Friday, December 14, 2007

The Pope's Message of Peace



















Above: My Response back to him

The Pope has published his annual remarks for World Peace Day, to be officially spoken on January 1st. This year's theme is family:

'At the beginning of a New Year, I wish to send my fervent good wishes for peace, together with a heartfelt message of hope to men and women throughout the world. I do so by offering for our common reflection the theme which I have placed at the beginning of this message. It is one which I consider particularly important: the human family, a community of peace...'

Pope Benedict XVI focuses on two families, the 'stable union' of the singular family and the metaphor of the larger community of mankind, and uses those two families to guide his remarks. First the human family:

'...in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace. It is no wonder, therefore, that violence, if perpetrated in the family, is seen as particularly intolerable. Consequently, when it is said that the family is “the primary living cell of society” something essential is being stated. The family is the foundation of society for this reason too: because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family. Where can young people gradually learn to savor the genuine “taste” of peace better than in the original “nest” which nature prepares for them? The language of the family is a language of peace; we must always draw from it, lest we lose the “vocabulary” of peace. In the inflation of its speech, society cannot cease to refer to that “grammar” which all children learn from the looks and the actions of their mothers and fathers, even before they learn from their words...'

These are wonderfully lovely and articulate sentiments. Unfortunately they are preceded by this:

'...The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman, constitutes “the primary place of ‘humanization' for the person and society”, and a “cradle of life and love”...' [boldface mine]

Sigh. Here we go again. For purposes of clarity, I eliminated the footnotes in the quotes above, but the footnote to the statement of marriage being defined as between a man and a woman refers to the Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 48. It's important to remember that Catholic teachings and beliefs are based on scripture indirectly, through 2,000 years of written biblical interpretation. Sort of like how our laws are based on court interpretations of the Constitution. This is why Catholic doctrine usually refers to documents such as these, rather than chapter and verse from the Bible.

I wont quote at length from part 48 of the Pastoral Constitution, but it's fair to say that the only justification that it gives for limiting marriage to between a man and a woman is the old procreation chestnut:

'...By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown...'

The rest of part 48 discusses issues such as the role of the family to nurture children - and it doesn't even talk about how one needs both a man and a woman to do that. Actually it spends more time talking about nurturing than procreation. But since Kathy and I can't have kids through procreation, I guess we're a hindrance to world peace.

Though it seems like shooting fish in a barrel to argue about the idiocy of the procreation argument, I can't help but point out the utter lack of compassion and squandering of opportunities that are the hallmarks of such an approach to families. The Pope is arguing that Kathy and I, despite being a man and a woman, are incapable of educating kids in a solid nurturing way simply because we can't pop them out ourselves, not to mention arguing that queer couples we know are apparently more likely to lock their kids in a hot car than Mr. and Mrs. Joe and Mary Crackhead.

To be fair, this is not the only issue that the Pope's message covers. Sections on the environment (Prompting the Daily Mail to post an article entitled 'The Pope condemns the climate change prophets of doom.' - a rather unfair characterization of what he actually says), the importance of moral law (one could quibble, but he's Catholic after all, so it would be churlish to do so) and the last section: Overcoming conflicts and disarmament:

'...At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity...'

While I applaud such sentiments, it is a rather rich statement to come from someone who has yet to address the issue of his immediate predecessor giving a peace medal to Samuel Cohen, because of his invention: the Neutron Bomb. In fact most of the talk in the Vatican about Pope John Paul II is about his impending sainthood.

Pope Benedict XVI is famous for having a profound intellect, which I don't doubt. He is amazingly articulate and a formidable scholar. But unless those qualities are subject to a strong compassion and introspection they are going to be more of a harm to world peace than the 'costs of environmental protection.' If he wants to exercise true leadership in arguing for change for the cause of World Peace, then the best place for him to begin is to enact change at home.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Keeping up the Beat

I'm back from a long and lovely trip to Hawaii, but now am pretty busy, so it's been a while since I posted. But I'm working on one about how the Pope's an idiot. To tide you over, here's some early 80's English Beat music videos:



Monday, November 26, 2007

Smells Like Teen Spirit













Now that Thanksgiving has passed, it's time to begin all that Xmas shopping. And what better gift to those who tolerate your living in New York City than perfume:

'...No, this is not a Bond No. 9. A neurologist is fascinated by the impact scent has on memory and a family-based enterprise delivers the essence(s) of Brooklyn in a creation called Eau de Brooklyn. People tell how it reminds them of places they have visited, of smaller areas within the neighborhood...'
But before you get too excited of the romantic possibilities of your loved ones wearing the...scent, bear in mind that the top story in Brooklyn the past few months is how they found gonorrhea in the Gowanus Canal.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Closeted
















This clearly hasn't been a good week for those devout God-fearin' folk in the south. First God blew them off over the desertification of greater metropolitan Atlanta: though the prayer vigil run by the state's Republican Governor was scheduled on a day when the forecast actually called for rain, no rain came. Then those who were left wondering why God was forsaking them, needed to look no further than the pleasant town of Decatur, where the head priest of the 10,000 member mega church, Chapel Hill Harvester (website now yanked), admitted his role in a sex scandal, sleeping with his brother's wife and fathering one of her children. How Biblical; though clearly not in the same league as that pastor from that church in Alabama.

After a while one gets numb to all of these stories, as they become less funny over deadening repetition and more, well, just simply sad. A reflection of personal repression on a massive scale.

I posted on Conservapedia back in February, when it first came out. At the time I assumed the site, a 'conservative' and fundamentalist version of Wikipedia for those who believe that Wikipedia is too liberally biased, would fizzle and die, but it turns out to have been backed by some serious right wing money, and is growing at a fairly healthy clip, as websites go. This morning, Atrios linked to a page in the site - the top ten most requested searches on Conervapedia. I'll reprint it here in it's entirety (things like this often get pulled rather quickly):
Most viewed pages

1. Main Page‎ [1,902,291]
2. Homosexuality‎ [1,537,431]
3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis‎ [516,639]
4. Homosexuality and Promiscuity‎ [420,033]
5. Homosexuality and Parasites‎ [387,855]
6. Homosexuality and Domestic Violence‎ [348,867]
7. Gay Bowel Syndrome‎ [340,462]
8. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea‎ [330,987]
9. Homosexuality and Mental Health‎ [274,467]
10. Homosexuality and Syphilis‎ [264,934]

Friday, October 26, 2007

Michael's Two Daddies

























The blog Jesus' General has been getting some help lately from Miss Poppy, who also runs a wonderful Christian Store on the web, where I have purchased numerous saintly gifts for friends, including anti-masturbation gum and the Jesus ashtray. Her first post there covers the new book, 'Does God Love Michael's Two Daddies?', a fundamentalist riposte to 'Heather has Two Mommies.' (Notably the book covers two gay men, not two gay women, as the Bible actually has very few things to say about lesbianism.)

Miss Poppy complains that there are no good reviews for the book, though of course now some wags are already starting to review the book at Amazon. However, she missed the review by Darby Dameron on the website of the publisher, Apologetics Press, which sad to say is not a parody:
'I am in education and see the trend of teaching tolerance to our young people and this scares me. Fortunately, I am in a school district where these views are not pushed on our children, yet they are still exposed to these ideas in the shows on TV and movies which come out. Myself and some of the other teachers have been looking for a book with a Christian view of homosexuality and I was excited when I picked up my copy of Reason and Revelation to find this book. I ordered it and have shared it with some of my friends. We appreciate the straightforward, scriptural approach to the topic. We may not be able to share it with our children in the classroom, but we can share it with our own chilren, who can then take these teachings to school. Thank you.'
You just can't make this shit up. To top it off, the book is written by one Sheila K. Butt.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!















They warned us. And the future is here:
'...The deputy mayor of the Indian capital Delhi has died a day after being attacked by a horde of wild monkeys.

SS Bajwa suffered serious head injuries when he fell from the first-floor terrace of his home on Saturday morning trying to fight off the monkeys...'
Of course, as was predicted, our doom will be of our own idiotic hand:
'...The High Court ordered the city to find an answer to the problem last year...One approach has been to train bands of larger, more ferocious langur monkeys to go after the smaller groups of Rhesus macaques...'
Yes, that's an excellent solution to the problem.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

'Math is hard - Let's go Shopping'










I was going to post on something stupid going on in this world, but then I ran into something more stupid:
'...Fashion Fever Shopping Boutique, the correctly named Barbie toy, features a built-in credit card swiper and a life-size credit card for young children to use when buying outfits for their dolls. According to the Amazon website, "Once the balance hits zero, it will reset so you can continue to shop."...'
H/T Feministing, which has tracked down a (poor quality) youtube of the advertisement with the great line:, 'And you never run out of Money!.'

No word yet on the mortgage-fever house-buying Ken doll.

Coney Island


















































Time to get caught up on some photoblogging, now that I've downloaded some more pictures from the digital camera. These are from a trip we took with the nieces, Samantha and Lianna, to Coney Island, shortly before it closed for the season. Of course this land of trailer park amusement park fun is destined to close, perhaps for good or perhaps it will get a one year extension on life. But fear not, those who like their entertainment bland and inoffensive; plans are afoot to replace the entire 16 acre site with a shopping mall, condos and, yes, a new amusement park, but without all of that unsightly grime. The march to make New York no different than Orange County proceeds apace.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Will Fluffy go to Heaven?
















My friend Andrew forwarded me a link to this site, which paints ghastly memorial pictures of Jesus holding your recently deceased pet (done for a fee, of course.) This kind of idiocy does raise, however, the issue of whether or not animals go into heaven. The problem is that the Bible is silent on the subject, as far as actually outright stating whether or not they do.

This seems like a fun group, a church dedicated to getting animals into heaven:

'...Our Mission Is To Prove Without A Shadow Of A Doubt That When God Made Animals He Made Them With Spirits And Souls and intended that they have a place in Heaven...'
I found them doing a Google search on 'will my pet go to heaven.' I could write for months on those search results, but many of them say the same thing, focusing on the book of Ecclesiastes as the scriptural source offering proof that in fact they do. Of course one can also offer countering scripture that hints that in fact animals don't go to heaven. If you're interested, just follow the link.

But what I found funny is the volume of search results - over 2.3 million hits. If you use quotes around the phrase, requiring an exact match, you get 721 hits. So I decided to compare that result to others:

"Will my husband go to heaven." - 2 hits

"Will my wife go to heaven." - 0 hits (Give it a week or so, and the google spider will hit this website, creating one hit - this blog entry)

"Will my spouse go to heaven." - 0 hits..

"Will my parents go to heaven." - 0 hits

"Will my mother go to heaven." - 0 hits

"Will my father go to heaven." - 1 hit

"Will my brother go to heaven." - 4 hits

"Will my sister go to heaven." - 1 hit

"Will my child go to heaven." - 5 hits

"Will my son go to heaven." - 1 hit

"Will my daughter go to heaven." - 0 hits

"Will my neighbor go to heaven." - 0 hits

"Will my enemy go to heaven."
- 0 hits.

"Will my friend go to heaven." - 4 Hits

Again, "will my pet go to heaven" gets 721 hits. As a comparison I used "Is my ... going to heaven" and got very similar results. So there is a lot of angst out there about our pets getting into heaven. And not much about people close to us getting there. So we simply don't give a shit, either because we are convinced we are, convinced we aren't, or don't care about anyone other than ourselves:

"Will I go to heaven." - 805 hits.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cowboy














This is classic:
'...President Bush may like to be seen as a swaggering tough guy with a penchant for manly outdoor pursuits, but in a new book one of his closest allies has said he is afraid of horses.

Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, derided his political friend as a "windshield cowboy" – a cowboy who prefers to drive – and "the cockiest guy I have ever met in my life". ...'
To be fair, most other preppies from Connecticut are also afraid of horses. H/T TPM.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Music Lessons

How To Record Music:

How to Play Music:

Class Dismissed

Thursday, September 13, 2007

'Everybody likes Ganesh'















It looks like a certain Hindu deity is becoming very trendy:

'...Patel and her family will be one of many to visit a temple to honor Ganesh. Representatives from two of the U.S. temples where Ganesh is the presiding or primary deity say the numbers attending the celebrations are rising.

At the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple in South Jordan, Utah, 50 people attended the first Ganesh Chaturthi celebration in 1995; about 500 are expected this year. At the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Queens, N.Y., which was built in 1977, the festival has grown from three days to nine to accommodate all the worshipers.

The numbers are not surprising, said Deepak Sarma, an associate professor of religious studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

"There are lots of different sects in Hinduism," he said. "Ganesh overlaps with all of them. Everybody likes Ganesh."...'

Ganesh Chaturthi (Ganesh's birthday celebration) is this Saturday, September 15th. Another good anniversary to celebrate.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11













Gary Kamiya has an excellent article in today's Salon. Some choice quotes:

'...Sept. 11 was a hinge in history, a fork in the road. It presented us with a choice. We could find out who attacked us, surgically defeat them, address the underlying problems in the Middle East, and make use of the outpouring of global sympathy to pull the rest of the world closer to us. Or we could lash out blindly and self-righteously, insist that the only problems in the Middle East were created by "extremists," demonize an entire culture and make millions of new enemies.

Like a vibration that causes a bridge to collapse, the 9/11 attacks exposed grave weaknesses in our nation's defenses, our national institutions and ultimately our national character. Many more Americans have now died in a needless war in Iraq than were killed in the terror attacks, and tens of thousands more grievously wounded. Billions of dollars have been wasted. America's moral authority, more precious than gold, has been tarnished by torture and lies and the erosion of our liberties. The world despises us to an unprecedented degree. An entire country has been wrecked. The Middle East is ready to explode. And the threat of terrorism, which the war was intended to remove, is much greater than it was.

All of this flowed from our response to 9/11. And so, six years later, we need to do more than mourn the dead. We need to acknowledge the blindness and bigotry that drove our response. Until we do, not only will the stalemate over Iraq persist, but our entire Middle Eastern policy will continue down the road to ruin...'

This September 11th is the sixth anniversary of the attacks. But it is also the 101st anniversary of the beginning of Mahatma Gandhi's campaign against non-violence. It would be great if we could start commemorating that event. Because as several have been pointing out, we have no need to be made to remember what happened on this day six years ago - we keep having it pounded into our heads every damn day by this administration.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Back Forty





































This summer we've turned the front stoop into the back forty. We're growing four cherry tomato plants, a fajita bell pepper plant and a Serrano pepper plant. The results have been a good success, especially the tomatoes - they're sweet and tasty. The peppers have been a bit more problematic. The output from a bell pepper plant is not huge, so when one ripens, Kathy will chop it up and put it into something. The Serranos have mostly spiced up guacamole.

This 'growing things locally' is quite a trend, though I have my doubts of this project's scalability. Each cherry tomato has about five calories, and the average production of a plant is 50 or so tomatoes. So that's a total of one thousand calories for my entire farm. Or about enough to sustain me for a little more than half a day. It's not going to be cutting down my trips to the grocery store.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Current Score














One of the most commonly asked religious questions is, "why is there evil in the world?" Some halfway decent answer needs to be arrived at for a religious faith to be taken seriously, otherwise it's just mucking around and wont get any real respect from people.

Of course this question begs an assumption, namely that the world is inherently a good place and that it is in some way contaminated with evil. Which in and of itself is quite an assumption, theologically speaking. So to be fair, one should also posit the question, "why is there good in the world?" This question, of course, makes the opposite assumption, namely that the world is an evil, or at the very least indifferent, place, potentially contaminated with good.

So what do people around the world think? It's almost a gauge for hope or hopelessness in the world. In the effort to find out, I Googled both phrases to see where the population of the world stands, or at least the population with internet access. I used quotes in the search string to count up only results that use the entire phrase.

"Why is there evil in the world" - 967 times

"Why is there good in the world" - 681 times

So people assuming that the world is inherently a good place seem to be leading, 967 to 681. To be honest this is a lot closer than I though it would be, since "why is there evil in the world" is much more of a catch phrase. I'll try to make this study an occasional feature to see how things are heading.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Is our Children Learning?


I am so going to start watching beauty pageants from now on. This is a great entertainment value. H/T Bob Harris, who also notes that this is the winner from South Carolina.

Friday, August 24, 2007

War!


















And now it's war. To follow up on various nations declaring 'the war on drugs', the 'war on terrorism', and 'the war on Christmas', China announced that it is declaring war on Toys, or rather tainted ones:

'... China has launched a four-month "war" on tainted food, drugs and exports, state media reported on Friday, as beleaguered officials embraced time-tested campaign tactics to clean up the country's battered image.

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi told officials the campaign, to run to the end of the year, would focus on problem products that have badly dented domestic and foreign consumers' confidence in the "Made in China" label.

"This is a special battle to protect the health and personal interests of the public and to protect the reputation of Chinese goods and the national image," Wu said, according to the government...'

Personally I've been rather suspicious of the timing of all of the revelations of crappy products coming from China. It's as if suddenly over the past six months, everything from pet food to toys has been contaminated. What, there was no problem before? Suddenly it's all happening now, and prior to that everything was hunky dory? I doubt that. It's not passing the smell test to me (though to be fair, I doubt that the pet food is either.)

So China is now trying to defend itself in the media, which is smart, since that's where the problem is originating. Their products have always been crap - crap for the environment, crap for the workers and crap for the consumers. That's why American companies love them so. The entire country is one and a half billion people living in a Dickens novel, and like all of the people of the nineteenth century who lived in their own Dickens novel, it's going to take at least a century to make their lives better. But in the meantime there's billions to be made!

Actually both the US consumer and China could learn from each other. China needs to catch up with how to play in the media battlefield. They could do worse than following the former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's latest endeavors. Seems he's hired a Republican lobbying firm to try to set the groundwork for his taking over Iraq. That's $300K well spent. He'll go far.

And the US consumer definitely could learn a thing or two from China. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently a man down, operating with only two of three necessary people needed to run it. Nancy Nord is currently running the show and is famous for her pro-business attitudes (she comes from the US Chamber of Commerce). The President is pushing for Michael Baroody to take over the whole agency. His experience? He's the head lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers. Talk about putting the foxes in charge of the hen house.

But what could the US Consumer learn from China? Well, when the Chinese government found out that their head of the national food and drug safety watchdog was as corrupt as any Bush administration crony, they dealt with him rather severely:

"The execution of Zheng Xiaoyu was also part of that campaigning approach to get officials' attention," said Mao, referring to the former head of the national food and drug safety watchdog, who was executed in July for taking bribes."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wednesday Cat Blogging - Vital Interests





































Still posting pictures. Wee ones protecting their vital interests edition. Matthew Yglesias makes a good point in his latest post:

'...The essay [Edwards' Foreign Affairs essay] is almost 6,000 words long, but Edwards doesn't name any vital interests. In his defense, Barack Obama's manifesto also says that "We must retain the capacity to swiftly defeat any conventional threat to our country and our vital interests" but doesn't say anything about which interests are the vital ones...

...when Edwards or Obama talks about vital interests I actually have no idea what they're talking about. You have a very wide range of substantive disagreement as to what our interests are (and, of course, which of our interests are the vital ones) as well as how best to advance them, and I also here [sic] people trying to stretch the notion of an "interest" to encompass other kinds of policy priorities like genocide prevention. An essay on the subject of "what I think America's vital interests are" (heck, even a numbered list) would tell us a lot more about where these candidates are coming from than do these essays...'

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wednesday Cat Blogging























































Bonus Misty Edition. Misty historically has been rather camera shy so this post should make up for some of his lacking presence in this blog. Above, he's hanging out outdoors (where he can get away from the other tortuous beasts). In the middle he's in his basket, where he hangs out during the cooler, non-summer months. At the bottom is a typical major attitude action shot.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesday Cat Blogging


































I just downloaded about 100 photos from the digital camera, dating back several months. So I will be doing a bunch of photo blogging this week. Above are all four of the gray things hanging about in our abode.

Baptist Seminary Finally Admits Women


From the North Texas Star Telegram:

'...The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offers coursework in Greek and Hebrew, in archaeology, in the philosophy of religion and - starting this fall - in how to cook and sew.

Southwestern Baptist, one of the nation's largest Southern Baptist seminaries, is introducing a new academic program in homemaking as part of an effort to establish what its president calls biblical family and gender roles.

It will offer a bachelor of arts in humanities degree with a 23-hour concentration in homemaking. The program is only open to women.

Coursework will include seven hours of nutrition and meal preparation, seven hours of textile design and "clothing construction," three hours of general homemaking, three hours on "the value of a child," and three hours on the "biblical model for the home and family."...'

This whole 'biblical roles' for women is based on an essential fallacy: namely that gender based roles in biblical times are the same as the gender based roles today. While the Bible clearly talks about and assigns gender roles (liberal protestations about this tend towards the silly) these roles more often than not have little or no correlation to gender roles preached by fundamentalist churches today. The above list of coursework is a classic example. 'Clothing construction' is not a biblical gender role, but anointing the dead is - read the endings of the gospels of Mark and Matthew. This betrays the motivation for this sort of bizarre degree. That and the fact that the only female teaching at the seminary is the wife of the School President.

What's also missing from this program is any mention of gender roles for men. Oddly that always seems to be lacking. No men's coursework for undertaking the lifestyle of the 'suffering servant' of Isaiah, for instance.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Judas

Like the proverbial rats, people are fleeing the Bush administration in droves. This week Karl Rove announced, and today it cam out that Tony Snow is decamping for greener pastures (his excuse – he’s too poor on a $160,000 plus per year salary). Of course people leaving an administration as it ends is very common; what’s not common is this time there is well over a year left.

As we all know it’s not just the members of the administration that are fleeing. The entire Republican party is abandoning the President, and not just rhetorically by not invoking his name the way they refer to Reagan. People are making noises about how Bush really isn’t a conservative – he’s actually a liberal. They’re making noises about how the policies of conservatism didn’t fail the President, the President failed the policies. In short, he’s a Judas figure.

Glen Greenwald in his new book, A Tragic Legacy, documents some of this:


‘…Bush’s unpopularity has become so intense and toxic that self-identified political conservatives have taken to distancing themselves from Bush by insisting he was never really a ‘conservative’ at all. In the aftermath of the 2006 midterm elections, the New York Times reported, “Since the election, a chorus from the right has been noisily distinguishing between conservative and Republican, blaming deviation from conservative principles for the election losses. From George Will to Rush Limbaugh, conservatives cut loose with criticisms of the Republicans for spending too much at home and getting bogged down in Iraq.”


The day following the election, Rush Limbaugh assured his conservative audience, “Liberalism didn’t win anything yesterday; Republicanism lost. Conservatism was nowhere to be found except on the Democratic side.” Writing in the National Review, Jonah Goldberg in 2006 actually went so far as to claim that Bush is a ‘liberal’ Republican: “But there is one area where we can make somewhat useful comparisons between Nixon and Bush: their status as liberal Republicans.” Thus, reasoned Goldberg, Bush is the opposite of what “conservatives” support: “The modern conservative movement, from Goldwater to Reagan, was formed as a backlash against Nixonism.”…


…The dramatic turnabout in conservative characterizations of Bush is nowhere better demonstrated than by comparing Goldberg’s accusation in 2006…to Goldberg’s 2002 polar opposite claim that Bush “takes far more after his father’s old boss [Ronald Reagan], than he does his own father” and that “George W. Bush has proved that he’s a Reaganite, not a Bushie.”…


…The dynamic is as obvious as it is corrupt. They are desperately trying to disclaim responsibility for the disasters that they wrought in the name of “conservatism” by repudiating the political figures whom they named as the standard-bearers of their movement but whom America has now so decisively rejected…’


“Bush betrayed the conservative movement” is the meme that we will all be seeing as we get closer and closer to 2008. In the more rabid parts of the discussion, the word ‘Judas’ will be referred to more frequently. But what will happen to President Bush once this ‘betrayer’ leaves office? Fortunately I’ve recently finished Bart Ehrman’s book on the Gospel of Judas, which helpfully consolidates the various available stories.


So what happened to Judas? Like in most cases, the different books of the New Testament disagree. In Paul’s letters, for instance, Judas isn’t even mentioned, and in fact when Paul refers to the last supper, he uses the Greek word paradidomi (to give or hand someone or something over to someone else) to refer to what the Gospels mention as the betrayal. The problem is that when Paul uses that word, he always refers to God doing the handing over (Romans 8:32 – ‘He who did not spare his own son, but handed him over for all of us – how will he not give us all things with him?). So when in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 (‘For I received from the Lord that which I also handed over to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after giving thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body given for you.”) Paul uses the word paradidomi, if he is using it the same way he does in the 15 other times he uses it in his letters, he is in fact referring to God handing Jesus over, not Judas. This could indicate the story of Judas arising in the early church, not in Jesus’ lifetime, for Paul’s letter were written at least ten years prior to any of the Gospels.


In Mark, the earliest Gospel, Judas is sketchily portrayed. First of all, no specific motivations are given for Judas’ betrayal (though the word betrayal is used). And there is nothing in the gospel about what happens to him, after he betrays Jesus with a kiss. Presumably he doesn’t fare too well for it would have been better for him “not to have been born.” (Mark 14:20).


Matthew, which used Mark as a source for his gospel, enriches the Judas episodes. In Matthew, for instance, we find out that Judas betrays Jesus for the bling: after the account of the anointing of Jesus by the unnamed woman and the disciples object due to cost reasons (Matthew 26:8), Judas heads over to the high priests to cut the deal. And thus the thirty pieces of silver. We also get a wrap up to the Judas story: it is in Matthew that he tries to return the 30 pieces of silver, gets rejected and goes to hang himself. Then the priests use the ‘blood money’ to buy potter’s field, which may be a synonym for ‘Field of Blood’ – red potting clay and all that.


Luke, which also used Mark as a source, has it different. Luke 22:3 “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was a member of the twelve; he went out and consulted with the chief priests and soldiers how he might betray him.” So the devil made him do it. Judas doesn’t die in Luke, but instead dies in the book of Acts, the ‘sequel’ to Luke. Acts 1:18-19: ‘Now this one [Judas] purchased a field with the wages of his unrighteous act and falling headlong he burst forth in the middle and all his intestines spilled out. And this became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that this field is called ‘Akeldamach’ in their own dialect, which means ‘Field of Blood.’” Not made clear is how he fell, so theoretically this final story is not in conflict with Matthew.


John actually combines some of the two stories in Matthew and Luke. Judas gets more screen time in John than in any of the other Gospels. He’s actually the treasurer for the 12 Apostles (John 12:6) and would steal from the community funds. He get’s pissed off at the cost of the ointment (John 12:5) and yet Satan “put it into the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, that he should betray him” (John 13:2). Judas’ death is not mentioned, however, in the book of John.


After the writings of the New Testament, things start to get out of hand as the legend grows. In the writings of Papias, from the beginning of the second century, we get the following story about the end of Judas:


‘…But Judas went about in this world as a great model of impiety. He became so bloated in the flesh that he could not pass through a place that was easily wide enough for a wagon – not even his swollen head could fit. The say that his eyelids swelled to such an extent that he could not see the light at all; and a doctor could not see his eyes even with an optical device, so deeply sunken they were in the surrounding flesh. And his genitals became more disgusting and larger than anyone’s; simply by relieving himself, to his wanton shame, he emitted pus and worms that flowed through his entire body.


And they say that after he suffered numerous torments and punishments, he died on his own land, and that land has been, until now, desolate and uninhabitable because of the stench. Indeed even to this day no one can pass by the place without holding their nose. This was how great an outpouring he made from his flesh on the ground…’


Knowing this, one wonders if the writers of the National Review and other conservative apologists want to keep up the ‘betrayer’ meme going. Would any of these endings be an appropriate conclusion to Bush’s two terms as President? Some would certainly agree. The good thing for the President is that these days there is a very easy solution to elephantiasis and parasitism. One just simply goes to the emergency room.

Off to the Races!













Well it's been a good while since we last had a nice old fashioned bank run:

'...Anxious customers jammed the phone lines and website of Countrywide Bank and crowded its branch offices to pull out their savings because of concerns about the financial problems of the mortgage lender that owns the bank.

Countrywide Financial Corp., the biggest home-loan company in the nation, sought Thursday to assure depositors and the financial industry that both it and its bank were fiscally stable. And federal regulators said they weren't alarmed by the volume of withdrawals from the bank.

The mortgage lender said it would further tighten its loan standards and make fewer large mortgages. Those moves could make it harder to get a home loan and further depress the housing market in California and other states.

The rush to withdraw money -- by depositors that included a former Los Angeles Kings star hockey player and an executive of a rival home-loan company -- came a day after fears arose that Countrywide Financial could file for bankruptcy protection because of a worsening credit crunch stemming from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown...'

This goes hand in hand with a couple of figures released yesterday that oddly enough didn't get much media coverage:

'...The cash positions in mutual funds stand at 3.8%, slightly below the 3.9% low established in 1972.

Margin debt as a percentage of the S&P market cap has climbed to 2.4%, an all-time high. The previous peak? Early 2000, at the height of the Internet bubble...'

So cash positions are at an all time low, and margin positions are at an all time high. It looks like the roller coaster days on Wall Street aren't going to be ending anytime soon. (h/t Atrios)

A Modest Proposal



National ID cards are back in vogue again. Actually I think that it's a good idea, though there are some details that need to be worked out. First of all, the biggest problem with ID cards is that with so much of your existence riding on them, it would completely suck if you lost one. So they need to rethink this 'card' concept, which is so 19th century tech. anyhow.

What would make more sense is if the government simply tatooed the information directly onto your skin - your forearm, say. That way you wouldn't loose it. The information could include your date of birth, height, eye color and such, and even could include an identifying number, so that everyone could be kept track of.

But why stop there. So much other information could be tattooed on our arms as well. For instance, our religious affiliation and ethnic backgrounds could be identified using cute little colored symbols...

...Oh, wait...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pope...Woods















'Trees planted for last pope to be chopped down for new pope's visit to Austria.':

'...They were planted to honor one pope. Now they're being purged for another.

Four stately lime trees ceremoniously planted near a popular Roman Catholic shrine in 1983 for a visit to Austria by the late Pope John Paul II are being uprooted to make way for a large grandstand for next month's pilgrimage by Pope Benedict XVI...

..."The church does not sacrifice trees," Paul Wuthe, a spokesman for the papal visit, told the Catholic news agency Kathpress...'

Still no final word on the shitting issue.

Monday, August 13, 2007

San Diego




















Just got back from San Diego where I was speaking at a conference on digital visualization of city models. My presentation went quite well, but the city was an interesting surprise, since the last time I was there was in the mid seventies, visiting as a kid with my parents. The city has grown up a lot since then, but at least in the limited downtown area I hung out in, the beach town vibe still seemed to hold. The weather was perfect, so perhaps the next time I end up over there, I could spend a bit more time at the beach.

When I first went visited, back in 1975, it was right when Jaws had been released and a White shark fever was gripping the nation. A week or two before we arrived at the beach hotel, someone had caught a small great white on the pier in front of the hotel. So by the time we got there, no one could go into the ocean, because the entire pier was covered with people dangling large chunks of bloody red meat into the water in the hopes of catching another shark. It was quite disappointing being a small kid on their first visit to the ocean, not being allowed to step more than an inch into the water, since the entire beach had been turned into Chum Soup.

Family Force Five























Above you can behold the five members of the Christian Rock Group Family Force Five: Soul Glow, Crouton, Phatty, NaDaddy, and Chap Stique (no joke). Busy spreading the word of the Lord, they have lots of influences, as mentioned on their myspace page: Jesus, The Beastie Boys, Rage against the Machine, Public Enemy, Rick James and page three sweetheart Debbie Gibson. All known to be devout disciples of the Son of God. Jesus' General has the skinny on this and other bands being promoted by devout Christian Steven Baldwin.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Consume














After 9-11, the people in our great nation were encouraged to come together and consume in order to soothe our grief and allow our society to recover. I've always loved the concept of an entire society shamelessly organized around consumption: essentially reducing us to some base level of foragers like a huge colony of locusts with credit cards.

One of the more entertaining movies I've seen was released about twenty years ago - a John Carpenter throwaway, 'They Live.' The basic premise is that we are all under the control of space aliens but don't realize it. They keep us in check with subliminal messages embedded into everything we see - messages that endlessly repeat chants such as 'Sleep...' and 'Consume...' Our hero discovers a pair of glasses that allows him to see the truth and we are off to the races. There's some good quotes in the movie, to:

'...Television Host: The feeling is definitely there. It's a new morning in America... fresh, vital. The old cynicism is gone. We have faith in our leaders. We're optimistic as to what becomes of it all. It really boils down to our ability to accept. We don't need pessimism. There are no limits...'

and what John Carpenter movie would be complete without:

'...I have come here to chew bubblegum or kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum...'

One of my favorite things to consume is Jesus kitsch, and I have recently found a motherload courtesy of the site We are Fishermen. Little plastic statues of Jesus skateboarding, playing football, and (soon to come, according to the promotional brochure they sent me) Jesus crawling out of a wrecked race car, like some holy crash test dummy. I've already got two, Jesus surfing and Jesus bending it like Beckham (images above, on either side of stoner Jesus with a dove). Not all are available yet, but I'm definitely getting more, especially when Jesus riding the bull is released.

And speaking of consumption and movies, this one looks too cool:

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Preaching


















Quote of the day:

'...One may intelligently wonder why, if seminarians are not taught a simplistic conservatism about the New Testament, they do not communicate more nuanced views in their preaching. A common excuse for this failure is that anything more complex and nuanced might disturb the people - now an increasingly specious explanation when far more Catholics receive college education and might be encouraged if they found out that their church, once a danger has passed, is capable of changing its mind in face of evidence. Probably a major factor is that to communicate nuanced biblical views in a way that people will find constructive (rather than puzzling or disturbing) requires more effort and imagination than many preachers are willing to expend. The bland is often effortless and survives even when the church teaches the contrary...'

From Raymond Brown's An Introduction to New Testament Christology. I'm about a quarter through this brief but excellent book, which I wanted to read before tackling his tome, Death of the Messiah. Thanks to Mike, who recommended to me Brown's Community of the Beloved Disciple which I finished last year.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Mine Mine Mine



I see that the Russians have discovered the power of the Flag:

'...A Russian expedition descended in a pair of submersible vessels more than two miles under the ice cap on Thursday and deposited a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole. The dive was a symbolic move to enhance the government’s disputed claim to nearly half of the floor of the Arctic Ocean and potential oil or other resources there...'

Scientists Say That By 1970 Over 10,000 People Will Be Living On The Moon!























(Above, the Earth, not the moon...)


So in the past week, the roads in front of Grand Central Station have exploded upwards and the bridges in Minneapolis have collapsed downward. The future doesn't look bold and beautiful like the cover of a 1950s Popular Mechanics magazine, but rather looks like a slow decline into senescence and irrelevance, a dull narrative for the ending of our culture. And to think that merely a generation or two ago, things looked so bright.

The crazy innocence of the atomic age 1950s didn't seem to last all that long. By the 1980s, that Popular Mechanics imagery had already become an ironic emblem of a naive age, and now it's even fading from our memories as a cultural touchstone.

But hope remains. On August 11th and 12th at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is the 2007 Rocketbelt convention. (h/t This Modern World).

So although a vacation on the moon doesn't seem on the horizon anytime soon, at least we can still get our damned jetpacks.





Thursday, July 26, 2007

Talk to Jesus



Just shoot me...Seriously, I'm signing up as a beta tester for this.

If you go to the site, they have the following disclaimer at the bottom:

Disclaimer: TalkToJesus is intended for entertainment purposes only. It is not the actual Jesus.

H/T my brother, who if he has time to track down insanities such as this, has the time to post in his blog...

Christians United for Israel



Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour from huffpost and Vimeo.

This latest from Max Blumenthal is a must see to understand my motivation for studying Christianity. Watching the former speaker of the House of Representatives (and third in line to the Presidency) talk about how he looks forward to Armageddon, the senior senator from Connecticut wax poetic about one of the most corrupt televangelists, and dozens of people from around the country use the Bible to advocate messages of hate ('...the Antichrist will be a person of peace...') sends chills down my spine.

In the money
























It looks like I will now never have to worry about money again, for I soon will be coming into billions, perhaps trillions of dollars. For some unknown reason, my yahoo email address has stopped spamblocking all of the Nigerian 419 scam emails, and for the past several days I have been getting flooded with them. I started keeping track of the amounts I was going to get yesterday morning, with the goal of posting this in a week, but after only 24 hours, it started getting too ridiculous. So here is a day's worth of loot that I'm going to receive:

$46 Million from Mikhail Khordokovsky, jailed head of Yukos Oil

$500,000 from Mr. James Morgan (deceased) who apparently knew me.

$25.5 Million from the Equitorial Trust Bank, PLC in Nigeria

$850,000 from the Global Company

$400,000 from Mr. Fred Clean in Nepal

15 Million Euros from the 'July Category 'A' draw'

An unspecified amount from the Central Bank of Nigeria

GBP 850 Million from the Microsoft email lottery promotion (this is close to $2 Billion dollars)

$950,000 from the Global Max Courier Company Benin

$3.2 Million from a woman in the Ivory Coast whose family was killed in Darfur, for me to use:

'...I have prayed and I told God to direct me to an honest Person whom God will use to handle this funds for the less privileged people ,offernage, displace and mother less baby home to receive this fund and utilize it for things that will glorify the name of God. After my prayers...'

$900,000 from John Basil in Benin

GBP1 Million from the Microsoft Lottery Corporation in England

$1.5 Million from Mr. Howard Ferraro who is a 'Spanish base business man.'

'$21,437,000.00 Million' (which if it's not a typo is over 21 trillion dollars) as the next of kin of the late Ronald Lake and his wife who used to work with Frank Howard Allen Realtors.

and my personal favorites:

$1 Million from the UN and Central bank of Nigeria 419 Scam Victims compensation fund, and

$35 Million from the Global Exchange Bank in Nigeria. I have been made aware of this through the 'Nigerian Investigation Department Ant-Fraud [sic] Unit':

'...BEWARE OF HOODLUMS...Based on the finding in this investigastion department we wish to warn you against some touts. We have been informed that some touts are contating you in respect to the collection of your fund in the total sum of $35 Million U.S.A Dollars that was long approved in your favour through the Global Exchange Bank of Nigeria. As a matter of fact we have been on this investigation assignments for some time codely known to no one but the Presidency and some top government official who are in support of this investigation team to help stop fraudalent activities in this country.

Although we have been able to come up with some good result about the people that have extorted money from you illegally and i wish to list them so that you will personally indicate them by writting back because we want to make your paymen to you without any delay but we must surely deal and bring this names to book if only you will indicate correctly any of them...'

So now I'm going to start up the spam blocking process again for these emails. After all, once you've got 21 trillion dollars, trying to acquire more is just plain greedy.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

You know my name (Look up the Number)



















I just want to post briefly on this fun scandal du jour, currently engulfing Washington, and distracting us from things of lesser import, such as failing wars and health care. Normally I would follow this more closely, what with the people caught up in this being such perfect hypocrites up there with the scribes and Pharisees, but it really is shooting fish in a barrel.

More information is coming out, which means that Senator David Vittner (R. Louisiana) will likely be having to share the spotlight soon. Now it appears that Hustler Magazine (which first played the Senator into admitting his dalliances to the AP) is claiming to be investigating more than 20 congressman and Senators. And now another Republican consultant has been outed in all this.

It's been fun to read the defenders of these people. People on the right have been talking a good game of 'the temptations of immorality' etc. And the comparisons with the 'Clinton Blowjob' are flying fast. Of course what they are failing to take into account is one of the key differences between the Clinton Blowjob and the Good Senator (and others) visiting a hooker: The Clinton Blowjob was essentially plain vanilla sex.

You see, when a Senator visits a hooker, it's not going to be for some standard missionary position fun. Oh, no. A Senator visits a hooker because he wants to a) have someone ram a 12" dildo in the shape of Jesus up his ass, and b) make certain that she doesn't tell anyone about it. That's why. So the real fun is not going to be the naming of names. It's going to be the naming of kinks.

Update:

Looks like I was a bit off. Apparently the Good Senator is into Diapers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Little Pink Guns for You and Me...
















And I thought that the crap couldn’t get any crazier. But I would have been wrong. First of all we hear from Bill O’Reilly at Fox News that hundreds of roving gangs of lesbians carrying, I shit you not, pink guns, are rampaging across the country committing all sorts of heinous crimes. David Niewert at Orcinus has the story on this latest insanity from Fox News; the Southern Poverty Law Center has been following the idiocy as well.

This report also came out about the same time that the Vice President's favorable ratings have hit a whopping 13%, probably about the same percentage of people who favor getting repeatedly kicked in the nuts. Or more to the point, it's the exact same percentage of people who have never heard about global warming.

But the issue remains health care, of course, especially since Iraq is getting into the news more and more lately. Today The President appeared in Cleveland to give a speech on the topic:

'...The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans. I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room...'

Shit, why didn't I think of that. We should just build more emergency rooms. It's good to hear that the President has been on top of things like this for the past six years. From today's testimony by the President's last Surgeon General, Dr. Richard Carmona:

'...Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried,” Dr. Richard Carmona, who served as the nation’s top doctor from 2002 until 2006, told a House of Representatives committee.”The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party,” Carmona added.

Carmona said Bush administration political appointees censored his speeches and kept him from talking out publicly about certain issues, including the science on embryonic stem cell research, contraceptives and his misgivings about the administration’s embrace of “abstinence-only” sex education...'

Perhaps things have improved somewhat since Dr. Carmona left. Or not. From Kevin Drum:

'...the Bush administration is apparently in favor of loosening lead regulations in the United States, a transparent bit of industry pandering that makes the Iraq war look like a sober and prescient piece of public policy...'

Perhaps we could take the lead, paint it pink and make it into bullets. Then we could take on all those crazed lesbian gangs. We have plenty of Emergency Rooms, after all.

Friday, July 06, 2007

National Healthcare: Breeding Ground for Terror
















TPM has been following the latest crap being hoisted up the flagpole. No word yet on how many people are saluting. YouTubes are at the links.

Apparently, because a number of the clueless idiots who didn't know how to make a bomb in England last week were doctors, this is a reason we shouldn't have universal health care in this country: it will lead to terrorism. You see, if we have universal health care, there will be an increased demand for doctors, and so we will have to import them from abroad. And of course, that means that we will be letting terrorists into our midst. Other options are discounted, as I gather from the impending nature of this crisis we no longer have any medical schools in this country.

So who exactly is hoisting this flag? One Jerry Bowyer from National Review Online. Who? Tbogg has the details from a post he did back in 2003. In short he's a PR schmuck for far, far right conservative causes bankrolled by the myriad of Scaife Foundations. Why he gets onto Fox news is therefore obvious. Why that drek then gets picked up by other news outlets is more outrageous.

Update:

As TPM notes, the meme is spreading - now it's in the New York Sun. Crooks and Liars is also on the track of all of this.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Torches and Pitchforks
















They don't even try to hide the hypocrisy any more.

In a scramble to try to come up with some leg to stand on in the 2008 elections, the administration decided to trot out that old warhorse, Law and Order. If they can't take names and kick ass abroad, well then they could at least try to look tough at home. From the June 17th Boston Globe:

'...WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is trying to roll back a Supreme Court decision by pushing legislation that would require prison time for nearly all criminals.

The Justice Department is offering the plan as an opening salvo in a larger debate about whether sentences for crack cocaine are unfairly harsh and racially discriminatory.

Republicans are seizing the administration's crackdown, packaged in legislation to combat violent crime, as a campaign issue for 2008.

In a speech June 1 to announce the bill, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urged Congress to reimpose mandatory minimum prison sentences against federal convicts -- and not let judges consider such penalties "merely a suggestion."

Such an overhaul, in part, "will strengthen our hand in fighting criminals who threaten the safety and security of all Americans," Gonzales said in the speech, delivered three days before the FBI announced a slight national uptick in violent crime during 2006...

...Justice officials also point to a growing number of lighter sentences as possible proof that crime is rising because criminals are no longer cowed by strict penalties...'

Let's see how that new campaign theme's working out:

'...WASHINGTON, July 2 — President Bush said today that he had used his power of clemency to commute the 30-month sentence for I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted of perjury in March and was due to begin serving his time within weeks...

...“I respect the jury’s verdict,” Mr. Bush said. “But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison.”...

...The president noted in his statement that the decision to commute “leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby.[a 250,000 fine]”...

The president’s decision drew praise from Mr. Libby’s defenders. “That’s fantastic. It’s a great relief," said former Ambassador Richard Carlson, who helped raise millions for Libby’s defense fund. "Scooter Libby did not deserve to go to prison and I’m glad the president had the courage to do this."...'

I love the 'harsh punishment' of a cool quarter mil for a guy who's already ranked in dozens of times that amount for his legal defense fund. The media is already talking about this as some kind of compromise, like the President has the wisdom of friggin' Solomon or something: cut the sentence in half...

Americans put up with just about anything in politics, but they actually do start drawing the line at rank hypocrisy. The problem is that no one in the media points any of it out, at least with this administration. It's going to get a lot worse, too. Nobody in Washington is fearing crowds showing up at the White House bearing torches and pitchforks.