Archive for June, 2009
I was shocked yesterday to hear that Farrah Fawcett died of cancer this week at 62, but even more shocked to hear about Michael Jackson, who was as big as they come in the early- to mid-1980s when I was growing up. I think I only owned one Jackson album then (a cassette tape), and that was given to me by a kid when I was in middle school. At the time, I was listening to country, oldies and some Beatles. I hadn’t really branched into other types of music, and certainly didn’t watch MTV. I don’t think my family even had cable then.
Though I didn’t listened to him when he was in his prime, I’ve since become inextricably tied to music, and if I wasn’t so mediocre at it, I would attempt to make music my living. But back to Michael. His influence is far-reaching, and he was an electrifying entertainer, of which, the world will not see again for a long, long time, if ever. As Steven Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly:
“Just as there will never be another Fred Astaire or Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley, there will never be anyone comparable to Michael Jackson. His talent, his wonderment and his mystery make him legend.”
His untimely death — he was only 50 — is also comparable with that of John Lennon’s, who’s music (and the other Beatles) I did come to develop a deep appreciation for early on. So much so that I formed a sort of personal Beatlemania inside my room in the small South Carolina town where I was born. Few people know this, if any, but I was so enthralled with The Beatles’ music that I actually regretted being born so late after the fact. As a kid, I desperately wished I was a kid of the 60s (and probably in Britain), rather than of the 80s in southern America), but kids’ imaginations do get away from them from time to time.
A colleague said today that when things like this happens, he tends to tune out pretty quickly because they are, in fact, just people. Jackson didn’t pilot a rocket to the moon or cure cancer, but he was influential and made millions, or billions, down through the years, feel better about themselves through his crisp beats and melodies and meaningful lyrics. But as we know, he had his demons, and he had, at least in some ways, hadn’t quite gotten out of the imagination stage. He was acquitted of one charged involving sexual misdeeds with kids and settled with the family on another. But the accusations by themselves, and the testimony thereof, was troubling. Still, even despite not being convicted, he was wrecked by debt, and I can only imagine that he must have, indeed, been crippled by loneliness after his marriage, as this comment from a fan who probably knew him better than I indicates:
… Another added, “This splendid lonely angel, I love you.” — The New York Times, June 26, 2009
All that said, he appeared to be on Cloud 9 for the last decade or so, but his contributions to music shouldn’t be understated because of it. I wouldn’t want to be within 500 miles of O.J. Simpson, for instance, but the O.J. Simpson of the Buffalo Bills is still a legend, even if his younger self took an (allegedly) monstrous turn for the worse. I thought it would be interesting to gather a few front pages from across the country, and one from Europe, to archive Jackson’s death. Enjoy. More are available at Newseum:
Note: The part below the three stars was written the following day, June 25, 2009.
In the wake of the tidbit of news South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford decided to share with the state and the rest of the country today (He was, of course, in Argentina with a woman this week rather than hiking on the Appalachian Trail, as was the “official” reason given for his vanishing act … Or, as Stephen Colbert said yesterday, that must have been one long hike!), I’ve noticed that several news outlets have used the word “bombshell” to describe the content of the recent news Sanford conference: here, here and here, for examples.
I figured why not up the ante. I think “mushroom cloud” describes the situation fairly accurately. Seriously, though. Politicians, on either side of the aisle, who cheat or generally have themselves too good of a time should not make us overtly surprised by now after Eliot Spitzer’s (D-N.Y.) brouhaha, Mark Foley’s alleged communications with a male page, the John Ensign scandal, of course, the Big Cheese himself, Mr. Clinton, and I can go on. So, Sanford can just get in the back of a line, a long line, or politicians who’s power trumped their reason, and of course, who’s libido trumped all.
Of course, I jest about the “mushroom cloud” thing, but I wonder: what would Sanford have to do to warrant reporters’ use of language describing the most deadly explosion known to man? I don’t know. Rob a bank. Report back to us from the Statehouse in a few months that he now has a kid with some this girl in Argentina. That might do the trick.
Heck, at this point, he should just continue on and see what else he can get himself into. He’s already destroyed any respect that South Carolina and the South was attempting to build after that long foray into slavery, the Black Codes, Jim Crow and segregation. Education is not a bright spot. Many parts of the state look like a third world. Examples: the area just outside the bonny banks of Hilton Head’s luxurious coastline (If any area in the South addresses and symbolizes the rich-poor divide, that’s surely it), Orangeburg County, Florence. And, Sanford made national headlines by taking on the state legislature about the stimulus money. The governor’s excursion also doesn’t bode well at all for his party, which, like the state, was attempting to salvage some level of respect, lick its wounds, and rebuild after a crushing defeat in the election and losing majority support in Congress.
The New York Times story from the above link provides a telling quote from a representative of the Family Research Council:
I think there is somewhat of an identity crisis in the Republican Party. Are they going to be a party that attracts values voters, and are they going to be the party that lives by those values? — Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, The Times, June 24, 2009
Good question. And the Republicans don’t really have any better of a record on that issue than the Democrats at this point, the difference being that the Democrats don’t court the religious vote so outrightly, while the Republicans do … and, unfortunately for them, the latter winds up choking down the hypocritical pill.
As I was walking on the stairmaster, or whatever mechanism it was, I tuned into C-SPAN to catch Ayatullah al-Khamenei’s speech, or sermon, if you will, before supporters at Tehran University. As I watched grown men weaping at what he was saying, I could not helped but be gripped by the silliness of their rabbit little minds. Witness the foolishness here:
Khamenei, of course, was responding to the recent criticism of the election process of incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, the state government said, won the unprecedented 80-percent turnout election. Mir Hossein Moussavi was the opposition leader, and he and his supporters have claimed the election was rigged. And they probably were, but that seems beside the point at this juncture. If you thought Ahmadinejad was loonier than Bugs Bunny on PCP — evidenced alone by his speech last year at Columbia University — al-Khamenei is Elmer Fudd on crack.
He actually said Iran was the “flightbearer of defending humanity,” who was supporting ”oppressed people” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine (with no mention of Israel, except in derogatory terms). He repeatedly referred to the Zionist nation (Israel) in antagonist language. So, Iran is the flightbearer of humanity, except with regard to countries who’s policies (or religions) he disagrees with.
The culminating statement of al-Khamenei in my view was: ”We (Irananians) do not need any advise on human rights.”
Really? Are you sure? Really?? Really???
Some sectors of society – including ethnic minorities – continue to face widespread discrimination, while the situation for other groups – notably some religious minorities – has significantly worsened under the current President.
Those seen as dissenting from stated or unstated official policies face severe restrictions on their rights to freedom of belief, expression, association and assembly. Women continue to face discrimination – both in law and practice. Impunity for human rights abuses is widespread.
In the last three months alone, Amnesty International has received reports of waves of arbitrary arrests and harassment, directed particularly against members of Iran’s religious and ethnic minority communities, students, trade unionists and women’s rights activists.
Amnesty International is aware of the apparent arbitrary arrest of, or other repressive measures taken against, over 220 individuals. Many of those arrested, if not all, are at risk of torture or other ill treatment. Other individuals arrested before this period have been sentenced to death.
In addition, several newspapers have been closed down, and access to internet sites has been restricted, including some relating to human rights or operated by international broadcasters. These measures may in part be intended to stifle debate and to silence critics of the authorities in advance of the forthcoming presidential election in June 2009. — http://www.amnesty.org, Feb. 2009.
Near the end of his speech, al-Khamenei struck a personal tone, to audible cries (literal wheeping) from his supporters:
“I have my own life. I have a handicapped body, and I have a little good name, but I owe that to you. I put this all on the line, and I’m ready to sacrifice all I have for the cause of this revolution and the establishment. I’m offering it all to you. We want you, we beseech you to pray for us (for) everything in this country. The revolution belongs to you. This establishment is yours. You are our supporters. We’ll continue the path with force, with full force. We ask you to support us with your prayers all along the way.”
Folks throughout were chanting that they were prepared to give their lives for their leader’s cause. (Cry us a river.) He’s not even clear on what a revolution is. Mousavi being elected, after an oppressive rule since 1979, would have been a revolution. Not the same authority of the incumbent.
Mousavi would have been the better choice, and heck, he probably won, but in a backward land like Iran, there’s no way to, either track results, or enforce malfeasants, even if there were illegitimate votes. And of al-Khamenei, the entire country (and much of the Middle East) is soaked in a kind of religious bath in which they are continuously purged from the realities of the modern world or logic. If you look, media outlets described al-Khamenei’s presentation as a sermon, rather than a speech, and that’s probably right judging from the crowd’s ceremonious, sacrimoneous chants throughout the display. Until this region and others purge their reliance on religion (and it is an insistence that Allah is the right god to be followed), we as a world will continue to draw our fists at each other. After all, what is a more persuasive motivator than even country or nativism? Religion. And too much of it, based on false and intra-contradictory documents is still floating about by insipid, brain dead people.
As protests continued late this week, this street-level videographer was close to the action, where Mousavi supporters were throwing rocks and other objects at the state militia. I’ll leave it someone else to explain the irony of the fellow’s gesture at the end of this video, right before (or after) he tossed a rock toward the police. The point is, the protesters wanted peace and a less dictatorial president by seeming to elect Mousavi over Ahmadinejad. Unless you speak Farsi, you probably won’t understand much at this Iranian protest this blog site, but he has included interesting videos and pictures. Also, here’s some various information and photos gathered from Iranians by The New York Times.
The following is a running catalog of posts between myself and members of http://www.allmyfriends.org, which I love to death. I simply differ with some of them on health care.
One poster said:
It is a VERY touchy subject. Cigarette smoking is a disgusting habit and i have zero doubt it causes serious serious health problems but seems to me at this point that anyone who starts smoking knows exactly what they are getting themselves into. Medicare is a huge financial burden and its not going to get cheaper any time soon. We’ve got to have some personal accountability with things like this. Its way too easy for people to look towards the government to supply them with so many things. I dont know what the right answer is here, but its getting awfully scary as our government marches towards totalitarianism.
I said: The problem with personal accountability in regards to health care is that the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies are making too much money with the status quo. We can try to put stiffer controls on them, but will it do any good? I don’t know. Some lawmakers have as much to gain from the health care industry’s success as the insurance and pharmaceutical companies themselves. So, as long as people are making money, there is always going to be resistance to a universal system because greed will always get in the way of doing what’s best for everyone, rather than looking out for people who can’t help themselves. Perhaps the goal should be utilitarianism, but we, I think, have too many greedy people in high places to make that a reality.
A different poster said:
I fail to see where a company making money is bad… this is a capitalist country or rather it was. The pharmaceutical’s have programs to give reduced price or free meds to those who need them. Wal mart and other retailers now offer $4 precriptions, so maybe some folks need to let go of a value meal here or there to pay for it, but it’s not the pharmaceutical companies fault, there is just no more personal responsibility anymore. It’s always someone else’s fault.
I replied: The cost of health care is egregiously expensive, even for people who have insurance. The pharmaceutical companies have some programs, I know, and people may be able to get certain generic drugs at Wal-Mart for a few bucks (And many local counties have drug cards offering more discounts for people without other insurance coverage), but when one has regular bills to pay and then gets sick or a family member gets sick, the doctors wants tests run or drugs prescribed. Some drugs are still $60 or more with insurance, Singulair for one, of which, there is no comparable generic. My wife’s recent endoscopy ran $3,500, not counting the doctor’s fees. With insurance, that will put my tab at least $700-$800. I make over 30k a year, but I can’t just drop $700 on the desk when it comes due. So, my point was that it has nothing to do with personal responsibility. The poor certainly get left behind. They can go to the ER and get checked out, but the hospital isn’t going to treat them like they would a paying customer out of the kindness of their hearts. But the folks in the middle get left behind too. Company insurance for a family is freakin’ expensive by itself, and then when a sickness comes up, it helps, but it doesn’t help enough in a lot of cases. Companies have a right to make money, but not at the expense and detriment of others. Or heck, maybe they do; damn the rest of us. lol
The same poster replied:
Jer I dunno what ER you have around you, but my wife is a charge nurse in ours and I can tell you first hand that they don’t play favorites if you have insurance or not. The nurses don’t know (unless you’re a frequent flyer), until after they’ve already started treatment if the person has insurance or not. My wife gets pissed at people using the ER as their regular doctor, but she still treats them kindly, with respect and no different than someone who has insurance.
Cost of health care is high because people don’t take care of themselves. I’m guilty of it myself. The main reason it’s high is because of people that don’t pay regardless if they have insurance or not, we all get stuck footing their bills.
I replied: Yeah, it looks as though you and my wife were dealing with the same issue or something similar. She has complained about her stomach for at least two years and before, I was like, Jesus, I get the point: it hurts. But apparently it was a real concern. The doctor said she had gastritis and prescribed Nexium ($48 after insurance). But this health care thing is enough to piss anyone off when we know that Canada and England and others get free care, funded by an extra tax obviously, when we are having to pay exorbitant funds just for the right to get taken care of. I see the anti-tax argument clearly, but Christ, it seems like we are getting the short end of the stick and the insurance companies are reaping the rewards. Would the extra tax to pay for universal care really equal or surpass the cost of buying health care for a family through a company’s insurance plan? I doubt it. and bottom line: company health care plans are supremely expensive, so much so that at my last job, I couldn’t even afford to get my wife or myself on the company’s plan. We just did without. It’s maddening and nothing short of it.
The same poster replied:
Do some research, the “free” care isn’t free, nor is it efficient or good. My friends in Canada have insurance here so they don’t have to wait forever. Many countries that have socialized health care are wanting to move back to free market care because they can’t afford it. It’s so bad in England that they have new rules in place that refuse to treat certain things.
Obama’s plan will cost us over 2 trillion dollars, tell me who the fuck is going to be paying for that? the rich? hell no, the middle class will get fucked up the ass again for higher taxes to pay for this crap. So 2trillion (probably much more) and we’ll get the worse health care than you can possibly imagine. Oh and those of us who don’t “buy” into the socialized care will be taxed on our employer paid care, and they are talking about adding a VAT (value added tax) which is a federal sales tax, to go on top of state and local sales tax. So now that we cough up probably 70% of our money to taxes they want to push that to 90. If that happens I hope this country falls on it’s ass like Russia did. We need a wake up call to go back to freedom, free market capitalism, not this socialist/facist shit.
I replied: The plan will cost $1 trillion over 10 years, not $2 trillion, a big difference, although the TV and radio hosts may be purporting an inflated figure, it’s $1 trillion: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/us/politics/14address.html. I don’t think anyone is disillusioned enough to think tax increases won’t be imminent if the plan passes, but Obama has said he hopes to pay for it by “cutting more than $200 billion in expected reimbursements to hospitals over the next decade” and by identifying “‘an additional $313 billion in savings that will rein in unnecessary spending and increase efficiency and the quality of care.’” And: “He had already set aside in his budget what he calls a $635 billion ‘down payment’ toward the overall 10-year cost of the overhaul.”
Obama throughout has supported making the rich foot the largest bill when it comes to taxes, evidenced by the proposed tax increase for those making 250k or more. It’s certain that the middle class will see some tax increases, but is it inconveivable that the tax increases will be so astronomical that they will supercede what folks are already paying for health insurance premiums and co-pays on doctor visits and care at the hospital, which are already astronomical? It’s conjecture to say the middle class will get fucked in this thing (Unless we define “fucked” to mean any additional taxes whatsoever). That’s just anti-tax rhetoric. I personally pay 15% off the top toward health insurance for my wife and plus about 23/24 percent toward state and federal taxes. Where does the 70 percent figure come from? The economy and each family therein would meltdown in a days if we paid 70 percent of what we made to taxes.
Regarding health care, a quick look at life expectancies around the world (http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/sort.php) shows that most of the major European countries (and Canada) have longer life expectancies than the U.S. England bests us. Canada tops us by leaps and bounds in third place, with Singapore and Japan having the longest life expectancies. Of course, a lot of factors contribute to this – our slovenly lifestyle not the least of them – but it says something that the most developed countries in the world live longer than we do, the majority of which have some form of nationalized health care. It puzzles me that conservatives, generally, expend so much energy defending the free market system, privatized health care and the like, when it has done little more than expand the chasm between the rich and poor. Most of them do it out of ignorance (Here, I exclude you Dan, of course.), and when some other system would, perhaps, benefit them more. But they know no better, so whatever Rush or Glenn say, that’s the gospel.
On the fascist, socialist comment, we like to demonize words, and those two especially. The radio and TV conservative hosts especially like this. Again, I think, perhaps, the best bet is utilitarianism: attempt to provide the most good for the most people. I really don’t care what it’s called, but perhaps, achieving that end might be the best one. Sorry for blathering on … lol.
The same poster replied:
the 1 trillion is only for one part of the plan 1/3 if you take the other 2/3 that’s 3 trillion.
There is no way in hell that the rich will be footing this bill, it will be paid for by everyone. Obama has said 250k and up, then 200k and up then his aides said 150 and up so which will it be?
The alleged “savings” by having socialized care will never come about. the cost is so huge there is no possible way it can create savings.
We pay 20% to Feds then throw in sales tax, throw in gas tax, throw in property tax, and on and on and you can easily get to 70% now if they add tax onto our employer paid healthcare that’ll be another huge chunk of tax, and if they get their way for a value added tax which would add 14% sales tax on top of what you already pay for tax…
As for making sure everyone has everything they need… read the constitution, that is not the role of government. Sorry to all the libs and bleeding hearts, but this country wasn’t founded by laws stating the government will provided everything you need at the expense of everyone else. I have been beyond poor, and am now doing ok, not rich, but ok. If i can do it then everyone can, they just have to get up and do it no matter how hard it is. America is the biggest charitable country in the the world. We give and give and give and give and give yet we’re being FORCED to give more.. How is that right? Taking from my wife and I who bust our asses, put our lives on the line, to give to some drugged up asshat who doesn’t do anything but watch cartoons on his/her stolen tv and cable is not cool, not right, and not the American way.
I replied: We started adding to the Constitution almost right after it was written and ratified, as if to say, “Oh crap, perhaps we should have added some personal liberty laws in there (i.e. the Bill of Rights.),” so it’s not necessarily in bad taste to pass laws and add amendments as the times change. The Tea Party supporters, again taking a document written 222 years ago and attempting to apply it to modern times, seem to imply we should dismantle the Federal Reserve, Social Security, Medicaid, and the like (they deem them unconstitutional), but the latter two were, in part, created to help people who were victims, not benefactors of the sort of economy we created. In the 18th century, if someone was disabled naturally or by other means, they just stayed home and were supported by their families, who were, in all likelihood, farmers or blacksmiths or coopers or whatever. For the elderly, they would simply stop working and live with their families. Our society today is radically different. The factory boom and the industrial revolution didn’t get in full swing for this country until sometime in the early to mid-19th century, which ultimately, and eventually, dismantled the old, subsistence living lifestyle, at least in the north, and put people to work in factories. This made new generations largely dependent on someone else other than themselves for their livelihood (i.e. their bosses, their factory jobs, etc).
Some equated this new industry with a type of slavery because people largely ceased being free to make a living for themselves and made themselves laborers for someone else (This described you, me and millions of others). This to me, creates the vast divide between who we were when the Constitution was written and who we are now. Most everyone is not a subsistence farmer today. Most everyone was a subsistence farmer when the Constitution was written. So, the arguments about personal liberty and responsibility are great as they are, but 200 years have passed. We can’t dismantle everything and start over. Of course the Constitution did not lay out a plan to provide everything people needed to get by because it was not written in the 20th or 21st century; it was written at a time when we did not have the analogous problems we have now.
Where does the $3 trillion figure come from? You said $2 trillion previously. Is there a link to show that?
I didn’t say the rich would be footing the bill, and admitted the middle class and others would probably have tax increases. I indicated the rich would foot more of the bill. I hear your frustrations about the possibility of giving to “some drugged up asshat” after working hard for what you have – I work hard myself to provide for the wife and kid – but you ignore the others. Many people are hurting in this country who have legitimate, uncontrollable illnesses who are facing foreclosure and destroyed credit because their medical bills are simply too much. I point to one couple in Clayton, Ga. whom I wrote a story on a month and 1/2 ago. The wife was diagnosed with ALS a couple years ago. The husband has a chronic liver condition which forced him to stop working. They had purchased a house here about 10 years ago and were paying on it just fine until the husband got sick and had to stop working (He painted and the paint fumes would only exascerbate his condition.) Now, they are fighting a foreclosure battle and were set to foreclose and lose the house in early May. I haven’t heard what the current status was, but the husband said if his wife was forced to move, the move would literally kill her. ALS is probably the worst disease one can have because you are fully conscious mentally, while your body slowly, numbingly fails until either your lungs collapse or you choke on your own tongue.
I could care less about supporting the druggies seeking unemployment. I care about people who got sick, and found themselves in unchartered financial waters with no recourse. The crass stance of the conservatives is something to get angry about. They summon God and Jesus in every other sentence because that type of talk gets votes, but in the next sentence (or, covertly), favor the businesses who are getting rich on others’ suffering. It’s incongruous, and it’s hypocritical.
As riots embroiled the streets of Iran today, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, claimed he had won a landslide victory over challenger and more moderate (Read: Not as crazy), Mir Hussein Moussavi, one can only think back to another election that had many within and without of the country crying foul. That is, the election last year in Zimbabwe, where challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, whom I feel was at least more genuinely trying to turn his country around, decidedly won the election, but was then apparently ramrodded at the polls by the Robert Mugabe crew. As the article at the last link mentions, Mugabe hasn’t enjoyed a majority of the people’s support in Zimbabwe since 2000, and I would wager, longer than that. But, he like any dictator who simply will not die, he always finds a way to win to maintain his own relevancy.
Mugabe controls the state newspaper, The Herald. He apparently controls the polls. And now, he controls the challenger who, by all counts, beat him at the polls. Tsvangirai is now the country’s prime minister, and we can only hope, Tsvangirai is biding his time so that, eventually, when the house of cards collapses around Mugabe’s inflated ego, Tsvangirai will be able to get the country on a path to, for God’s sake, stability such as that it can support it’s own people.
Truth be told, Mugabe — and it will be a bright day when he’s dead and gone — has done about as much to cripple a nation as one man possibly can.
After 28 years, Mr Mugabe has left his country broken and bleeding. Inflation is running at 165,000 per cent. Eighty per cent of Zimbabweans are unemployed. A country that was once a major food exporter is close to starvation. — The Telegraph, London, March 31, 2008
Now, that’s a track record of which one can be proud! I’d say “close to starvation” is probably an understatement. Already, men with mouths to feed in their villages are forced to go South Africa to live to find work with hopes of sending money back home. Sound familiar in light of the daily sacrifices Hispanic men make to risk death and imprisonment to come to America in attempts to find work to send back home to the wife and kids? Imagine traveling thousands of miles away, with no guarantee of seeing your family ever again, just for the chance to be able to send a trifling amount back to them in some resource-deprived country where the home government is basically burying its own people. This next quote sounds almost precisely what happens here in America to Hispanics seeking work:
Zimbabwean immigrants working in South Africa are calling on the government of Jacob Zuma to protect them against abuse by unscrupulous employers. They claim business operators are taking advantage of their desperation. The Zimbabweans believe many firms are exploiting foreigners in their attempt to survive the global credit crunch. — VOANews.com, Johannesburg, South Africa, June 5, 2009
So, Tsvangirai has made a recent, admirable push to re-establish the rule of law and freedom of the press in Zimbabwe, efforts which were quelled by Mugabe. A recent New York Times article reported Tsvangirai saying:
“There’s more need to move from humanitarian to recovery support for the government. The government needs resources to fulfill its obligations.”
But as long as Mugabe is ultimately in power, other countries will not be as willing to help. The New York Times article brought to light the fact that this puts Tsvangirai in a tight spot. Is he for or against Mugabe? Well, as I said, I think he’s clearly against him and wants serious reforms in the government but is biding his time. Meanwhile, he has at least gotten his foot in the door. In the meantime, he has made personal sacrifices in doing so. He has been beaten, jailed and generally persecuted in the past for his opposition to the administration’s iron-fist rule. He has endured the loss of his wife of 30 years and the death of his 4-year-old grandson, who drowned in a swimming pool. And he still carries on. And that, to me, says something of the measure of the man. As quoted in The Times:
“He’s clearly seen as a savior,” said Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe. “And the deaths of his wife and grandson have raised his profile as someone who can endure suffering and still try to assist those he serves.”
Thus, Tsvangirai has two things going for him: He’s seen as something of a progressive leader who seems to want the best for his countrymen, and that Mugabe is 85 years old and is well on his way to eternal disgrace in the everafter. We can only hope, for the millions in Zimbabwe, that Tsvangirai can endure long enough to see the final decay of Mugabe, for whom, violins will be strummed by no one.
Oh, and if you guys want some more fun, view this video, which is so misguided, I could pontificate about it for at least 1,000 or 2,000 words:
Concentration Camps in America of which, I offered these comments:
The U.S. blew the levees? Are you shitting me? Man, the Bush Administration failed miserably, I agree with you about the administration being impotent, but don’t screw this … up. It was a hurricane for God’s sake. What did you expect would happen??? New Orleans sits below sea level. By the way, it’s called the Federal Emergency Management AGENCY (not Association). I could continue to shred your arguments to pieces. but I don’t have all night. — Me.
Glenn Beck, transcribed by me:
“We are a country that is headed toward socialism, totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination. I have to tell ya, I’m doing a story tonight, that I wanted to debunk these FEMA camps, I’m tired of hearing, you know about them? I’m tiring of hearing it. I wanted to debunk them. We’ve now for several days done research on them. … I can’t debunk them, and we’re going to carry the story tonight. … It is our government, if you trust our government, it’s fine. If you have any kind of fear that we might be headed toward a totalitarian state, look out. Buckle up. There’s something going on in our country that is … uh … ain’t good.” — FOX & Friends, early March 2009
If you look here, Beck denied the contention about the FEMA concentration camps.
All, absolutely all, that Beck is doing is fear-mongering. No more, more less. To suggest we are headed toward a totalitarianism state is ridiculous, beyond reproach and does a disservice to the many leaders that preceded him that I know Obama venerates, including Lincoln, Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others. And, if you are interested, here is the piece of legislation Beck seems to be inaccurately referencing: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-645
Today, or should I say yesterday, as it’s 12:23 a.m. as I write this, the World Health Organization made it official: the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu, is a pandemic. And I, for one, couldn’t be giddier. I think we actually need more frightening, and quirkily-named, diseases looming over our heads. I think it’s actually time for another, good old-fashioned bubonic plague. That’ll get folks’ attention.
The media hype over the various strains, aveon bird flu, swine flu, the duck-billed platypus flu, the panda-monium flu, you name it, is getting a bit ridiculous. Regular ‘ol flu seems to be taking a back seat and getting a raw deal when it kills far more people than H1N1. How long have we been talking about this thing? Six months? Nine months? And in that time, we have about 145 deaths. Regular old flu kills 500,000 per year!
Howard Kurtz, speaking on May 11 of this year had this to say in response to a reader question about the media coverage of the H1N1 strain:
I have good news to report this morning. We’re not all going to die…
The tone and the volume were just out of proportion to what we knew about the outbreak. Of course it was a story that people were interested in, that journalists had to cover, that had the potential to turn into a public health crisis. But the key word is “potential.”
Even as medical reporters sounded cautionary notes, the saturation coverage turned excessive, even scary. And then, well, the thing fizzled…
I can’t tell you how many people have complained to me about what they see as the media’s wild overreaction on swine flu. Whatever short-term bump you might get in the ratings is outweighed by a loss of confidence among news consumers, and there’s no vaccine for that. — The Washington Post
But Media Matters seems to suggest the media had done its job in presenting the story about the flu strain “very well:”
The fact that half the country didn’t end up dead wouldn’t mean that the media hadn’t done it’s job. It would mean that the media had done its job very well - it had made the public aware of vital information in time for the public to act upon that information.
Is that what happened? I don’t know. But Kurtz, and many others, aren’t even considering the question of what would have happened had the media downplayed the story, or what could have happened.
Half the country didn’t die because this strain hasn’t spread enough, and it’s not near the destructor that we are led to believe it is. One hundred forty-four out of 28,000-plus is the sort of ratio that does not concern me. That amounts to 0.5 percent of those who get the H1N1 die from it. I don’t know what the same ratio for seasonal flu would be, but chances are, it’s much, much higher. This CNN story backs up this point. And this doesn’t even mention the H5N1 virus, of which the Wall Street Journal Market Watch story said it was “particularly deadly” but also that it was “relatively difficult to contract.” So, do I have like bite the head off an infected bird to get it or what?
Regardless, the media — and by media, I mean the news television networks, which aren’t really serious news organizations, just moneymakers and thrill-seekers and little more —in short had nothing to do with anything. Did Americans generally wash their hands more or buy some hand sanitizer and use it more from watching the news than they normally would have when this swine flu outbreak frenzy kicked in? I didn’t. Did you? Sothis is apparently the first case where WHO has declared a pandemic since the 1968 Hong Kong flu. How many did it kill? About 1 million.
A million versus 144. I’d say that’s rational.
Watched “Milk” last night for the first time, which stars Sean Penn and was directed by Gus Van Sant. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a brief recapitulation. The film begins on Harvey Milk‘s 40th birthday, where he is lamenting the fact that he hasn’t done anything he was proud of thus far in his life. As he’s making this confession, he’s laying beside a guy (Scott Smith) he met in a New York subway minutes (or hours) before, presumably after they had sex. Prior to that scene, he passes Smith on the subway stairway, immediately turns and starts talking to him as if he knew from the start (or by instinct) the other guy was gay as well. Regardless, the two immediately hit it off and move to California as part of the 1970s mass migration of gay people to San Francisco to the well-known Castro District.
The two opened Castro Camera, and with the help of Smith and others, Milk eventually became the first openly gay person in the country to hold significant public office. After numerous failed attempts, he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Many political battles later, he was in office only 11 months before being killed by former board member Dan White, which was played in the film by Josh Brolin.
I wanted to make a couple points about the movie and then about this issue in general as it relates to religion. First, I don’t think the movie should have placed as much emphasis as it did on the sexual part of Milk’s life and the sexual aspect of the gay men surrounding him during the election cycles. Sure, it was their identity at the time and their very lives depended on the work of guys like Milk to try to obtain some semblance of normalcy and equality in an egregiously unjust and bigoted era (and we aren’t necessarily clambering toward enlightenment yet, either) but the sexual imagery played out in the movie seems to undercut that point and seems unnecessary. We may say Reagan or Kennedy or Clinton or Roosevelt were great in their own rights, but do we want a movie that paints a picture of their political, as well as, god help us, sexual lives? Probably not. Again, the goal is equality. Gay advocates should get over this point and move on. This is not to say the moviemakers know the gay community in and out, but it appears to me, an outsider looking in, that the flamboyancy and boisterous nature of this movement (See: bare-chested gay guys drinking beer side-by-side at this site’s gallery) does it a disservice. I suppose one could argue the movie was simply trying to reproduce that side of the movement, but that’s not really the point. The movie is about a gay guy, a member of a minority group, per se, who had some great ideas to change the country, was a great orator and had the charisma and smarts to motivate people. There’s no real need to educate the moviegoer on what being gay is about or what “they” do in their private lives. That’s common knowledge for the most part and that wasn’t the point in the first place.
Gay people are not going to win any arguments by holding gay pride parades or flaunting their sexuality to their own cohorts who couldn’t agree more. They will win them by getting in a suit and tie and, as Milk did in public (If there’s a record of him flaunting himself about half-clothed like people do nowadays in parades and rallies, please tell me. I’m curious to know), fighting to attain public office to change things from the inside out. That’s how to enact change. To me, pushing the sexuality thing and the flamboyancy merely serves to push people further away from the movement and its goals, not closer. Some might disagree with me on that point, but this is the case as I perceive it.
Turning to the moral majority. The film heavily references the work of Anita Bryant, who’s song, “Till There Was You,” is a good tune. Bryant got herself involved in a debate about an ordinance in Dade County, Fla. prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and didn’t have the mental muster to hold down the fort. She said,
What these people (gays) really want, hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that theirs is an acceptable alternate way of life. … I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before.
She also said:
As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children (Ya don’t say?!?); therefore, they must recruit our children … If gays are granted rights, next we’ll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail biters.
Recruit children? That is so proposterous it’s not even worth a retort. And:
All America and all the world will hear what the people have said, and with God’s continued help we will prevail in our fight to repeal similar laws throughout the nation.
God has helped indeed. If it was so important, he did not personally do anything to inhibit the influence of gay people or their influence politically, and he certainly didn’t do anything to keep gay people from being born. In fact, he’s been mum for millenia now. Or, since Jesus was God himself, Jesus did not speak a word about homosexuality, which was as prominent, if not more so, in the first century than it is today. Here’s a historical look.
So, Bryant threw herself onto the anti-gay side, not knowing why she believed what she believed. I posit this (and believe me, I have chewed on this question for years), if homosexuality is a choice and not innate, why would a gay person choose that lifestyle? Why would they choose the possible loss of their family and friends? Why would they choose estrangement and a lifetime of guaranteed hardship? Why would they choose a lifetime of discrimination? Do these options sound like a good trade-off?
The fact that they face battles at every angle proves to me they aren’t choosing that lifestyle at all. It proves to me it’s who they are … innately … hardwired. Just like I’m hardwired to like girls and can’t imagine liking guys in the least … in that way. Or else, gay people would pretend to be straight to make a more peaceful life for themselves (Admittedly, I’m sure some do to avoid chastisement from their parents or ridicule from their friends. Some simply cloak or subvert their real feelings).
My last point is this: It is clear to me most of the time who is gay and who is not. I can tell a majority of the time. I don’t need a test. I don’t need to talk personally with that person. It’s clear and evident, both from the male and female side, and the reading is at least 75 percent accurate from my estimation. Some males are simply more effeminate than others, while some females act more masculine. The rest are probably good pretenders. That’s not intended to sound crass. I’m simply saying what I have observed. The framework for scientific evidence to explain homosexuality in our species and others seems well under way.
So, we may posit this set of concerns. If God made people who are gay (and doctrine teaches he certainly did) and homosexuality is innate in some of those people, what does that say about God’s law or God himself? If God made them that way, how does he explain the verses saying they are practicing sin? No, they are just being what He created them to be, just as I am being who I am, which is straight. Adultery, breaking a civil union, seems to me to be the higher infraction, not sodomy or whatever nasty sounding word we want to pin to the act. John Loftus said recently:
- If we are flawed, God is responsible because he made us this way.
If God is omni-powerful, omniscient and all-loving (Quiz: How can God be both a judge but also be all-merciful?), how could he ever allow homosexuals to come into existence knowing the trouble they would cause God, to themselves or to the philosophical agruments such as this one that question the whole thing? A friend of mine once had this discussion with me. We concluded that if it is, indeed, concluded that homosexuality is, without a doubt, innate and built in from birth, the God of the Bible could not exist because that would put a death knell in his own words, thus like a set of dominos, calling into question the whole thing. Would God create a person whom he knew, from the very moment of conception, would be condemned because of who they are? Say, if brown hair was a sin, for instance, all brown-haired people would perish in hell. That is ridiculous. Again, Loftus:
- The principle that all of us have done things so egregious to warrant the death penalty is itself egregious. Name one thing that you have done that you should be put to death for.
- The principle that someone else can suffer the death penalty for us to resolve the problem is similarly egregious. Should anyone be punished not to mention given the death penalty for things that you do? Is the death penalty Just?
Christians, of course, will answer that it’s not homosexuals, that all are condemned from conception because of original sin. Or, that it’s not the homosexual that is condemned, but the homosexual act. Fine, but the punishment does not fit the crime and parsing words gets us nowhere too fast. The homosexual cannot possibly live a fulfilling life without committing the act because that’s what he/she knows, and that’s what seems to come natural for them. To say that they should attempt to throw off what comes natural to them and attempt to change would, it seems to be, result in severe psychological damage, the same way that forcing me, by society’s rules, to have sex with guys would cause in me severe psychological damage.
“But I will be honest with you, the reality is that a lot of people come here and go right back into whatever it is they came from,” said Pastor John Westcott of Exchange Ministries in Winter Park, Fla. in Bill Maher’s “Religulous” movie.
“Because they’re gay,” Maher said, laughing.
Westcott said he had dealt with homosexual tendencies and was subsequently reformed.
Eternal torment for being born seems to be a harsh judgment coming from a loving, forgiving god. A lifetime of discrimination for existing as you were “created” by that loving god also seems unjust and an oxymoron. That certainly sounds like a lifestyle I would choose! What about you?