JESÚS and the JOURNALIST . . .

photo by Alberto Morales (fair use)

Courage is an amazing quality, often extending to include self-sacrifice, while facing formidable risk.  We can find it in the lives of nurses and doctors during this pandemic; firemen and police responding to deadly events; even an occasional politician risking loss of a job during re-election, while refusing all campaign contributions — the late and rare Senator, William Proxmire, comes to mind.  The “selfish gene” concept has trouble with altruism, but it is evident that some humans value the species above their own lives, or so it seems.  

Well, perhaps every act is selfish, in some sense.  We make our choices based on what we value.  If I value stability or liberty or community more than life itself, I might sacrifice my life for my values, “selfishly”.

I now ask you to forgive me for the trick I’ve played in writing the headline, above.  This truly is a Mexican story.  But the unaccented Jesus I will mention (briefly) is Jesus of Nazareth.  (I didn’t want readers to decamp upon suspecting a religious theme, which this is not.)  The Mexican angle is about the killing of a Mexican journalist, Regina Martínez.  But both laid down their lives for their friends.

I have no idea if she was Christian, but it seems to me that she shared some of that love for community exhibited by Jesus of Nazareth, by risking her life for what she valued. While I have no ability nor inclination to evaluate evidence of her killing, the facts tell us of her relentless pursuit of truth about corrupt governance, at considerable risk to herself. That particular governor was found guilty of corruption (but not murder) and is now in prison.  The practice of investigative journalism in Mexico, outside of a war zone, is one of the riskiest professions in the world.  Let us be thankful for self-sacrificing heroes!  Without a free press, community gets run by the worst of the tough guys.  

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates asks a local tough guy this question: What is justice?  “Mr T” answers:  justice is whatever a tough guys says it is.  Through further questioning Socrates manages to dismantle T’s response so thoroughly that it yields one of the most famous blushes in all of literature.  

We should all blush for failing to question duplicitous authoritarians, hiding our cowardice by looking away. In a letter to Thomas Mercer, Edmund Burke wrote this: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Yellow Christ, by Paul Gauguin


Arrazola wood carvings, Oaxaca

While we all await the return of safe touring, I invite you to encounter the enthusiasm for Mexico of a recently-minted PhD in archaeology, Dra.Marina Aguirre.  I’ve enjoyed traveling with Marina on several of her well-researched tours, especially her signature tour starting from the Olmec stone heads at the La Venta sculpture park in Villahermosa,


Olmec stone head, ~25 tons.

thru the Lacandon jungle, where we stayed at an eco lodge and visited the ruins at Yaxchilán by canoe on the Usamacinta river, and then onward by bus to ruins at Bonampak and Palenque, before spending several days in San Cristóbal da las Casas, Chiapas, exploring the folk arts and textiles of that Mayan region.

Marina’s ebooks are an excellent way to sharpen your appetite for the robust culture here.  She knows her stuff, having done field work to locate the characters, talents and stories that make Mexico so compelling.  There are three ebooks in her collection, covering archaeology ruins; mural and plastic arts; and folk and textile arts.  They are pointing you to future adventures. And a visit to her blog shows some of her past destinations, which are possible repeats.  (The caliber of fellow travelers was astonishing.) She often visits artists’ workshops where folk art is being made. Details of these sites are shared in her books.

Ruins at Mitla, Oaxaca. photo by Teobert Maler, 1875


Masks of tecuanes, at the mask museum


Ceramic dolls which model Fridha Kahlo outfits


Guachimontone, Jalisco



I’ve recently finished reading a page-turner of a tome, a biography of two adversaries, titled FATAL DISCORD: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind, by Michael Massing. This author is a masterful researcher and storyteller.  Anyone with an interest in the history of ideas would find this book lively. The book has range and depth, across empires, popes, kings, wars, and rivalries.  At its center is a fight over how to read the Bible in it’s many fragments, collected in Latin and Greek (and more). 

Decades ago at a nondenominational divinity school, when I encountered the puzzle of reading the Bible in early languages, I dropped out.  Today the online tools are amazing.  Here’s an example from my own study:

Rocky, Rocco in Latin or Italian, is a tough-guy name.  But petros, in Greek, from which we get the name Peter, not so much.  Think Pebble.  (Jesus was yanking Simon’s tail, by giving him a diminutive nickname.)  Yet Peter is thought of as a brawny fisherman, the foremost disciple of Jesus – the leader of the pack – but the church which Jesus reportedly built upon Pete’s name is feminine, petra, bedrock. (Why are churches run mostly by men?) Enjoy the word-play below. Link note: get past registering by clicking the tiny line “not this time” in lower left, then scroll to v.18 and click the blue appearances of Peter and rock in Greek and English.

¿What fun, no?  I’ve been reading the Bible since I was seven, by free choice.  I own and use many translations and paraphrased renderings.  One became a personal favorite a few decades ago, The Message, done by an exciting translator, Eugene Peterson, a language scholar and Presbyterian minister who helped his congregants develop their spiritual lives thru translating the text with them.  His publisher promoted their release as Read the Bible again for the first time.  It was that fresh. 

Language is a living thing.  It goes stale when bottled or canned, as can be seen in the Latin mass, the Vulgate, the King James Version (which I love and use almost daily, reading between its lines by unpacking the Hebrew and Greek). 

One of the exciting things about Massing’s book is that it reports the histories of Bible publishing, often  as a contest of wills between many powerful players, which became a deadly contest with beheadings, burnings at the stake, murders, and social upheaval – all over the meaning of words.  Hot stuff!

And it continues yet today.  We have shootings in churches, assassinations of politicians, gynecologists and ministers, and fierce fights over how to read our own laws.  The idea that a document can be “frozen” and understood using a mindset that was in the heads of our Founding Fathers, imperils the understanding of our Constitution.  This approach to interpreting the law of the land, contrived by Justice Scalia, is thoroughly debunked by the dean of a prominent law school, in his slim but powerful volume WE THE PEOPLE. 

How to read is so basic to being a modern human.  A favorite author who became a born-again Christian as a teen, went to two evangelical colleges, got a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary where he started to question his understanding of the Bible, and today no longer identifies as Christian (but continues to study the Bible, and write books on biblical topics), is one of the most popular professors on his campus in the Bible belt.  His many accessible and compelling books on translating the Bible can be seen at Amazon.  Misquoting Jesus is a good place to start. 

Conclusion: we are all translators of our encounter with reality!  Is your “version” making sense for you today?

NOTE: Here’s a link to a translating project I did,  gathering together the ethical teachings of Jesus, including the “sermon on the mount”.  And here’s a more recent link to a book about Thomas Jefferson’s pursuit of the ethical teachings of Jesus.


Friend Manolo has been printing, each week since March, numbered editions of what he is calling The Toilet Paper Story – LINO CUTS, and yes, he is printing on toilet paper, of course.  When he first heard that people were hoarding toilet paper at the start of the pandemic, he started his editions.  And now he has sent me news that Austria is printing postage stamps on toilet paper!  (Artists are so often ahead of the curve.)  Stamp collectors may want to collect versions of both sorts.  The artist can be reached by email, here: printandbake AT gmail DOT com. The prints below, some of my favorites, are floated on card stock and sleeved in plastic, (which I removed to take photos).


¿ Are you still the person you were when you got your first credit card, signed your first loan, bought your first car. or registered to vote, still writing exactly like you did back then?  That person no longer exists; and that signature surely has changed. Indeed, it was never consistent!   EXAMPLEA few weeks ago I found my social security card, which was signed when I was 16.  It looks nothing like my current signature.  Yet these lawyers are contending they have the vision to detect an early self from a current self, and cancel your ballot?  Gimme a break!  

I won’t argue that there has never been voter fraud.  Such would be a silly assertion.  But when lawyers and politicians insist that they are qualified to be paid big money to evaluate signatures of voters, it’s time to throw down the gloves.  This is a junk argument that they, on both sides of the aisle, have floated to pay their cronies big money.  This is sophistry at its worst.  The public should insist that it receive summary rejection.

The public needs to say NO to these magicians who are perpetrating a scam on the us.  This “authority” is utterly naked.  There is nothing scientific about signature studies. It is alchemy, inventing gold from mud.  And the gameboys are laughing all the way to the bank.  No matter who wins, the public is fleeced by fraudsters floating specious arguments, for cash.  It is time for the public to rebel against such nonsense.  And the people, who are governed by the states, under election law, have the authority to do so.  But they would need to rise up in protest, striking, which is a right under the First Amendment. We should not allow any ballots to be rejected for signature complaints, without additional proof of fraud.  Many red states have already purged voters without evidence, as reported in this book, by journalist Greg Palast. He cites a wholesale pattern of injustice, for example: there being two people with the same name, that it is someone voting twice.  What!  And with this absurd logic half million voters have already been removed!  Could you be one?






The POSTMASTER GENERAL has a package for Don-the-Con.  (He’s a millionaire whose “former” company is a postal contractor, and has already donated more than $600,000 to Trump’s campaign.)  But this couldn’t be a kickback, could it?  The “package” is DELAY; and the campaign contributions are a serious conflict of interest, as explained: “The idea that you can be a postmaster general and hold tens of millions of dollars in stocks in a postal service contractor is pretty shocking,” said Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, who resigned in 2017.  

But who’s watching?  Surely not the Postal Board of Governors, who were all appointed by that guy with the red tie, above.  Do you care that your vote, arriving late due to “postal delays” might not count because a few rich guys get to vote with cash as well as ballots?

UPDATE: (Wed.Nov. 4th)  A federal judge was so angered by the US Postal Service’s inability to sweep its facilities for ballots yesterday afternoon, following a court order to do so, that he said he will want answers under oath from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.


Rob Rogers cartoon. (fair use)

The BIBLE says All people from Crete are liars. (Titus 1:12)   But can we believe it without starting by asking a few questions, like why should I believe your response?

 Washington Post has been keeping track of  “our Leader’s” long nose.  They report that his average of 17 lies per day during his term in office is rising as the election draws near, now approaching 50 per day in recent weeks.  Surely you believe his statement depicted above?  (He has promised to show us his healthcare plan for about four years; and his tax returns – so voters might know if his debt of $421 million includes exposure to foreign governments.)

For those interested in the a history of lying, philosopher Sissela Bok has written a fine book titled LYING : Moral Choice in Public Life

Click the following link if you’re interested in more of the Prez.of Lies’ graphic scorecard:


COPS know how to protest without getting hurt.  It’s called Blue Flu.  A Guardian article focusing on the historic futility of street protests makes it clear that risking safety has accomplished little, as governments allow the public to vent, up to a point.  And then heads get busted, and people are damaged for life, or die.  But there is another way : Just stay home. Call in sick. Sit on your hands. Slow down. >>> This is powerful.  The wisdom of crowds should be to work smart instead of hard or dangerously.  Investing our energy where it has the most leverage and the least risk will win.  We the People have a hammer.  With it, we can restore democracy.  Use it skillfully, gently, wisely.

Photo from Crucible Tool (fair use)


Bagley cartoon, Salt Lake Tribune (fair use)

ONE dropbox for ~5 million people, in Houston?  Thank you Governor Abbott for “protecting the vote”.  But the voters, nah!


Directives from Ohio secretary of state, Frank LaRose, and Texas governor, Greg Abbott – both Republicans – limit drop boxes to one per county. In Harris county, Texas, home to Houston, that’s one box for 4.7 million people. For the 228,000 residents in more sparse Mahoning county, a single drop box could result in a lengthy trip to the board of elections. In stark contrast, for the 2.3 million residents of King county in greater Seattle, there are 73  24-hour drop boxes within easy reach of voters.  Click for Guardian article.

“For the past few days, some New Yorkers have been forced to stand in line for four or five hours to cast their ballots.
But across the country, the group most responsible for making voting harder, if not impossible, for millions of Americans is the Republican Party.  Republicans have been saying it themselves for ages. “I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, a leader of the modern conservative movement, told a gathering of religious leaders in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
This strategy has become a central pillar of the G.O.P. platform.  [ . . . ]
The second bill would, among other things, create a national voter-registration program; make it harder for states to purge voting rolls; and take gerrymandering away from self-interested state legislatures, putting the redistricting process in the hands of nonpartisan commissions.
The House of Representatives passed both of these bills in 2019, with all Democrats voting in favor both times. The Voting Rights Amendment Act got the vote of a single House Republican. H.R. 1 got none. The Republican-led Senate has refused to act on either.  [ . . . ]   When more people vote, Republicans lose.”  SOURCE.


Cartoon by John Cole , York Dispatch (fair use)


US Senator Mike Lee is proof that Republicans hate democracy.

I defended America for four years, for this?