Archive | March, 2010

Right-wing hate groups on the rise in US

31 Mar

This past week right wing hate groups were brought to the forefront of media attention when 9 members of the christian militia, Hutaree, were arrested and indicted of plotting to kill a Michigan police officer, and then bomb the funeral procession in an attempt to kill as many police officers as possible.

To them the federal government is the embodiment of the anti-christ, any and all government officials the foot-soldiers of the new evil world order. These guys are grade A crazy, but unfortunately they are not alone.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of right-wing “patriot” groups have surged from 149 in 2008, to 512 in 2009, an increase of 244%. (A list of these groups can be found here)

The SPLC is careful to make this distinction about “patriot” groups:

“Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the “New World Order,” engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines. Listing here does not imply that the groups themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities, or are racist.”

I also want to make the distinction that these groups, these militias, are perfectly legal under the 2nd amendment to the constitution:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

So we have some data here. Right wing groups have grown drastically since 2008. The SPLC has also kept track of 73 instances of violent crimes, often including murder, committed by people connected to such right-wing groups since 1995 when Timothy McVeigh slaughtered 168 people in the Oklahoma City Federal building.

What could be the reason for the jump from 2008 to 2009? The SPLC believes that it might be linked to the election of a liberal black man. I’m inclined to agree since they point out that the number of active groups declined during the presidency of conservative George W. Bush; but this is not proof of cause and effect.

Secondly, why right wing hate groups? Where are the left wing hate groups? I did some looking around, and they are much harder to find than right wing hate groups. The nearest I could find was the Weather Underground, but they fell apart after 1973. Some might also claim that organizations like Greenpeace and PETA are left wing hate groups, but I would argue that they are not the same thing. Sure they have members that sometimes commit crimes like vandalism and destruction of property, but we don’t see Greenpeace or PETA creating organization wide plans to murder people that we find in right-wing groups.

I would think that the reason right-wing groups tend to be more violent is because they are often made up of angry white men with extreme religious and political views, whereas left wing groups are made up of angry tree-hugging hippies.

Atheism and Death

30 Mar

Recently a friend of mine’s grandfather died. She is religious and made some comment on facebook about how the whole thing got her thinking about heaven: Is there one? Is my grandfather there now?

Well I know tact and not wanting to be a jerk in her time of grieving, I merely said that my thoughts were with her. But this got me thinking about Atheism and death. How do you treat people who are grieving because of a death?

To answer her question “is there a heaven?”, no. There is no heaven, there is no hell. This is going to sound very painful and very blunt, but there is nothing after this life, the person is gone.

Yeah, I know, it hurts and it’s ugly. But here is what people don’t want to accept: what we want to be true, and what IS true are not the same thing.

The fact that when we die we are gone forever is such a painful and scary thought that people turn to religion for comfort. Even if it is a lie, believing in that lie is easier than facing the facts.

This fact amplifies everything. What I mean by that is it amplifies the grievousness of loss at the same time it amplifies the preciousness of life. A person and their life is all the more beautiful because they are only here once. Treasure it. At the same time, murder and war all the more heinous because they destroy something so immensely precious. The cold unyielding fact is that there is no justice beyond this life. As much as we will there to be, no amount of wishing will make it so. For this very reason it is so important to fight for justice here and now, that’s the only time you might get it. (But I digress)

So how do you comfort someone without turning to comforting delusions? Well, the main thing you can do is to help them cherish the memories they have. Grief is a cycle, and the best thing you can do is be there for someone.

Political violence in the US

29 Mar

Political violence in the US quickly escalating since the passage of health care reform. People have been shattering windows, ramming cars, sending powder laced letters to representatives, even cutting gas lines! Meanwhile, politicians offer half hearted, limp wristed calls to stop the violence.

(The above incidents were all targeted at democrats, but apparently some thought it would be a good idea to do the same thing against republicans in Albemarle County…..)

All this violence is really quite disgusting. People don’t get their way, and instead of working to change things in the next election, they take to sending representatives death threats and vandalizing property. People on both sides need to calm down; this is not some banana republic, it’s the United States. I’m afraid that if things keep going the way they are now, people are going to start shooting.

Terrorism: -noun the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious

View of Tea Party changing

28 Mar

Despite my usually hardline attitude on this blog, I’m not an unreasonable person. If someone calmly presents their case for an argument I’m willing to listen, and depending on their points, might even change my mind.

This has recently happened with my view of the Tea Party movement….sort of.

For the longest time I felt nothing but disdain for the group that I saw as silent during the Bush crimes and record deficits. I viewed them as completely created & led by Fox “news”; gullible angry people being manipulated by big business and special interest. I viewed them as the people who felt the republican party was not conservative enough. An angry mob that claims to love the constitution without ever having read it.

Well, my views have changed a bit.

As for the origins of the Tea Party movement, as it turns out, they did exist back during the Bush ear as the Pork Busters. Apparently they targeted the republican big spenders who were running the deeper and deeper into debt. This is a cause I can applaud. I hate earmarks on both sides of the aisle, and any attempt to cut the pork is good with me.

So what about my view of the tea partiers being silent during the Bush years? Well, if they were supportive of pork busters, then that’s obviously not true. Yet I still feel a bit the same way about the people who are only now just joining up with the tea party. Some attribute this to the economic collapse, but that still doesn’t address the issue of destroying the constitution.

I hear Tea Party protesters claim that Obama is destroying the constitution, and they are furious. (I have looked, and I can’t find any examples other than some people complaining about guns) But for the people who just recently joined up with the Tea Party movement after the republicans lost power, I’d like to ask “Why were you not  joining massive protests against the patriot act, or warrantless wiretaps, or indefinite detention, or the suspension of habeus corpus?” Those were far more drastic and real attacks on the constitution by Bush than anything Obama’s done. Or do you only care about the constitution if your wallet is being threatened?

As for my view that Fox “news” created and have been leading the Tea Party movement, that’s also changed. I accept that I was wrong about that, but it does look like Fox is trying its damnedest to capitalize on the Tea Party by portraying these protesters in a light drastically different from how they portrayed the massive anti-Bush agenda protesters. (But that is more of an attack on Fox than the protesters, for what “fair and balanced” news station would go to such lengths to promote one agenda over another?)

I can empathize with the anger of the Tea Party protesters. The rage they’re feeling now is something I grew up with. That type of anger, but directed at Bush, was constant. I can recognize that some of their aims are good. Smaller government, less waste, reducing the deficit, those are things I can get behind, yet it’s the side effects of the medicine that worry me.

While the Tea Party tends to avoid social issues, if they get power and the issues are laid at their feet, at the end of the day, a great deal of them are conservative. (Or I could be wrong, perhaps they are mainly true libertarians, socially liberal and economically conservative. But I get as riled up over social issues as they do over economic ones, if not more so.)

God is a volcano

26 Mar

So I found a really interesting video I thought I’d share with ya’ll.

Should I buy a gun?

25 Mar

So lately I’ve really been thinking if I should buy a gun. The political climate in this country is starting to worry me. With Tea baggers throwing bricks and cutting gas lines, conservative bloggers calling for the assassination of the president, and Fox “news” constantly inciting their viewers to violence, I’m afraid that the violence is only going to escalate. I’m even more worried that when the republicans take power in 2010, there is going to be a strong crackdown on human rights and other freedoms. Worse, if they do not take power in 2010, I’m pretty sure that will be the last straw. After being drunk with power for 8 years, they really can’t swallow the idea that the American people voted them out.

I’m really thinking of buy a gun to protect myself and my rights of freedom of speech and religion from right wing nuts who would take them away. Part of me on the other hand however doesn’t think that buying a gun is a good idea. Nothing good will come of it. The more the victims we are the better. When the crazy nut cases go over the brink and start wholesale shooting liberals, as I’m afraid some will do in the future, the rest of the sane world will see them for who they are; and then we win.

Healthcare is NOT a Gov. take over!

25 Mar

Everywhere you turn, you find frothing at the mouth morons screaming that this is a government take over of healthcare. Take your collective heads out of your asses and look around for once before you just guzzle down the shit Fox “News” feeds you.

So, what was in the health bill that Obama signed?

Prohibits excluding children with pre-existing conditions

Temporary High-risk pool for uninsured with pre-existing condition

Prohibits dropping people when they get sick

Lower senior citizen drug prices by closing donut hole

Allows children of dependents to stay on until age 26

No charge for preventative services to prevent you from getting sick in the first place

Real quick, here is the definition of socialism:

–noun

a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.
Did the government take over the health insurance companies? No. They’re still there and they’re still going to try and shaft you on coverage to the best of their ability. So don’t worry, you’ll still be given the run around with your health in the name of profit. A government take over of healthcare was never really on the table. (But Fox “news” didn’t want you to know that because they like to keep their viewers scared shitless and ready to grab their guns) The closest thing to government take over would have been the public option, which most Americans really wanted. That would have created a government insurance company, separate from the private companies, which would then allow for more competition. The market would then drive prices down as the gov. would do things for less. People could still keep their private insurance and buy through those private companies if they wanted, but the rest of us would be able to buy the government insurance. Unfortunately, the private insurance companies didn’t like the idea of competition in their market and so they worked with their bought and paid for republican allies and killed that section of the bill.

Heaven makes you a robot

24 Mar

The other day I was listening to the Godless Business podcast and they made a very interesting point:

Christians say god did not want robots, so he gave us free will. Yet despite this, we must put his will before ours. (Or at least what other humans say is his will)

They cited the story of god asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, something that’s horrible, but was the will of god, as a test (despite his all-knowingness).

Also, take the lord’s prayer:

Our father

which art in heaven,

hallowed by thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done,

in earth as it is in heaven

So we have free will, and the wonderful freedom to use that free will to follow what god tells us he wants….. or burn in hell forever, but that aside, what about heaven?

Well, heaven is a place where you get to sing god’s praises for eternity, like his own little cheer-leading squad. Take an excerpt from the song “I can only imagine” by Mercy Me:

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever
Forever worship You

I can only imagine

So in heaven you become a robot for god, where you constantly worship him. What’s the point of having free will? What’s the point of any of this if you’re just going to end up as a mindless automaton in heaven?

Atheists have killed millions!

23 Mar

One of the most often used attacks against Atheists is to try and associate them with the French revolution and Communism. The “argument” goes something like this:

“The French revolution and Communism were run by Atheists and they killed millions of people! Therefore Atheism is evil and morally bankrupt.”

This claim is ridiculous on so many levels, yet this does not stop people from hurling it at Atheists. So, where many leaders of the French revolution Atheists? Yes. Were some leaders of communism Atheist? Yes. So that’s checkmate for the Atheists right? No.

There is a very important point that people repeatable fail to recognize: Killing is one thing, killing in the name of something else is another.

This is very important because although the French revolution and communism killed a lot of people, they did not do it in the name of Atheism. Religious fanatics on the other hand have been killing people for thousands of years in the name of their religion, because of their religion.

This is not to say that the killing done by the French revolution and communism should be dismissed, but that you’re comparing apples to oranges. People who killed other people and happened to be Atheists vs people who killed other people because of their religion. In fact, this is an extremely slippery slope for religious people to go down. If they want to claim that Atheism is bad because some people who happened to be Atheists committed crimes, then they are completely damning themselves for this simple reason:

There has always been more religious people than Atheists. Because of Atheism’s smaller population, inevitably more people have been killed throughout history by those who happened to be religious. This includes all murders done by religious people for religious AND non-religious motives. Comparatively murders committed by Atheists are fewer in number, and murders done by Atheists for religious reasons fewer still.

“Well, ok, so there are more theists than Atheists, I bet proportionally the numbers are still equal.” Wrong. When you average out the data to see the ratio of murders done by Atheists per population of Atheists to murders done by theists per population of theists, Atheists commit fewer crimes than theists.

Military Through the Ages, recap

22 Mar

So I’m finally home where I was able to soak in the shower and wash off all the dirt, sweat, and wood smoke smell that accumulated from this past weekend at MTA.

I had an ok time. The best part was getting to hang out with some readers and watch WW2 Germans charge a British Zulu encampment.

As for the rest of the weekend, I had some issues. They are not very coherent, so I will try and put them in bullet points.

  • Egos are really making living history in my group not fun:

I’m not sure how this is in other groups, but it seems that in my group and the other late medieval groups near us that everything is just a giant dick waving contest. The hierarchy in the group seems to be determined by “stuff”. Who has bought the most stuff? Who’s stuff is the best and most expensive? I’m at the bottom of the hierarchy despite being in the group for several years because I don’t have very much “stuff”.

  • My gear is never good enough:

If I make something, it’s rarely ok to use in camp, and everyone else wants to display their things over mine. I often run into the problem of making something under the direction of one of the other members in the group, or buying something, and then soon after I get the item, they decide that it’s not right for the period. This is so frustrating! The only things I can use in the camp tend to be things that other people make for me.

  • I am never physically comfortable:

This has been true of just about every event I’ve gone to, but it was really bad this event. My clothes are horrible. The shirt I have is too big and the pants are too small. It all just ends up being this hot sweaty mess. My feet also end up extremely sore at the end of every event.

  • I never have a space of my own:

In my old group I had my own tent. It was a nice little area where I could set my stuff down and hang out. In the group I’m currently in I have no space of my own. I always have to put my stuff in other people’s tents, and I hate that. (I don’t think they like it either)

  • I always have to borrow:

This ties into space, and my gear never being good enough. I always end up having to borrow items from one person or another. I hate having to borrow from them. I feel it puts me in a position of inferiority, which then ties into the whole “this is all about egos” thing.

  • I am not your servant!:

This is perhaps the biggest bone I have to pick. I might just be paranoid, and this could all just be in my head, but I feel like other people in camp think I’m their to serve them. Yes, I know it’s important to help out in camp, and I do, but I feel people expect me to constantly be doing all the chores while they stand around and talk. For example, I was asked a couple of times to run and fill up the water pitchers. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it was the way I was asked. “Hey, could you run and fill these up?” would be fine, but instead I got the “Since you’re just sitting around, could you go fill the water pitchers?” The tone doesn’t come over in text, but what I’m trying to get across is that in the second way the request was phrased was the hidden assertion that I need to be always doing work. Since I was not doing work at that time, they found some work for me to do in the form of filling the pitchers.

  • No one ever offers to help me setup/take down

For the longest time I’ve always put other people first. I show up as soon as I possibly can, and spend the rest of the daylight helping to put up other people’s tents, and then fill those tents with other people’s stuff. Does anyone offer to help me carry all my stuff in from the car? No. I end up making multiple trips, sometimes in the dark, to get my gear. The same thing happens when the event is over! I try to be one of the last to leave, helping everyone else take down their tents and pack their stuff. Does anyone offer to help carry my stuff back to the car? No. I end up having to do that by myself after I’m already exhausted from helping others. It’s all about them! (The ego and servant stuff ties back in)

  • Paying for food:

I got away with not paying for food this weekend, but in the past I have shelled out $20-30 to help pay for food stuffs. When the meals are cooked the food is just put out on tables for people to pick at. A little here, a little there. I end up feeling guilty about eating and so I buy extra food for myself on top of paying $20-30. If the cost of food was split evenly and everyone got an even split things would be fine, but it ends up that some pay a lot and others pay nothing. Some get a lot to eat, and others eat very little. I often end up in the “paying a lot, eating a little” category. Sure it helps cover the costs for the people who buy the food, but then I feel mooched off of.

  • I don’t feel like I belong

I grew up with my old group. I just joined this group a few years back. All the people in this group have been together for a while. They’re their own little click. They’re nice to me an all, but I just don’t get the feeling that I’m one of them. Most of them are friends outside of the group as well. (Or at least were, there is a lot of political infighting and passive aggressive bullshit going on between all of them now that luckily I’m not a part of) When I sit around the fire with them I’m usually very quiet, I don’t know what to say and I feel a bit like a stranger.

  • Is it worth it?

Well I was sitting there this weekend in the middle of the event and decided to analyze my situation and how I was feeling:

  1. I’m hot, sweaty, and very uncomfortable in shitty clothes that do not fit
  2. I feel like they want me to constantly be serving them while others sit around and do nothing
  3. I have no space of my own and I have to borrow almost everything because my stuff is never good enough
  4. I often end up paying for stuff for others

Basically it’s become a job that I go pay to spend my time at. While I’m there I feel alone, unappreciated, and uncomfortable. Because of this I’ve decided that I’m going to take a break from doing living history.

I think a lot of the problems I have stems from not having enough “stuff”. It’s not that I want to compete in their dick waving contests (I couldn’t care less about that) but it’s that I just do not have the time or money at this point in my life to keep up with the hobby. If I had more of both I could afford clothes that actually fit me and felt great. I could buy my own tent where I could put things. I could get really nice and expensive gear that they couldn’t bitch about. All this would elevate my status in the group and I don’t think they’d be asking me to run around doing bitch work for them while they sit on their beds in their big fancy tents. I don’t want to quit because there are aspects that can still be fun, but I need to step back until I’m on sounder economic footing.

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