Thursday, July 30, 2009

Biker Gangs Are Not Motorcyclists

Why do all motorcyclists get tarred with the same brush as these criminal gangs? It's a topic I have touched on before.

A few years ago, there was a "biker-on-biker" mass murder near Shedden, or Dutton Ontario where my mother lives. I noted that no bikes were actually involved in the murder, or found near the scene of the murder, but the headlines still screamed "Bikers Commit Mass Murder". Why then, when everyone involved was in a car or truck, were bikes mentioned at all? Apparently, they were still a "biker" gang, because in the mind of the public the original reason for their gang membership was the ownership and love of riding motorcycles.

Now finally on the 30th of July, 2009 comes this statement under oath from a witness in the murder trial.
"Court earlier heard that men hoping to join the motorcycle club didn't actually have to own or operate motorcycles.

Bryant noted that his client, Marcelo Aravena, 33, of Winnipeg, doesn't own a motorcycle or even have a licence to ride one.

"This was a bike club with no bikes?" asked Bryant, who is in his third day of cross-examining M.H.

"Pretty much, yeah," replied M.H., who was a member of the Winnipeg Bandidos and didn't own a motorcycle himself. The trial continues."
At long last we can stop calling these folks "Bikers" and "motorcyclists" Here are some replacement labels for reporters and journalists: "alleged murderers" "gun owners" "beer tasting gangs" "drug pushers". Choose whichever is most appropriate before you pick on motorcycles.

http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/673909

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Ignorance

A famous quote is "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise". It came from a poem by Thomas Gray, "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College" 1742.

When I was younger I misunderstood what this was about. I thought it referred to a place where everybody was ignorant, and if an educated wise person went there, they would be better off shutting up about it, or they could end up in jail. Well now that I'm older, I see that's not exactly what Thomas Gray meant. He was talking about the ignorance of young people vs. wisdom of aged people. He is saying young people are happier without the wisdom that comes with old age. Not only the age related diseases, but disillusionment. It makes more sense, because everybody knows that with age comes wisdom, right?

But could my mythical country where everybody is blissfully ignorant, and intelligent people better shut up about it, actually exist? I think it might have existed at one time, even if it goes against all statistical probability. I mean what are the odds that millions of ignorant people would converge and live together at one time?

The place I'm thinking of is the southern USA during the time of slavery. Although not all the southerners believed in slavery, most did. The ones that believed in slavery did their best to make life miserable for free thinking abolitionists who spoke against it.

There are stories of Jones county, Mississippi that fought against the Confederacy, calling itself "The Free State of Jones"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jones_County,_Mississippi
http://www.amazon.com/State-Jones-Sally-Jenkins/dp/0385525931

The people of Jones county were obviously not blissful for their wisdom in opposing the majority of ignorant slave owners. Was ignorance bliss anywhere in the south before the civil war? If you were a southern abolitionist you would have been treated harshly, and widely regarded as ignorant. No matter how you tried to use logic and reason to defend your case against slavery, you would never win an argument, you would end up being called an idiot and deluded. Your logic would be like a tool of the devil, and your plain facts would be seen as Satan's trickery. Ugly rumours would be circulated widely about you. You would also be called a sinner against God, and a traitor to your country.

Yet one hundred and fifty years later, you would be vindicated and the entire south would have apologised for the error of their sinful and racist ways. But the wisdom against slavery did not come from the south, because the suppression of truth and wisdom was so ruthless. The more progressive ideas of equality had to come from the north, where plain truth and logic was respected. Where people were skeptical of proven liars, bigots and hypocrites. In the Northern USA, ideas of freedom and equality could be argued intelligently, and eventually people came to accept the truthful ideas of racial equality.

So it does seem like it is possible to have a significant geographical area where ignorance is in fact bliss and wisdom is a folly. Probably Thomas Gray himself never imagined such a place could ever exist.

Today, of course the southern USA has recovered, they have internationally respected Universities and colleges, free universal public education, unbiased radio and TV, unrestricted scientific research, and liberal intellectuals are welcome everywhere. People from the south have been elected as president, to serve with intelligence and wisdom that was widely admired throughout the world. What a difference a hundred or so years can make.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Propaganda: Orwell Blackwhite Doublethink

No discussion of propaganda would be complete withuot a reference to George Orwell. For example, this famous bit from the futuristic novel 1984.

The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink. Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. "

– Part II, chapter IX - chapter I of Goldstein's book

I believe that in this one paragraph, Orwell foretold the coming of the both the Internet and Fox News. For those of you who wonder how a book called 1984 could be about the future, you will just have to figure it out for yourselves. When I first read it, 1984 did seem so impossibly far into the future that almost anything could be true.

A modern example of doublethink could be taken from the 2004 election, where the man who volunteered twice for duty in Vietnam, and was a decorated war hero, was said to be a coward and a traitor by the Republican party faithful, while George W Bush, who sat out the Vietnam war in luxury, and never served in combat, was said to be the war hero.

What Orwell was saying was, if enough people believe the opposite of reality, then reality itself becomes the delusion. The lie then becomes the plain facts. This can happen with modern propaganda. If Fox news repeats often enough that Obama is responsible for the economic collapse, then anyone who denies it can qualify for a mental health checkup.

It is not enough any more to believe in and publicly state state something completely opposite to reality any more . Now to be an up-to-date "blackwhite" from the year 2009, you must also curse, misspell, and accuse people who rely on plain facts of being mindless zombies. With the anonymity and speed of of the Internet, you now can cross-post with multiple identities, misrepresenting your true agenda to gain more credibility. For example, you can claim to be a liberal on the Internet while driving your Hummer with Vote Bush bumper stickers in real life. It is not enough to merely be ignorant, but you must be proud of it. You must believe that education itself is ignorance, and that it is your God-given duty to be as ignorant of the facts as humanly possible, while continuing to spout the opinions of your political party at a pace impossible to imagine in Orwell's day.

The most frustrating irony of all this is that when all the Doublethink becomes the norm, one of the very first goals of the doublethinkers is to accuse their opponents of doublethink. Think about that (twice).

More up-to-date examples found on the Internet, of doublethink, what Orwell called blackwhite.
  1. "The bible is the source of all scientific advances"
  2. "Scientists have held back the advance of technology that comes from the Bible"
  3. "It's the liberals who start wars, not the conservatives"
  4. "Darwinists caused the holocaust"
  5. "Jesus was pro-war"
  6. "Big business loves saving the environment"
  7. "Palestinians are stronger than Israelis, so Israel has to defend itself by any means possible"
  8. "Arabs blew up the Oklahoma federal building"
  9. "Liberals are intolerant, conservatives are compassionate"
  10. "Black people are oppressing whites in America, so they are the true racists"
  11. "I believe in Adam and Eve because I love science."

From Conservapedia, two conflicting ideas in different entries placed together for the absurdity.
"Hitler is a leftist" and "Leftists favour reduced military spending"

Classic Conservapedia definition of a liberal
"A liberal (also leftist) is someone who rejects logical and biblical standards, often for self-centered reasons. There are no coherent liberal standards; often a liberal is merely someone who craves attention, and who uses many words to say nothing. Liberalism began as a movement for individual liberties, but today is increasingly statist, and in Europe even socialistic."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why You Point Guns in Movies, Not Real Life

There some universal conventions in the movies, if you take the time to notice them. One of those conventions involves cars and garbage cans. If you see a galvanized steel garbage can and a car in a movie, the car will crash into the garbage can. Similar to market fruit stands, whether on wheels or on a fixed position.

There is also a convention on the pointing of guns in a movie. In order to move the plot along, or to explain what is going on, Shakespeare used to do soliloquies, where the actor turns and speaks to directly to the audience. Today that is almost never done (except "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and a few others). Instead, one character just pulls out a gun and points it at another character. Then the character with a gun either explains his or her motivation in doing whatever crazy things they have been doing, or the pointee explains their own thoughts, or both. Sometimes, in a double pointing episode, both people point the guns at each other. Sometimes it goes up to gang-pointing orgies, although those usually end with one guy breaking out in a big grin and saying something like "let's just put the guns down and do business"

Sometimes the gun pointing is kind of funny. Two big guys come in and intimidate some little guy. One big bad guy holds the little guy from behind, the big bad guy in front talks to the little guy. You would think that no gun is necessary, wouldn't you? Little guy should be intimidated enough by now. But no, big bad guy number one pulls out a huge pistol and points it directly at little guy before the talking gets serious. This is absolutely typical in the movies, but not real life.

What is the problem here? Well for one thing, would you want to be the big bad guy number 2? If Number 1 misses, you're dead. Actually, even if number one hits, that bullet is probably coming through at a slightly reduced velocity, and you are seriously injured, enough to go to hospital. And what if you don't have health coverage?

But the convention is that one person is pointing the gun, the other one has to do as told and be respectful and tell then truth. So this is a great way to wrap up a movie plot and come to a happy ending. But it is just not realistic, and it definitely plants subconscious ideas in the heads of insecure people who then rush out to buy guns, thinking that they will be able to gain the same kind of respect that the movie actors do.

http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Prison_Break

Even the Mounties can Act Stupidly

A few days ago, Barack Obama committed the third all-out gaffe of his presidency. I'm counting the "clinging to their guns and religion" gaffe from the pre-presidency, Obama likes to start early.

1. Saying Republican Pennsylvanians were clinging to their Guns and religion instead of voting for jobs
2. Saying on the Jay Leno show that his bowling score was like the Special Olympics
3. Saying the cops in Cambridge Mass. acted stupidly handcuffing and arresting a professor in his own house.

Obama's words were not only well chosen, they could be Obama's version of "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall". There is no truer statement that you could possibly make, than to say there was stupidity involved. The cops did act stupidly by arresting Henry Gates. Henry Gates, a black man and Harvard professor, acted stupidly by not being subservient to the white cop when he was ordered to get out of his own home. The neighbour who actually called the cops without recognizing a neighbour, acted stupidly. The head of the Cambridge police union acted stupidly in saying Obama had disgraced his role as Commander in Chief. The press acted stupidly in asking the question in the "health care crisis" press conference. Obama acted stupidly in saying that only the cops acted stupidly. The press acted stupidly in leading with this story for the next four days, even after the police had called the incident regrettable and released the professor. The press acted stupidly in focusing in on this side issue while dropping the very important issue of "Barack Obama's Birth Certificate- is it a forgery?". More broadly, Southern Plantation owners acted stupidly in importing millions of black slaves. And I'm acting stupidly for paying any attention to this at all.

The stupidity seems to be contagious.

Back to the Harvard Professor incident, the arresting officer, Crowley, has served as an instructor for the Lowell Police Academy since 2004, teaching a course entitled "Racial Profiling". So that either tells you that he could never make a mistake himself, since he was the instructor, or it tells you how bad the other cops were.

Now lest it appear that I am US-bashing, here's how the mounties would have handled this in Canada. If you go by this story http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/03/04/bc-taser-inquiry-conspiracy.html

Looks like Henry Gates is lucky he isn't in Canada or he might be dead by now.

The stupid (probably photoshopped) picture is from the stupid website: http://www.sodahead.com/question/302767/silly-insulting-funny-stupid-cute-or-all-of-the-above/

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Military History from 1867

I want to go into Jonah Goldberg's article a little more, because it contains a historical misinformation. Challenging ignorance is not a bad way to learn a little history.
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/800108/posts  (the link to Jonah's Article "Bomb Canada: The Case for War)

"Canada's 1867 confederation, according to most historians, was the direct result of Canada's not-unfounded fears that the battle-hardened Union Army would turn its sights on Canada the way a still-peckish lion lazily turns on a fat gazelle."

In the words of the famous Winston Churchill in response to Mr. Hitler's threat to "wring England's neck like a chicken". Churchill said "some chicken. (prolonged applause) Some neck." That was in 1941, spoken in the Canadian parliament days after the USA joined WW2, which had actually started way back in 1939 in answer to Hitler invading Poland. Most Americans seem peculiarly unaware that this delay ever happened, and wrongly assume that America was always first to defend freedom, last one to appease.

In 1867, Canada was formed out of several British colonies in North America that Britain decided would be better administered, and more easily defended if they were united under one colonial government. Canada was a part of the British Empire, just like Alaska is part of the USA. Canada flew the flag of the British Empire, just like Alaska flies the flag of the Unites States of America. Canada would continue to fly the British flag, or ensign at least through two more world wars. So for Jonah, who mistakenly thought that picking on Canada in 1867 would be like a lion that peckishly turns to a fat gazelle, it would be more like this lion gets itself eaten for lunch.

Realistically speaking, if Canada was such easy pickings, it would be part of America today, no question about it. Canada's only serious military weakness in 1867 was that so many Canadians were actually new immigrants from America. There was a security concern for where their loyalties would lie in case of an invasion. But the Americans had tried before in 1812 (only about 50 years earlier) and it had not worked out. So the US government was not about to make another mistake, especially just after so many were killed in the Civil War.

An invasion of Canada after the Civil War was tried by the Irish-American "Fenian" militias, but the US government denied any responsibility. The Fenian raids only proved that if the USA invaded Canada officially, the US would not be able to completely secure Canada before the British Navy arrived, at which point the US would have to surrender. Remember that in 1867, the USA was much weaker than Britain. Today Canada is weaker militarily than the USA. But in 1867, it was part of the British Empire, and its flag was the Union Jack. Imagine if Canada today tried to invade Alaska, the rest of the USA would come to the rescue before we could secure it. Actually no, from what I remember the Alaska Air Force Reserve alone could beat Canada's national Air Force, so bad example. Let's say Canada invaded Point Roberts, USA then, that would be a better example. Short term we could win, but because the rest of the USA is ready to come to the rescue, the glorious invasion of Point Roberts would soon turn bad. Not to mention all the Point Roberts suicide bombers ready to die for their country. It would really be a nightmare for Canada, which is why we have never done it. Realism usually wins out over megalomania in Canada.

For those who never heard of Point Roberts, USA, use Google maps, then zoom out just a little to see how Canada might win an early advantage. Check especially the location of the Canada US border.

One more quote, but I need to stop there even though Jonah's article goes on and on with ignorance bordering on delusional.


Jeffrey Simpson, who might be called the Canadian David Broder, has even written a book entitled The Friendly Dictatorship, which sports on its cover a doctored photo of Jean Chretien in a Pinochet-style military tunic. Simpson argues not only that Chretien is the "Sun King" of Canada, but that the government itself is designed to be for all intents and purposes a secular monarchy. In Canada, the prime minister appoints the entire senate and has a level of control over members of parliament that would make Tom "The Hammer" DeLay surrender his whip. If one of Chretien's fellow Liberals fails to toe the party line, the prime minister has the power to kick him out of the party and even to refuse to ratify his election papers.


Actually, if the Prime Minister does indeed "Kick him out of the party" (by the way we have some women members too, who have indeed left their party) the member usually sits as independent, or worse yet might go to the opposition party. And this "kicked out" member still has a vote, which can now be used to defeat the Prime Minister instantly. Yes you heard it right. If the Canadian Prime Minister's government is ever defeated by even one vote on one of its bills, they have to call an election immediately. Not like in the US where you get a lame duck president vetoing congress and issuing "Signing statements" that the President does not have to follow the law that he just signed. Or some long drawn out impeachment procedure that does nothing. No, in Canada, the vote is taken and if the Prime Minister does not have at least half of them, he's out within hours.

And the senate in Canada is not like the senate in the US, it does not have any real authority, at least not that Canadians are aware of. It's more like a retirement club for senile members of parliament. A bit like in the US, where senators retire and become unelected lobbyists, except our senate doesn't even have as much influence as an American lobbyist.

Actually, I don't really expect an American to know much about how the Canadian government works. But most of them don't call our prime minister the "Sun King" and "a corrupt African state with decades of one-party rule". And by the way, the reference to Pinochet and his uniform. Pinochet was a CIA-backed Chilean dictator. The only time you will see a picture of a Canadian Prime minister in a uniform is when it is photoshopped. On the other hand, President Bush didn't need much arm twisting to prance around in a real navy flight suit, declaring Mission Accomplished, as the "Commander In Chief" of the armed forces.

And, Jonah, you might be surprised, even shocked, to find out that the Conservatives won the last two elections in Canada. Although as you said they might also be to the left of Sweden. But if you know as much about Sweden as you do about Canada, it's not that much to go on. I will go into how right wing our conservatives are in some other blog, because this could take forever. I only got to page two out of 6, and skipped stuff along the way.

Just for background, I have included a picture of the British HMS Minotaur at the top of this blog, commissioned in 1867, a large iron clad sea going battleship with 36 guns and screw propeller. At the same time,the Americans had the famous USS Monitor, an ironclad ship, shown here, with only one gun, slow moving and and hardly able to stay afloat even in small waves. The wake of the HMS Minotaur alone would have sunk the USS Monitor without a shot being fired. That sums up the difference between the US Navy and the British navy in the mid nineteenth century. Both navies of course had other ships, you might want to read more about it here.

Canada U.S. Relations Improving Apparently

Some people may nitpick at President Obama just because he is the Antichrist and he is trying to destroy America with socialism, and because he is the illegal immigrant who became president under false pretenses. Even in Canada, MacLean's Magazine had an article about how bad Obama was for Canada.

But I think we should also try to look at the silver lining of his presidency. First, gun sales are way up. If you are a gun dealer, especially in assault weaponry, you are laughing all the way to the bank (which by the way just collapsed).

Secondly, I just want to remind Canadians especially, how much the mood in America has improved towards us. We may have already forgotten the anger of the Bush years towards Canada, and I don't just mean the illegal softwood lumber tariff. Also, I am not talking about the fact that our first five Canadian casualties killed in Afghanistan were actually bombed by Americans.  (Ironic, given Jonah's argument)  Or the official snubs of the Canadian representatives in Washington, or the US ambassador to Canada lecturing us on how to be good friends to America.

Back in 2003 was a time when American rhetoric against Canada was at a high. Does anyone remember the article in the conservative "National Review" by Jonah Goldberg, "Bomb Canada: The case for war". Of course, you think, it was satire. Well except for the fact that conservatives do not have a sense of humour you could be right. In fact I did read through the article again to see if I could detect any sign of self deprecating humour, but no.

The argument seemed to be that Canada needed it's big loving brother (The USA in case you couldn't guess) to slap it around a little to stop it from being a wimp and get out there and fight for freedom. As the USA had done before, to Canada's great benefit and everlasting gratefulness in 1812.

The specific details were like this: The US Air Force would go in and bomb something like the CN Tower or an empty hockey rink, following which the Canadians would rise up en masse and demand that their government increase funding for the military, and every able bodied man would volunteer to join the armed forces. Then the USA would apologise, saying something like this. Boy, did we ever mess with the wrong people. We're so sorry, we thought you would roll over and play dead when attacked. Now that we can see how tough you are, let's be friends again and go beat up on Iraq together.

If you want to read Jonah's "Bomb Canada: The Case for War" article try this link
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/800108/posts   [Link updated on Nov 28, 2013 as the original link disappeared.]


In October 2006 Jonah finally wrote that invading Iraq was a mistake, he called it a "noble" mistake. But his attitude towards Canada didn't seem to change much. Jonah Goldberg wrote a bit of a followup about Canada in June 2006, judge for yourself whether this has a tone of humour or apology in it. It was called "Bomb Canada and behead her Prime Minister", an even less appealing title than the last one.


"Canada is arguably the most deluded industrialized nation in the world. Because elite Canadians think the U.S. is the font of the world's problems, they think being different than the U.S. and sucking up to the United Nations will buy them grace on the cheap."

Speaking of deluded, I was just thinking that this article itself symbolises how deluded the right wing extremists were and still are in the United States. They have an unshakable belief that they are the "font" of all the world's freedom and democracy, while stealing elections, toppling democratically elected governments, declaring war pre-emptively, and torturing prisoners to "get valuable information." And deluded enough to think that by "slapping people around" you gain their trust and cooperation.

You know, only the most deluded of the delusional could even dream up this fantasy, where the US bombs Canada and that wakes up the Canadians and makes them realise how much they love America, and want to fight and die for it. It is deluded because first, to think that Canadians hate America is already delusional. Canadians love America, considering our history. It's just that we are a sovereign country that does not vote in USA elections, and so we make our own policies. In fact IF we voted in the US elections, there would be no president George W. Bush, and for sure no second term for president George W. Bush. The Fundamentalist Christians would not be running the USA, because Canadian voters could tip the balance, just like having another California or another New York, except even more liberal and secular.

And secondly, the rest of the world also basically loves America despite all its flaws, and remember, we all have flaws. Only the truly delusional think they are perfect. But of course that international love diminishes as America proves itself to have delusions of world domination, involving the aforementioned wars of aggression and torture, and just plain slapping people around until they love you. If the international community turned away from America because of the war in Iraq, I can only imagine what a little bombing of Canada would do for them. How long do you think, for example, it would take for the Europeans to come up with an alternative world reserve currency?

Look, maybe there are reasons why Americans, particularly southern Americans think that slapping people around works. After all slavery seemed to work just fine base on this principle. Oops I forgot, Jonah said Canadians should stop talking about the slavery thing. Actually, Canada had its own slaves. And every time the underground railway arrived in Canada with another load of escaped American slaves, Canadian slaves hopped on board to escape Canada for the freedom of the USA. (now that is humour, because although Canada did really have slaves, very few, if any, tried to escape to the USA, because they loved our cool climate so much. That and the fact that they could only pick cotton about 2 months a year.)

And finally a little History lesson for Jonah, who by the way hates the French even more than the Canadians. He said "Canada was founded largely by loyalists who rejected America's rebelliousness toward King George.".

Jonah, this is the way Canadian loyalists see it, the Loyalists were original Americans who were driven from their homes in America by the same rebels who sided with the French against their own government. They found refuge and started over in Canada after losing everything. In Canada, these displaced once-loyal Americans intended to continue their lives in peace, called themselves Canadians and stubbornly resisted the efforts of the "Americans" to invade. If American leaders at the time knew anything about history, there probably would not have been an ill conceived invasion in 1812.

So let's rewrite that quote to "Canada was founded by loyal Americans who were driven from their own country because they refused to help the French defeat the English in the war of independence." And even that is not completely right as you still have to remember Canada was also "founded" by the French Canadians, and the Inuit and original inhabitants, and other immigrants.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My New Religion

For at least 6 years, I've been promising myself to do something worth while before I leave this Earth. Now that I'm 61, I am going to start a new major religion, as I have gotten tired of the pro-war version of Christianity. I've got some of the details already worked out, such as my first step of joining the Toastmasters to learn public speaking. Another consideration is that I need a mostly new scripture, which I guess this blog is going to be the first chapter of. Although as I understand it, Google owns rights to my blog, but I plan to name the book "Google", so this would be Book of Google, Chapter 1, verses 1 to 8. I could probably talk them into letting me use my own blog that way.

Something I definitely want to get into my holy book is a section on safe motorcycling tips, and another on maintenance. Then for the rest of it, we can just copy selected peace and love verses from the Christian bible, as I believe it is public domain by now. And since we're going to be calling the first book Google, I don't see why we couldn't line up corporate sponsors for names of all the other books, I would very much like to see Tim Horton's and Canadian Tire as two of them, and there might be a sainthood in it for Timmy, too, at a little bit higher donation level.

Now for those of you who think this is sacrilegious, you should know that as soon as this religion takes off, you all will be equally sacrilegious for criticising it. At least this religion will not be twisting Jesus's words around to mean pro-war and pro-torture, like the right wing conservative Christians do, which is sacrilegious times two.

I think we can use some of the ten commandments, maybe the top 4. I will want to keep for sure "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me" as the Christians have that one, and we need to at least match it or we will have to get right to the back of the line.

For our own hell, we will need to come up with something better than the Christians. I'm thinking if we make it last longer than theirs, that'll be something to make them stop and think. And maybe a hotter flame than burning sulphur - what about atomic energy? Cheaper, and radioactive to boot. Christian hell will look like a spa by comparison. Just as well, because I believe they have reserved a spot for me there.

For the pope I want to say Brooke Shields, not just because of Blue Lagoon, but also Murphy Brown (No wait that was Candice Bergen. Oh well she can be the second Pope after Brooke, I might keep the Popes to about 4 years each.)

And finally, the piece de resistance, I want to recruit missionaries, and send them into the southern USA to convert the right wing pro-war Christians to this new religion (to be named later). We will have no ties to slavery to apologize for, no history of the inquisition, no dictums about stoning women to death, or slaying the Amalekites. Just peace and the sermon on the mount.

Get in on the ground floor, positions available for the first 12 people who leave a comment below.

Making Sense of Right Wing Christianity

I have mentioned several times in my blog, that some Christian churches have roots back to the slave owning south, and those churches back then justified slavery with all same logic that they defend their political views today.

I can understand that slavery is over, the churches have all apologised more or less. But I keep bashing away because many of the same churches today are still stubbornly anti-Christian in their beliefs and activities. For example, these southern churches still support a war of aggression, 60% of churchgoers support torture, right wing Christians are emailing chain letters promoting a holy war against all Muslims and supporting the Israeli's invasion of Lebanon, Gaza, and potentially an upcoming bombing of Iran. Pat Robertson publicly calls for assassination of a foreign leader, and supports Charles Taylor from Liberia. Now Christian Television Network is saying that Barack Obama has fundamentally rejected Christianity when he answered that people may be rewarded in heaven for doing good in life. Many ministers argue Jesus was pro-war, while telling me I am evil and going to burn in Hell forever for my pro-peace attitude. So, excuse me while I continue to expose the racist and pro-slavery roots of these aberrations of Christianity. Here is a little more historic perspective on this situation.

Slave owners in the Southern USA turned to Southern Baptists and Christian Evangelicals as the preferred religions to provide divine authority for their torture of slaves.

Not all religions are bad. Some religions are genuinely good, caring for the needy or preaching tolerance and peace, and asking nothing in return. Other churches may have a goal no more than simply expanding their membership, or becoming wealthy. Some are focused on electing a religious ruler in order to either avoid being persecuted, or so as to allow them to enjoy the freedom to persecute others.

Here are some links to the particular forms of Christianity that were used to enable abuse of the slaves under the protection of the Lord God.

George Whitefield, the "Father" of Evangelism, a slave owner himself, campaigned to have slavery re-instituted in Georgia in 1751.

Quotes from Wikipedia about Christianity and slavery below:

The 18th century evangelical protestant Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts owned the Codrington Plantation, in Barbados, containing several hundred slaves, branded on their chests with the word "Society"

The Quakers in particular were early leaders in abolitionism, attacking slavery since at least 1688. In 1787 the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed, with 9 of the 12 founder members being Quakers; William Wilberforce, an early supporter of the society, went on to push through the 1807 Slave Trade Act, striking a major blow against the transatlantic slave trade. Leaders of Methodism and Presbyterianism also vehemently denounced human bondage[107][108], convincing their congregations to do likewise; Methodists subsequently made the repudiation of slavery a condition of membership[1

In the southern United States, however, support for slavery was strong; anti-slavery literature was prevented from passing through the postal system, and even sermons, from the famed English preacher Charles Spurgeon, were burned due to their censure of slavery[110]. The Bible was used, and manipulated, to support the institution of slavery and inhumane practices; crimes such as murder were seen as justifiable, if the victims were black. When civil war broke out, to settle the question of the limits of federal power, slavery became one of the issues which would be decided by the outcome; the southern defeat lead to a constitutional ban on slavery. Despite the general emancipation of slaves, members of fringe Christian groups like the Christian Identity movement, and the Ku Klux Klan (an organization dedicated to the empowerment of the white race), and Christian Reconstructionists still argue that slavery is justified by Christian doctrine today.

Frederick Douglass, a free slave, and great orator and abolitionist, remarked that slave masters clinging to the cover of "Christianity" were the most cruel. Douglass did point out that there was a big difference between the good Christians from the north trying to abolish slavery, and the cruel southern Christians. One of the quotes is particularly telling of the hypocrisy of these religions, selling off black babies to buy bibles.

http://www.bookrags.com/notes/fred/PART12.htm
http://atheism.about.com/library/quotes/bl_q_FDouglass.htm


In case you thought the Catholics were going to get off without criticism, here are some comments on religion and racism by the Claretans, a Roman Catholic community dedicated to social justice

http://salt.claretianpubs.org/issues/racism/unsworth.html

Monday, July 13, 2009

Propaganda: Apocalypse and Obama

I cannot believe that this topic is becoming one of my favourites, but it just won't go away. So here is an update to my AntiChrist spotters guide.

Last night I was watching the perky prophets of apocalypse, Jack and Rexella Van Impe on TV explaining how Barack Obama had rejected the very basis of Christianity, and that's all it took to bring me back to the subject.

First I found a blog about the AntiChrist, "Know Your Antichrist Candidates", which lists various of the contenders, with background info and an analysis of their chances of being the AntiChrist. I think the blog is tongue in cheek, however the humour is dry so it's hard to tell sometimes. There are many comments also, from people who are passionate about the subject, I would say.

Unfortunately the blog is a bit old (2006), and so it does not include Barack Obama. So I decided to do a bit of research myself to see how he fits in. First I looked up AntiChrist candidate Al Gore, who in 2006 received 269,000 hits for “al gore antichrist”. Today, he gets only 75,900, so apparently his chances of winning the have dropped, while now there are 459,000 for barack obama antichrist. There are many other criteria besides Google to be considered, such as Biblical quotations and prophecies.

Coincidentally, on this particular blog, Jack Van Impe himself is one of the candidates for AntiChrist. Jack Van Impe's wife Rexella, was described as "his slightly creepy amanuensis Rexella sitting by his side."

And check this entry on amanuensis out for the origin of the word "Secretary of State"

David Futrelle in Salon described Rexella thusly: “Prim and cheerful, with permed blonde hair and a Home-Shopping-Network fashion sense, Rexella speaks of the end of the world as calmly as if she were announcing a potluck.”

And for Jack Futrelle's original piece in Salon

Now to get back to why Van Impe thinks Obama has rejected the very foundations of Christianity. Before he was presidential candidate, Obama answered a question about heaven, saying that he thought there were different ways to get to heaven, and people would be rewarded for doing good. I'm sure Barack thought his words were inoffensive, but he stepped on an Evangelical land mine with that one.

Exactly how you get "saved" is one of the hottest topic of controversy in the Christian Church. One side says you can go to heaven in various ways, including by doing good works. The other side says you get to heaven only through accepting the lord Jesus as your saviour. The extremists, fundamentalists, evangelicals etc. are in the "Salvation only thru accepting Jesus as your personal saviour" camp, and are hostile to the other group for even suggesting there may be more than one way to get to heaven.

As I have explained before, this theological debate became important among Fundamentalists in the southern US during the time of slavery and racism. It is obviously still important. The simple doctrine of salvation thru Jesus allowed the slave masters to get to heaven while committing evil works, such as whipping their slaves to death and raping the women. According to the salvation doctrine, the way to heaven was entirely through your personal relationship with God, and good/bad works on Earth were of absolutely no consequence. The slave owners were sure that God was rich, white, and all powerful, so they knew their personal relationship to God was in the bag.

The same "salvation thru Jesus" doctrine also appealed somewhat to the slaves, who were allowed to imagine that they also might have a personal relationship with God, although the slave owners would have been somewhat perturbed to be greeted at the doorway to heaven by ex-slaves that they previously whipped to death. Luckily that never happened.

Nothing much has changed in the Christian fundamentalist theology, so today we have torturing, warmongering, presidents who support tax cuts for the rich being "Saved in Jesus", while another president who speaks of peace, abolishes torture, wants to spread the wealth around, (and did I forget to mention he is black?), is the AntiChrist, and has rejected the very core of Christianity.

According to the fundamentalist propaganda, anyway.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Can a Bicycle Save Gas?

I should not be surprised at any of the propaganda attacks on environmentalists, but I still am, occasionally. I came up with this one from the Times of London. It's usually an OK paper, but like most papers needs to drum up interest by a shocking or silly story from time to time. This is an opinion piece by Leo Lewis, a guest contributor. It is titled "Get a Bike, Save the Planet (in 87 years)"

"a bicycle, runs the sales patter, will save on the daily cost of a commute, produces no CO2 and is environmentally non-rapacious. All compelling, but sadly, all false."

Leo may be a credible journalist, and he may in fact be telling the truth when he says he tried bicycling, and concluded that he saved only 90p a day in Tokyo traffic, covering 16 km total per day. But he did not credibly prove any of the three statements were false. He simply got wrapped up in a lot of vague thoughts about his bicycle helmet needing to be transported from Malaysia to Tokyo, and then added in, not only a bottle of green tea, but the cost of the disposable bottle because he was thirsty and would not have needed any of that with a car.

In his efforts to make the point he simply ignored any of the possible "back story" the car would involve, and I am pretty sure making and maintaining the car created a greater impact than making the bicycle.

And finally, he did not consider health issues due to bicycling vs. car driving, parking problems, pollution of driving the car, and came up with what appears to be an entirely bogus number of 87 years to begin to reduce the environmental footprint by bicycling. Just a quick reality check - according to him, the car costs a minimum of 90p petrol per day, so I'm going to figure in Canadian dollars saving about $400 per year in gas, never mind parking in Tokyo. (and never mind the fact that your 16 km/litre is ridiculous for a Nissan Skyline). Anyway, I can get a bike and helmet, and wash extra shirts, for less than $400 in one year alone. And in 87 years I'm going to be ahead by at least $32,000 (Canadian). As far as the extra banana and ice tea per day, I don't know what those might cost in Tokyo, but I know that I would be eating and drinking anyway, just because I like to, and I would rather not get obese, so the bicycle is going to save me a lot of money.

Now there may be some Tokyo things I don't know, like do they have a winter where you can't drive a bike? Then maybe I have to use the car or public transit, or maybe I can get a used bike and not wear a helmet. But I think Leo's argument will impress some anti environmental people I know, and I'll be hearing from them soon enough on yet another email "send this to all your friends to warn them against using gas wasting bicycles."

Propaganda War: Science vs. Fundamentalism

Recently a Pew Research Center poll was done in the USA showing only 6% of scientists are Republicans, 55% are Democrats. My interpretation is that with fundamental Christians backing the Republican party, the party has taken a stance against science and driven away scientists. The main controversies right now between religion and science are the battle over teaching evolution vs. creation in public schools, and using stem cells for research.

My understanding about the struggle between science and religion started in about grade 5 (where I think we started learning science) It seemed the problem was that God, heaven, hell, and other religious miracles such as raising the dead and faith healing, cannot be proven scientifically. I realize now that more liberal religious people don't have any problem with science, and the Catholic church recently pardoned Galileo for saying that the Earth went around the sun. Also, Pope Benedict has said that the theory of Evolution is not in conflict with religion. Earlier, Pope John Paul II made an even more strongly worded statement about the Evolution proving that the Earth was millions of years old.

But with the resurgence of fundamentalist Christianity in the last 40 years, the old conflict is being rekindled. Many people are turning away from science and back to superstition and miracles, particularly among fundamentalist Christians in the Southern U.S.

The Claims of the Religious Extremists and Accusations Against Scientists

The fundamentalist Christians are using an aggressive propaganda campaign to convince people that every word of the Bible is fact, including creation of Adam and the coming end of the world. Their propaganda also blames scientists for most of the evil in the world, like the Jewish holocaust and the Nazi war crimes. And furthermore the fundamentalists claim that it is Christians, not Atheistic scientists who have given us modern medicine and technology.

The fundamentalists, who are mainly of Protestant origin, blame the entire Dark Ages and repression of science and medicine on the Catholic church and claim that only because of the Protestant reformation, has medicine and technology advanced. Although the fundamentalists reject science, they do not officially reject the technology such as television, cars, airplanes and the atomic bomb. They claim that such technology was discovered by Christians, not by Atheistic scientists. And they claim that all useful scientific discoveries, for example, the Jet Stream, actually came from the literal truth of the Bible.

The fundamentalist propaganda finally alleges that it was scientists who stood in the way of modern science. Although this may sound contradictory, there is the story being circulated among fundamentalists, of a religious Hungarian, Dr. Semmelweis, who proved that if doctors washed their hands, that lives could be saved. Other doctors (scientists) poo poo'd the idea, and Semmelweis went mad. Also it is stated that every one of the founders of modern science were Christians, including Charles Darwin himself. The fundamentalists also claim to have proof that Darwin renounced evolution on his death bed.

Now religious fundamentalists are claiming to be shunned by the Darwinian scientific community. Also they claim that Darwinism is just a new pagan religion that will lead us into the next Dark Ages. Which of course will end with the Rapture where Jesus comes at the end of the world to scoop up all the "Saved" and leave everyone else to burn in Hell forever.

Most liberals, if they are even aware of it yet, reject this propaganda. Here are some of the highlights of history showing how much fundamentalist religion has held us back over the last 2000 years.

The Case for Science

We could start with the burning of the library of Alexandria, containing much of the world's knowledge. This has been blamed on Christians, also Christians have blamed it on pagans. I'm inclined to side with the pagans, as the Christians proved later that they were inclined to not only burn books, but also the writers of the books.

In the Dark Ages, the Roman aqueducts and bath houses in Christian areas were left to collapse, and bathing was declared a sin. The Roman sewer systems were neglected. All education was controlled by the Christian church. Except, of course, education outside of Christian Europe, which explains why Muslim learning and technology pulled ahead in Medieval times. Even today we still owe our numbering system to Arabs.

I use the term "Dark Ages" even though scholars avoid the term because it is prejudicial against religion. But I want to use it to help explain the conflict between science and religion. The Dark Ages were not only a period of decline scientifically, but great plagues swept Europe, made worse by the lack of sanitation.

During the Dark Ages, educated debates were not about science, but about theological mysteries for which there was no "proof". However, the winners of these debates always seemed to celebrate their debating skills by burning the losers alive at the stake. No wonder free thinkers (also called heretics) lay low for over a thousand years, and all of them, with just a few crispy exceptions, professed a great love for religion.

Eventually, burning at the stake was halted, and the enlightenment began. Some old Greek and Roman books, preserved by the Arabs re-emerged. Free thinkers, inspired by the old books, began to learn more about the laws of nature rather than Christian theology and superstition.

Galileo is famous for dropping a large and small stone off the leaning tower of Pisa, to see if they fell at the same rate. He may or may not have actually done this, but the importance was not so much proving that heavy and light objects fall at the same rate, but the concept of performing a repeatable experiment. At the time, it was thought that experiments proved nothing, that the debating technique, prayer to God, and clever use of words was the be-all and end-all of arguments. With a repeatable, testable experiment, all you need to do is drop two stones of differing weights from only two meters up to see they hit the ground at the same time, and anyone can do it at any time. The scientific breakthrough is that the experiment can be performed by anyone with the same results. This was quite a revolution in thinking.

Luckily for Galileo, by his time the religious people had stopped burning the losers of debates, because he then lost a debate with the Pope about the sun going around the Earth, and was only given house arrest for the rest of his life. Although he was pardoned with an apology in 1992, it is obvious that religious debates do not really depend on scientific principles such as observation and measurement. It's more about threats of violence, slander and false logic, not to mention outright factual lies. The advantage of science is that if someone wishes, they can perform the experiments and see for themselves how things really work. To some people, including me, this carries more weight than the debating skills and threats of violence.

I don't see much difference between Christian Fundamentalists and the Medieval Catholic Church. Except possibly for the fact that so much science and technology has proved itself, that no-one, no matter how uneducated can deny it. Although the practice of burning non-believers at the stake may have stopped, torture is enjoying a revival of popularity among fundamentalists, so things could still change.

People need to speak out against these violent and superstitious beliefs. The fundamentalists came close to taking over the nuclear arsenal of the USA. Although fundamentalists profess, when convenient, to love peace and forgiveness above all, you can see that their belief in war and the end of the world is compatible with the crazy rhetoric of Muslim extremists. I really don't want either type of irrational religion getting hold of nuclear weapons.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Propaganda: Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed

Now I have come to the movie that actually got me inspired to do a blog about propaganda. It was "Expelled: No intelligence allowed". In this movie, an attempt is made to blame the Holocaust on scientists, and to link Hitler to Charles Darwin. The movie is a propaganda piece supporting right wing Christian fundamentalists in their attack on science and evolution.

In the movie, allegations are made that scientists, liberals, and Charles Darwin inspired Hitler to kill the Jews. The movie makers tried to hide their Christian fundamentalist bias by hiring a Jew, Ben Stein, to narrate the film. He also appears in many promotional interviews for the film, arguing for the movie's premise. Ben obviously believes in the message of the film, although he seems to actually be more interested in the Darwin-Hitler connection than in Intelligent Design. Consequently, the film does get severely off track by going into in the Nazi connection and does very little to promote Intelligent Design.

The resulting mishmash of propaganda is quite confusing. I'm sure the right wing Christians would rather not get into the Hitler connection, since it's pretty obvious when you think about it, that racism, not evolution, was Hitler's inspiration. And right wing southern Christian fundamentalists are vulnerable themselves on racism charges. Actually, it could more easily be argued that Hitler got his inspiration for both killing the Jews, and for selective breeding of the German race, directly from the Christian slave owners of the southern USA.

So I suppose the Christian backers of the movie were keeping their fingers crossed that by using Ben Stein, they would avoid this criticism. And to a large extent, it has worked as I have not seen too many reviewers connecting the dots back to southern slavery, Christianity, and the Nazi holocaust. Because "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones", it only makes sense to hire the guy next door to throw the stones for you.

I was outraged when this movie first came out, and played in a local theater for a month. So who actually funded this movie? It's not explicitly stated, but obviously the southern Baptists, Fundamental Christians or Evangelicals had a hand in this. And if they are behind it, I am going to make a case that they are hypocrites for blaming scientists for the very racism they supported originally.

From the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention interview with Logan Craft (executive producer of Expelled):

www.sbtexan.com/default.asp

TEXAN: How did Ben Stein come to be involved in the film?

CRAFT: Well, John (Sullivan, producer of Expelled) had a real insight, we believe, into the necessity to have a person, first of all, who wasn’t overtly Christian or overtly religious…

The movie was directed by Nathan Frankowski, who was also second unit director on the TV movie "The Path to 9/11", which was a right wing propaganda piece designed to blame Bill Clinton for the attacks of 9/11. Of course, the right wing Conservatives are allied with the Christian fundamentalists against liberals and scientists.

Reviews of the movie "Expelled" have been overwhelmingly negative. The most positive review was not surprisingly on a Christian fundamentalist website, "Christianity Today". But even this review calls the connection between Hitler and Darwin "tangential". The non Christian fundamentalist reviewers have stronger words such as vile and disgusting.

Perversely, the song "Imagine" by John Lennon was used without permission. Lennon was murdered by a born-again Christian, although Ben Stein has stated that science leads people to commit murder.

Refuting the Arguments of the Movie

One of Hitler's pet projects was to improve the German race through selectively breeding and killing Jews. It is pointed out that Hitler mentioned Darwinian evolution in his writings. But Hitler was a madman, and used a lot of other excuses such as "Doing the work of the Lord". Most people try to ignore Hitler's insane rantings and look at the real cause of the problems of war and genocide.

Just to set the record straight, what Hitler was doing was not Darwinism, it was selective breeding. Selective breeding pre-dates Darwinism, and has no direct connection to the theory of evolution, which is based on natural selection. American slave owners were using selective breeding to improve slaves long before Darwin's theory.

Another difference between Darwinian evolution and Hitler's insane ideas was the Nazis insistence on racial purity. In Darwinian evolution, mixed races theoretically survive as well or better than pure races, mainly because of the more diverse gene pool, and less inbreeding. Theories of Aryan racial purity (and superiority) were promoted by Creationists in the southern US, not by Darwinians. "Bob Jones University", a well known southern Christian fundamentalist school only dropped their racial purity policy in the year 2000.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Jones_University#Dropping_the_no-interracial-dating_rule_.282000.29

On another argument, Ben Stein suggests that science has led to atheism, which in turn leads to evilness, and finally to war crimes and the holocaust. This of course is based on the view that atheists or scientists are more evil than religious people, which is an argument that makes sense only to religious fundamentalists. Ben Stein does not mind using this argument, but the facts show that Southern Baptists supported evils such as slavery and racial superiority and racial purity.

Ben Stein has stated that it is Darwinists who claim that some races are superior. This assertion is entirely false, but it seems that the Bible claims that Jews are the chosen people of God. And Christian exremists also believe this part of the bible.

There is another argument in the movie, that scientists who believe in "Intelligent Design" are shunned by the scientific community. The movie takes only one side of each of these claims, making it seem like some kind of massive persecution is taking places, but the real facts suggest only a few isolated complaints. Wikipedia has details on the complete cases.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expelled

All these complaints are based on the assumption that Intelligent Design is a scientific theory about the origin of species. But Intelligent Design is not scientific, and a decision on this matter was handed down recently in Dover Pennsylvania by a court of law. You can read about the case here. Again, Ben Stein says he doesn't care what the law says - apparently he feels the law doesn't matter, but the need to tell the truth apparently indermined the Intelligent Design case much more in the court than in the movie.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

Friday, July 3, 2009

Christianity and Realism

When I attended Bishop's University I was required to take at least one course in religion or "Divinity" as they liked to call it. Finally now I can make some use of that course.

I wanted to find out why the "warlike" Jesus has been popular with fundamental Christians. To me, it seemed "Warrior Jesus" was an oxymoron. Not only that, but I had always thought the message of peace and tolerance of Christianity was it's main selling point. I found out I was wrong. And along the way, I found out why Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

If you were to do a survey of Christians, you would find that the main attraction of Christianity less peace and tolerance, and more that you are only required to believe to be saved. Which means just stop thinking for yourself, which is actually very easy for most people. I would call it human nature to prefer the easy and simple over the hard and complicated.

Knowing that the key concept of Christianity is nothing more than believing, helps to explain why Christianity spread so far and wide. And second, it explains why many Christians have never felt a strong need to actually follow the teachings of Jesus. They can get away with doing a lot of stuff while still being saved. Apparently Christians can torture people without worrying about going to hell, as long as they believe in Jesus without questioning. Those are the religious priorities, and it's why the argument "Who would Jesus bomb" gets only blank stares in reply.

Why did Christianity quickly surpass the pagan religions? After all many of them pre-dated Jesus, and coincidentally had many of the same concepts. Early pagans often accused Christians of copying their gods. Especially stealing the story of the birth of their Gods, the dates of their holy days (Dec. 25 and Easter), the stories of the virgin birth, the death and Resurrection in three days at Easter etc. The Christians in turn accused the pagans of using their friendship with the devil to gain advanced knowledge of the story of Christ and therby pre-emptively plagiarise the Christians. So the claims of plagiarism kind of back fired on the pagans.

One thing that the Christians did very well was to tell a realistic story. Most of the Pagan god stories were kind of generic, events could have taken place anywhere, any time, as fairy stories often do. But the story of Jesus has places that actually existed (Bethlehem Jerusalem Galilee), and names of historical people (Herod and Pontius Pilate), and real dates (0 A.D.). It was even told from several different points of view, all of which pretty much agreed with each other on the main facts. I don't claim to know if Jesus was real or fake, but there were more realistic details in the story of Jesus than any of the pagan Gods such as Dionysus, Osiris, or Mithras.

Realism is a sword that cuts both ways, however. By not having specific towns and dates, people can easily imagine that their God is just like them, born in the same country or province, speaking the same language. By naming places, you would think you could alienate people who are not from that country. By placing Jesus in Jerusalem or Galilee, suddenly he becomes a Jew, and speaks a foreign language. This may turn off a lot of people. I'm sure the supporters of Dionysus were afraid that if they named the Greek city Dionysus came from, that they would lose the support of all the other Greek cities as they all hated each other with a passion. This would be true whether or not Dionysus was a real or mythical figure.

Well, I guess I'm not spoiling the surprise to say the gamble paid off for Christians, and today you find Jesus has been accepted everywhere as one of the family. It might have worked because without television nobody know what he looks or sounds like for real. Even the Nazis had no trouble believing Jesus to be a blond haired blue eyed German who just happened to be born in the middle east to a Jewish mother. So the trade off between generic appeal vs. realism was worth it for Christianity in the end. And of course, the Romans, as well as Americans, Spanish, Germans and English had no trouble at all interpreting the supposedly "peaceful" nature of Jesus to their needs.

But I'm guessing that if the supporters of Dionysus had been able to get their hands on a picture of Jesus looking like the one above, today we might all be Dionysians.

A course in Left vs. RIght

I have discovered a topic of endless debate, it is the difference between left and right in American Politics. So I have decided to set up a course on this topic and award a Ph. D. to any one who can get through it.

The terms "Right" and "Left" on the political spectrum come from a historical reference to the French government dating back before the revolution. People who supported the King and the upper class, sat on the right of the King, and those who represented the unwashed masses sat on the left. Ever since then, the terms right and left have retained that same approximate meaning, politically at least.

Modern Republicans are called "right wing" because they are similar politically to the French right wing, who tended to favour robbing the poor to give to the rich, while the left favoured robbing the rich to give to the poor.

POP QUIZ

Where do the words "Right wing" and "Left wing" come from?
1. The position of the USA on the map of the world.
2. The position of France on the map of the world.
3. Because the right wing is right about everything and the loonie lefties are wrong.
4. Because Hitler will sit to the right of Obama when they meet in hell.
5. Because of a PowerPoint presentation where Republicans were on the right side of a graph.
6. A name that comes from the French Government seating arrangement used in the Revolution.


Republicans, dictators, and Nazis are also put on the right of the political spectrum, but that is simply because they all believe like the King of France, that all power comes from the top and benefits should all go to the top, except those that "trickle down".

On the Left (remember, it's just a word, not a place you can go), you have politicians who think that the poor should share power with the wealthy. Whether or not they deserve it.

Now to finish up this course, you get to watch a Conservative (I'm guessing) youtube video that "clears up all this confusion" about the political spectrum by inventing a new political spectrum that places all the bad guys on the left, and the good guys in the middle, and Anarchists on the right, then chops off the Anarchists and voila: Good guys on the right, bad guys on the left, no more confusion.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvVrqexyT2U

Here are some quotes from the video. Answer 3 questions at the end and you can qualify for your Ph. D. Put your answer in the comment below. I will grade your answer and send you the Ph. D. with an educational standing equal to any conservative university, just cheaper.


"It's helpful to address the confusion that has been spread about the political spectrum. Many have been led to believe that the political spectrum places groups such as communists on the far left, fascists or dictators on the far right, and political moderates or centrists in the middle. However a more accurate political spectrum will show Government having zero power on the far right, to having 100% power on the far left. At the extreme right, there is no government.

The extreme left features total government under such labels as communism, socialism, nazism, fascism prices, potentates, dictators, Kings, etc.

Those that claim that Nazis and Fascists are right wing, never define their terms. This amounts to spreading confusion.

Toward the middle of the political spectrum can be found the type of government limited to its proper role of protecting the rights of the people. That's where the constitution of the United States is. Those who advocate such a form of government are really constitutional moderates."


FINAL EXAM FOR ALL THE MARBLES

1. When "the government is limited to its proper role of protecting the rights of the people", which people are being protected?
a. All the people including illegal aliens
b. The wealthy
c. People who are deserving of protection, but not those who are undeserving.
d A and B as they are the same.

2. Those who wrongly place Nazis on the right are spreading what?
a. confusion
b. logic
c. bad karma
d. the word of the Lord

3. Those who "never define their terms" for Nazi are forgetting to define which characteristics of the Nazis?
a. Use of torture
b. Tendency to invade other countries
c. Government spying on their own people
d. Disregard for human rights
e. Propaganda against certain racial groups.
f. They forgot all of the above

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Canada Day and Litter

It's Canada day, and while most people would write about Canada's ethnic diversity, or scenic beauty, my mind turns to thoughts of litter. Not because Canada has a lot of litter, which it really doesn't, but because of a road trip in the summer of 1972.

It was my first time driving across Canada, and I was going East, from B.C. to Quebec. I had been away from Canada for three three years, living in Sierra Leone, where they have even less litter than Canada. There were no Tim Horton's drive thru's in Sierra Leone, and little or no excess packaging. In fact almost no packaging of any kind. If you bought a watch, you bought only a watch, no case. There was nothing to throw away after any purchase, not even the price tag. Actually deciding on the price would have taken most of the effort in making the purchase. Almost nothing you would throw out in Sierra Leone would be considered litter. Little bottles, tin cans, and pieces of paper all had some use. Even the beer bottles were returned to the bottling plant for re-use. Yes, I know we do this in Canada, but in Sierra Leone, you could tell those bottles had been re-used hundreds of times from the scratched surface on the outside of the bottle.

So, back in Canada, and my first visit ever to British Columbia, and there was a sign I had never seen before. "No Littering. $2000 fine". That was quite amazing to me, as coming from Quebec I did not recall such a draconian law. Then we set off for the East, and as we crossed into Alberta, another sign greeted us. "$1000 fine for littering". It seemed to me you could save a lot of money by throwing your trash across the border from BC to Alberta. Then Saskatchewan seemed to be trying to outbid the other provinces by offering to let you litter for a mere $750. Next came Manitoba, and at that time they had a great littering campaign where they would put your trash in orbit for a mere $500. At every roadside stop, there were these litter containers in the shape of a sputnik satellite where you could put your trash, and then it would be supposedly sent into an orbit around the Earth, but of course these days we realize what a mistake that was. Now we have thousands of bits of trash orbiting the Earth, but back then it was kind of a novelty.

On to Ontario, where I was just waiting to see what they did with the litter, and was kind of disappointed that it was only a mere $100 fine, and boring trash cans. The slogan on the Ontario licence plates was "Keep it Beautiful" which I took as another reminder to not throw trash around.

Finally after three days of keeping it beautiful, we reached Quebec. There were no signs about trash. And sure enough before long, as we followed a car down the Trans Canada highway near Montreal, a whole garbage bag full of trash was flung out the car's window and bounced a couple of times on the shoulder before it broke up and a litter explosion filled the air.

Things have changed a lot since then. For one thing, Quebec now has its own litter Nazis like everyone else. Back in 1972, the worst litter was dog poop and cigarette butts. Today, there is a lot less smoking in public, and people generally pick after the dogs. But now we have a new form of litter that has taken the number one spot. Tim may argue with me, but I think it's his paper cups. And to make it worse, some people order double cups, and even if they get their coffee in a china mug, they get an empty cup to play "Roll up the rim".

Another phenomenon that we have today that was unthinkable in 1972. Now people pick up other people's litter!!! We have park cleanups on Earth day, and volunteers keep parks clean.

So let's enjoy Canada day, remember Canada looks better when it's litter free.

P.S. In case you are outraged by the picture, I will confess it is fake. After I hired the model I couldn't find any place on the beach with any litter, so I just had her pose as if she was picking up something and then photoshopped in the cups later.