Friday, October 30, 2009


Been kinda busy, but I have a new laptop, so hopefully I'll find more time to update. I have a huge backlog, and so there will be a flurry of activity soon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Torture is ubiquitous.

Atul Gawande in the New Yorker: Hellhole.

While some still argue over whether waterboarding is torture, I serendipitously found this article concerning long-term solitary confinement. It's bad enough that we treated POWs that way, but we are torturing thousands of American citizens every hour of every day, as we speak.

Now throw prison rape into the mix along with the morans who say "tee hee wait until J. Random Sex Offender shares a cell with 'Bubba'", and I think you have to conclude that our culture is celebrating torture instead of rejecting it.

So, then, why are we especially shocked and outraged when our enemies torture and kill American citizens in especially obnoxious ways? Because we assign nearly infinite value to some lives and nearly zero to others. That's why.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

ED. xi. Great article on The Family.

Dave Burns and Jeff Sharlet: Behind the closed doors on C Street

The Family is a dominionist political organization combining what is most obnoxious and destructive about Christian fundamentalism and conservative politics into one big special ball of fail. Jeff Sharlet is a disaffected member of this group and wrote a tell-all called The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Here's an example of the grotesque nature of this group:
I was invited into The Family by a man who had dropped everything and moved to Washington to work with them. While he was there, his fiancee was raped. He wanted to jump on the next airplane to be with her, and his brothers in Christ decided to exercise their veto power. They said, “What was your fiancee doing in a bar without you? Perhaps this was God’s way of telling you that you are not supposed to be with this woman.”

They called her a Jezebel. They told him, “You are not to go and see your fiancee.”

Thank God this man did not listen, broke with The Family and went to his fiancee.
But wait, there's way more.
Absolutely. Everyone is entitled to the freedom of religion. I am a fanatic about freedom of religion. Ensign is free to believe these things, but if he’s going to this place for spiritual authority, he is turning to a group that regularly invokes as leadership models Hitler, Stalin and Mao, whom Doug Coe said are three men who understood the New Testament best in the 20th century.

He means that they are evil men, but what they understood is that the New Testament is not about love, mercy, justice, forgiveness. It’s about power.

I’m saying this not just to the voters of Nevada, but to all the Christian conservatives in Nevada who voted for Ensign because he presented himself as a Christian. Perhaps they would like to know what he means by Christian.

Does he read the New Testament and think it is only about power, and then does he apply that in the world?
I recommend reading all of it.

Hat tip: Paul, my "godfather"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

HCR x.: Public option whipping.

First of all, let me give props to my own Congressman, Adam Smith, for getting on board with the public option when it matters. I know he's got a difficult district to represent, so this courage is difficult and it's important to me that he goes along.

Open Left shows that we have 210 of the 218 needed on board for the public option. If we can get this through the house, this would be a huge help.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

ED: x. "Send a message" about R-71? WTF?

Tenth in a series called "Elephantine Douchebaggery," an exploration of the most harmful obnoxiousness of the right wing. This post concerns Washington Referendum 71, an attempt to repeal a bill passed by the legislature granting expansive domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples.

So, I have heard an ad on the radio repeatedly by some organization opposed to same-sex partnership rights. The ad is something like, "Let's send a message to the Legislature that there are more important problems than this by rejecting R-71."

I'm flabbergasted. It doesn't make any goddamned sense whatsoever. The legislature has already acted. It's done. What is distracting us from the necessary business of taking care of our state is YOU DOUCHEBAGS PUTTING THIS GODDAMNED REFERENDUM ON THE BALLOT.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WSJ op-ed page: Smug is all we have left.

Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal: A Perfect Nobel Pick

This is why I haven't taken the WSJ editorial page seriously since...well...ever. Of course, going all-in on obnoxious militarism is out of vogue now, so the pro-eternal-war folks are now reduced to this smug, passive-aggressive sniping. (While we're talking about stereotypes of Scandinavians, being passive-aggressive is another one, Mr. Stephens.)

Hilarious. Nope, pretty much still can't take the WSJ editorial board seriously. The deserve it less now more than ever, in fact.

Hat tip: My friend Gregg. Sorry, man. I hope our diverging political views don't jeopardize our friendship. I tried to be gentle on your Facebook page, at least.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

ED: ix. Why we can't ignore Michelle Malkin.

Ninth in a series called "Elephantine Douchebaggery," dedicated to pointing out the most outrageous of right-wing outrages.

Charles Johnson: Anatomy of an Outrageous Outrage

If Michelle Malkin weren't reliably the #1 right-wing blogger, I would just simply ignore her. But we can't. Just about everything she does is massively harmful, and therefore we have to take the time to call her out on it. Every single time.

And this right here might be the most outrageously outrageous outrage ever, er, outraged.

Friday, October 9, 2009

DNC pulls alongside RNC and delivers a broadside with full cannon.

Greg Sargent: DNC: Steele And GOP Have Thrown In Their Lot With The Terrorists By Criticizing Obama’s Nobel

The most fucking awesome thing I've ever seen the DNC write:
The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists — the Taliban and Hamas this morning — in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize. Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the President of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize — an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride — unless of course you are the Republican Party. The 2009 version of the Republican Party has no boundaries, has no shame and has proved that they will put politics above patriotism at every turn. It’s no wonder only 20 percent of Americans admit to being Republicans anymore – it’s an embarrassing label to claim.

The DNC doesn't need to say anything at all, really, because it's obvious. But I'm glad they're finally going for the kill on stuff like this.

R-71: What's at stake.

If you are planning vote to reject Referendum 71, you are denying the partners of gay people the following:

* Victims' rights, including the right to receive notifications and benefits allowances.
* Business succession rights.
* Legal process rights, such as the ability to sign certain documents, the requirement to join in certain petitions, rights to cause of action, and ability to transfer licenses without charge.
* The right to use sick leave to care for a partner.
* The right to wages and benefits when a partner is injured, and to unpaid wages upon death of spouse.
* The right to unemployment and disability insurance benefits issued to a partner.
* Workers' compensation coverage.

(Taken from a post on Strange Bedfellows, the P-I political blog.)

If you are going to deny people these things because your obnoxious, inhumane, life-destroying religious preferences are offended, well FUCK YOU. You are what we call a "bad human being" if you oppose R-71 or even if you signed anything to put that shit on the ballot to begin with.

I'm tired of falling back on the thought-terminating cliche of "reasonable people can disagree." That is true when discussing whether the Angels will sweep the Red Sox. It is NOT TRUE on issues like this.

Seriously, fuck you, and get the hell out of my state. Move to some place where the culture supports fucking over gay people, like Utah or Oklahoma. And take Ken Hutcherson, Mark Driscoll, Tim Eyman, and Susan Hutchinson with you.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

ED. viii. So that's what Ken has been doing.

Opponents of Referendum 71 (expanded domestic partnership rights) have offered up an ad already. And it's a doozy:

I would, you know, address the issues raised by this nonsense, but shit like this is beneath contempt and beneath the dignity of a response.

I think I hear Ken Hutcherson's voice in the background, too. Fucking douchebag.

Steve and Jeff: Suck my balls.

I am going to laugh in the FACE of any IT exec (such as Steve Ballmer or Jeff Bezos) who complains about the labor market conditions for senior software developers. First they created the market condition that drove potential geeks out of the field, then they complain that nobody is graduating in this country with computer science degrees. Now they want even more H1-Bs to compensate, threatening to move yet more jobs to India if they don't get their way.

Yeah, seriously, tell me how that's working for you!

I mean, assume you are a bright young 18-year-old geek in 2001 or 2002. You look around and hear about coding jobs being either sent offshore or given to non-immigrant guest workers. Now, what degree are you going to get? Are you going to get a BS in computer science and be the guy who gets laid off all the time? Or are you going to get a BBA in MIS and an MBA and be the stuffed-shirt asshole who decides to send everything offshore?

I mean, this choice is obvious, right?

Except now we have too many MBAs and we still can't find enough people to write code.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mankiw: Sack up and just say it.

Greg Mankiw: (1) Unemployment Update (2) Accountability?

The question I have for douchenozzles like Mankiw is "what is your freaking point?" The financial crisis we faced last year is pretty much the worst thing that we faced since World War II. Trying to figure out what the fallout from that would be was not really possible.

He's trying to place the Obama Administration in a double bind: Either the stimulus "made things worse" or "you are constantly moving the goalposts to avoid accountability."

I now suggest the most likely scenario: Douchenozzles like Mankiw and the people they serve deliberately obfuscate things in order to make any government intervention hazardous. On the one hand, they say 'oh, it CAN'T POSSIBLY' get that bad. And then when it does, they can say, 'see your programs MADE IT WORSE.' This way they can discredit any government attempt to alleviate suffering, so they can stuff their pockets full of loot while the average American faces financial ruin.

Yes, I think that sounds about right.

Krugman answers all your questions.

Krugman: Answering Your Questions on the Economy

I don't agree with all of it, but it's good stuff, and I suggest reading it. It might also fuel some posts of my own.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"The End" of Faith

I just now got around to reading The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris.

I will post a more complete critique and rebuttal later (though I will not be rebutting the things you think I'm rebutting). However, a few thoughts:

1. Harris is not anything close to a critical thinker. He is a reflexive rationalist--he has patterns of thought that he recognizes as rational, and anything deviating from those patterns is "irrational" and therefore bad.

2. Like most modernist materialist atheist positivists, he is still way too wrapped up in "correct" or "incorrect", thereby replacing one harmful orthodoxy with another.

3. He does not understand the main criticism of rationalism and secularism with respect to the horrors of Nazism, Stalinism, and Maoism. Yes, it is indeed true that Christianity played its roles in the first two. However, he doesn't even come close to understanding why his materialist philosophy was absolutely necessary to perpetuate these horrors and perpetuates them even now. He claims the problem is that those regimes "abandoned reason", but his lack of critical approach to the process of reason makes his arguments completely incoherent.

4. He rightfully criticizes the violent history of Islam but doesn't stop to think about why someone in Saudi Arabia or Egypt would be motivated to attack Americans without the constant humiliation of Arabs by the American government and corporate elite. He simply declares that jihad against America was an inevitability, even though the expansion of Islam through violent conquest had not been of serious concern to the West for hundreds of years.

5. He totally overlooks the very real and pervasive lack of ethics by his fellow "co-religionists": scientists. He utterly fails to see that even "rationalism", materialism, atheism, and positivism cannot protect one from utter irrationality and even horrid abuse.

Anyway, that's a start. In a later post we'll look at specific examples from the text. All I can say now, though, is that if you think for a minute he totally obliterated the notions of religion, faith, and theism with that piece of shit, you are sorely mistaken.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hi, Dave. Hint: Don't poop where you eat.

New York Times: Letterman Reveals Extortion Attempt

I didn't think Dave had it in him to make that sort of thing work, but I guess he likes to get it on with the ladies. Who work for him. Not the smartest idea you ever had, Dave.

Rats, one fewer red herring to keep Republicans occupied

New York Times: Chicago Loses Bid for 2016 Olympic Games

Well, looks like Michelle Malkin will have to find something else to write about. This is bad--she might stumble on a substantive issue.


ED: vii. Glenn Beck, paragon douchebag.

Alexander Zaitchik at Salon: The Making of Glenn Beck

Yeah, that is awesome. This guy got his start by pulling stunts like calling a crosstown rival and taunting him about his wife's miscarriage. Great guy, this Glenn Beck. He represents the kind of decency and humanity that Republicans are well-known for, so good luck with your partnership, there, guys.

(There's three parts to this damned thing, and I think you should read them all, so you get an idea of what this guy is about.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

ED. vi. Grayson, schmayson.

Yahoo News: Is Alan Grayson the Democrats' Joe Wilson?

Shortest answer: No.

Slightly longer answer: Are you out of your fucking mind?

Yes, Alan Grayson is dangerously insane. So what? HE IS AWESOME ANYWAY.

Listen up, douchebags: He didn't compare it to "The Holocaust". He called it "a holocaust." Yes, he intentionally used the h-word to drive up the rhetorical stakes. So what? Republicans do that sort of shit all the time.

And, furthermore, what do you call 44,000 eminently preventable deaths every year other than a "thorough destruction involving extensive loss of life" as Webster's second definition suggests?

Republicans didn't appreciate being called out on this very real statement of the Republican attitude towards health care for people who can't afford it. Let's review:

1. Don't get sick.

2. And if you do...

3. Die quickly.

This very accurately captures the Republican attitude, and this is what you morans out there are upset about. The "holocaust" hoo hah is just a douchebaggy tantrum in reaction to a very accurate and hard-hitting criticism of the Republican platform.

Yeah, boo hoo, Grayson told it like it is. DEAL WITH IT. The more you do this shit, the dumber you look.

By the way, REPRESENTATIVE SMITH OF THE WASHINGTON 9TH DISTRICT, this is what HAVING BALLS looks like. (Or if you hate the sexist overtones of such a statement, we can simply use the word guts.)

ELCA's position on same-sex marriage.

A friend, Heidi, who is a Lutheran in an ELCA church, asked me to write about the recent policy document passed by the ECLA membership on same-sex relationships. The short version: Life-long, monogamous same-sex relationships are compatible with Christian sexual ethics, but we should probably call them something other than marriages.

Of course, a lot of people are freaking out about this. Heidi asked me to address this. How can we justify this policy decision from a standpoint of Christian tradition and scriptural justification and all that good stuff?

Short answer: Well, we can't.

That's not going to make anyone very happy, least of all Heidi. But hear me out. Well, it's a really long argument, but I hope it makes sense.

ELCA stands for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The "Lutheran" church is the American name for the "Evangelische Kirche," or "evangelical church", a Christian tradition started by Martin Luther in the early 16th Century. Martin Luther was a monk who was upset about a lot of practices in the Catholic Church, but the main thing he was upset about is that the Church was strongarming people to cough up money they didn't have to purchase something called indulgences. Receiving an indulgence was a way of reducing one's time in Purgatory being cleansed of one's sins. Usually you got them by performing some impressive act of piety, but the Church was short on cash and had taken to selling them. Of course, the entire doctrine of Purgatory also got on Luther's nerves, because it seemed to him like it was a thought experiment gone awry.

Sound familiar? Of course, to a Christian, it sounds quite a bit like the situation Jesus addressed in the story of the money-changers. Here we have representatives of the church encouraging people to starve their families so they can receive something they shouldn't have to pay for. We all know what Jesus did in response to nonsense like this--he flipped all the tables upside down and started beating the money-changers.

Luther knew that using that tactic would probably get him killed, so instead he wrote a document called The Ninety-five Theses, which he published in 1517. He wanted to engage his superiors in the church and ask them certain questions about their practices, and he encouraged others to do the same.

The Church didn't take too kindly to this, and tried instead to have Luther murdered. Fortunately for Luther, the ruler of his principality (Frederick III) agreed with Luther and had already forbidden the sale of indulgences in his lands and was annoyed that his subjects were traveling to other realms to buy indulgences. Frederick and his allies shielded Luther, and the next thing you know we have the Reformation and Protestantism and bloody wars and all kinds of nonsense.

I give you this seemingly irrelevant lecture in history to get you to think of what Luther did in these terms: Luther saw something he thought was unfair, wrong, and oppressive and challenged it. He asked questions. Of course, he only asked a few questions and didn't ask others. He definitely convinced a lot of people that the Magesterium didn't have the final say on everything. He established a tradition of asking questions. This was a great development in Christianity, in fact.

Unfortuantely, Luther messed it all up. He did realize that if everything was up for grabs, the essence of Christianity might be lost. So, he established new boundaries for the asking of questions--Scripture. You could ask all the questions you wanted and could argue however you wanted, but you'd better make sure your arguments lined up with what was in Scripture, or you were out of line. In so doing, he created a new line of boundaries for people to be oppressive with. But no one noticed the danger of this in 1517, and despite the occasional bloody war sweeping all of Europe, many Protestant traditions arose in this framework.

Except, of course, that this mixed with colonialism and the technology of violence in superlatively ugly ways and led to either the annihilation or enslavement of indigenous people throughout the world. But, hey, that's OK, the Bible tells us it's OK for us to do this, so you can't ask any questions of us. But, no, you can't have this kind of sex, because the Bible tells us that such a thing is condemnable.

I mean, does anyone but me notice how absurd this is? Well, of course it's absurd. And, no, I wasn't the only one who noticed this. Lots of people throughout the Enlightenment, Modernist, and Postmodernist eras thought the whole thing was profoundly absurd. Unfortunately, their solutions were just as absurd and just as easily twisted as Scripture-locked Christianity was, so did that stop the ruin to the world caused by Christian-influenced peoples? Not in the slightest. In many ways, it made it worse.

So, what do we do now? Well, a few of us recognize there is value and beauty to Christianity, and we also don't know how to relate to any other sort of religious tradition. Yet, reactive atheism appalls us in other ways (which are irrelevant to this post, but I can go into it at a future date). So, we try to look at ways to make Christianity at least less harmful. Maybe someday we'll figure out how to make it good.

So, now, I pose this to the ELCA people who are freaking out: You call yourself Lutherans. You follow in the tradition of a man who saw the Church hurting people and spoke out on their behalf. He challenged the traditions of his day, risking everything he had--even his life--in a very real way.

Look around. Your tradition is harming people. And it's not really helping people from the harm our civilization causes them, either. Are you going to sit there like a coward in your nice little suburban church and hide behind the Bible? Or are you going to be bold, like your founder Martin Luther, and start asking questions again?

Here's some questions for you to think about:

* The Bible says a lot of harmful things. Yes, there is no doubt that they are harmful. If you disagree, then I cannot reach you no matter what I say. But those of who you nod that embarrassed nod of the typical liberal Protestant, I challenge you to ask this question: Are we going to persist in declaring it sacrosanct--something that cannot be questioned?

* Martin Luther became the father of Protestantism for standing up for people he saw being abused by the Church. But he also said some harmful things. For instance, about Jews. Let's not get too deeply into that, but all Lutherans (all Christians, actually) bear some of the shame for the Holocaust, because if it were not for the antisemitism strongly laid down by Luther, Hitler would not have so-easily convinced Germans to kill all the Jews they could find. So, in light of this, are you going to declare what Martin Luther said sacrosanct--something that cannot be questioned?

* We let women be pastors, something Scripture specifically prohibits (1 Timothy 2:12, among others). Why was it OK for us to question the Bible here and not on other issues?

* What does sexual ethics mean to someone living in 2009 that someone in 1517 (or AD 35) had no way to imagine?

* Why was Paul so adamant about sexual purity? What was his motivation?

Answer these questions honestly. Decide after you answer them whether you can even be a Christian anymore. If you decide that you can, then write your own theses. Maybe you should actually nail them to the door of your church. Convince your brothers and sisters to change doctrine to reflect the answers to these questions.

Remember, as Paul himself wrote:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. --1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (New English Translation)

Time to set aside the childish ways and react to the issue of same-sex marriage like an adult.

And, BY THE WAY, this is not just aimed at the ELCA, but at my own denomination, the Episcopal Church USA, and the Anglican Communion, and pretty much anyone else who calls themselves a Christian.

Polanski, ii.

If you want to see what kind of man Polanski really is, don't watch The Pianist. Don't listen to these douchebags circulating petitions. Read Samantha Gailey's grand jury testimony, to which Polanski was willing to accede in order to receive a grotesquely reduced charge.

ED. v./WTFF x. John Derbyshire is the new Great White Hope for the right-wing? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

I couldn't figure out whether this belonged more in the "Elephantine Douchebaggery" series or the "What the Fucking Fuck" series, so eventually I just said, "why decide?"

This is so hilarious. The only thing that bothers me is that I wonder how many people agree with Derbyshire. Hopefully few enough so they can be contemptuously marginalized.

DERBYSHIRE: Among the hopes that I do not realistically nurse is the hope that female suffrage will be repealed. But I’ll say this – if it were to be, I wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep.

COLMES: We’d be a better country if women didn’t vote?

DERBYSHIRE: Probably. Don’t you think so?

COLMES: No, I do not think so whatsoever.

DERBYSHIRE: Come on Alan. Come clean here [laughing].

COLMES: We would be a better country? John Derbyshire making the statement, we would be a better country if women did not vote.

DERBYSHIRE: Yeah, probably.

But that's not the best part of it. The best part of it is that this comes from Derbyshire's new book, We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism. The best part: The glowing reviews of this book. It's an all-star right-wing fuckwit cast!

Where will a more intelligent, hence pessimistic, yet sprightly conservatism come from? You are holding in your hands part of the answer. --George Will

George Will?! He's supposed to be one of the moderate voices on the right. Someone to whom Dick Cheney might say, "Gosh, Will, grow a pair, already." And he's in love with Derbyshire.

This is fucking awesome. This is fucking scary. It's probably both: scary awesome.

Yes, John, "we" are doomed. But the "we" is variable. If people agree with me that you and your right-wing ilk have descended into irretrievable madness and should be permanently shunned, then I do agree--you are doomed. But if you actually convince people of your madness, then I would have to agree with it in the sense that we all are doomed.

And since, you are a subset of we all, you are fucked either way, buddy.

Hat tip: Wendy