Monday, February 28, 2011

After Khadafy, How About John Paul II?

The protesters who changed regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, and who are about to do the same in Libya, utilized social media like facebook and twitter to organize themselves in order to create strength in numbers. My question is, why not apply the same strategy to bring down icons other than Arab dictators? How about a Pope?

The Catholic Church is about to build on its 1600 year history of making bad decisions by making, perhaps, the most egregiously flawed decision of all. They actually propose elevating Pope John Paul II to sainthood, starting first with canonization. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the living victims of priestly sexual abuse could band together via social media to protest the canonization of John Paul II? The Arab dictators denied the democratic vote to their people for 30 years, or more than 40 years in the case of Khadafy. John Paul II coddled pedophiles and ignored the sodomy of young children for almost 27 years, and even took measures to perpetuate the ghastly transgressions by moving clerical perverts from parish to parish, and by instructing bishops to silence the victims with bribes and intimidation. To be consistent, the Church should probably also move to canonize Mubarak and Khadafy.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

U.N. Sanctions Strike Fear into Khadafy. Not!!!

The U.N. is threatening sanctions against the Khadafy regime in Libya, as if this would change anything there. It’s like an 1893 court of law in New Bedford threatening to take away the household telephone privileges of Lizzie Borden AFTER she murdered her parents. I have a solution— not for Khadafy— but for the United Nations. If the City of New York is strapped for operating cash (which it is), the city should declare eminent domain on the U.N. and kick all the diplomats out of the country, then tear down the U.N. building and sell off the land for condo and business development. This would satisfy, not just New York taxpayers, but also the citizens of the world who have waited 62 years for the U.N. to do something that even remotely approaches the lofty goals and expectations that were set back in 1949.

The Explanation of Everything

The human race simply can’t create jobs and wealth as fast as it adds new human beings. This explains everything. We see violent protests in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya and we’re told it’s all about democracy. It’s absolutely not. We also saw protests (admittedly less violent) in England and France and Greece and, recently, in Madison Wisconsin— and the last time I checked these places were all run by democratically elected governments. And even as I write this blog, the citizens of Iraq are staging a “Day of Rage.” I thought the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld installation of democracy in Baghdad (remember all those purple fingers?) was supposed to make everybody in Iraq happy. Evidently I was misinformed.

People lash out at governments for three reasons— unemployment, corruption, and lack of services or government provided services which don’t meet expectations. If people have jobs (or individual wealth from national oil revenues), and if the government is somewhat honest and provides basic services, citizens could care less about who runs the show. King, Monarch. Emperor, or just some guy who got the most votes— it makes no difference to people who governs them if they don’t feel cheated or deprived. At least that’s my opinion.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is “The Rite” Right?

Question. What’s the difference between paranoid schizophrenia and demonic possession? Answer. Catholicism. My wife and I went to see the film, “The Rite” with Anthony Hopkins (I think it’s the best of all the demonic possession movies) and as we were leaving she asked, “How come only the Catholics do exorcisms?” Good question.

In the past, up until fairly recently, The Catholic Church charged money for doing an exorcism (imagine my surprise). Now, of course, exorcisms are done for free, as kind of a loss leader in the total marketing scheme of the Church. That explains part of it. But the bigger reason, in my opinion, is that other churches in the Abrahamic monotheistic tradition (most of which believe in Satan) take a different view of what the devil’s work looks like to the untrained eye. The evangelicals believe that Satan is so devious and powerful that he would never betray his presence by outwardly changing the personality of some lowly mortal. Evangelicals believe that Satan is too clever for that, and this opens up a landscape where Satan can be anywhere at any time. That’s the whole idea, of course, since this is supposed to bring people to Jesus who can also be anywhere at any time. There’s an old saw, “No Satan, no God.” For evangelicals, insane behavior is a sign of insanity and nothing more. For Catholics, insane behavior is a sign of possession which requires Church intervention. It’s all in the interpretation.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Campaign 2012— Sock It To Me

Speaking only as an inadequately-informed average citizen/voter, I feel personally that American politics is maddening at best and positively excruciating at its worst. What’s needed is for politics to become entertaining, and for a sick and cynical person like me, the best entertainment is humor. And for politics to be humorous, the best recipe would be a strong dose of self-satirical buffoonery from one or more candidates. We haven’t seen anything like this since Dan Quayle left office nearly 20 years ago.

Happily, we might be in store for just what we need. It looks like both Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin could throw their hats (or bras) into the political race and try for the presidency. I can hardly contain my glee at this prospect. Back in the late 1960s there was a weekly television program called “Laugh In” which had, among the cast, Goldie Hawn (known for being ditzy) and Ruth Buzzi (known for being truculent). Now just imagine a pair of hot-ass egotistical shrews with each of them having the ditziness of Goldie Hawn and the truculence of Ruth Buzzi, and this would give you a picture of Bachman and Palin both on the campaign trail. Now all we need to do is resurrect Rowan and Martin to run the House and the Senate.

What Did Watson Really Tell Us?

I believe it was the most astonishing and significant demonstration of hard science since the first atomic test in July of 1945. I’m talking about the IBM computer, Watson, and its three night test on the TV show, Jeopardy. Few TV viewers could even comprehend what it took to assemble the background data and then accurately connect the relevant points using self-generated algorithms. But, whereas the first atomic test was only seen by government insiders, my fear is that nobody from federal agencies other than the military was watching Watson’s performance.

If you doubt that the U.S. government is incompetent, then you probably don’t know about criminals in prison who collect social security checks and unemployment benefits, or federal workers who double dip by collecting disability payments because they, supposedly, can’t work, or doctors who bill Medicare for imaginary procedures. And the list goes on and on. All of this could be prevented by a computer system with less than a millionth of Watson’s capability, and the savings through fraud prevention would more than pay for the investment many times over. It’s not that the government doesn’t know about computer capability, or that there isn’t a willingness to spend the money. The CIA and NSA and the Pentagon all have computers which, I’m sure, would put Watson to shame. So why won’t we use advanced computer systems to do things other than detect foreign threats and blow enemies to smithereens?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CPAC Calls for the Deployment of Michele Bachman’s Flying Monkeys

In a cosmic coincidence of timing, the once-in-a-century historic revolution in Egypt occurred simultaneously with the annual CPAC convention in Washington DC, allowing television viewers to get a side by side comparison of angry citizens in two different nations as they vented their wrath and hatred focused on their respective presidents. Clearly, the CPAC crowd would have been just as thrilled as the Egyptians if Barack Obama had stepped down from power on Friday along with Hosni Mubarak. The fact that Obama was duly elected by a rather substantial majority of voters in a totally democratic process— this didn’t seem to be a reason to cut him any slack within CPAC, and it raises a question. In America, do we love and embrace democracy? Or do we love and embrace the IDEA of democracy? For the past twenty or so years, I’ve seen both political parties in Washington heaping constant and glorious praise on the idea and theoretical concept of democracy, even as they manifest contempt and disgust for the constraints of an actual democracy in operation.

This is something for Egypt to keep in mind as that country now strives to build its own democracy. I’m not sure that, among the democracies of the world, the United States of America is the very best example for the Egyptians to copy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

It Was All About Ms. Aguilera

Let’s face it. July 4th really isn’t America’s day to shine, at least not beyond our borders. July 4th is our homeland celebration, but when it comes time to show the world why the U.S.A. is a big deal, that honor is reserved for Super Bowl Sunday. It was claimed that Sunday’s game was seen by one billion people, which means that 850 million foreign TV viewers were watching. America does three things in a bigger way, and better than any other nation on earth— self-congratulatory patriotism, television advertising, and good old rugged, smash-mouth football (not to be confused with soccer), and Super Bowl Sunday showcased all three of these core competencies. And then, just to show the world that we have a sense of humor, we selected— to lead us in singing our Nation Anthem— a “vocalist” who looked like a Barbi doll, but who didn’t know the lyrics or the melody to the Star Spangled Banner. Francis Scott Key’s musical composition was evidently viewed as merely a guideline for individual interpretation by Christina Aguilera.

There was an even more patriotic time in America’s past, during and after World War II, when a singer named Kate Smith routinely sang God Bless America and The Star Spangled Banner. She knew all the lyrics, and she hit every note with perfection. She always made the song be “about America.” Christina Aguilera made Sunday’s performance of our National Anthem be all about her. It didn’t work out all that well.