Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Down it goes

Tom Cruise and his bizarre behavior doesn't interest me too much, but I'm quite fascinated by the so-called public backlash against his "ignorant statements" regarding antidepressants. I can't turn on the news even now without hearing something about it from another indignant psycho-mom who claims that without them she too would have thrown her baby against the wall in a postpartum rage. Since more than half the country is probably popping Prozac or Ritalin or any number of psychotropic medications at any given moment, I can see why everyone is so sensitive about being told something that could lower their self esteem!

A high school kid I know recently broke up with his girlfriend, and the normal sadness that accompanied this was immediately interpreted as clinical depression by his parents and they strongly urged him to go to the doctor and get "diagnosed." We are at a point in this country where any kind of negative emotional state --- negative being defined as anything that interferes with our ability to be good little consumers --- is provocation for the family doctor to whip out the prescription pad for large doses of mind-altering substances. Antidepressants are for people who are so profoundly depressed that no other method can shake them out of it and who are in imminent danger of commiting suicide; while this was their original intent, it is now used to treat inferior personality traits from shyness in children to "unnatural" moodiness and introspection. Psychiatrists pathologize normal mood states and call them diseases, the only cure for which are drugs.

"Social anxiety disorder" didn't exist a few years ago, but drug companies and shrinks needed a wider market for their cash cows and they took it upon themselves to invent it. Social anxiety disorder is nothing more than severe awkwardness, shyness, and being hyper self-aware. It is no longer acceptable in our ever-increasing state of social conformity that some people simply aren't richly endowed in all areas. Some people just don't have great social skills, and perhaps one percent of all of those people have a level of anxiety that could begin to approach the realm of complete abnormality. Sadness over a specific event, or even generalized existential angst, is not depression in the clinical sense. I am not condemning antidepressants for those who are severely incapacitated by otherwise incurable depression, but I happen to know a ton of psychologists (I live in a Jewish suburb after all) and most of them are clearly hacks --- they do not posess the subtle interpersonal skills to help someone out of a bad state and thus they are far more comfortable numbing their patients than trying to cure them. In fact, many psychologists and psychiatrists I know proudly announce that they take such drugs themselves, a sure sign that their intuition and judgement have been altered to the point that they cannot really help anyone with difficult problems anymore.

Tom Cruise was further castigated for saying that "excercise and vitamins" will cure mental imbalances. That is mostly crazy Scientology talking (one would be hard pressed to cure schizophrenia with jogging and good nutrition), but for milder emotional states its a perfectly reasonable assertion supported by reputable medical studies --- in fact, several of them reported that daily walking improved mild-to-moderate depression better than a placebo pill and just as effectively as an antidepressent! Getting your blood flowing and your muscles pumping releases natural endorphins and can re-adjust one's perceptions considerably, yet one is hard pressed to find any mental health worker who will recommend this first to someone complaining of depression. They are worried about getting sued by the family if the person commits suicide, so they get them on antidepressants regardless of whether it is really warranted in their particular situation.

Anecdotally I can say that I knew dozens of peers over the years who were forced or heavily pressured by their families to take medication for various problems, most within the normal range of adolescent ailments that resolve on their own. Acting out at school and refusing to adhere to a curfew is diagnosed as "Oppositional-Defiant Disorder" (yes, that's a real "disorder"). Sadness over a dog dying, a relationship ending, or simple moodiness is diagosed as depression or bi-polar disorder. Shyness is social anxiety disorder. Kids with mediocre intelligence have "learning disabilities" because rich parents can't stand the thought that their precious darlings aren't geniuses (no one is just slow anymore). Very often the drugging that takes place is due to parental hysteria over their child not performing in school the way they want them to, and they can't think of any other solution. The supreme value is to get them functional and compliant again without adressing any of the underlying problems that their child might be going through, including spiritual and intellectual crises that simply cannot be medicated for.

People going through psychotic episodes need psychotropic drugs, as do the severely depressed and those with crippling OCD and other problems which cannot be dealt with through any other therapeutic method. For those people, medication is a godsend and can truly help them recover their lives. However, the vast majority of people taking these drugs are merely covering up normal problems that they can't figure out how to deal with --- and why should they know, when the entire focus of the mental health field is to discredit methods that they don't get as handsomely reimbursed for as Prozac?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

CAFTA's cold chill

Does anyone else feel the icy chill of doom down the back of their necks when they read this? I knew Bush would sign it, but that doesn't make seeing my own president cede American sovereignty to a bunch of banana republics any easier. I am now convinced that there are sinister and well-planned reasons behind his refusal to deal with the millions of illegal aliens streaming through our undefended borders, his criticism of the Minutemen, and now the signing of this "trade bill." This cannot be simple stupidity or blundering --- Dubya is a sharp fellow. He is now in the process of literally destroying the country (a country without borders ceases to exist or to have any freedom), and Republicans seem to be in cahoots for the most part. The repercussions from CAFTA may not be felt immediately, but there sure as heck ought to be some serious ones from the voting citizenry. It will be interesting to see how many people will be able to recognize the danger --- I'm guessing almost none, judging from the non-blogosphere coverage of this story.

And that is why I am joining the Minutemen on their next project at the Canadian border, but a stone's throw from Boston. There's nothing else for a private citizen to do at the moment short of armed revolt . . . and I have the feeling that wouldn't be too successful at the moment.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Daily posting shall resume on Tuesday, August 2nd. Urgent matters of diplomacy have kept me from my Court but will soon be resolved. Think not that I have forgotten you.

Friday, July 29, 2005

PATRIOT prophecy

After opening Robert Anton Wilson's 1974 Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy to a random page, I discovered this scene:

The intercom buzzed.

"A man is here from the FBI," Miss Karrig said nervously.

The agent, whose name was Tobias Knight, had a walrus mustache and a cheery eye; nobody ever looked less threatening. Dr. Dashwood still regarded him with a wary respect, as a large and dangerous mammal. This was the normal attitude since the 1983 Anti-Crime, Anti-Subversion Omnibus bill had entitled the Bureau to conduct random wiretapping on all citizens rather than just on known criminals and subversives. ("If we only watch the already recognized enemies of society, who knows what hidden monkey business might be festering in dark places to rise up and stab us in the back like a snake in the grass?")

One of Mr. Wilson's acid trips clearly gave him a peak into the universe next door of America circa 2005. I wonder when PATRIOT Act III will be introduced? In my younger and more naive years I was enthusiastically for the original Act, but I have since realized that it is a very bad idea to make those things legal. I want the CIA and FBI to be wiretapping everyone they think is in any way connected to terrorism, I want them indefinitely detaining people, and I certainly want them assassinating foreign leaders and domestic threats . . . . In secret. That way, if an innocent citizen is unjustly targeted or harmed by these agencies there can be some legal recourse for them. Clandestine activities should never be codified or made "legal" because it makes us look like ninnies ( in addition to being totally un-Constitutional). Trust me, Israel doesn't have a PATRIOT Act but the Mossad manages to take care of business beautifully nevertheless.

Monday, July 25, 2005

One Lie, One Truth

After less than twenty-four hours of my truth experiment, I gained some insight into the more subtle motivations for lying.

I did not go the entire two days without uttering a falsehood. When someone called me that I didn't want to speak to, I said I was busy although I was not --- the rest are in that vein, and boring to recount. What was of interest, however, were the lies that I wanted to tell but did not. These fell almost entirely into the category of hyperbole or narrative-style fabrication when relating stories to people --- a common enough tendency among those who like to write and read fiction! When asked how my day was, the immediate urge was to recount a mundane event that had actually happened and transform it into a Quirky Anecdote with a few choice details that had never transpired. I held back, but it made me aware of how natural it is for everyone to do such things. Why do people lie? The simple reasons are to escape punishment, to gain something without having to work for it, and to boost one's status in the eyes of a coveted group or individual. These answers all have some validity, but they are ultimately shallow and do not explain the real origins of the desire to lie.

I have met a few pathological liars in my day. These are the skilled fabricators who can spin Quirky Anecdotes, Handy Excuses, and Heart-Wrenching Tales Of Abuse And Persecution while looking one straight in the eye and feeling no qualms whatsoever. It is now apparent to me that such people, in addition to whatever concrete explanations can be given by psychologists, are suffering a unique spiritual ailment which often remains totally unconscious (and thus extremely dangerous). Liars cannot be trusted, but in the end it is not because they don't tell the truth to those around them --- it is because they are deeply unstable at the psychic level and are using lying to achieve a particularly flashy brand of self-destruction.

Such a person is incapable of seeing those around him as human beings, and thus will not operate in the same way as his targets. These types can go undetected for very long periods simply because most people are normal and expect that others think like them; there are few people who can stand to look into a man's eyes and realize that he regards them as little more than an object to be manipulated for his own benefit. The pathological liar can spin endless fabrications with startling rapidity and a nearly superhuman ability to keep track of the resulting web of deception in spite of occasional slip-ups. They often lie about things they don't even "need" to lie about, right down to what they had for breakfast. Since the lies of normal people are to gain an advantage or avoid punishment, we can assume that a pathological personality is merely a more extreme version of this. What does he gain --- and more importantly what does he escape --- by telling someone he had toast when he really had waffles?

When someone lies to you, they are quite simply playing G-d. They are in possession of the truth and they withhold it from you deliberately, almost erotically. Power is an aphrodisiac, and what greater power is there than to change someone's perception of reality? Think about the awesome power of this type of lie: with each false word images are being formed in the mind of the listener which never occurred --- their understanding of life will be altered on some level even if they suspect the story may not be true. These small lies are seductive and intimate acts by which the liar gains access to the soul and psyche of the listener, a privilege usually reserved for lovers and friends. It is an assertion of control over their interior landscape, which is why it is such a serious transgression. To commit the Quirky Anecdote lie is to say to oneself, with a falsely pragmatic sense of grim acceptance, that life is dull and un-cinematic. Why not rewrite the script for an unsuspecting audience member and experience the thrill of a well-written plot through their eyes? To tell the painstaking truth about the small details is to admit that one has precisely no control over those small details, or indeed most things that happened to one during the day. Lying is always about control: of the reality of others and (less successfully) over one's own reality.

By playing G-d with our little dalliances in deception, we are symbolically acting out our anxiety that G-d is not performing the same service for us. For the liar, the act is cathartic, his own Greek drama that allows him to feel what he otherwise cannot --- empathy. While it would seem that the liar has a malicious attitude towards his target, in reality he is heavily identifying with and idealizing the person he is deceiving. He is having a fantasy of himself as the innocent soul. In his warped sense of things, he is now the loving G-d whose careful control of the innocent's perceptions is the coveted proof that He exists.

The lies we tell to exert control over our surroundings are an attempt by the mind to deal with the staggering question of free will: is G-d in control, or are we? Are we masters of our reality or are we pawns afloat in a coldly random universe? The pathological liar is a parody of the normal process of probing the nature of reality, and his spiritual distress is so great that this constant "reality adjustment" becomes compulsive. What he longs for in his heart of hearts is the ultimate release of control: to know G-d and to be protected and loved by Him. And thus (happy human perversity!) he hides this humiliating desire by doing the opposite, and tries to over-control the reality of others like a tyrannical emperor.

There are endless amounts of lies to be told, and even more ways to attempt to justify them. The fact of the matter is that at root there is but one lie: that we are alone and bereft of ultimate meaning. All deception originates from this painful delusion as a means of compensation. When one comes to G-d, the original shock of the veil being lifted imprints on one's heart and continues to unfold throughout one's life, and at some point it hits home that Truth is not something we can own and manipulate for all the myriad purposes we scramble to invent. If G-d is real, then every word that comes out of our mouths has total and complete meaning. The most mundane action or sensation becomes a vehicle for bringing holiness into the world, and the power to communicate given to human beings becomes a tool to be used in the most exacting manner possible.

When we communicate honestly, we are giving the listener the privacy of his own psyche instead of invading it with our existential projections and personal demons. Only by giving up pathological control over others can we attain true mastery of ourselves, because someone who is anxious over the state of their soul cannot truly be in charge of his actions no matter how powerful he is. When the neurotic attachment to control is finally relinquished, we regain the free will that we feared losing so much. In this context, telling the truth becomes a radical declaration of belief rather than a reflexive habit based on the childhood fear of societal censure if a lie is discovered. Since G-d's existence was revealed to humanity through the Word, we are given the imperative to take the utmost care that our own words are being used for their highest purpose.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Untangling the web

Do you lie?

I certainly do. If you're like most people, "innocent white lies" flow out of your mouth so easily that they are hardly noticeable. Others, while not outright malicious, can hardly be attributed to noble incentives: lying to get out of work, lying to get out of an odious social obligation, and lying to just not deal with something that you would otherwise be forced to get done right away (i.e. procrastination). While some lies of omission are merely the polite thing to do to save someone's feelings, small acts of deception definitely add up.

As a spiritual/psychological experiment, I am going to attempt to go 48 hours without telling a single lie, white or otherwise. Many people that I speak to insist to me that they cannot feel anything spiritual no matter what they try (praying, going to church or synagogue, giving charity). What I have discovered is that it is not the overtly sinful acts which most sap our subtle powers of discernment, but the small and insidious ways in which we turn from G-d in our daily lives. Think of the effort that goes into even the smallest lie --- one has to work ten times as hard and expend actual effort to maintain it. If all of these small acts were consciously turned in another direction, imagine how much more mental energy one would have for more "lofty" things!

I will be reporting on the results of my experiment. I invite you to try it, gentle reader --- the only rule is that one may not use the excuse of "telling the truth" to say sadistic things to people.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Just a flesh wound, not dead yet!

Blogger has been eating all of my posts these last few days, neither saving drafts nor publishing my myriad efforts. Quite vexing. More frequent and profound thoughts to come once lab duties are dispensed with over the next few days.

This guy is rather interesting. He's the one who said that hundreds of corpses have been raised from the dead through prayer in Africa and that massive conversions are sweeping the planet. Trust me, I'd be quite thrilled if anything except Islam were really engulfing the globe. However, I have a bit of an issue with the whole raised-from-the-dead thing (especially when it is supposed to be happening in large numbers). Although I believe miracles can and do happen, current miracles require a somewhat higher burden of proof for me since so many things can be faked and there are so many con-men out there. I'd like to hear thoughts on this topic from those more knowledgeable about it than me --- people I know offline are about evenly split on this guy and whether he's even slightly for real.

Speaking of which, I am currently making a study of the 613 mitzvot that I'm expected to follow. It's like OCD on a cosmic level! That sounds like a whopping number, but quite a bit less so if one realizes that many of them cannot be performed since the Temple no longer exists. And plenty of others don't come up very often (like having to marry your brother's widow or how to make a leper ritually pure).

I defy anyone to take a look at #309 without getting the good kind of chills . . . sounds quite familiar, doesn't it?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Sheep, Wolves, War, Deception

This can happen billions of times, and liberals will still fail to get it: most terrorists aren't poor desperate anti-social people but well-respected community members who easily seem kind, intelligent, and peaceful while planning death on a large scale for the naive Westerners around them.

Here's what the Globe had to say of the main London bomber:

Khan was a much-respected teacher's aide who worked with special needs students and ran a breakfast program for poor children. He married into a prominent family; his mother-in-law was honored by Queen Elizabeth II for her charitable work. He was the father of a young daughter and had another child on the way.

As long as this continues to happen, there is no other solution but to deport every last one of them. I don't care how many "nice Muslims" you know ---- you have absolutely NO way of knowing if they are really nice. This guy volunteered to help troubled children and was (like all of them, it's a characteristic trait) soft-spoken and "gentle." Face it: the Koran encourages Muslims to lie and use deception to attain their goal of making the entire world Dar Al-Islam (the House of Islam). Until this end is achieved, the non-Muslim parts of the planet are Dar Al-Harb --- The House of War, a fair-game battlefield where one can kill innocent men, women and children because they are infidels trying to hold back the tide of Islamic domination.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The yuppie dream turns into a nightmare . . .

It's too expensive to be used en masse now, but these new early-pregnancy home gender tests are the first step in what will be a huge cultural battle. Watch how fast liberals will condemn the newest reproductive technologies like this one if they lead to more abortions of female fetuses. Watch them move at light-speed to ban abortion when the "gay gene" is found and everyone starts running tests to find out if they're carrying a homosexual child and basing their decision to keep the baby on it. Watch Marxist minority activists freak out when rich black yuppie couples start aborting fetuses with extremely dark skin in lieu of trying again for a lighter version. It's going to be hilarious.

The technology behind this gender test is truly remarkable and has many applications beyond this simple one --- it instantly detects the presence of fetal cells in the mother's blood (which oddly enough cross the placenta and become noticeable mere hours after conception) and if there is a Y chromosome in them it is obviously a boy and if not it is a girl. Tumors and other diseases produce their own signature, hostile cells and mutated DNA and theoretically this test could be broadened into an all-purpose diagnostic tool that would save lives.

I support a woman's right to an early abortion --- very early, preferably in the first month --- and I further think that the issue should be decided by individual states (ie Roe should be overturned because it was a badly-argued and sleazily constructed ruling, not because abortion should be illegal everywhere). I do not think that the issue should be approached in a hysterical manner, but I can already tell that technology like the above is going to set off a tizzy as the main supporters of abortion experience extreme cognitive dissonance and thus will be forced to change their position. Supporting individual choice as a blanket concept is one thing, but supporting specific choices like aborting a fetus because it will be obese is a pretty large leap and you really can't put specific bans on those things. Either you can get an abortion before a certain time in the pregnancy for any reason, or you cannot get one at all --- the liberals will follow their instincts to regulate everything and will make contradictory laws like "no aborting homosexual fetuses."

If you think the culture wars are hot now, get your tickets for the three-ring circus up ahead.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

GTA: Boston ( I wish)

I have played GTA Vice City until my eyes were practically falling out. I did the same with San Andreas --- neither of them turned me into a violent criminal. I can't stand when sanctimonious twits decide to "investigate" games to find hidden content. Yeah, take all the fun out of it why don't you?

Easter eggs were made to be found. They were NOT made with meaningless ratings in mind. Video games don't make anyone violent, but it is pretty obvious that if someone is already troubled, excessive gaming can make it worse. Big deal --- they could just as easily read a violent book or listen to violent music or make their very own animated clips of stick figures stabbing each other. I happen to relish stabbing prostitutes, shooting cops, ferrying drugs about town and grabbing people out of their cars and then stealing them. Thanks to the fine makers of Grand Theft Auto, I can do those things in the privacy of my own home and improve my hand-eye coordination at the same time.

Females are worse drivers than men, on average. This has to do with all those tired evolutionary facts about different spatial abilities and so on --- however, women would vastly improve their driving abilities if they played video games every day. Whatever you do though, do NOT play this game, because you WILL lose your sanity completely in a matter of hours. Only the Japanese could have invented a game thats so innocuously, gently absurd that you don't notice your white-devil brain cells slowly melting away.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Why London Will Be A Lesson Unheeded

The terror attack on the London subway that killed upwards of 33 people this morning is a wake-up call that no one is going to heed, in England or here in America. Terrorist attacks like this are nearly impossible to prevent unless one decides to turn one's society into a Big Brother environment where all movements of citizens are tracked. However, the further reason why attacks like this cannot (really WILL not) be prevented is that no one is willing to do what is necessary: massive police raids on mosques (prior to their permanent shut-down and the jailing of militant Muslim leaders, who are ubiquitous in London) and a complete stop to all Islamic immigration.

Truthfully, there is really no solution that is humane but to expel them all. Mass slaughter of Muslims is rather bad PR, and isn't necessary. However, just wait for the conspicuous silence of British Muslims about this attack --- there will not be giant marches protesting this "hijacking of Islam," nor will the imams be preaching love and tolerance from their pulpits (maybe a few token words if the press is there). To say that Muslims have failed to police their own is not even an applicable phrase, since they are simply doing the kinds of things that devout Muslims do if they read their Koran and revere Mohammed, the most blood-thirsty of all the "prophets." There are no "moderate Muslims" because Islam does not allow for either moderation or self-criticisms. Moderate Muslims are the fantasy of liberal Westerners who think that Muslims have similar psychological makeups to them. They do not, because an entire religious movement that supports suicide as a means of political expression and believes that the only acceptable universe is one under Sharia law is quite alien to the Western mind.

They can live here for 20 years, seeming perfectly friendly, kind, dignified, and moderate ---- and still be able to murder their friends and neighbors when the time comes. Radical Muslims are the problem, and the rest of them are even worse since they quietly support the actions of the others or give them money and succor. They are intent, as a civilization, on taking us over and bringing all progress to a screeching halt (and then dragging the planet back to a Stone-Age Utopia). They have infiltrated every level of our free and open societies and we are defenseless because of political correctness. At a minimum, British and American authorities should be raiding and shutting down every mosque they can find until thorough investigations have been done, but the only long-term solution is to relocate all of them to some country in the middle of nowhere so that they can have their precious Sharia society without the inflaming presence of infidels and women who dare to show their face in public.

This will not happen, of course, and thus we are going to be destroyed from the inside --- think about it for a minute. If they were in control of any of the Western countries they have infiltrated (any of them: "Palestinians," British Muslims, American Muslims, European Muslims) they would certainly not be showing politically correct attitudes towards Christians, Jews, and atheists. I do not wish to live in a society that ran in such a way as to keep control over the Muslim population, and thus they must be kicked out. I really, really don't care if you came here to escape persecution (so you say) or to study at our colleges --- your entire group has failed to show any evidence of being able to integrate into normal society or to live in harmony with those you disagree with.

The West has been crippled by its own civility and white guilt, and we are going to pay the price. The only blood that will be running in the streets will be our own.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Of suicide and apostasy

The United Church of Christ has voted at their biennial synod to endorse gay marriage (and they would have also divested from Israel if no one had protested but instead they made a deceptive "compromise" which in effect does the same thing).

It is not often that you see a church commit such a public act of suicide, but then again there is a first time for everything. This is the first major Protestant denomination in America to officially endorse full marriage rights fo gays, and they will not be the last.

You can preach tolerance and love for homosexuals and call yourself a Christian. You can denounce physical violence against homosexuals and call yourself a Christian. You can even endorse civil unions and call yourself a Christian. However, the minute you assert --- or continue to support a church that asserts --- that there is such a thing as a "marriage" between two men or two women, you have ceased to be a Christian.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Royal Review: War of the Worlds

Lest you all think I am obsessed with finding political subtexts in movies and cannot enjoy them like a normal person, I will say straight off that War of the Worlds was phenomenally well-done and a blast to watch. You will be on the edge of your seat and panting with adrenaline surges for the entire movie, without so much as a five-second breather. Tom Cruise doesn't have a lot of range, but what he can do he does better than anyone and he is in top form here: he's wild-eyed, funny, sympathetic, and has a magnetic physical presence. The visual effects are startling and original and are not just stuck in to get a cheap "whoa, man" out of the audience --- they build genuine terror and suspense and add real emotional resonance to the story. Because it's Spielberg we just expect technical excellence as a matter of course, but this is an extremely difficult story to do well (there are a million ways he could have blown it in terms of plot pacing and visuals) and he deserves recognition and massive ticket sales for this effort.

* * *

Now for the analysis. While the above praise is true, the underlying theme of the movie is pretty disturbing. Its core message is: Americans cannot and should not fight terrorism and it is futile to even try. Most reviews have commented on the various "allusions" to September 11th, but I think allusion is much too mild a word --- the whole movie is supposed to be a pointed social commentary/allegory about 9/11 and America's response to terrorism. The details to support this are obvious:

1. The aliens were "planted here a long time ago" and "they've been planning this for a million years." Say it with me, children: S-L-E-E-P-E-R C-E-L-L-S!

2. The clothing from the vaporized humans floats to the ground, a visual that is supposed to remind you of the people who jumped out of the towers rather than be burned alive. Also, many of the remains from 9/11 could never be found because they'd all been turned to ashes . . . like the ashes that coat Tom Cruise's face.

3. Several shots of message boards looking for missing or lost family members, accompanied by photographs. Exactly what NYC was plastered with for days and weeks after the attack happened.

4. The church gets split down the middle and destroyed by the emerging aliens. Can't you hear the echo of all the pundits saying "Americans' faith has been SHATTERED by this tragedy! Many are questioning how G-d could let this happen!" after the round-the-clock news coverage on the non-cable channels ended around September 20th?

Tom Cruise plays the hero and thus you are made to sympathize with him, but he is entirely passive and is only trying to survive. He is too stunned to care that aliens are taking over Earth, and the only thing he can muster any energy for is thinking about his own family. The only person in the movie who wants to fight back against the invasion is portrayed as a creepy, irrational lunatic who also seems like a child molester! As soon as lines like "we can't let them have America! This is our land, we need to organize an underground army and fight these bastards! They must have some weakness no matter how strong they seem" started coming out of his mouth I knew that his character would be offed --- and he was, but not before almost getting Ray and his annoying daughter killed with his craaaaaazy bloodlust. The only other armed person in the movie is an immoral man who uses the gun to steal Ray's car and incite a riot over who gets to ride in it.

Ray does use violence eventually, but in typical liberal fashion it is only after he is personally affected (Dakota Fanning gets snatched by marauding aliens). Only after he loses someone close to him can he even contemplate taking action, and the script writers only allowed him to fight the enemy after making a big emotional stand for his cute little moppet in order to justify it.

I felt a genuine thrill when the American fighter jets streaked across the sky and started doing battle with the enemy. I thought "that's right, motherf***ers!" and was happy the movie was finally starting in earnest --- however, the army was ineffective and all of the battle scenes are de-emphasized except to show them getting slaughtered and seeming like bull-headed morons for even trying. The greatest disappointment of the movie was when Ray takes a long look at a statue of a Revolutionary War hero in Boston and notices that the strange bloody vines are dying. I immediately hoped that Spielberg had changed the story and that iron (or whatever the statue was made of) was what was killing the vines and Ray would invent a weapon using it to kill the aliens. That, of course, would have been far too patriotic an idea ---- as it turns out, the big panning shot that focuses on the statue is a red herring that makes you realize what a jingoistic and rote idiot you are for wanting something like that to happen!

Don't fight terrorism. Don't even try. It can't be fought, and if we ignore it, it will probably go away on its own through a combination of factors that are all out of our control. This seems to be what the movie is saying, and this is further demonstrated by the fact that the American army is shown to be cruel (they bypass the desperate people who want a ride and scream "you have room on that truck for me!) and thick-skulled (their fighting is completely in vain and they can't manage to do things right, the only time they down an alien is after they've already been weakened). The movie also clearly labels those who want to fight terrorism and have traditional American sensibilities --- like wanting to form a militia to rid themselves of an invader and otherwise be action-oriented and creative --- as very dangerous people who must be stopped at all costs, lest they get all the poor regular folks killed who are just trying to survive.

This does not make it a bad movie, and on the contrary it is worth seeing and you will emerge from the theater in a state of drained, vaguely elated stupor.

ONE brain cell among the lot of them

Anyone who feels like throwing a grenade at their TV every time they see those sanctimonious and weirdly communistic black-and-white commercials for that "ONE" anti-poverty organization will be happy to know (in that really wrong and juvenile way) that several of my intrepid readers have signed that website's "declaration to wipe out world poverty with pop music concerts" with the name Fuk Yuahl --- and claim to be working on persuading others to do so en masse. I do not endorse this because then it pads their numbers and no one will really check the names anyway . . . But I understand the impulse to vandalize or otherwise mock this campaign. Just another pseudo-socialist ego-fest for celebrities to feel relevant and get free publicity while raising money that will probably go to some African dictator.

They even have their very own trendy sign of idiocy merchandise. Perhaps the Mark is already among us . . .

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Zombies and angels

If you haven't heard about the zombie dogs by now, you are either dead or have no internet connection (which can feel like the same thing). I should probably be slightly creeped out by this innovation, but I can't muster anything but mild wonder--- anything that revives a creature with normal brain function after clinical death doesn't truly qualify as a zombie-making technique. The article didn't mention the dogs turning evil and developing a taste for human flesh, so I am going to cautiously say that this is a positive thing.

Someone I know fell into an icy lake as a child and was revived with no ill effects after being dead and frozen for almost half an hour. What people often fail to realize is that modern medicine does not have a foolproof way of deciding when someone is truly dead --- is it when the heart stops beating? Is it when the brain is silent and free of electrical activity? Is it when someone can't be revived by extraordinary means? Since we have no way of knowing the exact moment of death, sometimes the boundaries can be pushed in quite miraculous ways.

I absolve myself of all responsibility for my lack of posting lately, as it is entirely Vox's fault. I've been reading The War in Heaven at breakneck speed in between lab duties and I will be posting a book review soon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Well Spent

Thank you to the latest anonymous donor! Your five dollars was gobbled up by Massachusetts public transportation, a beast of ravenous appetite and dubious goals (the Big Dig is hard at work eating my tax money as we speak). When the lab I am working in invents a Trek-style beaming device to get me to and from work, I shall duly take down the Amazon donation box.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Boston Janjaweed

Today's Boston Globe carried this scintillating column from the former President of Botswana, detailing what should be done about "the situation" in Sudan. As is usual for anyone writing about Sudan in the mainstream media, he not once manages to make any reference to Muslims, who are in fact the instigators and perpetrators of the horrors that are occurring there. Apparently his solution is to increase the number of "international monitors" (otherwise known as helpless sitting ducks with no power). I fired off this e-mail to the editor which will most likely not be printed:

To the Editor:

Ketumile Masire's column, "Africans Must Save Africa" (op ed, June 25), is an unwitting illustration of why no one is willing to do something effective about Sudan. What no one is willing to say is that this is a vicious civil war funded by radical Islamists who cannot tolerate the presence of non-Muslims in their country, so they are slaughtering and raping the offending infidels. Not once in his column does he mention the words "radical Islam" or "fundamentalist." The only thing that would stop the slaughter is armed troops doing battle with the Janjaweed, but European countries cannot send troops without inflaming their own increasingly militant Muslim populations.

While Masire is correct that African leaders must be integral in stopping this genocide, he does a disservice to the victims in Sudan by referring to the two sides as "contending warriors." This makes them sound equal, when in fact the nearly defenseless non-Muslim Sudanese are being preyed upon by a government-backed Islamic army. If we continue not to mention the elephant in the room because of political correctness, more Sudanese Africans will be slaughtered. The entire world must respond, and Muslims world-wide must unreservedly denounce this government's actions.



Of course, it is clear that no Muslims have or will denounce this because they are in quiet (or not-so-quiet) agreement with the barbarians now enjoying a pleasant jihad against innocent tribespeople with no opposition. Any Muslims who think this is wrong will not dare to speak out from fear of their peers, who have a real penchant for murdering dissenters and "traitors." I just had to put that in so that there might be a slim chance of them publishing it.

America cannot and should not expend resources and risk lives in Sudan, but I regard it as the responsibility of the European countries to do something, although it is clear they never will. They, not we, were the ones who colonized Africa and profited from it, and as they are not currently involved in two wars at the same time I think they can get off their lazy duffs and do something.

You see, in this situation two liberal sacred cows are at war with each other and it is making them confused and uncomfortable. Liberal Platitude #1: Black and brown people are good. We are guilty of doing bad things to black and brown people, so we should help them by any means necessary. Liberal Platitude #2: Islam is a religion of peace! Muslims aren't terrorists! Any time the West goes to war with Muslims it is an exact recreation of the Crusades, which are the fault of Christianity! Their heads are spinning with cognitive dissonance. In this case, though, Muslims are the ones in a position to wreak havoc on Western countries and thus they are going to lean towards Platitude #2 in order to appease them and save their own hides.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Are you dying of thirst?

I shouldn't be so euphoric over something that is in such an early stage of development, but I am. You see, Constant Reader, I have been reading up on the Free State Project due to my impotent anger over the Supreme Court decision to trash my G-d-given property rights. I admit that prior to today, I was mostly ignorant of this project, having only heard it mentioned in passing on Jay Severin's radio show and Vox's web site. For the last few hours I have been reading their site and researching New Hampshire. When the "Porcupines" (as they call themselves) were trying to decide on which state to pick for this undertaking, someone put together a list of 101 Reasons to Move To New Hampshire. I defy anyone to read through that fascinating document and tell me with a straight face that they do not feel a mysterious and overwhelming pull towards the Granite State.

Actually, it isn't so mysterious: New Hampshire has the lowest taxes in the nation, the most transparent state government, a low crime rate, respect for the Second Amendment (which I suspect has something to do with the former), gorgeous natural landscapes, and town-meeting Colonial-style government. It is has the only state Constitution in the nation that legally enshrines the right of the citizens to rebel if the government becomes corrupt. No seat belt laws. No helmet laws. No sales tax. No senators named Clinton or Kennedy.

Oh, and a kick-ass state motto: Live Free or Die!

Living in Massachusetts has its good points (for historical junkies you just can't do better than this place), but every time I visit the Freedom Trail in Boston or eat an ice cream at Faneuil Hall I am painfully reminded that my state has drifted as far as possible away from the principles it once proudly fought for. Everything is taxed to the max, the local town governments are often more-than-averagely corrupt and indebted to the teacher's unions, and as an additional embarrassment we produced both John Kerry and the first legal gay marriage in the country.

Nothing is as good as it seems, but in this case I am hoping that the positives outweigh the negatives. I am considering going to the Porcupine Festival up there in late July. This raging thirst for some real freedom must be slaked --- perhaps New Hampshire is just the long cool draught that I've been looking for.

After cooling down a little bit . . . .

I refuse to believe that nothing can be done.

Hippie-style protesting is fun and gives a venue for immediate venting of anger, but usually it comes to nothing (even if there is violence). Think of how many millions of people protested Gulf War II before it began, all over the world--- all that screaming, yelling, streaking, and giant puppetry was utterly, completely useless.

The only realistic thing I can imagine that would effectively overturn the Supreme Court decision to negate fundamental property rights is to wait for the next seizure of an individual's land for the use of a private company, and then get some hot-shot conservative lawyer and/or Constitutionalist think-tank to take up the case and flog it in the media. Take it all the way through the court system starting at the most local level. Build up a lot of public support and outrage over this and maybe it could reach a point where they would feel enough pressure to reverse the ruling.

Who would be a good lawyer? What would be some good groups or think-tanks or publications to support this kind of stunt?

Oligarchy and Mobocracy come alive!

Those who dismiss people who want to rein in the power of the Supreme Court as right-wing extremists have just gotten a nasty wake-up call. That means that if your community decides to put a shopping mall on your farm or house, they can force you off for the benefit of a private party. This isn't like razing a house to build a highway. This isn't like taking farmland to build a water treatment plant for a city. This is Wal-Mart laying foundation over your garden because your local officials deem that you are getting in the way of the "general good." For once Sandra was on the right side of an issue with her dissent!

Our government has just declared that the inalienable right to own property is now subject to the whims of the mob and those who have more money and power than you.

I will find a way to protest this. Put on your thinking caps, kids.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

If you think of it during the day . . .

My good friend Robert Werner is off to Air Force boot camp at Ellsworth, South Dakota for the next month. Pray that he makes it through in good health --- Jews are obligated to add in the ancient phrase "and G-d forbid he die of heatstroke!"


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Confusion, Delusion, and the Search for the Holy Grail

American society is frequently described by liberals as being too sexually repressed, and by conservatives as being sexually immoral and amoral. From what I have observed among the newest up-and-coming citizens (the 16-22 set), both sides are completely correct in ways that neither fully realize.

The mainstream media talks about teenage and young-adult sexuality in two standard modes, both equally silly and psychologically shallow --- you have the faux-serious soft-porn"20/20" news segments about rampant oral sex among middle-schoolers with pompous commentary from some "adolescent sex therapist expert" and general hand-wringing over how the young'uns are hooking up like monkeys in a zoo, and then you have the shoulder-shrugging liberals who advocate for better sex-ed in school because kids are "going to do it anyway" due to the totally inescapable and all-powerful influence of the Big Bad Media.

[If you are offended by sexual topics, Constant Reader, feel free to stop here.]

A typical conversation among average, secular females in the 16-22 age group will involve extensive details about who one has hooked up with (that's a casual sexual encounter ranging from kissing to intercourse for all you people who missed the 60's, 70's and 90's). However, they almost never supply certain crucial facts, and I always ask them the same simple question: "So, how did that feel?"

Stunned, shocked silence. A puzzled expression from the girl who was describing her adventures. The other girls look at me as if I am from another planet and are vaguely scandalized. A typical reply from the queried one will be a hesitant and confused "uh . . . I dunno. It felt ok, I guess. Yeah." It usually becomes apparent through more questioning that her sexual encounter afforded her little or no physical pleasure and 99% of the time did not result in the Cosmo Magazine Holy Grail. With a bit more coaxing, she will typically admit to never having experienced an orgasm either alone or with her various partners.

What is wrong with this picture?

If asked, these girls will say unequivocally that premarital sex is morally acceptable and that to believe otherwise is prudish and old-fashioned. Any religious person would describe their behavior as sexually immodest. And yet, a bizarre form of prudishness and modesty remains --- in the form of not experiencing the kind of wild abandon and sexual pleasure that a worldview not constricted by traditional values should supposedly yield. They still take on the typically-feminine submissive attitude towards males and do not expect pleasure, because frankly it is not their top concern. They care what the guy thinks of them and if he is having a good time, because they remain emotionally vulnerable --- something which ties in quite directly with their inability to enjoy what they are doing with him.

“Why are you doing that if you’re not feeling anything?” is the question that no one is asking these girls. Religious people tend to think it is scandalous to ask in the first place, and it makes liberals sweat to think that their marvelous social freedom isn’t resulting in their supposed goals. I have asked girls this question many times, and it makes them quite uncomfortable. They have no idea why they are doing these things, and they certainly don’t espouse any kind of traditional feminism that might explain their motivations (at least in their own minds). Saying things like “how about next time you have him do X to you before you even think about doing Y to him, and if X doesn’t work, try Z” makes it quite clear they are not comfortable taking on a dominant or assertive role during sex, and they have neither the courage nor the will to speak up. They remain intensely prudish when talking about actual sexual things despite their constant chatter on the peripheral concerns of the topic.

Real sexuality remains terrifying for the majority of them. They have left behind traditional values but their natures refuse to let them fully acclimate to the new attitudes, and thus they are stuck in a dismal limbo of uncertainty and frustration without the slightest idea of how they got there or what they ought to do about it. Since they no longer have any context for understanding sexuality, their main strategy for coping is to make themselves numb to it by engaging in acts that make them feel nothing and reduce it all to a casual handshake. It is neither the repression of sexuality for the means of elevating it, nor is it an actual indulgence in true pleasure --- the respective goals of the religious and secular camps. The average female has more emotion bound up in sexuality than the average male, and that means the average female will remain incapable of really enjoying being a libertine. Thus, going in the secular direction of making everything more casual will not result in the ultimate goal of unbridled pleasure for the typical female.

This is the worst possible combination of Puritanism and excess --- young women are too paralyzed to enjoy their sexuality while at the same time having lots of sexual contacts for dubious reasons. Despite millions of magazine articles about how to have them, I have met few young women who approach "achieving" orgasms as a sport. Sexual knowledge of any real significance remains woefully lacking despite all the gyrating booty on MTV. Truthfully, many of them seem not to care at all if they are enjoying a sexual encounter as long as they are having one that they can dissect with their friends later (while males can be accused of this as well, they typically enjoy what they are doing).

The religious conservatives equate media images of barely-clad bodies in advertising with sexual immorality and the over-sexualization of the culture. Feminists and other far-left types equate this with sexism, and the fact is that both have missed the mark when it comes to what this all means. The fact is that Americans are not at all obsessed with sex, but merely the image of it, and the saturation of our visual universe with shallow mock-ups of the act only belie our discomfort with sexuality. We are trying very hard to convince ourselves that we’re so cool and modern that we can have sexual images everywhere and have it be normal. Sex is the new wallpaper, and instead of being titillating or scandalous is has merely become incredibly boring (at least visually). How many people even bother to notice such ads and television shows anymore?

When you make something ubiquitous, it loses both its value and its allure. When you make something casual, you numb yourself to its intensity. When you remove any framework for viewing something in, you become uncertain and insecure in your dealings with it.

Of course, this all looks different once a person has found G-d. It takes time, effort, and discipline to re-learn sex as something that isn’t purely recreational and a power trip over others. That does not mean going back to some uptight model where you see sex solely as a method of procreation, to be done guiltily and quickly to get it over with! I know that the Christian view on sex can vary widely according to sect and country (and I would be happy to hear some input from my readers), but my scholarly inquiries into orthodox Judaism’s view of it have been instructive and fascinating.

Everyone knows that Judaism only sanctions sex within a monogamous marriage, but far fewer people know just how concerned they are about making sex holy and enjoyable for all concerned. Every time I hear people clucking their tongues about how patriarchal and repressive Orthodoxy is, I have to laugh --- thousands of years before the word “feminism” was invented, Jews declared sexual pleasure a wife’s right and a husband’s duty. According to the ancient marriage contract (which survives today but with far less literal language), a husband must provide food, clothing, and satisfying sexual relations to his wife and is legally prohibited from reducing the quantity or quality of any of these things. It is forbidden to force your wife to have sex, and it is forbidden for either spouse to withhold sex as a punishment --- either action results in an automatic divorce (with monetary punishment for the offending person) because holiness and trust have departed from the relationship. The Talmud (which was written down in medieval times!) says that “to have intercourse with one’s wife without foreplay is cruel” and that one “should use soft words and caresses to arouse her.”

There is an entire subset of ritual law regarding sex between husband and wife which is still practiced today, and although it seems bizarre at first, the benefits of it become apparent with further investigation: taharat ha’mishpaha (the laws of family purity). This basically means that for the duration of a woman’s menstrual period and for seven full days after it ends, the couple must abstain from sexual contact; this period of separation ends when she immerses in a ritual bath called the mikvah. When I read the classical commentaries on these laws, which were written thousands of years ago, I was positively shocked to hear how “modern” they were. These laws have many purposes, some important ones being: 1. So that the couple must build an emotional and intellectual connection apart from their physical attraction, 2. So that the man does not come to think of his wife as a slave or a piece of property only there for his enjoyment, 3. To keep the spark of passion alive by forcing the two to yearn for each other periodically, and 4. To give each partner an official “break” so that neither will feel inadequate if they have differing levels of libido.

Contrast this structured system, with its legal protections and rules to ensure the sexual and emotional well-being of wives, with the haphazard and frequently miserable sexual encounters of the girls mentioned above. When you control your basic urges and give them a proper outlet, they are made holy and are ultimately more pleasurable to experience. This is not an idea that finds much of a mainstream audience these days because people are mistakenly convinced that religion offers only insufferable restrictions and that to restrict sexuality is to deny that it exists.

It is apparent to perceptive observers that “the media” and all objectionable themes found therein are not the cause of immoral sexual behavior among young people but a symptom of a very bizarre cultural relationship to sexuality that embraces the most backwards aspects of religion and secular humanism. There is no “middle ground” between humanism and real religion (humanism just steals the warm-and-fuzzy stuff from monotheism and leaves out the responsibility and Divine origin), nor does there need to be in this case. People --- especially young people --- simply need to be exposed to the idea that religion has a sane, exciting, and psychologically acute solution to the problems that sex without structure often presents. That might be the only thing that will put those annoying and clueless sex therapist "experts" out of business for good.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Once again, money solves nothing

***Update*** The link to the article works now, go and read it --- rather shocking. And for those who are not well-aquainted with the AIDS activist subculture, anyone making a film that "blames the victim" and puts any responsibility on Africans is definitely doing something difficult and worthy of praise.

* * *

If you've got a strong stomach, take a look at this article about a brave film maker who is daring to challenge the incredibly dangerous sexual attitudes among Africans that are continuing to undermine any efforts by Western countries to help with the AIDS epidemic.

I am completely opposed to the Bush administration's donation of billions of dollars in "AIDS relief" to Africa. While it is possible he actually believes that it is his Christian duty to help the poor and desperate, it is clear that the main motivation for this groveling act was to try and appease the global outcry against American "arrogance" and "cruelty." Here's some old news, Mr. President: whatever America does right will never be enough to quiet the moaning and groaning of impotent Third-Worlders and cowardly Europeans. I've heard activists frequently deride Bush's 15 billion dollar contribution as "too little" (after all, that's only a fraction of our resources!) and they claim that the money is worse than useless because they have dared to insist that abstinence is a good way to prevent AIDS.

In the first place, spending billions to provide medication for promiscuous people with an incurable disease just might be the worst idea I have ever heard --- you are only keeping them alive so that they can spread the illness to others. Every pill paid for by a guilty Western country is also a death warrant for any number of currently uninfected Africans. It is only prolonging what is inevitable at this point in history, not to mention the fact that if they don't take their medicine on time (something that is quite a problem in rural areas of Africa) it is very possible that entirely drug-resistant and mutated forms of the virus might emerge and hop across the Atlantic.

I see no reason to help people who refuse to take any responsibility for their actions or their culture. American feminists who get upset about golf courses and glass ceilings would do well to investigate the conditions under which vast numbers of African women live --- cultural misogyny is widespread and real, manifesting in the actions of men on a daily basis. We're talking about frequent infidelity involving unprotected sex with prostitutes and G-d knows what else, men who couldn't care less about infecting their wives with AIDS. Women spread AIDS too, but it is much harder for a woman to give it to a man than vice versa, and thus it is male behaviour that will have to change the most.

If we spend a single penny on medication or condom distribution, we are spending too much. Condoms might reduce the infection rate a bit (although many African males refuse to wear them due to their contempt for women and their own willful fatalism), but they will not address the underlying problems which are fueling this epidemic.

I see no real solution for this problem except massive, continent-wide conversion to Christianity, to tell the truth. Sex is too immediate a pleasure and an escape from misery to get people to abstain from it for purely material reasons --- people have to believe that there is a higher reason. Evangelical and Catholic missionaries are making some good headway, but a focused campaign would probably have amazing results as well --- if fewer Christians went there to encourage condom use or to exhort people to take their medicine or to help with concrete relief efforts and instead focused exclusively on conversion, that would ultimately have the greater impact. Virginity until marriage must become the ideal, even if it is not the norm for a long time. They can't continue on with their current culture and habits and expect to escape the brutality of natural selection.