“Okay, God.” An Exclusive Interview by Faux News

In an unusual and extraordinary journalistic coup, our reporter-on-the-spot was able to get up to the Pearly Gates and return with this exclusive interview with God. Unfortunately for some unknown reason God’s comments did not come through on the tape recorder, so what you read below is a verbatim transcript of only one side of the interview:

Okay, God. Thanks for agreeing to the interview, and I want to get straight to the point. First of all, you are all powerful, right? I mean you created the world and all the planets and the stars, galaxies and the whole universe and everything in it, right?

Silence

Yes, I can imagine that it was a lot of hard work, but if you are powerful as surely you must be if you did all this stuff, then how come you allowed the gunman in New Zealand to kill all those innocent people yesterday?

Silence

Yes, I understand that you have decided to take a hands-off approach like a loving parent who watches a wayward child so that the child can learn on his own. I know you aren’t a helicopter parent, but still….

Silence

I know that it is not right for a mere Earthling to question your motives. You have got your reasons, but still you have also got to admit that your hands-off approach has its problems. A lot of really bad people have messed things up big time. You know who they are—Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam, Mao, and so many other dictators and so many just bad people, like the gunman in New Zealand—and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Silence

Okay, I can see why you are disappointed about how we humans turned out on the planet Earth. I can surely understand that. And I can understand that that makes you sad.

Silence

Yes, I do feel sorry for you and know that it must hurt to see the way it has turned out down there, but what I am asking is why you haven’t done something about it.

Silence

All right, I will accept your answer about free will and all that, and I suppose you have your reasons for setting it up this way. And I also really appreciate it when you do step in and help ordinary people when we experience horrible things and challenges. I know a lot of people who have personally benefited as indeed as I have, so I would like to say thanks for what you do, but I am just wondering if you maybe could do more….

Silence

Yes, I agree that there is a lot that I do not know about. And I also want to thank you for, as you say, “giving us a glimpse” every now and then.

Silence

Yes, I do call myself a Christian and appreciate that you sent Jesus to give us a clue, along with other holy people. And I also agree that it is too bad that most of the time we humans just don’t get it. So thanks for doing that. It does help, but you need to know that there are a lot of us down there on Earth who will never get it and need more clues….

Silence

Really? You will take that under advisement? 

Silence

What do you mean, “But if I paid more attention, I would realize that it is already happening all the time”?

Silence

Okay, I will try to pay better attention. But what about the natural disasters and the “acts of God” that insurance policies don’t reimburse people for? I know that every year there are a bunch of legal cases suing the National Council of Churches for “acts of God” that aren’t covered by insurance, but none of these has held up in court. What are all these natural disasters, plagues, famines, floods, and calamities all about?

Silence

Yes, I admit that there are things that if you told me, I would not be able to understand. So I will accept your refusal to answer, but I can’t help asking if you might have messed up a time or two when you were creating everything from scratch and setting up all the ground rules. I can’t help asking that if you had to do it all over again, if you would have done it differently.

Silence

Yes, I do accept that you have only one shot at creating a universe and what is, is. I agree that you did the best you could under the circumstances. You have to let the chips fall and let what happens, happen. Don’t feel too bad about this. We all make mistakes, and there is no need to “shed a tear,” as you say.

Silence

What’s that? You say you are shedding tears, but are not shedding tears about the universe so much as about something else? What is that, God, why all of a sudden do you seem so upset?

Silence

You are watching one of your prize creations do what?

Very Long Silence

You mean the planet Earth? You are watching us self-destruct? Go down the tubes? And that is the reason you granted the interview? So someone with a face-to-face interview– though of course I really do not mean this literally because all I can do is hear you–but so someone like me can let others on Earth know how you feel? That is why you gave Faux News an exclusive?

Silence

Of course, I hear how distressed you are. You put such faith in us. As you say, there aren’t that many places in the universe quite like us. We had such potential and now we are destroying what you made. I can see why you are so upset, but can’t you just step in and do something about it?

Silence

Yes, yes. I know, I know. This is just not the way you work. I have to tell you that if you ask me, I think you could have given yourself a better job description, but as you say, what is, is.

Silence

What’s that, God? Not much time? How much? Decades, centuries, millennia? How much, if we don’t change our ways?

Silence

Okay, God. I know that it all depends. Rest assured. I will be sure people down there on Earth know you have added your name to the “Concerned About Climate Change” list. But I wish I could say it would make a difference. I know how hard it is for us humans when you lose something you love so much. It must be even harder for you—especially if you are talking about a planet which is so special. Okay, God, I will spread the word. And, God, thanks so much for the interview. I know how busy you are. So, I guess I will head back down. I will see you later….

Short Silence

What do you mean, “Don’t count your chickens….?” That’s a joke, right?

Very Short Silence

Okay, God. Understood. I get it. The stakes are high.Thanks again! See you around….

“The Uninhabitable Earth”: A Book Review by Guest Blogger, Andrew Howell

This is a very important book, and having just finished it. I feel compelled to run to the nearest bookstore and buy copies for everyone I know. I’m not sure who will read it, as it’s pretty harrowing stuff. But as fantastical as the author’s claims about the threats facing humanity may seem, I am fully persuaded by them. Life on earth is staring down the barrel of massive climate-related disruption and suffering — this is supported by a vast body of research: and while the destruction has already affected many species on the planet, it is on the verge of engulfing our own, probably sooner than most people suspect.

The problem with most academic, scientific writing is that scientists are very cautious about over-stating their conclusions, as they should be, and tend to couch their views in degrees of certainty, clouded by the language of statistics. They also tend to over-specialize, making it hard to synthesize conclusions across a broad body of related research. Institutions such as the IPCC try to step in and play the role of collating knowledge, but these bodies tend to get bogged down with massive teams of co-authors, beset by political considerations that blunt their arguments.

This leaves a very important role for the science writer who can bring it all together and say, in direct and clear terms, what it all means, “to the best of our understanding”. Occasionally academics can do this effectively, but writers with a journalistic background who have truly done the work can be effective, and here David Wallace-Wells has done the best job of anyone I have read (eclipsing Elizabeth Kolbert) at getting to the brutal, devastating crux of the matter.

I have been listening to the audiobook over the past couple of weeks during my commute into New York City, and cannot shake the sensation, as I pass through a panorama of glass and steel buildings on my way to work, of being surrounded by ghosts–that this all may be emptied or destroyed in no more than a generation or two. This is, of course, imagery already captured effectively by Hollywood.

Is it possible that the author overstates the risks here — overly focusing on the most negative outcomes? On the whole, I find this to be a well-balanced work, and hardly the “propaganda” that some reviewers claim. However two points did occur to me that Wallace-Wells does not devote as much time to as I think he should. The first is a geographic reality: the fact that there is a lot of landmass in the upper latitudes of the northern hemisphere — Russia, Canada, Scandinavia and Greenland — that presumably will not be rendered uninhabitable by climate change and could potentially become much more habitable, with longer warm seasons and higher soil fertility. That fact does not preclude massive disruption and suffering, as relocating the mass of the world’s population is not easily done (and may not be possible at all) — but it is an element that the author should consider, and explore.

A second point is over the potential for technology to help in our dilemma. Wallace-Wells treats this “techno-saviorism” dismissively, and I think he is right to challenge the assumption that “technology will always bail us out.” Yes, this is far from certain, and indeed technology is in a sense the source of the very problem we face. But recent advances, for example, in carbon capture technology allowing carbon to be restored to solid form do provide some glimmer of a hope.  Yes, it is still far from being practical, but can we really dismiss the possibility that technology can ultimately prove transformational?”

Andrew Howell is a strategist at Citi Group in New York where he heads up the Frontier Markets group. He lives in Maplewood, NJ, with his wife, Karen, a public defender in Newark, and two or our four grandchildren.

Faux News on Justice in America

The Manafort sentencing last Thursday has gotten a lot of news coverage with many expressing outrage for the light sentence he received and others expressing support for him. Just like everything else at this time in our divided nation, the mood is split down the middle, sparking a national conversation about justice and fairness. Here is a conversation between two old friends overheard by our reporter at a diner in Washington on Saturday:

Con: Can you believe Manafort got off with less than four years?

Pro: Yes, it was a fair sentence. He made a few mistakes but worked hard and is not a danger to anyone. Besides, four years is a long time for someone who is 70. Big fine too. Plus he has got something wrong with his foot. Was in a wheelchair, I read in the news.

Con: Hey, he stole $55 million and cheated the IRS out of $6 million. Plus the recommended sentence was 19-25 years. He lied repeatedly to the Special Prosecutor.

Pro: Yeah, but the sentence he got is about average for an activity like this. The sentencing guidelines are excessive for someone like him who worked hard and was a very successful person, and who made a lot of money. I think the judge said something like, except for this, he lived an exemplary life.

Con: But that is the point. White collar criminals like Manafort get off with a slap on the wrist while poor people and people of color get long sentences for much less. 

Pro: The judge showed compassion. What Manafort did was a lot different than what the typical criminal does.

Con: It was the same judge who sentenced Congressman William Jefferson from Louisiana to 13 years for a similar, white collar crime, and he stole much less–only $100,000. Jefferson was black.

Pro: Race has nothing do to with it. You bleeding hearts always pull the race card.Jefferson deserved what he got. He was a scoundrel.

Con: What about the black guy that got a long sentence for stealing $100 from the laundry room or the African American lady who got five years for trying to vote with a criminal record, not knowing it was against the law? What about all the mandatory drug laws that lock people up for decades–a disproportionate number being people of color — for selling an illegal substance? And the fact that studies show blacks get 20% more time in jail than white people who commit the same crimes?

Pro: You know, what really pisses me off about you bleeding hearts is that you are always sticking up for a bunch of scoundrels– convicts, robbers, panhandlers, low-life types. Why don’t they just go out and get a job? If you ask me, it is their own fault and they get what they deserve. You make your bed, you lie in it.

Con: You don’t see any injustice in our society?

Pro: If you work hard and play by the rules, you get ahead. This is America, and I am proud to call myself an American. This is the American Way, land of the free. Opportunity for all. You work hard in legitimate, productive jobs. That is what successful people do. That is what I do and what you do. We don’t whine and complain and want a government handout. There are already too many handouts by the government, doing away with work incentives. That is the problem in America. Too many not willing to work. Welfare Queens. People who want a free ride. And, yes, a lot of them are black, so what does that tell you?

Con: Excuse me? I believe your parents were wealthy and sent you to a fancy prep school and an elite college.

Pro: Well? Yours did too.

Con: Wouldn’t you say that gave you–and me–a head start so to speak?

Pro: I did quite well in prep school and college, thank you. I did this on my own. My parents did not take any tests for me. And, yes, I make a lot of money. I work very hard for this money, and I also pay a lot of taxes. A lot of my taxes go to failed government programs that are supposed to help these poor people. Count the tax dollars. I am doing more than most; and besides, it is not my fault if people are poor. 

Con: It is not that poor people, black, brown and white, are not working. It is that they do not make a living wage. A lot of people work in service jobs in the Washington area for under $10/hour. Like dishwashers, housekeepers, food service workers, nursing assistants, day care workers and many more. And they work hard, often in thankless jobs, though these jobs are very important ones and make all our lives a bit easier. That comes to around $20,000/year. How does anyone live on that? Rents in even the worst neighborhoods in Washington start at around $1,000/month. Add to that the basics like food, clothing, transportation and health care. How do you expect them to get by?

Pro: Their problem, not mine. It is their own fault if they can’t figure it out, and do not give me all that BS about hardship. They should have studied harder in school, gone to college. If they can’t get by on one job, they should get a second job.

Con: Many already do work more than one job, and can you imagine the stress that puts on a family, especially a single parent family? 

Pro: Should never have had kids. Probably out of wedlock too. Whatever became of personal responsibility?

Con:And there are a lot of other obstacles–bad schools, lousy housing, dangerous neighborhoods, poor access to health care…

Pro: Please! Enough, enough. I see your point. I just don’t agree.

Con: We do not seem to be getting anywhere. We both are white, grew up in a wealthy suburb and were born into two-parent, loving families with plenty of money to get by. We went to good schools and got good educations. Because of our skin color, we have never had to experience discrimination. Yes, we have done well, but we have others to thank for that, not just ourselves. The deck is stacked against a lot of people in this country and not just African Americans, immigrants, and Latinos. A lot of white people are struggling too. I think that we all have a responsibility to level the playing field so that the American Dream is accessible to all.

Pro: This is something I totally agree with you on: you are right! We are not getting anywhere. And we probably never will.

Con: But we will remain friends, right?

Pro: Of course. Though I have got to say that differences like ours are ripping our country apart.

Con: And we haven’t even talked about Trump.

Pro: Thank God.

Democrats: Keep Your Eye On The Ball (Again!)

We do not know how the Mueller investigation will turn out or if there is compelling evidence of collusion with Russia. We do not know whether it will even make a twit of difference with Republican senators whose votes will be needed to convict, following an impeachment vote by the House. We do not know what the attorneys of the Southern District of New York will come up with involving Trump’s overt criminal activity or whether compelling evidence will change one Republican vote required for impeachment or make one staunch member of Trump’s hallowed “base” abandon him. After all, following the televised Cohen testimony, Trump’s approval rating actually went up.

But what we do know is this: Trump is the worst president in the history of the Republic and the most dangerous. As long as he is president, we will be in deep trouble. We have got to replace him.

On come the Democrat contenders for 2020. As of today there are twelve who have officially declared, three more who have formed “exploratory committees,” and another six or seven who are likely to throw their hats in the ring. During the course of the next 12 months, we could be faced with having to choose the best candidate among 20 or so contenders. How do we choose? How do we know who will be best? Will it make a difference? 

The answer is simple: we need the candidate who has the best chance of beating Trump. And make no mistake. Electing a Democrat is far from a shoe-in. Trump starts off with at least 40 percent of the vote. If the election were an up or down vote, Trump would lose. A solid majority of voters detest him. But that is not the way it works. It will be a choice between two candidates, Trump versus someone else. The “someone else” makes all the difference. We surely learned this in 2016. The stakes could not be higher.

Much is being made about the new, far left progressives, who are transforming the Democratic party and moving the bar in their direction. If you know me, you know that I am a quintessential, bleeding heart Democrat. I go along with most of   the ‘’’socialist” stuff that Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and some of the others are promoting—affordable health care for all, more income equality, higher taxes on the rich, a guaranteed living wage, fairer elections, affordable housing, welcoming immigrants, and a much stronger safety net. To nominate someone who could be readily labeled “a socialist” by the Republicans, however, would be a disaster. We would lose. Democrats must nominate a center-left candidate, if we have any chance of dethroning the orange-haired-narcissist called Trump. We have got to appeal to the Independent moderates, disillusioned, traditional Republicans, and suburban, formerly Republican, women, all of whom  helped deliver the House to the Democrats in 2018.

Enter Jay Inslee. Now I had never heard of this guy until   a few weeks ago. He is the governor of the State of Washington now serving a second term and a former congressman. Last week a good, very progressive, far left, friend who is now an Inslee supporter, sent a link to an interview with him by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. I was blown away. Here is the link (It may take two clicks to work):

https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/inslee-builds-2020-presidential-campaign-on-climate-change-agenda-1452125763516

Now I know that we are still a year away from the first primary and a lot of water will flow under the bridge between now and then, but the interview with Maddow gave me a flicker of hope. He could be the candidate we need to beat Trump.

What appealed to me most about Inslee besides his  progressive record, his strong experience in actually governing, and his popularity in his state with both parties , is his message about climate change. 

Hello! Come on, people, this is the elephant in the room, the one, over-riding issue of our time. We are only talking about the survival of the planet Earth, as we know it. Yes, the issues of more equality, fairness, and a better safety net are important, but everything pales when compared to the climate change issue. 

The ironic thing is that Inslee is being written off by most pundits as an also-ran because of his low visibility on a national scale and the fact that he is a one-issue candidate. The Maddow interview shows that he is more than a one-issue candidate. His track record in Washington State is very impressive from a progressive perspective, but he has got his basic message exactly where it should be: Wake up, America, the time frame we have for averting world-wide catastrophe is very short! Every day that passes that we do not take the lead in aggressively tackling this issue is a day lost. 

Scientists tell us that at some point in the relatively near future, we may find ourselves on a pathway of no return. All it will take is the melting of the Greenland ice cap or the Antarctic ice pack or a combination of other factors like less snow to reflect heat from the sun. We will then be en route to a 20-30  foot rise in sea levels, more droughts, wild fires, mega storms, and  massive human displacement; and there will be nothing we can do about it. No one knows when the irreversible tipping point will be triggered. Some scientists say by mid century if we do not take significant action now. Sure, actual doomsday may not happen until a century or so from now, and it probably will happen slowly. But unless we humans on the planet Earth change our behavior and reliance on fossil fuels, many experts believe doomsday is inevitable. Read The Uninhabitable Earth, a new book by David Wallace-Wells. If this does not scare the bejesus out of you, nothing will.

There is hope, however. Our son-in-law, Peter  Ellis, is a scientist at the Nature Conservancy and an expert on climate change, particularly issues related to trees and forestation. He firmly believes that we now have the knowledge and technology to slow down the increase of carbon in the atmosphere by moving away aggressively from fossil fuels to solar, wind power, nuclear, and geothermal energy. This action, along with forest preservation and better practices for harvesting trees, could buy time for us humans on Earth to figure out and implement a lasting solution to the human causes of global warming.  It is not a technological challenge but rather a political one.

Skeptics point out that the United States is just one country and that it will require a world-wide effort with China and India, among others, as equal partners, which they believe is a pipe dream. This implies an attitude of hopeless surrender. Just let the chips fall. Besides, they point out, we will all be dead by then anyway. Why bother? 

But what about our grandchildren, great grandchildren and their children?

Inslee does not believe that failure and hopelessness are foregone conclusions. Look at the interview. He is an  optimist and a fighter. He may not stand a chance, but let’s hope he hangs in there and continues to remind us of the elephant in the room. He now is my candidate though I realize that it is very early in the nominating process and the winnowing down has not yet even started. If Trump is able to remain in power for six more years, God help us all. Inslee could be our ticket for assuring this will not happen. Six more years of Trump, the climate change denier-in chief, would hasten our demise. The stakes have never been higher.