Friday, March 21, 2008


[Blogger's note: This post disappeared, without explanation, from my blog. I don't know whether this is the effect of censorship or malicious hacking. I have contacted Google about this.]

Saying "God damn America" from a Christian pulpit in a black church is not even remotely expletive on a level with the secular Jew's derisive "Jesus H. Christ," nor is it a malediction on a par with the fanatic jihadists' "Death to America!" Why is this so hard for people to understand?

Because of the appalling state of religious literacy.

Anyone who has given even a cursory glance to the prophetic books of the Bible would know that damnation is a common literary form used by those who came to believe they were God's spokesperson at a given critical juncture, as were Isaiah and Jeremiah, for example.

Isaiah cries out in God's voice
Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a wicked seed, ungracious children: they have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel, they are gone away backwards. ... And the daughter of Zion shall be left as a covert in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, and as a city that is laid waste. (Isaiah 1:4,8)
Should Israeli voters reconsider divine leadership because a prophet has cursed them? No?

Why then should Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) even have to explain the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's biblical curse on the United States for enslavement and discrimination of his congregation's forebears and for the exploitation still heaped on the ethnic community to which its members belong?

Blogs such as Feministing, Latinopundit and The Assimilated Negro have in common that they offer comment from the perspective of, for, by and about a particular group of people, the group to which the authors belong. I am not black and I am not advocating on my own people's behalf.

Nor, as an agnostic, am I very intensely a believer.

Advocacy on one's own behalf threatens the birth of a new progressive era (yes, I'm referring to Barack vs. Hillary) and I want no part of it.

What I would like to make clear is that pseudo-leftist secular humanist Democrats and conservative Republican pseudo-Christians alike need to take more seriously the actual language of religion before they advocate for a theocracy or against it and the language of various cultures, before they advocate measures against one group or for another.

This new episode of rent garments only speaks to the paucity of understanding of the languages of conviction and culture.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

7 Random Factoids

Savia has tagged me to

#1 Link to the person who tagged me (see above)
#2 Post the rules on my blog (to wit, this list).
#3 Share seven random and/or weird facts about yourself on your blog.
#4 Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
#5 Leave a comment on their blogs so that they know they have been tagged.

I don't know if I even cyberknow seven bloggers. Will try. Meanwhile, let me unearth the facts:

1. I am colorblind. This does not mean that I see in black and white, as some people think, but that I confuse certain colors (red-green, green-brown, blue-violet) in certain shades and indeed see through certain kinds of camouflage. (The lore among colorblind people is that during the Korean War the air force discovered that colorblind aerial spotters did very good reconnaissance.)

2. In my right index finger I am double-jointed. My half-sister is double-jointed in all her fingers. My father's genes at work.

3. I didn't get a driver's license until my 30s. I was overseas and too young according to local laws when everyone was getting licenses here; by the time I returned everybody had already gone through driver's education. Not having a car helps you meet people, as you always need a ride.

4. I didn't own a television from 1977 to 2003. It was a rude awakening to discover how low television had fallen. Then again, the bonus for about a couple of years is that there was no such thing as a repeat for me.

5. I hate mint, spicy food (and any condiment spicier than pepper, including pepper), beets, celery and onions. Forget Mexican or Indian restaurants with me.

6. I have never been to Asia and Africa and I never want to go.

7. The first computer I ever used was an Osborne II, back when the dinosaurs roamed.

OK, that takes care of items 1 through 3 of the meme rules. I have to come up with seven bloggers I know well enough to tag. This may take a while.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer, the Mann Act and neo-Puritanism

Never having been elected governor of New York by a landslide on the strength of my character and intellect, I never sat on so tantalizing and grandiose an edge of hubris as Eliot Spitzer's, so who am I to judge this obviously unhappy man? Such a thought does not seem to bother today's garment-rending neo-Puritans -- nor does the fact that the allegedly violated Mann Act is the federal statute most flagrantly misused to bring down celebrities of color.

The online Huffington Post, for example, has no biography of moralist Chris Kelly (author of Eliot Spitzer Disappoints Wife / Commits Federal Offense), so we don't know the details of Kelly's glass house.

But how about the publisher, Arianna Huffington? Shall we forget that Arianna was a conservative who went after Bill Clinton when it was salacious, making a name for herself, and now styles herself a liberal, when the wind is blowing that way.

Shall we forget that her millions come not from journalistic talent but from sleeping with a millionaire, ex-husband Michael Huffington, whose proclivities toward men she reportedly knew well before she divorced him, allegedly for his bisexuality? By my reckoning1 Arianna's per-hour sex rate during this gold-digging marriage comes out to nearly $175,000, not the paltry $4,600 Spitzer's Kristen got -- which she had to split with the prostitution ring managers.

So Arianna Huffington is in a position to sponsor moral lectures now?

Let's also consider the Mann Act, technically the White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910.

The law was most egregiously used against boxer Jack Johnson, who in 1910 defeated a white contender and later had to flee the United States after marrying a white woman, Lucille Cameron, as Southern ministers called for his lynching. In 1920, Johnson was prosecuted for allegedly violating the Mann Act by sending his white girlfriend, Belle Schreiber, a railroad ticket to travel from Pittsburgh to Chicago. His life was the inspiration for the 1970s film "The Great White Hope."

The Mann Act was also used against rock musician Chuck Berry and Rex Ingram, a 1940s film and stage actor, both African American, in dubious circumstances.

The law wasn't just used against blacks. Charlie Chaplin was accused; he was acquitted, but the charge eventually became the basis for his blacklisting in the 1950s.

Think about it: might you (or, if you are a woman, your boyfriend) have violated the Mann Act? According to a 1917 Supreme Court ruling that has never been challenged, the statute's prohibition against "transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes" applies to noncommercial consensual sexual liaisons.

How many millions of Americans should sit in jail next to Eliot Spitzer?

Perhaps the answer should come from an ancient tradition. It is said that 2,000 years ago there was once a woodworker who became an itinerant preacher in the hills of Galilee. The story goes that he was brought a woman caught in the act of adultery and was asked whether she should be put to death by stoning, as Mosaic law prescribed.

He replied: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

1. Arianna Stassinopoulos married Michael Huffington in 1986 and divorced him in 1997. The settlement was not divulged; however, Huffington spent $29 million of his own money on a senate race against Diane Feinstein, so let's assume she got $100 million. Assume sexual encounters that, on average, lasted an hour once a week on average over roughly 11 years, that's 572 times. Dividing $100 million by 572 yields $174,875 an hour.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Killer Pretzel Strikes Again

Remember the January 2002 "killer pretzel" that left George W. Bush bruised after he choked on a pretzel and fainted? This goes against every political bone in my body, but I now have reason to think that maybe he told the truth for a change.

True personal experience this week: I was at my desk, racing to get work done, unable to go to lunch. I got up at about 3 or 4 pm and grabbed some pretzel sticks and a Diet Coke.

Sat down, popped one in and took a sip. Somehow, either the pretzel went down the wrong way or the Coke flooded my throat or ... I don't know. Next thing I knew I propelled myself out of my chair noisily attempting to breathe.

Like Bush said, "I hit the deck." I fell, throwing a paper basket out of the way and even shoving a bookcase against the wall so hard that the phone jack was twisted in such a way that the phone became inoperable.

I'm not sure what happened then. I blacked out. I came to in pain, lying on the chair mat and attempting to catch my breath. I could not speak, just make signals that I needed a moment.

I felt myself sweat profusely. It was a cold, panicked sweat. Slowly breath returned to me and from shallow gasps I went to deeper, more moderate breathing.

Then I noticed I had hit my left leg badly. My big toe was swollen and, upon inspection later, at home, it was bruised -- just like Bush's face.

CNN called it a "vasovagal syncope" at the time. I'd come across that term once before, when someone I know had a horrible, humiliating loss of bodily function. According to the Wikipedia, a syncope is
a sudden, and generally momentary, loss of consciousness, or blacking out caused by the Central Ischaemic Response, because of a lack of sufficient blood and oxygen in the brain. The first symptoms a person feels before fainting are dizziness; a dimming of vision, or brownout; tinnitus; and feeling hot. Moments later, the person's vision turns black, and he or she drops to the floor (or slumps if seated in a chair). If the person is unable to slump from the position to a near horizontal position, he or she risks dying of the Suspension trauma effect.
This approximates in many ways my own experience, and possibly Bush's.

Uncannily, Bush was almost exactly my age in 2002, when he had his episode. Perhaps it's a middle-aged-man thing. The killer pretzel attacked me, too.