Friday, April 27, 2007
close up shot here. (from Kottke.org)
Money Quote: "Daylight Savings Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that Members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or Did they?
Perhaps this another plot by a liberal congress to convince us that Global Warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects."
Wow, who needs the onion when you've got the Arkansas post-Gazette?
Posted by Luke Rhinehart at 8:28 AM
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Move over MC Rove it's Bush's turn. We've had like 6 posts in the last 2 days here at aaaathatsfiveas, and I hate to keep moving them down the page but a lot of shit happened today. The biggest news was that President Bush actually DANCED with Africans for malaria awareness. Someone said "If it wasn't for all of his policies he'd be the greatest president." If you could charitably interpret his arrogance as being Colbert-like (which is now impossible given Bush's policies) then maybe...
PS- new White Stripes single "Icky Thump" dropped today download it here. It's right heavy, and won't go far on rock radio but I think it rules.
PPS- You can link back to this page with this permalink or by clicking the title of this blog post if you wanna, you know, pass on the photos and info...
Posted by Luke Rhinehart at 7:29 AM
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
A friend of mine once wanted me to debate with some "intelligent conservatives" because he was of the opinion that I would be a good representative of the left. These were nice people, but the first question they wanted to discuss was "What do you think of the ten commandments being posted in schools?" This was an ingenious lead-off question because it's one of those issues that conservatives often see as being simply obvious as all hell and so by opposing it I was immediately beyond the pale in their eyes. Someone intervened before I answered and the whole thing was laughed off before I could even say "Let's not waste our time discussing such a pointless attempt to violate the constitution."
I wish I had that chance back now, because I was just struck by a magnificent compromise. Let's not let the ACLU continue to have its reputation tarnished trying to get this or that stone tablet removed from this or that courtroom. I say we post the Exodus 34 10 commandments in every classroom, seriously. Why Exodus 34? Well, the bible couldn't be clearer on this point: the Exodus 34 commandments are the real deal. As you'll read if you follow
1. Thou shalt worship no other god (For the Lord is a jealous god).
2. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
3. The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep in the month when the ear is on the corn.
4. All the first-born are mine.
5. Six days shalt thou work, but on the seventh thou shalt rest.
6. Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, even of the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end.
7. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread.
8. The fat of my feast shall not remain all night until the morning.
9. The first of the first fruits of thy ground thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.
10. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk.
Can everyone deal with this compromise? These commandments would teach children some very important lessons about religion. For one thing, it's obvious that there are plenty of contradictions in the bible (most religious people I know are fine with this, but some don't recognize this); I'm referring here (as only one example of many) to exodus 20 which produces an entirely different set of commandments even though these are said (by God!) to be the same. For another, it makes apparent that the bible is largely a historical document codifying the rituals, myths, and oral traditions of an oft-primitive people. Most importantly though, you need to know that when someone says something like "Homosexuality is wrong because it says so in the bible" they could just as easily be saying "not taking the apples that fall on the ground to church is wrong" (see commandment 9.)
This is not a slander against religious people, because many already know this stuff. The ones who've actually read the bible have no doubt confronted passages in Deuteronomy Leviticus and Revelations about how wearing blended fabrics is wrong, shaving your head and shaving your beard (into a goatee) is wrong, or about how Jesus will kill all of the children who had the misfortune to be born to adulterous parents. Moral absurdities like the sad tale of a woman who tries to save her husband from being beaten up by another man but has the misfortune of touching the assailant's junk and (of course) has to have her hand cut off often do little to shake the faith of believers because such a faith isn't understood in a literal way. Though it's not my cup of tea, I don't really have a problem with that sort of selectivity by itself (and there are plenty of people who disagree with me.) I have a problem with the next step that some people take: "BUT the earth is still only 6000 years old because the bible says so" or "BUT Homosexuality is still wrong because the bible says so."
There are plenty of good arguments for the separation of church and state. Nevertheless, we should ignore them for just this once, in the spirit of compromise.
Posted by Luke Rhinehart at 9:43 AM
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
This year the White House Correspondent's Dinner was pale in comparison to last years. Of course nobody expected Sanjaya's presence to make up for Stephen Colbert not not being invited.
David Letterman was unable to accept his invitation, however, he did put together a Top Ten that IMO deserves to be on the "Letterman Top Ten, Top Ten".
David Letterman was unable to accept his invitation, however, he did put together a Top Ten that IMO deserves to be on the "Letterman Top Ten, Top Ten".
I guess political donations can buy you more than a rider in the Patriot Act. Payton Manning got to visit his favorite Patriot, George W. Bush, on Monday.
Now I know that Super Bowl winners, regardless of their political affiliation, get to visit the White House. But rarely do they seem as thrilled as Peyton was to hand Bush a team jersey.
Peyton remarked on meeting Bush, "It was very emotional," Manning said at a short news conference after the ceremony. "It kind of made you proud to be an American." Ok, Ok.. that was actually a comment he made about visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital. How could visiting soldiers who were unnecessarily wounded in this disastrous war make you feel anything but proud of America? One has to wonder which section of the hospital Peyton visited.. I'm guessing it was the VIP area.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Sam Harris has an infamous "argument" in defense of torture. He probably borrowed it from Alan Dershowitz who borrowed it from Michael Walzer (who's one of the foremost proponents of "Hypothetical Apologetics"- here's Chomsky speaking at West Point about Walzer.) There is a serious flaw in the way Harris presents his case, but what's far more important is a consideration of the context in which this wholly flawed argument is made. When we're confronted with a silly argument that's taken seriously, it's highly instructive to consider why reasonable people suddenly fail in their capacity for reasonable judgment.
Here's the argument in a nutshell:
Person A: Torture is morally wrong, legally wrong, and practically ineffectual.
Sam Harris: If there was a giant nuclear bomb hidden in Manhattan set to go off in 24 hours and the guy who planted it was dancing around and laughing in our faces and the only way to find it is to torture him, can we torture him to find out? Many of my liberal counterparts may disagree with me, but I stand strong that torturing an obviously guilty mass-murderer to save millions of lives is justifiable.
Bravo. What a magnificent blowtorch of an argument. Not so fast guys- are you sure that torture is wrong? Okay well now that I'm finally thinking clearly, let's see what other mistakes I've made in my moral judgments:
Person B: Punching an old lady right in the face is wrong.
Sam Harris: If there was a giant nuclear bomb hidden in Manhattan set to go off in 24 hours and the guy who planted it was dancing around and laughing in our faces and the only way he'd tell us where it is is if we punched an old lady right in the face, can we punch her to save millions of lives?
God, I mean, that's a horrible thing to have to do but think of the millions of lives saved. I guess punching old ladies in the face isn't wrong after all. You know what though? That's far too easy because we don't live in a nation in which we are defying the world by punching old ladies right in the face. We do, however live in a nation which is defying the world by actively torturing people and so publishing a highly visible justification of torture has serious implications. Let's see, what might a Saudi Sam Harris be publishing...
Person C*: Flying planes into buildings and killing innocents is wrong.
Samir Harris: If there was a madman who was going to release a toxic virus that we knew would, at the very least, painfully kill every last man woman and child in the world in the next week and the only thing that would prevent him from releasing it is to fly a plane into a building full of innocents, could we do it then?
Who would've thought to write an article hypothetically justifying flying planes into buildings after 9/11? Even if that person had said "9/11, of course, was a travesty" (PS- does anyone ever use that word correctly outside of "... of justice"?) that person would've rightly been condemned for (what I'll call) "Hypothetical Apologetics." It means defending a controversial act in theory, with appeal to largely non-existent thought-experiments, in the context of great controversy over the act. A classic example of this is the great "Humanitarian Intervention" debate that always seems to pop up when we go to war for non-humanitarian reasons. Should we be talking about whether a war can ever be justified (it can, obviously) in the midst of a war that simply cannot? I think we all know that the effect of such a discussion is to implicitly support the bad-deed (Torture, Iraq War, etc.)
If the US starts executing its prisoners of war, you'll of course get O'Reilly out there saying that it's necessary and important and every sane person should recognize that immediately as the disgusting sophistry it is. More insidiously though, you'll find a Sam Harris-figure saying "Well, I'm not sure it's a good thing in this case, but what if these POWs had been irreversibly transformed into brainwashed superhuman killers with the ability to blow up half of Manhattan with their minds? Perhaps it's time to rethink..."
Don't say I didn't warn you.
*Probably hard to find... oh apart from the leaders of nearly every country in the world including such notorious moderates as Kim Jong-Il and the leaders of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, the PLO, etc.
Posted by Luke Rhinehart at 12:31 PM
Friday, April 20, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Let's clear a few things out of the way shall we? This video is of a dog who's best friends with a monkey. There was a flood in Mozambique and somewhere along the line this dog teamed up with this monkey and this video is just the best thing I've ever seen. They're best friends!
If you don't understand the picture at the top of this post, trying stepping back about 4 feet and then looking again.
Has there ever been a more perfect stereotype of the California* elitist view than Sam Harris? Harries decries all those southern redneck idiots for believing in the bible, but then asks us to take it easy on the "spooky stories" of reincarnation because those come from the mysterious and exotic east. That's not a joke; someone questioned Harris' interest in reincarnation at the Beyondbelief conference (which is available by video via that link and is thoroughly awesome) and he said "Well there are all of these spooky stories." I'm not sure how to describe the odd sound that filled the conference room afterward but it somehow gave voice to my own thoughts/emotions (ha, good joke/ oh my god he's not joking/ holy shit you've got to be kidding me, etc.) and is well worth hearing.
Let's break it down:
- Sam Harris on the great scientific conspiracy to ignore psychics: "There seems to be a body of data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena, much of which have been ignored by mainstream science"
- On Uniting with Christian fundamentalists to oppose the great "horde" of
brownmuslim people who hate our freedom: "Nonbelievers like myself stand beside you, dumbstruck by the Muslim hordes who chant death to whole nations of the living."
- Coming out in support of the biggest weapon of propoganda that the right has: "my correspondence with liberals has convinced me that liberalism has grown dangerously out of touch with the realities of our world ['On questions of national security']"
One more Harris quote before we go:
"...such religious extremism is not as fringe a phenomenon as we might hope. Numerous studies have found that the most radicalized Muslims tend to have better-than-average educations and economic opportunities."
Any atheist who reads this (much less writes it) without doubling over, convulsing with laughter must be more dogmatic and faith-full than any Christian I know. Things are only "fringe" if poor people engage in them? Again with the elitism, my god. If you have an idea about what inequality statistics show in these countries, showing that something exists in the wealthy educated sectors actually goes further to showing that it's fringe phenomena! As Steven Poole says, "It is like saying serial killers are often quite intelligent – so serial killing must be more common than we thought."
The obvious lesson to take from Sam Harris is something akin to a rebuttal of his views. It's the simple truth that irrationality and warmongering and intolerance are problems that run far deeper than the surface phenomena of religion. It's well-documented that Osama Bin Laden would love nothing more than a war against Islam, and that the recruitment technique for Al Qeada largely relies on the view that the west is Anti-Muslim, and that there is a holy war against Muslims, and so on. Personally, I can think of few better unwitting agents for his cause than Sam Harris.
* please note here that I'm referring to the California stereotype, and not actual Californians who are often far more well-thought-out than Sam Harris.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
I [heart] Pranks. If you too have a fondness for pranks I urge you to spend a little time with this series of posts in which I painstakingly compile my favorites, often with videos and links.
My favorite is a group called Improv Everywhere engaged in the business of pranking but with a twist, I guess. The joke isn't really "on" anyone at all. In fact Improv Everywhere is really in business of creating surreal magical moments for the uninformed like the Best Gig Ever (recently covered by This American Life's TV show on showtime, which you can watch here) in which they find this obscure band playing the next Sunday, and then proceed to obtain CDs, make T-Shirts and spread the word. By the time the Band plays Improv Everywhere has the place packed with its "agents" singing every word to every song, wearing homemade t-shirts emblazoned with the band name, and treating the band like rockstars. There are other great ones as well and you can read about them on their website, or even better listen to the founder describe them on a radio show which is way funny- go here and/or here.
I can't leave out the ubiquitous college pranks, of which there are thousands. I'll restrict myself to just a few though.
This may be the ne plus ultra of College Pranks and it must've taken a shitload of time. While this guy was away on a trip they nailed all of stuff to the ceiling so he had an upside down room. The first minute or so of this video is disorienting and unimpressive but you'll start to get it after that and be blown away.
Here's a musical College Prank. It reminds me a joke my best friend used to tell (he was an amatuer standup comedian who was always trying out new material on his friends and never performing for the public) about he wished that life was like a musical and when you'd find a nickel someone else would chime in "he found a nickel" and you'd just break into a dance and sing about it. So here's someone actually doing that.
This is one of the greatest pranks of all, if you have the time to review it. It occurred on the (hideously-named) pitchforkmedia-associated board hipinion.com right when those myspace passwords leaked. This group of often funny, often heartless individuals did a variety of things to various myspace accounts ranging from the dull to the hilarious to the shocking and cruel. Those hyperlinks obviously take you to examples from the thread, but the image below is another one. Someone found this girl's password, logged into her account and posted this comment on her friend's comment board. If you've got the time start from the beginning of the thread, because there's a lot of great shit there.
What really takes the cake though was a boarder named OkTerrific who logged in on some girl's account and started chatting with all of her friends with the myspace messenger and convincing them that she was pregnant, needed to get an AIDS test, etc. Again, this is not something I'm saying is good but once you'll read it you'll understand. Aside from the simple cringing hilarity the guy uncovers all kinds of high school secrets and hidden relationships and then there's double-crossing and triple-crossing. If you want to cheat and just read a summary of this stuff (at least read it for the one-liners, like when he/she asks her friend to borrow $100 dollars and tells him to call her and talk in code) then scroll down to a post with the words "Act 1" about midway down on this page.
Posted by Luke Rhinehart at 9:42 AM
Monday, April 2, 2007
This is actually the real Alanis and her straight-up take-down of the so-awful-you hardly-need-mention-your-opinion-of-it "My Humps." The song itself is good enough- like all the great covers of "offensive/stoopid" songs it's performed as a catchy ballad with the lyrics over-enunciated (see Ben Folds' "Bitches Ain't Shit", Dynamite Hack's "Boyz in the Hood", etc.) The video just adds to it though; stick around for the very end where Alanis-as-Fergie's wannabe-feminist bravado is deflated via eyeliner tears.
By the way, I spent the entire first half of watching this video assuming it was a MADTV thing or something (it's not) and that they were going to change the lyrics to be about how HILARIOUS it would be if everyone in Hollywood started adopting 3rd world kids HARHARHAR just like Angelina. I wouldn't be posting it in that case.
Posted by Luke Rhinehart at 2:07 PM