Archive for September, 2010
Work Boyfriend 1.0 and I were having a phone conversation the other day where he brought up again, as he does every few months or so, the question of whether or not I should date. The answer to this question is always no. Sometimes I think the answer should be yes, but then I am wrong. The answer is no.
The last time someone talked me into accepting a date, the outcome was predictably tragic. I met this guy in a bar called Canary Hut or Canary Roost. I don’t know. Canary Something. I was out with Katina. This is obviously when I was still drinking, but I wasn’t drunk at the time. It was December of 2008, and I hadn’t been on a date in five years, if you count my relationship with The Rat Bastard as dating.
Wisely, after The Rat Bastard, I had made the conscious decision not to ever accept another date again. I am simply not meant to date. It works out for other humans, but it never works out for me. What is the definition of insanity? Repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome.
The outcome of me dating is always disappointment. Sometimes it’s mild disappointment, and at other times it’s profound disappointment but what all these experiences have in common is disappointment. I was an English major, and I began to sense a theme. At some point, I decided that I didn’t want to be insane anymore.
So, this guy at the Canary Something was supposedly instantly attracted to me. Why I couldn’t say. I had not taken any special care with my appearance, and I was at least one hundred pounds overweight at the time. Now the way he approaches me is original, because he doesn’t.
He sends his sister and her husband over to ask for him, like he’s in junior high and wants to ask me to go with him. The sister and her husband launch an all out campaign to convince me that I want to go out with her brother. They point him out at the bar. He waves.
He’s nothing special, but he’s also not repulsive. Supposedly, he is painfully shy. This isn’t surprising to me. Shy guys love me. I swear to God if there is a shy guy within a twenty-mile radius of me, he will eventually gravitate towards me even if he isn’t actually interested in me in that way. I attract them like magnets. The kind of guys who major in obscure and cerebral things that require them to interact with things or numbers and not humans – IT guys and math majors and engineers and architects – they love me for some inexplicable reason.
Now I finally meet this guy after his entire family has talked him up to me. And that’s no exaggeration. This is the family that parties together. Mom, stepdad, brother, sister, brother-in-law. He’s awkward, and, yep, shy. He also strikes me as not particularly bright. As in, he has the IQ of a root vegetable. Actually, that might be an insult to some of the more intelligent root vegetables, like the rutabaga and the jicama, for instance.
His whole family made a big point out of telling me how brilliant he is. Oh, he’s so smart! It doesn’t seem like it at first, but just wait until you get to know him. Hmmph. I am not so convinced. Mr. Brilliant is several years younger than me, in his late twenties, hasn’t started let alone finished college, and is currently working two or three delivery jobs.
But he’s nice enough. He seems to like me. My girlfriend is encouraging me to do this. I should go out. It’s healthy. I should make an effort. What could it hurt? Free dinner, yada, yada. And I recognize the logic in this argument. How am I going to find someone if I don’t go out? Do I want to spend the rest of my life alone? If nothing else, then it will be good practice.
Monday morning I describe the entire scenario to Work Boyfriend 1.0.
“So, you’re saying that you’re going out with this guy on a mercy date?”
“Well, if you’re going to put it that way, um, yeah, I guess.”
“Oh, my God. Don’t do us any favors.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? I thought you said that I should date.”
“You should. Someone you really like.”
“But no one I really like has asked me out. They aren’t exactly lining up outside my door. These are my choices: stay home or go out on the mercy date.”
A couple nights go by. Mr. Brilliant calls me. He hasn’t gotten any smarter. It’s late, and I’m already in for the night, and he wants me to meet him somewhere right now. Now I’m not a strict adherent to The Rules, but I’m not running like a puppy dog because this guy has called. I don’t play games. I tell him that I’d like to make plans in advance. I don’t tell him why this is, but the reason has to do with the fact that I’d like to think that a guy actually went to the effort and trouble of planning something in advance. I’d like to think that he cared enough to do that for me.
He says he’d like to meet me somewhere for dinner the next night. Tomorrow night. No place yet. No plans. But I figure this is a compromise because I at least have advance warning. I can make an effort and try to look nice, maybe wear some of that Chanel perfume that I never have a reason to wear. Tomorrow night. He’ll call. Cool.
So, tomorrow night comes. I make an effort and shower and dress nice and get ready to fly out the door to wherever it is that he’s decided that we’re going to meet. But the phone doesn’t ring. Strangely, the phone doesn’t ring all evening.
The phone does ring the next day, after he’s stood me up. It rings several times while I’m at work, and once I actually hang up on him without saying a word. Work Boyfriend 1.0 is appalled.
“You aren’t even going to give this guy a chance?”
“You didn’t even want me to go out with him in the first place, and he stood me up.”
“You should at least listen to what he has to say.”
“Unless he’s in a hospital, I really don’t want to hear anything he has to say. And nope, not even then. They have phones in hospitals. You want to know why I don’t date? This. This right here is why I don’t date. It’s a perfect example.”
First, I’m wrong for having a no dating policy. It’s so isolated and closed off, and I’ll never meet someone that way. Then someone asks me out, and I agree to give him a shot, and I’m a horrible person for agreeing to go on the mercy date. Then he stands me up, and I’m a horrible person for not giving him a second chance. At what point is he the horrible person in this scenario? After he takes me out to an old deserted road and rapes me and leaves me for dead? Or will I still be the horrible person even then?
Mr. Brilliant calls again that night. His excuse is that he had to work. He works three jobs, after all, and one of the jobs asked him to work some overtime.
I tell him that I can appreciate that he has to work three jobs, and that if you have to work you have to work. I still would have appreciated a courtesy call.
His phone was dead or something. He’s sorry. Do I want to go out right now and meet him and his friends for a drink? No, I do not. I tell him he had his chance, and he blew it, and I don’t want to talk to him again. For someone who was supposedly so enamored of me, he doesn’t seem very broken hearted about it.
And THAT is why I don’t date. I suppose my standards are too high. Once, just once I’d like for the guy that I like to ask me out and not have to settle for letting the guy I’m not so crazy about try to convince me otherwise. But I give in on that. Every time. Because if I don’t, then I’ll be alone. Then I compromise on the fact that I’d like to be courted. Then I compromise on the fact that I’d like to be treated with common courtesy and decency. And before I know it, I’m in another relationship with another Rat Bastard all because I’m scared of (Gulp!) being alone.
I won’t do it. I’m tired of doing it. And I’d rather be alone, thank you. If that makes me bitter or “judgemental”, then I guess I’m okay with that.
I just finished reading a book called The Faith Club, a book which I fully intend to review on some future post. The book is a collaboration written by a Muslim woman, a Christian woman, and a Jewish woman who met together for years following the September 11th tragedy, for interfaith discussions. The great thing about the book is that it, along with some other things I’ve recently read, has helped me to piece together more of my personal theology.
The Bible says that the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Just what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is, is like so much of the Bible, up for debate. I believe that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the denial of the authority of God, the failure to deny Him His rightful place in your life as your Lord. Many might say that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the denial of God’s existence, and that would qualify as well. However, that’s a very limited definition, since even the devil worshippers believe in the existence of God, and yet I think that all believers can agree on the fact that Satanists will not qualify for acceptance into heaven.
Speaking of Satan, that brings us to the question of original sin. The story of the fall of Satan and the fall of man have in common one thing: the failure to relinquish control and authority to God, the pride that prevents both man and Satan from allowing the Lord to have dominion over our lives.
Let’s look at the story of Satan. Satan was the highest of all the angels in heaven. He wasn’t satisfied with this position and craved to be God himself, instead. Because of this sin of pride, God cast Satan and the angels who followed him out of heaven. The angels who followed him became demons.
Then God created man. And man lived naked and without shame in paradise until he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man’s sin was not only disobedience but pride. For before Eve ever takes a bite and then tempts her husband, she is tempted by the serpent with the promise that eating the fruit will make her like God, will give her the knowledge of God.
She tempts her husband Adam to eat also by repeating the serpent’s false promise. The fruit did indeed impart knowledge, but it did not impart the wisdom of God. No longer was man an innocent. He was now able to distinguish between light and dark; he was given a conscience, but he was not given the intellect of God. So, while people might now know the difference between good and bad, we do not have the knowledge to discern why the bad must happen.
The greatest hindrance to submission to God, beyond the pride that makes us want to control our own lives, is the question of why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. It’s a subject of endless debate that harkens back to the time of the book of Job but has also been wrestled with by the likes of modern theologians like Rabbi Harold Kushner and Reverend Leslie Weatherhead, amongst others. And it’s a debate that often hinders human beings from belief in and submission to God, because they say that the ways of the world defy a belief in an ominiscient and omnipotent God who is also benevolent. And one can see their argument.
At the same time as I’ve been defining my concept of the one unforgivable sin, I’ve been thinking about just what that means for Christians and the Christian concept that belief in Jesus as the Son of God is required for admission into heaven. It’s a pretty big tenet of the faith for a lot of Christians, and Christians often justify this belief based on one Bible verse alone. That Bible verse is John 14:6, and it reads, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
Most Christians interpret this to mean that anyone who isn’t a Christian isn’t getting a ticket to Heaven. Not all Christians do, of course, anymore than all Catholics believe the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church that they are the one and only true church, and only members of the true church are going to Heaven. (To be fair, the Roman Catholics aren’t even close to being the only denomination that believes they are the only ones who are going to Heaven; they’re just the largest group of believers with that official theology.)
There is the Unitarian Universalist tradition of inclusiveness, but they always seemed so wishy washy to me, as if they didn’t really know exactly what they believed. From the outside, it seemed like they were all over the map. The Unitarians I knew seemed to apply just as much significance to New Age philosophy as to belief in Jesus. And yet, there is something appealing to me in the concept of the kind God that I know God to be, allowing admission to Heaven by people of different faiths.
It does seem cruel for a loving God to assign people to Hell for all eternity just because they’re not Christians. What about people who aren’t exposed to the Gospel? Evangelicals, of course, always point to The Great Commission [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2028:16-28:20&version=NIV] as proof of God’s benevolence. They say that all Christians are charged with the duty of making disciples for Christ because it is literally a matter of life and death.
Failure to proselytize and convert the masses means many untouched souls writhing in Hell for all eternity. They fervently believe this, and this explains the urgency of their attempts to witness to non-believers. As offensive, insulting and poorly rendered as their attempts to convert are, they are sincerely well intentioned. However, their arrogance achieves the opposite of their goals. The lack of respect that they show towards the recipients of their evangelism is evidence of a lack of love for their fellow man.
Of course, as I’ve previously mentioned, I faithfully read the blog of John Shore. One day I came across a great post about this very issue. You can read it here:
John overheard a conversation between an atheist and an evangelical Christian who was attempting to witness to the atheist. There was a subsequent blog post in which an atheist questioned the assertion that John 14:6 means that all non-Christians are destined to go to Hell. His interpretation of the scripture was that Jesus gets to decide who gets admission to Heaven. And I thought, well, why not? It doesn’t actually say that you have to be a Christian to get admission to Heaven. It just says that no one gets to go to Heaven who doesn’t go through Jesus.
Now don’t get me wrong; I still believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe that He died to save us from our sins. But I don’t believe that Christianity is the only path to God. I just can’t believe that God would condemn those who never heard the Gospel to an eternity in Hell. I can’t believe that God would condemn those of us who are too young or too mentally feeble to grasp the concept of salvation to an eternity in Hell. And let’s not forget that Jesus wasn’t a Christian himself; he was a Jew.
All human beings are created with a natural curiosity to explore our origins and our purpose in the universe, and this natural curiosity is our yearning to be in communion with God. I believe that there are many paths by which this communion might be accomplished. God wishes for us to acknowledge his authority and his presence in our lives. There are many paths through which that goal might be accomplished. The only judge who can ascertain whether or not a human being has the quality of relationship with God that is required is Jesus. I’m okay with that.
So, to summarize:
- I believe that there is only one unpardonable sin. That is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
- I believe that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the failure to respond to the call of a loving God to be in relationship with us and to submit to his will for our lives. It is not just the denial of God but the active rejection of God.
- I believe that the Original Sin is pride. The pride that keeps atheists and agnostics from being open to God’s message is the very same pride that keeps some Christians believing that they have the only pipeline to God or that they can determine who will be saved on the day of judgement.
- I believe that Jesus is the only person qualified to judge who is being received into the kingdom of God. That is not for me to determine or decide.
- I believe that it is important for me to spread the message of the Gospel so that others might be saved, but I do not believe that their salvation is dependent upon me. The most effective witness that I can bear for Christ is to live The Great Commandment. [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A36-40&version=NIV] That means showing respect for all human beings, even the ones whose beliefs conflict with mine. After all, we all have our own personal beliefs regarding God, but none of us knows with absolute intellectual certainty what will greet us at our death. To assert differently is akin to saying that we have the wisdom and knowlege of God Himself, which we most certainly do not.
- I believe that there are many paths to God, including some that aren’t organized and have no name. God sees into the human heart and desires to be in relationship with any human heart that is open to His call.
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is the story of Mortenson, a young mountain climber and hippie who impulsively decided to build a school for the children of a poor mountain village in Pakistan. In the early 1990s, Mortenson, whose younger sister had just died, came down from a failed attempt to climb K2. The climb was supposed to be his memorial to his sister, Christa. He was lucky to have escaped from the climb with his life. His guide had lost him, and the guide had Mortenson’s pack with all his food, drink and survival gear with him.
The people of a mountain village were kind enough to offer him shelter and help him to recuperate. The name of the town was Korphe, and when Greg saw the children of this town on a hillside, trying to practice writing and arithmetic with sticks in the sand, he asked them why they weren’t at school. He learned that they didn’t have a school. Pakistan has government funded education, but this is available in larger towns and cities only. Greg Mortenson was so impressed with the children of Korphe and his experience there that he promised to build them a school.
The process was slow going at first. Mortenson learned that he could build a good, solid school building in Pakistan for only $12,000. Astounding, huh? The only problem was that he didn’t have $12,000, and the $12,000 didn’t include his round trip fare to Pakistan. Mortenson was an emergency room nurse. He lived as frugally as possible in order to save his money. He was essentially homeless. He slept in his bedroll on the floor of a friend’s apartment or in his car. Still, it seemed to take forever to save the money he needed.
Mortenson’s mother was the principal of an elementary school. The students at her school saved pennies in jars. They called the project Pennies for Peace, and when the project was done for the year, they had saved over $600 in pennies. The mountain climbing community embraced Greg’s vision for a school, and they let him give talks at a lot of their seminars.
At one of these seminars Greg was introduced to Jean Hoerni, an eccentric engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur who had a hand in the creation of Teledyne, Union Carbide, and Intel. Hoerni was a very wealthy mountain climber who had been moved by the poverty of the people in the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan, where Mortenson wanted to build his school. Hoerni gave Greg a check for $12,000.
There were many, many stumbling blocks on the road to that school in Korphe. There was a man Greg trusted with the storage of his building materials only to come back and find that he used or sold a great deal of them. There was graft and religious leaders looking for bribes. There were people from other villages who were intent on diverting Greg from Korphe to build a school in their villages, or to build a school for porters instead. But there were also lots and lots more good people who helped him along the way: trusted advisors, a bodyguard willing to lay down his life for Greg, a religious leader who was willing to put his reputation on the line and to petition the highest Shia authority in Iran to approve of Greg’s schools and the education of Pakistani girls, in particular.
Once the first school was built, Jean Hoerni gave the money to start a non-profit with an endowment of one million dollars. Greg started the Central Asia Institute. The Central Asia Institute now has many, many schools for boys and girls in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Along the way, Mortenson met his wife and started his family. Both the Central Asia Institute and Pennies for Peace are currently thriving.
And why, might you ask, is this important for you to know about? Well, what Greg is doing is important because education is important, period, and because we should be concerned about those people who are less fortunate than us, whether they live next door or in the tiniest town in Afghanistan. And also: educating boys and girls in Pakistan does more to combat terrorism and the extremists of Islam than bombs and guns ever will. Bombs and guns make terrorists. Those children who are given a well-rounded basic education by Mortenson’s schools are the benefits of knowledge. That knowledge will help them to make better decisions about what to do with their lives and how to view their fellow citizens of the world.
The alternative for many of these children is either no education at all or an education of hatred provided by the Saudi funded madrassas. Wealthy Saudi Arabians fund madrassas in poverty-ridden countries. These madrassas do not provide education to girls, and they often do not provide the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. There is a lot of range in the quality of madrassas. Instead, what they never fail to teach is the rhetoric of fundamentalist Muslims. They teach the Koran to boys who cannot read it for themselves. Sometimes the teachers can’t, either.
The purpose of these schools is to recruit future soldiers for the Al Quaeda and the Taliban and other such organizations that propagate violence. And, much like in America, the wealthy fund the military while the poor become its foot soldiers. The Saudis don’t send their sons to “war.” Instead, they recruit the young men in Pakistan and Afghanistan who don’t have the opportunities that Saudi oil wealth provides.
Three Cups of Tea is an important book, and anyone seeking to further understand the politics of the Middle East and the people of Islam would be well served in taking the time to read it. There is no religious message in the book. The book is about people and cultures and working to find our commonalities rather than our differences. Mortenson grew up in Africa, the son of Lutheran missionaries, but he himself is not a particularly religious man. He learns to pray like both a Sunni and a Shia Muslim in order to fit in, and he adopts the culture and learns the languages of his second home. When in Rome…
I thought it might be fun, with the recent “news” event of Lindsay Lohan’s Tweet about her drug test failure, to make a list of famous people who suffer from alcoholism and addiction issues. Just because someone has substance abuse problems doesn’t mean that society should kick them to the wayside or that they are destined to be bums on a street corner. Some of these names you’ll already know about, and some you might actually be surprised to discover on the list. Some have gotten sober, some have attempted, and some have died not trying. At any rate, it’s interesting to see such a long list of accomplished people.
Ulysses S. Grant
Michael J. Fox
Hunter S. Thompson
Alexander the Great
Edgar Allen Poe
Mary Tyler Moore
Dick Van Dyke
Anna Nicole Smith
Eddie Van Halen
F. Scott Fitzgerald
William S. Burroughs
Samuel L. Jackson
J. Robert Oppenheimer
Tommy Lee Jones
Usually, by this time of year, since this is America, and we are a commercial society, you can see not only Halloween but Thanksgiving and even Christmas decorations and preparations in all the stores. You can’t even go grocery shopping without being hit over the head with witches and pilgrims and elves. Back to school is the theme a week after the kids get out for summer.
One weird exception this year: canned pumpkin. Usually, the stores are full of canned pumpkin by this time. Not only is there tons of canned pumpkin, it’s usually featured in special displays, stacked in neat pyramids on the ends of rows, next to neat pyramids of condensed milk and prepared pie shells and pumpkin pie spice.
The other day the Mr. Brewsters and I were in the Super Wal-Mart, walking down the aisle where the canned pumpkin would normally be, and there were exactly two cans of organic pumpkin. Count them. Two. Organic?! You mean we have to be healthy, and we don’t have a choice in the matter?
This is, needless to say, unacceptable. I then heard that there is a nationwide shortage of canned pumpkin due to a crop that was destroyed by too much rain in Illinois last year. Why does all the canned pumpkin come from Illinois? What are we going to do for Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas? No pumpkin pie? No pumpkin bread? No pumpkin cake? No pumpkin bars or pumpkin cookies or pumpkin cheesecake or pumpkin fudge? I’m forgetting something.
Now, technically, we could use fresh pumpkin. Theoretically, this is possible. But have you ever tried to use fresh pumpkin for baking? In one of my Martha Stewart epileptic fits, in my younger days, when I cared about such nonsense, I decided to carve a pumpkin, pull out the pumpkin and use it for baking, remove the pumpkin seeds and roast them. My roommate had a three-year-old girl, and it seemed like a worthwhile pursuit. Yeah, not so much.
Actually, this labor of love took hours, made a mess out of me, a little girl, and our entire kitchen, and didn’t really produce the rapturous response I was expecting from my young friend. After the face carving stuff was over, it was all over for her. Her mother and I ate the pumpkin seeds. I saved the fresh pumpkin and stored it in the freezer to bake with it later. Oh, yeah. I remember now what I’m forgetting: pumpkin muffins. The pumpkin muffins were good, but I didn’t notice enough of a superior taste difference to warrant the work involved in gathering that stringy, pulpy mess compared to the work involved in, oh, say, turning a can opener.
So, somehow, something must be done to alleviate the canned pumpkin shortage. I propose that we trade with other English speaking nations, form a cultural alliance, if you will. I don’t think that pumpkin is as big a deal in England and Australia as it is here. We could make a deal. England, send us all your canned pumpkin that we know you’re not using, and we will, in turn, send you all our figgy pudding. Trust me. We are not eating the figgy pudding. Australia, we will send you all our vegemite in exchange for all your canned pumpkin. I think there are some English speaking nations in Africa. Most of India speaks English because the English used to occupy India. We will send you curry powder for canned pumpkin.
See? I solved the canned pumpkin crisis all by myself. If you hear something about canned pumpkin coming back into the stores, you will know who is responsible.
An article from the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, entitled, “Covert Operations: The Billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama,” is unfortunately titled. Though the article is definitely liberally biased, what I took from it wasn’t a conspiracy lobbed solely at Obama’s administration. What I was shocked about was the fact that big money makes all sorts of things happen in America of which I am wholly ignorant.
These guys have almost completely escaped the attention of the American media. If you are not from either New York City or Wichita, Kansas, then I’m betting that there’s a pretty good chance you’ve probably never heard of either Charles or David Koch, the multi-billionaire brothers who are the subjects of the article. My guess is that as staid white billionaires in their seventies, they’re probably not considered sexy enough to get coverage.
Charles and David Koch are the sons of Fred Koch, a multi-millionaire who passed on his considerable fortune to his four sons. Fred Koch was an engineer who developed a new and better way of refining crude oil into gasoline. The story goes that Fred shopped his idea around to the big oil companies in the United States and was summarily turned down by all of them in 1927. Supposedly, the big oil companies regarded Fred Koch as a threat and shut him out of the oil industry altogether.
That’s when Fred Koch went to Stalinist Russia and built a bunch of way more efficient oil refineries over there. This profitable relationship might have gone on indefinitely had not Stalin decided to banish many of Koch’s Soviet co-workers during his years in the Soviet Union. Koch was deeply affected by their loss, was immediately sorry that he had ever partnered with the communist country, and came back home, fiercely anti-Communist in his philosophies.
Fred Koch, in the years leading up to the Second World War, heaped praise on Mussolini and warned that a civil rights movement in America would lead to a communist uprising. He made a speech in 1963 in which he claimed that Communists would eventually unknowingly infiltrate even America’s highest political offices.
After Fred Koch died in 1967, two of the brothers fought two of the other brothers for control of their father’s company. In 1980, William, thinking that Charles was assuming sole control without any deference to the other brothers, tried to take over control of the company. Freddie, the oldest brother, was an artist and supposedly a disappointment to their father. He sided with William, who was the twin brother of David. David, an affable playboy who moved to New York City, and agreed ideologically with his brother Charles, sided, of course, with Charles. A legal battle ensued and ended in 1983 when Charles and David bought out William and Freddie’s shares of the company. The feud was so bitter that the warring brothers would not speak with each other at their own mother’s funeral.
The company was named Koch Industries in 1967 upon their father’s death, and it is one of the largest privately owned companies in the world. Charles and David’s combined fortunes are third only to those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Bet you’ve heard of them. Koch Industries makes most of its money from oil, but they also own Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Stainmaster carpet, Georgia Pacific Lumber, and Lycra. Bet you’ve heard of them, too.
Both Charles and David were heavily influenced by their father’s views, and they became staunch Libertarians. In their opinions, government and government interference, were the enemy. They do not believe in social services, and they think that The New Deal was the worst thing that ever happened to this country, which means that they disapprove of Social Security, among other things. Needless to say, they do not approve of taxes.
In 1979, Charles convinced David to run for political office. David definitely had the personality for it as he was a likeable and nice looking guy, described by others as amiable and less rough edged than his brother Charles. He also definitely had the money for it. He could have funded his own political campaign even without the backing of another single living soul. David ran in the Vice Presidential slot for the Libertarian campaign. Their slogan was, “The Libertarian Party has only one source of funds: You.” In truth, it was more like the Libertarian Party had only one source of funds: David Koch.
The Libertarian Party, of course, did not take the White House in 1980. What the Kochs learned from the experience was that the way to affect the kind of change they wanted to see in America was not to run for political office. They did not have the kind of grassroots support for their vision of America that is needed to win an election. What they could do, however, was to subtly influence popular culture by funding an enormous number of non-profits, think tanks, and academics to lobby and write scholarly opinions in support of their political goals. And, of course, their political goals are in support of the profit margins of Koch Industries.
Jane Mayer’s expose on the Koch brothers gives a quote at the beginning of the article, from Charles Lewis of the nonpartisan watchdog group, Center for Public Integrity. Lewis says of the Koch brothers, “There’s no one else who has spent this much money…They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation…They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
In 2004, David Koch founded a group called Americans for Prosperity, a group that provided training for future Tea Party crusaders. Peggy Venable, the leader of the Americans for Prosperity, a woman who has been on the Koch payroll since 1994, readily admits that although the Tea Party has not been directly funded by the Kochs or their business entities, the purpose of Americans for Prosperity is to provide Tea Partiers with the education, policy details, and political energy to be effective. Americans for Prosperity also provides them with a list of which politicians they should channel their energies toward defeating. It’s a form of political manipulation, faintly reminiscent of The Manchurian Candidate.
The Kochs, in addition to heavily influencing the “grassroots” Tea Party movement, also fund other groups that further their own interests, including the Cato Institute, a think tank dedicated to funding and completing research that always supports the foregone conclusion that Global Warming doesn’t exist. They consistently lobby against environmental control or reform, oppose alternative energy sources to fossil fuels, and funnel huge amounts of money to The Mercatus Center through charitable donations to George Mason University.
The Mercatus Center is a hugely politically influential think tank. Many policy changes implemented by the George W. Bush administration were first proposed by the brains at The Mercatus Center. What is their favorite target? The Mercatus Center writes a lot of opinions critical of The Environmental Protection Agency. Koch Industries is constantly in trouble with the E.P.A. Does anyone think this is a coincidence?
I wonder why anyone with as much money as the Kochs have feels the need to manipulate the system to create more wealth for themselves. Why take shortcuts with the environment when you could use some of the huge amounts of money that is being funneled to politicians and think tanks and instead channel it into creating alternative fuels or use it to meet existing environmental regulations instead of trying to shortcut or circumvent the system?
It seems to me that the Koch brothers are trying to emulate their father in their political aims, and they are totally forgetting that their father was an original thinker. He invented a more efficient way of refining oil. Why don’t David and Charles take that same energy and passion and direct it into creating alternative forms of energy that are less harmful for our environment? Think outside the box.
About a week and a half ago I went to a Cocaine Anonymous meeting at Club 101 with Lubbock’s lawyer friend Chris. The meeting was a Big Book Meeting, which means that some portion of the Big Book is read aloud, and then participants comment on it. The Monday night meeting at Club 101 is a big one, and they time participants to limit their comments to five minutes or less, and still someone was able to say something for me that was profound. Or, more probably, someone was finally able to get a message through my thick skull.
She said that the God that she had troubles with, and, boy, did she ever have troubles with him, that that God didn’t have to be her higher power and that she could make up her own God in which to place her faith. Well, I don’t know so much how I feel about making up your own God, ‘cause that sounds like idolatry, but what I did take from that comment is that she said that she made an inventory of the qualities of the God that she believes in. Her higher power has a definable character. I suppose some more orthodox folks would say that’s what the Bible is for, but I think this is great. Write down a definition and a description of the God that you believe in.
My God is neither male nor female; or maybe God is both, but God, though I may use the pronoun he, is not a man. God is God. He created men and women in His image.
My God is love. He is kind. He doesn’t approve of wars made in His name. He doesn’t punish pagan cultures by sending them hurricanes. He doesn’t send earthquakes because women expose cleavage. He doesn’t send newborn infants to hell because they haven’t yet been baptized.
My God doesn’t have a political party. He is neither Republican nor Democrat. He doesn’t belong anymore exclusively to Communists or Socialists or Libertarians than he does to members of the Tea Party. God has no political affiliation, even though Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin would like you to think otherwise.
My God is absolutely involved in the smallest details of my life, to the extent that I let him in. God loves and cares personally and equally for all of his creation. “From a Distance,” was a big hit for Bette Midler, but it doesn’t describe my God. My God loves us Up Close & Personal.
My God thinks sex is great. He approves of it. It was His idea in the first place. He gives sex a big thumbs up. The thing he doesn’t approve of is when it’s used improperly, but when it’s used to convey affection and to indulge in pleasant recreation with someone for whom we have affinity and treat with respect, God thinks that’s a beautiful thing. The ideal circumstance for that to occur in would be in a marriage, but God doesn’t condemn a single person having sex. He condemns adultery.
My God gave us the gift of an earthly body to take care of us and for us to care for until we can join God in the afterlife. He wants us to take the best care of it that we possibly can. Drugs, whether legal or illegal, are not inherently evil. Alcohol and tobacco are not the handiwork of the devil. Drugs, of all kinds, from aspirin to caffeine and food to methadone, are only evil when we abuse them to achieve a mind-altered state. If you can’t use a drug in some kind of moderate and sane way, then it is best to abstain from that drug altogether. Of course, you can’t do that with food, but you can decide to give up the Ding Dongs and the McDonald’s at least.
My God gave us dominion over the land and the animals of this earth. Dominion does not equal the indiscriminate exploitation of our natural resources. It implies good stewardship.
My God thinks that it is important that we be kind to one another. Act in love always, and you will be doing what Jesus would do.
My God inspired men to write a book that could serve as a guide to know Him better. The Bible is the inspired word of God. It is infallible, but not every word is meant to be taken literally. Whether or not there was an actual Adam and Eve or if there was a Tower of Babel or a Noah’s Ark, it doesn’t diminish the truth of the story for me in the least.
My God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to good people. People and circumstances and sometimes bad choices cause bad things to happen to good people. God is good and just. We have to trust in God’s plan and have the wisdom to understand that is beyond our comprehension.
My God knows that there is evil in this world. There is a devil in each one of us. Human beings are sinful. We are filled with the capacity for equal parts of light and dark. It is how we choose to live our lives that will ultimately determine the fruit we bear that will show proof of our love for God. My God thinks the excuse, “The devil made me do it,” is lame.
My God is infinitely forgiving of the sincerely contrite. He will forgive well beyond a human being’s tolerance for forgiveness. But my God can see into the hearts of men and knows when that man’s heart is truly sorry and when it is not. My God forgives those who are truly sorry.