Guns at the Republican National Convention? Of course!

So naturally when I learned of this petition to allow the open carry of guns at the upcoming Republican National Convention in Cleveland, I hurried over to to sign it. Over 48,000 of us God-fearing, law-abiding, Second Amendment enthusiasts have signed the petition so far.

And there are good reasons to sign the petition. Without open carry, the delegates and conventioneers in the hall will have no way to defend themselves from burglars, pickpockets and lobbyists, unless you count fisticuffs and kickboxing which I think would be pretty hard to take away. The Supreme Court has already decided that owning guns is a right. No preexisting militia is required. Moreover, lots of states have laws allowing open carry and many allow even concealed carry. I checked Wikipedia and open carry is definitely legal in Ohio, probably thanks to Governor John Kasich.

Moreover, you needn’t worry about these convention goers. Guns don’t kill people; only people kill people. But since you never know when someone is going to attack you with a banana, and there are probably no sixteen ton weights at the convention center, a loaded semiautomatic weapon may be your only defense when a brigade of banana-toting liberals in Birkenstocks come charging at your delegation. You have to be prepared, you know.

I mean, what could possibly go wrong? It’s not like Cruz and Trump supporters would not limit themselves to shoving, fistfights and general screaming at each other as they lobby to get their candidate the nomination during a brokered convention. They are all family men and women, civilized I am sure and will be full of the milk of human kindness (and Jesus) during the convention. They are so civilized they won’t even shoot a celebratory round into the convention roof when their candidate clinches the nomination.

No, this is a matter of principle, and principle is vitally important to Republicans. They like their world completely black and white. The Supreme Court says that we can own guns; Ohio says you can openly carry them, so there is no way that anyone should be able to restrict that right. You don’t mess with Texas so you don’t mess with Republicans and their guns either. Putting all those armaments into such a confined space should cause no issues at all. After all the Quicken Loans Arena is not a troubled inner city neighborhood like Glenville in Cleveland. They are proud Americans, every one of them, but just in case residents of Glenville decide to storm the Quicken Loans Arena en masse, well, you got to be prepared. A handgun isn’t going to cut it. You will want plenty of rounds, something semiautomatic, and probably something with a scope on it.

So I’m shocked to learn today that the Secret Service nixed the petition. Imagine the nerve of these feds to tell us law-abiding Americans we can’t bring our guns with us into the convention! The Secret Service says it’s something about a federal law that overrides the Supreme Court’s decision. Clearly there is nothing to fear, and surely Trump, Cruz, Kasich and the senior leaders of the Republican Party will be completely at ease in a convention hall full of faithful lock-and-load brethren. After all according to the NRA the way to stop a bad man with a gun (not that it would ever happen at this convention) is a good man with a gun, and there would be thousands of them. He’d never have a chance!

I can’t believe that the candidates will roll with the Secret Service on this one. Trump says he wants to study the petition. As of this writing, neither Cruz nor Kasich has expressed an opinion on the Secret Service’s decision. How odd!

So I guess we will have to turn to prayer: pray to change the minds at the Secret Service and failing that pray that hoodlums outside the hall won’t storm the convention hall, or pick off conventioneers on their way to and from their hotel rooms and local brothels. Perhaps an emergency petition to the U.S. Supreme Court is now in order. We can only pray they see the light.

Virginia is a socialist state

Oh Lord, I am worried! I have lived in Virginia for more than twenty years but until recently, I had not realized I was living in a socialist state. Why? Because Virginia is one of four uppity states not content to be just ordinary states but which insisted on calling themselves “commonwealths”.

This is quite alarming. What is socialism? According to Merriam-Webster, it is “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods”. Granted, thanks to the “enlightened” people at Fox News, most Americans now believe the word has an entirely different meaning. Socialism now apparently means the government taking any action to redistribute wealth, particularly from the richer to the poorer. (Don’t worry, patriots. The other way around is perfectly okay, as always. Screwing the poor is a sacrosanct American tradition.)

All I know is that the meaning of “common wealth” is obvious enough! It means that some poor bugger down in Tidewater, Virginia must be entitled to some part of my six-figure salary! Virginia felt so strongly about being a commonwealth that in its original constitution passed in 1776 it declared that “Commissions and Grants shall run, In the Name of the commonwealth of Virginia, and bear taste by the Governor with the Seal of the Commonwealth annexed.”

Virginia is not alone. Three other socialist states are out there: Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Kentucky. All have the audacity to call themselves commonwealths. And we let them into the U.S.A.! How could we? Don’t these uppity states know that socialism is un-American?

I am afraid to say there is rampant evidence of socialism here in the Old Dominion. For example, if you want to purchase hard liquor, you must buy it at a Virginia ABC store. Warning: before reading further, if you are standing, please sit down. Virginia ABC stores are owned and operated exclusively by the State of Virginia. In fact, we have a Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control! Virginia law allows no other legal means of acquiring hard liquor within the state! This has some obvious problems. First, there is no competition! The government sets whatever price it wants to for liquor and residents must pay it! This encourages bootlegging and an illegal moonshine industry, which is still going on today! Even worse, when Virginia ABC stores make a profit, the profits are used to fund state services! This also means that Virginians who enjoy hard liquor are disproportionately overtaxed.

If it were only Virginia ABC stores, perhaps this socialism would be tolerable. Yet, Virginia also has a state lottery. It allows no other lotteries in the state, so private industry has no opportunity at all to run their own betting parlors. This is by law! Moreover, Virginia prohibits most other forms of gambling. If you are into gambling on horses, you can only place bets on races at state owned and managed offsite betting parlors and only for races at Colonial Downs east of Richmond. This is clearly more socialism as well as stifling free enterprise!

My suspicion is that there are similar socialist things going on in the commonwealth socialist states of Kentucky, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania as well. It should be obvious that Massachusetts is already a socialist state, given their tendency to elect Democrats! It’s like they want to be socialists! How weird is that?

If you are a red-blooded, all American citizen, you should be alarmed by these socialist trends. I have heard other states are doing similar things, but are masquerading as “states” rather than the communist/socialist/tree hugging commonwealths they actually are. Clearly, drastic action is required. We can start with a constitutional amendment kicking any state out of the union that labels itself as a commie “commonwealth”. Actually, it would be much cooler if it allowed residents of other states the right to rape, pillage and plunder these states. That would show them the way the natural order actually works. Maybe they will eventually see the light. In fact, we should be able to kick any state out of the union we feel that may even be thinking about socialism. Why? Because socialism is bad, obviously! It stifles competition and free markets.

I guess I need to move across the Potomac River and back to Maryland. There may be many Democrats over there, but oh Lord, at least they are not a commonwealth!

The ownership society has arrived!

On February 21, 2003, President Bush gave a speech in Kennesaw, Georgia. There he first talked about America becoming an “ownership society”. In those heady days of neo-conservatism, an ownership society meant power was going to trickle down to the masses. We would be in charge (own) our health care and drive down medical costs through the magic elixir of medical savings accounts. We would have more ownership over our children’s education by using government furnished vouchers to send them to the local charter or private schools, rather than the nearby public school. Moreover, we would “fix” the social security problem by empowering each citizen to own his or her retirement. We would do this by allowing them to invest at least a portion of their social security withholdings into the stock market. Over forty or so years in the workplace, the value of those assets would compound and compound. Thanks to the magic of our free market we would all retire, if not exactly millionaires, then comfortably indeed. You can easily see how much better life would be if we could just become owners of these things instead of, well, renters!

Good news Americans! We have indeed become the ownership society! Today, more and more of us cannot afford health insurance, so we now get to pay for all of our medical expenses out of pocket! This gives us a feeling of ownership over our health care we never had before in those horrid insured days. Now we have plenty of incentive to shop around although, admittedly it may be hard to drive a bargain with an emergency room physician at 2 AM, particularly when you are profusely bleeding or are unconscious. Many of us are choosing to own the problem of our health care by not seeking medical help at all. We hope that we can find relief in over the counter medicines or $4 generic prescriptions at Wal-Mart. For those of us who used to have health insurance, how can we claim that we are not owners? In the past, you were at the whim of your health insurance companies, who stipulated what they would cover in their expensive, take it or leave it contracts. Now you are unencumbered, free of the HMO and PPO bureaucracy to make your own informed health care choices and to shop around. Perhaps my family doctor will reduce my rate if I threaten to buy an over the counter medication instead.

Those school vouchers sound pretty good too. They do have a few minor drawbacks. First, your voucher probably will not be made up with additional revenue to finance our local public schools, but that’s their tough luck. That’s what they get for providing mediocre education. Second, it is likely that whatever voucher you receive will not cover the full cost of your children’s tuition. Maybe some cheap local charter school will not ask you for additional tuition yet will magically provide high academic standards. Anyhow, it looks like vouchers may involve significant extra out of pocket tuition expenses. When you write those tuition checks instead of putting the money away for junior’s college education, you should feel a sense of ownership. Perhaps you can get stock in the local charter school, and use your shares to vote for principals that you like.

And as for financing our retirements with gains from the stock market, good news there too! You may be asking, “Mark, haven’t you read the papers? The stock market is in the toilet because of the sub-prime housing mess! How could there possibly be any good news?” Well, you see it is good news because, citizens, now we are all going to be owners, whether we like it or not! As usual, our fine financial leadership leapt into action. After finally determining that our financial system had a severe case of constipation (due to consuming too much sub-prime mortgage backed securities of uncertain worth), the Secretary of the Treasury, working with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, decided that a pricey dose of Ex-Lax was in order for Wall Street. Apparently, the U.S. Treasury underwriting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was not enough. The government, already the insurer of last resort for floods, will now own eighty percent of the mega-insurance underwriting company AIG in exchange for providing it with a huge line of credit in order to ensure it stays solvent. In addition, our administration is readying to ask Congress to spend up to seven hundred billion dollars to buy these sub-prime and other securities that Wall Street cannot unload. We are told that this will solve Wall Street’s constipation problem for good since those Fannie and Freddie bail out suppositories did not do the trick. The good news, citizen, is that the federal government will now own all these properties, which means you are entitled to your share! No wonder the stock market finally roared back at the end of the week. Those traders were positively euphoric. You would be too if you went to Las Vegas and lost everything you own in the casinos, including your house and cars, only to find that your older brother, in his largess, was going to cover your reckless losses. In fact, you would probably head right back into the casinos to see if you could work some more of this magic.

So we the taxpayers are the winners here, see? Wall Street gets to go back to its business and we the taxpayers get to own all these properties, many of which are spanking new! I know I want my property. I know that soon the government will own all sorts of properties across the country. I want my sub-prime house! I was thinking about requesting my free house in Flagstaff, Arizona as a possible retirement house. That way I could sell my current house and keep the proceeds. Sweet!

There is the little problem that the government is not planning to raise my taxes to purchase all these sub-prime mortgage backed securities. Raising taxes of course is evil, even when completely necessary, which means that we will petition our creditors, most of who are foreign, to lend us seven hundred billion dollars so we can in turn buy these mortgage backed securities whose value no one can actually assess. I suspect our creditors will be accommodating because they have no idea what their investments in these sub-prime securities are actually worth either. Yet, they have an idea that the U.S. Treasury will still be in business in ten or fifty years when their U.S. Treasury bonds come due, with interest, of course.

So maybe I will not get my free house as I hoped. Maybe instead it will be our foreign creditors since technically it appears that they own the country, not me. My job as taxpayer is apparently mainly to cough up the interest on our federal debt.

Hmm. So perhaps I was premature to suggest that the Bush Administration succeeded in making us all homeowners, even those of us who rent. On the surface though it looks like, sure enough, neo-conservative principles have worked! We now have that ownership society they promised us! Who says we have a miserable failure as a president? He delivered on his ownership society in just five years!

And yet, this new ownership society just doesn’t quite look and behave the way we expected. It is like buying a Rolex watch only to find out it is a cheap rip off.

Well I am sure that by doing more of the same and electing John McCain and Sarah “I can dress a moose” Palin as our next president and vice president, during the next four years we can become even more of an ownership society. It’s funny though. This ownership society sure looks like an ower-ship society to me. From the greatly deflated value of my stock portfolio, it looks like I am already paying the price for other’s incompetence and malfeasance.

Not quite the end of the world as we know it

If you are a regular reader, you will know that my family and I just got back from a week long driving tour of New England. My political and social radar though is never wholly turned off, even on vacation. For some Americans, going to New England is daaaangerous. Granted, the reputation of Boston drivers is well deserved, based on our limited encounters. What worry many Americans, particularly from red states, are the dangerous laws up there in New England, particularly the ones that allow gay marriages and civil unions. From all their huffing and puffing, I figured there was a pedophiliac faggot hiding behind every other tree.

It turns out there is not a single state in New England that does not recognize gay unions in some form. The most prudish state in New England is Rhode Island, which may be due to its Puritan heritage. It does not allow gay marriages or civil unions and will not recognize gay unions or marriages from other states. However, it does recognize gay marriages from other countries. So if you are a gay couple that wants to settle in Rhode Island and enjoy the benefits of being married, I’d suggest getting married outside the United States first. Fortunately, Canada is only four or five hours away by car from Rhode Island. We only spent a few hours in Rhode Island but not once did I see an openly gay couple. Doubtless, this is due to their morally correct marriage laws.

Stray into Massachusetts and surely, you must be in extremely dangerous moral territory. Upon driving into the state, I expected to see hellfire and brimstone, but the closest thing I saw were a set of thunderstorms in the distance over Boston. Perhaps God was sending a warning. He could have sent those thunderstorms over relatively moral Providence, Rhode Island but no, they made dead aim for the most populous city in arguably the most morally lapsed state in the country. After all, Massachusetts had the audacity to be the first state to permit actual gay marriage. Not only do they allow gay marriage in the state, but they also recognize gay marriages and civil unions performed in other states. They will even marry gays from other states who are not permitted to do so in their state of residence.

So my eagle eye was on the lookout for moral depravity. I found some, I think, right in the hotel lobby of the Doubletree Bayside in South Boston where we stayed. There is an Au Bon Pain in the hotel that provides a convenient breakfast for many of the hotel’s guests, who eat at tables in the lobby. During our second breakfast at the hotel, I noticed that three men arrived, gave each other hugs and started kissing each other on the lips. Then they started talking without giving each other the sort of body space most Americans expect. I guess I should have been more shocked than I was, but based on the cut of their hair and their clothes it is possible they were from Italy. As shocking as it may seem to Americans, in parts of Europe like Italy heterosexual men openly hug and kiss each other and have no problem getting into each other’s personal space. Nonetheless, they could have been brazenly licentious gay Americans. Such a breathtakingly open display of same sex affection might have gotten them lynched in states sufficiently far south of the Mason-Dixon line.

But that was it. We spent three days and two nights in Massachusetts and that was the extent of the moral depravity that I witnessed. Maybe I was not looking hard enough. I did find some bums on the street, and we all know bums are morally dubious. Nonetheless, there are plenty of bums in the heart of red state American too. Overall, Boston and Massachusetts seemed shockingly normal and mainstream. People there acted just like people everywhere else except that some of them talked funny and liked to skip pronouncing the R’s in the middle of their words.

Off to Maine where the law forbids same sex marriage but offers limited partnership rights for same sex couples. There was no particular sign of moral depravity there either. I thought I detected a stench in Kennebunkport, but that was probably just from passing the Bush family compound. Once again, people in Maine seemed to behave about as normally as everywhere else.

Thence to New Hampshire where same sex marriage is banned but civil unions that offer the legal equivalent of marriage are permitted. Perhaps we spent too much time in the northern part of the state, but most of the locals looked pretty redneck to me. How could these upstanding moral people pass such liberal laws? The answer is unknown, but again I detected zero sign that the fabric of our country, or at least New Hampshire, was about to come apart.

Perhaps we should have held our noses as we crossed the Connecticut River into Vermont. All the moral mischief started there when the Vermont Supreme Court had the audacity to read its constitution and realize that it could not discriminate against gays who want the legal protections of marriage. So they passed civil union legislation, the first in the country. Same sex marriage is still outlawed in Vermont but civil unions are identical in every way but the wordage. In the immortal words of Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley (played by Louis Gossett, Jr.) from the 1983 movie, An Officer and a Gentleman, I expected Vermont to be full of little but “steers and queers”. I didn’t see that many steers, though I did see two pony farms, and I understand “ponying” it popular amount some moral deviants. Vermont felt far more like a Norman Rockwell painting that a den of moral iniquity. The fresh faced teenagers who led us into the parking lot at Ben & Jerry’s for our factory tour seemed almost surreal in their wholesomeness.

We did not actually stop in Connecticut but only drove through it. It too allows civil unions that are the equivalent of marriage, while technically banning gay marriage. There was traffic in Connecticut but nothing I could find in the way of the open looting and gays copulating in the streets.

Perhaps the gay marriage movement is just building up steam and any moment now these states will be overrun with gay related crime. It sounds crazy and just call it just a hunch, but after spending a week in New England my guess is the place will do as well or better than the other states in the country. If the end of civilization is imminent, I doubt it will start in New England. Overall, we found it to be a lovely, pleasant and otherwise perfectly ordinary place.

The Human Blastocyst: My Friend, My Dependent

I am reading Scott Adams’ book Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! Scott of course is the very successful artist behind the Dilbert comic strip. He has also written a number of legitimate non-comic books including some bestsellers like The Dilbert Principle. I bought his latest Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! for my wife as a Christmas present. Thus far, she has merely scanned it. I have been the one actively reading it. One must read something (while also scratching my cat’s belly) during the half an hour between slipping under the bed covers and actually turning off the light.

Thus far the book is a lot like my blog just (and I say this with complete sincerity) not as good. Scott’s book is essentially a collection of musing sent to members of his online fan club. If a book could be like the TV show Seinfeld, this would be it. It has no central theme or subject. It amounts to somewhat structured ramblings that escaped Scott’s brain. I am about a quarter through his book. Occasionally though Scott does have a topic that I find interesting or humorous. That it has no general categorization is actually something of a virtue. If you get bored with the current essay then since for the most part they fit on a page or a page and a half, you know you will soon be onto the next topic.

One ramble of his that I was reading last night titled “Adopting” stimulated today’s post. Scott is thinking of adopting some embryonic stem cells. He does not seem to have the patience to adopt a real child, but he does care about children so why not adopt some fertilized human eggs? He wants to keep them in his refrigerator. If they need to be fed, he figures it should work the same way it works with goldfish: shake something from a little can into their Petri dishes and forget about them for a day.

I had a similar idea years ago. I just forgot to blog about it. Scott’s little tongue in cheek essay though does neatly render absurd the whole argument of when human life begins. I try to have respect for the people who believe that life begins at conception. While I have respect for them as individuals, some part of me wants to call them a word that Scott Adams coined: induhviduals. I keep thinking, were they even awake during those human biology lectures in high school?

I am sorry but if you believe that a fertilized human egg is life (as in alive) you might as well also believe in the tooth fairy. Are those dozen eggs in your refrigerator alive? Granted in most cases they are not fertilized but occasionally a fertilized egg does make it into the food supply and ends up in your refrigerator. (Not to squick you out or anything but when this happens you basically cannot tell so you fry it up anyhow.) In any event, I think we would all agree that a fertilized chicken egg is not alive. If we revered chickens way the Hindus revered cows then perhaps we could keep excess eggs in cold storage until a spare hen was available.

What is clear is that a fertilized chicken egg is inert. Like every other form of life, to move from being a potential chicken into an actual chicken it needs something. Basically, it needs the right kind of energy and some time. When the egg absorbs sufficient warmth, it begins to grow. It is when something is growing that we know it is alive. The eggs in my refrigerator are not alive. Similarly, a human embryo is not alive either. It is inert.

As proof, go to the dictionary. My online dictionary defines life thus: “the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body”. There is nothing vital nor functional about a human embryo. Therefore, quite clearly a human embryo is not alive. Arguably, the sperm is alive until the moment it fertilizes the ovum. Then, like the male praying mantis after mating, it ingloriously dies. It carries with it some tiny amount of energy that is apparently sufficient to create the human zygote. The energy must be enough to cause the zygote to divide a few times until it becomes a blastocyst (human embryo). Once formed though the blastocyst is completely inert. It takes a lot of good luck for the blastocyst to become implanted in the uterine wall. At that point, if it is enriched by the energy in the uterine wall it can continue to multiply and divide. Perhaps at that point you can say technically that the blastocyst is alive. Anyhow, with luck nine months later a baby emerges.

It just so happens that my daughter is now of legal age. I will not be able to claim her as a tax dependent much longer. I have grown used to claiming our costs of supporting her on our income taxes. As our dependent, we get a tax break. Our taxes will go up when she is no longer our dependent.

However, perhaps I should go with Scott’s suggestion and get us a human embryo. I hope that it will remain inert. I am sure it will be just fine buried in the bottom of our freezer. It seems to me, as many moralists claim, that if this inert blastocyst is truly a human life and I am responsible for its expenses (our freezer probably costs a hundred dollars or more a year to operate) then I am entitled to claim him/her as a dependent. (It is hard to determine gender at this point.) Heck, I want a whole freezer full of human embryos. Perhaps instead of paying taxes, with all those dependents, Uncle Sam would pay me.

To claim them as dependents though, the IRS requires that I get each blastocyst a social security number. On the application, I must give the blastocyst a name. That should be easy enough to do with a baby names book, though to be safe the names should be gender neutral. One problem is that I will not have any actual birth certificate to show the Social Security Administration. This can be solved if the laboratory provides me with dated adoption certificates. The Social Security Administration will accept adoption certificates. I promise I will be a good parent to my blastocysts. Heck, I raised my daughter and she has not gone to jail or gotten pregnant out of wedlock. If necessary, to be a good blastocyst parent I will even ensure my freezer has a redundant power back up.

Since our president believes that as soon as we have a zygote we have a human life, and all human life must be protected, I am sure the IRS (as well as all fundamentalists) will stand with me when I claim my blastocysts as dependents. According to these people, there is nothing more important than protecting human life, unless you mean the time after they are born when we reserve the right to kill people if they do things the state does not like.

Anyhow, this is my plan to show I support the traditional family values this country stands for. And, oh yeah, it will also reduce my taxes. I am so overcome with patriotism at the moment that it is hard to keep from crying.

God Bless America.

A Modest Proposal: Bye Bye Vatican

Warning: people of sound mind who can separate fantasy from reality may read the following entry. The rest of you: out of here now!

I am not an evil person but I do have occasional evil thoughts. As I noted the pictures of black smoke rising from the Vatican today, indicating that it may take a while for the College of Cardinals to elect a new pope, the evil thought struck me: They’re all together in one place. If there is an ideal time to kill the Catholic Church once and for all, now is the time.

Yes it’s an evil thought. Just thinking it probably means I am doomed to spend eternity in Hell. But for some of us, particularly estranged ex-Catholics with axes to grind, the idea has a certain appeal. Those who suffered from the pedophilia problem in the church probably have no love for the institution and would just as soon have it banished from the planet. And then there are people like me who after years of psychotherapy should have forgiven the Church, but really haven’t. We should be able to forgive the heaping doses of guilt, the corporal punishment we witnessed in its parochial schools, the shame we felt when we wacked off reading Playboy magazines, the humiliation seemingly sanctioned by the Holy Father himself, or just the incredible over the top mysticism of the institution. For some reason life threw us into the toxic Catholic zone. If not exactly Hell on earth, it was a particularly miserable part of purgatory that we inhabited.

What if we could just do away with it? What if in one act of retribution we could finally get even? Clearly now we have a unique opportunity. Papal conclaves don’t happen every day. But they’re all there! All 115 voting cardinals in one place: Vatican City. There they are pondering which one of them, all pretty much handpicked by John Paul II for their conservative and bizarre otherworldly tendencies, gets to be the next one to wear the white uniform, the funky white hat and the cool ring. It’s not like they are likely to come to their senses; they long ago surrendered their minds to mysticism. Smelling salts won’t knock any common sense into them either. The cardinals will doubtless elect someone a lot like John Paul II: completely out of touch with the real world but with a passion to move the Catholic Universe back into the primordial ooze. First up on the next pope’s agenda: repealing that little concession that the world was round after all.

Perhaps rabid secularists surrounding the Vatican hundreds deep and refusing to let the Cardinals out until they elect a Pope with some lick of common sense could do it. But that’s really that’s wistful thinking. As Bill Frist considers using the nuclear option in the U.S. Senate, perhaps it’s time for the legions of disgruntled ex-Catholics to consider our own nuclear option. We need one neutron bomb in a hurry. Why a neutron bomb? Because we want to kill the Cardinals, not damage Michelangelo’s glorious paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and all the other precious art work. We appreciate good religious art. We’re not freaking Taliban.

Okay, a neutron bomb might be a bit much. A couple frescos might get damaged. So perhaps we need to hire the Russian Government. Their clever strategy in dealing with a Chechnyan terrorist attack was to gas the terrorists hoping to immobilize them. They caused lots of innocent hostages to die, but they were able to kill all the terrorists. But still this seems a bit inhumane. While we’d like to send all the Cardinals to live on an island somewhere, someone might discover them inadvertently. So perhaps the best solution is just to use gas to knock them out. Then of course would come the lethal injections. Yes, there would be a 115 or so dead men in red robes when we were done. But they would be with Jesus.

The upside would be that the Catholic Church could be gone for good. Or am I being optimistic? Perhaps the cardinals who were not allowed to participate because they were too old would select one of themselves to be pope. I don’t think there is anything in the latest Vatican coda that would make it legal, but it is a possibility. So perhaps the institution would survive anyhow. But maybe, just maybe, whatever church emerged would be a grounded in reality.

Okay, enough fantasizing. Very likely the Catholic Church will continue to hang around. Like an unwanted guest at a party, it just won’t leave. But it appears that it’s been a pretty rude guest and lots of others are leaving the party. We can see it in statistics that, here in America at least, only 25% of Catholics bother to go to weekly Mass. Or in places like Mexico and Brazil, long bastions of Catholicism, which are losing parishioners every day to up and coming evangelical churches. While electing another out of touch pope won’t kill the Church, the church is slowly killing itself. Not much blood is being let with all those self-inflicted cuts to its body (probably being done in memory of Jesus’ passion: cue Mel Gibson) but collectively it’s got one major psychosis. And just as most of these teenagers don’t usually die from their behavior, the Catholic Church is unlikely to either. But we can expect it will continue to move toward deeper dysfunction in the decades ahead.

I’m no longer a Catholic and I don’t pray, but if I were a praying Catholic I’d be praying that God would knock some common sense into those 115 cardinals. I’d pray for a miracle.