Thursday, August 31, 2006

Smoker's Lounge

Don't know where this is, or if it is even real, but I thought it was a pretty powerful and compelling statement.

Monday, August 28, 2006

What Do I Know From Politics?

For the last 4 years or so I have been employed by a software firm, and have not made a secret of my political views. I am in the conservative suburbs of Atlanta, so my left-leaning moderation is considered Marxist by their standards. Over time they have gotten used to me, and sometimes as a sport they even try to goad me into a debate. Upon reflection, I have decided that this was a mistake. I don’t want to be anyone’s token liberal or office entertainment.

I start my new job next week. No more software development. I am going back into training. I have made the decision to remove the “No W” and peace-sign stickers from my rear bumper, and to never discuss my political or religious views with anyone at the new company. There quite simply is no ROI. I mentioned this to some of my friends here at the old place. They are betting against me. It is bet they will lose. I quit cigarettes cold turkey after being a 2_pack_a_day smoker. Never had another one. That was 20 years ago. They have no idea with whom they are dealing...

What do I know from politics?” That will be my new catch-phrase.

“Who are you voting for Governor?

“What do I know from politics?” Innocent grin.

“When should we leave Iraq?”

“Politics? What do I know from politics?” Bemused frown.

You get the idea. I really like the “from,” don’t you? It has a certain anti-intellectual connotation to it.

I am actually looking forward to it. It will be my own inside joke. And, it won't be that far from the truth.

A few months before the ‘04 election, the main water line to the house sprang a leak. The plumbers called in a leak-detection expert to find the problem. They showed up with a jack-hammer and were looking forward to busting up the ground-floor. Fortunately, the leak-detection expert was a kind and decent sort, and he told them the leak was probably 6 inches into the house and to dig under the house from the outside to find it. One of them was visibly annoyed, and none-too-swift because there was no way I was going to give them the work after that. The expert was correct and in the end saved us thousands of dollars. We hired another plumber.

I’m the sort of person who can easily strike up a conversation with total strangers. As we were waiting for the plumbers to find the leak, he mentioned to me that he was ex-NSA. I remember thinking, “A spy? This is going to be interesting!”

He told me he “gathered data.” He said the data was piecemeal and meaningless out of context. They turned it over to the analysts and never knew the outcome of their work. I found it ironic and amusing that after retirement he became a “leak detector” – he confessed that he'd never really thought of it that way.

At the time I was pretty fired up about the presidential election. John Kerry was not my first choice, but he was the nominee and I was trying to accept it. I asked my new friend what his views were on the war in Iraq and the election, already planning on hammering anyone who still supported Bush by saying, “Listen. I spoke to an ex-NSA guy. He said…"

He was reticent and non-committal. I pressed on, telling him that I was genuinely interested and would very much like to hear his perspective.

He said, (obviously paraphrased from memory:)

“You want me to choose between two people who would sell their own mothers without a moment’s reflection if it served their purposes? They both suck. Neither one of them give a rat’s ass about how many people die as a result of their decisions. They are both worthless human beings who care for no one but themselves. If they did, they wouldn’t be running for president today. They would have been weeded out long before they got to this point. You want me to give you an opinion on the war in Iraq? I tell you I can’t do that. Nobody knows why we’re in Iraq except for them. When the government decides we need to go to war, they never reveal the real reasons. Should we be in Iraq? How the hell do I know? I know do know this: We aren’t there to free the Iraqi people nor are we there to protect Americans.”

I think he should have a blog.


Articles of note:

Where Bush's Arrogance Has Taken Us
By Jim Hightower

The Language of Ignorance
By Sam Harris

Don't forget This Week's Top 10.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Are They Serious?

Simon found this, and he's right. I'm still not sure I believe it.

P.S. Sound is back in town. Check him out.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In God's Face

This post was inspired by Bobby and Lori Lightfoot. If you haven't read his latest, and you don't have a lot of time today, skip me and go read this and the comment section as well.

In spite of my bogus title, I’m not French. I’m an American of 100% Sicilian decent. My grandparents came from the same small subsistence farming town in Sicily. They were rough and rugged people.

I never met my paternal grandfather, but I heard the stories growing up. He was an atheist amongst the devout crying Catholics. My father said he used to fart and then say in their Sicilian dialect “In God’s face.” He didn’t tell me that story until I was an adult, because my mother was a believer – to a point. She had her own version of Catholicism where God was a very reasonable man. For instance, anyone could go to heaven, not just Catholics. The Pope had no business telling women that they must be baby factories.

Like that.

My mother believed if you were a good and decent person, you got to go to heaven. If you were like Karl Rove – you went to hell. My father was a cynic more than anything – he’d seen some horrific things in his life. Twenty years in the Navy. WWII. He turned down the purple heart. I don’t know what really happened there, but apparently his destroyer was under heavy fire and he did something that needed to be done on deck and while he was doing it, as he put it, “I fell on my ass. After it was over the captain offered to put me in for the Purple Heart but I told him to save it for someone else.”

I believed him.

Anyway, I think he was an agnostic. I know he didn’t believe in the whole Catholic mumbo-jumbo. Still, he dutifully went to church with my mother every Sunday until he got too old to go. He told me that when his father was a boy and his father was on his deathbed – the priests came to the house to give him the last rites. While he wasn’t rich, he had some land, some livestock and some money. The priests told him that he was going to hell, but he could escape that fate if he signed his estate over to them.

And he did.

In spite of all of that, I have to say that my Catholic upbringing wasn’t so bad. I went to public school and received my religious instruction at the church on Wednesday afternoons. I didn’t pay too much attention. My mother didn’t talk about hell. She told me that if I said my prayers and I was a good boy I’d go to heaven when I died, and I believed her. I didn’t want to be bad anyway, but it was sort of an extra incentive.

I don’t need to do a laundry list here of the evils of Catholicism. I’ve said it all before, and I’ll leave some links that the end of this post if anyone is interested. What I will say is this: At least they preached that you had to be good to be saved. God was watching you – keeping score. If you wanted to go to heaven, just saying you believed in Jesus wasn’t going to get you there. You had to be good. Not exactly a healthy philosophy, but at least if you bought the premise it made some sort of sense.

In my early twenties, I could no longer live with all the contradictions of any organized religion, and I became an agnostic leaning toward atheism. I believe in the natural world. I like to tell people, "I don't claim to know what IS going on, but I do know what ISN'T going on."

I moved to Atlanta in the 90's and I met the infamous Southern Baptists. The SoBaps. I was not ready for them. The word hypocrite is too kind. These people are wild, driving around in their Lexus SUV’s, their Hummers, their Denalis, their Mercedes. Supporting our troops with their yellow ribbons. Despising everyone. Doing the exact opposite of what Jesus preached and all the while not just certain, but arrogantly certain in their own righteousness. Certain that they are saved and the likes of not just me, Lori and Bobby, and The Viscountess – but also Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, pretty much anyone and everyone regardless of their goodness, kindness and compassion – every damn one of us who isn’t them is going to burn for eternity. And, they are absolutely thrilled at the prospect! The last thing they want is The Viscount living down the street from them for eternity. They want to look down into hell and gloat.

It took me some time to grasp this. I kept thinking, these people don’t act Christ like. Surely I’m missing something? There just has to be some big pieces of this puzzle hiding under the couch someplace. I mean, The Gospels are pretty straightforward, aren’t they? The rest of The Bible might be difficult, but Jesus was pretty clear. You can’t judge people, can't hold poor people in contempt, can't support war for financial gain and can't screw people to get rich AND be a Christian at the same time. Or was that some other guy in robes and a beard?

Except down here, you can. It was explained to me. There’s a guy at my office who loves to call himself “A Conservative Christian.” He starts out sentences by saying “Being a Conservative Christian…” One day he was talking to me, and I told him, “I think Christ was great, but I have some fundamental problems with the whole story.” He said, “Like what?” I told him the idea that someone who had the "misfortune" of being born into a different faith but otherwise lived a life of compassion and generosity would be tortured for eternity if they didn’t turn their back on that faith, their family and their culture and become a Christian. On the other hand, someone who lived a life of greed and avarice, on their deathbed in their pain and their fear suddenly sees the light and accepts Jesus in his last gasp can be spared the eternal fire and live amongst the angels and the harps petting tigers and eating grapes for eternity. That just doesn’t seem fair. He could hardly contain his glee. He said to me, “Of course you believe that! You’re a JEW!” I explained to him that I only looked Jewish, but that in fact I was an ex-Catholic, and he said to me, “That’s GREAT! You can be saved! All you have to do is say you accept Jesus!”

And, he meant it.

*** Related Posts ***

Deliverance From Evil

Just Another Heartwarming Story

Thoughts on Religion

Never Trust Them Bible Thumpers

Monday, August 21, 2006

Unanswered Since 1973

The only song that I like by Steve Miller is “The Joker.” It was the first record I’d heard by him where I knew it was him. One day it was just there on the radio, back in the mythical 70’s – before disco, before anyone even fathomed putting the word “classic” alongside “rock.” 1973. Lots of great music on the radio back then. We just took in stride.

My friends and I didn’t much care for the bulk of his material. We thought he was a “rip-off” artist with really stupid lyrics. Even today when I hear his monster hits from the 70’s, I hear “Crossroads” inside of “Big Ole Jet Airliner,” and “All Right Now” embedded in “Keep On Rockin’ Me Baby.” Not even Yoko was safe. Gotta give him due credit - he magically turned her almost-good "Walking On Thin Ice" into the number one "Abracadabra." It didn’t matter to him – those tunes were ubiquitous and made him a very rich man.

I heard “The Joker” today on the way to work and I still like that one. It has a nice feel and it takes me back. Every time I hear it though, I still ask myself the same question.

“What the fuck is a pompatice?”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Oh Really?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Change In Circumstances

I’m changing jobs. I was a corporate trainer on and off throughout the 90’s, and I loved it. After 9/11, the travel became problematic and the company I was working for wanted to turn me into a consultant which meant I would be on the road every week. I put my resume up on the ‘net at the end of 2001.

I landed at my current situation doing software development using an arcane and powerful software development tool that never caught on. I had the fortune / misfortune of working for the now defunct vendor of that technology in the mid-90's. (I say "misfortune" because the technology is fantastic but since it never caught on it has done very little for me career-wise.) I love the people and the work here at my current position, but the company was bought by a corporation that has little interest in my future. There have been numerous layoffs and new job openings in India. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who works for a large software vendor, and to make a long story short, I have been hired as a trainer with a start-date of September 5th. My last day at my current gig will be Friday the 1st of September.

This is a golden opportunity for me because I will be learning new technology that will update my skill-set and make me employable for perhaps the remainder of my working life. As I mentioned, I enjoy training and am looking forward to getting back into it. The downside is of course the travel. I will be on the road roughly 50% of the time – Sunday through Friday. It is the price I must pay. At least I’ll be racking up the frequent flier miles and hotel points.

In any event, the stress and excitement over this major change in my life as resulted in a form of writer’s block. I appreciate the support my regular visitors have given me, and I hope that once I’m set in my new position I will be back to my old, cantankerous self.

I've added two new links to my "Blogs" section. Please welcome Roxstar's "Black Sky Theory" and the new team blog, "The Anecdotal Antitdote."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Article of the Day

America Struggles Its Own Evangilical Taliban
By Pierre Tristam

"Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn't bloody and barbaric. That's why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state."
- Rev. Gregory Boyd

Don't forget this week's Top 10.

Roxtar left this as a comment here last week. I thought I'd share it:

"Imitation is the sincerest form of radio."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

That's Ben

There’s this guy in my office. Let’s call him “Ben.” Ben is a trainer. 50 years old. Ben likes to put word-puzzles, riddles and tricky questions on the outside of his cube. Ben seems like a nice enough guy.

As many are already aware, Neil Boortz is a syndicated radio talk-show host who is mildly popular outside of Atlanta. Many may not be aware of the fact that here in the Atlanta area he is huge. He dominates the talk radio market. I used to listen to him sometimes because I felt like I needed to understand the “other side,” and because at times I admit he was amusing. “Harmless fun” I thought. “Nobody can take this guy seriously.”

I thought.

It turns out people take him very seriously. He calls himself a “libertarian.” So do lots of people in Atlanta. He hates paying taxes, especially the ones that fund public education. He calls public schools “government schools,” and has an agenda to dismantle the public school system. A slew of his listeners down here who make decent money and who are a product of those same public schools don’t see the irony in parroting this shyster who is nothing more than a shill for the gluttons - who in spite of their obscene positions of wealth and power just can’t get enough and crave even more. He’s written a book about “liberals,” and another one about how to make the tax system more "fair" – to the richest Americans. He attacks the poor, minorities, democrats, and the dreaded liberals - not with the usual invective - but with a gleeful chuckle.

He plays well in Hot Lanta.

Ben is more than a fan of Neil Boortz. Ben has put Boortz’s “Fair Tax” propaganda along side his stories of the farmer, the chicken and the fox trying to cross the river. Ben has left literature in the men’s room for the benefit of those few of us who don’t yet see the wisdom of helping to make the top 1% who own 34% of the wealth in this country to grab even more of it. (These figures are out of date – the top 1% has an even bigger piece of the pie since BushCo has been handed the knife*.) I haven’t yet had the chance to properly thank Ben for that one.

Knowing all of this I still was willing to put that aside. I know plenty of people just like Ben and have accepted them. I’ve had some friendly chats with Ben about training, the company, and other subjects not directly related to the raping of the bottom 95% of the US population.

That was until this week. It turns out Ben has another hero.

This miscreant. Ben now his book, “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder” on display in his cube. I mean those words literally. Ben has it standing upright displayed prominently on his desk.

As my wife said, “When you meet someone who listens to Limbaugh or Boortz but is otherwise nice, you can overlook it. Some people are misinformed, intellectually lazy or not that bright. When someone admits to being of fan of Michael Savage, you can only conclude that they have severe character flaws and are morally corrupt individuals.”

That’s Ben.

*Gotta give my good friend and excellent editor his props - he pointed out my egregious mixed metaphor and even suggested the fix - thanks fan...

Monday, August 07, 2006


From Common Dreams.

Also, check out this week's Top 10.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I Gotta Have More Cowbell!

SNL - Blue Oyster Cult

No doubt we've all seen this, but I was in the mood to see it again today.

I love
Blue Oyster Cult (especially their first 4 studio records,) and Chris Walken is one of my favorite actors.

"Easy guys - I put my pants on just like the rest of you - one leg at a time. Except, once my pants are on, I make gold records."

"Don't Fear The Reaper" is perhaps their best known song (great feel and a fantastic instrumental break/guitar solo,) but for my money "Secret Treaties" is their best effort. Their lyrics are ironic, delivered with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, and the music is an odd mix of menacing arrangements and tuneful melodies. Interesting that like professional wrestling, you get the feeling that at least half their fans don't get the joke.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

All Fall Down

I read the news today oh boy...

I'm so sick of religious fanatics, stupid, selfish power hungry politicians, an ignorant and fearful electorate and greedy, morally corrupt corporatists hellbent on destroying the planet.

So, strike up the music and we'll all fall down.

All Fall Down (listen)
From Thud
By Kevin Gilbert

I guess this is it.
Time for what's been called the finale
And this one comes as no surprise
One of a kind, you'll never see this anywhere else, friends,
Sort of brings a tear to your eye
So be watching closely and you'll be impressed
An order is given and a button is pressed
Then a light that is blinding and a sound that is shrill
Don't blink or you'll miss it, it's the end of free will

So turn the radio up and pass the bottle round
And then we'll have one more drink before we all fall down
I'll wear my favorite tie, you can wear your wedding gown
And then we'll both look real sharp when we all fall down

Look at them now, drawing little lines with their speeches
Each daring the other to cross
It won't be long now, one will make a stand he believes in
Believing it's well worth the cost
Then the other gets angry refuses to budge
Fueled by some understandable grudge
And now we wait quietly till the missile arrives
There's no need to shout about the end of our lives

So bring your friends now, and we'll laugh at all the clowns
Who think there'll be a better world when we all fall down
And we can sing this song, we'll make a joyful sound
We'll be singing na na na when we all fall down

Buildings and bridges all leveled to the ground
Cities and nations and we just stand around
Someone unlocked the big cage
and the beast cannot be found

So strike up the music and we'll all fall down.