Sitting Shiva for Hitch

17 Dec

With our shared Jewish heritage, and my former practice of religious same, I feel it would comfort me to sit shiva for Hitch in a style he might — and I certainly will — appreciate.  For seven days, I’ll be toasting him with Johnny Walker Black, blogging or commenting on blogs or watching videos and reading articles, sharing Hitch with whomever I can.  I think that pretty much covers the spirit of sitting shiva, if you’ll pardon the pun.

So, join me in another night of toasting, as we raise a glass to a giant of a man whom history, if it has any sense at all, will never forget.

Dear Cecil, beloved Lion of Zimbabwe, This is How Your Murder Should Be Avenged

30 Jul
Dear Cecil,
You were beloved by your people, a symbol of something precious, worth more than money could ever mean.  And then, you were murdered, dying over two torturous, fearful, confusing, angry and disastrous days, starting with an arrow, ending with a bullet.
The man who paid a mere $50,000 for the pleasure (oh, how I hate to have to use that word here!) of murdering you so evilly then took you treasures as his own:  your beautiful face, your mane, you entire fur-lined skin, leaving your meat and bones, your organs all, to rot in the sun like the waste he considered you, otherwise, to be.
Many have called for his death, as though that would be justice.  Even I, at first, considered it.  But that would not be justice.  Nor would locking him in prison for any length of time.
I say that, because there is a better, far better form of “an eye for an eye”, here.  Allow me to elucidate.
Cecil, you were a symbol of hope for your people, human and animal alike.  Your beauty was not only in your genes but in your health.
This murderer, this Dr. Walter Palmer, is guilty of many murders before yours.  He lacks empathy even for warm-blooded, spine-supported, internally skeletined creatures, mammals like our own human species.
In truth, it cost him more than the hunting guides’ $50,000.  There were travel expenses, and income loss from the days he planned to miss work (not to mention, of course, the additional days of income he continues to lose, now that the world is raging against him).  Let’s price that at $100,000, planned costs.  Then, there’s the price of having a professional mount your beautiful head and skin, so Dr. Palmer can look at it, touch it, and relive his evil many times over in his memories, while your people continue to mourn your loss.
$50,000, for an American doctor, as the news keeps referring to this dentist, seems quite a small hunting fee for such precious large game.  We must appreciate that from the perspective of the hunting guides.  Just how much food, shelter, medicine, transportation, and other necessities can such an amount, in American dollars, actually purchase in Zimbabwe?  How many wells could be drilled — not for oil, but for life preserving water!  How many social structures could be developed, so women are safer and freer, now, so their children, both male and female, can have better lives in this very next, upcoming generation?
 A hospital in Zimbabwe charged women $5 for each scream during childbirth – The Washington Post says the average income in Zimbabwe is $150 per year.  That $50,000, alone, equals one year of income for some 333 families — a full year!  Naturally, Zimbabwe can be expected to have a similar wealth gap to us, in America, where a handful of individuals own the equivalent of over 50% of our nation.  Remove such statistical outliers from Zimbabwe’s average, and that money might support some 2,000 households or more.
Forgive all the lead-up.  Here is what I think Dr. Walter Palmer must do, for justice to be achieved:
He should be sentenced to live out his life in Zimbabwe, working as a dentist, providing free care to every Zimbabwean (except the most wealthy), and with a state-sponsored income of $150/year.  All the costs for the dental practice should be supplied by the state, as well.
Christopher Hitchens once reminded us how dental disease was the cause of many deaths, once upon a not too distant past.  Dr. Palmer owes many lives back, for the ones he took.  Not only did he kill directly, but he killed the hopes and dreams riding on them, paid for by the very poor people who needed their symbolic and ecologic value.  He can only make amends by serving them, and by living enough like them, to eventually, hopefully develop compassion, if not also empathy.

Death for Dr. Walter Palmer would be a waste, benefiting no one.  A life of dental service to Zimbabweans, saving them from pain, poor health, and even, sometimes, death, lived on their poor level, for decades and decades, should be a far greater deterrent to other heartless, blood-lust hunters.

Judaism & Atheism

7 Jul

At 16, one friend gave me Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Place” and another questioned why God would punish his kind and caring mother with so much pain, losing many family members over a few short years, each death unrelated to the others. He also questioned why God would punish innocent children, starving them to death in poor countries, and so on.

About 5 years later, I wondered in the same vein why I was being punished, knowing I’d done nothing worthy of the harsh, even brutal life I lived. For strength, I turned to anger, and for safety, I aimed that anger at God. I could not aim it at the individual humans involved, but God supposedly created them, so He was ultimately responsible.

I broke from Judaism. Despite or because of a comparative religions course, I felt zero attraction to any other religion. Eight years later, missing mostly the prayer melodies, I gave Judaism another try. Twenty years more, and I came to appreciate that Judaism was a culture worthy of keeping, God was not. My rabbi accepted this without argument and welcomed me same as ever.

I think Jewish culture, which praises good argumentation for its exercise in critical reasoning, just might naturally mature its bravest followers into non-belief. The disproportionate numbers of scientists, writers, philosophers, etc., along with my growing appreciation for the historical numbers of Jewish atheists, not just coming out of the Holocaust but even centuries before, are good signs.

Perhaps the legendary Abraham truly meant to destroy all idols and gods, but found the change too radical for others. Perhaps he compromised on one invisible god, just to help others transition.

XSince then, Christianity has added two back: Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Islam has effectively added back Muhammed, since Muhammed is treated like a god. Judaism at least hasn’t done that, and I am hoping, despite the few extremists on its right fringe, that the tiny population of world Jewry finds a way, in addition to science, to lead the world out of superstition.

Time for a new emergency number like, say, 119

2 Sep

In addition to Ferguson, St. Louis, and other stories, I keep reading, seeing, and hearing stories like this:  It’s not just blacks who are subject to police brutality, but it sure looks like blacks receive the worst of it, time after time, innocence notwithstanding, and black males especially.  It’s a crime against humanity, yet, what is the number to call in case of emergency?  The very perpetrators of said crimes!

Therefore, we must have our federal government provide a number comparable to 911 which can be called when the responders of 911 misbehave, brutalize, rape, terrorize, militarize, and in any other manner harm or threaten to harm innocent civilians, no matter who they are, and by “they”, I mean both criminal cops (white or not) and innocent civilians (black or not).

This criminal rampage must end.  The militarization of government-sponsored criminals must be abolished.  And to do that, the feds must provide an emergency number any of us can call directly and immediately to report, live stream, and document said crimes.

I propose 119, the opposite of 911, because when it is necessary, that’s due to the fact that 911 is behaving opposite its assignment, to protect and defend local citizens across our nation.  Who is with me, and who knows how to make it happen?

Israel, the Terrorists’ Test Tube, has breaking news on the Syrian Front

27 Aug
I just found out about this: I’m watching for verification from other news sites, because if this is true, then, dollars to donuts, Hamas will take advantage and abruptly end the new ceasefire, so Israel has two battle fronts, each essentially at opposite ends of the state, both against brutal, inhumane, Islamist forces which, in the end, might turn out to be connected.
PBS NewsHour, among others, says Al Qaida rejects ISIS because the latter is so viciously cruel as to scare away moderate Muslims. If Al Nusra, currently considered an Al Qaida affiliate, turns out to have joined ISIS, and Hamas is part of that, then not only is America next (also c/o PBS NewsHour guest), along with England and the rest of Europe, I expect, but Al Qaida will no longer see any need to hold back.
This is the first time in my entire life — having learned so much about the Holocaust and Hiroshima — that I’ve ever wondered about actually using nuclear weapons. If ISIS and its kind will kill just as many in the same region, only more slowly and torturously, and head out toward the rest of the world, as well, and if there is no way to plant enough spies among them to take them down…
This past weekend, I saw a notice in our small town post office, telling young men of a particular age range that they are legally obligated to sign up. I fear the draft is going to make a come-back. It’s not only the middle east, but Ukraine/Russia, as well, not to mention Africa and the far east, where things are getting out of hand in one way or another.
Hopefully, I am wrong. Seriously.

 Ever since Middle Eastern terrorism began, Israel has been its training site, its test tube.  The targeting of international Jews on cruise ships brought the wrong response, so focus tightened on Israeli Jews.  Killings brought the wrong response, though they also brought the frightening headlines, so fewer killings with more injuries became the terrorists’ goals.  After all, a dead Israeli is over and done.  Multitudes of injured Israelis stop working and paying taxes, start using more state-funded benefits (i.e., everyone else’s taxes) and stay in view to remind others just how scary and terrible those terrorists can be.  The resilience of both the Israeli government and Israeli civilian population is amazing, so Hamas enacted its “death by a thousand cuts” through the repetitive acute-on-chronic rocket fire attacks going on for decades and escalating in power when its targets proved, once again, able to adjust and be resilient.

Don’t think it can’t happen outside of Israel.  Israel is only the experimental laboratory for such terrorists.  Kidnappings for ransom, suicide bombers, and double bombs in which one causes injuries and the second injures those who respond to cries for help from the injured, all targeted Israelis, first.

I am old.  I’ve been watching this for some time, now.  The trend became clear to me decades ago.  It was then reinforced by more of the same.  Even the propaganda used by those terrorists followed such a pattern, though it’s too much to cover, here.

For now, I just hope that I’m wrong.  I’d rather be wrong.

Brings Tears To My Eyes

15 Jun

We all know what LOL means.  Most of us know what ROTFL means, and ROFLMAO, too.  They’re expressions of happy laughter.

What about the incredible emotional responses that bring tears, usually good news, sometimes bad?   When we say, “it brought tears to my eyes”, we really mean it, but does it Tweet?

I propose “BTTME.”

Agreed, at a quick glance, it almost looks like “Bite Me”, LOL!  Still, the astute will get it, and eventually, everyone else will, too.

And when it goes viral, that will BTTME…


Atheists of Different Types

15 Apr

As with any group, there is a spectrum of atheist attitudes and positions.  I recognize a few general categories, however, and would like your input on this.

!.  Natural atheists seem never to have believed in religious mythology or cared about religious historical claims, as they never believed in any god or gods and simply don’t care.  Some were born into atheist families, others came by it of their own nature, but never did they consider believing in God/Allah/etc.

2.  Reactive atheists push religion away in rebellion against whatever they feel is oppressing them.  Anger is a common feature.  An apparent sense of superiority, too, as in, “I’m better than those I left behind, because I’m not stupid, like they are!  I don’t care what they say!”

3.  Rational atheists realize, after years of education accompanied by development of strong critical reasoning skills and usually scientific logic, that religious claims just don’t hold water.  They gradually let go, realize it one day, and think, “Okay, that works for me.”  If any vestige of religious indoctrination remains, these atheists are most likely to research the issues and decide on a rational basis whether to keep the concepts or dispose of them for having no supportive data or logical basis.

Have you recognized any such distinctions or categories among the atheists you’ve met?  Does any category seem to fit you?  Did you, perhaps, start in one and move to another, i.e., reactionary to rational?  Are there any broad categories of atheists you’ve recognized that are not mentioned, here?  Please, let me know your thoughts, and if there is sufficient impetus, I might ask Dr. Dawkins to consider a new poll, this time of atheists, to see what comes up.

After all, if reactionary atheists, for example, missed out on the development of critical reasoning skills due to their early religious indoctrination, maybe rational atheists can develop some sort or program to help them catch up, and in doing so, provide the true empowerment of intellect, so that anger, particularly blind anger, fades out of uselessness.

Christianity, Atheism, and Antisemitism

15 Apr

If Christianity were a mental bed of nails, and antisemitism the poison infiltrated through those holy places punctured in, getting up off that torture device and into the more rational freethinking of atheism is only a start.  Removing the poison of antisemitism, seeped and steeped in from before the first personal sighting of any Jew, still needs to be done, and it takes courageous insight to recognize it.

Alan Grayson, Healthcare, and the Insurance Industry

13 Dec

A few years ago, I saw freshman Congressman Alan Grayson summarize the Republican counterplan to “Obamacare” on CNN (  It actually was in reference to his House presentation (  In short, it went like this:

#1:  Don’t get sick.

#2:  If you do get sick, die quickly.

As a physician whose training institutions all catered to the poorest people around.  I saw the uninsured and realized how close I was to being equally uninsured.  After training, I realized and used to demonstrate to others how health insurance works:

#1:  Okay, pretend I’m the insurance company.  You give me your money.

#2:  I put the money in my pocket.

(wait for it….)

That’s it!  I don’t want to take the money out of my pocket.  That would cut into my profits.  After all, insurance is a business.

You could practically see light bulbs brighten over peoples’ heads, at this.

Grayson’s point is even more accurate, clear, and succinct, implying the insurance companies’ follow-through, “and if you can’t give me the profits I so rightly deserve for being rich and profitable, then to hell with you, and the sooner the better.”

Four years ago, I attended a Texas medical conference in which I learned that for every $1 business owners pay for workers compensation — a legally mandated form of medical insurance which must be purchased from for-profit insurance companies — for every $1 paid in, half was pure profit, after medical care, insurance company business expenses, even lobbying expenses.

I would submit that this constitutes “taxation without representation.”  You could argue that legislators provided representation when writing the law and that insurance companies are not government.  In fact, however, the legislators legislated huge profits to the insurance industry, something none of their other constituents would have voted for, so it appears they were only representing the insurance companies.  The elephant-in-the-room question is, why?  That 50% profit does not even include insurance company taxes paid to government.  Legally mandating the insurance, however, legally mandates the profits, so I contend that these profits are a tax on employers, who then must pass the tax down to their employees in the form of lower pay.  After all, they can only sell their products and services for so much.  The money has to come from somewhere, or rather, someone.

In a real democracy, government-required insurance would not be for-profit.  Either the government would act as insurer or the for-profit insurance companies would use the nonprofit insurance categories as loss leaders to draw in customers to buy for-profit insurance, like pet health insurance or the supplemental car insurance rental cars don’t really need, when the renter/driver is already insured otherwise.

The republicans allowed Obamacare to pass when it was clear the American people would balk, otherwise.  Still, they protected their corporate “friends”, making sure all the business of such mandated insurance stayed in the for-profit sector.  They denied government-based health insurance, i.e., Medicare, even when citizens could have paid for it directly, as it was not for profit and would have undercut the cost of for profit insurance.

You get that, right?  The added cost of for profit insurance is the profit, and republicans didn’t want governmental competition to interfere with corporations making profit off sick and dying Americans.

Speaking of which, want to talk about death panels?  Why would any highly profitable business spend unlimited amounts of profit on a customer who’s dying, anyway?

Don’t get sick.  And if you do, die quickly.  The corporations, now recognized as “persons” by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, and their republican friends, will appreciate your kind and generous consideration.

Water conservation

11 Dec

Texas suffered a mighty drought, this past year, ended only after atheists joined in Houston for a mighty conference.  (Strangely enough, all Rick Perry‘s public prayers yielded was publicity, no rain, only some very unholy wildfires.  Hmm…)

NPR had a recent “article” on the technology of toilets, how recent they are, how much water they use, and long it’s been since the design was significantly changed, at least here in the States.

Meanwhile, horses and cats do quite well and quite cheaply leaving their waste in pelleted bits of pine sawdust.  Fast as pine trees grow, they’ve become an industry staple for mass produced furniture and construction lumber.  Shavings on the floor are used for paper and pellets.  The used pellets (which, when wet, break back down to shavings and sawdust) are so biodegradable as to be compostable.  Maybe we should market it for human litter.

When I was young, Lysol, the famous disinfectant/cleaner, had TV commercials competing with PineSol, a product that smelled about the same and claimed its disinfecting and cleaning strength actually came from Pine.  It leaves me wondering if pine pellets would better control fecal microbes than the drinking water our toilets fill with.

I imagine a day when pine is used, commodes are lined with bags that hold multiple uses and stay strong until sprayed with some activator, and the disposal system is a series of small, local landfills turned compost heaps.  Water is just too precious to waste.  And with all the vitamins and minerals some take, might as well sanitize the stuff and return it to good use.  It could at least fertilize new forest growth.

I doubt plumbers will miss dealing with clogged toilets.