Archive for the ‘nutcases’ Tag

Canada Free Press – What A Joke!

Every now and then, I stumble across someone (usually an intellectually-barren right winger) who cited http://www.canadafreepress.com to support an argument. Even more amusing is that occasionally people seem to think that writing for this blog is some kind of journalistic credential.

When your tagline is “Because without America there is no free world…” I have to wonder what the “Canada” part is all about. CFP started as a print paper in Toronto, a right wing free birdcage liner, but it’s now rarely about Canada, and more a haven for American conservatives, and frankly, not good ones. There used to be a comedic value to it, but even that’s gone. Now it’s just… well… I can’t describe it. So let’s look at one of their articles, about the evil (well, if you grossly misinterpret it) UN Agenda 21) and its impact on the military, by Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh. The article is here. Read carefully, because some of the hilarity is subtle.

The good doctor’s article is based on a US government directive about sustainability and designs for military bases – to make them more “walkable”, something that’s been, as I understand it, an urban planning concept for a long time. Most military bases I’ve been on aren’t, don’t offer much in the way of incentive for transit or ride share, and are thus often traffic nightmares. A base I spent a lot of time on has three gates fed by a series of collector roads, and it’s not uncommon to spend 15-20 minutes or more trying to get out at the end of the day, sitting in traffic. To travel a kilometre or two. That’s a lot of cars idling for no good reason. But I guess, if you’re a right wing moron, that’s not a big deal.

She wastes little time to turn an architect’s report on the community around the US Air Base at Aviano into a snipe at Italy – suggesting “they can defend themselves”. Which, of course, they do, which a fairly large and well-equipped military. I’m not entirely sure who or what the US base at Aviano defends Italy from, and would guess it primarily serves US and not Italian interests.

I particularly love this paragraph:

The military leadership explains that transit-oriented development reduces traffic congestion and accident rates while encouraging walking, bicycling, and overall healthy communities. This is a ridiculous excuse since a soldier, by definition, has to be healthy and fit in order to serve in the military. Walking and biking actually increase accident rates of hit and run. There are retirees, even young ones, who are handicapped, and biking and walking is not an option for them. We have thousands of soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Iran with severe, life altering disabilities.

I literally cannot make any sense of this. Where to begin? First, military communities don’t just include “soldiers”. Bases employ civilians. Military families use their facilities as well. And ultimately, that soldiers have a fitness standard that the general public doesn’t has pretty much nothing to do with this. Increased rates of hit and run? Okay, whatever. Conveniently, the Good Doctor offers no statistical support for this, and I somehow don’t think it’s particularly important. Biking and walking aren’t an option for lots of people, sure, but nothing in the ideas of better urban planning makes it impossible. Thanks to not right wing people, after all, we have laws about making sure that we accommodate disabled people. Of course, if you’re a certain class of conservative, you think those laws are an encroachment on your civil liberties and free enterprise, but we’ll try to leave Paultards out of this, shall we? I also love she says soldiers “returned from Iraq and Iran”, to help build the case that on basically the entire subject matter of this post, she has absolutely no idea what she’s talking about. Iran? Really?

Another gem of a paragraph:

Because of drastic cutbacks in the military for cost-saving reasons, at a time when the world threat to our country is at an all time high, we do not have money to refurbish and modernize the military capability. We let soldiers fight in Afghanistan and Iraq with scarce resources and protection, having to duct-tape their body armor to non-armored vehicles in order to provide some level of safety.

Well, “we” sent soldiers to fight a way in Iraq without proper equipment because there wasn’t enough of it to go around. By invading Iraq, Afghanistan was neglected with victory declared early, and it was allowed to fester. And the war with Iraq was totally unnecessary. By the way, which political party has members that actually voted against better equipment for soldiers? Ooops.

The military is more concerned with rules and regulations, like a soldier being licensed properly to drive an un-armored SUV through a war zone. Those who make ill-conceived rules from the safety of their offices in Washington, D. C. do not worry that this soldier might be blown off by a roadside bomb because his vehicle is not armored.

Why are soldiers “licensed” to drive UP-armoured (not “un-armoured”) SUVs? In the case of some places, because they’re less conspicuous and easier to maneuvre around cities. Big convoys of armoured vehicles are juicy targets. Consider the attack on the Rhino Bus on October 29, 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan. It was a big, heavy, armoured vehicle, and a vehicle-borne IED destroyed it and killed all its occupants. It was a clear, significant target. SUVs disappear into traffic, theoretically. Why are they “licensed”? Because they have to pass a driving test that’s a little more than what most people do – how to drive evasively, and maneuvres that increase the safety of the driver and their passengers. Not just anyone should be thrown keys and told to have at it.

“Which would you rather have? Would you rather spend $4 billion on Air Force Base solar panels, or would you rather have 28 new F-22s or 30 F-25s or modernized C-130s? Would you rather have $64.8 billion spent on pointless global warming efforts,  or would you rather have more funds put towards modernizing our fleet of ships, aircraft and ground vehicles to improve the safety of our troops and help defend our nation against the legitimate threats that we face?” (Sen. James Inhofe as quoted by Caroline May)”

I like the solar panels thing. I recently read an article about the US Marine Corps using them on FOBs in southern Afghanistan, saving massive amounts of fuel that would be needed for generators to power the installation. Not only does using less fuel save money, and hey, it’s good for the environment (particularly relevant when the US military is under fire for the air quality on their bases, generator emissions are not exactly good in that sense) – but it saves lives potentially because less fuel consumption means less convoys to transport fuel, means less vehicle movement on the roads, regardless of whether the vehicles are armoured or unarmoured.

Yet we spend billions to needlessly restructure military bases into global environmentalism compliance. It is more important for our executive branch to “sustain” the so-called endangered environment, and please the environmentalist wackos, than to defend our country.

Actually, as I understand it, the directives apply to new base construction and chages thereto. Environmental compliance not only is good for the entire world, it saves money, and in most cases, if you look at what sustainable communities are actually about, it makes them more pleasant places to live. Saving money on defence facilities (the massive of cost of which she references in her article, oddly enough!) leaves more money available for defence, or whatever else. There’s literally nothing bad I can see about that, at all. Unless, like The Good Doctor, you want to make a series of arguments from ignorance to hear yourself speak.

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The Spectacle That Is Politics

Politics of all sorts have been rather interesting lately.  First, there’s been the failure of Manitoba MP Candice Hoeppner’s Private Member’s Bill C-391, which was designed to finally scrap the Long Gun Registry.  It made it through two readings before a number of New Democratic Party MPs were persuaded to switch sides and defeat it by the narrowest of margins.  One of them, Peter Stoffer, is an MP from Nova Scotia, and the number of angry letters in today’s Halifax Chronicle-Herald is interesting.  His riding will be one targetted in the next federal election campaign I’m sure by the Conservative Party.

I’m annoyed C-391 failed, mainly because there are simply no good arguments for the registry that justify spending any further money on it when there are other programs that could be persued in its stead that might actually improve public safety, but I think I’m more annoyed that it’s revealed the true dark underbelly of Canada’s political system currently, and shown that while Stephen Harper is the best guy to be running the show right now, he’s really not great, and should count himself very lucky that there is no credible alternative to him for the time being.

For all his efforts this summer, much to the chagrin of the aforementioned Mr. Harper, Michael Ignatieff is just not resonating with a lot of Canadians (except maybe those damned “Toronto elites” that MP John Baird hates so much), and that suits me fine, as it means that the status quo of a relatively powerless Conservative minority will last.  I’m okay with that.

The next big PMB that seems like it’ll come up for debate is Gerard Kennedy’s C-440, which basically neds the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to allow American deserters to qualify for refugee status in Canada.  This is probably the most alarming development to me lately.  Since the Iraq War in the US started, there’s been quite a few American military personnel who have deserted and made their way to Canada, where they have tried to claim refugee status.  So far, none of them have been accepted, and they have no reasonable prospect of doing so unless the definition of “refugee” is significantly altered.  Some have been deported already, and prosecuted in the normal maner in the United States, others have not.

So, let’s be clear.  A deserter from a volunteer military in a liberal democractic country like the USA – someone who was not conscripted or otherwise impressed into service – should absolutely not be considered a refugee, period.  The definition of refugee in Canada is taken from the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.  A refugee is a person who, “”owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”.

A deserter is not someone facing persecution.  They face prosecution for the crime, but that is not justification for another country to offer them refuge, particularly when desertion is an offence in Canada as well, under Section 98 of the National Defence Act.

These so-called “war resisters”, all of whom joined the military knowing (or at least, they ought to have known) the risk that military service entails, the possibility of being deployed to a serve in a war zone, whether they agree with the politics of the war or not, have no business in Canada.   They are owed nothing by us, and to bend our rules to process these people is an affront to the process of aiding legitimate refugees.

So, C-440 must fail, and any politician who supports it in any way better not be asking for my vote as they will not get it.  It’s an insult to anyone who has accepted unlimited liability in military service, who has made any sort of sacrifice as such, that some selfish fool who doesn’t want to live up to their end of the bargain should be allowed a pass.

As if Canadian politics isn’t interesting enough of late, there’s the brewing shitshow in America.  I am rather interested to see what will happen in the mid-term elections in November.  My father was musing last night that he wants to make sure he’s at his place in Arizona on November 2 to see the results and listen in on the conversation.  I have to think it’ll be interesting.

I don’t get what the hell this “Tea Party” movement is going to accomplish.  It seems that “their” candidates are nothing but utter wingnuts, people whose only credibility seems to be some hatred of the status quote and little or no knowledge of anything to do with the challenge of running a country.  Most astounding is their disdain for, or avoidance of the democratic process – such as interaction with the media.  In a democratic society, the media has a role to play in getting candidates’ messages out and in holding them to account for what they say.  The recent antics of two of the chief wingnuts, Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell and Nevada’s Sharron Angle are prime examples.  Both seem to avoid any sort of media contact out of a fear of “gotcha questions” – like, as one pundit put it, “What is your plan when you get into office?”.  O’Donnell comes off as a puritan religious nutter, and Angle, well… she’s certifiable I think, the shit this woman has said in the past makes me astounded that anyone would take her remotely seriously.

Of course, if you think the Republicans have a rational plan for anything, take a look at their “Pledge To America”  and see what you think.  I had a hard time taking it seriously, except for the ideas of not intermixing different policies into single pieces of legislation or tagging controversial matters to “must pass” bills in order to shoehorn them.  This is a feature of the American legislative process I’ve always been appalled by.

The Pledge offers no credible solutions, and sticks to the same nonsense that the GOP has parroted for ages – tax cuts create jobs, a healthcare reform act that won’t work, and so on.  It is the most empty set of policy ideas ever, designed to trade on the fear and lies they’ve promoted since they lost the last election.

For his part, President Obama has failed – not in policy accomplishments – he has gotten a lot done – but he has utterly failed to show the value of his presidency to Americans – he’s not made any real political capital on them.  He’s tried to be nice when the GOP haven’t, and now he really needs to go on the attack, he’s started a little bit, attacking John Boehner (what’s with that guy’s obsession with tanning, by the way) directly, and so on.  He needs to show average Americans that GOP policies are bad for them, and he needs to get on that quick.

On the G20

I was much more consumed yesterday by the International Fleet Review in Halifax and touring a number of ships (maybe I’ll post some pictures if I get around to it sometime) than anything else, but I did at least catch snippets of what’s been going on in Toronto for the G20 summit.  When the summit was announced, it was clear that there would need to be a lot of security, that there would be protests, and most sadly, that there would be violence, vandalism, and destruction, mainly at the hands of “anarchists” also referred to as the “Black Bloc”.

In the run-up to the summit there was much to-do about the amount of money spent on security measures, which are causing a lot of inconvenience in downtown Toronto, including the massive security fence, the extensive police presence, and the behind the scenes stuff as well.  Many left-leaning types who planned to protest/demonstrate were concerned about the nature of the temporary “police state” that was being formed.

I don’t agree with most of these lefties.  I don’t share their views, but I do believe they have a right to demonstrate, to make their views know, to be heard.  That is one of those rather sacred values of a free and democratic society, after all.  I don’t think most of them had any interest in any sort of violence, vandalism, or confrontation with the police, who are there to do their job and keep the peace.  There are certain groups I know were involved in planning to protest the summit like the “Ontario Coalition Against Poverty”, which is an organization that I think is a great one to point out to the RWNJs who bleat about “Cloward & Piven”, because they tried a sort of strategy like those men discussed and it failed very, very miserably.  OCAP, which is a ragtag bunch of professional rabble rousers, has been quiet lately, I think, but their past protests were almost always marred by violence, and the sort of idiots who throw rocks at police, then claim brutality when they get roughly arrested.  I had to deal with some of these morons in university.

What’s happened yesterday was that some good, normal, peaceful (if generally incomprehensible) demonstrations happened, and then the knobs in black turned up, set fire to cop cars, and started smashing windows, and then it all went downhill.

I don’t get it.

It makes no sense.

What are these Black Bloc people advocating?  Getting rid of the state altogether?!  Sounds just fine, except for all of it.  They claim they are protesting the “police state”, but they are really justifying the existence of all the security measures and making dramatically clear why they are necessary.  They have nothing of value to offer to any discussion at the summit, no ideas, no interest in anything remotely resembling the democratic process, and they’re even undermining the ability of those with legitimate concerns to be heard just by acting the way they do.

This stuff is just sad to see, because it’s neighbourhoods I used to spend a lot of time in getting smashed up by thugs with nothing to say of value.  I don’t know how the police are managing to show the restraint they are, because I think most of them must be itching to just crush them.  There’s no negotiation, no reasoning, nothing with them.  They are there for a fight and part of me wishes they could met with the ferocity they are inviting by doing so…

Deluded Creationists, Atheism A Religion?

Nothing really gets my goat like the lengths to which some religious drones will go to defend their untenable cause.  For whatever reason, they remain to me like watching a trainwreck – I can’t stop looking.  In fact, they’re worse.  Not only can I not stop looking, I find myself unable to resist the urge to intervene, even though I really should know better.  The odds of me ever bringing someone so deluded as to be a Young Earth Creationist into the light is probably somewhat worse than the odds of me walking through a concrete wall, which, incidentally, is possible according to a physics professor I had in first year university.  Possible but highly, highly improbable.  (the secret lays in the gaps between all the atoms in one’s body passing through the gaps in the atoms in the concrete wall.

The thing of it is that all I really want these people to do is actually produce the evidence that leads them to believe what they do – evidence that isn’t readily refutable.  I guess that’s asking a lot since there’s no such evidence and that’s the whole reason that it’s all nonsense.  However, the ones I see (and occasionally for whatever reason engage) all claim that they have volumes of evidence.  When asked to produce it they try to claim that that’s them “doing our work for us”.  I don’t get it.  When asked to produce evidence for evolution I can point to a massive body of work – I can point to books, journals, studies, all sorts of things that show that the theory of evolution might as well be taken as fact because it has never actually been refuted, and it probably never will.

They like to then try to shake me by asking how life appeared.  I don’t know.  There’s quite a few hypotheses that anyone interested could research.  Ultimately, my scientific background isn’t that strong and I defer the question to stronger minds on the subject, but again they don’t know for sure.  I personally accept that we likely will never actually know with anything remotely close to certainty – there will always be a mystery to it I guess.  That mystery, for me, is not explainable by any sort of supernatural deity – it’s just a phenomenon.

One of the more interesting tacks one of these fools takes is making the claim – and wanting us to admit that first of all evolution is equal to atheism.  It’s not, though.  The Roman Catholic Church, which employs a host of scientists and whose universities since the Middle Ages pursued much research, has basically decided that evolution as origin of species is true – and thus has moved the study to their concept of “soul” as the divine creation.  This is the crux of the idea of non-overlapping magisteria that Steven Jay Gould advocated.  I have ultimately no issue with whatever they want to believe so long as they aren’t trying to teach people that the world is 6000 or so years old like young-earth creationists are. 

The most interesting thing about YEC types is that their movement takes the view of science that Mormons take of history – something best not questioned, for lack of a better way to put it.  It’s interesting that some of its leading advocates seem to share an interesting “qualification” – a criminal record.  Funny how that ties into religions so much, isn’t it?  More interesting is that most of them have no actual education, despite the fact that they might claim so.  Kent Hovind, for example, the so-called “Dr. Dino”, holds a “Ph.D” from a dubious sectarian college with no real qualification/accreditation.  He likes to throw around the term Doctor when apparently most people with Ph.Ds – actual ones from real universities, tend not to do so.  I guess it’s to add an air of credibility to the bullshit he preaches.  Despite lofty sounding names like “The Institute For Creation Research”, I don’t see much actual research being done by them.

It seems one in particular, a man who has no evident scientific background, seems intent on trying to make a claim that “atheism is a religion”.  To this end, he’s actually written a book of that name.  While he plugs it endless on the web, in a sort of pathetic, quixotic way which includes whining via Twitter to such lofty characters of Glenn Beck, S. E. Cupp, and Bill O’Reilly, he won’t actually flesh out any of his arguments to us to try to take apart.  It’s an interesting thought though.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines atheism is “the belief that God does not exist”.  The Random House Dictionary expands the definition somewhat, offering two definitions, the first being “the doctrine or belief that there is no god”, the second being “disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.”  The second definition is a little broader – seeming to encompass the rejection not only of a the Abrahamic god, but any supreme beings, monotheistic or polytheistic. 

As for religion, Oxford says it is “1 the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. 2 a particular system of faith and worship. 3 a pursuit or interest followed with devotion.”   Random House’s definition is again different and somewhat more comprehensive, and includes “1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. 2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion”.  There are other parts to the latter, but none of them really have any bearing on the matter at hand.

So with these definitions taken together, I don’t see how anyone could claim atheism is a religion, not within the constraints of any definition in the English language, anyhow.  It has no superhuman controlling powers.  It has no system of faith or worship.   The first RH definition might come a little close, in saying that it is a set of beliefs about the origin of the universe, but really, atheism taken alone is not.  I don’t see any set of universal ideas about the origin of life among atheists.  In fact, most like me have no idea how life originated, only a number of hypotheses put forward by scientists which probably can’t progress beyond that point.

Simply stated, it’s quite a stretch to make any definition of atheism fit any definition of a religion.  In colloquial use it’s clearer – we view atheism as the absence of religion quite often.  While not technically correct it is a somewhat fitting description.

The whole thing seems to turn, for these particular type of religious folks on a semantic argument.  If I believe there are no gods, then that is a belief which then is a religious view in their opinion.  Suppose I accepted that to be true – I would then say that my religion is anti-religion – in essence, I believe in the existence of nothing.   How, if at all, does that advance any cause they have.  If I concede that atheism is my “religion”, then I fail to see what the next logical step for them is.  The individual most strongly making the assertion claimed that if we concede atheism is a religion, then “you can’t say you are neutral, unbiased, standing on sideline, but you have a horse in the race”. 

When did I claim to be neutral, unbiased, standing on a sideline?  I’m not.  I’m not neutral, I’m fervently anti-religion and pro-science, rationality, reason.  I’m not unbiased, there’s no such thing.  And the very fact that I aggressively pounce on these idiots is a pretty strong suggestion that I do in fact have a horse in the race (whatever race it is, that I’m not sure about).  I have a stake in this because I do not have any interest in living in a Dark Ages theocracy.  I don’t want religious fools controlling my destiny in any way, shape, or form.  I don’t want them poisoning young minds with their anti-science ideas.  I don’t want their quirky view of the world in any way imposing itself anywhere I happen to be.  I want to live in a society completely free of religion, and I have no problem stating that I want that, and that’s why I engage these people.  I make the exception that those who have some kind of personal religious belief that they keep to themselves and as such doesn’t impose on me, I don’t bother.  There’s no need, it doesn’t accomplish anything further to my stated view above.  If it’s their own ideas and isn’t impacting policy, or my life, then I couldn’t care less really.

So what is it then that drives this guy to make the claim, if I’ve told him now that it doesn’t matter – that his claim doesn’t make sense to begin with?  I’ll have to see, I guess.

Another Winner From TwiceRight.

These guys are just geniuses.  I love them.  No other blog seems to make itself so apparently attractive to me with its fill of misinformation and utter nonsense.  I’m sure there are far, far worse out there, but this one, I guess since they followed me on Twitter and I wound up checking out who they were, just draws me in. 

I read the blog mainly to shake my head in sheer shock of how stupid some people are.  It’s kind of like the description of an Army officer in a performance appraisal I read one – “his men would follow him anywhere – but only to see what he’d do next!”  Anyhow, here’s the piece I’m most staggered by.  President Sarkozy claiming that President Obama is insane.  Why, wonders Alex, hasn’t the left media picked up on this?   (As an aside, what’s this “left media” anyhow?).

Well, the short answer is that it’s probably not even remotely true.  Let’s take a look at the source of this claim.  It may look familiar as I’ve blogged about it before.  It’s the “European Union Times”.  If you’re an ignorant right winger it might sound like some sort of newspaper, a legitimate news source about the European Union.  You would, of course, be totally wrong.  This is the blog that also reported in an article titled “Prepare For Rebellion, Obama Orders US-Canadian Troops” that President Obama had asked for and NATO had “authorized an ‘emergency request’ from President Obama to utilize American and Canadian NATO troops to put down what is expected to be a “rebellion” after the expected January, 2010 ‘declaration of bankruptcy’ by the State of California.”  The article goes on to cite reports from major outlets like the Pembroke Daily Observer(!), noting “confirming the mass movement of military supplies and thousands of Canadian Special Forces Troops to California from the Canadian Forces Base of Petawawa to join their American military counterparts”.

These “thousands” weren’t special forces – they were the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, headed to Fort Irwin to conduct workup training for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.  How 2800 Canadian soldiers, over whom President Obama has no authority, would put down a rebellion that wasn’t actually remotely likely in a state of 30 million or so people is left to the imagination of the reader, who judging by the content of the blog is probably a survivalist white supremacist who’s more than a little paranoid to begin with.  Your clues to this is the “European Pride” links on the blog and the “survival” part.  White supremacists tend to use pride in their “nordic” or “northern European” heritage as a way to soften what they are.

Now, to their credit, the last paragraph of the article concedes the apparently silliness of the very post, when Alex says, “If what the site is saying is true (it’s said some weird stuff in the past)…”  He rants about his hatred of liberals but that’s immaterial to the point I have.  When you realize that your source is probably not even remotely credible, you probably should realize that publishing the entry probably isn’t necessary.  Like the previous post of theirs I attacked, it probably should have just been deleted rather than sent out into the intertubes.

Arguing With Idiots, Indeed

If I ever needed proof of how Americans – right winger ones anyhow – are being dumbed down by the media they choose to follow, I got it today in a couple of shining examples on Twitter.  Started when I discovered @Newfederalists engaged in some manner of debate with another tweeter I follow.  This dude said something pretty ridiculous, can’t remember exactly what, but I responded in a little bit of a chirpy way, as I do from time to time, “Says a man evidently chock-full of right-wing bullshit. Move along now.”

Well, obviously, he didn’t move along.  And the exchange just went from there.   And it was just pretty pathetic.  The whole thing was about the rather asinine beliefs that so many right wing nutjobs have about political ideologies.  What I have never really gotten is how these folks like to label Barack Obama as a socialist, Marxist, and Nazi all at the same time.  I frequently like to point out that contrary to the bullshit spewed by their sources, Nazism is not related to socialism at all, that it’s most closely related to fascism and is considered by virtually all scholars, theorists, historians, basically everyone of any intellectual capacity to have been a extreme right wing movement.  Like fascism, though, it is syncretic – drawing from across the spectrum.  In fact, Nazism and fascism to me are pretty good illustrations of why the simplistic ideas of a simple bi-polar linear spectrum don’t really work.

The crux of their argument is the most incredible logical fallacy I’ve ever seen.  The Nazis were actually the Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeitspartei, or the National Socialist German Workers Party.   The “proof” that their views are left wing, in the view of these uneducated fools, is that the word “socialism” exists in the title.

My favourite counter to this is to point of that by the same logic, North Korea – formally, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, MUST be a democratic republic.  It’s in the name, so it must be correct.  It’s about as logical a statement to make.

I’m not going to rewrite the history of the Nazi Party and their rise to power in Germany.  The “socialist” part of their ideology was a not socialism in the sense that most people in modern times would know – and Hitler detested the concept of it.  The infamous “Night Of The Long Knives” was actually a coup against the SA faction of the party, getting rid of the social issues interests of the party, consolidating Adolf Hitler’s power, and launching Nazism as we know it today.

Alright, alright, I said I wasn’t going to take you into the Third Reich.  Suffice it to say that any reasonable assessment would not at all conflate Nazism with socialism, much less with Marxism, an ideology intensely hated by the Nazis.  The whole discussion, ultimately, in the context of American politics, is ridiculous.  The most extreme interpretations of the platform of Barack Obama would probably fit into right edge of the social democrat/Third Way model, though I’m not totally sure about that.  I could dive into that more, but I again can’t be bothered.

What really got me as we progressed were brilliant tweets from both @Newfederalists, and then the next person to come into the mix, the similarly brilliant @mach1broker.  I couldn’t believe what I saw these people say, it’s so stunning.  It’s like they’re revelling in their own ignorance, almost like they’re bragging about their unwillingness to actually get more information, to go read, study, ask question.  It makes no sense to me.  None at all.

This is the kind of shit my American cousins are going to have to put up with for the next little while.  A pack of vile, ignorant right wingers who’ve suddenly decided to become politically aware – without actually investing any time in learning what they’re so passionate about.  It’s shocking to see this sort of thing.

And the power of this sort of ignorance and idiocy becomes pretty clear when you start to see things like what was shared with me today – about those crazy bastards in Michigan.  Apparently, one of them was primarily motivated in her hatred of President Obama based on a bullshit Facebook rumour.  You simply cannot make shit like this up.

When I read stuff like this, when I see what influences these people, the bullshit they subscribe to, I just feel a lot better that these people are the minority, and will likely never amount to anything – and the more extreme, ignorant, and stupid they sound, the more likely they’ll wind up more on the fringes.

On labels – and my own views

Frequently, when engaged in what I consider to be discourse spiralling off the rails, I find people who can no longer defend their position and cannot withdraw with some manner of decorum like to throw out labels and expletives and end. Sometimes I accept this as inevitable, sometimes I feel like I want to push on to make clear.

My Twitter profile describes me as a “recovering conservative”. I actually got that, sort of, from a Tori Amos T-Shirt. I think it’s a line from a tune but cannot think of which song it is that contains the line. No matter. It gets the point across at least.

Amusingly enough, when it’s Canadians I’m talking to, people tend to think I’m fairly sharply right-leaning. American right wingers in particular label me a liberal (or their more juvenile variations of the word). Not surprising then that I like to think of myself as a pragmatic centrist. I have views that fall all over the spectrum. So the purpose of this entry, started as I wait in line to get my car washed, is to try to set out some of my points of view and perhaps that’ll help those who choose to read this. I’ll go through a myriad of major issues and try to let you now how you can expect me to argue on any of them.

Origins are a good place to start, to give you some context as to where I came from. I grew up in a fairly wealth suburb of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. My father, who immigrated to Canada in his early 20s from England, worked for one of the Big Five banks. My mother is from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. She came from a working class family, who lived a modest life. She left Cape Breton to work as a nurse, a career she practiced until being forced into early retirement after a car accident.

My mom’s family was Roman Catholic, but religion wasn’t much to her. I got baptized in an RC church as is the custom primarily, I think, to appease her parents. My father is non-religious. I know he believes in something – or rather – that he did as he was a Master Mason before I was born. He’s actually mused about joining a lodge again, but that’s another matter.

I started in Montessori School when I was three, and when the time came to go on to “regular” school to start Grade 1, my parents decided to enrol my in a Catholic School. Without getting too into the weeds, in Ontario, due to some bizarre historical reasons, There is a publicly-funded Roman Catholic Separate School system, and that’s where they decided I was going, as they felt the school was the better option. You might have the idea of a parochial school being taught by nuns and that sort of nonsense, but that’s actually not really at all what it’s like. It’s more or less like any other school, with a little catechism mixed in. In any case, even as a kid I didn’t really buy into the religious nonsense, and it certainly wasn’t reinforced at home so it didn’t bother me much.

I took no real notice of religious anything as a kid, until I was about 10 or 11. The world was a changing place then, and that’s when I started watching the news as things like the fall of Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that sort of thing happened. I was also a voracious reader – of history, or science, of all sorts of things. I started to realize that fairy stories about gods and so on were basically nonsense – a part of the evolution of the species, perhaps, but one no longer needed.

I rejected religion completely and finally in Grade 8, which is when you make the Sacrament of Confirmation. Rather than doing the course of study required to prepare for it, a sympathetic teacher instead had me study all sorts of religions, which was actually quite enlightening. The next year I started high school, and went into a regular public high school.

I gravitated toward a lot of right wing ideas initially. Even to some extreme ideas at first, because it was easy to be targetted as a white kid in a multicultural city when you started to wonder if you could live as well as your folks did. Canada was slowly emerging from a severe recession, and it looked like the future was pretty bleak. Blaming newcomers for our perceived miserably bleak future was easy. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to see the stupidity of those ideas, and I realized that being surrounded by so much from all over the world is actually amazing. Toronto is a phenomenal city to grow up near for that reason – you can find literally everything there as long as you know which neighbourhood to go to.

As I got to high school the views I hold now really started to gel. I became a very staunch social liberal in most cases. I took up an interest in debate then, arguing heavily for legalization of marijuana, for example – but also against pointless efforts are gun control, and so on. I believed that the idea of fiscal conservativism, but that government should largely not interfere in people’s private lives – but I also saw what I would later learn more explicitly in university, about how the free market is not perfect, that it doesn’t deliver socially optimal outcomes, and that the reason we created governments and societies is that we realized a need to organize certain social structures.

Into university I started to get involved in politics, becoming a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, provincially and federally. At that time, the effort to “Unite The Right” was in full force, and I found myself immersed in those of the more right wing ideas, and as a Red Tory I started to feel unrepresented. When the merger of the Reform Party and Progressive Conservative Party of Canada happened, I gave up my membership and watched as the social conservatives from the Reform side get more and more clout in the party. I think that’s when I started to adopt the “recovering conservative” label. During university I joined the Army and politics didn’t mesh so well with it so I just stopped really caring, other than to vote.

So I guess I could now go into a few of the issues that tend to be top of conversation, and you can slot me into whatever pigeonhole you feel like slotting me into.

Religion: Well – this is pretty clear. I’m a fairly fervent atheist, though I fit mostly into what has been labeled the “weak atheist” camp. I don’t really care about what most people think in terms of religion. If that’s what you need to get through the day, I feel a little bit of pity perhaps, but that’s fine. If your beliefs don’t in any way interfere with my life, or you have respect for those who reject religion, then I’m fine with you. I’ve actually had some very, very enjoyable discussions with religious people, including Chaplains in the military, and even pastors in some cases – of course, progressive, decent ones. The people I hold in complete contempt and have no issue grappling with (because honestly, it’s pretty fun at times) are the evangelical nutcases that I really fear gaining any sort of political power. The rich irony of these people bleating about freedom, liberty, and so on is priceless, when the reality is that they crave some manner of theocracy that will be the end of freedom. I fight their influence because it has to be fought. It’s evil and malignant. The people that want to displace science from classrooms, give mythology equal footing with reality, who want to put theology into government and rewrite history to support that aim – these people are enemies of liberty, of freedom, of society, and I hold for them nothing but contempt.

Government “size”, taxation, etc.: I believe in relatively limited government. I don’t see any reason that government should grow infinitely, but at the same time I accept that it is vital. A basic course in economics reveals that free markets are prone to fail for a variety of reasons and that’s why we have governments. I believe in progressive taxation, keeping corporate taxes low so long as income flows into personal incomes and is taxed there, and in effective regulation of markets. Since externalities are not priced into markets effectively, the tax system and legal system must be employed to attempt to do so.

I do not accept the assertion that governments are necessarily inefficient or wasteful, or at least, that they are any more of these things than corporations can be. That being said, governments should only involved in sectors where there are market failures – healthcare being chief among them. If you’re reading this blog though, you’ve probably already figured that out – I’m a staunch supporter of universal healthcare because economically it makes sense. The evidence is pretty clear.

Climate change: See previous blog entry. Denying this is like supporting creationism. Just plain fucking stupid. We can debate to what extent it’s anthropogenic until we’re blue in the face, but the facts remain clear. There is piles of science that shows how severe the problem is – and there’s basically nothing credible opposing it. Ironically, I believe there’s a good “Pascal’s Wager” type argument to be made for doing something about it. We have basically nothing to lose by getting on the problem – and it gives North America the opportunity to reinvigorate our economy, because the old “manufacturing” economy is not coming back. Innovation is what will preserve us.

Marriage equality: gays have been able to marry in Canada for a few years now. What impact has that had on my life, or the general public? None. None whatsoever. Like most controversial issues where wingnut people expect doom, nothing happened. Pretty simple.

Gay Rights In General: I like Pierre Trudeau’s POV. “The State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” The ideas that right wing people have about homosexuality are so insane I can’t even really understand how they formed them. I love, in particular, the assertion that homosexuality is a “lifestyle choice”. It makes perfect sense that someone would choose to live a life that invites persecution, social ostracism, etc. The idea that they can be “cured” is even more pathetically laughable, given that organizations dedicated to this sort of tomfoolery are constantly embarrassed by being “outed”. Similarly, I’m glad to see the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. This policy is just lunacy, and the arguments supporting continued discrimination are pathetic.

Abortion rights: I’m pro-choice. Like most issues, this is simply none of the government’s business. I find the anti-choicers’ ability to make up new and more ridiculous arguments in favour of their POV a little humourous, and a little sick. I particularly love ignorant Christians from the south now playing the “black genocide”. As if they really care about that. Brilliant. I’d suggest a read of Freakonomics if you want to see a more disturbing, if direct, explanation of impact of Roe Vs. Wade. In Canada, we just scrapped laws about the issue. Again, the sky didn’t fall on us.

Gun control: I don’t see anything wrong with law-abiding, decent citizens owning firearms. I enjoy shooting recreationally and own guns. I comply with the laws of the land, but in the case of Canada’s laws, I think they’re also stupid. The long gun registry in particular is probably the most ridiculous bureaucratic structure there is. It is of basically no value, and it stole $2 billion from Canadian taxpayers, money which could have been used for actually fighting crime in some manner.

That being said, the shit that goes on in the US is ridiculous. Open carrying as a form of protest just makes me shake my head. Handguns as an accessory is just fucking stupid, and that’s all there is to it. I don’t have as much a problem with concealed carry, but even that seems foolish. There’s something stupid and juvenile about needing to carry around a pistol.

Far worse than that is the shit with the teabaggers wanting to use their Second Amendment right to add some drama to their protests. It’s intimidation, really. Incidentally, though it doesn’t really matter to me, I don’t think their interpretation of the Second Amendment (especially since they omit the beginning part, the whole “well-regulated militia” piece) is exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind. That’s a whole other kettle of fish.

Anyhow, if you’ve got this far, I’m pretty impressed. It least gives you an idea of who I am and why I don’t think I’m too easy to label. It’s definitely a matter of being mostly in the centre of things, and able to think critically. That’s what really matters – pragmatism.

Climate Change Deniers – The New Truthers?

Nothing staggers and irritates me more than the ignorance of people who want to ignore climate change.  The folks who say “Hey, it’s snowing in Texas, global warming must be a big lie” stagger me because they’re just so stupid.  Never mind the fact that climate and weather aren’t the same thing, or the fact that bizarre weather patterns stem from unusual temperatures in parts of the oceans, it’s just ridiculous that these people have decided that massive heaps of peer-reviewed science are somehow “junk” because the contrived nonsense pumped out by deniers says so.

It’s funny, because one of the standard nonsense arguments that theists like to bring up when I get entangled with them is something called “Pascal’s Wager”.  The argument basically considered the possible outcomes of choosing to believe of not believe in god, against the possibility of god ecisting or not existing.  Pascal basically made the argument that if you believed in god and he didn’t exist, the consequence was basically nothing, but if you didn’t believe, and god did exist then the consequences were disastrous.

In a theological debate, the premise is a little ridiculous, it doesn’t hold any logical basis, though I’m sure for many people it’s reason enough to keep faith.

I saw a video a while ago which basically translated Pascal’s Wager to the climate change debate.  There’s four possible outcomes.  It’s either real or not real, and we either act or we don’t.  If it’s not real and we don’t act, that’s great.  If it’s not real and we act, well, we could still potentially benefit a great deal from developing new technologies and ideas that still conserve resources, make for cleaner air, etc.  If it’s real and we act, we could greatly improve our lives and possibly save ourselves as a species.  If it’s real and we don’t act – well, the results will be determined by just how severe the reality is.

The reality is that most of the changes we would need to make to address climate change would benefit us in the long run by conserving non-renewable resources like oil, natural gas, and coal.  The fact is that burning these fuels has a variety of negative environmental consquences besides CO2 production that we know to be altering the climate, as well as things likes the pH of seawater.  I say we know this because it is fact, supported with piles of research.  Burning oil releases sulphur and nitrogen oxides which create smog and acid rain.  Coal burning produces those, but also emits things like mercury into the air.

So what happens if we act to reduce those emissions?  Well, we have to come up with a way to do so – and cap & trade is one method suggested.  This sort of thing isn’t really new – I remember back in Costa Rica when I was there in 1998 that carbon offsetting and trading was being discussed then – primarily as a means to support ecologically-minded charities’ efforts to buy up rainforest tracts to preserve them.  There’s of course the argument that India & China won’t play along – but this to me is sort of a variation of the “tu quoque” fallacy.  They won’t play along, why then should we?

Ultimately, I don’t believe that not playing along gives a great competitive advantage.  Just because some other nations won’t play along right away doesn’t mean that there’s no point in trying to do so.  The fact is, as well, that the kind of advancements we can make to improve out ecological impact will likely lead to new job, new industries, to progress.  It is an inescapable fact that the “old” economy of much of North America, the manufacturing economy as we knew, is mostly done.  No longer can we expect to lead in manufacturing of simple goods – cheaper labour abroad in places like China have made that clear.  We can’t base an economy on selling hamburgers and haircuts to each other, either – so it’s clear at least to me that if we want to continue to enjoy prosperity we need to seek opportunities to strike out into new fields.

I’m looking forward to building a new home in the next few months, and putting much effort into using new technologies to make it more efficient.  As planned for now, we’ll be building an R2000+/LEED home, roughed for solar power/water heating (though I won’t be able to put it in right away), using a heat pump rather than conventional HVAC, etc.  My criteria is that the investments I make have to be ones that will actually provide a cost benefit – so no wind turbine as my research suggests that it’s not currently a benefit, but I think we’ll be able to do a lot of good.

I want this technology to be available – and I want to see my neighbours developing it and profiting from it.  That’s why we need to get to work on the problem, instead of trying to obfuscate and decate what is becoming more and more obviously fact.

Incidentally, if you’re a climate change skeptic, Canadian Senator Grant Mitchell, who’s an avid Twitter user, sent out this link from the Pembina Institute that inspired this whole post.  It’s well worth a read: http://climate.pembina.org/blog/71

About Guilty Pleasures & Enlightenment

Everyone has those weird things they do from time to time that are inexplicable. Sometimes they aren’t even pleasurable yet we do them anyhow. I’m no exception to the rule in that regard. I have a few such traits. I bite my fingernails, particularly when I’m bored or anxious. I used to smoke but gave that up ages ago, and it wasn’t even that hard – but I’ve bitten my nails for as long as I can remember and it’s something I’ve never been able to stop doing. Even though it’s a nasty habit, it’s readily apparent to others I do it, and from it I derive no actual pleasure, more like inconvenience and occasionally pain from going to far.

I have another such nasty habit. One that gives me an actual measure of enjoyment in a sick and inexplicable way. From time to time I’ll listen to talk radio – especially insane religious radio – or when I’m in the car that has XM I’ll sometimes listen to the audio feed of FauxNoise. I make my wive cringe from time to time on the drive home from work when I throw my favourite talking head buffoon on, the incomparable Glenn Beck. Actually, there is worse, I’ve heard Rush Limbaugh while travelling in the US, but Beck on satellite radio is more than sufficient most of the time.

With religion radio the pleasure seems to derive from the smug feeling I get listening to people who are brainwashed, some kind of Schadenfreude like feeling of superiority that atheists cannot help but feel from time to time. Sometimes I listen to get myself angry at the bullshit propaganda they spread, too.

It comes in handy occasionally too. Yesterday I was engaged by an individual who started recounting verbatim Beck’s screwy history of the world with respect to the gold standard replete with his Beck’s opinions and errors. Saved me some time by cutting to the chase a bit.

Every now and then Beck says something that’s actually insightful but the problem he has is the one that plagues all teabaggers I’ve heard from: they assign the blame incorrectly, and while they are adept at finding problems, they offer no workable solutions.

That’s where I guess I derive the pleasure -from being able to support my position by knowing that for all the complaints they have yet to propose any sort of answers.