Friday, February 27, 2009

Nicole Helget Reading in Winona Tonight

Nicole Helget will be reading from her novel The Turtle Catcher at The Book Shelf in Winona on Friday, February 27th at 7:00 PM. Helget is also the author of a memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways.

You can see a video interview with Helget here.

United Nations Blasphemy Resolution

I am not a fan of Lou Dobbs nor am I a United Nations-phobe, but I think this story from his show is an important one. If the reporting is accurate, the United Nations is considering a binding resolution that would make acts of blasphemy illegal. A non-binding version (meaning that the members of the U.N. do not have to enforce it or incorporate it into their law books) has already passed, but now a binding resolution of the law is being put forward. Such a law would make any criticism of religion a crime and invalidate the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

I find it unlikely that this would pass as a binding resolution, as it would undo every progressive speech law since the Enlightenment, but the fact that it was even passed as a nonbinding resolution is an outrage. The U.N., by passing this kind of resolution, puts secularism and free speech on the defensive and gives legitimacy and credibility to theocracy and despotism.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mother Teresa Documentary

In honor of Ash Wednesday, here is Christopher Hitchens' documentary Hell's Angel: Mother Teresa of Calcutta. This is an adaptation of Hitchens' book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. It covers most of the basic points of Hitchens' book. An updated version would be nice to see, given that we now know that Mother Teresa did not believe the nonsense she was selling.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dump Bachman Blog

Here is another blog to check out when you're not reading this one:

This site is dedicated to exposing the lies and outrages of one of the craziest members of the United States Congress: Minnesota's very own Michele Bachman.

The blog cites one of Bachman's most recent train wreck moments, where she claims that ACORN is getting five billion dollars in the new stimulus bill.

Spoiler Alert: ACORN isn't getting anything.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eric Holder on Black History Month

Check out Eric Holder, the new (and first African American) Attorney General, giving an intelligent and provocative speech on Black History month. I think this speech is at least on par with Obama's much praised speech from the presidential campaign but Holder takes the issue a few steps further and is much more direct about how we as a culture have failed to deal with racial issues.

Some of the reporting on this speech has focused on Holder's accusation that Americans have become cowards in their dealing with racial history. But I think this particular section was the most provocative and the most interesting:

Black history is extremely important because it is American history. Given this, it is in some ways sad that there is a need for a black history month. Though we are all enlarged by our study and knowledge of the roles played by blacks in American history, and though there is a crying need for all of us to know and acknowledge the contributions of black America, a black history month is a testament to the problem that has afflicted blacks throughout our stay in this country. Black history is given a separate, and clearly not equal, treatment by our society in general and by our educational institutions in particular. As a former American history major I am struck by the fact that such a major part of our national story has been divorced from the whole. In law, culture, science, athletics, industry and other fields, knowledge of the roles played by blacks is critical to an understanding of the American experiment. For too long we have been too willing to segregate the study of black history. There is clearly a need at present for a device that focuses the attention of the country on the study of the history of its black citizens. But we must endeavor to integrate black history into our culture and into our curriculums in ways in which it has never occurred before so that the study of black history, and a recognition of the contributions of black Americans, become commonplace. Until that time, Black History Month must remain an important, vital concept. But we have to recognize that until black history is included in the standard curriculum in our schools and becomes a regular part of all our lives, it will be viewed as a novelty, relatively unimportant and not as weighty as so called "real" American history.

What Holder says here is both brave and true and he manages to strike at what is perhaps the biggest obstacle yet in progressing to a point of racial equality - overcoming the ghettoizing of minority cultural studies as separate from the study of "real" American history or culture. This is done by the dominant culture but also by minorities, keeping themselves and their subculture separate from the mainstream culture under the auspices of maintaining its"authenticity" and "protecting" it from mainstream adoption and evaluation. While there is some point to taken here (such as the risk of having the worth and traditions of a subculture evaluated based upon the norms of the dominant culture), isolation from within or from without does not help anybody and results in a stalemate. That stalemate and our unwillingness to acknowledge the fear and uncertainty that fosters and supports it degrades all of us.

Read the full text of the speech here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday, Darwin!

I did not get around to posting anything for the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, so here is a video of Rachel Maddow interviewing Dr. Edward Larson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Summer of the Gods, which is about the Scopes Trial (dramatized in the film Inherit the Wind). I think the interview does a nice job of summarizing where the public discourse about Darwin's theories is now and what challenges are left. Rather disconcerting is a Gallup poll that indicates that twenty-five percent of the public do not believe in evolution and another thirty-six percent have no opinion. But, as Larson points out, it took the Catholic Church 300 years to acknowledge that the Earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa, so maybe this is progress.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Prop 8 Video

If my previous post and Keith Olbermann's Special Comment did not spur anyone to outrage over Proposition 8, perhaps this video clip of the families who risk being ripped apart by it will.

Monday, February 09, 2009

REMINDER: Post-9/11 Lecture Wednesday, Feb. 11

On Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 I will be presenting a lecture as a part of the Antheneum Series at Winona State University's Krueger Library. Presentations in the series are held on the second floor of the library and are free and open to the public.

The presentation is titled "From Michael Moore to Batman: A Survey of Post 9-11 Cinema" and I will examine how filmmakers, primarily those working in Hollywood, have dealt with the attack and its aftermath either explicitly or thematically in a wide variety of genres, from documentaries to historical dramas to comic book adaptations.

The presentation is free and open to the public.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Meet Winona's Former Rector

Today's edition of the Winona Daily News has an interesting cover story. A few days ago I blogged an entry about the Pope promoting to the position of bishop a clergyman who called Hurricane Katrina God's punishment for homosexuality. At the bottom of the post I had also mentioned the Pope's recent reinstatement of Richard Williamson, a bishop who had denied the Holocaust.

As it turns out, Williamson was stationed in Winona, Minnesota for fifteen years. Not only that, he taught at the local seminary. And not only did he teach, he was the seminary's rector. (For those who don't speak Catholic, a rector is the spiritual and administrative leader of a parish and/or seminary.)

The article in the Winona Daily News has an amusing sidebar of quotes from Williamson during his time here:

“There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies. The Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new State of Israel. ... Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil, and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism.“ (From a speech in 1989 at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes church in Sherbrooke, Canada.)

“The Jews have come closer and closer to fulfilling their substitute-Messianic drive towards world dominion.“ (From an October 2001 letter to friends and benefactors of SSPX)

“Judeo-Masonry brought about the first two World Wars." (From a September 2002 letter)

“God’s punishment has surely started, but will surely not finish, with the September 11 attack on the United States.”

“Politically, behind the Arab terrorists are most likely the would-be architects of the New World Order, who have long been using the United States as an instrument to achieve their control of the world.” (From an October 2001 letter)

“Because of all kinds of natural reasons, almost no girl should go to any university!“

“Woman’s nature is intrinsically geared to motherhood, so that in all things pertaining to motherhood she is man’s superior, in all else she is his inferior." (From a September 2001 letter)

“The sin is so unnatural that Mother Church ranks it alongside murder.“

“What is ‘innate,’ or in-born, in human nature concerning homosexuality is a violent repugnance.” (From a September 2001 letter)

This is the man who was teaching the next generation of Catholic leaders and providing guidance to those who attended his masses. He is a representative of the Catholic faith and its church. And now he has been reinstated as a bishop by the Pope himself.

How anyone can remain with Catholicism or its church in the face of this idiocy is a mystery to me.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Digital Blue Balls


The House voted Wednesday 264-158 to delay the analog TV shutdown until June 12.

The nation was two weeks away from the original date of Feb. 17 for the digital transition, allowing broadcasters to replace analog TV signals with digital ones.

But the Obama administration and many Democrats asked for the delay, saying millions of people are not ready for the switch. The bill, already approved by the Senate, now goes to the president for his approval, considered a given. Still to be resolved is the funding needed for more coupons to help consumers offset the cost of converter boxes. That issue will likely be considered as part of the economic stimulus legislation.

Full story here.

If you don't think this is funny, you're an asshole


Pranksters in at least three states are messing with electronic road signs meant to warn motorists of possible traffic problems by putting drivers on notice about Nazi zombies and raptors. And highway safety officials aren't amused.

The latest breach came Tuesday during the morning rush hour near Collinsville, Ill., where hackers changed a sign along southbound Interstate 255 to read, "DAILY LANE CLOSURES DUE TO ZOMBIES."

A day earlier in Indiana's Hamilton County, the electronic message on a board in Carmel's construction zone warned drivers of "RAPTORS AHEAD — CAUTION."

And signs in Austin, Texas, recently flashed: "NAZI ZOMBIES! RUN!!!" and "ZOMBIES IN AREA! RUN."

Read the full article here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

And you thought only Pat Robertson pulled this crap . . .

According to this article from The Guardian, Pope Benedict has made a bishop out of a clergyman who called Hurricane Katrina God's punishment for homosexuality and abortion and condemned the Harry Potter books for "spreading satanism."

Gerhard Maria Wagner, 54, is to become auxiliary bishop in the Austrian city of Linz, where he is viewed as a controversial figure by churchgoers and clergy alike. In 2005, he wrote in a parish newsletter that Hurricane Katrina was an act of "divine retribution" for the sins of a sexually permissive society.

He said it was worth considering whether environmental catastrophes should not be seen as a result of "spiritual environmental pollution" - a type of "divine retribution" for New Orleans' relaxed attitude towards sexual promiscuity and homosexuality.

"It is surely not an accident that all five of New Orleans' abortion clinics, as well as nightclubs were destroyed," he wrote, adding: "It's not just any old city that has gone under, but the people's dream city with the 'best brothels and the most beautiful whores'."

In 2001 he warned children against reading JK Rowling's novels about the boy wizard Harry Potter, describing them as spreading satanism.

In 2004 he said it was no coincidence that the Tsunami disaster had occurred at Christmas, inferring that it was punishment for "rich western tourists" who had "fled to poor Thailand".

This comes right on the coattails of Benedict's decision to reinstate a bishop who denied the Holocaust.

You have to wonder, what the hell is wrong with these people?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Celebration of the Book at WSU

Winona State University has events planned all February for the annual Celebration of the Book. This year's theme is "Censorship and the Book."

Wednesday, February 4, 7:00 p.m.
PANEL DISCUSSION: The Legal View with Attorney Tom Foley of PACE and ACLU Attorney Chuck Samuelson
Location: Stark 103

Wednesday, February 11, 7:00 p.m.
PANEL DISCUSSION: The Publisher View with Rusty Cunningham of Lee Enterprises and John Vitek of Saint Mary’s Press
Location: Stark 103

Wednesday, February 18, 7:00 p.m.
PANEL DISCUSSION: The Author View with Lyda Morehouse and Emilio DeGrazia
Location: Stark 103

Wednesday, February 25, 7:00 p.m.
FILM: Fahrenheit 451
Location: TBA