Thursday, November 30, 2006

'Mean Girl' Not a Smart Girl

Lindsay Lohan wrote a note to the family of Robert Altman after the film director passed away last week. It would be morbid and invasive to reprint it—if only Lohan hadn't released it to the press herself in a fit of, what, masochism? Let's just say it needed a little work.

Well, at least when we see her reading a book on screen we know she's really acting.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Frist No Grist for '08 Mill

Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has declared that he will not seek the presidency in 2008.

Perhaps, having made an ass of himself so often of late, the former heart surgeon is returning to the bosom of his medical credo: first, do no harm.

Atheism Is Not a Religion

Some Atheists...assert that Atheism is not a religion but instead is the total absence of religion.... But this is like saying that "black," (which physicists define as the total absence of color) is not a color.... In common practice throughout the world, "black" is understood to be a color, despite the technical definition of the physicists. Likewise, "Atheism" is a religion, despite any technical definitions to the contrary. If black is a color, then Atheism is a religion.

—Rev. Bill McGinnis, "The Religion of Atheism"
You hear it regularly from talking heads like Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter (whose latest 'book', Godless, is subtitled The Church of Liberalism), and you're only going to hear it more now that the War on ChristmasTM season is upon us: atheism is a religion just as sure as Christianity is, and all these heathens want to do is foist their religion on the good, god-fearing folk of America.

There's always an undercurrent of defensiveness and desperation in this claim, as if one's own faith is invalidated by the existence of a genuinely different approach to life and the universe. In making their convoluted arguments, people who conflate atheism with religion actually weaken the foundations upon which their own belief is built. Atheism simply cannot be a religion unless that term carries essentially no meaning.

Here's a handy list of qualities shared by almost all religions that atheism lacks:

There Is No God
First things first. Atheists do not believe in a god or gods. This is a tautology, of course, since the term "atheism" itself carries that literal meaning. Some atheists have suggested that the term cedes too much to religious believers and argue for a new coinage that captures what atheists do believe rather than what they don't. The fact that there is no such suitable term is a strong argument against classifying atheism as a religion, as we shall see. The denial of god alone, however, is not sufficient proof that atheism is not a religion, since many belief systems do not believe in god. Some, such as Buddhism, Taoism and Shinto—even Scientology—are properly classified as religions since they meet many of the other criteria listed below.

There Is No Common Belief
Contrary to what the O'Reillys and Coulters of the world will tell you, atheists are bound by no common ideology or belief. An atheist is someone who does not believe in god. Period. Beyond that, things get a little murky. There are the dreaded secular humanists, there are logical empiricists, there are existentialists, there are skeptics, nihilists—you name it. Not all atheists believe in evolution or put their 'faith' in science. This is why no one term could positively describe the entirety of atheism. Atheists as a whole are bound by a common disbelief—and nothing else.

There Are No Laws
Most religions feature a set of laws or regulations, ranging from what not to eat for breakfast to who thou shalt and shalt not kill and or covet. In atheism, this is entirely lacking. This is not to say that atheism is amoral (see below), but to note that there exists no universal atheist code of standards, either vague or specific.

There Is No Church or Ritual
It has become fashionable to claim that the Church of Atheism is the editorial board room of the New York Times or the chambers of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but this is nothing more than sophistry based on the supposition that all atheists are cut from the same (non-ecclesiastical) cloth. In fact, this is far from the case. Atheists are everywhere, in all walks of life (watch out!). The idea of an organized church of atheism in which its rituals are practiced by gatherings of (un)believers is a non sequitur.

There Is No Unified Conception of Spirituality
Unlike atheist religions such as Buddhism, non-religious atheism has no spiritual credo. Some atheists may consider themselves 'spiritual', while a great many do not. Some may feel some sort of connection to nature or the universe while others may feel nothing of the sort. In Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud called this the "oceanic feeling", and saw it as the source of the religious impetus. He claimed to have never experienced this feeling himself. Whether or not atheists have experienced this oceanic feeling, it has never coalesced into anything that could be called a religion.

There Is No Scripture
Christianity has the Bible, Islam the Koran; Judaism has the Torah, Hinduism the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Atheism has no scripture or sacred text. Darwin's Origin of the Species, while held in high regard by many atheists, doesn't count. The very fact that scientists are continually building on and even refuting Darwin's claims is proof that his version of the truth is not considered to be inerrant or divinely inspired.

There Is No Priesthood
In addition to having no rituals, atheism has no ritualistic leaders. Unlike virtually every religion known to man, atheism has no anointed hierarchy to lead its 'adherents' closer to the truth. This is not to say that there aren't prominent atheists. There are. But, absent the sacred texts and rituals of religion—not to mention a proper congregation—they do not constitute a priesthood or clergy.

There Is No Tradition
All religions have a tradition and a history. Atheism has many, but no single one that sustains a movement over centuries, as you find in every major world religion.

There Is No Founder
Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, L. Ron Hubbard—most major religions have a founding figure or prophet. Atheism has no such figure. There are many old-timers like Galileo, for example, who rise to prominence, but none of these atheists 'founded' atheism and none commands the reverence accorded to the founders and patriarchs of the world religions.

There Are No Holidays
Most religions have holy days (still, despite the all-out assault on Christmas). Atheism has no holidays, and no framework to decide when such holidays would be or what they might commemorate. Festivus doesn't count.

There Is No Identifying Clothing
Yarmulkes, robes, veils, turbans, sacred underwear and other holy vestments hold great importance for the majority of religions. Atheism has no dress code, although comfortable shoes are recommended.

There Is No Concept of the Afterlife
Most religions attempt to answer the question of what happens to us when we die. Where do we go to be warmed in the loving embrace of the lord? Where do they go to be horrifically tortured? There's heaven and hell, of course, and reincarnation, nirvana and moksha. Atheists have no concept of the afterlife, except that, most commonly, there isn't one.

There Is No Creation Myth
Now wait just a minute! How is the Big Bang any less of a myth than Genesis? Keeping in mind that not all atheists believe in the Big Bang theory, it's different because it's a scientific postulate that can be tested and the effects of which can be empirically demonstrated. If in the end this theory does not stand up to scientific scrutiny, it will be chucked on the trash heap alongside the bodily humors and the Atkins Diet.

* * * * *

So, atheism shares none of the characteristics common to all belief systems commonly known as religions. Even widely-despised and derided belief systems like Satanism, Wicca, paganism and Presbyterianism are religions by these standards. Atheism is not. Arguing that it is means that faith in god, ritual, community, tradition, spirituality and theology are irrelevant. Religion then becomes an incredibly paltry thing. It is not a source of solace and spiritual wonder; it is not a vehicle for bringing symmetry to the chaos of life and meaning to the void—it's just the act of taking a position on the existence of god. That's it. How pathetic.

Those who would prefer not to do such grievous harm to the meaning of 'religion' have another argument at hand. Atheism may not be a religion, but it is a faith. Because the existence of god can be neither definitively proven nor disproved, atheism merely replaces faith in god with faith in science. While this argument is subtler, it poses no less of a threat to the underpinnings of religious belief.

There is a fundamental difference between faith and atheism that cuts to the essence of what religion is. A scientific-minded atheist believes that science can explain the world and the universe. This does not require that it already has explained everything; only that it can. This is a world view based on hypothesis and evidence. For most religions, on the other hand, faith in the absence of clear evidence is a virtue. Evidence (or at least purported evidence) is not entirely lacking from the religious world, but it is beside the point. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

Religious faith is a complicated thing. It involves the belief in god, but it goes much further than that. Faith is the trust in god and the acceptance of paradox and contradiction. It revels in the revealed truth and embraces the unknowable. In religious people, it is the umbilical cord to the soul. Science is not anathema to faith; it simply operates on a different plane of thought. Faith is 'belief', but it's not the belief in just anything. To say that atheism is a faith because it stakes claim to a belief is to denigrate all true faith. To have a faith and to hold a belief are two distinct things. All faith is belief, but not all belief is faith.

Another common misperception is that atheists merely put their faith in secular 'gods' and call them by another name. Richard Dawkins is a popular choice, as are Darwin and Carl Sagan. But whether an atheist is drawn to the ideas of these men or to Nietzsche or Frank Costanza, it is not proof of 'faith'. Plenty of people are widely admired, from the aforementioned thinkers to Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman. We sometimes even use religious language and talk about how they are 'idolized' figures. But there is a difference between agreeing with someone or admiring them and having religious faith in them. Without this distinction, the concept of faith is utterly worthless and the designation of 'god' is a meaningless banality. Certainly the religious faithful do not believe this to be the case. But there is no way to hang the mantle of faith on atheism without eviscerating one's own beliefs.

Once it has been established that atheists have neither religion nor faith, it is assumed that they must therefore believe in nothing. Atheism is then synonymous with amorality and chaos. It should be quite obvious that this argument is a fallacy based on a false dichotomy in which all the attributes of religious belief are necessarily absent from non-religious belief.

There is a facile assumption that morality belongs only to the realm of religion, and the codes of religious law are offered up as proof. Where would we be without the Ten Commandments? Coveting asses, no doubt. But there is plenty of historical and anthropological evidence to suggest that religious morality is simply a reflection of taboos and strictures that have developed over millennia and are intrinsic to all cultures, regardless of religion (or lack thereof).

* * * * *
"All right... all right... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order... what have the Romans done for us?"

"Brought peace!"

"What!? Oh... Peace, yes... shut up!"

—Monty Python, The Life of Brian
Once upon a time, Jesus said, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" I'm pretty sure that's a fancy way of saying, "What, you think your shit doesn't stink?" It's a little snippet of scripture that every atheist should know.

I'm aware that atheists are an embattled minority, far less likely to be elected to the presidency than Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, child molesters and Frenchmen. I know some of the vitriol and condescension of the true believers at Focus on the Family and FOX News is hard to stomach. That doesn't mean you have to return the favor.

One of the biggest selling points for the "atheism is a religion" trope is the common misperception that atheists know that there is no god. Certainly there are some who would say so, just as there are Christians who have no religious doubt whatsoever, but these are not (I hope) majority views. Insistence on the absolute correctness of your position is not a sign of either faith or rationalist purity; it's a sign of hubris and epistemological immodesty.

There's no question that certain religious groups would like to impose their narrow view of the world on everyone. These people need to be opposed at every turn. But this does not mean that religion as a whole should be denigrated or dismissed as irrelevant.

Religion has been central to the history of humanity and there's no reason to believe it won't continue to be. The wisdom of the Greeks and Romans survived the Dark Ages thanks to religion. Gutenberg designed his printing press to reproduce the Bible. Much of the greatest art and architecture in the world was inspired by faith. Religion has been central to movements for social justice, democracy, peace and charity for centuries. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, religion has been the cause of and solution to most of the world's problems.

That is not an endorsement of religion so much as it's an exhortation to intellectual honesty. All atheists are not represented by a jerk who wastes everyone's time with irrelevancies like trying to get "under god" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, just like all religious people are not represented by Ann Coulter or Ted Haggard.

So much of the atheism versus religion debate takes place at the intractable fringes where there are so rarely either hearts or minds to be won. If we can surge past this white noise, however, we may come to a place where differences can be honestly respected and ideas can be exchanged in good faith (if you will).

Despite our differences we must strive for common ground, for that's the only place where we all can live.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Another Unbearable Headline

Country Star Pleads Guilty In Bear's Killing.

Granted, it's not as good as "Spanish king denies shooting drunk bear", but it sounds pretty grizzly nonetheless.

Somewhere, Stephen Colbert is smiling.

Godwin's Law Alert

Dennis Prager, writing for, compares the Koran to Mein Kampf:
Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow [Keith] Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler's "Mein Kampf," the Nazis' bible, for his oath? (my emphasis)
Because the fabric of American society is Christian and only Christian and why don't all you Muslims and Jews and atheists just get the hell out of our sacred nation, the fabric of which has nothing whatsoever to do with people of all different backgrounds living together in mutual respect!

That's how theocracy democracy works.

Non-Binding Handshake Deal With America

Newt Gingrich, speaking in New Hampshire (and why, oh why might he be there?), said the "country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism", according to the Union Leader.

This was at the Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner, which celebrates "people and organizations that stand up for freedom of speech".

Newt isn't against all free speech, of course. He did take a moment to criticize campaign finance laws for impinging on the free speech rights of the idiots who run for political office and their black-hearted party apparatchiks. He also came out against the separation of church and state on the grounds that it hampers religious people from adequately expressing their faith. Which they must do as an official act of state, for some reason.

Oh, it's going to be a fun next two years.

Thinking the Unthinkable

Could Pat Buchanan actually be right?
British police investigating the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko on Monday said traces of a deadly radioactive substance had been found at the offices of influential exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky.
According to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur article, Berezovsky is a "Russian tycoon who became a bitter critic and enemy of President Vladimir Putin".

One wonders if all this was timed to coincide with the release of the new James Bond movie. I think I'll take a wait-and-see approach to this story.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Paging Mr. Occam

Pat Buchanan, who never met an authoritarian leader he didn't like, thinks Vladimir Putin is being set up in the radiation poisoning death of dissident Alexander Litvinenko by a shadowy cabal of Russian oligarchs and ex-KGB men intent on reviving the Cold War.

His reasoning? Well, everyone would naturally think that Putin was involved in the assassination of one of his harshest critics, which means he couldn't actually have been responsible. Does that mean O.J. is innocent by default, too?

The other possibility is that Putin has gotten away with brutally silencing dissent before and has no reason to believe he won't continue to get away with it, what with a lap-dog press and an international community worried, above all else, about instability in Russia.

Suicide in Nuke-Slay Spy Case?

There is a report in the Independent raising the possibility that Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-KGB dissident who succumbed to poisoning by polonium-210 last week, may have killed himself in an effort to discredit Russian President Vladimir Putin.

I sincerely hope this is not the case since it would only serve to bolster Putin and lend credibility to his denials in other cases of government critics who have been killed. Anna Politkovskaya, for example, the Russian journalist and Putin critic who was gunned down in her Moscow apartment building, certainly didn't kill herself. Suicide victims rarely have the chance to shoot themselves in the head a second time.

It is encouraging to note that the speculation on Litvinenko's alleged "martyrdom operation" is coming in large part from the Russian press, which enjoys a less than stellar reputation for honesty and independence from the Putin regime.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Oxymoron Watch

More proof that the Muslim writer "is becoming an oxymoron".

A Wing and a Prayer

Six imams returning from a Minneapolis conference of the North American Imams Federation were chucked off a US Airways flight yesterday. Their crime? Praying.
A passenger raised concerns about the imams—three of whom said their normal evening prayers in the airport terminal before boarding the Phoenix-bound plane, according to one—through a note passed to a flight attendant...
US Airways refused to put the men on another flight. They were not arrested and no evidence of any wrongdoing has been produced. Basically, the airline caved in to the ignorance and bigotry of its passengers. It's a great day for America.

So, for the record, prayer is good for the public schools and Congress. Just not the airport. Please disregard the fact that many airports have chapels specifically so that travelers can pray before boarding their flights. Those are for the decent Christian prayers of real Americans, thank you very much.

Euphemism Watch

From AFP:
The US government has tweaked its terminology in referring to the nearly 11 million Americans who face a constant struggle with hunger to refer to them as people with "very low food security."
Presto! No more hunger. There's also talk of creating the Congressional Super-Acquisition Initiative, which will do away with corrupt politicians and create a new breed of "influence-rich" lawmakers in their stead. Bush can then relaunch Lyndon Johnson's War on Funds Insecurity.

If you ask me, this government is full of people with "very low intelligence security".

Kramer vs. Mad Max

So who's worse, Michael Richards or Mel Gibson?

That's like asking which you'd rather have, colon cancer or prostate cancer. Both are a huge pain in the ass and you're better off having nothing to do with either of them.

Materially, there's not much difference in their slurs. Far from being mere slips of the tongue, these are world-class agony of defeat tumbles down the slope of human dignity. That their malodorous utterances are jarring to the sensibilities of all decent people only scratches the surface.

Gibson, by invoking the Hitleresque trope of the Jew as instigator, and Richards, with his fond remembrance of what "we" would have done to these two black men "50 years ago", are both exploiting prejudices that extend back centuries. The Jew is a parasite, sowing discord and feeding off of an embattled Christian society. The Negro's fate is bound intrinsically to the whim of the white mob with a length of rope and the law on their side.

The difference, then, comes in their relative stature as celebrities, and in the relative ascendancy of their "ideas". Michael Richards is a has-been. Certainly, he was a big star on one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, but that went off the air eight years ago. His last acting credit comes from 2000 (although he is slated to voice a character in an animated film set for release in 2008). Suffice it to say it's been some time since Richards has rubbed shoulders with the Hollywood power elite.

Gibson, on the other hand, is at or near the height of his power as a Hollywood player thanks to the massive success of The Passion of the Christ. He's not a major actor any more, but his producing and directing credentials are stronger than ever.

When the Gibson scandal broke, Mel found his fair share of defenders, from those saying his words were just the incoherent rantings of a drunkard to people who thought he might just have been making a point about Israeli military hubris. His sad predicament also elicited a chorus of right-wing voices convinced he was being discriminated against because of Hollywood's anti-Catholic bias (if you don't believe me, follow the Mel Gibson link above).

It's highly unlikely that Richards will get the same treatment following his racist rant. He has no natural base of supporters and, frankly, ugly anti-black bigotry just isn't as hip or acceptable as antisemitism is in today's world. Many Americans may harbor such ugly feelings in their hearts, but they would never say so out loud.

The final point of consideration involves delving into the history of these two buffoons. To my knowledge, Richards has never before come undone like he did at the Laugh Factory. It doesn't mean he hasn't been a racist all his life—such pronouncements rarely spring from the untainted mind—but he has no public record of such behavior.

Gibson, on the other hand, has long been a suspected antisemite. He belongs to a Catholic sect known for its demonization of the Jews, he refuses to directly disown the Holocaust denial of his father, and he came under fire for the perceived antisemitism in The Passion. His freakout fits neatly into a pattern of antisemitism and his evident lack of self control.

Putting all this together, I arrive at the conclusion that Mel Gibson is worse. That said, I wouldn't invite either of these jackasses over for dinner.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Kramer Melts Down

This was no Lenny Bruce moment. It was just ugly. Here's Michael Richards of Seinfeld fame dealing with a couple of hecklers at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood last week (follow the link for video):
Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass....

You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now motherf**ker. Throw his ass out. He's a nigger! He's a nigger! He's a nigger! A nigger, look, there's a nigger!
Grotesque. Too bad Richards doesn't really work any more, since that makes him much harder to boycott. I guess I'll avoid seeing Cat Tale, an animated film for which Richards provides a voice, slated for a 2008 release. Not that I would have gone anyway... If they have any sense, they'll fire his racist ass.

In the meantime, I suggest he split a bottle of Cuervo with Mel Gibson and talk about how to rehabilitate his image.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Return of the Soviet Union

Critics of Vladimir Putin and his administration in Russia have a strange habit turning up dead. Or poisoned.

The UK press is reporting on what appears to be an attempt to poison Alexander Litvinenko, a former Federal Security Bureau agent who had a falling out with Putin and defected to London six years ago.

Litvinenko was investigating the murder of maverick Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in Moscow under suspicious circumstances last month. He met a "contact" in a London restaurant who claimed to have information about those behind the murder. He became ill the next day and now, almost three weeks later, clings to life in a London hospital. The poison thallium, used to kill rats, is suspected.

It is a fair guess that the Russian government is behind this latest attempt to silence dissent against Putin and his regime. It is perhaps ironic that as we struggle to bring democracy to Iraq, the last semblance of it is slipping away from Russia. Even as we create new enemies, an old and familiar one is rising.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Sin of Omission

An Indian artist, forced into exile with an offer of $11.5 million for his murder, stands accused of blasphemy and offending religious sentiments. An art show in London closed because of protests.

Why isn't this bigger news? Because he's Muslim. And, unlike Salman Rushdie, his foes aren't fellow Muslims, but Hindus.

91-year-old M.F. Husain longs to return to his native Mumbai, but, because of a nude painting of a Hindu deity, his freedom and, indeed, his very life, are threatened.

You will find no mention of this disgrace against the human conscience in any right-wing blog devoted to similar outrages perpetrated by Muslims. Andrew Sullivan, so eloquent in his defense of the likes of Rushdie and Theo Van Gogh, so effusive in celebration of free expression, is nowhere to be found.

As the saying goes, if you only defend the free speech rights of those with whom you agree, then you don't really believe in free speech.

The silence from the anti-Muslim sector of Weblogistan is deafening—and telling.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Race to the Bottom

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?
—Johnny Rotten

Things will have to change now, we thought. The Republicans took a thumpin' and a new era of Bushian contrition and collegiality was upon us. The victorious Democrats were, in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's words, going to preside over the "most ethical congress in history".

Or it could just be business as usual in Washington—as usual. Hail to the douchebags and assclowns!

Yesterday, the bipartisan-minded Republicans elected Senator Trent Lott to the position of minority whip. You may remember the Mississippi Republican had to step down from his leadership position four years ago after extolling the virtues of bigot Strom Thurmond and suggesting that the U.S. would have been better off if the racist and passionate anti-civil rights crusader had won his bid for president in 1948.

You may also remember President Bush extolling the virtues of Lott's front porch, which had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and pledging to see it rebuilt even as greater New Orleans went down the crapper.

Today, Democrats are expected to elect Rep. Jack Murtha to the House majority leader position—despite his history of corruption and wallowing in pork.

Well, we did bend over so I guess we can't complain if we get screwed.

Update: Thank god! The assclowns chose Hoyer over Murtha by a vote of 149-86. That's a vote against corruption and, I'm afraid, against Pelosi, too.

Reporting for Duty

Tomorrow will mark a great milestone in the life of President George W. Bush. He's finally getting the chance to serve his country in Vietnam.

Yes, it's 38 years after the fact. Now you know why the White House is so resistent to timetables.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fair and Balanced Watch

HuffPo has obtained an internal memo from FOX News. How's this for a commitment to Fair & Balanced journalism:
The elections and Rumsfeld's resignation were a major event, but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption [hooray!! -ed].... Let's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress.
And 'Rusty Shackleford' complains that Jon Stewart "slanders" FOX News. I don't know much, but I do know that it ain't slander if it's true.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't FOX News usually condemn news outlets that trumpet the proclamations of homicide-bombing Islamofascists? And what of this glee at the prospect of an emboldened insurgency?

I guess FOX News just doesn't want America to win.

Bemoaning the Liberal Faux-Media

'Rusty Shackleford' of the Jawa Report blog wrote a column for Townhall last Friday in which he declares the Democrats' true secret weapon in their midterm election smackdown: Jon Stewart.

How so? Because he played the same role Rush Limbaugh did for conservatives in the early 1990s. Here's Rusty waxing nostalgic:
Remember the "Rush room"? In the back of restaurants we gathered to listen to talk radio in a safe atmosphere away from the politically correct ears of our social betters.

Rush emboldened us. He made us feel like we weren't alone.
Sounds grand. Such frisson isn't allowed for liberals however, because, well, they're wrong. And evil. And Jon Stewart is their master.

Democratic voters are all morons brainwashed by this bad, bad man.

Why did the Republicans go down in flames on November 7? Sure, sure, there was that little war in Iraq thing and the massive corruption and the race-baiting campaigns and did I mention the war in Iraq? Take it away, Shackleford:
But one phenomenon has been overlooked. One which I believe was a key if not the key to a Democratic victory. That is the phenomenon of faux news. And Jon Stewart is its banner bearer.
True. American voters had nothing to be upset about. There were no substantive issues more important than Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. None.

Keeping in mind that Rush Limbaugh is a higher being, glorious and exalted for his role in "emboldening" right-wing kooks, here's what Rusty has to say about Stewart:
While Jon Stewart may attempt to play the non-partisan comedian, he fails miserably. His viewers are all too aware of his Democratic partisanship and liberal leanings. He explicitly endorsed John Kerry in 2004 during an interview with the presidential candidate. Conservatives are lampoon [sic] for being conservative, liberals for not being liberal enough.

One of the most important ways this bias comes out on The Daily Show is the constant slander of Fox News.... It's likely that many college students did not like Fox News before they became faux news junkies. But The Daily Show gives them the confidence to voice those opinions. It empowers them.
This is not a criticism of Dan Rather or any other member of the dreaded mainstream media, mind you; this is a comedian on basic cable. Apparently he has a responsibility to journalistic integrity even though he's not a journalist! Are cast members of ER required to take the Hippocratic Oath? Is Tim Allen really Santa? Jon Stewart has one responsibility and one responsibility only: to be funny.

You'd think a guy who chose 'Rusty Shackleford' as his alias might know a thing or two about funny. You'd be wrong.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Forget Global Warming...

...and stem-cell research. Science has much more important things to focus on:
Scientists announced Monday that they have developed a high-tech T-shirt that turns the strumming of an air guitar into music.

The T-shirt has motion sensors built into its elbows that pick up the wearer's arm motions and relay them wirelessly to a computer which interprets them as guitar riffs...
The march of progress never ceases.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Appetite for Jager-struction

The fact that Guns N' Roses canceled their upcoming show in Portland, Maine isn't news per se. What with the shredded throat, frequent arrests and constant batshit craziness of frontman Axl Rose, it's a miracle they ever played more than a dozen shows in their entire existence.

I suppose the reason this story crossed the wires today is the unbelievably stupid reason they called it off. Apparently, there's a law against bands drinking on stage in Maine. Apart from using his Salingeresque seclusion to put the really-truly-I-mean-it-this-time-I-swear final touches on Chinese Democracy, it looks like Axl's been reading up on libertarianism because he told the Maine Public Safety Department to sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na go to hell.

A band spokesman blamed the officials and their teetotaling policy for "making it impossible for the band to perform their show to the usual high standards that their fans deserve." The fans paid to see a shitfaced drunk Guns N' Roses and, by god, that's what they're going to get.

Axl issued an even weirder apology to his fans:
I agree with, and ultimately take responsibility for, the end decision not to jeopardize the safety of the fans, the crews, the bands and myself as a result of the methods of these particularly draconian authorities.
It wasn't immediately clear how a sober Gn'R would "jeopardize the safety of the fans". It's probably because a clear-headed Axl might remember the whole piano part to "November Rain", and that wouldn't be good for anyone.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Letter to the Coasts

We in the Bible-, rust- and corn-belts know what you guys say about us behind our backs, when you think we aren't listening. We know you condescend to "heartland values" and wring your nicotine and martini-stained hands over what's the matter with, amongst other places, Kansas. We know you have a pretty low opinion of what will "play in Peoria".

We've heard you chuckle pompously about "flyover country". We know.

So, in the spirit of mutual understanding, I'd like to remind the liberal (alleged) elites on the Right and Left coasts that you owe us big-time. If not for the hicks in Missouri (my home state), Montana and Virginia, your Republican counterparts would be singing a very different tune on the cable news talk shows today.

Let's also not forget that the yokels in red Ohio, the hillbillies in Arkansas and the meth-head Jesus freaks in Colorado wrested their respective governorships away from the Republicans.

So, I'm just writing to say, "you're welcome". Feel free to send us some of those martinis as a gesture of your gratitude.

Quote of the Day

I feel liberated, and I'm going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried.
Rush Limbaugh, practicing broadcast 'excellence' on Wednesday's show.

Maybe he'll take a shine to that liberated feeling and start telling the truth all the time. I wouldn't hold my breath.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumsfeld to Resign

More great news. And more proof that President Bush's "stay tough" policy was nothing more than a cynical ploy to keep unchecked control of a government that he's driving to ruin.

But hey, this is the GOP. What place does honesty have in their election campaigns?

Gracious in Defeat

Dean Barnett has a thoughtful, honest and gracious concession of defeat on Hugh Hewitt's blog. A sample:
At the risk of committing apostasy, last night's defeat is good not only for our party but more importantly for our ideas and ideals. Those ideas and ideals have for too long taken a backseat to other less noble concerns. New leadership must emerge, leadership that understands our principles, can articulate them, and will not abandon them. A long overdue reckoning must now begin.
And there are others on the right taking their lumps today instead of bitching and moaning. Sure, they had months to prepare their scripts, but even so, the left wing might *gasp* actually have something to learn from their opponents.

Ha, Ha, Ha! Now What?

Yesterday Americans went to the polls and voted resoundingly to trade in their douchebags for assclowns. Democrats swept to an easy victory in the House and, as of this writing, hold slim leads in the two Senate races they need to win outright control of that chamber, too.

It's nice to see the Republicans fall on their faces, the bubble of their pompous "mandate" burst by their own ineptitude. The Democrats can bask in the glory of their victory for a while, but they will eventually have to answer that most difficult of questions: were they worth voting for?

Whichever way the Senate goes, one thing is guaranteed: gridlock. And that might be just what we need. President Bush's rubber stamp is on the trash heap and he should now be forced, for the first time in six years, to take his job seriously.

There may be more rancor in Washington, but there will certainly be more discussion as well. One hopes both sides will resist an easy solution to the almost hopelessly complicated question of Iraq. (Someone once told me that hope and politics don't mix.)

There are a couple of valuable lessons we can take away from this election. First, however diabolical he may seem, Karl Rove is human. And a failure.

Second, Bush and the members of his inner circle really were as irrationally confident as they seemed to be in the build-up to this election. They had no October Surprise or tricks up their sleeves. They have been living in a cotton-candy dreamworld, and the Democrats just slapped them back to reality. Maybe.

Last, and most important, the American people actually do have a conscience and they do care about politics. That's a lesson best not ignored by either party.

Update: Democrats will take control of both the House and the Senate. It's a clean sweep for the assclowns.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Nice Try, Karl

It's a bombshell for sure, but this November Surprise is a little too late to cause the widespread voter suppression Karl Rove obviously hoped for: Britney Spears Files for Divorce.

We will recover—in time, as a nation.

Badge of Honor

Did you?

It's the Stupid Economy!

On Friday, President Bush was chirping about new figures that show unemployment rates at the lowest they've been in 5 1/2 years. Since, May 2001, in fact.

In other words, unemployment has been higher in all but 4 months of the president's six years in office and now we're back where we started. Not bad, considering the bumpy road the economy took post-9/11, but it still has an "almost-but-not-quite-as-good-as-Clinton" ring to it.

He used these figures in a generalized last-ditch effort to focus on the economy before the midterm elections. Look, look at the stock market go! Just don't ask about that housing market.

In the past couple of weeks, the GOP has dragged out the tired old argument that Democrats "want to raise your taxes". The fact of the matter is, no one wants to raise taxes. But you can't have runaway spending and huge deficits at the same time you have tax cuts unless you're passing the buck, literally.

The Republican-led government's profligate ways, coupled with the astronomical and ever expanding price tag for Iraq, make raising taxes inevitable. The Republicans, who pretend to be moral, refuse to either raise taxes or cut spending, preferring to live off the unwitting largess of our children and their children.

Bush, at least in theory, believes that the children are "blessed". He better be right, or else they're going to be starved into the Kingdom of Heaven thanks to the votes-above-everything immorality of the Republican Party.

Monday, November 06, 2006

'Hanging' in the Balance

Shame on Ed Driscoll for being a literalist ninny, and double-shame on Glenn Reynolds for being daft enough to think he's right.

Let's start at the beginning. Instapundit has a mini-post about how blogger Ed Driscoll has noticed "something 'odd' in Newsweek" [scare quotes added because this is just so dumb, -ed.].

Moving over to Driscoll's site, we see that he's up in arms over a Newsweek article by Christopher Dickey that, Ed says, calls for the execution of Republican lawmakers.

He quotes Dickey as writing, "Sunday was judgment day for Saddam, who probably will hang. Tuesday will be judgment day for Republicans. What will happen to them afterward, well, we'll have to wait and see." He puts this text in bold and italics, just in case you're not paying attention. Here's Ed's 'analysis':
Is Dickey sorta...kinda...almost...but..not quite...tacitly implying that he'd like to see Republicans hanged? Because that seems to be the obvious inference in stringing those last three sentences together. I suppose that's why he—or his editor—titled it "Hanging Judgments".
Driscoll titles his post, "Is Newsweek Implying What I Think They Are?"

The answer is, "No, you moron."

Dickey is saying "Saddam's fate has been decided. What will happen to the GOP? We'll have to see." He uses the "verdict" comparison in a figurative way, obviously, since the American people are "passing judgment" on the current set of lawmakers. The Republican Party will be "sentenced" by the American people tomorrow. Is it guilty or innocent? Will it be a "death" sentence? If so, it's shockingly obviously self-evidently a figurative death sentence.

When politicians talk about "beating" their opponents, are they actually advocating physical violence? Sure, it's a mind-numbingly stupid question, but it's essentially the same one Ed just asked.

The fact that Ed Driscoll has all the linguistic savvy of a 7-year-old child is sad. The fact that Reynolds propped his idiotic post up on his back is something far worse.

If the Dems sweep the GOP out of one or both houses by a significant margin, will Glenn and Ed be out surveying mountainsides looking for that landslide? Will their eyes be trained on the seas in hopes of glimpsing that fabled "wave"?

Here's hoping they have occasion to do so.

Moderate Muslims Watch

Hey, where are all these so-called moderate Muslims, huh? Why don't we ever see them protesting radical Islam? They should be up in arms!!

Turks march against Islamic radicals


Funny. I didn't see this story mentioned on any anti-Muslim site. (Except here.)

Decision 2006

Plug your nose tomorrow and vote for the Democrats. For the good of our country, for its reputation—for a cleanish slate and a clear conscience.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Blame Game

Hilarity over at CJSD with a post on the peculiar Republican penchant for buck-passing. It bears one of the best post titles I've ever seen:
"Who Shit My Pants?": The Official GOP Guide to Assigning Blame
Here's a little taste:
4) An underage Congressional page accuses you of sending lewd instant messages and e-mails.

Who is to blame?....

b) Alcohol, for messing up your motor skills and causing you to drop the "Y" from your intended message, "R U HARDY?"
You can read this and other consistently funny posts here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Kanye Says F**k That!

Kanye West doesn't care about white people. Well, not about Simian and Justice at least. They won Best Video honors at MTV's EMAs (a Euro version of the VMAs, I believe) for "We Are Your Friends" and the rapper apparently crashed the stage to complain about not winning the award for his "Touch the Sky" video.
Crashing the stage as winners Justice and Simian collected their silverwear [sic] for "We Are Your Friends", the hip hop star spat, "F*ck dis! (My video) cost a million dollars, Pamela Anderson was in it, I was jumping across canyons [not a reference to Pamela Anderson's breasts, -ed.] and sh*t! If I don't win, the awards show loses credibility. Nothing against you (J&S), but hell man."
Yes, he did just use the word "credibility" in reference to an MTV video awards show. It looks like, with Axl Rose in semi-permanent-maybe-retirement, someone has finally stepped in to fill the batshit crazy egomaniac vacuum in the music world. It's about time!

After the awards, West raged on at the press conference.
That is complete bullsh*t, I paid a million. Obviously it's not all about the money, but the response it got transcended everything, it really made great TV. It took a month to film; I stood on a mountain [also not a reference to Pamela Anderson's breasts, -ed.]; I flew a heliocopter [sic] over Vegas. I did it to be the king of all videos and I wanted to walk home with that award.... Please press people print 'Kanye says f*ck that!'
Perhaps he can console himself with his millions and millions of dollars.

It wasn't all animosity from Kanye, though. He had no problem losing to Justin Timberlake for the Best Male award: "Obviously Justin should have won, he's on fire and he's an inspiration to me."

It's too bad the name Ludacris is already taken.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Gospel According to Johns

Ted Haggard, one of the country's most prominent evangelical ministers, resigned today amidst rumors of a three-year affair he allegedly had with a male prostitute. It should go without saying that Haggard, in his public life, despised gay people and fought vigorously in the political realm to deny them rights.

No mention of this huge, juicy sex scandal on Matt "Hey, Is That a Blue Dress?" Drudge's right-wing website yet. It's weird. This sort of thing is usually his bread and butter.

He does spare a little space for this headline, however: Letter Carrier Attacked by Squirrel.

I guess the hypocrisy doesn't end with Haggard.

Update: Drudge just redesigned his page at 8pm Eastern, but still no mention of Haggard. A non-story about Nancy Pelosi leads instead. The squirrel story remains.

Update II: Finally. But the "flash" about Nancy Pelosi laying low before the election gets top billing. Naturally.

Update III: Did Drudge forget the HTML code for red text? Is his flashing, rotating siren GIF broken? Just asking.

Update IV: In case you don't know who Haggard is, here's how Talking Points Memo describes the impact of the scandal: "...this is the conservative equivalent of Jesse Jackson getting caught wearing a hood at a Klan cross burning."

Update V: Ah, Drudge is back on his game, quickly linking to a report that Haggard's accuser failed a lie detector test administered by a radio station. Unfortunately, this comes after Haggard has already allegedly admitted that "some of the allegations" are true. That means either the gay sex or the meth snorting. Not looking good either way. The test administrator doubts the accuracy of the test, by the way.

Update VI: Oh, he just bought meth and got a totally innocent massage from a gay prostitute? That's no big deal for an evangelical superstar, right? Currently, Haggard's believability factor is higher than "Young Earth theory" but somewhat below water-into-wine.

Update VII: According to this story, meth-buying, massages-from-a-male-prostitute-getting evangelical megaminister Ted Haggard "talks to Bush or his advisers every week." So, just what have George, Dick and Karl been up to? It's just nice to know our country is in good hands.

Update VIII: Oh, when I said there was no sex what I meant was "there was sex". Lots of it. And since I baldly lied about that, how much you wanna bet I snorted up a huge pile of crystal meth, too? Not that we should bet, since gambling is a sin.

Funny Business

Just a month ago I was writing about concerns expressed by the Anti-Defamation League that audiences of the new Borat movie "may not always be sophisticated enough" to understand that it's satire.

Adding injury to insult, a German human rights group has just filed a complaint against Sacha Baron Cohen, accusing the comic of "slander, inciting violence against the Sinti and Roma gypsy groups and violating Germany's anti-discrimination law." (Cohen's character, Borat, refers to himself as a former gypsy catcher.)

Not that you'd expect a robust sense of humor from a German human rights group called the European Center for Antiziganism Research, but come on! It's a joke! And it's not at all the joke these critics think it is.

When Borat sang "Throw the Jew Down the Well" in an Arizona bar for an episode of The Ali G. Show, the joke wasn't about the Jews, it was about his audience, many of whom gladly joined in to help sing the chorus. The whole point of Cohen's Borat character is to lampoon the prejudices and bigotries—or sometimes just confusion and discomfort—of the people he comes in contact with.

The outrage over the forthcoming Borat movie is just proof that there's no shortage of dimwits out there for Cohen to take advantage of. Only, unlike his on-screen victims, the apoplectic Borat-haters can't claim they thought he was for real. Which just makes it worse.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Criminally Out of Touch

He's got dismal, funereal approval ratings, an imminent anti-Republican smackdown based largely on GOP ineptitude in Iraq and elsewhere, and President Bush just doesn't get it. He's not just out of touch; he's shockingly, jaw-droppingly, criminally out of touch.

According to an AP Report, Bush is digging in his heels (which is pretty impressive, actually, when you consider that he's standing in quicksand). He announced today that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney will remain in his administration through the end of his presidency.

Speaking of Cheney and Rumsfeld, Bush said "both those men are doing fantastic jobs." Take a minute and let that sink in. "Fantastic jobs." It boggles the mind. Proving that he's completely lost touch with reality, Bush said he's "pleased with the progress we're making" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This isn't confidence. It's arrogance and blindness. It's insulting to every man woman and child who actually cares about the war. It's obvious now that Bush does not. Here's his amazingly cavalier comment about how he's not sending more badly-needed troops: "They've got what they can live with."

Mr. President, some people would like to see you deploy what they can win with.

Update: Apparently Andrew Sullivan reads my blog...or the newspaper. He calls Bush "unhinged" and in "a state of denial truly dangerous for the world", which sounds about right.
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