Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that God exists.

I’ve made no secret of my sincere and complete doubt about the existence of a Supreme Being, a position that generally renders discussion impossible with those who do believe and an actual threatening relationship with True Believers. So let’s take the emotion out of it and look at this question as if it were already settled.

We will agree here that God is not a myth, nor dead. Even given that joint acceptance, it seems to me that God is certainly…


I would suggest that all of human history reflects a reality that we humble beings have always shown more interest in God than God has ever shown for us. Indeed, given all the suffering and pain which has been the lot of the vast number of people who have ever lived and who life today, the very nicest thing that might be said is that God just isn’t paying attention.

There is no other excuse that makes it possible by any logical conclusion that we should love, be beholden to or, bluntly, care a whit about a presumed Creator who would bring forth such a reality and, throughout all of history, demand full and unconditional worship as a promise for an entirely questionable eternal reward.



I have no idea why I was moved to do a Google search just now on a convict who was sentenced to life in prison for a 1972 murder.

Well, maybe I do, at least a little bit. For better or worse, little bits of the past tend to cross my mind when I least expect and am paying even less attention. When the name Jouett Arney flashed across the great blank screen that is my subconscious, I was in the middle of preparing dinner and since I had a few minutes before the rice boiled and the the pork loin was done to perfection, I sat down here and entered it in the Google box.

Three decades ago, Jouett Arney sent me a letter. I am vague on how he had my name or address but my best guess is that it was not originally sent to me but to an independent movie producer with whom I was working on various projects. Arney was in the Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas, serving a life sentence for shooting and killing a resident of Kansas City in 1972.

He said he was innocent and, over the next several months that we corresponded by snail mail and two telephone calls, he tried to convince me of that.  He sent a steady stream of documents which he claimed supported his accusation of being railroad. They were impressive enough that I followed up with the Department of Corrections and State Attorney General to ask questions. Their answers left a few questionable areas but generally deflated his case.

I am no expert on convicts and their behavior but, assuming that a generality used in crime fiction and TV shows has some merit, I also noted that his documentation showed that he had a tendency to feel betrayed by those he asked to argue his case in relatively short order if he got no results. That was the way our relationship ended as well, when he sent an angry letter instructing me to turn over all his papers to a Filipino woman in New York he claimed to be engaged to.  I met her for lunch in Philly and gave her the documents and that was the end of it.

This, dated December 2003, is what I found tonight when I did that Google search:

Convicted murderer Jouett Edgar Arney, whose 1977 petition protesting prison conditions led to federal court oversight of the Kansas penal system, died Monday. He was 71.

Arney died in the clinic at the Lansing Correctional Facility, where he was serving a life sentence for a 1972 killing in Kansas City, Kan. He suffered from persistent health problems, but the Department of Corrections will not know the exact cause of his death until it conducts an autopsy, agency spokesman Bill Miskell said.

In a 1989 interview, Arney said he had picked up most of his legal knowledge from one book in the Lansing prison library when he banged out his six-page petition on a typewriter. He filed it in U.S. District Court, representing himself.

Consolidated with other cases, Arney’s petition led the state to sign a 1980 consent decree promising to improve prison conditions and relieve overcrowding. Seven years later, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report on conditions in Lansing, and U.S. District Judge Richard Rogers intervened.

The following year, Rogers ordered nearly 800 inmates released from Kansas prisons. The judge eventually set capacity limits for each institution and did not close the case until 1996. Because of Rogers’ orders, the state built a maximum-security prison outside El Dorado and a mental health center for inmates in Lansing.

William Rich, a Washburn University law professor who represented inmates and met with Arney regularly over 15 years, said Arney’s efforts eventually made the state more sensitive to prison conditions.

The interesting thing about all this, assuming there is any interest at all except to me, is that there surely might have been a small film or TV drama built around how his life worked out in the end, a convicted murderer who help reform his state’s prisons.

This Sunday Morning’s TV talk shows today: I predict so you won’t have to watch.

Since he was shut out last week, I would assume that all the Sunday AM shows will be required by contract to have John McCain as the honored guest lest he crash a plane into their studios (if he does,  you can be sure that the explanation will be some form of “Both Sides Do It!”). They will surely ask him about the Palin family drunken brawl in Alaska this week and whether or not his choice of the grifter/half-term governor was a wise one, right? I mean, to not do so would…um, be pretty much standard practice.

Chuck Todd will definitely raise that question on NBC because Meet the Press is all new, all different, am I right? And if he can’t quite bring himself to the task, they will let Luke, Son of Tim, do the hard-hitting interview (I give it six months before NBC makes him the next host in any case because why not?).

George Stephanopoulus will take Sunday off on ABC but that’s no big deal ’cause that’s what he usually does. Maybe they can pour enough coffee into Peggy Noonan and she can explain Ronald Regan, just because that (and perhaps some gin) is the answer to everything.

Nobody watches CBS so maybe they will throw a bone to Lindsey Graham and let him have another on-air Panic Attack (you always get the feeling Lindsey is looking for somebody to throw him a bone, right?).

Fox will devote the entire morning to Benghazi.

Koch-blocking Labor Day?

This just in from a source I know very well…

“At a recent GOP Clown Show “Be Here Or Else” performance before the wonderful Koch Brothers, all the putative presidential candidates were informed that one of the first moves to be made on assuming office would be to eliminate Labor Day. “Labor hurts the bottom line,” said the Kochs, “and we do not celebrate anything that behaves in such an un-American fashion.”

“After a lengthy discussion of whether there should even be a holiday at all since holidays also have an impact on the bottom line, it was decided the new president would propose a different name and focus and all employees would be required to work overtime. “Minimum Wage Monday” was the leading suggestion but there was strong support for “Tax Inversion Day” and a huge round of applause for Burger King.

“No decision was made and the discussion moved on to destroying the environment for fun and profit.”

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this account, of course, but you have to admit it’s no wilder than most of the screeching coming from Wingnut World these days.