Sunday, January 29, 2012

The significance of perspective

My wife kindly reads my essays, and she usually approves. The one just previous to this one, called "Father Albert should turn in his collar," was not as amusing to her as I thought it might be. In fact, she brought up some compelling points, which I will now share in italics, with my own thoughts following immediately after each:

"I am not convinced she doesn't misuse statistics..."
This is a wise comment, as statistics are often manipulated to one's own purpose. Whether or not Ann Coulter's use of the statistics in this case are more objective or more personally biased may certainly be subject to debate.

"... I don't think the answer is adoption. It is an extreme solution. Just because the disadvantage increases doesn't mean all women have to give away their children."
I agree. While the unwritten societal policies in America that were still present fifty years ago did effectively stave off our current travesty of family structure, it would be a bit extreme to compel all mothers to give their children up for adoption as the best possible solution. The bond between mothers and their children is supernatural, in my opinion, and not easily given to severance. Thus the level of calamity possible by having sex out of wedlock is exceptionally high.

"Risk for bad things to happen is often poorly misunderstood, because risk is often relative."
Again I agree. One thing that seemed to have happened during the video segment in question is the audience and host himself appeared to misinterpret the statistics quoted. Although the statistics support the premise that it's not a stellar idea to choose to raise a baby by yourself, each individual case is of course unique and should be subject to relevant decisions.

So in conclusion, although I wrote the 'Father Albert' essay to mostly amuse, I will now take a moment to remind anyone reading these essays that my support or non-support of anyone else's opinions is entirely based on the evidence I may encounter. While I am still not an official Ann Coulter cheerleader, I rarely find objections to her ideas that are not steeped in angry emotional bias. In our attempts to view the world reasonably, angry emotional bias is not usually of much practical use.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Father Albert should turn in his collar

I keep insisting I'm not an Ann Coulter fanboy, but here is yet another essay about her often erroneous opponents with their penchant for argumentum ad hominem. I simply couldn't resist; YouTube has turned out to be a seemingly limitless source of Ann Coulter video controversy. Much to my amusement, I found an entertaining bauble called:

Ann Coulter Says Single Parents: Put Your Babies Up For Adoption

This is an excerpt from a television show I've happily never heard of until now, and if what I've seen is any indication of its average content, I will blissfully continue to ignore it. It's called "Father Albert," and it hangs its greasy collar on the Fox network. Father Albert is the showbiz pseudonym for Alberto Cutié, a former Catholic priest.

As you will see by watching the video, Father Albert is "hot under the collar" about Ann Coulter's conclusion regarding single mothers in America, based on U.S. statistics. Coulter is promoting her book "Demonic," and apparently there is an entire chapter that uses illegitimate child statistics to impugn the selfishness of choosing to be a single mother (as opposed to being divorced from the child's father, for example).

What I found most interesting in this emotional and blunt attempt to demonize Coulter, was that the objections to her conclusion were based on nothing more than subjective opinion. Time and again, Father Albert dismisses the depressing statistics that Coulter is citing. Instead of honestly acknowledging them and risking the ire of his mostly female audience, he instead waxes indignant with consistent misdirection that seeks to avoid the fact that, statistically speaking, a child is at a significant disadvantage in life by being raised by a single parent.

Fifty years ago it was still a scandal to have a child out of wedlock. Apparently the unmarried mother in America is now so sainted that any negative words aimed in her direction are sacrilege. The Good Father and the audience were so concerned with rejecting any criticism of single motherhood, they were apparently misinterpreting the statistics. Coulter never said that 70% of all children of single mothers become society's problem, she said that 70% of problem children come from single parent homes. The show's editors would often cut to the women's faces in the audience (many of them single mothers, I suppose) that carried various degrees of incredulity at such a preposterous affront. How dare anyone accuse a single mother of being selfish and narcissistic, when "they really are going out of their way to provide for their kids"?

The permissive public ethos that fosters the celebration of single motherhood is the most significant factor in the ruination of the American family unit. Is anyone shouldering the blame for their own contributions to the destruction of our society's nuclear family? Not really.

They're too busy exercising their individual rights to pleasure without responsibility, thus giving much less thought to the well-being of their future children than they will ever admit. But I suppose modern, emancipated women have never been very fond of being told they shouldn't give the milk away for free. And shame on the insemination machines that refer to themselves as 'men,' who willingly participate in this tragedy.

The unborn children, who are left with the rest of their lives to deal with the fallout of the irresponsible and selfish decisions of their 'parents,' had absolutely no say whatsoever regarding the dispensation of their developmental environment.

Here are some of the Blessed Father's spiritually wise commentaries (in italics), my observations immediately after:

"[...] we're singling out the single mothers, [...] but we're not talking about these absent fathers."
Perhaps Alberto has forgotten what so many single mothers also seem to have lost track of; for the Johnny Appleseed deadbeat-dads to commit their irresponsible deeds, they first need willing sexual partners. Could it really be true that a person who is conscious enough to contemplate sexual intercourse is somehow mysteriously bereft of common sense? Just what exactly does a woman think will happen if tab A is inserted in slot B without benefit of a wedding ring?

"There are so many great moms that are trying to be mom and dad to their kids, I know that they cannot be emotionally mom and dad. But they really are going out of their way to provide for their kids."
So once the single mother has made the selfish decision to raise the child on her own, her obligatory Herculean efforts somehow erase the emotional deficit of a missing dad?

"I think you're talking about maybe the Casey Anthonys of the world."
So a single mother must be brought up on charges of murdering her child in order to be thought of as selfish and narcissistic?

"A lot of single moms are being responsible with their children."
If someone makes lemonade out of lemons, does this mean that the sugar negates the fact that the lemons are still sour?

"See but the problem is, it's good to get rid of those stigmas. Because we would put people always in a box, you know. This is the way you have to be, this is the way it works out. You know, this is not an ideal world Ann. You're talking about an ideal world. Oh, in an ideal world, by the way, everyone has a mom and dad, we're going back, you know, to the days of Happy Days [...]"
Ol' Pappy Alberto really loves his pop culture candy. No wonder he left the Catholic Church; who wants to deal with all that guilt? But of course, what better way to react to an imperfect world than to just throw up your hands and surrender? That's the absolute best way to turn things around.

"I mean, I think that when you, when you say things like that, I mean kinda make these blanket statements based on statistics, I say to myself, gosh I know so many good single mothers, so many heroic single mothers, I just can't agree with you on that, I really can't."
Of course he can't agree with Coulter on this; that would mean he was trading popularity for honesty, and how's a poor clergyman supposed to make a decent buck in front of the studio cameras?

I was going to address the audience's comments as well, but this essay is already running too long. Their contributions were mostly emotionally charged portraits of subjective denial anyway. Let's sum up:

Father Albert was once a Catholic priest, but he told the Catholic Church to stick it, so that he could kiss women and become an Episcopalian.

Father Albert, why don't you jump ship again, and this time become an Epicurean? At least then you wouldn't be considered an unctuous hypocrite for your politically correct sensibilities.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christopher Hitchens, rest in peace

On December 15th, 2011, Christopher Hitchens passed away from the effects of cancer. My reaction was not quite what some who read this blog might expect.

I never met the man. I didn't know him personally. I am not familiar with his entire body of work or all of his prolific contributions to the world of opinion, but I am very aware of one of his former points of view, which I disagree with most vehemently.

Hitchens could be quite aggressive and caustic in his accusations and railings against the concept of God and even the proponents of (and believers in) God. That I disagree with his activities in this regard is an understatement. He spent most of his adult life trying to convince approximately 97 percent of the world that they were merely deluding themselves by thinking that there could possibly be something as ridiculous as a supreme being. He was passionate about many topics, but this one was probably the most prominent in the public's imagination.

What little I know of his personal life could fit on a postage stamp, inscribed with a large font. But, it seems clear that his excessive consumption of cigarettes and alcohol was evident. While I believe that every human being should be allowed the freedom to use (or abuse) their bodies in any way they wish, I find the deliberate abuse of one's body to be just one more indication that one's powers of ratiocination are somewhat impaired. To what degree this impairment existed for him, I couldn't say.

That last paragraph was by no means meant to reduce Hitchens to a foolish self-destructive individual. I am merely pointing out the obvious. Hitchens was known to have defended his chemical dependencies with the concept that many great writers did some of their best work while under the influence, but I suspect the true nature of his self-abuse went far deeper than that. That particular knowledge probably died with him, and to be frank, it was not anyone else's business anyway.

Also, please note, I am much like Hitchens, or anyone else on the planet, in that I have my own burdens to bear in the arena of self-defeating behaviors. So please don't make the mistake of thinking that the purpose of this essay is to judge Hitchens. Along with everyone else in the world, I am in no position to judge.

I have experienced a few moments in my own life being irritated by some of Hitchens's former antics, as well as other prominent individuals who share his opinions regarding God. These fellows are easy to identify, as they are usually grouped together when one wants to quickly list the poster boys for atheism: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Hitchens. At one point they were actually referred to as the Four Horsemen, which I admit was amusing.

So one might think, upon hearing of Hitchens's passing, that I might feel some sort of perverted sense of relief or pleasure.

Quite the contrary.

My own father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer near the end of 2003. He was fortunate enough to survive chemotherapy and the removal of his entire esophagus. I was there the whole time, watching him go through this grueling process. I am sorry Hitchens had to suffer a similar fate, and then not survive it. Cancer is a grim reminder that life is often not fair, and that our lives are more fragile than most of us feel comfortable enough to admit.

Hitchens was passionate, and he acted on his passions. He sought to captivate, motivate, irritate and yes, even to illuminate. His life's work and efforts were impressive and stand forever as a testament to one person's desire to make a difference. For all these things, I respect the man, regardless of whether or not I disagreed with some of his ideas. He was unlike the lukewarm masses; he took up the sword and fought for what he believed in, instead of merely catcalling from the sidelines.

I am very sorry he passed away in the fashion that he did. We all have to follow him at some point, but it's always sad when someone dies of disease or illness. It's as though something was taken from them unfairly.

Hitchens, near the end of his life, could not have believed that his life was being taken from him, as that implies that something was 'given' in the first place. His denial of all things God-related would imply that his death was nothing more than the relatively unimportant event of providing more nutrients to the biosphere's soil.

Following this train of thought, as we are all merely fertilizer-in-waiting, the most brilliant, moving and world-altering personal achievements are merely meaningless events, arbitrarily attributable to an individual biological entity that ultimately has no greater significance than briefly furthering the mindless cycle-of-life that is our evolving planet.

I choose to believe he was wrong about that.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

All Hail Otto West!

(Announcer, speaking in an excited, somewhat hushed tone): We now bring you to Mount Olympus, where Grand Master Debater-In-Chief Otto West is about to give his address!

[Enthusiastic applause.]

(Announcer): All eyes and ears are on West as he steps up to the podium.

[Awed silence.]

"Thank you for joining me today on this auspicious occasion. Today, I will reveal for the first time ever, the secret of my success as Supreme Logician of the Universe."

[Audience erupts in applause and cheers, which drown out West for no less than sixty seconds.]

"As you all know, there has been no one on planet Earth with the intelligence, tenacity and exceptional gift for Internet mouse-clicking as me. No one researches more than I, no one studies harder than I, no one dares to challenge me on any subject I deem worthy of my intrepid attention."

[Reverent silence.]

"Furthermore, as the entire world has noted for many decades, no one has ever been able to refute a single proposition or premise of mine. Not one person, not even once, not ever. How did I accomplish such an amazing feat of intellectual prowess? Well, as I am feeling generous of late, I will actually share with you my most cherished secret. A secret that has allowed me to hold sway in every argument, on any subject, with any individual or group who has dared be foolish enough to challenge me."

[West scans the crowd, basking in the rapt attention he has generated.]

"Here is how any one of you can successfully experience unblemished perfection and victory in every argument you ever construct:"

[The entire crowd leans forward in its chairs with breathless anticipation.]

"First, you must always interpret any situation or event in the way that you see fit, regardless of other opinions that may exist to the contrary.

Second, using said interpretation, you must formulate an impervious proposition by summarily dismissing the possibility that your interpretation could be incorrect.

Third, you must click your magical Internet mouse until you've gathered enough corroborative material to overwhelm and impress average dullards who are too lazy to do their own magical mouse clicking.

Fourth, you must open a public forum and challenge any and all opposition to dispute your proposition.

Fifth, and this is key, if anyone even comes close to poking a hole in your argument, you must delete their input in the public forum with a click of your magical mouse.

Sixth, and never forget this, if deleting their input doesn't quell their resistance, then simply deny any legitimate point was ever made by them. Reinforce this accusation by continual verbal repetition of the original challenge; this makes the challenger appear to have misunderstood, and therefore makes his counter-argument seem illogical and irrelevant. Remember the tried-and-true 'rule of seven' used in marketing.

Seventh, and last, always maintain an air of uncontested superiority. If people think you are victorious, then you are. That's the power of positive thinking!"

[West stops and waits.]

[The audience stands in unison and erupts in deafening cheers and applause.]

[West walks offstage.]

[The curtain draws closed.]

[The entire audience returns home to watch reruns of "Deep Thoughts by Al Franken."]

Friday, January 20, 2012

The irresistable power of delusion

First and foremost, before you read the successive paragraphs, I wish to remind the reader that I am not defending Ann Coulter in particular, with this spontaneous series of essays. What began as my intent of simply pointing out that YouTube viewers need to be wary of misleading propaganda has now transformed into a case study of the phenomenon commonly referred to as "delusions of grandeur."

Also, I would like to point out that in the big picture, as it were, this silly little argument is about as important to the overall scheme of things as someone's favorite color. That being stated for the record, let's proceed.

I'm not the only person who was moved to create an Xtranormal video concerning the Ann Coulter interview on CBC Newsworld. A YouTube user with the pseudonym "Theobrothers" has also created one, which can be viewed here (and his stance is decidedly anti-Coulter):

History For Morons (Ann Coulter Edition) - Canada and the Vietnam War

Just in case Theobrothers eventually thinks better of his sarcastic phrasing, and removes or alters his video explanation, I have saved the original (as of January 19, 2012), grammatical errors included. I have also exactly transcribed the entire text of his video, for later release on the Internet, should he change his mind and remove it. Furthermore, I have downloaded the video and saved it for others to repost as well.

I will maintain permanent record of these items, because I believe in enforcing integrity, and not allowing perpetrators of agenda-ridden propaganda to run away and hide their misdeeds when the temperature rises. As I pointed out in an earlier essay regarding Tom Green's hypocrisy, in the digital age, forever means forever, not just until lawyers come calling.

On to the meat.

While there is no doubt that Theobrothers has done a decent amount of research on the subject of whether or not Canada sent troops to Vietnam, it should be observed that his bias is philosophically no different than a conservative 'vetting' the same subject with the opposite intent. In other words, just like the purposeful manipulation of statistics, the results will vary depending on the direction one wishes to take one's conclusion.

In this case, Theobrothers apparently wishes to help inspire the angry liberal mob that seeks to vilify Ann Coulter. So, despite the easily verifiable fact that Canadian troops were deployed to Vietnam in 1973 for peace-keeping duties (see my previous essay's video for more details, including some linked sources), he spouts a wearisome collection of miscellaneous facts designed to detract from the main point of contention.

How does Theobrothers seek to inspire? With insults and arrogant proclamations, of course.

Some examples of his invective he included in his YouTube video description, along with my comments in blue:

This video is for all the special people who can't seem to understand what actually happened during the Vietnam War.
I hope he's referencing the aspect of the word special that means unique or superior, and not comparing those who disagree with him to special needs persons.

I especially made this for Ann Coulter, Bill O' Riley and Fox News fanatics although I admit that this is quite illogical as facts and logic is philosophically inverse to their religion of idiocy.
Here he makes the classic blunder of assuming all those who disagree with him must be idiots. A typical earmark of those suffering from a superiority complex.

Please don't hesitate to leave your fallacious arguments, illogical standpoints, and erroneous information below in the comments section for all those who have never seen an insane viewpoint and debate style in action.
Again, a textbook example of grandiose delusion. All opposing viewpoints must be wrong right out of the box. Not exactly a hallmark of an open mind.

Watch how anxiously she attacks the pen in her hand and how much she stutters, as she is forced to admit she was wrong, and then attempts to qualify her wrongness with asinine points.
I can appreciate hyperbole to make one's point, but Theobrothers is making erroneous statements. I have seen the C-Span video he's referencing here, and Coulter's points were not nearly as "asinine" as the ones Theobrothers makes.

Theobrothers lists quite a few links to source materials at the bottom of his video description, lest someone accuse him of committing the cardinal sin of passing along information without exhaustive links to prove that the effort expended was sufficient. The last two links are his attempt to mock a fan of Ann Coulter who may not be as research-obsessed.

However, despite Theo's challenge to all viewers to leave their "erroneous information below in the comments section," he apparently only allows the comments from easily refutable users to remain posted on the page. How do I know this?

As of the public posting of this essay, there were 98 comments on the Theobrothers page in question (see the fourth paragraph of this essay). However, there would have been 100, except the supremely infallible Theobrothers saw fit to delete the two I left there yesterday. Here they are in their original entirety:

First comment:
Nice try... CBC's *own digital archives* support Coulter's statement. See here: watch?v=Q6KiCcixVBI
Your problem is you obsess yourself with defending the official position of the Canadian government, but then easily dismiss the HUGE support the U.S. government gained from Canadian businesses (owned and run by citizens, just like you), benefiting Canada with BILLIONS of dollars. U.S. involvement elsewhere was not the issue.
Coulter said troops were there; she didn't say why. Grow up.

Then, I felt that simply offering my video was not quite enough to get surfers to look it up, so I took a moment to spotlight his venomous bias.

Second comment:
And one more thing, genius: rudeness and arrogance are not equal to intellectual prowess. By assuming your opponents are idiots, you automatically open the door to unpleasant surprise. Though not a diehard fan of Coulter myself, I expect she would dance circles around you in a live, open forum. You publish YouTube opinions; Coulter writes books and devotes most of her waking life to researching the topics she speaks and writes about.

What do I mean by Theo's rudeness and arrogance? Well let's start with the video's transcript.

Digital actress representing Ann Coulter:
"Yeah. That makes perfect sense. I guess I'm happy I learned all this now before putting up some stupid ass video claiming Canada actually sent troops. Or got into an asinine debate because I thought my fallacious argument was enough to prove I was right. Thanks Theo."

Digital actor representing Theobrothers:
"No problem Ann, anytime. Just make sure to check your facts from now on. And maybe try admitting you're wrong once in a while. Otherwise, you might look like a know-nothing c**t."

I added asterisks in order to censor the excessively vulgar word Theobrothers felt necessary to include. His virulent hatred of Ann Coulter is obvious; why he needed to sink to that level is not. But this inappropriate gaffe is only the tip of the iceberg.

Next example...

I posted a link to my refutation video in someone else's YouTube page, and since Theo couldn't delete my comment from someone else's page, he instead posted this reply to my comment:

Erm... Perhaps you should fully read the comments section of my video. I couldn't possibly "gloss over" what wasn't her argument. Whether governments help each other covertly, and against their peoples knowledge and sentiment isn't what she was arguing. She was arguing a specific position, "Canada's involvement, openly and friendly, for war in Vietnam by sending a fighting or support force", with a specific contrast, "Our non support for Iraq" LoL, my try is 100% correct.

And then he immediately added his 'masterstroke':

Also, your video, lol, makes claims based on what 3 general links with no real details. My video has like what 30+ links, refuting every last bulls**t excuse used to defend Ann. Your 1 hour of work can;t compare to my obvious scouring of the net regarding everything on this subject. Get over yourself. LoLz [profanity censored by me]

Never mind that those three "general" links he's referring to actually carry a great many pertinent and factual details to my counter-argument. Apparently we are all supposed to be so much in awe of his clearly superior research that we shouldn't take notice of someone else playing by his rules and succeeding.

Witness excerpts from his own YouTube page, from his own hand to visitors who disagree with him (my observations in blue):

I like how you stated, "I can't debate the facts", while still claiming yourself as right. I'm paraphrasing of course as your statement was much more long winded and nonsensical. You have learned well from the Fox school of regressive thought.
Anyhoo, good luck with that form of argumentation. It doesn't work for me but I'm sure among your pals you are considered "the smart one" and looked towards with much reverence.
Long winded? Theo's reply actually contained more words than the other user's post.

I really wrecked him, lol, was pretty funny.
Theo making yet another pronouncement of Theo's unassailable superiority. And it wasn't all that accurate.

Concession by refrenation. You do not need to admit you concede as you already have by your actions. Braggart, I am not. The truth? I have proven my point and without contestation.
Theo does not have to admit being a braggart because he has already done so by his arrogance.

You have proven what I desired, that you are essentially a wind bag, full of hot air, and empty of substance.
Translated: Anyone not including multiple Internet source links to buttress every point is clearly not worthy to step into the arena of discourse.

I won't allow you to spam my comments section further, either put up a valid counter to the premise that has been provided or stop responding and concede defeat.
An impressive challenge, albeit without any genuine intention to follow through. Point in fact: I presented a reasonable video response to his premise, and was rewarded with the deletion of my comments.

You are seriously questioning my understanding and use of English? Especially in comparison to yours? Are you a comedian?
Theo's grammatical errors elsewhere notwithstanding, of course.

Any tangent is simply in response to your comments, I have no use for tangents, as I've proven my proposition, it's up to you to knock it down. If you can't you have lost the debate.
Actually, Theo has proven nothing but his stubborn refusal to consider opinions other than his own. And in all practicality, no one need knock his proposition down, as it willingly prostrates itself to the unyielding power of truth: regardless of what he perceives as Coulter's original intention, there were in fact Canadian troops in Vietnam in 1973.

Again, Ad Hom is fallacious. Why continue using it? LOL Do you know what a fallacy is?
Ad hominem is only fallacious when it is in opposition to fact. An argument simply being ad hominem is not proof of fallacy; only that the debater is moved by possibly great emotion. Perhaps Theo fancies himself a robot. Only passionless logic could possibly motivate someone to expend so much time and energy researching and debating an insignificant event like Coulter's comment, right?

"Either Canada sent troops to Vietnam or they didn't." is what we call a strawman. That is and has never been the premise of this debate. Again, quote my counter premise to Ann's, then make your counter to mine. If you can't do that then you are admitting defeat. Here, I'll help, Wiki search these terms; Counterargument, Rebuttal, Inference objection.
Yet another shining display of self-congratulations, replete with pedantic Logic 101 minutiae.

Ok, so are you stating the sky, seen through our eyes would not be determined blue? See that's Ann's argument, she is stating it is not blue, lol, I just pointed out that it is.
Could this be another example of a straw man? No wait! It can't be since it's Theo's own analogy.

That's the entire point, when under a peace agreement there is no "combat zone". Do you understand English? I'm serious, do you?
Try telling that to the people who were shot and killed in that same zone during the peace-keeping troops' occupation.

The debate isn't about the facts. Hmmm, maybe this is where you are lost.
I am suddenly stricken with the nauseating possibility that I've given my attention to a person who cries fallacy in counter-arguments, then claims the debate is not about the facts. Call me dull, but I'm not quite sure what could possibly be debated without some reference to fact.

Very juvenile of me to point out that claims of being right without evidence are merely claims and in no way prove victory on a particular subject? Hmmm...
Could this evidence that Theo seeks possibly be related to the facts that he previously stated were irrelevant?

See, you are so hell bent on winning that you could care less about the truth. I feel sorry for you.
At this point, Theo's 'argument' degenerates to projection, and he briefly feels the emotion most of us already feel for him.

Well I'm glad you see it that way. For if you have cited all you can, and I have destroyed from a logical standpoint all those citations in my comments section, well then I guess you must admit defeat. Thanks for playing "I should understand logic and context before debating".
All hail the fabulously perfect and unassailable logic of Lord Theo!

Logic prevails son. LOL
Translation: the only valid forms of logic are the facts as synthesized by Theo.

I was getting sick of watching people defend her and disregard all logic and evidence while doing so. Thus I created this video, so that people with logic could come here, see that ALL the claims in the video are backed up by facts and links in the comments section, and feel the argument has been clearly won. No more need to waste time on those other biased unevidenced video's.
Translation: I was getting sick of people agreeing with someone I hate. Thus I created this video, so that people who agree with me can pat me on the back for my amazing and perfect logic, which I back up with facts that I have stated elsewhere have no relevance to the argument. No more need to waste time on those other videos that present reasonable opposing evidence, so I wisely delete references to them in my comment section.

Well, I'm finally done.

And Theobrothers... so are you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Divide and Conquer

I respectfully request that you put on your Imagination Hats, tinfoil hats, or whatever you prefer, and ponder a possibility with me.

Imagine that you feel you were horribly slighted or unfairly treated. For example, let's pretend you've perceived yourself as loyal to the CEO of a company for the last forty years. Now let's say that your hard work helped make the company incredibly profitable. Lastly, let's pretend you were fired suddenly from your job, with all retirement options revoked, for one serious mistake.

Now let's pretend that due to agreements signed during the hiring process, that you have no legal recourse.

What do you do?

Well, first off, no matter how philosophical you are, you're hurt and upset. And you're angry.

Now let's pretend a little more...

Let's say you have the ability to ruin the company, if you so desire. Perhaps you figure that since the company ruined your life, and you are now left with nothing compared to the pride you used to take in your job, you think you might as well take them down. Sure, the company is made up of a lot of 'innocent' people, but hey, you were innocent too, right? Why should you be the only one to suffer?

But just how do you go about ruining the company? Simply burning down some buildings is a bit rash, and after the dust settles, the company may be bruised, but it will still continue. As a matter of fact, it may be even stronger afterwards due to the usual success that follows adversity. Often the sympathy gathered from others observing a disaster is enough to revitalize those who have been severely harmed.

Back to the question. How to permanently ruin the company?

Well, to do damage that can't be recovered from, you have to be subtle, more discreet. You have to 'sneak up' on the company and dismantle it slowly from within, so that when your machinations are finally discovered, it's far too late to stop the overall effect.

That's where the title of this essay comes from. Originally the phrase was 'Divide and Rule,' but 'Divide and Conquer' has become more common. Wikipedia has a relatively brief page here:

Divide and Rule

Wikipedia lists four elements of the sabotaging technique:

  • creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects in order to prevent alliances that could challenge the sovereign
  • aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign
  • fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers
  • encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for political and military spending

Clever, right? Through much less 'violence' than a full-on assault, you achieve even better results. Why do I say better? Because anytime you introduce oppression to a people, you inevitably foster rebellion. But who can organize a rebellion if the people can't even agree on whether or not they're being oppressed? How can they possibly hope to succeed when the very people they need to help achieve the goal are too concerned with their own distrust of each other? United we stand, divided we fall.

So, now you have a strategy. It doesn't even matter if you get caught, because by the time they figure out what you did, the damage would have been done already. And you're so pissed off, you don't mind going down with the ship, so to speak.

So... on to the real purpose of this essay.

Keep those Imagination Hats on, and pull them a little tighter.

Atheists often assume (and some publicly claim) that because God is a figment of the human imagination, and there are so many humans with their own thoughts and points of view, that it only stands to reason that there would be lots of different religions. And among those religions, there are tons of factions and denominations with often contradictory doctrines. After all, they're all just made-up nonsense to make the believers feel better, right?

Atheists also claim that because God is mere myth, then of course, as a corollary, a lesser entity known as The Adversary, or Satan, must certainly be myth as well.

But what if, maybe, possibly... what if God were real, and what if Satan were real as well?

Is it that much of a stretch of the imagination to wonder if the reason there are so many religions is because that was the intention of The Adversary in the first place?

Okay, take off those Imagination Hats and come back to the real world.

After atheists finish laughing at this essay's rumination, they may be well instructed to dig a bit deeper than their own dogmatic explanations of the universe. Upon closer inspection of the above four listed Divide and Rule techniques, they will find:

  • Arguing about differing doctrines prevents acolytes from uniting as a whole.
  • It's long been known that despite a common human desire for fairness in the world, it's usually those who seek selfish needs first who are the most successful in terms of material wealth.
  • Church leaders' first responsibility tends to be their own congregations, and keeping them safe from 'the others.'
  • One of our most valuable resources is time. Why spend your time in the pursuit of spiritual truth when there is so much entertainment and luxury to enjoy?

Serendipitous coincidence, cheesy analogy, weak metaphor?

You tell me. Your answer will clearly designate your allegiance.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Money corrupts music

What would constitute a perfect song? There are as many opinions on this as there are people who listen to music. But what if concerns about potential revenue limited the composer? Could a perfect song still be written and recorded, or could the publishing directives ultimately corrupt the composer's creative choices?

Take the band Evanescence for example.

I love the album Fallen. If you're familiar with it, you know what I mean. It's truly great on so many levels. Amy Lee's soaring and ethereal voice, Ben Moody's guitar and writing, it's all there. The biographical information regarding Evanescence is readily accessible for anyone with an Internet connection, so I'll skip to the chase with the details I wish to highlight for this essay.

Point One: What happened to the solos?

Moody's solo in Going Under (for example) almost hits the mark. The guitar tone is there, the playing is decent enough to get the job done. Unfortunately, the unsatisfying brevity of the solo turns it into a missed opportunity.

How much of current music is dictated by those at the top of the musical food chain, who insist that short guitar solos are better than long ones, and no solos are best of all? This is a trend that has continued almost unabated since Nirvana and Pearl Jam slithered by on their sad excuses for guitar improvisation.

Point Two: what's with Evanescence's so-called "Christian controversy?"

According to sources like Wikipedia, and Evanescence's own liner notes in the CD Fallen, Lee and Moody were best friends. This no longer seems to be the case, as Moody left the band shortly after Fallen was released. Why did this happen?

They publicly claimed it was "creative differences," but I wonder what those creative differences actually were...

When Fallen was first released, it was released on Wind-up records. Wind-up has had more than one band tread the Christian/Secular music tightrope. Creed was another band that matched this description. Moody and Lee first met at a 'youth camp' in 1994, which certainly didn't necessarily have to be Christian of course, but I don't know of too many secular youth camps that refer to themselves as 'youth camps.'

So it seems there may have been some sort of Christian influence from the very beginning, at least from Moody. If the youth camp was Christian, perhaps Lee was sent dragging and screaming in protest, I couldn't say. Whatever the case, fast-forwarding to 2003 and the release of the CD Fallen, besides being played on secular radio stations, the CD was getting a lot of play on Christian stations.

Then, for reasons only vaguely disclosed, the band later decided against such a connection, as the following excerpt from Wikipedia (with four different sources) explains:

Evanescence was originally promoted in Christian stores. Later, the band made it clear they did not want to be considered part of the Christian rock genre, like fellow Wind-up Records artists Creed. In April, 2003 Wind-up Records chairman, Alan Meltzer, sent a letter to Christian radio and retail outlets to explain that despite the "spiritual underpinning that ignited interest and excitement in the Christian religious community," Evanescence are "a secular band, and as such view their music as entertainment." Therefore, he wrote, Wind-Up "strongly feels that they no longer belong in Christian markets." Almost immediately upon receipt of the letter, many Christian radio stations pulled Fallen songs from their playlists. Terry Hemmings, CEO of Christian music distributor Provident, expressed puzzlement at the band's about-face, saying "They clearly understood the album would be sold in these [Christian music] channels." In 2006, Amy Lee told Billboard that she had opposed being identified as a "Christian band" from the beginning.

I'm not sure how many feel the same way, but I wasn't particularly excited about the band's music being possibly Christian per se, but instead I had the feeling that there was sober spiritual metaphor being conveyed in the words and music. In other words, I detected a depth to the songs that impressed me.

Amy Lee further said in 2006, in regard to the band's former association with Christian music:

"Can we please skip the Christian thing? I'm so over it. It's the lamest thing. I fought that from the beginning; I never wanted to be associated with it. It was a Ben thing. It's over. It's a new day."

Lee seems to have forgotten, or never came to grips with, the fact that with any art, the observer will draw what they wish from it, regardless of what the artist wants them to draw from it. In the true words of the astute Anna Nalick, "'Cause these words are my diary screaming out loud, and I know that you'll use them however you want to."

It's not like the Christian status was keeping Fallen from the mainstream; it was getting heavy airplay on radio and cable television regardless.

At any rate, my purpose in bringing the Christian issue up is to pose a question to the reader:

Just what did Amy Lee think she would lose if she allowed Christians to identify with Evanescence music?

For my best guess, see the title of this essay. Industry insiders (and others) know that to be identified as a "Christian" artist is a stereotype that can potentially turn many secular fans off. All you have to do is compare the most successful Christian bands with the most successful secular bands. There is no comparison in terms of revenue generated. So, in some people's minds, being thought of as a Christian band, or being thought of as a band that creates Christian-friendly music, is somewhat of a super-stardom-killer. The same goes with the production and promotion of movies.

We're usually told by successful bands that they merely did what they loved, merely did what came naturally, only followed their true inspirations and muses, etc., and the result was success beyond most people's wildest dreams.

But truly... what is actually going on behind the scenes?

Follow the money.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ann Coulter was not owned - An Addendum!

Because I always wanted to make one of those little Xtranormal videos, I decided to create a response to the You Tube propaganda I mentioned in the essay just before this post.

Here's the link:

Ann Coulter Gets Owned - The REAL cold hard facts


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ann Coulter was not owned

YouTube can be entertaining, instructional and informative. But like any other form of public media, it should not be automatically trusted. It is just as prone to subjective bias as any other media source.

Take for example this video:

Ann Coulter Gets Owned

Now, this essay has nothing to do with whether or not I think Ann Coulter is smart, stupid, accurate or ignorant. But as you can plainly see, the snippet of video from the news show leaves the impression that Coulter was wrong beyond all shadow of a doubt.

In fact, she was not wrong, she just forgot the complete details of the matter. However, despite the voice-over's smug pronouncement that Coulter "never got back to us," the news program and interviewer were actually presenting wrong information... that is, if historical truth makes any difference at all in matters of dispute.

Canada did indeed send troops to Vietnam in 1973, two years before the Vietnam War ended. However, and this is a point that neither Coulter nor the interviewer brought up: the troops were sent for peace-keeping duty, and did not officially fight alongside U.S. troops.

Furthermore, this was not the end of Canada's involvement. A great many Canadian businesses were knowingly selling raw materials to the U.S. to manufacture napalm and Agent Orange. While the Canadian government did not officially acknowledge these as contributing to the war effort, they certainly did nothing to prevent activity that helped with Canada's unemployment percentage, especially since their financial benefit ran into the billions. See the following article for more information:

Here's a portion of the article, in case the link is down (bold highlights are mine):

At home, 500 firms sold $2.5 billion of war materiel (ammunition, napalm, aircraft engines and explosives) to the Pentagon. Another $10 billion in food, beverages, berets and boots for the troops was exported to the US, as well as nickel, copper, lead, brass and oil for shell casings, wiring, plate armour and military transport. In Canada unemployment fell to record low levels of 3.9%, the gross domestic product rose by 6% yearly, and capital expenditure expanded exponentially in manufacturing and mining as US firms invested more than $3 billion in Canada to offset shrinking domestic capacity as a result of the war. The herbicide "Agent Orange" was tested for use in Vietnam at CFB Gagetown, NB. US bomber pilots practised carpet-bombing runs over Suffield, Alta, and North Battleford, Sask, before their tours of duty in Southeast Asia.

So, while the person interviewing Ann Coulter was correct in knowing that Canadians did not officially fight alongside us, he was incorrect that their troops were never deployed. Assumptions that Canada did not aid the U.S. war effort, or benefit from it, are also completely false.

But of course, no one who views that video will know that particular information without digging for it, because the comments were disabled, and I was unable to share it. I noticed a great deal of people thanked the YouTube user for posting the "Ann Coulter Gets Owned" video, even though, oddly enough, most of his or her uploaded content is actually for the specific purpose of refuting the 'enemies' of Islam. So I left a comment about Canada's deployed troops in the user's channel, but it was subject to approval by the user... and I expect it to never be approved.

Thus YouTube, although replete with instructional videos, educational videos, and videos of important live events, should never be referenced for facts about the world without further research. YouTube, first and foremost, is merely entertainment.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hypocrisy, Tom Green style

[Edit (added on January 18, 2013): The commenter below brought it to my attention that Green's lawyers are again trying to scare people into removing all evidence of his childish episode with Dupree. This will always prove to be a case of a dog chasing his unwanted tail, because I've posted a new blog entry that includes two new working links at Tom Green's relentless shame.]

You can't stop truth from being revealed. You can try to hide it, you can deny it, you can delay it, you can attempt to erase it from history... but in the end, the truth will always surface. And resurface. And resurface again.

Back in 2003, on "The New Tom Green Show," Jesse James Dupree appeared as a guest, complete with his signature chainsaw. This is what the Wikipedia page for Green has to say about the fiasco:

A notable incident included Jesse James Dupree, the frontman of the Southern rock band Jackyl, when he made the ill-advised decision to take a chainsaw to Green's new desk on the show. The unplanned stunt clearly irritated Green and he made no attempt to hide his displeasure. He eventually began his planned musical performance (himself on drums and Dupree on guitar) but continued to verbally spar with Dupree for a short period before abandoning the drums mid-song in apparent disgust and walking off stage. Later on in the evening, he again insulted the band by holding up Jackyl's most recent album and advising viewers to "check it out if you like music that was cool fifteen years ago" and then proceeded to smash it with a hammer.

As mostly accurate as that summation is (I witnessed the video segment myself), it really doesn't fully convey the excessive amount of sarcastic venom that Green vomited toward Dupree. You need to actually see the video for yourself to understand how unreasonably far Green went with his anger. Interestingly, after the recorded incident started appearing around the Internet in blogs with high readership, the users who had posted the video in the first place suddenly decided to pull their own postings. I'm fairly certain they wouldn't have done this without some 'urging' from the copyright police, thanks to an affiliate of the Green camp.

But guess what?

Thanks to the digital age and the Internet, whatever gets recorded stays around forever. Witness for yourself the spectacle of Green behaving like a petulant child:

Okay, so here's a few things to keep in mind, just in case this sounds like an attempt to defend the antics of Dupree. Yes, it's true, for all Dupree knew, that desk could have been a family heirloom handed down from Green's great-great-grandfather (it wasn't). Yes, it's true, anyone would be irritated if his or her custom-made desk was ruined without prior consent. Yes, it's true, Jesse James Dupree will not be publishing any papers on String Theory anytime soon.

But do all these things truly excuse Tom Green in particular, for behaving so exceedingly unprofessional toward someone who is, in all honesty, just another attention-seeking entertainer?

The hypocrisy in this incident lies in Tom Green's well known historical penchant for attempting to upset and embarrass unsuspecting people, including his own parents. That's actually how Green gained notoriety in the first place. Green's prior gimmicks sometimes included the defacement or mistreatment of possessions owned by others.

There was another episode where Tom Green has some very uncomfortable moments with Andrew Dice Clay. In this segment, we are allowed to see just how craven Green is:

Despite the fact that anyone would be unsettled by Clay's shtick in this kind of situation, where is Green's vituperative here? Answer: nowhere to be found. And why didn't he treat Clay the same way he treated Dupree?

My guess is simply that Green was physically afraid of Clay. The hard-drinking Dupree could probably take Green in a fight as well, if I wanted to make violence a relevant factor in all this, but that's beside the point. I think Green wasn't afraid to make a mockery of Dupree because despite his crazed antics, Dupree was just trying to have fun and make the best of the situation throughout all of Green's harsh jabs.

Green may have perceived that Dupree wasn't going to win a Fields Medal, and thought that gave him unlimited license to be excessively rude. In the end, Dupree, just by trying to ignore Green's childishness and maintain a professional stance, fared far better. Tom Green, on the other hand, exposed himself forever as the person he truly is.

And thanks to the digital age, forever means forever, not just until lawyers send letters of warning.