Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Oh, Just One More Thing

Something else that I forgot about last nite. This is also something I'm stealing from Zoe.

The Garden of Eden. If Eden was so great, if it was supposed to be paradise on earth, what the devil was the serpent doing there? God couldn't keep it out? What a load of crap. Zoe nailed it. How could either Adam or Eve know about the devil? How could they have known about anything? Did god educate them? Or did they learn from the serpent?

Why would any god create sentient beings only to set them up as it were by exposing them to evil without any prior warning? Were they just supposed to intuit right and wrong? Why create naturally curious beings who can reason and make judgements, then condemn them as sinners and expel them from the Garden, simply for using their natural "god given" abilities? What kind of a creep is this god?

If human parents did something similar to their children, the kids would likely be removed from the home and their parents arrested for abuse. Humans have a superior sense of right and wrong and justice than the gods depicted in the bible, the talmud or the koran. These respective gods are supposedly all powerful but are also jealous, demanding and supremely spiteful. And why would an omnipotent god need people to carry out his vengeance?

As I noted in my last post the god of the old testament was want to wipe out any number of people at a single stroke as punishment for the merest of infractions. We, at least, attempt to match the punishment to the crime.

What's up with god, anyhow?

Take the 7 plagues he inflicted on the Egyptians. What was that all about? If god is omnipotent and omniscient why did he take such ineffectual actions? Given his omniscience, god had to know that the Egyptians would not buckle under the pressure of the first 6 plagues. Presumably, god could have done something much more effective from the get go. This has the feel of a god who gets his jollies by watching people suffer. Were the Egyptians all that bad? Were they any worse than dozens of other oppressive civilizations throughout human history? I'd say NOT!

I guess I could go on ad nauseam. I know I have in the past. But I'll stifle myself. After all, I've made it obvious that I have no particular ideas of my own. I just usurp them from others. At least I gave them proper credit.

Apropos of nothing:

I've decided to let my eyebrows grow out. I was going to stop at, say some narley Bob Knights, but now I think I may go all the way to the penultimate and do Andy Rooneys. What do you all think?


What are ya gonna do?

A comment I received on my last post, and a news item brought to my attention by Zoe in her latest post on A Complicated Salvation made me sit up and blink.

The comment noted a very brief passage in the bible, specifically in 2nd Kings 2:24 & 25 which notes that as Elisha is making his way to Beth -el he is accosted by a group of boistrous children who chide him about his being bald. For this, Elisha turned back to them, cursed them in the name of the lord who then obligingly sent two (she) bears out of the woods who then kills 42 of those evil children. Serves em right, by god! All this happens in the space of 2 verses.

"Hey, Elisha, anything interesting happen during your trip to Beth -el?"

"Naw. Well, there were those kids who made fun of me because of my hair loss.:

"No! How could they?"

I don't think they'll be doing that again, though."

"Kids today."


"Praise the lord!"

It's little tidbits like this, that unless you are really familiar with the "good book," will just slip by the casual reader. According to some other sources, there are many such horrific happenings either done directly by god or with god ordering his earthly minions to carry out his bidding. Much of this happens in the old testament, but not all.

The item that Zoe mentions relates to a Sunday school teacher in Watertown, NY who was summarily dismissed from her position by the church elders and supported by the minister of the First Baptist Church owing to a passage (again, just 2 brief verses) found in 1st Timothy 2:11 & 12 which states: Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

Again, in and of itself, it may be only an isolated incident of stupidity on the part of overbearing, self-righteous men, but it also may well be symptomatic of the main stream churches attempting to stem the tide of their parishioners who have been leaving for the stricter, generally more fundamentalist mega churches.

On a related note, I see that good old Katherine Harris of "hanging chad" fame, now a congressional candidate for her Florida district recently stated that the notion of the separation of church and state is a lie put forth by evil liberals in their efforts to undermine the church.

First of all, that is just bullshit. The idea of separation came from statements made by a number of our founding fathers including Jefferson and Adams, and such references can be found in the Federalist papers.

But, I would say here, that even if no such statements had been made by those venerable men, so what? They did not live in today's world. There's was a much smaller, much more provincial, insular and much less cosmopolitan world, not that far removed from the heyday of the early puritans. We have learned a great deal about the differences amongst world cultures than was known or understood in the 1780s.

Even so, they did see the wisdom of establishing and maintaining a separation of the workings of government and the various churches which had established themselves throughout the colonies. They recognized the likelihood of conflict should one church be given special dispensation while others were not. Instead, each sect was allowed to go about their business more or less unfettered by the state, but allowing none to be given special recognition or access over any others with regard to matters of state. It may well have been one of the more brilliant moves made by those hard working gentlemen in the heat of Philadelphia summers.

Now, there are those who would rent that separation assunder to promote their own religious agenda to the status of a state sanctioned theocracy. Do we really want an American Taliban government?

Also, briefly: Kudos to the federal judge in Detroit who knocked down the administration's unfettered eavesdropping. Of course there are conservatives stating that this is another example of liberal judges running amok. However, I see it as the proper application of constitutionally prescribed "checks and balances" which was another stroke of genius by our founding fathers.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Temporal Vs Spiritual

Jazzy Cat and I have been bantering back and forth about a variety of issues pertaining to religion, god, morality, conservative and liberal politics, and so on for the last several months. For the most part it has been an earnest and generally amicable debate.

The ultimate problem is that we are essentially speaking different languages, or to put it another way, our focus is on wholly different things. My concern is temporal - the here and now - life on this world. Jazzy is focussed on the next life. His view is that our life here is simply a precursor, an opportunity to qualify for eternal life in heaven. Failure means eternal hell. One must stay on one's toes.

I, on the other hand, believe that this life is all we get. There is nothing beyond.

Consequently, it is difficult, if not impossible to come to a consensus. This lack of consensus concerns more than the two of us. Christians, especially fundamentalist, pentecostal, evangelical and charasmatic, born again christians and true believers of other faiths more or less share Jazzy's view that our worldly existence is important only as it pertains to one's achieving entry into eternal bliss. Therefore, their take on the proper manner in which to live is perceived through a different prism as it were. They are playing one game. Secularists are playing another. Only rarely do the twain meet.

As it happens I stumbled upon the following definition of an atheist, if you will, from the American Atheist web site:

An Atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist accepts that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth – for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist accepts that he can get no help through prayer, but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and to enjoy it. An Atheist accepts that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment."

Ergo the difference in perspective.

People who were the original impetus for this blogging effort, the raptiles, are wholly focussed on the hereafter which they believe is coming soon to a theatre near you. Beyond that, they are not concerned with any coming attractions. It is difficult to get their attention. They are so preoccupied with being swept away to paradise that they can't be bothered by earthly matters.
While the raptiles make up a relatively small percentage of the born again, all believe as I noted at the beginning, that one should focus his or her efforts toward the next life, not this one. Their concern is with gaining the favor of god. Consequently , they define morality and proper behaviour narrowly primarily via interpretations of the christian bible or other supposedly "holy" books.

While I am sure most people would agree, whether they believe in a god or not, that enmeshed in the often difficult to decipher texts of these works are the bases of a generally sound morality - that rules for properly ethical behaviour can be found within their pages. However, such can be found in other, secular writings as well, both ancient and current, without all the otherworldly rigamarole, and the humbling of oneself before some higher power.

The problem I have with religious based morality, is that it ultimately falls short in dealing with the here and now. In the end, religious morality lacks true compassion for human suffering. Suffering is often looked upon by true believers as either just penalty for sin, and/or as say, with Lot, a means to finding one's way to god. "Let them suffer. It's good for their souls." That was pretty much the justification for the slaughter that came with the Spanish Inquisition and the dunkings and burnings of supposed witches at Salem.

It is not an accident that most fundamental christians are conservative republicans. Most share the puritan ethic of self-denial, intolerance and stern judgement of other's behaviour. (As to the latter, I don't know where "judge not lest ye be judged" fits in.) The notion of "compassionate conservatives" is, in my view, a contradiction of terms. Compassion is essentially contrary to the conservative world view. "One must pull one's self up by one's bootstraps." Unfortunately, millions of people have no boots, let alone straps on which to pull.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006


My wife and I watched the DVD of the film Syriana last evening. As I had heard, it is a rather convoluted and hard to follow story. But, to me at least, there was one rather glaring message to be taken from it: The world of big oil, big politics, greed, war, etc., are all intertwined and very dangerous.

As I have noted, US involvement in Iraq has much less to do with Saddam Hussein, nation building, or the spreading of democracy, than it does with oil. Oil is the resource of the day. Countries all over the world are pretty much willing to do anything to get it, the US included. (At one point in history, briefly, the resource of choice was tulip bulbs. But that's another story.) Bush and the rest are simply lying when they deny that oil is our primary interest in Iraq and much of the rest of the oil producing middle east. It is in the interest of the Bushes, who have long been heavily involved with the oil industry, and many others to maintain a huge demand for oil in this country. Their interest in developing new fuel resources and systems is only proportional to how much they can make out of it. The only way oil will be displaced as the fuel of choice will be when the powers that be are in a position to dominate and control whatever that resource may be.

The great majority of humanity has little or no control over how government and business are run throughout the world. Such power remains with the very few. The Bushes, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etal, are at the center of this power structure. Radical muslims and others are seeking a new paradigm. They wish to displace the US - and the west in general - as the ultimate brokers of world power and wealth. The Chinese are waiting in the wings to make a similar move. I personally don't believe that it is necessary for the US to be at the center of power, but at what price will we lose it? Is there any means by which such power and resources can be redistributed and equitably shared throughout the world without major conflagration?

We continue to ignore the lessons of history. Now that the US stands alone as the world's only so called "super-power," we also stand as the largest and most vulnerable target of all others who want to ascend the hill and knock our smug asses off of it. If we don't achieve some level of humility and stop flaunting our supposed superiority in this world, we will find ourselves being bodily thrown from the top of the hill and into the abyss just as happened with the Romans, the Spanish, the Hapsburgs, the Ottomans, and the English among others. They all believed they were exceptional, the chosen of god. When you are at the top, there is nowhere to go but down.

Instead of insisting upon standing alone on the perilous and narrow apex through our military might, we should endeavor to broaden the plateau and invite others to join us. Or perhaps a more apt image is that of the US voluntarily stepping off the mount to join the masses. It may be the only way in which this country might survive - for a bit longer, at least.

All things change. The US is a relatively young country which rose rapidly to the top of the heap. We could fall even quicker and much harder unless we use our current advantage taking the lead in an effort to level the playing field rather than setting ourselves upon an even higher and more unstable perch.

There are those who contend there just are not enough resources to go around. But when something like 2% of the people throughout the world control well over 98% of the world's wealth and resources, that becomes a rather difficult pill to swallow. As long as there are "have nots," the "haves" will always live in peril. Unless people stop promoting narrowly defined agendas - religion, nationalism, race, etc., we are doomed to living in a divisive, deadly competitive world which will always keep the larger proportion of its people trapped in lives of desparation. And now, many such people have 21st century weaponry to use against their perceived oppressers.

Is this the best legacy we can leave our children? All the crap that people of my generation spewed about regarding "peace and love" has disappeared and/or degenerated into the same old greed and lust for power that we supposedly found so objectionable in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Some young people today are taking up the same message , but a great majority are pretty much hypnotized by technology - video games, lap tops, picture phones, text messaging, IPods, etc. I am a believer in the great potential that technology has to offer, but we need to stop being mesmerized by it, and believing technology is the ultimate goal - the end in itself. Technology is simply a means to achieve more, to make life better for everyone. Not just for somebody who has the means to accumulate the most toys.

If a greater number of young people had gotten off of their dead asses and voted as they could have in 2004, GW would have likely been a one term wonder just as his father was. Instead, we are doomed to listen to his dyslexic, inane blather for another 2 plus years. The boredom with which many people in this country - young and old - view politics, voting, etc., may well get us all killed. As it is, we have lost over 2000 of our young men and women and countless thousands of others have died because GW just had to avenge his father's honor, and save the world from Saddam and those dastardly weapons of mass destruction. What a croc. You believe that crap at your own peril.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Quick Trip to Florida

My wife and I just completed a rather whirlwind trip to Florida and back late Thursday nite. We left Monday around 3:00PM and arrived in Atlanta around 4:00AM. It shouldn't have taken quite that long, but we got caught in the traffic back up from hell between Lexington and Knoxville on I75. A fatal accident between 2 semis (we were told) resulted in the complete closure of the southbound lanes from around noon to after 11:00PM. we were routed onto a 2 lane highway, Route 25, for about 30 miles which was bumper to bumper the entire way. We lost about 3 hours on that little excursion. My wife asked a cashier at a small gas station if there wasn't another way to go, if there weren't some "side street" as she put it. The cashier responded saying, "Honey, Route 25 is the side street." It was the pits. We had also experienced a back up in Cincy as we arrived there during rush hour, and another long wait in Knoxville due to overnight construction.

We hit the sack immediately in Atlanta, but were up around 9:00AM and on the road by 10:00 or so. The remainder of the trip was more or less uneventful except having to run the gauntlet of numerous construction zones.

We arrived at our destination at around 3:00PM. My son is starting grad school. The trip was made to facilitate his move from Chicago. The place is a university town. It has no other apparent reason for being.
A few weeks ago, my son rented an apartment, sight unseen, on-line. He proudly stated that his building is on the register of historical buildings in the area. I noted to him that just means the building is old.

We did most of the typical "parents dropping their kids off at college" things such as getting odds and ends of furniture, stocking up at the grocery, etc. Oddly, we never set foot on the campus. We drove around it, but never on it.

We made dozens of trips up and back down the one flight of rickety steps to his 3 room flat - it does have a nice, almost level, veranda across the front of the building - to deposit his worldly goods. We had dinner at a little place my son is thinking might wind up being his favorite haunt (While in Chicago he loved a little place on Clark St. called Kopi,) and after a look at some maps and a bitter sweet farewell, my wife and I hit the road in the rented Ford stretch van, now relieved of the load it carried during the trip down just after 9:00PM Wednesday evening. Again, we made for Atlanta where we arrived at precisely 3:00AM. We hit the road around 10:00AM Thursday morning. We stopped a few miles north at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast and then toodled north for about a half hour. My wife noted that she would like to stop for a restroom break, and that she would take the wheel for a while which I welcomed. We re-entered I75 and drove again for about a half hour only to discover that we were once again in Atlanta. Oops!

That and some very heavy rain around Bowling Green, KY were the only particularly notable events during the return trip. We did have the pleasure of driving around Chattanoga, TN in late-afternoon. I had been through there several years ago, but had no particular memory of it. It is truly beautiful country. The view of the low mountains surrounding the town was enhanced by recurring and huge bolts of lightning - a precurser I suppose of the storms we were to experience later. We later figured out that we managed to average around $100 per day for gasoline.

We walked in our back door at around 10:30 last nite. Needless to say, we were beat. We spent a good part of today just kind of walking around in a zombie-like haze.

Another thing about the south I had forgotten: The power of Kudzu. Kudzu may well conquer the world before and more completely than any good old christians, muslims or the Chinese. It looks a good deal like topiary, but I think acts as more of a shroud, as I presume it tends to kill its hosts over time.

Oh, yeah. The south is hot! And Florida has reptiles of all sizes.

Anyhow, we helped set our younger son off on his new, and perhaps, life defining adventure. All three of us are trepidatious about how it will go for him over the next couple of years. I think he hated to see us go, almost as much as we hated leaving him there. We had taken a small battery powered black & white TV with us, and for a while Wednesday evening, Jo and I sat on his veranda and watched a rerun of one of the ubiquitous "Law and Order" episodes. Later, on the phone Chris said that he wished we were still sitting out there watching TV while he started to put the next chapter of his life together.


Sunday, August 06, 2006


Just a bit of an update. As I reported here a while back, I had an MRI on my knee. A few days ago I was told that I had a couple of tears in the meniscus - the cartilage which cushions the impact between the upper and lower leg bones at the knee. It will require arthroscopy to clean up and/or repair the damage. Unfortunately, the VA is backed up more than a year for such procedures. Meanwhile, all I can do is use a brace and take pills.

Overall, I have been happy with the care I've received at the VA, but this is disappointing. I suppose I can manage it, but it will make the next several months a bit of a drag. They also determined that I have osteo-arthritis in both knees which complicates matters. Not much can be done for that.

Another issue which I believe is a problem with the VA is that of helping their patients with weight loss. I imagine that at least 60% to 70% of all those who use the VA - especially us older folks - are overweight. I was told that I should lose weight to reduce the strain on my knees. I know this to be true, but all the VA has to offer is a small pamphlet with an illustration of the food pyramid. Aging vets, many who have missing or crippled arms & legs, or are otherwise enduring the lingering effects of war wounds, both physical and emotional, are also fighting a battle with their waistlines. It's a tough fight.

The VA should at least attempt to put some kind of weight loss and/or fitness program together in connection with other care to help these people fight the battle of the bulge. Afterall, the military spends millions of dollars and weeks during training to make recruits fit enough to kill for this country. They could at least try to give them an opportunity to get back to some semblance of health and fitness. Maybe some of these vets could live longer. Or, maybe the VA doesn't really want them to live longer. Who knows?


Hitting the Road

Tomorrow, probably sometime before noon, we will be hitting the road to Florida. My wife and I are helping once again to move one of our children. This will be, according to my wife's reckoning, move #19 that we have assisted with. There have been one or two we missed. My son is to begin graduate school in one of Florida's bastians of higher learning later this month. He has to get there a bit early as he will be not only learning, but teaching as well.

As with most such things we find ourselves doing this on a shoestring. As the two cars we own are a bit long in the tooth, we decided that driving either of them over a thousand miles pulling a trailer in the heat of summer would be risky at best. Renting a one way truck and flying back seemed, at first, a good option. However, the cost was going to be rather dear. We opted to rent an extended, 14 passenger van - removing 3 of the seats - that we will load to capacity, drive it down, unload, and drive it back, leaving our son to figure out where to put everything.

My wife and I can't dawdle as, when we are gone, our business is shut down. Any trip beyond an occasional week-end jaunt costs us both the actual cost of the trip plus the cost of any business we miss while gone.

We plan to drive to somewhere in Georgia - perhaps Valdosta - on Monday, stay the night and tool into our destination sometime Tuesday afternoon. We will stay the night and then hit the road back sometime on Wednesday, pulling back into Indy sometime on Thursday. We hope to pick up some business on Friday and/or Saturday.

Fortunately, my wife enjoys driving on the open road - in daylite anyhow. She actually drives faster than I do. But, we are accustomed to making the drive between Indy and Chicago - about 3 &1/2 to 4 hours. The trip to Florida amounts to somewhere around 15 to 16 hours of actual driving. This will doubtless take a toll on our aging minds and bodies.

We had the pleasure of having both of our sons home at the same time for about 10 days or so. Our older son, as noted prior, lives in Germany. He had a small break before he starts a 2 year gig at a small opera house north of Berlin later this month. We hadn't seen him since early January when we made a trip over there. Prior to that visit, we hadn't seen him for about a year. As an aside - he will be moving himself - without our assistance.

We enjoy our kids immensely. Having both of them home together is now a rare treat. Sending them back off to their respective lives gets tougher each time. Now our younger son will be significantly further away. His living in Chicago has been good. Over the last several years we made several trips to the Windy City which we usually enjoyed- the sometimes inclimate weather and often snarled traffic notwithstanding. The sites, the food, the culture. Chicago is a great town.

Our son will have to go through culture shock living in a small, semi-tropical community with little in the way of cultural outlets. He is used to having access to the Lyric Opera, The Chicago Symphony, Ravinia, the various museums, the plethora of ethnic and varietal neighborhoods, the big city night life, and so on.
He will now be living in a relatively small, southern town which is dominated by the school. I assume the school itself will offer some diversions, but it will still be a different ball game.

After my wife and I return, we will once again take up our day to day lives. We enjoy each other, and usually have things to do beyond the business to keep things interesting. But our lives will be diminished in some kind of ratio proportional to the number of miles separating us from our children.


As to the photo: More kids. All crawling around my basement. There's two sets of twins. Kinda scary if you ask me.