Tag Archives: Barack Obama

On Boy Scouts And Equality

I was a Boy Scout, once upon a long time ago. I did Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Made it to Second Class… failed the swim test twice. Not because I can’t swim, but the first time was in a lake where I couldn’t touch the ground and that always freaks me out and the second time I ate too much for breakfast. …feel I have to defend myself there. Anyway, when I switched high schools, I basically just stopped doing Boy Scouts, though I probably could have made it to Eagle without much of a problem. I had most of the requirements done.

Anyway, Boy Scouts was intended to help young boys become men with a certain set of skills and traits. A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Nice traits to have, right? Not bad things, I think, and entirely independent of any religion or dogma. Unfortunately, despite those traits being independent of dogma, most of the Boy Scouts have aligned themselves with a conservative Christian viewpoint. What this has come to mean is, openly homosexual males are not allowed to be involved in the organization at all.

Well, the times, they are a’changin’, maybe.

Recently, with gay rights taking some big steps in both reality, such as the new states that have legalized gay marriage and the ending of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and symbolism, via President Barack Obama’s reference to gay rights in his inaugural address, things seem to have a bit of a forward momentum. Recently, that forward momentum hit the Boy Scouts of America and they’ve started considering dropping their ban on homosexuals.

But it’s not all good news for equality, of course. See, a large portion of Boy Scout Troops are sponsored by churches. Christian churches. Many of which have particular views about homosexuals and homosexuality. Views that are frankly often contrary both to Christianity and reality, but that’s a topic to rehash another time. Anyway, many of those churches are threatening to pull their sponsorship and funding if the Boy Scouts change their stance on homosexuals.

I just don’t get it. If you can show me once, just once, where Christ turned away a sinner and said, “No, I can’t be seen around you, I disapprove of the things you do,” I’ll eat my hat. Did he rebuke some sinners, like the Pharisees? Sure. But he also ate with sinners, mingled with them, talked to them, treated them as equals. Not as a separate species to be treated with disdain and derision.

If Christ walked among us today, it’s the conservative Christians that would have him crucified this go round. The Pharisees are back, and they just don’t like gay people.

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Please Stop Saying “Law-Abiding Citizens”

As the gun debate continues to rage on, particularly in the light of the Newton shootings, stubbornness and conservatives (and a combination thereof) have stood up to argue against any changes in America’s current gun laws. Some say that there are several thousand gun laws on the books already, so why not just enforce those?

Well, besides the fact that, apparently, the NRA and several politicians have worked very hard to make the majority of those laws practically impossible to actually enforce, there are still several laws that could be instituted to perhaps make gun violence less of a problem.

But when it comes to the subject of any new laws, or even sometimes enforcing the laws that have already been made, pro-gun supporters have had a key phrase they seem to repeat over and over again: “Law-abiding citizens.”

The basic theory is that any new gun laws created would only harm and hinder law-abiding citizens, as criminals will break the law no matter what. For example, if you ban a certain type of weapon, then that just prevents law-abiding citizens from getting the weapon. Criminals will break the law when they want, and they can then get the weapon that has been banned.

It makes a certain amount of sense on the surface, sure. But when you actually stop and consider it for more than a minute or two, things seem to fall apart with the idea of the “law-abiding citizen.”

First, it assumes that a major crackdown on illegal weapons won’t make it any more difficult to obtain said weapons. I mean, heck, look at the drug war. Illegal drugs are all over the place, and so easily attainable! Guns would be the same way, right?

Except that many drugs don’t require manufacturing. Many drugs, like marijuana or mushrooms, only need soil. Seeds for them can be carried around undetected in a myriad of places. They grow naturally and can be grown anywhere ground is. Some drugs, like meth, are a bit more traceable, but drugs are still insanely easy to transport in the quite small doses individuals require to achieve their highs. To compare illegal drugs to illegal guns is a bit ridiculous. I, right now, could find about five to 10 different people that could supply me with some form of illegal drug, no problem. I might not even need to leave my computer. To find someone to supply me with illegal guns? I have absolutely no idea where to start. At all. Maybe other people know things I don’t and I’m somehow in a minority, but I have strong doubts about that.

The idea of the “law-abiding citizen” is faulty anyway. It insinuates that law-abiding citizens remain that way, and that criminals are a separate group that never sees any overlap. To an extent, that’s true. The moment a law-abiding citizen commits a crime, he’s a criminal. The Venn Diagram of criminals vs. law-abiding citizens would not see the circles overlap. But that doesn’t mean a law-abiding citizen will never ever commit a crime.

Personally, I’m more fond of the idea of a criminal being forced to break more laws than less to pull off a crime. If he or she has to break more laws, the likelihood of being caught increases, does it not? If a criminal plans on, say, staging a mass shooting, which is better: The criminal being allowed to legally purchase automatic weapons with high capacity magazines en masse, or there being several roadblocks along the way where law enforcement officials might actually be able to notice some shenanigans going on BEFORE the shooting happens?

Talking about “law-abiding citizens” as though they are some venerable race to be protected at all costs ignores the fact that “law-abiding citizen” is not a permanent status. Do you know what a truly law-abiding citizen would do? Continue to abide by the laws, even if they’re more restrictive. The suggestions of legal action by President Barack Obama and others aren’t tyrannical. They aren’t nationwide bans on all firearms. They don’t actually hinder any law-abiding citizen’s ability to defend themselves or use guns for sport/hunting. So why do they keep claiming these laws would?

Honestly, the term just needs to be put to bed. Let’s start talking about what laws we have that need enforcement, what laws should be done away with and what laws should be added. Let’s talk specifics instead of making sweeping and ultimately pointless cries against ideals that don’t actually exist.

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Liberals: Crazy For Kwanzaa?

So, I got a bit of a kick out of this. Apparently, Wisconsin Republican state Senator Glenn Grothman decided to go on a bit of a rant against the African-American holiday Kwanzaa, claiming it is a “supposed” holiday and saying, “Almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa — just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an effort to divide Americans.”

“Why must we still hear about Kwanzaa? Why are hard-core left wingers still trying to talk about Kwanzaa?”

So, as someone most people would call a left-winger, and some right-wingers would describe as “hard-core,” though I’m not exactly certain as to why, this entire thing just makes me giggle. First off, I had to look up Kwanzaa just to be sure I knew what it was. The ONLY people I’ve heard mention it are Sen. Grothman, author of the newspaper comic strip Curtis Ray Billingsley and Lonely Island, in their famous song “Dick in a Box.” Maybe there’s a rash of Kwanzaa conversation going on in Wisconsin that I haven’t heard about, but I feel like Grothman’s just being a bombastic fool.

See, Grothman goes on to attack the creator of Kwanzaa as a “violent nut” that apparently just didn’t like Christianity or something. For those that are having to Wikipedia Kwanzaa to find out anything about it, it was created by a professor at California State University, Long Beach, named Maulana Karenga, back in 1966. Apparently, though this may be rumor/falsehood, Karenga did originally rail against Christmas as a “white holiday.” However, nowadays, many black Christians celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa. And while Karenga was jailed for assault (though he maintains his innocence), the ad hominem thing is rather ridiculous. Should Christmas not be celebrated since it was made by the Catholic Church, which hosts a very violent and suspect past?

What I find funny is all the defenses people have for Grothman. Apparently, Kwanzaa is just a “made-up holiday,” so people should stop celebrating it. As though other holidays were discovered in the wild, growing on a tree. And when you point out that Grothman, a white man, might not actually have the insight necessary to determine whether Kwanzaa is something black people care about, you tend to get these types of responses:

“Only white liberals know what’s best for blacks.”

“All the black people that I know and I know many, don’t give a damn about Kwanzaa.”

“like obama knows what white people want right????”

It’s funny because, to the best of my knowledge, Kwanzaa is harming absolutely no one. It does not harm the people celebrating it, nor does it harm the people not celebrating it. So, it’s not an issue about “what’s best” for people. Nor would I say white liberals have a pulse on the African-American community. I tend to think African-Americans are the ones best able to talk about what they want. As for this idea that “I know a bunch of black people” therefore let’s make a sweeping statement about ALL of them… Do I really need to point out how ridiculous that is? Kwanzaa is celebrated. Black people that celebrate Kwanzaa do exist. Billingsley’s black and he talks about it, so there’s at least one person. As for the President Barack Obama comment… Seriously. It’s just stupid.

Honestly, I hadn’t heard a thing about Kwanzaa this year until I heard about Grothman ranting about it. Seems like another case of someone so obsessed with something that he makes is a bigger deal than it really is. Wonder if he’ll start ranting about liberals shoving Linux operating systems down everyone’s throats next. Because that’s totally something that happens.

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What’s This About Fiscal Cliff “Winners”?

So, we’re pretty much going to go over the fiscal cliff everyone’s talking about. Honestly, everyone seems to make it sound like a “Thelma and Louise” situation when in reality it’s probably not that bad. I don’t know enough about the economy to really make any guarantees, but I’m pretty sure it won’t even be as bad as 2008. Not even close. I have a friend that got a degree in understanding this sort of stuff that made it seem like the cliff won’t be so bad, but we won’t know until we get there, right?

Anyway, the big thing I’ve been reading over and over again is all the people talking about who “won.” General consensus is that Speaker of the House John Boehner has really screwed the pooch on this entire negotiation thing and President Barack Obama is coming out on top.

That seems to be about right. For goodness sake, Boehner sits there and flat says in a “drop the mic” type situation that the House will pass his Plan B, and Obama and the Democrat-run Senate had better step up and vote for it if they wanted a fiscal cliff deal… then none of the Republicans in the House wanted to vote for his Plan B. At which point he said, “It’s up to the Democrats!” and left. Really, it just read as a desperate ploy to try and shift blame to anyone but himself.

But this whole “Obama wins” thing seems silly. People are talking about how much power over Congress he’ll have after we go over the cliff… but people were saying the same things about after he won the election and Democrats retained the Senate and gained seats in both Senate and House. Now, it’s possible he’s started using up some of that political sway in the efforts to move on gun legislation… but no legislation has actually happened, yet, and there were tons of Republicans, even NRA-backed Republicans, saying that we do need to consider new gun control laws. So there wasn’t much power needed to get movement on those efforts.

Honestly, I’m pretty certain an Obama victory in this situation would have been yanking Boehner’s head out of the sand/other places the sun doesn’t shine and getting him to actually make a deal prior to going over the cliff. Now, could this all be a ploy to say Obama wanted us to go over the cliff? Possibly. But that sounds like we’re edging in on conspiracy theory territory. No, more likely, people are just being ridiculous and saying things for the sake of saying them and pretending their opinions matter.

…Okay, I know that’s awkward to say from a blog, but I’m not trying to get on national TV with my opinions and am fully willing to admit my ignorance on the entire fiscal cliff situation. I doubt you’ll find anyone in Congress/on TV willing to admit the same.

I just think that maybe we shouldn’t be seeing Senators and Representatives on TV talking about who’s winning in the fiscal cliff debates, but rather we should see them actually trying to come up with a compromise. But what do I know? All I know is that I get in trouble if I don’t do my job. Congress apparently gets a pay raise.

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Gun Laws: I’m About To Give Up

Honestly, I’m just about to give up.

Every time a tragedy occurs involving a mass shooting in America, the gun laws conversation gets started again. And every time, people start pretending that gun control equates to an all-out ban on guns, that gun control is never going to stop all murders anyway so why bother, that gun control leads to more violence/murder even though that is not even remotely true in any of the first world countries that are remotely comparable to America.

But all those comparisons really don’t matter because America is its own country and, frankly, we won’t know what stricter gun laws will actually accomplish until we try them out.

Ultimately, I know one thing: Doing absolutely nothing, which is what we’ve been doing for the past many many years, has done absolutely nothing.

Honestly, I don’t know if stricter gun laws or more accessible mental health care (which is definitely related to lowering crime in America) would have helped prevent 20 dead children in Connecticut. But our strategy of doing nothing certainly did nothing to stop it.

America has become on of the world leaders in violence. We have some of the highest rates of mass murders, school shootings and gun crimes in the world, particularly among first world countries. And yet so many seem content to just say, “Eh. Whatever. It’s fine.” And seem to enjoy calling people that think something should change, that we should do everything in our power to stop the headlines tomorrow being 20 more dead children, or people of any age, anti-American, taking away Americans’ rights to own any and every firearm in the world.

It’s frustrating. It’s so immensely frustrating because the conversation ends before it can begin. Because people that are pro-gun rights refuse to admit that maybe, just maybe, we have a problem. That maybe we shouldn’t accept that our current situation is the best situation, especially when statistics have shown that America is far and beyond the norm for gun violence and mass shootings.

Yes, there are crazy people. Evil people. No, we’ll never be able to stop them all. But if the person in Newtown had, say, a chamber with 10 or 20 less bullets in it, instead the 100 or more it had, would there maybe be one more child left alive today?

Maybe. It’s possible. But as long as we do nothing, nothing’s possible but more of the same. And I’m too sickened by that to want it to continue on. But I’m also feeling beaten down. I don’t know what we can do when Americans seem so intensely divided on this issue and politicians cower and refuse to take action. There is some hope, after this most recent incident, that President Barack Obama will step up and force a political conversation. But who knows. So I’m going to try to bow out of the conversation for a time. I know what’s right, and I know what “rights” people should have, and that certainly isn’t free and unabated access to any and every single firearm and weapon on the planet. Mutually assured destruction just doesn’t work.

But I think I’m just going to shut up for a while. Until the politicians start bringing real changes to the discussion table, there just doesn’t seem to be a point.

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Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Lincoln”

Apparently, my post for a couple days ago disappeared into the aether. I’m not fond of that at all. I should have one up tomorrow.

Over Thanksgiving break, my parents and I got into a bit of a row about politics… frankly, it was to be expected. Partly because I’m right and they’re wrong. But, seriously. During our argument, it was said at some point, in a sort of rhetorical sense, “When has America ever been more divided?” This was an attempt by my mother, I believe, to say that President Barack Obama is tearing the nation apart, because it’s definitely his fault and not a bunch of people being hard-headed fools unable to differentiate between their own pomp and the good of the country. Even though it was rhetorical, I decided to answer anyway.

“Gee, I dunno. There was that whole Civil War thing we had, I’m pretty sure the country was kinda divided then.”

Strangely enough, a president can be liked enough to be voted in during a contentious election, and sometimes by an overwhelming majority… but once in, he can be truly reviled. We see that a lot with Obama, with Republicans in and out of Congress treating him almost like a second class citizen during his first term. The question is, how will he be remembered in 100, 150 years?

Abraham Lincoln is one of our most memorable, historically well-liked presidents. He saw the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery instituted. He led the country through one of our worst conflicts. He was an eloquent speaker, highly intelligent and, a very well-liked quality in presidents, he was brief. Ultimately, he was assassinated, which has often actually improved a leader’s view in history’s eyes.

Yet, for all we know about Lincoln, most never really learn anything beyond the basic facts: Civil War, tall, wore a top hat, Emancipation Proclamation, assassinated. What Steven Spielberg brings to life in “Lincoln” is perhaps the first truly immersive, in depth view of Lincoln’s final few months, creating a compelling story through directing, writing and acting that will surely snag some awards this coming awards season.

“Lincoln” focuses almost entirely on January 1965, not long after Lincoln’s reelection, after the war had gone on for nearly four years. Lincoln, disgusted with slavery, had hoped to abolish it entirely before the end of the war, hoping to sway popular opinion by painting it as a means to swiftly end the Southern will to fight. However, with everyone feeling the war will be coming to a rapid close, popular opinion threatens to escape his grasp. Therefore, Lincoln finds himself attempting to pass the amendment in less than a month. Lacking the necessary Republican votes before the new session of the House of Representatives, he and his colleagues are forced to attempt to sway the minds of the Democrats that vehemently oppose the amendment.

At times, it was reminiscent of “The West Wing,” watching the wheelings and dealings of how laws (or amendments) come to pass. When fighting against a stacked deck, there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing to be had. But the film went beyond that to show Lincoln as a man and president, husband and father. The movie shows his struggles with his depressed and chronically pained wife Mary Todd, his love for his son Tad and troubles with his son Robert, his passion and fire and remorse and intelligence and humor… his humanity.

Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Lincoln in the film, truly becoming the man entirely. Day-Lewis is always a force on screen, but it’s possible that this is his best performance yet. The empathy of Lincoln and his drive are made fully clear through Day-Lewis’ performance, which never falters for a moment. Yet, he is not the only powerful performance on the screen. Sally Field shows herself as a strong, spirited woman, though very flawed and perhaps too human, in Mary Todd Lincoln, both fighting against and encouraging her husband through his trials. Tommy Lee Jones as the strongest proponent for the Amendment, playing Representative Thaddeus Stevens, gives a nuanced, witty performance that lies atop of a man unsure of whether he should sacrifice his moral high ground for the legal victory.

There are so many talented people in this film. David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (unrecognizably, I think) as Robert Lincoln, even Jared Harris in his smaller role as Ulysses S. Grant. They and so many others (Hal Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Jackie Earl Haley, etc.) create a truly inspiring and awe-inducing environment that looks to the future and says, “You think you have it bad?” Seriously, I half expected a fist fight in the House at some point. The world of the war-torn nation is delivered beautifully, and the details in the historical representation, down to the almost unnoticeable details in speech (righteous being pronounced “rye-tee-us” for example), are astounding. This will surely be a contender for Best Picture, in that it has so many elements come together so strongly.

If you are a fan of history, this is a good film to watch. If you enjoy watching good performances on screen, watch this movie. If you like solid writing, drama not overwrought, comedy not overplayed, this movie will serve you well. If you enjoy good costuming, beautiful scoring, great camera work or nuanced directing, you should look into watching this movie. And, really, if you just want a movie that you can watch and enjoy for a couple hours… you could certainly do far worse than “Lincoln.”

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GOP: The Grover-Owned Party

I don’t know how much politics you pay attention to… It could be that this blog is your only link to the political world. If so, then I am so sorry, but this is not a place for vast amounts of information, much less any unbiased reporting. Seriously, you should at least subscribe to the Associate Press or something.

But even if you don’t have much of a working knowledge of modern American politics, you still may have heard this name being tossed around over the past few years, and even more frequently now that the Republican party is having a serious soul searching after their disappointing show at the elections. The name is Grover Norquist. Norquist is a lobbyist that has basically gotten several hundred, if not thousand, different Republicans (and maybe some Democrats and Independents, I’m not sure) at various levels of government to sign a pledge swearing to never ever ever raise taxes for any reason whatsoever. That includes not closing tax loopholes, discounts and refunds. Because of Norquist, essentially the entire Republican party at the federal level has sworn to never raise taxes.

Which leads us to a bit of a predicament. Recently, talk of a “fiscal cliff” has been popping up on the news. What is this cliff? Well, it goes back to when Speaker of the House John Boehner and President Barack Obama were in a massive deadlock over how to solve the debt problem and whether to raise the debt ceiling or not. If I recall correctly, the government actually shut down for a time because of a complete refusal to compromise on both ends (though most things I read seemed to indicate Boehner was the one being more belligerent). Because of that entire debacle, our credit rating got lowered and things looked grim.

So, Congress made a super-committee, as they are wont to do (whatever that even is). It was bipartisan and tasked with the job of finding a solution to the debt and deficit problem. In order to encourage them to come up with a solution, Congress passed a time bomb: Without a solution, a series of cuts from defense and other federal programs, as well as higher taxes via the Bush tax cuts being ended, would be automatically implemented. It’s a big, sweeping, drastic measure that would come far too fast and has things neither party wants in there. Basically, they threatened themselves to get to work.

Well, as you might have guessed, they failed to come up with a plan. And now the time bomb is close to going off. Because of the elections and the fear of economic fallout, many Republicans have been slowly backing away from Norquist, saying they’d consider raising taxes if only to avoid the ugliness of what’s to come.

But, still, Boehner and other Republicans adamantly refuse to raise taxes, even a simple 1 percent on the top 1 percent of earners in this country.  And it’s pretty much because of Norquist.

It’s funny to see Norquist trash talk Obama about this situation, talking about how Obama thinks people elected him king. After all, Norquist is a random person. Not elected, not selected, just a guy representing a special interest group. And he thinks he holds power and sway over the way taxes and the economy should run.

What’s scary is that he probably does. While many of the GOP are backing away from that pledge of his, not enough are. Too many are clinging to this strict rigidity of no compromise, refusing to even consider alternatives. And since the Democrats aren’t willing to do anything without taxes being raised or loopholes closed down at least somewhere, we once again seem to be at an impasse. Last time, the Republicans got sullied and burned. I don’t know that they’ll be coming out on top of this one, either.

If the Republican Party wants to find themselves successful and in the nation’s good graces again, they’re going to have to stop being hardheaded and under the sway of a random guy. They will have to accept that compromise and trying new things when the old methods aren’t working are necessary for improvement. And they will have to start accepting the blame for some of the problems that are happening. They’ll have to step up and be the “bigger man,” so to speak. Otherwise, we may see more years of Democrats in power than they’d like.

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Churches Might Be A Little To Blame

Man. I’m even further behind now. This is a bad stain on my once-a-day deal. My bad. I will definitely get at least two up today, hopefully all three. …not that anyone reading this after the fact knows what I’m talking about because I always backlog these things… Let’s just pretend I’m a Time Lord and leave it at that.

So, I can’t remember if I told you guys, but I ended up in a bit of a verbal brawl over my Thanksgiving break. I kind of expected it, truth be told. This wasn’t the prettiest election, and the disdain for President Barack Obama ran high among conservatives, which my parents are. This election was also the election of bringing up ridiculous, unnecessary, irrelevant and occasionally completely fictional stories in attempts to smear candidates. Sure, it happens every year, but the birther thing? The “Obama’s going to send in UN troops” thing? Seriously. It got ridiculous.

But, of course, my parents are conservative. And I’m, well… not. So, on the drive to my grandma’s, I ended up verbally combating both of my parents with the occasional assist from my older sister. I’m pretty sure I was doing well on my end. Had it been a presidential debate, I like to think all the papers would’ve said I won, partly because my parents often adamantly refused to actually source any of their claims… but we all know that’s not how things work in the debates, sadly. One of the subjects my parents were wholly unable to accurately back-up was the claim that religious freedoms are being and will be squashed under Obama.

Ignoring how “religious freedom” extends beyond Christianity and the argument is easily made that many non-Christian religions have suffered obstructionism in the more Republican and religious areas of the United States, the idea that Christianity is suffering under Obama is silly and I said so. They of course bring up several superfluous things, like Obama asking Buddhists to pray and yadda yadda… and eventually, the subject of homosexuality got brought up. Which pretty much confirmed to me that, were I gay, I likely would’ve been disowned by my family. I hadn’t heard my dad’s side on that particular subject before, but he definitely lost respect from me when he suggested homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to adopt because they’re pedophiles.

I couldn’t really comprehend where this animosity and disdain was coming from… except I know exactly where it comes from. And it isn’t the Bible. It was interesting how, when I said that the Roman Catholic Church’s Catechism (my dad being Catholic) specifically states that homosexuality is not a sin, my dad got more upset saying I was wrong. I eventually clarified my point (or, you know, repeated it) until he agreed (because it’s true), but he was still very against the idea. And, while I avoided getting into a Scriptural-based argument, it’s been my experience that most that think homosexuality is anti-Christian simply use the excuse “The Bible says so.” Occasionally, you’ll get someone quoting Leviticus, or Jesus talking about man and woman skipping off into the sunset to marry or whatever. They usually can’t get into specifics or details. So, it basically boils down to “someone told me the Bible says so.” And that someone is usually a pastor, or just a church body in general.

So, imagine my surprise when one of the (admittedly more sensible) pastors of an American megachurch, Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church, admitted that perhaps some of the animosity and hatred toward gays, some of the negative – and occasionally violently so – atmosphere they live (or not) through might be the fault of churches.

See, here’s the thing… churches have gotten into the nasty habit over the past, oh, probably couple thousand years of demonizing certain sins. Lying, for SOME reason, was always pretty safe… but adultery, witchcraft, divorce, they all went through the ringer. When people were convinced that the Bible placed whites as superior to blacks, animosity and disdain followed. Violence, a poisonous atmosphere where sin and sinner both became equated with evil to not be tolerated, to be cast out. And while many of those other stigmas have faded or lessened, homosexuality stands still reviled.

I feel like I’ve talked about this before… but maybe if more churches stopped and said, “What are we doing?”, things could be better. Maybe if people focused on teaching the message of loving and tolerating everyone, no matter their flaws, the sort of stuff Jesus did, maybe that toxicity would dissipate. And maybe more people would actually think Christianity isn’t such a terrible idea.

But what do I know. I’m clearly a socialist, atheist heathen on a fast track to hell. And it’s not like the Bible ever said “Love thy neighbor as thyself” was the second most important thing for Christians to do. But it sure would be nice to have more pastors follow Warren’s lead. Then, maybe, churches could actually focus solely on doing good without spreading bad.

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Ridiculous PETA, Innocent Elmo And HeavenO

I don’t really have any single grand subject to take some philosophical stance on at the moment, though I may rant about the definition of art in an entirely close-minded fashion later this week. Because it’s apparently something I can rant about easily, and something a lot of people will probably disagree with me on, so yay for fostering discussion.

But tonight, there are three different stories that have caught my eye for various reasons, and I just want to chat about them for a little bit.

First, being that it’s the annual slaughter-of-the-turkey time of year, not that you’d notice what with all the Christmas decorations hiding the cranberry sauce and peanut oil, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has something to say about it.

Now, I’m a meat eater. Always will be. I have a friend that went vegan (or more likely just vegetarian, I forget) and thinks my reasonings for not doing the same are crap… and they probably are. I don’t like the way most animals are treated on farms and the like. Shoving a metric crapton of chickens into the same far-too-small space, for example, where they grow up harassed and harried only to be slaughtered young and rather beaten up is, in my opinion, not cool. From the standpoint of “I like meat,” it makes the product smaller and worse and customers shouldn’t be accepting such sub-par end results. From the standpoint of just ethics, I do think it’s cruel and completely not cool. Animals should be treated better, even if their ultimate destination is a plate.

That said, I still think we should be able to eat meat, and I don’t think an essential hunger strike is going to get to any solutions unless there becomes a massive, widespread hunger strike and demand for ethical treatment. There have been some changes made through the legal system and just naturally on their own through free range and maverick meats that I think would be better to work through. How unfortunate that treating animals ethically is apparently so much more expensive these days, though, otherwise the solution would be far easier for consumers.

Anyway, I digress. While I think that much of the treatment of animals for consumption is cruel and detrimental to the consumer, the individual animal and the continuation of the animal as a species, I still think PETA’s a bunch of ridiculous people that very often make no sense whatsoever. This is one of those times. They’re petitioning President Barack Obama to stop the traditional pardoning of the turkey, and their arguments are perhaps a bit… lacking.

First, they say you wouldn’t eat your puppy, so why would you eat a turkey? At which point I jokingly think that Obama was the wrong president to make that analogy to… but more seriously think those are kind of false equivalencies. Or it seems that way to me. I also don’t understand why society thinks eating dogs and cats, wild ones, is necessarily bad. I’m not going to start, but people eat bunnies and I think those are the cutest best pets ever. Maybe dog and cat just taste bad? Anyway, they also call turkeys intelligent. If I recall, turkeys are the birds that drown on accident by looking up when it rains and sometimes are too stupid to eat their own food, starving to death. Farmers have to put shiny things in the food to get them to eat it, but keep a close eye so the turkeys don’t choke on the shiny things. But maybe that’s just domesticated turkeys. Finally, PETA compares the struggles of the turkey with the struggles of minorities. That there is definitely feeling like a false equivalency to me. Unfortunately for PETA, animals aren’t protected under the U.S. Constitution, so their struggles aren’t quite like the struggles for civil rights. At all. As for the “stop calling it a pardon, they’ve done nothing wrong” thing… it was a joke referencing the fact that turkeys are often sentenced to die during Thanksgiving. So…

But I knew my opinion before I started out, so maybe I’m just intensely close minded.

Another story, the Muppeteer for Elmo, Kevin Clash, is resigning from Sesame Street amid allegations of sex scandals. Now, this story is still growing and very murky. Apparently, an anonymous accuser said Clash had homosexual sex with him when he was underage. He later recanted that statement. I’ve read some places where he LATER said he was coerced to recant, and others that said he said he wasn’t coerced. And now, there’s apparently another person mounting a lawsuit against Clash. According to TV Guide, which is where I first read about this second guy, Cecil Singleton is alleging that he and Clash first crossed paths when Singleton was 15. Back in 1993. And he’s just now realizing that what Clash did screwed him up emotionally.

Now, I’m not sure if Clash is innocent or guilty. But I know in our American justice system, someone is supposed be treated as innocent until proven guilty. I also think that Singleton’s suit sounds suspiciously like the “Ooh, I can squeeze some money out of this guy by jumping on the hate bandwagon” lawsuits that are far too common. He could be on the level, but waiting nearly 20 years to figure out the negative things done in your life, landing the suit in the middle of another contentious scandal, seems a bit too well-timed. All I know is that too many people are upset to find out Elmo’s Muppeteer is gay. I just wish people would let the whole truth come out before demonizing someone. It’d be great to avoid reactionary responses.

And, finally, Something Positive cartoonist Randal Milholland tweeted earlier today about people on Twitter saying “LOL” stands for “Lucifer Our Lord” and is therefore bad to say. Now, that could be a joke someone started, and I really hope so because completely re-appropriating an acronym and changing what it stands for is just silly. Not to mention how silly it is that people still think Lucifer is equivalent with Satan (or Ha’satan, The Accuser). But he also tweeted about an actual movement. It has a terrible looking, almost geocities-esque website and everything. Apparently, in a tiny county in Texas, Kleberg County, in the city of Kingsville, it was resolved by some to change the greeting “Hello” into the more positive, Jesus-friendly “HeavenO.”

…do I even need to talk about why that’s ridiculous? I think sticking to “Praise Jesus” as a greeting would be easier and slightly less ridiculous.

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Modern Libertarianism Confuses Me

Quick disclaimer: I’m not 100 percent certain that there is a classic libertarianism I should be differentiating from… but on the off chance that there is and that the libertarianism I want to talk about, the type as I’ve seen it played out in today’s political landscape, is distinct and notably different on the issues I want to mention, I want to cut people off before someone that missed my point comes in and tries to take my head off for equating non-equatable political ideals. I’ve kinda been burnt on that before.

So, libertarianism has been, I think, seeing a bit of a hey day in recent years, particularly through Ron Paul’s past two presidential campaigns and the creation of the Tea Party movement. While the Tea Party movement has strayed, via its leaders/candidates, from the original message, a message that is almost like a distilled Paul campaign description, the feelings of the grassroots it started with are the same types of feelings people (often young people) had with Paul and with 2012’s Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.

Basically, libertarianism as it has come about today can be put in terms of a Venn diagram. On one circle, we have Democrats. Democrats are currently the party of social freedoms. Keep the government out of bedrooms, eliminate censorship, et cetera. It may not be doing so great with that, but it’s the pro-choice, pro-legalization, pro-gay marriage party, particularly compared to the Republicans. Their economics, however, are more restrictive and government involved. Tax and spend fiscal policies, regulations on banks and businesses, et cetera. The other circle hosts the Republicans. They’re the party that, on the social end of things, wants government all over everything. Nowadays, while they talk about small government, they simultaneously talk about constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage, increased surveillance, more military/wars, ban abortions… the legislate morality party. Their economics, however, are (in theory) more hands off than the Democrats. Roll back regulations, lower taxes, cut spending.

So, where the two circles meet is with Libertarians. They are the party of the laissez-faire, both in economics and social policy. Hands off the free market. Let people decide what they want to do, get government out of making choices for people. It’s the Democrats’ social policies and the Republicans’ economic policies.

…again, in theory.

See, the thing is, while Libertarianism is the confluence of similar ideals from the main two political parties in America, neither of those parties is really looking to pull away federal powers. President Barack Obama did, surprisingly, talk about looking into more clearly defining and limiting the powers of the Executive Office, but that’s not really a sentiment you hear too often from either party. The Republicans, more often than not, want to make certain issues states’ rights issues, but those tend to just be issues they don’t think they can win federally.

What confuses me about modern libertarianism is that, the more I hear from them, the more it sounds like they want EVERY issue to be a states’ rights issue. Insofar as, they would rather the federal government to bow in power to the state governments.

When America was being created as a nation, our first attempt at creating a government was an utter failure. A rope of sand, as someone called it. For about eight years, the law of the land was dictated through a document known as the Articles of Confederation. Basically, it didn’t recognize the United States as a singly governed entity, but rather a political alliance between the 13 separate states. If one of them was attacked, they’d help each other out. They were to assist one another, but still be mostly left to their own devices. And it failed pretty spectacularly, as the national Congress was almost completely ineffectual and each state felt no real reason to actually help out the other states, making commerce and land contracts and, well, everything begin to fall apart. When Shay’s Rebellion started in 1786, combined with everything else that was happening, Alexander Hamilton and others essentially staged a coup and reworked the entire government, writing the Constitution. The Constitution created a far stronger federal government while the Bill of Rights were added to help protect individuals and the states’ sovereignties.

Now, I understand the desire to get the federal government out of being involved with many things. As a liberal, I think marijuana should be legalized (huge economic benefit there), same-sex marriage should be legal, pretty much all the social policies should be left unfettered, by and large. I still think a completely free capitalist market runs contrary to democracy and would implode our ability to govern and be governed, but others disagree. What I don’t understand is the apparent desire of many modern Libertarians to seemingly peel back the federal government almost in its entirety and bring us back to the Articles of Confederation.

It’s thoroughly possible I’m completely misunderstanding or misrepresenting this particular political belief. But I have many friends that are Libertarians. And when they talk about their politics, they often talk about letting states have power as opposed to the federal government in nearly every issue. And that, it seems to me, is a bit contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.

The preamble to the United States Constitution talks about creating a more perfect union. Considering that was written up after the quite imperfect coalition under the Articles, it makes me think that maybe the framers wanted the federal government there to help encourage states and citizens to help other people out. Yeah, sometimes it means Texas has to help bail out California, that your tax dollars get spent in some state you couldn’t care less about… but the theory is, we’re all in this together. We are a united nation, a group of united states, and we leave no one behind.

Maybe I’m wrong. But that’s how it seems to me.

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