Saturday, April 30, 2005

Proof of God?

A dumbass Protestant preacher in the Georgia home of a missing bride-to-be says that he and his congregation prayed to Jesus to grant their collective wish that the woman was only missing because of premarital jitters, and God "answered our prayers." Seems that Jennifer Wilbanks, the missing woman, just couldn't cope with the thought of a big wedding, where 1,200 eyes would be checking her out, so she took off via bus and ended up in Albuquerque before relenting and informing authorities of a ruse she had concocted about her "kidnapping." Peace officers and search parties "turned over probably every leaf in the city" of Duluth. Imagine how silly they felt when Ms. Wilbanks turned up unharmed, announcing that she's mislead everyone and that she was OK.

I would like to be the first to suggest that Jennifer immediately dye her hair blonde and take all of her blouses and coats to a tailor, requesting that inflatable shoulder pads be sewn into the clothing so that she would not hurt herself when bobbing her head from side to side in answer to the simplest questions, saying, "I don't know!" The only person more clueless than Jennifer is the man who was to preside over her wedding, the aforementioned Protestant pastor. Apparently, he obtained his D.D. without studying logical fallacies since, in his pronouncement about prayer for Jennifer's survival, he resorted to one of the most common, and the one most often exposing weaknesses in the arguments for the existence of God.

It's called post hoc ergo propter hoc, which means "after this, therefore because of this." It's the error of assuming that just because Event B follows Event A, then Event B was caused by Event A. A wonderful illustration that comes to mind is that of the aboriginal tribe whose Emperor died following an eclipse of the sun. From then on, the tribe believed that when a solar eclipse occurred, their king would die, and when this prophecy failed to come through, the tribe decided to kill their king with each eclipse the better to please the gods. Same principle at work in the Duluth minister's thinking. That Jennifer turned up unharmed in Albuquerque explaining that she concocted her own kidnapping because she had cold feet over the impending wedding proves nothing so much as the gullibility of the preacher and his flock.

Interestingly, although she did not kill anyone and lie about how the victims met their unjust deserts, Ms. Wilbanks succumbed to a variation of the implied racist claims of a predecessor in stupidity, Susan Smith, who drove her two small sons into a lake, then claimed that the children were kidnapped by "a black man." Jennifer Wilbanks told authorities that one of her kidnappers was "a Hispanic male." If she wanted to invent a kidnapping, why did the perp have to be a Mexican-American? (Or Cuban-American, or Puerto Rican-American -- you get the idea.) Stupidity, blind faith, and racism have much in common.

You have to forgive me, I am reading Thomas Henry Huxley's essays on agnosticism and agreeing with them wholeheartedly. Huxley thought that religion is bunk. As the late Anton Szandor LaVey (or someone) said, "The only god there is is the one between your ears." Of course, in Jennifer's case, it could be argued that there is no god because there is obviously nothing between her ears.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Conciliatory Bush?

In a rare press conference April 28, 2005, King George II gave a short (10-minute) speech about overhauling Social Security and passing energy policy legislation, then opened the forum to questions from reporters. The only time he allowed the press to ruffle his feathers was when one Fourth Estatist asked whether use of a means test to determine eligibility for Social Security benefits would mean that Cheney would be eliminated; a somewhat testy Shrub snapped, "Hey, let's not get personal here, we're on network TV." Bush seemed in a somewhat conciliatory mood. For one thing, he didn't think that refusing to support a rules change to do away with the filibuster in imbroglios over judicial consent marked the refusenick as anti-Christian, a position bound to cost him support among the religious right.

On the other hand, he surprised the pundits when he announced, in questions concerning radical reform of Social Security, that privitization was anything but off the table. Those of us who assumed that provision for private accounts was nothing more than a conservative trial balloon, and since the barnstorming Prez had encountered such heavy opposition to the idea in all his travels across the land, meant certain death to the notion were surprised to say the least. The nod to means testing was even more unlike anything we could have expected since that proverbial one percent at the top holding something like 90 percent of the wealth would be the first to see their benefits forfeited for the public good.

But, as usual with George II dealings with the media, the most important ideas concocted by the administration were never addressed. It is no secret that the G.O.P. in general, and the far right wing conservative element in particular, has long dreamed of dismantling every last vestige of New Deal liberalism so that entitlements become a thing of the past, and money and land are tied up in the hands of a select few in perpetuity. Enter right wing fundamentalist Christians and such constitutional guarantees as separation of church and state and the separation of powers doctrine become imperiled as well.

It is also no secret that these same forces have on their agenda abolition of the United Nations. Although George II professed admiration for the organization during the press conference, he showed total disregard for it during the period before the invasion of Iraq, when he took the position that the U.S. should act unilaterally when its interests were at stake -- despite the fact that Saddam posed less a problem for us than either Iran or North Korea; despite the fact that the U.N. had ongoing monitoring for WMD; despite the fact that no American blood would have been spilled had a diplomatic solution been found. Shrub is no friend of the U.N. If he were, he would not have put up the current nominee for ambassador, an ideologue and toady with a volcanic temper and penchant for belittling underlings.

When history writes its accounts of the administration of Shrub, it will note that his administration was characterized by secrecy, obfuscation, and outright lying to advance its Neo-Con agenda. Doing away with Social Security and the U.N. are at the top of the list.

(This blog was about three times as long as this, but it's my first effort and, somehow, I managed to delete a good portion of it.)