commentary

THE BIG TEN

So there we were in the car driving home on a lovely almost-spring day also known as Easter. I was mentally shuffling through the heap of junk I call my brain, trying to remember all ten of the commandments.

spring on the blackstone

 

I found myself stopped at around seven or eight, depending on how I divided the “How to behave to God” section. I turned to Garry, my good Lutheran husband and asked him if he knows all ten commandments and he replied, with some irritation, he had to pay attention to traffic. There wasn’t any traffic, except for one very slow driver in front of us. I suppose Garry was trying hard to avoid ramming him.

Finally, he admitted he didn’t know all of them either.

“It’s a sad state of affairs,” I pointed out, “When two such educated souls as us cannot list all ten commandments.”

“Well there’s a lot of stuff about not making idols and coveting and all.”

“Yeah, and taking a day off once a week.”

So when I got home, I looked them up.

It turns out there really are a bunch of “how to behave to God” commandments and not all religions divide them up the same way. You can come up with as many as 15 (à la Mel Brooks “History of the World.”) or as few as 8. It depends on how you look at them and where you punctuate the sentences.

Following are the Big Ten according to most Protestant sects and a second list which are my streamlined easier-to-remember set.

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 NKJV)

  1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
  3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
  6. “You shall not murder.
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.
  8. “You shall not steal.
  9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Heston-Charlton-Ten-Commandments

I thought I’d make them easier to remember, so here’s my take on them. Remember, mine are not etched in stone. For that matter, except for the ones Moses got on Sinai, none of them are.

The Serendipity Top Ten

  1. I’m God. The One and Only. Don’t forget it, not for a moment.
  2. Idols are O-U-T.
  3. No using God’s name to swear. Or maybe no swearing. I’m not sure. Maybe both.
  4. Take a break on the seventh day of your week. Really it doesn’t matter what day you choose because when I started making the world, there were no calendars. So take your pick, then stick to it. Everyone gets the same day off, including your family, guests, slaves, servants and animals. No work. Got that?
  5. Take care of your parents.
  6. Don’t murder anyone.
  7. Don’t cheat on your spouse. YOU know what I mean.
  8. Don’t steal stuff.
  9. Don’t lie.
  10. Don’t envy other people’s stuff. You’ve got your own.

Is that better? I’m just here to help.

 

 

IN THINE OWN IMAGE, BEASLEY GREEN

Originally posted on Beasley Green:

Research commissioned by Channel 4 and conducted by the Cumberbatch Research Group showed that during a sample of 368 hours of peak-time viewing in 2009, Ethnic Minority representation (those appearing on BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky One) accounted for just 10.2% of the overall output during this 368 hour period. This data also includes the possibility that some of the individuals counted as an ethnic minority were also counted on several occasions (Trevor McDonald on the news for example). Quite a sobering statistic until you consider that ethnic minority (dark skinned – this detail needs to be pointed out) groups only make up about 13% of the UK population – which may seem an unrealistic statistic if you live in the multicultural centres of one of the major cities in the UK – or Bradford. However, step outside of those areas and sightings of ethnic minorities…

View original 587 more words

GOOGLE SHMOOGLE OBIGAZOODLE

Google Chrome

What’s Google good for?

Need to know the latest headline news? The weather in Boca Raton? A quick answer to a simple question, like: “Hey, who won the Best Actor Oscar in 1997?”

Need a picture of someone famous to put in your post? You’ll find it on Google, no problem. Need a portrait of an actor or politician? Need a painting of a giant cockroach cooking dinner? Google it! Google will give you lots of choices, a few of which are presumably not copyright infringements.

Need to get some information about an obscure medical condition? Want to know which hospital has the most up-to-date treatment for it? Google may have the answer. It’s not a substitute for a diagnosis, but it’s a jumping off place. Want to know the side effects of your new medication? Google will to give you more information than you really wanted. You probably won’t like most of it.

What else is Google good for? If you believe a lot of recent blogs, you’d think Google is  the route to all knowledge, the all-purpose cure-all for every question, every problem. Recipes, diets, travel, reviews, buying, selling … you name it, you can do it on Google. Or can you? Really?

Google can help you get a good idea where to look for more serious information. If you are serious about learning and want to do more than scratch the surface, Google is the place where you line up your water fowl and figure out which are geese and swans versus the real ducks. After that?

Google shmoogle

I look for books to buy. For example, you cannot learn anything of value about ancient Chinese porcelain on Google. All you can find are additional sources which might lead to better material.

You can learn the rules of baseball by Googling it, but if you want to play the game, you’ll have join a team. Some things, you’re better off asking someone. “Grandma? Could you show me how to crochet?” Or take a class.

You are not going to really learn a language on line, not well enough to really communicate, but you might find out who gives courses or where to find a tutor.

History? Ornithology? Identifying wild flowers or butterflies? Buy a couple of books or borrow them from a library. Anyone who is even slightly serious about drilling deep into a subject knows  Google is the where you commence the search. It isn’t where you end it.

Google is intrusive, ubiquitous, careless of privacy and copyrights. It is many other bad things. But when you need basic information pronto, Google is the best way to get going.

Imperfect it may be, but there isn’t a better way. Or even a reasonable alternative.

BORING STUFF YOU IGNORED IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Back on Facebook, the site I love to hate. Someone who ought to know better is saying “Here’s a suggestion: To solve this government shutdown, call a general election and let the people decide what should be done. Should we continue with the shutdown or go back to running the government? Sounds simple to me!”

Election day 2012

And getting the response:  “What’s simple to us is hard for our elected officials!”

It’s not hard for our elected officials. It’s impossible and illegal for our officials — elected and otherwise.

Not only that, but we do not have any mechanism that allows a plebiscite wherein everyone gets to voice his or her opinion and The Government has to Abide by Our Vote. How would that work, exactly? To which part of our legal system does that belong? Judicial? Legislative? Executive?

I’m pretty sure we have to pass laws via the legislature. To change laws, we have to get rid of old laws via the judicial branch and/or enact new laws. Which brings us back to the legislative branch. Or to put it another way — congress. If you don’t like the bozos in congress, don’t vote for them. What? You didn’t vote? Well then. I guess you got what you deserve.

The executive branch (aka The President) can’t enact laws. He can use his influence to try to get congress to create laws he likes. He can veto laws he dislikes although presidents do not use their veto much. It’s a thing. Oh, and congress can overturn a veto if enough members of congress agree. Like that’s going to happen.

So — after we have this entirely illegal “public opinion election,” who will enforce “the will of the people”? To the best of my knowledge, there is no force of law to public opinion. There never has been.

Returning to Facebook, I post a little something. Because I love it when I absolutely, positively know no one is going to pay any attention to me. I say: “You can’t just ‘call an election’ in the U.S. This isn’t Great Britain where members of parliament vote “no confidence’ to jumpstart a new election. The U.S. has scheduled elections. Beginning and end of story. The Constitution specifies how and when elections will be held. You can vote down a government in England. You cannot do it here.”

Everyone ignores me. Probably because I’m so smart.

So what can you do about all the stuff you don’t like? Between scheduled elections, you are free to gripe, whine, wail, argue, rant, piss and moan … but you can’t vote until the next scheduled election.

Green is for going.

Green is for going.

It’s one of several fundamental differences between our government and parliamentary governments (like England, France etc.). Americans are always saying how superior our government is, yet they don’t seem to know how it works. Hmm.

So I love it when folks call for an election to change something they don’t like. As if the United States has ever or could ever “just call an election” and “let the people decide.” Even in a parliamentary government — which is nominally more responsive to public opinion — you can’t just “call an election” anytime citizens are displeased with what’s going on.

Somewhere in every government throughout history a lot of citizens are/were/will be unhappy with whatever the government is or isn’t doing. If you had an election every time a bunch of people were mad at the government, we’d always be in the middle of an election.

Wouldn’t that be fun!

You are not required to like what’s going on, but if you want to participate, you need a fundamental grasp of how your government works. The boring stuff you ignored learned in grammar school. Today, you’re all grown up and your government is boring. I know. It’s not fair.

Feel free to ignore me. I should never read anything on Facebook. It just pisses me off.

 

Victor Davis Hanson – The Israeli Spring

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

IsraeliSpring

Israel could be forgiven for having a siege mentality — given that at any moment, old frontline enemies Syria and Egypt might spill their violence over common borders.

The Arab Spring has thrown Israel’s once-predictable adversaries into the chaotic state of a Sudan or Somalia. The old understandings between Jerusalem and the Assad and Mubarak kleptocracies seem in limbo.

Yet these tragic Arab revolutions swirling around Israel are paradoxically aiding it, both strategically and politically — well beyond just the erosion of conventional Arab military strength.

In terms of realpolitik, anti-Israeli authoritarians are fighting to the death against anti-Israeli insurgents and terrorists. Each is doing more damage to the other than Israel ever could — and in an unprecedented, grotesque fashion. Who now is gassing Arab innocents? Shooting Arab civilians in the streets? Rounding up and executing Arab civilians? Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: either Arab dictators or radical Islamists.

The old nexus of radical Islāmic terror of the last three decades is unraveling. With a wink and a nod, Arab dictatorships routinely subsidized Islāmic terrorists to divert popular anger away from their own failures to the West or Israel. In the deal, terrorists got money and sanctuary. The Arab Street blamed others for their own government-inflicted miseries. And thieving authoritarians posed as Islam’s popular champions.

But now, terrorists have turned on their dictator sponsors. And even the most ardent Middle East conspiracy theorists are having troubling blaming the United States and Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry is still beating last century’s dead horse of a “comprehensive Middle East peace.” But does Kerry’s calcified diplomacy really assume that a peace agreement involving Israel would stop the ethnic cleansing of Egypt’s Coptic Christians? Does Israel have anything to do with Assad’s alleged gassing of his own people?

There are other losers as well. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to turn a once-secular Turkish democracy into a neo-Ottoman Islamist sultanate, with grand dreams of eastern-Mediterranean hegemony. His selling point to former Ottoman Arab subjects was often a virulent anti-Semitism. Suddenly, Turkey became one of Israel’s worst enemies and the Obama administration’s best friends.

Yet if Erdogan has charmed President Obama, he has alienated almost everyone in the Middle East. Islamists such as former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi felt that Erdogan was a fickle and opportunistic conniver. The Gulf monarchies believed that he was a troublemaker who wanted to supplant their influence. Neither the Europeans nor the Russians trust him. The result is that Erdogan’s loud anti-Israeli foreign policy is increasingly irrelevant.

The oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf once funded terrorists on the West Bank, but they are now fueling the secular military in Egypt. In Syria they are searching to find some third alternative to Assad’s Alawite regime and its al-Qaeda enemies. For the moment, oddly, the Middle East foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other oil monarchies dovetails with Israel’s: Predictable Sunni-Arab nationalism is preferable to one-vote, one-time Islamist radicals.

Israel no doubt prefers that the Arab world liberalize and embrace constitutional government. Yet the current bloodletting lends credence to Israel’s ancient complaints that it never had a constitutional or lawful partner in peace negotiations.

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt dictatorship is gone. His radical Muslim Brotherhood successors were worse and are also gone. The military dictatorship that followed both is no more legitimate than either. In these cycles of revolution, the one common denominator is an absence of constitutional government.

In Syria, there never was a moderate middle. Take your pick between the murderous Shiite-backed Assad dictatorship or radical Sunni Islamists. In Libya, the choice degenerated to Moammar Qaddafi’s unhinged dictatorship or the tribal militias that overthrew it. Let us hope that one day westernized moderate democracy might prevail. But that moment seems a long way off.

What do the Egyptian military, the French in Mali, Americans at home, the Russians, the Gulf monarchies, persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, and the reformers of the Arab Spring all have in common? Like Israel, they are all fighting Islamic-inspired fanaticism. And most of them, like Israel, are opposed to the idea of a nuclear Iran.

In comparison with the ruined economies of the Arab Spring — tourism shattered, exports nonexistent, and billions of dollars in infrastructure lost through unending violence — Israel is an atoll of prosperity and stability. Factor in its recent huge gas and oil finds in the eastern Mediterranean, and it may soon become another Kuwait or Qatar, but with a real economy beyond its booming petroleum exports.

Israel had nothing to do with either the Arab Spring or its failure. The irony is that surviving embarrassed Arab regimes now share the same concerns with the Israelis. In short, the more violent and chaotic the Middle East becomes, the more secure and exceptional Israel appears.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book, The Savior Generals, is just out from Bloomsbury Books. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc

See on www.nationalreview.com

What else could go wrong?

“What else could go wrong? How much worse could things get?”

My husband and I have an agreement. NEVER say those lines. Ever. Never say them, don’t even think them.

No matter how bad things are, no matter how dark life looks, there is always something else that can go wrong. If you are alive, you are already money ahead. You could be not alive. Many were and no longer are.

A fair number of people I counted as friends and loved ones are long gone and many more are on that final leg of life’s journey, in the immortal words of Tom Lehrer “Soon we’ll all be sliding down that razor blade of life.” Ouch.

CYCLONE-a

Yesterday, when I was deep in the miasma of self-pity … my least favorite place to be except in a hospital bed waking up to realize “Oh shit, this is going to be really bad …” I thought to myself, “Hell, you really ARE going to die.”

Then I said out loud. “Asshole. Of course you are going to die. Was there ever the least bit of doubt about it? It was never an “if.” We are all going to die. When and how remain the only questions, but that’s a journey we are all taking.”

None of the people I know have gone gently into that good night, if indeed it is a good night. No one has come back to tell me about it. I’ve been waiting for at least one of them to drop by and give me the word, let me in on the biggest secret of all. Is there anything after? Is there an after? And if there is … how and what is it?

Despite the ever-increasing number of close friends and family who have gone to there — wherever that may be — no one has reported back.

Yesterday, I was counting all the things that could go wrong that have not gone wrong yet. I could be dead instead of whining about how I might be dead. I could be living on the street instead of wondering how I will meet the next mortgage payment. The car, running fine, could stop working. The boiler could blow. The deck could collapse. The electrical system could fry.

dark cemetary

More friends, more loved ones, could be sick, could die, could disappear. The television could stop working (no, not that, anything but that) or worse — be still my ailing heart — we could lose our high-speed Internet connection. Talk about a heart attack — that idea could do me in.

So what could go wrong? You think things couldn’t get worse?

They can go wronger and they can get worser. And given the shit-storm life is, it probably will. Go wronger. Get worser. So I should shut up and enjoy whatever there is to enjoy because … wow. You never know, right? Well, actually, you do know. You just don’t want to think about it. And I don’t blame you one little bit.

Tom Lehrer always cheers me up.

Improving the Quality of Corruption

DOWN WITH GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION! Defenestrate the politicians!

Right. Sure.

Without meaning to sound as cynical as I really am, please give me an example of a non corrupt government. Anywhere. In the history of government. From the first known government (Egypt? China?) to now. Just one. On any continent. Any form of government, even a tribal council. Because as far as I know, there is no such thing.

75-SignOfTheTimesNK-1

I just finished reading “Imperium,” a fictionalized (not very) biography of Cicero. It gave me a headful of reality check on government corruption and I realized that we Americans don’t have a grip on serious corruption. Now, Rome, those guys understood corruption. They were serious about their corruption. We are just dilettantes compared to them! More on this later.

Boston State House

Never in this world, has there ever been a government free of corruption. It is the nature of government to be subject to … uh … um … what shall I call it? Oh, okay. Got it.

Pressure.

What do you mean by that?

Well, let’s see. Money. That’s a fine traditional form of corruption. Right up there, we have nepotism, a form of corruption whose popularity never wanes. Otherwise known as “my family and friends.” Hey, they just need jobs, you know? It’s not a big deal, is it? Find me a small town where the government — such as it is — isn’t composed of entrenched old families, their friends, friends of family, cousins of the friends of the families, their brothers and sisters in-and-out-of-law.

Okay, how about constituents? You know, like when we tell our pols what we want them to do or else we throw them out on their asses. The stuff you and I want and demand, the stuff we think our government owes us because we are the people who elected them.

Jail 1882

“What?” you say? “Isn’t that what government is all about?”

Right you are! A little question for you.

Does the fact that we want it mean it is inherently moral? Just? Righteous? Even legal? If you believe that, I have a bridge you can buy really cheap.

UxbridgeTownHall300-72

We want what we want. We don’t really care whether or not it benefits everyone. We, here, in this town, need new bridges over the river. We need our roads repaired. Sewers installed. A new high school. A bigger library. Screw other towns, the rest of the state and the nation. We want what we want. We want it now. We deserve it. We voted for you and we expect you to make it happen.

Pols who deliver the goods get re-elected. That’s the way it works. That’s the way it has always worked. And always will. If you don’t think the electoral process itself is a form of corruption, you are missing the point.

It doesn’t matter who is applying the pressure — or why. The process of gaining and retaining power unavoidably invites — guarantees — corruption.

I am sure — without knowing the specific nation, people, form of government or period of history — the process and its representatives were corrupt. Politicians did, are doing and will always do whatever they must to continue to be politicians. In some cases, that is the same as continuing to breathe. The stakes get higher in non democracies and/or totalitarian regimes.

Then there’s the urgent desire of everyone in public service who didn’t come to power with a private fortune, to make and keep as much money as they can before they get kicked out of office. Or just plain kicked or put up against a wall and shot, depending. It’s why our Founding Fathers — who were smart, sophisticated, and understood reality — thought it was better to elect wealthy people to office. Because rich people were less subject to bribery. In theory, anyhow. Duh.

75-ElectionNK-6

Not everyone lusts for money. Some merely lust for power, lots of it. It’s not less corrupt than taking bribes, just a different twist on the same story. Power is a great leveler because no one — rich or poor — is immune to the siren song of power.

Me? I just want officials to do something good while they hold office. Even though it requires they placate many people however they can without getting caught, killed, impeached, indicted, imprisoned or exposed on Facebook, Twitter or CNN. Cynical? Moi?

I think we should start a movement for better corruption. Require corrupt politicians to use their power — however ill-gained — to pass laws that make the world better in my opinion. And when all is said and done, it’s my opinion that counts, right?

Boston Commons and Statehouse-HP-1

I want laws that will help the economy, create jobs, lower taxes, improve health care, eliminate racism, bigotry and discrimination. If my representatives line their pockets in the process? Well okay, but deliver the goods. It’s the least they can do.

Yeah, I’m cynical. Totally, absolutely cynical. Accept payoffs and kick-backs. Hire your extended family, their friends and relatives. Please, just do some good while you are at it.

If I have to pay them off, I’d like to get value for my money.

A Place of Peace

Despite all the blogs and bloggers who have posted articles on the etiquette of commenting, too many people still don’t get it. Maybe they just don’t want to understand, because it isn’t so complicated.

I got a really nasty note yesterday from an individual who took issue with something I wrote. I think she didn’t even understand how rude she was. Another — even nastier comment — expressed displeasure with my failure to address his comment — 3 months ago. The original comment was insulting (which is why I didn’t respond). Today’s follow-up was much worse.

In both cases, the result was identical. Bye bye. You’re out of here. Don’t come back.

This is not a forum, public or otherwise. This is my personal blog, my website. My little piece of peace in a nutty, wacko cyber world. In this place, we discuss, but we don’t fight. If I don’t like your comment — for whatever reason — I can choose to not publish it, delete it, edit it … or call it spam and make it so you trouble me no more.

It doesn’t mean you aren’t free to disagree. You are welcome to disagree. Politely. Reasonably. Friendly. But if you feel like sniping, insulting me, calling names, think this is an opportunity to show how smart you are at my (or anyone else’s) expense? Bye bye.

If you do not appreciate what I have to say or how I say it, no one is forcing you to read it. You don’t have to look at my pictures, read my opinions, like me or follow me. Cyber space is infinite and you are welcome to be virtually elsewhere.

I do not have to take crap from you. Not here. In the rest of my life, I deal with all the stuff I don’t like. In this place, this tiny corner of the huge universe, I hold fast to an illusion of control. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

In this place, this space, we dwell in peace and harmony, even when we differ.