On Faith

Michelangelo's_Pieta_5450

Of Jesus, there is no historical record and that is very strange when one considers the volumes of records that the Romans left behind. Of God? Well, if there is a God, then where did He come from? A rational mind can’t help but question, yet the Church teaches that it is wrong to question. We must accept blindly. Anything that doesn’t make sense, like the Holy Trinity, we are told, “That, my child, is a mystery.” Still, I pray. I pray for my enemies. I pray for all life on this planet. I pray because it brings me comfort. Is that faith? Or is it self-delusion?

I find it interesting that the lesions in the temporal lobe of the brain cause sufferers of this form of epilepsy to experience religious/spiritual hallucinations. Is there a chink in the armor of religious passions? A creationist would tell you that God put that in the human brain because of his grand scheme.  I am not a creationist.  I do not believe that God created the Earth in six days, nor do I believe God is responsible for the singularity that created the Big Bang.  Yet, perhaps because of a life-time of brainwashing, and experiences that could also be put down to coincidence, I shy away from declaring myself an atheist.  Isn’t saying “There is no God!” the basic equivalent of saying, “There is a God!”  But agnostics hold no water with me either.

To me agnosticism is a cop-out.  Agnostics say, “Well, I don’t know for sure. Maybe there is a God. Maybe there isn’t.” That is not rational thinking.  It’s like playing roulette and hoping your number lands on the right spot. I’ve never met an agnostic who could carry a theological or philosophical argument to its conclusion.  I have no respect for them.  They might as well be religious zealots because they argue a point that has no basis in rational thinking.  They are simply cowards who are hedging their bets.

Many religions are responsible for the creation of amazing works of art: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, even the cave paintings of Lascaux.  (Please note that I have left Islam out of this equation.  Despite some lovely mosques, I find that Islam, iconoclastic and jihadist is better at destroying things than creating them.)  Let us examine this burst of creativity for what it is.  Mostly, as in the Renaissance, it was the product of talented artists in the employ of corrupt, sociopaths like the Medici and Borgias.  It has been said that the worst crimes of humanity have been committed in the name of religion.  Any student of history can confirm this.  Exactly how many people were brutally murdered and tortured by the Inquisition, and by their Protestants is still up to debate, but it can be safely said that hundreds of thousands of people were brutally tortured and murdered by both the Inquisition and by their Protestant counterparts.  It makes me laugh that Thomas More, a martyred saint of the Catholic Church condemned dozens to the stake during his brief tenure as Henry VIII’s chancellor.  Then there are the modern-day Islamic jihadist terrorists who callously take their own lives and hundreds, thousands of others in the name of their religion.  How can any rational mind not see religion as a blight, a curse on humanity?

So yes, my faith wavers.  Sometimes I go to Mass, but I find little comfort in it.  Sometimes I go to Confession.  Almost without exception, I find the words of the priest, as he gives me absolution and penance, hollow and of little relevance to my everyday life.  I like to go to churches, Catholic churches, because they are so pretty inside.  I find aesthetic pleasure in the stained glass windows, the little shrines, the flickering candles.  Is this faith?  No, it is an age-old slight of hand to divert my attention from the serious question.  Is there a God? What is His nature?  What will happen when I die?

It is this age-old existential anxiety that I find pulling me toward faith- a fear that if I am not good, if I do not believe, then my soul will be condemned to eternal damnation.  Idiot morons who have never actually read the Christian bible will tell you that God is love.  Well, that may be part of the Christian God, but He is also vengeful, waiting in the wings to send his only-begotten son, born of the Blessed Virgin, to come back and judge the living and the dead.  Those who don’t pass the mustard will be condemned to an eternity (and that means forever) of everlasting pain and suffering, torment beyond belief.  Let us think of the God of Abraham, who told him to sacrifice his son to him as some kind of test.  Well, if God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then He would already have known how the test would turn out.  Why put this poor man through such psychological torment if He were not some kind of sadist who enjoys seeing His children suffer?  Why would he create a set of rules that He already knows some will break and some lucky few will keep?  It makes no sense.  None of it makes sense.

Despite all this, I continue to pray the old prayers that I was taught as a child.  They bring me comfort.  They settle my mind.  Is this some biochemical reaction in the temporal lobe of my brain?  Self-delusion?  Or am I really making personal contact with the Great Creator, our Father who art in Heaven?

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The Triumph of Madness

gun rant

Chain post winding its way through Facebook

I believe that high capacity automatic rifles should be banned. Ronald Reagan, a victim of gun violence, was able to push through this legislation, but then, Congress was split between the two parties, Dem’s controlling the House and GOP in the Senate. I’m not 100% sure on this congressional dynamic, but I’m pretty sure Tip O’Neil was Speaker of the House at the time and he was a Democrat. At any rate, their is no sensible reason why people should be able to buy automatic rifles and load them with high-capacity clips. The only reason to have this capability is to either, chop down a tree very loudly, or to kill a lot of people in a short period of time. The same can be said of a nuclear weapon. Yes?

Should every citizen have the right to build a nuclear weapon and carry it about their person? People forget that the Second Amendment begins with the words, “…well regulated…” and it speaks in terms of the need for a militia. Unless you are a member of a “well regulated militia…” then the Second Amendment does not, can not apply to you! The power and influence of the National Rifle Association shocks me. The culture of gun worship in this country right now disturbs me. Right now, a chain message is running its way through Facebook. It talks in the first person about a person standing in line at the grocery store who has a gun concealed under his/her shirt. It pontificates on how if somebody tries to kill the people in the store, they will use their gun to protect the other shoppers and their family. It goes on to say that this person will not die begging for their lives. I don’t need a gun to die with dignity at the hands of gun violence. The odds of that happening are rather astronomical. It’s this kind of gun worship propaganda that is responsible for the laissez-faire attitude among our law makers, who quake at the power of the NRA, and crave their campaign contributions that are leaving our nation prone and victim to the acts of individual nut jobs, like the one who killed all those poor children at Sandy Hook, who by the way was not a Muslim terrorist. 

It is this kind of mad, wild West mentality that is causing our country to descend into a state of anarchy. I think of Cliven Bundy and his stand off a couple of years ago. Using a combination of assault rifles and their own families as human shields, they were able to bully away Federal agents who were simply trying to disarm Bundy, and make him stop grazing his cattle on Federal land. To me this exemplified in stark reality, the ability of a small-group of fanatics who could easily defy Federal authority.  If our central government breaks down, then the United States of America will degenerate into a lawless, broken hodgepodge of lawless autonomous zones where nobody is safe and infrastructure will collapse, leaving what was formally the U.S.A. even more prone to attack from its enemies. Maybe we should all start learning to speak Chinese, or Russian, or Arabic?

Let me conclude by saying that I don’t want anybody standing behind me in the grocery store with a gun under their shirt.  Keep your guns at home.  If you are so afraid to go shopping that you have to carry a gun with you, then I suggest your order your foodstuffs and other items online and have them delivered to your doorstep.

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Poem: Behold the Man

GestatorialChair1

Once a month I cum

And when I do, my cock shoots blood.
How sweet! The pain of children
Never born.  It makes my spine
Quiver like a bow string.

Soon there will be another flood.
Bursts of water from God’s grin.
Washed away, everything fine
And then another, strange Spring.

Little boy says, “Red rum.”

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Don’t be so sure!

meme

I’ve been seeing this photo, and variants of it on Facebook for the last few days. I would like to comment on it because it concerns me.

Just because Bush I & II haven’t endorsed Trump, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to oppose him either. Also, who’s to say they won’t (especially Bush II) have a change of heart ($$$) and change their mind during the general election? Another thing, all the pundits are saying that Hillary is going to wipe Donald Trump out in the general election. They are even saying that the DEMOCRATIC Party will take back both houses of Congress. This was the same rhetoric heard when Hitler ran for the Chancellorship of Germany.

This frightens me because history has a strange way of repeating itself. The parallels between the Wiemar Republic and the USA right now are striking. Like post-World War I Germany, the United States of America is experiencing a collapse in self-identity.  As a child, I was raised to believe that “America is the greatest country in the world!” Yet, what is Trump’s campaign slogan? It is “Make America great again!” This rings with eerie similarity to the kind of stump speeches that Adolf Hitler made during the German elections of 1932. Another historical parallel that I find is in the economies of 1930’s Germany and the current U.S.A. economy, or at least, how both perceived the states of their economies. Nothing frightens the American middle-class more than fear of losing its material wealth and slipping into the ranks of poverty.  Here is a link to a Huffington Post article that supports this statement. Thirdly, there is a perceived fear among “Americans” that the United States is becoming decadent.  This also dovetails with perceptions in the Wiemar Republic. (For more on daily life and culture in the Wiemar Republic, I highly recommend the book, Voluptuous Panic, by Mel Gordon, available from Feral Press.)

I’m honestly scared. What will the Dem’s do if Hillary is indicted? What if Sanders runs as a third-party candidate? So many “what if’s!” Although I am a citizen of both France and the U.S.A., I’ve lived here in the U.S.A. for the majority of my life. Since the turn of the Century, I’ve seen changes in “American” society that shock and appall me. We live in a police state now.  The militarization of the American police force is a well-documented fact and I find no need to support this statement with an outside link.  Also, the extent of domestic spying, brought most shockingly to the nation’s attention by Edward Snowden is now well-documented, yet most “Americans” seem to take the erosion of their Constitutional, privacy and basic civil rights with an apathy that is to me shocking. Most “American’s” come across to me as brain-washed zombies with their faces poked into their smart phones, ignoring the world around them to the very extent of ignoring their own children, traffic, or just a walk through the park. With multi-national corporations controlling almost every aspect of broadcast and even Internet news media, I fear for the sovereignty of the U.S.A. and the last vestiges of our Constitutional and Civil Rights.

Finally, there is a culture of jingoism in modern America that plays neatly into the hands of the multi-national corporations that are pulling the political strings in the United States.  Forgive me, but I came of age during the Vietnam War.  In my personal opinion, the Peace Movement of the 1960’s seems to represent that last expression by the “American” people of any sense of responsibility for taking an active role in the workings of our political system, a passionate concern for the welfare of our nation, and the spirit of the Founding Fathers who recognized political oppression and put their very lives on the line to establish, in the hallowed words of Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address of “…government of the people, by the people, for the people…”

Today, it is considered obligatory to say to anybody who claims to have served in the military, “Thank you for your service.”  Bumper stickers that say, “Support our troops,” are impossible to avoid in any parking lot or on the open road.  That the military is allowed to recruit for volunteers on television, radio and Internet is to me a crime against humanity.  These are carefully crafted messages, generated by marketing specialists to lure impressionable minds into considering military service the highest possible calling that anybody could ever consider. Let me digress for a moment to say that I do not in any way mean to denigrate the sacrifices of our soldiers in arms.  It breaks my heart to see the constant media images of servicemen and women who have been mangled in the line of duty; however, these poor souls volunteered to put the lives and bodies at risk. Nobody put a gun to their heads and made them sign-up.  The fact that we are barraged with images of these poor souls only furthers to support my contention that a culture of militarism is being drilled into the hearts and souls of the “American” population.

discretionary_spending_pie,_2015_enacted

As you can see from the chart above, more than half of national budget goes toward military spending.  How does the United States of America compare to the rest of the world in military spending? Here is another chart for your edification.

wolrd_military_spending_barchart_large

So who profits from this unimaginable expenditure of national resources on military spending? That’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer.  Do you know why?  It’s because, while companies like Lockheed-Martin and Boeing share the lion’s wealth of government military contracts, there are literally thousands of companies, some privately held, others owned by stockholders from all over the world, who hide their participation at feeding on this seemingly bottomless trough of U.S. dollars through shell-corporations, sub-contractors and other nefarious tricks to avoid public scrutiny.  Case in point is Dick Cheney’s Halliburton. According to a 2013 study, this corporation scored a staggering 39.5 billion dollars from the Iraq War.  How did they do this, under a shell corporation under the name of KBR, Inc. Please follow this link for an in-depth analysis of this blatant war-profiteering by probably one of the most evil individuals to ever walk this planet.

So can you guess who Dick Cheney is endorsing for President of the United States in the 2016 general election? Donald Trump, of course. Read this article from Politico.com if you don’t believe me. Should this come as any surprise to anyone? Hitler was a fascist.  What exactly is a fascist?  A fascist is somebody who believes in fascism.  It’s a word that gets tossed around, but what does it really mean.  At the risk of sounding like a high-schooler working on a term paper, I will provide you with the definition from Webster’s dictionary: a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator, controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government. If this does not sound familiar to the slippery slope that the U.S.A. is falling into, I don’t know what does.

In summation, let me pose you a question, “What is the best way to keep people to fall in line with a fascist government?” Well, if Hitler is our running example, it is war. How long has the United States been at war, whether officially or unofficially, as of this writing? Remember, we are talking about the War on Terror now.  If you are good at simple math, the answer is almost fifteen years, when the Patriot Act was passed by Congress on October 26, 2001. If you wish to be more conservative, then you may say since October of 2002, when Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, Pub.L. 107–243, 116 Stat. 1498, enacted October 16, 2002, H.J.Res. 114.

Author’s note: You may wonder why I put the words America and American in quotation maker.  This is because America actually comprises (partially) an entire hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere: North and South America, primarily.  That citizens of the Unites States of America choose to call themselves “Americans,” is to me the ultimate in hubris.  There are over thirty countries that are in the Western Hemisphere, not counting other countries that actually sit astride the Western Hemisphere and one of the other hemispheres on either side of it. So what would I call citizens of the United States of America, including me? I guess, “Stater-ers,” might me a good one.
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Poem: A Change in the Weather / Le Plus Rapide que Nous Dansons, la Plus Lentement le Bateau Coulera

Fallen tower

Fallen Tower, copyright 2016 Russell Smith

The violins came up. We began to dance.

Macabres visages les mignons de France-

The men as girls and girls to men

C’est vrai, mes amies, Le Bal des Ardents

The flames, the smoke, the smell of flesh aflame

Ah, dits donc, tout les enfants du monde sont condamnés

It’s a crime. It’s a sin, a low-down dirty shame.

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I Beg to Differ

denmark

Photo Credit: Okeksiy Mark/Shutterstock.com

This post is in response to an article posted on the website for Mises Institute: Austrian Economics, Freedom and Peace. I know nothing about the Mises Institute, but judging from the content of this article, I am guessing that it is a mouthpiece for right-wing politicians. In the case of Austria, these would be the same people who applauded Anschluss and unfurled their Swastika flags when German soldiers broke down their boarder crossings with tanks.

Here is a link to the article, entitled, “Denmark Potemkin Village.”

Of course, this article rants endlessly on taxes. In the words of the great Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Taxes are the price of a civilized society.” Despite its drumbeat about taxes, there is nothing about the Danish economic system that stifles entrepreneurship, and no evidence is provided to support this outrageous claim. The article also claims that Danish people have been “brainwashed,” into accepting an economic system that is to their disadvantage. I would like to counter this. The article mentions that the economic system in Denmark discourages the accumulation of wealth. This is a GOOD thing. The over-accumulation of wealth is always the precursor of economic collapse. Look at the Waltons! They are billionaires who never worked a day in their life! Because their papa Sam created Walmart and Sam’s Club, they have inherited billions without ever lifting a finger. Is this right? Is this fair? Is this good economics? NO! Many years ago, President FDR proposed a cap on all income that a person could earn. This was derided as Socialism. But what’s wrong with Socialism? Socialism is a contract between the people and the state. In return for taxes, the people are provided with cradle to grave services such as healthcare, housing, and education. In the U.S.A., the privilege of attending college is becoming more and more a benefit available only to the wealthy. Why are colleges allowed to charge so much money to attend their schools? Why are hospitals allowed to mark up bills at an outrageous level; thereby driving up healthcare costs to the point that only the wealthy can afford decent healthcare? (Obamacare is a fiasco, should be terminated, so don’t call me a knee-jerk liberal.) The issues raised by the article are misleading, right-wing propaganda. Long live Denmark!

Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with the longest reigning royal family in Europe. The United States of America, once the envy of the entire world for its standard of living, now pales in comparison to nearly every country in the European Union in terms of literacy, infant mortality, life-expectancy, employment and cost-of-living. Three years ago, the Huffington Post published an article on how the U.S.A. ranks in comparison to the rest of the world.  Here is a link to that article. One can only imagine that since this article was posted, things have only gotten worse. It should be interesting to note that in terms of child-wellness, five of the ten countries that ranked in the top ten are small constitutional monarchies. As a parting shot, I submit that the U.S.A. should abandon Federalism and adopt a parliamentary form of government. Can you imagine how much better our country would function if the executive (President or Prime Minister) was required to appear before Congress on a regular basis and defend his policies to the opposition?

For more information about Denmark and why it’s such a great place to live. Please follow this link.

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Book Review: The Plantagenets-the warrior kings and queens who made England, by Dan Jones

Plantagents cover

While certainly readable, The Plantagenets by Dan Jones (Viking, 2012) is a disappointment on numerous levels.  As a student of history, I find this 534 page work a pale comparison to more definitive works, such as the four volume history of this amazing dynasty by Thomas Costain, originally published in 1962.In as concise and forward manner as possible, I will detail my disappointment with this tome …

First of all, I am shocked by the lack of attention to scholarship. While there is a section at the end of the book entitled, “Further Reading, page 511,” there is no bibliography.  Mr. Jones does occasionally quote sources within the text, but here are no footnotes. So from the very get-go, one who picks up this book must understand that it is not appropriate for students or teachers of history.  This book is mere story-telling. To provide a case in point, on page 233, Mr. Jones writes, “They did not realize that Edward and Gloucester had spies among them, including a female transvestite called Margoth.” I found this sentence intriguing. I’d never heard of this individual before. Despite extensive research, the only information to a real-life individual under this name was in an entry in Wikipedia about a spy from the Eighteenth Century (Chevalier d’Eon).  Not only do I find this kind of writing slip-shod, I find it does a disservice to the reader who may want to find an external reference and further reading about this mysterious and intriguing figure.

It is without shame that I say that I like illustrations, especially color illustrations.  Between pages 198 and 199, the reader will find 4 pages of black-and-white glossy illustrations.  With the exception of the last illustration that shows a picture of John of Gaunt, third surviving son of King Edward III, the choice of illustrations are disappointing.  There are numerous images that could have been included in this history of the Plantagenet family that are not difficult to find.  For instance, at the Abbey of Fontevrault, there is a crypt that contains the remains of King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lion-Heart, their son and Queen Isabelle of Angoulême, the widow of bad King John, another son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Here is a photograph in the public domain that I found from aforementioned crypt.  That’s Isabelle on the left and Richard on the right.

The illustration of Edward II’s tomb is sloppy and does not reveal the grandeur of his final resting place.  If one understands the controversy surrounding the life and death of Edward II, then this may sound trivial; however, Edward III, his son went to great lengths to exhume his father’s remains and rebury them in grand style.  There are some conspiracy theorists who suggest that the remains in this particular tomb do not even belong to Edward II. (Please see Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies, by Ian Mortimer, Bloomsbury Academic, 2010.)

Edward the Second, while certainly a foolish and impolitic man, unsuitable for the role of king during the Middle Ages, was also a very unlucky man. From the start of his reign, the end of what is called the Medieval War Period (MWP) occurred. This resulted in seven years of crop failure that in turn resulted in mass starvation at an unprecedented level. (See: The Third Horseman, by William Rosen, Viking, 2014).  Following that came the Black Death.  While devoting a great deal of attention to the terrible pandemic that claimed many lives in what Barbara Tuchman famously described as the “calamitous 14th Century,” Jones devotes only one, brief and misinformed paragraph (page 326) on the implications of this great famine on the political climate in the early years of Edward II’s reign.  It’s this kind of shoddy sin of omission that riddles Jones’ effort.

The index of this book runs from pages 519 to 534.  It is fairly substantial, but as with the great famine that marred the early years of Edward II’s reign, there is no mention of this event in the index. I looked under the words, “famine,” “hunger,” “starvation,” and “crop failure.” There was no mention.  I supposed one paragraph, mentioned in passing, may not warrant a place in the index.  There are other omissions, but I will not belabor the point.  The index should serve as a guide to the major subjects of this book; however, as i noted before, this is not a work of scholarship.  If I were writing a history paper, whether for high school or college,

I would give this book a pass, as the primary sources are given short shrift. Shame on Mr. Jones! The fact that he is a popular presenter on British television and the role he played in the travesty of the recent retelling of Henry VIII and his Six Wives, recently shown on Channel 5 (UK) only indicates the degeneration of historical presentation in the popular media. It also bears noting that this very book was made into a four part series entitled Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets,  again presented on Channel 5 (UK). Any student of English history knows for a fact that the Tudors executed and tortured more people than every other dynasty put together. Ever heard of Bloody Mary, daughter of the murderous psychopath Henry VIII? She didn’t earn that nickname by accident.

If you are interested in a light read, a superficial accounting of the age of the Plantagenets, then feel free to check out this book from your local library.  It is also available on Amazon at a fairly cheap price.  On the other hand, if you are a serious student of medieval history, English history, etc. then I suggest you give it a pass.  Below is a bibliography of other works by Dan Jones. I guess he’s laughing all the way to the bank.  Happy reading!

DAN JONES, BIBLIOGRAPHY (accessed from Wikipedia on May 4, 2016)

  • Magna Carta: The Making And Legacy Of The Great Charter, London, Head of Zeus, 2014, ISBN 978-1-781-85885-1.
  • The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors, New York, Viking, 2014, ISBN 978-0-670-02667-8. (Known in the UK as The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors, London, 2014, ISBN 978-0-571-28807-6.)
  • The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, London, HarperPress, 2012, ISBN 978-0-00-721392-4 [26]
  • Summer of Blood: The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, London, HarperPress, 2009, ISBN 978-0-00-721391-7.
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