Another short rant

Complaint (feel free to ignore):

It seems to me that the current political climate in the United States is so silly. “There should be no legislation on guns because of our right to bear arms!”

“Well, should someone who just got out of jail for a violent crime be allowed to buy a gun?”

“Well, even if we put in legislation, he’s a criminal, he’ll get it anyway!”

First, that isn’t what I asked. Do you or do you not think he should have a gun?

Second, there are so many things wrong with that sentence. “Criminals will just get drugs anyway, why put in legislation making them illegal?”

“People murder all the time, no sense having a law since it doesn’t stop them.”

There is no “one stop shop,” there is nothing you can do to stop people from committing crimes. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps towards minimizing the chance.

Making it more difficult for people to buy guns might stop a lazy criminal from getting a gun. It might stop 1 in 100 criminals from getting guns. It might stop one of the future one thousand school shootings from happening.

But then, in my mind, even stopping 1 in 1000 massacres is probably a good place to start, no?

All of these people saying “It wouldn’t stop me if I were a criminal,” are just more worrying from a public safety standpoint than they are savvy political debaters.

Instead of demanding a solution that works 100% of the time, help your government craft one solution that works 1% of the time, and see if you can maybe expand on that to see what works, and make it better over time.

The saddest thing is the way statistics are wielded so terribly in this debate, and to great ruinous effect.

“Gun control background checks would cost us x billion dollars over x years!”

You can’t say “they would save 200 lives,” because you can’t prove that empircally. So from the standpoint of statistics, the fiscal conservatives are winning… Because you can’t prove a single college shooting didn’t happen.

The really enraging thing, for someone like me who loves to debate, is how much this silences the debate, the legitimate debate, on the whole topic. It just makes me sad, because what is a life worth? What is ten lives worth?

Theoretical conversation:

Me: “How much money do you think we should spend to defend against school mass-shootings?”

Straw Man: “There should be no limit! Life is precious, something about God and the Ten Commandments!!” (Disclaimer: I am using the religious angle because someone forwarded this email chain to me without fact checking: )

Me: “So lets start with a fairly cheap background check program that would prevent people with criminal histories from easily obtaining fire arms.”

Straw Man: “THAT WOULD BE IMPINGING UPON MY RIGHTS! Guns didn’t kill people, that crazy person killed people!!”

Me: “But what if we stopped that crazy person from getting guns before he killed people…? Then that crazy person could not have racked up a two digit body count! Certainly, he wouldn’t have with a knife!”


Right then. You know what? You win. Let’s not even try. Hell, let’s not even talk about the issue.

A rant about gun ownership

So a debate about gun ownership broke out because of a web comic, due to the fact that people are willing to get up in arms about anything. That being said, there was a comparison made about how it is more difficult to get a driver’s license in the US than it is to own a fire arm. This gem happened:

‘For the record your drivers license is a privilege so the state can mandate testing, etc. Firearms ownership is a RIGHT and not a PRIVILEGE so the government shouldn’t even be able to legally perform a background check currently. Most of the laws they have regulating firearms are already infringing on our rights.’

I don’t even know where to start. But I mean, for people like this, if the next amendment said “Right to own nuclear weapons,” this person would be on the market for a nuke in a day, never thinking about what they’d use it for.

The whole situation seems silly. “A diagnosed psychopath should be able to own a gun, no questions asked, because some politicians said so in 1791. I don’t even know why we are questioning it.”

And that is about as deep as the rabbit hole goes, as nearly as I can find, with some of these people. Now, don’t get me wrong, a psychopath shouldn’t be disqualified from owning a gun based on that alone–but like every other citizen, they should have to work for it.

It gets even more ridiculous when people mention that the Norway mass shooting caused more deaths in a single day than any US mass shooting. Yeah, it did, no one would deny that–the thing is, the firearm death rate per 100,000 citizens in Norway is 1.78, whereas it is 10.64 in the US. These are per capita rates, so you can’t even use Norway’s small population to justify it. And to clarify and restate, this is “death by firearm”, not just “overall homicide”.

“Yeah, but Mr Liberal Guy, you are not considering the fact that people would still murder or commit suicide with other weapons if guns were more difficult to come by!” No, I think you are failing to recognize the reality in this one, Straw Man Conservative (I am nothing if not self aware).

The issue here is that the person above, while serving as a straw man, is making a black and white dichotomy. “One step towards reducing murder would not stop murder, therefore we should do nothing. Duh.”

So let’s do a small bit of math. The current US deaths per capita by firearms is 10.64. Let’s say gun regulation reduces that number by only 15%, to 9.04 per 100,000 citizens. Some back of napkin math shows that this will save around 8000 citizens.

But you’re right, why would we do that? They were probably all criminals anyway.

Or are they? The bulk portion of the US death rate by firearm is suicide, clocking in at 6.7 out of 10.64 of the firearm deaths per capita. One thing guns are very good at is killing at short range. How many of these suicides would have occurred if the person could not have done so quickly and easily, with a minimum of pain?

I know where your head just went, and I will tell you now that I realize that some of those people would undoubtedly still commit suicide without access to a gun, but this is not black and white. I think reducing that number by any margin would be considered as success.

Maybe, though, maybe I was the crazy one all along.

You know, in retrospect, I can’t recall the last time I heard suicides brought up during a debate on gun ownership. I mean, I know I have heard it brought up, but it isn’t the primary point, is it? Which is odd, considering over 60% of gun death in the United States of America is attributable to suicide… But that falls in with the much older phenomenon of ignoring mental health issues. You’re right, criminals would still likely find ways around gun regulation, but if suicidally depressed people had less access to guns, how many lives could we save? Using the same napkin technique above, if we reduced the number of suicides due to firearm by half, the number of suicides prevented would account for saving the lives of some 10,000 individuals, saving their families from reading their suicide notes, saving their friends from the confusion and torment of the eternal “what-if”. If 10,000 suicides were prevented, 1,000,000 lives could be saved from that grief, that hell (I am using Dunbar’s Number to ballpark that number. Some suicides would affect more, some less.).

But going with the theme of me being the crazy one and not you, I’d probably fail to pass muster for gun ownership while you would pass. The world is a funny place.

A Political Rant

To those that expect a debate, the below will come across as a certain “Gish Gallup.” I am sorry for that, I just had to get some pent up political aggression off my chest.

I’m trying really hard to understand the practical side of Libertarianism. Recently, a staunch Libertarian told me I did not understand Libertarianism SO HARD that he could not even explain it to me, which seems to me to constitute a failing on both sides, but I digress. I was looking for writing not on libertarian ideals (as useless to me in the practical world as Marx’s works) but on how Libertarianism would even work in the practical realm.

The problem is there is so much out there, and most of it of such low quality that I can barely stomach it.

Take, for example, this:

He uses phrases like “So obvious I shouldn’t have to explain,” and “the body of law could be removed at a stroke with ‘Do no harm.'” That is not practical, that is ideal; I understand what you want, I do not understand how it will *work*.

How about in the case of highways, as per another recent conversation I had. I will skip the path to “how highways go from government upkeep to private ownership, and where that money comes from,” because that is too complicate to even comprehend (though it is often boiled down to “It would just happen once the government is gone!” when speaking with most people). RoadCo A and RoadCo B both own several highways. RoadCo A owns the QEII from Edmonton to Calgary, and then decides to skip on the upkeep. The road is undriveable.

RoadCo B diligently keeps their roads in pristine condition… But getting from Edmonton to Calgary (Or Calgary to Edmonton) is now an additional 150km both ways. Is that the competition that makes the free market work?

Again to reference the above, the author wants “Peace Keepers” in place of current “Police.” And then, of course, assumes these Peace Keepers will all follow the ideal and never abuse their position? I fail to see the practical difference between the ideal police officer (To protect and to serve) and the ideal peace keeper (To keep the peace). Would someone explain to me how Peace Keepers could be trusted, *in the practical realm* in a way that does not describe *the ideal*? Because an ideal police officer is there to do just that; abuses of power be damned, law be damned, but if you change the law what reason do I have to believe that the change will translate wholesale into the practical realm?

The other issue of practicality is that, in this perfect system, the Peace Keepers are ideally required to keep their hands off of the situation until *harm has already been done*? Am I understanding that correctly?

I would like a practical, point by point answer, some day, from some individual, on the progression of a situation like this:

A man is drunk and belligerent. He is angry. He hasn’t thrown any punches, but seems about to.

The people around him can’t stop him; that would constitute harm to this person, and they become the agressor? Is that how this system works?

And the Peace Keepers watch, until a moment where something violent happens? Can they stop him when he breaks a bottle and now wields a weapon? He hasn’t harmed anyone yet.

And even if they try to stop him now, he has a weapon. He could cause serious harm, and the situation has escalated. Are the Peace Keepers supposed to still watch? At what point is *intent* factored in? If he intends to stab someone, he has still done no harm.

This is why so many Libertarians are called naive; the situation above is so many shades of gray that “Do no harm,” becomes either meaningless or left open to the wildly emotional humans making the decision. If you say “The Peace Keepers should step in before people are hurt,” then how are they different from Police?

If the Peace Keepers can’t step in until after someone is hurt, how do you justify the outcome to your own conscience? My own thoughts would say something to the effect of “This was completely preventable.”

The real world is far too complicated to boil down to “Do no harm.”

If “the ideal” were ever possible, we would certainly live in a libertarian communism… But the ideal is bullshit at the first wiff of practicality.

Passive Christianity, Part 1

There is an eternal war within Christianity, one that will never end so long as rich people want to stay rich, so long as the government exists, so long as Christianity exists. It is a war about the message of Jesus, a war with intelligent men and women on all sides, and a war I cannot fully comprehend.

Does Christianity teach socialism?

As those on my facebook are likely aware, I tripped upon Libertarian Christian Doctrine yesterday, and I simply don’t understand their reading of the Bible at a surface level. I am trying to remedy that by reading their primer. The very first thing they say, the starting point for their Christian foundations, is the war I just mentioned, whether or not Socialism was on Jesus’ radar.

To be fair, a very literal, very strict, very passive reading of Jesus’ words allows for this. Oh, you don’t think I should be using literal, strict, and passive to describe the same thing? Please allow me to justify myself.

The core of their argument rests upon whether Jesus preached mandatory or optional charity, and as all things on this topic, references Acts chapter 4 as a passage in the Bible that they consider to be misleading unless read with the correct frame of mind (as opposed to those who think God is not a God of confusion, of course). Acts 4 speaks of the early Christian Church charitably selling their possessions, a la Jonestown (negative connotations obviously intended), to support the group. They didn’t do this because they had to (as a function of a command, I suppose, as obviously they did this out of necessity), but because of the charitable spirit of Christianity.

I think the thing that people forget is that we use the term Charity far differently than they would back in the day. To them, the closest thing they could understand in our modern world to charity would likely have been a soup kitchen; aside from various religious sects, you didn’t just hand your money over to anyone and expect then that they would care for the people you wanted them to care for. At least, I have no historical knowledge of the “Save the Lepers” foundation around the turn of the first millennium, but that is obviously open to dispute by someone who knows of such a charity. The thing is, prior to Jesus, the Church was a form of government where God was merely analogous to President or Emperor, or your chosen title. God laid down laws, and while many may believe that the Ten Commandments are those laws, they have likely never read Leviticus or Deuteronomy. Those two books have laws so strict and so in violation of the idea of liberty that I can’t believe any Libertarian ever made it through them to the New Testament (if you are of the opinion that “I should be able to drink and drive if I want, and the consequences be upon my shoulders,” I wonder if you recall how strict Jewish Law was in how drinking was performed, or what they are allowed to dress in, or how sick people are to be “handled.”).

This brings us to the next battleground, whether the Old Testament law matters at all, whether we should be talking about it. Everyone seems to agree that the Ten Commandments apply, but Leviticus and Deuteronomy are traditionally (though not historically) attributed to the same man who wrote the Ten Commandments, the person of Moses. There is some argument over the meaning and context of Matthew 5:18, for example. What does that mean, “until all is accomplished”? Well, if you take it out of context, people obviously assume that means “Until Jesus rises to heaven,” and thus done is done, all is accomplished, and we don’t have to follow the Law! Huzzah! But wait, what’s that other part in the same verse?

“Until heaven and earth pass away”? That is harder to explain away, and it seems Jesus (and certainly James his Brother), both agreed that the Old Testament should be adhered to in every tenet. Well damn, this is awkward, right? And, can you believe it, this is a line during the Sermon on the Mount. Tough to ignore that kind of gravitas.

There is a retreat of sorts used by most people who are trying to argue The Law out modern discourse, in that St Paul wrote (Romans 7:1-6), in stark, almost perfect contrast to Jesus, that we are freed from the law (Galatians 3:13). Now, I would challenge a person to find where Jesus even so much as implied this sentiment? And why we take it as Gospel truth despite literally not appearing in the Gospels? And why Paul is allowed to create doctrine that has no previous basis? In word-for-word contrast to Jesus’ teaching that the Law is to be adhered to, even so much as the Pharisees, to exceed them in Righteousness, on pain of Hell? 

But this is where the intersection gets very interesting, and I could talk about this for days, for years. I can quote Jesus, and my general modern Christian opposition can quote Paul, and they are both incredibly potent quotes. The side you take depends on the baggage you bring to the table. Reading it and wanting to believe purely in the loving message of Jesus, one will obviously side with Paul. Those who are truly Christian fundamentalists should understand that the Early Christian Church practiced Jewish Tradition. These were Christians, in the earliest sense of the word, who had a schism with Jews, but still believed Jewish law was binding.

So long as the Bible is in conflict with itself, there is no end to the war, for both sides have the greatest soldier on their side, fighting the other side… The soldier of God’s word. What I want to know is how God’s word is considered a sharp, potent weapon when it cuts both ways so equally.

I’ve only gone two levels deep in this discussion, and I already have a blog length post going on here. I am going to read more into this Libertarian Christian movement, see if I can find anything more in alignment with my own interpretation of the Bible, and then post my thoughts for all both of my readers to ponder.

This is obviously not a conclusion, which means I can make a series to this effect. This should be fun! I will write more about it, because I need to lay a lot more ground work before I can write a proper conclusion, before I can touch all the points I’ve brought up with some sort of finality of explanation. I hope you don’t mind, especially since this basically means I won’t be having any one week breaks in the near future!

Anyway, see you next time.

No Option is Better Than CAPITALISM!

So broadband internet in the United States is going to be reclassified as a Title II utility. A high level overview of that is that the government will have some control over the speeds available and pricing models available to customers, as well as having a huge amount of say as to which markets broadband providers can enter into. This opens the door to government corruption, I will fairly admit this, but it closes the door on latent, active corporate corruption.

Anyway, some weeks ago (months, now?) I got into an argument with a libertarian and Google never forgets. Related to that, I use Google Now extensively; it is a service that delivers me information it thinks I will find useful. Because of my head first dive into libertarianism, it has been sending me libertarian news articles with stunning regularity since then (I can finally relate to a line by Weird Al “I only watched Wil and Grace one time, one day, wish I hadn’t because Tivo now thinks I’m gay.”). With the FCC voting yesterday on the Title II provisions, Libertarians are in a bit of an uproar about government overreach.

Specifically, this article was what Google Now decided was important to me–and being as I feel this article completely ignores vast swathes of the argument I thought I would write about it here.

The article compares Title II classification with a grocery store. Certainly, in grocery stores, having a position on an endcap or being placed at eye level are valuable, and the article argues that you can’t be “neutral” because someone gets to be on the end cap or at eye level. Surely, it is the greatest ill if the government is the one to choose, rather than that holy talisman “market forces.” I think this metaphor is terrible, but I am going to need to lay some groundwork before I can explain why.

Internet Service Providers have signed regional agreements promising certain levels of “broadband penetration” in the States (usually in the 90% and up range), for which subsidies are given to them from the government. The subsidies are for infrastructure investment allowing the ISP to meet this agreement, and is the incentive for this agreement to be signed.

Previous to recent legislation, “broadband” was defined in the United States at 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up–which really barely allows for streaming of Netflix these days. Tom Wheeler (a man is slowly gaining my trust) is the FCC chairman, and he has stated he will pass legislation defining Broadband as 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up. The ISPs have fought this tooth and nail, because they will have to *spend money* on infrastructure to meet their infrastructure agreements with the government. Here is where I have to put a BOLD NOTE that the libertarian will, I hope, read; for all the amount of Market Forces you are leaning on where it comes to ISP infrastructure, they are accepting government aid (often at the municipal, state, or even federal level) that is earmarked for infrastructure, and then not using it.

That isn’t capitalism, that is corporate greed… And the fact that Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon fought bitterly against Tom Wheeler redefining what “broadband” is, we can infer that they would continue to not invest in infrastructure if they were left to their own devices. The waters are about to get a bit muddy, but here’s the thing; no matter whose numbers you choose, ISPs are making a great deal of money. An article I was reading was saying that Comcast’s margins are razor thin, as though they were about to go bankrupt, despite the fact that they cleared a market value of $100 billion in 2012. A rebuttal to that argument claimed that they were making only a 4.5% net revenue–but think about that for a moment–that is over $4.5billion in profits that the executives can put in a pool and swim in. That is revenue after they have paid themselves lavish bonuses. That is revenue they have earned after outsourcing their customer service to the worst firms anyone has ever had the displeasure of phoning. It has become almost a sport to post recordings of gross negligence and outright lies on the part of Comcast support centers.

Edit: It has been pointed out that my understanding of business profit reporting is sorely lacking, and I accept that. I am not business analyst. That being said, clearer numbers can be found here for those with a mind to reading them.

Now, let’s work back, now that I’ve laid some ground work. Redefining “broadband” doesn’t even mean ISPs are in any way required to meet the higher standard of 25/3, it just means that on paper their high “broadband penetration” numbers will plummet precipitously, and they will have to invest some money into their infrastructure to bring them back up. A very potent example showing that the ISPs are sitting back on their profits to the dismay of their customers is the story of what has happened in Kansas City with Google Fiber. There was “competition” in Kansas City, before Google entered, in that Comast and Time Warner both had a large presence in the region. Their prices were ungodly, their speeds below the national average, and there seemed more collusion to profit than competition for consumers (which became blatantly obvious when Comcast and Time Warner petitioned to merge, which would have screwed the people of Kansas City royally). Then Google Fiber came in, some real outside competition, and things got spicy. I can’t go into detail, I am afraid if I traced every thread of the weave of this story, we’d never finish writing.

What I am saying here is traditional competition was not serving the consumers, market forces be damned. And if you call Google a “Newcomer” or “Internet startup”, I am going to have to ask you kindly to leave. The only company that could even afford to compete with the incumbent services is a $400 billion company that could afford to lay an entire city’s worth of infrastructure and not break a sweat (more accurately, they bought a massive amount of dark fiber, but that’s a story for another day). Do you think a new startup could compete with the incumbents? Lay infrastructure to bring real internet speeds to the people of Kansas City? No, Comcast and Time Warner were making money hand over fist by colluding to screw the customers. Is that how market forces work everywhere? I am not so naive as that, but the ISPs in the United States have traditionally been a terrible bunch, filing spurious lawsuits and backing anti-competition bills. I think in this arena forcing a change is important.

 Now let’s go back to our grocery store analogy. Imagine we’ve got a modest city of 5,000 who has one Wal Mart and one Whole Foods. Wal Mart carries the cheap groceries, Whole Foods the expensive, higher quality groceries. A small family shop opens up, but Wal Mart buys the full stock of the cheap groceries, Whole Foods the whole stock of the expensive groceries. The new startup can’t keep anything on their shelves, and they go out of stock. Whole Foods and Wal Mart, having killed the smaller grocery stores and not directly competing with each other (separate demographics for expensive and cheap groceries) increase the price on everything in their stores by $2.00. Your $.99 chocolate bar? $2.99 now. New Startups can’t enter the city because Wal Mart and Whole Foods like the little empire they have built, and like that people are forced to pay their higher prices because Market Forces allow it. There is no competition, despite both being grocery stores.

That is an accurate grocery store analogy to current ISP competition in the States.

Now, I have to make my own counter points. This certainly does open the door to government corruption, government overreach. The really funny way is all of the news I have been reading is paranoid that the government will do something markedly evil and anti-capitalism, but no one seems to know what that would be. The author of the top linked Libertarian complaint piece thinks that this means that the ISPs will again control everything, because lobbyists and government, and evil overlords. Well, you are right, there will always be lobbyists, but the fact that Comcast is staunchly opposed to this, so opposed in fact that they are suing the American Government to have the decision reversed, and the fact that they have the most lobbyists in Washington, should at least show that this isn’t what they want.

Is this a perfect solution? No, it isn’t. That being said, it protects consumers in one tangible way already; ISPs have been champing at the bit to create tiered packages (for lack of a better analogy, something akin to TV channel packages, though I am aware this is inaccurate), and this has headed them off. They had already extorted money out of Netflix for equal access to their environment. That is what Market Forces drove; they drove the owners of the infrastructure to treat competition like second class citizens, and I think it should count as a very deep conflict of interest for an ISP to host their own video streaming service in competition with another company, then charge that other company extra to even be allowed to offer their services. If that is what libertarians what, if that is what market forces demand, I think stepping in must be done. If the people can’t, the government can.

There may be problems with this approach in the future, maybe. Maybe. But right now, citizens in the United States have very few options. (That is a joke about how much “competition” there has been between colluding ISPs.) I am no anti-capitalist–if your product is legitimately better, or legitimately more affordable, I want the market to support you. If your product is inferior, causing you to blackmail your competitors so that you can even get a foothold, then capitalism has failed. It failed spectacularly. It failed horribly. It failed to provide the consumer anything useful.

Mr Mises guy, got spend some time with 4Mbps internet, download a few pieces of news, try to watch some streaming news sources, then come back and tell me the market is functioning perfectly.

Unless you are of the opinion that it is the personal responsibility of farmers or rural municipalities to build their own network infrastructure? Because right now their options are sit on a dick eating cake, or sitting on a cake eating dick — and that is not a choice that should be forced on anyone. And unless you can propose a better option (and keeping in mind the horrible failure that is the market forces with regards to available internet bandwidth…), stop standing in the way of people who have put forward a good option.

And before you attack what I just said as though it is a gaping hole in my armor, please do know that I always try to to make citations of people who have proposed a better option–I don’t just tear things down, I try to build something in their place. Not always my own idea, but from what I have read of so many articles lately, the general sentiment is “Government evil, corporations good, because capitalism is always right. Right? For those not clicking on that, it is an article counting the deaths that Nestle has caused in South Africa with their baby formula — but it’s ok! Obviously NESTLE DID NOTHING WRONG, because the people bought the formula on their own, something something CAPITALISM!

Sorry, but people who just blindly state “market forces are good,” and who completely ignore evidence to the contrary drive me CRAZY. AUGH!

Vote with Your Head or Vote with Your Heart

My Dad and I have never seen eye-to-eye in politics, but unlike many others we tend to be fairly good humored about it. Perhaps it is because I live in an area so staunchly conservative that the conservative candidate took more than 85% of the vote in my area, despite my weight (all of the weight that one vote holds) railing against it. In any case, I am certainly left leaning, and I often speak at great length to anyone who will listen (a shrinking number) about how great certain socialist policies have been to me, and how I would pay a huge sum to ensure they are continued for the next generation.

My father is a staunch conservative, and our political conversations often end (jokingly, I hope) with my calling him a Fascist and him calling me a Communist. He did have something to say, though, that has always stuck with me — and it never really sank in until now. He told me “When you are young, you vote with your heart. When you get older, you vote with your head.”

Perhaps he worded it more sternly; I have been called a “bleeding heart liberal” by more than one person on the conservative side of politics before, but the quote has always been swirling in my head. Today, I was reading something written by someone whose political views were staunchly against mine, and who thinks socialism is a dirty word, and was stopped dead by his saying free healthcare is not free.

This is not incorrect, as a rule, our taxes pay for it. I gave that point readily. My own reply was that while it may not have been financially free, budgeting for an extra $300/month in taxes was easier than budgeting for a surprise $1 million medical bill, and that paying a slightly higher tax bill to be freed from the stress of the possibility of that bill was a worthwhile expense any day. The writer did not reply directly, but another did, with the old adage that private is more efficient than public, and that we could have better (literally anything) if we got the government out of our business.

I told him to back up that claim with data, and stepped back.. Then wondered. Was I voting with my heart? So I started to look for some data. Maybe I have been spewing unfounded claims in the same way I have accused others of doing! I would feel a great shame if I could not back up my claims.

So I did a Google search for “Public sector versus private sector efficiency,” and found that the legwork had been done for me.

I found data. But one wasn’t enough. So I found more data. Data can be interpreted many ways, of course, so I also found some opinions by sources I hoped could speak with some authority. Then I found some more opinions, these ones a bit more neutral, but all agreeing that the public sector had a huge part to play in the semi-oiled machine that is the economic machine. I even found competing opinions, though even that opinion couldn’t argue with the objective data coming from Britain’s NHS–and the data showed that Britain scores more highly in terms of most health indicators. In fact, if you look at the larger picture, the US ranks abysmally, and its healthcare is largely private. Here, though. Have. Some. More. References.

I have focused mostly on health care, but that is because universal health care is something I feel incredibly strongly about.

Are the lines the shortest in socialized countries? No, of course they aren’t. I can go get health care whenever I need it without considering cost, as can almost anyone else in our beautiful country. So there are more people going to the hospital. I could go to the hospital for a headache that feels wrong, and find out I was having a brain aneurysm, and while it wouldn’t be my first thought even in a privatized world, the cost never has to be in Canada. In the United States, though, the cost of hospital beds is. A. Concern.

I hope I’ve made my point.

Given the number of references I’ve given for my side, can it really be said I am voting with my heart? Or am I using my head to look at data?

Doing it Wrong

In a move that surprised no one except for the fact that it took longer than we expected, French writers and satirists were shot and killed this morning in apparent revenge for publishing … Unflattering images of the Prophet Muhammad. I do not believe the PBUH is, in this case, warranted.

The idea behind the ban on depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are from lines stating that no graven image shall be created, out of a theological fear that the image would become more worshiped than God (or, in this case, Allah–though that is only an Arabic word for God in any case). Ironically, this has created a cult of Muhammad where I would argue that as a result of the ban on worshiping him, he has become worshiped more than God Himself. I mean, how does one even draw God?

Actually, to make it even more clear, one can draw Allah without inviting murder upon yourself. I think this article, which I will preface by saying has a piece of artwork that is INCREDIBLY NOT SAFE FOR WORK and WILDLY OFFENSIVE generated displeasure, but exactly zero murders. (Link to said article, provided after DISCLAIMER OF OFFENSIVE NSFW ART was provided. Here you go.)

The point is this; killing people who make fun of your religion of peace is not a good way to go about your life. Worshiping Muhammad more than you would worship God is in direct contravention of so many of your own religious tenets. I realize depictions of Muhammad go against religious tradition, but I don’t know of a direct rule of the Qur’an saying death to anyone who even draws Muhammad (my knowledge of the Qur’an is, at best, sketchy. I will admit to great ignorance of the book, in any case.).

I am not sure why or how people justify this kind of thing. I do not know why “Spreading peace via the sword” doesn’t raise more eyebrows in Islamic extremists. I just don’t understand the world of people who are willing to do these things.

If these killings were not done by Islamic extremists, I apologize for the misplaced indignation… But given the evidence, it is difficult to guess at other possible motivations.

Do not let this act of violence change you. France, don’t let it change you.

Something Something Communist!

You’ve seen this argument before, you’ve heard it, it is almost as far as being cliche, really.

“Hitler was Christian (or Catholic, your choice, really) and he killed Jews, therefore Christianity something something killing Jews is bad, m’kay?”

How about this one?

“Stalin was atheist and he killed lots of Russians, therefore atheist something something killing Russians is bad, m’kay?”

This isn’t a fair argument, for either side, but I understand where it comes from. While watching my favorite people in the whole world (Creation Today) they often speak about the “Atheist World View.” I know I’ve mentioned it before, but while watching some unrelated propaganda it occurred to me just how vehemently Christians will deny that Hitler was a Christian. It’s odd to me, because I am comfortable enough in my own belief system to be like “Yeah, Stalin was an atheist, not gonna deny it. But he was also an asshole.” (In my head, I use much stronger language to describe how despicable that man was.) In the same token, I would not find it in any way out of place if they said “Yeah, Hitler was Christian, but I don’t see why that matters. He was an evil man who was off his rocker.” (Again, language for the sake of keeping my PG-13 rating.)

It was only while thinking about the “Atheist World View” that it occurred to me why it is so important to so many people to deny that Hitler was a Christian, really. They form the foundation of their thought around the idea of Religion, and their interpretation of Religion, to the point where I am sure it actually does form the basis for every (or nearly every) decision they make. This is not to say all Christians do, but those that say “No, Hitler wasn’t Christian! HE WASN’T HE WASN’T HE WASN’T!!!!!! NYAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” Well, they probably do use religion as the baseline for all things.

But here’s the thing. Hitler did not use any mainstream interpretation of Christianity, so say it proudly, “Hitler called himself a Christian, but I think we can all agree he was batshit insane.” (Sorry about the language. I think I still qualify for PG-13).

Now we come to the “Stalin was atheist and that is why he was Communist,” or equal drivel. Look, again, we can all agree that Stalin was huge on anti-theism (certainly a word that needs its own category, outside of general atheism) and “Stalin Brand Communism: If you’ve got soup, you didn’t get it from us.”

To say “Atheist World View” to describe people who do not believe in God is, to take a page out of Hitchens, about as helpful as saying “I am an a-tennis-ist, because I don’t play tennis. And all of my decisions are guided by the fact that I don’t play tennis.”

No, I am afraid that is not how non-belief works. I am comfortable saying that some of what Stalin did was colored by his anti-theistic leanings, but non-belief does not color world views. Anti-belief, sure, whatever, you can have that one, but to take another quote, from Dawkins this time, “I am also an a-faerie-ist.” Being an a-faerie-ist has just as much sway and pull on my decisions as does my nontheism, in that it doesn’t. What colors my beliefs is empathy for others, my desire for happiness, and my desire that all people have an equal chance at happiness at some point in their lives.

So yes, Stalin was an atheist. But he was also batshit crazy (Do I get to say sh… I mean poo twice, and still get to be PG-13?). I think the fact that he was crazy had a lot more bearing on the Five Year Plan than did his atheism.

So to give a short recap, because I was rambling like a corpse come back from the dead (or was that shambling? Shit. Wait!!  Poo!!! I meant poo!!!).

Was Hitler Christian? In practice no, but given everything he wrote and said, history is very clear on the fact that Hitler himself thought he was Christian.

Does that matter? Nope. Because he was crazy, completely independent of religion.

Was Stalin atheist? Yup.

Does that matter? Nope. Because he was crazy, completely independent of atheism.

Is there a point to this article? I hope there is. I hope you realize you can be Christian, but also a bad person, just as easily as (I feel) I can be nontheist and also a good person. Two sides of the same coin, and all I ask is that we, on some level, understand each other.