Friday, May 30, 2008

Universalism and Antinomianism: I Plead Nolo

I have universalist leanings, but I don't reckon one's opinion on this makes a heck of a lot of difference as to how a Christian would live as a disciple of Jesus. At least, I don't think that it should.

Although I have from time to time nominated candidates for the fires of hell, I would not be disappointed if it turned out that nobody went to hell. Some might argue that the pleasures of heaven will be much enhanced by the knowledge of the eternal suffering of the wicked, but I don't see how a perfectly loving person, which I hope we will all be in the afterlife, would feel that way. Indeed, the idea of all those folks roasting in hell would really harsh my heavenly mellow.

Besides, hell doesn't make much sense to me. What's the point? It's not as if the damned can learn anything and mend their ways. Maybe if hell was temporary, like purgatory, that would make some kind of sense, or if hell was just having to live with what a douche you were back when you were a human.

I like to think that God will just leave the really wicked in the grave rather than raising them up just to torment them.

But it's not my call, is it? God can do whatever God wants, and I will doubtless understand it and praise God for it when the time comes. By the same token, it is not for me to judge whether this person or that person will be damned. Nor should I hope that anyone will be damned.

Maybe your spiritual walk would be fairly different if it were really important to you that a lot of folks be hellbound. I won't be joining you, so good luck with that.

I'm also radically antinomian. Jesus freed us from legalism, and all we have to do is let the Holy Ghost work in us to help us love God and our neighbors. I should do or refrain from doing based on love, not on some list of arbitrary do's and don'ts. But won't that kind of belief lead to anarchy? I wish! I don't reckon Jesus and the Holy Ghost are concerned with being instruments of social control. Loving people guided by the Holy Ghost will live ordered lives, but they won't need violence to do so.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Obama versus Barr

I never thought much of Bob Barr when he was a GOP congresscritter, but it appears that he has converted to libertarianism enough to convince the Libertarian Party to nominate him as that party's candidate. As usual, the scenarios under which he could be elected are all highly improbable. So a vote for him would be symbolic, a message to the other parties that libertarian values are so important to a significant number of voters that they had better pay some heed to them. I am of two minds and have to think this through before November.

A lot of libertarian leaning folks will consider a vote for Barr as "throwing away their vote" and will vote for one of the majors to help elect the lesser of two evils. As usual, John McCain will make noises about smaller government and lower taxes, but it should be clear by now to all but the stupidest libertarians that the GOP is lying when it says these things. They throw out these mantras and then grow government like nobody's business and lay a huge tax burden on future generations.

If a libertarian is planning to vote for McCain, I question his libertarian credentials and/or his sanity and/or his intelligence. McCain is the candidate of the warfare and surveillance apparatus, of mooching big business. He's not going to make government smaller or reduce the tax burden, except for some bigwig contributors. He will shift the tax burden to the next generation like GOP regimes always do since 1981.

Obama, on the other hand, might be a legitimate choice for a libertarian, and I could see myself voting for him. I have my reasons. For the time being, the Democrats are less threatening to my freedom than the GOP. Secondly, the GOP wants punishing and could do with a period in political exile. The GOP is better as the party out of power. Also, the GOP is beholden to a core constituency of rabid authoritarians in the Christianist Right, and I view these folks as just about the biggest threat to my freedom in the world. I regard them as a greater threat than any terrorist organization, and keeping them out of power is an act of self defense that justifies voting for a Democratic candidate who doesn't really come close to my views on a lot of things. Moreover, Democrats have shown a lot more fiscal responsibility than the GOP and so are more likely to reduce the cost of government and the long term tax burden. Finally, they honor civil liberties more than the GOP.

A lot of libertarians have right wing tendencies and could never pull the lever for a Democrat, but they can't really stomach McCain and the authoritarian GOP, because he's evil, so they'll vote for Barr. A vote for Barr is a way out for them to exercise their right to vote without betraying their values. I reckon that Barr will take a lot more votes from the GOP than from the Democratic Party and that a vote for Barr is half a vote for Obama. I might vote for Barr if I don't vote for Obama. In fact, for me, as a denizen of New York, there is no chance at all that McCain will win my state, so my voting for Barr will not hurt Obama.

I don't really care if Barr is sincere in his conversion to libertarian ideas, because I don't have to worry about his winning the election. I hope that he comports himself in a manner that does not discredit the party, in which case I may well vote for Barr, unless I vote for Obama, or unless I just stay home on election day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No KIds Allowed

I don't have children. I think it's great to have children if you want them, but you shouldn't take on parenting if it is going to make you miserable. And I know that I don't find children particularly entertaining and would probably not enjoy having them around all the time. Being an uncle is all I am up to, believe me, and I don't want to have to function as an uncle all that much. A little bit of uncling goes a long way, and I can't say enough how glad I am that Mrs Vache Folle's nephews are back spending weekends with their father instead of with us.

Parents talk a lot about how rewarding it is to have children, and I believe that they felt that the amusement and satisfaction that they would derive from their offspring would more than compensate for the cost and inconvenience and lifestyle changes. Otherwise, they would not have reproduced. I am pretty sure that a lot of parents figure out after it's too late that they miscalculated the costs and benefits, but they can't say so. They have to maintain the appearance that they are not suffering from remorse over their decision, and this is so even with the parents of Jeffrey Dahmer. There are parents where the satisfactions and the costs are a wash. Then there are parents who find way more satisfaction than they expected, like the parents of the Olson twins for example.

It is possible that I may have miscalculated the costs and benefits and that I would have been happy as a father, but I'm pretty sure of my own subjective preferences and reckon that I made the right decision for me. It wasn't even a close call, so a lot would have had to change to tip the scales in favor of reproduction. For example, a loosening of child labor restrictions coupled with free nanny services for everyone might have made a difference.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Adoption is Good.

Steve Scott reckons that the church could do worse than facilitating adoptions for orphans ( Here's what I see as the main obstacles to adoption:

1. It costs an arm and a leg to do a private adoption, and adoption from a government agency is not cheap, either.

2. Nobody wants to take on children older than two years of age. That's what we considered "beyond marketability" in the child welfare system. There's good reason for this. These kids are screwed up, if not by their parents then by the foster care system, and that's a lot to take on. You can't trust the agencies to be straight with you about the potential problems, and a lot of these kids will need a big subsidy to cover all the psych treatment they will want.

3. Nobody wants to adopt a child from a different race (unless it's a cute Chinese girl). Also, there are barriers to adopting across races as the know it all social workers who control public agency adoptions have a doctrine that it is harmful for black children to be raised by white parents and vice versa. WTF?!?

4. Social workers treat would be adoptive parents as child molestors and put them through excessive vetting, so much so that it discourages adoptions from public agencies.

5. There is a lot of risk and uncertainty with adoptions, and nobody wants to endure the emotional hardship of an adoption gone bad when a birth mother changes her mind or a birth father appears out of nowhere. The laws should be made to encourage adoption, not to protect the rights of marginally interested biological parents.

6. Many folks feel strongly that they could not love a child that did not contain their genetic legacy. Hence, the even more expensive fertlity industry thrives while children languish in foster care.

7. The usual scenario is to pretend that the adoptive child is a biological child, and this plays out in all kinds of melodramatic ways such as the terrible discovery, the search for the birth parents, etc. This makes adoption fraught with emotional peril. It's time for a new model of adoption which treats adoption as a perfectly legitimate way to form a family and one which stands on its own right.

I see a need for some social changes to facilitate adoption, to make it less strange, less of a last resort, more of a blessing (which it really is!). Let preachers extoll the virtues of adoption, and let churches provide the support system for adoptive families to deal with the real issues. Let churches provide subsidies for adoptive familes with special needs children, older children from foster care, and other problematic adoptions. Let churches provide legal assistance and arrange for pro bono legal assistance for adoptions from public agencies by lawyers of faith. Let churches provide day care so as to enable working families to take on adoptive children.

Children who are wards of the state are especially needy and vulnerable. They want rescuing in the worst way, and this would be a worthwhile ministry of any church. Churches could do worse than keeping tabs on foster kids in their parishes.

Metaphor Abuse Watch: God as Father

Thinking about the trinity got me to thinking about metaphors that become so overused that they get reified. Take God the Father and God the Son. Sure, Jesus was begotten of God, ergo God was His Father in some sense, but how far do we take the metaphor of fatherhood/sonhood? Fatherhood signified something altogether different back in the day in a patriarchal Middle Eastern society than it does now. Fatherhood is alll over the place for modern folks. For me, a father was an absent, distant figure. Is God like that? A stepfather, a surrogate father if you will, was a brutal judge out to destroy me. Is that how God is? The ideal father was a TV dad like Ward Cleaver or Mike Brady. Is God a TV dad? For me, if God were a kindly uncle like some I had, that would be a God I could get behind.


Sunday before last was Trinity Sunday. Naturally, the preacher's sermon was about the trinity. He went a little off the reservation and started telling the congregation about how leptons exist only in community but are actually different particles. This was supposed to be his metaphor for the trinity, and because there are so few physicists in the congregation it wasn't helpful at all. I got it, of course, but I don't think the others did.

The trinity is one of those things that I decided long ago to stop thinking about. Frankly, I don't see how being a little heretical or ultrorthodox about the trinity would make much difference to how a person lived as a Christian. John Calvin had Michael Servetus burned at the stake over the issue, so it evidently mattered a lot to him. Also, I just don't understand the various conceptions of the trinity and what they signify, so thinking about it makes my brain hurt.

Are there three gods in community or is there one god with three main aspects? Does it matter?

If Jesus pre-existed the universe or was begotten, having never existed before he was born, would those two conceptions translate into different practices for disciples of Jesus holding the divergent views? Why would it?

I believe in God the father, God the son, and the Holy Ghost. I don't understand how they are supposed to relate to each other, but I don't reckon that I need to. If somebody has some fixed ideas about this, I'm fine with that, although I would remind him that he hasn't really got anything to go on and might as well agree to disagree with his coreligionists who differ or who, like me, are indifferent. Don't bother inviting me to the auto da fe; I won't come.

OCD Gardener

The fabulous weather over Memorial Day weekend did a lot to get me out of the funk I have been stewing in these past few weeks. We puttered in the garden and cooked out all weekend. It was pure bliss. I stayed home all day on Memoruial Day so I wouldn't see any of that flag waving, jingoistic crap that pisses me off so much. I did not see a single WW2 veteran in a garrison cap sucking up all the glory intended for the war dead.

Jasper chased an eagle out of the yard, and he killed a garter snake. He's a douche, but we love him. He has begun to obey our rules about which part of the pond he can play around in, but he has also begun to target the water snakes as his principal quarry.

It got to 90 degrees today and humid as all get out, but it's storming now and will cool off. It's raining like hell, and that will be good for the garden, better than the little spritz we got last night. Of course, Jesse is freaking out about the thunder. He's under the desk right now sitting on my feet and chattering his teeth. He's all tangled up in the keyboard cord..... AAAGH! He ripped the cord out of the computer, and I had to crawl around to plug it back in. Jesse is a major wuss when it comes to storms. Jasper, on the other hand, is oblivious.

Mrs Vache Folle pointed out to me that I am even crazier than I thought. I'm not just anxious; I am obsessive/compulsive. Even the gardening is done in an unwavering "system" that I can't break out of. First, I have to weed and repair a defined area of the perennial beds, and I have to go clockwise around the house and pond. First time through was just clean up. This time involves rebuilding walls, mulching, adding soil, what have you. Mrs Vache Folle weeded ahead, and it was all I could do not to protest about it. It made me crazy that she had skipped an area in the rotation and was weeding willy nilly with no apparent system. I held my tongue. I was lucky that she wanted to help at all. Subsequent rounds will be just weeding and upkeep, but these will be done in an unwavering pattern.

Second, I dig two wheelbarrows full of sod from the front of the house where I am converting part of the grass into a large perennial bed. I place this sod in an area by the weir of the pond that washed away in a flood as part of my reclamation project (I earlier built up the rock wall in that area).

Third, I cover the denuded area with topsoil and mulch.

Fourth, I mine rocks from the mountain and haul them to where they will be needed for the next repair session. I must mine and haul 25 "rock equivalent units" or REUs as I call them to count as part of the work quota. The largest stone I can lift into the wheelbarrow is 8 REUs. A stone the size of my open hand is one half an REU. 25 REUs are the most I can get in one wheelbarrow load.

Fifth, I must remove 30 shovels full of muck from the pond. I place the muck on top of the sod by the weir. This involves getting in the pond and can only be done when the temperature is higher than 60 degrees. I could put on waders, but I just get overheated in them and so go in in my shorts and crocks.

Once I have done these five things, I can garden freestyle and do other projects, but I've got to get these things out of the way. They are each tedious and can only be done with pleasure in small doses. If I don't make myself do them, they won't get done, and they will be big honking chores later in the heat. I'm still obsessive and inflexible, even thouh the underlying reasoning is sound (or is it?).

I'm Sorry I Said That

The last post and comments on it set me to thinking about how I regard myself as a "feminist" but still use some sexist lingo from time to time. For example, I used to refer to some of the male executives in the company I worked for as "old women", and I did not mean this as a compliment. To castigate my hysterical and panic prone superiors in such language entailed a judgment that "old women" are in some way defective. The image I was aiming to convey was one of two old hens squawking and flapping their wings at the slightest stimulus or two frail and hypersensitive old ladies swooning at the slightest inconvenience.

Now I know for a fact that most old women are nothing like this. My grandmother was as courageous as anyone I ever met. Most old women I have had the pleasure to know have been as tough as they come (I wanted to write "tough old broads"), and they would make better executives than a lot of them as haunt executive suites. I wasn't thinking of grandmaw when I called those guys "old women". In retrospect, I reckon that I slandered old women, and I am sorry for that.

Another example I recall is that I referred to my baseball throwing skills by claiming that I had the "arm of a little girl". I was in a "masters" league and was at 40 the youngest member of the team. Because my teammates were as decrepit as they were, we "youngsters" were sent to the outfield where were expected to be able to shag flies better than the coots. Hell, the coots couldn't even cover the infield, so we ended up chasing a lot of grounders. I tore my rotator cuff in my throwing shoulder. Anyhow, I was employing hyperbole when I said that I had the arm of a little girl, and I was trying to evoke the image of a feeble young lass who had never learned to throw properly.

Now I know for a fact that a lot of girls have guns when it comes to throwing. My sister was an excellent athlete and far better than I at any sport. She could throw hard and accurately as could her daughter. I wasn't thinking of my sister or my niece or any of the other hard throwing gals I have known when I denigrated my abilities by comparing myself to a little girl. Come to think of it, it was a pretty shitty thing to say, and I'm glad I didn't say it in front of any little girls.

In both instances, my aim was to conjure up negative stereotypes pertaining to females for the purpose of talking in a derogatory way about men. Does that sound like something a "feminist" ought to tolerate in himself? I'm thinking not, and I aim to make adjustments. Using these stereotypes perpetuates them. Yes, there are nervous old biddies, and there are female children inept at throwing things, but there's no good reason to characterize entire categories as having these deficiencies.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wherein I Disagree with JL Wilson

It had to happen sooner or later. The erudite and interesting JL Wilson gets something dead wrong at long last. In this post about bigotry and sexism aimed at candidates (, he opines that you can make sexist wisecracks about Clinton without being a sexist. You could love all other women with all your heart and still call a woman that you dsilike a c**t without being sexist at all. By that logic, you could call Al Sharpton a n****r and nonetheless profess love for every other black person on earth.

I know where James is coming from. I've felt this way myself at times. I used to think Jews were ok except for those really Jewy Jews going on all the time about their Jewishness, wearing their beanies and working on kibbutzim in the summers. Then it dawned on me that this meant that I tolerated only those Jews who concealed or downplayed their Jewishness and that I probably had issues with anti-Semitism. If a Jew has to be more or less like a Methodist for me to accept him, then I've got a problem with Jews. Period. I've gotten over this, by the way, but having had the experience helps me to comment on the post.

I know folks who have a similar attitude about gay people. Gays are ok as long as they don't let anyone know they're gay, you see. And black folks had better not act all black. And women had better not be all uppity and feminist. It doesn't mean you don't like gays and women just because you want them to be subordinate and quiet, does it? Why, yes, it does.

A couple of other quibbles with James's post are: (1) if Alan Dershowitz is ever a serious candidate for president, anti-Semitic comments about him would be the least of our worries; (2) Joe Lieberman is as Jewy as Dershowitz and almost as big a douchebag, but their douchebaggery is independent of their Judaism, ie they would still be douchebags if they werre Baptists; (3) Elizabeth Dole would not have been the victim of sexist attacks because she would have been a GOP candidate, and sexist attacks mostly come from the GOP where sexism is de rigeur; (4) GW Bush was never likeable and was an obvious douche from the moment he appeared as a candidate except to the sizeable minority of dupes who voted for him and who were clearly not paying attention or were drunk; (5) his election and re-election are testaments to the stupidity of my countrymen and the unlikeability of John Kerry; (6) Al Sharpton is an in your face New Yorker, and it is acceptable to dislike him for those characteristics, not for being an uppity Negro.

My father has this kind of attitude about Jesse Jackson. He can't stand the guy, and he reckons it's OK to use racial slurs against him. It's not his blackness that makes Jesse Jackson contemptible to my father (at least I hope not), so I reckon he should call Jackson out for his opportunism and whatever other traits, which are independent of his race, and lay off the racial slurs.

I suspect that James was trying to say that it is permissible to criticize people of various races, genders, and other categories without hating everyone in the damned category. But you should do so in terms that do not relate to the category. I can't stand Liebermann, but not because he's a Jew, so I don't call him "that slimy Jew bastard" or "that beanie wearing, genital mutilating piece of shit" when I discuss him. I'm not crazy about JS McCain, but not because he's a Catholic or of Irish ancestry, so I don't speak of him as a "bog jumping, potato eating, mackeral snatching crapbag". If I did use such language, I would be casting aspersions on the whole category not the least by reminding Jews that Liebermann is one of theirs and Irish Catholics that McCain is one of theirs, something that the respective categories have no control over.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I was running some errands the other day when I had a full blown anxiety attack. I have not experienced this kind of anxiety for many years since I have been on medication. Sure, I've had bouts of slight social phobia and a sense of having lost my mojo now and then, but not a smack in the gut anxiety attack. I mentioned my plight later to a few friends who all asked what I reckoned was the trigger. I figure it was triggered by going into the Home Depot or that the Home Depot experience put me over the top.

Anyway, I left Home Depot with very little of what I went there to get and rushed home to safety where I managed to calm down considerably before I had to go out again. I managed to get the dog to the vet (he has some tick borne disease) and to pick up the car at the dealer. I even went to choir practice, all the while in a state of extreme anxiety. I don't think anyone noticed. If they did, they probably figured I was just another asshole.

By the time I went to the office the next day, I had calmed down to a moderately anxious state, whereat I hovered all weekend and where I remain at this moment. This would not be a big deal, I suppose, if I were not accustomed to feeling pretty good most of the time. I had begun to think of every day as a wonderful gift. Maybe that's the trigger. I know I don't deserve to feel so happy so some dreadful consequence is bound to befall me. Also, I had to go into the city to see a play (Patrick Stewart in MacBeth) and I drove too far eastward and ended up at frakking Times Square with all the douchebag pedestrians and incompetent New York drivers. We were late! Aaaghgh! The ladies got out and ran to the Lyceum, while we husbands looked to park. We ended up ten minutes late and were seated in the dark in the highest section in what seemed like a row of seats attached to El Capitan. It was so steep that I felt my acrophobia kick in, at which point the old hiatal hernia gave me crushing chest pains.

Aside from that, the play was pretty good. I felt quitely proud that I was able even to contemplate going into the city while in the throes of the demon. I could never have done that back in the days before I was medicated, let me tell you, not without a good stiff drink or twelve.

What's up with my meds, I wonder. I haven't changed them or the dosage except to increase it for some time. Do they just quit working sometimes? Is it possible that I should be anxious and just can't tell because I see anxiety as a signal that does not signify?

Endogenous anxiety is like having a door bell that rings all the time, even when nobody is there to ring it. It's like a phone that rings all day and night whether or not anyone is calling. It's like a smoke alarm that never stops beeping whether or not there is smoke. It's like a terror alert system that never goes below orange no matter what the real danger might be. It's like an air raid siren that sounds incessantly even when there are no enemy planes.

I felt this way 24/7 for years before I found out that medications were available and that this feeling was not a necessary aspect of being. It makes me anxious to feel anxious like this for so many days.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Doug Feith is a Zombie

I caught Jon Stewart's interview of Douglas Feith, and I am convinced that Feith does not have self awareness. He is not a sentient being. He is walking, talking evidence that consciousness is not necessary for a human to function at a fairly high level within the federal government. In fact, it may be an impediment.

I have long known that not everyone is conscious, that there are those among us who go through life, go to college, get jobs, have families, and do most of what the rest of us do except entirely without introspection and without any kind of inner life.

None of My Best Friends Is Black

I had another one of those "I'm not a racist, but...." conversations with a conspecific this morning. He was adamant that the plight of black folks was not his fault and that much of it is due to their want of the values that he and the "standard white family" hold. For instance, he reckoned that black families do not value education as he and his family do. When I suggested that, even if this were the case, perhaps education is less valuable under their circumstances what with its not in all cases producing the kinds of outcomes that he and his family were likely to enjoy, he pointed out that there are black CEOs who succeeded thanks to valuing education. My conspecific is not a CEO, but he attributes that to his circumstances, whereas black folks who are not CEOs owe their condition to character deficits. Any black person can be a CEO if he tries and gets an education especially since all the laws are "stacked in their favor".

I pointed out that everything he was saying was, in fact, "racist" and that he seemed to me to be about as racist as most middle class white guys of his age and background. He denied this and pointed out that his next door neighbor is black. They don't socialize or anything, but would he live next door to a black family if he were a racist?

I opined that racism was part of the structure of our society. Otherwise, 12% of my neighbors would be black as would 12% of the members of my church and 12% of my close personal friends. I would probably have black relatives if society were color blind. Clearly it is not color blind, and my conspecific and I can go about our lives and avoid black people almost completely without any effort or intention on our parts. My conspecific's main concern was not to appear racist or to admit that racism was such a powerful factor in society, so he insisted that the separation between races was a matter of preference for both races. How this assertion was incompatible with the thesis that racism obtains eludes me.

In the end, he started to admit that he might be a little racist. But the plight of black folks is still not his fault.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Short Science Fiction Story

The GOP's falling out with Big Pharma came in 2027 with the application of Pfizer for approval of Smartenal, its amazing intelligence enhancing drug. In trials, the drug had caused an average increase in intelligence in all users of just under 30 IQ points and a minimum increase in intelligence of 23 points. Separate studies of the experimental subjects suggested that users also experienced a marked decrease in religiosity and a decrease in self identification with the GOP. Freshman Congressman Herbert Starnes (R-OK), with the support of leaders of the religious right, characterized these additional results as "dangerous side effects". He sponsored a bill to ban Smartenal and similar drugs in order to do an end run around the approval process.

Smartenal and similar perfomance enhancing drugs were high on Big Pharma's agenda and were expected to generate unprecedented revenues. Moreover, it was expected that tens of thousands of collegians who might otherwise have become lawyers would become scientists instead with even more benefits to the industry. The industry was united in its resistance to the so called "Save Religion in America Act of 2027".

This was seen as the death knell of the GOP and the religious right, and enough fuss was made that hearings were held on the "dangers" of Smartenal. During the course of the Congressional investigation, it was decided that the Congresspeople in charge of it would try a single dose of Smartenal under controlled conditions. At that point, Congresman Starnes struck his forehead with his palm and shouted, "What was I thinking?" The Committee voted unanimously to suspend the investigation and to kill the SRAA of 2027.

In the last decade, just about everyone has gone on Smartenal. Some municipalities have started putting it in the water supply. One unexpected outcome of the widespread use of Smartenal has been the rise of the Libertarian Party to dominance.

Friday, May 09, 2008


When I was a bairn on the farm, my grandfather would give me jobs. He would always pay me a dime no matter how long the job took or how hard it was. He also gave me math problems to work out. "If you have eight acres to fence and a post at every eight feet, and posts cost $1,25 each, what will be your total cost for posts?" Looking back, I think he might have been trying to get rid of me.

My first job outside the family was working for a man who made stair treads from scrap carpet. I would ride my bike across the ridge and gather up scraps from the scrap into big heaps and tie them together with twine. I also got to cut some treads with a device that was pretty dangerous in retrospect. I was thirteen years old. The stair tread guy became a millionaire. He was the same guy who would get drunk and ride his daughter's Shetland pony down the road. Go figure. Dalton was a town of opportunity in those days. Damn my father for not becoming a textile millionaire!

Anyway, I gave up that job when I went to high school. Then I got a job at the new McDonalds on Interstate 75. I did a little of everything but mostly worked as a cashier because I could do all the sums in my head. In those days, we had a pad and a pencil and had to add the items together before ringing them up. It took a genius or an idiot savant to get it right. I was a whiz. The only thing that messed up my rhythm was special orders. Those were hard for McDonalds in those days. A burger without a pickle would throw a wrench in the works, let me tell you. The menu was simple then. No breakfast, no nuggets. Just burgers, the Big Mac the Quarter Pounder and the Filet O' Fish. Also pies and fries plus soda pop, coffee and milkshakes. I knew the price of everything and every conceivable combo. There was no reward for competence, so the gig was short lived. I moved on to the new Burger King for a brief stint.

I mowed many a lawn and hauled hay and did ad hoc and odd jobs throughout high school.

I worked at a bookstore and Hallmark card shop for a while. I got fired because I called in sick during the XMas rush. I got a work study job in the AV department of my community college.

I was a shipping clerk in a carpet factory. I was a night watchman many times. I was a substitute teacher for a few months.

My first real job after college was for an employment agency for teachers. All the company did was call school districts and find out what jobs were available. Then we'd refer clueless would be teachers to those jobs for ten percent of their first year's salary if they got the job. It seemed a lot like grifting, so I quit after a few weeks. I was an usher at a movie theater at night and quickly rose to become a relief manager. By day, I tried to sell expensive calculators for Monroe. I was a terrible salesman, so I decided after six months to give that up and go to law school. I kept the movie theatre gig, though. I also joined the Army Reserve and got an enlistment bonus. I spent the summer of 1981 in Basic Training and MP School.

In my second year of law school, I became a campus cop and left the movie business. That job got me tuition remission benefits and all the pot I could confiscate. It was a night job and involved very little in the way of actual police work. We didn't like to bust the students for anything what with their tuition payments being so important to the school, but we made quite a few arrests of intruders from the city. I had keys to everything. Some Arab guys offered me a bribe to steal an exam for them from a prof's office, but I declined. I had standards. I once arrested an entire fraternity and its pledge class and all their scrogs. Good times.

In my third year of law school, I figured I had better get some experience in the legal field, so I became a law clerk in a small firm in Silver Spring. I also did some work for a lawyer in Alexandria and another guy in Rockville. Because of injuries sustained in a car accident, I had to do my last year part time, so it became a four year program for me. I continued clerking while I awaited the results of my bar exam. It was a pretty interesting job, and I got a lot of experience with pleadings and motions practice in a general business setting. I wrote briefs for several appeals and worked on a crapload of commercial closings. I conducted investigations and handled the admin work for one of the partners in his capacity as a bankruptcy trustee. I got to conduct quite a few auctions. The firm offered me a job as an associate when I was sworn in, but I didn't want to end up like the other hapless associates in the firm, so I took a job with the Court of Claims of West Virginia and moved to Charleston.

This accounts for my early years. I was still trying to live out my dream of being a drifter.

The New Jews

Muslims, it seems, are the new Jews. Remember when you used to be able to say all kinds of crazy stuff about the evil Jews and how they were out to run the world or how they were ruining the countries they were in? Now it's Muslims that you can tag with any epithet and ascribe any conspiracy to. Did you know that Muslims drink the blood of Christian babies?

If you are anti-Muslim, and many Muslims are Arabs, and Arabs are Semitic, aren't you also anti-Semitic? Is any criticism whatsoever of an Arab country anti-Semitism? It sure is.

One of my acquaintances reckons that Mexicans are the new Irish. I beg to differ. Nobody ever cursed the Irish but then felt obliged to admit that they sure were hard workers. I reckon that the Russians are the new Irish.

Who are the new Italians? There aren't any. America learned its lesson.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Thinking Aloud About My Career Options

It should have been clear to me early on in my career that I was never going to amount to anything. I came from a working class family, and I went to second rate schools. I got through these schools on the strength of a prodigious memory and the good fortune of having relatively high intelligence. I was under the impression at the time that I was becoming "educated". I did not know that I was being sorted, indeed that I had already been sorted by my choice of schools and fields of study and circumstances of my birth.

In law school, I was sorted big time into the lowest quintile. I hated law school and could never make myself conform to the requirements that would lead to good grades. It's not that I was disinterested. I was very interested. I just wasn't interested in precisely what the professors were serving. I squeaked by and was effectively barred from a career in a major law firm by my pitiful class standing. I could not be counted on to conform.

I hated lawyers and lawyering for a long time. I still dislike lawyers of a certain ilk, but I have found a style of lawyering that I can abide and even take pleasure in. I decided that academia might be a better fit, so it was off to graduate school. Once I realized what I would have to conform to and what a miserable existence many of the academics lived, I knew that academia was no escape. It only took six years and tens of thousands of dollars to figure this out. I didn't want to get a PhD any longer or to be an academic. So I sorted myself out of school and back to work. Kudos to the faculty at Columbia for not concealing their misery and douchebaggery.

One valuable thing I got out of Columbia was a side program I pursued as an elective in conflict management and dispute resolution and peace studies. This training was life changing and enabled me to reimagine my profession. I am a first rate negotiator and mediator thanks in part to this training, and I use these skills to good effect as an in house counsel.

I know what it takes to succeed as an in house counsel, and I know how to add value to an organization. It is a way different kind of lawyering than what you experience in a law firm, and it can even be fun. I don't even think of a lot of what I do as lawyering since the negotiation of complex business agreements involves so much more than potential legal issues. It is more about relationships, and it feels more like being part of the team. You're involved before things go all to hell.

So I'm looking to get another in house gig by the time my contract runs out. I'd happily keep working as a contractor, and I'm open to that. Another alternative I have been mulling is to become specialized in something relatively obscure and consult on that topic. Right now I'm thinking of building on my environmental background or on some aspect of the logistics business. Maybe I'll go with maritime law or customs regulations or some such thing. I dabble in these now, so it should be easy to become an adept. I am also trying to win the MegaMillions lottery so that career issues will be mooted.

Political Punditry

I reckon Senator Clinton is hanging on in the race despite having lost is just in case some whackjob shoots Senator Obama. Then she'll be the obvious choice to replace him as nominee. She's also showing that she has quite a following. I'm going to vote for whichever one is nominated. It looks like Obama is the one.

Senator McCain is batshit crazy. That's what I've come to believe. I don't like to think of him as evil, but maybe he is. For the nonce, I'm going with crazy.

For the first time since 1960 and only the second time in over a century, the President will be chosen from the Senate. Usually, the candidate from the Senate loses, but one of these Senators is going to win. At least none of them will be able to tout their "executive" experience, as if being a governor or a Veep means doodly as preparation for the presidency. Some governors barely govern at all, because they are rendered weak by the constitutions of the states. Texas, Florida, to name two such states where governorship simply does not signify. The only meaningful preparatory experience is having ruled a sizeable country, but such highly qualified individuals are ruled out by the US constitution's requirement that the president be a natural born citizen.

It's time to start playing the "who are the likely running mates" game. My money's on Sebelius for the Democrats. McCain may need somebody really insane to excite the Christianist nutjobs. It's a quandary, since the running mate can't be so obviously out of his mind that he will frighten potential near normal voters.

This election will tell the tale about America. What is the ratio of dumbasses and douchebags in the population? McCain needs this ratio to be high. If he wins, after everything the country has experienced with GW Bush, we are indeed a nation of double dees. Fool us once shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. Fool us a third time, what is this "shame" thing of which you speak?

I was talking to one of the German interns at the office. He was surprised to learn that half of all Americans are of below average intelligence. This statistic bodes well for J Sidney McCain.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Giving Up, Sort Of

I have decided that I no longer expect that my libertarian ideals will ever be put into practice in my lifetime. When the KIngdom of Heaven is realized in its totality (and this could be trillions of years in the future) there will be perfect freedom and self government. For the immediate future, we are stuck with states or some yet to be invented meme complex that will supplant states as bases for social and symbolic control.

I'm still going to problematize the state and deny its legitimacy and try to evade its reach whenever I can, but I no longer expect anyone to pay me any heed when I do so, except for the secret and not so secret police.

That's a load off my mind.

Bird and Fish Report

On the bird front, the resident hummingbirds are back almost a week early. We sighted them on May 4. There is already a contest over the nectar silo between our usual bird and some interloper. We have rose breasted grosbeaks out the wazoo

On the fish front, we added some orange shiners to the pond. They're small and not likely to attract the heron too much. I reckon he's after frogs at this point anyway since he ate all the fish of any consequence already. They don't school as much as the comets and are active even when it is colder.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I Fought the Heron, and the Heron Won

Yesterday, I received my heron decoys. I installed my life sized fake heron, a fake alligator, and a couple of fake koi. I was feeling pretty smug about having outsmarted the heron, the destroyer of frogs, scourge of the fishes. This morning, less than 24 hours later, I opened the door to let the dogs out and sighted the heron fishing right beside the alligator. Mrs Vache Folle had told me this would happen, and now I'll have to put with her insinuations about my intelligence relative to that of a large grey fisheating bird.

To add insult to injury, a pair of mallards occupied the pond for a couple of hours. MY decoys seem to work as a kind of welcome sign for water fowl.

I have decided to tell myself that I am keeping the pond for the heron, doing my part to help out an endangered species.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

First Hummingbird of 2008!

When I got home from the office yesterday, I spotted a hummingbird at the feeder, the first of the season. He fled when I opened the sliding glass door to let the dogs out. Our resident birds would not have fled even if the dogs or people were standing right by the feeder, so I reckon this was a migrant on his way even further north. We put the feeder out early for the benefit of such migrants, but this is the first sighting of a transient visitor to the nectar silo.

It amazes me to think that these tiny creatures, like little jewels, fly such distances and find their way back to their territories. I envy them their winter homes in warmer climes. If I could swing it, I would stay in Costa Rica until May Day every year and stay in the Hudson Valley only during the pleasant months.