Monday, March 31, 2008

More Chinese (take that any way you wish...)

I can't seem to leave this China thing alone. Maybe it's because I keep hearing about it on the news. So I'm telling everyone who'll listen why a boycott of the Olympic Games is not an answer.

  1. We can't get up on our high horse and bitch at anybody else about human rights violations. We're fucking up the planet, which won't seriously affect us, but will starve millions of people. In addition, we continue to discriminate against the most vulnerable people in Canada, when it would be quite simple and pretty affordable to guarantee an annual wage and further subsidise housing. In addition, we have a history of racial discrimination in the Chinese head tax, the Japanese and German internment camps (and Ukranians, too, but I never understood that), and the genocide of the First Nations. Not to mention that when we couldn't kill all the red people (not even with bioweapons), we tried to breed them out, or steal their children, and then when that didn't work, we put them on reservations, made them poor, and then made it difficult to break the cycle of poverty. We also instilled in our children a healthy sense of contempt them.
  2. We're hosting the Winter Games in two years, and we won't have stopped our occupation of another nation by then. So there's that. Dead Afghanis look as bad on the news as dead Tibetans.
  3. The Brits likely won't have pulled out of Iraq by 2012, so they can have that monumental human rights cluster fuck on their hands for as well.
  4. I forgot to mention the economic sanctions against Iraq that Canada participated in, killing about a million Iraqis. So, while we were smart enough to tell George and Tony that we wouldn't go play in the sand with them, we did kill as many people as the war has. However, our way was much cheaper...
  5. China has more than a billion people in it. They are the second or third biggest market in the world for consumer products (I'm not sure where the EU sits in that ranking). They own most of America's debt, which is substantial. They produce a significant portion of our manufactured goods, because we're too snotty to produce them ourselves, and we don't want to pay a fair price for them anyway. They are also increasing food production, and managing to sell produce to Canada that Canada would grow anyway, just not as cheaply: pears, apples, berries, apricots and pears. (Do you realize how fucked up that is? I expect my bok choi and water chestnut to come from China, but my apples? I live in ONTARIO, for Thor's sake!) China also has the largest standing army in the world, and while their military budget is peanuts compared to the US, they still make and sell a lot of weapons. What I'm saying here is that China may be embarrassed by an Olympic Boycott, but they can afford to be embarrassed. They have the worl economy by the short & curlies, as my mother would say.
  6. Boycotts would hurt only the athletes (who haven't killed any Tibetans, I'd wager) and the sponsors (I can support that aspect of it. I'd shed no tears for poor old Ronald McDonald.)
  7. *EDIT* Olympic boycotts don't work. Did the US change its economic and defense policies because the Soviet Union boycotted the '84 games? Did they improve conditions for their own poor? Did they pull back on defense spending or intelligence and counter-intelligence? Did they pull out of West Germany? Um, no. They re-elected Reagan, an then elected Bush Sr. How about the US boycott of the 1980 games? Any measurable difference? Apparently not. Only a retaliatory boycott. So we sit out their games, and then they decline our invitation. That's mature.

You want China to stop killing Tibetans? Stop buying their shit. It worked with the dolphins and the tuna. (I don't mean to insult anyone by comparing them to dolphins, though I can't imagine how that could be considered insulting. But I don't know much about Tibetan culture except what I've learned from the Dalai Llama, who doesn't seem like the kind of guy who'd get worked up about a dolphin analogy, but you never know.)

You know what else might work? Stop selling them shit. Particularly oil. Canada is in a peverse position of power, or we could be. The tar sands are huge. Probably more oil there than remains in Saudi Arabia (though the Saudis would deny that). However, it's expensive (which seems to be fine, now), and it's dirty (which, according to the relevant governments, seems to be fine, for now), and it takes a lot of energy to extract (which is fine, for the oil companies that drill for the natural gas the tar sadns use). We can't turn off the taps to the US (until Obama gets elected and opens up NAFTA discussions, which he'll soonafter regret), but we can say we aren't going to sell any oil to the Chinese unless they get their human rights shit together.

You want to see Canada punching above her weight on the international stage? We could do it. Just not in Beijing.

Though we will kick their ass in baseball (if they play it).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Sensible Fucking Man, It Seems

This is for your perusal. Enjoy.

I have one or two reactions.

It's Easter and time for the annual journalistic display of baffled hostility to
Christianity. On cue the Roman Catholic archbishop of Ottawa, Terrence
Prendergast, pops up with the suggestion that adherents to his church who don't
actually observe its rules should not expect to enjoy all the benefits of
membership. A predictable chorus of howls erupted.

What are these benefits of membership? Padded kneeling thingies? A wasted hour or two every Sunday?

It is especially pitiful to hear politicians say they are obliged to represent
their constituents, not their faith. They wouldn't say that about their economic
beliefs, and you'd think salvation mattered more than stagflation. An honest and
lucid man would surely tell voters he holds certain fundamental beliefs that
entail certain policy positions, and he'd invite only those who share most or
all of those positions to vote for him.

Roman Catholics would then say they oppose abortion on religious grounds and welcome the votes of anyone who, for whatever reason, is also pro-life. Atheists or agnostics would say they don't know what God wants, if anything, but here are their policies; members of some faiths could say they think God is cool with abortion and so are they. In each case there would be no taint of hypocrisy. But anyone who says they know what God wants, they just don't care, is acting like an idiot and should be denied political power on that basis alone.

Again, sensible stuff. I also like the clarity of the atheist or agnostic position (though we'd likely not care what god may or not may not want, since we're pretty sure there's no one there to do the wanting...).

What scandalizes moderns about the church, I think, is not what it believes but
simply that it believes. We are perfectly at ease with Christian clergy who deny
the divinity of Christ or the resurrection, don druid suits and praise shariah
law, or claim they can be at the same time priests and imams. Just as we are
happy to give tenure to academics who proclaim that there is no truth, and give
large fees to artists who insist that their works do not communicate or uplift
and are not meant to. But we are baffled that the Pope is Catholic and if you
don't like it you need to find, or found, another church.

He's not quite right here. It's not that the church believes the particular fairy tales they've hitched their wagon to (if you'll pardon my horribly disfigured metaphor), it's that millions of people accept these fairy tales as true. I'm not baffled that the Pope is Catholic. I'm baffled that ANYONE is Catholic. Or anything, for that matter.

I said this the other night to someone I love very much. How could it possibly be true? How could you accept that? You're smarter than that!

But what do I know?

Popes and Nazis

I'm willing to give this the benefit of the doubt.

It's an article by Michael Coren, rare in that it does little to raise my blood pressure. Coren is, to put it bluntly, a bigot. He, to paraphrase Tegan and Sara, wouldn't like me if he met me. I, like nearly 6 million other Canadians, don't believe in god. He tends to look down on atheists (Muslims and Anglicans, too, and leftists of all kinds), maybe because he was beaten up by an atheist when he was a child. He likes Jews, though. Really likes the Jews. Unless they're Marxists. So I guess he wouldn't have liked Marx. But I'm not sure I would have, either. He's was probably angry all the time, and with all that hair, I bet he smelled a bit...

Can you imagine? Little Mikey Coren face down in the dirt, a big bully on his back, twisting his arm up and repeating, "Say it. Say it. 'There is no god.' Say it! And then say, 'uncle'."

But enough of picking on him, or even imagining him being picked on. We are bullies in our hearts, as Mr. Coren will attest. "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Mat. 5:28. I expect the rule applies:

"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a bigot and wants to kick his ass has
already committed assault on him in his heart." Brett 1:1

I admit it. I'm a bully. I'll say a Hail Mary and flog myself (but not in the way a good Catholic like Coren would...).

About the only thing I found annoying in his article is this:

"In The Myth of Hitler's Pope, Rabbi David Dalin points out that because of the
presence of the Pope, the Jews of Italy had a far higher survival rate than in
most other countries."

So that's all right, then. Italy killed fewer Jews than, say, Germany, so obviously Catholicism is good. :)

Do you suppose the Dutch, or Belgians, or Canadians, or Americans killed a lot of Jews? Does that make the Dutch Reformed Church or the Anglican Church of Canada better than Roman Catholicism? Mr. Coren, I dare say, would argue that they're not. And how about secular humanists? Are humanists better than Catholics because of our lack of historical genocide against people of faith?

Coren would point at Stalin (who was, granted, an atheist, but also a sick motherfucker, which had little to do with his disbelief in god, I'd argue) and screech, "No! See? He was EVILLLL!"


I don't know why I read this guy's articles. Still less do I know why I refer other people to them. It only encourages him. But I cannot stop. It's like poking a bruise, or sticking your tongue in the space that used to be a tooth, or playing with that loose flap of skin on the roof of your mouth after a run-in with Cap'n Crunch or hot pizza cheese.

Somebody tell me to stop. Then give me a good reason why I should give up my perverse little joys.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Game On!

I've finished The God Delusion, and Letter to a Christian Nation is on my shelf, waiting to be read. I'm hoping to get some Hitchens for my birthday (which is in a little over a week, hint, hint). As far as my atheist reading is concerned, I'm way behind. In fact, I've read more C.S. Lewis than I have "atheist" literature, and while parts of the Narnia books strike me as ridiculously simple and foolish, I rather like The Screwtape Letters. And of course most of the lit. I read is by Christians, because, well, duh.

I've been thinking a lot about my lack of faith recently. As a consequence, I'm thinking about the faith of others a great deal, particularly the faith of my family.

The God Delusion upset me a great deal. I love my wife very much. I can't help but think she's been duped. I came to my atheism as sort of a gut reaction; I started out the way that Christians often describe us: I was angry at god. I thought he was mean, and unfair, and more than a little bit evil, a bigot, a bully, and careless.

The god I was introduced to was vengeful and strict. I was told he loved me, but that he hated virtually everything I did. To me, feeling religious means feeling ashamed. I wasn't particularly interested in a god like that. I decided he could go fuck himself. It was later that I came around to realizing that it was men who had fucked with my mind, and not god, because they made him up to scare me.

I'm not happy with that paragraph, but it'll have to stay because right now I don't have the edit in me.

But now I've a bunch of arguments to support my position, in addition to the fact that the Christian god is a bit of an asshole.

So I'm upset that my wife has been duped. Remarkably, I'm not that upset that I was duped, too. However, what makes it even worse is that she's happy in her delusion, and doesn't want me to disabuse her of it. I can't see it as freeing her, as much as I try. Besides, she'd resent it, and I don't want to get a divorce (I'll bet causing her to doubt her faith is grounds for annulment). So, having read the book, and being left with the desire to reread the book, and bing armed as I am with new arguments against her faith, along with plans to read the bible for even more ammunition, I have no one to convert.

And I don't want to convert anyone.

I know that religion is in many ways harmful. I also don't see us accomplishing much by trying to "convert" (although "deprogramme" might be a better word) others. I want to defend my rights, and I will answer any questions that are asked, and I will stand for no intolerance (of me or anyone else), but I don't wanna fight.

This isn't a game. It's not us versus them. In fact, if the whole religion hullabaloo is a game, I view us unbelievers as sitting on the sidelines, watching with interest, and very probably betting. Christian v. Muslim v. Jew v. Hindu v. Tom Cruise v. every other fucking sect or cult or group circle jerk in the universe, and we don't have to get into the fray, though many of us choose to do, which is also fine by me, and I thank them for helping to simultaneously make things better and worse for infidels.

I don't want to imply that we ought to stay out of the game. In fact, I think we ought to take the position of referees. When the Muslims start yelling about virgins and flying white horses, and saying that the Hindu buffet of divinity is blasphemy and the Hindu starts screaming about being the oldest religion in the world and calling Mohammad a pedophile, an atheist can step in and remind them that they're both very silly, and if they can't play nice, they're both going to get a timeout, and then tell Jesus to get down off that thing before he gets hurt.


I will defend my rights. I will make sure my daughter (and any other kids we're foolish enough to make) how but not what to think. She'll hear the death-cult human sacrifice shit from my wife, and I'll point out that many people believe other things, and I believe they're all wasting their time.

Then I'll teach her how to throw a split-finger fastball, and how to make a really great cinnamon cookie.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

God Delusion

Just a quick one today, because I am, as the adage goes, deep behind enemy lines.

It's Easter weekend, and I am at my in-laws with my wife and daughter. I am reading, for the first time, The God Delusion, with some trepidation, considering my surroundings. However, the family is being indulgent and tolerant, and I haven't had to resort to my backup in deference to their superstitions.

Acutally, considering how respectful they are being, I should also be respectful, and refrain from calling it a superstition. I will not retract it, but I will offer a half-assed apology.

At any rate, I am now reading the chapter on the in-group, and how religion breeds intolerance. I find myself marginally guilty of the same crimes committed by the zealots, though obviously less strenuously so. I am trying very hard, but still can't seem to help feeling a little superior.

The intermarriage thing really gets me. Obviously it causes difficulties. I was raised Baptist, and my wife and her family are Catholic. I've since stopped playing, so I have no team affiliation. Mostly, I think, I'm happier, but sometimes I miss having a big brother to look after me (though I must admit that he always did a rather piss-poor job of it).

But I know there was some trepidation around our nuptials, and some members of my family skipped it. I thought they were being bigots. Turns out they were just being lazy. I haven't yet decided which is worse.

But still, there was no pressure to marry within the in-group for us. No external pressure, anyway. I expect Tasha had some misgivings. And probably still does. I don't blame her. I find some of her most cherished beliefs to be silly at best, and although I respect her, and try to understand, I cannot bring myself to respect the Church. Needless to say, that causes some friction. In fact, I got scolded by an aunt for skipping church. She knows my stance, but disapproves. Somehow she still likes me. Most of us can see past it, now. Thank god, I say, not because I do, but because it's a useful phrase.

I'll return to the idea of religious contests another day. I should get back to "passing".

Thursday, March 20, 2008


This is amusing.

I say that if people are stupid enough to whip and crucify themselves, they deserve tetanus. If they are dumb enough to do it with dirty nails and whips, they deserve tetanus and a nasty infection. If god digs this shit, then they deserve the plague and theists deserve better.

In a sick, misguided way, I can see mutilating, torturing and abusing other people in the name of your religion. Not fellow members of your faith, mind you, but infidels, apostates and heathens. That makes sense. They're wrong, so they must be punished.

To a lesser degree, I can understand abusing members of your faith who are still different from you in some way, like burning widows, beating wives and killing homosexuals.

I want to make perfectly clear that I condone NEITHER of these things, but I could see how they would make sense.

But to crucify yourself, and flagellate yourself is some fucked up shit. And you have a fucked up god if that's what jellies his roll. You need to find a new religion. Seriously.

Stop, take a step back, examine yourself, and the guy you call god (you know the one, the merciful one who demands blood sacrifice), and call your shrink.

Happy easter, you sick fucks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


China is getting up to dickens in Tibet. Big surprise. You tell the people that conquered you a while ago that you're rather sick of their abuse and they're likely to get testy.

What complicates things is that China is hosting the Olympics this summer. We don't want to visit a country that has invaded another and is tormenting its inhabitants (which means the UK will have to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq inside of four years), and so people are urging our Canadian athletes to boycott the games.

Easy to say, if you haven't spent your life being the best fucking speedwalker in the Great White North. However, if you work full time (because we don't support our athletes) and train full time and forsake a real life with hobbies and friends and shit so you can get a medal in synchronized swimming (hopefully not solo, because in my opinion that sport's a bit odd), then it's tougher to say, "Ah, what the hell. It'll happen in four more years, and the Brits are our allies."

But what really chaps my ass is saying so smugly that the Chinese are assholes and we shouldn't go play with them because of their human rights record. Hang on a sec. Let's take a quick look at our own:
  • Invaded continent and largely wiped out the people who already lived there, forced them to convert to Christianity, raped them to make half-breed babies, hanged their leaders when they objected to colonialism, put up religious schools that abused them sexually and physically, in addition to wiping out their culture;
  • Promised to cut poverty and then made the rich richer while a fifth of Canadian children live in poverty;
  • Invaded Afghanistan because some Saudi attacked the U.S.;
  • Trade with China VERY liberally;
  • Did NOT boycott South Africa;
  • etc.
I'm so proud to be Canadian.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rrroll it!

I'm a Green Party member and I just had a Tim Hortons tea.

There are several things wrong with that statement. (Most irksome is the lack of an apostrophe. What the fuck? The guy's name was Horton, not Hortons. He opened a doughnut shop after retiring from the NHL, which puts him in the running for the Greatest Canadian, though I for one am glad that Tommy Douglas took that one. So his shop was once called Tim Horton's Doughnuts. Or at least it should have been. So what the fuck happened to the apostrophe? I bet they sold it to all the other signs advertising tomato's, movie's, and chicken wing's. Don't get me started on apostrophes...) But what should be really wrong about that statement is implied, rather than explicit.

I just drank my Tim Horton[']s tea out of a waxed cardboard cup. Even if I took in a travel mug, I'd have gotten that cup. Because it's "Rrroll up the Rim to Win" springtime. That means that they give you the cup regardless of your travel mug status, lest you be upset that you've not been given a chance to win stuff. So, during the spring, I often say, "Screw it," and leave the cup at home.

So I rrrolled up the rim and I lost. No big deal. It happens. The first year they had this contest, I won constantly. New coffees all the time. Since then, not so much.

But the point of this story is this.

I rrrolled up the rim and saw the following message:


Can someone explain to me why that phrase needs to be copyrighted?