New Beginnings

In 2004 I began posting at this blog under the title Deams Into Lightning.  The new title, 'Covenant Lands', is what I'll be using as we go forward.  (The phrase is a literal translation of 'Artzot ha-Brit', the Hebrew name for the United States.) The URL for this blog remains the same:


In the twelve and a half years that I've been posting here, my personal life has taken various turns, including moves from Portland to San Francisco and back to Portland, and overseas trips to Israel, Iraqi Kurdistan, and East Africa.

I'm now at a phase where my life is starting to become a little more settled, which I hope will allow me to devote more time to studying, and providing meaningful commentary on, the events in our complex and dangerous times.  Stay tuned.


How Not to Fight Radical Islam

Any rational and civilized approach to the threat of radical Islam in a free society must be based on a clear understanding of what the threat is, and what it is not.

There has been discussion recently of banning certain types of Islamic dress in western countries, particularly France.  This leads to other questions.  Marine Le Pen is quoted on Arutz Sheva as saying, “If we banned the burka, we should also ban kippahs in the entire public sector ... in the name of equality we have to do this. We cannot just ban Muslim dress because then they will say we hate Muslims.”

A superficial response to radical Islam focuses on superficial issues. Distinctive dress, head coverings, or other articles of clothing worn by any religion should not be a problem for a pluralistic society. A better strategy would have been to target those islamic/islamist practices that are the problem, or that can be exploited to cause problems: child "marriage", FGM, sanctioning of domestic abuse, incitement to violence, and full-face coverings that can serve to disguise persons with criminal intent.

A generic ban on religious head coverings does not advance the cause of liberty, but rather sets it back.


What if ... ?

There's been a lot of speculation lately about whether the Kremlin was the driving force behind the recent Wikileaks revelations about Hillary Clinton; and if so, "Why does Russia want Donald Trump to win the election?"  Following upon this, there is no shortage of theories by HRC supporters regarding Trump's supposed weakness toward Russia, ties with Russia, and so on.

I think it's important to ask questions about the provenance of new information, and to wonder what other parties might stand to gain from passing it on.  But when you start down this path, it's easy to build conjecture on top of conjecture, speculation on top of speculation, guesswork on top of guesswork.  And then you're going down the rabbit hole.

Look, as a pro-Trump guy I can play this game too.  Trump a Russian puppet?  But that's just what they want you to think!  You think Putin and his old KGB buddies are stupid?  They're putting out stuff that's damaging to Clinton with Russian fingerprints all over it, so that the Americans will trace it back to Russia and say, "Hey, all this anti-Clinton stuff is just Russian propaganda!"  And then the Americans will dismiss anything unfavorable to Clinton, and she'll be immunized against any and every scandal, because Russia!  And in fact that's exactly what is happening, you can see it on the social media if you don't believe me.  

Do I believe that that is in fact what happened?  I don't know.  And that's my point here:  I don't know.  I prefer to stick with what's known with some degree of certainty, where we can remain on reasonably firm ground.  Often in life we must form theories, hypotheses, or suppositions about the unknown; but we are safest if we start from a firm foundation of facts and stick to known facts as closely as possible.

Information and Sources

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it relevant?
  3. What are its implications?
These are the basic questions we ask ourselves when assessing the value of new information.  When the information comes by way of an unfamiliar source, it is perfectly rational and appropriate to question what motives may be at work.  

But when speculation along the lines of "Why do they want me to believe this?" takes precedence over accurately answering the basic questions, we are starting to wander down the rabbit hole of paranoid conspiracy thinking.

David Wong on America's Urban Elites

Cracked editor / writer David Wong (aka Jason Pargin) - himself a native of rural Illinois - has a splendid article on how half of America went crazy during this election season.  Yes, it's about Donald Trump, but it's not really about Donald Trump.

Every TV show is about LA or New York, maybe with some Chicago or Baltimore thrown in. When they did make a show about us, we were jokes -- either wide-eyed, naive fluffballs (Parks And Recreation, and before that, Newhart) or filthy murderous mutants (True Detective, and before that, Deliverance). You could feel the arrogance from hundreds of miles away. ...
Basic, obvious truths that have gone unquestioned for thousands of years now get laughed at and shouted down -- the fact that hard work is better than dependence on government, that children do better with both parents in the picture, that peace is better than rioting, that a strict moral code is better than blithe hedonism, that humans tend to value things they've earned more than what they get for free, that not getting exploded by a bomb is better than getting exploded by a bomb.

Go read the whole article at the link.


Election 2016

Until recently, I've refrained from debating the upcoming Presidential election, or even discussing it at all.  The 2016 election season has been extremely contentious, and I decided it wasn't worth potentially losing friends over.  Besides, I like to take my time coming to an important decision.

So with all that said, I have made up my mind about this year's race, and I will be writing more about it soon, probably after the holiday season is over (Simchat Torah is the Tuesday after next).



'Everyone who lived here said those things: provincial, self-satisfied, boring. If you said that, it showed you recognized these qualities but did not partake of them yourself.'

-Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye


When anarchy is passed off as so-called "liberalism", the defense of true liberal values appears "right-wing".


The Left wants to represent the immigrant/refugee crisis as a referendum on humanitarianism and tolerance. It is not. Nobody is objecting to lawful immigration by people of good intentions who are willing to work, nor to the offering of safe quarter to those innocents who have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their home nations.

What is objected to, is the indiscriminate admission of foreigners whose intent is less than honorable, without the consent of the citizens of the host nations.