Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rules for Condiment Use - Get it Right, People!

I'm going to step away from politics and religion for a moment to blog about something much more important - condiments. I don't typically eat at McDonald's; it's probably been months if not years since I had one of their burgers, but we were going to have a later dinner tonight so I thought I would drop by to get a burger and fries to hold us over.

I ordered a double cheeseburger. When I got home I opened it up to see what they had put on it and found pickles, ketchup, and mustard. Before I could eat it, I had to take off the pickles, remove as much of the ketchup and mustard as I could scrape off, and replace it with mayonnaise. I would have added some chopped onion but I didn't have any. So let's take a look at these condiments one at a time:

Ketchup - There are only two proper uses for ketchup and being on my hamburger isn't one of them. Ketchup may be used on fried potatoes, such as french fries, Tater Tots, or hash browns. It is also fine to use ketchup on meatloaf as long as you pour it on before cooking. That's it! Ketchup belongs on nothing else!

Mustard - This is a fine condiment, but again, not on my hamburger. Use it on hot dogs or bologna sandwiches all you want, but keep it off the burgers.

Pickles - These sour little disks should not be put on anything. Keep them completely away from my burgers and sandwiches. If you must have a pickle, eat one of the pickle wedges that are sometimes placed on your plate next to a sandwich.

Onions - I like mine chopped, not sliced. But sliced will do if that's how they come. I also like mine cut from the center of the onion, not from around the edge. Raw onions are much better than grilled onions, but as long as the grilled onions are chopped they're not too bad.

Mayonnaise - Truly the king of all condiments is mayonnaise. It's good with almost anything, especially on burgers. It can also be used as a dipping sauce for french fries. It is particularly yummy when mixed with equal parts ketchup (for dipping, not for placing on burgers).

Lettuce - I didn't mention lettuce before because my burger didn't come with it. And that's good because I would have had to remove it. If I want lettuce I will have a salad. And then I will only eat the bits of it that stick to the good parts of the salad, like the cheese, onions, meat, eggs, olives, or mushrooms. No sandwich should ever be defiled by lettuce, not even a BLT.

So there you have it - my rules for condiments. There may be some people who disagree with me. And that's fine; people are entitled to their own opinions, even if they're wrong!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bible Stories vs. Facts: Choose Wisely

When I relate a bible story, such as of Noah’s Ark, and ask legitimate questions about the logistics of carrying off such an even, even for God, what I often get as a reply from Christian fundamentalists is that they would prefer to believe the biblical account, regardless how unlikely it might seem, than to believe that everything came into existence by chance from clouds of cosmic dust.

When stated in such a way, it almost seems as though it’s a decision between two highly unlikely scenarios, but since one of them is written in the bible and the immortal soul might be in jeopardy, then the obvious choice would be to believe the bible story. And if both accounts of creation had an equal amount of evidence, or no evidence at all, to back them up, I would understand why people might opt to believe in the Noah story or the Adam and Eve story, or whatever. But all is not equal. There is evidence to consider, even if you are not privy to that evidence.

The story of Creation in Genesis, for example, has God creating everything in the universe in six literal days. He waited until day 6 to create humans. Many years later, after God became upset with human behavior (even though after his perfect creation he called it “good”) it took him an elaborate plan involving one family building a huge boat, taking well over 100 years to finally rescue a pair of every animal species on earth (or 7 pair, depending on which chapter of Genesis you believe). Surely the creator of the universe could have just waved his hand and eliminated all the humans in one fell swoop, but as I’ve been told before, you can’t apply logic to the bible.

The scientific theory of creation, however, is different. It started with a big bang that happened 13.7 billion years ago and has taken that long for life on Earth to evolve to its present state. And yes, there is a certain amount of random chance involved, though there is much more than just chance to consider. Selection pressure is also involved and we know how that works.

But if you believe that these are two disparate but equal scenarios to explain creation, think again. The scientific view actually has empirical evidence to back it up. The biblical view does not. I say empirical evidence because that means it is measurable, verifiable, and repeatable. And that means that anyone at all, given enough intelligence and the right equipment, can verify for themselves the claims of the scientists. You don’t have to take some scientist’s word for it. You don’t have to listen to a scientist or researcher and then choose to believe either him or the bible because they are both making claims from revelation. No. On one hand, you are asked to simply believe an ancient story that has been handed down for generations. On the other, you are asked to believe in a verifiable, testable scientific theory (which, by the way, does not mean a guess in science).

So if you still choose to believe in the ancient myth as opposed to real scientific evidence that you, yourself, could verify if you took the effort, then you put yourself in an utterly indefensible position. This is especially true if you decide to accept as valid all the scientific theories that make your world better but which do not conflict with a biblical fairy tale. Think about it. Make a rational choice.

Friday, September 07, 2012

The Role of Government as Envisioned by the Parties

Back in the 1880s and '90s our free-enterprise economy was running rampant. It created an America with no middle class. There were a few people who were very rich - the business owners, the CEOs, the upper management - and there was the vast majority of rabble who lived off the crumbs of the rich - the workers who had virtually no rights. The biggest businesses merged and formed monopolies meaning they could charge anything for their products. The competition that keeps free enterprise going was nearly non-existent.

Thankfully, politicians back then, especially Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, put a stop to it. Congress enacted several laws and the presidents enforced those laws through the courts. Competition returned to the marketplace and the middle class began to grow.

But what if government had not acted? What would it have been like today if capitalism had been allowed to run amok throughout the 20th century? It would be like the whole country was run by a few giant pyramid schemes, with a few ultra-rich people at the pinnacle and the rest of us trudging around the base.

In the middle of the 20th century, our environment was in grave danger. Rachel Carson and others warned us about the silent springs to come if we didn't do something about air and water pollution. Big factories were belching toxic smoke into the atmosphere and dumping chemicals and sewage into the steams and lakes. Soot covered the newly-fallen snow, speckling it with black.

Then, the government stepped in and despite dire warnings that forcing businesses to clean up their act would drive them into bankruptcy and reduce productivity, laws were passed requiring factories to install scrubbers on their smokestacks. Regulations were put into place limiting the types and the amount of waste products that could be pumped into the waterways. Businesses complied and they did not go bankrupt. Profits continued to soar and the environment was cleaned up.

In the 1970s it became apparent, through scientific research, that chlorofluorocarbons were destroying the ozone layer, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. These gases primarily came from aerosol cans and air conditioners. The government wanted to enact regulation that would outlaw these ozone-destroying gases and industry balked, claiming it would put them out of business or send them into bankruptcy because any alternative to these gases would be far too expensive.

But the government acted anyway. Regulations were put into place to limit chlorofluorocarbon usage in consumer products. Other nations joined in and signed a treaty, the Montreal Protocol, that assured the use of this damaging substance was seriously curtailed.

Had governments not taken control of the situation and put into place heavy regulations, we may not have an ozone layer today. We would all need to wear sunscreen or protective clothing even for the shortest walks.

The point I'm trying to make is that government regulation is good and proper and in many cases quite necessary. Republican politicians want to do away with nearly all government regulations and allow the marketplace to take care of business on its own. The GOP wants to lend a helping hand to those who have already become very successful. Those who have not can just try harder.

There is only one area in which the GOP would like to grow government influence - in people's bedrooms and doctors' offices. Here, they want to make sure that the government has the final decision on whether or not a woman can get an abortion or even use birth control. They do this because they want all of us, no matter what our religion or personal beliefs, complies with their version of biblical morality. It is a major step toward the establishment of an evangelical Christian theocracy in America.

The Democrats, on the other hand, want appropriate regulation where such regulation is proper. They want government to help lend a hand to those who are struggling. And they want government to secure the human rights that everybody is entitled to share, including health care.

Republicans don't care about anyone else's health as long as they have made enough money to take care of themselves. They say they believe in equality of opportunity, but they forget that opportunity does not exist for those who need a hand up and can't get it.

There is a role for government in people's lives, but it's not to force compliance with old-fashioned religious morals. It is to provide for the public welfare, like it says in the Constitution. Democrats want to do that. Republicans just want a government that will help their own best interests.