January 24, 2019
Way to Go, Turtles!

Just when you thought good news had vanished from the face of the earth, along comes this from The Associated Press:

The Kilauea volcano eruption did not critically damage sea turtle populations on the Big Island, according to a survey conducted by a Hawaii wildlife conservation group.

The Hawaii Wildlife Fund determined this month that lava did not harm turtle populations despite the persistence of unsubstantiated claims warning of turtle deaths during the eruption that began in May, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday.

The wildlife organization conducted two helicopter flights above the lava-impacted coastline, observing 50 live turtles and other sea life. Turtle experts also were consulted for the survey, who agreed that sea turtles were likely able to escape lava en masse, said Kallie Barnes, the organization’s education coordinator.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:58 PM
November 12, 2018
A Railroad? In Laos?

Back in 1969 I was assigned to our embassy in Laos to be our press attache — the official spokesman for a murderous, illegal, pointless, undeclared, unwinnable and therefore unwon “secret” war in which we dropped more bombs on that tiny country than in all of World War II. I told some of that story in a novel called The Bombing Officer, so go read it. $1.95, how can you go wrong?

Back to the railroad, though. In those days there were about four miles of paved road in the entire country of Laos, from the capital down to the Thailand ferry. A four-story hotel was the tallest building in town. It had the city’s only elevator.

Drivers on Vientiane’s dusty dirt streets seldom blew their horns. They figured that the car in front of them would get out of the way once its driver could deal with whatever was holding him up.

I remember visiting a village six or eight miles down the Mekong for the dedication of a school we had financed. Before the ceremony the USAID director met informally outdoors with village leaders. Improvements were planned for the footpath leading to Vientiane, he told them, so that motorcycles could get there much more quickly.

Why would anyone want to go to Vientiane?, one of the elders asked. Well, you could get your pigs to market. But then what would I give the neighbor I get my bananas and mangoes from? Well, you could sell your pigs for money in Vientiane, couldn’t you? Okay, but what do I need money for? Well, maybe you could buy a radio. Okay, but what would I do with a radio . . .

The provincial governor finally stepped in and led us all to the new school, which consisted of a tin roof supported by posts and beams, open on all sides. Everyone sat on folding chairs while the governor, certainly the highest official any of the villagers had ever seen, launched into his speech.

Seated a couple of rows in front of us were three of four Lao ladies of a certain age, that age when it no longer makes sense to pretend you’re still hot stuff. Consequently you say the hell with it, and whack your white hair into a crew cut because who cares?. And when some big shot starts to get boring one of you calls out, loud enough for everybody to hear, “He’s not too bad-looking a guy, you know it? I wonder what kind of pecker he’s got. If I was thirty years younger I’d take him out back and find out.”

The governor cracked up. Everybody did.

The point I’m making is that Laos was once the most civilized country on earth. And when I read the first two paragraphs of this article in Foreign Policy in Focus, I feared for the worst. I needn’t have. If China can’t do it, nobody can.

China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) seeks to facilitate political and economic cooperation among Eurasian countries and spur the development of member nations that lag behind economically.

The initiative, for instance, has greatly improved the economic and social conditions within Laos. The construction of the China-Laos railway is the first step to boosting the economy of this landlocked country. It will increase both trade and tourism. Besides building infrastructure, China has also introduced technological innovations in Laos. It helped launch Vientiane’s first satellite, which will not only improve Internet connection quality for communication purposes but also spread health services and educational opportunities to the countryside.

Despite the ambitions of these grand projects, very few have produced any significant achievements. Many Chinese enterprises have encountered unanticipated difficulties in the implementation phase. Based on interviews with representatives from the Jixiang cement factory in Yunnan, for example, the core obstacle impeding the advancement of public projects is that it’s difficult to attract and keep Laotian workers. Several corporations mentioned that salaries were often distributed three to four times per month to ensure workers won’t quit halfway through the project.

This lack of motivation, even in the face of financial benefits, can be ascribed to Lao demographics. Laos covers an area of 236,800 square kilometers and has a population of almost 7 million people, making it possible to allot abundant land to each individual household. Additionally, all agricultural lands are privatized, providing locals with accommodation and fulfilling their dietary needs. Lao citizens are satisfied with their present conditions and not eager to change the status quo.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:25 PM
October 13, 2017
Cheer Up, Everbody!

At least you’re not dead like Philip Larkin, who wrote this in 1978:

Most people know more as they get older;
I give all that the cold shoulder.

I spent my second quarter-century
Losing what I had learnt at university

And refusing to take in what had happened since.
Now I know none of the names in the public prints,

And am starting to give offence by forgetting faces
And swearing I’ve never been in certain places.

It will be worth it if in the end I manage
To blank out whatever it is that is doing the damage.

Then there will be nothing that I know.
My mind will fold into itself, like fields, like snow.

There! Feel better now?



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:54 PM
July 19, 2016
Trump’s House N-word

In case you missed this yesterday:

Hello Republicans! I’m Pastor Mark Burns from the great state of South Carolina! I’m going to pray and I’m going to give the benediction. And you know why? Because we are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ. And Republicans, we got to be united because our enemy is not other Republicans — but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Let’s pray together. Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, the you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.

To defeat every attack that comes against us, to protect the life of Donald Trump, give him the words, give him the space, give him the power and the authority to be the next President of the United States of America, in Jesus’ name — if you believe it, shout Amen!



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:08 PM
July 11, 2015
Sit Up Straight, Music Lovers…

…and pay attention, because glancing through one of my old pocket notebooks last night I came across this entry from the Carter years. It is in somebody else’s handwriting, whose and why I forget. The only explanation is this footnote, dating the verses 20 years before Paul Newman sang a slightly different version of the song in “Cool Hand Luke”:

*(As sung by the Glover Family of Columbia, Mo. on station WWVA’s “Hour of Reckoning” show — 5:35 a.m., July 12, 1957.)
• • •

OH, I don’t care if it rains or freezes
Long as I got my plastic Jesus
Settin’ on the dashboard of my car.

You can buy him, pink and pleasant,
Glows in the dark, he’s phosphorescent,
Take him with you when you travel far.

You can buy a sweet madonna,
Dressed in rhinestones, standin’ on a
Pedestal of abalone shell—

Drivin’ 90 I’m not wary,
Long as I got Magnetic Mary
Guaranteein’ I won’t go to Hell.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:16 PM
April 12, 2015
As It Must to All Men…

Something I never knew or more likely forgot, this from a book review in today’s New York Times:

Since the early 1900s, parents who willfully withheld medicine in the name of religion have been prosecuted and convicted. But, Offit tell us, beginning in the ’70s, the prosecutors’ task became difficult. The blame for this setback can be ascribed to two powerful men in the Nixon administration, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, both famous for their roles in the Watergate scandal, and both Christian Scientists. They became involved because of Lisa Sheridan, a 5-year-old who in 1967 died of pneumonia. Her mother, Dorothy, a Christian Scientist, had opted for prayer instead of antibiotics. The autopsy of the child showed a quart of pus in her chest, and the Massachusetts district attorney charged Sheridan with manslaughter. She was sentenced to five years’ probation. This was around the time when Walter Mondale was working to introduce the landmark Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act (Capta).

“Elders in the Christian Science church saw the trial of Dorothy Sheridan as a wake-up call,” Offit writes. “If she could be prosecuted for following the tenets of her faith, all of them were at risk. Capta was about to shine an unwanted light on their way of life. Something had to be done. So church authorities turned to the two men they were certain could help.”

Haldeman and Ehrlichman inserted a religious exemption into Capta: “No parent or guardian who in good faith is providing a child treatment solely by spiritual means — such as prayer — according to the tenets and practices of a recognized church through a duly accredited practitioner shall for that reason alone be considered to have neglected the child.”

Ehrlichman wavered in his faith by accepting dialysis treatments in 1999, and then died after discontinuing them. Haldeman, resolute in his nuttiness, refused treatment for the cancer that killed him anyway in 1993.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:52 PM
March 09, 2015
There Goes Your Overtime

From an interview with Matthew Fogg, an African American former special agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency:

The special agent in charge, he says “You know, if we go out there and start messing with those folks, they know judges, they know lawyers, they know politicians. You start locking their kids up, somebody’s going to jerk our chain.” He said they’re going to call us on it, and before you know it, they’re going to shut us down, and there goes your overtime.

What I began to see is that the drug war is totally about race. If we were locking up everybody, white and black, for doing the same drugs, they would have done the same thing they did with prohibition. They would have outlawed it. They would have said, “Let’s stop this craziness. You’re not putting my son in jail. My daughter isn’t going to jail.” If it was an equal enforcement opportunity operation, we wouldn’t be sitting here anyway.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:55 PM
November 12, 2014
The Poet and the Clod

From Father Gerard Manley Hopkins’ journals:

Nov. 8— Walking with Wm. Splaine we saw a vast multitude of starlings making an unspeakable jangle. They would settle in a row of trees; then one tree after another, rising at a signal, they looked like a cloud of specks of black snuff or powder struck up from a brush or broom or shaken from a wig; then they would sweep round in whirlwinds — you could see the nearer and farther bow of the rings by the size and blackness; many would be in one phase at once, all narrow black flakes hurling round, then in another; then they would fall upon a field and so on. Splaine wanted a gun: then ‘there it would rain meat,’ he said. I thought they must be full of enthusiasm and delight hearing their cries and stirring and cheering one another.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:22 PM
February 11, 2014
Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

From the New York Times:

In what represented a cautionary tale for terrorist teachers, and a cause of dark humor for ordinary Iraqis, a commander at a secluded terrorist training camp north of Baghdad unwittingly used a belt packed with explosives while conducting a demonstration early Monday for a group of militants, killing himself and 21 other members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, army and police officials said.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:37 PM
June 17, 2013
Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive

I did not know that:

Today, new problems have emerged in the process of resolving old ones, but the solution is not to go back to the past. Some people may long for an era when divorce was still hard to come by. The spread of no-fault divorce has reduced the bargaining power of whichever spouse is more interested in continuing the relationship. And the breakup of such marriages has caused pain for many families.

Yet, according to the economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, whenever a state adopted a no-fault divorce law, the annual rate of female suicide there dropped by 8 to 16 percent, and the incidence of domestic violence declined by roughly 30 percent.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:46 AM
April 16, 2013
New Pope Wields Old Broom

New York Times:

Pope Francis has reaffirmed the reprimand of American nuns issued by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, and endorsed the plan to have three bishops supervise an overhaul of the nation’s largest umbrella group of American nuns.

The announcement from the Vatican on Monday dashed the hopes of Catholic sisters and their supporters, who had hoped that the new pope might not want to meddle with women’s religious communities because of his experience in the Jesuits, a men’s religious order…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:02 PM
February 04, 2013
God Moves in a Mysterious Way…

…His wonders to perform. It turns out that television, far from making us dumber, is in reality culling the morons. It’s actually the anti-boob tube, applying the best eugenic principles to the whole human race. From MedPage Today:

Men who watched TV for 20 or more hours a week had a 44% lower sperm concentration compared with men who did not watch TV. In a multivariable analysis, sperm concentration tended to be inversely associated with time spent watching TV, and a trend toward lower sperm count emerged from the data.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:43 PM
January 16, 2013
Theodically Speaking…

Let us now consider Richard Mourdock’s view of God’s role in childbirth. Mourdock (have you forgotten so quickly?) is the Republican who lost his U.S. Senate bid last fall after telling the voters of Indiana that pregnancies caused by rape are all part of God’s plan:

“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said during Tuesday’s Senate debate, choking up.

On the likely assumption that Mourdock believes God to be both good and omnipotent, the Almighty must therefore have intended for Mrs. Darwin to carry Charles to term. What did God have in mind with that? While we’re at it, why did Mourdock’s God forsake him on election day? And wouldn’t an actually good God have forsaken Obama on election day? Furthermore, why didn’t Barry Bonds make it into the Hall of Fame? God made steroids, didn’t She?

Just askin’.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:23 PM
October 14, 2012
Relax Already

Our focus at Bad Attitudes is on bringing the good news. So here’s some for all you non-hard-working American taxpayers:

Researchers in New Zealand have found that people who work at least 50 hours a week are up to three times more likely to face alcohol problems. Earlier this month, the American Journal of Epidemiology reported on a global study showing that over-workers are between 40 and 80 percent more likely to suffer heart disease than others. The lead researcher of that study had previously found that middle-aged people working more than 55 hours a week tend to be disproportionately slow-witted, and to be more at risk for dementia.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:37 AM
August 07, 2012
Atheism is the New Christianity

By Adam Lee, at AlterNet:

A Pew survey from 2009 asked about the permissibility of torturing people suspected of terrorism. The religiously unaffiliated and those who never attend church were more likely than Catholics, evangelicals or mainline Protestants to say that torture can rarely or never be justified. The nonreligious were also more likely than Protestants, Catholics or Mormons to oppose the war in Iraq…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:54 AM
July 20, 2012
Humble Servants of the Lord

From the BBC:

…the former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath says Mr Bush told him and Mahmoud Abbas, former prime minister and now Palestinian President: “I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did.”

Asked if there was anything in retrospect he might have done differently the night he followed Trayvon Martin and shot him dead, George Zimmerman told CNN:

“No, sir. I feel that it was all God’s plan and not for me to second-guess or judge it.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:18 AM
June 05, 2012
And They Lived Happily Forever After

Now that I’ve discovered this site, we’ll be hearing a lot more from VietNamNet Bridge:

Ms. Bui Thi Vinh and Mr. Ha Van Toi, 91, in the southern province of Ben Tre, have officially become wife and husband on June 4.

After several months of strongly protesting the two elder people to live together, children of Ms. Vinh and Mr. Toi were glad to support them. A small party that they organized on June 4 was seen as the official wedding for the old couple.

Ms. Vinh said that being convened by the local officials, her children and Mr. Toi’s children understood the old couple’s wish. “Several days ago, Mr. Toi’s son took him to my home to visit me and then took us to the church for marriage ceremony,” she said.

Since Mr. Toi lived with Ms. Vinh in her house, the old couple went to church every morning, then they dropped by the market to buy food. They together cleaned their garden and house.

Two months ago, local people were surprised knowing that a couple of 91 years old asked the priest to perform marriage ceremony for them. Their families tried to stop the old couple from living together.

Thanks to the patience of local officials and being influenced by the public opinion that supports the old couple, the two families have understood of the two people’s hearts.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:51 AM
August 21, 2011
Just So You Know

From McClatchy:

What’s clear from the record is that [Michele] Bachmann brought deeply held religious values and legal training from outside the mainstream to her career, values shaped during her unusual law school experience at Oral Roberts University.

“It was a real shocker for me to show up and hear people speak in tongues in chapel,’’ said Burnetti, Bachmann’s classmate. “It was a very exceptional place to go to school.’’



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:17 PM
May 21, 2011
No Pets Allowed in Heaven

For further information, please apply here.


Click image to enlarge


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:31 PM
April 06, 2011
We’re in Miami, for God’s Sake!

The Miami New Times brings us up to date on Miss Exxxotica’s spiritual awakening:

After her parents divorced in 2003, modeling became an obsession for Schwitzky, who attended Hialeah-Miami Lakes High but was never very interested in studies. At age 16, she began donning bikinis for department store ads without her mother’s permission.

Such a path can lead to only one place: a porn convention. At age 18, Schwitzky made a pilgrimage to New York City and entered the 2008 Exxxotica Expo’s pageant. The contest is relatively staid considering the setting: The girls wear G-strings and tiny bikini tops. Though slowly bending over with one’s rump to the audience is encouraged, there is no nudity.

Schwitzky vanquished her opponents and took home the $2,000 prize before returning home to gingerly explain the victory to her mother. The next year, Schwitzky won another sash: that of Miss March Hardbody, bequeathed by 305HipHop.com, an honor for which her bare chest was painted with the website’s logo.

Schwitzky regrets the dubious pageantry — sort of. “I made mistakes when I was young. So what? We’re in Miami, for God’s sake.”

Worried about her daughter’s future, Elizabeth Schwitzky began dragging Caroline to the Baptist Potential Church in Fort Lauderdale, where Pastor Troy Gramling wears jeans, sermonizes with an accompanying rock band, and sends out holy tweets.

Every Sunday, Mom says, Caroline was so moved that she would sob and run from the church. In July 2010, Pastor Gramling baptized Caroline in a hot tub. “[The Lord] wiped me clean as snow,” Schwitzky explains, “and told me that all your sins and all your mistakes are done…”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:45 AM
October 12, 2010
In the Service of Their Lord

From Larry Beinart’s political thriller, The Librarian:

They had two prophets. The first, of course, was Jesus Christ. Scott claimed to have been saved, and the hard core of his support were Jesus people…

Their second prophet, and to Hagopian their real prophet, was Adam Smith, the eighteenth century economist and philosopher who had coined the phrase “invisible hand” to describe the surprising, unplanned, and unlooked-for effects of each individual pursuing his own domestic plans for gain.

To the intellectual mind, that was a simile, an “as if,” but to the believer mind it was God and God wanted us each to pursue profit to our utmost and then His “invisible hand” would combine those efforts and guide them to the true good.

Adam Smith had also said, “Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.”

Hagopian thought that was true.

If Scott’s people were men of vice, merely greedy, there would be limits to what they might do. If they were men of virtue, there were no limits, no point at which they would stop. There was no lie they would not tell, no fraud they would not perpetrate. No murder they would not commit.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:11 PM
July 14, 2010

CNN reports:

Young delivered his sermon, but he couldn’t hear or see his congregation respond: He wasn’t physically there.

Young’s parishioners were instead looking at a high-def video image of their pastor beamed into their sanctuary from a “mother” church in Grapevine, Texas.

Young is part of a new generation of pastors who can be in two places at one time. They are using technology — high-def videos, and even holograms — to beam their Sunday morning sermons to remote “satellite” churches that belong to their congregation…

Esposito is a member of Fellowship Church, where he has listened to Young preach for the last five years.

“I feel closer to the sermon than I would if I ever attended in person,” Esposito said. “The screen is so big; it’s almost lifelike. I would rather see Ed [Young] on the big screen than somewhere live…”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:49 PM
Good News for the Gene Pool

NEW YORK — Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston say they're engaged and hope to get married within six weeks in Alaska, an abrupt turnaround for the couple that just months ago was fighting over child support and Johnston's critical comments about the family…

The couple is ready to get married but Palin told the magazine they'll probably see a marriage counselor, Schaefer said, adding that Plain made it clear that Levi will have "a lot of work to do."

Asked whether the magazine paid for the interview, Schaefer would not discuss details of the arrangement except to say that the magazine paid for the expenses of the photo shoot.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:47 AM
March 21, 2010
Yes, We Could!



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:21 PM
March 17, 2010
You Go, Sisters!

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — Catholic nuns are urging Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s health care plan, in an unusual public break with bishops who say it would subsidize abortion.

Some 60 leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns Wednesday sent lawmakers a letter urging them to pass the Senate health care bill. It contains restrictions on abortion funding that the bishops say don’t go far enough.

The letter says that “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions.” The letter says the legislation also will help support pregnant women and “this is the real pro-life stance.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:21 PM
February 16, 2010
Pat Robertson, Meet Mahatma Gandhi…

Pursuant to our recent interest in agnosticism and atheism, I pass along a specimen of Bertrand Russell’s apostasy, written 60 years ago but as fresh as yesterday’s earthquakes in Haiti:

Throughout the last 400 years, during which the growth of science has gradually shown men how to acquire knowledge of the ways of nature and mastery over natural forces, the clergy have fought a losing battle against science, in astronomy and geology, in anatomy and physiology, in biology and psychology and sociology. Ousted from one position, they have taken up another.

After being worsted in astronomy, they did their best to prevent the rise of geology; they fought against Darwin in biology, and at the present time they fight against theories of psychology and education. At each stage they try to make the public forget their earlier obscurantism, in order that their present obscurantism may not be recognized for what it is. Let us note a few instances of irrationality among the clergy since the rise of science, and then enquire whether the rest of mankind are any better.

When Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning-rod the clergy, both in England and America, with the enthusiastic support of George III, condemned it as an impious attempt to defeat the will of God. For, as all right-thinking people are aware, lightning is sent by God to punish impiety or some other grave sin — the virtuous are never struck by lightning.

Therefore if God wants to strike anyone, Benjamin Franklin ought not to defeat His design; indeed to do so is helping criminals to escape. But God was equal to the occasion, if we are to believe the eminent Dr. Price, one of the leading divines of Boston.

Lightning having been rendered ineffectual by the “iron points invented by the sagacious Dr. Franklin,” Massachusetts was shaken by earthquakes, which Dr. Price perceived to be due to God’s wrath at the “iron points.” In a sermon on the subject he said, “In Boston are more erected than elsewhere in New England, and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. O! there is no getting out of the mighty hand of God.”

Apparently, however, Providence gave up all hope of curing Boston of its wickedness, for, though lightning-rods became more and more common, earthquakes in Massachusetts have remained rare. Nevertheless, Dr. Price’s point of view, or something very like it, was still held by one of the most influential men of recent times. When, at one time, there were several bad earthquakes in India, Mahatma Gandhi solemnly warned his compatriots that the disasters had beeen sent as a punishment for their sins.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:00 PM
January 03, 2010

God caused a picture of his son to appear on Mary Massa’s arm following a recent blood draw in Delray Beach, Florida. Oddly enough the exact same picture appeared on my own arm last fall, after a blood draw in Sharon, Connecticut. God caused me to think it was Charles Manson, though. It’s all in the point of view.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:25 AM
January 31, 2009
Where Does God Find These Guys?

Pope Benedict just named one Fr Gerhard Maria Wagner as assistant bishop of the Austrian city of Linz.

Fr Wagner is notorious for his extreme views — he has accused the popular Harry Potter novels of spreading Satanism, and described Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment for the sinners of New Orleans.

He wrote in a parish newsletter that the death and destruction caused by the hurricane in New Orleans was divine retribution for the city’s tolerance of homosexuals and permissive sexual attitudes.

The future bishop said he was glad that Katrina destroyed not only nightclubs and brothels in New Orleans, but also five of the city’s abortion clinics.

Televangelist John Hagee:

I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are —were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade on the Monday that the Katrina came, and the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing.


The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi :

[Al Qaeda’s then-leader in Iraq] issued a statement on the Internet calling Katrina divine retribution. “God’s great wrath has hit the head of the oppressors,” the statement read…

In the recording, al-Zarqawi said, “I believe the devastating hurricane that hit the United States occurred because people in Iraq or Afghanistan — maybe a mother who had lost her son or a son whose parents were killed or a woman who was raped — were praying for God and God accepted their prayers.”


And, from the third of the great Semitic monotheisms, here’s Ovadia Yosef…

… a former chief rabbi of Israel and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement, said Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for President Bush 's support for Israel's Gaza pullout.

“Bush was behind the (expulsion of) Gush Katif,” he said. “He encouraged Sharon to expel Gush Katif…we had 15,000 people expelled here, and there 150,000 (were expelled from New Orleans — ed. note)



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:11 PM
November 04, 2008

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:08 PM
September 27, 2008
Voting for the Nigger

This is the best political news I’ve heard all year, maybe even forever. A friend of mine was taking a cab in Cleveland last week. The driver went on and on about the economy — no jobs, low wages, medical bills, gas prices, foreclosures. At last he said, “You know what, fuck it! I’m voting for the nigger.”


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:56 AM
September 24, 2008
Cheer Up, Gang…

…there’s a silver lining in that cloud over Wall Street:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Democrat Barack Obama has opened a 9-point lead over Republican John McCain in the U.S. presidential race amid turmoil in the financial system and growing pessimism about the economy, according to a Washington Post-ABC News national opinion poll released on Wednesday.

Among likely voters, the poll found Obama now leads McCain by 52 percent to 43 percent. Two weeks ago the race was essentially even, with McCain at 49 percent and Obama at 47 percent, the Post reported…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:29 PM
September 18, 2008
One of the True Faiths

I haven’t paid as much attention to the Tom Cruise-Scientology nexus as I should have. This video brought me up to speed, and I hope it will do the same for you. There are only two words to describe the effect it had on me: “holy” and “shit.”

Once the initial bemusement passed, though, I began to wonder how a Martian would react to a video of a not-too-bright Christian or Jew or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist babbling on about his own One True Faith.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:52 AM
July 10, 2008
My Hero

RALEIGH, N.C. — L.F. Eason III gave up the only job he’d ever had rather than lower a flag to honor former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms…

“Regardless of any executive proclamation, I do not want the flags at the North Carolina Standards Laboratory flown at half staff to honor Jesse Helms any time this week,” Eason wrote just after midnight, according to e-mail messages released in response to a public records request.

He told his staff that he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms because of his “doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice” and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:52 PM
May 22, 2008
Mother No. 1

All right, in these times we need as many feel-good stories as we can lay our hands on. Here’s Jiang Xiaojuan, a 29-year-old Chinese police officer who stepped in to feed babies orphaned by the earthquake:

“I am breast-feeding, so I can feed babies. I didn’t think of it much,” she said. “It is a mother’s reaction, and a basic duty as a police officer to help.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:06 PM
January 01, 2008

More on the pleasures of forgetfulness: The Winter Palace by Philip Larkin, a dead librarian.

Most people know more as they get older:
I give all that the cold shoulder.

I spent my second quarter-century
Losing what I had learnt at university

And refusing to take in what had happened since.
Now I know none of the names in the public prints,

And am starting to give offence by forgetting faces
And swearing I’ve never been in certain places.

It will be worth it, if in the end I manage
To blank out whatever it is that is doing the damage.

Then there will be nothing I know.
My mind will fold into itself, like fields, like snow.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:59 PM
October 24, 2007
A Win-Win Proposition

The next presidential election is a lock for the electorate. There are eight Democrats and nine Republicans in the race. No matter who wins, the citizens of the United States will be the victors because each one, even the certifiable Guiliani, will be an immense improvement over the current president. Not one of the candidates is in the thrall of the bloodthirsty, service-averse neocons. Breaks dawn after darkest night.


Posted by Bill Doolittle at 09:22 PM
November 04, 2005

One of the main arguments advanced by Michael Northcott in An Angel Directs the Storm is that a millennial spirit has animated the United States from before its founding.

[Jonathan] Edwards, like [Cotton] Mather, believed that the colonists were living in the end times, and he saw the revivals [of the Great Awakening] as evidence of the end time:
Tis not unlikely that this work of God’s Spirit, that is so extraordinary and wonderful, is the dawning, or at least a prelude, of that glorious work of God, so often foretold in Scripture … And there are many things that make it probable that this work will begin in America.

Edwards, you’ll no doubt remember from school days, was the author in 1741 of what the Wikipedia calls “one of the most famous of all fire and brimstone sermons”: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them. …

There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God’s restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them.

You can see why people would be attracted to such a message.

According to Northcott, Edwards and his contemporaries were postmillennialists,

which is to say that they believed that in building a godly commonwealth in the New World they were ushering in the millenial rule of the Saints on earth after which they believed Christ would return as judge of the earth.

This sort of belief had positive effects on the approach people took to their communities. If you see your task as building a commonwealth that will be worthy of ushering in saintly rule to the earth, you’ll be looking for justice and truth in communal enterprises. You’ll be trying to make sure that God’s values, as you understand them, are incorporated into the methods and operations of the community. Naturally this will be imperfect, humanity being what it is, but the job is clear.

I should probably admit here that theism does not appear to me to fit with what we know of the world. For example, science appears to work; prophecy does not. It appears to me that miracles are more likely to be a manifestation of insufficient understanding than of a God that interferes in the events of this world. Deism, on the other hand, the idea that God created the world and set it running on its own laws, does not appear to me to contradict experience.

Clearly, this attitude leaves me open to the argument that my assumptions are incorrect, and that reasoning is not as important as revelation. But at least I can engage with postmillennialism as a philosophy that encourages morality.

Premillennialism, the subject of the next in this series of posts, seems quite different to me.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:29 PM
November 03, 2005
First in a Series

I’m re-reading a fascinating book entitled An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire, by Michael Northcott. I expect to be quoting from it and discussing it in some detail over the coming weeks.

From the introduction:

The Bush administration’s policies combine a commitment to untrammelled capitalism, and hence a corporately restrained democracy, with a willingness to spend inordinate amounts of money on American corporations producing military technology. At the same time these policies are represented as America’s sacred mission to lead the world to its destined future of democracy and freedom. While Bush is clearly driven by a faith in unbridled capitalism that borders on religious fervour, these polices are not just the product of modern ideology. There is a deep millenial spirit here, which goes right back to the emergent belief of Americans that they were a “redeemer nation” destined to lead the world to the end of history.

It is the burden of this book to show that this millenial spirit rests upon a tragic deformation of true Christianity.

Perhaps now is the moment to mention that, although I grew up in the Episcopal church, I no longer consider myself a Christian. Of the philosophies that are generally referred to as religions, I’m most attracted to Zen Buddhism, which is really not a religion in the sense that Christians, Jews, and Muslims use the word. It does not posit a supreme being; it does not care about the issue of life after death, or struggle with the question, Why are we here? Indeed, it would consider that question silly. Zen concentrates on the eternal present, and on the decision about the next action; in other words, on what is relevant to the here and now. Thus it is not prone to being used for political ends, because it is too aware of the implications of each action.

Christianity, on the other hand, has been shaped by nearly two millennia of being used for political ends. This does not invalidate the religion; far from it. What Gibbon called “the pure and simple maxims of the Gospel” remain as relevant and as hopeful today as they were two thousand years ago.

But the circumstances under which Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire changed the ideology significantly. Although I have some issues with Northcott’s Roman history, and numerous minor complaints about the editing his book received, I find his analysis to be forthright, stimulating, and well conceived. I hope that An Angel Directs the Storm is widely read; it has much to tell us about the philosophical and psychological background of the religious framework of the United States. I hope readers of the upcoming commentary are provoked to engage in the discussion, and to encounter the original ideas in the book.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:03 AM