Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Another spin on population control, maybe?

SHANGHAI – In a move that surprised absolutely no one today, a Chinese court sentenced a drunken nightclub reveler to death for singing “My Bonnie” slightly off-key during a his turn in a karaoke session. Death sentences were also handed out to a man who picked his ear with his keys, a boy who fell down and cried, a woman wearing mismatching dress and shoes, and an entire village near the Russian border for having too many fat chicks, in defiance of The Great People’s No-Fat-Chicks Correctness Principle. The presiding judge then sentenced himself to death for sentencing so many people to death.

An observer to the proceedings wondered why so many of his countrymen were being executed for such trivialities when Chairman Mao, who was responsible for the lingering and needless deaths of millions upon millions of his own people as a result of his ill-advised, megalomaniacal, shit-headed conceits, lived to a ripe old age and is still regarded as a hero of China instead of an inhuman monster.

He was sentenced to death.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Jesus Camp? Jesus Christ...

At the repeated urgings of a friend —

[aside — it went like this:

INT. Blockbuster

Ooo! Jesus Camp! That's some scary shit, man, you gotta see it.

Your Humble Narrator
Okay, let's rent it...

Nah, I've got it at home. I'll bring it next time.

Let one or two weeks pass; repeat scene]

— I finally rented Jesus Camp last weekend. It was, as promised, scary shit.

I really don't mind what people believe. The Great Tomato came down and told you to wear a dress made entirely of lasagna? Iggy the Ice Pixie's Tome of Magic Stamps demands you sleep with your feet on the pillows on Tuesdays and that you not say the word "and" all day Friday? Yeah, okay, sure, whatever. No, the only problem I have with it is when they all get together and demand that everyone else must believe what they believe, or at least act like they do, and try to compel that by force of law. That, I object to.

Well, that’s what this movie’s about. Brainwashing today’s preteens to be tomorrow’s fascists in government, the media, the workplace. They couldn’t give a raw goddamn what happens to the world in terms of war, pollution, despoilage, extinctions, poverty or human misery, because they all believe that any second, they’re all going to be scooped up by God because they’re “saved”. If God “saves” people like the truly evil woman running the show in this movie, then He’s a real dirtbag. And I gotta say, there’s nothing like watching a 250 lb. woman criticize other people for being “lazy”, licentious, and too-much-of-this-world for getting a bead on just how hypocritical the rest of us who aren’t saved are, yes indeedy.

These people purport to be Christians, and as such, demand that they are all about love, QED. (It goes like this: God is love, Jesus is God, they worship Jesus, therefore they must be loving, and would demand you accept this even as they pull your toenails out or bomb your city flat… it’s ‘cause they love you, awwwwww!) But they say some hateful shit in this movie. It’s heavily veiled, of course, as it must be since pillowcase hats with eyeholes went out of style (and to be fair, you do see minorities in the crowds). Ah, but this is the New Bigotry; the acceptable kind. It’s not about your colour, it’s about what you believe. That is, if you believe human beings ought to have a choice about how to live their lives on Earth and that the validity of their conduct (where it wanders from the advice of the Bible, such as on, oh, the treatment of one’s slaves, say) is and ought to be a matter between that person and God… well, if you think that, you’re evil, and they have to fight you. Given half a chance, these people mean to rob you and everyone else of that right.

If you want some idea of what I mean, I direct you to the scene in which the woman directing the camp works herself up into a lather in front of the kids on the subject of Harry Potter. “Warlocks are the enemies of God!” she thunders. She goes on to tell them that, in fact, if he’d lived in the Old Testament age, Harry Potter would have been stoned to death (yeah, and? If she’d lived in the time of Nero, she’d have provided a hefty snack for three or four lions in the arena; what’s her point?). But kids aren’t stupid. They can draw an inference just like anyone else, and the one implied here is: if you read and enjoy Harry’s exploits, you’re evil and you deserve to be stoned to death and it’s only the fact that modern society won’t broach that that saves you. Really, just how far are we from the Salem witch trials?

If you love this planet, you should probably see this movie. Arm yourself. They are. The good news is, there are still more of us than them.

At least for now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A (US) dollar saved is 70¢ earned (2002 vs. 2007)

Every few years or so, we get treated to another dose of this...

Dodge says single currency 'possible'
May 22, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge says North America could one day embrace a euro-style single currency.

But to get there, Canada, the United States and Mexico must first tear down barriers to the free flow of labour, which he pointed out yesterday have "gotten a bit thicker" in recent years...

The idea of a common currency has long been a subject of curiosity, particularly among Canadian academics, who see it as a way to escape sharp gyrations in the exchange rate.

The recent surge in the Canadian dollar to a 30-year high against the U.S. currency makes Canadian products a lot less competitive in Canada's major foreign market. The high loonie also makes Canada a more expensive tourist destination.

Some proponents have dubbed the single North American currency the "amero."

It is more likely, however, that a common currency would mean that Canada and Mexico would adopt the U.S. dollar, giving up significant economic control to a central bank dominated by the United States.

The last time this came up, and in a big way, was five years ago when our dollar tanked at just under 62¢ US. But you know what I've noticed? For some people, the advantages never matter. Only the downside. Back then, it was how Canadians couldn't go abroad, couldn't buy from foreign countries, our companies were getting bought out from under us. Now you would imagine that as our dollar appreciates, those negatives would suddenly be positives: we can afford to go abroad, buy what we want, guard our own companies and maybe start buying up someone else's, but no. No, it's still all bad news, but from the opposite end. Now it's hard for us to sell abroad, now our domestic goods are being out-competed by cheap foreign ones, now Canadian investment is bleeding to other shores (of course, the corollary of all this back a few years ago was that our exports were beating the pants of everyone else's, domestic products were favoured, Canadian investment stayed in Canada and foreign investment poured in...). Jesus, you can't win. And you know why? Because there tons of douche bags in this country who simply get hard at the idea of us joining the United States, always have and always will, and they'll paint any picture in whatever shade of black they have to to make that seem inevitable, and hang it upside down the minute it makes sense to; whatever it takes.

It's all bullshit.

Why on Earth, now of all times, would we even consider hitching our wagon to the American star(s)? For the first time in decades, our trade with them is down and the EU is nicely taking up the slack, ameliorating that terribly large egg in just one basket we've had for far too long. Their economy, largely fueled by $2 billion of foreign borrowing a day and a hideously overinflated speculative housing market, is slowing down in ways not reflected in ours; these same practices are what's propping up their dollar, but the leaks seem to be spring up faster than they can be patched. We have a trade and budgetary surplus; they have monstrous trade deficits and a national debt that will likely approximate $10 trillion by the time Bush heads off to hunt armadillos with Barney for good. You might as well offer to have your circulatory system knitted to that of a 500 lb. guy in need of a quad bypass but no money to pay for it, who's constantly reaching into your wallet to order a meat lover's pizza. Yeah, if you don't care that your life savings will evaporate before your very eyes as other countries flush increasingly huge volumes of up-till-now hidden US assets from their central banks as the rot really sets in, then by all means, be my guest. Just don't ask me to do the same. You go trade your Canadian dollars for US ones; I'll hold onto mine, thank you very much.

The euro makes sense because it's centred on four or five countries of roughly the same size, social policies, wage scales, and economic oomph. There's no such parity in North America on any of those matters. Canada matched to the US alone would not survive in the way Portugal can linked to France, Germany, Britain, and Italy. And there's no way the Americans would yield the kind of sovereignty to a supra-national body required for us to defend ourselves in the way the Europeans have. So it's not on. We swallowed NAFTA, and what do we get? "Do as I say, not as I do." Rules are for everyone else, not Americans. Fine, this far and no farther.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Grav-elly voice of wisdom

Mike Gravel. Have you heard of this guy? I sure hadn't. I happened to cross paths with CNN last night — unusual for me; what do I care which highway O.J. is currently driving down or who's going to be the non-entity to win American Idol? — but I was surfing last night just as they happened to highlight what this man stands for.

Earlier in the day I'd been watching Jesus Camp, the movie about how evangelicals brainwash elementary school kids into perfect, unthinking, unquestioning, militaristic, scripture-parroting little robots, and I was just about at the point of writing the United States off to its fate altogether and urging Ottawa to build the Windsor Wall as soon as we can... and then they blindside me by showing me this gentleman.

Mike Gravel is a former United States Senator from Alaska. He's a Democrat who was instrumental in ending the draft in 1972, and thus hastening the end of US involvement in Vietnam. He's currently running to be the Democratic nominee for the US presidential election next year. I listened to him tear a strip off the other so-called Democrats on YouTube, and I went to his website to read his platform. It's jaw-dropping in its wisdom. It's like God is playing some mean trick on us... there's no way this guy can get elected POTUS. ...Or is there?

All I know is, the United States deeply, badly needs this man. Hell, Canada could use him. I only wish I could vote for him. Check out some of what he advocates...

Senator Gravel's position on Iraq remains clear and consistent: to commence an immediate and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops that will have them home within 60 days. The sooner U.S. troops are withdrawn, the sooner we can pursue aggressive diplomacy to bring an end to the civil war that currently consumes Iraq...

Senator Gravel firmly opposes a military confrontation with Iran and advocates a diplomatic solution to the current situation... The threat of war against another sovereign nation while wars continue to rage in Iraq, the Palestinian Authority and Afghanistan, only serves to further threaten global stability.

There is only one one entity in the U.S. that pays taxes: the individual. Businesses and corporations do not, they merely collect taxes from consumers of their products and pass on the taxes to the government. The Fair Tax proposal calls for eliminating the IRS and the Income Tax and replacing it with a progressive national Sales Tax on new products and services...

Senator Gravel believes that global climate change is a matter of national security. As President, he will act swiftly to reduce America's carbon footprint in the world bypassing legislation that caps emissions... However, any legislation will have little impact on the global environment if we do not work together with other global polluters. Fighting global warming can only be effective if it is a collective global effort.

Senator Gravel advocates a National Health Care Voucher plan that will give every American health care. Using a voucher paid for by the government, Americans are free to choose their own doctor...

Senator Gravel supports same-sex marriage and opposes the Defense of Marriage Act. He supports expanding hate-crime legislation and opposes laws that allow discrimination against sexual orientation...

The United States incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other peacetime nation in the world. According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics the number of US residents behind bars has now reached more than 2.3 million... We are losing an entire generation of young men and women to our prisons. Our nation’s ineffective and wasteful “war on drugs” plays a major role in this. We must place a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and prevention. We must de-criminalize minor drug offenses and increase the availability and visibility of substance abuse treatment and prevention in our communities as well as in jails and prisons...

While Senator Gravel fully supports the 2nd Amendment, he believes that fundamental change must take place with regards to gun ownership. The senator advocates a licensing program where a potential gun owner must be licensed as well as properly trained with a firearm before they may own one.

There's more, and a lot more. Do yourself a favour — particularly if you're an American citizen — and check out his website.

Holocaust Memorial, Earl Bales Park

Starting last Friday, I'm taking most of the Fridays of this summer off. I found myself at loose ends that day, so I started thinking of places I might wander. I remembered a little street that heads off into the woods under the Sheppard Avenue bridge over the West Don River near Bathurst Street, so I decided to go back there. Looking at the map, I happened to notice that connected to the paths there is Earl Bales Park, and that there is a Holocaust Memorial there. I was intrigued. Suddenly the day had focus. Off I went.

It's a beautiful memorial, shaped like a wagon wheel with spokes radiating out from a central pillar that, I think, is meant to be evocative of the smoke rising from the death camps. The names of the camps are set in the stones that lead you in. Tree-lined, the outer edge of the memorial is made up of black marble tableaux, upon one set of which are carved the names of the lost, remembered by local Jewish families, and on the other, the names of local Holocaust survivors who have subsequently passed on. Those who survived on the one hand, and those who did not in the other, now joined in memory.

I lingered there about half an hour, taking dozens of photographs in both visible and infrared light. On the way there, I passed an Orthodox Jewish family spending the day in the park. One of the most affecting moments for me was when I looked up at the terrible iconography of the pillar, only to see a beautiful red kite in a bright blue sky high above it. It could only have been from that family. It was the poignant triumph of joy and hope over sorrow and monstrosity; a spiritual phoenix.

In invite you to explore the images at your leisure here.

Full-Monty Monday :)

A number of my correspondents here on Blogger are involved in something called “Half-Naked Thursdays”, on which they post provocative photos of themselves. Well, I guess you can call this my “Full-Monty Monday”. :)

Saturday P-Doug and I went back out to the Humber Valley trails. We discovered a closed concession road that leads up into a conservation area, very well kept, where we encountered perhaps a dozen bikers and an ambitious jogger. At the base of the trail, we found a little pond that was just beautiful. P-Doug remarked on the mirror like surface of the pond, which stirred me from my reverie and got me taking the image I tried but failed to get all last year: a good panorama of a mirrored lake in infrared. It came out beautifully. Since I had the presence of mind to shoot the view in visible light from the exact same position, I was doubly blessed in being able to contrast the two very different outcomes of the same scene.

After about an hour we headed back to a place on the Humber we've been before, this time to explore a flood plain I spotted in aerial shots that looked to me like a pleasant and reasonably secluded place to sunbathe. We had to ford the Humber to do this. It was cool, verging on cold, but we managed to wade in it downstream for five minutes or so get to where we were swimming last year. P-Doug seemed to want to drift further downstream, so we effectively parted company and I headed in from the bank where we used to strip off.

If you tune in here from time to time, you know I'm a barefoot hiking enthusiast. I like the physical challenge, and I love the sensations that are out there in the forest. Not surprisingly, I forded the river barefoot; as I emerged at the bank, I found myself looking across a wide, marshy grove, and I was faced with a decision. I hesitated, then decided to accept the challenge. So with my sandals in my pocket, I pressed on. I crossed the thicket and begin climbing up the steep rise with a walking stick I'd found on the far bank. At the top, I stood and looked down, feeling pride in the accomplishment. I headed down the other side, where I met up with P-Doug in the glade.

After a few minutes, I chose a spot and stripped off, lying on my shorts and shirt in the grass. P-Doug drifted off. I lay there for perhaps three quarters of an hour, just relaxing in the sun. It was really wonderful. At one point, I called out to P-Doug and he called back from the distance, which was fine; as long as we knew where each other was, no needless wandering around when it was time to go. Eventually I heard footsteps approaching and heard him ask if I'd had my fill of the sun. As I dressed, he told me of lying nude on the river bank, admiring the view, feeling the sun, closing his eyes and settling back... at one point hearing the splish, splish, splish of... what? That's not a deer, he thought, and he looked up to see a young couple paddling by in a canoe. Ah, nature boy. We had a good laugh. Anyway, I suited back up, less the sandals of course, and rather than take the plain back, at P-Doug's suggestion we followed another deer trail back up the rise. I warned him of the swampy nature of the foot of the rise, but he was game (he was in strap sandals himself). We picked our way back across the grove and into the river again. It was a nice two hours. Then it was a beeline back to our current pub of choice on Bloor Street for a couple of pitchers of suds. Primo. :)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Kiss my Royal Canadian

The Toronto Star reports the following...

Lawyer cleared to challenge loyalty oath to the Queen

The federal government has lost its bid to stop Toronto lawyer Charles Roach from pursuing a class-action lawsuit that challenges the requirement for new Canadians to pledge allegiance to the Queen. ...It means Roach and an unspecified number of other people who feel they've been wronged by the requirement to pledge an oath of allegiance can have their case heard in court. They want the oath repealed and a $5,000 damage award given to each person who joins the lawsuit. In Roach's case, his objections to the current requirement mean that, although he has been in Canada since 1955, he has never sworn an oath and so is not a citizen. He doesn't have a Canadian passport, can't vote, run for office or have a shot at becoming a judge. He originates from Trinidad and Tobago.

...However, Belobaba said there was nothing in the Constitution Act requiring an oath of citizenship, nor swearing allegiance to the Queen.

..."It is interesting to note that in Australia, also a constitutional monarchy, new citizens are required to take `a pledge of commitment' to Australia and its people ... and laws," Belobaba said.

...The lawsuit states that Roach and others believe in a republican form of government and want to see constitutional reform that would eliminate the Queen as Canada's head of state. It also states that the law discriminates between Canadians born here – who are never required to take the oath – and those for whom it is a condition for citizenship.

I'm hardly what most people would call an arch conservative nowadays. Nevertheless, I find all this utterly outrageous. Bluntly, if I were a bit less liberal than I am, I'd be tempted to suggest the government stick Mr. Roach on the next flight to Trinidad and Tobago, the only country to which he owes allegiance and in which he has a right to be.

If he moved to Canada in 1955, he was already a British subject at the time. Trinidad and Tobago didn't become independent until 1962, and didn't become a republic till 1976. If a republic was what he wanted, he got it then.

Bad enough, in my opinion, to presume to rewrite our Constitution from without the membership of the state... but to demand $5,000 compensation from a nation which has opened its doors to you and offered its shelter, protection, and opportunities simply because you don't deign to acquiesce to its traditions and chosen institutions is wholly unacceptable. It casts my mind into a rather dark place where immigration is concerned, as I imagine it does others, and it should.

The Queen is not the issue here. The issue here is being told by others what aspects of our nation, our history, our culture, and our way of life they will and will not accept in requesting the privilege of our citizenship. It could be anything... the status of our official languages, the secular aspect of our governance, the rights of gays to wed, the freedom of women to initiate divorce proceedings, you name it, someone can and will object to it. But this is how we live. This is how we've grown. This is our country. We change it, and we decide how, and we decide when. No one else.

Justice Belobaba is correct in saying that nothing in the Constitution requires an oath the Queen. In fact, the Constitution is mute on the subject of citizenship altogether. It is established by statute. That statute happens to require a certain oath. I would add to the Justice's remarks the fact that neither is there anything in the Constitution requiring immigrants to adopt our citizenship (nor obliging Canada to grant it!). That's a matter of conscience, and sometimes legal necessity (the citizenships of many countries are abrogated by the adoption of another). Now if Mr. Roach's complaint had been that he were denied citizenship itself for some reason, such as race, or religion, or national origin, I would be right there with him. But that's not what this is about. Mr. Roach has taken a principled stand that has deprived him of the benefits of citizenship, but no more so than anyone else in the world who is not a Canadian citizen. He has made his own bed... and out of a half century's worth of Canadian lumber, goose down, and linens, I might add. Canada has not deprived him of the vote, or political office, or a judicial position. He has voluntarily deprived himself of them. They were his for the asking, but he would not bring himself to ask, so let his pride be his consolation. Not five grand out of my pocket.

Australia's policies are Australia's; we're no more bound to follow their example on the matter of the oath than we were to follow Trinidad and Tobago's on the matter of our head of state.

Mr. Roach, et al., would prefer a republican form of government. Canadians, as a society, do not. At least not yet, at least not to any degree compelling enough to act. For this, we owe people $5,000? This idea is risible. If we're going to use Australia as an object lesson, then it's fair to ask: does Australia owe its republicans, foreign-born or domestic, $5,000 for failing to overturn the monarchy in its 1999 referendum on the matter? Of course not. Who would credit such an absurd idea?

As to the inequity of the application of the oath, no such inequity exists for practical purposes. Those of us born Canadian citizens did not have the option of deciding whether or not we would be citizens of this nation; we simply are. However, we exist under the same compulsions as anyone who takes the oath. The allegiance to which they swear explicitly is just as binding on us implicitly. Acts in violation of it are referred to as treason, and will land one in jail without regard to how one came by one's citizenship.

In the United States, one is required to swear to, among other things, “support and defend the Constitution” in the citizenship oath. Suppose Mr. Roach were a longtime resident of that country instead of this. How far do you think he would get if he went to court and said, “I would have become a citizen, but I have reservations about the 16th, 19th, and 22nd Amendments. I cannot and will not swear to uphold and defend them. In not allowing me to swear as suits me, the United States has robbed me of rights and opportunities. Therefore, I and my co-litigants demand the right to swear as we please in being granted citizenship, and the award of damages of $5,000 on top of it...”? Just imagine.

Canada may, at some point the future, dispense with the monarchy and fashion some manner of republic. Then again, we might not. That's up to us. No one else. With regard to this, people have three choices: A) don't come here; B) immigrate, but remain an immigrant and forswear applying for citizenship; or C) swear the oath as required by Canadian law, in recognition of Canadian history, custom, tradition, culture, and constitutional heritage. What you don't have the right to do is come crashing in here saying “I ain't marryin' you till you get a nose job, ugly!” and then demand payment in lieu of lost marital privilege on top of it. Good God, get real.

Too stupid to live... literally?

On my way home from the grocery store this afternoon, I drove past a car that narrowly elected not to shoot out in front of me from a side street; a last-minute decision that probably made for a better afternoon for all concerned. As I passed the car, I caught sight of the driver... a young woman between 20 and 25, emoting rather passionately into a cell phone. I take a dim view of people who drive with their cell phones and think the practice should be banned, but this... this was beyond the beyond.

She pulled out behind me and kept pretty good pace with me. Just before the access to a local freeway, we had to stop at a light. I could see her in my rearview mirror; in fact, I could not take my eyes off of her. She was making a spectacle of herself in the literal sense of the word; phone held to her face with one hand and a cigarette poised between two fingers of the hand on the wheel (in other words, steering with three fingers total), she was shouting into the phone, her face visibly flushed. She sobbed constantly, violently gulping air; repeatedly threw her head back, moaning, thrashing. It had the air of 'girl learns boyfriend and best friend are shacked up, gets on phone to confirm, learns worst, hops in car to confront/threaten/plea/commit assault or homicide'. Terrific! Twenty years ago, these were three separate acts; now at least two (and thank God only two) of them are combined, and today teary-eyed angst is our co-pilot.

A better person than me, I guess, would have had more generous sensibilities like "that poor young woman, what's going on in her life?" And yes, I had that too. But the overriding concern I had was that this idiot was immediately behind me. I was thinking, "Please, don't let her crash into me. Don't let her crash into me. Don't let her crash into me..." Whatever pity I felt for her was drowned in my anger at her for endangering herself, me, and hundreds of others she was sharing the road with. More than anything, I wanted to use my (non-existent) telepathy to impress in her mind: What the fuck are you doing sitting behind the wheel of a car? You're in no state to be on the road. You're not even in a state to be on that phone right now! Go home, suck a bottle of gin, smoke your head off, and cry yourself into a tortured sleep. Wake up in the morning.

The last I saw of her, she was weaving down the onramp to the expressway. May she arrive in safety. And may all the people at the other end give her slap for being so stupid.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

You don't say...

The U.K. Guardian today advises that "Iraq in danger of becoming failed state facing possibility of fragmentation, thinktank says."

Yeah, and Rush Limbaugh's in danger of becoming a little portly. Thanks for the bulletin.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An un-Christian Christian

I was in Niagara Falls on the weekend, and there in the parking lot opposite one of the wonders of the world was this. I'm sorry indeed to relate that the gas-guzzler I saw it on had Ontario plates.

I find this bumper sticker offensive on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start.

Well, start with the obvious, I guess. What makes this clown so sure he's one of the chosen in the first place? Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. Seems to me anyone who's sure he's going to Heaven, ain't. QED.

Second, what kind of jerk would God have to be to do this? Let's break it down. First, a God who supposedly loves us all is presumed ready to let most of us roast in Hell, but scoop up a few others, and why? Because they're willing to "believe" without question. Other than that, inch for inch, pound for pound, they're probably morally no better than you or I. On top of that, once this fellow (and millions like him) have been shredded to ribbons as the Lord sucks them up through the roofs of their cars, homes, and offices in the name of conducting them to Heaven, those of us apparently condemned to Hell will be sent there that much faster by pilotless vehicles skating back and forth across our highways, city streets, harbours, and dropping out of the sky. Nothing like a loving God to make the end of the world a laff riot, huh? Nah, I'm sorry. I have a hard time believing that a loving Creator of the Universe would be a bigger asshole than I am, and a much bigger one at that. I can't be better than God. Ergo, this couldn't happen. If I'm wrong, well, then God's a prick and there's no measurable difference between "good" and "evil" except the power base (are you listening, Mr. President?).

Thirdly, what does putting a bumper sticker like this on your car say about your character? To me, it means that deep down, this guy is a smug, arrogant self-aggrandizer. I wonder what it implies for his conduct with other human beings. If you’re of a 'wrong' religion (and thus damned, no matter how good a person you are), or if this guy decides, for whatever reason, that you’re not saved like he is, how might he treat you differently in subtle, or not-so-subtle ways? Knowing you won’t be standing at the right hand of Jesus on Judgement Day, would he be tempted to treat you as unequal or less worthy? To me, there’s something nastily celebratory about this message. It presumes that he’s saved and you’re not; the warning is for you because it’s his unmanned vehicle you’ll have to deal with once God has saved him and forsaken you. Would a true Christian celebrate this? I would expect, knowing what I do know about Christianity, that this would be a source of sorrow for a sincere believer, not an occasion for an in-your-face joke.

What I’d love to see is the moment of the Rapture arrive, this guy standing there with arms upstretched, watching others lifted away while he stands earthbound with the condemned, and finally squealing, “But what about me?” And there’s Jesus — GLING! — and He says, “Sorry, no, you’re an asshole. I mean, just look at your bumper sticker. So long.” — GLING! — And the guy’s standing there with his jaw dropped, and we all laugh at him as we go to Hell.

But that’s what happens if you’re Protestant. I’m Catholic (at least officially), so I think he gets another chance. For me, Purgatory and Hell are the same thing (though that’s a personal view)… a separation from God and all those you love and all that that makes you happy, combined with a hunger, a yearning, a need for all that that increases with your distance from it. And you stay there till you 'get' all the reasons you can’t be with everyone else. The worse a person you are, the longer it’ll take you to learn the lessons; the longer you suffer. But once you’ve purged yourself (hence the name Purgatory) of your backwardness, you are admitted to Heaven.

Well, to me, this bumper sticker’s a ticket to Purgatory on the Highway to Hell. What a jerk.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Moore ridiculous news...

I read yesterday that Michael Moore has been given 20 working days by the U.S. Treasury Department, of all things, to ‘explain himself’ for a recent trip to Cuba. It seems Moore was down there to investigate their health care system in conjunction with his upcoming documentary Sicko, purportedly about the inequities of the current American health care system. It seems that going to Cuba without Uncle Sam’s official or at least tacit okey-dokey is a violation of the Hyper Super-Duper God Bless America Act or something.

Ironies abound here.

Think about it… these days, if Moore cannot or will not explain himself to his government’s satisfaction, he might just wind up being sent to Guantanamo in Cuba… for going to Cuba.

Also, it seems to me that if only he hailed from, say, Sarnia, Ontario, instead of Flint, Michigan, he wouldn’t have to ‘explain himself’ to his government for having visited any foreign country he chose, Cuba or otherwise, to make a movie about his country’s health care system leaving millions of people uninsured. But then, if he were from Sarnia, he wouldn’t have to make such a movie in the first place…

Finally, there’s the odd emphasis on freedom in the US… missing the forest for the trees. I can remember being condescended to by Americans who were ‘shocked’ by anti-hate speech legislation here in Canada and elsewhere. No such thing could exist in the US, I was told, where freedom of speech is absolute. Yes, Americans are free to shout from the rooftops that the Holocaust never happened but that if it had, Hitler had a great idea — though not one in ten thousand of them would exercise such a ‘right’. But travel 90 miles to a country whose government your own doesn’t like in order to make a point that could potentially help tens of millions of your fellow citizens live longer, better lives? Oh, no. No, we can’t have people doing that, uh uh. It makes you wonder if these folks understand the difference between the product and the packaging.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Sweet dreams are made of these

Another dream I remember. This one from early this morning. I think it was partially inspired by seeing Hot Fuzz last night, inasmuch as, for some reason, I was in England in the dream.

I remember being in a dilapidated house at night, lit by candles or very low-wattage bulbs, huddled there with several other people. At some point, we all left, heading out into a dark plain. Bright lights in the distance, pointed at the sky. Search lights? Anyway, we joined dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of others, all heading in the same direction in the darkness. There was a sudden pillar of flame in the distance. At first I wasn’t sure what it was, but presently I realized it was a nuclear detonation. Others followed. They were small yield, like tactical weapons. The hot orange mushroom clouds towered in the distance, each one seeming closer as they went off; maybe half a dozen. I remember sensing one was about to fall near us and dropping to the ground, drawing snow up to my face to reflect the heat and radiation. Funny what occurs to you; any feeble defense… but in the dream it did seem to work. I had no idea what the radiation might be doing to me, but as it was happening I felt no ill effects, no pain, no burns. Just this terrible realization that the great experiment of civilization was pretty much over, and things were going to get far more brutal and desperate for us all.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Two Speeches

The following is currently making the rounds on the net and email...

The Speech George Bush Should Give Next ... (but won't)

My Fellow Americans: As you all know, the defeat of Iraq regime has been completed.

Since congress does not want to spend any more money on this war, our mission in Iraq is complete.

This morning I gave the order for a complete removal of all American forces from Iraq. This action will be complete within 30 days. It is now time to begin the reckoning.

Before me, I have two lists. One list contains the names of countries which have stood by our side during the Iraq conflict. This list is short The United Kingdom, Spain, Bulgaria, Australia, and Poland are some of the countries listed there.

The other list contains everyone not on the first list. Most of the world's nations are on that list. My press secretary will be distributing copies of both lists later this evening.

Let me start by saying that effective immediately, foreign aid to those nations on List 2 ceases immediately and indefinitely. The money saved during the first year alone will pretty much pay for the costs of the Iraqi war.

The American people are no longer going to pour money into third world Hell-holes and watch those government leaders grow fat on corruption.

Need help with a famine? Wrestling with an epidemic? Call France.

In the future, together with Congress, I will work to redirect this money toward solving the vexing social problems we still have at home. On that note, a word to terrorist organizations. Screw with us and we will hunt you down and eliminate you and all your friends from the face of the earth.

Thirsting for a gutsy country to terrorize? Try France, or maybe China.

I am ordering the immediate severing of diplomatic relations with France, Germany, and Russia. Thanks for all your help, comrades. We are retiring from NATO as well. Bon chance, mes amis.

I have instructed the Mayor of New York City to begin towing the many UN diplomatic vehicles located in Manhattan with more than two unpaid parking tickets to sites where those vehicles will be stripped, shredded and crushed. I don't care about whatever treaty pertains to this. You creeps have tens of thousands of unpaid tickets. Pay those tickets tomorrow or watch your precious Benzes, Beamers and limos be turned over to some of the finest chop shops in the world. I love New York.

A special note to our neighbors. Canada is on List 2. Since we are likely to be seeing a lot more of each other, you folks might want to try not pissing us off for a change.

Mexico is also on List 2. President Fox and his entire corrupt government need an attitude adjustment. I will have a couple extra tank and infantry divisions sitting around. Guess where I am going to put 'em? Yep, border security. So start doing something with your oil. Oh, by the way, the United States is abrogating the NAFTA treaty - starting now. We are tired of the one-way highway. Immediately, we'll be drilling for oil in Alaska - which will take care of this country's oil needs for decades to come. If you're an environmentalist who opposes this decision, I refer you to List 2 above: pick a country and move there. They care.

It is time for America to focus on its own welfare and its own citizens. Some will accuse us of isolationism. I answer them by saying, "darn tootin." Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet. It is time to eliminate hunger in America. It is time to eliminate homelessness in America. It is time to eliminate World Cup Soccer from America. To the nations on List 1, a final thought. Thanks guys. We owe you and we won't forget.

To the nations on List 2, a final thought: You might want to learn to speak Arabic. God bless America. Thank you and good night.

The Speech We Wish the Rest of Mankind Would Make (and Probably Will, Soon)

My fellow human beings:

The United Nations has decided to leave New York and re-establish itself in civilization... somewhere like Stockholm, Geneva, or maybe Sydney... it's warm there. We realize it was brave to establish our headquarters beyond the fringe of human decency, but we were idealistic in those days and trying to make a point. It's time we admitted the experiment has failed and aim a little lower. We will, of course, gladly pay off our hundreds of thousands of... ahem... "dollars" of New York City parking tickets... just as soon as the United States pays off its $1.3 billion in United Nations dues arrears. We would prefer this payment to be made in real money... any currency capable of holding at least a decent share of its value over time will do. That's €950 million, if you please (yes, the currency of Germany, the country currently doing more export trade than any other on Earth). We know that will be hard for you to scratch up as you have little of value to actually sell the rest of humanity anymore, but do please give it a try. You'll be better for it.

Also, China and Japan, among others, would like to announce that they're finally fed up handing you two billion dollars worth of goods and services each and every single day in exchange for A) your promise to use your overflowing military toybox to "protect" them in case the Martians show up and B) the increasingly worthless scrip you crank out with all the self-restraint of a drunken hurdy-gurdry man with a monkey grinding out Tunes from the Big Top. Hope you won't be too nervous when the lights go out; good luck finding your triggers. Please call "Who's there?" before shooting the neighbours passing by your door. It's only good manners.

Everyone in NATO would like to thank you for finally packing your carpet bags and going home after supposing that pitching in to save democracy (and ultimately your own skins) sixty years ago somehow entitled you to a permanent say in how Europeans ought to live and manage their internal and international affairs. They're looking forward to enjoying the peace and prosperity they've forged — largely in spite of your objections over the past 35 years.

Your former NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico, would like to take this opportunity to thank you for patronage over the past many decades, and greatly regret that the oncoming massive economic infarction bearing inexorably down on you like a freight train will presently render you incapable of affording their services much longer, requiring them to sell their oil, raw materials, and manufactured goods to less conveniently located customers. For its part, Canada looks forward with little joy to the day that ballooning unemployment in the sweltering, arid, Greenhouse Effect-inspired desert you worked so blithely to create sends your millions pressing up against its frontiers, requiring the construction of the Windsor Wall (and probably just enough hydrogen bombs to make you think twice), but accepts this as the way you want things. Mexico is grateful for your quasi-institutional policy of unburdening them of their excess labour over many generations, all the while enriching yourselves by paying them starvation wages, denying them most of the human dignities of civil services and rights, and coercing them into illegalities by threatening them at every turn with the INS at the first hint of backbone. They are, however, somewhat more dubious about your insistence on hypocritically whining about it at every chance and blatantly portraying their people as vermin while you grew fat on the cheap labour they furnished. They look forward to returning the favour as trends reverse. You will be every bit as welcome! You might want to learn to speak Spanish.

Your friendly neighbourhood "terrorists" — usually people you encounter on their own soil — are sorry to see you go. Without you around to pick on, they'll have to get on with having jobs, families, houses and infrastructure that don't blow up and fall down on top of them, and, gosh darn it, having to acquire democracy the old fashioned way — evolving it and shaping it by consensus — instead of having it neatly fired into their bodies in the form of copper-jacketed steel. They will miss you, and wish you well in your future endeavors in your isolationist home.

Finally, the world would like to announce the publication of two lists. List 1 is all the countries in the world that, whatever their political stripe, prejudices, or aspirations, realize that they simply can't be assholes who go around the world taking whatever they want, murdering at will and expecting it not to result in any ill will or consequences, that there are limits to what power can and should be used to achieve and that the rights of others demand respect, accommodation, and negotiated settlements. List 2 includes the United States. The world finds this unfortunate, but wishes to earnestly assure Americans that mechanisms are already in place that promise to swiftly and humbly convert you to a solid List 1 country anytime now. O happy day!

My goodness! My Guinness! Thank you and good night.