And Now for Something Completely Different

My kids dropped by the temple yesterday for Christmas dinner.  I made slow cooked beef brisket; everything else was vegetarian. Porkless black eye peas and collard greens, corn bread, and banana pudding. The damnyankees in these parts don’t know what to do with black eye peas, and most of them never even heard of banana pudding.

Out Until Sunday

We’re about to start a meditate-your-butt-off retreat here in the temple, so I’ll be offline (officially) until Sunday. Do try to behave. Please feel free to discuss whatever atrocities are going on.

Techno Dukkha

I’m sorry I’ve been scarce. My PC laptop had a meltdown on Thursday and I had to take it to the GeekSquad desk at the local BestBuy to get it fixed. Was supposed to get it back today; now they are saying a couple more days. I’m working on a Mac in the temple office nobody’s using, but I hate writing on a strange computer. Just feels odd.

So, carry on.

These Are the Jokes, Folks

Actual headline at Christian Science Monitor: Is Donald Trump the Next Ronald Reagan?

In the “you can’t make this up” department: Jim Bob Duggar Wants To Counsel Sexual Abuse Victims, Pitches New Reality Show

In the “karma’s a bitch” department: Arizona ‘Patriot’ Militia Busted By Feds In Plot To Steal Drugs From Bogus Cartel

Here’s the punch line: Jeb! is now arguing that his brother’s Iraq mission was accomplished.

It May Be Early to Call It a Pattern, but …

Three apparently unrelated news stories are tied together by one factor. The news stories are:

  1. Rachel Dolezal and her attempt at race reassignment;
  2. Ariel Bradley, the “ISIS bride” from Tennessee who has gone all-in for jihad; and
  3. This week’s murder of five family members in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, allegedly by the oldest son.

The common factor is that the principles of these stories were all  home-schooled by parents who were tightly controlling and kept their children isolated from mainstream culture.

A few days ago Amanda Marcotte wrote an article that tied together the similarities between Dolezal and Bradley. They both were raised in such isolation, by rabidly controlling parents, that when they approached adulthood they either were compelled to invent new identities for themselves or create identities out of whole cloth that separated them from their upbringing. Marcotte writes,

BuzzFeed pieced together the 29-year-old Bradley’s story through conversations with her friends and a brief interview with her mother. Her friend Robert Parker says that Bradley was raised by a fundamentalist mother who was intent on keeping “her away from materials that would make her question Christianity.” Not only was Bradley homeschooled; she didn’t even learn to read until she was a preteen.

Bradley started rebelling against her parents in adolescence and spent her teens and early adulthood drifting from one identity to another, according to her friends. “It was like, when I first met her she was a Christian, and then she was a socialist, and then she was an atheist, and then a Muslim,” one friend explained. “As far as I could tell it was always in relation to whatever guy she was interested in, so if she meets a guy that’s an atheist then she’s an atheist, falls into that for a year.”’

Having not been allowed to become herself as she was growing up, she had to take a persona where she could find one.

I found Dolezal a bit baffling until I read about her upbringing by hyper-conservative Christian home schoolers who were also white supremacists. And who also adopted black children while being white supremacists. What little information has come to light makes the Dolezal family sound like a house of horrors. My guess is that adopting a black persona was a highly elaborate coping strategy for Dolezal. She wasn’t trying to perpetrate a hoax as much as she was deceiving herself as a way to distance herself from her upbringing. Or somehow work through her upbringing. Or both.

We don’t yet know if the Bever family of Broken Arrow were religious fundamentalists, but the neighbors are saying that the parents barely let the children out of the house.

While the community was left shocked by the brutal violence, the neighbor tells PEOPLE that something hasn’t seemed right with that family for a long time.

“They’re very reclusive,” the neighbor says. “The kids don’t come out of the house.”

She adds: “It’s a very big house, but I’ve only ever seen a boy once and they’ve been here for many, many years. We only really knew they had kids because they have a pool and there are toys outside. But they don’t come out.”

The neighbor says the kids were homeschooled by a married couple who kept the children “on a very short leash.”

“It’s weird because they’re old enough to drive,” she says of the detained brothers, “but I’ve never seen them. And I’ve never seen a friend come to the house at all.”

She continues: “They never open the blinds. The windows are never open.

“It’s very scary.”

We don’t know for certain that the oldest son Robert Bever and possibly another son, both now in custody, really did stab and axe their parents, two younger brothers and a sister. I will try to keep track as more information comes out. But it’s past time we needed to pay attention to the “home schooling” movement and take care it’s not fostering and perpetrating physical and psychological abuse.

Stuff to Read

The GOP is trying to take itself back from the Koch Brothers.

Interviews with more than three dozen people, including top decision-makers in both camps, have revealed that the Kochs’ i360 platform for managing voter contacts — which is viewed by many as a superior, easier-to-use interface than what’s on offer from the RNC — is becoming increasingly popular among Republican campaigns.

The RNC is now openly arguing, however, that the Kochs’ political operation is trying to control the Republican Party’s master voter file, and to gain influence over — some even say control of — the GOP.

“I think it’s very dangerous and wrong to allow a group of very strong, well-financed individuals who have no accountability to anyone to have control over who gets access to the data when, why and how,” said Katie Walsh, the RNC’s chief of staff. …

The fight between the RNC’s chairman and the political operatives affiliated with Charles and David Koch over who controls the rich treasury of data on likely Republican voters has raised fundamental questions about what role the party’s central committee — even under the best management — can hope to play in the age of super-PACs. And it raises an even more fundamental question of how you define a political party.

The Kochs haven’t just purchased some politicians; they are buying the entire party.

But I can’t say I’m all that happy about the Democrats, either. We’re being told the candidate will be Hillary Clinton, who to me is a big meh. Certainly I will vote for her if she’s the nominee, because the alternative will be worse. She’s good on some domestic issues, especially women’s issues. But the hearts of the Dem base are with people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, not Hillary Clinton, and conventional wisdom says Sanders can’t be elected, and Warren isn’t running.

See also Bernie Sanders masterfully trolls the GOP: 2016 hopeful unveils a real “family values” agenda .

To be reminded of what Republicans would do to America if they had unchecked power, see Kansas Reduced to Rubble.

Mostly for fun, and also to generate more traffic, I put together a slide show of gorgeous photographs of Buddhist festivals. Some of them may surprise you.

Let’s talk about mysterious things that never come to light. UFOs. Bigfoot. The Loch Ness Monster.

The Republican Health Care Plan.

Having failed for years to generate a health care plan, now the Republicans are saying they have one but that it’s a secret. Let me guess — they’re planning to bomb Cambodia?

Update: One more — How Scott Walker is killing the University of Wisconsin at Madison.