Friday, December 09, 2005

Are You Ready To Rapturrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre

I punched "The Rapture" into Google, and found Rapture Ready, a website devoted to preparing the faithful for imminent annihilation. There's a truck-load of interesting/disturbing/pants-wettingly-spooky/inspirational stuff there.

Rather than click aimlessly, I hit the "FAQ" button. Listed is a series of topics that Rapture Ready apparently finds itself confronted with often.

Come, learn along with me as I explore the topics alphabetically (while rhyming quite contagiously):

On the Antichrist:
Q: "Is the Pope the Antichrist?"
A: I don't think the Pope can be the Antichrist, because the Antichrist will likely be accepted by the Jews as their Messiah. Because the Pope heads an organization of one billion followers, it is very logical to conclude that the Pontiff will someday fulfill a major the role in the Antichrist’s false church.

Oh, yes. Quite logical.

On the Bible:
Q: "Are there errors in the Bible?"
A: Realistically, the question of the Bible's inerrancy has often divided the church from the world and occasionally has divided the church within itself. But the real question is not whether 100 generations of monks and scribes were able to copy every letter perfectly by hand. More important is the Bible's unparalleled history of saving lives, changing the world and speaking wisdom and truth into the most difficult situations. Next to that profound truth, a person’s inability to find where Cain's wife came from seems less and less important.
On the Bible II,
Q: "Are there books missing from the Bible?"
A: No. Some scholars say that those who decided which texts to include in the King James Bible left out some manuscripts that God meant to have included. These same scholars say that some texts were included that should not have been. One such example is the Book of Revelation.

We must realize that God is an all-knowing, hands-on God. We should rest in the knowledge that He has seen to it that every word of the Holy Bible was specially chosen by the Creator of the universe

But...wait...you just said those Monks might have screwed up some stuff. Don't these two answers cancel each other out?...

Tomorrow: the letter "C"!

A Reading From "Soul Harvest," pgs. 323-24

For generations people have called natural disasters "acts of God." This has been a misnomer. Eons ago, God the Father conceded control of Earth's weather to Satan himself, the prince and power of the air. God allowed destruction and death by natural phenomena, yes, because of the fall of man. And no doubt God at times intervened against such actions by the evil one because of the fervent prayers of his people.

But this recent earthquake was indeed an act of God. It was sadly necessary....

Let me see if I understand this correctly.
The Lord, who is a loving God (sometimes) chose to allow "the evil one" to seize control of Earth's weather (like Lex Luthor, but with horns), standing by as millions of his children were destroyed because Adam and Eve did something they weren't supposed to do.

From time to time God chose to step in. Sometimes. When he felt like it.

But then God took control away from "the evil one" in order to destroy millions more, because it was necessary to cleanse the world of...evil?

This is some twisted theology. Would someone care to explain to me why any of this is supposed to make me want to get all evangelical? Other than being scared out my ass that God is going to smite me for not praising enough?

Snarky tone aside, the question's very serious.

I Report, You Decide

There's a very interesting discussion over on TPMCafe about the shooting that took place on Wednesday on/near/approximate to an American Airlines flight.

A few worthwhile highlights (each block of text is a separate commentator):

Wednesday's shooting of an American Airlines passenger by a Federal Air Marshal (FAM) has launched the usual flood of Monday morning quarterbacking. Unfortunately, some key issues are being misrepresented and misreported. As one of the point men for the State Department in dealing with US airlines and the TSA's predecessor, the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Security, in the 1990s I have some experience with aviation security issues. Was the shooting justified? Based on eye witness accounts in the public record the answer is yes.
I've heard some of the silliest, most ill informed commentary on both radio and televsion. Some commentators have asked, "why didn't the FAM grab the bag"? This question shows a complete lack of understanding about explosives....Some folks who have watched too much Hollywood pablum have whined, "Why didn't they shoot him in the arm or the leg?" A shooting is a very quick event and precise shooting, even at close range, can be difficult. Accordingly, FAMs and other law enforcement officers are taught to shoot at center of mass, i.e. the chest.

This thread is very scary. After 9/11 the question was how could this be allowed to happen? A guy claims to have a bomb and won't put it down. You all expect a debate to break out? If he had a bomb and he killed people would you then ask about the failure of the government to act? Could the air marshall have been overly nervous or tense, no doubt. If there was no bomb why didn't the man put down the case? Why didn't the woman with him speak up?

The left traditionally has an anti-law-enforcement bias, it's just the way it's been for a very long time, i.e., presume the worst and make a cri de coeur of every tragic incident.

Vitriol aside, I think the FAM thing is, writ small, the country's reaction to 9/11 in general. Suddenly thought went out the window; what people wanted was toughness. Invade Afghanistan. Invade Iraq. Enact the PATRIOT Act. Put armed law enforcement officers on airplanes. Be afraid, not prepared -- buy that duct tape. Vote for tough-talking, light thinking politicians. Wave the flag. React, react, react, but don't -- heaven forbid, don't -- stop to actually analyze the situation, and figure out how to defeat your opponents using brains, instead of "toughness."

From what I can piece together a man suffering from a bi-polar anxiety attack runs off a plane in a panic attack. No passengers hear him say anything about a bomb. He is shot dead in a tragic misunderstanding. The government immediately launches a cover-up instead of investigating the facts and practicing the ever recommended act of accountability.

You noted that none of us were on that plane. From the reports that I have heard, neither was the "bomber". He was, I guess, "getting away", out on the tarmack. The duty of these FAMs is to protect the flight. It seems to me that the scope expanded when the guy left the plane. At the same time, the danger to passengers was greatly reduced.

There's much more, and its all as refreshingly polite and diverse as the above quotes might suggest. "Security" is a complicated issue, made more complicated by our individual feelings on how "Safe" each of us would like to feel. Reading or participating in dialogues like these help me sort out my own feelings on the issue.

Torturous Distinctions

From the NY Times:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 - The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.

The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.

As we're now aware, there were no ties to speak of between Al Qaeda and Iraq. The article I've excerpted from is an interesting read, and I recommend it. No one's mind will be changed about anything, but it does point out the aforementioned unreliability of torture.

Also - I could be wrong about this, but didn't Condi Rice specifically state in a conference that the US does not hand off prisoners to other countries for the purposes of torture?

Update: Apparently I'm half-right. We DO hand them off to third-parties for "interrogation," but not for "torture."

Ms. Rice:

"The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture." (emphasis mine)

I'm a little hazy on the distinctions being made here, but they seem sort of slimmish. If we were going to play nice with these folks and simply interrogate them, why would we need to ship them to Egypt?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

War On Christmas II: The Christmasing

'Tis the season to be jolly.

Unless you're William A. Donahue or Joseph Farah, that is.

From the Washington Post:

This month, as in every December since he took office, President Bush sent out cards with a generic end-of-the-year message, wishing 1.4 million of his close friends and supporters a happy "holiday season."


Bush's card also included a snippet from the Bible, invoking the blessings of the Lord for all. Because we live in a country full of crazy people, the President's good-hearted, yearly gesture provoked this reasoned response:

"This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture," said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Bush "claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn't act like one," said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily.com. "I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it."

Allow me to repeat that for Mr. Farah: He threw out his card as soon as he got it. A card sent to him by the President of the United States. Why? Because it didn't say "Merry Christmas."

That seems sane*.



*(sarcasm)

Smack My Prof Up

From Seattlepi.com:

TOPEKA, Kan. -- A University of Kansas professor who drew criticism for e-mails he wrote deriding Christian fundamentalists over creationism resigned Wednesday as chairman of the Department of Religious Studies.

Originally called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies," the course was canceled last week at Mirecki's request.

A recent e-mail from Mirecki to members of a student organization referred to religious conservatives as "fundies" and said a course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a "nice slap in their big fat face." Mirecki apologized for those comments.
This should please those people who think Colleges and Universities are too liberal.

And look at this...someone went and beat Mirecki up. Keep up the "Good Works," fundies. Everytime a professor bruises, an angel gets their wings.

The Death of Parental Responsibility

"I think the industry needs to do more to address parents' concerns," Martin said. "You can always turn the television off and … block the channels you don't want. But why should you have to?"
-Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin

In the wake of hearings on Cable television and "Decency" (whatever the hell that means...probably it means not using the word "hell") I have decided that the concept of parental responsibility is becoming as outmoded as eight-track tapes or the comedy stylings of Abbot and Costello.

Apparently, the "V-chip" is not enough. Cable television is in danger of being policed by the FCC in the same way that our public broadcasters are.

This strikes me as spectacularly wrong-headed for two reasons. First, cable television is a luxury that is paid for, not available to the public. You invite cable into your home. It doesn't barg in and start drinking by itself in the living room.

Second, this is yet-another example of how people in this country do not want to parent, and would prefer that the government do it for them. Instead of taking the initiative to program your tv to block objectionable programming, or to simply parent, and punish your children for watching television you've denied them, we want the government to step in.

Ludicrous. Fucking ludicrous, for that matter (May as well curse while I have the chance - government regulation of the internet is on its way). It's not even that I care particularly about cable. It's my visceral reaction to this sort of weak-kneeded absentee parenting that provokes me to type out a half-assed post on a personal blog. PARENT YOUR KIDS! Take reponsibility for raising your family, and stop insisting that the government do it for you.

Parenting requires sacrifices, judgement, and some form of backbone. Grow one, tell your kid she isn't allowed to watch the Sopranos, explain why in a way she'll understand, and deal with her accordingly if she does it anyway. That's parenting.

These sorts of proposals are babysitting, and they are not the same thing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Death To The Infidels!

As much as commentators on the "right" decry the criticism and the "attacks" of the "left" I've noticed that they have no problem with criticism and "attack" when it suits their purposes.

And I've also noticed something else, something which will probably earn me the scorn of frequent comment-contributer "Nizzle," but something both distinctive and worth noting nevertheless.

While criticism on both sides of the political divide have included such tactics as sarcasm, derision and outright-mockery, it seems to be a hallmark of self-described "right" thinking commentators to include promises and/or threats of physical violence.

Where some kook "leftists" have made some pretty outrageous statements over the years (such as comparing Bush to Hitler, for instance), most of them appear to have steered clear of calling down death from the heavens upon the heads of their enemies.

From Newsmax:

Michael Reagan, son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is blasting Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for declaring that the U.S. won't be able to win the war in Iraq, saying Dean ought to be "hung for treason."

"Howard Dean should be arrested and hung for treason or put in a hole until the end of the Iraq war!" Reagan told his Radio America audience on Monday.

This charming communique joins a colorful assortment of angry/scary comments by self-described "right" thinkers. A few highlights:

"Now if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests....They've got a big target on there, ATF. Don't shoot at that, because they've got a vest on underneath that. Head shots, head shots.... Kill the sons of bitches."
-G. Gordon Liddy

"Oh, you're one of the sodomites....You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it."
-Michael Savage
"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."
-Ann Coulter

Ugly stuff. I reiterate: I am NOT claiming that the folks on AirAmerica and other "liberal" outlets are above petty, meanspirited raging. It's the invocation of physical violence that intrigues/disturbs me here. Is this indicative of the type of personality drawn to the "commentator" profession? Or is it specific to the far-right end of the political picket fence?

As always, feel free to point me toward any quotes advocating similar violence from the self-described commentators of the "left." I'm not interested in kook call-ins to radio shows, or the overheard comments of idiot civilians, though. Just the big guns.

I LaHayte You

Color me tickled-pink at the response I've gotten to my previous post on "Left Behind," the end-of-the-world series written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

One of my fellow Chud.com regulars, Brendan/Rath, pointed me toward a treasure-trove of online articles and resources on this morally/theologically/philosophically questionable best-selling series, and I'm grateful to him.

Of the articles I've perused, the most accessible is Salon.com's "Fundamentally Unsound." The writer makes some interesting connections between policies and actions undertaken by this country in recent years, and the beliefs espoused by Left Behind and its authors. A brief excerpt:

The Left Behind series provides a narrative and a theological rationale for a whole host of perplexing conservative policies, from the White House's craven decision to cut off aid to the United Nations Family Planning Fund to America's surreally casual mobilization for an invasion of Baghdad -- a city that is, in the Left Behind books, Satan's headquarters.

The article goes on to explore the anti-semetic undertones (overtones?) of the books, and at two pages its a quick read. Go and edumacate yerselves.

Brendan's blog, Rake at the Gates of Hell, can be accessed HERE. He's got a fun list of the best and worst animated villians in the Disney canon that, for a Disneyphile like myself, was great fun to read. He's dead-wrong about Hercules, though. Solid family flick. Of course, any musical featuring the lyricist from City of Angels gets some slack from me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

From the Washington Post:

The federal government received failing and mediocre grades yesterday from the former Sept. 11 commission, whose members said in a final report that the Bush administration and Congress have balked at enacting numerous reforms that could save American lives and prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.


All talk and no action. That's the government this country supports. The "left" jabbers on about how the "right" is screwing up, and the "right" jabbers on about how the "left" is anti-democracy.

I think I speak for a majority of the American public when I say:

Quit yer jibber-jabberin' and DO YOUR JOBS.


That is all.

God As Terrorist

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins' Left Behind series fascinates me.

The books are the ultimate in religious pornography, allowing people who congratulate themselves on being "believers" to partake in the voyeuristic destruction of anyone who doesn't share their particular brand of faith.

The books take as gospel the Bible's Book of Revelation, a chapter that's more than a little questionable as prophecy, and certainly a 180 degree reversal from the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.

Here's a snippet culled from Apollyon: The Destroyer Is Unleashed, the fifth book in the Left Behind series:

"I confess I have been troubled," Rosenzweig said..."But I have to say I don't understand your God. He seems mean-spirited to me [editors note - mean spirited, in the context of the End Of The World, is perhaps the greatest understatement of all time]. Why can he not get people's attention through wonderful miracles, as he did in the Bible? Why make things worse and worse until a person has no choice? I find myself resisting being forced into this by the very one who wants my devotion. I want to come willingly, on my own accord, if at all."

"Doctor, God has blessed you beyond what any human deserves. If your wealth of friends, education, knowledge, creativity, challenge, admiration, income, and comfort do not draw you to him, what else can he do? He is not willing that any should perish, and so he resorts to judgements that will drive them to him or away from him forever. We're praying you will choose the former."

Note that the good Doctor's faith in the Hebrew God doesn't seem to count for much. Just a page or two later, we see how serious God is about not willing that any should perish:

One of the locusts had found a way in and had locked itself onto Chaim's wrist, between his glove and sleeve. The old man lay jerking as if in the throes of a seizure, wailing and crying as he slammed his hand on the ground..."Get it off me!" he bellowed. "Please, Cameron, please! I'm dying!"

...Though it had no effect on him, Buck instinctively threw it against the wall....It's eyes were open and seemed to glare at Buck. In a strange way, it made sense. If Tsion was right and these were demons, they were madly conflicted beings. They would want to kill believers, but they were under instructions from God to torment only unbelievers. What Satan meant for evil, God was using for good. (emphasis added)
Good, apparently, being a fairly relative term. I'm struck by how similar this line of thinking is to radical Islam. The torment of "unbelievers" is, according to Mssrs. LaHaye and Jenkins, a good approved by the Almighty.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Free Will vs. Determinism Taken For A Test Drive

Canada begins to answer the age-old Philosophical question: Do we have free will?

From CNN:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Canadian auto regulators are testing a system that would enforce speed limits by making it harder to push down the car's gas pedal once the speed limit is passed, according to a newspaper report.

The system being tested by Transport Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Department of Transportation, uses a global positioning satellite device installed in the car to monitor the car's speed and position. If the car begins to significantly exceed the speed limit for the road on which it's travelling the system responds by making it harder to depress the gas pedal, according to a story posted on the Toronto Globe and Mail's Website.