Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson Really Lived

Nezua, over at The Unapologetic Mexican, has pulled together videos of thanks of flash mobs that formed over the past few days where people came together to celebrate the life of Michael Jackson. I really did enjoy watching these magnificent videos. I wish I could express my gratitude for the people who created and posted them. It's like food for my soul.

This man changed things. I mean, Michael Jackson REALLY changed things. Nothing can diminish that. He broke down barriers using love and music. Even though it cost him dearly, he lived life on his own terms.

Rep. Broun Says Global Warming is a Hoax

I love it when people like Broun stand up and make their stupidity evident. It makes it a lot easier to identify the people we need not take seriously. I wish this video would have shown just who applauded this nonsense, so that we can

It also gives me the lulz when these dumb-asses prove that they have absolutely no idea about how science works. In science, it doesn't matter what someone SAYS. It's the data that proves/disproves ideas and establishes things. Consensus is built through the peer-review process and independent verification of conclusions. In other words, scientists can think whatever they want, but it doesn't affect the facts.

Most of the scientists I've gotten to know over the years believe in some sort of deity. However, that doesn't prove that one exists. Only the facts can do that. They understand the difference between beliefs and facts. To the extent that one's beliefs don't harm others, it's perfectly okay to believe in something that you can't prove. As far as I'm concerned, an it harm none, do as ye will! However, if members of Congress want to establish whether or not humans have induced the climate change that we are now witnessing, then they need to refer to science, not scientists. When a member of Congress bases his support on opinions, instead of facts, it leads to the passing of bad legislation that can only compound the problems they were supposed to fix.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Talking to My Six-Year Old Daughter About Death (and Life)

Though my partner and I avoided conversations about death with my daughter, we weren't able to avoid the topic eventually. I remember the day when things finally came to a head and it had to be dealt with.

When, in my daughter's presence, several people had spoken about the likelihood of me dying --you'd be surprised how many thoughtless people there are in the world--she came to me all worried and asked me about whether it was true. I decided to pretend as if the possibility of this had never occurred to me before. I acted like it really, really scared me and then I told her, "Wait a minute, if I could die from cancer, there's probably a whole lot of other things that might kill me, too!"

I told her that we'd better stop using forks, because we might accidentally put it too far down our throats and stab ourselves to death and we'd better stop eating anything solid because we could get a piece of food stuck in our air passage and suffocate and we'd better not use any paint brushes or crayons or pencils because we might slip and fall on one of them and impale ourselves and I went on and on and on.

She quickly got tired of me freaking out and told me that nobody dies from that stuff. I said, "Yeah, but it could happen! I mean, it is possible! Oh, I'm gonna die! I'm gonna die! I'm gonna die!"

I remember seeing her eyebrows knitted together as she fussed at me and said, "Look! It's not going to happen! Okay?" I told her that I wasn't taking any chances and I put my hands on my forehead and started walking around in circles lamenting the fact that I must be about to die.

She yelled at me and yanked my hand. "Sit down! Just wait right here! Okay? I'm coming right back." After a minute, she returned with something behind her back and she demanded that I close my eyes. When she told me I could open them, she was sitting on the floor, using a crayon. She said, "See! Nothing happened!"

I replied, "Nothing happened to you but if I use it, I might die." That got her really aggravated. By the way, there's nothing in the world that's cuter than watching a six year old child trying to explain to an adult that they are being completely irrational.

So, while I'm still pretending to freak out, she says "Arghh! Look! Remember what Ms. Merianne said? Stop, breath, and think!" This was the strategy her preschool teacher taught them for dealing with situations that make you angry or upset. The irony was that she always seemed to forget about Ms. Merianne's advice whenever I wanted her to remember it.

I took a few deep breathes and asked, "I guess I don't have to be afraid of everything that might happen, do I?"

"No! So, just calm down!", she replied sharply, and that was the end of that. From that point on, whenever she heard someone saying something about me and cancer and dying, she'd give them the nastiest glare imaginable and point out that they could die of all sorts of things, too, but that didn't mean they were about to die right then.

Hey, I can't say we handled things perfectly, but it worked for us.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The New Agenda is the same as the old agenda

Amy Siskind has written an article for the Huffington Post entitled "Sexism Against Conservative Women is Still Sexism". It was mildly interesting, but I don't think she has expressed the problem nearly as others have. She's still stuck on the idea that sexism is the ultimate problem we need to face.
When is sexism acceptable? The answer should be never. Yet for many feminists in our country, only certain types of women have been worth defending. When a conservative woman is the target of an attack, many so-called feminists stay silent. This "selective sexism", or speaking out against sexism on a case by case basis, does not advance our national dialogue on women's issues. Rather, selective sexism allows a dangerous level of permissible sexism to live and breed in our country. The only way for the women of this country to truly move forward is to unite and speak out against all forms of sexism regardless of party or the source of the attack.
I disagree. I think that bigotry is the problem and that sexism is just one expression of this kind of hatred. While groups like The New Agenda claim to represent a different kind of feminism, they really don't. As long as they are willing to engage in bigotry, they aren't any different from the sexists that they complain about.

Notice what the women that Siskind mentioned have in common. Many womanists have pointed out how neither the Republicans nor the Democrats tend to address the bigotry that women of color and non-Western women experience. White, Western feminism is white, Western feminism. It's still the same no matter what you call it, no matter what you name your group. Until the white, Western, mostly middle-class feminists (that make up the majority of what people in this country consider "the movement") learn to de-center their experiences and see that other people have problems that are just as significant as theirs, it's going to remain just as unsuccessful as it always has been with regards to uniting folks.

You're not going to get Democrats and Republican and Independent women to all support your goals if you aren't working on their behalf, too. There's a reason why so many women and equality-minded men don't want to identify themselves as feminists these days. Siskind represents a dying, unsuccessful model. She's trying to put a new face on an old idea. As a result, women and equality-minded men don't have much of a reason to unite under a "feminist umbrella". Instead, you mostly see conservatives complaining about conservatives who are subjected to forms of bigotry, while the liberals mostly speak up when liberals are subjected to bigotry, et cetera.

As long white, Western feminism ignores the fact that many people think that other forms of bigotry are just as important to fight, then how can it be anything other than what it is? It's stagnant. The majority of feminist progress isn't being made by people like Siskind. It's taking place in other countries, where activists have come to see that feminism is just one facet of the social justice movement. Meanwhile, Siskind is just playing whack-a-mole.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Storekeeper Proves Actions Speak Louder Than Words

This story really warmed my heart.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A potential victim became a compassionate counselor during a recent robbery attempt, changing the would-be criminal's mind -- and apparently his religion.

Storekeeper Mohammad Sohail was closing up his Long Island convenience store just after midnight on May 21 when -- as shown on the store's surveillance video -- a man came in wielding a baseball bat and demanding money.

"He said, 'Hurry up and give me the money, give me the money!' and I said, 'Hold on'," Sohail recalled in a phone interview with CNN on Tuesday, after the store video and his story was carried on local TV.

Sohail said he reached under the counter, grabbed his gun and told the robber to drop the bat and get down on his knees.

"He's crying like a baby," Sohail said. "He says, 'Don't call police, don't shoot me, I have no money, I have no food in my house.' "

Amidst the man's apologies and pleas, Sohail said he felt a surge of compassion.

He made the man promise never to rob anyone again and when he agreed, Sohail gave him $40 and a loaf of bread.

"When he gets $40, he's very impressed, he says, 'I want to be a Muslim just like you,' " Sohail said, adding he had the would-be criminal recite an Islamic oath.

"I said 'Congratulations. You are now a Muslim and your name is Nawaz Sharif Zardari.'"

When asked why he chose the hybrid of two Pakistani presidents' names, the Pakistani immigrant laughed and said he had been watching a South Asian news channel moments before the confrontation.

Sohail said the man fled the store when he turned away to get the man some free milk.

He said police might still be looking for the suspect but he doesn't intend to press charges.

"The guy, you know, everybody has a hard time right now, it's too bad for everybody right now in this economy," said the storekeeper.
I first heard about it in a short blurb on MSNBC, but they didn't mention the fact that the store owner was Muslim. I'm glad that CNN didn't leave that out in their article. These days, so many people use their religion as an excuse to hate people. My view towards religion is that if a particular god doesn't make you want to be a kinder, more loving person, then it isn't worth worshipping. Evidently, Mohammed Sohail's religion motivates him to be compassionate and forgiving towards others. Sohail clearly had the upper hand in this situation. His gun trumped the robber's bat, hands down. Many (most?) people in his position would have, at the very least, turned the guy in to the police. Instead, Sohail put himself in the guy's shoes and tried to address the reasons why the man was trying to rob him.

A lot of Christians would benefit from heeding his example. Instead of trying to force society to show deference to their religion, they'd probably have a lot more success at proving the validity of their beliefs if they behaved more like Mohammed Sohail.

Monday, June 08, 2009

More Proof That God Loves Homosexuality

From Canada's CBC News:
Keepers at Germany's Bremerhaven zoo couldn't get two penguin parents to take care of their egg, so they're trying an experiment — they gave the egg to a gay male penguin couple.

The biological parents "always rolled the egg out of their nest, they kicked it out again and again," zoo veterinarian Joachim Schoene said.

"Then we made the decision not to give it up and instead try to give it two fathers."

So far, the experiment has been a success. The two foster dads incubated the egg for 30 days until it hatched and have continued to care for the newborn chick.

You know, I just love stories like this. Despite all of the scientific progress that has taken place over the years, there are still a lot of people in the United States who argue that homosexuality is unnatural. Organizations like the innocuously-named "Family Research Council" are still actively preaching this idea. It's not enough for them to simply claim that their religion forbids it. They take it about a zillion steps further and go on to assert that science backs their beliefs. On their website you can find statements like this.

Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects. While the origins of same-sex attractions may be complex, there is no convincing evidence that a homosexual identity is ever something genetic or inborn.
Sadly, many people just aren't educated enough to be able to refute homophobic, pseudo-scientific declarations like this. We can't stop homophobes like the FRC from spreading their hateful message, but people can work to spread the truth that will allow others to see through them. Cute stories like this one where the gay penguins saved the life of a baby penguin that the heterosexual couple didn't want are undeniable evidence that homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality. Not only that, homosexuality plays a very important role in nature. If there is a God who is responsible for the creation of the universe, science shows that are very good reasons why he'd be so fond of homosexuality.

Update (June 10th):

Today I saw a video that meshes perfectly with this post. I really like the way the asshole on the video ends his story with what he obviously thinks is a rather clever quip. "Same sex penguins--only in California", he says. What a dumb-ass!

More Privatization of Our Military?

Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) has come up with an idea for how to make our government run better. Unfortunately, it's an absolutely stupid idea. He claims that private sector businesses are being unfairly forced to compete with the federal government. That initially piqued my interest, because I come from a family of with lots of business owners. When I read his comments, though, I realized that it was just another b.s. claim from a Republican politician. According to him,

When American consumers need to find a service, they turn to the Yellow Pages, or more likely today, the Internet. However, more and more federal agencies are duplicating services that are readily available in the private sector which not only unnecessarily increases the size of the federal workforce, but directly competes with main street businesses across the country. This creates unnecessary competition for private businesses and prevents the federal government from focusing its attention on more critical functions.

I have introduced a bill, the Freedom from Government Competition Act (S. 1167), that would require the federal government to rely on the private sector when providing services that are readily available. This legislation does not mandate the privatization of any federal service, but instead codifies the “Yellow Pages” test, which says that if a federal service can also be found in the Yellow Pages, that service or product should be subject to market competition. Studies have shown that such competition could save taxpayers up to $28 billion annually.

(From The Hill blog)

This isn't a new idea. President Bush's administration applied it in abundance with the war in Iraq. We're still dealing with the adverse consequences of that particular decision. We have multiple soldiers who have died because they were electrocuted from shoddy work performed by supposedly competent companies. We have private military contractors mercenaries and soldiers of fortune who perform alongside the U.S. military, but aren't subject to the same chain of command. It's been an absolute debacle.

Now, Thune wants to expand this practice? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Today is National Cancer Survivor's Day!!

I plan to write more about my feelings on today, but that's going to have to wait until later, because I am busy celebrating right now. It was a little over seven years ago that a doctor first spotted the tumor in my chest. Back then, I was really worried about who would step in and help The German after I was gone. Now, I'm looking forward to the future and I truly believe that I'm going to see my daughter grow up and have her own kids one day.

I'm just so excited today! This is better than a birthday! Well, I'm off to celebrate now. I'll catch up on here later!

"A lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost."
-Jean-Paul Sartre

"...become so absolutely free that
your very existence is an act of rebellion."
Albert Camus

Monday, June 01, 2009

Sorry I'm Late

I need some joy in my life after hearing yesterday's terrible news. Fortunately, I found it on Papa Giorgio's blog this morning. It's the cutest little video, called "Sorry I'm Late".