Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm glad I'm not gay

"What a fag."

When was the last time you heard this or some variation? If I had to guess: too recently. Language is in a transition period and it's one which I don'timagine does much good for the self-esteem of gays.

Fag, gay, queer, etc: these used to mean stick, happy, and strange. Somehow they became words to refer to gay people. I suppose queer makes sense. Gay is a stretch. Fag doesn't make much sense, but that's beside the point. They all refer to homosexuality.

Now they're becoming multipurpose synonyms for "bad." People you don't like are fags. Events you don't like are gay. Items you don't like are gay. This makes some sense if you consider that homophobia is the new racism: taken for granted and unquestioned by most people. It's just part of the language and it makes sense that a word for a type of bad person would become a word for a general bad person.

The transition would not seem to be fun for gay people. Their words are being throw around as generic negatives. What other meaning can be drawn besides: "Everyone thinks you're bad." Or even worse: "You are indistinguishable from bad people."

I'm noticing this as a trend, more and more words don't mean anything special anymore. A few days ago I saw someone use the n word in WoW to refer to a Horde ganker. It made no sense. What does ganking have to do with a word which historically referred to black people in an extremely negative manner and to this day is even used in a strange dichotomy as a word of brotherhood between but also a disparaging word for someone who acts badly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recent Onion Articles

I love the Onion. Why? Because it adds humor to what would otherwise be a horrifying news.

Like Hell I'm Going To Let Some Black President Help Me Pay For Dialysis
Freud would have a field day with the healthcare debate and all things related to defending or attacking Obama. Then again, he'd have a field day with his mom. Zing? But anyway, it's interesting to ponder how much racism indirectly fuels opposition. I say indirect because I doubt that any significant group is actually thinking "I must oppose him because he's black." But having a slight distrust of black people would lower the threshold at which people would accept attacks on him. On the other hand, how many people defend him, perhaps consciously, because he's black and are afraid to appear racist.

Then again, the entire concept of the subconscious as some sort of active driver of behavior is quite unscientific due to the inherent impossibility of directly measuring it.

If only Obama were white and then we could viciously attack him for purely partisan reasons rather than there being possibilities of racism. Then again: "Bush doesn't care about black people." *sigh*

Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be
It is unfortunate that what is the most important document in America is practically unknown to most people. Or perhaps worse than that. If they were purely ignorant, they might recognize and try to fix that. When they're misinformed, then they see nothing to fix.

While I recognize that the Onion is not factual news, they don't usually make things up entirely out of nowhere. Instead they bring together various tendencies and exaggerate them for comedic effect.

Afghan Presidential Election A Celebration Of All Forms Of Government
I take back what I said about the Onion exaggerating.

American Muslims To Fort Hood Shooter: 'Thanks A Lot, Asshole'
Until this, I couldn't really remember the last time I saw or heard Muslims being portrayed as the bad guys. Maybe some bits during the fighting in Pakistan and of course the ever-present Taliban. The Obama administration had been working to reduce words like jihad and that sort of religious language to reduce the impression that we are at war with Islam. I guess it was working, until this.

Maybe Muslims wouldn't get the false impression that we're their enemy if our douchebag talking heads could stop saying Muslims are our enemy.

To run with that, the coverage of the story annoyed me. The initial story was just the constant every minute crap about Terrible Things, Horror, Massacre, and Oh Noes! That's the total wrong way to portray this. It is an event. It is not a football game where we need a play by play. Bring it up a few times a day as more is known, but we benefit in no way from the heartbreaking painful story of a family member watching and worrying. That reduces it to a generic Bad Things Happened to People. But since no one is ever content to actually analyze and solve a problem, now the Right has turned it into an opportunity to point fingers while the Left gets hyper-defensive. Meanwhile moderates are yelled at to pick sides.

Maybe I should form the Moderate Party. We won't have a political stance. We won't support any agenda. Instead we will be neutral on all issues with one exception: We viciously attack biased media.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Desperate Illegitimacy

I want to start out with a few disclaimers. First off, I was raised a moderate Catholic. I am not practicing anymore, but I would be lying if I said it had no effect on my views. Second, I am basing this post on impressions, bits and pieces here and there, not a total picture. With that out of the way, on with the show.

As I see it, Catholicism is a moderate branch of Christianity. On average and in leadership, I mean. Individuals vary of course. It has its stance on birth control and abortion (against them). In this regard it appears somewhat similar to many of the Protestant branches, especially the fundementalists. Catholics hold rallies and protests and try to change those around them.

However I see a major difference: They're not so angry and hateful. If you're read some of the writings from the Vatican, they're not about people burning in Hell for homosexuality. They instead say that people are happier when they live in accordance with [their interpretation of] God's will. They want to help. In contrast so many fundemendalists appear to have no interest in their fellow humans. They threaten lives and disrupt funerals and attack the men and women who defend their right to spew their shit.

I wonder if it has to do with legitimacy. The Catholic Church claims continuity with the Jewish and early Christian faiths. In this regard it is legitimate. If it has been corrupt at times, it has reformed itself and never broken away. It has never given up.

In contrast the fundementalists come from a tradition of breaking away at the slightest disagreement. There is no coming together to resolve disputes, there is no mediation, just leave the moment you disagree. Sure, early groups were excommunicated, but even after that they splintered. As a result, they may feel (as I think many should) that they lack authority. After all, who can respect a group which cannot resolve its differences without taking its ball and going somewhere else? In addition to that, they are not part of continuity. As much as they might wish to be part of tradition, they can only honestly claim to be new and struggling to get back to the source.

They cannot claim moral authority (for they have none) and they have no tradition of discussion or mediation. As a result, they have nothing to rely on but their own anger and hatred. New information is not something which they can handle, so they react as they always have: fighting it, ignoring it, breaking away. And so we have those who cannot even comprehend evolution and in their attempts to shut it out, they close out all of science as well. They leave themselves ignorant, shunning all knowledge which might further demonstrate the shoddiness of their beliefs.

In contrast the Catholic Church has a tradition of taking on conflicting information. It is not perfect. Not at all. Ask Galileo. Okay fine, that wouldn't help much, but you get my point. It can handle the idea of evolution. It can handle science. It can handle climate change. It can handle these because it is sure of its authority and legitimacy, so it has nothing to fear.

Throughout this I have likely made Catholicism sound better than it is. That was not intentional, but perhaps inevitable. I regard it as a powerful social force which should be listened to, even if not agreed with. I want to be sure that people understand that I do not mean to attack Protestantism. While its origins may make it seem illegitimate, the early breaks were for pure reasons: the Church was incredibly corrupt. Ideally they'd have worked more for reform, but perhaps at the time they did not see it as possible or it would have been too slow. We can still see how long it has taken for the Church to revoke many of its corrupt practices and acknowledge them.

My criticism is directed instead at Christian fundementalists. These are a sort who believe they are the only ones reading the Bible correctly. They see no room for interpretation or doubt, regarding those as sins to be punished. They see no room for knowledge because it reveals their flawed nature. In reality they are not much different than the Islamic fundementalists who murdered thousands of Americans and have committed uncountable acts of violence against everyone who might possibly disagree with them.

P.S. In retrospect I realized that this is from an American perspective of American religious groups. I know that Europe has a much different history with the various forms of Christianity. What little validity my argument may have is limited to the US.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Emotion and Reason are not exclusive

Too often I see people try to be rational, logical, use reason; they use all sorts of terms for it, by removing emotion. I understand the attempt; too often it appears that emotion ruins logic and leads to terrible decisions. But removing logic is not going to work.

The attempt to remove emotion from argument is itself emotional, or at least irrational; a backlash against a variable which is difficult to manage. It is the result of giving up, of surrendering to complexity and accepting partial solutions. It is deceiving oneself into thinking that a solution based on half the variables is correct when it cannot possibly correct since it is based on well, half the variables.

I must clarify: emotion should not dominate. It should only play it's proper role. That role is to assign values. Without emotion, what value is there in anything? At best we're left with base instinct for creating values. By pure, emotionless logic, there is no objective value in anything, there is only that which we assign to it and the value which we assign was at some point emotional.

Emotion should not be used as a substitute for logic or reason. To use a mathematical analogy; emotion is a value but it is not an equation or a solution.

Rational emotion is not an oxymoron.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Being better than them, How to

From The New York Times

Mr. Hoekstra said he feared that Mr. Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators would try to make the trial “a circus” and “use it as a platform to push their ideology.” Why, he asked, should Mr. Mohammed and the other suspects be given “the extraordinary protections that you and I have as American citizens?”

Why? Because this is what makes us better than the terrorists.

It is our protection of legal rights, our offering of fair trials, our sense of justice and fairness which makes us better than the terrorists.

It is this coddling, this being soft on terrorism, this excess kindness which gives us the moral authority to say that terrorists are wrong. If we stoop to their level even the slightest bit, we are surrendering to them. We won't say it, but when we become as indiscriminate, as unjust as them, we become them. We can wave flags and preach a different faith, but we won't be different enough just by that.

Being better than the terrorists isn't about having better technology or more money, it's about being morally superior. I don't mean by choosing the right old book to read from. I mean innately superior, the superiority that comes from a fair system of legal justice that does not rush to conclusions or harm the innocent. It is the superiority of just actions, of broadly applied just actions.

We cannot afford to set aside justice and fairness for even a moment, no matter how much people decry it as coddling. Let them throw away their values out of fear. Let them betray the moral superiority of America. Call them the cowards, and move on along the high road.

There is no dichotomy of freedom and security; instead it is freedom which brings security. I'll talk more about that in a later post.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How to destroy America

Step one: Destroy the Constitution bit by bit.
Step two: You're done.
For bonus points: Fuck over business as the same time.

I present to you the dishonorable and treasonous moron in judge's clothing: Judge Hubel

Here's the short version: You are not safe from warrant-less search and seizure of your private data if it us stored on a third-party server.
His justification: You're leaving it outside your house so protection no longer applies. The third party host can read it and give it out to advertisers, so you've thrown away the fourth amendment protection.

This is a direct attack on the freedom and privacy of every single American. Yes, all of us. Or 99%. Who has zero data stored in third-party locations? Pretty much no one, so we're all affected. In one poorly thought-out opinion, the judge took a huge step towards destroying freedom.

I've said it before that the Internet is the new free place; the most free place of all. By wiping out the fourth amendment almost across the board, this judge has ruined that.

"This feature of the Internet has profound implications for how the Fourth Amendment protects Internet communications-if it protects them at all."
This shouldn't even be a question. Unless we're talking about something like suspect terrorist plots or child porn, something of very clear security or legal concern, it's protected unless we run around the streets shouting it and handing out copies. The question shouldn't be if a freedom applies, but whether it doesn't apply. We have freedom first, then we lose it; we shouldn't need his permission to be free. Apparently we don't have his permission anyway.

Where is the line? When do we recognize that no one has removed any of our freedom except other Americans?

He is eager to destroy freedom rather than protect it. When someone eagerly and intentionally destroys freedom, he is attacking America. Ideally that would mean the legal system taking him down. It has repeatedly shown that it either cannot or will not take down those who corrupt American from within.

By so eagerly attacking freedom he has ceased to be a legitimate legal authority. He's no better than the Supreme Court which ruled that black men are property and should be shipped back when they seek freedom. If America had respected freedom then, it would have removed them from power for so aggressively attacking it. We should learn from the past. How long did it take to correct that wrong? It's time we stopped bowing down to illegitimate authorities.

Oh but let's finish on a high note: This isn't like the attacks on net neutrality that hurt people in favor of massive corporations. If it's any consolation, this ruling fucks over businesses just as much. Yep, this judge is fair it that he ruins two aspects of America: free people and free business, in one single move.

P.S. I wish I didn't self-censor so much. Am I a hypocrite? I say people should stand up in defiance of power and consequence when freedom is at stake. And yet here I sit doing next to nothing. I even rewrote much of this to take out the parts which are potentially illegal. I'm the worst patriot ever, too afraid to even say something. Perhaps freedom of speech is already dead because we kill it ourselves with every word we don't say because we're afraid.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How to be a worthless organization

Step one: Attack anyone is the same field.
Step two: Distort everything to suit your agenda.
Step three: You're done.

FOX gets bonus points for throwing in some religious sniping for good measure.

Fine, I'll admit it, they're right: his faith probably did motivate his actions. However FOX doesn't say exactly that. Instead they talk about being a Muslim.

The man in question was not a Muslim at the time of the shooting. Muslims don't randomly kill what were effectively innocent people. What I mean is that he may have called himself a Muslim, but his shooting was not him following the teachings of Islam. His shooting was him being something else, something wrong.

So to bring up Islam would be the same as to point at the Westborro Baptists as examples of how Christianity is bad. They call themselves Christians, but their true selves, what motivates them, is being intolerant, small-minded, and all-in-all cruel.

They claim in the article, criticizing another news commenter: "I think he's knee-deep in political correctness, as so many people are, including now, as we know, the United States military. Political correctness is turning out to be the death of this country."


Lies, deception, and half-truths are what kill our country. It was a lie that sent our troops to Iraq. It was deception that corrupted that soldiers faith. It is half-truths that spur paranoia and bigotry.

In the interest of being fully truthful, I must accept that FOX is not worthless. To be worthless it would have to have no worth, no value; zero. It is not zero though. It is negative. FOX is a blight upon the world media.

America needs a real conservative news organization, not this shit. They should be ashamed of themselves, but what's the profit in that?

Monday, November 9, 2009

If you say "tall poppy syndrome"

You need to stop whining. Oh boo hoo, society is putting pressure on you to conform. Other people are jealous; they don't want you to be better than them. So what? Stop crying about it.

If you're so god damn special, then just be special. You don't have to be special in spite of them. That's giving credit to the exact people who you are supposed to be defying.

I get it, it can be tough. There may be a million people all around you pulling you down. Is the solution to cry about it? No. That's what they would do, cry about things. Something gets in their way, they give up. If you want to be a 'tall poppy' then you have to stand up and not hunch down in their pity parties. Yes, you are a part of their pity party even if you won't admit it.

Sorry that I just sounded like a total asshole. It happens when I get annoyed. Oops.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Religion is a funny thing to me

It's so inspiring.

Some are inspired to hate those whom aren't inspired. Others are inspired to hate those whom are inspired. Still others are inspired to hate those whom aren't inspired the right way.

Some are inspired to start wars. Others to start peace.

Some make art and literature and some make censorship.

When it comes up everything changes. You can feel it, hear it, see it. Some people get nervous. They're afraid someone, maybe themselves, will say something wrong. They are afraid to offend and afraid to say nothing and afraid to run into the wrong sort of person and that wrong sort is likely to think that the first person is the wrong sort.

Personally I get a little bit excited when religion comes up. I grew up Catholic but sadly, never got to talk about it all that much. We had religion class in school (it was a private Catholic school) but it was pretty much useless shit. By that I mean, technical details like what you call the stuff the priest wears. We never really had any understanding of the Bible and certainly no discussion. To some extent it made sense since you're not likely to get much use out of a bunch of ignorant and immature younguns.

I do remember when we were one told to write a sort of diary for one of the holy periods; perhaps Advent. They were to be private, the teacher only checking to make sure we had written, not to actually read it. Can you guess the result? Oh yes, exactly: I don't trust adults. Despite being 22 I don't really consider myself adult because once I am, I am no longer to be trusted. Perhaps they're not all rotten liars, but when you're betrayed at a young age it tends to stick.

I wrote about how the classes were stupid. Pointless wastes of time. I said we should talk with the priest and pastor and actually learn something worth learning. Enlighten ourselves if you will; though I doubt I used the word at the time. Clearly this was critical of quite a bit. But what should a person do, lie and hide? This was probably intended to be a message to God or something of that sort; not really the place for pushing aside one's true thoughts.

I was sent to the principal. There I explained to her that my teacher had lied. I don't know if anything happened, and I might have been able to find out. The little bit of good news was that I don't recall being in any trouble with the principal. Even then I knew she was a reasonable person and my opinion of her has only become more positive since I graduated from there.

Getting back to the point: Catholicism is a strange thing in my heart. I can't say I believe it. But I respond to it. It is something I recognize and remember. A little piece of my childhood as familiar to me as legos or soccer. Perhaps I could call it nostalgia. I must admit that this is almost certainly due to rose-colored glasses, for I distinctly remember at the time being bored out of my mind by Mass. It was boring. I didn't like singing and I didn't want to inflict my terrible voice on others, though before puberty took its full toll I was told I had a decent voice and excellent tone (or is it pitch?). Sermons were boring. Kneeling hurt my knees. Sometimes in the summer I'd get dizzy and have to sit outside.

Which reminds me of a time when the same happened to a friend of mine. I insisted that he be let outside for air. Instead the previously mention idiot teacher made him stay inside sitting and covered him with a coat because... well I don't know why. She seemed to think he had a fever. Looking back I wish I'd hurt her for refusing to listen; she was endangering my friend and refusing to listen to my own experience just to sate her pitiful ego.

With all the political correctness these days, religion almost seems risque. It's dangerous and unusual. I like to see it, hear it, discuss it. I want to see it not shoved under the table as some frightening thing.

And yet, I despise fundamentalists. They would put religion front and center and everywhere. They would make it only their own distorted, hateful beliefs. When they speak of religion I feel no sense of remembering or familiarity, only of hatred and ignorance radiating from them. It saddens me and sickens me. They are the cause of people calling Christians hypocrites. They are the cause of religious war. To be truthful, they are not Christians. They identify as all sorts of religions, but they are all the same sickening sort just with different, equally incorrect labels.

I believe firmly in the separation of Church and State. And yet, I think our schools shouldn't have to be so afraid of religion. Talk about it as history and philosophy and sociology and myth and all the many things that it is. There's no need to say it is right or wrong or needed or unneeded. But it is too much of our society and world to just ignore, to do so is to leave students woefully ignorant. It is a dangerous thing to discuss with public funds, but it should be done as long as it is done with great care.

Sadly, zealots on all sides would likely ruin the attempts.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Or does that violate free speech?

Earlier I advocated 'virtual execution.' Basically if you commit virtual crimes, you should virtually die. In the original case I stand by what I said.

But I also extended it to another blogger named Gevlon. Since then I've realized that this was stupid of me. He commits no crimes. Should his hateful speech be a crime? I'm tempted to say yes because it would shut him up. But that's mostly an emotional reaction. I can see that it would be the first step in erosion of freedom of speech online.

Are there times to curtail freedom of speech? Maybe. But, I suspect all instances are paternalistic, the government telling us what to do or not do for our own good. Shouting fire in a crowded theater is illegal because it would cause undue panic. But isn't that just government protecting us from our own irrational reaction?

We can extend this to hate speech. I'd prefer that people not call Obama Hitler and that the KKK didn't have downtown rallies in nearby suburbs. But why should we not let them? If we don't like their ideas it should be on a rational ground. We should be immune to them. If we try to shield others from them it can only mean that we don't think they are immune, that they cannot make good decisions about what to think or not.

Idealism says that I should let the hateful keep screaming. Self-interest is more divided.

If they keep their screaming, they just might convince someone. Or many people. next thing I have a mob of their drones knocking on my door asking why I don't support them. By that I mean they burnt down my house and tried to kill me. Perhaps shutting down some speech is only a preventive measure, containing the madness before it gets dangerous.

But if someone else can be silenced, that means I can as well. Offensive speech is in the ear of the listener. I can say nothing wrong and still end up in the same category. Self-interest dictates that I not get someone else shut down to ensure that the same does not happen to me.

Getting back to the internet as free speech, it's more than that. It's freedom of all sorts. Assembly and religion and market. Yes, market. The internet is the closest thing to a free market that we will ever see, excluding Web 9.0 which will be telepathy-based. The internet the be the new land of the free and it is everywhere. This means that any attack on internet freedom is an attack on freedom everywhere. It is the new Bill of Rights, the new Constitution, the new Magna Carta and whatever other listing of rights that you can think of, all rolled into one. With this in mind, if Comcast (or anyone else) keeps trying to fuck with net neutrality, I suggest getting out your second amendment rights and explaining that our freedom is worth more than their profits.

Next time I plan to talk about security and freedom. Sneak preview: if someone tries to trade some of your freedom for some of your security, listen carefully and ignore everything, because in the long term people like him will completely fuck over you and everyone you know.