Movie Friday: 8 out of 10 Cats

Sometimes I wish we had more access to British guiz/game shows. It seems like they have way more fun on theirs than we do on ours.

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Yes, that really is Uri Geller, amazing spoon-bender who has been debunked publicly several times, not the least of which was on the Johnny Carson show. And yet, people are willing to believe he can do crazy shit like make spoons jump across the room.

The host and guests get in some amazing zingers at Uri’s expense:

  • “If you believe in ghosts, go ‘oooooooh'”
  • “This is one of the biggest benders in the world here”
  • Pretty much the entire first half of the 3rd clip

Uri does a pretty decent job of mocking himself though:

  • Host: What do you think people find scary? Uri: Waking up in the morning and seeing your spouse
  • “It’s awful to be attacked by spoons”
  • “Did you know that the first spoon ever found was in the pyramids?

I also still love Tim Minchin. Also, the line “the worst part about being bitten by a poisonous spider is that you’re probably Australian.” Burn.

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Iran and the Catholic Church – not at all strange bedfellows

It never fails to amaze me how regularly religious groups fail to see that they are exactly the same. I saw a clip on The Colbert Report a few nights ago, where an evangelical Christian minister was warning people about how Islam was planning to take over America, and that we should all be worried. I had to do a double-take, as I realized that nobody called the guy out for being an evangelical Christian. By its very nature, evangelical anything means your stated mandate is to convert as many people as possible – this guy is just as guilty as those he’s accusing. Of course Islam has an interest in converting everyone, so does Christianity. Any religion that claims to be the “one true religion” is basically out-and-out stating its intention to bring the whole world under its thumb. To deflate the predictable protest from moderate Muslims and Christians who claim that their faith doesn’t mean they have to convert anyone, I’ll say that your particular version of belief is at odds with direct commandment from your scripture:

Matthew 28:19-20

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 24:12

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Luke 9:1-6

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.

That’s just a handful of passages, please trust that there’s a loooot more. And for the Muslims… well I suppose you can just read this list – YahwAlladdha’s not exactly cool with non-believers.

With both religions claiming to be “the right one”, and having very clear commandments to destroy, convert, or otherwise gain supremacy over those who believe anything differently, it’s hard to imagine that there could be any kind of dialogue between them at all. But of course there is, as long as it’s politically convenient:

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written to the Pope, thanking him for condemning an American pastor’s threat to burn the Koran last month. In his letter, Mr Ahmadinejad also called for closer co-operation between Iran and the Vatican.

I hope nobody is thinking “but the president of Iran isn’t a religious leader.” Iran is an Islamic theocracy, whose real power is wielded by the Ayatollahs. You can’t separate state power from church power – they’re the same thing.

At any rate, the hypocrisy of cozying up to an enemy when it’s convenient doesn’t surprise me, and shouldn’t surprise you. The thing that I found hilarious was this:

Mr Ahmadinejad also called for “a close co-operation of divine religions to restrict destructive moves such as ignoring of religious teachings, influencing people to be materialistic, which were eroding human societies”.

As though not enough religion was the thing eroding human societies. By my count, somewhere around 74 of the posts on this blog alone have been about religion, representing about 1/3 of my total output (including the 6 weeks I intentionally took off because I thought I was talking about religion too much). Iran is a country that is trying to bludgeon people to death with fucking rocks because of religion.

Anyone who thinks that the religions of the world will sit down at the table and play nice once they have unchallenged power over the countries of the world is delusionally ignorant of history and the mandates of religion. This is a match quite literally made in heaven – two oppressive religious theocratic forces attempting to enforce their small-minded agenda on everyone else have finally learned to team up, either out of expediency or necessity.

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Fox News North suffers a setback (hurray!)

Regular readers will remember that I have had a bee in my bonnet about Sun TV, perhaps better known as “Fox News North”. This is an attempt by Quebecor, a media company, to create a 24-hour news channel styled under Fox News. Critics, myself included, have pointed out the destructive influence that Fox News has on the political climate of the United States, pandering to the biases and prejudices of its funders and attempting to shape the political debate rather than report news honestly. Its craven disregard for journalistic ethics and unrelenting hypocrisy have earned it the deserved scorn of pretty much everyone outside the Republican party.

Despite declaring both my bias and the reasons why my bias was irrelevant to why this station was a bad idea, the conservative readers of this blog (both of them, I guess :P) have accused me of being opposed to any point of view that challenges the liberal monopoly on the media. It is accusations like this that make it extremely difficult for me to take conservatives seriously – I have, on this very blog, defended the free speech rights of anti-gay bigots, racists, theocrats, Holocaust deniers and anti-vaccine/alt-med lunatics. You think I draw the line at conservatives? There is no line, and your criticisms are completely without merit. My objection is to the standards of practice that I see evinced on a daily basis by the propaganda arm of the Republican party, and your attempts to equivocate the so-called (but utterly evidence-free) liberal media bias, a phrase invented by the Republican party, of Canadian media with the clear lack of ethics of Fox News do nothing to persuade me of anything other than the fact that you are anti-liberal.

Part of the Sun TV application was for what is known as a “must-carry” license. This would require all cable providers to include Sun TV as part of their regular programming, rather than making it something that people can opt in to, or out of. As much as supporters of Sun TV whinge that “if you don’t like it just don’t watch”, forcing me to pay for the channel so that they can achieve a fan base belies this trite claim. As a matter of principle, forcing opinions on others is a claim that conservatives are always leveling at liberals. As I suspected, and as evinced by Fox News, the kind of people who support Sun TV are perfectly happy to abandon their principles as soon as is convenient (which also explains many of the actions of our federal government). I don’t object to conservatism when it is honestly come by, but I can’t stomach hypocrisy.

Luckily, and at least in part to the public outcry of you good people who signed the petition, Sun TV has withdrawn its application for this special license:

Quebecor Inc. says it is no longer seeking a controversial special licence that would give the new right-leaning Sun TV 24-hour news channel a three-year boost in seeking out viewers. Chief executive Pierre Karl Péladeau told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday that he would likely drop his request for a must-carry exemption on his Category II licence application. The request was expected to be hotly contested, with rivals and many civic groups lining up to oppose the application. Last week, the advocacy group dropped off 10 boxes to the CRTC containing more than 21,000 letters from Canadians opposed to the special licence.

Now this is not all good news for me, since the withdrawal of the application means that there will likely be no public inquiry or hearing, and that the application to broadcast will likely be approved quickly. However, we live in a capitalist system, which means that if you have a product that you think there is a market for, you can certainly sell it. While I am completely opposed to even the existence of a Fox News-like channel, I have no legitimate grounds to protest its moving forward. If we can have pornography, MTV, reality shows and other things that I think are injurious to the public good (well, maybe pornography gets a pass), we can certainly have a channel where opinion is masked as news. I just won’t watch it.

While I’m sure there will be many more tricks pulled by the federal government to funnel support to a station that will be completely uncritical and unflappably supportive of its undemocratic agenda, at least it will live or die by whether or not it can convince anyone outside of Alberta to pay attention. We must be thankful for small victories, I suppose.

The real Doctor Evil

Stuff like this chills me to the bone:

A doctor struck off by the General Medical Council for exploiting people with multiple sclerosis could be facing legal action by patients. A firm of solicitors said hundreds of “vulnerable people” who travelled to the Netherlands for treatment may seek compensation. Dr Robert Trossel treated them at his clinic in Rotterdam, following initial assessments in the UK. He charged thousands of pounds for unproven stem cell treatments.

I take heat from friends, from colleagues, and especially from my nemesis for my stance that sometimes the patient is the person who is the least equipped to make the decision about his/her health care. The reply inevitably comes that “people have a right to make their own health care decisions,” or that “scientific orthodoxy” is dangerous so we shouldn’t trust the evidence. I even field regular criticism from friends that think that we should be allowed to pursue unproven medical techniques (or even those that have been shown not to work) because it might benefit some people (either through placebo or through some kind of individualized magic powers that therapies supposedly have that isn’t detectable through clinical trials).

I offer this case study as an example of why I hold the position that I do, and am happy to defend it without shame. This doctor abused and perverted the trust that his patients placed in him as a caregiver, and used it to perform illegal experiments on them. The reason he was able to do it is because he led them to believe that his ‘treatment’ was going to help them recover from multiple sclerosis – a disease that can paralyze you and take away your autonomy. It is no small wonder to me that people would be willing to do just about anything to obtain relief from a disease like this, even if it’s something that is simultaneously expensive and risky.

As before, I am dismayed that I didn’t pay more attention in English class, or that I’ve largely ignored the vast bodies of literature in the English language, because I find myself at a loss to adequately put my disgust for this kind of predatory and exploitative fraud into words. The kind of callous disregard for the obligation that a health care provider has toward their patients, and for human decency in general, that this doctor has exhibited shocks me to my very core. He drew thousands of dollars from people based on a combination of their trust and desperation for a cure. These are dollars that these people could have used to get home care, or travel, or invest in real research, that have instead been wasted because Mr. Trossel (a doctor no longer) thought that he was above petty concerns like clinical equipoise or biomedical ethics.

It’s for this same reason that I am opposed to expediting the research process for this so-called “liberation therapy” proposed earlier this year. While I am hopeful that the procedure works, my optimism is tempered with a healthy amount of skepticism, precisely because the support for it is emotional rather than rational. This is why we have channels through which research must go – to avoid tragedies of the type perpetrated by this vulture.

After a fleeting improvement, Mr Pear’s [a patient who received the experimental procedure] condition has now deteriorated significantly. Mrs Pear said: “When you are sitting in front of a neurologist who is saying ‘look, there is nothing you can do’, you clutch at straws. I am not saying we are the most intelligent people on God’s Earth, but we certainly are not completely stupid.”

It’s almost a shame that there is no god or supernatural force to hold accountable those who would prey on the vulnerable like this. Luckily, we live in a world that has systems in place to provide a measure of justice, and I hope that someday Mr. Trossel comes to realize how evil and heartless his actions were.

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Free speech vs… itself?

I hope y’all aren’t getting bored with these “Free speech vs.” stories, because I plan to keep writing them.

In the other installments in this “series” (which really isn’t a series so much as an ad-hoc grouping under a recurring theme), I identified a number of potential threats to free speech: religious authority, state authority (both abroad and here at home), and the Wild West of the internet. Each of these represents an external threat by some authority or group to stifle the legitimate free expression of people (well, except terrorists I suppose). But sometimes the threat to freedom of speech is the content of the speech itself:

Dutch MP on trial for hate speech:

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders appealed for freedom of expression Monday as he went on trial for alleged hate speech at a time when his popularity and influence in the Netherlands are near all-time highs. Prosecutors say Wilders has incited hate against Muslims, pointing to a litany of quotes and remarks he has made in recent years. In one opinion piece, he wrote “I’ve had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate,” adding “I’ve had enough of the Qur’an in the Netherlands: Forbid that fascist book.”

Geert Wilders is the head of a far-right political party that is based largely on anti-immigrant themes. Anyone who had a picture of the Netherlands (or any of the Scandinavian socialist utopias) as happy places full of peaceful hippies has not been paying attention. Tension with non-native groups is escalating, particularly in the face of the economic crisis. Mr. Wilders has put a voice and a face to this simmering resentment, and has managed to parlay it into real political power. Ordinarily I would be in support of anyone who openly criticizes the advance of any religion in public life, but not when it’s like this:

“I am a suspect here because I have expressed my opinion as a representative of the people,” Wilders told judges at the start of the trial. The trial was adjourned until Tuesday shortly after Wilders’s opening remarks, when he declined to answer any questions from the three judges, invoking his right to remain silent.

This disgusts me. You don’t get to have it both ways – you can’t hide behind free speech protections and then refuse to answer questions. If you have an opinion and you demand the right to express it, then you ought to express it. Hiding behind the principle of free speech to defend your bigotry – and Mr. Wilders is nothing but a bigot, to be clear – is a perversion of the idea of free speech. The whole point of a free speech law is to defend people’s right to engage in legitimate discussion and criticism, not as a skirt to hide behind like a frightened bully whose victim stands up for itself.

While I am not in favour of legal proceedings against hate speech, I am far less in favour of cowardice being wrapped up in the principle in which I believe most strongly.

Westboro Baptist Church at Supreme Court:

The U.S. Supreme Court is to hear arguments Wednesday in a case that pits a dead marine’s grieving father against the Westboro Baptist Church, an obscure Kansas church that protests at soldiers’ funerals. The marine was not gay. However, the members of the church, who gained notoriety for using the same tactics at funerals for AIDS victims and who also oppose abortion, claimed his death was God’s “punishment” for the United States’ tolerance of homosexuality.

Ah yes, Freddie Phelps again. Once again, while ordinarily I would be in support of a group’s right to free speech (even when I absolutely 100% deplore the content of that speech, and would bitch-slap Fred Phelps to death if given the opportunity), this is another case where the right is being abused to serve a perverted end. Westboro Baptist isn’t protesting against a corrupt system, or leveling legitimate criticism, or contributing anything worthwhile to a discussion. Instead, they are hiding behind the Constitution to disrupt the lives of grieving parents for no reason other than to hurt people and gain publicity for their disgusting medieval pseudo-religion. Worst of all, Phelps is deputizing and corrupting children to further his own feeble-minded dictatorial agenda.

While I maintain my distaste for prosecuting hate speech, I bemoan the fact that this stance allows slime like Geert Wilders and Fred Phelps a platform to spread their brainless hateful nonsense. Free speech is supposed to defend unpopular ideas that have a legitimate purpose, a purpose that can be articulated and defended. The greatest threat to free speech therefore isn’t oppressive governments, religious authorities, or the New World Order on teh intarwebz; it’s those scumbags that abuse and debase the principle and undermine the public’s appetite to defend it from these more apparent threats.

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Jason Thibeault, reblogged for truth

If you’re not on my side about this morning’s post (and that’s totally fine – Brent didn’t particularly appreciate it either), and think that my handful of naughty words inhibited your ability to see my argument, I offer you a much cleaner (and therefore more correct, by Brent’s standards) version of my position, courtesy of Mr. Jason Thibeault:

This is pretty much exactly what I was upset about — the fact that people will always disagree with our positions, and we will be called strident firebrands no matter how sugar-coated we make our writings. The very fact that we’re mostly certain there’s no deity is enough of an affront to people who are not only certain of a deity, but a specific one, that we will be viewed as strident whether we’re actually being so or not.

Dawkins, Hitchens, Myers, et al, consider their words very carefully. I do too, in fact. Even when I’m extraordinarily frustrated with being told I’m incapable of morality or as bad as Hitler, I take great pains to consider every retort before posting. And when it comes down to it, there are people that are ACTUALLY strident and ACTUALLY offensive on the other side of the argument, who hardly consider their words before spewing them, and nobody’s ever pointing at them and saying they’re dragging down the discourse.

The tone debate is problematic specifically because you’re asking someone to do what they’re doing differently. Instead, you should be doing what you’re doing the way you feel is proper and correct, and let the other units on the field do their thing. By sniping at people on the same side as you, you’re actually stirring back up the whole debate about whose tone is worth being presented as the public face of atheism and whose is not — you’re the one with the gun, shooting the foot of the guy next to you.

One thing you’ll never hear from Myers is that Chris Mooney should stop presenting his arguments the way he does, except as where they concern him directly. What you argue, concerns me directly. I do not feel I have ever been unreasonable in any of my argumentation, despite being branded by theists as strident, sarcastic and unreasonable in previous debates. I have been accused of such, for the mere sin of not being uncertain and not submitting to wishy-washy illogic. I am painted with the broad brush of the attack by theists on atheists in general, and by attempting to “call for civility”, you are throwing the rest of us under the bus and saying to the opponents in this debate, “look guys, I’m much more reasonable than them!”

I have absolutely no intention of asking someone else of changing their own tone. The only thing I ask of you, is to please target elsewhere. You’re hitting your own side, by feeding the argument that all atheists are abrasive. I don’t particularly like that fact, especially where I suspect you may not be aware that this is mostly trumped up.

Your personal experiences with certain atheists notwithstanding, of course. They balance out the fire-and-brimstone-breathers, in my estimation. And anecdotal evidence is not evidence at all.

Personal highlights for me:

  • “you’re the one with the gun, shooting the foot of the guy next to you”
  • “I do not feel I have ever been unreasonable in any of my argumentation, despite being branded by theists as strident, sarcastic and unreasonable in previous debates. I have been accused of such, for the mere sin of not being uncertain and not submitting to wishy-washy illogic.”
  • “You’re hitting your own side, by feeding the argument that all atheists are abrasive. I don’t particularly like that fact, especially where I suspect you may not be aware that this is mostly trumped up.”

If you buy into a fraudulent argument created by your opponents, you’ll spend all your time fighting a lie rather than actually dealing with your issues. Thanks Mr. Thibeault.

Update: Nova Scotia cross burning conviction

Not much to say on this story, just thought I’d be remiss if I didn’t report it:

A Nova Scotia man has pleaded guilty to criminal harassment after an interracial couple awoke to a burning cross in their yard earlier this year. But Justin Rehberg continues to fight a charge of public incitement of hatred. Rehberg appeared briefly in a Windsor, N.S., courtroom on Monday. Two charges of mischief and uttering threats were withdrawn as his trial began.The judge adjourned the case until Nov. 5.

Rehberg was charged after the Feb. 21 cross-burning incident in Poplar Grove, a rural community in Hants County. Michelle Lyon and her partner, Shayne Howe, said they awoke to find a two-metre-tall cross with a noose on it on their lawn. They also said someone yelled a racial slur at them. Lyon and Howe, the only black person in the community, considered moving because they feared for the safety of their children, who range in age from two to 17. But they said they changed their minds after the community rallied around them.

Nathan Rehberg, Justin’s brother, is charged with criminal harassment, public incitement of hatred, mischief and uttering threats. His trial is set to start on Nov. 10.

Legal justice has been done. Good work.

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Why are atheists so ANGRY?

Despite the fact that it is against the rules, I have cross-posted this piece on Canadian Atheist.

Most of you are probably unaware that I occasionally contribute to the group blog Canadian Atheist. This is a site with contributors from all around the country, discussing various activities and issues within the atheist community, with particular relevance to Canada. The authors, myself among them, are all young people from various walks of life (although predominantly students). The discussions are usually interesting, but most of the time I end up bashing my head against my keyboard and screaming. As I’ve often said I have no problem with people disagreeing with my positions – I am happy to admit that I don’t know everything and am overjoyed when someone approaches me with a cogent, well-reasoned refutation of a position I hold. I am married to exactly none of my ideas, except insofar as nobody likes to be told that they’re wrong.

The thing that frustrates me is when the opposing position is completely brainless:

I know this is going to sound like a bit of a rant, but an idea just occurred to me. I’ve noticed that atheists, quite frequently, have sour dispositions. They’re often stand-offish, critical, and unfriendly. I notice they are also quite frequently socially awkward, but that’s a different issue to tackle.

Crap. Crap crap crappity crap crap.

We need to work on our image. I’m not sure where to start, but perhaps approaching the problem from the ground up is a nice way to start tackling the issue. What I would suggest is for atheists everywhere to be a little more friendly to not only one another, but also to others outside their atheist circle of friends.

Depressingly crappy craptacular crap.

The point is that the great atheist leaders that many atheists regard so highly are often viewed by outsiders as extreme, unreasonable, and ridiculous. Even those who agree with our cause often feel this way. Which means that if we’re trying to get the public on-board with our ideas and opinions, we’re failing.

Unadulterated, pure, unprocessed, certified organic CRAP.

All of this crap, brought to you in this particular case by fellow CA author Brent Kelly, is in reference to an argument that I’ve talked about a few times, the virtue of confrontational atheism. My position, boiled down, is that there absolutely must be people who are not afraid to stand up and make their opinions clear, regardless of if those in the majority get their feelings hurt in the process. Some things are more important than feelings, and I would offer human rights and the future of our society among those things.

But the issue at stake here (in this steaming pile of crap) is not simply whether or not “firebrands” are right or wrong, it’s the complete lie that is painted about atheists. There’s this ridiculous caricature that has been cultivated by believers that atheists are these angry, bitter, misfits who rail against religion and foam at the mouth whenever anyone has the temerity to say “bless you” when someone sneezes. Before I knew anything about Richard Dawkins, for example, I knew that he was a smug, arrogant prick with a bug up his ass about God. Of course, once I actually bothered to read any of his stuff and watch him in debate, I found out that he was a nebbish British biology professor with a soft spot for literature.

It’s a lie. It’s all of it a lie. Atheists absolutely do not have sour dispositions, any more than the rest of the population. We are not stand-offish or unfriendly in the least. Saying that we are critical is a fair charge, since criticism is part and parcel with skepticism, and the two camps share close ties. As far as being socially awkward goes… Brent, I say this with great affection, but go fuck yourself sideways with a rusty spike. At this point, you’ve completely abandoned any kind of critical thinking and have just wholeheartedly embraced the same kind of ridiculous stereotyping that is enjoyed by anti-gay bigots and racists.

I know this is going to sound like a bit of a rant, but an idea just occurred to me. I’ve noticed that blacks, quite frequently, have lazy dispositions. They’re often stupid, apathetic, and superstitious. I notice they are also quite frequently criminals, but that’s a different issue to tackle.

I know this is going to sound like a bit of a rant, but an idea just occurred to me. I’ve noticed that gay men, quite frequently, have effeminate dispositions. They’re often hyper-sexualized, promiscuous, and over-the-top. I notice they are also quite frequently HIV positive, but that’s a different issue to tackle.

This is the level of criticism we’re dealing with here. The kind of criticism that is happy to abandon any reasoned investigation into why black people are imprisoned at higher rates than whites, or why gay men have higher rates of HIV, and instead chalk it up to some kind of dispositional issue. It then becomes the job of the stereotyped group to fix the problem:

And be open to their ideas too, you might even learn something. Do whatever, just don’t get into a shouting match and reinforce the stereotype that atheists are argumentative, unfriendly, and annoying.

Cee Are Eh Pee – CRAP.

The completely false picture of atheists, or blacks, or gay people, or communists, or secularists, liberals, immigrants, etc. etc. etc. is one that is always based on an intentional mischaracterization of that group, from a position of privilege enjoyed by the majority group. Whenever someone disagrees with the majority position, if the argument can’t be defeated on its own merits, the next step is to demonize the minority group based on stereotypes – “It seems to me that many of group X is like this…” Since the majority have never come in contact with a member of the minority, they’re happy to buy into the idea that these people fit the stereotype. The lie then makes its way into the public conscience, becoming more and more popular, until members of the minority can’t even speak up on their issues without someone tagging them with completely false attributions. The member of the minority group then has to spend her/his time fighting against a lie rather than dealing with the real issues.

The most frustrating part of all of this is when it comes from within the minority group itself. When we’re not fighting against bigotry coming from those who oppose us, but from those who are supposed to be our allies – happy to throw us under the bus in the name of appeasing the completely fraudulent stereotype of members of the majority who just want to be left alone.

Utter, elemental, pure mountain springs of crap.

TL/DR: Atheists are angry because people keep spreading lies about us. It is a stereotype with no basis in fact. I have no patience for other atheists who tell us that it’s our fault that we’re stereotyped by liars.

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Brent posted a response to this rebuttal later that day. As I predicted, it’s nothing more than a butthurt whine that being upset about being slandered is “proof” that the stereotype is true, coupled with goalpost shifting – “I was just saying we should explore whether it’s true or not.” Of course, 1100+ word post was largely ignored because there were some bad words in it. Also, stereotypes must have some truth, otherwise why would people believe them? In between sarcastic comments, Brent tells me that he’s just super busy right now, and therefore can’t respond to any of the multitude of criticisms, or takes a faux-principled stand and says he won’t address any issues that feel like a personal attack. Words cannot express how unimpressed I am.

Move Friday: Joel Burns says it gets better

Last week’s edition of Movie Friday was a sort of tongue-in-cheek joke about the ridiculousness anti-gay propaganda. In my zeal to mock those who would promote such a ludicrously false message, I glossed over the fact that those kinds of things are serious. There are actually people who honestly believe that gay people are abominations in the eyes of YahwAlladdha, or even divorced from religion that they deserve to be mocked, bullied, tormented, tortured, and even killed. The milder form of this idiocy comes in the form of invoking “natural law” as some kind of justification for labeling homosexuality as a “sin” – or saying that gays and lesbians are “going against nature”.

If you’re reading this on a computer, you’re going against nature. If you’re clothed while doing it, you’re going against nature twice. If you’re indoors, you’re going against nature. Basically every activity you’ve done today aside from eating and pooping is a violation of “natural law”. The three examples listed above are things that no species in nature does, save homo sapiens. Interestingly, homosexual sexual activity is not unique to our species, but again the use of facts is of limited use when confronting ideologically-based bigotry.

There has been a great deal of recent attention paid to the rash of suicides committed by gay kids as the result of bullying. Of course, this phenomenon is not new, it’s just a statistical cluster that is grabbing people’s interest. Religious groups of various affiliations have been falling all over themselves to try and claim that they had nothing to do with it. Because, you see, Jesus is about loving the sinner, but hating the sin. Here’s the problem with that assertion: defining someone’s existence as a sin is hate. Plain and simple – you call being gay a sin, that’s a statement of hate. The predictable response to that argument is that being gay isn’t a sin, only engaging in gay actions. Basically, the solution is to just stop being so damn gay. An absolutely ridiculous position that forces people to deny who they are, and suppress what actually does come naturally to them.

I could go on like this for a long time, but this is Movie Friday, and you came here to see a video, so here it is:

Dan Savage, a popular queer columnist created this video and the associated campaign to tell gay kids that while life might be unbelievably tough, things get better. As you get older, you will be able to leave behind the small minds and idiocy of your family, or your school, or your church, or your community and find some solace and acceptance.

Predictably, this campaign has caught on like wildfire and people have recorded their own videos in solidarity. I found this one particularly moving, from city councilman Joel Burns from Fort Worth, TX:

What’s interesting about both of these stories is that although complaints were made to the appropriate places, nothing was done to stop the bullying. Basically, if you act gay, then you’re the legitimate target of violence. That’s how hate works. People may not actively seek out and beat up gay kids, but they contribute to a culture that tolerates those who do. These religious groups who said that it wasn’t their fault are missing the whole point – you grant implicit license to those who commit atrocities by preaching the nonsense that fuels the hate.

Anyway, this will have to be the subject of a subsequent post (or many), as it is already toooooo loooooong. Enjoy the videos.

One Laptop Per Child reaches Canada

But all is not all dark and gloomy in this country that I love:

The Belinda Stronach Foundation is giving up to 5,000 laptops loaded with specialized software to children in aboriginal communities across Canada. The green-coloured XO laptop computers are the same as those built and distributed by One Laptop Per Child, an organization that estimates it has donated more than two million laptops worldwide. “I believe strongly in combining the power of technology and education and investing in our young people,” said Stronach, a former federal cabinet minister and Magna International executive who has turned her efforts to social activism.

I wish we’d see more things like this from the federal government (and before you accuse me of picking on this government, I’ll point out the fact that the problems in Aboriginal communities are not new, and all federal governments have largely ignored them). A great deal of money has been earmarked towards health promotion, infrastructure developments, mental health services – basically anything that keeps Aboriginal people reliant on the government for assistance. I am not not NOT suggesting that these programs are a waste of money or worse; “reverse racism” of some kind. I will leave such brainless assertions to my friends on the right of the political spectrum.

What I am suggesting is that these kinds of programs are not sufficient. In addition to giving the proverbial fish to the proverbial starving man, there needs to be efforts to provide the resources that will allow these communities to become self-sufficient. Arming these kids with the access and technical skills to enfranchise themselves allows more First Nations people to take part in the national conversation. In a short-sighted kind of way, that’s bad news for the status quo because it will force those in power to begin sharing it. However, there is experience and perspective and human resources that are largely untapped within First Nations communities, and allowing those to develop will benefit everyone, not just members of those communities.

There is also the obvious fact that First Nations communities are in the shape they are in because of systemic racism. It is a further entrenchment of this kind of systemic racism for a white organization to swoop in and start handing out money. As Tim Wise often points out, while race and economics are often closely-linked, it is the height of ignorance to pretend as though one is a surrogate for another. This investment in the people of these communities simultaneously recognizes the racism and makes tangible, long-term steps to attempt to ameliorate its effects. The way we treat First Nations communities in Canada is our national shame, in the same way that the historic and ongoing mistreatment of black people is the national shame of the United States.

In the same way I applauded the Giving Pledge for making investments in poor communities not out of a sense of guilt or obligation, I applaud the Belinda Stronach Foundation for recognizing that an investment in under-served communities yields benefits for us all, particularly those who are at the bottom of the ladder.

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