Monday, November 26, 2012

"Click like and share if you..."

Taking a story from the news that is older than the expired yogurt at the back of your refrigerator, rewriting it with an over the top headline, and then passing it off as a new story is not journalism. To me, that is just as bad as Fox News. It is propaganda posing as news, for the sake of making money off an audience of unquestioning sheep. It is all about creating a sense of required and uninformed outrage over something that may or may not be something to be outraged about.

This isn't asking people what their opinion is on a topic for the sake of a greater discussion. This is telling people what to think and to then take the same little piece of "information" back to the hive to be spread on and on, for maximum profit and exposure.

There's a reason people write for small internet blogs like this one or websites that pretend to be news channels. Hint, often it isn't usually because they're talented writers who want to change the world or champion a political cause as some sort of independent torch carrier. Many of them (myself included) either could never cut it as real writer for any actual news site or media channel, or they're people who just want to vent. Some of the best blogs are the ones who do it for fun or self therapy, because they aren't trying to write for a large audience where they make money based of quantity, not quality.

Now if you want to call yourself a journalist, I expect that you'd be someone who'd report on a real story that you came across. Perhaps one that's still fresh and preferably you would actually interview people who were involved. Now let's say an oil well blows in Texas and you score 10 minutes with the well owner and get a scoop, that's journalism. If you find a problem in your community, investigate it and then report factually on it, that's journalism.

However, if you just take someone else's story and rehash it from your parent's basement in Michigan for a web site like or, that's not journalism. It's not journalism when you peddle it on multiple social media sites as some kind of breaking news when it's older than that crusty sock under your bed that your mom found next to your worn out copy of Hustler. It's not journalism when your primary reference is Wikipedia and you're just rewriting someone else's work with a new headline for maximum page traffic and a paycheck. Even if you're doing it for a "good cause", that's still not an excuse.

Do I get paid for writing these blogs? Yeah, I do. I get paid for page traffic by Google but these are my opinions, not something being passed off as facts or news items. I do not call myself a "journalist". Not now, not ever. Being a journalist, being a reporter, that requires finding original stories to cover. That's my two cents.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Teach us to care, and not to care

I am not a religious person. I really get annoyed when people feel the need to remind me repeatedly that because I don't go to their church that I am risking my eternal soul. Look, it is nice that you care but it really isn't any of your damn business what I or my kids believe, so long as it doesn't infringe upon your personal freedoms.

The same thing goes for many of the militant atheists I know. Seriously dude, give it a rest. You can't complain about aggressive tactics of religious nutjobs when you're just as obnoxious and condescending as they are. Does it really matter if someone believes in God or not? Do they try to shove it down your throat? No? Then shut the hell up. Organized religion, in my opinion, is for people who need some kind of structure for their lives. At some point, it got out of control and became a control mechanism and excuse for some of the most evil acts ever committed by mankind.

Is your neighbor knocking on your door with a Bible at 7am on a Sunday morning while you're still hung over from last night's sins? No? Then what does it matter? Is your coworker lecturing you because your cubicle doesn't have enough pieces of Jesus flair? No? Then why care if she has a 5 different crucifixes, including the one tattooed on her arm?

As much as I detest obnoxious religious people, I get annoyed by those who think their lack of a religion makes them somehow a better person and feel the need to belittle those who believe in some deity. What's wrong with it? If they aren't hurting anybody, that's their right. I happen to have been lucky enough to run across a group called "The Christian Left" and one of their largest fan groups is...atheists. They believe in Christ but they don't use that belief to belittle, judge and harass those who do not. In fact, they are despised by the fundamentalists and Pharisees of their religion, which makes them OK in my book.

When you're fighting a common enemy, I will never understand why it is useful to split your forces based off something as trivial as whether or not you believe in some divine being that none of us have ever seen. So long as that person has your back, why does it matter? Yet, I see progressive Christians, Jews and Muslims being attacked by those who share 99% of the same views, just because of that. Being pompous and pretending you have all of the answers because you do or do not belong to a certain religious group is asinine.

I have far more respect for someone who can honestly say "I don't have all of the answers, but this is what I believe, and here is why I believe it" than someone who says "I'm right, you're wrong, and if you disagree with me, you're not my friend." Here's an example, I'm a big Saints fan. I'm a recent convert so maybe I'm a little more fervent than others but I don't judge my friends who might happen to like a team like the Vikings or the Falcons. Sure, it is kind of hard to accept that someone would root for a team that isn't as cool as the Saints, but you also have to realize people have grown up with a team and experiences that have been different than your own.

That's the best analogy I could come up with, and I think it fits. Have a nice Sunday.

P.S. Bonus points to the name of the poem, and the author, from which the title of this article comes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The hypocrisy of the "pro-life" movement

I wrote a previous article "You Can't Be Pro-War And Pro-Life" in which we pointed out the philosophical hypocrisy of those who claim to be "Pro-Life". These are the people who protest abortions that occur here in the US and elsewhere, but then turn a blind eye to wars and excuse collateral casualties as unfortunate but part of the "cost of freedom". Some of these folks are also Christian fundamentalists that salivate at every Middle East conflict, thinking it'll be the one that fulfills their fantasies of Christ's return by triggering a series of events they believe that will bring that about.

For almost 40 years now, people have marched, protested, lobbied, prayed, bombed clinics, shot people, all in an effort which has been almost completely futile. Their "all or nothing" approach to demanding a ban on all abortions and even most forms of birth control has accomplished very little.

I've been asked "where do you stand on all of this?" many times. For starters, as you may know if you've been reading this blog for awhile, I grew up in a very conservative and religious family. On an almost yearly basis, we'd make the annual trip to Washington to march in the rally marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I went not because I was concerned with protesting, I was far more interested in getting out of the house. Also, the stop on the way home at the Golden Corral or Ryan's for all you can eat shrimp was worth the march in the freezing cold and the continual droning of fellow riders as they clutched their worn rosary beads. When you're 12 years old and you only get the chance to eat at a restaurant once or twice a year, you'd jump on that opportunity as well.

Even as a kid, I was puzzled at the inconsistency of many of these riders on the bus. These were folks who would descend upon Washington from all around the country every year to demand an end to abortion. Yet, on war or capital punishment, they were either oddly silent or even vocally supportive. Many of them even, my own family included, mocked the members of the congregation who participated in protesting war or the death penalty.

Personally, I don't have a problem with taking a life when it is justified. In my mind, this is usually reserved for defending myself and/or others. In the matter of capital punishment, I am actually opposed to it. Not for some sense of morality, but because I feel that a life sentence with hard labor is a far worse punishment than execution. When it comes to war, if it involves intervention for protecting civilians only, I'm OK with that.

Now back to abortion. I have some issues with it and I don't think it is a matter to be trivialized. I don't pretend to know I have all of the answers but too many people think they do. In the case of the riders I shared a bus with every January in my daylong quest for unlimited fried shrimp and soft-serve ice cream, they were firmly convinced that life begins when a sperm meets an egg. Not only that, but they were also convinced that at that point, an almighty being stamps that fertilized egg with a soul and a master plan as if it was another miraculous product headed down another one out of the hundreds of millions of reproductive systems at any given moment. I understand that in religion, you have to attach some kind of magical, mysterious explanation to something but to get more upset about a fertilized egg than a civilian casualty in a war, that is just asinine. Even more asinine is that these folks also have serious control issues with sexuality and an even worse detachment from logic and anything involving reality.

Catholics are supposed to adhere to the teachings of a papal document known as "Humanae Vitae" which states that any attempt to prohibit or interrupt the "generative process" is a sin. Basically, if you want to have sex, you had better be married and it can't be with any type of contraceptive measures. Sterilization? Also a sin, and they want people outside of their religion to toe this line as well.

So what you have here is a group of people who not only think abortion is a sin, but any attempt to prevent a pregnancy which could end in an abortion is also wrong. They also want to force this belief on you even though we see it as not only ridiculous but also as an attempt to control sexuality out of a combination of centuries of sexual repression and an apparent abhorrence of a natural instinct. Even if you were to accept the strange notion that things such as sterilization or condoms are somehow a sin, are they still not a lesser evil when compared to something like a late term abortion?

This is especially astounding when you take into consideration all the real evils they've looked the other way on or participated in over the last 2,000 years. The Crusades, The Inquisition, collaboration with the Nazis and the sex abuse scandals. These are examples of evils that they've been involved with but somehow a vasectomy or being on the pill is a sin? Gimme a fucking break!

While I couldn't care less if they personally want to forgo birth control and reproduce like rabbits, who are they to force their warped sense of morality upon others? Even more laughable is when they bitch about having their religion being "under attack" when they can't make their employees and the rest of the public live under their rule. Imagine their outcry if I had a business and refused to hire someone who had 8 children or refused to allow them to place their kids on the insurance because I was morally opposed to large families? They'd be lying up to protest and sue. It would be on every right-wing radio and TV show about how I was forcing my beliefs on them.

Yet, that is exactly what they're trying to do to allow their employees access to insurance coverage that includes birth control. Not only are they doing that, but they're also doing very little to convince people not to have an abortion. Instead of supporting sex education which is proven to reduce pregnancies, they fight to take it out of schools. Instead of supporting social and charitable programs to help single or poor mothers, they vote for politicians and policies that will gut the social safety nets, and ban abortion at the same time. They're determined to make people "live with the consequences of their actions" which is the exact opposite of what they believe Jesus died on the cross for in the first place.

This is just twisted, bizarre and downright evil. Then again, considering the history of the religion, why are we really surprised.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Secession vs Reality

To all of the whiny ass people who signed petitions to secede from the USA, I totally get where you're coming from. If I'd had my hopes built up by Fox News,, Breitbart and others for the last 4 years that the election of a particular president was just a fluke, I'd be in denial as well.

If I was one of the folks who had been convinced that a great wave of red state conservatism was going to coming roaring back and wash away decades of liberal progress and legislation, only to see a loss of seats in Congress and the Senate, you bet your ass I'd be furious as well. I would be even more pissed off if I was one of the billionaires who sunk a ton of money into Super PACs run by Karl Rove and got a big damn goose egg on my investments.

I get it though. If you only utilize the sources of "news" that caters to your antiquated worldview and tell you only what you want to hear, of course you'd be confused and angry when the candidate you were told would win by an electoral college landslide ends up losing by an electoral college blowout. I get it though, you're angry and nobody can fault you for being angry after being lied to.

Now, take a deep breath or two. While I know you're pissed, signing silly petitions isn't going to do anything. You're wasting your time and you're making those of us who have a deep and personal relationship with reality laugh. Those of us who are laughing at you aren't just Ivy League elitists, Castro District married gay couples, or any of the other stereotypes you're thinking of. Personally, I'm a gun-owning, gay-rights supporting Southern guy that likes to cuss and drink whiskey, and I (along with a bunch of conservatives) think you've lost your damn minds. Right now you're acting like the angry kid who keeps threatening to take your ball and go home, and it is getting more funny every time we point out that this is a football game and you have a basketball, and it is halfway flat. Even Robert E. Lee knew when he had lost fair and square. He didn't drag it out for years afterwards or bring it up every time he didn't get what he wanted.

I know your definition of "reality" is more in line with TV shows than actual real life, but listen to me on this. If you really want to secede from the Union, I have a proposal for you. Yes, there's legal precedents, history, reality and math that I could cite to dissuade you but I understand you're not at that point in the 12 steps now, or ever, to accept that but hear me out anyhow.

First of all, I know many of you are still pissed about the election but, you lost. The other Harvard-educated "elitist", the one you begrudgingly pretended to love? Yeah, he lost by almost 4 million votes in the popular vote, and over 100 votes in the Electoral College which means your guy lost. No, the Electoral College doesn't have a football team but here's a football analogy, your guy has had a worse year than Auburn. The other thing is, the whole demographic of the United States has changed slowly over the last couple of decades. I know that in some of the retirement communities and other places that are still on the equivalent of a 14.4k dialup connection to the real world that this hasn't sunk in but it did, whether you want to accept it or not. This will also be almost as hard to swallow as the fact that the states with the most signatures for secession are also the ones who receive the most federal assistance to stay financially solvent.

Now I see you want to either pack up your shit and leave or force the rest of us to leave or live under the rules of the new country that we've already unofficially named "Dumbfuckistan". The thing is, most of us like those things that come with being part of the United States of America. First of all, we got a pretty cool looking flag and a decent national anthem although "God Bless America" ain't bad either. I'm wondering which flag you'll fly and which anthem you'll play before NFL games? Oh wait, there aren't any NFL franchises outside of the US currently, or NASCAR for that matter.

We also have this halfway decent federal infrastructure (which would actually be better if you didn't whine about paying taxes so goddamn much), that sure beats the hell out of the horse and buggy system or needing 4 wheel drive to get from point A to point B, but if you like to do shit the hard way, don't let me stop you on that.

Next, I know you're all about "rugged individualism" and "personal responsibility", so once you've schlepped all of your family off to the Promised Land, you're on your own. Don't worry, I'm sure between those two mutually exclusive books "Atlas Shrugged" and the Bible that you've packed, you can figure out how to survive without that federal infrastructure. When Cousin Cletus starts that wildfire that spirals out of control after his meth lab explodes, get the bucket brigade going because there isn't gonna be any federal intervention to help you out.

Education? I'm sure you're thrilled at educating your kids on your own, free from the godless liberal teachers. However, I think it won't take much to put together those football fields and woodshops. If you find it necessary to put something together more complex than that, we'd like to help you out but we're already giving enough money to third world countries and we know how you feel about that whole "culture of dependency" matter.

I'm sure you think I'm being silly, petty and vindictive with this. That's my point, because that's exactly what you're doing. Now kindly shut the fuck up.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How the GOP lost 2012, and my generation

As I had previously guessed, the GOP circular firing squad is already going full blast. I've always tuned in to their radio and TV shows and it has been rather amusing since the night of the election outcome was announced to watch them tear into each other. Of course, they still blame people in the "liberal media" but they're also blaming their own for either being too moderate or too conservative, depending on who is pointing the fingers.

The plain and simple fact of the matter is that you cannot pander to the extremists, the bigots and the elitists of a party during the primaries and then expect to win in the general election. You cannot allow the attention whores who've had their 15 minutes of political fame to continue to hog the conversation with "well gawwlee shucks" soundbites when you're trying to explain yourself with math that you use to make yourself feel better as a Republican and even expect the folks with an education past the 10th grade to take you seriously. You absolutely cannot allow the anti-immigrant/militia/Neo-Nazi wing of a party to scream about how "traditional America" is going away or the need for a "racial holy war", then expect the largest growing demographic in the country to vote for you. It is so refreshing to see people who've been brainwashed for years pick up the remote, turn off Fox News and say "that's enough".

When you have the some of the most vocal members of your media call women who use birth control "sluts" or have old white men pretend to be experts on the subject of rape and reproduction, don't be surprised when the female demographic doesn't take kindly to it. The GOP has been playing to a base that seems to be comprised of angry white people with guns and/or golf carts, and the elite 1%. Yet they wonder why those votes are shrinking. They mock the slogan of "hope and change" but people want hope and like it or not, change is happening in the voter base. Just like their energy policies, they have relied for too long on a source that will be nearly gone within a couple decades.

The younger generation really doesn't care about gay marriage, abortion, immigration or most of the other dog whistle topics on Fox, Drudge, Limbaugh, etc. Those of us from Generation X and Y are far more likely to have friends from other ethnic groups, sexual preferences and we just don't get wound up on the social issue ideologies. So when politicians and pundits pander to the older base with talk of "traditional American values", it just turns us the fuck off.

It used to be that if you lived in a rural area, your sources of media were few and far between and you could control what your kids saw in order to continue their indoctrination into your beliefs. Trust me, I know because I was raised in that environment. We were taught that feminism was only for women who hated men and they enjoyed and rejoiced in every abortion that was performed. We were taught that gay people were basically disgusting, perverted Satan worshipers who would kidnap and torture kids for fun, especially those of us who used the computers at the library or had a library card(I'm only slightly exaggerating). Never mind that our own parish priest was soliciting sex from the local gay community and the two men that were considered "pillars of the community" were actually two of the worst child molesters I have ever had the misfortune of knowing.

Eventually, we all grew up and with the exception of a couple of my numerous siblings, we became moderate or even flaming liberal in our views. That experiment in the beginning of the information revolution failed, I dare say it even backfired.

Indoctrination, fear and hatred just doesn't work like it used to, not in the US anyhow. Yet, American conservatives demand that we go fight the same people who use the same tactics they used to use, for the same reason, for the same twisted version of a god they claim to love. Look at the ballot initiatives that have overturned decades of legislation against gay marriage and marijuana, despite the billions of dollars spent over decades to convince us that either/or were a gateway to heroin, AIDS and Hell.

No wonder people have stopped going to church and have stopped believing in a god. Not because of "socialism", science or secularism, but because so many of us have found that gay people aren't child raping psychos and atheists aren't God-hating hedonists who burn down churches and then piss on the ashes. We've been turned off from the politics and religion of our parents because we've figured out that Jesus was a long haired anarchist who went around handing out free healthcare and telling people to be excellent to each other and not damning everyone who wasn't a "job creator" or a Bible-thumping Southern Baptist.

The 15 passenger van fundamentalists still believe that the GOP should focus on banning gay marriage, abortion and all the old issues they've been promised that would be addressed for all of these years. They're still working to gain more power and more influence, to get a stronger grip on the wheel of the party bus which has two wheels over the cliff already. On the other side, the "country club Republicans" who used to laugh all the way to Washington (and the bank) every year off the votes of these fucking lunatics, they're not laughing any more. They're smart enough to realize that these people they brought in for the votes, now they want to run the club, and the establishment doesn't want them there. They want to pay less in taxes and suck as much money out of the American consumer, regardless of whether it came out of the LGBT community or the same impoverished saps that support them.

Nowadays, my generation votes with our pocketbook rather than the flawed interpretations of ancient religious texts. We see the bottom line and vote accordingly. Those of us who have gone thousands of dollars into debt for an education, only to wind up with a dead end job while our CEOs make millions, we aren't buying the "vote against the gay, anti-capitalism agenda" line any more. We've watched our wages and benefits get slashed while profits go up and the whole "trickle-down" economics thing, we aren't buying that either. Even though some of us may buy into the social issues bit, they're more concerned about their bills than the personal affairs of private individuals they don't even know.

If the GOP wants to maintain any relevance, they're going to have do an "Extreme Message Makeover" and toss the fundamentalists overboard, quickly. However, I have the feeling it is already too late. Not that I have a problem with that.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

WTF happened to the GOP?

If you were to take Barack Obama back in time maybe 15 or 20 years and call him a Republican, people would have hardly noticed. Considering the fact that "Obamacare" and a health insurance mandate were both pushed by Republicans and the Heritage Foundation back in the 1990's, aside from his stance on gay marriage, I'd say there are few differences between Obama now and many of the mainstream Republicans of the 90's.

However, go to any Tea Party rally and you'll inevitably find people with misspelled signs proclaiming him to be a "socialist, fascist, communist, Marxist", etc. Back in the 1990's, before the media outlet known as Fox News was on every retirement community center's TVs, there were many Republicans who could care less about what people did with their bodies. They also sometimes supported reasonable restrictions on guns and didn't mind reaching across the aisle to get things done because it was either right for the country, or for their collective pocketbooks.

Most of them are gone now. They've either died, been replaced by the shrieking maniacs of the hard right, or switched parties. I remember in 1993 when Virginia elected George Allen as governor by a wide margin, yet the GOP lieutenant governor candidate (Mike Farris) lost by 9 points even though the election went heavily to the GOP. Mike Farris was one of the wacko "Quiverfull" homeschooling folks and he fits in with the likes of Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum today. Back then the moderates of the party, like John Warner, refused to support him. They would rather a moderate Democrat win than allow someone they correctly viewed as "too radical". I remember the furious sense of betrayal and resentment from nutty fundamentalist homeschoolers who grudgingly peeled their "Mike Farris for Lieutenant Governor" stickers off their minivans after the election. They actually disliked George Allen because they thought he wasn't conservative enough, believe it or not.

Since those days, politicians like George Allen have tacked their sails ever further into the breeze that pushes the party ever harder towards the hardline right. Principle and soft corruption have been replaced by outright corruption and corporate ownership, as well as the never-ending contest to prove who is the most ideologically pure. While the showmanship involved in ideological posturing endears them to the radical base who they can count on to show up for primaries and elections, it makes them unelectable overall. Back then, you could get the support of the rightwing by making racial remarks in an assumed private setting or promising to pass a bill to teach creationism in school without worrying about being caught on a cellphone video. Many of these people still run campaigns that way, and cater to the radical base for the primaries, then wonder why they get laughed at when they try to tack to the center and still lose in the general election.

There's still centrist people left, they've just allowed their more intellectual arguments for being Republican be drowned out by the shrill dog whistles and "you betcha" booksellers and pundits for almost a decade now. I remember watching William F. Buckley at an early age and while he was very conservative, he actually made his argument with points that took more than 10 seconds, a wink, a hairflip and a catchphrase to get across.

I believe the rumors that after Romney gets his ass handed to him on November 6th, 2012 that the GOP top brass will finally realize they can no longer cater to the hard right in primaries and expect to win elections, hoping that their remarks weren't caught on tape to be used in ads in October and November. I think Chris Christie is one of those politicians who knows that his future and his path to the White House lies in the middle and not on the fringe, which is why he didn't play the partisan game when it came to Hurricane Sandy. I think he, and the powers that be, have realized that obstructionist tactics and continued pandering to angry old white people is a losing bet in the long run. Gauging by the remarks I've seen on social media in the last couple days in response to his embrace of Obama, there's definitely some people who have lost their damn minds over it.

Perhaps they've realized, finally, that they've lost a younger generation (myself included) to the Democrats by catering to the old Bible thumpers and the last of the pre-segregation Dixiecrats rolling around The Villages or Scottsdale in their golf carts. Maybe they've come to terms with the fact that angry old white people will be pushing up daisies within the next decade or so and that they will need to find someone else to cater to. Maybe they've realized that a generation that embraces multi-culturalism and overall tolerance is so far out of their reach right now, that they'll wake the fuck up. Maybe they've finally grasped that people like Sarah Palin and "awwww shucks" jingoistic patriotism doesn't attract the emerging demographic, unlike the current dying one that has been stuck in the left lane, with their blinker on, for the last 20 years.