There once was a terrible lizard king
With a paper heart stuck to his chest
And he couldn't do a thing about it.

There once was a sleepless ostrich
With a nightclub under his nest
And he couldn't do a thing about it.

There once was a pit master pit bull
With bar-b-que stains on his vest
And he couldn't do a thing about it.

There once was a caterpillar stuck to a bear;
In late spring the bear woke up alone
And he couldn't do a thing about it.

There once was a thieving magpie who stole himself a phone
Sometimes at night the phone would ring
And he couldn't do a thing about it.

End of the world or end of the song,
These things happen,
And they can't do a thing about it.

But you,
You can cross your heart with a ball-point pen,
You can run downstairs and dance,
You can taste the smoke,
Wake up in midwinter,
Answer the phone,
And sing.

And that's something.

term limits for legislators?

What if senators and house reps had a max number of terms?  Would the government be less corrupt or worse off due to experience levels?

A friend of mine recently threw me this question.  Here’s what I think.

You have to look at just what kind of “experience” our government officials are actually gathering inside the beltway.  Some crucial examples:

  1. How much money is enough to shush up that perky lil’ intern about what really goes down in the limo on the way to Capitol Hill?  How much money would be too much?  (Tip: just like your constituents, you gotta keep ’em needy.)
  2. Where do you find the best darned crab cakes in the DC area?  How can you get ’em for free?
  3. When do we hit the links?  Shall we take the People’s Helicopter?  Because the freeway is just jammed at 1:30pm on a Monday.

No doubt about it, long tenure in congress can produce true expertise on questions like these.  This experience, however, tends to come at the expense of rapidly diminishing integrity and credibility with the folks back in Flyover Baby Jesus Land, so hey.  Score 1 for the new guys.

never dabble in horror

God is Underneath Your Bed
by Joel Helbling
Saturday, December 30, 1995, en route to Parker City, Indiana

When you sit alone at night,
Fell spirits of the past are crowding in your sight;
When darkness cloaks your pain in art,
Shielding from mockery the face of your broken heart;
Shadows twist across the ceiling,
Grasping at the corner where the wall resists unfeeling;
And imps read horrid tales aloud from the diary of your mind,
Gnawing at your peace of heart and spitting out the rind.
Don’t omit one horrifying tale:
God is underneath your bed.

If wights of other peoples’ cruelty rattle in your breath,
Dragging in the chilly chains of ignominious death;
Hobgoblins with microphones and “live video feed”
Mob your plastic countenance until they see it bleed;
If a hundred thousand thorny bones
Grow from a tiny pit
Whose origin you cannot find
To kill or alter it;
Sate not your lust for woe upon this draught of bliss,
But save your tortured palette for the worst–for it is this:
God is underneath your bed.*

*The scientific Authority states this very plain:
That God is just a filament of dendrites in your brain.
The real truth, though less technical, is still an awful fact:
He’s much to big for ‘in your head;’ He’s underneath your bed.

Your will was sold in hell to bend you to its fire,
Hounds sent out to fetch you thence do chase and never tire;
Throngs of mediocre souls will hiss you as you pass,
Revile the frozen soil you trod and jeer at you en mass;
Refuge after refuge stands derelict and cold,
And vultures wheeling overhead are growing ever bold.
The fields are full of razors,
The woods are full of scissors,
The air is full of darkened verses
Your ears are full of blackened curses;
The worst I haven’t told you yet; now don’t forget:
God is underneath your bed.

When God is underneath your bed, you face a fate
Less fearful minds ignore or can’t appreciate.
Lesser fears must yield to Him as chief
Of all that vexes you to grief;
For He can move from underneath your bed;
Converse with you from deep inside your head.
And if you still don’t hear or comprehend
He’ll whisper to your heart to make it mend.

If His pleasure is to fill up all the room,
And banish all the cobwebs of its gloom
He can.
If He’d rather sit with you and speak
In quietness of things that happened just last week
He will.
If He chooses to exist,
If He chooses to comfort,
To cherish,
To heal…
He is always, always underneath your bed.

“i feel like a prize”

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. –Psalm 116:15

Christian music icon Larry Norman passed away on Sunday. Larry was a cultural phenomenon who left an outsized impact on many people. His unconventional mind left an indelible mark on me, mainly because of his influence on my father. My dad picked up (and performed) many of Larry’s songs, and many of his quotes became part of our family’s standard lexicography.

When I first heard about Larry’s death, I heard, but I didn’t hear. I was waking up, and the radio told me the news. But it was only when they announced it a second time during my drive to work that I really heard.

Whoever said there are no violins in real life has never seen the conclusion of a beautiful life like Larry’s. The death of a saint is a powerful thing which can reach those who knew him in life in ways that little else can. It has been my privilege to see this happen a few times in my lifetime. When the beloved goes home, it is the conclusion of a promise; God never takes without giving even more abundant gifts. The picture of a life well-lived in love with God and with others leaves more than an inspiring example. It leaves us hope and comfort because we are not forsaken, and our end is better than where we began.

I never heard of Larry saying anything trite, or even remotely conventional. His faith was unflinchingly honest, and thus it benefited me more. The day before he died he posted a message on his website which was classically Larry Norman:

I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God’s hand reaching down to pick me up.

He was only visiting this planet, but what a good visit it was.

alternative to african paternalism? christianity!

Michael Knox Beran has written an excellent article for City Journal entitled Hearts of Darkness in which he examines the problem of poverty in Africa, and the mainstream response in the West. I wholeheartedly recommend reading it. He puts his finger on why Western paternalism doesn’t resolve Africa’s poverty, but in fact perpetuates and feeds off it. The only real antidote to poverty is in the ingenuity and self-reliance of property-owning free people.

But how do you setup Africa so that property-owning free people can thrive? How did it happen in Europe and North America? The fundamental groundwork laid by Moses, Rutherford, Blackstone, Locke and Jefferson must also be applicable in Africa. The overwhelming trend toward “l’etat c’est moi” dictatorships and collectivist experiments must give way to Lex Rex before Africa’s citizens can put an end to poverty in the only way that poverty can be ended: by leaving it.

chezjoel 5.0

Actually I’ve lost count of how many different “looks” my site has had.  This change is the biggest in several years however, because I’ve switched from MovableType to WordPress.  I’ve never been terribly fond of PHP, and in fact have always preferred Perl.  But WP really has it where it counts: plugins, themes, widgets and new free versions with an awesomely simple upgrade process.  So PHP or not, I’m all WordPress now.

Look for more changes in the near future as I have opportunity to go plugin shopping…

political violence linked to gun ownership

Well, surprise, surprise. Reuters reports today on the Small Arms Survey by Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies, which found that some of the worlds most violent hot-spots have the lowest per-capita ownership of firearms. At the bottom of the list are nations like Nigeria (1 per 100 people). Totalitarian Communist regimes like China had only 3 per 100 people.

But the civilized nations of Europe are packing heat (30-60 per 100). The US has 90 firearms per 100 people.

Small Arms Survey director Keith Krause says, “Firearms are very unevenly distributed around the world. The image we have of certain regions such as Africa or Latin America being awash with weapons — these images are certainly misleading.”

Could it be the 1-3 guns per 100 people in those poorer, more violent countries corresponds to the percentage of people in those nations who will use firearms without moral compunction? What would happen if the percentage of firearms were large enough that large numbers of decent, law-abiding people owned a weapon?

Source: Reuters