Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Hitchens on Dead Pope

Hitchens' politics are a bit strange: he professes to be leftist and anti-religious, but he did support the Iraqi war, though more as a supporter of Blair than of Bush. I think he should have rallied for Kerry a bit more. My feelings towards Mr. Hitchens are a bit ambivalent, yet one cannot deny the power and style of his somewhat Swiftian prose.

"Without, it seems, quite noticing what they are saying, the partisans of the late pope have been praising him for his many apologies. He apologized to the Jewish people for the Vatican's glacial coldness during the Final Solution, and for historic filiations between the church and anti-Semitism. He apologized to the Eastern Orthodox Christians, and to the Muslims, for the appalling damage done to civilization by papal advocacy of the Crusades, and by forced conversion and massacre in the Balkans during the church's open alliance with fascism during World War II. He apologized to the world of science and reason by admitting that Galileo should not have been condemned by the Inquisition. These are not small climb-downs, and they do not apply just to the past. They are and were admissions that the Roman Catholic Church has been responsible for the retarding of human development on a colossal scale."

Dead Pope

Monday, April 18, 2005

End Democracy Now

The assumption that voting somehow is innately equitable or democratic is one of the greatest farces of American politics: not only does Chimpy McBushCo's re-election show that, so does the CA recall and the ascendency of Schwarzenegger, California's cartoon King. Education requirements, poll tests, etc. however un-populist they may seem, might be in dems and 3rd party interests. A poll test would not play well with poor urban minorities but might keep large numbers of uneducated, redneck bible-thumpers out of the voting booth.

Establishing some criteria to insure voter intelligence/fitness is no more absurd than say a college professor giving tests to insure student intelligence/fitness. Is the right answer to dy/dx sin (Pi*x) a matter of raising hands in the math classroom?

Yes, it certainly could be dangerous--i.e. if fundamentalists or organized criminals got in control of voting process (oh that's right they already have)--but not so much more dangerous than thinking a popular vote leads to equitable politics. Plato himself disparaged democracy and a popular vote in the Republic; majorities supported Hitler and Mussolini. What if say Larry Flynt (who garnered over 200 thousand votes in CA recall) had actually triumphed in California recall? Flyntville would hardly seem an acceptable democracy.

I brought this up on a blog and some of the resident academic liberals were a bit irked. But what is really irksome is the sentimental liberal's trust in the masses, the naive hope that the underclasses will all perceive the great truths of democracy and eventually start voting in qualified, rational candidates and propositions.

Remember the California propositions in the last election? 64 for instance. Thanks to some high-priced ads paid for by the corporate deep pockets, the corporate boys got out the message that this law would be like a Prop 13 reform, and keep attorneys from making excess profits etc. But what it really did is protect corporations from lawsuits and in effect reverse decades of decent environmental policies that allowed people and groups to sue corporations. So an injust or at least oligarchic prop. was put into effect. It would be easy to think of many other examples of unpleasant policies and laws put into effect by popular mandate, or by politicians put into office by popular vote. And in addition to voter intelligence tests, requiring some modicum of education for aspiring candidates--economic and historical education if not scientific--would be a prudent course. I think people should be aware of whether the Governator really knows what say present and future value is. Or something like that.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

John Paul II does seem to have been a very decent, ethical, and erudite man. He spoke numerous languages, and was, as the obituary writers say, "an avid sportsman." He fought against the nazis and later the stalinists: the catholic poles certainly did not have an easy existence from about 1938 to 1945 (nor did the polish jews or ukrainians either). Many died at both nazi and stalinist hands; the atrocity of Katyn, where thousands of polish officers were slaughtered at the hands of Stalin's NKVD , may be one of the most brutal acts of the 20th century.

Yet Catholicism was and is not the answer. In fact it's quite absurd--absurd in both ordinary and philosophical sense-- that someone would, after surviving the terror of nazis and stalinists, decide to join a church that proclaims that a "God" exists who would allow such horrendous brutality. Not only is the concept of God itself quite indefensible ( and more so after WWII), the catholic tradition is rife with irrational, unscientific and anti-humanist doctrines. The mass itself is ludicrous, as are the attitudes toward birth control: for the real implications of Catholic family planning spend a few days in one of the massive slums of any Central or South American city. And yet the Catholics keep marching on. Recently a monumental cathedral was finished in LA, courtesy of Roger O Mahoney, the Cardinal who has refused to turn over names in the priest sex scandals. And the cathedral, however beautiful (featuring works of art from leading LA artistes, such as Grahams' massive, plebian Maria) is another Temple to Irrationality which does little to nothing to help solve real social and economic problems.
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