Sunday, July 31, 2005

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

"Good idea, Karl!"

Sticky, from the comments section of this post, seconded by handdrummer, informed me that I’ve erred in referring to President Bush as “President Gump.” After reviewing the comments and reminding myself that the president may have never done the right thing in his entire life, I’d have to agree. Forrest Gump would make a better president of the United States than President Bush.

After much consideration and rejection, (Gilligan, too nice, Yosemite Sam, not bad but not too original, Jethro Bodine, too nice again, Dr. Smith, too smart, Cruella DeVille, might explain some things, but no,) the Viscountess came up with Lord Farquaad! He’s rich, he’s selfish, mean-spirited and self-absorbed. Perfect.

From this point on, I am retiring the moniker “President Gump” and from this point forward I will refer to the 43rd Bestest President Ever as “President Farquaad.”

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Thoughts On Religion

"Atheist" and "Agnostic" are terms that are often confused and misunderstood.

Atheism is the absence of belief in any gods.

Agnosticism is absence in the knowledge of any gods.

In 1883, when writing to Charles A. Watts, publisher of the Agnostic Annual, Thomas Huxley said, "Some twenty years ago, or thereabouts, I invented the word 'Agnostic' to denote people who, like myself, confess themselves to behopelessly ignorant concerning a variety of matters, about which metaphysiciansand theologians, both orthodox and heterodox, dogmatise with utmost confidence...."

People with agendas will have many other definitions of those terms, but the basic, core definitions are simple. The atheist has no belief in supernatural beings, and the agnostic has no knowledge of any supernatural beings. The common misconceptions are that all atheists have an agenda to destroy other people’s beliefs and that all agnostics are still making up their minds.

I don’t care for labels, because it has taken most of my life to come to terms with what I believe and what I don’t believe, and my beliefs can’t easily be explained by one word. Among other things, I believe that we are all "agnostics" because no one can prove (or disprove) the existence of any God or gods. (I am well aware of the fact that it isn’t possible to disprove the non-existent, but the nature of faith suggests we are to believe in something that by definition cannot be known so I stated it that way.) We can "believe" or "not believe" but we cannot "know." Some people are shaking their heads (on both sides!) saying "I KNOW," but I don't believe that they do. I know that I do not know.

I do not call myself an “atheist,” but many religious people would classify me as such. I believe in the natural world. I accept that many things that are not yet proven may yet one day be, but in order for me to believe in the existence of something, there must be a certain degree of evidence supporting that belief. People who play golf are called golfers. What do we call people who don’t? Why does there have to be a label for people who don’t believe in things that are unsupported by evidence? Why is faith held in higher regard than reason? Christians and Jews believe in Jehovah, Muslims believe in Allah. Christians believe in the divinity of Christ, Jews do not. Each believes in their own God or gods, while disbelieving in the other’s God or gods, but they unanimously condemn the ones who refuse to believe in any god.

I am tired of people hating and killing each other because of their religious differences. I’m tired of people justifying hatred based on the ideas and superstitions of our ignorant ancestors of 2000 years ago. I’m tired of people who believe in myths thinking that they are somehow morally superior to those of us who believe only in facts.

Throughout history, the leaders, especially the evil ones, knew the power of organized religion. If you teach people to accept the simple answers to complex questions that do not hold up to scrutiny, without debate and unconditionally, you can get them to fight wars, crash planes into skyscrapers, give up their freedom and their money.

I have met people of all faiths, and people devoid of faith, who are generous, thoughtful and kind. While I have never met an admitted atheist of whom I was afraid, I remain terrified of the religious fanatics who have such a strong voice and influence here in the USA. The evangelical Christians believe that the time of Armageddon is near, and some of them support policies that appear to hasten its arrival!

The Christian gets a second chance: it is taught (by example) that you can lead a lifetime of evil and at the hour of your death you can be saved if only you repent and profess your faith in Jesus. The message here is that your actions do not count nearly as much as your willingness to believe! Well, I can afford myself no such luxury. I have to live with every stupid, selfish and evil act that I have committed because I believe that this is all there is. This alone is more than enough to compel me to do the right thing.

I don’t wish to obliterate other people's faith. It is up to each of us to find the answers to our own questions. Debating faith is like a dog chasing his own tail. You can’t disprove that which does not exist, and no one has proven the existence of any of the Gods that have crowded our skies since the dawn of civilization. Smarter people before me have tried in vain to do both. Belief in some supernatural being or force or whatever you want to call it, or disbelief in same says nothing about the inherent goodness or character of a person.

Someone once said to me, with regard to belief in an afterlife: “In one lies hope, in the other lies futility.” While I can't deny the attraction of an "afterlife," I really don't hold out much hope for one. I will never be able to convince myself to believe things that my own powers of reason deem anywhere from "highly unlikely" to "blatantly preposterous" as a gamble for an afterlife. And I refuse to pretend.

I love life. I love my wife and our children. I like to spend alone time with my wife, work, read, eat, drink red wine, exercise, play, and listen to music. Granted, this is easier for a middle class American who doesn't have to worry about food and shelter than it is for someone who has to fight for survival, but I count myself very lucky that I have this great life. I also know that it is fragile and things could change in one instant. I try to find something good about every day. I love to make people laugh, and to lend a hand where I can. I try to avoid negative, angry and evil people, and to acceptand enjoy everyone else.

Futile? Hardly.

What hope is there if you end up in Hell? According the Bible, each of us have a much greater chance of landing there than heaven, [depending on how you interpret "Hell" - some Christians believe that it is a real place with fire and demons poking you in the buttocks with a pitchfork while others define it simply as the absence of God, and still others as non-participation in the afterlife] and no one knows for sure where they will land. The overwhelming feeling I experienced once I realized that I no longer believed in the biblical answers to life's mysteries was relief. The contradictions, injustices, and randomness of human existence are easier for me to accept in context of a world devoid of benevolent gods. Suddenly it all made sense to me. Questions like “Why do child-molesters exist?” and “Why do we wage wars over trivialities such as who’s myth has more merit?” are more easily answered by science than by religion.

What do people think they will do for eternity? Life is found inside the risks and the challenges.

It disturbs me that people make decisions, judgments, and laws based on dogma of any kind, religious or otherwise. I like the concept of a secular constitutional republic, which is what the founding fathers of this great nation had intended. Freedom of religion means the freedom to practice any religion we desire, or to not practice any religion at all. Separation of Church and State was not a concession to the atheists and agnostics - it was meant to protect all citizens' rights to believe and worship as they deem fit, free from the intervention of the government, and should perhaps be counted as precious by the deeply religious even more so than by the non-believers.

In the end, it isn’t what we believe in that matters; it is what we do.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I Have a Better Idea

So President Gump has finally gotten around to paying lip-service to improving CAFE Standards for light trucks and SUVs.

I have a better idea.

I believe this idea will make the oil mafia very happy, because they will make even more $$$. It will make the environmentalists happy because over time there will be less pollution. And it will make me happy because I can’t stand SUV’s, Pick-up Trucks, and their aggressive drivers.

Why not introduce different sized gas-pump nozzles and outfit cars with larger and smaller gas-portals (no one I’ve asked seems to know what the hole and pipe that leads to the gas tanks is called!) depending on fuel efficiency? Cars that get 35 MPG and above get the big gas portals. Cars that get 18 MPG and above get the medium-sized ones, and cars that get less than 18 MPG get the ones that are the size of a soft-drink straw. The price per gallon would also reflect the fuel-efficiency of the car. The better the economy, the cheaper the gasoline.

Imagine how much fun it would be to pull up to the tank in your hybrid next to an H2? You'll pay less money, take less time and have a good laugh at the guy who thought he was so damn much better than you when he bought that over-priced Tonka Toy!

While we’re at it, I think that the most remote spaces in public parking lots should be reserved for the SUV’s. I imagine that there are two types of people who buy sport-utility vehicles: Sportsmen / Athletes and very large sedentary people. The first group shouldn’t mind, because they are in great shape! The second group would at least get some exercise as they walk from their cars into the local Mal*Wart.

Ok, I know it will never happen, but I'm tired today and this is all I got...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I once voted for Zell Miller. So, from 2000-2005 he was my representative in the US Senate.

This is what he said at the Republican National Convention last year. And this is what he said after the convention. This is what he believes. I guess he doesn’t know anything about this.

Not too worry. Zell Miller no longer represents me. Now he does. And so does he.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

What If He Was Made To Watch This?

Neddie has written a great post regarding Rickie Lee Jones’s commentery against the Patriot Act at a DC show. Apparently some people think that artists are not supposed to have any opinions that run contrary to theirs.

For many bloggers, Bright Eyes' (who’s music doesn’t do much for me except this tune) performance on Leno is old news, but it doesn’t hurt to revisit and remind ourselves that all is not lost. This was aired on national TV and only the profanity was censored. Watch.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

My Conversation With Herbert

"I am not Herbert."

In April of this year, my manager informed me that my position was being eliminated. I work for a medium sized software company, and we have development teams all over the world. Even though I work out of the Atlanta office, I reported to London. Someone decided that it wasn’t cost effective for an American to report to London. It was great traveling to England on the company dime. I loved working with the English developers, and they liked me because most of the Americans they met watched Fox News. “You’re alright mate. You can take the piss like the rest of us and you don’t like George Bush!”


The development manager in the Atlanta office told me: “Don’t worry, Viscount. There is a hiring freeze at the moment and we are already under-staffed so I’m sure we will find you something to do here.” How’s that for irony? The words didn't comfort me, because like the government, corporations tell you what serves their agenda; truth is a luxury not to be enjoyed by all. Not that the gentleman is one of them. He doesn’t even fancy himself one of them. His words were genuine. He went on to tell me about a position that he wanted to get approval to offer to me.

I wanted that position, but since it was not official decided I’d better hedge my bets and look elsewhere within the organization. I went to speak to one of the other managers to see what he had. Let’s call him Herbert. [Click the “rigid” wav. I was unable to link to it directly.] He described a position that sounded appealing. Any position would have sounded appealing, because there are precious few jobs to be had, and at my age and salary range it is even more difficult to find something. Apart from that, the position sounded like a good opportunity for me because they had incentives for certifications on new technologies and this would have been good for my career.

I never worked with him before, but I knew him personally. We have this little company “band” that plays once or twice a year at picnics etc., and he is in the band. He plays guitar and keyboards and sings. Very nice guy.


I had heard that shortly after President Gump took office, (before I even worked here) Herbert was heard saying in the break-room: “Isn’t great to have a Christian in the Whitehouse, doing the Lord’s work?” He also at one time had a picture of President Gump and Governor Ahnold on the wall of his office, which I had seen, but has since mysteriously disappeared. I don’t want to ask him what happened to it, because I am afraid of the conversation that this question might prompt.

I tried NOT to think about these things in my dealings with him. After one of our many discussions regarding me joining his team, Herbert looked out the window and said: “Isn’t the world beautiful? Look at the trees. How could anyone look at that and not believe in an intelligent designer?”

Don’t say it! Walk away! Sarcasm alert. This guy has your future in the palm of his hand. So what if they stuck a sticker on your kid’s science book that says, “evolution is a theory…!” So what if he is one of them?

I remember the conversation going something like this:

Viscount: “Intelligent design theory? Sounds like you don’t believe in evolution?”

Herbert: “Evolution is a lie.”

Viscount: “I was raised a Catholic [before this], and we were taught that God created life through evolution. Evolution need not be anti-God.”

Unsaid: “I am now an Agnostic, which does not mean I haven’t made up my mind. It does mean that I require evidence to believe in something. Since there is no observable evidence of any supernatural beings, I do not believe in any.” The Viscountess, who was raised an atheist does not like the label of “agnostic.” I do because most Christians won't hassle me as they don't understand the concept. They figure that I am going to hell, but I’m not apt to bring anyone else with me who otherwise wouldn't be going anyway.

Herbert: “Evolution is a lie made-up by the secular movement to destroy people’s belief in God. The Bible is the word of God.”

Unsaid: “Oh Yeah? Then how come God didn’t say, ‘Slaves? YOU CAN’T OWN PEOPLE!’ ” I really need this job, oh do I need this job!

Viscount: “Do you think God cares more about your belief in the mechanism of how life got here, or how we treat each other on a daily basis?

Herbert: Pause, as if he never really thought about it. “Well, I think he cares more about how we treat each other, but I don’t want them teaching a lie in school as truth!”

Unsaid: Be careful. What you say now…

Viscount: “That is one possibility. Here is another: There is an agenda by the richest people to keep as much money as they can. One sore spot with them is that they have to pay school taxes based on their property values, and they send their kids to private schools. They hate school taxes. They figured out that if they could convince a lot of people that evolution is a lie and that there is an evil agenda behind that lie, then those people will pull their kids out of public schools, and then they won’t want to pay school taxes either. When a lot of regular people don't want to pay school taxes anymore, maybe those taxes will be repealed, and then rich people won't have to pay for the great unwashed's education."

Unsaid: Doh!

Herbert: Looking at me like I was speaking in some obscure foreign language that he couldn’t possibly understand. “I’ll have to think about that. I need to get back to work.”


To his credit, he is still on friendly terms with me, and did seem like he still wanted me to work for him, but the other position was officially offered and I gladly accepted it.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Impending Bloodbath

We are speeding toward a bloodbath. I say that as an observer and as one who would prefer to avoid it, but believes it to be inevitable.

America has experienced economic superiority over the rest of the world for decades, and will act to preserve this superiority. Not that the citizens will continue to enjoy a high standard of living. The domestic policies of the current administration have been working toward shifting the wealth of the middle class to the upper class and this trend is continuing. A major part of the agenda is to control the flow and the price of petroleum. There are countless articles all over the internet that discuss these issues beyond the degree that I can even comprehend, and anyone with an open mind and a desire for truth has had ample opportunity to investigate this for themselves. Many people assume that progressives have fabricated out of paranoia or blind hatred of the neo-cons the story that this administration planned the Iraq war prior to 9/11, and that they cynically used the terrorist attacks to advance their economic and political agendas, jumping to conclusions based on partial evidence and innuendo. Anyone who believes that can go right to the source: People for The New American Century. A quick check of the names at the bottom of this page reveals much.

What can I say about terrorism that hasn’t been beaten into keyboards since the explosion of the Internet? We know all about it, don’t we? At the risk of being redundant, I will state unequivocally that I abhor violence and have lost any tolerance for organized religion. The only reason there are more Islamic terrorists than Christian ones is that Christians tend to live in free secular nations and Muslims tend to live in theocracies and dictatorships. Both religions preach a monopoly on truth and superiority to all other religious beliefs. I shudder to think of the additional acts of violence and hatred that will be committed in the name of a specter should America continue on its course toward the marriage of Christianity and government.

What happens after the next major attack on American soil? Never mind the official government’s response, which will be brutal. What is going to happen to the people?

In the aftermath of 9/11, I remember that the airports were a nightmare; three-hour lines and soldiers with rifles everywhere. I also remember the fear and hatred in many people’s hearts, and while I am reluctant to admit it, in my heart as well. I was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, and worked in Manhattan for many years. I attended business meetings and trade shows at the World Trade Center, and often ate lunch on the steps and in the area. The WTC was downtown New York City. While none of my friends or loved ones were lost in the attacks, many of my friends and loved ones had relationships with people who perished in or who were forever changed by the atrocity.

Around the 2nd week of October 2001, I was conducting a training class at a company in Trenton NJ, and during break time and at lunch there was much talk about the disaster. At one point, one of the students said, “I think America should announce to the world that ‘from now on, for every American that dies from a terrorist attack, we will kill 10,000 Muslims!’ and then do it!” There was a murmur of “yeahs” among the crowd. I kept silent and had to fight the feelings of agreement and revenge that were rising within me.

I believe that the terrorists do not realize (or do not care) about placing innocent Muslims, indeed anyone of Arab descent into peril. Whether one believes that American foreign and economic policy must share the blame for terrorist attacks along with the radical Islamic ideology or not, whether terrorists grievances are real or not is not the point. It comes down to which side has the money and the weaponry. I believe that there will be another terrorist attack on American soil, and for the reasons I’ve stated above I believe that it will ultimately result in the deaths of thousands, if not millions of innocent people, and the thought of it all makes me feel sick.