27 September 2006

Which Side Do You Swing For? (CS)

We're getting closer to elections so you can bet dollars to donuts that the religious Right will release the hounds of cultural war. Despite the real war (or should I say wars as let's not forget about Afghanistan, where, though Newsweek might try to hide it, we cannot ignore that we are losing), the floundering economy, and political corruption run rampant, the "ever valiant fight against gay marriage" will be placed in front of all our faces by folks like Ms. Musgrave and Dr. Dobson and proclaimed as THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE FACING AMERICA TODAY. Well ok, I don't agree with that, but let me just humor them for a moment.......

I'm taking a stance on gay marriage. I'm in favor of it. And my stance is the only one that is right for this country.

But CRAIG!!! How could you possibly be so.... extreme in your opinions????

Well, let's just face it, folks. Either you support gay marriage (or are at least ok with it) or you're a bigot. And I'd hate to have a country that supports bigotry. Now, I also hate to paint things in such black and white, dichotomizing terms, but that's really just how it is. I've never heard a decent, coherent argument against gay marriage, actually. Religious arguments don't count because, even though it's hard to believe sometimes, we do not live in a theocracy and we cannot ever legislate religion.
So what does that leave?

Well there's the argument that letting same sex couples marry is an assault on hetero-sexual marriage. I've never seen anyone connect the dots on that one, though. Can anyone please explain the connection there in a logical manner? If I'm married to a woman and then two men down the street get married, that destroys my marriage how? Anyone? No, no, can't accept that answer, I asked for reason and rational thought. Anyone else? Yeh, didn't think so.

Another argument that there shouldn't be same sex partnerships is because same sex parents don't bring up well-adjusted children. Families with same sex parents will destroy the poor children trapped inside them. Well hmmm let's look into that a little, won't we? Focus on The Family is a blatantly religious organization. They are unashamed of this and will probably even tell you that they are trying to legislate religion. It is in their interests to legislate against gay marriage because of this and one would think they'd find plenty to defend their viewpoint. And yet, their assembled literature against same sex parenting is all by only one man who not only already works for them but also does not seem to have any scientific credibility to his name. Meanwhile various studies within the scientific community (which must go under peer review and scrutiny, unlike some schmuck who just writes some book funded by a religious organization) have shown that same sex parents bring up normal, well adjusted children. So as far as parenting is concerned, science is on my side.

Now, some might say, "Well the Christian Right don't care about science." In most cases, I would be inclined to agree with you. But gay marriage seems a funny case for these folks. The only other consistent argument that comes to mind, aside from the ones above, is the "It's not natural" plea. Not the religious, "The bible says it's not natural," but the attempt at science "The purpose of any species is to procreate and since two men or women cannot do so, it simply is not natural." This is the one that really cracks me up. For one thing, they are coming awfully close here into buying into Darwinian thought. I'm sure if we told same-sex marriage opponents that, they'd be shocked and appalled. For another if we look to the natural world (that is, of animals) then we see that homosexuality DOES occur. And finally, really, who are we to say what's natural? Is your cellphone natural? Your polyester suit? Your reading glasses? Did they all grow on trees? How are we to know that homosexuality isn't a completely natural trigger within a collective species in order to limit population growth? And, knowing as little as we do about the human brain or the human heart or the human soul, who are they who is ANYONE to assume what is natural? One could much more easily reason/argue/figure the very fact that homosexuality occurs AT ALL shows that it IS natural.

In the end, homosexuals are just people too (big shocker there!). I live and work with them. They're my friends and acquaintances and the people I don't' even know who I walk by on the street everyday. And yet, I still manage to live a happy life where I work hard, help others, and do as little harm as possible to my fellow human beings. Most homosexuals seem to tend to do the same. To legislate against them is really akin to racism or sexism... Bigotry. So pick a side.

24 September 2006

More of This, Please (CS)

The political internet is jumping with the recent smack down former President Bill Clinton laid down on Chris Wallace and FoxNews Sunday. Video here. Transcript here.

For me, Clinton's smart, strong defense addresses two major points to which anyone looking to free this country from all the bullshit must pay mind.

First of these is growing a backbone and speaking truth to power. It's been a common complaint of Democrats in particular that they have not exhibited a backbone in crucial moments where they should have been standing up to statements and accusations made by Republicans and Conservatives. In his interview, Clinton does not bow down to the classic FoxNews walk-over. He is not even caught by surprise by the disengenuous invitation to talk about the Clinton Foundation's philanthropic work which turned into an attack on his counter-terrorism efforts at the end of his Presidential term. He refers to facts. He is wise enough to place things in their proper context. He tells the truth in regards to the series of events as they unfolded, not as many color them from today with tainted partisan views. He is both humble about his efforts and realistic. Most importantly, though, is that at no time does he shy away from the truth or let the truth of what actually happened be silenced.

Perhaps this is a contagious feeling too. Recently, Bill Frist tried to play the blame game in Congress saying that it was the fault of the minority party that that this Congress had been labelled the "do-nothing Congress." Some might say that such an accusation is so idiotic and without foundation that who would need to bother to reply? Well Senators Reid and Durbin seemed to have some fight in them as they partook in a dialogue exposing the events of the Congress and White House as they have unfolded over the past session where Conservatives have made a habit of rewarding incompetence, refusing criticism, and closing ranks much to the detriment of the country. If Clinton's interview spoke to you, I would recommend checking out the words of Senators Reid and Durbin as well.

This sort of action, combined with Clinton's interview, also have the affect of pointing out bullshit partisan journalism (commonly practiced by FoxNews). As Clinton pointed out (and ThinkProgress has researched, if you look at the link above) Chris Wallace and Fox have never bothered to ask a Bush administration official about the USS Cole, the demotion of Richard Clarke, or the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief that said Bin Laden was determined to strike in the U.S. Clinton points out how Fox has consistantly made him and many Democrats the scapegoat for terrorism, while rarely if ever holding the current administration accountable for anything, particularly the persisting problem of terrorism, the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, and the lack of focus on Osama Bin Laden. I'm reminded how on the other side of the isle, Conservative pundits attack the allegedly liberal media for complaining about the situation in Iraq getting worse and that Iraq is in turn encouraging terrorism. Such claims are decried as baseless liberal whining and lies. I guess Conservatives don't take the time to realize that the sources for the information that Iraq is deteriorating or encouraging terrorism are the Pentagon and Bush's own spy agencies. In this case, however, we can see a clear cut case of partisan journalism as we see different treatment for different figures depending on their political affiliation. In comparison to the methods of most othe news organizations, I think someone with at least a drop of intelligence in the bucket can realize that Fox's "Fair and balanced" is fairly bullshit.

Maybe this sort of bravado will catch on. It'd be nice if Clinton could just go on a tear against the current administration, but really that's not his job anymore. He's actually got more important work to do (which he would have talked about if Wallace hadn't ambushed him). But here's hoping the rest of the opposition (read: Democrats) catches on.

17 September 2006

Some Lazy Sunday Thoughts (CS)

Can we roundup all the illegal immigrants and cart them off? An example of what happened in one town is pretty interesting...

People say that the battle over whether torture methods and secret prisons should be allowed is coming to a head. So... Even if McCain wins this one, is anyone with me that the White House will probably be "Fuck all y'all" and just maintain more secret messed up crap like that?

The President is apparently going to make an about face on climate change and alternate energy policies. So does that mean that the people that blindly supported the crappy science saying climate change was a non-issue wind up with egg on their face? Oh, and that the President is probably going to make this "huge change" in his State of The Union reminds me of something... hmmm... oh yeh! Like the last time he had empty rhetoric in his State of the Union about alternate energy! Right! Show of hands, does anyone actually think he's serious about the apparently narrowing window for change?

Also, i was watching Clinton give a speech today (from 9/7/06 actually) and he was just so..... Human. Remember when we had a real human being in the white house who's secrets weren't actually even secrets apparently and even if they were they were really quite harmless to anyone who wasn't 1) The media or 2) An asshole (these groups not being mutually exclusive, of course)


14 September 2006

Oil Consumption: Stay the course!

Ever the red fish in a blue pond, the Boston Herald had some good news for any neocon or arch-capitalist who'd perhaps been feeling twinges of guilt vis-a-vis the quickly-dwindling world oil supply:

The world has tapped only 18 percent of the total global supply of crude, a leading Saudi oil executive said Wednesday, challenging the notion that supplies are petering out.

Abdallah S. Jum’ah, president and CEO of the state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known better as Aramco, said the world has the potential of 4.5 trillion barrels in reserves - enough to power the globe at current levels of consumption for another 140 years.

Break out the party hats and noisemakers, y'all! We's gots enough A-rab SUV juice to last us and our kids a lifetime! Our kids' kids, well, let's just pray to White Jesus that they're not too busy playing XBox to perfect nuclear fusion.

I don't know about you, but I feel more confident having read this. A Saudi oil executive -- what motive would he have to reassure us about the world reserves of crude? -- says our dear planet Earth has the potential to keep us going at current consumption levels for 140 years.

Maybe it's just naivete on my part, but I was shocked that this article was featured in the See, I Told You So section of Mount Rushmo's corner of the interweb. Is he just that stupid?

Short answer: Yes.

RUSH: Of course, all of this has to do with the market rather than regulations from government forcing any kind of change. I also think that, as always, nature -- which, to me, is (whispering) God. ... Nature is (whispering) God, and I always think it's better left alone not regulated by a bunch of no-nothing human beings who think they can do it better than (whispering) God.

Rush, of course, believes in the same Judeo-Christian (whispering) God that once drowned the entire world only to say, essentially, "Whoops! My bad!" once it was all over.

For those who can't be bothered to think any harder than it takes to read the pablum Rush serves up, here's the deal: In order to maintain our current consumption levels, we would need to achieve zero population growth worldwide, and hold off on building any new cars or factories.

Later on in the same article, however, we are clued into the much more likely scenario:

If global consumption rises about 2 percent a year from today’s levels of about 85 million barrels a day, [experts] say, the low end of that range would only be enough to last until roughly 2070.

In short, even giving Rush and this oil sheik the benefit of the doubt, they're still off by 75 years.

A frequent conservative criticism of liberalism has always been that it has no view to the long-term. Honestly, what's more short-sighted than the assertion, that because we've got enough oil to last a few more years, we should use it all?

11 September 2006

What Do You Choose To Remember? (CS)

Five years since 9/11/01. I've watched more TV coverage already than I expected I would. A lot of the same questions and ideas keep popping up.

Where Were You?

Our obsession with memory and the impact of that day have combined to make it a particularly resonant day to describe to others. An amazing catalog of oral history regarding 9/11 has been and continues to be gathered. Where was I? I was in class, right on Washington Sq. Park. We heard the plane roar by as it went down 5th Avenue. We laughed somewhat nervously at it, not having a clue of what it signaled. Class ended at 9:15 AM and as I reached the lobby of the building I could see everyone talking to each other. Something was clearly going on. An acquaintance I ran into told me a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. At first I thought he meant an idiot in a Cessna that had just gone astray. But this idea was dispelled once I entered the park and looked straight downtown to see the buildings on fire. The sound I'd heard in class recurred to me. The crowd around me grew and each additional member added to the news as they'd heard it, on the television before running outside, on the radio in the cab they'd just gotten out of. Two planes.... commercial passenger jets... not an accident..... One man told me he had a friend working a temp job up around the 90th floor or so who was debating going to work today. He hadn't been able to get in touch with him yet.

What Has Changed?

Almost precisely five years from that day (to the minute), I went back to the same part of the park where I watched everything unfold from 22 city blocks away. The things that occurred to me while sitting in the park this morning were actually along the lines of what HASN'T changed. It was a beautiful day that morning (I remember many people noting as much) and it is a beautiful day today. I remember realizing that day that despite the madness, the sirens, our tears and our hearts in our throats, the birds went on chirping, the dogs went on panting, the squirrels went on darting about, and I'm sure somewhere in the Bronx a tiger took a nice long stretch and began sunning himself for his morning nap. I'm sure today is very much the same. I guess my point is, despite feeling like everything stopped in those moments, on that day... despite feeling like observers outside this world where things like this could actually happen... despite our collective trauma and whatever other emotions we've carried along with it.... Life went on. And it goes on still.

Of course things have changed since then. I can assure you things would have changed regardless. Philosophizing aside, the most disappointing thing to me that has changed, not entirely because of that day but certainly since it is the loss of a sense of unity. A unity found through and building upon compassion. ZeFrank put it eloquently in his 9/7/06 show, explaining that this unity came from "a hopefulness from the amazing strength that we have when we decide to help each other." He adds that this unity did not have to do with the government. It had to do with us. Making things better. For each other. New Yorkers who ran to St. Vincent's to give blood and saw the enormous line of willing donors will attest to this.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Always a relevant question. Our reactions in that moment five years ago were varied. Some were immediately ready to strike back. Others were trepidatious. In the moments I myself saw the buildings collapse, I was ready to visit terrible things upon any and all responsible, collateral damage be damned. But when I'd had enough time to cry, enough time to digest... when I'd been laying on my bed, not able to sleep, cringing at each additional siren or loud noise... I didn't want to be involved with things remotely like that. I could not possibly support actions that kill innocents. I could not contribute to what will always be a never ending cycle of violence. That day was in itself enough violence for my entire lifetime. For thousands upon thousands of lifetimes. I was split on our actions in Afghanistan. Good and bad will come of it. How much of each will depend on our commitment and nobility.

I'm still somewhat shaken on what to think about going out and causing war. Can it be justified?

What I do think and feel, however, is that if we want to honor the innocent people who lost their lives five years ago this day we should remember their last words to us. Through the recounting of that day from family members who lost a loved one, through various phone calls and answering machine messages left behind, one idea seemed to pop out at me over and over again. Their last words were always about love. "I love you" or even more often "Tell everyone I loved them." I hope that this is the message we can go forward with. These are the words and the sentiments we should choose to remember. This is the heart rending, yet powerful and uplifting emotion we should recall five years, ten years, every year from that day.

Just reflecting, like everyone else (BR)

All the bloggers are talking today about how they mean not to prattle or preach or otherwise ramble on about the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Following their caveats, most that I read went on to do just that -- there being notable exceptions, of course. I'd like to take the opportunity to apologize for some things I did and said in the hours and days following the monumental and still incomprehensible tragedy and in doing so, wrap my mind fully around the event.

First, I'm sorry I left. I was born in Brooklyn, raised at various spots in Kings, Queens and Nassau Counties. I am a New Yorker, something I don't fail to inform any latecomer Midwesterner of when we're drunkenly jockeying for hipster cred. I had been a college freshman at New York University for all of a week when the towers fell. We spent the afternoon hours waiting on a line that stretched completely around the hospital block when I was informed I couldn't give blood, as I'd been pierced and tattooed in the previous six months. And instead of sticking around to see if there was anything else I could do, either substantial or symbolic, for the city I loved, I cravenly got on the last Long Island Railroad train at Penn Station and went back to my parents' house in Oceanside. Classes were cancelled and so I stayed away for a week.

When I got back I had a newfound sense of patriotism but also a militant streak that right now I wouldn't recognize or understand in myself. I posted an article on my dorm room door titled "To Be Anti-War Is To Be Pro-Fascist" and when it was ripped down by some idiot on my floor, I printed it out and taped it up again. I told my friends I would gladly take up arms and go fight in Afghanistan. Sitting and smoking on the stoop of Weinstein Hall on University Place where I lived, a young Socialist Worker came up to me with a flyer pleading for reason and restraint on the part of the United States, and opposing any military response to the terror attacks. I put my cigarette out on the paper and threw it in his direction.

I became a big fan of George W. Bush. I thought his leadership in the wake of Sept. 11 had been stellar, and that our retaliation against the Taliban had been appropriate. I didn't understand or much care about the USA/PATRIOT Act, nor did I follow -- or vote in -- the 2002 Congressional elections when the bunch of chickenhawks and bold opportunists who control Washington today smeared brave men like Max Cleland, who served his country with distinction and dignity, for cheap political gain. I was swept up in the violent, cowardly fervor of nationalism that, as Madison warned, arrived in the guise of love of one's country.

By the time talk of an invasion of Iraq began, I had wisened up. Seeing a bunch of grown men (and one woman) frothing with anticipation about going to war AGAIN, to fight an enemy who had not attacked us and whom no one could prove even had such a capability, I could not continue to delude myself into supporting the Bush administration.

Sometimes I feel nostalgic for the period immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks.

It sounds strange and it feels stranger to admit, but the fact that 19 sadistic sociopaths could, in less than an hour, grab the attention of the entire world, made me think that the power for good, of a magnitude equal or greater to the level of horror inflicted by the cruel savages on those planes, could be wielded by an individual, or a small group of well-intentioned people, so as to make everyone sit up and take notice. I'm not sure I believe that anymore.

But today I'd simply like to apologize to my friends, my city and my country for not sticking around in their hour of need, for being rude to, and intolerant of, those with whose views I disagreed, and for having ever been excited and enthusiastic about the idea of killing people -- especially the idea of sending other people to do it -- and behaving in the bloodthirsty manner with which our President and his cabinet have shamed the good name and standing of America in the minds of peaceful people around the world.

God Bless America ... and may God forgive our leaders. Thanks.

06 September 2006

Just Thinking... Like I Was Taught (CS)

So I started school yesterday. Here I am, back at my alma mater, a Liberal Arts College. That's right folks, according to those on the Right I'm one of those brainwashed commie leftist students. Even worse, I go to NYU! I believe it was Michael Savage who called "kids" like me "diaper doper babies." Oh Dear! I'd be scared if it weren't all so ridiculous.

Maybe they're right, though. Maybe going through University does tend to skew one's politics one way or another, with the majority of Univsersity graduates winding up leaning to the left. But why is this?
Are we to rebell against higher education?
Is continued and in depth learning a bad thing?

The blame is palced mostly on the Professors. It is they who are the Left Leaning Intelligentsia, telling our students what to think and brainwashing entire generations of impressionable minds. But what does it say when the majority of the most learned individuals in our society, the ones knowledgeable enough to lead the highest level of intellectual discourse on various subjects, are also predominantly left of center or at least moderate in their politics?

Also, how are the pundits on the Right so certain that the professors are enforcing their politics in the calssroom? Have they been sitting in on my classes? Are they so certain there is no professionalism in the field of collegiate teaching? I can assure you there's more professionalism there than in the halls of Congress.

Finally, I know that thanks to my college education (from infamous NYU) I am armed with a better understanding of fellows like Aristotle, Locke, J.S. Mill, Bentham, Jefferson, Adams, Monroe.... yknow, the guys with the ideas that basically formed the foundation of our government and society when this country got up and running, out from under the thumb of George III. So I guess that makes me a radical leftist commie bastard.