Thursday, December 30, 2010

Have A Slayer Christmas

This is one of the most amazingly awesome things I have ever witnessed...

Newspaper Letters For Fun And Prophet

Last night the wife pointed out a couple of letters to the editor in our local newspaper that she figured I would find rather ridiculous.

She was right.

I am planning on sending off a reply letter in response to one writer (people can be wrong off the internet, too!), but I figured that this letter is perfectly ripe for a bloggy, snark-filled fisking.
"In response to the letters to the editor of Dec. 15 Capital News, in regards to whether God delivered the miners or not, or whether God even exists, I understand how you feel. I understand your logic."
Somehow I doubt that you understand how non-believers feel, nor do you truly understand logic.
"I, as a born again believer, have a real relationship with God, and because I love him I, and all others who believe the same way as me, would want to defend God with everything that we are."
I'm sure children with an invisible friend also considers that a loving, real relationship, too. They also might desire to defend themselves from criticisms of their incorporeal buddy. Yet that doesn't actually make their invisible friend real or of any value to others.
"Yet God does not need defending."
But you don't stop after this sentence. You keep going in order to defend that which apparently needs no defense. This can't bode well for the content of the rest of your letter.
"He is God and there is no one like Him. We cannot control Him and the decisions He makes."
We also can't see him, hear him, or discern any real effect he might have in the universe.
"We don’t always understand why He does things the way He does, but He always has a purpose in what He does.We always want Him to do things our way, but He is God, and He is the one calling the shots."
Well, considering that nobody's been able to show God "doing" anything, those are rather nonsensical statements to make.
"I can make anyone believe there is a God who loves and cares about them, but I can’t tell you that if you just look around, you can see God in every day life. Just the fact that people went to help those who were trapped in the mine shows care and concern for their fellow man."
So, because people care for other people, God exists? Got any other non sequiturs you'd like to pass along as religious "wisdom"?
"Commandments in the Bible are to 'love your neighbour [sic] as you love yourself.'"
Don't forget "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" and "slaves obey your masters".
"As you can’t see the wind or emotions or thoughts, you can see the evidence of them all the time. It is the same with God. You don’t need miraculous signs to validate His existence because you are a miracle."
There's six billion people on the planet, with thousands more born every day. Talk about lowering the standard for what qualifies as a miracle.
"Knowing that you have millions of nerve cells, an autonomic system which works without you doing anything, just tells me that I am here by design."
The fact that your body tries to fight off invading bacteria and viruses means somebody or something has a plan for your life? If He had a plan for your life, why doesn't he just keep those dangerous microbes from hurting you? I guess if you've got nothing else you might as well keep those non sequiturs coming!
"An intelligent design working through science because He is the author of science."
If God is the author of science, how come he never put any good science in the Bible? He could have saved immense amounts of suffering and lifetimes of effort by outlining the scientific method for us, or revealing the germ theory of disease for us, or even at least giving us the proper cooking temperature for pork. Instead, all we got was orders to not wear clothing made from two different types of fiber and warnings to avoid boiling a young goat in its mother's milk. Consider me underwhelmed.
"I am one of a kind, and there is no one exactly like me in this world of billions of people. So I would like to put a challenge out to you. Ask yourselves some questions like: Where did good and evil come from?"
Good and evil are human constructs that we use to explain the difference between people who follow societal laws and norms, and those who don't.
"Why are the laws of the land based on Ten Commandments?"
The first two commandments are "love the Lord thy God with all your heart" and "thou shalt have no other gods beside me". What Canadian laws are analogous to these two commandments? The answer is "none". Our laws are based on English Common Law, which traces its roots back to pre-Christian Roman Law.
"Who keeps the planets in perfect order in the universe?"
Gravity. While I agree that gravity is a cool theory, I don't think it qualifies enough to be granted personhood.
"Who created emotions within the human heart?"
The heart does not contain emotions, that would be a product of the brain (You'll notice we consider other animals to have emotions, too). As for who created emotions, that would be evolution, as a by-product of increasing intelligence. Again, an excellent, well-supported theory that shouldn't be considered a person.
"A lot of people ask themselves where did God come from. As with Darwin’s theories, and Christianity, we have to take them both by faith."
Umm, no. There's a big difference in assuming your invisible sky fairy exists because of an ancient book edited together from a bunch of oral histories, and examining physical evidence to come to a reasonable scientific conclusion.
"The choice is yours. God will never push His way into people’s lives but will let them believe what they want."
Tell that to most of his followers. Also, have you actually read the Bible? Specifically, the Old Testament? God had a reputation of being quite the bully. Thankfully, these days he seems pretty much absent. Must be all the science laying about, waiting for him to reveal himself. Science is Yahweh's kryptonite!
"If they want to know Him, He will reveal Himself to them, and if not, He will not force Himself on anyone. He is a gentleman."
So if God hasn't revealed himself to you, it's all your fault because you don't want to know him! Also, forget all that killing the unbelievers in the name of God that is a major theme throughout most of the Bible! Lastly, what kind of "gentleman" tortures people for all eternity for not believing in Him?
"I hope for all of you who have written God off as a figment of imagination, that you will take a risk and ask those questions and other ones and see where it takes you. Jesus took the challenge of becoming a man on the planet, dying a horrible death because of love for what he created; rising from the dead so we can live a victorious life."
Zombie Jesus came back for our brains, and it looks like He already got to yours.
"I would rather believe in a God who loves me and cares about my life than to believe nothing, having no hope in anything except yourself or science which cannot change the heart of man."
Yes, we understand that you'd rather believe in an invisible sky fairy than have to understand all that hard sciencey stuff that explains things. Thankfully, there are curious, hardworking people who will use science to try to drag our society into the next century of progress. You don't have to come along if you don't want to, but please stay out of the way.
"I would like to see a man create something out of nothing. It takes God."
Ahh, the "turtles all the way down" defense. But you're wrong, man DID create something out of nothing: he created God.

Interesting Beer Dispenser

It's an interesting way to fill a beer cup, no skill in pouring required. However, filling a beer cup this way creates no head and so the aroma of the beer doesn't get properly released. Mind you, considering the beers being poured in the video are Bud and Bud Light, there's really no aroma (or flavour, for that matter) to be released.

Leave it to Budweiser to come up with an interesting and novel way of pouring their beverages, but doing nothing to improve the bland, watery concoctions they pass off as "beer".

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blackberry Troubleshooting

Here's some dry British wit (do they have another type?) about problems with Blackberries and other fruit-themed technology.

Slightly New Look

Well, due to some complaints (well, only one - thanks George!), I've made some style changes to the ol' blog. Hopefully this will look a little bit better in Firefox (and the other browsers). Unfortunately, the alterations won't make the content any better, but like basically every movie coming out of Hollywood lately, perhaps if it's pretty enough nobody will notice the lack of substance!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Secularism Is Bad, Except When It's Not

Okay, let's be realistic: the Pope says a lot of dumb things. I mean, it's difficult to take seriously a man that claims the ultimate moral authority derived from his invisible friend that he alone is able to talk to, yet spent years enabling and covering up child sexual abuse. Morality? Apparently the Pope's heard of it.

Anyways, Pope Benny has apparently been putting his Direct Line To God to good use. But not really. He condemned religious violence committed against Christians in many parts of the world. To be one hundred percent serious, I agree that nobody should ever be murdered for their beliefs. I might disagree with his claims that Christians are the "most persecuted religion" in the world, and I was a little bothered by the fact that his holiness only seemed to be concerned about the safety of Christians, but if there's one person that's allowed to preach to his choir, I suppose it would be Benedict.

Unsurprisingly, after his initial comments, Pope Benny's thought process ran off the rails:
"I also express my hope that in the West, and especially in Europe, there will be an end to hostility and prejudice against Christians because they are resolved to orient their lives in a way consistent with the values and principles expressed in the Gospel"
Yeah, because if there's one thing noticeable about Christianity in the west, it's how Christians are terrified of sharing their religious views with others. Christians in Europe and North America find it nearly impossible to drum up public and political support for their views. Perhaps if Christians would like to be well regarded, they could actually try following some of Jesus' teachings, because I certainly don't remember Jesus commanding his disciples to use political systems to crowbar Old Testament rules onto people who might hold different values and viewpoints.
"May Europe rather be reconciled to its own Christian roots, which are fundamental for understanding its past, present and future role in history ..."
What about the Pagan roots that existed long before Christianity came along and displaced it, in many places by violence and force? Is it not fundamental to also be reconciled to the worship of Odin in order to understand how Wednesday got its name? Yeah, we know: the only thing that's important is Christianity, because acknowledgment of druids and the gods of thunder won't help fill the Vatican coffers with more gold.

Benny goes on to accuse "aggressive secularism", claiming that it is as bad as, if not worse, than religious extremism. Seriously? How many secularists do you hear calling for the decapitation of people who convert from agnosticism or atheism to Christianity or Buddhism?

Here's what the Pope's comments boil down to: non-Christians need to be more secular, because secularism is good. However, Christians don't need to be secular, because... well, I'm sure there's an important reason. I mean, it's not like Christians ever slaughtered swaths of people who didn't hold what were considered "orthodox" beliefs, right?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Yet More Compassionate Conservatism

Via Mike the Mad Biologist (linking to the excellent Crooks And Liars), we have example number 10,543,886 of how the average Teabagger views the poor, thanks to National Review editor Kate O'Beirne. At a Republican strategy meeting, she mused thusly:
"You know, I mean if that’s how many parents are incapable of pulling together a bowl of cereal and a banana, then we have problems that are way bigger than… that problem can’t be solved with a school breakfast, because we have parents who are just criminally… ah… criminally negligent with respect to raising children."
Seriously, she just equated the inability to feed your kids a decent breakfast to child abuse. Are you one of the eight million Americans whose job ceased to exist in the last three years? Perhaps you have a chronic, debilitating illness, mental issues, or are a single parent attempting to raise children on your own after having your significant other die or walk out on you (or any combination of the above)? Well, too friggin' bad! There are rich people who need a three and a half percent tax break, so it would be appreciated if you and your progeny would just quietly go off and starve to death in the dark. Being capable of feeding your kids is something you should have thought of before you became peasants!

And Kate was so close to actually coming to an important realization, but sailed on past before any thoughts resembling awareness could form in that selfish lizard brain of hers. Yes, the United States certainly does have problems that can't be fixed by a school lunch/breakfast program. Unfortunately, while there is a black man (who also happens to be a Democrat Moderate Republican) occupying the White House, the New Teabagger Republicans have absolutely no desire whatsoever in assisting to resolve those problems. They'd much rather do nothing or continue the same behavior that contributed to the implosion of the American economy.

What I find even more infuriating (but not surprising at all) is that Kate can't even figure out why feeding children has bipartisan support:
"And yet, that’s the kind of program that has huge bipartisan support with very little thought about why we’re now feeding children."
Seriously, what kind of monster has to think about whether its acceptable to feed hungry kids? How much do you want to bet little Katie here is pro-life? Oh, look, two minutes of Googling reveals the opening sentence from the abortion chapter in her book, "Women Who Make The World Worse":
"Modern feminism's biggest enemies are the smallest humans."
Of course, to Republicans, once those babies are out of the womb, they're on their god damned own! To hear the wingnuts tell it, upper class tax cuts are more important than hungry kids, lowering the deficit is more important than getting people back to work, and austerity is the Republican answer to over thirty years of declining wages. Seriously, is there any horrid, inhuman political policy these selfish pricks won't offer their 100% support for?

I can't believe I was ever so cruel and heartless as to be a big "c" Conservative. Despite the fact that I grew up as the son of a single mother who made $10 per hour at her highest paying job, I used to hold similar views to that of our Randbot friend Kate. My mom managed to keep food on the table for the majority of my youth, but there were a few times where the cupboards had nothing but baking soda and dust on the shelves. I wouldn't wish that kind of struggle on any family, but I can't say I get upset at the thought of seeing empty husks of humanity like Kate O'Beirne suffer through such a difficult life for a few years in the hopes it would open their eyes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

More Compassionate Conservatism

Via Ed, I found out that Elizabeth Edwards passed away. I think she did a very good job of publicly dealing with the destruction of her marriage by an unfaithful husband, followed by showing a fantastic strength in dealing with the breast cancer that would eventually cost her her life. Elizabeth also made a final posting on Facebook that at least a handful of Christians have been skewering:

Edwards writes that she has "been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces--my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope."

"These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that," Edwards writes.

To any sane person, that sounds like a pleasant, honourable final farewell to offer a bunch of (mostly) strangers on a personal networking site. However, to the batshit religious, apparently even the period of time before her corpse has cooled is the perfect opportunity to condemn the poor woman.

I'm not talking about the perpetual evil morons of the Westboro Baptist Church, who have decided that this is yet another high-profile opportunity for them to protest and draw attention to their hateful, bigoted views, and announced they'll be picketing Elizabeth's funeral. Instead, other slightly-less insane wingnuts have determined that now is the time to dissect her recent (and not-so-recent) statements in search of the appropriate codewords in order to determine if Elizabeth was the Right Kind Of Christian. This sport needs to be played so that it can be publicly determined if Ms. Edwards will pass through the Pearly Gates, or be condemned to the horrors of Hell. Of course, to the hardcore right-wing Christian Taliban, anybody that hasn't learned that the Old Testament commands them to decapitate every person that holds any opinion that could be remotely considered "liberal" is not a True Christian Patriot, and deserves the worst torture that they can imagine the cruel little bronze-age god Yahweh can dream up.

Her crime, if you can't discern it yourself, was that she didn't show enough subservience to the imaginary sky fairy so popular with some 75% of the North American populace in her final public remarks.

This Christianity Today article was thankfully free of actual commentary on Elizabeth's beliefs, but it was obviously a "we report, you decide" bullshit article, designed to give only the "important" information necessary to allow the True Christian readers to determine that Ms. Edwards was not One Of Them, and must obviously now be realizing her mistake of not being sufficiently Conservative Christian.

Donald Douglas at American Power, however, was quite willing to "Go Ghoul", and feed upon Elizabeth's corpse the way Zombie Jesus would have feasted upon the brains of the living (had He actually existed):

Clearly Elizabeth Edwards wants to put her faith in something, be it hope or strength or anything. But not God. I wonder if it's just bitterness, that's she's been forsaken by more than just her estranged husband --- that's she's been forsaken by Him. And imagine if she'd have become First Lady. Americans generally expect outward expressions of faith in our presidents, Christian faith especially, and thus in our First Ladies as well. The Democratic base obviously doesn't care, as we can see in the "wow factor" expressed by the author at the American Prospect. Being anti-religion is cool, so Edwards' non-theological theology gets props from the neo-communists. Still, at her death bed and giving what most folks are calling a final goodbye, Elizabeth Edwards couldn't find it somewhere down deep to ask for His blessings as she prepares for the hereafter? I guess that nihilism I've been discussing reaches up higher into the hard-left precincts than I thought.

Thankfully, many posters at both sites have heaped much deserved abuse on the writers for attempting to use a recently-deceased public figure to grind their own personal religious axes. Much like running into actual Liberal Christians, it's nice to know that not all Bible thumpers are horrible, hate-filled assholes.

So, thank you to Elizabeth Edwards, for being an excellent example of grace and resilience under trying and deadly circumstances, and for indirectly exposing the cruelty of some religious extremists.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Compassionate Conservatism

Once again, Rush Limbaugh has opened up the gaping maw that acts as his mouth and expressed the more of that great compassion that conservatives hold for those less fortunate than them:

In case you refuse to listen to the blowhard (and I can't blame you), here's the money quote:

“If people can’t even feed and clothe themselves should they be allowed to vote? Should they be voting?”

Of course, according to the prosperity gospel that many right-wingers subscribe to, poverty is merely proof of the laziness and moral turptitude of the lower classes. A True God-Fearing Patriot would take a minimum-wage job at Wal-Mart, work hard for forty years without health insurance (because Jesus will heal you if you wish hard enough, apparently), eventually working their way up to Owner Of Wal-Mart (it could happen!) and eventually become rich beyond compare! Such is the American/Canadian Dream According To Wingnuts.

I don't really understand how that's supposed to work, but when it comes to political, financial, or social policy, conservatives don't tend to be details-oriented. Apparently between 30-50% of the population can be easily fooled into believing that they, one day, will also be rich, so long as they pull themselves up by their bootstraps by working themselves nearly to death for the table scraps tossed at them by the rich. Couple that to the idiotic fear that some loose slut of a single mother or non-Christian, un-white foreigner might obtain social assistance, and it's apparently easy to get people to vote for the most tea-baggiest of political elitist jerks.

Let's be realistic though - this is nothing more than a rich Limbaugh doing his best to strengthen the grip of the upper class on the reins of power and take the opportunity to help remove the possibility that those dirty lower classes could threaten to ascend to their level in society (or worse, drag the rich down). Are we really shocked by yet one more example of conservative hypocrisy, where they shriek about the evils of intellectual or liberal "elites", yet have no problems with financial or conservative "elites" openly calling for the stripping of rights from the poor?

One thing I'd like to ask Rush though, is what about farmers who receive massive subsidies from the government? What about soldiers in the military? Politicians themselves? Private businesses that exist exclusively or mainly on government contracts? These people obviously can't run a successful business in the free market, so why stop at poor people receiving food stamps.?

Limbaugh's point is that poor people are obviously incapable of taking care of themselves, so therefore, they shouldn't be allowed a voice in politics. Secondly, landowners and/or people with large amounts of equity supposedly have a greater stake in ensuring that society maintains some semblance of stability. But how true can this be? Rich people have an abundance of assets that they can use in order to curry favour and build support. Poor people can't afford to donate much to politicians, nor can they purchase the same caliber of lobbyists (assuming they can afford any lobbyist) that rich people can afford! Therefore, the only voice that the poorest classes of people even have in government is their vote. (For an excellent discussion on the idea of property rights, check out this post from Ed at Dispatches From The Culture Wars.)

Therefore, in response to Rush Limbaugh, I propose the following: people who own multiple homes or have a net worth in excess of $250,000 dollars are ineligible to vote. Those who either own a single home or have a net worth between $100,000 and $250,000 dollars get one half a vote. People that are renting and have a net worth of less than $100,000 receive a single vote. Homeless people, especially the mentally ill, are able to vote as often as they like.

I know that last bit might seem odd, but here's my reasoning: letting mentally handicapped people perform the majority of voting likely will result in our current political process changing very little, since politicians and the upper class are apparently already able to take advantage of large numbers of people insane enough to vote against their own interests.