Tribute to Gerard Van der Leun

Gerard Van der Leun passed away on January 27, 2023, from an aggressive cancer, in Chico, CA. I never had the pleasure, nor honor, of meeting Gerard in person, unfortunately, but like many other of the readers of his blog, American Digest, I too felt close to him simply due to the craftsmanship of his words, which were as admirably presented as the carpentry work of The Essential Craftsman whom Gerard admired.

I do not recall the exact time I began reading Gerard’s “American Digest,” but it was early on, and from the get-go his blog made it into my favorites bar, as did his more offbeat and eclectic site KA-CHING! Both were essential stops on my daily tours of the interwebs. Gerard’s posts were varied, at times provocative, often humorous, and occasionally revealing of himself and events in his life.

I also cannot recall when I first posted a comment at Gerard’s site, nor the first time I emailed him directly. Often, Gerard would not respond to comments, mine or other individuals, nor to my emails, but when he did, or posted an item I had pointed him to, it was akin to receiving something rather special, almost a sharing of like minds in appreciation of something wonderful or profound.

One comment I recall posting was in response to a more religious leaning post of Gerard’s which touched on a portion of “The Lord’s Prayer.” In my comment to that post, I mentioned that I attempted to start each day, prior to my feet hitting the floor, by reciting Psalm 118:24 and praying “The Lord’s Prayer.” I don’t know if my mentioning this in that comment inspired Gerard to post Psalm 118:24 on the “American Digest’s” sidebar, at the top of the many sidebar links at Gerard’s site, but I like to think so.

One of my last email exchanges with Gerard was in response to a package I had snail mailed him with cash monies for a subscription to his new website The New American Digest back in September 2022. In addition to the cash in that package, I sent Gerard a few items for his personal enjoyment, a pint of fine bourbon and proper bourbon glass, three fine cigars, and a gourmet chocolate bar. I know he had an opportunity to enjoy a bit of that bourbon, and possibly one of the cigars. In Gerard’s email to me upon receipt of that package, he called me a “Magnificent Bastard,” reminisced about smoking cheroots dipped in madeira back in the day, and almost presciently made reference to the fact that at this point in his life, post heart attack, it really wouldn’t hurt to enjoy a cigar on a rare occasion. In my response, I agreed wholeheartedly, and said that would be true, especially if he did not inhale.

When Gerard went into the hospital, late in December 2022, initially most of us his readers thought it was related to having COVID, but as time went on, and after basically a one- or two-day stent back at home, back into the hospital he went, never to return to his wordsmithing, or the tending of his cat Olive. It was after Gerard’s return to the hospital in Chico, CA that I had my one and only phone conversation with Gerard, and it was very brief, and in response to another reader’s comment/question as to whether Gerard was indeed at this particular hospital and whether he would like to receive e-cards through the hospital’s e-card system. The answer to both of those questions was yes, Gerard was in that particular hospital, and yes, he wouldn’t mind if his readers sent e-cards to him. My hope is that Gerard was inundated with e-cards!

Though Gerard is no longer with us physically, he will remain with us through his wordsmithing at “American Digest,” as those many years of posts and thoughts he shared gave each and every one who frequented his pages a little bit of himself. I know I will cherish that experience and Gerard’s life.

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Misunderstanding Collaboration

If you look up synonyms for the word collaboration in the dictionary, you’ll find that only one or two of the synonyms are actually complimentary. The Director of the FBI Christopher Wray quite evidently does not understand that bragging about being a collaborator is not a good look, as he recently bragged to the attendees of the World Economic Forum at Davos that private sector big tech companies are willingly and obligingly collaborating with the government.

“The sophistication of the private sector is improving, and particularly important, the level of collaboration between the private sector and the government. Especially the FBI has I think made significant strides,”

And though Wray states that this collaboration between private sector big tech companies and government is for protection against cyber-attacks, the information trickling out regarding the depth of collaboration between the government and private sector big tech companies is not related to protection from cyber-attacks, but rather the denial of the free exchange of information and ideas between free people, and a crushing of free peoples’ liberty throughout the world. Are government and private sector big tech collaborators ignorant of what happened to World War II collaborators? Kind of makes you wonder.

FBI director tells WEF future of national security is in partnership between tech companies and government

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Spiritual Testament of Benedict XVI

Written on August 29, 2006, here is a link to Pope Benedict XVI’s Spiritual Testament. A more beautiful expression of one’s faith would be difficult to be found. Pope Benedict XVI’s testament is an uplifting message which should encourage and uplift ALL Christians, who are the Church, and not the institution.

Spiritual Testament of Pope Benedict XVI

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No Change in 1,600 Years Per St. Augustine


But the worshippers and admirers of these gods delight in imitating their scandalous iniquities, and are nowise concerned that the republic be less depraved and licentious. Only let it remain undefeated, they say, only let it flourish and abound in resources; let it be glorious by its victories, or still better, secure in peace; and what matters it to us? This is our concern, that every man be able to increase his wealth so as to supply his daily prodigalities, and so that the powerful may subject the weak for their own purposes. Let the poor court the rich for a living, and that under their protection they may enjoy a sluggish tranquillity; and let the rich abuse the poor as their dependants, to minister to their pride. Let the people applaud not those who protect their interests, but those who provide them with pleasure. Let no severe duty be commanded, no impurity forbidden. Let kings estimate their prosperity, not by the righteousness, but by the servility of their subjects. Let the provinces stand loyal to the kings, not as moral guides, but as lords of their possessions and purveyors of their pleasures; not with a hearty reverence, but a crooked and servile fear. Let the laws take cognizance rather of the injury done to another man’s property, than of that done to one’s own person. If a man be a nuisance to his neighbour, or injure his property, family, or person, let him be actionable; but in his own affairs let everyone with impunity do what he will in company with his own family, and with those who willingly join him. Let there be a plentiful supply of public prostitutes for every one who wishes to use them, but specially for those who are too poor to keep one for their private use. Let there be erected houses of the largest and most ornate description: in these let there be provided the most sumptuous banquets, where every one who pleases may, by day or night, play, drink, vomit, dissipate. Let there be everywhere heard the rustling of dancers, the loud, immodest laughter of the theatre; let a succession of the most cruel and the most voluptuous pleasures maintain a perpetual excitement. If such happiness is distasteful to any, let him be branded as a public enemy; and if any attempt to modify or put an end to it let him be silenced, banished, put an end to. Let these be reckoned the true gods, who procure for the people this condition of things, and preserve it when once possessed. Let them be worshipped as they wish; let them demand whatever games they please, from or with their own worshippers; only let them secure that such felicity be not imperilled by foe, plague, or disaster of any kind.

St. Augustine, City of God, Book II, Chapter 20

No change what-so-ever

Lifted from Vox Popoli

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@jack, @jack, @jack

Jack Dorsey has a blog post up titled a native internet protocol for social media. In that post, which has generated alot of news copy, Dorsey provides readers with his personal Mea culpa as to why he believes Twitter went off the rails with censorship, blaming himself, somewhat, though he also throws shade at billionaire vulture capitalist Paul Singer.

But the real reason for my noting and linking to Dorsey’s blog post is Dorsey’s list of principles for how a social media platform with the reach of Twitter should operate.

  1. Social media must be resilient to corporate and government control.
  2. Only the original author may remove content they produce.
  3. Moderation is best implemented by algorithmic choice.

Principles number 1 and number 2 are, in my opinion, solid principles to adhere to and embrace. But principle number 3 is in complete opposition to principles 1 and 2. Jack, Jack, Jack, do you not understand that your stated principle number 3 is a complete fraud and repudiation of principles 1 and 2? Any algorithm which could perform the function of moderation you speak of would be designed by humans with their own prejudices of what is allowable content or what is not allowable content built right into it. Either a social media platform is a free speech platform, or it is not a free speech platform. In your stated third principle, Jack, Twitter would simply revert back to be a controller of information and not a platform for free speech. It cannot be both. Jack Dorsey needs to work on his principles.

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Annie Oakley’s Gravesite

My Lovely Melis and I enjoy driving the old highway systems, nowadays, rather than the interstate highways initiated by Eisenhower. In the 30 plus years we’ve been running to Cincinnati, we’ve only recently begun running down US127, rather than I75. In doing so, we found that part of US127 is referred to as the “Annie Oakley Memorial Pike,” and not far off the pike is Annie Oakley’s gravesite, in Darke County, Ohio. We stopped by yesterday, on the 96th anniversary of her ashes being buried at that spot. The cemetery in which Annie is interred is out in the middle of farmer fields, and it is a rather fine burial spot, with views that stretch across the flatness of the terrain. It was nice to see that her grave does still receive visitors, as there were many tokens left on her gravesite, including coins, spent shotgun shells, and a bullet or two. Here are a few photos. I’ll stop by there again, as there is much to explore beyond Annie’s grave, including men killed in the War of 1812, WWI and WWII. I recommend it.

Front of historical marker.

Rear of historical marker.


Gravesite visitor tokens.

View of cemetery.

Additional view of cemetery.

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Anniversary +18

Eighteen years ago, on our 12th wedding anniversary, I posted a short note commemorating my life with my Lovely Melis. Eighteen years on, the words I wrote remain true, though I will not state that our years together have been without their challenges. Yesterday evening, at dinner, I asked my Lovely Melis what she most cherishes about our lives together, and she told me that she knows that I always have her 6. I do.

I wrote this about our lives together, at my defunct blog, on November 12, 2004:

I will not state we are soul mates, because we are not.  I will not state that I need the Lovely Melis, because I do not.  What I will state is that the Lovely Melis is an individual whose company I thoroughly enjoy, whose appeal to my senses is still sharp, whose respect I continue to strive for, and whose beauty continues to blossom like a well cellared bottle of red wine.

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Men of Good Will vs. Men of Bad Will – A Quote

“The question of the control of machines (including technology – ed.) for the execution of truly human purposes involves a vast and far-reaching interrogation. It turns itself at critical periods into another question which may be phrased thus: When men of bad will make and use powerful machines for the enforcing of their evil purposes, have men of good will the right to make and use machines to return the attack of the evil men and to baffle their evil purposes so that they are brought to naught? If men can use machines to project the purposes of evil, have men the right to use machines to thwart the purposes of evil? Is all the destructive power of the machine to be turned against the good by bad men, and are good men to stand helpless, never having the right to use the power of the machine to defend themselves against the conscienceless attack of evil?

True humanistic–and, indeed, critical Christian–thought comes with an unhesitating answer to these questions. And the answer may be put in this fashion: Whenever you have evil minds dominating mechanical forces, you have tyranny and the breaking of every human right and the overthrow of every human value. Whenever you have goodness which refuses to use its intelligence to make and master machines and to hurl them against attacking evil, you have impotence and defeat coming upon the forces of goodness. When you have goodness which is not afraid to use physical force against attacking bad will, you have the securing of some sort of decency and of some sort of order in the world. Indeed, in this last case the authorities representing good will may often maintain their position by the use of potential rather than actual physical force. When the men of bad purpose know that the men of good purpose will not hesitate to use the power of a mechanized world for the forces of good and are ready to do just that, increasingly they will be brought to terms by a threat which they would ignore if they believed it merely verbal, but before which they will draw back when they know it is authentic. You cannot fight bad will with words which you are not willing to follow up with decisive acts.”

Lynn Harold Hough, The Christian Criticism of Life, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York – Nashville, 1941, pgs. 241-242

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