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Welcome to The Asylum. Just as before, Josh is always right.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Attorneys General Are Pissing Me Off and Other News You Should Be Paying Attention To

It sure is a good thing that I don't get paid to write this blog, because if I did, it'd be a pretty paltry paycheck given how infrequently I've posted to it.  So to make up for lost time, let's just skip the formalities and go straight to what's on my mind these days, shall we?  We shall.

Let's Talk About Dishonest Lawyers, Part I (or, In What Way Is Pam Bondi Breaking The Law This Time?)

Florida's attorney general (who I cannot mention without pointing out that she believes so staunchly in the sanctity of marriage that she's on Fiancé #3 right now) is "expediting" the legal process by intentionally stalling it.

As The Advocate reports, Bondi told WPLG on Tuesday evening that she still plans to appeal the Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County rulings overturning the state's unconstitutional same-sex marriage ban directly to the Florida Supreme Court.  This despite the ruling of the Third District Court of Appeal (for Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties; Broward and Palm Beach are in the Fourth District) that, because these cases came from the county courts -- which are not the same as district courts -- they must first go through the appropriate district courts of appeal before they can be brought before the Florida Supreme Court.  A decision which is based on, you know, actual law (see subsection (b) (1) (A)).

And in case you're wondering, yes, what Bondi is doing here is WHOLLY illegal, and she could and should be disbarred for it. As per Florida Statute 57.105 (2):

At any time in any civil proceeding or action in which the moving party proves by a preponderance of the evidence that any action taken by the opposing party, including, but not limited to, the filing of any pleading or part thereof [...] was taken primarily for the purpose of unreasonable delay, the court shall award damages to the moving party for its reasonable expenses incurred in obtaining the order, which may include attorney’s fees, and other loss resulting from the improper delay.

Which means that because Bondi is insisting that the Florida Supreme Court take up the case even though they procedurally cannot, the families she's fighting against can, as soon as she attempts to file the case, go to the state supreme court, move that she's pleading to cause unnecessary delay, and Bondi would be forced to abide by the lower court's ruling that she has to go through the appellate process first.

In other words, she's not only violating her oath of office by refusing to uphold the United States Constitution first and foremost, she's breaking state law to do it and violating one of the most basic rules of ethics in her profession. It's known on the federal level as Rule 11, and lawyers live and die by it.  And damnit, if Pam Bondi is gonna die by it, she's gonna die on her terms!  It's the juris equivalent of the mafioso in a noir movie shouting out the window of his getaway car, "YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE, COPPAS!!!" just before crashing into a brick wall and bursting into flames.  What makes it especially egregious is that she's doing it to the detriment of thousands of people whom she swore an oath to protect.  The level of my disdain for this woman and her actions is beyond measure.

Governor Rick Scott, by the way, is almost just as awful a person for the very reasons that WPLG's Michael Putney pointed out on Sunday morningAlmost just as awful.  Not quite.  But almost.

Let's Talk About Dishonest Lawyers, Part II (or, Bill "The Will Of The People" Schuette Is A Despicable Human Being, But Then, We Already Knew That...)

It's pretty pathetic that Michigan's attorney general has had to fall back on human trafficking as a campaign issue to win points with a voting public who's had enough of him.

Let's take a look at the situation our fine William finds himself in:

  • He continues to violate his oath of office to defend the unconstitutional Michigan Marriage Amendment while insisting against all mathematical possibility that it was "the will of the people."
  • His unpopular (and illegal) attempts to undermine the state's medical marijuana laws continue to anger just about everyone, from seniors and their advocates to those of us who understand the failed "War on Drugs" to be nothing more than statist bullshit.  His antics even sparked several attempts at recall campaigns against him, though they unfortunately fizzled out.  Mostly because the people behind them didn't really know what they were doing.  Not that that excuses Bill's actions at all.  The folks had the right motives, they just didn't know how the system works.
  • Almost every major poll in the attorney general's race so far has put combined undecided/third-party voters at more than half of his support.  Meanwhile, his Democrat opponent, Mark Totten, is only two to twelve percentage points behind him... with a few ties, and even one poll putting Schuette behind Totten.  The Detroit News just finished up a poll that's making them nervous.  Hell, even Tim Skubick asked all the way back in July if Schuette was vulnerable, and if you've lost Tim Skubick, you've lost the election.  Schuette knows he has to do something to garner more support, and that something is apparently relying upon one of the most emotionally-charged issues available to run on.

That last point, of course, begs a few questions. For starters, if human trafficking is such an important issue to him, why is he only now making it a priority to publicly address it?  Has human trafficking become more of a problem during his first term? And if so, doesn't that mean that his efforts to fight it aren't working?  Because remember: the laws are already in place; he's simply pointing out that he's been using them.  So if what he's doing isn't working and the effort needs to be stepped up, whose fault is that?  Certainly not Totten's.  Certainly not yours or mine.  Who's the elected official in charge of taking these things to court?  Ah, yes!  That would be... Bill Schuette!

And just who in the political arena supports the criminalizing of kidnapped children who have been forced into sex work?  Is Totten going around telling people that the victims had it coming?  I highly doubt it.  You'd think that would have made the news by now if he had. 

And finally, when the hell did this step out of the realm of "something we should be doing without begging for credit" and into the world of "hey, look at me, I'm doing the most basic function of my job description, so even if I'm not going above and beyond, you should definitely vote for me!"

The man continues to sicken me.

And Speaking Of Douchebags In Michigan's Government, Rick Snyder!

Apologies to the Columbia University Marching Band for stealing their joke format.

To be fair, The Tough Nerd was the best candidate on the ballot the last time around, and given the options that were on that ballot, I'd vote for him again.  But we won't ever see that ballot again, and frankly, we could have done better.

Yes, Michigan needed a businessman in Lansing.  Governor 867-5309 did a real number on this state's economy -- long before the national and world economies decided to play along with her -- and only someone who actually knows how the economy works could have fixed the damage she left in her wake.  In that regard, Snyder was the smart choice, and it was obvious that most Michiganders understood that.  Otherwise, obviously, he wouldn't be in office right now.

Problem is, even going to the polls to pull the lever for him, most of us understood that there was a lot about his politics we didn't know.  For example, he (wisely) tended to avoid social issues on the campaign trail, and the deflections he replied with when asked didn't really inspire any hope that he was a social liberal.  In fact, he was (and still is) particularly adept at giving a repeated complete and total non-answer to questions about his position on same-sex marriage.  And that answer is this: he was elected to enforce the laws of the State of Michigan, and he will enforce the Michigan Marriage Amendment.  He will not answer whether or not he supports same-sex marriage either personally or politically, but simply that the MMA is state law, and his job is to enforce it.

Keep in mind that the unconstitutional Michigan Marriage Amendment was passed in 2004, so it had already been firmly established as state law by the time he was running for office in 2010.  And both of those elections took place quite some time before the now well-established support for marriage equality supposedly became the majority.

(I say "supposedly" there because it was the majority even before state bans became all the rage.  Those bans were nothing more than a result of Reagan's biggest mistake: tying social conservatism to fiscal conservatism in the Republican Party.  Every one of them came about at the same time Republicans won power, and you can thank Reagan for courting the religious nutjob wing as a campaign strategy.)

Today, however, the majority will not be silenced, and yet Snyder still refuses to give a clear answer on the topic.  He has stated that, quote, "I will respect what happens in our court system,"... buuuuuuuuut let's not get our hopes up just yet.  You'll notice that he said he will "respect what happens in our court system."  That doesn't necessarily mean that he'll abide by the 6th Circuit's ruling (whenever the hell they decide to make it), it could also mean that he's prepared to go to the Supreme Court with it.  The Detroit Free Press also points out that he has, in the past, stated his desire for the state legislature to take up the issue, which would say to me that he wants to find some legislative circumvention of the ban's inevitable courtroom demise.

You'll also notice that he said he will respect what happens.  There's no guarantee that Bill Schuette will, and Snyder was quoted by MLive shortly after Judge Bernard Friedman struck the MMA down, saying, "I'm not spending my time on the appeal nor did I spend my time on the lawsuit.  I'm spending my time on the implementation of what the law is."  Which draws an interesting parallel: two governors of states that I've lived in, both named Rick, both refusing to take responsibility for their attorney general's refusal to abide by now clearly established judicial precedent on the same issue, both with the authority -- and responsibility -- to put an end to this blatantly illegal discrimination once and for all, and both of them falling back on the entirely untruthful excuse that "that's not my job."

But social issues aren't the only front on which Nerd Boy's facing trouble; oh no!  Let's start with the right-to-work law.  Fantastic law.  I supported it 100% and I continue to stand by it.  He absolutely did the right thing by signing it into effect.  It is unquestionably one of the best moves this state's government has ever made.  But in the very heart of American unions?  It was political suicide.  It hasn't played a role in he or his opponents' advertising, and received nary a mention at the one gubernatorial debate.  But it didn't have to.  The moment that bill was signed into law, his numbers dropped drastically.  If he hadn't signed it, he'd be clobbering Mark Schauer right now.  He knew that would be the case when he did it, and I respect the hell out of him for it, because I would have done the same, but he's got a tough road ahead of him on that point alone.  I don't doubt he'll pull it off, especially since the third-party candidates are barely even showing up in the polls, but Schauer wouldn't have nearly the support that he does if Snyder hadn't passed right-to-work.  That's just how the game is played.

And now, he has an actual strike against his economic leadership credentials: protectionism for car dealership franchisees.  Long story short, Tesla Motors sells their cars directly.  Instead of signing franchise agreements with dealerships, they simply open up shop and do all the business themselves.  In Michigan, that was already illegal, but this new law goes a few steps further by prohibiting manufacturers from dictating transaction fees and explicitly requiring the manufacturers to sell through franchised dealerships.  And guess who came up with that language?  Why, the dealership lobby, of course!  (Oh yes, they exist.)  They slipped this in and poured the pressure on, and now Tesla, after publicly stating that they want to bring stores to Michigan, won't be able to do so.  Standing up for special interests when he feels like it?  That's One Tough Nerd.

Things Just Keep Getting Worse for Darren Wilson

You know that second autopsy of Michael Brown's body that came out last week?  Remember how it was played up in the media as vindicating his killer?  Yeah... if you had actually read the autopsy report instead of all the news stories about the autopsy report, you would know that it doesn't vindicate Wilson at all.  Actually, it confirms the eyewitness accounts and calls Wilson into question even moreso than before.

Let's start with the bullet wound to the thumb.  This shows that Michael Brown was shot in the thumb during the struggle in the vehicle, as the only time he was in close proximity to the gun was during that struggle.  Which begs the question: why did Wilson pull his gun while he was sitting inside his vehicle?  Firing a weapon in that enclosed space is insanely dangerous and irresponsible, even if the use is justified.  If the door was shut and Brown was trying to get in through it, Wilson should have grabbed the steering wheel, floored the gas pedal and rolled up the window, in that order.  Brown would have had to let go at some point.  But the wound to the thumb shows that Wilson's first reaction was to go for his gun.  That's gotta instill confidence in police training, huh?  The wise choice is to drive over or through your attacker, but the police choice is to pump lead whether justified or not.  I feel safer just thinking about it, don't you?

Then there's the skin left on the outside of the vehicle door.  Wilson pulled his gun and was threatening to shoot Brown while Brown was struggling against the door.  The eyewitnesses claimed that Brown was struggling to get out.  Wilson claimed that Brown was struggling to get in.  A la the infamous Maury segment, the skin on the door proves that was a lie.  Think about it: if you were trying to get inside an SUV through the window, you would be using downward force on your feet to push your way up through the window, not inward force on your legs to push yourself away from the window.  The inward force could easily result in scratching of the legs on the running board as you struggled against the door to get away, whereas the downward force would not, as you're putting your weight on the ground -- or possibly the running board -- and wouldn't have as much freedom to move your legs.  It's at this point that Wilson's story begins to crack.

Then comes the full-fledged shattering: the shot to Brown's forearm was from the back to the inside, which means that Brown was NOT facing forward when that shot was fired, and his hands were down at the time, which would suggest that he was still running away.  That tells us that Wilson fired at Brown BEFORE Brown turned around.  Again, a confirmation of eyewitness accounts.  And given that standard training is to continue shooting until the clip is empty or the target is dead, that means that Brown could have motioned for surrender after he turned around, but Wilson would have just kept firing anyway.  Which he obviously did four more times, according to the math.  In other words, Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown from behind.  That's the damning evidence right there.

It should also be noted that the presence of marijuana in Brown's system (or anyone else's, for that matter) does not necessarily mean inebriation. Tests do not reveal how long marijuana has been in one's system, and it stays in the body for days or even weeks after losing its intoxicating properties. So the presence of marijuana in his system is entirely irrelevant to the events of that fateful day.  Even if Brown had been high, marijuana isn't the kind of drug that would make you charge full-speed at a police officer who's firing a gun at you.  In fact, it's well-known for its ability to induce paranoia, particularly the kind that makes you fearful of authority.  Making a huge deal of the presence of the drug in Brown's body (as many in the media have tried to do) is not merely ignorance or anti-drug hysteria, it's an attempt -- by those who have everything to lose from the truth -- to spin public opinion in their favor.  Because the facts are quickly adding up against them.  Don't fall for it.

Long story short, in order to accept the idea that this second set of autopsy results vindicates Darren Wilson, you HAVE to believe either one of two things. Either:

  1. Michael Brown was freakishly capable of doing the physically impossible by rotating his arm outward on a vertical axis at the shoulder, or...
  2. The bullet that hit Brown in the back of his arm and exited the inside was a Kennedy-style "magic bullet" that somehow passed Brown, stopped and turned around mid-air, then hit Brown from behind.

If you believe either one, I have some oceanfront property in Nevada to sell you.

Oh, But We're Not Done With The FPD Yet; Oh No!

If you thought the Ferguson Police Department was a circus act before, you're gonna love this turn of events.

It seems that CNN, relying on their ever-accurate anonymous sources (this time credited as "government officials familiar with the ongoing discussions"), reported Tuesday that FPD chief Thomas Jackson would be announcing his resignation next week.

Jackson, of course, flatly denies this, stating that he is the man in charge here, and he's keeping his job no matter what you hear from those mean and nasty journalists who ask too many questions and always want explanations for things.  God, it's like people want to hold you accountable for your actions or something!  The nerve!

Sadly, even if the CNN report had been true -- or if it still is, we have yet to see -- it would just provide the opportunity for just yet another Won't Get Fooled Again reference.  The same people that put Jackson in charge in the first place are still running the show now, and whoever they pick this time around would most likely be just as bad.

Another option that's been floated out there is to simply close up shop at FPD and let the St. Louis County Police step in to do the job, but that's just as terrible an idea.  Let's not forget that SLCPD had a very key role in the repressive and overkill (terrible pun intended) insanity that was the militarized response to peaceful protestors and journalists, and they themselves have a long and storied love affair with racial profiling.

Either way, meet the new boss: same as the old boss.

Now there are calls for reform from the top down, but how do you effect that kind of change when you have two different police agencies operating under the jurisdiction of two different government entities?  You can fire all the cops in the world, but you can't un-elect the people in office who hired them and write their paychecks, and unless you hold those elected officials criminally responsible for something (and what would you hold them criminally responsible for, exactly?), there's nothing stopping them from taking things right back in the same direction.

Basically, the residents of Ferguson have to keep fighting for their city, not only on the streets, but at the polls.  This has to be a local political revolution, or nothing will change.

I Was Going To Title This Section "Monica Lewinsky Needs To Get It Through Her Head," But That Might Be Too Tasteless, So I Won't

No, Monica Lewinsky was NOT "patient zero," as she puts it, for cyber-bullying.  She put herself in the public spotlight when she and Bill Clinton -- The President of the United States at the time -- decided to have an affair.  Yes, mean and nasty things were said about her by media figures and no-names alike, but that in and of itself does not constitute cyber-bullying; it was the public discourse -- vile as some of it may have been -- about a woman who opened herself up to it by getting down on her knees under the Oval Office desk.  The entire situation could have been avoided if she had simply said "no" to Slick Willy's advances.  Her failure to take into account the consequences of having sex with the president does not give her license to escape those consequences.

In contrast, victims of cyber-bullying are outside the public spotlight and have done nothing to bring such attacks on themselves.  They're usually a student in school being attacked by peers, which means they can't just ignore it because they are inescapably surrounded by their tormentors in person every day.  None of that describes Monica Lewinsky.  She wasn't cyber-bullied, she made a conscious choice and she had to deal with the fallout.  I have no doubt that said fallout did her emotional and psychological harm, but that does not in any way make what she went through cyber-bullying.

In getting the definition wrong, she is misrepresenting herself and wrongfully appropriating the term, which in turn diminishes the public perception of cyber-bullying and endangers its victims.  She is literally doing more harm than good.  I don't believe she's necessarily doing it to be self-serving or self-promoting; I think she genuinely wants to help.  But she cannot.  She is incapable of helping victims of cyber-bullying by falsely claiming that she, herself, was cyber-bullied.  She needs to take a few steps back and think that through.

Listen Up, Neocons: Here's Your Civics Lesson For The Century

A friend of mine brought this story to my attention about a week and a half ago through this blog post right here.  (Don't click that link unless you feel like both screaming in rage and laughing at the author's stupidity.)

Here's what's going on.  Two bigots -- a married couple who both happen to be ordained ministers -- run a for-profit wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; much like the kind in Las Vegas where you can elope and get hitched by an Elvis impersonator.  The city, in 2013, passed a non-discrimination ordinance which includes protection on the basis of sexual orientation as well as the standard bases of race, sex, religion, et cetera.

This law applies to all public accommodations, otherwise known to you and I as for-profit businesses.  Basically, if you're conducting business with the general public, you have to serve all of the general public unless you suspect that they are committing or planning to commit a criminal act.  That means that this for-profit wedding chapel, which is classified as a public accommodation, cannot discriminate against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation.  Even if the ordinance hadn't been written to include sexual orientation, discrimination against same-sex couples is sexual discrimination against either one partner or the other, because one partner is not the opposite sex from their significant other.  So either way, now that same-sex marriage is legal in Idaho, a for-profit wedding chapel is clearly committing a criminal act by rejecting the business of same-sex couples, be that defined as sexual orientation discrimination or sexual discrimination.  You just can't do it.

But that's exactly what these two morons did.  According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, a man called the chapel to inquire about booking a same-sex ceremony.  The idiots on the other end of the line turned him down, and then proceeded to file for a restraining order against the city to prevent them from enforcing the non-discrimination ordinance.  They have also filed a federal lawsuit against the city, claiming that they're facing oppressive religious discrimination.  The city, for its part, correctly makes the case that the chapel is a for-profit business serving the public, and as such, they are subject to fines and/or jail time if they do not comply.

Now before you neo-conservatives get your big girl panties all in a wad, no, this is NOT an attack on religious liberty, because if these two clowns want to be able to discriminate against same-sex couples without the threat of fines or jail time, all they have to do is convert their chapel to a full-fledged church, which will make it a religious institution under the law, and therefore exempt from the city's non-discrimination ordinance on religious grounds.  Or they could also simply hire an officiant who is willing to perform same-sex marriages.  The fact that the two operators of the for-profit wedding chapel are ordained ministers means absolutely nothing, because they're not performing wedding ceremonies individually as ordained ministers for a fee, they're operating a for-profit business, the sole purpose of which is to provide a primary source of income for themselves by performing wedding ceremonies.  They are not under attack, their freedom of religion is not being violated, and they could easily solve this problem if they hired another minister just for same-sex weddings or were to simply start a church.  The latter option being, you know, what ordained ministers are kinda supposed to do: pastor churches.

So why don't they do that?  Simple: they want to create a situation that appears to fulfill the lie that same-sex marriage is inherently an attack on religious freedom.  They're bigots, they want to continue both their bigotry and their business, and they have to make it appear as though they're the victims here in order to gain your sympathy -- not to mention spark a frenzy amongst the socially-conservative minority who already thinks that gay marriage will bring an end to humanity.  Their only motives here are hatred and money.  They're not victims, and deep down, they know they're not victims, but they also know that they can make mountains of money off of this situation in neo-conservative circles, from giving speeches at events to making appearances on Fox News... maybe even "writing" a book (by which I mean they'll spew their nonsense and someone will write it down in a somewhat literate fashion).

And you neocons are eating it up like a fat kid eats cake.  I would know.  I was a fat kid.

Oh, and by the way, don't kid yourself: the "National Organization for Marriage" and the "Alliance Defending Freedom" (sarcasm quotes in full effect there) are in this purely for the money, themselves.  The ADF is representing these two jackballs in court, and both they and NOM are 1000% (not a typo) guaranteed to use this whole manufactured controversy as fundraising material.  They know a moneymaking scam when they see one.

In other words: this is not the outrage you're making it out to be, and by fanning the flames, you're only further proving to the world what imbeciles you are.

And On A Similar Note...

This.  I don't need to say anything about it, because it's just right the way it is.  It is mandatory reading.  And if that didn't bring you to tears...

At What Point Can The Southern Baptist Convention Be Charged With First-Degree Murder In Transgender Youth Suicides?

I have never been more proud in my life to no longer be a member of a Southern Baptist church.  It's been almost fifteen years since I last set foot in one, I've never once considered doing so again, and I've never once regretted either of those two facts.  Why would I when the church leadership keeps spewing vile shit?

Hey, you have to ask yourself (as I did): what can you really expect from a denomination that was founded by racists to uphold slavery on Biblical grounds?  No, really: what can you expect from such an organization?  A church that didn't even acknowledge or renounce their own roots in racism and slavery until 1995; how can you expect them to catch up to modern times?

I mean, let's ignore the fact that every single valid scientific study on the physiology of transgender people has shown that gender identity is an inborn biological trait with actual physical differences in the brain.

Let's ignore the fact that the psychiatric, medical and social work communities have completely blown away the notion that "nurture" has anything to do with gender identity.

Let's ignore the fact that transgender people -- specifically transgender children -- are at substantially higher risk for suicide directly in relation to their parents, family and social circle's lack of acceptance.

Oh.  ...Well, given the facts, science and statistics that are stacked entirely against their position, I guess you can expect better of them.  Much better.

I've made this point countless times before, but it bears repeating: science trumps dogma.  God gave us the ability to study His creation for a reason: to use it and learn more about Him.  Every so often, He uses the scientific process to tell us things.  I like to think of it as Him calmly leaning against the doorway of a pastor's office, saying "hey, you know that thing that you keep saying I said?  Yeah, well, uh... My creation doesn't reflect that at all, and I don't make mistakes, so... yeah, this one's all on you guys."

And yet, even when presented with all of this evidence, the SBC still rejects transgender people, particularly transgender youth at this event, and they encourage parents of transgender children to utilize the extremely dangerous quackery known as "reparative therapy" (which has rightly been made illegal in several states) and in all other conceivable ways psychologically torture their children in an effort to change their physiologically unchangeable gender identity.  Which, as the evidence cannot possibly make more obvious, more often than not leads those children to kill themselves.

This is first-degree murder.  There is no getting around that fact.  It is an act (or, in this case, a series of acts) with malice aforethought and prior planning that directly results in the death of the victim.  That is the very definition of first-degree murder.  The Southern Baptist Convention is not only encouraging it, they are engaging in it.  Blood is on their hands, and they revel in that fact.  In any other setting, we'd be frying them by now.

So what is it going to take before we can start locking them in prison for life without parole?  Because that's what they deserve.  Nothing short of the next to maximum penalty -- because death would be too good for these sick fucks.

We need to be demanding that they face the punishment for their crimes.  That they're committing them in God's name should be even more of a reason to bring them to justice, not an excuse for them to hide behind.

Also In Church News...

This happened.  It leaves about as many questions unanswered as it does... well, no, it doesn't really answer anything, it just raises more questions.  But Mark Driscoll has stepped down at Mars Hill, and the world is a slightly better place for it.  Let's hope and pray that God guides the church back to the right path.

And Finally Tonight, A Water-Skiing Squirrel

A state rep in Pennsylvania put his concealed carry permit to use while standing up to some thugs who tried to mug him and one of his colleagues.  And he's a Democrat.  No, they're not all anti-gun whackjobs.

Are You Done Now?

Yep.  I'll try not to let so much content stack up before I write next time.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Obligatory Article #9

I beg your pardon for not having written anything as of late.  As I'm sure most of you are quite well aware, the school year is now in full swing, and that means sports.  Lots of sports.  Football, volleyball, soccer and cross country, to be specific.  And being the public address announcer for the local college and their K-12 school (go Chargers and Colts!), that means that most of my days and evenings are spent A: dealing with music for the junior high and high school events, and B: playing said music at said junior high and high school events as well as operating the scoreboard for soccer and volleyball and doing the announcing for all four sports.

Needless to say it's a fairly time-consuming effort, and my other projects have been placed on the back burner.  This weekend, however -- three days including this one -- is the longest I've gone in two weeks without having a game at least every other day, so I'm taking the time to catch up.

Thankfully, there hasn't been a whole lot on my mind lately that's demanded any extended, eloquent opining upon.  Probably nothing that you can't already discern my position on, anyway.  Ferguson's still a mess despite the media frenzy dying down, Spring Arbor University and Brent Ellis are still wrong and have yet to face up to their mistakes (let alone do anything about correcting them), big wheel keep on turnin', Proud Mary keep on burnin', rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river...

Sorry, got lost for a second there.

Anyway, I'll just give you some short blurbs on a few various subjects that I felt could use my two cents.  Let's start with...

This Week's Collegian, Part I: Go Negative or Go Home, Apparently

It's very interesting to see that the first article I was going to point out in this passage has been replaced with a similar article by a different author on the web site, because the printed story on the subject (check the top of page A2) comes under a headline that says everything you need to know about modern-day journalism.

Here's the formula: you take a nice little positive write-up about how this year's freshman class has the highest ACT average in school history second only to the Class of 2015, as well as the same average GPA as the classes of 2016 and 2017, but to write the headline, you take the negative side of that and come up with "Freshmen not smartest class ever."

It would be the same thing if I wrote an opinion piece about how much I love pie, and I mention in passing that I prefer pumpkin to pecan, but the headline writer decided to title it "Pecan pie blows scores of chimp."  It's not what I wrote -- it wasn't even the intent with which I wrote -- but that's not what the headline tells you.

There was nothing about Sarah Chavey's article that demanded such a negative headline, but you'll find this exact same pattern repeated in the media innumerable times, so often that you can't escape it.  It's the state of modern-day journalism.  Negativity grabs eyes and ears.  It's disappointing that the Collegian failed to rise above it before the paper went to print.  We can only hope that they'll hold themselves to a higher standard as they continue to learn the job they're in school to learn.

This Week's Collegian, Part II: Hello Ignorance, My Old Friend...

We have yet another opinion piece written in opposition to same-sex marriage in the local media, this time written by "student columnist" Garrett West -- who, it should be noted, is not the Collegian sports editor and did not write a social commentary for the paper of which he is sports editor, as if that were somehow appropriate, ethical or even smart (once again, here's lookin' at you, Phil Morgan).

I don't want to go into a whole lot of detail about this one, because it's nothing I (and many others) haven't already fully debunked.  Plus, it's based entirely upon an appeal to nature -- which, as we educated persons well know, is a logical fallacy.  Not to mention the fact that West deliberately refuses to acknowledge anything other than penile-vaginal penetrative sex as the marital act of sex, stating that (and this is a direct quote) "The only way two human persons can unite organically is in the generative act."

In other words, he's making the exact same argument that Phil Morgan made, only he's doing it with a bit less vitriol and a bit wider a vocabulary.

It's still entirely incorrect, both logically and scientifically, and I would refer West to my above-linked take-down of Morgan's blundering idiocy for links to the proof that he's wrong on all counts.

ISIS, Therefore, I Am

This barely even deserves the time I'm giving it here, so if you disagree with what I'm about to say, don't even bother telling me, because you're wrong.

Here's the bottom line: these assholes wouldn't even be a fraction of the "threat" we're making them out to be if we had actually gone into Iraq with a strategy.  Which we didn't.  We went in, we dicked around for a few years, and when the American public got tired of it, we just kinda moseyed off into the sunset and said, "you're welcome, Iraqis!  Good luck!"  The Iraqis, of course, weren't ready for the responsibility -- and how could they be, given that we never fought the war to win to begin with? -- and so everything went to hell in a handbasket, ISIS moved from Syria into Iraq, and now they're rattling their medieval-era scimitars at us.

Whoop-de-freakin'-doo.

You know what the solution to all of this is?  It's goddamn simple.  We bomb the living bejeezus out of them, we get our people out, we leave.  End of story.  No more policing the world, no more nation-building, no more "protecting vital interests," no more playing RISK with the Middle East like we've allowed the CIA and the military-industrial complex to do for the past 70 years.

Oh, you didn't get the memo?  We ARMED these assholes.  We TRAINED these assholes.  THESE ARE OUR ASSHOLES.  WE CAUSED ALL OF THIS.  And if you refuse to acknowledge that fact, you have not learned one lick of recent American history.

The moment we stop believing that American exceptionalism means that we're the biggest and the best and the greatest thing ever in the history of everything, that's the moment this all stops.  Oh, sure, there will always be people out to harm us.  But we won't be the ones responsible for their attacks against us.  That's the heart of this issue.

Quackpot Religion (or, "And Speaking of ISIS...")

Celebrity idiot Phil Robertson is making the media rounds again because, let's face it, the media loves nothing more than making fun of backwards hillbillies who say stupid shit.  Especially when they're fake backwards hillbillies who say stupid shit on national television to the tune of millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

Oh, and, of course, he "wrote" a book.  Which is to say he blathered some nonsense to a ghostwriter, who then wrote the book.

BUT WAIT!  IT GETS EVEN BETTER THIS TIME!

Not only is he spewing complete and total lies about how only gay people get sexually-transmitted diseases and that Jesus was a homophobe just like him (insert mandatory reference to the centurion's servant here), oh no!  He has solutions to ALL of the world's problems!  And here's a dandy for ya:

The Great Phil Robertson has spoken, and thus sayeth our beloved Duck Commander:

"In this case, you either have to convert them, which I think would be next to impossible. I'm not giving up on them, but I'm just saying either convert them or kill them; one or the other."

And just who was he talking about?  Why, our old friends, ISIS!

Yes, Phil "It's Okay To Marry 16-Year-Old Girls" Robertson believes that the way to stop people who demand that we all convert to Islam under threat of death... is to demand that they convert to Christianity under threat of death.  There's a great idea, huh?  The way to end religious extremism is... MORE RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM!  IT'S SO STUPID, IT'S BRILLIANT!!!

On a side note, they also happen to have that "it's okay to marry 16-year-old girls" thing in common too, although ISIS tends not to care so much about the "marry" part and focuses more on the "rape" and "enslave" parts.

It's almost sad how Hannity attempts to bail him out, already trying to twist it into somehow being the media's fault for claiming that Robertson said exactly what he'd just said.  Not one shred of credibility between them whatsoever.

Here's an idea, and I don't think I'm getting too crazy here: in order to get rid of Phil Robertson, let's demand that he shut up under threat of turning off the TV when his show's on.  Or, even better yet, let's just turn off his show altogether regardless of what he does.  Most of his former audience already did.  It's time for the rest to follow suit.

Crackpot Religion (or, "And Speaking of Bible-Wielding Jackasses...")

I don't care what you believe, but I have no problem in telling you that I apparently share a gift from the Holy Spirit with my mother.  We both have this sense that tells us when something is wrong in spiritual situations.

The earliest I can remember her expressing that in front of me was at a Michael English concert in early 1994 at the old First Baptist Church of West Hollywood in Florida (a church which, interestingly enough, I would become a member of later on).  She said as we stood in line waiting to enter the building that something didn't feel right, and her sentiments were echoed by the giant blue banners flanking the doorway that flashed a classic early-90's encircled logo comprised of his initials: "M.E."

Believe me, I was skeptical.  They were just his initials.  He couldn't help that his parents named him Michael English.  It didn't mean anything.

Of course, anyone who was around the Christian music scene back then knows what happened that May.  He and Marabeth Jordan of the group First Call, who were touring with him at the time, had been having an affair, and she was pregnant.

I didn't doubt my mother's claims so much anymore.

It wasn't until I first heard the name Mark Driscoll that I realized I could get the same feelings.

I'm not piling on here.  Any accusations by Driscoll or his church's staff that bloggers and the media are blowing things out of proportion have long been proven ridiculous at this point.  There's no reason not to point to him as an example of a false prophet, and I'm not going to take moral cues from a known sleazebag just because he happens to claim the title of "pastor."  His downfall -- which was only a matter of time -- was entirely of his own making.

What I am going to say is this: the name Mars Hill -- which, when I lived in North Carolina, referred to either the town or the college (now university) within it -- quickly became something I reviled as I left for college and, at the same time, the Seattle megachurch came to prominence in the fundamentalist movement.  And for the life of me, as it was happening, I could not explain to you why.

Oh, sure, I could tell you everything wrong with his theology.  I could tell you that I just plain didn't like his style.  I could tell you that I found the insanely rapid growth of his church to be suspect, that religion being the "hip new thing" isn't at all Biblical.  But I couldn't tell you what it was about Driscoll and Mars Hill that pulled at my soul and told me "something about all of this is very, very wrong."

Now we all know what it was.  All of what it was.  Lying, cheating, misappropriating and misusing church funds, building the church around himself instead of God, mistreating women and encouraging the men in his congregation to do the same, forced shunning of those who disagreed with him (for Biblically valid reasons, no less)... all the makings of a cult leader without the walls of a compound to surround him.

Driscoll surely isn't the only pastor who has done (or continues to do) these things, he just happens to be the most recent prominent example.  This is a problem that has plagued the church for as long as it has existed.  You think I'm kidding?  Go read some of Paul's letters.  He took various churches to task over many of these very things.  And yes, Paul even got some things wrong, too.  He wasn't perfect, either.  None of us are.

The lesson to be taken away from all of this is that if the focus of your church is on its leaders and not God, that church is in for a world of hurt, and it's time for you to find a new one.  As I've made clear before here: power does not corrupt. power attracts the corrupt, and just like the world of politics, places of religious leadership can be abused as a means to power.  Mark Driscoll is quite possibly the single most glaring example of that fact to come along in my lifetime, and possibly yours, as well.

Run, Rafael, Run!

Surprise, surprise!  When you bring in a decidedly political figure as a keynote speaker at your event, said political figure is going to politicize the event!

Rafael "Ted" Cruz, ineligible assumptive 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was booed off stage at a gala organized by a group called In Defense of Christians.  Why?  Because he took a night that was supposed to be about supporting Christians against persecution in the Middle East and turned it into a political rallying cry in support of Israel.  Which, understandably, the people in attendance did not take very kindly to.

And -- and this is the hysterically funny part that's horribly embarassing for Cruz -- both he and the event's organizers attempted to spin it by saying that the people in attendance, the paying donors who bought their way in, were the ones who politicized it by booing Cruz! 

See, here's the thing: regardless of your personal feelings on Israel, the event wasn't about Israel.  The event was about Christians throughout the whole of the region.  To come in (dare I use a "firing all rockets" euphemism?) and start right in with "Christians have no greater ally than Israel," Cruz immediately -- immediately -- politicized the event.  He wasn't even trying to be subtle about it, and the crowd were clearly no idiots.  Cruz's point was blatantly obvious: if you want to stop persecution of Christians in the Middle East, you must support Israel's political and military efforts.

Which is dead wrong.  Even if you do support Israel's political and military efforts, you have to admit that it's not necessary to do so in order to condemn the persecution of Christians in the region.  Cruz politicized what was supposed to be, essentially, a humanitarian event.  Not that the left doesn't do the same on any number of occassions, but for someone who has publicly condemned the left for playing politics with issues that shouldn't be politicized, that's a little hypocritical, don't you think?

Just another blunder on the Road to the Road to the Road to the White House 2016.  The sooner he makes himself politically toxic, the better.

Sum Up Already!

That's... really all I've got for you right now.  And these were "short blurbs."  Can you imagine how long this thing would have been if I actually had something to say about these topics?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Talking To Me 101: Lesson #1

This is a first in a new series I'm calling "Life Lessons" which will consist of several different "courses" such as "Talking To Me 101," "Words To the Unwise 207" and "Get It Through Your Thick Skull 116."  These will be memes you might like to share as you see fit.  Which means I'm asking you to share them.  Which means I'm begging you to share them.  Which means I'm so desperate for the hits that I'll literally resort to begging to make these things go viral.  Yes, it's pathetic, but so is most behavior on the Internet.  Deal with it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ferguson Is Our Petra Moment

 


Also, the people of Ferguson want and need an effective police force.  But perhaps their relationship was best summed up by this photo from earlier this week.  Not just ludicrously aggressive police facing off against an unarmed man, but also the fact that someone has clearly written "fuck the police" on the post box; something that, apparently, CNN did not notice when they were using this photo during all of their coverage!

-- John Oliver

 

If you're a friend or follower of mine on Facebook, you're familiar with a refrain (or some variation thereof) that I necessarily use more often than I'd like to have to:

Not a police state... not a police state... not a police state...

I call this "The Mantra of the Sheeple," and just in case you couldn't pick up on the intent, it's drenched in sarcasm.

We do live in a police state here in the United States of America.  You can blame any number of factors: the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the "War on Drugs," the giving of surplus military equipment from Iraq and Afghanistan to local police forces... and yes, every one of those factors is partly to blame.

But there's an overall theme here which escapes all too many United States citizens.  See, when it comes to the situation in which this country is currently embroiled, there are three types of people:

  1. The Sheeple
    These are the ones who do not recognize reality whatsoever; those who will deny with every last breath in their body that there is anything even remotely out of place about the ever-increasing use of excessive force and overwhelming intrusion of government -- on all levels; local, state and national -- into our private lives.  They have no problem with illegal searches and seizures taking place in the name of security at airports.  They have no problem with the same violation of inherent human rights via stop-and-frisk on city streets, nor do they see anything wrong with unlawful detainment at so-called "sobriety checkpoints" or "immigration checkpoints" along our nation's highways.  A SWAT team executing a faulty search warrant for $50 worth of meth ends up horribly disfiguring an innocent baby -- over which there is a federal investigation -- and the county in question is refusing to pay the medical bills on the basis of vague legal reasons for which they offered zero explanation?  Perfectly okay with these people.  After all, it's all in the name of protecting the community.

    In other words, Sheeple are like the two-year-old who doesn't want their picture taken, so they put their hands over their eyes, because if they can't see the camera, then obviously, the camera can't see them.  They refuse to acknowledge reality, because if they don't acknowledge what's happening all around them, it won't affect them... right?  Right?
     
  2. The Rationalizers
    These are the ones who may acknowledge that there are bad things happening and that people are understandably upset.  But in their minds, there is no police state, and the overwhelming majority of police forces -- from the top down -- are made up of good cops who just want to serve their community.  To Rationalizers, every questionable police action must have had some kind of justification, even if the officer in question is at fault, because police officers, to the Rationalizer's way of thinking, don't just beat and kill people for frivolous reasons.  When presented with the evidence that police officers today are woefully unqualified, inadequately trained and that the problem is systemic, intended to result in the outcome we're all seeing play out right in front of our very eyes, they shut down.  They refuse to hear it.  Corruption isn't a matter of concern, because there are those good cops there to balance it all out... even though they're overwhelmingly outnumbered.  And if, in a rare case, a Rationalizer acknowledges that disturbing ratio, they'll argue that the good cops' uncorrupted ways serve as an example to others, and maybe, just maybe, with a little hoping, dreaming and wishing upon a star, that'll fix things.

    What's more, Rationalizers do not accept the fact that those who do not stand against evil are complicit in it.  Now, granted, in reality, there is the very real risk that an officer who attempts to speak out against -- or even refuses to participate in -- the corruption will be targeted, their career put in jeopardy and their family put at risk.  But is it realistic, rational or logical to believe that absolutely zero cops are in a position and are willing to take a stand?  Of course not.  So where are these good cops?  Why do we not hear from them?  Why do we not see change being effected from within by these supposed good cops who feel safe and secure enough in their position to tackle the issue?  If the problem is truly not systemic, as The Rationalizers argue; if the problem really isn't as bad as it's being made out to be, the American law enforcement community should be bursting at the seams with these supposed good cops.  That clearly is not the case.  But don't tell that to The Rationalizers.  The cognitive dissonance it invokes in their brains will make their heads explode.

    Not coincidentally (because coincidence doesn't exist), the Fraternal Order of Police tends to fall under this category, which is evidenced in this case by the fact that one of their lawyers is representing Darren Wilson.
     
  3. The Aware
    These are the ones who see what's going on and acknowledge it for what it is: a wholesale shift in the task of policing from investigating crime and punishing those who actually commit it... to criminalizing all people in the false name of "protection" under the pretense of preventing crime, a feat which is literally impossible to accomplish, and is exactly what makes this a police state.  It isn't just the militarization of local police, nor is it strictly on a local level.  This includes the FBI, the NSA, the CIA, the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, and many other federal, state, secondary and municipal agencies that have been given free reign to enforce whatever edicts that they pass down -- regardless of legality -- with unconstitutional methods, violence, and even lethal force, with no accountability required whatsoever.  The Aware understand that the old maxim, "absolute power corrupts absolutely," isn't actually the case, but that power attracts the power-hungry and corrupt.  This is true in politics, it's true in social settings, and it's true in law enforcement.

    The Aware also understand that the entire setup is intentional; that there are those with certain political and social agendas who use the power-hungry ambitions of the violent and corrupt -- along with the willful ignorance of the Sheeple and the denial of the Rationatlizers -- to bring about situations in this world which allow them to step in and say, "see?  It's all gone to Hell in a handbasket.  My ideas will fix it all."  Of course, the Aware know that those ideas will only continue the madness (because those ideas originated the madness), but they know just as well as the purveyors of those ideas do that the masses will buy what they're being sold.  It's an emotional sales pitch, one with very few truths, very many lies, and no honest intentions behind it at all.  And through either ignorance -- intentional or otherwise -- or just plain beaten, broken-down spirits and the hope that something, anything, will be better than what's going on now, the majority of people will take the bait, hook, line and sinker.

    Thankfully, this category is the fastest-growing at the moment.  More and more people are waking up.

Now before you jump all over that last bit and scream, "IT'S THOSE DAMN DEMOCRATS!" or "I HATE REPUBLICANS!" or "CONSERVATIVE HYPOCRITES!" or "COMMIE SOCIALIST SCUM!"... YOU'RE WRONG.  BOTH major political parties do it.  Several of the minor political parties do, as well.  Do you know why?

That's right: power attracts the corrupt.  And what is politics if not a forum in which to gain power?

But what does a St. Louis suburb have to do with all of this?  I mean, yeah, things really aren't looking good for the FPD right now.  Autopsy evidence seems to confirm the numerous eyewitness accounts, which themselves directly contradict the "official" police story of what happened with and to Michael Brown.  And that release of the security footage allegedly showing Brown robbing a store?  Classic distraction tactic meant to taint public opinion against Brown, even despite the fact that FPD Chief Thomas Jackson admitted himself that the robbery and the shooting are not at all related.  And sure, "Ferguson's Finest!" don't exactly have a sterling reputation.  But does all of this add up to the focal point for some sort of revolution against the police state?

The answer depends on many factors, none of which I can truthfully say will absolutely play out one way or another.  I can tell you what I'd like to see.  I can tell you what I like and do not like about what I'm seeing now.  But can I definitively state that this is the situation over which the entire country will rise up and put an end to a growing, very real oppression?  No.

What I can tell you is that this is the tipping point.  We can go one of two ways.  We will either take what's going on in Ferguson -- not to mention the recent police killing of Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, the recent police beating and killing of Omar Abrego, also in Los Angeles (in the same neighborhood, at that), the mere probation sentence for a former cop who raped at least two women and possibly a third while on duty, the false arrest and imprisonment of Shannon Renee McNeal, and even such a trivial-seeming thing as the recent arrest of Danielle Wolf on the basis of hearsay for daring to utter the word "fuck" in public -- as causes for serious concern and deeper attention toward the situation, and begin working to remove the people from power who would use it against us and dismantle the institutions that they use to do so.

Or... we will continue to ignore our situation and allow the growing police state to grow even further out of control, into an unstoppable culture of tyranny and oppression which no existing political entity will ever fully put an end to.

At the risk of coming off blithely, there's a highly appropriate quote to apply here from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

You must choose, but choose wisely.  For as the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.

The metaphorical Holy Grail we're seeking today is a solution that will bring peace, safe communities, and an end to the intentional -- and even unintentional -- infringements upon our inherent human rights, especially those enshrined in the Constitution's first ten amendments.  Only one solution will actually work.  All the others will destroy us.

So the question this comes down to is: do we choose the flashy, jewel-encrusted solution, which is certain to damn us for all eternity, or do we look for "the cup of a carpenter?"

Saturday nights just won't be the same

Rest in peace, Don Pardo.  You were incomparable, and can never be replaced; only succeeded.  One can only hope the NBC engineers are up late tonight building the Don Pardo 9000.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Heaven is just a bit more bangarang today

One Saturday morning, maybe about 18 years ago now, my family had breakfast at the Original Pancake House on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. It was a rare treat when we went out for breakfast, so that made it fun to begin with, but when we sat down at our table, the table next to us -- of the same size, mind you -- was occupied only by a very hairy man with a bushy beard, wearing a dull T-shirt, faded jeans, a hat and sunglasses; doing his best not to be recognized. And it kinda worked. What was particularly amusing was that he had ordered a TON of food, and the family on the other side of his table from us kept offering him more, as if he were homeless (he did look the part) and needed to load up. It was funny watching him doing his best to politely refuse their offers while not giving away that he was, in fact, a very famous movie and TV star.

You entertained us even when you weren't trying to, Robin Williams. We'll miss you.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

To: Brent Ellis; Re: You, Sir, Are Lying

 

Where's the church? Who took the steeple?
Religion's in the hands of some crazy-ass people!
Television preachers with bad hair and dimples;
The God's-honest truth is, it's not that simple...

Jimmy Buffett -- Fruitcakes

 

Oh, if only we could hear a mea culpa or two from Spring Arbor University's administration.

We're not going to get one.  Not any time soon, anyway.  President Brent Ellis is digging his heels in ever deeper each time he speaks out on the subject of his university's recent Title IX exemptions.

Problem for him is, he doesn't realize that it's horse shit that his heels are digging into.

Ellis recently e-mail blasted SAU alumni with a letter full of, essentially, nothing that hasn't already been said before.  Which is to say, a whole lotta nothing.  He does state that, throughout this upcoming academic year, he will be "engaging in conversations with faculty and students" on the topic, but not only does his phrasing of that particular sentence call homosexuality and transgenderism "life style choices [sic]," it leads anyone with half a brain to understand that these will not be "conversations," they will be more along the lines of the world-famous Spring Arbor University Stern Talking-To™.

Feeling encouraged yet?  Neither am I.

Here are my other problems with what the letter has to say.

"This modification in the Department of Education’s guidelines surrounding Title IX necessitated Spring Arbor University to file for an exemption in regard to several components of Title IX including gender identity and sexual relationships outside of the biblical definition of marriage."

That's a lie.  The only changes made to Title IX -- and they weren't actually changes, it was simply a clarification of the existing statute -- were to include transgender people as a protected class.  The only changes Spring Arbor would have had to deal with would have been to treat transgender people as -- gasp! -- actual people.  God forbid!

"Spring Arbor University affirms the full humanity and dignity of every human being, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

No, they do not.  Not so long as the school continues to operate under the lie that gays, lesbians and transgender people are inherently sinful they don't.  You don't get to deny the biological nature of someone and still claim to "affirm [their] full humanity and dignity."  This sentence, in particular, is a bald-faced lie.

"Our exemption allows us to maintain these guidelines and is in no way a change of practice or policy."

What Ellis fails to explain -- the lie of omission upon which ALL of this is based -- is that none of these legal exemptions were necessary in order to continue enforcing the Student Code of Conduct. NONE of them. You'll notice how he never actually quotes the letter from the DoE to point out what "changes" made these exemptions necessary.  That's because there are no such changes.

"Our desire is for Spring Arbor University to continue to be a redemptive community where we each, in our brokenness and vulnerability, experience the grace of Jesus Christ and mutually encourage each other toward living lives that honor and glorify our God."

Then they should start behaving like it.

Basically, Ellis is simply restating that Spring Arbor will continue to deny the full body of science and psychiatry that proves inborn biological causes for sexual orientation and gender identity, and will continue to demand exemptions from federal law in regard to dealing with those whom they claim to love... all while, of course, continuing to accept federal funding.

Brent Ellis: you, sir, are lying.  You are in denial, you are acting upon hatred and willful ignorance, and you only continue to do more harm -- not just to your own university, but to the very name of Jesus Christ, whom you claim to represent here on Earth.

Now I challenge you, sir: do what your institution supposedly exists to teach others to do.  Learn.  Research the topics at hand and at least make an attempt to understand the people you are very clearly bigoted toward.  Encourage all Spring Arbor University staff, faculty and students to do the same.  If you truly set out to understand these people, at some point, you will necessarily break down and openly weep over how terribly you've acted and how horrendously you and the school have treated them over the years.

Maybe, just maybe, we might get a mea culpa out of you then.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Time To Refrain From Embracing

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)
A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

 

Regular readers of mine are well aware that I in no way tolerate bigotry.  I have spoken out against racism.  I have spoken out against homophobia.  I have spoken out against transphobia.  I have spoken out against opposition to marriage equality.  I have spoken out against sports writers being allowed to editorialize about the evils of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as if they were editor-in-chief of the newspaper in question (here's lookin' at you, Phil Morgan).  The list goes on and on.

As the Bible passage I've quoted above states quite accurately, there is a time for everything, and while the extended present time has been and continues to be that for speaking out against mistreatment of minority groups by society as a whole, the immediate time has come -- for myself and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others -- to speak out against an organization we hold very near and dear to our hearts: Spring Arbor University.

In case the ever-strengthening hurricane of national media coverage has avoided landfall on your patch of informational coastline, SAU requested and was granted exemptions from Title IX on the basis of sex, parenthood as pertaining to marital status, pregnancy as pertaining to marital status, employee leave (for pregnancy, childbirth and abortion) as pertaining to sex or gender identity, housing as pertaining to sex or gender identity, bathrooms and locker rooms as pertaining to sex or gender identity, and athletics participation as pertaining to sex or gender identity.

In other words: if you wish to be an employee or student at Spring Arbor University, you must be a heterosexual, cisgender, single person with no children living with only members of your same sex or as one half of a married opposite-sex couple (in which case kids are okay).  Gay, transgender, single fathers who once had an abortion and now live out of wedlock with their partner  -- or any singular or combined qualifiers in that list -- need not apply.  Because, according to SAU president Brent Ellis and his administration, those people aren't deserving of dignity.

I don't think I have to rehash the scientific or Biblical evidence that proves wrong every last premise in which this abhorrent position of the school's is based.  I've cataloged them all before, here and elsewhere.  If you need to refresh your memory, just read through some of my previous writings and you'll get the message pretty quickly.  No, what I want to talk about here today is specifically the problem as it relates to Spring Arbor University and how it needs to be fixed.

Now, before we go any further, there are three terms you need to know: liberal arts, The Concept, and The Bubble.

Liberal arts is an often misunderstood term.  No, it has nothing to do with politics, nor does it have anything to do with social issues.  To boil it down to its essence, a liberal arts education teaches you how to learn, not what to learn.  Certainly there are plenty of "whats" to learn, as well -- language, history, math, science, psychology, art, music, literature, et cetera -- but at a liberal arts college, you learn how to learn through the practice of learning those subjects.  The end goal is to produce a lifelong student, someone who constantly studies and makes well-informed decisions in all that they do.  Spring Arbor University is -- or, at least, once was -- a liberal arts institution.

The Concept is the short name for The Spring Arbor Concept.  Yes, that is an official, proper name.  Officially, The Concept is as follows:

Spring Arbor University is a community of learners distinguished by our lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts, total commitment to Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning, and critical participation in the contemporary world.

Sounds like a great basis for a Christian university, doesn't it?  It is!  ...when it's being followed.  The problem is that The Concept is used in two ways that were not at all intended by those who wrote it.

The first, most obvious use of The Concept is by the students as an explanation for why something is not allowed.  "Against The Concept" is the phrase you'll hear repeated all around campus rather frequently.  Visiting an opposite sex's dorm outside of open hours is "against The Concept."  Skipping Chapel is "against the concept."  Reading erotic literature is "against The Concept."  Breathing is "against The Concept."  That last one is said in jest, but I'm far from the first person to say it and even farther from the last.  If you're doing something wrong at Spring Arbor, you're "against The Concept."  It's a great little reminder that you're in serious trouble whenever you so much as put one toe over the line, even by accident.

The other use of The Concept is by the school itself, which wields it as a weapon against the outside world.  "In this world but not of it" was a good enough standard for Jesus, but it's not enough for Spring Arbor University.  The "total commitment to Jesus Christ" has morphed into a "total commitment to the Free Methodist Book of Discipline," a document that is apparently so sacrosanct in the eyes of President Ellis that he even included it as part of the basis for his request "that the University may discriminate on religious grounds."  (I'm not making that up, those are Ellis' exact words.)

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but last time I checked the Christianity: The Forgiving rulebook, it still said that when you play the Jesus card, it renders all powers of the Man card ineffective with no XP given.  The Free Methodist Book of Discipline is a document of religious laws written by man to enforce compliance.  Jesus' words are teachings directly from God Himself, sent to spread and demonstrate His love for His creation.  The Book of Discipline did not come from Jesus' mouth.  Upholding it over Christ's teachings is bound to cause problems... and wouldn't you know it, doing so is causing problems!

Thirdly, we have The Bubble, which, like its counterpart, is shorthand for The Spring Arbor Bubble.  It isn't official, per sé, but it's no less real.  You've seen the show Under The Dome?  It's like that, only it doesn't do all the freaky Stephen King stuff.  In fact, when CBS first began promoting that show, my very first reaction was, "wait, when did Stephen King write about Spring Arbor?"  The Bubble is permeable, and there are those who find ways to escape and return as they please without notice, but by and large, the students find themselves trapped in it by The Concept and a general unwillingness to go out and engage in the surrounding community.  They see Spring Arbor as having everything they need to thrive as a Jesus-committed lifelong learner.  Critical participant in the contemporary world?  Bah... that's for after graduation.  And the mandatory cross-cultural term.  No need to waste time with it now.

So how does this recent move fit into the big picture at Spring Arbor University?

Well, basically, it doesn't.  At least not if you look at "the big picture" as what SAU was intended to be.  Approaching this from the position of what SAU was intended to be, these exemptions go entirely "against The Concept."  Let's look at The Concept again, shall we?  "Spring Arbor University is a community of learners" -- nothing wrong there -- "distinguished in our lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts"--

Whoa, hold on there just a second!  What did we say "liberal arts" meant?  Learning how to learn, right?  And two of the subjects intended to teach us how to learn were science and psychology, correct?  So when science and psychology have very clearly proven (as I've pointed out many times before) that sexual orientation and gender identity are natural, in-born, biological traits that cannot be changed, it would be a foregone conclusion that those who are "distinguished in [their] lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts" would seek to fully comprehend and adjust their perspective to account for those facts.  Spring Arbor University has, with these exemptions, effectively disqualified itself as a liberal arts institution.

Let's continue: "[...] total commitment to Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning"--

Whoops!  We've hit another snag!  Already!  Take a moment to think about what that phrase truly means: "Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning."  Jesus was quite obviously a loving man.  So pointedly, so outrageously, so arrogantly contradictory to convention, in fact, that the powers of the establishment, both religious and political, conspired to murder him.  He loved everyone He came across: tax collectors (the lowest scum of the political realm), prostitutes, homosexuals (need I reference Matthew 8 for the bajillionth time?), the poor, the diseased, the cursed, adulterers, and not less than a few promiscuous women.  He welcomed them all.  He showed love to them all.  When others turned someone away, Jesus embraced them.

In other words, if Jesus Christ is supposed to be the perspective for learning at Spring Arbor, they would be welcoming of people they perceive to be sinners. They would be showing Christ's love to those people.  They would be standing up against the modern Pharisees in the Christian fundamentalist establishment and opening their arms as wide as possible to everyone.  Spring Arbor University has, with these exemptions, effectively rejected Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning.

And finally, we come to the last portion: "[...] and critical participation in the contemporary world." 

Not again?!  Yes, I'm afraid so.  Gerald E. Bates -- the university's president for only one academic year after Gayle Beebe left -- gave this brilliant explanation of that phrase in his 2007 convocation address:

And, lastly, we are called to critical participation in the contemporary world. The word CRITICAL is critical to the concept. A chip in the river in some sense “participates” but our aspiration is to be world changers, counter-culturalists in the Jesus sense, Kingdom workers to do all we can to make wrong things right, to heal pain, solve problems, to advance justice, to bring people to God, in short, to do what Jesus showed us to be God’s priorities here on earth. We do not wait passively for the GREAT ESCAPE (the rapture, or whatever); we have work to do in the here and now. We maintain an invigorating tension with our world.

So now we have to ask ourselves: what is counter-cultural, in the Jesus sense, about Spring Arbor's actions in this situation?  Are they making any wrong things right?  Are they healing pain?  Are they solving any problems?  Are they advancing justice?  Are they bringing anyone to God?  Are they putting God's priorities ahead of their own?

Answer Key: Nothing, No, No, No, No, No, Hell No.

And here's the kicker, the coup de grâce in Bates' explanation of The Concept:

All of us have this choice before us—to be chips on the river of history, or swimmers, sometimes cross-current, sometimes upstream to find where the damage is coming from.

OUCH!  God damn it!  And I do mean that in the very literal sense of the phrase!  That is in direct contradiction to SAU's current positions!  That fucking hurts!

This brings me to my own personal experience at the school.  I was a student there as a freshman in the 2003-2004 school year.  I had been heavily recruited by the radio program, and apart from the University of Miami -- to which I was accepted but didn't attend for reasons of appeasing family -- Spring Arbor was my first choice.

I was battling some demons at the time -- both figuratively and probably real -- and I left after it became apparent that A: I was failing, B: I lacked the drive to continue in an academic setting, C: I had no money, and D: the only thing I really cared about was radio, and I was practically giving lessons on broadcasting from the day I set foot on campus because I'd already had eleven years of prior experience in the industry.

Basically, I wound up owing thousands of dollars for the opportunity to earn $7.40 an hour doing something I could have been doing anywhere else.

It was a lousy personal situation that wasn't entirely within my control for various reasons, but the people at SAU helped me make the best of it as much as they possibly could.  They went above and beyond for me, going out of their way to try to pull me out of my problems.  That wouldn't happen at most other schools.  I was (and still am) very grateful to the people there who made that effort, ineffective though it was at the time.

Despite my problems, for the most part, I had a great experience at SAU.  I made lifelong friends, I had new experiences I never thought I would have, I learned more about myself than I think I ever had in a single year up to that point... it had its bad moments, but it was largely rewarding overall.

Now, as far as LGBT issues go, they weren't a very major concern on campus at that time.  That's not to say they weren't a concern -- they were -- but they weren't the focus of attention.  Think back to that time.  The national conversation had more to do with terrorism and war back then.  Spring Arbor was no exception.

The Student Code of Conduct had, even then, prohibited "homosexual behavior."  I personally did not know anyone there who was gay; at least not anyone who was out to me, but I was aware that there were gay students on campus.  Despite that fact, there were no witch hunts.  No one in the staff or faculty, to my knowledge, was going out of their way to condemn gay students.  In fact, the attitude while I was there was one of -- gasp! -- welcoming, opening arms to people from various walks of life who had different experiences to share, so that we all could learn from each other.

Can the same still be said for Spring Arbor today?  Hardly.

Think back to 2007 now; the last time SAU made national headlines.  It was for almost the same reason as this time.  A professor of 17 years -- an associate dean, no less -- came out as transgender and began publicly transitioning.  Today we know her as Julie Nemecek, and she's a prominent speaker on LGBT issues here in Michigan, but that didn't come about without a fight from the university.  The whole thing started in 2005, when she came out to then-president Gayle D. Beebe.  As a result, she was demoted, given a new contract with a 20% pay cut, assigned only online courses, prohibited from appearing on campus as a female, prohibited from "discussing his transgender situation with Spring Arbor University personnel or students," and eventually fired.  She dragged the school in front of the EEOC and, two years later, basically won, agreeing to an undisclosed settlement.

That long, protracted battle didn't come without additional cost to the school, either.  Lansing Community College and several other schools across the state were building their "University Center" in Lansing, where the various schools would offer classes to LCC students who wouldn't otherwise have had access to them.  Spring Arbor was one of those schools.  Prominently one of those schools.  They were going to be one of the more heavily involved institutions in the venture.  But when the Julie Nemecek story broke, all hell broke loose.  The media pounced on it almost instantaneously.  Both schools were hounded by the public -- Spring Arbor for causing the problem, Lansing Community College for planning to associate with Spring Arbor.  The City of Lansing even got involved because they had just passed a non-discrimination ordinance that included LGBT language in it.  The uproar was tremendous, well outdoing what we're seeing and hearing about these Title IX exemptions today... at least to date.

In the end, LCC kicked SAU out of the University Center project, costing Spring Arbor a lot of money that they had already put into it and even more money in lost future revenue.

Did they learn their lesson?  Apparently not.

Now, let me put my own personal feelings on the topic aside.  From a purely political standpoint, Spring Arbor University should have every right in the world to exclude who they wish to exclude.  They could transform themselves into the Ku Klux Klan of higher education, and there shouldn't be a damn thing anyone can do about it.

IF...

And yes, that's a "very big 'if.'"  Nobody should be able to tell Spring Arbor that they can't exclude people IF they are not accepting money from the federal government.  Title IX compliance is required to receive funding from federal grants and loans.  There should be no exception to that requirement, religious or otherwise.  Why?  Because the federal government does not exist to give money to anyone, let alone religious institutions of higher learning.  But if Washington is going to insist on giving my money and yours to these schools, they cannot be allowed to violate federal law for any reason.  If you borrow money from the bank, you have to abide by the loan agreement.  This situation should be no different whatsoever.

Take Hillsdale College for example.  They fought Title IX throughout the late 70's and early 80's, and rightly so, because as the first college in the country to include a policy of non-discrimination on the bases of race, religion and sex in their 1844 charter, they found that federal demands to prove compliance were overbearing, intrusive and unnecessary.  Which, frankly, they are.  And, in 1984, after the Supreme Court ruled in Grove City College v. Bell that federally-funded student scholarships could be withheld if colleges refused to sign "assurance of compliance" forms, Hillsdale began rejecting all federal funding, thereby exempting themselves entirely from Title IX.  As a result, all 1,500 students are on privately-funded tuition, many of them on various scholarships made available only to Hillsdale College students by private donors, and the school has an endowment of $295 Million.

Spring Arbor University, by comparison, spreads their mere $9.5 Million endowment among almost 3,000 students... if you'll pardon the expression "spreads their endowment."  And don't get me started on that giant phallic symbol in the middle of campus.

Guess it pays not to discriminate, huh?

Now I'll put my own personal feelings on the topic back into the conversation.

As a former Spring Arbor student who has, in the past, been very proud to make that claim, I can no longer be proud to do so.  Not only have Ellis and company completely erased my pride in the school, I fully anticipate any future business dealings I'm party to requiring a renunciation from me of Spring Arbor's shameful bigotry and incredibly un-Christlike behavior.  And I shouldn't have to defend myself over a school on my résumé which, after I left, became a worldwide symbol of hatred and intolerance.  That's a personal detriment to my life caused by Ellis, the school, and many people whom I once thought better of.  There is no lawsuit that will undo the damage that has already been done.  There is no change of course that will entirely heal the wounds that the school's actions have torn open.  I now have to live with the consequences of their despicable choices, and that infuriates me.  That beyond infuriates me.  That makes me mad.  It makes me mean mad.

But it gets even worse.  I can deal with that aggravation.  That's peanuts compared to the greater issue at hand.  Spring Arbor University purports to be an entity in this world that shines as a beacon of the faith that I adhere to.  They are perverting it into something it is not and claiming that they represent values that all Christians share, and that I will not allow.  They do not speak for me.  They do not speak for anyone but themselves.  I will not sit silently while the school I once loved abuses my Lord's name in their acts of hatred.  I, and many others like me, are now forced to sever ties with Spring Arbor University because the school has become grossly antithetical to everything it was founded to stand for.

As verse five says above, there is "a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing."  This is a time to refrain from embracing.  I no longer embrace Spring Arbor University.  I cannot so long as they continue this bigotry and hatred.

As verse seven says, there is "a time to be silent and a time to speak."  This is no time to be silent.  I will speak out against Spring Arbor University for as long as these deplorable practices continue.  I must to satisfy my obligations as a critical participant in the contemporary world.

Brent Ellis can throw we alumni and former students all the bones he wants by facetiously praising us for enacting what we learned at his school, but we're not settling for that.  These policies will change.  It's only a question of when and how hard the Spring Arbor administration wants to fight their losing battle against reality.

Against Christ's love.

Against The Concept.

Special thanks to SAU Alumni For Equality for sharing this essay on their own blog, which can be found here.