Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mything In Action

Here's an interesting article on the latest in scholarly evidence, or lack thereof, of the existence of Jesus. (A former friend, now evidently insane, used to claim, even before he went over the edge, that there was more evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is of Julius Caesar. I think he read it in a book.) I'm an agnostic on the issue, but I do find it interesting.
... The arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving. A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity. Since many people, both Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate even exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the key points that keep the doubts alive: ...
The article goes on to list several factors which support the idea of mythologized history.

Well, trying to prove non-existence of Jesus is about like trying to prove the non-existence of god; so it's mostly a moot point. He's among, what, a few thousand godheads around this planet in whom billions believe but whose existence or lack of it, is exactly equally ephemeral. To me, it speaks of a deep human need -- which is undeniable -- to explain the inexplicable in mystical terms, and to hold them ever more tightly even as evidence mounts against those particular terms. Age of the earth. Evolution. Human physiology. Stuff like that.

I don't expect the race to survive long enough (mostly because of the ill effects of such beliefs) to evolve past the need. But it's an endless source of interest to me. How it is that, while observing billions of people believing just as strongly in different deities, people can maintain their own certitude in the exclusive rightness of theirs? Even more challenging is to observe how, among the christianist theocrats in this country, they manage to claim the superiority of the teachings of their faith while ignoring at least half of them. Especially the hard ones, the ones that require a little sacrifice for the greater good.

Those of differing faith, or no faith, so they claim, can't possibly have a moral compass, can't distinguish right from wrong.

Which is, in fact, as wrong as it can be.

One word.


Those that have it (which, sadly, includes very few in today's R party, especially the most "religious" among them) have all they need to walk goodly in the world. Paradoxically, that quality isn't lacking in any of the atheists I know or know of, but is undeniably absent in the most vocal right-wing paragons in this country, Christian leaders and politicians alike. And only to a more obvious and grisly degree in Muslim maniacs on the other side of the planet.

As I've said plenty of times around here, I understand and respect the need for belief in most people; and I know plenty of believers for whom their faith is a source of personal strength, and who see the value in keeping it that way. Personal. If all believers in this country were like them, though, I'd have nothing to rant about.

My guess is that Jesus didn't exist, or that if he did he was nothing like the person who began to appear, many decades post quasi-mortem, in various contradictory gospels. But it doesn't matter much, either way, any more than does the "reality" of Ganesh or Shiva or Odin. Belief is belief. But it's curious that so many people are so certain in their belief, absent real "proof" and in the face of such contradictory descriptions of his backstory and characteristics. Even more curious, though, is the spectacle of so many Americans demanding that this is a Christian nation, that we become a bible-based society, while behaving in the most unchristian, unbiblical, uncharitable and non-empathetic ways imaginable.

Humans! What amazing organisms we are.

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Seer Of The Right

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Genealogy Of A Right-Wing Lie

There's so much I could say about the presumptions, about the coverage, about the reactions from left and right, the opportunism, regarding the killing of Michael Brown. Also, there's nothing I can say, because others have said it so much better than I ever could. (That link is a must-read, far as I'm concerned.)

But I do think the attempts to demonize the victim when the facts remain obscure (and might forever), are pretty pathetic. Horrifying, really. The following little episode is a perfect example of how the right wing scream machine operates in all sorts of situations. It produces a deliberate lie (Fox "news" is famous for its nearly countless dishonest video edits), confident that it'll be repeated in the echo chamber and that the gullible will believe it like they believe Fox is "fair and balanced" and that global warming is a hoax.

The cop who killed the victim was severely beaten by the victim before killing him; so much so that he suffered a fractured orbit (despite the fact that video shows him calmly remaining at the scene and talking to other cops). Except that the whole thing was a shameless lie by a famous right-wing blogger, whose conspiracy theories always get play comparable to the second coming:
Not only has Jim Hoft’s story been shown to be false by CNN, we now know he deliberately misled his readers into thinking this was a CT scan of officer Darren Wilson by altering the image.
Jim Hoft is busted. Exposed as a fraudster. He should apologize and retract this post, but I know he won’t — because that’s not how the Dumbest (and Most Dishonest) Man on the Internet rolls.
If you haven't heard the details, go to the link. It shows how the images that made their way to Fox "news" and which were touted by no less a right-wing icon and arbiter of all that is true as Ann Coulter, were intentionally, brazenly, confidently falsified.

Once again, we see how readily the consumers of right-wing media are gratefully and eagerly misled and misinformed by their preferred sources. They like it that way. They must; because the evidence of the falsehood-feeding is everywhere.

(And, with perfect timing after I wrote the above, there's this.)

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Horror...

When The Truth Spins Out...

For those who claim today's R party, in the thrall of teabaggers, isn't racist. Sometimes, without meaning to, politicians tell the truth.
Had he said simply that he was opposed to Obama, his racism might be just on him. But, maybe by an act of a fed-up god, he decided to reveal the obvious: today's Republican party is playing to the lowest common denominator of the wrongest of the right wing. (And, yeah: he didn't intend to offend anyone.)

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Take You Your Tired Your Poor

And now, your dead.

"There are many youngsters who only three days after they've been deported are killed, shot by a firearm," said Hector Hernandez, who runs the morgue in San Pedro Sula. "They return just to die."
At least five, perhaps as many as 10, of the 42 children slain here since February had been recently deported from the U.S., Hernandez said.

To R leaders, the kids at our border were liars and thieves. A threat to us all. Their claims of refugee status were lies.

Our country has lost its soul. Or, more properly stated, has had it stolen by teabaggers and those who manipulate them to their soulless ends.

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Let Us Count The Ways...

The ways in which teabaggers are being manipulated by the billionaire string-pulling deceivers behind the "movement" are legion. Most importantly they've been convinced (astonishingly easily) that all their needs will be met by cutting government, eliminating help for the needy, keeping wages low, and, most importantly, by handing government money to the very wealthy and to the biggest corporations. Why they believe that, against all the evidence of what happens under Republican control, is unimaginable; except to say that it's testament to the connection between selfishness, religious fanaticism, and gullibility. And to the tendency of the human brain of the conservative variety that's dominant today, to revert to scapegoating and denialism in the face of tough problems.

That much we all know, and agree upon, right?

But the above graphs, from here, are pretty breathtaking: in addition to the indirect ripping off they're suffering, by way of legislative malfeasance, teabaggers' money is being literally stolen from them by the most prominent of Tea Party fund-raisers and PACs. And -- surprise, surprise, surprise -- Sarah Palin about the worst thief of all.

Plenty of time has passed since the first seeds of astroturf were sewn. Clearly, the target audience (let's call them what they are: suckers) either understand and like being manipulated, or are too dumb to notice, or are happy enough with their anger and misinformation that curiosity doesn't enter into it at all. From conversations I've had, in person and online, I think it's door #3.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I'll Never Understand

What is their deal? Really. Do they actually believe that those things they want to cut are harming the economy in some way? If so, doesn't their continual aggregation of wealth belie that? The disconnect is beyond my understanding.

But much further beyond ken is the fact that so many of the very people most at risk, were the K brothers to get their way, line up behind them like marching elephants. Teabaggers, led around by their noses, funded by those guys, convinced that they have something to gain by losing everything.

It's gotta be some kind of mind control. Except, where are the minds?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Climate Reality

But, yeah, let's go with the deniers. It's cheaper.

Until it's not.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Let's Call It What It Is

From The Washington Post:
A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast 
... requirements to show ID at the polls are designed for pretty much one thing: people showing up at the polls pretending to be somebody else in order to each cast one incremental fake ballot. This is a slow, clunky way to steal an election. Which is why it rarely happens. 
I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop. In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up.
To be clear, I’m not just talking about prosecutions. I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix. 
So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country... 
It's been clear for a long time that the problem of voter fraud of the sort voter ID laws are, so they claim, aimed at preventing, is entirely a non-problem. It's no coincidence that the states that have enacted those laws are, without exception, red states with teabagophilic legislatures. Their claims of loving America are as hollow as Dick Cheney's soul. If America isn't about extending the franchise fairly, to all citizens, it's about nothing. The America that those people claim to love has never existed on this side of the ocean, or, for that matter, on this side of the Iron Curtain.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Remembrance

I must have been around ten when my grandpa made the offer. Not remembering my age at the time it happened is only the smallest thing I wish I knew about him but was too self-involved to have asked when I had the chance. Like how, exactly, he made it to the U.S. from Poland while still a teenager, leaving his village in the night, alone, after the chief of police had warned his father, the rabbi, that he had orders to arrest my grandpa next morning. Grandpa had, the story goes, wafted in the anti-Tsarist winds of change while attending agricultural school in Moscow, returning to the shtetl full of enthusiasm for bringing power to the people.
Or something. The story was oft told but, as I’ve learned many times since, memory can bear little resemblance to reality. It’s true, though, that somehow Grandpa found a way from there to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, thence to the farm of a US Senator Flynn of Pennsylvania, and some time later to the wilds of California, by train, having read an advertisement offering work to ranch hands. The place, it turns out, was the ranch of the writer Jack London. Eventually he became livestock foreman, kept an eye on his wife Charmaine for him while the writer was drinking his way through Alaska, and rode the range with him, shooting coyotes to protect the sheep. Taking it from a drawer in his bedroom, Grandpa would open a shape-fitting leather case to show me the five-shot revolver London gave him; I recall fondling it with reverence, spinning the barrel, noting, as was the case with everything my grandpa owned, that it was immaculately kept, oiled, pristine.
Growing up, our home was only a few blocks away from my grandparents’ and my brother and I would ride our bikes there frequently, always encouraged by Gammy to have something to eat; a sandwich of homemade bread, slathered with homemade mayonnaise which I thought only came in jars. Grandpa would visit our house regularly, too, always heading first to our garage to oil my brother’s and my bikes, and the doors of dad’s car.
Mom said that grandpa rode a horse like he was part of it. He’d sit a quarter on his saddle and gallop off, returning with the coin still there. His bearing, his dress were always immaculate, even after his stroke. He walked erect, almost never without a coat and tie and always, when outside, a hat.
The offer he made that day, sitting in the breakfast nook between the kitchen and the dining room which I mostly remember for the Seders we had in there, using his highly edited and annotated Haggadahs, involved a piece of paper he handed me, promising a dollar if I memorized what was written and repeated it back to him without looking.
A dollar was big money for a kid back then. Several comic books with coins enough left over for a couple of Mountain Bars. So I took the challenge. Another mystery among those that’ll never be answered is who wrote the extended aphorism he handed me. I’m pretty certain it was he, though. His English was precise, with a barely perceptible Russian accent and conscientiously flowery. He’d forgotten all of his Russian except songs, which, along with favorite American ones, he’d sing for every occasion. It was the throaty and luscious Slavic sounds that led me to learn the language myself a few years later. I could sing you the songs, every one of them, if you asked.
So I memorized and recited it back to him. I assume he gave me the dollar. Who knows? It might have been more. And if there’s so much I’ve forgotten, and much more that I never knew and never will, I still remember, like a mantra and a weedy pathway back to Grandpa, more than half a century later, and only saying it to him once:
Whatever we dwell upon most, mentally, we bring ourselves in closest contact with. That is why it so often occurs that we get most of what we most dislike, because our aversions and fears occupy so much of our secret meditations, even when we keep them out of our general conversations. Concentration upon that which we most desire is the surest way to bring it to us; but there must be no excitement or agitation in connection with our anticipation.
Fewer words were never spoken. But that was Grandpa.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Read This

The best liberal opinionator there is has produced the definitive discourse on the Obama administration. I won't even paste a part of it. Read the whole thing.

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