A Pope Has Died

Now that is a fearsome hat!

I bet you didn’t know there’s more than one pope, but there is. In addition to Pope Benedict XVI, Pope of the Catholic Church; Gegpry XVII, the Pamarian Catholic Pope, and Theodore II of Alexandria, the Egyptian Copts also have their own pope. The most recent one, Shendoua III, died yesterday.

Shendoua III was a Christian in a country, Egypt, with a decidedly non-Christian majority. For the last few decades there’s been quite a bit of striffe between the Coptic Christians and the Muslim majority, and Shendoua, from all accounts, did his best to serve his community while not alienating it from the larger one, though since the fall of Mubarak, things have gotten somewhat nastier and uncertain.

I have, as you all know, zero use for religion, but I do have respect for individual life and Shendoua was, by most accounts, a decent man and worthy of respect.


So What’s Next?

Bye-bye, ya bastard.

Professional bastard, all-around jerk and the man who puts the “dick” in “dictator”, Hosni Mubarak, has resigned. At last.

What’s next for Egypt? The military is currently in charge. I sincerely hope that won’t last, and I don’t think it will. They don’t strike me as being stupid enough to try and maintain power. If they have free, democratic, internationally-monitored elections soon, that will be wonderful.

What’s next beyond that? In the short term I expect more hand-wringing on the part of the Right in America, paranoid that Muslim terrorists will be elected to office. That is possible, but I think it’s unlikely. I also think that in the short term we’ll see a hell of a lot more “revolutions” in the region. Watch for Yemen, Algeria, Libya and possibly Iran to have major problems in the next few months. In my wildest and wettest Saudi Arabia also has massive protests and their evil regime collapses.

In the long term, I think we’ll see a real move towards democracy in the region. This is a part of the world with a young population that’s starting to realize what a major screw-job their leaders are giving them. I imagine that from Iran to Morocco we’ll see a real shift in power from the dictators to the masses. It won’t always be pretty and it won’t always give us a result that we in America want, but it’s going to happen.

A couple other thoughts on the broader issues here. We need to stop propping up evil, repressive regimes simply to make ourselves feel safe. It is entirely unethical and certainly goes against American principles. We cannot continue to allow millions upon millions of people to live in terror simply to provide ourselves with an illusion of security. Even if it were giving us actual security to have the vast majority of the Middle East run as a police state, that’s still not good enough. We have to help them as much as we can to have the same rights and freedoms we enjoy. If along the way that makes our short-term security situation far more interesting, well, such is life.

And lastly, I was listing to someone on CNN talking last night about torture being used by the Mubarak regime, and it saddened me on a couple levels. Obviously, it’s quite sad and horrific that people were being tortured in Egypt. But it’s also very sad that we haven’t a leg to stand on with this issue. Thanks to Bush and Cheney we became a nation that used torture. We claim we did it for the “right” reasons and that the people who were being tortured essentially had it coming. I’m sure that’s what the Egyptian police said, too. But we can’t condemn it anymore. No one will listen. They’ll just point out the fact that we did it, too. It’s a great shame for this nation and one of many reasons we need to put Bush and Cheney on trial.

I wish the Egyptian people great success in the upcoming weeks! Keep an eye on your military and don’t let them have a hand in running the country once things are stable. One of the best, smartest things George Washington did was to resign from the military when becoming president. Don’t let your new leadership replace one dictator for another.

Bye-Bye Mubarak?

Various media sources are reporting that Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak will probably step down in the next few hours. This would then result in power being turned over, at least temporarily, to the military.

I have somewhat mixed feelings here. If he’s going to be gone, I’m very pleased. But I’d rather not have the military take over. That sort of thing seldom leads anywhere good. On the other hand, if is indeed just temporary it might not be too bad of an idea. They can come in, get order restored and then hold open and free elections.

Either way, I hope the rest of the region is taking many and copious notes. Tunisia and Egypt down. Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and others still to go… good luck, guys.

What Should America Do?

As events in Egypt drag on, the central question on the Sunday talk shows is what we should do about it. Many people seem to have the opinion that we should, at all costs, stop democratic reform in Egypt, since it might lead to an Islamic government that’s hostile to Israel. I think this is what we call “obnoxious”.

Here’s what we should do: stand up for the principles we claim to hold. Defend the Egyptian peoples’ right to self-determination. Call loudly for reforms in public, and then Obama needs to be on the phone calling firmly but privately for Mubarak to resign. Yes, there’s a chance that a democratic government in Egypt might end up being Islamist and hostile to Israel. That would suck. But if that happens, it means that there needs to be a PR campaign to change the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people rather than the current situation, where there’s peace because a dictator is stomping out any possibility of no peace.

Besides, we should trust the Egyptian people. They have had thirty years of peace and diplomacy with Israel. There’s no reason to assume that’s going to suddenly disappear if they are allowed the same freedoms as we enjoy.

Ultimately in the long run we need to stop propping up anti-democratic regimes simply because we happen to like what their leader is doing for us. It’s a bad, odious habit that always comes back to bite us in the ass (Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are great examples of this). Either we are a country that supports freedom and democracy for everyone or we’re just a bunch of self-interested hypocrites. I know which I’d rather we be.

Right Now, Egypt. Next Up, Yemen!

We’ve all seen what happened when Tunisians took the streets and took their country back from the authoritarian regime that was controlling it. Now the same appears to be close to happening in Egypt where CNN is running non-stop coverage of events unfolding there. With any luck, by the end of the week Hosni Mubarak will be gone and a democratic government will be taking control. Also over the last couple days there’s been protests in Yemen. This is wonderful news, since that’s a state that harbors a lot of terrorists and its reform would be a great blessing to the world.

Now there’s been people here in the USA complaining that we shouldn’t be supporting these movements in case the new democratic governments wind up putting Islamic extremists in charge. Well, bollocks to that. First, it’s not likely that will happen. Second, if it does, well, democracy isn’t always pretty and doesn’t always give us what we want. We have to accept that as a possibility. It’s more important that the people of these nations (and Algeria, Libya, Syria, etc), get the same sorts of rights we enjoy than it is that they exercise those rights in a way that will make us happy.

Good luck to those in Egypt and Yemen! May you guys get the governments you deserve instead of the ones you have.

Avatar in Egypt

So I do really rather love the USA. Sure, it has flaws, and many (one of the most notable being the fact that we like to pretend it doesn’t have flaws), but there’s not any country on Earth I’d rather live in.

There’s one thing that I really love about this country, and that’s the First Amendment; that wonderful part in the Constitution that enables us to protect the rest of it in a far more profound way than by picking up a gun and shooting people.

It’s always worth remembering that other people don’t have it so good. Take Egypt, for example, a country that practices censorship at the official level. The movie Avatar was just released there, like everywhere, but unlike in the USA and other civilized countries, people in Egypt didn’t get to see the full movie.

Now this is changing. Check here to read why.

It’s good to see someone being so brave in the face of such adversity over something as seemingly small as a movie. It does my heart good to see such behavior.

Badger’s Bible Project – Exodus 8:1 – 12:51

Welcome to the next chapter of Badger’s Bible Project, covering the Plagues in Exodus (and for more great analyzation of this story, check here)!

Here begins one of the most evil series of acts by God thus far in the Bible. I understand he does a lot more evil things as the book goes on, but for now, this is king. Far worse, even, than the Flood, because this is pure, targeted evil that makes those involved think they might have hope, but in the end shows they don’t. Even worse, it’s all done to further God’s arrogance.

The Plagues really start in Exodus 7:21 when God turns the Nile water into blood, thus killing everything therein. Somehow the people of the area don’t wind up having a mass die-off from a lack of water.

But we begin the story proper with God gloating about what he plans to do.

You'll have his staff when you pry it from his cold, dead, hands!

You'll have his staff when you pry it from his cold, dead, hands!

And the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord; let my people go, that they may serve me.'” – Exodus 8:1

Right off the bat we see that God doesn’t want freedom for his people; he just wants them to be his slaves, and not anyone else’s. Believe it or not, his behavior goes downhill from here.

“But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs.
“So the river shall bring forth abundantly, which shall go up and come into the your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into your kneading bowls.
“And the frogs shall come up on you, on your people and on all your servants.”‘” – Exodus 8:2 – 8:4

“Presumably this is where the Egyptians ended up with their great fondness for grenouille,” he typed in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.

You know what this, and all other God’s introductions to the Plagues remind me of? A Bond villian describing his entire plan to Bond before trying to kill him.

Interestingly we next see that God apparently has a touch of the Vegas showman in him.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your rod over the streams, over the rivers and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.'” – Exodus 8:5

Clearly since God is, apparently, omnipotent, there’s no reason Aaron needs to do this other than for effect. It’s actually a decent touch to the narrative.

Well, Plague happens, and after it, there’s another nice touch as the Egyptians round up all the dead frogs, and there’s another decent touch to the story as a bit of reality intrudes on this horrible bit of fiction.

They gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. – Exodus 8:14

So clearly when writing this, someone realized, “Oh, yeah, a shitload of dead frogs will probably start to rot and smell like… well, a shitload of dead, rotting frogs.” It’s a minor bit of attention to detaill, but a nice one.

I also can’t help but remember a book by Terry Pratchett called Pyramids, wherein Djellybebi, a kingdom, not unlike Egypt, has a Plague, but they’re a very small kingdom and even their plagues are so half-hearted the best they can manage is the Plague of Frog. *

Next we find out what God has in mind next. Lice!

… For Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod and struck the dust of the Earth, and it became lice on man and beast. Al the dust of the land became lice throughout the land of Egypt. – Exodus 8:17

You know, I could empathize with the nastiness of this. When I was a boy back around 1986, our family went on a big family reunion at Yellowstone during which myself, my sister, two of my cousins and a couple hangers-on wound up getting lice all at the same time. Yeah, that was fun to deal with.

Apparently Pharaoh doesn’t like the lice too much, either, cause he decides to let the Hebrews leave. Little does he know that Captain Evil isn’t going to allow that. At least not until he’s killed a lot of people.

… But Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had said. – Exodus 8:19

Well, yes, the Lord had said that was going to happen, and lo!, it did, and what a great sign and portent that is. Of course it happened because God made it happen, just as he said he would! There’s no reason for this other than God wanting to show off, and he does this at the end of every single Plague.

Next up we see God sending massive numbers of flies to pester the Egyptians, who were probably saying to themselves, “I really wish God would allow Pharaoh to let his people go so we, the innocents of this land, wouldn’t have to suffer.”

After the flies comes the next in the lists of God’s crimes as he offs all the livestock the Egyptians own.

So the Lord did this thing [killed the Egyptian’s livestock] on the nexxt day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the children of Israel, not one died.
Then Pharaoh sent, and indeed, not even one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh became hard, and he did not let the people go. – Exodus 9:6 – 7

Yeah, not too much to say to that aside from, “Barbeque!”

God moves onto a weird one next, giving boils to everyone in Egypt. They end up being so severe that in a mildly amusing image, the magicians of Pharaoh can’t go and do their job, cause the boils are so annoying. A fairly harmless Plague, really, but still unpleasant.

Anyhow, let’s stop a moment and take stock. At this point the Egyptians have no water (the Nile having turned to blood), bad lice, flies everywhere, stinking, rotting heaps of dead frogs, all their livestock are dead and on top of all that, boils. Man, all they’d really need to have happen next is for all their crops to be destroyed and, as a nation, they’d doubtless cease to exist.

… And the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt.
So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy there was non like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.
And the hail struck throughout the whole land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail struck every herb of the field and broke every tree of the field. – Exodus 9:23 – 25

Ah… well… crap.

Of course there’s no way this was really affecting Pharaoh. Sure, by now the people are battered, thirsty and starving (a great formula for a revoltion that would’ve deposed the Pharaoh), but since he lives in a palace with servants and plenty of food, it doubtless didn’t effect him very much. So really God is spending his time here punishing the innocent while ignoring the guilty (who he is forcing to be guilty by “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” at every turn). How is this anything other than God being an evil prick? I really would like to know if any apologists out there have any explanation for his behavior being good and moral here.

Now we find even more evidence of God being a jerk by rubbing it in when it comes to Pharaoh.

So Moses and Aaron came in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me.” – Exodus 10:3

Now this is just cruel, given that Pharaoh had been willing to see the light a couple times before God put the scales back up over his eyes again.

Continuing to be an utter prick, God now sends locusts to Egypt.

And the locusts went up over the all the land of Egypt and rested on all the territory of Egypt. They were very severe; previously there had been no such locusts as they, nor shall there be such after them.
For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every herb of the land and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left. So there remained nothing green on the trees or on the plants of the field throughout all the land of Egypt. – Exodus 10:14 – 15

Ok, seriously. How are the Egyptian people surviving at this point? All the livestock, crops and water have been destroyed by God. Yes, they probably had a large amount of beer set aside (beer best described as “Chunky Beer, the beer you can eat with a fork!”), but still. For those who don’t know what locusts do, take a look at this picture of my grandfather, circa 1934.

He’d planted the corn himself as part of a 4-H project, and it had been doing well, until the day the locusts came to town. That is the sort of thing the Egyptians would’ve been left with. I’m sorry, but if all their crops were in that shape, the entire country would’ve died off and been conquered by their enemies. That this didn’t happen speaks of the fictional nature of this story.

Moving along we find God plunging Egypt into three days of darkness. Anoying to be sure, but again fairly mild, especially to the last great big evil God is planning.

Then Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: about midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt;
and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmil, and all the firstborn of the animals. – Exodus 11:4 – 5

First, “about midnight”? Right.

Second, this is appalling. How can anyone worship a being who would even allow this, much less go out and actually do it himself? This is incredibly evil, cruel, immoral and wrong. Naturally one would assume Pharaoh would, at this point, back down. You’d think that, and possibly let it happen, unless you’re an evil god like this one.

So Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go out of his land. – Exodus 11:10

Absolute evil.

God spends the next few verses warming up and telling the Hebrews, in great (annoying), detail all about what they should do in preperation of this great event (planning a party, it seems. God is the BC version of Martha Stewart, and if you’re expecting a joke along the lines of, “Only less evil”, don’t hold your breath). Then God, doubtlessly drooling over the chance to murder innocent people, goes out on the town.

And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.
So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead. – Exodus 12:29 – 30

Words alone cannot convey my disgust at this behavior. Not just the firstborn of Pharaoh, which would make at least some sense, but even the firstborn of the poor slobs in the dungeon who had, presumably, done something to piss off Pharaoh. Then the animals, too.

A quick side note about this: surely there would’ve been at least some places where there was not one dead. If you had a second son married to a second daughter, both their parents and older siblings were already dead and they had no children of their own, they wouldn’t have anyone dead in their house. Just a thought to keep me from focusing on the mind-boggling evil on display here.

You know, every once in a while you’ll hear some smarmy theist wondering why atheists are angry at God. Well, first off, we aren’t. I can’t be angry at that which doesn’t exist. My question back at them is, given that you think he does exist, why aren’t you angry at him for this crap?

At this point Pharaoh has had enough and God finally allows him to release his people from bondage. What a guy. The Hebrews, who had spent time borrowing stuff from their Egyptian neighbors in preperation for this day (and that’s pretty sinister, really), up and leave town in rather large numbers.

Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children.
A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds – a great deal of livestock. – Exodus 12:37 – 38

Ok, so 600,000 men. If even half of them have a wife, mother or aunt tailing along, that’s about 300,000 women. If each family has even two children, that’s 1.2 million children running around. This is about 2.1 million people, at a conservative estimate.


Simple answer? They can’t. That’s how you know this is fiction.

Next we find out the Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40), and then onto a little bit about Passover.

And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat it.” – Exodus 12:43

So to all my Jewish friends out there, don’t invite this goy to your Passover feast! You’ll only piss off the Great Beard in the Sky, and as we’ve seen so far, this is not a fellow with a sense of humor.

Thus ends this section of my project and I gotta say, “Man, what an evil fuck!” How can anyone find this being worth of their adoration? We see here that not only does he inflict horrible plagues on perfectly innocent people, he also makes Pharaoh incapable of doing what he’s told, and then punishes him for not doing what he’s told! Words fail me, they really do.

Next up: we’re off on the road to Judea!

* It was a very large frog, however, and got into the air ducts, keeping everyone awake for weeks.