December 15, 2007 - December 8, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
A New Fundamentalism
Behold a saint of the New Faith
THE BOOK OF ANDREW THE
HERETIC. In this very cold month of February, the Global Warming
rhetoric has heated up to an astonishing degree. On the same day a
couple weeks ago, Drudge linked an apocalyptic warning from Ted
Turner (Global Warming is the 'single greatest challenge that
has ever faced'...) and another from Al
Gore ('Never before has all of civilization been threatened'...).
These and other outbursts incited a response from a leading Canadian
Believe it or not, Global Warming is
not due to human contribution of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). This in fact is
the greatest deception in the history of science. We are wasting time,
energy and trillions of dollars while creating unnecessary fear and
consternation over an issue with no scientific justification...
No sensible person seeks conflict, especially with governments, but if
we don't pursue the truth, we are lost as individuals and as a society.
That is why I insist on saying that there is no evidence that we are,
or could ever cause global climate change...
We have been subjected to a lot of
nonsense about climate disasters as some zealots have been painting
extreme scenarios to frighten us. They claim ocean levels
are about to rise spectacularly, that there could be the occasional
tsunami as high as an eight story building, the Amazon basin could be
destroyed as the ice cap in the Arctic and in Greenland melts.
An overseas magazine called for Nuremberg-style trials for global
warming skeptics while a U.S.A. television correspondent compared
skeptics to “holocaust deniers”.
A local newspaper editorial’s complaint about the doomsdayers’
religious enthusiasm is unfair to mainstream Christianity.
Christians don’t go against reason although we sometimes go beyond it
in faith to embrace probabilities. What we were seeing from the
doomsdayers was an induced dose of mild hysteria, semi-religious if you
like, but dangerously close to superstition.
I like putting these two quotes together, because it is not at all
uncommon for science and religion to echo one another. Whether its
current practitioners recollect it or not, western science was a direct
outgrowth of the Christian faith and its empowerment of the individual,
which also gave rise to the Enlightenment generally, the idea of human
freedom, and the philosophical possibility of atheism.
Despite all these manifestations of modernity, the origin of science in
the Judeo-Christian tradition also means that the DNA of science still
retains strands of the Old Testament's obsession with the concepts of
evil and doom, which are intensely relevant to what is going on in the
Global Warming debate right now. "The Book of the Heretic Andrew"
referenced above picks out these issues in some detail. The following
quotes are just thumbnails of a much fuller discussion:
...you have asked me, “What if Mankind
is not doomed?”
2 And I must laugh out loud at the question,
3 Because it is Mankind itself that has always insisted on
believing in doom,
4 And it is not something made up by Harry just to be eccentric.
5 If Mankind stopped believing in doom,
6 Then he would also have to stop believing that he is evil,
7 Because throughout history he has always used these two ideas
to explain everything about himself,
8 First believing he was doomed because he believed he was
9 And then believing he was evil because he believed he was
10 Which must mean that these are the things Mankind wants to
11 Since he has gone to such extraordinary lengths to keep
believing in them,
12 No matter what...
8 For if Mankind could suspend his belief in doom,
9 He would have a lot of thinking to do,
10 And many questions to answer,
11 Including some very hard questions,
12 Such as why his spotlessly rational science,
13 With all its spotlessly objective methods,
14 Has been obsessed from the very start with finding
confirmation of ancient superstitions about original sin?...
30 Which is when Mankind at last became ready for the Way of
31 And why there is no way left but the Way of Harry,
32 Which is itself the proof that Mankind is doomed,
33 And will destroy himself,
34 Because he is obsessed with destroying evil,
35 No matter what it costs,
36 Just like his ancient Gods taught him to,
37 Even if he has to invent the evil and the doom,
38 All by himself,
39 With all the miraculous talents God gave him,
40 Just to prove that he hasn’t been a complete idiot for the
past five thousand years.
You see, it's very lonely being a scientific-materialist atheist,
because you have to dispense with the idea that you and your species
might be important due to divine origin or interest. You have to accept
that your whole existence is an accident in the unbelievably long
history of an unbelievably monstrous universe. And yet, as the product
of a self-obsessed culture which has taught you to have the highest
and regard for your own impulses, desires, and convictions about social
justice, you just know that you are, somehow, well, nevertheless
important, in spite of it all. It's tough to do. The sheer bigness of
the universe has to be cut down to size, enough to salve the needy egos
of those who separate themselves from their fellow hairless primates on
the basis of an intellectual superiority that fundamentally cannot
matter at all.
Academic scientists manage the trick by imagining themselves as godlike
figures -- the ones who, despite their essential nonentity, achieve the
colossal feat of understanding how it all works. This delusion results
in the absurd presumptions of narcissists like Stephen Hawking, who
proclaims his determination to know "the mind of God," though this
possibility is ruled out entirely by the elementary logic of Godel's
Theorem, which also preempts the omniscient fantasies of Richard
Garden variety secular-materialists have a bigger problem. They
desperately need their own version of the Christian fundamentalist's
one-to-one relationship with J-e-e-e-sus, that direct connection to a
larger truth which elevates and ennobles their otherwise insignificant
experience of life. And like the worst of the self-satisfied
fundamentalist elect, they also need that connection to be a panacea, a
blessing so complete that it obviates any obligation to accept personal
responsibilities that might require bravery, sacrifice, or intimate
personal, moral introspection. It must suffice to shout in a loud
voice, "Praise the Lord, for I at least am saved," in whatever words
are appropriate for the chosen few. [***Go below the fold for an ancillary
discussion of the threats such "global citizens" have no (self)interest
envisioning for us.]
That's what Global Warming is to the narcissists of the left. The doom
it describes is too large and complex in the fixing for any of them to
have any power to effect a cure. Yet the self-righteousness they're
entitled to feel from merely believing in this image of doom is
absolute. Each one of them can grasp with a single hand the substitute
icon of J-e-e-e-sus called Global Warming and proclaim the Word from
the rooftops as a simultaneous affirmation of personal salvation and
condemnation of the diverse original evils of capitalism, consumerism,
economic inequality, and nationalistic ambition. All products of human
labor and aspiration are vanity (Ecclesiastes), but they are pure. And
because they are pure exceptions in a species of viciously
self-destructive, er, evil primates, they are -- ta da -- IMPORTANT.
Without having to do one damn thing about it.
Behold the secular materialist godhead. Pretty cool, huh?
There is one slight problem about all this, though. It's called scale.
Unmitigated hysteria can take a narcissist pretty far, but I'm betting
that actual science -- that is, non-consensus application of the
scientific method by rigorously trained rationalists -- will eventually
drain some of the fever out of this particular swamp.
The fact is that without the spiritual crutch of belief in God and
other unprovable spiritual affects, the secular materialists are
ultimately going to have to face some ugly arithmetic. A religion that
makes mankind in general responsible for the welfare of Mother Earth
will eventually have to address the common-sensical assertion above,
namely: "there is no evidence that we are, or could ever cause global
Why? Because as a purely physical phenomenon, mankind is extremely
small potatoes, even in the context of Gaia, i.e., Mother Earth.
Are you intellectuals ready for a bit of math?
There are 6.5 billion human beings. Even assuming that the average
human weighs 150 lbs, their total mass amounts to less than 1 trillion
lbs. Rounding up to an even trillion, the fraction of the earth's mass
represented by its human pollutant is this:
This means that the "human element" represents less than one part in 13 trillion
of Earth's mass. And, yes, I know that systems theory posits that small
changes in system input can have a disproportionate impact on system
output. And I know that microscopic viruses can wreak havoc on vastly
larger organisms like, say, mammalian bodies, but deadly viruses wreak
that havoc by multiplying their numbers at exponentially increasing
rates in short bursts, while human population is already showing signs
of peaking. At less than one part in
13 trillion. Either we're unexpectedly malignant in the grand
Testament tradition, or our potency as a planetary impact has been
In order to believe that we are a significant variable in the
atmosphere of our planet, we would also have to believe that we are a
major exception to the history of every species on earth. Because there
is no precedent yet recorded of a species that caused its own
destruction by its negative impact on the environment. Many species
have been rendered extinct, but always because of their failure to
adapt to external changes in environment or habitat. And if the
scientific materialists are correct, we are also a purely natural
by-product of our planet, made of the same stuff, and the result of the
same natural process of evolution. No matter how much we value our own
biochemical theories about the concept of social justice -- and the
despicableness of our own evil natures in the context of an
evolutionary process which has relentlessly generated ruthless
predators and prey in constantly changing forms over aeons, we are --
unless the God of Social Justice has singled us out for a grossly
over-proportional influence on the planet that made us -- just another
creature that will evolve by adapting to the changes a
habitat many trillion times
size imposes on us. (And by habitat I don't mean the whole earth. We
evil, earth destroying human live on approximately 16.2
percent of the earth's surface; 53 percent of the 30 percent that's
So, is it just possible that human beings are not responsible for
Global Warming? I mean, is it possible to consider other causes
without having to be tried as Nuremberg war criminals? Consider that
the other major theory regarding the cause of Global Warming is solar
activity in the form of sunspots, irregular solar eruptions that can
each be larger than the earth itself. Now take a look at the relative
size of the sun and earth, remembering that we human beings are one
13-trillionth of the dot you see below as the earth.
Let's review. Ellen
Goodman of the Boston Globe
says that human-caused Global Warming
is settled science. Is she a saint of the new fundamentalism? Or is she
an archetype of a hubris more outrageous than anything found in the
Holy Bible? You decide.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Another Brit bitch subscribes to
RULES. If we had a publicist, we'd be calling her up about now to
get out the word of another spot-on InstaPunk prediction. Back in March
2006, we wrote:
[T]he whole purpose of fashion is to
attract, to propose the esthetic appeal of new influences, however
difficult, and to begin the process of inseminating the popular culture
with those influences. Are we being warned or inured? It's anyone's
guess which is the intent here. Regardless, the once alien images and
concepts of the world's only philosophically bellicose major religion
are being smuggled into our everyday consciousness. If Europe becomes,
as Mark Steyn predicts, Eurabia, this will have been one of the
incremental steps along the way.
The United States is less endangered than Europe by Islamic cultural
absorption. I do recommend, though, that American parents keep closer
track than they have so far of the fashion trends that sweep through
the teen and pre-teen boutiques where their daughters shop for the
latest and greatest in chic attire. Be on the alert for variations on
the theme of headscarves and veils and desert robes.
We published a follow-on piece in July
2006. Now, though, the Malkin
Mob has suddenly gotten concerned about recent developments in the
fashion industry. At Hot Air,
you can discover the shocking news that a British designer has adopted
the Islamic practice of covering up women's faces as a chic fashion
statement. Her name is Louise Goldin, and some of her work is shown
above. More alarmingly, perhaps, the youth-oriented fashion magazine Marie Claire is also featuring
Islamic attire as hip and trendy.
you know where your daughter's shopping?
As we suggested a year ago, last year's runway trick becomes this
year's mass market hit. But we're more tired this year than we were
last year, and if western women don't have any problem dressing up as
captives and slaves of a barbarian faith, who are we to judge? What the
hell. Apparently women the world over will do absolutely anything to
attract a moment's attention, and if they get the hang of muslim
modesty, maybe the beatings they're asking for won't be quite as
humiliating for them as what Hollywood (absolutely, positively NSFW) is pushing.
All we're learning is that there's very little point in accurate
prediction. People will go right on being dumb no matter how smart we
are in advance or how outraged the Malkinistas are after the fact.
Maybe we'll be in a better mood tomorrow.
The Headhouse Gang
He's got rabbit ears and like that.
Loyal commenters are a treasure. It's rare that there's any opportunity
to thank them, apart from saying "Thank you for making me feel that
this blog is worthwhile." Which seems lame and self-serving to say the
least. But today I get the chance to thank Bubba Kartoffel for years of
insightful additions to InstaPunk. In response to the post about Rome he wrote:
I often wonder what I am missing
sitting by my 12 inch screen adjusting the tin foil to just the right
place on the rabbit ears in order to fine tune the free airwaves.
Something like this comes along and I wonder whether cable or satellite
is in order...
Anything else I'm really missing out on, oh glimmering ones? I value
So glad you asked, old friend. As it happens, if you have a DVD budget,
we do have some recommendations that are bound to give you hours of
pleasurable and sometimes educational viewing. Not all of them are
cable offerings, and some you may already be aware of, but they're all
on the list of good stuff you won't be able to watch on the rabbit-ear
version of TV. Interested? Here we go.
This is a series on the F/X network we've commented on before.
It's scheduled to return to the air in June. That gives you time to
catch up on previous seasons via DVD.
Nero Wolfe. This one
we've never called out. Rex Stout's series of detective novels
featuring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are some of the best written,
funniest, and most re-readable works of the genre. The television
series, now cancelled, starring Maury Chakin and Timothy Hutton was as
definitive -- after many failed and inaccurate attempts dating back to
the 1940s-- as the Jeremy
Brett series of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Done as period pieces
set in 1950s New York, the individual episodes are both true to the
original books and riveting in terms of costumes, cars, cuisine, and
casting, which employs an ensemble approach unusual in American
productions. Start with either "The Doorbell Rang" or "The Silent
Speaker," although all of the episodes are first-rate.
Return to Paradise. A
movie we discovered on cable. God only knows how many juvenile comedies
Vince Vaughn has starred in. We were utterly unprepared for the
beautiful performance he gave in this story of a debt casually incurred
and torturously repaid in Indochina. It made us want to beat the hell
out of him for cheapening his reputation with all those crappy boob
movies. He's an extraordinary actor, and this is a performance you'll
want to watch again and again.
Everything Is Illuminated.
Every InstaPunk reader knows we're obsessed with the Holocaust. This is
another movie we discovered on the blizzard of cable channels offered
by Comcast. It begins as if it's trying to be an eastern European
version of Napoleon Dynamite,
and it ends by tearing your heart right out of your chest. Elijah Wood is
in it, and this time he's more than a hobbit, although it will take you
a long time to appreciate his character.
Swing Kids. Before we
saw the previous production, we'd have said this was the most excellent
movie treatment of the Holocaust ever done. The plot summary makes it
seem peripheral to the worst of Nazi Germany, but the depiction of
youthful Germans dancing to American Big Band music turns out to be
affecting at the deepest levels imaginable. A great performance by the
vastly under-appreciated Frank Whaley -- and another by Robert Sean
Leonard, the actor who's become famous as House's oncologist friend,
Dr. James Wilson.
King Kong. Had to throw
this one in. It's all over HBO at the moment, and like many many
others, we turned up our nose at the thought of seeing it in the
theater. We were wrong. Despite the three and a half hour runtime, if
you don't shed a tear for King Kong at the end, there's something wrong
with you. It's a great old-fashioned movie type movie.
Revisted. Going back in time now. The best minseries ever. Jeremy
Irons has gone on to great stardom, but whatever happened to Anthony
Andrews, who is spellbinding in the role of Sebastian? It's 13 hours of
Our Mutual Friend. The
old Masterpiece Theater version. One of Dickens's best and most modern
novels. Simultaneously an apotheosis and parody of the Victorian cliche
exemplified by the over-praised Jane Eyre.
The original. In black and white. Marred only by the indifferent acting
talent of Kenneth More, everything else is superb. The best soap opera
ever put on film.
Waking Ned Devine. A
movie you won't find by yourself unless you're channel-hopping on
cable. Irish. Very Irish. And
totally hilarious, charming, and addictive. One of the very few films
you'll actually want to watch again and again and again.
Tunes of Glory. But
InstaPunk is a Scot. To hell with the Irish. If you want to know what
bagpipes truly mean to Scots,
watch Alec Guinness and John Mills do their accursed Scottish thing in
this movie. It will haunt you forever.
We Were Soldiers. We are
all children of the Vietnam War. Was there ever a movie about it that
wasn't a rewrite of Kafka's The Trial?
Yes. This one will chill you, hurt you, and make you proud. Even if you
are fed up with Mel Gibson.
Last of the Mohicans.
Yup. More than 10 years old. Seen by everyone. But still the best movie
If you don't have it on DVD, you're a jerk.
What do you think, Bubba? Enough to get started with?
Fox News is planning something called "The Half-Hour News Hour."
They've been promo-ing an SNL-type opening with Rush Limbaugh and Ann
Coulter playing the President and Vice-President. It's not funny. Just
like the clip that's playing on YouTube.
I know conservatives are angry about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
But these guys are funny precisely because
they're pretending to be objective, which forces them to be creative
about their bias. A lot like the Marx Brothers, who had to be creative
because the mores of the day wouldn't permit them to be dirty.
Fox News is starting this show with no pretense of trying to be
neutral, which means they don't have to be creative. At all. Just
stupidly reactionary. Like eighth grade boys sticking their tongues out
at girls with braces. It's ugly. And calamitous. If you need further
(who is funny) has it.
Somebody needs to start a petition. On behalf of all the conservatives
who are funny, at least sometimes, to protect our reputation from this
looming abomination. We can't do it, because we aren't capable of
organized behavior. But somebody better.
Unfunny is a charge we don't need. Especially if it
proves accurate. Hell, there's no "if" about it. Maybe it's time for
of the center-right to start earning his keep. Or even the bootblack of
the libertarian right, Neal
Somebody. Take a letter...
Okay, OKAY. No, you don't have to pretend to be neutral to be funny.
But you do have to be funny.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
was Julius Caesar's adopted son, callow, juvenile, and way over his head in
. This is just a plug. The HBO series Rome is in its second and final
season. I guess it's my month for heresy, but this production surpasses
the Masterpiece Theater icon I
Claudius by a mile. I'm not saying I Claudius wasn't great. It was.
But Rome is better. Don't
There has always been an interesting hole in Roman history. There is
the Rome of Shakespeare's Julius
Caesar, which gives us compelling portraits of Caesar, Brutus,
and Antony. Then there is Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, in which we
once again focus on Antony. Octavian is a major character, to be sure,
but he is cast in the dramatic role of villain, though he displays a
fair amount of humanity, going so far as to permit the lovers to be
buried side by side.
What's missing is the extraordinary story of Octavian the political
prodigy, the teenager who responded to the assassination of Julius
Caesar so adroitly that he bested some of the most famous characters in
recorded history, including Mark Antony, Brutus, Cassius, and Cicero,
to become the first emperor of Rome and the architect of the Pax
Romana, the longest period of relative peace Rome would enjoy before
its eventual downfall almost 500 years later.
If there were a 20th century Shakespeare who chose his topics like the
first one, we'd have plays about Robespierre and Louis XVIII, but none
about Napoleon Bonaparte. That's the scale of the omission. To put it
in perspective, Caesar Augustus is the only Roman Emperor mentioned by
name in the Bible. Yet where have we heard his story before? In
Shakespeare, he was an afterthought and a foil, and in Robert Graves's I Claudius he was a cheerful but
moribund symbol of the calm before the storm. Shakespeare lacked interest because he wasn't a tragic character; he was, unlike Napoleon and other subsequent pretenders, a winner. The result? Writers aren't interested in his story.
HBO's Rome rushes into this
void with a dramatization of perhaps the greatest political tour de
force of all time, the process by which the frail teenage nephew of
Julius Caesar accomplished his personal transformation from Octavianus Balba to
Caesar Augustus, deftly turning one Roman warlord after another into
pawns and victims of his own quest for absolute power over the known
Octavian is a far more interesting character than Caesar Augustus. In
the scripts of Rome, one can
see, and believe, that the titans of the time continually assumed they
could manipulate and intimidate him. Cleverly, Rome reinforces this illusion by
depicting his mother and sister as blind to the intellect by which he
performed the most effective political calculus ever recorded in
antiquity, seamlessly creating and breaking alliances as changing
circumstances dictated, even among members of his own family. Those who
insist that women never wielded power before c. 1970 will both object
to and adore the character of Atia, Octavian's mother. Interestingly
enough, the woman who plays Atia, Polly Walker, does resemble her.
The triumph of Rome is that
this incredible and heretofore untold story is complemented by extraordinary
characters and subplots that make the Roman Empire more vivid,
enticing, and repellent than any of Hollywood's (or PBS's) epic
efforts. Some liberties have been taken, to be sure, since history is
kinder to the mothers of Octavian and Brutus (Servilia) than HBO
allows, but these departures are a small price to pay for the picture
we get of a pagan world in which murder is matter of fact, beheaded
chickens forgive all, sex is private from the patrician neighbors but
not from slaves or in orgies, and the origins of today's mafia are
evident in the arrangements between the senate and the plebeian "dons"
who managed labor for the ports and commercial districts of the city.
And we haven't mentioned the color. Rome
paints the ancient world in reds and blues and greens and golds we
never associated with the worn marble and cement of ruins. And
graffiti. What do you suppose they painted on the walls back then,
before there was a Christian Right? Go take a look. If you don't
understand, ask Pullo. It's all there, as
early as the credits.
Sunday nights at 9 o'clock.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Dixie Chicks, from left, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, and Sarah Jessica Parker, accepted the award
for best album of all time with uncharacteristically few
political jibes. A class act.
. Every so often,
we like to look in on the Grammies
and try to solve the perennial mystery: why do they attract so much
attention? They treat almost every major genre of music -- classical,
jazz, rock, country, rap, Latin, world, et al -- as afterthoughts
and only get around
to honoring the true giants of music after they're
wheelchair-bound or dead. Last night, for example, they slipped in --
between endless nominations in various pop categories -- lifetime
achievement awards for Maria Callas (30 years dead) and the Doors (Jim
Morrison is 35 years dead). We haven't looked it up, but our bet would
be that neither of these superstar acts got a Grammy when they were
alive. Still, we enjoyed their unexpected duet performance of "Break on
Through," unless that was a couple of other guys. Even if it was, we
thought it rocked.
Once you accept that the Grammies are strictly about pop music, though,
it's easy to sit back and gape at all the pretty-boy singers and
half-dressed babes making love to their microphones. We got to see
Justin Timberlake perform big numbers, twice, and we have to admit the
tuxedo-with-huge-white-sneakers look is killer. Everywhere else you
looked, there were nice big breasts barely contained by clingy fabric.
There were some beautiful hips on display, too, from the monumental
Michelangelo curves of Beyonce's lower half to the perpetual motion
machine called Shakira, who probably precipitated some serious tremors
along the San Andreas fault. If she didn't, Christina Aguilera did,
with a performance so loud it must also have broken large amounts of
glassware throughout Southern California. It was an unusual treat
to hear the Dixie Chicks's pledge of allegiance to themselves, recited
with enough woeful chirps to remind us of three crickets sad about
getting stepped on in a redneck bar. Very moving. And did we mention
Carrie Underwood? We hope so, because she's, well, mentionable. She's
the American Idol, you know. Several of her dresses were quite pretty,
but one looked like they had forgotten to sew on the bottom half of her
skirt to cover up that slip. She's definitely getting the hang of the
pop star thing, though. As is Al Gore. But he does need to check with
Justin Timberlake about getting bigger sneakers.
On the other hand, the musical performances were exceptionally good.
This year, they rounded up a bunch of old guys
who know how to sing real songs and play real musical instruments -- The
Police, Smoky Robinson, Nicole Richie's dad, and the Red Hot Chili
Peppers. Stevie Wonder introduced three newcomers who also knew how to
sing and play so they could be pretty much ignored in the big awards
later on, which have everything to do with pop, meaning popular,
which in this particular year means politically correct, and not much
to do with anything else.
We can't remember all of them, but here are the most important award
categories and winners:
Best Mumbled Audio Recording of an
Anti-Semitic Book by an Author Who Was Once a Miserably Incompetent
President. Jimmy Carter.
Best Attack on a Fox News Talk Show Host by a Haute-Couture Corporatist
Rapper Who Lost a Big Endorsement Contract Because of That Bastard Bill
Best Song Written by a Hired Songwriter for a Girl Band That's Really
Really Pissed About Getting Criticized for Jeering at the President in
Concerts Overseas. Dan Wilson.
Best Song Recorded by a a Girl Band That's Really Really Pissed About
Getting Criticized for Jeering at the President in Concerts Overseas. The Dixie Chicks.
Best Country Album Containing a Song Recorded by a a Girl Band That's
Really Really Pissed About Getting Criticized for Jeering at the
President in Concerts Overseas. The
Best Album of the Year Containing a Song Recorded by a a Girl Band
That's Really Really Pissed
About Getting Criticized for Jeering at the President in Concerts
Overseas. The Dixie Chicks.
Best Album in the Entire History of Music Recorded by a a Girl Band
That's Really Really Pissed
About Getting Criticized for Jeering at the President in Concerts
Overseas. The Dixie Chicks.
And did we mention Joan Baez? We hope not. Because she is absolutely,
completely unmentionable. Although one of us thought her dress was
For a change.
Not surprisingly, La Malkin
checked out the Grammies, too.
Courtesy of a tip from Wuzzadem, here's a truly hilarious video of the
song the Dixie Chicks should
have performed last night:
If you liked it, send some "get well soon" cheer to Wuzzadem. (Scroll down the
left-hand column at his site for contact information.) He's
as usual, but we can be sure there's real pain involved.
. I generally know when to let a subject go, but I
also once accepted the advice that a comment worth responding to is a
blog entry worth writing. So I decided to respond to this whole comment
from a gentleman named Ray
Swenson, who remains angry and embittered about my challenge
Mormons supporting Mitt Romney despite my non-satiric explanation
motives. As I contemplated what he wrote, it seemed an excellent
opportunity to specify what I have addressed only generally about the
mistakes Mormon apologists are making. I haven't omitted any of Mr.
Swanson's words. Here they are, in full, with my thoughts:
If you want to call Mitt Romney an
untrustworthy idiot, you should come up with some specific data to
support such an assertion. He was trustworthy and smart in turning
around the 2002 Winter Olympics, making it successful in every way,
including being profitable enough to provide permanent endowments to
support the continued operation of the Olympic venues for the benefit
of the people of Utah. He has proven trustoworthy and smart as governor
fo [sic[ Massachusetts. He proved trustworthy and smart as the head of
various businesses, rescuing companies that were going under and making
them profitable employers of thousands of people.
Good opening salvo for an armored assault. But try stating this as a
positive argument for Romney rather than as an aggrieved and reflexive
attack on those who might be skeptical.
If it boils down to "Romney is Mormon,
therefore he must be untrustworthy and dumb", even if you throw out
such a statement simply to be provocative, it is nevertheless offensive
and demonstrates carelessness not only about the feelings of millions
There is no right in the Constitution not to be offended by what
various people might say. I'm offended all the time by what leftist
totalitarians say about the United States, what liberals say about
conservatives, what hard-line feminists say about men, what black
race-baiters say about white people, what atheists and Islamists say
about Christians, what homosexuals say about heterosexuals, what Global Warming hysterics say about skeptics of
the latest scientific permutation of original sin, and what
"pro-choice" activists say about fetuses. I nevertheless accept that if
those who disagree with me manage to hurt my feelings, they are
committing no crime. With respect to my feelings, they are not even
committing a sin. All too often, people use injured feelings as an
excuse for not thinking. I have always been scornful of George Bernard
Shaw's wisecrack that he would have had a higher opinion of Jesus
Christ if, in the gospels, He had ever exhorted people to think. That
is precisely the reason for the parables, which are not edicts but
invitations to think. (Shaw was an 'arrogant twit' on this point.)
Similarly, I invite you to think rather than emote like some irritated
...but also a total ignorance of how
precisely such casual prejudice led to the murder of good Mormons,
including Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, and the forced exile of
thousands of people from their homes, first in Missouri and then in
Illinois. Thinking that you can throw out such bigotry in the interest
of your own entertainment places you in the camp of those who murdered
Mormons at Hauns Mill, Missouri. It places you with the Mormon-haters
who sent the US Army against Utah in 1857, and who confiscated all
Church property and denied Mormons the right to vote and serve on
juries in the 1880s.
No, it doesn't. There's a vast difference between provocative speech
and murder. Casual prejudice doesn't come marching up to the door with a bucket of tar and feathers. It just says things you don't like and have no right -- moral or legal -- to suppress. If you disagree, then you shouldn't be backing a Republican
candidate at all, but one of the presumptive juvenile tyrants at
Berkeley who want to make unwelcome speech a hate crime and prosecute
social heretics for what they think rather than what they do. Is that part of your faith? Do you
really want to make me nervous about your religion? Keep going.
Your ignorant bigotry places you in the
camp of those who cried out for the summary imprisonment without trial
of 100,000 innocent American citizens of Japanese ancestry for three
years during World War II. Your ignorant bigotry places you in the camp
of the jihadists who call for the extermination of all Jews and the
annihilation of Israel.
No, it doesn't. Making fun of people -- any people -- is not the same
as seeking to deprive them of freedom or life. Indeed, it is the
opposite. Jokes are the safety valve of civilized societies that keeps
minor resentments from ballooning into fanatical hatreds. If I'm wrong,
show me any single personal
anecdote from Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Baathist Iraq, Kim Jong Il's
Korea, Castro's Cuba, or Khomeini's Iran comparable to this exchange
between British parliamentary rivals Nancy Astor and Winston Churchill:
ASTOR. If you were my husband, I'd poison your coffee.
CHURCHILL. If you were my wife, I'd drink it.
People who actually work with Mormons
know that they are at least as well educated as the general American
populace, and that the more educated a Mormon is, the more dedicated he
tends to be to his faith. They are trusted to be doctors and attorneys
and professors and business leaders throughout America. They compete
well in the academic environments of universities across America. For
example, until recently a Mormon, Kim B. Clark, headed the Harvard
Business School. Among the leading 15 Mormon leaders, several of them
have PhDs and JDs and MDs, one is a nuclear engineer, and several have
been presidents of colleges and universities and were respected in that
capacity among their academic peers before assuming Church leadership
Tedious name-dropping. And counter-productive. It tends to reinforce
the widespread notion that Mormons have a hard time distinguishing
between real goodness and more superficial attainments like success,
wealth, authority, and status. If I were really being mean, I could
invite you to reread this paragraph making the following substitutions:
1) for "Mormons," "National Socialists;" 2) for "American," "German;"
3) for "Harvard," "Heidelberg," 4) for "America," "Germany;" 5)
and for "faith" and "Church," "Party." Would it still sound like a
perfect resume? Not that I'm asking.
If your reasoning is that anyone who
believes something that is "impossible" is an idiot, then every atheist
is in just that category, because their [sic] is simply no hint of any
scientific explanation for how life started.
Every hypothesis comes down to a lot of hand-waving and simple
blind faith that nature, unassisted, can create living cells--with DNA
and their complex chemical machinery--out of random pieces of
non-living matter. Richard Dawkins just skips that part and talks about
Darwinian evolution, hoping you won't notice that he hasn't provided
any explanation whatsoever for the generation of living cells, which
have to exist already before evolution can work. The National Science
Foundation web page on evolution blabs on about their [sic] being several
alternate hypotheses, but it doesn't set them out nor admit that none
of them rises beyond mere speculation and "imagine this". The simplest
living cell is a factory that can reproduce itself. Mankind hasn't been
able to build anything that capable, that can find raw materials in the
environment, and obtain its own energy, and make multiple duplicates of
itself, that contains not only the machinery but also the complete
instructions for how to build and operate itself. Darwin lived in a
time when spontaneous generation had not yet been disproven by Pasteur.
We know far too much about chemistry and DNA to ignore the question of
how cells came into being in the first place. Scientists who gloss over
this unanswered question are ignorant or hypocritical or
self-deceptive. Their confidence that someday science will figure it
out is nothing but pure faith, not reason. Ergo, atheists believe in
something that is simply, on known scientific principles, impossible.
They are therefore just as "dumb" as those who believe in things which
are typically classified as "religious" in nature but miraculous, such
as the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Sorry for reducing your brilliant argument against atheism and
evolution to microfiche, but it's completely irrelevant here.
(Instapunk has gotten into enough trouble with atheists and
evolutionists in the past.) There's a more important point that most of
the Mormon spokespeople in the comments have quite failed to perceive.
Not all infinities are created equal. For example, the infinite set of
rational numbers is larger than the infinite set of integers. In the
same way, not all impossibilities
improbabilities are created equal. It may seem improbable that a divine
incarnation named Jesus Christ rose from the dead after being executed
by the Roman governor of Judea, but we do not not have to further
diminish this probability by questioning whether there was a Roman
Empire, a captive state called Judea, a city called Jerusalem, a town
called Bethlehem, a place called Nazareth, a sea called Galilee, a
Greek language in which the gospels were written, a Latin language in
which the memory and meaning of the improbable events were translated
into doctrine and creed, or a process of recording scripture that did
not involve the use of magical, disappearing technologies.
Strangely enough, some of the other Mormon debaters have even dared to
frame the improbability of Christ's immaculate conception and
resurrection as an implicit accusation against those who question the legitimacy of Mormonism. I can't think of a worse line of
argument. A Mormon begins his series of improbable beliefs with an
acceptance of all the New
Testament improbabilities, then piles on top of them the improbabilities
of the Book of Mormon -- a civilization, language, history, and
technology for which there is no evidence of any kind.
No, this does not mean that you are wrong. It does not mean that you
are crazy. It means that you constitute a tiny minority of the most
populous and influential religion of all time. Skepticism, distrust,
and even scorn from the limb out of which you grow as a twig are a
natural condition of your existence. There is probably no other country
in history in which the people of your faith could have survived
and prospered as they have here. Utah and the Mormon Tabernacle are a
purely American miracle. Now you even aspire to the highest office of
the nation that -- despite numerous bumps and scrapes did finally
accept your right to exist -- and it is your choice how you respond.
How do you choose? With a cynical presumption that no one else in the
land believes as deeply in their faith as you believe in yours, which
gives you the right to demand acquiescence, silence, and even obeisance
in the face of what could be perceived as ludicrous heresies? With
bilious resentment and contempt for those who still cling to the
two-millennium-old taproot from which you and yours are but a
century-and-a-half-old sprout? Or with the missionary enthusiasm
and humility with which the first Christians set about sharing the
spiritual joys of their faith with the ancient denizens of the culture
whose laws and traditions gave them the chance to survive the lifespan
of their original inspiration?
My oldest impression of Mormons was that they were missionaries, not
bratty didacts. Fact is, I have cousins who are Mormons. And one close
friend from college who was one of the few saintly people I have known.
He had been raised by Mormons as a touchingly virtuous person, a bishop
by rank, but he was also a troubled agnostic of his own faith. From
what he shared with me of his knowledge and doubts, I did acquire a skeptic's view of
Mormon scripture -- and an unsettling conviction that true goodness can be sired through paternity of
dubious worth. (In fact, this is my only reason for believing in the
existence of the "good" muslims who are supposedly on our side.) Call
it bigotry, but I learned to expect extraordinary personal qualities
from Mormons even as I continued to question the legitimacy of their
faith. My conclusion is that your dudgeon, Mr. Swanson, is itself a
Only in America could a religious faith like this rise from nothing to
the possibility of supreme elective office in a religious nation in
fewer than 150 years. You're scarcely older than the Seventh Day
Adventists and the Jehovah's witnesses. You've lost a few true
believers along the way. But so have the Roman Catholics and the
Protestants and the Christians who fought to free the slaves in the
United States of America. Join the club. So quit your whining and
griping and start using your faith and considerable intelligence to
convince this unbelievably hospitable nation that you have something
wonderful to offer.
Call me what you will. That's beside the point. You're competing for
the highest office of the greatest, freest country in human history.
It's time to prove you're more than yet another victim-in-waiting.