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Monthly Archives: May 2010

Remember the Bobby Jindal of a year ago? He was the GOP poster child of less federal government. He was the champion of less government regulations.  He said conservative things like:

“In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We (Repubs) oppose the national Democrats’ view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington and empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.”

Fast forward to today while BP is unsuccessfully trying to stop a world-class oil spill. Well, THAT Bobby Jindal wants more federal government assistance and more effective regulations.

“BP is the responsible party, but we need the federal government to make sure they are held accountable and that they are indeed responsible. Our way of life depends on it.”

Oh, I get it! Republicans hate big government until they think they need it. I like their system.


G.K. Chesterton spins a colorful yarn about an atheist and a young Catholic believer who challenge each other to a duel––a duel that is constantly interrupted by people who can’t see what all the fuss is about. The post-modern, quasi-Enlightenment era we live in has little time for religious faith or muscular-minded atheism. What, the culture asks, is all the fuss about? Perhaps that is why most “purpose-driven” Christian literature is so tepid and unthoughtful. David Hart finds the same intellectual flabbiness with the writings of the so-called New Atheists. He ruminates:

Take, for instance, the recently published 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. Simple probability, surely, would seem to dictate that a collection of essays by fifty fairly intelligent and zealous atheists would contain at least one logically compelling, deeply informed, morally profound, or conceptually arresting argument for not believing in God. Certainly that was my hope in picking it up. Instead, I came away from the whole drab assemblage of preachments and preenings feeling rather as if I had just left a large banquet at which I had been made to dine entirely on crushed ice and water vapor.

To be fair, the shallowness is not evenly distributed. Some of the writers exhibit a measure of wholesome tentativeness in making their cases, and as a rule the quality of the essays is inversely proportionate to the air of authority their authors affect. For this reason, the philosophers—who are no better than their fellow contributors at reasoning, but who have better training in giving even specious arguments some appearance of systematic form—tend to come off as the most insufferable contributors. Nicholas Everitt and Stephen Law recycle the old (and incorrigibly impressionistic) argument that claims of God’s omnipotence seem incompatible with claims of his goodness. Michael Tooley does not like the picture of Jesus that emerges from the gospels, at least as he reads them. Christine Overall notes that her prayers as a child were never answered; ergo, there is no God. A.C. Grayling flings a few of his favorite papier-mâché caricatures around. Laura Purdy mistakes hysterical fear of the religious right for a rational argument. Graham Oppy simply provides a précis of his personal creed, which I assume is supposed to be compelling because its paragraphs are numbered. J.J.C. Smart finds miracles scientifically implausible (gosh, who could have seen that coming?). And so on. Adèle Mercier comes closest to making an interesting argument—that believers do not really believe what they think they believe—but it soon collapses under the weight of its own baseless presuppositions.

The scientists fare almost as poorly. Among these, Victor Stenger is the most recklessly self-confident, but his inability to differentiate the physical distinction between something and nothing (in the sense of “not anything as such”) from the logical distinction between existence and nonexistence renders his argument empty. The contributors drawn from other fields offer nothing better. The Amazing Randi, being a magician, knows that there is quite a lot of credulity out there. The historian of science Michael Shermer notes that there are many, many different and even contradictory systems of belief. The journalist Emma Tom had a psychotic scripture teacher when she was a girl. Et, as they say, cetera. The whole project probably reaches its reductio ad absurdum when the science-fiction writer Sean Williams explains that he learned to reject supernaturalism in large part from having grown up watching Doctor Who.

So it goes. In the end the book as a whole adds up to absolutely nothing—as, frankly, do all the books in this new genre—and I have to say I find this all somewhat depressing. For one thing, it seems obvious to me that the peculiar vapidity of New Atheist literature is simply a reflection of the more general vapidity of all public religious discourse these days, believing and unbelieving alike. In part, of course, this is because the modern media encourage only fragmentary, sloganeering, and emotive debates, but it is also because centuries of the incremental secularization of society have left us with a shared grammar that is perhaps no longer adequate to the kinds of claims that either reflective faith or reflective faithlessness makes.

The principal source of my melancholy, however, is my firm conviction that today’s most obstreperous infidels lack the courage, moral intelligence, and thoughtfulness of their forefathers in faithlessness. What I find chiefly offensive about them is not that they are skeptics or atheists; rather, it is that they are not skeptics at all and have purchased their atheism cheaply, with the sort of boorish arrogance that might make a man believe himself a great strategist because his tanks overwhelmed a town of unarmed peasants, or a great lover because he can afford the price of admission to a brothel. So long as one can choose one’s conquests in advance, taking always the paths of least resistance, one can always imagine oneself a Napoleon or a Casanova (and even better: the one without a Waterloo, the other without the clap).

But how long can any soul delight in victories of that sort? And how long should we waste our time with the sheer banality of the New Atheists—with, that is, their childishly Manichean view of history, their lack of any tragic sense, their indifference to the cultural contingency of moral “truths,” their wanton incuriosity, their vague babblings about “religion” in the abstract, and their absurd optimism regarding the future they long for?

I am not—honestly, I am not—simply being dismissive here. The utter inconsequentiality of contemporary atheism is a social and spiritual catastrophe. Something splendid and irreplaceable has taken leave of our culture—some great moral and intellectual capacity that once inspired the more heroic expressions of belief and unbelief alike. Skepticism and atheism are, at least in their highest manifestations, noble, precious, and even necessary traditions, and even the most fervent of believers should acknowledge that both are often inspired by a profound moral alarm at evil and suffering, at the corruption of religious institutions, at psychological terrorism, at injustices either prompted or abetted by religious doctrines, at arid dogmatisms and inane fideisms, and at worldly power wielded in the name of otherworldly goods. In the best kinds
of unbelief, there is something of the moral grandeur of the prophets—a deep and admirable abhorrence of those vicious idolatries that enslave minds and justify our worst cruelties.

But a true skeptic is also someone who understands that an attitude of critical suspicion is quite different from the glib abandonment of one vision of absolute truth for another—say, fundamentalist Christianity for fundamentalist materialism or something vaguely and inaccurately called “humanism.” Hume, for instance, never traded one dogmatism for another, or one facile certitude for another. He understood how radical were the implications of the skepticism he recommended, and how they struck at the foundations not only of unthinking faith, but of proud rationality as well.

He is everything that the GOP establishment hates: a smaller government guy who really wants smaller government. He’s everything that Michael Steele despises: a white southern politician who gets tangled up in the third rail of GOP politics: race. Republicans can’t allow a shoot-from-the-lip Doc Holiday in the big tent party sounding all racist and anti-war. They already have one of those: another guy named Paul. So if Rand Paul gets in a dust up with Rachel Meadows, throw him under the bus quick. This is the new GOP.

Senatorial candidate Richard Blumenthal doesn’t lie, he only misspeaks. He regrets misspeaking, but he does not regret lying because he didn’t lie. He misspoke. So when he said “I wore the uniform in Vietnam” he was not lying, he was simply misspeaking. He actually wore the uniform. No misspeaking there. And there really was a war in Vietnam. No misspeaking about that. The only misspoken word was a tiny two-letter preposition “in.” Had he intended to say that, that, of course, would be a premeditated out-and-out-lie. But he didn’t. He simply misspoke. Which brings us to the misspoken bit. Instead of “in” Vietnam, the candidate had meant to say “in the period of” or maybe “in the days of.” So really the “in” wasn’t even technically misspoken. In fact, if we look at the facts, Blumenthal neither lied nor misspoke. He simply left out a few critical, fact-changing words. If anything, the man unspoke. That’s right. A sin of omission. Like when Bill Clinton meant to say “I never had sex with that woman… I call Mother.” Or when Bush I meant to say,”Read my lips: No new taxes…at first.” Or when George Washington, the father of our country,  said “I cannot tell a lie…I can only occasionally misspeak.”

Okay, I knew the party of conservative ideas was in trouble when they put a rugged, outdoorsy woman on the ticket all because she could field-dress a moose. The GOP is a party with profound gender issues. Long the old white guys’ party, Republicans have struggled to offer up credible female candidates created in the party’s image..which is….uhm…dudes. So am I surprised that a trans-gender he-she is running for office on the Republican ticket in Miami? Of course not. Who better to stand for conservative family values than a woman who happens to also stand when they take a leak? Although, I must say,  he doesn’t hold a candle to Sarah P. That gal can hunt!

We can’t win for losing in this country. So we name a nice, pretty Arab girl Miss USA. In your face, jihadists! Democracy in action. Blow us up and what do we do? We crown a raghead Miss Amercian-as-Apple-Pie! Ha.Ha!! Put that in your Koran and smoke it! Then, while we are still waving the stars and stripes, patting ourselves on the back, we learn that this nice Arab girl is a skanky, pole-dancing, floosy. Really? Oh, that is going to go over well with the Imams. Okay, send over another guy with exploding BVDs. Our bad.

So what’s the deal with politicians? They can stay on message, raise money, get re-elected, lie without moving their lips, but they can’t keep their flies zipped? Seriously? Just say no to Mr. Willy.  The latest: Abstinence champion Rep. Mark Souder has resigned confessing to his affair with a married aide. Check out the chemistry between these two star-crossed lovers.

Brit Hume shocked his fellow FOX News correspondent Juan Williams this week. “Where’s the oil?” he asked. Apparently, like Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate, the giant BP oil spill is invisible to many on the right. Spill, baby, spill. We’ll make more.

Sarah Palin was on the attack last week. She is mad at all those wicked secularists and God haters who are trying to rewrite American history. And she’s right to be mad. They are clearly trying to rewrite history. But the big bad secularists are not nearly as guilty of trying to rewrite American history as the…uhm… Christians. Take, for instance, Sarah Palin. She would have us believe that all of our founding fathers were Christians with a profound respect for the Bible. Like, say, Thomas Jefferson who stayed up all night with scissors attempting to remove every one of Christ’s miracles from the gospels. He’s a role model, huh, Sarah? She also thinks that the U.S. Constitution promotes the God of the Bible and speaks of “unalienable rights” that where endowed by our Creator. Two problems with that 1) God/ Maker/Creator is never once mentioned in the Constitution, only the concept that religion should not be proscribed or curtailed by the State. 2) That unalienable rights bit is actually from the Declaration of Independence penned by the man who liked to slice the Resurrection out of the Good Book to make it more “reasonable”. Also, “In God we trust”is not our “national motto.” It’s not even part of our founding documents, unless you count the one dollar bill among them. It is just something that is indeed a part of our history, just like the banning prayer in schools. Unfortunately, for Ms. Palin, our country has always been much more of a mixed bag than she would like to admit. It is probably one of the reasons our churches are so full and those with a state religion like France, England and Germany are so empty. Finally, it is worth mentioning that Jesus came to “seek and save that which is lost”( atheists, secularists, and the like). The righteous and the religious have never been his cup of tea. You can look that up in your Bible (even the Jeffersonian version).

One of the chief ironies of the Gay agenda is its hellbent desire to “out” anyone who sets off their Gaydar. The latest victim is Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Apparently, she sets off all the bells. She has never been married, she is conspicuously chubby and has been known to enjoy the occasional cigar. This makes her a Lesbian? Au contraire. Monica Lewinsky, who is famously heterosexual, matches the same profile. Single, Rubenesque and has been known to enjoy the company of a good Cuban cigar (sort of). But what frosts me most about these Gay militants who want to push Kagan out of the closet is that they same people who support Roe v. Wade in its quest to protect a woman’s right to sexual privacy. So how about it? Leave this woman to her privacy. Whatever it is.

How do you fight a war on terror? Very carefully. The Time’s Square almost bombing has got everyone on the right whining about Miranda rights. Most think that Miranda rights are for big wusses like Eric Holder and that any naturalized citizen named Faisal should be water-boarded first, then shot on sight. Or, at least, that is the way right wing radio is sounding these days. Former Presidential candidate Senantor John McCain weighed in on this along with Glenn Beck. McCain comes off comes off like Dick Cheney. And Glenn Beck sounds disarmingly sane.

Notorious for jumping into the political fray in the wake of attempted or successful terrorist acts, King was quickly joined in the ring by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who called the idea of reading Miranda rights a “serious mistake.”

“There’s probably about 350 different charges he’s guilty of — attempted acts of terror against the United States, attempted murder,” McCain said during an appearance on “Imus in the Morning”. “I’m sure there’s a significant number to warrant the death penalty.”

That both McCain and King would so quickly condemn the idea of reading Miranda rights is a reflection of just how far the Republican Party has moved away from a basic element of law enforcement (used often by, among others, the Bush administration’s Department of Justice). The suspect, after all, is an American citizen. And in an unexpected moment of dissension, the two lawmakers found themselves on the opposite end of the argument from no less a conservative voice than Beck.

“He is a citizen of the United States, so I say we uphold the laws and the Constitution on citizens,” the bombastic Fox News host said to the stunned co-hosts of “Fox and Friends”. “If you are a citizen, you obey the law and follow the Constitution. [Shahzad] has all the rights under the Constitution.”