Friday, May 30, 2008


Now that Scott McClellan has released his book, and attendant inexplicable shitstorm, it seems appropriate to comment on Mr. Bush's Ill-advised Middle Eastern Adventure, or How I Learned to Eat Sand With My Bullshit.

The shitstorm is inexplicable not because I don't understand why people are pissed off, but because I don't know why they're pissed off now.

So let's look back with fondness and nostalgia, shall we? Eyes moist with sadness and a soft, subtle joy, to a time when things were simple, and the US was still a force for good in the world. Sort of.

Then 9/11, and all the xenophobic screeching, and one stupid invasion.

At least this stupid invasion had a warm and inviting patina of legitimacy to it: the Taliban was harbouring Al-Qaeda, and NATO had to go bomb the mountains to get revenge on a dozen Saudis who were already dead.

It sounded sensible at the time.

Iraq, though, was a really bad idea. I don't understand how some people didn't see that, but there it is. Iraq was a bad fucking idea (Afghanistan was, too, but nobody wanted to hear that, either), and George Bush had to distort the truth beyond recognition to get that done. Again, I don't understand how any sensible person could not see that he was a liar or a madman, but there it is.

So, 66 months ago, George Bush et al. were making their case for war, and they were either:
  1. Stupid, or
  2. Lying

Now that Scott McClellan has written his book, we know that the White House Staff was:

  1. Insane (fabricating the grounds for invasion, ignoring good advice, and generally adhering to an ideology without any reason), or
  2. Evil (knowing they were wrong, and just not caring)

and Dubya was either:

  1. Insane (possibly a persecution complex, or some serious father issues, and an unstable religious ideology that unhinged a mind severely damaged by growing up a Bush and then pickling the shit out of it),
  2. Evil (knowing he was about to kill over a million people for no good reason, which makes him a special kind of sociopath), or
  3. Stupid (and very probably afraid of everything).

I don't think he's stupid. He sounds stupid, to be sure, but that's because he's smart enough to know that Americans apparently don't like to elect really smart people: Al Gore, John Kerry, Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich are four very good examples. So he fabricates his aw-shucks down-home, farm boy accent, and mangles the idioms of his native tongue, in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator of Americana. Dude went to two ivy league colleges, for god's sake, and money can get you in, but it can't keep you there. (I hope.)

Having eliminated stupid, is it worse if he's evil or crazy? I'm leaning toward crazy, because then he cannot be held accountable. I hope he's just evil, so we can try him for his crimes, and though I normally don't support the death penalty, but in his case, I'd make an exception.

Further, if he is as stupid as he appears, then he should be tried in Texas, where you are very likely to see the chair if you have a mental handicap and have killed any Texans. Since over 4000 Americans have been killed in Iraq alone, many are likely to be Texans. I'd say he's a candidate.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Favourite Cover Tunes

I've had a crush on Gwen Stephani for years. Not so much recently. This video was just before she plateaued.

No Doubt's version of "It's My Life" is better than Talk Talk's by a significant margin (though there's certainly something to the original). Embedding for this video on YouTube has been disabled, so here's the link, and Talk Talk's version instead. Jerks.

Incidentally, the scene at the beginning with the flamingos? I've been there. Lake Nakuru in the Rift Valley. Recently the scene of some pretty ugly genocidal nonsense.

And now for Leonard Cohen. Cohen taught me as a young man that poetry wasn't for fags or sissies. Smart, masculine men could and did write poetry. It got them laid sometimes. This song/poem is about Cohen getting laid 'cause he's was a poet. This is Rufus Wainwright covering Leonard's kickass "Chelsea Hotel No. 2":

As for Cohen's version, well, almost every song written by Cohen is better when done by someone else. "Bird on a Wire" is another good example. Here are the Neville Brothers:

Unfortunately, associated with a pretty mediocre flick.

And a little additional CanCon, here's Michael Bublé singing "I'm Your Man". Pretty damn sexy.

Sorry the audio's not so hot.

More to come, if you care.


I want to prove that I'm all about policy, not partisanship. The reason I don't like the Conservative Party of Canada is because their policies are dumb. With one exception:

The new guidelines for the "Product of Canada" label are good. Nice one. See if you can keep it up.

As for Maxime Bernier, if the PM wanted to appoint a Quebecer to a cabinet post to garner support in Quebec, and he wanted to make it someone as wacky as Bernier, why didn't he appoint him to some position that other people would think is important, but that really doesn't matter in a Conservative government? Like Minister of Environment? Ambassador to the U.N.? Indian Affairs? Universities, Training and Colleges? See, the possibilities are endless!

Mr. Harper, you fucked up. Hope it bites you in the ass. M. Bernier, you fucked up. I'm glad it bit you in the ass. Mlle. Couillard, nice rack. I'll say nothing about biting your ass.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Favourite Cover Tunes, ep. 1

First, if you're an American, I didn't spell favourite wrong. You do.

Second, I know I promised this a while ago and never delivered, but this is my gig and I get to do what I want. I have dial-up at work, so this would be interminable.

Anyway, I know you've all been waiting with bated breath (spelled that right, too), so here it is...

Cover Tunes That Are Superior To The Original Recordings

Let's begin with a classic. Elvis. "Suspicious Minds", covered by the Fine Young Cannibals:

I don't know what it is about this version, but FYC is in fine form in this one. The video's kinda neat, too, with the guitar player writhing around like they're on e. And Roland Gift looks crazy, and I really dig his voice.

Second, we get a little CanCon. The Philosopher Kings covering Godley & Creme's "Cry". This is a live version, because they released no video for this. Which is too bad, because they did a couple of sweet videos (I've included "You Stepped On My Life" as evidence).

...and part two...

In addition to having a really smart name, they're a fine R&B/jazz band, and they have composed some of the best sex music ever written. Before I show you "You Stepped On My Life", here's some unbridled horniness which is hot and a bit gross at the same time, much like sex itself.

Who knew snails could be sexy, except to other snails. I also have a bit of man-crush on Gerald Eaton. If I were gay...

Bonus points for having a cool figure skating video.

That's probably enough for now. I owe you eight more. Hopefully, I'll be able to stay more focused in the future. Coming up, Leonard Cohen!

Climate Change and Cartoons

I was watching my Astroboy DVD collection with Mickie tonight.

Check it out! An Astroboy episode about global warming:

Imported to North America in 1980. Significantly ahead of the curve.

Why I Don't Hate God

A charge often levelled at atheists, though not against me personally, is that we hate god, or that we truly do believe in him/her/them, but have turned our back on him/her/them. The reasons for this are various and sundry: we've been disappointed by him/her/them, we want to be free of morality and begin raping, killing, stealing and generally being nogoodniks, we've been abused by the church or by religion in general, or whatever nonsense happens to enter into the mind of the theist that helps them to misunderstand our position.

First, let me make it clear. I do not believe in god. I don't hate him/her/them. I don't wish he/she/they didn't exist. I have not turned my back on him/her/them. Quite simply, he/she/they doesn't/don't exist. I don't hate faeries, and I don't hate god.

Even without god, I've managed to keep the raping and killing to a minimum, and the urge to steal has been placated by swiping a pen or two from work. As for the nogoodnikness, I was always a bit of a misanthrope anyway, and so that hasn't changed much.

But I'll tell you something. There are times when I want to believe in god. Seriously. Honestly. And I don't, because I can't.

When I'm very lonely, very scared, very depressed, or very vulnerable, I'd like to pray and ask for help. When I'm tempted to do something foolish, I'm also tempted to pray for strength (which is, in my experience, yet another foolish thing to be tempted by). I still want to pray in all the situations that used to call for prayer, but now I don't because I know it didn't mean anything anyway.

Sometimes, I love the idea of god: a god that is infinitely powerful, loves me, and wants to help. Unfortunately, that guy does not exist. There are a number of reasons for that, but the problem of evil takes care of the compassionate and involved creator quite nicely. I've discussed the reasons for my disbelief before.

The point I'm trying to make is that sometimes unbelief is hard, but atheists do it because they can't believe, not because they won't. Pascal was an idiot. The basic assumption is that you can choose to believe. Maybe. But that makes the fact that it's a delusion that much more obvious: it's an act of will to explicitly deny what you know to be true.

I don't hate god. Sometimes I miss him. But as I've said before, ultimately, I'm better off with the truth.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Carbon Taxes

There's a lot in the Canadian media these days about the rising cost of energy. Everybody seems to be blaming the oil companies (who certainly are culpable, but a broader look reveals that every company is in business to make money, so you can't really fault a company for making money; the system requires a much broader overhaul and more stringent controls), the Canadian government (who taxes the hell out of gasoline, in order to pay for an automobile infrastructure, in theory), and those damn Arabs.

The fact is that WE are to blame. All of us. We've been sucking on that big black tit for a long time, and we've become dependent. The fact that OPEC and oil companies have developed nations by the short hairs is OUR fault, was our lack of foresight, and is ultimately beside the point.

What is fundamental to this discussion is that oil is a finite resource, is becoming increasingly scarce, and will eventually run out. In fact, high oil costs will actually buy us some time, as we search for an alternative.

It's no secret that this will cause great hardship for the West's most vulnerable (though in Canada, we're not particularly concerned about starvation, apparently). And something needs to be done about that. But reducing the cost of fuel is a short-term solution that makes the problem worse in the long run: we will become even more dependent on cheap petroleum if it remains cheap. It's time to wean ourselves off, and we can't ask oil companies to do it for us. In fact, there's never been a better time to be in the oil business (Mission Accomplished, Mssrs. Cheney & Bush).

The government can help by reducing subsidies to oil companies (it blows my mind that oil companies get tax rebates and government subsidies, and then all levels of government ding the consumer with gas taxes; if they taxed the oil companies, and stopped taxing consumers, the cost of fuel would likely go up slightly, but we'd have smaller and more manageable oil companies, in my opinion), and with carbon taxes, but ulimately the choice is ours, and we have to make it. Unfortunately, using less oil means doing more work: walking, biking, taking transit, buying local, cooking for yourself, growing your own food, and putting on a goddamn sweater.

We also need to stop thinking only in terms of dollars and cents. There are costs to petroleum that we don't measure, including environmental costs (tar sands), human costs (Iraq), and energy costs (in a caloric sense).

Ontario is a special case, too. Our economy is oil-dependent on several levels. Not only do we rely on oil, we rely on the automobile industry, as well, and it's not working out for us so much. The problem is that we've put all our eggs in one basket, and to horribly mutilate my metaphor, that basket isn't sustainable. Image if 120 years ago, any jurisdiction had banked it's economic growth on buggywhips. It's what Ontario's done, and we continue to throw good money after bad.

The whole media shitstorm annoys me for several reasons:
  1. Canadian Green Parties have been addressing these issues and offering real solutions for a long time, and we're never mentioned, even when other parties poach our policies.
  2. When newsmedia talk about rising fuel costs, scarcity is never mentioned.
  3. The focus of the media is that the government is to blame (not oil companies, our economy, the scarcity of the resource, the conflict in oil-rich regions, increasing demand, or the capitalist model).
  4. The news treats rising fuel costs as if it's a new phenomenon, and the cost of everything hasn't been rising steadily simply as a function of inflation.

I don't think we're deliberately being misled. I'm not that paranoid. But I do know that we need to pay much closer attention to what's going on around us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Children's Lit

My daughter is almost one, and has several books. She loves them, not for the stories, but for the fact that she's allowed to chew on them and they open and close. There's also the colourful illustrations in most of them, and the subject of my missive is no different.

She has a book called The Day The Rain Came, and it's about Noah and the flood. It's been her favourite for the last few days, I think chiefly because it's a pop-up book, and I haven't given it much thought until recently. I've avoided it, simply because it annoys me.

First of all, I've joked that the book should be called The Day God Killed Everyone. Because he did. It was the point. Seriously.

5 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Gen. 6:5-8)
I find that this story is suitable reading for an infant somewhat troubling. Especially if you want the child to grow up a Christian, and I assume that's the point. If I wanted Mickie to grow up an atheist (and I do, but I have to put up with religion for the sake of my marriage), I'd tell her about the old testament, and point out what a dick god is, killing and having people killed and raped and stuff.

The book gets around this nicety by simply not mentioning it. It starts with Noah building the ark, not with god getting angry, and planning to kill everyone but this one guy and his family, and it even avoids the conversation that Noah and god have:

So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress [c] wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. [d] 16 Make a roof for it and finish [e]
the ark to within 18 inches [f] of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to
keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal
and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be
kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store
it away as food for you and for them. (Gen. 6:13-21)
Noah builds his boat (measuring in feet, now, as opposed to cubits), and collects all the animals on the planet, and then the rain comes. Everybody is smiling all the time in the images (even the animals), which indicates mental deficiency, considering what is going on as the waters rise, and the fact that the genepool just got much, much smaller, and it's going to take some kickass divine intervention to prevent inbreeding.

It also ignores the fact that apparently the fish and aquatic mammals were behaving themselves, and that god was going to kill them anyway with a sudden drop in the salinity of the oceans. Also unconsidered is the fact that plants are likely incapable of sinning, but were nonetheless condemned. The two of each kind versus seven of each kind is ignored as well as the contradictions in the timeline, the number of mountains that appear, and the repetition of Noah's people going into the ark.

The book does not tell the story of the condemned birds sent out to look for land, either. The rains stop, the boat lands, and everybody still smiles (and the trees are strangely undisturbed). The rainbow appears, and the book tells the child that it's a symbol of god's love. I read it as a symbol of god's repentance, but what do I know.

This book bugs me. It translates the story of one of god's worst crimes against humanity into pretty pictures for children, and skips the genocide point, which god says repeatedly is the thrust of the matter. I pointed this out to my wife the other day, saying that the story is incomplete, and the rest ought to be included. She agreed, pointing out that the people were sinners, so god killed them. I'm not sure that's the message children should get, but I think my perceptions are skewed.

Another note on the book. Check out this screenshot, and see how the book is categorized:

"Juvenile Nonfiction". At least "Juvenile" is right.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Green Collar Jobs

Greens are very altruistic people, as a whole. Don't listen to what traditional socialists say about us. We DO care about social justice. We DO advocate on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, the neglected, the abused, and the enslaved. And our environmental concerns are chiefly humanitarian concerns. I care a little about individual polar bears dying because of the polar ice melt, but I care deeply because it's a symptom of a larger collapse that is slowly bending us over and warming itself up. It's humanity's turn to sub, ladies and gentlemen, and there's no safe word.

However, things piss me off. People piss me off. I wouldn't be much of an activist, really, if I wasn't angry. Some of us march, some wave placards, others stop trains and face huge fines and years in prison. I spout nonsense onto the internet, freaking out about everything from climate change to poverty to god. This one's about the first two.

A group called Campaign 2000 recently released a report saying that Ontario ought to "green" its economy in order to avoid poverty in the coming economic shift. That's good news. Here's the lead:

Turning Ontario's vanishing blue-collar manufacturing jobs into stable, well-paying "green-collar" employment in the emerging green economy should be central to Poverty-proofing the province, says a new report.
Ontario has the second-largest manufacturing workforce on the continent after California, yet the province seriously lags behind American states in retooling shuttered factories for the green industries of the future, notes the report, entitled
"Work isn't Working for Ontario Families."

Know who else said that? The Green Party of Ontario during the last provincial election. In fact, here's the relevant platform plank introduction:

Ontario needs to do more to foster 21st-century jobs—green jobs in sustainable industries such as the manufacturing of fuel-efficient vehicles, wind turbines, public transit, sustainable agriculture and forestry, ecotourism, energy-efficient materials and construction. The opportunities are unlimited.
The Green Tax Shift plan is a good first step in creating the conditions for a prosperous and sustainable economy that produces green jobs. By shifting taxes from employment to the resource use, Ontario will receive a double dividend: improved environmental performance and more jobs.
The GPO’s Green Jobs Plan will increase employment, competitiveness and innovation, while establishing worker protection. By adjusting market signals to reflect environmental costs, the GPO’s plan will create markets for new, innovative green businesses, technologies and products. Greens realize that small businesses, coops and non-profit social enterprises are important engines of a vibrant green economy. The threats of climate change, pollution and energy shortages can create opportunities for green jobs and healthy communities.

Sounds familiar, right? Well, despite being the fourth viable option in the last election, and telling this stuff to every reporter, voter, politician, pundit, and high school kid who'd listen, we're not credited with saying this first. It annoys me. We're not even alluded to. It chaps my ass.

As glad as I am to see that our ideas are being encouraged and recommended by other groups, it'd be nice to get a little fucking credit, because in October 2011, Ontarians are going to think we're riding a fucking bandwagon, because they didn't listen when we said it, and didn't hear that we said it sooner.

Vote Green, you fucking ingrates.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

An Atheist Teaches Religion

I came across this article this morning on the AOL Canada website. Interestingly, the author is from my town. It's about how an atheist is going to use Judeo-Christian mythology to provide a moral framework. Here's a sample:

Also, from a values perspective, I'm not convinced a 6-year-old can understand concepts like civitas, community or liberal ideas of freedom and personal responsibility. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," is just so
much more precise and easy to remember. The Ten Commandments make sense, mostly.

At a family magazine I once worked at, we once tried to assign a story on how to raise kids with a strong moral compass, without religion, but disappointingly, the story turned into the usual pap about teaching them to take turns, value other people's opinions, not make fun of each other etc , without much from the framework perspective. I've become convinced that inculcating my child with
values like sharing (not just her toys but our family's monetary resources),
getting along, working hard, not cheating, welcoming new people, feeling responsible towards her peer community, and of course, not stealing someone's Wii or thrill-killing (to name a couple no-nos), may best be done through use of Juedo-Christian lore.

I've addressed some of the worst aspects of this in my comments:

I find a number of things in your article interesting, including the inclusion of the golden rule into the ten commandments (it's not), and that morals without god come off as well meaning pap (at least they did in the article you mention).

Nearly half of the ten commandments (at least the version I usually see; there are several), are about how to worship properly--religious instruction, not moral instruction. Two of them are edicts against thought crime, and the other four are actual moral commandments: don't steal, don't kill, don't lie, and don't cheat on your spouse. All good rules, but hardly comprehensive.

I would think that it'd be easier to teach your six-year-old what's right and wrong, without introducing an amorphous concept like god. It'd be easier to just tell the child that Santa's always watching, rather than introdcue a new invisible father-figure.And I find it odd that you grew up without faith, but still see the value in having a childhood under the watchful eye of an omnipotent creator.

As for moral instruction being "usual pap about teaching them to take turns, value other people's opinions, not make fun of each other etc , without much from the framework perspective", I'd argue that, especially for children, that framework isn't particularly useful. And a quick look at the ten commandments includes NONE of those lessons useful for getting along with others. In fact, the Bible actively teaches AGAINST at least one, and god wasn't a big sharer, either.

Tolerance, understanding, compassion, and a sense of community are not addressed by the Old Testament (except when they are actively discouraged), and Jesus was conflicted on tolerance and compassion.Empathy, not religion, is the basis for ethical behaviour. At least it should be. If it's only the threat of supernatural punishment that keeps you honest, you're a poor example, as you should know. Ethical standards have changed in the last few thousand years, but the scripture hasn't (not much,
anyway). Believers pick and choose the bits that fit their standards, and discard the rest.

Examples? We don't own slaves, stone disobedient children, we eat pork and shellfish, we don't think mentruating women are unclean, and most of us have decided that homosexuals don't deserve a violent death.

You're introducing an unnecessary level of authority to your moral instruction. Now, instead of saying, "Don't do it because I say so," you are saying, "Don't do it because god says so." Essentially the same message. But you can actually punish the child now, which is more likely to have an effect than the treat of hell.

I say leave god out of it. By all means, teach the child about religion, but only because she will be surrounded by believers all her life, and it's useful to know what they believe.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ben Stein

This is a kickass commentary on Ben Stein and the peanut-free bowel movement that is apparently Expelled.

Here's a wee sample:

You want proof that there is no God? Consider this: Ben Stein has the respect and attention of the Evangelical Christian community. All right, that's not proof there is no God, it's just proof that Evangelical Christianity was invented by Satan to ensnare the souls of the simpleminded. And God doesn't seem to care if they all go to Hell.

Ben Stein, in case you haven't heard, is the face of Creationism in the new movie Expelled, which is about how "Big Science" is robbing radical geniuses of their rightful rewards - radical geniuses who say the universe is too complicated to figger out so it musta been made by magic.


Every time I see the name "Clinton", I think of Kodos and Kang, possessing the bodies of the presidential candidates in '96, and the way they said it: "CLIN-TON". Sorry. That actually has nothing to do with the rest of this.

There's a fun little screed at WorldNetDaily, about how Clinton or Obama would be catastrophic for America, because they don't radiate sanity, values and serenity the same way that Bush or McCain do.

First, there's the obvious problem: Bush has been an unquestionable disaster as president. Any objections? Didn't think so. So any "fatherly radiance" that he has emitted for the last seven-and-a-half interminable years has been like a combination of Abe Simpson, Chief Wiggum and Cletus: all parents, and all astoundingly incompetent in their own way. "[A] basically decent, if very flawed, man in the White House" is how he's described. Genocide? Murder? Torture? All for profit? This is a decent guy?

Second, there's the idea that the character of the president directly affects the behaviour of youth. What? Clinton got a blow job, so America's youth went to hell? Are Kennedy's extramarital affairs responsible for the Civil Rights Movement? Did Hoover get hoovered and start the Depression?

Third, Reagan was not a saint. He increased the prosperity gap. He began the privatization of government. He gave the US Bush Sr. He was divorced. He was from fucking Hollywood! He was not the stand-up guy the neocons would have us believe. Hardly the worst president ever (the jury's still out, but Dubya's making a run for the title), but still kind of an idiot, a greedy bastard, and likely a bigot (he didn't like poor people).

Fourth, the cause is so powerful, that Clinton will bring Satan in to the White House, that the effects are already being seen, as acknowledged in the last few paragraphs. See that?

And finally, all three candidates promise varying degrees of more of the same, and I believe that the US needs something different. I think we all do, but the US more than most countries.

What galls me most is the fact that thes folks claim the moral high ground while constantly misrepresenting the facts, stats, causes and effects.

But who needs truth when Jesus is on your side?

Peak Oil

It's no secret, I hope, to intelligent, thinking, aware people, that fossil fuels are a finite resource, and we are burning fossils faster than new fossils are being made. Make sense?

See, for those of you in the cheap seats, I will reiterate. It takes thousands of years, a great deal of pressure and unimaginable heat for algae, kelp or dinosaurs to become petroleum or other related carbon fuels: coal, natural gas/methane, and petroleum distillates. In the last 200 years, we've burned about half of what was placed naturally in the earth's crust, and our demand is accelerating. Best case scenario, we have 200 years of fuel left.

Of course, that's if the consumption arc looks like a bell curve. It won't.

But people continue blindly on, buying more cars, building more malls in the burbs, and building more highways. It's willful blindness, and it frustrates me.

Take this, for example. The National Post has recognized that gas prices will not go down. I ask myself first, when have they ever, except on the Tuesday after a long weekend, and only for a little while. The creep has been inexorably upward, but no one sees that.

Given the short-term challenges the world faces in increasing oil supply, I would argue that it will be next to impossible to come up with an extra 10 million barrels per day of supply at the current price in 48 short months. It is far more likely that, instead of increasing supply to meet future demand, the global consumption of oil will have to be reduced -- and this can only be achieved though "demand destruction" or significantly higher oil prices.

It is hard to see how we are not in middle of an accelerating oil shock that could end up rivalling the energy crisis of 1973-74, when the per-barrel cost of oil quadrupled. As during previous energy crises, we will have to make painful changes to our oil-intensive lifestyles, the least of which will be to buy smaller cars and homes, and gripe about high gas prices.

Well, duh.

Monday, May 05, 2008


I was at a student leadership conference on the weekend. You may know the drill. The "leaders" of the student bodies at their respective schools are sent away for a two- or three-day retreat, where they deprive themselves of sleep, do stupid chants, and get their hormones worked up in a way that this type of student rarely has an opportunity for, because they are all a little bit nerdy. The population was chiefly female, which made me wish at times that I was fifteen years younger. Then I felt like a dirty old man, which I am.

I was there at the behest of a young Liberal, who saw me on the campaign (I ran Green), and who was impressed (though not impressed enough to change his vote or party affiliation, apparently, which makes me wonder about the youth of today) with my handling of complex environmental issues in the context of soundbites and meaningless statistics.

I apologise for the length of those sentences. Though technically sound, they're still cumbersome.

At any rate, I had the distinct pleasure of giving about 120 young Canadians extremely bad news:

  1. We rely very heavily on petroleum for everything, and we're running out.

  2. Water is becoming increasingly scarce, and we live in Southern Ontario, surrounded by three of five Great Lakes. We can expect water wars in the next thirty years or so, fought right here.

  3. Climate change is really fucking things up.

  4. Environmental activists are running into roadblocks of all kinds: political, social, technological, and religious. In short, we're all right fucked. (Might I suggest a subscription to The Trumpet? It's chock full of religious nuttery, bigotry and political analysis that is shallow and tedious at the same time! It's mostly useful for figuring out how the wackjobs think.

  5. There's not a great they can do as individuals, except to unplug as much from the grid as possible, learn to garden, shoot, can and make small repairs. Time spent learning a skilled trade like darning, cobbling, animal husbandry or carpentry wouldn't be wasted.

  6. The environment is only one of the crippling crises that they will face in their lives.

I was very cheery, in all.

I know what I look like: a dude on the corner with the sandwich board and the bell and the Bible verses. It's troubling, but no matter where I turn, no matter what I'm talking about, watching, listening to, or witnessing, I'm seeing our blind headlong ruch into oblivion.

And when I'm asked for my opinion on such matters, or when I get angry and give it (which is more and more often), I've never got anything good to say.

I riff on commercials (everything from makeup to cars, to weight loss, to cleaning products, to new "green" bags or whatever), I riff on politics (which is easy with the asshats we have in charge), I riff on consumer culture, I riff on movies (I like watching Rambo III and listening to him say how determined, brave and immovable the muhajideen are. The ironing is delicious.), I riff on the news, I riff on the magazines I read, I riff on prescription drugs, I riff on the suburbs, I riff on my relatives and their blind faith in technology.

I want to be more positive. I know that humanity is going to make it. I just don't know what society is going to look like in 50 years. I'm scared. I'm scared for me, and I'm scared for my daughter.

But mostly I'm angry. I know it's going to be hard. I know we have to sacrifice. I know that changes are coming. But I'm furious at all of us for our short-term thinking. We do it ALL the fucking time, and I want it to stop. We're building more suburbs, throwing more money at car manufacturers, and we're counting on god to bail us out.

We have no one to blame but ourselves, and it's time we took responsibility. Thomas Homer-Dixon wrote a book called The Ingenuity Gap. It debates the question as to whether or not we're smart enough to get ourselves out of the corner we've painted ourselves into.

I'm too skeptical. This is one area in which I wish I had a little more faith.

Friday, May 02, 2008


These days, apparently, it's all about the tracts. If I believed in this sort of thing, I'd call it serendipity.

Jack Chick, according to PZ Myers, has released a new one about evolution and Nazis. It's called "Moving On Up", and it's a good one. Not as good as "Big Daddy", with it's foaming at the mouth professor, or "This Was Your Life", which I understand was the horseshit that started it all, but it's still a good one.

It contains, as you'll read elsewhere, all the usual stuff you find in Chick tracts: unrepentant sinners, a "merciful" faceless god who chucks you into a lake of fire no matter how good you are, if you aren't a particular flavour of Christian.

I'm probably a bit twisted, but these things make me all nostalgic. I first discovered these things when I was about 10, and they scared the hell out of me. I was "saved" by the time I was twelve, in the back of a mini-van, on my way home from bowling with the church youth group. I could even tell you the date, because it's written inside my Bible.

It was a much simpler time then. Everything was evil. It made things easy to keep track of. I was evil. But I was trying to be good. My particular church was big on a couple of things. First is the idea of sin. It was always about sin. If it wasn't about sin, it was about obedience. My pastor was later charged with child abuse for spanking his two year old daughter.

Isn't that charming?

I sometimes think that I should be angrier. I was, once, but it's burnt out of me now. I've never been any good at holding a grudge. I can't even stay mad at the people who made me feel unclean, unworthy, and worthless. Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that the poeple who made me feel that way felt that way themselves, and I still love them very much.

If there are any theists out there, reading this, I have a favour to ask. I know that you may feel defensive. You may think that we godless are attacking you. You may feel that we want to take away your religious freedom. Or that we want to remove god from everything.

But the truth is that most of us have been where you are. Most of us used to be like you. And we changed. I feel like I grew. So when you are speaking to us about faith, about your faith, or about any faith, understand that we understand. We were theists once (most of us). We know where you're coming from. We thought we felt that love, or transcendance, or beauty, or gratitude. We tried to talk to god, or the saints, or other deities, and we thought those supernatural beings were listening.

But now we don't believe. We really did, but now we don't. Sometimes we miss it (I do, anyway), but for the most part we feel better. And we want that for you, too. When I believed in god, I was scared all the time. Now, I get a little lonely sometimes, but that's better than faith. Just as you honestly believe that your faith is the way to heaven, or to true happiness, or the path to fulfillment, and want to share that with others, we feel the same way.

And some of us get strident, or snarky, or hostile, I know. Largely, that is a response to hostility from "the faithful". But I think it's mostly because we want to force you to sit, and listen, and THINK, and we get frustrated.

I also want you to know that religion is forever poisoned for me. For me, religion is like the chicken pox. I had a pretty bad case when I was a kid, but now I'm immune. Nothing you can say can change that. I've seen what greatness can be achieved without faith. And what hatred can be supported by it.

I honestly am better off without god.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I got a tract today. From someone as I walked past a busstop. Here it is:

Here's the text, in case you can't read it (with helpful commentary!)

Right now... You are saved... Or lost!

I know exactly where I am. Dundas & Richmond, the most interesting place in London, sometimes.

Knowing for sure you'll be in heaven or... "Having the wrath of God abiding on you."

Can you actually have wrath abiding on you? Like fleas?

It's all about sin, common to everyone.

Which is useful for keeping track of these things.

"All have sinned." All need God's salvation...

Again, convenience in the afterlife. It's like those lease companies that promise that everyone will be approved.

Only his way!!! It's by faith in his son, the lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to pay man's sin-debt.

Didn't he die on the cross 'cause he claimed to be a saviour and then didn't deliver? Did I read the motivation right? He apparently also died because he needed to, because god demands blood sacrifice. She he had himself killed...

He rose from the dead, proving his victory over death and can keep you from hell!

Even if the first bit is true, I don't see how the second follows from it. By that rationale, Lazarus should be able to keep me out of hell, too.

Trust him now!

More likely to trust him than the half-assed preacher who wrote out this piece of shit, I'll tell you.

Granted, it is the message that's important, but presentation counts for something. Learn to type, for god's sake. And for once in my life, I mean that literally.