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Black Google?

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Wow, throwback to the “good” old days, eh? Most computers used to be defaulted to light colored text on black, but black text on white is much easier on the eyes.

They did this in support of “earth hour“, although it actually saves no energy.

Jericho Cancelled…Again

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I am completely bummed. Jericho, one of my favorite TV shows was canceled due to embarrassingly low ratings. More people watched a repeat of “Law & Order: SVU” than watched the season finale. That is pretty sad.

The show had some problems, but it was a gripping story. J & R, a paramilitary corporation, uses nuclear bombs and mercenaries to destroy 23 cities. The show deals with the aftermath of the attack, focusing on a rural Kansas town named Jericho. An EMP is also set of, causing frying all electronics. But it gets interesting when the start fighting with the town next door. And then J & R starts taking over, and some people start fighting back.

It’s a fairly straightforward post apocalyptic story; borrowing from “The Day After”, “The Year of the Wolf” and”Testament”. The POV stays low and personal, although there is a “big picture” subplot involving spies and conspiracies. It also addresses the privatization of our military industrial complex, and addresses issues like our now standard torture tactics, our diminishing civil rights, and the continued rise of corporate sponsored special interest groups.

Of course, who the hell is going to watch it now that it’s been canceled? What kind of world do we live in where 6 million viewers is not enough?

You will be missed, Jericho.

Hillary Clinton is a Big Fat Liar

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The Democrats need to get a clue and recognize that they only have one electable candidate, and that candidates name doesn’t rhyme with Billary.  While I think McCain will give Obama a run for his money, my money is still on the Dems dark horse. 

Hillary now claims she was “sleep deprived” when she exaggerated the danger she faced in Bosnia.  And of course Carl Bernstein had to say “I told you she lied“.  Youtube is mocking her, and digg is dancing on the grave of her presidential bid.

Speaking of national debt; how sad is it that we live in a time when conservatives rack up more debt than liberals?  Does this mean we are entering a progressive age of fiscal responsibility?  Or bankruptcy…we can take our choice.

Obama, please require responsible national spending habits.  McCain or Hillary won’t if they are elected, you are the last hope.

In other news, invest in gold and oil, get rid of your expensive house and buy a cheaper one at an awesome interest rate.  Another hint, Food prices going up means increased farm production, and the weak dollar adds incentive for onshore manufacturing.

Climate Change: Who Cares Who’s Causing It, Are We Prepared?

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Summary.

  1. We know that our climate is changing.
  2. We don’t know if we are causing it.
  3. We don’t know if we can stop it.
  4. We are not prepared for it.
  5. We’re not even DISCUSSING preparation.

There is a rapidly growing mound of evidence that our climate is changing rapidly. I’m not going to do your research for you, and the issue is admittedly quite complex. But scientists the world over agree that the climate is changing, and it is changing more rapidly than we have ever seen. There is overwhelming consensus about the evidence. And yes, we landed on the moon, too.

The “Big Debate” is whether human activity is causing this. The big bad wolf everybody pays attention to is hydrocarbons. Another possibility of human caused climate change is deforestation. Another is ocean plankton health. There are others.

The strongest scientific support for this comes from the IPCC, who state that there is “new and stronger” evidence that climate change is caused by recent human activities of some sort. “New” implies that studies are ongoing and evidence is still being found, and “stronger” implies that there is more evidence now then there was before. Honestly, the recent climate changes might never be fully understood.

But now we are told that the debate is over, that we need to focus on “Prevention”. I’m sure you’ve seen it; drive a Prius, recycle, and kiss a tree. Only YOU can prevent climate change! Let’s assume that we are causing the problem; does that mean that we can fix it? Let’s say we turned all carbon emissions off tomorrow, stopped polluting, and started planting trees instead of cutting them down. Would this prevent Climate Change? Let’s say we dropped a nuclear bomb into a volcano, causing ash to spread all over the world. What if that might do the the trick? That is preposterous, of course, but how sure would we have to be when risking the entire ecosystem?

I have a better idea.. We know it’s happening without much doubt. We don’t know if we are causing it, or if we can prevent it. So wouldn’t it make sense to GET THE F*@K READY?

Dear Verizon…

I received one of your glossy advertisements in the mail today, asking me to “Come Back To Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess”. As this flier indicates, I used to subscribe to Verizon’s EVDO service and do not anymore. What this flier does not indicate is that I did not willfully drop this service, you dropped it for me without warning or prior notice. Apparently I was guilty of using going over the bandwidth limit on my unlimited bandwidth account. I’m sure you remember how that ended. Oh yeah I forgot, thanks for that refund check!

Not to rehash old arguments; but the fact that you are trying to get all nicey nicey about this service again really ticks me off. So I decided to send you a letter, and at least opt-out of your junk mail cluttering up my mailbox. (Just so you know, I never opt-in willfully, but I probably missed a TINY little check box with TINY little words next to them, so my bad for not being careful/paranoid)

But instead of providing a convenient email address to contact you at, you forced me to fill out this long webform, and you required that I fill in personal data that I had to look up. And then your crappy Javascript validation puked and crashed the page, forcing me to start over. (perhaps you didn’t test with Firefox? Hmmm…did you test your EVDO with Firefox?) So at that point I decided to write to you in this blog instead.

You know what what would work a lot better than advertisements? Not treating your customer’s like shit…that would work really well. Due to entropy I never bothered to get a new cell phone service, so I am still a monthly custie. I never received an apology for what happened when I called in because me internet had stopped working. Not that I expected one, and I don’t blame your customer service rep; you’re the ones forcing him to claim that a 5 gig a month limit is “unlimited”, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to have a modern internet service that doesn’t allow multimedia.

No apology necessary, but don’t try to sell me your stupid freakin’ internet service. I don’t know why I’d trust you with my internet service anyway, I’m sure you’d love to turn my browsing habits over to Big Brother’s data miners.

Can you hear me now? Go screw yourself.

Your humble servant,

Calvin Lawson

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Scientology Disconnects Families

Today’s “Party Hard” Protests seems to have gone well, although the “leader of Anonymous” was arrested in Atlanta for “protesting without a permit”. The good ol’ Southern boys also handed out numerous tickets for honking, as that is apparently against the law (selective enforcement, anyone?). “Leader” of Anon…so silly. The idiot did have a megaphone though, from what I understand…way to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

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Even more interesting is the new website Ex-Scientology Kids, where people talk about what it was like to grow up in “the church”. One of the girls who created this site is David Miscavige’s niece, and all of their stories are terribly sad. They were raised in the church, decided to leave, and were subsequently astrocized by their more devout family members, and also directly harassed by Co$.

What happens is, if you leave you are not allowed to say negative things to your family about the church If you do not jump through the right hoops in the way when you leave and in what you say, people in the church are ordered to not speak or communicate with you at all. Many of these kids have not spoken to their parents/brothers/sisters/uncles/aunts in years!

Although under Scientology Reform Code family disconnects and fair game policy were canceled, in practice they still occur all the time. Reading these girl’s accounts makes it clear that while the policy was canceled, the practices surrounding those policies has stayed in play. Publicly criticizing any church practice or belief is automatic grounds for disconnection, and disconnection is total. If they church does allow you to see them, your family members will have to take special auditing courses to make sure they were not exposed to anti-Co$ ideas.

As someone who grew up in a religious family and later left, I know from personal experience that disconnects happen even with the best of intentions. Even when you love your family and they love you right back, and there is no official policy. The fact that you don’t share in a engrossing time/mind commitment like Evangelicalism or Scientology means that you are now out of community with each other. Try as hard as you want you are never going to be as close as you were when you had the same mission.

Scientology shares this aspect of religion, this full devotion and heartfelt desire to save the world from all bad things. They have a fervent belief that they are special, and that they know something that other people don’t know, and that this thing is important on a universe sized scale. That shared belief is a powerful community builder and a powerful motivator, as obscure and confusing as it may seem to an outsider.

The real question is whether this New Religious Movement is dangerous or not. The fact that Scientology continues to support disconnects makes it even harder for them to defend themselves. The question is whether fixed rate “donations” can be tax deductable. The question is how closely related are corporations and religions, and where can you draw the line to differentiate between the two.

Someone on Slashdot had this to say about defining Dangerous New Religious Movements:

* Physical barriers or a social hierarchy which prevent leaving.
* Financial dependence (and exploitation) of members.
* Isolation (especially physical) from non-followers.
* Sometimes, psychological control tactics, such as never allowing an individual member to be alone (where they might think for themselves and realise that This Is A Bad Idea) or hypnotic controls that encourage a trance-like state (physical exhaustion + certain rhythms = bad) . link

Scientology fits this definition disturbingly well, as even a small amount of research will show. Getting access to actual Scientology documentation is slightly harder, but it is available on the net and absolutely supports the view of a domineering bureaucratic corporate religion. Their obsession and trust in “Tech” is complete, as much as a fundamentalist’s belief in inerrant scripture. If you follow the Tech and still have problems, it’s your fault, not the Techs.

But modern Christianity does not usually lead to physical barriers against leaving, financial dependency, Isolation, and psychological control, although some in some extreme cases it does. Scientology has a choice to make now; whether to be benign or dangerous. So far the record isn’t looking very good, and their current actions aren’t helping.

Seven More Sins?

While it’s by no means official, it appears that the Vatican is advocating an updated list of the “Seven Deadly Sins”.  These expound on the first seven, and should not be considered a replacement.

1. “Bioethical” violations such as birth control
2. “Morally dubious” experiments such as stem cell research
3. Drug abuse
4. Polluting the environment
5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor
6. Excessive wealth
7. Creating poverty

While a return to the socially conscious origins of Christianity is heartening, the exact contents of this list are rather puzzling. According to Catholic dogma, a “deadly” sin is one which will get you sent straight to hell if you die before repenting and/or being remorseful. A venial sin will not. But what exactly determines the difference between them?

The original deadly sins were codified by Pope Gregory around the 6th century:

1. Luxuria (extravagance, later lust)
2. Gula (gluttony)
3. Avaritia (greed)
4. Acedia (sloth)
5. Ira (wrath)
6. Invidia (envy)
7 Superbia (pride)

(Pope Gregory also decided catholic officials must be celibate…nice guy, huh?)

For a modern westerner this list seems a little arbitrary, but it is anything but. Even “Sloth”; in the Old Testament, to enter the temple without following proper ceremony was grounds for instant death. Laws surrounding the handling of bodies, food, and menstrual fluids were numerous and complex.

Ritual and Spiritual Purity were extremely important Jewish values, and this continued into the Gospels, Acts, and into Paul’s letters. There are explicit recordings of these big debates in the early church, makes for interesting reading. According Peter, the important purity laws were 1) not eating food offered to idols, 2) not going with whores, and 3) not consuming strangled or meat or blood. (Acts 15). You might consider this the first list of Deadly sins, although it is certainly incomplete.

It might forget about the poor, but at least this list and the original Seven Deadly Sins were based on firm Biblical traditions. It would be difficult to claim the same for this new list. You would be hard pressed to find more than the odd obtuse scripture that discusses Bioethics, genetics, birth control, Drug abuse, or pollution!  I mean, why is Drug Abuse on this list but eating strangled meat is not?  Are you saying Peter was wrong?

And even when the list deals with poverty, it’s redundant about it. Anyone who is excessively wealthy could be accused of “creating poverty”. Anybody creating poverty could be accused of “widening the divide between rich and poor”. And it would be easy to assume that those widening the divide are probably trying to make themselves excessively wealthy.

Here’s a Jesus based substitute: “take care of each other.  Period.” Do you actually believe in the Bible? Is someone your enemy? You must take care of him. A homeless mentally deficient bum? Take care of him. Your weird next door neighbor? Yup…this is a radical, impractical, and amazing moral stance, but it is soundly based on scripture, unlike commandments against pollution or rubbers.

A question for the church as a whole; if you’re going to start accepting moral beliefs that aren’t soundly based on ancient scripture (and I highly encourage you to do this), might I suggest the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights“? And if you are going to continue focusing on ancient scriptures, can you please cherry pick and choose even more than you do right now?  And finally, can you stop claiming that G-d always agrees with you, even when you’re constantly changing your mind?