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Posts Tagged ‘news’

Today, the White House is hosting a science fair, inviting competition winners in math, science, engineering and technology from schools around America.

While this of course makes for excellent press at a time when Democrats sorely need this, it also underscores a commitment to putting his ideals into practice. It is not enough to say that America must improve its educational curriculum in math and science – it needs to be made real.

As Obama put it recently, if the NCAA championship winners get to come to the White House, so should the best scientists and mathematicians in schools.

And yes, that’s Adam Savage from Mythbusters up there with him. The President will be ON MYTHBUSTERS next month, which is simply awesome.

Obviously you can’t fix a war and a recession with quick publicity blasts like this, else he’d have had those squared away within the first week of his presidency, but it’s nice to see that the “smaller” things aren’t being forgotten about. Long after Obama leaves office, the kids who will benefit from his support may be in a position to avoid another war and/or recession because of what they learned.

Plus, of course, it’s nice to have a President who would rather blow shit up on Mythbusters than, say, in the Middle East.

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Seems lots of people are up in arms over the proposed building of the Park 51 Community Center, aka the “mosque at Ground Zero”. Of course, this is far from surprising, considering the Islamophobia which has held much of the nation for the last decade.

The people wishing to build the mosque were no doubt aware of the furore which would ensue over this, and it cannot be denied that they were willing to provoke anger. Having said that, if after our near-demolition of Baghdad, a group of American missionaries attempted to build a Christian church there, we would see them as heroes.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves how we justify holding this moral double standard. The 19 hijackers actually involved in the 9/11 incident are hardly going to be worshipping at this mosque.

What would we say of the hypothetical missionaries above? “Despite almost crushing adversity, this brave band of people labored to build a place where Christians could worship in safety and tranquility, a place from which they could bring the local populace to understand that their purpose is not to maim and destroy but to foster peace and understanding.”

How many of our national news outlets are using language such as this to describe the builders of the Ground Zero mosque?

Let us consider for a moment the other establishments in the vicinity: an off-track betting parlor, a Starbucks, a strip club, a McDonald’s, and of course a shitload of street hawkers selling cheap plastic 9/11-themed tchotchkes. If this is to be considered ‘hallowed ground’, as Sarah Palin put it recently, let these also be removed from the vicinity.

Anything else is just pure Islamophobia.

This all comes back to our psychological tendency to see labels. We cannot look at a DeShawn or a Danisha without seeing ‘black’, at a Chihiro or a Chung-Tah without seeing ‘Asian’, at a Faroukh or a Fatima without seeing ‘Arab’.

If you assume a priori that a Mohammed is more likely to tarnish American society than a Masao, Malachi or even Mike, you’re in the label trap.

Regardless of what the President may have to say in favor of it, regardless of what the hysterical wing of the GOP may say against it, regardless of what Jews and Muslims at large may think of it… get out of the label trap and see for yourself.

Allow a small group of people to show you that Islam is not all about evil, and show them in return that you’re not all about prejudice.

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The political news out of Alaska is a lot less amusing today than usual.

A small plane carrying former Senator Ted Stevens (R) and seven others has crashed near the town of Dillingham. A family friend has confirmed that the 86-year-old senator, who served in public office for 60 years, was among the dead.

I never liked Stevens much as a politician; I disagreed with most of his political positions and was no fan of most of his budget appropriations. However, it is still saddening to hear of his passing.

Also, it is always disconcerting to hear of a plane accident causing the death of a public figure; there have been far too many of these for it to be a statistical accident.

Let’s hope that for all of the online mockery surrounding his ‘series of tubes’ comment, the media attempts to treat him with some respect and dignity, for the sake of the friends and loved ones he left behind.

Let us also hope that his former colleagues on both sides of the partisan divide can lay aside the politics of the moment and honor his memory rather than tarnishing it.

Last but not least, let us hope that those who passed along with him are not forgotten.

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As any of my readers can imagine, I’ve been following the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case with a great deal of interest.

This was, of course, the case for overturning California’s Proposition 8. By this time, it will come as news to no one that the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, coming to the conclusion that there is no rational or constitutional basis for denying marriage rights to same sex couples, and indeed that the attempt to do so was unconstitutional in itself.

However, a (slim) majority of California voters supported the proposition in 2008. Does the judge have the right to invalidate the expressed will of the people?

That question, rather than any religious objection, is likely to be central when this case reaches the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Legally, however, the answer is “yes”. The Constitution specifically forbids the individual states from enacting laws which deny equal rights to any of its citizens. As such, the proposition was invalid from the moment the ink was dry, and should never have been put to the vote in the first place. The fact that a majority of today’s voters supported it will be irrelevant in the long term, whereas the highest law of the land is designed to stand for ever.

I’d like to congratulate Judge Walker (who is, incidentally, both gay and Catholic) on a meticulously thought-out ruling which applied the rule of law to the proposition without allowing for any non-legal bias, much as the Supreme Court is supposed to (and may yet be called upon to).

Congratulations also to the California couples who have fought for so long against an uncertain future; this is a milestone for all of us, but you will be the ones to feel it most keenly.

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First Dana Perino, then Mary Matalin… and now Rudy Giuliani?

Today on Good Morning America, Giuliani said:

“We had no domestic attacks under Bush; we’ve had one under Obama.”

Let me revisit the first half of this comment.

“We had no domestic attacks under Bush”

Is there anyone out there reading this blog who has forgotten that the following small matter ever took place?

Anyone remember the guy who was supposedly such a big hero for his handling of that particular crisis? The guy who subsequently got an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II? You know, that Giuliani fella?

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote that people will more readily accept a big lie [“Große Lüge“] than a small one, because “they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

Is this what the GOP is reduced to now? It seems unlikely that three prominent conservative figures could coincidentally make the same colossal mistake within a short period of time.

Or – and here is the still more sinister idea – is this an implication that 9/11 was not in fact a terrorist attack? The conspiracy theories have been flying since about 9/12/2001, suggesting that it was an inside job of some kind. Could it be that a big reveal is on the way, and certain out-of-power figures are going to become the fall guys for it?

Giuliani surprised a few people by announcing that he would not run for any office in 2010. Is he intentionally distancing himself? Will he storm back into the 2012 field like a knight in shining armor to save his party?

Something a little odd is afoot.

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In a 1993 essay, author Michael Crichton wrote, ” […] along with many other American industries, the American media produce a product of very poor quality. Its information is not reliable, it has too much chrome and glitz, its doors rattle, it breaks down almost immediately, and it’s sold without warranty. It’s flashy but it’s basically junk.”

All too often, legitimately newsworthy events go unnoticed, especially if they happen during (for example) the third or fourth day of coverage after the death of a famous notorious pop culture icon. I’m not saying that Michael Jackson’s passing was not news, nor that it was not tragic, but I believe that even he would have been embarrassed by the sheer quantity of glitz and glamour that was troweled onto his grave by the mass media.

Here are a few items which I believe went sorely under-reported during 2009:

1. Possible cure for MS (multiple sclerosis)

I think we can probably hazard a guess as to why this one didn’t make the news; major pharmaceutical companies make a great deal of money from the drugs used to treat MS – approximately $25,000 per patient per year.

2. Northeast Passage opened

The continuing thaw in Arctic sea ice has opened the northeast passage for trade; while this has some positive implications for international business, one can only imagine that Moscow is not thrilled with a commercial shipping route running so close to some of its main oil and gas fields. On top of that, the new drilling opportunities being created by the vanishing ice cap are being fought over quite fiercely already, and this can only intensify – leading, in all likelihood, to further destruction of said ice cap.

3. US Patent Application 20090010962 – Genetically Engineered Swine Influenza Virus and Uses Thereof

This might be totally benign, but one has to wonder exactly what the deal is.

Got any more? Drop me a comment and let me know!

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I know that the use of language in today’s mass media is geared toward a fifth-grade (or thereabouts) comprehension level. Surely, though, the folks we elect to serve in the highest offices should be at least a little smarter than a fifth grader. Perhaps we should have Jeff Foxworthy come and test the entire lot of our nation’s politicians for actual fitness to serve.

Jeff Foxworthy
Our nation’s savior?

Allow me to illuminate a few things for all of you in national politics.

1. Bush was not a Nazi. Obama is not a socialist. Labels of ‘fascist’ (which few of you appear able to spell) and ‘communist’ are similarly inapplicable to either of them – though it is inordinately amusing to hear words like these applied to two men of quite different ideology. Less amusingly, I believe anyone who has suffered under the rule of such regimes as those of Hitler and Stalin would be rather offended to hear the comparatively trivial measures taken by these Presidents compared to the savagery they were forced to submit to.

Enough name-calling. If you have an issue with a President’s policies, come up with a reasonable alternative and we can all have a civilized debate. If you can’t do that, then keep your mouth shut.

2. Stop talking about whether there is too much God or too little God in the running of the country. Both of these are meaningless. The country was founded in part to ESCAPE the notion of any kind of state endorsement of religion. I have no problem with people worshipping according to their beliefs and legislating according to their values, but don’t use confuse the two and use religion to justify your political acts. In a nation whose founders specifically tried to avoid mixing religion into the law, such actions are hypocritical and offensive.

3. Related to the above: if you’re a bigot, just man up and be a bigot. If you have a problem with blacks, or Muslims, or the poor, or women, or gays, or conservatives, or any other group, just say so. Don’t get into the “un-American” line of bullshit. They’re just as American as you are. They love freedom just as much as you do. (Not that you even know what ‘freedom’ means, if you’re trying to deny it to anybody else.) Last but by no means least: any right which you would claim for yourself, you should also accord to them, whether it’s specifically spelled out in the Constitution or not.

4. Keep your promises. Don’t tell the public one thing and then do another, unless you also give us a damn good reason for the change. Don’t tell one group something and another group the opposite. We live in the Internet age, and we WILL find out. When it happens, enjoy your retirement money. We won’t vote for you to keep darkening our doorsteps.

5. When you watched movies as a youngster, remember how you cheered when the schoolyard bully got his comeuppance. Look at America’s standing in the international community around, say, 2006-7. If elementary school parable is indeed the limit of your understanding, maybe it can at least be allowed to guide foreign policy in years to come.

6. The national media have provided you with a means of understanding whether you are acting logically – whether you identify with the right or left. His name is Jon Stewart. If your name is mentioned on his show more than twice in any given month, you might wish to take a look at your priorities. Jon Stewart, you see, IS smarter than a fifth grader.

7. Perhaps above all, remember this quote from former President Harry Truman – another individual who was smarter than a fifth grader:

“Don’t piss in the soup, boys – we’ve all got to eat.”

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