Friday, May 11, 2007

Popery! Ratzy in Brazil

So, like, The Big Catholic Daddy was in Brazil. He was there to tell kids not to have sex, use condoms or get abortions, and there are lots of people out there that'll go on longer than I will about how depraved and fucked up that is.

What struck me, attenuated to classism as I am, is that the Pope also told people not to seek wealth and power. I came full stop.

See, here's the thing. The Pope is one of the most powerful and richest people in the world. He lives in one of the greatest palaces in the world. He has a set of solid gold coffee service made by Michelangelo. He leads a religion that has over one billion people. His entire career has been ambitious, constantly seeking more power, with incredible success.

And this person is telling people not to seek material wealth and power!

I mean, corporate, earth-destroying CEOs are more honest than this! If you listen to some CEO, he's gonna tell you to embrace the system and with hard work and sticking to it you'll be as rich as Croesus, too. Sure, it's mostly bullshit, but at least he's not out there saying that people shouldn't try to be where he is -- he's not ridiculing and attacking the very wealth and power he possesses.

But the Pope, one of the richest, most powerful people in the world, a man that lives literally like a king, heading a vast world spanning religion, is telling other people not to seek wealth and power! The hypocrisy of it stunned me.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

King Herod the Great's Tomb

If you believe the BBC, someone is claiming to have found the tomb of Herod the Great. Herod the Great was a Roman client king who was unpopular with his Jewish subjects. He is called "the Great" because of the sheer number and scale of building projects that he started in Judea during his reign, including a massive rebuilding of the Temple.

And a note on his unpopularity. It was largely unjust. Herod was a monarch, certainly, and he had occasional fits of cruelty, but nothing to compare with the utter brutality of the Israelite Judges -- a self-appointed group of murderous enforcers. Indeed, during Herod's reign saw the end of banditry in Roman Palestine, making the country staff for things like the ministry of Jesus, but also trade and all that. The wealth of Palestine greatly increased during Herod's rule.

No, the center of the controversy was two-fold. First, Herod was pro-Roman. As a fact of politics at the time, any state in the area was going to be a client to either Rome or Persia, and Herod chose Rome. Still, this didn't sit well with the pro-Israel zealots who dreamt of their own kingdom. So, to some extent, that is certainly a legitimate beef. The second, and greater reason, is that Herod was only "half-Jewish". He was from Idumea, and despite his scrupulous observances of Jewish custom, tradition and law, the Jews never let Herod forget he was half-Idumean.

However, for me, the most interesting part of the article is this:

Herod was noted in the New Testament for his Massacre of the Innocents.

Told of Jesus' birth, Herod ordered all children under two in Bethlehem to be killed, the Gospel of Matthew said.

According to the New Testament, Jesus' father Joseph was warned of the threat in a dream and fled with his wife and child to Egypt.

Does this article remember the historical things that Herod did? The great works he built? His alliance with Rome? His successful campaign to end banditry in Palestine? His rebuilding of the Temple? Any of the historical things he did? No. They bring out the old fairy tale about his "Slaughter of the Innocents", recorded only in the Bible and ignored by secular historians. The evidence being, of course, that it didn't happen. The Romans were a harsh people, but under the reign of Augustus they were a very . . . legalistic people. Any client king who would massacre innocents would have been destroyed by the Empire -- and not only did this not happen, there is no record of it happening anywhere but in Matthew. It is fiction, but it is what the BBC chose to bring up about this utterly fascinating man.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Listening to NPR so you don't have to.

One of my regular "features" (if you can call it that) on my regular blog is a series of odds and ends I pick up while listening to NPR at work. I program databases and audit water quality data for the city where I live. Public safety and health and all very responsible, but very dry, as well, so having someone talk to me is helpful to pass the day. So, talk radio. Air America is propaganda for the Democratic party, and also only politics, which bugs me. The other talk radio station locally is propaganda for the Republican party, and what cultural stuff it has is stuff like Dr. Laura, which would cause my eyes to bleed at work, so bad call. So, that leaves NPR and the sports talk channel.

That isn't to say that NPR isn't propaganda. It is. It's just propaganda lite when compared to the other two. Plus, they have other stuff I like. For instance, they regularly have a group of local sommeliers that come on and talk about wine, and I dig that. So, I listen to NPR. But, the propaganda lite occasionally tickles me or makes me boggle, so I write about what I hear on my blog.

For example, the other day, without apparent irony, the announcer said this: "Flanked by veterans and their families, Bush accused the Democrats of political theater."

I laughed and laughed.

Today, two things on NPR interested me, in particular. Well, a few things interested me, actually. The news of the day is all about Alberto Gonzalez, which is fun because it's politics but lurid and corrupt enough to be titilating. Another topic lately has been the crash in not the housing market but in the lending money for housing market. To wit: Sub-prime loans are a racket and now those who got fucked are getting foreclosed on. Will the housing market crash be next? But, only two of the things that I heard interested me enough to write about.

First, the study that shows that working moms are irresponsible, selfish sluts who don't care about their children... oh, I mean, "Daycare causes some increase in negative behavior later in schooling"... oh, no, I mean "kids who go to daycare are less intimidated by the schooling system and therefore aren't as readily cowed by the authority figures within it." That last take is my own. The first take is how the news media seems to have decided to take the results.

(note: for a less biased word on the results that's less dense than reading the actual study, check here.)

I should not be be surprised. This is not the first time that the U.S. media has used whatever excuse was convenient to attack women - mothers in particular - who are anything other than wholly sacrificing of their own personal needs in favor of their husbands and children. Oh, and to those whose financial situations dictate that they must work, in order to live: Just fuck you, bitches. That sort isn't even invited to the discussion. And it's not even the working outside or within the home question, which is sticky enough, considering all that women are being asked to sacrifice for the sake of raising their kids, and that men are not asked, at all, to make any of the same sacrifices. No. Check out the the hack job the Today Show did on Melissa at Suburban Bliss. Mostly, it seems like they're looking for an excuse. Et tu, NPR?

The second thing I wrote on my post-it note to write something about (I keep a post-it with possible blog topics. I know.) was that the Tribune is being sold. They went on in some depth about Zell, who is trying to buying it and treated him like some kind of businessman-rockstar, blah blah blah. The thing is that both of the deals being offered to buy the paper involves using the $1.76 billion employee pension fund to leverage the purchase. This means that one business guy/group is going to give another business guy/group permission to clean out the employees' retirement funds in return for the paper. That's what I'm reading. Ugh.

I know! It's all so depressingly negative! But there were sea otters this morning, right?

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Monday, March 26, 2007

News & the Fnords & Jon Stewart

I don't really pay that much attention to the news. I browse the BBC and the local paper's website but I read few stories. Up until about a year ago, I was a huge news addict. I'd read, easily, two hours of news a day and was very up-to-date on almost everything. But after several years of that, I saw the fnords and realized most news was literally deception and the more I read, the worst off I became. Garbage in, garbage out, after all. No amount of reading false data would get a good result, I figured, so I stopped. One of the best thing I did. Better to read books and, at least, get something resembling scholarship.

However, as I've said before, Jon Stewart makes me laugh. Hell, he makes a lot of people laugh. However, according to this article (that I found on the PunkAssBlog site), Jon Stewart is as good as the news. I quote:

“There have been a couple academic studies recently of those shows, where researchers study the actual news content in those shows compared to the broadcast news media,” said Rick Swanson, Ph.D., a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “They discovered there was just as much actual news content – news information – given by “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show” as there are in the actual news media broadcasts. And so, believe it or not, students are learning just as much about the news as they would be if they were watching a mainstream news outlet.”

The study, completed this year by Julia Fox, a telecommunications professor at Indiana University, showed that “The Daily Show” had about as much hard information during the 2004 presidential campaign as the average nightly news broadcast.

Huh. The article goes on:

“In an absolute sense, we should probably be concerned about both of those sources, because neither one is particularly substantive,” Fox continued. “It’s a bottom-line industry and ratings-driven. We live in an ‘infotainment’ society, and there certainly are a number of other sources available.”

It's been obvious to me for a while that the "news" is nothing of the sort. Still, it's nice to have someone with a lot of letters after their name confirm the obvious.

This is particularly fascinating for me because, out here in the blogosphere, we live in a news saturated environment. We all post stories and talk at great length, and great passion, about them but the truth seems that they're largely void of content worthy of the effort we put into them! And, worse, out here in the blogsphere, we are largely aware that the news sucks and we still do it!

Jon Stewart's way is better. He makes me laugh. Because, let's face it, the news doesn't contain much information but it is very funny. Especially if you like black humor.

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