Monday, February 26, 2007

'At thirty, the wit...'

At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty the wit; at forty the judgment.
- Benjamin Franklin

Well, yesterday I reached another milestone: my 30th birthday. I celebrated with some friends from work including Librariana and her family, MadJenny, and the Deranged Squirrel (who's posted photos at her blog). The Hedda Dabbler clan have posted a video of me slaughtering a pinata. Here I am confronting my nemesis:

Here on the stage of history, we witness the duel between two great warriors. The False Prophet versus the Pinata.

Thanks to Deranged Squirrel for hosting and JL for helping prepare (and if you got your own blog, you'd get a link too!). And thanks to everyone who came and all well-wishers.

"Do you think," said [Caesar], "I have not just cause to weep, when I consider that Alexander at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing that is memorable?"
-Plutarch, Parallel Lives of Greece and Rome

Since birthdays are supposed to be a time when you ponder your current life situation, I wonder if I've done as much with myself as I could have by now. I've always felt pulled in multiple directions, and as a result, that I haven't gone anywhere. Right now, I'm in a position of incredible financial comfort and secure employment, but I feel like I'm waiting for things to start. I want to settle but I don't want to settle where I am. It's like I have what I want but not where I want it.

Ah well, I hate Februarys. Most depressing of months. Thankfully, this year Daylight Savings Time starts in March.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chinese Jesus

Tzu-kung asked, "Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?" Confucius replied, "Is not reciprocity the word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

--Confucius[Kongzi], Analects 15.23, (ca. 479 BCE - 221 BCE)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Just Say NO to Imagination!

As a follow up to the scrotum kerfuffle, we have this strong warning to curb children's imaginations:

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a series of guidelines Monday designed to help parents curtail their children's boundless imaginations, which child-safety advocates say have the potential to rival motor vehicle accidents and congenital diseases as a leading cause of disability and death among youths ages 3 to 14.

From the The Onion.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What we have here is...failure to edumicate

The US military has plans to attack Iran.

As I recall, they rehearsed this five years ago.

It didn't go very well.
Honoré de Balzac

Both MadJenny and Pharyngula reveal this half-silly, half-sad tale.

My fellow librarians, today you disappointment me.

Read what Lois Lowry had to say about "acceptable content".

Then, accept the words of those fine German musicians, Accept:

"Balls to the Wall"

Balls to the wall, man
Balls to the wall
Youll get your balls to the wall, man
Balls to the wall - balls to the wall

UPDATE: The Deranged Squirrel has directed me to a list of other children's books containing the word "scrotum".

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Call me Ashamed-ael

So a Japanese whaling ship gets into trouble, and the only ship ready to offer assistance is the Greenpeace ship that's been monitoring them. O, the irony!

From Unhindered by Talent via Pharyngula.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Two-fisted Science!

OK, to tide people over while I try and finish Why Darwin Matters and deliver that promised double-review, here's a little something.

I attended first aid training at work this past week, and the instructor showed us a video on hypothermia, featuring Gordon Giesbrecht, a professor at the University of Manitoba who is one of the leading experts on the topic. Mainly because, he experiments on himself! In this video we watched him ski into an icy lake to demonstrate the effects of hypothermia on the human body. What balls! Then he did it again, only this time on a snowmobile.

This reminded me of some of the scientific pioneers of past century, people with the courage and resolve to pursue their science with passion, heedless of danger.

First, there was Auguste Piccard, Swiss physicist, explorer and inventor. In the 1930s, Piccard developed an interest in ballooning, and built a series of pressurized gondolas that allowed him to explore the stratosphere. He set several altitude records, then retired from ballooning--to pursue deep-sea diving! Adopting several of the principles used in building his balloon gondolas to submersibles, he set several deep sea diving records as well, notably in the Bathyscaphe Trieste. He sold the Trieste to the US Navy , and soon afterwards his son Jacques and a Navy officer set the record for deepest dive, 10,900 m in the Challenger Depth, the deepest part of the ocean. No vessel has matched or beat this record, and nothing currently exists that could.

Piccard's whole family were scientist-adventurers: his twin brother Jean Felix was an organic chemist and balloonist, and Jean Felix's wife Jeannette was the first woman to hold a balloonist's licence, set altitude records for a woman that held for three decades, and was one of the first 11 women to be ordained Episcopalian priests. Auguste Piccard is believed to have been the inspiration for Professor Cuthbert Calculus/Professeur Tryphon Tournesol from The Adventures of Tintin and August and Jean Felix were believed to be a big inspiration to Gene Roddenberry for the character of Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Next, Hiram Bingham III, a pilot and archaeologist who was probably the inspiration for Indiana Jones. The son and grandson of missionaries to Hawaii, Bingham also served as a US Congressman and Senator and was the shortest serving Governor in Connecticut history (one day). His most noteworthy act, however, was discovering the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu centuries after the European colonization of Peru.

His son Hiram Bingham IV, a diplomat during World War II, was later discovered to have helped many authors, artists and scholars escape German-occupied France, and protected Jews during this time, also arranged forged documents for those trying to make their way through Europe to a place of safety during the Holocaust.

Story Musgrave is a man with considerable credentials and is perhaps the most experienced astronaut ever to fly into space. Musgrave served as a pilot and electrical technician in the US Marine Corps, and was later tapped by NASA to become an astronaut. He became NASA's most experience astronaut, having flown more shuttle missions than anyone else, and is the only astronaut to have flown on all five shuttles. Believe me, this is a very condensed version of Musgrave's storied (ahem) career.

And while doing all this, he found the time to earn six degrees, including:

  • Bachelor of Science in mathematics and statistics (Syracuse University 1958)

  • MBA in operations analysis and computer programming (UCLA 1959)

  • BA in chemistry (Marietta College 1960)

  • MD (Columbia University 1964)

  • Masters of Science in physiology and biophysics (University of Kentucky 1966)

  • MA in literature (University of Houston 1987)

The last one seems out of place, eh? Musgrave claims he got a lit degree so he could properly express what space is like in literary language. This guy is just awesome.

Dian Fossey, of Gorillas in the Mist, spent years in Rwanda studying gorillas as one of "Leakey's Angels". The paleontologist Louis Leakey sent three female researchers to study primates in their native habitats: Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees; Fossey, gorillas; and Biruté Galdikas, the orangutans.

Fossey gained the trust of the animals and gained worldwide celebrity when her picture was featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine. She fought tirelessly against the extinction of the gorillas, and opposed poachers and zoos with equal vengeance. She even fought the notion of tourists visiting the gorillas in the habitat. It is believed that her brutal murder was motivated by elements of the Rwandan government who wanted to use the gorillas to attract tourists.

Her story was turned into the Oscar-nominated film Gorillas in the Mist, starring one of my favourite actresses, Sigourney Weaver as Fossey.

Speaking of Leakey, he is known for having said: "Nothing I've ever found has contradicted the Bible. It's people with their finite minds who misread the Bible."

Which should hopefully segue us into Darwin yet again.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy 198th Birthday, Chuck!

Today is the 198th birthday of that brilliant and controversial figure, Charles Darwin.

Now that I am finished with Richard Dawkins's tome, The God Delusion, I will pay proper homage to Darwin by reading Michael Shermer's Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design. Expect a double review in a week or so.

In the meantime, check out the HMS Beagle replica project, a group that hopes to build a sailable replica of the very ship that took Darwin to his famous exploration of the Galapagos Islands. The project hopes to be completed in time for Darwin's 200th birthday in 2009. Best of luck to them!

Oh yeah, someone else had a 198th birthday today. Some dude named Abraham Lincoln. But, what did he ever do?
Brainless, the Conclusion

Finally, the last part of Brainless: The Insanity of Conservatism, my spoof of Ann Coulter's Godless: the Church of Liberalism. While Ann goes on for another 200+ pages, I'm not getting paid thousands by a horde of barely sentient amoebas for this, so I must bring a close to this little exercise.

Part 1 available here.
Part 2 available here.

Bonus feature! Click here to download a video of the BBC's Jeremy Paxman eviscerating Ann Coulter in an interview about Godless (RealPlayer required).

The core of the Judeo-Christian tradition says that we are utterly and distinctly apart from other species. We have dominion over the plants and the animals on Earth. God gave it to us, it's ours—as stated succinctly in the book of Genesis. Liberals would sooner trust the stewardship of the Earth to Shetland ponies and dung beetles. All their pseudoscience supports an alternative religion that says we are an insignificant part of nature. Environmentalists want mass infanticide, zero population growth, reduced standards of living, and vegetarianism. The core of environmentalism is that they hate mankind.The core of the Enlightenment philosophy says "O what a work is Man" and that through the exercise of our reason, we can accomplish great things. We have all but eliminated many illnesses, greatly enhanced our understanding of nature, and increased the quality of life for all such that even a lower-class person in our society lives better than a king did 500 years ago. We owe this to science, reason, and secularism, as is obvious to any student of history. Conservatives would sooner get down on their knees in a mud hat covered with scabs and pray to the sky for answers to their problems. All their insanity supports is an irrational belief that the sky fairy hates everything that isn't them. Fundamentalist Christians want millions of unloved and unwanted children and women dying in alleyways, overpopulation, a 13th century quality of life, and no sex. The core of Fundamentalist Christianity is they believe God wants them to be miserable, and everyone else should be miserable too.
Everything liberals believe is in elegant opposition to basic Biblical precepts.

  1. Our religion says that human progress proceeds from the spark of divinity in the human soul; their religion holds that human progress is achieved through sex and death.

  2. We believe in invention and creation; they catalogue with stupefaction the current state of our diminishing resources and tell us to stop consuming.

  3. We say humans stand apart from the world and our charge is Planet Earth; they say we are part of the world, and our hubris-tic use of nature is sinful.

  4. We say humans are in God's image; they say we are no different morally from the apes.

  5. We believe in populating the Earth until there's standing room only and then colonizing Mars; they believe humans are in the twilight of their existence.

Everything conservatives believe is in opposition to reason and fact:

  1. The philosophy of the Enlightenment holds that human progress proceeds from the spark of reason and the exercise of the scientific method; their insanity believes civilization should regress to the 13th century.

  2. Scientifc fact says that natural resources are being expended at an unsustainable rate and global warming is a growing concern. Their "science" implores us to increase consumption and ignore greenhouse gas emissions despite the threat of societal collapse and environmental catastrophe.

  3. Reason, science and secularism have allowed Western civilization to progress to its current state in less than 500 years; they would give credit to God for humanity's works.

  4. Evolution is a fact, and has allowed for considerable advances in medicine. They would have us dying in gutters from flu and leprosy until the Second Coming.

  5. Science indicates that human civilization may be in dire straits soon; they don't care, as they expect to be swept away by the Rapture imminently.

Our book is Genesis. Their book is Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the original environmental hoax. Carson brainwashed an entire generation into imagining a world without birds, killed by DDT. Because of liberals' druidical religious beliefs, they won't allow us to save Africans dying in droves of malaria with DDT because DDT might hurt the birds. A few years after oil drilling began in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, a saboteur set off an explosion blowing a hole in the pipeline and releasing an estimated 550,000 gallons of oil. It was one of the most devastating environmental disasters in recent history. Six weeks later, all the birds were back. Birds are like rats—you couldn't get rid of them if you tried.Our method is based on evidence and examination. Their method is based on supposition and lies. Conservative Christians brainwashed an entire generation into imagining that a 12-week old fetus is a human being and that every sperm is sacred, despite the billions lost every night in natural nocturnal emissions. Because of conservatives' insane religious beliefs, they won't allow us to save Africans suffering from overpopulation because family planning might kill millions of sperm that would die anyway. Sperm is like conservative bullshit--you couldn't stem the flow if you tried.
The various weeds and vermin liberals are always trying to save are no more distinguishable than individual styles of rap music. The massive Dickey-Lincoln Dam, a $227 million hydroelectric project proposed on upper St. John River in Maine, was halted by the discovery of the Furbish lousewort, a plant previously believed to be extinct. Liberals didn't even know this plant still existed, but suddenly they were seized with affection for it. They had been missing it all that time! (Granted, the rediscovery of the Furbish lousewort has improved the lives of every man, woman, and child in America in ways too numerous to count, but even so . . .) Liberals are more upset when a tree is chopped down than when a child is aborted. Even if one rates an unborn child less than a full-blown person, doesn't the unborn child rate slightly higher than vegetation?The various bags of cells conservatives are always trying to save are no more distinguishable than individual styles of country music. The massive stem cell research initiative of the late 1990s, was halted by the irrational and insane beliefs of the Bush administration's supporters. (Granted, denying hope to thousands of people suffering from spinal injury or cystic fibrosis has improved the lives of every man, woman and child in America in ways too numerous to count, but even so...) Conservatives are more upset when an unwanted fetus is aborted than when thousands of poor children are caught up in drug addiction and gang violence because of a lack of effective social services. Even if one rates a welfare recipient less than an unborn fetus, wouldn't there be less welfare recipients if some unwanted fetuses never existed in the first place?
Liberals are constantly warning us that man is overloading the environment to the detriment of the plants. Howard Dean left the Episcopal Church—which is barely even a church—because his church, in Montpelier, Vermont, would not cede land for a bike path. Environmentally friendly exercise was more important than tending to the human soul. That's all you need to know about the Democrats. Blessed be the peacemakers who create a diverse, nonsexist working environment in paperless offices.Conservatives are constantly warning us that terrorists are a threat to our civilization. David Horowitz left the New Left--a group of long-haired radicals out of step with the mainstream left--because he felt the Right would better indulge his desire to blame America's problems on brown-skinned people. Belligerence in the service to imperial elitists was more important than tending to the needs of the oppressed. That's all you need to know about the Republicans. Blessed be the warmakers who create a world of angry, desperate suicide bombers.
Suspiciously, the Democrats' idea of an energy policy never involves the creation of new energy. They want solar power, wind power, barley power. How about creating a new source of energy? Nuclear reactors do that with no risk of funding Arab terrorists or—more repellent to liberals—Big Oil Companies. But in a spasm of left-wing insanity in the seventies, nuclear power was curtailed in this country. Japan has nuclear power, France has nuclear power—almost all modern countries have nuclear power. But we had Jane Fonda in the movie The China Syndrome. Liberals are very picky about their admiration for Western Europe.Suspiciously, the Republican's idea of an energy policy never involves replacing our dwindling sources of energy. They want oil, oil, and more oil. How about reducing our exhoribant energy needs and developing clean alternatives to our declining and dirty source of energy? Reducing our energy needs would make us far less reliant on tyrannical Arabian autocrats. But in a spasm of right-wing insanity throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies, the CIA and State Department supported Arab dictators like the Shah and Saddam Hussein, ensuring that the fledgling democratic movement of the Middle East would be ruthlessly crushed.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Brainless: The Insanity of Conservatism, part deux

Part 1 available here.

If a Martian landed in America and set out to determine the nation's official state religion, he would have to conclude it is liberalism, while Christianity and Judaism are prohibited by law. And not just in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it's actually on the books, but throughout the land. This is a country in which taxpayers are forced to subsidize "artistic" exhibits of aborted fetuses, crucifixes in urine, and gay pornography. Meanwhile, it's unconstitutional to display a Nativity scene at Christmas or the Ten Commandments on government property if the purpose is to promote monotheistic religion. Nearly half the members of the Supreme Court—the ones generally known as "liberals"—are itching to ban the references to God on our coins and in the Pledge of Allegiance. They resisted in 2004 on procedural grounds only because it was an election year.If a space alien landed in America and set out to determine the nation's mental health, he would have to conclude the country suffers from a psychopathologic affliction called conservatism, while rationality and intelligence are aggressively intimidated. And not just in Alabama and Kansas, where it's actually on the books, but throughout the land. This is a country where candidates for high political office must proclaim their unsubstantiated belief in a magic sky-fairy who died on two sticks, their hostility towards all brown people, and their intention to dictate permitted activities in every bedroom in the nation. Meanwhile, decorated military officers, experienced diplomats and respected scientists and scholars are attacked or belittled for offering their rational arguments and expertise. Nearly half the members of the Supreme Court--the ones generally known as "conservatives"--are itching to replace the Constitution with inaccurate interpretations of the chicken scratches of 2000-year-old Near Eastern shepherds. They resisted because the whole nation hasn't been infected with their insanity--yet.
The absence of a divinity makes liberals' belief system no less religious. Liberals define religion as only those belief systems that sub-scribe to the notion of a divine being in order to dismiss other religions as mere religion and theirs as something greater. Shintoism and Buddhism have no Creator God either, and they are considered religions. Curiously, those are two of the most popular religions among leftists—at least until 9/11, when Islam became all the rage.The inability to acknowledge their own hypocrasy and insanity makes conservatives' mental illness no less hypocritical and insane. Conservatives define conservatism as whatever Rush Limbaugh, the National Review, Ann Coulter and the Bush administration say it is right this moment, regardless of whether it meant the opposite two weeks ago. This is done in order dismiss rational people who consider themselves conservative but disagree with the insane variety as "evil liberals". Creationism and the Rapture are insane, hypocritical perspectives, and conservatives consider them to be rational points of view. Curiously, those are two of the most popular beliefs among conservatives--at least until 9/11, when belligerent imperialism became all the rage.
Liberalism is a comprehensive belief system denying the Christian* belief in man's immortal soul. Their religion holds that there is nothing sacred about human consciousness. It's just an accident no more significant than our possession of opposable thumbs. They deny what we know about ourselves: that we are moral beings in God's image. Without this fundamental understanding of man's place in the world, we risk being lured into misguided pursuits, including bestiality, slavery, and PETA membership. Liberals swoon in pagan admiration of Mother Earth, mystified and overawed by her power. They deny the Biblical idea of dominion and progress, the most ringing affirmation of which is the United States of America.Conservatism is a complex and serious mental illness denying the Enlightenment-era ideals of the Founding Fathers in humanity's innate capacity for reason and the separation of church and state. Their insanity holds that intelligence and facts are to be ignored, even loathed. All that is important is irrational and unquantifiable faith and "gut instinct". They deny what has made Western civilization prosperous and free: the expulsion of religion and other irrational ideologies from the state apparatus and the acceptance of reason and the scientific method as the preferred manner of understanding the world. Without acknowledging this as the foundation of our society, we risk being lured into irrational, distracting, and dangerous pursuits, including slavery (of non-whites and women), genocide, and baptism. Conservatives swoon in ecclesiastical devotion to fundamentalist Christianity, taken in by her simplistic (conservatives hate "thinking"--it smacks of liberal weakness) but dangerous psalms and odes. They deny the Enlightenment ideals of reason, secularism and the advancement of knowledge, the most ringing affirmation of which used to be the United States of America.
Although they are Druids, liberals masquerade as rationalists, adopting a sneering tone of scientific sophistication, which is a little like being condescended to by a tarot card reader. Liberals hate science and react badly to it. They will literally run from the room, light-headed and nauseated, when told of data that might suggest that the sexes have different abilities in math and science.Although they are mentally ill, conservatives (through their control of the mass media) convince society that they hold rational, common-sense views, adopting a sneering tone of moral superiority, which is a little like getting a sermon in ethics from a Big Oil executive. Conservatives hate democracy, freedom and entrepreneurship, though they claim otherwise. They will literally throw a temper tantrum when confronted with evidence that their actions contradict their stated principles.

They repudiate science when it contradicts their pagan beliefs—that the AIDS virus doesn't discriminate, that there is no such thing as IQ, that nuclear power is dangerous and scary, or that breast implants cause disease. Liberals use the word science exactly as they use the word constitutional. Both words are nothing more or less than a general statement of liberal approval, having nothing to do with either science or the Constitution. (Thus, for example, the following sentence makes sense to liberals: President Clinton saved the Constitution by repeatedly ejaculating on a fat Jewish girl in the Oval Office.)
If they don't like the facts science arrives at, they circumvent the accepted and effective peer-review process and fabricate data conducive to their agenda in sanitoriums called "think tanks", false data like--the earth is 6000 years old, global warming is a natural phenomenon, blacks are less intelligent than whites, and government-subsidized health care will bankrupt the nation. Conservatives use the phrase "personal responsibility" exactly as they use the phrases "small government" and "fiscal responsibility". All these phrases are nothing more or less than a general statement of conservative approval, but meaning the opposite of what they say. (Thus, for example, the following sentences makes sense to conservatives: George Bush showed personal responsibility by blaming the Democrats for failures in Iraq. George Bush favours small government by listening in to your phone calls and looking at what books you checked out of the library. Republicans are in favour of fiscal accountability by voting for the president's record spending deficits and slashing taxes on the rich.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Was there any doubt?

Your results:
You are Dr. Doom

Blessed with smarts and power but burdened by vanity.

Dr. Doom
Mr. Freeze
The Joker
Lex Luthor
Poison Ivy
Dark Phoenix
Green Goblin

Click here to take the Super Villain Personality Test
By special request

I am posting Brainless: The Insanity of Conservatism, my satire of Ann Coulter's screed, Godless: the Church of Liberalism. Ann's ranting is on the left (for once--ha, ha) and mine is on the right. Note that I don't necessarily agree with everything I've written below: the point was to satirize Coulter, not to articulate my political beliefs (trust me, I could do it far better than Coulter).

Liberals love to boast that they are not "religious," which is what one would expect to hear from the state-sanctioned religion. Of course liberalism is a religion. It has its own cosmology, its own miracles, its own beliefs in the supernatural, its own churches, its own high priests, its own saints, its own total worldview, and its own explanation of the existence of the universe. In other words, liberalism contains all the attributes of what is generally known as "religion."Conservatives love to boast that they favour small government and personal responsibility, which is what one would expect to hear from sensible people. Of course conservatism is not sensible. It has its own fantasy world, its own "laws of nature", its own irrational beliefs, its own asylums, its own people with Napoleon complexes, its own insane worldview, and its own deluded explanation of the existence of the universe. In other words, conservatism contains all the attributes of what is generally known as "insanity".
Under the guise of not favoring religion, liberals favor one cosmology over another and demand total indoctrination into theirs. The state religion of liberalism demands obeisance (to the National Organization for Women), tithing (to teachers' unions), reverence (for abortion), and formulaic imprecations ("Bush lied, kids died!" "Keep your laws off my body!" 'Arms for hostages!"). Everyone is taxed to sup-port indoctrination into the state religion through the public schools, where innocent children are taught a specific belief system, rather than, say, math.Under the guise of favouring small, laissez-faire government and personal responsibility, conservatives favour hypocrasy and demand total adherence to their inconsistent and insane worldview. The national insanity of conservatism demands big government (when it comes to military and police powers), big spending (on the military-industrial complex), state interference into private lives (concerning a woman's right to her own body), and irrational mantras to cover for failures of conservative policy (the failure of the Bush administration in Iraq is a result of the liberals' lack of will). Everyone is taxed to pay for a military-industrial apparatus that costs more than the next two dozen highest military spending nations combined, and that can't defeat two third-world insurgency movements. Everyone, that is, except for rich corporate executives whose wealth is based on the sweat of others, and churches, who indoctrinate innocent children and ignorant adults into specific irrational belief systems instead of, say, science.
Liberal doctrines are less scientifically provable than the story of Noah's ark, but their belief system is taught as fact in government schools, while the Biblical belief system is banned from government schools by law. As a matter of faith, liberals believe: Darwinism is a fact, people are born gay, child-molesters can be rehabilitated, recycling is a virtue, and chastity is not. If people are born gay, why hasn't Darwinism weeded out people who don't reproduce? (For that, we need a theory of survival of the most fabulous.) And if gays can't change, why do liberals think child-molesters can? Pedophilia is a sexual preference. If they're born that way, instead of rehabilitation, how about keeping them locked up? Why must children be taught that recycling is the only answer? Why aren't we teaching children "safe littering"?Conservative doctrines are less rational than astrology, but their insanity is declared as sensible by the "liberal" media, while skeptic and rational debates about policy are banned from public forums. As indication of their insanity, conservatives believe: that the earth was created in 6 days despite a mountain of scientific evidence to the contrary, that what goes on in your bedroom is their business, that there is scientific evidence that some races are superior to others, but that there is no scientific evidence for global warming, greed is a virtue, but charity is not. If the world was "intelligently designed", why did God create inferior races in the first place? (For that, we need an intelligent design theory of the most fascist.) And if black and brown people are so inferior, why do conservatives consider them criminal geniuses and terrorist masterminds? If God intelligently designed the universe, why couldn't He intelligently design our criminal justice system? Why must people be deluded into believing the highly-paid shills of corporate interests? Why aren't we giving people the facts and encouraging a skeptic attitude towards outrageous claims?
We aren't allowed to ask. Believers in the liberal faith might turn violent—much like the practitioners of Islam, the Religion of Peace, who ransacked Danish embassies worldwide because a Danish news-paper published cartoons of Mohammed. This is something else that can't be taught in government schools: Muslims' predilection for vio-lence. On the first anniversary of the 9/11 attack, the National Education Association's instruction materials exhorted teachers, "Do not suggest that any group is responsible" for the attack of 9/11.We aren't allowed to question. Those afflicted with the conservative insanity might turn violent--much like the practitioners of Christianity, the "Blessed Peacemakers", who bomb family-planning clinics and shoot obstetricians because they can't stand the thought of a woman having ownership of her own body and control over her own sexual destiny. This is something else that can't be brought up in public forums: Christians' predilection for irrational, insane beliefs and behaviours. Within three days of 9/11, on national TV, Christian Rev. Jerry Falwell blamed the attacks on " pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians...the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America (including the Founding Fathers?)."

There's more to come...

UPDATE: I can't seem to get rid of that white space between the text and the table above. If anyone can help me out, I'd appreciate it. Blogger seems to be adding two line breaks for reasons I can't fathom.

Friday, February 09, 2007


The beauty of our universe:


I matched MadJenny's result on this personality test:

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have medium extroversion.
You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.
Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.
But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."


You have high conscientiousness.
Intelligent and reliable, you tend to succeed in life.
Most things in your life are organized and planned well.
But you borderline on being a total perfectionist.


You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.


You have medium neuroticism.
You're generally cool and collected, but sometimes you do panic.
Little worries or problems can consume you, draining your energy.
Your life is pretty smooth, but there's a few emotional bumps you'd like to get rid of.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is high.
In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas.
You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits.
A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.

[Cue "Twilight Zone" music]


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Book review: Blowback, by Chalmers Johnson

Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire by Chalmers Johnson (2000)

Johnson, an American economist and East Asia specialist of some repute (co-founder of the Japan Policy Research Institute, did consulting for the CIA on Maoist China) wrote this book well before the events of September 11th, 2001. Although recognized when it was first published, it quickly shot up the bestseller lists during the "War on Terror", most likely because Johnson saw something like 9/11 coming.

"Blowback" is a term used by the intelligence community to describe unintended consequences of covert operations. Because the general public is kept in the dark about covert operations, when violent consequences result, the public is generally surprised and believes the aggression was without cause. Being so uninformed, the general public feels they have been unfairly targeted by freedom-hating evil-doers, not understanding that their government has ravaged the homeland of the evil-doers through economic or military imperialism and a severe disregard for the native culture.

Writing in very accesible style, Johnson makes his points with clarity and vigor. He largely confines the discussion to areas of his expertise: East Asia and economics. Johnson begins with the tale of US military bases in Okinawa. Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has maintained a military presence in Japan, ostensibly to keep the Soviet Union and Maoist China in check and to prevent the spread of communism into the rest of East Asia (see Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations to see how well that worked during the Cold War). The vast majority of US bases in Japan are based on the island of Okinawa, which was an independent nation until its occupation by Meiji Japan in the late 19th century. It was the site of perhaps the bloodiest campaign of the Pacific War, and after spilling the blood of thousands of Marines on its soil, the US military never left. However, the arranged marriage between the Okinawans and US military personnel was hardly harmonious. Johnson relates a series of offenses perpetuated by US servicemen, starting with the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl in 1995 by three military personnel, and moving on to pollution, deadly traffic accidents, violence, land appropriation, extraterritoriality, and overall cultural insensitivity.

In subsequent chapters, Johnson relates American support for East Asian dictators throughout the Cold War and afterwards, noting examples of the CIA undermining democratically-elected governments in favour of compliant strongmen.

Johnson's thesis is that since the end of the Cold War, with their enemy defeated and the reason for supporting military bases, covert operations and brutal dictators around the world gone, US foreign policy now has the goal of transforming the economies of all other nations into mirrors of its own. Not accepting the possibility that Japanese or Korean capitalism might be organized differently than American capitalism, the US uses the World Bank and the IMF to force "globalization" (ie, Americanization) on foreign markets. Also, in the post-Cold War world, the US relies more and more on military and economic dominance to get its way, while diplomacy is tossed aside (clearly the foreign policy of the current Bush administration is almost the culmination of Johnson's fears).

Essentially, Johnson feels that this is naught but American imperialism. American foreign policy no longer seeks to contain Soviet influence, so it must manufacture new reasons to justify military bases around the world, and economic and political interference in every other nation's affairs. These justifications are forcing the rest of the world into the American economic system, and policing the world against "rogue states" (Axis of Evil, anyone?), whose ability to actually threaten American power is practically non-existent. (Lest I sound heartless, there could be 10 more 9/11s, and America would still be the lone superpower. Far less stable governments have endured far more.) Pre-9/11, you would have added the threat of China to that list, even though China has little military capability beyond its own borders (though extensive economic influence through Chinese expatriate communities in East Asia) and likely little desire to exercise military might: history shows China only seems to be concerned with territory it believes it has historical claims to--Taiwan and Tibet, and not much else. And yet, there is threat exaggeration. Whether motivated by greed on the part of the military-industrial complex, or some kind of messianic idealism on the part of American foreign policy, Johnson feels this is imperial overstretch, and there's no way the United States can continue on this trajectory without serious blowback (and not just violently, but economically or diplomatically as well).
Now with more deadly sins

See which secondary deadly sin you're guilty of! Choose two of the Seven Deadly Sins closest to your heart and consult this chart:

From Indexed.

Monday, February 05, 2007

At last, the kryptonite worked!

Captain Copyright, the reprehensible mascot created by the federal government to brainwash children into accepting criminally restrictive copyright practices (while glossing over concepts of fair use) has been put down.

See BoingBoing for more.
Now that the internet meme is behind us...

...we can resume your regular diet of links and YouTube videos!

Does Montreal have the worst library system in North America? This Montreal Gazette op-ed writer seems to think so!

Via LISNews.
Blog post #62: In which the False Prophet participates in his first internet meme...

OK, so Hedda Dabbler, who has been playing hooky from work to help welcome her new son into the world and thus has time for these things, has tagged me for one of those blogger memes that circulate the blogosphere.

So without further ado, here are six weird or unknown things about me:

1) I have a PlayStation 2, but instead of using it to play the latest releases, I use my late-generation console to play games that were cutting edge between 20 and 30 years ago.

2) From Grade 11 until second-year university, I used to have shoulder-length hair. If I can dig up a picture I'll scan and post it.

3) The first Canadian federal election in which I was eligible to vote, in 1997, I voted for the Natural Law Party. It was more a protest vote than anything else: I thought Chrétien was an imbecile and utterly useless (and it's still sad it took most of the country seven more years to realize that), couldn't vote for the Conservatives after Mulroney, and couldn't vote for the NDP. In the next federal election, I actually voted for Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance Party. Solely because they promised to increase military spending and because he wasn't Chrétien. I could castigate myself for these and other votes I've cast in the past, but I have yet to enter a voting booth and not feel the need to take a shower afterwards.

4) Although I am a die-hard heavy-metal fan, and over half my CD collection is heavy metal or hard rock bands, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Heather Nova and Bjork all feature prominently in my collection as well.

5) I was almost a music major, but I didn't have the discipline to pass the performance audition (despite easily aceing the ear test and the theory test). Apparently being a half-assed hack on four instruments is not as valued as being really accomplished on one.

6) I used to carry a small notebook with me everywhere and write down little things I'd learned, or my ideas for stories or songs, or pithy quotations I'd heard or read. I filled three of the them, which I called "The Gospel of False Prophecy" and I promised myself that after I'd filled four, I'd buy a PDA to replace them. Then I lost the fourth volume (hereafter known as "The Apocrypha") when it was about 1/3 full and replaced it. I managed to fill the replacement halfway before giving up on the enterprise.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that #4 is the reason I love female-fronted metal and hard rock bands (Evanescence, Nightwish, Lacuna Coil).
Where no Python has gone before...

I can't embed this YouTube video since the poster has disabled it. But it was pretty funny.

UPDATE: This one's even better:

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Then again...

A follow up to my previous post:

You achieved a score of 32%!

That could've gone significantly better, but let's face it, this was a difficult quiz. You probably haven't read the Bible in as much depth as such an important book deserves. Better luck next time.

The Bible Quiz of Greater Ultimacy
Quizzes for MySpace

Clearly I need to work on my mastery of Biblical minutia. Though to what end? I know The Odyssey pretty well too, but it hasn't made me a believer in Poseidon.

UPDATE: I challenge everyone to try the Gospel Story Quiz. You may be surprised at how ignorant you are!
Do you think this will keep the evangelicals off my back?

You know the Bible 98%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

I wonder which question I got wrong?