Thursday, July 27, 2006


I just heard Libby Dole tell us that Iraq was the central battle in the "War on Terra". As any fan of science fiction or Latin knows, this is a frightening mispronunciation. On the other hand, maybe it's the one Bush has really been fighting all this time. In fact, the evidence supports this interpretation. The Bush cabal has usurped control of the U.S. military and has led the entire world deep into the first stages of global conflict. In many ways Bush really has taken on the world, too, by flaunting public opinion and human decency. Of course 30% of the American public still approves of Bush's foreign policy. Who the HELL are they? I have a guess.

This brings me to this weeks hot topic: the end of the world. Pundits have all week been spuriously opining in response to questions like “Are we on the verge of WWIII?” People are starting to use words like Armageddon and End Times in the present tense. As if 'WWIII' wasn't scary enough. There's some hill in Lebanon that people are saying IS the place this word refers to. And of course, Israel is attacking near it. Aha! That was prophesied! Another little window to open on our "countdown to the apocalypse" Advent calendar.

Many are looking at the real-world death, suffering, and war and getting that "here we go!" feeling of being just barely over the edge of the roller coaster's first hill. Throw up your hands and scream. We're descending into the end days....wheeeeeee!


And, even sicker, some of them believe they're so right(eous?) that they'll be 'raptured' and not even have to watch all the rest of us go through the foretold horrors. How nice. Convenient, even, I would say.

I'm starting to believe.

I mean, no - I don't believe for a minute that the authors of Daniel and Ezekiel and Revelation actually had foreknowledge of anything. Their "prophecies" read exactly like the horoscopes and cold readings of a million mystics and con artists since. "A beast with seven heads will arise" Oh, my! How...inexplicable. Could it be the G-7? No, now they're the G-8. Or maybe it’s the seven horses in the Preakness. Or the year 2007. Or the 6 people and one dog that attended my homeowners' association meeting last month.

My point is, we humans are programmed to try to find meaning where there is none (that cloud looks like an alligator!) Unfortunately, this makes it relatively easy for many of us ‘find’ the meanings that we deeply want to find (that cloud formation is a sign that my alma mater of Florida will win this week!). And because people are so desperate for some meaning to exist, they readily accept meanings suggested to them by those with agendas of their own. Sadly, evil, selfish, and power hungry ‘prophets’ regularly convince others of their insights by the force of their conviction and charisma. It's pathetic, really. (How many times has Pat Robertson been wrong in his predictions? But he still has a tv show. Praise the Lord!) Karl Rove understands all this too well.

No, I don’t believe in prophecy, but I'm starting to believe that the world is really headed for exactly the kinds of events that believers will say Revelation describes. (That is: fire, brimstone, war, plague, death, suffering, wailing. The works.) This is the future that Bush’s policies are knowingly or unknowingly driving us toward. But of course, it isn’t the work of any god. It is ours alone, because we allow it.

The horrible irony is that the whole thing is quite literally a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's these good Christians that have most brought these events about. It's they who voted for Bush and the Neocons - twice - and continue to be his power base. It's they who made reason, facts, and objectivity anathema, allowing a government to ignore science and scholarship and say things like "we are not part of the reality-based community". It's they who protect Bush from criticism and ignore every flaw and error. These believers do what they're good at - they believe. They believe despite facts, despite rational thought, despite the world falling down around them. It's called "faith"; and when placed in the wrong person, or the wrong interpretation of the world, it's utterly destructive. It's the same mind set that fuels the Muslim fundamentalists that are at war with the U.S. The exact same.

Now, the really depraved thing is that this doesn't bother a lot of fundamentalists. Something about the fact that horrible suffering and death is predicted in the bible makes some Christians happy with its prospect. They have such a poor connection to their fellow human beings, such a selfish, self-righteous, self-important attitude, that they're completely happy to abstractly sacrifice lives, hopes, and happiness of any number of others on the fool's bet that they will be soon getting their personal paradise. This certainly isn't Christian as I understand the term (in the manner of Christ), even from a believer's point of view. It’s selfishness and pride, nothing more.

It’s long been said that Bush and his followers see their role as actively bringing about the prophecies. Let me suggest that if indeed God has an Apocalypse in mind, he doesn’t need your help to bring it about, nor your advice about its timing. And he hasn’t asked for it. As a matter of fact, He might very well be expecting you to heroically resist its arrival out of Christian mercy right up until the end. Don’t you think that sounds more like the God who sacrificed his only Son for humanity? Let me ask you... are you praying for the Apocalypse to come or praying for it to be avoided? Are you ready for forgiveness, compassion, and sacrifice, or are you secretly glad the nonbelievers will soon be tormented so you can sanctimoniously give them an “I told you so” while waving your copy of “Left Behind” at them?
The world is moving to war. What are you doing to prevent it? To allow the suffering and destruction that's coming to the world because of your own personal hopes is the height of Christian hypocrisy. What are you doing to save the world from destruction? Are you repudiating this false prophet of a leader? Are you calling for America to turn the other cheek and display mercy and love to the Arab world?

Normally, I don’t get so deep into religious argument: it’s ultimately futile. But we’ve come to a precarious point politically. Much of Christian world - and maybe our president as well - is turning into a fatalistic Doomsday Cult, and the movement is growing. Unfortunately unlike most of the other doomsday cults in the past, they have enormous political power, and that makes them incredibly dangerous, because it’s our day they’re dooming.

From my point of view, whether the biblical prophecies are accurate or not, any who callously help to bring about the destruction of life is my enemy and the enemy of humanity. And this includes those who watch and do nothing. We are only in the End Times if we allow it to be so. This post is a plea to all people of sense and good will to let their voices be heard, a call to arms against the venomous ideas of apocalyptical politics, and a reminder that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The value of a life

It's been way too long since I posted here. I apologize. I think I'll try for a little less length and a little more frequency. Starting now.

So the topic today is one of they many interesting factoids I've heard lately about current islamic opinion. I've heard it said that many in the Islamic world believe that the West - and America in particular - does not value the life of a Muslim as much as the life of a Christian (or a Jew).

They've come to this conclusion, having watched the U.S. invade and occupy Iraq apparently without due concern for the life, human rights, and safety of the Iraqi people. And now they hear the president rally behind Isreal's war in Lebannon, apparently comfortable with the loss of Muslim life that gets in the way. We have a policy, and we are willing to pay a cost to acheive it, so long as that cost is primarily borne by the (Muslim) population and our gas prices don't go too high.

But I want to tell Muslims - from the heart - that this perception is simply untrue, and it is offensive and disturbing to hear this. We don't value Muslim life differently than the lives of people of other faiths. As evidence of this, I offer U.S. foriegn policy. The U.S. has been happily complicit with genocides of people of all faiths around the world. True, the people of Darfur are Muslim, but the Rwandans were mostly Christian. The Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge were Buddhist. We have gladly supported regimes who have brutally repressed and murdered their own population, whether Catholic, Buddhist, or Animist. Just look at central America. No, the truth is the reason we ignore the misery of most Muslims is simply that we value the lives of the poor less than the lives of the wealthy. The people of poor countries, especially the lower classes and the native peoples, are vast unwashed masses to us.

Every week seems to bring some natural disaster that wipes out hundreds or thousands of impoverished people like ants. We feel powerless to prevent such things. And we don't need to care about them so long as we don't have to look at them. And that's what we do: we ignore the misery and poverty of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and those who practice native religions alike. How can we be expected to care much about such people, anyway, if they don't care enough about themselves to pull themselves up by their bootstraps (What? They don't have shoes? That's no excuse!).

Note our response to the misery of our own poor in New Orleans during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The government was utterly leisurely in its response to that calamity, even though it occurred right here at home because it - as most disasters do - primarily affected the underclass. The devoutly Christian underclass.

So I say this to the Muslims in Iraq and Lebannon enduring daily violence, sorrow, and fear, which American policy facilitates: just be glad you're not also black.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Punditry and the facts

I'm so tired of watching dueling spinmeisters on my tv. When's the last time you saw someone consulted on any of the issues who really tried to be objective? –who wasn’t vomiting forth talking points and playing party-defense like a linebacker?—and wasn’t getting away with it? (of course, I omit the only truly objective mainstream news outlet: NPR, which, of course, isn’t on tv. PBS has had its moments.)

The entire system is culpable here. Neither party thinks we have the attention span or the wherewithal to actually understand the issues, so all policy initiatives and stances are boiled down to a slogan and a smear, or they’re buried.

For the media’s part, a fight is always more attention-grabbing than an insightful, productive discussion, so they fulfill the role of the kid in junior high who said “did you hear Jason called you a fag?” and then stand back to watch. They have less and less interest in actually informing anyone, anyway--information would make us slightly more resistant to the fearmongering and infotainment that is their bread and butter. And maybe less likely to buy their sponsor's products.

Pundits and personalities have largely taken sides in the Washington all-out power struggle, which gets them lots of face-time (see above) and plenty of opportunities to plug their next book. It also ingratiates them to a party power elite, which I assume has its own perks.

All too often, it's not even a real contest of ideas--it’s all a dance. They know the other guy (and the host) is in the same game they are, and they know already what they’ll say. They all agree to worship the gods of charisma and showmanship, rather than wisdom or sorrow. And they agree to confine their conversations to the topics-of-the-day: those 4 or 5 issues that are temporarily somehow at the top of everyone’s agenda at once, until the president holds a press conference to change the subject. They spar, they smile, and they agree to disagree. Then the host says “when we come back…gas prices- are they too high?” immediately after which we are urged to by a Hummer.

So I sit there sometimes screaming at my tv: “that’s so misleading!” “That’s not what you said last year!” “That’s been debunked!” “that makes no sense!”, “you can’t possibly believe that!” and of course “you bald-faced, mothercountryfucking rat-bastard liar!” among other less kind things.

All cynicism about the media aside, there’s very little a show host, or any intellectual opponent, can do about much of the spinning (read “lying”) that goes on. They don’t have access to the facts at their fingertips to counter every warping of reality that comes out of people’s mouths. And, even if they do, there’s no arbiter: no matter how right one is, it’s still he said, she said. And the bell can’t be unrung.

So, now, having liberally cursed the darkness, I’m going to light a candle. My solution to this problem is a new talk show format:

Pop up Punditry!

Ever see MTV’s Pop up Video? Or Blind Date?

I Imagine watching Cheney on some show talking about how responsible the big oil companies really are, but with a thought bubble above his head: “I know cuz they’re all good buddies of mine…and the president…and the Saudis.” Or to have a streamer across the bottom saying “VP panders to special interests in 3..2..1” Or just a little animated Cheney head guzzling gas from the pump.

Established facts and unbiased statistics could be added to the screen at the appropriate times to support or contradict the speaker: “Actually, Iraq never attacked the U.S., 19 Saudis trained in Pakistan did”. Talking points could be pointed out as they are given (an inset picture of 3 other people saying the same line, “democrats want to cut and run”, one after the other. Logical flaws could be highlighted and simplifications could be stretched out to their logical conclusions. Current promises could be contrasted with past acts. A dollar sign covered banner could inform us about how much money a relevant interest group spent on someone’s campaign. The real-world implications of knee jerk positions could be depicted (like war casualties when someone hypes military action). Like having The Daily Show's Jon Stewart sitting next to you while you watch.

I’m sure you could find a way to do it so it’s fair and not mean spirited, although I’m not sure I’m the one to do that in my present mood. I honestly think the Washington community are such media-crackwhores that they’ll jump at the chance to do such a show, even if they were made to look foolish. How could that show not get ratings?!? It might even force them to be considered, factual, and consistent. But maybe not.

If you’ve got any pop-up punditry fantasies, share them.