Nov 022007

*originally printed in Red Shtick Magazine – November, 2007 (pdf)

There are some universal truths that, once learned, become an undying light in your heart that you cannot contain. This light of absolute truth has found me. I am a lying, hypocritical,

tyrant of words, yet even I cannot spin the truth I’ve found into the freedom-hating, satirical terrorism that I so love to write. Conservapedia is a bastion of truth and open understanding. Pointing your web browser towards takes you one click closer to the truth, and one click farther away from forbidden knowledge.

God put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden and told us not to eat its fruit. In today’s World Wide Web-connected e-Eden of free information, there grows a new Tree of Knowledge. The sour fruit it bears are the lies and slander that permeate the pages of Wikipedia. The serpents that tempt us to eat of this fruit are called liberals.

Okay, that’s about all the straight satire I can muster on this one. I’m just so glad I found this site, I had to share it with the world, or whoever made it to the second paragraph. Conservapedia is comedy and tragedy all wrapped up in a familiar Meta-Wiki website.

Conservapedia was set up as a response to the purported liberal bias of the totally open format of Wikipedia. Conservapedia strictly limits editing by blacklisting users and IPs, disallowing anonymous IPs, and protecting certain articles – notably, those titled “George W. Bush,” “Dick Cheney,” and “Republican Party.” Though Conservapedia defines itself in contrast to Wikipedia, it utilizes the same open source MediaWiki software package originally designed for open access to Wikipedia.

From my dangerously cynical perspective, using open source software to censor knowledge itself creates a delightfully ironic symmetry that just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Browsing the main page, you get a quick understanding of what’s going on with the site. The logo reads “Conservapedia: The Trustworthy Encyclopedia.” The page features a prominent link to the article “Examples of Bias in Wikipedia.” The cited biases include the following amusements:

“Wikipedia has a lengthy entry on ‘Jesus H. Christ,’ a term that is an idiotic mockery of the Christian faith. Wikipedia calls the term ‘often humorous,’ ‘joking’ and ‘comedic.’” Accurate definitions of common, if irreverent, slang are to be considered biased.

“Wikipedia promotes suicide with 21,544 entries that mention this depravity, including many entries that feature it.” Suicide is not a fact; it is a biased opinion that promotes depravity and suicide.

“Wikipedia uses guilt-by-association far worse than Joseph McCarthy ever did.” Conservapedia’s article on Joseph McCarthy states in the first paragraph that his suspicions about Communist conspiracies have been “proven correct” and offers little further comment.

“Wikipedia has a substantial anti-intellectual element, as reflected by silly administrator names and nonsensical entries. Check out Wikipedia’s entry for ‘duh’: ‘Duh is an American English slang exclamation that is used to express disdain for someone missing the obviousness of something.’” Intellectuals are never silly. The answer to life, the universe, and everything is not 42. D’oh!

“Wikipedia has a banner to criticize an American treatment of a topic: ‘The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.’ ‘A worldwide view’ is fictional liberal terminology for globalists.” Everybody is always picking on America. Poor, poor America. Wait! We’re rich and powerful! Why do we care what anyone else thinks? Get bent, rest of the world! Especially you, Canada – you buncha wannabes.

“Wikipedia’s entry on the ‘Palestinian People’ omits any mention of terrorism.” Because, as we all know, the Palestinian People as a whole are a terrorist organization. In another example of Wikipedia’s pro-terrorist agenda, the entry on “American People” omits any mention of the Ku Klux Klan, Timothy McVeigh, or the popular television series 24.

“About 60% of Americans accept the account of the Great Flood in the Bible. But enter ‘Great Flood’ into Wikipedia and it automatically converts that to an entry entitled ‘Deluge (mythology).’” Sixty percent is also the percentage of Americans who accept that Christopher Columbus landed on Plymouth Rock.

“Wikipedia claims about 1.8 million articles, but what it does not say is that a large number of those articles have zero educational value.” Conservapedia claims about 18,500 articles, but what it does not say is how hilarious most of them are.

I won’t describe the articles in detail, but I highly recommend the ones on dinosaurs, homosexuality, evolution, and global warming. Flipping back and forth between Wikipedia and Conservapedia articles on any subject is a riot.

The administrators of Conservapedia have set up posting and editing guidelines for users. The guidelines, appropriately titled “The Conservapedia Commandments,” contain the following humor:

4. When referencing dates based on the approximate birth of Jesus, give appropriate credit for the basis of the date (B.C. or A.D.). ‘BCE’ and ‘CE’ are unacceptable substitutes because they deny the historical basis.

5. Do not post personal opinion on an encyclopedia entry.

I’m no history major, but I did graduate with a degree in history. BCE and CE do not deny the historical basis of Jesus; they deny a Christian-centric basis of history itself. The Latin “Anno Domini,” or “A.D.,” suggested by the guidelines translates to “in the year of our Lord.” Practitioners of Conservative Zoroastrianism who edit Conservapedia have complained that, even when referencing the birth of the historical Jesus, the phrase “our Lord” is a matter of personal opinion.

The “commandments” also threaten up to 10 years incarceration for lewdness, obscenity, and site vandalism, referencing 18 USC § 1470 and 18 USC § 1030. The site states that, in the event of violations, “The IP addresses of vandals will be reported to authorities. That includes your employer and your local prosecutor.” This implies that site administrators will independently research you and possibly notify your employer directly.

In case you are considering engaging in immoral e-vandalism of the site, you should know that 18 USC § 1470 outlaws using the post office to deliver explicit material to minors and 18 USC § 1030 pertains to fraud on secure computer systems, which a user-editable encyclopedia is not. Neither of these statutes may be constitutionally applied to prosecute anyone for editing Conservapedia.

Unfortunately, the Conservapedia article titled “Unconstitutional” declares that, within the U.S. Constitution, “there is little explicit basis” for the Supreme Court’s power to declare laws unconstitutional. So, once a lot of people start reading Conservapedia instead of the actual constitution, you’ll be prosecuted for doing just about anything that makes people uncomfortable. In my case, that may include living on this planet.

All I can say is check it out for yourself. I couldn’t make this stuff up. I hope, in writing this article, I have attracted at least a few web surfers to this site so that they, too, can enjoy reading.

Conservapedia is an invitation for everyone to participate in the narrow-minded and selective interpretations of knowledge that are leading to the intellectual decline of Western Civilization. Come join the xenophobic party and help make sure that, when Babylon falls, we take the rest of the world with us.

When you visit the site, please note that the familiar Wikipedia “navigation” panel has been replaced by a more commanding “Master Control” panel. Need I say more?

Nov 022007

originally printed in Red Shtick Magazine – November, 2007 – (pdf)

Everybody loves alcohol. It has helped us start and win wars, it’s why we changed the constitution twice, and it just makes sense. It is the social lubricant that keeps the cynically self-righteous, moral fabric of our society from chafing against the swollen genitals of our collective guilt and denial. Alcohol is natural, legal, and moral, and you can drink it off of parts of sorority chicks.

The alcohol we know and love is composed mainly of ethanol, which, despite sharing a number of chemical similarities with deathanol, is widely accepted as pretty good stuff. Ethanol is a proverbial fuel for the service industry, violence, teen pregnancy, regular pregnancy, and gay pregnancy. It is also a real fuel for burning in things that run on real fuel. Ethanol is becoming well known as a potential clean, renewable source of energy.

Ethanol is created in a process known as fermentation, which you should know all about if you paid attention in any life science class you took since 5th grade. The raw materials needed to create ethanol are sugars, yeast, water, heat, and an inflatable pool filled with baby oil and aggressive women. The sugars used can be anything from those found in corn to those found in that box of sugar packets you stole from Starbucks, even though you buy coffee at Perks. The sugars needed to create ethanol are found in the same crops we use for eating. For hundreds of years, human beings have used a variety of crops to produce enough alcohol to get hammered and still have enough left over to put food on the table…unless there wasn’t enough to put food on the table, in which case, we just fermented what we had and got hammered anyway.

With the prevailing winds of government mismanagement and corruption, we simply cannot grow enough crops to satisfy the demands of eating, drinking, and driving. To make ethanol a viable fuel source, we will need to find new raw materials from which to brew it.

The solution that has lingered on the horizon for decades has always been the prospect of cellulosic ethanol. Cellulose is basically what gets plants hard; it is chemically equivalent to plant Viagra. Cellulose is a long chain of tightly bound molecules that contains a great deal of energy. When this energy is released in reactions such as fire, the effect is what we have come to know as “fire.” Fire is the initial discovery that allowed humankind to dominate predators, nature, disagreeable people, and weaker fires.

Cellulose can be broken down into digestible sugars, which can then be fermented into ethanol. With current technology, breaking down cellulose is a difficult process, requiring expensive Oompa Loompa labor negotiations. Scientists are busy engineering new enzymes that will bypass the need for fictional labor entirely. If cellulose could be broken down cheaply and efficiently, we could create fuel from nearly any source of plant biomass, including the troublesome Oompa Loompas.

What? You didn’t know the Oompa genus is in the Embryophyte Subkingdom? Check your 5th-grade life science textbook.

Funding for research into cellulosic ethanol production has grown exponentially in the last few years. Funding has increased because we recently found our gonads wedged snugly between Iraq and the hard place we call the President’s head. Our elected legislators have heard the cry for cheap, clean, domestically renewable energy, and they have responded by spending our tax dollars on incentives to make companies spend a little money on stuff that makes us feel a little better about our insatiable addiction to foreign oil.

Cellulose-related research has been conducted in some form since the oil crisis of the 1970s. For a brief period, cellulosic ethanol was seen as a long-term solution to foreign oil dependence, lingering just beyond the horizon.

We learned from that critical time in history. Our leaders are adjusting the way they stay the course in order to address the emerging energy crisis. We learned that having a long-term solution lingering just beyond the horizon allows us to feel good enough to wait for oil prices to drop and things to get back to normal.

Cellulose research is, in itself, a solution, because it gives us a good excuse to discuss what we could do if we really cared about finding a solution. If we talk long enough, the problem will have gone away, and we will again have cheap, anonymous sources of blood-soaked oil to refine into cheap, taxable gasoline. That’s what happened in the 70s; that’s what is happening now.

Cellulosic ethanol research may or may not continue after we win the war on terror and secure enough oil to shut up and get back to some serious NASCAR. Without a need for renewable, clean fuels, we may find it’s better to leave cellulosic ethanol simmering on the back burner, in case we need a distraction next time we face a cataclysmic hiccup in the energy market. If research continues, it will be primarily relegated to pot smoking, environmentalist kooks.

Should cellulose ever become a viable source of ethanol, its primary application will most likely be to convert wood shavings into a tasteless, 190-proof liquor, which can then be sold to university Greeks for use in body shots and hazing by ritual self-immolation.