Late Night TV Discovers Most Offensive Thing Ever

July 9, 2008

Apparently, if you own a television (and thank goodness I chucked mine), and had it switched on during the 4th of July, you may have been lucky enough to encounter this utterly unbelievable dadaesque monstrosity of commercial insanity:

Liberia: “What, too soon?”

And it’s real.

Anyway, after watching that commercial, I sort of wanted to call this 1-900 number instead.


Blog Shorts: Bush Smears Jefferson, Colson Smears Atheists, Cthulhu Smears Your Entrails Across Campaign Trail

July 5, 2008

The web is a wondrous place, isn’t it? From just the last week:

Ed Brayton and Timothy Sandefur catch George Bush “honoring” Thomas Jefferson by altering his actual words to avoid any hint of anti-religious opinions.

From the “Theists Are Far Ruder to Atheists than Atheists Could Be in Return” File comes Chuck Colson, the convicted felon who thinks he’s better than you. Hemant at the Friendly Atheist is having none of it. Hemant’s also not buying the idea that requiring students to actually act out Islamic prayers is a legitimate way to teach them about world religions, even if the teacher is a Christian.

Over at Catholic and Enjoying It, Mark Shea manages to be more far more outraged about a story in which Muslims are supposedly outraged by a puppy than anyone in the story is actually outraged. But he makes up for it by his hearty endorsement of Cthulhu’s 2008 run for the White House. No More Years!

And finally, Orac over at Respectful Insolence bemoans yet another loss to the forces of woo: apparently some states, with Vermont the most prominant amongst them, are starting to require insurance companies to pay for the “evidence-free medicine” of naturopathy. Lest you think that such errant nonsense couldn’t possibly hurt you, Orac points out that it’s a move that will kick you right in the pocketbook:

I don’t know about you, but if I were paying into an insurance plan, and the company administering that plan were wasting money paying for woo, I’d be mightily pissed. This can only serve to drive up the costs for everyone, as patients with non-self-limiting diseases pursue non-science-based modalities, think they feel better for a while, and then find that their disease is progressing, at which point they seek out science-based medical care–which their insurance companies will have to pay for, too.

In Defense of Pornography, In Revulsion of Jesus’ Redefinition of Adultery, In Minor Defense of Douthat

June 19, 2008

Here’s how it starts:

A Fox News sexpert declares that many spouses view “using porn, at least beyond a magazine like Playboy, [as] the equivalent of having an actual affair.”

Reason journalist Julian Sanchez can’t quite wrap his head around this comment:

This is tossed off as though it ought to be obvious to the ordinary reader. It strikes me as obviously insane. I can think of any number of valid concerns one might have about what sort of porn one’s partner is consuming, or the extent of it. But the proposition that one of them is any similarity between porn viewing and “having an actual affair” would not have occurred to me. Is this view held by any significant number of sane people?

But over at Atlantic Monthly, the often laudably contrarian conservative blogger Ross Douthat points out that, well, yes, plenty of spouses do see things that way:

Then consider: Is there any similarity between having sex with a prostitute while you’re married and paying to watch a prostitute perform sexual acts for your voyeuristic gratification? Again, I think a lot of people would say yes: There’s a distinction, obviously, but I don’t think all that many spouses would be inclined to forgive their husbands (or wives) if they explained that they only liked to watch the prostitute they’d hired. And hard-core porn, in turn, is nothing more than an indirect way of paying someone to fulfill the same sort of voyeuristic fantasies: It’s prostitution in all but name, filtered through middlemen, magazine editors, and high-speed internet connections. Is it as grave a betrayal as cheating on your spouse with a co-worker? Not at all. But is it on a moral continuum with adultery? I don’t think it’s insane to say yes.

(Heck, even Dan Dan Savage, sex-adviser extraordinaire, agrees with Ross that “porn as cheating” is quite a common idea.)

Next, quite a lot of Douthat’s commenters seem to lose track of the discussion entirely: they think that Douthat is trying to make an argument that pornography really is perfectly equivalent to having an extra-marital affair, when in fact he’s only trying to illustrate that there are reasonable similarities that might lead some quite sane spouses to consider porn a form of cheating. Much confusion ensues.

Finally, the discussion turns to the issue of the morality of pornography in general. Some people raise the issue of Jesus’ famous pronouncement that to look upon a woman with lust is to commit adultery in your heart. And then, Douthat regular Hector, who seems to believe that pornography is immoral by its “essential nature,” pops in to say that he’s “not sure what any of you would maintain are the good things that porn brings into this world.”

Well, allow me to re-introduce myself.

What’s good about porn? It’s hard to even know where to start: it’s the question an alien visitor the the earth might ask, like “what good is baseball?” It’s a question that must seem obvious to some, utterly bizarre to others.

Read the rest of this entry »

Do We Need a “War On Easter” Memorial Now? Charlotte Allen’s Back for More Misunderstanding

March 23, 2008

For some reason, many movement conservatives have decided that Christian celebrations are no longer complete without bizarre paeans to their own religious vanity. With more than 6 months until the War on Christmas hysteria can be drummed up again, the National Review seems to have decided that Easter is a worthy target as well, and the infamous Charlotte Allen should do the honors.

The gist of the her complaint goes something like this: “It’s just awful that cooking magazines don’t take time out to bemoan the crucifixion, am I right, ladies?” Oy. Veh.

What’s always so baffling in these sorts of articles is how these writers manage to turn the choice of people or businesses to be more ecumenical in their holiday celebrations into, as Allen calls it, a “campaign to force everyone to say, “Happy Holiday!” The very idea that there is such a sinister campaign is, of course, absurd, but the paranoia and simple incapacity to distinguish between a voluntary lack of partisan religiosity and some sort of totalitarian thought campaign its what’s troubling. And, amongst religious conservatives, all too common.

Statements like the following never fail to stun me with their sheer obliviousness:

Still, it is sad and disconcerting that the oldest and holiest of Christian festivals is simply ignored by the media (and almost everyone else), and that Christians have acquiesced to the near-disappearance of their highest feast day from public consciousness.

But of course, the only reason “Christians” have “acquiesced” is that they apparently, voluntarily, aren’t as interested in promoting their religious observances as if it were a QVC product. And so what? If, on the other hand, lots of Christians decide that they don’t like the state of affairs that so troubles Allen, they are perfectly free to make a big fuss out of the fact that they are Christians celebrating Easter. The point is, it’s a choice, as it should be, not the unfolding of a conspiracy.

Allen concludes by quoting St. Augustine of Hippo: “We are an Easter people.” Who is such a person, though? In our society: whoever wants to be. But if someone isn’t an Easter person, who is Allen, exactly, to tell them that they must be?

Of course, head-slappers are something of an Allen specialty. She’s the same writer who concluded that, jumping off the idea that women were stupid enough to love Obama, that women are in general “kind of dim” and maybe should just get back to what they do best: birth babies and clean houses. She denied that women were a historically oppressed minority (though to be fair, she’s right about the “minority” part being wong). She declared in 2005 that writer Michael Lewis was correct that “Katrina was the best thing to happen to New Orleans.”

This latest article is a worthy addition to that record: a profoundly foolish ode to self-obsession. Her religious practices, her observance are what she looks for everywhere she goes… and society be damned if it is not made in her image.

HT: Dispatches from the Culture Wars