Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Republicans have a culturetiger by the tail

Ames makes an interesting point over at Submitted to a Candid World, about how Republican Rep. Steve King has proposed a "truce" on "culture war issues" in favor of productive governing and is gathering flak for it from his peers.

I simply don't think it's going to happen. The culture war is like an addictive drug, you may know it would be good for you in the long term to give it up, but not only does it just feel so damn good, it's so damn easy. You don't have to come up with ideas on how to fix the economy, just drop buzzwords like "anchor baby," "welfare queen,", and "the lazy unemployed," and, *bam*, you've got a campaign. You don't have to worry about complicated economic proposals -- those are for the intellectual "elites" -- just what sounds good as a soundbite on FOX News.

The GOP and their unholy spawn, the Tea Party, has successfully merged culture, religion and nationalism into one monolithic force. Sarah Palin's latest book is subtitled "Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag." (I shall leave the absence of the socialist, European Oxford comma without further remark.) Along with American exceptionalism, another touchstone of the Right, you've got a political philosophy that makes America synonomous with goodness and Truth.

You can't just get up one day to decide to abandon that. With the inclusion of religion in the mix, what Rep. King is asking Republicans to do is make a literal, not metaphorical, deal with the Devil. (There can be no truce with the Shadow.)

The Republicans have grabbed the tail a tiger made up of those three forces: culture, religion, and nationalism. Once you grab that tiger, you can't let go, or it will eat you. The really scary part is that, when that frenzy gets control of a nation, especially one already under economic stress, the results are usually catastrophic.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

OMG so cute!

I have no idea where I found this image, but squeeeeee!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soylent Baby?

Really, all I have to say is, "WTF, Amazon?"

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The right wing wants a religious war

My mother apparently gets a lot of emails sent to her from Texas redneck relatives/coworkers/acquaintances. Occasionally, she forwards them on to me, in what I assume is so far a futile attempt to make my head explode. (Kidding, Mom.) The latest one is an email purportedly by Jeff Foxworthy listing his opinions of Muslims. It's quite offensive, and quite racist. Highlights:

  • You have more wives than teeth.
    You may be a Muslim [Or a Mormon.]
  • You wipe your butt with your bare hand, but consider bacon unclean.
    You may be a Muslim
  • You think vests come in two styles: bullet-proof and suicide.
    You may be a Muslim

... etc.

Not long after I got this, Snopes labeled it false. But here's what I find interesting:

This collection of one-liners is an updating of a earlier version of a list which is several years old (dating back at least as far as October 2007), was originally about the Taliban specifically (rather than Muslims in general), and was not in its original incarnation attributed to Jeff Foxworthy (or anyone else)..."

I've found the list in all sorts of places. It's on a community site for US Marines, a gun enthusiast forum, another gun enthusiast forum, and some weird discussion forum for some weird Christian combat-training company.

What I find so interesting is that the list was originally about the Taliban, but some clever conservative reworked it to apply to all Muslims and it started circulating. Google returns about ten times as many hits for the "You may be a Muslim" version than the "You may be a Taliban version". Making fun of the Taliban is certainly understandable; they basically are our enemy in at least one of the wars we're currently fighting. But the right wing has expanded the definition to include anyone any racial or religious characteristic with them.

Conservatives pundits and politicians in this country are now openly calling for racial profiling. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of the House Select Committee on Intelligence says that profiling "make sense." Sean Hannity and disgraced former-NPR bigot Juan Williams have also both called for racial profiling. In their minds, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and terrorist are all synonymous.

I'm told that one of the things to George W. Bush's credit is that he made it clear that the wars he started were not wars against religion, but against extremists. "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam."

No longer are conservatives happy with that statement. It seems that once, we were at war against people that attacked us. But anger and bigotry need an enemy, and now that those wars are winding down (or at least no longer visible in the 24-hour news cycle), they are turning against anyone that shares even superficial characteristics with Middle Eastern terrorists.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The sort of thing that can ruin your whole day

This summer there was a lot of road construction. The apparently happened about a block from my workplace.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A racial double standard at the News-Gazette

OK, I don't mean to pick on the N-G and I don't want this blog to turn into a Gazoo bash-fest, but this has been rolling around in my head for a couple of weeks and wanted to get it down.

Remember way back when, like two months ago, before Sharia Law came to Oklahoma, when the Islamic community center in Manhattan was dominating the news cycle? The News-Gazette had this editorial about that time. The editorial, called "Right, not rights, is the real issue" tries to draw a false equivalence between that Florida pastors "Burn the Koran Day" and the building of the center. The editor admit that the Muslims living in New York have every right to build their community center but that, somehow, they are morally wrong to do so. It closes with:

The message sent to Muslims by burning the Quran is unmistakable to most, just as the message being sent by Muslims in building the mosque near the 9/11 ruins is equally unmistakable. One is a threat, as Jones freely conceded, while the other is a victory lap, as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf disingenuously denies.

According to the News-Gazette, Muslims going about their lives in their hometown and building what is basically a church, is a "victory lap" celebrating the attacks 9/11.

But just a few weeks ago, the News-Gazette published this editorial about the recent racially-based (but possibly not, see below) attacks against white men in the Champaign-Urbana area. The editorial argues that cries for black community leaders to speak out against the attacks are unfair, saying:

[Leaders in the black community] didn't commit the attacks. They didn't encourage the attacks. They don't know the individuals who are committing the attacks. They are as disturbed by this senseless violence as everyone else...

Is the white president of the local chamber of commerce responsible when a white man robs a bank? If not, why would a black minister be called to account for the malicious criminality of a black assailant?

But that's the one of the dangers posed by this string of assaults. They tear at the community fiber and encourage tribal instincts. They make people forget we're all in this together, that as residents of this community we have far more that brings us together than sets us apart.

So let's get this straight: when attacks such as these are committed by black men, they are the responsibility solely of the perpetrators involved. When attacks are committed by Muslims, the worldwide Muslim community should be held collectively accountable, even nearly a decade later.

Am I the only one that sees a bit of a contradiction here?

(Like I said, this has been rolling around in my head for a couple of weeks now. I was inspired to get off my lazy ass and write this partly by Monday's article, Polar bear deconstruction by Joel Gillespie at Smile Politely.)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Is the News-Gazette ashamed of its readers?

For those of you reading that aren't local (all three of you), there has been a spate of what appear to be unprovoked attacks on people in the C-U area. It's not clear if they're linked or if they're racially motivated, but they've all been by black teenagers with white victims. Robbery was involved in at least one of the attacks, but not all of them.

That being said, I just noticed that all the News-Gazette articles on the subject have had their comments closed. I can't find this trend on any other N-G topic. Just as examples:

That's not to say that these articles don't bring the crazies out of the woodwork. So far it seems that, on the articles that had open comments at one point, they largely consisted of:

  • See how racist black people are?
  • This wouldn't have happened if we had concealed carry in Illinois.
  • These teenagers should be given the death penalty/put in prison for the rest of their lives/beaten within an inch of their lives.
  • This is happening because black children don't have fathers because single motherhood is glorified in black culture.
  • If these were white teens beating up black people, there would be riots in the streets! (But I'm not racist.)

Does anyone know if Crazy Mayor Schweigart has weighed in on this? Maybe they're all socialists from Kenya or something.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Link dump

My Dad commented the other day that I haven't blogged in a long time. Wow, it's been two months. Let's just say I took the summer off to go backpacking around Europe. Let's say that, anyway.

So rather than strain myself jumping back into marathon blogging, here's some stuff from my blogfodder folder that you might like:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is there any actual substance to Ken Howell's claims?

This week's local kerfuffle is about an adjunct professor who's contract was not renewed by the University. He's now claiming anti-Catholic bias because a student complained about his anti-gay bias. The N-G articles are here and here. I'm getting in on this late, so there's not really much point, but what the hell.

Something about this whole thing smells funny. I just don't buy it. Both articles say that his contract was not renewed (he was not fired) "after" the anonymous student lodged his complaint. One thing that's conspicuously missing from the articles is that he was let go as a result of this complaint. His contract wasn't renewed after the Hundred Years War, either, but that doesn't mean one led to the other. The only suggestion that Howell's contract wasn't terminated because of anti-Catholic bias is coming from Howell himself.

My skepticism is driven largely by one point: undergraduates just don't have this kind of influence. It's not like university administrators sit around thinking "Oh woe is me, I must now lay of a highly skilled teacher because we have had a single anonymous complaint." It's not like they sit around rubbing their hands together, cackling evilly, and plotting a new Protestant schism, either.

Can I point out that the University is undergoing a major financial crisis at the moment? The entire freakin' staff had to take a 3% pay cut and now they're going to have to find a way to pay the new CEO's university president's 40% raise over his predecessor's salary. It really wouldn't surprise me if departments were looking for any way at all to save a few bucks. Cutting non-tenure track teaching staff might be a good way to reduce labor costs. I've asked a few people and they didn't know if other adjuncts are being let go or not.

I suspect there's more going on here than we know about. At most, I'd bet that this was just an excuse to get rid of someone that has been a nuisance or a problem in other ways. That a teacher is being gotten rid of because of one anonymous complaint just doesn't wash.

I'm also amused of the irony in the fact Howell claims "[Natural Moral Law] says that Morality must be a response to REALITY" while simultaneously claiming he was discriminated against because of his membership in a Church that also teaches that demonic possession is real.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A tale of two weddings

In a weird synchronicity, last month I was invited to two weddings in as many weeks. Weddings are not exactly something I think about much. I guess I've just assumed all my life I'd never have one of my own and also I'm a guy, so I haven't been inundated with the bride-as-princess thing from shortly after birth. I've only been to two weddings other than these so I wasn't sure really what to expect. I just thought it was interesting to compare. 

At L and T's wedding, there were save the date cards, formal invitations, RSVP cards, and possibly formal announcements for after the wedding (TBD). There were emergency store runs for ribbon, where I discovered more shades of teal than I had ever though possible, all of which were wrong. There were discussion about party favors and bands and locations. There was a groom that nearly lost it during the ceremony. The place cards arrived less than 24 hours before they were needed and it's good that they did arrive, so the 150ish guests knew which table to sit at.

At D and T's wedding (fortunately a different T, since it was the following week), there was torrential rain, a baseball game, baseball sushi, the judge that ruled gay marriage was legal in Iowa, a lot of beer, and a visit by Cubby Bear (who probably didn't realize how appropriate that was). There was another groom that nearly lost it during the ceremony. There was a woman in the hotel lobby in some sort of poofy white dress and a dragonfly tattoo that covered her entire back. There was even a trip to the largest truck stop in the world on the way back.

I wish I had some deep thought to make here, or some pithy comment to end with. But I don't, so I'll just leave you with a blurry picture that just sums up both events:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hire me, not Michael Hogan

After Joeseph White resigned in disgrace a few months ago, the University of Illinois is replacing its president with University of Connecticut's Michael Hogan. This is a big enough deal that the NY Times published a profile of Hogan earlier this week.

This is the part of the article I found striking:

On the other, he’ll make a base salary of $620,000, comparable to the pay at Connecticut and a $170,000 increase over his predecessor.

Let me just point out for my readers that are not Illini (Hi, Mom) that the U of I is in the middle of a massive budget crisis. The state government currently has no budget and is hundreds of millions of dollars behind in payments to the University. Faculty and staff have been required to take several unpaid furlough days off this year, for an effective salary cut of about 3% across the board. There have been rumors that the University will not be able to make payroll much longer.

But this guy gets a raise of 40% over his predecessor. When was the last time you got a raise of 40%? (Not to mention the fact that the cost of living difference between Storrs, CT and Urbana means he's already getting a 22% raise just by moving here.)

I'm becoming more and more of the opinion that at this level, people are compensated out of proportion to the benefit they bring an organization, company, or in this case, a university.

I don't know anything about Hogan and don't really even know what the president of a university does. I have a hard time believing, however, that he will be doing a 40% better job, will be doing 40% more work, or will in some way bring 40% more benefit to the university than Stanley Ikenberry (who I also really know nothing about).

That's why UIUC should hire me to be its president rather than Hogan. I hereby agree to do the job for merely the $170,000 raise they are giving Hogan over his predecessor.

I freely admit that I'm not nearly as qualified (or, really, qualified at all) compared to an experienced administrator like Hogan. But I will do the job for a metric fuckton less money.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A racist editorial from the News-Gazette

My fears that the yokel series would have to be put on hiatus after the revamping of the News-Gazette website removed their Letters to the Editor have abated. I'm loathe to use the word, but I can't really find any alternative to calling last Wednesday's editorial, "Car bomb may be another sign of change in tactics," racist.

Apparently, the editors learned all they need to know about the world watching James Bond movies, where all the evildoings of the world are masterminded by Osama bin Laden while he strokes his white cat and complains about the absence of sharks with laser beams on their heads.

The editorial was obviously inspired by the recent near-bombing in Times Square. This sentence basically sums up the thesis of the editorial:

This is, of course, but another event in the long-running effort by Middle Eastern terrorists to attack this country and kill civilians. But it also reflective of an ominous change in strategy.

Wait, strategy? I'm sorry, do "Middle Eastern" terrorists all have a bi-weekly meeting in Dubai where they get together for falafel and bomb-making seminars? No, there is no such unified group as "Middle Eastern terrorists" so they can't even have an overall strategy let alone shift their tactics. (I feel a bit like Alice pointing out that she hasn't had any tea, so she can't take more.) Such childlike, simplistic analysis is like claiming a "shift in musical style by blonde artists" because Lady Gaga is not Madonna.

After mentioning 9/11 (which will probably define "terrorism" in the minds of Americans forevermore) and the USS Cole bombing, both nearly a decade old now, here's the N-G's rationale for claiming a "shift in tactics" on the part of "Middle Eastern terrorists":

But starting with the shooting of members of the U.S. military at Fort Hood, Texas, terrorists' efforts have been simpler – most certainly deadly but less spectacular.

The Ford Hood shooting spree was followed by the attempted Christmas Eve destruction of an airliner by a single passenger carrying a bomb in his underwear and the attempted car bombing in New York City.

So the editors claim these dastardly Middle Eastern terrorists have changed their tactics based on three incidents: the Fort Hood shooting, the underwear bomber, and the failed Times Square bomb. There's just one problem.

None of these terrorists are Middle Eastern.

Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused Fort Hood shooter was born in Virginia. He went to school, college, and worked in his family's restaurant in Virginia. Then he did his medical school residency 250 miles away in Washington DC. Then he went to Fort Hood, Texas. I can't find anything that suggests he's ever left the country, let alone qualifies as a "Middle Easterner." He also has no ties to terrorist groups. So what qualifies him as a "Middle Eastern terrorist" other than the color of his skin?

Even more blatantly wrong is the N-G's claim that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a Middle Easterner. He's from Nigeria. Just to put that in perspective, it's 4500 miles from Kabul, Afghanistan to Lagos, Nigeria. It's only 3500 miles from Washington, DC to London, England.

Now, the Times Square bombing suspect is a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan. (I think Pakistan is generally considered South Asia rather than the Middle East, but it's close, so I won't quibble.) It's still a bit sketchy at this point, but there's no Al Queso link even alleged, and the involvement by the Pakistani Taliban is fairly unclear. But it doesn't look like Shahzad has any ties to any group that has attacked the US before. Yet, the N-G lumps him in with all the other "terrorists."

There's one thing I find notably missing from the editorial: not a single mention of the (alleged) terrorist cell recently arrested on US soil, the Hutaree. This was a group that the United States Attorney's Office says were planning to target agents of the US government for assassination using weapons of mass destruction. So why is this not a "change in tactics" on the part of terrorists? Could it have something to do with the fact that the Hutaree are a bunch of white Christians from Michigan?

I don't expect local newspaper editors to be experts in foreign policy. But I don't think it's unreasonable to expect people that claim to be journalists to at least know that two of the three bombers they're talking about were born half the world away from the Middle East.

It's symptomatic of what the right-wing does all the time. They oversimplify fairly complex matters into black and white, Us and Them, white people and Scary Brown Terrorists. Such easy-to-swallow media narratives do probably make for better copy, but not true understanding of our complex and increasingly international world.

Twit Tweet of the day

This is just too good to pass up:

Didn't Schmambenek used to have a blog? What was it called again? Hmm...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Looks like Ryan is back in town

Via Smile Politely, that there is this lecture being given on Thursday: Perverts in Paradise: Crime, Tourism, and the Homosexual Menace in Mexico, 1940-1975

Heh, you gotta love the title

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our mayor is crazy and why it matters

I'm sure by now that everyone that reads my blog (with the possible exception of my mother) has heard about how Champaign Mayor Gerry Schweighart was caught on tape last Friday at a teabagger rally claiming that President Obama was not born in this country. In case you're local and have been living under a rock: the original You Tube video, Smile Politely, and the News-Gazette article. I'm coming a bit late to this rodeo, so I'll just get to my points.

The mayor was not stating an opinion. The mayor is trying to semi-backtrack from his statements, claiming they were only an "opinion." That's flatly false. The mayor was making a statement of fact, not expressing a subjective belief. That chocolate ice cream is better than strawberry is an opinion. That Obama was born in Hawaii and not Kenya, New Zealand, or on Mount Olympus is fact.

There is no First Amendment issue here. I first heard about Schweighart's boneheadedness on the radio on my way in to work Monday. Someone called into the show and stated that the mayor "has a right to express his opinion." No one is saying that the mayor didn't have the right to say what he said. No one is trying to arrest him or put him in prison for it. Similarly, the mayor is free to claim that Laurel Prussing is secretly Bigfoot, but that doesn't make it any less stupid.

This shows a glaring and fundamental lack of good judgment on the part of the mayor. Good judgment has got to be one of the most important characteristics of an elected official and for the mayor to give credence to not just a nutty conspiracy theory, but one that is of such importance to public policy -- the legitimacy of our President -- is distressing. The Champaign City Council appointed former IlliniPundit Gordy Hulten to, um, itself this week. Mark Shelden, the county clerk, has kept those untrustworthy electronic voting machines out of our community. Now, I disagree considerably with both these men on matters of policy, but they seem to be quite capable of exercising good and reasonable judgment in their jobs. (Unless Shelden is doesn't like the electronic machines because he thinks they're part of a UN conspiracy to take control of the government, seize all American farmland, and tattoo 666 on our foreheads, but I doubt that's the case.) But the mayor isn't exercising good judgment here; he's giving in to crazed and irrational conspiracy theories.

What if Schwighart suddenly decided that he was of the "opinion" that Urbana was actually 50 miles north of Champaign? Or that he was of the "opinion" that the city budget was actually one BILLION dollars </doctorevil>?

I don't want to belabor the point, but I don't think that the mayor's lack of judgment is a minor issue. As an extreme example, the Iraqi government has spend $85 million on completely non-working, supposedly-bomb-detecting, dowsing rods. Someone actually decided to spend an astronomical amount of money on a device that has one moving part, no electronics, no batteries, and does effectively nothing. That's a stunningly huge case of bad judgment.

And it turns out that our mayor is no smarter.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ke$ha ... really?

I listen to the radio a lot on my drive to and fro work, and one of the songs that's played incessantly these days is "Tik Tok" by Ke&ha (music video). I confess to a slight fondness for the song (don't judge me, it's got a nice beat and I can dance to it), except this verse is just wrong:

Ain't got a care in world, but got plenty of beer
Ain't got no money in my pocket, but I'm already here
And now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger
But we kick em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger

Girl, rea ... ahem, excuse me ... girrrrrrrrrrrl, really? When you think "sexy," this is what pops in your head?

Key%ha, honey, you're young. You're skinny. You can do so much better.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's not terrorism when white people do it

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about the weird synchronicity that happened today: two female suicide bombers killed dozens of people in Moscow, and a terrorist cell consisting of nine Muslims and having ties to Iraqi insurgents were arrested after planning an attack on US police.

Oh, except that the terrorist cell actually consisted of nine, white, Christianist militia members. Therefore they aren't terrorists.

The group used bomb plans based on those used by Iraqi insurgents. They were going to specifically target law enforcement officers and their families. Their goal was to incite nationwide violence that would bring down the US government. They planned to use weapons of mass destruction. Improvised explosive devices, even. They've actually been charged with sedition, for crying out loud. Why isn't this terrorism?

The NY Times article about the Moscow bombing uses the words "terror" or "terrorism" fourteen times. The article on the American terrorists? Exactly once, and then it's in reference to a government report from a year ago. This CNN article and this FOX News article don't use the word at all. Like the NY Times, CNN has no problem using the word eleven times in this article about the Moscow bombings.

So why is the American press so reluctant to refer to American terrorists as terrorists?

This isn't just an issue of semantics. Joe Lieberman and John McCain introduced just a few weeks ago the "Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act," that would allow the government to detain and indefinitely hold without trial anyone -- including American citizens within the US -- the President deems to be a "terrorist." Looking through the text of the bill, it fits these people perfectly. (h/t Glenzilla.)

I can think of no reason to refuse to refer to these militia members as "terrorists" other than a reluctance to use the word in anything other than in reference to Those People Over There With The Funny Skin Tone And That Wear Things On Their Heads. Am I wrong?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The GOPanties are all abunch

Rush Limbaugh says he's going to move to Costa Rica if the health care bill passes.

Michele "Queen of the Crazies" Bachmann is telling Americans to refuse to pay their taxes because of the health care bill.

This teabagger says that passage of the health care bill will lead to civil war.

Even IlliniPundit says, "I've said that I think this is a bad bill that is more about controlling people than it is about expanding coverage, controlling costs, or improving the quality of care." (Gosh, I almost thought that was silly until Obama announced today the creation of the Colonoscopy Gestapo.)

Christ on a stick, when did Republicans all become such a big bunch of fucking drama queens?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The News Gazette screws the pooch

The News-Gazette redid their website this week and all I can say is "Really? This is what you've been bragging about unveiling?" It's like the N-G staff decided they wanted to maximize their appeal to the MySpace demographic or something. The previous site wasn't great, but at least it did what it needed to do. Take a look at it yourself, from a year ago. However, the new design is ... bleah. Worst of all the site's usability is poor and in many ways is a downgrade from the previous one. Here's my take on the worst of the new elements

You can't get to articles. Go to one of the sections, say "Local News". You can scan (and scroll, and scroll, and scroll) the five articles on that page. Now try to go to the next page of articles. Oh wait, you can't. You get to see five articles and that's it. An article that was replaced with a more recent one today? Nope. Yesterday's? Nope.

The search engine is useless. Did you know there was an election this month? The News-Gazette doesn't. I tried searching for "Alexi Giannoulias election" (totally at random) and found articles from 2009, 2008, even one from 2006. Nothing about the recent election. The search engine just vomits your search results in a huge pile with no way to sort them by date, refine the search, or make it useful in any way.

Letters To The Editor are gone. Not by accident; they've actually said (via Twitter, of all places) that Letters will now only appear in the print edition. You have to be kidding me. Was there a meeting on this decision? Were there emails titled "How we can alienate and disrespect our readers"? Come on, you have people interested enough in an issue that they take the time to compose a letter and send it in, and you decide to hide these from your readers? Lord knows I've had enough chuckles poking fun at some of them, maybe the N-G has decided they're actually embarrassed about caliber of the people that write in.

The more I think about this, the more I think it's a stupid idea. I'm not aware of any online newspaper with an Opinions section that doesn't have their Letters online.

That freakin' Twitter feed. Get rid of it. Now. It's not that it doesn't add much to the front page, but it's animated. It's annoying. It distracts me by constantly flickering in the corner of my vision while I'm trying to read. It's not like it's a live feed, updating with new tweets as they come in. No, it just cycles through past tweets, from hours ago. I'm not sure Twitter users have an attention span of more than eleven minutes; what happened seven hours ago is ancient history to them.

Contrast the new N-G site with the Daily Illini (which I haven't looked at in a couple of years and has been totally redesigned since). That's a student-run paper and it looks much less bush-league than the N-G's.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

In defense of Pat Robertson, pt. 2

Geez, I really need to get off my lazy ass and blog more. After my previous posting about Pat Robertson and how people are shocked (shocked, I say!) to discover that he's such a douchebag, Gryphon77 posted it to Facebook, Glock to Smile Politely, and my mom even emailed me (rather than commenting here, hint, hint).

The moment has probably passed, so I won't belabor the point, but I find it interesting to note that people in both places rebuke Robertson by using his own tactics. Ryan Neaveill does it politely and just says that Robertson is using "bad theology," while one of the commenters on Gryphon's thread out and out says that Robertson is not a True Christian™

I am just amused at the irony of people calling out Robertson's comments about Haitians being heretics ... by saying he's a heretic.

Monday, February 01, 2010


Today in Baghdad:

A female suicide bomber walking among Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad detonated an explosives belt Monday, killing at least 41 people and wounding more than 100, officials said.

Don't the Iraqi's know that if you racially profiled Middle Eastern looking men, these things wouldn't happen?

(h/t Atrios)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In defense of Pat Robertson

(That's certainly not how I ever envisioned titling a blog post.) Anyway, the blogosphere is all a-twitter about Pat Robertson and his latest comments about the recent earthquake in Haiti and devil-worship. You've probably hear what he said, if not, it's at the link. I'm not going to summarize it here. Robertson was referring to the possibly-apocryphal Vodou ceremony in 1791 that kicked off the Haitian Revolution. Here's one description of it:

...the slaves held a large meeting to draw up a final plan for a general revolt.... Before they separated, they held amidst a violent rainstorm an impressive ceremony, so as to solemnize the undertakings they made. While the storm raged and lightning shot across the sky, a tall black woman appeared suddenly in the center of the gathering.... A black pig was then dragged in front of her and she split it open with her knife. The animal’s blood was collected in a wooden bowl and served still foaming to each delegate. At a signal from the priestess, they all threw themselves on their knees and swore blindly to obey the orders of Boukman, who had been proclaimed the supreme chief of the rebellion.

The blogosphere has erupted in condemnation of Robertson. Basically everyone (e.g. Al Sharpton) is calling him a horrible person and not a real Christian. There was this comment left on the Facebook status update of a former classmate of mine / now Presbyterian-minister:

(Aside: that's a tragic and horrible story, and I hope for the best.)

I can't help but be confused about the source of this outrage against Robertson, especially by people that claim to be Christians. Eight out of ten Americans believe in God. Roughly two-thirds believe in angels and the devil; I would assume a similar proportion believe in demons. Fully a third of American believe in witches. The Catholic Church has a category of priests that specialize in performing rituals to cast demonic spirits out of people. (The Church refuses to say how many exorcisms it performs each year.)

So why is it so hard to believe that a Haitian ritual that involved animal sacrifice and the drinking of blood wasn't demonic? If you want to believe in angels, there's a flip side to that coin, too.

All the people condemning Roberton seem to be of the mindset that God couldn't have been behind an even that has caused such suffering. Which makes me wonder: have these people even read the Bible? God sent a plague upon Egypt that killed the first born male child of every family in Egypt -- including the cattle -- so that Moses could lead the Jews out of Egypt into the wilderness. The number of people killed in the Haitian earthquake is probably a drop in the bucket compared to the number that died when God drowned every living person on Earth except for Noah's family. Turning to the New Testament, I'd like to point out that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, foretold in Revelation, are not named Kittens, Puppies, Flowers, and Candy. God is more than happy to slaughter people by the bucketload when it suits His mysterious ways.

Obviously, I'm not saying that the Haitian earthquake was a punishment from God. Angels were no more responsible for this earthquake than were the Aesir. Robertson's comments were heartless and cruel; the man's a pig, and I've been saying that for years. I'm just saying that there's nothing un-Christian about the notion that God sent a natural disaster to punish the wicked -- or even just innocent bystanders.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

This is why Americans are stupid

On my latest trip down South, I was listening to the radio one weekend morning, and found this rather depressing:

Radio stations with religious programming:10
Radio stations with Weekend Edition or some other news:0

This is why as recently as 2008 Sarah Palin still believed Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11

Friday, January 01, 2010

Turd Marriage

Karl Rove just got divorced. Again. His first traditional marriage lasted three years. This divorce ends his second traditional marriage. Darth Rove is only an apprentice, though. The master being Newt Gingrich, who values traditional marriage so much that, not only has he had three of them, but marries the mistress with which he's cheating on his current wife. It's more efficient that way.

Rove is, of course, the mastermind behind using the spectre of gay marriage (ooh, scary) to motovate people to get out and vote Republican during Bush II's election campaigns. For actual commentary, I must simply yield to Glenzilla:

There's debate and dispute among various Christian theologians and sects over whether divorce and re-marriage are permissible and, if so, under what circumstances. But what is clear is that the attribute of permanence is every bit as much of a part of "traditional marriage" as the need for a man and a women -- hence, the vow before God of "till death do us part" and "that which God has brought together, let no man put asunder." The concept of "no-fault" divorce is certainly repugnant to most Christian and traditional understandings of marriage. Yet those like Rove who have devoted endless efforts to barring gay citizens from marrying on the ground that our laws must enshrine Christian concepts of "traditional marriage" continuously take advantage of laws that enable them to end their own marriages on a whim, and even enter new marriages with their so-called "second, third and fourth wives," which only seems to intensify their "traditional marriage" preaching.

I've long thought that the solution to the cheap, cost-free moralizing that leads very upstanding people like Karl Rove to want to ban same-sex marriages (which they don't want to enter into themselves, and thus cost them nothing) is to have those same "principles" apply consistently to all marriage laws. If Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and their friends and followers actually were required by law to stay married to their wives -- the way that "traditional marriage" was generally supposed to work -- the movement to have our secular laws conform to "traditional marriage" principles would almost certainly die a quick, quiet and well-deserved death.

Rove's spokesperson ended the announcement about the divorce with, "There will be no further comment and the family requests that its privacy be respected." There is some serious chutzpah in a man that made judging other people's personal lives a mainstay of right-wing politics demanding privacy for his own.