Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Does Karl Rove really have a photographic memory?  Really?  Or is that just part of a mystic he likes to project about himself?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Can't Get No Satisfaction

Professor DeLong had a good post today catching WaPo’s Deborah Howell in a bit of historical revisionism.  The way she tells it now, she was quick about posting a proper correction to the Abramoff “both major parties” thing.  Sure, she could have done it sooner; but due to the Washington Post’s SOP, she failed to do so.  As if this was the Post’s old school ways failing to keep up with the fast pace of the internet.  And as the good professor points out; that’s simply not the case.  Not only was her “correction” horribly late; it wasn’t a real correction at all.

But here’s the point that DeLong misses: By attempting to rewrite history, Howell is implicitly admitting that she was wrong in what she did.  Perhaps this is outright deception on her part, but I believe that this represents what she wished had happened.  What she now believes happened.  She now believes that she had done exactly what we had wanted from her: a prompt and proper correction.  She gave neither, but she wants to believe that she has.  By rewriting history, she is admitting that she doesn’t approve of what actually happened.

And isn’t that exactly what we asked for?  Didn’t we denounce her for failing to give a proper correction?  Yep.  And if she now is rewriting history to make it look that way, it’s obvious that she’s acknowledging that we were correct.  Sure, she’s clearly not giving credit where it’s due.  I’m not sure if she still thinks of us liberal rabble as scum-sucking vermin; but she seems to have changed her mind where it counted.

And so what the Professor is really complaining about isn’t that she didn’t admit that she was wrong; because she implicitly has.  But because she didn’t admit that we were correct.  As if it’s not enough to be right; we need Howell’s validation too.  A confession that she was wrong and we were right.  And while badguys always confess on Matlock and Perry Mason; people rarely do that in real life.  

In real life, you just can’t count on your opponent admitting defeat.  And the more your opponent hates you, the less likely they’ll admit anything to you.  Too often, people will knowingly continue with a faulty or wrong argument; simply out of spite.  Not because they can’t admit being wrong; but just because they can’t admit that to you.  You’ve got them trapped into a corner, and if they can’t find a face-saving way out, they just won’t get out.  They’ll repeat the dumbest inanities and hold-tight to obvious falsehoods; just because they want to deny you the satisfaction of being right…and smug.

And that’s why it’s stupid to make diehard opponents.  That’s why it’s stupid to get personal with this stuff.  Because people are already prone to not admitting fault; and emotions just muck that up further.  And that’s why it’s stupid to be rude.  Because it makes it personal and gives them a reason to dismiss you.  And makes it far less likely that they’ll ever admit to you that you’re right.

But the secret is knowing that you’re right, without that validation.  Without them admitting defeat.  I’ve been in plenty of debates with people who disagreed with me, who ended up later telling me the exact things that I had been arguing to them.  But without any acknowledgment.  Sometimes, they actually act as if they were teaching it to me.  But I can spot one of my arguments a mile away, and I know where they really got it from.

And that’s what we’ve got to do.  The Howells and Bradys of the world won’t admit that the rabble was correct.  Rove’s not going to admit that he’s seriously scared of being convicted by Fitz.  DeLay’s just not going to confess.  That’s not how the real world works.  Everyone knew the Enron guys were crooks, but even now they hang onto their defense.  That’s the way of the world and attacking people for it isn’t going to help; and is likely to just make them more bitter at you.  People just don’t like to admit to being wrong or confessing to wrongdoing.  That’s human nature.

We need to be secure enough in ourselves to know when we’re right.  We can’t wait until they show weakness, they won’t.  And when someone like Howell pretends as if she had done what we wanted her to do, it should be enough for us that she’s acknowledged the problem on some level.  While she might not be giving us our props, she is likely to be taking actions to correct her mistake.  And that’s the most we can hope for.  Not validation; but improvement.

I also wrote a whole lot more at DeLong’s messageboard; so if you want to read more Biobrain, just go there.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Brain of Easterbrook

Gregg Easterbrook is a complete dope.  Not that you didn’t know that, but it’s always good to start a post with a universally agreed upon statement.  If he was any more consistent, you could safely do the opposite of whatever he tells you.  But if there’s one thing about contrarians, it’s that they refuse to be consistent too.  That’s what makes them such assheads.

And I’m thinking about this after having read Media Matters’ response to a recent critical review Easterbrook wrote of Gore’s new movie.  Holy goddamn that was a takedown.  Not because Media Matters was at all rough with the poor sap; but just because Greggy boy was so damn embarrassingly wrong.  I refuse to read his original column, but I have no doubts that Gregg did exactly what the MM folks say he did.

Honestly, can anyone really believe that Gore didn’t have global warming expert types helping him with his movie?  As if Gore just made this up himself and did all the research?  As if Gore wasn’t a little worried about serious criticism if he really just made shit up?  How stupid does Easterbrook think Gore is?  Stupider than Easterbrook, obviously; and that’s saying a lot.

Contrary is as Contrary Does

The only issue I disagree with Media Matters is regarding their criticism of Gregg’s own abysmal record on Global Warming.  Sure, he was wrong, and deceitfully so at that.  But that was just his contrarianism talking.  He refers to it as being “anti-alarmism”; but contrarians always do.  They’re all about opposing things entirely because something is too popular.  The guys who love a relatively unknown band until they become too famous; and then brag about how they used to be fans when it mattered.  Guys who criticize the Beatles and Led Zeppelin for being “over-rated”; as if that’s a fault with the bands or their music.  And so Global Warming is wrong; not because of the facts, but because so many people were insisting otherwise.

And that’s the role they serve; as ballast to the majority.  But the real problem isn’t that they exist, but only that they don’t understand the true motives for their opposition.  They honestly believe that there is always a good justification for them taking contrary positions to the majority.  And so they need to justify opinions, even if they’re wrong.  And they have no real qualms about misrepresenting the truth, because they know that they must be right.  Why else would they believe so strongly in something unless there was a good reason?  Devil’s advocates turned Devil.

But the thing is, contrarians aren’t always wrong and shouldn’t necessarily be dismissed.  Even when they’re wrong, they can help us fine-tune our own arguments.  That’s their role in life; to make sure we don’t go overboard in any one direction.  And the stronger the flow seems, the stronger they’ll swim against it.  And that can be a good thing.  I myself used to be a contrarian, and am still awesome at finding a rationalization for just about anything.  But these people believe that, because they found a rationalization, that it must be right.  Because they found a working argument, there can be no other argument.  And that’s their mistake.  They pick their outcome first, and then look for the rationalization afterwards.  But anything can be rationalized.

And that’s why they can’t be trusted and why we shouldn’t expect any kind of consistency or coherence in their arguments.  Because there is no overriding system or ideology that they’re pushing.  There is only knee-jerk reflexivism.  You say black, they say white.  It really is that simple.  But that doesn’t mean you can deduce anything from their insistence on white.  It’s just reflex.  And while reflexes can be a very good thing, they can’t necessarily be trusted to do the right thing.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, and the only thing consistent about them is that they’re consistently contrarian.  

Not necessarily against the majority, per se.  But against some group that they think has gone too far.  If there’s a big push for steak, they’ll move en masse to sushi.  If there’s a big push for sushi, they’ll move en masse to alligator or rattlesnake.  Or anything else that the main group says is gross.  They just get their jollies by doing the unexpected; even if it’s entirely expected and stupid.  And they will insist to their dying day that this isn’t contrarianism.  They will continue to believe that their rationalizations are the true motive, and that their “anti-alarmism” is a sign of intelligence.

Ventriloquist’s Dummy

And to be fair to Easterbrook, I’ve always suspected that his true idiocy isn’t that he comes up with such dumb arguments; but rather that he frequently talks to a pseudo-clever individual who completely runs circles around Gregg’s sadsack excuse for a brain.  Because that’s what his columns always sound like; like he’s just repeating what other people have told him.  People who he has learned to trust the hard way.  People who have convinced Gregg that they’re smarter than he.  And they’re obviously right.

And whoever this evil person is; they’ve so thoroughly whipped Easterbrook that he doesn’t even question what he’s told.  If he’s told that a Big Gas lobbyist working for Bush would be limited in his anti-environmental actions by his Big Polluter Lobbyist boss?  Well then Gore’s a wacko for saying otherwise; and no proof is necessary.  

And if he’s told that there are reports which contradict Gore’s claims; then he doesn’t even need to read the reports to say otherwise.  He knows it’s true.  Sure, it’s entirely unlikely that Gore would ruin his reputation by including obvious falsehoods in his movie.  No matter.  Easterbrook has been told that Gore’s movie is deceitful, so it was just a matter of finding the deceit; no matter how many facts he had to bend.  And besides, to Easterbrook, Gore’s reputation is already ruined and is probably hurting the Global Warming crusade by using it for his own purposes.

And so it is with all contrarians.  Maybe they’re  right.  Maybe not.  They’ll never know.  They’re not dumb, but they’re not nearly as clever as they like to believe they are.  Because to them, the very fact that they’ve thought of an argument that others have missed is evidence that they’re smarter than everyone else.  Even if it’s entirely dumb or fact-free.  Their contrarianism has convinced them that they’re smarter than us, and is the very thing that keeps them from becoming as smart as they pretend to be.  

But that’s always the way with people: The thing that they rely on most is the very thing holding them back from becoming the person they want to be.  And for these people, contrarianism is a crutch used to support their smartguy image.  And because they’ve become so accustomed to relying on contrarianism to sway their opinions; they’ll never learn to think on their own.  They can only rationalize opinions which are outside their ability to choose.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Sperm You Save...

Recently, I wrote a post derailing a common argument among anti-abortion folks which suggests that one reason why we shouldn’t abort is because the future-person we abort could possibly have made a positive contribution to society; and that, by aborting them, we are hurting society.  Like if they cured cancer or could get us good tickets to see Radiohead.  Or something like that.

And this argument was highlighted by Nathan Tabor; a dude Jerry Falwell once called “a young Jesse Helms” in an endorsement for his failed Congressional bid back in 2004.  As I quoted from young Tabor:
For ACOG, the pill is a simple solution to the estimated 2.7 million unplanned pregnancies that occur each year.  But the fact of the matter is, a number of us were the result of unplanned pregnancies. You don’t have to be planned—or even wanted by your natural parents—in order to make a difference in this world.

And I thought that was clear enough.  He’s suggesting the very argument I mentioned above.  Saying that even unplanned babies are needed in the world.  But I had two dissenting opinions on that point, from two Christians who commented on that first post.  And it’s so rare to see a dissenting opinion at my site, that I decided to investigate further.  

Further Investigation

Now, their basic point was that I was arguing against a “silly strawman”.  And I take great umbrage from that remark.  I don’t do strawman.  It’s not my thing.  And I was slightly worried.  What if this was a strawman?  What if I was full of shit?  I first heard this argument as a young teen from my friend’s dad, who was giving a homily or something at my Catholic church.  And even though I was a stupid punk who didn’t know jack shit about the world; I knew that was a crappy argument.

But perhaps I was wrong for believing that our sophisticated anti-aborters were still keeping such tripe in their arsenal.  I mean, social conservatives have made a lot of rhetorical strides since the late 80’s; and perhaps I had mistaken this tired joke of an argument for the nuanced and delicate one they were providing for us.

Or not.

I did a little research, and wasn’t disappointed.  Now, before you get the wrong idea about which selections I’m quoting, let me stress that I’m quoting stuff from the first twenty websites or so that showed up in the search; exluding messageboards.  The messageboards were also chock full of cancer-saving fetuses; but I don’t consider them to be a fair source to attack.  I’m sticking with blogs and websites.

The Evidence

Thus said, I present Exhibit A: The Covenant News (wingnut alert!):

Another victim of abortion is the general public. More tax dollars would be coming in from the millions of people destroyed (murdered) by abortion. Maybe one of these innocent lives could have developed a cure for cancer or AIDS. Maybe one of these victims could have prevented the war in Iraq.

Silly?  Yes.  Strawman?  No.  This is the real deal.  I typed abortion murder “cure for cancer” into Yahoo, and this was the second result of 6,290 total results.  An argument which clearly advocates the position that it’s wrong to not have more children.  As I argued previously, if it’s wrong to not have babies, then it’s wrong for anyone who doesn’t have a baby.  And so the nun who refuses to create more taxpayers and scientists is clearly more immoral than a welfare queen with fifteen kids; at least in terms of denying us taxpayers and scientists.

But then I clicked through and saw that this was apparently written by 10th Grader Zach Bishop from Ohio.  Sure, it actually got published in the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum, so it apparently passed an editorial test and might have actually convinced somebody.  But that’s clearly not the best source for top-notch arguments, so I’ll dismiss this as unfair.

Oh, and I wonder what the Tort Reform conservatives would think of the Covenant News; which has a page titled: “Problems After RU-486?  Call Attorney and Sue!” Are they honestly suggesting that there are women that had problems after taking a controversial drug who might be convinced to call an attorney after visiting the Covenant News website?  More likely, they’re just trying to further the perception that this is a big problem.  

But then again, it doesn’t mention gender in that link; so it’s possible that they were suggesting a dude might be the suer.  Young Mr. Bishop is of the opinion that “every father should have the right to save his child from abortion;” and I see no reason that shouldn’t apply to abortion drugs too.  Sue!  Sue!

Filling the Earth for God

So I decided to move down my Yahoo list, and found Bob Stanley’s website at number five:
From the very beginning GOD commanded, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it."Genesis 1:28, and Genesis 8:17, and Genesis 9:1GOD did not add, 'If it is YOUR will', or 'If it pleases YOU', or 'If YOU decide to do so',or 'IF IT IS YOUR CHOICE', did He? No, He said 'DO IT', It is GOD's will, not ours, that children should be brought into this world.

If you will notice, this command was repeated at least three times in Genesis alone, and there are similar verses in other books. Now, why does anyone repeat himself?  To drive home a very important point, that is why.You may be pro-choice, but GOD is Pro-Life.

And in case that wasn’t clear enough for you, he repeats this old story:
A man pleaded with GOD. "Dear GOD, why don't you give us someone who can find a cure for cancer and heart disease?"GOD replied, "I did, but you aborted them."

Of course, he forget to include the rest of the story; where the next man asks why God didn’t send someone to cure Alzheimer’s, and God replies, “I did, but you jerked him out during Baywatch.”  And then there was the nun who was just perfect for procreating basketball players.  If only…

Number seven on our list came from another student; this time, Meredith Joy Hibbard (cheesy music alert!), a 12th Grader at Mt. Sophia Academy, a home school diploma mill.  In arguing against abortion, she writes:
Not only is our country irreversibly defamed, but those children you wanted slain might have grown up to lead our country, find a cure for cancer, or even improve the plumbing system in your house.

Looks like the strawman scores another point.

Finally, number ten rolls around and we get our first link that doesn’t have this supposed strawman that I had been attacking.  Instead, I found the Ekklesia Communicator (cheesy music alert!), which insists that Clinton and Bush are both part of the same dangerous conspiracy, and that any bible which isn’t King James is a dangerous perversion.  And the only reason his site came up was because he likes to show gross films of abortions and says he’s can cure cancer.  I should have known to stay away from the scientists!

And so out of the top ten sites I found, three contain the strawman, six are messageboards which contain the strawman, and the last was a fruitcake who could have proven the strawman correct; had he been aborted and not such a fruitcake.

Just the Quotes

This is getting long, so I’ll just provide the quotes (in the order they were found in):

Twelve Year Old Megan Polak:
Did you ever wonder why we don't have a cure for AIDS or a cure for cancer? With all the babies that have been killed maybe one would have grown up and found a cure. Think about how many famous athletes, musicians, scientists, and teachers must have been killed. How many Michael Jordans, Beethovens, or Albert Einsteins have been killed?

Student XxPooKxX:
What if George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Thomas Edison’s mothers were pro-choice and decided to make the horrible decision to abort. We would still be ruled by England, have slaves, and be walking around in the dark with candlesticks. When somebody aborts a child, they kill a chance to finding a cure for cancer or AIDS. There may be a child being aborted right now that would grow up to become president or find such cures. Only God knows a child’s purpose and potential greatness, and only God can give and take away that life.

SammonSays columnist, John Sammon:
Another con, is that the child who never lived, may have invented a cure for cancer (had he lived). Think about that, if you’re for abortion, the next time you walk into a hospital to have a mysterious growth on your breast checked out.

Tim Haile, railing against RU486:
What about today? Has some mother already aborted the person with the potential to discover the cure for cancer or aids? Would we have "missed" such a person? Are you for a practice that creates missing persons? R-U-4-86?

Diane S. Dew in The Standard seems to take the argument further:
When we presume to play God, we interfere with the plan of the Creator. "In the fulness of time, God sent His Son," just as He raised up Moses, Isaiah, Deborah, etc. -- "for such a time as this." Who knows, whether we might have had a cure for cancer, or AIDS, had our nation followed God's laws?

7th Grader Alessandra Christiani won the St. John School essay contest with:
Abortion is a serious sin. If you aren’t convinced, think about it
from a different point of view. That boy could have been a future President; that girl could have found a cure for cancer. Just think this: my
mother could have chosen abortion- what would the world be like without me? My friend’s mother could have chosen abortion- what would my life
be like without her?

An anonymous author at (an abortion “neutral” website):
Because the babies of today become the adults of tomorrow who will run the world that you live in. The child of that "Welfare Mother" may just grow up to be the scientist who finds the cure for cancer, which may save your life. When you are older, they will be the doctors who take care of you, the clerks who sell you food in the grocery store, the farmer who grows the food, the mechanic who fixes your car.

Straw No More

I can easily go on and on.  And remember, I skipped lots and lots of messageboards and comments that also had quotes just as bad as these; and I only performed one search, which was far from exhaustive.  And yet it was easy to find quotes which clearly reflect the argument that I was told was a “silly strawman”.  And sure, I quoted a bunch of students and wackos, but I really didn’t expect to find much else.  And the point remains clear: Lots of folks like this argument.  

And there can be no doubt that this argument didn’t originate with any of these people.  They’re just repeating what they heard.  And they thought it sounded so clever at the time, that they decided to repeat it.  Ironically, each one of them sounds like they’re presenting the most original of arguments, the proof of which is entirely evident.  Something that they’ve given deep thought to, and have approved.  And yet it’s obvious that they haven’t given the least bit of thought to it.  It sounded clever and supported their side, so they accepted it fully.

And it’s a ridiculous argument that they don’t even need.  There are lots of good arguments against abortion, and this isn’t one of them.  Because each and every one of these quotes would support the idea that we need to be pumping out babies 24-7-365; as we don’t want to be missing any Einsteins, Jordans, or Bushes.

Anti-Capital Capitalists

Why are conservatives so fucking crazy?  And why do they think that we’re equally crazy?  I read this quote, via Atrios, from The Unknown Ideal:
"We are imitating the left. Left-wing social-political activists don't like capitalism. They hide behind human rights. We want to help oppose that."

That’s right.  Liberals don’t really believe in human rights.  We just oppose capitalism as a whole.  That’s what it’s all about.  We’re busted.  Because we’re just like the conservatives, and our stated goals must always be covers for our true objectives.  The only thing missing from that quote is the reason why we don’t like capitalism: We hate everything.  But perhaps that was assumed.

And for anyone who hasn’t already read that post, it’s in reference to a rightwing mutual fund which apparently picks companies based on how socially irresponsible they are.  This is intended as an attack on liberalish mutual funds which only pick socially responsible companies.  I’m not exactly sure how this plan of theirs is supposed to work; as I can easily imagine a world in which both socially responsible and irresponsible mutual funds live in harmony.  But whatever.

Perhaps if their anti-social fund trounces the responsible funds, that would demonstrate the foolishness of the responsible funds.  But that’s not the point of responsible funds; as their primary goal is to promote social responsibility, with profits as a secondary goal.  So their efforts would be the equivalent of someone comparing a business’s profits with that of a non-profit.  Sure, Exxon does seem to have a better bottomline than Goodwill’s; but it’d be pretty silly to suggest that this proves that they’re superior.  And even sillier to suggest that Exxon’s profits somehow undermine Goodwill’s goals.  

But even worse for them, the socially responsible mutual funds are apparently doing quite well, while the socially irresponsible-capitalist defending funds are doing quite poorly.  As one of the founders rationalizes, “We're not trying to be a high-performing mutual fund.”  So in order to defend capitalism, they’re willing to make stupid choices that damage their investors’ capital-raising abilities.  Which just makes sense, if we’re to imagine that anti-capitalist social-political activists intend to destroy capitalism by working within the capitalist system and raising more capital for their investors.  Perhaps the idea is that these investors will eventually tire of their profits and donate it all to communists.

But more likely, it’s another example of the conservative bizarro-world where words mean nothing and the true goal is some unstated fantasy where each conservative sits on top of the world.  A place where everyone benefits more when benefits are limited to fewer people, and where you have to screw people to save them.  A place so rife with deceit and treachery that the only remedy is even more deceit and treachery.  And a place where you can preserve capitalism by wasting people’s capital.  Which all fits into the idea that everything rightwingers want is automatically good and sound; even if it seems to have the exact opposite outcome as what they say should be happening.  

But then again, it’s equally possible that this is all just a ruse intended to deprive contrarian rightwingers from their soft-earned money; by playing to their liberal hatred to get them to invest in something stupid.  After all, what is more socially irresponsible than screwing over your fellow believers while doing as little work as possible?

But that’s always a long-standing question regarding conservatives and Republicans: It’s impossible to figure out who’s scamming whom or where exactly the con-game ends.  The whole movement is essentially a pyramid scheme, convincing folks that they’re all in the upper echelon of the pyramid, and will soon reap all the benefits; while one dude sits on top of the whole pyramid, laughing.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Smoke It if you've got It

So if a major broadcaster drives you to crack addiction, is it considered poor etiquette to sue?  Apparently Lilybet might have a chance to find out, after having suffered through a fluff piece on Iraq from CBS’s Early Show co-anchor, Harry Smith.  Though in CBS’s defense, it was an early morning show and it’s as gauche to show real news as it is to drink Jack at that ungodly hour.

My favorite part is the cheap rationalization for the story of "This is the side of the Iraq war that the mainstream media won't show you.”  The joke being that this is coming from the mainstream media.  In fact, the mainstream media has a fetish for taking a break from the real world and searching for the few positive stories coming from Iraq.  As if there is any country in history which didn’t have a few positive stories of optimism and hope.

And then there’s the issue of other MSM cohorts who once denounced a man for daring to show positive images of Iraq.  But I guess timing really is everything.

Little Optimism, Little Progress

I didn’t see that news story myself, as I already had a previous engagement with my pillow to attend to; but I read the accompanying article, and it’s pathetic in its fluffery.  As Harry Smith says, "We were looking for a little optimism, and a little progress, and we found it, in a place called Saba Bor."  And of course, if you’re looking for something and are willing to forgo reality, it’s really not too hard to find it.  

For example, this little optimism and progress he speaks of is intermixed with:

"We headed to town in our armored humvee, gunner up top, at the ready," Smith says. "Local traffic pulled over. We had our eyes peeled for IEDs (improvised explosive devices)."

Just a month ago, a bomb killed 15 people there….They were almost rioting in here. They pelted us with rocks."  So, the 4th closed off every road into town but one, making it harder for the bad guys to get in.

April was a particularly deadly month. "We've lost eight men in combat," an emotional Thomson said, "all great Americans."

Encouragement tempered, Smith concludes, with the realities of incidents such as one last week, when a local contractor hired to run an elective line into town to provide desperately needed power, was kidnapped. He hasn't been heard from since.

CBS News: Looking for a little optimism and a little progress, and finding just that.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Faker Knows Best

Reading this NY Times article (via TPM’s Yglesias) of what went wrong with training Iraqi police is yet another reminder of what’s wrong with the conservative system as a whole.  

The main point is clear: They don’t believe in expertise, but instead believe that one guy is as good as any other.  To them, expertise is just about obtaining the proper terminology and attitude; and that anyone with the right attitude can do anything.  And so they send corrupt cop Bernard Kerik to Iraq without a clue or a plan; and he fails.  Sure, as Yglesias points out, there are people with expertise in building and training police forces, and that Kerik wasn’t one of them.  But who cares.  He’s a cop.  He’s famous.  And most of all, he’s got attitude.  That’ll be enough.

To conservatives, experts are just folks who specialize in certain areas so that they become better at faking it.  To them, everyone’s faking it; and the so-called “experts” are just specialized fakers.  People trying to psych you out with their credentials and fancy words.  And to some extent, that is correct.  But to conservatives, there’s nothing else.  There is no knowledge.  There is no truth.  There is just attitude.

Hell, guys like Cheney and Rumsfeld built their careers on faking-out experts with their bullying and menacing attitude.  They’re so good at it that it’s easy to see why they think they’re smarter than the experts.  Because they’re louder and firmer, and those experts are so willing to back down…eventually.  It’s all about the attitude, and these guys are experts in attitude.  That’s why, to anyone paying attention, the people with the strongest attitudes are usually the least competent.  Competent people don’t need strong attitudes; and for incompetent people, it’s all they’ve got.

And for that matter, this belief that anyone is as good as anyone else is apparent in their system of nepotism and favoritism.  If Mr. Big’s Son is just as competent as anyone else; doesn’t it just make sense to please Mr. Big by hiring his son?  And if Mr. Important Alumni’s Son is just as good as any other Yale applicant; doesn’t it make sense to please Mr. Important Alumni?  And why bother hiring any experts?  If one choice is good as any other, why focus on competence?  Why not create a system of loyalists and favorites instead?  Rather than getting so-called “experts” who will constantly try to flaunt their so-called “expertise”; they can hire sycophants who owe their career to their conservative benefactor. That’s clearly the Bush Admin’s attitude, and it shows.  

Again, to conservatives, expertise is just about attitude.  Attitude can be learned, but loyalty to the conservative cause cannot be.  So they don’t hire experts.  It sounds stupid, but is obviously what they believe.

Faking the Police

And it’s not just the folks we sent there.  Conservatives apparently applied this Faker Knows Best policy to training the Iraqi cops and military.  As if there’s nothing to being a cop but carrying a gun and shouting alot.  As if training cops was just a matter of giving them a gun and having them do a few summersaults while shouting alot.  And it’s not.  It’s not just about attitude.  The attitude is something you get from proper training; but it’s only the tip of the police training iceberg.  And as with almost all important jobs, the most crucial stuff can only be learned on the job.  And if you can’t rely on that, you better have a damn good training regimen.  But in Iraq, we got neither.

And then there’s the conservative military fetish.  Why mess with police actions?  Just send in your biggest gun and clear everything out.  That’s how it works.  If a cop with a handgun is good, then a soldier with a machinegun is better.  If a cop car will scare the baddies away, then a tank is just that much more effective.  And don’t even get me started on the effectiveness of the nuke.  Totally awesome.

Conservatives firmly believe that the best card to play is your strongest card; and that if it works once, you should keep playing it again and again.  Somehow, it hasn’t occurred to them that the only way they can keep playing the same card is when they cheat.  And while cheating in elections, politics, the media, and other unreal forums is easy; it really doesn’t work in real life.  And so they do well in elections, politics, and the media; and completely screw-up everything else.  

And again, this goes to show you how little the conservatives know about policing.  Military guys shoot first and ask questions later.  Survival is almost always the military’s top priority; as it’s the best way to ensure that we can live to shoot another day.  But police work is different.  Sure, they shoot people too.  But that’s not the goal.  The police goal is crime prevention.  To catch bad guys.  To allow a justice system to met out the punishment.  And most of all, to give people a disincentive to doing bad things.  To show people that there is more to justice than a bullet to the head.

That’s the goal.  Not survival.  Not victory.  But peace.  And that requires a completely different mindset.  When someone shoots a soldier, the soldier is obligated to shoot back.  When someone shoots a cop, that cop needs to find the shooter.  This is a fundamental difference, but is one that conservatives just can’t understand.  They don’t do finesse.  It’s all about using your biggest gun all the time.  Even if the big gun will destroy what you want.

The Hollywood Life

And this obsession with fakery also undermined our efforts in Iraq.  Because the Bush Admin just couldn’t admit to any of this stuff.  Their Iraq policy has always relied on trickery and lies in order to make it sound palatable to people who really aren’t into this kind of stuff.  War supporters like war.  Bombs.  Shooting.  That kind of stuff.  And so that’s all the Bush Admin wanted to give them.  And after the war’s over, you pull the troops home, throw a parade, and everyone’s happy.  That’s how this was supposed to work.

And so it’s natural that they couldn’t make contingency plans, or plan to rebuild the police force, or send the proper troops, or the proper equipment.  Because that all involves stuff that war supporters don’t like.  These people have seen a lot of wars, and know that they always end with closing credits and patriotic music.  And that’s what they wanted from this one.  We send our troops, drop our bombs, and come back.  The end.

And so why shouldn’t the Bush Admin just give that to them?  Why muck around with endless plans and stupid redtape?  Particularly if the dreaded “doves” get a hold of them and tell everyone about these plans?  And after all, plans are just the things that people develop when they’ve got nothing better to do.  Kind of like whittling.

And long after it became obvious that planning was necessary, the Bush Admin could never admit to this.  Fakery had gotten them that far, and they were stuck with it.  In essence, political reality had forced them to deny the real reality.  But then again, even without political pressures to make Iraq look good, it’s unlikely that they’d have been able to take the proper actions.  Bullshitters rarely do.

Processes for Pussies

Overall, the Conservative Way just doesn’t work.  Because it relies on faking and cheating and fantasy to work; and can’t work otherwise.  And that’s how they think we do it.  They think we’re all cheaters, and that maybe they’ve just run into bad luck.  But it’s not.  That article highlights lots of Bush Admin screw-ups, but if you look into it a little further; you’ll realize that it couldn’t be any other way.  Sure, the Bush Admin is incompetent, but their biggest incompetence was in getting us involved in this war.  As I’ve been arguing since long before the war, wars are a risky thing with too many unknowns.  But these people were just too stupid to understand that.

As is typical of incompetents, they have no idea that they’re incompetent.  Nor do they understand why the “experts” are fussing so much.  When a conservative fusses about something, they’ve got another goal in mind.  They’re not raising a real objection.  They’re putting the brakes on.  The objection is just a ruse; in order for them to get their real goal.  And so that’s what they think everyone else is doing too.  They think it’s all about the end result; and that processes are for pussies.  Doing actual work and planning is just redtape by people who have different goals.  The ends justify everything.

And so they really do believe that environmental scientists are inventing data of global warming.  And they really do believe that the CIA is too liberal and/or wimpy and is purposefully skewing their results.  And they believe that democracy is a stupid label that stupids latched onto as a security blanket, and that you can still obtain the benefits of a democracy while instituting a dictatorship.  Just as they believed that Saddam’s police force would be a good choice for policing Iraq; and that a corrupt police commissioner can build a foreign police force from scratch.  

After all, if one person is as good as another, you might as well pick the guys that benefit you the most.  And if things continue going as they are in Washington, conservatives will be learning that first hand come November.  Namely, how easy it is to replace them for people who are more likely to benefit the voters.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Pro-Life Organist

In a brewing “Party of Death” debate between the world-renowned Publius of Legal Fiction and Feddie of Southern Appeal (in which Pub won with the first shot, and we’re just waiting to see if he can properly mop-up the post-debate mess); I caught this comment by pro-life commenter Lucas:

“i am not even an organ donor because i do not want someone to stop working on me or in some cases to keep working on me, just to get my heart”

I hope to god this is parody. I read all of Lucas’ other comments on that board, and I honestly have no idea if he’s serious. It’s all the stuff I might write, except that it’s a tad too broad and doesn’t contain the necessary hypocrisy to fully push it into satire. Even worse, I’m afraid the guy’s retarded or something. I once got in a debate at Legal Fiction that concluded by me realizing that the conservative I was debating against truly wasn’t playing with a full deck. And why not? There are crazy and stupid people out there; and thanks to AOL, it’s easier than ever for them to contact us.

But really, this was just too much. A dude dares to call himself “pro-life,” yet he refuses to allow his unneeded organs to be used to save lives? He could personally save a few lives, yet he refuses because he’s afraid that someone will pull the plug on his vegetative ass? That’s outrageous.

And again, this might well be parody. If so, it was the best comment he gave. Not only was it terribly ignorant, but it was truly hypocritical and selfish. In other words: Bulls-eye. But nobody else seemed to think he was joking and he did leave a lot of comments. So I’m guessing we really did stumble on yet another loon. At a rightwing site, no less. And isn’t that just the worst: That the best thing you can hope for someone is that they were being satirical? I’ve often wondered if that’s what some people are for: To remind you not to be so stupid.

Everything's Better with Sex

Something I don’t understand about the stupid people: Why are they so damn stupid?  Here’s failed Congressional candidate Nathan Tabor, an anti-abortion stupid person from North Carolina, explaining why it is wrong for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to recommend that doctors give morning-after pill prescriptions to women who didn’t immediately need them; via TBogg:

For ACOG, the pill is a simple solution to the estimated 2.7 million unplanned pregnancies that occur each year.  But the fact of the matter is, a number of us were the result of unplanned pregnancies. You don’t have to be planned—or even wanted by your natural parents—in order to make a difference in this world.

And the argument is that we shouldn’t prevent babies from being born, because even the unwanted ones might benefit us.  And sure, that’s true enough.  But doesn’t that also justify us having sex all the time and pumping out as many babies as is humanly possible?  I mean, if the point is that we shouldn’t be preventing babies; then what difference does it make whether you’re having sex or not?  Whether a woman uses the pill, aborts her baby, or simply abstains from having sex; she’s not having a baby.  As far as babies not being born; it’s all the same thing.  Because if you’re worried about the babies not being born, you have to worry about all the babies that aren’t being born.  Not just the ones which weren’t born due to the right reasons.

And with this line of reasoning, they’re essentially equating abstinence with abortion.  Not only that, but it would be a strong argument for turning girls into baby machines immediately after puberty.  After all, the babies that we’re not letting them have would most certainly make a difference in this world.  Quite possibly a positive one.  And doesn’t it strongly suggest that it’s immoral for women to stop making babies before menopause?  How is that not a natural implication of this argument?  By my reckoning, I figure that the average fertile woman could pump-out about twenty-five babies in a reproductive lifetime; and that’s even assuming a lenient year-and-a-half gap between babies.  Comparing that with our nation’s current fertility rate of 2.08 would certainly make baby Jesus cry.  Clearly, we could be doing better.

Oh, and let’s not forget the big drain on resources that infertile people pose.  Here we’ve got millions of undernourished breeders in the world, unable to live up to their full potential due to a lack of resources; while we’ve got non-breeders wastefully existing with no other purpose than their own selfish enjoyment.  How dare they!  Don’t they know how many more unwanted babies the world needs?  Or do they just not understand the importance of proper nutrition in procreating and raising new breeders?  

Now, if they just don’t like babies being aborted, I guess I can understand that.  But this has nothing to do with whether or not we’re getting the extra folks we need to fix our problems.  And to suggest that it is immoral for these women to deny us these unwanted babies is an area that these people really shouldn’t try to visit.  Because that would make a woman who has had ten abortions and one child a more moral person than a nun who has had no children.  For that matter, it would make the proverbial Harlem Welfare Queen with fifteen kids more moral than just about anyone else.  And while I’m not really in a position to say that the procreating women aren’t more moral than non-procreating women; that’s really not an argument I’d expect from a supposed Christian with endorsements from Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Bob Jones III.  But then again, I guess I never really did expect an argument from such a person.

Needless to say, this whole thing is ludicrous.  Yet another back-assward attempt to rationalize a position that they can’t explain.  I mean sure, the argument does hold up under its own weight and can be extrapolated into a working system.  More babies means more brains working on more problems.  That’s simple enough.  But it’s a system that’s completely contradictory to everything that the anti-aborters believe in.  If you’re upset that people aren’t having enough babies, then you have to be upset at all the people not having enough babies.  Or have I missed the recent upsurge of Christians wanting me to start impregnating women?  And if that’s not what they want, and they don’t want folks having babies, I just think that it makes a lot more sense for us to be doing so while having sex.  Because everything’s just better with sex.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Safety First

I’m so afraid of another terrorist attack that I’m willing to lose all of my liberties.  I also wear adult diapers.  Just to be safe.

Friday, May 12, 2006

In Defense of Civility

Civility?  What’s so fucking hard about it?  I’m serious.  It’s just so easy to be nice.  And fun too.  And yet some people have such a hard time with it.  That if they disagree with someone, they just can’t help but be rude about it.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I like insulting people just as much as the next guy.  And I use supposedly foul language and really lay in to people that I don’t like.  I’ll call them douchebags, and nitwits, and assheads; and all kinds of other fun things.  But never to their face, and never if I suspect they might read it.  That stuff’s just for other people, but I really don’t like to offend people.  It’s one of my big no-no’s.

Insulting Jonah

In fact, one of the most widely read posts I ever wrote was a short ditty to Jonathan Chait regarding an online debate he was going to have with Republican nitwit Jonah Goldberg.  I wrote it over a year ago, when I was still fairly new to blogging (I started in January 2005); but it’s held up pretty well over time.  And I wrote stuff like: “He's nothing but a two dollar whore for the GOP and thinks of ideology as an arsenal used to defend his political team. For people like him, the purpose of debate IS debate, and not policy change; and his intent is not to persuade or understand, but to attack. And he's not even good at that.”

And it was just for fun, though I really did email the post to Chait, hoping he’d somehow link to me.  But there was one person I hadn’t intended to read it: Jonah Goldberg.  And I was all excited when I checked my blog stats for the day, and saw them going off the charts, literally.  Even now, the only posts that have done better are two that Glenn Greenwald linked to.  I had somehow thought all the attention was for a different post that I had liked better.  But then I saw where they were coming from: National Review Online.  Jonah himself had linked to me.

And I was mortified.  I couldn’t believe that Goldberg had actually read what I wrote about him.  That wasn’t meant for him.  Hell, if I had thought he was going to read it, I’d have written something much better than that.  Not a bunch of insults and truths he wouldn’t want to accept; but a well-crafted argument that would have caused much consternation in that thing Goldberg calls a brain.  In fact, my subsequent posts detailed my realization that Goldberg was a liberal Republican living in a conservative Republican’s world.  But Goldberg had read none of that.  He read a rude liberal insulting him; and is unlikely to have understood anything else.  So my one shot at convincing this famous pundit amounted to exactly nothing.  I only reinforced what he already thought about liberals.

But part of it was that I couldn’t believe I had been so rude.  Not that the little turd didn’t deserve it.  Because he did.  But just because I don’t like being rude to people.  It’s just plain wrong and it serves almost no purpose.  Sure, a properly applied insult can do wonders for your argument; but only if executed properly.  And otherwise, you’re just cutting off any hope of comprehension by your target.  Even had they been willing to listen before; they’re not going to listen to you now.  And so you’ve essentially just destroyed your argument before you’ve even started.

And even worse, assuming that your argument is correct (and thus, their argument is wrong); they’ll use your rudeness as the excuse for not listening to you.  And they might even secretly acknowledge that you have a point; but they’ll insist that your rudeness automatically disallows them from considering anything you might have to say.  As if rude people are inherently incapable of being correct.

Style over Substance

And we see this again and again.  Both Jim Brady and Deborah Howell of the Washington Post complained endlessly about how rude their critics were, and how that shut-off debate (and their messageboard).  And that was totally full of shit.  Sure, many people were rude.  Some went well beyond the boundaries of decency.  And there’s always the possibility that some of them really were crazy.  I mean, come on.  There are truly crazy people out there, and there’s no particular reason to believe that at least a few of them haven’t latched onto the liberal cause as their own.  

But that’s still no reason to dismiss a valid argument; to deny the obvious truth.  That’s a rationalization.  That’s their excuse for not admitting to their own mistakes.  And in that incident, the liberals were wrong for being so rude, but the Washington Post was just wrong.  And to this day, Jim Brady is likely to still not fully acknowledge his own errors in that incident.  His own stupid, stupid errors.  And in that regard, each and every one of those emailers had their point undermined by the folks who found it necessary to be rude.

And we see this with dopes like Richard Cohen.  Sure, he was wrong about Iraq, and we were right.  But what the hell do we know?  We’re so rude all the time.  And sure, Stephen Colbert’s keynote address in front of Bush wasn’t bad because it was wrong; but because it was so right.  But he was so ruuude about it.  That just wasn’t right.  And so Cohen isn’t going to address the points of substance that Colbert made; and there were a lot of them.  No.  He’s going to focus on the incivility.  Not because Colbert did anything wrong with his speech.  In fact, I think it was almost perfection.  Even the parts that weren’t as funny were still delivered with robotic perfection; with his one big goof helping to highlight how awesome Colbert truly is.  I honestly think that the biggest insult to Bush wasn’t what was said; but how Colbert made speechifying look so damn easy.  But because dopes like Cohen want an excuse for dismissing Colbert’s performance; incivility was all that Cohen remembers.

Breaking the Cocktail Circuit

And they explicitly tell us this; that they’re dismissing what we say due to the way we say it.  And sure, maybe they shouldn’t be so thin-skinned.  People are dying because of these elitist scubs, and they’re worried about a comedian bullying the president with satire?  Sure, that’s petty.  But that’s how it works.  Your opponent is looking for an excuse to dismiss your opinion; and rudeness is one of the best ways to do it.  If not, they’ll rely on labeling you a “Bush-hater” or too young to understand, or some other absurd means of dismissing you.  But rudeness is the quickest and most established ways to dismiss anything you might say.

And what good does it do?  It makes you feel better.  But that’s it.  You’ve cussed them out to their face (or to their computer screen), and you feel that smug bit of satisfaction because of it.  Really pleased with yourself.  You’ve called him Bush’s lapdog and suggested that he likes to fellate Cheney on a regular basis.  Great.  But is that really all you wanted?  Or did you want to convince someone?  Did you simple satisfaction?  Or did you want to end the war?  Or get the pundit to challenge Bush more?  Or get them to think outside their Beltway-Cocktail circuit?  Or anything real?  Of course you did.  You’re not just an insult-machine.  You wanted to convince the dude.  To break through the cheap pundit façade and have them experience something real.

And that’s the thing: Cohen wants a reason to dismiss you.  And you gave it to him.  The excuse he needed. And now he won’t listen to anything you say.  You’re wrong by default.  But not only that, he’ll use that as a reason to dismiss anything that anyone who agrees with you might say.  You’ve not only silenced your own voice; you’ve silenced millions of like-minded people.  And for what?  So Cohen won’t read your email?  That’s what he told us he does.  So what good did it do?  Nothing.  If anything, you hurt your cause more than any good you might have done.  You might feel better.  But you didn’t do anything else.

And sure, he’s a big baby.  There’s no doubt about it.  Mr. “Liberal” Cohen is a big crybaby who can’t handle a real argument.  I’m sure I wouldn’t like to get two thousand hate letters; and I seriously doubt I’d read them all.  But I’d certainly read a big sample of them; and would probably give a mass rebuttal in my column.  I mean, it’s not like the dude has a real job (unlike yours truly, who still has the time to write more than Cohen); so he might as well read the emails people send him.  And while I might mention the rudeness; I’d mainly deal with the substance of the criticism.  Not because I’m better than Cohen (though I am); but because that’s just the kind of guy I am.  That’s what makes me so good.  I like to know what other people think, and to show them how they’re completely and totally wrong.  That’s my thing.

But Cohen’s not like that, so get the fuck over it.  He’s not going acknowledge your point.  He is going to focus on your rudeness and act like a spoiled brat who’s taking his ball and going home.  Deal with it.  Insults won’t infiltrate his defenses; and if you’re not planning on convincing him, you might as well not bother.  And that’s the thing: I don’t think you could convince a guy like Cohen of jackshit.  Not by a relatively anonymous email from the horde.  I’m sure he’s a more reasonable guy in person (though still a giant twit); but if your email’s not supposed to convince him, then why bother?

Discounting the Hordes

And mass emails aren’t necessarily a bad thing.  He’s going to automatically discount anything that seems to be sent to him from the Atrios or Kos hordes; but mass emails really will have an effect.  It’s important for these people to know how many of us are out there, and that we’re not some small minority of freaks.  

But not if they’re rude.  Not even if 5% of them are rude.  Then they lose all effectiveness.  Then they’re just seen as braindead liberals following their evil master’s commands.  This isn’t a thousand emails from Atrios’ well-informed readers.  This is an assault by the big guy himself.  Atrios said “sic ‘em” and they got sick.  

And Cohen and Brady and Howell and everyone else has their readyset reason for ignoring them.  And not just to ignore them, but to hold against them.  Not just the individuals who made these personal attacks (some of which I truly believe were quite rude); but the liberal horde as a whole.  Not that there is a liberal horde; and not that these emails were nearly as rude or angry as these sissies want to believe; but that’s the point.  These people will dismiss anything as being rude, so it just doesn’t work.

Be Polite

And so the answer is simple: Be polite.  It will get you so much more and it feels better.  I love it when some uptight ninny starts trying to pressure me or hone in on my territory.  I’d rather they not exist, but I get a certain satisfaction from my technique.  Because no matter how rude they are or how much they deserve to be insulted or ignored; I just don’t take their bait.  Because that’s exactly what they’re wanting from me.  A challenge.  An opponent.  A reason to hate me.  And I don’t give it to them.  I just act professional.  As if nothing is happening at all and their behavior is perfectly normal.  And then I show them the proper way to act and how I’m so much better than them.  

And it works great.  And it feels great.  You act like you’re a regular reader of Cohen, and that you’re just adding to his work by telling him how he’s totally wrong.  Or maybe you’ve got some polite correction to make.  He’d eat that up.  That’s how you’d get his attention.  That’s how you could convince him.  Not by a frontal assault which won’t put a dent in his nitwit armor.  But by plying his ego with compliments and as if we’re all above pettiness and disagreements; and that we’re all on the same team trying to work out the same problems.  Cohen’s not a big baby.  He’s your mentor, and you’re wanting to impress him by telling him something he doesn’t know.  This isn’t a blast to the face.  This is a pat on the back.

And a well-crafted argument like that is a work of art.  Not that I do that regularly, as I’m fairly sure that our pundits won’t read my emails, so I won’t bother.  But it always feels good.  Plus, you can usually use it as blog material on your own blog; using the “Open Letter to…” format and so you get points for having a new blogpost too.  But for god’s sake, save the insults for when you don’t think they’re listening.  I honestly love a properly used insult.  But only in the proper place.  

I use funny insults in my posts as a way of conveying ideas and making my stuff easier to read.  I’ll call Cohen a titty baby because it’s funny and true.  But I’d never use that while writing to him directly.  That’s what the double-agent stuff is for.  You act like you’re just a concerned reader who has a minor disagreement with a columnist you normally love.  It might not convince your target; but it’s far more likely too than an insult, and at a minimum will help you score points for your side.  Because when you write-in as a liberal, you represent all liberals; and I don’t want my thoughts dismissed because of yours.  Besides, insults are soooo rightwing.  And you don’t want to be a rightwinger, right?

BTW, as the final kicker to my big Jonah Goldberg insult post, it did bring me far more traffic than I had ever seen (pre-Greenwald); and was solely due to the harsh nature of the post.  But it didn’t amount to anything.  Because they were all fucking Goldberg readers.  And so not only were none of them going to stick around; but I’m fairly certain that I didn’t want them around.  But then again, with that post, I did endear myself to Publius, who eventually added me to his blogroll.  So I guess my rudeness wasn’t a total loss.   Oh yeah, don’t forget to smile.

Fighting Big Government in Washington

Guest Post by Doctor Snedley, Personal Assistant to Doctor Biobrain

From the AP:
A bill to give small businesses a cheaper option when providing health insurance stalled in the Senate on Thursday.  Under the proposal endorsed by (image placeholder)resident Bush, businesses could buy insurance through regional or national trade associations. The insurance would be free of many state mandates. That could make it a cheaper alternative for businesses and for workers who have no insurance and would want to buy even scaled-back coverage.

Insurers being free of the byzantine maze of dangerous state mandates??  Needless to say, Democrats, having run the idea-pump dry nearly fifty years ago, awake from their drunken stupor to once again wield the obstructionist card.  After all, it’s the only one they’ve got.  And so they bring the Senate to a screeching halt.  And why?  Because their comrades on the state-level realized that the jig was almost up and the political gravytrain is running on empty.  It was time to pay the piper; and thanks to brave souls like President Bush, he’ll be paid by Joe Taxpayer no longer.

One Republican, Sen. Enzi from Wyoming rightly points out that employers wouldn’t cut benefits for workers who already have insurance.  Of course not.  I myself have had business-paid health insurance that kept getting reduced every few years, as expenses increased.  But I’m sure that wouldn’t happen this time.  Of course not.  No employer would take advantage of these cheapy insurance plans to save cash.  That’s just not what this is about.  And Enzi should know, as I’m sure enough insurance lobbyists were paid some big bucks to tell him that.  The fine Senator from Wyoming is no doubt an expert on the subject by now.

As the Senator explains:
"What they're trying to nail you on is that this bill eliminates mandates. Well it doesn't really, because every association is going to make sure your employees have the things that they need for their health care," Enzi said when talking to small business owners on Thursday.

The real savings from the health plans, Enzi said, would come from allowing companies to band together when buying insurance, which lowers administrative costs and gives them more clout when negotiating rates.

That’s right.  Who needs stinking state mandates, when we all know that our employers always have our best interests at heart?  The only reason we even have these stupid state laws is because of bureaucratic turf-wars by state-level goombahs who just like to poke their noses in places that they clearly don’t belong.  Like health insurance, and environmental regulations, and all kinds of other fantasy issues that the loonie left like to pretend are so damn important.  And yet if this stuff is so important, why haven’t they done anything about it?  Why haven’t they fixed it yet?  Sure, they could be passing laws to help people; but I guess it’s just a lot easier to whine about what Republicans are doing to help the average businessman, then to fix imagined problems that don’t exist.  Typical.

And heck, had the states not been so uppity with all their Big Government hoo-haw; insurers would have been happy to do all these things and more.   This wasn’t about ripping off the regular Joe or allowing insurers to deny needed cancer tests because they’re expensive and hurt short-term profits.  That’d be political suicide.  This is about telling those damn dirty states where they can stick their stupid regulations.  And I’m sure once the Republicans have firmly eliminated all these trouble spots, insurers will immediately institute even better provisions.  Nobody likes a bully; especially not our nation’s insurers.  That’s why it’s necessary for our federal government to step-in and show these little state so-and-so’s who’s boss.  To protect the little guy.

Besides, as Senator Enzi says, the real savings are from the group discounts.  That’s why it’s so necessary to remove the state mandates; as a symbolic gesture showing how important group discounts are.  Sure, that seems to be the whole deal-breaking aspect of all this; but that’s all just hogwash and baloney by people who don’t have the commonsense to get out of the rain when the bucket shop closes.  Sure, they say that they want to keep these state mandates, but if these precious state mandates are so damn important, why aren’t these stupid liberal democrats instituting them all the time?  Hell, I hadn’t even heard of a state insurance mandate until I read this article; and if President Bush has his way, I never will again.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rove Spin

Holy shit did Howard Fineman get spun.  Digby’s got the details, but didn’t go as far to say what this says about Fineman.  What a putz!  He totally got spun by the Rove machine.  He’s all regurgitating exactly what he was told about this 2006 campaign which, as Digby points out, sounds exactly the same as all the other Republican campaigns.  

Yet as Fineman tells it (as he was told to tell it) “This fall’s election season is going to make the past three look like episodes of ‘Barney.’”  He insists that this spells doom for the Democrats.  Right.  And how does he know this?  Because that’s what Rove’s people told him.  Does he tell us this?  Does he indicate that he was told any of this?  Of course not, because that would give away the whole game.  Plus, he clearly thinks he’s got some big scoop on this; which is exactly how the Rovers do it.  He actually wrote: “The way I read the recent moves of Karl Rove & Co.,” as if he’s figured this shit out on his own.  Well where the hell are the tea leaves, Howard; because it sounds like you just took dictation.  

And that’s exactly how they do it.  Rove & Co tell you stuff as if they’re just randomly talking about strategy, and make you think that you’re putting together the pieces on the sly.  As if that wasn’t exactly why they were told these things.  And they don’t know they were spun; but nobody ever does.  That’s the whole point.  You can’t really spin people if they know they’re being spun.  And that’s why the Rovers never do it that way.  It’s all about friendships and sources and contacts.  And making the newsman think that he’s the one doing the secret spy job.  And the newsman is so busy trying to get his source to squeal that he doesn’t even realize that he’s the mark.

And the worst part is that Fineman sounds fascinated by all this.  As a MSM mainstay, he’s supposed to be disgusted.  He’s supposed to protest when he hears about politicians playing tough politics instead of focusing on policy.  That’s how it works against the Dems.  But somehow, that’s not the case for Republicans.  Fineman seems to think this is all just turnabout; Bush has had a bad time for awhile, and now Rove’s just going to do that genius thing that he does.  Reading this piece, I was somehow naïve enough to imagine that Fineman would eventually tut-tut all of this and lay-out how deceitful it was.  But he never does.  He just seems to be in awe of the Rove Machine; as if it’s just some inevitable, unstoppable act of nature that’s just getting started-up for election season.  And that’s all part of how it works.

And it does seem to be working.  Fineman knows that Bush is at 31%, yet somehow paints a story of Dems in despair.  Like they made some big mistake by rousing the beast.  That’s Fineman’s story and he’s sticking to it.  But that’s not the story.  The story is about deceitful Republicans, who are abusing their power for political ends.  And the story is about how Rove’s henchmen are plying the press with these absurdist stories, to scare Democrats into screwing up; and how the media is falling for it.  That an unpopular party with an unpopular leader is somehow going to crush us all.  But that’s the whole point.  And it’s not an act of confidence, but of desperation.  Which Fineman clearly knows, and yet…and yet…he keeps typing it anyway.  He’s had over six years to understand how Rove does things, and he still keeps getting whooped.  

Rove’s main tactic isn’t all this big stuff he does on the ground, but the little stuff he does with the media.  To get them to attack Dems and screw-up the Dems.  And it keeps working.  They keep falling for it, and doing Rove’s work for him.  Because it’s really not that hard to convince religious Christians that they’re being persecuted or that they’ll get what they want if they vote Republican.  That’s the easy part.  The hard part is getting the media to not focus on this stuff.  The hard part is convincing the media that the real story is with the Dems, and how they’re being crushed.  And Rove does it.  The focus stays on the Dems and how they’re helpless against Rove’s attacks and how they need to get better organized.  But it isn’t Rove’s attack that trips-up the Dems; it’s the media’s.  They’re screwing up the Dems, and it keeps working.  And it’s still working.  Fineman’s column is proof enough of that.  He thinks he’s some prophet who has divined Rove’s latest strategy; when, in fact, he’s just part of the arsenal.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

White Mail

I just checked my mail and got some more of that damn junk mail.  You know, the kind with all kinds of pizza and furniture ads that you always just throw away.  And so I walked over to the paper recycling dumpster to discard it, and saw several more of the same damn things.  

And for a moment, I had a twinge of guilt.  Looking at all that wasted paper, and thinking that maybe I should buy something from these advertisers; as a way to justify the expense and make it such a waste.  But that lasted only a moment, and then I thought, “Duh, they’re the ones being wasters, and if I bought something based upon those ads, I’d only be encouraging them and eventually leading to more waste.”  

And then it occurred to me that this is the exact scenario we’re seeing played out with Iraq.  That war supporters insist that we deny reality by blindly supporting the war; under the idea that we’re being wasteful if we suggest that the war is without merit.  And that it’s exactly the opposite: By blindly supporting the war, we’re only encouraging them to do this again.  By making things easier for them politically, we’re just asking for them to invade again.  And so, not only is it wrong to support the war in order to justify it; it’s wrong to support this war at all.  Now if I could only find a proper recycling dumpster for it…

Bubble v. Bubble

So who the hell are the Washington pundits to attack bloggers for groupthink?  That’s supposedly their big problem with us bloggers; that we’re going to develop into bubble-people who refuse to acknowledge any dissenting opinions.  And yet…that’s where these people live 24-7.  Forget about being swayed by what they read on the internet; this is their lives.  Whether they’re reading the papers, watching their Sunday political shows, chatting at work, or getting sloshed at cocktail parties; they’re getting the same damn message from the same damn people all the time.  Where is their respite?  When do they burst the bubble?  They apparently don’t even read our emails!  And even when they debate with their GOP counterparts, it’s always the same GOP groupthink.  And even that stuff is specifically designed to dupe these dopes into thinking that Republicans are reasonable centrists who only say crazy stuff to fool the crazies; which partly appeals to them because they like the idea of elites fooling the crazies.  So where the hell do they get off with this stuff?

And sure, maybe we do live in a bubble.  I don’t think so, but maybe we do.  But even then, we’re talking about a much bigger bubble than anything the Washington pundits ever see.  The two or three thousand Colbert emails that Richard Cohen recently ignored is far bigger than the number of folks that Cohen ever talks to.  And while most blog-readers only read a few handful or so of blogs on a regular basis; we often also read the comments of far more.  Folks who have a different set of blogs that they regularly read.  And so while we may be victims of our own echo chamber, those echoes sure take a lot longer to bounce around; unlike guys like Cohen, who’s stuck debating with the few people who would actually want to converse with him.  Hell, is it even hard to believe that the only people who talk to guys like Richard Cohen and Joe Klein are paid GOP operatives who are intentionally trying to influence them?  Doesn’t that make too much sense?

And this isn’t even a recent complaint.  Anyone who’s read All the President’s Men knows that Nixon consistently complained of the Beltway pundits and considered them insulated against what regular Americans believe.  And now we’re told by guys like Cohen that this is a good thing.  Somehow, this isn’t a bad bubble.  Somehow, they’ve got a better idea of how America should be than Americans themselves.  And they probably imagine that there is a much bigger segment of America that agrees with them, if only they had more ready access to communicating that agreement.  They apparently learn so much more at their cocktail parties than anything they’d read from an email from me.  (For the record, I’ve sent Cohen two polite emails, which were probably never read).  

And the ultimate irony is that the attack against the liberal blogger bubble is yet more wisdom from their own bubble.  Something that they all pass around like a security blanket, to assure themselves that it really is ok to ignore us.  After all, we’re just taking orders from our blogger masters, like Atrios and Kos.  But the pundits, they’re free-thinkers.  And if all their ideas sound like minor variations on the same song; that’s not groupthink.  They all just happen to be right.

Stupid Hypothetical of the Week

If it somehow turned out that Bush fixed Global Warming, and that it was unlikely that any other president would have done as good of a job; would you still support a July 2007 Impeachment?  

For instance, say that a rogue team of Republican Whitehouse aides inexplicably hammer-out a deal to thread the needle for a strong environmental policy that all sides would agree to.  Or perhaps they stumble upon and greenlight some significant scientific plan which sets things back into equilibrium.  Something that would only have been discovered by Bush Republicans.  And this stops Global Warming and saves the world from a hotter future.

Or maybe they greenlight a conservative scientist’s research which confirms that Global Warming is not being caused by mankind; but rather because we’re slowly falling into the Sun, due to some freakish comet activity.  In fact, our smog-thickened atmosphere is the only thing preventing us from burning to a crisp.  And Bush takes the crucial action necessary to stabilize earth’s orbit.  In fact, they set it just right, and with just the right tilt, that earth experiences a worldwide Eden effect; effectively ending poverty and social injustice worldwide.  And as the final kicker, it turns out that Bush’s personal team of theologians discover this in the bible; as well as a whole new way of decoding the bible to make it a complete roadmap for the next 5,000 years.  And of course, it’s clearly written into this code that George Bush will be President for the next two hundred years; after which, his clones will rule until Jesus’ final return.  Naturally, it also details all kinds of major discoveries and earth enters a period of unrivaled peace and prosperity.  

And of course, none of this would have happened if Bush hadn’t been in office.  Instead, after Bush’s impeachment next year, Cheney will confess that he’s been a closet liberal for twenty-five years and was the only thing preventing Bush from destroying the world.  He then initiates an all-out effort to stop Global Warming, which has the immediate effect of reducing earth’s smog protection, thus allowing the earth to be devastated by horrible droughts and fires; until it eventually melts in the year 2320.  It turns out, even as a liberal, Cheney’s an incompetent disaster.

So how about it?  Bush, or Extreme Global Warming?

Monday, May 08, 2006

When Hatred was Holy

In a previous post, I decided to find an example of the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” thing; and stumbled upon this site: Got Questions?org, a religious site devoted to answering religious questions.  And it was there that someone supposedly asked the questions: "Are we to love the sinner but hate the sin? Does God hate us when we sin?"

And for those without the patience to read stuff, the short answer is: Yes, and yes.  We should love the sinner but hate the sin; and that God, in his infinite wisdom and power, can and does hate both us and our sins in a perfectly holy way.  Terrific.  It’s bad enough that I’m going to spend the after-life in Hell due to a terrible misunderstanding; but I’ve got my creator hating me during life too.  That’s all I need.

As the answer states: Even as Christians, we remain imperfect in our humanity and cannot love completely, nor can we hate without malice. But, God can do both of these perfectly well, because He is God! God can hate without any sinful intent at all. Therefore, he can hate the sin and the sinner in a perfectly holy way and still be willing to lovingly forgive at the moment of that sinner's repentance and faith (see Malachi 1:3; Revelation 2:6; 3 Peter 3:9).

Now I hate to be rude, but this all kind of sounds like a steaming pile of doo-doo.  I mean, “hate” is a pretty strong word, and if it’s something mankind is completely unable to do without malice; it seems kind of odd that it would be virtuous coming from God.  I don’t even know if I’ve ever hated anything; but I imagine if I did, it’d be pretty bad.  And we’re to believe that God feels infinitely more hatred about almost everyone who has ever lived?  And this is a good thing?

What does hate even mean in the context of God, anyway?  And how the hell can we possibly tell if God’s doing it right?  Isn’t it possible that God could be tricking us?  It must be possible.  The dude can do anything!  Of course he can trick us.  So how can we possibly be sure that God’s hatred of sinners really is a good thing?  Maybe what God calls “sin” are really the good things; and that everyone really should be screwing like rabbits, killing their brothers, and coveting shit like crazy.  And all we’ve got that says otherwise is His own holy word for it.  Whatever.  

And even that assumes that these Got Questions people are close to getting it right; and I’ve got serious doubts about that one.  I mean, hate?  God hates people?  What the hell sense does that even make?  Hate??  He created something knowing full well that he was most likely going to hate it?  And hell, by any reasonable reading of the bible, it’s unlikely that even 10% of the people who ever existed will make it into Heaven; and that’s a fairly loose standard.  It’s probably closer to 0.1% or less; which is still significantly higher than the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 144,000.  So why the hell did he even bother creating us?  Why couldn’t he just create the 0.1% or so that will love him eternally, and leave the rest of us the hell alone?  Millions of children are starving and suffering right now; apparently, just in case they wanted to worship God?  That’s not love; that’s insanity.

And if we’re talking about a vengeful, evil, egotistical, hating god, who intentionally creates beings so that they can suffer and die for not loving him; that’s fine.  I’m cool with that.  It’s his universe; he can do any damn thing he wants with it.  But I just want that all out front right now.  This whole Christianity thing would really make a lot more sense if we weren’t supposed to believe that God was a good guy.  I can believe hellfire, though I think it’s silly; and I can believe in a kind creator; but I have a hard time putting these two ideas together.  Either he loves me, or he doesn’t.  But I don’t believe in a conditional love that depends upon me loving him first.  And that’s exactly what we’re talking about if we say that God hates sinners unless they repent and accept him first.  And if that’s the case, I’d be a fool for not accepting God; but I’d rather not accept that kind of god at all.  Nor can I imagine why he’d be interested in my obviously coerced love; or are we supposed to believe that eternal damnation isn’t coercion?

So my response is: No, I’m just not having it.  Got Questions? didn’t explain a damn thing, on why we’re supposed to love the sinner, while God hates almost everyone.  That just doesn’t make sense.

But I decided to give this a second shot and look-up the three bible passages that GQ referenced for us, just to see what the good book had to say on the subject.  Sure, Got Questions kind of muffed this up; but maybe they were assuming that we were already familiar with those bible passages and knew some deeper context that would explain everything.  So I whipped out my trusty Catholic Living Bible that I received as a Confirmation gift and has my name on it and everything (though I’m not exactly sure if they always come with “Doctor Biobrain” imprinted on them, or if it was custom ordered for me).  Again, I’m using The Catholic Living Bible, so your results may vary.

Malachi 1:3

So let’s see.  The first citation was Malachi 1:3, which is at the beginning of Malachi, so I’ll go ahead and quote the first five verses of Malachi, just to make sure we’re not missing any precious context.  I’ve bolded verses two and three:

Here is the Lord’s message to Israel, given through the prophet Malachi:
“I have loved you very deeply,” says the Lord.
But you retort, “Really?  When was this?”
And the Lord replies, “I showed my love for you by loving your father, Jacob.  I didn’t need to.  I even rejected his very own brother Esau, and destroyed Esau’s mountains and inheritance, to give it to the jackals of the desert.  And if his descendants should say, ‘We will rebuild the ruins,’ then the Lord of Hosts will say, ‘Try to if you like, but I will destroy you again,’ for their country is named ‘The Land of Wickedness’ and their people are called ‘Those Whom God Does Not Forgive.’”
O Israel, lift your eyes to see what God is doing all around the world; then you will say, “Truly, the Lord’s great power goes far beyond our borders!”

Wow, Land of Wickedness.  Strong stuff.  Now, my bible is a little vague about where exactly 1:3 is, as it combines 2 and 3 together; but I’m just not seeing anything that would help explain how God hates us and our sins in a loving and holy manner.  He says he loves us, but I find that claim a little weak.  I mean, the proof he’s offering is that he punished our brother and our brother’s descendants for eternity; and that sounds like more of a vague threat than proof of his love for us.  Needless to say, I’m unimpressed.

But maybe I wasn’t getting enough context, so I quote on; verses six through nine:
“A son honors his father, a servant honors his master.  I am your Father and Master, yet you don’t honor me, O priests, but you despise my name.”
“Who?  Us?” you say.  “When did we ever despise your name?”
“When you offer polluted sacrifices on my altar.”
“Every time you say, ‘Don’t bother bringing anything very valuable to offer to God!’  You tell people, ‘Lame animals are all right to offer on the altar of the Lord – yes, even the sick and the blind ones.’  And you claim this isn’t evil?  Try it on your governor sometime – give him gifts like that – and see how pleased he is!
“’God have mercy on us,’ you recite; ‘God be gracious to us!’  But when you bring that kind of gift, why should he show you any favor at all?
“Oh, to find one priest among you who would shut the doors and refuse this kind of sacrifice.  I have no pleasure in you,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and I will not accept your offerings.”

WTF??  A little sarcasm, anyone?  And is it just me, or is all this stuff a tad bit psychotic?  I don’t mean that in a disrespecting way, but if we were talking about anyone but God, we’d certainly have to lock them up in the boobyhatch for a long, long time.  I mean, really.   It was bad enough when God suggested that the proof of his love was that he punished Esau; but now he’s getting all uppity about the sacrifices and insists that this is proof that the priests despise him.  Who’d of guessed an omnipotent being could be so touchy.  

And let’s not pretend as if these sacrifices were actually going to the Big Guy.  We’re all adults here, and while it’s fun to believe that the priests accepted the sacrifices in the name of the Lord; it was still the priests who got the goodies.  Just as it was priests who decided to include this book in the bible.  And just as it was a priest who wrote this book of the bible.  Follow the money, people.  Follow the money.

But I’m still at a loss as to understanding why Got Questions? even bothered citing Malachi.  When you look it up, you’ll see that this wasn’t about God’s power to hate sinners in a “perfectly holy way.”  It was about God bitching because he wasn’t getting good stuff and felt dissed by his followers.  This isn’t some high and mighty treatise about the nature of God or his relationship with us.  This was the kind of stuff that Arthur Miller might have written up in a play; of an abusive father who browbeats his children into sacrificing their lives so he could have his.  This isn’t an omnipotent being, without fears or limits.  This is a whiny-assed titty baby complaining because he’s not getting the respect he thinks he’s entitled to, from people who had no choice in the matter and who just weren’t loving enough.  

But this isn’t to suggest that God is necessarily to blame for this; as we only have the bible’s word for it that God ever said these things.  And if anything, it’s quite possible the author of that passage is a blasphemer, using the voice of God to convey his own personal message; and therefore, anyone who cites this blasphemy is also a blasphemer.  I mean, God doesn’t seem to care about his sacrifices anymore; so why are we assuming that he ever cared?  Why not just assume that it was a message from the priestly class; the leaders who lived off of the benevolence and reverence of others?  But that’s another argument for another time.

Revelation 2:6

Well Malachi didn’t help much, so let’s move onto that second citation: Revelation 2:6:
     But there is this about you that is good: You hate the deeds of the licentious Nicolaitans, just as I do.

Right.  That explains everything.  Got Questions? really hit the nail on the head with that one…except that it explains absolutely nothing.  For those curious, there is a footnote on this one: Nicolaitans, when translated from Greek to Hebrew, becomes Balaamites; followers of the man who induced the Israelites to fall by lust.

And in case you wanted some added context from the bible itself, I’ll paraphrase verses one through seven, which is the entire letter.  This is a letter written to the leader of the church at Ephesus, and basically says that while that leader is doing a good job, he doesn’t love the letter’s author as much as he used to (though it’s possible he’s speaking as God or something); though he is pleased that the leader hates the deeds of the bad people.  He then ends the letter, writing: “Let this message sink into the ears of anyone who listens to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: To everyone who is victorious, I will give fruit from the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God.”

That’s the whole letter, of which, Got Questions? cited one line.  And so we’re stuck again with another passage saying that, while God likes what some religious followers are doing; they’re disrespecting God by not doing even more.  And while, that’s acceptable behavior in some circles, it doesn’t do a damn thing to reconcile GQ’s answer with anything written in the bible.  They were trying to show us how God can hate us in a loving way; but fail again.  

3 Peter 3:9

And so we’re down to our third and final bible citation, which surely will explain this conundrum to our satisfaction.  Surely, a website dedicated to answering questions of God must know enough about the bible to find some kind of justification for their answer.  Right?

But alas, 3 Peter isn’t in my bible.  My bible only has two Peters, making me wonder what other inadequacies the Catholics have inflicted upon me.  Nope, I just checked the only other bible in the house, Holy Bible: Children’s Illustrated Edition; as well as the must-read Asimov's Guide; which I accept as gospel truth.  And neither one of them has three Peters.  And when I search Yahoo, the only references to 3 Peter 3:9 are five variations on the same book review and Got Questions? own reference; thus making me think that GQ made a mistake or something.

So I’ll just check-out 2 Peter 3:9 and see what I find.  Ahh, that sounds about right:
He isn’t really being slow about his promised return, even though it sometimes seems that way.  But he is waiting, for the good reason that he is not willing that any should perish, and he is giving more time for sinners to repent.

Ok, that’s fine and everything; but that still didn’t answer our question; and in fact, was the least relevant passage of the three.  This wasn’t about God hating us at all; but was just rationalizing why Jesus seems to be taking so long with his return.  It’s not that God is slow, we’re told; he’s just trying to help us out by giving us more time to convert.  Sure, you could argue that it’d be an even bigger help if he just got rid of the whole hell thing; or if he could just be a little more obvious about showing himself to us and telling us what he wants.  But the author of Revelations is stuck rationalizing the beliefs he’s got, rather than getting rational beliefs in the first place.

Biblical Cut-and-Paste

But we’re still stuck with our original problem: Where exactly in the bible does it say that God hates sinners in a perfectly holy way?  Sure, it doesn’t have to come from the bible.  Christians believe lots of things that aren’t to be found anywhere in the bible.  Like almost any details pertaining to Heaven, Hell, the Devil, and whether or not God looks like Jerry Garcia.  But Got Questions? provided citations; so you’d kind of expect to find something there.  I don’t even require it to be something that I’d agree with; but I expected to find at least something.  Except we don’t.  We didn’t find answers at all.  Just more questions.  Who knows; maybe that’s all part of their marketing technique, to get users to keep coming back for more.

But I expect it’s the exact opposite.  We were supposed to read GQ’s answers and be done with it.  They didn’t provide links to those citations, and it’s safe to suggest that most people aren’t going to pick-up and research citations that they found at that kind of lightweight biblical website.  Instead, we were supposed to trust Got Questions? and simply assume that everything was honky-dory with those citations.  As if all the proof was right there, in the bible; but that we don’t need to bother researching it ourselves.  But then again, isn’t that really at the basis of all religions?  Or Republicanism?  Lots of footnotes and citations which completely disintegrate with the most slapdash of examinations.  Even the bible itself gets crushed under its own weight, once you put it into historical perspective and find out what they were really talking about.

And sure, maybe they just meant that we could get that message if we combined parts of all three verses.  By doing so, we could yield something like: God loves you, God likes that you hate the deeds of sinners, and God is waiting for the sinners to repent.  But honestly, is that really any way for God to convey a message?  That you have to combine messages from three separate books which were written over a period of over 550 years?  According to Asimov, Malachi is perhaps from 460 B.C., 2 Peter from 90 A.D. (though possibly as late as 150 A.D.), and Revelations is perhaps from 95 A.D.  That’s a long fucking time to take to convey a short little message.  

And the context of all three passages are completely different.  The original authors clearly had different subjects that they were recording.  Sure, God could be putting coded messages into the bible, where you’re expected to take seemingly random events to combine together to give us some bigger message than anything the original authors had realized.  I’ve played video games like that.  But is this really any kind of way to convey the ultra-important message regarding how God thinks of our sins and what he expects us to do about other people’s sins?  My eternal soul is on the line, and God’s playing a freaking word game?

In other parts of the bible, we see a micromanaging god who, in Deuteronomy 12:20-23, suggests that if the Lord enlarges your borders enough so that you live too far from the central alter, then it’s ok to sacrifice your offerings at home; which is usually a big no-no.  Nothing ambiguous about that.  Or take Deuter 13:5, which insists that we execute false prophets who suggest you worship other gods (ie, Hindi, Rastafarian, and Muslim missionaries).  But then again, if Christian missionaries went in a time machine back to the days of Deuteronomy, and tried preaching the idea of Jesus and the Trinity; it’s likely that they too would be executed as infidels.  As the bible shows, in the end, everything’s relative.

So it’s obvious that God can be straightforward with this stuff when he wants to.  So what gives?  He’s telling us where to sacrifice and who to execute; all kinds of cool stuff.  Compare that with the cut-and-paste biblical scholarship that Got Questions? engages in.  Ridiculous.  Most Christians don’t sacrifice jackshit, and while they might want to execute false prophets; they’re generally polite enough to refrain from doing so.  

A relativist like myself would find perfect sense that the problems and solutions listed in the bible were a lot more relevant to the people who wrote those parts of the bible than they are to us; but for the supposed absolutist believers, that should really cause a lot of problems.  I mean, for a book that was intended to be the Final Word for all of eternity, it really sure does concern itself with a lot of stuff that hasn’t been applicable for thousands of years.  We have to triple reinterpret half a dozen passages to find anti-abortion messages; yet Leviticus 21:9-15 tell us directly that we’re supposed to burn a priest’s daughter if she becomes a prostitute, or that a priest can only marry a virgin from his own priestly tribe.  Boy, I sure could have used that advice earlier today.

It’s the Authors, Stupid

And even worse, a better interpretation of those three citations would be that they are variations of the same message: God will love you if you properly respect him, and will hate you if you don’t.  And that’s probably the reason why they were included in the bible.  And implicit in that is that if you don’t respect God, he will start loving you once you show him the proper respect.  Also implicit, is that if you stop respecting him, he will start hating you again.  But it’s all the same message about how God will love you, only as long as you love him first and devote your life to following his commands.

And frankly, I can’t figure out what’s so special about this.  I love my kids no matter what they do.  As long as they’re not setting me on fire or killing my wife, I’m pretty cool with mistakes they might make; and have learned to be particularly forgiving when the animals they sacrifice to me aren’t totally perfect.  People make mistakes, especially kids.  So if I can understand that, what’s God’s big problem?  He’s supposedly the one with the infinite patience, and yet he hates me because I don’t go to church?  I quickly forgive my kids for ruining the carpet and disobeying rules that I’ve explicitly stated on numerous occasions; and God’s going to hate me because I refuse to believe in something I’ve never experienced?  That’s crazy.

But then again, there’s no particular reason to believe the interpretation I gave above is at all correct.  After all, there is a group who benefited more than God for all of the above passages: You got it, the dudes who wrote them; and the people who included them in the bible.  What does God want with some damn goat sacrifice, or some stupid old crops?  What does God care about the stupid Nicolaitans?  What part of “all-powerful” doesn’t he understand?  He can just snap his fingers and send them to Hell before they even had a chance to complain.  Why does he need humans to do this shit?  If it’s such a problem, let him deal with it.  But…what if it really isn’t God that’s so concerned

And then we have Revelations.  Ok, God’s going to reveal to us his whole plan, including a timeline, and it’s all important and everything, and he can’t bother telling us when this shit’s going to happen?  Once it starts, he’s given us a roadmap so we’ll be able to identify each and every aspect of the End; but he won’t tell us when it’s going to start?  Again, once it’s started, we’ll know every step; but until then, we’ll know nothing??  Ok, sure.  Maybe God really just likes to screw with us, and this really is how he did it.  He’ll string us out for over two thousand years, and the only people who will see it coming are the people who it will directly affect; and in the meantime, we’re all left looking like dummies.  Sure.  But…there’s a group of people who are far less likely to know when the end of the world is: The guy who wrote Revelations and the folks who agreed to include it in the bible.  They’re the ones who would have to say that they don’t know when all this will happen.  God can’t really have much of a reason to hide it from us.

And that’s the thing.  Maybe there is a God.  Maybe there is a Creator.  Maybe most of what they say about Him is true.  He’s all-powerful.  Knows everything.  He’s a swell guy.  Sure.  But what’s to say that the bible is right about any of the details?  How the hell are we supposed to know that some dude 3500 years ago didn’t make some shit up?  Or confuse a story?  I mean, we already know so much about the people who wrote the bible, and there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t screw things up.  We know they included stories from other cultures.  We’re pretty sure that they lied to us regarding historical events, and have even more reason to believe they got shit wrong.  God didn’t even bother telling them that the Earth circled the Sun, or where infections come from; and yet we’re supposed to trust these people with our lives and souls?  These guys were afraid of pork, for christ’s sake.  And I’m supposed to translate their advice into this modern world?  Whatever.

And that’s what we’re putting our faith in.  Not in God; but in some dude thousands of years ago.  People who had no idea of jack shit.  People who weren’t even insignificant to the insignificant players of the day; mere specks of history.  And we’re supposed to put faith into their words?  Their enemies become our enemies?  Their fears our fears?  And anything that doesn’t make sense to our modern ears is perfectly ok to metaphorize into one of our own solutions?  Un-fucking-likely.  

Hateful Respect

So how does Got Questions? end all this?  Try this: A true act of love is treating someone with respect and kindness even though they know you do not approve of their lifestyle and/or choice. It is not loving to allow a person to remain stuck in sin. It is not hateful to tell a person they are in sin. In fact, the exact opposites are true.

Right.  Of course.  You can show respect and kindness to people by telling them that the actions that they think are normal, natural, and part of their daily life are actually sinful and will make them suffer for eternity.  Which sorta makes sense, except it doesn’t.  I mean, by the standards of the Old Testament, every Christian I know is an infidel and a sinner.  And sure, we’ve been told that Jesus somehow changed the rules; but I’ve never understood what the basis for that is; or how you determine which rules no longer apply.

So how do they know that these OT quotes are still the good ones?  Because it just seems like they’re picking the ones they wanted and ignoring the rest; which really kind of undermines the bible’s supposed authority.  It’s obvious that Christians aren’t getting their authority from the bible; but merely using it to rationalize and institutionalize their own beliefs and opinions.  And to me, that sounds like much bigger blasphemy than anything I’ve ever done.  All I’ve ever done is express my disbelief in things I haven’t experienced; but these people have abused their god’s good name by ascribing their own beliefs to His holy mandate; and have essentially usurped their god’s voice like a rogue ventriloquist.  My agnosticism looks saintly in comparison.

And it’s no different in this case.  These Christians want to hate those they classify as sinners; but know that it’s wrong.  So they ascribe that hatred to their god, and insist that they’re merely acting on his behalf.  They don’t hate anyone; their god does.  And they’re just doing what our creator wanted us to do.  And how do they know this?  Because they’ve got historical documents which show people rationalizing their aggression by claiming that they were on a mission from god.  And these Christians have adopted that rationalization as their own.  They’re allowed to attack people because a small group of desert-dwellers attacked people thousands of years ago.  Of course.  

Holy Hatred

And that’s what all this is about.  Got Questions? says that we’re not supposed to hate the sinners, but provides quotes referencing how much God hates those who displease him.  Who are they trying to fool?  This is implicit permission for us to hate people.  That’s what this is all about.  And I think that’s just stupid.  Hatred’s stupid.  Hating the sin is stupid.  If you’ve got a problem with something that somebody is doing, you might be right in telling them not to do it.  But if they seem rational, understand the stakes, and still refuse to obey; then maybe it’s time to leave them the hell alone.  

And what about this whole freewill thing?  They keep telling us that God allows us to have freewill and thusly allows us to do evil and make bad choices.  And I can accept that, I guess.  But then why do they turn around and insist that we can’t use that freewill that God finds so precious?  If God’s so big into freewill, then why won’t his followers let me get an abortion?  Why do they stop me from buying liquor on Sundays?  Why do they want to stop consenting adults from doing the very deed that their god made so incredibly fun and exciting?  What’s the point of freewill if these people keep trying to penalize us for exercising it?

But this has as little to do with following God’s Will as it does to God honoring freewill or God hating sinners.  There is no firm basis for anybody to believe this.  There is nothing in the bible which compels us to do these things.  Nothing.  This is about people trying to justify their actions. Actions which obviously don’t have better justification; or at least, the believers of which have no better justification.  Because relying upon God as your source is the absolute last refuge you’d turn to.  If you can explain your position, you do.  And if you’re relying on a vague unseen anomaly, you probably don’t know what you’re talking about.  Especially when there have been billions of people who have tapped that same source in order to justify completely different goals.  

Every religious person has a different view of what our creator looks like and what he wants of us; and the belief of each is just as valid as any other.  There is no trump card when we’re talking about belief.  If someone believes that God wants him to blow up Jews, or shave his head, or hate sinners; that’s fine, I guess.  We can’t stop people from believing what they want to.  But they have to understand that their beliefs do not give them rights over ours.  They may believe they’re doing God’s work, but that shouldn’t permit them to deny us to follow our beliefs.  

If they have a legitimate reason to prevent my actions, I’ll be willing to listen.  But I refuse to allow them to pretend as if their beliefs are somehow superior to my own; even if they do believe that my creator wanted them to do it that way.  And after all, we’re all sinners to someone; and nobody likes to be hated.  I honestly don’t like that last line, but couldn’t figure out any better way to end this.  Sometimes, I think eternity is rereading my own damn posts.

P.S. The typical religious disclaimer applies to this post; ie, I’m not referring to all Christians or all religious folks; and that if my words don’t apply to you, then they don’t apply to you.  Oh, and irreverence is not a sin.