Wednesday, December 14, 2011

If You Buy from Lowe's, You Are a Terrorist.

Advertising can be a tricky thing; you never know who you're going piss off.  Take, for example, Lowe's.  After running commercials on TLC's All-American Muslim, Lowe's pulled them after receiving complaints from some nutjob Christian group claiming to represent all of America.  This group's website has a whole list of companies that have pulled ads from shows that portray anything they don't like and other companies that still choose to promote such deviance as homosexuality or Islam.  They are currently working to get All-American Muslim pulled from the air entirely because it tries to blind Americans to the so-called Islamic agenda.

Decidedly un-American, right?  Religious tolerance!  Separation of Church and State!  Freedom of Speech!

That's what I thought at first.  I actually started this post with the intention of railing against said nutjobs.  Then the saying, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" popped into my head.  An unfortunate side effect of a free society is that all the stupid people of the world manage to make themselves heard quite clearly.  If one's religion values racism and intolerance (within the law), they have the right to practice freely.  Personally, I'd like to see all of 'em go, but that pesky Constitution promises the right to free religious expression.

Yes, I think this organization is un-American in that they want Christianity to culturally dominate what should be a secular society.  But I can't say they don't have the right to express those beliefs.  That's why the rest of America ought to be just as vocal about their beliefs.  If you're that worked up about it, speak up!  That's what this country is all about, right?  Well, I can't be bothered to email Lowe's and let them know that I disagree with their decision to pull the ads, but you should.

Back to Lowe's.  Wouldn't you pull an ad from a certain show if their was a segment of consumers calling for a boycott of your stores unless you stopped running commercials during a certain show?  Mr. Lowe's has a business to run; he's not out there to change the world.  And unless you want Uncle Sam to decide which shows companies are allowed to buy ad time from, it's up to Lowe's to pull or run ads as they see fit.  Sure, it would be great if Lowe's refused the demands of the ignorant, but I can't blame them for responding to customer feedback.

The world would be a better place without people trying to impose their beliefs on everyone else, but, the way I see it, there are only two ways that can happen: we lose our precious freedom of expression, or suddenly there is no more ignorance.  Which seems more likely?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nuke-Free Is Not the Way to Be

As can be expected of any (and every) president, Obama has a long list of promises that he failed to keep.  Party politics has a lot to do with that, as well as the fact that not a single politician on the national stage has the a average American's interest at heart.  But there is at least one campaign goal that I am glad to see Obama has been unable to fulfill: a nuke-free world.

A recent article from The Atlantic describes some of the obstacles preventing Obama from making serious progress towards a nuclear-free world.  Thank God.

Don't get me wrong, a world without nukes is a wonderful thing to strive towards.  So is a world without crime.  Good luck.  Just take a look at the countries that have developed or are developing nuclear weapons: USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Iran, and Syria.  The only country on that list that could give up nuclear weapons without fear of being are those cheese-eating surrender monkeys in France.  Do you really think Israel is ever going to both believe that Iran will destroy its weapons program and then destroy its own?  How about India and Pakistan?  And don't get me started on those commies in Russia and China.  And we certainly can't afford to get rid of ours without knowing for sure no one else has any.

The more you think about it, the less sense it makes for America to give up its nuclear arsenal.  What if Al-Qaeda regains political control in a country with nuclear capabilities?  Suddenly, Obama's motives seem rather suspect.  Now I know why.

Obama's plan is more than just another empty campaign promise or a silly fantasy.  I've come to the realization that Obama wants the US to be defenseless against nuclear attack.  Before asking why, we need to address a more important question: Who is behind this new threat?  The first suspect when it comes to possible nuclear war is, of course, Russia.  But it seems they are pawns in this international plot as well: in April 2010, Russia signed a treaty with the US that will reduce the number of each country's nuclear missile launchers by half.  Perhaps its China, the new Russia?  That also seems unlikely, given that they are already going to surpass the US on the world stage.  Plus, they'll need somebody to work their minimum-wage jobs.  As far as terrorists go, I highly doubt that they are organized and sophisticated enough to wield the kind of political power it would take to manipulate the world's superpowers.

So who could it be?  What nation would want to see the US fall under nuclear winter?


Think about it.  The same country that produced the samurai isn't going to "forgive and forget" the killing of almost 250,000 people. Sensing that I was on to something, I looked further into the matter.  It seems Japan planted the seeds for America's current economic situation decades ago, when their auto industry took off in the 1960s.  It wasn't just competition in a free market that turned Detroit into a ghost town and signaled the decline of America's financial status.  The whole thing was engineered by Japanese leaders in response to the dropping of nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the war.

Here's how the plan has gone along so far.  With ninja-like patience, they rebuilt their country and worked to establish themselves as the leader of the auto industry, knowing how devastating that would be to the American economy years later.

Their next step was to gain the world's trust by pretending that, as victims of the horror of nuclear attack, they would never develop nuclear weapons.  Not only that, but the constitution that Japan adopted in 1947 explicitly forbids the nation from declaring war.  And no one found that hard to believe?  It's not like Switzerland, who hasn't been in a war for almost 200 years; the Japanese were in some serious shit relatively recently and are located in a politically volatile region of the world.  Who the hell knows what North Korea is up to?  Or how strongly China will support Kim Jong-Il?  It's clear that Japan can't take that article of their constitution seriously.  It must be a ruse.

Now that Japan has the world's trust and America is in the Next Depression, the Japanese are secretly working with Obama to rid the US of its nukes and, therefore, its ability to deter nuclear attack.  Some might be inclined to give Obama the benefit of the doubt in this regard, since a nuclear-free world is a noble goal, one which the Japanese may be taking advantage of.  Don't be fooled.  The following picture of Obama and the Emperor of Japan shows just how deep inside Japan's pocket Obama really is.

No red-white-and-blue-blooded American patriot would ever bow that low to a foreigner!  And what kind of self-respecting world leader would show such submissiveness?  It's clear, then, that Obama wants to see America stripped of its most powerful weapon so that Japan can have its revenge.

Now we can get to motive.  Actually, it's not that important.  He lived in southeast Asia in the '70s; he was probably brainwashed into a sleeper cell or something.  The important thing is to act now!  This plan has been set in motion decades ago and is going to be extremely difficult to stop.  We need to let the government know that We Want our Nukes!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Yes, that's how it's pronounced.  But it has nothing to do with a racial slur.  The word, possibly derived from an Old Norse word that meant "to fuss over small details, means "stingy."  It is not related to "nigger", which comes from "negro", the Spanish word for black which itself is derived from Latin.

Over the years, the use of "niggardly" has many times been construed as a racist remark because the two words sound so similar.  For example, Wikipedia has an article about a white aide to a black mayor of D.C. who resigned after colleagues complained about his using the word.  Then-chairman of the NAACP came to his defense, saying, " "You hate to think you have to censor your language to meet other people's lack of understanding.  David Howard should not have quit. Mayor Williams should bring him back — and order dictionaries issued to all staff who need them."

This incident, and several others like it, highlight an issue that seems to bother a lot of people nowadays: has political correctness gone too far?  Imagine if the word "despicable" was no longer acceptable because it has "spic" in the middle of it.  Or "menu" was no longer used because it was perceived as sexist.  Sensitivity isn't inherently bad, but it can get out of hand.  

More importantly, this so-called controversy demonstrates just how beneficial decent education can be to society.  No one should have their career marred by someone else's ignorance.  But then again, an argument can be made for not using the word out of politeness if you are unsure how it will be taken, but I wouldn't fault anyone for using "niggardly" whenever it is appropriate.  In fact, I would love to see the word become more commonly used.  As a student of the English language, it sucks to see a word fall out of use because it sounds like a racial slur that it is not related to.  Unfortunately, there would be countless immature morons who use the word solely because it sounds so insulting.

I'm not really sure what the point of this post is.  It's been awhile since I've put anything up.  I suppose I just find this issue interesting because I find linguistics, in general, interesting.  I guess the moral here is to remember what happens when you assume.  And go read a book!  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Alabama Never Disappoints

I'm getting kinda sick of writing about religion in this country, but I just keep reading about things that I can't, in good conscience, ignore.  I wouldn't do you that disservice, loyal readers.  I will remain your beacon of light in these confusing times!

Anyway, some hick-ass town in Alabama has begun a program that will allow nonviolent misdemeanor offenders the choice of jail or going to church every Sunday for a year.  How can such an idea even get past the, "Hey, what if we offer them church or jail?" stage?  These people will be the first to talk about how much they love America, then wipe their ass with one of the country's most fundamental ideals.  I don't care if 100% of that town's population are practicing Christians; the program is simply unconstitutional.

Supporters are probably already saying, "Well, they don't have to go church.  It's their choice."  Wrong.  Church vs. jail isn't a choice at all (insert "What's the difference?" joke).  Offenders are essentially being forced, by the government, to attend church.  Who wouldn't rather sit in a pew for an hour a week than serve a prison sentence.  Even a weekly colonoscopy would be better; at least you'd be allowed to go home after taking it in the ass.  This is basically a "get out of jail free" card.  What productive result could possibly come from this program?  Odds are, most people in that town go to church fairly regularly anyway.  If it didn't stop offenders from committing the crime in the first place, it's not going to do much good in preventing them from doing the same thing again.  Especially if the only punishment is being forced to eat a tasteless wafer and take sip of wine every Sunday.

The pastor of one participating church is a little more optimistic: "You show me somebody who falls in love with Jesus, and I'll show you a person who won't be a problem to society but that will be an influence and a help to those around them." It's hard to decide which atrocity committed in Jesus' name to mention... Let's go with slavery.  As recently as the '60s, mainstream Christians were using the Curse of Cain as a justification of racism (because, obviously, this one guy was the forefather of all African people).  But let me guess; these people never truly understood Jesus, right?  Never mind the countless instances of slavery being condoned in the Old and New Testaments (Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.  [Ephesians 6:5]).    But I suppose I'm just nitpicking outdated passages that aren't meant to be taken literally.  I wonder how anyone knows which Biblical passages ought to be taken literally and which ones are just silly misunderstandings?  Or is it that "slave" was the translator's choice, and the Bible really means "servant"?  Call it what you will, these people were denied the most basic human rights and treated as livestock; if you think slaves were any better off 2,000 years ago, you're retarded.

I think this pastor needs to take a look at some actual facts.  The lower one's socioeconomic status and education level, the higher the likelihood that one will be religious.  Do you know what else the poor and uneducated are more likely to do?  Commit crime.  Seems kind of counter-intuitive, doesn't it?    Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion has more concrete figures, but I can't be bothered to look them up.

The problem isn't that other religions are excluded.  The problem is the logic behind this illegal program.  Attending any religious service does nothing to fulfill a criminal's debt to society.  And, although some might disagree, it's not a punishment and therefore will do nothing to prevent the criminal from breaking the law again.  In Alabama, you can steal up to $2,500 worth of stuff and still be charged with a misdemeanor and be eligible for this program.  I would trade 51 Sundays in church for a free $2,500 shopping spree any day. 

One nation under god is right.  He's been on top for centuries and still hasn't nutted.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Render Unto Caesar...

A New York town clerk has decided to use her official (and lowly) government position to impose her religious belief on other Americans and deny them their right to marriage.  Rose Marie Belforti, the owner of a dairy farm in a town called Ledyard, is refusing to sign the marriage certificate of a lesbian couple because she believes it's immoral.  She apparently has no qualms about breaking her oath to "faithfully discharge the duties of the office of town clerk".  I'd be a little surprised if that oath wasn't made over a bible.

When New York first allowed gay marriage, Belforti told the town board that a clerk must be hired to sign marriage licenses for gay couples because she would not do it.  While it's legal for a clerk to delegate duties to a clerk, the town didn't have one.  With only six local government offices, a clerk was never needed.  Simply hiring a clerk may seem like a fair compromise, but this will draw tax money away from other areas to pay for this new position.  Sure, one new employee won't break the bank, but why should the burden fall on tax-payers?  I wouldn't want one cent of my taxes to pay for someone else to fulfill duties that this woman is perfectly capable of performing herself.  Not to mention the fact that she is legally obligated to do so and that refusal to grant a license to an eligible applicant is a crime.

In an attempt to placate those who are justly angered about this fiasco, Belforti is now refusing to sign marriage licenses for anyone.  I guess the logic is that if she screws over everyone, then it isn't discrimination.    

 I don't know where this lady gets the balls to take the law into her own hands, but people like her shouldn't be given any kind of authority that might affect other peoples' lives.  Christians claim that American religious freedom grants her the right to not perform duties that go against her faith.  Well you should've thought of that before you took a legally binding oath to uphold laws that (technically) have no basis in religion and therefore could come into conflict with religious beliefs.  Imagine how those defending this criminal would feel if the town clerk was a muslim who refused to sign a marriage license because alcohol is consumed at weddings.  

As of Saturday, September 17th, the U.S. Constitution is 224 years old.  But we still can't seem to accept that this nation was not founded on any kind of religious belief.  And next time someone tells you that those incorruptible and infallible Founding Fathers endowed this nation with traditional Christian values, remind them of this excerpt from the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli: "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion".

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Didn't Realize the Camden School District Was So Ballin'

       Camden is makin' it rain. A grant from Jersey's Departmant of Criminal Justice is helping to fund a five week long program in which 65 high school students will attend anger management and conflict resolution classes.  They will also sign a pledge not to cut school and attend all the sessions.  Each student that completes the course will receive $100. 

       I realize $6500 isn't really going to break the bank, but is this really the best way to spend it?  The money, as reported here, comes from a $63,000 grant.    I don't know where the rest of the moeny is going, but part of the grant mandates that the money be spent by the end of September if the city wants to be eligible for the same grant next year (I assume to prevent the city from simply hoarding the money).  But it still kinda seems like it's being pissed away.  And with that kinda money, you'd think they'd come up with a better name for the program than ICE T (I Can End Truancy; he's from Newark, not Camden).  Since the kid has no obligation to not cut class after September, critics say there's nothing to keep them in school after the program ends.  The kids in this program are most likely either the kind who would show up anyway, or the kind who wouldn't (for whatever reason; this post isn't talking about why urban school districts suck).  So, either they are problem students that will simply repeat their past behavior after the incentive is gone, or they were would most likely go on to graduate regardless, there doesn't seem to be any real effect on the likelihood of the selected students' graduating.

       But I suppose there is more involved.  For example, the number of students that could be positively affected in the long-term because of this program.  I'd like to see the kind of data used to justify the program.  The cynic in me wants to assume that the students were chosen so as to ensure that the program will have a high completion rate, although there would still be some token problem students chosen as well.  I would say that if a program like this really worked, it would be more widely-used, but I don't think this has ever been done before.  I still don't think $100 and a couple classes are all it takes to resolve the real problems here. 

All-in-all, I'm kinda on the fence about this.  I can't imagine that the burden of this program on the individual tax payer is very difficult, especially if that one small percentage really does change the life of another human being.  But it certainly seems more practical to buy better books or equipment or fund a music program or something.

So it comes down to this: do you want to improve the value of one person's life, or help fund the development of the next Beethoven?  This is beginning to sound like an argument against abortion.  Quite a subtle, slippery slope, no? 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Will Smith Becomes Real Hero, Working on Saving the Rap Game

       Having three hip hop artists on my iPod (Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, and Talib Kweli), I consider myself an expert on the genre.  And it is in bad shape.  Like nearly all genres of actual music, it is facing very real threats from commercialization, materialism, and dumbing down.  Every time you turn on the radio, you hear some auto-tuned asshole with an almost-catchy beat and corny-ass rhymes invariably talking about the same thing that everyone else is.  It's either "I sell drugs better than you", "I rap better than you", or "I fuck more bitches than you".  My favorites are the guys who rap about rapping.  Why actually do the work to become a legitimate hip hop artist when you can just make your first single all about how you already are the greatest ever?

       I don't expect every song to be a serious piece of art dealing with real social issues like poverty and racism, but does everything on the radio have to be so mind-numbing?  Not anymore.  Big Willy is back!  According to the Huffington Post, Will Smith has been working with producer "Mars" Edwards.  Having saved the world so many times, you know he has the street cred to change the game.  His smooth and manly voice will be a much-appreciated alternative to those awful noises that come out that hole in Lil Wayne's face.    I just hope he hits the studio in time to make another Men in Black song when the third installment of that series hits theaters in May 2012.  That should leave him plenty of time to solve the 2012 Doomsday Prophecy.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Media Irresponsibility

I don’t know if the news was any better back in the day, but it can’t have been any worse.  It seems a new low is reached every day.  Remember the grilled Cheesus?  That seems positively highbrow compared to some of the things I’ve seen lately.

On the websites of both Yahoo! and AOL, there was a link to an article about how “devastated” Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian were after they were involved in a car wreck that killed a 15 year-old kid.  I’m sure they were, but shouldn’t the focus have been on the family of the victim?  I know that the only reason this death was reported at all was because those two were involved, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the family didn’t want to engage with the media in their time of grief.  But neither article seemed even slightly interested in the actual tragedy, only in how their precious celebrities feel.  After the accident, Kardashian tweeted, “Angels are surrounding me always...Thank you!”  Not one word about the poor kid.  
Disclaimer: I don’t follow her on Twitter, so for all I know she could have expressed her
condolences before or after that tweet.  I refuse to look at her Twitter to find out.

I can see why celebrities are consider celebrities newsworthy because they are public figures.  But not everything that is newsworthy should be on the front page.  Why is it cost-efficient to pay millions of dollars for pictures for pictures of an infant who has done nothing more than be born to famous parents?  Because there are even more millions of people out there that will buy the magazine simply because it has that picture on its cover.  As far as I’m concerned, “celebrity news” magazines should be no more popular than a newspaper printing stories about a Bat boy-chupacabra sex tape.  Actually, now that I think about it, it should be way less popular than that newspaper.  

Unfortunately, it gets worse.  A CBS affiliate in Chicago aired a story about a night of violence in which a 16-year-old was killed and two others hurt.  During an interview with a four-year-old witness, an anchor asked if the boy would stay away from guns.  The answer that was seen on TV was “I’m going to have me a gun!”, after which the interview ended and the anchor commented, “That is very scary indeed.”  However, the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education got a copy of the entire interview.  As it turns out, there was an unaired portion in which the anchor asks why the boy wants a gun, to which he replies, “I’m going to be the police!”  Stay classy, Chicago.
As depressing as the success of celebrity “news” is, the racism is even worse.  The unfair representation of minorities in the media is nothing new.  But editing a recorded interview with the intention of portraying a four-year-old boy as a stereotypical gangbangin’ black kid is disgusting.  The worst part about it is that that’s a financially successful way to run a news network; if it bleeds, it leads.  The fact that the truth was uncovered is only mildly encouraging.  I sincerely doubt this was an isolated incident. 

I understand that journalism is a business, and a successful business has to appeal to enough customers to make money.  It’s just a shame that enough people consume the dumbed-down garbage produced  by so many media outlets that it’s actually profitable.  Never mind the fact that fewer people watch the news and read the paper; the public never should have accepted this as news in the first place.  Like I said, there’s a place in the news for celebrities.  But it should be sandwiched between black and white ads in the middle of the paper, not above the fold.   

Monday, July 18, 2011

Should Everyone Really Have the Right to an Opinion?

What a day.  After work, I ran a few errands.  In one store, I heard two old women talking about all the foreign countries that make the goods sold in America.  Lady One said, "It's so funny!  This shirt right here was made in Guatemala!"  Lady Two replies, "Oh, I know.  I won't buy anything made in Pakistan, though."  For real?  You don't mind supporting manufacturers that pay people, often children, shit wages in dangerous conditions, but Pakistan is a clear no-no.  Is supporting terrorists so much worse than running sweatshops?  I'd be willing to bet that more lives have been destroyed by sweatshops than terrorists.  I don't understand how someone can justify supporting one and not the other.

So then I went to buy some groceries.  I was looking for powdered Gatorade mix when the middle-aged woman in the same aisle asked if I was looking for a good fruit juice.  I told her what I was looking for and she ignored what I said and suggested Fuze juice because "it has lots of vitamins and minerals."  I so regret not shattering her sense of self-righteousness by telling her Fuze only contains 5% actual fruit juice.  I guess I'm getting soft.  I'm sick of being told what I should and should not eat.  I have every right to weigh 700 pounds if I want to.  And do your goddamned homework before you go making suggestions to people as to what to eat and drink.  By which I mean read more than a few words on the label.

So then I went home.  I checked the websites I usually check and found an article on yahoo! that caught my eye.  A man in Indiana was denied the opportunity to donate blood because he seemed gay.  And that is entirely legal!  The ban on allowing homosexuals to donate blood dates back to 1983, a time when there were no reliable ways to test blood for HIV and AIDS was believed to only affect gay people.  Despite every single blood donation being tested for HIV, just last year the decision to ban gays from donating blood was upheld by the Department of Health and Human Services.  And again, this guy, while "admittedly and noticeably effeminate", is straight.

And then the icing on the cake.  Another yahoo! article about some guy Herman Cain, apparently a "Presidential hopeful", who supports the attempt by some Murfreesboro, Tennessee residents to ban the building of a mosque in their town.  Not only does he believe this is legal, he actually said that building the mosque is an "infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion".  It's hard to explain how ass-backwards that statement is.  It's like trying to explain why blue is not yellow.  George Orwell himself could not come up with a better example of doublespeak.  He went on to say, "Our Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. Islam combines church and state.  [We're] objecting to the fact that Islam is both a religion and a set of laws."  He is such a satire of himself that I almost suspect this to be some kind of Stephen Colbert prank.  How does someone whose reasoning power is so flawed even make it to adulthood?  Does he not see the influence Christianity has on almost every law that this country has made?  And what would he say about the poll that shows 2/3 of Americans consider this nation a Christian country?  I'd be willing to bet his stance on separation of church and state would soften a bit.  I also wonder how he would feel if a largely atheist town wanted to ban the building of a church?  By the way, this guy used to run a pizza franchise.  Quite a resume for a Presidential hopeful.

This is why I want to live on a mountain.  The problem isn't America.  It's people.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

At the Risk of Sounding Like a Hippie...

That's what I'm talking about!  According to Reuters, a hiker in Yellowstone who accidentally came across grizzly cubs was mauled to death by the mother.  It's a terrible shame that this happened; that's obviously not what I'm talking about.  While the situation is still being investigated, Yellowstone's initial response is that the bear behaved naturally and so will not be killed.  So that is what I'm talking about.

To be clear, I agree with the killing of the bear mentioned in the article that killed a man in his sleep in an "unprovoked" attack.  But if you're walking around in an area known for bear activity, you know what you're getting yourself into.  Odds are neither man deserved to be killed by a friggin' grizzly bear.  But it's nice to see that Yellowstone recognizes the fact that the bear was in its natural habitat and behaved as any bear should.  It would be even better to see them stick with that position (assuming the investigation finds that initial reports are accurate), despite possible public pressure.

It worries me that PETA probably agrees with me.  But they probably wouldn't want that other bear killed either.  So I'm not a hippie!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ballsy Move, NBC. I Like It.

     Apparently, the Constitution is not so much the law as it is a suggestion.  I don't know how else to explain why Americans have been wiping their asses with the First Amendment for so long.  An article on Yahoo! describes the negative feedback from NBC's decision to edit the phrase "under God" from a recording of the Pledge of Allegiance aired during the US Open.  Or some golf tournament...  Anyway, I got your back, NBC..

      From at least the 16th century, North African Muslim nations routinely engaged in piracy in the Mediterranean, attacking European ships and coastal towns and enslaving prisoners.  England's growing naval power led to treaties with the Barbary States that protected them and their colonies from piracy.  After the American Revolution, the United States was no longer protected by those treaties.  After a war or two, the young United States signed the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, securing peace for American shipping.  Article 11 of the treaty states: As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of [Islam],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

     There is debate as to what exactly the Founding Fathers meant when the First Amendment was written (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof).  Interpretations range from the belief that the clause prohibits any acknowledgement of religion in government affairs to the belief that it merely prevents the establishment of a state church.

     I recognize that the language of the First Amendment doesn't explicitly state that the United States should not recognize God, Buddha, Thor, etc.  But the Treaty of Tripoli sure as hell does.  America is not, "in any sense", founded on Christianity.  Some religious nuts will point out that that clause wasn't in the Arabic version of the treaty sent to the Barbary States, but it was the English version that was read and ratified by the Senate.  I doubt very many of them could read Arabic.  When it was signed by President John Adams, he even added this statement: Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed, and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all other citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.

When presented to the Senate, it was ratified unanimously and was recorded as having been so.  Of the 339 other unanimous votes by this time, only two others were recorded.  Clearly, the Founding Fathers felt that secularism was crucial to proper government.  The treaty was then printed in Philadelphia and New York newspapers, apparently with no public disapproval.  Despite this, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll in 2006 that found that 67% of Americans consider the U.S. a Christian nation.  And who can blame them?  Even our secretly Muslim President seems to mention God every time he makes a speech.

     So back to the Pledge.  Did you know it was written by a Christian Socialist?!  More importantly, Francis Bellamy's original version, written in 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage, did not contain the phrase "under God" at all.  The original version read as follows: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all"Under God" was not added until 1954, during one of America's most conservative and reactionary decades.  I have to end this post.  The irony is too much.

Bravo, NBC.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cell Phones May Cause Cancer; Not Having One Linked to Friendlessness

     For years, notable organizations and individuals have conducted research into the possible link between cell phone use and brain cancer.  Most have concluded that more information is needed before making a definitive statement on the long-term effects of using a cell phone.  However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization), stated on May 31 that radiation from cell phones is "possibly carcinogenic to humans".  The Agency placed cell phone radiation in the same group as other possible carcinogens, such as coffee and car exhaust. 
     It seems most people aren't bothered by the news.  Some use the same excuse as smokers: "I've been using a cell phone for so long, I'm already fucked."  Everyone else just figures the cancer is better than not having a cell phone.  Besides, they say, most experts agree that any possible link between cell phones and cancer would be very weak, given the low amounts of radiation given off by phones.
     For humanity's sake, I hope they are wrong.  Cancer-causing phones are exactly the motivation scientists need to finally find a cure.  Think how hard scientists would work to find a cure, how much money the rich would donate to research if they knew they and their loved ones were going to develop brain cancer.  Why do you think AIDS still hasn't been cured?  Infect everyone in the WHO with HIV and see how quickly they find a cure.
     Or, better yet, we could infect only world leaders.  Think about it; FDR was president from 1933 to 1945 and quickly became the world's most famous polio survivors.  Ten years after his last term ends, the first polio vaccine is announced.  Coincidence?  What's more, FDR's symptoms more closely fit with Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome!  Just the thought that the President had polio got the job done.  Granted, a vaccine isn't actually a cure, but it's better than nothing.  
     Political leaders always claim to have the well-being of the people in mind when they make the decisions that govern our lives.  What better way to prove it than by willingly being infected with a major illness so that a cure can be found?  At worst, no new cures will be found, but at least we can be sure that our leaders really are the sort of people that put the needs of the people before their own wants.  Or maybe people will vote according to what disease they'd like to see cured; that way, presidencies would have positive, tangible results.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Play Nice, Ladies

     Believe it or not, I've uncovered a double standard based on gender.  Since even men's hockey is probably the least popular of the four major North American sports, you may be unaware that body checking is illegal in all major women's ice hockey leagues and tournaments.

     If you aren't in a major, competitive league, I can understand why you wouldn't want to have to worry about getting drilled into the boards.  Especially if you're just playing for fun.  That's why flag football leagues exist; not everyone gets paid enough to put their body on the line.  The rule against checking also makes sense for kids' leagues.  With so little experience, children can be much more likely to hurt each other or themselves if they throw their bodies around too recklessly.  But should we treat grown women the same way we treat children?  Can men learn to check properly but women can't?

     Body checking actually was only eliminated from international play after the 1990 Women's World Championship, the reason being that other countries did not have the size to compete physically with North American players.  Has that helped to level the international playing field?  Out of the 12 International Ice Hockey Federation World Women's Championships, Canada has won nine gold medals and three silvers, while the US has won three golds and nine silvers.  In the four Olympic tournaments that have included women's hockey, Canada has three golds and a silver and the US has one gold and two silvers.  Sweden won silver in 2006 and is still the only non-North American team to win anything other than bronze.  Clearly, body checking is not what separates North America's women's hockey programs from those of the rest of the world.

     I don't have any real stats on this matter, but Kim McCullough, who has played and coached at the highest level of women's hockey and is an Ivy League grad with a master's in kinesiology, has this to say: "the reality is that the majority of injuries in girls’ hockey are happening from incidental contact...One of the big reason girls are getting hurt by this incidental contact is that they lack the awareness that they are going to get hit."  Essentially, playing without checking leads to playing with your head down watching the puck, which almost completely erases your awareness of other players.  No Flyers fan needs to be told how important it is to play with your head up.

     As soon as Lindros gets the puck, he doesn't stop staring at it until Stevens' runs through him.  And it's because, growing up, he was always the biggest and fastest guy on the ice.  Once he got to the NHL level, he couldn't adjust to playing with guys just as fast and strong.  Even without body checking, you still run the risk of skating into someone else and getting seriously injured. 

     Some argue that body checking shouldn't be allowed in women's hockey because the game is better without it.  And those people are idiots.  Mark Johnson, former Olympic women's hockey coach, calls it "pure hockey".  I suppose he's unaware of the fact that hitting as been an integral part of the game since its earliest forms.  That's why the All Star game is the most boring hockey game of the year; no hitting.  Maybe the casual fan is only concerned with goal scoring, but that's not the only part of the game.  Even as the NHL strives to make the game safer and cut down on head injuries, there is no serious talk of eliminating body checking.  Rule 48 allows for the suspension of a player who targets the head of another player.  This makes infinitely more sense than removing hitting entirely.

     Polls of the women who actually play the game vary.  Not surprisingly, the individual's size is a major factor in how they feel.  But even in the NHL, with the world's biggest, strongest, and fastest players, there are plenty of little guys who play at elite levels despite their size.  Today, Brian Gionta is in his 10th season in the NHL and captains the freakin' Canadiens, hockey's ultimate franchise, despite being 5'7".  Theo Fleury was even shorter at 5'6" but not only played well enough to notch 1088 points in 1084 NHL games, but was actually known for being very physical.  Hitting doesn't have to be running around like a goon trying to take someone's head off; it can, and should, be just as technical as any other aspect of the game.

     This issue boils down to the perception that women can't handle it.  Regardless of entertainment, hitting should be made a part of women's ice hockey because it is a part of ice hockey in general.  There is no need to make special rules for women; if they want to play a game, let them play by the same rules that men play by.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From a Prison Cell to City Hall

So Milton Street wants to run for Mayor of Philadelphia.  Of course, this isn't the first time some asshole has decided to run for a major political office.  But come on. 

According to The Ultimate Source of Information, this Street went from a hot dog vendor to being elected to the PA House of Representatives and State Senate in 1980 as a Democrat.  He then switched parties to give the Republicans the majority in the State Senate.  In exchange, he was made a chairman of some committee and got a nice office.  So far, he certainly sounds as capable as any other politician.  I don't care about parties.  Regardless of affiliation, they're only concerned about themselves.  So if switching parties gets you an office with a view, go for it.  It can't make you any worse in my book.

It's not even the well-publicized corruption probe that resulted in his being jailed for 30 months on charges of tax evasion.  This guy expects the people of Philadelphia to put him in charge of a city crippled by debt after using his previous political positions (and the fact that he was the brother of then-mayor John Street) to basically steal tens of thousands of dollars and also made millions of dollars he never declared to the IRS.  Again, this isn't why I don't think he should be mayor.  Screw the IRS.  And I'm sure the corporations he defrauded barely noticed the money he took.  In fact, if he can manage to do the same for the city, more power to him.  We're broke.  Go ahead and skim a little off the top; you deserve it if you can help decrease the deficit.

I will give the devil his due; the man is ballsy.  He announced his intention to run for Mayor in 2007 while awaiting trial.  It takes some cojones to tell the people of Philly you want to be mayor in the midst of a political corruption investigation.  In March of '07, he planned a rally at City Hall and said he would renounce his candidacy if less than 5,000 people showed up.  Did the fact that only 200 people, most simply passing through, stop him.  Hell no.  After all, he didn't want this whole thing to look like a "publicity stunt".  He's in this race to make some money, not get on TV.

So despite all of these qualifications that every politician should envy, what is it that has convinced me he isn't fit for the highest office in the great City of Philadelphia?  That son of bitch tried to start up one of those fucking duck tours.  You know, those stupid-ass buses that can drive right into water?  As if one company driving annoying tourists around with those horrible noisemakers isn't bad enough, he tried to start a second to compete with the first.  I can't stand for that.  I would rather see the British recolonize America than have even one more of those godforsaken vehicles further assault the dignity of this city.

On a related note, Donald Trump apparently intends to run for President.  At first, I thought this would be the last straw.  Lewis Black, on the Daily Show, has shown me the error of my ways.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Don't Remember Hearing About This in History Class

I'm no Abe Lincoln scholar, but I'm fairly certain this fact never came up in any course I've ever taken: Lincoln felt that, after emancipation, blacks ought to leave the US and settle in Central America.  In recently uncovered documents, Honest Abe says that it was "selfish" of blacks to want to stay in the US; he suggested Central America "especially because of the similarity of climate with [their] native land."

I'm not foolish enough to believe that any public figure takes even the slightest action without some ulterior motive.  I know Abe wasn't exactly a saint, but this still came as a surprise when I read the article on Yahoo!.  And that's the problem.  Apparently, historians have long been familiar with Lincoln's idea of colonization.  So why doesn't that little factoid appear in any schoolbooks?  The Civil War is one of the most significant time periods in American history.  I don't know who is to blame for this particular instance of whitewashing history, but this is ridiculous.  Students should be made aware of the entire process that led to the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Yes, it's important to contextualize Lincoln's ideas.  The idea of universal emancipation was a radical change in American society (since Americans chose to ignore that whole "all men are created equal" thing), and colonization was one solution that some people ascribed to.  There was about to be an entire nation's worth of people going from property to citizens and no one was sure how best to go about it.  Kids today should know this stuff.  Without seeing the whole picture, there can be no real understanding.

This may seem trivial, but history should be presented as it happened.  I'm not trying to demonize Lincoln, but we can't allow history to be taught selectively.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who Do These Celebrities Think They Are?

Is anyone else outraged by the way celebrities are handling being ridiculed?  Just when you start to think of some really good jokes about that goddamned Bieber kid, he goes and appears in a funny Super Bowl commercial.

It's just not fair when a celebrity goes and makes fun of themselves.  Barring a cocaine-induced breakdown in his twenties, this kid is going to have more money, more women, and a cooler cell phone than I ever will.  The only way I can cope is by making jokes about his pre-pubescence, and he goes and takes that away from me.

Remember this guy?
It was so easy to ignore his success and point out that ridiculous hair and talk about how you could beat him up if you saw him.  Then he cuts his hair and does this

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Japanese Scientists Plan to Clone Woolly Mammoth-UPDATED 9-11-12

Update(story here): Another team of scientists, this one Russian, have discovered mammoth remains, including soft tissue and bone marrow, in Siberia that may contain living cells. Further tests are needed to confirm the possibility. If living cells are recovered, they will be the first such find. The testing, however, will take months.
On a related note, the X Prize Foundation is developing a so-called Jurassic Park prize. The X Prize Foundation has also set up a prize for the first private spacecraft. The specifics are still being ironed out, but it will presumably go to the first group that is able to successfully clone a prehistoric animal. Unless they cop out and give it to the first team to do something corny like sequence its genome.

The original post is below.

Looks like we're one step closer to Jurassic Park.  Since 1997, a team of Japanese scientists have been attempting to clone a mammoth.  Their previous three attempts have failed, since freezing causes cellular damage that renders DNA taken from mammoth tissue pretty much useless.  However, Teruhiko Wakayama has recently developed a technique to successfully harvest DNA from a mouse that was frozen for 16 years.  The DNA was taken from the brain, which has a high concentrations of sugar which helps prevent damage due to freezing.  Using this DNA, he was able to create a "partially viable" embryo which he then cloned, creating living replicas of the mouse.  The hope is that this technique will enable the scientists to take the mammoth DNA and place it into the egg cell of an Asian Elephant (with the elephant DNA removed), which will be placed back into an elephant and allowed to gestate.  The hope is that, within six years, a woolly mammoth will walk the Earth for the first time in thousands of years.

As can be expected, the possibility of cloning an extinct animal has raised all sorts of ethical questions.  The scientists involved, which includes the Japanese scientists and others they invited from the US and Russia, are pondering issues such as breeding and displaying the animal.  I think there is almost an obligation to display this animal and any others that may be cloned in the future.  I think a legitimate argument can be made to include clones of extinct animals in the "Common Heritage of Mankind".  Breeding, however, is another matter.  Mammoths should certainly not be allowed to simply live and breed in the wild, since they would drastically affect the ecosystem into which they are placed.  I'm not sure allowing them to breed just to have the entire species live in a zoo is the right thing to do either.  Maybe, if it can be done properly, some sort of preserve could be set up to maintain a very small population.  Extremely careful measures would obviously have be taken to maintain population size.

A far more compelling question is where to draw the line.  The Neanderthal Genome Project has been working since 2006 to map out the genetic code of the Neanderthal.  Early results suggest Neanderthal DNA is 99.7% identical to that of today's human.  They had the capability for language, made advanced tools, and had developed a unique culture.  So would it be ethical to clone something so close to a human being?  What do you tell a cloned baby Neanderthal about its origins?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fuck Censorship!

A publisher called NewSouth Books is printing an edition of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in which the word "nigger" (used 219 times) is replaced with "slave" and "injun" removed entirely.  Some accept this change, saying that "nigger" has a much more offensive connotation today than it did in 1884.  Others believe it will make the book accessible to more children whose parents or schools banned the book because of its vocabulary.

I'll be honest.  I haven't read it.  There are arguments that Twain actually is critiquing the ideals behind racism in his novel by portraying Jim in an apparently positive light.  Others feel that, while this may be true, his otherwise Sambo-like behavior perpetuates racist attitudes unintentionally at best.  I'm sure there are those that simply believe Twain, by today's standards at the very least, is racist.

I don't care about any of that.  Censorship is simply wrong.  If you don't like an author's work, don't publish it.  You don't have the right to make the changes you would like to see.  One comment on an article about this issue said that, while censorship is generally bad, it's OK to censor "nigger" because it is so "weighted".  So censorship is OK as long as the word is really offensive?  And who is it that determines the offensiveness of a given work?

For what it' worth, I tend to side with those who believe Twain attacks racism while subconsciously engaging in it.  Although I haven't read the book, I do know that Huckleberry Finn is the narrator of the story.  Which means he, not Mark Twain, is telling the story.  When reading, one should never assume that the narrator and the author are the same person.  This might sound stupid, but it's the basis of all satire.  Look at Stephen Colbert.  His character on the Colbert Report is entirely different from the real Stephen Colbert.  Therefore, Twain's intentional choice to have the character Huckleberry Finn narrate the novel means that the reader is being told the story through the lens of a young boy growing up in the ante-bellum South.  That being said, it is inevitable that some of the author's unique experiences will find their way into the work.

Whatever Twain's intentions were, the original text offers a meaningful insight into the race relations of the late 19th century.  And they weren't pretty.  Literature isn't always meant to make you feel warm and fuzzy.  It should be meaningful, it should serve some sort of purpose.  Censorship doesn't just change a few words around, it turns art into propaganda.

Coincidentally, the publisher is NewSouth books, based in Alabama.  Is it me, or does the South seem to try really hard to distance itself from its racially-charged past?  It always cracks me up to hear them try to argue that slavery wasn't the major issue of the Civil War.