Tag Archives: religion

The Morning Grumpy – December 8th

8 Dec

All the news and views fit to consume during your “morning grumpy”.

 

America, F*CK YEAH!

1. The future of journalism is on the web. That may seem like an odd statement for someone who plies his trade for an outlet primarily known for its print product, but it’s not some dirty little secret. Print will always have a place, especially alternative weeklies that focus on feature reporting. But day-to-day transactional beat coverage? It will be web-based. Covering events and beats and reporting them the following day in a print product is a wasteful and expensive proposition. I’m roughly the 351,450th person to write this on a blog in the last year, so I’m not going to pretend this is some big revelation.

Print coverage of local events is expensive and lacks timeliness. Local broadcast television coverage is typically shallow and glib. Radio coverage is nearly non-existent, with the exception of local non-profit, public radio. Ah, wait, I sense a point coming!

Ten NBC-owned television stations across the nation will team with nonprofit news outlets in an attempt to beef up their enterprise and analytical reporting, the network announced Monday.

NBC affiliates in Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia will work with work with non-commercial outfits in those cities — KPCC public radio, the Chicago Reporter and WHYY public radio and television, respectively — while all of the network’s owned-and-operated stations will get early access to investigative reports from the independent, nonprofit newsroom Pro Publica.

Television outlets doing enterprise coverage? Wow, that would be refreshing around these parts, eh? Now imagine extending this idea to a traditional print daily. What if  The Buffalo News partnered with a local non-profit web outlet on beat coverage, enterprise projects, and multimedia stories? It would extend the newsroom, better inform the public, and create a better product. Seems like a natural fit.

The best online, non-profit journalism is found in San Diego.

We try to go beyond the press releases and press conferences to bring you the stories that our leaders and powerful don’t want to announce — the kind of stories that result in positive change, uncover vital information for San Diegans, and bring us together as a community. And we put perspective and analysis into the things they do announce. We don’t report with any right- or left-wing agenda. But we are inspired by passion to expose what is right and wrong, to drive reform and to spur solutions for the best of the community as a whole.

Damn, that sounds excellent! I want this to happen right here in Buffalo. It seems that an enterprising group of young reporters in this town might want to think about partnering up with some of the quality talent The Buffalo News has laid off in recent years and copy the San Diego model. I know I’d like expanded and timely coverage of local news events, dedicated fact checking, and “explainer” articles.  I’ll put some money on the table to make this happen, anyone else want in?

2. Want to buy a federal election? Let Mother Jones show you how!

3. “Tweet” from McSweeney’s. Caused a bit of introspection at Chez Smith last night…

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by brevity, over-connectedness, emotionally starving for attention, dragging themselves through virtual communities at 3 am, surrounded by stale pizza and neglected dreams, looking for angry meaning, any meaning…

4. Hey America, looking for a solution to the jobs crisis and a sputtering economy? Corporations have the answer for you!

Corporate America is sitting right on top of the solution to the nation’s employment crisis, according to a new report from a group of University of Massachusetts economists.

If America’s largest banks and non-financial companies would just loosen their death-grip on a chunk of the $3.6 trillion in cash they’re hoarding and move it into productive investments instead, the report estimates that about 19 million jobs would be created in the next three years, lowering the unemployment rate to under 5 percent.

In fact, according to the Federal Reserve (Table L.109, line 28), banks are sitting on $1.6 trillion in reserves — about 80 times the $20 billion they held in 2007.

Meanwhile, non-financial companies are keeping their profits liquid, rather than plowing them back into investments, to the tune of about $2 trillion.

Together, that amounts to almost a quarter of the U.S. gross domestic product.

Let’s get it together, fearless corporate barons. Spend some money, hire some people and get this fucking train moving.

5. I like the way Ron Paul looms.

Rep. Ron Paul rarely makes news, and his candidacy is frequently ignored by Beltway reporters. But headlines, his aides say, are overrated. In fact, the Texas Republican’s low-key autumn was strategic. As Paul’s competitors stumbled and sparred, he amassed a small fortune for his campaign and built a strong ground operation. And with January fast approaching, his team is ready to surprise the political world and sweep the Iowa caucuses.

While several GOP candidates have taken their turn at the front of the pack, Ron Paul and his ill-fitting suits have hung back, waiting to strike. He has a rabid base of supporters and the race will inevitably give him and them their moment once Newt Gingrich steps on his arrogant dick in the next month or two. While those rabid supporters are a blessing for Paul, they’re also a curse. One of the least appealing things about Paul is the glib assholes who scold America for not agreeing with them. If he can overcome the Jim Ostrowskis of the world and positions himself as the reasonable fallback/compromise/not-Mitt-Romney option, Ron Paul just might end up the nominee.

6. How many times can a Christian be “born again”? Good question.

Bishop Eddie Long, the Atlanta-area Baptist megachurch leader accused of sexual misconduct with several young men, announced on Sunday he is taking time off to focus on his family. His church, like many evangelical Christian churches, exhorts sinners to be “born again,” accepting Christ as their savior on the path to redemption. If a born-again Christian like Long has already been reborn, can he later become born again again?

It’s hard to say. Though more than one-third of U.S. Christians characterize themselves as “born-again,” the phrase isn’t clearly defined in the Bible.

Blow some coke, smoke some meth, sleep with a prostitute, sleep with young men, it’s cool. Just apologize, condemn others for doing the same, and get born again…again. No wonder Americans like this christianity thing so much.

Fact Of The Day: On this day in 1980, Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon. John was only 40 years old.

Quote Of The Day: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

Song Of The Day: “Beautiful Boy” – John Lennon

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]gmail.com

Politics, Religion and #Atheism

28 Jun

Last week in New York State, we watched as several State Senators considered the role of their personal faith while making a decision about public policy. Most notably Senator Mark Grisanti who often spoke of the conflict between his faith and his belief in equal rights under the law.

However, the issue isn’t just about marriage equality, it’s about what role faith should play in our government and public life.  Last week, I posted a video of John F. Kennedy explaining to a group of protestant ministers that his Catholic faith would not compromise his ability to create and support policy independent of the Vatican. Imagine that, a President having to inform the public that his faith would NOT be central to the discharge of his duties.

Fast forward to the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate that was broadcast on CNN earlier this month. This question was posed to the candidates by the debate moderator, John King.

Just what role does faith play in your political life? Are there decisions, certain issues where some might you just, let’s meet with my advisers, what does my gut say, and others where you might retreat and have a moment of private prayer?

The answers are immaterial, because each candidate has at different times interjected their personal faith into the public discourse in Congress, their statehouse or in their frequent media appearances. The Republican Party of 2011 is firmly rooted in the social conservative circles of evangelical churches, creationism, faith based initiatives, home schooling, and praying to the heavens for guidance on what to do with the budget deficit. Is this really the kind of country we wish to live in? Are you comfortable with a President who truly believes that the world was created just 3,000 years ago and believes beyond the shadow of a doubt that men rode on dinosaurs (if they even existed, that is). Because every single candidate on that stage believes those thing. Every. Single. One.

Do you have any concerns at all that those “Answers In Genesis” and faith teachings might not be the sturdiest foundation for a nation that includes tens of millions of people who don’t share those religious points of view?

After all, unless a candidate professes his faith loudly and proudly, he or she is not welcome inside the tent of the Republican Party. The Democratic Party also has strong roots in the faith community, however, it’s not central to the party platform. Aside from Rep. Pete Stark (D,CA), there isn’t one national level atheist Democrat in office.

Which begs the question, what if an atheist ran for President? Is it even possible? Can a man or woman who professes an absence of belief in a higher power even be considered for public office? If not, why not?

Would you vote for an atheist politician? Would you cast a vote for an atheist Mayor of Buffalo? An atheist County Executive? Member of Congress? President?

How important is the faith of a candidate to your final choice in the voting booth? Should someone’s faith be part of their decision making process in matters of public policy?

One for Williams

22 Oct

The right wing has its OUTRAGEOUS OUTRAGE of the day®.  It’s usually something picked off of Drudge and then a game of telephone blows it out of all proportion by the time it gets to the wingnut sites or talk radio.  The current outrageous outrage is NPR’s “firing” of Juan Williams.

Here’s what Williams said:

I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

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He went on, however:

“Wait a second though, wait, hold on, because if you said Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals, very obnoxious, you don’t say first and foremost, we got a problem with Christians. That’s crazy.”

The Daily Beast runs with the idea that Williams was fired because he said those words on Fox News.  NPR told Williams that his termination occurred because,

Ellen Weiss, NPR’s head of news, suggested that he “had made a bigoted statement,” which Williams denied. He said he asked her in the cell-phone discussion: “I don’t even get a chance to come in and we do this eyeball-to-eyeball, person-to-person, have a conversation? I’ve been here more than 10 years.”

Weiss’ response, according to Williams: “There’s nothing you can say that would change my mind. This decision has been made above me.”

So, so what?  Who cares?  NPR is free to hire and fire people as it sees fit.  Just like Fox News is free to pick Williams up for a new $2 million contract yesterday.  It doesn’t matter why NPR fired him, or under what circumstances or rationale.  It’s amazing what a weak grasp of the 1st Amendment the ignoranti have, crying out for Williams’ free speech!  (You don’t have a constitutional right to an NPR gig).

It’s suddenly become vogue to declare oneself as not being politically incorrect – Carl Paladino’s entire campaign is based on that trend.   That’s all well and good, and the government can’t force you to think one way or another.  But when you quite openly state that you hold a prejudice over someone because of the way they dress, because their religion or culture mandates it, ask yourself how it would go over if you criticized Hasidic Jews for their appearance, or the Amish, or any other culture that is out of the mainstream.   Does he reach for his wallet when he sees a Hasidim? Does he whip out his camera when he sees some Amish?  Does he fear molestation when he sees someone in a priest’s collar?  Does he [insert stereotype here] when he sees a [insert minority group here]?

Saying something bigoted, ignorant, or prejudiced is what ought to be socially unacceptable – not saying it and then attacking “political correctness”.  Frankly, we’re not even talking about “politics” in this case – we’re just talking about being a rational, thinking human being.

Much of what I’m seeing and hearing on Facebook or on the radio excoriates NPR for firing Williams for merely parroting what a lot of people think.  So, if a lot of people are prejudiced, it’s ok for you to be prejudiced, too?

Part of what the terrorists who want to kill civilians do is blend into the surroundings.  The last thing a terrorist would do is dress as if he were in downtown Peshawar in order to commit mass murder in the states.  So, the “fear” that Williams has is dumb, to boot.

Sometimes what becomes a firestorm goes beyond silly and into stupid territory.  Go ahead and “de-fund” NPR – an organization that does not receive any direct federal funding, and only sees federal money indirectly through grants, representing a whopping 1 – 3% of its total budget. It helps to listen to what NPR’s CEO says about it:

Q: Okay. What happened?

A: Let’s state a couple of facts. Juan is not an employee of NPR. He’s an independent contractor. He’s not NPR staff. He’s an NPR analyst. We have a contract with him for analyst opinions to provide news analysis. He is not a columnist or commentator. He also has an on-going relationship with Fox News. Mara Liasson is also on Fox News and is a full-time staffer. We accept that’s a whole other issue. However, we expect our journalists, whether they are news analysts or reporters to behave like journalists.

Q: So did Juan really get fired over just those Muslim comments? [He said he was uncomfortable with Muslims dressed in traditional garb on airplanes during a Fox News telecast yesterday.]

A: There have been several instances over the last couple of years where we have felt Juan has stepped over the line. He famously said last year something about Michelle Obama and Stokely Carmichael. [The quote on Fox News early last year: “Michelle Obama, you know, she’s got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going” and that she’ll be an “albatross” for President Obama.]. This isn’t a case of one strike and you’re out.

There you have it.  Williams wasn’t even an NPR employee.  Time to get ready for tomorrow’s Outrageous Outrage of the Day®.

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60 Minutes On the Park51 Project

27 Sep

Not many stories about Park51 include interviews with both Pamela Geller and Imam Rauf, but 60 Minutes’ does.  It’s well worth the almost 13 minutes.

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Rummy & Bush

18 May

It appears not to have been a very normal working relationship, and yes – the fact that Rumsfeld patronized Bush by adding old Testament quotes on the cover pages of military briefings bothers the hell out of me – not just for their irrelevance, but for the fact that Bush would have responded positively to it, and Rumsfeld was cynical about it.

O’Donnell pwns the petit Fascist Pat Buchanan

9 Apr

HT Balloon Juice

Opportunity Knocks, and So Does Nonsense

20 Feb

I’m home watching a sick kid and a vacationing kid. The doorbell rings.

Jehovah’s Witnesses. They start talking about Flight 3407 and grief and something. I stop them and told them I couldn’t stand by the door all day listening to nonsense because I have a sick kid. (Well, I was somewhat more polite than that). They dropped this off for me:

Religious tract or coupon for Aleve?

Religious tract or coupon for Aleve?

Please don’t use Flight 3407 to make a buck, and don’t use it to proselytize. KTHXBAI.

Another WNY Tragedy

15 Feb

The founder of Bridges TV – the channel that was founded in WNY to help counter the image of Muslims as violent terrorists – apparently beheaded his wife, Aasiyah Hassan. They were in the midst of divorce and custody proceedings, and the victim had filed for an apparently very needed restraining order.

Hassan wasn’t just murdered, she was beheaded. With that act, her husband didn’t just tragically cut her life short. He also did further damage to the reputation of regular, law-abiding Muslim Americans, providing more fodder for reactionary types who brand Islam as a religion of criminals and terrorists. A double-whammy of senseless tragedy.

Religion and Politics

23 Sep

Working last night, I spent time with one of my favorite customers.  For the sake of this discussion, we’ll call him Johnny McBornAgain.  Now, Johnny is by all accounts, an affable sort.  He’s chummy, witty, knowledgeable about all sorts of technical and geeky issues and dearly loves his wife and five kids.  He also has this image of a bacterial flagellum on the desktop of his computer:

Now, if you are familiar with the ongoing battle between creationists and evolution scientists, you’ll immediately identify that image as the proof used by creationists of what they call “irreducable complexity“.  In other words, something in the natural world that cannot be explained by the gradual natural selection of Darwinist evolutionary theory.  I’m not going to debate its veracity, it’s simply being used as a jumping off point for a discussion of religion and politics.

As we waited for a storage array to update its microcode and without being judgmental or acting like a condescending prig, I asked Johnny to explain to me how he came to believe in this “science” and eventually we came around to how it governs his worldview.  I was given some insight into a part of society into which I rarely gain visibility…fundamentalist evangelical christianity.

You see, Johnny is a “young earth creationist“.

Young Earth creationism (YEC) is the religious belief that Heaven, Earth, and life on Earth were created by a direct act of God dating between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Its adherents are those Christians and Jews who believe that God created the Earth in six 24-hour days, taking the Hebrew text of Genesis as a literal account. Some adherents believe that existing evidence in the natural world today supports a strict interpretation of scriptural creation as historical fact. Those adherents believe that the scientific evidence supporting evolution, geological uniformitarianism, or other theories which are at odds with a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account, is either flawed or misinterpreted.

As Johnny explains it, men and dinosaurs simultaneously occupied the earth and the rejection of this “science” or evidence to the contrary ofit being the actual record of what happened is due to the “elite” of this country being biased against religion.  I nodded along as I listened and I didn’t attempt to argue or counter his statements, he is a customer after all.  In essence, he has invested in what what is called the inerrancy of biblical text.  That is, the bible is without error as it is the word of God and attempts to disprove it are to be seen as attempts to disprove the existence of God.  Now, biblical inerrancy is much different from the theories of biblical infallibility which are core tenets of Roman Catholic and many Protestant faiths.

What goes along with such a belief system that promulgates a strict adherence to biblical text comes a certainty on all issues that is troubling to those of us invested in scientific theory, logic, reason, and critical thought.  It is what informs the worldview of members of Assemblies of God, Pentecostal Churches, and many other evangelical faith based organizations.  Biblical inerrancy leads to a belief that we are living in “end times” and that the end of the world is nigh and the end times will originate in the middle east.

The conflict between these two schools of thought is at the core of this Presidential election.

On one side of the campaign, we have the Republicans, John McCain and Sarah Palin.  Now, McCain has worn religion like a hairshirt for the better part of a decade as his party has moved farther to the right to capitalize on the growing fundamentalist movement.  When he won the party’s nomination, the fundamentalist wing of the party was nonplussed.  They liked Huckabee and to a much lesser extent, Mitt Romney.  McCain was seen as an old school Goldwater Republican who never invested much time into pandering to the fundamentalists and in fact, had never stated his adherence to biblical inerrancy.  He wasn’t one of them.  So, he brought Ms. Palin onto the ticket and all of a sudden, James Dobson and the other denizens of the far right hopped onboard with enthusiasm.  Why?  Was it Ms. Palin’s record as a small town Mayor and two years as Governor which amped them up?  No.  Perhaps it was her membership in the Assemblies of God church and her belief in all the things they hold as central to their world.  Ms. Palin, of course, has made no public statements since her nomination about her faith and her adherence to biblical inerrancy.  However, the right knows that in her, they have a friend in the White House.  Someone who will work to implement their vision and plan as national policy.  That is why JohnnyMcBornAgain in Buffalo, NY will proudly cast a vote for McCain and Palin in 2008.

On the other side of the campaign, we have the Democrats, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.  Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ and Joe Biden is an old school Roman Catholic.  UCC is widely panned in the evangelical community as a centrist/moderate church which is an offshoot of the reformist protestant movement which many see as a sullied version of Christianity.   To make matters worse for evangelicals, the UCC was the first major Christian deliberative body in the U.S. to make a statement of support for equal marriage rights for all people, regardless of gender.  That’s not small town values!  There are a hundred other reasons why those on the right do not support an Obama candidacy, but the primary reason is that he is not religious enough for their taste.

The core belief in biblical inerrancy and support for candidates who ascribe to that ideology is what has permeated the political discourse at a visceral level.  The inerrancy doctrine implies that those who believe in it are also inerrant.  Thus, when the media or those opposed to the candidate question them, they are seen as attack dogs, not those interested in debate or reason.

You see, there is no such thing as debate.  There is right and wrong, and not much ground in the middle.

It is what has fostered the right wing media machine to attack the establishment media and now informs the discussion amongst us on blogs, talk radio, and elsewhere.  It is why there seems to be a greater separation and anger in our politics that we haven’t seen before in America.  We have all bought into this argument on some level, whether we know it or not.

When I watch Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, or read the Huffington Post, listen to left wing radio, or read columnists with whom I generally agree, I am struck by their lack of understanding as to what is happening around them.  They are shocked and dismayed at the lack of intelligence in the American voter as they lap up plates of lies and disinformation.  They simply can’t believe that people would cast a vote based on personal narrative, personal identity and ideology over what is right for the collective of the country.  That “not blinking”, gut decisions, and adherence to core ideology which is completely incommensurate with knowledge or experience of an issue is something valued by the fundamental right.  Their shock about all of this demonstrates a disconnect from the wave of fundamentalism in this country.

They still believe in a world where religion is something private, something to keep to oneself, not something which governs every aspect of life.  They fondly remember John Kennedy standing before a group of ministers in 1960 and giving one of the most important speeches about religion and government in this nation’s history.  How politics and government is a fact based business and one’s faith should be left out of the equation.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe, a great office that must be neither humbled by making it the instrument of any religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding it — its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

If only we still lived in that America.

Making the Point

3 Jul

Some privileged scion of a Mississippi political family, Representative Chip Pickering (R) announced in August 2007 that he was not going to run for re-election. He wanted to spend more time with his family, he said. He’s all set to take a cush lobbying job when he leaves Congress at the end of the year.

Last week, he filed for divorce from his wife, with whom he has five children. I guess spending more time with the family is out of the question, now.

So, why do I bring this up? Why do I care about the personal life of an obscure and undistinguished Republican congressman?

Because he’s one of those self-righteous, moralistic imbeciles who believes that permitting gay marriage somehow harms the sanctity of the institution of marriage. He is against adoption by gay couples, because evidently a child being in an orphanage or some other institutional environment is healthier for that child than to be raised by a loving same-sex couple in a stable home. He does not think that other states should have to recognize same-sex marriages or unions performed in other states. While full faith & credit applies only to judgments, I wonder whether Mr. Pickering would have supported the rights of states not to recognize, e.g., interracial marriages back when some states were ok with them while others weren’t.

The hypocrisy, which is evident even to the most ignorant, is par for the course. There are so many politicians who proclaim their piety and traditionalism to the mountaintops. They quote from the Bible to support policies that oppress people who bother no one.

A gay marriage hurts no one. It doesn’t affect anyone else in the entire world. It will not bring a plague of locusts falling from the sky, and it won’t bring down the wrath of God, and it won’t make God cause terrorists to hijack planes and hurl them into buildings. A gay marriage won’t cause your heterosexual marriage to be cheapened. It won’t make your kids gay. It won’t hurt you in any way, shape, or form. A gay marriage doesn’t alter your political or religious beliefs any more than those beliefs alter the gay couple.

The fact that this self-righteous, pious defender of faith and family is getting divorced (I think the Bible has something to say about that, incidentally), is an actual, physical destruction of a family. It doesn’t get more direct than rending asunder a solemn oath and vow you take with your spouse and your God. It doesn’t get any worse than bringing a quiverfull of kids into the world, and then ripping the family in two.

When contacted about it, Pickering says it’s a painful, private matter and he doesn’t want to comment. No shit it’s painful. Ask your kids, Congressman. But for someone who so publicly assailed the private lives of people different from him, he should be ashamed.

If God will not be mocked, maybe it’s the hypocritical self-righteous Republican values-mongering divorcees who are doing the mocking.

Want to see the erosion of family values? Want to see the sancity and tradition of marriage be mocked and diminished? Look no further than Representative Chip Pickering.