Archive for the “General” Category

Posts of a general nature

I blogged about Patty Robertson’s insane and insulting drivel about the earthquake in Haiti last night, but now I find that another Rightist figure has found yet another insulting and horrible way to comment on that same disaster. Rush Limbaugh has managed to say not one, but two, despicable — and in the case of the latter, possibly racist — things about it.

His first gem: “We’ve already donated to Haiti, it’s called the US income tax.” Here’s a Mediaite recording:

Limbaugh implies that no American need donate anything to Haitian relief, since it’s already been done by the federal government. Gosh, what a wonderfully charitable sentiment!

Then, he said: “[The Obama White House will] use this to burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community, in the light-skinned and black-skinned community in this country.” Here, again, is a Mediate recording:

Limbaugh is correct in suggesting that politicians “use” disaster responses to promote themselves politically. This is old news. It’s also something all political parties do and it’s something they’ve long been criticized for (e.g. George W. Bush, who was accused of this back in 2004 (cached article) when he was running for re-election). The remarks about light-skinned and black-skinned and appealing just to “the black community,” though, are ridiculous, and reveal Limbaugh’s own racist thinking rather than saying anything about the Obama administration. If he thinks politicians like Obama only care about how “the black community” sees them, then he’s an idiot … politicians such as him typically want to look good to as many different kinds of people as possible, not just to a subset of the population!

So far this has only been reported by the usual partisan-political outlets, such as Huff and Media Matters, not by the mass media. They’re likely not aware of it yet. (It’s always partisans who first pick these things up, since they’re the ones with banks of monitors listening to and transcribing the comments of people like Robertson and Limbaugh. The mass media don’t have the personnel to devote to that.)

It’s absolutely unbelievable that people like Robertson and Limbaugh manage to get away with this. Once again I must ask a similar question to the one that ended my blog entry on Robertson’s latest spew, which is, “When are conservatives going to figure out that Rush Limbaugh no longer possesses the moral foundation to be their spokesman any more?” At what point have they had enough?

Update: Limbaugh is now saying (WebCite cached article) that his racist or near-racist remarks were merely his way of pointing out that Senate majority leader Harry Reid hasn’t taken any heat for his own quasi-racist comments during the 2008 presidential campaign (as reported in a recent book). There are two problems with this, however. First, Limbaugh is incorrect in insisting that Reid hasn’t been criticized for his comments. Reid has been criticized (cached); he has apologized (cached) for those remarks; and the apology was accepted (cached). Second, this is two wrongs make a right thinking, which is both fallacious and immoral. That someone else did something wrong, is not license for anyone to misbehave. Not to mention that Limbaugh’s claim that Reid hasn’t been criticized is … as noted already … factually incorrect. Thus he compounds the immorality of using another’s wrong to justify his own, with the immorality of deceit.

Nice. For that the man gets paid millions of dollars a year.

At that rate of pay, he can afford to hire a nanny who can make him grow up, for the first time in his life.

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The problem of “link rot” has infected the World Wide Web almost from its inception. This phenomenon is especially troubling for me, since nearly all of my blog articles cite other Web material (mostly media articles). In an effort to deal with this, I’ve decided to use a service called WebCite. It caches Web pages, so they remain available, even if they’re later deleted or lost, the server they were on becomes unavailable, and so on. I plan to include links both to the live article in question, and add in the WebCite link (clearly marked as a cached page).

If you click on a link in one of my blog entries, and don’t get what I’ve described, try the cached version.

Hopefully you’ll agree this will improve this blog and ensure you will be able to see what I’m referring to in my own articles. Thank you.

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Televangelist Pat Robertson has said a lot of terrible, even reprehensible things over the years. I’ve already covered a couple of them. At times I wonder if he could ever top some of the stuff he’s spewed. Well, he may have just outdone himself with his latest insulting, condescending, not to mention just plain erroneous remarks … about, of all things, the recent catastrophic earthquake in Haiti (as reported by Time magazine; WebCite cached article):

Why Is Pat Robertson Blaming Haiti?

The Rev. Pat Robertson turned heads with his appearance on The 700 Club on Wednesday when he blamed Haitian history for Tuesday’s devastating earthquake. In short, Robertson claimed that the quake was divine retribution for a pact with the devil that was sworn long ago, a statement he was audacious enough to make while the 800 number for disaster relief scrolled at the bottom of the broadcast.

Here is the video, courtesy of Youtube:

Time transcribed his bilge as follows:

“And you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon the Third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘O.K., it’s a deal.’ “

I had never heard reference to Haiti having made a pact with the devil, but Time looked into it and discovered the following:

So what was Robertson referring to? The theory that Haiti is a nation built on a pact with the devil has circulated on a number of websites, each tracing back to an apocryphal tale of Haitian voodoo priests sacrificing a pig and drinking its blood in 1791 in order to secure Satan’s aid in expelling the French occupation. In return, the priests are said to have promised Haiti to Satan for the next 200 years. The French were soon beat back, and in 1804, Haiti became an independent nation. But even if you believe the story (something many historians doubt), Satan’s lease on the tiny island nation should have expired in 1991.

Update: More media outlets are reporting on Robertson’s disgusting spew, and pointing out it’s even worse than Time reported. In an interview reported by the Washington Post, he said — by cleverly posing it as a question — that the earthquake in Haiti was “a blessing in disguise” (WebCite cached article). In addition to most major media outlets, blogs of all kinds — including Religion Dispatches, Hot Air, Unreasonable Faith, and more — have picked up on Patty Robertson and his screaming ignorance. As of now (c. 1 am EST on 1/14/10), Patty hasn’t apologized or defended his remarks, and no one else has apologized for or defended them on his behalf, either. Pathetic.

My question for any Christians who read this, is: At what point are you going to decide you’ve had enough of this putative spokesman for your religion? When are you going to finally decide to put a muzzle on him — figuratively if not actually — and get him to stop running off his insulting mouth? I mean this question seriously and sincerely; when, exactly, are you going to do something about this train-wreck of a preacher?

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One of the most notorious pseudohistorians currently living, Zechariah Sitchin, has made the big time … in the form of an interview with none other than the venerable Gray Lady, the nation’s “newspaper of record.” If you don’t know who Sitchin is, don’t worry, the New York Times covers his wingnut theories in a quick fashion, although it hardly does justice to his pompous wordiness (WebCite cached article):

Origin of the Species, From an Alien View

WHERE did humankind come from?

If you’re going to ask Zecharia Sitchin, be ready for a “Planet of the Apes” scenario: spaceships and hieroglyphics, genetic mutations and mutinous space aliens in gold mines.

It sounds like science fiction, but Mr. Sitchin is sure this is how it all went down hundreds of thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia. Humans were genetically engineered by extraterrestrials, he said, pointing to ancient texts to prove it.

Sitchin deeply imbues every sentence he writes with an obnoxious certitude, as well as the implication that he’s the only human being who’s ever actually read the ancient texts he claims he’s read. He insinuates that there are no Sumerologists or Assyriologists other than himself. The Times sums up his expertise, as well as his so-called “argument”:

Starting in childhood, he has studied ancient Hebrew, Akkadian and Sumerian, the language of the ancient Mesopotamians, who brought you geometry, astronomy, the chariot and the lunar calendar. And in the etchings of Sumerian pre-cuneiform script — the oldest example of writing — are stories of creation and the cosmos that most consider myth and allegory, but that Mr. Sitchin takes literally.

In his kitchen, Mr. Sitchin pulled two Danish out of a Zabar’s bag and began to explain. It starts with the planet Nibiru, whose long, elliptical orbit brings it near Earth once every 3,600 years or so. The planet’s inhabitants were technologically advanced humanlike beings, Mr. Sitchin said, standing about nine feet tall. Some 450,000 years ago, they detected reserves of gold in southeast Africa and made a colonial expedition to Earth, splashing down in what is now the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Sitchin said these Nibiru-ites recruited laborers from Earth’s erect primates to build eight great cities. Enki, who became the Sumerians’ god of science, bestowed some of the Nibiru-ites’ advanced genetic makeup upon these bipeds so they could work as miners.

This is how Mr. Sitchin explains what scientists attribute to evolution. He says the aliens’ cities were washed away in a great flood 30,000 years ago, after which they began passing on their knowledge to humans. He showed a photograph of a woodcarving from 7,000 B.C. of a large man handing over a plow to a smaller man: Ah, the passing on of agricultural knowledge. Anyway, he said, the Nibiru-ites finally jetted home in their spacecraft, around 550 B.C.

There are a number of glaring, obvious flaws with Sitchin’s scenario, not the least of which is: If these aliens were so advanced that they could pilot spacecraft and engineer humanity, how could their cities have been destroyed — to the point of driving them off the planet entirely — by something as prosaic as flooding? I mean, had they no means to deal with it?

Sitchin makes the same mistake many pseudohistorians do … which is to confuse the speculation and mythology of the ancients, and their metaphorical expressions and various metaphysical suppositions, with fact. For instance, he assumes that because ancient Near Easterners — such as the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Hebrews — wrote about a “great global flood,” the only possible conclusion is that there absolutely must have been a great global flood! He cannot conceive that there may have been a single localized (yet devastating) flood, which eventually morphed in the telling into something much larger and even more devastating. Oh no. Couldn’t have happened! The presumption that “the Ancients” never, ever wrote fiction, never exaggerated, never repeated unfounded rumors, never leaped to conclusions, and never misrepresented or misstated facts, is of course totally ridiculous … yet Sitchin, for all his apparent intelligence, is by no means the only person to hold this idea.

Sitchin’s leaps to conclusions and pseudoacademic arrogance are all just too asinine for words. Unfortunately his pablum is widely believed, though, and he’s a best-selling author, many times over. Sigh.

Hat tip: The Skeptic’s Dictionary.

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Slowly, more information has been coming out about the Arizona sweat-lodge deaths that occurred during a “Spiritual Warrior” retreat led by New Age guru James Arthur Ray. (I’ve blogged on this three times already.) It turns out that previous Ray retreats had also required medical interventions, as the Washington Post reports:

Documents released in the investigation of a fatal sweat lodge ceremony show that people lost consciousness and others suffered broken bones at past events led by self-help guru James Arthur Ray, but Ray largely ignored the medical problems that arose. …

In documents released Monday, a man Ray hired to build the sweat lodge told investigators that he was hesitant to assist with the ceremony for a third year because participants previously had emerged in medical distress, and emergency help wasn’t summoned. Theodore Mercer said the latest ceremony was hotter than in years past, but Ray repeatedly told participants, “You are not going to die. You might think you are, but you’re not going to die.”

Mercer’s wife, Debra, told investigators that one man emerged from the sweat lodge halfway through the October ceremony believing he was having a heart attack and would die. She said that instead of summoning medical aid, Ray said “It’s a good day to die,” according to a search warrant affidavit.

When Ray was advised that two participants were unconscious near the end of the two-hour ceremony, Debra Mercer said Ray did not appear overly concerned and said they would be OK until the end.

A similar report by the (UK) Guardian adds a little snippet about one of those previous retreats:

But the leaked report does reveal previous incidents when problems arose at Ray’s sweat lodge and other strange ceremonies. One man described Ray telling him to shatter bricks with his bare hands, which he did, breaking bones in his hand in the process.

I’m sure J.A. Ray — one of the people behind The Secret — would probably make the excuse that the man hadn’t sufficiently “attracted” the brick’s shattering, or he wasn’t sufficiently clued in to the secret of smashing bricks, ergo his injuries were to be expected. Or some other vague metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.

To date, Arizona and Yavapai county authorities have claimed this is a homicide investigation, however, their record of coddling Ray — including refusing to question him when they had the chance, then allowing him to leave their jurisdiction — in addition to their statements that they aren’t even sure they’ll ever file charges, strongly suggests that’s exactly what will happen … i.e. no charges will be filed, and Ray will escape justice.

P.S. How much of a “secret” could The Secret be, if it’s the subject of a multi-million dollar publishing empire? Just wondering aloud.

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The purpose-driven beggar’s begging (about which I blogged a few days ago) has, apparently, worked spectacularly. KCAL-TV in Los Angeles reports Rick Warren’s good news and good fortune:

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren says his call for donations to fill a $900,000 deficit at his Southern California megachurch has brought in $2.4 million.

Warren announced the sum to cheers at a Saturday service, and said the total includes only money brought in person to Saddleback Church by New Year’s Eve.

I admit Warren sure has chutzpah. It takes real guts for a multi-millionaire (which Warren is, due to his “purpose-driven” publishing empire) to actually go begging for money as he did. But he did it, and his sheep congregants rewarded him handsomely for it.

I’m not sure exactly where Jesus’ own injunctions against amassing wealth* fits into all of this, but I’m sure Warren can twist scripture sufficiently to wring some sort of rationale out of them.

* For Mr Warren and others not already aware of these passages, a few of them are: Mt 6:19-20, Mk 10:23, Lk 12:15 & 12:33.

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When you operate one of the largest churches in the country, the problems you face tend to be proportionally large. That’s the case for Rick Warren, who runs the Saddleback Church in southern California and is in charge of the “purpose-driven” publishing empire (as reported by the AP via Yahoo News):

OC megachurch pastor asks for urgent donations

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren appealed to parishioners at his Orange County megachurch Wednesday to help fill a $900,000 deficit by the first of the year.

Warren made the appeal in a letter posted on the Saddleback Church Web site. It begins “Dear Saddleback Family, THIS IS AN URGENT LETTER.”

“With 10 percent of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated,” the letter reads.

Still, Warren said the church managed to stay within its budget, but “the bottom dropped out” when Christmas donations dropped. “On the last weekend of 2009, our total offerings were less than half of what we normally receive — leaving us $900,000 in the red for the year,” the letter reads.

Since Warren is, himself, a millionaire author, he should be able to make up the $900,000 shortfall with just a check out of his own personal treasury, without breaking a sweat. One wonders, then, why he won’t do — himself — what he’s asking his own congregants to do.

Oh well, hypocrisy is nothing new with Warren.

I have no doubt, of course, that Warren’s sheep congregants will come through and bail him and his church out of this financial distress, at least this time, and perhaps a couple more times too, if it comes to that. But if Saddleback Church’s deficits are running this large, I have to wonder how long this can go on.

Hat tip: iReligion forum at Delphi Forums.

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