Monday, February 16, 2009

Public relations

It will come as no surprise to most people on the planet, let alone those who still read this blog despite my puling broken by silence, that the Catholic Church is having some PR problems.

This is a good example:

Just a week after Pope Benedict made the decision to bring holocaust-denier Bishop Richard Williamson and his ultra-conservative bishop friends back into the fold, Pope Benedict elevated Father Gerhard Maria Wagner to auxiliary bishop in the diocese of Linz, Austria. Now, if you thought Williamson’s assertions on the Holocaust sounded crazy, just wait until you hear what Wagner has to say on everything from Hurricane Katrina to Harry Potter.
Pope Benedict is kicking ass and taking names in the classless Olympics, and I find it an interesting strategy. To be fair, lenient religions tend to experience a decline in membership, particularly in times of crisis (I don't have time to find a source), and so maybe he's hoping to arrest the inexorable slide into irrelevancy that faces the Whore of Babylon (as Rick Warren would call her) by toughening up. Or maybe he's just playing the German Hardass typecast. I don't know. I do not profess to understand the man. I do not desire to.

However, I have some advice. When it comes to saying crazy shit with no basis in reality, it occasionally takes a little soft sell to get the buyers in. Some guy was actually god and so he came back from the dead? Hard to swallow, really, and I guarantee that part of the church's attrition can be attributed to the fact that is says some crazy shit. Transubstantion is the most public example, and relatively recent, too, in that it's a doctrine that is less than half as old as the church itself. Saying new crazy shit all the time, that takes panache. It takes style. It takes finesse.

I would argue that it takes Tom Cruise.

Tom believes some crazy shit. It's not much crazier than other religious shit, but it's still pretty damn crazy. And every time I turn around, another celebrity seems to have converted to Scientology. The common thread? Tom Cruise. This guy must be really fucking persuasive. He could sell anything. He could sell freezers to the Inuit. He could sell slavery to Africans. He could sell crazy religious teachings to crazy religious people. Apparently his charm is boundless.

What we need is to hook the pope up with Tom Cruise. Apparently Catholics have some sort of resistance to the craziness of Scientology (though Katie is in peril), and so the pope would be okay. However, the pope desperately needs to sell his crazy shit better, and I can think of no one who can sell crazy shit like Tom.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

God made men...

...but Samuel Colt made them equal.

Toronto's mayor has asked London, Ontario's fourth or fifth largest city, for support in asking the provincial government for a province-wide handgun ban.

This may surprise you, considering my political affiliation, but I'm not really a fan of rules. I recognize that they are necessary, but I also recognize that many well-meaning rules are often misguided. Ontario's pitbull ban is a good example. It's a blunt instrument designed to punish irresponsible dog owners, but instead punishes the dogs.

And I know that Greens seem like well-meaning-do-gooder social engineers, but we're not about banning things, we're about internalizing costs.

Having said that, I dig on handgun bans.

I know that a ban won't significantly reduce the incidence of violent crime. And I know that people who are willing to break the law in order to kill, rob or terrorize aren't likely to be swayed by the prospect of another charge of possession of a banned weapon. And I know that there are lots of law-abiding handgun owners that will be adversly affected by this law, and they won't have done anything wrong.

But still, a handgun ban strikes me as a good idea.

I'm not saying ban all guns. And I'm not saying that just because guns kill people we should ban anything that kills people. That's absurd. But here's the thing.

Handguns are specifically designed to kill people.

Long guns are for hunting. Knives are for cutting. Baseball bats are for baseball. Cars are for transportation. Pills are for medicine. And they all kill people. But none of them exist specifically for the expressed purpose of killing people. And that's why a ban is a good idea.

Think about it. We have controls on things that are designed to kill people, and we only let certain people have them. Tanks, armoured personnel carriers, grenades, bioweapons, and the like. How are they different from handguns, besides the scope of murder available?

You may have to defend yourself against a bad guy with a gun someday. However, that bad guy is more likely to have a handgun if they're not banned. And it's not your job to kill the bad guys. That's the job for the cops. As for killing people in other countries? That's the job of the military. If you want to be allowed to kill people, become a cop or a soldier.

The fact is that a handgun ban will reduce the number of guns on the street. And it will be easier to identify the people who are bad. You'll be able to tell, 'cause they'll be the ones with the guns. If the only people in the province who are allowed to have handguns are the cops, we'll all be a lot safer. And if someone does use a gun in the commission of a crime, I find it reassuring that they'll have an extra five or six years in the cooler to think about whether or not they should have grabbed a machete, instead.

Yes, people are violent, and they will kill people. But they will at least have to use a little ingenuity and use a tool that isn't designed specifically to make the job of killing someone easier.

Friday, February 06, 2009

You can't write irony like this.

I am trying to come up with an apt metaphor for the Catholic Church right now. Granted, they recently decided to get rid of Limbo within their doctrine, but as someone asked me, how can they do that? Did God do it or what? WTF? However, more recently, they've reinstated the practice of indulgences. This is one of the things that Martin Luther was pissed about. You'd think they might have picked up that this is a bit of a sticking point.

And more recently, they've rehabilitated some people who thought it was becoming too easy to be a Catholic, and they took their toys and went home. It wasn't the 95 theses, but it was still some guys starting a breakaway sect. Pope Benedict clearly felt they had learned their lesson, I guess, and let them come home. However, he clearly didn't vet these guys well enough, and has been bitten in the ass.

One of these guys is a Holocaust denier. He's entitled to believe this, I guess. He obviously already believes some pretty crazy things. What I dig about it most is this.

The German government is pointing out this guy is a crazy nutbar anti-semite.

The pope may have jumped the shark.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Pace yourself

I've written before about the need to stay angry in order to stay motivated. I gave a PTGHWAC to Greta Christina (who I recently saw quoted in the local fishwrap) for her take on anger and how it's been the most influential force in social change in history. By and large, I think she's right. Being compassionate and empathetic is all well and good, but being pissed off got Rosa Parks arrested, it started the Stonewall Riots, and I daresay it got the suffragettes picketing the White House.

The problem is that anger is corrosive. It eats you, and it cand cripple you. This happens to me periodically. I'm an angry bastard. I'm pissed off at most voters in Canada and in the US, and completely gobsmacked by nearly half of American voters (who bothered to vote), and by a little over a third of own (well, really, about 18% of Candian voters, since about half of us are pleasantly uniformed and apathetic; must be nice.) who continued to endorse clearly bankrupt ideology. Want proof? Harper claims to be a conservative, but spends more than Liberals. WTF? Nobody has told me what conservatism means anymore, except the predilection to hate brown people, commies and fags.

So I've been pissed at most voters on the continent. That's a lot of anger, and it burns me out. I cease to be motivated to do anything, because not only can I not save the world, I can't even save myself. I'm just too fucking angry, and there's nothing I can do about it.

Let it go, just relax, blah, blah, blah. I know, I know. But the problem is that when I see a problem, I like to fix it. My inability to fix it makes me madder. I wish I could stop paying attention and let it go, but wilful ignorance is the one thing I find utterly incomprehensible, baffling and infuriating.

I should write more. To do that I need to calm down. I should participate more. To do that I need to calm down. I should love, laugh and sing more. To do that, I really need to calm down.

I will start bloggin regularly again. I hope this will start my renaissance. If not, I'll still continue to riff on the news. I can't let it go, even though it's probably killing me. I'm going to stay angry.

If you're paying attention, you either go mad or get mad.