Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who's The Man?

and now Obama, who doesn't even seem adolescent to me, just nothing. Not only is he of indeterminate developmental age, but of ambiguous "gender" as well. He has a pseudo-adult mind that can only recycle half-understood slogans he learned in college, and he seems devoid of any manly virtues at all. Like Clinton, he can only imitate them.
--Gagdad Bob

Obama is devoid of all manly virtues? What virtues are those? Working hard and earning a good living? Being a devoted and faithful husband and loving father? Successfully raising a family? Playing a mean game of basketball? How is Obama any less a man than YOU? How is his "gender" any more "ambiguous" than YOURS? Who and what are YOU to denigrate Barack Obama's manhood? What "manly virtues" do YOU exhibit that Obama doesn't?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Three Conservative Pundits

I feel pretty bored with my job much of the time. I imagine that many people do. Fortunately, I'm allowed to listen to my little Sony Walkman radio while performing some of my more monotonously menial tasks, and I like to listen to talk radio some of that time.

The only talk radio station I can pull in clearly, besides a conservative Catholic station, is conservative newstalk KTKZ. It's 6AM to midnight lineup consists, in the following order, of syndicated hosts Bill Bennett, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Miller, and Mike Gallagher.

Despite my liberal leanings, I enjoy listening to this station. I used to switch back and forth between it and a local liberal talk radio station so that I could get contrasting perspectives on controversial issues and, more generally, the world at large. But when the liberal station changed to an all gospel music format, KTKZ became my only local newstalk radio option.

Since I work swing shift, the hosts I hear at work are Dennis Miller and Mike Gallagher. I must admit that I was surprised the first time I saw Miller on HBO praising President Bush and the war in Iraq. I suppose I entertained the naive assumption that anyone who used to do a satirical newscast on hip Saturday Night Live had to be "one of us"--the few, the proud, the liberals.

Well, Dennis Miller is no liberal. He thinks Bush is the best president of his lifetime and has tremendous admiration for him. He is 100% behind the war in Iraq and constantly lampoons liberal politicians, ideas, and causes. But he's also a very sharp guy who's remarkably articulate and witty and who has an amazing memory for movies, TV shows, sporting events, and other elements of past and present popular culture and can draw clever allusions to them with machinegun-like rapidity. Even when I disagree with him, which is much of the time, I enjoy hearing him riff on politics and politicians. And another thing I appreciate about him is that he doesn't come across as a fanatic. He seems to have a healthy distaste for zealots on both sides of the political continuum and will challenge them to justify their opinions.

Mike Gallagher is an entirely different story. I might formerly have characterized him as a Rush Limbaugh wannabe whose booming, blustery voice and stereotypical arch-conservatism is, wittingly or unwittingly, a caricature of right-wing lunacy. And I might have proceeded to comment that when he goes to a commercial break, a synthesizer plays a long note undoubtedly meant to sound imposingly momentous but which actually sounds like a monstrous human gasbag deflating before the pressure of its verbal flatulence builds to a sudden, massive explosion that reduces the poor man to human fragments scattered all over his studio.

I might have said that, but I won't. I'll just say that anyone who states, as he did awhile back, that Bill Maher is such a horrible person that if he were on fire, he, Mike Gallagher, wouldn't so much as urinate on him to put out the fire, I figure here's a guy who either has some serious psychological "issues," or, if he's just pandering to his perceived audience of conservative nutcakes, has stepped way over the line. Frankly, I suspect that this self-professed Christian meant what he said.

This is kind of like a certain clinical psychologist who specializes "in the treatment of psychological barriers to spiritual growth" and who has authored a book and keeps a blog purporting to dispense psychological and spiritual wisdom to the "intellectually gifted" while disdaining the"idiot masses," who calls Bill Maher a "rat faced homunculus" "moron" and "devil" and Maureen Dowd, Erica Jong, and Gloria Steinem "desiccated old feminist hags," and who makes jokes about Muslims like this:
And the Iranians are still pushing ahead with their Manhattan Project. Of course, they say they're only developing nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes. Personally I'd feel better about it if Muslims had figured out peaceful applications for rocks and belts. For them, it's a wardrobe malfunction when some boob doesn't explode out of his vest.
I listen to or read all three of these conservative "pundits,"but I often wonder why.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Quote of the Day

Sarah Palin's performance in the tiny vignettes of unscripted dialogue in which we've been allowed to see her has been nothing short of frightening -- really, as I said, pity-inducing. And I say that as someone who has thought from the start that the criticisms of her abilities -- as opposed to her ideology -- were much too extreme. One of two things is absolutely clear at this point: she is either (a) completely ignorant about the most basic political issues -- a vacant, ill-informed, incurious know-nothing, or (b) aggressively concealing her actual beliefs about these matters because she's petrified of deviating from the simple-minded campaign talking points she's been fed and/or because her actual beliefs are so politically unpalatable, even when taking into account the right-wing extremism that is permitted, even rewarded, in our mainstream. I'm not really sure which is worse, but it doesn't really matter, because with 40 days left before the election, both options are heinous.
--Glenn Greewald

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Elitist Quote of the Day

I don't want to write for the idiot masses.
Gagdad Bob

Quote of the Day

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

--George Will

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quote of the Day

History is trying to get somewhere, and it is our job to help it get there.
--Gagdad Bob

Monday, September 22, 2008

You Can't Blink?

What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"

"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."

"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."

"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."

The prospects of a Palin administration are far more frightening, in fact, than those of a Palin Institute for Pediatric Neurosurgery. Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk. The world is growing more complex—and dangerous—with each passing hour, and our position within it growing more precarious. Should she become president, Palin seems capable of enacting policies so detached from the common interests of humanity, and from empirical reality, as to unite the entire world against us. When asked why she is qualified to shoulder more responsibility than any person has held in human history, Palin cites her refusal to hesitate. "You can't blink," she told Gibson repeatedly, as though this were a primordial truth of wise governance. Let us hope that a President Palin would blink, again and again, while more thoughtful people decide the fate of civilization.
--Sam Harris

Quote of the Day

Here, finally, was a performer who—being maternal, wounded, righteous and sexy—could stride past the frontal cortex of every American and plant a three-inch heel directly on that limbic circuit that ceaselessly intones "God and country." If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could.
--Sam Harris


There are so many idiots out there, such as Bill Maher, who take scripture literally, and then attack it for being so literal. As such, when he attacks religion, he is really attacking his own stupidity.
--Gagdad Bob

Don't all Christian churches teach that what the Bible literally says about the nature of Jesus and his purpose on earth is literally and not simply metaphorically true? If so, how is Bill Maher the "barbaric idiot" Gagdad says he is when he accurately characterizes the teachings of institutional Christianity and the beliefs of its members about Jesus?

I agree that there may be something "barbaric" about Maher's blatant mockery of Christian teachings. But don't we find the same "barbarity" in Gagdad's mocking attacks on atheists such as Maher and on Muslims? However, doesn't the barbarity lie not in the criticism of false or dubious beliefs per se, but in the disrespectful if not hateful treatment of the "children of God" who hold them? And when Gagdad disparages another for perpetrating the same misdeeds of which he himself is guilty, doesn't he compound his own barbarity with hypocrisy?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bill Maher Doesn't Have It Right?

There's a connection between magical thinking and not thinking clearly about practical issues...Sarah Palin is a Pentecostal. They believe the Holy Spirit can heal. So, why do you need health insurance?
--Bill Maher

Last night I watched the most recent episode of Bill Maher's Real Time program. One of his guests was acclaimed author and political blogger Andrew Sullivan. At one point, the two of them got into a heated argument about religion and politics. Maher claimed that too many Americans and American politicians are influenced by the "magical thinking" of Christianity and religion in general to solve our pressing domestic and international problems, and he implied that we'd be better off if we and our politicians rejected all religion and its nonsense.

Sullivan, a Roman Catholic, strongly disagreed. While he conceded that biblical fundamentalists like Sarah Palin might well be compromised by their simplistic religious beliefs, he argued that many religious people embrace much more sophisticated religious understandings that can be reconciled with the secular truths and approaches of the sciences, economics, politics, and so forth.

However, Maher vehemently disputed this. He argued that nonsense permeates all Christian beliefs and can't help but influence the way all Christians think about the world and try to solve its problems. At one point, he mockingly remarked to Sullivan: "You're saying God had a son, and he sent him on a suicide mission that he survived because he was really him." Sullivan bristled at this. "Don't describe my faith to me," he retorted. "You mean I don't have it right?" challenged Bill. "No, you don't have it right," Sullivan replied. Yet, the discussion continued without Sullivan ever elaborating on this.

It seems to me that Maher does have it right. Even "sophisticated" Christians believe Maher's characterization, whatever elaborate theological structures they build on this foundation and then, like Andrew Sullivan, try to fool us and themselves into believing that they don't do this. In other words, Christianity is based on nonsense.

The question is, does this, as Maher claims, inevitably taint the Christian's approach to all secular problems and concerns, or can wiser Christians do as Sullivan claims and realize "that there is a difference between heaven and earth. Some of us believe in that difference and can deal with the earth on secular terms and with our faith on religious terms."?

But doesn't one's "faith" concern both heaven and earth?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sarah Palin's Outrageous Action?

When I heard this story on talk radio tonight, I had a hard time believing it. As much as I dislike Sarah Palin, it wasn't easy for me to believe that even she could be so cruel. But I came home and went online and quickly found many references to this story. Most or all of them appear to come from or refer to the same source, an article or column in what appears to be a progressive Alaskan website. But I would like to see this investigated and, if it's true, I would like the media to ask Palin how she could justify what she did, and I'd like them to ask McCain if he agrees with her conduct and wants such a person as his running mate.

In a nutshell, the story is that when Palin was mayor of Wasilla, a town in a state with reputedly the highest per capita rate of forcible rape in the country, the town charged rape victims for the rape kits used to examine them for evidence of rape, and when the police chief of the town asked that these kits, which can cost as much as $1200, be covered by the city budget, Palin had him fired for noncooperation and hired a chief who revoked the rape kit budget request. Thus, Wasilla did charge rape victims for rape kits until a state law was passed mandating that these kits not be charged to the victims.

I don't know about you, but I think this is one of the most outrageous things I've ever heard. I am absolutely infuriated thinking about it! Charging someone who's been raped as much as $1200 to collect evidence of the assault, and then firing a police chief because he wouldn't go along with this.

If it's true, I really do want to hear Sarah Palin and John McCain try to justify it, and then I'd like to see them scorned and then defeated by the largest landslide in the history of American presidential elections. And if the American people were as decent as they pride themselves on being, they'd make sure this happened.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

McCain's Outrageous Accusation

I don't know if he's said it before, but I heard John McCain say yesterday words to the effect that Barack Obama doesn't care about this country; he only cares about being elected president. Whether you're a McCain supporter or not, do you believe that he should be making such assertions? Or do you agree with me that this egregiously steps over the line of legitimate political discourse?

I've never heard Obama make such claims about McCain. Have you? And if he ever were to do it, I can imagine that there would be a firestorm of protest.

McCain supporters might argue that Obama doesn't do it only because he knows that people wouldn't buy it and that this, in turn, would hurt him. But I'd like to propose another explanation. I propose that Obama doesn't do it because he's principled enough to criticize visible performance and ideas and not to cast ugly and unproven aspersions on unseen motives.

As much as I don't want McCain to be our next president, I had a modicum of respect for him. But much of that is now gone. I suspect that if he were to know this, he wouldn't give a damn about me or my lack of respect for him. But if enough Americans lost respect for him over things like this and let him know it, he just might care enough to clean up his act, even if he did it only for the sake of expedience and not because it reflected a change in the quality of his underlying integrity or lack thereof.

I think a prominent reporter should put him on the spot and ask him about this statement.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Earth Race

In the Cold War we had the space race with Russia to see who could be the first to put a man on the moon. Today we need an earth race with Japan, Europe, China and India--to see who can be the first to invent the clean power technologies that will allow man to live safely and sustainably on earth.
--Thomas Friedman

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why Is Abortion Bad?

Someone recently took exception to my argument that "pro-life" Christians don't make sense when they proclaim that abortion is a terrible evil. But when you really think about it, why is abortion bad if the souls of aborted fetuses go to heaven?

Because these souls don't get the chance to live on Earth first? What's so terrible about that? Heaven is infinite and everlasting bliss. Life on Earth is hard. Even if you're rich, it's hard. For the poor, it can be hell. How many fetuses being carried by women planning to abort them are likely to end up anything but poor if they aren't aborted?

What's more, whether they end up being poor or rich or somewhere in between, what are their chances of going to heaven compared to their chances of going to hell? Doesn't the Bible in Matthew 7:13-14 quote Jesus as saying, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."? What does this mean if not that most people go to hell and only a few go to heaven?

"Pro-life" Christians say that women who abort their fetuses are horribly selfish, but I disagree. I say that if a woman aborts her fetus believing that she could go to hell for it but does it anyway because she wants to ensure that her fetus' soul goes to heaven instead of hell, she is committing the most heroically selfless act possible. She is willing to be tortured unspeakably forever so that her child is guaranteed eternity in paradise. Not even Jesus' "sacrifice" on the cross begins to compare with this.

But even if a woman aborts her fetus for such "selfish" reasons as wanting to avoid the inconvenience of raising a child, she's still doing her fetus a tremendous favor. She's sending it to heaven instead of allowing it to go to hell. And if Christianity is nonsense and there is no heaven and hell, she's not denying her fetus anything it will miss, since it won't be around to miss it, and, in all likelihood, she'll be sparing it more suffering than happiness on this earth.

I really don't see what's bad about abortion, especially so long as it's done early in pregnancy. I wish there were far more abortions than there are, since I believe that many women who give birth do so not because they want to or can provide well for their offspring, but because they feel obligated or coerced to by religion and the "pro-life" crowd.

Just An Old-Fashioned Unconditional Love Song

I've been listening to a lot of jazz lately at work on my Walkman radio. It not only helps ease the tedium, but I hear some really nice songs. Here is a video of one of the all-time classic love songs performed by the gifted Diana Krall. Thank you Billy Joel for making it possible.

Friday, September 05, 2008

In a Nutshell

If you compare the two conventions, the differences were striking. Democrats - ethnically diverse, exuberant, standing room only, soaring words and ideas. Republicans - 99.9% white, sour-faced, swaths of empty seats, mean-spirited potshots.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Alas, A Star Is Born

I don't care much for Sarah Palin, and I care even less for her politics. But I have to hand it to her. She gave a helluva speech last night. Sure, one could question or disagree with much of what she said. Sure, she almost certainly wrote few if any of the words she spoke. Sure, she probably received all kinds of prepping from speechmeisters. Nevertheless, she stepped up on that podium under pressure most of us can't even begin to comprehend and that would have reduced me to a quivering mass of human jello and she delivered a masterful, star-making performance. And although Joe Biden has probably forgotten more about foreign and domestic policy than Sarah Palin will ever know, I have no doubt that she has the talent to be expertly coached into appearing to the superficial public eye as though she knows this stuff even better than Biden does when she debates him in October, and she'll earn kudos for being as aggressive as possible while Biden will be chastised for picking on a woman if he doesn't exercise straightjacketed restraint.

I already believed that McCain would win the election. Now I feel certain of it. There are just too many people in this country who love the political pablum Palin served them on a glittering platter last night, and now they'll believe that she has the testicular fortitude to help John McCain transform America into a Reaganite's wet dream or to do it by herself should she need to take over as president.

Having It Both Ways

For two days, the chorus from Republicans on TV news and in the halls of the convention has been resounding: Back off and let the Palin family be. "That's out of bounds," said Minnesota's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty. "There's no need to be intrusive and pry into that."

Yet Wednesday found the following scenes unfolding:

_Sarah Palin's pregnant, unmarried 17-year-old daughter and probable future son-in-law stood in a nationally televised, politically packaged airport receiving line to meet and greet the Republican candidate for president.

_The extremely cute and bubbly Piper Palin, 7, made her debut on her mother's behalf, appearing in a video on John McCain's daughter's blog. "Vote for my mommy and John McCain," she said, giggling as Meghan McCain grinned.

_Bristol Palin and her 18-year-old boyfriend, Levi Johnston, sat and held hands as they watched the Alaska governor deliver an acceptance speech that, in its opening minutes, focused heavily on her family and children. Later, the family — including Johnston — ascended the stage, basked in an extended ovation and waved.

Huh? The Republican message about the Palin offspring comes across as contradictory: Hey, media, leave those kids alone — so we can use them as we see fit.

If you doubt this scenario, consider this: On Wednesday morning, a teenage boy from Alaska stood in a receiving line on an airport tarmac, being glad-handed by the potential next president of the United States — because he got his girlfriend pregnant. TV cameras were lined up in advance. The mind boggles.

"Either the children are out of bounds, and you don't put them in the photo ops, or you don't complain when somebody wants to talk about them. You can't have it both ways," said John Matviko, a professor at West Liberty State College in West Virginia and editor of "The American President in Popular Culture."

"Right now, it looks like they're being used by the campaign more than the media are using them," he said.
--Ted Anthony, AP National Writer