Thursday, July 14, 2011

This Is Your Brain on Evangelical Christianity

One of the more infamous proselytizers of evangelical Christianity is Jack T. Chick, producer of a series of cartoon pamphlets geared towards conversion. His tracts generally focus on people confronted with the choice of converting to Christianity. Chick and his artists meet out prosperity and salvation to those who choose his brand of Protestant Christianity, and destruction and hell fire to those who don't.

My Gut Reaction: If there is a god anything like the sadistic murderer that Jack T. Chick depicts, why the hell would you want to worship it?

Analysis: Chick's latest tract, "Mean Momma," summarizes everything that is barbaric in his world view. The tract follows a trashy woman, Petunia, who inherits her father's house. She and her equally degenerate children proceed to terrorize the neighborhood, leading to a town meeting. This being a Chick tract, rather than calling Child Protective Services or having her arrested, they call in the local preacher. (Even one of Chick's characters thinks this is stupid!)

The preacher calls on Petunia, and is unsurprisingly rebuffed. As he leaves, the preacher tells her that he will pray that God will instill fear of the Lord in her.

Then the tract takes a disturbing turn.

First, her eldest child dies in an accident after stealing a car. Then, after hearing her refer to the eldest as her favorite, her middle child commits suicide. Finally, her youngest dies in a tornado, at which point she accepts Jesus. Hip hip hooray?

The tract clearly implies that God slaughtered this woman's children in order to get her to worship him. This is what we're supposed to love and believe in? This tract is particularly disturbing when one considers that under Chick's belief system, Petunia's children are probably damned, except perhaps for the youngest.

A much better ending would have been for Petunia to strangle the preacher for praying to make it all happen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Republican Treason

As the clock marches on, it has become increasingly clear that the Republicans are hell-bent on using the debt ceiling as a means to push their fiscal and political program on the United States. Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has admitted as much of the Republican refusal to play along, stating that "It's a political strategy-it's not a policy strategy."

My Gut Reaction: People willing to play politics with our economic well-being are no better than traitors.

Analysis: The effects of a failure to raise the debt ceiling could be catastrophic. As a recent story by NPR reports, one of the immediate effects would be an inability for the government to pay out Social Security, as the federal government would only collect $12 billion in taxes while needing to pay out $23 billion. That's not getting into other issues such as paying the military and federal employees.

Some are trying to tell us that it would not be so bad. For example, Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine raises the point that the August 2nd deadline is at least somewhat arbitrary, as it is difficult to measure the full amount of borrowing taking place. He also suggests that it is unlikely the United States would actually default on its debt, as the amount of money the federal government takes in well surpasses its annual debt payments. However, that assertion fails to explain the recent announcement by Moody's that it is considering downgrading the United States's credit rating.

Luckily, not all of the Republican Party has gone insane. Senator Mitch McConnell has recommended a "Plan B" whereby the President would be able to raise the debt ceiling subject only to a veto-proof vote by Congress. This has enraged Congressional Republicans, but stems more from Sen. McConnell's political savvy than any real patriotism on his part. He is on record warning that failure to raise the debt ceiling would leave Republicans vulnerable to being held responsible for ensuing economic woes. Yeah, plunging your country into economic chaos tends to hurt your poll numbers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Debt Ceiling Madness

Negotiations over raising the United States's debt ceiling have reached a virtual standstill, as the Republicans remain intransigent over raising revenue. In particular, they oppose closing tax loopholes for rich people such as hedge fund managers. One major Tea Party leader, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, has expressed a willingness to cause major disruptions to the American economy rather than reach a compromise.

My Gut Reaction: Jim DeMint is not a real American. The Tea Party's stance as a patriotic force is a charade.

Analysis: It is time for Democrats to take a stand. Ideological fanatics like Senator DeMint and his followers are not loyal government officials. If they keep on their reckless course and America defaults on its debt, the consequences will include a massive drop in the United States credit rating, the inability to pay Social Security, and most disturbingly given the Republicans' stated concern for American soldiers, military payments.

What are the tax breaks that Republicans are trying to defend? Well, they include breaks for horse breeding and corporate jets, as well as the "carried interest loophole" for hedge fund managers. This carried interest loophole allows hedge fund managers to treat payments for their work as capital gains, resulting in their paying a far lower rate. If this loophole were ended, it could get the United States 4 billion a year, and cut the deficit by 44 billion dollars.

Even commentators who normally support the Republicans are crying foul on this. In a recent New York Times column, David Brooks argues that if the Republicans allow a default, they will show themselves unfit to govern, particularly in light of the Democrats' willingness to concede on government spending. Similarly, columnist George Will has said that it would be suicidal for Congressional Republicans to oppose raising the debt ceiling, even going so far as to question the proposition of the debt ceiling itself. (Video below)

Democrats must remain firm on the issue of tax loopholes. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, they must also be willing to give on tax loopholes.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Liberal Lynch Mob

Over the past 24 hours, I have been disappointed to witness an explosion of genuinely stupid rhetoric on the liberal blogosphere as various commentators strain to find some other explanation for the developments in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case other than that the accusations are false. The result is a display of ideological and intellectual contortionism worthy of a circus.

My Gut Reaction: Folks, if you're going to foam and rave like lunatics, you're better off doing it at a teabagger meeting.

Analysis: The first article that raised my ire was published at Alternet, taking issue with a New York Post article describing the accuser as a "hooker." Although the Post was being its usual tasteless self, the Alternet article by Lauren Kelley is itself a remarkable piece of hysteria. Kelley calls the article a piece of "rape culture" without producing any evidence that its assertions are untrue. She gained the support of a troop of equally dimwitted commenters.

A similar, if somewhat more nuanced, piece of rationalization was produced by Roger Canaff at his blog. Canaff points out that the accuser's involvement with drug dealers and apparent immigration fraud does not mean she was sexually assaulted, which is a valid point. However, he fails to grapple with what I consider the most damning piece of evidence-the accuser's recorded phone call stating her intent to make money off of her accusations. Seen in light of that evidence, these character points represent a pattern of criminality, which makes blackmail an all too real possibility.

Indeed, my suspicions grew when I read a piece of evidence on Canaff's blog that I had not heard before. Apparently, to support her claim of being raped in her home country, the accuser apparently memorized a taped interview with a woman who had been gang raped. If that is the case, it establishes a pattern of fraud involving rape. Even Canaff admits that the accuser's behavior raises a large number of red flags.

Some might argue that, not being a woman, I am in no position to comment on the case. However, female commentators such as Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post have examined the evidence, and found it to a large extent wanting. Parker also points out that the accuser's story, of being chased down by the overweight, 71 year old Strauss-Kahn, is not particularly convincing to begin with.

The worst thing is that this case, along with similar cases, make it more difficult for women who have actually been raped to press their cases.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Rush to Judgment

Prosecutors in New York City have acknowledged that the rape case against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is about to collapse, as evidence has emerged casting serious doubt of the trustworthiness of his accuser, a hotel maid from Guinea. Investigators from the District Attorney's Office cast doubt on her accusations.

My Gut Reaction: They couldn't have figured this out before they filed the charges?

Analysis: Suspicions about the accuser's credibility arose from inconsistencies in her statements to investigators. For instance, the maid claimed that she emigrated from Guinea due to being raped there, but could find no mention of rape in her application. Furthermore, evidence emerged of her connections to drug dealers.

None of this in itself cast prima facie doubt on her accusations, but the most damning evidence was a recorded phone call between the maid and a prisoner incarcerated for drug trafficking. In the phone call, the maid gushed about the financial advantages of pressing charges against Strauss-Kahn. I may never have been raped, but I think it is a pretty good guess that after a traumatic experience like that, your first thought would not be its financial advantages.

In other words, the maid's a liar.

In light of this, a far more convincing explanation emerges. The maid slept with Strauss-Kahn, a known womanizer, consensually, and decided to get a quick buck by blackmailing him. Somehow, the authorities became aware of her accusations, and when they came to her, she decided to press her advantage by means of criminal charges, failing to realize that with such charges would come an investigation of her background.

This case has further significance when one considers how the American and European media often rush to judgment on rape cases. For instance, Julian Assange has been convicted in the media in spite of the real likelihood that the accusations against him were made by a CIA plant. Even liberal commentators like Katha Pollitt have joined in the lynch mob. Perhaps the Strauss-Kahn case should serve as a reminder of the "innocent until proven guilty" principle, especially in cases involving public figures.