Friday, September 28, 2007


I am really tired of outrage-mongers and the business of manufacturing outrage. It comes from both left and right, although the right has made it an art form in the last few years. Criticize a military man? Outrageous! Say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? Outrageous! Call some women nappy headed hos? Outrageous! The Iranian president questions the Holocaust? Outrageous!

For crying out loud, none of these things is outrageous. They might be offensive to some people here and there, but there’s no telling when somebody might take offense. But outrageous they ain’t.

In case people need something to get worked up about but don’t know when to be outraged, I’m going to list some things that really are outrages but which aren’t treated as such in the media:

That upwards of a million civilians have been killed in Iraq thanks to an immoral and illegal war waged by a neocon death cult.

That thousands of deluded American service members, who mostly signed up to defend their country, have been killed or maimed for no good reason.

That the neocon death cult is even now contemplating launching a pre-emptive war on Iran and that Congress isn’t doing anything about it.

That thousands of Americans languish in prison because of unjust drug laws and that police all over America invade homes and kill American subjects to enforce those laws.

That the Bush regime has repeatedly violated the Constitution and usurped power while Congress does nothing to stop it.

That the federal government has loaded the next generation with a burden of odious debt to pay for its adventures.

That human beings are detained and tortured by the regime.

That Christianist warmongers continually blaspheme against Jesus by calling for murder in His name.

Not Obliged to Condemn Anyone

When is it appropriate to demand that someone condemn somebody else for his remarks or something he has written? I reckon that you should have some connection to the person to be condemned. For example, would anyone properly ask Barack Obama to condemn Bill O for Bill O’s most recent racist gaffe? I wouldn’t even expect a right winger to condemn Bill O unless he was somehow associated with him in some way other than agreeing with him most of the time. Rupert Murdoch or Roger Ailes could be asked to condemn Bill O, and that would make some sense.

Why on earth would Democrats suppose that they are obliged to condemn MoveOn for their General Betrayus schtick? They are much too quick to jump on the condemnation bandwagon, if you ask me. I told off my Congresscritter in an e-mail for voting to censure MoveOn. He’s dead to me now.

I don’t feel obliged to condemn anyone for what they say or write. If I do so, it’s for its own sake, not because I need to distance myself from people. If Pat Robertson says something blasphemous, as he does every day, I don’t have to apologize for it as a Christian. I’m not connected to all white people just because I am mostly white, so don’t look to me to condemn every white guy who says something idiotic. And I’m not responsible for other men or for the people in any other category that I might belong to. Bleu cheese dressing lovers of the world share the bond of the mold, but we aren’t responsible for every utterance of one another.

Not condemning something does not imply endorsement. Also, you can disagree with someone without condemning them. Of course, some folks, like that Catholic League guy, are just begging to be condemned.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jersey Boys, the Future of Broadway

My company went on an outing to Broadway and caught “Jersey Boys”, a musical biography of the Four Seasons. It was very entertaining and reminded me of those biographical movies that were made by the score back in the 40s. The performers were spot on and sounded just like the band. It was a good choice for the company because even the old guys enjoyed it. Did you know that Joe Pesci was a friend of the guys in the band?

I thought the structure of the play would make a good template for pumping out Broadway musicals about famous bands and singers. The Beach Boys, Elvis, Bruce Springsteen would all make good subjects. Sir Elton John’s life story in music would be great. I’d stand in line for a show with the music of Queen.

Shows like “Mama Mia” built around Abba songs and “Movin’ Out” built around Billy Joel songs looked as if they had hit on a winning template, but I reckon that the idiotic story just gets in the way of the music. Also, the fit between the story and the songs is tenuous at best. This is not a problem with the band bio template. I look forward to a string of band bio boffo Broadway productions.

Rudy Giuliani: Pussy-whipped or Scared Witless of Judy?

What is Rudy Giuliani trying to say by taking cell phone calls from his wife du jour in the middle of speeches he is giving? Surely it’s not “I am a douchebag”, because the whole world has surely gotten that message loud and clear by now. Perhaps “I despise the people I am addressing” is more on the mark, because it’s pretty freaking rude to chat on the cell phone with the old lady while the audience twiddles its thumbs awkwardly. I’d have thought everyone knew that Rudy despised them by now. He hates all living things.

Maybe he is trying to establish that he is now pussy-whipped beyond redemption and that his skirt chasing days are behind him. That’ll satisfy the religious right….not. It’s not enough to be a faithful monogamist; you have to wear the pants in the family, too. Rudy does not get the family values thing at all if this is what he’s trying to communicate.

Maybe he’s trying to soften up his image and appeal to the ladies.

Maybe his wife is crazy and he’s afraid of her. Hell, she’s calling him in the middle of speeches for no damn reason! Didn’t she kill puppies for a living or something like that? Better take her call, Rudy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Random Opinions and Observations About Stuff

I don’t think language should be regulated by the state. Let languages grow and evolve and compete without central planning. What’s more, I don’t think the state has any business regulating “profanity”. I bet most of us cuss just about every day, so why should broadcasters and publishers eschew cussing? Sometimes a good cuss word is wanted to get your point across. Forget regulating “hate speech”, too. Everybody needs to give or receive some scathing verbal abuse now and then.

I’m going to go out on a limb and take the courageous position that the Holocaust was a bad thing. The Nazis killed and tortured millions of Jews, no doubt about it. That was the Nazis. In Europe. Sixty years ago. The Palestinians had nothing to do with it. Most of the Palestinians weren’t even alive then. So, the Holocaust provides no justification whatsoever for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

To my friends who still adhere to the GOP, I want to say that I forgive you. Didn’t Jesus Himself eat with Republicans and sinners? May God have mercy on you. And on me.

That Fox Noise douchebag Bill O was apparently pleasantly surprised that black people know how to behave in a restaurant, and he had the cluelessness to say so and think that he was being complimentary. Hey, Bill O, I went to an Irish neighborhood and was amazed that less than half of the people I encountered were drunk or engaged in a fist fight! And in Little Italy, there weren’t nearly as many organ grinders and mobsters as I had expected. What’s up with that?

I hate whiny country ballads sung by men. Country music is best when it’s subversive, when it celebrates working class issues or rebellion. Nobody wants to hear you whine about how much you love your wife and children or how much you miss your girlfriend. Lately, women singers seem to do the best work, and a lot of it has feminist undertones. It’s subversive. A lot of what I hear on the country stations is just crappy pop with some resonator guitar riffs thrown in to give it a country flavor. I think a lot of reggae would make good country songs in the right hands. The other day, I heard a recording of Johnny Cash singing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, and it was fantastic.

I don’t have an appreciation for Hip Hop. Rap makes no sense to me unless the artist is busting a rhyme extemporaneously, in which case it is impressive. But if he gets to write his poem out ahead of time, I’m not so impressed. I admire the subversive, rebellious aspects of Hip Hop/Rap (are they the same thing?) but don’t care for the silly love songs. Rap that contains social commentary is better than Rap that is just party music. Of course, that’s also true of Calypso and Reggae.

There is almost nothing funnier than a suburban white teenager decked out in big pants with a spanking new baseball cap worn askew and some bling. Funnier yet is a grown man so regaled.

What’s with the really long pants that women are wearing? Don’t the hems get all bedraggled?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Land Without the Gay

It turns out that there are no gay people in Iran. The Iranian president said so, so it must be true. Presidents don’t lie. It’s the religious right’s paradise realized on earth. Iran is a model of what the religious right would like to see America become.

What’s Iran’s secret, I wonder? Is it that the genetic influences that predispose people to homosexuality are absent or extremely rare in Persians? Is it that environmental factors that trigger expression of the genes are absent? Is it that Persian gays get cured of the gay?

Could it be that being openly gay gets you killed?

In any event, given that God tends to smite nations who tolerate the gay and to bless nations that execute gays, America had better step back from its saber rattling about Iran. Otherwise, if Pat Robertson is a true prophet, America will get its ass handed to it by Iran. The God of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson will see to that, let me tell you. Maybe that’s why Afghanistan has been such a debacle. The Taliban hates the gay; therefore, God is on the Taliban’s side.

Why is the religious right so gung ho about making war on Muslims, especially the religious ones where there is no separation between mosque and state? It’s got to be jealousy.

My Solution to the Palestine Problem

Israel, as it is currently organized, is manifestly unjust. In effect, it consists of the territory of Israel with a parliamentary democracy dominated by Jews and the occupied territories, the inhabitants of which have no representation in the parliament. This is akin to South Africa and its system of reservations or homelands for blacks, a fiction which facilitated the disenfranchisement of many blacks. If Israel and the occupied territories were organized without regard to ethnicity or creed, then there would be no legal distinction between the areas or between Muslim and Jew. Everyone, regardless of creed or kinship, would have a single vote.

This situation, where one man or woman has one vote, would not be acceptable to some Israelis because they fear that the parliament would become dominated by Muslims, in which case Israel would no longer be a “Jewish state”. They fear reprisals for the decades of repression of the Palestinians. They fear that property taken from Palestinians might be returned to them. The desire for a Jewish state is not “racist” in the sense that Jews do not constitute a race as we commonly think of that term, but it is pretty much the same sort of thing. It prefers one ethnic category over all others and affords unequal protection of the laws on the basis of ethnicity. I don’t say religion, because there does not appear to be any requirement that Israeli Jews be observant.

These fears are not irrational, and it would not be surprising for a Muslim dominated parliament to oppress the Jewish minority. Jews and Christians and others have historically had considerable disabilities as subjects of Muslim states. Accordingly, it is necessary in a united ethnicity and creed blind Palestine to have a mechanism to guarantee freedom of conscience and the free exercise of religion to all subjects of the state. The constitution of such a state must provide for limited government and guaranteed civil rights in order to minimize the influence of religious leaders and demagogues.

But such a constitution is not self-enforcing, as we Americans have learned to our everlasting sorrow; therefore, there must be an institution above parliamentary politics and majoritarianism with the power to enforce these guarantees. I propose a hereditary Christian monarch charged with preserving civil and religious liberty and with the defense of the nation. Let the nation be styled the Kingdom of Jerusalem and let it be ruled by an heir to the former kingdom of that name. I nominate the Duke of York.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What Scott Adams Said

Scott Adams sums up in snark how I feel about the Iranian president’s appearances in NYC. My conspecifics at work hate the guy, mainly because their government has told them to.

My Predictions for the Future

Humans are probably going to reach a point, perhaps pretty soon, where we hit the ceiling of just how much we can understand about the universe. We’re just so smart and no smarter, and there is no reason to believe that we have an unlimited capacity for understanding the mysteries of being. Perhaps our machines will be smarter than us and can understand for us, or perhaps some emergent property of mass communications will be a collective mind that understands much more profoundly than any one of its constituent parts. Probably not. We are going to have to do some serious evolving if we’re going to make it off world.

I reckon that our best bet for seeding the universe will be von Neumann probes, self-replicating machines that carry instructions for terra-forming planets and making humans from scratch from genetic information. These will go into space and find suitable planets to transform, and when the transformation is far enough along they will plant humans on them. Having human colonists travel in person will be too arduous and costly unless some Star Trek faster than light trick is found. Also, it might take centuries to get the planets up to snuff.

I predict that, while we will never exceed say 90% of light speed for objects to travel, we will one day figure out a way to transmit information faster than light. If we can convert ourselves into information we will be able to travel faster than light.

I predict that in the next few centuries humans will colonize the inner solar system, living mostly in self contained space stations. There will be trillions of us; therefore, we will have lots of Einsteins and Newtons. On the other hand, we will have billions of Kagans being wrong about everything all the time. Perhaps we can establish a planet for the Kagans to inhabit and screw up without troubling the rest of us.

Eventually, the Earth will be abandoned almost entirely and turned into a park.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I think it’s fair to ask war supporters why they aren’t in the military or why they don’t start a regiment of volunteers to fight in the Iraq. Chickenhawks and keyboard commandos should explain themselves. They love the war so much, why don’t they go fight in it? It is, in large measure, their support for the war that lets the regime keep it going, and some dupes in the National Guard have to get shot at because they won’t enlist. If all the College Republicans signed up, several battalions might be able to rotate out of the war zone.

Of course, if College Republicans are anything like they were when I was in college, they are mostly pussies and nutjobs.

I also want politicians who sat out Vietnam even though they supported it to explain how they did this in good conscience? Because they got deferments, some other poor slobs got drafted and had to fight in a war they might not even have supported.

States Don't Have Rights or Moral Obligations

I have a problem with JL Wilson’s recent essay in the Partial Observer. James writes in one place: ”A country has the right to keep out those whose beliefs are hostile to its laws.” In another place he poses the rhetorical question: “Would the United States have a moral obligation to welcome in such nut-jobs?”

I am conflicted about the larger point that James makes in the essay that a state ought to exclude would be immigrants that do not meet a particular ideological litmus test, and I don’t aim to address the argument here. But I am uneasy about how he has framed the issue in terms of states’ having “rights” and “moral obligations”.

Should a state, which is an abstraction, be said to have rights? Certainly, international law is sometimes framed in such terms such as a “right to self defense”, and Israel claims that it has a “right to exist”. But from an anti-state perspective, I reckon that it is counterrevolutionary to reify states in this manner.

States don’t have rights; they are organizing and legitimizing principles for the exercise of power by and on behalf of individuals acting under color of law. State actors do what they can get away with in view of the powers of other state actors and domestic political constraints. Certainly the United States government has the ability in principle to exclude any immigrants that Congress, in the exercise of its plenary power in this matter, pleases to exclude. There is no need to invoke “rights”. The argument should be focused on whether the exercise of such power is or is not a good idea and what the ramifications of such an exercise of power might be.

I am especially interested in considering how the exclusion of immigrants on ideological grounds will be abused. Will anti-state immigrants be admitted, or will statism be a requirement for admission?

Once you have accepted the legitimacy of the United States government to act in the area of immigration, your arguments about how it acts don’t need to rely on a claim of “rights”. All you have to do is explain how the proposed program will be helpful. It may have a chance of enactment if you can also show that it will inure to the benefit of the individuals in power, that it will appeal to the electorate, and that it can’t be used effectively against the people in power by their rivals.

I have the same sort of criticism of talking about states’ having “moral obligations”. States are ideas, and ideas don’t have morals. People have moral obligations. You might argue that individuals acting in the name of the state have moral obligations, e.g. an official ought not to take bribes or neglect his duty. You might even argue that your Congressman has a moral obligation to act to protect American culture from subversive immigrants. If you reckon that this is a legitimate function of Congress, then there is no need to attribute morals to the state.

It is important to problematize the state and to avoid reifying it. If you are a minarchist or proponent of limited government, it is a challenge to distinguish those areas that you regard as legitimate exercises of authority from the areas that you deem beyond the scope of government. The line is ultimately going to be arbitrary and predicated on underlying normative assumptions and subjective preferences. You have to decide what ends are so important to you that you would condone the use of coercion to accomplish them. You don’t need to claim that states have rights or moral obligations to make your case. You just have to explain why the proposed state action is really important, that coercion is the only means to accomplish the important result, and that your solution will not make things worse.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wizard Genetics

I’m on the 5th Harry Potter novel, and Mrs VF is waiting for numbers 6 and 7 to arrive. We rented the first four movies and found that they were a pretty good compression of the books. I’m not sure that they would make as much sense if you hadn’t read the books.

I have a theory about how a child of Muggles might turn out to be a Wizard or how a child of magic folks might end up a Squib. You are a Wizard if you have two instances of a recessive gene w. The w gene might pass through many generations of Muggles without being expressed because you need a pair of them to make a Wizard. The dominant Muggle gene M at the same locus trumps the w when combined with it. A Muggle could have MM or Mw, whereas a Wizard must have ww.

There is a second gene that governs the ability to do magic. Let’s call it A. It is tied to the w gene such that you have to be a Wizard in order for A to be expressed. You might have another variant of the gene, lets call it a, that confers no magical ability. A Wizard with two a’s would be a Squib. A Wizard with one A would be an ordinary specimen, whereas a Wizard with two A’s would be more powerful. A Muggle with A’s would not have any magical ability.

To summarize:

ww/AA= heap powerful wizard
ww/Aa= regular Wizard
ww/AA= Squib
wM/??= Muggle
MM/??= Muggle

Career Advice to my Past Self

If I could go back in time and give advice to my teenage self about career choices, I could save him a whole lot of grief.

1.Get treatment for your anxiety disorder right away. That way you won’t blame your constant worrying on your jobs. They might not suck as much as you are led to believe by your condition.

2.Try to do something you are really interested in. Even if you do this, though, there will be aspects of your dream job that will really suck. Your co-workers might be wankers. Your boss will almost certainly be a douchebag. No matter what field you go into, this will be the case, so there’s no use changing careers because of such factors. The assholes are everywhere. The best you can hope for is that your working conditions will not be so bad that you will envy the dead.

3.I recommend some kind of biology. You like puzzles and science and nature, and you don’t really like other people, so biology would be a good fit.


5. You are not particularly ambitious, it turns out, so don’t worry about making a difference in the world. You never will. Just try to be happy and have a balanced life. Work isn’t everything.

6. You cannot sell anything, so don’t even try.

7. You are really lazy, so don’t go for a job that calls for too many long hours.

The First Bridge Murder

Mrs Vache Folle read me excerpts from this piece about contract bridge in the New Yorker. The really weird bit:

“’[A] notice appeared in the Los Angeles Times announcing that a Chicago woman was suing her husband for divorce on the inexcusable grounds that he trumped her ace., Four years later, in Kansas City, another aggrieved bridge-playing wife, Myrtle Bennett, shot her husband to death shortly after he failed in his attempt to make a contract of four spades. At her trial, Myrtle was represented by James A. Reed, a former Kansas City mayor and United States senator. Remarkably, she was acquitted, and is said to have collected on her husband’s thirty-thousand-dollar life insurance policy. After reconstructing the final deal, the bridge expert Ely Culbertson concluded that Mr. Bennett could have made the fateful four-spade contract after all.”

It turns out that this is quite true and, to a bridge aficianado, the homicide would be considered justifiable.

Now Mrs VF, with whom I am already on shaky ground, seems emboldened to make death threats over the slightest infractions.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ten of the Crappiest Jobs I Have Had

Scraping cow manure off a concrete corral floor outside the veterinary testing barn of a large dairy farm. A lot of the cows were under the weather, and it showed in their poop.

Holding cows by tongs in their nostrils while another cowboy tagged their ears.

Picking okra in searing heat. The okra leaves would rub against you and sting like a nettle.

Spraying some kind of cleanser on popcorn ceilings.

Assembling truck parts by hand on an assembly line.

Cleaning out apartments in a slum after tenants moved out.

Folding and refolding sweaters about a million times a day at a department store during the Christmas shopping season.

Manning the French fry station at McDonalds.

Running the chains at junior varsity football games.

Cutting stair treads from scrap carpet in a sweatshop when I was 13 years old.


I have been thinking about my squeamishness when it comes to killing animals. I grew up on a farm and killed many a chicken, although even then I hated doing it. Somehow, however, in the process of getting educated, I was given an extra dose of civilizing. I no longer shared my people’s interest in raising livestock, killing it and eating it. I did not care to hunt, and blood sports began to disgust me. I found the idea of fighting ridiculous. I had become thoroughly domesticated and feminized to a much greater degree than even some of my closest kin.

In fact, I am actually troubled about eating meat, and I have endeavored to avoid factory farmed products and to pay extra for cruelty free meat and eggs and dairy and such. These products taste better, for one thing, and I can assuage my guilt by telling myself that the critter had a good life right up until the moment it was slaughtered. Maybe they make the animal think that it is going to the movies or something and kill it before it knows that it has actually entered an abattoir. That would be nice.

On the other hand, I sometimes feel ridiculous about my squeamishness. I like meat a lot. I would like to keep rabbits and eat rabbit meat, one of my favorite foods, but I can’t imagine that I’d be able to kill and dress a helpless bunny. I’d like to eat some of the deer and turkeys that pass by the house, but I can’t see myself shooting and butchering them. I can’t even clean a fish, for crying out loud! In the post-apocalyptic dystopia to come, I am going to have to get over this. I am an Eloi.

Living With Voles

At first I thought the voles were kind of cute. A couple would get into the trash can where we keep our birdseed and get stuck, and I would scoop them out in the morning and release them outside the front door. Mrs Vache Folle is anti-rodent, however, except for grey squirrels and chipmunks, and freaked out about having vermin in our house. She really started going nuts about the voles when they started coming into the kitchen and getting into the drawers and cabinets. They would poop on our silverware and gnaw on wooden spoons and anything made of cork. They noshed on dog food and left their scat everywhere.

They even got into the chest of drawers where we kept our mittens and scarves and such like and chewed some of these to shreds and pooped on everything else. We tried plugging up their suspected route of ingress but failed to stop them. We went to the feed store to get traps, but the merchant told us that voles won’t go in traps or eat poison. Our exterminator came by and told us that the only thing we could do would be to put down those traps with glue on them in the basement and cubby. We couldn’t put them inside because the dogs might get stuck on them. We balked at this because of our squeamish and tenderhearted natures. Sure, the voles are annoying, but we don’t want to torture them to death on glue pads.

Then the voles got into our cars and started chewing the floor mats and crapping in the glove box. I began to rethink the glue traps. We had Steve the contractor plug up the likely vole pathways into the house, and this morning there were no vole turds to be seen in any of the usual places. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that they have been blocked. Now we’ve got to figure out how they are getting into our cars and figure out how to stop them.

Mrs VF reckons the voles are getting revenge for our cleaning out the shed where they had been nesting. I don’t like to attribute such motives to dumb animals, but our problem did seem to start after the shed cleaning. Mrs VF talked about getting a cat, but I reckon that (a) Jesse the Carpathian would eat it and (b) that would just be substituting a larger animal that craps in the house for smaller animals that crap in the house.

In other wildlife news, I am please to report that the great blue heron has not yet eaten all our fish. Two comets have survived along with a school of shiners that I thought had been wiped out last year. The heron comes by every day, so it may be just a matter of time before the last two comets buy the farm.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Suing God

Chambers vs. God was filed in a Nebraska court. The complaint seeks an injunction against God prohibiting threats and calamities.

Clinton's Health Plan

Senator Clinton’s health plan has been unveiled. In a nutshell:

“Americans can keep their existing coverage or access the same menu of quality private insurance options that their Members of Congress receive through a new Health Choices Menu, established without any new bureaucracy as part of the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program (FEHBP). In addition to the broad array of private options that Americans can choose from, they will be offered the choice of a public plan option similar to Medicare.”

There’s something to be said for the notion of building on an existing program instead of starting a new bureaucracy. I would like to see this extended to other areas of the federal government. For example, various entitlement payments such as Social Security and VA benefits might be administered by a single agency. Management of federal lands could be handled by the Bureau of Land Management instead of the congeries of agencies that do it now.

On the other hand, the plan raises a lot of questions. If you manage a health insurance provider, will you want to be part of the group of companies on the approved list? Would it be worth it to submit to the rules in order to do so? What will employers who already provide coverage do now that they won’t have these benefits as leverage over their employees? Won’t health care become even more expensive once more people have access to it?

I reckon that it will become necessary to control costs by regulating lifestyles and prohibiting unhealthy behaviors. Then again, this will mean folks will live longer so that Social Security will be even more strained. The retirement age will eventually be 100 when 100 becomes the new 65.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Stalking Horse Alan Keyes

I heard that Alan Keyes has joined the fray and is running for the GOP nomination. Evidently, Keyes didn’t think the current crop of candidates was sufficiently bellicose or sufficiently devoted to curtailing liberty. My theory is that Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney are paying Alan to run in order to get the “values voters” out of their hair (or scalps in the case of Rudy and John). Huckabee and Keyes can fight over every last Christianist vote, while the front runners position themselves early on as the “not crazy” candidates.

Children Are Worth Some

Deepthought responded partially to my post about why being childfree is not free riding. He writes:

“Anyway - so you pay property taxes... so what? First of all, parents pay those exact same taxes - and, since they tend to have larger homes and focus on 'good' school districts that drive up values, they tend to pay more. So much for them being 'moochers'.

Also, you do, indeed, benefit from those taxes in the form of a literate (supposedly) well-educated population. This allows you to enjoy lower crime rates, higher economic activity overall, etc. Also, one of the main functions of subsidized schools is that educated children turn into higher-earning taxpayers that will go on to, yes, subsidize your life in the form of everything from social security to roads.”

He does not address my contention that parents receive value from their children in the form of the various satisfactions of parenthood that equal or exceed the costs that they bear in their estimation. Meanwhile, I am forced to subsidize their enjoyment of these satisfactions while receiving very little, if any, such enjoyment. If that is not “mooching”, I don’t know what is.

The arguments about how I benefit indirectly from an educated society imply that I would favor leaving children in abject ignorance, something I have never advocated. I do not doubt for a moment that parents, especially those with the larger homes in the tonier districts that Deepthought mentions, would manage to arrange for the education of their children if there were no public schools. They would provide tutors, school them themselves at home, or send them to private schools. As for the children of the less fortunate, the extent to which I benefit from their schooling is questionable, but I, and I imagine most others, would cheerfully and voluntarily support educational opportunities for those poorer children who might stand to benefit. I am not against education; I am against its coercive administration and financing. I am against welfare for folks who can easily afford to educate their own children.

Moreover, the principal beneficiaries of education are the parents (otherwise, why would so many of them finance expensive college educations?) and the children themselves (they enjoy greater opportunities and a better standard of living). That I might derive some slight and debatable benefit from parents and children pursuing their own happiness provides no basis for extracting rents from me. I keep a lovely garden for my own satisfaction that anyone might see and enjoy from the road. Moreover, I have improved my home a great deal and increased its value, and this has inured to the indirect benefit of my neighbors. Am I entitled to extract from them by force the value of these indirect and unintended benefits?

Indeed, much of my conspecifics’ consumption can be said to provide indirect benefit to me. I owe my livelihood to a vigorous economy ultimately driven by consumption, and the benefits of commerce to me are legion. Yet, I am rarely called upon to subsidize the consumption of my neighbors except in the case of consumers of the joys offered by children. Parents get all their investment in children back and then some. Otherwise, nobody would reproduce.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Culture of Rape

This post by Melissa McEwan and the comment thread was a real eye opener. Apparently, if Cosmopolitan magazine publishes an article about the 5 places where sexual predators most prefer to strike, that constitutes “rape apology”. It puts the burden on women not to get raped instead of expecting the rapist to eschew rapine. I learned from the post and comments that American culture is infected with a “culture of rape” that tacitly or even explicitly condones sexual assault.

Putting on my sociologist’s hat and looking at the situation in as detached a manner as I can helps me get past the offence I might take at having my entire sex indicted for rape apology. I remind myself that being male means being part of a category, people with penises, and that we don’t necessarily have to answer for what other males do, although some might make normative assertions to the contrary. I also observe that the differences between men and women on this issue of rape and rape avoidance/prevention appear to center on what constitutes consent.

There is a strain in the culture that recognizes certain behaviors as implying consent to sex. I’m not saying that this is right or good. I’m saying that it is an observable cultural phenomenon, a social fact, that many people deem it appropriate to take into consideration a woman’s dress, demeanor and other circumstances in evaluating whether a sex act was consensual or nonconsensual notwithstanding the testimony of the woman. Moreover, the subjective beliefs of the man as to whether he thought the woman consented are considered central to determining the criminality of the act.

There is a countercultural strain, manifest especially among feminists, that regards unequivocal and enthusiastic verbal consent as necessary and that regards sex in the absence of such consent as rape. In this value system, a woman may dress as provocatively as she can, go to a frat party, flirt like a fiend, shake her booty, and get roaring drunk and pass out with nobody so much as laying a hand on her lest they be rapists. In contrast, under the other cultural value system, that woman might be considered as having signaled her willingness to have sex by her dress and behavior. The same situation can be viewed in two entirely different ways. Both value systems decry rape. They just don’t agree on what constitutes rape. I would argue that our current legal system recognizes the frat party scenario as rape; however, cultural factors make it extremely unlikely for such victims to come forward.

Of course, there is yet another countercultural strain which condones rape outright, but I’m not familiar with it other than to know it exists.

The comments to Melissa’s post reminded me of the many conversations I have had over the years with feminists about this very issue. Some of the scenarios which have been characterized as rape by them have included:

1. Pestering a woman into having sex with you until she finally relents to appease you.
2. Sweet talking a woman into having sex with you when you don’t really mean it. Her consent was fraudulently obtained.
3. Having sex with a woman who, despite not really being into it, goes ahead and reluctantly has sex with you. She consents, but you know her heart’s not in it.
4. Any sex act that has not been explicitly negotiated in advance with the woman’s announcing her consent to each stage. “May I place my right hand on your left breast and fondle your nipple?” “Why yes, you certainly may.”

These definitions of rape are quite a bit removed from the cultural norm, and they shift the burden substantially to men. Who should bear the burden is culturally in dispute. The issue is not necessarily pertinent to the scenario on which a sexual predator lurks somewhere and forces himself on a stranger. There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that a rape has occurred in those circumstances. Where the issue comes into play is when the woman is acquainted with the man whom she accuses of raping her. In those cases, you are apt to have circumstances which the man may attempt to use in his defense to establish that he believed that the woman had consented. What kind of circumstances and facts ought to be considered? Should some kinds of facts, past acts of the accuser for example, be excluded?

It is a challenge to balance the rights and interests of the accuser, the accused and society at large in such cases. At present, the accuser is going to be put through the wringer in many cases, and many will be reluctant to press charges.

The dilemma for those who would like to see more of the burden shifted to men is that this requires significant cultural change, something which is hard to pull off. It requires vigilance and total intolerance for anything that smacks of rape apology or victim blaming. If it seems as if your feminist friend is going nuts over something that seems trivial to you, like the Cosmo article, it’s because she’s fighting a whole cultural strain of which the example of the moment is only a small manifestation. If she takes an extreme position on the issue that seems crazy to you, she’s working against what seems to her to be a culture that puts the onus on her not to get raped.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Childfree = Free Riding?

A commenter on my post about being childfree accused me of being a “free rider” and referred me to this post at deepthoughtblog where this is explained:

“Actually, the childless-for-economic-reasons are taking money – from the next generation. Despite all the talk of ‘lockboxes’ not so long ago, the fact is that current taxes go to pay for the Medicaid, Medicare, social security, etc. of people who are (mostly) already out of the workforce. My father’s taxes went to the social security of his own parents, etc. back to the New Deal. When the current generation retires they will depend upon the next one to pay enough taxes to fund all the social programs they expect to enjoy. In effect, welfare programs collectivize children. But it is done so badly that parents shoulder all the short-term burden of raising children while the long-term economic benefits of children are distributed at-large. All of the economic incentives are to not have children and free ride on the backs of those economically foolish enough to be parents.”

I see deepthought’s point , but I disagree with it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I pay a lot of taxes that benefit other people’s children. My property taxes are mostly devoted to public schools that other people’s kids attend. I am regulated and taxed in a thousand ways all for the benefit of some mooching parents and their offspring. So the ride ain’t free by a long shot. I expect to pay out a lot more and bear opportunity costs that far exceed anything I might get from the next generation if I retire.

Secondly, deepthought ignores a big part of the value of children to their parents. People have children because they expect to be amused and entertained or otherwise satisfied in some mysterious way by them. This has subjective value just like any other act of consumption, and even though it is not usually discussed in terms of monetary value it is nonetheless part of the economic calculus that goes into reproductive decision-making.

I keep dogs as one of my hobbies. I have a fish tank, too. There are entire industries that cater for my pet keeping proclivities, and I consume (in the economic rather than dietary sense) not only the pets themselves but pet related items such as squeaky toys and plastic castles. I decided that the cost and trouble of having pets were more than offset by their entertainment value. Parents make the same kind of calculation when they decide to have kids or to add another kid to their family. The kids have economic value to them. What’s more, that value inures almost entirely to the benefit of the parents. I get nothing. Parents get at least as much satisfaction and amusement from their kids as the costs. If it were not so, reproduction would be utterly irrational.

I at least do not expect my neighbors to subsidize my hobbies. I wish I could say the same about parents.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another Idiot Op-Ed Writer at WaPo. Where do They Get Them?

Michael Gerson in WaPo reckons that it is unseemly to criticize General Petraeus. He concludes:

“Despite real military progress, the situation in Iraq remains difficult. Gen. Petraeus is a skilled leader, but we do not know if even he can win. We know, however, one thing: If he is slandered, his advice is dismissed and Congress cuts off funding for the troops he commands, defeat in Iraq will be certain.”

Frankly, it’s about time some of the Bushevik hacks were called to task. Gerson seems to be setting it up so that he can blame defeat in Iraq on the critics of the latest pet general.

More on Why I'm Childfree

The last post about family size got me to thinking about my own experience. I used to get some flack for being childfree and was told that I was selfish or immature or foolish. How could I voluntarily forego the joys of parenthood and the many benefits thereof? Some infertile couples would kill for a child, and here we were wasting our eggs and sperm. Nowadays, being childfree is much more accepted.

Frankly, I just never saw the attraction, and the costs and pains seemed to me to outweigh the potential amusement that I might derive from having children. Besides, Mrs VF’s and my siblings didn’t seem reluctant at all for us to take their children off their hands any time we wished and to be entertained by them free of charge. That the nephews were, for the most part, godawful children reinforced our decision to live childfree. We did not want to take a chance that we might get stuck with even one child like them.

Being an uncle is way more fun than being a parent. The kids behave better with me than they do with their folks, because they soon come to realize that I don’t have to like them and that I will stop being so fun and generous with them if they piss me off too much. I can enjoy them a lot more knowing that I will have them around only for a very limited time.

My own childhood doubtless played a role in how I weigh the costs and benefits of parenthood. My father abandoned us, so he clearly didn’t value us very much, and my mother made it known that we had “ruined” her life. I think I reminded my mother of my father, because she never liked me very much. Right out of the gate, I was prejudiced against being a parent.

Also, I find children a little creepy. When they are babies, I don’t much like to be around them what with their drooling and stewing in their own urine and excrement much of the time. They’re as much fun as someone in a persistent vegetative state. And when they start walking around with their grubby little fingers and constantly running noses, they seem to me to be little more than vectors for various pathogens.

Once they become proto-sentient, which happens as early as five or so with some kids, I can abide them fairly well in small doses. I try to treat them as if they were people and to talk to them just as I would anybody else. Ironically, I am pretty good with children, and they seem to like me a great deal. I would have made a great father, many tell me. They’re wrong. I would have been a lousy father. I would have been a wonderful uncle, which I sometimes was and am, or acquaintance, but I would not have been much good at being responsible for the development of another human being. I admire those who chose fatherhood, but I wouldn’t want to trade places with them. I’m not that heroic.

Feminists for Voluntarily Going Extinct

Amanda Marcotte often seems reasonable to me, but then she writes this piece in which she advocates population control in the US because Americans are polluting resource hogs who should just go ahead and die out. The most disturbing proposition is that coercion to achieve this should not be off the table:

“First of all, dismissing coercion out of hand in a situation as dire as ours concerns me. Not that one should conclude that coercion is the best bet, but desperate times should at least allow for the consideration of desperate measures.”

I don’t know that I would characterize the risk that Americans might continue to exist as “dire”, but I suppose that I should at least be grateful that Ms Marcotte thinks coercion is a “desperate measure” and not the first resort.

Ms Marcotte sees other difficulties with coercion:

“First of all, it’s best not to make an assault on human dignity right out of the gate without trying other measures. Coercion is unlikely to work, anyway, since people would rebel and create all sorts of nasty problems. You just don’t want to go there if you can at all help it.”

That said, she reckons that voluntary population control would be the best bet. For some reason, Ms Marcotte thinks that there is tremendous social pressure to have lots of babies. Perhaps she is relating her own personal experience, because I have found the opposite to be true. The perfect family size is two children, a boy and a girl. One child is perfectly acceptable, and the childfree lifestyle is more cromulent than ever. Three kids are ok if your first two are the same sex, but more than that is going to raise eyebrows. The Duggars, that family with the 17 kids, were newsworthy not because they are admired for their fecundity but because they are freaks.

Our population growth, factoring out immigration, is negative already, so Ms Marcotte may eventually get her wish and anticipate the extinction of Homo americanus.

The “voluntary” plan:

“We could make contraception and abortion free, and have bike messengers hand out condoms and emergency contraception like they do in France. We could restructure our tax system so that being childless or even sticking to one gets you a tax credit. The government could run ads…to drive home the message that having children is something you should only do if you’ve put a lot of thought into it.”

It’s coercive in the sense that it takes resources from citizens in order to propagandize them into having fewer children, but she is at least not suggesting direct use of force to limit family size. Frankly, this is a nonstarter. What government would advocate the extinction of its own subjects?

I don't see what's feminist about this idea, either. Wouldn't it be a more feminist position to advocate complete reproductive freedom so that women could have as many or few kids as they liked without let or hindrance? I probably just don't get it.

Ms Marcotte and I seem to live in two different realities. She sees America as extremely pro-natalist, and I see it as the opposite. I would prefer that the government do nothing to influence family size and that we all just mind our own business about other people's reproductive choices.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Reluctant Environmentalist

I have done my part to perpetuate the local population of Great Blue Herons, otherwise known as those “f***king gray birds”, by providing them with several fish feasts. Mrs Vache Folle set the dogs on a heron on Sunday, but it apparently came back while we were at church and helped itself to all it could eat. The population of comets was noticeably reduced. Last night, a heron circled our yard and alit in a maple tree but left because we were standing by the pond. This morning, I awoke to see a heron standing on the lawn rubbing his belly and enjoying a postprandial aperitif. By the time I set the dogs on him he had taken off. I couldn’t see a single comet in the pond, although I harbor a slight hope that some were hiding under the aquatic vegetation.

Oh well. It’s the circle of life. The comets are only a dime apiece, and they had a good run in the pond instead of being fed to a cichlid. I suspect that some of the comet fry survived the onslaught of the heron, but I won’t know until a sunny day when I can see them.

This event got me to thinking about my other contributions to the environment. I feed songbirds and hummingbirds and mitigate the impact of habitat loss and housecats. Squirrels, chipmunks and voles also gain. I maintain four acres of forest that I could chop down or set afire if I wanted to. That’s got to count for something toward offsetting my carbon footprint. I keep a perennial garden, some items in which seem to be favorites of white tailed deer. I refrain from killing the deer and turkeys that travel across my property.

I let my lawns be as weedy as they are because I don’t want to add herbicides and pesticides or fertilizers to the environment. I keep a pond for the frogs and salamanders and crawdads and water snakes. I regularly expose myself to flies and mosquitoes that they might feed and prosper. I hypermile in my car and carpool.

And on top of all that I feed the herons. I’m a regular environmentalist.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Schwartz On the Iron Law of Institutions

Jonathan Schwartz explains why the Democrats don’t give a crap about anti-war advocates. It’s the “Iron Law of Institutions” at work.:

“…the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution ‘fail’ while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to ‘succeed’ if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

This is true for all human institutions, from elementary schools up to the United States of America. If history shows anything, it's that this cannot be changed. What can be done, sometimes, is to force the people running institutions to align their own interests with those of the institution itself and its members.”

The Democratic establishment isn't really keen to have a bunch of activists and folks in the grassroots mucking up the works.

This also explains the Bush administration. They don't care if the US fails at everything it does as long as they hold on to power.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Why I am a Multi-Culturalist

Cultural relativism is an analytical stance taken by social scientists to examine cultural phenomena. Insofar as it is possible to do so, it permits them to analyze culture without making normative judgments and to compare cultural differences without remarking on the scientists’ personal cultural preferences. Cultural relativism is not a prescription for living in the world, and I don’t know anyone who lacks subjective preferences and values. Having such and such preferences and values instead of others implies that the possessor regards them as superior to others, at least for the possessor.

To the extent that I am willing to tolerate differences in preferences and values in others, I am a proponent of diversity and multiculturalism. Everyone is, and only a madman would wish for everyone to be exactly alike in all respects. We vary in our degree of tolerance for differences. I am willing to tolerate just about any practice or norm that does not involve any imposition on me or violence or coercion of others. By tolerate, I mean that I will under no circumstances forcibly interfere or condone forcible interference by others. I don’t necessarily approve of or embrace other people’s practices or values, but I take the default position that (a) it’s none of my business and (b) I might not be in a good position to judge the matter in view of the circumstances of other people.

Being an advocate of individual freedom necessarily involves a very high degree of willingness to tolerate differences. That doesn’t mean that I hold all values and practices in equal esteem, but it means that I don’t even bother making judgments about a lot of things that people do and say. To each his own. There’s no accounting for taste. Live and let live. That’s what I say, up to a point.

Some wingnuts, like that Atkinson character, dislike multiculturalism and frame the issue in the most extreme terms. “Either you condone honor killings or you don’t.” “Either you stone homosexuals or you don’t.” That’s quite true but a pretty meaningless way of looking at the issue. By this reasoning, if there is some point on the continuum at which toleration ceases, then the concept of toleration is a sham. You might as well impose your values and preferences on others right down to the most minute detail.

Debates about multiculturalism are not really about whether it is a good thing to tolerate differences. They should be about where the line is drawn and why one reckons that it should be drawn there instead of at some other point. For my part and in keeping with my preference for liberty, I take the position that it is better to err on the side of toleration. I recognize more than one point on the line. To the far right (if toleration increases rightward) is the point where forcible interference would be justified (I would stop the honor killing if I could). Somewhere to the left of that point is the point where voluntary, non-coercive actions such as advocacy or boycotting or shunning might be appropriate (I don’t contribute to the Boy Scouts because of their discrimination against gays and atheists and their authoritarianism). To the left of that might be a point where avoidance would be reasonable (I don’t watch Fox News).

Liberty will lead to diversity. To embrace liberty is to embrace diversity.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Not a Good Argument for Home-schooling

I’m not a big fan of public schools, and I am an advocate of home-schooling, but this article at Taki’s is over the top.

“But amidst the chirpy greeting card mentality that accompanies this familiar rite of passage is another message that won’t get any meaningful airtime: It’s also that time of year when vulnerable youngsters are required to leave their homes to being nine long months of subjection to statist agitprop. As Alan Caruba, founder of the National Anxiety Center, observed in a recent commentary: ‘From the Head Start program to the International Baccalaureate, the whole purpose of ‘education’ today is to create new generations of Americans who think that the United Nations should govern the entire planet and who uncritically accept politically correct beliefs about gender issues, diversity, multiculturalism, and environmentalism.’

No kidding. Abetted by mandatory education laws, many modern schools now serve as de facto indoctrination centers where little kids, tweens, and teens are compelled to listen to half-truths about everything from the Founding Fathers to the free market. The kiddos are ‘taught’ by folks who are largely too lazy, too liberal, too inexperienced, or too illiterate to teach phonics, history, economics, or mathematics with any degree of rigor or intellectual honesty.”

The author need not worry herself so much. Even if the purpose of public education is to create a generation of One Worlders, and I doubt this very much, public schools are not capable of pulling it off. Frankly, they are mainly just places to park the kids during much of the day. And if you are looking for intellectual rigor and honesty, you are not likely to find many parents who have those attributes. I reckon that public schools do their share of inculcating statist propaganda, but religious schools do the same thing, and parents are just as guilty.

If your kids are in public school and get their values and information solely from the school, that’s your fault as a parent. You still have a responsibility to educate your kids and point out when the curriculum is inconsistent with your views. Those parents who don’t bother to educate their children in addition to what they get at public school probably wouldn’t be very good home-school teachers, either.

And you don’t have to be a UN-phobic, sexist, racist, ethnocentric polluter to favor home-schooling and to problematize public schooling. Public schools are going to reflect the hegemonic dominant culture, and a public school teacher who taught that women were inferior to men, that races should keep to themselves, and that different cultures were evil would be in a lot of hot water. A teacher who advocated littering and despoiling the earth would also run counter to prevailing attitudes.

I am all for education. I don’t even think schools are bad. I just don’t think that they should be coercively managed and financed. Also, I would prefer to see parents and the proprietors of schools exercise control over all aspects of schooling. Under those conditions, the author of the article could choose a school for her children where they could be taught to believe in absolute sovereignty, sexism, racism, ethnocentrism and the disposability of the planet. Or she could just teach them at home and avoid exposing them to anyone different from themselves in any way.

Just Stuff About Me

Things are not so bad as I had thought. Mrs Vache Folle might stick around after all, and I might not get canned. In that case, I get to keep my house and garden. Of course, this is all still up in the air, and there isn’t much I can do to influence events.

Mrs VF and I went into New York on Saturday night and took in a show at Caroline’s on Broadway, a comedy club. The headliner was insult comedian Jeffrey Ross. He was insulting alright, but he didn’t limit himself to the insult schtick. He was pretty good, as were the warm up acts, whose names escape me. We had an overpriced and mediocre dinner in the Supper Lounge of the club, but having dinner on site meant we didn’t have to worry about timing and that we got very good seats for the show. Caroline’s is very comfortable, and the service is first rate.

We want to try to get out more, and I aim to get us tickets for Bill Maher at the Beacon for November 10. I am also going to be on the lookout for events in the Hudson Valley closer to where we live. Nest week my grand uncle is coming into the city from Malibu, and we are meeting him and his wife and my cousin for dinner in Manhattan. It is hard to pry me away from my garden, but once I get out, I find that I enjoy myself after all.

Our church is celebrating its 250th anniversary, and I am participating in a pageant by playing a town crier and the church clerk who leads the psalm singing. I met with a nice Dutch lady who taped my lines and helped me with pronunciation. There are no other Dutch folks in the church, so I could be speaking Klingon as far as they know. I had ancestors in the Lower Hudson Valley back in the 17th and 18th centuries, and I am interested in learning more about how they lived. My ancestor Jan Franse Van Hussum, settled in Claverack just north of where I now live in the 1600s. A cadet branch of the family, from whom I descend, moved south in the 1700s.

Mrs VF got hooked on Harry Potter, and she has got me reading the series. I am one book behind her, on the Prisoner of Azkaban, and danged if I am not enjoying them. If these had been around when I was a kid, I’m sure I’d have been a fan. I was into A Wrinkle in Time and the Lloyd Alexander books at that age.

The voles have been leaving their calling cards all over the house, and Mrs VF ordered some electronic varmint repelling apparatus. I hope it works. Maybe that cat that has been hanging around could do us a favor and nab them for us. Jasper doesn’t seem much interested in going after the voles. He seems to have a size limit to what arouses him except in the case of frogs, and anything smaller than a squirrel is not worth his while.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My Religious Beliefs are Irrational; So Are Yours

Occasionally, I will get into a discussion with an atheist who wants to discuss my religion in rational terms. Or I’ll encounter a Christian whose apologetics for the faith are couched in the language of rationality and logic. I don’t think that you can depend on rationality. I took this test and this test at TPM and found the results quite frustrating since the tests are designed to test the consistency and rationality of religious beliefs.

My religious beliefs are not based on empirical evidence, nor are they derived from logic. They are, I reckon, the gift of God and are not voluntarily adopted. I believe what I believe because I believe it. There’s no arguing the point. The atheist may or may not recognize that his own belief that there is no God no way is as irrational as my belief in a God. It may be predicated ultimately on the arbitrary normative proposition that belief should be predicated on empirical evidence. It may be that he simply believes, with no underlying reason, that there is no God in the same way that I believe that there is.

I know that I can’t prove that my belief is true, so I don’t do a whole lot of apologetics. I’ll talk about my belief to anyone who is interested, but I know that persuasion is pointless. I’ll admit that my belief may seem foolish to the rational mind. If God loves the world, why is there so much suffering? It’s a mystery that I expect will be revealed to me in due course, or not. I sometimes think that we are incredible ingrates. “Thanks for the Universe, God, but a little less suffering would have been nice.”

Crticizing Israel Anti-Semitic?

This British MP writes in WaPo about rising anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere. I can buy that anti-Semitism is bad, but the writer conflates criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews:

“Today there is still denial about the universal ideology of the new anti-Semitism. It has power and reach, and it enters into the soft underbelly of the Western mind-set that does not like Jews or what Israel does to defend its right to exist.”

Maybe I missed the announcement where criticism of Israel was determined to be anti-Semitic. I wish someone would let me know, because I wouldn’t want to be labeled an anti-Semite because I didn’t lump all Jews and the Israeli state into a single category incapable of being unpacked.

I'm as Good a Church Member as I Can Be at the Moment

Sunday’s sermon was based on Romans 12. The preacher exhorted us to give our bodies as a living sacrifice in whatever we do. We have no priestly caste, where the pastor and church leaders are the religious people in the community. Rather, each of us, whatever we are doing, should do it for God. As usual, I felt sheepish about the fact that I don’t do all that much for the church. I sing in the choir, and I occasionally volunteer for something, but that’s it. There are lots of very active members who really put me to shame.

Then I looked more closely at the reading:

“1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. “ (Emphasis added).

I have been given only so much faith by God, and while I pray that it will be magnified, what I am doing now is all that I am prepared to do within the church at this time. I have not so far felt a call to step forward and participate more actively. Perhaps I will at some point, buy not yet. So I aim to stop beating myself up over being less active than some of my co-religionists.

Also, to be fair to myself, a lot of the most active members are retired or are housewives. And those who work aren’t long haul commuters. They work locally and can get away for meetings and events in the daytime or early evening. In my life, the church is not necessarily the center of gravity due to my circumstances as a commuter. Home and work and going to and fro between them take up most of my time.

Also, at least I'm not one of those "pew potatoes" as the even more minimally active are derisively called.