Sunday, December 28, 2008

Douchebag of the Year, 2008

Well, welcome to the Bored on the Corner New Year's Special Column. Also known as, The First Annual Douchebag of the Year Award. There were certainly some interesting nominations sent in by the fans. The Douchebag of the Year Award goes to a publicly known figure who, through stupidity or bad attitude, made a particularly embarrassing or outrageous show of him or herself in 2008. Before we get to the winner, let's look at some honourable mentions.

Our runner-up, and most popular Canadian choice, is Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He gets this incredible honour, for not only deciding to do absolutely nothing about our dying economy during the worst crisis in eighty years, but for constantly using shameful, cowardly, undemocratic and even illegal means to turn this country into -- dare I say -- a right-wing dictatorship. Instead of following the route of every other Western country, and doing something about the economy, he chose to stop pay equity to women, and trying to bankrupt the other parties. This culminated in early December, when he not only turned Canadians against each other by calling a majority that has the power to get rid of him "illegal, undemocratic, and un-Canadian", but by taking the route of many dictators and suspending Parliament. If you think I'm being silly, look up Napoleon, Hitler, Franco, and Mussolini. Just for the basics.

The presently unknown men who hit teen Nick Perkins with a car, dragged him for hundreds of feet, and then left him for dead. Basically putting a belt sander to anyone is beyond me, nevermind a teenager who was just hanging out with his friend. Let's move on.

Getting into original nominees sent in by the fans, here's one submitted by Andrew Carter: anti-video game lobbyist and former lawyer Jack Thompson. This guy not only tries to pin the blame for all of society's problems on video games, instead of -- for instance -- poverty and piss poor parenting... but when he does so he is so blatantly homophobic, sexist, abusive, and slanderous, that he actually managed to get himself disbarred earlier this year. While we're at it, there's also the idiots who steal cars and stab cab drivers because they think they're playing the Grand Theft Auto games. There's also author Cooper Lawrence, for trashing the sex scenes in the game Mass Effect without even playing it. She later admitted that she had only heard of the game just prior to being interviewed on Fox News about it, and when she finally did see it, found it less graphic than most episodes of "Lost". Too bad she needed to have her ass kicked on national television before she finally admitted to being careless.

And finally, another fan nomination, this one from Meg Parchem: the shopping parasites in the U.S. who were so obsessed with finding great deals on Black Friday that they trampled people, shot at people, and then whined like crazy when the stores had to be closed over that, because they camped out for two or three days for the sake of a fucking discount. God bless us, every one.

But, the winner this year was a clear one, and I am honestly not at all surprised. There are those who I've felt more strongly about in the last few weeks, but unlike some of the people on this list, I care about what people think, and I care about votes. Ladies and gentlemen, by popular demand, the 2008 Douchebag of the Year... is Sarah Palin. Much of the reason for this, goes without saying, but let's take a look.

This time last year, hardly anyone outside of Alaska had even heard of the controversial Vice-Presidential candidate. So it really says something when, in less than six months, a person goes from a total unknown to one of the most ridiculed and hated politicians in recent memory. How did that happen? Well, a huge part of it is that much of her campaign was shrouded in hypocrisy -- like the fact that she had even less experience and about as much tabloid friendliness as Barack Obama, who she and John McCain frequently criticized as a rookie celebrity. Then there's her frequent accusations that Obama sided with radicals and terrorists, and not really being American, when she herself was blessed by a so-called witch hunter, her church believes in "reprogramming" gays, and her husband was a member of a hard-right wing, Alaskan sovereignty party. Hmmm... so it's okay for a white Christian family to hold highly violent and intolerant views of gays and pagans, and to be part of a party that actively wants to separate America, yet it's not okay at all for a mixed-heritage man to have been around an ex-terrorist when he was a child, to have a pastor who feels like blacks are still being marginalized by the government, and who believes in changing the status quo to actually represent all Americans?

By the way, don't even get me started on how Palin very blatantly used her children as political props. Though I must say, that exposed just how open and accepting right-wingers actually are about teenage, unwed pregnancies, at least when it happens to one of their more wealthy comrades. Or how she and John McCain not only encouraged the anti-Obama bigotry, but ignored the fact that most Americans -- right and left wing -- are fed up with the divisive fearmongering of the Bush years. Remember how they claimed that only the Red States are Pro-America?

Then there's the way she tried to prove that despite having never been outside the U.S. prior to the election, she was completely up to the job of being one heartbeat away from the Commander-In-Chief's office. This idiot couldn't even answer the question, "What newspapers did you read, before getting nominated?" So many of her answers to debate and interview questions, have consisted of totally dodging the question -- and rather pathetically, at that. This person then has the nerve to wonder why most of the world thinks she's a loon?

So, Governor Sarah Palin -- who somehow became the first woman to run for Vice-President of the United States -- congratulations on winning at least one thing, this year: the 2008 Douchebag of the Year Award. And before you try to send the CIA after me for posting this, which I wouldn't put past you, let me explain something to you: the reason why you have a lot of people criticizing you, is because you don't seem to grasp that when you apply for any major job, people usually expect you to know how to do it. When you give interviews or propose policy about ANYTHING, you are supposed to know what the hell you're talking about. Even most conservatives have said that you are not up to the job. Take a hint. Enough said, and Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Atheist war, in The Toronto Star

"Atheist Beliefs Deserve Respect Too"

Popular authors no more "ferociously attack religion" than religious writers such as Dow Marmur ferociously attack atheism. Marmur's criticism therefore oozes hypocrisy.

Marmur seems particularly preoccupied with scholars, saying that atheism was "fashionable among academics" in 1982 when David Hay published his book on religious experience. As a philosophy doctoral student and teaching assistant, I can attest that atheism is even more popular today, and I am optimistic that its membership will increase into the future.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Michelle Ciurria, Toronto

Your op-ed religion columnist, Dow Marmur, has written approvingly of inter-faith dialogue, although he does see pitfalls, and he gives the appearance of being interested in, and tolerant of, belief systems other than his own. I wonder, then, why he feels the need to express quite uncharitable views of atheists and other non-believers.

Rabbi Marmur really knows how to pile it on: "attacking traditional religion has become something of a sport," "authors who ferociously attack religion," "the guise of common sense and scientific objectivity," "their severe strictures," "their second line of attack," "shrill denunciations," "when atheism was fashionable," and "atheist tracts." And that's just one column.

I can hardly wait to rummage again through the dictionary and thesaurus. Somehow I don't think I should expect Marmur to participate in forming an inter-faith Canadian Council of Jews and Atheists any time soon.

Michael Collins, Toronto

As an atheist, I'd like to extend secular holiday greetings to Rabbi Emeritus Dow Marmur and assure him that, in spite of what he might have read, atheists do not feel close to God, nor to any other non-existent being.

Larry Moran, Mississauga

Let's contrast Rabbi Dow Marmur's comments about religion with atheism. His religious traditions come out of a book or books handed down to him loaded with compulsion and dire consequences if not followed. There is also a financial incentive for saying what he does. For someone like me, there are no rewards for what I think other than my own pursuit of truth and common sense. After I finish reading his column, the Bible, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al, I am free to agree or disagree. I am able to pick up Dawkins and say, "That's what I think. At last there are people who think as I do. It's exhilarating!"

You can have your faith. I define religious faith as something to be believed but unable to be proved. Stewart Fisher, Campbelleville

We need freedom from religion as much as freedom of religion. From time to time, a theist or an atheist notes that someone in the other camp has done something horrible or, worse, changed their mind.

Dow Marmur, in spite of my sense that he is a civil and reasoned man with whom it would be a pleasure to break bread, frequently plays this game, scoring petty points on serious issues of significant personal expression.

The person who wrote the headline, however, portrays a far less noble demeanor. Would he or she have been censured, I wonder, if the headline had read "'Tis not the season for Judaism"?

Andrew McCammon, Toronto

"Atheist Letters Stir The Pot"

Religious people and religions also deserve respect. Virtually all the hospitals, schools and universities were originally opened by religious people – Christians in particular. I have yet to find a charity run by atheists. I would have more respect for atheists if that were the case.

Clarence McMullen, Toronto

Michael Collins sees the rabbi's words as uncharitable, even though Dow Marmur acknowledges flaws in much dogma. We await a similar acknowledgement from atheists. Mr. Collins seems unaware of the acerbity common to the current rash of anti-theist literature.

Stewart Fisher correctly describes religious faith as "something to be believed but unable to be proved," of course, depending on the type of proof required. Thus, we have faith. Atheism also lacks proof. Thus, atheists have faith.

And Andrew McCammon pleads for freedom from religion. Exactly what is the compulsion from which he seeks freedom in 21st century Canada? No one compelled him to read the rabbi's column.

Raymond Peringer, Toronto

Whoever wrote the headline for these letters misunderstands atheism. Atheism by itself is not a belief; it is just the absence of belief in gods. It's not even a single belief, much less a body of beliefs. Atheism by itself offers no guidance on moral, social or political matters. Atheism, like theism, can be part of an ideology, but neither can be an ideology by itself.

Jim Ebsary, Welland

"Little Regard for Atheists"

Raymond Peringer challenges the notion that atheists seek freedom from religion, and asks, "Exactly what is the compulsion from which he (atheists) seek freedom in 21st century Canada?" I can answer that question for him. We are compelled to recognize God every time we sing our National Anthem. We are compelled to be involved in prayers whenever we attend a meeting of our municipal and regional elected officials. And we are compelled to live under a Constitution that recognizes the supremacy of God. All of these strictures have been imposed upon the general population by bureaucrats or politicians without regard for the growing minority of non-believers in Canada.

Ron Ross, Brampton

"Atheists Deserve the Same Rights as Everyone Else" (mine)

The letters attacking an atheist, who was speaking out for his rights to be respected, disturbed and incensed me. This is not only as a non-religious person, but as a human being.

A writer asks, "Exactly what is the compulsion from which [an atheist] seeks freedom [from religion] in 21st-century Canada?" Well, speaking as an agnostic, I can tell you first-hand that whenever the general public hears about my beliefs, I am very often attacked for it.

Frankly, I and many others resent the implication that we are some sort of malcontents, just because we do not believe the same things as most of the country. We also resent having our beliefs dismissed, just because they are unconventional. The last time I checked, atheists have the same legal rights and freedoms as anyone else – so let's start accepting that.

Stephen Bryce, Stoney Creek, Ont.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Canada is on life support

Yesterday, the Canada that I know and love went another step towards a slow and painful death.

All this week, Harper has been trying to fend off the frenzy he started, by calling the majority coalition (of the Liberals and NDP, with support from the Bloc) as an illegal, undemocratic and separatist organization. He is wrong on all three counts.

  1. Any coalition between parties is completely legal, and is generally preferred in a minority government like the one we have. In a situation like this one, where the Prime Minister -- through neglegence and malice -- has sold out this country's people and laws for a chance at more power -- the opposition is obligated to put a stop to it.
  2. The Coalition has been made up entirely of elected Members of Parliament. Furthermore, as a lot of Canadians seem to forget, this Coalition was voted for with more combined support than the Tories had (the only reason they won the last two elections was because the vote was split among the then-separate parties). Technically speaking, they represent the majority of Canadians, so between that and Harper losing the confidence of Parliament, they are technically the legitimate government now.
  3. The Bloc is not actually a part of the coalition, they are being consulted -- much like they have been from every government since the party's inception. Furthermore, when the Tories themselves were in Opposition and trying to bring down the Liberals in 2004 and 2006, guess who they had supporting them? Bingo, mes amis.

So our Governor General, forgetting once again that she's supposed to enforce the law and the will of Parliament, has once again granted one of Stephen Harper's weasily requests to hold on to power, and Parliament has been suspended under late January -- supposedly (more on that in a minute). She knew full well that this coalition was ready and willing to take over, and she has the option in Canadian law to have them do so (a lot of experts have said that's her only truly valid option, under the circumtances), but no, she helped Harper delay what is hopefully inevitable by delaying a non-confidence vote that he will never win under normal circumstances.

Harper has already taken every chance to vilify and slander the coalition, with the effect of turning many Canadians against each other. I have honestly seen comments aired on my local TV station, that a lot of people in my area want "every last Liberal, NDP, and Bloc wiped off the face of the planet." Now, he has gone the route of Napoleon, Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, and various other dictators and suspended our Parliament. I would not be the least bit surprised to see him declare martial law if this situation gets any more heated.

It's long past time that this country stand up for itself. Even if you don't support the coalition, you would be beyond foolish to think that Harper has our best interests at heart -- his actions this week, coupled with his total disregard for our dying economy, make it obvious that he doesn't care about anything or anyone but himself.

Canada, take to the streets. The time for a revolution is now.