Monday, March 25, 2013

"The Most Honest Three Minutes In Television History"

For those of you blessed enough to not follow this stuff, or have your Facebook feed inundated with things of a political nature, or maybe you just don't have HBO, you may not have seen the so-called 'Most Honest Three Minutes In Television History,' a video clip from the HBO series "The Newsroom."  "The Newsroom" is a drama created by Aaron Sorkin, the man behind "The West Wing," "The Social Network," and "Moneyball."

Now, I suppose you might be asking why someone would take umbrage over the things a television show says.  Normally I would agree, but this alleged political honesty has been shared as the gospel truth with no one offering a rebuttal.  I aim to change that.

First off, the stereotypical college chick asking why are we just so, like, awesome?  And the 2 people that answered first?  Both make half points.  Diversity and freedom mentioned are valid points made poorly.  More people immigrate to the United States than every other nation (which actually plays in to my latter points) because there is great opportunity here, more so than most other nations.  It is also true that we are not the only country with any degree of freedom, but some freedom doesn't equate to more, nor are we wholly free.

As for the retort from Jeff Daniels' character?  This is where the parsing begins...
  • Literacy rate.  The countries higher than the US just coincidentally happen to be monochromatic, meaning that they are one people.  This is where immigration and culture come in to play.  When a good chunk of the people coming to your country cannot read or write their own language, what makes you think that they will be proficient in a foreign tongue?  We can't educate the world's illiterate?  Show me a country that can.
  • Math and Science scores.  Again, culture plays a role.  Some subcultures in the US hold education in the highest regard, while others believe education is meaningless.  Then there is the matter of who is tested, let alone educated.  Many countries do not educate all children.  In fact, the children that actually get tested are often the best of the nation's students.  In the US, public education groups all students, best and worst, on the same general path, with gifted students being able to take higher level classes if offered.  In Germany, for instance, schooling is broken up in different groups based on intellectual talent.  Those gifted enough will be put on the higher track, while those not suited for collegiate education go to more labor oriented schools.
  • Life Expectancy.  Another half truth, tied again to culture and immigration.  Ever notice how different cats have different characteristics?  Some are bigger, some smaller, some with flat faces, some with giant paws, etc.  The same holds true for people.  Perhaps not as striking as flattened faces or giant feet, but nevertheless, the differences are there.  It's not a value judgement, it just is.  Japan is a xenophobic country made up nearly entirely made up of Japanese people, who follow Japanese eating habits, and health habits in general.  Do you not think that a country made up of 50% Japanese and 50% residents of Central African Republic (1st and last in life expectancy) would be considered an awful nation based on the character's use of life expectancy as measure of how good a nation is?  So why, when a country welcomes those from many different lands with different genetic conditions, different ailments, different health habits, would that country be denigrated for it?
  • Infant Mortality.  This one bugs me most of all because it is at best a half truth and at worst, a flat out lie.  According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States is 50th in infant mortality, not 178th.  Countries measure what constitutes a live birth differently, let alone what constitutes infant mortality.  Some, like the US count any sign of independent life, be it a spasm, a breath, a squeak, at any weight, or gestation period as a live birth and a candidate for infant mortality.  Countries like Japan and many EU nations only count breathing as life, and therefore have lower infant mortality rates but higher perinatal mortality rates.  But that wouldn't fit the narrative, now would it?  Let me be clear, the United States is the best at keeping little, unhealthy babies alive when they absolutely shouldn't be.  But hey, remember that it is a fault of ours that we cannot prolong the lives of these poor, sick babies.
  • Median Household Income.  This is a stat that is utterly meaningless unless you include cost of living.  There are 18 counties in California with MHI of over $60k, while there are just 3 counties in Kansas over $60k.  16 of those CA counties have MHI greater than all but one county in Kansas, and 7 counties outrank the top Kansas county.  My point?  It costs different amounts to live in Marin County, California than it does in Johnson County, Kansas, why would it not matter in the rest of the world?
  • Labor Force.  Umm...what?  I'm not entirely sure what I'm to take from this.  Again, according to the CIA World Factbook, the US is 4th, behind China, India, and the EU.  The top 2 have more people in the labor force than the US has people, period.  The third has 200 million more total people than the United States.  So, tell me again how this is something wrong with the United States?
  • Exports.  This is a statistic that we could not control, unless we utilize a statistic that is later reviled.  Few seem to understand that for roughly 60 years, the rest of the world was in ruin and rebuilding, while the US was the untouched economic and manufacturing powerhouse of the world.  So the rest of the world has caught up and a couple passed us?  Explain how that's a problem, especially when you're about to make a claim that our military is one of our negative leaders...
This is where Jeff Daniel's character really starts to cast aspersions.
  • Incarceration.  The obvious implication/assumption is that most, if not all of those incarcerated in the US were jailed unjustly, or via draconian drug laws that put cancer patients in jail.  The simple fact is that there are many many people in this country that commit crimes and are sent to prison.  No mention is made of sentencing discrepancies or secrecy of other countries.  We don't actually know how many people are imprisoned in China, nor how many are simply put to death for being dissidents.  We'll talk all day about how, like, a bunch of people get thrown in jail for 30 years for smoking a joint, but we won't talk about the sentence Anders Brevik was given a 21 year sentence for the murder of nearly 100 people in Norway.  Do you not think that sentencing is less strict in Europe than it is in the US?
  • "Number of adults who believe angels are real."  This one might be my favorite.  It is entirely prejudicial, foisting lunacy on not just religious people, but Christians in particular.  Is it that religion as a whole is bad?  Can't be, because there are more Buddhists in China than there are people in the US, there are about as many Hindus in India as there are people in the US and EU combined, there are about as many Muslims in Indonesia as there are Christians in the US.  Apparently 3 America leading categories sounded better than 2, since this is nothing more than a hateful jab at Christianity.
  • Defense Spending.  Actually, I can't say much against this.
It is at this point that the talk turns to platitudes about how we used to be, like, the greatest ever.
  • We stood up for what was right.  This coming on the heels of how we shouldn't spend so much on our military, especially when any natural disaster hits somewhere in the world, the first responder is usually an American aircraft carrier.  Perhaps we should invade countries for moral reasons, even though you just got done lecturing us about how we shouldn't have a giant military.
  • Laws and Morality.  Show me a law enacted for moral reasons and I'll show you a law enacted to control people.  Helmet laws, seat belt laws, soda bans, fast food bans, all these were passed with the greatest of intentions, but restrict how people can live their lives.  Ever hear about how the road to Hell is paved with good intentions?  Morality and the law do not mix.
  • Waged wars on poverty, not poor people.  What.  The.  Fuck?  What does that even mean?  In what sense do we war against poor people?  The so-called war on poverty has spent billions of dollars yet has not yielded that which the market does.  This is the very definition of 'laughable.'
  • Sacrifice.  Another odd juxtaposition, considering that you've just implied that we must spend our tax dollars on people who will not care for themselves.  That I should sacrifice while others live off my dime.
  • Caring about our neighbors.  Where do you live that people don't care about their neighbors?  Living in big urban areas like New York and California will cloud your vision of how people behave.  In fact, most of the country actually does care about their neighbors, especially since they are involved in their community and *gasp* their awful church.
  • Chest Beating.  We never had to as a nation because no one would dare stand up to us, and you either think that was justified or not.
  • Building great, big things.  This is where your moral laws have gotten us.  The Empire State Building was built in a year, during the Depression.  Yet various environmental and labor laws have kept giant projects from even getting off the ground for moral reasons.
  • Technological Advances,  I don't know what you want.  Many of the people 'filming' you are doing so with a mini computer in their hands.  Are you one of those people that want flying cars, or what?
  • Exploring the Universe.  Explain to me how we're not doing this?  Ever hear of the Curiosity?
  • Curing Disease.  Here I somewhat agree.  There has been a greater focus on treating disease, rather than curing them, even though the US is doing more around the world to eradicate Polio and fighting AIDS than every other country.
  • Cultivating the world's best artists and greatest economy.  Again, I'm not even sure what the complaint is.  That we aren't the greatest economy and we don't have the world's greatest artists here?  Sorry, there's really nothing I can do on that front.
  • We reached for the stars.  Please see 'Exploring the Universe.'
  • Acting like Men.  The same people who pass laws governing our daily lives pass laws punishing male behavior.
  • Intelligence.  Here's another one I can agree with.  We pick the person we'd more like to have a beer with, rather than who would best run the country.
  • We are the Last Election Cycle.  Odds are you'd be upset no matter how we identified ourselves.  You'd call it beating our chest if we identified as Americans or believing that angels are real while identifying ourselves by our faith.
  • We didn't scare so easy.  What?
So, there it is.  A long, drawn out parsing of the so-called most honest 3 minutes.  The sheer fact that this has gotten as much play as it has, with no push back whatsoever refutes the very last claim made, that we were once an informed people.  There have always been widely held misconceptions perpetrated by rabble rousers throughout time.  It is a part of the state of man.

Hows about instead of getting your political jollies from a television show, you do a little research of your own.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be getting off my soapbox. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Tale of Two Men, Stories, and Narratives

Just because you're offended
doesn't mean you're right.
As the title reads, this is a tale of two men: Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park; a tale of two stories: The Book of Mormon and an anti-Islamic video; and two different narratives: the Tony Awards and the anti-American riots.

Political satire is about as old as politics itself, and only until recently in human history has satire been met, not with death, but with praise and defenders.  In fact, most of the world still operates under the former rather than the latter in dealing with satire.  For all the domestic problems facing the United States, satirists aren't thrown in jail, or worse, like in most other countries.  Even Europe isn't as forgiving as the United States when it comes to various forms of speech. 

But where we, apparently, draw a flimsy, hypocritical line revolves around religion, specifically Islam vs. Christianity.

Jesus fighting a Xenomorph and Sinistar is ok...
The television program South Park is a filthy, reprehensible show.  It is also a great source for poignant political satire.  Just about everything has been lampooned from Jesus to Elton John to Michael Jackson to Tom Cruise to Al Gore.  There isn't a single episode that hasn't been hated for goring someone's ox, but creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are pretty good at pointing out the ridiculousness of practically everything they touch.  One of their favorite punching bags is Christianity and the various sects thereof, and to be honest, they're not taking unfair shots and I'm really not against what they do.  The hypocrisy mentioned previously comes from the public and our reactions.  Tell me, if a giant group of Christians upset with the portrayal of Jesus threatened to blow up the Viacom building in NYC, wouldn't we all generally think of these people as insane, possibly needing to be incarcerated?  Sure.  The Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the President would release statements about the angry white Tea Partiers clinging to their guns and religion in ignorance.

...And please keep mocking Mormons...
Hollywood and Broadway are dens of anti-religious zealots.  It's really not that big of a deal, go to practically any church and you're bound to find mostly conservatives.  That's just how society has formed.  Hollywood and Broadway don't hide their dislike of Christianity, but for some reason they are huge fans anything not Christian, no matter what.  Again, South Park plays into the scenario.  Parker and Stone helped write the multi-Tony Award winning Broadway play: The Book of Mormon, a satirical play mocking the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  As I said, the play is a huge hit, winning a number of Tony Awards, even winning a Grammy.  It's funny, you know?  Because Christians are stupid and mockable.

But don't you dare slander Islam with your 'truths.'  South Park has twice depicted Muhammad, the
...but this is a no-no.
prophet of Islam.  The most recent 'depiction' was of Muhammad in a bear suit, yet Comedy Central censored the episode out of fear.  Ironically enough, the episode included a speech about not shrinking in the face of intimidation and fear, that too was censored.

On September 11, 2012, violent mobs of Muslims stormed the US embassies in Cairo, Egypt, and Benghazi, Libya, killing the American Ambassador to Libya and three other members of the State Dept, all 'in response' to a purported anti-Islam video portraying Muhammad as a womanizer and a fraud.  The State Dept, the White House, and the American media have bent over backwards to make it clear to the world how disgusting and unacceptable this is.  And by 'this' they mean the video, not the murderous attacks.  Some commentators even put forward the idea of prosecuting those with anti-Islam attitudes as accessories to murder.  Mocking or even criticizing Islam gives you a one-way ticket to Klansville, according to much of the press and much of the government.  But doing the same to Christianity makes you a logical, critically thinking, modern person.

It isn't one or the other, people.  You can say that Christians are stupid, backwards, misogynistic people, AND I can say that Islam treats gays and women like liberals think Republicans do.  We can have both, in fact, the Constitution says we can!

Of course, what do I know, I thought this was America!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chick-fil-A, Gay Marriage, The First Amendment, and Phony Outrage

Who needs debate when you have Vandalism?
Political Correctness, Diversity, Tolerance. 

These buzzwords have left their mark on the American lexicon over the decades.  And while there is nothing wrong with advocating that people treat each other better, modern day political correctness, diversity, and tolerance apply only to views of one side.

I know what you're thinking, I've heard it before, "Oh boo hoo, you're a conservative and you feel that not being allowed to speak your hate against anyone not a landed, white male is wrong!"

Well, I'm here to tell you that all these things are in the eye of the beholder.  What you may call 'hate' may actually just be a disagreement.  Being against illegal immigration isn't 'hate,' much like being against Operation Iraqi Freedom or the PATRIOT Act weren't 'unpatriotic.'  Today, the word 'hate' is being used as a verbal gun pointed at the head of another person: the discussion is as good as dead at that point.

Which brings me to the biggest controversy of the current news cycle: Chick-fil-A's horrifyingly bigoted business practices, including but not limited to: banning gays from being employed, served, or even allowed on the premises; funneling money to radical hate groups, bent on nothing less than the total annihilation of the Jew-er I mean, gays; and training anti-gay hit squads to infiltrate Broadway, Hollywood, and the set of "Watch What Happens Live."
Or the President of the company, Dan Cathy giving his own, personal views on same-sex marriage on the Ken Coleman radio Show:
  • “As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.”-Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy
While Chick-fil-A makes no bones about their adherence to Biblical traditions, such as being closed on Sundays, their hiring and customer service practices in no way discriminate against members of the LGBT community.  Despite everything being said, a paying customer will not get turned away, even the gentleman in this video.

And its not just Chick-fil-A that incorporates faith into business: Tyson Foods, Forever 21, and In-n-Out Burger are among a list of other large businesses that aren't shy about their faith.

So what's the crux of the issue here?  Well, there are multiple cruxes, at least to my mind.
  • The immediate jump to ruin businesses that in no way mistreat, abuse, or discriminate against anyone.
  • The self-righteous political figures declaring the business a pariah and unwelcome.
  • The complete phoniness in their self-righteous outrage.
I'm gonna be honest here, I think businesses should be able to hire whoever they wish to.  And it is my right as a consumer to decide that if I don't like a particular business practice, then I do not patronize said business.  I behave in this fashion towards Walmart, for instance.  I do NOT, however, support the idea that a boycott be organized in order to sink the business, especially because one disagrees with the personal beliefs of the president of the company.  That job is for the market to decide. 

"Oh the 'market.'  What a great way to say, 'I hate' and be allowed to get away with it." 

I'm not making this up, people have said this stuff to me.  You don't think that if a company outwardly discriminates against a population then people wouldn't patronize it?

Whether you like it or not, right Gavin!
As for gay marriage?  I'm agnostic.  I don't care.  I'd actually pay money for the issue to go away forever.  It's not on my list of key issues. 

I think that, like the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, the immediate inclusion of the word 'marriage' did more harm than good.  Polls show that people support legal partnerships with all rights and privileges included, but when asked about 'marriage' people turn.  But it's certainly no secret that the opposition to gay marriage is dwindling as generations pass on, so gay marriage will be in the books, whether you like it or not.

In my opinion, if the legal partnership was called something else and retained all the same rights, wouldn't you win anyway?  If you call yourselves 'married' and introduce your partner as 'my husband/wife,' wouldn't you have won anyway?  Chances are you're not openly gay and hanging around people who vehemently disagree with gay marriage anyway, so saying that you're married would elicit a, 'Congrats!' not a, 'Damn you to Hell!'

Anyway, back to my bullet points.....

Don't shop at a business that you disagree with, really, it's fine.  Tell your friends and family, too.  Seriously, only insane megalomaniacs would institute laws banning differing opinions ;)

The line is crossed when you organize to force people to do things.  We see it happen all the time, especially when it comes to political pundits and entertainers.  Everyone remembers Rush Limbaugh, right?  Big, fat, rich guy who hates liberals, right Snerdley?  How many times have people tried to force him and other radio shows off the air by threatening advertisers?  Instead of simply not listening (and most people never listen), people launch movements to take away the livelihood of the offender.  Sure Rush wouldn't starve if he lost his job, unless he spends money like a NBA player or Kevin Costner, but the point remains that step one is always 'Ruin [insert name here]'.  Vote with your ears, your eyes, your wallet, whatever, but don't take away someone's mill stone just because you disagree with them.

Next on my list are the politicians who, on the one hand talk about nothing else than the importance of diversity and respecting people's rights, while on the other hand, demonize and threaten to use their power against businesses and people they disagree with.

Since the June 12th interview of Dan Cathy, the mayors of Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago along with the House Minority Leader and several Democratic Representatives have voiced their disgust with the opinion of one man.  The mayors took it a step further by either insinuating or flat out telegraphing their stances against even the presence of a Chick-fil-A in their cities.  The idea of restricting businesses from operating in a city because of the speech of the president is so outlandish, The Daily Show lampooned it.

But that won't stop Thomas Menino, Ed Lee, and Rahm Emmanuel from giving the Irony Police all the work they can handle.  Menino, the Mayor of Boston, emphatically blasted Chick-fil-A by saying:
  • "We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion. That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”
The Irony Police have put down their arms in surrender.  According to the Mayor, not only is Boston the start of the Freedom Trail and a city of inclusion, but it is also not welcoming place for a chicken restaurant...He later recants, saying that he doesn't actually have the power to keep a business out, but when does a retraction actually work?

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel both made similar statements, adding that Chick-fil-A doesn't share the same values as the cities.  And both noting in subsequent statements that it might be difficult for a prospective restaurant to obtain the correct permits needed to open up. 

The 'values' statements seem rather odd to me, especially when one looks at some of the problems both men would like to see swept under the rug.  Take San Francisco, recently the cleaning crews working at some of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (or BART) stations called in hazmat teams to deal with escalators clogged with...human feces.  Yup, that's right, not only is it not illegal to walk around naked in San Francisco, but people routinely shit in public.  San Francisco values!  As for Chicago?  Well, despite the ban on handguns, yet it isn't a normal day in Chicago unless someone is gunned down.  Gang violence is at epidemic levels in Chicago, but those are Chicago values!

Which actually brings me to my final point: the outrage expressed over one man's opinion is phony.  Yeah, that's right, I said, 'Phony.'  Why?  How about the Mayor of Boston welcoming with open arms, a religious group that idolizes a man who proclaims that gays should be killed?  Sure!  Fine and dandy!  Chick-fil-A, no.  The murder of gays, yes.  Makes sense to me!  Or we could look back to  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, welcoming noted anti-Semite, racist towards whites, and outspoken opponent of gay marriage Louis Farrakhan.

And last, but certainly not least, we don't see the news calling these people out in their hypocrisy.  Yes, I did link a couple articles, but two newspapers do not equal NBC, CBS, and ABC with their reporting teams.  The grand daddy of all the hypocrisies revolves around the President of the United States.  No, not his personal beliefs, but rather, the pass apparently given by all of his supporters.  Voters never seemed to care, the sycophantic news didn't care, and his staff certainly didn't care: please see Rahm Emmanuel above.

I don't think it's right to bash the President over changing his mind, it's his supporters who need to be bashed.  It is flat out intellectual dishonest to want to ruin Chick-fil-A for its president having the same position as President Obama.  I can't stand the Republican leadership, watching them go on about fiscal responsibility while they try to shield us from their time in power, spending like mad under President Bush.  It's the same crap, just different issues and people.

So, in conclusion, it bugs me that people can speak of nothing but the benefits of diversity and tolerance, while at the same time advocating for single-mindedness and intolerance towards those that disagree.  Politicians will use whatever platform they can to pander, which is why there not only is a special spot for them in the 9th Circle of Hell, but why the free press must keep them honest.

Check back for more Synthetic Hysteria
Or don't.  What do I care!