Friday, 23 December 2011

How Clever One Must Be

You know that cold pit of dread that starts to form in your stomach every time one of your relatives starts proselytizing at the dinner table? Well I’m getting that feeling scrolling through my Facebook and Tumbr. Cute little visuals are slapped together, usually showing a frenzied group of brown people with absolutely no context to their state overlaid with bold text proclaiming that “Militant atheism never hurt anybody.” And let’s just take a moment and pretend that’s actually true (even though militant atheists in China, N. Korea and Russia, have indeed, hurt plenty of people for the act of practicing religion).

Even if it were true, so fucking what? If you really think “them brown frenzied folk” are angry because of Allah, either your mental laziness is a lot more acute than you think, or you’ve never actually taken the time to listen to one of those brown people. The 9/11 hijackers, while they invoked the name of Allah, weren’t going after American citizens because of ‘him’. They were going after American citizens because their own countries have been colonized and exploited. They spent their lives with their actions being dictated by a foreign land that shows nothing but utter contempt for them both through their media and through their policies. A country that has created hundreds of thousands of refugees and killed just as many for reasons that can be best summed up as “capital gains”.

That’s why they hated us. Most of the anger has absolute shit to do with actual religion. If you look across the region, similar “religious” conflicts (as the West likes to dismiss them) actually boil down to very understandable concrete actions that one group took against another due to land and resources. Sure, religion is always a nice excuse, but even if didn’t exist, boarders would still be fought over with the same level of fervor. Similarly, even if nobody was drawing cartoons of Mohammad, the Western media would still find a way to insult the culture they once exploited to enrich their own nations. Because it is imperative to show the Arab world as the savages we need them to be. After all, if we’re talking civilized and calm Arabs (i.e. the vast majority of daily Arab life), we’re talking about owning up to some pretty heinous shit. We’re talking about hundreds of years of murder and exploitation, which is still going on this very instant on the taxpayers dime. The West needs Arabs to be as awful as possible, otherwise we’ll start looking like the monsters.

But let’s get away now from actual facts that cause us to humanize and, in some cases, even empathize with the Allahu Akbar crew. Let’s get back to this never ending circle-jerk of rationality and logic. Which, funnily enough, usually only extends to the after-life. It so rarely seems atheists are willing to coldly and unemotionally examine the construct of race or gender within society. Instead, one will find plenty of atheists who are more than happy, giddy even, to hold onto some incredibly primitive opinions.

One pervasive thought I’ve seen in the atheist community seems to conclude that believing Jesus shows laughable brainwashing, but believing that black women are somehow less desirable than white women is just “a preference”. Yeah, sure, right, fuck yourself. This sort of emotional unpacking, sadly, requires a certain level of self examination and being open to the idea that you might have drank the kool-aid too. I find the vast majority of atheists I’ve come across are incredibly resistant to such ideas. In case you think I’m the one full of shit, do this: go into an atheist community filled with mostly white males and bring up two subjects: 1. Male privilege and 2. Racial privilege. Oh the way logic will twist when it’s their needs that are being sated.

But okay. Fine. You’re an LGBTQ supporter. You shirk the gender binary, appreciate and listen to POC, and you also think that relying on religion is totally a sign of a weak mind. So much so that you want to put up funny catch phases and picture everywhere saying just that. Fine. The thing is, I’m not even religious myself. But guess who is? Parts of my family. And I don’t think it is a “weak mental condition” that causes them to believe in Allah or God. I do not think they need to “grow up” or “get over needing to hold someones hand”. I actually think my Grandma was ten times as tough as any modern motherfucker you could lay out in front of her. I’ve seen that woman bash goat skulls in and pour the contents in a frying pan without blinking. She had very few illusions about life and death.

Yet my grandmother still held on to a certain level of cosmic comfort. Perhaps because life was so unendingly unfair to her. It blessed her with a husband she loved, had six children with, and then around the age of 36, her husband suffered from a traumatic brain injury. This trauma left him in a constant state of wanting to kill her. Did she leave him? No. With six children? She simply ran the house as usual and hid anything her husband might use to murder her with. Knives, pots and pans, wires, those all went to the neighbors house. Meanwhile some villagers took pity on her and she got a job cleaning a station house in 1940’s rural Syria. She did this for seven years, until the husband she had once loved so much finally died of his injuries. If she wanted to fall back on some Mohammad in her darkest hours, I dare some sniveling skinny white punk to tell her that she just couldn’t handle the “reality” of life.  

And that’s really the problem. Sneering, pretentious atheism takes away the human element of kindness. I get that there are heaps of religious bullshit out there. That dogma can and does ruin lives. Hell, it can be deadly. But the root problem is not some hippie in sandals talking about love, the root is the human condition which warps religion to fit their needs. Go after that. Go after the actual cancer. Do not, instead, downgrade an entire group to ‘inferior’ because they find comfort where they can get it. That is not only cruel, it’s inhumane and pointless.

One may be able to argue about their own rationality, but I don’t actually give a hot fuck about how logical you think you are. Be atheist. We’ll have a party. I’ll bring the punch. But stop with the snickering. You look like an asshole. And there is no amount of fantastical logic that will change that fact. So if that’s what you were going for with your cheeky graphic, then mission accomplished. But if instead you’d rather consider that not everyone had the same upbringing as you, with the same luck, schooling or status and that, perhaps, it would be best for you to take a step back and consider the entire spectrum of human existence before demoting entire groups to “children”…then we can talk. Until then, do I even have to bring up the incandescent bag of dicks I have on reserve? Okay then. Good day.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

In The Dark

When I lived in Seattle, I rented in an older building with a view of a freeway overpass. All day and night cars would whoosh over it, heading to work and back home again. Sometimes the cars would line up, honking horns and shouting obscenities.

However, it was what was underneath that really caught my attention. A squatters camp had taken hold. Wedging themselves into nooks and crannies, about 30 men and the occasional woman called that overpass home.

Tent structures and elaborate cardboard homes with old sheets and plastic scraps for insulation dotted the edges of the chain link fence that surrounded it. I walked by on my way to work daily. I was never harassed, not even once. Sometimes I’d see young women walking in between the paper shacks, handing out lunches to the men who lived there. They were sometimes offered handshakes by the men, but I never saw any of these women looking uncomfortable.

Of course there was drug use. Late at night you could see lighter flames sparking up and being held to glass pipes. Occasionally a fight would break out and someone would storm off on a huff. Still, for the most part this didn’t impact my life as a resident in the slightest. They hung out in their world, I hung out in mine.

Yet I do remember one night in particular that woke me up from a dead sleep at 2am. It was the police, shining their spotlights and using their PA, demanding the men leave. It was a cold night, and the men, most of them similarly woken up, were both groggy and slow. This, of course, seemed to warrant derision from the Seattle PD. “Get moving” they squawked, “come on, get!”. As if they were talking to a pack of stray dogs. They shoved and wrenched the high and despondent from their sitting positions, threatening them and pushing them out on their way.

I wanted to yell out my window, “and just where the fuck would you like them to go?”. But I knew it was futile. The men eventually faded out into the blackness surrounding the police lights. Then, the trucks pulled in.

One by one they destroyed the homes and shoveled these men’s personal belongings into dump trucks. A blanket here, a mini-stove there. Possessions were picked through and laughed about. The policemen went home to their families and I eventually fell back into a fitful sleep. The next morning the sidewalks around the overpass were practically sparkling as I walked by. The callus inhumanity of the nights events hosed away by some 20 something in an orange jumper.

It always happens at night though. While most of the city is fast asleep and well out of range.
When witnesses to cruelty and violence are thin on the ground. When the oppressive nature of darkness adds just enough fear to keep your manners in check. People can disappear in the dark, you know. It can muffle your cries. So get in line and do as your told, because they’ve been given permission. It’s given in the form of teargas and rubber bullets, easily defensible and mercilessly deployed. Daytime is for civility. But remember to watch for those flashing lights after the sun goes down. Because they have not come for your protection.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Sadists Never Change

I hate football season for a number of reasons that are both selfish and inane. But there is one good reason to roll my eyes at this 'wholesome' American sport. It employs a number of sadists. Still none anger me quite the way Michael Vick does. Maybe it's because of the hysterical way fanboys and fangirls rally around him. "But he served his time!" they cry like petulant children.  "People who serve their time deserve a second chance!"


Are we really pretending that Michael Vick served some kind of actual penance for his unspeakable crimes? That a year and a few months is enough time to come to ones senses and realize that starving and torturing more than forty innocent creatures might have been a step in the wrong direction? It's ridiculous. But even more amusing is the entire notion itself. That time served means that society should always forgive and forget.

First it implies that people always do appropriate time for their crimes. I can think of a number of rape victims I know who would beg to fucking differ. Furthermore, the second chances one is given by society relies very little on ‘time served’ and more on ‘crimes committed’. For a child molester, “served his time” is rarely a reason given when advocating a second chance. In truth “time served” means about as much as "justice is blind".  We both know they are overly simplified concepts that rarely give light to true injustice.

Michael Vick tortured animals for shits and giggles. More than that he has admitted to personally drowning or hanging up to 8 dogs. 

To hold a squirming dog under water until it dies you must have a fundamental disconnect between moral society and yourself. There is no coming back from this shit the same way there is no coming back from beating and killing an infant.

The NFL has employed Vick again and Obama even called him to express some kind of ‘Congratulations’. Well fuck them both for that, really. Fuck them for being too short sighted to realize that people who torture and murder animals are sadists who don’t just stop killing because they got a slap on the wrist a few years back. He will kill again. He will torture again. They always do.

My own dog is a shelter puppy who was also abused before I got him. Loud noises leave him shaking, yelling makes him hide and anyone with a walking cane leaves him cowering. It has taken a lot of pointed training and rehabilitation to get him to the point where he can even stand to be alone for more than five minutes.

Dogs are incredibly selfless, loving creatures. If you can torture one, you can torture anything. You are dangerous, amoral and deserve to be locked up for a hell of a lot longer than a year or two. Which, by the way, is less than some pot dealers are serving. But hey, justice served, dude bro.

Why I Hate Reports on Air Travel

From the Huffington Post this morning: Quantas Flight Looses Pressure, Drops 26,000 Feet
The Boeing 737 was roughly 30 minutes from Melbourne when oxygen masks fell from the plane’s ceiling as the plane dropped from its cruising altitude of 36,000 feet to a whopping 10,000 feet.
The culprit? The plane’s air conditioning system. An airline spokesman told the AFP: “There are two air conditioning systems on the aircraft — one of them failed at the cruising altitude, that’s when they started to descend.”
Really? Really? So you’re telling me that the 737, an airplane that takes off around the world every few seconds, of which has been in some form of rotation for as long as I’ve lived (basically), can’t fly when the air conditioning goes on the fritz?


This completely obfuscates how airplanes work in general. There is always redundancy, there are always backups. Oftentimes more than one layer. For instance, when it comes to hydraulics you need to break through four redundant layers at precisely the right time with an exact speed using specific pressure to render it unworkable. It’s actually considered statistically impossible unless you loose a whole wing—and in that case hydraulics aren’t your biggest issue.

So no, writer of article, I don’t actually believe that an air conditioning system (one of two) malfunctioning would cause the cabin air to just loose pressure all of a sudden and cause the plane to “drop”. Which—by the way—it is not mentioned if the descent is controlled or not. It is standard procedure to descend to an oxygenated altitude after a loss in pressure. There is a big difference, especially for nervous fliers, between ‘dropping’ 25k and ‘descending’ 25k. If you cannot write that out clearly—perhaps writing articles on aviation should be avoided.

Why do I even bother to visit that site anymore?

Why is Fox News Crediting Bush for the Revolution?

In a Fox News article that seemed to come straight from The Onion in terms of complete lunacy, Jennifer Griffin actually tries to credit Bush with the current revolutionary spirit running throughout the Middle East.
How? You might ask, was she able to much such an absurd connection? One quote and one suggestion. Literally. She hand picked on quote made by Condoleezza Rice in Cairo years ago:
“For 60 years, the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East — and we achieved neither, now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”
And picks up a weak idea barely propagated by Bush:
The Bush administration’s argument was that if the people of the Middle East don’t have political freedom then Arab youth will be pushed into mosques where they are readily recruited by Al Qaeda.
And of course they mention Obama trying to “pick up the baton” with his monumental speech to the Middle East shortly after being sworn in. But of course, according to Ms. Griffin, this means nothing because he failed to mention Egypt at the State of the Union Address.


You know sometimes there is just so much stupid in an article you don’t know where to start. So I’ll do what
I can to work through the 10 foot high wall of shit Griffin has laid out.

If anything, Bush worked ambitiously to quell protest within the Middle East. Time and time again we watched him hitch his star to Saudi investors, selling some of the biggest munitions deals in history to our ‘allies’ (read: Dictators) within the region (which include Saudi Arabia and Egypt). This was, of course, not to arm the people but to arm the government against them.

While he talked a lot about freedom in the region, he also had a tendency to shirk it whenever it actually came about. For instance when Hamas was elected democratically the US declared unambiguously that it refused to work with a Palestinian Authority that included Hamas.

Funny. I thought supporting freedom meant you support the people’s decision. But I guess ‘freedom’ to Bush only meant electing governments he could exploit or profit from. Let’s also not forget to mention that during the years Bush was in office Al Qaeda had record years for recruitment. There were also music videos depicting an Arab pop star punching out the faces of Rice and Bush. Why, the Arab world hated Bush so much I have a feeling that if he sanctioned revolution in Tunisia or Egypt, the citizens would have flocked to their dictators with flowers just to spite him.

Does Griffin even realize that Bush’s name, in the Middle East, is now a curse word? To call someone ‘Bush’ are some fightin words. I know a Moroccan woman named Bouchera and just to piss her off, her husband used to say, “Hey Bush…..ra” from the other room. The family would laugh. Bush. Now that’s a joke.

And finally, to live under this grand delusion that Bush’s words somehow sparked a revolution is just like assuming Julian Assange’s Wikileaks sparked a revolution. It takes the accomplishment away from the people who deserve it and puts it in the laps of white men who could really give a fuck less what happens in Tunisia and Egypt.

It is misappropriation due to an inherent racial superiority complex. Ms. Griffin should be ashamed of such a hack piece of work. Nobody is responsible for the Tunisian revolution except for the Tunisian men and women that have fought vigilantly for their rights. To credit otherwise shows just what a lack of judgment Fox News possesses.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Sometimes on foggy French mornings I can’t help but miss the United States. I lived there for a huge chunk of my life and there is a lot to be wistful for. The food, 24 hour stores (oh god how I love the 24 hour stores!), general friendliness, national parks, NYC, San Francisco, cholas, pho huts, unironic flannel, casual conversation, Miami…I mean, yeah, I do love me some USA.

But my neighbor takes it to a whole new level. If such a thing exists he is France’s answer to the Francophile, he is a United Statesaphile.

As I type this he is blasting Kenny Rogers “The Gambler” from his porch where he is conducting a barbecue (yes, in winter). If it were summer there’s no doubt I’d be listening to his friends splashing around in his above ground pool. Next to said pool, his Hummer is parked. It is yellow. It has American flag dice hanging from the mirror and a California license plate in the window. He drives by blasting Johnny Cash.

When I first moved here from the US, I would walk my dog by his house every day. One evening I heard him singing Garth Brooks (The Dance) from his front porch. It was my first real look at him. A balding man in his mid to late forties, he sat perched in his rocking chair, dog by his side. “You like Garth Brooks?” I called out in English and he looked taken aback.

“What?” he asked in flustered French.

“Garth Brooks, you like him?” I say again, except now in French.

“Yes, I love him; he is a real cowboy I think. You’re American?”

“Yep.” I laughed “American enough to know he’s no cowboy”.

“Why would you say something like that?” He huffed, almost indignant.

“Because he’s a pop star now. You can’t be a cowboy and a pop star at the same time.” There was silence. He looked at me thoughtfully and he smiled.

“I do know something.”


His eyes got narrow and he hunched his shoulders over. He put his hands up in front of his chest, palms in, and begun gesturing back and forth like an old Italian nonno, “You fuck my wife? You fuck my wife? Are you tellin me you fuck my wife?” United Statesaphile leaned back incredibly pleased with himself. I could not stop laughing. “I love de Niro” he laughed in English. Apparently so.

Since then he has asked me to multiple “American” events. I declined today as it’s my first day off in a while and I have serious studying to catch up on.

But there is something profoundly excellent and simultaneously heartbreaking about him. He has a dream trip. It’s to rent a bright red Mustang and start in Phoenix. From there he will drive up the California Coast and into Oregon and Washington. He’ll shoot East and drive until he hits Yellowstone and then follow the circle back down through Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. It would be his first time ever visiting the United States. He explained one evening over a Heineken that his English was so poor he was embarrassed, and frankly scared, to commit to the trip. But one day he’ll start studying English again. One day soon. So he saves up what money he can and dreams. He watches old movies and talks about the day when he can smirk like Steve McQueen and ride into that burning sunset…

“You fuck my wife?!” He yells at me when I walk by with my dog.

“You talkin to me? Are you…talkin…to me?” I yell back.

He chuckles and leans back content. One day, into that burning sunset…