Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bumper Stickers

Two Bumper Stickers in my parking lot at work. Next week I change offices and won't get to see them anymore...

"WWBD" (picture of hounds-tooth hat in background)

What-Would-Bear-Do? Paul "Bear" Bryant has finally ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty!

"God Did It" (airbrushed sunrise in background)

I can't help supplying the rest of the sentence: "... and He Has to Clean it Up!"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gun Control

Here is my take on gun control.

I don't think gun laws would have changed the fact of the VT shootings. The nature of the massacre might have been different. The Shooter might have had to get his guns somewhere else. he might have had to use 4 guns to prevent frequent reloading. Maybe fewer than 32 people would have died but there would have been a shooting. 32? 10? It matters to the victims and their families but does it matter from a policy perspective?

The impact of fewer guns in America, I believe, would be on the domestic front. How many shootings run like this. Dean gets into an argument with Jerry. It gets heated. Dean has a gun in his house. Dean thinks, I am going to shoot that SOB. Dean goes to his home, retrieves his pistol, returns to the location where he confronted Jerry and kills him. Now we can't outlaw anger or confrontation but reducing the likelihood that a firearm is available would reduce at least one kind of common homicide.

I know Dean could return with a baseball bat or a knife but Jerry has a fighting chance against an attacker at close range and his injuries are less likely to be life-threatening.


Here is a great take on the NRA from someone who knows whereof he speaks. I am a growing fan of LTC Bateman. Every time I read him, I gain insight. I hope he doesn't mind me posting this here.

But what really puts me over the top is one particular brand of NRA stupidity. That is the myth of the Wild West. In other words, if I hear one more stupid gun-loving sonuvabitch talk about how, "Well, if they just had allowed all those students to have guns, this lunatic at Virginia Tech wouldn'ta got far," I am going to slap his dumb ass on the first plane smokin' for Iraq, where I would like to personally drop him off, with as many guns as he would like, in Dora (that's a particularly nasty South Baghdad neighborhood with which I am familiar).

Yes, Dora would be perfect. In my mind's eye I am imagining plopping said gun nut off outside the blue-painted major police sub-station, just about six or seven blocks from another walled-in compound which is now a police barracks (or, at least it was, last year.). As a microcosm, Dora should be the NRA's dream town, as it perfectly matches the NRA "Wild West" theory of what is needed in a society: honor is important to the individual; the family is the most important part of society; all of the inhabitants are very religious (except for when they are not); and absolutely everyone has at least one gun.

In fact, I would very much like to personally place the CEO of the NRA, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, there right now. What'ya say, Wayne? Want to experience a world where everyone has a gun? C'mon, buddy, I'll even let you hump the pig.

(That means, "Carry the M-240 7.62 mm machine gun," people. Get your minds out of the gutter.)

LTC Bob Bateman

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On to Riyadh!

They know that the only way to stop them is to stay on the offense, to fight the extremists and radicals where they live, so we don't have to face them where we live. . . .

President George W Bush, April 17, 2007
[emphasis added]

Apparently we are going to use those three aircraft carriers to attack Saudi Arabia. Or is it the UAE? Egypt?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Global Markets?

Been thinking about misunderstandings concerning Capitalism, particularly among conservatives. You can say that liberals have many misunderstandings as well, but they are not the ones touting Free Markets as the savior of all.

Today's topic is globalization and labor. Globalization has been sold as a natural next step in the eventual victory of Capitalism. On the surface, it does appear that the one unified, American-style world market we are building fits the theory comfortably.

My question is: Can an open market operate without an open labor market? In the US, generally held up as a model, those who lose their jobs when an appliance factory closes in Ohio can apply for jobs at an auto parts factory expanding in Pennsylvania. This free-flow of workers between states improves efficiency in the economy and helps make free markets possible. The Founding Fathers foresaw this when they deep-sixed the Articles of Confederation (Article IV Section 2, Article II Section 8).

Now compare the situation in a country with freedom of movement with the global marketplace. If my employer moves all its operations to India (as it has some operations already) I can not just pack up my family and follow my job. There will be no Okies driving from Muskogee to Bangalore. National barriers (as well as financial ones) prevent that. The migrant worker issue in the United States illustrates just how an imbalance in labor markets creates a vacuum whose tendency to correct itself is unstoppable.

Globalisation looks good on paper but factors that cause a truly free market to operate smoothly are missing or hobbled. Restrictions to the free movement of labor raises in significance when one understands that the laborers - i.e., those to whom the benefits of globalization have been promised, are precisely those who will see their participation constrained.


"When we see politics permeate every sector of life, we call it totalitarianism. When religion rules all, we call it theocracy. But when commerce dominates everything, we call it liberty."

Benjamin R. Barber

Interesting Op-Ed examining what happens after capitalism succeeds in fulfilling our basic needs.

Don Imus, already!

I suppose I shouldn't be shocked that so many people stood up for Don Imus. What has me perplexed is why the local call-in shows are still talking doing it! Can we stop lionizing this man. What he said about a group of young women who actually forged a community and accomplished something was indefensible. Freedom of speech and all that but (and this is especially to all you so-called Conservatives) the man must take responsibility for his actions. That means something actually happens, he pays a price, he doesn't just mumble sorry and everyone decides that he is a good person after all.

Another thing. Enough with the Rapper comparisons. Notice that Snoop Dog does not have a nationally syndicated radio show, does not receive commercial support from Proctor and Gamble and sells records to a relatively small market when compared to the nation as a whole. If ho-slinging rap bothers you, organize a boycott. That's how a free society works - we vote with our dollars, our feet and our voices.

Said one two many stupid, ignorant or inflammatory things? Sorry, Don. Live by the sword, die by the sword.


(Thank you - I fell better)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Headline Game headline:

"Cheney's plane hits bird; craft lands safely"

missing subhead:

"Democratic congress issues subpoenas"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kipling Lives!

From a BBC report:

"There are groups that are receiving training in Iran with the most modern weapons and munitions that are available and then being smuggled into Iraq and being utilised by these groups against the Iraqi security force and coalition forces," [Gen Caldwell] said.

"That required some very skilled training to be able to use them and employ them like they were being used."

This sounds an awful lot like our military/political analysts are viewing our enemies as not-very-bright children. Just like when Shock and Awe from the Great White Americans was supposed to make those semi-human Iraqis soil themselves and surrender, this attitude would be merely condescending if applied to a peaceful population. Given that the unenlightened savages in question are trying to kill our sisters and fathers, it is downright dangerous. We will continue to wallow in a quagmire as long as we fail to see the Iraqi insurgents (and terrorists in general) as capable men and women with the same innate human intelligence as our own best commanders.

Monday, April 9, 2007


Just noticed that the citation from Luke 8:49-55 in my previous post lists the disciples whom
Jesus trusted to enter Jairus' house to witness a dead-raising and that they are none other than Peter, John and James - later identified by Paul in Galatians as "those reputed to be pillars." Nice tie in, Luke!

One could argue that Luke was working from Paul's letter, that he had personal knowledge, that the names of the pillars were generally known, or that these names were part of the legends surrounding the Jerusalem church that later circulated at the end of the first century. Not too hard to guess who will make which claim, right?

In any case, this is an interesting connection that I never hit upon before.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

On Resurection

Just listened to a sermon including the claim that the idea of a person raising from the dead was so alien to the Jesus' followers that they would ignore the Jesus' repeated claims that he do just that - raise from the dead. The problem with this argument is that there are well-known cases in both the Jewish scriptures and Jesus' ministry of people coming back to life. In fact, in at least one case, the chief Apostles accompany Jesus when the miracle occurs. A quick search on reveals five cases of the dead raising prior to Easter.

1 Kings 17:19-23 Elijah raises the son of a widow at Zarephath
19 "Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!"

22 The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, "Look, your son is alive!"
2 Kings 4:32-35 Elisha raises the son of the Shunammite woman
When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
2 Kings 13:21 A corpse comes to life upon touching Elisha's bones
21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.
Luke 7:12-15 Jesus raises a widows only son
12As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."

14Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" 15The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Luke 8:49-55 Jesus raises Jairus' daughter
51When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep."

53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.
John 11:38-44 Jesus raises Lazarus.
38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39"Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

40Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
Even if none of Jesus' disciples were familiar with the Jewish scriptures (as if!) they would have witnessed Jesus raising at least three individuals from the dead. If you take these stories at face value, then the possibility of resurrection, especially when Jesus was involved, would have been very immediate and real.

There was further claim in this sermon that the Marys' and Apostles' assumption that Jesus' body would be found in the tomb was good evidence that the Resurrection was historical. A better interpretation is that it is actually evidence for the later addition to the story once Jesus return in Glory to overthrow the Roman occupation failed to occur. You see, the disciples more likely were very much expecting Jesus to be Resurrected and return to bring about a Messianic reign. When it did not occur, that was when they became disappointed. Some sort of appearances later (I'm betting on a series of visions, like Paul's) rekindled the ministry with a new purpose and direction and the empty tomb and Resurrection stories were added to the Passion narrative. Can't prove this but it demonstrates this bit of purported evidence can be explained with an equally (if not more) plausible series of events.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

We are soooo screwed in Iraq

In an interview with Diane Rehm, Robert McNeil discusses an upcoming series of independent films about Iraq that will be aired on PBS. Richard Perle gets the last word, so all you Right-Bloggers can calm down a little.

Anyway, in the interview, Mr McNeil describes one film where a group of Iraqi Army soldiers are standing around talking in Arabic about the weapons and car bomb that they and their American "friends" have just intercepted. When their conversation is translated weeks later, it turned out that they were saying that the weapons were just kids stuff and that the real weapons cache was being hidden by one of the soldiers mullah. They then realize that they are on camera and that their words are being recorded.

Not only are we a bunch of ignorant dupes but the Iraqis are quite sophisticated enough to know when they are in danger of exposing their true plans.

The Trap

One of the annoying things about attending church when you are an ex-Christian is that all your old habits of action and thought come back all too readily.

When I first decided to join the choir at my wife’s United Methodist church, I had to decide whether I would “pretend” to be a believer or not. When the first opportunity to participate in the Eucharist (notice the effortless use of Episcopal terminology) came, I decided NOT to take communion and had to stand there in the choir loft and let all the other singers squeeze past me. That was going to look odd if it happened every month. I was attending this church to not only provide my children a united parental front (my wife and I had already settled on the fact that the kids would be raised with church, with me or otherwise) but also to do some soft networking in preparation for the coming Generational Crisis. Anyway, it was then that I decided that I was in for the proverbial pound rather than pretending I could limit the cost to a penny. I started tithing, taking communion, and reciting the Apostle’s Creed and Lord’s Prayer. I had been a devout Episcopalian (oxymoron?) from the ages of about 14 to 20, so I knew and was comfortable with all the “moves” required during a liturgical worship service.

Perhaps activating those long quiet mental pathways have caused other disused parts of my brain to re-awaken. It all started this past Palm Sunday. The choir has been all psyched for Holy Week, with big plans for a Maundy Thursday service, three pieces on Easter itself, brass instrumentation, etc… I arrived at the church for the early service assuming that such an important Sunday (again, that Episcopalian outlook) would call for everyone to sing during both services instead of the usual one. Instead, I found that no one else got this message. Then I thought, “Hey! That is a dinky little anthem we’re doing today!” A little let down, I took my place in the choir loft, did the Creed and Confession and waited through the “announcements.”

Now, normally I find the idea that the service comes to a screeching halt so they can announce a bake sale before proceeding to the Prayer’s a little weird. But on Palm Sunday they have something special in mind… They have the instructor for the new Aerobics Class come to the lectern and speak! It goes Hymn, Apostle’s Creed, Confession of Sins, Hand Bells, Aerobics, and Lord’s Prayer. As they used to sing on Sesame Street, “One of these is not like the others. One of these things just isn’t the same.”

After church my wife and I bemoan the fact that it is almost impossible to maintain an worshipful atmosphere when the minister tells Bama jokes and encourages people to leave the sanctuary during the final hymn if they have anything important to do before Sunday School starts!

“Wait a minute,” you say, “aren’t you an Atheist?” What the hell am I doing complaining about the worship service when I view its basis as a pack of delusions? Now you see my dilemma. By choosing to become a crypto-skeptic I am being sucked back into thinking like a Christian. I find this a little annoying, but I also realize it is something I will have to learn to live with. This is why I have come to think of myself as an ex-Christian rather than a simple Atheist – can’t escape my upbringing. Still trying to squelch the urge to leap to my feet during sermons to scream, “That just isn’t true!!”

P.S.: For those of you who are thinking, “Perhaps it is really God trying to get through to you but you are just too stubborn to acknowledge His Call”. Yeah, right. As I like to say, God knows where I live if He wants me. And He presumably knows what it will take to reach me. Hell, He put out for Thomas. I think I deserve no less.