Monday, November 26, 2012

What’s Blasphemy, Anyhow??

As I was sitting, drinking my early cup of coffee this morning, while awaiting my bride (of 58 years) after our morning workouts, I was reading some news in The Guardian newspaper, on my I-Phone. I know . . . amazing stuff, huh? Anyway, the article I was reading really blew me away . . . I thought, this really defines chutzpah.  So, here’s the article, taken from this morning’s Manchester Guardian:

“When water started trickling down a statue of Jesus Christ at a Catholic church in Mumbai earlier this year, locals were quick to declare a miracle. Some began collecting the holy water and the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni began to promote it as a site of pilgrimage.

So when Sanal Edamaruku arrived and established that this was not holy water so much as holey plumbing, the backlash was severe. The renowned rationalist was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, had to seek exile in Finland.

Now he is calling for European governments to press Delhi into dropping the case. And on the first leg of a tour around EU capitals on Friday, he warned that India was sacrificing freedom of expression for outdated, colonial-era rules about blasphemy (the present blasphemy law was passed in 1860 during the colonial period, while Britain still ruled India).

"There is a huge contradiction in the content of the Indian constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and the blasphemy law from 1860 under then colonial rule," Edamaruku told the Guardian in an interview in Dublin.

"This blasphemy law can affect anyone in India – even a girl recently who wrote on Facebook against closing down a city because of the death of a famous local politician. She was prosecuted under the blasphemy law and another girl who 'liked' her comment on Facebook was also arrested and then charged with blasphemy."”

Turns out, Mr. Edamaruku loves debunking crap like this. One of his thoughts on the issue was, “this was sewage, and people were actually drinking this water, hoping for some miracle.”  Didn’t seem like such a good idea to him, so he ratted them out.
But, this whole thing set me to thinking. When does blasphemy occur . . . when a rationalist reveals the reality of a purported “miracle”—in this case, lousy plumbing—or is it true blasphemy when church elders disguise bad plumbing as a religious miracle, wrought by God, thereby defrauding the believing public into thinking they are actually witnessing something from God?
Now, lest you think this whole affair was quickly resolved, No. Mr. Edamaruku was last seen hiding out in Finland, to avoid his arrest in Delhi on the blasphemy charges.  But really, why aren’t the church elders being hauled before a magistrate for committing blasphemy?
And this garbage actually occurred in India, not Pakistan, or Afghanistan. And here I thought that India had already emerged long ago into the 21st century (I mean, 80% of the population has a cell phone, including most of India's prostitutes). How can they still pretend to fake miracles? I wonder whether the Nazi pope weighed in on this one??? There's still time. It isn't even Christmas yet . . .

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Checking in periodically on the mess in Gaza is a depressing business. I understand that one definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results”. Makes me think about Gaza, and wondering what it says about Hamas and its “seekers after 71 virgins” crowd. They keep shooting rockets into Israel; Israel keeps beating the crap out of them; then they repeat.  But then, the Pakistanis keep doing the same thing vis-à-vis India. They mount some attack against India; India beats the crap out of them; then they repeat.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Israel and India keep building their economies and their nations, while the Paks and the Arabs remain mired somewhere in the 14th century.

 Very sad, really.
But all this sad stuff brings me back to my own reality. We are both approaching an age that bends the definition of “middle age” to the breaking point. Maybe, at almost 78 and almost 77, we are both classified, at least by the youngsters in our lives, as “old”.  I still remember, when my own grandparents were in the late 60s and early 70s, that they were truly “old”.  But, you know, achieving status as an “elder” seems arguably better than the only alternative. So, we must be content with our elderly-middle ages.  One advantage—our children are now old enough that we can interact with them as mature adults, and the parent-child thing is unnecessary and even not terribly useful. Turns out they are charming adults, and nice to converse with (to end one of those dreaded sentences with a preposition).  
But even nicer, we have a flock of grandkids and even great grandkids to chat with and smile at. Hugs from a grandkid are special indeed, even when the grandkid stands a head taller.  Yep, grandkids turn out to be one compelling reason for surviving into elder-middle age.  Simply, they are wonderful.  And because we are close enough to three of them to see them almost daily, we can observe the little things that constitute growing up.  Again, nice.
So, tomorrow, my wife of almost 58 years and I will sit down to a groaning table full of wonderful food—several turkeys, yummy stuffing, cranberries, onions, white and sweet potatoes, green beans, all consumed with love and wine. We will finish with Thanksgiving pies and then smile a lot. But, we will begin with Thanks. For that is what this meal is all about. The food is quite wonderful, but feasts are about more than just the food. They are a special way to look around, up, down,. And at each and every person surrounding you, and saying, Thank You for making my life so wonderful.
Giving Thanks is the reason for this special day. And we really do have so much in our lives for which to be grateful. And I give a special thanks that we are here and not in Gaza or Tel Aviv, and that none of our children or grandchildren lie in harms way. And we need to give special thanks to those in our larger community who are in harm’s way, somewhere in this troubled world.  May you be safe, and may you return quickly to your own loved ones.
So, Thank You.

Oh and The Dude thanks you also:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An Obama Four year Agenda

I’m thinking about the demands within Britain for a complete structural overhaul, from top to bottom, of the BBC.  Not to suggest that, their fairly glaring screw-up on the news show requires some serious accountability, but seems to me to stop short of blowing up BBC and starting over. Now, to be fair, we are great fans of the BBC, finding them to be both serious and talented for virtually all of their programming, from straight news to dramatic shows.  So, while we agree that a shake-up is perhaps needed, we also hope that the main parts of the BBC remain healthy and continue on as they were.  There are no public services that seriously rival the BBC for content and intelligence.

But, while I was thinking about dramatic structural redesigns, I was drawn inexorably to the global financial system. Now, if ever there is a case ready-made for a complete redesign, it is our global financial system. It would seem that global finance is too important to be left to (private) bankers.  I keep wondering why we don’t seem to grasp that simple fact—private bankers have demonstrated amply, beyond any reasonable doubt, that they are willing and able to gamble with other peoples’ money to the point of exhaustion, i.e., the exhaustion of the entire world’s supply of money. They seem not to care about any consequences, especially on other people, including their own clients. And when they are caught out and show signs of collapsing the entire financial structure, they expect to be bailed out by various sovereign governments.  And then they would get all huffy at the suggestion that any of them are criminals who need to spend some serious time in the slammer.  I mean, we pulled our accounts and money from the HSBC bank, upon discovering that they were really just part of a criminal enterprise—laundering and protecting the funds of Mexican drug lords and establishing offshore accounts to hide their (illegal) funds. To my knowledge, nobody has gone to prison from the HSBC bank community.
Another bank basically set up highly risky real estate ventures, sold those capital ventures to their clients and then went around them to bet against the success of the ventures—in effect betting against their own clients.
We have so many instances of the big banks—the “global” banks-- doing at best grossly unethical things and at worst patently illegal acts, that it seems to me the evidence is now in. Banks and bankers can no longer be trusted to operate global financial systems and they need to be regulated to the point that they no longer have much freedom of action. We need to get banks out of the gambling business. Goodness, we spend considerable time and discussion about Internet gambling, tsk tsking all over the place. Yet, we seem not to care that big bankers are basically very large gambling institutions. Las Vegas mobsters must be envious.
So, I am awaiting some sign from our global leaders that they now recognize that we need a new, from the ground up, redesign of the entire global financial system, including both international transactions, and actions within national boundaries. It may be that “global” banks need to be broken up into very small entities. Surely, we know by now that any bank “too big to fail” is also too big to exist.
So, maybe we have an additional item on Mr. Obama’s four year agenda:
1.       A strategic solution to the current financial mess, created by our republican banking community;

2.       A complete redesign of the world’s financial mechanisms and institutions;

3.       A strategic plan for engaging the climate change problem, with its potentially catastrophic effects should we not act;

4.       And, a new single payer approach to health care that gets rid of insurance companies and that covers all citizens of the nation.
So, there you go, Prez . . . a whole neat four-year agenda. Now, it’s your turn.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


However much should have changed since the re-election of President Obama,  the little people of the country remain stubbornly angry and sullenly ignorant of their responsibility for their own losses.  They remain fixated on blaming someone else.

Mr. Romney and Mister Ryan cannot stop lying. Now they are explaining to their billionaire friends that the reason they blew through all their money with so little to show for it was that the President bestowed gifts on the voters.  Unlike the republicans, who receive hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for promises to their rich benefactors—their owners really—it seems the Dems just bribed the electorate.  My God, they can’t even dream up something interesting . . . like maybe the dog ate their homework . . . or the ballots.
It’s time the Randians moved off the stage and went off in search of a spiderhole somewhere near Mr. Cheney’s. They are disgracing the very concept of being an American-- waaah, waaah, whine . . . whine.  And to you especially Mr. Ryan. STOP LYING. You can’t both pretend to being a good Christian and then lie every time you open your mouth. You can’t pretend to be a good Christian and then promise to dismiss the population of Americans who are not among the “Fortunates” of the land.  It just won’t wash you miserable cretin and you really need to get off the stage.
I know. Maybe Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan can form their own secessionist party and lobby their rich friends for permission to leave the country, taking maybe Texas and a few other malcontent states with them.  I’m sure Mr. Murdoch and his cast of delusional sociopathic actors who play their parts so well on the Faux News Network, would love building a country on their own, right next door to Mexico. And don’t let the door slam you in the ass on the way out guys. They could call it Richmanistan and begin with their own version of Christian Taliban Sharia Law instead of a real constitution.
Just let us get on with becoming civilized again, huh guys? We all understand that the now standard two-year election process practically eliminates civilization for that whole long dreary night. But you make that recovery task practically impossible with all your caveman grunting. Oh, and take old man McCain with you, please?? He will never be happy until he has his own country.  Maybe you can crown him Emperor of Richmanistan.
Just a thought.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Republican Huffing and Puffing

The wonder of it all. A billion bucks and bupkus to show for it. Sheldon Adelson, one of the darlings of the 1% set, lavishly supported eight candidates, all of whom lost. George Will, Newt Gingrich and others of that ilk lost their intellectual credibility (not sure whether the Newtster had any to begin with)  and now may have to look for a new day job, involving actual work. Poor old George. He is so distraught.

And that old southern racist, Frankie Graham, is mouthing off that the election of an intelligent black man means essentially the end of civilization as he has known it. He may be right actually. Whereas St. Ronald the Reagan seemed to have made racism ok again in America, it now seems that’s really not ok. The people have spoken, not once, but twice on that issue. Republicans, take notice. It’s not ok to be a racist political party.  Perhaps the teabaggers can now pack up their garbage bags and go home to whatever spiderholes they occupied before hearing the call of the Cocks to come forth and rain hellfire and damnation upon this fair land.
Perhaps the funniest of the election season utterances was when that fat dimwit drug addict, Rush Limbaugh, accused Gov. Chris Christie of being a fat fool for pronouncing President Obama as an ok, competent chief executive.  Hahahahahahaha . . .
But apparently, the severely demented right wing has not yet retreated back into their caves. A group of Nazis from Detroit is poised to march on Charlotte, and one of the seriously rich guys who wasted that billion dollars, thinks that War is on and the 1% need to gear up for the War. And these same people get all huffy when people think they are responsible when an idiot like Jared Loughner takes a Sarah Palin “target ad” seriously and decides to shoot Gabby Gifford and many others.  Republicans love war rhetoric. They love war actually, so long as somebody else’s kid is doing the fighting.
And now Mr. Boner, the putative Speaker of the republican majority in the House has pronounced that it’s Game On. He dares the President to show up with anything like a tax increase to cover the fiscal deficit we now face. He isn’t opposed to new revenues, don’t you know. Just don’t ask his Lords of their Manors to pony up any additional revenues.
Ahh, but it’s good to know that Citizens United (thank you Supremes) failed to totally corrupt the political process here. But, clearly the predatory plutocrats of the country are not yet done with us poor serfs.
Stay tuned to more from “Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” that old republican theme song.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Once More With Feeling

Wow, what a shocker. Just when you think that you really cannot underestimate the intelligence of the American people, they throw you a curveball, and go out and do the right thing. I’m shocked . . . shocked.  We gave an intelligent, decent black man another four years in the White House! How sweet it is.  And, almost as good, they rejected the true idiots like Tod Akin and Richard Mourdock. Wow . . . impressive. That Elizabeth Warren won against Scott Brown is perhaps not a big surprise. She seemed to stand for something, whereas he just stands there in his empty suit, looking and acting like the doofus he is.

Now, I don’t know how to feel about our very own Larry Kissell. We worked hard in 2008 to elect Mr. Kissell, going door to door in an effort to unseat Mr. Richguy Robin Hays—talk about standing for nothing. Wow.  But then, after we succeeded in getting Mr. Kissell elected, that same gent basically turned around and spit in our eyes. He voted against Obama’a signature health care program—OBAMACARES--. But then, right in the height of the election season, he told us that he would not be supporting the President this election, and he wouldn’t even show up at the Democratic Party convention. Excuse me??? So, basically, he was telling us . . .” look, I’m not a real democrat. I’m just a Dem because of the “Lincoln won the war” thing. So, if you’re a Dem voter, vote for me if you dare.” And he lost.  But the good thing is that the guy who defeated him, a Mr. Richard Hudson, announced at his victory speech party that he had checked his brain at the door and would not be using it any longer.  Seems he doesn’t need a brain anymore, cuz he was now going on full God Autopilot. Yep. He intends to just listen to what God tells him to do and all will be well. Oh, and for his first act, he plans to work really, really hard to take health insurance away from those unfortunates who couldn’t get health care until President Obama passed his health care bill—OBAMACARES.  So, see, now we will get to see a true conservative Christian Taliban moron running things in Washington. Stay tuned to more to more of the  Richard Hudson Theatre of God.
And of course, not to be outdone, Mitch McConnell lost no time in announcing that nothing really has changed in Washington and he intends to be the same hyperpartisan asshole he has been since Obama’s first election.
Wonder what the pundits will say about all this. I mean:
Mr. Romney lost heavily because he is an empty suit who seems to hold no convictions except that he is totally wonderful.
Mr. Ryan helped to lead his party to defeat by lying every time he opened his mouth.
The Republican Party, having been taken over by the likes of the Cock brothers, Karl Rove, and the teabaggers tried their best to inform the country that the Middle Class should disappear and be replaced by serfs.  Public schooling—hah, what a waste. Why educate those whom you intend to rule over?  Oh, and that same Grand Old Party announced that, if you are not a white Christian conservative, they don't give a shit about you.
And so the great saga continues. The great uncertainty is when/whether the United States will either emerge into the sunlight and become the Great Nation it once was, or will sink into the 14th century morass that grips much of the world and that republicans seem to so love.  Stay tuned. But in the meantime, congratulations to the most thoughtful of our nation. You rock, guys!