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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s response on religious freedom, freedom of speech and diplomacy

Note that her remarks are grounded in constitutional principles and traditional American values.

 

I share her opinion that there is something cynical and intentionally provoking about the video. I don’t think I am treading into tin foil hat territory when I say that the timing, coming right after the Democratic convention when the nomination is set, is very suspicious.  The video also highlights a particular obsession among the Fox News set- pedophilia.  That combined with negative sentiment about Islam makes it particularly volatile.  I think this puts Obama in a tight spot but it is a spot of his own making.  In the weeks leading up to the election, he has to be careful not to alienate the religious voters that he has taken pains to court recently, going so far as to override the sentiments of half of the delegates at the convention when religion was reinserted into the platform.  He also has to be careful not to undermine his own foreign policy.  It will only give speculators an excuse to increase gas prices and unnecessarily destabilize an already unstable situation in the middle east. In a way, having Hillary there to deliver this message and take the blow is good for him.  Another Clinton helps Obama out, with little thanks, I’m betting.

I wouldn’t put the blame on the Republicans without proof that they were up to something.  But given their willingness to blow up the financial markets last year over the debt ceiling, I can’t rule out such a reckless move in order to discredit Obama.

Never underestimate the Republicans.  They play to win.  And despite what the loyal Democrats might think, Obama is especially vulnerable.

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Movie Recommendation: Sleepwalk With Me

Last week, after much nagging, pleading, begging, Puss-in-Boots eyes, I gave in to Brook at took her to see Mike Birbiglia’s first film debut, Sleepwalk With Me.  The film was produced in collaboration with Ira Glass of This American Life.  It’s about how Mike’s fear of commitment turned into a sleep disorder*.  If you’re a regular listener of This American Life, you’re probably already familiar with Mike’s story and I’m not going to spoil it for the rest of you.

The film had a problem getting into theaters.  It’s an independent film and didn’t have the kind of distribution system that would get it a lot of publicity.  So Ira called on his listeners to pester theaters in their local area to pick it up.  Brook did her part.  She contacted theaters in the area but they weren’t interested.  Last week, it was playing at 45 theaters nationwide and the only one in NJ was in Montclair, about 45 miles from here.  If you are familiar with Central NJ, you will understand why I didn’t want to drive 45 miles on a dark and rainy night to see a movie by some novice director.

But it turned out to be pretty good.  There are some genuinely hilarious moments but also some touching ones.  It’s sweet.  You can take the whole family.  There wasn’t any gratuitous swearing or nudity, and what goes on in the bedroom scenes isn’t sexy.  Carol Kane is in it, which for me, is one of the main reasons to go.  If you remember her portrayal of Simka Gravis from Taxi you’ll remember why she’s so funny.  But all of the performances are pretty good.  There are several regulars from the DailyShow.  You’ll sympathize with Lauren Ambrose who plays Mike’s girlfriend Abby.

So, anyway, last week, the whining was incessant.  Brook HAD to see this movie.  This American Life is a bit of a cult thing with her and her friends.  I looked up the reviews and they were pretty favorable.  Roger Ebert says Birbiglia could be the next Woody Allen.  I tried to reason with her that if it was really that good it would get picked up by other theaters.  But she made it sound like if it didn’t take her, it would be MY fault that it was a commercial failure and would have to wait for it to be released on video.  What the heck, it’s only my one and only car and I’m lousy driving at night, in the rain, 45 miles on Rt287 to Montclair where I’ve never been before.  What could go wrong?  Thankfully, nothing.  I liked it.

It looks like other people liked it too because it has now been picked up by 125 theaters nationwide, including 2 that are 10 miles from our house.    Check the This American Life website for a list of theaters nationwide.

No, don’t thank me, Mike and Ira.  The kid is a just an obsessed fangirl but the movie is surprisingly good for filmmakers who didn’t know what the heck they were doing.  And good luck with the next film. Someone should really do a movie based on David Sedaris’ book Naked.  {{hint, hint}}

Here’s the trailer:

* I used to have sleep problems too when I was in my twenties.  Lots of night terrors, sleepwalking and sleeptalking.  On one occasion, I saw some dark thing climb out of a vase of roses, jumped out of my bed screaming, and pulled the door of my room open without moving my foot out of the way.  Yep, ripped my toenails right off.  Not recommended.  Now, I just sleep with the light on.  True story.

Pat Robertson says Muslims can’t help themselves

It’s genetic:

I have no idea why a fanatical group of fundamentalists of any religion would find it insulting when the authoritarian nutcase leader of another fundamentalist religion calls their prophet a child molester. You see, if you knew your bible, you’d know that the AY-RABS came from the Ishmael side of Abraham’s family tree and he was a hothead.  {{rolling eyes}}  That’s why Mohammed was a pedophile, according to Robertson.

Judeo-Christians aren’t like that, apparently.  Jesus supposedly died a virgin.  But who knows, really?  If Jesus and his band of Occupiers were alive today, they would have been accused of sex in public in the Garden of Gethsemene.  Oh, sure they would.  The Romans would have had a field day with that.  The Romans would have called them rapists and troublemakers and dirty, lice infested, disturbers of the peace. See how that works?  Lucky for the Romans, they didn’t need to engage in too much propaganda.  They just crucified the leader of the Occupiers and set an example.  But just because TRUE Christians haven’t turned out for the modern day version of Occupy, like I’m sure their leader would encourage, doesn’t mean they’re as violent and nutty as batshit crazy Muslims.

On the other hand, there are some pretty hinky parts of the old testament.  And fundamentalists like Pat Robertson loves them some of that old testament religion.  But let’s dig right in and see what beliefs Pat Robertson goes out of his way to protect and defend, shall we? (This list is not exhaustive)

1.) The pastor of Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, David Davis, read this from the pulpit the Sunday after 9/11.  It’s from Psalms:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.

Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

Lovely.  And I’m sure they meant every word.  Don’t let some apologist tell you otherwise.  This Psalm illustrates that when it comes to violence in religious texts, you can’t heap all the blame on Islam.  It has everything to do with religious fanaticism and fundamentalism and no religion is immune.

But what does Davis know?  He’s one of those Presbyterians.  They’re not *serious* Christians, as I have been told on numerous occasions by fundamentalist Christians.

God directed the violence in a couple of other places:

1 Samuel 15: “Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy[a] all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

The book of Joshua is a record of God directed ethnic cleansing by the Israelites against the Canaanites.  God is very specific in his orders to Joshua.  Kill the men, women and children, carry off the gold, silver and livestock because that stuff belongs to God.  Here’s an example of Joshua’s siege of Ai:

24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed[a] all who lived in Ai. 27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua.

If you take out the details about swords and  javelins, you could be reading an account of Srebrenica.  Remember, these are the descendents of Abraham who were NOT from the hot head side of the family.

2.) This one is interesting.  It’s from Deuteronomy 25:11:

“If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, 12then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.”

How very Taliban.

3.) This is how the old Israelites dealt with rape from Deuteronomy 22:28-29:

28 g“If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.”

We have no idea how the young woman felt about this but you can bet your boots that the elders showed no pity.

4.) Let’s not even go there with David and Bathsheba and how after David found out he knocked up Bathsheba, he had her husband Uriah killed.  David was Jesus’ ancestor, if you believe all those begets.  So, essentially, Jesus was the descendent of a philandering murderer.  Nothing personal.

5.) David’s son Amnon had the hots for his half sister Tamar and slept with her.  Incest didn’t go over well with Absolam, Tamar’s full brother.  The whole thing didn’t end well.  David’s family sounds like it’s straight out of a Jerry Springer episode.

6.) There’s some question as to whether Sarah and Abraham were related as well.    Genesis 20:12 seems to say that Sarah was Abraham’s half sister by his father.  So, let’s think about this: Abraham + Hagar = Ismael the Hot-head while Abraham + Sarah = Isaac, product of incest.  Just sayin’.

7.) It is Ok to foolishly make deals with God when you’re in a tight spot because what could possibly happen?

29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

So, he comes home for shore leave and what comes flying out of his house to meet him but his daughter? Yeah, didn’t see that coming.  But Jephthah was a merciful killer of his own daughter.  He let her have 2 months of fun in the mountains because she was a virgin before he put her to death.  Jeez, my dad used to just bring us gifts from foreign ports.  The Bronze Age was a tough time to be a kid.

8.) The whole story of Lot is just nauseating.  He offers his virgin daughters to the men of Sodom so that the men wouldn’t attack some angels who were incognito.  Wasn’t that special?  And after God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his now defiled daughters take for the hills.  What happens next is just weird.  Here’s Julia Sweeney in Letting Go of God telling Lot’s story.  (Pick it up 15 seconds in)

9.) And in the bible, if you make fun of bald men, you shall be eaten by bears (2 Kings 2:23-25):

23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. 25 And he went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

Maybe this is the secret wish of bald men everywhere. But bears?  Granted, it will teach kids not to be bullies but it seems a little extreme.  You’d think God would have pulled Elisha aside and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?  Aren’t you being a little oversensitive about your hair?  How about I just give them an extra nasty case of chicken pox?”

There are many more delightful stories lurking in the bible.  I love the one where Jezebel gets thrown out of a window and eaten by dogs.  That’ll learn her.  And then there are all of the stonings and fornications and floods and cursings and who doesn’t feel sorry for Job?  We aren’t even talking about the silly laws about when you can and can’t have sex with your wife and what is clean and unclean and how stretch denim jeans are an abomination.  That prohibition is in the same chapter of Deuteronomy (chapter 22) where the punishment for a husband slandering his bride by saying she wasn’t a virgin is a whipping.  But if the sheet isn’t bloody, she gets stoned.

Three thousand years later, we are still holding this book up as some kind of moral guidebook.  Indeed, there are some people, like Pat Robertson, who think that if you don’t believe in this book, you can’t be a moral person.

It’s hard to believe that I just had to explain to a commenter what this post is all about so let me spell it out:

The problem that we are seeing in the world right now, especially in the past couple of days, is that fundamentalism is taking root in many countries, including our own.  This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.  It is partially a result of economic conditions.  The more stressed a population is, the more it turns to religion for salvation.  And authoritarian leaders will seize on the opportunity to use religion to enforce compliance and obedience on the population.  But this can also backfire.  Because fundamentalism does not recognize secular authority.  Fundamentalism only recognizes rule by God.

So, in a way, people like Pat Robertson and his equivalents in the Muslim world are making the situation worse.  And ordinary citizens around the world are caught in the middle in this war between two fundamentalist traditions who are adamant about applying bronze age morality to the present day.  It is time for us to say enough already.  We are constrained by cultural mores to go out of our way to respect religious traditions no matter how destructive they are.  And in the present, the wealthy and powerful, by deliberately damaging economies around the world are making religious fundamentalism more likely to erupt into violence.

If you don’t like that summary because you feel like your religion is under attack, good! The rest of us are sick of assholes like Pat Robertson stirring up the pot with ignorant, insensitive commentary.  And we’re sick of fundamentalists of any religion who are unable to grow up.  It’s time that we stop letting the religious have so much rope that they hang all of us.  No more deference to the religious above everyone else who may have objections.  It’s dangerous.

Update: There’s a story in the NYTimes about the origin of the infamous video that touched this whole thing off.  It’s a bit mysterious.  What I find curious is the timing.  It’s coming at about 7 weeks before the election.  It’s bound to make the fundagelicals and other vulnerable voters nervous.  Not only that but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had an effect on oil prices.  The price of gas is already going up.

The effect of the attacks on the embassy and gas prices may be positive for Republicans.  There are studies (damn, where is that reference??) that show that when voters feel threatened they tend to vote for conservatives.  Then there are the irrational birthers who are convinced that Obama is a secret Muslim.  Yes, it’s crazy and stupid.  If Obama were a good president, it wouldn’t make any difference to me if he were a Muslim, but I’m pretty convinced that the only god Barack Obama worships is Barack Obama.  Nevertheless, it’s going to be interesting to see how Obama deals with this, especially if the attacks provoke a shameful retaliation against Muslims in this country.

So, I don’t know who decided to broadcast the inflammatory Mohammed video, and I definitely do not condone the overreaction no matter how insulting, but I smell a rat on the right.