Bush did something right?

Bush to Declare Islands A National Monument

C’mon, George, you see? It’s not that hard. Go for another! See if you can do TWO good things in your 8 years. If the second one works out, go for THREE. You don’t owe those right-wing bastards anything, man. You are untouchable! You don’t have to do shit the rest of your life. For god sake, man, do some good in the world in these last months.

Bush did something right?

Dude, Where's My Soul?

I’ve been thinking about souls lately. As an agnostic/atheist, this can be pretty entertaining. You don’t have to call it a soul, though. Even if you call it a mind or a personality, it is an odd thing.

First of all, between 50% and 80% of you is made up of water. Good ol’ H2O. I weigh (unfortunately) about 190 lb. (or 86 kg). That means that what I refer to as “me” includes 3 water-cooler sized jugs of water (about 14 gallons at 8.33 gallon/lb.). Does 3 water-cooler sized jugs of water have a soul? I would think not.

I found a site with the elements of the periodic table sorted by their presence in the human body. It looks like we are, in decreasing order of percentage, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, sodium and magnesium. Do any of those things have a soul? Do they have a mind?

A mind, we could argue, is a higher level brain function essentially involving close analogs to computers, with data storage, processing and interconnections. Thus a mind is explicable as a rather sophisticated “ghost in the machine” that can be fully explained by physics.

Where is the soul, though? What is a soul? Why do some believe in souls? A soul, they would say, is exactly that part of us which is not a function of the intricate arrangement of various elements. It is not physical. So people have souls and water jugs do not. Who decided that? A soul, apparently, is a special designation by God of supernatural permanence. Or, to be more objective, a soul would be some extra-dimensional aspect of human beings whose existence was not dependent on the “mortal coil” here incarnated. In this case the other dimension may not be study-able, i.e. literally beyond the capabilities of 4-D science, but if this soul thing plays any role in our dimensions, it can’t be completely beyond the realm of study.

I’m trying to be open-minded and thorough because it is an important question. As a hardcore agnostic slash light-weight atheist, it is still hard for me to completely relent to the fact that I am not special. Part of me just so wants to believe that somehow I am special. As someone decidedly non-religious, that translates to there somehow being more reality than we are able to sense. A more complex answer, really, to cosmological questions than the Big Bang/GR/Quantum ones we have discovered. In a way it seems somehow to deny my humanity if I deny the possibility that maybe there really is more than we think.

There is not the slightest shred of evidence for something like this, nor the slightest evidence for God, Heaven or Hell. While it is totally natural to speculate, the only rational answer is extreme agnosticism. Or perhaps atheism. All the rest is the wishful thinking of people that just don’t want to die.

You are going to die. That is a fact. I’m not scared of dying in the abstract. I’m not scared of being dead. My life is precious and therefore all lives are precious, regardless if, and especially if, when we die we are dead. That will not hurt. The fact that we are going where all people go, even if that is to an eternity of non-being, should give us comfort.

We don’t need souls. We are special, you and me, either way.

Dude, Where's My Soul?


I’m not a pacifist. It still strikes me as ironic as hell that a man who is proudly Christian, prays a lot and says he talks to God can be gleeful that people under his command directly disobeyed one of the 10 commandments — thou shalt not kill. I am of course talking about George W. Bush.

I think the 10 commandments are largely nonsense. Either they are self-evident or they are stupid. They are certainly not some majestic pillar of truth. Yet if you believe in the 10 commandments and publicly call yourself a Christian, it is hard for me to understand how you can waive that commandment whenever you wish. Did God command it or not? Is there a footnote or some legalese I missed on the 10 commandments?

I suspect that Zarqawi got what he deserved. I’m not shedding any tears over that one. I still think a political philosophy of killing your enemies is inane, if not insane. You cannot successfully kill every Arab or Muslim that hates the U.S. In fact, the more you kill the more there are.

The “success” we have in terms of killing this a-hole is illusory and is not indicative of tangible progress in Iraq. Killing people is easy compared to nation building. This administration apparently has these two things confused. Get the fucking power on, the water clean, the schools open, the markets open, provide security, expand the number of stakeholders and get rid of the overwhelming American military presence which is aggravating the situation.

Zarqawi is dead and there are 20,000 guys ready to step in and take his place.



OK, my fascination with my little war with The Reclusive Leftist is turning into sort of a dull annoyance. We are clearly oil and water. I bumped heads with her on one other issue and it turned similarly ugly. Not blaming her, not blaming me, some people are just not good at communicating together. Back from my Usenet days I have developed certain skills. One is a pretty thick skin. I do slap back when I get slapped, but I never take it personally. Call me an idiot in one message and get back to debate in the next and I will forget all about that idiot crap. Another is a dogged persistence to the topic. I am argumentative but it is a love of debate that makes me so, not a desire to beat others down. Some people enjoy the type and style of debate that I do and others do not. It appears this style is too heavy handed for The Reclusive Leftist. Fair enough.

Someone please point me to some asshole Republican blogger I can use as a punching bag for a while…


When Republicans Attack

From the Wall Street Journal:

Senate Republicans are pushing ahead with votes this week to repeal the estate tax and to ban gay marriage. Neither measure is likely to pass.

These are both dumb ideas. The estate tax is a good thing and the implications for the family farm or the family business that the Republicans always hammer on can be and in fact has been addressed. I don’t know what the rate is right now but it is millions of dollars that you can pass on tax free to your heirs. The proposal I heard was 15 million or something. The question is not whether or not there should be an estate tax, the question is what amount should be exempt.

Gay marriage is not only harmless, it is a good thing. As good of a thing as traditional marriage. People loving and being committed to each other is a good thing! Duh. Yes, I can understand that Grandpa’s sensibilities are a little ruffled by this, but don’t expect to convince me with some Bible-based rationale that love is a bad thing.

No, the Republicans just want to have the Democrats chalk up some votes that they can campaign against. The government taking the family farm and faggots are issues that get the Republican base fired up. It’s going to be funny considering the spend-and-spend Republicans can’t really blame the growing deficit on the Democrats. The tax-and-spend label is not going to stick too well compared to the spend-and-spend Republicans. So they will go with the ol’ standbys: taxes, gays, religion, war. I’m hoping this time we don’t buy it.

When Republicans Attack

The Reclusive Whiner, Part 2

The Reclusive Leftist took a swing at me on her blog. Fair’s fair. I find this situation fascinating, for some reason. If I were to paraphrase our little argument, it would go like this:

A. I have an insight: blah.
B. That insight is tainted by your personal bias and is largely rubbish.
A. Sarcasm, implication that B is stupid.
B. Sarcasm, implication that A actually agrees with B, making A even more wrong.
A. Further implications that B is stupid, real stupid. General tone of annoyance.
B. Angrily states that calling people stupid does not win debates and further implications that A’s original point was tainted rubbish.
A. Explicit statements as to how stupid and now angry B is.
B. Yeah, fuck you, too.

That’s a nutshell. You’ll notice a fact backed up by the record — at no time did A attack B’s arguments. Nor, until the very, very end did A try to restate her argument for clarity. The only point A had was that B was stupid. Even so, she can’t admit how freaking dumb of a tactic that is in the course of a debate.

Now if you read the post linked above, A further goes on to claim how reasonable, impartial and mature they were even as B got “enraged”. This is a gross mischaracterization, especially since A got emotional, sarcastic and started all this “you’re stupid” stuff long before B got angry. B got frustrated with A for not debating and instead baiting with personal attacks.

If A was as correct as she would like to believe, all she had to say was: “Michael, you are wrong. What I meant was X and I stand behind that.” Had she said that B would have likely said, “I think you are not very aware of the influence of your own personal biases but we can agree to disagree.”

I think what happened was that The Reclusive Leftist got miffed that she was condescended to and everything said after that point was an emotional reaction, devoid of logic or reason. I don’t doubt that it can be frustrating to have your every word scrutinized by males who are a bit taken-aback by the endless stream of sexist bullshit personal bias that comes out of your mouth. She needn’t take up every dumb thing someone says in the comments. But to feign surprise when someone gets angry as you repeatedly demean and insult them personally instead of attacking their ideas is disingenuous to say the least. Yes, Virginia, if you call someone stupid long enough they will eventually get angry.

To briefly address the point of the post linked above, I do not think I am smarter than The Reclusive Leftist, per se. Condescension requires a general notion of superiority and I do not think I am superior to Dr. Socks. Yet if one truly despises condescension, it is a gross double-standard to repeatedly say “I’m smarter than you” in response. We can all decide for ourselves who is smart and who is dumb and the more I read The Reclusive Leftist the more she goes into the latter column. The really smart people I know are the last people on earth to call you stupid. They are also quick to point out their own failures. If you read the post I linked above, what is clear is that The Reclusive Leftist is infallible and of superior intellect than you or I. The word I have for people that publicly place themselves in that category is stupid. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a single word from Dr. Socks that I would call humble. She’s right, you’re wrong, period.

Let’s not get carried away — this is all in fun for me. Debate is fun, arguments are fun, conflict is fun. I would buy the Reclusive Leftist a beer and laugh about it without the slightest effort. That it can get emotional from time to time is part of the fun. Hell, just listen to the podcast of the Hippy Killers ripping me a new asshole and you’ll understand that I have a sense of humor about all of this.

But, as a friend of mine once said, fuck with the duck and you get the bill. I stand behind every word I said in this little episode. I’m actually used to fucking up and making retractions but I feel no need in this case. So bring it on, Dr., I can take it. I’m right, you’re wrong, period. 😉

The Reclusive Whiner, Part 2

Pet Peeves

You gotta like pet peeves. They give you something to do and something to feel superior about. Here are some of mine:

1. People who don’t walk on escalators. I totally don’t understand why otherwise able-bodied people stop walking the second they step on an escalator. They look so stupid standing there doing nothing. For the vast majority of us, time is something we want to conserve. In most cases, we do not need to conserve energy. When you walk on the escalator you are saving time. The moving steps makes the staircase shorter, in essence. You get up them quicker. When you stand there like an idiot, it actually takes longer than walking up normal stairs. For the love of God, people, walk up the freaking escalator!

2. People who write checks. This is something women seem to do much more than men. They go buy a $2 cup of coffee and write a check for it. W.T.F. So first they order and then they take out their checkbox, fill in the payee, fill in the amount, write out the amount, sign it, go to the ledger, write in the payee and amount, tear off the check. Then the cashier asks for ID and they get their ID out. Sometimes they are asked for their phone number. It’s insane. You can turn a 10 second transaction into a 180 second transaction for a cup of fucking coffee. I haven’t carried a checkbook around for at least 10 years. For anything less than $10 or so there is exactly one way to pay and it’s called CASH. Women manage to screw cash transaction up too, though, because they are so anal about putting their coins in their coin purse and their bills in the bills area, sorted by denomination and all orientated the same way. They have to do this while standing in front of the counter, too, they can’t step aside. (Yes, I am unfairly generalizing about women. It’s just the women that do that I’m bitching about.)

3. People who stand in line, like at McDonalds or a coffee shop, and then when they get up to the counter, they don’t know what they want. It takes me exactly 5 seconds to place by order at McDonalds’s or a coffee shop. For some reason I always get behind the person that needs to inquire about everything: “What’s in a Big Mac? Can I see the nutritional information? Is there nuts in that? Hmm….let me think.” IT’S FUCKING MCDONALD’S. YOU DON’T NEED TO THINK. JUST FUCKING ORDER. The same is true at the coffee shop. They all serve exactly the same drinks. If you’ve been to one coffee shop you’ve been to all coffee shops. Decide what you want before you get to the counter. It’s just not that hard.

4. People who don’t concentrate on driving when they are driving. This is just obvious. When you are participating in the most dangerous activity you will ever participate in, pay fucking attention. I was behind a guy once who was driving while practicing the trumpet. I’ve seen people smoke, eat and talk on the phone at the same time while driving. I’ve seen people turned complete around shouting at their kids. I’ve seen old people who can’t see, can’t hear and can’t turn their heads. No wonder your most likely cause of death is a traffic accident. If you are one of these people, quit it, now.

5. People who don’t know how to stand in line. Either they stand right behind you, practically touching you, because somehow they think they’ll get up to the front quicker if they press against you. Or they leave huge gaps in the line, as if they are so cool they needn’t be bothered with normal line standing behavior. This makes the line overflow its normal path and just pisses us all off. When you stand in line you should stand between 2.5 and 3.5 feet away.

Ok, your turn.

Pet Peeves

The Reclusive Whiner

I was reading The Reclusive Leftist for a while but she just informed me that I am too stupid to comment on her blog. You know, folks, I do make mistakes. I do misunderstand things from time to time and sometimes I just don’t get it. Other times I cling white-knuckled to the 1% shred of truth I am trying to convey until people acknowledge it. I like to debate and argue and while I can get emotional from time to time, its not personal to me. It’s a debate of ideas, not personalities. Yes, I’m wrong sometimes and I will admit it when I am. I am also right a large percent of the time as well and consider my insights to be as valid as anyone else’s.

Do I give a shit if The Reclusive Leftist thinks I’m stupid? Not in the slightest. I don’t need random Internet bloggers to prop up my self-esteem. It is a minor disappointment that what I thought was a forum to discuss ideas turned out to be a temple to one person’s psychosis where dissent is squashed with ample helpings of adolescent name-calling. I’m just not used to pissing off people that I agree with, and I suspect that issue-by-issue The Reclusive Leftist and I agree on just about everything. Yet, as I discussed in my post on feminism, as a male who considers himself a feminist in every meaningful way, there is part of the man bashing I can’t sit back and listen to silently. At The Reclusive Leftist there is a constant theme of the evil and stupid heart of men. The latest is a complaint that men are not upset by violence and rape in Arthurian fiction. WTF. I say stupid things from time to time, too, but at least I admit them. Like, for example, in the previous post I basically imply that I know more about Mount Everest than Sir Edmund Hilary, the first man to summit Mount Everest. It’s a pretty dumb implication. Yet I think Hilary is wrong, dammit, and I’m gonna say so.

It brings up something I’ve been thinking about. I’ve noticed more and more people who put things on their blog to the effect that they will delete comments they don’t like. I would never delete a comment (other than spam), regardless of the content because I like debate and discussion and I have no problem providing a forum for people to speak their mind, even if they disagree with me rigorously. I have no problem if people misunderstand me or mischaracterize me, either, because I am free to add comments myself correcting the record. So go ahead, swear at me, call me an idiot or tear apart my arguments, I don’t care.

It does worry me a hair that free-speech journalists would be motivated by anything to squelch discussion on their blogs. I think even the dumbest trolls should be allowed to have their say. Some bloggers are so concerned that no one pees on their parade and they delete that which offends them. Lame, lame, lame.

The Reclusive Leftist hasn’t deleted posts, that I’m aware of, but her tone is pretty clear: this is my sandbox and if I don’t like you, you should leave. Her intent is not to inspire discussion or she wouldn’t squelch it. Her intent, apparently, is to reinforce what supports her views and denigrate that which doesn’t. It is a one-sided affair. Herein lies the danger of blogs-as-discussion-forums: the playing field is not level. They are not really forums of free speech, they are little fiefdoms where people pick and choose which speech will get an audience and which will not. It just strikes me as hilariously lame that people censure or squelch discussion which makes them uncomfortable. They are as bad as the NSA.

Unfortunately, we are still a pack of cowards and pussies.

The Reclusive Whiner