Update on Avaaz petition vs Sun TV aka ‘Fox News North’

Just received this via e-mail, having subscribed to the Avaaz petition against Stephen Harper’s attempt to force Sun TV, the propaganda wing of the Conservative party, on all cable users. This is the infamous “Fox News North” station about which Harper commiserated with Murdoch et al.

Dear amazing Avaaz community across Canada,

Kory Teneycke, PM Harper’s former spin doctor, resigned in disgrace last week as head of “Fox News North”, citing our campaign. Sun media threw everything at us but Canadians didn’t back down. We’re winning, but we’re not done. “Fox News North” still wants the government to force cable companies to include them in our cable packages. Let’s finish the job and rally thousands of voices asking the CRTC to stand up to “Fox News North”:

We’ve got them on the run! When 80,000 of us signed a petition refusing to be forced to pay for “Fox News North” (aka SunTV) on our cable bills, the Sun media empire threw everything they had at us – smear pieces in their newspapers, threatened lawsuits, and SunTV frontman Kory Teneycke even admitted insider knowledge of a criminal sabotage of our petition!

But Canadians didn’t back down – we donated over $110,000 to meet the legal threats, conveyed our concerns in the media on several news shows, and demanded a criminal investigation into the sabotage of our campaign. And it’s working! Kory Teneycke, PM Harper’s former spin doctor, resigned in disgrace last week as head of Fox News North, citing our campaign and admitting he had “debased the debate”.

This isn’t over. Teneycke was replaced by yet another conservative Prime Minister’s spin doctor and “Fox News North” still wants the government to force cable companies to include them in our cable packages. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will make the decision and their deadline is approaching — let’s send a flood of public messages directly asking the CRTC to enforce its own policies, and deny a government handout to boost the crony-propaganda and smear journalism of “Fox News North”:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/crtc_no_handouts/?vl

Teneycke’s resignation came 24 hours after we requested a criminal investigation into the sabotage of our petition. But his spin suggested it was attempt to cleanse “Fox News North” (aka Sun TV) of its reputation for crony journalism and smear tactics. That reputation was immediately upheld, however, as Sun Media just replaced Teneycke with Luc Lavoie, who was Brian Mulroney’s spin doctor and left office amid questions about a $300,000 corruption scandal.

The smears in Sun-Media’s echo chamber are that Avaaz is all Americans (why would they care about this issue?!), that our petition is fraudulent or signed by Americans, that we’re a front group for billionaire George Soros, that we’re pro-censorship, and a half-dozen other ridiculous untruths. Canadian author and national treasure Margaret Atwood has responded with an Op-Ed answering smears against both her and Avaaz in Sun Newspapers. (see links at bottom of email — also see Avaaz director Ricken Patel debate Kory Teneycke on the CBC).

This kind of crony-media and it’s smearing and often hateful tactics is undermining democracy in many countries by offering it’s propaganda services in return for political favours. We have just 10 days left to get a tidal wave of public comments into the CRTC asking for this toxic new network to be denied a special government favour to fund their launch. Click below to send a message directly to the CRTC:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/crtc_no_handouts/?vl

Since Teneycke’s resignation, Avaaz has been flooded with messages from Canadians brimming with enthusiasm and optimism for what we can accomplish together. Together we’re taking on one of the country’s largest and most unscrupulous media empires, and we’re winning. Just imagine what’s possible for the future.

With hope and excitement,
Ricken, Emma, Laryn and the whole Avaaz team.

Margaret Atwood’s Op-Ed in the Sun:
http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/2010/09/17/15388296.html

Ricken discuses Teneycke’s departure LIVE on CBC:
http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/Featured_Videos/ID=1592304620

Ricken debates Kory Teneycke LIVE on CBC:
http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/Featured_Videos/ID=1582123926


Support the Avaaz community! We’re entirely funded by donations and receive no money from governments or corporations. Our dedicated team ensures even the smallest contributions go a long way — donate here.

Thought you might like to know.

Danger, danger! High voltage!

This is amazing. A guy in a faraday cage suit, inspecting high-voltage wires from the outside of a helicopter, or by shimmying along them like a rope bridge. I sure as hell couldn’t do it.

The original video I’d embedded, just got disabled for embedding — you can view it right here. And there are more videos by the FlyingLineman on his Youtube channel.

Hat tip to Dan J of Relatively Unrelated for tweeting this link earlier. Unbelievable.

Play Like a Pirate

No, no, not that way. Telltale Games is going to offer a treasure trove of booty for a sixpence starting tomorrow, in honor of today’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Of course, with inflation, a sixpence is actually $4.95, and the “treasure trove” is actually the complete Tales of Monkey Island season, but it should still provide you with enough swashbuckling and grog to whet your appetite for adventure on the high seas.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that the adventure game genre has always been my favorite, when it comes to video games. The plots are usually outlandish, you’re usually expected to try to out-think the game designers in a crazily meta fashion, and many of them even include high replay value by virtue of great voice acting or multiple endings. While Monkey Island has never really had a branching story line, the meta puzzles — the ones that take your expectations of the point-and-click adventure game and put them on their ear — have never been as good as they are in this series. LucasArts picked the right people for the job when they trusted the Monkey Island franchise to Telltale, most famous for resurrecting Sam and Max and actually managing to turn the Homestar Runner gang into an enjoyable adventure series in Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People. (Yeah, I had a good deal of doubt the latter could actualy happen.)

One of my big concerns in having Telltale take over the franchise was, whether the existing material would be done justice. Watch the trailer for an idea of how in-tune with the original series the Telltale folks were.

So go grab the season while it’s dirt-cheap, if you’re not sure about whether you’d like it or not. Though it’s actually worth the full season price, there’s a hell of a lot less risk in getting it now.

Or is it more appropriate for a pirate such as yourself to engage in such risks?

How the Pope Learned to Use the Big Lie

In my last blog post, I alluded very briefly and without much detail to Pope Joseph Ratzinger’s recent polemic against secularism, wherein he blamed secularism for the rise of Nazi Germany. I was immediately struck by how patently false and revisionist the claim was, and was honestly surprised to see it coming from such a person as the Pope. I mean, I’m used to hearing from your average theist guttersnipe troll about how Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot and Stalin were all atheists, and how their atheism led directly to the crimes against humanity they perpetrated (every claim being generally easy to knock out, but the Hitler one being the easiest), but to hear it from The Boss, the man who claims the infallibility of God? Well, that’s particularly galling. At least his nonsense is not going wholly unopposed, though I wish people were paying more attention to the anti-secularist hate speech he’s committing.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Ratzinger is not an immoral and grossly misguided man, with delusions of grandeur and an agenda that demonstrably runs roughshod over human rights and the innocent children victimized by the clergy under his protection, merely by virtue of having been a member of the Hitler Youth. Membership was mandatory by law when he was a child, so he didn’t have much choice — it was either be quiet and play along, or speak up and do the right thing at the potential cost of his life. So unless he had some special virtue or uncommon reserve of courage unavailable to the average man, which he evidently did not, one cannot blame him for doing what most of us would likely do in his situation. The lessons he took from this oppression, however, were evidently the wrong ones.

Stephanie Zvan points out how like the propaganda employed by the Nazis, in fomenting the inherent antisemitism prevalent in the mostly-Catholic population, his tactics are. I will take it a step further and say it is an outright lie. Not just a lie, but a Big Lie, a propaganda tactic most famously employed by Hitler himself in scapegoating the Jews for the ills of his society. I contend that Ratzinger knows it is a lie, and has chosen to spread it despite his claims to special virtue.

Being the scholarly sort, or at least being PORTRAYED as the scholarly sort, you’d think Ratzy would have remembered the Lateran treaties between Pope Pius IX and Benito Mussolini, one of the key players in the creation of Fascism as a political movement. Mussolini considered Catholicism to be nothing better than a useful tool in the subjugation of his country’s people, feigning piety only to assert control over the Church. Without his actions in creating the Vatican State, the Pope might today be subject to the laws of the Italy and any treaties they have with others, including extradition treaties that might see the Pope called to account for his roles in covering up child rape cases.

You’d think Benny would remember the Reichskonkordat, the bilateral treaty between the Catholic church and the German state guaranteeing the Church and its clergy rights in Germany, which was signed by Hitler in 1933. The rights afforded, included a guarantee that all schools would teach Catholicism, the right to collect church taxes, and the exemption of all clergy members from all political party functions or membership.

You’d think the ostensibly-infallible Palpatine-lookalike would remember all the expressions of faith in the Catholic religion expressed by Hitler in Mein Kampf, and throughout his political life, or his expressions against atheism as being a function of Communism, his party’s diametrical enemy. His profession that, “[h]ence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord”, should be enough to show the man to be a practicing Catholic. If not that, then his frequent exhortation that “God [is] with us” should be clear. And the extraordinary existing documentation of pictures of Catholic clergy cozying up to the politicos (and I sincerely apologize for who’s hosting those pictures) would show that they’re anything but enemies.

The evidence runs counter to the Pope’s repeated lies about the Nazis. He cannot be ignorant of this evidence, so I have to assume that he is lying in a calculated fashion, in emulation of the lessons he himself learned during the Holocaust. They were not lessons of tolerance and respect for differences — rather, they were lessons in how to sway with gross propaganda an unwitting populace that believes you incapable of lying in such a fashion.

I repeat my previous call to arrest the Pope, as the man is demonstrably covering up actual crimes, all while fomenting religious intolerance against atheists, who are possibly the last acceptable religious minority to slander — and I say this knowing full well that people like to make the exact same claim about Catholics. I don’t pretend that the call to arrest him is not influenced by the emotions behind being told I am responsible for the evils of society. I embrace that anger, in fact, as it adds passion to my words when I say that Pope Ratzinger has covered up more evil done to this society in the name of his deity, than any atheist has ever done in the name of no-deity. And his claims that secularism leads directly to evil totalitarian regimes is, like every other aspect of the Big Lie, directly undermined by reality.

Tim Minchin’s Pope Song free for the taking

Remember this?

Of course you do!

In honor of Pope Palpatine’s grand UK tour, Tim Minchin has released his song as a DRM-free mp3, at least until the dark cloud is lifted from England’s shores. Go grab it while you have the chance. Stick it to the guy that preaches tolerance in the same breath as denouncing atheism as having something to do with Nazi Germany. Yeah, Godwin’s Law, and totally patently false in the face of history.

A sweetened load of bull

I’m sure you’ve heard the news that, in the States, corn producers have recently petitioned the Food and Drug Administration for the right to rebrand High Fructose Corn Syrup to the simpler “corn sugar” after HFCS’ use dipped almost 20% in recent years. The name “high fructose corn syrup” has been judged in the public eye as being responsible for the epidemic of obesity that America’s plenty has wrought over the past forty years, regardless of the science behind the situation, so the corn industry did what anyone without scruples would in the circumstances — when judged as being in the wrong, rather than changing your ways, simply rename yourself so all the old associations slide off your back. Blackwater did it by renaming themselves Xe, and Jamie Darkstar used to be called Jamie Funk — neither entities changed their ways, merely their branding. It’s what people do when they see public opinion trending against them. Understandable in a way, but a bit galling to those of us with an eye on the memory hole.

Here in Canada, it’s listed on labels as “glucose/fructose”. In the UK, it’s alternately known as “isoglucose”, “maize syrup”, or “glucose-fructose syrup”. The substance is the same though, and what effects it may have metabolically are, obviously, wholly divested from what you call it. Corn sugar by any other name would taste as sweet, and all that. HFCS-55 has roughly the same proportion of fructose to glucose as honey, though its chemical makeup is different. The important thing to note here is that HFCS has gotten enough of a bad name that people are actively looking for and avoiding it in products — since one is supposed to only eat such sugars in moderation, and HFCS is so bloody omnipresent, this is an unavoidable consequence. Heinz Ketchup has switched back to using cane sugar as a result of this public opinion dip, in fact. Some soft drink manufacturers are creating “throwback” labels for their drinks that use the original recipes, e.g. the Mexican and the Kosher Coke.

HFCS is made from milled corn processed by enzymes to draw out the sugars. It is cheaper by far than sugar in the States, due to a series of tariffs placed on imports for cane sugar in the 70′s, and due to the ongoing heavy subsidization of the entire corn farming industry. Ostensibly, this subsidy to aid the poor in obtaining healthy food. Obviously this is not entirely the case — not when so much of it is being used either for ethanol production or production of HFCS, rather than as corn or corn meal.

But the question remains, is this sudden distaste for the sweetener merited? The answer, of course, is a resounding… “maybe”. (What? This world is nuanced. Deal with it!)

There’s research showing that, for instance, at least in rodents, HFCS administered in the same quantity as table sugar and with the exact same caloric intake produced fatter rats across the board. Lipogenesis apparently happens easier in rodents than in mammals, though, so you can’t directly extrapolate this onto humans; and the study does not compare HFCS with honey which would be a better test of whether fructose is responsible, or whether the heavy processing involved in HFCS creation might have something to do with it. Mind you, I’m not one to try to make the “natural is better” argument — I wouldn’t by a long shot ever advocate that you should sweeten your drinks with an angry bear (it’s all-natural!). That said, it’s pretty certain that HFCS is less “healthy” than cane sugar in rats in equal amount, and since we don’t usually use honey as a sweetener nearly as much as table sugar, it’s an incomplete result, but a useful result in determining that there may be something to the anti-HFCS crowd’s claims.

But even those claims are overblown. Even if the prevalence of high-fructose sweetening in just about everything you stick in your gaping craw is directly responsible for an increase in lipogenesis in humans, it’s not “poison”. Small amounts of it are metabolically indistinguishable from sugar. But the research done on HFCS does show that increased consumption can have some deleterious effects.

And these effects are well enough known that the manufacturers of HFCS have taken it upon themselves to try to rebrand their product, in order to stem the bleeding. We can’t let them get away with shoving their skeletons down into a memory hole. That’s not playing fair. Either the science shows they’re on the right, or wrong, side of the truth.

On a sidebar, people who want to implement a “soda tax” to reduce obesity may be right about it, but they have the whole thing wrong, especially insofar as it will disproportionately impact the poor. The best place to impact this whole business and correctly rectify this situation is to eliminate the sugar tariffs, and eliminate the corn industry subsidies. Let sugar prices return to their natural levels by taking the thumb off the scales, and companies will prefer to use sugar that doesn’t necessarily cause obesity. You’d think the pro-big-business, anti-big-government Republicans would be all over that plan. Doubtful they’d throw in, given the spread of campaign contributions, though.

The Teabaggers have pitched a really big tent

Ladies and gentlemen, this woman just won the Republican primary for the Delaware senate race. Of course, the Republicans don’t truck with her Tea Partier antics, and won’t be backing her. I can’t see why. She seems like a really good family-values-and-religion type!

Except her “family values” are pretty tarnished, as, you see, she once partied pretty hard in her college days. But that’s behind her, now that she’s found religion and chastity, and now she’s going to turn your country around. She’s pretty much exactly what you need down there, in your senate, to balance out the other fuckwits in the Republican party claiming a lock on “family values”. Like Carl Paladino.

That’s a hell of a tent, if they both fit under it. Under the “family values” banner, no less.

Title hat-tip to Our Lady. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Astrology on the radio, and Jamie Funk’s history purge

I just finished up a wonderful discussion on the astrology debunking post from last month, and the comments that ensued, on Minnesota Atheists Talk Radio. The blurb from their site:

Who says online arguments are worthless? All right, so it probably depends on what you’re arguing about and who you’re arguing with, but even arguing with a bunch of astrologers over whether there’s any proof for astrology can teach you something. If nothing else, it can teach you how not to construct a valid argument over scientific evidence. Join Jason Thibeault (http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/) and Stephanie Zvan (http://almostdiamonds.blogspot.com/) as they discuss what evidence there is for and against astrology, what evidence would be required to prove astrology, and what might happen if astrology were proven true.
The post that started it all: Deepwater Horizon foretold by astrology!!! (Well, post-told) (http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/?p=3895)
The argument against astrology: If it smells like Funk, it must be astrology (http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/?p=3898)
Some code showing how the Mars Effect actually works (http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/?p=4140)
What if astrology WERE true? (http://spiritualityisnoexcuse.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/part-2-what-if-astrology-were-true/

“Atheists Talk” is produced by The Minnesota Atheists.  August Berkshire is the director and Mike Haubrich is the host for today’s show.
Podcast Coming Soon!

I’ll be posting a link to the podcast mp3 as soon as it’s up, as it’s a bit hard to tell you exactly what we talked about this shortly after the program. Suffice it to say I was nervous as all get-out, and we ended up overrunning our time so I couldn’t close with a poem that I really really wanted to read on the air.

Heh. Yes. I was going to read a poem on the air. Someone over at Funk Astrology posted a poem dedicated to me that I really wanted to read out loud, because it’s obvious that RevJ, the author, will go down in history as a scribe of our times.

* RevJ
* August 3rd, 2010 6:03am

Any Canuck who tries to debunk
Jamie and Marina Funk…is a punk.
And probably drunk as a skunk,
with junk in his trunk, and needs his head shrunk.
Matter of fact, Imma call this Canuck a Canunck!
lolsss

I would have even said “lollz”. It would have been a moment of unparalleled geekery on AM talk radio for years to come. Not that I didn’t geek out when August Berkshire, the director for the show and atheist speaker extraordinaire, e-mailed in a question that I had to answer on the fly.

I also wanted to note that Funk Astrology has moved to Dark Star Astrology. The old links are still active. Interestingly, Google shows that all of the posts involving me were migrated:

And yet, if you click on the top link, you get:

… a nice big 404 error! Looks like the post was deleted after the move. I’ve archived the post and comment thread on the original site, in case it ever disappears permanently. At which point, I’ll have to host the mirror locally and link to it on my astrology debunking posts, because I really hate it when people try to make their actions disappear down the memory hole. Intentionally causing internet bit-rot to cover up for your own errors is anathema to my philosophy of how the internet should work to better humankind.

Update: The show’s posted! Go listen.