Good God Y’All

This song has been going through my head for days. It is a great one at least: Edwin Starr’s “War”:

What a great live version: totally kick ass band. And Starr sounds great— regrettably just a couple of years before he died.

The Basis of Sam Harris’ Racism

Sam HarrisI don’t like the label “atheist” because I’m really not. Just the same, I think theism is ridiculous and not really much worth discussing. It is just that when it comes to cosmology I stand with Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” As a result, I feel akin to the smarter atheists. I have never noticed that I had a disagreement with Richard Carrier: I agree with him about religion and philosophy. On the other hand, I have major problems with Sam Harris, even though I generally agree with him when it comes to religious matters.

Without a doubt, I most part ways with Dr. Harris when it comes to his hateful campaign against Islam. Look: I have no love for Islam. I normally just group it with the other Abrahamic faiths: belief systems that may have spoken to people hundreds and thousands of years ago but which really have no purpose in the modern world. But if I were to pick one religion that most bothers me, it would be Christianity. I say this even though I have a number of Christian friends. But Christianity is the religion that I know—the religion that as an American, I just can’t escape from. And above all: I feel responsible for it.

In the past, I’ve written about my difficulty being a member of the in-group. And maybe that’s what’s happening. But it seems cowardly to focus all of my anger and concern toward them and not toward us. Today, Glenn Greenwald called Sam Harris to task about this very issue. He wrote, “Beyond all that, I find extremely suspect the behavior of westerners like Harris (and Hitchens and Dawkins) who spend the bulk of their time condemning the sins of other, distant peoples rather than the bulk of their time working against the sins of their own country.” Indeed.

Much of the article is spent discussing whether Harris’ anti-Islam beliefs are racist. Greenwald will not go so far as to say that they are (although he gets as close as you can). I think I have some insight into this. I’m not sure if it is the definition of racism, but it is clearly a primary mechanism by which racism renews itself.

The nature of prejudice is that it accumulates confirming data and dismisses contradictory data. For example, suppose you don’t like Latinos and you are driving your car. If a white guy cuts you off, he is just some asshole who cut you off. If a Latino cuts you off, it is entirely typical of Latinos: they just don’t care! If a Latino stops to allow you to get onto a busy street, well, that’s the exception that proves the rule!

Sadly, this is what has been going on with Sam Harris for at least a decade. And it is easy to see why, especially given the propagandistic tendencies of American media. I see this kind of thing from conservatives generally. Every person they see in the Middle East who is happy about some misfortune that befalls us only proves that all them Islamists just hate us. And no amount of “Sorry people of America this not the behavior of our Islam and profit” signs will change that.

I had thought that Harris was liberalizing his beliefs in recent years, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

Rory Cooper’s High-larious Tweets

Rory CooperMatt Yglesias caught a remarkable series of tweets this morning from Rory Cooper. Cooper is Eric Cantor’s Communications Director and as such is committed to idiotic conservative beliefs. Earlier, White House Communications Director Daniel Pfeiffer said, “You don’t want to balance the budget for the purposes of simply balancing the budget.” Well, that was high-larious to Cooper. What idiots those guys are at the White House thinking you don’t want to reduce the debt just for the sake of reducing the debt!

Regular readers should know that this is how conservatives think. This is why they are so concerned about debt to GDP ratios instead of the debt interest burdens. Or to put it more simply: they don’t even know why they want to balance the budget, they just know that it is the good and moral thing to do. And this makes perfect sense when you consider that the Republicans are only using the budget deficit as a reason to lower taxes (!) and cut social spending.

You may remember David Frum’s series of tweets lampooning the NRA proposal that all we need is an armed guard at every school. Cooper was trying to do the same thing with his tweets this morning. Like with this one:

Except, of course, this is not the same thing. You don’t feed your kids for the sake of feeding them, you feed them for the sake of nourishing them and not causing them to die. Under normal circumstances (with a booming economy), you want to balance the budget so that the government’s borrowing is not taking capital away from the private sector. But right now, that isn’t the case at all. In fact, the private sector is sitting on loads of cash that they aren’t spending. So in fact, we don’t want to balance the budget because doing so right now would be really bad for our economy.

But conservatives don’t understand this. In fact, they think that reasonable economic principles that have been well understood for 70 years are high-larious. Because they are ignorant. And evil.


In later tweets Cooper claims that balancing the budget is good for economic growth. As I pointed out: in the current economy this is not true. But there is no convincing him. He just keeps repeating “economic growth.” There is actual science behind that belief and Cooper does not understand any of it. It’s just talking points to him.

Mona Lisa Now

Mona Lisa NowGiovanni Carmine, an art curator in Switzerland, had an interesting idea. It also turned out to be horrifying. He took a number depictions of women in great pieces of art throughout history and altered them into our modern standards of beauty. That is: he made them painfully skinny. We aren’t talking here about Rubenesque models who we know to be plump. He took women who I’d always thought of as being pretty thin—women like the model for Mona Lisa.

I recommend clicking over to the Ensemble Magazine article, The Mona Lisa Retouched, According to the Ideal of Beauty Now. What really stands out is how sickly the women look compared to the originals. But if you look at the new imagines for a while, you soon see that they aren’t distortions. They really are what the modern world thinks of as beautiful.

And that’s why it is horrifying.

Note: the Mona Lisa above is probably the least horrific of the many examples.

That Jane Goodall Tramp

Jane Goodall - Far Side CartoonAll my life, I’ve been disappointed with “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” It just doesn’t make any sense. What exactly am I supposed to get from it? I don’t suppose it matters. But back in 1783, Washington Irving was born on this day, so I’ll let it pass. Someone else I’m not a big fan of: Leslie Howard. He was born in 1893. The great Bay Area columnist Herb Caen was born in 1916. And Marlon Brando was born in 1924.

Doris Day is 89 today. Que Sera, Sera? I don’t think so! I didn’t even know she was still alive. Marsha Mason and Wayne Newton are 71. Tony Orlando is 69, so tie that around your old oak tree! Alec Baldwin is 55. He doesn’t look a day over, I don’t know, 55? And Eddie Murphy is 52.

The birthday prize goes out to the grrrrreat Jane Goodall who is 79 today. I’m sure you all know about her groundbreaking work on chimpanzees. But you may not know the story about the Far Side cartoon above. When it came out, Goodall was in Africa. Her people went crazy and sent an angry letter. But when Goodall came back and saw the cartoon, she thought it was funny as hell and the whole controversy was over. However, all money made from that cartoon goes to the Jane Goodall Institute.

Happy birthday Dr. Goodall! May we be able to say that many, many years into the future.