Monday, February 12, 2007

Dog Hugs Baby

Why Christians are wrong to distrust atheists

Some time ago, Ronald Reagan pointed out that one couldn't trust the Soviet government because the Soviets didn't believe in God or in an afterlife and therefore had no reason to behave honorably, but would be willing to lie and cheat and do all sorts of wicked things to aid their cause. Naturally, I firmly believe that the president of the United States knows what he is talking about, so I've done my very best to puzzle out the meaning of that statement.

Let me begin by presenting this "Reagan Doctrine" (using the term with all possible respect): "No one who disbelieves in God and in an afterlife can possibly be trusted." If this is true (and it must be if the president says so), then people are just naturally dishonest and crooked and downright rotten. In order to keep them from lying and cheating every time they open their mouths, they must be bribed or scared out of doing so. They have to be told and made to believe that if they tell the truth and do the right thing and behave themselves, they will go to heaven and get to plunk a harp and wear the latest design in halos. They must also be told and made to believe that if they lie and steal and run around with the opposite sex, they are going to hell and will roast over a brimstone fire forever.

It's a little depressing, if you come to think of it. By the Reagan Doctrine, there is no such thing as a person who keeps his word just because he has a sense of honor. No one tells the truth just because he thinks that it is the decent thing to do. No one is kind because he feels sympathy for others, or treats others decently because he likes the kind of world in which decency exists.

Instead, according to the Reagan Doctrine, anytime we meet someone who pays his debts, or hands in a wallet he found in the street, or stops to help a blind man cross the road, or tells a casual truth -- he's just buying himself a ticket to heaven, or else canceling out a demerit that might send him to hell. It's all a matter of good, solid business practice; a matter of turning a spiritual profit and of responding prudently to spiritual blackmail.

Personally, I don't think that I -- or you -- or even president Reagan -- would knock down an old lady and snatch her purse the next time we're short a few bucks. If only we were sure of that heavenly choir, or if only we were certain we wouldn't get into that people-fry down in hell. But by the Reagan Doctrine, if we didn't believe in God and in an afterlife, there would be nothing to stop us, so l guess we all would.

But let's take the reverse of the Reagan Doctrine. If no one who disbelieves in God and in an afterlife can possibly be trusted, it seems to follow that those who do believe in God and in an afterlife can be trusted. Since the American government consists of god-fearing people who believe in an afterlife, it seems pretty significant that the Soviet Union nevertheless would not trust us any farther than they can throw an ICBM. Since the Soviets are slaves to godless communism, they would naturally think everyone else is as evil as they are. Consequently, the Soviet Union's distrust of us is in accordance with the Reagan Doctrine.

Yet there are puzzles. Consider Iran. The Iranians are a god-fearing people and believe in an afterlife, and this is certainly true of the mullahs and ayatollahs who comprise their government. And yet we are reluctant to trust them for some reason. President Reagan himself has referred to the Iranian leaders as "barbarians."

Oddly enough, the Iranians are reluctant to trust us, either. They referred to the ex-president (I forget his name for he is never mentioned in the media anymore) as the "Great Satan" and yet we all know that the ex- president was a born-again Christian.

There's something wrong here. god-fearing Americans and god-fearing Iranians don't trust each other and call each other terrible names. How does that square with the Reagan Doctrine?

To be sure, the God in whom the Iranians believe is not quite the God in whom we believe, and the afterlife they believe in is a little different from ours. There are no houris, alas, in our heaven. We call our system of belief Christianity and they call theirs Islam, and come to think of it, for something like twelve centuries, good Christians believed Islam was an invention of the devil and believers in Islam ("Moslems") courteously returned the compliment so that there was almost continuous war between them. Both sides considered it a holy war and felt that the surest way of going to heaven was to clobber an infidel. What's more, you didn't have to do it in a fair and honorable way, either. Tickets of admission just said, "Clobber!"

This bothers me a little. The Reagan Doctrine doesn't mention the variety of god or afterlife that is concerned. It doesn't indicate that it matters what you call God -- Allah, Vishnu, Buddha, Zeus, Ishtar. I don't think that president Reagan meant to imply a Moslem couldn't trust a Shintoist or that a Buddhist couldn't trust a Parsee. I think it was just the godless Soviets he was after.

Yet perhaps he was just being cautious in not mentioning the fact that the variety of deity counted. But even if that were so there are problems.

For instance, the Iranians are Moslems and the Iraqi are Moslems. Both are certain that there is no god but Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet and believe it with all their hearts. And yet, at the moment, Iraq doesn't trust Iran worth a damn, and Iran trusts Iraq even less than that. If fact, Iran is convinced that Iraq is in the pay of the Great Satan (that's god-fearing America, in case you've forgotten) and Iraq counters with the accusation that it is Iran who is in the pay of the great Satan. Neither side is accusing the godless Soviets of anything, which is a puzzle.

But then, you know, they are Moslems and perhaps we can't just go along with any old god. I can see why Reagan might not like to specify, since it might not be good presidential business to offend the billions of people who are sincerely religious but lack the good taste to be Christians. Still, just among ourselves, and in a whisper, perhaps the only people you can really trust are good Christians.

Yet even that raises difficulties. For instance, I doubt that anyone can seriously maintain that the Irish people are anything but god-fearing, and certainly they don't have the slightest doubts concerning the existence of an afterlife. Some are Catholics and some are Protestants, but both of these Christian varieties believe in the Bible and in God and in Jesus and in heaven and in hell. Therefore, by the Reagan Doctrine, the people of Ireland should trust each other.

Oddly enough, they don't. In Northern Ireland there has been a two-sided terrorism that has existed for years and shows no sign of ever abating. Catholics and Protestants blow each other up every chance they get and there seems to be no indication of either side trusting the other even a little bit.

But then, come to think of it, Catholics and Protestants have had a thing about each other for centuries. They have fought each other, massacred each other, and burned each other at the stake. And at no time was this conflict fought in a gentlemanly, let's-fight-fair manner. Any time you caught a heretic or an idolater (or whatever nasty name you wanted to use) looking the other way, you sneaked up behind him and bopped him and collected your ticket to heaven.

We can't even make the Reagan Doctrine show complete sense here in the United States. Consider the Ku Klux Klan. They don't like the Jews or the Catholics, but then, the Jews don't accept Jesus and the Catholics do accept the Pope, and these fine religious distinctions undoubtedly justify distrust by a narrow interpretation of the Reagan Doctrine. The protestant Ku Klux Klan can only cotton to Protestants.

Blacks, however, are predominantly protestant, and of southern varieties, too, for that is where their immediate ancestors learned their religion. Ku Kluxers and Blacks have very similar religions and therefore even by a narrow interpretation of the Reagan Doctrine should trust each other. It is difficult to see why they don't.

What about the Moral Majority? They're absolute professionals when it comes to putting a lot of stock in God and in an afterlife. They practice it all day, apparently. Naturally, they're a little picky. One of them said that God didn't listen to the prayers of a Jew. Another refused to share a platform with Phyllis Schlafly, the moral majority's very own sweetheart, because she was a Catholic. Some of them don't even require religious disagreements, just political ones. They have said that one can't be a liberal and a good Christian at one and the same time so that if you don't vote right, you are going straight to hell whatever your religious beliefs are. Fortunately, at every election they will tell you what the right vote is so that you don't go to hell by accident.

Perhaps we shouldn't get into the small details, though. The main thing is that the Soviet Union is Godless and, therefore, sneaky, tricky, crooked, untrustworthy, and willing to stop at nothing to advance their cause. The United States is god-fearing and therefore forthright, candid, honest, trustworthy, and willing to let their cause lose sooner than behave in anything but the most decent possible way.

It bothers the heck out of me therefore that there's probably not a country in the world that doesn't think the United States, through the agency of the CIA and its supposedly underhanded methods, has upset governments in Guatemala, Chile, and Iran (among others), has tried to overthrow the Cuban government by a variety of economic, political, and even military methods, and so on. In every country, you'll find large numbers who claim that the United States fought a cruel and unjust war in Vietnam and that it is the most violent and crime-ridden nation in the world.

They don't seem to be impressed by the fact that we're god-fearing.

Next they'll be saying that Ronald Reagan (our very own president) doesn't know what he's talking about.

Smoking Pot Costs U.S. Taxpayers $1 Billion a Year. Treating Nearly Half of All Americans as Criminals: Priceless

According to the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), "Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004," 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug violations are serving time for marijuana offenses. This turns into it costing U.S. taxpayers more than $1 billion a year to keep pot heads locked up. That can be turned into 1 out of 8 American drug prisoners are locked up for marijuana.

Paul Armentado (AlterNet) reports that according to the most recent figures available from the FBI, police arrested an estimated 786,545 people on marijuana charges in 2005 -- more than twice the number of Americans arrested just 12 years ago. Among those arrested, about 88 percent -- some 696,074 Americans -- were charged with possession only. The remaining 90,471 individuals were charged with "sale/manufacture," a category that includes all cultivation offenses, even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use. These totals are the highest ever recorded by the FBI, and make up 42.6 percent of all drug arrests in the United States.

Marijuana isn't a harmless substance, and those who argue for a change in the drug's legal status do not claim it to be. However, pot's relative risks to the user and society are arguably fewer than those of alcohol and tobacco, and they do not warrant the expenses associated with targeting, arresting and prosecuting hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.

What You Didn't Know About Diamonds

Want an easy way to save 3+ months’ salary? Don’t buy a diamond engagement ring. If your fiancĂ©e, friends and family scream hellfire, calmly explain:

It’s just marketing. The whole “A Diamond is Forever” and the idea of a diamond engagement ring is not an ancient tradition to be revered and followed. It is Sprite’s “Obey Your Thirst.” It is Nike’s “Just Do It.” It is Gary Dahl’s “Pet Rock.” Not only did De Beers understand it had to control supply (buying up and closing down any diamond mine discovered), they had to control demand. They had to make it sentimental. And Americans were the perfect suckers. They targeted the US specifically for our marketability. This campaign is less than 70 years old yet has become so ingrained in our culture that the diamond engagement ring has become the ultimate symbol of how much the relationship, the girl, and love itself is worth.

Diamonds aren’t rare. Fine, using marketing tactics can’t be blamed since that’s part of the game of capitalism. But another part of the game is competition. It’s all well and good if marketers can convince consumers to buy them instead of the competition based on a nice slogan, but the competition should be there to protect the consumer. All gems are valued based on their rarity (as are most things in life). But diamonds are abundant. De Beers has a huge vault where they keep most of the world’s supply of diamonds. If it ever got released into the market, the way it would be if they weren’t a monopoly, diamonds would be worth nothing. It’s literally a pretty rock.

Diamonds have no resale value. The reason a “diamond is forever” is because you’re basically stuck with it. You’ll never be able to resell it except to a pawn shop. Even a jeweler (the few who would be willing to buy it) would offer a fraction of what you paid.

Synthetic diamonds will flood the market. Synthetic or “cultured” diamonds are already being made and within the next few years, will be efficiently made for the mass market. These are real diamonds. They are made in a machine that replicates the environmental forces that make diamonds. The only difference is that they’re better. They have less flaws. And they cost a fraction of the going rate. Want a 2-carat pink diamond? That’ll be a few thousand dollars.

Moissanite looks just like a diamond. Jewelers had to upgrade their equipment to detect Moissanite from diamonds when it came into the market. It’s undetectable with the naked eye. And it’s actually more brilliant. A 1-carat ring is under $1000.

Who is the ring for, anyway? Seriously. As The Dilettante so poignantly put it, “For women, comparing jewelry is our phallic posturing contest: look at how big MY dic….er, I mean, diamond is.” It’s fun to show off for about 30 seconds. After that there is little to show for the debt incurred for the shiny piece of rock. That money could have gone into furniture, an amazing trip (or many nice ones), your future kids’ college funds!!

Are these reasons still not enough? Watch Blood Diamond. It is high time Hollywood dared to broach the subject of diamonds, especially when they had a hand in marketing it to the public in the first place. Blood Diamond, is an explicit example of the blood and war that has spanned the entire history of the De Beers’ diamond cartel. The story of Sierra Leone isn’t an isolated event, nor is the conflict over just because the movie says there’s peace in Sierra Leone now.

What are conflict/blood diamonds? Conflict/blood diamonds are used by rebel groups to fuel conflict and civil wars, and by terrorist groups to finance their activities.

The Kimberley Process is just PR. It’s an agreement that is supposed to prevent conflict diamonds from getting into the market but ended up being more of a PR stunt since it’s based on a system of self-policing. The UN reported in October 2006 that due to poor enforcement of the Kimberley Process, $23 million of conflict diamonds from Cote d’lvoire alone entered the legitimate market. Sure De Beers won’t buy diamonds coming out of Cote d’lvoire, but they’ll turn a blind eye to the smuggling of diamonds from there through Ghana and Mali where they are certified as being conflict-free.

Percentage in the market. During the height of the diamond conflict in the 1990s, the diamond industry reported that no more than 4% of the diamonds in the market were conflict diamonds, when in reality it has been shown to be closer to 15% .

Asking for conflict-free certificates is not enough. In April 2006 after a scathing report by Partnership Africa Canada about activities in Brazil, an internal review showed that 49 of 147 Kimberley Process certificates were fraudulent. Besides these fraudulent certificates, real certificates could still be issued if conflict diamonds were smuggled and mixed with legally traded ones before being certified.

Children in India are cutting and polishing the diamonds. Children in India can become “bonded” – forced to work to pay off the debts of their family. These children end up working in the diamond factories.

Children in conflict zones are being used as soldiers. The images in Blood Diamond with child soldiers are very real. They are drugged and brainwashed to handle the manslaughter they are forced to do.

Jennifer Connelly says in the movie Blood Diamond, “People back home would not buy a diamond if they knew it cost someone their hand.” Now you know.

Kevin Costner To Become Father For Fourth Time

Four time's the charm for Kevin Costner!

The actor and his wife Christine Baumgartner have announced they are expecting their first child together.

Costner - who has three children from his previous marriage to Cindy Silva - is delighted at the prospect of becoming a father for the fourth time.

His publicist Paul Bloch said, "They're very excited, very happy about the pregnancy."

The 52-year-old actor-and-director - who recently starred in "The Guardian" with Ashton Kutcher - married Christine in September 2004, ten years after his divorce from Cindy.

Guests at Costner's second wedding included Oprah, Oliver Stone and Bruce Willis.

The Oscar-winning star celebrated the union by taking his new bride for a canoe ride.

Costner has two daughters, 22-year-old Annie, 20-year-old Lily and a son, Joe, who is 18.

Anna Nicole Was In A "Terrible State" Before She Died Says Friend

While the cause of Anna Nicole Smith's sudden death remains a mystery, a friend of the models has revealed that she was in a "terrible state."

A source close to Smith, who had a rough few months which included the death of her son coinciding with the birth of her daughter and multiple pending court cases, reveals the star called in a hysterical state just days before she died.

The friend told Britain's News Of The World newspaper, "Anna was in a terrible state. She said, 'I've given up-I can't go on'. You always knew with Anna that life was never simple. But this time she seemed different. And I was really afraid for her."

The friend says she tried to lighten Smith's mood by reminding her of her newborn daughter, Dannielynn.

The friend continued, "I kept saying, 'Anna, babe, you are not going to do anything stupid. Anna, please be careful. She said, 'I will, honey, I will'. But I was seriously worried she didn't mean it this time. She'd been self-destructing for years with all the drugs she was taking. She wanted to die...In the last few weeks she'd become very withdrawn and quiet-almost childlike. She told me time and again that even though she had a new-born baby she had nothing to live for. She kept saying, 'What is there for me? What is the point of going on?' I remember saying, 'Come on-what about your baby? She needs you more than ever.' Anna said, 'I know, I know. But it's hard.'"

While drugs have yet to be labeled the reason for Smith's sudden death, the friend has confirmed that Smith was taking a cocktail of narcotics to help with her depression and anxiety.

She said, "She took the anti-depressants just so she could get up in a morning and she didn't always take them according to the directions. She'd just slug a couple down if she was getting anxious...The doctors told her to stop taking the drugs to see if that stabilized things. She didn't though. She couldn't cope without them."

However, the insider does not believe Smith took her own life, despite her depression.

The source concluded, "I don't know if Anna committed suicide, but I do know that she wanted to die. I think maybe her body just said, 'I've had enough.'"

Anna Nicole Smith left behind a baby daughter and a bitter paternity case, in which three different men are fighting for the right to call Dannielynn their own.

Britney’s having marathon sex sessions

Britney Spears’ most recent ex beau, model Isaac Cohen has revealed that the singer is close to breaking point, and that the only time she is not in torment, is when she is indulging in marathon sex sessions.

Cohen, who started dating Britney soon after she split from hubby Kevin Federline following a two-year marriage, revealed that the singer was still ‘not over’ the split when he met her.

"It was clear she was not over her marriage. The first time she invited me to her home I saw her wedding dress hung on the wall in a glass box. As we made love that night it was like Kevin was in bed beside us. She had not even begun to move on with her life," the News of the World quoted him, as saying.

The model also revealed that Spears was most at peace when she was having sex, but once that was over, she would become the ‘little girl lost’.

"She loves sex and is incredibly adventurous. She was totally happy when we were locked in each other's arms. But once the sex stopped Britney was like a little girl lost, unable to cope.

"She would lie like a limp rag doll in my arms and and say, ‘Why can't everyone leave me alone?' and, ‘What have I done to deserve this?'" Cohen revealed.

According to Cohen, the mum-of-two is also constantly racked with insecurities where her figure is concerned.

"Like any woman who has had two children she worried about her figure. As far as I was concerned she was gorgeous, but she had such low self esteem she sometimes would not listen.

"She would say, ‘Am I fat? Am I fat?' then spend hours dancing around the house trying to burn off calories. She was always jumping around," he said.

And, Britney’s fragile emotional side also came to the fore when she was often so depressed that she would not bother about the way she looked.

"Other times, she got so low she didn't care what she looked like. She could not care less some days if she went out of the house without brushing her hair or checking to see if her outfit matched.

"That's just where she was in her life. She had so much on her plate with the children she had precious little time to worry about how she looked," he said.

And though the singer has been slammed as being an unfit mother, Cohen insists that there is no two people Britney loves more in the world than her sons – Sean Preston and Jayden James.

"Her boys mean everything to her and she worried she might lose them in a custody battle," he said.

Cohen and Spears split earlier this year following a six-week relationship.