Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bush, you old fool

Earlier this week there was an article in Salon.com about how current Transportation secretary Mary Peters was on TV railing against how bike paths (among other things) unfairly take money away from the transportation infrastructure budget because "they are not really transportation".

OK, I'm not going to get all worked up and write a long thing because some conservative cunt said something I disagreed with on TV. I mean, I'd be here all day. To be honest, I didn't even finish reading the article.

This is all I want to say about it: why, WHY does it seem sometimes that the current administration is opposed to every single thing I value? I mean, when it started, I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I know Bush's views on social programs, abortion, the environment, etc were opposed to mine. That's why I didn't vote for him. But, there are so many issues to take a stance on in the political universe. I would expect to find some level of common ground with just about any person I meet, and if they manage to get elected to be the president, their views must be at least within a stone's throw of sanity, and so it should be even more likely to find some point of mutual agreement.

But so far, nothing. Apparently, we can't even agree on the positivity and importance of people riding bikes. It's not an issue I spend a lot of time thinking about, but I have a pretty solid opinion on it. I just don't think of it as all that controversial. Apparently, it is. Good job, Bush Administration! I think you've managed to bat 0 for 1,536 in stances taken on issues over the last 7 years. Maybe you should have your secretary of Health or whatever issue a statement against kittens and orchids, just to make it a clean sweep.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

angry.

The war in Iraq is terrible, of course. Today, it occurred to me there is yet another layer of the enormity of it all:

Bush used the attacks on September 11th to justify the war. He says he didn't, but I heard him say it myself about 5 times, so that's bullshit. He did. And without any logical facts to back up the connection.

I just can't think of anything - really, ANYTHING - more insulting to the people who died that day than harnessing the national grief and terror caused by their deaths to justify a corrupt, evil, unjustifiable and ill-conceived operation that has resulted in the further deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.

Osama Bin Laden wanted to terrorize us to promote his fucked-up agenda. And George W. Bush just jumped right on that despicable bandwagon. Exploiting that tragedy for your own evil purposes is just plain demonic. Evildoers are amongst us. They reside in caves and in stately white houses alike.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Original Ensign Benson

According to Wikipedia, there is an actual, historical Ensign Benson who was like, in the actual Navy. I don't have any further comments about him, but because I've been using his name on the Internet for oh, 15 years (seriously - it was my handle on my friend's dial-in BBS in 1993), I thought I would acknowledge him and pay my respects.

Admiral/Ensign Benson, I salute you!!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Plea for Love and Understanding

I was recently sent this article via email, and felt compelled to write a response that's like, 3 times as long. It took a lot of work, so I'm reposting it here so more than one person reads it.

Emailed article:
Date: Tue, 22 May 2007 14:30:20 -0500 SPANISH NEWSPAPER ARTICLE.
ALL EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ By Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez
I walked down the street in Barcelona, and suddenly discovered a terrible truth - Europe died in Auschwitz.
We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world.

The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These are the people we burned.

And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.

They have turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime.
Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts.

And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition.

We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for hoping for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs.

What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe.

____________________________________________________

My response:

An interesting point, but don't you think it's unnecessarily inflammatory and hostile towards Muslim immigrants? I mean, I have no idea what the situation is like in Spain, but the statements that they are unwilling to work and do nothing but plot murder of Spaniards all day are absolutely unfair. They are certainly not all terrorists. Just like anywhere, if there are 20 million of them and there have been two attacks in Europe in the last 5 years, each requiring no more than a few participants, then it is clearly an extreme anomaly for a Muslim to engage in this behavior. It is safe to assume that most of them are normal human beings with normal decision making processes, who would not go through the trouble of immigrating to a country just so they destroy it (and themselves). This type of behavior is reserved for a special kind of statistical outlier - someone who is mentally ill or disturbed enough to make decisions against their own self preservation. There are such types in every demographic (violent criminals, suicidal people, etc.), the only difference with Muslims is that there are elements of the culture and religion that tend to encourage and focus this type of energy to achieve massive outward destruction. Logically, if it were true that a large percentage of these 20 million Muslim immigrants were really out to destroy Europe, then Europe would be gone by now. The fact that there have only been two recent attacks absolutely speaks to how rare this condition is, and hence how unfair it is to paint all the immigrants with one brush. We can't blame a group of 20 million people for the behavior of their most disturbed members. Would you like all Americans to be judged by the actions of the Columbine and Virginia Tech shooters?

The accusation that they refuse to work also strikes me as unfair. Once again, it is very much against the normal immigrant psychology to refuse to work. While there are plenty of lazy humans everywhere in the world, my experience with immigrants to America (as well as my common sense) shows that the ones who have it in their heads to move to a new country are the ones who are the most motivated to do whatever is necessary to raise the quality of life for themselves and their families. At least in America, the notion that immigrants are flooding the country in order to go on welfare is absolutely untrue, and not supported by a shred of evidence. Because on a large scale, human psychology is the same no matter where you go, it is safe to assume that the Muslim immigrants to Europe are generally of the same disposition. If I were to hear that the unemployment rate was particularly high among Muslim immigrants to Europe, the first things I would look at was a) the strength the local economy in general, particularly as it pertains to opportunities and pay for unskilled labor, b) the ambient level of racism against immigrants (from what I hear in Europe, shockingly high, even compared to the recent anti-immigrant fervor that has taken hold over the USA) which might both make it difficult for them to get jobs and also breed animosity that would lead to an erosion of the original good intentions they had upon arrival.

I don't dismiss the entirety of what this guy is saying. I think there is a 'problem' with Muslim immigration to Europe. The riots in France a few years ago proved that. I just think it is both unfair and counterproductive to simplify the problem into a simple 'Muslim scum ruining fine European cities' paradigm. This sort of categorical thinking always leads to hate and often to violence, and never solves anything. The fact is (always is) that the situation is very complex. Muslims aren't inherently evil or lazy, but there may be outside factors - many of them - causing both the real aspects this statement is based on as well as the perceptive ones. Instead of taking the easy route and simplifying problem, why not think about what those factors are, and how we can address them? Until people's first reaction to these types of issues is one of intellectual and rational analysis instead of emotional generalizations and simplifications, we remain in danger of another Holocaust. At the turn of the century, I remember pondering all that had happened in the 20th century, and hoping that the 21st century would be an opportunity for humans to move beyond this sort of thinking that had cost unprecedented levels of suffering. Seven years in, it's already not looking good. I think this article exemplifies how much work we have cut out for us.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Founding Fathers and Christianity

If I hear one more time that the Founding Fathers were fundamentalist Christians, I'm going to vomit. These men were some of the most advanced thinkers of their time and they were in no way bogged down by such narrow-minded nonsense. I'm sure most of them attended church, and could fairly be described as Christians in a general way, but their beliefs ranged from a basic acceptance of the moral doctrine to full-on atheism. They all believed in science, tolerance and the importance of rational questioning of established beliefs. Here are some quotes that indicate their actual feelings towards Christianity:


JOHN ADAMS
"I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved -- the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"
--in a letter to Thomas Jefferson

JAMES MADISON
"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."
--both quotes from his 'Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments'

THOMAS JEFFERSON
"Question with boldness even the existence of a god."
--letter to Peter Carr, 1787

"You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know."
--letter to Ezra Stiles Ely, 1819

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
"If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here [England] and in New England."
--from his essay, "Toleration"

Also, a Dr. Priestley, an intimate friend of Franklin, wrote of him:
"It is much to be lamented that a man of Franklin's general good character and great influence should have been an unbeliever in Christianity, and also have done as much as he did to make others unbelievers"
--from Priestley's Autobiography

THOMAS PAINE
"Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity."

"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my church."
--from Paine's book, "The Age of Reason"

Saturday, July 7, 2007

This is just the kind of crackpot scheme that melts my heart. I have a world plan that's essentially the opposite of this one, but I think this one is worth a fair shake.


Check out the site

Friday, June 22, 2007

One of my favorite books is…

G.R.R. Martin’s, A song of Ice and Fire.
Mass doesn’t always equal excellence but the awesome heft George R.R. Martin’s A song of ice and fire (4 books with two more to come!) at least indicates a significant amount of time to be spent comfortably wasted indoors ignoring the sunshine. Set in a quasi-realistic medieval world including, but not restricted to, princes, dragons and knights, the heart of the action unfolds in a series of epic political upheavals spanning several generations and involving a generous cast of characters. In breadth The Song of Ice and Fire excels. The heroes in the seven kingdoms traverse huge distances and encounter vivid, detailed civilizations. Nomadic horsemen, seagoing reavers and undead zombies all present themselves, undaunted by the size of the narrative and content to inhabit their own specific sections. Long books often suffer from a glut of weak material on the periphery of the action. The song of ice and fire, against all odds, avoids this fate. Despite the sheer mass of his repertoire, Martin’s reach never encroaches on the vitality of his characters and his imaginative force rarely degenerates into clich├ęd or shallow characterization; all the components of his books are as captivating and as convincing as the center. So read it bitch.