Same old politics or revolution?

Progressives are buzzing after British comedian-turned-revolutionary Russell Brand released his revolutionary manifesto as guest editor of the latest issue of New Statesman and went on an anti-capitalist rant when interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight.

The editorial is worth reading in its entirety. It wanders quite a bit but combined with the interview identify the core complaint that galvanized the support behind the 2011 London Riots, the Quebec protests, and the Occupy Movement: The system is broken and it won’t be fixed from within.

Continue reading Same old politics or revolution?

Political Atheists

The Huffington Post has a piece comparing open atheists in government in the USA with the UK.

They note that only two American legislators have only ever really professed non-belief: Pete Stark and Barney Frank (the latter admitting it after leaving politics). Meanwhile, the current deputy Prime Minister of the UK, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, is an atheist, as is Ed Miliband, Labour Party and Official Opposition Leader. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is a Christian but has brought in gay marriage and UK politicians are routinely reminded that Brits “don’t do god.”

Further to that, the British Humanist Association maintains a Humanist Caucus with over 100 elected MPs and unelected Lords in the three major parties.

The closest Canada has had to an atheist Prime Minister might be Kim Campbell, who is listed as a “lapsed Anglican,” although many Liberal Prime Ministers may not have been as Catholic as they professed. Pierre Elliot Trudeau was reportedly a board member of the Humanist Fellowship of Montreal. Several past federal party leaders have been reported as atheists, including Stephane Dion and Gilles Duceppe. Few Canadians wear their religiosity (or lack thereof) on their sleeves though.

Good and Bad People

There’s a Steven Weinberg quote that my atheist friends like to trot out (and I’m likely equally guilty of sharing).

With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

The problem is though that there really aren’t just “good” and “evil” people. Never-minding shades of grey, you have good people who do good and bad things, often depending on their hormones, their mood, peer pressure, and a variety of other causes.

This is why restorative justice programs are so important. Prisons are a very easy way to turn a “good” person who made a mistake into an “evil” person. Instead, by having the perpetrator own up to their crime and learn from it, we can begin to make better citizens, less likely to reoffend.

Go read the latest on the Rationalist Association blog for more about the success of restorative justice programs in some of America’s highest crime districts.

Critics deride restorative justice as the soft option, letting criminals off the hook, but in fact it can’t work without perpetrators acknowledging and taking responsibility for what they have done. “This is not a mediation,” explains Denise Curtis, Program Manager for the Restorative Community Conferencing program in Alameda County, “which usually operates on the assumption that no one is wrong or right. Here the message is ‘You have to make things right.’”

It’s a cultural change that takes time to build. But, according to recent data, it has led to dramatic reductions in fights, aggressive behaviours and suspensions where it has been implemented. The goal is to break “the school to prison pipeline”.

This is the 1%

I really hope Americans aren’t just paying attention to the race for the Republican nomination, but are actually giving each of these candidates a good look to see how contemptible each one is.

Take Mitt Romney:

Figures released Tuesday show that Mr. Romney was able to raise nearly $24.3-million in the last quarter of 2011, and spending about $20-million of that in the same quarter.

In an analysis of that data by Bloomberg News, eight of the 10 biggest donors worked for banks and investment firms.

“Wall Street supports someone they consider one of their own and the candidate perceived to be the most committed to promoting policies they prefer,” Costas Panagopoulos, director of the Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy at Fordham University in New York, told Bloomberg News.

The Republicans are going to try to run on an anti-establishment campaign, decrying Obama’s “big government” and will promise to protect the average Joe. Instead, the front-runner is literally in the pocket of those same Wall Street crooks that just ran the US economy into the ground, only to get bailed out by the government.

Mitt Romney represents everything that the Occupy protests are against. But the others are no better. Newt Gingrich held the US government hostage because of his own brand of vindictive politics and Ron Paul is a racist homophobe whose ideas are so dangerous they are borderline sociopathic.

The fact that any of these old white men are serious candidates to lead the most powerful nation on Earth should give everyone pause.

The old New Atheist

It turns out that Mark Twain wrote an autobiography of his life but decided that it shouldn’t be published until 100 years after his death (which occurred in 1910). Newsweek has posted an excerpt, and it seems like it’s a well timed release.

About once a year some pious public library banishes Huck Finn from its children’s department, and on the same plea always—that Huck, the neglected and untaught son of a town drunkard, is given to lying, when in difficulty and hard pressed, and is therefore a bad example for young people, and a damager of their morals.

Two or three years ago I was near by when one of these banishments was decreed and advertised, and I went over and asked the librarian about it, and he said yes, Huck was banished for lying. I asked,

“Is there nothing else against him?”

“No, I think not.”

“Do you banish all books that are likely to defile young morals, or do you stop with Huck?”

“We do not discriminate; we banish all that are hurtful to young morals.”

I picked up a book, and said—

“I see several copies of this book lying around. Are the young forbidden to read it?”

“The Bible? Of course not.”

I can’t wait to do this with the book club (although in the end it will be 3 volumes and half-a-million words).

Of course Jindal won’t monitor volcanoes…

I purposefully avoided watching Bobby Jindal’s response to President Barack Obama’s speech yesterday, and from the sounds of it, I didn’t miss much.

Everyone (sciece or progressive oriented) seems to be upset that he blasted funding volcano monitoring programs, which have the potential to save hundreds of lives.

But people, think about it. This is a governor who thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old and wants it to be law that students in Louisiana have to learn that – of course he doesn’t want to monitor volcanoes.

And not just because it’s a science thing and Christians are afraid of science (that’s an untrue stereotype – creationists just bastardize it).

He would cut money to disaster detection (including hurricane detection) because it’s already clear to him and his fellow True believers what the cause of these disasters is.

God punishing America.

So why waste tax dollars on programs that clearly don’t address the root of the problem?

Instead of waiting for shit to happen, Jindal’s way is to appease God, through continued discrimination and prayers.

Then there’s lots of money left over to continue fighting endless wars and to give to that needy 5% that Obama isn’t giving tax breaks too (families making over $250,000 per year and big business deserve a break too, right? I’m sure they’ll let that break trickle down to the rest of the country).

Nevertheless, if 2012 does have Palin fighting Jindal for the Republican nod, it may actually bring about the end of the world (for Republicans at least).

Obama speech, as seen through my Twitter



  • About to watch Obama speech. Will live-tweet. Dion should take notes.
  • CBC coverage: “It’s like a speech from the throne without the throne”
  • Creationist Bobby Jindal to rebut after, sigh
  • Why isn’t #Obama in HD?
  • 5 minutes of straight clapping for #Obama, he actually wants to say something I think
  • “Survival depends on new energy sources” need health care reform
  • Republicans aren’t standing for stimulus becoming law
  • “Because nobody messes with Joe (Biden)”
  • auto/college/small business loans from Gov’t fund
  • Banks not getting string-free bailouts gets full standing ovation #Obama “Those days are over!”
  • US Budget priorities: Energy, Health Care, Education
  • “Market based cap on carbon emission” #Obama – different page than Harper
  • “The nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it” #Obama
  • Health care reform in the US this year
  • #Obama asks every American to get at least 1 year of post-secondary.
  • By 2020 US to have highest % college graduates.
  • Eliminating “no bid contracts” in Iraq
  • No tax increases for families making less than $250K
  • Tax cuts for 95% of families by April
  • “The USA Does Not Torture”
  • Had to end with the God Bless yous/ USA

Also, check out Recovery.Gov for updates on how he moves forward with his stimulus packages.

Overall, I’d say it was a good speech.

I was almost expecting at times that he’d call for a nationalized health care or nationalizing the banks, but then I remembered I was watching the president of the US.

Things I care more about than Obama’s inauguration

Is anyone else sick of this yet (744,823 hits as of writing)?

Yes, Obama looks to be a better president than the last 8 years have shown, but that awaits to be seen.

So what do I care about?

  • Let’s see if he delivers. And if he doesn’t, hold his feet to the fire. He’s still bound to the American electorate, and doesn’t have a free pass.
  • Shit is still going on in the world.
  • Canada’s still being run by a fascist.
  • My EngPhys Club placed 2nd in Geer Week (okay this one’s selfish), coming only 2 points from winning.

Sorry to piss in the cornflakes, but despite the promises, he’s still a politician, and he’s still only human. Or maybe I’m just getting sick of reading Obama inauguration posts across the blogosphere.

Finally, this should mark the start of me getting back into the swing of things in terms of blogging.