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In which I actually tilt at Rachel Lucas April 12, 2008

Posted by Administrator in Cultural Pessimism, Death and Dying, Family, Leviathan, Politics.
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Rachel is capital P Pissed OFF because of her tax bill.  And I cannot say that I blame her.  $11K is one helluva chunk of change to fork out at the end of the tax season.  I should like to know why her rate is so high, as I get the impression that being self-employed has something to do with it . . .and that smells.  Why are small-businessmen taking it in the shorts?

But, as Rachel is wont to do , when she gets pissed, she rants and has a tendency to do some carpet f-bombing.

Are you on welfare? FUCK YOU.

Do you have children you can’t provide everything for all by your widdle self? FUCK YOU.

Are you on unemployment because you just can’t find a job that’s good enough for ya? You don’t want to work at McDonald’s temporarily because you have a college degree? FUCK YOU.

Are you hoping for a bail-out because you’re too stupid to buy a house you can afford? FUCK YOU.

Are you a federal employee who has anything to do with making the government inefficient, bloated, and more costly than necessary? FUCK YOU.

Let’s cut the crap: Do you take any money from the federal government for any purpose due to your own poor decision-making? FUH-HUH-HUCK YOU STRAIGHT TO HELL.

Seriously. I hate those people and everything they represent. They’re the worst kind of parasites, sucking vortexes of need and stupidity, and I am genuinely enraged that I spend a huge chunk of my life working for those people. They take and take, never giving SHIT back, and you know what the actual worst part is? We put up with it!

Ahem.

Well then.

I placed in bold those items that I suspect that she would be on me like stink on cheese for engaging in.

Welfare?  My family receives state medical benefits.  I do not.  But as I am head of the household, I guess I have to say that “I” benefit from them.

And I have seven children.  Since that then results in a sizable tax benefit, then I guess I also get to receive the “F” bomb for this as well.

The last bold paragraph comes about because I -apparently- benefit from the earlier two.

I italicized the one paragraph because I used to work in public schools.  Got the hell out when I found the ridiculous interpretation of the 1st Amendment too much to stomach.  This, combined with the union mentality that provided tenure to the most experienced and generally, most disillusioned teachers, thereby both affirming and entrenching the Peter Principle to a nauseating degree, I got the hell out of the there and into private education.

While I sympathize with her anger and laugh at her language, I have to disagree that everyone who may be benefiting from government “largesse” -even if it is by receiving lower tax bills- is somehow becoming an automatic leech on the rest of society.

Truth in advertising:  I receive government “benefits” of health care for my kids, and lower tax bills due to having children and due to the fact that I am “buying” my own home.   And not with a bleeping subprime mortgage, either.  Those Ponzi schemes were a) not heavily advertised here in Washington, and b) seemed too damned good to be true; and I see that my reasons for being distrusting of such loans has been proven all-too-correct these past few months.

Now, I am not going to defend the welfare.  It is there, my kids need coverage, I cannot get them coverage and feed them at the same time.  Does that mean I cannot take care of them adequately?  By Rachel’s definition, perhaps.  But then, Rachel’s definition presents a pernicious threat to society that I’ll get to in a minute.  If the state withdrew the welfare, I would suck it up and pay as needed.  I would not complain to Olympia or DC.

But in advocating for that absolute flat tax rate with no deductions, common taxpayers such as me will get hit, and hit hard, with long-term consequences that would in the end damage the Republic.  They are:

  1. Lower home ownership rates, which would exacerbate the already-widening gulf between rich and poor as landlords get more and young families get hosed.
  2. The birth rate would drop.  Take a look at modern Italy or recent France or England to see the dangers to a culture associated with a declining birth rate.  The decay of the Republic is to follow, as the burden of caring for an increasingly aging populace falls more and more on those childless remainders.
  3. Those that WOULD still be having kids in Rachel’s universe would be the wealthy.  Assuming they actually procreate, this then results in an increasingly elitist society, with only the wealthy actually able to afford the birthing and rearing of children.  Francic Galton might have liked this concept.  We should not.

Re: #1.  Home ownership, despite the beating it has taken in recent months due to irresponsible lenders and borrowers, is still one of the most reliable means of savings left to us.  But much of what makes that manageable for many middle class citizens is the tax break on interest paid that then makes the large payments workable.  Take away that tax break, and either the housing market collapses further, or, as I said above, marginal families are forced to rent, the rich get richer, and personal savings rates decline even further than they already have.

Re: #2:  Res ipsa loquitur.

Re: #3:  Children are considered by a healthy society not only as valuable gifts, but by their government as future producers.  My wife and I spend a helluva lot of resources on our children, both time and money, with the idea that they be successful adults.  Now, do I rear them so that the State can have productive workers.

Oh, HELL no.

But, the State wisely (for once) views these children as investments for the future.  To tax parents when they are (in some ways) literally killing themselves to rear decent future workers is not only bad policy, but counterproductive.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I did not have these kids so that I could get a break from Uncle Sam.  Hell, at the time I didn’t even KNOW about the break.  But you may bet that many parents not so hot on the idea of having kids -such as Rachel Lucas- would swear off of them forever if they realized that Uncle Sam was in effect going to soak them for having kids.

I’m telling you:  That tax benefit helps the entire country.  And as the country becomes more and more fixated on the idea that procreation and orgasm are mutually exclusive goals, that break becomes even more important.

Cynical?  Yeah, I know.

Singularities Make Me Nervous March 28, 2008

Posted by Administrator in atheism, Creepiness, Cultural Pessimism, Death and Dying, Faith, Liberal self-loathing, Mechanistic Relativism.
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Ray Kurzweil wants to live forever, and claims that he will be able to do so after the upcoming “singularity’ occurs. He states that soon, we will be able to replace most if not all of our organs, and then after that, digitally “download” our consciousnesses onto computers, so that in the event we keep ourselves downloaded, we can live forever. Currently, he takes over 180 vitamins a day to prolong his life (so damned many pills, he has to hire help to manage which pills to take when) and sees a Denver-area physician once a week for longevity treatments. This physician charges $6000 per visit.

Somehow, some way, we all yearn for the unreachable, the immortal, the divine. There is that impossible desire within each of us for that level of perfection that cannot be achieved here on earth.

Aquinas taught many. many moons ago that this yearning for a perfection that we cannot know from experience here on earth shows that there must in fact be a God; how else can we explain this inexplicable yearning?

Kurzweil feels this. But as a committed rationalist, he must pursue his arid vision of digital immortality, and he sinks ridiculous sums of money into that pursuit.

What a tragedy it shall be for the man when he finally does die, sees that the old Manichean dualism is but a sham and a freeway to waste and misery.

(The title comes from a Larry Niven novelette of the same label and can be found in his short story collection Tales of Known Space. I recommend it without reservation. A scientist thinks he has the secret to unlimited power by harnessing the potential found in a quantum black hole. Of course, the man loses control of the forces he is manipulating and they destroy him. A timeless tale. Kurzweil is re-living it as we speak.)

Falwell, the Left and the use of the word Hypocrisy May 16, 2007

Posted by Administrator in Blogging, Cultural Pessimism, Death and Dying, Liberal Hypocrisy, Pharyngulism.
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Make no mistake, Jerry Falwell was a flawed man, as are we all. He took the enthusiasms of his faith to unpleasant and incorrect depths; most notoriously when he suggested that the 9-11 attacks were essentially a manifestation of the Wrath of God. As an apologetics instructor, I find the ignorance of that comment breathtaking. Nevertheless, though I cannot agree with Falwell on a number of his takes on religion, he was sincere in his way and assisted in re-working the political landscape of this country in a radical fashion.

Typically, this is how one honors the memory of the recently deceased. By no means do you paint everything rosy; honestly evaluate their flaws while simulataneously extolling their virtues.

But for the brutes on the Left, there is nothing but glee and vituperation at the passing of Jerry Falwell. Most disturbing is this video in which Christopher Hitchens spends almost five minutes on Anderson Cooper utterly and completely demeaning Falwell, deriding him as an “absolute charlatan”. Now how Hitchens can know for certain that Falwell has been perpetrating a fraud on his followers all these years is either an act of telepathic brilliance or knee-jerk hatred. Care to guess which option William of Occam would choose?

And of course, PZ Myers weighs in on Hitchens:

Man, what a beautiful burn.

Right.

Myers is a big fan of the notion that atheism can lend itself to the creation of moral impulse as well, if not better, than Christianity. Yet his actions, as well as those of fellow atheist Hitchens and the anti-Falwell ralliers in the Castro District, when people like Falwell pass away suggests that such morals do not in fact come about from atheism. More fundamental and brutish behaviors such as gloating and vengeance assert themselves, and there is no recourse to a higher level of behavior. No call or appeal can be made to charity, forgiveness or kindness. And Myers, Hitchens, DU, Kos and the rest provide ample evidence of this.

What a sad commentary.

Would I charge the VTech killer? April 20, 2007

Posted by Administrator in Blogging, Cultural Pessimism, Death and Dying.
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Probably not, though in my romantic fantasies of course I hit the bastard with a flying tackle and dislocate his shoulder while simultaneously giving him a concussion.

Mark Shea speculates wisely:

The heroes of Flight 93 are remembered because they did something exceptional and rare, not because they typified the human condition. They represent not the normal level of American Can-Do Courage from which our civilization has sadly fallen, but an extraordinary act of heroism which has been extraordinary throughout human history. And they had some distinct advantages over the people at VT. For the heroes of Flight 93 were people in a unique circumstance: they had time to reflect, to realize the full import of their situation, to realize not one of them could get out of their situation, to coordinate with others, to gather themselves emotionally and mentally, and to formulate a desperate plan. Also, they were up against men with box cutters who were distracted with trying to fly a big airplane.

The people at VT has none of these advantages. Death burst in the door and started shooting. The normal reaction of the human organism to extreme situations is blank disbelief and inaction. That’s why Jews cooperatively lined up and walked into the gas chambers. Wanna know why there is a Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination? Because Zapruder just kept on filming. He didn’t immediately drop the camera and spring into action, seeking to trace the source of the shots and organize a posse to track down the murderer. He thought JFK was joking when he grabbed his throat after the first shot hit him. People don’t really shoot the President. So he stood immobile and just kept filming.

A few years ago two jets collided and crashed at an air show in Stuttgart, killing several people on the ground. We have excellent videos of this because, not just the cameraman, but most of the crowd stood stock still as the fireball engulfed its victims. Why? Because planes don’t crash and kill people right in front of you. You don’t move. You don’t know what to do in this utterly unique situation. Nothing in your life prepared you for it.

Sitting in a classroom results in passive, accepting behavior. Having death in the form of a self-absorbed madman suddenly manifest itself in the classroom door allows in no way sufficient time to alter one’s mental stance.

There have been any number of times that I have been walking in public places and a stranger has been in my vicinity. I am one who then tenses up, surreptitiously checks behind me and prepares for battle. No reason or experience has me do this, save for what I see and read in the news.

But I can virtually guarantee that I would not do such a thing in the classroom for the reason mentioned above. Instruction encourages apathy and passive acceptance. Group activities are even worse in that you then focus on the group and pay no attention to what might be happening in the doorway.

Shea is responding to a John Derbybshire article asking why no one stood up to the Korean misfit who saw fit to take out his social aberrations out on innocent students.

I think Mark is correct. The reaction is certainly normal enough. We can only extol the virtues of heroes such as Liviu Librescu who stand in the doorway long enough to give time for his students to flee. Monday Morning Quarterbacking the actions of the staff and studentsof VTech (as well as criticizing the administration) is short-sighted.

Other musings on the VTech Massacre April 18, 2007

Posted by Administrator in Cultural Pessimism, Death and Dying, Idiots, Liberal self-loathing.
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As liberals and government authorities start forming the circular firing squad to assign blame for the Blacksburg tragedy, I wandered around my preferred places on the Internet for higher level wisdom.

I was waiting for the Anchoress’ read on this. She does not disappoint: (more…)

On the cusp of a New Year. . . December 31, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Cultural Pessimism, Death and Dying, Liberal Hypocrisy, Personal, Politics.
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and I cordially invite this year of 2006 to step the heck out the door and never come back.

This past month, most notably, I have been faced with the terminal diagnosis of my father, followed by his nevertheless sudden death and the increasing fragility of my mother-in-law.

And to see that the end of the year the news is all agog with the execution of Saddam Hussein (which is not a source of glee for me.  I grieve that a man such as he can live such a wretched life, die unrepentant, and what is worse his executioners gloat over his demise. . .), and some gloating over the Democratic takeover of Congress, despite their not having one single idea of their own other than “Republicans suck”, and finally Bill Amend stops publishing Foxtrot. . .well, 2006 can’t end soon enough for me.

The Best Write-Up I’ve yet seen on my Dad December 25, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Blogging, Death and Dying, Family, Personal.
2 comments

Here.

Best quote:

If I had to choose one word to describe you, it would be leather. Stiff on one side, soft on the other. And very cowboy-ish.

And I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that it was written by my 16 year old son.

Great, poignant piece.

A song. . December 18, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Death and Dying, Family, Personal.
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. . .that indulges my current melancholy and illustrates in some ways the thinking of my dad.

We Used to Know. . .

Jethro Tull

Whenever I get to feel this way,
Try to find new words to say,
I think about the bad old days
We used to know.
Nights of winter turn me cold —
Fears of dying, getting old.
We ran the race and the race was won
By running slowly.

Could be soon we’ll cease to sound,
Slowly upstairs, faster down.
Then to revisit stony grounds,
We used to know.

Remembering mornings, shillings spent,
Made no sense to leave the bed.
The bad old days they came and went
Giving way to fruitful years.

Saving up the birds in hand
While in the bush the others land.
Take what we can before the man
Says it’s time to go.

Each to his own way I don’t mind.
Best of luck with what you find.
But for your own sake remember times
We used to know.

-Ian Anderson

Perfect for my Dad.

Mom’s Redeeming Act December 18, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Death and Dying, Family, Personal.
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There continues to me much to write about regarding Dad’s death:  Cleaning out his apartment, his decorations focussed almost entirely on his grandkids, the unbelieveable callousness of some agencies, demanding a death certificate before cutting off service.

Yes, that last one is for real. Bresnan Communications, my dad’s cable supplier, demanded of my brother a death certificate before they turned off his cable.  One of the stupidest, most insensitive things I have ever heard.  He called again today, and commons sense now reigns. . .but he also told them that they need to track down the worker who told him to provide a death certificate, and make sure that worker removes his/her head from his/her rectum and rejoin the human race.

But I wanted instead to talk about my mom.

I’ve been more than a little impatient with Mom for over ten years.  You see, back in 1996, she filed for divorce from Dad.  Arguments may certainly be made that she was justified; Dad was hard to live with.  He was incredibly stubborn, often emotionally abusive, and he drank quite a bit for many years.  But by the time Mom finally left him, he had stopped drinking, and this had taken the edge off his other negative attribute.  A very large edge had been taken off.  Coupled with the fact that he had increasing health concerns, I felt Mom was being insenstive -and a crappy Catholic- in seeking the divorce.

To make matters worse, Mom asked me if she could serve the papers to my dad at my house, while my brother was visiting.  In other words, she wanted to use the opportunity of our being together as a family for the first time in over five years to put a formal end to her marriage.

In my house.

I asked her in tones of incredulity if she was nuts, and absolutely forbade her from serving those papers in my house.  (she did have the grace to ask my permission. . .but I can’t imagine what type of response she was expecting. . .).

I’ve been in a state of low-grade piss-off with her ever since.  Dad was no angel, but I don’t believe that Mom treated him with any dignity back then.

Fast forward to last week:  Dad is seriously ill and the possibility of his dying alone hundreds of miles away from me and my brother is very real.  We are scrambling desperately to get him re-located out here. . .and a running undercurrent in my hindbrain is some real resentment towards my mother.  She took a vow back in 1964 to stick with my dad “for better or worse”, and she chose to bail on that.  Now that the bill has come due, the burden of dealing with my dad in times of worse has fallen on my brother and me.  I’m fantasizing about a conversation I will have with my mom about abrogating responsibilities and leaving already over-worked sons to clean up the mess she and my dad made for us.  It was a passionate speech I had prepared, and not very polite.

But my mom, God bless her, restored my faith in her.

The day before Dad died, Mom called to ask me what our plans were for Dad’s relocation.   I said that we would like to move him in with us immediately, while we searched for a nursing home placement.  But since Dad had already put the ixnay on such a transitional arrangement, my brother and I were trying to find an immediate placement.  Finances were an issue, as Dad was pretty much living off of Social Security, some minimal  VA benefits and the meanest possible pension from his old employer, International Harvester.  Since we weren’t willing to settle for the wretched type of care, it was taking time and I was considering raiding my own retirement funds to finance Dad’s care to speed things up.

Mom then stepped up and said that she would cover whatever costs SS/Medicare and Dad’s other income would not cover.

It was a lovely gesture, one she did not have to make and frankly I had thought her incapable of making.  It did a great deal to improving my image of her.  She was willing to help Dad in his final days, after seemingly cutting him entirely out of her life ten years ago.

Then, when Dad passed so surprisingly quickly, she offered to fly out to Billings to help me and Jay clean things up.  We ended up telling her that wasn’t necessary -as Dad had not much to clean up, it only took us one day of solid work to empty out his apartment-, but even then she was always available on the phone to answer any questions we might have had and to offer advice.

——————————————————————————————–

The death of a close loved one is never fun.  But like pain itself,  there are some blessings that reveal themselves.  Dad suffered for a very limited time, as I know he wished to be spared much suffering.  And Mom showed that she is in fact compassionate. . .and at the most helpful time.

Thanks, Mom.  And I am sorry for having been so cold with you for your treatment of Dad ten years ago.  Thanks for proving me wrong.

The Call December 13, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Catholicism, Cultural Pessimism, Death and Dying, Family, Know Thine Enemy, Liberal self-loathing, Personal.
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Ah, Great God. Where to begin?

There is the dreaded Hunt for the Nursing Home.

There is the Mother’s Redeeming Act.

There is the Universal Realization that there MUST be a Higher Being, be it God, in the midst of suffering. Without that God, suffering paints the universe most starkly as a slavering beast intent only on devouring its own progeny. No hope. No love. Only root, hog, or die. (Or life is nasty, dull, brutish and short. Take your pick) I cannot accept this. Logically I cannot accept it. I have seen and felt too much love in my life to think that it is all a rabid, monstrous will to power; the Law of Club and Fang triumphant at last.

If Dawkins, Myers, Dennett and Harris are correct, then they are are promoting the ultimate oxymoron: They claim to be able to love in a world that they claim is devoid of love.

Those perhaps, are topics for another day. Instead, I am going to dwell for now upon The Call.

We’ve all, any of us over the age of 20, spent at least a moment’s trepdidation when the phone rings at an unGodly hour.

2AM. The phone rings. The questions ensue: “Who’s died? Who got hurt? My God, is it Mom? Dad? My wife? My child?”

My dad got that call over 20 years ago. Both my brother and I were gone for the night, Dad didn’t know where we were. He got the call, this one at 4AM. Dad knew the moment the phone rang. Was it me? My brother? He knew it was one of us, as Mom was asleep upstairs.

“C’mon up to Evergreen. Your son is here. He is hurt.”

“Which son?

My brother, they responded.

Since they didn’t sound agitated, Dad took his time. Cleaned up. Went to the 7-11 for some coffee. Moseyed up to the hospital. Found my brother in the ER with a nasty gash on his forehead and no comprehension of who my father was, talking the at-once hilarious and alarming, utter gibberish that only the victim of a serious concussion can babble. That’s when Dad really got scared. My brother had been in a car accident -as a passenger- where the car got into a terminal argument with a tree, facilitated by high speed, slick roads, that indomitable sense of invulnerability that possesses all teens, no substances, and one helluva lot of luck for my brother.

Dad talked for years about That Call, and how loopy my brother was when he found him.

My wife and I feared for a brief while that we were getting The Call.  For five years, we kept getting calls from a local drunk that mistakenly believed that our phone number was the same as his estranged wife. This fellow would call at all hours, piss drunk, babbling the most pathetic and heart-rending self-pitying nonsense. We simply heard him out, gently told him he had the wrong number. He would then apologize (in the most self-pitying fashion imaginable), or if he was really ripped would either hang-up or repeat his harangue.

Needless to say, this somewhat anesthesized us against The Call for some years. But it’s been awhile, we’ve moved, that poor drunk has another number to confuse with his wife’s and the tension felt at late-night calls has been allowed to increase.

Last night, I finally got The Call. From my brother.

“I’m sorry, dude. The nurse checked in on him about 3 hours ago, and he was fine. Then they checked again about an hour ago to turn him over, and he was just gone.”

“3-6 months,” they told me last week. They were off by multiple degrees. Not months.

Try days. He lasted exactly six days from my discovering he was sick.

Ah God, I reply. He was gone, huh?”

My wife gasps next to me.

Yeah. I’m so sorry, dude.”

And we talk about the aftermath of death. What to do with the body. His apartment. How fast can we get out there to Montana. We discuss the speed with which he left us; the pain of not being able to see him again. We use muted tones, hushed voices. Calm and straight, though. No whispering, no tremor in the voice. We’re men, godammit, don’t show any weakness to each other.

Even if he is my brother.

Maybe because he’s my brother.

We say goodbye, firm up plans to meet tomorrow so we can travel together to go to Montana and pull down the final curtain; removing any evidence of Dad’s presence. Take the car, clean out the apartment, close out the checking account.

Hang up, and lay back, walleyed, staring at the ceiling.

I’m supposed to cry.

I don’t feel like crying.

I feel some relief, actually. Dad was really uncomfortable on the phone. It was evident.

Where’s the agony? The recrimination?

Am I going to be miserable because I didn’t get out to see him as soon as I heard? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I have children, and he was not willing to come out unless we had the right place for him already established.

But it does continue to gnaw at me that it has been over two years since I or my family have seen him. . .and that gnawing I suspect will continue for some time.

—————————————————————————————

What does one do after The Call? Stare at ceiling. Wonder when the tears will come. Hold the hand of your lovely, devoted spouse who is a little worried about how you might react. Hold desultory conversation. Go to work? Take leave for grief? Wonder where the grief is. . .

Finally, go downstairs and take up the long-neglected Rosary, and pray a desperate set of decades from the Sorrowful Mysteries for the salvation of Dad’s soul.

Did I mention he’s not Catholic? Baptized Methodist, he hasn’t entered a church out of real desire in probably 60 years, and died in the state the pre-Vatican II church called, “unshriven.” The state of his soul in real doubt.

Terrifying.

One can only hope that what I teach my religion students is not only theoretically true but actually true as well: We have no idea who is in Hell, if anyone. It may be unpopulated; yes, not even Hitler. We do not know what happens to men’s soul’s as they depart their bodies. Perhaps a final reckoning may result in the deathbed conversion.

I fervently hope and pray that I am right.