Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Towards a Garbage-Free MacLean's Magazine

MacLean's magazine has a new article by Cynthia Reynolds titled "Why are schools brainwashing our children?"

In this article Cynthia gives examples of situations where children in Canadian schools are being brainwashed into being tolerant and caring for the environment.

Let me take one example.
  "In Laval, Que., a six-year-old boy was disqualified from a teddy-bear contest because a Ziploc was found in his lunch".
Now if I may clarify this a little: It was not a Teddy Bear contest, it was a draw for a teddy bear in a garbage free lunch contest. Yes, the difference is important. What is a garbage free lunch?  It is a lunch that has no garbage in it.  What is garbage? Any throw-away one-use container.  Now, let's go into this a little bit more.  A drink box has garbage (the box and the straw.) An apple core is not counted as garbage.  A candy bar has garbage. (The wrapper).  Any garbage in your lunch means you don't have a garbage-free lunch. A tupperware container is not garbage because it can be re-used.  But if you throw the tupperware container away, it should count as garbage.  If you remove the wrapper from the candy bar at home and put the naked bar in a Tupperware container, the teacher has to make a call one way or the other.  A Ziplock bag is not necessarily garbage.  It can be taken home, cleaned and re-used.  But if it is thrown out after one use, it is garbage.  A fair teacher would accept the ziplock bag as long as it is taken home and re-used, but of course it's impossible to know the truth.  Obviously, garbage free lunch games are not that simple.

Now to explain a little bit about teaching. Teachers generally reward students learning with scores and marks, rarely with material goods.  That's because the school budget does not allow for it.  So who paid for the Teddy Bear prize?  I couldn't find out, but it might have been an old item that the teacher needed to get rid of, and if so, the teacher had found a good way to divert one more bit of garbage from the landfill. Very unlikely to be the taxpayers footing the Teddy Bear expense.

Now what about the ziplock bag scandal? I think a case could have been made for the ziplock bag in a garbage free lunch, but first you have to understand what is going on.  Sometimes six year old kids make mistakes. That's why we have teachers.

Now why do Conservatives (and their propaganda machines like MacLean's Magazine) hate it when children learn about garbage?  Probably the same reason they hate children to learn about tolerance.  Conservative propaganda has two main pillars: support for corporate profits, and hatred for "others".  It suits the conservative agenda to keep people as ignorant and easily-led consumers of throw-away trash.  The last thing conservatives want is for children to learn about the environment, because that might affect corporate profits.

Why would MacLean's sensationalize this simple story?  And does MacLean's do the same kind of one-sided misrepresentation when they are stirring up hate against minority groups?  The answer is yes.

MacLean's is a conservative, bigoted magazine.  I think the more appropriate question would be "Why is MacLean's Magazine Brainwashing Canadians", but I think we all know the answer. Because it pleases their rich owners, and stirring up hatred is the best way to brainwash people.

Next, the goal for MacLean's: Let's try to put out a garbage free newsmagazine.

Picture: Left garbage lunch, right garbage free.  from this website

Another Roadside Repair Story: Emile Leray

One of the aspects of motorcycling that I find most fascinating is the possibility of doing roadside repairs to get out of a stranded situation.  Just a few weeks ago, I had a flat tire on the road and had to improvise to get home. Actually, I didn't really do much, as I drove the bike on the flat tire to the nearest gas station. Eight years ago, I got stuck in my Toyota Matrix while off-roading in Baja Mexico, and was rescued by a nearby camper who spotted the plumes of sand the car was kicking up. Recently I found a story that tops everything I have ever known up to now for getting stranded.

Emile Leray gets the award for all time most unbelievable roadside repair.  My only problem is which category to make the award in: motorcycle or car?  Emile's roadside repair started with a broken down car and ended with a motorcycle.

Emile was driving off road through the Sahara Desert, alone, when his 2CV car broke an axle and swing arm.  Apparently he decided that his only chance of survival was to cannibalize the car to build a makeshift motorcycle.  This project took him 12 days, after which he drove the motorcycle back to a main road where he could be arrested and fined for driving an unlicenced vehicle.  (His modifications were too extensive for his original licence plate to be legal - although the plate was affixed to the makeshift motorcycle.)

I have checked this with a few different sources, but although it seems legit, it is so over the top that I am still harboring a suspicion that it might be a hoax.

Picture: OK I'm also surprised that Emile also had the time and/or mental wherewithal to take pictures during this episode.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gorillas are Liars

If a human speaks truthfully only once in their entire life, they are still an honest person. But if a Gorilla tells one lie, that gorilla is a liar for the rest of their lives.   This is a double standard.

In California, there is a female gorilla named Koko, who has been taught to speak in sign language. With an I.Q. of about 75, and a vocabulary of 1000 sign language words, she can form sentences and make up new compound words.

There are reports that Koko lied once.  Once, when left alone, Koko tore a sink out of the wall.  When her human discovered the ruined sink, and asked Koko who did it, Koko blamed her pet kitten.  Yes, Koko the gorilla had a pet kitten.  How did Koko get a pet kitten?  She asked for one through sign language, of course.  Anyway, With this one lie, Koko is now famous for being a liar, even though everything else she says is true (e.g. Koko want banana)

I have noticed that lying is more acceptable among humans than among gorillas.

Performing experiments on Koko could answer a lot of questions for us.  I have an idea for an experiment to force Koko to watch Fox News 24 hours a day.  After a few weeks, will this gorilla begin to forward right wing e-mails?

I am also interested in whether a Gorilla has the "God Gene", enabling them to have paranormal spiritual experiences.  I suspect that somebody has already spoken to Koko about religion. In wikipedia, I read that Koko named a Macaw "Devil tooth" because of the Macaw's dangerous beak.  So I assume at some point an attempt was made to convert Koko to Christianity, because otherwise how would Koko know the word "Devil". Unfortunately, I could not find out what Koko's religious affiliations were.

I Googled this website, titled "Koko the Gorilla PROVES Evolution a Lie!".  My immediate thought was that the born again Christians had gotten to Koko, and now Koko thinks that evolution is a lie.  But how would a gorilla, even as smart as Koko, prove Darwinism is a lie, while many humans have not been able to do so.

Unfortunately, it was not Koko's clever arguments that proved evolution was a lie.  It was the existence of Koko that proved humans could not have descended from apes. (The reason being if apes turned into humans, then how come Koko is still here?)  Frankly I was  disappointed, as I was looking forward to reading about Koko's thoughts on evolution and instead I got the thoughts of David J. Stewart, a Born Again Christian, and a long time non-gorilla.

If I understand religion correctly, God has made it possible only for Humans to commit sins.  The concept of sin does not apply to animals, therefore Koko can never "be saved by Jesus".  However even though Koko is an animal, it appears that she has officially sinned in the Human sense. Koko was once accused of sexual harassment in the workplace. I am not sure how the lawsuit against Koko ended, but innocent or guilty, where there's smoke there's fire, I always say.

I found a web page with an online chat between Koko and other AOL users, (no jokes about AOL users please.)  Many AOL'ers found Koko's conversation boring and began to dismiss her intellectual abilities.  If you are familiar with what people say about AOLers, this is a real put down.

Fortunately, Jason Craft was able to provide a simple explanation for Koko's seemingly nonsensical chat session.

Picture: Koko uses sign language to show Pet Kitty how to chat on AOL.  I photoshopped the computer and the words.  The Kitty is real.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Romney is More of a Bullshitter than Obama

Did I hear correctly?  Apparently, Barack Obama called Mitt Romney a bullshitter. And is it true? I mean is Mitt Romney really a bullshitter, not a truthful Mormon missionary?  Mormon missionaries never tell a lie, and never use a word stronger than "H-E-double hockey sticks".

Well, Obama didn't directly call Mitt Romney a liar to his face.

Actually, Barack Obama said that children have good instincts for calling the other guy a bullshitter. And then to put it in context, he made that statement after a small child had expressed support for Obama.  Which if you think about it a bit, means Romney has just been called a bullshitter by Obama.

Well, I think it really is bullshit when Romney keeps saying "I know how the economy works".  While it may not be a lie, it is certainly bullshit.  Nobody really knows how the economy works, it is too complicated. Romney does not know for sure that his extremist economic theories are right, and after those theories set the stage for the 2008 collapse, why does he want to continue with them?  Oh yes, I just remembered: those theories involve more tax cuts for the wealthy.

More bullshit when Romney says he saved the 2002 Winter Olympics.  That's because Romney "saved" the Olympics with government funding.  And Romney is running on a platform that is opposed to government funding.  It was the taxpayers who really saved the Olympics, and they should be given some credit.  Similarly, Obama did not really save GM and Chrysler, but he did fight for funding to get them restarted, which Romney would not have done.

Barack Obama is doing a little bullshitting on his own.  He is bullshitting about children having good instincts about liars.  Apparently there have been studies done, indicating children are easily fooled by bullshitters.  Also Obama once called himself "as patriotic as anybody" which is plainly a lie, as he didn't wear a US flag on his lapel and didn't put his hand over his heart during the pledge of allegiance.  If you want to see hundreds, if not thousands of other lies by Barack Obama, consult Google. (55,900,000 hits, including this one)

But two places Obama did not lie, was saying that Romney opposed the auto company bailout, and Romney opposed going after Bin Laden in Pakistan.  Obama succeeded in both, and now Romney is trying to take credit, which is my definition of a classic, if not pathological, bullshitter.

Picture: I made it with "The Gimp" a Linux photo editing program like Photoshop.

Translation: The Mormon word for bullshitter is "bu -double hockey sticks- shitter", in case that helps.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Seven Things You Can't Say in Canada, Apparently.

Margaret Wente, a columnist for the Globe and Mail, wrote a piece for the Canadian Version of Reader's Digest titled "Seven Things You Can't Say in Canada".  To provide a bit of background, I consider the Reader's Digest to be an American propaganda voice, and the Canadian Edition to be a thinly disguised American propaganda outlet, forced to run "Canadian Content" similar to Time Magazine.  Margaret Wente moved to Canada in 1964 and became a Canadian citizen.

"Influential columnist Margaret Wente shares her controversial opinion on seven sacred Canadian cows most dare not criticize. Margaret Wente's background gives her a certain perspective on Canada's sacred cows."

There may be things you can't say in Canada, but in my opinion, these are not them.

  1. Margaret Atwood's books are awful? Well at first I thought Wente might have a point there.  I hated "Stone Angel", at least the small part of it that I actually read.  Then I realized that "Stone Angel" is written by Margaret Lawrence.  Margaret Atwood wrote "The Handmaid's Tale", which I liked, or I should say I liked the movie, as I didn't read the book.  This barely qualifies as something you can't say in Canada.  If you said it in certain intellectual circles, you may get a lively debate going.  But I guarantee the secret police will not be at your door the next day
  2. Recycling is a waste of time and money? I recycle stuff, and I find that overall I save time by recycling. I only have to put the garbage/recycling box out about once every six weeks instead of once a week. In exchange, I spend a bit of time sorting the trash into different boxes, and cleaning out empty cans and bottles. Because the blue box is right beside the garbage can, the extra time take making the decision where to throw stuff is negligible. The time I spend on recycling is done in a nice warm house.  The time I save carrying out the garbage is outdoors,  FMAO.  As for wasting money, I have been told that the recycling program is paid for by the bottling/canning companies, although I doubt it.  I can see the point though, that if a lot of people are spending time and paying taxes for a recycling program that some other people are ignoring, then it becomes an aggravation when somebody argues against it.  Kind of like somebody saying they save time by throwing their Tim Horton's cups on your lawn.  But news flash for Margaret Wente: Many populated parts of the USA have started recycling programs since you left in 1963.  When I was in Bismark North Dakota this summer, there was a discussion going on about starting up a blue box program even out there.  So the same taboo of criticizing recycling would apply in some parts of the USA.
  3. Private enterprise saving health care?  Yes, you would get an argument from me about this.  I consider Canada's health care system to be an important part of living in Canada, and if we didn't have free health care I would probably move to the USA.  Here is why.  Without free health care I am obviously going to die sooner because I am a cheap bastard who doesn't want to pay for insurance or even life saving surgery.  So if I'm going to die sooner, I might as well go to the USA where I can at least ride my bike year round until I die from lack of health care.
  4. David Suzuki is bad for the environment.  As Margaret says, "And our hugely expensive investment in the unworkable Kyoto treaty, which Mr. Suzuki tells us doesn’t go nearly far enough, will crowd out more practical measures to cut smog and clean up our waste sites." With recycling, Margaret was about 30 years behind the times, but with smog Margaret now appears to be  60 years behind the times. Killer smog was a big deal in London in 1952.  They took measures to eliminate smog, and so did the USA, particularly Los Angeles and the state of California. Smog has largely been dealt with now, and I'm guessing the expense was huge but probably worth it.  And as for more practical measures for cleaning up waste sites, didn't Margaret just finish arguing against recycling?  If she has something else in mind, now is the time to speak up.  Not even Americans (And I don't mean that in a bad way)  want the environment destroyed.
  5. National day care programs: I don't care one way or the other at this point.  Let's skip to another topic that actually would annoy me.
  6. Group of Seven paintings Overexposed?  I, like many other Canadians, do not buy art, but if we did it might be paintings of trees and rocks.  I suppose its possible that Canadian Art Critics may try to silence anyone who criticises the Group of Seven, as I have never met a Canadian Art Critic.  
  7. The USA is the greatest force for good in the world.  Now we come to the climax, this is probably what Margaret Wente wanted to say all along, but had to pad it out with six other topics to make an entire column.  Canadians, of course feel this statement is bullsh*t, or we would have joined the USA long ago.  That way, we at least could vote in the US elections, and cross into Detroit without being sniffed up by salivating Rottweilers.  But she is right, Canadians do not believe that Americans are the master race come in the name of God to save the world.  The greatest force for good in the world may be science, or education, or a free press, or the Internet,  or consumerism, or democracy.  There are many choices, unfortunately all flawed in some way.

That brings us to the end of the seven things Margaret Wente thinks you can't say in Canada.

Now what about some of these that I came up with, that I didn't see on her list, but I think would be acceptable answers to the question "What things can't you say in Canada?"

1. Torture is a good way to extract confessions from criminals and terrorists.

2. Sometimes the law does not work, so lynchings are necessary.

3. Jesus is our only hope for salvation, and Pat Robertson is His one true prophet.

4. There was no holocaust.

5. Canada is the greatest force for good in the world.

Saying any of those 5 things in Canada would get you more of an argument than saying Margaret Atwood's books stink.

Picture: From Readers Digest, but I added the ironic wording on the box and on the shirt. Yes, ironic.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Making Racism Part of the Presidential Debate

It seems like a lot more than usual is riding on the presidential debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.  Before the first debate, we were told that the debates historically did not affect the outcome of the election.  But after the first debate, where Obama had a weak performance, the polls showed that the lead in the popular vote had changed hands.  It went from an almost insurmountable lead by Barack Obama, to a small lead by Mitt Romney. So for the second debate, Obama needed to perform better or possibly lose the election.

When the pundits and experts analyze the debates, it seems to me that they pay a lot of attention to the style, and very little to the substance.  This does not make much sense to me.  As a teacher, when marking essay questions, for example, I would first of all look for facts that show the student knows what they are talking about.  I would pay much less attention to style - e.g. handwriting neatness, spelling, grammar (Unless it was a course in handwriting spelling or grammar of course.)  And I would try to not be influenced by racism or prejudice against certain a students. (Yes some students are way more likeable than others, in case you were wondering).  And most of all, I would be looking for B.S.  Here is an example.  "For ten marks, write a one page essay about how you would improve the US economy."  One students writes "I understand the US economy, so obviously I would know many ways to fix it". And then proceeds to fill the rest of the page with the same thought stated over and over.  That would fetch him or her a zero regardless of neat penmanship.  If another student goes ahead and lists ten different points, that all seem perfectly valid possible actions to take that might improve the economy, and correspond what was discussed in class, even though I may not agree with them personally, I would probably give a 10/10.

Apparently in Presidential debates, style matters more than substance, especially this time.  I wonder why?  One answer I can think of, is that people are looking for someone they can trust to lead the country into prosperity.  Since nobody really knows how to fix the economy, the substance is unimportant.  The important thing is: Do you trust this person to make the right decisions, do you think his entire world view is basically right, is he a deluded stooge who people will not respect?  Is he or she a real leader who can get things done?

Unfortunately, if we are going to start valuing style over substance, it also means that prejudice takes hold, and in a country like the USA, which has a history of racism right up to present day, that means Barack Obama has a  handicap in the election.  But this handicap is reinforced by pundits who take up a lot of space arguing about who has better style, instead of doing some much needed fact checking.  Also the Republicans insist they are "Not going to be dictated to by fact checkers".  If style is valued over substance, another casualty is the truth.

This is what I see in the first debate, if style is the only standard.  Debate one: Stereotypical wealthy white man yelling at black man about what a bad job he did.  Black man avoiding eye contact and saying "yes massa". Nobody questions the truth of what the massa says, or his right to say it. Apparently this style resonated very strongly with some parts of America, and immediately after the debate, the polls indicated Romney (the white guy) had wiped out Obama's lead in the popular polls.

Now what do I see in the second debate?  The black guy is not going to take any more crap, and basically says "You are lying."  To which the white guy stares him in the face and says "You dare to question me, boy?  For this you will be punished."  Then the moderator jumps in and says "Well basically he is right." And then all the white supremacists go crazy.  That is my summary of the style of the second debate.

If you would like to watch it again, in this light and see if it makes sense, here is the debate video - fast forward to one hour and 13 minutes, for the 2 minute part part where Romney tells Barack Obama how bad he was for not calling the attack terrorism right away. Obama says, but I did call it terrorism right away, and Romney flashes his eyes about being challenged on a fact, then the moderator jumps in "But Obama is right".   (The second debate)

Then read about the attitude displayed by Mitt Romney's son, about this "President" essentially calling his father a liar.

In the old south, if a white gentleman made a statement like "On September 12th in the Rose Garden, I said it was terrorism", and another white gentleman said "No you did not", the rest of the conversation would go like this: "Sir, are you calling me a LIAH?"  second southern gentleman. "That I am, sir."  first gentleman "Bring your duelling pistols and your attendant tomorrow at dawn.  Good day.".

Picture: Romney's best "You dare to speak back to me, boy?" face.  Style over substance.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stephanie Cutter Wades into the Consular Attack Debate

Last month, there was an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed the US ambassador and several other people.  This attack is now becoming part of the Republican campaign to win the US presidential elections.  Because making a political football of this attack seems like a strange tactic, I decided to investigate.

It seems strange to me that this attack would become a campaign issue.  How is President Obama responsible for the death of the ambassador?  The attack took place in Libya, where President Obama has little capacity to guarantee the safety of anyone.  Of course, the Ambassador himself would have been guarded, and would try to stay safe, but security is a gamble in any war zone.  I will need to research the Republican arguments to find out why they think Obama is to blame for the attack, and why Obama deserves to lose the election because of it.

I read this web page, which is a right wingers point of view, I don't really have time to read all of them.  So I'll assume this is representative.  It is at, by Guy Benson, political editor.

The main thrust of this is that Ambassador Stevens has made repeated requests to the white house for more help, which were denied, leading to his death.

How are we to interpret this?  Well, for one thing there is no documentation at this point saying what the requests were, who they were made to.  Was he requesting a transfer out of the danger zone? A request for more money to hire local guards?  Was he requesting a US military presence in Libya?  Not likely, as the entire Libyan operation was being done without an overt US military invasion.

Here is the statement on this by Guy

"More security for US interests would have meant more US forces in Libya -- which could be perceived as escalating a new war of Obama's doing.  Couldn't have that politically, so we proceeded with an exceedingly "light footprint," to a lethal fault." - Guy Benson

I guess this brings us the the essential point - all bullshit aside.

The Republicans want US soldiers on the ground in Libya, and they think that will make everyone safer, including the US ambassador. The Democrats do not want the Libyans to think that the USA is invading their country.  That is the basic difference between the two political points of view.  One is to invade the foreign country, the other is to not invade, but to try to manage with diplomacy and intelligence gathering.

Which approach to foreign war is better? I believe this is a point where we separate right wingers from liberals in foreign policy.  My own opinion is that Obama has done a remarkably good job in foreign policy, even though he has the right wing extremists hampering his every move.  But then, I thought the war in Iraq was also a mistake, and we could actually live in a safer (and wealthier) world if it had never happened.  The only country to benefit dramatically from that Iraq war fiasco was Iran, a sworn enemy to Saddam Hussein.  Anyway, that's just my opinion, we'll never know.

Recently the momentum in the presidential election race has apparently been on the Republican side.  The best news for the Democrats recently was Joe Biden's vigorous defence in the Vice Presidential Debates (Laughing aside).  And one other bit of good news, a new hero emerging from the Democrats ranks, Stephanie Cutter.

Here is Stephanie Cutter being attacked by right wingers

Here is why Stephanie Cutter is being attacked: this video (below) where she accused the Republicans of making a campaign issue out of the attack in Benghazi.  Her accusation has resulted in a storm of protests from Republicans demanding her resignation.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Is a God Gene More likely than a Scientific Gene?

I looked up "God Gene" in Wikipedia, and I'm kind of puzzled about why it got the name "God Gene", unless God Gene is just a catchy name which helps get people thinking.
As the author admits, even if a God Gene exists, it is not proof God exists.

Looking for a God Gene is based on an incorrect, unspoken assumption, which is that humans are rational.  So apparently we need a genetic code to explain why some humans have faith in God.  The simple fact is that most humans are quite irrational in many ways, driven by their passions, habits, and desire to impress others, that our senses are not only imprecise but often totally wrong.  Our memories are fallible, and we sometimes cannot distinguish dreams from reality, or even hot from cold.  All these things should be considered before we start talking about a "God Gene".

It is true that religion has been part of many, if not all human cultures through history.  This can easily be understood if we realize that humans are not perfect thinking machines, and are subject to illusions and distractions. In that case, do we really need a gene to explain why people believe things that other people tell them without any proof?

From Wikipedia, here is what the God Gene is supposed to do.

" the God gene (VMAT2) is a physiological arrangement that produces the sensations associated, by some, with mystic experiences "

The mystic experience can be

  •  feeling the presence of God
  •  tendency to be totally absorbed in some activity such as reading
  •  a feeling of connectedness to a larger universe
  •  an openness to believe things not literally provable, such as ESP

And there are also some other religious phenomena such as faith healing, miracles, visions etc.

Maybe we should be looking for a "Scientific Gene" instead of a "God Gene".  For one thing, it would be much easier to define.  A Scientific Gene would predispose people to ask questions, to know the difference between truth and delusion.  An ability to look at the world and see things as they really are. The ability to see both sides of a story, and shades of grey in the middle. It would include the ability to compromise and use reason and logic.  I believe the scientific gene is much more rare than the God Gene.  Actually, it is logical that if the Scientific Gene exists, then so would the God Gene, in that the God Gene would simply be the off state of the Scientific Gene.
Picture from and of course, Time Magazine