Friday, June 22, 2007

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

This short opinion piece by Kevin Myers is fascinating in it's central thesis that a belief in God, not necessarily the existence of God herself mind you, more often than not leads to a kinder, gentler society.

But here is the paradox. Rulers who believed in a Divine Creator have tended to create gentler societies than have atheists. The twentieth century was the first in which various avowedly godless states came into existence: and robbed of the inhibitions caused by a belief in the afterlife, the most astonishingly lawless regimes in world history emerged. The Aztec society which removed a heart each dawn from a teenage rib-cage to lure the sun-god from his couch, the Dahomey chieftain who daily dispatched a child to the afterlife to enquire after the health of his ancestors. Why, these were positively vegan compared to the godless butchers of the 20th century, the fine fellows who variously supervised human affairs from the Rhineland to Vladivostok, and from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the South China Sea. Their victims can be measured, not in the modest hundreds but in the hundreds of millions. The world has never, ever seen anything like the evil triumphs of the totalitarian secular states of the 20th century.

Which is not an argument in favour of the existence of god, merely one in favour of the belief in one: it is the social utility of a theistic faith which is appealing, not the fictions which lie at its heart.
It's a terrific argument but unfortunately grounded on tons of logical fallacies and historical oversights which Myers simply ignores.

First off the idea that religion and totalitarian dictatorships cannot commingle is ridiculous. I would suggest Myers check this page for just a couple of examples of how the Nazi state merged the Christian religion with the government. Hitler himself famously said "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." Another famous founder of a totalitarian state who later went on to found the Beatles, said "religion is the opiate of the masses."

Totalitarian states COUNT on the religious. They are the ones least likely to question, quick to dispense with personal morality when carrying out the greater will of the god/ state. I would argue that a large contingent of the faithful is a necessity to a fascist state.

Then there's the idea that the predominance of Christianity itself will lead to a kinder, gentler state. I'm sure all those who died in the crusades and inquisition would be quick to back up that idea. But violence and cruelty aren't limited to Christianity. What the hell is the Aztec sacrifice example that Myers uses if not as a demonstration of the violence of religion? Religion doesn't mean peace. It just means for more organized violence.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

It just doesn't matter.

This "investigative" piece on the political contributions of journalists is stunningly imbecilic.

OSTON - A CNN reporter gave $500 to John Kerry's campaign the same month he was embedded with the U.S. Army in Iraq. An assistant managing editor at Forbes magazine not only sent $2,000 to Republicans, but also volunteers as a director of an ExxonMobil-funded group that questions global warming. A junior editor at Dow Jones Newswires gave $1,036 to the liberal group and keeps a blog listing "people I don't like," starting with George Bush, Pat Robertson, the Christian Coalition, the NRA and corporate America ("these are the people who are really in charge").

Whether you sample your news feed from ABC or CBS (or, yes, even NBC and MSNBC), whether you prefer Fox News Channel or National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal or The New Yorker, some of the journalists feeding you are also feeding cash to politicians, parties or political action committees.

Look, I don't give a rat's ass whether journalists contribute campaign cash to the Republican party, the Democratic party or the People's Front of Judea. It just doesn't matter. The problem with journalism today isn't that journalists are too engaged or too biased towards their individual causes. The problem with journalism today is that modern journalism is too biased towards "objectivity." At least their own twisted concept of what objectivity means.

As long as journalism continues to conflate relativism and objectivity then people will think journalism sucks.

We keep you alive to serve this ship. So row well, and live.

This story hits the Republican anti-immigrant base/ support the troops/ Bush is a moral man trifecta.

CBS/AP) While the U.S. military searches for a soldier missing in Iraq, kidnapped by insurgents possibly allied with al Qaeda, his wife back home in Massachusetts may be deported by the U.S. government.

Army Spec. Alex Jimenez, who has been missing since his unit was attacked by insurgents in Iraq on May 12, had petitioned for a green card for his wife, Yaderlin Hiraldo, whom he married in 2004.

Their attorney, Matthew Kolken, said 23-year-old Hiraldo illegally entered the United States in 2001 to reunite with her husband, whom she had met in her native Dominican Republic and later married at his New York State Army base in 2004.

If you haven't been following the search for the two soldiers then suffice it say it looks like Jimenez is most likely dead. Judging by state of the body of his squad mate that they recovered it's a good guess to say his death was probably pretty horrible.

You could argue that he knew the risks when he signed up and that he probably signed up just to gain residency for himself and his wife. I don't care. The least you could say is that he took that risk. Most of the critics of immigration seem to fall squarely into the chickenhawk category when it comes to the war in Iraq from where I'm sitting. He's obviously a braver man than they, regardless of his reasons.

All that doesn't even begin to touch on the thing that really disgusts me about this story. The Bush administration could give her amnesty with a wave of a pen. It doesn't appear to this point that they've avoided doing so out of any weird idea about sticking to the letter of the law (but only on immigration, mind you) but rather that they simply don't care.

It's just another vivid reminder that the soldiers and their families are worthless in the eyes of this administration unless it's in their capacity as props to stand behind the President while he delivers a speech on how he's tough on terror.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

If you don't tell me what I want to know, then it'll just be a question of how much you want it to hurt.

I'm so happy that Justice Scalia is turning to a fictional character in defining his own brand of jurisprudence. The "Jack Bauer Rule" can be the definitive legal defense employed by torturers everywhere.

Of little note is the fact that this isn't the only element of Scalia's legal philosophy grounded on creative fiction. Here are some of his lesser known legal theories:

The Bugs Bunny Rule - Shooting a buddy in the face with a shotgun is okay since he'll be magically okay by the next scene. If you do it while dressed by a girl bunny then you can't even be charged.

The A-Team Defense - Guns don't kill people. Guns don't even HIT people, just the ground around their feet. The Second Amendment rules supreme.

The Caddyshack Clause - Gopher removal is allowable by any means necessary. Gambling is legal at Bushwood as long as the club President is involved.

The Caped Crusader Rule - It is allowable to shot a suspect with a neutrino ray, drop a suspect into a vat of chemicals or off a clock tower or blast a suspect into atoms as long as that suspect defines themselves as a "supervillain" (or a "liberal.")

The Dirty Harry Defense - (Also referred as the "Deathwish Doctrine.") Vigilante killing is not illegal, especially if it's in revenge for the murder of the member of one's family.

The Arsenic and Old Lace Amendment - cute little old ladies can get away with anything.

And now for something completely different.

No reason to link this otherwise uninteresting article other than the fact I thought this quote was funny-

Snow acknowledged that U.S. officials have heard similar positive statements from Iraqi leaders before, but said: "We think they are very serious in moving on the key items. ... I think the president was impressed and reassured by the sense of seriousness that he heard"
Iraqi leaders weren't that serious before but they are now and the Prezident is really serious about how serious they've become.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Do you have the slightest idea what a moral and ethical principle is? Do you?

Josh Marshall makes a great observation (as usual) on the hullabaloo surrounding Reid's "incompetent" comment on General Pace.

Thinking back over the blather last week over Sen. Reid's (D-NV) comments about Gen. Pace, it's quite astonishing that the White House could with a straight face attack Reid for questioning Pace's competence only day's after they'd fired him. Think about that. The White House fires Pace as part of its many-month effort to sack everyone from the Rumsfeld era at the Pentagon. And Reid is in hot water for questioning the man's abilities?

This incident was also illustrative of the insane relativist media-driven world we live in these days. In the last few weeks we've had to endure debates about Nancy Pelosi's "earmarks" initiated by the architects of the biggest budget deficits in history who have literally thrown taxpayer's money into a bottomless pit in Iraq, Diane Feinstein's "secret' land dealings begun by some of the very same people who gave us the K-Street project and then Reid's criticism of a General's incompetence started by the people who are, well, incompetent.

In a rational world this idiocy would've been laughed off by reporters and never seen the light of day. You don't go to Paris Hilton for advice on avoiding sustance abuse or Charles Manson for information on how to love your fellow man. The source in and of itself should have been enough to kill these non-stories well before they made it onto our teevees. These are indeed strange times.