Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dying for God and other uplifting developments

It's rare that I come across a story that stumps my strict libertarian moral code so successfully that I'm unable to take a position or, better yet, berate the antagonists mercilessly. But I was introduced to this disconcerting feeling once again today when I stumbled across this story, shortly after scanning what I affectionately call the "Spoiled Whores Wire" (otherwise known as the Features section of the AP feed, where I get my Paris Hilton fix):

At 14, Dennis Lindberg is old enough to know that refusing blood transfusions may amount to a "death sentence," but he has that right, a Skagit County judge ruled today.

A Jehovah's Witness from Mount Vernon, Lindberg has religious objections to receiving blood. Doctors say he needs transfusions to survive treatment for leukemia.

Doctors at Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center in Seattle diagnosed him Nov. 6 and began giving him chemotherapy. Because such treatment destroys the body's ability to make red blood cells, transfusions are necessary, doctors said.

Lindberg's relatives disagree about whether the eighth-grader, who remains hospitalized, should be forced to get the transfusions. His aunt, who is his legal guardian and also a Jehovah's Witness, supports his decision to refuse. But his parents, who live in Idaho, disagree.

First, it should be said that this boy died in the hospital just hours after the judge issued his ruling, so out of respect for the dead I won't go into how stupid I think it is to base a life-altering medical decision on religion. Although that much is clear in my mind, the debate is less about the rationality of religion and more about freedom in this society. Surely in a free society, everybody should retain the basic right to decide the fate of their own lives, and making that decision based on a religion is certainly included in that freedom.

Then again, this is a 14-year-old kid we're talking about. Perhaps a kid who, arguably, couldn't quite grasp the implications of such a decision, and may I be so bold to say may not have been given the opportunity to question the soundness of his own beliefs. I'll put it another way: Maybe his fucking "legal guardian" was an insane religious zealot who convinced him he would burn in the eternal depths of hell fire (or whatever Jehovah's Witnesses believe) if he received a blood transfusion that would ultimately spare his life. If that's the case, then I would say: Congratulations, "guardian," you killed him. You fail.

Given my fanatical distrust of any authority figure telling me what I can and can't do in regard to my life, it's really hard for me to disagree with the judge's ruling. This kid may well have been old enough -- and of sound enough mind -- to make that kind of decision for himself. And I'm not about to suggest people be denied the right to use faith as a factor in such a decision. But it sounds fishy to me. It doesn't sit right. I find it hard to believe that a 14-year-old would take religion seriously enough to end his life over it without some kind of outside authoritative influence. And I'm a bit disgusted that a religion would preach such a belief in the first place. I can't imagine a God that wouldn't understand the basic human urge to survive, and the scientific breakthroughs that have allowed us as a race to extend our time on this world.

So I'm left at square one on this issue. If this kid truly and independently came to the conclusion that a blood transfusion would harm his soul, well I can't really argue with him, and I have to respect that he has the absolute right to believe it. But if he was influenced to deny the treatment even for an instant by some crackpot religious leader, I think somebody is guilty of negligent homicide.

On a side note, I find it interesting that when it comes to refusing medical care that will ultimately result in death, religious leaders insist on absolute immunity, but when it comes to the right to end your own life to stop the suffering of a catastrophic terminal illness, these same religious leaders cry foul. In terms of euthanasia, I really don't see the distinction between refusing life-saving care or pushing a button to pump yourself full of toxic chemicals.

Either way, it's a death sentence.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving break

I've been pretty busy for the holiday, so I haven't had a chance to update. But never fear, the show will return shortly.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Church vows to take over Microsoft; Bill Gates buys planet Neptune

Here at Project Hairy Alpaca, our crack team of analysts sifts through hundreds of articles per minute in a valiant search to find the most hopeless souls currently inhabiting this chunk of rock. And by "crack team," I mean I occasionally take time from drawing stick figures to browse the Internet for a few minutes. It's a highly fluid system, full of intricacies, redundancies and intricacies. What?

Anyway, this story will amaze and inspire you, for it has everything that lies at the heart of the American dream: Capitalism, technology, and a biblical allegory to David and Goliath. The only difference here is that David is an insane fundamentalist, and Goliath is a corporation worth billions of dollars (from The Telegraph):

A black conservative Christian pastor of an evangelical megachurch has vowed to take over Microsoft by packing it with new shareholders who will vote against the company's policy of championing gay rights.

The Reverend Ken Hutcherson, a former Dallas Cowboys linebacker, heads the Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, home of Microsoft.

He told Microsoft executives at a shareholders' meeting last week that he would be their "worst nightmare" if they continued to defy him.

Antioch Bible Church attracts around 3,500 worshippers for its services and Mr Hutcherson is a powerful figure in the Christian conservative movement.

His church, which emphasises racial diversity and a strict moral code, grew from a bible study class for just 15 people in 1984.

I guess I'll start with a few small technical inquiries into Mr. Hutcherson's moral crusade. I'm just wondering how he and his "3,500 worshippers" plan to raise the approximately $182,000,000,000 it would take to purchase a controlling stake in Microsoft, which by the way is worth about $364.76 billion. According to Forbes, Bill Gates owns just 8 percent of the company, and even that comes out to nearly 1 billion shares. Want to know how much it costs to own just 8 percent of Microsoft? About $29 billion. Basically, if each of his worshippers spent $52 million buying shares, they'd be on their way to being in a position where Microsoft would give a fuck about what they have to say. (I apologize if my math is a bit off here, but you get the picture. It's like 3 a.m. for Christ's sake. Source here).

But that's OK. When you're on a mission from God, these contingencies will just work themselves out, right? And in America, no less! Nothing is more American than taking over a company by force, and gay bashing. Except maybe running into the wilderness to kill some shit:
Mr Hutcherson's office is decorated with the heads of deer, elk and a buffalo – "when I run into animals, I kill them and bring them home and eat them" – as well as invitations to the White House and signed pictures of himself with President George W. Bush.

Wow. Perhaps the buffalo roam in fields of money.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A comedy of terrors

It's fun to poke fun at Rudy Giuliani. I mean, the man is basically a walking punchline. For one, he's a Republican cross dresser, which I personally find insanely funny in a parallel universe sort of way. He's also been divorced like a thousand times, yet he opposes gay marriage on principal, which is funny in a confusing sort of way. You laugh, and then you think: "Wait. What?"

And don't even get me started on his face. He looks like something out of a Brothers Grimm nightmare. Every time I see him on TV I think gophers have finally engineered the perfect killing machine, and oh fuck it's running for president, and oh shit it's a front-runner. The gophers may seem cute and cuddly now, but they're really bent on world domination!:

But hey, want to know something about Rudy that's not so funny? Him being president.

I say this with full knowledge that he's the only seemingly electable Republican who is pro-choice and, one might assume, the most socially liberal of the bunch. But this is all bullshit, like his fake tears over Sept. 11, most of which he sheds at sanctimonious speeches he gives shortly after taking a swim in the millions of dollars he's stockpiled on the backs of those 3,000 dead Americans. Before reading on, do me a favor and take the idea that Rudy gives a fuck about your liberties and flush it down the toilet with the rest of yesterday's business. Because if he's elected, Rudy will destroy this country, and we won't have the fortune of him being incredibly incompetent like George W. Bush. He's smart, cunning, manipulative -- and worst of all, completely misunderstood.

Here's how I know Rudy is full of shit with his whole middle-the-road schtick: He was just endorsed by America's most insane evangelical zealot, Pat Robertson. Think about that for a second. Think about Rudy Giuliani, who has not been timid about his pro-choice views, who has been divorced several times and estranged from his own children, and who has vehemently defended gay rights. Then consider some of the things Pat Robertson has said:
"(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

"Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians."

"Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals--the two things seem to go together." (Interestingly, like Hitler, Rudy is a Catholic).
So the question is, why would a man like Robertson endorse a man like Rudy? Some have argued that Robertson was just being practical: He couldn't back Romney, because he's a Mormon, which many evangelicals consider a cult. And he couldn't back McCain, because he can't possibly win. So the only natural choice was Giuliani, despite his pro-choice, pro-gay, New York sensibilities.

But think about this: Do you really think Pat Robertson, who agreed with Jerry Falwell that Sept. 11 was God's revenge for the ACLU, and who essentially influences the votes of millions of religious people with his daily dose of propaganda, would endorse a candidate unless he was confident such an endorsement would pay off? Rudy isn't pro-choice. Rudy is pro-whatever the fuck gets me elected. And if he gets elected, he'll be pro-whatever keeps me in office. So my guess is Rudy told Pat Robertson something powerful enough, convincing enough, that he was (theoretically) able to win a significant segment of the Christian vote. A guy like Pat Robertson does not dole out that kind of political gold unless he knows something we don't.

What really scares me is that Rudy Giuliani is just crazy enough to be endorsed by somebody like Pat Robertson. I figure Robertson, who has a fetish for bombing non-believers, probably read the same New York Times article I did:
Rudolph W. Giuliani’s approach to foreign policy shares with other Republican presidential candidates an aggressive posture toward terrorism, a commitment to strengthening the military and disdain for the United Nations.

But in developing his views, Mr. Giuliani is consulting with, among others, a particularly hawkish group of advisers and neoconservative thinkers.

Their positions have been criticized by Democrats as irresponsible and applauded by some conservatives as appropriately tough, while raising questions about how closely aligned Mr. Giuliani’s thinking is with theirs.

Mr. Giuliani’s team includes Norman Podhoretz, a prominent neoconservative who advocates bombing Iran “as soon as it is logistically possible”; Daniel Pipes, the director of the Middle East Forum, who has called for profiling Muslims at airports and scrutinizing American Muslims in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps; and Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who has written in favor of revoking the United States’ ban on assassination.

Now when I read about Rudy Giuliani, I don't laugh much anymore.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Looks can kill

From the Teachers Packing Heat desk comes the conclusion of a story that I could honestly care less about, but nonetheless feel I must bring up for reasons that soon will be revealed in striking contrast.

Some background on the case: A teacher in Medford with a concealed weapons license wanted to carry her semiautomatic handgun to school with her. Her reasoning for needing the firearm was to protect herself against her ex-husband, who she accused of threatening her. Why she would need to defend herself at school is beyond me in that it seems unlikely this guy would opt to show up in a public workplace rather than her home if he had any intension to harm her. Regardless, a district police prohibited her from bringing the gun, and a lawsuit ensued, and all the gun nuts and peaceniks came out for a wild romp, and fun times were had by all.

Until Friday, when a judge ruled that the school had a right to set the anti-gun policy. He said this in a context of a bunch of legal crap that nobody cares about, but what he was REALLY thinking was this:


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Apparently, real life is still happening

You may find this unbelievable, even stunning, but today I really have no opinion on anything. Even though I watched CNN for a half-hour yesterday at the gym, and therein witnessed once again the shocking lack of journalistic principles on broadcast news, I still find it unpleasant to explore that in any meaningful manner right now.

So in a rare divergence from the stated purpose of this blog, and at the risk of divulging my true identity to the readers who don't know it, I'm going to talk about my personal life.

* First, I'd like to congratulate the Hairy Alpaca reader who stumbled upon my rants and raves by typing the following into Google: "hairy women tube" and "she like it hairy tube." You, good sir or madam, are the official weirdo of the blog. Let's give him him/her a hand! (An explanation for the less technologically inclined: I can track the keywords that people use when my blog comes up after a Google search).

* Guitar Hero, you evil temptress, I kneel in submission to your supernatural powers that force me to drool in front of the PS2 for 14 hours at a time. I vowed I would never become a slave to console gaming, but your sweet calls and false sense that I'm a real musician keep drawing me back to your faithful caress like Rudy Giuliani to his wives. After Guitar Hero I, Guitar Hero II, and Guitar Hero III (all in the course of about four days), I ask: Please God, take this devil machine away from me before I get sucked into the TV.

* I'm trying to write a screenplay. I haven't started yet, and don't even know where to start. I just know that I can do this. I feel like I have a greater purpose than being an editor. Sometimes I wonder what the fuck I'm doing correcting other people's shitty writing when I could be creating my own vision.

* I'm growing up. I've come to terms with it, and during the past month I've felt a monumental shift in my consciousness. I realize what I need, what I want, and the foolishness in not trying to get it. I want people to see me as confident and not like I just woke up a half-hour ago. The feeling has faded in the past week, but I think I learned some things while I was on top of the world. And although I'm not waking up as much with that awesome feeling that everything is going the right way, the lessons from that period have stuck with me. It's still a bumpy road -- there are things about myself that I want to change, ways of thinking about things and treating things that don't fit the new model. But I've got a head start, and even if my path doesn't change in the near future, my outlook surely has.

* I'm probably the only person left on the planet who can say this, but I just UPGRADED to Windows XP. So Windows 2000, who I knew and loved for the better part of about seven years, it's been a great ride, but sometimes things have to change. I'll always remember the times we had: 20-hour marathons of Counter Strike, Plug and Play by osmosis, and the time when I installed Service Pack 1 and you wouldn't start anymore because you wanted me to change the jumper in the back of my hard drive. Meeeeeeeeeeeeemories....

Friday, November 2, 2007

What's that, Westboro church? I'm sorry, I couldn't quite hear you through all the sounds of you getting royally fucked

A quick post tonight because I've just worked eight days in a row and my cognitive capabilities are at about Bush level. So before I start a war and inadvertently kill thousands of people with my stupidity, I'm just gonna say this: Here in the USA, the right to sue is like the right to steal billions of dollars through insider trading and flee to a tropical paradise without extradition laws: It's just so damn American it hurts. We covet the civil lawsuit like it's the last line of defense before the foreigners get us.

So it was with passing amusement that I found out the Westboro Baptist Church (see post from a few days ago) lost in a lawsuit accusing it of inflicting emotional distress and generally being worthless pieces of shit (now there's a crime I can support). And not only did they lose, they basically got bankrupted by a jury to the tune of $10 million. As Samuel L. Jackson would say: "Damn, motherfucker!"

From The Los Angeles Times:

Jurors unanimously agreed that the Snyders' privacy had been breached by the Westboro Baptist Church, a family-based conservative religious group that assembled on public property near the funeral motorcade. As mourners for Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder drove by March 10, 2006, members of the fundamentalist Christian church based in Topeka, Kan., held up signs reading such things as "Thank God for dead soldiers."

Well I'm starting to quote Samuel L. Jackson, or as I call him when we chill down in Inglewood, "Sammy," and that usually means I'm starting to pass out. So to recap: Westboro Baptist Church, you're a bunch of fucktards, and I'm laughing my ass off that you just got your zealot asses handed to you, but it probably won't hold up on appeal, and I'm not sure I'd want it to anyway. Whenever courts start screwing with free speech, I get that feeling like the whole country is about to bend over.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Georgia's new crime: Sex while black

Genarlow Wilson was just 17 years old when they ripped him away from his life and family and hauled him off to a Georgia prison.

In a society where blacks often face bitter racism and inequality, Wilson excelled -- he was a top student at his high school and an aspiring football player who was garnering talk of recruitment into the college level. His future was bright.

That is, until the forces of conservatism and sexual repression in this country got their sinister clutches on him. While at a high school party one night, Wilson received consensual oral sex from a girl two years younger than him. And as murderers, rapists and white-collar CEOs were running around killing people, raping people and stealing billions of dollars, Wilson was arrested for messing around with another teenager. Apparently, in Georgia, fellatio is a felony. Who knew?

Wilson was charged as an adult with aggravated child molestation, despite the trivial fact that he wasn't an adult and he didn't molest any children, and was offered an olive branch by the open-minded and forward-thinking DA: Become a registered sex offender and be ostracized by society for the rest of your life for getting a hummer, or rot in prison like a criminal. I see a Robert Frost parallel here, but I don't think I'll go there.

Wilson rejected the deal, not because he thought it was a miscarriage of justice, but because he was concerned he wouldn't be able to see his 9-year-old sister anymore, or even have his own kids someday, because sex offender status would require him to stay away from children. So in an effort to keep his family together and preserve his future, Wilson went to a jury, which obviously found him guilty, given he is black and this is the South we're talking about.

Ten years in prison they gave him. And in an instant, the American justice system became a complete fraud. Luckily, the Georgia Supreme Court was able to glean some reason from the ashes, and it overturned the sentence, calling the sentence "cruel and unusual punishment."

Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote for the majority:
Although society has a significant interest in protecting children from premature sexual activity, we must acknowledge that Wilson's crime does not rise to the level of culpability of adults who prey on children … For the law to punish Wilson as it would an adult, with the extraordinary harsh punishment of 10 years in prison without the possibility of probation or parole, appears to be grossly disproportionate to his crime.

But Wilson still spent two years behind bars. I can only imagine the personal transformation after two years in a Georgia prison. I think it's safe to say he didn't come out the same person.

I don't think I even have to make any arguments about the fundamental breakdown in this country when it comes to our perception of sex, or how we have a bunch of prude old men in charge of making laws, because this case really speaks for itself. It's an overzealous attempt to control something you can't possibly control: Human nature. But they'll keep trying. And once again, the wheels of progress in this country turn, turn, turn.