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Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Remembrance of Things Past…

Posted by Keen Observer on November 11, 2013

Nothing to do with anything in this post but the title, but I remember reading some of the above bit of painful prose in the original French. I don’t remember much about it, but I remember reading it, and only vaguely how some things can spawn an “involuntary memory”. The original title is more along the lines of “In Search of Lost Time”, but English editors of French works can be a little pompous and can feel the need to change authorial intent. I was never a fan of Proust, but that little kernel of truth is quite profound, as it relates strongly to interconnectedness.

That aside…

Today was Remembrance Day in Canada and the Commonwealth, and marked in different ways in other countries. Canada uses the day–though not a national, public holiday–to honour its fallen heroes, its war dead, a tradition dating back to the end of World War I. The poppies come out about two weeks before the day. Generally, at no other time during the year is there any mention of such things in the “popular” press, and come the 12th, the poppies disappear from the talking heads on television, and also the public consciousness.

There has been some talk in recent years of a so-called “white” poppy, that’s intended to represent peace, as though the red poppies (there are other colours?) are meant to honour war and killing. People who would believe this tripe are ignorant, stupid, or misled. Or all three. People who think that another type of poppy is needed have no idea what a “Remembrance” poppy represents, and they probably don’t care to learn, either.

War is hell. Period. Some have said it’s the failure of diplomacy, which is probably true enough, but diplomacy is often used just as another military manoeuvre, and is often the opening salvo in the war, or the base causus belli. And sometimes, diplomacy is just another way of saying, “Please turn around, so I can stab you in the back.” Friends close, enemies closer. There are people/entities/national actors in the world with whom diplomacy is impossible, because they are not rational actors. With groups like those, war of some type is inevitable, and it’s harder to fight off, both because they are not rational actors, and because we often give them the means to destroy us.

War is hell. It has a huge cost, beyond military budgets and economic/environmental damage. War kills generations, whether the war is “won” or not. War is a horrible, horrible thing and should be avoided–unless it can’t be. And if it can’t be, that war should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, to ensure that your side doesn’t bear the cost of it any more than it has to. It should be as nasty, brutish, and short as possible, and preferably destroy your enemy’s ability to make war again for a very long time. People who have studied war’s history, and the history of wars, understand this, more so if they have military experience. Politicians, as a rule, do not, and they are often eager to increase the cost of a war that they do not personally have to pay.

War veterans understand the hellish nature of war at a bone-deep level we “normal” people can’t possibly understand, and for this we should be grateful, because it means that we have not experienced it. And we “normals” have trouble understanding why anyone would volunteer to go out and kill or die to serve a political or necessary end for people they know nothing about. But they do, and they die. It is this that the poppies represent: their sacrifice, not for a glorification of war. The poem “In Flanders Fields” encapsulated this fairly well, which is why it has stood the test of time. They died, that others might live. They died, that those who started unnecessary wars might be defeated in their goals. They died, that evil might be fought to a standstill and destroyed. They died, that people might say egregiously-stupid things about poppies without being imprisoned. They died, and we live. They died, and we wear poppies once a year.

There is a problem, though, in that as we get further away from the global wars of the past, the memories around them fade. And schools slowly stop teaching about the true causes and costs of war. And the sacrifices of the honoured fallen are gradually pushed to the side, so that generations of people grow up not understanding what happened in the past. Memories fade, and people stop seeing the warning signs of oncoming global conflict, leaving us unprepared in the face of existential threats. Memories fade, and people stop appreciating the freedoms they take for granted every single day, freedoms bought with the blood of young generations, something that today’s young generations don’t want to confront. And they fail to see that the price of those freedoms is eternal vigilance, because there is always someone out there who wants to restrict your freedoms, to control your lives and thoughts. Honouring and supporting a military that is the only bulwark against external threats of that type is about the least you can do. And the simplest way to do that is to wear a red poppy on the left side of your chest for a couple weeks around Hallowe’en. If you feel particularly punchy, you can go for a yellow ribbon as a year-round display. But we must not forget. Or there might come a time when we need the help of the warriors to protect us, but they are not there, and this time, it is we who will die, but there will be no one to remember us.

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Posted in general, life, opinion, personal, poetry, politics, stupidity, Writing | Comments Off on Remembrance of Things Past…

Sex Workers’ Rights Day (Friday the 13th)

Posted by Keen Observer on September 16, 2013

Sex work is work, as they say, and sex worker rights are human rights. Per the link below, I’m one who comes at this from the libertarian side, the equal-treatment-under-the-law side, the women-have-the-right-to-choose-how-their-bodies-are-used side, the not-seeing-sex-work-as-immoral side, and the not-treating-working-girls-like-pieces-of-shit side. For the record, I’ve never patronised a sex worker (heh…did you see what I did there?), but trying to make/keep this consensual activity criminal is beyond stupid.

http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/friday-the-13th-again/
(Her blog is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended, and some is NSFW.)

Read her stuff. Maggie McNeill–a retired escort–articulates things I could never find the words for and describes things far outside of my experience. But society treating sex workers as pariahs is why Robert Pickton got away with murdering women–people who were wives, sisters, daughters–for as long as he did, and why other murderers, abusers, and rapists continue to do. And this is in Canada, a country where prostitution is itself not illegal. I mean, listen to the news: recently, two women were killed in Vancouver almost next door to each other. “High-risk lifestyle” is media/police code for “she’s just a whore”, where missing or murdered women are concerned. More often than not, it even means “drug-addled whore.” That they were connected to sex work should never have made it into the news reports, because at this point in time, it’s fucking irrelevant–and perhaps never relevant. Treat murdered/missing women as murdered/missing women, in the press and elsewhere, and maybe violence against women will decrease. That they were escorts may be a relevant line of investigation, but why publicise it or change how you approach the case?

If you haven’t thought about things like this before, read her well-written blog (she is intelligent, articulate, and thoughtful, though I don’t always agree with her), and you will. However, you might end up feeling a bit gob-smacked from time to time at the things you’ll learn, especially about how whores in America are treated, and how they’re trying to export their misguided morality and control-freak tendencies worldwide, where it’s just not wanted. And you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that goes on around the world.

I stole someone's picture.

“Nice pussy you have. Shame if something happened to it.”

You may be shocked at how most feminist groups, who should be staunch allies of fully-sexually-actualised, independent businesswomen, routinely fight against efforts to humanise (read, decriminalise) sex work/workers: a woman is allowed to choose, as long as it’s not choosing to take money for sex. Slut it up and fuck whomever you want, just don’t take cash money for it.

So, though this post is now going up a few days late, I don’t think it hurts to remind people that sex workers are people too. Porn stars have sex with multiple partners for money, and they don’t face nearly the same stigmatisation as someone doing a straight-up financial transaction for sex. They also don’t get arrested for their activities; some are lauded and some run for political office. And as Maggie has pointed out a time or two, cops aren’t smart enough to differentiate between hookers and non-hooker females. In some places just having more than a few condoms in your purse is enough to get you nicked, and that’s utterly ridiculous. Other stories are more harrowing, and all are because of demonisation of sex workers and the illegality of sex work in many jurisdictions. Strangely, however, most people can’t tell sex workers apart from “regular” women: they look just like everyone else. And they are just like everyone else: trying to make a living with their native skills.

Posted in American, Canadian, general, life, news & journalism, opinion, politics, religion, stupidity, Uncategorized, World | 1 Comment »

Guns are tools

Posted by Keen Observer on January 13, 2013

Sandy Hook was a horrible, horrible thing. No child or its parents should have to suffer through what those people did. At least one teacher died a hero, not knowing if her efforts to protect her charges would be successful. People the world over could stand to emulate her behaviour.

Utoya was a horrible, horrible thing. No child or parent should have to suffer through what those people did. Premeditated murder of dozens of people not known to the shooter, while security forces were mobilised over a devastating bomb used as a mere distraction, is nothing more than psychopathy.

Both of these horrific crimes were perpetrated on innocent children for the most part. Both were perpetrated in so-called “gun free” zones, either by designation or de facto. The body count was much higher in Utoya, at least in part because the shooter wanted to kill as many people as possible In Sandy Hook, I’m not sure that was his goal. What was semi-ironic in this to me is that Utoya is in Norway, a country that has gun-control restrictions at least as severe as in Canada, and perhaps more so. Yet the shooter still managed to end up quite well-armed.

One thing that immediately leaps to my attention in both cases is how within hours, and wholly expectedly, the cries began to be raised before the bodies were even cold (or counted): Ban guns; Restrict Guns; Register Guns. In Norway, not much can be done, given the state if its laws. In the US, the semi-regular cries to make responsible firearms owners into criminals have taken on a fever pitch. Echoes of it appear in Canada, especially with the federal government recently striking down the legal requirement to register long guns that have been legally purchased.

The primary difference between gun-control arguments waged in the US and gun-control arguments waged pretty much anywhere else is this simple little sentence attached to their constitution via the amendment process:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That’s it. The sum total of Amendment II to the US constitution, and it’s been argued over since it was written down. To me it looks pretty clear: “…shall not be infringed.” People mostly seem to argue over the inclusion of the Militia into this clause, but to me, based on the structure, it’s only there as a preamble and justification for allowing unrestricted access of the people to arms. Any kind of arms, since there is literally no restriction to this element. Though a howitzer would probably be pretty awkward to carry around with you. In fact, my reading posits that the only constitutionally-valid option available to the Americans is registration and licensing. That’s it. And Amendment X already has allowed that in place on a state-by-state basis, if so desired. And just as a reference, the state of Vermont has the fewest gun laws of any state in the Union (including Texas), and it also has the third-lowest total crime rate. The only law they seem to have is a “must-issue” law, in that if someone asks to be issued a permit for ownership or carrying, one must be issued to them.

Now, it is possible that Americans would genuinely want to restrict this stuff constitutionally. That’s fine. There is a process in place since the country’s founding to amend the constitution. Knock yourself out. But until then, it seems to me that the hue and cry being raised is all about increasing political capital and/or statist control, and not about safety or the children. Because you see, there is little to correlate increased gun ownership with increased violence, and almost nothing to correlate it to mass shootings on any sort of realistic basis (I wish I could remember where, but I saw one statistic that showed Canada had a higher rate of school shootings than the US on a per-capita basis). I’ve seen a couple of recent suggestions, in fact, that gun violence correlates pretty well to drug trafficking more than anything else, and can be inversely correlated to the removal of lead from paint and gasoline. A different study correlates an inverse relationship between increasing gun ownership and decreasing murder rates in the US, using the FBI’s own statistics.

But among all the various studies, what it comes down to–in my not-so-humble opinion–is people. People will kill. People will kill (if they’re of a mind to) using whatever tools are available to them. Guns are handy, but so are chemical explosives or cars or propane tanks or edged weapons. Japan or China has had about eighteen separate mass killings with edged weapons in the last five or ten years (don’t remember that source today, either). The worst was about eight people killed with a meat cleaver. The truth of the matter is, you can’t prevent psychotics or sociopaths from killing…at least, not until they expose themselves, and then dang it if you don’t wish you were carrying that day.

There were about a dozen mass killings in the US last year. Twelve people showed how fucked-up nuts they were. Out of a population of some 350 million. To my recollection, only Sandy Hook got this kind of coverage or reaction. And there were about 9000 non-justified gun homicides in 2011 (based on FBI stats and rounded off). So, because of these people, there is wailing and gnashing of teeth to abrogate the constitutional rights of the other 349,990,988 people (roughly), or else “you just don’t care about the children, you monster!”

In Canada, some firearms laws have been on the books since about 1935, because we have no such constitutional protections. A recent study by an ER doctor, Cailin Langmann, showed an actual inverse correlation between the enacting of the three main stages of Canadian fireamrs laws and crime rates. The more restrictions put in place, the worse crime gets. Anecdotal evidence from other places shows similar results, in that crime almost disappeared in a Georgia town after a law was passed to require gun ownership by the head of household. The states in the US with the most restrictions–Illinois and California–are also the most violent states. But you won’t generally hear this sort of thing in the “popular” news media, because it doesn’t fit the narrative: “Gun Ownership is Evil!” In fact the news article I read about this in the National Post ridiculed the results as being suspect, because Dr Langmann is a known supporter of gun ownership…without noticing the irony that they said nothing about the contrary position being held by an organisation dedicated to ending personal gun ownership.

I wish that I owned a few weapons some days, but I’m not going to, not in this climate. Even though the long-gun registry has been destroyed (fuck you, Quebec), just applying for and getting a Possession and Acquisition Certificate (PAC) surrenders rights to the state that ought not to be surrenderable. Even if I didn’t buy a weapon after acquiring the PAC, the state now has the right to enter my home for any or no reason at all and search the fuck out of it…just in case I store a bullet next to a gun, or some bullshit. The laws are incredibly restrictive and do nothing for anyone. And I don’t want to deal with that. And then I’d always have to worry about using such a weapon to defend myself in my home against an intruder. There have been too many cases of people doing that and getting arrested for it, which is absurdly wrong. If I don’t have the right to defend myself by whatever means necessary, then I have no rights at all. And as some others have pointed out, that right was enshrined in the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights (passed in the early 1960s), and it has never been contradicted in law. However, it seems that the courts need a specific law to hold their hands and explain things to them, so the sooner a Castle Doctrine is enshrined in law, the happier I’ll be. But the registry itself should be a warning to Americans: it just won’t work. Registered firearms kill people all the time. But most handgun murders in Canada aren’t with registered weapons, because, you know, criminals don’t register their fucking guns! And though it’s easy to be accused of Godwinism in any argument, the comparison with Nazi Germany is valid in this case, because they instituted gun-ownership restrictions on the Jewish population. See how that worked out?

Beyond the hysteria of the gun-control crowd, it boils down to this: firearms are tools, nothing more. A weapon is inert and useless, until it is wielded, and it must be wielded by conscious act. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gun or a knife or a bomb or a fucking baseball bat or a garden trowel. It just lies there until someone picks it up and uses it. Guns are especially inert, because not only does the weapon have to be acquired, it has to be loaded with ammunition that also has to be acquired, aimed, and a trigger pulled. And you have to hit what you’re aiming at, which may be dozens of feet away. To me, the only sane response to crazy people on a rampage is not to be helpless before them, not to be out-gunned by them, and not to let the state make us all into victims by preventing that and preventing preservational self-defence. Because a gun in your hand can be an amazing equaliser, and for an assailant not to know who is armed and who is not makes them less likely to attack randomly. Psychopaths will still be psychopaths, but a rampage is a lot easier to stop when someone besides the shooter is armed. And that’s another key point to remember: “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” Police aren’t a preventative measure. They are there to clean up afterwards, and in some cases cause the problems (but that’s a different rant).

So let’s do away with the hand-wringing and pearl clutching and the “won’t someone think about the children”-ing. I used to hate the phrase when I was younger, but you really can’t argue with it: guns don’t kill people; people kill people. But you just can’t seem to argue that proposition with the gun-control crowd. Because, “you’re an evil child-killer, you monster!” You can’t reason with the unreasonable, and you can’t argue someone out of a position they weren’t argued into in the first place. But hysteria serves no one, and I really wish it would stop.

Posted in American, Canadian, news & journalism, opinion, politics, stupidity | Comments Off on Guns are tools

Traveling abroad

Posted by Keen Observer on August 3, 2012

So, I’m goin’ travelling.  In addition to my other recent distractions, this will also cut into blogging time.  Since I’m not really doing a travelogue blog, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for updates in the near future.  However, the trip may provide fodder for a post I started in April and never finished.  We’ll have to see.  I’ve been to Europe before, so this time I’m going to Asia.  By myself.  Which kind of scares the crap out of me.  I’ve wanted to go there for a very long time, and now I get to make it happen.  I expect to be thoroughly culture-shocked.  Hopefully, my anxieties won’t ruin the trip for me, but I’m trying to be positive about it.

See y’all when I get back! 🙂

Posted in general, life, personal, World | Comments Off on Traveling abroad

Wow…just…wow

Posted by Keen Observer on March 17, 2012

This post (follow the links) scares the crap out of me for some reason:

http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/019619.html

I believe that in a free society, no single person should be able to wield unrestricted power.  Based on my reading of the article at the examiner.com link (trying to read the full text of the EO made my eyes swim), there are absolutely NO CONTROLS on presidential power, should this Executive Order be invoked.  I find that very, very scary.

Update:
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air tries to calm people down, claiming this is just a terminology update:

http://hotair.com/archives/2012/03/18/national-defense-resources-preparedness-executive-order-power-grab-or-update/

Even with his analysis, I’m not convinced there’s nothing to worry about, and I’m not even American. That previous presidents signed similar EOs is not a justification in centralising that much power, or keeping it there. Especially when the current office-holder bemoaned not having the same freedom to act as a Chinese dictator.

But there’s nothing to worry about.

Posted in American, opinion, politics, stupidity | Comments Off on Wow…just…wow

A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 5

Posted by Keen Observer on February 6, 2012

And so it continues…

At some point during this period following the attacks, I also found—I’ve no idea now how at this point—a left-wing blogger that I found interesting enough to read regularly. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it was likely in 2006, and I think it was after I moved to Calgary and was looking for connections to the city of my birth. This blogger, whose link is at the right side of my blog’s home page (grrrlmeetsworld), was a southern Baptist preacher’s daughter transplanted to Saskatoon for graduate school, who became an atheist and a Democrat/liberal. The conversion from Christian Republican to atheist Democrat seemed interesting to me at the time, and I even commented a few times, though I can no longer seem to find them. I read her posts and resisted some of what I read mentally, which told me I wasn’t a true leftist, but I didn’t know what I was for sure yet. I definitely did agree with her condemnation of southern religious practices as outlined in the documentary “Jesus Camp”, of which I have admittedly only seen a few scenes. What I did see scared the crap out of me and had me fearing for a generation of brainwashed children steeped in superstition. It did, I think, help with my transition away from religion.

 [Blogger’s Note: I had thought, when I started writing this (and have held as long as I can recall) that reading grrrlmeetsworld pointed me at a right-wing blog, described below. I’ll tell the story as I believed it, but after trying to create a timeline from Internet resources, I can no longer swear positively that this was the way it happened. It was similar in some way, but the connection would seem not to be as direct. I add this little note as my attempt at deflecting potential accusations of “making shit up” or “intellectual dishonesty”, but I would have sworn this to be true before starting to verify it.]

Reading this blog, however, pointed me in an unexpected direction. Said blogger decided to take issue with something she’d heard on the radio or read in the local paper and then followed up by linking to another site at right, smalldeadanimals. I think this was in 2006 still. The hostess of that blog had commented on the subject of welfare and single moms and drugs (or something like that), to the effect of “Why should we pay for people who can’t keep their legs closed?” I’m paraphrasing, but I believe that was the sentiment/subject. I went to this blog and read the statement, as I wanted to make sure I had the context correct, because I couldn’t believe something like that would get published/make the air. But that’s what it was. Somebody said something I knew to be unpopular, but with which I agreed. So I poked around the site and read more. And more. I initially read bits and pieces, feeling as though I was being naughty for doing so, but most of what I read resonated quite strongly with me, though I have—and still do—disagree with some things that get posted there, especially in the comments.

That was effectively the beginning of the end of my conversion to conservatism. The more I read, the more I realised what I was and why some things seemed wrong to me, and the more I realised that I was regularly being either lied to or fed half-truths in the name of a specific agenda. I learned about things I had not heard before. I learned about things I had heard about before, but with additional or different information. I clicked on links and found other blogs with even more information and links that exposed further lies and untruths. Some of what I learned put earlier experiences in my life in a different light.

Of course, the more I read of how I had been duped in the media and school, and more about things that make sense to me, the less I find I want to read left-leaning blogs, because I have trouble now reading them without wanting to pull out my hair in frustration. It frequently seems to me as though the left-leaners are wilfully blind to facts and logic. Until I was trying to put this together, I couldn’t have told you the last time I was at grrrlmeetsworld, or Daily Dose. I almost never go to places like the Huffington Post, unless someone provides a useful link. Watching how the “regular” press treated different candidates in elections differently, or treated one side of the parliamentary aisle with more respect than the other really helped turn me off, when the information is available by other means for you to draw your own conclusions, ones that frequently (if not mostly) disagree with the “accepted” view of things.  It doesn’t hurt that I moved to a province generally considered to be the most conservative in Canada, which certainly made it easier to accept that I wasn’t alone in my beliefs.

As time goes on I settle more into where I’m at politically and religiously. It’s a strange sort of comfort. Religiously, as should be obvious, I am barely agnostic, still a hand’s breadth from “committing” to atheism, teetering daily, when I have time to think about it. Some things—or people—make that seem to happen more frequently. Looking up on a clear night is one of those things, though there are fewer clear nights in Calgary than there were in Saskatoon. Sometimes, a friend makes you think, or a random experience. So, I remain agnostic, but for practical purposes I’m an atheist.

Politically, I usually describe myself as a libertarian-conservative, or centre-right, depending on my mood. I am not a social conservative, though I can understand and relate to some of the positions on that side. I do tend to agree that a nuclear family is better for society as a whole, but those who would espouse freedom should understand that you can’t force that on others, nor can you force them to share your religious tenets. I use “libertarian” in the sense of a minimum of social restrictions, but I’m not a true libertarian, in the sense that pure libertarians tend to anarchism, whether or not they acknowledge that. My political views are largely thus:

  • The role of government should be as small as is possible, given its responsibilities.
  • Governmental responsibilities should be as few as possible to enable society to function relatively smoothly, and new ones should not be sought to expand power, with the possible exception of national emergencies (at the federal level). The limits should be constitutionally set, where they are not already.
    • National Defence at the federal level, including border security and oceanic sovereignty.
    • Adjudicating disputes; jurisdiction depends on level.
    • A minor level of regulation for a very limited set of problems, and federal responsibilities should never be adopted by the provinces, or vice versa.
    • Regulation of international agreements/diplomacy/similar things.
  • Spending as little as possible as needed to fulfil the mandates required. This requires limiting the size of the public service and the amount of money paid to public servants in a way that does not reward sloth or failure. With this in mind, citizens need not pay for as much, so taxes may also be kept to a minimum.
  • Charity is not the business of government. Transfer payments are a form of charity.
  • Child care is not the business of government.
  • Religion is not the business of government, nor should it have any say in government. We are a secular country, but our people may sometimes hold religious beliefs. These are likely to inform decision-making, but this should be minimised where possible. A decision for one religious group may not be good for another, but it may be good on the whole.

Beyond this list, it’s largely up for negotiation, but the public sector should never be getting mixed up in the private sector. There is nothing so bad (in terms of business, at least) that government can’t make worse, and so the opportunities for such should be limited. This also should reduce any existence of—or potential for—corruption, and hopefully reduce the number of lifetime bureaucrats that produce nothing of value.

My positions sometimes shift slightly, depending on circumstances, but these are basically consistent for me right now. I also have views on other things, such as immigration, but those are perhaps topics for other days. I won’t bother to summarise my current religious status, since I think it’s been more or less covered, but the political journey I’ve taken so far does have parallels on the religious side of things.

And on that note, I’ll declare this odyssey at an end, though in much less dramatic fashion than the original. But it’s never really over.

Posted in Alberta, economics, general, news & journalism, personal, politics, religion | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 5

A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 4

Posted by Keen Observer on February 5, 2012

I’m getting closer to being finished, honest.

The shock of the attacks on 9/11 was still not quite enough to complete my conversion to the Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy…I don’t think. I remember understanding instinctively that this was an attack that could not go unanswered. I knew that someone would be made to pay, and that was as it should be. But I remember having less-than-positive thoughts about the Bush administration that would not correlate to conservatism. I know now that was partly due to biased coverage in the news media, which had less of an Internet presence than it does now, by far, but it also had to do with failure to prevent the threat from becoming real.

I believed also at the time that the Patriot Act would not be a good idea, that problems would be caused. I still hold that belief and have found that it is not a fringe position among conservatives. I also did not think creating Homeland Security would be a good idea (a thought which has been borne out, in my opinion, given recent excesses and “security theatre” of the TSA). It evoked in me at the time immediate comparisons with old rhetoric around fascist Germany and communist Russia—the Fatherland and the Motherland (or Mother Russia), respectively, though this time the “-land” in question was gender-neutral. This is the kind of rhetoric the modern world can live quite happily without. I saw it in some ways as supporting my belief that Americans as a whole think a little too highly of themselves, but I also saw that between these two governmental elements there was a large opportunity for abuse of power and related problems, especially when used with the phrase, “In the name of security.”

I also saw the attacks as fairly evident proof that Muslim extremists cannot be reasoned with or bargained with…ever. Radical (or extremist) religious views are not rational and are used to excuse any action—the “God told me to” defence. There is nothing a religious extremist cannot justify. I’ll not get off on a screed here, but I will say that since 9/11 I have not viewed Muslims or the Middle East in quite the same way. A minority may be responsible for the terrorism and violence, but they are tolerated and tacitly encouraged by the so-called silent majority. This type of view can generally be attributed more towards the conservative right than the liberal left, so that was another piece to the puzzle. It also, perhaps counter-intuitively, partially validated my disdain for and separation from my own former religion, in terms of the broad strokes of religious fervour and superstition.

Canada’s participation in the Afghanistan fighting also renewed my pride in my country and its Armed Forces, something that had been largely quiescent for years. I was always saddened to hear of the death of a CF member, but I was always proud that our military personnel were out there, doing Canada proud with honour and distinction, fighting against the evil present there at the time. Definitely not a liberal perspective.

During this period, around 2003-2004, I had a job doing “media monitoring”. That is to say, I got paid to watch TV news and listen to radio news, then upload summaries rife with names and keywords to a national database. I also did transcription of some stories/items on request. I had thought this would be a good job, as at the time I fancied myself a news junkie of sorts. How little did I know. That job cured me of that affliction for a time, but it also taught me one thing: the media outlets said almost exactly the same thing on each story that was broadcast. Some outlets had different foci than others, but the differences seemed largely minor. The reporters also had similar cadences, and the word I grew to hate was “still”, as it preceded too many sentences. The reports were (and still are to large extent) structured in the same way: start with a personal angle, describe the meat of the story, evaluate (usually with alarm) the apparent problems, bring it back to the personal. Story after story, channel after channel, night after night. It was at that time that I largely switched my personal news watching to Global, as their offences usually seemed less egregious, but I still couldn’t bring myself to switch to our local talk radio station, because the conservatism of their flagship hosts sounded far too sour-grapes for my liking. But I did occasionally hear through my job opinions from them that made far too much sense to me.

I learned at some point in 2005 of an American blogger, a resident of Minnesota, who had taken an interest in Canadian politics for some reason. He blogged at a place called Captain’s Quarters—now defunct—which I found out about due to his interest in the so-called Sponsorship Scandal, the inquiry for which had a publication ban on testimony, with punishments for Canadians that broke the ban. The Captain decided to expose the Gomery Inquiry and its participants, and I read regularly. I became disgusted with the apparently-corrupt antics of the federal party I supported, which helped push me (and many others, I expect) away from the Liberal Party of Canada. I even read other articles at his site, which pionted me in all sorts of new directions that were surprisingly sensible. And at some point he was persuaded to give up his personal blog and become a lead contributor at another blog on the right side of the page: HotAir. I read it regularly, especially when it comes to American politics, but they also have a few more fringe elements showing up. This blog also broadened (and broadens) my conservative experience.

Contemporaneously, I also continued to grow more at ease with being religiously agnostic. The longer I went without weekly harangues about my basic evilness and the need to beg forgiveness for it, the happier I was. I continued my internal debates on whether a supreme being of some sort actually existed, however, and if so, was deserving of worship. I also continued to see events around me and around the world as further confirmation that somebody was horribly, horribly wrong about the nature of god and evil. And I got closer and closer to thinking everybody was wrong.

More to come…

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A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 3

Posted by Keen Observer on January 31, 2012

So, presuming no one is bored at my rambling yet, I shall continue…

I spent some time adrift after leaving school sans degree.  This was in 1991, when I should have convocated as a teacher, as did many of my friends.  Instead, I was somewhat aimless.  Employment prospects poor, I didn’t quite know what to do.  I didn’t much care about other things, either.  I had my first brush with what might be called depression, though it was never diagnosed as such.  I scared my family by doing a very good impression of a rock for about eight hours uninterrupted one day.

I almost left university, I should say.  With nothing better to do, I went back in the fall to take classes towards a degree in English Literature.  That kept me occupied somewhat, and I was exposed to ideas further left than my usual ones, especially in the person of a poet I met in one of my classes, one with certain…issues, let’s say.  I absorbed some of these ideas and reflected them back to the world.  I learned a higher level of analytical reading and presentation.  I honed my writing skills.  I thought about doing graduate work, but it really didn’t appeal to me, and I had certain…limitations imposed because of my math/physics grades.  I stayed out of politics, mostly, but I voted every election.  One can argue that it is a citizen’s highest civic duty, but it was never something I let slide past me, even if all I did was spoil a ballot.

During this time also, I did spend some time with my poet friend and her circle.  Except for rare circumstances, I never really felt part of the group, though.  I didn’t really understand why, except that I knew at a recognisable level that they were not my people.  Different ideas.  Diff’rent strokes.  Different aims and beliefs.  At most levels, except for occasional literary discussions, I could not relate to them as a group.  The thought of “conservatism” still left me cold, believing as I did what the media and my acquaintances told me about it and the PC Party of Canada (or Saskatchewan). and I largely considered myself a centrist or centre-left kind of guy.  I had not yet realised that I was being fed news pablum, but I did have a sense that there were gaps of some sort (at least on a subconscious level).

I ultimately finished that degree in 1994, but again had no idea what to do with it.  No job, no prospects.  Unsure.  My cousin got married that year, and the wedding was in Sydney, NS.  I went, invited as relative and MC.  Did not distinguish myself, but it was somewhat life-changing.  I had taken geology as an elective, and I got to see out east some things discussed in class, and I began to understand the story the earth tells, if you know how to read it.  This intrigued me to the point that I wanted to learn more, and so I re-enrolled upon my return:  something finally excited me.

Something else excited me:  my sister’s best friend, freshly graduated from high school.  For some reason at that ceremony, something changed relative indifference to strong attraction, to the point that while far away from Saskatoon, I kept thinking about her at fairly regular intervals.  There’s much more detail, but for my purposes now, I had something else to occupy my mind.  We started dating that fall, despite some initial reluctance on my part, and she was central to my life for 16 years, and still currently has a peripheral–but significant–effect on it.

I had goals again; I was excited; I had things to do.  With new things to keep me engaged in my life, I again started following politics more closely.  I again kept being unsure of myself.  I questioned my agnosticism.  I kept thinking things the government did were a bit stupid; in my house, however, criticising the provincial NDP government was not generally wise.  Based on things I understood at the time, the federal government, Liberal-run, seemed to be going OK, so I had no complaints.  Quebec separatism frequently came up as a topic.  For that, I saw little reason in appeasement, even with my French-Canadian heritage, so in that regard I was on the opposite side of my supposed party.  I would be unhappy with the breaking of Confederation, but I just could not see how they could be so stupid about it.  How little did I know at the time, but the press seemed not interested in portraying the true nature of the complaints, as I have now come to understand them.

I finished my geology degree program, which is where I developed a grounding in the historical temperature record.  This (among other reasons that would take up other posts completely) informed my resistance to climate change as having any human-caused component, something that set me apart from most people for a long time.  I worked as a well-site geologist for about 4 years after that, which also let me to be exposed to a larger world of ideas, including those of surprisingly-educated rig workers.

During this time, I found a left-leaning blog, one of those at right on the main page of this blog:  grrlmeetsworld.  In it (I can’t remember how I found it) the writer recounted her own political journey from US Southern Christian right to a leftist doing grad work at my university.  It interested me, and it was interesting to read how she stopped adhering to the politics she had grown up around.  A lot of the change seemed to be propelled by the Christian part of the politicking, to which I could somewhat relate, but in the other direction.  I even commented there a few times, even after moving to Calgary.  But that’s getting ahead.  I learned a lot from her, some of which she might not appreciate, but some things continued to leave me confused.

The rigs were also the milieu in which I was when the attacks of 9/11 happened.  Clear as day are some of my memories around that time, though others from that time have deteriorated.  I was just coming on shift shortly after the first plane hit.  Oddly, it just seemed like a run-of-the-mill disaster to be watched with ghoulish interest.  And I was watching as the second plane hit.  My first reaction was, “Oh. My. God.” There was no mistaking that for an accident.  My second reaction was, “Those stupid, stupid fuckers.”  I had no doubt in my mind who was responsible, at least in broad form, and I knew they had just changed the world in an instant.  I also knew that hell was coming for them.

(to be continued…)

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A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 2

Posted by Keen Observer on January 31, 2012

[Note:  rather a lot of this was written in early March 2011, but it sat for some time before I got back to it.  A new friend’s feedback encouraged me.]

I’m not entirely sure, but I think I might always have been a conservative, without really realising it.  I’m still trying to figure that out.  But I almost never voted Conservative.  I think, except maybe for once, I never voted NDP.  I was usually voting Liberal, both federally and provincially.  Largely, that was due to my family, my school, and my Church, but I could never bring myself to swing further left than that.

When I moved to Calgary, I joined a riding that was so deep blue, no vote of mine would make a difference.  So I voted Libertarian federally and Wild Rose Alliance provincially (in their first election).  I plan to vote WRA again.  With Prentice gone (what a jack-off), I voted CPC in the last election without feeling too sullied, but I doubt it made a difference.  There was no Libertarian candidate this time around, so no  worries there.

That’s where I stand now, but how did I get here?

I remember developing interest in news and politics somewhat in elementary school.  As something we did on a weekly basis, Fridays I think, we did posters or quizzes on “current events”.  That kind of opened up the world to me a little bit, which heretofore I hadn’t much cared about.  I don’t think I took sides then, or anything.  It was largely a regurgitation exercise, and I believed something that appeared in print or on TV.  They weren’t trying to teach us much in the way of critical thinking or analysis, just summary and repetition.

I vaguely remember from that time the Iranian hostage crisis, for example, and feeling proud that Canadians had a hand in getting some of the Americans out.    I remember reading crappy Canadian history books in class that ended with the Diefenbaker prime-ministership.  And I remember having a very strong interest in military history, partly due to a love of airplanes (the best planes were fighter planes).  Unfortunately, most of the military history available to me was American and European, rather than anything Canadian.  I forget how old I was when I learned who Laura Secord really is or that we burned the White House (assuming it was us and not just British forces stationed here).

My interest in news, history, and current events carried on through my high-school life (and, indeed, continues today).  My perception of it changed over the years, though.  In high school I spent a couple of years in Air Cadets.  I generally enjoyed the experience, and I probably would have gone forward with a career in the military, but all I was interested in at the time was flying, and when I realised in grade ten that I needed glasses, that killed that hope for me.  I didn’t re-join cadets the following year, either.  I still kind of regret that, even though my excuse at the time was that it was taking too much time away from my academics.  Purely a rationalisation, I think now, because I didn’t need to work at all hard in school.  I maintained, though, my interest in and support of our military.  I attended air shows and went to other military displays.  It was in elementary school where I developed a sense of nationalism, and I was always somewhat offended that promoting Canadian nationalism was seen as being “too American”.  It was in the vein of “all problems and wars are the result of being too nationalistic”, or some other simplistic bullshit.  To my shame I largely kept quiet on that subject, but I was also quietly proud.

My interest in firearms arose largely from Scouts, believe it or not.  At camp one year, it was the first time I fired a rifle (or firearm of any type).  It was a simple .22LR of some variety with open sights; I don’t remember if it had the usual 5-round magazine, but I expect it did.  I was able, on the camp range, to hit small targets at 50 yards or so (eg the plastic boxes the ammo came in) and see them fly up with fragments.  I found that exciting, but it was also a little scary to me, because I understood that these tools can be dangerous also.  I don’t recall if I ever had any position on gun control before then or not.  I doubt it.  Even after that, I kind of waffled somewhat, because I held the belief for some time that restricting access to firearms could be a good thing.  Eventually, however, I realised that “gun control” should only ever mean “tight groupings” and “hitting your target”.  Sure, require licenses and maybe background checks, but the licenses shouldn’t be overly restrictive or difficult to obtain.  Otherwise, there really shouldn’t be any restrictions, except perhaps for certain types of military-grade hardware.  And there should be more education about and promotion of firearms in the general population.  But going beyond this is another post.

[Tangent] Castle Doctrine:  enact one.  Enough said.  It’s just getting stupider out there. [Edit: the CPC has made some changes to current laws, but they’re not enough.]

Property rights:  enact them.  Enough said. [/Tangent]

In high school I was still surrounded by largely leftist politics.  Fortunately, it was mostly charity-based, but there was a lot that wasn’t.  At one point I was peer- and parent-pressured into getting a youth membership in the federal Liberal party to help push through an openly pro-life candidate’s nomination/election as party leader .  He didn’t win, but it wasn’t a surprise.  I got to join the others on a moral high horse that our consciences were salved by our actions, except I always felt a vague sense of unease about it.  At this remove, I’m not quite sure why, but I think I had some sort of sense that it wasn’t right.  At any rate, I always had a sense that I was out of step with those around me, but I really didn’t know why.

University provided a more-broad opportunity to interact with the world.  Living in a university city meant that I and most of the college-bound people from my high school ended up staying close to home and relatively intact as a group.  So their influence shadowed me, and my circle of friends didn’t expand much, as there was no need.  But again, there was exposure to new, and enhanced opportunities for independent research.  Universities tend to lean left, and ours was no exception, but if you looked, you could see alternate viewpoints.  They conflicted with “my” world-view, though, so I tended to ignore them.  I suspect, however, that some of what I was exposed to stuck with me, whether I willed it or not.

I attempted initially to become a teacher, but I chose a science-based curriculum (I had been somewhat inspired to become a physics teacher).  This is a general dichotomy, as teachers and their unions tend to frown on rational thought, but science requires it.  During my third year of study, I was on a practicum replacement in a rural high school at the same time that a province-wide strike vote was being held by the union.  This opened my eyes in a way nothing else had, as we student teachers were inside the teachers’ lounge and treated as colleagues.  I saw the profession’s warts and was disheartened.  Between this and the struggle get my science/math grades up (I, stupidly, chose the real curriculum, rather than the one intended for teachers, and lacking proper study skills and too stubborn to get help, could not deal with the more advanced courses), I did not enter the 4th and final year of the program, instead burning the remainder of my scholarship on classes I enjoyed (literature of various types).  I took the following year off to figure out what to do with myself, as the plans I had no longer worked for me.  This is, of course, all by-the-by, insofar as the thesis of this post goes, but it does help frame my experiences.

Around this time, I acquired a female friend from a rural area that resulted in several things: a more intimate exposure to ideas that were not the same as those with which I was raised; and forced acknowledgement that my friends had some flaws that from some perspectives might be viewed as problematic.  I make no claim to perfection myself, but these were the types of flaws that break friendships, either sooner or later.  Challenging ideas and removing blinkers were additional contributions to modifying what I believed politically; it also turned out that my problems with the Church became more crystalline-clear, and at the end of my 4th year of university,  I left both it and the Church.  Perhaps ironically, my female friend returned to the Church…an even exchange.  So, my voyage continued, ideas meshing, fighting, losing, and triumphing.

(more to come…)

Posted in Canadian, general, news & journalism, personal, politics, religion, science | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 2

A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 1

Posted by Keen Observer on March 5, 2011

I wasn’t always politically conservative.  Somewhat ironically, it was losing my religion that was a major part of the change.

I was born and raised in Saskatoon, where I lived up until about five years ago, when I moved to Calgary for work.  The household I grew up in was Catholic and fairly leftist.  My dad–retired now–was a staunch trade unionist.  My mother is in a union, but she doesn’t like it much.  She was moderately pro-union, I guess, or neutral for my formative years.  I went to Catholic schools through to university, and I was involved in my church, pretty much right up until I left it.

Except for pro-life stuff, I was in situations where the causes we supported were leftist causes, predominantly poverty- and service-organisation-related.  Gay marriage wasn’t an issue during the time-frame, so it never came up.  Gay issues were just revolving around equality under the law, and in the Church, it was all about loving the sinner and hating the sin: one was allowed to “be” gay, as long as one didn’t have gay sex.  [Hypocrisy number one.]  However, women priests and married priests were off-limits suggestions, despite repeated reports of how the priestly rolls were continuing to decline every year.  For the Church hierarchy, some people were still more equal than others. [Hypocrisy number two.]

Tangent:  I should probably explain that my natural alignment tends to be “lawful neutral”, although I’m sometimes “chaotic good”.

I would also see week after week how religion was largely lip service, even for the weekly attenders.  In many ways it was like “what happens outside here stays outside here, unless you bring it to the confessional”.  It was presumed that if you went through the motions, you were seen as a good, pious congregationist.  And then you see these people in other settings, and they act nothing the same.  And no celestial punishment befalls them, and they never get called out on their behaviour. [Hypocrisy number three.] The primary source material on which the religion is based is contradictory and unclear in many places; it’s so bad that scholars over tens of centuries have churned out volume after volume after volume of “explaining” what exactly the primary material meant.  It’s a pretty classic example (IMO) of what happens when a potentially good idea becomes bogged down in government and regulation.  As the source material would have it, the central teachings of the Christ figure are:  do unto others as you would have them do unto you; love the god with all your heart, soul, and strength.  “And, you know, I wouldn’t mind if you’d remember me at supper time.”  And from this, we have the monolithic Church, plus all the other churches, most of which have rigid hierarchies and labyrinthine rules and regulations about what is and is not “true” teaching. [all in all, hypocrisy number four.]

The presence of so much evil in the world and “God’s” reaction to it.  Ultimately, this is where religion broke on the rocks for me, because I have a hard time reconciling a so-called “loving God” with the events that occur in the world.  I was agnostic for a long time after leaving the Church, and recently, I think I’ve become full-on atheist.  Even now, I’m still not sure some days.  Some people say agnosticism is just laziness, as is atheism, but I think a lot of people mistake atheism or agnosticism for a belief in nothing.  They aren’t.  Atheists may not believe in a god, but I’m sure most of them have a pretty strong moral code.  Most would be law-abiding, productive citizens in their native lands.  Agnostics struggle constantly to understand their place in the cosmos.  Just because they haven’t decided whether or not there is a god does not preclude them from having other strong beliefs. Arguing against atheists and agnostics on these grounds is a losing proposition.  It becomes belief system versus belief system, which is no different than religious superiority complexes that have been plaguing civilization for thousands of years and causing millions of deaths.

For myself, I largely believe (and I’m not interested in unsolicited proselytizing, so just don’t) that a supreme being (as western Christians/Jews understand such, which is the tradition in which I was raised) must exist in one of four states, because of the state of the world:  it doesn’t care what goes on here (or it would be more obvious in its interference); it cares, but is entirely uninvolved (either can’t or won’t); it is actively interfering here in negative ways (i.e., evil); or it doesn’t exist.  In all four of these cases, organised religion is worse than useless, because it propagates a useless, false mythology and turns people into stupid sheep that expect an invisible super-hero to save them.  There’s a reason for the sheep/Shepherd metaphors.

  1. It doesn’t care:  if it doesn’t care, then nothing we do matters to it.  Praying, doing good works, etc have absolutely no soul-saving qualities, though good works are good for society, generally.
  2. Uninvolved caring:  again, if it cared, it would get involved in response to prayers from “good” people.  It clearly does not, at least not on any useful scale.  If it chooses not to be involved, that implies to me that he could help, but doesn’t; in which case why is this being deserving of any human respect?  If it can’t get involved (i.e. somehow actually prevented), that means that this is not a supreme being, and is again not what the religions have taught us; it also implies that there is something more powerful than “God”, and perhaps we should find out what that is.
  3. Direct involvement:  This would show that the “God” is itself evil or weak, because that means that it’s involved, but evil continues to increase, either in spite of or because of its involvement.  That means prayers etc are useless, from whichever perspective you use, and again implies forces stronger than the so-called “God”.  I mean, seriously, don’t you think a supreme being would be a little peeved at being misused as an excuse for slaughter, or that some group was slaughtering its “chosen people”?  I would be, or I wouldn’t be much of a protector.
  4. Does not exist:  this is the most likely case, and we’re stuck with physical, rather than metaphysical, laws.

So, the weight of hypocrisy and confusion chased me out of the Church.  I just couldn’t deal with it and be a believer anymore.  It’s been twenty years since I made that decision, and I don’t think I regretted it.  For the first ten years I used to refer to myself as a “recovering Catholic”, and I think there are several points of congruence with going through a twelve-step program.  I don’t generally think of myself that way any more.  I just used to be Catholic.  And over those twenty years, I largely remained agnostic, except perhaps in the last couple of years, wherein I’ve been effecting the change to atheism.  In that time I struggled on and off with figuring out whether there is a god or not, and some days it’s hard to believe that the beauty of nature and the cosmos is random.  But one of the reasons that has been helping convince me against that is that humans exist.  There is so much evil in the world and in men, that I don’t think the Christian conception of a god can exist.  If we are created in its own image, as the texts say, then all the evil in the world can be laid at the god’s feet.  Original Sin is a Catholic-only teaching, is it not?  Well, guess what…if the snake existed, it was a creation of god, as was the tree of knowledge.  All things in the heavens and the earth, remember.  If god exists and created us, and if we are evil, then god created evil.  Why should I worship such a being?  And if the “end times” are also true, then that means the world was created only to be destroyed, which would require the destruction of billions of innocent inhabitants, plus all the “lesser” species.  How is that not evil, especially since it was known in advance?  And just to make it interesting and capricious, say that only a certain number will be “saved”, but our loving “god” will condemn all others to eternal hellfire?  What loving “god” would issue that sort of condemnation to its “children”, even if the world weren’t ending?

So, in my view, “god” either doesn’t exist, or it exists and is either passively or actively evil, or it exists and is weak enough to be defeated by other forces.

Tangent:  one thing I find amusing is that the primary source basically states that there is more than just the Judeo-christian god.  It doesn’t say that there are no other gods, but that no other gods shall be worshiped before it.  How does that get reconciled?  And that leaves out all the murder, incest, rape, and mutilation that goes on, including that which takes place at the being’s behest.

Even if one allows the veracity of the source material, the modern expressions of religion certainly do not have that as the basis of their operations any more.  They all have their own views and interpretations and lists of transgressions and means of expiation thereof.  And then there are the religions and philosophies that are inimical to those of the West, but that’s a different blog.

Suffice it to say, I’m a long way away from where I was as a teenager, when I believed…or tried to maintain it, at least.

In “Part 2”, I will attempt to describe my political transformation over the years.

Posted in Canadian, personal, politics, religion, science | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 1