Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Fair and Balanced Truth According to Fox News

“Global warming?” sputtered *Rufus T. Hamhooker of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “Climate Change?  Absolutely ludicrous! Those damned scientists are just trying to blame it on people and human activities. It's a Communist plot by liberals  to get more money.”

Hamhooker referred to articles in Fox News which question Climate Change,  due to human activity.  The Fox article quotes two scientists who they say, cast doubts on the question. But, one of them, John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.  Professor Christy holds a Master of Divinity degree (1978) from Golden Gate Baptist Seminary, and is Alabama’s state climatologist.  As a former lead author for IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), what he actually said was:

 "It is scientifically inconceivable that after changing forests into cities, turning millions of acres into irrigated farmland, putting massive quantities of soot and dust into the air, and putting extra greenhouse gases into the air, that the natural course of climate has not changed in some way."

The second ‘expert’ Fox quotes is Ross McKitrick is a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, a Canadian ‘Free Market’ think tank, and a 'completely uninterested entity'. McKitrick is also part of The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance is a coalition of religious leaders, clergy, theologians, scientists, academics, and other policy experts committed to bringing a proper and balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development. He is co-author of  “A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor, An Evangelical Response to Global Warming”

The sub-headline for the Fox article reads: “The embattled ex-head of the research center at the heart of the Climate-gate scandal dropped a bombshell over the weekend, admitting in an interview with the BBC that there has been no global warming over the past 15 years.”

However, the BBC article which Fox cites for it’s source quotes Phil Jones, who is the ‘embattled ex-head of the research center at the heart of the Climate-gate scandal’ as actually saying pretty near the complete opposite: “I'm 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC."

Hamhooker went on, convinced by the Fox News story, “Obama says he wants to leave God out of it and leave it up to science. But God is the first and most important and only true scientist.  Why is Obama against God and the only true science?  I’ll put my faith in Sarah Palin any day.  Sarah thinks it’s just normal weather patterns, and Sarah Palin prays to God every day about everything so she’s in a position to know.”

** “This planet is God’s. He created it and sustains it according to His perfect will.  For man to think he can alter what God controls, is beyond arrogant. Try blasphemous. The resources on/in this planet were expressly given to man for his use. I'm aghast that this obvious attempt to use atmospherics for the purpose of controlling the freedom of individuals has gone on so long. Shameful.”

“I trust Fox News.” Hamhooker continued. “They’re fair and balanced and present the truth. If they don’t think it’s truthful of necessary to print things that disagree with the article, then neither do I. I’m like most other conservatives. I’ll believe exactly what I want to believe, and what I’m told to believe by the ones I trust.”

* Rufus Hamhooker is a fictional character for the purpose of this story
** Verbatim quotes from comments to Fox News article

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sarah Palin Gives Herself a Hand Job on National TV

Sarah Palin proudly demonstrated she is a woman of the people in her speech at the Tea Party convention the other day. To make a political point, she rejected the use of a teleprompter as a speech aid and joked about Obama’s use of the device.  Instead Palin used her own left hand as her personal mnemonic device and employed it rather conspicuously, though perhaps not wishing to seem so deliberate about it. Or, maybe her hand job display was her way of emphasizing her rejection of the ‘new’ and all that ‘hope-y change-y’ stuff.

Palin’s supporters love her for her anti-intellectualism and her folksy, red-necky style. Many conservative Republicans, never known for their intellectual rigor or academic savvy in the first place, seem to prefer the proudly ignorant ‘common sense’ candidates - and, apparently, the denser and commoner the better. Else, how can you possibly explain phenomenons like GW Bush, or Sarah Palin? I probably shouldn’t even mention Dan Quayle, as that tends to rile up conservative Republicans too much.

Sarah seems to passionately embrace being proudly ignorant, even though she does admit to reading newspapers - ‘all of ‘em’. And, Sarah shows little desire or motivation to remedy her hopeless ignorance. Like so many conservatives, she seems to prefer things ‘exactly as they are right now’.  In fact, we’re told her advisors are working hard on a new Palin slogan to go something like: “With me, you can  count on no change at all, ever - unless I quit again of course.”  Or, perhaps, “I may be a quitter, but I’m certainly not very literate”. Or, “Rationality is just not my thing.”

The phenomenon of Sarah Palin illuminates a stark political fact:People can and will completely overlook, excuse and forgive behavior and deficiencies in someone they agree with, when the very same things in someone they disagree with will make them go postal. There is no arguing with that kind of conviction because facts and reality are rendered beside the point and simply are not allowed to be part of the equation.Literally anything can be justified with enough conviction.

Maybe it often seems bizarre, but at least Sarah Palin always provides everyone with an entertaining spectacle, complete with the occasional hand job.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Conservative Christians and the Absolute Word of God

“We’ve got serious problems.” said the *Very Reverend Pat Robertson at a staff meeting for the Christian Coalition of America back in 2006. “Those damned liberals keep using Bible verses against Christians and conservatives. They keep coming up with stuff in the Bible to confound us and make us conservative Christians look ridiculous and stupid.”

“How do you mean, Pat?”  asked Roberta Combs, CCA’s president who chaired the meeting. “How can we possibly look ridiculous and stupid? I mean there was that time you got your picture taken with Rudy Giuliani in his beautiful dress . . . ”

Angrily Robertson responded: “Dammit Roberta!  I told you not to bring that up again!  Oh but to answer your question, they are coming up with all kinds of things based on our own verses in our holy scripture. For example, they always throw out that bit about to be perfect, Christians must sell everything they have and give it all to the poor - every last bit - that’s in Matthew 19, verses 16 to 21. Now you and I all know that’s not gonna fly with conservative Christians today. In fact, we much prefer it the opposite. But there are dozens of other verses which they throw at us and we don’t have good answers for, since we claim every last word in the Bible is the literal truth.”

“Yeah, I’ve run into that myself many times.” said Combs. “But, what can we do?  The Bible is what it is, isn’t it?”

“Well I’ll quote a former colleague of mine, old Harry Emerson Fosdick.” replied Robertson. “Fosdick always said, ‘Christians are supposed not merely to endure change, nor even to profit by it, but to cause it’. So, that’s what we’ll do. We’re gonna change the Bible.

“Change the Bible?” Sputtered Combs. “That’s heresy!  We’ll be accused of heresy!”

“Not at all,” responded Robertson. “Our conservative Christians are just as uncomfortable with the Bible as I am. Besides, the Bible’s been changed  thousands of times, ever since day one. Christians have always had to make changes in the Good Book. Times change, and sometimes the Bible must change too, or otherwise it’ll become just another book of ancient myths and fairy tales written by bored sheepherders.”

“But, isn’t the Bible the absolute word of God, and every last word is the literal truth?” Combs asked.

Robertson smiled.  “Oh Roberta. You’ve still got a lot to learn. Of course it is. But we, as good Christians get to decide how to interpret it and to use it!”

“We do?” asked a puzzled Combs.

“Of course.” said Robertson. “I do. And, I don’t need to remind you who I am. I speak for God. Directly. And, you work for me. Don’t ever forget that.”

“No, Sir.” said a chastened Combs.

“Anyway,” Robertson went on. “I’ve worked out a way. A good way, and a way which will easily fly within our Christian brotherhood - and sisterhood too, of course.  We’re gonna go back and reinterpret the Bible. And, we’re gonna call it the ‘Conservative Bible’. Hell, we’ll make millions on it, just by selling our new version, which will be a must have for all good Christians. We’ll tell them they have to have it and they’ll go out and get it. Works every time.”

“But, how will we do that?” asked another staffer. “Who’s going to do the actual work - and it sounds like an awful lot of work. Who’s qualified to reinterpret the Bible - and make it conform with conservative Christian ideas?”

“Well, actually that part is pretty easy.” said Robertson. “I’ve got a guy, Andrew Schlafly, a lawyer and a good Christian and a conservative with the best of credentials. He’s the son of Phyllis Schafly, the anti-feminist you know, who’s a particular heroine of mine. Andrew is setting up a ‘Conservative Encyclopedia’ to publish true facts to make sure they conform with conservative principles - which also makes them conform with evangelical Christianity, I shouldn’t have to tell you.  It’s a web site modeled on a popular informational web site called ‘Wikipedia’.  Only this one will be called the ‘Conservapedia’. Andrew is going to go through the Bible verse by verse to either get rid of all those pesky problem verses the liberals keep finding, or make sure they conform to conservative ideas.”

A murmur of amazement and incredulity ran through the staff at the meeting.  “Wow!” said one.

“Yeah! Robertson agreed. “Andrew will say a new translation is needed since the current Bible is full of errors and we must use conservative principles to reduce and eliminate them. Our new conservative Bible will illuminate the intellectual force and wonderful logic of Christianity. Our conservative Bible will explain the economic parables in the Bible within the context of their full free-market meaning. We hope it can even become a text for public schools.”

“And, it goes without saying most liberals will criticize our new Bible.” Robertson continued. “But, they’ll have to read it to criticize it, and that will open their minds. I am convinced we can win many converts from the liberal world. Conservative principles are the truth and they can not fail to see that when they read our Bible.”

“Wow, Pat!” gushed Roberta Combs. “The ideas you come up with never cease to amaze me. They’re absolutely unbelievable!”

* This is a playful spoof of an imagined staff meeting at Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition of America.  However, the new ‘Conservative Bible’ is all too real and most definitely not imagined. This spoof is about a real and serious effort by Andrew Schlafly and Conservapedia to do just that: To reinterpret the Bible to conform with conservative principles!

The Conservapedia web site is now a fact and the reinterpretation project is well underway.  Conservapedia has three books of the Bible’s Old Testament, and eight books of the New Testament reinterpreted to conform with conservative Christian ideology. Work has begun on many of the remaining books. INCREDIBLE!

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Day The Devil Scored Big

It was a great day for Hell.

The weather was overcast and cloudy and spitting a little snow occasionally in Nashville, Tennessee that day. It started out as just another day for Lucifer. He was out to claim more souls for hell, and he expected, good, perhaps extraordinary success on this particular day.  Since it was a raw day, Lucifer wore his red sweater under his windbreaker. He wore a hat too of course, for besides protecting his shiny bald head from the chill, it also conveniently concealed his horns.

The Devil was in a particularly good mood that morning. His daily incoming status email report already listed an unexpected bump in the day’s intake. Four Wall Street bankers and three insurance company CEO’s had all bought the farm together in a crash involving a charter flight headed to a golf outing to Palm Springs. All seven were undergoing processing at the Purgatory Intake Center. Lumped together with the regular daily crop of deceased politicians, Catholic pedophile priests, pathological killers, Mormon elders, used car salesmen, Baptist preachers, child molesters, wife beaters and the usual daily intake of lobbyists, petty thieves and assorted other riffraff and lowlife, it would turn into a very good day indeed.

Lucifer was embarked on his daily chore of signing up future work. He had spent a lot of time prospecting for souls in Nashville over the years. Being the virtual buckle on the bible belt, it was of course prime productive territory to begin with.  But, on this particular day, Nashville was very, very special indeed. The Tea Party convention was in town - and the place was certain to be full of God hollerers and simple-minded bible thumpers - all excellent candidates for the devil’s workshop.  Lucifer actually licked his lips at the juicy prospects as he headed for the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, the actual venue for the event.

“May I help you Sir?” asked the respectful clerk behind the desk as Lucifer approached.

“Yes,” said Lucifer. “I’m here for the Tea Party convention. Where do I register?”

“Yes Sir,” answered the clerk. “right down there to your left.   You’ll find the registration desk set up in the center of the lobby there.”

But the Devil received a rude shock when he approached the registration counter. “That’ll be $595 plus a $9.95 fee, plus tax.” said the white-haired registration lady with a tight, grim smile. “The total is $662 even.”

“$662 for a goddamned two day, two-bit political convention for a bunch of simple-minded bozos?” the Devil exploded. “That’s freaking outrageous!”

“Yes, I’m sorry Sir.” answered the registration lady. “But, don’t forget, most of these folks are GOPers, and this event was organized by GOPers and you know how our people are on the subject of money and profit. Besides, I know exactly who you are. You’re bound to make out big time here today.”

Had it been possible, Lucifer would have turned redder - but his complexion was already at its limit. “How in Hell do you know that?” he demanded as he looked at the lady more closely.

“Let’s just say I have my ways.” said the white-haired lady. “I’ve been around a long, long time and I’ve seen the sinners come and go. Besides, I guess you don’t remember me, but you signed me up yourself at George W. Bush’s first inauguration.”

Lucifer smiled. Of course he did remember. He never forgot a soul once signed up. It was just she had a new hairdo, with blueing - and after all, nearly ten years had passed. He paid his tab and passed on into the convention hall. It was full of people he recognized immediately. For Lucifer put his special marks on signed souls so he could pick out his former victims easily, so as not to waste his time: A grim, judgmental set to the countenance, with downturned, tightly pursed lips, a hunted look, and with eyes that darted furtively were just a few of the signs.  The goddamned place was full of people with his signs. Maybe prospecting wouldn’t be so good after all.

But, he soon brightened up. Of course the stage was already completely full of signed souls, but the first few rows of spectator seats had a hefty proportion of candidates. Eager, and angry looking people, but without that hunted look - yet. Lucifer would work hard to change all that. He sat down next to a large, well-fed fat lady.

“How do?” he said, dropping into the local idiom. The large woman looked at him suspiciously.

“I’m Aidan Messor from Brimstone, Louisiana.” Lucifer smiled warmly as he stuck out his hand. The fat lady reluctantly gave him three pulpy fingers, overhand, like over ripe bananas hanging from a stalk.

“Trinity Jones.” the fat lady said, glaring at him. “Milwaukee.”

“I’m really looking forward to hearing Sarah Palin’s talk.” said Lucifer.

“Oh, I just love her so much.” Trinity Jones gushed immediately. “She’s so down to earth and real and all. I wish I could be as beautiful and smart as she is!”

“Well, you’re already as beautiful, and I can easily show you how to be as wonderful and smart and popular as Sarah is. In fact, I’m the very one who showed Sarah how to do it.” said Lucifer with an easy grin as he started into his standard spiel.  Trinity Jones turned her full attention to him, intrigued. This one was already almost in the bag!

And, the entire day went that way, easy pickings all the way, all day long - one hundred and sixteen signed contracts and counting. Lucifer was exhausted by the time Sarah Palin launched into her speech.  He turned to what he decided to be his last and final mark.

“How do, I’m Aidan Messor from Brimstone, Louisiana.” he said to the wizened little old man.

“Rafer Fortis” said the old guy.  “Fort Wayne.  I’m just here to check things out.  So far, I’m not too impressed.  Figure I ain’t got a whole lot’s for my money yet.  Damned sure not what I expected.”

“Me neither.” said Lucifer.  “What were you expecting?  Exactly what are you looking for?”

“Well, a damned sight more than what that silly-assed airhead Sarah Palin’s giving us.” said the old guy. “I wanted this simple-minded crap, I’da stayed home with the old lady. Least they coulda given us someone like that Ann Coulter. Now, her I could listen to all day long.”

Lucifer smiled. “What if I could work it out for you to have a personal audience with Ann? What would that be worth to you?”

“Hell, I’d give my very soul for that!” said Rafer Fortis. “But, how in Hell you gonna do that? You something special or something?"

“Not a problem.” said Lucifer with a wide, warm smile, another soul already as good as done.  “See, Ann is my sister.”

Monday, February 01, 2010

Where and Why ‘Conservatives’ Fall Off the Turnip Wagon

The ‘Status Quo’ can never be preserved. It is impossible. No matter how so many may wish things stay the same, and fear the unknown, change will come. Recognition of this fact is seen in the old saying:  “The only constant in Life is Change”.

You can not wish change away. You must embrace and accept it, and hope to guide it. It is a matter of simple survival. To demand or expect the status quo is in fact to regress.

Conservatives and Regressives in particular,  fail to recognize the status quo can never be sustained - ever. Change is not only required, it is an inevitable fact of life, and comes whether one wishes it or not. The best we can do is hope to direct and guide some of the change in the ways needed and desired.

Further, change is the ONLY way to achieve progress. Progress REQUIRES the status quo be changed.  That’s where Conservatives fall off the turnip wagon. You can’t stand still. You can’t go back, and you really can’t even look back. You must look, and move forward.

Change is a force of nature, and it is adapt or perish. As a natural force it is evident all around us. Rivers change course; glaciers gouge out valleys, then retreat. Floods inundate vast regions, hurricanes come and seasons progress from one to the next, all different to one degree or another from preceding versions. Animals, including humans are born, mature, grow old, then die, making room for the newer, fresher, and changed generations. The same with all life, with cities, with countries, governments, politics, religions and philosophies, and in time measured in eons, the very ground beneath our feet. Everything, as in EVERYTHING, is always in flux.

But, the inevitability of the fact doesn’t stop people from fearing change. Fear of change too seems to be a fact of life, the unwillingness to accept the unknown, and possibly, even probably, the dangerous. People and all sentient animals, are most comfortable with the status quo, the perception of the safe, the known and the familiar. The unknown is to be feared, simply because we do not know what to expect. But, our fear can not stop the inevitable change, which will come whether or not we wish it.

We can try to block change, refuse to acknowledge it and rail against it, and may even be successful in the short term, but change will not be denied in the long run. Change will come. Which is the main reason I believe most people who call themselves conservative often seem to be so dissatisfied and anxious. Conservatives simply do not have it within themselves to relax and embrace the new or unfamiliar.  They seek and cling to the familiar and known, and many seek solace and protection for their 'souls' in an imaginary afterlife. That is their comfortable security blanket which they must cling to to survive emotionally.

Not all, or even most change is good of course. Change, being a natural phenomena, is random and inevitably some of it is bad, or dangerous. So, there is a very real foundation for the fear and anxiety.   On the other hand, much change can be beneficial - and becomes what we call ‘progress’.

And progress over the long term is desirable. We simply can not afford to stand still, even if we so fervently want to do so. It is impossible.