Letter To Non-Atheists

Let me open by saying that “non-atheists” aren’t all theists. Non-atheists are people who don’t identify as atheist — and a significant amount of these people aren’t theists, identifying as “agnostic”, or “no religion”, or “spiritual” (believing in some supernatural force that lacks agency).

A lot of you non-atheists probably have heard us atheists say that we respect people regardless of their belief or lack thereof, or something similar to that, which probably makes you wonder why we’re so angry.

Well, see, we do respect you. The problem is, you don’t respect us.

I really hate to say this. I would love to say that yes, religion is as nice as you say it is, that it is respectful as it — and you — say it is.

But it isn’t, and you aren’t either when you stand up to defend it.

When you call us mean and disrespectful, and then tell us that it is our questions — questions that would be asked by an extraterrestrial scientist speaking to a human missionary — that are disrespectful, you are telling us to shut up and nothing more. This is disrespectful to our views. You are telling us that we are not allowed to provide a counterbalance to our opponents’ claims in the public sphere because our opponents do not like us. And we get mad, because we don’t like this.

But when have you seen an atheist do this?

Have you seen an atheist ever tell a theist or a Christian, when they make their claims, that they are simply being disrespectful and need to stop because of that? Do you have any examples of that?

You can look, but I don’t think you’ll find anything — because we don’t do that. We give you that respect because we give everyone that respect. It’s called honesty and it’s fundamental to any reasoned discussion, that is, if the discussion is going to get anywhere useful.

Which brings me to my second point: those of you non-atheists who don’t believe in a god are still non-atheists regardless, because you don’t understand what it means to be an atheist.

You see, when you’re an atheist, you get this sort of shafting all the time. Being an atheist means that, for some reason, non-atheists are free to make all sorts of assumptions about your moral character or inferences about your tone or intentions without backing them up at all. Sure, you can ask, but all you’ll get in response are reiterations, or just driving the person off in a huff because you asked all of your mean and inconvenient critical questions.

What’s more, it means that people feel the liberty to make insane leaps of logic or sophist constructions in order to not just explain things about religion or their religion, but also about atheism — and your atheism. They feel like they are allowed to say whatever they want about atheists, creating obviously-disrespectful caricatures of invisible atheists they supposedly know — or even real, prominent atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris — and waving them about in your face as if they, the non-atheist, know more about atheism than you, as if somehow all their pronouncements are made law by their burning scarecrows with names and faces taped to them. Not only that, but they feel that they are allowed to declare that the atheist is acting dishonestly, trying to “win” the debate rather than come to some sort of rational conclusion, and not back this up at all because who other than the atheist (who is obviously being dishonest) is going to oppose that?

And that’s only when you merely debate and make your arguments known ON THE INTERNET. FSM forbid that you actually advertise your existence on a billboard, or a bus. Worse yet is when you start making the arguments there. When the churches advertise their services, when the religiously-backed PACs put out their ads and have their fundraisers and hobnob with parliamentarians and congresscritters to spread their backwards views about how women are property and evolution is evil, that’s all fine and dandy, freedom of speech and all that. But us atheists? Once again we’re being mean, strident, disrespectful, what have you. Or, worse yet, the ads will get vandalized and pulled, with whoever was hosting them mumbling something about religious content being too controversial. But when have you ever heard of church advertisements being vandalized by atheists? Almost never — because we respect their freedom of speech.

When you go on a site advertised as an atheist community, furthermore, you will find some fairly stringent rules — excessive proselytizing will universally result in you being banned, as will excessive use of any of the dishonest tactics above. You’ll also find a lot of people talking about these tactics being used against them, and how much they love having a space where they can come in and not have those tactics used. And if you do use those tactics, while you won’t be instantly banned, you will receive a fairly hostile response — and when you ask why you’re getting such a hostile response, you’ll most likely be told that the community has many many posts regarding such tactics and you should probably have done a bit of background reading, and that by making your complaints you are simply annoying the community by posting things that have been posted and discussed tens or hundreds or even thousands of times, mostly with the same results. Why? Simple: atheists have to deal with that all the time in public. When they come to an atheist community, they are coming there specifically so that they DON’T have to deal with that, and when you make them deal with it there, you are invading their safe space.

Furthermore, when you do that, you contribute. Your post justifies everyone else in saying that, regardless of their beliefs being as innocuous as yours or as kooky as Ron Paul’s (or anywhere between or outside those two points). By saying it, you allow them to say it, and you add to the unjust delegitimization of atheist arguments for irrational reasons. Worse yet, when you say it, you do direct harm to the atheist and any other atheists reading it. For no rational reason, you undermine their self-confidence and make them feel more alone in the world, as if they will never get anywhere outside of their atheist communities because when they venture out of the safe space all they get is non-atheists posting and agreeing with this sort of derision, and only other atheists — few, if any — rising in defense of atheism. Invariably, the responses will be heavily skewed towards agreement with the non-atheist position, with the atheist arguments (if there is even more than one before the discussion dissolves into the atheist asking for evidence that they’re being disrespectful or dishonest) left dismissed even though they haven’t been addressed.

Sure, you might not believe in god either. But when you come in there with your “I don’t believe in a god, but you atheists could sure be more respectful…” you prove that you’re not an atheist right to the core refusal to admit that you are an atheist. When you say these things, you uphold a culture that says these things, that says things about respecting beliefs while stomping on the face of atheism with every breath.

To be an atheist requires ignoring the words and focusing on the boot. It requires knocking the flimsy stool out from underneath the mountain of pleasent lies constructed by religion and its abettors and not only admitting that atheists are marginalized but fighting back. It means calling out the bullshit niceties trotted out about religion when the crazies are drumming up US Senate votes for their latest hare-brained initiative. It means standing up and saying “that’s wrong and fucked up on so many levels” when religious apologists assert that parents own their children right down to being allowed to dictate what superstitions their children do or do not believe. It means dispensing with all of this idiotic framing of things in terms of the non-atheist’s “offense” rather than this “offense” being the driving force behind the maintenance of religious privilege. And it means admitting that you’ve been doing harm too, by upholding the edifice of religion even as a “nice” nonreligious person.

Being an atheist, in short, means being honest.

But being honest doesn’t necessarily mean being an atheist. I could give a fuck less if you’re Christian, or Buddhist, or “spiritual”, or even “freezone” Scientologist. Just be honest, and stand with me when I call out dishonesty for what it is — I and the atheists who stand with me will be more than happy to call you an ally. We’re not mad at you. We’re never really mad at you, unless you yourself give us reason to be. We are mad at what you are saying, what you are doing, what you are upholding — and if you stop saying, doing and upholding those things, we will welcome you with open arms and a cask of grog as a valued ally. Indeed, because atheism is a choice, we are seen as less deserving of allies than other marginalized groups; the amount of non-atheist allies that I know about can be counted on one hand and worse yet I know them all on a personal level, not merely as prominent names.

All we’re asking is that you stop thinking about you being offended, and instead think of us being harmed. Offense is not harm, and your offense at our position isn’t remotely close to the harm done to us by your silencing “offense”.

So stop.


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On Reality

“You have faith too — faith in reality!” — common theist/religionist argument

Yes. I do have faith that reality exists. But this is pointless nothing because we all do, as it is necessary to survive and we can`t really ignore what happens if we ignore some of the obvious and even not so obvious aspects of reality. I take that reality is real on faith — so what? You do too, since you are making claims about it that can be backed up with evidence from it (unless the claims are made so meaningless that they would be more readily attributed to the weakest of charlatans and crooks). So back them up and be honest. Taking for granted that reality is, as we both do, show how your claims are correct.

Until then, you get nothing. You lose. Good day, (appropriate pronoun here)!

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Why I refuse to debate in person

1. Debate in person requires reliance on memory while debate in text uses direct quotations.

2. In text, there is no pressure to respond within a given amount of time; one has as much or as little time as one needs to make a clear, well-supported response where any misunderstanding would be the fault of the listener, not the speaker.

3. In person, points have to be addressed serially which can easily cause relevance issues as one tries to raise other points while an initial point is being discussed. Text debates allow full, point-by-point responses where discussions on multiple points can happen at the same time and the separation between these points made clear. Long explanations also do not need to be cut off in the middle for further explanations — the explanation can be read in full, and then clarified.

4. There is no intimidating presence, making it impossible to shout someone down or otherwise bully them into silence. Even if multiple people gang up on a single person, that single person can respond to the multiple people in one post rather than having to shift between multiple related conversations with different people possibly asking wildly different questions.

5. Factual citations can be included in text for further research.
5a. On the Internet, this research can be done easily.

6. The lack of time constraints in text helps to prevent the use of rhetorical tricks, as one can step back and look at the argument again, or even go to someone else for a second perspective if they feel that the argument is ‘off’ (that is, it seems to make sense but has the echoes of an argument that in fact does not at all, or it seems to make sense but does not seem to make any valuable or relevant point, if any at all).

7. No one will complain about how loud you’re typing in a text debate, unless you’re at a library with really old keyboards.

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My silent protest

You tell me my virtues are beyond words. That I am deserving of all the help I need to get onto the same level, because all of us know that fundamentally I am different and have been different, by my own actions, the actions of others, and my sheer nature.

You wax eloquent about how I have done so much and do so much, how I bend over backwards to be nice and care about other people and have done virtually nothing — or indeed nothing at all — deserving of the mistreatment you admit I receive.

You say this as you take the pipe from my hand, as I put the drink down in front of you, as I come back with an extra cheeseburger or handful of candy, as I lend you a tiny bit more money to cover the rent.

But when we’re among friends, socializing, drinking, I sit alone. You all talk, smile, have fun, and when I ask why I am left alone you claim it is my fault somehow, even though when I talk no one responds, and when I am given attention it is temporary and perfunctory, and I am lucky to have five consecutive minutes where I am not alone.

When it comes to action, your words go out the window, and I am deserving of the mistreatment, the total ignorance I receive.

That is, until you need another drink — and when I tell you ‘no’, I’m an asshole.

And you almost never care when I sit in my room, where I am the least alone that I could ever be, surrounded by all of my real friends…so how, then, can you call me ‘friend’?

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“Calories in, calories out” completely debunked by not being an idiot about chemistry

ΛE = Λq + ΛW

That is the equation to calculate the amount of energy (positive or negative) in a chemical reaction. E is total energy, q is the temperature of the system and W is the work done on or by the system.

To find q, you would need to know the substances you’re dealing with, their specific heat capacities, and what reactions they’re going through. If you’re applying more than one reaction, you need to take the equations for both reactions and add them together.

Furthermore, specific heat capacity only applies under given conditions. Most specific heat capacities will be tailored to standard laboratory conditions (ambient pressure ≈101.4 kPa, temperature ≈24°C), but heat capacity varies based on temperature (the heat capacity of water is 4.1855 [J/(g·K)] at 15°C and 2.259 [J/(g·K)] at 25°C), and the human body has an internal temperature of 36.6°C.

“But Setar, isn’t there a lot of energy in food? You know those labels say calories when they mean kcal, right?”

Oh, I know. There’s two problems with that:

1) The body expends energy to break the food down in the first place. Your digestive system is not run by a wizard (though that would be cool, and explain irregular bowels quite well), it needs energy just as much as the rest of your body does.

2) Obviously, not all of the food we eat is taken up by the body in the first place, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about bowels at all.

3…wait, crap, let me start over again. Among the problems with saying that there’s a ton of energy in the food and therefore the first law of thermodynamics holds…

3) Not all of the energy is taken up in the same way, and the body manages how that is done quite well.

4) Remember how I said that the equation only applies to a single given reaction under set conditions? Well, nutrients go under a hell of a lot more reactions after they’re taken up. The most famous cycle is the citric acid or Krebs cycle, and to get the energy output, you’d need to add up the energy equations for ALL of the reactions in that cycle.

And then you’d need to add in the reactions from all the other cycles in the cell that help to convert the nutrients into usable energy, and you’d have the total energy output over that cycle of reactions. You’d then somehow need to tie the energy inputs to concentrations of nutrients, and trace those nutrients back to the food they came from, and figure out how much of the energy present in that food actually makes it to the cell.

Getting complicated yet? Because it gets worse.

If you do all that, you will get the food intake to energy output ratio…for one cell. In one part of your body, under one set of conditions. And the intake-output ratios will be vastly different over differing types of cells in your body, and different parts of your body. To get the intake and translate it into something meaningful like weight loss — such as fat deposits — you’d need to intensely monitor what you ate, figure out what it would get taken up as in the digestive system, and then monitor your body and see how it worked out and where all this food actually ended up. You’d also need to account for other confounding factors such as your genetic structure and general life. Then you’d need to figure out how much energy your body puts out over a given period of time — and that is a lot more than just exercising; you would probably want to use a given 24-hour period to cross a range of activities including sleep. And then you’d need to monitor how changing that affected your fat/muscle/energy distribution.

And then you’d figure out exactly how much fat you’ll put on by having that extra brownie or bigger slice of cake. My guess, however, is not much, and if you’re not willing to have that bigger slice of cake then I guess it just means more for me ^_^

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“Brave Sir Robin” doesn’t describe half of it

Accommodationists and self-professed ‘agnostics’ are cowards; it’s not really hard to tell that, since the entire argument is a tone argument against atheism. They attack the messengers, not the message; they claim that atheism is too ‘strident’ or ‘extremist’ and harp on about the invisible fundamentalist atheists who berate all the religious people they know every day — or the invisible fundamentalist arguments of every prominent atheist from the “Four Horsemen” to us gnu atheists who include a social justice worldview based on making society better for all of its members while retaining individuality — which is a hard balance, but it’s not like we’re going to get there if we’re ideologically shackled.

There’s another half to it: atheists are marginalized. If you’re an atheist, it becomes acceptable for your opponent to start launching tone arguments or declare that they won’t answer your question because they don’t want to and by the way you’re trying to rob me of my faith how dare you ask that question of me. It becomes acceptable to insinuate that atheists do not have a system of morals or ethics, and it becomes acceptable to look down on them as lesser, as “limited”, “closed-minded”, “mundane”, “hopeless” know-nothings who would be so much better if they just believed some form of claptrap. It also becomes acceptable to simply project logical faults onto them and dismiss their arguments with only a superficial address that claims fault with little, if any, description of how this fault actually occurred, or that appeals to “obvious” common knowledge (with, of course, no regard being paid to how obvious it actually is if someone is asking them about it).

Worse yet, it becomes acceptable to not vote for one for President of the United States. In some areas of the United States (most notably Utah) it is possible to be denied a livelihood and run the risk of being beaten or murdered if one is openly atheist (the mere fact that I must refer to it as “openly atheist” in the same way one would refer to “openly gay” or “openly transgendered” is itself problematic). It is acceptable in certain areas to enforce sectarian prayer at public school graduation and ostracize an atheist for supporting freedom of religion.

So for the accommodationists, it’s not just about having to admit wrong and that religion isn’t this special, mystical thing. It’s not just intellectual cowardice.

It’s about not wanting to take up a new fight, a harder fight than an intellectual battle for science and skepticism. It’s about fighting back at the single largest establishment that perpetuates and has spent almost all of its existence ingraining the anti-science, anti-critical thought measures meant for its preservation into society. It’s about admitting that the roots of all quackery are intertwined with religion, and that quackery feeds off of religious privilege, and that they and their fellow wishy-washy ‘moderates’ do so as well.

And if you’re admitting it — actually admitting it, not just paying lip-service — you have to fight back against it. That fight is very hard — ask GBLT activists (heavy emphasis on the T here), feminists, people against the health-industrial complex…or atheists, especially gnu atheists.

Surplus accommodationist weaponry for sale — never used, dropped once.

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On class warfare and our current situation

I wanted to write a post about the ongoing class war — because that’s what it is, and we the people are losing to the faceless corporations and their entitlement complexes.

The only thing that came to mind, though, was something of George Orwell’s that I feel describes it perfectly:

Chapter I
Ignorance is Strength
Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different
names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other


The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the High is to remain where they are. The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low, when they have an aim — for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives — is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal. Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its main outlines recurs over and over again. For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on
their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again. Of the three groups, only the Low are never even temporarily successful in achieving their aims. It would be an exaggeration to say that throughout history there has been no progress of a material kind. Even today, in a period of decline, the average human being is physically better off than he was a few centuries ago. But no advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimetre nearer. From the point of
view of the Low, no historic change has ever meant much more than a change in the name of their masters.

By the late nineteenth century the recurrence of this pattern had become obvious to many observers. There then rose schools of thinkers who interpreted history as a cyclical process and claimed to show that inequality was the unalterable law of human life. This doctrine, of course, had always had its adherents, but in the manner in which it was now put forward there was a significant change. In the past the need for a hierarchical form of society had been the doctrine specifically of the High. It had been preached by kings and aristocrats and by the priests, lawyers, and the like who were parasitical upon them, and it had generally been softened by promises of compensation in an imaginary world beyond the grave. The Middle, so long as it was struggling for power, had always made use of such terms as freedom, justice, and fraternity. Now, however, the concept of human brotherhood began to be assailed by people who were not yet in positions of command, but merely hoped to be so before long. In the past the Middle had made revolutions under the banner of equality, and then had established a fresh tyranny as soon as the old one was overthrown. The new Middle groups in effect proclaimed their tyranny beforehand. Socialism, a theory which appeared in the early nineteenth century and was the last link in a chain of thought stretching back to the slave rebellions of antiquity, was still deeply infected by the Utopianism of past ages. But in each variant of Socialism that appeared from about 1900 onwards the aim of establishing liberty and equality was more and more openly abandoned. The new movements which appeared in the middle years of the century, Ingsoc in Oceania, Neo-Bolshevism in Eurasia, Death-Worship, as it is commonly called, in Eastasia, had the conscious aim of perpetuating unfreedom and inequality. These new movements, of course, grew out of the old ones and tended to keep their names and pay lip-service to their ideology. But the purpose of all of them was to arrest progress and freeze history at a chosen moment. The familiar pendulum swing was to happen once more, and then stop. As usual, the High were to be turned out by the Middle, who would then
become the High; but this time, by conscious strategy, the High would be able to maintain their position permanently.
The new doctrines arose partly because of the accumulation of historical knowledge, and the growth of the historical sense, which had hardly existed before the nineteenth century. The cyclical movement of history was now intelligible, or appeared to be so; and if it was intelligible, then it was alterable. But the principal, underlying cause was that, as early as the beginning of the twentieth century, human equality had become technically possible. It was still true that men were not equal in their native talents and that functions had to be specialized in ways that favoured some individuals against others; but there was no longer any real need for class distinctions or for large differences of wealth. In earlier ages, class distinctions had been not only inevitable but desirable. Inequality was the price of civilization. With the development of machine production, however, the case was altered. Even if it was still necessary for human beings to do different kinds of work, it was no longer necessary for them to live at different social or economic levels. Therefore, from the point of view of the new groups who were on the point of seizing power, human
equality was no longer an ideal to be striven after, but a danger to be averted. In more primitive ages, when a just and peaceful society was in fact not possible, it had been fairly easy to believe it. The idea of an earthly paradise in which men should live together in a state of brotherhood, without laws and without brute labour, had haunted the human imagination for thousands of years. And this vision had had a
certain hold even on the groups who actually profited by each historical change. The heirs of the French, English, and American revolutions had partly believed in their own phrases about the rights of man, freedom of speech, equality before the law, and the like, and have even allowed their conduct to be influenced by them to some extent. But by the fourth decade of the twentieth century all the main currents
of political thought were authoritarian. The earthly paradise had been discredited at exactly the moment when it became realizable. Every new political theory, by whatever name it called itself, led back to hierarchy and regimentation. And in the general hardening of outlook that set in round about 1930, practices which had been long abandoned, in some cases for hundreds of years—imprisonment without trial, the use of war prisoners as slaves, public executions, torture to extract confessions, the use of hostages, and the deportation of whole populations-not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive.

Only it is much, much more accurately applied to now. No matter how much it seems to not work, we hear almost nothing but calls for more austerity from even our so-called ‘progressive’ politicians.

He who controls the present, controls the past.

He who controls the past, controls the future…

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What, are we all five years old now?

I don’t get it.

Most people in the skeptical community have gotten involved in the so-called “Elevatorgate” (having come to hate the use of the suffix “-gate”, I prefer to call it the D-W event) involving Rebecca Watson and Richard Dawkins. I’m not going to get into the Dawkins issue, even though he was a bit of a major asshole.

What I don’t get is that after four long comment threads on Pharyngula, one and an ongoing one at Skepchick, one at Blag Hag, and probably countless elsewhere, people are STILL trying to say that nothing bad happened because Rebecca wasn’t actually threatened, let alone assaulted. Somehow, none of the people defending this notion realize that not only is there a difference between being threatened and feeling threatened, but also that one does not have to necessarily be threatened in order to feel threatened.

Oh, wait, that’s right. She shouldn’t feel threatened because she had the right to reject. She controls the sex, after all, she’s a woman! It’s not like he could have done anything in an elevator, which is a closed and confined space…I mean, it’s not like elevators have a STOP button or anything, why, that would be preposterous!

Seriously. Are my fellow men all five years old or something?

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Why Christy Clark didn’t show up for the debate

(From the Hansard , Volume 24, Number 2, pages 7655-58)

A. Dix: Everyone in B.C. knows that the B.C. Liberals misled people in the last election about the HST. In fact, according to the Premier herself…

Mr. Speaker: Members.

A. Dix: …about all her colleagues, they were sneaky — well, perhaps with the exception of the member for Burnaby-Lougheed. But what’s the Premier’s record? She said two months ago that she wouldn’t change the rate of the HST or even talk about it before the election because that would be “buying votes,” and then she did the opposite. In her own words, she went out and bought votes. She promised: “I’m not going to be out there cheerleading and trying to give people some kind of snow job.” Now she’s spending $5 million in taxpayers’ money on partisan ads.


A. Dix: Oh, I know. Sneaky.

She promised equal funding for both sides in the debate. She broke that promise. She promised that the referendum will be conducted in the same manner as a provincial election, and she broke that promise.

How can the people of B.C. believe anything the B.C. Liberals or the Premier have to say about the HST?

Hon. C. Clark: I’d like to welcome the Leader of the Opposition. I’m glad he showed up today. It’s nice to hear him with a question about the HST. I’m delighted to have my opportunity and get up and speak to it.

Of course, the member for Cowichan Valley was so eloquent today. He talked a lot about going backward to the decade that we saw in the 1990s when 50,000 people fled the province. I think he reminded all of us about what the future could hold if we go back to a party where they’re talking about having a 12 percent tax for British Columbians versus a 10 percent tax. I think that when British Columbians fill out their ballots on the 24th, they’re certainly going to be making their own decision about it, and we will live by the verdict that they hand us.

But I do think, though, when they’re faced with that decision, when they’re faced with the decision for the opposition’s call for a 12 percent tax or the government’s proposal for a 10 percent tax — which, after all, is a whole lot better for B.C. families, I think — I know which one they’ll choose.

She doesn’t answer questions. Probably because she can’t — that’d make her look bad.

And it continues:

A. Dix: You know, I have to say, hon. Speaker, for the Premier, that it’s not every day you bring in closure on yourself.

She wants a 7 percent tax on a sandwich in a coffee shop. I want a zero percent tax. She wants a 7 percent tax on children’s sports programs. I want a zero percent tax. She wants a 7 percent tax on bicycles. I want a zero percent tax.

Now, if the Premier had kept her word, there would be third-party spending limits in this referendum campaign. If the Premier had kept her word, there would be disclosure of who paid for the ads, and the Premier’s taxpayer-funded stick men wouldn’t be allowed. They’re costing us $5 million — money that could be better spent keeping group homes open for people with developmental disabilities. Partisan B.C. Liberal ads in a provincial election put out by the provincial government would be illegal.

The Premier has changed the rules, broken her word to stack the deck. So why doesn’t she do the people of B.C. a favour and put a stop to those partisan ads today.

Hon. C. Clark: You know, for over a year now the members of the opposition have been saying that the government didn’t do enough to talk to people, that the government didn’t do enough to listen to people. What we’ve done is we’ve gone out and we’ve listened to British Columbians. We’ve listened to about 300,000 British Columbians. It’s the biggest listening exercise in the history of the province.

We are communicating with British Columbians. We are making sure that British Columbians have all the information they need to be able to cast an informed ballot on this issue. And I think, while the member can come up with all kinds of excuses and all kinds of reasons in advance why he thinks people might not vote his way on it, the real reason that people will probably — I hope — decide not to support the New Democrats’ position on this is because they want to increase taxes by 40 percent on iPods, on furniture, on new cars.

When they’re talking about a 12 percent tax versus a 10 percent tax, that’s exactly what they’ll be presenting British Columbians with. And you know what? I think that when they go to the polls, British Columbians are going to say: “Shelve the 12.”

A non-answer, a dog whistle, and even a catchy slogan. She does not even acknowledge anything that has been brought against her. After one more attempt at this line of questioning the Speaker steps in and says that it’s time to move on. Next we are treated to Carole James questioning the Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier, Kevin Falcon:

C. James: I’d like to say to the Premier and the B.C. Liberals: if they’d been listening in the first place, they wouldn’t have brought in the HST in British Columbia. British Columbia families, under this Premier and the B.C. Liberals, are paying up to 7 percent more on countless items in their day-to-day life.

This Premier and the B.C. Liberals want families to keep paying more now and after the referendum. The HST touches families in every part of their life, from birth to grave. Even prenatal classes, classes that have parents prepare a safe and healthy arrival for their newborns, are now fully taxed under the HST.

My question is to the Premier. Why is she taxing young families under her family-first agenda?

Hon. K. Falcon: I know that the math is difficult for the members opposite, but I’ll try and walk them through this pretty straightforwardly. The fact of the matter is that if you’re paying 10 percent on all your retail purchases — all your furniture, all your clothing, all of the purchases that people make every day in their lives — you’re actually farther ahead than you are paying 12 percent under an inefficient PST-plus-GST system. That’s actually how it works.

You know, I do think that there is something of interest I have noted. We have listened to now two days’ worth of arguments from the NDP about why they don’t like the HST. I heard all the different arguments, including from the Leader of the Opposition.

One thing none of us did hear, one thing none of us did hear was the impassioned arguments about why the PST makes sense, why they want to go against the tide of every other jurisdiction in Canada and around the world and go back to a retail sales tax. That’s what we have yet to hear from the NDP opposite, Mr. Speaker.

Except that it’s not that simple, Minister. Your predecessor Carole Taylor knew the differences between the GST/PST system and the HST, but you appear to have not looked at any of the specifics of the old system (namely, how the HST applies to things like food purchases where the PST did not apply); dismissing them in favor of trying to say that it’s a simple unilateral tax. Why the hell is the Minister of Finance displaying such ineptitude when faced with a question regarding taxation?

C. James: It’s very clear that the minister isn’t listening at all. It’s no surprise to anyone on this side of the House or the public in British Columbia, because the B.C. Liberals haven’t been listening from the beginning on the HST.

The HST is costing families more. Parents want opportunities for their children to grow and to thrive. They want to provide them opportunities to learn, to discover their talents. We’re coming up to summer, and summer camp now will be subjected to a tax. Parents will be paying 7 percent more so that their children can go to camp in July and August. They’ll be paying 7 percent more for art courses, for sports camps, for tutoring, for hockey school. Again, my question is to the Premier. Why is she trying to force families to choose 7 percent over zero percent? How is that putting families first?

Hon. K. Falcon: I’m not sure what part of listening to almost 300,000 people in the largest listening exercise in government is not listening to the people. What we actually did was listen, and we responded with what we heard, which was to reduce the rate to 10 percent and provide transition payments for families with children — $175 for each and every child and $175 for seniors under $40,000.

But you know, Mr. Speaker, I’m afraid I’m going to have to come back to the second edition of uncomfortable NDP facts, because clearly….


Hon. K. Falcon: Yes, I’m afraid I’m going to have to. I would like to point out that when the NDP first ran in 1991, they promised not to raise taxes at all. In the first two years after raising taxes by nearly $2 billion, one of the interesting taxes that they raised was the PST rate from 6 to 7 percent. But they didn’t just raise the PST. That’s consistent with what they always do. They also expanded the coverage to include engine tune-ups, tire installation, appliance repairs, repairs to business equipment, alteration and repairs to clothing and shoes. If it moved, they wanted to tax it and tax it higher.

We want to move it lower. Mr. Speaker, 10 percent HST is far better any day than a 12 percent GST plus PST, which is the NDP’s preferred approach.

At this point there’s really only two possibilities: he is truly inept, or he’s putting an ideology above facts.

B. Ralston: You’d never know from listening to the Minister of Finance that he’s proposing a $2.6 billion tax increase to be paid by families and small business over the next two years.

Let’s turn to something else that touches B.C. families. At this time of the year many parents are looking forward to the marriage of their children — the weddings of their children, yet these families are being forced to pay more under the B.C. Liberal HST. Does the Premier really think, based on what she said in the recent past, that British Columbians are going to accept her HST gimmick and be bought with their own money?

Hon. K. Falcon: Mr. Speaker, imagine. This is the same group that just voted against the motion that would reduce the tax burden on every family in British Columbia and increase it on large corporations. They just stood up, to a person, and voted against it.

Now, I know why they did that. I know why they did it, because they voted against every single one of the tax reductions for personal income taxes — almost 40 percent since we first got elected. They voted against every single reduction in the general corporate tax rate from 16½ percent down to 10. They voted against every reduction in the small business tax rate. They voted against the elimination of the corporate capital tax. Not surprisingly, they vote against another reduction for families and individuals across British Columbia, which is marching the HST rate down to 10 percent.

In their world, I can’t understand how their math works. How does their math work when we know from the independent panel report, which they were fond of quoting only a week and a half ago, using the same numbers, every single family at every single income level is ahead to the tune of $120 on average as a result of a 10 percent HST? Those are incontrovertible facts.

NDP math has never made sense to British Columbians, but they get that when you’re paying 10 percent on everything, not 12 percent, you are better off.

Okay, scratch that. The Minister of Finance is either lying or unfit for his office — he just blamed the NDP for trying to raise the tax burden on common people when they voted against lowering corporate and capital gains tax. And how many of those “personal income tax” reductions were for the upper brackets, hm?

I’m just going to stop here; there’s two more questions but it really is nothing more than this crap from the mouth of Kevin Falcon. I can’t believe that we have such a joke as our Minister of Finance.

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The politics of fear revisited

Here is the video transcript of the Question Period that was sickening me so badly. I’ve read over the transcript (…okay, the draft transcript) and it’s really just a major unanswered question.

Both Christy Clark and Kevin Falcon have nothing to provide but dog-whistles and dismissals. They aren’t even answering the question, let alone answering it honestly; instead they go on about how the NDP just want to raise taxes.

And in doing so they both miss the point. This is not a referendum about a tax. This is — it has always been, and is moreso now than ever — a referendum on the conduct and policy of the BC Liberal Party. This is a referendum on no limits to or disclosure on campaign spending, a publicly-funded partisan advertising campaign, and a tax break to buy votes. It is a referendum on a government that has gone the way of the Republican Party in cutting taxes and cutting public service in favor of the bread and circuses of the Olympics. It is a referendum on a party that says one thing come election time and another when it holds a majority government.

Nothing demonstrates that more than Christy Clark and Kevin Falcon’s “responses” to the questions posed them by the NDP.

The referendum begins in three days. I hope that BC stands up and tells this government where they can shove their dog-whistles and propaganda.

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