Friday, January 30, 2009

How Can You Have Any Pussy if You Don't Eat Your Meat?!

I've been called gay for many things, being vegetarian not the least among them. I think it's just that for your average troglodyte, "gay" is the catchall term for anything different. All alternative roads lead to Gaytown. Homosexuality is the sea level, and any behavior that doesn't fit the mainstream is a tributary feeding into it. I've been called a fag for having long hair, having earrings, reading books, listening to certain styles of music, being extremely taciturn, preferring world football to the American version, getting along better with women than men, and insisting that I don't find the typical blond bimbo supermodel attractive. My own parents wondered if I were gay since I spent a lot of time alone as a teenager instead of chasing skirts - not hanging out exclusively with guys or anything, just keeping to myself. Whuddayagonnado?

These days, I just point out that since I'm not a reactionary, I don't have any hangups about it and would be out and proud if that were the case; it's only the right-wingers who have to sit in those dark closets loathing themselves.

Contra Mundum

So Rush Limbaugh says he wants Obama to fail as president. The sky is also pretty blue today.

Yet due, I suppose, to many liberals' rekindled love for the Oval Office and the dreamy hearthrob occupying it, this has struck a nerve among the netroots. Blog after blog over the last several days had comments from outraged little soldiers demanding that tired old tactic, the advertising boycott (because it obviously worked so well the last time they used it).

I've seen this come up several times now over the past few years, and really, the only example that could even be partially described as a success was the Imus brouhaha from a couple years ago. Partially, because it wasn't the netroots alone who applied pressure, and most obviously because Imus just had to lay low for awhile before getting right back in the saddle again. But everyone's drunk on hopenchange juice and their own self-righteousness, so here we go again.

I've asked people before how they feel comfortable with such tactics, and they usually give some lawyerly response about how it's not really censorship as long as government troops aren't kicking his door down, that no one's saying he doesn't have a right to his opinions, just that he doesn't have a right to broadcast them to a national audience on the public airwaves, that they're perfectly within their own rights to refuse to patronize businesses that provide the funding that put him on the air. All of which is true in a limited sense. Unfortunately, it's also sophistry. It's extremely disingenuous, relying on indirect loopholes to shut someone up. Hey, I didn't put a pillow directly over Grandpa's face and smother him, I just locked him in an airtight room!

Ask yourselves this: when the same logic was applied to the Dixie Chicks case in 2003, did you see that as fair play? After all, no one was trying to say they couldn't express their opinions to anyone within earshot, they were just saying that they didn't have a right to a musical career, and the consumers were perfectly within their rights to tell radio stations that they would no longer listen to them if they continued to play songs by the Three French Hens. Amazing how everyone saw this for the bad faith effort to silence unpopular voices that it was. Liberals Progressives still occasionally bring up how terrible it was that Phil Donohue's show got canceled despite good ratings because no one wanted to be associated with a slightly liberal show when the whole country was going apeshit with jingoism. I don't know why, because after all, it's all about making the consumers happy, isn't it? How about when Michelle Malkin led a crusade against Dunkin' Donuts for Rachael Ray's scarf, or just a few weeks ago, when the fetus-fetish crowd went after Krispy Kreme? Was that grassroots democracy in action, or just paranoid, thuggish intimidation? (All of which brings up another important point: the right wing is much, much better at this sort of army ant behavior, so perhaps you should think long and hard about legitimizing this sort of strategy for dealing with political opponents.)

And you know, if your typical liberal progressive had any brains at all, they'd put Limbaugh, Coulter, Palin and the Plumber in a Real World-style setting with cameras and mics on at all times. Wind 'em up and let 'em go. Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican party! But no, the impulse to act like a hypersensitive shrieking ninny is too powerful, I suppose. The end result is that it does nothing but reinforce that besieged bunker mentality, to allow Rush to tell his herd how once again, the forces of political correctness are trying to keep them from hearing the truth, letting them wallow in their persecution complex. Even if you could somehow get his radio show removed from the airwaves, he'd reach his minions through direct mail, webcasts or some other means. What the hell is the point? It's still good advice for people not overflowing with their own moral rectitude and self-righteousness - if you don't like it, don't fucking listen to it.

One thing that's always struck me since beginning to read the mainstream political blogs is how the issue of concentrated media ownership never comes up, when it was a constant feature of actual leftist commentary. Instead, here you have these morons unwittingly trying to make it so that only someone like Bill Gates or Rupert Murdoch can express a pointed or controversial opinion without having to fear for their job. Really, guys? You want to ignore people's increasing dependence on corporate sponsors to provide anything like a platform or a megaphone that can cut through the oceans of white noise and Twittering idiocy while doing everything you can to make those advertisers more skittish and unwilling to take a chance on anything that doesn't suit their already vanilla, anodyne standards? Brilliant!, as the Barq's root beer ads go. Let's make it so that opinions have to run the gauntlet of mob rule and fickle public opinion to get a fair hearing! Why, I can't possibly see how this could come back to bite you on your oblivious asses.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Saw three bumper stickers on an S.U.V. the other day:

  • PALIN 2012
  • Change We Can Believe In (Yes We Can!) January 20, 2013
  • Live Better, Work Union

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chomsky Wept

I am the plan, I am the man who tells you what and when you can.
I'm the old one that torments you. I am the voice that tells you to:

"Don't get caught with your fingers in my pie. Mess with me and boy you're surely gonna die.
If ever you're in doubt about who or where I am, I'm here, I'm there, I'm everywhere.
I am your Uncle Sam."

- Primus

The noive of these guys!

"I'm concerned about the level of frankly subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America particularly South America and Central America," Gates told lawmakers.
"They're opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries," he said.

Seriously! Countries that pull that sort of shit are just begging for a bombing, aren't they?

It would be as if Iran were to invade and occupy Canada and Mexico while constantly trying to provoke us into a fight and complaining about us "interfering" in other Middle Eastern countries (except we actually are, but let's just pretend there's some alternate universe where we don't treat the world like our property).

Who is this sort of propaganda aimed at? No one else in the world is stupid enough to believe it, so is this aimed at the American public? Is that even necessary? I doubt most Americans would let any vague moral concerns get in the way of sustaining their lifestyle (and even the Great Liberal Hope made sure to stress last week that "we will not apologize for our way of life"), so if you explained that those Persians are standing in between us and one-dollar gas, threatening to behead Ronald McDonald and close down all Wal-Marts, I'm sure the majority would shrug and say "Bombs away," then. Or is it like Chomsky always suggests, that most people don't have the courage to face themselves and say, "Yep, I'm a greedy monster, and I'll do whatever it takes to get what I want," that when you find yourself with your boot on someone's neck, you have to find a way to make it their fault? Is this just the story the elites tell themselves to be able to sleep at night?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Don't Pray in My School and I Won't Think in Your Church

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

- Some Dude

If the gods listened to the prayers of men, all humankind would quickly perish since they constantly pray for many evils to befall one another.

- Epicurus

Can't do it. Can't force myself to watch it. I'm feeling queasy from a headache and backache, so I just can't take the risk.

Why couldn't kids just pray in the morning before they even go to school? Would that not cover the whole school day? Do prayers need to be recharged every so often like batteries? Does God forget what you asked for and need to be reminded? Why couldn't they just take a moment in between classes or during lunch to lower their heads and mumble a few words? There's dozens of ways that kids could have a private moment between themselves and their imaginary friend if they wanted to, but there's only one way they can do it while forcing others to watch or participate, otherwise we wouldn't even be having this argument.

Of course, I shouldn't say "kids", because as a former kid who had to sit through a dozen years of daily silent moments with other kids, I can safely say that no one gave a bouncing fuck about contemplating anything - it was just one more stupid rule to be contemptuously followed in a day full of them. No, this kind of stupidity can only come from parents who have no idea what their little god-fearing darlings get up to when out from under their watchful Puritan gaze. It's a stereotype as trite and worn-out as Republicans in the closet, but in my experience, it was always the ministers' sons who would smoke or drink whatever was handed to them, and it was always the bible-thumpers' daughters who were the most eager human mattresses. Amazing how these people just simply never learn.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kitschfinder General

This made me think of what it would be like if Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon had a slightly better sense of humor. I stole the post title from a thread I saw some months back where someone called her that - the only other part I remember was one of her own comments, where she (apparently in complete earnest) argued that schlocky art corroded the mind, spirit, whatever, in the same way that junk food affects the body. Spoken like a true straight-edge militant. She has the kind of grim Puritan zeal about attacking artists she considers impure that most people outgrow once they leave high school, but since she refers to herself in an ironic, self-aware way as an "Insufferable Music Snob", I guess that makes it okay. Or something.

Shit-talking is fine if done with a sly wink and a smile; with the understanding that ultimately, whatever moves you for whatever reason is fine with me. I good-naturedly tease friends about music taste sometimes, but I'd have to have a major thorny stick up my ass to make a sustained effort to try and convince them to stop listening to an artist I hate or to start looking down on them for musical incorrectness. When you find yourself seriously trying to argue that some artist is harmful to impressionable minds, it's time to calm the fuck down, shut the fuck up and stop taking yourself so seriously. What makes the music snobs so tiresome is their myopic inability to understand that other people approach from different vantage points and take different things away from a song (or any work of art, for that matter). I don't listen to bands to receive philosophical or moral instruction; I listen to them because I like the way their music makes me feel. If the lyricist happens to be really inventive and thought-provoking (Beck, Neil Fallon from Clutch, Andrew Wood from Mother Love Bone), so much the better. Mark Sandman of Morphine was a goddamned genius and created some of the most original, hauntingly beautiful music ever, but his lyrics were pretty ordinary; I don't think I can come up with any that I would bother quoting. I also listen to some cheesy pop because the melody is pretty and prompts me to daydreaming. It doesn't suddenly make my IQ drop fifteen points and inspire me to go buy framed pictures by Thomas Kinkade.

Rosenbaum said it in a funny way, but really - he hates the guy's music so much he went out and bought a greatest hits compilation (rather than, say, downloading songs off of LimeWire) just to, um, figure out why he hates it so much? Riiiight. And Ted Haggard was just delving deep into the sordid homosexual lifestyle in order to better understand how Satan could tempt people away from God. Sounds like someone has himself so indoctrinated with ideas of what he is allowed to like as an intelligent, culturally educated man that he can't just enjoy a melody even if the lyrics are insipid. This kind of rigid insecurity is really fucking sad, that people like this are so fragile they fear being changed for the worse by a song, movie or a painting.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pulling for Peace

I never "rooted for failure" and I can't find a record of anyone who did, certainly not in anything close to the blatant terms that Limbaugh uses. Yet, the right used this false claim as a weapon for years to subdue criticism of Bush and the Iraq war and it worked.

- Digby

She complains about how it worked right after she gets defensive and reflexively justifies her own patriotic credentials, which is exactly how it worked in the first place. It will keep right on working until liberals progressives stop taking the bait and stop wetting their pants in fear that someone will call them anti-American.

I'm rooting for failure. I hope the US gets driven out of Iraq and Afghanistan in the most humiliating way possible after hundreds of thousands of troop casualties, and I hope they paddle across the ocean to take their revenge on us here. Then I hope they force us to alter our flag by making the fifty stars spell out the words EPIC FAIL.

I'm also masturbating for peace. Upon reaching orgasm, I send out thoughts of peace and goodwill to all humankind, visualizing an end to strife and conflict across the world.

Do you see the equivalence?

Neither one amounts to a damned thing in reality. As shocking as it may be, no world representative has ever asked me for my opinion or permission about anything. My thoughts and feelings do not affect events halfway across the world. You might think this should be obvious, but here in New Age Nation, it evidently isn't. As long as you're paying taxes, you're doing your part to contribute. I would imagine staying alive and keeping from getting shot or blown up is all the motivation a soldier needs to do their job, so as long as your money is paying for their weapons and armor (and as long as you're not sending them letters telling them you're running off with the bag boy at the supermarket), feel free to think whatever you want about it. It won't make the slightest difference. Typing about your "support" is as meaningful as those stupid fucking magnetic ribbons on the back of every SUV or holding hands in a prayer circle.

The cynical bastards who have made this an issue know full well that soldiers are, by definition, expendable. Getting brutally killed is one of the job hazards. It doesn't matter whether you want that to happen or not; it will or it won't, depending on the circumstances there, and unless we're going to stick to invading countries like Grenada
to make the world safe for nutmeg trade, soldiers are going to be maimed and killed. The military knows this, the politicians know this, but they realized that if they can personalize it, make it about Pvt. Hubert J. Motherhumper from Frog's Balls, Alabama, where his middle school sweetheart and their seven kids await his safe return, rather than about the foreign policy that Pvt. Motherhumper and all his buddies are risking their expendable lives for, then they could fend off criticism by pretending that you care less about him than they do, even though if it had been up to you, Pvt. Motherhumper would be safe and sound at home and nobody here or across the world would be getting vital organs shredded by bullets traveling at high velocity.

Again, as long as you keep accepting that framework, they're always going to have you over a barrel. The fact that this "support the troops" bullshit didn't even become such an issue until after Vietnam, when it became impossible for any halfway-intelligent person to pretend that we were doing something noble by attacking peasant countries thousands of miles away who posed no conceivable threat to us, makes it more imperative that you stop letting them bully you into silence like this.

But perhaps people like Digby and all the rest of the liberals progressives who feel a need to compulsively stress their support for our brave men and women overseas should consider: isn't it going to take some sort of "failure" to prevent these sorts of imperial adventures from recurring? If we "win" every engagement with few or no casualties, and corporate and government fat cats get exactly what they wanted from it, is it realistic to think it's ever going to stop on its own? Germans supported their troops too - at least when they were winning.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blink. Blink.

"...because, well, Mark Wahlberg, to me, can almost do no wrong."

Holy shit. I didn't think I'd ever see someone who would proudly identify as a Mark Wahlberg fan. Motherfucker is so lifeless he could have played the corpse in Weekend at Bernie's and fucked that up. Motherfucker is so wooden he makes Keanu Reeves look like Jim Carrey. Jesus. People go to see his movies on purpose?

I'll leave the last word to WWTDD? with one of my favorite summaries of Wahlberg's acting method:

I hate Mark Wahlberg and his wooden line reads and the way he furrows his stupid brow and tries to look intense but just looks confused, like a caveman poking a turtle with a stick.


I've never been much of a fan of August Pollak. I would occasionally follow links to his site from Tom Tomorrow, but didn't find anything compelling enough to make me a regular reader. But I was pointed to this cartoon the other day, which has gotten a rise out of me.

Not being a regular reader, at first I thought this was actually a funny jab at the herds of obsessive N8r H8rz who will never let go of their favorite counterfactual history story. I guess it counts as a little extra humorous irony to realize that no, Pollak himself is one of those assholes who was so eager to make Joe Lieberman the vice president, and he's being completely serious here. His first cartoon of the Obama presidency is one more sneer at Nader voters from eight years ago. His first cartoon of this oh-so-historical epoch of hope 'n' change is one more cheap shot aimed at settling the score with heretics who dared deviate from the Democratic party line eight years ago.

I know this issue has long since entered the mythic stage - mythic, in the sense that it's not about facts, it's a story that gives meaning to people and explains their position in the big scheme of things. As always, people like to put themselves at the reasonable center of things, with the "extremists" on either side of them - or, as America's greatest philosopher George Carlin pithily summed up in a vehicular analogy, everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot, and everyone who drives faster than you is a maniac. But still, it doesn't seem like it should be that hard to grasp a few things:

Of all the actors that influenced the outcome of the 2000 election, Nader played one of the smallest roles. You could just as easily single out a dozen other things that, taken individually, could reasonably be credited/blamed for that result. First and foremost, you could actually blame the people who stole the fucking election - you know, the Republicans who staged fake voter riots made up of campaign staffers to attempt to give an impression of a public opposed to the recount, the people who illegally purged thousands of black voters from the rolls in Florida, Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, and the Bush family buddies on the Supreme Court.

You could, à la Bob Somerby, attack the media for their catty high school-like treatment of Gore, and for their portrayal of him as the sore loser, the spoilsport who needed to step aside for the good of the nation. Or you could even criticize Gore's own weak campaign, his halfhearted feints towards populism, and his inability to win his own state of Tennessee.

You could blame the 200,000 registered Democrats in Florida who voted for George W. Bush rather than the 97,000 Greens who voted for Nader. How is it that a party so feeble and inept as to not even be able to count on the support of its own fucking registered members has the chutzpah to act entitled to the votes of people who don't even identify as Democrats? On that note, instead of taking as an article of faith that those Greens would have voted for Gore otherwise, you could try thinking for a few moments before realizing that most likely, they just wouldn't have voted at all. They were probably only voting in the first place because of Nader being on the ballot, given that they saw the system as a hollow fraud representing the two wings of the Big Business party (and man, haven't Congressional Dems like Nancy "Impeachment is off the table" Pelosi and Harry "Give 'em head" Reid done so much to prove that theory false these past few years. I suppose the party's systemic windsock behavior is Ralph's fault, too.)

Speaking of non-voters, you could blame the 60% of the electorate who didn't bother to vote at all, especially since it's more than fair to assume that out of such a huge number, there had to be enough people in there who were perfectly fine with the idea of four-to-eight more years of the same policies, but just didn't bother to get off the sofa. But no, that might smack of "elitism", and nothing scares the party built on vapid DLC marketing slogans, p.r. and compulsive focus group polling more than the thought of being judged condescending towards the consumers. Forget I said anything so crazy.

What cracks me up the most is how this endless obsession with berating Greens suggests a fundamental insecurity among these kind of heresiologists. They're apparently aware that their party has an image as a 98 lb. weakling that would rather attack its own base than fight back hard against Republicans, but rather than address that and actually give people a reason to be proud of belonging to it, they rely on the "lesser of two evils" mentality to carry the day while simply enforcing orthodoxy and trying to hector and guilt-trip the actual left wing of the party into supporting it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Credit Where Due

Sure, it's always nice to hear that we're not the scum of the earth, but, you know, as much as I hate to give the man credit for anything, I recall Dubya himself making a pretty astonishing statement (to me at least) during the third presidential debate with Kerry:

And my faith is a very -- it's very personal. I pray for strength. I pray for wisdom. I pray for our troops in harm's way. I pray for my family. I pray for my little girls.
But I'm mindful in a free society that people can worship if they want to or not. You're equally an American if you choose to worship an almighty and if you choose not to.
If you're a Christian, Jew or Muslim, you're equally an American. That's the great thing about America, is the right to worship the way you see fit.

This, of course, stands in stark contrast to what his own supposedly more tolerant father said once:

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?
Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

So given that there was really no benefit to GW saying such a thing and no real repercussions for politicians treating atheists dismissively or condescendingly, I have to assume he actually did mean that. Strange.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Age

(Are you there, God? It's me, Starchild Moonflower.)

Yeah, now that you
mention it...

Among the set of concerns (let's call them) that led me to start Mystic Bourgeoisie, was the question of why certain New Age types -- especially those who most vehemently deny that's what they are -- seem to believe that the answers to all life's most profound questions are to be found, you know...
{{{ WITHIN }}}
Even if your literary masochism amounts to but a fraction of my own, you can't avoid running into this bizarre concept if you read anything in this genre. Look within, my child, and your questions shall be answered!

I don't have an answer for that either, but my hunch would be that it has something to do with the general narcissism that pervades all forms of what you could loosely group together under the New Age rubric. A more generous interpretation might be one that considers the way hermits like (the possibly mythical) Lao Tzu, after a lifetime of watching the human tragi-comedy, retired to a life of quiet contemplation, realizing that at a certain point, the patterns stand out more vividly than the individual elements, the big picture seems more relevant than the minutiae, there's nothing new under the sun, plus ça change, and all that. But that's probably too generous for most who make a fetish out of that notion.

New Ageism/spirituality: religion soaked in jejune, mawkish sentimentality.

Actually, I think what annoys me about the whole New Age/spiritual thing is that it seems to combine parts of Romanticism with the naïve, typically 19th century, faith in progress.
If Romanticism was mainly an aesthetic reaction against what was perceived as a stifling rationalism and Enlightenment obsession with order, it seems fair to me to see parallels with the way people today prefer to be "spiritual" in opposition to "organized religion". Don't worry about what religious leaders and holy books say, go with what moves you and feels right. The difference being, the Romantic artists were willing to go to extremes to be authentic and prove the vitality of their vision, even if it meant drinking and drugging themselves into a stupor, going insane and dying young. Can't quite imagine OprahChopra and Neale Donald Walsch approving of all that.

No, they seem to accept a version of the notion of teleological progress people used to have; that life was on a constant upward trajectory, there was little that couldn't be solved by education and technology, and every year was an improvement on the one before it. Maybe it was like the sunny side of Social Darwinism, where "evolving" meant constant improvement in a moral and intellectual sense (and there are lots of people who still use it that way), even though, in the Darwinian sense, it only means adaptation, not progressivism.

So, if negativity is acknowledged at all, it's only as a learning experience on your path of personal growth, which winds its way through a neat and tidy scheme where "everything happens for a reason" (another one of those clichés that makes me grind my teeth), and everyone and their mother's a fucking "survivor".

Monday, January 19, 2009

You Lost, Get Over It

Here Come the Bastards

I had to travel to Lexington this weekend, where I was reminded that we Virginians just so coincidentally happened to have another holiday to celebrate right around MLK Day. Yessir, it's a day where livestock breathe a little easier, knowing that southwestern Virginians are going to be too busy solemnly honoring the memory of treason in defense of slavery to get up to their usual ungodly shenanigans. The hills are alive with rebel yells as the menfolk play the customary game of butt-nekkid-grab-ass with their sisters before everyone gathers around the still to sing southern rock songs while chowing down on freshly scraped flatmeat and getting blind drunk on 'shine.

(above: the morning after. Roadkill should be cooked well-done to avoid food poisoning.)

It's been said before, but it sure is funny how, out of hundreds of years of ancestry here, they only seem interested in celebrating four years in particular of their "heritage". And, of course, it had nothing to do with hate, which is why there was a near-century of Jim Crow and unofficial slavery after the Compromise of 1877. They didn't want to treat their colored brethren so poorly, they just had to teach Billy Yank a lesson about stickin' his nose in their business, that's all.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

If You Wanna Be Me, I Don't Give a Damn

(Thus spake the Indian Ropeman.) Anyway...

The examples of the gerbil and the polar bear also help to illustrate why the enthusiastic arguments of the popular atheist proselytizers haven't succeeded at much more than preaching to the choir. According to these Dawkins- and Hitchens-style arguments, religious belief of any kind -- belief in anything transcendent and unprovable -- is akin to the stereotypy displayed by a neurotic gerbil. As we've already noted, no one likes to be compared to a neurotic gerbil, so this is perhaps not the most winsome starting point for these arguments, but let that pass.

Yet it seems Christians are fine with being told that they were born incorrigible sinners who need divine forgiveness to keep from being roasted for eternity. Go figure.

Ebonmuse already handled most of the objections, but I would also add that the importance of the "New Atheists" - at least to me - is that they are a very visible cultural presence. They're carving out a public space where it's acceptable to be an atheist and talk about it. That's the kind of thing that will lead to normalization. I don't know if Dennett, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens are trying to actually convert people per se, but even if they don't convince thousands of people to abandon their churches and start reading Robert Ingersoll, they're removing much of the ignorance and mystery as to what atheism is all about. I don't care if people are atheist or not; I'm only interested in making it so religion doesn't have such an influence on public policy, so that it's not accepted prima facie that belief and faith are good things and those without either are to be pitied or feared.

Personally, I would guess that with most people's tendency to always split the difference between two strong positions (and mistake that for some sort of intellectual independence), atheism will always be a distant second to a sort of weak, mushy, milquetoast agnosticism no matter how eloquent the spokespeople for it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Again, I say, ugh.  

Yes, yes, yes, Cristiano Ronaldo is a very skilled player. He's also irritating as hell to watch for his frequent diving and tantrum throwing (I'll never forget during last year's Euro championships watching him literally cross his arms like a bratty kid and put a pouty look on his face when he didn't get a call he dove for).

42 goals is impressive, but I was much more impressed with Fernando Torres scoring 33 in his first season in the EPL, especially since his were all scored from the run of play, not from free kicks and penalties. Plus, Torres is classy all around, thanking his Liverpool teammates and even the entire city after Spain won the Euro championship for making it possible for him to "enjoy (his) football" so much and play to his potential.

Messi is easily the most skilled and a pure joy to watch (what does he have this year, 20 goals in 22 games with Barcelona so far? Jesus!) But why is Kaka even there? What did he do last year with AC Milan or Brazil? Ribery, almost as much fun to watch as Messi, was much more impressive at Bayern Munich, but somehow he's only like 18th on the list.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Off-Handed, Flabby-Cheeked, Brittle-Boned, Weak-Kneed, Thin-Skinned, Pliable, Plastic, Spineless, Effeminate, Sissified, Three-Carat Christianity

Your Jesus Christ has canine teeth

- Clutch

Neo-Calvinism? Really? Is there anything bored Americans can't turn into a retro-trend?

IOZ already stole the Moby Dick allusion, so I decided on quoting Billy Sunday. Other memorable lines from him: Jesus "was no dough-faced, lick-spittle proposition. Jesus was the greatest scrapper that ever lived." Hey, if I thought the world was going to end next month, you'd best be believin' I'd go fuck some people and places up too (upending a few tables? Pfft). It probably is liberating to be an apocalyptic whackjob.

Stephen Prothero's American Jesus has many more examples of how the cultural pendulum has swung between Lovey-Dovey Jesus and the Manly Redeemer over the last couple centuries. In light of Katie Ladd's assertion from the article that "It's only been since women have been in church leadership that this backlash has come," something else from that book struck me as interesting:

Perhaps the most important factor behind the masculinization of American culture was a creeping sense that women were beginning to encroach on what in the past had been all-male preserves...Many American men responded to these perceived assaults on all-male turf by attempting to overturn the "separate spheres" doctrine. While in the past such men had valued "civilization" and identified it with supposedly feminine virtues such as passivity and self-denial, they now gloried in the savage and the primitive, and reinterpreted traditionally male vices such as assertiveness as necessities, even virtues.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I Love Kids, but I Can Never Finish a Whole One

This is some fine rantin', but I think I enjoy just as much the fact that he refuses to type out the word "goddamn" in a post, whereas "fuck" and "shit" are okay. Oh, and the fact that he's attacking one of our sacred idols, The Children (Who Are Our Future)™.

Needless to say, I approve of all profanity and iconoclastic behavior.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Purpose-Driven Life

And when I shout, "Curse all cowardly devils in you who like to whine and fold their hands and pray," they shout, "Zarathustra is godless."…Well, then, this is my preaching for their ears: I am Zarathustra the godless, who speaks: "Who is more godless than I, that I may delight in his instruction?"

- Nietzsche

PZ only got to number seven, and he desecrated a communion wafer! I'm going to have to work extra hard if I want to make this list next year.

Monday, January 05, 2009

One More Unto the Breach, Dear Digby, Once More

You know, it's one thing for people to dispute whether Israel's incursion into Gaza is disproportionate. It seems obvious to me that it is, but people can argue that in good faith. However, I'm frankly gobsmacked by the cavalier attitude of some Israeli and American politicians, like Michael Bloomberg, who blithely assert that a disproportionate response is exactly the right thing to do:

"The concept of proportional response is one of the stupider things I've ever heard in my life. If it was your family, would you want a proportional response? No, you'd want every single resource to be brought to bear to stop those who are killing innocent people."

Well then genocide and nuclear holocaust are logically on the menu too, eh?

Why am I not surprised. Once we became a nation whose leasers casually describe torture techniques as "no-brainers" why would anything be off limits? This is the natural snowball effect of a nation which no longer even tries to pay lip service to the idea of international law.

Again, Digby rehashes her belief in some sort of Garden of Eden myth, where BushCo. being more or less open about the fact that we torture people is the event that caused our fall from grace. She seems to think that the concept of "disproportionate" responses in warfare are directly descended from Abu Ghraib or something. I have a nagging feeling she's forgetting something...

Ah, yes, that was it.

Her myopic obsession with the issue of torture and our national morality has really left me gobsmacked. She's by no means stupid, yet...

All right, let's put it like this. We occupy this land because our ancestors exterminated the original inhabitants in a manner that Hitler himself would approvingly cite as a model he hoped to follow, sometimes by deliberate proto-chemical warfare in the form of germ-laden blankets offered ostensibly in peace. For the first few hundred years of our existence here, we kept millions of humans as property, and only stopped after the most destructive war we've ever been in, one from which the ripples are still extending outward. We started our career as an imperialist power by brutalizing the Phillipines and deliberately lying to gin up a war with Spain. We incincerated Dresden. WE FUCKING NUKED THE JAPANESE (TWICE!), as I've already mentioned. A large portion of the country maintained an apartheid regime that only ended a few decades ago. We fought a useless war that eventually extended to two other countries based entirely on lies and paranoia about enemies who desired to dominate the world the way we wanted to, dropping more bombs in the process than had been dropped in the entirety of World War 2, which still maim and kill people to this day. We turned Central America into an abbatoir in the '80s, we cynically supported the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, and we've been brutally, sadistically torturing Iraq for almost two decades now. Oh, and our "intelligence" agencies have been overthrowing democratically elected governments, smuggling drugs and instructing sadists from other countries in the most effective methods of torturing and terrorizing their own populations when we haven't actively been doing it ourselves. And that's just a thumbnail sketch!

And yet, despite all this evidence showing that Americans are only hairless chimpanzees just like everyone else in the world, equally as violent and depraved but perhaps even more certain of our own righteousness despite the fact, Digby seems to think that we absolutely drew the line at holding down an individual in a secret room somewhere and making them scream in agony. Does she honestly think pieces of paper like the Constitution are some sort of secular talismans that can keep some of the most gruesome aspects of human nature at bay, like the desire to brutally - disproportionately - revenge oneself upon the enemy, or the "other"? We can vaporize entire cities and drown jungles in jellied gasoline in order to murder people who have never done anything to us or our homeland without rending our star-spangled garments in agonized self-recrimination, but holding down a captured enemy and tormenting him with loud noise, electrical shocks, sleep deprivation, beatings and needles under his fingernails? Heaven forfend! What do you think we are, barbarians? I said GOOD DAY, sir!

I'm really not sure what's more shocking - that she honestly believes something like the scenario I just suggested, or that she can rationalize away all the macro-level atrocities as long as there's a convincing gesture towards basic humanity on the micro-level.

...adding, 1/6: co-blogger dday raises the stakes in the purple prose competition:

They were flown around the world, interrogated and tortured, and in the process, America not only created thousands of new terrorists while received no actionable intelligence, but lost its soul.

I've never laughed while throwing up in my mouth before. That was a unique experience. The amazing ever-replenishing reservoir of national soul and innocence. Oh, George, I can hear you laughing now...

I keep hearing that America lost its innocence on 9/11. I thought that happened when JFK was shot. Or was it Vietnam? Pearl Harbor? How many times can America lose its innocence? Maybe we keep finding it again. Doubtful. Because, actually, if you look at the record, you'll find that America has had very little innocence from the beginning.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Four Legs Good. Two Legs Rotten to the Fucking Core.

What Pam says. I have six APBT's myself, having been involved in rescue work for almost fifteen years, and I'm always glad to see an eloquent defense of the breed. Ninety days in jail, though, what a fucking joke. Yeah, I'm sure that'll teach him. Personally, I would happily cover DMX and Michael Vick in steak sauce and throw them into a pit full of starving, abused dogs.

And in other animal news, this time from the "water is wet, sunrise in the east" category: hunters are driving evolution in reverse.