Saturday, November 30, 2013
That's not to say that there aren't some pretty strange things going on in the Lone Star state. Mimi and I took a stroll around my parents rather typical suburban Houston neighborhood on Thanksgiving and saw stuff that you don't see in more 'respectable' climes. Like the beware of alligator signs. And with so many Yankees visiting the local gendarmes (not that anyone would refer to them as such) felt compelled to add a warning for the holidays. Because while it's easy to see the gators and avoid them - after all they are big, blackish and crawl on their bellies. It is almost impossible to avoid a foraging liberal - they come in all sorts of cammo, have voracious appetites and will consume damn near anything. Texans consider the species to be an invasive and noxious northern import. The natives have tried innumerable strategies to get rid of them, even going so far as to get LBJ elected Vice President on the theory that he would lead them Pied Piper like all the way to Washington. All with limited success.
They find that the most effective strategies are the most direct: this is a custom liberal hunting truck. The hunter sits up top with his weapon, Shiner Bock and his liberal calls including one that goes "subbsssideee! subbsssideee!" and another that imitates the truly disgusting sound that taxes make when they're being raised. Which you wouldn't think would work but the free range liberal is a rather gullible creature that runs in large, ignorant herds. Indeed, the clever Texan can bag his (rather generous) limit in one swoop if they can persuade the beasts that universal health care is just on the other side of that tiny 200ft drop off. There is actually a new call that does precisely that but it's encountered copyright issues as it only works when Barack Obama's voice does the call.
Anyway, Texans are resigned to this chronic low level problem, one that tends to go with territory when you're attracting massive in-migration from the rest of the country. No matter how much you fumigate a few are going to get through, survive and even thrive. After all this isn't California or New York. This is Texas: no matter how misguided or misbegotten all of God's children have a shot here.
|No, I'm the Pope of YOU!|
|I'm the Pope of you.|
|No, I'm the Pope of both|
And then there was the whole Antichrist thing. I mean telling the guy that cashes Jesus' checks here on earth that he actually doesn't have signing authority for those accounts is liable to put the calmest Cote d' Azur Popeboy in a state of heightened agitation. So yes, differences about the sovereignty of God, the nature of Salvation and the questionable fashion sense of wearing really tall hats all fed into the Pope's hostility.
Here is Part 3: Leviathan or What Happens When You Pick On Tommy Hobbes
If you are an American and aren't outraged by the TSA, you're either not paying attention or you're depraved.
Ellen Richardson went to Pearson airport on Monday full of joy about flying to New York City and from there going on a 10-day Caribbean cruise for which she’d paid about $6,000.
But a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent with the Department of Homeland Security killed that dream when he denied her entry.
“I was turned away, I was told, because I had a hospitalization in the summer of 2012 for clinical depression,’’ said Richardson, who is a paraplegic and set up her cruise in collaboration with a March of Dimes group of about 12 others.
The Weston woman was told by the U.S. agent she would have to get “medical clearance’’ and be examined by one of only three doctors in Toronto whose assessments are accepted by Homeland Security. She was given their names and told a call to her psychiatrist “would not suffice.’’
At the time, Richardson said, she was so shocked and devastated by what was going on, she wasn’t thinking about how U.S. authorities could access her supposedly private medical information.
I'm even more outraged at the regular, sinister and increasingly boorish behavior of the FBI, DEA, IRS and ATF. What is it about these three letter acronym Federal agencies. I mean WTF?
But the first floor of the Stasi Museum is not about spying. Instead, it is devoted to the propaganda that East German bureaucrats used to foster socialist consciousness in an unwilling public. One display explains the GDR’s efforts in the 1950s to politicize what in the past had been family and religious occasions. The state sought to transform weddings, confirmations, and other personal events into “socialist celebrations,” to be “committed collectively and aimed at a confession to socialism,” according to the awkward English translation of the exhibit.
The exhibition informs visitors that the project “did not gain popular acceptance.” Amazingly enough, people didn’t want to turn their family holidays into socialist celebrations.
Here at home, this Thanksgiving brings an effort by the Obama administration to turn a day of giving thanks into a day of discussion about the virtues of national health care. On Wednesday afternoon, just hours before Thanksgiving, President Obama’s Twitter account — which has more than 40 million followers — sent out this message: “Make sure everyone who sits down with you for #Thanksgivukkah dinner is covered.” (“Thanksgivukkah” refers to this year’s rare overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.)
The president’s tweet linked to a photo of a young man sitting at a table with a turkey and a menorah. The accompanying text: “Celebrating Thanksgiving. Lighting the Hanukkah candles. Talking about health insurance. Gotta love dinners like these.”
God help us, every one.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Take me, for example, I have an imaginary friend who we'll call 'Waldo'. Waldo has a sartorial weakness in that he always dresses in the same damned striped turtleneck with messy hair and a stupid hat. But he's my friend so I ask him to change and when he doesn't, I accept him because that's what friends do. Waldo's job in life is hiding in plain sight which I tell him is really beneath his skill level. But he enjoys it, the pay seems to be adequate to keep him in stupid hats and I get the fringe benefit in that knowing him so well I can always win the 'where's Waldo' game. Life is good.
|My imaginary friend Waldo.|
But the thing that makes Waldo such a valuable addition to my imaginary life is his ability to provoke and then quickly and painlessly resolve my cognitive dissonance. For example, from time to time I become concerned about our nation and the quality of the leadership therein. Waldo interjects that he thinks (insert obviously incompetent and supremely silly politician's name here) is really sharp and that we should listen to what the (stupid oaf) has to say. Like friends do, I listen quietly and respectfully as my good imaginary friend makes his case. Then when he's done, I proceed to methodically demolish his naive, ill conceived arguments one by one. He usually gets a couple tears in his eyes during the process but I am gentle so when at the end he acknowledges my absolute correctness and his obvious ignorance it doesn't hurt him so much. Indeed, if we happen to be with enough of my other imaginary friends he usually persuades them to hoist me onto their virtual shoulders while singing the 'Marseillaise' or 'Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier'. It's really quite moving.
Another benefit that an imaginary friend brings to the psyche is guaranteed comparative superiority. We all struggle with self image issues: am I smart enough? am I good enough? Did I really write the entire Led Zeppelin backlist and were Jimmy Page and Robert Plant really just talentless hacks who stole my future? I know that Waldo will never upstage me. He will never point out my weakenesses except to acknowledge how much greater his are, he will never tell me he hates me even more than Robert Plant and Jimmy Page do. In short, he will never let me down. And if he ever does I will imagine such cruel and unusual punishments that I will never imagine that he will imagine ever contradicting my imagination again. Imagination wise.
I really think that if Barack Obama had had an imaginary adviser/friend he wouldn't have had such trouble with the whole imaginary 'if like your health plan, doctor, drug, life, you can keep it' boo boo. Because compared to his real healthcare advisers his imaginary friend would have been a member of the reality based community. I know that I couldn't imagine a scenario that left the President completely ignorant about the pending collapse of his own signature achievement. I mean that's just ridiculous. Not even an imaginary friend will buy that.
Now in Missouri we have a much more mature perspective on dealing with relative locations. But it wasn't always easy for us being trapped in the middle of the nation. For a long time we fought about whether we were in the upper south or the southwest but then when we didn't secede we succeeded in getting ourselves thrown out of the south. Which put us in the north by default except the people back east said that they were from the north and therefore we were from the west. Which was fine because when the seceding south didn't succeed we got to stay west which we always understood to be 'cool'. But then one day California became west which we got but then Texas said they were west too despite being south which frankly irritated us because they're a bunch of cocky bastards who are always doing stuff like that. So in response, we invented 'mid' as in midwest. But then the midwest got rust on its belt and we decided that we didn't want to be rusty so we kept the mid- and swapped America for west as in Mid-America. Which sounds a lot like Central America which is really Mexico, not to be confused with Mexico, Missouri. So when the press started worrying about Cuba, not to be confused with Cuba, Missouri making Central America go communist, we got a bit worried about our image and finally decided to do away with the relative location hooey altogether.
So now all we ever say is that 'We're here. You're not. Get over it.'
Which will work until the aliens come. So if you're on your planet and I'm on your planet which is not my planet which means that I am 'off' my planet but 'on' yours, what happens when you and I leave your planet? Do you go 'off' planet while I go 'off', 'off' planet? And when we come back to your planet do you go 'on' planet while I go 'on-off' planet? And where is off-Broadway in all of this?
So in honor of Thanksgiving. Go Horny Toads!
UPATE: It has been brought to my attention that I may have inadvertently committed the French literary act of 'double wonton dray'. To which I respond that I would never knowingly do anything French, nor do I have any familiarity with deviant Oklahoma sexual practices. And anyone from the University of Tulsa who says otherwise had better remember the severe penalties for violating their Fraternity Initiation vows.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Trapped in my son Sam's car somewhere near Little Rock on the way to Houston. 10 hours of trees and rocks, 2 hours of rice fields and 2 hours of.....Houston. And we never ever get out of the south central sector of the country.
This is a freakin' big place.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
John Calvin 1509-1564 displaying the classic
"L" is for Luthers symbol commonly used by Calvinists
mostly because it made Luther mad. In America
the symbolism has evolved into men bearing
large foam fingers preaching a degenerate form of the faith
in crowded gladiator arenas on Sunday afternoons. It
replaced the pagan giant foam thumb used by
the Flavian emperors to speed up the pace of play
in ancient Rome.
I'm Presbyterian which means that I am Protestant, 'Reformed' (my ex says 'ha ha') and subscribe (while ignoring the increasingly strident renewal notices) to the Calvinist view of Christianity. It is a point of pride among Presbyterians that we can take almost an entire paragraph to introduce our religious credentials and that's even before we get to what type Presbyterian we are. For others field identification is simpler: Baptists say they're 'saved' and 'praise the Lord' a lot, Episcopalians don't talk about God but mix a mean sacramental Martini, Pentecostals jibberjabber and serious Catholics have lots of kids. Unless you're in Utah, then they're Mormons. Atheists are by far the easiest to ID: they tend to stand alone in the corner with a sour, resentful look. Getting stuck in a conversation with a militant Atheist can drive you to sacramental Episcopalianism.
To be a Calvinist you have to believe in Tulips, no, not the flower and most definitely not Mick Jagger, although the Rolling Stones do give off a rather Hobbesian aura. No, I'm talking about T.U.L.I.P. which any buck-Deacon in a one horse Presbyterian church knows stands for: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints - TULIP which of course was thought up in Holland where every damn business, house or idea had to have that stupid flower in it's name. But Calvin was French and would have described it as: dépravation totale, l'élection inconditionnelle, l'expiation limitée, grâce irrésistible, et la persévérance des saints which would be DEEGP which makes no sense so be glad that TULIP won out. Indeed John Calvin would be Jean but for the theologians of the 17th century who thought they'd get made fun of if they studied books with a girl's name or for that matter with a French guy's name. Branding is everything.
I guess before I go any further I should lay out my credentials for opining on Calvinist Hobbesianism: I am what is known as a 'Dozing' Presbyterian. There are three types of Presbyterians: Nosey, Posey and Dozy. Nosey Presbyterians know their Bible, they tend to be preachers, teachers and older women and definitely know the difference between Calvin's Institutes and Confucius' Analects (hey anyone could make that mistake). If you want to know what's going on in the church or anything for that matter, talk to the Noseys - they'll tell you. And tell you and tell you. By contrast Poseys tend to be Deacons and Elders, particularly ones that got there via the 'fast track' of ushering. They generally look pretty impressive, having the command presence needed to shoehorn a 5 person family into a 4 person spot. But ask them a question about faith or truth or God and they get that blank, deacon in the headlights look and their hands instinctively clutch for the stack of programs that isn't there. But if you want to get in and out of the building quick or get money with no probing, thoughtful questions asked, the Posey Presbyterian is your man - and in the more liberal denominations your woman too. But I'm a Dozy. We're the foot soldiers of Presbyterianism, it's Bible fodder, if you will. Dozys can always be identified after Sunday service by the broad, reddish mark made by resting our foreheads reverentially against the pew in front of us. We have developed our knowledge of theology via osmosis, or more accurately dozemosis. We make outstanding early childhood Sunday school teachers because our childlike ignorance allows us to relate to the little ones at their level. "Yes Kaitlin, I know that when you sing Jesus Loves Me He loves you and when Connor sings it He loves Connor but I'm here to tell you that when I sing it He loves me more because I'm bigger. That's just the way He is!"
Well anyway, back to the deep thinking. As I understand it, or in reality, probably dreamt it, a key principle in Calvinism is the Sovereignty of God or SOG. SOG is the idea that God is really God. Get it? He's not your invisible buddy, your copilot, your shrink or that pious pal who runs errands for you, he's the actual freaking God, the Big Numero Uno, The Creator of the Universe who judges the quick and the dead and if you're not quick about it, He'll darn sure make you dead. Imagine your toughest boss crossed with Santa Claus - no not the "Ho Ho Ho" part, the "he knows when you've been bad or good part". Have that in your head? OK? Now imagine just how many days (hours) it would have taken him before he would have fired (or called the cops on) your ass. That many? Remember he knows when you've been lying too, that's more like it. That's the kind of God we've got. You see under SOG, God calls all the shots. Even before the pool table's been built - He knows when you've been sleeping and knows when you're awake before you've been born. And to say that He has a 'plan' for your life is like saying that my advice to President Kennedy to buy more life insurance after I had seen his assassination and then traveled back in time to be his insurance agent was just a 'lucky guess'. SOG is that intense.
Which is why I suppose it bugged the Pope so much. After all, if you're the Pope you're supposed to be the 'Vicar' of Christ, meaning His representative here on Earth. And while you are perfectly happy to have God be a hard ass the better to keep the faithless but fearful in line - you're pretty sure you don't have the chops to channel the Santa Claus role and frankly as God's Number 2, you'd like just a little more autonomy to run your own shop thank you very much. I mean how can you really be the 'man with the plan' when everyone knows that God is already a few billion years ahead of you. Which is why Jean became John and got a Swiss passport: the Pope was that pissed.
Monday, November 25, 2013
And the ticks sound out doom, doom, doom
The Democrats keep forgetting this. Remember that Obamacare was imposed on a party line vote that used a number of 'innovative' parliamentary tricks (oh, and a boatload of less innovative lies). Then the Obami began picking and choosing which bits they were going to implement in direct violation of the law's language. Now the Obami are delaying next year's enrollment until after the midterm election (a month late) so that no one will have access to next years prices which are sure to soar based upon the current state of the fiasco. Wapo has the story:
Incredibly, we learned that the Obamacare open enrollment period for 2015 will be pushed back one month from the original start date of Oct. 15, 2014. This means that people will not be able to see what their insurance rates for 2015 will be before Nov. 15, 2014. Hmm, what’s happening in that one month that could possibly make this odd delay make sense? Oh yeah, America is holding national elections on Nov. 4, 2014.
On top of this Harry Reid - perhaps the sourest, least appealing figure to be the Majority Leader in history - has traded the integrity of the Senate's filibuster for a tawdry mess of Appeals Court pottage against the advice of most of Washington's legislative adults both right and left. And for the pies de la resistance, Obama has agreed to a loopy interim deal over nukes with the Mad Mullahs of Iran.
The Dems increasingly remind me of a Toddler who 'want do it myself!' despite lacking the skills or judgement to get the job done. In their flailing efforts at self preservation they are tearing at the links and sinews that we need to hold the Republic together. And to quote a shallow and deeply irresponsible politician: "Yes we can" screw this country up.
Aren't there any adults left on the Dems side who can sit these 'cats down and tell them to chill?
"There's a term of art that the Obama White House uses to describe its neurotic supporters who instantly race to the worst-case scenario: They are known as 'bed-wetters.' Two months into the dysfunctional life of healthcare.gov, however, that seems a perfectly appropriate physiological reaction."--Franklin Foer, The New Republic website, Nov. 24
Hattip Best of the Web
Sunday, November 24, 2013
One of the reasons is probably attributable to my experience with a certain type of English language reactionary. In 1968 I was a 7 year old Okie attending my first day at the English School of Abu Dhabi - hell it was the only school in Abu Dhabi. I asked to go to the 'bathroom' and was curtly told there there was none. I found that this was literally true a bit later while changing my urine soaked shorts. But never fear, I triumphed in the end: I consulted carefully with my father, marshaled my facts and the next day strode boldly up to the teacher and shouted "we beat you in a war". And I could tell by her expression that it stung.
In a just world I would have been borne out of the classroom on the shoulders of my cheering classmates like a Bedouin Mr. Chips except that I happened to be the only American in the bloody school. So instead some of the bigger lads beat me up after class. Behind the 'lavatories'. And to this day I remember wondering as the blows were raining down "what in the heck does pooping and peeing have to do with volcanoes?
Can you say radioactive legacy? I knew you could.
Duck and cover.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
I don't think I'd like gold streets - they'd get pitted and I just think that it's the wrong aesthetic for a street. I also really don't want a mansion - had one of those in an earlier life and they're a pain in the keister to maintain. What I want is a loft on the top floor with a pool where all I have to do is think of what I want and gorgeous, intelligent women go get it for me. That would be cool. But perhaps heaven is like Douglas Adam's legendary planet manufacturer Magrathea where you're heart's desire in the way of planet-ware can be fulfilled, no matter how disgusting (think purple jello planet with tasty fried locusts and sumo wrestlers doing the backstroke).
But I think the most interesting thing about heaven - well, aside from God, Jesus, the angels, the cherubim, seraphim and the bottomless pitcher of perfect Pina Coladas - will be who's there. Or more to the point, who's not. As I understand modern reformed theology, it is Jesus the Christ who separates the goats from the lambs. Just looking at their SV (Sinicculum Vitae) you would not be able to tell Billy Goat from Little Lambikins. So as much as it may appeal to my sensibilities, there is not likely to be a Nazi Room at Satan's Palace where Adolph and the boys reprise all their choicest brutalities on themselves. As a matter of fact it is a point of reformed pride that there is not an (un)Goddamned thing we can do to save ourselves. Perhaps the only reliable way to tell the damned from the elect is that the damned will tend to be screaming.
Which raises a rather ticklish question: will we remember them? The damned I mean. Because presumably there will be a lot of them, they will be in a really nasty pickle (if not, then Jesus most certainly committed the sin of advertising 'puffery') and at least some of them will be people that we knew. I sort of imagine that as we arrive at the Pearly Gates and get checked in there will be a kiosk where we can use Godgle to search for loved ones who've gone before - or perhaps they'll be there to greet us.
So say I get to Pearly Gate Intake Station Bravo and look around "gee, where's uncle Al?", the Seraphim First Class holding the door shrugs, St. Peter turns to one of his Cherubic (really!) assistants who looks rather sheepish and behind an absolutely adorable, chubby little hand points downward. So Pete turns back around "I'm terribly sorry Mr. - he looks back down at his clipboard in a maneuver designed to convey to me just how really really insignificant I am - Reeves but your Mr. Uncle is not here."
"Well then where is he? In hell? I mean I buried him so I sure hope was dead"
"I'm sorry we don't have any information on any other eternal destinations, if you would please move along". Which would upset me because uncle Al had the best collection of dirty jokes...um, well never mind.
So: if you get to heaven and find out that some of the ones that you loved and cared about were 'not there' what are you to make of it? And since the God who is hosting the greatest hootenanny of all time is also slipping away during breaks in the action to check on 'the rest' of the 'operation' what do you think of Him? I mean it's one thing to mourn what happened to poor old Uncle Al but another thing altogether to find out that your new bestie is what is happening to poor Uncle Al - again and again and again..... How secure in your salvation can you really be when its author and guarantor is also the Universes' premier concentration camp commandant? And after he's already told you that you are at the party purely on his sufferance and whim. But you kids have a good time!
Knowing something of remorse and fear I can tell you that to me it wouldn't feel like heaven at all. It would feel both tragic and terrifying. So I'm assuming God, being perfect and all, has planned for this eventuality. And as I reflect upon it, I think he has two broad options for dealing with the "Uncle Al" problem. Change us or change the reality around us.
He could change us in two different ways: The first is selective memory removal. All references to Uncle Al and the other 'detainees' would be excised from our memories. They would cease to exist as would the experiences that we had with them. This would certainly solve the problem but only at the cost of making some new ones: first of all what if Thomas Edison was a 'detainee'? Does that mean that ixnay on the ightbulblay? If Bob Gibson is getting a slow roast do the Cards have to give back his World Series wins? Tricky. And there is the 'big O', the real objection to memory removal. In a real sense 'I' am only 'me' because of the sum total of experiences that have accumulated in my wetware and have informed the development of my soul. Getting rid of Uncle Al doesn't just do violence to his memory, it gives me the soul equivalent of serious brain damage. Without the memory of people and the role they played in my life can I really say that what is left is still me?
But never fear, there's a second me modification option: drugs. Or more accurately the uber euphoric Joythatpassesallunderstanding better known by it's street name "Joy" or "Whee". Perhaps the elect will experience such overwhelming Joy all of the time that the lack of Uncle Al will cease to matter. "Uncle Al? who gives a shit, gimme another hit!". Then again, perhaps not.
The other option to 'solve' the problem could be to change reality around us. For example, simply eliminate our memories of all other humans, replacing them with a billion redaction dummies doing the same things but having no identity in our memory banks so we can't miss them. Or alternatively God could populate heaven with Icthus 2000 cyborg replicas of all of the damned. So Uncle Al would appear to me just the way he did back in the day except for his sudden inability to tell a single dirty joke. "But I could still feel bad about my dog Boots, where's he?" "OK, dogs too, dammit." But I don't really think that God would disguise the reality around us. That would make him a big fat liar.
So we're back to changing me. And the thing that these 'solutions' have in common is that they violate or obliterate the integrity of 'me'. If I can't remember or am drugged to not care then in a real sense am I still me? And if not who's been saved? (I always imagine that this is the scene from the movie where Ronald Reagan discovers that he had lost his legs: the "where's the rest of me" moment) And that doesn't even begin to deal with the question of sin. Do I have free will? Can I sin? If so, how is heaven different than earth? If I have no free will, can't remember or am drugged not to care and am systematically duped it stands to reason that what has been saved is not 'me' but a me shaped mannequin who God puts in a new pose once in a while'. And if that's the case then I wouldn't want to be in Jesus' shoes when he gets the call from the Advertising Standards Board - can you say 'false and misleading?'
And there's another, even bigger problem: Even if there is some other option that miraculously skirts all of the free will and Uncle Al issues, then why didn't the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent perfect God use the same tech to rescue the world when Adam and Eve did their big awshit? Why produce 60 billion (!) stiffs with all their pain and sin if you already know how you're going to solve the problem? Time crunch? The mother of all procrastinations? Or was the solution still a bit buggy at Redeemer labs when Eve committed the most disastrous single act of nagging in human history?
Oh well, I'm sure God has it all worked out. After all he's not only perfect, he's becoming more wonderful every day in every way. Hey! Who's been putting crap in my coffee?