Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Choices

A good while back I wrote a post supporting the right of pharmacists to not dispense birth control medication if they had an ethical problem with such medicines. My logic was that this was somewhat akin to civil disobedience and therefore a form of communication. This was not the most popular position I've ever taken- even with myself- but I think there was a certain necessity about it. And really, that post has stood the test of time in the sense that looking back on it six years later, I don't think I would have chosen not to right it.

Yet, in the present day I find myself confronted with, perhaps, the most recent iteration of this phenomenon and I find that my reaction is not nearly so positive. In fact, I find the most recent move in the ongoing war between pro- and anti-choice factions in the U.S. to be utterly revolting. I refer, of course, to the state of Oklahoma, where the legislature recently voted to override the Governor's veto on two pieces of legislation that pertain to abortion. The first, HB2780, which was authored by Lisa Billy, requires that before a woman can receive an abortion she must be shown an ultrasound of the fetus. Or, to quote the bill:

B. In order for the woman to make an informed decision, at least one (1) hour prior to a woman having any part of an abortion performed or induced, and prior to the administration of any anesthesia or medication in preparation for the abortion on the woman, the physician who is to perform or induce the abortion, or the certified technician working in conjunction with the physician, shall:

1. Perform an obstetric ultrasound on the pregnant woman, using either a vaginal transducer or an abdominal transducer, whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly;

2. Provide a simultaneous explanation of what the ultrasound is depicting;

3. Display the ultrasound images so that the pregnant woman may view them;

4. Provide a medical description of the ultrasound images, which shall include the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, if present and viewable, and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable; and

5. Obtain a written certification from the woman, prior to the abortion, that the requirements of this subsection have been complied with; and

...

C. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a pregnant woman from averting her eyes from the ultrasound images required to be provided to and reviewed with her. Neither the physician nor the pregnant woman shall be subject to any penalty if she refuses to look at the presented ultrasound images. [emphasis added]


So, basically, what we're seeing here is a woman who is seeking an abortion being forced to- at the least- listen to a description of the fetus. Furthermore, while there is an exception for cases of "medical emergency", it's important to note how a medical emergency is defined:

5. “Medical emergency” means the existence of any physical condition, not including any emotional, psychological, or mental condition, which a reasonably prudent physician, with knowledge of the case and treatment possibilities with respect to the medical conditions involved, would determine necessitates the immediate abortion of the pregnancy of the female to avert her death or to avert substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function arising from continued pregnancy; [emphasis added]


So, in other words, if the procedure could kill or cripple the woman it can be skipped, but not if it would cause emotional or psychological trauma. Now, put all this together: in the state of Oklahoma, if you are raped and become pregnant, you will be forced to listen to a description of an ultrasound of the product of that rape and, if it would provide a clearer image, will have to undergo said ultrasound via a device inserted into your vagina. And your only defense against this- since your mental and emotional wellbeing is irrelevant- is to close your eyes and hope it's over quickly. Or, you know, to carry your rapist's little present to term, thereby dragging the whole rape experience out for the better part of a year. Maybe it's just me, but the only word that seems to describe something like this is "barbaric." It's not as bad as South Dakota's previous attempt to ban abortions, but it comes pretty close. Yet, amazingly, this bill isn't even the one that upsets me the most. No, that bill is HB2656, authored by Daniel Sullivan, that makes it legal for doctors to lie to their patients. And no, I am not f-ing exaggerating:

A. It is the intent of the Legislature that the birth of a child does not constitute a legally recognizable injury and that it is contrary to public policy to award damages because of the birth of a child or for the rearing of that child.

B. For the purposes of this section:

1. “Abortion” means the term as is defined in Section 1-730 of Title 63 of the Oklahoma Statutes;

2. “Wrongful life action” means a cause of action that is brought by or on behalf of a child, which seeks economic or noneconomic damages for the child because of a condition of the child that existed at the time of the child’s birth, and which is based on a claim that a person’s act or omission contributed to the mother’s not having obtained an abortion; and

3. “Wrongful birth action” means a cause of action that is brought by a parent or other person who is legally required to provide for the support of a child, which seeks economic or noneconomic damages because of a condition of the child that existed at the time of the child’s birth, and which is based on a claim that a person’s act or omission contributed to the mother’s not having obtained an abortion.

C. In a wrongful life action or a wrongful birth action, no damages may be recovered for any condition that existed at the time of a child’s birth if the claim is that the defendant’s act or omission contributed to the mother’s not having obtained an abortion.

D. This section shall not preclude causes of action based on claims that, but for a wrongful act or omission, maternal death or injury would not have occurred, or handicap, disease, or disability of an individual prior to birth would have been prevented, cured, or ameliorated in a manner that preserved the health and life of the affected individual. [emphasis added]


So what do we have here? Well, let's say that you're pregnant and get screened to find out if your fetus has any disorders. In the event that it does have something severe and debilitating you intend to abort it. Your doctor runs the tests and discovers that your fetus DOES have a serious disorder but decides to tell you that it doesn't. You then, believing your fetus is healthy, eventually give birth to a severely disordered child. Congratulations! In the state of Oklahoma, the doctor has legal protection because you cannot sue him or her for damages! And the darkly humorous part of this is whereas HB2780 is justified as an aid in order that "the woman [can] make an informed decision", HB2656 provides legal protections that shield doctors who deprive women of that same right. It's not even the case that this only applies to women who would consider abortion, because once your doctor is legally permitted to lie to you, how can you trust anything he or she says? And if that isn't enough for you, keep in mind that the bill requiring an ultrasound includes a section detailing how a woman could sue the abortion provider for damages if they DON'T compel the ultrasound, whereas the second bill prevents the awarding for damages if a physician flat out lies to a patient.

It has never been more clear to me that pro-choice and anti-choice really are the correct labels.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 19, Part 2

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that makes bazooka joe cartoons look like top quality literature. Last time Rayford realized that he needs to be even more of an asshole to people than usual and Buck had a weird conversation with his boss. What happens this week? Eh. More conversation between Buck and his boss.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to Ken Houghton for, among other things, putting this book in perspective:

"We have a good few chapters to go."

That's the worst news I've seen this month--including a death in the family and the project that was supposed to employ me into 2012 suddenly being de-budgeted.


Yikes! I'm sorry to hear all your bad news, Ken, and even sorrier to be adding to it. Still, at least you have the comfort of knowing that I'm in at least as much Left Behind induced agony as anyone. Hang in there, and keep at it everyone! We're definitely getting through this shitburger.

And with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag.


----------

Dramatis Personae

In an order determined by a monkey riding a dog like a horse...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer. No longer attracted to Hattie. Bad father. Cries a lot. Lying hypocrite. Christian.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven. Reader of marriage books. Cleans obsessively. Likes egg in her coffee. Bakes really silly cookies. Likes butter churns.

Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority." Terrible Excellent writer. Spiritually attuned. Electronics wiz. Fast typist. Clumsy on slides. Travels a lot. Graduated from Princeton. Human alarm clock. Expert in Romanian politics. Fast runner.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde. Claims no moral or religious code.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford. Religiously unaffiliated. Kinda stupid.

Chaim Rosenzweig: Israeli chemist. Kinda freaky. Friend of Buck's.

Steve Plank: Buck's boss at Global Weekly. Not the sharpest tool in the shed. Press secretary for Nicolae Carpathia.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Secretary-General of the United Nations. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions. An inch or two over six feet tall. Broad shouldered. Thick chested. Trim. Athletic. Tanned. Blonde. Blue eyes. Thick eyebrows. Roman nose and jaw. Carries self with a sense of humility and purpose. Wears understated jewelry. Excellent memory.

Raymie Steele: Son of Rayford Steele. Taken in the rapture.

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible. Killed himself Murdered. Left handed.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy. May have the nickname "duck lips."

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.

Ken Ritz: Pilot. Profiteering on the rapture. Actually quite polite. Fired for being too careful. Believes in aliens.

Juan Ortiz: Global Weekly international events editor.

Jimmy Borland: Global Weekly religion editor.

Barbara Donahue: Global Weekly financial editor.

Nigel Leonard: Employee of the London exchange.

Alan Tompkins: Investigator at Scotland Yard. Friend of Buck. Kind of a chickenshit. Blown up by an evil conspiracy car bomb.

Bruce Barnes: Visitation Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes to be mysterious.

Vernon Billings: Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes video tape. Raptured.

Mwangati Ngumo: Secretary-General of the United Nations. President of Botswana. Botswanan national.

Eric Miller: Reporter. Rival of Buck's. Able to climb stairs really fast, but not as fast a runner as Buck. Kinda a douche. Died Murdered by falling being pushed off of the Staten Island ferry. A strong swimmer.

Gerald Fitzhugh: President of the United States. Talks like a moron.

Stanton Bailey: Publisher of the Global Weekly.

Carolyn Miller: Wife of Eric Miller.

Alex Phonecompany: Friend of Buck's. Works at the phone company.

----------


Page 352- Line Veruca Salt:

No quote, but as we rejoin our "hero," Cameron 'Buck' Williams, he's in a meeting with Stanton Bailey and Steve Plank. Steve was about to tell them Carpathia's second wacky condition for becoming the Secretary-General of the U.N.


Page 352- Line 8-19:
"He [Carpathia] wants to move the U.N." [Steve said]

"Move it?" [Bailey asked]

Steve nodded.

"Where?"

"It sounds stupid."

"Everything sounds stupid these days," Bailey said.

"He wants to move it to Babylon."

"You're not serious."

"He is."

"I hear they've been renovating that city for years. Millions of dollars invested in making it, what, New Babylon?" [emphasis original]


This whole passage still makes me giggle a bit. It isn't enough that the whole idea is completely insane, it isn't enough that it would never fly, and it isn't enough that the authors clearly realize that, but damn if they don't try their hardest to make it sound plausible anyway. Wow, authors, sometimes, you really amuse me. Now, if only you could amuse me on purpose, then we might actually have a novel. Then Steve adds that Carpathia is meeting with the heads of all those international groups that we've been hearing about off and on for chapters.


Page 353- Line 1-6:
"He's [Carpathia] asking for resolutions supporting some of the things he wants to do. The seven-year peace treaty with Israel, in exchange for his ability to broker the desert-fertilizer formula. The move to New Babylon. The establishment of one religion for the world, probably headquartered in Italy." [Steve said]


Wait, what? If I had been drinking when I read that, there would have been one of those comical liquid-spraying-from-man scenes. Did he say that Carpathia wants to legislate a single world religion? WTF? Does he think that the Baptists and the Hindus are just going to wake up one day and say, "Well, hell! The votes are in. We're all Scientologists now. Praise Xenu!" or whatever? Do even the authors think this makes a damned bit of sense? Yikes.


Page 353- Line 8-10:
"They're [the Jews] an exception. He's [Carpathia] going to help them rebuild their temple during the years of the peace treaty. He believes they deserve special treatment." [Steve added]


Ah, well, I guess the authors don't expect everyone to just go along with it. Still, it's going to be a bit hard to transition everyone to a "One World Religion" when one group gets to stay separate and, along the way, demolishes the Dome of the Rock. But by then all Muslims will have joined the new "One World Religion," so no problem at all. Right. Sure. Totally plausible. Anyway, Buck asks Bailey whether he's at all shaky about Carpathia and, of course, neither he nor Steve are, though Bailey's way of explaining why Ngumo will need to leave the U.N. is nothing if not amusing.


Page 353- Line 25-27:
"If what happened in Israel happens in Botswana, Ngumo needs to stay close to home and manage the prosperity." [Bailey answered]


I hate to point this out, but everyone can't get wealthy by producing large quantities of the same commodities. So, each nation that adopts the Israeli miracle fertilizer will essentially hurt the financial benefits of said fertilizer for all those using it. Economics fail. Anyway, they brush the Eric Miller death aside and Marge buzzes in to mention that Hattie can't wait for Buck any longer and Buck promises to catch up with her. He then explains that he's going to interview Rayford to hear what his theory is on the disappearances. Bailey asks whether or not Buck has any idea what happened and Buck admits that he doesn't, but then fills in something kinda funny.


Page 355- Line 2-3:
"What I'm finding, though, is that the people who have a theory believe in it totally."


Which is, of course, the exact reason why the fervency of belief cannot serve as an indicator of the accuracy of that belief. Wacky religious groups, please take note of this basic point. It really doesn't matter how much you believe in your god, because the dude down the street who believes in a different god believes just as much. You cannot expect anyone to take commitment as evidence of anything except that you are committed. They proceed to talk about how Lucinda Washington is gone and her son believes it was because of the rapture. Bailey then asks why, then, the son got left behind.


Page 355- Line 25-26:
"I'm not sure what the deal is on that," Buck said. "Some Christians are better than others or something."


C'mon, folks, say it with me: not better, just forgiven. And the fact that the phrase came to mind so rapidly makes me want to bleach my brain. As usual, to paraphrase George Orwell, all Christians are equal, but some are more equal than others. Anyway, Buck follows up by reminding everyone that he wants to interview Rayford since Hattie says that he has an idea what happened. And then Bailey blows my mind.


Page 356- Line 1-3:
"An airline captain," Bailey repeated. "That would be interesting. Unless his idea is the same as the other scientific types."


What? Wait a minute- why the hell would an airline captain's idea about the disappearances be at all interesting? No offense to airline pilots- really- but they're basically highly trained, very practiced, and ideally totally reliable, bus drivers of the sky. They are not "scientific types" just because they operate complex machines. Hell, if that's the way it works, using an Xbox should make you a computer scientist. Gah. Buck leaves the meeting, leaves a message for Hattie, and goes to get a cab. Along the way he starts to wonder uncertainly about Carpathia and whether he can trust him.


Page 356-357- Line 356: -27-30; 357: 1-2:
He [Buck] had never in his life wanted to believe more in a person [than he did in Nicolae Carpathia]. In the days since the disappearances, he'd hardly had a second to think for himself. The loss of his sister-in-law and niece and nephew tugged at his heart almost constantly, and something made him wonder if there wasn't something to this Rapture thing. [emphasis added]


So constantly, in fact, that this is the first we've heard of it in 356 pages. Seriously, Buck? I mean, Rayford has enough page space to bore the hell out of us with his bitching and moaning about every little thing, and you can't mention this "constant" pain before this? Hell. And then the real shitstorm crashes over us.


Page 357- Line 5-13:
But he knew better than that, didn't he? He was Ivy League educated. He had left the church when he left the claustrophobic family situation that threatened to drive him crazy as a young man. He had never considered himself religious, despite a prayer for help and deliverance once in a while. He had built his life around achievement, excitement and- he couldn't deny it- attention. He loved the status that came with having his byline, his writing, his thinking in a national magazine.


Anything sound familiar about the above? If you answered that it sounds like Rayford's unique brand of fail from Buck's perspective, you're absolutely right.


Page 357- Line 13-14:
And yet there was a certain loneliness in his existence...


Indeed. All of us non-evangelicals are ever so lonely. Bah. Then again, maybe this is a prelude to Buck going into a men's room to "check his inventory"? Fortunately, the above annoying sentence ends in a pretty amusing fashion.


Page 357- Line 14-18:
...especially now that Steve was moving on. Buck had dated and had considered escalating a couple of serious relationships, but he had always been considered too mobile for a woman who wanted stability.


I love the quick transition from thinking about Steve to thinking about dating. I dunno if Buck is in the closet, but I'm starting to wonder about one or more of the authors. Then Buck starts thinking about the supernatural because, you know, that always helps.


Page 357- Line 25-27:
The incident at the Wailing Wall was another unexplainable bit of the supernatural.


And that right there is the reason why explanations that invoke the supernatural are, ultimately, failures: how do we know what happened is unexplainable? Certainly it is currently unexplained, but that isn't quite the same thing. That we do not understand how something happened right now, doesn't mean that we won't figure it out, and blaming it on the supernatural is just a fancy way of saying, "We don't know, and we don't care." I'm a heathen, but frankly I have a hard time believing in a god who lionizes willful ignorance. Anyway, Buck gets into a cab and uses his laptop and cellphone to look at some of Eric Miller's recent articles, in the process revealing that Stonagal is behind the construction of the New Babylon. And to wrap things up he [Buck] muses about how the true test of Carpathia will be how he deals with a sack of shit like Stonagal.

And that, believe it or not, wraps up the chapter. This episode may seem short, and that's fair, but in my defense the writing is so lackluster and the "revelations" so very non-revolutionary that there just wasn't all that much to talk about. Ah, well. Come back next time when Rayford proselytizes Hattie and... yeah. Yeah, I won't even hint at what the other thing is- you wouldn't believe me anyway.

Until then.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

One man's albatross is another man's messiah.

It's important to keep in mind that people have a variety of perspectives on things and may not always view the same event with similar feelings. This tendency becomes even more pronounced when we insert a few thousand years worth of remove between those perspectives. Often the reality at the time is a bit more complex and difficult than the stories might suggest.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ironically, the earth did not move.

Recently, in response to the spate of earthquakes we've been grappling with, an Iranian cleric advanced a rather innovative theory:

Hojjat ol-eslam Kazem Sediqi, the acting Friday prayer leader in Tehran, said women should stick to strict codes of modesty to protect themselves.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes," he explained.

Tens of thousands of people have died in Iran earthquakes in the last decade.

Mr Sediqi was delivering a televised sermon at the Tehran University campus mosque last Friday on the need for a "general repentance" by Iranians when he warned of a "prevalence of degeneracy".

"What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes," he said.


Yes, that's right: earthquakes happen because of women and their boobs. Now, far be it for me to deny the power of a woman's chest, but I find this idea just a tad hard to believe. And I'm not the only one. Nor, as it turns out, am I the one with the best idea about how to tackle this ridiculous notion. Jen McCreight of Blag Hag suggested an interesting experiment she termed boobquake. The idea was simple: on a particular day, women should dress revealingly on purpose and we'd all see whether or not earthquakes spiked. And, as it happens, yesterday was that day. And indeed, boobquake did appear to be quite the event,* showing up on the blogosphere as well as in several webcomics. Alas, I learned of boobquake too late to ask my wife to participate.** Maybe next year.***

So, what were the results? Well, as you might expect... boobs do not control earthquakes. I'm sorry if I'm shattering any preconceptions but, you know, it's just one of those things.

And so science has shown that whenever a man (or woman!) says that a woman's chest is "devastating," it's only a freaking metaphor.


* And there I was thinking that Monday the 26th was just an unusually beautiful spring day.

** In the name of science you understand.

*** Hey, it could be an annual event! Sort of like Darwin Day!

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Personally, I blame Kip Thorne.

Those of you with some familiarity with physics will know the name Stephen Hawking, a brilliant physicist with a talent for explaining things to the general public. And the fact that he does it all with a voice synthesizer and scant control over his own body only makes things more impressive. You may also be familiar with Kip Thorne who, aside from being an excellent scholar in his own right, is known (along with (John Preskill) for winning a bet with Hawking. The reason for the bet isn't important right now- the essentials are that it was over an element of theory, Hawking lost, and he paid the penalty. And these are the important essentials because I think, just maybe, Hawking has lost another such bet.

My suspicion derives from a recent story addressing Hawking's advice on alien contact: Just Say No. Seriously, in an upcoming documentary he suggests that contact with an intelligent extraterrestrial species might not work out too well for us. Fair enough, this is a likely outcome given that there's a good chance that any species we meet in the near future will have to come to us and, therefore, be a tad better equipped than we are. But then it gets a little weird:



Or, to quote the relevant section:

He [Hawking] suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”


This bothered me for a few moments, because I could swear that I've heard this story before. And then it hit me- not only have I heard this story, I saw it on opening night! I refer, of course, to the sci-fi action film Independence Day, which is described on wikipedia thusly:



Or, to quote the boxed sections:

On July 2, an alien mothership with a mass one-quarter of that of the Moon enters orbit around Earth and deploys several dozen saucer-shaped "destroyer" spacecraft, each 15 miles (24 km) in width, which position themselves over some of Earth's major cities. In New York City, David Levinson discovers hidden satellite transmissions which he believes the aliens are using as a timer to coordinate a synchronized attack. [emphasis added]


Okay, massive alien ships- CHECK!

The [alien] specimen regains consciousness while quarantined in a lab, and reveals through a telepathic connection to President Whitmore that its species travels from planet to planet, destroying all life and harvesting a planet's natural resources before moving on to the next planet. The alien attempts a psychic attack against Whitmore, but is killed. Whitmore orders a nuclear attack on all destroyers, but the mission is aborted when the first nuclear missile also fails to penetrate the shield. [emphasis added]


And nomads looking to conquer, colonize and strip mine other planets before moving on- CHECK!

So, basically, what we have here is Stephen Hawking cribbing theories from Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. Now, we could chalk this up to the reporter misunderstanding Hawking. Alternatively, we could chalk this up to Hawking knowing more about exotic physics than he does about the logic of interstellar conquest. But personally, I like to think he just lost another bet with Kip Thorne and this was his penalty.

This is why I don't gamble, you know?

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Super(natural)set

Today we're going to take a quick ride through the mind of the average Conservapeon, which of course means that you need to make sure your shots are up to date. I also want to warn you that there's going to be a bit of initial meandering, so just bear with me for a bit. Ready? Then let's begin.

Recently during one of my forays into the dark pit that is Conservapedia I found myself on the page for "Liberal values" which is, in a word, hilarious:



Or, to sum up my personal favorites in plain text:

failure to warn people, particularly youngsters, about the harm caused by a lack of conservative values

...

Excessive emphasis on awards and titles, especially those awarded by liberal institutions.

...

Contempt for authorities.


And how can you not just giggle at that? Liberals disagree with conservatives, at least about some things, so is it really all that surprising that they don't tell their kids how awesome conservatism is? Likewise, can one simultaneously have an "excessive emphasis on awards and titles," like, say, "Professor" and yet still maintain "Contempt for authorities"? What in the hell? Alas, this all makes sense to Schlafly, so I guess incoherence is a conservative value. But I digress.

One thing to note is that, like many wikis, articles on Conservapedia are often embedded in categories. Liberal values is no exception- its parent category is (as you might expect) Liberalism. And oh boy are there lots of entries:



In fact, this screen shot doesn't even cover the complete first page. And as you can see from the fine print, indicated below with boxes, this category has 8 subcategories and a total of 241 articles:



Wow! That's a lot of articles about liberalism!* This naturally raises the question of what other categories we might find on Conservapedia. Indeed, there are quite a few ranging from the mundane to the somewhat disquieting.** And yet none of these categories- not one- can provide the sort of insight into what it means to be a Conservapeon more than one that I only found a few days ago. I noticed this category after reading the article on Homo Sapiens which, as you might expect, is laughably incompetent. Now, as it turns out, this article is classed as part of the broader category: "Creations of God". And that really struck me, because given Schlafly's worldview, just about every f-ing article on Conservapedia should be a part of this category. Yet, I had never once noticed it. And if you take a look at the category, it's pretty obvious why:



You see, despite the obvious logical necessity for this category to be a sprawling superset containing virtually everything else on Conservapedia, it in fact contains only a single article, Homo Sapiens, a single picture, used in the article on Homo Sapiens, and has no subcategories. This is in contrast to the 241 articles in the category "Liberalism," the 177 articles in "Homosexuality," the 55 in "Sin", and the 174 in "Evolution". Hell, for that matter the category "Atheism" has 81 articles and 2 subcategories, beating the hell out of "Creations of God".*** And for the record, it isn't that this is a new category. It, in fact, appears to have been around since 2007:



And I think that all of this says something deeply interesting about the mindset of folks on Conservapedia. At the relatively trivial level, it really emphasizes that the goal of the project isn't to construct a "trustworthy encyclopedia" or even to advocate for their own views, but rather to denigrate, defame, and perhaps even libel and slander their opponents. Indeed, I have a hard time seeing what other conclusion one could reach given both the content of the sight and its insistence on being factual.

But beyond that, I think this one category, creations of god, tells us something as well. God, a figure who is supposed to be all-knowing and all-powerful is, here, only seen as important because he created humankind. And his use is only to make us feel special, even though by the logic of the creation myth, we're products of god just like leeches, malaria, and rocks. There's an intense egotism at the heart of Conservapedia, and this category lays it bare in a way that is simply perfect.

Some claim that god created man, most atheists believe that man created god, and that perspective gains considerable support from our good friends at Conservapedia.****


* Actually, in fairness, it's a lot of articles about what Schlafly thinks of liberalism. Don't confuse "opinion of" for "facts about."

** Please note that I am not referring to homosexuality as "somewhat disquieting" but, rather, some of Conservapedia's articles on this topic- for example, Homosexuality in Nazi Germany, which so abuses facts as to make me almost physically ill.

*** See? Even Conservapeons know that Atheism kicks Theism's ass!

**** Don't believe me? Hell, they're rewriting the bible so that it agrees with them. What more do you want?

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 19, Part 1

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that makes me want to drink. A lot. Last time Hattie met Carpathia and Buck learned some more "details" about an evil conspiracy. What happens this week? Eh. Rayford decides he has to dial up the crazy a few notches and Buck runs around like a doof.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to scripto for his vision of a brutal world where reporters determine precedence via single combat:

"Maybe I'm ignorant, but is it common for reporters to settle questions of precedence via wrestling matches?"

Yep. It's how Katie Couric beat out Diane Sawyer for the Palin interview. Awesome. It was on Pay per View.


Honestly, though, that would surprise me. I mean, Couric has youth, but Sawyer has experience. And, in all likelihood, a shiv. A special honorary mention also goes to Mister Troll for summing up in his parenthetical aside my feelings to a tee. Well done, folks, and keep at it! We have a good few chapters to go.

And with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag.


----------

Dramatis Personae

In an order determined by a complex algorithm ("eenie-meanie-minie-moe")...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer. No longer attracted to Hattie. Bad father. Cries a lot. Lying hypocrite. Christian.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven. Reader of marriage books. Cleans obsessively. Likes egg in her coffee. Bakes really silly cookies. Likes butter churns.

Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority." Terrible Excellent writer. Spiritually attuned. Electronics wiz. Fast typist. Clumsy on slides. Travels a lot. Graduated from Princeton. Human alarm clock. Expert in Romanian politics. Fast runner.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde. Claims no moral or religious code.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford. Religiously unaffiliated. Kinda stupid.

Chaim Rosenzweig: Israeli chemist. Kinda freaky. Friend of Buck's.

Steve Plank: Buck's boss at Global Weekly. Not the sharpest tool in the shed. Press secretary for Nicolae Carpathia.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Secretary-General of the United Nations. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions. An inch or two over six feet tall. Broad shouldered. Thick chested. Trim. Athletic. Tanned. Blonde. Blue eyes. Thick eyebrows. Roman nose and jaw. Carries self with a sense of humility and purpose. Wears understated jewelry. Excellent memory.

Raymie Steele: Son of Rayford Steele. Taken in the rapture.

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible. Killed himself Murdered. Left handed.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy. May have the nickname "duck lips."

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.

Ken Ritz: Pilot. Profiteering on the rapture. Actually quite polite. Fired for being too careful. Believes in aliens.

Juan Ortiz: Global Weekly international events editor.

Jimmy Borland: Global Weekly religion editor.

Barbara Donahue: Global Weekly financial editor.

Nigel Leonard: Employee of the London exchange.

Alan Tompkins: Investigator at Scotland Yard. Friend of Buck. Kind of a chickenshit. Blown up by an evil conspiracy car bomb.

Bruce Barnes: Visitation Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes to be mysterious.

Vernon Billings: Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes video tape. Raptured.

Mwangati Ngumo: Secretary-General of the United Nations. President of Botswana. Botswanan national.

Eric Miller: Reporter. Rival of Buck's. Able to climb stairs really fast, but not as fast a runner as Buck. Kind of a douche. Died Murdered by falling being pushed off of the Staten Island ferry. A strong swimmer.

Gerald Fitzhugh: President of the United States. Talks like a moron.

Stanton Bailey: Publisher of the Global Weekly.

Carolyn Miller: Wife of Eric Miller.

Alex Phonecompany: Friend of Buck's. Works at the phone company.

----------


Chapter 19: In which Rayford decides to stop playing Mister-nice-whacko, we learn more about the antichrist's plan, and Buck muses about something or other.


Page 343- Line 1-3:
Rayford watched Chloe as she wandered around the Pan-Con Club, then stared out the window. He felt like a wimp.


Well, it's hard to argue with a feeling that accurate, Rayford. My advice is not to try- just go with it. In any case, he feels like a wimp because he's been telling himself not to be pushy about the whole god thing, and apparently he's deciding that's a problem.


Page 343- Line 8-14:
What was the matter with him? Nothing was as it was before or would be ever again. If Bruce Barnes was right, the disappearance of God's people was only the beginning of the most cataclysmic period in the history of the world. And here I am, Rayford thought, worried about not offending people. I'm liable to "not offend" my own daughter straight into hell. [emphasis original]


And finally, we get some honesty. If Rayford truly believes in this wackiness then, yes, he can actually be too gentle and respectful of other people's views. It's stupid and hateful, I'll grant, but nonetheless honest.


Page 343-344- Line 343: 15-16; 344: 1-2:
Rayford also felt bad about his approach to Hattie. He had dealt with his own wrong in having pursued her, and he regretted having led her on. But he could no longer treat her with kid gloves, either.


Excuse me? Kid gloves? Is that what you call it when you try to deceive her into letting you preach at her (page 281- line 1-8)? Or perhaps when you snidely suggest that she's a dumb amoral twit during a conversation about her sister (page 266-270)? Please, Rayford, enlighten me here.


Page 344- Line 5-8:
Whoever came forward with proclamations of peace and unity had to be suspect. There would be no peace. There would be no unity. This was the beginning of the end, and all would be chaos from now on.


If you can read that without feeling a chill, you frighten me. This is like a passage out of a Jihadist training manual. I wonder if the authors have ever stopped to consider the possibility that they're wrong on this point. Or, to put it bluntly, the chaos that accompanies any attempt to achieve peace on Earth might be a self-fulfilling prophecy stemming from this foolishness. What do you do with a religion of love that pretty much guarantees the continuation of global bloodshed?


Page 344- Line 13-15:
There was no time for polite conversation, for gentle persuasion. Rayford had to direct people to the Bible, to the prophetic portions.


Well, onward Christian soldiers, I guess. Anyway, Rayford calls Bruce to tell him what he's been thinking and Bruce encourages him, reinforcing the notion that it is now their job to get in people's faces. Which, of course, makes me wonder with no small amount of horror just what the hell the authors think evangelicals have been doing up to this point? Because I gotta tell you, gentle and polite is not-generally speaking- how I would describe their efforts at conversion. Bruce then tells Rayford to shut the hell up and go look at the T.V.


Page 346- Line 5-14:
Now, on CNN, Rayford watched as crowds surged into the area in front of the Wailing Wall to listen to the witnesses. People knelt, weeping, some with their faces on the ground. These were people who had felt the preachers were desecrating the holy place. Now it appeared they were believing what the witnesses said. Or was it merely fear?

Rayford knew better. He knew that the first of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists were being converted to Christ before his eyes.


On the plus side, at least this time they weren't referred to as "zealots," which is kinda a first for Left Behind's fictional CNN. And I'm not really sure what it is that Rayford "knows better". I think these folks are sure as hell scared out of their minds. I mean, this entire book pretty much boils down to, "Believe or god is gonna kick your ass for all eternity." One does not inspire love by terrorizing people until they like you and that goes equal for god, humans, and shitty Lifetime movies.


Page 346- Line 14-22:
Without taking his gaze from the screen, he prayed silently, God, fill me with courage, with power, with whatever I need to be a witness. I don't want to be afraid anymore. I don't want to wait any longer. I don't want to worry about offending. Give me a persuasiveness rooted in the truth of your Word. I know it is your Spirit that draws people, but use me. I want to reach Chloe. I want to reach Hattie. Please, Lord. Help me. [emphasis original]


Woo-hoo! Magic spell number two! Plus four to strike or... something. Note as well the whole "I know it is your spirit that draws people" thing. This is a sort of bipolar aspect to the authors' view of religion that I find hard to reconcile: on the one hand, human beings are converted by being shown the way by god but, on the other hand, if we don't see the light we're punished for all eternity. So it's "heads god wins, tails you lose". I suppose there's no reason why an all powerful deity couldn't do it that way, but I think it'd be difficult to label said deity as just or good in the process. As I've said before, free will and choice should be everything in this religion but, surprisingly, they hardly matter at all. That's an issue for another day, however, because the narrative leaps back to Buck who is swinging past the Global Weekly offices to get a new equipment bag. Said bag contains his cellphone, laptop, and a tape recorder. Hattie agrees to wait downstairs for him, albeit briefly, since Buck apparently wants to meet Rayford and Chloe for no immediately obvious reason. Narrative convenience, I guess. Sadly, however, Stanton Bailey pulls Buck and Steve into his office for a meeting. It seems he's annoyed about something or other and wants answers.


Page 348- 24-30:
"My [Steve's] first assignment tomorrow morning is to deny Carpathia's interest in the job [i.e. Secretary-General of the U.N.]. He's going to say he has too many revolutionary ideas and that he would insist on almost unanimous approval on the parts of the current members. They would have to agree to his ideas for reorganization, a change of emphasis, and a few other things."


Okay, standard if wacky political maneuvering. Not a big deal. Still, Steve refuses to admit what those ideas are and Bailey yells at him, commenting that he still has contacts and knows some things are going on. For example, he knows that the V.P of Romania has been told to be prepared to keep running the day-to-day stuff for longer, implying that Carpathia will be gone for a while.


Page 349- Line 25-29:
"Then, people I [Bailey] know in Africa tell me Ngumo has some inside track on the Israeli formula but that he's quietly not happy about the deal requiring him to step down from the U.N. He's going to do it, but there's going to be trouble if everything doesn't go as promised."


Oh, what a schemer. I just love how the authors are telling us, at length, shit we already know. Finally, though, the authors via Bailey let us in on the story Eric Miller was working on. Which resolves a tension that I wasn't feeling at all, since I frankly couldn't even remember who the hell Miller was.


Page 350- Line 9-13:
"Miller was doing a story on the meaning behind the disappearances, which I [Bailey] know you [Buck] were planning for an issue or two from now. How that ties in with Carpathia, and why it might paint him in a dark light, I don't know. Do you?"


Oh, snap! Eric Miller was gonna out the antichrist! Well, can't have that I guess. Anyway, Buck doesn't know anything about that and interjects that he is going to take Steve's old job. Bailey then grills Steve for more news about what Carpathia wants. It turns out he wants some new security council picks, although we knew that, but then some real wackiness sets in.


Page 351- Line 24-30:
"He [Carpathia] wants Ngumo personally to insist on him as his replacement, a large majority vote of the representatives, and two other things that, frankly, I don't think he'll get. Militarily, he wants a commitment to disarmament from member nations, the destruction of ninety percent of their weapons, and the donation of the other ten percent to the U.N." [Steve said]


So that's crazy. The U.N. isn't set up to handle that kind of authority and he's demanding something that would take decades of careful arms reduction pacts to achieve. Doesn't anyone remember how hard that shit was to do during the Cold War? Yeah- now multiply that by a thousand and you start to get an idea. So what's the other thing Carpathia wants that he probably won't get? Well, if you want an answer you'll have to come back next time because this brings us to the end of today's episode.

So come back next time when Carpathia's madness comes more into focus, Buck chats a little more with Bailey, and then Buck descends into the same sort of detestable self-loathing and doubt that has been Rayford's signature for quite a while now. So, hey, it'll be fun.

Toodles.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An appropriate phrase...

Recently tkingdoll of Skepchick introduced me to the phrase "a bit rapey". I never anticipated I would encounter something that I thought fit that descriptor. Yeah. Unfortunately I was wrong and, realistically, I think I would have to concede that this is very, very rapey:



For those of you who can't read the caption, it states:

Duct Tape

turns "no no no" into "mm mm mm"


The picture comes from the site "Very Demotivational" and, frankly, bothers me more than a little. Maybe it's because I'm a crazy ivory tower academic or something, but I really don't think that rape is funny. For that matter, I also don't really find sexual violence in general or violence against women in particular to be at all funny. But what's really frightening is that, judging by the ratings this picture has received, I'm in the minority in that regard:



Or, if you don't want to click on the image, the vote tally as of this screen cap stood at 1181 who approved and 513 who disapproved. So, in other words, only 30% of the people visiting the site who bothered to vote see a problem here.

Stay classy, internet. Stay classy.


I should note that I am not encouraging anyone to try and get this picture taken down. That would be a tad inconsistent with my generally extreme free speech position. I would, however, argue that this is a good opportunity to point out why joking about raping women is- to put it mildly- in poor taste. And if you disagree, try imagining that it was your daughter, sister, or mother in the above pic. How bloody funny is it now?

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I admit, I think this may be unwise.

There's just something about this that makes me nervous. See if you can figure it out:

Daniel Almond, a three-tour veteran of Iraq, is ready to "muster outside D.C." on Monday with several dozen other self-proclaimed patriots, all of them armed. They intend to make history as the first people to take their guns to a demonstration in a national park, and the Virginia rally is deliberately being held just a few miles from the Capitol and the White House.

Almond plans to have his pistol loaded and openly carried, his rifle unloaded and slung to the rear, a bandoleer of magazines containing ammunition draped over his polo-shirted shoulder. The Atlanta area real estate agent organized the rally because he is upset about health-care reform, climate control, bank bailouts, drug laws and what he sees as President Obama's insistence on and the Democratic Congress's capitulation to a "totalitarian socialism" that tramples individual rights.

A member of several heretofore little-known groups, including Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership and Oath Keepers -- former and active military and law enforcement officials who have vowed to resist laws they deem unconstitutional -- Almond, 31, considers packing heat on the doorstep of the federal government within the mainstream of political speech.


If you answered, "The seemingly random decision to carry and display firearms at a political rally" then you're absolutely right! But wait, it gets better!

The brandishing of weapons is "not just an important symbol" but "a reminder of who we are," said Almond. "The founders knew that it is the tendency of government to expand itself and embrace its own power, and they knew the citizenry had to be reminded of that."

Countered Horwitz: "Our founders thought they got rid of political violence with the Constitution. That was its point. The basic idea of America is one person, one vote, equality."

Vanderboegh and Horwitz both said: "We have a fundamental difference in worldview."

April 19 is the anniversary of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 and the government's final confrontation in 1993 with the Branch Davidian cult members in Waco, Tex. But Almond said he chose the date to honor the anniversary of the 1775 battles at Lexington and Concord that began the Revolutionary War, "and that is the only reason."


I'm inclined to assume that the date selected by Almond is just an unfortunate coincidence and, likewise, that the sequence of quotations is somewhat unfair (i.e. because it makes it sound like supporters of the rally think political violence is a-ok). That said, I have a very difficult time imagining what the point of assembling a whole bunch of people in opposition to the current administration that close to the capitol with firearms is if not to be threatening towards the government. And I'm fairly sure that the guys assembling would likely agree if the demonstration were by a bunch of anarchists or communists or some other group with which they disagree.*

And even if we're of the opinion that this form of political speech is just fine, there's a pragmatic issue: leaving aside the risk of accidental discharges or the risk of people getting fired up by rhetoric and then deciding to riot, there's the basic issue that large groups of people occasionally have disagreements. These disagreements sometimes spawn arguments. And arguments are more likely to turn deadly when there are lots and lots of firearms around. So, basically, this has the potential to turn into a PR nightmare if nothing else.

I support the individual right to own firearms, and I'm not against concealed weapons permits and the like. But somehow it just seems like a good idea when petitioning your own democratically-elected government for the redress of grievances, that you not wave guns in their faces while you do it.**


* Before you ask, I don't particularly love anarchists or communists and would be equally annoyed if they pulled a stunt like this.

** For anyone who wants to draw a parallel to the American Revolution- go right ahead, but keep in mind that these guys actually have representatives in Congress. Parliament and the colonies were a somewhat different matter.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Just in case...

So, you should familiarize yourself with this advice. You know, just in case it should be useful:



That is all.



Hat-tip to Unreasonable Faith for that work of beauty.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

I think you're abusing that punctuation, actually.

So over on Conservapedia they've got their undies all in a bunch about the recent ruling that the national day of prayer is unconstitutional. As you might guess, I rather appreciate this ruling seeing as how the federal government encouraging the citizenry to engage in religious rituals seems to be a pretty clear endorsement of religion, which is sort of a no-no. At the same time, said day of prayer has never really been top on my list of priorities as a member of the great secular/atheist conspiracy to ruin America,* so I'm not as excited about the ruling as you might otherwise think. The guys on Conservapedia, though, are in their usual snit:



Or, in plain text:

The National Day of Prayer, Honored in the United States For More Than 50 years, Is "Unconstitutional" !

A liberal federal judge in Wisconsin has ruled in a 66-page opinion issued Thursday. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said the holiday violates the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment, which creates a separation of church and state. The opinion comes in a case filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group of self-described "atheists" and "agnostics." [emphasis original]


And to this I can only respond: What the hell? Look, I get that you're pissed about the ruling- I expected nothing less since on Conservapedia religious freedom really means the freedom to ram conservative Christianity down everyone's throats while simultaneously referring to all other folks as Islamofascists.** Likewise, I'm not surprised that the Freedom From Religion Foundation was involved since this is exactly the kind of stuff they do.*** No, the thing that confuses me is the quotation marks at the end. What do you mean, "atheists" and "agnostics"? Do you not believe that they're atheists and agnostics? Because, you know, the FFRF describes itself by saying:

The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion. In modern times the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women's right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery. The Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church. [emphasis added]


Maybe I'm crazy, but it seems to me that the FFRF is pretty clear about being composed largely- if not entirely- of atheists and agnostics. Hell, one of its co-presidents is a former minister who became a vocal atheist. No crazy excessive quotation marks needed, guys! So what's the deal? Are we just adding quotes to whatever we feel like in order to make factual descriptors seem scary? Can I now describe Conservapedia as a "website" run by "Christians"? Is that what we're doing now? Can we maybe work out an emoticon for a disdainful sneer?****

Then again, what does it say about me that I'm so used to Conservapedia that the thing I complain about is their abuse of the English language? Yikes.


* We meet every third Tuesday. Steve brings the dip, I usually make chili con carne. It's pretty sweet now that we have the rumpus room all finished up!

** Please note that my use of this term in no way indicates that I think it makes any sense whatsoever.

*** And they're awesome. Don't forget the awesome.

**** This is a surprisingly difficult task. Might I suggest :-\ ?

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 18, Part 2

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that makes baby Jesus cry. Last time we heard more about the angelic presence in Jerusalem and watched Rayford argue with Chloe about the best way to proselytize Hattie. What happens this week? Thinly veiled innuendo about a murder and a hint of impending nookie.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to scripto for saving me the trouble of noticing pedophilic undertones and then going on from there:

"Chloe observes that if she were Hattie she wouldn't come to see Rayford, Rayford responds that he's glad Chloe isn't Hattie."

Ewww. Me too. The whole subtext of this thing is creeping me out. What creeps me out even more is Rayford's unwarranted smug assertion that, even though he is border line retarded and not what you would call a deep thinker, he's privy to some sort of special knowlege that the rest of the smarty pants world can't fathom. I've met people like that. Fundamentalists, anti-vaxers, truthers, birthers, New Agers...


Indeed, leaving child abuse aside, there's a certain danger in assuming that your mentation is superior because you have access to some special and unverifiable knowledge that others lack. It's a bit too much like assuming that women can't possibly be as smart as men because you happen to be a man. Great work, Scripto, and keep at it folks! There's a lot more chapters to go, I'm sorry to say.

And with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag.


----------

Dramatis Personae

In an order determined by the alignment of the stars...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer. No longer attracted to Hattie. Bad father. Cries a lot. Lying hypocrite. Christian.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven. Reader of marriage books. Cleans obsessively. Likes egg in her coffee. Bakes really silly cookies. Likes butter churns.

Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority." Terrible Excellent writer. Spiritually attuned. Electronics wiz. Fast typist. Clumsy on slides. Travels a lot. Graduated from Princeton. Human alarm clock. Expert in Romanian politics. Fast runner.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde. Claims no moral or religious code.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford. Religiously unaffiliated. Kinda stupid.

Chaim Rosenzweig: Israeli chemist. Kinda freaky. Friend of Buck's.

Steve Plank: Buck's boss at Global Weekly. Not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions. An inch or two over six feet tall. Broad shouldered. Thick chested. Trim. Athletic. Tanned. Blonde. Blue eyes. Thick eyebrows. Roman nose and jaw. Carries self with a sense of humility and purpose. Wears understated jewelry. Excellent memory.

Raymie Steele: Son of Rayford Steele. Taken in the rapture.

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible. Killed himself Murdered. Left handed.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy. May have the nickname "duck lips."

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.

Ken Ritz: Pilot. Profiteering on the rapture. Actually quite polite. Fired for being too careful. Believes in aliens.

Juan Ortiz: Global Weekly international events editor.

Jimmy Borland: Global Weekly religion editor.

Barbara Donahue: Global Weekly financial editor.

Nigel Leonard: Employee of the London exchange.

Alan Tompkins: Investigator at Scotland Yard. Friend of Buck. Kind of a chickenshit. Blown up by an evil conspiracy car bomb.

Bruce Barnes: Visitation Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes to be mysterious.

Vernon Billings: Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes video tape. Raptured.

Mwangati Ngumo: Secretary-General of the United Nations. Botswanan national.

Eric Miller: Reporter. Rival of Buck's. Able to climb stairs really fast, but not as fast a runner as Buck. Kinda a douche. Died by falling off of the Staten Island ferry.

Gerald Fitzhugh: President of the United States. Talks like a moron.

Stanton Bailey: Publisher of the Global Weekly.

----------


Page 332- Line Hookah:

No quote, but we pick back up with Chloe and Rayford, who have been discussing how Rayford is to go about converting Hattie. Don't worry, though- we won't be with them for long.


Page 332- Line 2-5:
Bruce Barnes had told him [Rayford] that most people are blind and deaf to the truth until they find it; then it makes all the sense in the world. How could he argue? That's what had happened to him.


Indeed, yes. It's common for people to disbelieve crazy nonsense until they start believing crazy nonsense, and then they totally believe crazy nonsense. I know that was supposed to be sage advice or something, but damn. Regardless, we now switch back to Buck, who is in for an exciting night, though perhaps not quite as exciting as he had hoped.


Page 332- Line 6-9:
Hattie rushed up to Buck when he arrived at the club around eleven. His anticipation of any possibilities dissipated when the first thing out of her mouth was, "So, am I gonna get to meet Nicolae Carpathia?"


Oh, poor Buck! I guess she's not quite slutty enough to do you both, even though the authors have been spending pages and pages trying to convince us of what loose morals she has. Anyway, Buck calls Rosenzweig who asks Carpathia if he wants to meet a random stewardess that Buck knows. Carpathia is all like, "Sure, why the hell not" and Rosenzweig tells the happy couple to come on over. Along the way Buck seems to insult Hattie a bit by reminding her that Carpathia is a busy man, thereby leading to one of the funniest exchanges in the book.


Page 333- Line 11-13:
Hattie stared at him [Buck]. "I know how to treat VIPs, you know," she said. "I often serve them on flights."

"Of course you do."


I'm fairly sure the authors really wanted to write "service" rather than "serve" but, alas, their editor showed a rare moment of good sense. And in case you've forgotten by this point what a sexpot Hattie is, there's a random nameless character to remind you.


Page 333- Line 21-23:
In the hallway Hattie stopped by a mirror and checked her face. A bodyguard opened the door, nodded at Buck, and looked Hattie over from head to toe.


Now, you might argue that a competent bodyguard would look over all visitors "head to toe" but, given that this is the first time a bodyguard in Left Behind has exhibited this behavior, I think the authors really just want to remind us that Hattie is a hottie. In any case, Rosenzweig asks Buck if he would mind speaking to Carpathia privately first, and Buck agrees. When he enters he finds Carpathia watching a news report about the wacky angels in Jerusalem and the attempt to kill them.


Page 334- Line 22-25:
"The attackers are dead of heart attacks." [Carpathia said]

"I hadn't heard that." [Buck replied]

"Yes. And the Uzi did not jam. It is in perfect working order."


My margin note here reads, "Yes, why does god have to be so damned subtle?" And I think it's a valid question- we were told that men who attacked the angels would be "devoured." I was expecting bears or some shit like that, but no. And did we get an instant transformation into a pillar of salt? A rain of fire from the sky? A pillar of flame? Shit, even a bolt of lightning? No. We got two heart attacks and a guy who couldn't figure out how to pull a trigger. Granted, these things are unlikely, but just as clearly god is trying to get our attention in a really, really roundabout kind of way here. They go on to talk about Steve Plank's new job as Carpathia's press secretary and Buck complains that Carpathia has weakened the Global Weekly, although between you and me I don't know that a magazine where Buck is considered the hotshot writer could get any weaker.


Page 335- Line 9-10:
"Ah! I have strengthened it. What better way to have the person I want at the top?" [Carpathia cackled menacingly]


Oooooh. Drama! Carpathia is maneuvering Buck to do his bidding! He's so evil. EEEEEVVVVVVIIIIIILLLLLLL!!!!! Changing subjects, Buck mentions to Carpathia that Eric Miller drowned, but doesn't really go anywhere with it. So... yeah, I guess the authors wanted to remind the readers more than anything. Then Buck apologizes to Carpathia for bringing Hattie, a nobody, to meet him.


Page 335- Line 27-28:
"Nobody is just anything," he [Carpathia] said, taking Buck's arm. "Everyone is of equal value, regardless of their station."


And given that it's the antichrist saying this, I'm guessing the authors and, by extension, the authors' god, doesn't agree. And that's a shame, really, because it makes it even more clear that the social ministry of Jesus- his well-known concern for the poor and the powerless- is really being lost. Anyway, as they go out to meet Hattie, Rosenzweig tells Buck that he has a phone call. It happens to be Marge, who thought to try Nicolae's suite because... um... yeah. No clue why, but she did.


Page 336- Line 7-9:
"You [Buck] just got a call from Carolyn Miller, Eric's wife. She's pretty shook up and really wants to talk to you." [Marge said]


Well, that sounds ominous. It also sounds like another f-ing character that should really go into the dramatis personae. Bloody hell. Anyway, Buck promises to call her and then he and Hattie are ushered out of the room.


Page 336- Line 21-29:
"He [Carpathia] gave me [Hattie] his number!" she said, nearly squealing.

"His number?"

Hattie showed Buck the business card Nicolae had handed her. It showed his title as president of the Republic of Romania, but his address was not Bucharest as one would expect. It was the Plaza Hotel, his suite number, phone number, and all. Buck was speechless. Carpathia had also penciled in another phone number, not at the Plaza, but also in New York. Buck memorized it.


Okay, so, to sum up: Carpathia hits on Hattie, Hattie is excited, Buck is jealous, and Buck uses his newly-introduced powers of eidetic recall to steal Carpathia's private phone number. This is like an episode of "Gossip Girl," but without the tight writing. Whatever. Buck gets Hattie to wait for a few minutes and steps into a phone booth to call Carolyn Miller back.


Page 337- Line 25-30:
"He [Eric] told me a crazy story about how you two had a wrestling match or something over an interview with this Romanian guy who spoke at-" [Carolyn Miller said]

"Also true. It wasn't anything serious, ma'am. Just a disagreement. No hard feelings." [Buck replied, interrupting the griving widow]

"That's how I took it."


Maybe I'm ignorant, but is it common for reporters to settle questions of precedence via wrestling matches? Because Carolyn Miller does not seem to be as intrigued by this sequence of events as I think she should be. Perhaps Buck and Eric wrestled... a lot? Hmmmmm.... Anyway, she goes on about how Eric's death by falling off a ferry and drowning seems suspicious, since it was too cold to be outside and, in any case, Eric was a strong swimmer. Nobody asks whether or not the wrestling might have injured him, but never mind that. The point is that we're supposed to come to the conclusion that Eric Miller was murdered. For absolutely no f-ing reason at all that I can discern. And this is all embedded in some of the worst writing of the book. Yikes. Buck hangs up on the widow and calls a friend at the phone company named "Alex." The authors don't even bother to give a last name, so maybe I'll just call him Alex Phonecompany. Anyway, Buck asks him what Carpathia's new super-secret private number points to.


Page 339- Line 1-6:
Buck recited the number he had memorized from the card Carpathia had given Hattie. Alex was back to him in seconds, reading off the information as it scrolled onto his computer screen. "New York, U.N., administrative offices, secretary-general's office, unlisted private line, bypasses switchboard, bypasses secretary. OK?"


What? Carpathia is giving Hattie to the secretary-general! What kind of a girl does he think she is? He thinks she'll just screw whoever he sends her to? Why I oughta... OH! Sorry. The authors are trying to imply that Carpathia is about to become the secretary-general. Never mind.


Page 339- Line 8:
Buck was lost. He couldn't make any of this compute.


Dude, I know how you feel. Buck decides to combat his confusion by calling Steve Plank- because that always works- and confronts him with the revelation about the U.N. Plank admits that Carpathia will be taking over as of the next day, and the reason why the current Sec-Gen is sitting down is awesome.


Page 340- Line 15-18:
"The Kalahari Desert makes up much of Botswana where Secretary-General Ngumo is from. He returns there tomorrow a hero, having become the first leader to gain access to the Israeli fertilizer formula."


Ah. Right. The bad writing informs us that Carpathia bribed Ngumo with the chance to feed his people. Or at least that's the implication, ignoring that Botswana has been doing pretty well for itself through judicious governance and substantial mineral wealth. In any case, Buck tells Steve that he's going to take Steve's old job, and then pleads for one last piece of information for old time's sake.


Page 341- Line 5-9:
"What did Eric Miller get too close to? What lead was he tracking?" [Buck asked dramatically]

Steve's voice became hollow, his tone flat. "All I know about Eric Miller," he said, "is that he got too close to the railing on the Staten Island Ferry."


Oh, so ominous! So random. So pointless! And so the end of the chapter, as it happens.

So, come back next time when Rayford develops a new resolve to... do the same shit he's been trying to do for several chapters now and Buck discovers more sinister stuff. Well, allegedly sinister. Mostly, though, it's just stupid. Much like the rest of the book.

Until then.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Yeah, that basically covers it.

Recently I ran across this open letter to conservatives and it is, in a word, awesome. Seriously:

Dear Conservative Americans,

The years have not been kind to you. I grew up in a profoundly Republican home, so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now. You've lost me and you've lost most of America. Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I'd like to give you some advice and an invitation.

First, the invitation: Come back to us.

Now the advice. You're going to have to come up with a platform that isn't built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from your own; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more. But you have work to do even before you take on that task.

Your party -- the GOP -- and the conservative end of the American political spectrum have become irresponsible and irrational. Worse, it's tolerating, promoting and celebrating prejudice and hatred. Let me provide some examples -- by no means an exhaustive list -- of where the Right as gotten itself stuck in a swamp of hypocrisy, hyperbole, historical inaccuracy and hatred.

If you're going to regain your stature as a party of rational, responsible people, you'll have to start by draining this swamp:


I won't give away the full text, in no small part because it's so extensively linked that it's just amazing, but you should go and read it for yourself. It's like someone tried to sit down and tell Sarah Palin exactly why she shouldn't ever be president.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I honestly don't know how to respond to this.

So, I haven't really piled on the Catholic church over the whole pedophilia scandal. There are various reasons for this, but primarily I just find it distasteful to use something as serious as pedophilia to score points off of an institution that I don't, generally speaking, care for.* I like to think that for all of my faults, I am at least more dignified than Andrew Schlafly.** That being said, I have watched with no small degree of displeasure as individual incidents of child abuse have gradually started to build up into a pattern of institutional support for child molestation. Put differently, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the problem does not stem from a few bad apples but, rather, is facilitated by the institution of the church itself. And no, blaming the victims or comparing current inquiries to anti-semitism, or even blaming all the negative attention on the devil does not make it better. Yet, for all of that, the most recent development is the one that leaves me just dumbstruck:

A bill in Connecticut's legislature that would remove the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases has sparked a fervent response from the state's Roman Catholic bishops, who released a letter to parishioners Saturday imploring them to oppose the measure.

Under current Connecticut law, sexual abuse victims have 30 years past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. The proposed change to the law would rescind that statute of limitations.

The proposed change to the law would put "all Church institutions, including your parish, at risk," says the letter, which was signed by Connecticut's three Roman Catholic bishops.

...

The "legislation would undermine the mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut, threatening our parishes, our schools, and our Catholic Charities," the letter says.

The Catholic archdiocese of Hartford also published a pulpit announcement on its Web site, which was to be read during Mass on Sunday, urging parishioners to express opposition to the bill.


So, just to summarize- the Catholic church is opposed to legislation strengthening the ability of the state to prosecute child abuse. Just give yourself a moment to work through the cognitive dissonance generated by that one.*** And they claim that this is because such legislation would "...undermine the mission of the Catholic Church..." and place, "...Church institutions ... at risk". Now, I'm no lawyer, but this sounds to me like a fairly unfortunate move on the church's part. I'll concede that there are some very good reasons not to remove the statute of limitations, including a rationale given by the church that prosecuting cases 70 or more years old would be exceedingly difficult due to fading memories and lost records. But, that said, what do you even say when a religious institution claims that it can't do its traditional job if penalties for child abuse are made more severe? Is child abuse a religious rite now?

Just... wow.


* This has little to do with the Catholic Church specifically and rather stems from my general dislike for religious institutions.

** And given my usual comportment here on Total Drek, that statement can only be followed by the phrase, "Wicked burn!"

*** It's easier if you don't start with the belief that being religious necessarily makes you moral.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

For novelty purposes only?

I sometimes hear about how prayer can heal people's illnesses or alter the course of history. Such claims are almost always "supported" using vague evidence- if any- and often appear to refer to a more metaphorical level than a literal one.* Alternatively, it always seems like the purported healing power of prayer only works on particular kinds of disorders.** This might seem odd at first but makes perfect sense once you realize that if you were to make a more explicit and testable claim for the efficacy of religious ritual, you open the door to falsification. And, particularly, to embarrassing falsification. Which brings us to Sanal Edamaruku who challenged India's foremost master of tantra to kill him with mystic power on live television:

When a famous tantric guru boasted on television that he could kill another man using only his mystical powers, most viewers either gasped in awe or merely nodded unquestioningly. Sanal Edamaruku’s response was different. “Go on then — kill me,” he said.

Mr Edamaruku had been invited to the same talk show as head of the Indian Rationalists’ Association — the country’s self-appointed sceptic-in-chief. At first the holy man, Pandit Surender Sharma, was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to perform a series of rituals designed to kill Mr Edamaruku live on television. Millions tuned in as the channel cancelled scheduled programming to continue broadcasting the showdown, which can still be viewed on YouTube.

First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic’s hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man.


Indeed, it is still on YouTube and is really quite a joy to watch:








I'm not sure what you can really say in a situation except for, "Rock on Sanal Edamaruku!" As for the tantric guru- maybe he just needs to start labeling his work with "for novelty purposes only".***


* In other words, it sometimes goes like this: "Sure the praying didn't keep him from dying, but he sure reconnected with his son first!" Yes, well, that's nice, but not really what we were talking about.

** Or, put differently, why does god hate amputees? Because with all the healing miracles floating around, limbs just don't seem to grow back. Ever.

*** For my non-US readers: medical products in this country have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Part of that approval is demonstrating that your product actually works, which seems only fair. It's possible to sidestep this requirement, however, by creating highly suggestive packaging and adding a note, often in small print, somewhere on the box that indicates that the product is "for novelty purposes only" or "is not certified to prevent or cure any disease." It's a little like selling something called "Influenza-buster" and then writing in nanometer scale print that "this product is not intended to treat influenza". Dishonest? Yes. Legal? Yeah. Kinda funny? Oh, hell yes. Something we should keep around? No. Regardless, however, actual products use this loophole and I see no reason why one kind of quack remedy should be treated differently from another.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

A sign of the apocalypse...

I don't want to alarm anybody, but I'm fairly sure this is a sign of true evil in the world:



I mean... did anyone else notice that the bear has stuble, is just wearing tight underwear, and keeps grabbing his crotch? I'm pretty sure that's why he reminds me of a jelly, gummy, pedophile bear, you know?

Yikes.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 18, Part 1

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that manages to be even crazier than L. Ron Hubbard's fiction, while managing to cram just as much religious nonsense into every page. Last time we finished hearing about the first few years of the tribulation, and watched Buck discover... something. What happens this week? A little violence, a lot of sinister innuendo, and that basically sums it up.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to Ken for making a very specific point very compellingly:

"For all Rayford's education and intelligence, he felt he had been a fool."

Rayford is educated and intelligent?

He may be a skilled pilot (though flights are back to normal and he's not being asked to work). But every decision he has made in his life and this book indicates he's not intelligent.

He had a loveless marriage, a wife who rejected reason and intelligence long ago, a daughter he treats like sh*t (The Rapture comes and he makes her travel solo from CA to PA??) and who acts much more like a young adolescent than a college student, and no close friends or acquaintances.

Ted Kaczynski had a better social network than this guy. You would think an intelligent, educated guy would have friends with similar intelligent interests. But unless they were all Raptured--clearly not the author's intent, and something that would really make Rayford the runt of the litter--we haven't seen him do or say anything to anyone that would indicate his intelligence and/or education.


And it's really, really hard to argue with that. I don't want to speculate as to why Rayford comes across as such an idiot, but I suspect it has to do with it being easier to tell the readers that someone is intelligent than it is to show them that someone is intelligent. So, as always, I blame the authors' intrinsic laziness with the fiction. Well done, Ken, and keep at it everyone!

And with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag.


----------

Dramatis Personae

In an order determined by the Showcase Showdown...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer. No longer attracted to Hattie. Bad father. Cries a lot. Lying hypocrite. Christian.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven. Reader of marriage books. Cleans obsessively. Likes egg in her coffee. Bakes really silly cookies. Likes butter churns.

Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority." Terrible Excellent writer. Spiritually attuned. Electronics wiz. Fast typist. Clumsy on slides. Travels a lot. Graduated from Princeton. Human alarm clock. Expert in Romanian politics. Fast runner.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde. Claims no moral or religious code.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford. Religiously unaffiliated. Kinda stupid.

Chaim Rosenzweig: Israeli chemist. Kinda freaky. Friend of Buck's.

Steve Plank: Buck's boss at Global Weekly. Not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions. An inch or two over six feet tall. Broad shouldered. Thick chested. Trim. Athletic. Tanned. Blonde. Blue eyes. Thick eyebrows. Roman nose and jaw. Carries self with a sense of humility and purpose. Wears understated jewelry. Excellent memory.

Raymie Steele: Son of Rayford Steele. Taken in the rapture.

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible. Killed himself Murdered. Left handed.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy. May have the nickname "duck lips."

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.

Ken Ritz: Pilot. Profiteering on the rapture. Actually quite polite. Fired for being too careful. Believes in aliens.

Juan Ortiz: Global Weekly international events editor.

Jimmy Borland: Global Weekly religion editor.

Barbara Donahue: Global Weekly financial editor.

Nigel Leonard: Employee of the London exchange.

Alan Tompkins: Investigator at Scotland Yard. Friend of Buck. Kind of a chickenshit. Blown up by an evil conspiracy car bomb.

Bruce Barnes: Visitation Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes to be mysterious.

Vernon Billings: Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes video tape. Raptured.

Mwangati Ngumo: Secretary-General of the United Nations. Botswanan national.

Eric Miller: Reporter. Rival of Buck's. Able to climb stairs really fast, but not as fast a runner as Buck. Kinda a douche. Died by falling off of the Staten Island ferry.

Gerald Fitzhugh: President of the United States. Talks like a moron.

Stanton Bailey: Publisher of the Global Weekly.

----------


Chapter 18: In which Buck gets a new job, the angels sorta get attacked, Chloe lectures Ray on women, and more vaguely sinister events stumble about drunkenly.


Page 321- Line 1-2:
Buck followed Steve to his office. "Did you hear about those kooks at the Wailing Wall?"


I suppose I might respond, "So what else is new," especially given that the authors don't have nice things to say about the "zealots" but, hey, I'm better than that. In any case, the chapter opens with Steve trying to talk Buck into taking over his job. Buck is reluctant. And this goes on for a couple of pages, during which my margin note reads: "Do I even care about any of this?" I really have to answer, "No," and I'm betting you don't care either. Eventually the conversation turns to Carpathia and his ultimate ambitions.


Page 323- Line 25-30:
"If you ask me [Plank], Romania is too small for him. Europe is too small for him. The U.N. is too small for him."

"What's he gonna be, Steve, king of the world?"

Steve laughed. "That won't be the title, but don't put it past him."


Oh, so ominous. So threatening. So utterly ridiculous. But, hey, I guess when you have Satan on your side, all things are possible? Regardless, the conversation continues to wander randomly around the issue of whether or not Carpathia is dirty. And then they turn to CNN, which is reporting on some strange goings-on with our old pals Eli and Moishe, the guys who are haranguing for Christ down at the wailing wall.


Page 325- Line 17-23:
"A heckler asked why they [Eli and Moshe] had not disappeared [in the rapture], if they knew so much. The one called Moishe answered, and I quote, 'Where we come from and where we go, you cannot know.' His companion, Eli, was quoted, 'In my Father's house are many mansions,' apparently a New Testament quotation attributed to Christ."

Steve and Buck exchanged glances.


I'm guessing those glances signify: what the fuck does that mean? Because I really don't see how those answers relate in any way to the question asked. The first boils down to "Screw off" and the second sorta means, "Woot! I'm rich!" I guess you have to be evangelical. Regardless, I wish we'd just hurry up and get to the devouring already because the suspense is killing me.


Page 325- Line 24-26:
"Surrounded by zealots most of the day, the preachers were finally attacked just moments ago by two men in their midtwenties." [emphasis added]


Oh, for crying out loud! Once more (see page 302- line 8-15) we have a commentator on CNN referring to orthodox Jews at the wailing wall as "zealots." Meanwhile, the two freaks screaming about Christ 24 hours a day are just "preachers." Once again, just to be clear, devout Jews are "zealots" while screaming obnoxious evangelicals are "preachers." Lovely.* As you might guess, things don't go well for the attackers.


Page 326- Line 3-12:
"The one wielding the knife surges forward first, displaying his weapon to Moishe, who had been speaking. Eli, behind him, immediately falls to his knees, his face toward the sky. Moishe stops speaking and merely looks at the man, who appears to trip. He sprawls while the man with the Uzi points the weapon at the preachers and appears to pull the trigger.

There is no sound of gunfire as the Uzi apparently jams, and the attacker seems to trip over his partner and both wind up on the ground."


Wow! It's like the religious intolerance version of the Keystone Cops! More seriously, I'm a little uncertain how an individual can "surge forward." Do you need special training for that? And does it bother anyone else that Eli, one of god's angels, has to fall to his knees and pray for god to save their ass? Way to delegate, god.


Page 326- Line 16-22:
"As we speak, both attackers lie at the feet of the preachers, who continue to preach. Angry onlookers demand help for the attackers, and Moishe is speaking in Hebrew. Let's listen and we'll translate as we go.

"He's saying, 'Men of Zion, pick up your dead! Remove from before us these jackals who have no power over us!'"


Remember, folks: god of love. Eli then decides to get in on the act.


Page 326- Line 26-28:
"'You who aid the fallen are not in danger unless you come against the anointed ones of the Most High,' apparently referring to himself and his partner."


I guess that answers one question: what's worse than a screaming street preacher? One that's protected by supernatural forces. In any case, it turns out that the dudes on the ground are dead and some IDF soldiers come on out to see what's what.


Page 327- Line 8-12:
"Moishe is speaking again: 'Carry off your dead, but do not come nigh to us, says the Lord God of Hosts!' This he has said with such volume and authority that the soldiers quickly have checked pulses and carried off the men."


Um... right. We are WAY over the top writing-wise at this point. I can actually see the authors getting all excited about the action they're narrating. Just awesome. Anyway, there's some pointless dialogue about the t.v. and then we jump back to Rayford and Chloe, who have arrived in New York and are talking about Hattie. Chloe observes that if she were Hattie she wouldn't come to see Rayford, Rayford responds that he's glad Chloe isn't Hattie.


Page 328- Line 18-26:
"Oh, don't put her down, Dad. What makes you any better?"

Rayford felt awful. Chloe was right. Why should he think less of Hattie just because she seemed dim at times. That hadn't bothered him when he had seen her only as a physical diversion. And now, just because she had been nasty with him on the phone and never acknowledged his last invitation to meet today, he had categorized her as less desirable or less deserving.


Dude, what the hell? You've thought poorly of her for a dozen chapters or more! It had nothing the hell to do with a phone call or anything else. Just... wow. The discussion continues and Chloe goes on to say that he can't treat Hattie as though "what happened" was just as much her fault as his. Rayford disagrees and Chloe lays her version of the smack... well... down, as it were.


Page 329- Line 18-20:
"No, it wasn't, Dad. She was available. You shouldn't have been, but you were giving signals like you were. In this day and age, that made you fair game."


Um... no. I mean, I know I'm an atheist and therefore inherently immoral in the authors' eyes, but if someone is married they are not "fair game" even if they are trawling for a lover. They are, in fact, a giant mess of trouble. But what the hell do I know? I'm just a happily-married non-Christian, which means that from the authors' point of view, I don't exist. So, hell, pay me no mind. Anyway, Rayford confirms that the last time he spoke to Hattie she was mad, and Chloe has a question for him.

Page 330- Line 1-4:
"Then what makes you [Rayford] think she's going to be receptive to your heaven pitch?"

"It's not a pitch! Anyway, doesn't it prove I care about her in a genuine way now?"


Speaking from experience, no, it doesn't. Having someone try to force their religion on me does not- generally speaking- make me feel like a valued human being. And then it gets even more stoopid.


Page 330- Line 12-15:
"Does she [Hattie] have any religious background?" [Chloe asked]

"I don't think so."

"You never asked? She never said?"

"Neither of us ever gave it much thought."


Wow is that ever a damned stupid assumption! Just because someone doesn't ram their religious views down your throat at every opportunity, it does not mean that they haven't given it "much thought". It may, in fact, mean that they just consider it impolite to inflict their views on others. But, apparently, that isn't a valid answer to the authors. Lovely. In any case, Chloe explains that he can't expect that Hattie will be receptive to Rayford's god talk, especially since he's offering it as some sort of consolation prize for losing Rayford's attention.


Page 331- Line 10-14:
"But my [Rayford's] attention is purer now, more genuine!"

"To you, maybe. To her this is going to be much less attractive than the possibility of having someone who might love her and be there for her."

"That's what God will do for her."


And I couldn't have said it any better myself: the entire message of this book is that true Christians don't have to love their neighbors or their enemies, love is what God does. It's really, really sad when you get right down to it, because it means that the religion acts to split its followers off from their fellow man. And given that I believe that all we really have is each other... yeah, I'm not into that. Anyway, Chloe keeps giving advice and eventually gets a rise out of Rayford.


Page 331- Line 23-27:
"Then you [Rayford] owe it to her to make that clear. But don't be so emphatic, and don't choose that time to try to sell her on-"

"Stop talking about my faith as something I'm trying to sell or pitch."


Well then stop treating it like it's a time-share you're selling on commission! I take you as seriously as your behavior warrants and, right now, you're ranking about midway between "arms dealer" and "used car salesman." Seriously, you can't scream about how solemn and sacred your views are one minute and then try to sell them like a microbrew the next.

Or, I guess you can since Rayford is gonna do both. He's gonna have to do them next time though, because this marks the halfway point of the chapter. Come back next time when we catch up with Buck, who has caught up with Hattie, who is basically whoring around New York. It'll be awesome.



* It may be worth noting that the authors might perhaps be trying to use the proper noun version of the term (i.e. Zealot) that refers to a first century Jewish political movement to expel Rome from the middle east. If that's what they mean, it's dubiously appropriate if only because it's equating the evangelicals with the hated Roman empire, which is funny as hell. And if that is what the authors mean, I find it more than a little doubtful that a non-raptured CNN announcer would use the obscure historical meaning of the term rather than the more common "religious wackos" meaning of the term. So, decide for yourself I guess.

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