What happened to Toronto?

Canada does not have the reputation that the US has for breeding crazy politicians. So it came as something of a surprise that the people of Toronto, the largest city in that country, elected as their mayor in 2010 Rob Ford who seems to be almost a caricature of a scandal-plagued politician, embroiled in one embarrassing episode after another, sometimes involving alcohol and drugs, at other times racial and sexual insensitivity. Here is an article chronicling his past weird behavior. [Read more…]

Selective use of the word ‘terrorism’

‘Terrorism’ has now become a word without much meaning except to be brandished as a political weapon. Witness the absurd fuss in the US over the fact that president Obama initially referred to the Benghazi attacks as an ‘act of terror’ as opposed to ‘terrorism’. In the wake of the recent ghastly murder of British soldier, Glenn Greenwald revisits the question of the selective use of the word, and of what causes some acts to be labeled as terrorism and others not. [Read more…]

The impact of the Boy Scouts vote to allow gays

So the Boy Scouts of America voted quite overwhelmingly (61-39% of the 1400 member national council) to allow gay students to be members. Of course, the Boy Scouts still ban participation by gay adults as scout leaders. But that change will come, sooner rather than later. This kind of backing and filling towards a goal is how religious institutions operate. [Read more…]

Is monotheism worse than polytheism?

We are taught to think of polytheistic societies as primitive and intellectually shallow and that the introduction of the idea of monotheism, that there is only one god, was a generally good thing, a sign of increased sophistication as civilization progressed. But an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reviewing the work of Egyptologist Jan Assmann says that his view is that this may not be true, and that the shift to monotheism was actually a bad thing and the likely cause of violence spawned by religions over millennia. [Read more…]

There are many atheists in foxholes and among tornado survivors

I am pretty sure that everyone has seen the video clip that has gone viral of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asking Rebecca Vitsum who, with her husband Brian and infant son Anders, narrowly escaped the tornado though their home was destroyed, whether she ‘thanked the Lord’ for her narrow escape. When she mumbles her reply, he presses her to answer at which point she says that she is an atheist. For the two people who haven’t seen the clip yet, here it is. [Read more…]

Just putting on a show

The investigative journalistic body ProPublic has an informative article explaining its own role in the IRS ‘scandal’ and what the fuss is all about, saying that “it reinforces the point that much of the heat generated last week on this subject is just the latest expression of Washington cynicism and its consequences—that the talk show hosts and their fellow travelers, and the representatives and senators and officials in the executive branch, aren’t really looking for answers here. They’re just putting on a show.” [Read more…]