Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Life: Time Shown Not To Scale

(This was supposed to go up yesterday. But I haz teh flu, and just now realized I hadn't posted it. Mah bad.)

I was listening to NPR the other day, and I heard a story that made me cringe. Not for the human rights implications, or the civil rights being infringed, or even because someone, somewhere, was being unacceptably stupid. No, I cringed because it showcased a way of thinking, a life philosophy if you will, that just...makes me ill.

Oh, fair warning: philosophy ahead.

Anywho, the story centered around an op-ed piece that I apparently can't find to save my life. Roll with me, this isn't very important to the core of my discussion, more of a bit of background. The piece, near as I can gather, was about the way that life is a trajectory rather than a line of discrete moments, and how any given trajectory will have a peak.

That's where we come to the thesis of this little ramble. The idea that life can hit a high point, that the best years can be behind you. Over and over throughout the show, the host asked listeners to call in, email, tweet, or Facebook their opinions on their own lives: best years to come, or already gone.  And over and over, people kept saying "yeah, the best years of my life are totally behind me." A few did say "ahead" but those were people who had concrete reasons like youth, or addiction recovery, or in one case "still in the midst of my life's work."

That's...really, people? Really?

Let me let you in on something that has defined my life in many ways: I have a horrible memory. It takes an act of congress and a signed declaration from Zeus to allow me to remember much of my childhood in detail. And it's given me a weird view of time. Take today for instance: today, I woke up and went to work, grabbed my check, cashed it, paid a bill, texted a few people, and came home to blog.

From a linear perspective, that's a fairly nice little line. For me, those things all happened a moment ago. A moment ago, I was checking people out at my register. A moment ago, I was in my car, hearing a story that inspired this blog. My memory is so fragmented that everything that happened either just happened or happened in a blur of "the past." Without calendars and other people to tell me how much time has passed, or clear markers to look back on (like syllabi, or dated bills, etc,.) I have no sense of how long things have taken.

For me, I've just met my husband, and I've been with him five years. I just started college, and I'm finished with an associates and starting a bachelors. What's the point here? My best years can never be behind me, because "behind" is just a now that I can't quite reach or see clearly. And (here's the big part) "ahead" is also a now that I can't quite reach or see clearly. 

And no matter what your memory is like, or what your foresight is like, that's true of all of us. We stand in a unique spot, a point that we call now, but we can't experience that clearly either. It moves too fast. Now is literally an infinitely small point that defines the lens through which we view the past and the future. Every second that you live and breathe, the future becomes the past. You take actions and make decision to influence the former based on what you see in the latter, but those action and those decisions reverberate up and down the line. They say you can't change the past, but you create the past and the future at the same time.

With every decision, with every action, you change who you are. You change who you were, because the moment you make a decision, you've moved into a new future and it was the past you who made that choice, took that leap. Therefore "who you were" is a person who chose to be "who you are/will be."


To say that all your contributions, all your moments of greatness are behind you? That's a moment where you close your eyes and stop looking forward. Where you chose to freeze all the time you could have left, to stand on that one point in time and let the rest of the tape spool past you, static and unchanging, just reacting to things passively.

That's...sad. To just decide that there's no more potential, nothing more to be or do. To say, "I've given all I have of worth, I've done all the important things I will ever do, and now I'm going to settle down and wait for the end."

Why?

People said, today, on the radio, that they've contributed everything, that they're going to retire. That the best years are behind them because they've finished their jobs, they've raised their kids, they've done their "one great thing." That's freaking ridiculous.

It's a line of thinking I can't understand. The defining moment, the one great thing? That's usually a moment when the universe or the lives of those around you turned on your actions. When you were a fulcrum, or a lever, or duct tape. When you had a wider influence.

But that's a strange way to view the world. The only time you're important is when you have worth and value in the eyes and lives of others?

Every moment, every now, that you are breathing and moving forward...your world, your universe is in flux. Your time, your past and future revolve, quite literally, around you. Reading, learning, growing, hell...watching TV and having eggs, toast, and bacon every morning.

The point is, if the past is a moment just behind you, the future is a moment just ahead, and now is the moment where you shape who you were and will be, then your best years can never be behind you. The "peak"? The "high point"? That's just a way of describing a moment when everything came together and something beautiful happened.

Life's "trajectory" is a line that rises and falls, with hills and valleys marking the points and moments when beautiful and awful things happen and quiet planes when things are just humming along. Though you shape forward and backward as you zip along the line, you move forward. The past is always out of reach, the future is always just a moment away.

The best is always to come, because it's not about what you've done or will do. It's about the moment between the two, the infinitesimal second we inhabit, where we can see the past and shape the future. It's about living the best life you can so the shape of your past creates a future to look forward to.

Even if that future involves nothing more than an armchair, a remote, and reruns of your favorite shows.

And now, the obligatory cuteness.

(Source.)
There, wasn't that a nice moment? Now get on with that future.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Let The Children Boogie

And I'm back-ish. Nothing for you today but to tell you I'm back. Didn't blog during NaNo due to falling more and more behind, blah, blah, depression after failing out of NaNo again, blah, blah, didn't write a word for two weeks, blah, blah, blah, blah. Excuses, yes, but it's what I've got.

Anywho, wrote 1600 words today, continuing on with my quest to finish the novel I started. I may have missed the deadline, but eh. Let's see where it goes.

Also, I lied about having nothing for you:

Cthulhu really should have known better than wash down the Arm & Hammer Factory with the Bespoke Vinegar plant. (Source.)

Regular posts should begin next week.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Less of a Media, More of an Extremia

For anyone that thinks, based on the title, that I'm writing to yell at Fox again...well, alright, you may know me a bit too well. But that's not what we're here for today.

What we're actually here to talk about is the odd way the various forms of media around us are bent. Now, when I say "extremia" I'm not using it in the way that most 'mericans do. I'm not using it to mean "the edge" or "out there" (which actually means "too different from our accepted views, mores, and customs"); no, I mean it in the sense that it's narrow. That on this wonderful thing called a bell curve:

(Source.)
How so? Well, let's take a look at what people formally call "the media." Journalism, news outlets, paparazzi, tabloids, talk shows, and commentators of all stripes. What? Well, yes, there probably are people who get their news about the world from Maury Povich, to answer your next question.

Look at politics as an example. While there are differences of opinion between the parties, they do share most of the same goals. The differences of opinion are mainly about how to get there...and social issues. And, just so we're clear, there are plenty of bipartisan politicians.

So...why are they fighting all the time? And how come we so rarely hear from the guys that are ok with sitting down and actually hashing something out?

Here's a kitten humming the jeopardy theme while you get that figured out:

(Source.)
Well, basically, they fight over which party wins. That's it. All those "divisive social issues"? Those are what the "media" focus on because "people largely agreeing, but wanting credit for winning a non-argument" is not good entertainment. Hmm? Well, when was the last time you watched something on TV that was purely informative? No scary headlines, no explosions, no overtly beautiful women or men? Just...knowledge?

Yeah. The news is a form of entertainment now. Because we won't watch things that don't entertain us.

So what's the "extremia" here? Well, this sort of thing happens:



(Source.)
Yeah. If information was a sandwich, we'd be receiving a slice of cheese, dipped in cheese, with a shot of caffeinated sugar on top. Because it's delicious, and naughty, and all the things we want without any of the things we don't.

Or, lets look at kids media. Shows for kids have always been a somewhat narrow field, mind you. But now? Now they're goddamn ridiculous. We have edutainment, fantasy, and sitcoms. Wait, those are pretty broad fields, right?

Nope. Here we go:

Sitcoms:

This (these) kid(s), and his/her/their crazy friends and family, have unrealistic adventures and learn valuable lessons that they forget the next week in the service of ongoing plot ease.


Fantasy:

These kids have really awesome lives, hijinks ensue, because it's funny:




Edutainment:



Wellll...that's...I mean...there's three categories up there, but...they all look like the same thing...but...h-uh.

Funny story. That's because there's next to no substantive difference in kids shows these days. And there hasn't been for some time. The shows you remember? Those shows are bland shadows of their former selves if they still have new production, and drowning in copycats if they ended and had the grace to stay dead.

And most likely, they were bland shadows of what came before them.

Current adult media: now, just taking visual and audio media into account (we'll fuck with the written word later) let's take a moment to note that there's no edutainment for adults, consistently. No, I take that back. CongressTV is a thing. Popcorn, anyone?

I surfed my entire cable package yesterday. Not a single show that even purported to teach me something. Well...ok, there was a handful of religious shows, but I don't conflate proselytization and education. I can go nearly anywhere, pick up a bible, and sit down and read that mofo. What I can't do is go nearly anywhere and find out about breakthroughs in science, culture, or medicine. In short, I can't get documentaries (serious ones) just anywhere. In fact, if I want them, I have to hunt them down on the interwebz, and feed Netflix titles until I find them.

My entire cable box is filled with primetime soaps, sitcoms, reality TV, Christianity, commercials, things pretending to be news, mindless kids cartoons, somewhat less mindless adult cartoons, police shows, movies, porn and music. There might be something intelligent hiding on the Spanish channels, but given that I don't speak Spanish (my fault there), I wouldn't know.

Now some of you will have taken exception to the line about having to hunt down information. Because seriously, don't we all? What, you're such a lazy bastard that you have to have it delivered to you?

Well, yeah. But I know where to look. I know that if I want largely unbiased info, I have to go read journals in a college library. I know that if I read an interesting article in a paper or magazine, my first duty is to go fact check it and see what their sources actually said. I know that if I hear about a study, I need to check the creds of the researchers, the methods used, and the exact wording of the conclusions to know whether the guy who wrote the story just saw dollar signs and wrote what he thought he heard.

I know I need to check the dates on the information to see if they were just having a slow news day. And I know to read the whole damn thing because the way articles are written, they put what they most want you to know first, and then gradually move on to the things they think are unimportant.

Take this article (yep, here's your written media): How Young Is Too Young For Porn? (I feel it's SFW, but at your discretion.)

The article is about one of the leading producers in the porn industry deciding not to hire actors under the age of 21. Now, we read, we read, it fascinating, it's controversial, it's...what's that?
“I’m not a crusader,” he recently told Salon. “Every institution has its flaws; I’m just glad to be in a position where I can choose how to regulate my own business.”
Oh. So...the guy we've been reading about as some sort of messianic figure, some forward thinking genius, is completely open about the fact that this is largely an empty gesture on his part? That this is in no way an industry changer, nor is he, in fact, doing anything rebellious since he does not (in fact) even work with the part of the industry where this decision would have some impact?

In short, you're telling me (and I yelled this in the break room at work, I'll have you know) that the last few paragraphs of the story tells me that the entire article preceding it was trumped up human interest bullshit with no actual news value beyond "porn guy who doesn't work with people under 21 is now formally not working with people under 21"?

See? That's where most people would've stopped. And they wouldn't have drawn that conclusion, because they've just spent 1278 words having it drilled into them that this is a huge thing. That's what reputable news looks like. That's what the information we rely on to make decisions everyday looks like.

That's my point, and the problem we're addressing here: that due to a confluence of consumer driven idiocy, marketing, and the opinions of a few well placed people making calls, we don't get any truly alternative ideas. We rarely get anything breathtakingly, astonishingly new. And if we did, we'd call it crap and run, because it doesn't look like what we normally get.

So what can we do here? What's Uncle Jere's agenda, here?

Well, you can push for better media. We're the consumers. If enough people yell at a corporation while not buying stuff, the corporation changes their product so you'll start buying it again.

Start writing letters and leaving voicemails and emails with your local news demanding a wider view and more balanced reporting. Stop supporting the stupid Disney mentality when it comes to kids programming. Yell at your cable providers, yell at the cable content producers, yell at the networks telling them you'd like to see something with a little mental backbone for once.

Because while the "media" is bent and watered down and 'mericanized, it is that way because that's what makes money. That's what we've told them we want. And it will stay that way until we tell them otherwise.

We've wasted too much time on reality TV and bent news already. Get on it. Clock's ticking.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blarg

So, my pug dumped a cup of water on my laptop. And the laptop I'm using in the interim has been utterly wrecked by the previous user. So, we're off schedule until next Monday, while I use my husband's computer to recover and recreate the blog I've been trying to write for the last two days.

Effin yay.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Running Up To Date

Well, I'm a bit late. But better late than never. Now, there's a few things I could talk about today. I mean, things have been hopping lately.

First off, the government dodged its own ridiculous bullet and postponed the fireworks 'til March. They're still idiots, mind you, but since this is what they've been doing for years, I can't say it comes as a shock.

Or we could talk about the preacher who finds it acceptable to tell parents "jokingly" to physically abuse their children if they act outside the gender norms. Cause you know, that's the exact thing Christ said when it came to sinners. "If you see someone doing something you don't like, hurt them until they stop."

Then again, I could rant about the wonderful state I live in, and the way our state government has ordered civil servants to discriminate against LGBT individuals.

Hey, how about we take all three?

So, the government is a short enough one. The government decided in the eleventh hour that they would like to not destroy the economy for another few months. Woo. Can we fast forward to the next round of elections and fire them already, please? Clean slate, no incumbents make it in, everyone goes down? That would be nice.

Moving on, Sean Harris apparently thinks that making jokes about child abuse is cool, as long as it's gay kids being joked about.
The website Good As You, which first reported the story, posted a clip of the homophobic sermon online.
"Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. OK?" Harris preached in the audio. "And when your daughter starts acting too Butch you rein her in."
—NYDailyNews.com
Yay! A return to good ol' fashioned Old Testament values! Screw all that love and mercy crap, just punch the people who do things you don't like! Even if they're kids! Especially if they're your kids!

Now, when interviewed about the sermon, Harris also said this:
"If I had to say it again, I would say it differently, no doubt," Harris told the paper. "Those weren't planned words, but what I do stand by is that the word of God makes it clear that effeminate behavior is ungodly. I'm not going to compromise on that."
Oh, well. That makes it all better right? He just said it wrong. Surely there's a good way to advocate for physically disciplining your children for acting gay. You know, like gently suggesting that a good strap might be in order.

Oooh, maybe he just meant that parents should just crack down on counter-gender behavior? Hmmm...I think Christ would have advocated love, acceptance, and a gentle talk about how that clashes with your views on spirituality...oh wait, no. Sorry. That wouldn't be half as effective as a sharp slap. After all, the kid might realize that spirituality is a personal choice, and since yours isn't ok with him or her, they should take their business elsewhere.

Because it's not about love, or the wonder of Jesus. It's about keeping the butts in the pews and in line.

Moving right along. Oklahoma, land of...well, nothing I can put politely. So, our wonderful state government has taken the next step in a long line of amazingly stupid policies along the lines of "We're going to be the most republican republicans in republican land!"

The state government of Oklahoma has declared that they will not honor legal name changes if they are made because a gay couple got married. Full stop, that's for real, no I'm not kidding.

Let's break that one down:

So, in the United States, you can change your name for any reason. Literally, any reason. If I wake up tomorrow and decide that I want to be called "Starshine McBoyo Eldrasha Snoo" I can totally do that. Further, after marriage, it is generally assumed that presentation of legal documentation will allow that one or both parties to change their name. There's a legal route that anyone can take, but states have pretty much established a "wink and nod" precedent.

Unless, of course, you're taking the last name of your gay spouse. Then it's so illegal that a tag agency can (and apparently will) rip your new license from your hands and force you to get a license with your unmarried name on it.

Isn't that fun?

You know, I've heard Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb say that Oklahoma is hemorrhaging the best and brightest of their young college graduates. I've heard him make a sincere plea to said young people to stay, to help build the economy, the cosmopolitan wonder he envisions.

I have to say, the worst way to get that done would probably be to demonstrate over and over that you don't understand how certain portions of the constitution work, and that you're all for legal discrimination.

So, down here at the bottom, let's sum up this hasty (and unfortunately late) little news blast.

The government is back. Let's fire them at the first available opportunity.

Sean Harris wants you to beat your gay children until they stop being gay. But he doesn't mean for that to sound bad. Just that being gay is wrong, and you should make them stop that.

And Oklahoma wants to make sure that you know that if you get a legal gay marriage in another state, this state will do its damndest to ensure that you know your marriage is not welcome here.

Yay.

Sometimes, I swear I hate this place.

See you next week.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

They Who Knew You Least Will Miss You Most.

Brothers and sisters, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of one of the bastions of our society, Sanity. While Sanity's children Liberty, Justice, and Progress get more face time in the media, it was Sanity that supported and encouraged them in their younger years. The three surviving children have all said they're unsure of how to proceed without their father's guidance, and that they will miss him dearly.

Sanity, already suffering from a series of fits over the last few decades, took to his bed a few days ago when he learned that Boehner believes releasing the government from a hostage situation before continuing the long term budget negotiation would be equivalent to "unconditional surrender" despite having had all year to fight and wrangle over the budget without being able to force through major cuts to public welfare and health related programs without accepting any compromise on cuts to military spending or corporate subsidies, or allowing new tax programs that create higher rates for those who can afford to pay them.

The venerable value took a further turn for the worse when he heard rumors that members of the Republican party believe the looming threat of default was a "political ploy" designed to pressure the GOP into releasing their hostages and allowing the government to resume functioning, in spite of repeated warnings from the Treasury department that failure to raise the debt ceiling really would hurt the economy.

Sanity slipped into a coma and passed on from this world upon hearing that various individuals blame the president for the various closures of memorials and national parks, despite the clear warnings by all parties involved that the facilities would close without appropriations.

While alive, Sanity enjoyed spirited debate, honest communication, and participating in team efforts to create a brighter future. He strongly supported his friends in the military, while feeling outraged at their continued needless sacrifices on foreign soil. He worked tirelessly for civil rights, and open understanding and education in support of his children's careers.

Sanity suffered from degenerative illness in his later years, but often said he hoped to get stronger and hold on long enough to see a unified, loving country where all were truly equal. His last words before slipping into a coma expressed his regret that his illness would deprive him of that, and fear that without his aid, the work he'd done in his lifetime would unravel.

Sanity is preceded in death by his father, Public Service, his mother Truth, his sister Objectivity, and his wife, Reason. He is survived by his children Liberty, Justice, and Progress.

Farewell, most wondrous of virtues. We can only hope to see his like again.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wednesday's Child is Full of Woe

So, day seven without effective government. Seven days of pure incompetence from the idiots we elected to keep the lights on, the food and beer flowing, and the world in one piece while we settle in with the latest episode of "Hero and the MacGuffin" or "Real People Acting Like Douches."

So, for no reason other than that I'm freaking bored and yelling about it won't do any good, let's take a few minutes to play the sci-fi game. What is this game, you ask? It's also known as extrapolation. Sci-fi writers pick a set of known facts, and take them up to eleven. Yes, the continued dysfunction is the most likely outcome. But we'll be playing for sci-fi.

Here's the facts we'll play with today:

1. Relatively few people understand or care about the government's function and operation.

2. The government is a largely self-sustaining entity, becoming more and more devoid of citizen input as ideological warfare creates severe rifts in what the people want (a government that operates quietly and efficiently for the largest good for the most people) and what it is (a bureaucracy that invades and interferes with every walk and step of life as it attempts to control and homogenize individuals and culture.)

3. The government is in minimal mode, barely supporting the most basic "essential functions." And by and large, things go on.

4. Given time, all functions held hostage by the government shutdown can eventually be replaced by civilian entities.

5. New currencies and economies have been evolving for years.

Now then, the question: what, really, would be the final downside to the government just...not coming back? If they couldn't resolve anything in time to raise the debt ceiling, if we defaulted and the economy went away?

Companies would collapse, yes. Workers would be laid off, yes. The country would friggin collapse, yes. And there is a chance we'd take out a significant portion of the rest of the planet on our way down. But here's the thing: I believe we've passed the point where we would collapse backwards.

Without power, we'd lose most of what let's us operate as a society. But we know, or can find out, how to generate power. Stop and think.The tech is all still sitting there. All we need to operate it is people and power.

Wind, water, and solar steam power are all readily available. Alcohol can be made by a nitwit with half a brain, and can be used in some diesel engines. Or hell, fire that crap up and use it straight as a heat source for steam. Radio signals, operating within the bounds of sanity and reason for a civilian, can be used to access or even rebuild the internet. New lightbulbs have a lifetime of several years, LED's can go even longer; there's a couple dozen ways to cool and cure food, some of which are older than nearly any country on the planet.

Growing food isn't easy, but it isn't rocket science either. Plants grow. That's what they do. Hunting? Fishing? We got those.

The point is that, with some hiccups admittedly, we could move into a barter economy and just keep right on going. What hiccups?

Well, building new stuff would be hard. If it breaks, it's broken. Cause there ain't no more parts a-comin'. But hey: necessity is the mother of invention. Take enough stuff away from enough people and you'll eventually get to that one guy that will just go build his own. And given the relatively high volumes of information and education available, I have no doubt that there are many such people.

Drugs would take a hit. But drugs are extensions of natural substances. And we have chemists. And doctors. And with the government in free fall, it's not like the cops would show up and shoot guys for manufacturing penicillin.

We know how to do so many things, and we're so entrenched in our comforts, that I firmly believe a society where the government collapsed into a screaming mob of children that went off and screamed at each other in the distance forever would rebuild itself to functioning levels in a couple of decades.

Alternatively, corporations could step in and turn the country into a for profit engine. Potential dystopia? Yup. But since we live in a world where thousands of people are out of a job, civil and healthcare rights are points of contention, poverty and homelessness are something we ignore everyday, and (again) as long as the food, entertainment, and blowjobs keep coming people as a whole give very few craps, who would honestly notice?

We'd all have jobs, tasks to complete. We'd all be consumers. The company credit system would replace the currency system.  Smells like socialism? Nope. There's more than one company, ya see. There's several. And they'd be working with and against each other to take on the rest of the world. Huxley wins, in essence. Again, before anyone starts freaking and screaming, let's all remember that the only difference between our world and a Huxley Wins world is that we aren't required to take happy drugs and we don't take care of our people very well.

Yeah. The only real difference between the dystopia and us is that we aren't provided with free Valium, and the dystopia take better care of it's citizens. That should scare you.

Scenario three: the government collapses and we get a do-over.

Pay attention. This is the darkest outcome.

What if we could redesign the government from scratch? What would it look like?

Cool story, bro. Now:

Would you agree with your neighbor?

Yeah...there's the scary bit. How would we agree on a legal system, on a system of governance, that would be fair to everyone? Reboot the old system and keep it as is? Try something different? Split off into micro countries that all say fucks to each other?

There just aren't many people equipped to design a government with a society in mind. We broke this one because we suck at government. And if everyone sat down and designed a new system right now, we'd be arguing and killing each other within days. A system would win out eventually, but only by beating the other systems into the ground.

So, to be blunt, here's three possible visions of the future, all things being equal:

1. The government runs off and does it's own thing , society collapses. But hey, in the face of a shitstorm, we've proven to be fairly decent at picking shit up and hauling ourselves back together. I honestly feel a scorched earth solution is the best outcome here. It'd take time, but at the end of it, we'd be reinvigorated as self-sufficient pioneers. Hell, with all the work we'd have to do, we might actually get a society that functions on a larger scale.

(Ok, admittedly, rioting, guerilla warfare, and a default to scenario three is also likely. But I'm feeling optimistic, here.)

2. Corporations step up and keep things running with an eye to maintaining their status in society. It would suck, but life would go on. And at least the status quo would largely be maintained.

3. We get a bright shining chance to rebuild the entire system from the ground up. And then we act like people do. This one probably doesn't end well. Hell, I'd lay money it ends horribly. Remember, the original system was designed for rich white guys by rich white guys. And almost three hundred years later, it still favors rich white guys.

Or we could, you know, fire all the idiots, attempt to find decent replacements, and try and salvage what we have. But that would really be a fictional outcome.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Growing Up Sucks

The Affordable Care Act, the potential shutdown, and the debt ceiling are pretty much the only things in the news today. Well, the only things I heard, at any rate. But we're not going to talk about them directly, kiddies. Because quite frankly, the ACA is going through tomorrow, and polls show that the GOP will take the worst hit on a shutdown. Your standard disclaimer: that's two polls and two news stories, not four polls.

Instead of railing at the people who are probably going to eat political crow digging themselves in any deeper, let's take a moment to reflect on how badly it sucks to be an adult. And no, this isn't the "I have to be responsible" talk. This is a rant on what's missing from my adult life that my kid self always secretly hoped would be possible.

I really want to be able to resolve problems. Serious, flat solutions that don't involve weaseling, that don't involve concessions made so idiots won't fuck things over. I mean, I've always understood that compromise and diplomacy were part of life, but I always kinda hoped I'd be able to take options my childhood companions did.

What childhood companions? Books.

I wasn't raised reading Harry Potter, but let's have a look at Harry first. Mostly because I'll be stunned if more than a few of you catch all the references from my childhood.

Harry is bullied. Harry (accidentally, of course) unleashes a snake on said bully. He then gets whisked away to a world that's full of awesome stuff, except for this one megalomaniac who wants to rule it all. Whom he then has to fight. Cue six years of Harry blasting shit with wands, magical weapons, and Hermione's brain to solve problems. No really:

Sorcerer's Stone: The power of love sits in for Kill It With Fire to take down Quirrell.

Chamber of Secrets: Kills a basilisk with a magic sword, which was couriered to him by a phoenix, then kills Riddle's proxy with a venomous fang.

Prisoner of Azkaban: Time travel. Which Hermione was given to get to class on time. For the record, my advisors just tell me not to take so many classes.

Goblet of Fire: Makes it through the whole book because Crouch, Jr. is feeding him tips and aid, then blows up Voldemort's wand due to a rare interaction. Frankly, HP4 was one of the strongest on deus ex.

Order of the Phoenix: Hermione takes out the book's main antagonist using centaurs and a giant. Harry and his friends fight a guerrilla battle in the government capital building, blow up a bunch of crap, destroy a bunch of irreplaceable stuff, and then duck and cover while the most powerful wizard on the planet does his best to kill Voldy.

Half-Blood Prince: Nothing gets fixed, everything goes wrong, etc. This book is why it's only six years.

Deathly Hallows: KILL ALL THE THINGS! Seriously, Harry runs around blasting crap with Hermione and Ron, killing horcruxes, smashing a bank...the solution to the whole mess is blowing up most of the school. Oh, and using the exact same technique that blew up Voldy's wand before to (accidentally?) rebound his murder spell and kill the main antagonist of the series.

Yep. All lasting solutions involved things blowing up. For all my HP fan-friends, I love the books. I love the movies. I love it all. I'm just saying.

But HP was evulz so I didn't read that until I grew up. My childhood? The Scarlet Pimpernel; The Count of Monte Cristo; The Three Musketeers; The Oz Series.

In brief:

(Source.)
The Scarlet Pimpernel: James Bond, but in the French Revolution. He lies, tricks, or kills people to smuggle aristocrats to England and safety.

(Source.)
The Count of Monte Cristo: And not the "Wishbone" version. I read the unabridged English translation. Anywho, guy gets betrayed and sent to prison. Escapes, finds a fortune, and uses said fortune to economically, emotionally, and physically destroy everyone involved. Four people walk away from the carnage, and two of them are the count and his lover.

(Source.)
The Three Musketeers: D'Artagnan swashbuckles and sword fights his way all over France, before straight up blustering his way past the antagonist to a promotion and eventual lush retirement. Yeah. He charms or kills his way through pretty much the whole book.

(Source.)
The Oz series: Now there's a lot to cover here, but the one that really stuck with me was book two, Marvelous Land of Oz. Boy takes a journey after escaping from a witch. Hijinks ensue. Boy turns out to be a lost princess. Yep, princess. Turning back into a girl and taking over the kingdom of Oz is the happy ending.

But hey, let's skip past books and look at comics. Superman solves things largely by punching them. Batman is Batman and rightly feared by any problem causing person. The list goes on, but at the end of the day most comic heroes solve their problems by punching them really hard.

The continued operation of the government is being held hostage by people who genuinely believe that they are doing this for the right reasons. You remember all those stories growing up, about kid heroes and superheros fighting people doing something wrong or stupid for the right reasons?

Those are the people who got a free slap sandwich.

I'm frustrated, in short, because the option of viciously visiting violent slaps upon those who annoy and frustrate me through obfuscation, stupidity, and the need for political capital is an option that comes with legal penalties. Talking, diplomacy, and making nice with the people that create problems in my life. This is what I can do. These are the options I have if I don't want to go to jail.

So yes. I'm a bit frustrated by being an adult in a world where those who have it coming rarely take five across the face.

Would that I could be the hero this world so desperately needs...


Monday, September 23, 2013

Out With the Old, In With The Old

Evening, Iratites! I was going to write a piece on the economy, but eh. Bigger fisherman. We'll get right into it, ok?

Couple some days ago, there was a media flurry over the new Pope saying some things that wishful minds construed as "liberal." Myself, I went and read the transcript and thought, "well, that certainly seems like a nice bit, from a certain point of view. And yet..."

And yet, I was raised Catholic. So I know a bit of this language. And I wasn't ready to buy in.

Lo and behold, Il Papa has excommunicated a priest. And as near as anyone can tell, that would be because he jumped on the liberal pope bandwagon, and came out in favor of gay rights and women in the priesthood.

Hehehehe...seriously? By a show of hands, who thought the Church was going to be a force for good in the future? Who thought there was actually going to be a pope that favored human freedom over articles of faith? Seriously?

Oh, does that seem harsh? Let's step back and look at this from a Catholic point of view.
Undoubtedly the Church cannot (nor does it wish to) oppose any obstacle to the internal relations of the soul with God; she even implores God to give the grace of repentance to the excommunicated. The rites of the Church, nevertheless, are always the providential and regular channel through which Divine grace is conveyed to Christians; exclusion from such rites, especially from the sacraments, entails therefore regularly the privation of this grace, to whose sources the excommunicated person has no longer access.
—"Excommunication", The Catholic Encyclopedia

That, to be clear, is a piece of a much longer article. But the section it's taken from is called "Excommunication not only external." Here's what that means, in context:
At any rate, in the first centuries excommunication is not regarded as a simple external measure; it reaches the soul and the conscience. It is not merely the severing of the outward bond which holds the individual to his place in the Church; it severs also the internal bond, and the sentence pronounced on earth is ratified in heaven. It is the spiritual sword, the heaviest penalty that the Church can inflict (see the patristic texts quoted in the Decree of Gratian, cc. xxxi, xxxii, xxxiii, C. xi, q. iii).
Yeah, that's right. It "severs the internal bond." Translation of the above two sections, "we'd really like to not prevent you from getting to heaven, and we hope God's feeling friendly when your time comes, but the only way to heaven is through us. And you can't go through us, bub."

Now, the pope can take it back, but only if the priest in question retracts his views and agrees not to deviate from the party line in the future.

Still burning from the above bit about a church that isn't going to be a force for good? Welp, let's look at this flatly.

The pope excommunicated a priest for being in favor of gay rights. Not defrocked him, which I could've understood, the guy was (sadly) off the reservation. No, he excommunicated him. As in, "play nice or no heaven for you unless God's feeling fantastic that day."

What? No, please. Go read that whole article. The path to heaven, in Catholicism, is through the sacraments. If you don't have them, you don't get in. And if you're excommunicated, you don't get the sacraments. So yeah. If you like the gays, the pope can and will throw you out of the "sole path" to heaven.

But that'll never happen, right? I mean, not as a general thing. Well of course not. If the Pope excommunicated everyone that was out of line, there'd be less than a million Catholics, tops.

So, nah, nothing to worry about. Just the Pope laying down the law. Which, you know, means denying a person the path to heaven to make a point. But hey, that's not...I mean...well, no, there's no good way to look at this.

Why is there no good way to look at this? Take a gander over this. Yes, it's Wikipedia. No, I give no craps, follow their sources yourself. Read carefully...nope, you see excommunication nowhere in there. A priest can sexually abuse a child and he will be defrocked. A priest who says, "let's maybe be more ok with gay people" gets excommunicated. Yeah, being ok with gay people is worse than molesting kids. Not even actually being gay. Just saying that maybe the church could maybe be better to gay people.

We're looking at a few possibilities, here, but the bottom line is that the Pope is ok with kicking someone to the curb of the afterlife for being in favor of gay people and women in the priesthood. Now, it could be because the pope really believes that's what's best, or because he needed to make a point, or because business as usual.

Basically, the pope is being pretty clear: "reform" and "renewal" have nothing to do with actually reaching out to people, or helping them. It's about image and internal organization.

When the pope talks about a "positive message" he's talking about "let's focus on the things that aren't controversial in our message." He's not changing the message, he just wants Catholics to stop digging the Church into a hole they can't climb out of.

And by "can't climb out of" I mean, "can't get new members in the face of a youth that is increasingly less understanding of dogmatic thinking that is counter to actually treating people as people." Or "is losing the ability to affect the world because people won't listen to an organization that claims to stand for hope and love while spewing negativity."

So at the end of all this, the Church has no plans to actually change anything meaningful. The pope would just appreciate it if we could all start liking the Church more without doing anything to make the Church more Christ-like.

Yep. Never going back. Think Frankie'd formally kick me out if I asked nicely? Cause at this point, I'm going to start sending gift baskets to people who get excommunicated.

With big ol' "Congratulations" cards in them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pessimism: Purple Prose Pondering A Problem

Welp, I'm not feeling particularly rant-y. Welcome, friends, to the "cogito" in "cogito, ergo sum iratus." Translation: musing ahead.

I was talking to my dad today, and it occurred to me that I have a horrible habit. I'm a negative bastard. Now, not in the "world pisses me off" sorta way.

Two definitions to kick off with, then:

Cynics are people who don't believe in the kindness of strangers as a default. And that's ok, because we have awesome days when strangers are kind, and shrug and chuckle when people aren't.

Pessimism, however, is a sucky trait involving the belief that bad things will happen in the future, or that your hopes and dreams will die horrible, horrible deaths. Not, mind you, in the "bad things happen" sorta way, but in the, "all the things will end horribly, and I shall never achieve anything because all the things will end horribly" sort of way.

When it comes to dealing with the human race as a whole, I'm a cynic. When it comes to dealing with myself I have a tendency to be a pessimist.

And that's not ok.

I have gone on the record as saying that my degree was a mistake. That I should have skipped the writing courses in favor of a certification or degree that would pay out.


And you know what? If I believe that I suck, or if I wasn't any good at it, I'd be right.

But I'm fucking fabulous. I write well, I interview well, I'm a research whore...I just happen to not enjoy the business of journalism. And I've got two to four years to go until I'm qualified for my dream job, sure, but that doesn't mean my degree isn't good for anything. It just means I can't use it for work at the moment, unless I want to sell my soul to the publishing industry.

When I was younger, my siblings and myself had a running gag/complaint that our mother was training us to be housewives. Eventually, mom stopped trying to explain her methods, and went with "you'll see."

We all learned to cook, clean, deal with kids, deal with adults, not spend money wildly, make minor to major household repairs on the fly, manipulate people...ok, that last one probably wasn't intentional, but you can only listen to a woman twist bill collectors around her little finger so many times before you decide that's a skill you need.

What do you mean that sounds like good life skills?

That's because it is. And we've all called her and mumbled some variation on, "sorry, mom, you were right." Because she's sorta evil, and will never say "I told you so." She makes us say it for her.

What has this to do with my degree? Well, when talking to my dad today, I found myself on the other end of the stick.

My dad is a genius level programmer. The man complains when it takes him more than three weeks to learn entire programming languages. Because he thinks that's slow. Because for him it is. Dad has been doing variations on database management and programming for close to three decades. Like, really close to three decades. He started with Basic, and he's learned everything in between.

Just last year, Dad saw a friend at work playing with iOS app code, and decided he wanted to play too. He borrowed a buggy version of a simple app from said friend, and played with it in between projects. The next day he handed back an app he'd rewritten from the ground up, maintaining only a few functional strings of code. And his app worked, with one or two bugs at most. Bugs, I want to clarify, on the developer side. The end user functionality was nearly perfect.

He's programmed patches over the phone and over the phone by proxy, sight unseen for proprietary databases while half-asleep. Oh, and the proxy was his 11 year old daughter and Post It notes. And the patches worked.

He's freaking out right now because he's having trouble finding a job. The purple squirrel principle is in full effect. In some cases, the jobs really are outside his bailiwick. But in many cases, he's overqualified.

Now, I could sorta understand that, but surely there's a place in the world for a programmer of my Dad's skill? I'm sitting here wondering, "how the hell have people not realized that my Dad's salary requirements have a floor? I mean, who wouldn't want a budget genius!?"

Turns out, he's not selling himself. No, really. He's written maybe half a dozen cover letters in his entire career. Full stop. He updates his resume by removing outdated programming languages and adding recent work experience.

Now, nobody think I'm bashing my Dad. Writing cover letters and editing resumes to target them to companies is a writing intensive art form. He's a programmer, not a writer.

(Source.)
But...I'm a writer. And...business writing isn't that far of a stretch from academic writing...or magazine writing...or public relations writing...or...well, you get the idea. Know the audience, know the format, and the only thing left to do is write what they want to read in the way they want to see it.

So I offer my services to Dad as a cover letter writer and resume over-hauler. As I'm on the phone, talking it out, explaining the rationale of cover letters, explaining resume optimization strategies, my mom interrupts me and goes, "Dude...you know people charge $60 an hour for this, right? Go make a living at this!" (Ok, I'm paraphrasing. My mother would spontaneously combust before she'd use "dude" seriously in a sentence.)

Moreover, I can tutor English, PR, Journalism, Comp I and II, Public Speaking, Mass Comm...I'm good at communications and writing. And either way I go on my bachelors (adult education or English) I can use my degree as a springboard for many, many things.

So...being pessimistic about my future because I got a minor is something I don't want to work in has been a major drag on my life that I don't need, and shouldn't have been bothering with.

What else am I pessimistic about in my life?

Well, I've addressed the issue of kids in the past, so I won't go into that in depth here. Suffice it to say, I really should consider that I'm damn good with kids, and that's really all that matters. If I have to lawyer up and beat ass to keep my kids, people better run screaming. And that's that.

But also, I've been in a funk about my art, my writing, my poetry...because pessimism means that hopes and dreams die horribly.

My art...well, I tend to go for the abstract, the impressionist, the expressionist. It's not photographic, or even representational. It tends to cut to the chase and and just shit emotions straight onto the canvas. So, naturally, it doesn't look like art to me.

But I've had several people say they love it, and I've sold one mixed media collage. So...obviously, I'm not the best judge of what I'm capable of. And hell, I've seen pieces in museums that resemble my style, so why should I worry when I could be painting and creating?

My writing is...well, according to this (I've run fiction, non-fiction, academic writing, business writing, you name it) I write like Cory Doctorow. Try it, it's fun. Admittedly, it's not perfect. I ran a horrible bit of crap through it and got Salinger, so it's more about tone than anything else.

And to my shame, I've never read any Doctorow, but hey. He's a successful internet meme, at least. And he's a champion for ideas I can definitely get behind. So I could do worse.

But the point of this: I write well. I just get so caught in a pessimism loop that I forget to actually write. And if I want to succeed, I first have to do.

Besides:

This happened. (Source.)
Poetry? Well, I'm a poetry infant, experience-wise. I used to write doggerel and couplets. Then I realized I was an emo child, and stopped out of respect for the world around me. To this day, when I read whiny poetry, I have to fight the urge to unleash atomic slaps.

But I took a course in it. I realized that "free verse" is popular because it's easy and because poetry is stagnant, not because it's good poetry. It can be. But it's not the only option.

So, while I have the same pessimism about my poetry as I do about my writing, I might as well write the shit. I know, perhaps better than anyone else, that you have to write a lot of crap to get a few diamonds. And I keep forgetting that there's diamonds in them thar lavatories.

So, at the bottom of my (as usual) messy musing post, a point:

My mother is of the opinion that cynicism is killing me. I think she's wrong. Pessimism is killing me. It's strangling my art, my expression, my ability to get up in the morning, my ability to feel happy with any choice I make. I'm a depressive personality, sure, but I keep forgetting that there's a difference between sucking at life and being depressed. Pessimism, and my inability to recognize it in my thinking, is quite possibly the biggest potential pitfall in my plans.

And if any of this resonates, just remember. Pessimism is a self-perpetuating reality. And at the end of the day, you know what matters?

This. (Source.)
So, here's to pessimism:

Kerblam. (Source.)
Welp, let's hide the body in a dumpster and get on with being fabulous, shall we?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Can I Get A Copy Of This Agenda?

So, in an abnormal week for me, I got my rage boner from a source other than Facebook. A bit of background is in order: my dad is in the market for a new job, and his net at his house has been out of service for a couple weeks. So he's asked me to check his email now and again when he can't get to it, to make sure he doesn't miss anything timely.

Second or third time I check, I'm greeted with an email from Eugene Delgaudio, president of Public Advocate of the United States. For those that don't recognize that innocent name, it's one of the far right groups listed by the SPLC as an anti-gay hate group.

Sigh. So yeah, I forwarded it to myself. And here, reproduced for your reading...pleasure, I suppose...it is:

Will Obama "payoff" the Homosexual Lobby?
Dear My Dad (yeah, that's what we're going with here,)

The Homosexual Lobby is lined up for their payoff.

Within days of Obama's reelection, the Homosexual Lobby is publicly reminded the President of all he owes them for his success.

And they have something very specific they want:

An Executive Order to force through major parts of the Gay Bill of Special Rights.

You see, Obama has been threatening to sign this order for almost a year.

It was a massive out-pouring of protest from Public Advocate and other pro-family supporters that stopped him before.

With your help, I was able to spread this story across the country, alerting pro-Family activists to Obama's disgusting scheme.

And he quietly backed down.

But now he has the second term he was craving -- and he knows he will never have to face voters at the polls again.

And the Homosexual Lobby is working hard to claim that he owes their radical activists for his success.

The legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, Allison Herwitt, announced to the press that the Homosexual Lobby expects the President to sign the Executive Order right away.

The Human Rights Campaign is the single largest arm of the Homosexual Lobby and has been actively trying to blacklist and silence Public Advocate since a showdown last year.

You see, the Gay Bill of Special Rights has been the cornerstone of the Homosexual Agenda since the 1980s.

Called the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act" to disguise its purpose, it would really create a federally-protected and enforced employment status for homosexuals and transsexuals.

Businesses, daycare centers and even churches would be required to hire and maintain quotas of radical homosexual employees.

They would be practically forbidden to ever fire or even refuse to hire any sexual deviant.

And if they don't comply, they would be risking a federal lawsuit -- maybe even jail time.

Public Advocate has worked tirelessly to defeat this bill every time it has been brought up in Congress.

But an Executive Order would run right around the legislative process.

It would force every department of the federal government to give homosexual employees preferred treatment.

It could even be used to coerce any company with government contracts, which is a list that continues to grow.

The leaders of the Homosexual Lobby believe this Executive Order will pressure Congress to pass the entire Gay Bill of Special Rights.

Public Advocate stopped the Executive Order last March, but it will be so much harder this time.

The Homosexual Lobby is claiming that the results of the last election were a "mandate" for their radical agenda.

You and I know the majority of Americans have not turned their backs on the Family.

Major media has completely ignored the fact that three of the five Republicans who sponsored the Gay Bill of Special Rights will not be returning to Congress this year.

And numerous other pro-homosexual races were lost.

In fact, the pro-homosexual Super PAC American Unity PAC, funded by billionaire Paul Singer, lost 6 out of 8 races; a fact the media willfully overlooks.

But I can't spread this counter-message alone.

When I tell politicians in Washington how many pro-Family Americans actually support Public Advocate, marriage and morality, they just shrug their shoulders and turn away.

My words alone won't change minds.

That's why I need your help today.

I want to bury the White House and Congress in pro-Family protests.

Let the president know that you do not support the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act” and you insist he not sign the Executive Order authorizing it.

You can send an email by clicking here:
www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Or call this number to speak directly to White House staff:
202-456-1111

And then please take a moment to sign Public Advocate’s Marriage and Morality Petition for me to show to your Congressman and Senators.

Please take action today.

And be ready for future fights.

The War on the Family is entering a new phase... you and I have to be ready for it.

For the Family,

Eugene Delgaudio
President, Public Advocate of the United States

P.S. Please chip in with a donation of $10 or more to help Public Advocate fight for traditional values.
For the record, I have made the following alterations to the piece above: italicized it, changed the font, indented it, and cut out the massive image header and sig files. No content changes. All links intact. I can send you the original.

Sooo...aside from the fact that my Dad is on their mailing list, which makes me facepalm, let's take a look at this logically.

This is ENDA in it's latest form: H.R. 1755 and S. 815. Now those are summaries, but let's look at the relevant text:
Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 - Prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by covered entities (employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees). Prohibits preferential treatment or quotas. Allows only disparate treatment claims.
Prohibits related retaliation.
Makes this Act inapplicable to: (1) religious organizations, and (2) the relationship between the United States and members of the Armed Forces. Declares that this Act does not repeal or modify any federal, state, territorial, or local law creating a special right or preference concerning employment for a veteran.
Well, that seems fairly clear. The whole thing is about preventing employer discrimination. It doesn't say "you have to hire so many gay people." It doesn't say, "you have to favor gay people." Oh, look, there's even an exception for churches! Hey, isn't that swell, no forced hiring of gay people for you!

Except, you know...well, again, there's the whole fact that no-one is being forced to hire gay people. So it's really just license to discriminate. Like, if your church had a thing against black people, this wouldn't make you hire them, but you could fire them for being black.

Oh, and that bit about making it impossible to fire gay people? Nope, you just can't fire them for being gay, unless you're a church. You can fire them for workplace performance issues, you can fire them for theft, you can, in fact, fire a gay person for anything that it would be reasonable to fire anyone over. The clincher here is that by making this argument, Delgaudio is arguing that simply being gay is reason enough to fire someone.

Let's step back and look at that in the cold light of day: would any sane person argue that you could fire someone for infidelity? Or for getting a divorce? Or getting an abortion?

Nope! But hey, those are all major threats to the Christian ideal of family. But we don't discriminate against people based on those reasons. 

To move back to ENDA, and let Delgaudio dig himself deeper, the bill explicitly allows only those claims which fall under disparate treatment. 

Here's the definition of disparate treatment, just in case you were wondering:
Disparate treatment, in the employment context, refers to when a person is treated differently from others. The different treatment is based on one or more of the protected factors and the different treatment is intentional. This is distinguished from the concept of "adverse impact", which may be unintentional and applies to a protected group rather than an individual. For example, disparate treatment occurs when a supervisor allows the majority of his/her employees to enjoy a particular job benefit but denies a single employee that same benefit.

Welp, that pretty much douses my hopes of ruling the world through the fine art of buggery. All that means is that if I'm working for someone, they can't deny me equal treatment or fire me solely because I'm gay. That's it.

Oh, and the whole bit about the HRC taking credit for Obama's political success and calling for him to sign an executive order?

That looks like this:
Allison Herwitt, legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, said gay-rights supporters want to see movement from the president soon.


 "The push is to have them do it sooner instead of later," Herwitt said. "I do think it helps pave the way for a fully inclusive [Employment Non-Discrimination Act]. ... It is the way that the government puts its imprimatur on what's important and makes a difference in people's lives. The president would be saying it's important not to discriminate."
 
Ummm...sounds like she's less wanting dictatorial law, and more wanting the president to show his support for a bill. You know, light a fire under Congress.

So...it would appear that Mr. Delgaudio outright lied about a lot of stuff, there. Anyone that feels like arguing with their hate group status, kindly note that fact: he is outright lying to prevent the passage of a bill that acts only to protect a minority group from employment discrimination. And not as a preventative measure, but as a provision for a narrow avenue of legal action in specific cases where discrimination has occurred.

Let's take on a few other things, shall we? I mean, we've already buried his primary argument, so let's pick at what's left.

Delgaudio leads off by with the question of whether or not Obama will "pay off" the homosexual lobby. There's a few problems here, but we'll jump right to the heart of things.

Damn skippy Obama's going to work hard to help the people who helped put him in office. And by "those who helped put him in office" I mean "liberals." 

That's politics 101. Bush helped the automotive and oil industries, Clinton helped the middle and lower classes and small businesses...although, honestly, he did that in such a way that we came out with a budget surplus, so he really helped everyone. 

Lobbyists exist because lobbying works. You can't bitch when you do your damnedest to keep a guy out of office and he then doesn't go out of his way to stomp on his voting constituency at your request. If you want a president to help you out, fighting him at every turn isn't the best way to do it.

So yes, there's a kernel of truth in this madness, if only that a sitting president would be dumb not to play nice with the people who helped him get elected. 

Which, again, would be "liberals" not "gay people." Cause we're only 10% of the population, folks. Sorry, but we're not the new Illuminati. Sadly, in my opinion. I mean, how awesome would it be to go to the annual "Rule the World" convention? But I digress.

Still, backslapping and hand ups generally should fall in the first term, wouldn't you think? You know, when a prez needs the support for the second term. Which, by the by, you'll note that Obama didn't play to his supporters wholesale during his first term. Because, and let's stress this, Obama was trying for bipartisanship for pretty much his entire first term. You know, compromise to allow the nation to move forward?


Which, I'd like to remind everyone, never happened. The president has been fought and stonewalled on nearly every issue from day one. We are in sequestration, because there has been a massive surge of partisanship. The two parties are flat refusing to work together on some of the biggest issues today, including the freaking budget.

So yeah, after being kicked into the dirt and stomped on while offering a handshake multiple times, why is anyone surprised that Obama might take the executive order route? He's tried everything else to pass legislation and advance the causes he believes in. And, before anyone screams "abuse of power" please a) reference the fact that ENDA isn't a special treatment bill, and b) that while they can be abused, they're part of the job, and c), they're an internal policy measure, not a law. A balance to Congress' check, if you will.

And that balance, in some situations, comes down to: "If you won't even talk about the issues I'm pointing out; if you've kicked and fought me for every inch of ground; if, in short, you've dicked with me for no reason for far too long: I can, and will, set policy for this administration as a way of publicly showing you up."

It's a way of knocking some sense into Congress. It's a way of reminding them that they sort of have to be effective at their jobs. It's used in concert with Congress usually, as a way of backing them up. And when used to go around them, it's used sparingly, because it's the nuclear bomb of presidential power. It's the one way the president can flat look at Congress and say, "Fuck you. You chose me to lead the executive branch, and then you fought me on how I do my job. This is what I want the government I lead to do within its own structures and organizations. Now what?"

And, while it may be treated as a license to go nuts, like when FDR created Japanese-American detainment camps as a side effect of trying to keep Japanese spies out of war zones (although I'd need more research to be sure he wasn't going for detainment camps. I can't research everything for you;) it's not a law. It's a dictate of policy. It doesn't magically create ironclad legislation. Seriously, if the president could just declare things to be so, and they were, we'd be a dictatorship.

Oh, and it can totally be overridden. As long as Congress has the guts to do it. Yeah, you read that right. A two-thirds super-majority can overturn an executive order. There just has to be enough congresspeople willing to put their reputations on the line.

So the bottom line, my friends, is this: Delgaudio is a liar, using fear and hate speech to whip up support for his view that is should be legal to discriminate against gay people in the workforce.

The president would be well within his powers and sanity to lend a hand to his supporters (again, liberals) over his most concerted opponents objections by influencing internal government policy in their favor because that's all politics ever.

And even if the president does sign an executive order, you have nothing to worry about. Again, it's a policy action, and besides: if you believe Delgaudio's statement, the majority of America opposes ENDA. If there is such a majority, then their duly elected representatives will have no trouble mustering the super-majority needed to shoot the prez down.

Unless, of course, you believe that the majority of Americans are for LGBT rights. In which case, you know, you're basically arguing for a minority privilege. Saying that regardless of what the majority of the voting population wants, what you want should prevail.

You know. Special treatment.
 Whatever way the wind blows, though, I have this one question: why let this guy, who is lying to his supporters to keep their support, continue acting as a leader? I mean, seriously? Do we celebrate that now?

Regardless of whether you believe Delgaudio's organization deserves its hate group label, can we at least agree that blatant lies are not good Christian behavior, and that supporting this organization as part of the fold is a bad idea?

Anyone?
Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?(Source.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In Fear We Trust

Oy. So I'm doing a Wednesday special, because a post on Facebook caught my eye. This is not a regular thing, but I have plans for Monday's post, and this is too messy to pass up.

Apparently, a few months back (April 5-8, to be precise) there was a great huge hullabaloo about an Army Reserves Equal Opportunity briefing that contained a slide equating Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism with terrorist organizations.

Presented for your consideration, the leading salvo of said hullabaloo: Pentagon Classifies Evangelical Christians, Catholics as "Extremists."

Here's the kicker, and your first caveat: I can't find any independent sourcing on this. None. Which is not to say it doesn't exist, simply that I can't find it. And by independent sourcing, I mean any story that provides actual background, actual traceable information. But as near as I can tell, Todd Starnes is the point man on this. Many of the articles I've found cite Starnes as a primary source, and all of Starnes "source material" is self-referential. To clarify, aside from the attributed quotes, Starnes relies on his own articles as source material. Solely.

So yeah, there's my first problem. The second is that Starnes clearly states that the Army views this as an isolated incident and does not stand with or endorse the views espoused by this individual. Who, by the by, is left completely nameless. Yep. The one person in this thing who is clearly guilty of wrongdoing is never identified. Which is also a problem for me, I have to say.

Fourth problem, this paragraph:
The Chaplain Alliance uncovered in more than 1,500 pages of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request after a U.S. Army training instructor told a Reserve unit based in Pennsylvania that Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Sunni Muslims, and the Ku Klux Klan were examples of extremism.
 Wait...what? It leads off like it's going to say they uncovered something, but then goes on to describe a separate story about how the founding fathers are listed as examples of extremist behavior.From there, we jump to a bit about how the slide was uncovered, then jump back to a bit about how these documents show that the Southern Poverty Law Center was cited as a reliable source/sole source for a training briefing in South Carolina.

Then we jump back to a story about a slide that appeared in a briefing...in Pennsylvania.

Hold on, this gets better: Starnes indicates that this information came just days after Judicial Watch found out about the whole Founding Fathers bit. Judicial Watch posted their piece last week. You know, three months after the incident in question? 

And just for one more whack on that nail, I'd like to make you aware that Starnes is a fierce proponent of the theory that President Obama only supports LGBT civil liberty because he's gay.

(Source.)
Step back, take a moment, breath that in. The man leading the charge on this is the same guy that, rather than choose any one of the many viable options (political power, obfuscation, cultural reform, etc.) for a president to take up a cause that is felt to be morally ambiguous (or, you know, evil, if you swing that way,) chooses to just go with "the president must be secretly gay."

No, seriously. Check out these Tweets.

So, we've got this guy who can't source to save his ass, trying to wring some fear out of a four month old story. By, and I want to stress this, using a current story that at least has some paperwork and research behind it as a springboard for a sourceless story that misleads and confuses.

How does it mislead, you ask?

Well, I'd like to point out again that it claims the Pentagon is in on this. And then turns around and says this:
Last April, spokesman George Wright told Fox News the training briefing in Pennsylvania was an “isolated incident not condoned by the Department of the Army.”
“This slide was not produced by the Army and certainly does not reflect our policy or doctrine,” he said. “It was produced by an individual without anyone in the chain of command’s knowledge or permission.”
The Army said the slide was removed, the presenter apologized and they considered the matter closed.
So, the Army denied having anything to do with it, flatly stated that they neither condone nor support the beliefs espoused, and that they fixed it.

So why the hullabaloo? I mean, the Army, sure, but it's made of people. And people can be part of a good organization and still be idiots. Well, the hullabaloo comes from Starnes only source, Ron Crews.

Just for a little variety, here's Crews talking to the Army Times:
“Our concern is that everyone who attended that briefing should be given the corrected information,” Crews said. And he is concerned that the unit didn’t use chaplains as their source of experts on religious extremism. “We’re concerned there’s an environment in the [Equal Employment Opportunity] world that allows this to be presented to soldiers,” Crews said.
The problem could be more widespread, Crews said, because his organization has received information about briefings at other Army units and at least one Navy installation that labeled groups as “religious extremists” who were part of the Evangelical Christian community.
I'd like to take a moment to point out that Crews is worried that we didn't go to a religion to have religious extremism defined for us. Because, of course, a system that holds as a default belief that it is the one true way would be the perfect source for a clear and unbiased opinion. Beyond which, if you've read Starnes' story, you're aware that Crews has also gone on the record as stating that the Army has overstepped its apolitical stance. In this article, however, he would prefer that the Army ignore that same stance to get facts about religious extremism from religious people rather than a secular organization devoted to civil liberties and an end to hate speech.

What?

Well, you remember how the SPLC was mentioned waaaay back up there at the beginning of this post? Well, Crews doesn't like them. Those groups labeled as religious extremists who are "part of the Evangelical Christian Community"?

Those would be groups the SPLC lists as anti-gay hate organizations. Organizations like the Family Research Council. Seriously, read some of the quotes on that page. You can Google that shit. There's a difference between saying, "I have a religious objection to homosexuality" and saying, "Child molestation is a homosexual problem." One is a valid personal point of view, and yes it is valid. You're allowed to not like things in this country.

The other is scare tactics and hate speech. Flat out. So, and let's pause and clear this up, holding a belief or article of faith that conflicts with my beliefs or self-expression is fine. But insinuating that I must be a pedophile as a way of invalidating my existence is hate speech, not religious expression.

Oooh, how about the American Family Association? You know what, here's a quote:
"Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews."– Bryan Fischer, AFA director of issue analysis for government and public policy, 2010
And while that quote does appear on the SPLC page, I've actually taken that second step of sourcing it for you. I won't say you're welcome, because that link takes you to a blog post wherein Fischer passionately defends that comment. Yeah, that's good Christian thinking, right? Ban the homos, because otherwise we'll turn into a new Nazi state. That's not hate speech at allll...nosiree, them's the fine folks you want to be associated with.

Would it surprise anyone that the third anti-gay group profiled on the SPLC site is the Westboro Baptist Church? And would anyone seriously argue that they're a hate group? No?

Then why would you argue that a group which spews identical rhetoric isn't a hate group? Because the AFA and FRC don't protest funerals? So, for instance, if one kid punches other kids while calling them names, and another kid sticks to name-calling, we're ok with kid number two?

What's my bottom line, here?

For starters, I'd like to be clear that I am in no way saying this didn't happen. I absolutely believe that some idiot would try to sneak their personal bias into an EO briefing. Hell, I'll offer $5 to anyone who can prove to me that this particular incident did not happen. That's how low my faith in humanity is.

But that doesn't mean the government is out to take your religion away from you. It means that some people are absolute morons who think that a bit of authority gives them the right to cram their personal beliefs, void of any rational or logical thinking, down our throats.

Second, the Army isn't persecuting Christians of any stripe. Beyond, that is, forcing them to live in close quarters with us dirty homos. You know, like people are forced to live alongside us every day, but closer. Forcing them to eat and shower with us. You know, like when you go to a restaurant and there's gay people there. Or when you go to a gym...and there's gay people there.

So, since the only force here is that you can't discriminate or commit crimes against someone for being gay, I'm going to have to say that's not much like persecution.

Third summation, if the concern that the Army is persecuting Christians is rooted in the fact that they may or may not accept the SPLC labeling of prominent Christian organizations as "hate groups," kindly remember that they use much the same rhetoric and logic as the WBC, or racial supremacy groups. And if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, Imma go with it being a duck.

Finally, can we please all focus on something important now? I mean, yeah, I'm all for getting my full civil liberties as a gay man. I'd really like for hate crimes of all flavors, discrimination against anyone, and bigotry of all kinds to stop. Be it against gays, women, Christians (in certain circumstances, it still happens,) Muslims, racial minorities, you name it.

But frankly, I'm confused as to why we're still bitching about this. Let's get it done, and move on to cancer, hunger, poverty...you know, problems of circumstance that require attention, funds, and work to repair...as opposed to social issues that we haven't fixed yet because we're all too busy arguing about whether or not they're actually a problem and who has the moral high ground.