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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Disappointed With Australia’s Marriage Equality Vote

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Last Wednesday the Australian government voted against marriage equality. That depressed me since polls show that a majority of Australians support equality.

I suspect that much of my disappointment stems from trying to understand Prime Minister Gillard. I am thrilled that an out atheist is the head of a major country. I was impressed when she cancelled speaking at a Christian group when they made statements equating being gay with the health hazards of smoking. Wow! I wish American politicians had a commitment to reality like that.

Yet, Gillard does not support marriage equality. I don’t understand it.

Of course, atheism does not automatically equate with certain social issues. We are seeing the emergence of so-called Atheism + that tries to tie atheism to these social issues. Once I became an out atheist, I almost immediately began supporting rights and equality for LGBT people. Simply put; I realized that all the arguments to supress the LGBT community was entirely religious – I could not think of a single purely secular reason. Since I rejected religion, I had to reject the idea that fellow human beings could not be permitted to marry those that they loved.

I’d love to chat with Ms. Gillard about that.

In the mean time, several more states in the USA have marriage equality votes pending as part of their participation in the November federal election. I am hoping that more of this country sees the light and removes the pointless barriers that block fellow human beings from happiness.

Thoughts On The Chick-fil-A Fiasco

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Last week, every time that I began to write about this something new would crop up. The brouhaha seems to have finally calmed down. Of course; any one who knows me already know which side of the argument that I am on.

At first I applauded when the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco stated that they didn’t want a Chick-fil-A store in their cities. However, I am glad to say that reason returned to my mind. It was wrong to politicize this issue (though it was important for political leaders to speak out as they did, it is preferable to allow the free market to deal with it). I owe a nod to Matthew Paul Turner – a Christian writer – who wrote 5 Reasons Why The Church Failed Yesterday about the failure of the politicization of this issue:

People felt hate and we ignored that. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not your Christian understanding of scripture harbors hate or not, a large group of people felt hated…

Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people. Oh I know that most Christians will say, “I don’t hate gay people!!”

But did supporting CFA Appreciation Day prove that?

As a humanist, I want the best for everybody. If two people love each other and want to marry, they should have that as a right. Religion has often (always?) been at the forefront of supressing people’s rights. In spite of this, we humans have slowly moved forward and made life better.

There was a time when a group of humans with some genetic differences that gave them larger breasts, wider hips and even a different way of peeing, were regarded as inferior to the rest of the humans. These humans were treated as property for far too long. That slowly changed. There is another group of humans with some genetic differences that gave them darker skin; these humans were also seen as inferior and treated as property for too long.

Those struggles still continue to a certain, sad, extent. Today, we have a group of humans with some genetic differences that give them a predilection toward the same gender. This group is often marginalized and treated as inferior or broken. Yet, in time, they too will win out.

I can hardly wait for that day to arrive.

Congratulations NASA on landing Curiosity!

Monday, August 6th, 2012

I was so very pleased to wake this morning and read about the successful landing of the Curiosity Mars Science Lab. What a fantastic achievement! But to immediately follow that up with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter capturing the Curiosity decent – a thousand levels of awesome.

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait said it perfectly:

The news these days is filled with polarization, with hate, with fear, with ignorance. But while these feelings are a part of us, and always will be, they neither dominate nor define us. Not if we don’t let them. When we reach, when we explore, when we’re curious – that’s when we’re at our best. We can learn about the world around us, the Universe around us. It doesn’t divide us, or separate us, or create artificial and wholly made-up barriers between us. As we saw on Twitter, at New York Times Square where hundreds of people watched the landing live, and all over the world: science and exploration bind us together. Science makes the world a better place, and it makes us better people.

Then Dork Tower came out with a great take on news today.

Happy Birthday 145th Canada!

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Before you argue that I am a day late, Canada Day can be celebrated on the following Monday if July 1st falls on a Sunday!

Regardless of the day, Canada is still the very best nation on Earth in my admittedly biased opinion.

Books I Am Currently Reading

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

During my unexpected five week vacation, I managed to get a lot of reading done and/or started. I sure wish that I could read faster though.

As has been the case for some time; much of that reading concerns science, atheism and religion. It is a topic that I find nearly endlessly fascinating. I’ll write another post soon about the books that I have finished reading recently.

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The Believing Brain – Michael Shermer

I am nearly finished reading this and I have loved every page of it. Shermer theorizes that our brains are “belief engines,” thanks to our evolution; we believe something and afterwards find ways to rationalize that belief. We seek patterns and apply agency to those patterns.

He examines not only religious belief but UFOs, conspiracy theories and political beliefs too. The book cites and describes many studies done by psychologists and neurologists that support the author’s thesis.

Although the subject may appear to be dry or erudite, this book is still quite easy to read and understand. It is one of the best I have read. Very highly recommended!

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The Magic Of Reality – Richard Dawkins

This newest book by Professor Dawkins is aimed at younger children but it is still a thoroughly enjoyable read. It provides an excellent overview of the sciences – math, physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy. Along with the science, it also tells many of the various myths stories that surround the topic.

Of course, I already know about evolution, genes, rainbows and such; I don’t need to learn where these things come from. Yet, the writing and the beautiful illustrations by Dave McKean makes reading this book a great experience.

This should be required reading in schools!

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Evolution: How We And All Living Things Came To Be – Daniel Loxton

This book is aimed at an even younger audience than The Magic Of Reality.

It is an excellent introduction to evolution and the story behind speciation. I suspect that it is probably also a useful guide for adults who have had their minds marinated in religious dogma and thus fail to grasp just what evolution is.

For me, Dawkins’ The God Delusion and The Greatest Show On Earth gave me that understanding. But I also want to support this author and encourage him to write more books like this one.

This is a great book to know about should you need help with explaining evolution to a young child.

34th Annual FFRF Convention

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

From October 6th to the 10th, I spent my vacation in Hartford, Connecticut to attend the FFRF Annual Convention.

What an amazing time!

After pre-registering on Friday morning, I attended one of the first trips to the Mark Twain House & Museum. Samuel Clemens and his family lived there for 17 years until he had to sell it in 1903 due to personal bankruptcy. What I found most amazing about this was the hardcore geek that Clemens was for his time. The house features indoor plumbing, forced-air heating, telephone, intercom and even a burglar alarm system.

I met many wonderful people, including some of the people being honoured at the convention. The student activists were truly inspirational – indeed; I wish that I had my current convictions when I was their age and their courage to stand up for the First Amendment.

Three new books have been added to my ever-growing freethinking reading list. Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s  36 Arguments For The Existence of God: A Work Of Fiction. Lastly (and this one I have nearly finished reading already) is Professor Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True.

Awesomely, I was able to get each of them signed by the authors.

I will definitely attend next year’s convention in Portland, Oregon!

Cheers To Mayor Bloomberg!

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

My extend my praise and admiration for New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg!

Amid strong opposition from the Religious Right lobbyist groups, His Honour is insisting on keeping the upcoming September 11 Memorial non-religious. All religion is divisive and exclusive; it is precisely those properties that led to the sadness and destruction of that terrible day.

Not all victims were Christian. Surely many were atheists, agnostic, pagan or otherwise non-religious. Those beliefs and non-beliefs are certainly reflected in their family and friends who mourning their loss.

Be strong Mayor Bloomberg. Let’s make this memorial event include everybody.

Recent Links & Thoughts On Facebook

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

It has been over 18 months since I quit Facebook. The company is pervasive and influential and thus keeps generating news stories either directly or indirectly.

Apparently, those who decline to use Facebook or cellphones face a social stigma. I found this to be quite interesting.

I confess that I do miss certain social aspects of Facebook; I had access to conversations that would be nearly impossible (or decidedly inconvenient) in any other medium. I was “friends” with people that I respect very deeply – notably, Paul Randal and Bill Hill. Indeed, Bill described my quitting as petulant. That gave me a moment of pause to seriously consider my choice.

My reasons for leaving FB were rooted entirely in their lack of respect for privacy and these reasons ultimately outweighed the pleasure I received from those unique conversations.

…the idea that refusal is the only legitimate way to protest something that one thinks is problematic, unconscionable, unethical or immoral.

While I have zero love for Facebook, I stay on it because otherwise I’d miss out on 75 per cent of the invitations in my friends group…

- Alice Marwick, Microsoft Research

More interesting was that Marwick’s study suggested that shunning cellphones also received social punishment. I have a cellphone, but I barely use it. I hate the thing. I pay about $45 per month and I do not get even $5 worth of value from it. Even when my employer provided everyone with a free Windows Phone 7, I refused the offer. While it a very neat device, I can see that I won’t get any use from it that I consider worth the monthly expense.

If my cellphone cost no more than $10 per month, I would embrace the technology.

In Canada a study discovered that teenagers were likely to be more aware of privacy concerns on social media than older adults. They are also more likely to take greater risks online though. There is nothing new in pointing that what gets on the internet, stays on the internet…forever. There are already established tales of people suffering the consequences – intended or otherwise – from exposing their private lives online.

What really got me angry was the Slashdot posting about German news site Heise and their work about changing Facebook’s “like button” into a two-click confirmation process. You may not know this, but Facebook is tracking you via that button even if you have never signed-up for Facebook. This ought to outrage you – yet it is barely known. Furthermore, Facebook is now trying to blacklist Heise.

Here is a company giving its users more privacy and control. If you really want to “like” a given external web page on your Facebook profile, you still can. But other users do not get the stealth tracking data sent back to Facebook World Domination HQ.

I hope that this two-click confirmation catches on and becomes so popular that Facebook will be forced to accept it. Give users real choice and not illusory choice. That is all that I am asking for.

Heck, I wouldn’t rule out a return to Facebook if it were more open to real privacy controls.

Optimism For American Politics

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Scott “Dilbert” Adams recently posted And A Barista Will Lead Them about a possible change in how American politics can work.

Our dynamic political system offers alternatives when we get in this sort of a fix. At the moment, the two most credible challengers to replace President Obama believe that if we pray hard enough we can fix things with magic.

Although that depresses me with its honesty, Adams’ idea is actually a hopeful one. He is referring to Starbuck’s CEO Schultz’s public suggestion for businesses to stop donating to political parties as the first step in a bloodless coup.

I would go so far as to say that donating to a politician or political party in this environment is as close as an ordinary citizen can come to treason. Political contributions broke the government, and a government that stays broken will doom the country.

Very interesting!

I do think a big part of the problem is that corporations got themselves to be treated as people. That is one of the biggest things that must change for this country to get back on its feet and start exceling again. We’ll begin with baby steps and see how Schultz’s idea reverberates.

For now, I have tentative hope.

Now Rick Perry’s Run For POTUS Makes Terrifying Sense…

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

I had a sneaky feeling that there was more to Rick Perry’s illegal (sadly, uncharged) endorsement of The Response prayer rally. His announcement about running for President didn’t surprise me in the slightest. I had no idea that it could get much worse…

I just read Michelle Goldberg’s article A Christian Plot for Domination.

Terrifying stuff if even a quarter of it is true.

To be fair, I also read a dissenting piece by A. Larry Ross. I considered what he had to say but I think that it comes up short; this is especially true with respect to his points about the separation of church and state and the cherry-picking of scriptures.

The United States is facing a crisis with its political situation. I am relieved to not be a citizen here – but I am stuck living here for the time being.

Thunderf00t Explains Some Stuff To Rick Perry…

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

 

I am honestly worried about the upcoming American circus election. As a resident alien, I cannot vote but I am stuck living with the outcome of choices made by delusional people.

Oh No!

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

I should have seen this coming…

The idiot governor of Texas is running for President. I agree with several of the comments on the CBC site:

  • Just what the USA needs, an evangelical Christian at the helm of the country. That will surely speed up the swift and painful demise of what was once the world’s only superpower.
  • Time to get America to cook the books again.
  • Well he loves Jesus and calls global warming "all one contrived phony mess" so the rednecks will love him. They’d much rather trust an evangelist than the world’s scientific community.

The possibility of another Pastor-In-Chief in Washington is truly terrifying.

Although I am tempted to say something about moving to another country if he wins; I’m not sure I’ll be in a position financially to pull up roots that quickly. I’ll just have to watch what happens carefully and plan for the worst.

The Texas Drought & Delusions In The Government

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

I keep annoying my colleagues by quoting temperatures in Celsius rather than the Fahrenheit scale that they refuse to let go of. Regardless, the temperatures around Texas have been brutal for the last few weeks.

Like many others here, I was looking forward to tropical storm Don and the rain that it would surely bring. Wow! I don’t think anybody expected this:

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POOF! Now you see it, now you don’t!

Of course, many Texans are trying to link this weather to the wrath of some fictional deity. Even the governor is in on that delusion; Perry is sponsoring a Christian prayer and fasting rally. Unfortunately, the FFRF lawsuit against him was dismissed. I wish I could be in Houston to help protest this foolishness.

Welcome To The Party South Sudan!

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Today, South Sudan became the newest country to be recognized by the United Nations.

Congratulations! And good luck!

You are going to need that luck; what with being in one of the least developed places of the world and having been ravaged by 50 years of fighting. I hope that you can sort yourself out and show the rest of the nations in the area how it’s done.

Happy 235th Birthday America

Monday, July 4th, 2011

All the very best to my American friends and family today.

Happy 144th Birthday Canada!

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Have a wonderful Canada Day everyone!

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