Saturday, April 26, 2008

Calling all Advice Gurus

The cause of making fun of bigger cities has never needed your services more urgently than now. Charles Muedede is asking for your help in thinking for a name for a fucker of starfuckers? If not you, who? If not now, when?

More Persecution

There have been more and more stories like this one of alcohol regulators running right over the first ammendment. What would the ACLU say if the local police department called me and asked me to take down my big "Worship Satan!" billboard from my front lawn. I think they would call that intimidation and persecution. But when alcohol regulators "ask" someone to change their packaging because it offends their sensibilities, that only comes up on the radar of a few alt-weeklys. It's only a brewery being "asked" to comply with the anti-drug agenda by a regulator who has the power to destroy his business.

I have the word "ask" in quotes throughout this, because I got it from the SFIST post, but the actual article says that federal regulators have ordered the Shasta Brewing company to stop selling beer with those caps.

Here's the Seattle version. I would be much more interested in voting if getting rid of the Washington State Liquor Control Board was on the ballot.

In Good News

Dominic Holden's the week on drugs column is a must read. What's unusual this time is that so much of the news is good. 3,000 crack offenders got reduced sentences, and people in california made fun of the prohibition regime openly. I wish the Stranger had a link to that column.

Oh, and check out the job that he and Dan Savage are doing on the local paper's coverage of the recent drug raids.

More Religious Persecution in the Military

When I first heard the story of the Air Force Academy cadets being harrassed for their non-religious views, it sounded like less of a big deal than the way it was being spun. The bullet points, as I understood them, were that senior cadets had told atheist cadets that they were going to hell. On the one hand, the religious cadets are entitled to believe that we infidels are damned, on the other hand, if you use your seniority to force a junior to listen to your opinion on matters that don't concern the job, you're undermining discipline. So it is a kind of harrassment that should concern the chain of command. But it's a pretty mild offense. The difference in rank is not a big deal. A bigger deal would be a platoon sergeant ordering his soldiers to attend an Amway meeting (or a religious one). That would be a substantial level of rank being abused. From 93 to 97, when I was in the Army, nothing like this ever happened and my first contact with a military chaplain, in the welcome briefing at reception prior to basic training, began with his assurance to all of the recruits that one of his responsibilities was to see that it didn't and that he took this seriously. There was never any doubt in my mind during those four years that this kind of abuse of authority, if it occurred, would be quickly and severely punished.

It looks like that may have changed

Going back to the way it was in 93-97 when I was in. There was one prayer breakfast that we were given the option of attending in stead of doing our morning physical training. I decided to go because, as is often the case in the Infantry, my muscles were all kinds of sore from previous days training. It didn't strike me as a horribly unfair priviledging of religion by the commander because soldiers are let out of garrison duties every now and then for family reasons or other reasons. So, when I heard about the harrassment of AF academy cadets, I didn't take the story too seriously. Being told you're going to hell is not harrassment. Being told you'll suffer professional repercussions if you don't bathe in the blood of the lamb and/or drink it, on the other hand, is a very serious crime against the discipline of the unit. When the Army gives you authority over someone else, it's with the understanding that it's to be used for the Army's purposes, and the Army really only has only one-- that is to defend the US constitution. To use that authority toward some other end, whether it be promoting Amway, Jesus, or Aleister Crowley is.

We had one democrat in my platoon. I don't know of him suffering any repercussions for holding those views and Bill Clinton was hated quite passionately in the Army in those days. Charly company upstairs from us had a Satan Worshipper whose room was decorated with Anton Lavey posters. He went to Ranger school-- a very prestigious thing in the infantry-- and showed no sign of suffering any professional setbacks for his wierdness. I remember hosting a binge-drinking evening in my room one night which consisted of a debate between him and my pagan next door neighbor with Metallica blasting as high as my speakers would go to try and drown them out so the rest of us could concentrate on drinking. We all binge-drank together and understood that our differing views on whether to sacrifice rodents to the earth-mother or to Satan, or whether to instead drink the blood of Jesus were separate from our jobs and that debating these things on duty would be as wrong as drinking on duty.

Oh and we also had a platoon sergeant who was into Amway and who tried to recruit for it, with a little success. He never suggested that people didn't have a right to not take Amway seriously.

Our First Sergeant at one morning formation said "I would like to have one of those 'Impeach Clinton, and her husband too.' bumper stickers, but I don't because that would ...." I can't remember the rest, but the point was we were free to engage in political and religious activity, but not in uniform and we were always required to do so as private citizens. Claiming to speak for the Army on political or religious matters was recognized as a crime.

Stories like this could be a serious problem.

Spc. Hall's approach to it, forming a group for atheists and free-thinkers, has some merit. It's an open sort of "we're here! we're queer!" kind of statement. And the blood-drinkers are constitutionally required to accept atheists and Satan worshippers in the ranks. They are constitutionally required not to persecute pagan goddess worshippers even though their beliefs are by far the dumbest. They should have an in-their-face reminder of that. But is shouldn't come from the troops. It needs to come from the chain of command.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Here's an interesting review of the dishonesty of The Ben Stein film Expelled. What's interesting about it is the amount of energy religious groups are spending trying to attack science. One might think that religion is so well established in American society as to not feel threatened by science. One would be wrong.

In other propaganda news, Blackfive, a site run mostly by current and former US Soldiers, reports that Al Jazeera actually does a better job of reporting on the war in Iraq than any American media outlets. I was a bit surprised at first, but not so much now.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Classics

I can't remember exactly how I first stumbled across Skippy, but I think it may have been via Anna. You'll notice that that's a cached page. I was reading Skippy's late 2003 posts, and there were a couple of mentions of her. I clearly remember first coming across Primal Purge via Kim DuToit, who I discovered via a bunch of relatively forgettable blogs. Purge is no longer with us, but the Google cache is still holding onto her archives. If you run out of current shit to read, it's always a good idea to know where the good archives are. They are here, here, and here in that order. Those last two are really goddamn close, so the order kind of breaks down on those.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

An unusual list

I couldn't agree more strongly with the first item on this list, and I understand how it goes with the 2nd, but the 3rd and fourth have me very confused. Can anyone explain it?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The 80's

List of the Day has a list of the top 80's teen sex comedies. There's a bunch of people saying "I can't believe Porky's isn't on it." Porky's played a big role in my experience of the 80's.

I grew up without a TV, so there's lots of movies that everybody my age has seen but I haven't. I still haven't seen a whole Godzilla movie. My parents were very liberal and didn't care about kids seeing boobies, but they cared very much about kids seeing something stupid and their time being wasted going to a movie that was lame. So, I went through the 80's never having seen Porky's. I listened to the stories other kids told about it in the cafeteria hanging on every word. I wonder how to even explain to someone who's 20 now what it was like to turn 17 and be able to rent R movies back in pre-internet times. I think I actually started renting them much earlier than that. I don't think anybody really checked. Ever since that day when I realized that I could rent R flicks, sometime in the late 80's or something, I had a plan to finally rent Porky's and just get that out of my system. But I never got around to it. I was too busy with the Italian nude satan movies (This is the one the Duvall video factory had. And then I got into art films (mistake). And then I re-discovered the Japanese cartoons of my youth. I never found the time for Porky's. Now I think my dad was probably right about it being retarded and not worth anyone's time, and I've gotten so much pickier about what I watch with shows like Weeds, or The Wire out there. I don't know if I'll ever get to it.

The other fucked-up thing is that I've never seen any of the flicks on this list. Some of them may be legitimately good.

The problem with having List of the Day in my Google reader is that it's a high volume blog, that means I skim past a lot of the posts, but then I see something like this Tab commercial from back in the day and wish I had read all of them.

Currently Reading: The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett (for the 2nd time, this is the best spy novel ever written!)

Listening: Train of Life by Roger Miller

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Religious persecution in the military

This headline: US military accused of harboring fundamentalism, bothers me for reasons I'll get into in a minute, but first, the article below that headline deserves everyone's attention.

The first thing that came to my mind on reading it was that I never saw or heard of anything like that in my four years in the Army. But, eleven years have passed since I got out and a lot can change in that time. I remember the series of welcome briefings at Ft. Benning reception. Near the beginning of the post chaplain's briefing were these words " of my responsibilities is to ensure that all your participation in religious activity is voluntary." The article paints a very different picture than the one I remember and if it's widespread, it's a serious problem. Even if it's not widespread and was just a problem in that one unit, it's serious.
The trouble started there when he would not pray in the mess hall.
"A senior ranking staff sergeant told me to leave and sit somewhere else because I refused to pray," Hall, a 23-year-old US army specialist, told AFP. Later, Hall was confronted by a major for holding an authorized meeting of "atheists and freethinkers" on his base. The officer threatened to discipline him and block his re-enlistment. "He said: 'You guys are being a problem and problems can be removed,'" Hall said. "He was yelling at us and stuff and at the very end he says, 'I really love you guys, I want you to see the light.'"
Another part of the article that everybody has quoted bears repeating again
"I am at war with those people who would create a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in the technologically most lethal organization ever created by our species, which is the United States armed forces," he said.
If the incidents actually were as described in the article, I say a-fuckin-men to that.

But aside from the court case, and the importance of it to the future of this country, the headline: US military accused of harboring fundamentalism is nearly as shocking as the incidents it reports on. It implies that fundamentalism is some kind of crime. In fact, the first ammendment to the US constitution harbors fundamentalism no less than it harbors atheism. If the Army didn't harbor fundamentalism, islam, paganism as well as atheism it would be in breach of its most fundamental obligation. The purpose of the US Army is to protect your right to believe in the worst and most destructive ideas as well as the good ones at your own risk and expense. There's just so much wrong with that headline, I don't know where to start. It's probably just a reporter rushing to meet a deadline and not thinking about what the words mean. But, on the other hand, I know there are college graduates out there who see no difference between tolerating fundamentalism and persecuting atheists.

My advice to service members offered special treatment in return for attending a religious event, or illegally threatened with punishment for not attending is to go, and to blog it. The more we know about our enemies, the better.

Currently Reading: The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

Listening: Psycho! by The Sonics

Thursday, April 3, 2008

1 in 5 endangered children is rescued online

That headline is something I just made up. It's a takeoff on those billboards that pretend to inform parents of the new dangers to their kids with the grave warning "1 in 5 children is sexually solicited online." I haven't found the writeup of the survey that made that claim. This page pretends to cite it, but doesn't link to anything. I strongly suspect that the methodology of that survey was similar to the one I just used in the making of this headline. I have yet to see is an actual story of any harm coming to a child via this kind of solicitation. So while the big scary Internets have billboards warning parents of the threat they pose to kids. Nobody but Dan Savage is warning parents of the threat posed by youth pastors. Unlike these tech alarmists, Savage cites reports of actual incidents. This is a regular feature on the Slog. They really should have a label for it.

Speaking of actual incidents, Here's a story of a woman resscuing her kidnapped child thanks to a tip submitted to her myspace page. But there's no billboards along the freeway announcing this story. It's always respectable to promote panic, especially when new technology is involved.

Imagine if a survey was conducted on youth pastor child molestation and the results posted on a billboard. How do you suppose religious groups would respond? I think that billboard would get a very different kind of reception than the 1 in 5 kids billboards have.

To be fair, Savage has not established that youth pastor molestations are actually more common than other kinds, but he has done more than the "1 in 5 kids.." alarmists.

Oh, and this youth pastor post really shines a light on the different standards that are applied. Oh, and check out This one.

Theme Music: Willie the Pimp part 1 by Frank Zappa from The Mothers Life Filmore East June 1971.