Tuesday, September 30, 2008

That Little Letter

There's a big stupid 'A' on my blog now. Perhaps you noticed it.

I have too many damn "causes" and it's totally messing up the aesthetics of my blog. Look at all that red and blue over there. How am I supposed to get that to match green and brown? Hopefully these things will get more attention simply by being ugly.

Anyway, as opposed to the first two, this newest one requires some explanation slash apology. (Actually, the "Constitution Voter" one requires an apology too: I'm being a hypocrite here since I never really planned on voting.) Along with this letter, I actually have to do a bit of soul-searching. You may think I'm being melodramatic here, and I am (as usual) but this 'A' touches upon so much subjects and topics, that I feel it's impossible to cover them all today.

To clear a few things up, the 'A' is a symbol for "atheist". You'll note, it is not an abbreviation for "atheist", and that makes a big difference.

To illuminate the difference: an abbreviation stands in for a word, a symbol stands in for an idea. Words can be open to interpretation, under most circumstances; symbols often are not. For example, the word "gov't" is short for "government", which has meant a hell of a lot of things over the centuries. Are we talking about a Plutocracy or democracy here? Benign or evil? So on and so forth. The presidential seal, however, is not nearly as open to interpretation. We know that we're talking about the executive office of the United States of America, a country rooted in 13 states, equally dedicated to the causes of both war and peace, but favoring peace. If portrayed in any other way (Eagle holding 13 donuts, for example) this symbol would be just a picture and the same is true for the 'A' in the upper-right hand corner of my blog. It is not a statement of fact ("I am an atheist"). It is a declaration of ideals ("I uphold [whatever]").

To be perfectly honest, I'm not a fan of personally attaching myself to any symbols. If that sounds like an unusual thing to be opposed to, that's because it is, and I think people don't really consider these types of things as often as I do, because I have too much free time, apparently.

I like to think of the age of 17 as being the beginning of my "thinking age". I held opinions before I hit that age, of course, but I didn't always form decent arguments for them until this time. Since then, I've held so many different and contradictory beliefs, often at the same time, that it's been hard to attach myself to any one very strongly. To hear my collective thoughts on the Iraq War for the past five years would sound like the ramblings of a crazy person. Any subject I've thought or talked about really, when coalesced into one concise form, would be disagree with itself, start to finish. And that's ok.

I don't think many people are going to fight with me on this one, but it's a good thing to keep one's beliefs fluid. You don't want (or need) to get locked into a particular way of thinking; That's called dogmatism, ladies and germs, and it's a terrible thing. I've taken it to the extreme though, so I hate identifying myself with any groups, any labels (To this day, I refuse to apply "pro-choice" or "pro-life" to myself, despite an obvious preference for the former) or any symbols (no tattoos, ma!)

That's almost a sad thing, because during the past six years, I've never given up on atheism. I have altered it though, greatly and dramatically, over the years. Those of you "in-the-know" on the subject of atheism are aware that you can actually refer to an atheist as several different things: a freethinker, a bright, a secular humanist. I refuse to apply any of these to myself (they seem so snobbish, for one), because I reserve the right to change my thoughts on what atheism is, what atheism does and what atheism should do, and I have changed my thoughts on those things, many, many times.

To drive the point home a bit further, now would be a good time to point out this post I did on how I feel about following groups.

So, to get back to that 'A', what the hell is it doing up there?

More on this tomorrow. (That is not true. I'm totally going to forget about finishing this.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bailout This T-Shirt

While we're on the McCain issue, there is a fundamental problem that I have with his "campaign on hold" theory.

Ok, I won't get into the debate as to whether or not he's actually doing anything. I won't say whether or not his ideas or the Republican's idea, or Paulson's ideas are right or wrong. In the full assumption that he has stopped his campaign to 100% dedicate himself to solving economic problems, he is wrong.

Obviously, a president, or any leader, has a responsibility to solving problems. What I would hope would be more obvious is that the most important job (but most overlooked) that a president or leader has is to report to us.

Call me arrogant, but we're these jerks' bosses. If you're going to pull off a big project, something that has the future of the company on the line, you better run that by us first. Everything else can wait. Talk to your boss before you bet it all on black.

Yes, arrogant. I know. But this is the fundamental principle behind democracy. We are in charge. We have a voice in what happens. We choose how this country is run. We can't do that without communication. If a president says, "Oh, sorry, I'm too busy working to talk to you and explain to you what I'm doing," well then, I'm sorry, but you're unfit to lead, at least in this country.

End angry rant.

Doing Your Job (Eventually!)

1) John McCain has been in Congress for 26 years. Today is the day that he decides that he will go to work and care about the economy.

2) I've never been a big fan of Biden (re: probably racist, not funny, goofy name) but I'm telling you, if Obama had picked Dodd as a running mate, his presidency would be a shoe-in. Why? Dodd is the chairman of the Senate banking committee.

Actually, scratch that. You don't want the guy that seemingly (seemingly!) got us into this mess in a position of greater power.

3) According to the BBC:

The intense discussions reportedly saw US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson literally down on one knee, begging Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, to help push through the bail-out package.

If it's true, that is simultaneously hilarious and frightening at the same time. It takes a grown man degenerated into begging to really scare the reality into me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not...Quite...

Their own words:

Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

Oh! So close!

A word on why Media Matters is important. First off, it is not a small organization, nor is it obscure in the world of journalism. I was first drawn to it after hearing it mentioned by Clarence Page, a personal hero of mine. It is a watchdog organization designed to catch the lies perpetuated and concocted by the media. How beautiful a concept this is! And what a much better place the world would be with more of these!

They do some things very well. On occassion, (but more often than we'd like to think) a news outlet will state something as fact, when it's not. Either a subjective statement is stated as fact, or a piece of information has been misconstrued. I'm reticent to claim (as Media Matters seems to imply) that these are "lies" -- the purposeful mistatement of truth. I would hope that those of you out there with a silver of idealism left in you (cockroach both in size and nature) believe the same thing.

Did you catch the word "conservative" in that mission statement though? This is an organization dedicated to only a certain type of lie. Their modus operandi is drawing attention to half-truths and no-truths that favors the conservative movement. No word on their reaction towards lies that favor the liberal side of the country. If a news program came on and declared that Obama could shoot lasers from his man-pretty eyes, would Media Matters object? Their mission statement, and their actions seem indicate that no, they would not care.

In practice, their organization doesn't seem to do much. Point of fact, I now know why liberals are stereotyped as being, well, pussies. Media Matters spends far too much time criticizing news outlets for subjective statements that other people make about liberal or democratic party members. Here's my favorite example, from a while back:

A week after referring on MSNBC to Sens. Barack Obama and John Kerry as "two Ivy League fancy lads," GOP strategist Andrea Tantaros again referred to Obama as a "fancy lad," this time on Fox News' America's Newsroom. In neither case was her remark challenged by the anchors of the shows.

Now, c'mon guys, Obama's a grown man. I'm sure he doesn't need your help when someone calls him a "fancy lad". And really, as far as insults go, "fancy lad" is pretty tame. His skin's not made of paper here.

And besides, what are they expecting a news organization to do about this? The impression I had from the article is that Media Matters feels that Hemmer and Shuster were supposed to stop the interview and say, "Hey Tantaros, not cool."

Here's the thing though: stopping the interview to tell Tantaros to shut up is the opposite of what an effective, objective news organization should do. First off, the statement that Obama is a "fancy lad" is completely subjective. Even if you were to attempt to catergorize that as an objective statement, it's mostly true, since Obama is more fancy than not, and definitely more male than female. Can you stop an interviewee from saying something subjective? Let me give the answer they gave me in my 100-level journalism class: Nope.

In case you need an explanation as to why this is a journalism no-no, consider the alternative: Shuster or Hemmer interrupts Tantaros to say, "No, Obama is not a fancy lad." Oh shit. Now they just made a subjective statement. This has now ventured into pre-journalism 101 territory and into the realm of common sense.

There is a third option, and that is not to necessarily disagree with whatever subjective statement was just made, but make it clear that subjective statements are not welcome on this show. It's not practical. The show would move at a snail's pace just long enough to make a televised "debate" (or whatever it is you want to call it that people do on TV these days) nothing more than two or three very simple facts, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because it might just get people reading newspapers again instead of ingesting this drivel.

So, as I said, Media Matters only concerns themselves with misinformation of the conservative variety. Did you read the transcript of the show? There is more than its fair share of bipartisan misinformation within. Observe, Beckel, the "democratic consultant", being held to the same standards that Media Matters holds to Tantaros:

BECKEL: That's right. The answer is I don't -- I don't quite get what the big furor [subjective statement] is. Look, on the one hand, the guy gets beat up [subjective] because he doesn't have enough foreign policy experience and that he ought to go over and meet our allies. He's going over to meet our allies and giving a speech. And look, for the last eight years, we've had a president of the United States that gets booed when he goes to Europe [implications bordering on hyperbole]. It'd be a nice idea to have someone to be cheered. My guess, he'd get cheered.

And if we decided to break this down into the bare-bones facts-of-the-matter, here are the only objective statements in that paragraph:

Breckel: Obama is going to Germany. He is giving a speech. We have had a president for eight years.

It's that booing line that really gets to me, and the hypocrisy of Media Matters. It's one thing to say that someone is a "fancy lad" (what the hell does that mean anyway?) but it's another thing entirely to say that an entire continent of people hate you.

Actually, the word "hypocrisy" in that last paragraph is staring me in the face. I guess Media Matters' hypocrisy isn't my problem, because, let's face it, that happens a lot. (Too much.) What bugs me is the disappointment of Media Matters. This is an organization that has the opportunity to do so much good in the media, and it chooses to squander all its hard work for the sake of one agenda. Yes, there is misinformation on both sides of any national debate, but to support the half-truths of one side, while condemning the half-truths of the other makes you no better than the liars themselves.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Naked Sonic

For the most part, visitors to my blog are limited to myself and my friends, more the former than the latter, but, on occasion, I'll see some outsiders venture into my small corner of internet ignominy, probably for the last time.

Thanks to some nifty tricks, I can easily discern the reason these poor misguided idiots found my website. On occasion, it will be somewhat legitimate, google searches for shock advertising or 9/11 and Batman, but the true gem of outside appeal lies not in my rhetorical acumen, but my one-time reference to Sonic the Hedgehog porn.

It's true. The main draw to my website is Sonic porn. I don't know why it's Sonic porn. I only talked about Sonic porn once. I think I only even said the word, "Sonic porn" one time, if that. But for some reason, fans of Sonic porn seem to feel that Sonic porn lies on my Sonic porn website, which is simply not Sonic porn true. There is no Sonic porn here, nor has there been Sonic porn, nor will there be Sonic porn, and, if by some wacky physical aberration, time gains a fourth direction, there will be no Sonic porn there either. Let me state this very clearly: the form and function of this website, has nothing to do with Sonic porn, except for the casual reference to Sonic porn, and even then it's a strictly business affair with the Sonic porn, as I will express no love for Sonic porn (although no outward expressions of hatred for Sonic porn either). It's not that I'm anti Sonic porn. I'm sure Sonic porn is lovely, for people who love Sonic porn, or porn of Sonic nature, but Sonic porn is just not my thing. I'll admit I've never tried Sonic porn, but one would have to convince me that Sonic porn is worth trying, before I venture into the realm of porn that can be considered Sonicesque. But perhaps I'm going on a Sonic porn tangent. The Sonic porn point that I was trying to make, Sonic porn minutes ago, was that Sonic porn is not on this site. End of Sonic porn story.

Sonic porn!

(Anyone familiar with SEO?)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Are you Kidding Me?

Some days you just wake up in the morning, and there's so much ridiculous news it makes you wish you hadn't.

1) To begin with, what I suppose could be considered the most serious, Chuck Hagel hates Sarah Palin! Wow! Wow Wowie Wee Wow! I am flat-out shocked that a Republican would say this, what with all the yee-hawery going on about the woman. Granted, Hagel isn't as Republicany as others (today is neologism day!) but smacking your own party in the face is a huge deal. Or, at least it is for news addicts like me.

In one of his more achrimonious remarks, regarding his opinion of her lack of foreign experience, "That kind of thing is insulting to the American people." Insulting! Did you hear that? Eye En Es You El Ting!

In all fairness though, he is retiring, in like, 100 days.

2) The first news item is shocking. The second is just...Really? I mean, Really? Really?

Pope Benedict Number Whatever has said of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust that he showed "courageous and paternal dedication" albeit courage of the "secret and silent" variety.

The argument here is that just because you didn't hear anything about Pius saving Jews during WWII, doesn't mean it didn't happen. Just becuase he didn't object to the killing of millions of people, doesn't mean he wasn't brave. Just because all those Jews that Pius saved unanimously declared to remain silent on the issue, doesn't mean they don't owe the Pontiff their lives.

Actually, Mr. Benedict, that's exactly what it means.

The fact that the Pope would try to pass this bullshit off onto people sickens me. I also feel that it would just be a lot easier to say "My bad" and move on, instead of rewriting history to make monsters into heroes.

3) Get this! Right-wingers are more scared than Left-wingers! Really? I mean, have you ever challenged a hippie to a fight? They have a very "Let the Wookie win" type of strategy. This study would have us believe that war-mongering hawks are nothing but scared little kitty-kats.

Actually, I'm taking huge liberties (and I believe the article is too) with what the study suggests. Instead of saying "Right-wingers are more scared" it would be more accurate to say that this particular research suggest that those with right-slanted idealogies are more inclined to perceive threats to their social collective and because of this heighten -- oh, fuck it. Right-wing nutjobs are pussies. There, I said it.

4) I have saved the "best" for last. I can't even introduce it. I'll let you see for yourself.
(The link goes a website that's not "official" but I assure you, the information is. For some reason, I can't properly link to the address from the US congress, but if you have doubts about this website, feel free to double-check it. I did.)

Do I even need to say it? This shit is a waste of time. Maybe you're thinking that the whole thing isn't that big of a deal and didn't really spend all that much time. I invite you to search the US Congressional records and read the written transcript of all this nonsense aloud. Time yourself while you read it and then extend a middle finger towards Washington.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Poor Guy

1) How shitty do you think John McCain feels every day knowing that people are discussing the chances of his surviving the next four years? That's especially going to sting if he loses.

2) Israel's potential new Prime Minister is an ex-spy. Why can't we get presidential candidates like this?

3) Over 6,000 Chinese babies are sick from store-bought milk. Is it just me, or do Chinese people under the age of 15 have a really difficult life? Poison milk, poison toys...if there's one group of people that knows how to destroy an infant, it's the Chinese.
Can you spot the newsreporting mistake?

Locals said seven US helicopter gunships and two troop-carrying Chinook helicopters landed in the Afghan province of Paktika near the Zohba mountain range.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thoroughly Outdone

What I referred to as merely "embarrassing at least", Olbermann has driven the point home. Can I say that he's the best orator in the country?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/26649407#26649293

Dollar Short, Etc.

I hate it when I have a good idea too late.

Two days ago was the 10th of September, the 1-year anniversary from my departure from Illinois. Now, I'm not big into holidays and sentimentality is rather unbecoming of me, but I still felt this was a personal day for me, so I was compelled to do something special to commemorate it. Being the lameass that I am, I forewent your typical big-meal, heavy-drinking, no-work type of holiday and went the other way with it. I had a day of hard work for myself, including waking up promptly at 5am (no snooze) writing an essay, writing in my journal, writing a letter, completing all teaching jobs that I typically save until the last minute, studying Chinese, Korean and English, and working out. In fact, the only thing I didn't accomplish on the 10th was writing in my blog. On the list of things that I care about, though, the blog is nowhere to be found, so whatever.

Yesterday was the 11th of Septempber, and I don't think I need to remind anyone of what this is the anniversary.

Like I said, I'm not big on holidays -- I feel they are a poor excuse to do something on one day that you should have been doing every day -- but I can't help but feel the twinge of regret that such a personal day for me should fall so closely to such an inauspicious one for the country.

The face that it's an inauspiscious day is peculiar isn't it? To the best of my knowledge, there is no day in secular American culture that is regarded as "bad". It can be said that holidays like Memorial Day and Veteran's Day are somber and respectful, but not necessarily sad. D-Day is a bloody one, but again, more somber than sad. Plus, we won; there's no reason to be sad. The day that Pearl Harbor was bombed is a close contender, but it's disqualified for two reasons. First, it lacks a name. If it does have a name, I am completely ignorant of it and I'm sure I'm not in the minority on that issue. (Furthermore, what could you call it? Pearl Harbor Day? Infamy Day?) Second -- and I again suspect that I'm in the majority on this one -- the date is not well-known. (Dec 4th is my honest guess. I'll wiki this later.)

But 9/11 is fairly stuck with us. Not only are the results of said day still reverberating through the citizenry of the US over 7 years later, but it's prompted wars in three countries. Plus, the name alone is a seemingly permenent fixture in our collective lexicon.

There's the setup; now here's the punchline. If we being to see this day as a "holiday", what's the best way to observe it?

I'm sure the quickest answer you'll receive is that of yellow ribbons, lapel flags, memorial services, the phrase "Suck it, bin Laden!" and the word "'Merica". In regards to the flags and memorial services, I tend to follow the Lincoln school of thought: "We can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract." And as for the chants of "USA! USA!" and crudely photoshopped drawings of Uncle Sam extending the middle finger, presumably directed at whatever brown-skinned individual is walking by at the time, well, they're embarrassing to say the least.

We like to discuss many things about 9/11 and the War on Terror (is that supposed to be capitalized? That doesn't look right to me.) One thing I feel that we don't ask often enough is, "Are we, in any small way, responsible for what happened?" It's a question I feel that any thinking, mature society should ask, as often as possible and under a variety of circumstances. I can't say that the answer is "Yes" in this particular case, but I do see the benefits in taking hard, objective look at our place in the world.

So how do I propose we observe 9/11? Well, just like I took my personal holiday and turned into an opportunity to better myself, our country should forego the flags and 'Mericas and think about the world.

The purpose of this holiday will be to expand our understand of the political and cultural world in which we live. (I'll figure out a way to fit this onto a bumper sticker later.)

The name of our hypothetical observance must -- for better or worse -- remain the same: 9/11. There is no way that name could be changed; it's impossible to try. Planning a way to celebrate this day is also close to impossible (you cannot say to a large group of people "Do this and go have fun" and expect it to work) but here are some ideas.

Being the disgusting, pudgy bastard that I am, I think food should be the focal point here, but with a twist. The food must be international in origin. I don't mean hot dogs that were made in Taiwan (I have $50 to anybody who can prove their existence. They have to be real. I just know it.) but something that can't be called "American food." The more ethnic, the better.

But the holiday isn't just about food is it? We want to promote a sense of understanding and camraderie. So I propose a second twist: This meal cannot be eaten with your family or close friends. This will be a holidy were you're encouraged to avoid your relatives (thank god, right?) and seek out co-workers, acquaintances and maybe even complete strangers, for the purpose of sharing a meal and getting to know one another better. I can picture the local Ethiopian restuarant with all the tables pushed together and strangers congregating, experiencing a different culture and creating a miniture version of the global village we should all strive for.

Compared to that, ribbons and three-letter chants seem decisively lame. This is a holiday I can get behind.

But, like all my good ideas, this one is a day late. See you in '09.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Those Four Men

I'll make this quick:

An argument that gets a lot of play against atheism is the one about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao all being atheists. I hate hearing this because it shows a complete lack of understand for what atheism is -- more accurately, what atheism isn't.

There can be no question that the four of these men commited a vast number of murders. A number of murders so large, it's embarrassing for all humanity that we let it happen. The difference though, between these dictators and your average theistic suicide-bomber or Christian with a U-Haul, is the question of whose hands are bloodied. Who does the dirty work?

You see, Hitler can claim responsibility for the death of 6 million Jews in the 20th century, but he didn't do a bit of work. (short aside: I wonder if Hitler ever killed one person with his own hands.) Instead of Hitler going out with a gun and 6 million bullets, he convinced an entire country to do his bidding. That sentence should throw up red flags in the logic section of your brain.

How can an entire country full of rational people commit such atrocities? Didn't anyone stop to say, "Hey, maybe this isn't right."? Did anyone question the values of the society they were living in? Were there people who doubted the judgment of their leader? The answer is no, and that's why I'm an atheist.

Religion, above all, teaches you that faith is good, the blinder the better. The more subserviant you are to god, the more you give up of yourself, the better of a christian/jew/muslim/buddhist/whatever you are. In religion, you are to taught to bend your knees, not extend your brain. Doubt is something that cannot be afforded in religion, and one thing that is consistantly perpetuated is the belief that relgion is somehow "immune" to doubt and scrutiny, especially of the scientific variety. Religious leaders teach that science should not touch their beliefs, because they know that their beliefs could not withstand the test that science gives.

So think back to Hitler again. The power of murder was within the hands of the people, the whole time. Had there been a movement of individuals who said they would not kill for a pointless reason, that their leader should be questioned, and people should be deciding for themselves what's right and what's wrong, there is a very good chance the Holocaust would have never happened.

Skepticism, a morality independent from political leaders, increduality, logical thinking, human empathy (Humanism) -- the lack of these things are the true reason behind the biggest atrocities of the 20th century, not a disbelief in god. The theists love to use these four men as proof that atheism is bad, but in actuality, those four men are the reason I am an atheist and proud of it.