Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hottest. Actress. Ever.

Now, I've gone on record as saying that Angelina Jolie is not particularly my "cup of tea". There's no denying that she's got all the bits n' pieces in all the right places, of course, but the big-lipped (and big-foreheaded) thing has never been what turned my crank. That, on top of the fact that she has always been just plain weird, and weird definitely doesn't do it for me.

But with news that she visited Iraq, actually kept here eyes and mind genuinely open, and has recognized both the success of the surge AND the benefit of a longer-term US troop presence, she is now officially at the top of my list of my Hottest Women in Showbiz. Reportedly, Ms. Jolie is a fan of Ayn Rand. I can't say I'm much of one, but it looks like Objectivism is at least making an impact on her. One can only wonder if she will endorse John McCain.

Now I can only hope that Kate Beckinsale makes a similar statement so she can go back to being my number one.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Creepy Coincidence

As I was writing that last post, in which I quoted William F. Buckley, it was announced that he had passed away at the age of 82. Considering I've never quoted the man before, that is somewhat creepy to me. I promise, dear readers, that I will never quote anyone I don't wish deceased ever again.

On a more serious note, my condolences and prayers go out to his family. Clearly he was a man who, himself, was on loan to humanity from God, and God has now recalled him. to a better place.

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Sean Astin, Progressive Caricature

As I was writing my previous post, I began conjuring a Hollywood-oriented analogy for what conservatives and liberals are like. If one takes the view, as I do, that one of conservatism's primary roles is that of a cautioner (pace Bill Buckley's famous "stand[ing] athwart history, yelling 'Stop!'"), whereas progressivism and liberalism tend to be rash "experimentalists" -- a view I have increasingly gathered via Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism -- a particular image emerges from an unlikely place: the film The Goonies.

We conservatives are like Chunk, the fat kid in the movie. He is constantly urging his "friends" NOT to progress in their quest for One-Eyed Willie's treasure, which could only be viewed by a rational individual as a fool's errand that couldn't possibly end well. While I can't (without rewatching it) quote any specifics for you, it is easy to imagine Chunk exhorting his friends, "I don't think we should go in there", or "I don't like the looks of this place". And like conservatives in contemporary culture, Chunk is presented as unsympathetic, cowardly, and xenophobic.

Meanwhile, oblivious to all Chunk's cautionary ejaculations, we have Mikey. Mikey is the perfect analog to liberal progressivism. His family's poor and facing the loss of their home, you see (at the hands of Evil Corporate Interests, no less), so he has to go on a Quest, endangering himself, his friends, and his loved ones in the process, with no clear outcome in sight, but only because he "has to do something!"

Of course, this being a typical Hollywood production, the liberals win, the treasure is found, and the town is saved, in typical fantasy fashion. In real life, the kids would have been robbed and beaten by the Fratelli brothers, gang-raped by Sloth and Ma Fratelli, then left to die of exposure in the dank basement of the abandoned restaurant hideout. If only they had listened to Chunk. On the bright side, at least the Evil Corporate Interests would have been able to proceed with their strip-mall intentions, thus revitalizing the decrepit slums that Mikey and his friends lived in through economic incentives.

(Author's note: I actually really like The Goonies. It's one of my favorite films from the 80's, and is actually very fun to watch. Sometimes, though, I just can't help myself.)

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V for Very Ironic, Or, I Apologize for the Excessive Use of Parentheticals

So I've been slowly making my way through Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism (a great read thus far) over the last few weeks. Meanwhile, last night, I finally, somewhat begrudgingly, watched the Wachowski brothers' screen adaptation of Alan Moore's V for Vendetta. And let me say: the timing could not have been better (or worse, depending on one's perspective).

Liberal Fascsism, as most of my readers probably already know, explores quite convincingly the thesis that fascism is a beast of the Left side of the political spectrum, particularly the socialist strain therein.

V for Vendetta, both in its graphic novel and silver-screen forms, is a dystopic paranoid fantasy of an explicitly conservative, ostensibly Christian, "fascist" political organization that comes to power in England in the near future after global catastrophe. While the book's themes were an anarchist repudiation of Thatcherite England (Alan Moore being something of a far-left loony), the movie was a thinly veiled loogie in the eye of George W. Bush and "his" America (or perhaps "adolescent temper tantrum" would be a more apt description... but I digress).

I say that the timing was appropriate because of the prevalent themes in either work. In Vendetta, the ruling political party, called Norsefire, exploited a great tragedy during a time of upheaval and came into complete totalitarian power, controlling commerce, the media, and wielding a very heavy hand over the everyday lives of people. Despite its name (why would a Norse-themed political party gain ascendance in England, exactly? Apart from the obvious Nazi parallel, this is perplexing), it is a strongly nationalistic, racist, and despotic regime with Christian themes and visuals (including a black-on-red Cross of Lorraine as the party's symbol, and the party's slogan, "Strength Through Unity, Unity Through Faith" -- although the book has "Purity" rather than "Unity"). In the film, the party's leader, Adam Sutler, was even explicitly stated to have risen to power in the Conservative Party before breaking out on his own.

As I said, the Nazi parallels are hardly subtle. The leader himself even bears a striking resemblance to a caricature of Adolf Hitler (tellingly, the name in the book was "Adam Susan", while the name was changed to Adam Sutler in the film, presumably only to provide a little more non-subtlety to the "allegory". Might as well have called him Schmaydolf Schmitler, since the producers obviously felt the intended audience was too stupid to grasp the other similarities).

Likewise, the film portrays all the "bad guys" as conservative tropes (loud-mouth, bombastic, hypocritically God-fearing TV pundit, pedophile high-ranking Bishop, and... well, the rest of the bad guys were so one-dimensional that I can't even describe them), while the "good guys" are all liberal, progressive scions (including a completely unnecessary flashback sequence about how a poor lesbian movie actress was arrested and tortured to death for being a lesbian -- AND YOU KNOW HALLIBUSHITLER MCMONKEYFLIGHTSUITSMIRK STAYS AWAKE AT NIGHT THINKING ABOUT HOW HE COULD DO THAT HIMSELF!!!!) -- the protagonist Evey's parents were generic "writers" and "war protesters" (who were of course also arrested and tortured to death), the only other sympathetic character in the film, Evey's boss, ALSO turned out to be a closeted homosexual and fan of the Koran (with a ridiculous diatribe wherein he defends his possession of the contraband book by claiming that he just "loves it because of its beauty" when asked if he were a Muslim himself -- because, you know, it's the Christians, not the Muslims, who are currently beheading and hanging gays throughout the world), and of course, there's the titular character V, a mass-murdering anarchist revolutionary for whom the film attempts no rationalization or justification apart from his desire for revenge and generic paeans to "freedom", presumably in the Progressive sense of the word (and I say this not to paint the picture that the film intends him to be viewed as anything other than the Good-est of the Good Guys, but rather that it is implicit in the minds of Hollywood liberals and modern Progressives that mass-murdering and violence are o.k., just so long as it is directed at the right people and ends once all the "undesirables" are eliminated).

I suppose that, taken on its own, the construction of the political party in the film could stand as a genuinely evil, totalitarian, "conservative" government. However, they make great pains both to tie it into contemporary political situations (Bush and the Iraq War, in particular) AND historical parallels, so a contextual critique is certainly warranted. And this is where Mr. Goldberg's book comes in. While I am far from finished, the central tenet is that fascist movements tend to arise from a "liberal" (in the modern sense of the word) political framework, and generally have little to do with "conservative" (again, in the modern, American sense) political ideals.

An aside: while I haven't explicitly come across it in the book yet, I get the sense that one of the cruxes in the dichotomy between progressive fascism and conservatism/libertarianism is the definition and use, on either side, of the word "freedom". For a conservative, freedom tends to be an individual thing, and is used in the context of "freedom to": freedom to worship, freedom to choose, freedom to buy and sell without restriction, freedom to speak, freedom to move around. Progressives, on the other hand, seem to view freedom as a corporate, collective idea, and use it primarily in the context of "freedom from": freedom from poverty, freedom from hunger, freedom from consequence, freedom from responsibility, freedom from working for your pay, freedom from having to make hard choices. Thus, when a government seeks to give you freedom to, it must inherently diminish itself to ensure such rights, whereas when a government seeks to give you freedom from, it must grow accordingly.

Back to the topic at hand: an ostensibly Conservative political movement, as presented in the film, seems unlikely to grow into the fascist dictatorship that rules England with an iron fist, for the very reason that, according to Mr. Goldberg's thesis, the controlling impulses inherent and necessary in such a movement are not now, nor have they ever been, found in what is currently known as "conservative political theory" (and what is, for the most part, in reality, classical liberal political theory). The irony inherent in explicitly stating that it was a Conservative movement to begin with is underscored greatly in Liberal Fascism, wherein is made clear that such things arise from the socialist desire for control of people's lives (Quick quiz: was it the Tory/conservative government in England, or the Labour/progressive one, that caused London to become one of the most surveilled cities in the world?).

As a final note, if you have not seen the movie, don't bother. While the action sequences, albeit few and far between, are neat, the film itself is aggravatingly stupid, heavy handed in its political themes, incoherent at times, poorly acted, poorly scripted, and somewhat boring and predictable. If you have or hope to have a realistic mental grasp on politics and political movements, and fascism in particular, you will groan repeatedly and possibly bang your head against the wall out of frustration.

Ok, one final aside, for real this time: Hollywood liberals really do seem to think that their intended audience is incredibly stupid, when they present a blatantly politically-charged film and make no attempt at subtlety or cleverness when trying to ram their message down the audience's throat. But then again, maybe they're right: anyone silly enough to fall for their propaganda must, inherently, be pretty dim to begin with.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

More Than Meets The Eye In The Sky

This week, the United States shot down one of our own spy satellites, ostensibly because it was set to fall to earth under its own (lack of) control some time in early March. The government's official statement was along the lines of:
The satellite became uncontrollable almost immediately after it was launched in 2006, when it lost power and its central computer failed. Left alone, the 5,000-pound satellite would have hit Earth during the first week of March, military officials previously estimated.
Apparently, its fuel source, hydrazine, is toxic and could have caused environmental damage. The intrepid AP reporter, unbiased and just-the-facts-ma'am as one could be, goes on to state:
[Independent analysts have been skeptical, noting that hydrazine is commonly used in industrial chemistry and that it quickly breaks down in the presence of oxygen. They surmise the satellite's destruction, which cost tens of millions of dollars, was to prevent top-secret spy technology falling into the wrong hands.]
"Independent analyists"? Sources, please? I guess the [] brackets make silly speculation OK, as long as the brackets are there. The author must have learned about that in Journalism 201, "How To Insert Bias And Maintain Plausible Deniability".

But I digress. Allow me to throw a bit more wood on the conspiracy-theory fire. I am becoming increasingly convinced that the satellite itself posed no danger, whether it was actually going to fall under its own power or not. In light of this recent event, in which the Chinese performed an assertive and aggressive demonstration of their own capability of using land-based weaponry to remove space objects from orbit, I think a more interesting explanation exists. Specifically, I suspect that the US either exploited the situation of a falling satellite, or manufactured it from whole cloth, in order to demonstrate that "Oh, hey, China? Yeah, we can do that too. More efficiently, with less advance notice, and more KABLAMMO". And under the guise of doing so for safety reasons, they get away scot-free, without getting blamed by the usual suspects (any one in the EU or the "axis of evil", for example) for "Sabre-rattling", "provocation", or any of the usual litany of sins which are actually just euphemisms for "displaying the strength that we lack". Bravo, United States Military, bravo.

In honor of this fortuitous event, and because it's Friday, here's a video of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds performing the last 40 seconds of DMB's hit song "Satellite", from a clip of VH1's "Storytellers". The rest of the 9 minute video includes a story and another song if you're bored.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obamessiah, Indeed

I found this quote over at Jim Geraghty's The Campaign Spot:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

This is particularly scary because, as an active member of an Evangelical, socially- and communitarily-involved church, I can aver that this is precisely the sort of language used to describe the life-changing transformation we should expect when we come to faith in Jesus Christ. If this trend continues, expect declarations that voting for Obama will be "dangerous", meant in a positive way.

There were complaints that, with Mike Huckabee, we would have been electing a "Pastor-in-Chief". With Obama, apparently, we're electing a Son-of-God-in-Chief.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Rise and Fall of Sid Meier's Civilization

Those who know me well know that one of my primary hobbies is the playing of computer games. And to spend any recent time around me at home is to know that I've recently been obsessed with "Sid Meier's Civilization IV". Yes, that's the full title. Since I suspect most of my readers don't know, let's just say that "Sid Meier's Steaming Pile of Poo" would still be a best seller. He is the undisputed master of turn-based "world-building" games and historical pieces alike. Such hits as the original "Railroad Tycoon", "Colonization", "Pirates!" have burned more of my time than any other activity. Of course, the greatest of these is none other than his "Civilization" series. I've been playing them since the original "Civ" came out back in the early 90's. I played the first one into the ground, and felt a general sense of euphoria when I learned that a SEQUEL would be coming out, this time some time in the late 90's. Of course, I exhausted myself there as well, as with the third in the series, and now, the fourth.

Each game in the series has offered revisions in gameplay over its predecessor, always with zippier graphics and more depth, but the general theme has always been the same: take on the role of a historic civilization (my favorites are usually the Germans or the Greeks, for a variety of reasons), start with a single city and (typically) one military unit, and CONQUER THE FRICKIN' WORLD. The first game was just that, with little embellishment, but still, with a 6000 year timeline, it was epic in scope for its day. Each installment gradually added more complexity, with the current, fourth installment including resources, religions, huge technology trees, cultural borders, advanced diplomacy and AI options, multiple, distinct leaders for a wide variety of historic civilizations (with certain options turned on, I could play as George Washington of the Khmer empire!), and a whole host of other options.

However, I didn't come here to shout out the game's accolades, though they are many. I came to complain about the insidious PC (and I'm not talking "Personal Computers" here) vibe that seriously detracts from gameplay. First, there are religions. In the game, there are seven world religions represented, each one founded upon the initial discovery of a certain technology. For instance, were I the first to discover "Monotheism", I would establish Judaism; when I discover "Theology", Christianity is founded. While the techs are loosely correlated to their corresponding religions, they are largely assigned, I believe, to correspond approximately to the correct chronological sequence, which is why Islam takes longer than the others to establish.

My major complaint with the religion system is that the developers totally wussed out on what could have been a potentially compelling component. As it stands, each religion is completely equal; no particular benefit is derived by establishing one religion over another as the "state religion" (an option available to the player, which DOES confer some benefits). Would it not have been more interesting to allow one particular religion to confer benefits (and possibly drawbacks) different from each other religion? Of course it would have been. But then, the obvious choice would have been to allow Islam to grant some sort of military bonus, and that would have caused 10 million screaming Islamic Rage Boys to call for Sid Meier's head. So like I said, my main complaint here is that they just wussed out.

Another complaint is the method by which they deal with environmental issues. In a game I'm currently finishing up (via massive, full-scale nuclear war. Fortunately, I had nukes and they didn't), "global warming" has become a major issue. What does this mean? Well, each time "global warming strikes", as the game announcnes, a particular tile is automatically turned into desert, which thus yields no resources for city growth or production. Which can be very frustrating. What irks me about it is that, as time passes, Global Warming is taken as a given. Despite the fact that I have built every available supposedly "green" technology in every single one of my cities (Mass Transit Systems, Recycling Centers, Forest Preserves, etc.), and the fact that my cities are well spread out AND cover oh, say, 3/4 of the available building space, GW continues its inexorable march across the face of the planet. Add onto this the fact that the game only allows one to research technologies up to and only slightly past current "actual" tech levels (e.g., "Fusion" and "Genetics" are some of the highest ones), whereafter one can only research generic "Future Tech" for more points and certain generic benefits. Does the game take such a pessimistic view that no amount of technology will ever solve Global Warming, if it even exists? Moreover, the notion that, somehow (which has happened to me), TUNDRA will turn into DESERT completely ignores one of the actual BENEFITS of GW: that huge tracts of formerly uninhabitable land will be made fertile! It certainly takes the Al Gore view of things that GW both exists, is unavoidable, will be catastrophic, and that the only solution is to eliminate humanity's influence rather than rely on human ingenuity to solve things through technology itself.

And before you say "well, maybe you shouldn't have nuked an entire continent", which I did, GW was already well apace before I unleashed my atomic arsenal on those bastard Greeks and Brits.

I guess it just irks me that developers have so completely internalized the generic PC paeans that they can't "think outside the box" to make a superior game. Of course, I say "superior" when I've spent countless hours already playing it and fully intend to continue for a while longer, so perhaps things which make me less interested in the game should be considered a GOOD thing.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

I Question the Timing

I write this yesterday, describing in detail why I, as a Bible-believing Christian, cannot in good conscience vote for Mitt Romney. Today, Mitt Romney drops out of the race. BEHOLD THE POWER OF THE RED SHIRT.

(On a more realistic note, boy am I glad I wrote that yesterday. T'woulda been silly and pointless any later.)


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Bravo, Fox News

Fox News, on its front page, has done what most MSM has apparently considered unthinkable: they've posted an artistic representation of Mohamed (Propeller Beanies Upon Him)! What's next, the Dreaded Motoons of Blasphemy? I've posted a screenshot above in case Rupert Murdoch's neck gets a bit too itchy for comfort and he yanks the article, and here's a link to the article itself, for as long as it stays up -- with more pics therein! My hat's off to you, Fox News, and to you too, Wikipedia (who, as the article states, is refusing to delete the pictures from their article on Mohamed).

P.S. Please scroll down. Much more high-brow fare ensues below.

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At Long Last

It's a regular Blogapalooza at the Red Shirt HQ today! Turns out, high and wired on Robitussin last night until at least 3 a.m. (on the bright side, while I'm *this close* to collapsing on my desk, my cough is almost gone!), I had lots of time to think about blog posts and sort my thoughts. I've been promising a more comprehensive post about why I will definitely not support Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination, and may very well not support him for President should he somehow, at this late hour, still secure the nomination. So, without further ado, here we go.

As I have mentioned before, it is indeed Mitt Romney's Mormonism that is the primary barrier to my support. I am not ashamed to admit this. As has been mentioned elsewhere (I forget where, or I'd link it), were Mitt Romney, say, an Episcopalian, he'd have my enthusiastic support at this point (err, well, maybe the ones that split off from the the apostate twits that ordained these theological cretins) -- although not prior to Fred Thompson's withdraw from the race. And that's saying something, since I consider that particular denomination to be at best nominally Christian. While his flip-flops are a serious weakness as the Last Scion of True Conservatism, they're not the fatal flaw to me that his faith is.

My objection to his faith takes on two complementary forms: objections to his theology, and objections from my own theology. First, his theology. Mormon theology, as I've said before, is, at best, a wacky leap of faith. At worst, it defies reason in ways the author of this never could have anticipated. The Book of Mormon provides a historical record of North and South America that science, history, and archaeology consistently refute in virtually every detail; meanwhile, those things presented most directly as historical in Scripture rather than allegorical are consistently being affirmed and verified by the same. At the same time, it insults my faith by attempting to insinuate itself both as "just another Christian denomination" and "the only True Faith". Never mind that it was founded by a man who, as a matter of historical record, was a charlatan evangelist of the very worst sort (far be it from me to not acknowledge that God uses the weak and sinful to great purpose, a la King David, but at least he sinned and repented -- Joseph Smith seems to have displayed a rather consistent pattern of behavior). I could go on, but it's not my intent to deconstruct Mormonism here, merely to demonstrate that belief in something so patently absurd (and let me anticipate some objections to my own Christian faith along these same lines -- there is a vast difference between unfalsifiable and actually proven false) speaks volumes about a person's character -- or lack thereof. I have critically approached my own faith through study and reason and come out stronger for it. Do Mormons do this? Can Mormons do this?

Second, my own Christian theology raises objections, I believe, to voting for Mitt Romney, solely on the basis of his Mormonism. Let me first state: I know from Scripture that all Government is established and ordained by God. Additionally, God is clearly not averse to using the non-faithful in positions of great power to further His Divine Will, both as corrective measures to His people (think Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian captivity of Jews) or as opportunities to build His Kingdom on Earth and glorify Himself and His people (e.g., Artaxerxes commissioning and funding Nehemiah to oversee the reconstruction of the Jerusalem wall). Thus, if God, in His infinite Wisdom, chose to place Mitt Romney at the head of this erstwhile "Christian Nation", He would have done so for a reason. I would (admittedly, somewhat grudgingly) assent to his (and His) leadership, albeit bracing for whatever calamity might be about to befall us, albeit with a Godly hope for the future.

Nevertheless, Scripture provides, I believe, guidance in this regard. 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV), for instance, states, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" A vote for a presidential candidate is an endorsement of that individual, and it forms an association between voter and candidate. If it did not, why the "Don't blame me, I voted for the other guy" bumper stickers? Thus, we are effectively "yoking" ourselves to those for whom we vote, for better or worse. Therefore, there is some moral responsibility on us, as Christians, for whom we support to be our leaders. Additionally, it's almost as if some omniscient Being anticipated Mormonism (and/or Islam, admittedly) when He inspired Paul to write "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" (NASB)

Furthermore, consider the Holy Spirit. Each of us, as Christians, received the Holy Spirit as a gift from God upon confession of Jesus Christ as Lord (or at least, arguably, from Baptism). The Holy Spirit serves as Comforter, Counselor, Protector, Helper, and a host of other, Scripturally described roles. Granted, many nominal Christians who indeed play host to the Holy Spirit fail to heed Its guidance, but because of his Mormon faith, Mitt Romney cannot do so. To elect a leader of this country, and to invest in him such great power, while he lacks the intimate connection with God that could, and should, guide his every move, would again be morally irresponsible for Christians.

Next, as I have previously described, it is becoming increasingly important to me to "seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness" in all things. That being the case, I cannot justify to myself a vote for a Mormon candidate, and then imagine standing before the Throne of God saying "Lord, I thought I was doing Your Will when I cast my lot for a man who repudiated your Holy Word by means of his own faith".

Finally, let me address that shameful line "We're electing the President, not the Pastor", or its many variations. That's a trite, drive-by slander used exclusively by either Romney supporters or Huckabee detractors in a quick, effortless attempt to embarrass critics into submission, and has no merit whatsoever -- particularly when expressed by those who maintain their own Christian faith. Of course we're not electing a pastor. Nobody has suggested otherwise; and I defy anyone to find a living soul who would actually want the President of the United States to weigh in on their faith in some official capacity! Nevertheless, as I have already stated above, I want my President to be guided by those Judeo-Christian principles that have made our country great thus far, and I want him to seek God's face, His blessing, and His wisdom in any decision he might make that might affect me in even the most insignificant manner.

To conclude, I believe I have made my case for why I cannot vote for Mitt Romney. Please note that none of the preceding discussion gives any particular guidance on whom to vote for: after all, Huck, McCain, Hillary, and Obama are all ostensibly Christian. To all my Christian readers who may be Romney supporters: consider what I have said, look up any referenced scriptures for yourself, and come to your own conclusions. Pray about it (what, you don't think God will give you wisdom when you ask for it faithfully?). I'm willing and eager to be corrected in any of my own theological conclusions, and I certainly don't mean to offend anyone based solely on their own policy preferences. If you're a Romney supporter now or even from the beginning, I don't think any less of you as a person or as a Christ follower. To any Mormon readers I might have, however unlikely that might be: if I have offended you, I genuinely hope it is on a spiritual level and not a personal one. If the latter, I sincerely apologize. If the former, I hope it spurs you on to action. Critically investigate your own faith and its origins, and contrast that with the faith in Christ as presented in the Christian Scriptures.

Whew. That took a lot more effort than I thought it might. No wonder I procrastinated for so long. But there you have it. And thanks for reading this far. May God bless you and grant you wisdom in all your future political decisions. And may He grant me a good night's sleep tonight, sans Robitussin. Amen.

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I Really Don't Love McCain, Honest

It's just that... well, he's less-worse than Romney in my book, AND he's the front-runner. I've spent a number of posts talking about McCain, as if I were an actual McCain supporter, which I'm not. It's just that, of all the guys left, he's the one I'd rather see win at this point. Jonah "National Review's Most Sensible Contributer*" Goldberg is sorta beating this drum too: basically have to believe that every one of Romney's flips were sincere and none of McCain's were. Moreover, the idea that McCain is a RINO means that Republicans are all about immigration, campaign finance reform and global warming. I disagree with McCain on each of these issues, but I think being a Republican is about more than that (and — for the record — I don't particularly care about being a Republican, I'm a conservative). McCain is a conservative on many issues, a centrist on other issues and a "liberal" on a couple. I'm at a loss as to how you couldn't say the same thing about George W. Bush, Bob Dole, George HW Bush and pretty much every other Republican president since Herbert Hoover save Reagan (and even there, some would disagree).

This is not the first time he's chimed in to this effect, but so far he's the only one over at The Corner to really do so. I suppose what I'm really doing is laying the groundwork now to fight later against so-called "suicide voters", who will either sit this one out or vote Democrat as a protest in November.

*I emailed him to call him that. He responded to my email. It's like we're pals or something!


Hugh, Meet Shark. Now Jump!

I used to really like Hugh Hewitt. I started reading him some time after the 2004 election, and liked what I read: a smart-as-a-whip conservative "evangelical catholic" (small 'c'), as he calls himself, with book writing and blogging credentials to spare. And his honesty and wit on the front page were always a joy to read.

Then came the race for the 2008 GOP Presidential nomination. He hitched himself to the Mitt Romney horse-and-buggy very early on, with his book A Mormon in the Whitehouse?. Still readable at that point, although he lost some of his objectivity by coming out strong for his preferred candidate early on.

In the past, say, 3 months, however, he has grown increasingly shrill and partisan for his boy, and it has seriously diminished any enjoyment that any non-Romney-supporter might gain from reading his blog (or, presumably, listening to his radio show, which I've only done sparingly anyways). Let me just cite two cases, all in the last 24 hours, which truly put the nail in the proverbial coffin. First:
Surprising and very good news for Romney in Delaware and Missouri.

Too close to call in California --but very early as well with a huge pile of absentees that roll in at * PM Pacific.

And Arizona is stunning: McCain only 44% and Romney at 39%.

UPDATE: Huck at 33% in Arkansas? Wow.

These are EARLY EXIT POLLS, mind you. The same ones that virtually all Republicans took great joy in mocking and ridiculing for their stunning inaccuracy four years ago during the general election, which predicted John Kerry the winner in many places. Now they're encouraging news for Romney? Any port in a storm, eh, Hugh? And for the record: Huck took Arkansas with ~60%, McCain took Arizona with 47%, Delaware and Missouri both went McCain at 45% and 33%, respectively (the former being 12 points over Romney, even!), and California went McCain by 9 points. That's a landslide by anyone's standards).

Second quote:
Given the Rush blast, the Dobson declaration, and Huck's strength in the south, McCain can't be considered a frontrunner by any conventional standard.

Said with all the flourish and elan of a Ron Paul supporter. Good googly moogly.

Anywho, with that, I can no longer keep Hugh on my blogroll, not that it matters to his readership or anything. I'll check back after the primaries are over. If he's behaving nicely and supporting the Republican nominee, regardless of who it is, perhaps I'll reinstate him. And even though I've come out strong against Romney here and elsewhere, for reasons I keep promising to elaborate upon, let me just make it clear: my loss of respect for Hugh has nothing to do with his support of Romney, per se. It has everything to do with his failure to grasp reality.

Update: As of this morning:
There are seven reasons for anyone to support the eventual nominee no matter who it is: The war and six Supreme Court justices over the age of 68.

Folks who want to take their ball and go home have to realize that even three SCOTUS appointments could revolutionize the way elections are handled in this country in a stroke, mandating the submission of redistricting lines to court scrutiny for "fairness."

At least he's talking a little bit of sense. Still, the silliness from the last few months is hard to wash away with a few lines. But I'll be watching him.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

McCain: Looking Better All the Time

The Anchoress has this to say about McCain versus Romney. For those of you who are truly conflicted about whether to vote for the "Maverick" or the "True Conservative", do yourself a huge favor, read the whole thing, and give yourself some perspective. Particularly if you were going to vote for Rudy/Fred/Huck/Duncan/Tancredo/Ron, but your guy dropped out or proved to be dead-on-arrival (ok, strike that last one -- you're still going to vote for him, because you're a compete moron. Nothing I can say or do will change either of those facts), and now you think your choice might be Mitt "Anyone But McCain" Romney. The key point she makes is that, in all of the current efforts of the "hard right" (her words) to convince folks to vote for Mitt, the only thing they can solidly point to is that, indeed, he's not John McCain. Very little breath is apparently expended attempting to explain why we should vote for Mitt Romney on his own merits. A little sample:
When I look at Romney I see a smart businessman who will probably be good on taxes. But I also see a guy who only became “pro-life” when it became politically expedient to do so. I see a guy who only clearly supported “the surge” after it became a success. I see a guy who is still flip-flopping on the second amendment - and about other things. I see a guy who has a blandness to him that will be eaten alive by either Obama’s stunning charisma and energy, or by Hillary’s machine - I don’t believe he can actually win the White House.

And let me add: if you're thinking of "sitting this one out" if McCain wins the nomination, keep in mind that as of January 2009, six of the nine supreme court justices will be over the age of 70, and ripe for retirement. A failure to vote is a vote for Hillary, no matter how you look at it, and there is the potential for such incredible, lasting damage to this country that to protest the war hero you just don't like makes you at least as much of a "wicked idiot" as a Ron Paul troofer.

Maybe tomorrow I'll finally get around to writing about why I will not vote for Mitt Romney. Maybe tomorrow it won't matter.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Scriptural Though of the Day

As I said here, I've been spending, or at least trying to spend, more time in the Scriptures lately. So from time to time I'll try to post any particular bits that struck a chord with me. Today I was reading from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5. In particular, the following stirred my mind.

2 Corinthians 5:7-12 (ESV):
7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Initially this struck me for two somewhat superficial reasons. One, because this is the passage from which the popular Christian band Jars of Clay takes their name, and two, verse 9 is used in the bridge of a song we frequently sing during worship services at church, "Trading My Sorrows" (in fact, the previous chapter has two other passages from songs we frequently sing -- popular book!).

However, I began to actually think about the meaning of that. "Jars of clay" are, of course, our fragile human bodies, through which God enacts His great works ("this treasure" being the gift of the knowledge of the glory of Christ Jesus, from preceding verses). The various punishments listed in verse 9 certainly indicate that the life of a Christ-follower is not an easy one; however, there is great peace in the fact that none of it is permanent, or terminal.

Whenever I read verses dealing with the expected persecutions of believers, I feel a twinge of both panic, that, as a believer, I can expect this around any corner, and regret, that I am not yet so fully living out my faith that I am experiencing these things. It is a strange apparent paradox of the Christian faith that we count both persecution, and freedom from it, as blessings from the Almighty. Perhaps our relative peace in this country is a reward for living, for the time being, as a "Christian nation", whatever that may mean; and rewards from God are always meant to be taken with great joy and not regret. On the other hand, there is wisdom in the maxim "If you don't cross paths with the devil every day, you're walking in the wrong direction".


What a Joker

The other day, I commented that Heath Ledger's take on The Joker, based on a trailer I had seen (viewable here), had potential. Above is a promo of how he appears as said character in the upcoming Dark Knight Batman sequel.

A (not-so) quick word about the last film, Batman Begins, to which this is a direct sequel: I loved it. Dare I say it, I loved it even more than the first Tim Burton Batman, yes, even with Jack Nicholson as the villain (seriously, Michael Keaton as a wealthy playboy turned crimefighter? Granted, he did it more convincingly than Val Kilmer or George Clooney, but still... blech). I loved it because it started from the premise of wealthy vigilante and proceeded to take itself seriously. There were logical, rational explanations for all the usual Batman tropes: the cape stabilized his falling mobility, the suit started out as a military prototype body armor, even the whole bat-motif was done on purpose, both to fight his own demons and strike fear (using "theatricality", as Bruce Wayne's mentor put it) into the heart of the criminal element against which he fought. Even the villains weren't over-the-top: the Scarecrow was "just" a crazy, evil psychiatrist with a thing for mind-altering chemicals (who didn't prance around in an actual scarecrow outfit!); the main villain, Ra's al-Ghul, while important in the comic-world, wasn't even exactly a big-name draw, but they pulled him off quite well; heck, they even included mob boss Carmine Falcone!

But back to the topic at hand: it looks, so far, like they're taking the same tack in the sequel. Ledger's Joker looks, well, crazy. Not wacky-madcap criminally crazy, just frick'n crazy. And given the Joker's established persona, this seems to be a good fit. From Wikipedia's entry on the comic-book character:
His capricious nature, coupled with his violent streak, makes him the one villain that the DC Universe's other super-villains fear; in the Villains United and Infinite Crisis mini-series, the members of the villains' Secret Society refuse to induct the Joker for this reason. In the one-shot Underworld Unleashed, the Trickster remarks, "When super-villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories".

It's not clear to me at this point whether his makeup is just makeup (as it appears above, and in the trailer), or if it's part of some chemical disfiguration, as it is in official comicdom canon. Nevertheless, after my great enjoyment of the first film, I'm eagerly anticipating the next one.

Update: I should provide some personal background here: while not a hard-core comic-book geek, I've always been a big fan of Batman. Something's always fascinated me about the dark nature of the character and the universe he inhabits, particularly ever since Frank Miller (of recent Sin City and 300 fame) "rebooted " the franchise back in the 1980's with his The Dark Knight Returns miniseries. Many people have imitated the dark super-anti-hero of that work since then, but he really set the standard.

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