Calming The Crowd

In Ferguson, police are trying to control a situation. On twitter, you can see footage that is simply chilling (here, for instance, pay attention to the trivial detail of where the gun is pointed). More here.

On TV, Robin Williams has died.

In Ferguson, according to twitter, cops are telling people to go home. “We live here!” is the response. “This is our home!”

CNN and Fox are both looking at Robin Williams’s film career.

In Ferguson, according to twitter, police are firing rubber bullets to calm the crowd. To calm the crowd. Gee, and here I thought I’d never have another opportunity to post this lullaby… from a couple of years ago in Oakland[Read more...]

And To Think That I Saw It On National News

On the tube or the net, the distraction I choose
Is to sample a bit of the national news
I look for the stories that tug at my brain—
The ones that are tricky, or hard to explain
But the story today? Well, we’ve seen it before;
Just another sad death in a long, bloody war;
A conflict that seemingly never will stop…
Just another black kid who’s been killed by a cop.
[Read more...]

“He Meets And Exceeds My Criteria For Such”

When the townsfolk demand I resign
For a statement I’ve owned up as mine
For my honest opinions
Of Hussein and his minions
That I uttered out loud
(I’m not sorry—I’m proud!
See, the man makes me sick
So I turn him off quick
Cos he’s all that I see
when I turn on TV)
I respectfully, strongly, decline

I’m not racist—he met my criteria!
For Benghazi, for health care, for Syria!
The list is much bigger,
So, yes, he’s a n****r
It’s not that he’s black
So call off your attack!
I’ve said all I will say—
Take those cameras away
Why, you media leech—
It’s my right to free speech
It’s what separates US from Siberia!

All this fuss, when it’s only a word!
“F*****g n****r”, she claims that she heard
Yes, some people abuse it,
But no, how I use it
It isn’t his skin
But the content within
And each time I use it
I carefully choose it
And the trivial fact
All my targets are black?
Me? Racist? The thought is absurd!

A few days ago, NPR’s Code Switch blog made the argument that racism is “part of the mix” when it comes to hatred of Obama. As predictable as mayflies, commenters swarmed both to support and to deny the assertion (protip: never read the comments!).

Now, news out of New Hampshire (video at link, well worth watching)–a Wolfeboro police commissioner, Robert Copeland, accused of calling Obama a “f*****g n****r”, admits it (in writing), saying “For this, I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.” (Sarah Palermo’s article at the Concord Monitor has the most thorough version of the backstory I have seen so far.)

Remember how politicians fled from Cliven Bundy when he talked about “the Negro”? Yeah, not so much in Wolfeboro, so far. Though a hundred or so citizens showed up to protest, fellow commissioners defended Copeland. From the Concord Monitor:

Copeland and another commissioner, Ron Goodgame, did not return calls seeking comment last night. But commission Chairman Joseph Balboni said he has no plans to ask Copeland to resign.

“I think it’s crazy. Bob is a very nice person, and he’s been very generous to the town of Wolfeboro,” Balboni said.

“He’s worked with a lot of blacks in his life. . . . He said some harsh words about Mr. Obama, and here we are. This woman, she’s blowing it all out of proportion.”

(note–even his defenders know this is a racial slur; “meets and exceeds my criteria for such” is a thin attempt to pretend it is not.)

And don’t get me started on the comments (protip: NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!!!), expecially at the WMUR story and at the Union MisLeader (the Monitor comments, unbelievably, are about how well-written Palermo’s story is). “Free Speech!” “Mark Twain used the word!” “‘N****r’ isn’t racist any more, because reasons”, “Bush got called things too!”, “thought police!”… but also, “I call that N-word an N-word all the time”, birther tropes, and more.

Copeland unapologetically admitted his words, and for some reason seems to think that the fact that he is not covering up somehow makes it all right. We ought to be filled with admiration for someone who stands up for what he believes like Copeland does.

No, not “admiration”, so much as “disgust”.

***Update***
The story has now hit CNN. So, while there is no additional information in the story, we now have a much larger population of commenters. You can guess the result, and you’d be right. (once again, protip: NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!!!)

Revisionist History in “God’s Not Dead”

So… I was looking at something else entirely, when this popped up as something I might want to read. That’s right, an article at the Christian Post… so you know it has to be true. There are commandments (well, one) against bearing false witness, you know.

Anyway… seems part of “God’s Not Dead” (the movie) was inspired by true events. The asian dude in the movie who found Jesus… yup. Totes real.

It was during his time in college that Wang, then an atheist, built a relationship with a professor who began asking him questions about God and showing him evidence for the existence of a deity.

“A Harvard professor, a professor of pediatrics, and a believer, saw the status of mind that I was in, confused and in crisis,” Wang told The Christian Post in an email.

“He knew that because of his medical expertise, I would listen to him out of my respect of his medical knowledge. So he saw an opportunity, to guide and influence me, to broaden my understanding of life, to a broader prospective by introducing faith in my life which could help answer the questions that I had and for which I could not find answer in science.”

Note–his words, not mine. I am not bending this to say that a college professor saw a student in crisis of mind and decided to proselytize…I am merely reporting that this is what happened. Note: confused and distraught student, Christian professor.

Wang recalled a conversation where his professor asked him how he could believe that a car could somehow been created in the absence of a creator but yet assume that a brain had come about randomly.

“Right there and then, he opened a door, in my life, and I found God, found Christianity, that could provide the answers to the questions that I was asking.

Again, I hasten to say, these are not my words. It is Wang who is either mis-remembering, or accurately remembering incompetent faculty.

You don’t need my interpretation; you can read his story yourself.The story of a lost student who was pressured by a pushy faculty member… Pretty much the story of “God’s Not Dead”, right? Wait. lemme quote again:

Wang also said while Kwo, “the Chinese student character,” does portray part of his life story, the doctor also sees much of himself in the main character Wheaton.

“Some of the arguments that I made in the original book God’s Not Dead, with regard to the evidence of existence of God, was put into Joshua’s mouth, in his brilliant presentation of the evidence of existence of God. So, in essence, sort of half of me, in the original book, has gone into this main character Josh,” he explained.

Real life: insecure student from China is preached at by Christian prof.
Movie: Atheist prof challenges Christian student, Chick track ensues.

It’s based on a true story! Well… a story, anyway.

“Noah” As A Stealth Climate Change Movie?

Could “Noah” be a metaphor
For global climate change?
At first, the claim is ludicrous–
At second, merely strange
The people didn’t listen,
And the global waters rose:

Replacing “God” with “Scientists”,
The story likewise goes.
Our sins will lead to flooding,
That plot, too, remains the same–
A global warming metaphor
That dare not speak its name!

It seems odd, given that more than one US congressman has cited the Noah story as proof that anthropogenic global climate change cannot possibly be happening, but the cinematographer for Noah reveals in a Daily Beast interview that the new Noah movie is actually a Global Warming Epic, a movie with a strong environmentalist, pro-science message:

That was the largest theme of the film: environmentalism. In the marketing of the film they shy away from it. I don’t know why it’s a taboo thing to say “environmentalism” cause you’re going to scare off half the population because they’ve been told “environmentalism” is a bad thing? The idea that we have to stay away from the issue because we’re going to polarize half the audience speaks to how fucking dysfunctional we are.

We also find out that Superstorm Sandy caused serious damage to the ark set, on Long Island–of course, a true global flood in the time scale of of the Noachian story would dwarf Sandy, so I guess they just don’t build arks like they used to. Or never did, or whatever.

I have not been paying attention to the reviews of Noah–indeed, this interview is the first I have heard the environmental angle spoken of.

You?

Upskirting The Law

It might be bad; it might be wrong;
An upskirt shot that shows a thong
But perverts told us all along
There is no law against it

Now Massachusetts’ highest court
From justice fell extremely short;
Compassion, in today’s report?
The courts had not dispensed it

Since lawyers live by splitting hairs
The clothing that a woman wears
In subway cars or café chairs
Defines her as “not nude”

So perverts, then, can snap away
The upskirt photo won the day
And, all too late, lawmakers say
The laws will be reviewed.

We have a freedom fetish in our culture. I don’t think even Michael Robertson‘s own lawyer would argue that what he is doing is good, or right, or admirable. But, since a judge has ruled that there is no specific law that is being violated here, Robertson’s loathsome behavior is–not good, not right, not admirable… and not illegal. Because the women he did not ask to take upskirt photos of were actually wearing clothes (thus, it seems to me, signaling to the world that they were not in the subway to serve as someone’s masturbatory models, but were in fact commuting to or from work), they were thus not “nude or partially nude” (in which case, he’d have been violating Massachusetts’ “Peeping Tom” law).

The law always is reactive–it took a while to catch up to video technology, and to the internet… We can’t prescribe particular behaviors, because that infringes on freedom. We have to allow anything and everything that is not specifically prohibited. As such, it is the lot of some people to suffer indignities that are not against the law, until their case inspires new law… too late for these people.

Did I say “people”? Sorry, I meant “women”.

TV Snake-Handler Dies (Spoiler: Not Old Age)

There once was a pastor
Who handled some snakes
For goodness’ sakes—
He handled snakes!
(He knew the stakes)

There once was a serpent
With venomous bite
Oh, what a plight!
A venomous bite!
(And deadly, quite)

The pastor, he handled;
The serpent, he bit
With a venomous spit
He bit and bit
(And wouldn’t quit)

The pastor’s behavior
Had faith as its source
With no remorse,
His faith was his source
(He died, of course)

Via Doubtful News, we hear the utterly predictable news of the death of a snake-handling pentecostal preacher, from (naturally) snakebite.

In an era of sophisticated theology, yes, snake-handlers still exist. Though, frankly, not a lot of them, despite how often the same group makes the news. Usually, for dying by snake bite.

I wonder, sometimes, what it would be like to be from a family where you pretty much all eventually died from completely preventable, proudly public, dangerous behavior. Do the extended relatives admit their connection? Are they proud? Ashamed? Anyway, my condolences to the family–may this be the last one to die in this manner.

Your Chance To Be A (Reality) TV Star

So… I just received an email
Sent especially to me;
Cos he’d stumbled on my blogging
And he’d really like to see
If I’d like to take my chances
On reality TV,
If I’m leaving the religion of my roots

Now, he doesn’t get the concept
Of a cuttlefish, I think;
Never seeking out the limelight—
Rather, hiding in my ink.
I would sooner find a little glass
Of cyanide to drink
Than engage in any televised pursuits

I guess I should be flattered
Though for me, it’s clearly wrong
But my readers might be braver,
So I’m passing it along;
If you’d like to test your courage
(Clearly, mine’s just not that strong)
If you want to try, he’s looking for recruits!

No, seriously. I got an email inquiring whether I would like to try out for a proposed reality TV show on people who have recently made a change, or are looking to make a change, in their spiritual lives. This is clearly not a job for a cuttlefish, let alone a Cuttlefish. Sure, I’ve got the telegenic looks, the witty repartee, the quiet confidence that draws others to me, and I naturally speak in rhymed heroic couplets… but I can’t stand those shows. This show (about which, more below) is by the people who give us “Breaking Amish” and “Amish Mafia”, among other shows. Sure, the shows are on networks that pretend to be sciencey, like NatGeo and the Science network… but I would sooner chew my foot off at the ankle. I’m not even curious about the money–there simply isn’t enough in the world, even with the house needing work and the car now 14 years old.

But I know full well I don’t represent everybody, and if someone else wants to give it a shot, I would not think any less of them. It could be a really nice project, a positive look at leaving religion that will open people’s eyes to that possibility, one that many never consider. So, yeah, this could be a really good thing… just not for me.

Anyway, the blurb:

NEW TV SHOW SEEKING INDIVIDUALS BRANCHING AWAY FROM THEIR RELIGIOUS ROOTS

Have you lived your entire life devoted to your spiritual beliefs? Do you constantly find yourself following along with your religious order even if you don’t necessarily agree? Whether you simply don’t believe in the customs and traditions, or are looking to branch away from your “extreme” religious lifestyle in a quest for self-empowerment, we want to hear from you.
***
An acclaimed television production company is searching for individuals who want to leave their religious communities. We are especially seeking people with unique personalities and compelling backstories, who have the courage to stand up for what they truly believe in.

To be considered, or to nominate someone, please write to us at [email protected] with the following information [**if you are nominating someone else, please be sure to include their contact info, as well**]:
-Name & any nicknames
-Your city & state of residence
-Brief cover note discussing your story and religious background
-A few current photographs
-The best phone number(s) at which to reach you

Thank you for your time, and we look forward to hearing from you!

“Hostility Toward Religion”, or “Religious Hostilities”?

Let us celebrate the power
Of the simple preposition
Making bullies into martyrs with a word
When the truth is somewhat sour
Simply make a small edition
Though the putative conclusion is absurd

When “religion” and “hostility”
The Pew researchers mixed,
It’s religion on religion causing harm
To the best of their ability
The Post has got it fixed
Groups are hostile toward religion (sound alarm)!

When religions start attacking
The religious are the victims
Though that leads to a conclusion, rather odd:
Though the evidence is lacking,
There among the Christian dictums
Is that all religions worship the same God

It’s an internecine battle
True believers on both sides
And religious groups have earned their share of guilt
Yet the Christian Post will prattle
While the honest truth still hides
In the house of cards the Christian post has built.

The Christian Post headline (High Social Hostility Toward Religion Reported In A Third Of Countries Worldwide) tells you all you need to know about how they are going to spin the story:

A high or very high social hostility toward religion was reported in a third of the 198 countries and territories analyzed by the Pew Research Center in a report released on Tuesday, marking an increase in almost every major region around the world.

True.

Christians and Muslims were the two religious groups harassed in the most countries between June 2006 and December 2012. Christians faced harassment in 151 countries, Muslims in 135, and Jews in 95.

Also true. But if you remember last year’s BBC report on martyrs (in which we find that by far the greatest number of Christians killed in religious hostilities were killed… by other Christians, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and earlier in Rwanda–in both cases, with Christians on both sides of the hostilities), you might be curious about the reporting this time, too.

The Pew report on their study has a different headline (Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High) that makes it clear that the report is looking at more than just hostilities toward religion.

For instance, there has been an increase in

abuse of religious minorities by private individuals or groups in society for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith of the country. Incidents of abuse targeting religious minorities were reported in 47% of countries in 2012, up from 38% in 2011 and 24% in [2007].

(bolding in original) The report gives examples–it is well worth reading.

The study finds that the share of countries where violence, or the threat of violence, was used to compel people to adhere to religious norms also increased in 2012. Such actions occurred in 39% of countries, up from 33% in 2011 and 18% as of mid-2007.

Again, many examples are given–most are new to me, but involve “efforts to enforce religious norms” not held by all citizens.

There is much, much more at the study. With so many (and increasing) incidents of religious hostility, it is small wonder there might be government restrictions on religious expression–hell, I would want the government to restrict, say, a church from dictating what my medical care includes! Ah, but even here, the report includes government restrictions where the government is itself taking the side of one religion:

Governments used force against religious groups or individuals in nearly half (48%) of the world’s countries in 2012, up from 41% in 2011 and 31% as of mid-2007. In April 2012 in Mauritania, for instance, “the government arrested 12 anti-slavery activists and charged them with sacrilege and blasphemy, along with other civil charges, for publicly burning religious texts to denounce what the activists viewed as support for slavery in Islamic commentary and jurisprudence,” according to the U.S. Department of State.

Oh, and it is worth noting that the Americas have far, far less religious hostility, either social or governmental, than other areas of the world. This despite determined bleating about a “war on religion” (a subsidiary of the “war on Christmas”, itself a subsidiary of “Fox News”).