Another Day of Delusion

Another of America’s really bad ideas, the National Day of Prayer, has come around again.

That prayer doesn’t work has been amply demonstrated, both practically and scientifically, so I thought this time I would take a different approach and examine the practice from an (almost) purely religious perspective.

Assume I am religious or, if you are religious, feel free to substitute yourself for me if you like. I (or you) have defined a need for prayer, I’ll make one up, you may choose a real life situation if it simplifies the process.

By entering into prayer, what are we actually doing? I would submit, correct me if I’m wrong (Note: Not if you would like me to be wrong, but rather if you can actually present a reasonable argument for same), but it seems to me prayer is the practice of recognizing a mistake your deity has made and then asking him (her/it) to correct it.

I know what you’re thinking, but yes it is. Aunt Millie has cancer, and has been told she has six months to live. I therefore enter into a dialogue with the almighty and point out that when he was apparently busy with something else, perhaps knocking down the Himalayas and burying 8,000 or so men, women and children, he seems to have forgotten to take care of Millie and now she’s in really bad shape. So, lord, could you please refocus and correct your oversight?

The problem is, god is omniscient, he knows everything. Not just what happened yesterday or what’s going on at present, but what will happen tomorrow and next month and a thousand years from now. It’s all in his grand plan, you see.

Now is the problem clearer? God has a plan, Aunt Millie succumbing to cancer in agony is part of that plan, but I’m going to talk him into changing his plan just for me. (And Millie, of course.) If he responds and Millie gets better, was that part of his plan all along? (In which case my prayer was sort of narcissistic and a complete waste of my and god’s time.) Or did he change his plan because of my intervention, which begs the question how firm of a plan he has and just how omniscient he really is.

In conclusion, prayer is a rather self-serving claim that I (or you) know better than our all-knowing deity. Which, I believe, comes pretty close to clarifying who really created whom.

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IN & OUT BURGER: WTF?

Six months ago I made my first (and final) visit to a Whataburger. I’ve been in TX 10+ years and decided to find out what the fuss was all about. Alas, not much, unless you own stock in Morton’s.

The cheeseburger (my standard) was greasy — not moist, mind you, but greasy, and so over-salted it was rendered inedible. That so many Texans find it irresistible is probably a key factor in this state’s life expectancy trailing the national average.

This occurred about the same time the iconic California chain In & Out Burger arrived in North Texas. The first few openings were incredible – half mile long lines and rave reviews from long-standing fans. Maybe, just maybe…

Waiting for a few more units to open and the ensuing lines to subside, I finally made it to In & Out for, yes, a cheeseburger.

The product was moderately moist, not greasy, and in that regard an improvement over the Whataburger product. But…

If I were a betting man, I would wager that salt was the primary ingredient, with a little beef thrown in to enhance the flavor. Again, I gave up, leaving half a sandwich behind. What has happened to burger chains, and the American consumer for that matter?

Look – I add salt to many of the dishes I cook, and have a real affinity for many salty snacks. I am not anti-salt. I am, however, anti-salt as a main course.

I quit McDonald’s 20 years ago, and they both make McDonald’s look almost gourmet. In a way, this is probably for the best. I will never be tempted to stop in either of these chains rather than going home and cooking my own (much better) burger.

As for the taste of Texans? Well, they did elect Bush and Perry back to back.

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How Did We Allow This To Happen?

In 1999, then President Clinton, a Democrat, proposed a budget for the United States government of $1.7 Trillion. That is a huge amount of money, and undoubted more than was needed in order for government to fulfill its principal obligations to the American people, namely to protect their lives, liberties, and justly acquired property.

I mention this quaint historic fact because our present feckless leader, President Obama, just presented his 2016 spending plan to Congress. In it he calls for outlays of, get ready, $3.99 Trillion — over two and a third times more than the aforementioned Clinton budget. Two and a third times more!

Well, of course, there is inflation, the prices government pays for things and people goes up over time, I get that. In fact, prices today stand just under forty percent higher than they did in 2000.

Which begs the question, where in the name of h-e-double hockey sticks did the other one-hundred and ninety percent come from, or, more to the point I suppose, where in the hell is it going?

I don’t care how liberal you are, or how big a defense spender for that matter, there simply is no way such an increase can be justified. None.

Progressives and others lament things like growing income gaps, a shrinking middle class, and the largest block of workers who have given up on looking for a job in American history. Well friends, look no further than your spendthrift President and his Congressional enablers! (Including most of the GOP, which although saying many of the right things, continues to shovel money into the central government pit as though feeding an angry, hungry god.)

Government creates nothing but laws and regulations, Every dollar given over to government is a dollar not available for economic growth and job creation. It is the U. S. government, through the industrialized world’s highest marginal business taxes and unnecessary and burdensome regulations, that has driven good-paying jobs offshore, not greedy capitalists. Greedy capitalists get richer when more people can afford their goods and services, they have no reason to abandon American workers except in reaction to the machinations of government. Indeed, American workers remain among the most productive on earth.

Increasing the tax burden on America’s top ten percent of earners, who already pay more than forty percent of all income taxes, is not only not the answer, it is digging an already deep hole deeper. Ripping a trillion and a half or more dollars than necessary out of our economy to lavish it on already overpaid government employees, and/or those Fortune 500 companies with the best lobbyists, will not create one additional good paying job nor lift a single family back into the middle class.

There was a time when government played a far more minimalist role in our economy and lives. That was a time of incredible economic expansion, as well as the birth of the American Middle Class. We cannot expect the very thing that broke our system in the first place to fix it now. Or ever.

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Rethinking the One Percent

A meme currently making the rounds on the internet attacks what has been derogatorily referred to as “The One Percent”. It takes the following form:

  • “How does trickle down work again?” (Another term designed to smear rather than enlighten.)
  • “The 1% get all the money.” (A gross exaggeration by any measure.)
  • “Then?”
  • “Nothing, that’s it.” (The ignorance is strong in whatever undereducated progressive dreamed this one up.)

First of all, rich people do not keep their money under their mattresses. They buy things: houses, clothes, cars, boats, and (gasp) even airplanes. Every one of these items must be built/manufactured, creating literally thousands of jobs for the 99% the creator of the meme purports to care about. They also save and invest, providing funds for mortgages and car loans, as well as capital to start new companies and create whole new industries.

And they give their money away. Google Buffett, Gates, Carnegie, or even (gasp) Rockefeller. (Did you know that John D. Rockefeller, in his lifetime, gave away almost one-half TRILLION in today’s dollars for charitable purposes?)

Answer this: How many jobs do poor people create? How many libraries, colleges, or research facilities have they funded?

Instead of constantly deriding and maligning the 1% we should be praising them, and giving thanks we live in an economy and nation where they can flourish and work the magic off of which the rest of us then thrive.

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On Turning Away From Zeus…

I just came across a Facebook posting wherein a true (Christian) believer was lamenting the sorry state of America, asserting it was all because we, or some of us anyway, had “turned away from God”.

I began to chortle but, when you get to thinking about such a contention, it begins to make sense.  Seriously. Permit me to explain.

Archaeologists, historians, and comparative religion scholars have identified roughly 20,000 distinct deities that have been created by humankind since we split from our hominid cousins some 200 millennia ago, all to explain what we couldn’t then understand and to instill meaning in life beyond the daily struggle to survive.

Think about that. Americans largely focus on only one god, and a quite recent one to the banquet at that. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the chances against picking the correct deity out of that tangle are pretty darned high and, in fact, the odds are only one in 20,000 that the vast majority of Americans have chosen the correct one to worship.

Ergo, it is not just possible, but incredibly probable, the aforementioned believer was correct, albeit not quite in the way she so self-righteously assumed.

Or not.

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Ducking an Ice Age: Has Humankind Fooled Mother Nature?

time-magazine-april-1977

I remember this cover. Do you?

I post it not because I am a climate denier, I am not. But it does demonstrate how science can, from time to time (yet generally only for a short while), be very wrong.

I post it because it helps me make the following argument:

  1. We are due, overdue actually, for another ice age. Look at the record back into deep history and you’ll see what I mean.
  2. As bad as a warming Earth is, it is far less destructive of human life, agriculture, economies, and college football than an ice age would be. Less than twenty thousand years ago, where Chicago stands today, sat an ice cap over a mile thick. Cubbies games postponed indefinitely.
  3. We use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” rather loosely. It is warming up from what it was 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 years ago, but so what? Who are we to say, temporary and short-term residents of the planet that we are, that the temperature/climate we’ve enjoyed for the last millennium or so is the “right”, or “proper” one? Many older species, dinosaurs perhaps, might disagree.
  4. Returning to item two for one second, is there any doubt that dramatic cooling would be far worse for our kind than the warming that is occurring presently? For example, the number of deaths prevented by warming exposure to cold temperatures is several times greater than the deaths projected from warming. It is a net good in that regard.
  5. No scientist of any weight believes that we can take significant enough action to halt, much less reverse the trend.  The Gores and Boxers of the world are simplyusing warming to promte their own interests and agendas. Given that, why not spend our time and resources learning to mitigate the damage rather than waste them on a campaign that will have little or no effect? And finally
  6. Given the above, even though who wouldn’t want to live on a planet with a static “ideal” climate, man-made warming could end up being one of the best things humankind has created since we stumbled out of Africa.

So perhaps we should be considering a much larger picture than that on which we seem to be focused.  Perhaps humankind is better served by planing, mitigating, and – by the way – thanking our lucky stars for the carbon-based energy that allowed us to grow our collective wealth to levels that would have been unimaginable to our great-grandparents. Not to mention postpone or even prevent an ice-driven end to our species.

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OBAMA’S SEQUESTRATION MISDIRECTION…

Today America’s Prevaricator-in-Chief, no he’s not the only one, merely the most prolific, announced the cuts to the budget required by the legislative sequastration he demanded and then signed into law.  Of course, politics being what it is, his list is designed to create the most discomfort for the largest number of people possible in the hope they will blame Republicans and Congress will be forced to give the Administration yet another round of tax increases in order to punish the productive classes for, well, being productive.

While not the topic at hand, I feel compelled to digress momentarily to remind folks that increased tax revenues almost never are used to reduce deficits or debts, but rather to initiate new spending on new programs that will then grow faster than revenues and eventually add to those deficits and debts.  But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Back to the point at hand, Obama’s cuts include cuts to Medicare, science, NASA, the FDA (forcing closure of meat plants for lack of inspectors) and on and on, as I said before, in order to maximize the felt pain.  But few of these cuts are necessary, and could have easily been avoided.

A few more creative, albeit not politically advantageous, sequestor ideas:

  1. Reduce the federal payroll through attrition. Just over 100,000 federal workers retire every year.  (Yes, the workforce really is that large.) By simply not replacing most of them (we would of course want to replace meat inspectors, for example, so we could keep plants open and the food supply reasonably safe), we could save roughly $15,000,000,000 a year, almost 20% of the $83 billion goal.
  2. Stop the effing insane War on Drugs.  The savings to the US government, from reduction in enforcement and prison costs, would exceed $5,000,000,000.
  3. Legalize and tax recreational marijuana. Projected income, between $3 billion and $5 billion dollars.  Combined with #2 above, a minimum of $8,000,000,000 differential and another 10% achieved.
  4. Return the Department of Defense to its original mission, that is – defending the United States.  Today we have about 400,000 troops overseas stationed at more than 700 bases  (OUTSIDE OUR COUNTRY – in case you missed that) at a cost of $250 billion dollars a year! Reduce those numbers by just a third, and you get..tah dah…$83 billion dollars.  Does that number sound familiar.

So there you have it.  A great deal less pain, no danger to our national security or essential services, no cuts to Medicare or science or anything else.  Just a real easy $110 billion dollars give or take. It won’t solve our problems, but it may indicate a way out.  Now ask me where we can get another $100 billion next year.

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