Thursday, November 19, 2015

Matt Bevin's Strange Way of Saying His Family Is Off Limits For Political Cartoons

Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin has been aligned with other Republican governors in saying he will do what he can to keep Syrian refugees out of the state.  In both this election and his previous run for Senate, Matt Bevin played up his large family which includes four children he adopted from Ethiopia.

With that in mind, Lexington Herald-Leader cartoonist Joel Pett published the cartoon to the right.   It shows Bevin shaking, hiding under his desk with a map of Syria and news of Paris on the floor, and an aide holding up a picture of one of his kids saying "Sir, they're not terrorists..., they're your own adopted kids."  The cartoon's intent is, of course, an attack on Bevin's blanket fear of Syrian immigrants, who like his own adopted kids, are simply hoping for a better life in the United States.

Pett has been criticized, and I think rightfully so, for mentioning Bevin's kids in this manner in the cartoon.   Perhaps there were more tasteful ways he could have handled the family comparison, but this wasn't it.

Had I been Matt Bevin, I would have taken the high road and told Pett that it was tasteless to include mentions of his family in the cartoon, and that I hoped the Lexington Herald Leader would raise the bar in their political criticism and moved on.

So what did Bevin do?  He posted this on Facebook:
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Indeed, today, the Lexington Herald-Leader chose to articulate with great clarity the deplorably racist ideology of "cartoonist" Joel Pett. Shame on Mr. Pett for his deplorable attack on my children and shame on the editorial controls that approved this overt racism. 
Let me be crystal clear, the tone of racial intolerance being struck by the Herald-Leader has no place in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and will not be tolerated by our administration.
There are two ways to look at this statement.   The first is that Bevin decided to respond to the Herald-Leader using Bevin's family to score a cheap political point by using his family to score a cheap political point. The second is that Bevin is not bright enough to understand that the point of the cartoon was not the literal meaning of the words at the bottom of the cartoon.  

I suspect it's the first.   It's a classic GOP move to pivot from what actually is and instead create your own reality.  Where exactly is the "racist ideology", "overt racism", and "racial intolerance" of Joel Pett and the Herald-Leader in this cartoon?  Where is the "attack on (Bevin's) children?"   There isn't any.  But it's enough to simply suggest it.  Bevin's supporters aren't going to dig too deeply.  Indeed, the GOP's political echo chamber and media attack machine is already reshaping the reality of this story, with Red State's Eric Erickson misrepresenting the cartoon as comparing Matt Bevin's kids to terrorists, and a Washington Times headline reading, "Lexington, KY newspaper cartoonist hurls racist mockery at Gov.-elect Matt Bevin."  

So what about Bevin's accusations?  Is Joel Pett a racist?  A quick search of prior cartoons reveals the deep racism of his work as shown here:

Out of curiosity about the perception of the Bevin cartoon, I showed it to my teenage daughter. She was able to grasp that it was an attack on Bevin's hypocrisy at rejecting Syrians in need, and not a statement that the cartoonist views Bevin's children as terrorists. I would have to guess that Bevin's older kids probably get it too. And Bevin, his advisers, Erick Erickson, and the numerous pundits who will come out of the woodwork tonight and tomorrow certainly do as well  

With that in mind, what are we to make of a man who expresses his anger at his family being used in an editorial cartoon by falsely claiming its an attack on them? In trying to twist the reality of the cartoon to make his family (and by extension, Bevin) look like the intended target of the cartoon, it appears that Bevin is saying to the world that newspapers shouldn't be using his family as political pawns.  

That's his job.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Gun Laws, Gun Nuts, and Gun Myths. Stop the Gunsanity.

Comic from
I am tired of the paranoiacs who are convinced every conversation about gun violence is an indication that the government is going to beat down your doors to get the weapons that have become your security blanket. You are being sold a line of bullshit by the NRA because they want to sell you more guns and ammo. The NRA drives conversations on guns. They draft and create laws that absolve gun makers and dealers from responsibility, even the protections that you have under the Constitution for just about every industry but guns.
The gun lobby sells us the myth that in mass shootings, good guys with guns will come to the rescue, because occasionally it does happen. But in many of these tragedies, the end comes with the killer putting a bullet in himself, or someone WITHOUT A GUN tackling, disarming, and/or talking down the killer. It may be fun to pretend that you're some badass combination of Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, and Liam Neeson if you were confronted with a situation like this, but think about it realistically. If you're out with family and friends and bullets start flying, is your first instinct going to be to reach for your weapon, find the shooter, and shoot him before he shoots you or anyone else, with the risk that there may be multiple shooters or law enforcement who think YOU are in on the shooting? Or are you going to get out yourself and your family out of harms way? And if you do shoot, do you think your nerves, adrenaline, and fear are going to suddenly combine so that you're an excellent shot able to hit only the person firing and not injure anyone else?
I'm tired of the paranoia, fear, and outright statistically nonsensical idea that the fact you own a gun and know who to use it well turns you into some sort of mythical movie Rambo "good guy with a gun", and that anyone proposing laws that make it harder to get a gun, certain guns, certain types of ammo, or simply just to give law enforcement more tools to track down those who use and sell guns illegally is the government coming to you like Hitler in the middle of the night.
If you like to target shoot, great. So do I. If you like to hunt, great. I couldn't do it, but I understand it. If you want a gun to protect yourself, awesome. I hope you're well trained and thoughtful enough not to have your ownership end in tragedy if confronted with a possibly threatening situation, and let me know before my child spends time there. 
Let's be clear.  I don't want your guns. Obama doesn't want your guns. What I want to see is common sense laws and law enforcement that helps reduce the amount of violence in this world. And I'd love to see the empty headed rhetoric and fear that surrounds gun ownership challenged with facts and common sense.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What's So Christian About Peace, Love, And Understanding

We keep hearing from GOP candidates about how the Christian faith is under attack in America.   I just have some questions.

  • What's Christian about attacking people for their place of birth?
  • What's Christian about not helping people who are less fortunate than you?
  • What's Christian about seeking unlimited wealth for yourself while not caring about the financial health of others?
  • What's Christian about editing Planned Parenthood videos to portray something different than reality? 
  • What's Christian about making up a completely fictional account of those videos?
  • What's Christian about misrepresenting the history of this country and our founding fathers?
  • What's Christian about misrepresenting the content of the Constitution or the principles it was actually founded on?  
  • What's Christian about continually attacking people of other religions, colors, or creed?
  • What's Christian about cherry picking bible verses to justify your hate?
  • What's Christian about judging other people while ignoring your own sins?   
  • What's Christian about mocking efforts for peace and working for war?
  • What's Christian about unbridled defense of gun lust and the Second Amendment?  
  • What's Christian about lying and misrepresenting many facets of sound science to justify destroying the planet or allowing children to get preventable disease?   
It seems quite clear that if Christianity is under attack, it's not by the culture or the people that evangelical conservatives are complaining about, but by their own hypocrisy.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Faith, Kim Davis, The VP, and Me

I woke up at 5:15 today with my head a mash of last night's lousy football game, too little sleep, and thoughts of the day ahead. A friend had said everyone should watch the Colbert interview with Biden, so I decided to pull up the show on the DVR and take a look.
Hearing Joe Biden talk of his son's strength and grace, even in dying, was heartbreaking and brought tears to my eyes, and made me think of my daughter who I'd be waking up in only a few minute for school. Then Colbert shifted the talk to faith and how it has helped him and switches started to turn on in my sleepy brain.
Biden talked about the Catholic Mass and how it made him feel "alone", and I instantly knew what he meant. The most moving moments for me when I went to mass were those in which the church was quiet and in a room of a few hundred people I felt present with my thoughts, worries, hopes, and concerns inside the church. I was alone in a good way.
As I wiped away tears and turned off the interview to go wake up my daughter, the final pieces began to fall into place about what truly bothered me about the fiasco involving Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis and her refusal to issue gay marriage licenses.
Joe Biden framed the incredible sorrow he's known in his life by pointing out that there are others suffering equally or greater than he has. "I feel self-conscious. The loss is serious and it's consequential, but there are so many other people going through this." It is clear that Joe Biden's faith is one in which he seeks solace and comfort for himself, but also one in which he looks for ways to be a better person and have true empathy for others.
Then I look at Kim Davis and her supporters, who include not just politicians, but alleged spiritual leaders like Franklin Graham. To them, the most important message of their faith seems to be the desire to diminish and demonize a population of people. Jesus' message of love, charity, and empathy for others is turned into an exclusive club in which a certain set of people are members for life, and others who are different are viewed as the enemy, who deserve no empathy, compassion, or thought beyond how their happiness can be denied.
From my own Catholic upbringing I came away with the following thoughts. I will not claim them to be right, or having sound theological basis, but they make sense to me.
Jesus was made man to show us how to be better people on this earth. His message included nothing about attacking gay people, or showing them "love" by calling out how much more full of sin they were than you. He never once discussed the issue of gay marriage or how it was a priority for Christians to focus on over charity, love, compassion, or empathy.
Sin is not a cherry picked list of infractions from the Bible, but rather the way in which we fail to be decent people. If we hurt ourselves or others, we have sinned. Claiming you are "saved" is not a license to judge or condemn others for their sins. Most everyone is suffering and failing themselves and each other in ways big and small everyday. Our goal should be to be kind and understand where they are coming from in THEIR eyes, not view them through our own narrow lens and find a few Bible passages that allow us to dismiss them because they are different.
Perhaps Jesus himself said it best in John 13:34-35. "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Rowan County Hillbillies Theme AKA The Ballad of Kim Davis (With apologies to Flatt and Scruggs)

Listen to a story about a woman named Kim
Simple county clerk with a brain that's kinda dim
And then one day SCOTUS made a marriage rule
And out came the bigotry of this bumbling fool

The Liberty Counsel said Kim'd be a millionaire
Just don't change your dress or cut that stringy hair
They said "county jail is the place you oughta be."
You'll be martyred that day and then we'll make our plea
(For donations that is.   Poster girl's behind bars.) 

Well now it's time to say goodbye to Kim and all her kin
Who impose their faith on others while ignoring their own sin.
You're invited back again, Cruz and Huckabee
But it's doubtful that you'll make it past the pri-mar-y.  
Y'all go away now, ya hear!   

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Kim Davis and Conservative Propaganda

In the wake of the Kim Davis ruling, the same curious phenomenon has occurred that occurs during any major news event that involves a divisive right vs. left issue.
What amazes me is how quickly the erroneous or semi-factual talking points quickly enter the discussion, occurring with such frequency that is apparent that they're coming from the same popular source and/or are being reinforced by other sources.
This is how propaganda works. It only stops working when people learn how to validate and verify the information they're given with actual facts.
Kim Davis was jailed by the son of Jim Bunning, a far right Republican. David Bunning was appointed by George W Bush, a Republican. David Bunning chose the harshest punishment possible for Ms Davis, no doubt for a reason. Kim Davis' rights were not violated, she violated the rights of others. First amendment protections are not absolute for any number of reasons.
If you watch Fox News, get your facts from friends, or talk radio, stop. You're being misled and taught things that are propaganda, not factual or historical. Don't echo someone else's talking points without validating them. Learn facts by reading direct sources and studying.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Welfare Reality

I kill time at a McDonald's once a week as I wait for my daughter at practice. Her practice is in an economically depressed end of town, and there is an eclectic mix of people that come in.


As I'm sitting trying to write my masterpiece (a complex fart joke involving Donald Trump and Sean Hannity), I hear two women loudly talking about the woman's custody situation.


"You gots custody?"


"Yeah, but I can't get no child support from him."


"You got food stamps? They help me."


"Yeah, and medicaid, but still."

I could see the woman sitting across from me staring at the two women as though they were lower than dirt. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't making my own judgments.


"I tell you what, it's tough. Even when you're working."


"Tell me about it."


"And I work two jobs."


"Me too."


And then I realized both women were wearing a McDonald's uniforms. One working. One leaving.


"And they raise your wage and it seems like everything goes up at the same exact time."


Two women, working two jobs. Most likely putting more real effort and work time than people getting paid many more times what they are. Certainly working less flexible schedules with no vacation time, minimal benefits, and little room for advancement. And neither job pays them enough to afford health insurance or to eat, or offers them anything in the way of security.


This is the world we're living in. This is the world where "Christian" politicians cozy up to the wealthy and complain about the lazy people who would rather live on the public dollar than work. In the meantime, the reality is far different.


America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, not the land of 60 hours of McJobs. It's time we stopped pretending that unmitigated greed is somehow benefitting America. It's not what this country was built on, and it's not how we rose to be number one.


So next time you're rolling your eyes at someone on public assistance, realize that they're most likely not sitting at home twirling their thumbs and watching reruns of Maury. They're trying to get by just like you.

Donald Trump, Megyn Kelly, and Frankenstein's Blowhard

While I think Trump's comments about women are and always have been gross and disgusting, and no woman deserves them, it's tough to feel much sympathy for Fox News or Megyn Kelly over his reaction to their line of questioning at the first GOP debate.

Trump is Fox's Frankenstein monster, pieced together with their overt and dog whistle racism, xenophobia, sexism, anger, and blowhard belief in financial success (real or imagined) being the only measure of one's worth. Trump is the representation of Fox and their viewers' id taken to its extreme (although missing the religious piece). Megyn Kelly has been a knowing part of this for years, and she and her fellow Fox reporters have created an environment in which half truths are okay, bigotry is okay, sexism is okay, greed is okay, and anger is more important than rational thought.

So it's impossible to distance Trump's continual glee in being as terrible as possible from the political and social environment that Fox News (and Megyn Kelly as one of its stars) has created. No woman deserves to be treated like Donald Trump treats them. But one question at a debate doesn't mean that Kelly hasn't been complicit in creating the idea that Trump's behavior is okay.

Fox asked the question addressing sexism of the most outspoken sexist jackass in the room to deflect attention away from the sexism of the other "real" candidates. And of course, they hoped to elicit a bombshell Trumpism in response. They got what they wanted. The fact that the debate audience had a favorable response to the garbage Trump had said (and a negative response to Kelly's question) was the only thing that appears to have caught them off guard. In true Fox fashion, rather than risk alienating an audience by pointing out the uncomfortable truth of Trump's awfulness, Roger Ailes and the Fox News team have decided to start kissing Trump's ass in public.

Donald Trump is the candidate the GOP and Fox News deserves. Here's hoping the villagers drive them out of town with pitchforks, fire, and votes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Black Lives Matter


A simple phrase. One that should go without saying. And yet, it needs to be said.

"But all lives matter!" you say. And you're right. But nobody needs to be told that about you and me. When cops stop us, they treat us like our lives matter. They don't make assumptions based on our skin and the neighborhood we're in, the car we're driving, or the outfit we're wearing. Chances are they didn't stop us first and look for a reason for the ticket second. And if we complain, they'll probably suck it up, maybe give us some lip back, and probably give us a ticket. But it's doubtful we'll wind up face down on the shoulder of the road.

"All lives matter!" But if a cop rolled up to a park with the knowledge that a young teenage me had a pistol in my hand, and was told that it was believed to be fake, would he pull up within feet of me and gun me down? We've seen multiple instances of young white men being gently handled after mass shootings, so it's tough to imagine a target on our backs in the situation above.

"All lives matter!" But when was the last time you got out of the way of a cop only to have him stop you for not signalling to change lanes? In 44 years I've watched numerous cops change lanes without signalling and seen them watch others do the same thing. I've probably even done it myself a time or two in front of a cop. I've never heard anyone stopped for it. And it's doubtful that if they smarted off they'd wind up in jail, much less swinging from a jail cell dead.

"All lives matter!" I have had one ticket in my life. I questioned why the cop stopped me. I got out of the car and walked back to look at his radar gun. He did not get angry. He did not threaten me. He sure as hell didn't decide to shoot me in the head when I unclicked my seatbelt to do so.

"All lives matter!" But chances are that undercover cops won't gun me down in a case of mistaken identity because I'm similar to the person they were looking for, or be able to blame me in the official investigation and suffer minimal consequences if they did.

Yes, all lives matter. But simply because of the color of my skin, police and government officials don't seem to need a reminder that my life matters. Tamir Rice, Sam Debose, Sandra Bland, Prince Jones Jr. Clifford Lewis Jr., Freddie Gray Jr., Eric Garner, and countless other people of color who are killed, injured, or treated unjustly because of the color of their skin are the reasons why #BlackLivesMatter is a rallying cry and will be until justice begins to be served.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Don't Talk Back To Cops?

It only took me three Twitter posts to find someone who watched the Sandra Bland video and concluded that if only she hadn't talked back, she'd have been fine.

Having watched a portion of the video, I see a person angry because she was stopped and doesn't understand why. It's not unreasonable to assume that she's concerned she's been stopped simply for "driving while black." Talk to any African-American person of any class or stature and it's almost certain they will have been stopped by cops or know someone who has been stopped for reasons that are never made clear.

"Don't talk back," we hear. I'm as white as this webpage and I once made the mistake of questioning an officer who stopped me. He wrote me a ticket and then when my car wouldn't start after the stop, left me in a deserted rural road at 1 AM to wait for my parents. He was kind enough to call them and scare the crap out of them for me before driving off.

"Don't talk back and don't get angry." My question is "why?" The police are paid by us to serve us. If they've done something that pissed us off, especially something undeserved, why do they get a pass from questions or some low level anger? It's not like cops are the only ones that have to take a bit of grief. If you walk into a bank, Walmart, or sit and listen in to any customer service line, you're going to hear customers talking with more anger and venom than Sandra Bland. And their anger is directed to people paid far less than most cops. If those employees react negatively, they're often fired, usually immediately.

The cop in this video is asked legitimate questions. It's obvious he feels no obligation to look at the stop from Sandra Bland's point of view, or to respond in a professional manner to her. Instead of working to diffuse the situation, he escalates it unprofessionally. Why? Because he's pissed.

Cops have a hard job to do and often take undeserved grief, but they're far from alone in that. Just ask any teacher. We shouldn't be afraid to demand that cops maintain a level of professionalism and courtesy even if the person they're dealing with isn't. No angry discussion should end with a cop starting a physical altercation. And we shouldn't be afraid to point this out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top Ten Ashley Madison Excuses

Here are the top ten excuses given by men and women whose use of Ashley Madison has been exposed in the latest hack.  

10.   I was trying to find Rupert Holmes to tell him how much I love his work.
  9.   Remember that time Internet Explorer was acting up?  
  8.   You hit one wrong key in Windows 8, and boom, it's signing you up for something you don't want.
  7.   I thought it was just a phony commercial they played on Howard Stern's Sirius show, but I had to be sure.  
  6.   I was trying to cast a vote for the woman I thought should be on the $10 bill.   Turns out I was actually thinking of Dolley Madison.  
  5.   I was trying to find you a birthday gift. Vera Wang?  Vera Bradley? Ashley Madison?  These things all sound very much alike.
  4.   Man, what are the odds that one of those Target credit card hackers looks exactly like me.   It's uncanny.    
  3.    Wow, I thought Ashley Madison was one of those overseas TV kids that you've always talked about adopting.  I need to dispute those charges right now.  
  2.    Do you know how hard it is to get Quaaludes these days, Camille?  
  1.    I was trying to get into the character of Batman, and Batman does self-destructive things.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Telling It Like It Is

This week a few Facebook Friends (just like your real friends, only scarier) posted videos and commentary about the recent shooting in Chattanooga and indicating the writer or speaker was "telling it like it is".

These videos and posts were lengthy screeds on how the shooter was a member of radical Islam and never should have been in the country. And of course, we should deport or block all people who are Muslim (or at least a member of "Radical" Islam). Most troubling was seeing a post like this by alleged Christian, Franklin Graham, which was followed by thousands of posts in agreement, including many with vile sentiments about the faith, its people, and the country's leaders.

Truthfully, we don't know yet why this young man did what he did yet, and it's not clear if "Radical Islam" is the real reason, or this mass shooting's version of video games, Stephen King novels, Satan, or other reasons that are pointed to for opening fire with guns and killing multiple people. Easy finger-pointing at his faith doesn't explain why so many who knew him seem puzzled and at a loss to explain why he did it. Perhaps the real reason was that he was disturbed, alone, or angry at something, and he found a reason to justify and act out on it.

The real "telling it like it is" with thought pieces and videos attacking Islam is the racism and hate buried within. They paint the faith and its people with broadbrush. They also never make it clear how you identify "radical" Islam in people who aren't flying an ISIS banner over their house. There are a few million members of the Islamic faith in the US, and many more who aren't, but are assumed to be in the eyes of people who "tell it like it is". How do we know which ones will snap, and which ones are "good"? I suspect the answer among this crowd is that we don't, and we should deport them all.

But if we're going to start deporting everyone who puts good Christian citizens in harms way, perhaps we better start looking at the statistics behind the mass shootings. Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and Dylann Roof were all young white males. Should we deport all of them as well? Certainly there is a long history of racism and hatred of the US Government in the South. Perhaps we should deport and close our borders to all white Christian people with ancestors tied to the southern states prior to 1965 after Dylann Roof's actions in Charleston. Can we include Kid Rock and Ted Nugent too?

And maybe we can start closing down all gun shops and manufacturers. After all, they're making the instruments of death that kill the large portion of people in homicides in this country. Yes, there may be many good gun owners in this country, but how do we tell the good gun people from Radical Assault Riflists?

People who "tell it like it is" often tell more about the speaker than the subject at hand. So please, Facebook friend, post away. You're making it that much easier to pare down my friends list.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates..."

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

- Anne Lamott
from Tumblr

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Vacation Bible Soldiers

When I was a kid, Vacation Bible School was an opportunity to get together with people you kind of knew from elementary school and gather together in a multipurpose room that smelled like deep fried baked goods covered in mildew to make cheap hand puppets, work blue ink ditto worksheets, iron broken crayons into fake stained glass windows, and sing songs like Jesus Loves Me and the Velvet Underground's Jesus.   Okay, just kidding about the last one.   But wouldn't that be cool?

So when we signed my daughter up for VBS a few years back, I was thinking she'd be experiencing the same thing, except maybe via iPad apps.   She was having it at the local presumptuously named "Christian Church" and several of her friends were attending.   Seemed innocuous.

But when I went to pick her up one day, I was in for a surprise.  The pews were rocking with kids marching as this played:

So many questions ran through my head as I sat there with my mouth wide open.   What the hell was this budget Leni Riefenstahl propaganda film being played for my kid?   Why did Jesus need camouflage if he was all powerful?  Were the aviators an homage to Top Gun?  Top Goyim, perhaps? Why was that South Park soldier kicking the crap out of Love of the World?  What was the "False Teaching" he was punching in the nads?  Creationism?   Were these guys wearing Member's Only jackets?   Wasn't the LL Cool J outfit out of style 20 years before this was made?   And for the love of all that's holy, Autotune?????????

I looked around for a parent to be as appalled as I was.   Nope.  They were clapping, punching, and singing along.

Years later those images are still burned in my head as I see VBS signs popping up all around town.  Maybe I'd been hallucinating.   So I did some googling.  And I turned up the video above, and the guidelines here.

"Hang on," you say.  "You realize this is just a symbolic fight against evil, right?"

And I say, "yes, but these are people who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old and was created in 7 days."

And look at that video.  From a group of people who is heavily pro-military, is it a coincidence these kids are wrapped in trappings of modern day war?   Do these KIDS get that it's supposed to be symbolic?  Hell, do the adults?

But while researching, I saw something else.   This song wasn't some corporate monstrosity created by a terrible Christian rock band for corporate Christ crusaders, but an actual gospel song.   In fact, strip away the awful "modern" sound, add a few good men, and this is what you get:

Hear the difference?  This version sounds driven by the Holy Spirit.   The first version sounds like it was brewed up in Satan's colon.

Hearing this got me to thinking about today's Christianity.   The Blind Boys version is a highly personal song, one in which it's clear the spirit is moved within the singer to fight not just evil externally, but more importantly, internally.   The Go Fish version is a group think singalong and video designed to point to evil as an external force.  

For the Franklin Grahams, Mike Huckabees, and Duggars of the world, Christianity is not a religion of self reflection and thought, in which one seeks to become a better person and create a better world by fighting against the evils within ourselves and that hurt others.  Instead it's a cheap and easy faith in which you excuse your own sins by finding someone who isn't like you to deflect blame on.   If you can convince people that the evil to be "fought" is some external minority group, it's much easier to get them to ignore the evil, the greed, and the hypocrisy within you and around you.  Even Autotune.

Now excuse me while I go load up my Nerf gun for the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

I Need A Vacation From Taking a Break

EVERYONE:  Have you seen the Walking Dead?  

ME:  Looks  depressing.

EVERYONE:  It's awesome, you have to give it a chance.   

ME:  (Subconsciously)  I have to give it a chance.    (Adds it to my Netflix queue.)  

EVERYONE:  How about Empire.   That show is crazy.  

ME:  No time.  

EVERYONE:  You have to make time. 

So I check.  Empire's not out there on demand, so I guess I will have to wait for streaming.  But wait, the show is only going to be available on Hulu, which I don't have.   Should I add it to my Roku with Amazon and Netflix?   How about those episodes of Community on Yahoo Screen, which I assume is accessible with my Roku.    Are they any good?  I haven't had time to look in Entertainment Weekly.   Let me download it on the Next Issue app.  

OOOH!   50 Most Innovative Companies.   Wish I worked there.   Better download that issue of Fast Company.   Right after I look at the Consumer Reports Auto Issue.    Wait, who is that on Rolling Stone?    Led Zeppelin?  New remasters?  I need to get those.  And add those 50 songs I downloaded last month to my iPod.    Let me make a note on my iPad.   Oh look, there's Goodreads.   That reminds me, I need to add the latest Stephen King book to my other...... holy crap, 325 books to read.    Better get cracking on that.   Let me open up my Kindle.   Page 6 of 520.   Wow.    Oh look, there's an awards show on.   Better live tweet that while I watch.   What's the agreed upon hashtag?  

Let me just find my twitter bookmark.   Oh, there's my blog.  The one I was going to update every day because I love writing so much.   I should probably get to that.  

Man, all of this leisure time is wearing me out.   Perhaps I should just go to bed.

Right after I download that magazine about stress relief.    

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Because You Know Sometimes Words Have a Meaning

I was six and standing in the tile center of a giant circular classroom.  I remember a commotion and I saw Jeff, a kid who wore velour shirts every day and had heavy eyes that looked like someone touched them up daily with eyeliner.   He shoved another kid into a desk and they started pushing and shoving each other.

Our teacher, Mrs. C, who seemed 80, but was probably in her mid 50s, ran over as quickly as her large frame could take her, and she separated the two, saying in her voice that sounded like she chain smoked two cartons a day, "what is going on here?"  

Jeff, with rage in his six year old goth eyes, looked at the other kid, pointed at him, and said "that kid called me a f**er."  

My already pale teacher seemed to go translucent and I heard a few gasps, and suddenly I felt chilled to the bone.  Finally the color came back into her face and she yanked Jeff out of the classroom in a way that would have had lawyers lining up to sue today.   He was going to the principal's office, presumably to be beaten to death with the thick oak paddle the principal was rumored to have, complete with half dollar size swiss cheese holes specifically designed to maximize speed and pain to the recipient.   Surely if we saw Jeff again, his ass would be hanging off of his bellybutton.   

At the tender age of six, I had never heard the F bomb in any context.   My parents were fluent in PG profanity, but the F word was never uttered.   Ever.   And certainly not in front of six-year-old me.  And the Yellow Webster's Elementary dictionaries we had didn't have a definition.  (Although you could find "ass" and "hell", so don't think I wasn't looking.)  I wasn't stupid enough to ask my parents what it meant, since it was clear from the usage, the anger of Jeff, and the oxygen that was sucked out of the room that the word was a BAD! word and not to be used.   

Which brings me to Kristi Capel, the Cleveland morning anchor who, at a loss for words to describe the music of Lady Gaga,  decided it was best to go with a racist term.  

Because of my hope and faith in humanity, I can accept that Capel's gaffe was unintentional and she had no idea what she was saying.

But does that let her off the hook?    

Ms. Capel didn't make up the word via random syllables, so she had to have heard it somewhere, and frequently enough for it to pull it out of her brain to use to describe Gaga's music.    Is it okay that she a) never connected the word with any sort of context in the times she heard it, b) never realized it was inappropriate, and c) never bothered to look up a word that she didn't know the meaning of it?  

A television news person should be perceptive, curious, and conscious of the world around her.   While it is easy to believe from Capel's humongous gaffe that she had no idea what she said, that's precisely why her employer should consider finding someone else to take her place.

And maybe she can take that time to brush up her reporter skills and find out whatever happened to Jeff, because I'm pretty sure he was paddled to death.    

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oklahoma Lawmakers Introduce Proposal for New AP US HIstory Exam

Oklahoma lawmakers have introduced HB 1380 to address what they see as deficiencies in the current redesign of official AP US History test that many high school students take for college credit.  

Below is a draft of the proposed replacement AP US History Exam, drafted by a think tank that includes three evangelical ministers, two GOP speechwriters, a Koch brother (the cute one), and the president of the Ronald Reagan Fan Club, the Ron-ettes!  


The United States is:   

A.  A country founded mostly by wealthy European white males that based its laws on those of civilizations of the past, but was shrewd enough to create a flexible government that evolved over time.   Its history has involved many struggles for individual populations to achieve the same rights that these white males had from the beginning, and its rise to power in the early 20th century came from a collective effort in conjunction with government to build up industry and the earning power of the middle class.   While it has played an important role in many global conflicts and as a world power, that role is in danger of diminishing as the country has overplayed its military hand while ignoring the continually reduced earning power of its citizens.   

B.   A country built on a series of laws that protect individual freedoms (such as worship) that has seen itself evolve over time as it tries to address, sometimes with limited success, extending these protections to all citizens.  

C.  The country I live in.   

D.  Awesome

E.  The most greatest country in the universe, founded by God, and ordained with laws, based on Judeo-Christian beliefs.  It gives everyone the ability to be a billionaire CEO of a Fortune 500 company if they just work hard enough and aren't filthy drug taking welfare cheats, and has since it was created back sometime in the 1700s.   Oh, and Martin Luther King is a pretty great guy who would be a Republican today.   Just please don't name a school or street for him in my neighborhood.  


A = 1
B = 2
C = 3
D = 4
E = 5  

Add the score above to 0 (as learned in our AP Math course) to get your score.    If you have received a 3 or above, you have received college credit that can be enjoyed at Bob Jones and Liberty University.   


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mr. Wilhelmi, Mike Huckabee, and Why Science, Education, and Learning Matters

Among all of my many classes in grade school, Mr. Wilhelmi's 7th grade biology stood out, and not just because it's where we had sex ed.   Mr. Wilhelmi believed in bringing science to life, and his classroom was full of animals, pictures, and displays among the black lab tables where dead frogs, cow eyes, and worms would meet their ultimate fate.   He even had a real bathtub with a small alligator in it.  Have to imagine that Allstate might frown on that little liability these days.

Mr. Wilhelmi introduced me to the idea of science experiments and testing a hypothesis against a control to collect data that either supports or refutes your idea.  My experiment was one of those dumb ideas you come up with out of desperation (and a desire to do something simple).    I would test how much food mice would eat under normal room temperature versus a warmer environment (controlled with a highly advanced scientific tool called a heating pad).   Each day I would weigh out the amount of food the mice ate (from my carefully crafted food dish designed to keep food from being spread everywhere) and compare the two.   In those days before Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, I handwrote a large report complete with hand-drawn graphs, hypothesis, conclusion, and experiment methodology.

While the results of that experiment are lost in the fog of memory (I think heat made the mice eat more), the method of critical analysis behind it did not.   Mr. Wilhelmi, like countless English teachers I had, taught me to look critically at what I had done, looking for flaws in my analysis, flaws in my experiment, flaws in my conclusions.   It planted in me that in order to reinforce your thoughts and beliefs, you must first work to destroy them.  And you must be willing to admit that at any time an outside force (or rethinking) might blow everything you assumed out of the water.

Mr. Wilhelmi was much beloved by his students.  He respected us and he shared with us an infectious joy for learning, critical thinking, and self improvement.  And he taught us at a public school.

It is of Mr. Wilhelmi and my other many fine public school teachers I think of when I see the efforts among some politicians to continue to destroy public education and attack the science behind evolution, climate change, and any other facts that don't fit into the narratives they create.   These teachers taught us not just facts, but how to think critically.   By challenging us to step outside of our own preconceived notions, explore, and understand logic and reason, they created in us learners and thinkers.   And all of this happened in a rural suburb of Louisville, Kentucky.

I say this after watching Mike Huckabee get destroyed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show for Huckabee's false assertions about the coasts being "Bubbleville" who think they're "elite" because they are educated, but are really out of touch with the real experts, who apparently learned all they needed to know by building a '56 Plymouth from the ground up and going to Sunday services.  

I've often wondered if the people that embrace the views of people like Huckabee have ever stopped to critically analyze what he is saying.   Huckabee and others like him are attacking those who seek and attain higher education, arguing that those who are either willfully ignorant or ignorant through their circumstances are somehow wiser and more noble than those who are better educated.

In the America I grew up in, the goal was not to be CEO or as wealthy as possible, but to grow up better educated and better off than the generation before you.  If Huckabee truly believes higher education is bad and life is better off in the hands of a couple of "Bubbaville" guys who pull up to you in a pickup truck with a box of tools, I encourage him to entrust his medical care to Cletus and Jethro and their Stanley wrenches.    In the meantime, I'm going to continue to seek out those more educated and more dedicated to subjects than I am to become informed on them.

Your System Sucks

When my Xbox 360's power cord died, I decided to do some research on the next generation of videogame systems.   Xbox One vs. PS4.  Which one is better.    I found a couple of articles that gave some vague recommendations, but nothing conclusive.  So I decided to scroll down to the comments to see how people had weighed in.

"XBOX sucks, PS4 kicks butt."

"PS4 network is great if you like never being able to use it."  

"What are you talking about?  Xbox Live blows, it is down more than a broken elevator."
And those were the polite comments.   It dawned on me that these were the same things I saw when I was interested in buying the iPhone 6 but was looking at comments on Android phones.   

And the same comments I read whenever the local college rivalry fires up (which is 365 days a year).   

And the same comments regarding religious faiths or lack thereof.   

And the same comments on the candidates we support, political parties we endorse, and more.  
It got me to thinking.   If we can't discuss the pluses and minuses of the gadgets we use each day, how in the hell are we ever going to have civility in the issues that really matter?    

In this day and age in which we can comment, talk, and post about anything with some anonymity, we seem to be more interesting in "winning" then learning or understanding.   Instead of discussing our beliefs and viewpoints with honesty, facts, data, and humility, we simply resort to "Your System Sucks".     

It's enough to make a guy go back to his Atari.  

Which is still better than your Intellivision.   

Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: Pretty Ugly: A Novel

Pretty Ugly: A Novel
Pretty Ugly: A Novel by Kirker Butler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The debut novel of TV writer and producer, Kirker Butler (Family Guy, Cleveland Show, The Neighbors, Galavant) tackles the world of beauty pageants for children. It focuses on the Millers, a misfit family from the south, whose mom Miranda, has delusions of grandeur for her increasingly disinterested daughter, Bailey. Bailey has had a string of successes on the pageant circuit (which Butler humorously details throughout the novel with details about the decidedly adult prizes she has won, including the name and location of the pageant), but has become so frustrated with the demands placed on her that she is purposely gaining weight and not following the exercise routine her mother has laid out for her. Meanwhile, back at home, Miranda's husband Ray is trying to stave off their ever increasing debt and his own personal demons by working two jobs. One as a nurse at a hospital where he makes a hobby of acquiring and taking any free medication he can find (regardless of its prescribed use) and at a hospice, where he falls under the spell of Courtney, an underage granddaughter of a patient who has a devastating surprise for him. Miranda's mom Joan stays home with Miranda's two boys and homeschools them, while following the instructions of Jesus, who speaks to her directly.

Butler's TV legacy led me to believe he might go for the easy jokes at the expense of a world that most of us ridicule, but he actually turns these characters into real and likable people. While he doesn't go easy on mocking the rituals and destructive nature of these pageants, Kirker, a Kentucky native, nails the small town dreams and hardships of the people in the area.

I enjoyed Pretty Ugly greatly. It was not the madcap romp I expected, but instead pulls its humor mostly from the details and sharp observations Butler spreads throughout the book. Butler manages to take this group of misfits with some terrible misdeeds and make us care about what happens to all of them. Highly recommended.

(NOTE: I received a review ARC of the book from Netgalley.)

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