Speaking of pantsloads in today's paper...
...did you see the Faith section in today's Salt Lake Tribune? 800 fundies at the Ogden Marriott waving their hands in the air and rolling on the floor having Jesusgasms. Hard to believe there are that many pathetic, brain-damaged losers out there desperately seeking somebody or something to foist responsibility for their lives on. It does explain, though, why this country keeps acting like a bunch of anti-learning, anti-science, anti-human rights peasants. It also explains why Chimpy McSmirkster, regardless of what he does, can still count on the approval of one-third of the citizenry.
Not So Amazing Grace
There's a new movie out called Amazing Grace, about the William Wilberforce and the UK abolitionist movement. I won't sell Wilberforce short; he pulled off a gargantuan task. But the movie is historical revisionism of the Christian apologetic stripe, and in today's paper, Rich "Right Wing Ho Boy" Lowry joins the revision.
Lowry and the movie want to give all the credit for abolition to Christian ethics. This pantsload breaks on two rocks. First, Christianity had few qualms about slavery until the Enlightenment came as a backlash to all things clerical and superstitious and crammed the novel idea universal rights down Christianity's gullet. Second, the real reason the slave trade was abolished was something else neoconjobbers like Lowry should appreciate: war time expediency.
In 1807 the UK was fighting for survival against Napoleon. With a string of victories such as Jena and Austerlitz, Napoleon had knocked Britain's allies out of the war and taken control of the continent. The British war effort was reduced to Wellington's irregular war on the Iberian Peninsula and the Royal Navy's increasingly strained efforts to rule the waves. The Navy's chief and most successful task was trade interdiction, through blockades and high seas seizures. One of the things the Navy was trying to choke off was France's access to slave labor. While the British colonies used slaves, the French, Spanish, and Dutch colonies were wholly dependent on the slave trade. Stopping the trade would cripple those colonies.
The problem was there was no way to stop just part of the trade. Seized slave ships always claimed to be heading to Jamaica or some other British port but if released always seemed to find their way to French/Spanish/Dutch colonies or to US ports (which was an open market for French slavers). The only answer was to shut the whole thing down, so the UK did.
Of course the legislation banning the trade was accompanied by all sorts of high-sounding rhetoric about human rights and Christian charity, and some of it was undoubtedly sincere, but the reason Wilberforce finally got the legislation passed after so many fruitless years was that at that moment abolition coincided with the expediencies of national security.
Oh those altruistic conservatives
Well, my favorite fucked up duck, Malnard Fillpants (See my 20 Aug. 06 post.), shot his bill off on the comics page again yesterday. He shoveled the old hooey about conservatives giving more to charity than liberals, citing a column by Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg is, of course, an impeccable source, given that he's a right-wing whore and can't tell the difference between criminal and noncriminal behavior (See my 6 Oct. 06 post.). Goldberg's source isn't any better, although it looks good on the surface. I'm referring to Arthur C. Brooks's Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. Brooks is a professor at Syracuse, but he gets his real scratch from the American Enterprise Institute (As Mark Twain put it, "Show me where a man gets his corn pone, and I'll show you where he gets his opinions."), so he's paid to preach the Norsefire party line. His book purports to show that conservatives donate more than liberals. Of course it seriously downplays another point its sources make, namely that liberals are more likely to volunteer time. It also only pretends to deal with the issue of income discrepancy between liberals and conservatives. After all, if conservatives make more than liberals, it only follows they would have more to donate. Brooks has four data sources: the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey (SCCBS) and three more recent General Social Surveys (GSS). The GSS are drawn from statistically representative samples; the SCCBS is not. The SCCBS says liberals make more money; the three more recent GSS say conservatives do. Guess which data set Brooks uses?
Setting aside the questionable scholarship, let's look at reality. Where does conservative charity go? Churches. How much of that really goes to charity? If you're Catholic, how much of it goes to pay lawsuits over pederast priests? If you're evangelical, how much goes to build megachurches, defend abortion clinic protesters, or lobby for anti-gay legislation? If you're Mormon, how much goes to the billionth cookie-cutter ward house (The LDS Church has more churches than McDonald's has served hamburgers.) or buying downtown property for a commercial development? Let's take a measurement of how much conservative charity actually goes to charity.
While we're at it, let's measure how charitable your lifestyle is. Do you ever stop to think of the effects on the poorest people on this planet of your SUV, your McMansion, your sweatshop-made clothes, your opposition to labor and environmental protections? Have you ever thought about how much charity has been made necessary by your systematic dismantling of the social safety net? In all your compassion and all your giving, has any of this even crossed your mind?
What is with these people?
Well, we had the big briefing over the weekend in which Chimpy's Minions presented their evidence that Iran is supplying the Shi'ites in Iraq with serious weaponry. It was a PowerPoint presentation, with all the usual substance of such presentations (i.e. none), and its centerpiece was an explosively formed penetrator, or EFP, which is an anti-armor round. A guy at work was telling me all about this conclusive evidence of official Iranian involvement. The guy isn't an idiot, at least not in the functional sense, but he is an ortho-Mormon, which means he gets all his news and opinions from Approved Sources, and the only sources The Brethren have approved that aren't actually owned by the LDS Church are BTN, Radio Norsefire, and VB. Let's face it, the LDS Church and the Republican Party are symbiotic parasites that live shoulder-deep in each other's colons.Given this limited range of sources, my coworker hasn't heard that everyone outside of Neoconjob World believes this evidence to be complete crapola. He hasn't heard that many sources consider it a bit odd that, even though we have a pile of Iranian and Iraqi Shi'ite prisoners, none of them has provided any evidence of involvement by the Iranian government or the Islamic Republican Guard. He hasn't heard that inquiring minds want to know why those weapons have English instead of Farsi on them and why they are in NATO sizes instead of the Russian sizes Iran typically uses. He hasn't heard that this sounds just like the trumped-up crap the Neoconjobbers used to justify the Iraq war in the first place. Of course he also believes that earlier trumped-up crap wasn't trumped-up crap because that's what his religious and political Fuehrers want him to believe.Why does he live life with his head parked in his rectum? Simple. He wants to get to Heaven. Not just any Heaven, mind you, but the Celestial Kingdom, where he and his wife get to be gods of their own world and spend eternity pumping out spirit children to populate it. He wants to be able to pack his genitalia to Heaven. If you don't make it to the Celestial Kingdom, (and let's face it, nobody who believes as this blog does is going anywhere near it), then you're going genitalia-less. Frankly, I can live with that, because at least I'll be able to take my brain along. This is a message for all you religious types: If I have to check my brain to enter your Heaven, it doesn't sound like much of a paradise.