Archive for the ‘current events’ Category

Why I Won’t Be Playing “Ender’s Game”
October 31, 2013

Writer Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” is, by all accounts, a terrific science fiction story. As a comic store manager for a year and a half, I saw how popular the comic adaptation of the novels was to our customers. As a proud geek and lover of all things nerd, you would think I’d be lining up to see this.  The trailer looks excellent, and stars Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley are definite pluses for any movie.

But I won’t be seeing “Ender’s Game”.  I won’t be buying the books, the comics, or any other work by Orson Scott Card.

By now, you may already know why.  There have been lots of articles already written as the film approaches about Card’s anti-gay views. But just in case you haven’t read any of them or were not aware, Orson Scott Card is as homophobic and bigoted a person as you are ever likely to find.

I’ll be linking you to a site that has several quotes and sources for his statements expressing his hate and fear, so you can familiarize yourself with just how awful a human being he is.  But let me just say that if it were ONLY his views, I might not boycott the film.  After all, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, we live in a nation where the right to free speech is cherished, and though I disagree with someone, I don’t try to silence them.

It’s more than that, though.  Card is an activist, a very wealthy and prominent activist, who has sat on the board of anti-gay lobbying groups and campaigned not only against marriage equality but for the outright CRIMINALIZATION of homosexuality across the country and the WORLD.  Every dollar he makes from the purchase of his works has the potential to fuel anti-gay campaigns literally everywhere.

There has been a post spread at the last minute by Lionsgate that Card is listed as a producer but will receive no profits from the film.  Even if this IS true (and if so why is it suddenly being said in the final hour?) the success of the film will CERTAINLY lead to greater sales of his books, and so the success of the film is directly linked to money in the coffers of hate groups. So that’s not an excuse to contribute to it.

Bottom line: I don’t want my money going to hurt people I care about. Point blank. No, thank you.

Each of us has to make their own decision. I won’t judge anyone who decides to see it. But I encourage you to avoid the movie, books, or anything by Orson Scott Card. Here’s a link to a great site that gives more information and also has a petition to sign. Please help spread the word!

Skip Ender’s Game

 

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Soda, Jerked
March 16, 2013

NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s ban of large sodas was in the news a lot this week, and discussed on lots of TV shows, etc. after a judge struck it down.  Bloomberg promised to appeal the decision, and I think he should, because there is solid ground for this law.

I’ve heard lots of pundits criticize it as a “Nanny State” law, and the crazier Facebook posts of course proclaiming it a threat to their soda drinking liberties, yadda yadda, but let’s look past the rhetoric and hype to reexamine this issue, because I think most people are coming at it from the wrong direction.

Most people seem to be comparing it to smoking ordinances, which prohibit smoking in certain areas, mostly indoor public spaces, although some towns go much further, prohibiting smoking just about everywhere except your home.  But I think this is a bad comparison, because that law exists not to stop you from smoking, but to keep you from exposing to cigarette smoke those people who do not choose to smoke (including children).  The soda ban isn’t using the same basis.  No one is exposed to your overconsumption of sugar except you.

And, in fact, the ban doesn’t keep you from drinking sodas, anywhere.  You can still drink your 16oz cup of soda and refill it until your kidneys explode if you so desire.

This is, in fact, not a law to prevent consumers from doing anything at ALL.  It’s a law that targets the salesperson, and enforces them to sell responsibly.

Think of a bartender.  If a bartender sees that you are inebriated, the law says she cannot continue to serve you alcohol.  It’s irresponsible on her part to do so.  The law does not exist to prevent you from drinking; it exists to prevent a business from taking advantage of your condition to line their pockets, while putting you at risk.  It stops a predatory practice from taking place, and as such, it is there to protect your rights, NOT curtail them.  In the same sense, the business owner selling sodas can sell a reasonable size drink all day, but selling a giant bucket of soda even though she knows it is a dangerously large amount of sugar to drink in one sitting is irresponsible.  She would be taking advantage of your inability to control yourself by doing so.  Now, with the ban in place, your rights are protected, and in fact, the onus of responsibility for yourself is placed back in your hands.  You can go back and refill that 16oz soda all you want.  When the doctor bill comes, you will have only yourself to blame.  Freedom.

Some might argue that the alcohol law exists to protect those you might harm in your inebriated condition, driving, etc.  But I would argue that the soda law does the same, just in a longer-term viewpoint.  If you end up hospitalized your family could be endangered, if you die your family could be endangered.  And heart attacks on the road home do happen too, that’s not out of the realm of possibility.  So even this is not a solid argument to strike down the soda ban.

I am hopeful that on appeal, the court will consider that business should sell their products responsibly, and not endanger their customers by selling a portion of product that is blatantly harmful to them.  Allowing companies to do whatever they want to get rich while putting all of our health at risk is one reason why our health costs are so high and our country is in so much economic trouble.  Uphold the soda ban, and maybe NYC will be a little healthier, then maybe other areas will follow your example. That’s worth fighting for, Mr. Mayor.

Book Review: “Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con that is Breaking America” by Matt Taibbi (Nov, 2010)
February 17, 2013

I realize I’m late getting to this book, but better late than never.

The subject matter of this book ranges from the depressing to the terrifying. Greed and corruption at the top levels of the financial and political powers of the world conspire to rob us blind and leave our country at the brink of disaster. And no one is doing anything about it. Luckily, you have guide Matt Taibbi to ferret out the wrongdoers and expose them to the light of day, all the while relentlessly illustrating how screwed you are in the deal.

Taibbi has a great gift for taking complex and mind-numbing subjects like housing markets, commodities trading, and credit default swaps and boiling them down to easy to understand, bite size chunks. And his biting humor helps you to be able to stomach the horrifying, rapacious greed and lack of ethics at the heart of the power structure.

There may be no hope, but information is power, and Taibbi brings you the information. Once armed, it’s up to you what to do with it.

Rating: 4/5

Recommendation: If you care about politics or finance at all, this is a must read.

Quote: Matt Taibbi
February 17, 2013

The powers that be don’t want people thinking about any of these things. If the people must politick, then let them do it in the proper arena, in elections between Wall Street– sponsored Democrats and Wall Street– sponsored Republicans.

Taibbi, Matt (2010-11-02). Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America

Leader of Child Molestation Ring Joseph Ratzinger to Resign
February 11, 2013

No doubt you’ve heard by now: Ratzinger, also known as Pope Benedict XVI, has announced his resignation, the first Pope to do so since 1415.

It would probably be too much to hope for that this means he’ll finally face charges for crimes against humanity, for organizing the most massive cover up of child rape in the history of the world.  Thousands of priests who abused hundreds of thousands of kids were shuffled around to treatment centers around the world, and put in new diocese where they would not be known, all on the bill of Catholics worldwide, whose tithes paid millions of dollars to cover up the molestation of their own children.

What shocks me is why any of them continue to go there at all.  Ask a Catholic why they continue to attend the Church and you get a host of answers from the weak to the entirely delusional.

“Because of my beliefs.” But…your belief in the church is based on the fact that the Pope is divinely chosen and is the instrument of God on Earth.  After everything he did, you can’t possibly still believe that?  God wanted child rapists to go free? God wanted those children to be molested in the first place? I refuse to accept that you believe those things.  You have to realize you have been lied to by that organization your entire life.

“That was just a minority, the majority haven’t done anything.” True enough, but we’re still talking about a massive massive problem, considering the size of the church worldwide. Thousands of priests, hundreds of thousands of children.  And your money paid for it.  Soak that in for a minute.  You personally helped pay for the abuse of children around the world.  And if you still go there, you continue to support it happening every day.

Look, you got lied to and used by people you trusted.  That sucks, and I’m really sorry it happened, believe me.  But if you continue to go there on Sunday even after becoming fully aware of the enormity of what was done, to my mind you stop being a victim and start being part of the problem.  You don’t have to keep going there and supporting it.  Get up and leave, go find a Church that’s not a completely monstrous entity. There are lots of them out there.  Do it before your kids wind up on that list of victims, please.

It’s great that Ratzinger is leaving.  But I don’t hold any illusions that it will change anything.  Not as long as people continue to support the Catholic Church and everything evil that it has done with their money.  Not as long as the next Pope can wear gold fabric and live in a castle and travel in an armored car that protects him from facing any justice.

The hope that the next Pope will change things so the cycle will end is a fool’s hope.  This has been going on for hundreds of years, we’re just now cracking it wide open because of television and the internet.  It won’t stop now.  Priests are still required to be celibate, a change in Church doctrine which has led to disastrous results.   So I fully expect that the new Pope will continue to sweep child rape under the rug and protect pedophile priests just as much as the last one did.  And believers’ money will continue to fund the whole thing.

It won’t end with the resignation of one man.  It will only finally end when people stop going there, and stop paying to keep it going.  It will end when the last Catholic Church finally shuts its doors, and the last Priest takes off his collar.

I only hope I live to see that.

To Boehner or Not To Boehner, and Why It Really Doesn’t Matter At All
January 4, 2013

The 113th Congress was sworn in yesterday, and it was almost sickening to watch them all pat each other on the back and make grand speeches about their sacred duty and what an honor it was.

The 112th Congress was one of the least effective and least popular in history, and I hold out zero hope of this Congress being any different, and in fact I think it will probably be worse.  The phrase “double down” is used far too much in punditry, and I’m sorry to have to repeat it, but all this House GOP seems willing to do is double down on everything they did before the election.  Understandable, in a sense; after all, they were reelected to control of the House of Representatives.  However, they did lose the Presidential race in somewhat grand fashion, and have been in a sort of squabbling freefall ever since.  Nonetheless, the Tea Party (read, RWNJ) arm of their caucus seems determined to dig in their heels and change absolutely nothing.

The cherry on top? Reelecting hapless John Boehner to a 2nd term as Speaker of the House, after he managed to do nothing at all in negotiating a deal to avert the so called “fiscal cliff” with Democrats.  Not only did he seemingly have no involvement with the final deal (it was negotiated by Senator Mitch McConnell and VP Biden), he failed to even get his own leadership to support it, which would presumably appear to the Senate as a complete breakdown of his control, if he ever had it, of the House.

From the Insult-to-Injury Department: Mere weeks after Boehner stated that the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare” was now “the law of the land”, and rightly so, the first bill filed in the new congress was, you guessed it, the 34th attempt to repeal Obamacare, filed by batshit crazy Michelle Bachmann, no less.

So, the new Congress right off the bat proves they are going to stick with the same useless, do-nothing shell of a leader they had last term, and they are not going to stop wasting taxpayer money filing bill after bill to repeal a law which has already passed SCOTUS review and proved popular enough to re-elect the President.  Not only that, but they’ve also proved they don’t care a whit for anything said by Boehner, who they ostensibly have elected to speak for them.  Why would anyone put any trust in such a gathering?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who the Speaker is.  Boehner is little more than a figurehead.  The Tea Party wing of the GOP is a collection of rabid extremists, racists and conspiracy theorists beholden to no one, not even their own electorate.  In the end, they’re going to do whatever they can to tear down government, which is their overarching “philosophy”, if it can be called that.  We are in the sorry position of having our chief legislative branch run by those who oppose all governance.

Our only hope is to survive it, and turn out en masse to the 2014 elections.  We cannot have another 2010, where sensible folk stay at home and allow the foxes to run the hen house   That has already earned us our first credit downgrade, constant filibuster, and stalling recovery at every turn.  From now until the mid-term elections, the absolute first priority of everyone reading this should be a never ending and constant attention to the effort to get out the vote.

Too many more of these elections, and the Speaker of the House will not be the only thing that doesn’t matter anymore.

Hey, Cars Kill People Too
December 19, 2012

In the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, the debate over gun control has been awakened yet again.  And as usual, pro-gun folks have trotted out their arguments about how it’s not the guns’ fault.  There are a litany of talking points and catch phrases tied to the idea that we shouldn’t do anything about guns.

You know and have heard them all a million times, so I won’t repeat them all, but one that always interests me is this one: “Hey, cars kill people too, you know? So should we take all the cars away too?”  Leaving aside the greater issue that the use of cars and fossil fuels is slowly killing us all, and therefore maybe this is a GREAT IDEA, let’s just focus on the gun / car analogy.

Every liberal in the world goes nuts at this comparison and quickly and handily shreds it by pointing out how bad an analogy it is.  And rightly so, because cars and guns are in no way similar.  But you know, personally, I love this comparison, and am more than willing to go with the pro-gun folks on this one.  Yes, pro-gun person, I say, you are 100% RIGHT ON THE MONEY.  I’m so glad you made this comparison, because I think it should the basis for EVERY single piece of gun control legislation FROM NOW ON.  Here’s why:

  • You must be licensed to drive a car.
  • You must be trained to safely operate your car.
  • Your car(s) must be registered, and regularly inspected.
  • There are restrictions on what type of car you may own and operate.
  • There are restrictions on where you may drive your car.
  • There are restrictions on the safe operation of your car.
  • When entering any building, business, or even public area, your car must be left behind.  And it can’t be left just anywhere, there are approved places for them to be parked and an approved manner for them to be parked.
  • If we suspect you are violating these rules, you can be stopped and checked.
  • If you are found to be violating them, you can lose your right to operate your car or have it suspended.

So, I thank the pro-gun folks for coming up with this most apt comparison for use in the crafting of all our gun control legislation.  I’m glad we could agree that guns are a lot like cars and therefore should be handled similarly.  You’ve done us all a great service.

We need to stop talking about this and get it done. NOW.

You Can Prevent A Disaster
October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy has renewed the debate over eliminating FEMA and privatizing disaster relief.  The argument generally goes that a private company will do a much better job reducing costs and therefore make the system more efficient.

There’s nothing hugely wrong with this argument in principal, until you start to think of ways a business in charge of disaster relief might cut costs.  But that’s a fairly obvious stumbling block, and honestly, if people haven’t figured that one out after privatizing hospitals, emergency response, and prisons, they never will. But there’s a much more insidious and horrifying problem that has only become clear in recent years.

The privatizing of America’s prison system has led to major profits for company’s running prisons.  And that profit has gained them one of the most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill. The prison lobby works to stop decrimilization, increase penalties, make harsher sentencing, etc.  In other words, they try to rewrite laws so that more Americas go to prison, and stay in prison.  It is one of the worst decisions we’ve ever made, and we seem to be in no hurry to change it.  More of us are in prison every day because of this, and there’s no end in sight.

To be honest, that could be the subject of an all-day, every day blog in and of itself, but lets stick to the subject of disaster relief.  Imagine such a lobby for a company who profits from disaster relief.  What might it work to change, so that the companies make more money?

They might lobby to weaken building codes.  Weaker construction means more damage, longer disaster recovery times, greater need for assistance, more people in jeopardy.  Big bucks for a company paid for the time they are there providing aid and assistance.

How about weather / geological science?  Such a lobby knows the better informed and prepared we are for disasters, the less we will need aid.  They’d want to gut those programs, and the Disaster Lobby would work hard to eliminate funding for anything that might reduce their profits.

Infrastructure spending is already too low, but the Disaster Lobby would want to kill it as much as they can.  Sound bridges, roads, water systems, all these mean less work when a disaster hits. In addition, the weaker and less prepared the levy system, the better the Disaster Profits.

A company that profits from disaster would work as hard as they can to make America weaker, less prepared, and put its citizens more at risk.  We can’t keep making this same mistake over and over again.  At some point we have to wake up to the real danger of privatizing services that belong in the hands of government.  Government has a role to play, a vitally important one, and one that cannot and should not be handed off to for-profit companies.  This dam must hold against the tide of conservatism before it’s too late, and so many cracks form that we can’t hold out the flood waters.

Privatizing FEMA would be the real disaster.

Buzzkill: How “Project X” is Killing Kids
March 15, 2012

(Warning: This article contains spoilers for the film Project X. Not that anything I could say would really spoil it.)

The movie Project X  has been getting headlines not for how good it is (it’s not) but rather for how many kids are throwing copycat parties with dangerous, and in one case, deadly consequences.

Produced by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), Project X  depicts a birthday party that spirals out of control, causing massive property damage, in a quiet suburban neighborhood in Pasadena, California. (The movie even has an apology to the Pasadena Police Department onscreen just before it begins.)

Right now, a lot more people may feel the filmmakers owe them more than just an apology. Teens inspired by the movie are throwing Project X parties trying to recapture the “fun” being had by the kids in the movie. I place fun in quotes because, while the party does indeed look fun, the police in riot gear flashbomb-grenading the kids later in the movie does not. I apparently have an ability to connect dots which these teens lack.

In the most recent development, a Houston teen was murdered at one of these parties, shot by an assailant who opened fire at the party “for no reason”, according to another partygoer. (See the link to the news article below.)

So the question becomes, as it always does, what responsibility the filmmakers of Project X  have to the people whose property is damaged or to people who have lost family or friends to the violent and out of control behavior at parties directly inspired by the content of their film.

This question is not new, it comes around every so often, just as it did several years back when a man was burned by someone emulating the criminal actions depicted in the movie The Money Train. This time, however, I think there is weight to the argument that writers Matt Drake and Michael Bacall and director Nima Nourizadeh, as well as Phillips, do bear some responsibility for these damages. Not because they’ve chosen to depict this scenario of the party spiraling out of control; movies depict stories, and sometimes stories are about things we wouldn’t want to happen in the real world. That’s not something we should hold against filmmakers, or storytellers of any kind. With that attitude, we’d lose a huge amount of our ability to tell stories of any kind, but comedies would be next to impossible. No. The problem here is their choice to end the film with a lame back peddle, showing us the horrible consequences of a party gone wrong, but then giving us reactions that sell the idea of how good the outcome is for those involved.

Party-promoting teen Costa is seen being interviewed on TV dressed like a suburban pimp. Birthday boy Thomas has a scene with his father, fishing out dad’s Mercedes from the pool no less, where dad can barely contain his glee that his loser son did something “cool”. There’s the walk of triumph through the school halls, being cheered like heroes for nearly getting everyone burned to death. And of course, in the end, Thomas gets the girl.

Yes, of course the movie has some little print captions that say the kids are up on charges or dealing with minor problems resulting from their foray into absolute bedlam. But still…that ending. It’s no wonder kids keep trying to recreate that legendary party, to give themselves that makeover into coolness that will get them the hottest girl in school and keep bullies from picking on them for all time. Who wouldn’t want that? And Project X gives it to them, despite the fact that’s the most unlikely scenario of all time.

Perhaps that’s the thing kids are most imitating: the irresponsibility of Phillips and company. Where the kids in the movie hand out alcohol and pills, the filmmakers themselves are the ultimate enablers, handing out an irresistible fantasy. And in this case, a deadly one.

As the neighbor in the film says, it’s time to shut this party down.

Read the article and watch video here.