March 31, 2004

Kunta Kinte Would Be Ashamed...

From Netscape News: Slave descendants sue British, U.S. firms

"NEW YORK, March 29 (Reuters) - Descendants of black American slaves accused the Lloyds of London insurance firm and two U.S. companies of genocide in a lawsuit on Monday that sought [two billion] dollars in [punitive] damages . . . The suit also seeks unspecified actual damages.

Filed on behalf of six adults and two minors, the suit alleges the companies intentionally sought to destroy the plaintiffs' "people, culture, religion and heritage."

The plaintiffs say their ancestors were transported from African nations as part of the slave trade from 1619 to 1865."


Later, the plaintiffs said in a statement: "Hey, I hear there was some kind of inquisition or something going on back then, too. Is there any way we can get a piece of that?"

Let me be clear, here: I do not in any way condone the slave trade or the horrendous treatment of the thousands (if not millions) of people who were abused at the hands of colonialism. I am also, in principle, not against making still-existing corporations who had a part in said atrocities pay large fines as a retribution.

However, it is my humble opinion that anybody who thinks that the best way to address the problem is by paying eight individuals $2 billion, is a selfish, money-hungry ass.

From The Australian News:

Antoinette Harrell-Miller, one of the plaintiffs, said the pain from slavery had not subsided.

"I'm talking about the personal injuries on myself," she said. "I never stopped wondering about my homeland."


Say, here's a novel idea: with all the money you're wasting on your swanky Manhattan lawyer, why don't you just f*cking buy a plane ticket and go satiate your curiosity?!

It's clear that the primary motivation behind this lawsuit is greed, not emotional pain-- confirmed by this (100% genuine) quote from one of the other plaintiffs, who responded to the question of what she hoped would come from the trial with the following:

"Reparations, reparations, reparations!"

From ABC Local Radio (Australia):

Deadria Farmer-Paellmann is one of the claimants. She explained the motives behind the law suit to CNN.

DEADRIA FARMER-PAELLMANN: African-Americans today do not know who we are. That is a human right to know who you are.


And, come on, people. What is the best way for the 35 million African-Americans in America to find out who they are? Obviously, it's for ten of them to be awarded $2 billion in an unprecedented legal battle.

You'll excuse me if I'm unsympathetic to these particular plaintiffs-- but considering they can afford to hire a high-profile celebrity lawyer to argue their case, it seems a bit rich that they're whining about how horrible their life is when, if their ancestors had stayed in Sierra Leone (where they claim ancestry), they would have just had to suffer through eleven years of civil war. If they really care that much about their heritage, why aren't they campaigning for more international aid to their ancestral countries (where poverty, AIDS and war are all huge problems), instead of greedily trying to snatch up $2 billion for themselves?

Unbelievable.

March 29, 2004

Frankly, I'm Appa(u)lled

In a 3-hour special, airing April the 5th on ABC, hotshot investigative reporter Peter Jennings will shock America as he blows the cover on... Jesus. "Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness" will examine the lives of the KRS-One and Scott LaRock of Christianity.

Among the experts interviewed on the subject is Biblical scholar Ben Witherington, who points out: "The idea of a crucified god really did not make sense in the first century . . . It's not a message you make up if you're going to start a religion in the first century A.D." Nowadays, of course (you know, with the Enlightenment and all), we've realized that the idea of a crucified god makes perfect sense, and anyone who wishes to start a modern religion could do nothing better than to claim godliness and crucify oneself (I'm looking at you, Caviezel).

After you're dead, though, you really need a partner who can travel the world telling everyone what a great guy you are for having been strung up on a crucifix. For Jesus, that man was Paul, as ABC's special explains:

"The letters Paul wrote as he traveled the Roman Empire formed the basis of the religion that today we call Christianity.

Ironically, Paul 'never anticipates that 20th century Americans are going to be his audience,' historian Pamela Eisenbaum told Jennings."


...Mostly, I would imagine, because America didn't exist at the time and if it had, Paul probably would have figured that any country so self-centred and conceited as to delude themselves into thinking that thousands of years of religious tradition exist solely for their benefit, wouldn't make it for another two thousand years.

My, there's been a bit of a religious theme to my last couple of entries, hasn't there? I promise that the next thing I write about will be entirely secular.

Politics! Religion! Politics! Religion!

The Bush campaign today condemned Democratic nominee John Kerry for "exploiting Scripture" for a political attack. Appealing to religion, apparently, is a downright dirty thing to do in politics, as it only distracts people from the actual issues at hand. This probably comes as some surprise to President Bush himself...

Excerpted from Bush's Press Conference on March 6th, 2003: "My faith sustains me because I pray daily. I pray for guidance and wisdom and strength. If we were to commit our troops -- if we were to commit our troops -- I would pray for their safety, and I would pray for the safety of innocent Iraqi lives, as well.

One thing that's really great about our country . . . is there are thousands of people who pray for me that I'll never see and be able to thank. But it's a humbling experience to think that people I will never have met have lifted me and my family up in prayer. And for that I'm grateful. That's -- it's been -- it's been a comforting feeling to know that is true. I pray for peace . . . I pray for peace."

Man, you're right! That is distracting!

March 25, 2004

Monkeying Around

At a reader's behest...



If anyone can come up with a good pun involving the word 'shaolin', I'd love to hear it.

March 23, 2004

Taking the Piss

From Netscape News: Airline Halts Plan for Lip-Shaped Urinals

Virgin Atlantic Airways recently cancelled plans to install novelty urinals at their New York JFK First Class Lounge. The urinals were bright red and shaped like women's lips.

Company spokesman John Riordan said in a statement that the airline was surprised by the negative press the urinals had received. Riordan explained: "I mean, Mr Branson likes pissing into women's mouths-- we just figured that all rich people did."

Actually, what Riordan really said was, "We can assure everyone who complained to us that no offense was ever intended". And do you know what? I believe him. I honestly believe that it never even occurred to them that somebody might take offense at the idea of symbolically peeing into women's mouths. That's just what the British are like.

I mean, come on. If Virgin Airlines actually believed that pissing in women's mouths was good, they probably wouldn't advertise the fact. I think it was entirely reasonable for them to think that nobody would take this so seriously. They probably just didn't really think about the implications of a public company glorifying misogyny. And frankly, God bless 'em for not giving into the American 'Now, is there anything at all about this that people might sue us for?' mindset.

Just, you know, maybe they should use their brains a little next time...

March 19, 2004

The Cash In of the Christ

Well, I know it's not quite topical anymore, but with all this talk of Jesus battling zombies at the box office this weekend, I couldn't resist a couple of stabs at Mel and co. Plus, my blog has now been blessed (literally!) with its first Pope joke, making it indubitably mine. Huzzah!

Tempers flare on the set of Passion:


Later, Jim Calvalzalvalalziel meets and is blessed by the Pope:


Meanwhile, the cast of Dawn of the Dead gears up for this weekend's box office showdown:


All I can say is, if God didn't want me to be blasphemous, he wouldn't have invented Photoshop.

March 17, 2004

Tennessee County Officially Renounces Modernity

From Netscape News: Tenn. County Wants to Charge Homosexuals

Officials in Rhea County, Tennessee, have made an official request that the state law be changed so that homosexuals can be charged with crimes against nature. Officials would also like a law enacted that bans homosexuals from living in Rhea County (this assumes, of course, that homosexuals would actually want to live there in the first place). Commissioner JC Fugate said (and I absolutely honest-to-God quote): "We need to keep them out of here." (Obviously not a fan of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy...)

The Associated Press describes Rhea county as "one of the most conservative counties in Tennessee", which, frankly, displays a marvellous flair for understatement. See, Rhea county is also the site where the famous Scopes Monkey Trial was held and (and this is the part that really kills me) every year, they hold an annual festival commemorating the day on which Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution!!!!

I mean, my God! No wonder they're so worried about getting all gayed up-- they've probably just gotten used to having all these negroes around...

March 11, 2004

Meanwhile, A Few Rungs Down on the Evolutionary Ladder...

Look, I know I complain about this a lot, but the fact is that the American media is the biggest, stupidest, most inane organization I have ever encountered.

From Netscape Men:

"Ladies, you may not believe this, but we have it on good authority--that would be the Cox News Service--that when men get together in private they talk about...dieting."

The Cox News Service, of course, is a reknowned authority in the social scientific world.

" . . . Men are doing what women have done for eons: They talk about dieting."

That's right. Eons ago, when the Earth was nothing more than a couple of billion particles of floating space dust, women talked about dieting.

" . . . [Modern] men are more inclined to ask their buddies how they lost . . . weight. Cox News calls it a 'harbinger in the evolution of the male human'." . . .

Oh, for God's sake.

. . . "Next thing you know, we'll be going to the bathroom in pairs and describing shopping trips to the Home Depot as 'therapeutic'."

So what you're saying is, the exciting new frontier of human male evolution is that they are turning into female stereotypes? Bravo, Cox News Service . . . Bravo.

AARRAAAAAGHHAHHRHAGHAAHGHGAHHH!!!!! If I ever have children, I'm going to take them away from America and lock them in a box where they can't have their brains melted by this ridiculously f**king puerile garbage.

March 10, 2004

Dean Splicing

Perhaps some of you have already heard of the woman who tried to pay for over a thousand dollars worth of merchandise at WalMart using a fake $1 million bill (well, I say 'fake', but since the Treasury has never actually produced a $1 million bill, that's probably a little inaccurate).

What you probably didn't know was that Alice Pike, the woman in question, is, in fact, none other than Vermont's sweetheart, Howard Dean. The conclusive proof is below...

March 09, 2004

They're Printed on Ouija Boards

From BBC NEWS | Scotland: Glasgow unveils 1.5m pound rebranding

The city of Glasgow has decided to 'rebrand' itself, but after spending 1.5 million pounds on the campaign, apparently the best they could come up with was 'Glasgow: Scotland With Style'. The slogan was picked by a narrow margin over the other main contender, 'Glasgow: Scotland's Obnoxious Uncle'.

The campaign aims to associate Glasgow with elegance, and focuses on the city's rich history of design, beginning with Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and ending with Charles Rennie Mackintosh. One advert reads: "Discover Mackintosh's Art Nouveau Masterpiece. It's called Glasgow." The ad continues: "No, we are not being ironic."

The campaign has also spawned the slogan: "Glasgow: The New Black", which in fact refers to Joe, a black man who has recently moved to Glasgow, doubling the black population.

Although some are optimistic about the new brand, some Glaswegians are not convinced. Said one man:

"One and a half million pounds! That's pure loads! 'Hink how many jellies you could fuckin' buy wi' that, likes!"

March 06, 2004

Life Imitates Art (Again)

I know that last post seemed as if it was utilizing satirical hyperbole, but I sometimes have to wonder... From the Department of Homeland Security's website:

"DHS is implementing background checks on 100% of applications for U.S. citizenship."

Wow, they really are thinking up innovative new ways to improve US security!

I give up...

March 05, 2004

They've Just Bin Laden Around...

Seen on Netscape.com:



Up until now, they had been taking weekends off? For God's sake... I can just imagine the Pentagon meeting...

Rumsfeld: Dammit, we've been looking for him for years now! Why haven't we found him?
Subordinate: Beats me, sir. Our boys are out there looking for him, 12 hours a day, 4 days a week.
Rumsfeld: If only there were some way to increase our chances of finding him! Gah, this is hopeless... I can't think on an empty stomach. Where the hell is Powell?

[enter Powell]

Powell: Who wants donuts?!
Rumsfeld: About damn time.
Powell: My, you're a big fat grumpy-head today, aren't you?
Rumsfeld: Can it, Powell. I don't have time for your crap today.
Powell: [pouts] Well! How rude.
Subordinate: Uh, sirs?
Rumsfeld: What is it, dammit?
Subordinate: Maybe we should get back to the problem at hand.
Powell: Do you work out?
Subordinate: I, um... sometimes.
Rumsfeld: Powell! Get a grip, for God's sake! I'm tired of you trying to pick up my subordinates 24/7!

[light bulb turns on above Rumsfeld's head]

Rumsfeld: Heeeeey... I have an idea so crazy it just might work!
Powell: I thought you'd never ask.
Rumsfeld: Dammit, Powell!

Actually, I wish the Pentagon really was like that.

March 04, 2004

Should Ethical Considerations Influence Research Publication?

To anybody who has ever taken a class in the social sciences (or the natural sciences), this may seem like a bit of a no-brainer. Any kind of training in the sciences these days involves, from a very early stage, having the importance of ethical considerations in research hammered into you. But the kind of ethics advocated by most scientists, while admirable, are not what I really want to focus on today. What seems even more important (to me, anyway) are the ethical considerations involved in releasing the results of experiments that may negatively impact society.

An example: following the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, several people distorted Darwin's theory to justify sterilizing mentally handicapped people (and others) as part of the Eugenics movement. Obviously, this was not what good ol' Charles had in mind when he wrote the Origin, but the Eugenics movement was nonetheless a consequence of Darwin's work. And if a seemingly benign theory like natural selection can generate such horrific behaviour, perhaps the ethical implications of scientific research are worth thinking about.

Let me digress for a moment and fill in a little bit of background. There are two aspects of human life which are central to this discussion:

First: human life is structured around inherited knowledge. We could not live life the way we do today if we had to experience and find out everything for ourselves. That's why we ask our parents questions, go to school, read books, and so forth-- these things provide a means for compressing several lifetimes' worth of experience into just a few years. We rely inescapably on the authority of others. And therefore, we are conditioned to fairly blindly accept what authority figures tell us without subjecting them to much scrutiny. Just keep that in the back of your head for a while, as I explain the second important point about human life.

It has been demonstrated ad nauseam by countless social scientists that human beings very often justify the status quo by invoking the 'nature' of social arrangements. Item: Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (1) has documented that people of all races frequently explain racial segregation as 'natural' (eg. "people like to live with their own kind-- it’s just human nature"). Item: Lillian Rubin (2) has suggested that male/female inequality is often explained away (by women and by men) as natural (eg. "women are emotional, men are rational"). Item: criminal acts are frequently defended by invoking physiological conditions (eg. low blood sugar, PMS), on the grounds that the criminal was suffering from 'natural' problems over which he or she had no control.

So, let's recap: human beings will believe pretty much anything that authorities (specifically scientific authorities) tell them, and human beings justify gross inequality and horrendous acts by claiming that they are 'natural'. So what? Well, knowing these two things, we should recognize that scientific findings may be (and, in fact, have been) taken as true and used to erroneously justify behaviour that would otherwise be deemed unacceptable. The Eugenics movement is a good example.

And that brings us back to the question I asked at the beginning: should ethical considerations affect research publication? In a word, yes. What researchers need to recognize is that most people are not scientists. That is, researchers can’t just publish their findings and imagine that their job is done; they need to make sure that their findings aren't used inappropriately. If they are not prepared to accept responsibility for their work then, frankly, they shouldn’t publish it in the first place.

Last week I wrote about a study that 'proved' men were genetically predisposed to be unfaithful. I called the study irresponsible and I stand by that judgment. A scientist with extensive training in evolutionary psychology may understand that even a genetic disposition to a behaviour does not inextricably guarantee that the behaviour will occur. An ordinary person will probably not. What’s more, some people will even use that 'scientific fact' to justify morally repugnant behaviour (like cheating on a significant other).

The problem is compounded by idiot journalists who latch on to one part of a scientific study (taken out of context, usually) and blow it out of proportion into some ridiculously sensationalist 'exposé'. Obviously, this is not really the fault of the researchers, but it is naive and careless to deny any culpability on their part: they know their work could be misinterpreted, yet they release it anyway.

I am not, of course, suggesting that we give up on scientific research, or that scientists stop publishing their findings. I am suggesting that if it seems like a certain study could be misinterpreted easily or maliciously, it should be released with a modicum of caution, and a crapload of qualification. If you're worried about being misquoted in the media, put a prominent legal notice demanding that prior consent be obtained before your work is cited. Above all, if you find that you or your work are being misused somewhere, take all necessary measures to correct the matter-- after all, no one can refute you better than you can.

Some might complain that science will suffer from these measures, that the system of open findings and peer review will be stifled. But let's be clear: ethical considerations already stifle science (by dictating what is and isn't acceptable in research). So let's not be half-assed about it. This is an issue that requires serious thought.

References
1. Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism Without Racists. 2003.
2. Rubin, Lillian B. Worlds of Pain: Life in the Working-Class Family. 1992 (1976).

March 03, 2004

Off the Depp End



Four hours of boredom and all I could squeeze out of the Oscars was this... Doesn't seem fair, does it?

Ah, Politics...



In Tuesday's round of primary elections throughout the US, John Kerry swept the board, more or less assuring his nomination as the democratic presidential candidate.

From the BBC:

President George W Bush phoned to tell Mr Kerry he anticipated a "spirited race" with him.

"We had a very nice conversation," said the Massachusetts senator, before condemning the incumbent's "inept" policies.


It's comforting that even in this day and age, politicians still know how to put on a smarmy air of camaraderie before turning around to stab someone in the back. Not that Kerry is the only guilty party; at the same time as making his phone call, Bush's Vice President was condemning Kerry's record:

"He very clearly has over the years adopted a series of positions that indicate a desire to cut the defence budget, cut the intelligence budget, to eliminate many major weapons programmes."

Yeah, what a f**ker. I mean, come on, who doesn't like weapons?

Only another ten months of this crap until the election...