Help me spend our money

One of the perks of joining the FTBorg collective, aside from the fact that I now share internet real estate with personal heroes of mine, is that my traffic generates revenue. Well… your traffic generates revenue, through a formula based on number of hits and ad sale rates and other numbers that aren’t worth going into. While I do aspire to one day make my living as a writer, the fact that I get any recognition at all for my efforts at this comparatively early stage of the game is incredibly gratifying. I am deeply indebted to all of you who make the Crommunist Manifesto part of your regular reading.

Which brings me to a bit of a conundrum – one I’m hoping you’ll help me out with. I live simply, and in pretty comfortable circumstances – I don’t have a family to support or a vicious drug habit (coughcoughJasonThibealutcough). As a result, the marginal utility of the money the blog makes each month is, for me, pretty low. There are people, however, who could really do something amazing with the 40 or so dollars that this site brings in each month, and many of them are listed at Kiva.org.

For those of you who don’t know, Kiva is a microlending site, where people loan small amounts of money to development projects. The money is usually paid back, and can then go toward financing another loan. They are, apparently, very successful and have a remarkably low rate of default. I figure there’s no better way to put this stuff to use, and I was hoping you could help me.

Every month, when I receive may big fat paycheque, I will open up nominations for a worthy project. What I hope you will do is browse Kiva’s website and suggest a cause that you think is the best candidate. I’ll look through your suggestions and pick one. As the loans are repaid and the blog generates more revenue, we will be able to fund multiple projects every month.

So here’s the kickoff post:

For the month of October (the first month this site went live), we made $46.38.

Total amount loaned so far: $0
Total loan funds repaid: $0
Fund balance: $46.38

Where should our inaugural loan go? Put your suggestions in the comments and I will announce the winner in a week’s time.

Movie Friday: How to debate an atheist child

Here’s a movie from the exact opposite of my upbringing:

For too many children, the idea of the gods is not one that can be treated like any other idea. It cannot be debated, it cannot be rejected, it cannot be tested using evidence; it must simply be believed. In the video above, this belief is enforced by violence.

My childhood was not like this in any way. Despite growing up in a practicing Catholic household, I was always encouraged to challenge authority figures and ask questions (I’m sure dad regrets giving me that advice). Sure, dad was a former priest, and we attended church every Sunday and I sang in the choir and was valedictorian of my confirmation class and taught Sunday school… but no idea was ever too taboo to discuss. I remember a long car ride wherein the merit of group practice was debated, and where I first encountered the argument from popularity as a justification for faith.

To my credit, I was a skeptic even when I was a believer. I simply made the mistake of assuming that there were good answers that I just hadn’t found yet.

I have a younger cousin who is reaching the age I was when I first began to question religion. Instead of the usual toy or game that I usually buy him, this year I bought him an illustrated anniversary edition of Bill Bryson’s excellent science book A Short History of Nearly Everything. I received this book as a gift in my teenage years, and it was probably the best “how do we know this” book I’ve ever read. Bryson walks the reader through what was known, and how that story developed into what we know now. As a skeptic “how do you know that” is now my bread and butter. I have Bryson’s book to thank for that, at least in part.

I wrote this inside the cover:

To N_____: Your mind is the most powerful weapon you have, and questions are its most potent ammunition. No question is more powerful than this: ‘how do you know that?’

Be always wary of the easy answer, and never be afraid to challenge authority. The truth is usually found after digging it out from among many falsehoods, and science is the best tool we have for that task.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did, and I hope it fills you with many questions.

If he’s not an atheist by the time he’s 20, I will consider myself a failure.

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Dictatorship in utero

They’re so adorable when they’re little:

The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has told the BBC that he will rule for “one billion years”, if God wills. He said critics who accused him of winning last month’s elections through intimidation and fraud could “go to hell”. The West African regional body Ecowas said the electorate had been “cowed by repression”.

Mr Jammeh, who took power in a coup in 1994, was re-elected with 72% of the figures, official figures show. The 46 year old said he did not fear a fate similar to Egypt’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak or killed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. “My fate is in the hands of almighty Allah,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

I am reminded of a true story involving a star NHL goalie, a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, and a highly-amused police officer. It seems that the goalie, when pulled over and informed that he was under arrest for drunk driving, slurred to the cop “do you know who I am?” When the officer responded in the negative, the goalie said “I’m ________, and if you let me go, I’ll give you a billion dollars.” The judge would later rule that this drunken offer did not constitute attempted bribery, as the hockey player did not in fact have a billion dollars to offer. If he had instead offered a million, well that would be quite a different story. The extravagance of the boast was all that kept the man from serving a much larger sentence.

While this story is funny in an awkward, dark sort of way, it’s actually nighmarish for the poor people of The Gambia who are forced to deal with a political leader who is both powerful and insane. The interesting thing about Mubarak and Gaddafi is that neither of those guys thought they’d be overthrown, and both lavished praise upon the exact same Allah who would undoubtedly preserve their respective legacies. Of course, the important point has to be made here that they believed in Allah as a symbol of human compassion and well-being, not in an actual intervening entity of any kind </ridiculous faitheist apologist nonsense>.

So how do we spot a developing dictator? Well the first sign is invariably extreme intolerance of any kind of political opposition or criticism from the media. Let’s see how President “Billion Years” Jammeh stacks up:

In 2004, the editor of the privately owned The Point newspaper, Deyda Hydara, was gunned down, but no-one has been charged over his murder. In the BBC interview, Mr Jammeh denied that the government’s security agents had killed him.

“Listen to me: Is he the only Gambian who died? Is he better than Gambians who die in accidents, Gambians who die at sea, Gambians who die on their way to Europe?” Mr Jammeh asked. “Other people have also died in this country. So why is Deyda Hydara so special?”

Not bad, not bad. Defiant with more than just a touch of crazy. Bonus points for not actually answering the charge, but instead pivoting to “shit happens, what are you gonna do?” Of course, for full marks President “Drunken Boast” Jammeh would have had to deny any involvement, while simultaneously saying that any other critical journalists would meet an identical fate.

The next sure sign of a burgeoning dictator is the process by which the leader becomes an embodiment of the state, appointed to that position by (usually) the almighty or some ‘not based on statistics’ view of the wishes of ‘the people’. Mr. Jammeh?

Mr Jammeh said he was not bothered by the criticism of human rights groups. “I will not bow down before anybody, except the almighty Allah and if they don’t like that they can go to hell,” he said.

Once again, not big-league, but an admirable showing. For full marks, Mr. Jammeh would have had to invoke the entire arc of history as leading up to his glorious ascension as the truly appointed leader. Maybe he should get on the horn to Newt Gingrich for some lessons in megalomania.

Give him another decade or so, and I think Mr. Jammeh will have become a household name. At the very least, he’ll qualify for an invitation to dinner with ol’ Pigfucker.

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A ghost of Christmas past

It’s Boxing Day here in Canada, which is a statutory holiday, and absolute MADNESS in the stores. The legend goes that Boxing Day got its start as the day when gifts go back in their boxes and get returned to the store for stuff you actually wanted. In the spirit of returning stuff, here is a golden oldie from my very first blog that I started back in 2004 with a buddy of mine from Greece. In this edition, I take the piss out of Christmas music.

A Porocrom look at Christmas Music

It’s that time of year again… when there’s a crisp chill in the air, and a spring in your step. Where the only force stronger than the love that unites all of mankind is the force urging shoppers to trample each other in order to save 50 cents on a dented DVD player. It’s that magical time of year that we tell children to follow in the example of the baby Jesus and DEMAND another fucking Furby doll from parents too kid-whipped to stop and think what long-term damage mindless commercialism could do to their progeny.

It’s the one time of year that the voices in your head telling you to pull out an AK and spray death all over your local mall are drowned out by the sickening pablum of

Christmas Music

In true Porocrom style, I’m here to take a closer look at the songs that warm our hearts as we empty our pockets. Maybe some of the insanity that accompanies this season can be explained by the drivel that we play ad nauseam year in and out.

[Read more...]

It’s a special day for another reason

I almost forgot to mark this, as anniversaries don’t really mean much to me, but it was December 25th, 2007 when I finally ‘came out’ to myself as an atheist. I had been a de facto atheist for a few years before that, but it was during Christmas mass, seated next to my still-Catholic parents, that I finally turned that corner in my mind and said that, in all likelihood, there were no gods.

I’ve talked about this in greater detail previously.

I still attend Christmas mass with my family – an event that fills me with dread in the weeks leading up to it, and angry nausea for the 90 or so minutes I am actually forced to sit in a church without the option of saying the word “bullshit”. Every time I attend is worse than the last. The latest assault to the sensibility was the new hyper-cultish language in the Catholic service. That, coupled with the homily (“do you allow God to be bigger than yourself? Can you live a God-centred life?”) raised every skeptical hackle I possess – I definitely pulled my David Silverman face more than once:

 

It is, I suppose, a sign that the skeptical arguments are persuasive – I cannot participate in, or even be present for, a Christian worship service without seeing a brainwashing death cult. It casts an appalling light on the earnestness and gaiety with which young people participate in the readings and hymns; my mind immediately bemoans that fact that this energy and enthusiasm is being wasted in the service of an imaginary friend. Imagine if that hour spent verbally jerking Yahweh off (in the hope of being splashed with a droplet of his divine spunk after we face our own ‘happy ending’), was instead spent by every person in that church doing something nice for a friend or neighbour – what a Christmas that would be!

If there is any similarity between theist paradise and church worship, YahwAlladdha could not devise a better hell for me than sending me to heaven – I can’t help but imagine that this is indeed “a boot stamping on a human face – forever”. Now that I am free of these obligations (my annual Christmas attendance notwithstanding), I revel in and savour my atheism as it has put me securely in the driver’s seat of my own life, free of the cloying spectre of clergical busybodies attempting to insert their cold fingers into every private inch of my thoughts.

I am now the maximum number of days away from having to go back to church that I will be for the whole year. That is a tiding that brings me both comfort and joy. Hoping that this day, and all the ones to come, are merry and bright.

Rawwwwr!

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Happy Monkey! Getting in the Xmas spirit

Whatever your practice on this most confused of holidays (if it is indeed a holiday for you or just another Sunday), here is a video that will certainly have you donning your… well, just watch the video:

In case anyone was curious – I can’t move like that. Not voluntarily, anyway.

Happy Monkey, everyone!

Movie Friday: Last Dictator Standing

Long-time Cromrades will know that I have nothing but the deepest respect and affection for Robert “Pigfucker” Mugabe – a man who brings new meaning to the term “horrible African dictator with a prolapsed anus from the time he got fucked by an elephant”. This is a man who has made it a crime to insult him, which of course is like waving a giant red flag in front of a bull, and then letting that bull fuck Robert Mugabe’s prolapsed anus.

I don’t just love him because of his stance on free speech. No, there’s so much more to love: his repeated human rights abuses, his open contempt for international law, his complete mismanagement of his country, the fact that he’s completely destroyed any hope that Zimbabwe will be able to climb its way out of the hole he’s dug for it. My favourite part about him has to be his keen sense of humour though.

You see, there’s nothing that old Pigfucker loves more than a hearty joke at his expense. He was concerned because Nando’s, a chicken restaurant chain, didn’t have the clout required to make the above video a worldwide sensation. Being a keen observer of human foibles, he knew exactly what he needed to do to ensure that people the whole world over could share in this hilarious joke – he banned it:

A South African fast food chain has withdrawn a TV advert which pokes fun at Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as “the last dictator standing”. Nando’s South Africa said it decided to act after receiving threats to its staff in Zimbabwe from a youth group loyal to Mr Mugabe.

(snip)

Nando’s South Africa decided to axe its commercial after Mugabe loyalists from the Chipangano group had called for a boycott and other unspecified punitive action against the company. “We condemn such adverts because it reduces our president to be someone without values,” Chipangano leader Jimmy Kunaka told the BBC’s Brian Hungwe earlier this week.

Of course, as anyone with half a brain knows, trying to stop people from doing something makes it more tempting. When it’s someone as well-loved as ol’ Pigfucker, it becomes international news! So congratulations, Bob – thanks to your genius intervention, people all over the world can laugh about what a despicable waste of carbon you are.

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Because y’all need a prodding from time to time

When I discuss racism, I devote most of my time to exploring it in its modern context. This usually manifests itself as systemic practices that result in de facto racism (that is, having the same effect as intentional racism), or as subconscious ideas that amount to the same thing as active prejudice. These kinds of commentaries intentionally neglect the kind of violent or hateful acts that we associate with ‘classical’ racism, because I do not wish to become fixated on a phenomenon that is very cognitively available but far less common.

However, from time to time I feel it necessary to remind you (and myself) that this kind of white-hooded cross-burning racism is still alive and well:

Two Lower Mainland men who police say are in a neo-Nazi group are facing assault charges in connection with disturbing attacks on minorities. The B.C. Hate Crime Team announced the charges against Robertson De Chazal, 25, and Shawn MacDonald, 39, at a news conference in Vancouver Friday. The team, a joint RCMP-municipal police unit, conducted reviews of four assault files dating back to 2008 and unearthed new evidence that led to the charges against De Chazal and MacDonald, who police say are linked to an international hate group called Blood and Honour. [Read more...]

Happy Holidays!

This post is meant to serve as a ‘heads-up’ for those of you who will be reading between now and the new year. Because I live in Vancouver but my parents do not, the time has come for me to make my annual pilgrimage to the Center of the Universe (Toronto) and see family and friends. During this time I tend to blog less because I am well outside my normal routine. It’s a holiday for me too, which means that I will be relaxing my “one thousand words a day or more” policy. I have a bunch of stuff still on file to talk about, so you can keep checking back from time to time for new stuff.

I will be back to my usual self the first week of January, so fear not.

Religion and Science “Peacemakers”? Stupid, stupid man…

I don’t know who Paul Wallace is, but I know the kind of person he is. He’s the kind of person that makes sure to shave (with a dull straight-razor) minutes before swimming in the shark tank. He’s the kind of person who makes sure to wear his best red cape before running with the bulls. He’s the kind of person who seeks shelter from a lightning storm by climbing the tallest cell phone tower he can find.

In other words, he’s a moron who invites calamity on himself.

What makes me say this? Because Paul Wallace is the kind of man who creates a top-10 list of religious/science “Peacemakers”… and then publishes it on the internet: [Read more...]