Wednesday, August 31, 2011

She was only joking...

Michele Bachmann recently stated that the Virginia earthquake and Hurricane Irene were God's efforts to get Washington DC's attention. Once word got out, her campaign staff, wanting to make sure she wasn't labelled a wacko like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or Rick Perry, quickly stated that she had been joking. I've noticed that about conservative Christians. They're always joking around about God's wrath. Like Harold Camping, for example, who recently pulled our collective leg by predicting the Rapture on April 21st/October 21st. Ha ha. What a kidder!

Anyway, I think Michele Bachmann might have been on to something with her tongue-in-cheek statement of faith. Perhaps God WAS trying to get Washington DC's attention. But what message was the DIVINE trying to communicate? Interpreting the DIVINE WILL has always been tricky. Michele Bachmann obviously thinks the HOLY ONE is a bulwark against government deficits. After all, HE did say "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." Wait. That was Benjamin Franklin....

How are we to know exactly what God's message to Washington DC was? It might have been the hyper-patriotic, xenophobic, quasi-racist message of the Tea Party. On the other hand, it might turn out that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is also the God of Abraham, Martin and John (from the 1968 peace song). Perhaps Michele Bachmann and her right-wing Republican ilk who brought the government to a standstill in an effort to end funding for the poor, oppressed and downtrodden while maintaining the war(s) in the Middle East and tax breaks for the wealthy were the targets of God's imperfect aim (rain befalling the just and the unjust alike). If the Right was the target, God might need to try again.

"Let's see, WE have tried earth and wind.... How about fire next?
Earth, Wind and Fire!
Wait. People might think I'M sending a message about a band."

Oh well.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Greed II

I posted earlier about the $3 per month fee our bank is initiating for debit card use. In the last couple days I've noticed an advertisement for the bank announcing a program to help people learn to save. Here's how it works - every time you use your debit card they will transfer one dollar from your checking to your savings account.

The ad doesn't mention that when you use that debit card, the first three dollars are transferred from your checking account to theirs.

I visited my bank yesterday and told them I thought this was despicable. They put me in touch with an assistant manager who upgraded our account so we wouldn't have to pay the fee. They are still despicable, of course, but at least we're being treated well (unlike anyone who doesn't have enough money to qualify for an upgrade and will still be charged to use their own money.) Thank goodness for that!

We're closing our account.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Opium of the People

I'm not in quite the same place as Marx in regard to religion as an opiate. At least not today. He saw religion as an escape hatch for the oppressed. It allowed people an illusion of happiness elsewhere in exchange for any hope of happiness in their lives. As such it was a tool for the extension of oppression.

My sense today is that, like opiates, religion may have its uses, especially when carefully prescribed and controlled. Made generally available to the masses as an over-the-counter remedy is something all together different. How can we prevent misapplication and abuse? How might we deter religion being applied inappropriately, or boiled down and mixed with powder of patriotism to yield something really dangerous, like Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Empty Nesters

Being an empty's different. Take for example yesterday evening, when Sally and I were driving back from a visit with Megan and AJ in the Tri-Cities. Driving into our neighborhood on a short detour, we passed an establishment at 38th and Grand we hadn't seen before. "The Hop Shop!" exclaimed Sally.

Tonight we rode our bikes to the aforementioned establishment and enjoyed a pint apiece. It wasn't long ago that we were most taken by elementary schools and parks where the kids could play.

"The Hop Shop!"

As I said, being an empty nester is different.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Prove it!

At an early age my younger brother displayed both his intellectual brilliance and his unparalleled ability to get my goat by employing a particularly irritating tactic in arguments. Just at a point when I thought I might be winning an argument, he would stick out his chin and say, "Prove it!"

Of course there was no authority I could cite that he would accept as proof. The dictionary and encyclopedia were as easily discarded as were my own points. "How do you know they are right? Prove it!"

This came back to me in recent days as Texas Gov. Rick Perry stated that human caused climate change was just a theory that had not yet been proved, and then cited the long discredited "climategate" episode as further evidence that there is considerable debate within the scientific community about the issue. Horse hockey.

In taking this stand (Prove it!), Perry joins Rep. Bachmann, who states that CO2 is merely a harmless gas, and other GOP candidates who discount both human caused climate change and evolution as mere, unproven theories.

What they really mean to say is that human caused climate change will require our culture to change to an unprecedented scale, and that they have no clue where to start in that process. So, rather than admitting their own inadequacy they discount the need for action. "Prove it!"

We often refer to the process of denying danger and the accompanying fear as "whistling past the graveyard." The level of discourse on science demonstrated by Gov. Perry is more like, "If you clap your hands Tinkerbell will come back to life!"

And no, I can't prove that there are not such things as fairies or that clapping is not an effective means of restoring their glow. Perhaps I should call this my platform and run for office myself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This Puts Me At Ease....

I was really concerned about catching the flu from my toilet until I read this label...


I just received notice that our bank will begin charging us $3 per month for the privilege of using our debit card for purchases. I thought the whole idea of debit cards was to reduce the reliance on having to process checks....

This parallels the practice of airlines charging for checked baggage, which has resulted in more and more people trying to bring their sea chest with them as a carry-on. To combat the resulting boarding gridlock I especially enjoyed Frontier Airlines offering early boarding to people who didn't have carry-ons that required use of the overhead bins. It was entertaining watching the urban cowboy couple dragging huge cases trudge into that line. They were going to put those crates under the seat in front of them? Right.

In the end it's not about anyone's convenience at all. It's unmitigated greed on the part of these banks and companies and individuals seeking their own benefit at everyone else's cost. As long as we continue to live within the upside down culture that insists that greed and self-serving behavior are virtuous and serve the greater good all we will face these challenges.

Monday, August 15, 2011

In Defense of Michele Bachmann - Arrgh!

I really detest being in the position of having to defend someone I really detest. Really.

This week's Newsweek magazine features a front cover photo of Minnesota Congresswoman and Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. The photo was a lighting test shot that the Bachmann people were told would not be used. It makes her look crazy. The headline is "Queen of Rage", a phrase that neither appears in the text of the article nor is supported by it.

Then, this weekend, an extremely unflattering photo of Rep. Bachmann began circulating on social networking sites. In this case she was attempting to bite into a large corn dog, not an unusual activity for a candidate at the Iowa Sate Fair.

In taking the particular approach of these photos, the Left is showing that liberals have not escaped the misogynistic tendencies we like to ascribe to the Right. Ask Hilary Clinton about the challenges of women as serious candidates for office.

Michele Bachmann's ideas might be described as crazy, as might her Tea Party followers. Those who vote for her might be nuts. I would say exactly the same about Gov. Perry, who might be a greater threat to the nation's future than Rep. Bachmann, precisely because it is more acceptable for a male candidate to be bonkers and yet be taken seriously.

Come on, folks. I'm neither prudish nor lacking of a sense of humor. But can't we take a more serious and substantive tack in critically considering the issues facing the nation and the world?


On Saturday Sally, Megan, A.J. and I saw the DaVinci exhibit at the Northwest Museum of Art and Culture here in Spokane. It featured reproductions of a number of paintings, and scale model and full-sized iterations of the tools and war machines featured in his drawings.

We enjoyed the exhibit very much. I was especially taken with the ways in which my life parallels that of this Renaissance master: Leonardo's effectiveness was limited by his chronic procrastination and his obsessive desire to try new methods and approaches. I also can write backwards left-handed, though not in Italian.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

That man....

Please understand that this post is written for me, not for you. Sometimes it helps to put things in writing....

I visited my family in Indiana earlier this week. I had a great visit with my brother Tom, and then drove to Terre Haute where my brother, Dick, and his wife Donna care for my mother. First of all, bless 'em for their efforts. It takes special people to care for others when their health or life circumstances become challenging. My mom is 92 and in good health for a 92-year-old. Unfortunately her dementia has resulted in the disappearance of the person I knew as my mother.

My Mom's disappearance was not immediately obvious. She is a consummate faker, able to seem like she knows what's going on and to respond appropriately. She was thus delighted to see me, though she couldn't say my name. I showed her pictures of the house and family, and explained who everyone was. She really enjoyed the photos of the flowers and blooming trees from our yard. Later that evening she asked if I were tired and needed to go to bed. Given the 3-hour time difference, I wasn't, but she clearly was. Eventually I went out to the car to get my bags. While I was gone, Mom asked Donna if she could get ready for bed "before that man comes back in here".

Being referred to as "that man" is not hurtful, but it does bring my Mom's condition into sharp relief. Much of who she was is gone. What remains is a shell that deserves care and love, but cannot reciprocate. She can feign gratitude, but then, I know she's faking.

Earlier in the week Sally and I were exploring Louisville, Kentucky. We came across a church that I know was familiar to Mom and Dad. I wished I could give them a call so they could remind me of it's significance in their life. But that story is gone, lost to both memory and significance. I am aware of my mortality, at least intellectually so. But when time smacks us so squarely in the forehead it is still a bit of a shock.

So "that man" left to return to his life and immediate family. I am tempted to attempt recording everything I know, believe and have experienced so that time cannot bring me to a similar end. But that is merely so much vanity. Instead I shall heed the advice of the Preacher and enjoy my life - each precious moment - as the fleeting gift it is. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die. Even should we not die, we may recall none of it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Illicit Relationships

There's a nice article in the Spokesman-Review today about my friends Jim and Andrea (Andy) CastroLang, and how their relationship began within the context of the Roman Catholic Church. They met when Jim was a priest and Andy a lay worker. Their relationship was clearly inappropriate within the context of the Church, which eventually led them to their affiliation with the United Church of Christ, where two people in love who desire to be married can also practice ministry.

As I read about Jim and Andy I wondered how many ministerial marriages began under circumstances that the church, then or now, regarded as illicit. My relationship with Sally was a clear violation that could've cost me my ministerial career before it began. That fact has led to my restraint in conversations about ministerial boundaries. I don't approve of predatory behavior among clergy or other professionals, but it seems that a bit of humility and forgiveness is always appropriate, no matter what insurance companies or the most (self)righteous among us say.

Of course the current fight in the larger culture isn't about priests marrying, or student ministers marrying members of the church they serve. It's about extending the right to marry to same sex couples. The critics contend their opposition is in defense of heterosexual marriage. Horse hockey. They also resort to sacred writ to bolster their arguments. Oh goodie. I always find myself moved by arguments wherein one religious group or another cite eternal law dictated by their Invisible Friend as justification for the oppression du jour.

This would be funnier if real people weren't so devastated by the discrimination, and if the groups that hold out for such oppression weren't so eager to extend their narrow views to public policy. Let me end by just saying that if you can read about Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his support from the American Family Association and not see the parallels with Sharia law, then you need to consider cutting back on your medication.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Debt-Deal Burger

Sally asked me to come up with an idea for supper last night. That was on my mind as I read about the efforts to achieve an agreement on raising the national debt ceiling. In the end I decided we could have Garden burger patty melts.

I sauteed some sweet onions in a large pan where I also browned the Garden burgers. This is a great, low-fat meal, right?

I then placed the patties on sliced artisan bread, topped them with the onions and a couple nice slices of Irish cheese. Then I grilled the whole thing. Low-fat burger, high-fat cheese? Well, it was a compromise, I admit.