Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stating the Obvious

Posting is really slow in January. I'm not at school, hence, no computer, hence, no posting, hence, go the fuck away.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rick Warren has a very Moderate Goatee

Even if our future president doesn't have the balls to let American citizens know that bigotry is not welcome in this country, the citizens do. Rick Warren's bullshit is being called for exactly what is thanks to the efforts of the population. He may get the invocation speech, but he knows that nobody really wants him there.

This Post Is Not At All About RICK WARREN

I am not talking about Rick Warren.

Why? I'm just not.

I'm sorry if you were waiting for me to say something about Rick Warren, but I'm not going to. So stop waiting.

Rick Warren's an asshole.

Ok, that's it. That's the only thing I'm going to say about Rick Warren. No more.

So, stop reading whenever you feel like it, because Rick Warren will not be mentioned any further. This blog has reached maximum Rick Warren capacity. There can be no more Rick Warren saturation occurring within this space. If this were an HTML file, the "slash rick" would appear here-ish.

Except to say that he's an asshole.

And that this decision to include him in Obama's inauguration ceremony is not inclusive in any way, because it won't really include people on the right. By this I mean that those on the right will not be jumping for joy at the news that Warren is giving a big ole one-minute speech. This is the same strategy that democrats have been using for the past, oh, twenty years and do you see how much conservatives love democrats? If you don't see, I'll tell you: NOT VERY FUCKING MUCH AT ALL, SONNY JIM. In terms of inclusiveness, this is a stupid move. Who is this including? Protestants? Yeah, that needs to happen. Protestants totally don't get enough play in this country. Not like the Muslims, atheists, Catholics, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews and African witch doctors. I really don't get the whole thing. Pragmatically, it doesn't really do dick. That's important to remember. Obama has a pretty decent record (not perfect, as this event has shown us) for supporting gay rights and I don't think this ONE-MINUTE SPEECH will change his mind. Maybe it will. I hear Pastor Rick's a good speaker. But I doubt it. Symbolically, this hand-reaching-over-the-aisle bullshit won't mean anything to conservatives. Their opinion of Obama probably won't change from this ONE-MINUTE SPEECH he ordered from a neocon fruitcake. So, for the administration and the administration's opponents, this doesn't mean much. For the GBLT community though, it means a lot. Sitting down with a religious leader to chitchat is one thing, asking him to bless you is quite another. Even if it is a ONE-MINUTE SPEECH, it means that Obama will allow this man, this man who is quite hateful, albeit very pleasant, so I hear, to run the inauguration for one minute. That is a minute of time that will not mean much to Obama, Warren, Warren's supporters, the country, Iran, the inauguaration ceremony, or even history, but that one minute will be a stark reminder to the GBLT community that Obama welcomed a bigot, onto his stage, and asked him for a blessing.

But besides that, I'm not talking about Rick Warren.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fucking Idiot

This post is going to be a flat-out rant. The points I make are legitimate, but I will go about making them in a completely vulgar and not at all constructive manner.

I'm going to handle this in three parts. First, the background, then recent events and closing with my thoughts on the matter.

If you live in America and have heard anything about Bill O'Reily in the past month or so, you know about the atheist signs in Washington and my hometown of Springfield Illinois. (I wrote about this before.) They read:

At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no angels, no devils, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

I've stated before that I don't like this message. It is unnecessarily antagonistic. Atheists, especially at this time of year, should be promoting all the great things about atheism, not all the terrible things about everyone else's beliefs. This is, if I may be so bold, a fucking stupid thing to do.

Now, we have national attention for being complete assholes. All of us. Nobody will care to listen if I say, "I'm an atheist, but I disagree with the stance that the Freedom From Religion Foundation (the group that put up the sign) takes and the way they go about spreading that message." Nobody gives a good goddamn. They see atheist #1 and atheist #2 and they will connect the two. Everybody in America now thinks I'm a bad person, but these sign-making, bellicose assholes wanted attention.

And that's all they wanted too. They did this just to be assholes, because that message sure as hell isn't constructive.

So that's the background. FFRF + Sign = Total douchebag.

So, of course, the atheist sign in Springfield was stolen recently (and of course it was, it was a rude sign that purposely insulted a lot of people.) Then the FFRF upgraded themselves from just making signs to actually talking and here's the bullshit they came up with:

Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation said her group wanted to place its sign in the rotunda if religious groups were allowed to place symbols of their religions.


“It had to take an effort (to remove it),” Gaylor said. “Atheists never engage in vandalism. We don’t go around stealing the Baby Jesus. They don’t follow their own commandments.”

So there are the recent events. Now, a few thoughts on the matter.

Dear Miss Gaylor, are you a fucking retard? What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you trying to make us all look bad? I need to ask that question twice. Are you trying to get everyone to hate us more?

I can't even begin to tell you how angry this makes me. Not only did you purposely antagonize everyone, but you went out of your way to say two completely ridiculous things. "Atheists never engage in vandalism." ATHEISTS NEVER ENGAGE IN VANDALISM. What the fuck is wrong with you? Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? How can you say that? That is not logical, and logic is supposed to be on our fucking side. You went out of your way to say something completely ridiculous. You cannot make that claim. And not only is it flat-out wrong, but it, once again makes us look like assholes.

Then, you had to throw out a "they". "They are breaking their own commandments." Now, it's a "they". You have just separated yourself from 80% of the population, fellow Americans, just like you, who are now just a "they" to you. Beside the fact that you naturally assumed it was a Christian that did it, not that I can argue against that, but for fuck's sake, learn a little bit about being politically correct before you brand the entire Christian population as thieves and all atheists as perfect human beings. Better yet, just shut the fuck up.

This all is beside the fact that the FFRF anticipated this. They put up a rude sign meant for people to get angry, then say illogical and hateful things when it gets stolen, like they knew it would. Seriously, Gaylor could not have been caught off guard by the theft. They had to have seen this coming.

I'm just left asking, what the fuck is wrong with you? What the fuck is wrong with you? What the fuck is wrong with you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ameruraughl, Part Two

I'm still a big fan of the idea to either convert the automobile factories into public transportation factories, or give former auto workers first dibs on a publicly funded, nationwide mass transit system, but here's a slightly more benevolent alternative.

I think a lot of people don't really understand why so many African nations are destitute. We have this idea in our American heads about bootstraps and such, so a typical response to the problem is "Well, just work harder, jerks." (Thank you Mr. Reagan, for your brilliant insight into all topics.) Part of the problem is that there's not enough infrastructure in Africa. For example, a complete lack of roads. Even if you grew enough food to sell, you couldn't sell it, because you couldn't get to a place that sells food. Even if you had money, you couldn't buy anything etc., etc. The same issue arises with getting clean water or even water for crops. There are no irrigation ditches, and not enough manpower (re: AIDS and malaria) to build them.

To send American workers to Africa to build irrigation ditches, roads and the like would not solve both areas' problems, but it would certainly be mutually beneficial. They need roads and manpower; we need to spend money and provide jobs. It combines the economic strategy of the New Deal by spending money bottom-up, with the cultural strategy of the Peace Corps. I'm sure there must be somebody out there whose broke and wants to travel, and the blending of cultures wouldn't be too bad either.

Save the Newspapers (Screw Whales)

Newspapers are losing money, and that's a frightening thought that I can honestly say has kept me up at night. When the Tribune media group, owner of the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times, has to file for bankruptcy protection, it's time to get scared. The problem is that there's no really good way to salvage the old system of subscription-buying in this age of the internet. I've heard a government bailout being suggested, but that also frightens the hell out of me, considering government money should not be anywhere near a free press.

If the newspapers die out, we are in big trouble. The biggest of troubles. Do you think CNN will go through your mayor's trash for you? Will Fox News report solid news or the most entertaining? Not enough people care about this and they should. Cable news, local news, network news, blogs...none of these things come close to the level of journalism a newspaper provides. Without our newspapers, we will be a blind and impotent society. That sounds melodramatic, but I couldn't think of a faster way to erode democracy than the death of the newspaper.

So, what I would like to see happen, is for newspapers to start specializing. I realized a short while ago that I don't really rely on one newspaper for 100% of the news, but instead I look to each paper for what they do best. For instance, I'm a much bigger fan of the New York Times columnists than I am of the ones at the Washington Post. When it comes to politics, I look to either the Post, or (much more likely) Politico.com, OR, if I want my news in extra dry form, government executive.com. I never look at the national news at NYT, but I like reading it from the Seattle Times. I can even get more specific news (atheism news, for example) from a blog, as opposed to a newspaper.

My idea is that newspapers cut 90% of their sections and instead, focus on just one. Stop spreading all the money into providing sub-par news and put it all into providing one amazing section. For example, the Washington Post will only cover Washington news, and nothing else (not absolutely nothing else, maybe letters to the editor are necessary in all papers, and I would like to see every paper hire a cartoonist.) This idea will change things in several ways.

1) The news will get better -- That's right. It will not suck anymore. If you buy just one paper, you won't have access to all the sections you normally would, but I don't know a single person that reads every single section of the newspaper. This is doing the readers a favor by eliminating the "junk" that they'll just toss out anyway (looking at you, Food Section).

2) Papers will get smaller -- This means that papers will also become less daunting. One major problem with the state of journalism is that not enough people in my age demographic read them. It's been said (and I invite you to research this yourself if you don't believe me) that not only does my demographic not read enough newspapers, but they probably will never get into that habit if they don't start it soon enough. In a way, this means that the journalism industry must go a-courtin' its target audience, but without dumbing anything down. See this smaller, less intimidating newspaper? You could read this entire thing on the subway and still have time for gameboy.

3) Papers will get cheaper -- This is another way the industry will coax readers back to its folds (ha!). In the age of the internet, it's hard to justify paying even a small amount for what you could easily read online for free. It's hard to get around that, maybe even impossible. The only solid reason I can give for buying a newspaper is that it's just nicer to read something in your hands as opposed to online. That's all. Making the papers cheaper, however, can help this problem, but probably not eliminate it. I'm not a miracle worker, you know.

4) Area will increase -- As one paper closes down its sections to specialize in one, another paper will increase its audience size to compensate. For example, if a paper in Portland doesn't cover politics anymore, a paper in Seattle will have to expand its geographic pool to cover Portland. That means more subscriptions for each individual paper, and THAT means more money for each paper, and THAT means that each paper will get better, and THAT means we won't get duped into another Iraq War.

5)More papers will appear -- If you've been reading along thus far, you've probably wondered what will happen to all the people who work at the newspaper if their sections are cut. I can think of two solutions. Hypothetically, let's say the Seattle Times specializes in national news, the Washington Post specializes in politics, and the New York Times specializes in world news. That means that a lot of people will be out of jobs. The first solution is that the people who worked in politics at the Seattle Times would be transplanted to the now-much-larger politics department at the Post, which can theoretically keep as many employees as it did before. This means that each of the sections will now be three times or three times better, depending on how you choose to look at it.

The second response, and more preferable of the two, is that the sections that used to be a part of a larger paper will go on to form their own papers. If the newspaper industry becomes specialized, papers become smaller, subscription costs decrease, and the area of readership increases the cost of creating a new paper will go down. This means it'll be easier for new papers to appear. It's a recent travesty that so many American cities only have one paper, and even if they have two, there's always one clearly dominant paper (The Tribune versus the Sun-Times, The Seattle Times versus Seattle P-I). Now, we will have several papers in each city, covering different topics. With several papers, there will be different business models. This is a "don't put all your eggs in one basket" strategy. If the newspaper in a city fails today, that city is suddenly without a newspaper. If a newspaper fails in this specialization scenario, its citizens will still get 90% of their news.

6) This will change journalists themselves -- If we continue with the possibility of the Washington Post specializing only in politics, what kind of person would they hire? In today's journalism industry, you hire someone with the most journalism experience, this means both time spent writing for a paper and education in journalism. This also means that your new employee will be forced to fill whatever niche you need filled, regardless of whether or not he or she is knowledgeable in that area. In this new business model, you hire someone with the most time spent writing and the most knowledge about the area your paper specializes in. I can see the ideal candidate for the Washington Post having a BA or BS in journalism, adequate time spent writing, and a MS in politics. (Journalism, being a writing craft, is primarily an art and less of a science, in which case, more schooling is not as beneficial as more practice. This is why a BA in journalism is sufficient.) Because your new employee is more knowledgeable in his or her field, you can be satisfied they will write more intelligent pieces of news. This not only makes the paper better, but will also make the readers better informed and probably raise the pay grade of journalists. Raising the pay grade is an important thing here, as it will help attract the best our society has to offer to the field of journalism.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More on Madigan

Not to bore everyone with this story, but I will.

Lisa Madigan, in a recent interview on Meet the Press, on urging the Supreme Court to declare Blagojevich "disabled":

We're simply recognizing that these are extraordinary, unprecedented circumstances...

Let me make it clear to everyone that this is the line that will most quickly erode government. There is already a procedure in place for when a governor unfaithfully performs his or her office, it's called impeachment. That procedure is universal in constitutions from all fifty states to the federal one. In fact, that procedure was created precisely for situations like these. It was anticipated that things like this would happen. My point is that they are in no way "extraordinary," nor are they "unprecedented". Lisa Madigan is probably aware that our last governor is still in jail.

It's interested to see this happen though, because we're used to seeing this from the opposite end, retrospectively. Remember when Bush told us that the War on Terror was the worst threat we've ever faced as a country, and we believed him? He explained to us that these "extraordinary" times called for extraordinary measures -- wiretapping, dishonesty, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and ignoring several amendments. He told us that we had to do these things, because if we didn't, the terrorists were going to get angry, and pull a nuke out of their asses.

I would like to point out again that the constitution was written explicitly for times like these, to keep presidential power from spinning wildly out of control and to keep one branch of government from lackadaisically removing executives from office.

What Madigan is calling for is, without a doubt, an despicable use of power, and the way she's going to sell it to both the American citizenry and the population of Illinois is that the situation is somehow too extraordinary to abide by the rules. Hopefully, this will be a teachable moment the people of America. When government tries to break the law, they will lie and tell you it's because the situation is "unprecedented."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Splitting Hairs

It is crucially important that the Illinois Supreme Court not declare Blagojevich unable to serve.

Impeachment is such a tricky business. I've just heard an estimate that even with no supporters on Blagojevich's side, the impeachment process could still take weeks. That's lowballing it. Declaring him unfit to serve is an extremely tempting shortcut: nobody wants him in this job, nobody doubts his guilt, nobody wants this to go on longer than it should.

The problem is that declaring him unfit to serve seems borderline unconstitutional to me. The purpose of the "unfit to serve" stipulation is that the governor literally can't serve, like he's sick or he lost his thumbs or something. The impeachment process is meant to remove governors that have improperly served. Blagojevich is in office as I write this. Which one do you think is more true?

It's disgusting that the State Attorney General Lisa Madigan should have already known this, and I'm guessing she does (probably more about it than me.) Is she directly ignoring that just to get him out of office? If this goes through, if the Supreme Court of Illinois declares Blagojevich unfit to serve despite the fact that he can, it sets a terrifying precedent. This means that whenever there's an elected official that can be ousted via Judical Branch, they will be as soon as they lose favor, competely ignoring the constitutional procedures and any fair trials.

It'll be nice to see him go (finally), but not like this, never like this.

D'oh II

Good news, everyone!

Oh, shit. Nevermind.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Maybe Not Everyone Believes in God. Why Is That Such a Hard Statement to Accept?


This is Monique Davis, an Illinois representative -- a representative from my home state -- speaking to atheist Rob Sherman on the governor's decision to give $1 million to a church.

Here's the highlight clip.
Davis: "What you have to spew and spread is dangerous...It's dangerous for our children to even know your philosophy exists. You have no right to be here...You believe in destroying. You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."

Eric Zorn asks "what the outcry would have been if a lawmaker had launched a similar attack on the beliefs of a religious person." What a completely fair question that I'm sure nobody will ever pay attention to. If a Jew requested that state money not go to a Christian organization, would she say the same thing, and had she did, would the backlash be as prevailant? Even in the wake of 9/11, nobody would dare say this to a Muslim -- "You have no right to be here" -- and if they did, the media would call them out. But high profile situations like these that provoke bigotry and hatred -- not to mention the fact that state funds going to a church acutally does destroy what this state was built upon -- will go unheard of. This event happened in April. April.

Nobody lynches atheists. We're not really in any physical danger. The problem is that statements like these get swept under the rug with this group of people, when I firmly believe that if any other minority were referenced, there would be an outcry beyond compare. Call me paranoid, but I believe that's how lynching starts.

Monday, December 8, 2008

If I May Share...

I was afraid to sleep for most of my teenage years. I wasn't afraid of the dark or of burglars or a fire starting in my room or a million ways that I could die lying blissfully unaware in my own bed, but of sleep itself. I would get into bed, slow my breathing, close my eyes and think. And then I would think about not thinking. I would think about being immobile and unthinking. I would feel my breath go in and out, and then consider the absence of it. I would feel the blanket on my toes and then wonder how it would be if I couldn't feel. These things scared me, but it was the loss of thought that terrified me. I was afraid to sleep at 16 years old, because I was facing an eternity of death.

Realizing you're an atheist is scary, for a lot of reasons. Mortality, for me, being the main one; I don't see how it couldn't be. Somewhere in that bed I had to learn that I was mortal, that I was not going to be around forever. It looks so easy as I type it, but I had to earn that knowledge through years of thought and fear. I had known that I couldn't look back, either. Once I opened the door, there was no closing it, no re-dos. If I was scared, I couldn't revert to Christianity and expect my courage to suddenly return.

There were other things, of course. Telling my peers was difficult. I've been called names, of course, and there's no need to go into that. The worst is when I'm expected to be invisible, when I'm not allowed to share my view in the company of others who freely share theirs. Being without a holiday or a credo is difficult, especially when faced with pressing questions and especially around the holiday season. Telling my family was hard. Having to continually remind everybody is too.

Eventually, I got through it. The fear of death became a love of life and of learning, to do everything better and not waste any time. It's beautiful, and it feels me with strength knowing that myself and my peers are the successors of a long line of brilliant humans, able to accomplish things their ancestors couldn't even imagine.

I could go on and on about both the difficulties and joys of atheism, but I'll end here. Everyone has their own hardship story and their own savior story; I won't bore you with mine. The reason I wanted to share that is that I came across these two videos (First and Second) about a young girl coming to terms with her atheism. Even in her youtube videos she looks scared and confused, but determined. I wonder if she understands the burden that's just been put on her, that people will soon hate her for a choice her brain made of its own volition, that her family will try to hide her, that there will not be a place for her in America from now on. My heart goes out to her, and I can only hope she stays strong.

Here's Something New: An Angry Rant

"If you're trying to persuade people to do something... it seems to me you should use their language." - David Olgilvy

There are things that just make sense to a person, and usually, these are always the hardest to explain to someone else. For instance, the case of Prop 8 being a bad piece of legislation that needs to be done away with is obvious to me. It just makes sense. The same, of course, can be said of someone who feels it's a worthwhile piece of legislation. The problem, as you can plainly see, is what we choose to talk about. A Prop 8 opponent can't tell a Prop 8 supporter that he's obviously wrong, because the supporter wouldn't understand that. Instead, the focus would shift to something different, like the idea of people marrying dogs. We mismatch the arguments and the conclusion.

A Prop 8 opponent would be wise to speak the language of the Prop 8 supporter. Maybe, arguing that Prop 8 is against the church's teachings, or bad for the economy, or bad for schools. A Prop 8 supporter doesn't speak the language of civil rights violation or the conclusion would be as apodictic to everyone involved, and vice versa.

Which is why when "the sign" went up in Olympia, I was angry. Or, disappointed, would be a better word.

You may have heard about "the sign" as part of a larger issue so ignorantly declared a War on Christmas. (I hate that phrase, but I'm unfortunately stuck with it.) It was put on the opposite side of a Nativity Scene on Capitol grounds. It read:

At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no angels, no devils, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

You would be correct if you think that's harsh. I'm an atheist, and while I agree with everything that says, it's unnecessarily rude. (I'd like to point you to The Atheist Experience for a good view on this.)

I'm certain it was rude on purpose. This is an extremely frustrating time of year for atheists, and it's hard not to get angry. Christmas is such a ubiquitous part of our culture, and it's (I do not exaggerate the word) heart-wrenching not to be a part of that, with anger as well as sadness. The atheists that put it up there were angry. The Capitol building grounds, a place representing government, allowed a nativity scene to be put up. They welcomed their arms to it, and it crushes everyone who feels Church and State should be separate. I'm disappointed that there is even a debate as to whether it should be there.

So they put this up to get a reaction. Protesting doesn't mean anything when you represent 5% of the population. Nobody's going to care about the little guy, so let them the little guy is angry. All we have is words, so use them, right?

In addition to the Atheist Experience's view that the message is productive, I would take it a step further and argue that it's not even the same language. Let's find actual common ground on where we can agree.

This business with nativity scenes and holiday trees is getting ridiculous, isn't it? Can we agree on that? Both sides feel that if one religious or holiday scene can be put up, all can be put up. This opens up a hodgepodge of trouble. This is why we're fighting. My argument is that it's just plain simpler to forget the whole thing. That's it. That's all there is to it.

Can we agree that there will never be a solution to this problem? That's true, whether you've realized it or not. There will always be Christians in this country as well as atheists. Bleakly, I suspect we will always be at odds. But can't we also agree that there are much more important things to worry about than a holiday scene on a stupid lawn? If we dedicated half the energy we dedicate to fighting over dumb shit like this, we could accomplish so much.

So, can't we agree that this isn't worth it anymore? I see your point. Hopefully you see mine. But we can't agree. Perhaps, we never will. Let's call it a stalemate or a draw, or hell, you can even call it a win for your side, but let's keep off the lawn and enjoy our own separate holidays.

Please. I'm so sick of talking about this.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Movie Critic: 1 Bueller's Teacher: Nada

I wasn't sure if I should log this under "movie review" or "atheist"...
Either way, it's worth a read.

Roger Ebert on Ben Stein's Expelled

When I Grow Up, I Will Beat My Wife AND Be an Astronaut

I hate liberal blogs. I have no idea why I read them.

God, where do I even begin with this one? I guess I'll show you the advertisements first.

Numero Uno
Numero Dos
(There is a third advertisement, not getting as much media attention. You can see that here.)

These ads are appearing on buses in Dallas, and, as you probably already guessed, were produced by a domestic violence organization. I can't say that I like them.

Judging it both as an advertisement and a message, I don't find it very effective. It is meant to shock, and in the worst way possible. The goal is not to shock you via disgusting image or taboo, but just to horrify you. I don't even see how it serves as a PSA very well. The target audience is, I suppose, perpetrators of domestic violence. Will this curb that behavior? I don't see that happening.

You could argue that it's for the victims of domestic violence though, and in that case, the message being sent is the wrong one. What you should be saying is, "Hey, we're here to help if you've been hurt." Not, "Well, you're probably going to be messed up for the rest of your life."

The only logical conclusion left is that the ads are meant for society as a whole, for people to see these ads and realize that domestic violence is a problem. I don't feel that way when I look at these ads though. I consider myself to have a pretty strong stomach regarding cultural taboos, but something about associating children (particularly a strong association with the innocence of childhood) with things like murder and prostitution, it only churns my stomach. But then, I think this was their intent.

Regardless, if you've heard this story lately, you've probably heard about it in context of a certain Glenn Sack's protesting of it. Sacks' argument is that the ads are "anti-father," whatever that means. Claiming that the ads are bigoted against fathers as a group is the most ridiculous thing imaginable to me. I don't think that if you walked up to a person on the street and said, "Hey, I'm a father" they automatically assume you're a wife-beater. He's protesting a problem that simply does not exist.

Yes, there is a distrust of fathers in our society. I won't argue that. But there are good reasons for that, as not all fathers are equal, obviously. Not all mothers are equal either, but I'm happy knowing that some people are at least worried about how fathers treat their children. At least there is a portion of society being watched and held responsible for. In short, saying, "Make sure your husband doesn't beat you," is not necessarily a bad message in my eyes, although "Make sure your husband or wife doesn't beat you," would be arguably better.

I don't know much about Glenn Sacks; this is the first time I've heard his name. He is a "radio commentator" so I can only assume he's a conservative douche. I don't think he's handling the situation poorly though, and I'll even hand this over to his opponent to demonstrate.

The complaint being lodged against Sacks is twofold, as best I can tell. The first is that people called The Family Place (the domestic violence organization behind the ads) and said rude things to them. Of course this is inappropriate, and it's impossible to condone. Sacks claims that his people didn't make those calls. It's also impossible to prove or disprove this (Well, not impossible, but the effort-to-caring ratio is too high for me.)

The second complaint is the one I want to get to, the one Sacks owns up to, that his people called the donors to The Family Place and asked them if they knew what kind of ads the organization was running. This makes Barry Deutsch upset, and I don't know why.

Without getting on a soapbox about free speech, let me say that it's important that everyone be held accountable for their words. I would love for everyone to say what they want but not haphazardly. That is, you can't go around saying whatever you want and not be expected to face the consequences. Censorship is unthinkable, but accountability is necessarily in a democratic society. Why shouldn't the donors to The Family Place know what their money is being used for? Deutsch argues that it would take money away from the domestic violence services. I would argue that running ads designed to shock as opposed to ads providing information on how to get help are already taking money away from domestic violence services.

By running these ads, The Family Place has decided to not just be a service organization, but also one that makes a statement. The people who donate to them have the right to agree or disagree with that statement, while still supporting the service. If I were donating to The Family Place, would I withdraw my money because of these ads? Definitely not, but I would at least want to be informed that they occurred, since I bought them.

Breaking down his argument, Deutsch is apparently claiming that this organization shouldn't be held accountable to its donors, because it provides a good and needed service. Should charities receive a free pass on saying whatever they want just because they're charities?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Update on Arana

Quick word on the post I made yesterday. I wanted to share this cartoon from Tim Jackson at the Defender.

Tim Jackson
Chicago Defender, Madison …
Dec 2, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Is "Oreo" an Offensive Term These Days?

I caught an article in the post today by Maria Arana regarding Barack Obama's biracial origins. She makes what to me sounds like a pre-owned argument, that we should stop referring to Obama as "black" because he's half-white.

In the interest of full-disclosure, the article put me on edge. It sucks when someone vaguely accuses you of being racist to call someone "black" after they call themselves "black".

And let's clear that air right away, I think this article is offensive. Not to me, but to Obama. His identity, racial or otherwise, belongs to nobody but himself, and for anyone anyone to tell him "You're not black" is a slap in the face. If Obama wants to call himself black, let him. If Obama wants to call himself biracial, whatever. Hell, it's even cool if he wants to call himself white. All three of those identities can suit him, but he chose "black" and I believe he chose it for a reason.

Arana is avoiding, what I think, is a simple fact. The word "black" (along with the words "white" "Asian" "Eskimo" whatever) carries two connotations. The first is an extremely, almost hyperbolically small view of the word, meaning "skin color". It's just like saying "My eyes are blue." or "My hair is gray."

Many people don't see it that way though, and the word "black" has a broader meaning, one of culture. You're saying, "This is not just my skin color, it's who I am." This is something I can't really elaborate on, since I'm white. My skin color has very little to do with my cultural heritage.

Anyway, Obama has chosen "black" and he's chosen it for one of two reasons. He's either saying "This is my skin color, and that's all it is. That's all it ever will be." or "This is my skin color and my identity. People look at me and see black, and that's shaped me into the person I am today."

Obama's election is exciting. I don't know how you can think of it any other way, even if you voted for the other guy, Whats-His-Face. Even if he's half-white or half-black or full oreo, he doesn't look like any other president in history. I'd settle for the title of "Most Different-Looking President" but the man has chosen to call himself black, respect that choice.