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And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32

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December 19, 2007


A Huckabee supporter responds
An evangelical supporter of Mike Huckabee responds to my "vicious attack" on the Huckster:

Dear Sir,

You may think that you are not a believer, but you are. Unfortunately, in yourself.

I feel bad for you, because you attack Christianity at it's core without knowing Jesus Christ Himself. If Mitt Romney were a Pastor, would you attack him in the same vicious way that you wrote this article? I think not.

It is apparent by your writing that you have an axe to grind. Perhaps someday you may come to KNOW Jesus Christ personally, and then you will see the light. I didn't until I was 37 years old. I am now 61 years old. And I am in love with Him.

I will honestly pray for you to ask Him into your heart, and know the truth. You will be set free from the pain that drives you.

A person who used to hate like you do, but has been forgiven by our LORD, and now knows what it is to be loved by God. And now I know how to love others as well. But ONLY because He first loved me. I am still a sinner today, but I am saved by His grace, and mercy, and love through His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ.

The Bible says that if you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father. Jesus said that " I and the Father are One."

And so it is. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. One God, three Persons of the Godhead.

Not fathonable by our finite minds, but by faith, the truth.

I will honestly pray that you ask Him into your heart.

In Christ Jesus

I will cop to believing in myself, at least partway - certainly more than I believe in ghost stories. I'm pretty certain that I at least exist. Also, I do have an axe to grind with William Jennings Bryan type religious demagogues such as the Huckster. They are bad for our nation's civic discourse, and bring dishonor on the Christian community - to which community I am substantially sympathetic much of the time.

Beyond that though, this is just exactly the kind of dishonest and self-righteous BS that would cause people to be contemptuous of Christians. Note that my essay is not critical of Christian beliefs at all, but rather a comparison as to which candidate looks like a better exemplar of basic Christian values. I find it difficult to believe that such as Mitch could honestly manage not to grasp the difference between denouncing Christianity and denouncing a demagogue politician wrapping himself in the cloak of religion. In fact, I intended that article partly as a defense of the better part of Christian teachings against a schmuck who makes Christians in general look bad.

Worst of all in this little reply though is Brother Mitch's obviously fake statement of concern for my soul. Many times, I've had good Christians express concern for my spiritual well being - which I appreciate. That agape, Christian brotherly love, is the best part of Christianity. But just as often, I've gotten stuff like this wherein the point doesn't seem to be any thought of empathy or concern for me, but rather to make a proclamation of their own superiority.

I'll also note in passing the utter fakeness of the supposed humility expressed here. The great truths of the universe are "unfathomable to our finite minds." I concur with that sentiment (which makes me agnostic), but Brother Mitch seems 100% confident that he knows The Truth. Yeah, right.

Perhaps I'm paranoid, but the tone of his hateful descriptions of my supposed hate suggest that his own emotions are closer to a sense of anticipatory satisfaction for the punishment he imagines me facing at the throne of justice for my heathen ways, and particularly for not buying his preferred snake oil salesman.

Finally, to answer Mitch's question in his second paragraph, pastor or layman, I would in fact attack Mitt Romney just the same - if he were using his religion to cynically stoke bigoted hatred against another sect like Huckabee clearly has in order to win votes in a political campaign.

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posted by Al at 12/19/2007 09:51:00 AM

December 16, 2007


Mitt Romney makes a better Christian than Mike Huckabee
Rev. Mike Huckabee is supposed to be the most adamant, pure Christian candidate in the race for president. But to me, Huckabee seems to be the least truly Christian of the Republican field. I might cite several grounds for that, but mostly I'm saying this because of the sleazy and underhanded way he's demagogically using his religion specifically against Mitt Romney.

For starters though, it's absolutely asinine the way that Huckabee goes putting God on his side in the Republican primary election. He's repeatedly compared himself and his campaign to that guy that fed multitudes with just a couple of loaves and fishes. That shows a real lack of Christian humility, to put it mildly. Indeed, that he's so willing to vainly invoke his Lord and Savior in his own crass little political campaign is grounds for me to begin doubting the sincerity of his beliefs right there.

Many people have likened Huckabee to the other guy from Hope, describing Huckabee as being like Clinton - but without the wandering eye. Well, Bill Clinton getting laid was not mostly what I would object to about President Clinton. It's that demagogue Elmer Gantry or perhaps Lonesome Rhodes populist manipulation and lack of character or principles that characterize both Clinton and Huckabee. Add in his infamous lack of belief in evolution, and Huckabee looks about as self-serving as that textbook religious populist American demagogue William Jennings Bryan.

But most of all, I positively dislike Huckabee for his absolutely knowing and purposeful manipulation of his Christian faith into use as a weapon against even a fellow Christian, purely for his own political gain. In short, Mike Huckabee has repeatedly and carefully, with unmistakably malice aforethought borne false witness against Mormons and purposefully stoked anti-Mormon bigotry in order to convince the knuckle-dragging type of Christians to support him over Mitt Romney.

Slick Huck is a nasty kind of clever in a distinctly Bill Clinton shade of underhanded politics of personal destruction. He bills himself in early tv ads as a "Christian leader," in implicit contrast to the front runner who is not. Oh no, I didn't mean it THAT way, responds the clever cleric. It's just a reference to his own background as a minister.

Nor will he directly deny that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are Christians, as it's just not his proper role as a candidate to take a position on such an issue. In other words, the PC folk won't let me say it, but you know - wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more True Brother Christians.

But Huckabee really proved himself exponentially too clever and sleazy with the instantly infamous New York Times comment about Mormons. "Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" This guy is one of the slickest tongued people in politics. Then he just accidentally and innocently drops this bit of poisonous speculation casually into a conversation with a reporter from the New York Times.

Running a presidential slate for Ball State student government a quarter century ago, our campaign had our manager stand up in debate to ask a question based on a forgotten little scandal from the year before. "Do you promise not to steal any more campaign buttons?" This of course necessitated the paper explaining the story, and it made us the goats. The bad manager wrote the most self-consciously righteous statement for our candidate to make in denouncing him that he could conjure - and of course had to churn the story one more time through his own theatrical and profusely humiliated apology at the next candidate forum.

Likewise of course for Mike Huckabee with the Jesus and Satan are Mormon brothers - and also of course for Hillary with Shaheen and the Obama drugs nonsense. Huckabee apologized. "It was never my intention to denigrate his faith. I raised it not to create a story. I thought we were having a simple, casual conversation." Yeah, he was just having a casual conversation with a reporter from the New York Times. Never crossed his mind that he might be planting a little anti-Mormon bomb. Really? Invoking my own preferred prophet, I'd suggest that if you're testing God, and lying to his face, you're going to catch hell.

Unmistakably, Mike Huckabee has consciously and with malice aforethought said things to appeal to the most base angels of his constituents nature to turn them in hatred even against a brother who also proclaims Jesus Christ as his savior - all in pursuit of votes for himself. Reckon what do you think Jesus might think of that? Not to put too fine a point on it, but Rev Huckabee's actions strongly suggests that he values his own self interest even at the direct expense of abandoning the most basic core Christian teaching of loving thy neighbor.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney seems exceptionally clean for a major presidential candidate. Some might accuse him of flip-flopping on some issues - though seemingly really far less so than Gov Huckabee, particularly on taxes and immigration. But beyond that, you'd be hard pressed to find the least hint of impropriety in anything Mitt Romney has ever done in life. He might fail some people's anti-religious litmus tests, but he surely looks like he's tried very hard to stick to the straight and narrow at all times.

Most particularly, I've never seen him being hateful or malicious or discriminatory. I would find it highly unlikely that he would foment hatred against another man for personal gain, much less fomenting hatred against whole groups as Huckabee does.

You could argue over which candidate's theological views are closest to your own. As a non-believer, I don't particularly have a dog in that fight. Hopefully that might make me something of an honest broker here. In any case, looking past theology, Mitt Romney sure looks like he's doing a lot better job in life of following the example of Jesus Christ of Nazareth than what I'm seeing from Rev. Huckabee.

If I were picking a candidate based on which one was the better Christian, it'd definitely be Mitt Romney hands down over that malicious and underhanded Mike Huckabee.

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posted by Al at 12/16/2007 06:43:00 PM

December 10, 2007


Mitt Romney flunks Steve Chapman's anti-religious test for office
"Reason" my butt. The supposed "Reason" based magazine has a particularly dishonest and unreasonable syndicated article by Steve Chapman condemning Mitt Romney's big speech on religion in America that he gave last week, 12-6-2007.

If you had seen or read the nicey-nice Romney speech, you'd know that Chapman was whack in the very first paragraph. "He thinks it would be much more in keeping with America's noblest traditions if Mormons and other believers joined together to punish people of no faith." That sentence has nothing to do with what Romney actually said. He just made that up.

Here are the basic statements of Romney on which Chapman bases this nonsense. He quotes a February speech in which Romney said, "We need to have a person of faith lead the country." To which, Chapman replies, "which sounds like a religious test to me." Well, NO, a broad statement that we ought to have a Godly president is not even vaguely a "religious test," particularly not within the constitutional meaning of that phrase. That very generic statement is Chapman's most damning evidence.

Also, he quotes Romney, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. . . . Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone." As a skeptic myself, I don't necessarily agree with Romney or most other Americans on this. Yet there is a halfway reasonable point there from Romney. The "freedom requires religion" was specifically an extrapolation from a famous John Adams quote, "Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people." The legitimate point is that a free and open country like we have can only work if the people are mostly upright and moral. For starters, our wonderful and reasonably strict limits on police powers probably couldn't survive long if most Americans only refrained from killing and pillaging for fear of the law. That's fair enough.

The fallacy though comes from the basic assumption that moral standards can come only from religion. We need a fairly moral populace, and most good (and much bad) moral education has come through churches. But not always, and not necessarily always good moral education comes through religion. This will quickly turn into Objectivism 101.

So, it's reasonable to disagree with Romney's idea that religion is a super important requirement for the good of the country. But that's a long way from setting up religious tests for office, or trying to turn a White House bid into a crusade for Christ, as that Christian populist demagogue and re-incarnation of William Jennings Bryan now named Mike Huckabee wants to do.

Looking at Romney's official religious speech, the point that he was rather elegantly making was an answer to Huckabee's surging popularity, which is based in large part on getting Bible thumpers to reject Romney for being a Mormon. It was a call for religious openness, if perhaps not quite as all inclusive as non-believers might like. More importantly, Mitt Romney has no history of religious intolerance or demagoguery. That's just completely not his MO.

But militant non-believers like Chapman in the supposed name of reason and liberty basically want to reject anyone who thinks that religious faith is important, and make them out as religious bigots. It's not enough for the faithful to simply tolerate non-believers, but Chapman would demand that devout religious folk specifically and explicitly list atheism as completely co-equal in preference to any religion. He apparently expects religious folk to proclaim that faith in God is in no way a significant plus in a candidate for POTUS.

In short, this atheistic princess-and-the-pea sensitivity is unbecoming, and not a reflection of "reason."

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posted by Al at 12/10/2007 10:08:00 AM

January 05, 2007


Gwen Stefani's "Wind It Up," Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Lonely Goatherd" and the Profundity of Play

Gwen Stefani

The hills of home are alive with the sound of the music of Gwen Stefani and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Her new dance hit "Wind It Up" plays off "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music, and they've both been tickling my fancy right effectively through the recent Christmas season.

Wrote a story about it, yes I did. Read about


This also put me to re-watching the Julie Andrews performance of "The Lonely Goatherd" from the 1965 movie. Naturally, I laid out some pictures, about 75 altogether.
goat puppets from The Sound of Music
Julie Andrews yodeling

THE LONELY GOATHERD, PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

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posted by Al at 1/05/2007 02:12:00 PM

October 31, 2006


A Satanic Photo Gallery

Saddam Hussein being hung
In the spirit of the Halloween season, I was hunting and gathering images of the devil aka Satan aka Lucifer aka Scratch. I don't know that I have any amazing fresh insights on Our Dark Lord. My main point here is to offer up some interesting images of the dark master as he's been imagined over time for your holiday meditations. Some of these I know a little about, some of them I don't know the background.

Let's start with this Gustave Dore image of Satan at the center of Cocytus, the ninth circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno.
Satan in the 9th circle of Hell

I really dig this hot Satanic tango
Satanic dance

Here's a nice classic representation of red Satan with horns and a pitchfork
Satan in Hell

Here's a vintage 1513 metal engraving of the Devil meeting the Knight of Death in the woods, or something like that.
1513 metal engraving by Albrecht Duerer

One recurring idea of Satan involves him as representative of our more base low-level animal instincts. The prince of this world is thus often represented as some kind of animal, often goats- my favorite, naturally.
Goat Satan

In Biblical lore, Lucifer was beautiful, and the devil is often now depicted as suave, good looking and seductive- "a man of wealth and taste," but historically these images of Satan as an ugly primitive beast were a common theme.
The Devil

Satan with severed head

Scary animalistic Devil

red devil

Satan's eating someone like he's the Man from Mars in Blondie's 'Rapture'

Part of those horrible animal instincts, of course, is sex. Sex is bad, m'kay? Satan is sometimes presented as a horny satyr. That temptation to sin naturally lends itself to representing the evil one as a seductive woman, such as in this Jenna Jameson devil costume.
Jenna Jameson devil costume

Is it Dave Nalle? No, it's the ex-carny Anton Lavey. He liked to play on that sexy Satan idea. This seems pretty cheesy to me, but he had movie stars and such throwing themselves at him. It worked for him.
Anton Lavey

Another recurrent devil theme is the idea of Satan as a lost, suffering soul. Look at his anguish in these images.
sad, suffering Satan

sad Satan

Indeed, it appears in this image that Satan has been reduced to praying- though I wouldn't think he'd be expecting favors from God, what with that little trying to overthrow heaven thing and all.
praying Satan

Of course the fine, God-fearing and peace-loving folks of the Palestinian Authority recognize the real source of evil.
written on the Jew's (Satan) abdomen: Israeli Colonialism
The Pope says: "Peace on Earth"
The Jew (Satan) answers: "Colonies on Earth"
Front page cartoon in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official Palestinian Authority Daily
March 22, 2000
Jew as Satan

These days, Western societies are much more secular, and less inclined to take Satan seriously. This 1960 Louvin Brothers album cover seems to be a popular image today in some quarters as kitsch, with the plywood devil and all.
Louvin Brothers

Then again, when some event of human depravity slams us sufficiently, the old crazy Biblical stuff starts looking more reasonable. Surely Satan must have been behind such unbelievable wickedness as 9-11, right? Thus, there seem to be multiple examples around of people finding the face of Satan in smoke of the Twin Towers.
Satan in the smoke of 9/11

I really like The Weekly World News, because they're the only source you can count on to give you ALL the news- whether it's true or not. You might take this cover story about Satan being captured by US soldiers in Iraq as satiric of the kind of thinking that was producing stuff like the 9/11 image above.
Satan captured by US soldiers in Iraq

Jon Lovitz as Mr Mephistopheles on Saturday Night Live

Mostly though, us sophisticated moderns are more prone to cast Satan as a comic character, such as Jon Lovitz' characterization of him as the ultimate loser on Saturday Night Live, beaten in the People's Court.

For another approach, consider this camp Satanic cheerleaders movie.
Satan's Cheerleaders

Trey Parker and Matt Stone have made perhaps the best comic use of Satan though, starting as Saddam Hussein's fem homosexual lover in the South Park movie. I was especially pleased back in August to hear that US Marines guarding Hussein in Iraq have repeatedly forced him to watch the South Park movie, particularly the bedroom stuff.
Saddam Hussein and Satan bedroom scene

Following the fem gay routine, notice how Satan's sitting here all knock-kneed like an anxious teenage girl waiting for a kiss from her date.
Saddam Hussein and Satan on South Park

Just last week in episode 1011 "Hell on Earth" Satan (sans Hussein) threw a big Halloween party in his own honor, wanting it to be as as big as one of those ridiculous oversized Sweet 16 parties sometimes thrown for spoiled rich American teenage girls. Thus, it was only logical that Satan show up for his party in a Britney Spears schoolgirl costume.
Satan in a school girl Halloween costume, South Park 1011

Then you can get into all the incarnations of Satan in movies, from Al Pacino to George Burns- but that's starting something else entirely.

So let us close then with one such image from the best screen Satan ever, Walter Huston in The Devil and Daniel Webster. In this final image from the movie, he's lost Neighbor Stone's soul in court. Needing to get back on track, he's been consulting his little black book to see who's next on the list. Who could it be?
Walter Huston as Scratch

MoreThings master photo stash

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posted by Al at 10/31/2006 04:20:00 AM

August 17, 2006


Lebanese Christian Brigitte Gabriel Speaks Out
Besides the bonus of being even hotter than Susan Estrich, Miss Brigitte Gabriel is a serious and thoughtful woman whose perspective and experience needs to be heard. She is a Lebanese Christian who grew up amid the ongoing fighting in Lebanon. She heads an organization called American Congress for Truth. Hear her words, and take them to heart.

Remarks of Brigitte Gabriel, delivered at the Duke University Counter Terrorism Speak-Out - October 14, 2004


I'm proud and honoured to stand here today, as a Lebanese speaking for Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. As someone who was raised in an Arabic country, I want to give you a glimpse into the heart of the Arabic world.

I was raised in Lebanon, where I was taught that the Jews were evil, Israel was the devil, and the only time we will have peace in the Middle East is when we kill all the Jews and drive them into the sea.

When the Moslems and Palestinians declared Jihad on the Christians in 1975, they started massacring the Christians, city after city. I ended up living in a bomb shelter underground from age 10 to 17, without electricity, eating grass to live, and crawling under sniper bullets to a spring to get water.

It was Israel who came to help the Christians in Lebanon. My mother was wounded by a Moslem's shell, and was taken into an Israeli hospital for treatment. When we entered the emergency room, I was shocked at what I saw. There were hundreds of people wounded, Moslems, Palestinians, Christians, Lebanese, and Israeli soldiers lying on the floor. The doctors treated everyone according to their injury. They treated my mother before they treated the Israeli soldier lying next to her. They didn't see religion, they didn't see political affiliation, they saw people in need and they helped.

For the first time in my life I experienced a human quality that I know my culture would not have shown to their enemy. I experienced the values of the Israelis, who were able to love their enemy in their most trying moments. I spent 22 days at that hospital. Those days changed my life and the way I believe information, the way I listen to the radio or to television. I realized I was sold a fabricated lie by my government, about the Jews and Israel, that was so far from reality. I knew for fact that, if I was a Jew standing in an Arab hospital, I would be lynched and thrown over to the grounds, as shouts of joy of Allah Akbar, God is great, would echo through the hospital and the surrounding streets.

I became friends with the families of the Israeli wounded soldiers: one in particular Rina, her only child was wounded in his eyes.

One day I was visiting with her, and the Israeli army band came to play national songs to lift the spirits of the wounded soldiers. As they surrounded his bed playing a song about Jerusalem, Rina and I started crying. I felt out of place and started waking out of the room, and this mother holds my hand and pulls me back in without even looking at me. She holds me crying and says: "It is not your fault." We just stood there crying, holding each other's hands.

What a contrast between her, a mother looking at her deformed 19 year old only child, and still able to love me, the enemy, and between a Moslem mother who sends her son to blow himself up to smithereens just to kill a few Jews or Christians.

The difference between the Arabic world and Israel is a difference in values and character. It's barbarism versus civilization. It's democracy versus dictatorship. It's goodness versus evil.

Once upon a time, there was a special place in the lowest depths of hell for anyone who would intentionally murder a child. Now, the intentional murder of Israeli children is legitimized as Palestinian "armed struggle."

However, once such behaviour is legitimized against Israel, it is legitimized everywhere in the world, constrained by nothing more than the subjective belief of people who would wrap themselves in dynamite and nails for the purpose of killing children in the name of God.

Because the Palestinians have been encouraged to believe that murdering innocent Israeli civilians is a legitimate tactic for advancing their cause, the whole world now suffers from a plague of terrorism, from Nairobi to New York, from Moscow to Madrid, from Bali to Beslan.

They blame suicide bombing on "desperation of occupation." Let me tell you the truth. The first major terror bombing committed by Arabs against the Jewish state occurred ten weeks before Israel even became independent.

On Sunday morning, February 22, 1948, in anticipation of Israel's independence, a triple truck bomb was detonated by Arab terrorists on Ben Yehuda Street, in what was then the Jewish section of Jerusalem. Fifty-four people were killed, and hundreds were wounded. Thus, it is obvious that Arab terrorism is caused not by the "desperation" of "occupation" but by the VERY THOUGHT of a Jewish state.

So many times in history in the last 100 years, citizens have stood by and done nothing, allowing evil to prevail. As America stood up against and defeated communism, now it is time to stand up against the terror of religious bigotry and intolerance. It's time to all stand up and support and defend the state of Israel, which is the front line of the war against terrorism.

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posted by Al at 8/17/2006 09:22:00 PM

April 27, 2006


KY Jelly for the Baptists?
A gay outfit calling themselves the Kentucky Fairness Alliance is suing the governor of Kentucky to try to force him to withdraw funding from the University of the Cumberlands, a Baptist college on grounds of discrimination against gays. That's $11 million dollars this KFA thinks the college should forfeit. They're going to be eating some awfully dry toast up in them old Kentucky hills if they lose $11,000,000 worth of jelly.

Read the whole story and my breakdown of it: KY JELLY FOR THE BAPTISTS?

This is from my God and Country series, where I go on about everything what to do with God and man and law.

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posted by Al at 4/27/2006 03:12:00 PM

January 01, 2006


God's Better Creations Are Beautiful From the Inside
I usually try to avoid bringing in my people on my website, if for no other reason other than to avoid sullying their good names by association with my hijinks.

Still, I just felt compelled to start out the new year by showing off some of our prime women folk. Can't help myself.

Noticing this two year old photo in my archives, I sent this pic of my beloved cousin Connie Stevens and her daughter Haley to the Thug's Ma, who hasn't met them.

God's most beautiful creations
God's most beautiful creations

Noting what beautiful women they are, Thug's Ma suggested that they were a fine display of the benefits of superior genetics.

They are certainly that, but I felt compelled to extrapolate. Not that you could necessarily tell from a simple photo, but these are two of God's finest creations. I don't want to say they're perfect- for all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God. Plus, simple modesty rates high among their virtues. Still, they rate about as close to perfect as a normal mortal human really could.

Connie Stevens has what I would describe as a spiritual glow of just plain, simple genuine devoted loving goodness that comes radiating out of her. Leaving aside her practical displays of virtue and devotion, you can just feel the love.

Girl practically sparkles, and it comes out physically. I am not alone in noting that Connie seems to have actually become better looking with age- not that she wasn't a cute kid. Without revealing a woman's age- which would be unspeakably rude- I'll just say that she looks pretty hot to be old enough to have at one point been MY babsitter. I can see her virtue in her face.

Young Haley isn't far behind. She's so much her mother's daughter, thank God. She's also a pharmacist and a new mother herself since this picture was taken. There's high hopes for the family tree, right there.

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posted by Al at 1/01/2006 05:01:00 AM

December 28, 2005


Brownie, Most Faithful Dog Ever
Browsing my archives, I just noticed this 2001 picture of my faithful old dog Brownie. He was one of our Zen dogs, that just show up on the farm from wherever and start eating our food. He was my grandmother Sallie Barger's main favorite alpha dog running the yard. This picture was taken a month before she passed.

I never figured out quite what breed of mutt he was, but for a medium sized and powered dog, he had quite a lot of heart and stamina. For one thing, six months earlier he had survived a pretty rough entanglement with a pit bull- barely.

Most significantly to me, a few years earlier when I was just visiting down on the farm, he was there when I severely busted up my leg, slipping on the front steps. I would eventually figure out that it was a triple break that required surgery, but all I knew right that moment was that I had a bad crisis.

So I'm sitting on the icy step waiting for an ambulance, and anxious not to panic Granny. Just at that needful moment, Brownie eased up beside me, and laid his head in my lap. He sat there real still with me until help arrived.

I'm not given to believing in ghosts, but it has been noted that dog is God spelled backwards. I'll just say that if a God had been sending an emissary to comfort me, that would have been the form I most needed there and then.

Brownie just disappeared a couple of years ago, after something like eight years. The most likely scientific explanation is that he tangled with something bigger than him out in the woods. Not really knowing though, I prefer to think that, like Enoch, he walked with God to heaven. That's what he deserved, anyway.

 Posted by Picasa

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posted by Al at 12/28/2005 10:49:00 PM

December 08, 2005


Brian Flemming's Lonely Christmas
Blogcritics alumni Brian Flemming is out of his tree- specifically, he's out of his Christmas tree. Independent film producer Flemming and his promotional company Beyond Belief Media have officially "declared war on Christmas." From his PRNewswire release:
Beyond Belief Media has formally declared war on Christmas, the December 25 holiday in which Christians celebrate the birth of the mythical figure Jesus Christ, the company announced today.

"Christian conservatives complain nonstop about the 'War on Christmas,' but there really isn't any such war," said Beyond Belief Media president Brian Flemming, a former fundamentalist Christian who is now an atheist activist. "So we have decided to wage one, to demonstrate what it would look like if Jesus' birthday were truly attacked."

As its opening salvo, Beyond Belief Media has purchased advertisements this week in the New York Times, USA Today and the New Yorker magazine. The company's 300-member volunteer "street team" is also descending on Christmas-themed public events with random "guerilla giveaways" of Beyond Belief's acclaimed DVD "THE GOD WHO WASN'T THERE."

"No Christmas pageant or Nativity display is safe from our troops," said Flemming. "Wherever the mythical figure Jesus is celebrated as if he were real, we will be there with an information barrage. We will undercut the idea that there is any point at all to celebrating the 'birth' of a character in a fairy tale."

THE GOD WHO WASN'T THERE is a taboo-shattering documentary that Newsweek says "irreverently lays out the case that Jesus Christ never existed." The film includes interviews with some of the top religion experts in the world. Directed by Flemming, the movie is also highly critical of the modern Christian right. The movie has been praised by critics but condemned by pro-theocracy groups such as James Dobson's Focus on the Family.

God bless Brian Flemming. He's rebelling awfully hard against a God who's not even there. Brother, why ya fighting Christ so hard when he never even existed, according to this reckoning?

Sometimes protestant Christian types sympathetically suggest that supposed atheists really still believe, but that they're simply in rebellion against God- much like a teenage child. I don't put much stock generally in that bit of amateur Freudian psychology.

In fact, a lot of us just aren't buying the stories. Why would I rebel against someone who doesn't exist. It'd be like rebelling against the Easter Bunny, Gopher God or Lord Darth Vader. It'd just be silly.

Then there's Brian Flemming, flailing away, tilting at Christian windmills. He looks at harmless old Jerry Falwell on tv, and he somehow sees a murderous mullah. Whatever. Watch out Brian, Jesus gonna jump out and GET YA!

Now of course Brian's also got a promotional thing that he's using his personal issues for here, getting good use of them. Picking a dumb fight with James Dobson is not only emotionally satisfying, but also good for business. Pretty clever guerilla promotional work, actually.

I admire Brian Flemming. He's quite clever, and he's about something. Beyond everything else, I appreciate his professional hustle.

Of course, Brian Flemming has history around Blogcritics, including an abortive run for governor of California during the recall. Yee-haw, did he like to post the rabid wingnut lefty rants. He went on a particular vicious campaign as a Blogcritic against candidate Schwarzenegger after he dropped out.

Brian and me kinda had a thing. We were in mad hatey-hate, meeting here at Blogcritics. Ew, wee, was he giving me heck. Heck, I say!

Things didn't work out, though. He got tired of always wearing the dress, and wanted fancier boyfriends. He was posting silly stuff here about "Glenn Reynolds, Fascist Hatemonger" and "Glenn Reynolds Reminds Me of Saddam Hussein." Look, Glenn's out of your league. Come on home to Al. Like he thought Arnold was going to even give him the time of day.

Ah, lost love. He drifted away, quit responding, and quit posting here altogether. Now poor Brian's alone at Christmas, shivering in the cold, cold night, with no Blogcritics or Jesus to keep him warm.

Let's all keep Brian Flemming in our prayers this Christmas.

God bless Brian Flemming.

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posted by Al at 12/08/2005 04:24:00 AM

September 24, 2005


Do your Godly duty
To our animals, we are gods. Sometimes being God means doing some killing.

CLICK HERE to read my essay "Doing your Godly duty: Cats need killed."

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posted by Al at 9/24/2005 02:22:00 PM

September 21, 2005


Dr Demento says that my God can beat up your God
Hey, hey, the fam got some action with Dr Demento!

Dr Demento was a big deal with me and the brothers growing up. The good doctor introduced us, among other things, to the joys of Frank Zappa and Shel Silverstein. One of my top moments of pride in high school was getting Frank Zappa's classic "Titties and Beer" to #1 on the Funny Five one week in 1979.

Imagine my special thrill, then, to find that the good doctor played one of my brother's songs on the show this summer. JULY 31, 2005 PLAYLIST

The astute Dr Demento played Steve Barger's "My God Don't Take No Crap" on the July 31, 2005 show. Kick ass!

Steven fits right in there. He may not be as famous and successful as Larry "Wild Man" Fischer, but he's just as demented in his own special way.

I haven't even had a radio hooked up in the house for years to listen to anything, so I don't hear the show often. Obviously, now I'll have to hunt down a copy of the show.

Inspirational verse of this humble gutbucket country stomp:

Your god just makes me sick
Your god's so kind and loving
I strike him in the face
He turns the other cheek
He says that he forgives me
I say, 'Man, you're a freak'
I think I oughta kick his ass for being such a geek

Reckon wonder does setting the volume and hitting the "record" button on my Mini-Disc for this very simple (but clean direct-to-digital) recording now qualify me as a famous "recording engineer" or perhaps even "record producer"?

This was commercially released in 1998 on the old MP3.COM label on the album Mud Pies for Mommy. Those albums are all out of print, but a lot of it is available for free right here at MoreThings. Yes, life is good.

CLICK HERE to download "My God Don't Take No Crap"

CLICK HERE for Steve's page, with more downloads, bio, and even some lead sheets.

CLICK HERE for the official Dr Demento page.
CLICK HERE for playlists for something like every show in Demento's 30 years.

CLICK HERE to request "My God Don't Take No Crap" [or anything else for that matter] for an upcoming show.

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posted by Al at 9/21/2005 09:45:00 PM

September 07, 2005


"Perfection" and God
New guy Rudicus over at Blogcritics has a particularly good essay on "The Perfect God." CLICK HERE

The Christian sky god idea that God must be all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfect in every way sets up a whole bunch of logical tripwires that would make even a smart person batty. Slip over to Blogcritics and watch Brother Rudicus break it down.

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posted by Al at 9/07/2005 04:16:00 AM

March 22, 2005


Pat Robertson turns 75
Born in Lexington, Virginia on March 22nd of 1930, Rev Pat Robertson turns 75 today. He has cast a unique, effective and sometimes surprisingly subtle civic presence for many long decades now. By longevity, money and influence, Robertson must rate as the top televangelist ever, the all time champ.

Ol' Pat is so nice and congenial, yet utterly out of his frickin' tree. He's got this very appealing grandfatherly Fred Rogers thing going on, but he's talking about a recent two way conversation with God. God personally told this dude to run for president.

You have to respect THAT. It's like the Eurythmics song, "you can fool with your brother, but don't mess with a missionary man."

Happy Birthday, Brother Pat!

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posted by Al at 3/22/2005 12:07:00 AM

March 06, 2005


Madonna's Kabbalah conundrum
Madonna seems to be facing a bit of a quandry, a contradiction, a conundrum of sorts. Boy George is calling her out for her commitment to the Kabbalah sect of Judaism. NEWS STORY

George O'Dowd, "I have a problem with Madonna's devotion to Kabbalah, because I watched a documentary that said that Kabbalah believes that gay people are diseased and can be cured.

"She's such a hypocrite. This is the woman who has embraced homosexuality and used it to her advantage."

Hmm. What to think? Mr O'Dowd certainly does seem to have a reasonable sounding point. I claim no expertise on the beliefs of the Kabbalah sect specifically, but just under basic Judaic law, homosexuality is, literally, a capital crime (Leviticus 20:13).

It's one thing if you're a non-religious Jew, or if you are some social club liberal sect that doesn't really, really believe. But it seems to my poor, easily confused cracker mind that it would be pretty hard to honestly square an aggressively pro-gay outlook such as Madonna certainly has with sincere belief in a religious tradition where it has been not just sinful and unacceptable, but actually punishable by death. This would apply, by extension, certainly to every liberal-minded entertainment type who has taken an interest in the Kabbalah or many other religions.

I'm not saying that she would have to become a queer bashing Fred Phelps character. However, it would seem to be incumbent that you acknowledge that according to the word of your chosen God, homosexual behavior is a grave sin. At a very BARE minimum, sincerity would seem to require that you not engage in homosexual make-out sessions with Britney Spears on live television.

Their choice would seem to come down to whether they look cooler by engaging in this deep spiritualism, or whether they fear loss of coolness by becoming anti-gay. Which is cooler, being pro-gay (seemingly an imperative in polite Western society), or being a Profound Mystic Adept?

Or, they could have their cake and eat it, too; they could just choose open hypocrisy by embracing gays AND anti-gay religions at the same time.

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posted by Al at 3/06/2005 11:23:00 PM

March 01, 2005


A Korn konverts
Here's a pop music story like you don't really see much anymore: Brian "Head" Welch, guitarist and founding member of Korn, has quit the group and given his life to Jesus. STORY - STORY

At the Valley Bible Fellowship church in Bakersfield, California on Sunday, February 27, Welch was giving testimony in front of accumulated Korn fans, media and church members. "I was begging to die. He [God] saved my life. I'm here. I'm breathing."

From the official Korn website, "Korn has parted ways with Brian, who has chosen Jesus Christ as his savior, and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end. Korn respects Brian's wishes, and hopes he finds the happiness he's searching for."

Unfortunately, Welch apparently looks forward to a solo career, writing and making music with a positive message. Obviously, rock and soul music came up out of the church, but these converted rock performers giving up rock for gospel nearly always end up with very bad music. I wonder why that is. Think of that dude from Kansas. Heck, even Little Richard lost his artistic touch irrevocably upon his original conversion.

On the other hand, if Mr Welch finds peace in his soul, that's more important. And after all, it's just Korn.

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posted by Al at 3/01/2005 10:44:00 AM

January 07, 2005


Ayn Rand vs Whittaker Chambers and National Review
Ayn Rand heartily alienated most intellectuals of her era- left, right and center. Even today, the mere mention of her name brings a vicious snarl to the lips of many people.

Partly, this was because she was a genius, and her work made irredeemable confetti of a lot of little worldviews. All of Marx's horses and all his lame professors couldn't put socialist or altruist philosophy together again after Ayn. So, some of this alienating couldn't be helped.

On the other hand, partly she was often, not to put too fine a point on it, a bitch. To be fair, she went spoiling for fights, let us say.

She is often described as a figure of the right, but the accuracy of that very much depends on exactly what part of "right" you mean. In fact, she was just about as unpopular among many conservatives, especially because of her extremely staunch atheism- which she insisted on as a bedrock of her philosophy.

Rand's most famous and specific break with the right wing came in the form of an infamous contemporary 1957 National Review book review for her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged.

It may be infamous, but for a mere book review to be noteworthy enough to be infamous is some literary achievement. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the magazine, they now have this famous article on their website.
"Big Sister Is Watching You" by Whittaker Chambers

Whittaker Chambers was an ex-communist who had turned to become a religious conservative, famous as the main witness against Alger Hiss, and a hero among conservatives in a way that only a convert can be.

This apparently got him the deference to use the pages and prestige of Bill Buckley's magazine to write perhaps the most malicious and carefully dishonest hatchet job I've ever seen published as a "book review."

For a beginning hint of the dishonesty, he made a big point of dismissing the book as a silly trifle, hardly worth mentioning except that it seemed to be selling well. Then he spent 2700 words carefully taking the book apart as literature, and making a particularly malicious and slanderous conclusion.

For starters, he spent a few hundred words saying that the book was nearly worthless as a fictional story. Ayn Rand was, in fact, a very effective dramatist and writer, even if you didn't like much of the message. She had skills. You could argue about aspects of her approach that you find inadequate, but to pretend that she was a crappy writer with few redeeming features seems extremely hard to justify objectively, let us say.

But then he got to the meat of it, the party purging. He absolutely made her out to be a Nazi. "From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber — go!'"

This infamous money quote of the piece has been quite justifiably cited for years by Rand supporters as the textbook example of the dishonesty of her critics. For starters, the factual wrongness of this review is breathtaking. A big part of the point of her work was to denounce communism and fascism, and to dissect the philosophical underpinnings that enabled their monstrosities.

On top of which, Ayn Rand was originally a Russian Jew who famously fled the budding Soviet Union. For this ex-commie Chambers to be so speaking of this Jewish survivor of the Soviet holocaust is somewhere beyond words in its offensiveness.

Now, Chambers was a clever little dirtbag, so he whipped up a bunch of words that at least sounded like coherent sentences to make his point. Yet all those fancy words were just dressing up a cheap shot.

The basis of his accusation that Rand was a fascist dictator in waiting ultimately was simply that ALL atheists are ultimately fascist. He slightly camoflauged such a ridiculous statement by using the word "materialist" rather than simply atheist, which is what he meant.

The point of this was the weak old theistic warhorse that some God is supposedly the only possible source of morals or values. If you don't believe in God, then it's grab what you can and screw all else.

Besides being a hugely unjustifiable leap logically, it is also a ridiculously broad and sweeping statement. Moreover, he's making this same cheap argument directly in the face of Rand having gone into great ridiculous detail to explain exactly how else values and morals might be defined. Indeed, one of the biggest complaints against her, and against this novel in particular is exactly the overly excruciating repetition of just such details. Nor did his description fit any of her heroes.

In truth, Chambers appears not so much to have been writing a book review, but attempting a party purge- an instinct no doubt left over from his commie days. He seems to have been somewhat successful in that. Ayn certainly never had any association with anybody in the National Review orbit.

In a social encounter, Ayn once said to William F Buckley, "You're too smart to believe in God." For his part then, Buckley has apparently carefully made a point of never reading this obviously important book. For a man in his position, this constitutes a willful dereliction of duty. He knew better than this nonsense. Also, he knew how to avoid any serious challenge to his own foolish Catholic beliefs.

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posted by Al at 1/07/2005 03:28:00 AM

December 09, 2004


Anthony Flew accepts God?!
Dr Anthony Flew, the most intellectually respected proponent of religious skeptic and atheistic argument for half a century, has accepted the existence of God.

This is clearly a sign of the end times, when cats and dogs will intermarry, and Sean Penn will be leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

The whole story.

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posted by Al at 12/09/2004 09:20:00 PM

February 28, 2004


Did Jesus exist?
Jesus may or may not have ever existed. I consider this an open question. Obviously there's no reasonable basis for claiming that he was God. He may, however, have lived as a common itinerant preacher.

There seems to be scant evidence of his existence. At least with Santa Claus, we know there really was a Saint Nicholas on whom all the later wild stories are based. We can't be so sure with Jesus.

There seems to have been little or no mention of Jesus at the time. The Biblical texts seem to be the only "contemporary" mentions of Jesus. At that, "contemporary" seems to be pushing the point of credibility, as the Biblical gospels appear to have been written somewhere around a century after the supposed time of Jesus.

Given this paucity of documentation, some Christian scholars put a great deal of stock in a passage from Josephus, a Jewish historian who wrote Jewish Antiquities. [ORIGINAL GREEK TEXT] [ENGLISH TEXT]

Here is the complete Josephus passage, the only near contemporary supposed reference to Jesus I've found:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.
- Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3

From what I was ever able to make of it, the Josephus reference looks like an obvious fraud, inserted by some Christian long after the fact.

Josephus wrote a long and exhaustive history of the Jews, yet Jesus gets just this one paragraph. In one quick paragraph in the middle of a thousand pages we come up with something to the effect of, 'oh and there was this guy Jesus who was the son of God come to save humanity, was crucified and rose from the dead.' Then it was on to the next thing.

If this were REALLY part of Josephus' book, he'd have had more than one paragraph. If he thought Jesus was the savior, he'd have come up with more than one paragraph. It doesn't fit in or add up with the rest of the book. Thus, the conclusion that this was a forgery inserted into the document perhaps centuries later.

So far as I know, this spurious Josephus reference is the only near contemporary reference to Jesus outside of the Bible itself.

Thus, I continue to doubt not just the divinity of Jesus, but the actual historical existence of even a mortal man corresponding to the mythology.

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posted by Al at 2/28/2004 09:24:00 PM

February 18, 2004


Huck Finn's moment of decision
Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huck Finn 119 years ago today on February 18, 1885. Many regard Huck Finn as THE classic American novel. Many literary scholars could go on with greater erudition than I on the unique voice Twain achieved, and the nuance of his depiction of American society.

The book unfortunately now gets some nonsense protests over his use of the N word. This is just damned SILLY of course, as Twain has given us the most genteel way possible to get up next to our historical problems. We should be thanking him for helping break it down.

The centerpiece moment of the book doesn't ultimately have anything to do with race, though, but rather concerns what might be called independence of conscience. By his raising, Huck Finn was thoroughly convinced that it was his moral obligation before God himself to turn in Jim the runaway slave. He didn't want to do it, as Jim had been his one true friend and protector.

Ultimately, Huck makes a conscious decision to be condemned to hell for his disobedience rather than turn in his friend. That rates with me as one of the more thrilling moments of all literature.

As Tom Petty wrote a century later,
You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won't back down.

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posted by Al at 2/18/2004 10:54:00 PM

December 15, 2003


Lauryn Hill blasts Vatican audience
From Yahoo News:

US hip-hop singer Lauryn Hill stunned leading members of the Roman Catholic Church when she accused them of moral corruption, exploitation and abuse from the stage during a Christmas concert at the Vatican.

Hill, 28, launched her diatribe in front of an audience of 7,500 guests at a packed Paul VI hall, used by Pope John Paul II for indoor public audiences.

"I'm not here to celebrate, like you, the birth of Christ, but to ask you why you are not in mourning for his death in this place," Hill said, reading from a prepared statement as she came on stage for her performance as part of a all-star gala concert.

"Holy God has witnessed the corruption of your leadership, of the exploitation and abuses which are the minimum that can be said for the clergy," she added, calling on the hierarchy to "repent".

Stunned hierarchy in the front row at Saturday night's concert included one of the most senior figures in the Church, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who is head of the Italian bishops conference.

I don't know just what to think of this little display. On the one hand, she's certainly being rude. She was asked to come sing Christmas carols, not give a speech.

On the other hand, she's absolutely right. The whole church hierarchy has been very willful in not doing the right things for many long years. The chosen moral blindness of these supposed spiritual leaders has hurt a great many people.

Also, she's got the right audience. She addressed herself to just exactly the culpable people who badly need rebuking. If she's going to make a public display, these were just the people to make it to.

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posted by Al at 12/15/2003 01:33:00 PM

July 05, 2003


Slow on the uptake
Lightning strikes a church:

A member of the First Baptist Church said a guest evangelist was preaching repentance and seeking a sign from God when lightning struck the steeple.

Cheney said the lightning traveled through the microphone, blew out the sound system and enveloped the preacher, who wasn't hurt.

Afterward, services resumed for about 20 minutes until the congregation realized the church was on fire. The building was evacuated.

Hmm. They went back to having services? I'd say they're a little slow on the uptake. If'n I was asking for a sign, and then got struck with lightning, I'd figure God was unhappy with me. I'd run away with my tail between my legs. Something. I just know I'd stop whatever it was I had thought I was doing. He or she would not have to absolutely burn the building down on top of me before I'd be cluing up.

This sounds a little like the scenario in "My God Don't Take No Crap."

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posted by Al at 7/05/2003 08:02:00 PM

May 13, 2003


The Miracle of Fatima
On this date in history, May 13, 1917, three shepherd children from Fatima, Portugal have their first vision of Mother Mary, beginning the Miracle of Fatima.

These visions continued over some five months, leading to "the Miracle of the Sun" involving some kind of odd solar event.

This phenomenon seems particularly noteworthy because I can't understand it. The Catholic church has long since accepted the Fatima visitations as actual miracles. Not being religious (as the term is usually understood), I have no convenient pat explanation.

I'd like to discredit these children, and dismiss it as fantasy. That doesn't really work, however, in that successive parts of this phenomenon were viewed by thousands of people. There were as many as maybe 70,000 folks gathered for the Miracle of the Sun. It stretches credulity to try to convince myself that they were ALL hallucinating.

I'm sure there are rational scientific explanations for all of the Fatima phenomena, perfectly good explanations that don't involve ghosts and gods and such. Right?

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posted by Al at 5/13/2003 01:26:00 AM

April 30, 2003


Who do these damned Christians think they are?
Are you now, or have you ever been a member of a Christian church? That should be the question asked before anybody can do business with the US government.

It has come out that an outfit called Grace Digital Media and their subsidiary Federal News Service have gotten a government contract to provide a television studio for producing an Arab language satellite news service. ZNet has details in an article by Russell Mokhiber (editor of Corporate Crime Reporter) and Robert Weissman, his co-author of the book Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy. Our pal Brian Flemming is also properly unpleased.

In case you are not yet properly incensed, Grace Digital Media means "grace" as in "by the grace of God." God. Did you hear that? The person who runs the thing is a fundamentalist Christian name of Cheryl Reagan. If that isn't bad enough, she is pro-Israel. To top it off, when Mokhiber and Weissman wanted to talk to her she was vacationing IN ISRAEL!!!

Now Grace Digital Media is only providing the studio, not the editorial staff. Still, a legitimate writer or anchor might see a Bible in the breakroom, or even be witnessed to by a camera man. Besides being offensive in itself, this could possibly rub off even accidentally and corruptly influence adherents of the Religion of Peace.

This is so wrong. Somebody needs to investigate. They can't be allowed to get away with this.

It's unconstitutional. It says right in the US Constitution that only atheists are allowed to do business with the government. Says it right there in the back somewhere.

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posted by Al at 4/30/2003 01:52:00 AM

April 13, 2003


Ask yourself, WWJD?
Surely we would be remiss to let slip the birthday of our greatest leader.

On this day in history, April 13, 1743 Thomas Jefferson was born. He was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence, and the 3rd US President (1801-09).

Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.
-Thomas Jefferson

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posted by Al at 4/13/2003 12:45:00 PM

April 12, 2003


Richard Thompson offers "a Taliban's-eye view of the West"
As a middle aged white Brit and long time converted Sufi Muslim and one of the top dozen most brilliant composers and guitar players of the rock era, Richard Thompson would be expected to have something interesting to say in the current world situation. Oh, yes he does.

"The Outside of the Inside" is the next to last track of his new album The Old Kit Bag. I first heard it live at the 2002 Indianapolis Jazz Fest, where he explained that it offered "a Taliban's-eye view of the West." What jumped out at me standing in the blowing rain that day was the denunciation of Einstein and his "devious mathematics."

This song probably isn't his catchiest pop song, but the quiet drama of the tune will draw you in on repeated listenings, especially tied to the brilliantly bilous poetry of the lyrics, and the Middle Eastern/British folk tone of the ominous (yet largely acoustic) guitar interplay. The more you listen to it, the more interesting it will likely seem, very unique sound.

It's all quite emotionally effective in establishing the feelings of pious hatred of a Muslim radical. It's 10 times more musically interesting than Springsteen's mushy "Paradise" song, and 20 times more emotionally intense.

The Outside Of The Inside

God never listened to Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker lived in vain
Blasphemer, womanizer
Let a needle numb his brain
Wash away his "Monkey Music"
Damn his demons, damn his pain

What's the point of Albert Einstein?
What do we need physics for?
Heresy's his inspiration
Which side was he working for?
Curse his devious mathematics
Curse his deadly atom war

There's a message on the wind
Calling me to glory somewhere
There are signs too deep for the dumb
Like perfume in the air
And when I get to heaven
I won't realize that I'm there

Shakespeare, Isaac Newton
Small ideas for little boys
Add them to the senseless chatter
Add them to the background noise
Hard to hear my oratory
Hard to hear my inner voice

Van Gogh, Botticelli
Scraping paint onto a board
Color is the fuel of madness
That's no way to praise the Lord
Gray's the color of the pious
Knelt upon the misericord

There's a message on the wind
Calling me to glory somewhere
There are signs too deep for the dumb
Like perfume in the air
And when I get to heaven
I won't realize I'm there

I'm familiar with the cover
I don't need to read the book
I police the world of action
Inside's where I never look
Got no time to help the worthless
Lotus-eaters, mandarins, crooks

There's a message on the wind
Calling me to glory somewhere
There are signs too deep for the dumb
Like perfume in the air
And when I get to heaven
I won't realize that I'm there

This is not Thompson's first song about Muslim radicals, however. If you're up for buying one album, you might just download "The Outside of the Inside" and buy a copy of his classic 1982 album Shoot Out the Lights, most often regarded as his best.

The title song tells the first person tale of a sniper in the hillside, shooting at the highway. It does not specifically address Muslim related issues, but it was inspired by the desperate mujahadeen resisting the Soviet occupation. It's real curious how he gets such expression from his guitar of the mental state of the sniper, without playing blues or going into any real frenzy. Indeed, live bootlegs of the song demonstrate how well he can sell the song solo with an acoustic guitar.

Just for a change of flavor, after the heavy emotional tone of these Richard Thompson classics, you might want to cool out with a DOWNLOAD of something a touch lighter in the way of a judgmental God: "My God Don't Take No Crap" This little gutbucket country stomp probably isn't as emotionally profound as Richard Thompson, but it sure is catchy.

Your god's so kind and loving
Your god's just makes me sick
I slap him in the face
He turns the other cheek
He says that he forgives me
I say, man you're a freak
I think I ought to kick his ass for being such a geek

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posted by Al at 4/12/2003 01:12:00 AM

January 22, 2003


Abortion, a terrible sin.
The topic of abortion tends to very strongly, if in many contradictory ways, strike some emotional hot buttons in nearly everyone. I know it hits conflicting hot buttons for me.

The thing that really hurts my heart is the smug superiority and callousness of many pro-choice advocates. They make many violations of reason and decency, but what really bothers me is their disdain for the little dead babies. They weren't really babies. They were just "choices" for the women to make, and anybody who has any misgivings about our very open abortion laws is HITLER!

You might reasonably say that the fetuses are not really children yet for a few weeks. The fertilized egg ain't really much of a human starting out. The DNA set has been decided; the egg is still more a blueprint than a product, though. You can go into technical moral arguments, but existentially it's not soup yet. Even on fairly strict standards, I'm not inclined to be morally outraged by use of morning after RU486 pills.

However, within a few weeks you are getting to having an actual person in there. A six week old fetus will have arms and legs and a nervous system, and a beating heart.

I think I start putting their personhood on record with the physical development of a nervous system. The seat of consciousness exists, registering memory- and rapidly increasing ability to feel pain.

By that point, you're goddam lying to yourself to pretend that's not a person. It's bad enough that you are arguing for killing babies. [I say that this is not even properly to be considered a loaded phrase, but the most neutral possible way of accurately describing the actual fact.] It's adding disrespect to killing.

Circumstances make a substantial difference. It'd be hard cases for me to judge against a teenaged rape victim who wanted an abortion. I might be more judgmental about some drunk sorority slut or the punk-ass little frat boy who encourages it. Of course, there might be arguments in picking out which category some particular young woman belongs in: rape victim vs pregnant sorority slut vs a little from colum A and a little from column B.

There are so many different extenuating circumstances, I know. What if the woman was... What if she just broke up with the guy cause he was cheating. What if...

I hate to judge unless it is necessary. I want to have empathy. But it's going to take a pretty goddam good excuse to absolve someone for killing their baby. [Again, not inflammatory language, but the simple and most direct description of objective reality, whatever moral judgment you make.]

Still, I tend to favor legal abortion, though reluctantly. As skeptical as I may be about the excuses for abortion, I don't believe in government enough to trust giving them any say on what a person has going on up in them, even if it involves another person.

That doesn't mean that I accept it. I largely feel compelled to tolerate the practice, but that does not mean that I find it to be merely an equal but different lifestyle choice. I tend to think that abortion is a grave moral sin.

I'd say that you'll have to answer to G-d for your sins, but I'm not religious that way. So you can probably skin out of answering to god for your abortions.

You'll still have to live with yourself, though, and I'm not going to aid and abet after the fact by soothing your hurt feelings and telling you that you've done nothing wrong.

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posted by Al at 1/22/2003 01:31:00 AM

September 12, 2002


A message from God
God spoke to me today. Her voice was stern and clipped, sounding very much like Ayn Rand- though that may have simply been an affectation for my benefit. Anyway, I was buzzing down the road in my car, and we were chatting amicably. She sent a message for all y'all.

God told me to tell you that the national mourning period for 9-11 is now officially over. From this point, it should be considered history. It has been one full year, and everybody should be getting on with their lives. One point she said you should take from the whole wicked tragedy is that your time here is limited, and should be invested wisely. "Perhaps unnecessary crying and hoo-haaing are not the wisest investments of time I have given you."

This does not mean that the events are to be forgotten, or forgiven too easily. She said that eye for an eye stuff was still good. "It might behoove you to pay a little better attention to your surroundings." She further pontificated (well, she has a right) that we all need to quit indulging ourselves in the fantasy that the world is a safe, cushy place. She said that we need to use the brains She gave us.

"Using that brain," she elaborated, "should lead you to the conclusion that it doesn't serve Me or you either one for you to indulge in unnecessary dramatics over bad things like 9-11. Bury your dead and move on."

I'm not entirely comfortable with this, though. People are hurting. I want to ameliorate pain. Please, Ayn, uh, God, uh, ma'am- don't you have compassion for their suffering?

"Yeah, yeah," She answered. "I feel your damned pain. Frankly, however, I'm tired of hearing about it. Much of your pain now bores me. As I look into your grieving hearts, I see self-indulgence. You got off with only three thousand dead out of a nation of 300 million. That figures out to only about one out of every hundred thousand. To 99% of Americans, this was largely an event on television; you didn't actually know any of these people. Quit milking it for something to feel bad about like a bunch of teenage girls."

God, uh, ma'am, you're being awful tough. I said this with my head hung low, and my eyes cast down in shame. To myself, I'm thinking, geez what a bitch. "I heard that." She said. Oh yeah, omniscient. Means a man can't get any damned privacy. "Tempt me a little bit more, hillbilly boy, and I'll whup a mojo on your dumb ass." I saw the error of my ways and repented profusely.

But back to the issue at hand, though- me representing America before God. I tried to emphasize all the vast numbers of people suffering. Okay, maybe some folk have carried on a bit much, but what about all the thousands killed, and their families and co-workers?

She softened her heart...a little. "Alright, I'll still hear anguished prayers from immediate families of the 9-11 victims, and their co-workers. The rest of y'all can give it a rest, though."

I dared not cross her. That's the best deal She'd give. Furthermore, She suggested specifically that the dental assisstant in Wichita who gets the willies every time she sees a guy with a beard, figuring bin Laden has personally come to her town- she needs to get over herself. Also, the bar bouncer in Billings, Montana should can the outrage at the treatment of women in the Arab world. She knows you're doing that just to get laid. Needless to say, She's not amused.

Also, she suggested that we might express some gratitude to Her for having staid the illiterate hands in Florida two years ago that almost gave us Al Gore to be in charge during this national test. "What kind of bunch of idiots are you people, anyway?" I responded- not under duress- that we are foolish and don't deserve a good God like Her. "Please don't hurt me." I pleaded.

"Shut the hell up" She demanded.

Up I shut.

Finally, she was very clear that "If you hear anybody presuming to speak for me other than Al Barger, you should beat them up."

Then Her presence vanished, and I was left with Macy Gray on the radio:
"c'mon and
gimme all your lovin'
or i will kill you
put one right through your head
gimme all your lovin'
or i will kill you
and cry when you're dead"

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posted by Al at 9/12/2002 07:54:00 PM

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