, Germany and Russia died. The war killed 190,000 American service men from wounds and disease, including Spanish Influenza. This war lasted from August, 1914 to November, 1918, a span of four years and three months. This war horrified that generation in the West. It was key in destroying the Victorian ideal of continuous human progress and replacing it with the Modern and Post Modern angst and nihilism of today. The war spawned many books by the presidents and rulers, cabinet members, other politicians, diplomats, generals, admirals, ordinary soldiers and civilians of every sort who were touched by the war. The war allowed the Bolsheviks to create the Soviet Union and spawn the monster named Joseph Stalin. The war created the monster named Adolf Hitler and gave him the foundation to give us the Great War, Part 2 (AKA WW2) with its 50 million dead, most of them civilian. The war created the writing styles and careers of American men of letters such as Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    We now believe that the Spanish Influenza killed 100 million to 200 million people, most of them in twelve weeks. The first estimate of deaths was done in 1927 and was 20 million, more than the war. With time and better research, we now believe that the disease was unreported in India and China and that is where all the body count comes from. That is one out of every ten men, women and children of all ages on the planet at that time. How many of you had heard of this disease before you read this? This came in the lifetime of your parents, grandparents, great grandparents or at the longest, your great great grandparents. None of my grandparents ever talked about the pandemic, even though they were all in their late teens when it swept through Erie in March, 1919. In October, 1918, about 500 people a day were dying in Philadelphia. That is only 50 miles from Lancaster. Very few medical or history books were written by people who lived through the pandemic. I think there is more written today then by that generation. The only piece of literature written by an accomplished writer to come out of that horror is Pale Horse, Pale Rider, published by Katherine Anne Porter in 1939. Where is any hint of this in The Great Gatsby? The great movies of the 1930’s and 1940’s have much to say about the American Civil War (Gone with the Wind) or the life of William Randolph Hearst (Citizen Kane), but where is there even one sentence of dialogue in any movie that hints at 10% of all humans on earth, including 675,000 Americans in a population of 105 million, dying from an infectious disease that spread like lightning? There were many victims apparently healthy in the morning and dead in the afternoon with the skin color of Caucasian victims giving them the appearance of Negros.

    I don’t know. Was the horror so extreme that humanity needed to wipe its memory to keep its collective sanity? Did everyone believe that it was not necessary to write or speak about something that was written in fire into the hearts and minds of the survivors? Or was it just the flu, a scourge given by the hand of God but quickly gone and nothing more to say about it?

    Comment by Mark Hersch — May 23, 2008 @ 2:04 am

  6. That’s OK….Jean (comment #2)…go back to sleep. You can wake up after it’s too late.

    Comment by Fritz — May 23, 2008 @ 7:30 am

  7. M-

    The plague figures heavily into the development of the Renaissance. Esp. in Florence and the surrounding country side. The Medici family (who in essence paid for the Renaissance)was one of the main banking families in that era and conveniently located on the pilgrimage to Rome. The plague was also spread across Europe by those various pilgrimages esp. to Rome and to Compostella in Spain. A major change in church practices also date to the 14-15th century plague specificity the introduction of mendicant friars- the Franciscans and others (Carmelites), previously all church activities were conducted behind the heavy and closed doors of the abbey, reserved for the ruling class and the clergy (often one and the same). The very personal and tragic events for the citizens of Florence bring about the first florescence of Humanism since antiquity. Where was God? Why did He let this happen? How did I garner God’s favor and live? Why did he not spare the righteous ( in the 14-15th century this had nothing to do with “living right” and was a honor reserved for the clergy and the aristocracy – if you were not born into either, you were chattel- barely human) Those who were left began to reject the authoritarian ways of the aristocracy and the church (Aristotelian and Augustinian philosophy in favor of Plato and Polonius – could have that second name wrong – but the result is neo- platonic thought. From the circumstances of Florence after the plague come three men who change the world; Lorenzo Gibherti, Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, 2 “of obscure birth” and one a peasant.

    Comment by Glo — May 23, 2008 @ 11:45 am

  8. …one more thought. After 1666 there is yet again a change in art – taste moves away from the extremely materialism into a more expressive emotion phases- compare Rembrant (Dutch Baroque) to Caravaggio (Italian Baroque) and watch the seeds of the Enlightenment begin to grow, preparing for the Neoclassic age that will begin in the 1700’s. When artists begin to associate color with expression JMW Turner uses the 1666 fire as a subject.

    Back to paleolithic art for the summer class…

    Comment by Glo — May 23, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

  9. Getting a late surge of comments there, Ira.

    Interesting observations on plagues, Mark. My Grandfather and Grandmother Wagler did talk about the Spanish flu. It was a bit before their time, but they talked of people they never got to know, on account of they succumbed to the flu. I do not know if that type of thing is part of their casual conversation or not: I have made it a practice over the last few years to gear conversations with Grandfather toward his early days. He is always happy, even thrilled to talk.

    Comment by Mervin — May 23, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

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