Suffering through this season's severe winter weather

January/2005: Weather - I am nothing if not a man of empathy, and right now our friends on the East Coast and Canada are suffering through massive snowfall, cold temperatures and terrible conditions. I feel truly, truly sorry for them. In order to try to share their pain, I will let them know of our pain here on the West Coast with my helpful assistant, Moxie, my cat.

We decided to try to brave the elements today, and I think we barely made it. I took some pictures of our harrowing journey.


Unlike you guys on the East Coast who only have to deal with snow, we went outside and were immediately confronted by this giant flaming round ball in the sky! It is so bright, and so warm due to this giant molten circle of fire-death. We did our best to shield our eyes, but we could feel the harmful ultra-violet rays bashing into our skin and pores and creating skin cancer instantly.

Moxie didn't fare any better than I did...

Moxie looking over her shoulder for safety

Moxie is a good cat and knew to look over her shoulder for fear of this fireball falling from the sky upon her. The terror you could see on her face was amazing. The terrible price of winter weather was once again upon us. And you could not escape it. No matter how hard you try, the cast-off from this fireball was everywhere! We looked for refuge, for a cloud, for shade... but we were abandoned!!!

The clouds have foresaken us!!!

There was nowhere to run. No natural covering was above our heads. Only blue sky. The trees tried to hide us from the sunshine, but they failed. The blue sky was everywhere today. At one point I turned my head to cross the street and was hit RIGHT IN THE EYE by a bright stream of sunshine that nearly blinded me, causing me to almost get hit by a car. Well, by almost I mean that there were cars down the street going in a different direction on a different street, but they definitely were within throwing distance.

It took us a while to regain our coherency after that smacking of dangerous yellow brightness, but thankfully due to Moxie's help, we were able to navigate back to home, despite some other weather-related perils that were to come!

Moxie navigates us by the untamed fast food litter

Pulling me past the litter of fast food containers, we were able to safefully brave this dangerous winter weather and make it back, once again, safely indoors. It was a harrowing experience, fraught with dangerous weather-related harms in our path, but we were happy, content to make it back indoors to the relative safety of the inside. While some rays of cancerous death may blast in through the window, one can ward them off far easier indoors. No fear of blinding car death here. The peril was not lost upon my navigation cat, who knew at the end of the day, she had just saved a life.

Yes, she knows she's a hero cat

Heed this journal entry and remember, the next time it's sixty two degrees and sunny outside, take your cat with you so you can brave those harsh, harsh elements. And you people on the East Coast think you have it bad.

Just try walking in our shoes.

The pro's and con's of different media formats

January/2005: Media - I think I've done literally, between 100-200 interviews in regards to, ranging from live national feeds, documentaries, print pieces, radio, you name it. It's hard to prepare yourself for a life of regularly being interviewed. Few of us actually say to ourselves, "You know! I'm going to do something with my life that will require me to be interviewed!" It's sort of rare thing for someone to deal with on a fairly regular basis, even though it quickly becomes commonplace and blase after a while once you experience it.

People may say that all men are created equal, but when it comes to media, it's definitely not all equal. There are plusses and negatives to various formats that can please and frustrate, sometimes at the same exact time. I'm bored, need a blog topic so why not list out my favorite "types" of media interviews to do with a pro and con on each. Sure beats blogging about taking my cat for a walk today or my social lif... well, taking my cat for a walk. The list goes from favorite, to least favorite.

1. Live Radio: I fucking love live Radio. I also believe that I am the ROCK at doing live radio interviews. I'd probably be even better if I had a landline. Hmm. I've done live radio on a nationally syndicated level in both the US and Canada, as well as local pieces in Los Angeles, Alabama, Utah, hell, I can't even remember them all.

Pros - Live radio is relaxing, and that's saying something since I totally abhor the phone in general. Even with call-in's, live radio is fun to do. It's the only format that lets you do long-form explanation, with cause and effect description. If I want to talk about our efforts with law enforcement, live radio allows me to do that, unedited, in a format that is soundbite-less. Usually you're being rushed to encapsulate everything in an easy to air sentence or two. That's fine for most questions, but there are some topics that need explanation and time given to them. Radio allows that. You can also get a 20 minute segment, which is beneficial for educating people about what goes on.

Additionally, there aren't distractions for the listener like there is with video. I can look as bad as possible while doing the radio and there's absolutely no distraction. My hat can be crooked, there can be joggers around... doesn't matter. There's that voice/ear connection, with no sight-issues to distract from the content of the message. That's a plus since I'm not exactly Mr. Photogenic. Plus, you can drop a "bitch" in there and most hosts won't care, unlike live TV where I'm sure the host would shit a brick if I were to do so. No worries about your facial expression or a joke bombing, you can somewhat cut loose. I'm still getting practice at doing radio, but so far, so many positives. I'm still waiting for that email from Stern, dammit.

Cons - The major con of live radio is not being able to see who you're talking to, be it a host or a caller. That can lead to the rare instance of both talking at once, which takes some dancing to get back on track. The other con is that I don't have a landline, so I'm sure the cell interviews don't sound as well. Also, the act of waiting on the line waiting for the host can be hazardous. If you get a host that isn't practiced with the lead-in, you can get 1-5 seconds of dead air while he waits for you to say your first statement. A good lead-in to the first comment is always very helpful. The largest con though, is the amount of hosts out there that have their own "angle", be they of the controversial mold, the liberal mold, the conservative mold... it's not always easy to know the leaning of the host in question, making it harder to tailor the kinds of things you wish to say, and how you want to sound saying them.

All in all however, live radio is easily the best. I really wish I had one of those classic radio voices that you need to host a radio show. I can think of no profession that is as appealing at this point in my life.

2. Live Television - Not as enjoyable as live radio, but live television is quite preferable to all other versions of video interviews. While live TV is the hardest of all interviews to prepare for and do, and easily the most stressful, it's also one of my favorites.

Pros - Live television, like live radio, afford you the control of what comes out of your mouth. You can't put a price on that level of control. While there's a major risk of being ambushed on live TV, or "falling off the tightrope", I trust myself to clearly identify my thoughts more than I do an editor or producer. I have yet to have a serious issue with taped video interviews being edited to make me look like an asshole, but the infamous examples throughout television history are too numerous to ignore.

Live television also allows you to do something that no other form of video interview allows... to look straight at the camera. This may not seem important if you haven't done quite a few interviews, but I think being able to look your viewer right in the eyes is a very important aspect of the "connecting with the public" aspect of doing a good interview. You're, in a way, then having a conversation with the viewer, rather than the viewer simply feeling like they're easedropping in on two people talking. It's also quite easier to focus on staring at a black round lens than it is some of the females these stations and companies hire to do interviews. Not saying they're not competent or intelligent, not at all, most of the really attractive women in the news field I've talked to have come across quite competent and intelligent, it's simply not easy to retain perfect focus when talking to someone who is usually, akin to a really intelligent supermodel. That was how my first taped interview went. Never have done TV and they sit me in front of this very intelligent, quite attractive reporter. And then I'm supposedly to quickly think of the word "postulate"? Shit.

Additionally, I hate looking in people's eyes when I speak. I taught myself when in collegiate debate that the best way to maintain focus over my speaking tone, tenor and cadence is to, in a way, "shut off" sight. I find that when talking to males and females alike, it's better to not have to focus on maintaining eye contact as people like to shift, move, blink excessively, or make facial contortions that cause you to analyze what they're doing. This was my main struggle with college debate, as maintaining internal control over so many physical processes at once, while attempting some form of anything resembling brilliance in what I think of to say is hard enough... throw having to make eye contact a priority and it can really toss you off your game. With a "straight ahead at a camera" focus, you can focus on the round orb quickly. It doesn't move. It doesn't express. It's quick to come back to when your eyes or head wanders while trying to use facial expressions or head movements to accentuate points. I lurve it much.

Cons - The most obvious con is the fact that you can do something stupid in front of a live audience that can ruin you. Bust out the wrong sentence, throw in an F-bomb (Ask those I play Halo 2 with, I am an endless stream of cursewords) and you're fucked. It's worse than live radio because if you fuck up on live radio, nobody sees the realization of that on your face. You can cover a fuckup with your voice, but your face will almost always give it away. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

The stress is hardcore. My last live interview I did was on Fox News Channel. Nothing like knowing that you're on a tightrope while three million people watch, AND that you have to contend with someone who is likely to either lie about you, or who possibly may say something unpredictable, throwing you off your game. It's common to say that public speaking is the average person's worst fear. It's not my worst fear, but I can why so many people blanche at the idea of doing it. You can't see who you're talking to. They can see you, you can't see them. When they set you up for a live shot, you don't get a TV or a feed of the program itself. You don't know if you look stupid, you can't see your facial expressions. The paranoia is overwhelming. And then when something surprising happens, you can't see exactly what may have caused it. For example, if you pay close attention to that interview I did with Fox News, the second time they applaud catches me completely by surprise. Sitting in the chair, I had no idea what they were applauding. I didn't think it was my statement, because it was my first bash on Julie Posey. However, that WAS what they were applauding, crazy enough. At the time though, I didn't know if they were applauding me or... I didn't know... free cake? You don't want to thank people for applauding you when hey, maybe they got free cake.

Literally, that was my thought process.

Otherwise, a bad setup can fuck you up too. Doing CNN's Paula Zahn show live was an absolutely terrifying experience for a few reasons. One, they made me stand out in a windy area right on the Williamate River, with people JOGGING around behind me. If you think the distraction of looking at someone is bad, try doing national TV with joggers bopping in and out of your peripheral vision. Adding to that, the earpiece was shoddy and simply wouldn't STAY in my ear due to the wind, plus the show had a technical difficulty that had them cut to us five minutes before we were supposed to go on. I think I did quite a good job in that interview, but goddamn was that hell while doing it.

Still, the ability to control the content of your message is absolutely invaluable.

3. Pre-recorded Television: The vast majority of interviews I've done are pre-recorded television, either by satellite feed or by sitting across from someone while they film it. I've done these for national media, local media, and educational programming. Not very challenging, not very stressful... just... ponderous.

Pros - The people. I like people who work in the video news media. They're typically fairly fun to talk to. I've yet run into a really asshole producer (I'm sure they exist) or a really pricky interviewer. Producers are usually very nice people. Reporters are usually very cool to talk to, even anchors... whom I had previously thought of as complete and utter pricks before ever doing an interview, are damn friendly people. My favorite thus far has to be Wayne Garcia, the anchor of Portland's local Fox affiliate. Never have I had someone walk up and either be interested, or fake being interested so well. I talked to him for about half an hour before an interview once, and he asked me questions I wouldn't have guessed him to even have knowledge about. If you're relaxed, you can have some fun doing taped interviews and learn quite a lot about camerawork, the media hierarchy, and contrast the operational procedures of different news organizations. I was able to read some "format sheets" of upcoming stories that were lying around in a room I was on hold in. I guess most people wouldn't be interested, but I find it very cool to see the inside view of how these companies operate and how some operate differently from one another. Having a chance to continually try to dissect the methodology of camera shots, locations, conditions, lens and such is also quite interesting. I usually try to sucker the cameraguys into yammering at me, and usually they reveal something new each time. And of course, you can screw up and it never airs. My first interview had me blow a word terribly. Just... uncomfortable... silence... while I sought the word I was DEDICATED TO USING. I haven't done that since then, but had that been live, it would have been comparable to Eli Cash's interview in the movie the Royal Tenebaums.

Plus, I've had two Chai's bought for me thus far, and that's the tops.

Cons - The Scourge of the B-Roll. I don't need to go into that again. But there's a lot more. The aforementioned "having to look at someone while talking rather than the camera" thing is definitely up there with B-roll. First, I look terrible from the side. That just doesn't work. The entire "filming it so it looks like a natural conversation" also fools nobody. You lose that connection with the audience, reducing what you're saying to a media-form of "white noise" as you can't really do much that is stark to grab viewer attention. The fact that you know no matter what you do (outside of the group media stuff), you're pretty much filler. They have to fill airtime. You are what they have chosen to fill airtime. Very infrequently do you feel as though the piece is any level of important, even if the topic itself is important. News formats have gone more to a "crash TV" style of broadcasting where they hop around and around. While this is effective in capturing short-attention span viewers (And thereby is the proper thing to do), it certainly doesn't help the dissemination of information, nor allows anything of true substance to be covered.

The overriding con is the loss of control over what you've just said. I've never been screwed with by video media, as mentioned, but there have been quite a few stories that I've watched afterwards and felt like "Why did they use those quotes? Those quotes sucked! Why didn't they break out my good stuff?" Only a couple stories have gone with what I thought were my strongest lines, most notably an KATU piece about the Taylor abduction where they aired my best lines laying into the Clark County Sheriff's Office. The rest kind of pussed out, heh. This has to happen, and I'm suggesting that there's anything wrong with the process, it's an inherent con that can't be overcome, honestly.

4. Print Media (websites and newspapers, not magazines): Now to be completely negative. Print media is, by and large, crap. I've done numerous print interviews and only was completely happy with how I was quoted in two of them (Slweekly, one of the best stories I've read in a long time and the Columbian series by Kathy Durbin) which should pretty much tell you what the con section will be filled with.

Pros - It's too harsh to say none. Print media is good for... well, if you get a really good print reporter, they can do a great, even-sided, balanced story. The recent piece is a great example of this. He found an issue to write about, talked to people on both sides, and quoted at least myself, completely accurately. It also was formatted in a very readable fashion, without giving too much weight to either side. The Kathy Durbin pieces in the Columbian were also what I consider perfect journalism. So there are print journalists out there that can simply hit it right out of the park. Also, print does a good job of writing up cases of arrests. But for every one of those...

Cons - Here's the longer section. There are of course some great print journalists out there. But for every one of them, there's the guy who just got out of journalism school... or the old hard-bitten vet who simply isn't very talented but is good enough for print. Both of these guys want their "home-run" story. That means the more controversial, the more salacious... the better. And if you happen to utter change quotes, miss quotes or gussy it up by cropping quotes for controversy, the better. Plus, print journalists usually have a few stories going on at once, meaning they sometimes just naturally screw quotes up. They're also at the mercy of their editor, who can assign them crap stories that they have no experience covering. The Oregonian here is the worst at this. For the abduction of Taylor, they assigned one of their East Side Portland reporter who had too many other pieces to do at the same time. In the end, they printed a terrible story that was even acknowledged by the author to be "rushed." Additionally, the Oregonian also hosts unscrupulous reporters who will completely cut you out of an interview when you do... too well in order to present a story the way they originally wished to envision it. When the Oregonian contacted us after the KPDX Group Media Bust, the reporter smugly threw criticisms at me from a local police officer. When I completely... fucking... slaughtered the criticisms, the reporter got defensive. Threw some spin at me. I knock that out of the park. Reporter panics a bit... "Can you call me back in half an hour? I need to get a response to what you're saying." I call back. Nothing. I call back every half an hour on the hour... nothing. Not a thing. No pickup. No return email from the reporter. Nothing. I killed the reporters angle and she had to go back to rewrite it. So what does she do? Include my comments in a balanced piece? No, she drops the PeeJ angle entirely and doesn't include one quote, not even a mention of doing the interview.

That's print. That's the tip of the iceberg. Print journalists often have this Pseudo-Canadian complex where they feel inferior because they're well... print. So they get pissed when you don't want to do phone interviews with them. I prefer to do print interviews by email, since I find that proper quoting seems to be allergic to most I've dealt with in the print field. So you either piss them off to ensure that you're quoted properly, or you talk to them on the phone, make them happy, and then they misquote you. Plus, print has horrendous deadlines. I can't recall the number of emails I've received from print sources saying "Deadline, call immediately!" Due to the nature of their job (which is a very tough job), they can't always plan things out that far in advance.

The worst part about print is that I find that often have a hidden agenda. Contrast that with say, Channel Whatever news. Channel Whatever news doesn't have an agenda. Their ratings are determined by feature stories that they work for quite a while on, or big events. Since we're not usually either of those, they simply report. After all, it's filler time for them. Gives them a weird objectivity I never would have noticed without having first-hand experience in doing these stories. Print though will often have an agenda. For example, a Cincinnati reporter covering the J. Robert Andrews arrest. This woman emails me, acts all buddy buddy. I do some digging in Cincy and find out that she's not exactly being on the up and up with me. This woman is a personal friend of Andrews. She's trying to do a piece that will defame us. We haven't had that experience with video or radio, only print. Only print has come in with an "angle" and stuck doggedly to it. Remember, these people are often trying to make or break their reputations with the attention they get. We all know of the New York Times scandals with Jayson Blair... that's the tip of the iceberg. Unlike video media where you move up based on presentation and objectivity is usually inherent (Save your occasional CBSnews screw-ups), print media advances on controversy and interest. Writing a by-the-numbers truthful piece isn't valued as "filler" for the paper, they want everything jacked up x10. That leads them to trust those who are lying to them, simply because they like what they're hearing from that person. It'll sell papers, it'll bring attention... etc, etc.

In my opinion, print media is easily the least ethical and noble media profession there is. For every great print reporter, there are ten that want to run salacity, silliness or outright lies in order to get notoriety for themselves.

I can't comment too much on magazine articles, because we don't do many. I have a feeling that there is little difference between your print newspaper reporters and magazine writers, but I could be wrong, considering the fact that most newspaper reporters wish to move up to magazine writers, perhaps there would be less focus on BS and more focus on content. Perhaps not. I simply don't have the experience to comment at this point. I also don't have much experience commenting on pre-tape radio, although I'm sure my comments will be much the same as those on pre-tape television since it's an area where you simply can't control the content of your message.

Overall, the most enjoyable media for me to do is where I get to debate someone, or handle "tough" questions. The "Bio" interviews and the "What" interviews are fine to do, but they don't offer that much of a difference between them. With interviews one would normally consider challenging, you get something to rise to, to strive for. It's more competitive, and I'm a very competitive person.

Despite my negative tone towards much of print media, I have greatly enjoyed the experience of doing so many interviews. It really affords you a look into the media process that you just can't get otherwise. When you get to see what quotes they use, how they use them, how they describe you (despite your answer when they ask for a description) and how certain words or images are used to slant public perception, you start to watch or read the news in a different way. It's very valuable, considering how dependent we are on these people for information.

What's with the lack of native Portlanders?

January/2005: Portland - Sometimes I feel like the last native Portlander. I cut an interview recently with KGW and Pat Dooris (Who is a cool mofo because he bought me a Chai, putting him on my "Cool media people who take me to coffeeshops for B-roll and buy me a Chai" list that includes him and Amy, a producer from Al Roker Productions. Chai is good. People who buy me Chai are good. All is good) and during some background questions (Age? Interests? Born here?) that are normally used to give the odd little facts about people that media does, he asked the usual, "born here" question. My pat answer is that I'm the last native Portlander. And odd enough, it's somewhat true.

There are very few native Portlanders who stay in the city. During my many visits to San Francisco, it's a big joke there about that city, that everyone comes to live there and experience it, but nobody stays because it's not exactly the city you raise a family in. That makes sense. San Francisco is ridiculously expensive and not the kind of city you want to raise a family in. Not the kind of city that encourages say, home ownership. Everything costs a bajillion dollars.

Portland doesn't have that excuse however, as we still have a lot of cheap property, and more importantly, cheap rent. We're more expensive than say, Wyoming, but nobody leaves a place like Portland for Wyoming. Yet it's true. Everyone leaves or migrates here. At my last tech support job, not a single person in my training class was born here. Few of my friends from High School were born here, and of those that were, most left the state.

To me, there are three main reasons to live in a specific city. First of course is the cost of living. As stated, Portland does good on that. Very affordable city compared to other cities, mostly because it's such a massive, expansive city with more neighborhoods than anything. The second is weather. I wouldn't live in a place that gets any of the "death weather", tornadoes, hurricanes, massive snow or ice, unbearable heat spells, earthquakes, thunder and lightning, whatever. We're mild all year long. Quite seasonable. Our weather is some of the most hospitable on the planet. The third thing I would take into consideration is convenience. While Portland is a massive city in terms of how many miles it covers (especially if you include the suburbs), it's pretty easy to get around. We have a great MAX train system that makes public transit a worthwhile idea, before you consider the dregs of society that ride it, as it will get you downtown pretty quickly. There are lots of shopping and restaurants in all areas of the city.

So why does everyone move?

My guess is that the two things Portland doesn't have going for it are the people in general, and the lack of "buzz." For example, walk downtown New York and you feel alive. On the cutting edge. Walk downtown Portland and you see a lot of parks. It's nice, sure, but it's a park. You don't have the massive urbanization of a downtown area like most cities have. Downtown Portland is very limited, the buildings aren't very high, the shops close down early, and there are no real "main areas" to hang out besides Pioneer Square, which we'll cover when we get to the "people in general" section. There just isn't life in any part of the city at night. Downtown Portland at night will have a few rabble-rousing idiots, but there isn't any vibrance. Everyone who is effusive might as well be saying "Yeah... but I wish I was partying in any other city! WHOO!"

There's no "draw" other than livability, and for most people, livability is boring. They want a rush, they want excitement, they want to be able to tell people of the cool thing their city has. Seattle has that stupid space needle and a really urban downtown, Los Angeles is LA, Vegas is Vegas, New York is everything you'd want, San Francisco has a number of draws, Alcatraz, that place where they place chess... blah blah blah. Even cities in shitty states like Louisiana (Hey, no offense, but it's shit) have draws, Baton Rouge and New Orleans both have "draws", even if they are the social decay of everything good and proper. I could go on and on, most city have a hook. A feel. A draw.

Not Portland, we're just livable. Damn livable. When people ask me about Portland, I usually go on about how livable it is. They can't fool me by feigning interest, I can tell their E-eyes are glazing over by my lush descriptions of livability. No hook.

And the people stink. For example, Pioneer Square, which city officials try to tout as our "Draw" (How the FUCK a red-bricked over-hyped pseudo-COURTYARD is a DRAW is beyond me, small-minded fucking city officials) is filled with moron skateboarders, heroin fiends, anarchists and annoying homeless people. And that's the best part of the people of Portland. A composition of the most two-faced, talking out both sides of your mouth, feigning interest at anything you say, can't get the truth out of them if you beat them with a goddamned hammer, ponderous, think they're trendy but actually are the exact fucking opposite, vegan fucking hippy-ass peace peace peace peace peace peace blah blah blah socialist anarchist moron blah blah blah blah blah blah blah... fake. That's the word. People here are so fake. People say those in LA are fake, but I would tout Portlanders as the fakest people on the planet. At least in LA, they can treat you like shit.

People here will hate you and be nice to you. It's terrible. You can't form real friendships with people here, because you never know if they're full of shit or not. They could hate you, but they'd give lip service if you wanted to go to a movie or some shit. "Oh? Yeah? I don't know... what's playing? Oh, that... yeah, that sounds good. Well, we'll see." JUST SAY NO. SAY NO. Don't say "We'll see", say no! Nice to every fault.

No draw, shitty people.

Okay, I guess it's not so much of a mystery after all. It still feels odd though, to have people look at you in somewhat-surprise when you say yes, you were born here, and that you grew up here, and that you still live here. In fact, after this semi-rant... fuck.

I'm probably looked at as a little crazy due to that.

Yet I have the greatest reason to live here. You see, it's livable. It's very livable. Which means that you can have all the convenience of a city, pay pretty decent cash for living expenses, and live a near-total hermit lifestyle. All the amenities and none of the social responsibility. Nothing to draw you out of the house, no hook, no energy out in that city... no reason to leave often. At the end of the day, this is a great city.

A great city if you're hankering for the lifestyle of a hermit.

And that's why I'm not moving.

My compass is better than your compass, sha-la-la.

January/2005: Society - Recently Michael Coren, a Canadian editorialist for the Sun, wrote the following lines about George W. Bush's statements that only people of faith should be president:

In an interview with a Washington newspaper this past week, he made two statements that have landed him in a certain amount of trouble, but which are in fact supremely wise.

The first was that a political leader, particularly an American president, should be a person of faith. The second was that women should never have to fight on the ground, in the front line, in a military conflict.

As for the former, he is absolutely correct. People who believe in their own supremacy rather than that of a higher being are far more capable of acts of sadism and horror. Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot, among others, have taught us that.

Yes, I know that religious people have committed terrible crimes down the ages, but they have done so in spite of, and in contradiction to, their beliefs. Atheists have no such moral compass and may act according to will and whim.

It's often hard to get worked up over anything Christians say anymore, I've simply become too old and too apathetic about the entire topic of religion. If you want to believe that a Java Bean gave way to the entire existence of man, great. If you want to believe that Big King Puffery of Heavensville created the heaven, earth and Tyrannosaurus in seven days, wonderful. I've ceased caring about the delusions of others, most people need their mental crutch so they can wander through shitsville mortality and believe that they will become immortal fuzzy slippers with their harps and "all is full of love" utopia in the sky. That's fine, your warm blanket of delusion doesn't bother me. I've long ceased caring.

However, it is "Theist Moral Supremecy" that grates still to my core of mostly numb apatheism. The "moral compass" argument has reared it's oh-so-ugly head so many times that I must snicker. First, let's deal with our lineup of great terrible Atheists that Coren rattles off, and his entire misconception that they were Atheists to begin with. Sadly, few Christians really understand what Atheism is. This fact amazes me since Atheism is, at root, so blessidly simple. Atheism is the non-belief in a deity. That's it. I'm done. I just told you what Atheism is. You don't believe in the supernatural, you don't believe in a creator, you don't believe in karma, reincarnation or 12 virgins for every male when he dies. You don't believe in anything spiritual. Nada. No mother nature, no Santa Claus, no many-armed elephants. Atheism is the lack of belief in a god, gods, or supernatural forces that some call god in several large Asian countries.

That's it.

Atheism is likewise not the belief in your own supremacy. This is where the religious libel us.

I do not believe I am supreme. If I walk into the woods without a gun, run into a bear, and we fight... I will lose. I do not believe I am the reincarnation of a great German leader for instance. I don't believe I am my own god. I don't believe in any gods. I do not believe I am "divinely inspired" to rule over a master race. I am not Hitler. He was not an Atheist. The belief in yourself as something supernatural is diametrically opposed to Atheism. Additionally, Hitler believed in god! Perhaps if you read Mein Kampf, you'll understand even better how non-Atheist Hitler actually was: "God does not make cowardly nations free." -- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf. Hitler was religious, and to cast him with our lot is incorrect on every factual level.

So Hitler can't be thrown into our brood by any honest historian, but was Mao an Atheist? Not in the least. Again, it's easy for American Christians to alledge so, but the man was a theist, through and through. From The Kissinger Transcripts, a collection of Henry Kissinger's most important meetings.

Oct. 21, 1975, Mao's residence: the Great Helmsman prepares to meet his maker.

Mao: I am going to heaven soon....And when I...see God, I'll tell him it's better to have Taiwan under the care of the United States now.

Kissinger: He'll be very astonished to hear that from the chairman.

Mao: No, because God blesses you, not us. (Mao waves his hands.) God does not like us because I am a militant warlord, also a communist. That's why he doesn't like me. He likes you.

The chairman believed in a god, he also taught others to look at him as a god. This is contradictory to Atheism. For not only is there no god, there is no god possible. I am not a god. I could not be a god. Nor could you. Nor could Steve from down the street. There is no possibility of a god because the supernatural doesn't exist, can't exist and on no plane of reality could exist. Asking one to worship them as a god is not an Atheistic principle... then again, I don't need to continue with Mao because quite simply, Mao believed in a creator.

Pol Pot cannot be legitimately described as an Atheist as well. Yes, he abolished organized religion. He persecuted Christians, Muslims and all other organized religions. But Pol Pot was no Atheist. Raised a Buddhist, he, like most other megalomanical dictators, believed himself to be guided by destiny, or a "greater hand." No, he did not believe in god, yet, as foe and one-time ally Prince Norodom Sihanouk stated... "Pol Pot does not believe in God but he thinks that heaven, destiny, wants him to guide Cambodia in the way he thinks it the best for Cambodia, that is to say, the worst. Pol Pot is mad, you know, like Hitler." The belief that a heaven or destiny is guiding you is no Atheist belief. It is the opposite, a theist belief in the supernatural or afterlife. A "force greater than ours" guiding such hands.

Stalin an Atheist? Sure. That statement is true although he did at times border on nearly demanding worship unto himself. Still, Stalinism was largely unofficial, unlike Maoism.

The mischaracterization of three of these four as Atheists is nothing new. You see, to the Christian, the Atheist is the one who "persecutes" them. It is surprising to me that Christians don't point at the "young turks" who killed so many Christian Armenians during the Armenian Holocaust in the 1900's as "Atheists" just due to the fact that they persecuted Christians. The idea that no Atheist could make a proper leader due to Stalin, a communist, is absolutely without merit. Communists never make good leaders, for they are communists to begin with. Whether they be Atheist Communists like Stalin or Theistic Communists like Mao, Communist leaders almost always spell trouble no matter if they believe in a higher power or not.

The overall point is perhaps even larger though... the idea that Atheists are necessarily "humanists" is what Coren is pointing towards. He mischaracterizes Atheism as believing that "Man is supreme." Nothing of Atheism indicates this. I'm an Atheist and like I said, I don't believe it at all. We are mentally far more intelligent than all other lifeforms on the planet, but that being characterized as "supremacy" is groundless. Christians look at Atheists and abhor us because they feel that we are saying we are "supreme over god" when in actuality, they can't wrap their minds around the statement that there is no god. So they try to cast us with the humanists, worshippers of humanity. It is a false tactic, designed to make Atheists look like nothing more than hedonists, caring for nothing more than one's self-pleasure. It's a leap in logic that is so widespread with Christians that it's rather hard to speak with them about anything. Hedonism has nothing to do with Atheism. Self-love is not "Atheism" in action. The two mindsets come from different roots. While a majority of the few Hedonists that exist may be Atheists (Though, I am unsure if this is truth), a majority of Atheists are not Hedonists.

I believe that an Atheist would make the best president. Why? Because my moral compass is simply so much better.

In the last 731,825 days, a lot has happened. For example, if you were going to choose a government to live under, you would not choose one from 731,825 days ago. If you had to choose laws to abide by, you wouldn't choose a set of laws from 731,825 days ago. If one were to get married to a male or female, you certainly wouldn't want to marry one that had the mentality of a person who lived 731,825 days ago. Why not?

Because law, government and people from 2,005 years ago were atrocious. Things have improved since then. Moral precepts, structures and beliefs have changed. Forms of government have evolved. Socializing has changed, the manner in which we do it is completely different. Now, if people 2,005 years ago couldn't get say, relationships right... or governments perfected... why would one assume that a book from 731,825 days ago would be the "finest moral compass" one could have? Since then, things have changed... yet, the bible has not changed. Our governments have changed. The bible hasn't. How society interworks has changed... yet, the bible has not. To argue such inflexibility is proper in morals but not say, code of laws, is nearly insane on it's own right. We, the world and how to interact has changed. One should have a moral compass which is properly updated as well.

At this point, I could do what most Atheist's would do and pick out various elements of the New Testament that nobody listens to or cares for anymore. I could do it, but it's a waste of time because you know nary a soul today follows the bible literally. To argue that the bible is even a coherent moral compass for today's life indicates hypocrisy. Few follow the intention, but rather vaguely follow the "spirit" in which the bible was written. Which then brings us to the long-line of the religious who commit terrible abuses. Christians would naturally say, like Cohen, that Christians are acting in "spite of their beliefs, contradicting them", but is this really truth? How do you contradict theism which has no set definites? When you leave humanity to intrepret the work of others for it has since lost all common relevance to the modern age, you are asking for 4 million people to take 4 million different viewpoints on what actions actually constitute a "moral life." Some Christians even go further to say that there can be no such thing as a "moral life" for immoral thought is equal to immoral action in the eyes of their deity. This sort of blanket condemnation certainly encourages immoral action, since we're all condemned anyways. Then, compounding the danger, it is stated that repenting for your sins and accepting god will put you in the good grace of god. Literally, Christians have no shared morality that "sticks"... in other words, that will leave you condemned on any social scale outside of a lack of worship for the "almighty." Nearly the same argument Christians use against non-Christians.

Contrast that with we Atheists, whom use modern moral precepts to decide upon courses of action. We have flexibility, which is not to be confused with "whatever we will or whim", but allows us over a span of centuries to reflexively react to changing times and social mores. Additionally, it is we Atheists who have a greater respect for the medium in which we live. Christians are here and are just biding time until they take the big train to the big cloud in the sky. If a Christian dies, he's solaced by the fact that he'll simply move on to "a better place." For myself and Atheists, we're the opposite. In general, we value life on a greater scale than any Christian could, for you see, this is it for us. To lose this, or to lose the comfort in this, is to lose everything. It is not to lose comfort temporarily until death, or to lose life temporarily until ascension, but to lose it permanently. A nuclear war to an Atheist is a terrible thing, for life is over and darkness will be all that is left. No Atheist president is initiating nuclear holocaust. A Christian president would be more susceptible to "pushing the button" for he has something better to look forward to and can absolve himself of doing it... remember, it's in god's hands, he is guiding the actions, all things that occur happen due to his grace. And, most importantly, our Christian button-pushing president can look forward to happy angels with harps and songs of pure happiness. The Atheist? We get worms. We're not pushing any buttons.

Let us pretend there is a day without laws. No laws, therefore, no government consquence for your action. Anarchy reigns supreme. Now, ask yourself, who do you wish to be your neighbor that day? The Christian, whose morals are left up to their own intrepretation of words from 731,825 days ago, who can absolve himself of whatever harm he lays upon you or consequence of his action, knowing that his acceptance of god and repudiation of his own thoughts AND acts will garner him entry into the afterlife. Or the Atheist, who isn't about to take a shot at you for fear of you shooting him, ending the entirity and sum of his existence?

Perhaps I should put it a starker sentence... never, in human history, has there been an Atheist Suicide Bomber.

Why? If we supposedly lack a moral compass, should we not be out harming others? Or is our lack of a wholescale harming of others due to the very fact that we have the most impressive moral compass almost inherently? The answer is the latter, our inherent respect for our lives, peace and protection would bring forth a president who would act with unparalled morality in fairly guiding the country. No wars except those brought to our shores, no subterfuge, no nuclear war... and a lack of general "My religion is better than your's" angst towards countries with "other" religions.

Your neighbor on that day would be that death-fearing Atheist with empathy, not the Christian who knows that no matter what he does, he will go to a better place. If you ask yourself truthfully, that's who resides next door during anarchy. And if you'd choose an Atheist during anarchy to be in proximity with, it is only logical that you'd choose an Atheist to make the laws you currently live under, for if one is better in a situation without, that one would be better in a situation making. This plane of reality is all we (and you, even if you don't agree) will have, and we want it to be the best experience possible.

My compass is newer, shinier, and far more stable. North is north, south is south.

No 731,825 day old intrepretation required.