Marketing a religion

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I found a pamphlet at my door recently. The title struck me as odd somehow. This was the text on the front page:

You are cordially invited to attend the "DELIVERANCE AT HAND!" district convention of Jehovah's Witnesses

Now, to me the messaging seemed very strange. Being invited to a convention on deliverance is a pretty serious and ominous thing, considering I may find out that I’ll die shortly. But, I like the use of “cordially” to soften the blow. It’s kind of like telling someone they’re a nice person before kicking them in the nuts.

Further, the “DELIVERANCE AT HAND!” title was in huge font, so it’s hard to ignore. But, seeing that text first it was hard to not put it down immediately assuming it’s some crack-pot scheme.

Next, my thoughts turned to what life must be like to constantly think you’ll be killed by your god. There are others like that as well, notably the preachings of people like Jack Van Imp about the coming rapture. Perhaps living like this is somehow liberating, but it must be only in comparison to leading a crappy life otherwise.

Then, I found an article talking about this convention: Deliverance At Hand. I’m not sure, but I think the writer is ripping up the convention, but is a Jehovah’s Witness. Interestingly it seems they base part of their argument for their accuracy in predicting the date of deliverance on the fact that the name of their organization is the same as their god. “Coincidence? I think not.”

Also, check out the homepage of the website for that article, e-watchman. Their logo has a a nuclear explosion, the earth and Jesus. That’s some pretty good imagery.

Lesson of the day? In this digital world, fun things can still be delivered to your door on paper.

Are farm subsidies good?

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Lately there’s been news about farmers protesting for more subsidies, etc, and I’ve thought about this issue for the first time. It is really complicated. I had always wondered why we give subsidies to farmers and had assumed it was mostly because the government didn’t want them losing their jobs.There’s a lot more to it than that. The biggest concern I’ve run into is that it boils down to a national-security issue. Imagine the extreme case where all of one country’s food gets imported because local farmers can’t compete and go out of business. That country is now very vulnerable should they or their major trade partners ever be attacked.

But, there are reasonable arguments on the other side as well. Farms in North America are surviving today because the small family ones have mostly gone out of business and large corporate farms are taking over. Even though their labour costs are much higher than those of other countries they can achieve some economies of scale. If subsidies were removed perhaps they’d simply go through another round of consolidation and still be able to compete. I personally don’t like that family farms have mostly disappeared, but does it make sense to artificially keep ourselves halfway between the two extremes?

Even though subsidies may be needed they do seem like a band-aid. I wonder if there’s a way to bake the subsidies into the price of the items that would equalize against the cheaper imports as well, like price minimums. That does seem hard to enforce though.

Some more discussion on the topic from Wikipedia

The US immigration issue – close the borders?

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Today Bush is expected to announce that he’ll be deploying military troops to patrol and “secure” the border with Mexico. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12796688/.Unless I’m missing something, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, although I realize there’s some debate about whether military personally can be actively deployed inside the US, and obvious discussion about whether it’s worth the money. Every country does and should have the right to control its borders. Things would become chaotic if people could flow freely between all countries. The presence of so many illegal immigrants does cause problems: they can’t be taxed, can’t buy things except with cash, can’t buy property, etc.

I travel quite a bit from Canada to the US. After 9/11 this VISIT program was started, involving taking pictures and fingerprinting all foreign visitors. At first that made me a bit mad and uneasy, but I quickly concluded that it’s within their rights. It’s also within my rights to not travel there if I have an issue with it. The practice has had some consequences around the world. A country in South America started fingerprinting US travelers in their country. Some in the US freaked out, which was wonderfully hypocritical, but what could they do? In the end I don’t think it mattered either way.

Perhaps I don’t mind border controls because I had to go through a lot of time and effort to get into the US legally. In any case, I don’t think it’s an issue. If the US decides they want to build a big wall along the Mexican and Canadian borders, great – hey, they can do whatever they want on their land. It may be a stupid idea, but that’s never stopped big money-sucking projects before.

I think the real issue, the difficult one, is what to do with the illegal immigrants already in the US. Kicking them out isn’t desirable or feasible because the US economy would take a huge hit, at least in southern areas. But, letting them stay also has repurcusions in terms of implying there’s rewards to illegally entering the country.

I think the only real answer isn’t feasible: grant those already in the US temporary work visas if they qualify and prevent future illegal immigration. Unfortunately those are 2 enormous tasks, with the money to complete it possibly better spent elsewhere.

Stepher Harper: The Liar

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During the election campaign Harper caused quite a stir over his rejection of the Kyoto protocol. But, this is how he spun it:“I think we’d be better to spend our time on realistic pollution control measures”
and
“I think we need a more balanced approach to cleaning up our atmosphere”
and
“Now is the time for federal leadership to ensure that targets for smog-causing pollutants are reached”
(reference: Conservative government would scrap Kyoto: Harper)This made me mad at the time, but I held out the tiniest sliver of hope that since he campaigned on a platform of new government accountability, things might still happen. Maybe he would come up with a better plan that surpassed Kyoto but was more “realistically achievable.”Now we have: Tories panned for cutting environment programs and Ottawa pulls ‘One-Tonne’ funding.

First of all, he cuts the “one-tonne challenge,” which was an extremely low-budget program to educate people on how to use less energy. How the hell does this program, as just one example, not jive with his 3 quotes above?. Second, there are about 100 other environmental programs under “review” by Harper. We can guess what will happen to those.

These programs don’t jive with his comments because Harper is a liar. Liar. Since I hadn’t agreed with any of Harpers platform, I had hoped his government accountability thing would be a reality, since that’s something we can all agree on. Again, Liar.

The letter from Iran

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Here’s a link to the letter from the president of Iran to Bush.It’s a bit rambling at times, but overall succeeds at making his point. His point about the “will of the peoples of the world” tending towards religion, and democracy having failed, I obviously disagree on. And, as I’ll get into later, it’s fairly hypocritical.But, one of his main points is interesting, and similar to what I’ve thought in the past. He outlines some of the teachings of Jesus and proceeds to show “You’ve done X. How can this be if you say you’re a follower of Jesus?”

Now, that’s a bit hypocritical. I’m not sure of his history specifically but his country has definitely done things that don’t jive with their teachings.

It’s still a valid question though, and I’ve posed it many times myself and never gotten an answer. Why is it that the group of people in the US claiming to be the most “faithful” happens to overlap almost entirely with the group supporting the invasion of Iraq and killing 10′s of 1000′s of innocent people? I’m pretty sure I know the answer, but I’d like to see how a conservative spins it. In the US religion has devolved, for some people, into a convenience product. People take the parts most convenient and benefitial to them, and forget the rest.

“It’s great, I show up at church on Sunday, I do my part. My kids are now protected from the evils of homosexuality and pre-marital sex. What? Well, yes, Suzy and I did have sex before marriage, but those were different times. Give a donation to the church’s anti-poverty fund? Well… I can’t this month. We’re getting that new 60 inch plasma TV delivered and the kids have been bugging me for those new Nike shoes. Maybe next month. How do I feel about the 10′s of 1000′s of civilians killed in Iraq? Well, it’s not great, but they should have thought before they all got together and sent the hijackers over for 9/11. Honey, where did I put the keys to the Hummer?”

The Colbert Fury

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I wasn’t going to bother writing anything about the Colbert roast at the White House Correspondents Dinner but then I saw a comment about it on the Chris Mathews show last night.

Here’s the transcript: A few cowardly media types pontificating.

For those who may not have heard, Colbert did a “roast” at the WHCD that was simply amazing. You may not have heard because he blatantly told all the media personalities sitting in the room that they sucked. They dropped the ball on almost every major issue in the last few years, becoming not journalists but regurgitators and speculators. So, it’s no wonder these same media types haven’t given Colbert any press over it.

Think how hypocritical this is. Right now over 60% of the US disapproves of Bush, probably a similar number don’t believe the mainstream media is doing their job, and someone gets a chance to say what all of us are thinking to Bush’s face, on live TV. Not just to Bush but to the media as well. Is it a suprise that the same media has been tight-lipped on this incident?

And, flipping through TV late Sunday night, I ran into that Chris Mathews show, and heard him and some other boring lady casually mentioning how he bombed. Well, maybe it’s true that he bombed for that crowd. I guess I’d be upset if I went to a comedy show and the comedian stood there and told me how much I sucked for 30 minutes. But, apparently he didn’t bomb for the people in reality. The video has been burning up the web. Also, this website already has over 53,000 thank you notes to Colbert as of this writing: Thank You Stephen Colbert. That site also has links to the video in case anyone hasn’t seen it.

The sheer magnitude of what Colbert did still amazes me. He said all this to Bush’ face, and didn’t pull any punches. Here were my favourite moments:

  • I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.
  • The greatest thing about this man is he’s steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man’s beliefs never will.
  • I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president’s side, and the vice president’s side.
  • The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ‘em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know – fiction!
  • It’s like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is.
  • Mayor Nagin! Mayor Nagin is here from New Orleans, the chocolate city! Yeah, give it up. Mayor Nagin, I’d like to welcome you to Washington, D.C., the chocolate city with a marshmallow center. And a graham cracker crust of corruption.

Full transcript here

Will fusion power be a reality?

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Today I saw a link to an older article about a large-scale fusion reactor that’s under construction in France. It’s still an experiment, not slated for true energy production yet, but still interesting.

The facility is called ITER and here’s the original article: France gets nuclear fusion plant

Fusion power is interesting because there is little waste to be disposed of, compared to fission nuclear reactions. It’s also considered a “sustainable” energy source since it’s also renewable. Here’s lots of into on Fusion power. We’re still decades away from realizing the potential, but perhaps this is one of the real energy sources we need for the future.

On a side-note, what I love about Wikipedia is the random information you run into while researching a topic. Here’s an example: PACER was a project proposed back 70′s where an underground chamber would have nuclear bombs detonated inside it. The purpose was to capture the heat of the explosion and generate electricity from it. Scary.