God, Ice Cream, and Publishing Schedules

God and Ice Cream ConeAs you have no doubt noticed, the publishing schedule around here has gotten a bit less dependable. Thus far, all that has been affected has been the afternoon article. But this may just be the beginning. I’m trying to be solid with the anniversary and music posts. I’ve managed to get the last couple of 11:05 publications up just because I happened to be able to. They weren’t done the day before as used to be the case. Now everything just gets jammed into the little bit of time that I manage between other things I’m working on.

Currently, I’m managing writers, writing my own freelance stuff, rewriting a book for publication, and taking frequent breaks to scream into a pillow. It’s madness. I don’t deal well with this level of stress. And I do believe that some day soon they are going to have to take me away to a quiet place where the most upsetting thing will be sparrows chirping in the morning. And even that may be a bit too much to take.

So I’m thinking I’ll let the days float. What is there to talk about anyway? Doing the anniversary posts are interesting because they constantly remind me that nothing much has changed. And the morning music posts remind me that perhaps not everything in the world is terrible.

God and Ice Cream

It reminds me of some philosopher I was reading who was talking about the nature of God. Like a lot of people, he was interested in theodicy and why God allows evil in the world. But he was quick to note that there isn’t just evil in the world. He specifically mentioned ice cream. If God were evil, would it actually allow anything as wonderful as ice cream? I forget where he came down on the issue.

To me it is clear enough. The way I see God is a given. God is just a word that explains why things exist. The Bible claims, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It does show how God is just a linguistic trick that allows us to talk about the ineffable. But whatever you want to think about God, you can’t possibly think that it is something that cares about us in the same way that a mother cares about her child. If there is such a thing as God’s love, it is only in the sense that to exist is a favor. Regardless of how horrible we may perceive existence, at least we get to perceive it. Most things don’t get that gift.

Personally, I don’t buy that. There is life and there is not life. Life is nothing but a chemical process. Our consciousness nothing but trick. And as much as we like to think of ourselves as independent organisms — universes in ourselves — it sucks to perceive ourselves in such a way that we find painful. And in that context, God is an utterly useless concept. There is good and evil in the world simply because there is good and evil in our conception of the universe.

William Lane Craig is one of the people who has decided that my way of thinking is wrong: God defines good. And that means that Craig has defined good and evil out of existence in the context of our consciousness. But I think Craig is a huge liar. He’s lying to himself in his zeal to believe a truly ridiculous dogma. He must know, once you peel back the barriers he’s built to protect God, that we are all alone and that we have no clue why some things give us pain and others give us joy. There is no reason that humans will ever be able to understand why they can be licking a delicious ice cream cone just as someone stabs us through the kidney.

So we go from the ontological “Why does anything exist?!” to the Schopenhauerian “Why continue on within our own little universes?!” And the answer to both questions is the same: we don’t know. So we muddle on. And that is what I will continue to do: muddle on with Frankly Curious. At this point, it is the closest thing I have to a social life, so I hope that I can keep you all interested enough to keep stopping by. Hopefully, for the regular readers, it comes down more on the ice cream side of the universe than the knife through the kidney side of things.

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

All Bad Options for GOP Presidential Nominee

Donald TrumpTrump won the Nevada caucuses handily. He got 46% of the vote with Rubio and Cruz running far behind with 24% and 21%. Carson and Kasich had 5% and 4%. And that’s all there is in the field. Now I know the conventional wisdom. Carson will drop out and give his votes to Cruz and Kasich will drop out and give his votes to Rubio. I don’t think that’s so clear, but even if true, all that would have done would have made Rubio and Cruz closer to each other and still left them far behind Trump in the fight to be the Republican presidential nominee.

The last great hope of the Republican establishment is that Trump has a ceiling and what needs to happen is for this race to get down to a one on one fight between Trump and literally anyone else and then we will see Trump’s downfall. But after one bit and another of establishment conventional wisdom has shown to be wrong, why do we believe this? Anyway, given that Rubio and Cruz seem to be running neck and neck, why would one of them drop out? But then there is the very important question of who drops out in the bid to be the presidential nominee.

The establishment is not clear about who they hate more: Trump or Cruz. So they are hoping that Cruz will drop out. According to what is looking more and more like simple wishful thinking, the presidential nominee will then be Rubio. But I see no reason why Cruz would drop out given that he has scads of money and and army of very committed volunteers. But if he drops out, his voters are not going to jump on the Good Ship Rubio. The very best the establishment could hope for would be that Rubio would get half of Cruz’s votes. Let’s look at that for a moment.

Forget Nevada, where Trump likely did better than he normally would. But if we did take it as typical, the Republican primary is over and Trump is the Republican presidential nominee. But look back to South Carolina, which gives Rubio a much better chance. Trump got 32.5% of the vote, and Rubio got 22.5%. Cruz got 22.3% of the vote. If Trump and Rubio split that, Trump would have 43.6% and Rubio would have 33.6. Even if you gave Rubio all of Bush’s and Kashic’s votes and gave Trump Carson’s vote, Trump would squeeze out a victory with 50.8% of the vote.

Presidential Nominee Marco RubioAnd I think I’m being way too generous to Rubio. I doubt there is much of an appetite on the part of Cruz voters for Rubio. If Hillary Clinton has a problem in terms of seeming authentic, Rubio has the problem in spades. But he’s coming at it from a position of weakness. That’s why I think it is much more likely that the Republican establishment would say that they can better live with a Cruz candidacy than a Trump one, and force Rubio out of the race. That, at least, seems like a plausible way to defeat Trump. Because we all know that Rubio will do whatever the establishment tells him to.

But this is what you get when a party has cobbled a coalition based upon lies. Trump has been brilliant in focusing in on what most motivates Republican voters: fear and anger. The establishment claims that they don’t like Trump because he’s a loose cannon. They like Rubio because they know that he will do as he is told. Well, that’s clear enough to me. And it’s clear enough to Republican voters. And that doesn’t make him very appealing as the party’s presidential nominee.

Each GOP Presidential Nominee Would Be Bad

There is something deeper, however. I wrote about this months ago: the real concern is that if Trump is the Republican presidential nominee, he won’t win in the general election. The main thing that the Republican establishment cares about is winning. But at this point, Donald Trump seems to be their best chance of winning. I can at least see him making a run for it against Clinton. Rubio is a joke. Imagine that there is a terrorist attack some time before the election, are the voters going to look to Rubio and think, “He’ll protect us!” The very idea is laughable. Rubio is not substantially more impressive as a candidate than Sarah Palin.

I hope that the Republican establishment gets what it wants and Marco Rubio is their presidential nominee. I will look forward to watching Clinton eating him alive and then cleaning her teeth with one of his smaller rib bones. But it looks like it is going to be Trump. Regardless, the Republicans are screwed. They can get a presidential candidate that they and most other people hate (Cruz), a candidate who is unpredictable (Trump), or their own inside man with all the gravitas of Mort in Madagascar.

Morning Music: Robert Johnson and the Devil

Robert Johnson: The Complete RecordingsI’ve told you all the story of the barber who corrected me when I mentioned that legend that Robert Johnson met the Devil at the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil for his musical skills. I thought today, I would go over very briefly why it is that the story is more associated with Robert Johnson, even though maybe it was first told about Tommy Johnson.

Really, it comes down to two songs. The first is “Cross Road Blues,” which really doesn’t have anything to do with the Devil. The second is “Me and the Devil Blues.” Now at least it has to do with the Devil. But it is just about the Devil who has come to take him away. Anyway, I’ve put the two songs together as a playlist. Like all Robert Johnson songs, they are short. They are worth listening to if only as a nice introduction to the very peak of Mississippi Delta Blues.

The Satanic Verses and the $3 Million Bounty

The Satanic VersesOn this day in 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran offered a $3 million bounty for the death of Salman Rushdie. This followed ten days after the fatwa against him for writing The Satanic Verses. This was a stupid thing to do. And maybe if Khomeini, who I generally think of as having been a pretty smart guy, had been younger, he wouldn’t have done it. But he was almost 90 years old, and only months from death.

We accept that people are stupid. I see it all the time. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t tell me about some minor thing that they are outraged about. But leaders are supposed to be educated and thoughtful. Even if you are a fundamentalist, you need to pick your battles. At a time when Iran should have been trying to integrate itself with the rest of the world, the fatwa just made Iran seem like a thuggish state. The fatwa went along with a one million dollar bounty for Rushdie’s murder. And then Khomeini ups it to $3 million? It’s just pathetic.

The Satanic Verses Wouldn’t Have Been a Hit

At that point, Salman Rushdie was a celebrated writer. He had won the Booker Prize. But he was hardly JK Rowling. The fatwa made Rushdie’s career. And The Satanic Verses would have continued in that tradition. Most people today would not have ever heard of Salman Rushdie nor The Satanic Verses had it not been for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s ridiculous assassination contract.

Obviously, I’m not talking about the immorality of calling for murder because someone writes a book you don’t like. I don’t think we need to discuss that. Everyone around here agrees on that point. And I seriously doubt that Khomeini read the book, anyway. And I doubt anyone important in the fatwa process had read the book. Yet Iran has now renewed the bounty for the outrage of The Satanic Verses. My understanding is that in modern Iran, everyone wants to grab onto the mantle of Khomeini and so that’s what this is all about. Perhaps the most stupid thing the man ever did in his life, when his mind feeble, and they are still chasing it as though he were God.

I feel sorry for Salman Rushdie. But I feel more sorry for the Iranian people, who have been so ineptly ruled both before and after Khomeini. And this business about publicly calling for the murder over The Satanic Verses is the best encapsulation of this that there is.