What's All This Then?

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

A few nights ago I was watching the "Universe" series on the Sci-Fi channel when the subject was the inevitable collision between our Galaxy - the Milky Way - and the Andromeda Galaxy. It’s not going to happen for four or five or six billion years - the astrophysicists aren’t sure of the precise date - but they are sure that the two galaxies are racing toward each other at breakneck speed and will eventually meet, setting off the mother of all July Fourth and Guy Fawke’s Days. Obviously, no life forms will survive such a collision - assuming that any life forms still exist in our galaxy billions of years hence. Unless perhaps if those life forms are pure energy and might enjoy and even benefit from the fireworks. The scientists on the program also said that while Milky and Andromeda are moving toward each other, everything else in the universe is moving away - and the combined galaxies will exist in isolation with everything else so far away that of there were astronomers alive at the time, there would be no stars visible outside of the new giant galaxy from which they would be making their observations.

All of which got me thinking about religion - a subject that I have not touched upon for quite some time. I got to wondering what Christians would think about this kind of information - particularly Evangelical Christians. Would it bother them to accept the scientific prediction that earth would no longer exist billions of years from now? Would they feel confident that no matter what the future holds - it would all happen as a matter of "God’s will" and would have zero affect on believers because they’d all be nestling comfortably up in heaven Or down - or sideways - or in hyper space. I’m not sure why "heaven" is always thought of as being "up" when there’s no up or down beyond the gravity of our planet - but it’s the common vernacular when the subject is heaven.

I then got to wonder, as I do from time to time - who Christians think will be their companions in heaven. Obviously fellow Christians. But if there is an "after life" - surely it extends to all humans. Some of those humans are the Muslim extremists who commit suicide in the course of blowing up "the enemy" - an act that they consider sacred, guaranteeing them wonderful pleasantries in paradise. Do Christians look upon them as fellow heavenly residents? And what about the millions of people who are slaughtered in tribal warfare in Africa or who die from malnutrition. You often see pictures of those people in television reports, usually children with distended stomachs and flies crawling across their faces. There are always flies. Do Christians think of themselves as one with all of these people and do they expect to share heaven with them?

I pose these questions because I have no idea how Christians think about such matters. I know something of the elaborate sets of rules and beliefs of the Christian churches - plural because certainly Christianity isn’t monolithic. Judaism doesn’t talk about after life and I don’t think it’s actually a belief of Jews - even though the concept seems to stem from the alleged preaching of a Jew named Jesus and words he is alleged to have spoken as he was being crucified. I won’t comment on the story of him rising from the dead. But I often wonder what religion and religious beliefs would look like today if Jesus had lived and died in relative obscurity and if Mohammed had spent his life as a carpenter or a fisherman. Would the dominant religion of today’s world be Judaism? Instead of a Pope in Rome, would there be a Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem. Would our national holidays be Yom Kippur and Passover? Would coronation ceremonies be performed in Westminster Synagogue? Would we be wondering when we’re ever going to have a president other than a male Jewish Caucasian?

All of the foregoing might appear to be frivolous, but to me it’s a demonstration of how ridiculous the world’s multiple religions are, with all of their rules and regulations and inventions of what the after life is like - inventions that generations have accepted as "gospel." Many people would look into the cosmos and be awed by the array of millions of galaxies and billions of stars and their reaction would be that some mighty entity must have created all of this. As a matter of fact, they don’t even have to look that far to have that reaction. Just looking at our local night sky is enough for millions of people to believe in divine creation. But you have to wonder - assuming the astrophysicists are correct - what kind of divine entity would be planning the clash of two galaxies, destroying any and all planets that might exist and most assuredly any and all life - down to the lowest single cell creature? It may be too far into the distance for most believers to even think about - but it is pretty clear that there will one day be no human life in the Milky Way galaxy. Even if the clash never occurs, our sun is destined to nova and take all of it’s planets along with it into oblivion. Of course, hundreds of thousands years hence - if the human race still exists - some of our descendants might be space travelers - chasing after galaxies racing away from us at unfathomable speeds - looking for a place to perpetuate our species, but I doubt that it will happen.

Most deists don’t care to think about such matters and I guess they are the lucky ones because they believe that no matter what, when they die they will "ascend" to "heaven" where they’ll meet up with ancestors and loved ones and live forever in a "state of grace." I have a friend who died in 2007 and his widow can’t wait to succumb herself so that she can "rejoin" him. I’m not so lucky. I’m one of those over thinking people who can’t bring myself to believe in a deity and an after life and so I look forward to an eternity of oblivion for myself and for what I can observe in the night sky.

I know such thoughts amount to a terrible downer - but here’s a thought to cheer myself and readers up. No matter who’s right and who’s wrong about deities and religions and after lives - I’ve always believed that as long as we remain sentient - we humans are in a sense immortal. That’s because if only oblivion awaits us after death, our last thoughts will last for all time - even when there no longer is time. And best of all, we won’t know we’re dead - and that’s a kind of immortality.

Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I have sympathy for syndicated columnists who are not confined to a single topic - politics for instance. When I sit down to comment on the passing parade - rarely nowadays, about which I may comment in a week or so - my problem is to pick one of the many current issues that have grabbed my attention and piqued my interest. So some days - and this is one - I’ve decided to simply make a few comments about a variety of issues.

First - in case anyone didn’t understand what I was talking about on October 2 - and there is an indication that this might be the case - it was parody. I was pointing out how ridiculous it is for national programs such as Social Security and Medicare to be funded only by a specific tax and not also funded from general revenues. Which is why people keep issuing dire warnings about Medicare being bankrupt in - you pick the year. Which is why we would soon be out of funds for the military if it were funded the same way. Which is ridiculous. As is the way we keep funding Medicare et al and keep issuing those dire predictions. Of course if we weren’t involved in wars for years on end and didn’t have military bases around the world - maybe we wouldn’t have to listen to all those dire predictions.

Speaking of Medicare, the big issue over the alleged healthcare "reform" bills floating around in Congress is whether or not the final bill will include a "public" option which some advocates seem to think will keep the health insurance companies in line and make it easier for the less fortunate among us to get health care at reasonable cost. No one knows exactly what a public option will look like - but it’s been described as something akin to Medicare. If that’s the case and that’s the kind of plan that advocates think of as some kind of panacea, they need to take a longer look at Medicare.

Practically everyone on Medicare loves it - according to the public option advocates. Well, I’m on Medicare and it seems to be a reasonably good program - as long as there’s cooperation from the medical profession - but when there isn’t - and non-cooperation is far from a rare event - Medicare doesn’t look quite as lovable. I need to have a procedure performed which is currently scheduled for tomorrow and to schedule it I called a specialist who has treated me in the past when my insurance was Blue Cross - albeit several years ago - only to discover that while he "accepts" Medicare patients , he doesn’t accept Medicare assignment. What this means, it was explained to me, is that his office will bill Medicare and my Medigap insurance - either that or Medicare sends the bill onto my Medigap insurance - and a check for whatever is covered will be sent to me. I will then be responsible for any part of his bill that Medicare doesn’t cover. And to give himself a little extra leeway, he requires a $125 "scheduling " fee before he will agree to perform the procedure. When I expressed surprise and consternation upon hearing this information, his scheduler said - tersely - more and more doctors won’t even take Medicare patients.

A "public option" may indeed do all that its advocates claim it will do, but unless there is some way to induce doctors to treat patients insured this way , it will be a program fraught with problems. We have to assume that the most vulnerable among us - those with limited funds - would be the ones most likely to end up on a public option plan - and if it’s anything like Medicare, they may find themselves in the same situation that I ran up against trying to schedule a medical procedure with a specialist. The idea of a "public option" - indeed the idea of a single payer program - a national health plan - is advocated by many doctors. But unless the reimbursements are close to what they are currently receiving from private insurance companies - it may not be that easy to find a doctor happy to take public option patients.

From medicine to guns - not that unusual a segue. There are those who consider trauma from gun shots a social as well as a neducal problem. I have nothing against limited gun ownership, though I think the recent Supreme Court interpretation of the second amendment to the constitution is little short of being ridiculous. That’s the problem with having a constitution written for the contemporaneous conditions of he United States in the late 1700’s and trying to apply it to the twenty first century. With the record number of annual gun deaths in our country, you would think that the greatest effort by out courts and our law enforcement officials and our states and municipalities, would be to limit gun ownership to responsible people who would be licensed and have their guns registered. Instead, the Supreme Court has given the green light for the entire country to become the wild west of the eighteen hundreds,

I bring up the subject of guns because of a news story I heard the other day - which, in a civilized society should have been on the front page of every newspaper in the nation. A Florida man, hearing the sounds of movement in his house in the night, got up to "investigate" - saw a shadowy figure in the hallway and FIRED at "it" - killing his live in fiancé who he was scheduled to marry the next day. He has not been charged with any crime. It was a "tragic accident" according to police who said that he appeared to display genuine remorse.

If I were prone to puking, I might easily have done so after hearing that story. An accident? No charges? No thought of reckless homicide? Like this sharpshooter, I live in a two person house. I don’t keep a loaded gun by my bedside, but if I happened to hear a "sound" in the night, I would assume it was my wife. But even if I did have a loaded gun handy and I had the slightest inkling that someone had broken into the house - causing no "break in" noise - but only the noise of someone moving about, the last thing I would do would be to fire at a "shadowy figure" in the hall. Not without asking "is that you honey?" Not without asking "who’s there?"

What kind of person’s first reaction to what may be an imagined threat is to fire a gun? I would think some kind of mad man. Someone without the slightest sense of responsibility. I don’t know anything about the guy but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was an NRA member - someone who believes that every American has a right not just to own a gun but to use it in self defense - to fire against any lurking shadow that may be a threat to one’s person or property. At the very least, the man’s actions were reckless and the fact that the law enforcement authorities aren’t even considering a charge of reckless homicide is astonishing. But perhaps I shouldn’t be astonished. I remember a case - not that long ago - of another gun owner who observed what appeared to be a robbery of his neighbor’s house. He called the police. He says "I’ve got a shotgun, you want me to stop him?" The police dispatcher says no way. The guy says - "I’m not going to them go. I’m going to kill him." The plice dispatcher says stay in your house. The guy ignores what the police are telling him. He goes outside and bang bang - he kills two people.

Like the wife/fiance "accidental" killer, he wasn’t charged with any crime either. The two stories aren’t exactly alike but they both say something pretty damned scary. When it comes to gun ownership and use, something is terribly wrong in this country.

Finally, I was pleased to learn that Rush Limbaugh will not be part of any group trying to buy the St. Louis Rams It’s truly astonishing that Don Imus was bounced off the air for calling a group of African American athletes "nappy headed ho’s" while we hear nothing about stations dropping Limbaugh for any of his racists comments over the years of which these are but a few. Six years ago, when I started this blog, I wrote a brief hello and then on the next day, April 3, 2003, I wrote a short piece entitled Shut Up Limbaugh. I called what he did on his radio show "dangerous free speech." I also said he was scary. That he continues to spew forth his daily garbage unabated this many years later is not only scary and dangerous but an insult to the constitutional protection behind which he continues to pollute the public airways.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

With an even worse smell from US right wing nut country….

By now it should be pretty clear that Chicago had zero chance of being the winning city for the 2016 Olympics. Whatever political skills the Chicago contingent had, they fell far short of understanding the politics of the IOC and its relationship with the US Olympic committee After all, there’s more than a small difference between getting some local zoning changed to benefit a builder or some other clout heavy contractor and persuading Sergey Bubka of the Ukraine or Princess Haya Bin Al Hussein of the United Arab Emirates to vote for Chicago, even if the latter shares part of her name with that of the President of the United Sates. The decision was probably made before anyone from Chicago set foot in Copenhagen and the failure was in us not understanding that.

None of this however was of interest to the conservative nut case wing of the Republican party. For their membership, it was a time for great celebration and for blaming Chicago’s failure on Barrack Obama. No question about it. It was Obama’s inability to "close the deal" that bore the ultimate responsibility for Rio’s triumph and that was a good reason for the nut cases to celebrate. Just as the lefties cheered and danced in the streets when New York lost ITS bid for the 2012 Olympics, blaming it all on Gorge W Bush for only sending a videotape instead of making a personal appeal.. Except that of course it didn’t happen. The reaction from just about everyone was one of sympathy for New York’s losing bid - which of course was a USA bid. And after the loss, Bush expressed total support for Chicago’s bid for 2016. Except of course, no one knew that an African American would be president when the selection was made in 2009.

Liberals are quite capable of hypocrisy - but not at the level of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and the news room crew at the Weekly Standard. To them, anything that could be viewed as a setback for the United States is a victory in the battle to bring down the President of the United States, the legitimacy of whom they do not accept. It’s getting very close to the point where the question has to be asked, where is the line between free speech and sedition? But the blame for the non stop garbage being spilled by Obama hating write wing nuts is not theirs alone. Without radio station and network ownership willing to provide the opportunity for them to spread their messages of hatred and misinformation and sponsors to provide the financial revenues to keep them on the air, none of this would be happening - and you have to ask the second question - why? Why do radio stations and Fox Network and to a lesser extent CNN, keep these people on the air? And why do major corporations continue to sponsor them? And the answer of course is greed.

Sponsors know that there at a great many people who watch and listen to these right wing crazies and that they believe what they are told by Limbaugh et al. Large numbers of them believe that only through Fox News and the radio stations that carry the ‘LETALS ’ - Limbaugh et al crew - do they get the real - unfiltered news - as opposed to what they may hear from ABC, CBS and NBC. They really believe it - and I am relatively sure that the conclusion of ad agencies and ad people at major corporations is that if large numbers of people believe anything that Limbaugh or Beck or Savage says - then they are likely to believe any message that an advertiser places within the body of their programs.

I know that after Glenn Beck said that President Obama has a deep seated hatred for white people, dozens of sponsors withdrew from his program but the last time I checked, Fox still had plenty of companies advertising on its network and there was no sign of them canceling or even trying to restrain Mr. Beck - and I would be willing to bet that it won’t be that long before sponsors start to pick up availability’s in his program. There are responsible corporations out there that are not solely motivated by the almighty dollar and would not support someone as irresponsible as Beck with their advertising dollars - or if they did and then discovered what kind of garbage he spewed over the airways daily, would withdraw and not resume their support. But I fear that that kind of corporation is in the minority

People can boycott the sponsors of these irresponsible - and in my view downright dangerous right wing programs - but as long as the programs can demonstrate large audience numbers - numbers much larger than known or perceived boycotters, there’ll be plenty of sponsorship available - enough to enable Rush Limbaugh to make an offer to buy an NFL team!!

What do you think this all says about our wonderful capitalistic system? I think it says something on a par with the current stance of the Republican Party which is "party first and America last" - as witness their celebration over the loss of the 2016 Olympic games which they figure could reflect badly on Obama. I think our capitalists system is one that puts money first and people somewhere down the line. Witness the millions being spent by the country’s medical insurance companies in their efforts keep making the billions of profits they rake in every year and even increase those profits if they are successful in their support of legislation that would force every American to buy health insurance - instead of supporting efforts to create a system that would guarantee every American access to health care without the ever looming threat of financial ruin. Something akin to what every other industrial country in the world has had for decades - systems that our health care corporations, with the aid of bought and paid for politicians - demonize in their insatiable quest for the almighty dollar.

So the next time you’re thinking of buying a Select Comfort bed or booking a flight through Hotwire.com, remember that you’re endorsing the hatred of "Barrack the Magic Negro" as Rush Limbaugh calls the President of the United States.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Frightening news out of the Congressional Budget Office. It’s being kept under wraps but I have inside sources and what I’ve learned has to be made public. We’re running out of money. By 2016 they’re won’t be a dime left. I’m not talking about Medicare and Social Security. We all know that they’re both teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and that long before 2016 millions of seniors will be living in the streets and dying from the absence of healthcare which will no longer be available to them. No sir. I’m talking about the funds for waging or threatening WAR - the WOTW funds!!

As we all know, the emergency tax enacted during the GW Bush second term - that’s the THEY’RE EITHER WITH US IR AGAINST US tax, paid for through payroll deductions on people making $50,000 or less per year, was never going to sustain the needs of WOTW unless we cut down on future military adventures and closed down some of our far flung military bases around the world. The Republicans of course have blocked every single proposal to extend the tax to people making at least $60,000. Their theory is that if you start extending the tax to people making that kind of money - the next thing you know, Democrats will want to tax people making two or three hundred thousand and maybe even trying to get their blood sucking tax and spend hands on the last protected segment of American society - million and billionaires!! And as long as the Democrats can’t muster 60 votes to raise more money, those important funds will be gone in a dozen years. There is another bill pending to get it from a tax on health insurance company profits - but right now, that doesn’t look like it could muster even forty votes in the Senate.

What all of this means is that starting sometime before 2016, we will be reduced to being one of those countries that watches what goes on in other countries and between other countries from a distance and without any of our military personnel - the few that we are able to maintain on the payroll - involved. Possibly moving in to fill the role we will have to abandon are the Chinese, who are already bidding on our world wide military bases. That could have a beneficial effect depending on how much we could realize from the sales because it could be enough money to fund national health care for every American without any of us having to chip in a dime. But of course the Republicans will filibuster that one to death.

The news is already having an effect. People are trying to figure out why Chicago didn’t win the 2016 Olympic Games. The answer’s obvious. They’re not afraid of us anymore. There’s no shoot from the hip president declaring the IOC is either with us or against us. They like Obama and Michelle and Oprah - but they knew damn well that there would be no invasion if they snubbed the United States of America.

There is one possible way that this tragic future can be averted, I’m not sure who suggested it first, our Philosopher Laureate Rush Limbaugh or pretender Sean Hannity or Beck the revealer or maybe even Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, but the idea seems to have merit. Immediately cancel Social Security and Medicare - not the taxes - just the programs - and transfer all the tax revenues to WOTW. I think there are plans for Joe Wilson to introduce it in the House and Jim Demint in the Senate.

Stay tuned . My sources are hinting at new revelations that will make this news pale in comparison. You think there’s some question about whether Barack Obama was born in Hawaii or Kenya? Ask yourself why of all places he decided to settle in ILLINOIS and in CHICAGO I’ll give you a hint. Try thinking of the word Ikskobar. Regular readers of this blog will understand what I mean.