Friday, July 25, 2008

Mars Pulls Ad

It looks as if M&M/Mars has pulled the obnoxiously homophobic ad they were running.

How many times will they make the same mistake, I wonder?

Memo to David Brooks

Re: this morning's hit piece

David: Yes, JFK & Reagan made much more hard-headed speeches in Germany. They were specific. They talked about what America could and should do.

But: they were already President at the time.

If Obama had loaded up his speech with policy prescriptions, with specifics about what should be done and how, you would undoubtedly excoriate him--and rightfully so--for making a campaign speech on foreign soil.

Is it the speech President Obama should have given? Absolutely not. However, for Presumptive Nominee Obama, it was about as specific as it could have been. He's one Senator out of a hundred, and does not set U.S. foreign policy.


Really, is the idea of context all that hard?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quote of the day

I think if I were truly evil, I would have to demand that all of my acolytes be celibate, but would turn a blind eye to any sexual depravities they might commit. If I wanted to be an evil hypocrite, I'd drape myself in expensive jeweled robes and live in an ornate palace while telling all my followers that poverty is a virtue. If I wanted to commit world-class evil, I'd undermine efforts at family planning by the poor, especially if I could simultaneously enable the spread of deadly diseases. And if I wanted to be so evil that I would commit a devastating crime against the whole of the human race, twisting the minds of children into ignorance and hatred, I would be promoting the indoctrination of religion in children's upbringing, and fomenting hatred against anyone who dared speak out in defiance.

300th post!

Well. What a landmark. Of sorts. Not sure what it means.

Rather like many of my posts, no doubt...

Not-feeling-the-love dept.

A London Times columnist on the Obama phenomenon:

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.

Not-McCain's-Week Dept.

The political gods are not smiling on the McCain campaign, which had to cancel a campaign event including an oil-rig photo op... because of a nearby oil spill.

Savor the delicious taste of irony.

Give them enough rope...

Elaine Donnelly finally gets her big chance and testifies to Congress about how teh gayz will destroy the military. With no qualifications as a military expert or an expert on human sexuality, she still had plenty to tell the Congresscritters. And she did. And thus helped set back her own cause.

A double standard? Say it ain't so!

Some speculation on why the media isn't all over the Edwards-has-a-love-child-maybe-kinda-sorta story. Double standard? Duh. Of course.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Quote of the day

Maybe [Rick Warren] is representative of the country, though…superficially earnest and well meaning, with a seething core of stupid that means we'll do horrible things in spite of good intentions.

Violently Enforcing Stereotypes to Sell Candy Bars

M&M/Mars does it again, with a reekingly homophobic ad that suggests violence against insufficiently manly men is just lots of laffs.

It's not like I bought that much of their stuff to begin with... but they're off my grocery list for good. As is Heinz, who makes condiments for straight people.

Yes, they're free to sell their junk any way they want to. And I'm free to buy their competitor's products. Being part of their target demographic isn't exactly an aspiration for me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Exposing abuses

An important article up at Salon about some of the Bush Regime's misconduct. A frustrating number of anonymous sources, but perhaps that's inevitable.

Go read it.

Quote of the day

To rebel against a powerful political, economic, religious, or social establishment is very dangerous and very few people do it, except, perhaps, as part of a mob. To rebel against the "scientific" establishment, however, is the easiest thing in the world, and anyone can do it and feel enormously brave, without risking as much as a hangnail. Thus, the vast majority, who believe in astrology and think that the planets have nothing better to do than form a code that will tell them whether tomorrow is a good day to close a business deal or not, become all the more excited and enthusiastic about the bilge when a group of astronomers denounces it.

--Isaac Asimov

The Dark Knight

It's dark. It's gloomy. It's filled with action. The plot had a couple of holes. It was, in places, unbearably pretentious as it hit the audience over the head--repeatedly--with its Serious Message.

It was, in short, a Batman comic on the big screen.

And since everyone's raving about Heath Ledger's performance: I agree with the BBC reviewer. It's very good; you see the madness, and the anguish behind the madness. A good actor who left us too soon. But at the end of the day, he's playing an iconic over-the-top villain, in clown makeup, in a superhero movie. He's doing it very well, mind you... But any posthumous Oscar will be because he died, not because of his performance.

And I didn't quite get the point of one reviewer who said it looked too much like Chicago, not enough like Gotham. Having seen the movie... I get it. And I agree. Not nearly gritty or claustrophobic enough for Gotham.

Playing the game

It's hardly an original observation that in America, a presidential candidate must at least appear to be religious. There are discussions about church activity, meetings with prominent clergy, etc.

Details of that faith, at least within certain bounds, are less important. Joe Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew. Most voters don't know or care John McCain's denomination, whether their Senator is Methodist or Episcopalian, etc. There are some limits--JFK's Catholicism was seen as a problem to be managed, though Kerry's wasn't. However, the persistence of the "Obama is really a Muslim" canard--and make no mistake, it's meant as a canard--shows we still have a way to go.

But at least no one's hinting that he's actually a closet atheist. That, for Americans, would be beyond the pale. A sixth of the country describes themselves as atheist or agnostic, and yet no politician can be seen acknowledging them, let alone sitting down and talking with them. A candidate who admitted to having reservations about the whole God question, let alone one who said flat out he didn't believe in any supernatural deity, benevolent or otherwise, wouldn't make it onto the primary ballot, let alone to the election.

A column in today's Times reminds us that it wasn't always this way. During an age we think of as being very religious, there were prominent humanists who were listened to and taken seriously, and their endorsements were actively sought.

Of course, that was an age intoxicated with the idea of throwing off the ideology of the past, rather than clinging to the idea that only the magic sky-fairy can protect us from the Brown Menace.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Spoke Too Soon Dept.

It seems Phil Gramm may be hanging around the McCain campaign after all.

And the Crony Express rides on...

Is this really the best they can do?

Salon has an interview up with James Carse, discussing religion as poetry, its continuing hold on human imagination, etc. But as for the basic question of why should one believe, he gets a little vague. His take on atheism is one of the most succinct expressions of the Courtier's Reply I've ever come across:

Are you talking about atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?

Yes. There are several problems with their approach. It has an inadequate understanding of the nature of religion. These chaps are very distinguished thinkers and scientists, very smart people, but they are not historians or scholars of religion. Therefore, it's too easy for them to pass off a quick notion of what religion is....To be an atheist, you have to be very clear about what god you're not believing in. Therefore, if you don't have a deep and well-developed understanding of God and divine reality, you can misfire on atheism very easily.

Translation: there are entire colleges dedicated to studying the Emperor's boots, and shelves full of doctoral dissertations on the fineness of the plumage in the Emperor's hats! To therefore blandly say that the Emperor has no clothes reveals vast ignorance of all of this fine scholarship!

Apparently Carse is unfamiliar with universal quantifiers, as in, I don't necessarily believe any of it. Having complete floor plans and blueprints for castles in the sky doesn't mean those castles actually exist.

What makes it particularly silly is that Carse had just finished explaining that defining what it is you believe in, that is, defining God, is ultimately impossible. So, it's impossible, but atheists have to do it before they can say what it is they don't believe in.

And this line is particularly laughable:

To be an atheist is not to be stunned by the mystery of things or to walk around in wonder about the universe.

I've stood staring up at the night sky on clear July nights when the nearest streetlight was five miles away. I've gasped in awe at the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Rockies, and gazed into the eyes of my week-old niece and, years later, my great-niece. I've been stunned by the vistas of astronomy and marveled at the intricate precision of mathematics and biology. "Stunned by the mystery of things" and "in wonder about the universe" would both apply.

And yet, I don't feel the need to invoke any supernatural beings to legitimize any of that. Do I therefore, according to Carse, not exist? Once again, the old canard that we can have no sense of wonder without a magic sky-fairy, and that athiests are blinkered, gloomy souls. I can't help wondering if it's projection.

Addendum/Update: It looks like some of the letter-writers are noticing the same logical problems...

Really, I'd expected better from Carse. His Finite and Infinite Games was rather good.

P.P.S.: A letter-writer to Andrew Sullivan nails this as well.