"Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken."
-- Tyler Durden

Divergent journeys, but we will meet again in Hell

Since Bill C-38 was passed last year, anti-gay marriage groups have continued to lobby for its repeal, despite that fact that the bill merely confirms the interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms made by the Superior Courts of eight provinces, in order to provide uniform application of the law across the country.

With the Conservatives in power and planning to honour their promise to hold a vote on revisiting the same-sex marriage debate, a coalition of 43 religious leaders has issued a Declaration on Marriage, calling for the restoration of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. I’ll ignore for the time being that three of the signatories represent religions that currently allow for polygamy.

According to the declaration, “changing the definition of marriage involves a repudiation of millennia of history and experience.” Is it really a repudiation? I believe we’re actually learning from millenia of history and experience, and are now choosing to end millenia of discrimination and persecution.

The declaration also places a great deal of emphasis on the impact of Bill C-38 on the children (a certain Simpsons character springs to mind). Apparently, the primary purpose of marriage is to procreate, in which case there should be special protections for marriage in our laws. I guess married couples who don’t have children shouldn’t be allowed the right of marriage, nor should we tolerate single people who choose to raise a child on their own.

The conclusion of the declaration brings home the real point of this argument: somehow, these religious leaders believe that if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, their respective belief systems are somehow challenged. According to them, “the freedom of conscience of marriage officials and service providers is already being violated”, although no evidence of this controversial (and, to my knowledge, false) statement is provided. Apparently, religious freedom trumps individual freedom (even when the individuals are holding a pair).

Sigh…can’t we all just get along? :-)

5

White Phosphorus

Just a small, but pointed, rant here, sparked by the white phosphorus story.

Now, I’m not going to get all bleeding-heart lefty-indignant about the horrors of the ‘weapon’ itself and claim that it should be classified as a chemical weapon or WMD and be banned by some international body. But I do have a problem with the arguments that use semantics to defend its use, pointing to some list that says some weapons are ok and some aren’t (rumours of the use of napalm notwithstanding). Or the arguments that point out burning jet-fuel in a WTC tower as justification.

Here’s my point. Aren’t the U.S. supposed to be the good guys? I asked the same rhetorical question when Abu Ghraib became public and some pro-war types scoffed because the ‘terrorists’ had it coming to them.

You can’t just brand yourself as The Good Guys and then do whatever the hell you want. You’re not The Good Guys because your flag is made of primary colours. You’re not The Good Guys because your God is better than other people’s God. You’re not The Good Guys because you adhere to certain standards of conduct that you find convenient, and argue semantics to keep doing things that may be as horrible as things that are outright illegal. Being The Good Guys means acting that way and showing the rest of the world that what you’re doing is a good idea. The hypocrisy of the WMD justification for war just makes this worse. I realize that WP does not deliver ‘mass’ destruction, but again, let’s not argue exact number of deaths due to skin melting here.

I could be way off here, but I can’t help but come to the conclusion that many pro-war Americans or hawkish Westerners in general actually believe that the terrorists or the insurgents or Muslim kooks from the Middle East overall admittedly think of themselves as The Bad Guys and they’re out to get the prissy American Good Guys, and that neutral parties see it this way too therefore the Americans can behave as they please.

If more people realized that the Muslims that hate America think of themselves as The Good Guys also, and that it is the US who are The Bad Guys (try and put yourself in their shoes and see how easy that would be), then more people might see how pointless this all is.

edit: Oh, and another thing. I don’t get all in a huff when I read stories about messy weapons, prisoner abuse, and civilian deaths, etc (apart from the above rant, obviously, and the occasional ‘told you so’), because I was all in a huff about the war in the first place, largely because this is the kind of shit that happens in war, duh. If war consisted of flag football and tickle fights you’d find far fewer people opposed to it.

2

Information nation of hysteria

OK, so I haven’t been posting for a while…there’s been too much going on in my actual life to pay much attention to my virtual one. Most of my time has been spent on the yard (for which I’ll be posting new pictures soon to the landscaping log) and in my garage, and occasionally at work.

However, I thought I’d hop on to say that today’s PvP pretty much summarizes my view of the whole Hot Coffee crap that’s been so visible in the vidya-gaming news lately. I’ve never understood why the Yanks are so dead-set on treating sex as an obscenity, while gory violence is perfectly acceptable.

Then there’s also the issue of the ESRB rating on GTA: San Andreas being changed from Mature to Adults Only. Here are the official definitions of the two:

  • Mature: Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.
  • Adults Only: Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

So, essentially the difference between the two is one year of age, nudity, and the length of time that the objectionable material is available in the game. I don’t know where to even start with this…first off, GTA games (at least since GTA III) have absolutely qualified for the Adults Only rating, just on the violence aspect alone. However, the two ratings are so close in actual meaning that I don’t understand why so many people are in outcry over the fact that GTA wasn’t rated as AO to begin with. In fact, most people seem satisfied now that the rating has been changed.

Right, right, I forgot…people are idiots. :-)

9

Represent the seven games in a government for hire

Apparently, 60 Minutes did a piece on videogame violence last night. This is one of those issues that gets lots of attention every year or two, usually triggered by some event, like the Columbine massacre. This time it’s the murder of three police officers in Fayette, and the resulting lawsuit against the makers of the Grand Theft Auto series of games.

I wouldn’t exactly call the report “balanced”; it presents a very anti-videogame position. I didn’t actually watch the televised report, but nowhere in the web article do they even mention the ESRB. This is a rating system for videogames, much like the MPAA ratings for movies. The Grand Theft Auto series have all been rated M (for Mature), and are not supposed to be sold to anyone under 17 — while the perpetrator of the murders in question is now 18, there is specific mention of his having played at least two versions of GTA, which means he was playing them when he was 16 (and probably before that).

Let’s draw an analogy — if some kid constantly watches hardcore porn starting when he’s 14 or 15, and then rapes someone at 18, would we be all that surprised? There’s a reason why we regulate what is available to minors — as the 60 Minutes article states, their brains are not yet fully developed, and they’re not always completely capable of differentiating fantasy from reality.

CBS News interviewed Tim Buckley of Ctrl+Alt+Del fame, and he seems to be placing the responsibility firmly on parents, and I mostly agree with him. I think video game retailers need to be a little more stringent about to whom they’re selling M- and A-rated games. However, the ultimate responsibility does lie with the parents — I’ve been at an EB where a husband and wife were debating buying GTA: Vice City for their obviously-underage kid. The wife clearly didn’t know anything about the game, and the husband clearly did. The clerk was advising the pair on the extreme violence, but in the end, they still bought it — I suspect Dad wanted to play it himself (based on the gleam in his eye).

I assume this lawsuit will go nowhere, as most First Amendment questions typically do in the US. The wording of several proposed laws are truly frightening, and would severely limit the content of future games. This could also be used as precedent for expanding this kind of censorship into other media.

As an (arguably) well-balanced adult who enjoys the escapism of video games (violent or otherwise), I very much hope that cooler heads prevail.

4

In natural selection I’ve avoided all detection

According to a recent editorial in The Washington Post, opponents of the Theory of Evolution have begun making some headway in influencing how our origins are taught in American public schools. Having not had a whole lot of success with pushing Creationism, they are now using Intelligent Design as an alternative explanation. While I wholeheartedly support the Darwinian view of things, I can’t say I’m all that keen on the argument made by the Post, specifically: “To teach intelligent design as science in public schools is a clear violation of the principle of separation of church and state.”

We have an extraordinary amount of evidence supporting evolutionary theory, but many people forget that it is still a theory. We haven’t proved it as fact yet, and it’s doubtful that we ever will. It’s been a looong time since first-year Bio (grumble), but there are a couple of elements to the evolutionary explanation of our existence that are a little weak:

  1. Life began as a random collision of amino acids and proteins in the primordial soup. We’ve reproduced this event in a laboratory setting, but let’s acknowledge that it’s still a big assumption.
  2. Intelligence equals sentience and self-awareness. There is a good explanation in evolutionary theory of how intelligence has developed, but I don’t know of any explanation of how sentience comes about (someone let me know if the explanation exists). Again, we typically make the big assumption that sentience and self-awareness are the result of intelligence, but we don’t really know that this is true (despite what the makers of the Terminator and Matrix trilogies would have you believe).

For the rest, i.e. natural selection and everything, we have ample evidence and other than Phoebe‘s doubts (“So now the real question is, who put those fossils there, and why?”), I think most people in the know will acquiesce…especially since we have direct observational experience for much of it. But using evolution as an explanation for humanity’s existence does hinge on accepting the two points above.

So, other than pissing off all my scientifically-minded friends and amusing my philosophically-minded ones (and just confusing the conspiracy-minded ones), what’s my point? All I’m trying to say is that we should include any theory that has a significant body of evidence behind it in our educational programs. We’re talking about kids of at least high school age (I don’t remember discussing animal reproduction in grade school), so why not expose them to what is known (and how that knowledge has been parsed) and let them make up their own minds?

Last but not least, there is this assumption that if someone messed with life on this planet (either by kick-starting it, or just designing it outright), well then, it must have been (drumroll, please) God (or at least one of them, depending on your beliefs). How about the possibility that Earth was indeed seeded, but with genetic material from an extraterrestrial source? I hear the snickering, but is it any less likely than some all-powerful, non-corporeal (or extradimensional) entity having nothing better to do than treat Earth as his/her/its petri dish? I guess Q was right: it’s difficult to work in groups when you’re omnipotent.

I’m putting this in a very jocular (or blasphemous, depending on your beliefs) way in order to make a point: teaching about the origins of life on Earth cannot be completely separated from religion, nor can it be discussed without scientific reference. Again, I suggest presenting the various theories, what evidence there is to support each one, and let people make up their own minds.

The difficulty of course is that the powers-that-be have issues with allowing the population to think for themselves, especially south of the 49th.

(ok, ok, that last bit was put in to appease the conspiracy buffs…)

11

The W is for War– er, Women!

Idiot!This woman boggles my mind. What woman in her right mind would willingly support Bush? I mean, I can beleive that she’s a pro-lifer, and maybe she’s against gay marriage. And, heck, I don’t know, maybe she just plain doesn’t like poor people (damn you lazy single mothers!). Based on that, sure, vote Bush. But does she also hate women? Is she a self-hating woman? Babes 4 Bush is like Jews 4 Hitler. This president is literally erasing women’s issues. From way up here in the wang of Canada, I look to the states and ask myself: How can people still vote for this man!?!? Then I remember the name of this site…

1