Thursday, March 29, 2012

Apple Could Take a Bigger Bite Soon


Those ubiquitous smart devices made by Apple, Inc. are already wildly expensive compared to the competition’s offerings.  For those who aren’t satisfied unless they acquire the latest version of the iPhone or the iPad on the first day of release better prepare to dig deeper into their funds.

The New York Times reported Thursday afternoon that Taiwan-basedCHINA-ECONOMY/FACTORIES Foxconn, a leading Asian company that makes electronic products for Apple, Dell, Amazon and others, has responded to negative reports about their factories by promising to cut back dramatically on the number of hours they require their 1.2 million workers and to increase all wages significantly.           New York Times Photo

At the request of Apple, a monitoring group, the Fair Labor Association, recently surveyed more than 35,000 Foxconn workers.  They also inspected three of the large factories where Apple products are manufactured.  The inspectors found numerous examples of the company violating” Chinese law and industry codes of conduct by having employees work more than 60 hours a week, sometimes for 11 or more days in a row.”  Those surveyed also reported the wages to be at sub-subsistence levels.

Apple joined the Fair Labor Association recently and asked them to look into the facilities that manufacture their popular electronic products because of recent flak about working conditions in off-shore manufacturing sites.  Pressure in the form of petitions and protests from labor rights organizations has caused Apple to release a list of 156 of its suppliers – something they had declined to do previously.

Foxconn, if it wants to continue to supply products to technology giants in the United States, is going to have to hire a lot more employees at the same time as they are raising their wages.  That monumental cost will undoubtedly be passed on to their customers, who will undoubtedly pass it to consumers –unless somewhere along the chain a company is willing to cut their profit margins.  Yeah, right.

I love my iPhone 3GS, mostly because I waited until the 4G version was launched and got it for $19.99 when I signed up with AT&T Mobility.  I can envision no circumstance in my future that will find me paying $830 for the latest and greatest iPad or $400 for the iPhone 4S, so anything more than a nominal increase in Apple’s prices will likely send me back to the competition.

Why not just bring all that manufacturing back to the U.S.?

As a matter of fact, President Barack Obama asked the late Steve Jobs that same question in February 2011 at a dinner for top luminaries in Silicon Valley.  Jobs’ answer? “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

A January 21, 2012 New York Times article by  Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher goes into great detail about how Apple went from a company bragging about having a totally-made-in-the-USA product to having all its iPhones and iPads assembled by 20,000 people in China.  The bottom line was clear:

1)  America is not producing enough industrial engineers who have more Foxconn employees2than high school training, but less than a full bachelor’s degree to fill Apple’s needs. An Apple analyst once forecast it would take as long as 9 months to recruit 8,700 engineers; China did it in 15 days.

Donald Chan/Reuters
 
2)  China and other Asian countries have are capable of marshaling vast numbers of employees with the requisite skills, virtually overnight.  They have also designed their facility campuses with the supply chain in mind, usually locating individual suppliers within miles of one another.  They also built on-site dormitories for their employees, where as many as 25 percent of their workers sleep, making it possible for bosses to awaken their captive work force for emergency re-tooling and other turn-on-a-dime adjustments.

3) Foxconn workers, on average, earn about $17 a day and usually work 12-hour shifts, six days a week.

4) One facility, formerly known as Foxconn City, has 230,000!  Foxconn employs nearly 300 guards just to direct foot traffic in order to avoid stampedes at quitting time.

The chances of restoring the middle-class in America to its former prosperity by reclaiming manufacturing in a global economy appear to me to be zero to none.  To succeed, other companies must follow Apple’s example and go where the economies of scale can keep pace with the kind of global growth they must have to stay competitive.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Open Letter to My Black Son

No one has to tell you the position you hold on my list of importance.  You were number one from the minute I heard your boisterous howl in that delivery room.  I have been your number one fan from that day forward.

You have certainly made it easy for me to be as doting as I am.  You were a mischievous little thing, always on the move, always exploring the world around you, especially those things I preferred you didn’t see.  But you excelled. In school, when you weren’t banished to the hallway for entertaining your classmates with your antics, you amazed your teachers with your ability to read and comprehend books at reading levels years above your age.  Your athleticism was apparent, even at age 5, when you played your first T-ball game.

You learned about racial prejudice much too soon, despite my efforts toSteve at Peter Piper school minimize your exposure to it.  That blonde boy at Peter Piper Pre-School, where you spent your days while I worked at the University of Chicago, brought to your attention the fact that your skin was what he called black. You argued with him, pulling the black crayon out of your box of many colors and holding it against your arm.  You knew your arm was not black, even if you were only 4 years old.  We talked about it when I picked you up from school that day.  It was the day you lost your innocence, in a way.

Today you tell me how wise it was of me to marry your stepfather and move you out of that somewhat affluent Southside Chicago neighborhood – the same neighborhood our current President calls home.  In retrospect, you think you were falling in with some boys who would have led you into a life of thuggery.  You were only 8 at the time, so I’m not sure how true that is, but our move to California did change the scenery along your road to adulthood.

In California you grew up, not without your bouts with racism, to be sure, but in an environment that was designed to keep you safe from the lure of urban gangs and a life on the mean streets of Oakland.  My white husband, who adopted you and made you his son too, was proud to be your dad and gave you (and me) everything we could have wanted.  You were a black boy in a white world with a black mother and a white father. It wasn’t until last year that you told me how much taunting you suffered in that town.  It nearly broke my heart.

You thrived anyway, took advantage of many of the opportunities you were afforded, excelled in baseball, graduated from college and landed in Hollywood.  Your life, in many ways, sounds like the plot of one of the movies you could do.

For years I have patiently and quietly waited for the day I would become a grandmother.  You are my only chance for that, since you are my only child.  I know you have always dreamed of having a little girl to spoil and a little son to mold into another man of many talents.  But you have been very smart in the conduct of your adult life.  You believe you should be financially stable before you marry or bring children into the world.  I taught you that, so I have no one to blame but myself.

I saw your hoodie picture on Facebook the other day.  It was in tribute to Trayvon Martin, the youngster in Sanford, Florida who was shot to death while walking through a gated community, apparently doing nothing but breathing while black.  Your face in that hoodie reminded me of what I have been thinking since I heard about young Trayvon’s fate.  It could have been you.  It could have been your cousin, my sister’s son.  It could have been his 19-year-old son, who is about as threatening as a baby bunny.

If you were to have children, what chance will they have of the kind of life you’ve had or I’ve had?  Will it be possible to shield them, even if they are raised in gated communities, away from inner cities?  You and I both know that even in a state as liberal as California, there are places not too far from what we consider safe towns that are teeming with racists.  Remember Concord?  That was only 20 minutes from where we lived, but a young black man was actually lynched there in the 1990s.

I try not to be an alarmist, but I have been wondering if I still think bringing new life into this screwed up world is a good idea.  I still worry about you, and you are a grown man more than capable of taking care of yourself.

But what can your children expect?  What will you tell them to do to ensure themselves a decent life?  Will there even be jobs for them to work?  Will there be enough food produced in the world to feed them by the time they are grown?  If you have a son, will he be hunted like a deer in open season?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Coquette to the Rescue

 

Coquette "Coqui" B., the Bichon Frise who allows me to share her townhouse, is now officially worthy of the moniker humanitarian...or is it animalitarian (yes, it IS a word -- look it up?)

Since I'm not (yet) bothered by the spring pollen in Atlanta, my patio door stayed open all day yesterday.  I have been consistently fascinated by the behavior of Xylocopa virginica, commonly known as the carpenter bee. Carpenter-Bees   During the day they hover and buzz outside the patio door, but they never enter the room.  It's as if they can see a boundary, unlike most other flying insects.

Last night around the time American Idol came on, a male carpenter bee came careening through the door, scaring the life out of me.  Coqui, on the other hand, behaved as if the bee had rung the doorbell -- tail awagging, ears pulled back, spinning in circles.  Her natural instinct is to leap into the air and attempt to grab the bee in her mouth.  Thankfully, it is usually a male  that hovers around the nest, and our doorway, while the female is out gathering nectar.  The male is not capable of biting or stinging, thank Mother.

The bee found a haven in the big Tiffany-style lamp by the fireplace. In that confined space, his buzz sounded a lot like a pair of hair clippers on crack.  Round and round and round.  Rest.  Round and round and round. Rest.

Coqui was beside herself.  She stood beneath that lamp for 30 minutes, waiting for her new friend to rejoin us in the living room.   I was far more interested in getting that thing out of my house.  The bee won, though.  Coqui and I went up to bed while the bee continued to literally knock itself out in the lampshade.

This morning when we came downstairs, Coqui made a beeline (sorry) for the lamp.  Hearing no sounds, she began to look around for signs of the twilight intruder.  I busied myself with cooking breakfast, filling water and food bowls, taking my daily medicine and such.  After a while I realized Coqui was not in her usual spot on the couch.  After a quick look around, this is what I found:

Coqui with Carpenter Bee

I should have used the video button on my camera.  I never seem to remember it's there until the photo op is over with.  The bee was gasping, weak and dying.  Coqui kept a version of this posture for about 20 minutes.  She circled the chair above and pawed the floor, trying to get the bee to move.  At first, her efforts were met with a brief fluttering of wings and a comparatively weak serenade of buzzes.  But about 10 minutes into it, the bee was spent.  Not dead yet, but on life support.  I scooped him up and put him outside to complete his natural cycle of life.

This dog of mine is pretty cool.  A year or two ago I posted about a similar episode involving a baby squirrel who had apparently fallen from its nest in the towering oak above the spot we found it.  She watched over that tiny animal until it hid itself under a bush.  The next morning, Coqui ran to the spot she last saw "Squiggy" and found his lifeless corpse.  The evil cat owned by a neighbor must have toyed the poor thing to death.  I swear that dog went into mourning.

Who says a dog has no feelings?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

9,378!

Pollen on car
Trees
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Joyce Kilmer

Yeah, well, whatever, Mr. Kilmer.  You obviously never visited Atlanta, Georgia in the springtime... or in the case of the year 2012, wintertime.

I moved into my first Atlanta house on April 1, 1993.  It was already spring and the azalea bushes in the front yard were only barely budding.  At around  65 or 70 degrees, the weather was exactly as I expected of the deep south.  

Two weeks later I took my brand new Mazda out of its garage home and drove to a strip mall to do a little bargain shopping for the house.  I was in the store for no more than 20 minutes.  As I approached my car I noticed its Mediterranean Blue Metallic paint had taken on a decidedly chartreuse cast, minus the shine.  What the...?  On closer inspection, the fine powdery substance which covered every inch of the car looked a lot like mustard powder.

A shopper whose car was parked next to mine emerged from the store and caught the quizzical look on my face.  Laughing, she asked "New in town?"  She went on to explain the annual excuse all Atlantans use for not washing their cars in mid-April: pine pollen.

To state the obvious, this is mid-March.  The azaleas have been in full bloom for two weeks.  The Annual Dogwood Festival is held somewhere around April 20 each year, a time when the dogwood trees are in full bloom.  Well, guess what?  It is March 20 and the dogwood trees are already in full bloom!  The Dogwood Festival will be dogwoodless in 2012.

Dogwood blooms

And this morning the pollen count it 9,378 per cubic meter, a number which shatters all other records for any day since the scientists have been measuring.  The previous record established in 1999 at 6,013 was obliterated by yesterday's 8,000 plus reading.  That didn't last long. 

The pollen count is determined by counting the number of pollen grains landing on a given area during a specified period of time.  The count is taken by spinning a rod that moves through the air at certain intervals. The pollen that sticks to the rod are stained and examined under a microscope for counting.  

The photo above is of the windshield of my car.  The entire car looks like a Sasquatch threw up on it.  Oddly, enough, what you can see -- that putrid yellow-green stuff is pretty harmless, mainly because it is large enough to see with the naked eye.  It is what cannot be seen that is stopping allergy sufferers in their tracks today.  And the grasses haven't even started yet!

The tree reflected in the windshield has started raining its sap and bud hulls down into the pollen, creating this nauseous vision. 
Pollen on car 2
As I took this photo I could have sworn I heard that fly in the middle sneezing.

According to an allergist who appeared on the local newscast last night, it takes 10-15 years of living in Atlanta to develop allergies to local trees, weeds and grasses.  I have lived here 19 years and have been spared, so far.  Except for the mold spores that have still not appeared, that is.  I will have a headache, day and night, for weeks in July.  Except this year, it will probably be in June AND July, because everything is a month ahead of schedule.

We have also broken the record for the number of consecutive days in March above 80 degrees.  Today, we will break it again.  

What the hell is going on with the weather?  It will be 83 degrees in Chicago today, while the folks in Flagstaff, Arizona are still shoveling out the  two feet of snow that fell there Sunday!  Meanwhile, the people in Los Angeles are expecting a high today of a chilly 66.

I would launch into another rant about how ridiculous it is for the Republicans to insist there is no such thing as global warming, but...it's too hot.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

St. Patrick Was No Snake Charmer

Chicago River green

Coming as I do from Chicagoland, St. Patrick’s Day has always been the best excuse of the year– aside from New Year’s Eve, I suppose – to get my drink on.  The Chicago River, which at one time was part of the view from my office window, would turn a garish emerald green overnight and the office would be buzzing with plans to guzzle insane quantities of goulish green beer. Those who weren’t inclined to dye their innards green might plunge into the rowdy crowds that line State Street for the annual St. Paddy’s Day parade.Chicago St. Patrick parade

March 18 of every year always held the record for the most tardy and/or absent employees on a given work day.  Those who did show up were about as useless as the coffee they poured into their roiling guts. Resplendent in green attire, leprechaun ties and shamrock jewelry on the 17th, the office staff only wore green around their gills on the 18th. 

Being a Catholic and all, it never occurred to me to question the relationship between all this desperate debauchery and the guy they were allegedly celebrating.  This Patrick guy had the honorarium “Saint.” in front of his name, so I knew he must have been holy.  I was never quite sure why people believed he mesmerized and lured thousands of Irish snakes to their deaths by drowning, but then, there were so many things about my religion I couldn’t quite fathom.

I have finally done the research.  Let’s just say St. Patrick, who I assume is in Heaven with the rest of the sainted, is probably sulking in disgust right about now, anticipating yet another display of utter nonsense in his honor.

For starters, Patrick was not Irish.  Historians place his birthplace as somewhere in the south of Scotland.  At age 16 he was captured at his noble family’s farm and sent to Ireland as a slave.  He believed it was his “just desserts” because he was so far afield from God. He learned about the teachings of The Apostles who migrated to Ireland while in captivity.  He eventually escaped and made his way home, where he studied the Holy Scriptures and became grounded in faith.

sshamrock-12323Secondly, the shamrock, which we have come to recognize as the symbol of Ireland, is nothing of the kind.  It was simply a prop Patrick used to help explain to the pagan Druids in Ireland the concept of the Christian trinity.  In his short autobiography Confessions, Patrick describes a dream in which he was called by God to return to Ireland to convert all the people there to Christianity.

And then there are the snakes.  All historical evidence suggests that there have never been any snakes on the Emerald Isle.  The whole snake sCeltic snaketory is a myth, although some think it might have evolved symbolically from the Celtic snake, one of many pagan symbols.  It could be argued that Patrick symbolically drove out paganism, because he was credited as converting all of Ireland.

Perhaps the most interesting insight I have gained through my brief research is the fact that St. Patrick did not practice Roman Christianity, which was what was taught and, in some cases, required in the Britain of the time.  Instead, his was a Celtic Christianity, based more on the teachings of the apostles and far less on the teachings of Rome.

Concerning the training given in the Celtic Church during and after the time of Patrick, we read, “The youth in the Culdee [Celtic Church in Scotland about the 6th century] schools clung to the fundamental Christian doctrines, such as the divinity of Christ, baptism, the atonement, inspiration of the Scriptures, the prophecies connected with the last days. They did not accept the doctrines of infallibility, celibacy, transubstantiation, the confessional, the mass, relic worship, image adoration, and the primacy of Peter” (Truth Triumphant, Wilkinson, p.108).

Apparently, over the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has worked successfully in re-inventing the life of St. Patrick to better fit into its version of Church history.

.Saint Patrick

By all accounts this Patrick person was a serious, pious and industrious proponent of all that is holy.  I believe it is safe to say he would not understand how his life and times have become the foundation for the sale of buttons and beer, and for drinking one’s self into oblivion.

 

References:

http://realtruth.org/articles/328-spmtal.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick#St._Patrick_banishes_all_snakes_fr

www.christianbook.com/confessions-saint-patrick-and-letter-coroticus/john-skinner/9780385491631/pd/91638#currom_Ireland

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Wire, Holden Caulfield and Lord of the Flies


It could be that today I carry the full impact of these books because they were required reading at the time I was coming of age, learning to view the world outside my tidy little microcosm.

 J. D. Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye was the subject of intense study in my honor’s American Literature class in 1962, my senior year of high school.  William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies was expected to be read by every freshman before reporting to Ripon College’s campus in the fall of 1962. 

Holden Caulfield, Ralph and Piggy, Jack and Simon and Samneric opened my eyes to many of the hazards of life in general, especially as it relates to the systems and institutions people build around themselves and others.

For the past several weeks I have immersed myself in the five riveting seasons of HBO’s 2003-2005 series The Wire.  I kept hearing about that show during it’s run, but was never a subscriber of HBO.  Then, when the George Lucas production The Red Tails opened in theaters earlier this year, readers of my review repeatedly mentioned that some of the actors in the movie were cast members of The Wire.  My curiosity got the best of me and extorted nearly $100 dollars from my bank account to live stream hour after hour of the raw reality known as life in the city of Baltimore, Maryland.

Former Baltimore Sun police reporter David Simon partnered with former Baltimore detective Ed Burns to create one of the most realistic portrayals of big city life I have ever encountered, especially as captured in five relatively short seasons of television.  And throughout my viewing, as the intricately woven layers of the Baltimore Police Department, City Hall, the Baltimore public school system, the Avon Barksdale drug trafficking operation, and the Port of Baltimore stevedore’s union unfolded, scenes from those early books, so deeply etched in my memory, projected their images on the screen in the back of my mind.

Baltimore ostensibly runs on the same basic system of democracy that Ralph developed on that South Pacific island where a World War II evacuation plane full of British boys crashed with no adult survivors.  Over time both “societies” fall prey to what many consider to be “human nature:” the triumph of individual welfare over the common good.

"'We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages. We're English, and the English are best at everything.'" Chapter 2, pg. 40 –Ralph, democratic leader  The Lord of the Flies
I imagine there are many people living in suburban and rural environments who take a simplistic view of the inner city: The bad guys, most of whom seem to be African American, are bad to the bone modern-day savages who have no consciences, no souls and no scruples.  They want what they want when they want it, and they will commit whatever mayhem is necessary to get what they want.
The rest of the institutions – police, government, schools, and business – are, in the eyes of those idealists on the outside looking in, all pulling together to try to save the lawless, soulless savages from themselves or, at the very least, to protect the rest of society from their violence.

[The boys] found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society. They were glad to touch the brown backs of the fence that hemmed in the terror [of the makeshift beast] and made it governable. Chapter 9, pg. 138 – The Lord of the Flies
 
The truth as laid out in The Wire, and for what it’s worth, the way I see it, is there are bad guys and gals at every level of every American institution, all clamoring for what they want when they want it.  Conversely, even in the deadly confines of the urban drug and gang cultures, there are those who try desperately to hear the siren song of a law-abiding drama-free life, but who are more often than not pulled down into the depths by the undertow of survival.  Left to fend for themselves by stoned out mothers, incarcerated or unknown fathers, and a blind-by-choice society, they don’t have a chance in hell – literally.

In The Wire every youngster who made the decision to stay out of “The Game” – the business of moving illegally procured heroin and cocaine from the Drug Lord’s stash to the hands of the hopelessly addicted citizens of Baltimore – either winds up dead at the hands of their own gang or the victim of some competitive gang’s brutality.  Those who don’t die must either  leave town forever or they are gradually pulled into the game.  Those are their choices:  die, leave or play.

Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it's a game, all right - I'll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren't any hot-shots, then what's a game about it? Nothing. No game." Chapter 2, pg.—Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

Even those who try to approach the problems of the urban ecosystem with smart thinking are thwarted.  The Wire character “ Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell” played brilliantly by Britain’s Idris Elba, believes The Game could be played without the violence and vendettas.  He took college courses in economics, purchased real estate holdings with his ill-gotten drug wealth and set up a legitimate business through which to launder the Barksdale gang’s mountains of money.  His incarcerated leader, Avon Barksdale, was a straight-up thug who had little interest in prettying up The Game.  And when Barksdale was released, his way prevailed and Stringer Bell lay slain in a vacant building, a victim of the drug wars between rival gangs.

Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy." Chapter 12, pg. 184 – The Lord of the Flies

Frustrated by the political gamesmanship between the Mayor’s Office and the Baltimore City Council, the police department’s troubled rogue detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) devises a scheme to divert funding from a case being leveraged by the mayor to launch himself into the Governor’s mansion to the long-term effort by McNulty and his partners to bring down the newest drug lord, Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector).  But a similarly ambitious Baltimore Sun reporter creates a tightly woven web by writing false reports about McNulty’s scheme, which the reporter thinks is real.

The tangled webs are woven in the city’s school system, where seemingly uncontrollable ghetto youngsters wreak havoc on a daily basis while teachers beleaguered by No Child Left Behind and other government mandates attempt to teach them something.  Anything.  Creativity on the part of a teacher is rewarded with discipline and ultimatums.  And the kids are lost in the ever-widening cracks of the system.

Me? I feel like poor Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.  I am overwhelmed by the hopelessness that seems to be the result of human folly, self-involvement and self-preservation.  I see the phoniness poor Holden saw at every turn and I, too, feel alone in the world trying to catch the children playing in the rye to keep them from falling afield.

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all." Chapter 22, pg. 173 – Holden Caulfield

It is maddening.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Was That You, God?

 

pekin-indiana-tornado-march-2nd-2012Your devoted fans in the Republican Party say you have a plan.  They say you don’t give us humans more hardship than we can handle.  They say you know exactly what you are doing and there is no such thing as global warming.  And they say “God is Love.”

So, God, was that you last Friday loving on the 39 people who were killed by tornados, 21 of whom were in Kentucky and 12 in Indiana?  Your fans say you are in control of these things, not science, so that must have been you who decided to fling Indiana’s Babcock family from their home into a field via twister.  That must have been you who allowed their toddler, 15-month-old Angel, to stay alive for a day or two before allowing her to succumb to her traumatic brain injuries so that her devastated extended family had to make the agonizing decision to “pull the plug.”

Was that you, God?

I wouldn’t blame you for being fed up with mankind’s inability to use the superior brains you gave us to save us from ourselves.  We have made a fine mess of things, to be sure.  Even 2000+ years after you allegedly sent your son to the planet to save our sorry souls, we are still solving our problems by killing each other.  Oh, we have put our superior brains to work at developing incrementally lethal weapons with which to do our killing.  That we have accomplished.  And your devoted fans in the Republican Party don’t seem to have any problem with any of that.  That they file under “National Security” and parade off to church on Sunday singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Was that you, God, who in 2010 sent that violent earthquake to Haiti to kill 316,000 people, injure 300,000 and make 1,000,000 homeless?  If you love all of us, as your fans insist you do, that is a funny way to show it.  Those Haitian people were already in a pretty bad way.  Many of the houses that earthquake destroyed were little more than shanty huts with tin roofs and dirt floors.  I cannot imagine that you would have a plan that would include such wholesale pain and suffering.  But your fans say it must, because you didn’t prevent it.

Was that really you, God?

That little girl in Georgia, Jorelys Rivera, who was snatched from her apartment complex’s playground, raped, bludgeoned to death and tossed into a trash compactor by a 20 year old janitor—what could she have done to deserve such a violent end to her life?  She was only seven years old. Your son was reported to have said “suffer the little children to come unto me…” (matthew/19-14)  Surely you could have interceded on this poor child’s behalf. 

You and I have had our moments, God.  I have struggled mightily with the evidence that negates your existence.  But then, something happens like it did yesterday.  I had a distant relative come to town for a conference over the weekend.  I picked her and her husband up at their hotel to give them a whirlwind tour of Atlanta.  Since it was a Sunday, the usual traffic madness that Atlantans endure during the week was reduced to a manageable lightness.  As I was passing by Georgia State University, I took too long pointing out a building and allowed the car to drift over the lane line into the path of a passing car.  The other driver reacted swiftly, laid on his horn and averted a collision.  He was as mad as a hornet, but we were spared an unpleasant turn of events, at the very least. 

It is times like that when I think you have intervened, God, and I usually whisper a quiet “Thank you, God.”  Those are the kinds of things I believe a “loving” God would do.

Was that you, God?

Others, your devoted fans especially, tend to think you are angry and send tornados and earthquakes and tsunamis to punish us for our transgressions.  I don’t buy it.  The God I was taught to believe in knows everything and would therefore be able to select the offenders from the masses.  The God I was taught to believe in would protect an innocent child and punish the man who would even think about harming her. 

Most important, the God I was taught to believe in would never punish me for questioning your motives or your very existence.  The so-called fear of God based on the fire and brimstone approach to religions created by mankind is not something I can believe.  Instead, I choose to believe the planet Earth is a complex environment that has its own plans.  The more humans rape and squander Earth’s resources; the more we allow our greed to fail to respect the delicate ecological balances; and the more we operate our “toys” without regard for the polluting effects they have on those balances, the more violent the Earth’s responses.

No, I don’t believe that was you, God.  But if it was, could you please lighten up?

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