Pon Tiff

Pope Benedict was in Germany the other day and gave a lecture. I don't think anyone has bothered to read the whole thing, but a small part of it comparing Christianity and Islam has been repeated quite a bit lately in the press. The part where he quoted 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II saying "show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." Muslims got kind of upset (or more upset), which didn't really suprise anyone.

To calm things down, the Pope issued an apology. Well, not quite an apology. He didn't say he was sorry for what he said, but he did say he was sorry for the reaction to it. Meaning, 'It's too bad you guys are all crazy.' And that's what he should have said. He criticized Muslims for being violent, and they responded by getting violent. In the words of Cardinal Pell, the reaction showed "the link for many Islamists between religion and violence, their refusal to respond to criticism with rational arguments, but only with demonstrations, threats and actual violence." This seems to be a pattern I've seen before.

Now the Pope was reading a quote from someone else, so they weren't his own words, but he did choose to use that quote. And the larger point that he was making, that Islam is irrational, and Christianity is not, is still not exactly praising Islam. So maybe there is cause for Muslims to get upset. But really, the idea of a religion calling another religion irrational is kind of absurd. Irrational, even. I thought most of Benedict's arguments could easily have been about the Catholic church, or at least the early Catholic Church. In fact, I've noticed many parallels between Muslim extremist beliefs today and the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. Forced conversions, religious control of government, unwillingness to hear outside opinions...

He may have been misguided, but I don't think the Pope was trying to upset Muslims. He was just trying to help Catholics understand their faith, the reasonability of it. I really doubt he was prepared for this kind of Spanish Inquisition.

Your Pirattitude Sucks

Today, if you were not aware, is Talk Like a Pirate Day. But not here on this blog.

In general, I don't choose sides, but in the Pirate/Ninja debate, I have to. And it's not much of a question, as far as I'm concerned.

Pirates: thieves, missing appendages, filth, drunkenness, Johnny Depp, homosexuality

Ninjas: the Ninja Turtles, Surf Ninjas, Batman, shuriken, and a certain demi-god named Chuck Norris

Disagree? Vote and then defend your pick here.


Hungary for the Truth

I found this interesting.

BUDAPEST, Hungary (CNN) -- Protesters seized the headquarters of Hungary's state television network and set fires in and around the building early Tuesday after the country's prime minister admitted lying about the economy "throughout the past one and a half or two years."

Maybe this country is a lot better off with Bush refusing to admit that anything he said could ever have been untrue. Whether he's been proven wrong or he was lying from the start. Although protesters burning down the Fox News Channel headquarters might not be so bad.

9-11 Redux

So last week was September 11. The 5-year anniversary of the airplane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I assume you expected me to make an address about how I am still saddened by the events five years ago, how we never forget a tragedy like that. You wanted to hear about how the events 5 years ago were a turning point in our lives, in history, and how much different America is today. I can not give that address.

The hijacking of the airplanes and the subsequent crashing of these planes was by no means desirable. I’m sure that may be an understatement. But all in all, only a total of 2,996 people died. There have been much worse tragedies since then. What did you do to remember the anniversary of the Pakistani earthquake? Or the SE Asian tsunami? How much time do you spend thinking about the ongoing bloodshed in Sudan, in Iraq, in Israel... Go through the entire list of everyone in the world who was killed yesterday and pray for each of them, and when you get through that, then you can go back and pray for someone who died five years ago.

Those who died in the World Trade Center were not heroes. They did nothing great. They did not choose to die how they did, and if given the choice, I think they would have left. So there is no need to honor them. No more than you would honor someone who got hit by a car or died of cancer.

Granted, the rescue workers who died that day could be considered heroes. But so could any rescue worker. What have you done to pay tribute to your local firefighters, policemen, people who put their lives on the line every day to protect the public? Honor them, not somebody in NYC. And do it before they die, so that they are aware of it.

For all the talk I’ve heard lately about how fresh this incident still is in everyone’s memories, let’s just admit it. As a nation, we’ve moved on. For all the talk about how much this event changed us, things now are just the same as they were on September 10, 2002. We still don’t really care what’s going on in the rest of the world. We still don’t care what people in other countries think of us. We still don’t like to be charitable, to give away something that we worked for. We still think everyone should only be responsible for themselves. And we still think that we ourselves are invulnerable.

We are still the same arrogant, selfish country that inspired a group of terrorists to fly airplanes into the WTC and the Pentagon. We did change a little for a month or so afterward. People were forced out of the bubble that had surrounded their own lives. They gave donations; they attempted to help those who had suffered. But it didn’t last. We didn’t learn anything from it.

9-11 Redux Part 2

President Bush, on the other hand, said exactly what you should have expected him to say. I guess he should feel a little responsible, having been in charge of things when it all went down. I suppose guilt would explain why he gets so defensive about everything. And those who feel powerless may try to obtain power over others. He’s certainly been doing a lot of that.

Bush’s speech was not meant to comfort those who had lost loved ones. It was not meant to reassure the nation that this type of attack won’t happen again. It was meant to do the opposite. It was meant to instill hatred and fear. Because that makes us easier to control.

Feingold was wrong to object to the use of the phrase “Islamic Fascists.” You see, in a war, if you humanize the enemy, it makes it harder to justify killing them all. You need to think of them as you would a rabid dog. And it helps to come up with some sort of derogatory name like Japs or Gooks.

“Kill all the Islamofascists!” has a nice ring to it. Almost as nice as “Death to the Infidels!”


The Argument against Organic

[There is a much better argument and discussion here if you are interested. Also, TIME recently published an article questioning the supposed benefits of organic foods. Anyway, back to the original post...]

Brainy Blonde said...

"please elaborate how not using chemicals (which destroy our environment) are somehow worse for it "in every way" I'd love to hear more..."

I maintain that it is not the use of chemicals which "destroy our environment" but rather the misuse of specific chemicals.

Chemicals have always existed. H2O is a chemical. NH4 is a chemical. CO2 is a chemical. Plants need chemicals to grow. These can be supplied through 'natural' sources or by isolating and 'artificially' producing them. And it really makes no difference to the plant. (I use quotes because chemically it's all the same processes)

When fertilizers and pesticides are used correctly, they can be applied much more accurately and efficiently, resulting in a greater yield without applying an excess of other substances. The food itself is still the same, although perhaps larger and healthier. I see no reason not to use advances in science and technology to better agriculture.

I’m sorry if this seems condescending, but I feel I need to respond this way when people make the generalization that ‘chemicals are bad.’

My biggest criticism is for the large-scale commercial organic farms. (United Natural Foods, the company selling the tainted spinach, is the world’s largest producer of organic produce) It is my understanding that they follow the letter of organic farming but not the spirit. The concern is more on sustaining profits than on sustaining the land. So I find it hard to believe that a large-scale commercial organic farm is any better for the environment than any other large-scale commercial farming operation.

Natural fertilizers need to be applied in much higher quantities, and while ‘natural,’ they are still not environmentally safe in high concentrations. Too much animal waste in any one area is bad for the environment. Manure runoff is bad for our water supply. And fecal contamination is always the source of e. coli outbreaks. Which is what I had just posted about. I know this link is circumstantial at best, but it’s enough to make me consider it. And again, no one else is alleging a connection. This whole argument was crafted entirely within my head, with no sources or evidence. But if you read the wikipedia article on organic farming, as I just did, you’ll see essentially the same points argued.

The debate of organic versus chemical agriculture is not the clear-cut issue you think it is. There is no right or wrong. No one is intentionally trying to destroy the environment. Maybe growing up in an extremely rural area has made me biased, but nearly all farmers take a long-term view of their farms and work to keep the land arable for the future. This should not be a question of ideology. It should be a matter of objectively looking at the results. And doing so, I see no reason to stop using artificially produced fertilizers. Organic farming is not without its arguments. Sustainable farming and protection of the environment are necessary. And I’ll agree that pesticides are overused. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. All farming, organic or not, has an environmental impact. I just think the goals of organic farming can be better achieved if we embrace technology, rather than taking the Amish-like view that it's all evil.

And I believe that consumers who buy organic foods are just as ignorant as everyone else about where their food comes from and how it is produced. They just buy the food for the organic label, so they can feel morally superior to the other people who don’t wish to or can’t afford to pay the higher prices for organic foods, and they do so without ever having any evidence that the food they are buying was grown with any less environmental impact.

I don’t like the arrogance, I don’t like the ignorance, and I don’t like the hypocrisy.

This is a separate issue, but I also hate the debate of ‘natural’ versus artificial. Humans are products of, and part of nature. We are still bound by the same laws that have governed this planet since it was formed. If we screw things up, our species will die. That’s it. You don’t see chimps debating over whether they should be using sticks to dig out insects. If you truly believe in the idea of a natural state, you should understand that we humans are merely demonstrating on a large scale what we refer to as survival of the fittest.

Of course, if you believe otherwise, then you also believe that the world and everything on it was created for the use of man.



Do not eat bagged spinach.

I understand that spinach is very healthy. I ate spinach every other day for a year and never got sick during that time. And if you need to bulk up to protect your girl from a bully, this stuff's better than steroids. But the health benefits of eating spinach do not outweigh the costs of dying of e. coli. Feel free to doublecheck the math on this.

Natural Selectons Foods fresh bagged spiniach has been linked to 94 cases (and counting) of e. coli infection, with 29 of the cases and the only death so far happening in Wisconsin. I had some spanakopita the other day, and it sure went through awfully fast, but that's still nothing compared to having an e. coli infection. So if you have any bagged spinach, and especially if you also live in the great state of Wisconsin, just throw it away.

I would also like to note that it is organic spinach that is infecting people. The media have not been playing up this angle, but I would like to here. In general, I think organic farming is a load of crap (literally too) and I do not support it. It is actually worse for the environment and for consumers in almost every aspect. While I'd like to say that anyone who buys organic spinach deserves to have diarrhea and bloody stools, I don't think anyone should die for being a smug, ignorant bastard.