Sons of Wichita

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty, by Daniel Schulman. This book was a real eye-opener for me. Like most people, I had not heard of the Koch Brothers until the past decade or so. Exactly how they themselves like it.

I lived ten years of my life in the Wichita, Kansas area, the place where the Koch brothers originated. And I never had an inkling there were people of such influence in that area. This is probably a good thing, because everything I have heard from and about these brothers causes in me an intense dislike of these people. I am glad I did not know during the 70′s, when I lived in Kansas, about the Kochs. It certainly would’ve coloured my stay there.

This book, while it certainly gave a more human perspective of the Koch family than I had had heretofore, ultimately ended up reinforcing my dislike of them. They seem to epitomize everything I have ever thought evil about the influence of too much money. They have an air of arrogant entitlement about them. They think that with their money they can influence and “buy” American politicians, directly affect elections, and shape society toward their own narrow view of how things “should be”.

The book begins with the story of their father and his beginnings in the oil industry, first in Texas, then moving to Wichita, and ultimately building a global corporate empire, mostly in the oil business. The family was spectacularly successful, financially. The father, Fred Koch, had four sons. Two of them, Charles and David, basically took over running the Koch Industries in its various guises after their father passed on.

In the beginning they went out of their way to remain secretive, out of the public eye. But as they spent more and more energy attempting to shape American politics and society they inevitably became known. And what we see is not pretty.

Before Fred died he said to all four of his sons that the extreme amount of money they would inherit could influence them either for good or for evil “You will receive what now seems to be a large sum of money,” Fred Koch cautioned. “It may either be a blessing or a curse.” Unfortunately his worst fears seem to have been realized.

The story of the Koch family filled me with intense sadness. Their inheritance has basically caused them decades-long strife. For long periods some of them would not talk to each other except through their lawyers. Numerous litigations have sundered their harmony as brothers. They all have lived very dysfunctional lives; none seem particularly happy with their lives.

A friend who read this book before I did said that the book gave a much more human perspective to the Koch family than he had had before. I would agree. More human, but for me at any rate, certainly not more sympathetic. To read about how they grew, how they shaped their empire, how they run their businesses, what sort of people they really are, has only strengthened my negative perspective of them.

They appear to have no morals beyond greed. They care nothing for people who might be hurt or killed by their business activities. They care nothing for the environment, seeming to view it purely as their private playground for getting rich. They care nothing for American or global society. Anyone not of their level economically is as nothing to them. Their interest is only in people who can further their own riches and hold on power. They care nothing for democracy. They think they have the divine right to call the shots and make the decisions. Only they know what is best for America and they brook no opposing opinions.

And that is exactly how they run their businesses. “They have a very rigid selection and development process. . . . They want to make sure they’re hiring the right people with the right ethics and the right business orientation.” This is a quote from a former Koch executive. (p251) Another person commented on the intense brain-washing seminars employees were required to attend. “‘These,’ he noted, ‘were the days that my friends and I used to refer to as the “the Shadow falling on Rivendell”‘–an illusion to the evil pall Sauron casts over the elven stronghold of Rivendell in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.” (p251)

A Wichita lawyer who ran for Congress in 1996 who knows many people working for Koch Industries talks about the culture of fear. “‘I have never seen a place where people are afraid like this where they work,’ [he] said, noting that some of his friends who work for Koch jokingly refer to it as the ‘evil empire.’ He added, ‘There’s a culture of fear out there.’” (p253)

Another former Koch executive says it this way, “They weren’t involved in change-the-world stuff then.” (p264) Earlier, their father Fred had been intricately involved in the beginnings of the John Birch Society, an ultra-right wing society seeking to shape American society into their own narrow vision. Later on, Charles’ libertarian views led him “. . . to study a handful of libertarian outfits he supported with a view toward recalibrating his strategy to bring about a free-market revolution. The plan they hatched culminated some 30 ears later in the creation of a powerful political fiefdom within the broader Republican firmament that threatened the GOP establishment itself. Their strategy helped lay the intellectual and organizational groundwork for the Tea Party and other Obama antagonists.” (p264)

Everyone, especially Americans who are attracted to the conservative end of the the political spectrum, absolutely needs to read this book. It will open your eyes. You may not come to as negative a view as I have through this book, but it cannot help but enlighten the reader to some extent. I think the author has done society a huge favour in opening up at least a little the story of this family of Kochs.

Good people

Several events and memories have given me cause to consider the families of people from which I come, and from which my wife comes.

Last month I drove from Alberta to California to visit a 97 year-old aunt. Her mind as sharp as it has always been, we talked about family history, ancestors whom I had only dim, childhood memories of, others I had never known, or had only heard stories about.

The recent news of a cousin’s bout with cancer causes me to contemplate life in its overall sweep, its brevity, its fickleness, its unpredictability.

Yesterday’s email from a woman recently married into my wife’s family: “Your parents were truly two of the most genuine people I had ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I will never forget them. . . . I am proud to be a part of [your] family.” This about a father who had barely an elementary school education, but who exhibited a profound wisdom about life, parents who “made do” in whatever circumstances life threw their way.

Both my father and my wife’s father had reputations of being able to fix whatever was broken.  Both were considered quite genius in being able to make things work again.

Eight years ago we met our future daughter-in-law’s parents for the first time, in China, a culture still very mysterious to western ways of thinking. One of the questions that evening from my son’s future father-in-law, after we had spent several hours discussing cultural things such as family values, life aims, etc, was, “Are there other people in Canada as good as you?”

That question set me back in my chair!! As good as us? We are just two very ordinary people in our Canadian landscape. There is nothing remarkable about us. We struggle through life like anyone else. We make our way as best we can, learn from our mistakes, live content in whatever circumstances life throws our way (like our parents before us). But that one question has stuck with me over the years, especially upon occasions like last night, when we were with our son and daughter-in-law to help celebrate Chinese New Year’s Eve. Her father had just returned yesterday from China where he had gone to complete some paperwork in their efforts of immigrate to Canada. He was successful, making the evening one of joyous celebration on several levels. Those Chinese folks, who a scant few years ago knew almost nothing about Canada, whose exposure to North American culture was only through our son, and then us, are now almost through the process of moving here permanently and becoming part of that Canadian culture. In their own way, in their own context, they too are “good people”. Their values coincide with ours to a very significant extent.

All of these events and memories have given me cause to reflect on who we are in the larger context of the world. For myself, I have become aware of the fact that my role in society is not necessarily to accomplish grand aims. I am to be a common, everyday sort of person, spreading good will, peace and compassion in whatever way I can to individuals in small ways. My OBE‘s have reinforced this self-perception and reassured me that I am indeed doing a good job at what I came to earth to do.

I look at the families around me and see that I come from stock with similar tasks: simple, everyday people who live life quietly, accomplishing whatever tasks life throws their way, being “good people”.

This February morning, in the year 2015, I picked up a book my wife had just laid bedside for herself to read. Its title caught my attention. Reading the back cover showed me this book was right along the lines of what I had been contemplating recently.

“In a time of social and ecological crisis, what can we as individuals do to make the world a better place? . . . . a grounding reminder of what’s true: we are all connected, and our personal choices bear unsuspected transformational power. By fully embracing and practicing this principle of interconnectedness, we become more effective agents of change and have a stronger positive influence on the world. . . . Eisenstein relates real-life stories that show how small, individual acts of courage, kindness, and self-trust can change our culture’s guiding narrative of separation, which, he explains, has generated the present planetary crisis.”

I will read this book after my wife is finished it, and after I finish reading the several books I myself have on the go, and will review it in this space. Watch for it!!

In the meantime, I will go about my very ordinary life, doing very ordinary things, together with very ordinary people in a very ordinary context!

Judyth Vary Baker

Judyth Vary Baker, author of Me & Lee: How I came to know, love and lose Lee Harvey Oswald.

Very few people still believe the “official” line that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone-nut assassin of President John F. Kennedy. So much information has been coming to light in the past decade or two that that “official” position has lost all credibility.

If any doubt still lingers in your mind, this book, Me & Lee, will convince you! Recreating her memories of the summer of 1963 in New Orleans, Judyth Vary Baker tells her story, her own story, and her relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald. She relies on a prodigious memory, on scrapbooks full of momentos, photos, plus talking to others who were involved in her time in New Orleans (those that are still alive).

Judyth has kept quiet all these years, afraid for her life, essentially. After most of the main players from that summer died suspicious deaths (i.e., “murdered” – like Oswald), she feels lucky to be alive into the 21st century. She currently lives outside the USA, under the protection of another country. Even after fifty years, she pays, “. . . my own price for speaking up. Not only have I been subjected to rude insults and conspicuous harassment on the internet I have experienced mysterious car crashes that appear to have been efforts to discourage me from telling the world what I know. I have experienced death threats so terrifying that I applied for political asylum in a Scandinavian country.” (p 559)

It is almost beyond comprehension that fifty years after the events of Dallas on November 22, 1963 US government officials are still so threatened by the truth surrounding those events that they would harass someone who was involved, no matter how peripherally.

What Judyth knows and tells about, is that she and Lee Harvey Oswald were young lovers that summer. She tells the story of a very intelligent, sensitive, caring young man who worked with the FBI and CIA, attempting to thwart assassination attempts on the President. Judyth got pulled into this sinister and covert world through her interest in cancer research. As she began to work with some of the leading cancer researchers in the country she gradually became aware that what she was working on was a cancer-biological weapon designed to kill Fidel Castro. The thinking was that if Castro was dead, Kennedy would be seen in a more positive light, and his life would be more secure. Those in the CIA, like Oswald, were increasingly aware that there were plots to kill the President, coming from some within their own organization. Many of those in the know were opposed to this death plot. They patriotically supported the President, and thought it totally diabolical to cold-bloodedly plan to eliminate him.

This book deals only with the fringes of this plotting; it focuses instead on the relationship between Judyth and Lee. It is a tender-hearted, delicately-crafted love story. Very well-written, it contains elements of classic tragedy. We all know, before reading the story, what the outcome will be. We all know there were evil forces at work to thwart the intent of the young lovers.

I found this riveting story to be a real page-turner; periodically I had to give my head a shake to remind myself that this story was real, that the author was relating events that really happened, that this romance “novel” was not fiction.

This book can be read on any number of levels. It can be read as a story of romance; it can be read to understand how an extremely gifted young woman in the 1960′s came to find herself involved in the highest levels of cancer research in the country; it can be read by those interested in knowing more completely the facts, the real story, behind the JFK assassination. It is a fascinating read; I cannot wait to read Judyth’s follow-up story of another player in New Orleans during the summer of 1963, David Ferrie. The author has done the world and her country a great, great favour in daring to tell her part in the history-changing events of 1963. I applaud her courage in sticking her neck out, knowing she was risking her life, to tell her story.

Jim Marrs

Jim Marrs has made his mark writing about conspiracy theory stuff. I have read a book or two of his, I’m sure, although I did a cursory look through my past Urban Monk postings, but could not find any reviews of his books.

He has written about the Kennedy assassination, 9/11 conspiracies, secret societies, and so on. Now he has undertaken the task of revealing what he could find out about extraterrestrials among us. His latest book is called, Our Occulted History: Do the Global Elite Conceal Ancient Aliens? The word “occulted” is a bit awkward in my view, but basically means hidden.

His thesis is that the larger population of humans throughout history has been kept in the dark regarding our true origins. He outlines a host of information about ancient sites, such as Gobekli Tepe and the pyramids; he discusses what we know of lost civilizations like Atlantis and Lemuria; he draws in information about the anunnaki and the nefilim; he muses on the possible roles of CIA, the space program, remote viewing, etc.

He concludes his book talking about how the ruling elite, throughout history, have manipulated history. There are a few families, as few as thirteen, who have ruled human civilization for long periods. For example, pretty much all presidents can trace their ancestry to these elite families. These elite feel they are predestined to rule; it is their right, and nothing will keep them from positions of power.

Although Marrs does not go into detail, he pretty much hints broadly that this entitlement is connected to some sort of history with ancient extraterrestrials, the “sons of god mating with daughters of men” we read about in the Bible and other ancient writings. These people do not question their right to rule and will do pretty much anything necessary to maintain control. They care nothing for legalities, moral or ethical issues; they care not a whit for the general population, considering us as mere chattel to be ruled and used. We are here for their well-being.

I recommend this book with some reservation. If you have not read anything along these lines, this certainly is a good introduction. Marrs lays things out clearly and plainly. However, for someone who has already done a lot of investigation about such things, it was a bit of a disappointment; it did not go far enough for me.

 

The Map of Heaven

This latest book by Eben Alexander follows up his Proof of Heaven, written a year or so ago, detailing his experience of the spiritual dimension while in a coma. An NDE, in other words. In that first book, Dr. Alexander came to the conclusion that consciousness is not connected to our material brains. His brain was essentially “dead” from a rare, catastrophic disease. Yet he experienced himself as more alive than at any time in his earthly life. Read that account; it is certainly worth it!

In The Map of Heaven he attempts to process this Near Death Experience. He also shares insights from numerous readers who contacted him after reading Proof… He puts all this together in a synthesis, helping us in the material world to understand our existence in the light of this spirit world he discovered, which is all around us.

My story is a piece of the puzzle–a further hint from the universe and the loving God at work in it that the time of bossy science and bossy religion is over. . . . In this book, I share what I have learned from others–ancient philosophers and mystics, modern scientists, and many, many ordinary people like me–about what I call the Gifts of Heaven. . . . there is a larger world behind the one we see around us every day. That larger world loves us more than we can possibly imagine, and it is watching us at every moment, hoping that we will see hints in the world around us that it is there. (p. xxxiii)

He then provides us with suggestions of what these Gifts of Heaven are, and how to utilize them. Each of us carries a memory of heaven, buried deep within us. Bringing that memory to the surface–helping you find your own map to that very real place–is the purpose of this book. (p. xxxv)

The seven chapters of the book are titled after these gifts: The Gift of Knowledge; . . . Meaning; . . . Vision; . . . Strength; . . . Belonging; . . . Joy; . . . Hope. He expands and reflects upon his own experience of the Divine world, but also includes many excerpts of other people’s experiences and questions. It is a delightful read, full of profound tidbits of wisdom. I could go on for page after page of insights gleaned from this little book. I will instead encourage you to seek out a copy of this book and read it yourself. You will certainly not be disappointed! And especially if you read Proof of Heaven first, to set the stage.

One insight I will leave you with in this brief review is this: the mystery and importance of sound and vibration. The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole universe. Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927), a quote he opens an appendix with, on page 137.

Simply reading and hearing about other people’s experiences and ideas is not enough. As we have seen, scientific and religious dogma is not always correct and it is important to develop a strong level of trust in our own internal guidance system rather than blindly following the so-called experts. (p. 137)

He goes on in this appendix sharing some of the ways in which he is exploring the use of sound and vibration to help our physical brains reach the memories we all carry of this spirit dimension. He encourages each person to pursue access to these realms. He ends the book with these words:

Each of our journeys is unique–the possibilities are unlimited. The gift of awareness brings us the potential to explore for ourselves the true nature of consciousness and our personal connection to all that is.

 

As each of us awakens to the fact that our individual awareness is part of a much grander universal consciousness, humanity will enter the greatest phase in all of recorded history, in which we will gain a deeper understanding of the fundamental nature of all existence. This will involve the consolidation of wisdom over millennia, a coalescence of science and spirituality and a convergence of the greatest concepts about the nature of our existence. The answers lie within us all.

 

Are you ready?

 

The Harbinger

This book, The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn, was quite a disappointment. It has some fascinating connections between today’s world and biblical passages. But I could not get away from the perception that the author could’ve done so much more with the material.

The story centres around an Old Testament verse from Isaiah:

The bricks have fallen,

But we will rebuild with hewn stone;

The sycamores have been cut down,

But we will plant cedars in their place.

Isaiah 9.10

The author presents his premise in the form of a conversation between Nouriel, a reporter, Ana, an executive in the publishing world, and The Prophet, a mysterious figure who shows up as Nouriel tries to unravel the mystery.

The verse from Isaiah has been quoted several times by American government figures in the wake of 9/11. This book attempts to make connections between this biblical prophecy and what is happening in the USA today.

My disappointment revolves around the fact that I believe there is considerable evidence that 9/11 was not simply the work of “terrorists”, at least not Arab terrorists. And I believe that the turning which the author calls for, the turning back to God, is much deeper than the same old conservative, evangelical perspective we hear so much of from strident preachers. There are levels contained here which the author does not explore.

As I said above, the author, in my opinion, could’ve done so much more with this material than he did. It’s like he began tiptoeing into the water, got frightened of the implications (and possible reaction from certain sectors of society), and turned back.

Oh well, it was a somewhat entertaining read. Not super well-written, but good enough to help me through to the end.

Great Escape

Almost a Great Escape, was a delightful, chance encounter. I ran across this book at a farmer’s market, for the second time in as many years, and this time took the effort to track the book down at my local library.

Written by a Calgarian, Tyler Trafford, it tells the story of his mother, Alice Tyler Trafford. Alice was a Montreal belle in the 1940′s. Beautiful, creative, intelligent, she attracted the attention of a lot of men. One of these was Jens Müller, a Norwegian pilot training in Canada. These two fell in love during the few short weeks Lens was in Quebec. After he left for Britain they corresponded frequently. Jens always promised he would come back for Alice. It was a typical WWII love story.

Alice’s mother, an extremely controlling and insecure person, was determined that her daughter would never marry someone so “beneath” her as a military pilot. She manipulated events to the point of Alice becoming engaged to a British oil engineer.

In the meantime, Jens was shot down over the English channel. At first taken for killed, he was later found to have been picked up by the Germans and imprisoned in a POW camp for airmen. Alice and Jens were able to write a few letters to each other during this time, but very infrequently. Alice was suspicious that her mother intercepted at least some of these letters.

Jens was in the camp where the “great escape” of movie fame took place. He was quite instrumental in engineering the tunnel enabling the escape. When the night came for the escape attempt, he was around 13th in line to go. Seventy six men escaped. Only three made it. Fifty were executed; the other 23 were sent to various other prison camps.

Jens was one of the three who made it out. He managed to get safely back to Britain, and then to Canada. There he found Alice already engaged to Ted Trafford. Under the severe domination of her mother, Alice felt unable to break this engagement. So they went their separate ways.

The author, Tyler (given his mother’s maiden name), had a wonderful upbringing, despite what turned out to be an abusive, dysfunctional marriage between Alice and Ted. Alice gave Tyler a lot of freedom to explore; he grew up with a good deal of self-confidence and a sense of adventure. He also watched his mother descend into a pit of substance abuse and depression.

Upon her death, Alice bequeathed to Tyler a box – a Campbell’s Beef Noodle Soup Box – full of old letters and photographs. At the very bottom of the box he discovered what he came to call the “Jens Album”. It contained all the letters she had ever received from Jens, and a few old photos. Tyler had never known of this prior love of his mother’s, and he began researching. What he discovered led to the writing of this account of his mother’s life.

The book is an absolute delight to read! It is written very poetically and creatively. Tyler paces it well, going back and forth between the 1940′s, and other periods of Alice’s life, plus his own recollections of his boyhood and adult-life interactions with his mother. His research took him to Norway, where he found Jens’ children and learned about the life Jens led after leaving Canada and Alice.

The book is at once sad, and yet so full of love. It is a delightful love story, but also a story poignant with the loss and separation caused by war. It is a story of what might-have-been. It is part heart-breaking, and also a son’s tender account of what became an increasingly dysfunctional life. “She had 41 years of dying ahead” (p 17) Trafford says of his mother. Such a sad waste, caused by an evil bitch of a mother. Alice’s mother obviously cared for nothing other than her own perception of success. She cared nothing for her daughter’s happiness.

I was constantly aware that this was my parents’ generation. Although my own family story is very different, it was the same time period. There are many such stories from that era. And I wept to think of how many lives were warped by war, by insensitivity, by insistence on appearances.

I urge anyone, of whatever age, to seek out this book. You will not be disappointed.

No Regrets, an intro

I want to write more extensively on this topic, but here is a beginning!

I have tried to live my life with no regrets. This is not usually easy! All around us people live regretting things in their past. They regret decisions they have made. They regret decisions they did not make. They regret situations that either of the above resulted in.

I could easily live with regret for things I have done, not done, or could’ve done differently. But exposure to the whole world of soul regression and the Spirit realm has helped me better deal with this. It has given me a perspective of the divine which in turn has influenced perspectives on this life I now lead. It has helped me have a much healthier approach to life and how I view my past.

As I said above, I want to explore this in more detail, but for now I just wanted to open up the topic. It has been high in my mind for the past few weeks and I wanted to at least get started!

Proof of the Pudding

The Proof of the Pudding In Life After Death, by Margaret Davenport-Freed, is a light look at the author’s work as a medium. She has obtained much information about life after death through this work over many decades.

While I am sure that this information has deepened her life and her work, this does not come through in the book. She keeps everything very superficial, not digging into anything of substance. This was quite a disappointment to me. And not least because Margaret Davenport-Freed lives and works in Calgary, my own home city.

Though the writing was elementary, the information the author shares about the after-life is totally consistent with information I have gleaned from other sources. The continuing of consciousness after physical death, the continuing of a person’s personality on the other side, the continuing contact, the continuing care of those on the other side for us still in body, all of this rings true with other sources. All I have been learning is further validated through this author’s stories. For that, this book is a value.

So, for anyone wanting an introductory look at the spirit world, the after-life, and are willing to wade through numerous typos, this book is worth checking out. If you have already progressed a ways in your own search for truth, you may not find a whole lot here to enlighten you.

 

Summer’s end

As we move into the last part of August, our weather in Alberta is changing. We have a cool, rainy day today. And it is forecast to be that way for the next few days. This sparks a time of reflections: what summer has been; what fall promises.

This has been a marvellous summer! The weather has been near perfect this year. No fiercely hot periods, but enough hot days to enjoy, to accomplish needed tasks. We finished staining our deck this summer (for which we needed warm, dry weather). It looks super!

We went camping, for the first time in a few years. This camping trip was with our granddaughter and her parents. It was wonderful to see nature from the perspective of a two and a half year old!

We made several day trips out of the city. And I managed to work full-time through it all!

As autumn approaches I naturally begin to think once again about Spiritus Chamber Choir. The upcoming season promises to be yet another exciting season of making music with a group of very talented musicians. A demonstration that my own musings are not isolated, our director sent out a greeting email, and a list of our first concert repertoire. It is always invigorating to contemplate new music!!

One thing my wife and I plan to do to bring summer to a close is a motorcycle day-trip. We have reserved a Harley Davidson for next week; we plan to ride into the mountains, hoping for favourable weather!

There is always nostalgia as summer comes to a close. The warmth of summer allows so many outdoor activities. Shortening days signal the coming end of this season. But there is also always heightened anticipation of another autumn season. Autumn has long been my favourite season. I love the lengthening evenings as lights become more and more important. There are a number of holidays during autumn, culminating in Christmas/New Years. And I love Christmas music. I love listening to my Christmas playlist. I play it on my bus during December. And of course, Spiritus will do a Christmas concert, so I will get to sing Christmas music. This year Spiritus is focusing on Spanish Christmas music: something new to anticipate.

So it is with mixed feelings that August begins to come to a close. Enjoy life!!!!