Saturday, November 27, 2010

Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers

The Pope has been in the news constantly this week. First, there was the surprising announcement that to avoid AIDS, it might be permissible to use a condom as long as one of the partners was a prostitute. I guess this is progress, but the requirement seems a little drastic for the average couple to use as birth control.

Then there was the story about the present pope, a former Hitler Youth, beginning the slow process of granting sainthood to Pope Pius XII, who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. It is always so touching when Nazis stick together.

With news like this, everyone has all but forgotten about yet another lawsuit against the Catholic Church and alleged pedophiliac behavior by European priests. And there have been calls against the current pope, claims that by covering up the activity of these priests, he is by inaction allowing this activity.

As a historian, I find this a little strange. The history of the church for the last 2000 years shows a relatively simple solution; let the priests marry. Consider a few facts:

Peter, the first Pope, was married, as were most of the Apostles appointed by Jesus. At least two of the Popes were the sons of Popes. For the first couple of centuries, it was widely known that most priests were married, but then, increasingly, there was a general view that priests should avoid women, even their own wives, for their corrupting influence. In the fifth century, St. Augustine wrote, “Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman.” Still, for the next several centuries, the majority of priests were married. In the 9th century, St. Ulrich, a holy bishop, argued from scripture and common sense that the only way to purify the church from the worst excesses of celibacy was to permit priests to marry.

Even today, all around the world, the Catholic Church routinely ignores married priests as long as they do not take their marriage public. This may be the source of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ And it’s not working any better for the church than it has for the military.

I think it is time for the church to face a relatively obvious truth; the only sexual perversion is abstinence.  And, unfortunately, the denial of this simple fact opens the pope up to all forms of accusations. Not surprisingly, many are saying that if the Pope protects pedophiles, he is by extension a pedophile himself.

Why in the world would someone think that the pope might be a pedophile? Why would anyone suspect a billionaire former Hitler Youth of suspicious activity? Who would suggest that a creepy old celibate wearing a bad white dress is a pedophile just because he drives around in a glass walled vehicle (nothing says faith in God more than seven inches of bullet proof glass) that looks like an ice cream truck?

Okay, okay. I’ll lighten up on the Pope.

The seven dwarfs are in Rome and they go on a tour of the city. After a while they go to the Vatican and Grumpy gets to meet the Pope privately. Grumpy, for once, seems to have a lot to say. He keeps asking the pontiff questions about the church, and in particular, nuns.

"Your Holiness, do you have any really short nuns?"

"No, my son, all our nuns are at least 5 feet tall," said the Pope.

"Are you sure? I mean, you wouldn't have any nuns that are, say, about my height? Maybe a little shorter?"

"I'm afraid not. Why do you ask?"

"No reason," said Grumpy, clearly upset. "Are you positive? Nobody in a habit that's about 3 feet tall, 2 feet tall?"

"I'm sure," said the Pope.

"Okay." Grumpy looks dejected at this news, and the Pope wonders why. So he listened to the dwarves as they leave the building. "What'd he say? What'd he say?" ask the other six dwarves.

Staring down at the floor, Grumpy answered, "He said they don't have any."

The other six start chanting: "Grumpy screwed a penguin! Grumpy screwed a penguin! Grumpy screwed a penguin!”

Okay, it’s a bad joke, but Grumpy is still more normal than the Pope.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Think I Want a Train

All week long, there has been one story after another about airport security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). And while I was tempted to write about the latest stupidity at the university (a target rich environment) I simply could not resist writing about the ongoing stupidity we call Homeland Security.

The week began with the notice that you could no longer travel with toner cartridges for laser printers or copiers. Nor could you carry ink cartridges for your inkjet printer. There is an old adage in military history that every general prepares to fight the next war using the same techniques that won the last war. Since historically this strategy rarely works, it has become the standard operating procedure for the TSA. Evidently, just because terrorists tried this once, TSA believes they will, unless toner cartridges are banned, try this same method endlessly. I’m puzzled: isn’t this what you want the enemy to do? Keep using methods you have already learned how to thwart? Is it really in our best interest to force them to try something new?

TSA, here’s a small suggestion: Next time you find a terrorist smuggling a bomb onto a plane, however he is attempting to accomplish the task, keep the new technique secret. Maybe the terrorists will be foolish enough to keep trying the same method. An obvious problem with this suggestion is that I’m not sure the TSA is actually catching anyone. The toner cartridge bomb was discovered in Europe, as were most of the recent attempted bombings we read about.

Usually, the only time I read anything about the TSA is when they have managed to completely take some small situation and totally fornicate it skyward. Such as the latest news that airport searches will now be so intimate that they will include what forty years ago we referred to as reaching third base.

“Not to worry,” says Janet Napolitano, the director of Homeland Security, “The searches are completely non-sexual and performed by members of the same sex.” (Completely ignoring the fact that I have heard, rarely, of sex between members of the same sex.) If the searches are truly non-sexual, what does it matter who performs them? Couldn’t we just go back to the good old days when bomb sniffing dogs shoved their noses into our crotch?

Because we had one moron wearing a pair of exploding underwear, TSA spent billions implementing a new form of full body scanner that is both invasive and embarrassing, slows travel down to a crawl, and not effective against the kind of explosive used by the underwear bomber.  This new form of security has done billions of dollars damage to the economy, making that pair of underwear perhaps the most effective bomb that never exploded in history.  It Al Qaeda really wants to completely stop air travel, they should let us catch the next terrorist with a tampon bomb.  I cannot imagine what form of security TSA would begin using.

Anyone who feels comforted by our airport security measures is too stupid to be allowed to travel alone. I will willing to bet my next paycheck (truthfully not that much, I work for the State of New Mexico) that I could sneak a longhorn steer onto a plane as long as the horns weren’t too wide for the jetway and I had pruchased tickets for two seats.

Could it be possible that the TSA is actually working for the terrorists as a clandestine recruiting organization? By the time I can actually board an airplane, I have to admit that I am a lot angrier at Homeland Security than Al Qaeda. I’m a little hesitant to admit it, but on my last trip, I spent most of the flight happily imagining throwing one particularly rude flight attendant out of a cabin door. I may be turning into a fanatical terrorist; I already have a beard and live in a desert.

I think it is about time to dispose of the TSA. Shut them down, close the shop and send the employees back to the vocational school for retreading tires from which they came. There are 67,000 screeners currently working for TSA, earning from $28,000 to $38,000 a year. That works out to about two and a quarter billion dollars a year. For that much money, we could probably pay Al Qaeda not to bomb us. With that much wealth, before long, they would be too busy buying flat screen televisions to bother us.

To be completely honest, I’m not completely sure if those numbers are correct, since I got them off the Homeland Security website. In all fairness, I should point out that the same site claims that almost 5% of the screeners have been with Homeland Security for over 20 years. The Department of Homeland Security was created October 2001.

There is quite a lot of information on the website: for example, did you know that you cannot travel with a snow globe, even if you pack it inside a checked bag? You can carry a book of paper matches, but not a single wooden match. Gel shoe inserts are forbidden, but you can carry a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.

Have you ever heard the old joke about the ninety year old nun who was not allowed on a plane because she was carrying knitting needles? Seems airport security was afraid she might knit an Afghan.

Well, the story isn’t true. You can carry knitting needles onto a plane. But the regulations specifically ban hockey sticks, more than one musical instrument, and cattle prods.

Maybe I couldn’t get that steer onto a plane.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Drink Responsibly!

It’s simply amazing the number of people who do not understand the need for a good beer. Certainly, my university does not. Periodically, the students express a desire to be able to drink beer legally in a campus bar in the company of faculty and staff, who could possibly teach them to drink responsibly. Inevitably, groups like the Mommies-Obstinately-Forever-Obsessed rise up and denounce the idea as a danger to students. Evidently it is much safer for students to drive on and off campus after drinking. I’m sure the policy is working, I never hear about students in trouble with alcohol.

In New Mexico, I was never quite sure how to teach my children to drink responsibly. Both What’s-His-Name and The-Other-One moved out before either was legally old enough to even drink a beer with their father in our home. This seems a little strange, as the state seems to believe that it is wiser for the teenagers to learn about alcohol from other responsible teenagers than from their own silly parents. Foolishly, since I couldn’t drink with them, I taught them to mix drinks. This was a mistake. It looks unseemly for children to mix drinks…and they use too much vermouth.

This must be a relatively recent idea about beer; as a historian, I can assure you that this has not always been the attitude. To put it simply, beer has been a wonderful and driving force throughout history. 390 years ago, the Pilgrims were on their way to Virginia to establish a colony, but decided to stop in Massachusetts when they ran out of beer. We would have no Plymouth Rock without beer.

The Maya certainly enjoyed an alcoholic beverage. Saying they drank to excess doesn’t do them justice. They damn near swam in alcohol and when they could no longer hold any more beer, they took it as an enema. Evidently, this method allows alcohol to enter the blood stream much faster, leading to even higher levels of intoxication. Across the country, several fraternities, evidently also denied access to a campus bar, have begun experimenting with this technique. Budweisier wants to capture this rising future market and is about ready to introduce a new product just for this practice. It will be marketed under the brand name of Butt Light.

How old is the practice of making beer? The Chinese wrote about brewing it over 5,000 years ago and it undoubtedly began well before that. According to Brian Hayden at Simon Fraser University, civilization owes its very existence to beer. Hayden says that roughly 11,500 years ago the first farmers planted seeds not to grow crops, but to produce beer. This was obviously before the invention of universities.

I have an idea for a new beer that I think will not only be an instant financial success, but satisfy even the most puritanical of teetotalers. What we need is the manufacture and distribution of a new beer named “Responsibly.”

The whole world wants to drink Responsibly; we are constantly being told to drink Responsibly, and the government puts signs along the highway telling us to drink Responsibly. And the best advertising of all--even other beer companies end their beer commercials with a reminder to please drink Responsibly.

There can’t be any complaints; even the university has said it would have no opposition to a campus bar if it could trust the students to drink Responsibly.

If Responsibly is successful, it shouldn’t be too difficult to expand the line of Responsible beers by introducing “Moderately” and “Just One.”

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Dateline: College Town, New Mexico

Less than a week after the History Department was accused of inventing a biography of a fictitious American president, the university‘s Language Department has announced the creation of a new artificial language: NewerSpeak®. An artificial language, NewerSpeak® has been designed to be the most modern language on the planet, a language that can be spoken by everyone.

Originally, the language will be taught by the department’s German professors. When asked about the change, Dr. Grumbles, the department’s senior German professor, said, “We had to do something: no one wants to speak German anymore. Even the Germans are switching to Turkish.”

Explaining the new language, Dr. Grumbles added, “This language has been specifically designed to be easy to learn. Students study for weeks trying to learn the past tense in most languages. With NewerSpeak®, you just use the present tense and add the word ‘yesterday’ to the end. We do pretty much the same thing with the future tense by adding the word ‘tomorrow’ at the end of the sentence. In this way, we can have students speaking grammatically within a month.”

The new language will feature some striking innovations, including a special verb tense, the subjunctive reflexive, for things you wish you could have might have said. And especially appealing to Texans, personal pronouns have been simplified. The first person plural is expressed as us’ins and the third person plural is referred to as y’all.

Among other unique features, NewerSpeak® is designed to be instantly understood by anyone, simply by yelling. And there are three tenses reserved solely for profanity. NewerSpeak® has been designed with sign language built in. Currently, the department is preparing a special edition of an audio 4-CD instruction course for the new sign language.

Asked how the department had designed the new language, Dr. Grumble said that the new language takes the best features of several existing artificial languages such as Esperanto and Klingon, combines them with the simplicity of Pig Latin and Double Dutch, and then adds a little flavor by throwing in the hand gestures of Italian. Dr. Grumbles proudly proclaimed, “We have moved out of the days when language merely evolves-this language is the result of intelligent design! This is language 2.0, a language designed for the new millennium!”

Viewed as a major breakthrough in the teaching of languages, this will probably be the most noteworthy achievement of the department since the publication of “Quomodo Invidiousulus Nomine Grinchus Natalem Christi Abrogaverit.” (New York, 2008.)

Part of the motivation behind designing the language was need for the department to increase revenues.  Shrinking enrollment for some languages coupled with departmental budget cuts means that new sources of income must be found.  "We are working on several vocabulary expansion packs that can be sold, and the department has just finished designing a verb tense designed to be used in the fireplace and chimney construction industry; the flu-perfect," explained Dr. Grumbles.

The department will offer a two-year minor in the new language. The first year will consist of classes centered on intensive conversation and the second year is a repeat of the first year, but the tuition will be doubled.

When asked what prompted the department to create the new language, Dr. Grumbles explained that it grew out of the violence along the border of Mexico.

A Mexican bandit had recently made a specialty of crossing the Rio Grande from time to time and robbing banks in Texas. Finally, a large reward was offered for his capture, and an enterprising Texas Ranger, Charles Sadler, decided to track him down.

After a lengthy search, he traced the bandit to his favorite cantina, snuck up behind him, put his trusty six-shooter to the bandit's head, and said, "You're under arrest. Tell me where you hid the loot or I'll blow your head off."

But the bandit didn't speak English, and the Ranger didn't speak Spanish. As luck would have it, a bilingual lawyer was in the saloon and translated the Texas Ranger's message. The terrified bandit blurted out, in Spanish, that the loot was buried under the oak tree in back of the cantina.

"What did he say?" demanded the Ranger.

The lawyer answered, "He said, 'Get lost, Gringo. You wouldn't dare shoot me.'"