Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top Ten: Duels

10. Benito Mussolini vs. Francisco Ciccotti: During Il Duce’s rise to power in 1921, an editor in Rome published criticism of the man who would pioneer Italian fascism. Benito challenged Francisco to a duel of swords that lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, ending with Francisco conceding after suffering several wounds from the physically formidable man who made the trains run on time.

9. King Naresuan vs. Prince Minshit Sra: In 1593 in what is now modern day Thailand, an invading force of Burmese soldiers, led by Minshit Sra, was repelled when the Siamese King Naresuan engaged and defeated Sra in one-on-one combat atop war elephants. Running Sra through with a lance, the invaders recovered the body of the fallen royal and promptly retreated. The event is still celebrated in Thailand as a national holiday.

8. Inigo Montoya vs. Count Rugen: My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die

7. Aaron Burr vs. Alexander Hamilton: While Vice President of the US, Aaron Burr challenged former Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton had participated in 10 shotless duels up to this point, including one with future president James Monroe. Hamilton fired first, harmlessly into the air. Burr took aim and hit Hamilton in the abdomen, killing the man who is now depicted on the ten dollar bill. The political blowback resulted in Burr’s self-imposed exile and strong support for the outlawing of duels.

6. David vs. Goliath: Perhaps the most widely known duel, thanks to the Biblical depiction. Few are aware of the grisly details following the felling of the Philistine whose very name came to signify both enormous size and humiliating defeat. Upon bashing in his brains with a sling-launched stone, young David decapitates Goliath and carries the head to Jerusalem.

5. Marcus Claudius Marcellus vs. Viridomarus: At the Battle of Clastidium in 222 BCE, the Roman general Marcellus engaged King Viridomarus in single combat, killing him. As per custom, Marcellus took the spolia opima (the fallen leader’s armor and weapons) back to Rome. Marcellus is regarded by most historians as the only non-fictional Roman to achieve such a feat (an act purportedly first achieved by Romulus, the mythological founder of Rome).

4. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader: This father and son rivalry resulted in two fabled duels, the first in Cloud City during The Empire Strikes Back, and then again on the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Both resulted in the loss of the loser’s hand.

3. Andrew Jackson vs. Charles Dickinson: Future president Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel over insults made towards his wife and gambling debts. During the duel, Jackson waited for Dickinson to fire first, and he was struck soundly in the ribcage. The bullet was lodged close to his heart and would remain there the rest of his life. After this shot, Jackson carefully aimed his gun and pulled the trigger, only to have the gun fail to fire. Jackson reloaded, aimed again, and this time shot his opponent dead.

2. Achilles vs. Hector: One of the most dramatic fights in mythology is the battle between the Myrmidon Greek hero, Achilles, and the Trojan champion and son of King Priam, Hector. After several years of siege upon the walled city of Troy and numerous disputes with his commander, Agamemnon, Achilles refuses to fight. His shield bearer and homosexual lover, Patroclus, dons the armor of Achilles and engages Hector on the battlefield. Hector kills Patroclus, believing him to be Achilles, and strips the body of his armor and arms. Achilles becomes enraged, and the blacksmith god Hephaestus forges new equipment for Achilles, who then duels and defeats Hector. After his victory, Achilles drags Hector’s body behind his chariot and back to his camp, preventing a proper burial. The King himself, guided by Hermes, enters the enemy camp at night and successfully pleads for the return of his son’s body. The Iliad ends shortly after, picked up by the Odyssey shortly before the construction of the Trojan Horse.

1. Jean de Carrouges vs. Jacques Le Gris: In 14th century France, the last legal trial-by-combat played out like a Hollywood movie (and the story is reputedly being considered for a project by Martin Scorsese). The wife of Carrouges accused Le Gris of rape, but there were insufficient witnesses to testify on the matter. Carrouages’ last hope was to appeal to the king for a trial-by-combat, which was a right that had not been granted for some time and seen by many as antiquated. After lengthy proceedings, the trial-by-combat was granted.

Le Gris was knighted so as to be of equal social stature, and the two mounted horses to joust in front of a crowd of thousands. After three passes, both men’s lances shattered. Each drew his axe and continued mounted combat until the stronger Le Gris decapitated his opponent’s horse, forcing Carrouges to fight from the ground. Carrouges managed to disembowel his opponent’s steed, and the action continued with both men dismounted.

The two threw down their axes and drew swords. After several minutes of armored combat, Carrouges slipped and Le Gris stabbed his accuser in the right thigh. As he stepped back to survey the damage, Le Gris was caught off-guard by his oppnent's desperate scramble and was tackled to the ground. Weighed down by his heavy armor, Le Gris remained floored and was stabbed repeatedly by Carrouges, whose sword was only able to dent the metal plates of his opponent.

Using the handle of his dagger, Carrouges knocked open his opponent’s faceplate and demanded he admit his guilt. Le Gris refused, and Carrouges promptly stabbed him in the throat, thus “proving” his opponent’s guilt by demonstration of the will of God. His wife ran onto the field and embraced her husband to the cheers of thousands in attendance, including the King. The stakes were high for the wife, for if her husband lost, she would be executed for making false accusations.

Award for Best Duel That Almost Was goes to…

Abraham Lincoln vs. James Shields: Lincoln was at the time an Illinois state legislator and publisher of the Sangamon Journal, which printed a mocking letter that infuriated Shields, the state auditor. Shields “demanded satisfaction,” and the two left Illinois (where dueling was illegal at the time) for Missouri. Just prior to counting paces, the two principals’ seconds (or witness representatives) convinced the two to call it off, supposedly on the grounds that Lincoln had not even written the letter himself; he merely published it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pithy News 8/29/10

Glenn Beck estimated 3-400,000 attendees at his rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Compared to the 87,000 calculated by experts, this is Beck’s most accurate observation ever.

Paris Hilton was arrested for cocaine possession. In related news, bears shit in the woods.

The last combat troops left Iraq this last week, leaving just 50,000 for “administrative duties.” The Iraq War is officially over, like racism…

The “Ground Zero Mosque” shares funding with Fox News. After hearing this, I’m thinking… maybe they shouldn’t build it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Reflection #2

The weirder I am, the more I meet people just like me. I feel most alone when I pretend to be normal.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Two Extremes

There are two extremes when it comes to defending one’s ideology. There are people who would kill for their ideals, and there are people who would die for their ideals.

If you look back through history, it’s not difficult to see which is the better option. We hail as heroes those who die for their principles, while we revile as evil those who kill the opposition (on a long enough timeline, anyway).

Major Western religions have all milked this fact quite successfully. Jews have pretty legitimate concerns when it comes to being victimized, and their suffering has galvanized their religion to the point of being what is arguably the most successful faith in the world. No other religion wields so much power with so few members (except perhaps Buddhists, who share a similar situation), and their longevity is matched only by Hinduism.

Christians based their entire religion on a man who died for his beliefs. It’s tragically ironic that once Christians held any sort of power, they abandoned this in favor of violence against the opposition (both from non-Christians and defiant followers). However, despite the countless abuses over the centuries, Christians have maintained a very strong victimhood mentality.

Muslims are little different, and a casual reading of the Quran will yield hundreds of passages that follow this formula: Allah sent messengers, the prophets were ignored (sometimes killed), and the people were punished. While Allah is not presented as being non-violent, His Earthly messengers certainly are. Sure, Mohammed was a marauding warlord, but try telling that to Muslims today, who are victimized both in Muslim nations by their ridiculous laws and Imperialist occupiers, and abroad, where they are despised.

This can even be seen in modern day politics. Martin Luther King advocated non-violence, and was murdered by a racist white man. Malcolm X advocated violent opposition, and was ignored… until he started to change his stance towards peaceful methods. Then he was killed by members of the Nation of Islam, which he had previously helped pioneer.

It seems like history is full of these examples, and the ones we respect most are not the people who take up arms and fight, but are the ones who oppose violence on principle and instead advocate peaceful disobedience.

So why is violence so popular?

Some people feel that if you peacefully oppose something, you are doing nothing, or not enough. There are also people who fear the consequences of civil disobedience. But how selfish is it that you would not give up your own life for your ideas, but you would sacrifice others?

If what we believe is right, dying (or accepting lesser or greater consequences) for our belief is the most powerful statement that can be made. Dying for your beliefs would only be wrong if what you believe is frivolous and stupid. For those who kill for their beliefs, this often turns out to be the case.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top Ten: Juniors

10. James Brown, Jr. – the Godfather of Soul… I’ll remember him for this interview, one of the first viral videos (it was big on the internet years after it actually happened). It is questionable whether he should be eligible for this list, because he legally removed the “Jr.” from his name when he became an adult.

9. Cuba Gooding, Jr. – Even more compelling than his “Show me the money!” role in Jerry Maguire was his role as a gay art promoter for his boyfriend, played by Greg Kinnear, in As Good as it Gets. He puts the prissy homosexual stereotypes to bed when he physically confronts the immortal Jack Nicholson and pulls him out of his apartment into the hall for a verbal smack down on the stupefied legend. I don’t know if Jack’s just a great actor or if he actually shit himself (the scene starts at about 1:30).

8. Phillip II of Macedon – A conquering king in his own right, Phillip II may be best remembered as the father of Alexander the Great, but he also took a chance on a young pupil of Plato to educate his son in the ways of the world. Many people attribute Alexander’s greatness to his hand-picked tutor, Aristotle.

7. Robert Downey, Jr. – I still haven’t seen either Iron Man, but I liked him in Tropic Thunder, and I can’t wait to see him as the Wizard in an upcoming Oz prequel produced by Disney.

6. World War II – WWI resulted in 38.8 million dead or missing, but only 19 years later, this mark would be smashed by its predecessor, claiming 49 million civilians alone, not to mention 24 million soldiers.

5. Al Gore, Jr. – Not only an enviro-alarmist, massage enthusiast, and former Vice President, Al Gore, Jr. helped create Current TV, my wife’s favorite channel (for a taste, see link below).

4. Carl’s Jr. – best known for sexist commercials, chili cheese fries, and burgers with way too much stuff on them.

3. Sammy Davis, Jr. – The Candy Man is either best remembered for being a Rat Packer, or for losing his left eye in a car accident and subsequently converting to Judaism. Asked if he was handicapped: “Handicap? Talk about handicap — I'm a one-eyed Negro Jew.” With wit like that, I’m sure he fit right in at temple.

2. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. – Survivor of the fire bombing of Dresden, celebrated novelist, Indiana native, and avowed atheist, Kurt would have made #1 if I thought I could get away with it.

1. Martin Luther King, Jr. – This is what fathers hope for when they name their sons after themselves (my condolences to John Hinckley, Sr.).

Worst Junior award goes to:

Junior, the film – starring Arnold Schwarzegger as a man who gets pregnant, co-starring Danny DeVito and Emma Thompson.

Wrong Again

The great thing about being an atheist is that I can admit I’m wrong. It’s very therapeutic, actually. It reminds me I’m not perfect (who needs reminding that other people aren’t?).

This morning, before I even wiped the sleep out of my eyes, I saw something I wanted to believe, so I posted about it. It turns out, the “Burn the Quran” guy is probably not a child pornographer, and he almost certainly wasn’t arrested in Florida as one (believe me, I checked all their local papers, police blotters, etc.).

Add this one to the pile, along with my post about Prime Minister of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, being Jewish.

It just goes to show you: no matter how much you hope something is real, you should always look into the veracity of every claim. Innocent until proven guilty, a lie until proven true. Even atheists need to be reminded of this, from time to time.

Update on an Idiot

How this slipped by me, I will never know. I blame myself and my laziness.

It appears that the Pastor of the Gainesvile, Florida Dove World Outreach Center, Terry Jones (pictured above blowing up an invisible balloon), was arrested in early August on charges of child pornography. You might remember that this is the group hosting the Quran book burning on this upcoming September 11th.

I urge police to be present at the burning to ensure he’s not throwing any evidence under the Qurans.

As my wife said, “Maybe there really are people in this world who are just evil.”

Special thanks to the internet, for being the greatest information tool the world has ever known. In another era, this guy’s crimes would have flown under the radar, but thankfully privacy is now a myth, and there’s nowhere for society’s scum to hide anymore (not even behind religiously righteous indignation).

[UPDATE: This story is probably a slanderous falsehood that is too good to be true. Perhaps the real story is: insult Muslims, be accused of child pornography...]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday Word #18

Optimystic: one who believes in the magical powers of positive thinking

Freedom to Be a Dick

No one loves a good insult like me, but I don’t particularly agree with the Dove World Outreach Center’s decision to hold a Quran book burning on September 11th.

Don’t misunderstand me, they can do it. No one should stop them, and anyone who tries to hurt the people involved should jump off a cliff instead, though I doubt there will be much trouble, what with “between 500 and 2000” armed members of the militia Right Wing Extreme handling security (because that is what Jesus would do). What could go wrong, right?

I even like insulting Muslims and Islam. I am still an ardent supporter of Draw Mohammed Day (already gearing up for May 20th of next year).

But there is something fundamentally different going on here. The first strike is the lack of originality. “Oh, I don’t like something… I’ll burn a symbol of them.” Total lack of creativity.

The second strike is the fact that rather than pointing out a problem, it is blatantly iconoclastic. Iconoclasm is the destruction of symbols… which is something Muslims do… and I hate when they do it.

The third strike is that Christians ought to be reading the Quran. I have noticed how woefully ignorant of Islam Americans are throughout this whole debacle over the Ground Zero (er, two blocks away) Muslim community center (or if you’re watching Faux News: “mosque”).

On one side, you have these people saying they hate Islam but know nothing about it. On the other side, you have people who also never read the Quran who are trying to argue that Islam is a peaceful religion no different than any other.

Both are wrong, and both groups of people should shut up when it comes to things they know nothing about.

I, on the other hand, have read the Quran. I know that it condemns me to death and an eternity in the lake of fire on every other page (no exaggeration). I know it’s basically a rehashing of the Old Testament and an even looser interpretation of the New Testament (but in their version, Judas is crucified in place of Jesus, and Jesus is explicitly and repeatedly defined as not a God or God’s son, which would be so below Allah… I dunno, sounds more plausible to me…).

And yet, I have no urge to burn my Quran.

At the core of my ideology is to add more to the world. Even if I could erase all religious texts on Earth, I wouldn’t. It would make the world less rich. We should be adding more to our base of knowledge, not trying to redact it. Book burnings are censorship, an attempt to physically destroy knowledge (though it is merely metaphorical in this instance, because they are only burning a few of the billions of copies of the Quran that are in existence).

But you know what? To stop a book burning from happening is also censorship. The only time I would physically want someone to step in is if an angry mob descended upon a library with torches, and this is clearly a bring-your-own-book burning. You can do what you want with a Quran you own.

[Mine is in my bathroom, which is way more offensive and original than burning it.]

Finally, I’m not even surprised. Christians have a long history of burning books, going back to the burning of heretical scrolls by Christians at Ephesus (Acts 19:19). It wouldn’t be Christianity without the blatant intolerance and destructive tendencies. Then it would be Buddhism.

But if you’re going to make a statement, have some balls and don’t hide behind a small army. What kind of frightened wimps are you that you claim to believe in heaven, but you’re afraid to die? The whole thing makes a very weak case for Christianity, but it does make atheism look better and better by the minute.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Christian ideology does not only rely upon the Bible. Christian understanding of Western Civilization is a mythical history, a sort of myth-story of how things happened that coincides with the Christian ideals.

When we learn of the fall of Rome, if we learn about it at all (who has time when it’s so important to learn what Manifest Destiny is...), we are told of roving bands of pagan barbarians destroying and defiling the most advanced empire of its day.

Today is the 1600th anniversary of the sack of Rome. On August 24th, 410 CE, the Visigoth king Alaric led his troops through a gate used for salt trading. Alaric and his men pillaged Rome for 3 days, burning buildings and carrying off the best the empire had to offer. They boarded ships for Africa which sank in a storm. Untold treatures sank to the bottom of the sea, and Alaric died of a fever not long after.

Though Rome was not the true capital at this time, this raid essentially crippled the Western Roman Empire, all because of a pagan barbarian…

Except… Alaric and the Visigoths were Christian.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Two Dudes: Dirt

Saturday Reflection #1

Throughout all of history, from the Buddha to Jesus to Mohammed to television to magazines to advertising to L. Ron Hubbard, we have been told we are incomplete, impotent, disgusting, and foolish beings, and that there are empty rituals we must do and products we must buy that will fix us. The truth is: we are all capable of understanding how powerful we are; we only need to know this simple fact in order for it to be true.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Highest Power

There are many versions of the story I’m about to relay, but I’m going to tell it the way I like.

During a lecture on cosmology, the professor was interrupted by a student who took particular offense at the complete lack of religion in the explanation.

“The world,” said the student, “It flat, and it rests upon the back of an elephant.”

“Oh really?” chimed the professor.

“Really,” replied the student.

“And what, may I ask, is the elephant standing on?” asked the professor.

“Why a hippopotamus, of course,” said the smiling student.

“And the hippo, what is it standing on?”

The student begins to look frustrated and says, “A turtle.”

“And the turtle?”

The student sighs and says, “It’s turtles all the way down.”

I like adding the hippopotamus to the story, because all good stories and jokes rely on the number three (bad ones, too).

This is an example of an infinite regression. My favorite infinite regression is the one for God.

“What created the world?”

The sun

“What created the sun?”

The Milky Way galaxy.

“What created the Milky Way galaxy?”

The Big Bang.

“What created the Big Bang.”

I’m not sure.

“Well, then clearly it was God.”

The end. What a tidy little proof for God. Except… what created God?

“God is uncreated.”

Why can’t the universe be uncreated?


Yeah, exactly. If something can just come about uncaused, then what would ever possess someone to simply name that step “God?” Is it so hard to just say, “I don’t know” and keep looking for the answer?

What we are witnessing are the last gasps of traditional religious cosmology, trying desperately to hold onto some small role in the process of creation. But to me, it’s just an invitation to make up any tale for God’s origin that you wish.

Where did God come from?

It was born of the Great Sky Bull.

Where did the Great Sky Bull come from?

It was wrought from adamantium by the Mystical Monkey of the Maroon Mountains.

Where did the Mystical Monkey come from?

Duh, it was cut from the thigh of the Kindly Rhino.

And the Rhino?

Coalesced from the steam of the Icelandic hot springs.

The Icelandic hot springs… how did they exist before the Kindly Rhino cut the Mystical Monkey from its thigh, which then wrought the Great Sky Bull from adamantium, which gave birth to God, which created the Big Bang, which created the Milky Way Galaxy, which created the Sun, which created the Earth, which is where the Icelandic hot springs are located?

Don’t you see… through the Kindly Rhino, all things are possible, even vicious cycles!

In the end, none of it even fits into Christian cosmology. There is no “Big Bang” in the Biblical creation myth which posits God as the central architect of creation. The sun and stars are created after water already exists on Earth, for crying out loud. Talk about anachronistic.

This must be a different god, not Yahweh. Yahweh is the Biblical god (or God, with a capital “G”), but the god people try to explain as “Nature” or “The Universe” itself are not the same being. They share none of the same characteristics beyond the title of Creator, and their methods are distinctly different. The claims of Yahweh do not in any way match up with the features and abilities attributed to this New Age, post-Enlightenment, Deistic figure.

More importantly, calling the universe a finely tuned watch and God the “the watchmaker” does nothing to explain creation. The universe is, in point of fact, not as complex as a watch, nor as regular (what watch is constantly expanding and changing, failing to keep accurate time as parts of it explode?). The universe is simple, a little chaotic, and highly unorganized.

God, on the other hand, is complex. The complexity of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being is so beyond the scope of human understanding that it approaches a complexity bordering on infinite. Saying “God did it” does not answer anything, it merely creates a question too complex to ever possibly be answered.

Someday, when we can explain in great detail and relative certainty the full nature of the Big Bang and its origins, there will be a new period of time and mechanism of action which we cannot explain. If there are religious people still around (and there’s every reason to believe there will be, so long as we are still human), I’m sure their God of the Gaps in Human Knowledge will retreat once more behind this new bunker of the unknown.

What a sad, ever-shrinking kingdom this lowly deity inhabits…

Thursday, August 19, 2010

WTF Moment of the Month

The worst part of this call is not that Dr. Laura says “nigger” eleven times to a black caller who has sought her advice for dealing with racial intolerance, and that’s why this cry for help is my WTF Moment of the Month.

No, the worst part of this call is that after several minutes of constant condescension and rude interruptions (by Laura, not the caller who Laura should be listening to), she cuts off the caller completely and gives a sort of “moral of the story” speech.

All right. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Can’t have this argument. You know what? If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race.

Don’t you see? If you have a problem with people acting racist around you, become a racist and marry within your own race. If you can’t beat them, join them. Brilliant.

But then my “WTF” echoed, when I found out Sarah Palin is weighing in on, of all things, Twitter:

Dr.Laura:don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")


Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!

The last is a reference to Dr. Laura’s disgraceful “resignation,” and the fact that she attributed it to her desire to

regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I'm sort of done with that.

Okay, I’m all WTF’d out.

Smile, You’re An Atheist

I don’t advocate “the power of positive thinking,” but one prevalent lie that makes the rounds among Christians is the perpetuation of the myth that atheists are not happy.

They march out the polls which say Christians are happier. They point to statistics claiming atheists commit suicide more often. But is this objective evidence that atheists are unhappy?

The polls are particularly suspect because of the individually biased nature of asking someone, “How happy are you?” I feel like I don’t even need to say much more about it, besides the fact that the Amish routinely score at the top of all of these polls. If you are happier without electricity, I want to be miserable.

The suicide statistics are a bit more alarming. The pioneering sociologist Emile Durkheim’s view of suicide as a result of a person’s confusion over social integration seems to explain the phenomena as one not pointing to “being atheist” as the cause of higher suicide rates among unbelievers, but rather the social pressures placed on them by the Christian majority as the root of the problem. But who cares what some “social scientist” thinks, right?

Let’s look at it another way. In countries with more atheists, there should be higher suicide rates, right? But there isn’t.

In fact, there is no discernable connection between religion and suicide rates between different countries. Russia has much higher suicide rate and a higher percentage of non-believers, but it still has a suicide rate slightly lower than Lithuania, a country with a smaller percentage of non-believers, comparable to the US. The US itself is just barely behind Sweden, which leads Europe in many polls as having the fewest believers.

In fact, in polls of the happiest country, Finland and Denmark consistently rate high (much higher than the US), while also ranking as some of the most atheist nations, each with a much higher proportion of atheists than the US.

In the end, suicide is so rare (less than 24 per 100,000 deaths in the US) that it is not a good measure for overall happiness, anyway. Atheists commit less crimes and there is a much smaller percentage of atheists in prison than in the general population, so maybe being part of a group that is proud of “being happy” isn’t as important as identifying with people who are actually doing the right thing.

As a favor to my down-hearted atheist brethren out there, I created a logo to hopefully cheer people up. You might as well smile, since this life is all you get. Wow, now I’m depressed… anyway, the logo:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Word: Socialish

Socialish: someone or something that is sorta socialist

I Hate Islam

You would have to look for a long time (or in Texas) before you could find someone who hates Islam more than I do.

I have read the Quran, cover to cover, and yes it was a translation. But you know what? If you believe a Muslim can’t adequately translate the Quran into English, a language with more words than any other on Earth, then maybe you are horrible at Arabic and are reading into it what you want to believe it says. If I tried to defend Leninism by saying “Well, you just don’t understand Russian, it is not a dictatorship at all...” that would make me an idiot twice over.

The Quran is violent, it calls on members to kill non-believers, and it promises eternal fire for those who fail to submit to the will of Allah. There is no debating this very clear fact.

I’ve said this all before, but it was in the climate of the Mohammed/South Park fiasco, so people jumped on board. This news cycle, we’re supposed to have sympathy for Muslims, so it’s not “cool” to attack Islam at the moment. It is almost funny how people have zero principles and will feel whatever they are told to feel.

Should Muslims be allowed to build something near Ground Zero? Of course. Do people have the right to act upset about it? Actually, they do. They can’t physically stop them, but they can complain all they want. They can even stand outside the place during construction or once it’s built with placards showing dead victims of Islamic attacks if they want. You should even be able to park a pork hotdog stand out front.

I don’t see why it’s getting so much airtime in the news, but I guess seeing two religions clash is entertaining to people. More entertaining than real news, like how Republicans blocked the passage of a bill that would grant health benefits to those injured during the rescue efforts. How patriotic, and Christian…

What I don’t get is this: as much as I find Islam to be a violent faith which calls for the death of infidels such as myself, why does that mean I should oppose the building project? There seems to be a logical gap. I guess I just actually believe in a little thing called “freedom.”

I think the reasons given boil down to two factors:

1. Christians aren’t used to feeling threatened
2. 9/11 (aka, the “Giuliani” argument)

Christians are inherently threatened by other faiths. It is in the nature of the monotheistic religions to be intolerant of others. When the most important rule of your religion is that your god is not only the best god, but the only god, there’s bound to be some clashing when two such faiths butt heads.

And don’t give me this kumbaya, liberal bullshit about how they’re all the same god. Unless you have actually read the Jewish texts, the Christian texts, and the Muslim texts, keep your dumb mouth shut. I can assure you: they aren’t talking about the same being. All three gods are definitely dicks, but that just means they might be related.

[If you honestly want to debate the above issue, save it and accept my acknowledgment that you’re “right,” but you should know that you’re really missing the point.]

To Christians, the mere visible presence of another belief is disconcerting, and if they can associate that irrational fear with something tangible and real, they will perform rhetorical gymnastics. The fact that Muslims are building something near Ground Zero (not a mosque, and not even at the site itself) isn’t the real problem, it’s just the only thing they can publicly argue without sounding [too much] like religious bigots.

One cannot point to 9/11 as justification for anything. It’s the new “Godwin’s Law.” If you have to resort to using 9/11 to justify something, you lose. Period. End of debate. You’re buying drinks.

You want to talk about offensive? How about insultingly rude billboards along every rural highway in this country pimping your savior out like he’s got the best RV deals in the state?

Christians: kindly remove that plank of wood from your eye before complaining to your neighbor about the sliver in his, or are you slow-minded morons not up to that part in your book yet? Or how about you judge not, lest ye be judged? Or why doesn't the one of you who never sinned cast the first stone? Seriously, all you do is talk about reading that thing, you never actually picked one up, have you? Too busy handing them out to actually sit down with one, perhaps?

[You like how I reeled them in with a title that would have them thinking I would just make fun of Muslims?]

Two Great Locations,
Same Shitty Product

After laboring away in utter obscurity, I have finally hit the smalltime. I have been added as a contributor to Skeptical Eye, a leader in dangerous lies about how society works. I should be a natural fit.

Finally, some exposure. I have gone from tens of readers to literally dozens, but I promise not to let it all go to my head. I’ll still be dumping more tripe here than you can possibly digest. However, if you want some Libertarian anarchism mixed with your socialistic propaganda, check out SE.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mathematical Proof: Work is Evil

Man, I need a job...

Thank You For Killing Your Kids…

…but stop, for the sake of others. I don’t care what you do to your own progeny, but a disturbing new trend is sweeping the United Skeptics of America: vaccinophobia.

Look, I hate needles, and I don’t trust pharmaceutical companies any more than I trust other businesses, but vaccines are one of the greatest inventions ever. Their use is arguably the single biggest factor in the increased modern life expectancy, not to mention the sole reason for the eradication of several diseases from the developed world.

Or so we thought. Whooping cough and measles are making a comeback in California (which is no small feat for a disease, just ask Mel Gibson).

“But Bret, vaccines cause autism.”

Yeah, if you get your scientific advice from the Playboy Playmate who hosted the MTV dating show, “Singled Out” and can currently be found charity-banging a 48 year old Jim Carrey.

Yes Jim, any attention is good attention…

You know what is more likely to cause autism? Waiting too long to have kids. I bet you feel proud of all you accomplished with your great acting career, Jenny McCarthy. I’m sure you’ll cherish that Razzie for your role in Dirty Love more than having a normal child.

Mean? Yes, but that foolhardy do-gooderbadder has the blood of dozens or possibly even hundreds on her hands, because people in America listen to celebrities more than their doctors. Of course, I only partially blame her, because it’s ultimately the parents’ fault. You can lead a horse to stupid, but it’s their fault if they drink.

“But Bret, I can do whatever I want with my kid.”

To a degree, you’re right. You can drag your kid to church and fill their head with lies. You can tell your kid evolution is an anti-God conspiracy and condemn them to a life of mopping bathrooms, or worse, investment banking. You can even show your kid an R-rated movie that gives them nightmares for years (or a PG rated movie… damn you Gremlins!).

What you can’t do is endanger others. You can’t drive 90 miles an hour through a school zone. You can’t throw knives in a grocery store while blindfolded (trust me…). And you can’t “choose” not to vaccinate your kid, because it’s not just your kid that can get infected and die.

If it was just you and your retarded offspring that died, I wouldn’t give a shit. I would be happy for such a tidy form of self-selection. This is why I love motorcycles, skateboarding, sky-diving over uninhabited areas, heroin, anorexia, and suicide. I mean, I don’t enjoy them myself, but I love knowing others do. It makes for great YouTube videos.

Vaccines save lives, and not only the life of the person getting them. Now if only they had a vaccine for stupid…

Monday, August 16, 2010

What’s the Difference?

I don’t like Obama. I’ve said so on many occasions. However, I don’t feel the need to insult the guy on a daily basis.


Plenty of bloggers are doing it, both on the right and the left. I’m not surprised by the criticism on the left, because it sometimes seems like Obama is doing everything he can to abandon every single campaign promise he made. What surprises me is the criticism from the right, libertarians and anarchists excluded (since those guys will complain about a government official even showing up to work).

Imagine you are a Republican. I have never met one (probably because I’ve been court-ordered to remain 500 yards away from anyone who earns more than 200k, or white people who earn less than 30k, or anyone who is enlisted or related to someone in the armed forces), but I get a decent impression of what they believe based on the people they elect.

As far as I can tell, Obama is a Republican.

Obama runs deficit budgets, including obscene military expenditures to kill brown people who aren’t keen on Jesus (or at least not enough to call him a God, rather than just a prophet).

Obama opposes gay marriage, though luckily a Reagan appointed California judge disagreed (I feel dirty just thinking about Reagan doing something right…).

Obama signed do-nothing healthcare and investment/banking reforms which allow abusive practices to continue.

Obama has verbally said he would stop raids on legal California cannabis cultivation, but apparently the Feds didn’t get the memo and have busted dozens (barely making a dent, but slyly justifying their budget).

Obama has done nothing but token gestures regarding the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which I wouldn’t care about if it weren’t for the fact that the military is about the only “job” most young men can get these days.

Obama has cut spending for NASA and several other important programs aimed at promoting science, education, and technology.

Obama has done nothing to increase “transparency,” unless you count the fact that more and more people are able to see through his bullshit at this point.

Obama sat idly by as the largest oil spill in US history put thousands of fishermen out of work (I hear he was trying to finish a compelling book he just couldn’t put down, “The Pet Goat”).

Perhaps most damning: taxes have gone up for people in the middle class, while the wealthy continue to bleed the nation dry from off-shore tax havens.

So I have to ask: are Republicans just acting infantile because they lost, or are they actually paying attention to what’s going on? For people who claim to hate homosexuals, they sure have their heads jammed way, way up their asses.

But I digress. This isn’t about bashing Obama, or even Republicans. Why? Because focusing on the shortcomings of others is not productive. Obama is not listening to criticism (another Republican trait), so we can’t expect him to change. And what’s worse, people get carried away when it comes to criticism.

Obama is not Bush with a tan. It’s not like we could have elected John Boehner, announced that we have the world’s “First Orange President,” and things would be exactly the same. Our situation would be worse, because while Obama is walking us towards failure, Republicans sprint there.

I think the most important question isn’t whether a Democrat or Republican is in the White House (or controlling the Legislature), but rather: where has our choice gone? What we’re witnessing is the political poverty of a duopoly which doesn’t spend most of its energy competing against each other, but instead cooperates in stifling all outside opinions.

I am not Libertarian. I find Libertarians to be little more than druggies, johns and gun nuts who want their vices to become, or remain, legal. I can respect that. So why are Libertarians shouldered out of debates and elections across the country? Why is there an endless series of hoops to jump through just to get on the ballot? We all know why, but I guess what I’m asking is… why do we put up with it?

Democracy is about choice, and when the choice is being blatantly controlled by the very people we are forced to “choose” between, I think the only course of action is to refuse to vote for the people responsible. It is pointless to blame Republicans or Democrats more than the other, and pretend a vote for one is a vote against the “worse” one.

Insulting Obama day after day is not bringing new blood to the arena, it is merely politics as usual. Every printed derision is a wasted opportunity which only serves Republican interests. Why? Republicans make it their job to deride Democrats. That is the how Republicans get elected: people think they’re voting “not Democrat.” In reality, they’re essentially the same.

I have never met a Republican, only people who vote Republican because they don’t know any better, nor do they have a better option. At this point, being a “Libertarian” means you’re too embarrassed to publicly admit you vote for Republicans. Why vote for people you don’t even really support? Simply for the sake of saying you voted?

Americans need to wake up and stop voting for politicians who have been bought by the same corporate interests, and who merely advertise themselves differently. It’s pretty much all the same shitty product. It’s like being given the choice between Coke and Diet Coke. Which do you want: diabetes in a year or kidney failure in a decade?

And if you think you’re ordering tea, don’t be shocked when you get Coke.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

NYC Mosque: An Atheist Perspective

I can’t speak for all atheists in America, but I honestly don’t get what all the fuss is about with the NYC mosque. You want to talk about offensive? Republicans ought to take a flying leap off a diving board into a pool of razorblades and salt for voting down health benefits for those hurt rescuing people from the wreckage of 9/11. I don't know how these wretched parasites sleep at night (I imagine on enormous piles of donar money).

Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two Dudes: Shower

Notes: No Internet

I just got internet again for the first time since a storm knocked it out on Wednesday night.

Honestly, I didn’t miss it.

I’m also a bit perplexed by the fact that I came back to three new followers, more new followers than I ever got in a three day period while writing. Hmm… I guess the only thing holding me back from being a popular blogger is all my pesky posting.

What did I do with myself? I mostly watched our two dogs fight, and cleaned up the poop of our new dog, Max. Max is not totally house trained yet, and the same morning (Thursday) I woke up to see the cable was still out, he left a turd in the hallway that was the size of a human’s… after Thanksgiving. The cable had been knocked out the night before right in the middle of me watching the movie, “Big Fan.” I also found carpenter ants in the sun room that morning.

Thursday didn’t start out so great. I got the earliest appointment to have someone come fix the cable for Saturday. I was a little pissed off, but what are you gonna do?

I went to a grocery store called Earth Fare that I would compare to Trader Joe’s, in that you can find a lot of interesting things, but not a lot of stuff I had heard of before I went in.

The big winner out of that excursion was a natural soda called Blue Sky which uses real sugar. Their Cherry Vanilla Cream tastes like Barq’s red cream soda, only better (like a maraschino cherry cola, for those unfamiliar with the rare Barq’s drink, which I can usually only find at White Castle). Tonight I think we’re going to make feta, hazelnut, butternut squash raviolis. Wait, this isn’t a food blog… [yet]

There was more dog walking, and I played some Civilization IV, where I was the Vikings every time (I made Odin proud).

I read from 5000 BC to 1000 BC in “The Timetables of History,” by Bernard Grunn, with special emphasis on the religious notes. Who does this Marduk guy think he is, am I right? And don’t even get me started on Osiris. He’s been sucking at his mother’s teat since he came on the divine scene.

More dog walking, lots more picking up poop with plastic bags.

Also during this time, my wife and I were waiting for Sears to call us and let us know when a lawnmower we ordered could be picked up. They literally called just after the cable guy left, while I was writing this, but I can finish and post this because my wife has to shower before we go out.

The cable guy was really nice. Apparently our cables were just old and damaged. He replaced all the cable from the pole to our house, and he’s sending someone out in a couple days to bury it. If I try out that new lawn mower, I gotta remember to mind the wires.

So here I am, with internet and TV again. I can finally see what’s going on with the world over these past few days.

Let’s see… they want to build a mosque in New York? The nerve of these Muslims! Don’t they know this country was founded on intolerance and the belief that only one religion is right?

Come to think of it, Muslims will fit right in…

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Word: Misanthropology

Misanthropology: the study of humanity's hatred of itself

A Case For Registering, But Not Voting

[Originally posted as a response to Samuel over at Sub Species Aeternitatis]

I’m certain of a handful of things, and one of them is that Republicans haven’t put up a decent presidential candidate since Eisenhower. State and local officials may be different, but not in my experience. They’ve pretty much all become religiously zealous war-mongers or switched to being a Democrat.

I don’t register Democrat, either, because saying what I want to hear and then doing none of it doesn’t impress me much.

I’m reminded of my middle school days watching MTV in the late 90’s. Every day I would rush home from school to see what the top video was on TRL, and every day I would hope it wasn’t the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync or 98 degrees. It got so bad, I started thinking I actually liked the bands who sometimes beat them. I found myself buying CDs by Korn and Limp Bizkit. *shiver*

It turns out... they all sucked. It was all just a scheme to get me to buy into one of the two genres being marketed. Neither one was actually worth listening to, but I really hated the polished teeny-bopper bands, so I managed to convince myself I liked something I didn’t, all in the name of “winning” a competition.

In the end, I just turned the channel. It’s a shame we can’t do that with politics (since they’ll just keep on ruining our country whether we pay attention or not).

I register as independent, even though I don’t vote, because I think it is important that people register and do so accurately. I’m not a Democrat, nor have I ever voted for one, so why would I lie just so I could participate in primaries and select a Democrat I wouldn’t even end up voting for in the election?

More importantly, registering as independent is a signal. It says, “I don’t buy what you’re selling.” If everyone just chose D or R, it would seem like the two parties appealed to people, that they were fulfilling the needs of voters. The fact is, they aren’t.

More people are selecting “independent” or “unaffiliated” than they have in generations. Why? The parties we have are not adequate. What does this mean? We are due for a new party - or two.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you go to register and they asked you, “Socialist or Libertarian?” Wouldn’t that more accurately describe the political beliefs of Americans?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Picture Puzzle #6

I just really had the urge to dress up some animals tonight!

Picture Puzzle #5

Infinite Inquiry #3

If there is one thing that people of all stripes seem to have in common, it is their opposition for the concept of a “one world government.”


I have come to the conclusion that the only argument for why people feel this way is: they’ve been told that it is wrong, even evil.


I imagine that those who have advocated for a single world government in the past have done so violently and to their own ends.


People are inherently selfish.


It’s a primitive survival tool.


At the most base biological level, selfishness allows for increased personal gain, but only to a point.


Selfishness is limiting, and prevents a species from the greater overall success achieved by social interaction.


A group can achieve more by working together than the sum total of the individuals, had they worked independently.


It’s honestly far too complex for one sentence, but perhaps the biggest factors are division of labor and specialization.


People are largely the same, but they can be molded to do different things with education, training, and other forms of socialization.


People are largely a product of their environment, especially as children.


I imagine it increases survival, and is perhaps humanity’s strongest adaptation.


Being prepared for many different environments allows us to flourish.


Through ingenuity – which is often derived through painful trial and error – we have been able to overcome even the rigors of space.


When large groups of people work together as a whole, greater things can be accomplished than when individuals or even small groups work in isolation.


Groups are more productive and more efficient, so more wonderful and more terrible things are possible, but the risk of gain far outpaces the risk of loss.


There is ample evidence in the form of tribal people who are still living stone age lifestyles that progress is not a given, that advancements are not accidents, and that large social structures are every bit as responsible for the accomplishments and horrors of modern society as the individuals they produce.


The more ideas pooled and people enfranchised, and the fewer people who are deemed unimportant outsiders (i.e. “foreigners”), the better society functions.


Creating differences with our vocabulary and identity erects barriers which only pen us in like animals, and even fails in their intended purpose of protecting us from the feared outsiders.


Competition is overrated, and cooperation leads to limitless potential.


Competition requires vast expenditures of time, energy, and money on frivolous and often deadly activities.


In competition, might makes right, but in cooperation, all are in heated debate over what is right.


This is the nature of these two systems.


Competition is inherently animalistic, down to simple reptiles or even amoebas, while cooperation is a later, more complex adaptation of higher organisms (especially present in mammals).


Competition can exist without cooperation, though cooperation cannot exist without competition.


Even when organisms cooperate, there is competition, though it is usually mitigated by restraint.


I don’t know.

Friday, August 6, 2010

How Am I Going To Explain…

With my second dog settling in, it’s hard not to think about kids. Why? I dunno, maybe it’s the adorable young mug staring into my eyes all day long. Maybe it’s all the shit I’m cleaning up. Maybe I’m a masochist.

So of course, only one thing comes to mind: how am I going to answer the tough questions my kids ask?

Except… I don’t feel uncomfortable with the usual things. Babies? “Men and women have sex and if the condom breaks and the woman is pro-life or ready, they have a baby. Sometimes scientists in laboratories have to get involved…” Sex? “Adults like to give each other special massages that make you have an awesome sneeze. Sometimes the women even fake sneeze to make the guy sneeze, because it’s contagious like yawning, and she’s sore or bored.”

No, the question that will probably stump me is the religion question. For one thing, I can’t prepare for it. What is the religion question? “Who is God?” Or is it, “Who is Jesus?” Or will it be about religion itself: “What is Scientology, and why did I fail a personality test?”

All I know is the attitude to don if confronted by this situation: detachment. You can’t take a hostile tone, nor should I advocate my point of view. In fact, unless directly asked, I would prefer not to talk about my own views on the matter with my children. It’s just not something I would openly volunteer.

In truth, I view religion much like I view sexuality. It’s just weird to talk about my own experiences in front of certain people. I can explain what sex is to someone, but I wouldn’t want to talk about my first time with someone I didn’t know well.

Religion, however, is a subject for which I lack the vocabulary for remaining neutral. How do you explain to someone religion without making it sound like a demented, X-rated Disney movie?

“Well, God destroyed a town full of homosexuals, but he saved the guy who would go on to sleep with his daughters. Yes, God knew it would happen, He knows everything, but He seemed okay with it. But that doesn’t mean you can sleep with me or mom. And even though Adam and Eve’s kids had to marry each other doesn’t mean you can marry your sibling. But maybe in ten years you can marry your dog in California.”

So what other questions might I be confronted with? I’ll put on my Mr. Roger’s sweater and take a crack at answering them.

Picture Puzzle #3

Which Ten?

I have only a few grievances with American Christians, but none are as frivolous as their fight to display the ten commandments. There’s really not much at stake, and I feel those who oppose the erection of ten commandment displays in public buildings have a rock-solid argument backed by a constitutional amendment (the first one, no less).

But I’ll play Christian’s advocate for a second and pretend the first amendment does not explicitly deny the government the right to encourage the establishment of a particular religion. Which ten commandments shall we use?

The fact is, America’s single largest denomination of Christians does not agree with the others on how to number the commandments. Catholics split the “covet” commandment, separating wife from objects. In turn, lines such as “I am the Lord your God,” “You shall have no other gods before me,” and “You shall not make engraved images” are all combined to be the first commandment.

So, which 10 will it be? And will the heavily Catholic Supreme Court uphold the rights of Protestants to push their version of things on not only non-Christians, but Catholics?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Pooch

My wife and I just got home from adopting our second dog. His name is Max, and he’s an eight-month-old Tree(ing) Walker Coonhound. He is white with tan spots, like our previous dog, Barkley (whose visage graces my profile picture).

When the woman fostering him brought him out today, he looked completely orange with slightly darker tan spots, but apparently he had been rolling around in mud all day, and the dirt here is reddish clay. After a quick bath, he’s now Barkley’s twin, only much taller and skinner. They weigh roughly the same: about 45 pounds.

Before long, our previous dog Barkley humped Max around the house. Through every room and hallway, Barkley did his best to show Max who the boss is. The woman fostering him told us Max was very submissive, and she wasn’t kidding. It got so bad at one point, I had to crate Barkley just to give Max a chance to relax and check out his new surroundings.

Our three cats are also adjusting, mostly by hiding under the bed. Our tabby greeted us at the door when we came in, as she often does, and she even nuzzled up to Max, but once she realized it wasn’t Barkley, her tail poofed out and she slowly made her way out of the room, back arched.

Our biggest dilemma is dealing with feeding. Barkley is like a cat: we put food in his bowl and he eats when he’s hungry, a few bites here, a few bites there. Max is like most dogs: if he smells anything edible, he would jump over a flaming lava flow to get it.

To be fair, Max is coming from a tough situation. He was abandoned after his owner’s home was foreclosed (not too dissimilar from Barkley’s history), and he was fostered by someone who has 10 dogs. He is covered in bites (at least 4 scabbed wounds) and is very skinny. When Barkley was trying to eat, Max bit him and ate his food.

So, we put Max in another room, closed the door, and I slowly put bits of treats into Barkley’s bowl to encourage him to finish as much as possible. Meanwhile, Max peed on the guest bed, so now I’m doing laundry while my wife is walking the dogs.

The tabby cat came out to check on things, and I predict she will be the first to warm up to Max, since she is also the only one of our three cats who is friendly with Barkley (the other two either hide, scurry past, or sneak attack Barkley, depending on their mood).

I’ll be sure to post a couple pictures as soon as Max calms down enough to sit still for them. If I don't post as much over the next couple of days, you will all know why.

He has pooped once in our house, once in the pet store, and zero times outside.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Two Dudes: Smarts

Wednesday Word: Cannabust

Cannabust: how lazy cops meet their quota

Pithy News 8/4/10

The Food Standards Agency in the UK has disclosed that cloned meat was sold to consumers. They warn it may cause déjà vu.

Writer Anne Rice announced she “quit being a Christian.” Asked why she was initially attracted to Catholicism, she cited drinking Jesus’ blood and God’s need to be “invited” into your heart.

Sarah Palin proclaimed the rise of “Mama Grizzlies.” Citizens are urged to bungee cable their trashcans shut.

Six black teens drowned in Shreveport, Louisiana. Mel Gibson has reportedly begun digging a moat around his home.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What Good Old Days?

I was recognized as the “Blog of the Moment” over at Skeptical Eye last night, and it got me thinking: what have I ever done?

I decided to dig up some old stuff I wrote in high school and college, and I must to say: I have never felt such a strange combination of pride and embarrassment. One piece won the newly established, first annual fiction writing award at my university, and I actually posted it on my blog a while ago. I was also reminded of how much poetry I used to write, and how little I write now. The last lines of poetry I found in my old notes:

If you have an idea,
And want no one to know it,
The answer is simple:
Become a poet.

How apropos...

In 2002, a high school friend of mine contacted me about a website he had started, TheSecondRevolution.com. The site didn’t last more than a couple months, and it was taken down long ago, but I remember it was the catalyst for me getting into writing about politics.

The first thing he posted to the site, besides the general ideology he espoused, was a piece of hate mail. I emailed a critical response to my friend, and he posted it on the site. He then offered to have me write a regular column for the site. I titled it “Ginx’s Symposium,” and wrote what were essentially my first blog posts.

However, my biggest surprise (and pride) comes from a class assignment I wrote in September of 2002. I decided I would reproduce it below in its entirety, because I am so proud of how a young, 18-year-old version of myself still possessed an uncanny view of reality, despite being surrounded by a whirlwind of stupidity pressuring me to throw my hands in the air with fear.

The class assignment was some form of answering the question, “How has 9/11 affected you and/or America?” It was assigned to be due on September 11th, 2002, just one short year after the attacks.

Bret Alan
11 September 2002
English 101

American Stasis

One could have predicted the horror that occurred on September 11th, or at least anyone who had been paying attention to world events. On that day last year, some 288 million Americans stared into a flickering box displaying bright pictures [inaccurate; I should have at the very least subtracted the number of blind and Amish people]. They donned their traditional lifeless cattle faces as they were dragged, kicking and screaming, into the reality of this world.

Around 3000 people died, the most casualties during any terrorist attack to date. Some thought America would finally awaken from the complacency that it had slipped into for years, that America would finally use its power and worldwide influence to make a positive contribution in the world.

Instead, what happened was an ironic twist in the fabric of history, as America became the new prominent outpost for intolerance and ignorance, displacing the Taliban as the primary enemy of liberty. The land of the free would soon prove that only its own leaders could threaten the liberty and justice of its people; that civilians nationwide would not only perpetuate the endless cycle of money hungry capitalism, but would stubbornly hold onto its role as a country of numb slugs.

The government could not have staged an event that would better allow them to flex their bureaucratic muscles. With the new threat of global terrorism, government officials can finally do away with such inconveniences as civil liberties and privacy, all in the name of security. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,” and the American government doesn’t seem to adhere to this idea.

Our government has decided it has the responsibility to not only invade the private dealings of other countries, but now to do so to citizens at home as well. It seems new acts are passed weekly as a result of September 11th. From broad sweeping laws about internet privacy to petty laws banning plastic weapons that can evade metal detectors, the government continues to clamp down on what we can and cannot do, even what we can say and write.

Americans are told that terrorists endanger the freedom of every person in this country, and that Osama bin Laden does not like the liberties we enjoy. However, it is the hypocrites in Washington that are actually passing into law the things that threaten our civil liberties.

Stagnant and apathetic Americans everywhere scoff at the notion of a “Big Brother” society, saying laws being passed now do not enact anything like those measures described in “Farhenheit 451.” However, they fail to see that it is a small step into that direction, and that it opens the door to further violations in the future. Thought police may not be here yet or even in the next ten years, but we should not be giving anyone the tools to start down that road, even though we are scared and unsure.

The only way to reverse this trend is through knowledge. This is a country that is supposed to be run by the people, so the people must know what is going on. They must strive for knowledge, not just from the corporate media who conveniently give them sound bytes and out of context highlights while rarely focusing in on real issues. This is a nation that has more free time than any other [not true], and we spend it sitting on our asses filling our bodies and minds with garbage.

Know your government. Write letters to your representatives. Do something to make this nation the pillar of freedom that it once was. If we leave the government to lead without knowing what they are doing, we are conceding to a dictatoriship. This is our country to take back from the real terrorists; not the ones in turbans, but the ones in designer suits.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Picture Puzzle #2

From now on, the answers will be in the title of the picture, so you can see it anytime by right-clicking the image, and choosing  "Save Target As...", "Save Picture As...", or "Properties."

Picture Puzzle #1

I always liked doing these as a kid, so I figured I would try my hand at making a couple. The idea is, a common phrase is represented in pictures. They will not be easy, though, because I love GRE words and puns.

Without further ado...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Market for Fear

When I became a teenager in the late 90’s, becoming a punk was easy. I just had to go to the mall. Some band t-shirts from Hot Topic, stickers with cynical aphorisms, and of course a pair of Converse All-Stars later, I was a bona fide punk. Or was I?

By the time I was born in 1983, the movement of punk rock was already dead, or more accurately, it was in a lucratively profitable vegetative state. I was even too young to appreciate the rebirth rebranding of punk: grunge.

Punk and grunge sold out (in the parlance of those genres). There is no integrity in punk or grunge as an ideology. Sure, they are still genres of music, but they claim to be much more. Punk in particular touts itself as a lifestyle, an ideology, almost a religion.

I suppose everything is what we make it, but if you’re allowing someone else to define your style of dress, let alone how you see the world, you should realize going in that the whole scene is a marketing gimmick for getting you to buy stuff. Punk rock culture turns the world into a fashion runway, encouraging an obsession with physical appearance.

It’s a strange situation. Sub- and even counter-cultures in America are routinely absorbed into the mainstream, or they at least become marketable. One can see it has already happened long ago with Hip-Hop, and even anti-corporate bands signed to small-sounding labels (owned by larger subsidiaries).

Political ideologies are ripe for profiteering. We’re all familiar with the “Green” movement, a hollow attempt by liberals who don’t want to make any real changes, but are willing to buy something with a label proclaiming their purchase to be environmentally friendly (at a slightly higher price, which I call the “gullible guilt tax”). Republicans even had a brief “Buy American” fetish, until their resolve buckled under the pressure of their purses.

However, there’s one particular ideology that has been very successful for basically all of human history. The people who adhere to it have many names for it, but I will use the collective term “survivalism.”

Survivalists can be left-wing or right-wing, though they are all ostriches with their heads in the sand. Some think the government is too big, and that the people will need to rise up and overthrow it. Others think the government is powerless and crumbling, and that America will be plunged into anarchy.

Some even hope for anarchy out of some romantic notion of human dignity and independence, forgetting that we are co-dependent social beings with blatantly antisocial behaviors (or they know this and revel in it).

Some don’t even factor government into it. Some think our treatment of the environment will wreck natural havoc. Others believe a race war or global religious conflict is inevitable. Some are even banking on religious prophecies foretelling the end of the world.

Regardless of the specifics, there is a vast industry catering to the paranoia of doomsayers everywhere. People are told to buy gold, despite ridiculously high prices. Forget “buy low, sell high,” this is an emergency! There are times to think, and there are times to act, and this is no time to think! See the exclamation point? That means this is serious!!!

However, you can’t feed your family with gold. Gold actually loses its value when there is no luxury market for its sale. If you’re banking on surviving a massive worldwide disaster, gold is about the dumbest investment you can make. Luckily, things will probably turn out fine and gold won’t lose value (especially in China), though all the virtual “trusts” and “promissory notes” will probably be worthless when the fly-by-night scamsters selling that fool’s gold close their doors after their CEOs embezzle too much capital.

No, if the world were really headed for disorder, there’s one thing I would want: guns. Guns are the ultimate chaos currency. If you have guns, you can get just about anything you want, er, anything your neighbors have. Of course, if they have guns, you need more guns, and you need to wait until they’re asleep or distracted. You’ll be wanting protection from others beyond guns, so be sure you have a dog to alert you to intruders, and land mines aren’t a bad idea.

Survivalism has even gone green, with the movement to go “off the grid.” This is definitely the coolest sounding idea environmentalists ever came up with. Way better than global warming (which just sounds cozy). When you go “off the grid,” it’s almost like you just got unplugged from the Matrix, and you’re no longer part of the problem, you’re the solution. And you can dodge bullets.

Of course, a stretch of cloudy, breezeless days will have you on generators that are several times less efficient than “the grid,” and the cost of initially installing enough equipment to maintain your power needs is far beyond the average person’s means. Not everyone can be ready when the shit hits the fan. Sacrifices will have to be made, both in terms of the poor and length of showers.

Then it dawned on me: people are rooting for a revolution because they’ve already invested in one. Nothing like a violently self-fulfilling prophecy.
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