Archive for July 2012

Repost: This is Appalling   Leave a comment

I’m finding it difficult to even put my thoughts coherently. This is the closest I have ever come to wanting to throw someone in jail just for saying something. Let’s get some stuff straight. The Palestinians are occupied by Israel. The Gaza Strip is theoretically controlled by Palestinians, but Israel soldiers come in to make arrests whenever they feel like it. There is a pretense that the PA controls the West Bank, but all the borders in and out of Palestine are controlled by Israel or Israel’s friends.

60% of households in the Gaza strip are food insecure. 10% of children in the Gaza strip are physically disfigured because of malnourishment. Israel’s occupation is a crime against the Palestinian people, and Palestine’s economy is entirely at the mercy of Israel.

So. This. Is. NOT. COOL.

Romney went to Israel. Ignored the Palestinians. Lied about GDP per capita in Israel and Palestine (he claimed that Israel’s GDP per capita was twice as big as in the PA, when in reality it is twenty times as large). And after pointing out the results of what happens when one country controls and abuses the economy of a people it occupies, Romney attributed the difference to Israeli cultural superiority. It was racist. It was bigoted. It was offensive.

But it was good for fundraising, I guess.

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Posted 07/31/2012 by reluctantliberal in Repost

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Repost: A Good Response to Miracles   Leave a comment

Particular stories of miracles always left me cold. I believe in their possibility, but my standard for proof for particular miracles is high. So I really appreciated this post from Slacktivist about his reaction to the book, Miracles. I feel like sums up pretty well the approach that I tend to take with respect to the supernatural. Here’s a bit of a teaser:

That X-Files analogy also highlights another underlying problem with Miracles. If you’re not familiar with Chris Carter’s wonderful 1990s TV show, it follows the adventures of two FBI agents who are tasked with investigating unexplained phenomena. Agent Scully, played by Gillian Anderson, is the one who believes in UFOs.

Many people get that backwards. Since Scully is the skeptical scientist and Mulder the idealistic true believer, they mistakenly think Mulder believes in UFOs. He doesn’t. Mulder can’t abide allowing flying objects to remain unidentified. He doesn’t believe in UFOs, he believes in alien spacecraft.

Posted 07/29/2012 by reluctantliberal in Repost

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Repost: What Happened to Our Media?   Leave a comment

Content Warning: Police Violence, Shootings, Racism

I’m so ticked off that I haven’t heard about this sooner. Racially charged police shootings bring about week long protests in Anaheim? Who cares? We need to talk more about which is worse, the London Olympics opening ceremonies or Romney’s visit to “England.”

But seriously, would it kill the press to give an actual voice to protesters in this country. Even when they were covering Occupy Wall Street (which is still going on, last I heard), you never got to hear from people who were actually deeply involved in the protests. Sure, they’d interview dumb college students to display how directionless the protests were, but God forbid they find someone articulate.

Meanwhile, the structural racism, economic inequality, and unnecessary violence of the system march forward barely noticed, much less slowed down by our watchdog media.

Our Very Own Nobel Peace Prize Winner…   Leave a comment

So I’ve got a huge backlog of articles that I’m going through, which is why I’m just now reading Glenn Greenwald’s post about drone strikes in Pakistan.

The main part of the article that I wanted to draw attention to was that at least 70 people have been killed in drone strikes that targeted either a funeral or rescue workers who went to the site of a previous drone strike. This is the equivalent of targeting any ambulance that shows up at the scene of a violent crime.

These deaths are a result of deliberate policy adopted by the United States. As reported by the New York Times, any male of military age found in a strike zone is automatically deemed a militant. So when news outlets report on the US killing “militants,” keep in mind what they mean.

Anyway, I’m just wondering if there’s anyone out there who thinks targeting funerals is not a war crime. Any takers on that position? Anyone want to defend targeting funerals as a legitimate act of war? I also wonder if there’s anyone out there who thinks that targeting rescue workers is not a war crime. Come on! What war doesn’t call for popping off a few doctors or ambulance drivers? Nobody wants to argue this?

Okay, then. We’re all agreed. President Obama is a war criminal. No takezees backzees.

Posted 07/29/2012 by reluctantliberal in Generic Post

Repost: The Blatancy of Apartheid   Leave a comment

Here‘s another good post from Mondoweiss. It captures a bit of the daily grinding humiliation of being a Palestinian in Israel/Palestine. US public discourse equates all Palestinians with terrorists (How many times have I heard, “Both sides do bad things”?). But the conflict isn’t made up of sides, it’s made up of people. And to me it’s starting to look like some people are going through a slow motion process of ethnic cleansing.

The largest impression of all: These people have no freedom of movement. It takes hours to make a 10 mile trip, and none of the thoughtful city planning that Jews get in West Jerusalem is extended to the Palestinians. No, they must be constrained at every turn, and choked, so they want to fly away. I would fly away. I’d move to the Gulf, I’d go to Europe, I’d give up.

 

Posted 07/28/2012 by reluctantliberal in Repost

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Making the Subtext, Text   Leave a comment

A very smart person once told me that when people talk, the subtext of what they’re saying is usually, “Wouldn’t the world be such a better place if I were in charge?” Well, today I’m running with that. I’m going to list the things I would do immediately if I were even just uncontested ruler of the United States. (Because I’m humble like that.)

1) Decommission all US military bases overseas. They’re a drain on resources, they serve no productive purpose, and their presence tends to promote prostitution and sex trafficking that persists long after the base leaves.

2) End the war on drugs. Seriously, its expensive, it makes drug lords rich, it’s massively destabilizing for South and Central America, and it doesn’t work. Portugal’s usage rates have dropped since they decriminalized drugs.

3) Establish a universal healthcare system that focuses on prevention. We pay way more than anybody else for our healthcare with poor results. Nobody should have to choose between groceries and medication.

4) Dramatically alter US farm subsidies. Subsidies currently favor the production of corn, soy, and wheat over everything else. I heard the other day that corn is in 75% of food at the grocery store. Lack of diversity in foods means lack of diversity in nutrients, and that’s bad for our health. It shouldn’t be cheaper to eat at McDonald’s than make a homemade salad with fresh ingredients. You shouldn’t be able to get a candy bar in every gas station everywhere, but not be able to find turnips at the grocery store. The American diet is thoroughly un-nutritious, and we’re paying for it.

5) Make classified documents the exception, rather than the rule. The Obama administration has been leaking for years about all the secret programs they’ve got going on, but when those policies are challenged in court, the US Government argues that these programs are too secret to be subjected to judicial review. One family tried to put an injunction on the CIA to get a family member taken off a “kill list.” Instead of arguing that the government needed to be able to have a kill list, the CIA argued that they couldn’t even acknowledge that such a kill list existed and thus couldn’t have the case tried in court. The judge sided with the CIA. The man was killed a few months later.

6) Move to publicly funded elections. Money in politics protecting unpopular, unregulated industries. Public funding isn’t perfect, but it’s much better that a few hundred millionaires and billionaires providing 80% of the funding in an election. Politicians will serve the people who put them there, and right now that isn’t the American people.

7) Give renewable power sources as many subsidies as oil gets. China is going to be leading in solar power because our companies can barely compete with their (Chinese government subsidized) low prices. Renewables are the way of the future, and I’d prefer not to have to send even more money to China to get a piece of that action.

8) Establish marriage equality. I used to think that religious marriage and civil marriage (which would all be called civil unions, to allow for arrangements outside of romantic relationships) should be entirely separate. If I was making up a society from scratch, that’s still how I’d do it. However, I live in the United States, and the bigots need to lose. (To clarify, I don’t think all proponents of so called “traditional marriage” are bigots. Some are just misguided or misinformed.) There are too many people in this country with prejudice in their hearts and it would be good for the country as a whole to turn its back on that prejudice.

9) Make most restrooms non-gendered. It is my understanding that restrooms are a mine field for non-cisgendered people, and there’s no need for that. Europe does just fine with non-gendered restrooms.

10) Make school funding based on state or federal rather than local taxes. Inequalities in school funding are unnecessary, and are seriously harmful for social mobility. Wealthy people should have the same public education as the rest of us. If they don’t like that, they can either remove their kids from the public school system (thus freeing up funding for other kids), or they can raise taxes on themselves to make the school system better.

11) Give decent funding to public universities and schools. Teaching isn’t really a respected profession in the United States, but it should be. More money would attract badly needed talent to our failing school system.

12) Raise the minimum wage. We need more consumption right now, and unlike giving free money to the banks (who just squirrel it away), people working for minimum wage would spend it. Yeah, inflation will suck up some of the spending power, but the poor should still have a bigger share of the economic pie than they had before a minimum wage increase.

13) Infrastructure spending. We needs it. It actually costs us more per year to fix the problems with things that should have been replaced or updated already than it would to replace or update them. That’s just silly.

So that’s what I would do if people did the sensible thing of making me uncontested ruler of the United States. Oh wait, there’s one more…

14) Permanently abolish the office of uncontested ruler of the United States after I vacate the position. ‘Cause it’s not like there’s anyone else who can do as well as I would.

Why I Won’t Be Returning to the Catholic Church Anytime Soon   4 comments

I’ve started reading a number of Catholic blogs. Ideally, I’d like to do for Catholicism what Slacktivist does for Evangelicalism. That is, I’d like to offer an informed critique from a former insider. In that spirit I’d like to offer the reasons I won’t be rejoining the Catholic Church anytime soon.

1) Gender Issues

The Catholic Church falls decidedly in the Complimentarian camp when it comes to gender. Men are men, women are women, and while their dignity is equal their roles are different.

I don’t really agree with this. Gender is a societal construction (a deeply embedded one, but still). Even if males and females do tend towards different things biologically, individual variations still mean that there will be plenty of people and relationships for whom fixed gender roles are wrong. Making those gender roles the only acceptable option for people has caused untold damage to people who naturally tend not to fit those roles.

Oh, and by the way, Adam and Eve might have been created male and female, but biology has other possibilities. Some people literally can’t fit into the male-female dichotomy, and I’ve yet to see a good Catholic response to those people.

2) The Reproductive Aspect of Sex

There are some couples who should be couples, but should not have children. For example, a couple where one or both of the people involved have serious health issues which make it difficult for that couple just to get by. There are people with health conditions that would prevent them from providing a child with the care and attention that child deserves.

Furthermore, removing the procreative aspect of sex doesn’t necessarily poison the loving aspect of sex. That’s not how sex works. That’s not how the human brain works. Removing a possible but unlikely possibility from an individual act doesn’t greatly affect the way performing that action affects us.

3) Hell

The doctrine of eternal hell is pernicious and false. It is not Biblically supported, it is not in keeping with the actions of a loving or just God, and it makes people who believe in it worse people. Just read one of the Church Fathers talking about their enemies suffering in hell and tell me it doesn’t harm people’s souls.

4) Hierarchy

A little bit of hierarchy seems to be necessary (seems to be). The extent to which the Catholic Church is hierarchical is corrupting, though. You can tell the difference between practicality and corruption based on whether or not the people at the top of the hierarchy listen to people at the bottom of the hierarchy. The Catholic Church (at least in the United States) doesn’t listen women or children, or anybody who doesn’t share the same priorities. The Catholic Church has even started ignoring the poor. You can tell that the Catholic Church has put too much effort into the abortion debate because it is paying less attention to other issues of human dignity than before it invested everything into abortion. Now the bishops are going after the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which was subjected to a “doctrinal review”), not over what the LCWR is teaching, but because isn’t giving abortion and gay marriage enough attention. The bishops aren’t just enforcing doctrine, which is understandable. They’re enforcing priorities.

5) The Collapse on Other Human Rights

The right to life, according the Catholic Church, comes prior to all other rights. That’s true in a chronological sense, but other rights are too fundamental for all of the attention to be placed on one or two issues. The Catholic Church, which used to side with the poor and the marginalized, isn’t really doing that anymore. The current conservative Catholic alliance with the pro-death penalty, anti-gun law, anti-social safety net, anti-health care GOP has politicized the Catholic Church while compromising its commitment to the poor.