Friday, October 9, 2009

Barack Obama, The Warmonger, has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Irony is now DEAD.

Barack Obama, the leader of the U.S. forces killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last 261 days, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I read something about it around 4:00 this morning, but assumed it was a send-up by The Onion or Iowahawk.

Lord have mercy, it was just a few weeks ago that The Teleprompter Jesus ordered a dozen Bunker-Busting Bombs for a potential attack on Iran. (Bunker-Busters are the most devastating weapons available without going nuclear.) Here's The Debka File:

All this urgency indicates that the Obama administration has been preparing military muscle to back up the international condemnation of Iran’s concealed nuclear bomb program, its sanctions threat and his willingness to join the negotiations with Iran opening on Oct. 1 in Geneva. Tehran may have to take into account a possible one-time surgical strike against its underground enrichment facility as a warning shot should its defiance continue. In particular, the world powers this week demanded that Iran open up all its nuclear facilities and programs to full and immediate international inspection. Failure to do so could bring forth further US military action.

I heard the folks on NPR fumbling around this morning, trying to explain the Nobel committee's decision. Even that gang of White House Sock Puppets were bewildered. They decided that it was probably awarded for Obama's desire for "Multilateral Approaches" to world conflicts. Note the dark type in the article above. I wonder if Iran is worried about France building up Bunker-Buster stockpiles.....

Everyone knew Obama would get this award, but I figured they would have the decency to wait until he was out of office, the way they did it with Jimmy Carter or The Goracle Of Music City and any other Democrats that I may have overlooked.

Unbelievable. They've given the world's highest honor to a marketing campaign. He's doing everything that Bush did - Gitmo, Two Wars, Wiretaps, etc etc etc - but he's so much nicer about it ! ! And he's willing to get France involved !

Whether our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is just or unjust, our President is the military leader in both wars. He's ordering people to kill other people. If Barack Obama has any sense of shame, he will thank the committee for their consideration and return the prize.

What a freakin' farce.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Karen Armstrong at TCU, Religion in an Age of Terror, and whether our Bible is conservative enough

I went to TCU last night to hear Karen Armstrong give a lecture on "Religion in an Age of Terror: Perils and Possibilities.” Ms. Armstrong is a freelance scholar and one of our best writers on the history of religion.

Here's a rough summary of what she had to say: Religious fundamentalism springs up as a reaction to modernity and the secular state. Those of us in the West experienced modernity as a trickle-down effect over a 300 year period. The Muslim world didn't. Their experience of what we call the modern world came about through colonialism, and is associated with a loss of independence and freedom. Their cultures had to modernize too quickly, and this separated many of the elites from the masses.

You still with me? I'm going somewhere with all this. Hang in there.

The elites saw some of the benefits of Western culture, and some Eastern leaders tried to change their citizens at gunpoint. (Nasser in Egypt, Ataturk in Turkey, etc. Soldiers sometimes were sent into the streets to rip burkhas from faces. Western dress codes were sometimes enforced.) People radicalized as a resistance to their own politicians. Hit these movements, and they become more extreme. All force does is confirm their suspicions.

Please stay with me. I'll get to the point, I promise.

The Gallup organization polled a large group of people in the Middle East shortly after the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. 93% of the Muslims interviewed said that the attacks were not justified. They cited the Koran, stating that to kill one person is to kill the whole world. The remaining 7% who said that the attacks were justified gave political reasons for their beliefs.
"At the beginning of the twentieth century, almost every single Muslim intellectual was in love with the West. After a visit to Paris, Muhammad Abdu (1849-1905), Grand Mufti of Egypt, remarked provocatively: ‘In France I saw Islam but no Muslims; in Cairo I see Muslims but no Islam.’ "

Stop and think of the implications of that for a minute.....

Armstrong went on to argue that almost all religions eventually develop an ideal of compassion as a reaction to new technologies of cruelty and destruction. This ideal of compassion is usually expressed as some form of The Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". The great faiths of the world know that the source of all pain is ego. Greed, selfishness, pride, etc. The goal in these faiths is to step outside the self.

We're almost to the money quote....

Rabbi Hillel, the older contemporary of Jesus, said that when asked to sum up the whole of Jewish teaching, while he stood on one leg, said, "The Golden Rule. That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the Torah. And everything else is only commentary. Now, go and study it."
St. Augustine said that scripture teaches nothing but charity. And if you come to a (scriptural) passage....that seems to preach hatred, you've got to give it an allegorical or metaphorical interpretation, and make it speak of charity.

Got that? We can talk later about whether forcibly taking money from Group A to give to Group B really is "charity" or "compassion". (My belief is that shutting down Washington would be the most charitable and compassionate act imaginable, but I don't want to bog down in that mess during this post.) Armstrong closed her formal remarks by saying that....

We can choose the aspects of our religion that speak of division, hatred, and exclusion, or we can choose compassion.

I left the lecture considering it time well spent. Religious fundamentalism is a reaction to Modernity. Religious fundamentalism is a reaction to Modernity. I got it, but hadn't totally bought into the concept.
Then I got home and found three, count 'em, three emails alerting me to something called "The Conservative Bible Project" at the Conservapedia site. I don't make these things up. You can actually hit real live links to all of this. Here's The Huffington Post:

"Lo and behold, the Bible has gotten too liberal, according to a group of conservatives. And it needs a little editing.
That's the inspiration behind the Conservative Bible Project, which seeks to take the text back to its supposed right-wing roots.
Yes, even scripture is not orthodox enough for the modern conservative. Not that it's the fault of the author(s), exactly. The group cites a few reasons why the Bible is too progressive: "Lack of precision in the original language ... lack of precision in modern language" and "translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one."
So how can the Bible be conservatized? The group has proposed a Wikipedia-like group editing project. Some of the ideas would only bring the translation closer to the original. But others would fundamentally change the text.

Here are some of the areas where they believe our current translations have gone astray:

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity.

Yeah, that's what I think of when I read the Book Of Revelation. Liberal bias. The list goes on:

5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots"; using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census.
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.

The logic of Hell. Like, temporal offenses and eternal punishments. I get the logic there. And there's one more that I've never thought of, but I kinda like:

7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning.

Heck yes ! ! There actually onto something with that one. Prepare for blog posts about the Free Market meaning of Jesus's parables ! ! But here's where they're going to get into trouble:

8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story.

Send the children out of the room. Brace yourself. The Bible story of the woman caught in adultery? And the crowd of religious wingnuts that was about to stone her? And Jesus says "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" ?
That story isn't in the oldest Greek copies of the Gospels. It got shoved in there later.
That's what happened with the last 8 verses of Mark, the part about the resurrection of Jesus. It's not in the oldest manuscripts.
That's what happened with something called the Johannine Comma, (I John 5:7-8, the passage that formed the doctrine of The Trinity.)
Religious conservatives are in for a rude awakening if they go tramping off into those thickets. If they take their findings seriously, they'll have no honest choice but to become religious liberals. But, I digress.

Here's my point: Last night I spent a couple of hours listening to one of our greatest religious historians explain why religious fundamentalism is a reaction to Modernity and Change. When I got home, I found that our local religious fundamentalists had decided that their basic text wasn't fundamentalist enough, and had issued calls to reissue a more conservative version.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

From the best hometown newspaper EVER - The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

This article was on the cover of today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the greatest daily newspaper on this (or any other) planet:

The Associated Press

I've never met Deborah, but I've made a followed her fine work over the years. She specializes in media issues. You can read more of Ms Yao's fine work by going here. It's worth the time and effort. Deborah Yao and The Associated Press - the only way to start your morning.
The Federal Trade Commission will try to regulate blogging for the first time, requiring writers on the Web to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.

I don't understand how people can live without the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I mean, can you really claim to have experienced a Dallas Cowboys game until you read Randy Galloway's analysis the next morning? Can you call yourself a "Fort Worther", and not read Bud Kennedy every day? The great Paul Harral has left the editorial page, but it still carries the lingering aroma of Paul's greatness. Sometimes when I finish reading my Fort Worth Star-Telegram, I spread it on the floor and roll around in it.

The FTC said Monday that its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final Web guidelines, which had been expected. Violating the rules, which take effect Dec. 1, could bring fines of up to $11,000 per violation. Bloggers or advertisers could also face injunctions and be ordered to reimburse consumers for financial losses stemming from inappropriate product reviews.
The last time I went hunting in west Texas, I was walking through some brush and another hunter (a lawyer from Dallas) thought I was a deer. (BTW, have you bothered to look through the Dallas Morning News? What a substandard product!) Anyway, this guy shot at me with a 30-06, and the bullet entered my hunting vest at about 3,000 feet per second. I should've been dead.
What saved me? Tucked away inside my hunting vest was an old Fort Worth Star-Telegram ! The bullet went through the front pages, the comics, sports, life & arts, and finally stopped at a Molly Ivins column.
Did I take this as a sign? You betcha.

The commission stopped short of specifying how bloggers must disclose conflicts of interest. Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC’s advertising practices division, said the disclosure must be "clear and conspicuous," no matter what form it will take.

My Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I love it, love it, love it. You should too.
All the pics of the great Fort Worth Star-Telegram logo came from here. Go there. It will make you a better person.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"The Invention Of Lying" - good movie

I saw the Ricky Gervais movie "The Invention Of Lying" last night. It's a good one.
Imagine a world where everyone tells the truth. The words "truth" and "lie" don't seem to have been invented.
Next, imagine a short, dumpy guy like Gervais showing up for his first date with Jennifer Garner. The truth-telling that follows is hilarious.

Gervais plays a screenwriter assigned to write about the 13th century. (Remember, "fiction" is an unknown concept to these people, so the only books and movies are about history. Actors are pretending, and therefore they're liars. That's why there are no actors in the movies the Gervais character writes.) Everyone tells the cold, hard truth, regardless of the consequences.

Ricky's mother is dying in a nursing home, and she states that she's scared of disappearing into a meaningless non-existence. Ricky wants to ease her pain, and fumbling for a way to comfort her, he tells his mom that she's going on to another world, a painless world where she'll see all her friends again, and she'll always be happy.

Word spreads about this new world. People want to know more. Ricky invents an Invisible Man In The Sky. People want to know more. Ricky says the Invisible Man In The Sky speaks to him. People want to know more. Ricky brings down the Ten Commandments taped to some Pizza Hut boxes (I'll add them to this post as soon as I can find them online....)

When Gervais is explaining that The Invisible Man In The Sky causes everything to happen, a brilliant "Why do bad things happen to good people>" conversation takes place. Ricky's response is the same as every honest theologian's answer : "Hell if I know. You figure it out."

That's all I can tell without going into total spoiler mode.

Most reviews are labeling this movie as a sacreligious diatribe. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has already rated "The Invention of Lying" as "O - morally offensive".

Not so. "The Invention Of Lying" asks most of the big questions, and makes you laugh at your inability to answer them.

You may claim that you've never doubted the existence, or nature, of God. You might even claim that everyone who disagress with you about God's nature is going to be tortured forever. But what if you lived in a world where you had to tell the truth?

James Tyson - "Earth Is Dying"

I spent a pleasant Saturday night with several friends (at the home of the Jihadist Safety Consultant, BTW) playing guitars, swapping songs and eating gumbo.

One of the guys who showed up is James Tyson, who works in the Jukt Micronics pattern shop. James put this little gem on YouTube a couple of weeks ago. It's called "Earth Is Dying".

Good song. For those of you playing along at home, all you need is an E and an A.

That's James on the left. The woman on the right is his friend Victoria, who has a full-time job bothering me about shipping containers.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Denver Broncos 17, Dallas Cowboys 10, with a few words from Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"

The Denver Broncos beat the Dallas Cowboys 17-10. This was not supposed to happen.
Jerry Jones has fired six head coaches.
He has somehow held on to his job as Cowboys' General Manager.
He has taken people's homes by force, bulldozed the houses, and used the space to put up a temple to himself.

This puts me into a poetic mood. Here's some Percy Bysshe Shelley.


I met a traveller from an antique land Who said:
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair ! !

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Note to Jerry, the City of Arlington, and any other municipality that is tempted to abuse Eminent Domain: You really shouldn't steal houses.

Kicker Gratitude

On wanting Obama to fail

Various conservative groups are rejoicing over Obama's failure to land the Olympics in Chicago. Go to The Huffington Post for a summary. This is supposed to reflect the mean-spiritedness, bitterness, and all around nastiness of our partisan political environment, blah blah blah blah....

Mike Lupica has a different take, reminding us that winning an Olympic bid is not the same as a victory for the U.S...

We can talk about winners and losers all we want to now that it is over. The biggest winners of all are the people of Chicago, because their city doesn't have to plunge itself into debt to host the Olympics. This is the kind of winner New York was despite Michael Bloomberg's insane quest to get the 2012 Games, which eventually - and blessedly - went to London.

....The biggest winners of any modern Games are the businessmen who build the stadiums and the villages, and tell us the same thing we hear when another professional sports team wants a new stadium.

But, as usual, I digress. My question is this: Is it ever ok to publicly rejoice when the President Of The United States fails? Here's my friend John Jay Myers on the subject:
I am not against Barack Obama. I am for freedom.
I do not believe that one man from Chicago has suddenly taken control of the United States and is single handedly trying to destroy the country.
I do, however, believe that lobbyists and money control our country, that banks, big insurance, and the military industrial complex etc., have so wrapped their tentacles around the throats of our politicians that the interest of the common man is no longer on their minds.
After all, one party hired Ben Bernanke - a man who 2 months before one of the biggest financial meltdowns in history didn't have a clue what was about to happen, claiming everything was great.
Then, the next party in power? They appoint the same guy. Someone wants that guy in charge, and it isn't the American people.
I think it's important for the Libertarian Party to understand that Obama bashing comes off as single minded and divisive, when doing it we have everything to lose and nothing to gain.
Republicans know where we stand; most Democrats think we are just hardcore Republicans.
So why do we so voluntarily lump ourselves in with them? We can stand for issues, stand against bad policy, but let's prove what I have always thought, that we are the thinking man's party. People like to feel smart. We should be advertising the fact that we are above the fray, that we will not sink to the level of the other groups, which only succeeds in truly dividing this nation.

If American can be divided, if the media can put you in a box, and if that box can be characterized, it's over.
If we try to play be the media's rules, we will never win.
When you choose the Anti Obama stance as a part of your "message" you are alienating 50% of the voting public. I assumed our goal was to actually gain support.
When you do this, you may get Republicans to say "I guess Libertarians aren't SO bad..."

But you are not going to get them to vote for you.

When I was a kid I worked on a parasail boat, and my job was to shout away the tourists on wave runners who would run over our lines, and I was a little over zealous in my shouting, (who'd've thunk it) the owner came up to me and said "Do you know who those people are you are screaming at??" He went on, saying "Those are my future customers!"
The left are our future customers, and we are selling freedom! And we are we shouting at them!!
All of this is not to say that the current administration isn't making bad decisions, they are indeed, but we need to stand on the merits of the decisions, and not demonize one man or a few people. People see through that type of partisan rhetoric. They are sick of it. We need to be a change, a true choice, something different, not a fledgling party who thinks we can now play by "their rules."
I am writing this message in a hope it will get to the powers that be, and that some thought might go into how we frame our stances, in what will be the most important time in the history of the Libertarian Party.

John Jay Myers
Well, I guess that's the last time I can post pictures of Obama with an ACORN nutcap....

I guess I agree with John Jay. If your newsroom starts applauding when Rio Freakin' De Janeiro gets the Olympics instead of Obama's notoriously corrupt Chicago, you might be taking it too far. That's what Joe Voter is going to think, anyway.

So I'm going to try very hard at this new way of looking at things (and typing about them....)
I want Sasha and Malia to make good grades.
I hope that Bo, the Obama's Portuguese Water Dog, can go on a duck hunt this winter.
Speaking of corrupt business deals for sports stadiums, I hope the Washington Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys twice this year. I hope everyone gathered around the White House flatscreen has a great time watching it happen.
That's all I can do for now. This is just too painful.