Monday, December 28, 2009

100 Years Ago - 1909

The year of 2009 is coming to a close. Instead of doing a recap of the events of the past year, the following is a recap of the events of 1909 -- 100 years ago.

Jan 1 – Barry Goldwater, Republican Senator and presidential candidate, was born in Phoenix, Arizona. “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.”

Jan 3 -- Victor Borge, musician and humorist, was born in Copenhagen. “There is more logic in humor than in anything else -- because humor is truth.”

Jan 22 -- An earthquake in Morocco killed 100 people.

Feb 1 -- The USA ended direct control over Cuba, evacuating U.S. troops after installing Jose Miguel Gomez as president.

Feb 9 -- The first U.S. legislation prohibiting narcotics was passed, targeting opium.

Feb 12 -- The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in New York City by 60 people.

Feb 16 -- The first subway car with side doors was introduced in New York City.

Feb 17 -- A U.S. government commission reported that the tobacco industry was controlled by 6 men, who held a combined 86 companies.

Feb 17 -- Apache Chief Geronimo died in captivity of pneumonia at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. “I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.”

Feb 27 -- President Theodore Roosevelt established a bird sanctuary 28 miles off the coast of San Francisco.

Mar 1 -- David Niven, actor, was born in Scotland. “I try to write, but it’s not easy. Acting is what’s easy.”

Mar 4 -- President William Howard Taft was inaugurated as the 27th President of the USA

Mar 23 -- British explorer Shackleford found the magnetic South Pole.

Mar 26 -- Russia invaded Persia to support Muhammad Ali as the Shah to replace the constitutional government.

Apr 6 -- Explorer Robert E. Peary and five others became the first men to reach the North Pole.

Apr 18 -- Joan of Arc was declared a saint.

Apr 27 -- The Sultan of Turkey was overthrown.

May 1 -- Walter Reed Hospital opened as an 80-bed Army medical center in Washington DC.

May 30 -- Benny Goodman, a clarinet player know as the King of Swing, was born in Chicago, Illinois. “Whatever you do, don’t stop -- just keep on going.”

Jun 1 -- President Taft sent a telegraph signal from Washington DC to Seattle opening the Seattle World’s Fair, and another signal to New York City to commence the New York to Seattle Automobile Race.

Jun 10 -- The first SOS signal ever transmitted in an emergency was sent from the Cunard Liner SS Slavonia off the Azores Islands.

Jun 14 -- Burl Ives, actor and folk singer, was born in Hunt, Illinois. “I went to my room and packed a change of clothes, got my banjo, and started walking down the road. Soon I found myself on the open highway headed east.” Ives had walked out of an English classroom in his junior year at Eastern Illinois State College, slamming the door behind him, and hit the road. He spent several decades as a wandering minstrel, working odd jobs, being jailed for vagrancy, and eventually falling into a radio show, later into TV and movies. I had met him and chatted with him many times in the early 1980s at a marina in Oxnard, California, where we each had our boats moored near one another. I owned a 42-foot yacht (double-masted ketch) at the time and he had a much larger, old-time schooner. He was a very warm, friendly person.

Jun 20 -- Errol Flynn, actor, was born in Hobart, Tasmania. “I like my whiskey old and my women young.”

Jun 23 -- A Model T Ford crossed the finish line in the New York City to Seattle Automobile Race. It took 22 days and 55 minutes and won $2,000 first prize. It was later disqualified for switching engines along the way. I have a nephew who can make that run today between sunrise and sunset, plus a few speeding tickets.

Jun 26 -- Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager, was born in the Netherlands. He was never a colonel. “Don’t try to explain it -- just sell it.”

Jul 27 -- Orville Wright tested the first U.S. Army airplane, with a passenger, over Fort Myer, Virginia. They were airborne for 1 hour, 12 minutes and 40 seconds.

Aug 2 -- The first U.S. Lincoln pennies were minted. They were 95 percent copper. They are still being minted today, at a cost of 1.7 cents each.

Aug 19 -- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened with a 2.5 mile track. The first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race would be held two years later.

Aug 24 -- Workers started pouring concrete for the Panama Canal.

Sep 10 -- Adolph Hitler painted a series of views of Austria.

Sep 19 -- The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Detroit Tigers, 4 games to 3, to win the World Series. It would be the last World Series appearance of Ty Cobb.

Oct 2 -- Orville Wright set a new airplane altitude record at 1,600 feet -- breaking the old record of 508 feet.

Oct 13 -- U.S. Federal taxes were imposed on corporate income.

Nov 8 -- Katherine Hepburn, actress, was born in Hartford, Connecticut. “I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.”

Nov 11 -- Construction began on the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Nov 18 -- The USA invaded Nicaragua and overthrew President Zelaya.

Nov 23 -- The Wright Brothers formed a million-dollar corporation to manufacture commercial airlines.

Dec 1 -- The first Israeli kibbutz (a collective farm settlement) was formed in Palestine.

Dec 2 -- J.P. Morgan acquired Equitable Life Company to become the largest known concentration of bank power to date.

Dec 9 -- Douglas Fairbanks Jr., actor, was born in New York City. “Every week we had a different story and a different setting.”

Dec 10 -- Sioux Indian Chief Red Cloud died on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. “We do not want riches -- we want peace and love.”

Dec 26 -- Frederic Remington, American Western painter and sculptor, died due to complications in an emergency appendectomy in Ridgefield, Connecticut. “I knew the wild riders and the vacant land were about to vanish forever.”

Dec 28 -- Russian Socialists of the Zionist movement set up an armed camp in Palestine to protect their new farms and villages from attack by Arab marauders.

Perfection is a rare flash of bliss on the Planet of Wounded Souls. Flowers bloom, birds sing and water flows downhill. Unfortunately, humanity is swarming with fear, greed and lust for power, transforming an orb of wondrous possibilities into chaos and conflict.

Life goes on.

Quote for the Day -- “No tendency is quite so strong in human nature as the desire to lay down rules of conduct for other people.” William Howard Taft

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where water flows downhill. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Lao Tzu Proverb: "The career of a sage is of two kinds -- He is either honored by all in the world, like a flower waving its head, or else he disappears into the silent forest.”

Around 500 BC, Socrates developed a political and ethical philosophy in Greece, Pythagoras founded a mathematical, astronomical and philosophy society in Greece, Buddha expounded about Dharma and Nirvana in India, and Lao Tzu wrote the TAO TE CHING in China. It was an epoch of great intellectual and mystical evolution.

Lao Tzu Proverb: “The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.”

According to legend, Lao Tzu was born into a noble family in Hunan Province. He was in his thirteenth, and final, incarnation. He worked as a curator in the Imperial Library of the Zhou Dynasty where he met a young man named Confucius who had been browsing the library scrolls. For months, Lao Tzu and Confucius had lengthy discussions; Confucius believed in ritual and propriety whereas Lao Tzu considered them to be hollow practices.

Lao Tzu Proverb: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Later, Lao Tzu set out on a journey of silence into the wilderness. When he arrived at the Han Gu Pass, a gatekeeper persuaded him to write down some of his wisdom. Lao Tzu immediately wrote all 81 chapters of the TAO TE CHING, the most influential book of Chinese philosophical thought, providing the basis for Taoism.

Lao Tzu Proverb: "If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."

At the time, Chinese society was under a feudal system where the vast majority of the population was controlled by wealthy landowners and the government was becoming increasingly centralized and bureaucratic.

Confucius went on to become a famous social philosopher. He was a major proponent and architect of the strong centralized government, and recommended a social hierarchy in which everyone knew their place. He believed in the virtues of social discipline, obedience and duty, and thus wanted to reform society accordingly.

Whereas Confucianism wanted to conquer and exploit nature, the Taoists preferred to be at one with nature. Therefore, the Taoists rejected an imposed authority and believed everyone could live in a natural state of harmony. They wanted to contemplate and understand the flow of existence rather than attempt to harness it.

Lao Tzu Proverb: "Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."

Thus, there was a basic philosophical/political struggle. The Confucians wanted a structured social hierarchy and the Taoists wanted anarchy (the absence of a hierarchy whereby every person is of equal social status).

Lao Tzu Proverb: “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”

Some 2,500 years later, the same philosophical/political struggle continues. Influential men, in the realm of the power centers of the dollar, the sword and the soul, continue to seek control of earthly possessions through authoritarian means. Governments become tools of greed and evolve into unrestrained, suffocating organisms.

Lao Tzu Proverb: "The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves there will be."

The primary principle of Taoism is that the world should be ruled by letting things take their course rather than by interfering. Unfortunately, one person's ideal existence is another person's opportunity to take over.

In 1949, the Communists, officially atheistic, gained control of China and initiated a one-party government. Religion was outlawed. Taoist monks were sent to labor camps and Taoist infrastructure was destroyed. A hierarchical social structure prevailed and obedience was required. The Confucians were in control once again.

In 1982, some religious tolerance was restored, allowing the existence of five religions, including Taoism.

Little has changed in 2,500 years. Many human beings are still insecure, self-serving, intolerant and greedy. Rather than experiencing contentment in their surroundings, they are continually embarked on a treadmill of mindless growth and materialism, with no end in sight.

Lao Tzu Proverb: "Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

The struggle for freedom never ends. Too many people want everyone to adhere to their personal code of morality or means of support, and use government as an instrument to coerce others to conform to their ideals.

This has never been more true than at any time within our lifetimes. Confucianism has reemerged in the Obama administration whereby the objective is an ever-expanding massive central government controlling every aspect of the lives of its subjects from cradle to grave. Plus, there is the added danger of external forces behind closed doors manipulating global events to form a one-world government in an attempt to enslave the entire planet.

Lao Tzu Proverb: “Man’s enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.”

Freedom is never free. If you just stand by and go with the flow, sooner or later the flow is going to include a whole bunch of self-righteous fanatics who will stomp all over you and utilize you to benefit themselves.

Lao Tzu Proverb: “At the center of your being, you have the answer.”

Without freedom, we're merely pawns in someone else's game.

Live free or die.

Lao Tzu Proverb: "If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve."

Quote for the Day -- "He who knows enough is enough will always have enough." Lao Tzu

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and has disappeared in the silent forest. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Best Places to Die in the USA

Every living thing in this dimension suffers from extinction. Death is a part of life. It’s merely a matter of when and how. A coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave die but once.

All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Life is a three-act play -- birth, death and everything else in between. When the final curtain drops on the players, the audience applauds and life goes on.

Forbes Magazine, ever eager to promote optimal decision-making, has recently ranked the best places to die. The results are based on the following five categories with the weighted percentage of importance in parenthesis.

A) (44 percent) Health Care Quality – How well patients were treated for a variety of diseases based on the latest available data originally published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

B) (22 percent) Cancer Deaths in Hospitals, Nursing Homes, or at Home – Researchers at Brown University tracked where cancer patients were likely to die (home being the preferred choice).

C) (22 percent) Percent of Medicare Patients using Hospice in the Last Year of life – Data from the Dartmouth Atlas of Health based on the percentage of Medicare patients cared for at home in the last year of life.

D) (8 percent) Legal Protection – Based on an American Bar Association report on law and aging which rates each state in terms of quality and comprehensiveness of law for the elderly.

E) (4 percent) Estate Taxes – Computed, by state, for an estate worth $10 million legated by the widow or widower to their direct heirs, based on each individual state's estate and gift tax code.

For those concerned about such matters, perhaps you should switch to a decaf. The top places to die are:

1) Utah
2) Oregon
3) Delaware
4) Colorado
5) Hawaii
6) New Hampshire
7) Iowa
8) North Dakota
9) Vermont
10) Montana

Apparently, Utah is the best place to die. I've been to Utah and would wholeheartedly agree. If I’m not mistaken, Utah is a Ute Indian word meaning land of salt and boredom.

According to Mormon folklore, Utah is the land nobody wanted. But the Mormons yearned for a place where they could practice their religion without interference from the outside world, so they settled in the barren desert and set up shop. They frown on alcohol and gambling, but tend to have lots of kids -- not much else to do.

A few days ago, I wrote a piece about the best places to live in the USA. Based on longevity, Utah was third, behind Hawaii and Minnesota, as the number one state in which to live.

In Utah, you will live longer than almost anywhere else in the country and it’s the number one place to die (based on the above criteria). If you are a Latter-day Saint, you will fit right in. If you are any other form of Saint, you should probably practice your sainthood elsewhere.

The following states are at the bottom of the list. If you live in one of these states, you might consider moving to Salt Lake City and joining the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

45) Texas
46) New Jersey
47) Mississippi
48) Louisiana
49) Ohio
50) Illinois

Birth is a blessed gift, death is inevitable and everything else in between is up to us. You can either live life to the fullest or screw it all up. In the end, all that truly matters is the impact, or lack thereof, you left on the world.

But don't worry too much about the end of existence in this dimension. It's just another phase we go through on the eternal sojourn of the soul into the infinite.

And eternity is a very long time, especially toward the end.

Quote for the Day -- “There are worse things than death -- like spending an afternoon with an insurance salesman.” Woody Allen

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and the ghost of John the Revelator. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best Places to Live in the USA

The search for the ideal place to live has been a big part of my life. I prefer a tranquil rural area with a hilly terrain, affordable housing, moderate weather and earthy women.

I've lived in scores of places in 11 states now and have yet to find heaven on earth, but I keep getting closer. Apparently, perfection is a state of mind rather than a spot on a map.

Obviously, everyone has their own reason for choosing where to live, such as economic opportunities, cost of living, political environment, quality of education, social atmosphere, recreational activities, climate, etc.

One consideration for finding the ideal place to nest might be projected life expectancy of various locations. Dr. Christopher Murray of the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study of life spans across the USA.

The longest human life spans by state are:
Hawaii – 80.0
Minnesota – 78.8
Connecticut -- 78.7
Utah – 78.7
Massachusetts – 78.4
Iowa -- 78.3
New Hampshire -- 78.3
North Dakota -- 78.3
Rhode Island – 78.3

The shortest life spans by state are:
Georgia – 75.3
Arkansas -- 75.2
Kentucky -- 75.2
Oklahoma – 75.2
Tennessee -- 75.1
West Virginia – 75.1
Alabama – 74.4
Louisiana – 74.2
Mississippi – 73.6

For some reason, southerners don't last as long as the rest of the country. That's probably because they're too busy having a good time, eating too much deep-fried possum and breathing in too many NASCAR fumes.

Hawaii may be a good place to live a long life but it's also highly vulnerable to natural disasters. A university study, recently published by Live Science, listed the largest 50 American cities from the safest to the most vulnerable to natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, flooding, etc.).

The 10 safest cities are:
1) Mesa, Ariz.
2) Milwaukee, Wis.
3) Cleveland, Ohio
4) El Paso, Tex.
5) Phoenix, Ariz.
6) Tucson, Ariz.
7) Colorado Springs, Colo.
8) Detroit, Mich.
9) Fresno, Calif.
10) Minneapolis, Minn.

The 10 most dangerous American cities when it comes to natural disasters are:
41) Tulsa, Okla.
42) Long Beach, Calif.
43) Houston, Tex.
44) Los Angeles, Calif.
45) San Jose, Calif.
46) Honolulu, Hawaii
47) San Francisco, Calif.
48) Oakland, Calif.
49) New Orleans, La.
50) Miami, Fla.

The most dangerous places are near the ocean. The West Coast is along the Pacific Ring of Fire where there's a lot of volcanic and seismic activity, and the East Coast has an active annual hurricane season.

I lived in Miami (1964-65) during Hurricane Cleo (devastating property damage) and in Los Angeles (1975-86) through many earthquakes (mostly minor), not to mention brush fires, mudslides and occasional riots.

Another study, posted on the Internet at, listed the same largest 50 American cities, from best to worst, based on "essential quality-of-life and economic factors that affect your personal sustainability."

The top 10 cities are:
1) Portland, Ore.
2) San Francisco, Calif.
3) Seattle, Wash.
4) Chicago, Ill.
5) Oakland, Calif.
6) New York City, N.Y.
7) Boston, Mass.
8) Philadelphia, Penn.
9) Denver, Colo.
10) Minneapolis, Minn.

The 10 least favorable cities (pre-Katrina) are:
41) Arlington, Tex.
42) Nashville, Tenn.
43) Detroit, Mich.
44) Memphis, Tenn.
45) Indianapolis, Ind.
46) Fort Worth, Tex.
47) Mesa, Ariz.
48) Virginia Beach, Va.
49) Oklahoma City, Okla.
50) Columbus, Ohio.

Utilizing the above criteria, Minneapolis appears to be the best place to live. Minnesota is second in terms of life span, plus Minneapolis is in the top ten of the safest cities and in the top ten of the most sustainable cities.

I lived in the Minneapolis metropolitan area in 1956-64 and 1968-75. It's a great place, but very cold in the winter and the summers are infested with the Minnesota state bird, more commonly known as the mosquito.

These days, I’m in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas, where the terrain is hilly, housing is affordable, weather is fairly moderate and the women are definitely earthy. I’ll probably remain here for a long time.

The one place you don't want to live is anywhere near me, especially if you have noisy kids or wind chimes.

Quote for the Day -- “He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where earthy women roam free. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Law of Life

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past are certain to prolong reaching the future.

I remember my fourth grade teacher giving us a glimpse of the future. We were told that things would be so modernized when we grew up that we would have much more free time on our hands than our parents.

My father, like almost everyone else in the 1950’s, was working 40 hours a week. My mother was being a 1950’s mother, staying at home to take care of the family. I was relieved to learn that I wouldn’t have to put in that many hours when I was my parent’s age.

But it never came true.

More than a half century later, Americans are still stuck in the rut of a 40-hour workweek. In fact, Americans now average more hours per week than they did fifty years ago and have less vacation time than any other industrial nation in the world. And in many cases, both parents are forced to work just to stay even.

The average American family pays more in taxes than food, clothing, shelter and transportation combined. Either we are incapable of being personally responsible for our own welfare or government has gotten vastly out of control.

Nearly 50 percent of our income goes to government. This includes federal & state income tax, social security tax, Medicare tax, real estate property tax, personal property tax, state & county & city sales tax, self-employment tax, gasoline tax, liquor tax, cigarette tax, federal excise tax, import tax, luxury tax, gift tax, inheritance tax, hotel tax, transportation tax, federal & state & county telephone tax, etc., etc.

We’re stuck at 40 hours per week of labor with nearly 20 of those hours going to government coffers.

This is insane.

Instead of finding a rational solution to this tedious work load, the federal government keeps churning away trying to find new ways to fit everyone into a 40-hour per week job to keep the giant economic engine going. They are stuck with a 1950s model of the way things ought to be, rather than figuring out ways to lesson the tax burden on the people and lower government spending.

The government assumes the solution to unemployment is to create more jobs into a full-time 40-hour week paradigm. Instead, it would make much more sense to be flexible with the 40-hour per week system. If the work week was shorter, more people would have jobs, creating the same amount of output.

For example, if you have 80 people working and 20 people on unemployment at a 40-hour week, you have an output of 3,200 man-hours of production. But if you reduced the work week to 32 hours, all 100 people would still create 3,200 man-hours of production per week. Flexibility of hours allows everyone to work and shortens the hours, without any loss of productivity.

An even more radical solution is a 3-day work week of 9-hour days. This would allow half of the work force to work 27 hours for 3 days and the other half to work 27 hours the next 3 days. This would increase overall output from a 40-hour week of productivity to a 54-hour per week productivity, whereby we would actually produce more while working less individual hours, plus there would be “jobs” for twice as many people as before.

Nobody, with the possible exception of Hugh Hefner, goes to their grave wishing they had spent more time working at their job. Recent surveys show that most Americans don’t really like their jobs. They’re working jobs they hate in order to buy things they don’t need, and half of what they earn is confiscated from them for various dubious government adventures that are overly costly and almost always include unintended adverse consequences.

A prime example of the wastefulness and sheer ignorance of consequences of the federal government was the recent Cash for Clunkers program, which they naturally claim was a smashing success.

A clunker that travels 12,000 miles a year at 15 mpg uses 800 gallons of gas a year. A vehicle that travels 12,000 miles a year at 25 mpg uses 480 gallons a year. Thus, the average Cash for Clunkers transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year. They claim 700,000 vehicles were involved so that's 224 million gallons saved per year, which equals about 5 million barrels of oil. And 5 million barrels of oil at $70 per barrel costs about $350 million dollars. Therefore, the government used $3 billion of our tax dollars to save $350 million, which amounts to costing $8.57 for every dollar saved.

This is the same government that creates a penny at a cost of 1.7 cents per penny.

And everyone keeps grinding away, 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, pouring money down a rat hole, while their inefficient central government is having endless meetings trying to think of ways to create more 40-hour per week jobs.

If we reduce the workweek, more people will have jobs. Plus, everyone will have more free time, which in turn will create more job opportunities in various travel, recreational, vacation, entertainment, hobby, crafts, art, and environmental sectors.

Instead of trying to maintain a 1950s model of existence, we should endeavor to improve our quality of life. We need to work less and enjoy life more. As predicted, everything has been modernized. My fourth grade teacher would be amazed -- electronics, robotics, improved vehicles, computers, Internet, satellite communications, i-pods, e-mail, cell phones, laser technology, medical advances, etc.

A rigid 40-hour workweek contributes to the “unemployment” problem, not the lack of jobs. A shorter workweek is the solution, not creating more tasks for people to do. Flexibility and adaptability is the key, not trying to fit the modern world into the distant past.

The wasteful, ever-growing federal government intrusion in the economy is beyond the scope of their function and will only make matters worse. Their task is to ensure a level playing field, protect individual rights, maintain a common infrastructure and allow the freedom of the marketplace to flourish on its own. It is not within their purview to define or maintain or manipulate or manage the private jobs of private citizens.

An administration that attempts to solve the over-spending of the past by excessively over-spending even more in the present and the future is not to be trusted with the economy, or anything else.

Plunging the nation into unprecedented debt may be the governmental prescription for keeping its citizens enslaved into working full-time forever, but it’s not much fun for the slaves.

The USA is based on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have a long history of sacrificing lives to maintain our individual freedom. Yet in 2009, we are being treated like cogs within a monolithic, socialistic central government machine.

Planet Earth is slowly becoming a prison planet. And if we stay the course, it will culminate in a monolithic, socialistic one-world government.

The struggle for freedom never ends.

Instead to rallying for more jobs, we should be rallying for less work and more freedom.

Quote for the Day -- “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Thomas Jefferson

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where modernization includes indoor plumbing. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Darwin Awards

In 1993, a student at Stanford University named Wendy Northcutt began collecting unusual stories about the foolish actions of her fellow human beings and sent them to her friends. Thus the annual Darwin Awards, given to individuals who "remove themselves from the gene pool in the most spectacular manner," came into being.

To be honored with the Darwin Award one must behave in an extraordinarily idiotic manner. Death is not required. The honoree must merely be removed from the gene pool (unable to procreate).

Past honorees include a man in North Carolina who jumped out of an airplane without a parachute to film skydivers, a man in Croatia who juggled live hand grenades and a person who used a cigarette lighter to examine a fuel tank to see if it contained any flammable vapors.

The 1996 Darwin Award winner, Garry Hoy, 39, was a lawyer demonstrating the safety of the windows of the Dominion Bank Tower in Toronto. Explaining the window strength to visiting law students, he took a run at the window and crashed through a pane with his shoulder, landing in the courtyard 24 floors below.

A man named Phil in New Zealand was a Darwin Award finalist in 2003. He needed to make repairs under his car but when he jacked it up there wasn't enough room to work so he removed the car's battery and mounted the jack on top of it. The battery collapsed trapping Phil underneath, rendering him unable to breathe. As often happens with Darwin Awards, there was plenty of irony involved. Phil was the Accident Prevention Officer at a large factory. Several years earlier he had been working under a car when the jack collapsed, breaking his leg.

Another 2003 finalist was a man from Kansas whose car broke down on Interstate 35. He stepped away from the busy freeway to call for help on his cell phone. Unfortunately, he was now standing on railroad tracks. The railroad engineer later explained that the man was holding the cell phone to one ear and had his other hand cupping his other ear to block the noise of the oncoming train. The train was not damaged in the collision.

At approximately 3:00 a.m. one winter night/morning, David Hubal, 22, and some of his buddies hiked up a ski run called Stump Alley on Mammoth Mountain in northern California. On the way up the slope, they removed some foam pads from one of the lift towers. Using the pads to slide down the ski slope, Hubel crashed into one of the ski towers and died. Naturally and ironically, it was the very tower where the foam pads had been removed.

My favorite Darwin Award winners are (the late) John Pernicky and (the late) Sal Hawkins from the state of Washington. After consuming 18 beers, they decided to attend a Metallica concert. Since they had no tickets, they figured they could sneak into the show and backed their truck up to the nine-foot fence. Pernicky weighed 100 pounds more than Hawkins so he went first, failing to notice the 30-foot drop on the other side.

Pernicky heaved himself over the fence, crashed into a tree, breaking his arm, and was abruptly halted when his shorts became snagged by a large branch. Dangling from the tree with a broken arm, he spotted a clump of bushes below. Using his pocket knife, he cut away his shorts to free himself and promptly landed in the prickly holly bushes where he became thoroughly scratched by sharp leaves and impaled by holly branches. Plus his pocket knife had somehow penetrated three inches into his thigh.

Hawkins, seeing his buddy in distress, quickly tied a rope to the back of the pickup truck and tossed the line down to Pernicky. But in his drunken haste, Hawkins threw the truck into reverse, crashed through the fence and landed squarely on his buddy, putting him out of his misery. Hawkins was thrown 100 feet from the truck and died of massive internal injuries. When the police removed the truck from atop Pernicky, they discovered a half naked body with multiple contusions, a knife in his thigh and his shorts dangling from a tree branch 25 feet in the air.

When it comes to idiotic behavior, it only takes a couple of stooges and 18 beers to get the ball rolling.

The 2009 Darwin winner was an amateur rocket scientist in Arizona who attached a JATO unit (a solid rocket engine) to his 1967 Chevy Impala and went out into the desert on a long, straight stretch of road for a demonstration. The JATO reached its maximum thrust in 5 seconds, causing the Chevy to immediately attain a speed in excess of 350 miles per hour and continued at full throttle for another 20-25 seconds, reaching a speed of 420 mph. The car remained on the road for about 2.5 miles. The driver melted the brakes, blowing the tires, then went airborne for an additional 1.4 miles whereupon it smashed into the face of a cliff at a height of 125 feet. A fingernail and bone shards were removed from a chunk of debris believed to be the steering wheel.

Some Darwin winners expire in acts of stupidity, others go out in a blaze of glory.

I once owned a 1967 Chevy Camaro -- canary yellow with a black vinyl roof. I never got it up beyond 120 MPH though. But then again, my mama didn’t raise any rocket scientists.

Quote for the Day -- “A child of five would understand this -- send someone to fetch a child of five.” Groucho Marx

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where idiots roam free. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Whiskey Rebellion

The hardest thing to explain is the obvious truth which everyone chooses to ignore. Those who seek to rule others are simply seeking to impose their version of heaven on earth on others, by force.

The birth of a nation may look grand in history books, but in reality a birth can be a rather painful experience.

George Washington was the first president of the United States. He served two terms (1789-1797).

During this period, the region west of the Appalachian Mountains (western Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky) was in turmoil. People were at odds with the new government which led to various protests and acts of violence. It was a spontaneous insurrection by those seeking regional secession from federalism.

Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, referred to this problem as "the Whiskey Rebellion" because distilled liquor played an important role in the economic lives of the people in the area and Hamilton blamed the recently enacted federal tax specifically on whiskey for the rebelliousness. It was also his way of insulting the rural population (Hamilton was a New York City lawyer) and trivializing criticisms of his federal economic policy.

In the summer of 1794, George Washington dispatched General Henry Lee to the region, without warrants or approval of Congress, whereupon mass arrests of citizens were made. Federal troops rounded up hundreds of people and detained them without any evidence or charges against them. Detainees were subjected to harsh conditions and interrogations where they were told they would be hanged if they didn't cooperate.

During the operation, federal troops visited every home in the region and required every male over the age of 18 to sign an oath of loyalty. Only then were some of the detainees released. The remaining detainees were forcibly marched 400 miles to the capitol, paraded through the streets and imprisoned under extreme conditions.

Welcome to America – a brand new nation based on freedom, with liberty and justice for all.

Alexander Hamilton, an influential force during the birth of the nation, advocated a powerful national government to manage the economy and society through massive federal borrowing, supported by an elaborate scheme of taxation, to achieve a social agenda based on the consolidation of business and finance.

Small enterprises would be absorbed into corporate structures with close ties to the executive branch of the government, and a large military establishment would be created to impose national unity, by force, even if it meant the systematic violation, by the executive branch, of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights.

Hamilton (and others in the administration) wanted big government to control every aspect of American life. Like today's liberals, they yearned to manipulate society and manage business. Like today's conservatives, they yearned to dominate people by force.

But big government costs big bucks and tends to suffocate the masses. The federal government spends tons of money on social engineering (government as an inefficient, bureaucratic, special-interest charity) and tons of money on military items (more than all other countries in the world combined). In 2009, our national debt now exceeds $12 trillion and continues to rise every day. Divided evenly among all Americans, each of us is about $40,000 in debt. And our current administration lusts for even more government to direct and control its subjects.

The Whiskey Rebellion was a prime example of the need for a limited, balanced government.

Prior to federal intervention, the meager earnings of ordinary folks either fell prey to lawless thugs or local government cronyism. In the aftermath of the uprising, the federal government usurped undue excessive authority over innocent citizens. In both cases, the populace suffered.

In a perfect world, there would be little need for government. But the world isn't perfect, thereby requiring a collective decision-making body. The function of government is to ensure a level playing field, maintain a common infrastructure, adjudicate disputes and protect individual freedom. Its purpose is to serve the people, not for the people to serve it.

Without government, the greedy bully rules by force.

With too much government, the government becomes the greedy bully.

Our country was born in 1776. Over the last 233 years, we've shed sweat and blood to become the richest, most powerful nation on earth. Yet we still spend more money than we earn and lust for more.

With wealth and power comes responsibility. Perhaps one of these days we'll grow up, if it’s not too late.

Government expands at the price of individual freedom. For eons, certain elements have been manipulating humanity toward enslavement by a one-world government, to be ruled by them. Catastrophes and conflicts are created, then “solved” by the same forces, who continue to gain more wealth, power and control in the process.

In 2009, this manipulation is accelerating -- 110 miles per hour down a dead-end street. Fasten your seatbelts because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

More government isn’t a solution, it’s a cancer.

Quote for the Day -- “The only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off.” Ayn Rand

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where less is more. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Water Voyageurs

There are two kinds of adventurers -- those who go hoping to find adventure and those who go secretly hoping they won’t

On July 17, 1930, two high school buddies from Minneapolis, Eric Sevareid and Walter Port, boarded their canoe on the Mississippi River, near Minneapolis, and headed south. Soon, they turned right on the Minnesota River and traveled north-northwest, all the way to Big Stone Lake in South Dakota, the source of the river.

They navigated onto Lake Traverse and followed the Red River north, eventually reaching Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. Then they went northeast through uncharted territory of rivers, lakes and hostile (sparsely inhabited) terrain, and ended up on the shore of Hudson Bay.

The entire journey took 14 weeks and covered 2,200 miles.

The following year, Eric Sevareid enrolled at the University of Minnesota and received his B.A. degree in 1935. He wrote a book titled CANOEING WITH THE CREE, recounting the trip, and later became a TV broadcaster, alongside Walter Cronkite, on the CBS Evening News, where he earned two Emmy Awards. He died in 1992.

Sevareid's account of the journey is filled with peril and misery, including constant rain, dangerous rapids and lengthy portages where they had to haul their canoe and provisions over soggy tundra to the next body of water.

"Day and night, the drizzle did not cease for so much as an hour. The woods oozed with water, every leaf held a pond, every dead twig and log was rotten with wetness. We had paddled a canoe twenty-two hundred miles, had survived, and had proved nothing except we could paddle a canoe twenty-two hundred miles."

Maybe they didn't prove anything to the rest of the world, but they probably proved something to themselves.

In 1970, I was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota and had five weeks to kill between summer school and fall quarter. So a friend of mine, named Kent, and I decided to take a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota and Ontario, Canada.

We were just a couple of restless pool hall fixtures in search of an adventure. I was bored and Kent’s train of thought was missing a caboose. I figured we’d make a good team.

We started out on Gunflint Lake, on the border of Minnesota and Ontario. After two full days of paddling upstream on a river system connecting a string of small lakes, we made it to a tiny island in the middle of Big Saganaga Lake where we were stuck for three more days because of heavy winds and turbulent waters.

When we finally got off the huge windy lake, we headed west along the Rainy River to Knife Lake where we made a wide loop up into Canada for nine days, then came back down across the U.S. border into a laborious grind from lake to lake and over difficult portages, some of which were several miles across rugged ground.

During our entire trip, which started after Labor Day when summer vacationers were scarce, we only ran into another party of voyageurs on one occasion. We met them in the middle of a lake as they were traveling in the opposite direction. Basically, the two of us were alone in the wilderness, far from the troubles of the world.

All in all, we covered a few hundred miles and it took 26 days to return to civilization.

It was a grand experience, but not one Kent or I wanted to repeat soon. Besides the physical challenge of hauling a large, heavy canoe and well over two hundred pounds of provisions (tent, sleeping bags, spare clothes, food, etc.) over rough footing between lakes, there was also the challenge of getting along and pulling together.

Sevareid reported that he and Port had gotten into a campfire wrestling tussle over their differences, no doubt prompted by the stress of the journey and the lack of a way out of the situation without completing the trip.

Kent and I had plenty of disputes, but were too exhausted to get into a physical altercation. Instead, we alternated between teamwork and bickering. We were stuck with each other and needed to finish what we started before we ran out of food, so we kept plugging away across water and land until we eventually made it back to square one.

In the end, we proved nothing, except we could paddle a canoe a few hundred miles. We also learned that mosquitoes never sleep, Kent couldn't read a map, and neither one of us was very easy to live with.

A life without adventure is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, without the peanut butter and jelly. If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

Quote for the Day -- “Tenacity is a pretty fair substitute for bravery.” Eric Sevareid

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and is easy to get along with once people learn to worship him. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Message to Mankind

The small town of Elberton in northeast Georgia is known as the granite capital of the world.

In June of 1979, a well-dressed, articulate man who identified himself as R.C. Christian walked into the Elberton Granite Finishing Company and ordered a monument to "transmit a message to mankind." The man claimed to represent a small group from outside Georgia and wished to remain anonymous.

Today that monument, known as the Georgia Guidestones, sits atop the highest point in Elbert County, Georgia. An engraved plaque placed in the ground near the monument reads, "Guides to an Age of Reason."

The granite slab structure has a total weight of 119 tons, with an overall height of 19.3 feet. It consists of a center stone resting on a support stone, four upright monoliths each resting on a support stone, and a cap stone.

The large four upright monoliths are oriented to the limits of the annual migratory cycle of the moon. There's an oblique hole drilled through the center stone providing continual, eye-level visibility of the North Star. And the sun shines through a slot in the center stone marking the summer and winter solstices.

Inscribed on the monument, in eight different languages (English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese and Russian) are the following ten guides:

1) Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
2) Guide reproduction wisely – improving fitness and diversity.
3) Unite humanity with a living new language.
4) Rule passion – faith – tradition – and all things with tempered reason.
5) Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
6) Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
7) Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
8) Balance personal rights with social duties.
9) Prize truth – beauty – live – seeking harmony with the infinite.
10) Be not a cancer on the earth – Leave room for nature – Leave room for nature.

In 1986, a book titled COMMON SENSE RENEWED was published. Its author, Robert Christian, dedicated the book to Thomas Paine (1737-1809), an early American revolutionary scholar and author of COMMON SENSE.

Among other things, Christian claimed to be the man behind the Georgia Guidestones. He wrote about his concern for the political and economic decline of America, and reiterated his desire to remain anonymous.

The ten guides (suggestions) seem harmless enough. The world is clearly overpopulated and mismanaged.

There are roughly 6.5 billion people on this planet. Guide #1 suggests a half billion would be ideal. However, reducing the global population by more than 90 percent and maintaining the results is beyond human practicality.

Guide #3 suggests everyone speak the same language. This would certainly make life easier, but extremely difficult to implement. No language is perfect, requiring the agreed-upon invention and acceptance of a new one.

Ruling with tempered reason, balancing personal rights with social duties, prizing truth, seeking harmony, resolving internal disputes internally, resolving external disputes externally, and so forth all make sense too.

While this all seems quite innocuous, for some people the Georgia Guidestones are the work of the devil.

A website called The Resistance Manifesto proclaims, "We are waging an incessant campaign to have the Guidestones removed and destroyed. The Guidestones are empirical evidence of Satanism in the world."

One man's guides to common sense are another man's evidence of evil personified. The mere existence of these differences is the precise reason that peaceful coexistence will never be realized on Earth in the first place.

I have my own guide to reason – mind your own business, don't tread on me, and I'll do the same.

Quote for the Day -- “That government is best which governs least.” Thomas Paine

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and is guided by a mysterious witch named Melabella. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The White Buffalo

The Lakota Sioux are a nation of Native Americans who roamed the northern plains in and around the Black Hills of South Dakota. They have a prophecy known as the White Buffalo Calf Woman.

According to the prophecy, two warriors were out hunting buffalo, approximately 2,000 years ago, when they spotted a white buffalo calf. As they approached the calf, it turned into a beautiful young Indian girl.

One of the warriors had bad thoughts in his mind. The Indian girl told him to step forward whereupon a black cloud came over his body. When the black cloud disappeared, the warrior with bad thought had no more flesh or blood on his bones.

The other warrior kneeled and prayed. The Indian girl told him to tell his people that she would bring them a sacred bundle in four days. So the warrior went back to his people and told the elders. Then all the Lakota people gathered in a circle and the warrior told them what the Indian girl had instructed him to say.

On the fourth day, a cloud came down from the sky and off stepped a white buffalo calf. As it reached the earth, it stood up and became a beautiful young woman, carrying a sacred bundle. The woman spent four days among the Lakota people, teaching them the seven sacred ceremonies.

1) The purification ceremony of the sweat lodge
2) The child naming ceremony
3) The healing ceremony
4) The making of relatives or adoption ceremony
5) The marriage ceremony
6) The vision quest
7) The sun dance ceremony

As long as the Lakota people performed these ceremonies, they would remain caretakers of the land. Then the beautiful woman left, the same way as she arrived, vowing to someday return for the sacred bundle. The sacred bundle, known as the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, has been passed down from generation to generation of Lakota and is kept in a sacred place on an Indian reservation in South Dakota.

The White Buffalo Calf Woman also made several prophecies upon her departure. One of these prophecies was that the birth of a white buffalo would be a sign that it would be near the time of her return. And upon her return, she would purify the world, bringing harmony, balance and spirituality back to the earth, and all the races of man would live in peace.

A white buffalo calf is projected to be a one in 10 million occurrence. These are about the same odds as finding the lost Ark of the Covenant within the city limits of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In August of 1994, a white buffalo was born in Janesville, Wisconsin. Although this event excited many Native American at the time, this particular buffalo was actually born red and later turned white.

On May 22, 2004, a white buffalo calf came into this world at the Spirit Mountain Ranch near Flagstaff, Arizona. This ranch has successfully bred three generations of white buffalo, As of May in 2008 their herd consists of 11 white buffalo.

In May 31, 2008, a white buffalo calf was born in Jamestown, North Dakota.

Plus, several other white buffalo have come into existence over the last decade.

Peace on earth seems like a hard nut to crack these days. Too many people are determined to force their way of life on others, through coercion and violence. Ultimately, those who live by the sword, die by the sword. Unfortunately, it creates a bloody mess for the rest of us caught in the middle.

You can’t change the world -- you can only change yourself.

Peace on earth starts with patience and grace, and treating others the way you want to be treated.

For the Lakota people, peace on earth starts with a white buffalo.

November of 2009 is American Indian Heritage Month. We honor out native brothers and sisters, and eagerly await the fulfillment of the White Buffalo prophecy.

Mi taku oyasin -- We are all related (Lakota proverb).

Quote for the Day -- “It is not necessary for eagles to be crows.” Sitting Bull

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and the spirit of Black Elk. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Darwin Awards

The annual Darwin Awards, named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, commemorate "those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it;" most notably by doing something incredibly stupid.

To receive the award, the act of stupidity must meet the following criteria.

1) Reproduction – Upon completion of the act, the recipient must be incapable of reproducing.
2) Excellence – The act of stupidity should be colorful and memorable.
3) Self-selection – The recipient should have known better but voluntarily chose to do it anyway.
4) Maturity – The recipient should be old enough to know better. Kids are not included.
5) Veracity – The act of stupidity should be widely reported in local news outlets and verifiable.

As perpetrators of acts of stupidity, some of the winners of recent Darwin Awards are true geniuses.

A man named Phillip, 60, was in a hospital being treated for a skin disease. He had been smeared with a paraffin-based cream and warned not to smoke because the cream could ignite. But Phillip sneaked out onto the fire escape for a nicotine fix anyway. Soon, he ignited his pajamas that had absorbed the flammable cream. The good news is that the resulting inferno cured his skin condition. The bad news is he suffered first-degree burns on a large portion of his body and, as a result, died in intensive care.

NOTE: Smoking cigarettes is stupid. At a pack a day, it costs about $2,000 per year to suck toxic fumes into your lungs. And setting yourself on fire, on a fire escape, may be poetic but it's also bad for your health.

A man in Brazil tried to disassemble a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) by driving a car back and forth over it. He had 15 grenades he wanted to sell as scrap metal. When he failed with the car, he began pounding the RPG with a sledgehammer. The explosion wiped out one man, six cars and a repair shop.

NOTE: Explosive devices are not scrap items – they create scrap items.

A man in Florida speared and tethered himself to a grouper (a fish) that weighed several hundred pounds. Some time later, the experienced snorkeler was found pinned to the coral, 17 feet underwater, with three coils of line around his waist and a dead grouper that had been impaled by a spear at the other end of the line.

NOTE: If you have some sort of demented desire to take a joy ride on a large wild beast, put on a cowboy hat and sit down on the back of a bull, accompanied by a couple of rodeo clowns. Bulls don't go underwater.

A 35-year-old pastor in a small African country told his congregation that anyone could walk on water as long as one had enough faith. And to prove it, he set out to walk across a current where a river meets the sea. Not only did the pastor fail to walk on water, but he also couldn't swim. He did, however, meet his maker.

NOTE: You need more than faith to walk on water – you need connections in high places.

In Belize, an electrician named Kennon, 26, was flying a kite when the string made contact with a high-tension line. The kite string was made out of thin copper wiring, the sort of material an electrician would have on hand, sending a bolt of electrical lightning his way. He was survived by his parents, five brothers and six sisters.

NOTE: Electricity and copper don't mix, unless you intend to send electricity to the other end of the copper.

Jason and Sara were college students in Florida. This pair of thrill seekers actually climbed inside an eight-foot advertising balloon filled with helium. Their last words consisted of high-pitched giggling and incoherent mumbling as they passed out, due to a lack of oxygen, and died painlessly. No drugs or alcohol were involved. A family member explained, "Sara was mischievous, to be honest. She liked fun and it cost her."

NOTE: Being mischievous is disrespectful, fun is overrated and the inside of a balloon is not an empty room.

Acts of stupidity are common among the human race. While some people lead lives of quiet desperation, others enhance the species by riding groupers or squeezing into balloons. It's nature's way of thinning the herd.

Quote for the Day -- “Stupid is as stupid does.” Forrest Gump

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where acts of stupidity are part of the local culture. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Call of Duty

November 11 is Veteran’s Day, when we honor the men and women who serve in our armed forces, most of whom perform honorably with little fanfare. Some go above and beyond the call of duty.

The son of a Kentucky doctor, John Bell Hood enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1849. He accumulated 196 demerits, 4 short of expulsion, and ranked 44th out of 52 in the class of 1853.

As a Brevet Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, Hood was assigned to Ft. Scott, California. In October of 1855, he was reassigned to the newly formed elite Second Cavalry Regiment at Ft. Mason, Texas. In a battle at Devil’s River the following summer, his left hand was pierced by a Comanche arrow.

Three days after the outbreak of the Civil War, Hood tendered his resignation from the United States Army, then enlisted in the Confederate Army in Montgomery, Alabama, receiving a commission as a Lieutenant. He was assigned to the Army of Northern Virginia where he received rapid promotions.

On March 7, 1862, Hood was promoted to Brigadier General and took command of the renowned Texas Brigade. Under his command, the Texans won important victories at Gaines Mill (called the Seven Days Battles) and Second Manassas. In September of 1862, the Texas Brigade’s heroics saved the Confederate’s left flank at Antietam, prompting his corps commander, General Stonewall Jackson, to promote Hood to Major General.

Under General James Longstreet, Hood was a division commander at Gettysburg where he was severely wounded on July 2, 1863, permanently losing the use of his left arm. In September, after recovering from his wounds, Hood was assigned to the Army of Tennessee. He joined his division as they were positioning for the ensuing Battle of Chickamauga and led them at Brotherton Cabin, breaking through the Federal line, leading to the rout of Union General Rosecran’s Army. During the battle, Hood received another serious wound, resulting in the amputation of his right leg. He was promptly promoted to Lieutenant General by Longstreet.

After recovering from his latest injury, in February of 1864, Hood assumed a corps command in the Army of Tennessee (combined with the Army of Mississippi) under General Johnston. The Confederate troops floundered under Johnston’s cautious leadership in their skirmishes with the Union Army’s advances under Gen. Sherman.

Confederacy President Jefferson Davis promoted Hood to the temporary rank of full General and relieved Johnston of his command on July 17, 1864. Two days later, Hood launched an offensive, called the Battle of Peachtree Creek. On July 21, Union forces launched a howitzer bombardment on Atlanta. Hood countered by attacking Federal troops near Decatur. On July 29, Hood led another assault at Ezra Chruch. In early August, Hood’s cavalry had killed or captured two-thirds of Sherman’s cavalry at Brown’s Mill and Sunshine Church, south of Atlanta. On August 6, Hood’s troops repulsed Union forces at Utoy Creek. But Sherman’s Army was relentless and the fate of Atlanta was sealed. Hood evacuated Atlanta on September 2, 1864.

Hood’s forces retreated into the hills, harassing Sherman’s supply and communications. In November of 1864, Hood suffered a defeat at Franklin, Tennessee. In December, another defeat at Nashville. His shattered forces relocated to northern Mississippi. On January 23, 1865, Hood resigned his command and reverted back to his permanent rank of Lieutenant General. He surrendered to Federal authorities on May 31, 1865.

After the war, Hood became a cotton broker in New Orleans where he married and fathered 11 children, including three sets of twins, over the next ten years. On August 30, 1879, John Bell Hood died of yellow fever. His wife and oldest son also died within days. Destitute from a market collapse, his ten orphaned children were adopted by seven different families in Louisiana, New York, Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky.

Above and beyond the call of duty, John Bell Hood went into battle time after time with only one good arm and a missing leg, and fought like hell.

He is memorialized by Fort Hood, Texas.

The war to end all wars officially ended at 11:00 AM on the morning of November 11, 1918. It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month -- 11, 11, 11.

But freedom is not free -- it’s fragile and comes with a price. It requires dedication, perseverance and sacrifice.

On November 5, 2009, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim and U.S. Army psychiatrist, opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding scores of others, proving once again that the world remains a dangerous place populated by self-centered, radical, deranged and evil people.

The war to end all wars would later be called World War I, as brave men and women continue to lose life and limb in a never-ending quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

On November 11, we honor their dedication and sacrifice.

Quote for the Day -- “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable -- every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle.” Martin Luther King

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and once served in the U.S. Army in 1966-68. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thinning the Herd

To the best of my knowledge, a cowboy has never won a Nobel Prize for physics, chemistry or even economics. This is due primarily to the nature of the human brain. Nobel laureates have brains that operate in a functional manner while cowboys have brains that have been scrambled by performing various cowboy activities, such as riding bucking broncos, saloon brawling and shouting “yahoo” far more often than necessary. This is especially true of rodeo cowboys.

Mexican Poker is a rodeo event where a bunch of brain-dead cowboys sit around a card table as an angry bull is released into the arena. The last man seated is the winner. This is not a sport to aspire to participate in unless you have an IQ below 12 and enjoy being stomped upon by a large, ferocious, snorting animal with an equally low IQ.

While this is obviously a dangerous undertaking, it’s the only rodeo contest where the animal is allowed to wreak havoc on the cowboy. That alone should make it a worthwhile activity. Cowboys enjoy the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. In fact, some of them seem to prefer the agony. Besides, anyone foolish enough to participate in this event does so of their own freewill, keenly aware of the risk, pushing machismo to the limit.

After all, this is a free country, isn’t it?

Apparently not.

Larry Rohrbach, a state senator in Missouri, recently introduced a bill banning Mexican Poker in his state.

Strangely enough, I know a guy from Missouri named Bill Banning. He is a large, ferocious, snorting human being with an IQ slightly above competing in Mexican Poker -- as either a card player or the bull.

Clearly, a bill banning Mexican Poker isn’t meant to protect the bull. It’s simply another assault on freedom. The world doesn’t need another law protecting us from our own stupidity. People take risks all the time in various sports such as football, hockey, rugby, mountain climbing, auto racing, sky diving, scuba diving, bungee jumping and so on. It’s bad enough to require air bags in automobiles and force motorcycle riders to wear helmets, but some do-gooders go way too far trying to make the world safe for everyone else.

Tens of thousands of people die every year as a result of automobile accidents. This could easily be reduced to nearly zero if we require all automobiles to be mechanically limited to a top speed of 30 miles per hour. This would save thousands of lives but it would take forever to get anywhere.

Several hundred people die every year from electric shock but nobody would seriously consider banning electricity.

A man in Australia was killed a couple of years ago by an object that fell from the sky, but to require everyone to wear a safety helmet outdoors would be ridiculous.

There are 700,000 physicians in the United States. According to recent studies, physicians cause approximately 120,000 accidental deaths each year. Perhaps we should outlaw the “practice” of medicine as well.

Many do-gooders want to rid the world of guns. There are 80,000,000 gun owners in the United States and approximately 1,500 accidental gun deaths per year. While that may seem like a large number, it also means that doctors are statistically 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners. Of course, that doesn’t take into account physicians who also own guns – a very dangerous group of individuals indeed.

Mandated extreme safety comes at the price of freedom. It’s one thing to require your own kids to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, but making it mandatory for everyone else’s kids is not exactly a neighborly thing to do.

Mother Nature has a way of keeping everything in check -- it’s called natural selection and thinning the herd.

If people want to risk life and limb doing dangerous things, they should be free to do so as long as they aren’t endangering anyone else.

Besides, the human herd could probably use a bit of thinning.

Quote for the Day -- “Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.” Ayn Rand

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where the human herd has been thinned down to a manageable size. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kinky in Texas

On November 1, 1944, the son of a professor at the University of Texas, Richard "Kinky" Friedman, entered this world the usual way – headfirst, naked and dripping with slime. He had his bar-mitzvah in Houston.

In college, he majored in psychology and started a band, King Arthur and the Carrots, a group that spoofed surf music. Upon graduation, he served in the Peace Corps in Borneo as an agriculture worker for three years.

In 1971, he formed his second band, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, a politically incorrect group that performed satirical songs. Some of their song titles include: "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in Bed" and "We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You." Other songs were written and performed in response to perceived anti-Semitism, such as "Ride 'em Jewboy" and "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore."

Kinky claims to be the oldest living Jew in Texas who doesn't own real estate. In an interview, he once said, "The only thing cowboys and Jews have in common is that both wear hats indoors."

After the Texas Jewboys disbanded in 1979, Kinky moved to New York and became a writer. He has written articles for Rolling Stone and Texas Monthly magazines, and has authored several mystery novels. Described as unique and outrageous, the titles include: GREENWICH KILLING TIME, A CASE OF LONE STAR, and THE MILE HIGH CLUB.

In 2004, Kinky Friedman began a campaign to become Governor of Texas. By 2006, he had obtained enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. He received 12.6 percent of the vote and came in fourth in a six-person race.

In 2009, he’s running for governor once again in the 2010 election. This time around he has decided to become a Democrat rather than an independent, thus avoiding wasting a zillion hours gathering signatures.

"We will beat back the wussification of Texas if we have to do it one wuss at a time," is one of his many campaign promises. His website is

Nationally, Texas is number one in high school dropout rates, number 48 in education spending per child, number 46 in mental health, number 45 in public health, number 49 in state arts agency, number 44 in highway merit and number 49 in water quality expenditures. Taking those and many other categories into consideration, Texas ranks number 49, above only Mississippi, in total quality of life.

“I just want Texas to be number one in something other than executions, toll roads and property taxes,” Kinky insists.

Education is Kinky's number one priority. He has a "No Teacher Left Behind" plan that identifies special teachers and seeks their advice in creating "a vibrant, responsive and forward-looking education system."

He's opposed to the criminal justice system in Texas whereby those who don't receive the death penalty (violent repeat offenders) are always subject to parole. He wants a life without parole option for judges.

In energy, he proposes the production of alternative sources of energy. He believes in eco-friendly, bio-diesel fuels produced from agriculture products, including reclaimed frying grease and rotting vegetation.

Another platform is to abolish political correctness, hardly a surprise considering some of his song titles. He loves big cigars and believes he has the right to blow smoke into someone else's lungs in public places.

His border policy also reflects his distain for political correctness. He wants to set up five zones along the border between Texas and Mexico then appoint five Mexican generals, one to each zone, to be in charge of preventing illegal border crossings. To insure compliance, he will deposit one million dollars into each of five separate trust accounts and withdraw $10,000 every time a crossing occurs in the corresponding general's zone.

Ordinarily, I stay out of foreign politics but I always feel the need to support the rise of an independent-minded candidate or third party, as long as it isn't something that strengthens the excessive governmental control on liberty and individual freedom, as with Socialism, Communism, Fascism, Obamaism or Transvestite Dominatrixism.

The biggest problem in Texas is too many Texans. They all have big belt buckles, big hats, big appetites, big plans and big egos. Being the Governor of Texas is a lot like being in charge of incoming missiles. But Kinky Friedman somehow seems crazy enough for the job. You don't get a name like "Kinky" by being normal.

A vote for Kinky is a vote against politics as usual. Even if he turns out to be all hat and no cattle, it will undoubtedly be entertaining. And Texas will probably still be ahead of Mississippi.

Quote for the Day -- “A happy childhood is the worst possible preparation for life.” Kinky Friedman

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where Texans are as rare as kangaroo dung. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Emergency, Emergency

In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, protecting our freedoms by eliminating our freedoms has turned our so-called democracy into a virtual dictatorship.

A Presidential Executive Order becomes law simply by being published in the Federal Registry. Congress is not involved in the process.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was created during the Nixon Administration. FEMA has been given responsibility for disasters, including weather-related incidents, forest fires, nuclear or toxic incidents, urban riots, home heating emergencies, refugee problems, etc.

FEMA, under Executive Order 12148, is to interface with the Department of Defense for civil defense planning and funding. An "emergency czar" was appointed. FEMA has only spent about 6 percent of its budget on national emergencies. The bulk of their funding has been used for the construction of secret underground facilities to assure continuity of government in case of a major emergency, foreign or domestic, and to build FEMA facilities (detention camps) to house dissenters.

Over time, every President since Nixon has issued Executive Orders, bypassing Congress, that have centralized more power to control the citizens of the USA.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 10990 -- allows the government to take over control of all highways and seaports.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 10995 -- allows the government to seize and control the communication media.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 10997 -- allows the government to take over all electrical power, gas, petroleum, fuels and minerals.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 10998 -- allows the government to take over all food resources and farms.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 10999 -- allows the government to take over all modes of transportation, private or public, including your car.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11000 -- allows the government to mobilize civilians into work brigades under government supervision.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11001 -- allows the government to take over all health, education and welfare functions.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11002 -- designates the Postmaster General to operate a national registration of all persons.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11003 -- allows the government to take over all airports and aircraft, including commercial aircraft.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11004 -- allows the Housing and Finance Authority to relocate communities, build new housing with public funds, designate areas to be abandoned, and establish new locations for populations.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11005 -- allows the government to take over railroads, inland waterways and public storage facilities.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11051 -- specifies the responsibility of the Office of Emergency Planning and gives authorization to put all Executive Orders into effect in times of increased international tensions and economic or financial crisis.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11310 -- grants authority to the Department of Justice to enforce the plans set out in Executive Orders, to institute industrial support, to establish judicial and legislative liaison, to control all aliens, to operate penal and correctional institutions, and to advise and assist the President.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11049 -- assigns emergency preparedness function to federal departments and agencies, consolidating 21 operative Executive Orders issued over a fifteen year period.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11921 -- allows the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency to develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institution in any undefined national emergency. It also provides that when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress cannot review the action for six months. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has broad powers in every aspect of the nation.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11990 -- appointed the National Security Council as the principal body that should consider emergency powers. This allows the government to increase domestic intelligence and surveillance of U.S. citizens and would restrict the freedom of movement within the United States and grant the government the right to isolate large groups of civilians. The National Guard could be federalized to seal all borders and take control of U.S. air space and all ports of entry.

These are just a few of the Executive Orders associated with FEMA that would suspend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These Executive Orders have been on record for nearly 30 years and could be enacted by the stroke of a Presidential pen

Several times in the past, FEMA stood ready for action.

For example, in April of 1984 President Reagan signed a directive that became a secret national “exercise” called REX 84. It was to test FEMA’s readiness in the event of a state of domestic emergency concurrent with a direct U.S. military operation in Central America. The plan called for U.S. military and National Guard units to be deputized and used for domestic law enforcement purposes. These units were to conduct domestic sweeps and round up an estimated 400,000 undocumented Central American immigrants in the USA. The immigrants were to be interned at 10 FEMA detention centers set up around the country.

In the 1990s, FEMA put mechanisms in place to override state and local jurisdictions during the Desert Storm operation in Iraq and the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.

We are no longer a democracy with checks and balances. We are a virtual dictatorship at the whim of the President. And when an “emergency” hits the fan, we will be treated like sheep, the more vocal of whom being confined to one of the FEMA concentration camps.

The current Obama administration is attempting to centralize health care into the hands of the federal government, they are attempting to dictate salary levels in the private sector, they are attempting to gain control of the contents of the Internet, they are attempting to silence media voices of dissent, they are attempting to remove guns from private citizens, they are attempting to control the climate, and so forth. They have thrust this country into so much national debt that every citizen will be obligated to indemnify their reckless spending with the fruits of their labor for decades to come. And it won’t be a huge surprise if somewhere down the line they will attempt to implant a computer chip into all of their subjects in order to properly monitor and control them.

Isn’t it curious how so many things seem to be a crisis or an emergency these days. And isn’t it curious how so many of these events appear to be caused by those who are now attempting to correct them.

We are being enslaved one step at a time.

Wake up.

Quote for the Day -- "A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government." George Washington

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and the Ghost of Davy Crockett. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Converting to Islam

In the year 610 AD, the prophet Muhammed received a divine message from Allah. He was commanded, by Allah, to start a new religion called Islam. Over the next 22 years, Muhammed spoke for Allah and the Muslim empire overtook the Arabian Peninsula.

After Muhammed's death, the Muslim empire continued to expand over the centuries. Muslim expansionism and indoctrination by force has been taking place now for 1,400 years.

These days, there exists a radical Islamic organization called Al-Qaeda, ostensibly led by Osama bin Laden, with the stated objective of exterminating Infidels (non-Muslims) from the face of the Earth and creating a global Islamic Empire.

On Sept. 2, 2006, Al Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, issued a videotape to "all Americans and unbelievers" announcing that "God sent his prophet Muhammad with the religion of truth" and that it was his duty as a Muslim to give the enemy a chance to convert to Islam or face the wrath of his merry band of terrorists.

Gee whiz, I thought. All I have to do is wrap a towel around my head, change my name to Booga Booga Mujaminkuvwxyz and bow to the East a couple of times a day to get this nut job off my back. No big deal.

So I made a few notes, in the form of a multiple choice quiz, just to see if I wanted to go through with it.

1) In 1972, athletes at the Munich Olympics were kidnapped and killed by:
A) Jehovah Witnesses
B) The Salvation Army
C) Keebler Elves
D) Meals on Wheels
E) Radical Islamic Terrorists

2) In 1979, the US Embassy in Iran was taken over by:
A) Boston Red Socks
B) Detroit Red Wings
C) Chicago White Socks
D) Knights in White Satin
E) Radical Islamic Terrorists

3) In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:
A) Sergeant Pepper
B) Captain Kangaroo
C) General Electric
D) King Kong
E) Radical Islamic Terrorists

4) In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up by:
A) Mr. Clean
B) Dr. Phil
C) Judge Judy
D) Uncle Ben
E) Radical Islamic Terrorists

5) In 1993, the World Trade Center was originally bombed by:
A) Albert Einstein
B) Sigmund Freud
C) Carl Jung
D) Monty Python
E) Radical Islamic Terrorists

6) In 1998, the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by:
A) Simon & Shuster
B) Thelma & Louise
C) Johnson & Johnson
D) H & R Block
E) Radical Islamic Terrorists

7) On September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked and flown into crowded buildings by:
A) The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
B) The Boy Scouts of America
C) The Cleveland Cavaliers
D) The Grateful Dead
E) Radical Islamic Terrorists

8) In 2002, reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by:
A) Bruce Wayne
B) Clark Kent
C) Betty Crocker
D) Whoopi Goldberg
E) Radical Islamic Terrorists

9) In 2003-2009, scores of suicide bombers perpetrated mass murders by:
A) Apache Indians
B) Jedi Warriors
C) Moody Blues
D) Dixie Chicks
E) Radical Islamic Terrorists

The first thing I realized was that these radical Islamic terrorists seemed to be up to a lot of mischief and I really didn't want any part of it. Oh sure, it would be fun to slaughter Infidels but some of them might fight back.

It also occurred to me that if I were to join this collection of pinheads I would be eligible to be greeted by 72 virgins in the next world. This sounded very tempting at first, but I soon realized I could only handle about 11 or 12 virgins at any one time.

So I decided not to convert to Islam and take my chances in the boondocks of America. Islam may be Al-Qaeda's vision of eternal bliss, but I'll stick with freedom of (from) religion instead.

If you value anything more than freedom, you will lose your freedom. If you value security or money or comfort more than freedom, you will lose it too. None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. And those who would give up freedom for security are entitled to neither.

Live free or die.

Quote for the Day – “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” Patrick Henry

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where the price of freedom is an independent attitude. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Spiritual Journey

Man is a religious animal, the only religious animal, and he has many religions at his disposal. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and is tempted to cut his throat if his theology differs. He has spilled vast quantities of blood across the globe while trying to bring heaven to his fellow man.

Every few years, usually on a Saturday morning while I’m still sleeping, a couple of well-groomed strangers will knock on my front door and smile at me in a failed effort to make me feel at ease. Then they’ll attempt to hand me some literature while uttering some gibberish about Armageddon and the End of Days and the Rapture.

Before they get very far in their verbal diatribe, my dog will invariably snarl at them. In fact, these are the only two-legged beings my dog will ever snarl at. Apparently, he is very good at sensing evil.

My first reaction is an overwhelming urge to explain to them how downright rude it is to knock on the door of a stranger under the assumption that they are properly spiritual and that their task in life is to bring everyone else up to their lofty level of understanding. Instead, I will abruptly tell them, “No thanks, I do not care to join your cult” and close the door in their face without slamming it too hard or accepting their literature.

There are a multitude of spiritual paths, including numerous religions, conceived by the human race.

AGNOSTICISM: The view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable. They do not believe in the existence or the nonexistence of a God or gods. They simply don't know.

ANIMISM: Considered to be the original human religion, as practiced by aboriginal and native cultures. They believe in multiple gods and the existence of spiritual beings. Animals, plants and celestial bodies have spirits.

ATHIEISM: There is no such thing as a supreme deity. To believe in God is to have blind faith (wishful thinking) in something that can't be proven to exist, therefore it's only logical to assume it doesn't exist.

BUDDHISM: The essence of existence is suffering. The cause of suffering is pleasure of the senses. You grow through meditation. To end the suffering one must give up the craving for pleasure (both joy and sorrow).

CHINESE TRADITIONAL RELIGION: A combination of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Although Communist laws prohibit religion, an estimated 350 million people still practice this divergent faith privately.

CHRISTIANITY: Through a wide variety of differing denominations and practices, they believe Jesus Christ was the son of God who came into being through an immaculate conception and was crucified for their sins.

GNOSTICISM: God is found within the self as well as outside the self. The soul suffers in this delusional, evil world. Each person has a divine counterpart watching over us. Essential spiritual knowledge comes from within.

HINDUISM: Human and animal spirits reincarnate, returning to earth many times in different forms. Your devotion goes to the god you choose. You go up and down a Karmic hierarchy while seeking Nirvana.

ISLAM: There is one true God named Allah. Their doctrine is the Koran, written by Muhammad, and they must pray five times per day. Those who follow Allah will go to paradise, those who don't will go to hell.

JUDAISM: The world was created by an all-knowing divinity and all things were designed to have purpose. God's will was revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai and the Torah regulates how humans are to live their lives.

PAGANISM: Pagan means “of the country” or rustic or heathen. It adheres to the religions of classical antiquity, such as Greek mythology. Sub-categories include polytheism, pantheism and shamanism.

WICCAN: A nature-based duo-theistic system that started as sorcery or witchcraft. They worship a Goddess and a God, have a basic code of morality, believe in magic and celebrate eight seasonal festivals per year.

OTHERS: Other belief systems (# of followers) include: Secular (1.1 billion), Primal-indigenous (300 million), African Traditional (100 million), Sikhism (23 million), Spiritism (15 million), Baha'i (7 million), Janeism (4.2 million), Shinto (4 million), Cao Dia (4 million), Zoroastrianism (2.6 million), Tennkyo (2 million), Neo-Paganism (1 million), Unitarian-Universalism (800,000), Rastafariansim (600,000), Scientology (500.000) and so on.

And within each category above, sub-groups abound. For example, Christianity has many offshoots. Some believe Jesus Christ was divine and others believe he was a mortal human. Some believe John the Baptist was the true messiah and Jesus Christ was a false prophet. Some believe Mary Magdalene was the true messiah and crucified on the cross, only to be replaced historically by a male figure later. Some believe Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene faked the crucifixion and fled to France. Some believe Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene faked the crucifixion whereupon Mary Magdalene fled to France with their children while Jesus journeyed to India. And so forth.

One thing for certain, the history of religion is a history of horrific wars and bloodshed and torture and injustice and subjugation.

For some, a specific religion manifests a sense of superiority, no doubt overcoming a sense of inferiority. And far too often organized religion has become organized bigotry.

There are those who believe their particular religion is the true path to divine salvation and assume the world would be a better place if everyone believed as they believe. They may even knock on your door to enlist you into their narrow-minded realm of truth.

Some religious zealots will not rest until the world adopts their beliefs. Even in these enlightened times, certain religious zealots feel an obligation to exterminate those who do not follow their path, to be rewarded for their bloody deeds in the afterlife.

Life is a journey. Many people get stuck in the trap of seeking pleasure or riches, but once you start the spiritual aspect of your journey your self-indulgence is replaced with simple pleasures (a beautiful sunset) and a sensible lifestyle (living within your means) as the glory of your spiritual awakening becomes far more rewarding.

Being whole isn't a matter of having money or fun; it's a matter of appreciating your existence.

Your spiritual journey is a profound individual experience of everlasting discovery. While you may rejoice in this discovery, your personal religious principles should remain personal, especially on sleepy Saturday mornings.

Treating others as you wish to be treated includes tolerating other points of view.

A belief is a blind trust in something that has not been proven. One person’s belief system is another person’s pile of garbage. Keep it to yourself.

When we blindly adopt a religion we cease to grow.

Quote for the Day – “We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.” H.L. Mencken

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where truth is a daily dose of spiritual awakening. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stalking the Elusive Fnord

Chaos is an inherent unpredictability in the behavior of a natural system or in the course of human events.

Discordianism is a belief system based on chaos. Some people believe it's a joke disguised as a religion, and others believe it's a religion disguised as a joke. The true believers claim it's a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion. While most religions cherish harmony and order, Discordianism reveres chaos, which it contends is the prevailing impulse of the universe. "There is serenity in chaos. Seek ye the eye of the hurricane."

The PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA, by Malaclypse (a.k.a. Greg Hall), is the foundational document of Discordianism. It describes an ideal society where there are no rules. The duality of yin and yang are replaced with "Hodge" and "Podge," represented by an apple and the pentagon. Some of the Saints include Don Quixote and Yossarian.

The PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA, also introduced the mysterious word "fnord," considered to be a nonsensical term meaning irrelevant information or disinformation intended to misdirect, with the implication of a conspiracy.

In THE ILLUMINATI TRILOGY, a series of novels by Robert Anton Wilson (with Robert Shea), the term "fnord" was further revealed to be part of a grand conspiracy scheme by the Illuminati (meaning "the illuminated ones" -- the secret wealthy rulers of the world) whereby children in grade school are taught to be consciously unable to see the fnord (not the actual word itself but a substitute word or phrase, always in print form).

Thereafter, every appearance of the substitute (consciously unseen) word or phrase creates a subconscious feeling of confusion and stifles rational thought. Fnords are placed within news media text, causing anxiety about current events. The Illuminati want society in perpetual chaos in order to maintain conformity and control.

However, there are no fnords in advertising, thus encouraging consumerism and enriching the ruling class.

The word "fnord" has also recently been adopted within computer Internet circles to mean something out of context, such as a random sentence, irrational text or anything out of context, intentional or otherwise.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

The previous sentence was a fnord, which subconsciously compels one to idolize the author of this piece.

Robert Anton Wilson was born in New York City in 1932. He attended Brooklyn Polytechnical College and New York University where he studied mathematics and engineering. He worked as an engineering aide, salesman, copywriter, and was an associate editor for Playboy magazine from 1965 to 1971. He was also a philosopher, psychologist, researcher, novelist, essayist, futurist, anarchist, and a stalker of the elusive fnord.

Wilson was the author of 35 books, including THE ILLUMINATI TRILOGY, covering such topics as metaphysics, paranormal experiences, extrasensory perception, mental telepathy, quantum psychology and conspiracy theory.

At the core of his literary genius, he considered the basic condition of humanity to be both comic and tragic. "Serious people are always so grim and uptight that they make me want to dance naked on the lawn playing the flute... nothing is true unless it makes you laugh, but you really don't understand it until it makes you cry."

Wilson ran for governor of California in 2004 as the Guns and Dope Party candidate. The party platform was:

1) Guns for those who want them, no guns forced on those who don't want them.
2) Drugs for those who want them, no drugs forced on those who don't want them.
3) An end to Tsarism [rule by emperor] and a return to constitutional democracy.
4) Equal rights for ostriches [large birds incapable of flight that stick their heads in the sand to avoid reality].

Robert Anton Wilson confronted the fnord and found the true meaning within it. He died on January 11, 2007.

His last words, typed on his personal website, were, "I don't see how to take death seriously. I look forward without dogmatic optimism, but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying."

Ultimately, a fnord is the mumbo jumbo that dissolves the individual into the crowd.

E Pluribus Unum.

Secret societies have existed since the beginning of recorded history. The Illuminati was officially founded on May 1, 1776, by Adam Weishaupt in Bavaria. Its true leader was Mayer Amschel Rothschild, who created the Rothschild financial dynasty. The French Revolution was one of their many covert operations, disguised as freedom for the people.

These days, the term “Illuminati” is used to refer to an inter-breeding, close-knit bloodline of Global Elitists in high places behind the scene who covertly manipulate outcomes all around the world. Thus, the “Illuminated Ones” have advanced knowledge of future events.

The true rulers of the world today are a small group of banking houses called “International Bankers” – Rothschild, Rockefeller, etc. They lend money to governments and exert ultimate power over them for their own selfish interests. They control executive officers, legislative bodies, mainstream media, monetary systems, education, and instigate global conflict to further their cause (divide and conquer, appropriate and control).

Their goal is a one-world government with them at the helm. And they don’t take kindly to those who refuse to submit quietly to being enslaved.

Robert Anton Wilson was one of many who have sounded the alarm.

The purpose of government is to ensure the freedom of the individual within a level playing field, not to meet in secrecy to scheme ways to enrich and empower themselves.

Equal rights for ostriches.

Quote for the Day – “Out of these troubled times, a New World Order can emerge.” George Herbert Walker Bush

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where equal rights for ostriches is the norm. His blogs appear on several websites, including