Contact!(?)

Rocky Mountain News via Huffington Post:

A video that purportedly shows a living, breathing space alien will be shown to the news media Friday in Denver.
Jeff Peckman, who is pushing a ballot initiative to create an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission in Denver to prepare
the city for close encounters of the alien kind, said the video is authentic and convinced him that aliens exist.

So why am I calling BS/publicity stunt/publicity whore? Just a feeling in my bones. That or he’s a whack job.

There is, of course the chance that he actually does have a LIVING BREATHING SPACE ALIEN on tape. We’re being made to wait until the documentary that features the video is released, presumably tomorrow.

But now I’m wondering why something this potentially mind-blowingly, monumentally important to the entire planet (and which would have enormous ramifications with regard to every single religion humans have ever invented, not to mention every branch of science we currently explore) has sat around waiting to be edited into a documentary.

I’m remaining skeptical until I see it (which requires absolutely no effort on my part, I see Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy shares my laziness :)). Of course there’s the chance it’s trickery: special effects are getting so ridiculously good it could easily be just a clever plug for something. However, Jeff Peckman, who I assume is the film’s owner if not the guy who shot it, is a believer in ETs and is attempting to create that Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission in Denver to prepare the city for Contact (how exactly do you prepare for the completely unexpected anyway?). No true believer, you’d think, would be comfortable with such a cynical use of his prized footage.

Can’t wait to see it. It’s the most highly anticipated blurry, dark, IR-vision home-video story since that one with that spoiled rich tramp in it … wonder if the ETs retinas will reflect the IR like hers did? Maybe the ET doesn’t have retinas at all – perhaps he has compound vision like insects do! Might not even be a he – or a she! Attack Of The Blinky Hermaphrodites! Careful though, it might even be working with our enemies, y’know – the ones that are jealous of and want to destroy our FREEDOMS!! Oh noes!! We should have Michelle Malkin look at the tape to see if the little bugger’s wearing any offensive jihadist accessories

America is officially retarded.

Well, ok, sorry, that’s a bit harsh. I don’t mean the entire country and every one of its 300 million citizens (though a fair whack of those people voted for George Bush not once but twice – the jury’s still out on exactly how many and whether either election was actually an actual election) – just whatever’s responsible for the zeitgeist that allows shit like this to happen.

From MSNBC:

Dunkin’ Donuts has pulled an online advertisement featuring Rachael Ray after complaints that a fringed black-and-white scarf that the celebrity chef wore in the ad offers symbolic support for Muslim extremism and terrorism.


Yep, that’s what it says. Here’s the offending accessory:


Run! She’s got an ICED LATTE!!!



People complained that her scarf reminded them of the black & white kaffiyeh – a traditional Arab head covering, most noticably worn by the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat and, as such, was a symbol of terrorism & America-hate & quite possibly baby-eating. Instead of laughing this off as an ignorant, laughable, ridiculous hysterical, conservative over-reaction, Dunkin Donuts pulled the ad. One particular retarded, paranoid and obviously lackwitted conservative commentator, Michelle Malkin, said that the kaffieyh “has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad. Popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant (and not-so-ignorant) fashion designers, celebrities, and left-wing icons.”





Of course, this is the most retarded scarf-related story in the entire universe. For a start, Ms Ray isn’t wearing a kaffiyeh. That scarf is paisley. It’s black and white and has dangly bits just like a kaffiyeh, but it’s fucking PAISLEY. About as dangerous a pattern as tartan (do people run in the streets of London when they see a kilt? “Bwaugh, it’s William Wallace come to finish what he started 600 years ago! BWAAAAUGH!”). It’s also worn as a scarf should be – around the neck, not on her head like an Arab headscarf. Is Malkin going to raise the alarm if she happens to see some hipster loping arounf town in a pair of these?

That islamofascist over there – the one with the three-day growth, corduroy pants, canvas man-bag and iPod nano full of Death Cab For Cutie albums – has HOUNDSTOOTH ALL-STARS!! He’s come to rape your pets and steal our freedoms!! Shoot to kill!!

But, retarded as this is and as easily dismissed and ridiculed as it is (and has been, repeatedly and thoroughly throughout the instawebs and will probably have a headline dedicated on The Daily Show), it belies a deeper problem that only seems to be worsening in the United Sstates. The neo-McCarthyist, massively ignorant hysterical hyper-reaction is symptomatic of the culture of fear that seems to have pervaded and invaded American culture. It’s not really a recent development – I’m sure many can still recall the Salem-esque McCarthy years and the lengthy, costly fear-mongering of the 50-year Cold War. But the intensity has ramped up significantly in the last 7 years since the attacks on New York & Washington. 9/11/2001 was an deniably shocking and terrible event. However, rather than a sober & rational response, as you might expect from just about any other country in the world, the current administration immediately launched (among other things with which we’re all familiar) a fear-mongering campaign that Goebbels, the ultimate marketeer himself, would be proud of, which capitalised, unashamedly, on everyone’s new-found insecurity. No amount of ridiculous, irrational, racist, bigoted, paranoid hatred is too much for America right now and Malkin’s ejaculations are merely a small sample of it. Look, Ms Malkin & assorted complainants: it’s a black & white paisley scarf. It’s a not fucking suitcase bomb. Priorities, people! How about concentrating on something that’s actually important, like taking your government to task for whipping up a national debt your goddam grandchildren will still be paying for when their kids start high school? Perhaps if this administration (enabled by its knee-jerk gung-ho supporters, cheerleaders-of-death in the media and complacent, complicit populace) weren’t constantly making new, very real enemies basically everywhere they go in the world, people at home wouldn’t be seeing imaginary demons lurking everywhere, including around the necks of cute chicks drinking iced coffee.

I’m almost certain that if this happened in Australia or any other rational, functioning democracy, even if it got past the point of the advertisers scoffing behind cupped hands to each other while politely telling the complainants where they could “register their outrage” and actually became a story (on any program other than tabloid standard-bearer Today Tonight), it would be loudly & quickly ridiculed in just about every corner of the public sphere. You’d be able to hear the howls of derisive laughter, Bruce, clear across the bloody Pacific. Australians know a bona fide bullshit artist when they see one and anyone complaining about this ad would not only be regarded a wowser (and no doubt a bloody god-botherer), they’d likely be labelled mad as a shit-house rat to boot. Seriously, when you see a lady wearing a paisley scarf and immediately think “oh my GOD IT’S THE TERRORISTS!!” there’s a fair chance that you have a very, very tenuous grip, not only on your own sanity but on reality itself. Or, as you might say down here, you’ve got ‘roos in your top paddock …

What’s an ethics gradient?

Apart from being a sweet name for a pan-dimensional, millenia-old AI General Systems Vehicle (or spaceship, for you non-Banksians), I have no idea. I presume it’s some kind of sliding scale where some stuff’s okay to do and some isn’t and maybe you can choose where you lie on the slope. DIY ethics, choose-your-own-adventure morality. No idea! But it sounds interesting and it’s a conversation starter. Same as a 19th century gramophone.

That sort of sounds familiar to this massive screed I posted the other day. Some innocent/naive-sounding religious commenter at Atheist Ethicist (named, as usual, anonymous) asked the question “if atheists choose their own morality [as opposed to receiving it from on high because the bible = morality – M], what happens when two atheists disagree?” I let him have it with both barrels and included part of my upcoming autobiography, entitled “Why I Am A Self-Obsessed Opinionated Bastard”. I really should’ve approached the point a lot quicker in retrospect. But hey, I’m new to the whole blurging thing and, anyway, what’s a blurg without a whole bunch of narcissism?

The point was this: we don’t sit around and pick our morals from a menu like yum-cha. We don’t say things like “Right, I like killing people so that’s in, but I’d never, ever steal from a blind person. How rude! OK, fine, if I’ve already killed them I’ll go through their pockets but …” No. It’s not a subject for a conscious choice. We arrive at our moral code the same way everybody does: exposure to the values of our family, community, school, friends and other external influences. Of course, this starts as soon as we’re born – look, it really shouldn’t need to be explained, but I suppose if you’ve been marinated in strong Christianity (or any religion) all your life and have been moulded into thinking that anyone without a holy book at the centre of their lives will have no place from which to draw their morality, I can understand your naivety on the subject.

The simple fact is, there are moral constants that humanity more or less agree on, most of the time (except when justified by state or faith-sanctioned executions): killing is wrong, violence is wrong, stealing, lying or any other form of dishonesty is wrong – especially if any of them happen to you, so think about that before you act. Looking at the above list rationally, there’s really no way in heaven or hell that agreeing with them requires, in any way, belief in god. You simply do not need to believe Jesus died for you or that god awaits you in heaven to agree with the judgement of killing someone is an immoral, or evil, action. If you need a two-thousand year old holy book to tell you “killing is bad”, perhaps you’ve been missing something.

Cyclone Nargis in Burma, China’s Sichuan earthquake…

…what about Hurricane Freedom in Iraq?

I work for a well-known non-profit aid organisation (no more clues than that will be forthcoming, please insert disclaimer about me not representing the official views of this organisation if you happen to guess what it is). Because of that I’m deeply aware of the suffering of the people in the affected areas of Burma and China. I’m also impressed at the generosity of my countrymen (and citizens of the world in general) who are donating money in the millions to our organisation to help us do our job. Further, I’m impressed by China’s mirror-image response to that of the Burmese junta, allowing aid in immediately from all corners of the globe. Regardless of everything else China gets up to, they’ve pulled out all stops to help the victims of the Sichuan earthquake.

The press and the leaders of the world, however, can take a flying leap into a pit filled with hungry bears. Yes, the generals of Burma are corrupt bastards who need to be removed from their seats of power at once, and not just because they spent the best part of two weeks refusing vital international aid for their sick, dying & displaced citizens, but because they’re the archetype of a brutal, repressive & paranoid military dictatorship. Populist icon Suu Kyi’s continuing house arrest, about to enter its sixth year (in contravention of laws that Burma’s own generals signed off on) is evidence of that. The fact that a potential donor asked me the other day, and I quote: “You’re not an agent of the Burmese military, are you?” also speaks volumes. If concerned people in my country can’t even trust my employers (who have a long history of assisting people in need all over the world), it’s little wonder that the Burmese generals themselves were refusing aid on the grounds that any international efforts may simply be a cover for covert operations against the junta. Yes, 70,000 people are dead and many bodies lie in fields, streets and rivers, some actually long enough to have become skeletonised. Millions have nowhere to live and nowhere to go, nothing to drink or eat and no method of contacting people that are lost. Aid is needed in Burma faster than it can be delivered.

So what’s that got to do with the press, world leaders and Iraq? The fact that nothing even mentioning the plight of Iraq’s afflicted people, made homeless, sick and quite often dead by the man-made disaster of the US occupation, ever seems to appear in our mainstream media. Our world leaders don’t stand there and condemn the US occupying forces (and the people who issue their orders) for allowing basically everything outside the Green Zone (which has electricity, gas, telecommunications, large secure buildings and even fast-food outlets, for crying out loud) to fall into chaos and disrepair, putting at risk the lives of everyone from new born babies to healthy adults and the elderly. Hospitals are reportedly using incubators that are 30 years old and held together with tape – that’s if they even have electricity to begin with, or staff who know how to use such things.

Where are leaders like Rudd, Brown, Sarkozy et al to condemn the US and its military for not living up to the occupier’s responsibilities as encoded in the 1949 Geneva Convention? They’re full of mighty wrath for the Burmese generals but will they dare to slap the US with same hand? Some even advanced the possibility of military action to force Burma to allow aid workers into the country, kicking off a first aid war! Would they even comprehend intervening in Iraq in order to provide clean water, bandages and electricity to suffering Iraqis?

I don’t expect answers to those questions as they’re semi-rhetorical. Maybe I just needed to vent a bit. Maybe if the media and our fearless Western leaders applied to themselves (and the US) the same standards they apply to our apparently backward & brutal enemies (but not Saudi Arabia, backward & brutal they may be, but they have all our oil in their sand and their hand on the OPEC spigot, therefore they must be courted and fawned over) such venting wouldn’t be required.

Meh, who am I though and why should anyone give a crap? I’m just another disaffected malcontent in the blurgosphere with nothing but a keyboard and a collection of axes to grind and chips on my shoulder. Shit, I don’t even expect anyone to read this babble. But I have to get it out there or my wife has to cop it, and she’s not feeling well right now and needs her rest.

So, the Rapture’s coming…

…eventually. And because you’re so freakin Holy, you’ll be up in Heaven and most of your family & friends will Left Behind on Earth.

Accordingly, this enterprising bunch of Christians (found via the inimitable blog of PZ Myers)is offering a post-Rapture message service to send “See? Told you so! I was right! Now convert and get your arse up here before you’re dragged into that fiery pit to be raped by robot gorillas for eternity” messages and important documents to your heathen loved ones. How, you ask?

We have set up a system to send documents by the email, to
the addresses you provide, 6 days after the “Rapture” of the Church. This occurs when 3 of our 5 team members scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system.



Sounds very Mish Imposs doesn’t it? And it’s using the email! Utter genius. Spiritual piece of mind for just $40 for the first year. Doesn’t sound like much money, until you consider the sheer number of complete idiots in the US that actually believe the Rapture will happen, lifting dedicated Evangelist Christians physically out of their Walmart clothes, giant SUVs, pipe-bomb factories, home-school garages, bible colleges and gay brothels to join the Creator. These are the people that voted for George. Twice! These are the people who don’t actually want peace in the Middle East – prophecy states that when the Jews return to Zion (i.e. when they punk every last Palestinian into the sea) the End Times can kick off, Armageddon will ensue and “every knee will bow” to the giant mecha Jeebus and his legion of light-saber wielding battle angels. Or something. Neon Genesis Evangelion actually seems more plausible.

Evangelical Christians creep me out most of the time (ever seen a Benny Hinn bible circus?) but this latest scam is really reaching the heights of icky-tasting creep, the kind that doesn’t wash away even after several pints of Listerine…





Maybe I did think of something to bitch about after all…

Religious people – some of them, anyway. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are religious…hell, I used to be! Grew out of it though. Just a phase. Anyway…

I read a comment attached to this thread over at Alonzo Fyfe’s place, which I found via this post in the latest Carnival Of The Godless. The comment, posted anonymously as seems usual with religious commenters on heathen blogs, was this:

So if atheists can be moral, how do you concur with
other people on right and wrong? Most atheists I have talked to say that they
decide right and wrong for themselves… what happens if two of you
disagree?


The ol‘ chestnut known as The Argument From Morality once again rears its head (to be honest, it never really seems to dip below the surface very deeply or for very long).

Yes, it still seems (in some corners of the globe anyway, mostly in America) that if you don’t believe in gods or the that the bible is true you’re automatically an immoral, covetous, thieving, whoring bastard who decides, all on his own, what’s good and what’s not (as if that’s any more arbitrary than “thou shalt wear THIS amusing hat and thou shalt not eat THIS animal and thou shalt not work on THIS day and thou shalt complain to the high heavens and every tabloid current affairs show & half-baked “family” group about any TV show that rankles you, rather than just changing the fucking channel or, Me forbid, turning the thing off and reading something that doesn’t contain the word “shalt””). Seemingly without the guiding hand of a god we’d all just be raping each other in the streets – if we’d actually stopped the raping for long enough to invent streets in the first place.

The very idea that group cooperation and acceptable standards of behaviour amongst social animals is as natural and vital for survival as breathing and eating is something that doesn’t seem to occur to many religious people. The idea that our apparently unique human morality is not something bestowed upon us from above, like a layman receiving superpowers in a bizarre but fortuitous accident in a Marvel comic, also seems to receive little consideration. Equally unlikely: the idea that someone not raised within the confines of a particular parochial religion could ever develop decent moral standards through normal everyday interactions with parents, siblings, teachers, co-workers, friends, extended family and any other influence you’d care to name!

So how am I not a rapist or baby-eater? You might say “look at your first paragraph, you were religious once!” I was indeed a bible-carrying Christian, for a short time in my teens. I was looking for something, I tried to find it in the New Testament, whatever it was was not there & I continue looking to this day. I’m not even sure what I’m after but I certainly know where it isn’t. But that’s beside the point! The point is my parents, whose religious views I’m not entirely certain of anyway, to be honest (though I suspect dad’s a total heathen and mum’s at least agnostic or maybe just a soft deist), did not raise me or my older brothers as Christian kids. They’ve also always had a healthy disrespect for the tactics of evangelists, JW’s, Mormons and other fundamentalists. The one time they exposed us to any religious teaching on purpose was a brief stint at our local uniting church (soft Protestant, FYI) Sunday School. They say they wanted us to receive some moral guidance (apart from theirs), presumably from the fables of the Old Testament (hope they weren’t thinking of the Midianite massacre!) or the words of Jesus; I actually believe they wanted some quality time together on Sundays. Either way, our enrolment was cut off sharply the instant my parents learned that we were being taught about the awful doctrine of Hell and the evil personage of the devil. I must agree with my ma: Hell and its boss, the ultimate bogeyman, are awful things to teach young kids (false & really scary. Can’t get much worse) – I was five or six at the time if memory serves (it frequently doesn’t). I only learned this last year at the usual Christmas family gathering. I’d always assumed that it was because my brothers or myself kicked up a fuss because we wanted to watch cartoons in the morning (Space Ghost rules!) and not cop bible stories. Incidentally, that’s an interesting example of the kind of causality that religious people sometimes fall into: incident A happened, then incident B happened…therefore A caused B! Hallelujah! But that’s a topic for another time. The point is, my one experience with religious morality (before school forced it on us later) ended before it began due to my parents’ objections to us being taught the doctrine of eternal punishment. I started thinking about the fairness of Hell later on: how bad do you have to be to earn eternal roasting? Was Hitler even that evil? I lean toward “yes”, but if he was clinically bugshit insane (as he appeared to be) he might’ve been able to work out a lesser sentence. Again, I lean toward “I hope not”. Again, another time.

The point, which I should’ve assured you earlier was coming, dear reader, (and I’m sorry), is that noone’s morality needs to come from scripture and if it does, they’re probably the victims of child abuse. Yes, child abuse. If you teach a five-year old kid, as absolute truth, that he will burn forever in everlasting torment for transgressing the laws of god at the hands of an immortal despot with horns on his head and a fork in his paw, you are scarring that kid for life. The reason I’m not a serial brain-devourer or sex-slave trader is because my parents are decent upstanding people who have great care & concern for their fellow humans. Simple as that. They loathe violence, suffering, injustice & greed, they admire & respect (and display) generosity, love, fairness & honesty. They wanted to impart those values to my brothers and I and I think they did a fantastic job, all without a bible in sight.

The other part of the question from anonymous religious commenter #400 billion asked what happens if two atheists disagree on a point of morality. Well, we know what happens when religious people have disagreements: holy wars, Crusades & sectarian violence along the lines of the infamous Sunni/Shia or Catholic/Protestant schisms, for a start (but you probably saw that smart-arse response coming a mile off & I apologise). Still, back up when atheists disagree: there’s likely to be a discussion! Watch ’em, when they get in the ring and start discussing their differences like grownups, atheists are liable to do anything.

I’m not sure what kind of moral disagreement ‘anonymous’ (why don’t these cats ever use their names?) is expecting to be honest. Perhaps a couple of guys sitting around throwing back a few cold ones discussing their weekends: “Mate, totally raped this chick last night. She wasn’t into it but BAM! Knocked her cold with her baby’s rattle. Then I ate the baby. Spewing you missed it.”
“Wait up mate, isn’t that wrong? Sounds a bit over the top if you ask me.”
“Shit no, nothing’s “wrong”. Do whatever you want, there’s no god watching over us.”
Yeah. Bloody ridiculous isn’t it?

Atheists’ moral standards are the same as anyone else’s: be honest, don’t hurt people. The two commandments (think about it, you really only need two). Common sense mixed with empathy. If you’d hate it, don’t do it to someone else. Hell, even chimps do this! Basically, regardless of the religion of your parents, if you weren’t raised by sociopaths or psychopaths you’ll have these values. They’re universal. Human. Faith aside, people who don’t abide by them are viewed as criminals, or at least utter bastards.

But now I have a question for religious people: if it’s true that atheists have no source for their morals and just make it up as they go along (as religions never do … much), what would happen to your moral compass if your religion was suddenly proven to your satisfaction as complete fiction – an utterly false collection of fables with no basis in truth whatsoever? What would happen to you when confronted with the undeniable knowledge that your entire upbringing and culture was a lie? Without the heinous blackmail of Hell or the bribe of Heaven (and of course the watchful eyes of their respective CEOs) to keep you on the straight and narrow, would you then just degenerate into a whirlwind of debauchery and brutality? Or would you continue as you (presumably) had been, being a decent, law-abiding person who cared for the welfare of others? My guess is the latter, and if that was your answer, you’ll understand why some non-religious people get so exasperated by this fallacious assertion that religion is the sole source of morality in the world.

A few other things occur to me whenever this topic is raised as well: as the human race has evolved and society has matured over the years, we’ve stopped doing a lot of things that the bible told us we must do in honour of god. Just as a few examples, the bible lays down rules & guidelines for executing people talk back to their parents or work on the sabbath and it endorses slavery and gives rules about who you can enslave and who you can’t. We don’t allow those things anymore (not in polite, civilised countries anyway) and the usual reasons given for that are along the lines of “Well, it was a different time two or three millenia ago in ancient Palestine and humanity has thankfully moved on since those days. We prefer to focus on the positive and empowering things Jesus said…” So…in other words, you’re using your evolved, modern moral code to weave in and out of the more disagreeable parts of the bible and apply to your life the parts you agree with. So, in more other words, the god-given morality you’ve been raised with is actually superior to the morality on display in the very book you’re betting your very soul on. Because of your modern, non-bronze-age morality, you feel comfortable enough to leave aside anything in that all-important handbook for life (and afterlife) that makes you uncomfortable.

So in the end, don’t ask what atheists do when they have a disagreement on morals. Ask yourself what you’d do if the bible and the religion it supports was shown, indisputably, to be a 100% fabrication from go to whoa. From where would your morals come? Would you muddle along and use your common sense or would you look elsewhere in other sacred texts for guidance? What if it was conclusively proven that all religions are false and we are indeed alone on this rock with no heavenly father of any kind watching over us? Like it or not, you’d be an atheist and you’d have to figure it out.