Friday, April 27, 2007

Fighting Words.

Christopher Hitchens is a frequently cruel alcoholic Brit who foolishly fell in love with the Kurds and thus ruined his reputation by supporting the Iraq war. He is also, in this solipsistic age one of the few biting critics of bullshit left. I wish he had a bit more humility in calling out his own foolishness sometimes (for his sophistry on the war, I'd like to see him march across Dupont Circle wearing a cilice and mortifying his flesh with a bullwhip) but there is no doubt that he is fearless in vivisecting the intellectual bodies of others, even those held in conventional esteem. This is after all a man who wrote a scathing book about Mother Teresa. He's the kind of guy who probably thinks he's doing his job well when someone calls him an asshole. Such is the contrarians lot.

He's picked the biggest fight of his career in his new book though. He's taking on God. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything is the title, and like all good essayists, he sticks tightly to the point, or at least he does in the three parts excerpted this week in Slate. In the first bit, he attacks belief in general and lays out his ideal of the non-believer:

Most important of all, perhaps, we infidels do not need any machinery of reinforcement. We are those who Blaise Pascal took into account when he wrote to the one who says, "I am so made that I cannot believe."
There is no need for us to gather every day, or every seven days, or on any high and auspicious day, to proclaim our rectitude or to grovel and wallow in our unworthiness. We atheists do not require any priests, or any hierarchy above them, to police our doctrine. Sacrifices and ceremonies are abhorrent to us, as are relics and the worship of any images or objects (even including objects in the form of one of man's most useful innovations: the bound book). To us no spot on earth is or could be "holier" than another: to the ostentatious absurdity of the pilgrimage, or the plain horror of killing civilians in the name of some sacred wall or cave or shrine or rock, we can counterpose a leisurely or urgent walk from one side of the library or the gallery to another, or to lunch with an agreeable friend, in pursuit of truth or beauty. Some of these excursions to the bookshelf or the lunch or the gallery will obviously, if they are serious, bring us into contact with belief and believers, from the great devotional painters and composers to the works of Augustine, Aquinas, Maimonides, and Newman. These mighty scholars may have written many evil things or many foolish things, and been laughably ignorant of the germ theory of disease or the place of the terrestrial globe in the solar system, let alone the universe, and this is the plain reason why there are no more of them today, and why there will be no more of them tomorrow. Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago: either that or it mutated into an admirable but nebulous humanism, as did, say, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brave Lutheran pastor hanged by the Nazis for his refusal to collude with them. We shall have no more prophets or sages from the ancient quarter, which is why the devotions of today are only the echoing repetitions of yesterday, sometimes ratcheted up to screaming point so as to ward off the terrible emptiness.


Part Two is a disection of the inconsistancies in the foundation of Islam and the production of the Koran. Part Three, I must warn you if you are one of my old Mormon friends or family members, is entitled Mormonism: A Racket Becomes a Religion. Prepare to be offended, and don't say I didn't warn you.

I can't hardly wait to read the whole thing. Hitchens is great on almost any subject; when he's writing about George Eliot, when he's writing about the moral failings of Bill Clinton, when he's writing about his love of drink. I can only imagine the lather he works himself up into on this one.

Kiss and tell.

I love the term "six pack homo". A six pack homo is a ostensibly straight guy who, after a six pack of beer, will become flirtatious, and sometimes even more, with his gay male friends. Maybe he's a two or three on the Kinsey scale, or maybe he just loves all the flattery and attention. Whatever the reason, load the boy up with a little inhibition-lowering alcohol, and his inner fag comes right on out.

Rudy Giuliani is a six pack homo. And apparently he just went on the wagon.

After years of playing coy with the queers in the good-time happy hour of contemporary New York City, where even the outer-borough slobs love them some gays, Rudy is feeling a little hung over and regretful. Like any straight boy who maybe went a little too far, he's decided to re-affirm his masculinity with a new round of gay-bashing, reviving the whole "queers destroying straight marriages" canard. After all, aren't the gays ultimately responsible for his two messy divorces and public adultery?

Um, no.

And guess what Rudy? The thumpers ain't gonna be impressed. They know a whiff of faggy when they smell it. John Aravosis channels the church lady for ya:

Sorry, Rudy. You're an adulterer. You cheated on your wife - which wife was that? - blatantly, flagrantly, publicly. And now you want us to believe that you're the great defender of marriage. You don't get the right to defend other people's marriages when you can't defend your own. How serious a moral crime is adultery, Rudy? Well, since you're doing this flip-flop in order to curry favor with America's Taliban, let's check the Bible, the King James version, to be precise (it's the version my people use), and see what God has to say about adultery:
Leviticus 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Hmmm... surely put to death - now, no one is suggesting that you and your lover need to be put to death, Rudy, but the Bible makes it pretty clear that adultery is a big no-no. The kind of no-no that disqualifies you from suddenly, a few years after that adultery, becoming the great moral defender of marriage.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Signposts to Hell.

So Naomi Wolf makes the "slippery slope to fascism" argument in the Guardian. She identifies ten behaviors that are the hallmarks of tyranny:

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens' groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law

She points out ways in which all these behaviors are being carried on by the administration.

To her list I would add one other:
11. Purge the doubters from the movement

As the conservative movement becomes meaner and more narrowly focused on power, it has been throwing off those in the movement who are true believers in actual conservative principles, as opposed to hacks dedicated to authority. You see this in the Bush doctrine of rewarding loyalty over competence, in the alienation of true actual committed conservatives like Dick Armey, Patrick Buchanan, and Bob Barr, and the purging of the Republican U.S. attorneys who refused to politicize justice and attack the election system. These multiple mini "Night of the Long Knives" are yet another sign that the conservative movement is morphing from a large populist political program gatherered around ideals of limited government and traditional morality into a power-obsessed pseudo-faith of fake victimology and imagined devils. It also explains the antipathy amongst conservatives to John McCain. He's one of those silly conservatives who still tries to apply conservative principles (however flawed), instead of the pure instinct to power, to the issues of the day.

Tyranny is always about tribe, clan, and the will to power. Those who actually believe the propaganda are useful for a while, but in the end they are an impediment to that agenda.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Back in black.

Ok, I took a hiatus. No explanations, I had my reasons. If you are still checking in on this blog, I thank you, and find you a bit scary as well. I've decided to pick it up again though, and I hope that someone cares, but it was always about therapy anyway.

As for my mood the past few months, it's best summed up in this Lucinda Williams song. You just know that she can go to Slidell and look for her joy all she wants, but she'll never, ever get it back:

Don't worry though, I've started finding my joy again. It's just taking on some strange new forms.