Monday, June 18, 2007

DC memorial dedicated to communism's victims

If the future of human civilization is not something more akin to an
egalitarian social order envisioned by "communist" then the only other
option on the table seems to be...capitalism and it's centralization and
privatization of the means of production.

Given the recent DC dedication of a monument to the victims of

The implication seems to be that if 100 million people are liquidated as a
result of a political ideology, then that ideology is not just illegitimate;
it's tangible evil. Consider that the NSDAP couldn't have killed more than
60 million people (mostly Russians, Poles, and Jews); a further implication
seems to be that communism is worse than Nazism or Islamo-fascism.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Faith-based Fraud: Jerry Falwell's foul rantings

 The discovery of the carcass of Jerry Falwell on the floor of an
obscure office in Virginia has almost zero significance, except perhaps for two
categories of the species labeled "credulous idiot." The first such category
consists of those who expected Falwell (and themselves) to be bodily raptured out of the biosphere and assumed into the heavens, leaving pilotless planes and driverless
trucks and taxis to crash with their innocent victims as collateral damage. This
group is so stupid and uncultured that it may perhaps be forgiven. It is so far
"left behind" that almost its only pleasure is to gloat at the idea of
others being abandoned in the same condition.The second such category is of slightly more importance, because it
consists of the editors, producers, publicists, and a host of other media riffraff
who allowed Falwell to prove, almost every week, that there is no vileness
that cannot be freely uttered by a man whose name is prefaced with the word
Reverend. Try this: Call a TV station and tell them that you know the Antichrist
is already on earth and is an adult Jewish male. See how far you get.
Then try the same thing and add that you are the Rev. Jim-Bob Vermin. "Why,
Reverend, come right on the show!" What a fool Don Imus was. If he had paid the
paltry few bucks to make himself a certified clergyman, he could be jeering and
sneering to the present hour.

Falwell went much further than his mad 1999 assertion about the Jewish Antichrist. In the time immediately following the assault by religious
fascism on American civil society in September 2001, he used his regular
indulgence on the airwaves to commit treason. Entirely exculpating the
suicide-murderers, he asserted that their acts were a divine punishment of the United
States. Again, I ask you to imagine how such a person would be treated if he were not supposedly a man of faith.

One of his associates, Bailey Smith, once opined that "God does not
hear the prayers of a Jew." This is one of the few anti-Semitic remarks ever
made that has a basis in fact, since God does not exist and does not attend to
any prayers, but Smith was not quite making that point. Along with his
friend Pat Robertson, who believes in secret Jewish control of the world of
finance, and Billy Graham, who boasted to Richard Nixon that the Jews had never
guessed what he truly thought of them, Falwell kept alive the dirty innuendo about
Jews that so many believing Christians seem to need. This would be bad enough in
itself, and an additional reason to deplore the free ride he was given on
television, if his trade-off had not been even worse.

Seeking to deflect the charge of anti-Jewish prejudice, Falwell
adopted the cause of the most thuggish and demented Israeli settlers, proclaiming
that their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza was a holy matter and hoping that
they might help to bring on Armageddon and the return of the Messiah. A
detail in this ghastly narrative, as adepts of the "Left Behind" series will
know, is that the return of the risen Christ will require the mass slaughter or mass conversion of all Jews. This consideration did not prevent Menachem
Begin from awarding Falwell the Jabotinsky Centennial Medal in 1980 and has not
inhibited other Israeli extremists from embracing him and his co-thinkers ever
since. All bigots and frauds are brothers under the skin. Trying to interrupt the
fiesta of piety on national television on the night of Falwell's death, I found
myself waiting while Ralph Reed went all moist about the role of the departed
in empowering "people of faith." Here was the hypocritical casino-based
Christian who sought and received the kosher stamp from Jack Abramoff. Perfect.

Like many fanatical preachers, Falwell was especially disgusting in
exuding an almost sexless personality while railing from dawn to dusk about the
sex lives of others. His obsession with homosexuality was on a par with his
lip-smacking evocations of hellfire. From his wobbly base of opportunist fund
raising and degree-mill money-spinning in Lynchburg, Va., he set out to puddle his sausage-sized fingers into the intimate arrangements of people who had
done no harm. Men of this type, if they cannot persuade enough foolish people
to part with their savings, usually end up raving on the street and waving
placards about the coming day of judgment. But Falwell, improving on the other
Chaucerian frauds from Oral Roberts to Jim Bakker to Ted Haggard, not only had a
TV show of his own but was also regularly invited onto mainstream ones.

The evil that he did will live after him. This is not just because of
the wickedness that he actually preached, but because of the hole that he
made in the "wall of separation" that ought to divide religion from politics.
In his dingy racist past, Falwell attacked those churchmen who mixed the two
worlds of faith and politics and called for civil rights. Then he realized that
two could play at this game and learned to play it himself. Then he won the
Republican Party over to the idea of religious voters and faith-based fund
raising. And now, by example at least, he has inspired emulation in many Democrats
and liberals who would like to borrow the formula. His place on the cable
shows will be amply filled by Al Sharpton: another person who can get away with
anything under the rubric of Reverend. It's a shame that there is no hell for
Falwell to go to, and it's extraordinary that not even such a scandalous career
is enough to shake our dumb addiction to the "faith-based."

By Christopher Hitchens


Free Will in Fruit Flies

Do humans have free will?  ...Well, we humans may not--but fruit flies apparently do.  Check out this recent discovery and the excerpt from one of the articles linked to below:

"[. . . ] In this sense, a murderer can usually be made responsible for his crimes because he only rarely would be left without alternative."

"The point here is that the people claiming that free will doesn't exist say that one day we will be able to show exactly why a murderer must necessarily have acted the way he did by looking closely at his brain. We can show that you cannot even do this in fly brains, as a matter of principle."

These results caught computer scientist and lead author Alexander Maye from the University of Hamburg by surprise: "I would have never guessed that simple flies who otherwise keep bouncing off the same window have the capacity for nonrandom spontaneity if given the chance."