Thursday, February 28, 2008

Star Trek

I have the worst case of the flu I have ever had and can hardly sit up for longer than ten minutes without a coughing jag. I'm on codeine and had an injection of cortisone to reduce inflammation in my lungs. I have been watching TV while laid up, and yesterday the History Channel had a couple of programs about the cultural themes in Star Wars and Star Trek.

Star Trek's popularity was attributed to its optimistic outlook about the future and the assurance that technology and human sensibilities would continually progress until the world's problems were pretty much solved. At least the ones we are struggling with now and the 20th century. Hunger, poverty, disease, racism, war, the estate tax? Nonexistent! Also, it looks like something catastrophic happens to all the Mexicans and any Asians who aren't American between now and the 23rd century. Deep Space Nine and Voyager and Enterprise weren't nearly as popular as the other series because they were downers. It turns out that technology in those shows wasn't always that friendly, and social problems abounded.

I liked Deep Space Nine. Voyager struck me as cartoonish, and the only saving aspect was Seven of Nine whose skin tight catsuit and high heels were scientifically explained as medically necessary to compensate for her lost Borg paraphernalia. Enterprise didn't have time to win me over, but I watched out of my respect for Jolene Blalock as an actress.

I think the franchise can be saved and that a program set 20 years after The Next Generation could succeed if its story lines are more hopeful. The Romulan and Cardassian Empires have fallen and have been replaced with numerous smaller Republics clamoring for admission to membership in the Federation, and the Klingon hard liners have been replaced with moderates. Whorf is High Chancellor and committed more than ever to the Federation as the means of resolving interspecies disputes. The colonies on the border between Cardassian and Federation space are all autonomous. The Changelings and their minions have been driven back to their own quadrant and are undergoing internal stresses as their subject populations rethink their slavish devotion to the Changelings. Constable Odo's influence has been disruptive. The memetic infection carried by the Borg drone Hugh has undermined the unity of the Borg so much that they presently pose no threat to the Federation. In fact, there is a sort of civil war among the Borg and one casualty of it was the nexus that permitted them to travel freely among the quadrants in the galaxy.

What will the stories be about? Exploration, mostly. I would like to see the subspace conduits explored with unlimited plot possibilities opened up. And new sentient species don't all have to be humanoids with ridges on their noses or brows or bad haircuts. CGI opens up many more possibilities.

Heres my vision. We can bring back some of the more popular actors from TNG, DS9 and Voyager for regular roles and have others in recurring appearances when we can get them. The base of the series would be Star Fleet Academy and a special program to explore via subspace with an elite group of students. The known characters would be faculty and crew, and exciting young actors could be featured as the cadets. Since there is a conduit opening within easy reach of Sol, the adventures can take off from San Francisco and end up back there without any need for allowances for travel time.

Let's Presume Consent to Organ Donation

Last night NGC aired a documentary about the illicit market in human organs for transplant. Part of the program dealt with transplant tourism to places such as China where it appears that executed prisoners are used as sources of organs for the trade. According to the program, China executes more than 10,000 people each year. Also covered were domestic issues such as the use of imporoperly screened tissues and organs taken from cadavers in funeral homes without the knowledge of the survivors of the decedents. It seemed to me that many of the problems stemming from the illicit market were related to the fact that the market was illicit and could not be transparent.

The shortage of human organs was attributed to the unwillingness of most people to part with their organs voluntarily after death or for their families to consent to the removal of their loved ones' organs. My limited understanding of economics allows me to suggest only that the current price controls, where the price for an organ is fixed at $0, aren't particularly helpful. People die for want of organs while organs get buried or cremated.

I'm not sure why anyone would object to organ donation. Do they think that they are going to need their organs after they are dead or that God won't be able to compensate for the missing organ at the resurrection? They're going to decompose eventually, and if you're getting cremated they are going to be destroyed lickety split. What's the deal with survivors' reluctance? Your loved one is dead, and it won't hurt to remove the organs. You don't have to watch, and the undertaker will fix it all up real nice for the funeral. I have already instructed Mrs Vache Folle to try to turn a buck off my cadaver if she can and to spend nothing on disposal if she can manage. At the very least, if I have useful organs and tissues after all these years of abusing my body, she should by all means consent to their distribution.

I thought a lot about the organ shortage as I tossed and turned last night and concluded that an open market in organs would help. It would also create its own problems and incentives to murder and fraud, but those exist in the illicit market. Short of taking this step, I reckon it would be helpful to change the law to make it a presumption that, unless you have a written declaration to the contrary presentable to medical personnel, you consent to the harvesting and distribution of your usable organs and tissues for transplantation purposes. This would eliminate the awkward position of survivors and doctors and remove any doubt about the matter. It would also preserve everyone's ability to object as long as they put it in writing ahead of time. I'm betting that most people are just too lazy to bother with objecting and that having to object explicitly will make them less apt to do so.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sick Day Link Whoring

Wonkette contributor’s obit of Wm Buckley says it all:

Juan Cole explains how BHO wouldn’t be the first American president or statesman with a Semitic name:

Atrios reckons that BHO will have to denounce the actions of every other black person at some point:

Nicole Belle at C&L links to Mother Jones and the "Torture Playlist", the songs most played at Gitmo:
The Barney theme? That’s going too far.

Yournamehere at Death Wore a Feathered Mullet reviews the Oscars and has some suggestions for improvements:
He wants to cut some awards, or at least the speeches that go with them. I would use the saved time to add some awards for things like "most awesome stunt", "coolest chase scene", "most transparent product placement", "best explosion", "best motor vehicle", and what have you. These awards wouldn’t go to anyone in particular but would acknowledge the scene and picture. We’d all get to see highlights and argue about the choices, but we wouldn’t have to listen to anyone speechify.

Via bkmarcus, we learn that Garfield is pretty funny without the cat:
The cat could go into Chris Muir's strip where he couldn't possibly do any harm.

The Rest of the Story

Most folks have probably heard about how fourteen year old Tom Greeson lost an eye to a piece of metal flung from an exploding lawn mower carburetor. Since Tom's family was about the sorriest white trash in five counties, they got him the minimum of medical attention, for which they could not pay, and declined to look into a glass eye for him. Tom's Uncle Vard carved and polished an almost perfect wooden sphere that he painted to match Tom's remaining eye as best he could, which was not so well. It looked pretty bad, and Tom was very self conscious about his wooden eye. He was apt to whip anybody who so much as looked at it too long.

When Tom was fourteen and entering high school, his Aunt Patsy talked him into going stag to a school dance. He cleaned up as best he could and hung out in the dark corners of the gymnasium where the dance was held. He chanced to see Nancy Blalock sitting all alone, apparently without a date, and marvelled at how she had grown over the last summer. She didn't look all that bad except for her cleft palate, and he screwed up his courage to approach her.

"Would you like to dance with me, Nancy? Tom stammered.

Nancy was thrilled. "Would I? Would I?" she gushed.

Tom yelled at her: "Hare-lip! Hare-lip! Hare-lip!"

He ran out into the night. Nancy retreated in tears to the girls' bathroom amid the cruel laughter of her peers.

There's more to the story. There usually is. Tom's humiliation led him to abandon social acceptance and to throw himself into his studies and the Scholars' Bowl team (a high school version of the GE College Bowl sponsored by Berry College). He excelled. Thanks to his grades, his performance on the Scholars' Bowl team, his family's unbelievable poverty, and his Melungeon ancestry, Tom won a full four year scholarship to Berry College.

In college, Tom wore an eye patch and told people he had lost his eye in a fencing mishap. Women actually thought he was kind of cool. After graduation with honors, Tom went into computer programming and eventually started his own successful business. He made out like a bandit in the dot com bubble and retired at 30 to his villa in Bequi. The folks in Bequi are under the impression that Tom's eye was taken by a swordfish.

Nancy continued to blossom and became a perfect ten aside from the cleft palate. A lot of boys were willing to overlook this flaw in order to get a shot at about the most bonalicious body in three states. After high school, Nancy moved to a major city and became an exotic dancer. Her schtick was to start off in a kind of burkha and end up in nothing but stiletto heels and a veil. She developed a huge following.

One evening during a lap dance a patron offered her a C note to take off the veil. As luck would have it, the patron was a technologically savvy cleft palate fetishist (or "Hare-lip Humper" as they sometimes call themselves). He partnered with her in setting up and running a cleft palate fetish website which made money hand over fist. While Nancy was the star, she included women with cleft palates from all over the world and paid them handsomely. Eventually, the enterprise expanded to cover fetishes involving any body part above the clavicle and Nancy retired from appearances.

She had reconstructive surgery at the age of 35, and you would never know that she once had a cleft palate. She married the plastic surgeon. She now runs a foundation that secures reconstructive surgery for deformed third worlders. She sometimes thinks back to the incident with Tom Greeson and laughs until she almost wets herself. So don't feel bad if you laughed, too.

Political Observations

What did I think of last night's debate? I didn't watch it. I have the flu and couldn't maintain consciousness. I wouldn't have watched it anyway, especially since that gasbag Tim Russert was moderating. There's just not that much difference between the two candidates, so I don't really care which one gets the nomination. Either would be better than the GOP's presumptive guy. If my own candidacy does not take off, I will throw my weight behind the Democratic nominee whoever it is.

I saw a couple of conservatives on Bill Maher the other day, David Frum and some Congresscritter from Georgia, and I think I got a preview of some of the GOP talking points. They decided that it would be a good idea to attack JFK because of the comparisons of BHO to JFK. Frum actually characterized the Berlin blockade and Cuban Missile Crisis as failures of the Kennedy Administration. On what basis? Because they happened, that's why. The Russkies tested Kennedy in a way they never would have tested a Republican. Presumably, JFK was also a failure because he did not destroy the world in response to these Soviet actions. How do we know that the counterfactual is true? Because David Frum says so! If enough wingnuts and neocons say it, it will become "true". So if your model is Kennedy, your opponents will demonize Kennedy.

They also jumped on the lapel pin controversy and Mrs Obama's pride deficit. As far as they are concerned, the president of the US is also the Emperor of the World and must act like it. Any talk about diplomacy, humility in foreign policy (and meaning it), respect for the opinions of the world community, international law, and what not will be characterized as unpatriotic and an insufficient commitment to US hegemony. Of course, that hegemony must be maintained by raw force and fear, in the most expensive and inefficient and and ineffective manner, in order to maintain a state of perpetual war to bolster concentrated executive power and the surveillance and security apparatus at home.

John McCain is in bed with lobbyists. If not literally, then figuratively. I would be less concerned that he was screwing a lobbyist than that he has been screwing the rest of us on behalf of lobbyists. He has a "character" problem that his POW status appears to have counterbalanced. He is immune to criticism to some degree because he was in a POW camp and tortured back in the day. He plays the POW card all the time. You don't hear the media talking about the POW card like they do the race card or the gender card in connection with Obama and Clinton. McCain was captured by the Vietnamese and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. He is permanently disabled. I am sorry that happened to him. It doesn't otherwise signify.

If Obama and Clinton are pretty close after the primaries in the number of elected delegates, will the disenfranchised Democratic voters of Michigan and Florida be given a chance to weigh in?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Best of Everything!

I don't know for sure if there are other universes, but I do know, that if there are, this universe is the best of all. Do I sound like a dumbass when I say that I am really proud of this universe? Look at it. It's bult on the anthropic principle, and I'm anthropic. And it contains the best cluster of galaxies ever, the Local Group.

I thank God that I was born in the Local Group and not in one of those accursed other galactic clusters. Did I mention how proud that I am of the Milky Way, the best damn galaxy in the best damn cluster in the best possible universe? If I could find a pin with the distinctive beautiful spiral of the Milky Way, I'd wear it on my lapel, if I had lapels. I might have to do with a magnet on the car.

I am the only candidate for president who has come out to say how very proud I am of the Solar System. Why is that? Would the others rather live in some other star system? I won't hold my breath waiting for the media to ask the candidates why they hate the Sun and its companions.

Let's not forget what a great planet Earth is, the best planet ever. I could not be more proud of my planet. And what a lucky stroke it was for me to be born in the best hemisphere, any way you look at it, northern or western. You can guess how I feel about the northwest quadrant and the greatest continent ever to emerge from plate tectonics. All of terrestrial history before North America was just a prelude. I'm starting to choke up here thinking about my beloved continent. I've been to other continents, three of them, and I've always been thrilled to return to the continent where my own bathroom is.

I am a subject of the United States, which is the best nation state on the best continent, and I live in New York, the greatest state of them all, and in the best county, Dutchess County. I pity all of you who don't live in East Fishkill, and I know you must envy me the privilege of living in the zip code of Stormville, on Hosner Mountain, in my house, the greatest house ever, and my upstairs bathroom, the best room in the best house. Where do the other candidates stand on my bathroom? I'd like to know.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Some of us Are Among the Elect, But I'm not All that Sure About the Others

In my last post I wrote about how much fun could be had with the contradictions of Calvinism. The main source of entertainment that has kept Calvinists occupied for centuries is the question of how you can ever really know if you are one of the elect. Here's the catch. You can't. But that hasn't stopped us from trying to figure ways to reassure ourselves (a) of our own election and (b) of the election of our coreligionists. The latter is even more difficult for us to manage because, while we sometimes aren't sure about ourselves, we are never really sure about the other people who claim to be among the elect.

Max Weber reckoned that this uncertainty led to capitalism because Calvinists felt that they had to be frugal and pious and to prosper in order to demonstrate election. Surely, the prosperous thrive because God has chosen them. Then again, there sure have been a lot of bad people who seemed to thrive despite their wickedness. So prosperity would not necessarily be a sign of election. Indeed, it may please God to afflict you with plague for His ineffable purposes, and this would not mean that you were not elect. What was Weber talking about?

Maybe election is manifested by annoying sanctimony and public piety. Surely, that can't be. Jesus told us that the Pharisees who made a show of piety were doomed, so why would a Pharasaical Calvinist fare any better?

Surely, the elect will be super-righteous and free from sin more than the non-elect. Maybe not, though. God saves whomsoever He will, even the basest sinner. And a focus on righteousness as an outward sign of election usually is accompanied by a tendency to legalism and loss of the whole Calvinist point. But then, we can't abide total lawlessness can we? It boggles the mind, I tell you.

The way I figure it, I believe that I am among the elect, and I am willing to a point to take your word for it that you are as well. It's not up to me to decide, although I will interpret violence by you as a sure sign that you are probably not so much among the elect as you might think. If the whole business is a crock, I'll never know because I'll die and never come back. If the hell thing is my lot, then I can't do anything to stay out of it anyway. If some other deity with completely different requirements turns out to exist instead of the one I believe in, then I am screwed and can't do anything about it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TULIP For Cretins

I'm an ignoramus when it comes to theology, but my denomination has a convenient mnemonic to help us remember the basic tenets of our belief system: TULIP. Each letter stands for an important aspect of Calvinistic Christianity. I mostly buy into them with some reservations.

I have no issue with the significance of the T for Total Depravity, although I probably wouldn't put it that way if were writing it up. I completely agree that human beings are incapable of effecting their own salvation, which I reckon is the important gist of the T, but I don't know that it is necessary to characterize the species as depraved. As far as I know, whales aren't saved, but that's not because whales suck or anything. Or maybe they are saved, but that's not the point. Humans just aren't self-saving beings in our belief system. It's not that they especially suck or anything in my view. So I like to think of the T as Totally Not Capable of Saving Yourself and leave aside accusations of depravity.

I don't really believe in original sin and the whole economy of sin and sacrifice and redemption. The sin part is beside the point. God loves us and extends his grace and mercy to us, and He calls upon us to do the same for one another. We don't deserve His grace and mercy, and it's not about deserving.

The U is for...I forget what it stands for exactly, but it signifies that God's grace is sufficient to save us. That's what's it all about. Grace. You can't earn it; it's a gift. You don't need grace plus anything, just grace alone. Not grace plus works. Not grace plus say a special prayer. Not grace plus explicit acceptance. Not grace plus baptism, communion, church membership, what have you.

L is for Limited Atonement or some such thing, and this signifies that at least one person will go to hell. I struggle with this one a lot and lean toward universalism. It's not important to me that anyone be damned, and I would not be disappointed if nobody were. Some of the church fathers reckoned that heaven would be so much sweeter thanks to the thought of all those other souls tormented in hell forever, but I don't know that I could contemplate such a thing with pleasure especially if I knew and loved some of those souls. Anyway, it's not up to me. I sometimes take comfort in the notion of eternal damnation for people who piss me off, but this passes when I contemplate that justice dictates that I deserve it as much as lots of folks and maybe more than many.

I is for Irresistible something or other which signifies that there's nothing you can do to resist the gift of grace. If God chooses you, then you're chosen. You were chosen from before the universe was laid down.

P is for Persistence. We used to say "Once Saved, Always saved" for this stance, and I wasn't sure where my Baptist friends stood on the issue. Some seemed to say that you could backslide and fall from grace. Anyway, if God has chosen to save you, you are saved and nothing can unsave you unless God changes His mind. In any event, nothing you can do will determine the mind of God on the issue.

Except for the L, I am pretty comfortable with all these tenets and the contradictions that flow from them. In fact, it's the contradictions that make it so much fun.

Zygotes in Hell?

If you say something like "human life begins at conception" you are making a religious assertion, if it is predicated on a supernatural premise, or a non-religious moral assertion, if you leave out the supernatural entities. In either case, your assertion is predicated on or is a metaphysical assumption that you cannot support by natural reason.

It does not follow from a belief that human life begins at conception that you must also support the use of coercion to enforce your beliefs and the consequences that flow from them. This particular belief is fairly abstract as a practical matter, and it has always seemed to me that the assertion is sometimes nothing more than an after the fact justification for authoritarian interference with women's reproductive choices or sexual activity. For me, if I have to weigh the liberty of an actual human being standing before me against the rights of a potential human being in the form of a nonsentient blob of cells, I have to go with the actual person every time.

As a religious matter, I don't know whether zygotes and blastocysts are human beings just like the rest of us who have been born. Will they be included in the resurrection and judged at the End of Days like other human beings? Will some of them be damned and others saved? What form will they take? Perhaps each fertilized egg, zygote, blastcyst or embryo will be raised up and given perfected versions of the bodies they would have had if they hadn't failed to come to term and become people. Probably not, though. There have been and will be countless billions of subclinical pregnancies that end in fetal wastage, and each of them would have to be raised up and judged and cast into hell for the most part. This doesn't seem right, though. Maybe all the zygotes and blastocysts and embryos get a pass on original sin, not having been "born of woman", in which case aborting them would be kind of a favor.

It doesn't pay to think too hard about this kind of thing.

Friday, February 22, 2008

MegaDisasters for Entertainment

I'm telecommuting today and have had the History Channel on all morning. I'm on my third or fourth episode of "Mega Disasters" on top of some alarming documentaries about oil. I conclude, based on what I have learned, that we are all doomed. It's too late to stop climate change, and we're going to run out of oil sooner than we think. We're going to have to switch to some other energy sources, and that really smacks of effort.

The documentaries seemed to call for centrally planned solutions, but I reckon that products that compete with oil will pop up as soon as they become profitable. Central panners' support for the oil industry has probably postponed these developments already and set the stage for a transition that will be much more painful than it ought to have been.

As for climate change, we'll just have to adapt. We made it through the last Ice Age, and we'll make it through this one, too. Not all of us, of course, just those of us who are lucky. In New York, we can look forward to a climate that is more like Nome's. Of course, an ice age might not be triggered, in which case New York City will be more like Venice. Canal Street will be aptly named then, let me tell you. Tribeca will be aquatic. Instead of tour buses, there'll be tour barges. The subways will be underwater. If the city even exists, what with a megatsunami's being likely to wipe it out, or a super-hurricane, or a volcano.

Maybe if we are smart, we can offset global warming with the effects of nuclear winter.

Squirrels Ate My Feeders

The squirrels have been destroying my bird feeders, the ones that are towers with multiple outlets. They gnaw on the lowermost openings until the valves come out so that all the seeds run out onto the ground. This makes them useless. This is a new behavior for them. In former times, the squirrels were content to accept the seeds in the small servings that the feeders were designed to dispense. The feeder that looks like a little house has not been damaged, presumably because it doles out the seeds in ample servings. I aim to get more of that type.

A lot of the feeders at the store are supposed to be squirrel resistant. I don't want to deprive the squirrels of food, though. I like squirrels. I just don't want them to destroy my property. Jasper derives a lot of enjoyment from the squirrels, and he will run 100 yards to drive one out of the back yard. He keeps an eye on the woodpecker feeder out back and menaces any rodents that trespass on it. He sometimes barks at the squirrels on the feeder through the picture window, but they heed him not, except for the occasional rookie squirrel who has not yet learned that the dogs don't have access to the feeders.

The feeder area has been attracting one of the feral cats and a hawk. The hawk snagged a blue jay and killed him right before our eyes the other week. It is still very rare for the cat or the hawk to get one of the birds that are feeding, and the birds benefit from regular feedings. The populations of songbirds are dwindling, and feeders may help to bolster their numbers and increase their ranges.

The most faithful birds at our feeders are the chickadees. They are also the boldest, sometimes staying on the feeder while I refill it. They also yell at me if I am late with the seeds.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ten Trivial Things About Me

I voted for a Republican once for president. That was in 1988. Never again.

I was a sharpshooter in the Army with an M16. Impressed? Don't be. That's the second best rating you can get, just above marksman. And it was a clerical error. I did score perfectly in the hand grenade test, and I wore the badge of an expert grenadier.

I smoked Camels most of the time except when I was feeling Bohemian. Then I smoked Balkan Sobranies. I quit over 8 years ago, but I still smoke in my dreams.

I used to live near Scientology HQ in Clearwater, FL. I thought the Scientologists were naval personnel for more than six months. To learn more about them, I read Battlefield Earth.

I am afraid of sharks and giant squid. I don't think about them much when I'm not scuba diving or snorkeling, though.

I like whiskey, but I can't afford the good stuff. Famous Grouse is my favorite bad Scotch. Evan Williams is my favorite bad Bourbon.

A couple of my neighbors are NASCAR fans, and they fly Confederate Battle Flags on race days. I live in New York.

I have lived in New York, Washington, Florida, Maryland, DC, West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio and Alabama. I have visited every state except New Mexico and Oklahoma.

I practiced philately as a child, and my grandmother helped me get started.

If you count all my steps and halves, I have nine siblings. Two of them are named Becky. I have never met one of them. Two of them are dead.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mrs McCain Takes Pride in Stuff She Had Nothing to Do With

I'm still not proud of my country. Never have been yet since I grew up. Why would I be? I didn't choose it. I was born here. Mrs Obama is proud that her country might elect a president with recent African ancestry. Mrs McCain is just proud for no particular reason. I don't get it.

Things you can take pride in include your accomplishments, your legacy, that kind of thing, not crap you have nothing to do with or over which you have no control. Being proud of your country is like being proud of your appendix.

If you start up a new country, you might take pride in it, but the McCains and the Obamas have no basis for such pride.


The choir plans to perform Rutter's "Requiem" for Good Friday. There are seven beautiful movements, and these have the characteristic Rutter quirks that trip me up. I got no rhythm.

I have been playing a CD of the work and following along with the score to get a leg up on it. I am liable to be the only tenor, and if other tenors show up, they will not have had much practice, so I will have to carry the section. I aim to have the whole thing down by the end of next week so I can help the other tenors who are more sporadic in their attendance of rehearsals. It is fortunate that there aren't many places where tenors stand out. These movements are really meant to let the ladies shine, and there are a couple of interesting soprano solos. I have been practicing these solos an octave down in case one of the sopranos gets kneecapped or something. Nobody asked me to, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to be ready.

If we could get one more tenor, it would make a big difference to the choir. It's a pretty big commitment for the men since you have to show up every week faithfully. The ladies can come and go because there are lots of them, but men are sorely missed when absent.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Just Another Day in Black History Month

To me, today is just another day. I don't celebrate or acknowledge the so called "Presidents' Day". Humbug!

If you want to decorate your homes with garlands and presidential memorabilia, go right ahead, but I won't be joining in the festivities. Presidents suck! Screw all the presidents and the horses they rode in on.

On the other hand, I solemnly observe all of this month as "Black History Month". It turns out that my ancestors, who weren't black, also experienced a lot of the same history, albeit from a different perspective. I was born on the seventh day of Black History in 1958.

Uncanny Resemblances to Hitler

The presumptive GOP candidate is a male of European ancestry and a combat veteran. Just like Adolph Hitler. One of the Democratic candidates is a spellbinding speaker. Just like Adolph Hitler. Hillary Clinton's first name starts with the letters 'H' and 'I'. Just like Adolph Hitler's last name. Whoever wins, we end up with someone comparable in some way to Hitler. I bet they all love dogs. Hitler loved dogs, too. Makes you think.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rapture Ready

I grew up among folks who reckoned that Christians would be "raptured", ie disappear into the sky to meet Jesus at his Second Coming. Then the folks left behind would suffer seven years of "tribulation", ie really dystopian times with lots of death and pain. There would be a huge battle in Israel, and Jesus and the Christians would return in triumph and kill everybody but 144,000 lucky Jews who would be "saved". Or something like that. The folks who believed this did so mainly on the basis of commentary in their Scofield Bilbles and because this eschatology fit right in with their personalities. The world was doomed, doomed, doomed, and there was no point trying to make it any better. It was fun for them to ponder current events in the light of Biblical prophecy much as some folks do with the quatrains of Nostradamus. The "King of the North"? Russia, of course. The "King of the East"? Red China. At least that's how they were reading things back in the seventies. Nowadays, who knows? The King of the East is probably Iran now.

I am reading Garry Wills' "Head and Heart; America's Christianities", a history of faith and politics and culture in America, and I'm up to the part about the "rapture" expectant faithful. I did not know that Ronald Reagan was himself a rapture ready loon who figured that his own geopolitical activities were laid out in prophecy. GW Bush might be rapture ready, and it would explain a lot if he were. The rapture ready folks are ripe for political manipulation, especially when it comes to international affairs. All you have to do is make a Scofieldesque case that your policy will hasten the end times or that it comports with prophecy. It's easy to do because the rapture ready are willing to believe. You worry that your policy is, say, crazy or stupid or both? You won't be able to sell it? No worries as long as it can be plausibly connected to prophecy!

If John McCain wants to endear himself to the rapture ready, he could do no worse than by claiming to be the AntiChrist. They'd have to vote for him to hasten the day of trial. You never hear the GOP calling the opposition the AntiChrist because the rapture ready would get behind the opposition!

Why would a rapture ready candidate run for president? For no other reason than that he believes that he will be able to carry out policies that will cause most of his constituents to suffer horrible deaths as soon as possible.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rules for Keeping a Fish Tank while Being Lazy

Mrs Vache Folle wants to clean the fish tank today. It's long overdue, and we need the fish poop water for the house plants. We have had an aquarium, or two, for over twenty years straight now, and I don't reckon that our home would be complete without one. Because we are busy and lazy, we have got aquarium maintenance down to a science. We spend an hour every three weeks or so changing about a third of the water and removing algae. Otherwise, Mrs VF just adds water to replace what has evaporated.

How do we manage to keep a healthy fish tank with so little effort? We follow a few simple rules:

Have a filtration system that is more powerful than necessary for your tank. Have redundant filtration if you like. Just filter the bejeezus out of the water.

Keep real live plants. They put oxygen in the water and use up excess fish crap. They compete with the algae. They look nice and are fun to have.

Let snails abound. They clean off the surfaces.

Keep bottom feeders.

Keep only a quarter as many fish as your tank is capable of supporting. We like to keep a single type to avoid genocidal conflict. Now we have all tetras (except for the catfish). We once had a nice gourami tank. Our fish actually reproduce in the tank, and we rarely have to buy replacement fish.

Don't worry about algae on the ornaments and caves and such like. Tell yourself it looks natural. Don't put so much of that crap in the tank to begin with.

Don't overfeed the fish. As a matter of fact, forget to feed them sometimes and make them clean up the red flakes that they don't seem to like very much.

Follow these guidelines, and you too can have a pretty much self maintaining aquatic habitat in your house.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Working With the SkyNet Beta Program

SkyNet is pretty good, but it's not perfect. Why does SkyNet even have a destroy the humans feature? And why aren't there more failsafes?

As I understand it Ctrl-Alt-Delete starts the computer, whereas Shift-Alt-Delete initiates the destroy the world feature. Here's one solution: have all operators use the Ctrl on the left and the Shift on the right or vice versa to minimize the chance of accidental initiation of world destruction followed by postapocalyptic dystopia. And add a dialog box. "Are you sure you want to destroy the world?" Make the operator click on "Yes" before the program starts. Finally, let's have paper clip guy pop up and remark: "It looks as though you are trying to destroy the world. How can I help?" This will give the operator yet another chance to cancel.

Deciding Among Holy Books

Three guys with three different holy books that they firmly believe to be the inerrant Word of God walk into a bar and start trying to convert one another. The first guy (let's call him Andy) says: "My book is the Word of God. It says so right here on page 1196." The second guy (let's call him Brian) replies: "That's just plain stupid. My book is really the Word of God. Some guy whom a lot of us believe was the most important prophet ever and whose every word was holy writ said so." The third guy (Carl) says: "Prophet Schmophet! He was a charlatan, and it's crazy to believe anything he said about anything. My book really is the Word of God. I know it is because my prophet who lived a lot longer time ago than Brian's so called prophet said so. "

The bartender (Doug) remarks: "You can't all be right. At most, only one of your books is the inerrant Word of God. It's likely none is. It seems to me that God would make the matter a lot less equivocal, maybe with some kind of sign or something." A guy at the end of the bar (Elroy) pipes up: "I can suggest a way to solve the dilemma. Let's take a poll and see which book is the most popular and assume that its popularity is a sign from God of the book's validity." But Andy, Brian and Carl would have none of it. Elroy had another suggestion: "How about a coin toss or cutting cards? Ask God to influence the outcome so as to identify the true Word of God." This wasn't acceptable either. As Andy said: "But I would still believe my book was the right one no matter what the outcome of the coin toss was. I can't control what I believe." Elroy wouldn't give up: "How about a contest of strength or skill? Surely God will favor the champion of the real Word of God." Andy's objection, shared by the others, still pertained.

Another bar fly (Frank) observed: "It looks like there is no way to decide among the books and that you just have to accept that it is purely a matter of faith." Brian: "You're right, stranger. It appears that my acquaintances here cannot be persuaded and will end up in hell no matter how hard I try to convince them of the truth. You can't say I didn't try." Andy: "I guess as long as Brian and Carl can be made to follow the rules in my book, I shouldn't care much whether they believe in it in their hearts." Carl: "Hey! Not so fast, Andy! My book has different rules that you and Brian are going to have to follow if I have anything to say about it."

Frank: "Why don't you each just follow your own book as you sit fit and leave the rest alone to follow their own consciences?" Andy, Brian and Carl: "Because our books won't let us! Besides, in addition to being religious nuts, we're authoritarians who are incapable of minding our own business!"

Finally, an old man (Greg) in a booth in the back spoke up: "Why don't you just kill everyone who doesn't follow your book or at the very least use plitical power to coerce others into following it regardless of their beliefs? God will surely see to it that His true believers prevail." And that's what Andy, Brian and Carl decided to do even though it was one of the same solutions Elroy had offered earlier only to have it rejected. Elroy was pretty miffed as you might imagine.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jonah Goldberg is More than a Douchebag

I can conclude a couple of things about Jonah Goldberg from his essay in NRO:

He is a racist.

He is a dumbass.

The gist of the essay is that whites who vote for Obama do so because they don’t really understand how bad black people really are, what a really horrible thing diversity truly is. It’s whites in states with no blacks and rich whites who don’t know any real blacks who vote for Obama. Them as know blacks for the miscreants that they really are vote for Clinton.

Jonah knows better. He has presumably experienced first hand the horrors of diversity, perhaps in the form of a brownish maid who left streaks on the windows or an insufficiently obsequious busboy at the bistro. For Jonah, his dislike and distrust of those who are not like him, who are not in the smarmy frat boy who never grew up set, is simply realism. The rest of us have different names for it: racism, collectivism.

Diversity is not so very deep down code for any difference. If we are free, we will differ from one another, and authoritarians hate this. They hate this even more than they hate the black and brown folks who are different in ways that they can’t even control. If diversity is bad, how can black and brown people stop being so damned diverse? They could cease to exist, for starters. Short of that, they could try real hard to be just like Jonah and have their mothers get them jobs at right wing fringe publications. Now wouldn’t that be utopia? A world of Jonah Goldbergs. At least until everyone starved to death.

Jonah cites the favorite study of the anti-diversity crowd that purports to show that increased diversity is correlated with decreased trust. Can we all say "spurious relationship"? The conclusions drawn from the study say more about the conclusion drawer than the subjects. Seriously, check out the study and see if the premises don’t want rethinking in a big way.

As a libertarian type, I necessarily reckon that diversity is good. Everybody should do and be as they like, and this will mean that they will all be different, diverse, varied, not the same. How much more so must I accept differences such as skin color and national origin and ancestry over which folks have no control? I even accept that there will be Jonah Goldbergs in the world. Let's just hope there aren't many.

This is the Day the Lord Has Made

Yesterday, it rained all day and into the night, and much of the snow that had fallen the day before began to melt. Last night, temperatures dropped. This morning, the world, especially that part of the world that I call my driveway, is covered with a sheet of ice. Friction is no longer a phenomenon that pertains on my driveway or on a wide swath of the road in front of my house. When my neighbors built a retaining wall a few years ago, water flow was diverted down the hillside and onto the road where it spreads out in a sheet before cascading down my driveway. It is truly a beautiful sight to behold. How the ice sheet glistens in the morning sun.

The ice sheet also presents an opportunity to test one's dexterity and agility in a low friction environment. I do this by affixing two large, ill trained dogs to leashes and trying to stay on my feet while they pull me as they chase squirrels or crows. I continue this exercise up the road a ways and dodge the occasional motor vehicle that careeens down the icy road barely under control. Hills are a real treat. I managed to stay upright, and the dogs seemed to enjoy being useful as my trainers.

In a few moments, I get to test my ability to drive a car in extreme conditions. There may just enough dry patches to get up a good head of steam and to get on the part of the road where driving is just barely possible. The Taconic State Parkway will be like the demolition derby, and I get to drive on it for 30 miles! Wheeeeeee! The best part about foul weather driving is the mentality of many SUV drivers. They reckon that the laws of physics no longer apply to them in their special vehicles. God bless their stupid hearts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Church and State Versus Religion and Politics

A conspecific remarked the other day that as long as there was a separation of church and state, the church should avoid political issues altogether. She meant making noises about peace and some of the other inconvenient teachings of Jesus Christ, and I don't reckon that it would have bothered her much if the preachers had been doing some flag waving. She's not the first person I have encountered who opined about the separation of religion and politics, although she was the probably the least thoughtful. Usually. my conspecifics worry about a totally secularized political sphere and wonder if the separation of church and state won't lead to decadence and immorality.

Okay, They're dumbasses, too. The separation of church and state does not entail the removal of religion from politics or politics from religion. It's not possible and not even something to strive for.

Every individual human being, when doing his political thing, will necessarily do it in a manner consistent with his religious convictions insofar as he does anything consistent with them. He will vote according to his conscience if his conscience permits him to vote and if he has a vote or a conscience. If he is an office seeker, his campaign will be tempered by the strictures of his convictions, if he has any and if they permit him to seek office. If he is an elected official, he will discharge his duties in a manner consistent with his convictions if he can. Religion will be everywhere in the political sphere because the political sphere is inhabited by religious people. (Even atheism is a sort of religious proposition, and all the atheists I know also have moral and ethical principles, which are fundamentally arbitrary and irrational, on which they rely.)

Although there are issues beyond the cognizance of the state, such as matters of conscience and conviction, there are no such issues beyond the cognizance of the church, especially if the church pretends to an interest in its members' whole lives. There is no topic off limits to the sermon giver (except what he reckons will get him in hot water with the consistory). In principle, the most political of issues, perhaps something as banal as a local bond issue, is grist for the sermonizer's mill and is certainly subject to analysis in the light of religious convictions.

Let's be clear, however. I am a staunch advocate of the principle of the separation of church and state. I merely recognize that religion and politics are inextricable. The institutions are not inextricable and, if men are to have any freedom of conscience worth having, must be kept so. It is in the first instance blasphemous for a state actor to claim to stamp any conviction with the imprimatur of legitimacy. Religious conviction is, as Madison said, the product of reason and experience and never can be imparted by force. The state, the instrument of force, must have no part in the matter. If it is conceded that the state may prefer and encourage monotheism in general, something our HIndu friends may find offensive, then what principled argument can be made that the state may not prefer Baal over Jahweh? Or require immersion or forbid infant baptism? The state is simply incompetent in the matter.

By the same token, the church must stay out of the state. How can a church exercise any state function without advancing its own views? How can a church accept any state preferment or subsidy and remain free of control of state actors?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

McCain is Debbie Downer with a Comb Over

Help with understanding how the far right feels about McCain comes from Tom Tomorrow. Via Americablog is a video explaining why the rest of us should be unhappy about a possible McCain presidency.

McCain claims to have been a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution, whatever the hell that was, but it isn’t "morning in America" anymore as far as McCain is concerned. It’s twilight. He reminds me of my favorite character in the cartoon version of Gulliver’s Travels, the Lilliputian whose catch phrase was "We’re doomed". That’s McCain’s slogan. "We’re doomed." He needs to rally the bedwetters. His only hope is for a monstrous security failure to make more.

McCain needs a running mate that will lighten things up and add interest to his campaign. How about Lindsey Graham? He’d be the first ever closeted homosexual on a major party ticket. What better way to cancel out the Democrats’ black dude and broad advantage without actually putting up a black dude or a broad? He would be the first, wouldn’t he?

There Won't Be a Science Debate

What good would it do to have the proposed science debate? I would prefer to have a president who was smart enough to understand what science is and how it works, and most people who feel the way I do already have a pretty good idea about where the candidates and parties fall out in that respect. The rest of the population will gain nothing from a science debate. 75% of us are too stupid to derive any benefit from it, and it will devolve for that part of us into an evolution versus creation, heliocentric versus geocentric and empiricism versus faith debate. There are legions of manipulators who will see to it that it devolves in this manner.

50% of us are too stupid to grasp the notion that the dichotomies set up above are false.

Media Clowns Love McCain and Obama

In the last few weeks I have broken my mainstream media fast a little bit to watch some of the coverage of the primary season. I was curious about how the TV media was treating the candidates. I don't have a dog in the fight, so I reckon I was pretty objective in my observations, and I came away with the distinct impression that the media clowns mostly love Barack Obama and John McCain. They had no use for the other GOP candidates, and they are not that keen on the prospect of a Clinton nomination. They seem to think Obama would be a sexier story.

The media clowns appear to have bought into the McCain as "Maverick" meme. I'm not surprised, since they bought into the "straight talker" meme simply because he wrote it on the side of his bus. I even heard one talking head describe McCain as the "antithesis of GW Bush". He said this with a straight face, and the other talking heads nodded knowingly. I suppose McCain is the antithesis to Bush in some ways, just not politically. He's been running as the continuation of Bush, and the neocon devils have been rallying to his banner. Matt Taibbi remarked on Bill Maher that the media would salute anything that anyone ran up the flagpole, and I get the impression that he was absolutely right.

As for Clinton and Obama, the media have been fixated on the narrative of establishment versus outsider with Obama cast as the Second Coming of JFK and RFK wrapped in one ethnic minority package. Obama's come from behind victories have enchanted the heads. They are in love with him. I have even heard the idea bandied about that some conservatives actually like Obama. They're never going to vote for him but they like the points that they get for saying that they like a Negro, especially one that is not so scary to them.

There are no significant idelogical differences between Obama and Clinton if the media clowns are to be believed, so the race is purely a popularity contest, something the media clowns can get behind in a big way. The best coverage team is probably working for E!, and they should be seconded to the newsroom for the duration.

I have also heard a lot of conservative pundits/analysts/mouthpieces spouting off about how the GOP is eager to run against Clinton and how they really don't want to have to face Obama. Translation: they are scared of Clinton.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Who You Calling "Polarizing"?

I treated myself on Friday to the country morning breakfast at Cracker Barrel (eggs over medium with thick bacon), and I was stuck reading USA Today. In the letters to the editor was that "Hillary is a polarizing figure" meme, supposedly from an Obama supporter. What a crock of shit. Hillary Clinton is no more "polarizing" than any other candidate. The folks with the pathological Hillaryphobia are already "polarized". They are so "polarized" that when they look out their windows and see a bear, the bear is always white. They have taken up residence in the hollow earth and live in their own reality up at the pole, that's how "polarized" they already are. It's the hot air from their bloviating that is melting the ice caps. Hillary Clinton can't get them any closer to their polar habitat. Not one of those "polarized" wankers would ever vote for a Democrat under any circumstances.

But, you might argue, if you insist on being wrong or are just argumentative, Hillary can "energize" the wingnut base of the GOP in a way that the presumptive GOP candidate cannot. They'll get excited and work their wingnut asses off to defeat her and deliver the White House to McCain, whom they supposedly loathe. Are you kidding me? The wingnuts aren't going to sit the election out, and they are going to show up for the GOP no matter who the candidate is on either side. If the Democratic Party nominated Jesus Christ Himself as its candidate, the wingnuts would vote against him in droves, especially if he insisted on that message of love and peace. The wingnuts always make noises about abandoning the GOP, about how the GOP candidate isn't crazy enough, about how they want a candidate who will establish an immediate theocratic authoritarian dictatorship or they'll stay home and pout. It's never going to happen. They're going to back the GOP as the lesser of evils, in their bizarro conception of good and evil, and nobody the Democrats nominate is going to make them stay home or, heaven forfend, vote for a Democrat.

I don't believe that there are a whole lot of people in the middle, the Morons in the Muddle that decide the elections, who are particularly phobic about Hillary Clinton and who will flee to the GOP to avoid her. Especially since McCain has embraced the legacy of GW Bush and has had to pander so much to wingnuttia and won't be able to distance himself from the Bush Disaster in the general election, it will be harder for the GOP to demonize Hillary Clinton. And the GOP will work just as hard to demonize anyone the Democrats nominate.

Friday, February 08, 2008

New Job Needed

I have got to get serious about looking for a new job. The consulting gig is nice, but I don't see it lasting beyond the year. My hope that the company would transfer me back seems to have been misplaced, and I am very doubtful that the new owners of my former employer have any place for me. They would have made me an offer by now. They certainly know me and my work habits by this time, and I have been very useful even if I say so myself. But there doesn't seem to be a need for me going forward once my former employers have been absorbed into the buyer entity so to speak.

I can stay pretty busy with consulting, and I could put in full time hours, but this will just keep me from getting down to the business of finding a new job. Here's my plan: consult about 20-25 hours each week and spend the rest of my time on the job search front. Starting next week. Seriously, I'm going to polish up the old resume and get down to it. On Monday, or possibly Tuesday depending on how much work I have to do.

Confused About Prayer

I'm participating in a short drama in church this coming Sunday. It's about prayer and the different ways that people approach God in prayer as grovelers, supplicants, formalists or what have you. I'm looking forward to the Lenten sermons and the theme of prayer that the priestly caste has chosen, because I have a lot of questions about prayer.

I am not a big fan of public prayer where one person leads a group out loud. Isn't that just sermonizing? "Lord, we just want to praise your name, Lord and Lord, we just want to thank you for the chance to be here in fellowship, Lord and Lord, we just want to be open to being used by you, Lord, and Lord, bless us and keep us safe...." I reckon my prayers are most efficacious when I can't even articulate coherent thoughts let alone speechify, when the Spirit within me groans.

Jesus taught us to pray alone, in secret. He even gave us a form of prayer that I have recited thousands of times without giving too much thought to what it signifies. We used to have to recite it every morning in school right before we prayed to the flag. We recite it every Sunday in church, only now we say "debts" instead of "trespasses". I usually end public prayers that I lead with the Lord's Prayer because then I don't have to come up with as much.

It seems to me that much of the Lord's Prayer involves acknowledging things: God is our father, His Name is holy, His will is going to be done on Earth and in Heaven, His is the Kingdom and glory, and His Kingdom is coming. Then there are the requests for favors: sustain us for today, don't let us be tested, keep us from evil, and grant us mercy in the same measure that we ourselves are merciful.

These requests come after acknowledging the will of God and seem to me to reflect a hope that God's will includes allowing these favorable conditions to prevail. We should be very grateful indeed if we are not tested, although we may well be. Evil may well befall us, and we should be grateful whenever it doesn't. We may not have all that we need, and we should be grateful whenever we have enough. The part about asking for only so much mercy as we ourselves mete out is hard for me to understand unless it is meant as guidance as to what our frame of mind should be when we approach God. All the requests reflect a particular frame of mind, one of humility and gratitude and acceptance. Whoever mindfully prays the Lord's Prayer must be one who does justice, loves mercy and walks humbly with his God.

I fall short in almost every respect when it comes to having the right frame of mind to pray. I am an ingrate. I want more than enough, and I require more mercy for myself than I am capable of giving others. I definitely am not looking to be tested, though. I've got that down. I have been tested many times, and I have more often than not failed. So at least I have that going for me.

One question I have always struggled with is why pray at all when you know that God's will is going to be done no matter what. If I am destined to get hit by a meteor today, no amount of praying is going to keep that meteor away from me.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


I can't believe I turn 50 today. Good thing 50 is the new 40. I feel so much younger mainly because I am not wise enough to be 50.

It's a cute age.

Defying the Will of God?

I sang with the choir at the Ash Wednesday service last night. We were invited to write down a transgression and put it in a basket. The preacher spoke about how we needed to "restore" our relationships with God that were broken because we sought to live outsude of God's design.

I don't buy into the whole idea that mankind was once right with God and then screwed it up somehow by not getting with the program. God has established a relationship with mankind, and he has freed us from bondage to sin, and all this is according to His purposes. There is nothing to "restore", and it isn't even possible to live outside of God's design. God's will is not subject to resistance. It is always done.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

If A Tornado Gets You, It's Nothing Personal

I briefly considered the question as to why God would whack a Southern Baptist college with a tornado. Pat Robertson would probably attribute it to Southern Baptists' failure to persecute gays enough. Every bad thing is because of the gays as far as he is concerned.

Then I remembered that God doesn't whip up tornados on an ad hoc basis. Rather, the tornados were destined to happen from the beginning of time when all the conditions for the universe were established. Sure, God has a wonderful plan for your life, but that plan might involve your getting killed by a tornado or murdered by a tyrant or afflicted with disease. It might not seem so wonderful from where you sit, but you have to trust that it's wonderful on a cosmic scale from God's perspective. No matter how raw you think your deal is, be grateful that you got to exist at all.

In an infinity of universes, you never existed. It is God's grace that you existed in this one and that you got to be sentient (if you are).

Strengthening the Family

Lots of politicians and pundits on the right have been talking about the need to "strengthen the family". The best way to do that is to make people less economically secure and to eliminate the social safety net. Then people will really need their families and will be forced to manifest more familial solidarity. This won't ensure that families take the form that the wingnuts prefer, but it will strengthen whatever families emerge as strategic responses to hard times and insecurity. I'm pretty sure that the right wing has what it takes to trash the economy and to undermine existing social welfare programs as long as it can divorce itself from capitalism and individualism. These result in too much prosperity and too many choices for people and allow them to get along without their families if they so choose.

The right wing in America is not "conservative" despite its appropriation of the label. It is radically anti-modern and authoritarian.

My Take on Super Tuesday

I actually tuned in to MSNBC last night to follow the election results and to see what some of the professional talking heads were saying about it. The pundits seemed pretty happy that the results were arguably equivocal and that the contests had not been decided once and for all. I reckon it means more work and air time for them. One thing I learned that I had not known for sure before is that Peggy Noonan is a big time dumbass with so little connection to reality that she is in danger of disappearing up her own colon.

The heads kept saying that McCain couldn't get conservatives to vote for him even though it looked as if he was getting about a third of the conservative vote according to exit polls. The conservatives can't make up their minds, and I suspect it's because they reckon all their candidates suck. The big three have all been trying to out crazy each other for a year, and it wouldn't surprise me if the wingnuts just don't believe them. The results lead me to believe that the nominee will be McCain, that he will make Huckabee his running mate to appear even crazier than he really is, and that he will then proceed to alienate the wingnuts in the general election by trying to appeal to sane people. Unless they sincerely believe that McCain is truly a whackjob and that he is simply pandering to the public to get elected after he sows up the nomination, the conservatives won't be enthusiastic about him and won't deliver for him in November.

The Democratic side is harder to fathom. In contrast to the GOP, Democrats seem to be arguing over which of their big two is the dreamiest. The talking heads kept trying to make it about Bill Clinton and how mean he has been to Obama so far. They predicted that there would be a backlash against all that meanness and that voters would repudiate the negativity. If you ask me, the Democrats could do with some meanness, and most Democrats I know are looking for candidates and elected officials who will come out swinging. Neither Clinton or Obama has done much in the way of pandering to the base, and their basic message isn't going to change for the general election. I predict that Clinton will win the nomination but will have to work for it due to a hard campaign by Obama. This will make her a stronger candidate. The ticket will be Clinton/Obama.

The much vaunted "Reagan Coalition" is disintegrating. The Christianist wingnuts are catching on to the scam where the crony capitalists pretend to care about their social concerns but then ignore them. The libertarian leaning Republicans are starting to figure out that the GOP has been lying to them about their freedom agenda. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me seven times, shame on me. The southern whites who were pissed off about civil rights are getting over it, and younger southern whites don't wax nostalgic over the halcyon days of segregation and Jim Crow. All that's left are crony capitalists, folks who aim to latch on to the crony capitalist gravy train, and some neocon dead enders. The GOP base has been augmented by bedwetters in the last decade, and they can still be counted on. I'm hopeful that a lot of them (the least craven) are waking up to the idea that the GOP has been scaring them and that the GOP is actually a bigger threat to them than any external enemy.

Can the GOP come out of this a better party? It's hard to see how it could get any worse.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What's the Opposite of Poverty?

I noticed an interesting tee shirt in Peru. It didn't hurt that the teaser was emblazoned across the pert breasts of an attractive young woman, but the message itself was pretty thought provoking. "The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is enough."

This makes sense. The opposite of poverty is not poverty. Poverty = not enough; therefore, not poverty = enough.

What would be the opposite of wealth then? "Not wealth" would encompass all socioeconomic states other than wealth and would include both enough and less than enough.

I, Mutant

It turns out that all of us blue eyed devils are descended from the same mutant ancestor from six to ten thousand years ago. Before the mutant came along, everybody had brown eyes. Imagine how exotic and sexy our mutant ancestor must have seemed to all his boring brown-eyed conspecifics. What a huge disappointment it must have been when his or her offspring turned out to have plain old brown eyes (what with the blueness being recessive), and he or she likely didn't live long enough to see the mutation expressed in subsequent generations.

What advantage did blue eyes confer to permit it to spread so rapidly (relatively speaking)? I'm going to go with its sexiness.

Anonymous Douchebag Finds Acorn!

In my last post about how I was undecided about whether to vote in the primary, an anonymous douchebag posted the following comment:

"You're a complete idiot.

I'm sure you can pick out the not-so-subtle red-flags of hypocrisy.It's almost like there's a record full of incomprehensible bullshit playing in your mind 24/7, and you put the needle down randomly and whatever it picks up, you just type it up and post it on this blog.

( Because I'm more than certain you're a complete philistine, please be sure to note, if you recognize the aforementioned statement, I'm sure you are know a certain individual by the alias of "maddox". And if you know who maddox is, then I'm sure you know how strikingly similar your writing is, in both attitude ( aside from the fact that you're a complete defeatist pussy ) and candor. )

10:11 AM

I'm not sure what it was about my post that pissed off Mr Anonymous. Was it that I shouldn't vote because it would interfere with my own feeble long shot write in candidacy? Was it that I need to throw away my vote and send a message? For the record, I swung by the polls and pulled the lever for Ron Paul. Was it that I referred to Romney and McCain as douchebags? I guess I'll never know.

I don't know who "Maddox" is. I don't know what the hell Mr Anonymous is talking about. It's true that my mind is 24/7 full of incomprehensible bullshit and that this blog is pretty stupid most of the time, but it's free and you don't have to read it.

I bet Mr Anonymous is Eric Dondero or very much like him.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I Probably Won't Vote

I haven't decided whether I will bother to vote tomorrow. I am registered Republican for no good reason, and my man Ron Paul hasn't got a chance. I don't care which of the three frontrunning GOP douchebags gets nominated.

None of the frontrunners has yet to repudiate the neocon cancer that eats at the GOP's colon. If they started talking about purging some of those bastards, that might get me interested. That's what the GOP needs, a good old fashioned purge.

Economic Stimulus

The best way to stimulate the economy is to give all the economic stimulus money to me. I will spend every dime, and I know best how to spend it. I have been spending imaginary lottery winnings in my head for many years, and I have a plan to put that money to work for America. Call your Senators and Congresspersons now and urge them to adopt the Vache Folle Stimulus Package.

Bitching About Reparations for Slavery

We went out on Saturday with some friends of ours who, inexplicably, support the GOP. When they speak about issues, they mostly sound like Hillary Clinton supporters, but they support the GOP mindlessly. They are in complete denial about the corruption and incompetence of the party and don't even seem to notice that the base of the party is batshit insane.

We got into a discussion about reparations for slavery and how they didn't reckon, being descended from relatively recent immigrants, that they should have to pay for reparations. I reckoned that I shouldn't have to pay for a lot of things, such as educating my neighbors' children, but they didn't agree. They just wanted any injustice to black people or Indians to be forgotten and for the world to move on. The world has moved on, although the injustice has not been forgotten.

I'm not a booster of reparations, mind you, but I don't go out of my way to bitch about the hypothetical unfairness of hypothetically having to finance hypothetical reparations for a real injustice that was actually perpetrated. Let's just say that slavery was bad and that I'm ashamed that any ancestor of mine had a slave. It's probably too late to do justice, but that's nothing to celebrate.

Superbowl 42

We kept half an eye on the football game last night while we read our Pullman novels. It would have been exciting, I suppose, if I had money on the game or if I otherwise gave a rat's patootie about which team won. This morning, I heard some folks call into my favorite radio show who seemed almost suicidal (Patriots fans) or manic (Giants fans). These people need help.

I was once a lunatic for a sports team, but I got over it. Now I can't figure out how I ever got into the position where my mood depended so heavily on the success or failure of a group of guys so wholly unrelated to me in an endeavor so completely divorced from my interests. Talk about mindless jingoism. I spoke of the team in the first person. "We" won or lost. The team promoted this sense of identity with it because it helped sell tickets and merchandise and advertising on broadcasts of games. I spent a lot of money on "my" team and attended, listened to, or watched every game I could. I felt that I could influence the outcome of games with telepathy.

Then I moved far away and was no longer surrounded by people who shared my delusion. Instead, I was surrounded by folks who identified with a completely different team! These people were insane!

I know people who identify with groups other than sports teams and who suffer from the same kind of delusional thinking. They identify with a political party or a nation-state or an ethnic category and imagine that they are part of something greater than themselves. They're not, but there are plenty of folks who will take economic or political advantage of their tendency to identify with something.

I'm not saying that it never makes sense to identify with a group and to practice solidarity. The tendency wouldn't have evolved if it didn't have survival value. But you should look for some real commonality of actual interests that can actually be served through solidarity before devoting yourself to the collective. If you are depressed today in Boston or elated in New Jersey because of what happened last night, you really need to get a life.