Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Real 'Faux News'

Nation magazine article, The Real 'Fake News'.

"And then I had this dream that my whole family were just cartoon characters and our success had led to some crazy propaganda network called Fox News." — Bart Simpson

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The showdown...

I think it's good that the Democrats have finally shown some testicular fortitude in standing up to Bush in regards to the war spending bill. It sets a timetable for a gradual withdrawal of troops within a year. Of course it's very disappointing that in order to get enough votes for this bill the Democrats ended up adding a lot of funds to unrelated projects for special interest groups, AKA 'pork'. It's a disgrace that we can't seem to just get honest dealings from our politicians; doing the right thing for the right reasons — no strings attached. Instead, yet again we see that at the end of the day there must always be the requisite feeding at the public trough.

Of course Bush and most Republicans are showing their hypocrisy by claiming some sort of self-righteous indignation over such pork-barrel spending, this after their track record! Yep, that goes for Republican Sen. Ted Stevens and his stupid 'bridge to nowhere'. The ploy is so disingenuous.

The same old hysterical rantings are also taking place, to support timetables supposedly undermines the troops. This is such a perversion of the reality of the situation. Not supporting the troops was sending them into an unjustified war, not having adequate forces and materiale, not having a plan to deal with both rebuilding the country and the inevitable insurgency. It would also not be supportive of the troops to require their mission be one in occupying a country in the midst of a sectarian civil war. Allowing the Administration to continue to pursue these disastrous policies and not be held accountable for its misconduct is also not supporting the troops.

Bush is akin to a tyrant who has lead us into this debacle {among the many}. He stubbornly clings to his little Neocon escapade in Iraq. Paying no mind to Congress, military leaders and analysts, and the will of the people. His hand should be forced on this. While I normally would say it's a bad policy to give a date of withdraw, in this case we are talking about an unjustified invasion that has become an occupation in a country engaged in sectarian civil war which has continued to deteriorate. Not only can we not sustain peace in that country and deal with the security situation, neither can the corrupt police and the government there which is even more corrupt it would seem than ours is!

Even though I opposed this war back when Bush & Co. were just making their bogus rationale for it, I had until recently supported doing our best to secure and rebuild that country. It seemed the ethical thing to do since we were the cause of the disaster there. I think we had a responsibility to at least try to right the wrongs we brought to that country. Now I believe things have got to the point where we aren't presenting a solution to the problem, we are the problem. Our occupation of the country and it's lack of structure & stability is encouraging more Iraqis to become terrorists, and giving foreign insurgents more motivation to go to Iraq. We are unable, for a variety of reasons which does not include a lack of trying by the military, to bring real and lasting stability to that country. Is it possible to turn things around there? Perhaps, but it would take a complete overhaul of strategies there, including a much larger and more effectively used force and Bush & Co. have proven time and again that they are incapable and/or unwilling to do so. They're still too concerned about politics and money to do what is really needed there. And so, to stay is simply to put off the inevitable.

I support a withdrawal as soon as possible. It won't happen in a week, nor a month. In fact I'm quite sure we couldn't pull all of our forces out even in a year. But we need to be working to that end now instead of giving some token surge and believing that just a little while longer will be the magic touch.

I think the Congress needs to write the wrong that the institution allowed in 2003 when they gave Bush the authorization to declare war in Iraq. It's time to say that enough is enough, we never should have went there to begin with, but now we are done. No more blank checks for Bush, no more of everything being on his terms.

Bush says he needs funding for the troops. Fine, then sign the damn bill. Bush says he doesn't like the timetables. Too damn bad. He can't have it both ways anymore. He's had his way far too many times in the past and we've all paid far too heavy a price for that. No more. I hope the Democrats will stand their ground and send this bill {minus the pork would be nice}, and when Bush vetoes it as he's said he would do, they should send it back to him, and they should keep sending it back to him until he signs it. If he does then we can get out of this soon. If he doesn't then it's his fault that a pull-out will be rushed when the money starts running low and the Dictator In Chief will have no choice but bring the troops home. And bringing them home is the kind of support they've needed for over 4 years now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Political correctness lives on

Two interesting articles, one focuses on Imus and the other is about who is allowed to be politically incorrect and who isn't.

I have a lot of different opinions about this hoopla. I thought his statements, referring to the Rutgers Women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos", were insulting and uncalled for. I also think this is nothing new from Imus. Have we not seen this before? Yes, we have. In spite of this, I don't think Imus should have been canned for it. Why? I believe in free speech, and while the government wasn't involved, I think when activist groups demand someone be fired for what he or she says and the offender's employers comply, that it has a chilling effect on speech. When it comes down to it, it amounts to censorship.

I really don't like Don Imus, never have. I never liked his show, and I liked him even less. Though I do have to give him credit for the theme song he used for his show, Stevie Ray Vaughan, "Ain't Gone 'n' Give Up On Love". That's all he had going for him, other than the undeserving hype that was awarded to him by mainstream media. The guy is a seriously overrated egomaniac who made a name for himself by the very things he is now apologizing for.

And why apologize? Did he not mean what he said? If not, then why did he say it? Of course he meant it. Perhaps he didn't mean it in the racist context that it has been taken as. I think I have to agree with James Poniewozik of Time magazine when he wrote of Imus' thought process as, "a 66-year-old white male country-music fan rummaging in his subconscious for something to suggest that some young black women looked scary, and coming up with a reference to African-American hair and a random piece of rap slang."

Since it was a sexist and racist statement made about women who hadn't done anything to deserve it, and since it was circulated by Media Matters for America to those women's and civil-rights groups that approve {selectively} of censorship, the outrage was off the scale and feeding off itself. The mainstream media bought it up and whipped it up into at least 10 times the story it ever should have been. What I find hypocritical about all this is that anti-gay remarks are typically overlooked.

I found this blog entry very interesting. In fact, for the most part, I totally agree with it. The author brings up many of the things that I've been thinking about since this fiasco over Imus' remarks first broke and the outcry ensued. I've wondered where has the outrage been with Imus past anti-gay remarks, and the hateful garbage by idiotic bigots like Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, . Oh sure, some people made a big issue out of Ann Coulter's bigoted remarks, and those from General Pace. Republican Sen. from Virginia John Warner made it clear that he disagreed with the General's statement, Hillary and Obama... not so much.

It seemed to me that what condemnation we did see outside the gay community about these homophobic remarks was more for scoring political points, going after General Pace because he is an apologist for Bush and his war, and then of course blasting Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter et al. because, well, it's Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and those of their pathetic ilk. Does anymore need to be said? But most weren't really going after them because these insulting statements were seen as insulting as the racist variety. I think the double-standard is very telling about the 'tolerance' that truly exists of homosexuals. It's often mere lip-service; being PC for the sake of being PC.

I realize that some say that racist comments are worse than homophobic, for whatever rationale they choose to offer, but obviously not everyone agrees.

Now I should make it clear that even though Don Imus has made anti-gay remarks in the past I've never called for him to be fired for it. I think Imus deserves all the criticism that he's getting. But silencing people for saying things that are insensitive, insulting, even hateful? The concept of protecting speech and expression isn't rooted in protecting that speech which is popular or acceptable, it is designed to protect the unpopular — that which the majority abhors.

What's done is done. He's fired, he'll back, big damn deal. No loss in Imus' show being no more. The only loss here is what sort of precedent it sets. Who's next? Conservative blowhards beware! But who else should beware? All of us who don't conform to politically correct standards.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Yes, Hollywood, thank you for smoking

I read an article in Time magazine this week that was such a pathetic example of the politically correct alarmism of smoking. In it they seemed to suggest that there are some studies which have found that kids were "up to 2.7 times as likely as others to pick up the habit" of smoking, which they blame on smoking being portrayed more often in movies. They even claim that it is the kids from homes in which relatives do not smoke that are hit the hardest! As I've suspected for a while now, these bleeding hearts won't be satisfied until smoking is just criminalized.

While I've been critical of the increasingly irrational war against smoking for years, I think this recent article really put some good perspective on that. You see, it isn't enough to demonize it. It isn't enough to prohibit it from nearly everywhere, yep, even bars, strip clubs, and sidewalks in some places. It isn't enough that our politicians are expected to kick the habit if they want to get elected, especially as President. It isn't enough that you can't buy a pack of smokes without being carded if you could possibly be construed as being younger than 30. It isn't enough that Joe Camel is gone along with candy cigarettes & cigars. It isn't enough that smoking nearly disappeared from the cinema for years, and parents were made to feel guilty, not just for smoking in the house but for smoking at all. Nope, now, according to Jeffrey Kluger and Time magazine it even sets a bad example if kids are "spared the dirty ashtrays and musty drapes that make real world smoking a lot less appealing than the sanitized cinematic version." So apparently it is propaganda to not let kids see first hand how "horrible" smoking is.

In this article they decry the reemergence of smoking in many movies. Now I'm not saying smoking should be endorsed, but I don't think it right that the PC police demand that it be demonized even in movies. I know it is an inconvenient truth for a lot of these busy-bodies but there are a still a lot of people who smoke. Bad guys especially don't give a damn about their lungs, so why should Hollywood pretend that basically everyone has become an anti-smoking health nut? That isn't reality, it's the reality that bleeding heart liberals would like for us to create and conform to. Furthermore, in a movie that is depicting bygone eras, like that expressed in one movie that was an example in this article, The Black Dahlia, it is part of the reality of the era for most folks to smoke. While it may not be PC to show that a lot folks smoked, the fact is, a lot of folks did. In the name of art reflecting real life and keeping true to history, why should we allow the sensibilities of busy-bodies to tell us that we should skew the past in order to perpetuate their anti-smoking agendas?

I think those of us who have not fallen victim to the nanny-state should stand up and say enough is enough! Some people are going to do unhealthy things, some unhealthy things are going to shorten our lives, some kids are going to make bad decisions, that's LIFE! Take a chill pill and deal with it. Freedom first, sucking the life out of everyone in the name of longevity comes second, or 20th.

I think movies set in the 40's and 50's should not try to present our modern interpretations of how things ought to be. How about keeping history real? As far as I'm concerned they should portray historical settings for how they would have actually been, including the racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism, smoking, gas guzzling cars. You know, all the bad stuff.

Thanks Hollywood, for exhibiting the testicular fortitude in showing that yes, people actually do smoke. And 50 years ago, nearly everyone did!

Oh, and for the record I smoke one or two cigarettes a day, not packs, two cigarettes... So, for any bleeding hearts that want to cry foul, save it, I don't have some major pro-smoking agenda here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The real victims...

This week justice was finally served better when 3 wrongly accused students from Duke University were declared innocent by attorney general Roy Cooper. The three men had been falsely accused back in Mach of 2006 by an apparently mentally unstable stripper by the name of Crystal Gail Mangum. A case against them was pursued doggedly through the gross misconduct of one district attorney Mike Nifong in what was an obvious case of an overzealous DA on a witch hunt for political expediency.

Newsweek article, That Night at Duke.

As was to be expected, the media created a 3-ring circus out of the drama. One of the most disgusting mainstream examples of this was Nancy Grace, a discredited talk show host formerly of Court TV, who fancies herself some sort of "victim's rights" advocate. In reality she creates more victims than she protects by declaring the absolute guilt of the accused in her self-appointed position as juror in the court of public opinion. She thinks her opinion far more important than it actually is, and believes her objectivity is far more than she ever actually exhibits. Her phony overly-emotional and deliberately sensationalized rantings are pathetic; merely a ploy for ratings and worship. It was likely because of her accusatory tone during an interview on her TV show with Melinda Duckett, whose 2-month old son had gone missing weeks prior, that Melinda committed suicide.

Even Elizabeth Smart, a girl who was abducted, held captive and sexually abused for nearly a year didn't think much of Nancy Grace, and for good reason!

Of course Grace, like many others, assumed that the Duke lacrosse players: Evans, Seligmann and Finnerty were all guilty. Naturally, they were accused, afterall!! And we all know that when people claim rape they must be telling the truth...

Grace was far from alone in showing a lack of integrity and that some people will stoop to any level to pander for publicity, Al Sharpton & Jesse Jackson too was playing for the cameras to declare the guilt of the lacrosse players as well and to my knowledge neither has apologized for presuming guilt. There was such a mad rush to judgment, as covered in a Washington Post article.

Some off us were skeptical of the guilt of these guys when considering the frequent inconsistencies in the accuser's stories, it seemed that most folks. But of course these inconsistencies didn't matter, some folks had an agenda to pursue, and pursue it they did. So-called "victim's rights" & women's rights groups who are often in the habit of assuming guilt until innocence can be proven, were indeed caught up in a sort of public lynching, they were out for blood, and so sure of themselves in making such declarative accusations of guilt against these men who have always maintained their innocence and DNA evidence and now officials have confirmed this.

What's worse, even though the case against the players has been dropped and the accuser stands as nothing more than a liar, there are still those in pursuit of feminist agendas that claim the Duke students are guilty...

If this were an isolated incident, hysteria over allegations of rape, and an insistence among women's rights advocates and others that the accused is definitely guilty no matter how lacking in evidence the case is, then that would be one thing. But sadly, it isn't. I recall just a few years ago a local female college student alleged that a man had raped her, the witch hunt went out immediately. Turned out to be a total fabrication. She was apparently just seeking attention.

It has become cliche to overreact to allegations and assume guilt when they are made. Most are so quick to jump on the bandwagon of being a protector and upholding justice that they forget justice applies to all and that innocence until proof of guilt is part of the foundation of justice.

I think Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and countless feminists and race-baiters should apologize for their rush to judgment. Mike Nifong should be found guilty of the ethics charges being brought against him, he should be disbarred and never practice law in any capacity again. If that man had succeeded, 3 men would have went to prison for a crime they didn't commit. They've already had more than a year robbed from them.

Had these young men been black and the accused had been white, they likely would be in prison today. There is no place in a just society for the likes of such a gross violation of the public trust and disregard for the law. Men like Nifong should never be given such positions of power.

As one blogger coined it, these men were raped by false accusations of rape. Most of society seems to harbor no mercy for those who rape... Then what sort of mercy should be shown to those who raped these men?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reaction to tragedy is disgusting...

The shooting at Virginia Tech was certainly a horrible tragedy, and the public has a right to know what happened, but it's really disgusting how the media has already turned it into their latest 24/7 obsession. Well, at least they're not talking about Imus anymore... Honestly, it's really sick how they profit from scandal and the misery of others every chance they get. Of course this is nothing new, it's just the latest example in an endless list of the media putting their selfish, economic interests first and saying to hell with those who are suffering.

I must say though, even this isn't as despicable as the political opportunists who almost immediately were taking full advantage of this tragedy to promote their agendas. Pro-gun control groups came crawling out of the woodwork, saying we need more gun control laws to keep things like this from happening, while anti-gun control groups had the audacity to suggest that if there were less gun control, i.e. if students could carry guns, then maybe this guy would have been killed before he could have taken the lives of so many.

Obviously there are issues related to this incident that need to be discussed, but to exploit this tragedy within 24 hours of it to further one's political agenda... it's pathetic and there is no excuse in it. We have plenty of time to talk about this. How about we wait until we know more about it, and let people grieve for goodness sake you insensitive vultures.

If only we could handle such tragedies with the wisdom, rationality, contemplation, compassion, and reverence for life that the Amish did when 5 young school girls were massacred by a gunman in Pennsylvania last year.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The new censorship?

While I can understand people being upset about Don Imus’ recent comments, calling the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos”, I must say that I do think people are making a bit too much out of this. To hear some of these people talk, you’d think he’d demanded slavery be brought back. I know it was insulting, but I've listened to plenty of hateful bigots make anti-gay comments in the public domain and while it pisses me off it doesn't hurt my feelings. These losers aren't worth the concern; and I couldn't care less what they think. Expose them and their bigoted beliefs for what it is and move on.

Which brings me to a valid question: Where is such outrage when people make similar comments and stereotypes about gays? Oh sure, there is some lip service, and the uber-liberal call for people like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and General Pace to be silenced and/or fired for their intolerant rhetoric, but that’s as far as it goes. Most folks, while disapproving, are quick to claim that these people have a right to free speech, and I don’t disagree. So why the double standard then?

I did note that the guy apologized, and he seemed like he was probably sincere about it. Compare that to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, who are completely unapologetic. Or Michael Richard’s comments in a nightclub that was way over the top, and Mel Gibson who just blamed it on alcohol and went into rehab, as is so fashionable when celebrities say or do something really stupid these days. Imus didn’t make any excuses. But yet it still wasn’t good enough for some people. It seems that whether one is unapologetic, blame it on something else, or make a full and seemingly sincere apology, none of this is good enough. It’s obvious that the masses were out for blood and they weren’t going to be happy until they got it. Well, they got it, just like certain conservatives and overly-sensitive jingoists got their way with Bill Maher after he made some comments that were misunderstood back when nationalism was at a fever pitch.

Now I don't like Imus, never have. I don't like rap music either. And I definitely don't like racism and bigotry. However, I like censorship even less. And to me, while this wasn’t government censorship, I think the firing, moreover the demand by some of firing of Don Imus was a form of censorship -- an effort to silence someone who says something unpopular. I don’t think this is in keeping with a free society. There are better ways of dealing with bad words and ideas than censoring them.

Of course I realize that it is well within the legal rights of CBS and NBC to get rid of Don Imus for his comments, and the controversy surrounding the comments, and the loss of advertisers, but I still have a lot of reservations about whether they should have done this — capitulated so easily. It really leads me to wonder what or whom will be next. And that’s already begun. Some are demanding that vitriolic blowhards like conservative moron Michael Savage be held to the same standards. That would be consistent, however, I still don’t like the idea of silencing others. Yes, that even goes for the Coultergeist and Rush Limbaugh {the “Big Fat Idiot” as Al Franken aptly dubbed him in his book}.

Of course the music industry is being set up for new censorship too. Sure a lot of rap music is disgusting, but I think it was a bad idea when they tried to censor Elvis, sued Ozzy Osbourne et al. for teen suicide, and blamed Marilyn Manson for Columbine. I also think it’s a bad idea to go after Snoop Dogg for talking about “bitches” and “hos”. And I truly cannot stand Snoop Dog… I despise everything he stands for. But freedom is freedom, right is right, and censorship just isn’t right.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gay coach hopes to level playing field...

An article in the Springfield Newsleader about a gay coach in Columbia Mo. that came out, how he got to that point, and how things have been since. Oh, and my comment.

My comment:

"Wow. What a powerful story. Many thanks to Alan Scher Zagier and the Newsleader for this story!

First, I want to say I have a lot of respect for Coach Hawkins for what he went through, and for having seemingly ‘came out’ of it very well. He shows a lot of strength and character in having handled it as well as he did, and for having faced all the fear and hostility that comes with being honest with oneself and others. It’s a lot of unique emotions and dilemmas to endure, more than most folks, other than gays, can relate to. But he did, and he’s involved in a world {teaching, sports} where homosexuals are barely recognized at all, especially in such a conservative area as this.

Second I want to commend University of Missouri for not overreacting to having a gay coach and all the real and potential controversy and pressure that must bring to the university from social conservatives. I hope they do so both because it is the right thing to do and because the coach is one worth keeping. That is the right reasons for making this a non-issue.

Third, I want to point out that it is very important for men like Coach Hawkins to come out because it helps dispel some of the myths about homosexuals. Not that it really matters whether one’s mannerisms fit social norms or not, but I think most folks have such definite stereotypes about homosexuals and don’t realize that a great many of us, perhaps the majority of us don’t exhibit the outward stereotypical signs heterosexuals tend to assume we do.

There are many things about this story that I think were important, but one of those is that it described how anti-gay jokes are offensive and can hurt the feelings of others. In my experiences I’ve found that they are so commonplace in the media, movies, among comedians, songs, around the water cooler. I do wish that more people would realize how what seems like a joke to them are actually insulting or hurtful to others. And while folks may think they only make such cracks around non-gays, many of us don’t fit the stereotypes at all and so they really don’t know how often they are interacting with us. Some of those good, honest people who have earned a great deal of respect in their community and among their peers are also not heterosexual. Other than that, they are likely all the things that others took them to be. And then some.

I particularly thought two of the Coach’s statements showed a lot of character, "If you're treating it as special, you're still not treating it as equal," Hawkins said. "If I sit my kids down and say, 'Let's talk about my sexuality' ... What straight coach does that?" and “If you're gonna make a decision based on a coach, make a decision based on the coach's coaching ability,” There is so much truth in that. The coach should be measured by his ability. And homosexuality doesn’t need special treatment, it needs equal treatment. That means no hiding, no shame, no disgrace, no judgment, no discrimination. We’re here just like heterosexual folks are, seeking the same ambitions, recognition, respect, and fair consideration.

I must say, another thing I found positive about the story is that for those players that quit, for unknown reasons though some of which was undoubtedly the sexuality of the coach, at least they will be replaced by players who apparently feel a need to be part of a team they will be accepted in. It’s a shame it has to come to that, but both the coach and the players have every right to be judged for their ability, not their orientation, and if that means they largely have to flock to one team then so be it.

There was only a few things in the story I found truly disappointing. One was in reading that some of those on the team say that it’s “awkward”. While it is understandable considering the negative stigma in society, it really shouldn’t be any more awkward than for an all white team saying, “it’s awkward that the coach is black.”

Another point that was even more disappointing was the outright bigotry in some coaches urging the rejection of rival schools who have a gay coach. There is no excuse in this level of irrational prejudice. What the hell does a sport have to do with this? Maybe it’s an excuse to not have to face a winning team? Or maybe it’s just homophobia by certain folks who aren’t very secure in their own sexuality. . ."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gay in the NBA

Here is an interesting article in the Nation magazine about a former NBA player, John Amaechi, who is the first NBA player to be openly gay. The article talked about prejudices and homophobia, as well as his becoming more activist in regards to homosexual issues.

Here are some quotes from Mr. Amaechi that I found particularly poignant:
"...there are still plenty of gay people who can't come out at work, because they can still be fired. In thirty-three states you can be fired for being gay. There are job security issues for gay people in most areas of life. Look at the military. You can die for your country but you can't talk about your partner. And in the NBA too--I was worried I would lose my job if I came out."
"Ann Coulter did the same thing [calling John Edwards a "faggot"]. It actually makes me far more angry to hear someone in her position do that. Make no mistake, Tim Hardaway's voice is massive and booming. I've gotten letters and e-mails from children who have changed the way they behave, quit their schools, or fear for their safety because of how his words have emboldened people in their environment. So the collateral damage in terms of the fallout has been massive. But this woman does it for an audience of people who represent power. Real power."

"We're asking the people with the most to lose financially, emotionally, psychologically, to fall on their sword in the hope that that will change the world. Now, my contention on this, having spoken to Judy Shepard [mother of Matthew Shepard, the gay man who was beaten to death in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998], adoring her and really feeling a great deal of grief over her story, is that if the image of a young boy without his shoes being strapped to a fence and left to die doesn't end homophobia, then a gay Shaq won't either. To me, a young boy, semi-naked, no shoes, strapped to a fence in the middle of nowhere--how can you look at that image and then say the F-word? How can you look at that image and then allow people around you to use antigay slurs, when you know it's that kind of atmosphere that leads to that? That's what the Ann Coulters, the Tim Hardaways, need to understand. Their words don't just leave their mouth and drop to the floor like fruit. Their words leave their mouth and bounce around the world like bullets."

"I've always been a political activist. But in terms of LGBT issues and diversity issues in general, yeah, I'm certainly going to step up now. One of the major problems we have is that people need to stand up, be counted and say, 'Unacceptable that in my high school kids get assaulted with the word "gay," meaning stupid or bad or wrong or dumb. Unacceptable that the F-word is being used on a regular basis in workplaces. Unacceptable that coaches talk about "throwing like a girl." Unacceptable that coaches and teachers and bosses allow that kind of rhetoric to go on unchallenged. Unacceptable.'"
While I agree with what Mr. Amaechi has to say that if something as horrific as what happened to Matthew Sheppard can't change people's attitudes about homophobia, then a gay athlete certainly isn't going to change things, but then I think the murder of Matthew Sheppard did wake a lot of people up. It brought homophobia out of the underground as being mostly acceptable; no big deal, and laid the groundwork for it becoming something that has over time increasingly been taken more seriously, albeit not nearly as seriously as it often should be.
I think it does make a profound difference when a celebrity, especially an athlete comes out.
People who are admired for their talents can have a particularly beneficial effect on changing stereotypes about homosexuals.

I applaud John Amaechi for coming out as he has, it takes a lot of courage to do that, especially someone from the arena of professional athletics. As time goes on more and more athletes will come out while they are still playing and on a team. What Mr. Amaechi has done in telling his story will have helped pave the way to that.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The endless debate...

A very interesting debate between pastor/author Rick Warren and atheist/author Sam Harris in Newsweek magazine.

Here are a few excerpts that I found particularly interesting and my responses to them:

[When asked about his experience with meeting an immigration attorney when a friend of his needed one, as compared to the times he's prayed for someone to be saved from a medical condition and they died anyway]
WARREN: "Well, I do believe in the goodness of God, and I do believe that he knows better than I do. God sometimes says yes, God sometimes says no and God sometimes says wait."
I find it so convenient that many Christians have a tendency to overlook or dismiss when their prayers for loved one's go seemingly unanswered and terrible things happen to good people, yet they act as if it is definitive proof that there is a God if they pray for someone to get better and they do, or a church is spared in a hurricane, and so forth.

I myself happen to believe in something more than what we know. I do believe in GOD or the spiritual nature of the UNIVERSE. I do not, however, believe in deities, no genii-like santa god's that grant wishes. I believe in a connectedness with all things, and as such I believe that most things are not a coincidence. I think we meet the people in our lives for a purpose. And so I don't that Rick Warren or anyone else has met people that he desperately needed at that point in his life. I've had the same experience. But rather than believe that Jesus, Mohamed, or Buddha makes it all happen, I believe that in our inner connectedness we are able to draw people into our circle of being as needed without any sort of divine intervention. Now while atheists may reject this, I really don't care because I'm not an atheist. I'm also not a religionist. But at least for me I think it explains how things can happen as if it were an answered prayer when it's actually just a non-deistic ability of spiritual attraction.

HARRIS: "I think it's quite common among religious people to believe that atheism entails moral relativism. I think there is an absolute right and wrong. I think honor killing, for example, is unambiguously wrong—you can use the word evil. A society that kills women and girls for sexual indiscretion, even the indiscretion of being raped, is a society that has killed compassion, that has failed to teach men to value women and has eradicated empathy. Empathy and compassion are our most basic moral impulses, and we can even teach the golden rule without lying to ourselves or our children about the origin of certain books or the virgin birth of certain people."
Well said...

WARREN: "Sam makes the statement in his book that religion is bad for the world, but far more people have been killed through atheists than through all the religious wars put together. Thousands died in the Inquisition; millions died under Mao, and under Stalin and Pol Pot."
Warren conveniently trivializes the Inquisition, and totally skips the Crusades, the countless pogroms against Jews committed largely by Catholics and Orthodox Christians, the sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics, Sunnis and Shiites, and the fact that Hitler wasn't an atheist, he was a Catholic who used religious rhetoric throughout his life as der Fuhrer.

WARREN: "If life is just random chance, then nothing really does matter and there is no morality—it's survival of the fittest. If survival of the fittest means me killing you to survive, so be it. For years, atheists have said there is no God, but they want to live like God exists. They want to live like their lives have meaning."
Like a lot of Christians and religionists, Warren seems to think only in terms of deriving ethics, empathy, compassion, a sense of right & wrong from religion and a belief in deities. As countless non-religious people can attest, we do not need deities and superstitions to understand why abusing or destroying others is not healthy or acceptable. We can "live like God exists" without depending on any god, because we believe that life does have meaning...

HARRIS: "What in your experience is making you someone who is not a Muslim? I presume that you are not losing sleep every night wondering whether to convert to Islam. And if you're not, it is because when the Muslims say, "We have a book that's the perfect word of the creator of the universe, it's the Qur'an, it was dictated to Muhammad in his cave by the archangel Gabriel," you see a variety of claims there that aren't backed up by sufficient evidence. If the evidence were sufficient, you would be compelled to be Muslim."
WARREN: "That's exactly right."
HARRIS: "So you and I both stand in a relationship of atheism to Islam."
BINGO! Warren rejects Islam even though over a billion people in the world believe in it. No doubt he rejects Hindu also, even though there are nearly 1 billion who practice that religion. Well, non-religious people like myself reject the notion that Jesus, Mohamed, or Buddha, et al. are GOD. Atheists reject the notion that there is such a thing as deities at all. We reject religion as a whole because of a lack of anything even approaching sufficient evidence, just as Warren and most conservative Christians reject gods other than theirs.

WARREN: "...All of the religions basically point toward truth. Buddha made this famous statement at the end of his life: "I'm still searching for the truth." Muhammad said, "I am a prophet of the truth." The Veda says, "Truth is elusive, it's like a butterfly, you've got to search for it." Then Jesus Christ comes along and says, "I am the truth."
Sounds to me like Jesus had a megalomania complex, and so does his followers. Of course that's not unlike most religions, they claim to have an insight into 'ultimate truth' that no one else does. It's so narcissistic.

WARREN: "I think it's intellectually dishonest for you to say you have proof that it didn't happen. Here's the difference between you and me. I am open to the possibility that I am wrong in certain areas, and you are not."
That's a lie. Warren wouldn't for one second entertain the idea that perhaps his god isn't real, Jesus didn't 'die for our sins', he wasn't resurrected, there is no second comming, and the bible isn't infallible. Many of us who do not believe in such deities have and do speculate about and question what we believe, what reality is, and just what sort of being might exist beyond our comprehension. Rick Warren does no such thing, his mind is made up. He insists upon it. He most definitely is not the open-minded one.

HARRIS: "I consider it such a low-probability event that I—"
WARREN: "A low probability? When there are 96 percent believers in the world? So is everybody else an idiot?"
HARRIS: "It is quite possible for most people to be wrong—as are most Americans who think that evolution didn't occur."
WARREN: "That's an arrogant statement."
And it isn't arrogant to claim that there definitely is a God, that it governs our lives, that the bible is infallible, and that those who do not follow certain tenets will not see heaven, that scientific inquiry is insignificant to the "truths" put forth in the bible?

When asked, "Do you think that religiously motivated good works are actually harmful?"
HARRIS: "The thing that bothers me about faith-based altruism is that it is contaminated with religious ideas that have nothing to do with the relief of human suffering. So you have a Christian minister in Africa who's doing really good work, helping those who are hungry, healing the sick. And yet, as part of his job description, he feels he needs to preach the divinity of Jesus [and prevent people from having access to contraceptives] in communities where literally millions of people have been killed because of interreligious conflict between Christians and Muslims. It seems to me that that added piece causes unnecessary suffering. I would much rather have someone over there who simply wanted to feed the hungry and heal the sick."
Amen! Secularists can and do accomplish this. Some of the religious do as well, and some are just trying to proselytize.
WARREN: "All of the great movements forward in Western civilization were by believers. It was pastors who led the abolition of slavery. It was pastors who led the woman's right to vote. It was pastors who led the civil-rights movement. Not atheists."
And it was also the deeply religious that fought the hardest against those movements in the name of God, tradition, and decency.
HARRIS responds: "You bring up slavery—I think it's quite ironic. Slavery, on balance, is supported by the Bible, not condemned by it. It's supported with exquisite precision in the Old Testament, as you know, and Paul in First Timothy and Ephesians and Colossians supports it, and Peter—"
WARREN replies with the cop-out: "No, he doesn't. He allows it. He doesn't support it."
Ok, fine, he allows it. And this is the sort of man of virtue we are supposed to look to for answers about the "son of God" and how to live a life that will enable us to "inherit the kingdom of heaven"? I don't think so!
HARRIS responds again, quite effectively: "I would argue that we got rid of slavery not because we read the Bible more closely. We got rid of slavery despite the profound inadequacies of the Bible. We got rid of slavery because we realized it was manifestly evil to treat human beings as farm equipment. As it is."
WARREN remarks when discussing altruism: "the Resurrection is not only the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is the hope of the world: it says there's more to this life than just here and now. That doesn't mean that I do less, it means that this life is a test, it's a trust and it's a temporary assignment. If death is the end, shoot, I'm not going to waste another minute being altruistic."
And like most Christians seem to show in their thinking, they must have the incentive of reward in the afterlife to do good. Christians, and religious folks often play themselves off as being totally unselfish while the irreligious are selfish. Actually, when it comes to doing good works, it appears that often the opposite is true. Without reward motivations {i.e. heaven, virgins, etc} their altruism would go right out the window. And so atheists, or non-religious folks that do good deeds, they must truly be the most altruistic, unselfish people on the planet...
When asked if Sam Harris' soul is in jeopardy for rejecting Jesus - WARREN: "The politically incorrect answer is yes."
Now THAT is an arrogant statement!!! Ah, but Christians don't see it that way, of course...
When asked for his last thoughts - WARREN: "We're both betting. He's betting his life that he's right. I'm betting my life that Jesus was not a liar. When we die, if he's right, I've lost nothing. If I'm right, he's lost everything. I'm not willing to make that gamble."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The 'rationality' of Bill-O

It's been a busy week for Bill O'Reilly. He seems to be becoming increasingly desperate with each passing day. Surely we all knew he was a lunatic, but Bill-O even makes Geraldo Rivera seem rational.

Bill-O vs. Rivera

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Gay-activist group comes for a visit...

The Christian gay activist group, Soulforce Equality, wanted to have a dialog with Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo. in regards to the college's anti-gay policies. The organization engages in what they call the Soulforce Equality Ride, where some of their members load onto a bus and visit a college or university to try and bring awareness to issues that are important to gays and lesbians, including anti-gay discriminatory policies, and hopefully change them.

CBC told them not to come but Soulforce came anyway on March 12, and I'm glad they did. While it got a lot of uptight conservatives up in arms, and it didn't get the desired effect from the college, it did lead to a lot of dialog in the community.

Soulforce came even though they were told not to, electing to stand outside the campus at CBC, making themselves available to anyone who wanted to talk to them, which is of course their legal right. During their brief protest outside the bible college, at which there was a small group of Springfield police officers stationed around campus, two of their member's {supposedly two heterosexual females} trespassed onto CBC property and were arrested, which is the right of CBC to pursue.

The local newspaper covered the event, but on the newspaper's web forum the anti-gay rhetoric started well before Soulforce even arrived. I participated in the debate that took place over this. The attacks on the "gay agenda" only got worse as the week went on. Surprisingly there were a lot of straight folks and even Christians that took a stand and were very supportive not only of Soulforce, but of homosexuals being treated equally. Some were also quite critical of the religious arguments against gay people, whose "sin" is who we are attracted to.

Here are some of the discussions that spawned from the articles and letters to the editor:
Gay-rights group plans Monday visit to CBC
2 Soulforce member’s arrested; “amazing love” grew for member’s
Discussion is always better than arrests
Activists ignore God's truth
Why are some Christians so afraid of gays?
Equality Riders are offensive
Joplin church opens arms to all

Friday, April 06, 2007

The bullshit express...

I used to have some respect for McCain. In fact, had he won the primary against Bush, {which he should have - a war hero vs. an idiot} I would have voted for him. But, even after the despicable attacks against him by the Bush camp in that primary, he still came out strong for Bush once "Duhbya" had the nod from the Republican party.

Unfortunately there have been one example after another that the "straight talk express" is actually the bullshit express. For instance, he along with Republican Sen. John Warner & Lindsey Graham took a stand against Bush's assault on habeas corpus, torture, etc. via the Military Commissions Act of 2006. A valiant effort, at first. But eventually McCain, along with Warner and Graham capitulated and gave Bush & Co. basically what they'd wanted all along, a blank check on thwarting international law, especially those laws that protect against basic human violations, the treatment of prisoners/detainees or anyone Bush & Co. doesn't like.

Of course then there is his recent 2008 election pandering to those he had previously referred to as "agents of intolerance" — Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson. And this after his comments from the same time period, "Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." What a hypocrite!

Now we have the incident last week where he made his little propaganda/reelection appearance in Baghdad to "prove" that the media has been merely exaggerating how bad things are in Iraq. He "proved" this by walking through a market without being blown up, this is after the area had been fully swept by military units, having a contingent of 100 military personnel around him, including black hawk helicopters, oh, and he wore a flack jacket. Hmmm... I wonder why all the precaution if the area is so safe now?

I don't know what all this had cost in manpower and money, but it couldn't have been cheap and it certainly wasn't worth it. I think it is absolutely disgusting that a politician, a candidate for the presidency, and a former soldier and POW would resort to such a self-serving political stunt at the expense of not only the tax payer, not only local Iraqis, but especially the soldiers who are risking their lives! From not getting blown up in the marketplace, he felt he could claim that there are all sorts of positive things going on in Iraq which the media has neglected to cover... I suppose with the right planning, and the right security that things aren't so bad in Iraq, but for most folks without such resources, life is hell. But then, we're not supposed to talk about that. Such talk 'undermines the morale of troops'...

All of this would be so laughable if it weren't for the fact that real people are dying horrible deaths, suffering torture, retribution killing — daily. That includes both our soldiers and innocent Iraqis. But to top it all off, perhaps the most telling thing about all this was that the market that McCain had his little Bushesque photo-op in was attacked just after his visit. Perhaps in part because of his visit.

Now I don't know how many lives were lost because of that incident, but I must say given how phony the man has shown himself to be, putting service to the Republican party and getting elected above all else, I'm increasingly starting to wonder if the man truly gives a damn at all the sacrifice that is being made by so many on both sides in this quagmire. If he really did, I think he'd do a lot more than just keep supporting this senseless 'Bush doctrine' most of the time and acting as some sort of cheerleader for the fiasco that has become Bush's "Mission Accomplished".

At least McCain didn't follow down that path. Instead he said that, "Things are better ... but I am not saying mission accomplished."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Like we didn't already know this...

Bill O'Reilly —as whatever he calls himself and his show— has no decency, no honesty, no integrity, and definitely no credibility whatsoever. All this became even more obvious than usual in his latest interview with retired Colonel Ann Wright, a 29-year veteran of the US Army. He gives her loaded questions, puts words in her mouth, shouts her down, cuts the interview short because he doesn't agree with her comments, and ultimately cuts her mic. Good work, Bill-O, just the kind of jingoistic over-reactionary bullshit we've come to expect from both Bill and Faux News.

Crooks and Liars - Why Does Bill O'Reilly Hate Our Troops and American Values?

It is a shame that Colonel Wright was not more explicit in her condemnation of Iran's role in this incident with British soldiers being held captive, but she was obviously introducing some context into the situation that Bill-O and other nationalist conservatives of his ilk don't want to have to face. Both Iran and the U.S. should be condemned over it's treatment of detainees. If only the interview would have continued for the length it had been scheduled for, perhaps we could have seen a better clarification.