left biblioblography: April 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Allegories Gone Wild - Hold Onto Your Tinfoil Hats…Project Blue Beam Will Beam Gawd Straight Into Your Brain

Cross Posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

Just when I think I have a final Top Ten Of The Stupidest Things I’ve Ever Heard, I stumble across something like this that makes me revamp the list:

So I was casting about for a specific video on YouTube on American Dad (the musical number where Stan sings about he doesn’t want a partner, he wants a wife), and I stumbled into the tangled throes of a conspiracy theory based on some pretty wild allusions, delusions, and replete with bibble-driven allegories.

The first embedded video is actually some crazed conspirotard claiming there’s hidden messages in an American Dad episode.

What this fellow specifically talking about is one Project Blue Beam, which is rumored to beam data directly into the human brain.

First up, is the ‘Free Press International’ commentary, which I found here, and then here. (Note: I love the first link, which specifically claims that “The International Free Press network is not a religious group, neither is it a political organization, but an independent worldwide investigation press agency in the field of politics, economics, medical and military.”, and then goes on at length about the advent of the Antichrist and New World Order, ad nauseum).

[Note: Serge Monast and another journalist, both of whom were researching Project Blue Beam, died of "heart attacks" within weeks of each other although neither had a history of heart disease. Serge was in Canada. The other Canadian journalist was visiting Ireland. Prior to his death, the Canadian government abducted Serge's daughter in an attempt to dissuade him from pursuing his research into Project Blue Beam. His daughter was never returned. Pseudo-heart attacks are one of the alleged methods of death induced by Project Blue Beam.]

Really, this is adorable. Not that the man died of a heart attack, but that two ‘journalists’ did so while investigating this. Cue the X-Files whistle music. People do die of heart attacks regardless of a non-history, just as non-smokers die of lung cancer. No name for the second fellow. No citations. Bald assertions streaking across the page.

The infamous NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] Blue Beam Project has four different steps in order to implement the new age religion with the Antichrist at its head. We must remember that the new age religion is the very foundation for the new world government, without which religion the dictatorship of the new world order is completely impossible. I’ll repeat that: Without a universal belief in the new age religion, the success of the new world order will be impossible! That is why the Blue Beam Project is so important to them, but has been so well hidden until now.

“New Age Religion'” is christlation for ‘them damn hippie tree-huggin’ pagan bastards!’ This bozo’s been watching way too many episodes of the Left Behind series, I’d guess.

Then we get this nonsense from a website titled ‘Sweet Liberty’:

Following is the transcript of a taped presentation by Serge Monast, a French-speaking Canadian journalist. Although there was no date on the tape, Monast speaks of 1983 as "eleven years ago", so we will assume this talk took place in 1994. We heard rumors from time to time of harassment against Mr. Monast, and later had heard that he was killed. That is an unconfirmed (by us) report.

Because the tape from which we transcribed was not of high quality, and along with the very heavy French accent, we were unable to make out some of the words. We had to guess at the spelling of some of the names.  If -- as you read -- you find words incorrectly spelled or can fill in any of the gaps, please contact me.

     I've decided to transcribe this tape because the information relates to events occurring today. The projected time-line was off target, because Mr. Monast expected the plan to be fulfilled by the year 2,000... as did many. 

     He also indicated during the presentation that the planners had originally set the date for 1983. That could explain the title of George Orwell's book, 1984.

    The date 1984 ('85)  also jives with information presented to a special Legislative Committee in Illinois in 1978 studying the effects of Regionalism on the State, by a gentleman who testified that:

he was a former secret courier for the National Security Agency;

the 'official position of the U.S. Government is to change this form of government to Socialism... via Regionalism'; and that;

"the logic behind this is that when the new order takes place, which is scheduled around the 1985 period, that the representation for the committee that will sit on the world council will be very equal to the population of the European countries."

(speaking of intended  numbers of populations in each region being limited to about 20 million each so no 'region' could ever effectively gain independence from the World Government).

     Off the subject, yet not. . . Regionalism is being sewed up nice and tightly right in our own back yards. . . local levels of government. Will you just 'let it happen'? 

You will also want to read Betty Mill's Vision and Circles of Power, from 1991. Betty knew of Project Blue Beam, although when she made the tape she did not know or know of Serge Monast. Betty went Home last January, where she is at peace from the awful ability - we never decided whether it was a gift or a curse - to see far beyond the illusion of what has been presented to the terrible intentions lurking behind the unfolding events. I dedicate to her with deep, deep love and gratitude - for her love for all of us, and her precious friendship and mentoring to me - this confirmation of her unearthly insight.  

So did you get all that? Monast (if he ever existed) expected all this to be implemented by the year 2000 (here it is ought 9, and no sightings), and yet the ‘New World Order’ was scheduled for around 1985, and he mentions this ridiculous tape by one Betty Mill, and the only place this is mentioned is on that website. Basically, it’s a recycle of all the old bullshit – there’s a Satanic secret society plotting in the shadows to overthrow the current world governments, secretive anecdotes (‘I can’t give you a citation, or they’ll come kill you and me!’), a lot of loosely knit unrelated events that add up in the crackpot pit of mind to TOTAL WORLD DOMINION as predicted by Nostradumbass or St. John the Hallucinatory.

Oh, and the Betty Mill is vastly amusing. References to Bush’s (Sr.) 1990 speech to the UN (did he say New World Oder? He did! It’s a code word! He’s in on it! Yeah, guy was talking world peace, so that’s what that qualifies, the title is FREEDOM FROM WAR, for Pete's sake.), Malachi’s The Keys of Blood, just more crazy quilt contextomy.

Here, cue the eerie whistle music again:


The infamous NASA Blue Beam Project has four different steps in order to implement the new age religion with the antichrist at its head. We must remember that the new age religion is the very foundation for the new world government, without which religion the dictatorship of the new world order is completely impossible. I'll repeat that: Without a universal belief in the new age religion, the success of the new world order will be impossible! That is why the Blue Beam Project is so important to them, but has been so well hidden until now.

Oh wait, where’d we hear that one before?

The first step concerns the breakdown of all archeological knowledge. It deals with the setup with artificially created earthquakes at certain precise locations on the planet where, supposedly, new discoveries will finally explain to all people the error of all fundamental religious doctrines. The falsification of this information will be used to make all nations believe that their religious doctrines have been misunderstood for centuries and misinterpreted. Psychological preparations for that first step have already been implemented with the film, "2001: A Space Oddessy;" the StarTrek series, and "Star Wars;" all of which deal with invasions from space and the coming together of all nations to repel the invaders. The last films, "Jurrassic Park," deals with the theories of evolution, and claim God's words are lies.

Ah, a larger case of denial I’ve not seen. Are you fucking kidding me? Where have these ‘discoveries’ been unearthed by earthquakes? And I somehow doubt that any ‘earthquake machines’ have been created, let alone possess the required finesse to pinpoint and open a fissure. I’m not saying that earthquakes don’t unearth archeological finds – sure they do. But the ‘error of all fundamental religious doctrines’? They’re ALL in error. Historically, logically, and ironically. But...planting evidence deep underground, and then using seismic technology to unearth it? Do any of these people actually sit down and say this crap out loud, and if they do, do any of them realize, hey, this sounds like a load of horseshit? (Rhetorical question there.)

What is important to understand in the first step is that those earthquakes will hit at different parts of the world where scientific and archeological teachings have indicated that arcane mysteries have been buried. By those types of earthquakes, it will possible for scientists to re-discover those arcane mysteries which will be used to discredit all fundamental religious doctrines. This is the first preparation for the plan for humanity because what they want to do is destroy the beliefs of all Christians and Muslims on the planet. To do that, they need some false "proof" from the far past that will prove to all nations that their religions have all been misinterpreted and misunderstood.

Say whaaa…? Hey, why’d they leave the Jews out? Seriously, that’d be the first attack I’d make in this sci-fi crap. Christianity and Islam are built on the backbone of Judaism. The actuality of the reality is that archeology (sans earthquakes) has pretty much wrecked any of ‘gawd’s truths’ as spouted in those egregiously incorrect texts. Oh, and if you’re wondering where they got the ‘earthquake machine’, it’s actually a pretty common conspiracy patchwork.

The second step involves a gigantic "space show" with three-dimensional optical holograms and sounds, laser projection of multiple holographic images to different parts of the world, each receiving a different image according to predominating regional national religious faith. This new "god's" voice will be speaking in all languages. In order to understand that, we must study various secret services' research done in the last 25 years.

So…are they selling tickets? Note lack of any citations. Which ‘secret services’? KGB? CIA? FBI? Oh wait – let me guess. I’ll need to dose up on way too much coffee and Twinkies, and spend at least 200 hundred hours of ‘reading between the lines’ (or someone else’s mangled versions). ‘The Truth Is Out There’. Yeah, WAY out there.

The Soviet's have perfected an advanced computer, even exported them, and fed them with the minute physio-psycological particulars based on their studies of the anatomy and electro-mechanical composition of the human body, and the studies of the electrical, chemical and biological properties of the human brain.

Yeah, because all the ‘experts’ have such a near seamless command of the human mind. I don’t think so.

These computers were fed, as well, with the languages of all human cultures and their meanings. The dialects of all cultures have been fed into the computers from satellite transmissions. The Soviets began to feed the computers with objective programs like the ones of the new messiah. It also seems that the Soviets - the new world order people - have resorted to suicidal methods with the human society by allocating electronic wavelengths for every person and every society and culture to induce suicidal thoughts if the person doesn't comply with the dictates of the new world order.

Didn’t the USSR collapse? Hmmm… So satellites are pumping suicidal rays into folks who won’t go along, right? How is this NOT a tinfoil hat conspiracy? Is this provable in a lab? Oh wait – because any scientist who’d look too far into the matter will off him/herself. Or have their heads explode like the movie ‘Scanners’.

There are two different aspects of step two. The first is the "space show." Where does the space show come from? The space show, the holographic images will be used in a simulation of the ending during which all nations will be shown scenes which will be the fulfillment of that which they desire to verify the prophecies and adversary events. These will be projected from satellites onto the sodium layer about 60 miles above the earth. We see tests every once in a while, but they are called UFOs and "flying saucers." The result of these deliberately staged events will be to show the world the new "christ," the new messiah, Matreya, for the immediate implementation of the new world religion. Enough truth will be foisted upon an unsuspecting world to hook them into the lie. "Even the most learned will be deceived." The project has perfected the ability for some device to lift up an enormous number of people, as in a rapture, and whisk the entire group into a never-never land. We see tests of this device in the abduction of humans by those mysterious little alien greys. who snatch people out of their beds and through windows into waiting "mother ships."

Yeah, this sounds extremely unlikely. Why? Because the Earth rotates, for one thing. So people getting a ‘vision’ on one side of the planet doesn’t take into account the other half will be in various stages of sleep. And with humanity’s capacity for self-deception, I can accurately predict that 50% of those folks (especially in the US) will refuse to believe it. And alien abduction is pretty much the venue of the mentally disturbed. I also love how these nutjobs tap into the Rapture nonsense as well.

The calculated resistance to the universal religion and the new messiah and the ensuing holy wars will result in the loss of human life on a scale never imagine before in all of human history. The Blue Beam Project will pretend to be the universal fulfillment of the prophecies of old, as major an event as that which occurred 2,000 years ago. In principle, it will make use of the skies as a movie screen (on the sodium layer at about 60 miles) as space-based laser-generating satellites project simultaneous images to the four corners of the planet in every language and dialect according to the region. It deals with the religious aspect of the new world order and is deception and seduction on a massive scale. Computers will coordinate the satellites and software already in place will run the sky show.

So wait a minute. So there’ll be carefully tailored holographic images (plus narration!) that will be displayed on the sky, that will inform these people of some imminent ‘messiah’. And wait…the sodium layer isn’t a solid wall, and between the diffusion of light in the atmosphere and gravitational lensing, that makes this scenario even more far-fetched. Let’s not even factor in the objective speckle pattern, or the near field speckles. What happened to the ‘images beamed directly into the brain’, anyways? These folks are a few clowns shy of a circus.

Holographic images are based on nearly identical signals combining to produce an image or hologram with deep perspective which is equally applicable to acoustic ELF, VLF and LF waves and optical phenomena. Specifically, the show will consist of multiple holographic images to different parts of the world, each receiving a different image according to the specific national, regional religion. Not a single area will be excluded. With computer animation and sounds appearing to emanate from the very depths of space, astonished ardent followers of the various creeds will witness their own returned messaihs in convincing lifelike reality. Then the projections of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddah, Krishna, etc., will merge into one after correct explanations of the mysteries and revelations will have been disclosed. This one god will, in fact, be the antichrist, who will explain that the various scriptures have been misunderstood and misinterpreted, and that the religions of old are responsible for turning brother against brother, and nation against nation, therefore old religions must be abolished to make way for the new age new world religion, representing the one god antichrist they see before them.

(I can actually see the military ramifications – if you’re fighting full out in the Middle East with a bunch of religious crazies, a holy vision in the skies in the guise of Allah telling them to knock it off would go pretty far. In fact, it’s a  great idea, but possible and probable tend to be two very different animals.)

Wow. I mean, just wow. This is a full 30 gallon tinfoil sombrero. This is a powerful illustration of why religion is an anachronism, and why we shouldn’t respect or heed it. It’s a Dunning-Kruger effect (the superiority arises from gleaning illusory clues to a non-existent condition, I’d say, but that’s a guess) on acid. This Apocalypse culture (or cottage industry – take your pick) is dangerous. Because it’s grounded in superstition, and harms society by gleefully predicting the downfall of every social order. How many people bought into this apocalyptic crap, and ruined their own lives, or the lives of others?

Was there a project Blue Beam? There might’ve been. So was Remote Viewing, but that’s been relegated to the purview of the tinfoilers.

These people’s minds and energies are completely misdirected. The only people who are trying to take over the world are the mega-corporations, and that’s for profit. And those fellas just aren’t that organized. And from a historical viewpoint, (almost) all the folks who have attempted world domination lost their asses. Not to the cowboys in the white hats, but to their own arrogance and ineptitude.

As a fantasy novel, or even a graphic novel, this would be a fun read. But we don’t live in a comic book world. That someone would actually believe this nonsense – well, for scariness, I’d rate that as a 9.7 on the Batshit Crazy-ometer.

Of course, I’ll gladly eat these words if all this comes to pass in…let me hazard a guess…in 2012!

Till the next post, then.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Protagonist – A Look At Four Men's’ Lives

Protagonist is a very interesting film, inasmuch as:

Academy-award winning filmmaker Jessica Yu offers an unusual look at the simultaneous diversity and commonality of four very different men in this documentary. In Protagonist, Yu recalls the structural format of the ancient Greek playwright Euripides -- whose stories were often marked by human tragedy, the commentary of a chorus of independent observers, and the sudden and unexpected intervention of the divine -- as she chronicles the lives of a thief, a student of martial arts, a preacher who has renounced his past as a homosexual, and a political terrorist. Protagonist was screened in competition as part of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

The only problem I have with that blurb, was there was absolutely no ‘intervention of the divine’ (whatever the hell that means anyways), and there wasn’t a ‘chorus of independent observers’ (what constitutes a chorus?) – what film was this clown watching?

Anyways, as intriguing as all four of the gentlemen were (Mark Salzman’s observations about martial arts in Western culture as viewed by a teenager are especially apt), of major interest is Mark Pierpoint, homosexual-turned-preacher-turned-heterosexual-turned-back-to-gay. He recounts how he ‘prayed out the gay’, got married, had a major Christian following in Southeast Asia, and in the middle of a huge revival (25,000 people, is what he says), decides he wants a man. Right there. Preachin’ gospel, singin’ hymns, he decides that indeed he is gay (which is irreconcilable with his religion). Ends up marrying another man. Strangely, he still gabbles in the film about ‘you can’t know gawd until you know yourself’, most of that apologetic nonsense.

I give it a thumb up, I’d watch it again.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

How To Profit From The Rapture!

I stumbled across this recently doing ‘net research – HOW TO PROFIT FROM THE RAPTURE!

Dear End Times Investor, Entrepreneur, and Saver:
WELCOME! You’re here because, like every canny individual, you know that you can’t spell “financial responsibility” without the A, the P, the O, the C, the A, the L, the Y, the P, the S, and the E of “apocalypse.”
You know not only that the Rapture can take place at any moment, but that when it does you’ll most likely not “make the cut,” and be left behind here with the rest of us.
And you know that, while such a fate might be disappointing to some, to others—like us; like you—it offers a series of amazing opportunities for financial gains.
While some might see the rise of the Antichrist as a harbinger of doom and destruction, we see it as a chance to achieve solid returns by shorting his bonds.
While some might view the War of the Second Seal as a bloody nightmare of rampaging foot-soldiers, we see it as a chance to score big by investing in sword, shield, and spiked club manufacturers.
While some might consider it a catastrophe when a star made of wormwood falls from outer space and pollutes all of the Earth’s fresh water sources, we see it as a chance to rack up “tasty” profits by selling shares in a can of mandarin orange segments.
So take a look around.  Peruse this site.  And be sure to bookmark it for future reference.  We’ll be blogging regularly with timely updates about how you can take cool, calculated advantage of breaking events to improve your portfolio even as those around you are losing their heads, feet, or various other appendages.
And remember (as we say in our Rapture Financial Minutes, playable here on the site), “Just Because It’s the End Times Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Make Money.”
All best,
Steve and Evie Levy

And yes, it’s satire. The ‘Rapture Financial Minutes’ are extraordinarily amusing. So enjoy.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Straight To Hell – That’s What This Movie Feels Like

Just finished watching Straight To Hell, and wow, the money used to finance this fiasco would’ve been better put to use feeding orphans.

The blurb reads:

After muffing a job for their boss, three ham-fisted hit men (Sy Richardson, Dick Rude and Joe Strummer) rob a bank and flee to a dusty desert hamlet with their gal pal (Courtney Love) in tow. But instead of finding refuge, they find a town run by a gang of coffee junkies who don't take kindly to the quartet's arrival. Dennis Hopper and Grace Jones are among the celebrities who turn up in director Alex Cox's bizarre spoof of spaghetti Westerns.

It’s supposed to be a spaghetti Western spoof, but it’s chock full of ham-handed cultural references that fall flat on their asses. From Pulp Fiction (the main honcho/bank robber is a near-Jackson lookalike who always wears a tie, even in a dusty crap town) to Dusk Till Dawn, to a vague reference to Dawn of the Dead. My main question is, was Courtney Love attractive while Cobain was alive? Because as the pregnant gal-pal, she’s just a whiny skank with a bun in the oven. I got maybe two minor chuckles out of an hour and a half, and since I’m the sort of fellow who laughs at EVERYTHING, that’s pretty sad. The Pogues are actually in this, and the accompanying clip makes it look like it’s way cooler than it is.

So my advice is – avoid this at all costs. Better off reading a book. Two middle fingers WAY up.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Because In Most Cases, It IS Biological, Not Ideological

Gene-BrainImage chemistry

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

Lately, it seems that some folks have been picking fights with me. There was a ridiculous brouhaha here, which led to a severe misdiagnosis of my present mental state. Following this, I actually got into it with an antireductionist asshat at Pharyngula (because despite what my detractors may say about me, I do try to be polite at first, but being accused of something I’m not doing tends to irk me, go figure).

The point of contention (on the second part) is Anthony Powell, the crazed religious youtuber who killed a young woman and then himself. Now I’m just as guilty as any other atheist in pointing out that religion obviously doesn’t improve people like it claims (the common methodology the religious use is the old sharpshooter fallacy, or what I like to call ‘selected highlights), nor is it a ‘force for good in our world’. But as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, for the most part, claiming that religion motivates these people is a specious argument.

Now, I am on record here as citing Grossman’s Law, AKA “Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers.” However, Freud’s famous maxim about cigars also applies.

Because anti-social behavior is predominantly a chemical imbalance.

This is where someone would jump in, and start pointing out differentials between cultures, and how it just can’t be primarily chemical with all the possible equations factored in. I’m going to have to say, yes it is. Because when some mentally ill parent torments a child, there is a biochemical response triggered, it’s a neurological pathway built, a misfire of synapse that sets up an alchemical mix of crazy that usually lasts a lifetime of scar. And if that child as an adult is seeking therapy, usually it’s a combination of verbal communication (this is chemical also) mixed in with (usually) a good dose of medication.

Let’s take another example: the isolated child (foster home or orphan), who has little or no interaction with other human beings through infancy and childhood. Again, this is specifically a chemical response. Again, neurological pathways are built, and in this case the child becomes sullen, withdraw, introverted.

And for a third example, the isolated prisoner. Solitary is the worst possible punishment for a prisoner. Why? Because we are primarily social creatures. Isolation drives most people crazy. The social interactivity is a complex blend, but primarily a heady mix of chemicals. Pheromones, input from the 5 senses, estrogen (or testosterone, contingent on gender)

And from the article from whence I copped the picture:

This neuroimaging research - in normal, non-violent subjects - strengthens the link between low levels of the brain enzyme, known as monoamine oxidase A (MAO A), and aggressive behavior, which has been a topic of research for more than two decades.

"Our study provides evidence of an association between brain MAO A level and aggressive personality traits in normal individuals," said Nelly Alia-Klein, an assistant scientist at Brookhaven Lab's Center for Translational Neuroimaging, who presented her work at the society's 54th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. "If this model of understanding is tested with individuals who actually engage in aggressive or antisocial behavior, such as domestic violence, it could show promise in the future for pharmacological intervention against abnormal aggression," she added.

The researchers assessed brain MAO A activity in 27 healthy, non-violent male volunteers using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning. This technique uses a radiotracer-tagged molecule that binds to brain MAO A and can be measured quantitatively by PET. The subjects also completed a standard, 240-question personality questionnaire, which gave the researchers a complete profile of the men's personalities, not merely their tendency toward aggression.

The main finding: The lower the subjects' brain MAO A activity levels, the more they answered "yes" to statements about taking advantage of others, causing them discomfort, having a short temper, vindictiveness, and enjoying violent movies. "Only aggressive personality was related to brain MAO A activity - not other personality dimensions," Alia-Klein emphasized.

It is important to note that MAO-inhibitor drugs are effective in treating depression and are not associated with aggressive behavior, she added.

And while it’s a complex topic, there are certain indicators. The human body/mind has a specific internal balance. As these balances become out of whack, your doctor prescribes chemicals (sure, sure, for the most part they’re not sure just exactly WHAT causes depression, but there seems to be a specific chemical for alleviation of this particular illness).

So, no, on the larger scale, religion isn’t a cause, what it is is an excuse, or as is more often these days, an umbrella for the deranged to hide under. As for all those folks in the past who committed atrocities in the name of it, well, for the most part people are sheeple (as has been observed before), and are easily led to slaughter or engage in slaughter. So yes, the crazies were in charge, and fear is (unfortunately) a prime motivator to get folks to carry out horrendous deeds. There were perhaps in those days full scale dementia whipped up into a lather by the high shaman (and again, if you’ve ever been to a concert, been in a mob, or been in a revival tent think: all that rhythmic chanting/music/hollering, yep, that was all a chemical response, because there were chemicals being released into the air along with all those other mitigating factors).

Because Man is the animal who deludes himself. We are the species that hallucinates regularly, we are the creatures who hear voices from nowhere and see visions that don’t exist, whose brains can be tricked into imagining that we’re experiencing an OBE.

Till the next post then.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Religulous - Two Fists In The Air

Well, I enjoyed the ever livin' hell out of this movie. It was a little like Root Of All Evil, only with more stand-up comedy, and a lot less intellectual meat.
The long silences that Maher received when he joked around about religion were...interesting. As well as being escorted out of the Utah temple grounds and being evicted from the Vatican.
It's a fun watch, but I expect the Scientologists to be filing a lawsuit any day now.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Because Gawd Wuvs You THIS Much….

If you can’t read the ‘writing on the wall’ after this, then I’ll have to say, you’re very much blind:

Owners call on faith after Christian center fire

ALTON BAY, N.H. – Owners of summer cottages in a tight-knit Christian community gathered to console each other Monday after a massive fire roared through the property on Easter Sunday, destroying dozens of buildings that brought families together for generations.

"It's dust. You don't see timber. You see dust," said Patrick Knittel of Concord. All that remained of his family's cottage was a chimney and a stone stairway leading to a mound of ashes.

Knittel and others who owned the 40 cottages that were destroyed or heavily damaged at the 146-year-old Alton Bay Christian Conference Center gathered as fire investigators tried to figure out what sparked the flames that raced through the community, claiming building after building.

"It was like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom," said Cynthia Bohy, 70, who lives nearby and watched the flames after attending church at the center earlier in the day. Some of the blasts were from propane tanks. Others, she said, seemed to be cottages just exploding into flames. "It was like explosions every two minutes."

Completely natural event. But get this little caveat:

Russ Sample, 55, of Alton, who has spent every summer of his life at the center, said individual families own the cottages, but the center owns the land.

"They are all born-again Christian families," he said.

The center's Web site says its purpose is to change lives in part by "encouraging commitment to Jesus."

Yes, because we know that parents who go around setting fire to their children's homes are quite normal in the head, don’t we? (Oh, wait, there’s that special pleading thing again: the supernatural doesn’t count, somehow the standards are different.)


Monday, April 13, 2009

Time For A Couple Of Classics...

This one NEVER gets old - Robot Chicken:

And of course, Jesus mentioning science:


Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Came, I Saw, I Coulda Stayed Home

So it was depressing as hell.

I got 1 Gold and 1 Silver (in Tai Chi Internal Other and TC Other weapon). I could have sworn I did a way better job than the guy who captured 3rd place in Men’s Advanced Yang.

Oh, but I got a Gold! Big deal. I was the only person in the category. I could have phoned it in: “Hi, yeah, this is Douglas, 1st I do Wu Chi, then I do Grasp Sparrow’s tail, yadda yadda yadda, put the medal in the post please.” But the head judge asked me what style it was, and 3 of the judges came up & shook my hand (something I’ve never seen in a tournament before).

I got a silver in Internal other, competing against a fellow student (hey! I gave him a ride! I shoulda tossed him outta the car halfway there!). For the last 2 months I’ve been bugging my sifu, “Who’s competing, who’ll be there?” He never knew. Then I run into this high-level guy, he claims he’s just the photographer, I turn around, he’s lost the street clothes and is wearing full silks. Kept telling me he was the photographer, up until he got a gold medal. Had I known he’d be there, I’d have trained harder.

On a more skeptical note: Pharyngula had this post the other day, and I ran into one of these guys! No, it wasn’t a bible thumper. It was this Asian con man selling this nonsense:

So I watched him for a bit. He would pull someone over. Tell them to stand in this position, feet together, hands at the side palms up fingers pointing inwards. Then he’d pull downwards to the left, and over they’d topple. Then put amulet in hand/pocket, do again, look! You didn’t topple!

I walked by, and he pulled the barker routine. I said, “I don’t know, I’m skeptical.” He insisted he was a skeptic too (another of their rapport tricks), and he ran his banter on me (it didn’t help that he smelled like he hadn’t wiped his ass proper, I might add). First time, he knocked me over. The second time, I had to put the amulet in my badge (no pockets). He knocked me over. He sputtered, “Well, if you’re going to act like that.” I had to go anyways, as I had events to attend, but I said something in parting about how that was garbage. He tried to explain how I should believe it, since I did Wushu, but his smell was too much, and I had to go.

It’s easy to spot the obvious swindle implicit: of course he’ll knock you over the first time not the second, because now you’re ready for it. The second part of his patter was the knock-over-point. You did the first part, then he sets it up (if you have a friend or kid, I watched this), the friend/kid knocks you over on the second time, first iteration, but then the con man with the amulet points at you, voila! You don’t fall over anymore! Is that magic? Hell no. You’re unconsciously following a script, because he’s established a subconscious rapport, and you’re friends with the guy now, so you follow along.

Sadly, the martial arts abounds with this sort of nonsense. The guy who breaks a wire tied to his chest? He treated the wire to a dab of acid. The guy who tears a phone book in half? He folded the phone books pages in half, to facilitate the tear. The guy who slaps huge bricks, they break? That’s possible, but you can treat bricks so they’re more fragile. Those clowns who seem to be able to knock down/out people from a distance? Hey, you need to be a student AND a believer (though it probably helps to be the former: that way, the instructor’s made some easy money).

Yeah, so it’s not just religion. People look for woo under the surface anywhere, and they want to hear that they’re special, or if they’re not, that they will be special some day soon, for the low low price of 19.95, plus we’ll throw in a set of Ginsu knives along with your inflated sense of worth!

It is to plotz, sometimes, I tell ya.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

I Shan’t Be Posting Anytime Soon…

As I will be off to the Berkeley Wushu Tournament as a competitor in the Tai Chi division, and as such I probably will be there for the entire Saturday.

I’d say wish me luck, but since this will be judged entirely on skill levels, I don’t think luck will have anything to do with it. 


Friday, April 10, 2009

They Were Warned – Regardless, Someone’s Getting Nailed In The Philippines

So back in March, health authorities warned folks not to do this craziness.

So does that stop them? Nooooo….

Manila - More than a dozen men were expected to be nailed to wooden crosses in a northern Philippine city Friday while others whipped their backs bloody in an annual re-enactment of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.

Yes, because their cult tells them they’re worthless unless they do a certain thing…

   Tens of thousands of devotees and tourists flocked to San Fernando City in Pampanga province, 75 kilometers north of Manila, to witness the highlight of Easter celebrations in the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

Ah yes, didn’t Caesar say something about bread and circuses? It was more of a freak bally.

   The crucifixions were being held in three villages in San Fernando City, with the main event taking place in San Pedro Cutud village, where about a dozen men signed up for the crucifixion.

   Another eight signed up in Santa Lucia village and four in nearby San Juan village.

Religion sure does bring out the best in folks, don’t it?

   Dozens of hooded men walked shirtless and barefoot in streets in many parts of the country, hitting their backs with bamboo sticks attached to ropes or whips fitted with broken glass as penance for sins, offerings for wishes or a sign of thanksgiving.

Ay, caramba! And we’re supposed to respect this sort of insanity? Are you kidding me? A cult based on self-mutilation and self-loathing?

These wankers are as crazy as the Scientologists and Mor(m)onologists.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

One, Two, Three, Four, I Declare A…Hold On A Second, Do I Have Better Things To Do?

Well, it looks like I ticked someone off royally.

We had a bit of a set-to at GiFs, and when he began to insinuate that maybe my fondness for Batman was bordering on religious idolatry, I laid into him. A little hard, I might add. He began making some pretty wild accusations, and off we went.

Right about now, I think I’ll have to get a picture of Batman and take a picture of me urinating on it to prove to this guy that I don’t ‘idolize’ some fictional comic book figure.

I mean, really, are you fucking kidding me? It’s a comic book, for crying out loud. I mean maybe it’s a little too much of a fun hobby for me, but I don’t quote from the Gospels Of Marvel, or the Decanter of DC (well, maybe a little Alan Moore, but he’s such a great writer. Neil Gaiman, for that matter as well).

It’s just stupid, is what it is. Two incredibly self absorbed egos (I’m including myself here) bashing away at each other. I was feeling a little bad about this morning, until this cat started accusing me on his own blog of being duplicitous, two-faced, homophobic, all sorts of rubbish. There went that apology, right down the toilet.

The fact is, I think blog wars are a facetious waste of time. These things really are about thin-skinned people letting their subconscious run amok over some minor slight, imagined or real. Besides, there are so MANY other useful things I could be doing rather than whining about how my feelings got hurt. Like, I dunno, finding another job, writing another novel, or just getting my life in order.

So, Old Git. Your feelings are more important than some fictional whack job who dresses up like a flying rat. So I’m extending an olive branch here. Sorry, man, but I’ve been accused of ‘being religious’ by the religious so often that I have a built-in bash factor. My bad.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Sexuality In The Comics: A Brief History, And Some WTFs?

Pursuant to a brief scuffle at GiFs about a Batman picture altered to look like Bats and the Boy Wonder swapping spit. Being a huge fan of the Dark Knight, I threw a few pennies in about it. I realized that the (in)famous Ambiguously Gay Duo from SNL was loosely based on the Dynamic Duo, so I went to look it up. I plagiarized the picture of Northstar from this link – not only a Canadian superhero, but a gay one as well.

Now, I’d been reading this a few days before:

When most non-fanboys think comics, they think of two things; superheroes and Archie Andrews. There was one point in time, however, when comics meant horror and war stories along with sharp satire. Those comics came from one publisher in particular; EC Comics. EC, and its publisher, Bill Gaines, reveled in the fact that they were the "other side" of comics. Some folks, however, took issue with that, namely Dr. Frederic Wertham. Wertham had published two articles in "family magazines," and it led to the creation of a self governing body that ultimately failed. Shortly after, Wertham's infamous Seduction of the Innocent was published and this time, no comic company would escape unscathed.
Ultimately, the US Congress would hold hearings to determine the causes of juvenile delinquency and put Gaines on the stand. Gaines, unfortunately, was not the most eloquent witness to defend the medium. As a result, EC had to drop any title with the words "terror" or "horror" in it, as well as change many things to conform to the new Comics Code Authority. The only title that would survive (and survive to this day) would be Mad, which would change format from comic book to magazine (due to the less strict content censorship). Gaines died in 1992, but not before seeing a resurgence in interest in his old comics. Revenge, like a severed head, is a dish best served cold.

Seduction Of The Innocent was the title of the book written by Dr. Frederic Wertham, in 1954. In it, he ‘laid’ many claims of inappropriate content, as follows:

Seduction of the Innocent cited overt or covert depictions of violence, sex, drug use, and other adult fare within "crime comics"—a term Wertham used to describe not only the popular gangster/murder-oriented titles of the time, but superhero and horror comics as well. The book asserted, largely based on undocumented anecdotes, that reading this material encouraged similar behavior in children.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again: if your kid’s mimicking stupid crap s/he read in a book, comic or otherwise, you may want to spend more quality time with said kid, and maybe teach them a little sense.

Comics, especially the crime/horror titles pioneered by EC, were not lacking in gruesome images; Wertham reproduced these extensively, pointing out what he saw as recurring morbid themes such as "injury to the eye". Many of his other conjectures, particularly about hidden sexual themes (e.g. images of female nudity concealed in drawings of muscles and tree bark, or Batman and Robin as gay partners), met with derision within the comics industry. (Wertham's claim that Wonder Woman had a bondage subtext was somewhat better documented, as her creator William Moulton Marston had admitted as much; however, Wertham also claimed Wonder Woman's strength and independence made her a lesbian.)

Wait: what the FUCK? Female nudity concealed in drawings of muscles and tree bark? Are you kidding me? Was the good ‘doctor’ getting any at all, is my question. Obvious he had some weird hang-up on pederasty, because if you read the 50’s comic strip of Batman ‘N Robin, the only homosexual undertones you’ll find are the ones you hope to find. And WW as a lesbian? Why? Because she wasn’t a stereotypical woman, barefoot in the kitchen and popping out offspring?

Wertham critiqued the commercial environment of comic book publishing and retailing, objecting to air rifles and knives advertised alongside violent stories. Wertham sympathized with retailers who didn't want to sell horror comics, yet were compelled to by their distributors' table d'hôte product line policies.

Hey, boo-fucking-hoo, I say. You don’t like the content in the magazines you sell? Don’t stock them. Simple.

The fame of Seduction of the Innocent added to Wertham's previous celebrity as an expert witness and made him an obvious choice to appear before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency led by anti-crime crusader Estes Kefauver. In extensive testimony before the committee, Wertham restated arguments from his book and pointed to comics as a major cause of juvenile crime. The committee's questioning of their next witness, EC publisher William Gaines, focused on violent scenes of the type Wertham had decried. Though the committee's final report did not blame comics for crime, it recommended that the comics industry tone down its content voluntarily. Possibly taking this as a veiled threat of potential censorship, publishers developed the Comics Code Authority to censor their own content. The new code not only banned violent images, but entire words and concepts (e.g. "terror" and "zombies"), and dictated that criminals must always be punished. This destroyed most EC-style titles, leaving a sanitized subset of superhero comics as the chief remaining genre. Wertham nevertheless considered the Comics Code inadequate to protect youth.

Thanks a bunch to Queen Victoria and her dumbfounding sense of ethics. Do note that the final report was compiled by individuals who weren’t completely obsessed with finding allegorical implications of sexuality. Amazingly enough, however, if you find this book completely intact, it’s worth some serious bank:

Seduction of the Innocent was illustrated with comic-book panels offered as evidence, each accompanied by a line of Wertham's sardonic commentary. The first printing contained a bibliography listing the comic book publishers cited, but fears of lawsuits compelled the publisher to tear the bibliography page from any copies available, so copies with an intact bibliography are rare. Early complete editions of Seduction of the Innocent often sell for high figures among book and comic book collectors.

Among comic-book collectors any comic book with a story or panel referred to in Seduction of the Innocent is known as a "Seduction issue", and is usually more valued than other issues in the same run of a title. Seduction of the Innocent is one of the few non-illustrative works to be listed in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide as a collectible in its own right.

Let’s be frank: Wertham (a Freudian, no surprise there) based his entire theory of Seduction of the Innocent as follows (from the link):

Wertham's first book, The Brain as an Organ (1934), was a scientific study of the brain, which demonstrated his rich training in medicine. His wife provided illustrations of cross sections of the brain which accompanied the book. Wertham completed this book while working at Bellevue Hospital. But Wertham's work with troubled youth, and a clinical interest in popular culture, soon turned his focus to the negative influences of mass media. His 1941 book Dark Legend, later adapted into a play, was based on the true story of a 17-year-old murderer who, according to Wertham, had a dark fantasy life based on movies, radio plays, and comic books. Comics were extremely popular among all youth at the time, so it was not surprising that young criminals also consumed them in large quantities, but Wertham increasingly saw a sinister connection.

There’s also a website dedicated to this work, however, it’s mostly in fun. In the FAQ, it states:

Q: How could Dr. Wertham, who had a pretty impressive scientific background, have been so wrong?
A: Everybody makes mistakes. How could millions of people have bought a Milli Vanilli CD? Nobody's been able to explain it yet, but it happened.

If you do a search on Amazon, there’s a boatload of books he wrote, no reviews, and no synopses. Interesting.

The times, they are a-changing.  Movies, TV, now comic books. Acceptance as a way of life. Sweet. No more saccharine sanitized Ozzie and Harriet nonsense, just good new-fashioned lives, which are messy, but hey, that’s life for ya.

And of course, the religious are running scared.

That was my nickel’s worth. I call heads..


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Because It’s Chemistry, Not Partisanship, That Leaves A Hole In The Heart – Satire In Scapegoat Theater

Yesterday, I posted this as a response to the blathering of Yahya. Today, I’m going for a gedankenexperiment that shows how specious this entire argument is.

Does Republican partisanship breed/attract serial killers? Let’s look at a few:

Gary Ridgway - On 5 November 2003 Gary Leon Ridgway confessed to 48 murders in Seattle's King County, making him the most prolific convicted serial killer in United States history. Ridgway grew up in the Seattle area and worked as a truck painter at the time of the killings, most of which occurred in a 19-month period beginning in 1982. The victims had been strangled and their bodies dumped in ravines and near highways in the vicinity of the Green River in northwestern Washington. The so-called Green River Killer chose mostly prostitutes and runaways. Eventually law enforcement officials released a list of 49 names they believed to be victims of the same killer -- although some of those listed were missing and presumed dead. In 1984 Ridgway was identified as a suspect (he had been seen with one of the victims shortly before she went missing), but the investigation didn't turn up any hard evidence against him. In 2001 he was arrested and charged with four counts of murder after being linked by DNA evidence from a saliva sample he had provided in 1987. In March of 2003 he was charged with 3 more murders in King County, Washington. His guilty plea in November 2003 was part of a deal that spared him the death penalty and gave him a lifelong prison term. Ridgway, who after his arrest led police to four more bodies, confessed to killing 42 of the 49 victims on the list, plus six others not on the list. The Green River Killer is also suspected of murders in Oregon and British Columbia, but Ridgway's 2003 trial did not address those crimes.

Dennis Lynn Rader (born March 9, 1945) is an American serial killer who murdered 10 people in Sedgwick County (in and around Wichita, Kansas), between 1974 and 1991. He was known as the BTK killer (or the BTK strangler), which stands for "bind, torture and kill" and describes his modus operandi. He sent boastful letters describing the details of the killings to police and to local news outlets during the period of time in which the murders took place. After a long hiatus in the 1990s, he resumed sending letters in 2004, leading to his 2005 arrest and subsequent conviction.

Ted Bundy was a clean-cut, smooth-talking serial killer who confessed to raping and killing more than 20 young women between 1974 and 1978. Executed in Florida in 1989 for three murders, his crimes began in Washington state in 1974. Bundy committed his attacks on women while leading a seemingly normal life, first in the Seattle area as a local Republican party campaigner, then in Salt Lake City as a law student at the University of Utah. He was arrested during a traffic stop in 1975, after police found evidence linking him to a kidnapping in Utah and a murder in Colorado. While in jail in Utah, investigators in Washington and Colorado pegged Bundy as a suspect in the disappearances and murders of several others. He was convicted of kidnapping in Utah in 1976 and sentenced to 15 years in jail, but he escaped in late 1977 and made his way to Florida, using the name Chris Hagen. Shortly after arriving in Tallahassee, Bundy attacked four women in a sorority house at Florida State University, killing two. A few weeks later he raped and killed a 12 year-old girl in Lake City, Florida. Bundy was finally apprehended when a Pensacola police officer arrested him for driving a stolen car.

Bundy went on trial for murder, proclaiming his innocence and defending himself in court. The televised trial showed that Bundy could look and talk just like a lawyer; many viewers couldn't believe a poised, normal-looking guy could be guilty of such brutal crimes. After Bundy was convicted and sentenced to death, he reluctantly began to confess to previous unsolved murders, saying an "entity" inside him drove him to rape and kill. In a failed effort to delay his execution he offered to provide more details and confessions, but the state of Florida electrocuted him on 24 January 1989. On the eve of his execution, Bundy was interviewed by Christian media personality James Dobson. Under Dobson's questioning, Bundy claimed an "addiction" to pornography led him to commit violent crimes.

There we have three examples of serial killers who were by their own admission, Republican. Bundy campaigned for one, Rader was voted in on that ticket, and Ridgway is said to have confessed to the arresting sheriff that if the officer ran he’d vote for him, since he was a Republican [citation needed]. Using exceptionally specious logic, we can concoct that the GOP attracts crazy-ass killers.

We can of course, employing the Texas sharp-shooter fallacy, discount the misses (or as I like to call them, the non-selected highlights). John Wayne Gacy was a Democrat. Gilles de RaisCountess Bathory and Prince Vlad were all European monarchs. Dahmer’s political affiliation is unknown, likely GOP. I can’t seem to find any Libertarian or Green Party serial killers. Andrei Chikatilo was likely a communist, but for the most part Wikipedia and Answers.com don’t mention a political affiliation. And why not?

Because it’s STUPID, that’s why.

Because suicides and serial killers are the result of chemistry, not ideology. There’s as much a causal link between psychopaths and political parties as there is between evolution and teen suicides. Which is precisely in the ZERO percentile.

There, that’s my nickel’s worth. Flip it or skip it, it’s up to you.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Blaming Evolution For A Lack Of Parenting Skills…Another Episode Of Scapegoat Theatre

“Complex problems have simple, easy to understand, wrong answers.” - Mencken

I ran across this video, as I was searching for that hoary old chestnut, the ‘evolution breeds killers and suicides’. It’s published by that fatuous Turkish creationist, Harun Yahya AKA Adnan Oktar (yes, that same fellow who’s had many, many problems with the law, even on Sharia turf).
(Note that it can't even seem to spell 'Darwinism' properly.)

Dedicated to Dawkins, it starts out with a mug shot of Jeffrey Dahmer, and regurgitates the old ‘blame evolution for my inability to feel empathy’ crap.

It then proceeds with a Tu Quoque (claiming that evolution is a ‘superstition’ and a ‘religion’, and lays the blame of all our societal ills at the feet of a scientific catalogue of facts.

It also brings up the case of Jesse Kilgore, claiming that Dawkins’ book The God Delusion was the major influence in his suicide (citing of all sources, the less-than-reputable WorldnutDaily). Said video then blathers on with some anecdotal tales about how unspecified religious people were sent spiraling into deep depression. I am put in mind of those ridiculous lawsuits of decades past – do you recall this particular bit of stupidity? Or how about this one? And further idiocies abound – as in the magical thinkers’ aversion to Dungeons And Dragons.

While these are separate topics, they illustrate the point: something as complex as a mental breakdown can’t be pinned on one problem. Dahmer, for instance, was raised in a fundamentalist family atmosphere, and story has it that between the ages of 10 and 15, he became withdrawn, collected dead animal bodies, and even put a dog head on a stake.
I somehow doubt the brief exposure to evolution in a middle school/high school class is likely to trigger incremental psychotic episodes (and seeing as most folks haven’t gone out in droves molesting and cannibalizing young men, I think the causal link here is treading on thin ice).

As to Kilgore: well, at the risk of being brutal, if your kid(s) go(es) out and commit(s) murder and/or suicide based on a book, a song, or even something he/she learned in class, it does boil down to this:

A. You have done a LOUSY job as a parent, and
B. the gene pool is probably better off without them.

And that's my nickel's worth: spend it wisely, or save it for a rainy day.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Profiles In Atheism – The Russian Objectivist

Cross posted @ God is 4 Suckers!aynrandstatement

Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values. – Ayn Rand

I watched Ayn Rand – A Sense Of Life the other day. This documentary borders almost on hagiography – it doesn’t show any of her warts (as all of us have, none of us are seamless), but relentlessly catalogues her rise to fame.

Ayn Rand

Born in Russia as Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, at the age of 12 the Bolshevik revolution wracked her family’s business, and they migrated to Crimea. Later, she enrolled in the University of Petrograd, studying the great philosophers, Plato (whom she despised), Aristotle and Nietzsche (both of whom she admired). She immigrated to the states, changed her name to Ayn Rand, and married an American actor, thereby becoming a U.S citizen.

One of the items I found interesting (one among many) was that she decide at the age of 12, that she was an atheist. This was a choice she stood by her entire life. She hated her native country of Russia, and absolutely loathed communism, and states in one of the myriad television interviews that Russia was a ‘mystical state’, whether it was religious or communist.

The Wiki entry says this of her socio-political views:

Rand held that the only moral social system is laissez-faire capitalism. Her political views were strongly individualist and hence anti-statist and anti-Communist. She exalted what she saw as the heroic American values of rational egoism and individualism. As a champion of rationality, Rand also had a strong opposition to mysticism and religion, which she believed helped foster a crippling culture acting against individual human happiness and success. Rand detested many prominent liberal and conservative politicians of her time, including prominent anti-Communists, such as Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Hubert Humphrey, and Joseph McCarthy's methods.

I’ve always liked old ‘Give ‘em Hell Harry’, and I don’t know enough about Hubert, but she wasn’t far off on the rest of them.

Jim Powell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, considers Rand one of the three founders (along with Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson) of modern American libertarianism, although she rejected libertarianism and the libertarian movement.

Rand's defense of individual liberty almost summarizes her entire philosophy. Since reason is the competent but sole means of human knowledge, it is therefore humanity's most fundamental means of survival. Also, thus, the effort of thinking and the scrupulous use of reason are the most basic virtue of an ethics governed by the requirements of human life. The threat of coercion, however, neutralizes the practical effect of an individual's reason, and whether the force originates from the state or from a criminal, the coerced person must act as required, or, at least, direct his thought to escape. According to Rand, "man's mind will not function at the point of a gun." To put this conversely: freedom "works" because it liberates human reason. Just as freedom of expression is a prerequisite for a vibrant culture, and the development of science and art, so a free market generates new and ever better products and services, as the range of consumer goods and technological innovations in capitalist societies demonstrates, according to Rand. Thus, she argued for the "separation of state and economics in the same way and for the same reasons" as she argued for "the separation of state and church.”

Since reason is "man's basic tool of survival," Rand held that an individual has a natural moral right to act as the judgment of his or her own mind directs and to keep the product of this effort. In Rand's view, this requires that the initiation of physical force and the acquisition of property by fraud be banned. She agreed with America's Founding Fathers that the sole legitimate function of government is the protection of individual rights, including property rights. The purpose of objective criminal and civil law is to protect the individual from the coercion of others, while the purpose of a constitution and Bill of Rights is to protect the individual from the coercion of the state (historically the greatest violator of individual rights in Rand's estimation). Government may use force, that is its essence, but to do so legitimately it must never act as the aggressor––it may use force only in response to an initiation of force, e.g. theft, murder, foreign aggression. Rand did not believe that a free society, one in which all interaction was thus rendered voluntary, would make anyone rational––rationality cannot be compelled and is an exclusive capacity of the individual––but freedom does allow those who are rational and productive to achieve at their highest capacity.

Reason being a capacity of the individual, creative innovation, by its nature, requires the individual to have the freedom to do things differently, to disagree, to buck the trend or consensus, if necessary. According to Rand, therefore, the only type of organized human behavior consistent with the operation of reason is one of voluntary cooperation. Persuasion is the method of reason, a faculty which demands reality be the ultimate arbiter of disputes among men. By its nature, the overtly irrational cannot rely on the use of persuasion, cannot permit the facts to decide differences, and must ultimately resort to force in order to prevail as means of coordinating human behavior. Thus, Rand saw reason and freedom as correlates––just as she saw mysticism and force as correlates.

I can’t add much to that: but she did have some flaws in her reasoning:

Online U.S. News and World Report columnist Sara Dabney Tisdale says academic philosophers have generally dismissed Atlas Shrugged as "sophomoric, preachy, and unoriginal." In addition, Greg Nyquist has written that Rand's philosophy fundamentally misunderstands the very core of human nature. On his blog, Kant scholar William Vallicella has been scathing in describing what he calls her lack of rigour and limited understanding of philosophical subject-matter.

One significant exception to the general lack of attention paid to Rand in academic philosophy is the essay "On the Randian Argument" by Harvard University philosopher Robert Nozick, which appears in his collection, Socratic Puzzles. Nozick is sympathetic to Rand's political conclusions, but does not think her arguments justify them. In particular, his essay criticizes her foundational argument in ethics—laid out most explicitly in her book The Virtue of Selfishness—which claims that one's own life is, for each individual, the ultimate value because it makes all other values possible. Nozick says that to make this argument sound one needs to explain why someone could not rationally prefer dying and thus having no values. Therefore, he argues, her attempt to defend the morality of selfishness is essentially an instance of begging the question. Nozick also argues that Rand's solution to David Hume's famous is-ought problem is unsatisfactory. Tara Smith responds to this criticism in her book Viable Values. Philosophers Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl have also responded to Nozick's article, arguing that there are basic misstatements of Rand's case on Nozick's part.

Rand has also been accused of misinterpreting the works of many of the philosophers that she criticized in her writing. According to Fred Seddon, author of Ayn Rand, Objectivists, and the History of Philosophy (2003), Nathaniel Branden alleged that Rand never read The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant. Seddon argued that Kant was not the "mystic" that Rand portrays him as, and presents David Kelley's The Evidence of the Senses: A Realist Theory of Perception complimentarily but critically as "...the book on epistemology that Rand promised but never wrote." Kelley responded to Seddon criticizing him in turn for having missed not only the essential point of his book but also that of the Objectivist epistemology, while Edward Younkins and others have defended Rand's interpretation of Kant's ideas.

Some of the more scathing critiques:

Left-wing linguist and analytic philosopher Noam Chomsky declared Rand to be "[o]ne of the most evil figures of modern intellectual history." Conservative commentator and founder of the National Review William F. Buckley declared: "Ayn Rand is dead. So, incidentally, is the philosophy she sought to launch dead; it was in fact stillborn."

In a 1984 article called "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand", Nathaniel Branden, while noting that he was still in general agreement with her ideas, criticized Rand for her "scientific conservatism" and alleged indifference to "anything more recent than the work of Sir Isaac Newton," reporting his "astonishment" at hearing her describe the theory of evolution as "only a hypothesis." In contrast, another associate of Rand, Harry Binswanger has argued in The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts that natural selection exemplifies Rand's understanding of biological activity. Branden has also stated his belief that Rand was "closed minded" to subjects such as ESP. Her insistence that Objectivism was an "integrated whole," the departure from which necessarily lead one into logical error, led Branden to conclude that her philosophy was "for all practical purposes" a "dogmatic religion". Since the publication of Rand's private journal entries regarding Branden, however, it has been shown that Rand had warned Branden himself against treating her as a "goddess."

I don’t know what to make of Branden: some of it devolves to ‘he said/she said’, but it sounds like her personal life was excessively messy at some points. (But hey, who doesn’t go through that stage?) I’d have to have an actual citation or sound bite, because I’d be willing to be there was more to it than that quick toss-off (and no, a hypothesis is NOT synonymous with theory), and it sounds like her concerns were more with ‘pure’ philosophy than with scientific acumen. And, as ESP hasn’t withstood the rigors of empirical research, that’s a big thumbs down, baby.

I recall having read Atlas Shrugged back in High School, but only vaguely: it didn’t make much of an impact (I was more enamored of Poe and Lovecraft), so I suppose I’ll have to add it to the reading list. It has become popular again, but the film adaptation is a long time in coming. Hopefully no one will muddle it up with gratuitous sex and violence, but I shan’t hold my breath.

The documentary I’ve mentioned is well worth seeing. There are numerous talk-show excerpts (even when she was on Donohue, from the time before he was a ratings whore), and she speaks in a clear, rational fashion that is fascinating to behold.

For those of you who are further interested, here is the website for the Ayn Rand Institute. For a shorter encapsulation:

  1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

Any questions? Discuss.

Till the next post, then.


Friday, April 03, 2009

The Things That Grind My Gears These Days, I Could Write An Entire Encyclopedia...

But who'd listen, anyways?

So I was just getting out of therapy (physical, so stop right there), and I saw the bumper sticker on your right on an (guess what? Drum roll, please…)
SUV. Sans the SEE ALSO bottom line.

Good thing that person wasn’t in the car. Had they been getting out, they’d have heard me say “Fuck you!” in a very loud voice.

I get a little tired of the same old stupid platitudes. Hey, have you heard this one? Chances are, if you’ve been blogging for around 3-6 months, and said anything defamatory or insulting about religion, or anything resembling a conservative opinion that was horseshit, the response (5 out of 10 times) will be ‘Wow, that’s pretty intolerant for a liberal ’. (You can almost imagine them spitting the word out like insult.)

Why should I be tolerant of stupidity? If someone tells me that they should be able to survive a 40 story drop off a building if they simply believe it strongly enough, I’m going to call bullshit. Likewise, if someone tells me that dropping an atomic bomb should take care of the problems in the Middle East, what am I to do? Nod vacuously, and respect an asshole’s opinion? Not on your life.

So let’s look up a few words, and see what the semantics say.

Liberalism is defined as:

Liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. Within liberalism, there are various streams of thought which compete over the use of the term "liberal" and may propose very different policies, but they are generally united by their support for constitutional liberalism, which encompasses support for: freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, an individual's right to private property, and a transparent system of government. All liberals, as well as some adherents of other political ideologies, support some variant of the form of government known as liberal democracy, with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law.

There I am, an American Liberal (I lean more towards the Social Liberal than most of the other definitions, but I’m just keeping it brief here).

Now let’s define Tolerance:

Toleration and tolerance are terms used in social, cultural and religious contexts to describe attitudes which are "tolerant" (or moderately respectful) of practices or group memberships that may be disapproved of by those in the majority. In practice, "tolerance" indicates support for practices that prohibit ethnic and religious discrimination. Conversely, 'intolerance' may be used to refer to the discriminatory practices sought to be prohibited. Though developed to refer to the religious toleration of minority religious sects following the Protestant Reformation, these terms are increasingly used to refer to a wider range of tolerated practices and groups, or of political parties or ideas widely considered objectionable.

The concept of toleration is controversial. For one, "toleration" does not raise the level of an actual principle or ethic, such as other concepts (respect, reciprocity, love) do. Liberal critics may see in it an inappropriate implication that the "tolerated" custom or behavior is an aberration or that authorities have a right to punish difference; such critics may instead emphasize notions such as civility, pluralism, or respect. Other critics may regard a narrow definition of 'tolerance' as more useful, since it does not require a false expression of enthusiasm for groups or practices which are genuinely disapproved of.

(Yeah, I’ve been on about that before, too.)

I’m going in favor of the narrower definition. Your culture celebrates infant sacrifice, random pillaging, rape? YOUR CULTURE IS WRONG, ASSHOLE! There, that simple.

Any questions?