Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bible Study with Vache Folle: Lesson 2: Genesis 5-8

To recap the lesson Genesis 1 through 4: any similarity between these stories and the actual events of Creation is purely coincidental.

Chapter 5 recounts the mythical patrilineal genealogy from Adam to Noah. Fabulous genealogies are not uncommon, and they may serve to bind disparate clans into tribes and tribes into nations. The exceedingly long lives of the progenitors of Noah and Noah himself formed part of the basis for the famous calculation of Bishop Ussher that Creation took place in 4004 BC. We have no evidence outside this story to corroborate the claim that men once lived for up to a millenium, and I don't suppose that it signifies anything in any event. We might just as easily have skipped this and gone straight to Noah with a segue such as "And it came to pass many generations later..." It appears that this genealogy represents the line of the eldest sons (excluding Cain) of the eldest sons, and it is odd that these men sometimes waited centuries to father children.

Chapter 6 is chock full of tastes of what might have once been a more comprehensive mythology. Here we find the "sons of God" mating with human women and begetting mighty men. Also, God sets the human lifespan at 120 years, a number which is close to the human maximum life span to this day. Here also we find God regretting the Creation of every living thing and contemplating the destruction of life. He relents in this plan and instead decides to stary over with Noah and his family and an ark full of every living thing. Everyone and everything else is destined to be wiped out in a flood of a planetary scale.

In Chapter 7, God makes good on the threat to annihilate every land animal except the ones in the ark.

In Chapter 8, Noah waits for the flood waters to recede. God promises never to wipe everything out again.

Aside from this story, and similar myths about a deluge from that region, we have no evidence that any such global flood occurred or that mankind was reduced to a population of eight in the recent past. In fact, the entire story is utterly preposterous. Did Noah make it to Australia to gather up the marsupials and monotremes and then return them to their habitats? That would make a good story. Wouldn't the platypus have been mentioned somewhere? There was an apparent population bottleneck about 70,000 years ago which may have reduced the human population to about 10,000 souls, but I doubt that this was the inspiration for the story of Noah and his ark.

What do we gain from studying this myth? The idea that God might not have known what He was doing when he created life and that he was capable of regret. This is a far cry from the omniscient God we conceive of today who would have known that mankind would turn out the way he did and who would not have had to call a mulligan. The story is most interesting for what it says about the ancient Hebrew conception of God. Their God was more anthropomorphic and had a much smaller portfolio than our God today. Perhaps we should keep this in mind when we read the rest of the Old Testament. The concept of God has clearly evolved, notwithstanding the claim that He is the same Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Perhaps God is the same, but human understanding of Him is obviously not.

Other than the lesson that the ancient Hebrews had some very different ideas about God, a lesson which will doubtless be lost on many readers, I don't reckon this story signifies at all. We could have very well gotten along without it just fine with no adverse impact on theology. As far as I'm concerned, we could just start at Genesis 9 and be none the worse off. We may even be better off because the cognitive dissonance of considering a loving God who kills almost every human on earth could be avoided.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Review: The End of Faith

Sam Harris begins The End of Faith sensibly, in view of his thesis that religious belief is dangerous, with an accounting of the crimes done in the name of faith, particularly those forms of faith that involve belief in the literalness of Scripture, and because of faith. He is primarily concerned with the People of the Book: Jews, Christians and Muslims. He argues forcefully that literal adherence to the canons of these religions leads necessarily to conflict and barbarism and that it is necessary, if humanity is to survive, to moderate attotudes toward the canons at a minimum or to abandon faith altogether. He rightly points out that such faith admits of no discourse, tolerance or compromise and that it is foolish to exempt faith claims from criticism.

He had me there, and I wish that he had gone no further. For he follows this line of reasoning with a gratuitous digression about moral equivalency that has nothing to do with the thesis of the book and which is nothing more than the assertion of normative propositions about terrorists versus soldiers that are no more justifiable by reason than the religious claims he has decried. That he cites the moral giant Alan Dershowitz should be enough information to permit you to assess the quality of the detour from the subject without my spending any time on it.

Then he concludes with the argument that there is no reason, in principle, that normative propositions cannot be treated just like all other truth claims and that it follows that we may yet have the benefit of scientific ethics. Harris argues that love may be shown by empirical evidence to promote happiness in the lover and the beloved and that it might form the basis of a morality predicated on reason. This somehow precedes a rather lengthy apology for torture and mass murder of recalcitrant religious folks, so I suppose that the author's concept of love differs radically from my own.

In any event, Harris seems to believe that he is the first person to have considered whether morality might be grounded on fact, that one might get to an "ought" from an "is". He certainly makes no mention of the treatment of the problem by others before him. Rather, he seems to assume that the discovery of relevant facts about the universe will necessarily inform a set of universally acceptable and justifiable normative consequences. Harris leaves the details of how this might be accomplished to greater minds.

Certainly, if science debunks factual assertions that underlie a religious belief, one might expect a reasonable person to abandon the religious belief. Perhaps this is Harris's hope. If so, I reckon it is a forlorn one given how tenaciously even civilized people cling to beliefs that stand in direct contradiction to any evidence that one might put before them.

I reckon that the book might have been far better if Harris had been content to argue that religious fundamentalism is a threat to survival and that we ought to be more outspoken in our criticism of it. He might have expounded on this at greater length and discussed how mechanisms that separate religious institutions from coercive political power can be maintained and strengthened. Also, he might have paid more attention to the way in which views about the canons in religions can be moderated. Harris seems to suggest that to be a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew requires (a) adherence to the literal truth and divine authorship of the canon, or (b) the decision to ignore inconvnenient parts of it. There are other alternatives that Harris might have explored. For example, one need not accept divine authorship or literal truth or the equal authority of every part of the canon. Moreover, in the path so many follow, one may simply choose to be a rather lukewarm practicioner. The choice is not fundamentalism or apostasy. And there are good reasons to examine what drives individuals into the fundamentalist camp.

Does belief inform and drive behavior as Harris claims? Perhaps in some cases. In religious matters, however, it is equally plausible that belief is summoned to rationalize behavior. Harris does not delve deeply enough into the premises. This could have been a useful book with a little editing and less superficial treatment of core concepts. It comes off more than anything else as a thinly veiled anti-Muslim diatribe. Muslims are the only religious category that he proposes for destruction. Harris calls for a war against Islam but not against Christianity or Judaism.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bible Study With Vache Folle Genesis 1-4

Where I grew up in the Bible Belt, a lot of folks believed that the Bible was actually WRITTEN BY GOD. A lot of them were also pretty sure that it was written in English in the King James Version, but I digress. They reckoned the Bible was the inerrant WORD OF GOD to be taken completely literally as much as possible. I have never believed this even when I was a credulous child. Believing this seems to me to be insane and, given much of the content of the Bible, dangerous.

Here begins a series on what I, a wretched Calvinist agnostic, think about the Bible. Let's start at the big inning (there's baseball in the Bible) with Genesis, chapter 1. What does this signify and how might it be useful to us today? Nothing and probably no way. This is the Creation Myth of some nomadic pastoralists, and it is interesting perhaps because it sheds light on how those pastoralists viewed the universe. It shows that Man was created in God's image, whatever that means and that, contrary to later developments, "every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you" was given, among all the others bounties of creation. What do I take from this? Frankly, very little. I agree that God created the universe, but my universe is much bigger than that of the authors of Genesis.

Chapter 2 contradicts chapter 1 in that it has Man being created after God rested. Also, no vegetation had come forth, and the female came a little later. This is also where God plants a garden in Eden as a habitat for his human specimens. Evidently, Man was created west of Eden. The critical part, for me, is that "the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." This fits in with my belief that humanity's sin is sentience. When we were dumb animals, we were innocent and unashamed. But then, in chapter 3, our ancestors develop consciouness thanks to a talking snake who convinces them to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When humans have that, God worries that they'll eat from the Tree of Life and live forever like gods or angels and throws them out of the garden to live miserable lives of toil and sorrow. The snake was just a snake, not Satan. Everything the snake said to Eve was true, if you accept the premise of the story. And how could Adam and Eve not eat that fruit once they understood that it would make them wise. That's original sin- wanting to be wise/sentient/aware/conscious.

Adam and Eve probably didn't eat enough of that fruit because we're not all that wise/sentient/aware/conscious. Anyway, the trees and the garden are obviously metaphorical. The story tells us what the nomads thought about their God back in the day, but it's not much help to me now. I don't reckon humans chose to become sentient. It happened in the course of our evolution and was presumably part of God's plan from the moment the universe was created. Besides, if you accept the premise of the story, if God was worried that humans would become godlike, why did he put those trees in the garden with the humans where the humans were bound to eat from them? Or was it what He had in mind all along? If so, why the curses? They seem pretty gratuitous. The nomads who wrote Genesis blamed God for a lot of evil in the world and considered their pains punishment.

Chapter 4 includes the story of Cain and Abel, something which always troubled me. Why did God favor Abel over Cain, because Abel was a pastoralist and Cain a sedentary agriculturalist? And who lived in Cain's city in Nod? Why are we given this exposition of the descendants of Cain when, later, they're all killed in the Deluge?

Anyway, nothing in this speaks to me very much, and there's really no point in taking any of it as literal fact or to ascribe authorship to God. The God of the nomads appears to have walked around among people in those days and to have accepted offerings in person, so He is very different to the invisible, all encompassing God conceived of later. There didn't seem to be any law in those days. God dealt with things on an ad hoc basis. Kill your brother, get cursed but protected from harm. Make an offering? It had better be meat. All this tells me way more about the nomads than about God. In fact, the God of Genesis 1-4 is barely recognizable.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Random Observations

Clarence Thomas reckons that the state should be able to do pretty much whatever it wants to minors. They're not people. Go ahead and poke around in their drawers to see if they're hiding stuff in them even if you have no probable cause.

Three celebrities lost to us in one week. See how it happens in threes? I bet Mark Sanford is grateful that dead Michael Jackson got the attention off his philandering self.

I wish the wingnuts would STFU about Iran and how the US isn't butting in more. It would be stupid to butt in. The US probably can't influence what's going on there. Besides aren't these wingnut advocates of the reformists in Iran the same guys who wanted them bombed into oblivion a few weeks ago?

I just found out that the NBA still exists and has a draft. Who knew?

I like the GOP argument about the public option in healthcare. The government is inefficient, corrupt and incompetent and private health insurers can't compete with it.

Who are Jon and Kate and why do I care about their marriage?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


On Sunday, just as Mrs Vache Folle stepped outside to take a turn in the garden, a hawk snatched a jay off the feeder and made off with it before our very eyes. I had seen the same hawk a few days earlier make a move on a jay on the woodpecker feeder out back. I tentatively identify it as a Swainson's hawk.

Yesterday, two turkeys jumped the fence and wandered around by the outlet to the water supply land next door. Jasper did not know what to make of them and held back. I commanded him to "leave it" until the turkeys got up on the fence rail and then I cut him loose. I want the turkeys to learn to be wary of the premises since I don't want to clean up dead turkeys from all over the yard.

We have sighted downy woodpeckers on the hummingbird feeders lately as well as hummers and bees. This is a new phenomenon for us.

The neighbor's cat practically lives at our house. She keeps me company when I garden and occasionally startles the shit out of me by hiding under a shrub and pouncing on me all unawares. She drives the squirrels away from the feeder sometimes and waits for them in ambush under the peonies. She can't seem to catch a bird, though, so we don't mind her presence.

Crows seem to like bagels and will fly off with a half bagel with ease. You have to throw them pretty far from the house as the crows are very skittish and fly off at the slightest movement even from inside the house.

If the nursery labels a plant as deer resistant, it ain't necessarly so. That's what we found out. The deer ate the hostas this year but have so far avoided the lilies.

FOX is Crazy but not Like a Fox

If I were king, I wouldn't give any information or access to FOX "News". To get info out of my government, they'd need to file Freedom of Information Act requests. If they complained about it, I'd point out that we gave journalistic credentials only to actual journalists and treated as journalists only those individuals working for legitimate news gathering organizations or who were legitimate freelancers. Now and then an offical might go on an entertainment show, but FOX wouldn't be one of them because they masquerade fraudulently as a news gathering organization when in reality they are a propoganda arm of the GOP. Seriously, some folks are duped into thinking they're watching the "news" such is the level of education in this country.

Also, if anyone from the real news media referred to anything said by a FOX "News" talking head or some other right wing smear artist, the official response would always be "Why would anyone listen to that lying sack of shit?"

The same goes for the Washington Times and the New York Post.

I might even hire a team to follow the FOX smear artists and debunk their every utterance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Let Haters Say All the Hateful Shit They Want

What's to be done about "hate speech"? Nothing, say I. I want haters to self identify so we can keep an eye on them. I don't want to push them underground. What I'd like to see is a transformation in the hearts and minds of haters so that they no longer hated and, therefore, no longer engaged in hateful speech acts. This probably won't happen in my lifetime, so in the meantime let's keep the haters out in the open where we can see them. They're the ones we interview first when there's actual hate crime. They're the ones we keep under surveillance as most likely to blow up a building or murder someone.

Also I like to know who's a hater right up front so I can avoid hanging out with them or associating with them to the extent possible. I hate to develop a friendship only to find out that my new friend is a racist or a homophobe. That's inconvenient.

I Gripe About Worship Services

As he does so often, Steve Scott posted about something that has been troubling me, this time the centrality of the sermon in worship services (http://fromthepew.blogspot.com/2009/06/sermon-centered-life.html). I'm not a big fan of the sermon. They're too long if you ask me. You have to have three points and in our church at least two 1970s cultural references and this takes 30-40 minutes. And considering that the preacher has already done a welcome and announcements and will do a benediction and several prayers, the service begins to look a tad like the Pastor X Show.

I'm not saying our preachers' sermons aren't edifying. They're as edifying as any preaching I've ever heard. We have a couple of fine sermonizers on the staff. It's just that sermons seem to disrupt the mood set by other aspects of the service and make it even more of a spectator sport than I reckon it should be. What I'd like to see is a service without any preaching (except for those aspects of public prayer leading that are actually kind of preachy) and for the preachers to give talks on weekday evenings for as many as want to come out for some edification, admonishment, encouragement, prophecy, what have you. The public worship service could be devoted to music and prayer and fellowship instead of sitting through a lecture.

While I'm griping about worship services, let me say that I really hate it when the flow of the service is interrupted by unnecessary announcements of what we are about to do. It's all scripted in the bulletin. Everyone knows that when the liturgist starts the responsive reading, the congregation is supposed to respond by reciting the part in the bulletin where it is indicated. When the liturgist starts the group prayer, everybody already knows to read along aloud what's printed in the bulletin. When the liturgist reads the Scripture, he should just start reading. The reference is given in the bulletin, and everybody knows that they can follow along in the bulletin or the Bibles in the pews. If we didn't constantly interrupt the flow of the service, newcomers would present an opportunity for oldtimers to help them and to introduce themseves.

We already have a couple of occasions where there is no announcement as when the pastor concludes a prayer "in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray.." whereupon we recite the Lord's Prayer. The preacher doesn' stop and say "And now join with me in the Lord's Prayer as printed in your bulletins." That would ruin the moment. And when the organist or pianist starts the Doxology, nobody has to say "Now please stand and join me in singing the Doxology, the lyrics of which are printed in your bulletin." Everybody knows to stand and knows the words. (It's usually right after the choir's big offertory anthem, so I reckon it's a way to get a cheap standing ovation.)

There's no need to announce the hymns, either, but often the pastor feels obliged to say "Please turn to hymn number x in your hymnals and join me in singing." Pastors can't stand it when they're not talking. Maybe it's one of the few occasions where they get to tell people what to do following which they do it. In any event, the hymn numbers are in the bulletin and the placement of the hymns in the service is set out in the program. Moreover, the numbers are on a placard in front of the church.

What should we do with the time saved by cutting gratuitous announcements and long sermons? More participation and interaction by the congregation would be nice. Maybe some little dramas or a little more music would be nice. Maybe we could just get out on time for a change.

Another beef I have is the false dichotomy between "contemporary" and "traditional" worship. Why are we compelled to choose between a service consisting of sermon plus mindlessly repetitive praise songs flashed on a screen and a service consisting of sermon plus other more complex musical perfomances and dragging old hymns? Can't there be some common ground? Why can't the "contemporary" service feature a really impressive choral number once in a while and why can't the traditionalists be exposed to some interactive singing now and then? Let's get out of the box a little.

Finally, can we do something about the Lord's Supper? Once a month, the consistory serves up croutons and thimbles of grape juice in a really solemn ceremony that I can't help feeling is a pale exercise compared to what it might be. And stay away from the gluten free host if you don't have a problem with gluten. It's so dry that you need ten thimbles of juice to quench it. The consistory frowns on taking more than one thimble.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This and That

Mrs Vache Folle and I went to see The Hangover last night. It was among the funniest movies I've ever seen. Three men take a bachelor party trip to Vegas with the groom and wake up the next morning with no memory of what transpired and with the groom missing. They follow various clues to figure out what happened and where their buddy could be.

My mother survived the Holocaust, but she was way too young to remember anything about it. I wish I had discussed it with my grandmother and recorded her experiences. "What was the Holocaust like, Maw?" "Well, Dagwood (she sometimes called me that), we here in Whitfield County didn't even know there was a Holocaust going on until the war was over. It was a hard time, though, because all your uncles were off fighting in World War II, and I worried about them night and day. I'm sure the Jews had it a lot worse, though."

My neighbor was flying his Confederate Battle Flag the other day, but I don't know the occasion. I don't think it was the race thing. NASCAR races on weekends, doesn't it? Anyway, it seems so out of place in the Hudson Valley. I have mixed feelings about the Confederacy. I'm pretty sure my poor illiterate ancestors in the Confederate Army were hapless dupes who didn't see themselves as fighting for slavery. At least I'd like to believe that. I don't like it when anyone pisses on their graves so to speak by attributing motives to them that I doubt they had. On the other hand, they were traitors, just like their ancestors before them in the Revolution had been. The Revolutioners succeeded, though, so we call them "Patriots". The Confederates didn't, so they're just traitors, or more charitably "Rebels". For the most part, flying the Confederate Battle Flag these days is taken as an expression of racism. Even if you're intention is otherwise, you have to expect that it will be interpreted as racist.

I went to the gym today for the first time in weeks only to find that it was closed. The sign on the door said "temporarily" and laid it off to a landlord dispute. I went on line and found out that the chain was in Chapter 11. You wouldn't know it from the Sport & Wellness websites. They make it seem as if it's business as usual when clearly it's not. A reputable company would have some FAQs about the bankruptcy and information about how it was expected to play out on its websites. So I'm assuming that the club is not going to reopen unless somebody buys it. Here I was feeling guilty for the last month about not going to the gym when it was closed the whole time.

My nutcase neighbor who was disappointed in the election last November finally took down his sign that decried the Unites Socialist States of America and referring to Obama as Redistributor-in-Chief. It doubled for a while as an advertisement for Free Kittens. They really need to spay their cat. They still have their harpoon cannon aimed across the road.

I skipped church today. The choir is on hiatus for the summer, except for the women who sing on Father's Day. They get Mother's Day off while the men sing. In summer, the music is more ad hoc with small groups singing. In August, we have church outside under a tent. Anyway, I might not go to church all summer. I'm just not into church services if I have to be a spectator. I'm not a big fan of sermons and would just as soon skip that part.

My friend who was in the horrible car crash last summer finally had his innards reattached and enjoyed his first bowel movement in eleven months. I can't tell you how relieved I am that his recovery has gone so well. He's going to be in a lot of pain for a while yet. I didn't visit him in the hospital because I am phobic. The level of anxiety that being in a hospital as a visitor creates in me is intolerable. The place is crawling with sick people and germs. The only thing I hate worse is going to a funeral home.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The GOP is Still Evil

I have become convinced over the years that Democrats, for the most part, mean well. They really believe that good government can improve people's lives. Only, they're stupid. Republicans, on the other hand, do not have good intentions. They just want power and access to the treasury. They'll say or do anything to get and keep power because they don't give a shit about this country. They want what they can get for themselves, that's all. They're evil.

Democrats seem to think that they should be able to work in a bipartisan way. And they can as long as the other party is not the GOP. They don't seem to want to attribute to their counterparts in the GOP the evil motives that they seem to possess. The GOP will gladly attribute evil motives to anyone if it helps their cause even if the attribution is unsupportable.

Republicans don't care about being lying sacks of shit. It works for them. One or more of their surrogates may some outrageous claim or accusation which is then picked up by one of the right wing's captive "news" outlets (Washington Times, FOX, Weekly Standard, etc.). The surrogates and "news" outlets complain that the "liberal media" is ignoring the story, and then it filters into the mainstream media, The lazy assed talking heads at CNN and MSNBC and the like don't bother to look into the substance of the myths being created and disseminated and talk about them as if they were anything other than made up batshit lunacy. That's being "balanced" when you are too stupid or lazy to look at the facts. The mainsteam media has some right wing moles in it who make sure that the product of the right wing myth making machine get aired.

This works again and again because Democrats are too afraid or too stupid to stand up and call bullshit and shine a light on the machine. Except Al Franken.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Fight Nature; Nature Wins

I feel as if I'm back in Seattle what with the almost constant grey skies and rain. Of course, the rain is different. In Seattle, it just sort of misted and drizzled all the time. Here in the Hudson Valley, it comes in downpours with thunder and lightning and an agitated Carpathian Shepherd keeping me up all night even though he's mostly deaf. Quite a bit of the mountain drains through my creeks and pond and parts of my yard, and I sustained a little damage to a pachysandra patch that got in the way of a flash flood that the creeks could not contain. I have fixed it, and I am proud to say that I think I came up with a solution to divert the flow coming down off the mountain from the west side.

Earlier, I put in some "levees" where the flow from the bedrock heads into the pond to channel the water into a waterfall that I had erected with big rocks. The "levees" I made by making two berms of pond muck and planting grass on them. The flow from the fencelline now is contained between them and does not wash put my perennial beds. I can't believe I didn't think of this before. When I saw what happened to the pachysandras, I nailed some planks to the fence behind the pachysandra bed to stop (or at least slow) the flow off the mountain and divert it toward the southern creek bed. Smart, huh? I have put in a layer of sand and aim to plant grass in a layer of pond muck to fight erosion even more. I reckon anything short of a deluge will be covered.

Oddly, the basement has not gotten filled up with water due to excessive rain as it had in the past. In times past, it has been necessary during some storms to run a second sump pump to keep up with the inflow. The basement water comes from underground, and I have no idea why the groundwater flow would have changed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Making Your McMansion Pay

I bet McMansions would make good boarding houses. They usually have extra bedrooms and even bonus rooms that could be let, and their large kitchens make cooking for a group a breeze. Let's say you have a five bedroom house in a high end subdivision. You put your kids in one room and yourself and your mate in another, and you let the rest to strangers. I bet you could get $750 a pop if meals are included. It's hard to get an apartment for that little in the Hudson Valley, and solitary folks would be so much more comfortable in a family atmosphere instead of comng home to an empty flat. It's a win-win situation for everyone.

Would the neighbors have grounds to complain? Only if your boarders made nuisances of themselves. The neighbors would probably thank you for giving them the idea to take in boarders themselves.

If you got to know some Honduran landscapers, you could probably fit 10-15 boarders in your three spare rooms at $500 a pop. That would go a long way toward paying your jumbo mortgage.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Steve Scott is starting a new series on how we really read the Bible. http://fromthepew.blogspot.com/2009/06/scripture-american-style-1.html He's using red font to express the real meaning that we seem to give it. I look forward to the series.

When I was a kid, my King James Bible used red font to indicate the words of Jesus. Also, it had italics where words had been supplied in the translation. Only I didn't know that. I reckoned the italics meant I should emphasize those words when I read them, so I did. I sounded pretty stupid, let me tell you.

Anyway, I'm reading up on some of the books that didn't make it into the Bible. Some discoveries suggest that the Gospel of Mark was edited a great deal to remove content that the orthdox bishops deemed objectionable. It makes sense when you think about it. Mark is pretty choppy in places, and it ends rather abruptly. And what's up with the young man in the linen loincloth in Gethsemane? That seems like such a non sequitur. Was linen loincloth dude a bigger part of the story in the original Mark?

I suppose that the orthodox viewpoint was the only one that could have survived and flourished through the Dark Ages. The chirch had to be authoritarian and institutional. It is only now that it is safe for other versions of Christianity to be practiced, and I reckon it would be interesting to play around with different canons.

"Responsible White Separatists"

A spokesman for the white separatist movement remarked about the shooting at the Holocaust Museum: "The responsible white separatist community condemns this," he said. "It makes us look bad."

Holocaust Museum Shooting Suspect Had History of Hate, Signs of Breaking Point - washingtonpost.com

You know what makes white separatists look bad? Being white separatists.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

And the Nominees for Worst Legislature in the Country

Are New York State, especially the Senate, where a couple of crooks that the Democrats thought they had bought refused to stay bought and sold themselves to the Republicans. The worse of the two was made President Pro Tempore of the Senate and would become Governor if David Paterson died or was incapacitated. God help the State of New York.


My carpool companion is getting divorced, a process that's been in the works for months now. Meanwhile, he and his not soon enough to be ex-wife still live under the same roof, a situation that he once reckoned was a good idea for the sake of the kids but which is becoming increasingly intolerable as he embraces the divorce.

I reckon he's lucky to have a former divorce lawyer to commmute with, because I have been able (for free) to put him through the paces to get to the point where he can make rational decisions. He was the one who was blindsided by his adulterous wife, stay at home mother of three small children to whom my companion has devoted everything. He is a family man through and through, so the idea that he was going to lose his family was the ultimate blow. Seriously, his whole life revolves around hearth and home.

He went through the typical stages of the wronged spouse. At first, he was sure that his wife didn't really mean it, that she was just trying to get his attention, that the whole thing would blow over. I was pretty harsh with him during that phase. I pointed out that she was fucking somebody else and not him, that she did secretly set up a bank account, and that she was pretty adamant about getting divorced. I explained that she had been preparing for this for months, maybe even years, so that she was emotionally ready and poised for action. That's why it didn't seem upsetting to her. Her mind was made up. Say hello to reality.

Then he went through the "I'll do whatever it takes to save this marriage" stage where he floated all kinds of offers about how he would change, that they could work it out, get counselling, what have you. "Won't someone think of trhe children" also came into play. The dude was ready to live in a loveless marriage just for the kids and because he secretly believed that, given time, the bitch would come around and love him again. Again, I was pretty harsh. "She doesn't love you any more, if she ever did, and nothing you do or say can change that. You can't make her love you. If she changes her mind and begs you to take her back, great, but meanwhile don't be stupid. Look to your interests on the assumption that you're getting divorced. Your wife will use your vulnerability against you, so don't settle on anything until you get your head out of your ass."

Then he alternated between depression and anger for a while. This was understandable, but I told him that he had to make plans and decisions with a cool head. He wouldn't always feel this way. Eventually, he'd get over his hurt and anger enough to move on with his new life. And he'd be glad to be free of the shrewish harpy, at least as free as you can be with children together.

Now he's ready to protect himself and to work with his lawyer to get the divorce done with as little inconvenience to himself as possible. He still claims that he wants to have the kids with him way more than he probably really does, but that's what fathers are expected to say. If the ex-wife wants to saddle herself with a disproportionate amount of the burden of parenting, let her. You can always trade days with the kids for economic concessions. Down the road, she'll be begging him to take the kids more often.

One thing he can't seem to get past is that the court doesn't care whose fault it was that the marriage failed or that his wife cheated on him. I'm working on convincing him that the "Justice System" has nothing to do with justice. It really took him aback when I remarked back when the divorce process started that "nobody held a gun to your head". "This is what you sign up for when you get married and have children with someone. Didn't anyone warn you?" I reckon every marriage license should include a conspicuous warning: MARRIAGE MAY RESULT IN DIVORCE WITH YOUR SPOUSES TAKING HALF YOUR STUFF AND A LOT OF YOUR INCOME.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Will Never Get Up Early and Go to the Gym

Yesterday, I decided that today was going to be the first day of the rest of my life, that I was going to get my shit together once and for all. I set my alarm for 5 am and resolved that I would get up and go to the gym in the wee hours of the morning. It's so much more righteous to work out in the early morning and the opposite of my nature.

I reckon I was unconciously setting myself up for failure. I didn't sleep a wink all night and couldn't even dream of going to the gym at 5 when the alarm went off. What a maroon I am. I am dead tired at my desk and apt to fall out any minute. A power nap might not be a bad idea.

Anyway, I decided that there is no way that I will ever get up at 5 in the morning to work out. It's not in my nature. I shouldn't even think of resolving to get up earlier than I absolutely have to.

When I had drill sergeants screaming at me, I could get up and exercise. Otherwise, it isn't going to happen.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Vacation Plans Made

I booked a cruise in the Western Mediterranean for late November. We haven't done anything cultural in a while, so we're visiting a sampling of cities. We'll have a few days in Barcelona before the cruise.

I was amazed at how inexpensive the actual cruise part is (less than $500 per person for a week), and the whole thing with air, hotel and cruise is less than $4K. Of course, excursions are extra, but most of these are under a $100 per person. Alcohol is extra, and the bar tab broke the bank on our last cruise. This time I have a plan to moderate alcohol consumption by putting off my first drink until our predinner visit to the wine bar. Also, I will drink only when Mrs Vache Folle drinks, so unless she turns into a boozehound between now and then, we'll spend way less on beverages.

Another costly item for us on our last cruise was the spa. We had massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, what have you. And it added up, let me tell you. Nowadays, we have regular appointments for massages and facials and nail care, so we won't feel any need to treat ourselves to these things at three times the cost while we are on the ship. I am used to my regular masseur and nail care professionals who are way better than the staff on the ship. Instead, we aim to get the "spa package" which for about a $100 each gives us access to the sauna, hydrotherapy pools, whirlpools, steam, and the "quiet room".

With excursions and souvenirs and wine, I'm hoping to do the trip for under $5K.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Bugaboo Creek

Mrs Vache Folle and I went out to dinner with some friends on Saturday to Bugaboo Creek, a steak restaurant in Poughkeepsie, presumably one of a chain, that has as its "theme" the Canadian Rockies. The food was palatable (I had smoked spareribs) and a "Bunyan Onion" appetizer. The latter is the same as a "Bloomin' Onion" that you'd get at the Outback, but it's name reflects the fact that Canada has forests, perhaps even some that legendary giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan visited. There were unlimited refills on nonalcoholic beverages, and I must have downed a gallon of iced tea before I realized that the waiters were surreptitiously replacing my beverage container any time it got to half empty.

The main dining rooom, where we were seated, featured an animatronic mounted bison head that would come to life at intervals and crack wise. The first couple of times, it was amusing. Even more annoying was the policy of commemorating birthdays with a parade of chanting and singing waitstaff, one of which was carrying a muppet mounted moose head that would maul the celebrant. There must have been thirty birthday celebrations during our dinner. Every few minutes, waitstaff would come over and ask us "How's everything tasting?" I had to admit that everything tasted pretty good. I hope that there are defibrillators strategically placed around the premises, because arteries are acloggin' at Bugaboo Creek. That's the only thing that makes the talking decapitated ruminants and the birthday celebrations bearable.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

It Sucks to Be Me

I learned from my doctor the other day when we were reviewing my lab results that my triglycerides are way too high. I need to lose weight to get them down. My doctor suggsted that I check out Medifast because my antianxiety medication causes me to gain weight and makes it hard to lose weight. It's not my fault! It was the meds all this time. Self loathing can now be moderated. My plan is to taper down on the meds and quit drinking alcohol since it interferes with the meds in the first place. Also, I'll eat better and less and get more exercise. At least that's what Morning Guy aims to do. Evening Guy or Tomorrow Guy may have other ideas.

One of my big issues is guilt. I feel guilty all the time. Often I know that what I am about to do is going to result in intense feelings of guilt, but I do it anyway. I never made the leap to guilt as a deterrent. I blame my mother for this since she played the guilt card so much that it became meaningless. My guilt is unceasing and serves no purpose. It's like a phone that rings all the time whether or not anyone is calling. I feel bad about maligning my mother just now. I am a shitty, shitty son. Anyway, if only I could channel my guilt into helping me take healthy decisions. I am such a worthless wretch.

Also, my testosterone is way low, another side effect of my meds. Aside from reduced libido, this doesn't have any adverse impacts. I've been married to the same woman for over a quarter of a century, and I don't reckon I want to do anything that would upset our routine of quarterly sex, so I'm not going to get treatment for the hormone level. I might take some OTC supplements or some such thing, but no testosterone cream for me, thank you. Sex=guilt. I don't blame Mom for this. This was the Baptists. After sex, I want to apologize right away. Thanks for nothing, Baptists.

Other than the two anomalies, my blood and urine read normal. My good cholesterol was high and my bad cholesterol was only slightly high instead of astronomically high as it would be if I didn't take meds. I feel OK except for some fatigue (meds again). Now I'm worried about some hidden defect that, having been lulled into a sense of healthfulness by the lab results, I will fail to observe in time to treat. Damn it! I can't feel good about anything for even a minute.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Forget Personhood

When we ascribe personhood to an individual or category of individuals, this is ultimately based on arbitrary metaphysical assumptions about which it is pointless to argue. What we can do is discuss the practical, real world ramifications of the ascription or denial of personhood in particular cases. Even then, we will ultimately bump against subjective value judgments about costs and benefits and priorities, but it is nonetheless useful to get past the stage of "x is a person" versus "no it isn't" and to engage in constructive dialogue.

Suppose that I adhere to the irrational normative proposition that all spermatazoa are "persons" entitled to the rights and privileges apputenant thereto. After all, given access to an egg and a womb and just the right conditions, the sperm could become a human. This implies that I might support measures, however inconvenient or costly or draconian, to prevent the mistreatment or unnatural death of sperm. What do we gain by ascribing personhood to sperm? Nothing other than the satisfaction of appeasing me and my ilk in the "masturbation is murder" movement. In fact, we take on an onerous burden with no objective payoff for the social order. After all, sperm can't reciprocate. I don't deal with sperm in any manner that resembles my dealings with other "persons". Sperm don't respect my rights or personhood, and they can't even violate them of their own volition. Ascribing personhood to them seems ridiculous for these reasons and because of the difficulty of enforcing spermatazoa rights.

One might make the same arguments about human egg cells. What's the point of making them persons and recognizing rights? It is possible that a proponent of ova rights would use the ova as person argument as a justfication for the consequences of such a stance. It might suit the advocate of ova rights to limit the movement and freedom of women and to maintain an intrusive surveillance apparatus for reasons utterly unrelated to ova with ova rights being a tool to bring unwitting dupes on board with his program. Otherwise, nothing is to be gained by recognizing ova as persons.

The same goes, I reckon for an ova which has been fertilized by a spermatazoa. The fertilized egg is in no better position to recognize my rights or to violate them or to reciprocate with me in any way than the sperm or the egg that it once was. Affording it personhood does nothing other than diminish human freedom with no payoff other than appeasement of the subjective, irrational beliefs of a portion of the population. Those who call the fertilized egg a person must expect consequences to flow from the ascription, and it is likely that many who do so understand their position as a means to obtain mass support for the application of measures which protect fertilzed eggs at the expense of actual sentient human beings.

Suppose the egg successfully plants itself in the uterine wall. Nothing has changed really for the purpose of our analysis. Nothing is gained by calling it a person, and a big burden is shifted onto actual sentient human beings. The cell divides and begins to differentiate, and all along the way it remains incapable of respecting another human or reciprocating with us in any way.

At some point, protecting the fetus becomes sufficiently less costly and inconvenient that it begins to make sense to offer it some legal protection. It is not necessary to characterize it as a person in order to do this. And the interests of the actual sentient human being who carries the fetus should certainly weigh heavily and take precedence in most cases.

Let's not get caught up in whether a fetus is a person. Let's just decide what protections a fetus ought to have under various circumstances and leave it at that. After all, children aren't persons, at least not in the full sense of the word. Their rights are hugely constrained, and we expect little of them as moral agents. We afford them protections commensurate with their situation, and their personhood doesn't really play into it. Personhood for children has implications that are very complicated and that contradict traditional social norms. It is only when we come to those who have attained majority that the concept of personhood has any meaning.

Roe v Wade was, in my opinion, rightly decided. If one accepts that the enumeration of rights in the Constitution is not exclusive and that other rights nonetheless exist, that the notions of what those rights might be can evolve over time, that courts traditionally make law to deal with social developments as they have done in the creation of the evolving common law since time immemorial, and that certain rights carve out areas of life where the government is simply not empowered to act, Roe v Wade rings true. Given the development of jurisprudence vis a vis the 14th amendment and the application of federal constitutional rights to state actions, we can set aside the states' rights objection for the time being. It is one of the few decisions that stand for the proposition that the sovereign's power is not unlimited.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tools Against Terror

The power of the executive to detain terrorists without trial for preventive reasons would come in handy in the investigation of anti-choice terror cells in the wake of the assassination of Dr Tiller. If you even knew the assassin, you're probaably a terrorist and eligible for preventive detention. You can't be too careful, so if in doubt detain, dtain, detain. Those FEMA camps will come in real handy, too.

Thanks to the ability to use "enhanced interrogation techniques", which the government would have to do to prevent any ticking time bomb scenario from unfolding, the confessions and the informing will come quickly. The government will, if it deploys all the tools the prior administration claimed the authority to use, can rid us once and for alll the anti-choice domestic terror movement.

Murder by Domestic Terrorists

Let's say I'm a hacktacular TV commentator who wants to see an abortion doctor get killed. How do I go about it without risking liability? I know that there are domestic terrorists, many of whom are regular viewers of my show, who are willing to kill abortion doctors, so I'll just vilify the particular doctor on my show and wait for a domestic terrorist to do my dirty work.

I'd be just like one of those clerics who issues a fatwa, except I wouldn't ever say out loud that I wanted the docttor killed. My domestic terrorist viewers know what I mean. Wink wink.

Of course, the public will be horrified, but that won't have an impact on me because I work at FOX and my viewers are douchebags who will approve of what I did.

Whom should I choose as the next target for domestic terrorism?