Archive for the November Category


I have always been moved by additions to this language we speak.  It is not a static language.  Rather it involves all kinds of new additions.  As Sven Lernevall my friend of many years says of the English language, it is “a rich language.”  And so this small essay is intended to recognize the richness that is coming into the English language.  Richness is not always better, but there it is.

First of all I would like to deal with the term “kerfuffle.”  As I understand it, it is chiefly a British terminology.  For those of us on this side of the Atlantic, it is a reasonably new word.  It means a disturbance or a fuss.  For example, it has been used to describe the situation involving the great uproar about the British Broadcasting System and its handling of a pedophile scandal of one of its own broadcasters.

An example of a kerfuffle in this country might have been the recent presidential election where both sides were predicting victory.  On one hand, the Republicans were cheered by their forecaster named Rasmussen, who claimed that it was all in the bag.  On the other hand, the Democrats would contend that it was never in doubt.  As it turns out, the Democrats were right.  This word may have been around, but I did not know about it until now.  Whether it holds up over a period of years remains to be seen.

There is a second phrase used repeatedly by commentators on television called “drilling down.”  This seems to mean a closer examination of the subject at hand.  Rather than them using that phrase, we are told that we are drilling down.  For example in the recent presidential election, “drilling down” means an examination of how each age group voted, how the ethnic vote went, and various closer examinations of the results.  Whether “drilling down” stands the test of time remains to be seen.  But I suspect that it will last longer than “kerfuffle.”

There is a third term that has come into use which is called “an outlier.”  Again, using the recent election, the Republicans believed that the Democrats’ prediction of victory was “an outlier.”  The same would hold true for the Democrats dealing with Republican predictions of victory.  The “outlier” phrase is probably an old one.  Nonetheless, it has now appeared and radio and television commentators frequently use it.  I am not particularly offended by its use.  I would say that “outlier” is an unnecessary term.  It could be said that predictions of victory in the election might be called “wide of the mark.”  But the phrase of the day is being called “an outlier.”  I predict that “outlier” will have a short shelf life except in statistical circles.

Next we come to a word that had wide usage as I was growing up.  The word is called “scram.”  It means to leave the scene suddenly.  For example if my siblings and I were engaged in dubious activity and my parents came into view, I would scram out of there.  In another case, let’s assume that young people were engaged in an activity that the authorities disliked.  If the cops showed up, they would scram out of there.

Finally we have the recent term called “having skin in the game.”  I do not know where the skin part came in, but it means merely “taking a risk.”  Having skin in the game may be a more colorful phrase, but as a traditionalist, I would stick with “taking a risk.”

I do not know what has happened to the word scram.  Beyond that, I do not know where the word scram came from.  But in any case, I would hold that “scram” was a more appropriate word than “kerfuffle” or “drilling down” or “skin in the game.”  But I am a traditionalist and you must take that thought into account about my thoughts on words like “scram.”

I am happy to see that new words are being used with respect to the English language.  This suggests that the English language is alive and well.  I hope that for the rest of my time here the English language, which is what I try to speak, will continue to have new additions.  They should always be encouraged, even if they include such crazy words as “kerfuffle” and “drilling down.”



November 20, 2012

Essay 719


Kevin’s commentary: I got so damn sick of “drilling down” during the election cycle. I know that all those newscasters were sleep deprived or whatever but that’s no excuse for forgetting that the language has plenty of other ways to indicate that you’re about to look at some details. Ugh. On the other hand, I have never been in a period of my life where I hear the word “kerfuffle” at least four times a day for months on end. I struggle to conceive of such a scenario but I think it would have to do with England experiencing some wide-scale but non-live-threatening problems. I’m feeling like a zombie apocalypse would be a bit too heavy, for instance. Maybe a nationwide tea shortage.




For those of you who follow the publication of books, there is a new one that you may wish to keep track of.  It is called “The Infancy Narratives,” and it was written by none other than Joseph Ratzinger, the head man of the Roman Catholic faith.  This is the third book in a trilogy having to do with the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  Now I say Jesus of Nazareth when it could also be Jesus of Bethlehem.  But that is a small matter about which Jesus calls his hometown.

It is a source of amazement to me that the Pope, now in his 86th year, could find time to write three books.  I suppose that he is required to look after the fortunes of perhaps something on the order of a billion Catholics and to care for their souls so that they will all reach Heaven.  But there you have it.  Joseph Ratzinger, the German Pope, has written a third book, along with all his other duties, in his 86th year, which makes him sort of a phenomenon.

In his third book, Ratzinger makes two or three claims that are unusual.  In the first instance he contends that in the sixth century, a monk or some other lofty preacher made a mistake in calculating the age of Jesus.  Ratzinger contends in his latest volume that Jesus is somewhat older than we have imagined.  I have not read the book, but off hand it seems to me that Ratzinger would contend that Jesus was as much as ten years older than we thought him to be.  I imagine that for the faithful this may come as shocking news.  But there you have it, coming from the highest authority in the Catholic faith.

But there are more subjects in the book that might also shake your faith.  In the first place, it is contended in the latest volume that the birth of Jesus did not necessarily take place in the winter.  Apparently it could have taken place any time during the year.  So the story about “away in a manger” may have no credibility.  It could be that Jesus was born on a warm spring morning or in the heat of a Palestinian summer.

Now comes a very shocking disclosure in the book.  It is contended in the Pope’s latest book that there were no animals present at the birth of Jesus, which means that for two thousand years the greetings of the animals may not have occurred at all, so says the Pope.  According to legend, there were oxen and asses present at the birth of Jesus.  But according to the latest version by the Pope, there were no animals present at the birth.

But that is not all.   The Pope does not mention the North Star guiding worshipers to the site of the birth of Jesus.  In addition, he does not mention the three wise men bringing gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  These are significant omissions.

But then the book goes on to make another very dubious claim.  In this section of the book, it is contended that the birth of Jesus had nothing to do with sexual intercourse between his parents.  According to Joseph Ratzinger, Joseph and Mary lived together but they did not enjoy connubial bliss.  From what Ratzinger has to say, they did not ever consummate their marriage.

Can you imagine Joseph, ostensibly Jesus’ father, going to the marketplace and having friends and neighbors pointing to him and saying that he never consummated his marriage?  I suppose Joseph in refuting such a claim would point out that Jesus and James were his sons.  Beyond all of this debate, has anyone including the Pope, ever interviewed Joseph on the question of Mary’s virginity?  This is an area that needs much further investigation.

Presumably Mary was concerned, more than anything else, with the preservation of her virginity.  Sooner or later, even without the benefit of sexual intercourse, Mary became pregnant.  The usual suspects were named, including the Holy Ghost.  Did the Holy Ghost cuckold Joseph?  But according to Ratzinger, Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have continued to preserve her virginity.   So much so was this the case that a few years ago, the Vatican declared that Mary was “a perpetual virgin.”

The fact of the matter is that Mary had a second son named James.  Whether he proceeded Jesus or whether he was the second son is unclear to me.  But I am not a Biblical scholar.

It appears that, according to Ratzinger, Mary became pregnant by the actions of a divine creature such as the Holy Ghost.  Presumably she went through all of the pains of pregnancy, and at its end she produced Jesus.  The question that arises here is why the divine creatures required Mary to go through nine months of pregnancy.  Why could they not just produce Jesus on the spot as a miracle?

But if Mary was “a perpetual virgin,” we are left in doubt about whether or not she yielded her virginity to her lawfully wedded husband Joseph.  Is this where James came from?  I do not have an answer for you.  Perhaps if Joseph Ratzinger writes a fourth volume, he might tell us.  As it is, I am left in the dark.  Everyone knows that I am the ultimate ecclesiastical authority on these matters.

Mary’s giving birth to Jesus occurred more than 2,000 years earlier than the discovery of artificial insemination.  So we can rule that concept out and we are left only with the thought that Mary became pregnant as a result of the workings of the Holy Ghost or some other creature.

As you have imagined by this time, I am a skeptic on Mary’s virginity.  Why would a man marry a woman who intended to keep her virginity throughout her life?  That is not the purpose of marriage.

Now I have one more thought having to do with the birth of Jesus.  If the birth of Jesus occurred at some other time than December 25, why could it not be that the birth of Jesus took place in April, perhaps on April 16th?   The thought that goes through my mind on this subject has to do with the Pope’s birthday, which occurred on April 16, 1927.  If it could be argued that the birth of Jesus occurred on the same day as the birth of Joseph Ratzinger, could this not be an indication that His Holiness Joseph Ratzinger has a claim on sainthood?  Could this be his miracle?  I realize that this is a Machiavellian thought, but Ratzinger could well be a fellow given to Machiavellian ideas.  The Pope is now in his dotage and I would tend to accept the idea that Ratzinger has a desire towards sainthood.  This would be a way that he could leave his mark on the Church of Saint Peter.

According to the Vatican, there will be a million copies of this book printed.  So there is no need to rush to your bookstore before they run out.  As I said, I am a skeptic on the matters of perpetual virginity and the fact that Mary and Joseph lived their lives without ever enjoying sexual intercourse.  But I am a non-believer.  So those thoughts are not recognized by the deities such as Joseph Ratzinger.

The fact that the Church ascribes perpetual virginity to the mother of Jesus has always baffled me.  Why do they not ascribe it to Jesus himself?  Is it because of his involvement with Mary Magdalene?  Are there other signs that Jesus was married?  The celibacy of the Catholic clergy, I suppose, is a sign that the Church still worships at the altar of celibacy.  Mark me down as baffled as to why the Church ascribes perpetual virginity to Jesus’s mother but not to himself.

This, then, is my book report on Joseph Ratzinger’s latest volume called “The Infancy Narratives.”  I am at a loss to know why the superpowers did not merely invent Jesus.  They could have saved Mary the trials and tribulations of her pregnancy.  And it might do something – a very little something – to assuage my unbelief on religious matters.  So this is the book report that I have thought about for the last week or so.  Upon reading “The Infancy Narratives,” which I do not propose to do, I may have something further to say on this subject, but I doubt it.



November 27, 2012

Essay 720


Kevin’s commentary:

I have a few thoughts here. First, I wonder who has written more — Pop or the Pope? They are of similar ages and clearly both are quite prolific.

Regarding the contents of the book, I have two major reactions. The first of these is positive. Scholars have known for a while now that pretty much every element of the Jesus birth story on the 25th in the manger with the north star etcetc has been lifted from other religious or pagan traditions. There is a pretty enormous corpus of evidence to this end. That’s all well and good, it makes sense that to spread a religion you sorta adapt it to the local belief system to make it plausible and then roll from there.  Lots of pagans liked the 25th because it’s near the winter solstice and it’s when they celebrated Yule, for example. Plus there are also lots of internal issues with the story, regarding shepherds deciding to tend their flock at night, the North Star not being visible from the Middle East in December, yadda yadda. So the good news is that all that’s out the window! Christianity’s a little more plausible! Huzzah!

The second major reaction is negative, in that if Christ’s birthday was off by 10 years then I was really born in the year 2000, not 1990. Every date ever recorded is wrong by ten years!


This essay has to do with the very recent death of an Indian woman who had moved to Galway, Ireland.  Her death has bothered me greatly.  The fact of the matter is that she did not have to die.  As it turns out Savita is dead and the authorities are doing nothing about it.  During her illness, which resulted in her death, both the Catholic Church and the Republic of Ireland are complicit in what many of us regard as her murder or needless death.

Let us start at the beginning.  Her name was Savita and her last name was Halappanavar.  Savita was a beautiful Indian woman who was 31 years of age at her death.  She was married to an engineer from India.  Savita was a dentist.  Sometime in the past, she and her husband concluded that they should reside in Galway, Ireland.  All indications are that she was enjoying her life among the Irish.  She had established her dentistry practice and was pursuing that occupation at the time of her death.


A few years back Ireland passed a constitutional amendment which is very much like those proposed here in the United States involving the so-called personhood amendment.  In Ireland, the fetus – not a human being – under the personhood amendment has all of the rights accorded to citizens of that great republic.  The physicians who attended to Savita told her that as long as the fetus had a faint heartbeat, nothing could be done for her.  Savita told the Irish authorities that she was neither Irish nor Catholic.  This made no difference at all.  The fact is that she was in a Catholic institution in a Catholic country and there would be no abortion.

After a time the heartbeat of the fetus stopped and it was finally delivered.  With all of this delay in starting the abortion process, septicemia had set in.  The terminal delay that accompanied this case has resulted in Savita’s death.  Septicemia is a deadly disease.  Obviously, septicemia was a function of the dithering that took place because of the Irish Catholic prohibition of abortion.

When Savita presented herself to the hospital authorities with the bleeding from her fetus, every civilized county would have prescribed immediate abortion.  The fetus had no chance at life because it was bleeding to death at the 17th week of pregnancy.  But the Irish are slaves to the requirements of the Catholic faith.  Similarly the legal authorities in Ireland are also enslaved to adherence to the Catholic faith.  So that is why I contend that the Catholic Church and the Republic of Ireland are complicit in causing the death of Savita.  I am outraged!  In any civilized country, Savita’s life would have been saved had she had an abortion when she reported to the hospital about her back pains.  But as the authorities at the hospital told Savita, she was in a Catholic institution in a Catholic country.  Thus Savita must die at the tender age of 31 years simply to satisfy the requirements of the Vatican.

I am assuming that the readers of Ezra’s Essays know of the fact that I am the descendant of Irish people.  Over the years, I have been quite proud of the fact of my Irishness.  Not only that, but my wife traces her heritage through her mother to County Armagh, an adjoining county to Donegal, where my people came from.  But in this case, every Irish person must be ashamed of what has been done to Savita.  We don’t treat people like that in Ireland, in what I have always assumed was a civilized country.

If Savita were a resident of other Catholic countries such as Italy, Spain, or Portugal, she would have been granted her desire to have an abortion to save her life.  There is no question about that.  If she had been a resident of Mexico, also a Catholic country, there would have been no problem about the abortion.  Ah, but this is Ireland, and rules are rules.  In this case, the rules resulted in the death of Savita.

Until recently, a Bishop in the Catholic Church was about as high as a man could go in the Irish Republic.  Over the past year or thereabouts, there have stories of pedophile priests violating their young altar boys.  So much of this was true that it resulted in the resignation of one of the leading Bishops in Ireland.  But the civil authorities in Ireland have not gotten the message.  When a Bishop of the Catholic Church wishes to have something done, the presumption is that it will be done because we are dealing with a Bishop who controls our eventual destiny.  How ridiculous can you get?

I told you at the outset of this essay that I was angered.  I am still angered at the thought of Savita losing her life because she went to a Catholic hospital in a Catholic country like Ireland.  This was a needless death as protesters will be quick to remind you.  But appealing to the civil authorities has no hope of help.  The government of Ireland is helpless when it comes to abortion just as they are helpless when it comes to occupation of their country.  It need not be this way, but that is the way it is.

As of 1922, when the Republic of Ireland came into existence, the British laid out a claim to six counties in Northern Ireland.  For the 90 years since that treaty was concluded, there have been troubles.  Basically the troubles had to do with a foreign entity, England, occupying a significant portion of Ireland, including its second city of Belfast.  Had we heard any whimper of throwing the Brits out?  The answer is a resounding no.

And have we heard any whimper of any descent against the Catholic prohibition of abortion. The answer to this also is a resounding no.

As I said, this essay was constructed because of my outrage because of Savita’s death.  I do not know whether Joseph Ratzinger, the current Pope, is aware of Savita’s demise.  In any event, Ratzinger will conclude that the directive not to provide abortion services comes from God.  And the Republic of Ireland will not need to interfere in the workings of the Catholic Church, which meant that Savita’s life would not have been saved.  This is a sad situation.  But I regret to inform you that that is the state of the record if you need an abortion in a Catholic hospital in Galway in the great state of the Irish Republic.  How sad!



November 20, 2012

Essay 718


Kevin’s commentary: This one is sorta hard to comment on other than to say that it’s clearly unacceptable. Religion is often at its ugliest when it imposes itself on those who do not subscribe to its bizarre stipulations.