Monday, April 28, 2008

Magazine exploits young lust, hilarity (sort of) ensues

I don't cackle with glee as much as when a supposedly wholesome celebrity who has built her media empire on the pillars of her virginity is shamed by scandalous photos circulating the dirty depths of the Internet. From my comfortable chair here in the middle of nowhere, I can almost hear the distant cries of terror from those millions of adoring fans who thought the subject of their latest worship was incapable of expressing any sort of sexuality. Then I hear the shrill screams from the parents who thought they could forever shield their youngsters from the naughty midriff of reality, and my life is complete.

What I find slightly disturbing, however, is when a legitimate magazine cover features scandalous photos of 15-year-old Miley Cyrus, who has accomplished as much for advancing the quality of artistic expression in this country as a monkey throwing shit at a musical instrument. Regardless, an upcoming issue of Vanity Fair shows the excruciatingly young-looking girl in a way that I find morbidly pedophelic, holding a loose satin sheet over herself and throwing a haggard smirk at the camera like she just got done with a three-way. I'm sure it will please the sexual predator block of the local penitentiary, but as for me I could do without leering at the bare, bony back of a girl who can't legally smoke, drink, vote Republican or kill people in foreign countries.

As hilarious as it may be on its face that a rising star of awful, soulless music will probably face a mass exodus of her fan base, I still find the whole thing rather creepy. What I fail to understand is how her own father, who was present during the photo shoot and was able to sign off on the digital pictures, didn't see a problem with broadcasting his 15-year-old daughter half-nude for the world to see. Is this the part of her life where she turns into the "bad girl" and goes batshit crazy? Will she start mowing people over with her luxury BMW and shaving her head? At what point will this girl be allowed to have a childhood?

It's a wonderful example for all the American kids out there: In this great country of ours, even YOU can be exploited in every way possible, make a billion dollars for screeching out bubble-gum bullshit, and appear half-nude on the cover of prestigious media-whore magazines before you can even drive a car.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Expelled" from reality

Ben Stein, a former speechwriter for the only president to resign from office for being a two-bit criminal, has a new movie out, and it doesn't involve a lovable slacker badass named Beuller. The plot in a nutshell is composed of the following points: Evolution is a lie because some scientists who disagree with it have been fired from their jobs (although not necessarily for their objections); free speech should be the dominating factor in the scientific method; and, of course, morality is a sufficient measure of scientific viability.

The last point is not subtly demonstrated when Stein postulates that Adolph Hitler used Darwin's theories to justify the Holocaust, and therefore evolution doesn't exist. He doesn't seem to realize that coupling images of mass murder with evolutionary theories only serves to unfairly demonize atheists and scientists while absolutely failing to prove anything about creationism. In short, "Expelled" is a disgusting piece of propaganda that should be a case study in logical fallacy.

For instance, even if Hitler distorted Darwin's theories to mastermind the most gruesome genocide in world history, how does that prove anything about the scientific viability of Darwin? Using that reasoning, I could say that a Christian performing a violent act in the name of God proves that God doesn't exist. Are we to believe that a society striving for concrete answers to our existence should automatically discount years of scientific discovery simply because somebody has used those discoveries for evil? That's the best argument the creationists could think up to challenge evolution?

Interesting. Allow me to consider that obscene argument while I push this guy off a 10-story building. Oh dear, it appears he has fallen to his death. Well, because my action was violent and reprehensible, I guess gravity doesn't really exist. My actions were so morally repugnant that we should just assume the hand of God threw him to the ground. Isaac Newton be damned!

Stein needs to realize that morally unjustifiable actions are not a good gauge for scientific inquiry. Let me rephrase that: The connection simply doesn't exist. At all. Just because some misguided person uses a scientific theory as justification for his actions doesn't reveal anything about the viability of that theory. Is Stein so dense that he doesn't understand such a simple concept as the scientific method?

After all, lest we forget that Adolph Hitler was a Roman Catholic and often used God to justify the slaughter of Jews. He was not an atheist; he was a man of faith, as were most of his followers. Using Stein's logic I should conclude that God is a lie and atheism is absolute truth simply based on Hitler's actions. Of course, I personally don't believe I should empower Hitler to posthumously dictate my beliefs in anything. As a Jew, I'm sure Stein would agree with that sentiment; unfortunately, he's trapped in a head-in-ass situation that is common among many insane religious zealots.

Late night agonizing

After an hour of attempting to post about the world, I've decided it's absolutely hopeless and will now proceed to bore you, dear reader, with Personal Shit. I realize it hardly qualifies for "crap of grave importance," but maybe if I get it off my chest I'll be able to sleep a little better tonight.

I forgot to mention last week that I finally passed the 100-post mark on the blog, and it only took me eight months of agonizing nights, flirtations at true dedication and a ferocious Oregon winter that won't end. The milestone is a quirky mixture for my psyche: A sign of accomplishment that I've put my opinions out there and garnered a few interested readers, but also a lingering symbol of all I haven't done -- unexplored intellectual territories and constant personal reflection of my potential.

Basically, I've been struggling lately with my demons as a wordsmith. Sometimes I experience a sudden panic, starting in my stomach and ebbing slowly throughout my body, at the prospect that I'm just an average writer. Often I wonder whether I'm any good at all. I'm sure the people who perceive my offerings to be consistently interesting and witty will take my personal reservations as some kind of self-righteous self-doubt, but for me it's a nagging fear that nothing I say makes any damn sense. Or the way I say it.

It's possible that what I'm experiencing is writer's block, or lack of inspiration, or any of the other excuses many writers use to mask their lack of talent and creativity. It just terrifies me when I struggle to make a simple sentence sound good, or clever, or original. I try to say too much, and from my perspective it all gets lost in translation. Then again, a blog is traditionally a conversational forum for writers, and for me often a stream-of-consciousness experience. Maybe my thoughts would flow better if I knew my words would be in print or read by millions of people.

Anyway, I'm tipping my glass to all you confused writers out there trying to make sense of your own ambitions and talents. Maybe we should all stop thinking and do something about it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blog gap

I'm still here; it's just been a very busy few days. More updates coming soon. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

More pope bashing (it must be a Wednesday)

The pope has been flouncing around the United States all week with a new, carefully calculated message for the Catholic masses: "Oops." Remember the whole issue of the child molestation with the Catholic priests? Yeah, well, the pope feels ashamed about that -- real ashamed!

I've been reading about this all week, and yet every time he utters another half-apology for the high crimes of pedophile priests, I can't help but look for his crossed fingers. He feels ashamed? Well, thanks for the fucking concession, your holiness, but we kind of knew all along that sexual abuse of children is shameful. What we're looking for is what you're going to do about it, and maybe an explanation of why you tried to cover it up. Anything else is just more bullshit from an old man too stubborn to admit he's in the midst of a religious public relations nightmare.

On Wednesday the pope took a short break from pretending to be sorry so he could equate child sexual abuse with violence and pornography in the media, declaring: "What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?"

Huh. Interesting. I have yet to see a scientific study linking child endangerment with media images of violence and sex, yet I'm pretty sure one could find a relationship between child endangerment and fucking Catholic sexual predators. What does it mean to speak of child protection? It means keep the clutches of your corrupt, disgusting priests away from our children, and shut the hell up about everything else. We're not interesting in your opinion on anything except how you plan on saving our kids from your religion.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sunny weather, geeks getting women and other important shit

The sun is creeping back to Eugene for another visit after a few days of rain and hail. Although it's still not as nice as Saturday's 84 degrees and multitude of barbecues, I'll settle for any amount of blue sky and rays of sunshine. On a day like this, how could I possible blog about dark topics such as the pope and Dick Cheney's face?

Plus, I think the bleak weather triggers something in my brain that generates a need to disseminate bad news. Without stormy nights and the sound of rain pelting my window, my inspiration for tragedy plummets.

So here's my offering: If you think you're the biggest geek in the universe, I'm sorry to break the news to you. You're not. This guy is!

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (AP) -- Hiding a ring in a bouquet just wasn't enough when a computer programmer decided to pop the question.

At Bernie Peng and Tammy Li's wedding, guests will receive copies of "Bejeweled."

Bernie Peng reprogrammed Tammy Li's favorite video game, "Bejeweled," so a ring and a marriage proposal would show up on the screen when she reached a certain score.

Li reached the needed score -- and said yes.

Word of the romantic feat in December filtered out after Peng, a financial software programmer, posted details on his blog. The reprogramming was a tricky task and took him a month.

"I thought it was pretty cool, in a nerdy way," Peng told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

The couple plan to marry over Labor Day weekend, and PopCap, the Seattle company that makes "Bejeweled," will fly the couple to Seattle as part of their honeymoon.

A spokesman for the company that developed the game helpfully explains why the love-struck programmer isn't getting sued for hacking the game:

"Most video game companies would frown on people manipulating their games," said Garth Chouteau, a spokesman for PopCap.

"But it won him a woman. As a bunch of geeks, we have to say, 'Bernie, hats off to you.'


Monday, April 14, 2008

Cardinal Ratfucker slithers into America

I find it very fitting that a president who has worked steadfastly for eight years to shatter any notion of a separation between religion and government is rolling out the red carpet for the pope. In fact, from the looks of it, the pope's upcoming stop here in America will be less like a traditional visit by a foreign figurehead and more like an orgy of dogma:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The leader of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics has been to the White House only once in history.

That changes this week, and President Bush is pulling out all the stops: driving out to a suburban military base to meet Pope Benedict XVI's plane, bringing a giant audience to the South Lawn and hosting a fancy East Room dinner.

These are all firsts.

Bush has never before given a visiting leader the honor of picking him up at the airport. In fact, no president has done so at Andrews Air Force Base, the typical landing spot for modern leaders.

A crowd of up to 12,000 is due at the White House on Wednesday morning for the pope's official, pomp-filled arrival ceremony. It will feature the U.S. and Holy See anthems, a 21-gun salute, and the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. Both men will make remarks before their Oval Office meeting and a send-off for his popemobile down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Personally, if the man responsible for covering up rampant sexual abuse in the Catholic Church paid a visit to my house, I certainly wouldn't give him a 21-gun salute. I'd give him 2 seconds to leave and 1 finger for his trouble. I'd tell this "holy man" that a free society has no interest in his rabid and vocal opposition to such radical and inhuman ideas as practicing birth control, or his opinion that homosexuality is "an intrinsic moral evil."

Seriously. Millions of homosexuals in America, and we're giving full military honors to the guy who says they're all going to burn in hell. To recap: Gays are immoral, but we still need to investigate (secretly) whether touching small children is wrong. Praise the lord!

But don't worry, Bush has a perfectly reasonable explanation for the fawning welcoming committee (warning: the following quote may cause spontaneous head explosion):

"One, he speaks for millions. Two, he doesn't come as a politician; he comes as a man of faith," Bush told the EWTN Global Catholic Network in an interview aired Friday. He added that he wanted to honor Benedict's conviction that "there's right and wrong in life, that moral relativism has a danger of undermining the capacity to have more hopeful and free societies."

Wait, did he just say the path to freedom involves rejecting the philosophy that different societies should be able to set their own moral standards? Of course he did.

You know, as long as we're on the topic of hope, I really hope somebody takes the pope's fascist moral compass and shoves it right up his pope ass. Wouldn't that be ironic?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Look for the Sadr City Olympics in 2012

Can somebody please explain to me why we are allowing an oppressive regime like fucking China to host the Olympics, which last time I checked are supposed to symbolize the brotherhood and commonality of all nations through the ancient tradition of peaceful competition?

Simply consider the Olympic Games Web site: "The Games have always brought people together in peace to respect universal moral principles. The upcoming Games will feature athletes from all over the world and help promote the Olympic spirit." Peace and universal moral principles? Does that include beating Tibetan monks in the street? Does that include ruling your society through fear and Big Brother surveillance?

As if it weren't enough to hold the games in a nation known for its violent control of its own people and the people of other, peaceful nations, Olympic officials are now threatening to crack down on free speech during the event. Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, announced that China would expel any athlete who violates the Olympic charter by contributing to "political, religious or racial propaganda."

The problem is that China considers any speech that isn't careful scrutinized and vetted by the ruling party to be "propaganda." This ideology especially applies to Tibet. In other words, while flying a Tibetan flag would be considered a simple act of patriotism in any other nation hosting the games, in China it suddenly becomes an act of propaganda.

This is why it's a bad idea to hold the Olympics in a nation that has absolute contempt for freedom of speech. And the Olympic Committee isn't exactly adding any clarity to the subject:

The IOC did not specify whether a Chinese athlete or a foreign competitor of Tibetan origin flying the Tibetan flag would be regarded as patriotic or propagandist. A spokeswoman said that there had been no discussion internally or with the Chinese authorities about use of the Tibetan national flag. Asked whether athletes would be allowed to hang the flag in their rooms, she said: “The village is an Olympic venue so it falls under the same rules and regulations of any venue which would mean that anything in there would be judged on whether it was a provocative propaganda initiative.”

The fact that the IOC has still not qualified the exact interpretation of “propaganda” means that some athletes remain confused about what they can say during the 16-day event without being sent home or stripped of a medal.

Unfurling Free Tibet banners or wearing Save Darfur T-shirts at Olympic venues are acts likely to be regarded as a breach of the charter, which was introduced after the American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Power salute on the podium at the 1968 Games in Mexico City. But there are still many grey areas and concerns among human rights campaigners that athletes’ right to free speech will be curtailed to avoid embarrassing their Chinese hosts.

What a joke. Here's hoping the Olympics are an epic failure and a complete embarrassment for the Chinese government.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Screenplays and the new Bush movie

If you've never sat down and read a screenplay, I highly recommend it. You'll instantly realize why so many people attempt to write one. Not only does it appear exceedingly easy to compose -- at its simplest form, a screenplay consists of dialogue and set descriptions -- but it's also very enduring. The idea of putting dialogue and action down on paper while imagining how it would play out on screen is fascinating. I would suggest reading any easy piece first, one that is very dialogue-driven, such as Pulp Fiction. It's a quick read, and a good example of how a really clever and original plot can unfold into an incredible movie.

Anybody reading a script for the first time will also be surprised by how boring it may seem. It's not anything like reading a book, where readers expect extreme levels of scene setting, dialogue and character development to keep the plot flowing and the story interesting. In a screenplay, the dialogue is often short -- you don't want to bore the audience with actors talking and talking and talking -- and a lot of the character characteristics in terms of mannerisms, styles of speech, etc. are left up to actors. I'm no expert, and I've never worked on a movie, but from what I've read actors generally don't like to be told how to act by screenwriters.

I bring this up because last night I read the first few pages of Oliver Stone's movie "W." The pages were apparently leaked on the Web and posted by Hollywood Reporter. A bunch of movie-related sites have the entire script and are weighing in, trying like to me to figure out whether it sucks or not. It's hard for me to tell directory from a script whether a movie will be a dud; I just don't have the experience needed for such judgments. But from my limited perspective, the dialogue seems trite and obvious, and the scenes appear unrealistic (a scene of Bush and his inner circle sitting in a room trying to think of the right term for "Axis of Evil" is one example. More likely, a speechwriter just thought of it while working on the State of the Union).

Anyway, you be the judge. The leaked part of the script is here. Take a look; it's only a few pages long. Tell me what you think. I'm interested in more perspectives.

Other impressions are here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

So I guess this means Jesus wasn't a cross-dresser

Did you know that having fun is an abomination of God? I sure didn't!

In a mind-blowing depiction of typical fundamentalist Christian paranoia, a religious-based radio station in Wisconsin went raving insane over a local elementary school's "Wacky Week," of which one day was dedicated to dressing as the opposite sex:

REEDSBURG, Wis. (AP) - An elementary-school event in which kids were encouraged to dress as members of the opposite gender drew the ire of a Christian radio group, whose angry broadcast prompted outraged calls to the district office.

Students at Pineview Elementary in Reedsburg had been dressing in costume all last week as part of an annual school tradition called Wacky Week. On Friday, students were encouraged to dress either as senior citizens or as members of the opposite sex.

A local resident informed the Voice of Christian Youth America on Friday. The Milwaukee-based radio network responded by interrupting its morning programming for a special broadcast that aired on nine radio stations throughout Wisconsin. The broadcast criticized the dress-up day and accused the district of promoting alternative lifestyles.

Citing what can only be a recently discovered section of the Bible that bans playing dress-up, the radio station's program director managed to connect harmless cross-dressing with an insult to God and family values and any other buzz issues currently popular among modern religious agitators. Of course, the program director didn't have the guts to just come out and say he's a backwoods homophobe, so he blamed the Bible. Typical.
"We believe it's the wrong message to send to elementary students," said Jim Schneider, the network's program director. "Our station is one that promotes traditional family values. It concerns us when a school district strikes at the heart and core of the Biblical values. To promote this to elementary-school students is a great error."

I think it's in great error that you're such a raving lunatic. The core of Biblical values? So you're telling me that of all the alleged ideals of the Christian tradition -- morality, forgiveness, charity, etc. -- that preventing people from dressing like the opposite sex is the most important? Fucking. Wow.

Note to Jim Schneider: You're not doing yourself any favors in the conversion department.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I make the mistake of talking about gun rights

I'm so incredibly conflicted on gun rights that I rarely weigh in. The amount of data floating around is intimidating, and each side of the argument can cite mountains of evidence to support their respective opinions. The debate as I see it is at a virtual stalemate, often ruled by hysteria from both sides. It gives me a headache. But I'm making an exception, briefly, to opine on the passing of Charlton Heston.

I have no doubt Charlton Heston was a good family man. I have no doubt he was a great actor, or an accomplished advocate for civil rights. I have no doubt that Heston genuinely believed in freedom and acceptance and the American spirit of democracy. I have no doubt of these things, yet I can't help but remember he was also the figurehead of an organization that rabidly supports the dissemination of deadly firearms and opposes efforts to address the problem of gun violence in this country. That's not the liberal talking; that's cold reality.

I'm not saying guns should be banned, as I'm of the opinion that the government should rarely be in the business of babysitting the populace. But how "well-regulated" is this supposed militia when thousands die each year from gun violence? I don't buy the notion that we are somehow safer when more people own guns, or that Johnny Psychopath stockpiling AR-15 assault rifles in some backwoods Idaho compound will be our savior when the shadow government decides it's time for fascism. I have no doubt he'd come out guns ablaze with an American flag wrapped around his furrowed brow -- and his cause would be just -- but he'd probably run into problems against the incredible fist of the government. The citizens of this country have a problem when it comes to revolting against totalitarianism, and it's called the U.S. Army. So no, I don't think our democracy depends on my right to own a handgun.

And lest we forget that the National Rifle Association held its annual rally in Denver just 10 days after two teenagers used several firearms to wreak havoc 10 miles away at Columbine High School -- 13 dead, 23 wounded in just under an hour. As the parents of the slaughtered children were still reeling from the massacre, the frothing freedom-fighters at the NRA -- Heston included -- thought it prudent to hold a rally to celebrate the greatness of guns.

Of course, some argue that the organization had no choice but to hold the rally, as it was planned long in advance. That may be, but Heston wasn't required to give a self-righteous speech at this "mandatory" gun rally that consisted of him mocking the mayor for requesting that the group stay away while the community healed its own wounds. I guess it didn't dawn on Heston that it might be in bad taste to hold a pro-gun rally near a city that had just experienced one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. His glaring error in judgment and lack of respect gives me pause as I consider fawning media accounts of his life. Yes, he did a lot of good, but like many good people he was not infallible.

The bottom line is that gun violence is a problem in this country. Obviously banning weapons isn't the answer, but we are so wrapped up over the hysteria of the debate that nobody seems willing to find a middle ground. Meanwhile, the death toll just keeps rising.

Friday, April 4, 2008

I wonder

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Clinton report nearly $109.2 million in income for seven years in newly released tax data.

The Democratic presidential candidate and her husband paid $33.8 million in taxes from 2000 through 2007. They listed $10.25 million in charitable contributions during that period.

Clinton has been under pressure to release her tax returns, especially from rival Barack Obama, who posted his 2000 to 2006 returns on his campaign Web site last week. Neither Obama nor Republican Sen. John McCain have made their 2007 tax returns public, though both say they will this month.

I wonder what would happen if, just once, a poor or middle-class person were elected president.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

In politics we trust

An article in Politico today raises an interesting question for John McCain: Can he take the presidency without the Rove-inspired focus on religion that catapulted the faithful to the polls for George W. Bush? According to the article, McCain rarely talks about his religious beliefs on the campaign trail, instead focusing on his military service and love affair with America. Sometimes the public is lucky enough to see him inadvertently show his true colors (bomb Iran) or accidentally leak his stance on an issue.

As such, the article says, McCain is from the old school where religion is a personal matter and nobody else's business, thank you. Personally, I think that attitude makes sense because religious factors should be utterly meaningless when it comes to public policy. What's good for the Buddhists is not necessarily good for the Christians. The president is theoretically supposed to represent all Americans, so vocally stumping a Christian God while running for the office is distasteful, unethical and obsequious.

Unfortunately, this is politics we're talking about, so inevitably religion will become part of the conversation eventually. McCain was throttled by Mike Huckabee in early primaries in terms of evangelical support, and the jury's still out on whether the ultra-faithful will back McCain in the general. If the opinion of insane leaders is any indication of McCain's support among the rabidly religious, I'd say he's not in great shape. Recently, James Dobson of the fascist-minded Focus on the Family accused him of "fracturing" the Republican Party. If you're wondering why that's significant, Focus on the Family has a membership of roughly 220 million angry zealots.

What does this all mean? Well, considering that the religious vote is still essentially up for grabs, expect faith to become a major issue after Obama wins the nomination (see what I did there?) McCain will get over his cold feet about religion in a big hurry when he realizes he's running against a giant money-maker who has no qualms about talking Jesus in a public setting. Also, he's a Democrat, which means he won't be invading any foreign nations, and that already gives McCain an automatic underdog status.

In a way, I think the flap with Obama's pastor actually helps him against McCain. Sure, the pastor is a firebrand who alienates many white voters, but at least now the entire nation knows Obama goes to church. Think about it: Obama's campaign is suddenly defined by religion since Pastorgate. McCain's campaign is still defined by his gruesome experience in Vietnam. That potentially sets up the ultimate battle this fall: Religion vs. Patriotism. Which do you think will win?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Democracy: Going through the motions

Congress has a quirky pastime that involves dragging ultra-rich business executives into small Capitol rooms, grilling them publicly for making such obscene amounts of money on the backs of Americans, and then calling it a job well done. As Steven Mufson from The Washington Post points out: "It's becoming a rite of spring."

This hollow, meaningless process serves a dual purpose. It conveys the illusion to the American people that Congress actually cares that a few top CEOs make billions of dollars while the average citizen struggles to fill his gas tank, and it allays the anger temporarily as the public is fooled into believing something is being done, when in reality it's just more smoke, mirrors and rhetoric. In the end, Congress has neither the guts nor the clout to regulate CEO salaries; after all, re-elections don't pay for themselves.

Periodically, the target of these hilarious bouts of outrage are the leaders of our nation's bloated oil industry. The arguments are fairly predictable: Congress accuses the oil industry of economic tomfoolery as company profits rise astronomically with the price of gasoline; the oil industry responds thusly: "It's business. Also, it's your fault for regulating offshore drilling and restricting our right to decimate the environment." Both sides squabble meaninglessly, and the cycle starts all over again.

On Tuesday, lawmakers had a grand old time reaming top officials from the country's five largest oil companies, with moments of complete jaw-dropping hilarity. According to the Associated Press, Democratic lawmakers hounded the executives for their lack of investment in alternative energy, namely wind and biofuels. Are you fucking kidding me? These lawmakers actually expect executives making billions of dollars to willingly invest in technology that would cut their profits? Right. The world's supply of oil will dry up far before greed ever does. Asking the oil companies to create renewable energy is a classic fox-in-the-henhouse scenario. Clearly, the time for asking nice is over -- it's time to legislate. Force oil companies that are reaping the benefits from our land to prepare for the inevitable day when the oil will be gone. Cut demand and prices will follow.

Back at the hearing, while the Democrats lived in their fantasy world where rich people willingly destroy themselves, the Republicans snatched the opportunity to continue the nation's ridiculous dependence on oil by suggesting we simply give the companies more land. No word yet on how that solves the whole nonrenewable problem, but the sad truth remains: If Americans really want a quick fix to high gas prices, increasing the supply is the way to do it. As oil-rich nations around the world grow increasingly unstable, it's important for our oil-dependent nation to have viable, stable access to crude. That is, until we sever our reliance on this devil substance altogether. But why would an oil executive want that to happen?

The most infuriating part of the whole hearing was the oil executives' ability to emerge looking like the victims. Even though it's Americans who are paying the record gas prices and the oil companies making the record profits, the executives had the audacity to complain about their tax liability and limited access to energy supply. These companies made $123 billion in profit last year. How exactly does that equate to suffering? How does billions in profit demonstrate too much restriction on the industry?

Congressional hearings. Oil executives. Billions in profit. It's all a big free market joke. Except nobody is really laughing anymore.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Prayers from a jail cell

I was overjoyed to find out yesterday that two parents serial child abusers over at the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City were charged with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment for watching as their young daughter slowly died of treatable illnesses. I've been at home, scouring through the Bible, trying to find the part about God's approval of murder by proxy. Didn't really find any of that, but I did see plenty in here about healing the sick:

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
-- Matthew iv, 23—24.

You'd think this would be an open-and-shut case, except for one hitch: The parents were praying as their toddler suffered bacterial pneumonia, a blood infection and a benign cyst in her neck that was never removed. Because these parents bowed their heads in prayer instead of, say, doing meth in their garage as the child succumbed, every religious-rights sap in the nation will be screaming injustice at the charges.

It's mind-boggling how backward this country's legal system can be when it comes to religious rights. For instance, several people have been shot down by the courts when they tried to argue that drugs were an essential part of their religious beliefs, and thus they have the Constitutional right to use them (marijuana for Rastafarians, for instance). Yet for years these religious zealots in Oregon have had free reign to refuse even basic medical attention for their dependent children -- resulting in excruciating deaths in the name of religion. For a society that is so divided on abortion, it's strange that we have allowed a church to devalue life so much.

As for the religion-Constitution connection, Dmitri Tymoczko has some interesting tidbits in the Atlantic:
The reasoning behind decisions that uphold the right to use drugs in a religious context is obvious: drugs play an important, even essential, role in the practice of many religious groups; the Constitution protects the free exercise of religious belief; therefore the Constitution protects the use of drugs. The reasoning behind decisions that reject the same right is that religious action, unlike religious belief, is not absolutely protected by the Constitution. The distinction was definitively articulated by Justice Owen Roberts in Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940). "The [First] Amendment," he wrote, "embraces two concepts--freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute but, in the nature of things, the second cannot be." Thus the law, though it does not seek to prevent people from having certain religious beliefs, may prevent them from acting on those beliefs. Courts have held, for instance, that prohibitions on polygamy apply to Mormons, and that even Christian snake-handling sects are subject to regulations controlling the treatment of dangerous animals. Since taking drugs is an action, it is thus subject to government regulation.

Basically, as the article states, anybody can subscribe to a religion. But that person can't have eight wives (Mormon) or violate animal-rights laws and sacrifice a goat to the devil (Satanism). And he damn sure shouldn't be able to willingly kill a child. And besides, this is a toddler we're talking about. She was far too young to independently fulfill basic needs, let alone worship a God.