Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year, Y'all

Get drunk and do something stupid. And if you're like me and will be stuck at home for the evening, then just get stupid drunk. You deserve it.

FYI: 2008 will be my year, so don't even think it.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Context is everything.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Break Update

Fortunately, nothing's been happening in the news lately, so it's not such a biggie that I've been taking a few days off from my typically grueling schedule of almost daily blog posts. But don't worry. If anything important happens (ie, something that involves English-speaking people not currently running for president), you'll be the first to know. So you can go back to playing with all the cool gadgets you bought yourself after you discovered that nobody bought them for you.

Oh, and just an FYI for those of you who have been asking about it: My presidential exploratory committee is still going gangbusters and is currently polling in the top three in Iowa, New Hampshire, and half of the Super Duper Tuesday states. And so if everything goes as expected, it looks like I should be able to announce my presidential intentions some time in mid-April. Wish me luck and happy holidays!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas: Not Just For Christians Anymore

What the heck does Christmas have to do with religion? I've never been particularly religious, even as a kid stuck going to church each Sunday; but Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Sure, I know. The whole Jesus birthday thing. But I understand that most serious bible scholars don't think his birthday was actually in December at all. In fact, the whole nativity story is really quite suspect, and most likely was a later invention by early Christians as a way of giving a jazzed-up beginning to Jesus' otherwise inauspicious origins.

Besides, since when do you give presents to other people on someone's birthday? If it's a birthday celebration, you'd think Jesus would be the one getting all the presents. But no. On Christmas, everyone is expected to get a present, and Jesus doesn't even get a lousy t-shirt. I wonder if Yahweh sometimes regrets giving up on the whole animal sacrifice thing. Sure, getting a slaughtered goat isn't the best b-day present ever, but it's the thought that counts.

And beyond that, there are lots of civilizations that celebrate in late December. It's clearly a dreary time of year, what with the long nights and whatnot, and so people like to have something to be excited about. And that's why Christians picked Christmas time to be Christimastime. So they'd have a nice fancy holiday to get people jazzed about. I honestly find it a bit offensive that most Christians don't seem to know this. Even the ones who know this somehow keep forgetting about it.

So the idea that Christmas is somehow a religious holiday is entirely hogwash. If Christians want to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, that's fine by me. But it's not their holiday. Christmas is about Santa Claus and eggnog and Bing Crosby singing about his roasted chestnuts. And I don't see where religion fits in all that. Hell, they even give up the eternal damnation stuff, at least as far as scaring kids go. Santa's the chief god in December.

For the record, while Santa has always left presents and candy for my kids, we generally eschew the whole "naughty/nice" angle. After all, kids will be kids, and it's a lot more pleasant to spend Christmas Day watching them open their presents than standing in the return line at the North Pole. Come to think of it, if I'm forgiving enough to help my kids deceive Santa into giving them presents each year, how could a loving god allow me to be doomed in Hell; all due to a misunderstanding that is clearly his fault? Sorry, but I'm just not buying it.

Oh, and if you're interested, it looks like the Archbishop of Canterbury just called bull on the whole Three Wise Men story, as well as the rest of the nativity scene and the December birth. Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Atheist Weirdness

I had a bunch of good stuff I wanted to write regarding what I wrote in comments on this Matthew Yglesias post on religion. But that was earlier in the day and that train of thought got derailed. Oh well, it was pretty good, if I remember correctly. You can search out all the stuff I wrote, if you're interested. It was basically about how weird some atheists are towards religion. I personally find religion interesting as a thought experiment and don't understand why some people are so hostile to it.

And the thing is, the "big A" Atheism position really is faith-based. You simply cannot disprove the existence of God or even take a stab at the likelihood of his existence. It's just impossible. And as I said in comments there, science can't answer religious questions any more than religion can answer science questions. These are just two completley unrelated fields, and if science can answer the question, it's no longer a question of religion.

And it's obvious that they have a big problem with the concept of "faith," with several atheists there insisting that faith requires proof...or something like that, I just couldn't understand it. I mean, if you've got proof, then it's not faith. I don't see what's so confusing about this. But as one commenter wrote "That's neither faith nor belief. That's dilletantism." I am unfamilar with that last word.

And another weird thing is how they can insist that gods don't exist. How the hell do they know? To make a claim like that requires proof, and as they already know, you can't prove a negative. Now, in their minds, they seem to think this gets them off the hook, as if they no longer have to prove that gods don't exist and that they automatically win the debate unless Christians can prove their god exists. But they don't. In fact, it means they don't get to make those claims at all. If you can't prove your claim, then it's not fact-based. And that's particularly true if you're making a claim that can't be proven.

And that goes for belief in gods or pink unicorns or the tiny blackhole I use to clean out my fingernails. If you can't prove that something doesn't exist, you don't get to claim that it doesn't exist. It's that simple. The rules of science just can't be used in the way these people want to. And as I said, science cannot be used to answer religious questions. Science is stuck working with the things we know and can't answer the things that aren't knowable. And once you start theorizing about a being that can do anything, all bets are off.

And the worst part is that they clearly don't know what Christians really believe, and seem to believe that most Christians are fundamentalists who only accept a literal interpretation of the bible. One guy refused to believe that Catholics had accepted evolution until I quoted Pope Ratzinger saying he does; yet the Catholics accepted evolution awhile ago. These people are waging a war that they don't even understand.

Anyway, you get the idea. I had meant to write a full post on the subject, but this is the best you get. Sorry.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Infinite Confusion

Disclaimer: This post isn't really finished. Yes, it has a beginning, middle, and end, but I still had more to say and wasn't quite sure about what I did say. But screw it. I haven't posted in days and I'm sure my loyal readers are starting to get a bit antsy about it. But just so you know, this post is NOT backed by my 100% accuracy guarantee. Sorry.

Conservatives have this weird idea that economic prosperity is infinite and that it is possible for everyone at any given time to be rich and prosperous, if only they worked hard enough and weren’t stifled by government regulations and taxes. And if that’s the case, then the only cure is to get rid of the government, and make sure that people have plenty of incentive to work hard.

And in the long term, they’re right. Economic growth is essentially infinite, particularly if the human race never ends. Even now our economy is doing better than previous generations could imagine. In 1972, the Dow Jones Index briefly broke the 1,000 mark for the first time. In 1995, it was considered a huge event when the Dow broke the 5,000 mark. Now, it’s considered a catastrophe if it goes below 10,000. In contrast, the Dow hit a high of 381 shortly before the Great Depression, which was clearly a huge bubble about to burst.

And this is real growth. This is an expansion of the basic economic picture. In other words, the pie got bigger. That’s not to say that everyone shared that pie growth equally; but it did get bigger.

But in any given economic picture, the pie is finite. If one person has more, someone else has less. It’s that simple. There’s only so much to go around, and everyone knows it. Unless, of course, they're conservatives. Because the conservatives' "free-market" solution only makes sense if they pretend the pie is always infinite. I put “free-market” in quotes because these people don’t really believe in a free-market any more than they believe that their right to kick me in the balls is equal to my right to kick theirs. They want to kick me in the balls with impunity. That’s their definition of free-market.

Wii Woes

I was thinking about this while reading a messageboard at regarding the Nintendo Wii. A year after introduction and the thing is still sold-out. But part of the problem is that professionals are swooping in and buying the things to sell at outrageous rates. And for as many people as there are complaining about it, there are just as many defending the practice.

But it’s ridiculous, as the defenders insist that it’s just a simple supply and demand issue. But it’s clearly not. Because the only reason the supply of these specific Wii’s is low is due entirely to these people who buy them with the intent of extorting higher prices out of the real buyers. Because every single one of the Wii’s that these guys sell was one that someone else wanted to buy at the regular price. And so by buying them first, they’re preventing the other person from buying it, and forcing them to buy it at a higher price.

Ticket scalpers do the same thing. They’re not providing a legitimate service. They’re thieves who force other people to pay a premium because they happened to get to the tickets before the other person could have. There is a one-for-one trade-off here and the scalper provides nothing but higher prices to the consumer. Perhaps these free-market gurus can understand how adding an extra layer of middleman aids the free-market’s efficiency, but I’m just not getting it.

I mean, how is this any different than if you went into a store, bought a Wii, and then had a bully take it out of your hands in the parking lot and insist that you pay $100 to get it back? The only distinction is a timing difference; one which I find meaningless. I believe there are laws preventing people from doing this kind of thing with real estate. And can you imagine the outrage these people would stir if the government created an agency that did nothing but buy rare products and sell them for inflated costs?

Middle-Men Markets

To the defenders of this practice, this is just standard free-markets. Yet it’s obvious that this is really a huge inefficiency with the markets. Doing a quick search on eBay shows that there are 20,892 Wii’s up for auction; 1,624 used and 18,615 new. And while it’s possible that at least a few of those are stolen or fraudulent, and that this only represents about 1% of the Wii’s manufactured each month, that’s still about 18,000 machines that should be in the hands of a consumer.

(Note these numbers were as of the date I wrote this, last week. I just checked and there are now only 4745 new Wii's for sale; suggesting that these pricks already cleared out their supply for Christmas. Either that, or they found out that ol' Biobrain was writing an exposé on their dastardly practices and they put themselves out of business.)

None of this is to suggest that we can do something to prevent these assholes from stealing this money. It’s just to say that the free-markets clearly have some inefficiencies in them and that most free-market gurus haven’t the slightest clue what they’re talking about. The fact that Mercedes can charge a fortune for a car makes sense to me. The fact that some people are stuck paying a 100% mark-up on a Nintendo Wii to a guy who happened to get lucky and buy up the supply at his store just sucks.

These guys aren’t helping solve a supply issue. They’re making it worse. And I say that, not just as a amateur economist who writes about how hard it is to buy a Wii, but also as someone who wants to buy one. And that’s all I really wanted to write about. If you’ve got a Wii you want to send my way before Christmas, you’re running out of time so hurry the fuck up. Thanks.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ratzinger's War on Personal Control

Well it looks like the Vatican feels it hasn't done enough to help the movie Golden Compass become a success, so it decided to write an editorial slamming the movie. And as we've seen in the past, there's no better way to get people to watch a movie than for a religious figure to say they shouldn't. Unfortunately, the makers of this film weren't smart enough to include any softcore sex scenes, which surely would have brought a papal condemnation worthy of an extra $20 million in business, at least. Better luck next time, heathens.

But this line from the editorial really caught my eye:
"In Pullman's world, hope simply does not exist, because there is no salvation but only personal, individualistic capacity to control the situation and dominate events."

Really? They're going to go with that? Catholics are now taking a firm stance against people dealing with their own problems, and are basing their protest on that? Ok. I think that would have been construed as an insult if an atheist had said it, but whatever. If Pope Ratzinger is really that intent on reversing the Catholic Church's war against irrelevancy, I guess that's his deal. Better to control a handful of sheep than corral a boatload of freethinkers, I suppose. But having personally seen how my parent's church is slowly starting to resemble an old folks home, I'm not convinced this is the best of strategies.

Anti-Christmas Film

Oh, and apparently they labeled this film "the most anti-Christmas film possible," which means they still haven't gotten around to watching the copy of my film "Death in the Manger" I sent them last Christmas. It's about how the Three Kings raped and murdered Mary and Joseph before slaughtering Baby Jesus and replacing him with the second king's halfwit nephew Curtis. Curtis then grows up, does all the stuff that Jesus did, but when it comes time for him to die on the cross, he says "Ha, just joking" and they let him down and have a good laugh. He then walks off and no one sees him again.

And because of that, Christianity never forms and the Roman empire continues to expand indefinitely until it reaches our level of technological sophistication nine hundred years earlier than we did. And then on Christmas Day, exactly two thousand years after Jesus was born, they figure out how to get to Heaven and destroy God with a weapon that we can't even imagine. And then everyone on earth has a massive orgy before blowing up the entire universe while grinning manically.

The movie ends with everyone being tortured by the Devil in Hell during the closing credits. At the very end, we see Curtis on the receiving end of a particularly horrible torture. He turns to the camera and says "But you know, it was worth it. It really was." He then starts yelling some more and the film ends.

Wow. I just came up with that as a joke for this post, but it's really not a bad movie idea. Particularly not if I can count on the Vatican's opposition, which I think I can. Now if I can only find some backers, it looks like I'm good to go. Heathen Hollywood, here I come!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dodd for President

I normally don't do this kind of thing, but I strongly urge you to give money to Senator Dodd's presidential campaign for the work he did opposing the telecom immunity deal. I just gave money today, and would like to give more after I've finished all my Christmas shopping (I always end up spending too much). I don't know if my meager contribution will help Dodd win the nomination, but it will certainly send a strong signal that we support what he did with his FISA filibuster.

While I haven't blogged about it, I strongly believe that this bill was absolutely nuts. Sure, it's bad policy to grant blanket amnesty for civil liberty violations that you aren't even fully aware of, but it was bad politics too. The Bush Admin's destruction of civil liberties was a horrible thing, and the best thing any Democrat can do is to call attention to what happened and to denounce it loudly. Not only will this protect civil liberties, but it will help us sink the Bushies, the Republicans who aided them, and the entire conservative movement

But...we lose all that if we give them immunity. We send a signal that we approve of what happened. We tell the telecoms that they can hand over our liberty with impunity, and that all it takes is for the government to ask, and they will give them everything they want. And that's just wrong. If the telecoms didn't do anything wrong, then they don't need immunity. But if they did something wrong, Americans have a right to know. This is our government, and those phone records were our records. Immunity is nothing but explicit acknowledgement that we don't own either.

Dodd for President

And so I strongly support Dodd's actions in filibustering that horrible bill. And now that we've had a temporary reprieve, there could be no better thing we can do to make this permanent than to show our support for what he did by giving him some green.

Money talks, and we need Washington to listen. I have no doubts that the Dems in Congress are afraid of the telecom's money. But we need to show them that we have money too. I've only given money to two political campaigns before (last one being John Kerry's general election campaign), and this is the one I think is the most important. For Dodd to receive a strong show of support will certainly help more Democrats get onto the right side of this issue by the time this comes back in January.

And beyond that, I really, really like Dodd for President. I already liked the guy, but after this issue (and before I gave him money), I started reading more about him on his website and watched some of his YouTube clips. And I liked what I saw. Right now while I'm typing this, I'm listening to a townhall meeting he gave in August, and he's really quite good. Is he perfect? No. But I really like what I hear, and think he's about 99.99% right about what he's saying. In fact, one reason I don't think his performance was perfect was because he said too much, and didn't give enough empty bumpersticker rhetoric. And while that's exactly what I like to hear, I suspect that most people prefer quickie zingers, instead of the full-bodied stuff he said.

I even agree with his Cuban policy. He mentioned how he's spoken to Spanish(?!), and how they talked about the travel embargo we still have against Cuba. He said that Castro told him that lifting the travel ban would hurt Castro more than it hurt us, and how he agreed with that and insisted that the travel ban has helped keep Castro in office all these years. And that's exactly what I've been saying, yet is rare to hear from a presidential candidate (though Obama has said something similar).

His other answers were quite good too. I've posted the clip below. If you're not sure about Dodd, check it out. Again, it's not rockstar stuff, but it's a solid townhall meeting.

Dodd for President

Before now, I've basically stayed out of the nomination battle. I'm quite certain that any Democrat will whoop any Republican in the general election, and that any of them would be better than a Republican. Having heard enough from Dodd, I now give him my full endorsement.

I not only believe that he's the best choice out of several good choices, I think he'll be the best in the general election. I don't know why he's not polling better than he is, though I suspect that it's because the Kewl Kids in Washington don't like what he has to say. Or perhaps they don't think he gives them enough respect, I don't know. All I know is that this guy is good, he'll be a good president, he'll do well in the general election, and he'll be tough for Republicans to oppose as president. And having studied how things went in 2004, I see no reason why he can't win the nomination.

Plus, he was the only candidate who really stood up for this FISA bill; and he didn't have to. But it was a very smart move, he did it well, and I like that he had the confidence to go through with it. This guy is good. If you don't agree, go to his site and you'll see what I mean. I don't think he's the perfect candidate, but he's the best we've got out of a fairly good group.

And if you already agree, give him some money. It doesn't have to be much. $5 will help. It will send a message. And best of all, it will give him positive buzz that will show people that Dodd is a real candidate and has our support. I won't cry if he doesn't get the nomination, but I think it'll be for the best if he did.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Managerial Jail Rape Probabilities

Here's a story about how they're trying to reform the juvenile prison system here in my home state of Texas. But that some people don't think they've done enough. Here's a quote from one of the state legislators who has worked to reform the system and thinks they've seen progress:

"We probably don't have management raping kids now," said state Rep. Jerry Madden.

Wow, that is progress...probably. He also says:

"I'm beginning to have a little confidence that improvements are being made. But we need to see results."

Uhm, did he mean to say that he's starting to have confidence, even though we haven't seen results? But...but...but, we probably don't have management raping kids. and that's a kind of result, isn't it?

I honestly have no idea why some people think treating someone like shit will get them to start treating others with respect, but I'd sure like to see a bigger push on rehabilitation instead of punishment.

Sure, some people are beyond redemption, and it's possible that punishment makes some people reform. But for the most part, people who get treated like shit will eventually want to treat someone else like shit to compensate. It's just human nature, particularly among people with violent natures and lower IQ's; ie, many of the people who go to jail. Payback might make you feel better, but it does little to help others.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Perdido en Traducción

I can't speak a foreign language. I took two years of French in high school that I did absolutely horrible in (though good enough to pass both classes...barely), and I took two semesters of German in college that I did quite well in (thanks to my linguistically-abled wife). But I still can't speak more than a few mumbling phrases and can't understand a word of it. I'm just hopeless when it comes to foreign languages. Hell, any grammarian will tell you that even my English ain't so great. Language just isn't my thing.

And that's why I find the "English-only" issue to be so offensively stupid. How many of the people who push this stuff are bi-lingual? And while many of them are unlikely to go to foreign countries, you can bet they'll expect those foreigners to be able to speak English even better than they do. I've only been out of the country twice, both times to Mexican bordertowns for drinking purposes. And let me tell you, while I do know the word "cerveza", I still ordered "beer". After all, they were bordertowns and I wouldn't have been fooling anyone with my feeble attempt at Spanish. And I have no problem with that and neither did they. They understood that I didn't speak Spanish and were cool with it.

Now that's not to suggest that people living in our country shouldn't learn Spanish. Of course they should, but only for their own benefit. After all, they might have to talk to me, and I can't speak non-English. One time I was at one of my client's offices when some guy came in who didn't speak English and looked like he might have been drunk. And no matter how many times I tried to explain that I didn't speak Spanish, he persisted to ask me questions I couldn't possibly fathom. He either didn't know the English words "I don't speak Spanish" or was too drunk to understand. But either way, that guy really should learn a little more English.

But what's the point of getting angry about it? I was embarrassed, not mad. Sure, I couldn't help him, but that was his loss (I later learned from a bi-lingual employee that he wanted some temp work for cash.) But as we all know, this isn't about language. This is about being assholes. Because you can rest assured in knowing that these same people will always expect everyone to learn our language and culture, and don't give a shit about anyone else's no matter whose country they're in. This is just a powerplay, to force non-Americans to acknowledge our superiority.

When in Rome, Speak English

I'm writing about this after reading a story of a restaurant in Philadelphia which posted two signs saying: "This is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING PLEASE 'SPEAK ENGLISH.'" And how the business is now being sued for discrimination.

Their lawyer insisted that this wasn't discriminatory, but merely an attempt to not let the line slow down due to people speaking in other languages; which is about as believable as my Spanish is. Because sure, I could see how that might slow things down, but it's obvious that the sign was meant to offend. Can you imagine going into a bar in Nuevo Laredo that had signs saying "Esto es MEXICO: AL ORDENAR POR FAVOR 'HABLA ESPAÑOL'" Even if you don't understand Spanish, you'd understand what they were trying to tell you with that sign and you'd know you didn't belong there. (And yes, I used a translation website to write that message.)

And if this was merely about translations, there'd be ways around it. Like a Spanish language menu with a number system or something. Hell, that's my preferred method of ordering at many of the Tex-Mex places around here, and they speak English. Or at least a sign that was more apologetic, and didn't act as if there was some expectation that the geographical location precluded people from speaking other languages. Or assuming the article quoted that correctly, perhaps if they just dropped the ALL-CAPS and "quotes" around 'SPEAK ENGLISH" it might help. But as is, it's obvious that the owner has a problem with immigrants and foreigners.

Cart Before Horse

And have I been missing all the free English as a Second Language programs that these people are pushing? You'd think if this was just a language issue that they'd want to do more to teach people to speak English. But as usual with these people, this isn't really about language at all.

Similarly, they'll insist that affirmative action programs should be replaced with better education systems for minorities, though they insist that we get rid of affirmative action first and make no promise about improving anyone's education. Or they'll insist that they oppose illegal aliens because they're illegal, but have no intention of establishing a better way for them to come here legally.

The truth is that they don't want Mexicans to speak English. They don't want them assimilated into our culture. And they don't want them educated and getting paid union wages. They want them gone. The language issue is just a shorthand way of discriminating while convincing themselves and others that they're not such bad guys for doing so. And it looks like this guy got caught. Again, if language was the issue, there are solutions for that. But if his problems are with Mexicans, then he's in trouble.

In fact, every problem I've seen associated with illegal aliens has to do with the fact that we're not doing more to get them here legally and assimilated into our system. From language issues, to border crossings, to low wages, to taxation issues; all of this could be solved if we allowed them in legally and educated them better. So while they blame illegal immigration for all these problems, it's obvious that the real problem lies entirely with their racism.

And so it is with most issues. The only solution conservatives will accept is the thing causing the biggest problems. We see this with anti-American terrorism, out of control deficits, healthcare, recessions, the Social Security "crisis", and now immigration; the Republican "cure" is one of the main causes of the disease.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Living in a Secular World

It’s obvious that most of the people who rail against secularism don’t understand what the term means. Because, despite their constant haranguing against secularists, most of their lives are involved in the secular world. When they’re shopping, or going to work, or attending a football game, they’re in the secular world. And it doesn’t even matter if they’re shopping at a Christian bookstore or if they pray during the football game or if they carry a bible around with them at all times; they’re still in the secular world.

Even working for a church counts as a secular job, unless they’re priests, or nuns, or engaging in some other sort of specific god-related activity. And without a doubt, a church bookkeeper is a secular position. They might be aiding those who do God’s work, but they’re paying secular vendors, reconciling Mammon’s bank accounts, and filling out heathen tax forms, just like every other bookkeeper. Hell, some of my clients consider me to be a miracle worker, so if anything, you'd think I'd get some heavenly credit for that.

For most Christians, the only time they’re not engaged in secular activities is when they’re in church. And even then, I suspect that they’re often thinking of the secular world. They’re praying that their boss gives them a promotion or that a particular boy asks them out to the dance. Rather than these people living a godly life, they’re secularists who take a brief vacation in the World of God every once in a while. And even then, it's usually out of a sense of obligation or a selfish fear of eternal damnation; neither of which sounds particularly holy in my humble opinion. I'm not sure why they imagine that an all-knowing creator could be so easily duped, but I don't think it's working.

What Jesus Wouldn’t Do

And without a doubt, the New Testament doesn’t have such a great opinion about what these people are doing. WWJD was a cute phrase that was entirely meaningless. What would Jesus do? He’d quit his damn job and start evangelizing; relying upon the kindness of strangers to provide his meager sustenance, which is what he expected his followers to do. But most Christians have a different term for that kind of person: Bum. Crazy Bum. And they’d rather spit on such people than to listen to them.

Jesus wouldn’t have to make decisions on whether to be nice to a rude co-worker, or how to treat someone who stole the Tickle Me Elmo doll out of their hands during the big Christmas sale. Because he believed that our lives were merely a trifle, and that our short time on this world should be devoted entirely to preparing for the next one. And while I’ve met a few high-minded people who look past the daily fantasyworld most people consider "reality", very few of them were Christian and none of them were the type who consider the terms “secularist” and “atheist” to be synonymous.

And so these people are no different than the people they derisively label “secularists”. And if anything, they’re a disgrace to the god they profess belief in. It’s all just a sham. Something to make themselves feel superior to others, based upon bible passages and sermons that they barely comprehend. And let's face it, anyone who reads the New Testament with an open mind understands that the people involved clearly thought the end was near and that they'd soon be joining Jesus in Heaven. But after a thousand or so years passed with no end in sight, it was only natural that people would get a little restless and want to get back to taking care of the earthly world they spend so much time in.

And this isn't even an issue of semantics. Because "secularist" isn't just some shorthand for atheist. These people are not living the Christian lives they're supposed to. Heck, even most Christians think that the people who actually live the real Christian life are a bit batty. Because these people aren't living a life that different from atheists. The only difference is that they think they can hedge their bets by doing as little as possible to stay on God's good side, while otherwise living life the same as non-believers do.

And if anything, I would think that their god would be more annoyed with them than me. I'm not sure why they think that spending one hour a week in God's House is enough to avoid eternal damnation, but I don't think it's helping them get that promotion.

Your Gospel Reading

I'll leave you with a little Gospel. Here's Jesus speaking, Luke 6:27-35 (emphasis in the original):

Listen, all of you. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you; implore God's blessing on those who hurt you.

If someone slaps you on the cheek, let him slap the other too! If someone demands your coat, give him your shirt besides. Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don't worry about getting them back. Treat others as you want them to treat you.

Do you think you deserve credit for merely loving those who love you? Even the godless do that! And if you do good only to those who do you good - is that so wonderful? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, what good is that? Even the most wicked will lend to their own kind for full return!

Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don't be concerned about the fact that they won't repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as sons of God: for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are very wicked.

I'm not sure if I have ever met a Christian who actually follows this advice; yet this is how one would act if they were more concerned with the next world than this one. Instead, these people continue to act as if this life is too important to ignore and are amazed when any priest, preacher, or monk can follow any of this advice. And no one would expect a priest to give away all his possessions to anyone who asked. They might have a vow of poverty, but I guess even the poor have expectations of owning Lincoln Towncars these days.

At best, they'll pay lip service to being kind to the wicked, as an excuse for why they're being so cruel. And while the current mortgage crisis might indicate that the banks didn't care about being repaid, I suspect it wasn't this bible passage that told them to do this. Again, most Christians have a term for people who act as Jesus says they should: Bums. Crazy bums.

As usual, the passage above is from my Catholic Living Bible, which has my name on the cover.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Church Thing

I'm continually amazed whenever I find out that someone I know actually goes to church. I guess I just like sleeping in on Sundays too much, but imagine that, even if I were a believer, I still wouldn't go to church. Even more amazing is the number of people I know who assume that I go to church, just because I act like a decent person. I just don't get it.

I've always disliked going to church. And having read the bible, I'm still unclear on why church is necessary. If anything, I find that going to church would be more offensive to God than not going to church. Because it's as if going to church is considered a substitute for actually being good. It's like Saturday School. One of my kids had to go to school on Saturday to make up for having too many tardies. But he didn't have to do anything. They go in earlier than a normal school day, but can read books, listen to iPods, or even chat with friends. The teacher doesn't care. Just as long as they show up on time and don't leave early. And that makes everything better.

That's what church seems like to me. Like it's for people who want to do good, but can't. So they're allowed to pretend to be good for one hour a week and it makes everything better. I understand religion, but I don't understand church. It's like they go just because they think they're supposed to go. My son recently went to Saturday School because his new girlfriend had to go to Saturday School and he wanted to keep her company. Again, sounds like church to me.

I even know one guy who seriously suggested that I start going to church because it would be good for networking. He didn't even care if I believed in God. He just thought it'd be good for business. And I agree with that. While I doubt that going to church would do any good for my soul, it'd probably be good for my business. And to think, I'm the one considered the heretic.

These people really don't know what they're talking about. And I'm much too nice a guy to tell that to them. I guess that's why they assume I go to church. Because they can't imagine that anyone would actually want to be good unless they had to. And I guess that's probably why they go to church. Because they wouldn't be good people otherwise.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Huckabee Supports Ban on Religion

You know, I didn't like Mike Huckabee at first, but I'm really starting to warm-up to all the powers that he wants to give us. For example, look at this quote of his on the gay marriage issue:

"What people do in the privacy of their own lives as adults is their business," Huckabee said. "If they bring it into the public square and ask me as a taxpayer to support it or to endorse it, then it becomes a matter of public discussion and discourse."

Looks to me like he's saying that the rest of us get a say in who people marry. Excellent! I've always thought that there were certain people who shouldn't be married. Like dumb people. I'd prefer they not get married, and I definitely don't think they should be procreating. Now I guess if they want to get married and have kids in the privacy of their own lives and I never have to see these people together, watch their kids tramping around in public, or have to spend my hard earned money in a futile attempt to "educate" their brats; well I'd be fine with that.

But I absolutely refuse to have any part of this abominable practice of allowing dumbness to thrive in public. After all, I am a taxpayer and I don't want to support or endorse dumbness of any kind. Dumbness is a choice; a choice which my religion of secularism finds entirely abhorrent. So I'm glad to see that Mike Huckabee supports my right to deny these people the ability to inflict their lifestyle choices on the rest of us.

The Huckabee Doctrine Expanded

And let's not insult Huckabee's intelligence by pretending that his comment is only limited to marriage, or, as some might imagine, that this grand principle of his was only limited to gay marriage. Huckabee isn't one of those small-minded people who pretend to be standing on principles which, in fact, are only limited to the very specific moral preferences they want to see enforced. Hell no. Mike Huckabee is a man of principle who clearly intends for this doctrine of his to be applied throughout our society.

So if Mike Huckabee can win the Whitehouse, I'm sure we can look forward to a day where the general public has a say in all personal choices whenever they intrude into the "public square". Like if the taxpayers of New York City decided to make anti-gay churches pay property and income taxes. Or if San Francisco wanted to refuse to acknowledge heterosexual marriage. And surely he must agree with Washington D.C.'s firearm ban; a particularly brave stance coming from a conservative.

Let's see what else. We could extend this into outlawing Christmas, bibles, religion, sports, and even children. And all with Mike Huckabee's complete approval. Because he respects the rights of taxpayers to decide what goes on in public; even things that the public never actually sees. And all based upon Mike Huckabee's principle of the public square. While some conservatives insist that environmental and health regulations are already too intrusive, it's obvious that Mike Huckabee is a conservative of a different stripe. Thanks, Mike Huckabee, for insisting that society has a right to make personal decisions for everyone's life.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Political War on Atheism

Who does a rabid football fan hate more: A football fan from a rival team, or someone who doesn't watch football at all? What about team rivalries: Is a rabid fan likely to dislike a team that's on the other side of the country, or a team that's in the next city or state? And as we all know, football fans are much more likely to hate a fan from another team, and their biggest rival will be a team that's close to them. And the same thing goes for ideological and religious zealots.

This is a little understood fact, but traditionally, religions are much more likely to hate a similar religion than a dissimilar one, and should leave non-religious alone. I know, that's not a firm rule, but there is sense to this. Because a similar religion is direct competition for the minds of believers. That's why Pepsi competes against Coke, not Budweiser. While all three are drinks, if someone's reaching for an ice cold Bud, Pepsi probably wasn't an option.

That's also why Ralph Nader wanted to hurt Democrats more than Republicans. Because he sees them as blasphemers. People who are taking his beliefs and ruining them. Republicans are Republicans and will do their thing, but the Democrats were stealing his people and making them impure. And in religion, while Christians have waged war against Islam over land and gold, they've attacked each other simply for mild variations in doctrine; such as, which language the bible should be in. And because Buddhists were even further from Christians, both geographically and ideologically, they were the safest of all.

That's one reason why Mormonism is a bigger threat to traditional Christianity than atheism. If someone already believes in the bible, it's more likely that they'll learn to adopt the extra book of Mormon, than to abandon the bible altogether. And if they were going to abandon Christianity, there probably wasn't much keeping them there to begin with. Atheism isn't a rival to Christianity; it's for the people who just don't want to bother. Again, a Packers fan is much more likely to hate a Bears fan than a Cubs fan. And none of them care about a Chess fanatic.

Religious Politics

And so what explains the big push against atheism, and why Romney would bother attacking atheism as a way to be embraced by evangelicals? One word: Politics. Religious people have been hoodwinked by politicians to hate atheists most of all. Why? Because atheists are generally liberals, and so by attacking atheists, they score political points. (BTW, I should state that I'm referring to most atheists, and not the Madalyn Murray O'Hair style atheists, who actively oppose religion.)

By labeling Democrats as the Party of Atheism, they're not only trying to rally Christians into the voting booths, but also as a way to get Democratic Christians to switch sides. Similarly, minorities are more likely to be Democrats, so Republicans have to demonize them too. And this would have worked a lot better than it has, except they hadn't counted on the fact that there really aren't as many bigots in America as they had imagined.

But it's all a sham. Atheists aren't their enemy, and if people are becoming more and more secular, this has nothing to do with atheism. This has to do with people understanding how the world works and no longer feeling that they need a god to explain what life is about. We've got weathermen to explain the weather and philosophers to help us learn how to behave ethically, and while those aren't guarantees that you'll abandon your faith, they make you better equipped to do so if that's what you desire. But if you do want a god, atheism isn't where you're going to turn, any more than you'd grab pretzels if you were thirsty. Only in the political world are atheists the enemies of theists.

And while the Republican con game on this has been relatively successful, as we all know, you can't fool all the people all the time. Using fear to motivate a mob might work in the short term, but eventually rationality will catch-up and people will realize they've been duped. And then they get pissed and lash-back against the people who duped them. And while a few years of scare-mongering may seem to last forever, history has shown that these periods don't last for long and generally hurt the fear-mongers most of all.

And that's what we're already seeing now. And the more desperate the Republicans get, the more they're cranking up the hate-mongering machine; and thus, hasten their own demise. But if they stop trying, they'll be rejected by the minority of people who are still on-board, and thus complete their doom. And I couldn't be any happier about it.

Mitt Conversion

If Mitt Romney announced that he had found Jesus and was about to be baptised as a Born Again, do you think this would help or hurt his presidential aspirations? Discuss.

What if he converted to Catholicism?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Time to Bomb Iran

A victory for Iran?!? NOOOOOOOO! This can't happen. I don't give a damn whether or not Iran has nuclear bombs, WE CANNOT ALLOW THEM TO HAVE VICTORY OVER THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! So I say we help out their nuclear ambitions by sending them a few nukes of our own. And if those backward bozos are so bumbling that they can't handle our delivery without blowing the things to smithereens, well that's their problem, isn't it. We were just trying send them a nice victory package.

USA!!! USA!!!

P.S. What the hell does this mean: A new U.S. intelligence review concluding Iran stopped developing an atomic weapons program in 2003 is a "declaration of victory" for Iran's nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday.

A victory for Iran's nuclear program? It's a victory because they couldn't figure out how to build a bomb? Needless to say, there is no actual quote in the article of Ahmadinejad saying this was a victory for their nuclear program. He said it was a victory for the Iranian nation. But I guess for some reporters, those two terms are synonymous. Were it not for Iran's supposed nuclear program, these people wouldn't even know the place existed.

Oh, and don't miss the part where Condi says that we still need another round of sanctions. She suggests we've been "completely transparent" about what was in the NIE, despite the fact that they've been pretending it didn't exist for the past few months and are, even now, trying to spin what it says so they can still attack Iran. For Bushies, "transparency" just means that you weren't able to stop people from seeing a report, even if you're going to continue to trick people about what the report says and act as if it didn't exist. Right.

Monday, December 03, 2007

In Support of Baby Death

I respect the anti-abortion argument, I guess. I don't agree with it at all, and can't stand when people who support war, death penalties, and starvation are allowed to call themselves "pro-life," but I respect their argument. In theory anyway. So why do their actual arguments have to be so crackpottedly stupid?

In my last post, I wrote something about the abortion argument, as well as mentioning issues with the bible's ambiguity. And this may surprise you, but I often do more research on what I write about than what is included in my posts. Yes, I know that's a complete breach of blogger ethics, but I can't help it. I like to be right about stuff. And so I did research to make sure that I was correct about my claim that the bible doesn't actually prohibit abortion. And what I found was ridiculous.

Of the few anti-abortion websites I visited, I got a lot of huff and bother about why it's wrong to kill people, but they barely touched upon why it's wrong to kill an embryo or fetus. That just seemed to be one of the propositions that you already supported before reading the website, as they really did a piss-poor job of explaining it. And if you're going with the proposition that someone has to already accept your argument before they'll be willing to agree with it, it really doesn't make much sense to make one at all.

Never Mentioned

In fact, the best argument I found was from a website called The Bible and Abortion, which insisted that abortion is so completely abhorrent that they never even mentioned it in the bible.

As they say:
The very idea of intentionally killing an unborn child—or even worse, killing them by the hundreds and thousands,—is totally foreign to the lives of God's people in the Bible, and so it is never mentioned.

And that's why I never play football. Or cook sushi. Or drive an automobile. Because these practices are so horrible that they couldn't even be mentioned in the bible. But by no means could this be an issue of primitive people who didn't know what an embryo or fetus was, as we all know that the bible was really written by God and not the primitive people who thought they were writing it.

And what's sad is that they spent over 3600 words before they actually got to that pathetic argument. They went on and on tossing out bible passages about how sacred people are and how god loves us, but when it came time to protecting the unborn, that's the best they could do. Telling us that abortion is so evil that God didn't need to actually forbid it. We're talking about the god who went into so much detail as to warn us against eating screech owls and ospreys, yet he can't mention abortion? Really?

And let us not forget that God is supposedly so clever that he wrote secret passages that were only decipherable to future generations, and even then He, in all His greatest, couldn't bother to tell us to not kill embryos. Consider me unconvinced.

Abortion and the Bible

And if you really want to go down the anti-abortion rabbithole, I've got the site for you. This one's called Abortion and the Bible, which is written by a retired physician and current state senator of Tennessee named Raymond A. Finney, Jr., M.D.

And Dr. Finney is just crazy. And his problem is obvious: For how important the abortion issue supposedly is, the bible never really does mention abortion. And so again, he has to spend a lot of time messing around with irrelevant arguments because he doesn't have a specific rule he can cite which allows him to do what he wants to do; namely, insist that we outlaw abortion. If you've got a "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," you go with it. Otherwise, you waste everyone's time by taking passages out of context and hope that nobody's really paying attention.

And the worst part of all, as much as his arguments suggest that we help fetuses, his arguments work much better for helping the people who are already born. And that's just not really what Republicans are about. For as much as they want to help the innocent and the weak, as we've all noticed, that pretty much ends once the person is born. While they insist that fetuses get full rights as humans the moment they're conceived, those rights end for most people right after they pop out. After that, you're on your own.

Here are a few bible passages from that website of what I'm talking about:

Psalm 82:3-4 Defend the weak and the fatherless; maintain rights for the poor and oppressed; rescue the weak and needy, delivering them from the hand of wicked persons.
Proverbs 24:11-12. Rescue those being led to death and slaughter. If you claim ignorance of their deaths, God will know, and He will repay each person for what he or she has or has not done to help those in need.
Proverbs 31:8-9. Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, defend those who cannot defend themselves, and plead the cause of those in need.
Galatians 6:2. Bear each others' burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ.
Exodus 23:7: Do not put an innocent person to death, because God will not acquit the guilty.
Proverbs 6:16-17: There are seven things God hates, one of which is hands that shed innocent blood.

Call me crazy, but I suspect that any Democratic politician who said these things would be enemy #1 to most Republicans. Bearing other people's burdens just doesn't belong in their "ownership" society. Nor do they seem particularly worried about innocent people receiving the death penalty. And unless they'll argue that every person in Iraq deserved to die, they've probably got quite a bit of innocent blood on their hands. That's the thing, it wasn't just Jesus who was a liberal. The Old Testament has some of that stuff too.

The Meaning of Life

And his whole website is just a futile attempt to rationalize his opinion. Like his argument that one feature of an unborn baby is that they are "COMPLETELY FORMED: The entire genetic information this new person will ever receive is present at the moment of conception (egg fertilization). No new life codes will ever be given to this new person."

Completely formed? Is he kidding me? As a parent, I'll tell you straight up that born children are not fully formed. Those suckers pop out and they look like greasy little aliens who are very pissed-off. Even as teenagers, they've got a lot of formation to do and are still pissed off. I'm not sure if Dr. Finney knows what humans are supposed to look like, but childhood is obviously just one of the stages they go through to gain their full functionality. And what is that function? Making more humans. Everything else is just icing.

And the way it works is that we start forming inside the mommies until we get to the point that we're too big to be in there (and it's obvious to anyone who's witnessed childbirth that human heads have clearly gotten too big for the place they're expected to come out of), and then they keep forming on the outside until they're done...and then they start dying. And with any luck, they had a few kids before they're done and those kids aren't too stupid. That's just what it's all about. And again, everything else is just icing.

As a clarifier, I am by no means suggesting that babies or teens be killed because they're not fully formed. I'm just saying that fertilization is just the start of the formation process and not the end. And I'm not sure why anti-abortion folks insist on denying our argument that embryos are not the equivalent of full human beings. There's a point at which they're less than that, and a point at which they become human. And while I can't say exactly where that point is, that doesn't negate my position that there is more to being human than conception. After all, it's my understanding that quite a few eggs get fertilized, but never get implanted; yet no one considers this to be the death of a baby, as they generally don't find out that this happened.

I believe that human life is more than just a collection of cells or mindless life. Most of these people clearly agree with that, as they don't believe that women who have abortions should be prosecuted as murderers. They know that a human life is far more important than that of an embryo or fetus. It's only their rhetoric that suggests these are equivalent, as their position is groundless otherwise.

Knowing God's Will

One of my favorite parts is his section entitled: "Is Abortion God's Will?" Because I thought this was an intriguing question. I mean, how do we know that God doesn't want us to abort babies? Isn't he the omniscient dude who set this all into motion and has some great plan that we're all too stupid to comprehend? Then how are we so sure that the aborted babies aren't supposed to be aborted? Who the hell are we to question what happens? Surely God must know which fetuses are going to be aborted, so perhaps he just doesn't put souls in those. That's how I'd do things, anyway.

And if abortions are a monkey-wrench in God's plan, I can't imagine how this plan could still be operative, as there have been quite a few abortions. In fact, if all wrongful deaths screw-up God's plan, then the plan must have been upset going as far back as the days of Cain and Abel. But if God took these wrongful deaths into consideration, then they must clearly be part of the plan. I fail to see how this can be otherwise.

And what's Finney's answer? I haven't a damn clue. The best I can figure, he just restated the question a few times until he reformed it into the question: "Does abortion please or displease God?" And he doesn't even get around to answering that one. And it is a separate question. Because it's quite possible that God's plan includes things that displease him. After all, it's my understanding that it saddens him when we reject him and go to Hell, yet that's clearly part of his plan as he's the one who set up this system. Even in my own life, it displeases me to have to punish my kids for breaking the rules, but it's part of my plan all the same.

And so Finney completely flubbed the section I was really interested in reading. He really shouldn't even have mentioned it. I mean, this guy insists that "God has a plan for each person's life." And if that's the case, then I can't imagine how that plan couldn't include a few abortions. Again, if God's plan gets screwed up by one abortion, then it really wasn't much of a plan to begin with. But this is clearly an issue that bewilders the doctor, so he just made some noise and moved on.

Word Games

He has also the obligatory section on "The Power of Language." You know how this one works: Anti-abortion people are the word police and get to decide which words people are allowed to use when discussing the issue. And somehow, it always works out that the words they choose are the ones that make their position sound better. He even skips the "pro-abortion" absurdity and insists that because his position is "pro-life" that we must be "pro-death." I guess I'll just call our side the "pro-intelligence" group and let him decide which group that puts him in.

And then there's the part where he says we should refer to fetuses as babies, even though he admits that fetus is the proper term. Why? Because he knows that "baby" is a loaded term which makes his argument sound better. That's why the term "fetus" only appears five times on his site, two of which were quotes from somebody else, and the other three times when he was telling us to not use the word. In fact, his entire page doesn't mention the words "embryo" or "embryonic" once, despite that a medical doctor like him must know that many abortions are performed during this stage (it's the first two months of development). In contrast, I lost track of how many times he used the word "baby" after I got past twenty.

So he's admitting that this isn't about proper labels, but rather stacking the debate in his favor. Yet he dares to suggest that we're the ones hiding the nature of what we're doing. He even insists that people should say that we're "committing" abortion, rather than "performing" one, because it sounds more like murder that way. He doesn't even care if our language makes sense, he just wants to score a few cheap points by changing the meaning of words.

Oddly, he rails repeatedly against the term "pro-choice," saying "Whose choice is it?" But later on has a whole section on whether a woman should choose to have an abortion, saying "only you can make the decision whether to have an abortion." So maybe I'm the dope here, but it sure does look like the term "pro-choice" is valid for this discussion. We believe that women should have this choice and he doesn't. Anything short of that are just word games.

More Than Birth

In that same section, he gives us the pros and cons of having an abortion. And the three pros consist of: No childbirth pains, less expensive than childbirth, and you don't have to decide to give it up for adoption. Now, perhaps he just thought it didn't need to be said, but isn't the main reason people choose to have an abortion because they're not ready to have kids (or more kids) and don't want to be responsible for raising another human being for the rest of their lives?

And that's the whole point. As I mentioned before, having a kid doesn't end once the kid pops out. That's just the beginning. Once you've had that kid, you're expected to be responsible for them for the rest of your life. And if someone's in such a bad position that they don't think they should be doing that, I'm of the opinion that they're probably right. As it is, I think many people don't do a great job raising their kids, as evidenced by all the crime and bad things that go on in this world. So if someone is of the opinion they're not in the best position to raise a child, we might want to take their opinion into consideration.

And even adoption isn't the great option they make it out to be. I've never done anything that needed to be handled with an abortion, but I'd much rather do that than give one up for adoption. If you disagree, that's fine, but I just couldn't allow one of my offspring to be raised by someone else. This world is a screwed-up place, and I already feel overwhelmed by all the problems that might befall my kids. I could never allow one of my kids to be raised without my guidance. Hell, I don't even want you, my loyal readers, to get through life without my guidance; and I don't even know you. (For the record, I have two step-kids and think I've done a decent job raising them. But it's everyone else's abilities I'm in serious doubt of.)

And I'm sure many other people think the same way and consider adoption to be right out of the question. I'm not sure why conservatives consider abortion to be this great regrettable event, while adoption is a win-win, but it's not. Many people have regretted giving their child up for adoption, and I'm sure there are many adoptees who wish they hadn't been adopted by the people they got stuck with. And again, it's quite possible that God recycles the unused souls of aborted babies, so adoption might not be the grand salvation these people consider it to be.

But again, conservatives don't care about any of this. All they're concerned with is getting those suckers born, and anything that happens after that is none of their concern.

Lost in Translation

And finally, I'd like to get on the only bible passage I've seen which even remotely addresses the abortion question. Because if the bible doesn't actually consider fetuses to be sacred, or forbid abortion, then their entire argument is left without any foundation at all. And guess what: There is no foundation. If anything, I'd chalk this up to a mistranslation that two of my bibles seem settled on.

Sure, there are other passages which mention that God knew who we were before we were born, but I think those were specific references and weren't meant to indicate that all of us are full humans upon conception. Besides, if God knew us before we were born and really wanted us to be born, I'm sure he could just find another belly to put us in; assuming the term "omnipotent" has any meaning, anyway. And if aborted babies don't go to Heaven, then that's God's fault, not ours.

The only passage mentioned that he says explicitly forbids abortion is Exodus 21: 22-23, which Dr. Finney says is "The penalty under the law of Moses was to put to death a person who caused even the accidental death of an unborn baby (as by two men fighting)." But I've read the bible and didn't think that was particularly bible-sounding, and suspect that Dr. Finney was paraphrasing. And as I've learned, the bible is already vague enough that paraphrasing is right out of the question. He also gives a more direct quote of "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman... (23) [and] there is serious injury, you are to take life for life...." but that ellipsis in the middle look a little suspicious to me.

And so I found that other website I mentioned above, which quotes it as "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."

Now that sounds bibley. But it also sounds vague. I mean, "mischief"? What does that mean? That website hung everything on the term and insisted that it referred to either the mother or baby dying. But I really wasn't so sure about that, so I checked the two bibles I have here in my house, which are written in regular language; meaning that they sound bibley, but aren't so vague.

And sure enough, both bibles contradicted that website's interpretation. I'll quote here from my Catholic Living Bible, which I received as a Confirmation present and has my name on it. It says: "If two men are fighting, and in the process hurt a pregnant woman so that she has a miscarriage, but she lives, then the man who injured her shall be fined whatever amount the woman's husband shall demand, and as the judges approve. But if any harm comes to the woman and she dies, he shall be executed."

Could that be any clearer? Unborn babies are obviously not considered the equivalent of regular people. So not only does this passage not say what they think it says, it completely undermines their argument. Yet this is the best they've got. Somehow, their all-knowing God who wrote this magnificent book which was intended to guide mankind for thousands of years forgot to include anything specific regarding an issue that many conservatives consider to be the most important issue of our day.

As an agnostic, it really isn't my place to deride any creator's abilities, so I can only assume that God disagrees with these people on this particular issue. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that God wasn't able to predict the predicament we'd find ourselves in. But if that's what these Christians want to go with, I guess that's between them and their god.

Pokemon V. Reality

And so that's it. I could have written more about those two websites, but I think I did enough damage for today. If you want to see a glimpse into crazytown, that second website will give you plenty to look at.

Sure, he's not wacko, shoot people crazy. But that's all the more damning. This is a man who made it through medical school, practiced medicine for several decades, and then won an important political office. According to Wikipedia, he is currently Assistant Floor Leader for the Senate Republican Caucus in Tennessee, as well as Vice-Chair of Senate Government Operations. Additionally, he serves on the Senate Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee and the Senate General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee. So this isn't just some unlearned whackjob tossing out garbage on a website. This is a powerful unlearned whackjob tossing out garbage on a website, which is all the scarier.

Yet his arguments are entirely laughable. So much so that I'm half inclined to email him a link to this piece, just so he can see how much I tore him to shreds. But I know that he wouldn't agree and then I'd be stuck fighting a pointless battle with a guy willing to use over 25,000 words without having made his point. And that's just not the kind of battle I'm interested in waging. What's the point? If he can cite bible passages in his favor that my bible says are the exact opposite of what he says they are, then there can be no common ground between us.

And that's assuming that I'd accept the bible as an authority on the issue, which I most certainly do not. For as much as he futilely attempted to convince us that the bible forbids believers from having abortions, he never made one point that would suggest that non-believers should be subjected to his god's laws. Nor have I seen anything in the bible that says they need to do that. It's as if some kid playing Pokemon thinks he can use his Jigglypuff card to defeat me in a fistfight. That stuff's fine for people who are playing the game, but the rest of us are bound to a different set of rules.

So I'm perfectly fine with Christians who think the bible limits their ability to have an abortion, but see no reason why I'm expected to obey that rule. And again, the best argument for suggesting that the bible forbids abortion is simply that it never mentions it at all. If only these people would do the same...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Down with Ratzinger

Whether it was deserved or not, I always liked Pope John Paul II. He seemed like a nice guy with good intentions who wanted to bring people together and didn't necessarily see religion as a barrier to communication or good deeds. And while I may not have agreed with JP2 on many specific issues, he seemed like the kind of guy I'd like to have a beer with (though not in the presidential sense), and could see having an interesting discussion with him. Pope Ratzinger is no John Paul II.

On top of several things I already didn't like about Ratzinger, this latest story of him issuing an encyclical attacking atheism might be the worst. Ok, sure. Atheists have done lots of bad things. The Soviets were atheists. Hitler and many of his guys were possibly atheists (though I believe they used religion to further their cause). And I'll even take loons like Charles Manson and lots of serial killers on our side. I don't know if that's the case, but I'm sure we've got our share of the psychos.

But to suggest that atheism is responsible for "the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice?" Come fucking on! I mean, the first two words that come to mind are: Crusades and Inquisition. Beyond that, my understanding of English and American history, while far from complete, is strong enough for me to know that lots of Christians did lots of bad things. Hell, Christians had so much fun screwing over Indians that they gave the name to two completely different races of victims before screwing them over.

How about another word: Islamofascism. I don't even agree with that word, but its use is enough to completely undermine Ratzinger's argument. I'm not sure why Christians seem to be so hung up on themselves that they think atheism is purely a rejection of their religion, but we don't believe in the other religions either. And so when the discussion of atheists versus theists comes up, they've got to include all those terrorists on their side, beheadings and all. I've known quite a few atheists who have acted like pricks in their time, but not one of them beheaded anyone.

And then, of course, there's George W. Bush. Nuff said.

Bible-Based Bigotry

And let's not forget that war aside, there are lots of Christians in our own country who are bigots and a-holes. They might go to Church every Sunday, but that doesn't stop them from making the world a worse place the rest of the time. In fact, many of them justify their bigotry based upon their religious beliefs and self-righteousness. The bible's a big book and you can find justification for just about anything you want, if you look hard enough. And they will look hard enough.

Like with abortion. You'd think if abortion was such a big deal to God that he might have thought to write a passage directly forbidding it, but no. You've got to read in-between the lines of stuff that, from my perspective, seems to be talking about something completely different. Religious conservatives have no problem stating emphatically that life begins at conception and that abortion is obviously murder, so you'd think an all-mighty god wouldn't have had such a hard time saying it either or predicting that he might need to. But I guess that's part of the whole mystery thing, huh.

But a big part of that is the language barrier. I understand that God doesn't like to mettle in our affairs, but is it too much to ask for an updated translation of his book? Hell, even a straight-up translation into Latin would be nice, and we can take it from there. While the newer parts probably aren't too difficult to figure out, I'm sure we don't even know what original language some of that earlier stuff was in. Heck, Christians can't agree to which sections even belong in the bible, yet lots of them insist that it's the official Word of God and must be accepted literally and unquestioningly. I mean, if this is such an important book, you'd think we should at least be given a definitive version of the thing.

Oh, and if you'd like a little laugh, here's a link to some dude who insists that the King James version is the definitive version and that any later revisions are absolutely false. And so while he scores high on consistency, he loses points for being a complete fruitcake.

But none of this is to suggest that I think religion is necessarily a bad thing. If used right, it could be great. I don't need one for myself, but if somebody insists that they'd be raping dogs without one, I guess I'd rather they be religious. But that's the thing: Atheism doesn't cause bad behavior either. If somebody's going to be bad, they'll be bad. And people will find a way to rationalize anything they want. If it's in the bible, great. Or they'll accept the word of their preacher. Or perhaps Nietzsche gave them the go ahead. Or perhaps it was their neighbor's dog. But whatever it is, these are just rationalizations and if someone's going to torture or kill you, they were going to do it no matter what. Their source is just there to make them feel better about it.

No Progress At All

And I'm not sure I like this part of Ratzinger's encyclical at all:
"We have all witnessed the way in which progress, in the wrong hands, can become and has indeed become a terrifying progress in evil. If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth, then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world," he said.

Maybe I'm taking this to the wrong conclusion, but isn't he suggesting that if we don't get our act together morally that he doesn't want science to progress? In fact, I daresay that his argument should mean that we pullback our scientific exploration quite a bit until we get ourselves better morals. And again, it's quite obvious that there are quite a few non-atheists who are to blame for bad use of technology, so I really don't know where he thinks he's going with that.

And who the hell is he to complain about a man's inner growth not progressing? He's the guy who's trying to scare us all like little children into behaving morally, or risk eternal damnation. I mean, the whole "Naughty or Nice" thing is Santa's schtick, and any adult who still adheres to that system of justice should be locked up. Yet they're still trying to scare us with that regarding God? Hell, at least I've seen Santa at the mall. I went to church every Sunday for eighteen years and never once saw God. And these were Catholic churches, so you'd think if he'd be anywhere it'd be in one of those places. They're quite nice on the inside.

And sure, Catholics are at least decent enough to want us to develop a real moral system, but in the end, they're willing to accept a bogeyman-style god who will allow you to suffer forever for a relatively brief mistake. But scare-tactics are no substitute for morality, and if an otherwise immoral man can go to Heaven simply because he's scared and a moral atheist cannot, well that's not really a god I'd want. I can imagine God in Heaven right now thinking "Damn, maybe I should have made it an IQ test instead."

And for Ratzinger to pretend that a god-fearing immoral man who behaves morally simply to gain an eternal reward has more morality than me, is obviously a sign that he is lacking in intellectual honesty and is just trying to start a fight. And that's why I would absolutely refuse to drink a beer with Pope Ratzinger, unless of course the beer was one of those tasty German ones and he was buying. But even then, I doubt I'd thank him for it.

For more, please read my follow-up post:
In Support of Baby Death

Friday, November 30, 2007

Media Mudslinging

I just read this AP article entitled Presidential race turns a negative page, which seemed to be an underhanded attempt to tell us about the negative things about Romney and Giuliani. And it did so by telling us about ad campaigns that two groups are about to put out in New Hampshire against Romney and how those criticisms might eventually be used against Giuliani too. And to even further the fun, it gives us an idea of what anonymous "analysts" and "some Republicans" think are valid attacks against these two guys.

And so here we have a supposedly objective news article which makes a national news story about negative political ads which haven't even started running yet, as well as ads which haven't even been created. Something's clearly wrong with our media when you have articles informing readers nationwide about possible negatives highlighted in non-existent ads. What's even the point of making the ads? After all, even the ads that have been created were only going to be run in New Hampshire, while the news story is national.

The whole viewpoint of this article is that it's informing us that the first spate of negative ads is starting to run. And that's fine, I guess. Though I don't really see how even that's a news story. But why the detail on what the ads are saying? Or what potential ads might say about Giuliani? And if they get that far, why only those two candidates? Why don't they just tell us about the other candidates' negatives too? Could they find no anonymous "strategists" to give us dirt on McCain or Thompson; two other Republican candidates who have repeatedly "flip-flopped" on key issues?

Because for as much as the article pretends to be telling us that the negative season is starting, the bulk of the article is telling us about the candidates' negatives. I'm talking about sentences like these:

Analysts say similar negative ads are likely against his chief GOP rival, Rudy Giuliani, whose positions on gun control and immigration are markedly different from those he espoused as New York mayor.


But strategists say they are not surprised to see them first in the Republican race, where front-runners Romney and Giuliani have left a long evidentiary trail of their changed positions on key issues.

And that's how most of the article is. It's not about the ads, but rather citing unnamed analysts and strategists on the real criticisms of Romney and Giuliani. And while I'd be happy to hear that kind of thing in an article that was about their positions, this was supposedly an article about negative ads and their impact on the campaign. It doesn't even give us original research on these negatives, but only furthers the narrative that they exist.

This is in contrast to this NY Times news story on Rudy's trouble with the truth. That's how stories should be. You start with a theme and then use facts to back up that theme. That's how I always learned it was done, anyway.

Going Negative

I'm not even sure how the premise of the article is correct. While it does make the point that no candidate wants to be the first to go negative, that point doesn't apply to the two ads it mentions. Because those are from independent groups which aren't affiliated with any candidate, and it's not like the other independent groups need to wait for another independent group to break the negative barrier. In fact, it's obvious that this first independent group's ad has been greatly amplified due to its status as the first negative ad. They got a major news story highlighting their criticism before the ad even ran.

And even then, the wariness of a candidate to go negative has more to do with media manipulation than voters. It's obvious that negative ads work, and as long as the ad is truthful, there shouldn't be a problem with that. If one of the candidates has done something wrong or is lying, I want to know about it and have no problem if that information comes from his opponent. While the media seems incapable of separating truthful negative ads from mudslinging, the truthful ads are certainly a good thing. Particularly if the media isn't doing their job of informing voters of these negatives.

And really, the primary reason why it's bad to be the first candidate to go negative is simply that that's one of the media's stock stories: Candidate X Goes Negative. And so that candidate will get the blame for introducing negativeness into the election season and all the "mudslinging" will be tied back to that candidate. And that was one of the main strengths of the Bushies: They have such a strong network of "unaffiliated" surrogates that Bush could largely stay positive while his henchmen did all the dirtywork. And the media has no problem with that.

And for as much as voters don't like negative ads, I really think it has more to do with the media telling us that candidates who do this are bad. Having completely reversed the definitions of "subjective" and "objective," they're just looking for an easy news story. Truth and accuracy mean little to them, they just want a story about negative campaigning and the trouble with politics. And if a candidate stays "clean" and won't go negative, that's a story too and he'll get attacked for being too nice. You just can't win with these people, as the "truth" has become little more than a side-issue with them. They just want an easy story.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Won the Debate

It's unanimous: I won last night's televised debate. More details soon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dumb Politics

Call me crazy, but I've never thought it was good politics to insult voters, particularly not those in the majority. Sure, there are lots of dumb people out there and lots of crackpots, cranks, and boneheads, but I think most people are smarter than they're given credit for. Yes, even the people at the mall.

For example, I always thought it was a mistake for liberals to blame America for Bush's presidency. Even many of those who actually voted for him don't deserve the blame laid at their feet. It may seem weird, but some people really just aren't that into politics. I mean, if you're reading this blog, then you're a political junkie. But don't fool yourself into thinking you're that way because you're so much smarter than others or anything. You're a junkie because it's your hobby. You enjoy it. But not everyone is you. Not everyone enjoys reading political news. Some people prefer crossword puzzles or stamp collecting or doing whatever the hell boring people do that doesn't involve reading about politics. I wouldn't know, as I don't do any of those things. But that doesn't make them dumber than you. Just different. It takes all kinds, even people who don't like politics.

And so some people just don't have time for this stuff. They have other interests. And if the media was doing their job, this wouldn't be a problem. Just imagine if Republicans were actually forced to tell the truth and the media did a better job of presenting issues to the public. Why, Bush couldn't even have become governor of his own bathtub if that were the case. It's not that people are too dumb to see this stuff. It's that they're preoccupied with other things and shouldn't have to bother with parsing and cross-checking everything they hear about in the news. They should be able to read their local newspaper with the confidence that it's actually informing them of what they need to know.

Sure, you can argue that the millions of people who don't pay attention should start paying attention, and I'd argue that it'd be easier to get the thousands of people in the journalism profession to act like professionals. People just shouldn't have to spend as much time as we do in order to make democracy work. Again, the only reason we know better is because it's our hobby. Imagine if you had to start learning about stamp collecting to save the world.

Anyway, screw it. I started writing this yesterday, and I wrote more now, but it's already dead to me. I've got nothing. I'll just cite Mr. Overstock.Com who thinks Utah failed it's IQ test by not approving the voucher program he bankrolled, as well as conservatives who think Americans are idiots for remembering that our government had warnings about 9/11 which were ignored. I think I had another example, but if I did, I forgot it. Tough shit for you.

The main point is that the tides are turning against conservatives, so now they're discovering that America is full of idiots and have no problem with saying so. I'm sure that will go over as well as everything else they've been doing for the past few years.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Retiring the Family Resignation Dodge

Can we please retire the "spend more time with the family" explanation for political resignations? This is just stupid. The phrase is clearly just used as a shorthand for "scandal we'd rather not mention." So what's the point? The phrase is a joke, nobody believes it, and it only makes the rumor mongering more intense.

Hell, it's one thing when they use this excuse when they've got young children. But seeing as how it looks like both of Lott's kids have children of their own, I'm guessing they're not so young. This was also the same excuse given by Karl Rove, even though his only son was in college at the time. Interestingly, Slate's John Dickerson, who wrote a piece in September telling Hillary to change her laugh for political reasons, informed us in April 2002 that Karen Hughes' exile to Texas really was for family reasons because it "rang true for reporters." I guess her family became less important in 2004, when she went back to work for Bush's re-election campaign.

Do I have some better substitute for what they should say? I don't know. On the one hand, if you're resigning for a specific scandal and people are just about to find out what the scandal is, it seems you might as well just go with the scandal. It's not as if a resigner's supporters ever use the "No, it really is for family reasons" as a defense. But unfortunately in life, it often is better to not admit to wrongdoing, even if you have nothing better to say. I actually think the truth is often a much better option than people realize, as they reflexively go with denials. But I guess it's easier for these people to always deny everything than to try to figure out when the truth is better.

But whatever the case, the Family excuse needs to go. It makes the person look silly and insults our intelligence. Karen Hughes apparently made it work, but I think that was just part of the post-9/11 fantasyworld that has now worn off. I think a "I'm just sick of Washington" excuse would work better, and a "reporters are too relentless in their personal attacks" might really work well. Even a plea of too much stress wouldn't be bad. But the family dodge has got to go.

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!

What? It's already past Thanksgiving? Screw it. Y'all really weren't going to be so happy anyway and are probably glad the whole thing's over. Funny how even when things look bad for Republicans, you still don't get to rub it in on Thanksgiving to your rightwing relatives.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Student Bodies with Bullets

I just read of a growing movement which is pushing for concealed handguns on college campuses. Basically, the idea is that if a madman (or madmen) try to start a shooting spree on campus, he/they will instead be creating a gun battle free-for-all where anyone with a gun can join in (and they will); thus spoiling the fun of the madman (madmen), who will no longer have the shooting spree to himself/themselves. Yes! My trigger finger is itching already.

But don't worry. I'm sure each of the non-madmen will know exactly who the "bad guys" are, as will the campus police. So this won't create a scenario where all the people with guns end up shooting all the other people with guns, not knowing which ones are the good guys or bad guys; as well as anyone foolish enough to be on a college campus unarmed. Besides, I've played these games enough to know that you can just use the "Friendly Fire" option and so the only people you can hurt are the bad guys. Only an idiot would attempt this without that option selected.

I quote from the article:

Campuses in higher-crime urban neighborhoods also pose risks for students, said Michael Flitcraft, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering student at the University of Cincinnati.

He argues, like most gun rights advocates, that weapons-free regulations only deter law-abiding students, not thugs or mentally ill shooters.

"Laws only affect the people who voluntarily abide by them," Flitcraft said.

That's right. And it's really too bad too. Laws are great, but the fact that they're voluntary undermines them completely. Wouldn't it be better if we had some way of making them involuntary, so they applied to everyone equally? Like a group of people who were given special privileges to act as law "enforcers." And call me a dreamer, but how about if we then created an entire system devoted towards "judging" whether or not people obeyed the laws, which would include a mechanism where by we could punish those who did not obey the law. Perhaps even special places where we could "imprison" them for a specific time period. Wouldn't that be great?

But no. As things are, laws are only for the dopes willing to obey them. And what's the point of that? If only the good guys obey the laws, we might as well not even have them, because they're good guys and weren't going to do anything wrong anyway. So I agree with Michael Flitcraft completely in his call to do away with all laws. No longer will good guys be forbidden from robbing homes or smoking dope. Why let the criminals have all the fun? Hell, I betcha Flitcraft could probably use a big bong hit right now, if only to take the sting out of having such a bad last name.

And murder most definitely needs to be legalized. Again, if anyone needs to be dead, it's bad guys; and it's not like we can expect bad guys to kill each other, right? Particularly not if they've got the the Friendly Fire option on. So it only makes sense that we legalize murder, so the good guys can start doing it too. After all, if you outlaw murder, then only outlaws will commit murder, right? And that's total bullshit. Good guys should get to murder people too.

I have a dream that one day every dormroom in our nation will be armed to the teeth, and that classroom debates will be decided by the one with the largest weapon. I have a dream that one day our nation's students will respond to each bullet fired by a hail of twenty bullets in return, which will in turn be rebutted with sixty bullets, etc. That'll teach the stupid SOB's.

This is my hope: Some day, I'll be walking around your campus with a Magnum on my belt and a Winchester under my coat, and there won't be a damn thing anyone can do about it until I start shooting; after which all hell will break loose. Now is the time we make vigilante justice a reality for all our students. Let shotguns ring!

Update: I crossposted this at Daily Kos, including a poll. If you're bored, go take the poll. But it's a scientific poll, so no screwing around or you'll mess up the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bad Publicity Gone Bad

There’s a saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity, meaning that even bad publicity helps you out by making you more famous. But there are two reasons for that myth: Some bad publicity can be quite good, and spinmeisters always need to put a positive spin on everything, even if there isn’t one.

For example, the news of Clinton’s affair with Gennifer Flowers probably helped him pull ahead of the pack in 1992 to get the nomination. But what about Michael Jackson or OJ Simpson? Can anyone suggest that their scandals were helpful? Of course not. Both of them were ruined by the publicity and it's unlikely that either will have positive fame that will outweigh the negative. Hell, at least Jackson had huge fame that merely got replaced by his notoriety. But with Simpson, he’s more infamous than he ever was famous.

Clinton was helped by the Flowers scandal because the gossip drew attention to him and made him look like a stud. Even the Lewinsky affair helped him, by driving the wingnuts rabid and firmly established his stud credentials by showing that he could bag a twenty-two year old hottie. But what about Michael Dukakis in the tank? That was something they did for good PR, but which backfired so badly that it's now considered a famous example of what not to do. Or Dick Cheney shooting the dude in the face? Or just about anything President Bush has ever done or said? No intelligent observer could possibly put those in a positive light. It's quite obvious that some publicity can be very, very bad.

Everyone's Got a Story

Because it's not about whether the publicity is “good” or “bad,” but rather what the publicity says about the person and how it fits into their overall story. For a bubblegum pop star like Britney Spears to have a few photos taken while snorting coke in a bathroom could make her look edgy and hardcore. But as a divorced mom who keeps getting this kind of publicity, it makes her look irresponsible and crazy. Michael Jackson getting caught having orgies with sixteen year old girls would make him look awesome, while the accusations of him getting prê-teen boys drunk and horny makes him look like a monster.

It’s not about whether they did something immoral or illegal, but how this fits into their story. That's why the Dukakis-tank photo was such a bad idea. Arnold Schwarzenegger in that tank would have been great. But a dork like Dukakis just looked dorky and desperate. Of course, I always thought that President Codpiece in the flightsuit looked dorky and desperate, while Chris Matthews thought he looked like "Bob Hope and John Wayne combined."

But again, it's all about the story. When I see Bush, I see a poser a-hole with a silverspoon and serious intelligence issues, while Matthews saw a bulge that just wouldn't quit. And so we interpret the picture based upon how it fits into the story. The PR was the same, but the story was different.

Good Luck Chuck

And that's where the main point of my earlier post on Mike Huckabee's endorsement by Chuck Norris came from, and why I don't think this helps Huckabee. RH Reality Check (which kindly linked to my post) suggests that this is giving great buzz to Huckabee, but I'm just not buying it. Because the only parts of the commercial that really work for Huckabee are the parts he's not know, the parts with Chuck Norris. Norris delivers Huck's pitch for him and sells it relatively well (assuming you're a conservative). But as I said before, Huck's parts are outrageously silly and make both men look bad. This kind of thing might help sell furniture on late night TV, but isn't what we want from the President of the United States.

And that's why I was suggesting with my title that this is the beginning of the Norris-Huckbaee ticket. Because Chuck Norris was not only the clear star of the ad, but also delivered the policy goods. In contrast, Huckabee just looked like a goober trying to be funny by stealing someone else's jokes. And I don't think that helps him at all. While people might be talking about the ad, I really think the net result will be that it diminishes Huckabee's credibility and that this was a prime example of bad PR. A commercial showing Huckabee kicking butt as Norris' sidekick might help (assuming the people being beat were brown-skinned and evil), but nobody wants Chuck Norris' comic relief as president. That's just not a presidential story.

But then again, as I mentioned in that other post, conservatives really don't understand irony, including when they're being mocked. So it's quite possible that this ad might help Huckabee after all. Perhaps they don't realize that the Chuck Norris jokes are really just mocking his toughguy image, and aren't meant to be true compliments. Not that I think Norris had his feelings hurt by the jokes, but they weren't meant to represent reality. But again, conservatives always have had trouble with the whole "reality" thing, so it's quite possible they're missing the best part of the joke and really do believe that the world goes down whenever Chuck Norris does a push-up. It wouldn't be the craziest thing they've ever believed.

I'll leave you with two dorks trying to look cool: