Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday Reflection #62

Humans have only one emotion: anxiety. All others derive from our varying responses to the presence or absence of it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ron Paul, and What We Aren’t Talking About

Ron Paul is in the news, and he has a serious shot at winning Iowa, so I think it’s time I finally weigh in… though not on what I think of him (I don’t need a paragraph, let alone an essay, to say that I would never support him).

I also have no need in weighing on the question of whether Ron Paul will be the nomi… pffft HA HA HA, sorry, sorry… I couldn’t even finish that sentence. Paul will never be the nominee. Paul has a better shot at winning a Democratic Party nomination than a Republican Party nomination in his lifetime.

But his campaign isn’t empty or futile, and it may have far-reaching ramifications.

One thing to consider is how this will affect the Republican Party. I predict that Romney will be the nominee and will lose to Obama. If this happens, I really think the Republican Party will “soul search,” or whatever it is that evil, soulless trolls do when they reassess things (I guess pray?). If Democrats somehow manage to win 2016 on top of all of this (if I had to guess who could, I would bet it would be Hillary Clinton), I bet the odds of the Republican Party radically altering itself goes through the roof.

One direction the Republicans might take is towards courting Libertarianism. While not a popular ideology among traditional (i.e. old) Republicans, it is the most popular right-leaning, conservative stance among the young. Young people see through the Neo-Con bullshit. People under 35 have no interest in marginalizing gay people, racial minorities, women, immigrants, non-Christians… or really any of the groups that Republicans traditionally rally around hating. If the Republican Party has a future, it’s probably in Libertarianism.

Ron Paul isn’t many things: sane, relevant, informed, electable outside of Texas… but he is a libertarian, and those other four things have never been important for a Republican nominee. Ron Paul may be the model for future Republican presidential candidates, I just doubt he’ll live to see it happen (I’m thinking maybe by 2020, when Paul would be 91).

But Paul isn’t totally out quite yet, so it’s not just about his legacy. Paul won’t be running for re-election to his house seat, which he’s had for so long that he’s probably unsure of how he’ll pack up his office without the help of the slaves who helped him move in. This presidential run is potentially the last election for Paul, and while I am confident he won’t get the nomination, he just might pull a Nader.

If Paul runs as an Independent or Libertarian and draws votes away from Romney, you can ignore [more than you would otherwise] all of that stuff I said earlier. If people blame Paul and the Libertarians for Obama getting re-elected (and don’t kid yourselves, Obama will likely win either way), you can probably forget about Republicans and Libertarians ever getting along. In fact, it might spur the long-stalled rise of the Libertarian Party, which has tried in vain to be politically relevant since the 70s.

Libertarians have often just been people who vote Republican and don’t have the balls to admit so in public, but there are others who have merely identified with the Libertarian ideals while acknowledging the party not currently viable. Many libertarians are basically like me: they abstain from voting, especially for the office of president, not out of a lack of interest, but from frustration at the “choice” we have forced upon us by the lowest common denominators on both sides.

In many ways, I am rooting for Libertarians to come into their own, not just slowly infiltrate the Republican party. While I’m not Libertarian, I do favor Libertarianism over Republicanism, and more than that, I would love for a more diverse political landscape in America.

But it’s all up in the air. I’m merely speculating on what I think could happen. I am confident of one thing, however: Ron Paul will leave a mark on American politics that will far exceed his results in this, probably his final presidential bid or political race of any kind.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Religion and the Persecution Complex

My wife and I moved into our new home in 2010, and we’re quite happy with it. There’s nothing we would change… except one of our neighbors.

Sure, the other neighbor is great. She’s a kind retiree. We exchanged phone numbers. She’s told us where her spare key is, in case of emergency, and I plan to do the same, now that we finally got a spare made. She watches for thick plumes of smoke coming from our home when we go out of town. You know, typical neighbor stuff.

But the other neighbor is a cranky old divorcée with what my wife calls “a persecution complex.” I just call her a bitch, but my wife is much more academic and kind than I am. This bitchy neighbor finds ridiculous things to complain about… like when we had our back fence attached to a pole on our property to create a continuous fenced in area, she claims we connected our fence to hers without her permission (though she readily admits the post is on and a part of what even she calls the “neutral” fence in-between our properties, which is actually on our side of the real dividing line of the property, a concrete drainage half-pipe down the property line).

Never mind that her “fence” is several feet on our property (I wouldn’t even think of asking her to move it, because I’m not ever going to have any use for a foot or two of land on the other side of my fence).

And the way she went about mentioning it… with a verbal complaint shrouded in victimhood while my wife and I were working in the yard one day… it was almost like she was looking for a fight. It affected her yard in no way whatsoever. If anything, it all but acknowledged a cession of a small portion of my yard to her (by clearly fencing in a portion of my yard and all but accepting her decision to have built her back fence a foot or two past the property line).

She gets more yard than she deserves, but she is upset that my fence touches her fence.

She has also complained about her vicious pit bull barking at my dogs. No mention of the fact that she was stupid and bought a huge pit bull she is unable to control while walking around her own yard. No, she complained that with my dogs in my own backyard, that she couldn’t walk her dog in her own backyard. She has more than once loudly commented while walking her dog around her yard that, “I can’t even use my own yard anymore.”

Really? Why don’t you get off your fat fucking ass and walk your dog around the neighborhood once in a while? It would do both you and your deranged dog (who is probably nuts because the poor thing never, ever leaves the house or yard) some good.

This is also the neighbor who, as our first Halloween in the neighborhood approached, I asked what time they would be giving out candy. She muttered something about how she wouldn’t be, and she would be going to church.

Then it all made sense. She’s one of those. You know who I’m talking about: those Victims for Jesus. Or at least that’s what a polite person like my wife might call them. I call them Christ Cunts.

You can identify a Christ Cunt by their unending need to feel like they are the butt of every possible persecution they can imagine. Literally every little thing that happens in their world is some sort of conspiracy against them. They live in an egotistical existence of self-pity, and their Holy Book feeds their view that because of who they are and what they believe, they will be victims of cruelty… even when they clearly aren’t.

It’s strange, really, that a group holding majority power and that always seems to get its way is able to convince themselves that they are being persecuted all the time. I don’t know how the thought process works, honestly. These people seem to imagine themselves in a world where they are being constantly attacked for… I guess being what is socially accepted as “normal.”

It’s an irritating mindset to deal with, especially as someone who is part of a group that actually is marginalized. Study after study finds that atheists are not well liked in America, and yet… I can’t bring myself to feel persecuted, and I certainly never feel like a victim. When I think of victims, I picture real persecution… not what I have experienced. I know there are atheists who have suffered real persecution, but I am not one of them.

No, what an atheist like myself has faced can’t measure up to true victimhood. What have I “endured?” Well, name calling for one. Oh, the horror… my poor, delicate psyche. Then there’s the “institutional prejudice,” which I guess amounts to all those studies finding that people wouldn’t vote for an atheist president, or that atheists are just generally disliked. Maybe an employer who might have hired me saw that I was an atheist on Facebook and rejected my application, but I have no way of proving it, and I doubt such a speculative event happened in my case. I’m sure it’s happened to someone, but I bet the odds are good that I wasn’t one.

Then you have the hate mail and angry comments from my blogging, but honestly… I put my opinions in the public forum, and I wouldn’t expect anything less. There’s billboards denouncing my views (I saw an anti-evolution billboard in West Virginia this week) and promoting Christianity all over the place, not to mention countless other forms of Christian propaganda, from car bumper stickers to sign-holding protesters.

I guess these bother me on some level, but other people are free to say such things, and I usually find the empty and mindless rhetoric of such practices to be more amusing than hurtful. I know I enjoy laughing at them more than they enjoy being such annoying pricks.

I think Muslims have a tougher time of things in America than atheists. I don’t end up on no-fly lists, nor have I been called to a room to be strip searched because of my name or clothing. Sure, atheist billboards have been rejected and defaced, but there has never been a public effort to stop something I valued dearly from being built in my community (unless you count the Republican assault on education funding). Muslims face protest if they want to do even the most mundane things in certain areas.

I know for a fact that in many parts of America, and probably in many other countries, Muslims face marked prejudice. In perhaps some rare and isolated cases in America, atheists experience extreme prejudice, and they certainly have in other places around the world. In fact, the same can be said of Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and even Christians.

Yes, some Christians, even in America, experience prejudice. Millions of Christians (and non-Christians, for that matter) don’t even consider Mormons “real Christians.” The same can be said of Catholics from a Protestant perspective, or Protestants from a Catholic perspective. And everyone shits on Scientologists, because they’re like the sci-fi nerd with asthma in what is the American high school of society.

There is literally a small-scale cultural battle –usually just a kerfuffle – going on at all times at the religious level. Everyone is a target, but there are clear winners and losers. If you’re wondering whether you’re a winner or a loser, here’s some guidelines to help you figure it out:

- if every president in American history worshipped the same person (and his Godly father, and spooky ghost) that you do, you might be winning

- if wearing clothing or pendants which depict your religious stance attracts stares of disgust, you might be losing

- if you drive down the road and see a lot of religious displays representing your faith, you might be winning

- if your house of worship or lone billboard in town supporting your view is vandalized on a regular basis, you might be losing

- if people in your church still talk about that one time years ago when a statue got vandalized (by a church member’s kid), you might be winning

- if, due to past experience, you pre-lube your rectum before going to the airport, you might be losing

- if your religious holidays are coincidentally also federal holidays, you might be winning

- if your religious holidays are known in the US military as the ideal time to strike, you might be losing

- if people have thrown physical objects at you because of your religious views, you might be losing

- if people have thrown insults at you because of your religious views, you might be human

Frankly, it’s not about winning or losing (by which I mean, it’s not about losing and winning, which respectively win and lose the game of “Who Is Most Persecuted?”). It’s not even about some sappy bullshit speech I am supposed to give at the end of this rant where I try to pretend we should all just get along and sing camp songs around a fire while roasting marshmellows, because the Jews and Muslims would get pissed off that the marshmellows have pig gelatin in them, but the Hindus can’t eat the cow gelatin kind, and the Jains are just offended by the whole thing.

We can’t all get along; we’re all too goddamned idiosyncratically annoying for that drivel.

No, there will always and must always be conflict. We can’t all just co-exist, side-by-side, without getting on each others’ nerves. We are far too human for such a dream to be anything but a joke. But you know what we can do? We can still respect each others’ basic rights.

Take my neighbor, for instance. She has every right to say stupid little comments about my fence or my dogs, but she didn’t call the cops out here, nor did she sue me, nor does she damage my property or hurt anyone or my dogs. I have to assume she respects that we can handle our differences without the need to elevate things beyond voicing our concerns.

And when her grandchild came to my door this Halloween after I got what I perceived to be a rude remark the year before, I smiled and gave him candy, because that’s what neighbors do. I’m not a saint for doing it, I’m not even a good person, I just did what anyone who wasn’t a complete jack-off would do.

I mean, sure, I did think about turning them away as she watched in horror from the street… but his costume was so cute and I’m only human. Only a God can visit anger and rage down upon multiple generations like that. All I saw was an innocent little kid who wanted to have fun, whose hand was being held by a father who was probably raised to not be allowed to practice such a pagan holiday, and who probably just wanted his kid to fit in and have a good time.

But really, it was easy, because at this point, justice had been done. A branch from my tree this past year fell on my neighbor’s back fence, the very fence which crossed into my yard, the very fence I hooked up to in order to maintain a continuous contained area in the backyard on my side.

Now, I say a branch fell, but the tree has to be over a hundred years old. It’s several stories tall, and the “branch” is thicker than most tree trunks in all the neighborhoods I grew up in. I’d say the diameter is about 12 to 14 inches. It dropped from over 30 feet, and it reduced the fence in that spot to half its former height. Best of all, wind damage from falling tree matter isn’t the responsibility of the tree owner (who happens to be… me). It’s also legally considered an “Act of God,” though I think Hindus would call it “Karma.”

What’s the summation, then? What’s the point? Only this: there’s no need to go through life imagining great problems that don’t exist to blame on enemies you don’t have. If you merely have the patience, something bad will inevitably happen to you (often naturally, by no one’s fault), then you can be the victim, and not just play one on TV.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten: Things That Happened This Morning Before My Ten Hour Drive Home

10. Car wouldn’t start
9. Dog, Barkley, escaped
8. Wife scraped face on branch while recovering dog
7. Mom, wife and myself locked out of house
6. Max, the less well-behaved dog, locked inside
5. Mom’s friend lost spare key
4. Father has to drive 40 minutes from work with key
3. Max pooped in the house
2. Max stepped in poop and tracked it through the house
1. Missed McDonald’s breakfast

Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday Rule: Breakfast

Restaurants that serve breakfast should have to serve it all day long, not just early in the morning. Not only would this be good for people who sleep in late, but it would also be nice for people working odd hours.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Saturday Reflection #61

They say money is the root of all evil, but really, the phrase is, "The love of money [or greed] is the root of all evil." Indeed, money is not the root of all evil, it is the fruit of all evil.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Atheist Unapologetics

I never liked the term “apologetics.” Christian apologists never apologize, they only justify their stance, or make excuses. They should be called justifiers, or excuse makers.

[Yes, I know that an “apology” is a defense… please don’t think you’re correcting me by pointing this out.]

I think atheists should be unapologetic, in both senses of the word. There’s no reason for atheists to feel sorry for their views, but more than that, atheists don’t need to make an apology [or defense] in favor of atheism. If you don’t understand what I mean, I will say this: I have never felt like I was defending atheism. Atheism doesn’t need defending, religion does.

More than an atheist, I am a cynic. Not in the modern sense of the word, but in the original use. I am a dog… okay, not that original. I question everything. Atheism is a small concept. It could be folded up and put in your pocket. There isn’t much to it. Cynicism is a way of life, and is closer to a religion than atheism could ever be (though neither is).

While there are atheists who seek out positive “proofs” or evidence for atheism, that never interested me. I’m glad they do it, and I hope they keep doing it, but it’s just not my style. I prefer to actively seek out religious ideology and religious people with the sole purpose being that I want to find something I haven’t seen or heard before.

I’m not looking to defend atheism or attack religion, but religion is the one making all the claims and it’s my job as a cynic to think critically about what they say. I envision myself as a stationary rock at the center of my universe, and at times, there are people and ideas which move me, but I don’t roll in any particular direction on my own will. Thus far, religion has utterly failed to move me.

So why not invite religion into my world, or even seek it out? I guess it’s probably for the same reason that some nights, after my wife has gone to bed, as I am flipping through the channels, I may put on some sports. I don’t pay attention to any particular sport anymore, but I’ve played basketball, baseball, hockey and football, and I’ve watched even more, including boxing, mixed martial arts, and of course anything during the Olympics.

I don’t feel compelled to play myself, or even to watch religiously. I mostly just tune in every once in a while, nod my head, and think, “Well, the names have changed, but it’s all basically still the same.” Before long, I move on again. It’s enough to just get a taste of something to confirm that I still find it disagreeable; I don’t need to order a whole meal of it every day for weeks to be find out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten: Annoying Things [Some] Christians Do

10. Say “Bless you” when anyone sneezes
9. Expect me to say “Bless you” when they sneeze
8. Pray before eating
7. Give me dirty looks as I eat while they pray
6. Religious Tourette’s (dropping “God willing” and “praise Jesus” into every other sentence)
5. Act persecuted all the time
4. Claim that homosexuality is shameful
3. Pretend Christianity isn’t shameful
2. Legislate according to [their interpretation of] the Bible
1. Knock on your door to talk about Jesus early in the morning on a weekend

Monday, December 19, 2011

Republicans: Prudes With Brain Damage

I don’t understand Republicans sometimes. I think it’s mostly because I was born after lead was no longer used in gasoline and paint.

Take, for example, the recent events in the Republican primary. Herman Cain abandoned his bid for the presidency, not after a clear pattern of sexual harassment had been established, but when his mistress of 13 years came forward. Apparently forcing a woman’s head into your lap is not as serious as cheating on your wife with a woman who consents.

Call me crazy, but when it comes to rape, I don’t take a “to each his own” stance. At least infidelity isn’t a crime, it’s just really, really sleazy.

So, in an apparent migration of philanderers, Cain’s supporters seem to have settled on (surprise, surprise) the other person in the race who is known for sticking his dick into vaginas that do not belong to his wife.

These are the same people who think that gay couples have no right to get married, because it would trample on the “sanctity” of marriage. They are basically tripping over themselves to support any horndog they can find.

Hint to Romney: now would be a great time to bring out those extra wives you’re hiding. I think that would play well with Republicans these days. If that doesn’t work, you could always suggest something crazy that Republicans would enjoy, like wanting to ban birth control outright or bringing back whites-only pools. You know, something traditional.

Monday Rule: Accents

If you speak with a thick, regional accent, you aren’t allowed to complain about immigrants who don’t speak English well. Okay… you are allowed, but it should be a rule that people make fun of how uneducated, inbred and hypocritical you sound.

What in tarnations is this here city slicker talkin’ ’bout?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Reflection #60

The way a person acts speaks to their character, while the way a person speaks is how they act in character.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens: Atheist, Author, Asshole

I will confess to not being the biggest Hitchens fan, which is putting it lightly. I know the guy just died, but if I’m being honest… I was rooting for the scotch and cigarettes.

I just never liked Hitchens. I’m sorry for the loss to his family and friends, but I know they won’t be reading this. I imagine only fans of Hitchens will read this, and to them, I have a few choice words.

There’s really two main points on which I disagree with Hitchens, and only one of them is enough to make me dislike the guy. The first, less severe disagreement I have with him is that he tried to argue that women are naturally less funny than men. He tried to pull some labored evolutionary argument out of his ass (something about how women are already attractive to men, so they don’t have to make men laugh, whereas men have to attract women… I found it piss-poor at best). Never mind that humor is not an in-born trait, but an art which is worked at. Plenty of women make the effort and succeed at comedy, and not only as a career.

But I can overlook that. In the grand scheme of things, I can get over one article where someone is sharing his blatant bias and justifying it by utterly misinterpreting a scientific study whose actual findings were that women seem to essentially enjoy humor more and be more sensitive to what they find to be “unfunny.” Plus, it’s quite clear from the article that he does address many of these concerns (though why he ignores them is anyone’s guess). I didn’t even hate the article [], I just think it’s a dumb conclusion to think women are less humorous than men. I’ve said more offensive things, and there’s much worse insults to women than to outright claim they’re less funny.

But the deal breaker, the one thing that I found out about Hitchens which I cannot stand, is his anti-Islamic war-mongering. If my interpretation of his writing on the subject is correct, he basically thinks we should be killing Muslims wholesale because he hates religion. I’m positive that isn’t how he would have phrased it, but that is what is essentially coming out. He appears to think that some distant group who believes something different than we do is a threat to us.

That’s precisely the kind of atheism I do not like. I don’t want anything to do with people who actually support hurting – let alone killing – others because of their beliefs. I thought this was a basic ethical imperative, but apparently “feeling threatened” has become the new argument for justifying anything these days. Just FYI: you don’t have the right to not feel threatened.

I keep hearing from Hitchens and people like him that Muslims want to take away our freedoms… but from what I can see, the strategy seems to be for the governments of the West to violate all civil and human rights first, before these damned Muslims can get their dirty hands on them. Oddly enough, I feel threatened by the breach in basic freedoms and human rights which the War on Terror has resulted in. I don’t need some overseas, brown-skinned boogeyman to make me feel like my rights are going to be violated; there’s an army of pale-faced chickenhawks here in the West.

And now there’s one less. Pardon me if I don’t miss him.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

After “Gay Marriage” is just “Marriage”

I sometimes ponder what liberals of the future will be pushing for, assuming liberals today ever achieve anything. I’d like to think my kids will be fighting for improvements I never even thought of, but as slow as the US is to change, I sometimes question if my cryogenically frozen head will ever see every modern liberal goal achieved.

I already see certain issues on the horizon. Specifically, once gay couples are allowed to marry, there will still be a need for the definition of marriage to evolve. Even today, there are many people who live in polygamous family units, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes an economic advantage –or necessity– in the future.

The benefits are manifold. A family consisting of five married adults, for example, could have four working adults and one that stays home to give hands-on parental childcare. As a matter of simple economics, household chores and duties would be more thinly spread out among more individuals, lessening the overall load on everyone within the family unit.

I haven’t written about polygamy since the show “Big Love” went off the air, but it has been on my mind because of a few strange events. For one, I watched a documentary with my wife about polygamous Mormon sects. I also saw a blog post that briefly mentioned polygamy. Then, to top it all off, the unthinkable happened…

My wife knows a lot of unusual/interesting people, and among them were two “triads,” as she calls them. Both are married couples who invited a third person into their relationship. One invited a woman, the other couple invited a man. Both had worked out for years, and then just recently, both triads fell apart. In both cases, the newly introduced member remained with the original member of the opposite sex from the original couple. In other words, in one case, the original husband stayed with the new woman, and in the other case, the original wife stayed together with the new man.

I’ve always supported the right of any adults to live their lives however they want. I don’t know these people at all (I may have met some of them once or twice, though I don’t remember them), but from what I gather from my wife, this isn’t some simple arrangement in any of the cases. For example, where the original wife was abandoned for the new woman, the original wife has attempted suicide several times recently and is basically impossible to live with. While this may explain what happened, and it paints a different picture than one of a husband just leaving his wife for a new woman, I still find the details to be disconcerting.

If my wife tried to kill herself multiple times, my first thought would be to help her, not ditch her. Still, I don’t know the specifics, and on some level I know that most people wouldn’t just turn and run at the first sign of difficulty in a multi-year marriage. I’m more inclined to believe that this has been a recurring problem for a long time, that steps had been taken to attempt to correct the problems, and I also know it wasn’t her husband’s idea to bring another woman into their home (who would say no to that, am I right?).

Obviously, there’s nothing currently stopping people from living this way. There is already no crime in fathering children with multiple women, or conceiving several children with different men. There is nothing illegal (and I would argue, nothing immoral) about living a polyamorous lifestyle where all parties are given equal input on decision making.

There’s just nothing inherently wrong with polygamy. Sure, these kind of relationships can fall apart and get complicated, but honestly… so can monogamous couplings. In fact, monogamous couples fail more often than they succeed, if you count non-married couples as well. Plus, a wrinkly octogenarian can marry a sheltered, naïve teen girl in a monogamous relationship, so allowing polygamy doesn’t somehow magically open the door to abusive situations.

Also, for the sake of clarification: polygyny is a marriage with multiple wives, polyandry is a relationship with multiple men, polyamory is simply “love for multiple people,” and polygamy means “multiple marriages.” Technically, Newt Gingrich is a polygamist, since he’s been married multiple times… just not concurrently (though he did boink a woman and left his wife while his wife had cancer). For the record, I support legalized polygamy, not institutionally restricted polygyny, which doesn’t allow women to have multiple husbands.

The question at hand is: should the state recognize such relationships? I honestly don’t see why not. There’s no reason not to. People in different sorts of relationships should be allowed all the same rights and privileges of people in any other type of relationship. There is no reason to avoid changing this error in relationship bias within our system.

“But Bret, where does it end? Wouldn’t someone be able to marry a goat or their iPhone?”

I dunno about a goat, but what’s wrong with marrying your iPhone? What harm is there in being married to an inanimate object? I was in a relationship with a WASP for three years, and that was basically the same thing. If you want your iPhone to be there with you at your deathbed, who’s to say it shouldn’t be allowed?

And maybe you should be allowed to marry a goat. Stranger things are already happening in the world. A cat just inherited $13 million in Italy. This has me thinking: maybe we have room in our house for one more feline. I’ll clean one more litter box a day for $13 million. Hell, I’ll do it for half that.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand the conservative mindset, this need to control and restrict everything. They seem to imagine themselves as valiantly defending a way of life that always was, as if our ancestors who thought the stars were gods and the world was flat had some sort of inside track on profound wisdom.

So long as there are societies, I imagine liberals will never run out of social problems to fix.


So get this... I talked to my wife, and it turns out that one of the triads (the one that introduced an extra man) is actually more complex than I described. So, the couple was originally composed of a gay man and a man who is female-to-male transgender. Though one of the men was born a woman, they legally changed their gender after sexual reassignment and then got married as a gay couple (so their marriage wouldn't be recognized in many states... even though it is between someone born a man and someone born a woman). Then, they introduced a bisexual man. That ended when the original couple broke up, and the man who is transgender stayed with the new guy.

I never cease to be amazed at how boringly normal my own life turns out to be compared to other people.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday Word: Vacatheism

Vacatheism: the religious belief that one should get time off work for holidays

Atheism and Religion in the News - Dec. 14th, 2011

Religion has been in the news a bit more than usual, but I just haven’t felt like writing about it. I just don’t have very elaborate opinions on the matter, and when I start to write about them… I run out of steam quite quickly. So, I figured, why not compile a few and combine them into one piece? Maybe this can be a regular feature… but hopefully not, because if I feel compelled to do this every week or every month, I’ll really reach for things to write about. I’d rather just address issues as they come up, if they come up.

While I have largely stopped paying attention to sports as a whole, I became aware of Tim Tebow quite early. I remember hearing about him writing Bible verses on his face in college, and I remember him and his mother being in an anti-abortion commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.

Now, “tebowing” is a thing. Does it bother me? I dunno, I don’t watch football… but I can’t imagine it would make one difference to me if a guy wants to bow down after scoring a touchdown, since I also support all other forms of celebration (though I hear that the NFL commissioner doesn’t agree with me). I will say this, though: winning football games does not constitute a “miracle.”

Atheists have inundated the charitable organization “Doctors Without Borders” with tens of thousands of often modest donations, totaling over $180,000. Many gave just a few dollars, but a concerted effort organized through the r/atheism subreddit on was responsible for the large group effort.

A study I heard about over a month ago is still making the rounds in some news outlets. The conclusion was that atheists are distrusted by some Christians as much as rapists. If you actually read the study, the questions asked were… just a little loaded. People were asked whether someone who dinged a car and left the scene was more likely to be “a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher.” This was repeated with the question asking if someone found a wallet and took the money, was the person more likely to be…

It’s good news that the study is flawed and ridiculous, I guess. Without knowing the horrible methodology, I looked at it differently than most. I just assumed Christians forgave rapists, so I didn’t think, “Gee, Christians hate atheists,” I just pondered, “Huh… no wonder they just keep letting rapist priests interact with children.”

I guess the last thing I can think of is that Christmas is around the corner, so Christians have stepped up the unjustified righteous indignation. They always get really uppity this time of year, when they imagine that their pagan traditions are under attack. Rick Perry even thinks kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas anymore…

I don’t know about Texas (and I don’t want to know), but everywhere I know of, you can publicly celebrate Christmas. In fact, I don’t know of any place you can go in this country where Christmas won’t be shoved down your throat. Perry must be upset that he can’t use government funding to put up religious iconography, spreading his faith on the taxpayer’s dime. There’s no war on Christmas, unless you count the Christians trying to scale the wall separating church and state.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top Ten: Favorite Cartoon Shows (both for and not for kids)

Top Ten: Favorite Cartoon Shows (for kids)

10. Doug
9. Rocky and Bullwinkle
8. Eek! The Cat
7. Scooby-Doo
6. Rugrats
5. The Flintstones
4. Looney Tunes
3. Rocko’s Modern Life
2. Home Movies
1. SpongeBob Square Pants

Top Ten: Favorite Cartoon Shows (for not for kids)

10. Drawn Together
9. South Park
8. Beavies and Butthead
7. Family Guy
6. Venture Brothers
5. Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist
4. Aqua Teen Hunger Force
3. King of the Hill
2. Futurama
1. The Simpsons

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Rule: It Is What It Is

Atheism is not a religion. Also, NASCAR and poker are not sports, forty is not the new thirty, taxes are not theft, it’s not illegal to videotape or photograph the police, being gay is not a choice or immoral, pizza is not a vegetable, and these surnames are not first names:


Also, science is not a religion, video games are not art, Pluto is not a planet, words are not a crime, America is not a democracy, love and hate are not real, the customer is not always right, religion is not evil, all is not lost, and the novel is not dead.

However, those were the droids they were looking for, health care is a right, and Clapton is God.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Reflection #59

Having sex is a lot like riding a bike, in that if you haven’t done it in years and you try to do it, you can seriously hurt yourself or someone else.

Island Situation

You have shipwrecked on a large island. You see a vast forest which meets the white, sandy beach you currently stand on. There is a large mountain in the middle of the island, on which you can clearly see a waterfall (so, there is fresh water). There is no human life on the island, but there are insects, birds, lizards, a bunch of wild pigs, and typical sea-life, not to mention lush vegetation. The weather is mild tropical, and every year there is a 3 month monsoon season (which just ended before you arrived).

You will be trapped here for 10 years, and you know this. You have 12 points to spend in the following 5 categories. You must choose one (and only one) option from categories 1-3, and you may choose one option each (but not more than one each) from categories 4-5.

Category 1: The Company You Keep (Mandatory)

A (1 point): Think of the Children

You may choose to bring your own kids (any age or number, and adopted children obviously count), or just 1-3 real or hypothetical children (age 0-12, you pick age and gender, but all hypothetical children must be at least 1 year apart in age). They will be a drain on your resources at first, and will probably annoy the hell out of you, but hopefully they start to chip in before the 10 years are up.

B (2 points): Solo

You are alone on the island. You only have to provide for yourself, but you also have no help and no companionship. You may start to go mad and begin speaking to inanimate objects.

C (3 points): Survivalist

You are trapped on the island with a stranger whose hobbies include gun collecting, bow hunting, fishing, and camping. This person is a volunteer firefighter and works as an EMT. They have lost their dominate arm at the shoulder just now during a shark attack. With their help, you apply a tourniquet and save their life. They are of a gender and age which you find least sexually attractive, and their political views are the opposite of your own. However, they are polite, a patient teacher, and they are still able to walk and use their other arm.

D (4 points): Ooo-la-la

You may choose anyone you know personally to be stranded with you. They cannot be famous, even if you know a famous person, though the person you select doesn’t have to know you exist or even like you. Being trapped on the island doesn’t necessarily mean they will start to like you, nor will they blame you for selecting them. You don’t need to be sexually attracted to them, and it can be your best platonic friend, but… ten years is a long time…

E (5 points): Island Party

You can choose any combination of A, C and D,


You can choose any 4 people on the planet to be trapped with you on the island. You may also choose anonymous strangers with specific qualities (e.g. “a world-class chef,” or “an Olympic javelin thrower”).

Category 2: Armed and Dangerous (Mandatory)

A (1 point): Eight-inch Bowie Knife

It’s big, it’s sharp, and it’s better than nothing. I’m sure you can sharpen it on rocks you find, so don’t worry about it going dull.

B (2 points): 9mm Revolver

The gun holds 5 shots. It comes with a full cleaning kit (with instructions) and 500 rounds (10 years = roughly 3652 days; so, 500 rounds is a little less than one shot per week).

C (3 points): AK-47

This assault rifle is notoriously inaccurate, but it comes with a full cleaning kit, spare parts, and 5000 rounds. It also comes with a handy six-inch bayonet which can be detached and used as a knife.

D (4 points): Medieval Armory

A giant crate containing a vast collection of restored, fully functional antique weapons, including a suit of armor that is a little too small for you (most parts can be worn, but they are uncomfortable… for now), ten spears over six feet long, ten swords with 3 foot blades, twenty daggers of various styles, five large metal shields, ten all-metal axes, ten all-metal maces, and one crossbow with extra strings and ten solid metal bolts (ammunition) which can always be reused, if you track them down after shooting them.

E (5 points): Outdoorsman Pack

You get the Bowie knife from option A, a compound bow with 1000 arrows (which can generally be reused several times, if you retrieve them), two felling axes with three-foot carbon handles (and four replacement handles), five utility tomahawks, a pair of binoculars, 5000 strike-anywhere matches in a waterproof container, a fishing pole with thousands of feet of line, 1000 hooks, and a small hibachi grill with metal tongs, two-pronged fork, and spatula.

Category 3: Tools (Mandatory)

A (1 point): First Homeowner’s Toolkit

You get a small plastic container that opens like a suitcase. It has a slotted (flathead) screwdriver, a Philips-head (cross) screwdriver, a hammer, a pair of pliers, a pair of needle-nosed pliers, a pair of wire-cutters, 5 different sized wrenches (one is a large monkey wrench), a tape measure, 30 penny nails, 20 one-inch screws, and 20 little metal hooks with screws on the end.

B (2 points): Sun God

You get a solar panel with a generator. On an average sunny day, the panel generates enough electricity to run electronic equipment for 8 hours. The power can be stored to be used at night, or used during the day. The maximum charge the generator’s battery can hold is 48 hours of power. The only piece of electronic equipment it comes with is a radio which faintly picks up a few Indonesian stations at night (but not during the day). They sometimes play old music you recognize. However, unless you (or someone else on the island) speaks Malay, you can’t understand nearly any news being broadcast. You can plug in two things at a time, but they will use up twice as much power.

C (3 points): First-Aid Kit

Inside a waterproof container is a well-stocked first aid kit. It contains hundreds of feet of cloth bandages which can be reused if washed and sundried, 500 sterile pads, two bottles of hydrogen peroxide, a box of 500 cue tips, a bag of 500 cotton balls, two rolls of medical tape, ten tubes of Neosporin, ten tubes of hydrocortisone (anti-itch) cream, 5000 alcohol wipes, a pair of scissors, one scalpel with four extra replacement blades, a pair of tweezers, an alcohol thermometer, 10 safety pins, a bottle of 200 ibuprofen, a blanket, a first-aid booklet, and one roll of toilet paper. There also appears to be a box full of thousands of condoms next to the first-aid kit… I guess they come with it.

D (4 points): Garden of Eden Set

Two spades, two shovels, two hoes, two watering pails, two pairs of leather work gloves, two pairs of knee pads, two pairs of pruning shears, twenty large terracotta planting pots, one wheelbarrow, one encyclopedia of gardening, 1000 seed packets (each) of five kinds of vegetables (you pick any five, but they must be vegetables; the weather and conditions on the island are ideal for any type of growing). Figs also naturally grow on the island now.

E (5 points): Man’s Best Tools

Five crosscut two-man saws, five crosscut hand saws, five rip saws, five hacksaws, five hammers, ten thousand 4-inch flathead nails, 1000 feet of nylon rope that can support twice the body weight of the heaviest person on the island, one solar powered watch (with month and day), ten rolls of duct tape, one Swiss Army Knife (pliers, scissors, 1.5 inch blade, 3 inch blade, corkscrew, tweezers, toothpick, flathead and Phillips-head screw drivers, can opener, 5x magnifying lens, and small LED light), a flash light with a battery that is recharged by winding it up, a Zippo lighter with a large container of fluid and extra flints, one plastic poncho, a typical backpack, and… a dog. Not just any dog, but a sixty pound, 1-year-old mutt that “sits” when told, and enjoys eating crabs and birds he catches himself. The dog’s life expectancy is about 12 to 15 years, and he is quite friendly and calm.

Category 4: Luxuries (Optional)

A (1 point): A What-Man?

You get headphones and a Walkman with a mix tape of your favorite songs (each side has 45 minutes of recording time). It comes with enough batteries to run for about 1000 hours total, but if you have the solar generator, you can plug into that when you have run out of batteries (though you cannot recharge the batteries, so you only have 1000 hours of travel use with the Walkman). You also get any 3 books of your choice, and one ballpoint pen.

B (2 points): Addict

You get an unlimited supply of any three consumables of your choosing. They can be prepared in any way you wish, but you are still on an island (there is no refrigeration, and things can spoil). For example, you can have unlimited coffee, but you still need to boil the water and steep the beans, and if you want iced coffee, you need to climb the mountain to get snow or ice. It’s also acceptable to choose something which can be grown or which breeds (introducing foreign species is fine; assume they will flourish in the new environment).

C (3 points): iBored

You get an iPad. It has a calendar feature, 5 games of your choosing, 20 movies of your choosing (or you can substitute 1 book for 2 movies), and 500 songs of your choosing, but no internet. You can also use it to write down notes or make use of any other typical iPad feature that would normally be on an iPad, but the GPS feature is broken and no apps for surviving on an island (though you can have a book on survival in your virtual book collection). The iPad comes fully charged with 6 hours of battery life before it dies, but 3 hours of charging on the solar generator will yield another 6 hours of battery life.

D (4 points): Let’s Be Civil

You and everyone else on the island each get a plastic or metal (your choice) dish set with one plate, one cup, and one bowl. You also each get one metal fork, spoon, butter knife, and steak knife. In addition, you each get a cloth napkin, an extra pair of shoes, an extra pair of socks, an extra pair of underwear, a comb, five tooth brushes, ten tubes of toothpaste, twenty bars of soap, ten safety razors, a pillow, a towel, a 200 page notebook, and ten pencils. You also get one of each of the following items, to be shared by everyone: a hand mirror, a pair of nail clippers, a pair of scissors, a small sewing kit with 20 yards of thread and 3 needles, a pencil sharpener, a two gallon metal pot, and one comfortable wooden chair.

E (5 points): I Have The Power!

You get a full complement of electrically charged, battery-operated power tools, including a chainsaw, circular saw, jigsaw, nail gun, power drill with thousands of screws and all necessary bits and tips, a sander, a versatile multi-tool with several different head attachments, and a laptop with anything you can imagine on it (music, books, movies, games, porn, etc.), except no internet access. The same power restrictions for the iPad apply to the laptop; three hours of charging equals six hours of use. All tools are two hours of charging for one hour of use, and they can be charged up to allow for two hours of continuous use, each.

Category 5: Luck (Optional)

A (1 point): Timely Vasectomy

Just before being stranded, all the males on the island had a vasectomy performed, so there’s no worry of pregnancy complications. Also, all males get a frozen package of peas for their groin on the first day.

B (2 point): Pests-Be-Gone

There are no snakes, spiders, or mosquitoes on the island, nor are there any other kinds of biting or stinging land creatures. There are still sharks in the water. Also, you and those you are with on the island never get horribly sick, and no one is allergic to anything on the island.

C (3 points): One Man’s Trash…

Because of where the island is situated, stuff occasionally washes up on the shore. It might be a car tire, or it might be a bag full of garbage from someone who lives in Duluth, Minnesota. Every week, something new and random washes up. It’s never edible, it’s always garbage, but it just might provide you with useful raw materials. At the very least, it provides you with interesting new things on a regular basis.

D (4 points): A Little Flare

You get a flare gun with 5000 flares. It’s not much good as a weapon, but if you shoot it into a pile of tinder, it will start a fire. Also, this will be used in year 7 to catch the eye of a passing ship, and you will be rescued 3 years early.

E (5 points): Breaking the Rules

By selecting this option, you can choose any option from any category, despite having picked from that category already. It will cost you no additional points, only the 5 points required to select this option. This cannot be used to select any “E” option. You may select an option twice in order to gain double the benefit. You can also use this to select two options from the “Luck” category, but they cannot be two of the same option, and the total amount of points these two luck selections are worth must not exceed five.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Relationship Between Religion and Stupidity, Or: Religion is Stupid

Over the years, I have heard atheists call religious people as a whole stupid. It’s not personally something I will agree to; there are too many exceptions to the rule. I would agree that religious people are, on average, less informed, less educated, less scientific, and generally less intelligent, but not by a wide margin. What’s more, it’s quite unfair to assume that because someone is religious, they are stupid.

But religion… now that, I can confidently say, is stupid. A religion, unlike a mass grouping of individuals, can be analyzed and criticized as a cohesive whole, and a comprehensive look at the very concept of “religion” is not beyond the scope of possibility, because it is an abstract notion which can be defined.

So, what better place to begin than to define our terms? I see religion quite differently than most people, probably because I was classically trained on the matter (a mistake I may never overcome…). I can’t shake the fact that religion has nothing to do with gods… no matter how much atheists and believers may think otherwise, religion just does not revolve around gods. Gods are merely one possible explanation for the mechanism by which a religion works.

Religion is a set of rituals which have no real, externally derived positive or negative outcome; rather, religion is a set of rituals where any positive or negative outcome is an entirely internal one, which is only perceived by and measurable within the practitioner.

The only real difference between religion and custom, then, is that religious ritual is performed in the hope of some intangible benefit (or in the hope of preventing an intangible penalty). Custom is done to “be polite,” and is for the benefit of other people in an attempt to fit into a society. It’s murky, and not really what I wanted to get into, but the key to religion is that it relies on the belief in magic, which is a term most modern religions would shun… but which is still embarrassingly apt, regardless of how religion would like to be perceived these days.

“Stupid” is a much more interesting definition. defines stupid as:

1. lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull.
2. characterized by or proceeding from mental dullness; foolish; senseless.
3. tediously dull, especially due to lack of meaning or sense; inane; pointless.
4. annoying or irritating; troublesome.
5. in a state of stupor; stupefied.

In a sense, I could just let those stand alone. Those are not only adequate for describing the term “stupid,” but also “religion.” All of those other adjectives apply… dull, foolish, senseless, inane, pointless, annoying, irritating, troublesome, and my personal favorite, stupefied.

The term “stupefied” remains faithful to the original Latin meaning of the word “stupidus,” from which “stupid” is derived. In Latin, you wouldn’t call someone who was ignorant or dumb “stupidus.” Rather, “stupidus” implies a more momentary lapse. It more closely means “amazed,” or even “stunned.” Even in English, if one is “in a stupor,” you are uncharacteristically and temporarily senseless, like when someone has a fever or is intoxicated.

This sort of explains one aspect of why religious people aren’t stupid, in the modern sense of the word. Religion is not a constant state, despite what religious people would like to believe. Religion is ritual, and it is only when acting on ritual that one is truly stupid. As a religious person makes a meal, they aren’t being stupid. As they set the table, they aren’t being stupid. It’s not until they bring their hands together and pray that they start being stupid, and they cease to be stupid once the prayer is over. What I’m getting at here is that I think religious stupidity is primarily a transient quality in a person, though it’s a constant (even defining) quality of religion.

This stupidity is merely a trait of religion, and religion has no monopoly on it. Sports are notable for being incredibly stupid. Sport is an utter waste of time which quite frequently riles up its moronic fanbase to the point of violent riots. I see atheists talk about how they wish religion could be eradicated, but I’m fairly certain the world would be better off getting rid of sports, rather than religion.

And yet, I don’t think the world should be without either, unless we simply outgrow one of them.
As so many have said before me, religion is essentially an intoxicant. Religion doesn’t so much make a person who follows it “stupid,” so much as it occasionally causes them to be “stupefied.” Sports are no different, and literal intoxicants themselves could be lumped in, too, along with all forms of non-constructive recreation, like cards, video games, movies, most TV shows… blogging…

Really, there’s a whole bunch of things we would be better off without. But the thing is, when people have tried to forcibly get rid of things like intoxicants, religion, and other frivolous merriment, we are faced with an even greater problem. In many ways, I can look to Prohibition and the current drug war to see how outlawing religion would be a failure, let alone actually examining instances in Russia, China, Cuba, and other communist regions, where individuals have tried to actually ban the practice of religion, always to ill effect.

People may not need religion, but there’s no reason to keep it from them. There is ignorance even amongst atheists, so stamping out religion (even if such an attempt could be successful) will be futile. Besides, I think there will always be people who do stupid things, so they might as well think God told them to do it. At the very least, religion serves as a means of identifying who is foolish enough to just go along with any stupid idea.

Which isn’t to say that religious people are stupid… they just believe stupid things.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Know Your Shit

“Fuck” gets a lot of credit for being a versatile word. You can pepper it into nearly any part of a sentence as often as you want (“Where the fuck do you fucking think you’re fucking going?”), or even use it between syllables of a word you want to emphasize (un-fucking-believable). You can tell someone to fuck themselves, or even suggest they do so after moving away from you (“go fuck yourself”) or just utter, “Fuck me.”

But “shit” is almost as useful. It certainly has quite a few variants. You got your dumb shits, dipshits, lying sacks of shit, shit bags, shit heads with shit eating grins. You can have a shitty morning, a shitty day, a shitty afternoon, or even just be feeling shitty. Psychopaths make note of everyone they hate on their “shit lists,” but if you just want to talk to someone, you shoot the shit with them. If you are really drunk, you’re shit-faced, and if you don’t care, then you don’t give a shit, or couldn’t give a shit. Then you have a whole zoo full (or shitload) of animal options.

You got horseshit and bullshit, and I never know when it is appropriate to use one over the other. It’s like the shit equivalent of “lay” and “lie” with me. Also, why bullshit and not cowshit? If someone is insane, they’re batshit crazy. A coward might be called a “chicken shit.” If someone is going to get mad, they’ll go apeshit (which I believe is one step below shitting a brick). More than once, I’ve heard dumb people called “dumb as dog shit,” though I always preferred “shit for brains.”

It can be both hotter and colder than shit. Good music is the shit, bad music is just shit. Other people’s things are always “shit.” When the shit hits the fan, you are in deep shit (perhaps up Shit Creek with a turd for a paddle). People can be bored as shit, hungry as shit, tired as shit or sure as shit. Something can be as funny as shit, slow as shit, fast as shit, hard as shit, soft as shit, scary as shit, cool as shit, broken as shit, quiet as shit, or loud as shit.

Frankly, there’s a literal shit-ton of uses for the word, and I think it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. As long as people keep “fuck” up on a pedestal, “shit” will always be #2.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Ten: Fictional Movie Characters I Would Ask for Advice

10. Ferris Bueller
9. Hermione Granger
8. Gandalf
7. Ellen Ripley
6. Tyler Durden
5. Forrest Gump
4. Indiana Jones
3. Sarah Connor
2. Yoda
1. God, as played by Morgan Freeman

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Rule: Drugs and Books

I think we should outlaw books and legalize drugs. This way, kids will become bored with getting high, while going to great lengths to read.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some Questions On How To Handle Welfare

My esteemed colleague, the Heathen Republican, wrote a post that I thought read like a guilty confession, one where the criminal is not all that sorry for what he’s done, but he knows he’s been caught. The post is called “Conservatives, the Poor, and Entitlements.”

It primarily consists of a few questions, and his answers. I will be posting his answers in italics, and my response to certain points in brackets, followed by an overall answer/critique after his answer is complete. So, in overview: his words are in italics, while mine will not be.

Question 1: What responsibility does society have to the poor?

Conservatives value human life [unless you are foreign or found guilty of a crime], so society has an obligation to pick people up when they’re down and care for the people who can’t care for themselves [this is nice sentiment from HR, but I don’t think this is basic conservative ideology… but I don’t want to discourage him from thinking otherwise]. Free markets are the most efficient way to boost the standard of living for everyone in society, and significant interference in the market by government hinders economic growth [Actually, the most unregulated free markets concentrate wealth among the wealthy and impoverish an entire class of people… but this requires studying history and often considering events in other countries, so I can imagine why this isn’t plain fact to Americans]. Policies that keep markets free do the most to put more money in more [I think he misspelled “rich”] people’s pockets. Finally, the golden rule tells us that we should help others in their time of need because we would like help when we are in need, which is consistent with maintaining a basic social safety net [again… I’m perplexed at where this comes from, as HR claims to be an atheist, and I’m not sure about the logic behind introducing this here, but again… I don’t want to discourage this view].

While we have an obligation to pick people up when they're down, society does not have an obligation to lift people out of their poverty [we don’t have an obligation to do either, but we’re better off if we do both… but more on that in a second]. Instead, we can assist them by providing basic necessities, and making sure they have the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty [I think I’ll just cover my response to this below].

To answer the initial question: society has no responsibility to anyone, rich or poor. It is we, the citizens, who determine (based essentially on whim) what our society does, and there is no inherent “should” in the system.

But this is largely a cop out, and an answer I prefer to begin with because I want to make clear that this is not really a question of morality or ethics (it can be, but there is something larger than this at stake). Rather, this is a question about success. Do you want your society to succeed? If so, you would be better off doing what works, like providing the ability of all of your citizens to reach their full potential.

As I’m sure HR would agree, this doesn’t mean everyone will be successful, but the truth is, anyone might be important. If Stephen Hawking had been born into a poor American family, he might be dead. In fact, if they lacked health insurance, he’d almost certainly be dead. There is no way of knowing, from the time a person is born until the moment they die, what someone is capable of accomplishing. There are many important people who were enabled by others to rise from humble – even stunted – beginnings, but an untold number were never given the chance, and we will never know what we as a whole lost in these individuals.

To me, there is an ethical component in helping others, but there is also a cold, heartless fact based only on economic reasoning: we are squandering the abilities of those we neglect, and our society is immeasurably poorer because of it.

Question 2: Who has the responsibility?

The first point of responsibility is with individuals themselves. Individuals are responsible for themselves and their families, and no one should look to government to support them. Sometimes individuals fail, and that’s when society can step in to assist, but we cannot support unhealthy lifestyles and we should not prevent individuals from regaining their ability to care for themselves. [Spoken like a true right-winger who knows nothing about poverty… as if people are lining up to be poor because it’s so great living on welfare, so they have no incentive to earn more money and afford to do things they can’t afford to do on welfare, like… pay their bills on time or eat three whole meals a day. Also, no mention of how millions of people have no choice in the matter, from children of the poor to the disabled and mentally ill… why didn’t you choose to be born rich, able to walk, and mentally stable people?!]

The second point of responsibility is with government. As a society, we’ve decided that government has a role in providing a social safety net, but our Constitution limits how involved government can get. Local and state governments have more flexibility, but the federal government has clear limits. [This is just Republican propaganda, of little substance or meaning. It’s meant to point out an imaginary barrier whereby the states should have the power to do the right thing, but not the federal government, because Nixon courted the racially charged states-rights vote in the 70s, so the right-wing has been chanting “states rights” ever since. It’s constitutional to bail out billionaire bankers, and they did, but to help poor people would be unconstitutional… silly right-wingers and their double standards…]

The final point of responsibility is with local communities. For the things government is prevented from doing, charitable and non-governmental institutions must take over [They don’t and they won’t, but the right would love it if they did, since this would mean less taxes]. If they are unable, we can’t simply expand the role of the federal government without first amending our Constitution. [Blah blah blah]

I don’t like the word “responsibility” here, because it implies we have to do something. We don’t have to, but we do have to deal with the consequences of not doing anything, or not doing enough. What are the consequences of doing nothing? They range from things are harmless as generational poverty and widespread disenfranchisement to eventually armed revolt (which is the inevitable outcome when a people are left to suffer in hopelessness).

But I don’t think we’re facing the more dire consequences, at least not any time soon. I know some are all doom-and-gloom, but Americans have it pretty good on the whole, and we can have it even better if we do the right things. I don’t think we’re on the edge, and I’m confident that the government will do the right thing… at least once they have exhausted all other options (it’s always the solution you try last that works…).

Question 3: How much is society responsible?

Conservatives believe in a limited government[unless it’s the military, or pet projects, or tax breaks for campaign donors… or anything pertaining to gays or a woman’s uterus], so the ability of the federal government to care for the poor is also limited [Only in your head]. We cannot simply expand government indefinitely [Oh my god, a slippery slope leading to massive government! Sure, it looks like we’re just helping the poor, but if we’re not careful, we’ll wake up one morning and they’ll be billionaires, and the rich will be the poor… and up will be down, we’ll all be eating tofu on Thankgiving, then the terrorists will have won! Come on people!]. Government should limit its help to subsistence-level support (e.g. food, shelter, emergency health care), and should not be responsible for boosting people into the middle class (home ownership, wireless internet access, college tuition, etc.). [First of all… where do you live that aid given by the government is lifting anyone into the middle class? Seriously, no claim is more ludicrous than the belief that the poor are being given a free-ride into the middle by welfare. The poor don’t own homes, they rent. But now that you mention it, some of the most successful countries do give away free internet and college tuition, because they don’t want their country to be stupid. You can’t blame Republicans for denying people access to information and education, however… with those two being free, there would be a lot less Republicans.]

Again, that word… responsibility…

It just seems so wrong to me. To me, the word itself evokes “response,” which isn’t what I think we should be doing. We shouldn’t just be responding to problems, we should be solving (but ideally, preventing) them. However, I imagine the word brings up meanings in most people’s heads akin to things like “duty,” or in certain other cases, “culpability” or “blame.”

It’s not our duty to do the right thing, it’s in our best interest. However, I do see it as our fault when there are poor people not getting help, because Americans are responsible for what happens in America. Among industrialized nations, American has an embarrassingly large population of impoverished, optionless, and functionally abandoned individuals. You can include our prison population in that, as well, as this situation is not because we have particularly high crime, but that we have such draconian sentencing (especially pertaining to drugs, where we punish, rather than treat).

That’s about the extent to which I think society is responsible: outcomes. When things go wrong on a national level compared to other nations with similar economic success but different social policies… we are responsible for our failure to adapt to new and improved methods. I wish we would get our shit together and be responsible for us succeeding again, but I don’t see that happening any time very soon; maybe around 2020 (no particular reason for that date, just spitballing).

Question 4: Who are we talking about? Those who cannot help themselves, or those who will not help themselves?

Both. Those who cannot help themselves are the responsibility of society as a whole, both governmental and non-governmental. The federal government has programs as part of a basic social safety net. When the federal government hits its limit, local and state governments can take over, as well as charitable and other non-governmental organizations. [What actually happens: those who are poor don’t get enough, and they sink into debt; their children have zero opportunities to succeed; their children become poor; private charities pocket huge sums of money; rinse and repeat.]

As for those who will not help themselves, we should build a system that assists them to become self-sufficient, but weans them off over time so that they do not drain the resources that should go to those who cannot help themselves. [You know… because when you apply for help, they always ask you to check the box marked “I could support myself, but I choose not to” or “I cannot support myself,” whichever applies to you…] The federal government has a much smaller role here since the bureaucracy is limited in its ability to meet individual needs [gibberish right-wing speak], so local entities must take more responsibility [see also: less will get done, and those from states like Mississippi, that are less wealthy, will remain less wealthy]. The first goal is to get these people to become responsible for themselves since they are capable, given some assistance.

Let’s be honest… this whole questions is just a Republican talking point here. Going back to an earlier example, if Stephen Hawking was given a US education, I doubt he’d be much use to anyone. Instead, he was born into an affluent English family, so even though his disability would make most people in most situations little more than a medical and financial burden, the advantages of his circumstances have allowed him to retain an almost priceless value to humanity, even though he is afflicted with a debilitating disease.

There is no way to measure such nonsensical things as whether a person could or could not be self-sufficient. Apparently, HR doesn’t realize how horrible it is being poor, so he doesn’t realize that no one, anywhere, in any country, under any system, wants to be poor. I imagine pictures of poor people taking cruises and chinking their martini glasses as they laugh at the American tax-payer floating through HR’s head… that and syphilis. Okay, maybe not that last one, but I am at a loss as to how to explain such failure to understand a basic fact: it sucks to be poor. Perhaps he was dropped on his head as an infant? I dunno… oh wait, I forgot about this next question… where we’ll be enlightened…

Question 5: How do we decide who fits each group?

Those who are able-bodied and free of any mental handicaps fall into the category of “will not help themselves.” Even if they are controlled by certain addictions, which we can help them get free of, they are not free of their individual responsibility. [I don’t know where people get the idea that people on welfare are addicts, but I’m guessing it’s Fox News, not reality.]

The level of physical or mental handicap will determine who truly cannot help themselves. Some of them should be asked to care for themselves, based on medical evaluations and the ability of similarly handicapped individuals to care for themselves. [If Stephen Hawking can be so successful without being able to move or speak, clearly these disabled individuals are just playing it up for the sympathy checks…] Many mildly handicapped individuals are able to care for themselves, and modern technology has removed many barriers that prevent the physically handicapped from supporting themselves [Many technologies allow the handicapped to support themselves… like canes, and handrails on stairs! No, seriously, he has a point that more people have more potential, even when having to cope with disabilities, and it’s thanks to diligent efforts by the government… not any free market.]. These are individual decisions, and not something a Washington bureaucrat can decide. [Yeah, only a blogger in Colorado can make this decision, not a duly elected government official who travelled to Washington to do their job, you know, where the Capitol is located… right-wing speak is always ridiculous when you break it down logically. Not that there’s anything wrong with bloggers or Colorado… or HR.]

I propose we simplify this weird system of deciding who can or cannot help themselves by not dividing those seeking help into groups, which would just create more… what’s the word for it… I know there’s a word we use when talking about how politicians try to complicate matters and make arbitrary distinctions from far away without having much understanding of what actually happens on the ground… damnit, it’s on the tip of my tongue… oh right, bureaucracy.

Question 6a: Of those who cannot, is our help to them open-ended?

Our assistance for those who cannot help themselves is open-ended unless they become able to care for themselves (children growing into adults, for example). For those who will forever be unable to care for themselves, our obligation is a lifelong one, but not a bottomless one. They must be cared for in a way that provides a lifestyle that is free from the stresses that come from providing the basic necessities of life (e.g. food, shelter, basic health care). But society is not obligated to provide a luxurious lifestyle, and we should not help so much that it creates an incentive for others to pretend they need the same assistance. [So close… I almost went a whole paragraph where I agreed with him, but then he started imagining a world where people live like kings off the government… I wish I was a poor person in the mind of a Republican; it sounds pretty cushy.]

Let’s put it this way: I’m of the opinion that if you’re poor and can get into the best college in the country, I’m fine with the government paying for it, as well as a computer for you to use while you’re there. Based on previous comments, I am not sure HR would be okay with this, but frankly, it’s a small price to pay to possibly produce a productive member of society. Hell, I’ll even foot the bill for their Adderall habit. We should be so lucky to have the poor taking speed; I’m not even opposed to putting it in the drinking water (why shouldn’t my dog get the benefit of laser-sharp focus?). Little hyperbole there… or is it? [Comment on myself: that is kind of creepy, there… that’s how Herman Cain talks: “Here’s a horrible idea… I’m kidding… unless you’re into it…” This is also known as the “How to introduce weird sexual fetishes to your partner” method of suggestion.]

I get the feeling the affluent blame failure on drug use because they are surrounded by people who have every opportunity, and the only ones who fail when given every opportunity are… well… addicts.

Most poor people aren’t on drugs, but more of them deserve to be. If anyone deserves to be high, it’s the poor, but from studies (and Florida’s experiment in drug testing welfare recipients), we know that the poor are not poor because of drug use, so it’s a complete canard to focus on substance abuse. It’s just easy to believe convenient myths, like that there are legions of drug addicts taking government hand-outs (convenient, if you hate government hand-outs and want a reason to justify hating the poor), or the purely fictional “welfare queen” imagined in Reagan’s empty rhetoric.

Question 6b: Of those who will not, how much help are they entitled to?

Our assistance for those who can help themselves is not open-ended. We should assist them for a short period of time (unemployment compensation, drug rehabilitation, [I love how he will fund people getting off drugs… but education so you can actually make something of yourself? Forget it…] etc.) and expect them to begin supporting themselves as soon as possible. In most cases, the federal government is not well-suited to this kind of assistance because the bureaucracy cannot provide the individual attention needed to ensure people don’t return to their original state [I have to assume he means “drug addiction,” because most of the poor are young and have little job experience, or are elderly and dying… so I assume he doesn’t mean that without oversight, people will age in reverse or ]. As long as it’s consistent with its limited role, government can provide funds to local organizations that can assist individuals to become self-sufficient. [I’m not sure he realizes this largely means churches will get government funding… but I also don’t think he cares, even though he’s an atheist. He’s such a bundle of nonsense, sometimes, especially when he feels he has to tow the Republican party line when it comes to sucking Christianity’s cock while cupping private charity’s balls.]

The social safety net should ensure that no one becomes homeless or dies from their poverty. Even those who will not help themselves should be given assistance with the basics of life, including shelter, food, and emergency health care. This kind of support should not be given to anyone above the poverty line (and the poverty line needs to be a realistic assessment of true poverty). [He’s glad the social safety net is there… he just votes for people who want to eliminate it. But don’t worry, he’s one of the good people ruining America, because he doesn’t agree with the actual policy decisions and funding cuts of the people he supports.]

I understand the desire to get people off social assistance, but you don’t need to push people, you need to broaden their opportunities. Short of education, training, or direct employment through the government, there’s not much else you can do to get someone on their way to financial independence. HR seems to advocate none of these.

And if you’re poor from doing drugs, do the right thing: give up using and start dealing. Kidding… or am I?

Question 7: Since social policy can’t address every individual situation and resources are not infinite, how do we balance compassion with standards to arrive at the right amount of assistance?

While our compassion may be infinite, the dollars available to assist those needing our compassion are not [Lucky for liberals, many countries have more success in this area than we do, and they didn’t require infinite dollars…]. Similarly, while establishing standards for assisting those in need will minimize fraud and focus our efforts on those who need it most, many individuals will fall through the cracks. Government is very good at establishing standards for everyone, but very poor at assisting at the individual level.

Government should be directly involved in and administer programs like unemployment compensation, food stamps, and welfare assistance. Health care, substance abuse programs, homeless shelters and other housing assistance, assisted living facilities, and children’s services are often better handled at the local level by non-governmental or charitable organizations
[Really? Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of “The United Way,” pockets over a million dollars a year. Where is the million-per-year politician or government bureaucrat? If there is one, alert me, I want to start a campaign to have the position scrapped. Maybe someone working at the Fed? NASA? Definitely not a social worker, though.] . Government money can flow to these organizations to support their efforts [aka: flow into the pockets of wealthy, private “charity” owners who cannot be voted out of power and can discriminate against who they help], but the programs themselves are better administered outside of government. [Because of course, everything’s better when you hear how awful those at the top are and you can’t do anything about them… because democracy sucks, so there’s no point in preferring your money be used by those you actually voted for… all hail the corporate overlord nobility! Am I the only one reading that between the lines? Figures… I need new glasses.]

I don’t think we have to worry about giving too much; we’re not even close to that right now. I honestly believe we could double what we give and we’d still fall desperately short of what would be needed to provide people not only what they deserve, but need in order for them to achieve financial independence. I would rather hover around giving too much than giving too little. How will we know when we’ve given too much? If we still have the most expensive military in the world, we haven’t given too much.

If you look where the money goes in this country, it’s no wonder we have smart bombs and dumb people.

WTF Moment of the Month

I know it’s the first of the month, but seriously… this made me actually scream at my computer at 7:30am.

A Kentucky church (Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church) has banned interracial couples from its congregation.

That isn’t the part that I “What the fuck”ed about. That part I expect out of a state like Kentucky, a state that (like my former home state of Indiana) was the recipient of so much white-flight. You won’t find more consummate racists than you will in the Midwest. No, the part that made me lose it and realize this is a country of stupid morons too stupid and moronic to realize that they are stupid morons is the response of the church goers when outsiders reacted to such blatant bigotry.

The part that got me was that the man who crafted the ban and the church itself who voted to enact it are claiming they are not racist. Oh… well… I don’t hate you guys, though I hope you die… and if I see you in a dark alley, I will slit your throats… but I don’t hate you, and this is not a threat…

If you need any further proof that saying, “I’m not racist,” means absolutely fuck-all, look no further. If you literally ban interracial couples from attending your church, you are racist. There’s no discussion, there’s no debate, there’s no technicality that you can resort to, you’re just good ol’ fashioned racist pricks.

What I love is that by backtracking and pretending a spade is not a spade (you know… just that a spade can’t marry a diamond), this Kentucky church proves that they are not only too ignorant to accept an interracial couple, they’re too ignorant (or cowardly) to even realize (or admit) they’re racist. And since it’s Kentucky, I can only assume the man who suggested the ban was the jilted cousin of a woman who married a black guy.

Am I a bad atheist for hoping this couple does find a church they can be accepted in? No, and I hope they are able to find happiness… but I suggest looking outside Kentucky.

So remember: racism isn’t dead, it just hides where most of us would never, ever want to go. Stay classy, Kentucky.
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