Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ann Coulter - Warm and Fuzzy

I have taken one for the team. Nearly the supreme sacrifice. I think I should get double points for this. No, triple!

I have listened to all five discs of Ann Coulter's The Church of Liberalism read by the author. I hadn't had the pleasure of reading any of Ms. Coulter's fine work prior to this. I can only say that my initial response to her is that she is the embodiment of the Ultra-Conservative, Vituperative Right-Wing, Bitch Slut From Hell. After some consideration, though, and in all fairness, that might be a bit over the top. I don't believe in hell. I do believe spending around five hours driving about central Indiana listening to her nauseatingly nasal drone is as close to hell as I ever want to get. After each disc ran its course, I just wanted to jump into a vat of Purel and soak for a while. The only fragment of a silver lining behind the dark cloud of her vitriolic prose is that the book on CD is an abridged version of the original. (Hallelujah!)

The ultra-right needed a good liberal basher. Rush Limbaugh just wasn't getting the job done what with his medicinal problems. They needed someone to counter Michael Moore and the mighty Al Franken. Coulter more than fills the bill. She actually may be more adept at the cheap shot than is Moore. She loves to slip them in from the side of her mouth like spittle or drool. She is endlessly condescending and self-righteous.

Now that I have taken my shots (I must admit, it does feel good,) I say this: Setting aside the above mentioned shots and her all encompassing charges, ultimately she mounts some thorough and pretty convincing arguments. It's not a question as to whether I buy them or not (I don't.) She lost credibilitiy with me early on.

But a lot of people have, and will buy into her claims and charges. I haven't the depth of knowledge to counter her debunking of evolution, her denigration of Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plaime, her diatribe against teachers and public education, or her evisceration of what we believe happened at the Scopes trial. Coulter is not stupid. She, at least seemingly, makes thoroughly researched arguments. Are they? I don't know. I certainly hope not.

I am a bit slow in the uptake regarding Coulter. I know she's been out there at her liberal/democrat bashing for some time. There are several web sites and now a few books which attempt to mount counter attacks against her. A few appear to be somewhat successful, most, not so much.

A lot of what I've seen is just more cheap shots. Again, it's fun, but it gets us nowhere. I hope to find some really strong, authoritative, properly researched and substantiated arguments against her.

I find her despicable first due to her divisiveness. Her broad attacks against essentially half of the population of this country - which includes a charge of treason against the entire Democratic party - are just the kind of thing I hate reading or hearing from anyone - from the left or right.

According to Coulter no one professing to be either a liberal or democrat should be allowed to draw breath, let alone serve in any capacity in public office.

Among many blanket charges she makes against all liberals are the following:

That we -
1. Love abortion - want to kill babies as our primary mission
2. Hate science (Yeah, the blond harridin says we hate science. Noell will really like that one.)
3. Love criminals (especially murderers and rapists) - do not want them incarcerated
4. Love terrorists
5. Love Stalin & all communists
6. Hate god (but)
7. Love muslims
8. Lie - always - about everything
9. Love taxes
10. Hate the poor
11. Hate women
12. Hate the elderly
13. Hate freedom

There are others, but you get the idea. We are obviously an evil bunch.

She starts out this book by claiming that liberalism is, as the title would suggest, a religion.

She claims that evolutionists are a cult.

She refers to women who are pro-abortion as "women who have sex with men they don't want to have children with."

She refers to four wives of WTC victims as the "9/11 sluts."

She places the blame for 9/11 wholly in the lap of the Clinton administration. I think she believes that Hillary personally obtained all of the 9/11 terrorists their flight reservations from the infamous White House travel office. She totally absolves the Bush administration from any responsibility. She claims that Clinton was too busy getting off in the Oval Office to be concerned about Osama and his boys.

I do not sit here as an apologist for Bill Clinton. His dalliances with Monica Lewinsky and others remain reprehensible. He damaged both his nation and his presidency. And I do believe that mistakes were made by Mr. Bill and his people regarding terrorist activity both within and beyond our shores. But those mistakes and more were carried forward by Bush and his war mongering cronies. They buried their heads even deeper in the sand. It has been charged repeatedly that even before 9/11, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etal, were obsessed with going to war against Iraq. The September attacks just provided them the license, as it were, to mix it up with Saddam without an iota of proof that any Iraqis were involved. Dubya had to revenge H Dubya, for goodness sakes.

Second, Ann Coulter is despicable in that, just as with Rush Limbaugh, she is laughing all the way to the bank. While I don't suppose there is any danger of her net worth overtaking "The Donald," she has nevertheless made a great deal of money on the backs of liberals and democrats. She is making hay out of what should be measured and properly considered discourse. We are talking about the welfare of a nation - perhaps, if things go badly, civilization itself.

I find what Coulter and others of her ilk on both sides of the left/right argument are doing is, in effect, making us a more seriously polarized nation in an unstable and dangerous world.

They are playing with fire.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Christians: They're Everywhere!

When I was young - gosh, it seems like it could have been a whole other century - most people practiced their faith, or lack thereof, quietly. It was considered to be a personal affair. One's religious belief was not a public issue. Generally, the faithful attended church, sent the young ones to Sunday school, went to a few pot luck suppers, but otherwise went on with their lives, doing their jobs, raising their kids, most of whom went to neighborhood public schools, and maintained their households, without making an issue of their particular religious affiliation. Only the fringe - the wackos - jehovah witness, pentecosts, tongue talkers - were likely to be knocking on your door to scam you into joining their flock.

Our next door neighbors until I was around 13 or 14 were Lutherans. We were not. Their son was a year older than I, but we were best friends during most of that time. They were active in their church, but did not at any time make an issue of it with me or my family. After they moved away, their son, Jerry and I drifted apart, but it had little to do with religion. We just moved in different directions with our interests and activities. For instance, Jerry paid attention in class and received As and Bs, became a pharmacist, an executive and community leader. I spent a great deal of time staring out the window and frequently scratching where it itched and received the consequent Ds and Fs, and well, here I am in my basement writing this drivel. A truely qualitative difference.

Over the last few years it seems that christians have been coming out of the woodwork. I know they've always been around, but they weren't usually so obvious about it. Now, everywhere you go, christians seem to make themselves conspicuous. Most certainly it had pretty much everything to do with the political swing to the right this country has endured over the last 12 years or so - at least since the '94 mid-term elections. There are christian bookstores, christian gift shops, christian restaurants. One such establishment here serves pretty good food, but the piped in music is a constant din of 'happy, upbeat, ain't we wonderful that god is great and loves us all' pop junk. Here in Indy there is a christian appliance repair business, a christian tree trimming business, christian lawyers, dentists and doctors, and a even a christian pawn shop. (or shoppe - if you like.) I'm sure there are many others.

Whenever a commercial building or store front in a strip center comes up vacant, within weeks or perhaps a few months it almost invariably becomes some kind of church. Churches of all sizes and denominations are popping up like mushrooms. And then there are the "mega churches."

Even the hated Hollywood TV moguls buckled under the pressure and paid homage to christians with the unbelievably sappy and even more unbelievably successful Touched By An Angel and its less successful spinoff Promised Land. A plethora of other spiritually based shows hit the air waves over those years and some remain. The premise of Touched was that god sent as many as 5 or 6 angels to put some pathetic bastard's life back on track. It would generally be some upper middle class yuppy type who is having a substance abuse problem, who's marriage is on the rocks and the fellow has lost his right to coach daughter Muffy's soccer team. So all these angels work their slight of hand and, BINGO!, after a proper amount of agonized soul searching while sitting amongst the ashes and gnashing of teeth, Mr. Yup discovers god's grace, and his life achieves heavenly bliss. My problem with the conceit of this show was its having angels so involved with someone's relatively trivial problems while millions of people remain starving and dying all over the world. How many of god's angels are looking out for them? Oh, of course, I'm forgetting, most of those folks aren't christians, are they? Guess they aren't covered by the proper 'holier-than-thou' insurance policy. Tough luck for them. They didn't read the fine print. Programs like Touched By An Angel just add to the absurdity.

The only one of those programs I found palatable was Showtime's Dead Like Me with Mandy Patinkin. At least it had an edge. The main character, Georgia Lass, an 18 year old slacker is struck dead by a toilet seat from a falling Russian space station, and then is drafted into service as a grim reaper. That's pretty good.

And, of course, we were also blessed with Mel Gibson's even handed The Passion of the Christ. Mazel tov!

People of all faiths have come to brandishing it like a badge of honor. In time, if left unabated, they may come to wield it more like a bludgeon.

I do sense a change in the wind. As approval ratings for republicans across the country are plummeting, it seems that public attitudes toward religion are also shifting, if only slightly. A couple of the new network shows I've seen (namely Studio 60 and ER) have openly christian characters who are looney or at least a little ditsy.

Of course christians will be up in arms about such a shift and will continue to point fingers angrily at the liberal media for unseemly attacks on the godly.

I believe, and I assume most non-believers would agree, that religion and a belief in god are the stuff of fantasy. Wishful thinking. A giving over one's earthly humanity in favor of cowing to some mythical, king-like, supposedly all forgiving, yet ultimately vengeful lord, who is going to make things all better for eternity. But you gotta give it up for him completely, or he will drop the dime on you springing open the trap door beneath your feet sending you sprawling headlong into the broiling abyss of hell. You damn well better get it right!

In other words, the derision is earned.


Tongue talkers???

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Letter to a Christian Nation

Hey, I read another book. I'm gettin' downright wormy with this effort.

I recently finished Sam Harris' very little tome Letter to a Christian Nation www.samharris.org/site/book_http://. In around 90 pages Harris more or less distills much of his work in his previous book, The End of Faith.

It is written, as the title suggests, as a letter to American christians; written in earnest, in dismay, in anger and with a sense of urgency. He shares the fear I harbour that between radicals in both the christian and muslim camps, we may well find ourselves hurled headlong into armageddon as their respective god's warriors.

After the publication of The End of Faith, Harris apparently received literally thousands of letters and e-mails, mainly from christians chastising him for his atheism. Many were threatening (god would be proud.) It seems likely that Harris would never have endeavored to write either of these books if he did believe in god.

Beginning with a 'Note to the Reader' Harris states his purpose in writing his second book "is to arm secularists in our society, who believe that religion should be kept out of public policy, against their opponents on the Christian Right." He "set(s) out to demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most commited forms." He ends the 'Note' thus: "Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious (Harris' italics.) The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency."

Harris begins his "letter" by launching into the bible debunking claims that it portrays a loving, forgiving god citing numerous passages, which expose an overly righteous and vengeful lord of lords who finds no end of transgressions for which death is the only proper punishment, and which he metes out with great regularity. Harris notes a number of instances wherein god and his only begotten son condone slavery and admonish slaves for not being properly servile. The so called "golden rule," which Harris accepts as having merit, but notes that the "rule" is found in its essence in any number of other religious traditions, some far older than judaism or christianity.

I find myself wanting to quote him line by line. But I will curb my enthusiasm. (And keep in mind that I am a quintessentially lazy old fart.) Suffice it to say that throughout the book, Harris debunks much of the bible as a source of moral living and a portrayal of a loving, all forgiving god. He blasts christians for their stand against abortion and any form of contraception, even in areas plagued by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. He lambasts the Bush administration for its withholding funding to these areas of the world if they even mention contraception or abortion as a viable alternative. Harris finds it maddeningly ironic that it is so often self-proclaimed religious people who fail as humanitarians.

Harris does not spare muslims in lite of their continuing violence against pretty much everybody, even each other. In The End of Faith Harris takes 3 or 4 pages to cite the numerous calls to violence and murder found in the Quran.

As I noted above, "Letter" has an angry feel to it. One can imagine Harris becoming incensed at the tone of the angry and threatening e-mails and letters he received and heatedly proceeding to plunk out this little book in response. But, as I also stated, the book is written with a sense of urgency. Harris is aware and alarmed at the prospect of a world careening toward a conflagration which could literally cost millions of lives, could render significant portions of the world uninhabitable, and set civilization back, perhaps, centuries.

Anyone who believes that such a war would be glorious has no idea what it would be like to live with the reality of violent death and destruction in our own backyards. (Admittedly, I don't either, but I don't find the prospect alluring.) Other than the attacks on Pearl Harbor and of course those on 9/11, those of us living in the US and Canada have never experienced war on our home front.(I know, we here in the US had our Civil War, but unless I'm mistaken, none of us were alive back then.) If I believed in a god, I'd say we were blessed. But those days could be coming to an end. Millions of people in other parts of the world live day to day with the constant threat of death by any number of means - shooting, various and sundry finely honed torture techniques, beheading, and a myriad of things that go boom. We can't imagine that. I can't imagine that. The stakes are high. Perhaps the highest.

Give either or both of Sam Harris' books a read. You'll be disturbed you did.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

I Knew It!

Well, I didn't exactly know it, but I have suspected it for some time. What? you might ask.

In earlier posts I have commented on the alliance of right wing politicos with fundamentalist christians. I have asked on a couple of occasions, Just who was using whom? Well if you happened to watch this evening's 60 Minutes you might have found an answer.

David Kuo, a fundamentalist christian, who had been hired to head up the White House faith based initiatives program, has written a "tell all" book about his experience, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction."His experience did not turn out as he expected.

Kuo recounts how, once ensconsed, White House politicos openly regarded evangelicals as "nuts" and "goofy." He claims that 'people in the White House political affairs office referred to Pat Robertson as "insane" (I would agree with that one, by the way,) Jerry Falwell as "ridiculous" and that James Dobson "had to be controlled." They referred to evangelicals as wackos.

Ah, such is the stuff of betrayal.

Kuo claims that while Bush publically promissed to provide around eight billion dollars for faith based programs for the poor, only about sixty million had been spent after 2 years - less than 1% of the amount promissed. Kuo goes on to claim that the republicans politicized or otherwise used religious issues in various ways to bolster their position.

Noooo! Say it isn't so! Republicans failing the poor? Nawww!

The White House response is that Kuo's claims are "ridiculous" and that he is obviously politically naive.

That may be. But the entire scenario Kuo describes upholds my early suspicions that the republican wooing of the christian right was an elaborate ploy to get their votes. They used hot button issues - abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research and so on to galvanize the evangelicals against the supposed godless democrats. It worked.

But Kuo paints a compelling picture of an administration that got what it wanted, using fundamentalists to gain and maintain their hold on the White House and Congress, only to effectively distance themselves after the votes were counted. Kuo states that Bush and others in his administration have repeatedly made impassioned speeches and other public statements in support of christian issues, but when it came time to pay the piper, more often than not, they looked the other way.

Why am I not surprised? How can people believe that the likes of Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld are devoted to a christian agenda? They are two of the most cynical, reactionary politicians alive. Bush is no more than their dupe, their prop. Apparently, so too were the christians.

Now that the mid-term elections loom large, and things are not going so well for republicans in several key congressional races, many of the rep campaigns are relying on the same old issues of gay marriage, flag burning and abortion hoping to once again hypnotize christians into mindlessly punching republican chads on election day. Hopefully, enough of those people will realize that they are not truly being served by the party most allied with and answerable to big corporate interests, that perhaps religious issues should not be an integral part of American political discourse.

We should also keep in mind that dozens of Americans and countless others are dying every week in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the situation in Iraq is devolving into a chaotic civil war which we are powerless to control. There is no honorable way out. To "cut and run" may not be honorable or dignified, but it might save American lives. How many more of our young people will have to die in the effort to save face? We got our butts kicked out of Viet Nam, and the same is apt to happen in Iraq. It is likely that the Iraqis and Afghans will continue to kill each other for a long time to come whether we "stay the course" or not. In the meantime North Korea has lit a fuse which we are in no position politically or militarily to snuff out.

Christians should think twice before going along for the ride.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My Previous Post

I suppose my previous post qualifies as a rant, or even a smart assed effort at making hay over the bodies of slain children. If that's how anyone has taken it, I apologize. However, while it was written in anger and was meant to be sarcastic, it was not done on a lark or simply to be clever. I have long been against unrestrained gun ownership. These recent attacks in schools might never have happened if the perpetrators did not have such ready access to guns.

I understand that most gun legislation has been ineffective. That is due in large part to the successful efforts of those working against such legislation in drastically watering down most of the laws relegating them to their impotency.

One of the interesting things discussed in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine was just why it is that we Americans kill each other so frequently, and more often than not, with guns. In the end, there was no clear answer. There are other countries - namely Canada, among others which have a large number of privately owned guns, but shootings are generally rare. Other issues - possible explanations - were discussed in the film to no particular avail.

I feel that it is due to an admixture of both our puritan and pioneer past which in some odd way renders us suspicious and fearful of one another. We just don't like each other very much.

There are doubtless other, more well considered explanations. However, the end result is that Americans tend to shoot first and screw the questions altogether. Indianapolis is on track to exceed its yearly murder record. Two or three of our fair citizens are being blown away about every day. It's been reported that there has been a good deal more gang activity in the city of late. Gang bangers come from Chicago and recently and notably some have made their way here from New Jersey to purchase guns. Indiana gun laws are laughably ineffective. It's much more difficult to obtain a hand gun most anywhere else in the country than in Indiana. (Recent legislation coming out of the Indiana State House allows people to carry guns - even hand guns into our state parks. Another new law allows our legislators to carry heat in the State House.)

Apparently, some of the out-of-town gangers have decided to settle here. I guess they figured Indy would be a good place to raise their kids. Kinda warms the cockles of my heart. Bet they'd be hell on wheels at a turkey shoot.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bang, Bang

The recent rash of shootings in schools across the country mark yet another victory for the NRA and righteous gun owners throughout the land. It's comforting to know while it's unfortunate a number of young people got their faces blown off, that at least no tree hugging liberal son of a bitch prevented any of those mis-understood good old boys from their god given right to have and own any and all the guns their little pea pickin' hearts desired. There is afterall, a price to be paid for liberty. We can't let the lives of a few rug rats or panty waste teachers or some faggot principals interfere with our mandate to build up our arsenals.

God, says in Rutabaga 9:14 that his army of born again true believers must be armed to the teeth so as to be ready to march with jesus in that final glorious battle against the minions of the devil. Otherwise, most all of us is good folk who wouldn't hurt nary a fly unless need be.

A loyal apologist adds: