Tagged: news

Republican National Clowns: The RNC’s latest unintentional joke

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Recently, CNN and NBC separately announced that they would be airing documentaries about Hillary Clinton. At best, that should have aroused an “Oh, that’s cool” response from anyone. If you have been following politics in the last, let’s say, two decades, or if you plan on following politics into, let’s say, 2016, Hillary Clinton is a person of interest.

Television has always been a medium of guessing at the public’s interest in people and events and anticipating a demand of that interest. That’s its entire business model. People want to watch things with people and things they care about: Hillary Clinton being an obvious choice. This whole thing seems so darn reasonable and straightforward that it should come as no surprise that the Republican National Committee, the head of the GOP, has overreacted badly to it.

You see, Hillary Clinton, three years away from a 2016 election, already terrifies the GOP. This isn’t baseless worrying, Hillary Clinton has a sizable lead in popularity and name recognition over pretty much anyone else in the potential candidate pool. Hillary Clinton (despite early jabs by Republicans) is fast tracked to the DNC’s nomination for President. But let’s not lose our heads, all of that is still three years away.

Republican's Wife: "Honey, you were shouting in your sleep. What's wrong?" Republican: "Nothing. It's nothing. Just a bad dream."

Republican’s Wife: “Honey, you were shouting in your sleep. What’s wrong?” Republican: “Nothing. It’s nothing. Just a bad dream.”

The GOP, already hurting after two sound presidential defeats (by a socialist, atheist, Muslim no less) are worried. So when they heard about these two documentaries they promptly freaked out. They needed to prevent these documentaries (which they assumed would be pro-Clinton) from airing. The only problem is that stupid “freedom of the press” and, gasp, “independent private industry” were working against them. So they played the only card they had.

In a letter to CNN and NBC, RNC chairman Reince Priebus said that if CNN and NBC didn’t drop the documentaries, he wouldn’t allow either network to air the Republican Primaries. In other words, Mr. Priebus threatened to take his toys and go home.

Obviously, threatening to not air your own party’s primaries on two large networks is kind of like punching yourself in the face to avoid doing the dishes. The GOP wants attention for its candidates, that’s how it gets people inspired to vote for one of them. The only way this threat has any sort of bite is by the fact that in recent elections the GOP primaries have become wildly popular with people just tuning in to watch a train wreck. It shouldn’t even be considered controversial to say that the typical Republican primary is filled to the brim with absolute clowns: Literal jesters with no hope of appealing to a national audience but allowed to share the stage – and sometimes win a straw poll or two – with Presidential hopefuls that actually have a chance. Last election’s was a doozy.

We had Herman Cain – Pizza mogul, 9-9-9 flat tax proponent, Pokemon quoter, sexual harrasser, all around idiot.

We had Michelle Bachman – Climate change denier, gay basher, insane person.

We had Rick Santorum – a frothy mixture of homophobia, idiocy and religious zealotry.

We had Donald Trump – Billionaire, blow hard with less brains than hair.

We had Ron Paul – a crazy person’s crazy person, paranoid, racist and kind of weird looking.

And watching the debates was like watching a beauty pageant with ONLY Miss South Carolina’s.

So by threatening to pull that circus off the air for CNN and NBC, the networks do miss capitalizing on the sheer rubbernecking potential of a group of people who know people are laughing but aren’t quite sure if it’s with them or at them. For television ratings, it’s as close as we get to a “sure thing” without being a Two and a Half Men rerun.

Like Rick Santorum, it too is popular for irrational reasons

Like Rick Santorum, it too is popular for irrational reasons

Of course, NBC and CNN will risk alienating the increasingly alienated GOP and air the documentaries. No more than ever, they have to. Interest in the two documentaries is probably higher now than ever. They also can’t be seen as backing down to a political party (not after the outrageous PBS Park Avenue cancellation debacle that seriously harmed the reputation of that highly reputable network). The show must go on, whether the RNC likes it or not.

My only consolation to the RNC is how stupid they are being for thinking this is going to noticeably sway the 2016 presidential election. By assuming that Hillary Clinton is the de facto nominee, they are losing sight of a history filled with “de facto nominees that end up kicked to the curb”, most recently in the form of Hillary Clinton herself by a young upstart from Illinois who went from unknown to presidential nominee in less than two years.

The RNC is also mistaking NBC and CNN for Fox News. I can see how it’s easy to do. They are used to networks that broadcast unfiltered propaganda for the Right and understandably assume that other Networks must operate the same way. It’s the “thieves think all people steal” effect. CNN has responded to this unreasonable demand by telling the GOP to wait and see before overreacting.

The GOP has assumed that any documentary focusing on Hillary Clinton must show her in a good light. High praise from the Right, if you think about it. Maybe what scares the GOP about Hillary Clinton the most is the fact that they are closet fans of hers, secretly wishing a GOP candidate would emerge that was half as interesting and half as popular as the woman in the pantsuits.

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Orson Scott Card’s “apology” is pathetic

As the Ender’s Game movie adaptation release date edges nearer the heat is turning up for the writer of the book whose vocal homophobia is coming back to haunt him. While Card has never shied away from saying just what he thinks of homosexuals, the increased support for gay marriage and the timing of his movie have had the combined effect of making him rethink his image if not his position.

In a statement given to Entertainment Weekly, Card provides the rationale for why you should not boycott his latest cash cow and, if anything, feel sorry for a man who just wanted to publicly express his intolerance in peace and without fear of backlash:

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

Orson Scott Card

orson scott card

“So are we cool?” – Orson Scott Card

The statement isn’t long so I think it would be apt to discuss it all. It’s amazing how its sheer concentration of condescending offensiveness allows us to get such a clear picture of the way Card’s mind works. I guess that’s why he’s a great writer, he really knows how to get to the core truths of a person, even himself.

Part one, or Denial: Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

The apology opens up with a flat out denial that Ender’s Game could even possibly touch on homosexuality or gay rights because gay rights didn’t exist in 1984.

StonewallSign

To the uninitiated, that statement might seem… well… insane, but if we take a step back and look at through the lens of Orson Scott Card it is completely logical. That’s because Orson Scott Card still believes that homosexuality is a choice, and furthermore, that it’s a choice that people make specifically to subvert traditional “society”. Gay people want to destroy our society and they won’t stop loving each other until every corner of America is reduced to rubble. You got to hand it to Card, he does have a pretty strong view on the power of love.

Part two, or resignation: With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

You win, gay people and society haters. Chicken Little has thrown in the towel. While I do think, and hope, that he is right and eventually every state will recognize gay marriage (perhaps, unfortunately, in the unheroic but still effective way Pennsylvania is currently paving the way towards gay marriage), Card seems to think that because his side “lost” (as if civil rights should have sides other than “what’s right”), the battle is over and therefore he shouldn’t be persecuted for something that happened so long ago, way back to like a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps Orson Scott Card hasn’t seen this map:

Although, considering gay rights didn’t even exist until at least 1985, I guess he probably considers this a bit too fast.

Part 3, or victimhood: Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

If Orson Scott Card had simply published the first paragraphs I probably would have wrote him off as just another out of touch bigot who doesn’t deserve to even be given a response, so idiotic is his position, but this last part seems to be a more and more common position now that homophobia is becoming viewed as what it is: pathetic and shameful. The Onion’s AVclub satirized this ludicrous response better than I ever could, but I’ll take a swing at explaining it.

Now that more than 50% of the country views gay marriage as a civil right and ethically justified, the old position of institutionalized bigotry that had gotten used to being unchallenged and culturally encouraged is starting to make its proponents look kinda bad. Even worse, when one of its most vocal proponents has a new movie coming out which is now threatened because of the terribly offensive things the writer said about homosexuality, it’s all together unfair. I mean really gay rights supporters, isn’t boycotting a man who has given support in time, money and writing to preventing gay people from marrying because of his personal views laying it on a bit thick? Stop persecuting Orson Scott Card just because he has made it a priority to persecute others!

Ignoring the part where Card thinks that this issue has somehow been completely resolved, the premise that homophobes are in danger of being victimized is preposterous. For proof, we should look to another instance in our history that required us to rethink the way we conceptualized marriage and how people were allowed to participate in it: Let’s think about interracial marriage. Or rather, let’s think about the fact that other than overt racists and octogenarians, no one thinks about the legality of interracial marriage as a divisive issue. But it was. But now it’s not. It’s called progress, and what’s crazy about progress is that unlike the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, you can change your mind on an issue. That’s what most of America is currently doing. That’s what Obama did. That’s what Orson Scott Card doesn’t want to do. Which is fine, but don’t expect to not experience some embarrassment when you express a view that everyone else has evolved away from.

evolution of gay rightsDon’t worry, Orson Scott Card, I still think Ender’s Game is a pretty great book but your personal views leave a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe those views (which, you just proved you still believe in, having learned absolutely nothing while the world moved on) will affect ticket sales, maybe they won’t, but that’s not intolerance, that’s you getting left out in the cold because you were too busy having a temper tantrum and forgot to grow up.

Former “Apprentice” contestant willingly humiliates herself on TV

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Taking a cue from her former “boss” Donald Trump, Katie Hopkins – best known for her general awfulness on “The Apprentice” – decided to take a truly awful opinion and make the case for it to a national audience. In this instance, her awful opinion was that as a self-professed intelligent and high class (read: arrogant) Englishwoman, she thinks its a good idea to decide who her children play with based on whether they have certain names (particularly if she thinks their names are of a working class nature).

Yeah, I’ll wait as you process the idiocy.

Her argument appears to be that since parents who would stoop to name their child “Tyler” (Oh, she really hates the name “Tyler” for some reason) must be unintelligent, uncivilized mouth breathers, their offspring must therefore be poison and cannot be allowed anywhere near her totally well adjusted, emotionally whole children. She literally admits to not allowing her children to hang out with working class families.

Again, this isn’t a disposition or an interrogation or a leaked internal email, SHE WENT ON NATIONAL TELEVISION TO SAY THIS. It’s hard to understand why she thought this would be perceived as a good idea, although maybe she was under the assumption that there is no such thing as bad press. I think it’s safe to say that we could make an addendum to that old maxim but adding: Unless you’re advocating class discrimination based on the name Tyler.

Luckily, the usual sense of deference towards even the dumbest of guests was soon forgotten as the sheer lunacy of the opinion and the complete and total smugness of the person expressing it washed over the hosts of the show as well as the actual, justifiable outrage of their second guest who was there to argue for the the controversial opinion that names have little to do with the character of the child or the parents (and yes, I’ve read Freakonomics, guys). What followed was a hilarious and brilliant take down, brick by brick, of the facade of superiority Katie Hopkins had tried to cultivate.

Thank you, This Morning, both for having Katie Hopkins on and then systematically exposing her vapidness. But folks, I beg you, please don’t stop allowing your children to play with kids name “Katie” just because of this bad apple.

Blinded by the Right: Justice Scalia’s weird dissent on DOMA is unsurprising

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If you know me or read this blog you’ve probably sensed this already, but I’m kind of passionate about gay rights. I’ve always had the philosophy best espoused by the great and talented wizard of Twitter, Rob Delaney:

Today, the Supreme Court took one more step towards that truism and struck down the antiquated and morally bankrupt “Defense of Marriage Act” (or DOMA to those who like their moral bankruptcy in a short vowelly form). Justice Kennedy wrote of the ruling:

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

Well said. Also obvious. Also late. But well said.

What does this mean for the gay couples that are married or want to marry?

The federal Defense of Marriage Act defines “marriage,” for purposes of over a thousand federal laws and programs, as a union between a man and a woman only. Today the Court ruled, by a vote of five to four, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, that the law is unconstitutional. The Court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same-sex couples to marry to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage. By denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples. (Source: SCOTUSblog)

But while cheers could be heard from the halls of the Supreme Court to the halls of twitter, not everybody was happy.

English: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of ...

Antonin Scalia, wiping his glasses on his “fun zone area” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All four justices who opposed it (all conservatives *yawn*) wrote dissenting remarks but by far the unhappiest of the robed ones was Justice Antonin Scalia. In a head scratching dissent, he managed to contradict a ruling he made just yesterday, denigrate his own position, and otherwise flail around searching for a reason to be upset by this ruling. From Business Insider, which wrote a great article summarizing it.

Antonin Scalia dissented from the decision on the grounds that the court did not have standing to take the case.

He wrote:

The Court is eager—hungry—to tell everyone its view of the legal question at the heart of this case… Yet the plaintiff and the Government agree entirely on what should happen in this lawsuit. They agree that the court below got it right; and they agreed in the court below that the court below that one got it right as well. What, then, are wedoing here?

He also speculated that the majority justices are trying to hide their plan to issue a more sweeping ruling in the near future:

My guess is that the majority, while reluctant to suggest that defining the meaning of “marriage” in federal statutes is unsupported by any of the Federal Government’s enumerated powers, nonetheless needs some rhetorical basis to support its pretense that today’s prohibition of laws excluding same-sex marriage is confined to the Federal Government (leaving the second, state-law shoe to be dropped later, maybe next Term). But I am only guessing.

He criticized the majority for not fairly representing the views of Defense of Marriage Act supporters:

I imagine that this is because it is harder to maintain the illusion of the Act’s supporters as unhinged members of a wild-eyed lynch mob when one first describes their views as they see them.

Then he got really angry:

To be sure (as the majority points out), the legislation is called the Defense of Marriage Act. But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.

He ended with a bit of concern-trolling, saying today’s decision on DOMA was bad for both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage:

Some will rejoice in today’s decision, and some will despair at it; that is the nature of a controversy that matters so much to so many. But the Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better.

But if he were just honest with himself, his anger would make a lot more sense. It’s not that gay marriage is unconstitutional, or the court was wrong to strike down DOMA for this legal reason or that, Justice Scalia is just anti-gay. He just doesn’t like gay people, the gay “lifestyle”, or the idea of gay people marrying. He mistakes his emotional revulsion to gay marriage as rooted in an intangible legal violation (and if he could only find it, he would show them all!), but if he reflected on it, I think he would have to admit – if only to himself – that it is actually his personal homophobia getting in the way. He wouldn’t be the first to mistake intolerance with righteous indignation.

Nobody wants to view themselves as a “hater”, or a bigot, or a homophobe. Intolerance goes down so much easier when there are justifications for it. That’s why the Bible’s (scant) judgments on homosexuality are so convenient. And why the idea that there is a “gay agenda” influencing our culture is so alluring. Both allow Justice Scalia and people like Justice Scalia to feel comfortable holding an uncomfortable moral position.

Let’s not worry too much about Justice Scalia and his rationalizations for opposing this ruling, after all, they probably weren’t meant for us as much as they were meant to quiet his own inner doubts. As gay couples marry and raise children and not destroy the fabric of our society, the fragile positions that homophobia stands on will continue to crack. The voice inside Scalia’s heart will grow louder, and his positions will seem more sad, until – hopefully – one day, he’ll catch a glimpse of himself in a mirror or store window and the voice will be too loud to ignore and he’ll have to listen as it says again and again: you are wrong.

Feel Good Story: the ASL interpreter at Bonnaroo

Even though I try to be aware of challenges people different from myself experience (even “checking my privilege” here and there), it is to my great shame that I had never really given deaf people’s interaction with music much thought. If I thought of it at all, I probably assumed that there wasn’t much, that it was an experience wholly unknowable to a person who couldn’t hear. That misinterpretation was blasted away at extreme decibel levels last week when a video from the Bonnaroo music festival surfaced showing a American Sign Language interpreter KILLING IT along with the Wu-Tang Clan. Take a look:

What’s more embarrassing about my ignorance is how obvious it is that deaf people can still enjoy many forms of music. Duh. First, many of the deaf can still feel beats, giving them an experience of the tempo, rhythm and force of a song. Second, music (especially rap music) is often more about the lyrics behind a song than the notes played with it. A well written line can be just as powerful to a person reading it rather than hearing it (I should know, I have about a million books that testify to this). So it should be a given that musicians have hearing impaired fans too. Again: Duh.

Holly Maniatty signs at a Phish concert.

Holly Maniatty (source: Slate.com)

After watching the video I looked up the woman behind the assume dance moves and ridiculously smooth signs. Her name is Holly Maniatty, a professional ASL interpreter who has made somewhat of a name for herself as being one of the best concert and festival interpreters around. And for good reason. The amount of time and effort she puts into researching an upcoming show is nothing short of awe inspiring. According to her own estimates, she spends around 50 to 100 hours researching the entire catalog of work of whatever musician she is working with. Along with that, she has to study the movements and style of each artists as well and tries her best to mimic it for the benefit of those watching her when not watching the artist him or her self. She describes it best here:

“[Eminem] has a very specific body cadence,” she said, “and if you’re able to mimic that, it almost looks like you are him. Jay-Z’s got a big boisterous chest-out way to rap sometimes. So you have to watch the different performers and watch how they move the body because the more genuine you are to their way of presenting themselves as an artist, the more equal of an experience the deaf person is going to have.”

While ASL at concerts and festivals is on the rise, I’m guessing the people don’t pay her anywhere near enough to deserve the kind of professionalism and energy she brings. But I’m glad she does it anyway. She represents a world I want to live in. It’s not enough to accommodate people who aren’t “like us”, they deserve more. We need to change the conceptualization of disabilities to one where they aren’t considered a separate group but instead that their needs are just another challenge that needs to be met when organizing events. We can do it, we just have to try and Holly Maniatty tries. Clearly talented, she is bringing concerts to people who for a long time were left out, not because of their own limitations but because, like me, the concert organizers didn’t stop to think or didn’t bother to ask the hearing impaired whether they wanted in. The organization that Holly works for is called Everyone’s Invited, and it seems like they are ensuring that everyone is. Duh.

Paula Deen doesn’t think she’s racist, and that matters

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Butter Queen Paula Deen has found herself entangled in a damaging lawsuit involving a former employee of hers, who alleges that the TV personality and “down home cooking” chef and her brother Bubba (seriously) peppered workplace conversations with racist remarks and jokes. This week, the disposition she gave at her trial was released and among the numerous gems that lay bare her inherent racism are these:

Deen testified that she probably used the racial slur when talking to her husband about “when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.”

“I didn’t feel real favorable towards him,” she said, referring to the robber.

Jackson lawyer: “Have you used it since then?”

Deen: “I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.”

Then later she recounted having used, or been around her brother when he used, racial slurs in the context of jokes, saying:

When Jackson’s attorney asked Deen if she had ever used the N-word, Deen reportedly answered, “yes, of course,” and listed specific times she had done so. Regarding racist jokes, Deen allegedly said, “It’s just what they are — they’re jokes…most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. … I can’t determine what offends another person.”

The world reacted with an outrage that lacked the self awareness to realize that these two examples are instances where we have either been guilty of racism ourselves or have been guilty by association as they were said to us and we laughed politely or ignored it.

What Paula Deen has admitted to saying doesn’t make her special or even particularly racist. It just makes her dumb or brave enough to say it to a less than sympathetic audience who was ready to tar and butter her from the second they smelled this week’s outrage machine beginning to churn.

Paula-Deen

What gets lost when we publicly out and shame a celebrity for their racial indiscretion is the deeper, more troubling fact that their views aren’t uncommon. If we really hope to make a positive change towards a less racist society this is the most inefficient way to do it. We can’t simply change people’s minds one by one when they mess up (and they inevitably will since racism tends to pervade a person’s thoughts and speech no matter how hard they try to control it in mixed company). That is, for one, ineffective at curbing racism generally, but even worse it allows the rest of us a cop out as we can point to them and declare “racist” without ever having to turn that microscope back towards ourselves.

I wonder how well any of us would do during a three hour interrogation about our racist jokes, or racist family members, or our racist attitudes. I’m guessing Paula Deen would fall somewhere around the average racist mark. Half of us would be worse. That should scare us.

What’s also important about this Paula Deen story is how unapologetic she seems about the whole thing. She truly feels like she has done nothing wrong. Let’s take a look at how, by pulling apart the examples I quoted at the top of this article.

When Paula was working at a bank in the 1980s, she was robbed at gun point. Obviously, this was a terrifying experience for her and she testified to using the N-word when later describing the assailant to her husband. When asked for a justification for the racial slur she said the most telling line she could have: “I didn’t feel very favorable towards him

That is the deep racism I am talking about. It’s the idea that we should be tolerant and “nice” towards minorities as an act of good will, but the second they cross certain lines or violate a white woman’s sense of safety, she feels justified in using a racial slur in regards to him. If she had just said he was an “uppity black”, people would have lost their minds. But this is no different. Minorities cannot be truly equal when the terms of their equality are tied to acting a certain way, being a certain way, and speaking a certain way. That’s still racism.

The second example I cited was her use of jokes. Paula seems to think that all jokes are in someway or another, jokes targeting a particular group of people. She listed “Jews, rednecks, and blacks” as some of the groups jokes are about. If you get past marveling at her ability to say that out loud with no sense of reservations, you would realize that for a large portion of the country, this is probably dead on true. Jokes are about targeting “others”. You make fun of them, and your friends laugh at how different they are. This is probably one of the most ancient forms of joke telling in existence because of how easy it is. A outside group’s behaviors or beliefs seem weird to us and it’s up to the would be comedian to harvest that sense of weirdness. What Paula doesn’t understand is the damage these jokes cause when we are trying to create a just and equal world. It draws lines between people instead of circling all of humanity. Jokes are kernels of truth surrounded by a meaty shell of the absurd, but if that kernel of truth comes from a place of xenophobia or hate or even merely condescension, the joke itself becomes a vehicle of racism.

None of this should surprise us. This should all sound familiar. And that’s the point, Paula Deen is a victim of her culturally ingrained racism when you remove self awareness and the conscious effort to be less biased. As her sponsors jump ship to swim towards another one that has yet to take on water, maybe Paula Deen will start to wake up or maybe she won’t. When Michael Vick went to jail for dog fighting he was probably my least favorite person on the planet, but I now believe that he somehow had not even known dog fighting was wrong. He grew up so ignorant of the larger abhorrence to dog fights by people who view dogs as cherished members of our society (if only other animals got the same placement) that even questioning what he was doing was beyond him. Since then he has seemed legitimately horrified at his previous behavior and contrite when speaking about it. It reinforces the fact that education and diverse perspectives can have real, meaningful impact in a person’s thinking where Nike voiding their sponsorship cannot.

I just hope Paula Deen takes this opportunity to learn why she is wrong and not just how she got caught up in another celebrity take down scandal.

This is madness: Another mass killing, another AR-15

killer supplies

Pictured above are *some* of the supplies the man (identified as John Zawahri) suspected of going on a multiple location shooting spree in Santa Monica yesterday brought with him. If that is unsettling, remember that the NRA is actively making sure that owning this much ammunition and those type of deadly firearms is completely legal. If they hoped we would have forgotten about Newtown by now, their “responsible gun owners” keep reminding us why we must not.

John Zawahri’s motives for the killings are unclear, but I’m here to argue that they don’t matter. I have absolutely no interest in hearing why he went on this deadly rampage. No grievance, or slight, or ideological agenda could justify or explain this event. The only truly important detail we need is something we already know:

A family friend of the gunman who killed four people during a Santa Monica shooting rampage said he had an intense interest in guns.

The friend, who asked not to be identified, said John Zawahri, 24,  had “a fascination with guns. We were all worried about it…. Everyone is wondering where he got the money for the weapons.”

A fascination with guns. That’s the gun powder in the barrel, so does it really matter what kind of match was used to light it? Can we even keep calling these events tragedies any more? Just like we can’t keep calling things like the shooting of a father by his 4 year old son an “accident”, the nomenclature is misleading. They are a product of our own design. These are part of a pattern and they will continue to happen until we decide enough is enough. And enough is enough. It has been enough. For a brief moment after Newtown it looked as though we had seen that, but then we let it slip through our hands. Again. And now five more people are dead.

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Another shot of the inventory of a mass murder, or law abiding citizen depending on the psychological state of the owner.

The assault weapons ban failed. The gun the suspect used to kill four people and injure five more is still allowed in most places (a few states were brave enough to be the change the federal government failed to be). Taking that gun from him would have, the NRA argued, infringed upon his rights. Somehow, the NRA has framed the debate in such a way, that anything this man does up until the bullet enters another human being’s body makes him, not only a law abiding citizen, but also a paragon of society. If we must have gun owners at all, do we really need to worship them as well? Let’s not pretend that they are supermen who bravely protect our free democracy. Most are just selfish and want their toys. Some have a fascination with guns that leads to murder. Neither should be worshiped.

It’s been pointed out that spree killings and mass murders make up a small fraction of total deaths by guns each year. This is true, and should be taken into account when making future gun laws, but what makes spree killings and mass murders so different is how easy it would be to reduce their impact. We will most likely never be able to stop a person when he (and let’s be honest, it’s almost always a “he”) decides he wants to take the lives of people and doesn’t care who they are or how he will do it, but that doesn’t mean preventing him from getting military grade weapons should be off the table. Owning 1,200 rounds of ammunition as this suspect did, or using a semi-automatic AR-15, are easy things we can target when thinking about gun control. It shouldn’t even be controversial because it doesn’t take away “guns”, just *some* guns. It doesn’t take away ammo, just limits it to a reasonable amount. You can still go to the firing range to shoot. You can still protect your family if there is a dangerous intruder (although I wouldn’t recommend it).

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Unless you’re up against this, you don’t need 1,200 bullets. (source: World War Z)

The entire episode in Santa Monica lasted about 10 minutes. 10 minutes from start to finish. If this guy had a gun that only held 10 bullets, it would have given at least some of the victims a fighting chance to flee. Instead, he barely had to pause. That’s a problem and these are simple things we can do to prevent tragic deaths. They aren’t expensive. They aren’t complicated. They aren’t intrusive. But instead, let’s watch as the conversation gets muddied yet again by arguments that ignore all semblance of reason and instead pervert the message into hyperbolic nonsense that prevents any meaningful change (which, as I’ve said again and again, is precisely the point).

Because this isn’t Newtown, and because the media has way too many juicy stories to work through right now (Doesn’t the word “spying” just have a marketable ring to it?), this story won’t lead to any results in gun control. The people who were murdered for no other reason than the spending power of the NRA and the indifference of the average American will be forgotten except by those who knew and loved them. Instead, this story will be placed in the pile of other stories that exposes the inconvenient truth that guns don’t kill people, people with a fascination with guns and easy access to them protected by powerful interest groups with tangible, quantifiable financial stakes in gun sales kill people.

Even better, we can focus on his Muslim sounding name and forget that guns were used at all.

This is madness.

Hey, down in front!: Heckling doesn’t work

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Another week, another “Obama interrupted by a heckler” story. Only this time it was Michelle who received the honors. At a fundraiser in Washington, Michelle Obama was repeatedly interrupted by Ellen Sturtz, a gay rights activist demanding Michelle make President Obama sign an anti-discrimination executive order. Michelle Obama unceremoniously, but effectively shut her down by saying “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have a choice.” The other people in the crowd chose the First Lady.

While I sympathize with her cause, someone should tell this woman, and, “Get Equal”, the group that put her there, that their tactic is a waste of time and energy (and money).

Heckling has probably been around forever. The inability for people to distinguish appropriate and inappropriate times to speak up are universal to the human condition and there will always be a person who can’t help him or herself. The use of “plants”, people put into a situation where they are specifically meant to cause a ruckus for the advancement of some agenda, is newer but still not unheard of. Presumably it is meant to bring attention to a pet cause or injustice by hijacking the spotlight from a person who already has attention. Ellen Sturtz knew this would be talked about on twitter and in blogs, that’s why she did it. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell her that her cause isn’t the type to be aided by heckling. Gay Rights has about as much attention as any cause in the country right now. Heckling doesn’t work passed that.

In this way, heckling is like terrorism. It typically doesn’t work, it’s counterproductive to the intended goals of the person employing it, but it is incredibly common. As with terrorism, heckling is a sure way to sever any chance of ever coming to a compromise. It takes the debate away from the “issue” and into the realm of personal violations, vendettas and pride. Terrorism emboldens the victims and makes them dig in their heels because any concession is now viewed as a “win” for the other side, a side that has just violently “wronged” you. Instead of listening to the terrorists’ demands, the victims end up invading Afghanistan. Heckling elicits a similar response. Instead of listening to your concerns, the victim ignores them on principle.

The mock outrage that Ellen Sturtz expressed after the event was really the puzzler. She not only made herself look extremely rude, but if she were taken at face value (she shouldn’t be), she’s also idiotic. What did she expect Obama to do? Tracy Clayton at theroot.com put it best:

Sturtz…stated that she was “taken aback” by Obama’s response, because apparently the idea that she would do anything besides hand Sturtz the microphone and get her husband on the phone is surprising.

But like terrorism, heckling is (relatively) cheap. It doesn’t take much to get a lot of attention. If attention is all you want, whether for recruitment purposes, or simple megalomania, then it is an attractive choice. But to say with a straight face that you did this for gay rights is disingenuous. For one thing, you are heckling Michelle Obama, not her husband. She, presumably, has some sway when it comes to his opinions but probably very little in actual policy outcomes. Second, you are screaming at a President who has done more for gay rights than any other President in history and likely even the rest combined. Let’s face it, even the folk hero, Bill Clinton, presided over a presidential term that saw “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” AND “Defense of Marriage Act” passed. And George W. Bush was worse. You could be frustrated at Obama’s slowness in fully getting behind the gay rights movement (I certainly am), but this isn’t exactly the Iraqi citizen defiantly throwing a shoe at George W. Bush, Obama is a misplaced target.

So on the whole, this act of rudeness accomplished nothing. Fortunately for Ellen Sturtz, her goal of equal rights will most likely succeed anyway (and a new poll shows most people think that it is inevitable), but she will have done nothing to help it come about. If she really wanted to help she would find ways to work with an administration that has shown a willingness to work towards equality rather than grandstanding and alienating the people she needs to help her achieve her goal.

For goodness sake, sit down, shut up, and do something.

El Salvador is what a world without Roe v. Wade looks like

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Yesterday, a Salvadoran woman had to have an emergency caesarian section to deliver a baby that had no chance of survival. Here is the horrible reason why it came to this:

A seriously ill woman denied a medical abortion has had a successful cesarean section to deliver a baby that doctors have given little chance of surviving, El Salvador’s Health Ministry announced late Monday.

The 22-year-old woman, known only as Beatriz for privacy reasons, underwent the operation in the afternoon after 27 weeks of pregnancy, the ministry said. Her baby girl was born without a brain.

“No one can say how long she will live,” Morena Herrera of the Feminist Collective for Local Development told The Associated Press. “It was painful to see the little creature. That’s what the grandmother told us, and the doctors confirmed it.”

The country’s Supreme Court last week prohibited an abortion for Beatriz, who suffers from lupus and kidney failure and whose lawyers said the pregnancy was threatening her life. Her plight drew international attention and a ruling from the Inter-American Court on Human Rights that El Salvador should protect her life and help her end the pregnancy.

That’s right. A baby without a brain was given the right to life over the (very fully brained) mother. Have we all lost our minds?

Of course, El Salvador is known as one of the toughest anti-abortion countries in the world. Abortions are almost never considered, but shouldn’t this be a little nudge to the rational thinkers there that maybe a blanket anti-abortion policy can have pretty awful unintended consequences? You would think.

But before we are quick to judge El Salvador for its backwards and barbaric social policies, let’s take a moment to remember that there are serious presidential candidates in the United States who are praying (literally) that our abortion policy looked like that.

Both Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have, through interviews and legislative pushes, demonstrated that they are firmly committed to outlawing abortion under any circumstances, including when the mother’s life is in danger. A life is a life, they reason – in that simplistic way that only an ideologue can say with a straight face.

, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

“I feel comfortable believing horrible stuff” – Rick Santorum(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michele Bachmann, when not out right lying about Obamacare or on a muslim witch hunt, did her part to propose several bills in the House of Representatives that recognized the “pre-born” (a nonsense term, meant to play to our emotions, just like “pro-life”) as having equal protection under the 14th amendment. What it was really meant to do was get rid of abortion through subterfuge. And if an embryo is protected under the 14th amendment, then suddenly it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that the mother should be made to suffer if the child could conceivably live.

What’s not being discussed is the VAST differences in subjective quality of life for the two concerned parties. An embryo does not feel (at least not in a meaningful way), but the mother does. The fetus does not fear death or experience existential dread at the possibility of nonexistence, but the mother does. The “pre-born” does not have a network of loved ones and family who depend on him or her for emotional and possibly financial support, but the mother’s does. So what’s going on here? Why the obsession with pre-natal people and total disregard for post-natal ones?

It comes down to the soul. That little, indefinable something. The 21 grams of spiritstuff. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are convinced that the soul is imprinted onto the first human cell and that destroying that means destroying a little part of God’s plan. This narrow theological view is then applied to an entire society of people who perhaps don’t share the same idea, but can’t, or won’t, shout as loudly.

It’s time we started thinking about quality of life, and not just quantity. People aren’t content to just exist. We want to live well. Rightfully so. I would rather live in a world that had less people but more happy people. We can also benefit from a great share of resources, and benefit the rest of the planet by our reduced impact. Pro-lifers like to cite some scare statistic like “over 50 million people have been murdered by abortion”, but I bet the animals whose habitats would have been destroyed to make room for them are grateful they never made it past the clump of cells stage. Again, these cells are not people, and while they are “potential people”, that doesn’t entitle them to anything. If that were the case, then we couldn’t even stop there. We would have to give equal consideration to even potential potential people. In that Universe, even having a menstrual cycle would be a tragedy. “There goes your baby brother,” a father would say as his whole family solemnly watches the tampon go down the toilet.

Even though Michele Bachmann shrewdly decided that she can’t win her upcoming election and has decided to pursue her passion of earning millions in the private sector, there will be others out there, waiting, biding their time. And when they stand up, and try, yet again, to chip away at Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood or birth control, we must have the intelligence and commitment to rationality to meet their eyes and remember the lessons of El Salvador.

Creator of Girls Gone Wild, Joe Francis, can’t stop

English: A picture of Joe Francis, owner of Ma...

Awful human being, Joe Francis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…getting himself into trouble. I suppose it’s too much to ask of a man who has made his millions off the exploitation of drunk girls on Spring Break, but didn’t his mother ever teach him that when he doesn’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all? He was recently convicted for false imprisonment and assault of three girls in his Bel-Air home described here:

The incident leading to the charges took place in January 2011. The victims, three women, met Francis at Hollywood’s Supper Club where they were partying in honor of a college graduation.

When the night was winding down, Francis “grabbed one of the women by the hand and took her to his limo,” elaborates L.A. Now. The other two women, thinking this was their lift to their car.

However, Francis’ bodyguard and driver whipped out “sheriff’s badges” and prohibited the women from leaving the limo. They were taken to Francis’ home, where he tried to separate one of the women from the trio, and a physical fight ensued.

During the scuffle, Francis grabbed one woman by her throat and hair, and slammed her head to the floor four times.

The women eventually broke free, and despite cautions from Francis not to do so, called 911 immediately to report the incident.

Seriously, what is wrong with this guy?

Well, as if to drive home the point of just how much of a scumbag Joe Francis is, he went on a rant about his “wrongful conviction” to The Hollywood Reporter which, if his goal was proving he is a psychopath, then he accomplished with flying colors.

“I want that jury to know that each and every one of you are mentally f–ing retarded and you should be euthanized because, as Darwin said, you have naturally selected yourself,” he shouts. “You are the weakest members of the herd. Goodbye! And if that jury wants to convict me because I didn’t show up, which is the only reason why they did, then, you know, they should all be lined up and shot!”

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“Hey, don’t drag me into this shit!” – Charles Darwin, reacting to Joe Francis’ statement. (source: smithsonianmag)

Besides an affinity for eugenics, the rant speaks to a mind that has clearly broken with reality. It exists in a plane of hyper-egotism that ceases to have any limitations. Throughout the pathetic statement is a disgusting sense of entitlement that, I think, could easily justify taking three women hostage and physically assaulting them for not submitting to the whims of “the great” Joe Francis. Perhaps, we should update the Miranda Rights to include: Anything you say to The Hollywood Reporter can and will be used against you in the court of law.

Of course, because this is the age we live in, Joe Francis issued a quick apology that was about as sincere as instance that he is innocent. 2013 might have a big contender for the very best non-apology and we’re only in May!

I deeply regret the remarks attributed to me in the interview with the Hollywood Reporter. They were hurtful and do not reflect my true feelings. While I disagree with the jury’s verdict as I am completely innocent of the charges and intend to appeal, I was afforded a fair trial, and if I lose at the appellate level, I will reluctantly but fully accept the jury’s verdict. This was a 6 hour interview with the Hollywood reporter where I detailed to the reporter all of the evidence and why I believed the evidence showed I am 100% innocent. The reporter also interviewed my attorney David Houston for over 3 hours, but failed to include one shred of evidence from the trial that proved beyond a reasonable doubt my innocence. I did NOT commit a crime at all whatsoever. All that was publicized were my most intemperate remarks that were borne out of frustration but with no intent to cause anyone harm. I am not, nor have I ever been a violent person. My comments are appalling, but anyone who has ever been wrongfully convicted of a crime that they did NOT commit would be as frustrated as I am. I want to apologize to all the jurors, the court, the City Attorney and my attorneys for my comments that were manipulated by the media, and please know I am truly ashamed of my conduct. I am truly, truly sorry. I hope everyone will understand I was not being serious and that I fully and deeply apologize for my remarks.

For some reason Joe Francis seems to be stuck on the fact that if he were proven innocent it would somehow justify him saying he thinks a jury of his peers should be lined up and shot. Joe, that isn’t really the problem. As you said,  you had a fair trial, and even probably a little bit in your favor given the amount of money you can put forward to hire a good attorney (who is probably regretting ever taking this case, as we speak). You’re not being victimized, but you are showing that you seem capable of committing the crimes you were charged with.

And as with any good non-apology, Joe insists that he wasn’t being serious. Would that change anything? Would the rant have looked any different if it were serious? There isn’t any indication during the rant that he isn’t being serious. Of course, maybe he means that if the jurors were lined up and shot per his wishes he would have felt a pang of regret. A wacky misunderstanding! “You idiots!” Joe would cry. “I wasn’t being serious!” *cue laugh track*. No, luckily even though Joe was probably being serious, no one takes him seriously.