Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Books For Jock Failure

Guest Post by Doctor Snedley, Doctor Biobrain’s Assistant

Greetings, Biobrain fans. The good doctor was out for the evening, and I decided to fill-in for the big guy in his absence. He hasn’t been posting anything lately (especially not anything decent), so I thought that this is the least I could do. And if things work out, maybe he’ll let me fill-in for him more often (perhaps permanently (not that he needs to know anything about this)).

So I was scanning over blogdom this evening, looking for some prime material to bestow on you people, when I came upon this site called, and I kid you not, The Questionable Authority. And questionable, this guy was. He was posting about the recent lawsuit that some Christians in California filed against the University of California, for not accepting Christian-based science classes as valid course curriculum for incoming students. As Questionable quotes from one of the texts “The people who prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second...If...at any point God's Word is not put first, the authors apologize.

And this guy seemed to have some real problem about all this, referring to the authors as “apologetics trying to hide in a lab coat.” As if Bob Jones University Press would put out an ill-informed textbook written by hacks. You’d have to read his whole post to get the derogatory nature of this guy's posts. And this went against some recent work I’ve been doing on the side, in a similar vein as these Christian-based books, so I just couldn’t leave it alone; lest he ruin it for all of his. So I posted the following comment over at his site, to let him see the bigger picture of all this stuff.

This is all bullshit. I fully support this lawsuit and hope it wins. Not because I believe in the creationist mumbo-jumbo. But so my sports-based textbooks on science, history, math, and language arts will finally be accepted as primary learning materials in public schools nationwide. It's high time we end the content discrimination against our sports-minded students; particularly the athletes themselves, who have suffered gravely from this unwarranted bias against their natural inclinations. Often being denied access to the very sport that makes them interesting, simply because some stuffy professor has a different belief system and wants to destroy sports.

Sure, I cover the subjects at hand, but always from an athletic perspective; focusing primarily on football, basketball, baseball, and (grudgingly) soccer. And if there is a conflict between the particular field and sports, sports will always come first, naturally.

For example, there really wasn't much in the way of football, basketball, baseball, or soccer during most of history, at least not in any recognizable form. So we'll just be skipping that part. My limited understanding of science, math, and language arts also lead me to skim back some of those texts too. In fact, we'll mostly be focusing on sports trivia (history), rules (language arts), sports statistics (math), and anything else I can plug-in which won't let too many jocks fail (science). Because there's nothing worse than a failing jock.

So all I can say is that it's good to see like-minded people thinking alike, and I praise these brave Christians for paving the way for all the academically-different everywhere. Thanks to these trailblazers, we might soon live in a world in which each child can pick the textbook of their choosing; and where "tests" and "grades" rely more on the student's intent and understanding of their own beliefs, rather than some stuffy academic idea of what is “right” or “wrong”. I'll make a fortune!

Anyway, that’s all for now. Hopefully, you’ll be hearing more from me soon. Biobrain’s been a real jerk about this whole blogging thing, and I hope he appreciates the trouble it was in getting his password (it's "disneykid"). Maybe if he didn’t have me doing all his research and experiments, I’d have enough time to setup my own blog. Maybe that’s his whole game. To keep the real brains of this operation from telling you idiots the truth. Typical.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Kaus the Hack, Part Two: Easterbrook's Revenge

Ok, so I wrote a lot already, but I'm still not done with Mickey Kaus. I said everything I was planning to in the last post (which you should read first, if you haven't already), but my last post proved so popular that I found that I still have more to say. A lot more. Specifically, about the "there's no indication that this "Islamic republic" won't be democratic," part of the post I dissected earlier. And generally, about how this is indicative of his dangerous way of thinking.

But again, I'm the evidence-based type, so I decided to do a wee-bit of research in the Kausfiles, to see what else I could find on his opinions regarding a possible Islamic Republic. And as far as my feeble search skills go, it was nothing; at least for that specific search term. But I did find Kaus's defense of the indefensible Gregg Easterbrook, titled appropriately, "Why ESPN was wrong to fire Gregg Easterbrook" (which doesn't appear to be directly linkable, so you'll have to scroll down if you want to read it). And needless to say, Kaus explains that what Easterbrook did was wrong, but that ESPN shouldn't have fired him for it. And even though that post was a few years old, I dislike Easterbrook so much that I decided to discuss that first, and will have to put off my "Islamic Republic" post for a part three of the trilogy.

A Stupid Man

But before that, let me just say that, to my knowledge, Gregg Easterbrook is a complete nimrod. And I mean complete. He's the package deal. I have rarely read anything as stupid and lamebrained from a professional writer than what I've read from Mr. Easterbrook, and I used to subscribe to TV Guide, so you know what kind of standards I'm talking about.

And it wasn't just one article, it was all of them. I refuse to go back through his archives at TNR, but I am quite categorical about this. Easterbrook is an offensively stupid man, and my biggest concern right now is that my statements might give you the idea that you'll want to re-visit his shitfest, and I really can't discourage that enough. I even refuse to provide a link to my TNR reference above, just so that you'll be less likely to click on it and subject yourself to the horrors of that stupid, stupid man.

And just so nobody gets me wrong, I don't necessarily think that Easterbrook was particularly offensive. But he was offensively stupid. The stuff that made you just feel dumber for having read. Like the stuff that you read at all the worst blogs, but well-written and done in the manner of an intelligent, sensible person; which made it all the more offensive. You can excuse someone's stupidity if they're just so stupid that they can't even function; with more forgiveness as the ability to function plummets. But with Easterbrook, he was clearly educated and whatnot, and really should have known better. So there's just no excuse for the stupidness we were getting out of that guy. Oh, and just to get it out of the way, let me just say again: stupid, stupid, stupid. Thank you.

So you can just imagine my delight/horror in seeing that my newest target, Mickey Kaus, is not only an admirer of Easterbrook's, but also a friend. Of Easterbrook, Kaus writes "He's one of the smartest people I've ever met, and he's produced some of the best journalism I've ever read, and he's extremely funny..." And you've really got to wonder how many of Kaus's friends just wanted to punch him right in the face, with that kind of backhanded insult. Then again, I can't imagine too many intelligent people wanting to be friends with Kaus, so maybe Easterbrook really was at the high end of that hopefully small list of people.


And so I didn't care for Mr. Easterbrook's writing very much. So when he started his blog at TNR, I was aghast. I couldn't believe it. I was a subscriber at the time, and knew that they had writers that I liked, and was absolutely positive that of all their writers, he was the last one I wanted to read every damn day. Not because he was the writer I most disagreed with; because he was far from it (in fact, TNR seems to specialize in liberal writers who I disagree with); but because he's so maddeningly stupid and indefensibly wrong.

I even remember the beginning, when he was writing about what he'd call his new blog. And he finally settled on "Easterblogg", which was just about the lamest thing you could call your blog. Some things are so stupid that they're funny, like exclaiming the word "fart" when you're in the presence of cool people you're trying to impress. And some things are so stupid that they're just even stupider when you use them. And the name "Easterblogg" is one of those things. It was stupid by itself, but when he used it, it became even more stupid.

And I gave his "blogg" a chance at first. I really did. But quickly, I made a point of never ever never clicking on his link again, just so that TNR would quickly realize how unpopular his blog was. One time, when his blog was still new, I meant to click on another blog, perhaps Iraq'd or Etc or Chait's Dean thing or something, but they moved stuff around and I accidentally clicked on that doofus's blog instead. And I got very upset with myself. It was an accident, sure. But I upped his hit counter by one, and was worried that I may have extended the life of that piece of shit blog; if even just for a few days. You just never know, and I'm not one to take chances with this stuff.

And I even wrote a letter. Like an email (as nobody writes "letter" letters anymore), just to complain about the damn blog. Just to complain about how offensively stupid it was. I didn't put it like that, but that was the gist of it. I don't know if anyone read that letter, but it made me feel a little better. And hopefully, more than offset the damage I did with that accidental click I gave him. Or so I wanted to believe.

Killing Bill

But one time, after his blog had been there for awhile, I once again clicked on his link. I can't remember what the teaser line was, but I saw that it was about Quentin Tarantino and the newly released Kill Bill, and I just had to see what that dumbass wrote about it. Yes, I overcame my worries about giving him extra hits, just to see what he had to write. I'm a big Tarantino fan, and put him as one of the best directors of our generation (though his recent output has certainly disappointed me, and has been far surpassed by Paul T. Anderson). And though I hadn't seen Kill Bill, nor have I yet (though it is in my Netflix's queue), I really had to read Easterbrook's garbage. (For the record, I really thought KB looked like a comic-book style killing kind of thing, which looked fun, but that's really not my thing.)

And so I read it. And even now I can't believe what he wrote. Now, I'm a big Tarantino fan, but I understand that he's just not everyone's kind of guy. And his movie's aren't for everyone. I'm not fascist when it comes to personal tastes. Whenever I've heard someone state their problems with him, it's obvious that they don't know what the hell they're talking about. And that they're just looking to rationalize the reason why they don't like him, when it's probably more an emotional response against his popularity, style, or whatever. But people do that all the time, and I've learned to deal with it.

Unfortunately, people do the same thing too often in politics, and vote against somebody because they don't look chummy enough, or they don't like the candidate's wife. Or some other stupid shit reason that has nothing to do with why we should elect our leader. That's just how some people work, and you have to learn to deal with it.

And that happened a lot with Tarantino. And so people always tried to latch on to the whole violence thing, because it was the most obvious target. And really, why the hell was anyone singling that kind of thing out, when you've got Governor Arnold's movies, where he uses innocent bystanders as human shields; allowing them to be pumped full of lead as he dismantles an airport's security forces? And forget that the Governator has killed more people in single scenes than all the people killed in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs combined! I mean, really.

And is it really better to see anonymous people murdered indiscriminately, than to see real characters killed with style? In Commando, Arnold killed tons of people to save his daughter (some IMDB estimates put it as high as 90 killed). But who were these people? None of them were fathers? This isn't going to affect anyone's life? It's an automatic death sentence because they accepted a job working for the bad guy? Were they aware of this when they got hired on? Whatever. Oh and speaking of which, if you're a potential commando, and you'd like to learn some important lessons for the job, I suggest you check out the Commando message board at IMDB. You'll thank me later.

But for Tarantino, say what you will and dislike the movies, that's fine. But it's just plain wrong to say he makes bad movies. They might not be everyone's taste, but they're not poorly made. Just because you don't like something doesn't make it bad. There are lots of perfectly fine, well-made movies that I'll never see. Hell, it's very very rare that I ever watch Oscar nominated movies. They're just not my thing, and I find such movies to be fairly bland, boring, and manipulative. But they're generally well-crafted. And the same must be said for Tarantino's films. They might not be your style, but they're at least well-made and certainly stand out from the crowd (though Jackie Brown was a tad boring).

And despite all the knocks on Tarantino, you can't suggest that there isn't sentimentality to his characters. They may be hitmen, bank robbers, or hillbilly bondage rapists; but there is a definite honor among thieves in all his works. They're not fully immoral, they just have a different system of morality. Which often gets them into trouble which they could have avoided had they been complete immoral psychos. Bruce Willis goes back to save the man who was trying to kill him. Clooney really does care for his psycho brother in Dusk Till Dawn, even wanting to protect him after he goes vampire. And (spoiler alert!) everyone ends up dead in Reservoir Dogs, just because Mr. White became too loyal to the undercover cop who he felt responsible for.

And while people don't have to like Tarantino movies, you just can't say that they're poorly made or have no redeeming value. Unless, of course, you're a schmuck named Easterbrook.

A Schmuck Named Easterbrook

Anyway, sorry for that little movie lesson. But it ties into the whole Easterbrook thing, because Greggg just haaaaates Tarantino. Just hates him. Like this: "All of Tarantino's work is pure junk. How can you be a renowned director without ever having made a film that's even good, to say nothing of great? No film student in 50 years will spend a single second with a Tarantino movie, except to shake his or her head."

And that's just stupid. I mean really. I don't care if you don't like the guy. And I'm not suggesting that film students will flock to his work fifty years from now (then again, I think film school's for pussies, and I don't mean that in the good way). But pure junk? All of it?? Come fucking on! That's just stupid. Offensively stupid. And don't even get me started with his "how can you be renowned" garbage, as it obviously doesn't take a good movie to make you a famous director, or vice versa. But take no heed of that. Greggy was just riffing, and didn't have the intellectual capability to take it beyond the basic levels of bullshit (as opposed to my riffing, which rises quickly into the upper echelons of bullshit, and beyond).

And here's the thing about Gregg. It's not enough that he doesn't like something. That's understandable. Everyone has their right to be wrong. But that's not good enough for Gregg. Oh no. He has to insist that everyone should hate it. And some people are just like that. Because they don't enjoy drinking alcohol, it must only be for braindeads who "don't know how to have fun sober". It's not a personal preference thing, or even a biological difference; they have to insult people who enjoy it. Because alcohol doesn't agree with them, it shouldn't agree with anyone. And if you like Big Macs, you're just like a retard who doesn't know what good eating is (Big Macs will always be on my fave list, btw). And because Easterbrook doesn't enjoy Tarantino films? It's not a difference of opinion. They must all be pure junk.

Ok, I wrote a bunch more about this, but I really didn't think it was good enough to deserve such a long-ass post, so I cut it. I'll just give you the Easterquote that inspired it and move on: "Tarantino does nothing but churn out shabby depictions of slaughter as a form of pleasure...". The title of this missing subsection was "Shabby Slaughter", for those keeping track of such things.

It's Never Opposite Day

And let's just get down to brass tacks. The problem with Easterbrook is that he's a contrarian. And not just any contrarian. But someone who doesn't even realize that he's a contrarian, and thinks that his way is the only way. As if he's the conventional wisdom, if only the conventionals were intelligent enough to realize it.

And there are a lot of these guys out there. Somehow, someway, life needs people to take an opposing position for no other reason than that we need an opposing position. And the more widely accepted the conventional wisdom is, the stronger these guys need to oppose it. I'm not sure if this is some inherited trait or the work of some Supreme Being, but it is undeniable that some people play the role of knee-jerk contrarians who must give an opposing position on almost every position imaginable. And the specific role these people play is like ballast, to counterbalance against mob rule. And to some extent, I think this is a good thing; no matter how annoying and prickish these people may seem.

And what I just realized, all the people I cited in my last post regarding "people we wrongly give props to": Thomas Friedman, Andrew Sullivan, Richard Cohen, Christopher Hitchens, and of course, Mickey Kaus and the dreaded Gregg Easterbrook; the one thing they have in common is that they're all unrepentant contrarians. That they just have to take the opposing viewpoint. Well except for Kaus, who merely uses the trappings of a contrarian, but seems to represent the conventional wisdom.

Even their support for the war wasn't due to an undying patriotism towards America or Bush; but simply because they represented the contrarian view to us. They may have seemed to be lockstep with the Bushies, but that was purely coincidental. They supported the war because they really should have opposed it, but had to represent the opposite of what they should have done. And so the stronger we denounced them for being such foolish warhawks, and the stronger our arguments were; the firmer their contrarian minds had to fight against it. Again, except for Kaus, who I believe supported the war because it was the conventional wisdom from the media pundits.

And a big part of this is that contrariness is used to prove intellectual prowess. Because these people know the conventional arguments...or so they think. For them, it's like child's play to give the straight-forward arguments. And so they automatically take things a step further, and argue for the opposite position from the one that seems obvious. Like people trapped into being the Devil's advocate. But it becomes such a habit that they stop being able to give conventional arguments, and find themselves to always be on the other side. It's all just an intellectual game that takes over and destroys their minds.

If the subject is slavery, they might argue that maybe slaves didn't have it so bad. And if it's about welfare and other government aid, they might argue that these things hurt the recipients and that it's better for poor people to not have them. And if the argument is terrorism, they'll argue that...well, I'm not exactly sure what their contrarian argument is, because it sounds so much like the Bushies' argument. But I guess that's contrarian enough for them, because the Bushie argument was simply atrocious.

And that's a problem that we have when dealing with them, as all the contrarian arguments are also often ones that the truly egregious people use; at least on the surface. Racists will argue in support of slavery. Greedy bastards will argue against welfare and other government aid. And racists, greedy bastards, and morons will argue for the War on Islam. And so it's not so easy to understand which is which. But if you don't understand the underlying motives for why people make these arguments, you will never convince them of anything. You'll just be wasting your time because your arguments against their straight-forward stupidity will bounce off of them, as they already know your argument (or so they think) and believe themselves to be one step beyond it.

And if you suggest to these contrarians that they're racist, greedy, or stupid; they'll laugh you off and know that you don't know anything. Because the truth is that they're just bastards who don't give a shit about anything, and just like to show-off their debate skills and intellectual superiority (or what they imagine to be these things). And if they're drunk enough, they'll agree whole-heartedly with that assessment.

So while it's not impossible to debate them, you need to know why they say what they're saying, and adjust your arguments accordingly. Not that it really matters, as these people have given up discussing realworld issues, and everything is rhetorical to them. Absolutely everything.

Oh, and as an extra note written in an extra-superb drunken stupor, I predict that the recent revival of the social and fiscal conservatives will, in historical hindsight, be seen as nothing but a contrarian backlash against the inevitable liberal and intellectual tidal wave sweeping America. In twenty years, we will laugh at the idea that we feared any possible longterm conservative movement. Instead, we'll realize that it was just your basic breather needed to double-check everything, before we went ahead and finished the work needed to making America and the world a better place. Devil's advocate really is an important, if tedious role, and history will agree that it was probably necessary to take this kind of break from the sweeping changes of the last fifty and next fifty years. Additionally, having presidents like Bush is necessary to make sure that we don't have more like him. And you can quote me on that. Sorry for the interruption, and you can now go back to your regularly scheduled post.

Review As Rebuttal

And Easterbrook's contrariness is seen quickly enough when you realize that his attack on Tarantino wasn't so much a summation of the movies or the director, as it was an attack on all Tarantino fans. Because it wasn't a summation at all. It was someone who has argued with Tarantino fans, or at least heard what they like about the guy; and thrown it all back in their face. And what appears to be revulsion at the movies is actually intended to offend and hurt the people who like Tarantino. Because Easterbrook is revulsed by the movies, but not because of the violence. It's because Easterbrook's role in life is that of the contrarian, so he's not able to enjoy things that become immensely popular overnight. He has to act as ballast to that kind of trend.

Had Tarantino remained an unknown, but brilliant filmmaker, the Easterbrooks would have proudly touted his genius to all their friends. But Tarantino became too famous too fast, so Easterbrook had to find reasons to hate him. And the more popular the movies were, and the less he could find a logical reason to hate them, the more angrily he has to toss off his rebuttal. But his anger isn't at Tarantino, but at all of Tarantino's admirers.

Here are two of his more direct sentences which attack the Tarantino fan:
To laud Tarantino as innovative because events happen out-of-sequence is like lauding The Bridges of Madison County as innovative because it opens with a discovered letter from someone who has died.

And supposedly Tarantino is some kind of counter-genius for getting box-office stars like Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman to debase themselves in his drivel.

I went on to point out that neither of these are sole reasons why anyone would call Tarantino a genius. But rather it was how he used those things, just as Easterbrook claims is necessary for these things. But he was just trying to be a punkass and hurt everyone's feelings because he couldn't join in on their reindeer games. Once again, I wrote a bunch more, but cut it out as this is really getting to be quite long and I'm sure you have a life to get back to.

Easterbrook's Error

And so I read this summation of Tarantino's talents. And then I came to what we now know as the "controversial part" or as Mickey says "Easterbrook's Error". What did he do? He suggested that, because two movie execs responsible for Kill Bill were Jewish, that we need to take them to task for it somehow. And even worse, he stated: "Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence?" And when I first read that, I gave a big "WTF!?!, did he just write that?" And I read it again, because it was so bizarre. And sure enough, he really did write that.

And his error wasn't just the "worship money above all else" line, though that was mind-bogglingly stupid, indeed. His error was also in suggesting that Eisner and Weinstein's jewishness had anything to do with the movie at all. As if their ethnicity should be something which separated them from other film execs, and could be used as a weapon to get them to clean up their act. And that's just stupid. Just because somebody responsible for something bad is a member of a specific group doesn't mean that we should somehow use that group identity as a specific claim against them. That is the nature of stereotyping and discrimination.

And I have no doubts that Easterbrook understands that. He just wants to be a dick all the time, because his contrariness forces him to. Anyway, I wrote a bunch more about this, but cut it too, as I'm sure you get the point as well as I do. So let's just tie this back into Kaus and be done with it.

Mickey's Defense

Ok, dumbass writer writes somewhat tame, but still controversial anti-Jewish stuff. If he's someone already famous for having a problem with Jews, he probably gets ignored for something this tame. If he's a politician, political consultant, or anyone else who the media feels like picking on, he'll be hung out to dry and will have to work extra hard to get his career back on line; and he is likely to have the controversial writing follow him forever more. And if he's a media-type himself, and has friends in the media? Those friends must defend him.

And that's something that's just plain wrong. I've got a post in the works about the problems with professional friendships, but I'll just cover a little here anyway. Because you shouldn't have to be friends with a media-type to get defended in the media. That's just not how this is supposed to work, and completely undermines the whole concept of objectivity. You're supposed to be defended on the merits, and the media-types shouldn't be abusing their status as a way of doing personal favors for friends.

And that's exactly what we're talking about here. Mickey Kaus using his position on Slate to defend a friend. I have no idea if Kaus would have used that space to defend Easterbrook otherwise, but I seriously doubt he would have, were they not friends. I'm not saying that Kaus would have attacked Easterbrook. I just don't think he would have said anything at all. And if he did, he'd probably have sided with Easterbrook's detractors. And that's just not what the media is for.

In fact, that's one of the biggest problems with the media today. The media-types see it as being their property. Something that they get to use however they see fit. And that includes using it to defend a friend. Kaus did it here with Easterbrook. We're seeing this with Queen of Iraq Miller. And we see this all too often. They use the media for their own benefit. And they don't believe that it's supposed to be used against them. They own it.

But do they? Of course not. They don't own jackshit. They own the media as much as I own financial statements. I'm not allowed to use my status as a CPA to benefit my friends and attack my enemies. Hell, I'm not even supposed to audit my friend's or enemy's company at all (strictly speaking, CPA's have no friends). And I'd sure as hell lose my license if I used it for personal gain like this. There are strict rules about that, so if you've got a failing company needing perkier financials, well you'll just have to go elsewhere, friend. (For the record, I don't do audits at all, as they're a big pain in the ass).

And it's sad to read Mickey's defense of Gregg. It's sad. Because there wasn't much to work with. Mickey had to say nice things, but his spin went a long way to helping me write this post. Because it confirmed Easterbrook as the contrarian type who needs to devise complicated rhetorical arguments which sound wrong to conventional ears. And that's the exact problem that contrarians have. They like arguments for argument's sake, and so they can't just say the normal stuff. And this gets them into all kinds of problems; largely because they don't really care about the real world applications of what they write. They just like the contrarian argument.

And even if Easterbrook isn't a discrimination kind of guy, his post certainly was discriminatory; if nothing else because it used ethnicity as an unnecessary issue. And also because it encouraged that way of thinking. And if he's the kind of guy that encourages that way of thinking, even in a rhetorical context, that's a problem. And if Kaus is the kind of guy that excuses the kind of meaningless rhetorical argument that leads to things like discriminatory thinking, then that's a problem. Especially if he does it for no other reason than friendship.

Anyway, I'm just going to wrap things up there. I've snipped a lot, I didn't quite finish every thought I was going for; but it's a damn long post, and I think I've scored enough points here. I may or may not get around to finishing my Kaus trilogy, but it's been fun trying. I really should do these character assassination-type posts more, as they're really a whole lot of fun; and if I'm drinking enough (as I usually am), they just seem to write themselves. My main problem is trying to sort things out the next day and getting enough gumption to actually complete the damn things. Most of this was written in less than an hour, five days ago, and I just never got around to completing it. But now it's done, and I'll have to get started on some other posts I've been putting off.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Mickey Kaus Is A Hack

Yes yes, I know. That's so totally shocking. Kaus is a hack. But I was just over at Legal Fiction, where Publius disses Kaus, but refers to him with the obligatory "sometimes-astute Mickey Kaus" reference before saying that the guy is wrong, yet again. But is it really necessary to give credit to someone, simply because they sometimes get things right? Is that really a standard deserving special mention? I get things right all the damn time, but Pub hasn't even referenced my astuteness even once!

And it's not just Mickey. I see the same kind of stuff written about Thomas Friedman, Andrew Sullivan, Richard Cohen, Christopher Hitchens, and many other famous, but wrong pundits/columnists who occasionally side with the liberals. And what's up with that? Why do we give any props to these guys, who are almost always wrong? As I point out in Pub's comment section, anyone can be right sometimes, and it takes more skill and consistency to always be wrong. And we have lots of lesser-known guys on our side who are almost always right. So why are we giving any praise to these fools?

I say that, but I already know the answer. It's because we like to appear moderate, and it looks good to praise someone who normally disagrees with you. Additionally, when we see confirmation from someone who shouldn't agree, we take that as a double-positive. Like when conservatives use the "liberal" NY Times and New Republic as confirmation of how non-partisan a position must obviously be. The only difference is that, with the conservative's authoritarian-based attitude, they somehow expect the NY Times stance to trump our own, and believe that we'll fall in line because of the newspaper's influence upon us. And then they take it as a sign of extremism on our part if we don't change our position to match the Times.

But I don't work by that principle. If anything, we should triple-check anything that these guys come up with, because their brains are so obviously wack. In school, it's generally considered to be pretty stupid to cheat off of the guy who fails all the tests, even if he does get some of the answers right. And I refuse to use an idiot as my confirmation. It's always important to doubt ourselves, but the confirmation comes from your own diligence, and perhaps double-checking with other smart people; not in checking with the guy whose answers are expected to be wrong. That's just common sense.

These guys aren't even shooting 50%, so why do we treat them as if they're infrequent expert marksmen; when what we really mean is that they don't always suck.

The Quickie Kaus

But I'm an evidence-based kind of guy, and I realized that I hadn't read Kaus's site in a long long time. So I thought I'd give it another looksie. And while it wasn't as offensive as the last time I read it (during the election season, when he had too many cheap insults to toss off against Kerry), it was still fairly offensive. And the weirdest thing about Kaus is the mixture of conventional wisdom, written in a contrarian's style, but with the over-the-top hubris and smug manner of a full-on wingnut. Especially with his absurd use of exclamation points(!!!), which you'd think he'd have run out of by now.

Overall, he's really not saying anything too important or earth-shattering, but he acts as if he is. He's like a conservative hack, but who lacks the ideology to do it properly. It was all style and little substance. In fact, it was actually much more reminiscent of a gossip column than a political blog. Gossip columnists don't care about truth. They just like to dish out gossip. And that's what Kaus is all about. It's not about conveying truth or getting a bigger picture or making the world a better place. It's just about finding more snark to dish out, and having fun doing it. He's clearly wanting to rub our noses in something, but I was at a loss to figure out what it was; or if it was my nose at all!!

And so I skimmed a few of his posts, which I couldn't necessarily agree or disagree with, until I read this one from Wednesday, regarding a WaPo article titled "U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq". And I almost skipped past this one too. But then I thought, "why am I taking Kaus's word for what this article said. Isn't that the whole reason why I'm here?" And of course, as I found out, his summary of the article was completely absurd and offbase. And his basic complaint wasn't really that the article was flawed, but that it wasn't the article he thought he'd be reading.

Which is typical of guys like Kaus. They make the world fit their views, rather than vice versa. And if they pay enough attention to realize that what their opponent said didn't match up to what they expected, they complain about that too! In this case, Kaus is upset because the Post didn't provide evidence for an article it didn't write.

Fantasies Begetting Fantasies

And so Kaus writes stuff like this about the article: "Am I the only person who found it thin and unconvincing? When I read, in Wright's lede, that the "Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq," I expect to see a depressing Kerry-like acceptance of a post-pullout stable military autocracy or acceptance of an Iran-style religious state--something that would really suggest that the invasion wasn't close to being worth the costs."

And he points out a bunch of things from the article which were things we already knew. About lack of electricity and security, and whatnot. And he mentions that the article quotes one U.S. official about Iraq becoming an "Islamic Republic", but writes "But there's no indication that this "Islamic republic" won't be democratic--e.g. that it will be de facto ruled by mullahs as opposed to elections." His main point being that the evidence given in the article doesn't match up to what the headline claims.

And if this article was about providing new evidence that Iraq "wasn't close to being worth the costs", then Kaus is right. There was no new evidence of that (though the old evidence is fairly damning on that point). But that's not what the article was about. The article was about U.S. officials lowering their sights on what can be achieved in Iraq...just as the headline says. And the evidence needed for that article would be quoting U.S. officials saying that they aren't so optimistic about what can be achieved in Iraq, compared with what they believed before. Which makes sense, as this article is about the opinions of U.S. officials, and not on new evidence.

And my proof of this isn't taking secondary evidence from the article, but taking the related stuff. Like this quote: "What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

Now mind you, this quote doesn't say the "war wasn't worth it", something that Kaus expected to find. But it is a sign that the U.S. has lowered its sights of what can be achieved in Iraq...just as the headline said. Or this quote: "U.S. officials say no turning point forced a reassessment. "It happened rather gradually," said the senior official, triggered by everything from the insurgency to shifting budgets to U.S. personnel changes in Baghdad."

Again, it doesn't say "the war wasn't worth it", but despite Kaus's best argument, the headline never said that either. And it ends with this quote, from someone who is no longer a U.S. official, but is likely to represent their opinion:
"The most thoroughly dashed expectation was the ability to build a robust self-sustaining economy. We're nowhere near that. State industries, electricity are all below what they were before we got there," said Wayne White, former head of the State Department's Iraq intelligence team who is now at the Middle East Institute. "The administration says Saddam ran down the country. But most damage was from looting [after the invasion], which took down state industries, large private manufacturing, the national electric" system. Ironically, White said, the initial ambitions may have complicated the U.S. mission: "In order to get out earlier, expectations are going to have to be lower, even much lower. The higher your expectation, the longer you have to stay. Getting out is going to be a more important consideration than the original goals were. They were unrealistic."

And there were more quotes like that in the piece. And again, the headline was about the U.S. changing their expectations, and the article reflected that by showing their opinions, along with citing facts which would explain why these officials have lowered their sights. And nothing in the headline or lede suggested that it would provide brand new evidence of why this is happening, or that it would show that the "war wasn't worth it", as Kaus expected.

So what's up with that? Kaus even adds this at the end: "P.S.: I'm not saying the Bushies haven't drastically lowered their expectations recently. I'm saying Wright doesn't show it." And yet I just quoted several parts of the article which clearly do show lowered expectations. Which was the point of the article, and what the headline and lede directly referred to. And remember, not one of the quotes I gave was even mentioned in Kaus's hackery.

Propagandic Expectations

And I suspect that part of Kaus's problem is that he's a victim of the propaganda mindset, so prevalent in our conservative thinkers; and sees everything through the prism of what the writer must want to be happening. If someone writes a negative article about Iraq, they must be implying that it wasn't worth it and that everything is falling apart. And so Kaus looked through the article for evidence to backup that unstated propaganda, and couldn't find it; and then declared the headline to be misleading...even if the headline did summarize the article nicely.

But if, instead of assuming that it was anti-Bush propaganda, he took the headline at face-value; he'd have seen that the U.S. officials quoted in the piece were saying that their expectations were lowered. And that it wasn't an opinion piece against the invasion, but rather one giving factual quotes from anonymous U.S. officials. And had Kaus been upset at the anonymity or something, I could understand. But that wasn't his problem. He was upset because the propaganda that he had imagined wasn't supported by the article that was written.

So Kaus denounces an article that wasn't written, and ignored the one that was written. And what's worse, he didn't even refute any of the points he imagined had been made, but just made snide remarks implying them to be false or irrelevant; based on nothing else than that they might be false or irrelevant. More to the point, he invented an article that fit his expectations. Just like his ilk has done for years, even getting us into this war. And ironically enough, it was this fantasy-based way of looking at life that forced Kaus into the warhawk category, which even now forces him into writing the absurd post that I'm referencing.

Typical Fantasist

And this is crucial to understanding everything that Kaus writes. I mean, how could anyone intelligent bungle such an obvious and straightforward piece? Sure, few people get everything right (your host here being the obvious exception), but how can someone who lives this deeply into a fantasy be considered right about anything? It's one thing to have ignored the article, but to denounce it as he did, even searching it for quotes and points in the writer's favor, and he still gets it wrong?? How is that possible, from a sane person? The very point he was making was clearly and obviously wrong, and there can be no doubt about it. Yet we're supposed to listen to this guy? Kaus gets one of the precious few blog links from the great Josh Marshall, while a working schlub like me gets ignored? That makes no sense.

And again, I had almost ignored this post by Kaus. Even though my point was to find this sort of fantasy-based hackery, I almost gave him a pass on this mess, believing that he couldn't really have bungled such a straight-forward article. Hell, the only thing complicated about it is if you were trying to find something wrong with it. If you were trying to find a bias. So you'd actually have to go out of your way to disagree.

But so it was with poor Mickey, and all because he's still an unrepentant warhawk who has to disagree with any such story. Luckily, my spidey senses told me that there might be a problem here, and I saw that the article was the exact opposite of the one that Kaus portrayed it to be.

Other Hackery

Anyway, I skimmed quite a bit of the other stuff, but I really couldn't find anything to sink my teeth into. He seems quite opinionated, but it was almost always impossible to understand why he had that opinion, or what you should do if you disagreed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that he was stating facts either, as he generally wasn't. But it was really all more like reading a gossip column. Because he never explains anything, and just accepts everything in an "it is as it is" kind of fashion.

Oh, there was a post about "Comparable Worth" which I know little about, so I can't protest it. Though this article by a supporter of the idea doesn't seem to match up with Kaus's absurd explanation of it. The article I just cited made it sound somewhat reasonable, if not all-encompassing. And Kaus's explanation made it sound ridiculous and something that everyone reasonable would reject and has rejected. Especially as Kaus only referenced the idea of forcing wages down for male workers, while the supporter's article only referenced raising wages for females. But again, Kaus wasn't interested in informing his readers of why they should oppose Comparable Worth. He just wanted to attack it and its supporters. And if any information regarding the idea happened to slip through, well, nobody's perfect. Even the worst of us can't be 100% fact-free.

Oh, and just to tie-in with what started this post, he cites old articles from the "neo-lib" New Republic and Washington Monthly as evidence that it wasn't just cons who were against it. Because anything that any liberal source writes ends the discussion of partisan bias.

A Nihilist's Nihilist

But that's part of Kaus's M.O. To misstate what his opponents believe, without really saying much else. And he always finds exactly what he's looking for, because that's all he wants to find. And the only reason that I can find for why he's not a complete wingnut is just because he wasn't one to begin with. Good upbringing, I guess. In fact, from the little I read, he seems more like a nihilist who doesn't care enough to say that all is for nothing. He wants to toss-out snark and disparage everything, but in a kewl-kids "I'm just sayin'" kind of way, so we don't mistakenly believe that he actually cares about any of this stuff.

Is it fair to conclude this, while only having dissected one post, referenced one other, and read only a handful of posts? Yes. Because there really wasn't much else to his site. Were one to write an opposing post to this one, one which showed Mickey to be a genius extraordinaire, they'd have a much harder time than I did with this one. Because he stays focused on speculation, cheap insult, and vague references which he feels no requirement to substantiate. Even the tight-lipped link bloggers, like Atrios, have an obvious message of where they're going and stand up better for what they're posting on. Atrios is the King of Snark, but even he has a positive message of how things should be and what we need to do to move forward.

But Kaus just seemed like a complete mixed bag of hooey, the intent of which seems solely to let us know how great Mickey is and how everything he's ever believed has turned out to be accurate (or at the least, that you can't prove him wrong, using the strongest definition of the word "proof"). He's almost all negativity and second-guessing, and despite his prominent place in blogdom, I can't imagine that our discourse would be affected at all by his absence. Had Mickey Kaus not existed, I seriously doubt man would have invented him.

And this is because his blog has nothing to add to the political world. Rather it's just a reflection of his own mind, and bares little or no resemblance to the real world. Sure, he might get stuff right, but that's purely luck and has no consistency to it. Any other blogger given a similar prominent place on Slate's website could achieve as good of a record for astuteness as Mickey Kaus; and many bloggers could do far better. Again, I didn't disagree with much of what he wrote. I just saw no reason to agree with anything either. Instead, I just saw a hyperactive self-important man who lives in delusional world of gossip, misstated hyperbole, and many many exclamation points(!!!).

Monday, August 15, 2005

On the Comedy Impaired

I haven't posted in a few days, and don't have time to finish the two or three I just started (not to mention the twenty or so old posts waiting to be completed); so I thought I'd just plagiarize something I wrote in the comments section over at Sadly, No! And if you already saw it over there, tough shit. It's your own damn fault for reading non-Biobrain blogs. If I thought you should read it, I would have written it here. Besides, I added a lot more to this, so you have no right to complain.

Sadly was writing about conservative bloggers and how godawfully unfunny they are. Not that I understand why he's picking on the bloggers, because the same goes for all conservatives (William F. Buckley excluded).

The main problem with conservative humor is that they confuse "it's funny because it's true" with "it's true because it's funny" and so they use humor as a means of conveying truth (or their version there of). And they consider it funny if you just insult the other side, whether or not it's true or funny; though they prefer anything that confirms stereotypes and generalities. And so truth and funniness become self-fulfilling items, each confirming the other. It's funny because it's true, and it's true because it's funny. But if you don't already agree with them, you won't find it to be funny or true.

Coulter and Limbaugh are perfect examples of that. You can't attack them for saying offensive stuff, because they were just joking. But the joke was a way of reinforcing certain truths which can't be said in a straight-forward manner. And so they get the best of both worlds: They can say anything they want, but without any accountability. And what's saddest of all is that the joke is always on their followers; but they never know it.

The Dreaded Sitcom

And I'll tell you what this reminds me of: The I Love Lucy school of comedy. You know, the stuff that's "funny" because you already know what's going to happen. When Lucy gets the job at the doughnut factory, you're laughing, not because it's necessarily funny, but because you can predict exactly what's going to happen and how Lucy will look when she's doing it. I'm speaking figuratively, of course; as no one actually laughs during a Lucy episode. And while the zany mayhem ensues, ending with the obligatory "waaahhh!", you're supposed to think to yourself "Ah, that Lucy. What a mess she got herself into again."

And to be honest, this is what "situation comedy" usually refers to anyway; that the characters got themselves into a completely predictable situation, the humor being the predictableness itself. Which is why I avoid all of them, excluding vintage Simpsons episodes. And people like this because it makes them feel comfortable: no surprises or thinking necessary. Of course, this goes against the nature of true comedy, which is premised in the unpredictable and surprise. But that's not what people want from their television comedies. They want the familiar and routine, to help make sense of the crazy world in which they live. How else can one explain Full House?

And conservative humor is a branch off of that tree. They're not laughing because it's predictable, per se. They're laughing because it confirms everything that they want to believe; and as such is quite predictable to them. And that's exactly what they're looking for: confirmation of their beliefs. And humor just helps the medicine go down.

For conservatives, the confirmation of something being true is that they laughed at it. But as I said before, they laugh because they already think it's true. And that's the conservative mode of reasoning in a nutshell. Everything must be self-confirming, because they sure as hell ain't getting any confirmation from the real world. Or at least, not with any manner of consistency. So their humor isn't an incidental flaw in their personality, but a defining characteristic that helps make them what they are. Were they to develop a genuine sense of humor, one which wasn't predicated on stereotypes and generalizations, they could no longer remain conservative. Their warped sense of humor goes hand-in-hand with their warped view of reality; each helping make sense of the other.

Oh, and in keeping with the theme of funny bloggers, I'll give my own favorite joke: Fart.

But that's copyrighted, so don't even think of using that without permission. Bwaa-ha-haa!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Relativity of the Three Dollar Gallon

I have some fairly important work that needs to be done pronto, so I had no other choice than to start slumming in the Yahoo Message Boards, to avoid doing that work. And I stumbled upon this guy called "stopaidtoisraelnow" (which I suspect is some sort of Muslim name, though I don't understand the language), and he had this post that only had a subject line, which was titled, and I kid you not, "$3.00 a GALLON UNLEADED= BUSH FAILURE".

Can you believe that? Three dollar gallons is a failure for whom, I wanted to know. I mean, this might mean bad things for some Americans, like the people who drive cars or buy manufactured goods. But for the people who count, the ones with the oil and the refineries and whatnot, this is a good thing. A damn good thing. Nobody's going to be worrying about what they're putting under the Christmas tree this year; at least not in the Texaco household, anyway. Ponies don't grow on trees, and three dollars a gallon is about what it takes to complete the set. And god knows they need the money, what with how much it costs to fill a Hummer these days.

So here, I'll just share with you what my response was to this small-minded individual. And feel free to imagine all the waves of righteous indignation and disgust that ran rampant throughout this reply:

I'm sure you'd be singing a different tune if you were on the receiving end of that $3.00 a gallon.

Save it, hypocrite. You only say he's a failure because his policies have failed to help you and the people like you. But what about the people who aren't like you? The ones who are lining their pockets with your money? Are you going to tell THEM that Bush's policies are a failure? Are you going to tell Mr. Exxon and Mrs. Chevron that Bush's policies have failed them? I think not. And if you were Mr. Exxon, you'd do the same damn thing, and you know it.

So you can just take your double-standarded green-eyed monster and shove it. Because you're no different than them, except you don't have very much oil and Bush doesn't like you. The only failure here is your failure for not joining a powerful oligarchy which holds the world's future in it's oily little paws; and squeezing firmly.

That is talking truth to power, my friend. And if that guy ever managed to find my message among the hundreds pouring in, I'm sure he learned his lesson good. Bush's foreign and domestic policies might be failures to some Americans; but for others, they're the best money can buy.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Intelligent Design and Other Non-Sequiturs

Regarding Intelligent Design, I'd just like to give a clarification on one thing. Some people believe that ID can refer to a wide-range of ideas, including the idea that God started everything in motion, using the process of evolution for change, and then was completely hands-off after that. And this could include either the idea that he completely allowed evolution to do its magic, in which case we weren't inevitable and anything could have been produced; or the idea that he had a specific "recipe" that he used in order to create things exactly as they are now. And in both cases, the idea is that God had nothing to do with the evolutionary process after he set it into motion. This is probably the most widely accepted idea of Intelligent Design, and is usually the one that the more "open-minded" intellectual-type ID'ers cite as a reason we shouldn't reject it.

But the problem is, the process I just described is not Intelligent Design. I mean, they can call it that if they want; but they'd be stupid in doing so. Because there's already a name for that theory, and it's called evolution. So if the ID people wanted to also adopt that theory, that's fine I guess, but I think it just confuses everyone unnecessarily. Then again, perhaps that's their intent.

But the process I described is certainly within the realm of evolution; or at least it's not excluded by it. Because evolution says absolutely nothing about who or what set the process in motion. It doesn't cite the Big Bang or Allah or the Easter Bunny. It doesn't mention origins at all. Evolution is only concerned with the process that happened after "it" all began. So if someone wants to believe that Allah or Yahweh created the world and used the process of evolution to create his creations, evolution has nothing to say which could contradict that. The only thing the theory of evolution is concerned with is the theory of things evolving.

The real theory of Intelligent Design, that of the hands-on God who made important changes (like eyeballs, for example), is in opposition to evolution because it covers things that are covered by evolution, and uses a different process to go about it; i.e., the supernatural. And once the ID'ers can prove that these things happened, we'd be fools for not accepting them. But until then, we are forced to reject these unproven claims.

And there is a natural confusion about this, and the reason is simple. Before evolution, most folks believed that God had created everything "as-is", with no change involved at all. That's what creationism is. And that's why ID really isn't exactly a good replacement for creationism, because ID uses some kinds of evolution, and creationism doesn't. So if, god forbid, ID does somehow gain legitimacy, they're still going to have a problem with the creationists who believe in the 6000 year old planet and whatnot. Of course, that's assuming that the ID people have the slightest bit of integrity or intelligence; an assumption that is far from clear.

The evidence so far seems to put Intelligent Design as a free-for-all regarding intellectual integrity; allowing anyone to believe anything they want. Which is, of course, the antithesis of education. Education isn't as interested in telling people what to believe, as much as it is in telling people what not to believe. But you're allowed to believe everything else that science doesn't exclude. So maybe faster-than-light travel is possible (science hasn't proven that it's not); but it's not possible that the earth is the center of the universe, so you're not supposed to believe that. That's just how education works. And a main tenet of education is that people just aren't supposed to make shit up. That would defeat the whole purpose. But again, perhaps that is their intent.

The Realm of Science

But there's something else even bigger to all this. It's not just evolution. It's the whole thing. All of science is immune to any supernatural forces, because there is no overlap between science and the supernatural. Anything that can be proven or disproven by science falls within the realm of science; and anything which cannot be proven or disproven by science falls in the realm of supernatural. That is by definition.

For example, we find fossils, oil fields, geological and archeological evidence, blah blah blah; all proving that the world is an old place which has been around for a long time. Additionally, these things prove that plants and animals have evolved over the years, and are now far different than how they were originally. And while these things could be falsified by some supernatural force, using the rules of proof and science, we must conclude that this proof is real.

But the opposite is true too, that things which cannot be proven or disproven fall within the realm of the supernatural. And science can say absolutely nothing about these things. Not that we, as individuals, can't call it all bull dooky. But science can't say a damn thing. And that goes for the existence of gods, ghosts, UFO's, Santa Claus, and supply-side economic boosts.

And that also applies to whatever happened before the Big Bang. Science can have theories about how things evolved and how the Universe was created; but it can't say who or what is responsible for that. ID'ers like to be able to throw that in our face and insist that this is why we should accept their theory. But this sword is double-edged and the one facing them is far more potent. It's simple: Because science can't explain things that fall within the realm of the supernatural, those things cannot belong in the field of science. And as such, they shouldn't be taught in our science classrooms. So the very aspect that ID'ers tout as the reason science can't dismiss their theory is the very reason why science must dismiss it. There's nothing personal about it. Science simply cannot allow theories which can't be proven or disproven.

Gay Lincoln Love Trysts

And this isn't just about science or creationism. This is about every field of study. You can only cover the areas that people know about. For example, I can imagine a very long and dramatic conversation between Abraham Lincoln and his gay lover, John Wilkes Booth; and I could even throw-in Robert E. Lee wearing assless chaps and a leather-clad Ulysses S. Grant as his drunken dom. And there's no way you could possibly disprove it. I mean, let's face it, there are a lot of gaps in the historical record. Who can really say this didn't happen? And wouldn't it explain a lot? Primarily why Booth killed Lincoln and why Lee unnecessarily surrendered. But if we see this as a lover's quarrel, and realize that Lee surrendered because it was such a big turn-on for him; history's gaps are easily filled.

And while that is a plausible theory, it's also crap. And so it has no part in a history class. Everyone realizes that. I can also invent more realistic dialogue between Lincoln and his wife, and it would be really mundane stuff that they must have said at least on a few occasions. Like "Gee, Mary, isn't it great that I'm the President." To which Mary would respond "You bet, Lincoln. You're the greatest President in the whole world." And Lincoln, who was honest as ever, could only reply "Yeah, I think you're right. I am doing a great job. People will remember me." And so on. Pretty boring stuff. And probably true. But even if it would help fill the gaps in the conventional theory, it still doesn't belong in a history book because we have absolutely no proof that they said it.

And all fields of study are like that. Even Bible Study classes aren't allowed to just completely make shit up. They have to have some basis for what they're saying, no matter how crazy. And everyone understands that. But because science has replaced many religious beliefs, religious people are naturally upset about it, and are trying to undo those changes. Or if nothing else, they seek to have the Scientific Seal of Approval stamped onto their beliefs. Similarly, if it was widely taught in history class that Jesus never existed, there might be a bit of a backlash.

And lets face it, the encroachment of science on the realm of the supernatural is never-ending. Science will continue to slowly eat away at many of the concrete ideas that Christianity and other religions have believed in. And so there is some reason for them to fear science's discoveries.

The Power of Belief

But overall, I think from a Christian perspective, this can only be a good thing. A 6,000 year old universe? What a crock. Even the bible has no good sourcing on that one. It was just some invented claim by some preacher somewhere. Same goes for a lot of this creationist stuff. But the truth is, Christianity doesn't need any of that stuff to have its power. The power of the bible doesn't stem from its few scientific claims, or even its historical claims. Its power comes from its spiritual side; in the power of belief, and of how to live a proper life.

Of course, the bible is just a mirror; allowing people to see in it exactly what they want to see; which is themselves, and a justification for what they do and what they believe. But if that's what they need, so be it. I'm fine with that, just as long as they don't try legislating out of the damn thing, or pretend as if its words have some kind of hold on me. That's naturally where I draw the line, just like everyone else.

And so by adopting science, Christianity can rid itself of its outdated scientific claims (not that there are many) and focus solely on the spiritual side of life. Does it really matter if the earth was made in six days or 3.65 trillion? Does that really have an affect on whether someone believes in God? If anything, I could see them scaring people away with this non-scientific gibberish; people wanting to avoid Christianity because it's so scientifically absurd and childish. And most churches have adopted this way of thinking too. It's really just a handful of diehards trying to hold our children's education hostage, in order to preserve their own egos.

Of course, there is one aspect that could be crucial to all this: the infallibility of the bible. If people start doubting some claims in the bible, they might start doubting the whole thing; or so the thinking goes. Because the bible's authority is based upon it being authored by God. And because God is infallible, the bible must also be so. And if the bible is wrong, then it can't be the work of God. Or at least not the God that the fundamentalists believe in.

But this is crap too. Because nobody accepts every aspect of the bible. Nobody. Everybody picks the parts they want to believe in, with the emphasis they want to see; and discard the rest. As I said above, the bible is just a mirror which reflects the exact answers that people want to see. That's why it's so widely accepted and enduring. It covers all kinds of stuff, and if one book doesn't give you want you want to find, you can just turn to another book and interpret to your heart's content.

A Work of Men

And beyond that, it's absurd to even claim that the bible is the work of God. That's just so obviously false. I know that many bible believers insist that the consistency of the bible over all those centuries is proof that it was written by one being; and how that being could only be God. And that argument might have some merit, had the people who wrote/recited the parts of the bible not heard the other parts of the bible. But because the people who added the later parts did know all about the earlier parts, it should just be assumed that they kept the same theme going.

In fact, I would find it far more surprising if the later parts were completely different from the earlier parts. I'm sure you've read textbooks that were written by multiple people, sometimes five or six. And wouldn't it be unusual if you could obviously tell which ones wrote which parts? But it's really not that hard to make a work consistent, if that's what you're going for. Especially if it means that you interpret current events through the filter of those earlier theories.

For example, if a famine hits the people of Judah, they're likely to attribute it to God because that's what their beliefs state the problem would be; as learned from the earlier parts of the bible. And so when they wrote their part of the historical record, they would naturally attribute the famine to God, just as the earlier writers did. And besides Job, who got screwed over by God on a bet, they'd find some lapse of faith as being to blame. But their basis for that was the earlier record, and not an independently created explanation. Had these people never heard of God, it would be extraordinary indeed that they would attribute it to him. But because they had heard that God did these kinds of things, it only makes sense that he was the one who did it this time. That is logical thinking.

And of course, this is a big undermining argument against religion. I mean, why is it that people only adopt a particular religious outlook when it is exposed to them? Why wasn't God working with more than one group? He clearly has nothing against non-Jews, yet he supposedly spent the first four thousand years of our existence focusing on a small tribe in an overcrowded region of the world?? And even when we made his word more widely spread, he could only do it by human means?? Not that I don't necessarily see motives for doing things that way, but it's fairly unimpressive. Even I can spread word through the grapevine, and people don't even like me.

But it would make more sense if various regions of the world came up with the same God stuff as the people of Judah. That's the kind of consistency proof that these bible thumpers are looking for; if native people from Japan, America, and Africa had these exact same stories and laws. But they don't. People only blame the famine on what they know, and if they weren't told about Yahweh, it'll never occur to them to blame him for it.

And not only that, but this idea of consistency also insists that the later people couldn't have edited the earlier parts. But why the hell not? Especially when we're talking about four thousand years of history, which was never written down for much of that time. We're really supposed to assume that, through language differences and different historical needs, nobody changed any of that stuff? Really?

Now I'll confess that I once watched a university's bible study class on a public access station, and that professor did make this exact claim. In fact, he claimed that the proof that the bible didn't change was because these people's memories were so good that they wouldn't forget anything or let it change. And I suppose he arrived at the premise that their memory was so good because they could do this. But naturally, this kind of circular thinking makes for a much better understanding of logic than of religion.

And let's face it, most serious bible scholars believe the bible to be the work of many different sources, and heavily edited at that. In fact, there can be no doubt that the original religion at the beginning of the bible belonged to polytheists. It's just too obvious. Yahweh was competing with lots of other gods, and his power only extended to the specific plot of land that the early writers happened to be on. There can be no doubt about that. But over time, the later writers did their best to correct for such inconsistencies. To expect otherwise from them is to assume them to be complete morons, and I'm just not willing to go there. I'd rather assume that these people were intelligent people who understood that the earlier parts must have been incorrect.


But more important than all these little details, none of the bible needs to be written by God to have it's importance. And even the "inspired by God" idea shouldn't be taken too literally. Too often, people take that to mean as if God dictated the words to the writers. But that's completely unnecessary. If anything, that should be taken on the same level of a song writer saying that God inspired their songs. Nobody actually takes that to mean that God actually gave them the song or that the song is holy or something (or I hope that that's not what they mean). They just mean that the religious teachings they've learned and their feelings toward God inspired them to write a song.

And that's what the bible being "inspired by God" should mean. That their ideas and beliefs told them that these are the things that they should write down. But God wasn't necessary for that. Whether there is a God or not, these writers had the same feelings and beliefs.

But it's not the God-angle that makes the bible so important. Its impact comes from its message. And after all, the bible reads like a history book with a strong mix of metaphorical stories and direct moral lessons. So why does that need to come from God? Why can't it just be a bunch of smart stuff that a bunch of smart people wrote to help themselves and their people? Why does it have to be the word of God?

This is how all intelligent people accept the bible. For them, the bible isn't "right" because it came from God. They believe that it's "right" because they believe the truths in it are real. And that is how it should be. To believe that God makes things right or wrong is the ultimate in moral relativism; where in God is perceived as a capricious dictator who invents laws as he sees fit. But Christians don't really believe that, even if they say it. They believe that God's laws are permanent and supersede God himself. Murder isn't wrong because God made it wrong. If anything, God is merely pointing the direction for how to behave properly. And it sure doesn't hurt that all the other gods agree on all the big issues.

Christian Philosophy

And let's face it. What is religion, but a codified philosophy with rituals and whatnot. And for intelligent Christians, that's exactly what it is: a philosophy. Not that I really understand that at all. It's seems to me that if you're so damn smart, you shouldn't need anyone telling you the answers. That's why I've never really been big into philosophy either. There's nothing wrong with sampling a little here and a little there, scrounging for ideas to help us along the path. But the big ideas have got to come from yourself, or you'll just never get it.

But then again, nobody actually does that anyway. They just adopt much of the language of their particular religion/philosophy/political belief system, and mesh it into what they already believe. It's more of a filter to screen incoming and outgoing information.

For philosophy-types, that generally means that they get to name-drop and use a certain phraseological shorthand that makes them sound smarter than they really are. And for religious-types, that gives them the power to invoke their god's name to justify their own actions. And that includes everything from televangelists pretending that they're collecting money for Jesus, to madmen like bin Laden blowing up buildings for Allah (and no, I'm not making a fricking moral equivalence here).

But the main thing is that people adopt philosophy or religions as a way of making their voice stronger. As a way of giving outside confirmation that they're doing the right thing. Like how jury members for murder trials often insist that they were doing God's will. Not necessarily because they really really believe that. But because it comforts them from thinking that they might have made a mistake. Because this way, even if the verdict was wrong, it was "God's will" and therefore couldn't be wrong. And that's what this stuff is all about. To make personal decisions and actions part of something bigger.

And I have no problem with any of that, as long as people understand that that's what's happening. But if they believe that they really do understand what God wants, and that God wants them to use the bible as the source of our laws, science, or something; then we're in big trouble. But if they understand that religion is for their own comfort and/or salvation, then we're all good.

And tied into that, they need to understand the areas in which their religion ends. Like science, for example. They need to understand that science trumps their religion in areas that science covers, but that they can keep everything else. And if they want to believe that God created the big bang, evolution, and everything else scientific; that's perfectly acceptable. They just need to understand why that specific theory doesn't belong in the classroom.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Nuclear Age

I am happy to report that this blogger has turned a new leaf. I've seen the light, if you will. I was over at Legal Fiction and he pointed to this enlightening post from NRO Hero Michael Ledeen, in which Ledeen states:
This is to mourn the murder of the free lance journalist Steven Vincent, a victim of the Sadrist thugs (that is to say, the Iranian-sponsored terrorists) in Basra. His crime was to have written about the fanatics in Basra, who are attempting to create a mini-islamic republic in the south, to the shameful indifference of the British forces and Coalition commanders, and the so-called Left in this country and Europe. If there is ever a day of reckoning, those opinion makers who have remained silent in the face of the monstrous terrorist campaign against the Iraqi people will find it quite impossible to explain their de facto collusion with the terrorists.

Mr. Legal Fiction just didn't know what to make of this "day of reckoning" stuff. And at first, I didn't either. My first guess was that Ledeen just meant that because there was no collusion between terrorists and any of the people that Ledeen singles out, that it would be impossible for them to explain said collusion.

But then along came Phil B., a fellow commenter at LF who aptly pointed out the undeniable fact that free-lance journalist Steven Vincent would still be alive today, had we nuked Basra last year. And it all made sense. Steven Vincent would be alive today, had we nuked Basra. There can be absolutely no doubt of that. Naturally, I recoil at Mr. B's abhorrent suggestion that the survivors of the nuclear blast be shot. I think that is excessive and cruel. Besides, those crispy critters won't last more than a few days anyway, so we might as well make it as painful as possible. For the innocent victims of 9/11, who never had a chance.

And who is stopping dear leader from pushing ahead with this perfectly practical offensive? Why, none other than the Brits, the Pansy Patrol, the Leftists, and dreaded Old Europe. That's who! And why? Because they fear the future, that's why. They want to cower in the past, with their bullets and grenades; their cannon and ship; rather than move into a new age: The Nuclear Age. These are probably the same pansies who prefer the Flintstones over the Jetsons. What a joke! And what did this fear of the future lead to? Journalist Steven Vincent's death.

And so what else could we do with these terrorist-loving stone-age men? Let them get away with this crap? Hell no! We wait until the Day of Reckoning, listen to their impossible excuses, and then proceed to reckon them to death. What other choice does an All-American Freedom Lover have? No choice at all. But remember, we don't do this for us. And we're certainly not doing it for you. No, we do this for America. All for America! All for America!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Sex Preventives, and How to Prevent Them

I wasn't going to post this on the blog, but the jerkwad comment section over at The Hamster is rejecting my post for "questionable content". What a crock! So I decided to post it here instead, where all the content is questionable. The Hamster had a post about abstinence education programs and how ineffective they were. So I responded:

One problem with the abstinence-only people is that they conflate abstinence effectiveness with the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs. Yes, abstaining from sex is the most effective preventive of sex-related troubles; but no, abstinence-only programs are not very effective at preventing those things. For the most part, the only people you can convince to not have sex are the ones who aren't going to do it anyway. And too often, it's just as hard to get with the ones who do want to do it; or so I've been told.

Personally, I think the best sex prevention technique would be aversion therapy. Like shock-condoms, which zap both participants upon contact. Or lousy tasting breath mints, which drive away the opposite sex with the scent of putrid meat and raspberry vomit. And we just give this shit out free at parties, along with lots of booze and pills. I honestly don't see how this could fail at all.

And if nothing else, we can just pray for God to make sex as unpleasant as possible, which you think he would have done by now, if he really didn't want us screwing all the time. That way, he could make us more likely to follow his will, without affecting our freewill. Or, if we're so concerned about STD's and abortions, we could just pray for God to eliminate all STD's and to make reproduction only possible if you want to have a baby. Like you'd have to pray for one before intercourse; and you got one every time you tried. Or he could make it so that sex only feels good if you're married, and could make sure that you only fall in love with one person and you will instantly know when you meet that person; and that sex with other people would feel like doing it with your sister.

He's God, dammit! Would it kill him just to make things a little bit easier around here? I can deal with the eternal hellfire, but shouldn't we be free to do more to deserve it? What a crock! By the way God runs things, you'd think nobody was at the helm at all!

Labor Unions Versus Conservative Leeches

There's this idea of labor unions as being illegitimate. As if they were some sort of wrench in the works of the free market system. As if they corrupt the process of free markets; a complete disruption of market forces. And nothing can be further from the truth. Unions aren't a disease, destroying free markets. They are part of the very system itself. Labor is a commodity, subject to the supply and demand issues of any other good or service.

And we understand this in terms of professional workers and specialists. Doctors, lawyers, athletes, and movie stars; they can set just about whatever price they want to. Whatever the market can stand. Just like with everything else. Everything is valued at the price that you are able to sell it at. If you can get a two-dollar whore for one dollar; she's not a two-dollar whore. And that's the way it is with everything. Something is only worth what you can charge for it. Which makes a lot more sense than any other valuation system, and even takes into account sentimental value.

And that's the beauty of the free market system. There is little that you can do to stop it. Sure, you can institute regulations to put a cap on certain activities; and that can put a damper on things, to some extent. But even corruption, payola, and graft have their place in the free market system; extra costs of doing business. And oppressive governments like the Soviets and Saddam's Iraq will result in a relatively free-flowing black market; with oppression just adding to the premium cost. A rule which is all too obvious in our own War on Drugs. At best, you can affect how efficient the market is at using it's resources; but you can never stop it.

Even the dreaded environmental regulations play a part into this. If we don't want polluted air and water, then we need to change the rules so they work more efficiently towards that goal. Because efficiency is just determined by what you want to be efficient at. And if it means rewarding non-polluters by punishing their polluting competitors so be it. There's nothing wrong with putting a price tag on pollution.

And this applies equally to labor unions. They're not some foreign presence screwing everything up. It's just a form of corporation. And just as a single-owner business or a partnership can't compete with the vast resources of a large corporation; organized labor has far more strength than the individual workers within. And nobody sees anything anti-competitive or divisive about a corporation of investors forming for business purposes (well, some Naderites have a problem with corporations, but that's a separate issue). Nor is there anything wrong when laborers do that. It's just a natural application of supply and demand. Perhaps it's ironic that the people who most defend Microsoft's monopoly are equally likely to denounce labor monopolies.

And our main problem in this is that Big Business has done such a good job in portraying its interests as being America's Interests. But that's simply not the case. In fact, oftentimes Big Business is just plain wrong about what is best for America; with its cheapskate attitude towards employee compensation. But without a doubt, it's better for the economy if people have more money in their pockets and more time on their hands. That's just a fact, but short-term thinking by greedy men continues to fight against that trend.


Damn! It's too late and I don't feel like finishing this post. And I hadn't even gotten to the good part, where I explain why true conservatives (the economic variety) are just soulless leeches, always pushing to suck at the teat of modern society, without paying the proper dues. How they want healthy, well-educated people for their businesses, but they don't want to pay the government for producing these people. How they want good roads, and strong banks, and a robust economy; but don't want to do the things necessary to get these for us. This is really the difference between a first-world and third-world nation; and these people want the first-world treatment at third-world prices.

It's impossible to imagine how our society could possibly work without all the government spending. We just couldn't do it. And yet influential freaks like Grover Norquist actually oppose public schools and oppose almost all taxation. Insanity. They see all the benefits of society as if they came by magic. As if they came from God himself. But they didn't. And they didn't come from free enterprise either, or the private markets. They came because of the collective efforts of millions and millions of Americans, and for the betterment of millions and millions of Americans. Because that's what society is about: working together to form something better than what can be done individually.

It's not about looking out for number one, or trying to find the immediate bottom-line. It's about everyone working together, to benefit everyone. And while things aren't finished yet, we've come a long way to achieving that goal. And libertarian conservatives like Norquist wrongly believe that we can go back to the olden days of laissez-faire markets and deregulation, and somehow magically retain all the gains we've made. But it's just a simple-minded fantasy for simple-minded people. Because the gains we've made were legitimate; made legitimate by our democratic process. The People forming together, to enact the kind of America that we want to see. And we just need to remind people how this works, and not allow them to believe in Norquist's fantasies.

Anyway, I really just don't feel up to finishing this post now, and I know I won't finish it later. So you'll just have to fill-in the details on what I was saying. This was good enough, I guess; though I already see a few areas that need rewriting. Oh well, they can't all be masterpieces, can they?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I Contributed

I just wanted to mention that I contributed to a political campaign for the first time today. I had honestly intended to do that back in the 2004 election; first to the Clark campaign during the primaries, and then to Kerry during the general election. But I never did. It's not that I didn't have the money, but I just didn't have the money. I could have squeezed the budget a little bit. Maybe eaten out less. But I didn't, and so I never contributed.

And I know that this sounds stupid, especially from one who so often denounces the supernatural and superstitious; but I really kind of feel responsible both for Clark's and Kerry's losses. Like maybe if I sent in my contribution, that extra $75 would have put them right over the top. But I know it's not quite like that, but I still feel that sometimes. Because it's not necessarily the money, but the karma; positive karma that I'd be sending to the candidate of my choice.

But today I did it. I sent in a small contribution to Paul "The Fighting Democrat" Hackett's campaign, through Atrio's Act Blue link; and damn if I don't feel good about it. I've been thinking about it for some time, and I just happened to get a little extra money and what the hell.

And god I hope he wins. Because this isn't just about this election. It's about the 2006 election. And if this fighting Dem can win in a Republican district, it'll show the other Dems how it can be done. Rather than trying to pull the limp-wristed DLC approach, which should have been put out to pasture after the 1996 election; we need to go balls-on and really take this game to the GOP. If we play our cards properly, the GOP is up shit creek, and can only dig themselves deeper. This isn't the time for bi-partisan love and threading the needle of the political landscape. This is the time of "Throw the Bums Out", followed by the New & Improved "Throw the Crooked Bums Out". And we need to play it strong. The Republicans have proven that they are unable to lead this country, and it's time that we went back to the A Squad.