Category Archives: Culture

MSNBC: “Obama’s rating at all-time high”

“What is amazing here is how much political capital Obama has spent in the first six weeks,” said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “And against that, he stands at the end of this six weeks with as much or more capital in the bank.”

By comparison, the Republican Party — which resisted Obama’s recently passed stimulus plan and has criticized the spending in his budget — finds its favorability at an all-time low. It also receives most of the blame for the current partisanship in Washington and trails the Democrats by nearly 30 percentage points on the question of which party could best lead the nation out of recession.

Poll: Obama’s rating at all-time high – White House- msnbc.com

omnivore wins the comments

the internet will make available long-obsolete media, produced incidentally, and not for its long-term value, for others to draw ironic conclusions about, allowing the blindness, limitations and stupidity of all previous generations to be demonstrated, while offering opportunities for self-regarding individuals in the present to create self-congratulatory comparisons with their own incisive, far seeing 20-20 hindsight.

—-

unfortunately for the self-regarding individuals (aka ‘bloggers’), the above will continue to be true.

Future of News video from 1981: epitome of dumb futurism – Boing Boing

Op-Ed Columnist – The Evil Behind the Smiles – NYTimes.com

“My first phrase in Khmer,” the Cambodian language, “was, ‘I want to sleep with you,’ ” she said. “My first phrase in English was” — well, it’s unprintable.

Sina mostly followed instructions and smiled alluringly at men because she would have been beaten if men didn’t choose her. But sometimes she was in such pain that she resisted, and then she said she would be dragged down to a torture chamber in the basement.

“Many of the brothels have these torture chambers,” she said. “They are underground because then the girls’ screams are muffled.”

As in many brothels, the torture of choice was electric shocks. Sina would be tied down, doused in water and then prodded with wires running from the 220-volt wall outlet. The jolt causes intense pain, sometimes evacuation of the bladder and bowel — and even unconsciousness.

Shocks fit well into the brothel business model because they cause agonizing pain and terrify the girls without damaging their looks or undermining their market value.

Op-Ed Columnist – The Evil Behind the Smiles – NYTimes.com

Abortion: Healing or New Culture War? The Choice is Obama’s

President-elect Obama has said that he will sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) shortly after assuming office. The act would strike down local and state laws related to limiting abortion, parental notification and such. This act might also be used to force doctors, nurses and other medical personal to either perform abortions and/or refer women to doctors that do. According to some reports, President-elect Obama may even sign FOCA as one of his first (and therefore most closely scrutinized) initiatives as president.

That would be a huge mistake.

Please note: I’m an Obama fan, a one-time lifelong Republican who voted for Mr. Obama and wrote extensively in support of him here, probably as many positive heartfelt words about and for Mr. Obama as any other blogger on this site.

But here’s my question for the President-elect: Why start Round Two of the culture wars as one of your first acts as president?

Abortion: Healing or New Culture War? The Choice is Obama’s

Skepchick: Critical Thinking at its Finest

don't believe in god?

A lot of Christians who have seen the billboards have found them offensive enough that they felt a need to complain. Some have even accused the billboards of being hate speech and denigrating Christians. One Christian driver who saw the billboard went so far as to say “It is a despicable act to allow that sign…” I, for one, can’t see how that is possible since the billboards are not speaking to or about Christians or people of faith, they are merely offering support to those unbelievers who may be living in the area.

Skepchick: Critical Thinking at its Finest

obama is the man we need: he likes big dogs

“It’s like a little yappy dog?” Obama asked Walters, foolishly ignoring his wife’s advice not to criticize.

“It, like, sits in your lap and things?” queried the skeptical president-elect.

Michelle, still trying to save her husband from himself, pronounced the dog “cute.”

Barack wasn’t buying it. “It sounds kind of like a…a girly dog,” he said, at which point his wife pointed out, “We’re girls. We have a house full of girls.”

Except for the, well, Top Dog, who forthwith issued an executive order. “We’re gonna have a big, rambunctious dog.”

What’s Wrong With Girly Dogs? – PostPartisan – Quick takes from The Post’s opinion writers

obama and hell and christianity today

as i’ve spoken of before, the “hell” topic was one of the main bones of contention i ended up having with what most evangelical christians consider “orthodox”.

i did a big study on it in 2004, and abandoned the idea of hell once i actually got my mind around what the bible actually does and does not say about it.

as i recall from my studies, hell as a concept is virtually absent from the old testament, and there are three greek words used in the new testament that were translated as “hell” in the NIV (the evangelical’s translation of choice).

together these three words are used a grand total of fourteen (14) times in the new testament.

all but two of these uses are by jesus himself.

paul never mentions it.

“hell” as christians today think of it didn’t really come to be a common christian teaching until nearly 200 AD — no one in jesus audience would have ever thought that you went there forever simply for having the misfortune of being born.

“gehenna” is the most commonly used word for “hell” in the NT, and while it is never “defined” explicitly, what jesus probably meant when he used it what was everyone else at that time meant by it: a place, under the ground, where there was lots of fire, and where the sun got its heat and light from as it traveled under the ground on its trip back to the east, after it had set in the west.

if jesus believed (perhaps because he had some special knowledge from the Father) that hell was not an actual, physical, place which was literally under the ground, he didn’t seem to clue his listeners in, and they certainly would have thought this was what he meant when he used the word.

at the time, it was generally believed (jewish or not) that when a person died they went into the afterlife, or hades (hebrew: sheol), where they might face some sort of judgment.

jesus’ particularly jewish audience at the time were likely to believe that the pious would get to exchange their ticket to hell for a ticket to paradise, which meant they now had TWO tickets to paradise (every one was born with one of each) and could go there, immediately.

people who had committed adultry or had led their neighbors into wrongdoing had their one paradise ticket taken away and got another ticket to sheol handed to them: no escape.

a common phrase in jewish teaching was that it would have been better to not have been born than to be one of these people.

(christians familiar with their bibles will recognize that phrasing: jesus borrowed it.)

people who had themselves sinned, but had not lead other people to sin had to spend about only about one (1) year in gehenna, and then got to go up to paradise.

note: this is not a biblical teaching, as the bible doesn’t actually ever say anything on the subject. i’m just relaying what most people who happened to grow up the descendants of nomadic desert tribes in mesopotamia happen to believe on the subject.

so, that was the belief of MOST of the people who heard jesus say:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

this was RADICAL teaching on this subject.

but did he mean it, literally?

to the people who believed that gehenna was under their ground, and supplied the sun with fire, jesus said that if they are angry with their brother, they are going to go there.

surely he didn’t actually mean it, literally, right?

what about when he said: “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

did he mean this literally?

so, then, in which of the three times where we have jesus quoted as talking about gehenna is he speaking literally?

if it isn’t those two, it must be this one:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. … You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

other times the NIV says “hell” are:

2 Peter 2:4 — “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;”

here, the word peter uses is “tartarus” — and is generally thought to be a big, dark, essentially bottomless hole.

James 3:6 — “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”

the word used here is “gehenna”

Matthew 16:18 — “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

here, the word jesus uses is “hades”, rather than “gehenna”.

hades was believed in jesus’ time to be “the afterlife” — and did not necessarily imply someplace horrible, though it was believed to be rather gloomy, unless you happened to get to some sort of paradise.

so, there you have it: the entire new testament’s teaching on “hell” all summed up, with some history on what jesus’ contemporaries believed on the subject.

not one time does jesus ever mention being a christian.

not once does jesus lay out specific things one must believe in order to NOT go to hell.

not once does any other new testament writer.

the bible is more or less quiet on the entire matter of hell and who goes there or does not.

of course, this is NOT a view that is embraced 21st century evangelical christian culture, with its particular version of orthodoxy, where the text must be accepted as a whole: either all true or all a lie, right?

so, then, what about anyone who doesn’t poke out their own eyeball for enjoying checking out a hot chick?

anyway, when obama says:

“I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell…I find it hard that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell…I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity…That’s just not part of my religious make-up.”

…i think you’ll find its actually a very biblical view.

its almost certainly the one jesus himself held, if we are to go by what we know of history combined with his teachings on the subject.

note: i cross-posted this as a comment on john crane’s blog here.

“Homes With Tails” — how to get broadband into all the world

America’s communications infrastructure is stuck at a copper wall. For the vast majority of homes, copper wires remain the principal means of getting broadband services. The deployment of fiber optic connections to the home would enable exponentially faster connections, and few dispute that upgrading to more robust infrastructure is essential to America’s economic growth. However, the costs of such an upgrade are daunting for private sector firms and even for governments. These facts add up to a public policy challenge.

A Copyfighter\’s Musings » Homes With Tails, the paper

The Information Paradox: Pro-Life..Pro-Choice…Both?

So, I guess I am a pro-life, pro-choice, pro-education atheist. Oddly enough this particular centrist view often makes me stand out in a crowd – my family and close friends lean toward the right and I am viewed as the liberal left-wing nut and to most others I am viewed as the conservative, uptight right- wing nut. I suppose it is easier to categorize someone than take the time to understand their views. We hear a phrase, jump to a conclusion and pigeon-hole someone before they can get away. It is a shame that I am not a pigeon.

The Information Paradox: Pro-Life..Pro-Choice…Both?

Worthy of Double Honor

Anyone who puts their body, soul, mind and strength at lifelong risk on behalf of us all is worthy of double honor.  They are to be esteemed in word and deed beyond a red, white and blue calendar day.  As of now the lofty ceremonies only highlight a national disgrace.            

Whether the veteran was a willing participant in war or a pawn of the President it matters not.  Whether the war was just it matters not.  Whether the veteran is permanently disabled it matters not.  Whether the veteran is an addict it matters not.  Whether you are a hawk or a dove it matters not.

I call on President Obama to make a one sentence policy proclamation.

“During the Obama administration no American veteran will ever go without proper medical care or go homeless, period.”

Worthy of Double Honor – The Seminal :: Independent Media and Politics

Forget Red vs. Blue — It’s the Educated vs. People Easily Fooled by Propaganda | Media and Technology | AlterNet

The change from a print-based to an image-based society has transformed our nation. Huge segments of our population, especially those who live in the embrace of the Christian right and the consumer culture, are completely unmoored from reality. They lack the capacity to search for truth and cope rationally with our mounting social and economic ills. They seek clarity, entertainment and order. They are willing to use force to impose this clarity on others, especially those who do not speak as they speak and think as they think. All the traditional tools of democracies, including dispassionate scientific and historical truth, facts, news and rational debate, are useless instruments in a world that lacks the capacity to use them.

Forget Red vs. Blue — It’s the Educated vs. People Easily Fooled by Propaganda | Media and Technology | AlterNet

Butterflies

Then my mom called. You might imagine I don’t get along all that well with my mother, and you’d be right. We’re cordial enough, but we don’t really talk about anything meaningful. It was time for that to change. I told her about my work, and about my next project, a game that would literally change the course of history.
 
Then we talked about Obama. I told her that I felt Americans were living in the Matrix, working long hours, eating pablum, and dying useless for having fed the parasitic machine draining the lifeblood of a withering planet.
 
I told her that Obama was the first president in my lifetime I could look to for inspiration. I told her about seeing people like myself get involved in the politcal process for the first time. I told her about getting to know the truth about money, the economy, and consumption.
 
I told her I saw a light at the end of the tunnel, where the boom-bust cycles of exploitative capitalism gave way the steady, sustainable happiness of altruistic capitalism.
 
Then she got biblical, which was her undoing. No one can quote scripture like an atheist. Without getting into the full multi-hour explanation, I showed her that McCain fits the description of the antichrist much better than Obama.
 
Finally it came down to abortion and gay marriage. I explained that first, understand that Roe v. Wade is not a case about abortion, but about the federal government’s ability to enforce the Constitution at the state level. Most laws are like this — their issues are far more complicated than will fit on a sign.
 
Still, it brings up a greater issue. It is not your job to govern other people’s morality. The Bible is explicitly clear on this subject. Not only does it repeatedly warn against judging others, it also makes clear that vengeance is the exclusive prerogative of God.
 
You are being controlled, I told her, by people telling you how to think, how to feel, and how to act. Use your God-given mind to make your own decisions.

Butterflies

Obama: Bad News For the New Atheists and Other Fundamentalists

The Obama presidency is great news for almost everyone. It’s bad news for some odd ideological bedfellows: the Religious Right and the so-called New Atheists.

Into the all or nothing culture wars, and the all or nothing wars between the so-called New Atheists and religion the election of President elect Obama reintroduces nuance. President elect Obama’s ability to believe in Jesus, yet question, is going to rescue American religion in general and Christianity in particular, from the extremes.

There is no way to understand President elect Obama’s victory as anything less than the start of not just a monumental political change but a spiritual revolution as well.

Frank Schaeffer: President Obama: Bad News For the New Atheists and Other Fundamentalists