Archive for June, 2009

Pantry Ghost

Haven’t seen Captain Disillusion in a while. He’s got a new video up. First, the original video:

He claims that he first setup the camera because he captured the ghost in this video:

What I noticed in the original “ghost” videos was this: in his daylight video, his daughter (shown in this video) is nowhere to be seen. Also, it seems painfully obvious that his nephew was coached to grab something out of the pantry – to show that it was just shelves in there. The cameraman is careful to keep the pantry door just in frame – to show that it didn’t open. Also, the dialog is inconsistent:
Nephew: “When are we going to see the movie?”
Cameraman: “Uh, after we eat, we’ll go to the movie.”

Nephew: “Can I get something to eat?”
Cameraman: “Yes, go for it.”
(If “we” are going to eat, then you don’t let kids go and get something to eat by themselves.)

In the nighttime video, I have have hard time believing that the guy would walk up and open the door after seeing that. All of these issues point to bad acting jobs.

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Scientology Strikes Back

The St. Petersburg Times has been running stories on Scientology recently. (St. Petersburg is right next door to Clearwater, Florida, which was taken over by the Scientologists.) It’s a multichapter expose of the cult, including David Miscavige’ abuse of members:

High-ranking defectors provide an unprecedented inside look at the Church of Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige.

They even give the “Church” a chance to respond to the articles. It doesn’t make them look any more benevolent.

Scientology’s response to church defectors: ‘Total lies’

The Church of Scientology pressed vigorously Friday (June 19, 2009) to delay publication of the Times’ Scientology story… The church also said the Times needs to talk to more people.

Church spokesmen, executives, attorneys and others flew in from around the country to meet with reporters in Clearwater. The parade started with ex-wives of the three male defectors. All three are Scientologists still. Each praised Miscavige’s visionary leadership and said their ex-husbands can’t be trusted.

Jennifer Linson said her ex, Tom De Vocht, had a reckless streak. Anne Joasem said her ex, Marty Rathbun, “lives for war.” Cathy Rinder said her ex is so out of touch with their children he doesn’t know his 24-year-old son has skin cancer.

Flying in ex-spouses who are cult members to do character assassination? That doesn’t seem creepy at all.

The church prepared binders of indexed material that included confessions the defectors wrote during their time in Scientology.

A key tenet of Scientology is that an individual who admits and takes responsibility for his bad thoughts and acts feels unburdened and joyful. Church members write confessions, which go into “ethics files” that are supposed to remain secret. But to rebut the defectors’ allegations about David Miscavige, church officials took the extraordinary step of releasing excerpts from the files. In them, the defectors admit transgressions and praise the leader. The church says the files undercut the credibility of those attacking Miscavige. The defectors say the “confessions” are given under pressure, and writing them is the only way to survive inside Scientology.

I remember the CoS saying that auditing sessions were never available to the church, and they were only used for later reference by the auditor. Now, the Scientologists are using the auditing sessions as a weapon? Surprise!

About the time that the expose was being released, the Scientologists started releasing commercials. It’s amazing how vague the commercials are. You can’t even figure out what they’re promoting until they show the logo at the end. They could end with any religion — “The Church of Latter Day Saints” or “Northfield Baptist Church”. Or maybe it’s a car commercial — it could end with “Chevy: we’re there for you”.

They’re a bit similar to the “Human Element” Dow commercials.

I guess that’s one type of advertising: just aim to create positive associations with your product. I guess that’s why they didn’t end with their regular slogan – “Scientology: give us your money”:

Maybe we can combat Scientology by just showing how messed up L. Ron Hubbard is — by playing the audio of him talking. (Don’t miss the part at 3:50 where he says, “I am not from this planet”.)

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You know how, in time-travel movies, characters don’t want to change anything or else the future will get completely screwed up and bad in some unpredictable way?

I think that storyline paints a rather dismal view of our actions in the present. Because what it tells us is that our actions (for better or worse) will change the future in some completely unpredictable way — as if the universe is completely inscrutable, and the future doesn’t turn out for the better even if we think we’re doing something good. I had no idea Back to the Future was so existentialist.

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Haven’t Been Smited Yet

Just a quick post to say I haven’t been smited, just busy with work deadlines, and will be for a while longer (so I probably won’t be responding to comments, either). Anyway, enjoy this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic:

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I watched this video the other day, thought it was interesting enough to share. Morgan Spurlock and his girlfriend try to live 30 days doing unskilled labor, and seeing what it is like to try to make ends meet in America while living on (just above) minimum wage earnings.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Posted with vodpod

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A recent story from California has been showing up in the news – a couple hold a Bible Study in their home and the police told them they have to apply for a permit. Of course, the story blew up (especially) on conservative websites – as in – the California liberals are controlling whether or not Christians can meet in their own homes.

FOX news, May 28, 2009, “Couple Ordered to Stop Holding Bible Study at Home Without Permit”:

Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a Bible study — unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.

“On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county.” David Jones told FOX News.

“We told them this is not really a religious assembly — this is just a Bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all,” Jones said.

A few days later, the couple received a written warning that cited “unlawful use of land,” ordering them to either “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit,” the couple’s attorney Dean Broyles told San Diego news station 10News.

But the major use permit could cost the Jones’ thousands of dollars just to have a few friends over.

For David and Mary Jones, it’s about more than a question of money.

“The government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion,” Broyles told FOX News. “I believe that our Founding Fathers would roll over in their grave if they saw that here in the year 2009, a pastor and his wife are being told that they cannot hold a simple Bible study in their own home.”

FOX news summary of the story? A few friends + thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for a religious assembly in a home.

They actually picked up the story from 10News (which they reference above). 10News has a little more detail:

Every Tuesday night about 15 people drive to Jones’ Bonita home to eat dinner and discuss the Bible. They usually park on Jones’ property, he said, but sometimes that parking spills out into the cul-de-sac.

Last month, someone filed a complaint about the number of cars. (Source)

So, it’s not “a few friends” which sounds like two or three people, but 15 people – which lead to parking problems and a neighbor calling the police. So, here are the things not mentioned in the FOX news story: the actual number of visitors, parking problems, and a neighbor calling the police to file a complaint.

According to Snopes, the neighbor’s complaint was triggered when one of the Bible-Study members dinged their car. (Although, the pastor ended up paying for the damage.)

On Friday, in a written statement, the county’s chief administrative officer Walt Eckard said, “The county has never tried to stifle religious express and never will. This is a land use issue; it is not an issue of religious expression.” (Source)

The Jones are continuing to claim that this is a “religious expression” issue, not a parking issue, or an attempt by police to placate a complaining neighbor. Admittedly, the news reports say that the police did ask whether or not the Jones were holding a religious assembly, but they say that this had to do with the type of permit needed.

And the latest news:

Jones said he does not believe the county is being truthful. He said they have been most interested in the religious practice and not parking issues since the beginning.

10News learned that the American Civil Liberties Union has come out in favor of Jones.

In a late-breaking development, Jones’ attorney Dean Broyles said he received a call from an assistant counsel for the county, who told him the county is withdrawing its citation. (Source)

I’m sure the right-wing media is very unhappy about the ACLU getting involved on behalf of the Christians. It totally blows their whole narrative about evil liberals/non-believers suppressing religious expression. The “Christian persecution at the hands of liberals” stories are great business for FOX and also helps polarize Christians. I’ve searched FOX news for any updates or clarifications on the situation, but haven’t found any.

FOX news video – which plays up the “freedom of religion” angle:

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The Poor Give More

According to a recent article, poor people give a larger percentage of their income to charity than middle-class or upper-class people:

While it’s nice to know that even the poor are generous (although, they probably shouldn’t be giving away that money), I don’t feel particularly good about the fact that many of them are giving to the church. I understand that many churches do good things for the poor, but it seems that the poor are also paying money into the church — which might make it a little bit of “in one pocket, out from the other pocket”. I can make a few guesses as to why this is the case: the poor tend to be more religious, and they also think that by giving to God (via the church), that God will reward them back for the generosity. (Case in point: the St.Matthews Church scam.) It’s rather sad. One quote from the article:

To explain her giving, Davis offered the two reasons most commonly heard in three days of conversations with low-income donors:

“I believe that the more I give, the more I receive, and that God loves a cheerful giver,” Davis said. “Plus I’ve been in their position, and someday I might be again.”

Herbert Smith, 31, a Seventh-day Adventist who said he tithed his $1,010 monthly disability check — giving away 10 percent of it — thought that poor people give more because, in some ways, they worry less about their money.

Faith probably matters most, Brooks — who’s the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington policy-research organization — said in an interview. That’s partly because above-average numbers of poor people go to church, and church attenders give more money than non-attenders to secular and religious charities, Brooks found.

Moreover, disproportionate numbers of poor people belong to congregations that tithe.

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