Monday, April 30, 2007

Must Read?

I'm told by an email message from the "gun guys" that this blog entry by Elayne Boosler, over at the Huffington Post, is a must read. I had a look, and it appears instead to be a must fisk. So here goes:
If 33 people were killed by apples instead of guns at Virginia Tech, there wouldn't be an apple left on the shelves or in the homes of this country until apples could be made safe. Screw your "constitutional right" to have an apple, there is something called the "greater good", and the good of the country takes precedence over your "interpretation" of any amendment in the now defunct anyway constitution. Just ask the spinach growers, and the people who love to yell "fire" in a crowded theater. And why do you always forget the words, "well regulated militia"?
This is gonna be some work. By my count, there are three fiskable offenses in this paragraph alone. Let's have a look at the apples to guns comparison first shall we? What if 33 in or around Virginia Tech people died by a McDonalds hamburger? Well, it turns out that in a manner of speaking, they were. I bet at least 33 people died in the area from being overweight, and it was probably all those Big Macs and fries that did it. Turns out I can still go and buy all the fattening greasy food I like in or around VTech, much as some of the nannies in the area might not like it. Just because Micky-D's sells food that you shouldn't gorge on every day doesn't mean that I have to do that. I eat from the golden arches sparingly, but I do enjoy a McChicken sandwich once in a while. Why do I have to suffer because someone with a weight problem can't keep their grubby meat-hooks off the things? Anyway, our dear elayne is wrong on this point. We can get away from the food analogy and ask about cars. How many people die in car accidents (and vehicular homicides for that matter) each year? Are cars still on the road? Right.

Then we have this gem:
Screw your 'constitutional right' to have an apple, there is something called the 'greater good', and the good of the country takes precedence over your 'interpretation' of any amendment in the now defunct anyway constitution.
Well, at least we know where you stand on the constitution, no point arguing further. Next, there is: "And why do you always forget the words, 'well regulated militia'?" Nobody here forgets those words. While they do serve as the tiny crevice by which you get the most meager of finger-holds into the second amendment, they do have a very precise meaning that most of us in the gun-nut world are very well aquainted with, moreso because the gun banners try to use those words against us. The term "regulated" here means not conspicuously governed by a set of regulations, but simply "well disciplined." There is much more to this, and the weight of the evidence provided by the men of the time is in our favor. Just see here for an excellent source of information. Now on to paragraph number two.
If 2500 children under the age of 17 were felled by apples instead of guns every year in America, there wouldn't be a congressman or senator left serving who took one penny from the National Apple Association. The shame and admonishment would be too great. And if there were even incremental steps to take to make apples safer, and even they were fought tooth and nail by your blood money National Apple Association, claiming the straw man of the "slippery slope" to "regulation", America might better see you for the mercenary and shameful organization you truly are.
There are many ways to fisk this paragraph. I choose the following: I claim you don't really care, Ms. Boosler, as your effort could make a much greater difference if you were active for greater safety in, say, private swimming pools. Many more children under the age of 14 die because of swimming pools than because of guns in the wrong hands. In fact, 800 children in that age range perished by drowning, compared with 80 killed by firearm accidents, data compiled here from National Safety Council 2001 resources. It is worth asking, how many of those 2500 children were hardened gang members, or does that not make a difference to you?
Here's a news flash for you gun waving "real Americans": It's not about guns. It's about money. Follow the money. The NRA raises hundreds of millions of dollars by convincing you they are fighting for your "rights". Wake up. It's a business. Just like any other business, except with the help of their bought off representatives, they are the only UNREGULATED consumer product in America. What do they sell? FEAR. Fear, fake patriotism, and fake bravado, just like their commander in chief, President Custer. You're being played.
Fine. Here's a news flash for you, Ms. Boosler: The NRA exists because its four-million members know that we need to be unified in order to prevent people like you from dissarming us. There are many other real grassroots organizations out there working with us to protect our rights. GOA, JFPO, and many others, not too mention the blogs listed to the right on this website. Not to mentin the tens of thousands of active members of The High Road and other gun related forums.

Now it's time for a real doozy:
With their hundreds of millions of dollars raised on the blood of murdered Americans, they pay themselves, they keep their product manufacturers flush, and they buy their government officials. They exist to convince you you need their product. And when sales slow, they target new markets. They market fear to women, then sell them "feminine little purse guns". They market to children. The cartoon character Joe Camel is banned, but sure shootin' Eddie Eagle is alive and well to shit again on Friday. (He teaches children "gun safety", meaning, he teaches children to use guns.)
The last sentences of this paragraph are an outright lie. It is easy for anyone to see that Eddie Eagle teaches kids one set of ideas: If you see a gun: Stop! Don't touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult. There is absolutely nothing about Eddie Eagle that teaches children to use guns. So we've learned that Elayne Boosler is either a liar, or completely ignorant. It could be the latter. Maybe she can't imagine that the NRA is a member supported organization that is hyper-concerned about the safety of children. It is entirely possible that she simply went with her prejudices in imagining what an NRA child safety program would be all about and went with it without even trying to check her facts. Lovely either way.

Ms. Boosler, really, comparing Joe Camel to Eddie Eagle is quite distasteful. Have a look for yourself:

compared with

You're telling me you can compare the hyper-cool Joe Camel with "big-n-dumb" Eddie Eagle? Eddie Eagle is a closer match to this cartoon character, don'tcha think?

I don't know who the bigger dumbass is, you or Barney. OK, I give up, I do know. I'm going to skip some of the stuff in the middle... and we pick up here
I watched President Custer speak at the Virginia Tech memorial yesterday. How dare he "express condolences". How DARE he. Here is how his administration helped kill 33 people at Virginia Tech:
He did? Let's find out how our dear Ms. Boosler figures this is the case
Passage of gun industry immunity bill. That's right, you can sue every industry in America, except gun manufacturers and dealers. Your family gets murdered by a madman? Tough.
Why would you sue the manufacturers and dealers? Would you sue a car maker or dealer if Cho had intentionally run 33 people over with a car? The dealer followed the law and checked Cho's background. The background check was insufficient because the STATE of VIRGINIA didn't require the information on Cho's mental state to be in the background check database. Who's really at fault here? Who should be sued, if anyone?
Refusal to aid in renewal of federal assault weapons ban, even though the law had already been eviscerated by the gun industry. Get it? INDUSTRY.
The federal assault weapons ban could not have made a difference in the outcome of the VTech shooting, much as you might wish it could have. Everything Cho used in his rampage was perfectly legal to purchase and own DURING the "ban."
Fighting background checks. The Virginia shooter had been committed to a mental institution. In Virginia that means you can't buy a gun. Oh yeah? Thank goodness the gun shop owner who sold it to him can't be sued.
NOBODY in the President's administration fought background checks. This is another outright lie.
The president helps the terrorists when anyone can have a shoulder rocket launcher that can take a plane out of the sky. And I'm taking my shoes off at the airport?
Another outright lie. Where do you get your information? Exaclty how many planes have been taken out of the sky in America by shoulder fired rocket launchers anyway?
The president helps the terrorists when he supports a ban on release of federal crime tracing data necessary to identify patterns in illegal gun trafficking.
Another lie. This data is available to all LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES for legitimate use in fighting crime. It IS NOT AVAILABLE for fishing expeditions by politicians, lawyers and news media outlets for use in attacking gun owners and the gun industry.


And lastly
Guns are for cowards. You can kill from a distance. You are detached, removed. You don't get your hands dirty. You don't feel the life draining out of another human being in an eye to eye struggle, face to face, with your hands squeezing or beating soft, human, flesh, one on one. We had just as many disturbed, sick citizens in America in the last century as we do in this. The difference now is access to weapons of mass destruction. Anyone can have a gun. Anyone. It did not used to be like this. It's easy to kill now.
If you say so, but in America, there are almost as many non-firearm homicides as there are firearm murders in any given year. And Mexico, which has much tougher gun laws than the USA has nearly twice the firearm homicide rate that we do.

And then there's the "punch line" as she puts it:
Today the supreme court overturned thirty years of supreme court precedent, and overturned the findings of six federal courts, to declare war on women, their health, their privacy, and their lives, by upholding a ban on dilation and curettage abortion that contains NO exception to preserve the health or SAVE THE LIFE of the woman. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, writing for the four dissenting justices, called the decision "alarming".
Now what exactly does that have to do with guns or any of the other blather in her post? Maybe she's trying to show how partial birth abortion IS up close and personal, you do have to get your hands dirty, and you can "feel the life draining out of another human being in an eye to eye struggle, face to face, with your hands squeezing or beating soft, human, flesh, one on one." and that makes it OK (accept for the eye to eye struggle bit, since it's more like you just put a bag over their head and then killed them, same difference).

What a waste of electronic ink.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

CCW Draw-down Quiz

OK, I've got a quiz for all of you who pack heat, regularly, once in a while, regularly, might do in the future, etc. There are two questions and they involve a situation in which a bad guy is doing something, you know, bad, and it is obvious that you should draw your weapon and stop them.

Here are the questions: 1. What do you wish you would say as you draw your weapon? 2. What would you probably say as you draw your weapon. Here's some *example* answers:

1. Freeze or I'll shoot!
2. Freeze Asshole!

I don't know why, but my natural inclination when trying to get a bad guy's attention would be to call him an asshole. I don't want to do that, but I doubt I could help it.

Anyway, send me your responses to carnaby_fudge AT hotmail DOT com, and I'll tally them up next week for your enjoyment. Make sure you play, otherwise there's no fun.:)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sheryl "One-Square" Crow

It's now big news that singer Sheryl Crow only uses one square of toilet paper per sitting in an effort to stave off deforestation*. But John Stossel debunked the deforestation myth a long time ago and claimed there is more forest in the U.S. now than there was 80 years ago. Which means we are efficient at replacing what we use, and the one-square gesture is pointless, not to mention gross (tho' I bet Crow uses a bidet).

But why even use one square when you can use none? Crow has an eco-friendly clothing line that features detachable napkin-alternative "dining sleeves" for wiping one's mouth ; why not also include pants with a removable wiping hatch? She can call them the "Can't-Spare-a-Square" pair. As my personal contribution to the environmental cause, I'll let her have that idea free of charge.

[* I guess that means men are, by nature, more environmentally-friendly than women, since they require less TP.]

Betrayed by the Media: Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom

Like the Curmudgeon, I had not heard of the horrific murders of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom until recently, even though they occurred in January.


Because the media has been virtually silent about them.

The lack of coverage seems odd at first: a young couple is carjacked, both are sadistically raped, tortured, and murdered. This is exactly the kind of thing you expect to see splashed across the TV around the clock on CNN, MSNBC, etc.

It seems there are some inconvenient details. As Jack Dunphy points out, the murdered couple is white and the accused are black
Chances are, unless you live in Tennessee, you will not recognize the names Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. Christian, 21, and Newsome, 23, both of Knoxville, were driving through that city together on the night of January 6 when they were kidnapped and murdered. [Newsom’s] burned body was found along some railroad tracks on January 7. Christian remained missing for two more days until her body, stuffed in a trash can, was found in a home not far from where Newsome’s was found. Police and prosecutors allege both victims were raped before being killed. Yes, both. Three men and a woman have been charged with the crimes in a 46-count grand jury indictment handed down in Knoxville on January 31.

The story was given a few brief mentions on the AP wire, which were in turn carried on the Fox News and ABC News websites, but you’ll find no mention of the crime in the online archives of CNN, MSNBC, CBS News, the New York Times, or the Washington Post. Run a similar search for stories on the Duke case and you’ll be sifting through the results for hours. It’s not as though these news providers have shied away from crime since being embarrassed in the Duke case. For example, when Tara Grant went missing from her suburban Detroit home in February, the investigation grew and grew in media attention until it became a national story. An AP story appearing on the MSNBC website ran under the headline, “Mich. case a perfect recipe for media frenzy.” And indeed it was. When Grant’s dismembered body was discovered inside her home, triggering a manhunt for her husband and his eventual arrest, the coverage ramped up nearly to the point of Laci Peterson-type saturation. Only the carnival surrounding Anna Nichole Smith’s death kept the Grant murder from being the Story of the Month. Yet the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher [Newsom] are known to almost no one outside Tennessee. Why?

It’s simple: the four suspects accused of killing Christian and [Newsom] are blacks from the inner city of Knoxville.
When the crime is white-on-black (cf. James Byrd, Jr. and more recently Don Imus' remarks and the false allegations against the Duke lacrosse players) or white-on-white/?-on-white (cf. JonBenet Ramsey and Natalee Holloway), we are inundated, to the point of saturation, with stories sensationalizing the event and obsessing over every minute detail. (A Google News search of the words "Christian and Newsom" turns up only three pages and very little beyond local media coverage. By contrast, a similar search using the words "JonBenet Ramsey" produces six pages even though the crime took place more than ten years ago.)

When the crime is black-on-white, we get a few telegraphic articles outside the local media. If you really dig around on Google News, you find two (2) sources that mention the more gruesome details

"Newsom was kidnapped, raped and beaten. According to reports, his penis was then cut off before he was shot several times and set on fire, all while his girlfriend watched. His body was then dumped alongside train tracks. Christian was kept alive and gang-raped multiple times over a span of four days. Her breast was cut off while she was still alive and her kidnappers sprayed cleaning fluid into her mouth to cleanse it of DNA. Her body was then put into a garbage can."
The details are so horrifying that the story sensationalizes itself. This should be front-page news, but it's not. (Currently, is the only major online news source I could find that mentions this crime at all, but the most recent story is from two months ago.) Is there concern that such a shocking story would inspire backlash and "revenge" crimes against blacks? Or does it simply not fit the politically-correct media paradigm for what the American public deserves to know?

I don't have the answer to that, but I want to find out.

If this story grieves, sickens, or enrages you as it has me and many people who are only now finding out about it, let the media know. Word of this story is already making the rounds on the web, particularly in the blogosphere, but the mainstream media needs to know that silence over this story is troubling in the extreme -- and unacceptable. Tell them this, and ask why there hasn't been more coverage.

New York Times
Washington Post

Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom did not deserve such a cruel fate. The least that we, the public, can do is to draw as much attention to this as possible and see that this terrible crime does not go ignored.

A Quick Re-Bias

Probably many of you have seen this pathetic attempt at journalism. The writer must have the word "bias" tattooed on his forehead. Now, what can we do with such a piece? Why, since it's an example of pure lefty bias, we can re-bias it by reversing just about everything. And here's the result:
Despite the recent mass unarmed victim hood, Nation remains split on Second Amendment and right to carry laws. No rise in demand for expansion of CCW to college campuses.

The nation is profoundly split along gender, racial and other lines over criminal violence and what the government should do to enable citizens to protect themselves, despite near-universal sorrow over the Virginia Tech shootings, an AP-Ipsos poll has found.

Men and whites are far likelier than women and minorities to view self reliance as a solution to the problem of armed criminal psychopaths, to be concerned about what steps they should take protect their families and loved ones from the deranged, and to want the government to admit it cannot control such persons when they snap and lose it, said the survey, which was taken after the killings.

Fault lines also exist by political party and where people live, with Republicans and suburban and rural residents taking a dimmer view of gun control than Democrats and city dwellers. Though similar divisions have long existed, the findings spotlight how each group’s views remain entrenched despite this week’s shootings, among the worst slayings in modern American history.

“It’s just too easy for politicians and bureaucrats to take away my right to protect myself,” said David Peabody, 47, and office manager at Davenport Marine, a respondent in the AP survey.

Though Monday’s horrific killings of 32 students and teachers by the suicidal nut-job were fresh in people’s minds, there was scant movement in their attitude toward gun laws. Forty-nine percent said that firearms controls should not be tightened, with twenty percent of those in favor of loosening government controls on firearms, while only forty-seven percent thought that ordinary citizens should be given less responsibility for their own safety — about the same as in a January survey.

About six in 10 men think gun laws should favor responsible citizens, nearly double the proportion of hand-wringing women. Fifty-six percent of whites favor the responsible citizen model, while, oddly, only 44 percent of people of oppression would rather protect themselves than leave the job up to “The Reverend” Al Sharpton and his ilk.


Nearly 60 percent of Republicans favor gun laws consistent with notions of individual liberty, almost double the number of Democrats, with more men in both parties supporting freedom and individual responsibility.

And there you have it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Carnaby's Review of "Babel"

There's 2+ hours of my life I'll never get back. I hate movies in which everyone is universally inept, mean, selfish (in the bad sense) and generally bad. I came out wishing that the world would just nuke itself, if that's all there is. Argh!

Two thumbs down.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gun-Free Zones, Not Guns, Enable Massacres

Charl van Wyk points out what should be obvious in his piece, The grave danger of 'gun-free zones'

Worldwide, office buildings, hospitals, convenience stores, TV studios, chain restaurants and day-care centers have all been targets of homicidal maniacs. Mass murders have taken place in such places after they have been declared gun-free zones.
But gun-free zones are supposed to make you feel safer.

Do mass shootings ever occur in police stations, shooting ranges or at gun shows? Mass murderers select soft targets for their acts of violence. Expecting a suicidal individual to honor a law prohibiting firearms is sheer utopian fantasy.
He's already bent on breaking a law when he intends to kill. Why would a firearms prohibition stop him? Perhaps it can make it more difficult for him to obtain firearms to perpetrate his crime, but certainly not impossible. In Canada and Europe, where private ownership of guns is heavily restricted, there are still mass shootings.

In Europe, 16 people were killed in a public school shooting in Germany in April 2002. Another two public shootings were the killing of 14 regional legislators in Zug, a Swiss Canton (September 2001) and the massacre of eight city council members in a Paris suburb in March 2002.
Dunblane, Scotland suffered a school massacre in 1996 in which 17 were killed. In September 2006 Kimveer Gill opened fire on students at a Montreal college, killing one and wounding 19. In 1999 Marc Lepine targeted women for his shooting spree at a technical institute in Montreal, killing 14 and wounding 10. (What is it with Frenchies in Canada?)
In the U.S., thugs using firearms at elementary or secondary schools between 1997 and 2002 killed 32 students. The total includes gang fights, robberies, accidents and the so-called "school shootings." All these attacks took place in gun-free zones.
Students and children can be massacred without guns, as well. In June 2001, a deranged man with a kitchen knife went on a stabbing spree in an elementary school in Japan killing eight and wounding 15.

The VTech killings have reignited the debate over gun-free zones. Should staff/students be allowed to carry firearms on campus? For some, that would shatter the illusion of safety. But in practice, it works.

In Israel, however, teachers and parents serving as school aids are armed at all times on school grounds with semi-automatic weapons. Since this policy was adopted in the 1970s, attacks by gunmen at schools in Israel have ceased.

Israelis know that their survival depends on understanding the difference between feeling safer and being safer. But this is because the reality of safety is obvious to people who, from day one, have been surrounded by declared enemies.

The vast majority of Americans and Canadians, on the other hand, have enjoyed a level of peace and tranquility that is unprecedented in the world. We have been lulled into complacency, with many now unwilling to own up to the responsibility of self-protection.

Mass killings are not a gun problem or an American problem. There are evil, deranged people everywhere. If they are bent on killing, they will find a way. The VTech massacre -- along with the massacres that occur in just about every other place in the world, civilized or uncivilized -- should make it obvious that our only choices are to protect ourselves or become willing prey.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


There is now speculation that VTech murderer Seung-hui Cho was schizophrenic

How he related to his roommate was just too bizarre to be depression. The bizarre content of his plays — mashing a half-eaten "banana bar" in someone's mouth, the hypersexual, nihilistic (death obsessed) obsessions in the absence of depressive guilt or tearfulness are another clue. The progressive decline of a period of years. Those with schizophrenia, especially in their earliest years, are not readily recognizable as such — their condition is evolving. But here was someone who, as early as 2005, was carrying himself so strangely that he was a spectacle. The depressed withdraw and disappear. Those who are so peculiar in their manner so as to be inappropriate (taking cell phone pictures of his teacher, speaking inaudibly, pulling a cap low over his eyes) exhibit signs and symptoms more indicative of schizophrenia. He was communicating in a rambling manner reflective of what we appreciate as autistic thinking — characteristic of schizophrenia. In a similar vein, Mr. Cho's stilted communication in his homicide note (deceitful charlatans — not the language of a 23-year-old college kid) is also the manner of a schizophrenic's communications, as is his pronounced delay in responding to questions.
What's eerie about this is that a few years ago we had a student in my department who exhibited similarly strange behavior.

"Duma," a young man from Russia, was in my first-year graduate class in astronomy in the fall of 2001. While not unfriendly, he was at first shy and quiet, which we assumed was attributable to a combination of culture shock and shaky english skills. Over the course of the next couple of semesters, however, he started behaving more eratically. During class he would ask questions totally unrelated to the topic and make strange, rambling pronouncements about the nature of God. After a while, he started missing class more and more, and after 9/11 he disappeared entirely for a while. He reappeared briefly, showed up to lectures looking completely different, sporting a full beard and wearing strange clothing.

Then we got word from the department that Duma was leaving us, and were told that if we saw him on campus without an escort we were to call the police immediately.

Not long after, hubby and I were visiting a military surplus store close to campus. When one of the clerks there overheard that I was in the astronomy department, he asked if I knew someone named Duma. Turns out the guy had been to the surplus store many times buying survival equipment, and appeared to the clerks to be very paranoid. He made his last purchase before he disappeared for those weeks. What I found out in the months after Duma's departure is that following 9/11 he had visited Washington, D.C., and upon his return, he turned in various faculty members in to the police as terrorists, including the chair of the department (who is old, white, and very British). Duma apparently found this very amusing. I also remember finding in the computer lab these very long screeds written in cyrillic with titles like "George Bush."

Other oddities...

Duma became obsessed with having a window in his office. He demanded to be given an office with a window, which are all reserved for faculty and post-docs, and sent bizarre emails to everyone in the department about how in Russia everyone gets a window or else is financially compensated for the lack of one. The grad student offices do not have windows, as they face interior walls. However, the wall of his office (which is now my office, by the way) consists of drywall patched over what is an enormous outside door which a long time ago was used to hoist in heavy equipment. Keep in mind this is the 16th floor of the building. The people in the adjoining office one night heard a terrible ruckus in Duma's (my) office. He had brought in equipment and cut a big hole in the wall and tried to push open the outside door so that he could have his window. (I now have a poster over that hole.)

Most odd was Duma's fixation on the daughter of one of the faculty members. Duma had been renting an apartment in this man's house, and somehow became convinced that he was to marry the prof's daughter. The obsession frightened the prof so much, that he evicted Duma. Meanwhile, Duma had incurred over $10,000 in credit card debt stuffing this apartment with furniture he ordered from the Bombay Company, which he intended for his future wife. (I have no idea how a non-resident alien can get $10,000 in credit.)

There were probably other strange aspects to Duma's story that the department decided not to share with us. As I said, we were told to call the police if we saw him on campus. Last we heard, the department had purchased a plane ticket for him to return to Russia, but were not able to confirm that he made his connecting flight in New York.

Duma might just have been a garden-variety nutbar incapable of mass-murder, but in light of what happened at VTech, I gotta say I'm glad the department didn't ignore his oddities.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Carnaby's Review of Shooter

While my fair sister disliked the movie, I really enjoyed "Shooter." It was a throwaway action flick and nothing more, but it was good as far as that went. The politics were stupid, but the action was great, and that's all there is to that.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Book Review: The God Delusion

My book club's selection this month was The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. As a devoted Christian I was very game to read this book, as I want to understand the atheist position as much as possible. However, looking forward to being challenged by one of atheism's brightest minds, I was very quickly disappointed. This book is one long, tedious exercise in third-rate argumentation -- strawman and red herring fallacies, cherry-picking, ad hominem, and character assassination. As one of the other club members pointed out, Dawkins makes use of debating techniques we learned not to use in the seventh grade.

The premise really boils down to this: God is unlikely to exist because religious people are jerks and idiots (esp. Christians), religious dogma is silly (esp. Christianity), and some ideas about God are contemptible (esp. biblical). Chapters begin with promising titles ("The God Hypothesis" and "Why There Almost Certainly is No God"), but never deliver. "The God Hypothesis," for example, never actually spells out what the God hypothesis is. Instead, we get page after page of cherry-picked examples of the worst and silliest that Christianity has to offer, along with Dawkins' pompous rants and endless quotations underlining his deep contempt for religion and religious people. All I could gather from this is that the "God hypothesis" is little more than "God sucks."

The initial chapter, with sections titled "Deserved respect" (anything atheistic) and "Undeserved respect" (anything religious, esp. Christianity) is what sets the tone for the rest of the book, and warns astute readers that what lies ahead is a decidedly propagandistic view of the subject. Dawkins doesn't bother to build up his argument, but immediately draws conclusions for his readers through frequent use of the word "enlightened" to describe anyone and any idea that agrees with his premise. His bigotry is most revealed in a response to a book written by Stephen Jay Gould (now dead and unable to defend himself) titled Rocks of Ages, in which Gould effectively says that science answers the "how" of existence while theology answers the "why." Dawkins, who is so unable to grasp that an eminent evolutionist could believe such a thing, states that Gould could not possibly have meant what he wrote and ascribes it to an undue respect for religion. As an interesting aside, I should mention that Dawkins refutes Gould's idea of these 'non-overlapping magisteria' by stating: "...a universe with a creative superintendent would be a very different kind of universe from one without. Why is that not a scientific matter?" I agree with Dawkins here, but apparently nobody has given him the memo that intelligent design has no place in the science classroom.

I do not doubt that much, if not all, of what Dawkins presents in criticism of Christianity is true. Some notable (and not so notable) Christians have said and done very silly, even contemptible, things. But does this necessarily represent the sum of Christianity? It is Dawkins' duty to present as accurate a picture of his subject as possible and to defeat the best it has to offer before he can claim victory. But he says little of Christianity's merits. In cases where Christians have accomplished laudable things, such as with Rev. Martin Luther King, their faith is written off as meaningless coincidence. Where such dismissals are impossible, the facts are simply omitted. Nowhere in the book could I find mention of the role British evangelical Christians played in bringing about the end the worldwide slavetrade. Dawkins is British, and I would be surprised if he were unaware of this historical fact. (There is also a movie on this topic in theaters right now.) There is also no mention of the Christian foundation of modern science, industrialization, and modern democracy (for a good review of this see Dinesh D'Souza's What So Great About America).

The true propagandistic nature of Dawkins book is revealed through lack of any meaningful discussion of the atrocities committed by atheists. Dawkins mentions Hitler, if only to bring into question the nature of his religious background, but fails to address Hitler's second in command, Martin Bormann, who was architect of the Holocaust and a staunch atheist. His discussion of Stalin, however, is a painful exercise in twisted logic. Dawkins does not attempt to argue that Stalin was anything but atheist, but concludes that Stalin's atheism had nothing to do with his vile actions. He correctly asks, "What matters is not whether Hitler and Stalin were atheists, but whether atheism systematically influences people to do bad things" but concludes, astoundingly, "There is not the smallest evidence that it does." This is, in fact, quite wrong. Jeffrey Dahmer claimed that he did terrible things, because, in a universe without God, it's all meaningless. (Perhaps, now that Dahmer is dead, Dawkins will presume to speak on his behalf and claim that he didn't really mean it.)

On a large scale, you can examine the line of reasoning taken by the members of the communist Khmer Rouge for their slaughter of millions of their own countrymen. They had a vision of their ideal society, and the most effective way to accomplish it was to wipe out the old society and begin fresh with the children. When you believe there is no God, you make the rules. As Dostoyevsky put it, "If God is not, everything is permitted." Not only has atheism influenced bad behavior, it has done so disproportionately compared to all religions combined. Dinesh D'Souza explains that the oft-mentioned Salem witch trials resulted in 25 deaths and the Spanish Inquisition may be responsible for as many as 100,000 deaths; yet communsim is responsible for an estimated 100 million deaths. Nevertheless, Dawkins conveniently arranges his assumptions so that he can dismiss the obvious and arrive at precisely the point he wishes:

  • When a Christian does something bad, his faith is at fault. When a Christian does something good, his faith is irrelevant.

  • When an atheist does something bad, his atheism is irrelevant. When an atheist does something good, his "enlightened" atheist beliefs are responsible.
I haven't finished the book, and it doesn't bode well for the rest of it as the first few chapters follow the exact same format: interesting and provocative titles followed by monotonously endless rants, attacks, and sloppy reasoning that never address the point of the chapter. Wading through all this to get the salient bits reminded me a little of Gandalf's description of interrogating Gollum -- eventually you get a piece of useful information, but not without much aggravation.

Dawkins makes the claim in his preface that, if he's done his job right, religious readers will be atheists by the end of the book. The problem is getting them to the end of the book -- he is assuming that a religious person can be persuaded to read through over 300 pages of endless insults and attacks (one of our Catholic members, admirably, managed to do this). Furthermore, the only way Dawkins can accomplish his goal is if said reader is a complete ignoramus, with no knowledge of history or religion whatsoever, and lacking convictions of any depth. But perhaps this describes the type of converts Dawkins wishes for.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Evil Black Tactical Kitty

She's strictly for home-defense.

We really need to get a gun safe or clear out some room in the garage. Our gun gear has overtaken the master bedroom, so hubby and I now sleep in the guest room. But the cats still find room on the bed.

The Weird 24 Movie Meme

Green updates by Carnaby:

1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.

Several, but I'll go with the obvious: the Star Wars trilogy.

Several, but I'll go with: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

2. Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater.

Again, the Star Wars trilogy.


3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.

Will Ferrell.

Ed Harris.

4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.

Either of the Jessicas -- Biel or Alba. It's nothing personal/political, they just both annoy the crap out of me.

Dustin Hoffman.

5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.

Erik the Viking. "Olaf Tryggvason used to throw up on every single voyage... the whole time... non-stop... puke... puke... puke." "Look! I don't feel bad about it. I just feel ill."

Also, Galaxy Quest. "By Grapthar's Hammer... what a savings."

GBU: "God's not on our side because he hates idiots also."

6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.

Uhhh... I know some of the words to some of the songs from The Sound of Music.

Fiddler on the Roof.

7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.

The Sound of Music.

The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof.

8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.


Serenity, but only after watching the entire Firefly series first.

9. Name a movie that you own.

I own two large bookshelves full of DVDs (overflowing) and several boxes full of VHS movies. It's an obsession. My latest acquisition was the Indiana Jones trilogy.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who of course started off his career as a world-renowned bodybuilder. I think he's one of the greatest action actors ever, but is also a charming comedic actor.

Since Stickwick swiped the obvious, I'm gonna go with, um, the Marine drill sergeant guy. Is being a real-life drill sergeant an entertainment career? If not, then I dunno.

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?

Yes, a few. I think the last one was Gremlins.

Yes, Poltergeist. I was 11 and couldn't sleep in the dark for a week. Stupid clown.

12. Ever made out in a movie?

No. I'm going to pay $8.50 to not watch a movie?

No, blech.

13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't yet gotten around to it.

The Passion of the Christ. I haven't worked up the nerve.

There's a bunch, but I always forget what they are. That's why I haven't seen them yet.

14. Ever walked out of a movie?

I've wanted to walk out of a few, but only actually walked out of one: Godzilla (the stupid new version with Matthew Broderick). A one-hundred-foot lizard is terrorizing the city, and yet the characters are too petty to put their bickering aside. I just couldn't take it.

Nope. Only been tempted once or twice out of boredom. I always toughed it out in the end, though.

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I cry at movies all the time.

There are two. I'll tell the first one, which is Ben Hur, the scenes involving Jesus. I won't mention the other one, too embarrassing.

16. Popcorn?

Sometimes. But I have a hard time getting over paying $4.50 for something that probably costs 3 cents to make.

Usually, but I often regret it since I typically get the extra-huge bucket and then eat the entire thing myself.

17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?

Back in college, I used to go once or twice a week. But in the last several years movies have been pretty bad (and not the good kind of bad), so it's down to once every couple of months.

About once every two to four months. Not much in the last year or so as most of them weren't worth laying out that kinda dough for.

18. What’s the last movie you saw in the theater?

Blades of Glory. Good, silly fun.


19. What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie?

Used to be sci-fi, but they are mostly terrible now. Probably comedy or action.

Anything that combines action or sci-fi, or suspense, or whatever with GOOD DRAMA. I get bored in plain old action movies if they don't at least try to develop the characters. And I loathe and detest bad dialogue. Argh!

20. What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?

Star Wars. I was six years old, and my dad took me and carnaby to see it. I was completely blown away.

Jeremiah Johnson, at the drive in. I remembered that I saw this strange movie, but I didn't know what it was called until a roommate brought it home one time. "Where can a man find bear, beaver, and other critters worth cash money when skinned?" Try saying that with a straight face.

21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?

Eyes Wide Shut. Terrible way for Kubrick to go out. Theaters should have distributed anti-depressants afterwards.

Blair Witch Project. I've never been so bored.

22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

Cabin Boy.

23. What is the scariest movie you’ve seen?

Either Alien or The Thing.

Dunno. There were a lot of movies that were scary when I was a kid, but they don't scare me any more. I suppose The Thing is at the top of the list.

24. What is the funniest movie you’ve seen?

Either Life of Brian or The Big Lebowski.

Heh, yeah. And Super Troopers. Funniest movie I've seen in a while.

[h/t: The Smallest Minority]