Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rove's Frankenstein

According to Andrew Sullivan, Mike Huckabee's current rise among the GOP candidates is Rove's Frankenstein moment.

Huckabee, along with Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo, was one of the three who raised their hands during the debate where they were asked if they don't believe in evolution. As for what should be taught in public schools, Huckabee said he wants "schools to acknowledge that there are views that are different than evolution." And the polls show that more Americans believe in the devil than accept Darwin.

After the last debate Huckabee's poll numbers have been rising. Andrew even thinks that Huckabee is likely to be the most appealing candidate for the big-spending, evangelical, Southern Republican party.

Huckabee is turning out to be as slick as Slick Willy. He was on MSNBC's "Hardball" today (as I write this), the show hosted by Chris Matthews, and Matthews tried to nail Huckabee on his ads that feature the word "Christian," pointing out how Huckabee seemed to be saying he is "the Christian candidate -- like some of the other candidates are not Christian." Chris pretty much just let Huckabee get away with a bullshit answer with Huckabee saying he didn't mean to accuse others of not being Christian. Chris seems not to notice that Mitt Romney is being accused not being a "Christian" and that Rudy's religiosity is considered questionable by the evangelical right. In such an environment Huckabee gave a bullshit answer, his ad by default accuses the others.

During the debate a question about the death penalty came up in that "what would Jesus do" format and Huckabee slipped out of answering it, to audience applause, by saying "Jesus was far too smart to seek public office." Well, Jesus may not have sought public office, (like being King of the Jews or something), but he seemed to have something to say about the death penalty, something to do with only those who haven't sinned should be "casting the first stone."

When Chris brought up the question and the death penalty execution in Huckabee's state, Huckabee tried to say that "forgiveness" doesn't mean you don't punish people. The hell it doesn't! Forgiveness doesn't mean anything if you're still punishing the person you are "forgiving." Saying you are doing both is Orwellian bullshit. The New Testament has a kind of economic model, forgiving sins is like forgiving a debt. You can't make someone pay a debt and forgive the debt at the same time. Forgiveness is not about you not feeling angry when you end someone's life.

Huckabee resembles no Republican of the past more George W. Bush. And more than Bush, Huckabee resembles the real life Democratic populist, William Jennings Bryan, of the Scopes Monkey Trial fame.

But Huckabee isn't the real Frankenstein's monster here. No, the real monster is the Republican base that asks questions like "... how you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book?" Questioner waves around a Bible. "...this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?" The real monster is the one that represents the foul core of the Republican party.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How to end Islamic terrorism by engineering a violent revolution

Books can be dangerous things. They can be more mind altering than any illegal drug. Consider Thomas Paine and the most influential pamphlet of the American Revolution, Common Sense.

Now consider that a Turkish prosecutor has launched a probe into whether Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion, is an attack on religious values. It could lead to the prosecution of the book's Turkish publisher and translator, Erol Karaaslan.

It's precisely this type of repression that inspires books like The God Delusion to be written in the first place and it highlights the very weakness of these Islamic states that attempt such repression by law and force. It means they find Dawkins' ideas and arguments threatening.

Would it be possible to print copies of the atheist books in all the common Muslim languages and smuggle them into places like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.. Perhaps Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Hitchens could waive copyright for all Muslim language editions of their books (or something similar to encourage black market printing and distribution in certain languages) and encourage black market smuggling of them.

Turkish law couldn't touch a publisher in England, Sweden, the U.S. or Canada.

However, if you're going to do something like that you might consider writing a new book that's especially written for Muslims, that addresses what is wrong with such laws, and maybe getting help from Ibn Warraq, Rushdie and others who know Islam better.

How far could you push that book? Could you suggest violent revolution against such laws?

But let's go farther. A guy like me, or even a guy like Dawkins, really can't know how effective their writing is without just putting it out there and seeing how people react. That is not what I mean by "engineering a violent revolution." Hollywood came up with a test so that they wouldn't spend millions marketing a movie that had a high probability of being a "Turkey." It's called "test screening."

Today there are a lot of out of work Muslims, from every Arab nation, all over Europe who could be hired as test readers and questioned afterwards. They could be used as test cases for various arguments. Once you start doing stuff like that, you're not just writing, you're engineering.

But go farther, Hollywood test screenings still dump dogs into the movie market. It's still more art than science -- and it's the worst kind of art, it's art by committee. There are other people who study religion, for example, there is the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal that publishes papers on such subjects. There are all kinds of psychologists who study religion who could help a writer get through the psychological blocks you will encounter.

When I write I can only base my arguments on those which were effective on me. Obviously, judging from the comments I sometimes get on this blog these arguments don't work on others -- some of the people posting comments here seem far more screwed up than I ever was (yes, I mean you Marian Paroo, mountain king, Amicus and you-know-who-you-are). It's also obvious that Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens haven't turned the country into a bunch of atheists. In the end I think we all just recycle the guy who got to us, Bertrand Russel. And none of us were raised as Muslims.

Maybe it's time to look into the possibility of engineering arguments that can go beyond the ones that worked for us. Once done, we might have a revolutionary new tool.