Hip-Gnosis: August 2007: Archives

August 31, 2007

Code Blue: Judge Rules Gays Can Marry In Iowa genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

Rinse Away The Gay

Iowa evangelicals were undoubtedly shocked and alarmed by the ruling of Polk County Judge Robert Hanson. The ruling states that Iowa's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and orders that the six plaintiff couples be granted marriage licenses. In his ruling, Judge Hanson argued that the Iowa Constitution provides for equal protection and due-process and that the passage of Iowa's Defense Of Marriage act violates that provision.

The ruling will be appealed and the attorney for Polk County is expected to seek a stay until the decision has been reviewed by a higher court...likely the Iowa Supreme Court.

The ruling will certainly add a new wrinkle to Iowa's presidential primary. Clearly, candidates who may have sought to limit their comments on the subject will now be forced to weigh in on the ruling...which will certainly increase the attention placed upon the outcome of the states primary.

From The Des Moines Register:

Polk County is expected to appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court.

County Attorney John Sarcone said the county would immediately seek a stay from Hanson, which if granted would prevent anyone from seeking a marriage license until an appeal could be heard.

The case will be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, which could refer it to the Iowa Court of Appeals, consider the case itself or decide not to hear the case.

Des Moines lawyer Dennis Johnson represented the six gay couples who filed suit after they were denied marriage licenses. He called the ruling "a moral victory for equal rights."

Johnson argued that Iowa has a long history of aggressively protecting civil rights in cases of race and gender. He said the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Legislature passed in 1998, contradicts previous court rulings regarding civil rights and should be struck down.

From Yahoo News:

With the decision of a county judge to strike down Iowa's law banning same-sex marriages, the state becomes a front-line battleground in America's ongoing political wrestling match over gay and lesbian rights.

Democratic and Republicans candidates will not be able to campaign in Iowa -- as all will be doing in coming days and weeks -- without addressing the ruling and the broader issue of same-sex marriage.

Of course, most of the candidates have already done this with varying degrees of specificity. But now they will be thrust into the center of a real-life struggle in a state where they will be spending a great deal of time between now and the day in December or January when Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses are held.

Both Democratic and Republican candidates will be forced to offer specific responses to precise legal arguments, as well as to the very human demands of men and women in Iowa who have gone public with their struggle for the right to marry their partners.

The equal protection clause has been used in other similar rulings. Perhaps the most notable was the ruling in Colorado striking down Amendment Two. The amendment was passed by voters in 1992, stayed from being enacted by Judge Bayless in December of that year, and subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I decided to have a little fun with the ruling and the evangelicals who will certainly be mobilizing to protect the institution of marriage from the destructive influences of same-sex unions. The following is a list of suggestions designed to protect the marriages of evangelicals...which they may want to enact until such time as the ruling can be stayed or stricken down by a higher court.

Rumor has it that wearing a necklace of corn cobs will ward off the negative and evil influences one may experience when encountering a married homosexual.

Evangelical women should encourage their husbands to avoid any possibilities of being identified as a metro-sexual...such men are prime targets for conversion efforts.

Evangelical men must monitor the television their wives are watching during the day. The militant homosexuals have infiltrated daytime programming in order to convert unsuspecting women of faith. Under no circumstances should evangelical women be allowed to watch Ellen or The View. While the V Chip was intended to monitor the programs viewed by children, husbands are encouraged to utilize the device to prohibit the watching of inappropriate programs by vulnerable wives.

Evangelical businesses are encouraged to remove all coffee tables and coffee table books and magazines from their waiting areas as it may attract married homosexuals.

Evangelical males who may be traveling by airplane are encouraged to avoid the use of airport restrooms...there are concerns that heterosexual men may be vulnerable to the lure of these palatial potties. Women should encourage their husbands to use the bathroom before departing the home and not again until they are on the plane. Evangelical women need not worry about the sex their husbands have on a plane as the Mile High Club currently prohibits the formation of a homosexual affiliate. Notwithstanding, there are concerns that a secret sect of stewards are planning to form a similar club called "In The "O" Zone". Please check back for updates.

In extreme situations, it may be necessary for husbands to hire the services of a prostitute. Recent research by Senator Vitter of Louisiana suggests that a threatened marriage can be renewed by such measures...and it has an added communal effect which was evidenced by the standing ovation the senator received upon his return to Washington. He is a true champion of heterosexual marriage. Thought Theater has learned from an anonymous source that the Senator will announce a new campaign designed to defend marriage...the campaign is called "Marriage: One Man, One Woman, & A Shit Load Of Hookers".

A word of caution to the wives of evangelical ministers. Under no circumstances should you allow your husbands to travel out of town on trips that require an overnight stay or time alone. It is being reported that information provided by hotel staff and informational literature found in hotel rooms has been co-opted by militant homosexuals. Completely innocent massages have been reported to lead to man on man sex and the use of illicit drugs which are designed to convert the unsuspecting minister. Those who doubt the veracity of this warning need only be reminded of the fall of well-known Colorado Springs minister, Ted Haggard.

Lastly, should your spouse lose their way and succumb to the tireless efforts of the homosexual agenda...fear not. The same program that restored Ted Haggard in a matter of a few weeks is being made available to the people of Iowa on a priority basis. If you suspect your spouse has fallen, please contact Gay-B-Gone and they will forward you a trial sample of their revolutionary product Rinse-Away-The-Gay...a quick penetrating shampoo that will leave your spouse tingling from the infusion of the holy spirit...and you feeling confident that your betrothed is on the road to recovery. Call now...the phones are staffed by sympathetic and satisfied customers.

Tagged as: 2008 Primary, David Vitter, Evangelicals, Iowa, Larry Craig, LGBT, Same-Sex Marriage, Ted Haggard

Daniel DiRito | August 31, 2007 | 10:01 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 30, 2007

Deciphering What Is Written On The Bathroom Stall genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Writing On The Stall

As the blogosphere has sought to digest the meaning of the Larry Craig incident, it has begun to spur a worthwhile debate...one which has been ignored and has lurked in the background in ways eerily similar to the behavior that led to the arrest of the Senator.

Generally speaking, the public is opposed to encountering unexpected or offensive behaviors in public environments...and that is a reasonable concern for those within government to address. Clearly, the opinions regarding which behaviors constitute a nuisance or create the conditions under which to charge an individual with a crime will vary from individual to individual...often dependent upon one's values, one's religious beliefs, ands one's propensity for tolerance. The fact that there are discordant beliefs simply complicates the task for those charged with monitoring such activities.

By and large, citizens believe that law enforcement departments are committed to treating each individual fairly and with the same level of respect for their civil liberties. At the same time, history tells us that this isn't always the case. Regardless, most citizens afford our law enforcement departments the benefit of the doubt...which is as it should be...but only to a point.

In writing about the Larry Craig situation, I broached the question of whether the targeting of men who have sex with men (I avoid using the term gay because studies indicate that many of the men who participate in these clandestine encounters are married and consider themselves to be heterosexual) receives a level of attention that is commensurate with that given to those who engage in opposite sex liaisons in public locations.

I have asked readers and colleagues to ponder the question and to cite any examples whereby tactics similar to those employed in the Senator's case are being utilized to charge those engaged in opposite sex public encounters. At the moment, I have not been provided with any such examples...though a few individuals have cited prostitution stings as examples. I have discounted such examples because they constitute a specific crime that is not at play in circumstances like that of Senator Craig...meaning that the individuals charged in men's restrooms are engaging in consensual sex without the exchange of money (by definition the exchange of money is an act of solicitation), which generally leads to charges of lewd behavior, indecent exposure, or disorderly conduct.

I don't want to devolve into a legalistic discussion though some basic understandings are required for this debate. Firstly, laws can and do vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so one size doesn't fit all. Secondly, courts have offered a number of rulings on the subject though no definitive across the board position can actually be derived.

Relevant to this topic, the Senator's actions constituted disorderly conduct...despite what he may have intended to do. In essence, intention doesn't necessarily equate with the ability to convict on the lewd behavior charge. The fact that he plead to the lesser charge (disorderly conduct) is evidence of this reality. Further, in some of these cases, the accused have successfully argued that their actions in a closed door stall in a restroom facility cannot equate with disorderly conduct because their actions didn't actually take place in public. The argument is open to interpretation and it can progress into questions of a fundamental granting of constitutional privacy privileges.

With that said, one can see that the issue is more complex than one might expect. Notwithstanding, it is important to note that the issue isn't solely one of legality as it is reasonable to consider other factors...such as what the public can legitimately expect upon entering a public restroom. While I am personally opposed to using these restrooms for sexual liaisons, the issue requires a much more comprehensive analysis.

To introduce the other considerations, let me begin with a simple example that will hopefully illuminate my concerns. Suppose one conducted a survey whereby the objective was to gauge the public's reaction and response to witnessing an apparent sexual encounter in a public restroom. In the study, the respondents witness 50% of the situations involving same sex participants and the other 50% involving opposite sex participants. In both cases, the sex of the participants is obvious, as is the sexual nature of the activity.

The respondents are then confronted as they exit the restroom in order to gauge their reaction as well as what they believe to be the appropriate response from law enforcement. Each respondent is asked to explain what they believe they witnessed to insure that they properly identified the sex of the participants. Once that is determined, they are asked to respond to a multiple choice question outlining the action they believe should be taken.

The first answer is, "While I don't think they should be doing this in a public restroom, I'm not in favor of it being a crime." The second answer is, "I think that they should be charged with a crime in the event that a law enforcement officer were to be summoned". The final answer is, "I think that law enforcement needs to establish a sting operation to target those who might intend to engage in such activity in order to catch and charge them".

My own belief is that the responses would be skewed towards answer number one with regards to opposite sex participants and towards answer number three with regards to same sex participants. I say as much because it would likely reflect the beliefs held by most Americans...meaning that heterosexual sex is viewed to be more acceptable than homosexual sex. In fact, I would contend that many of the respondents would laugh off the heterosexual activity while many of those witnessing homosexual activity would be outraged.

Therefore, one must ask whether the existing law enforcement actions being conducted in situations similar to that in Minneapolis...which led to the arrest of the Senator...reflect a societal bias with regards to homosexuals. In the absence of similar operations aimed at heterosexual activity, it seems safe to conclude that the treatment is not equal...and is likely reflective of prejudice.

Let me offer an even simpler example to reinforce my argument. All things being equal, a kiss between same sex couples in public will elicit a negative reaction (a moral judgment)...while a heterosexual kiss may elicit no reaction or at worst a negative reaction that such behavior doesn't belong in public...but rarely a negative moral judgment.

If that same bias is being applied to the actions of law enforcement (and it seems difficult to assume otherwise), we have a problem with selective and unfair discrimination.

Let me share part of a discussion I've been involved with on this very topic. The information is from an individual who works with this issue and the men who are being charged with these types of offenses. I am not including his name or the organization as a matter of privacy. While I don't agree with every point made, I think it provides some important insight into a perspective that is often omitted from discussions of this issue.

Ok. The agency I work for has worked on hundreds of these cases. We have won lawsuits on the matter so I am going to respond to this last post with a few items.

1. Undercover operations have 0 deterrent effect. There is no evidence that sting operations against gay men have a deterrent effect. In fact the opposite is true. When members of the public see uniformed police – THAT is a deterrent. It makes many people feel more safe and if you combine it with signs saying that illegal behavior will be prosecuted or that surveillance is occurring (it doesn't have to be occurring) then you could argue there is a deterrent goal by the facility. But hiding a police officer does not prevent crime all it does is A. catch criminals or B. invites entrapment by overzealous cops who are frustrated with cautious perpetrators that refuse to take the bait. This is the reality.

2. Charging people is the goal. Police are very politically motivated. Their jobs and their bosses jobs are very much designed around getting rid of undesirables including queers. These operations usually carry a higher charge like in the Craig case where he claimed he had to negotiate it down to a misdemeanor. Charging felonies is about getting queers on the sex offender registry, shaming them in public, or costing them so much money they won't dare fight the charge in court. We had a case of 770 arrests in 4 months. Almost all were innocent. 50 of the guys got in touch with (agency name omitted) and all were acquitted because the officer refused to show up for court, meaning that he would commit perjury about what he put in the police reports. There is a fine for the charge, a fine for the court fees, attorney fees and sometimes there is a “nuisance abatement" charge so they can take your car which costs hundred to get it back. This is thousands more if you go to court. I repeat. These charges do not deter men or else every cruisy area where there were arrests would see reductions. This is not the case.

3. Police mostly are not responding to public complaints. Police know about cruisy restrooms because of websites and a few public complaints. We have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after FOIA after FOIA and never once have we received a public complaint of public sex. If this is such a big problem, which justifies an undercover operation, there should be some documentation. Nada. In (state omitted), the State Police even called their operations “Bag a Fag" operations and printed T-Shirts saying so. This is the sign of bias not serving and protecting. If there are really people observing public sex (which is rare because most of this activity is committed by guys that do not want to be seen or caught) then a uniformed cop walking in should be able to see the same thing right. Right. But they don't want to deter it or stumble across it, they want to invite it. They want it to happen. 9 times out of ten these men never get a warning and sent away. They invest so much money and time that they love charging on the first offense, charging high and publicizing the hell out of it.

4. I have trained over 1000 police, some as a condition of our lawsuit and nearly all of them believe that gay sex is so sick they would do anything to root it out. I have had cops say out loud in a training that they would watch two women go at it, send a str8 couple home and bust a gay couple. I have also had cops admit in these trainings that these operations are scams designed to make money and shame people. Some chiefs and some prosecutors won't honor them at all. In (state omitted) we have shut down many of these when high level chiefs have admitted that uniformed cops are an effective way of dealing with the “problem."

I think this is invaluable information...information that gives the reader a first hand view of the realities confronted by those who have engaged in such activity and the obstacles they face...but it also provides insight into which methods may be effective in limiting or deterring these activities as well as exposing the possibility that the motivations of those who establish programs like the one found in Minneapolis may be biased and misguided.

It's difficult to argue in favor of a program that isn't effective...unless, of course, one is particularly prejudiced against those who are participating in the behavior. If the goal is to extinguish this activity, it appears that these sting operations are less than effective.

Rather than rely upon one source, I consulted a document prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice titled, "Illicit Sexual Activity in Public Places". The following excerpts are from this lengthy document and they reiterate and reinforce some of the concerns shared in the prior quotation.

There are widely different perspectives on public sexual activity. Some do not believe the behavior constitutes a public safety threat; some view the behavior as a "victimless crime" involving two consenting partners; and some see the behavior as a threat to the community's "moral decency." "Impersonal," "casual," and "anonymous" sexual behaviors have negative connotations to many people, as they stand in contrast to ideals of romantic love, monogamous relationships, and long-term commitments. Moral overtones pervade discussions of nudity and sexuality, particularly when they address same sex interactions. These judgments often underlie the public's concern. Community morals and beliefs about how the law should regulate morality will affect how each community addresses the problem. This guide does not adopt any particular moral perspective; it is intended to inform you about the effectiveness and consequences of various approaches to controlling public sexual activity.

Primarily, such activity constitutes nuisance behavior and does not pose a serious threat to community safety.

The responses to public sexual activity can be fraught with difficulty. Charges of harassment, entrapment, bias and discrimination against homosexuals have historically surrounded efforts to address public sexual activity between men. Therefore, it is vital that you objectively analyze the problem so that you develop fair and effective responses.

Certain patterns (e.g., opposite-sex coupling at a "lovers' lane") have not been studied empirically, while others (e.g., same-sex contact in public restrooms) have been studied much more extensively. It is important to note that engaging in same-sex activity does not necessarily imply a homosexual identity; in fact, many men who have sex with men in public places are married or otherwise heterosexually involved, and do not consider themselves to be gay.

When apprehended, many offenders may suffer substantial social repercussions, in addition to any criminal justice related consequences that may ensue. Threats to their
marriages, friendships, jobs, reputations, and social standing often cause them to try to distract attention from their behaviors by showing exaggerated degrees of respectability, such as strong ties to the religious community or passionate condemnation of homosexuality. The larger the community's moral objections to public sexual activity mean that participants have much to lose if they are discovered.

Two things are immediately apparent. One, The Justice Department realizes that efforts to limit this type of activity have moral considerations...and that can lead to prejudicial judgments. Two, the fact that same-sex activity is the only activity that has been extensively studied supports my contention that little effort is expended to suppress similar heterosexual activity. It also suggests that a bias has existed for many years with regard to homosexual activity and it has often been targeted.

A lack of privacy may also be the reason for male sexual activity in public restrooms. In particular, men with heterosexual identities may want to conceal their behavior
from significant others. Their heterosexual identities also deter them from using other, less-public venues such as gay bars or sex clubs. Some homosexual men also lack the freedom to pursue same-sex partners privately due to family or peer disapproval. A community's condemnation of homosexuality may drive the behavior to remote, although public, locations, particularly among those exploring their sexuality and not yet connected to the gay community.

Most researchers and practitioners agree that focusing solely on arresting those engaging in public sexual activity is unlikely to reduce the overall scope of the problem. In your response strategy, you should acknowledge that it will be difficult to affect people's motivations for engaging in the activity. A balanced approach combining enforcement strategies and those targeting environments that support the behavior is most likely to decrease the prevalence of the activity and the public's concern about it.

Used alone, enforcement efforts are likely to lead to displacement. Although not the most desirable outcome, there is evidence that when displacement does occur, the magnitude of the problem decreases with the move to a new location.

In addition, an exclusive focus on environments in which same-sex interactions occur can result in charges of bias and discrimination. Therefore, you must address the full range of public sexual activity and target particular locations based on objective, justifiable assessments of threats to public safety.

Again, the report confirms many of the same conclusions offered by the party quoted above and with whom I discussed the issue. I view the warnings in the last paragraph to be a tacit acknowledgment that there has been a focus upon same sex encounters. Note the use of the word objective...a word which tells me that the Justice Department has encountered programs that are subjective.

The report proceeds to list a number of possible responses to the presence of illicit sexual activity in public places. The list begins with 17 suggested responses (proactive actions intended to reduce the activity and make locations less favorable meeting places). This is followed by numbers 18 and 19 which are listed under the heading "Responses With Limited Effectiveness". Those two items are "Using Undercover Decoys" and "Harassing Or Intimidating Suspects".

18. Using undercover decoys. While using undercover officers to pose as interested parties in illicit same-sex public activity can lead to many arrests, such operations have not had long-term effectiveness in reducing overall activity levels. At best, they temporarily displace the activity to other locations, and the activity usually returns to prior levels once the operations have ceased. Further, given the active role that undercover officers must take to confirm suspects' intentions, the police may be vulnerable to entrapment claims. In addition, many officers are reluctant to serve as decoys because of the customary behavioral scripts they must follow. Finally, some may see the serious social consequences of the publicity following an arrest as disproportionate to the severity of the offense.

19. Harassing or intimidating suspects. Many who engage in public sexual activity do not want witnesses and try to avoid being seen. Thus, it can be difficult for police to obtain probable cause for an arrest. When the community pressures police to address the problem, officers may resort to harassing or intimidating those observed loitering in parks or rest areas. This approach undermines police integrity, can create tension with the gay and lesbian community and other residents concerned about civil rights, and has not proved particularly effective.

For the most part, the Justice Department document seems to be a reasonably objective discussion of the topic. I interpret the tenor to be impartial and informative...all of which I find rather refreshing given the well-publicized concerns as to the Bush administrations possible inclinations to politicize the department.

When one considers the arguments I've presented, in conjunction with the information provided by external sources, a picture begins to emerge. Clearly, there has been an inordinate historical focus upon the pursuit and punishment of those engaged in same sex encounters...likely a derivative of established social norms and values.

Over time, it also appears that there has been a growing awareness that programs to limit public sexual activity need to evolve and to begin incorporating methods that seek to extinguish the behavior as opposed to criminalizing it. That is a positive development.

Regardless, those in positions of authority are still forced to confront the views, opinions, and complaints of the citizens which they serve and/or represent. In so doing, there is likely to remain a focus upon, and a bias against, same sex activities.

Responsible leadership would be wise to approach the sensitive subject with caution, with an emphasis upon deterrence, and with the ample evidence necessary to prevent overreaction and the imposition of prejudicial programs that are simply designed to appease an angry public.

At the same time, the society at large must do its part to foster an environment that doesn't penalize, ostracize, or marginalize those who are desirous of same sex relationships. Simultaneously, closeted gays must summon the courage to come out in order to foster greater understanding in the society...and more importantly...to allow themselves to experience the healthy and meaningful relationships they may feel are unattainable in a judgmental environment.

As I've explored this topic, I cannot help but acknowledge the irony found in the opposition to same sex marriage or its equivalent. Truth be told, those who decide to vilify homosexuality may actually do more harm by acting to oppose the recognition of such relationships...a fact that may well be evidenced by the behavior of the Senator and many others.

Clearly, people are entitled to oppose homosexuality. At the same time, denying homosexuals the opportunity to establish meaningful and recognized unions seems to contribute to the damage that can be done to decent human beings...individuals who seek little more than the same acceptance and rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that adults who participate in same sex sexual activities in public locales aren't culpable for their actions or that they are entitled to interpret opposition to same sex relationships as a justification for their suspect behavior. Nonetheless, I contend one cannot be discussed in the absence of the other.

In the end, if we're truly a nation which prides itself upon its compassion and its affinity for Christian values, why would we be so careless as to refuse to extend these considerations to our fellow citizens? It's an inconsistency worth pondering.

Tagged as: Homophobia, Homosexuality, Justice Department, Larry Craig, LGBT, Public Sex, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Sexuality, Sting Operations

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2007 | 11:45 AM | link | Comments (1)
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August 29, 2007

Tucker Carlson: His Neurotic Fear Of Neutering genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Tongue-In-Cheek

We live in a messed up world. We have an anti-gay Senator from Idaho sending signals and playing footsie with an undercover male police officer in a Minneapolis airport restroom which is reportedly known for secret sexual encounters.

Not to be outdone, we have Tucker Carlson telling the tale of being "bothered" by another man in a restroom while in high school...an incident which he contends forced him to race out of the bathroom and seek out a friend to return with him to "accost" the gay man.

The video follows.

But wait, it doesn't stop there. Tucker has a seeming obsession with protecting his manhood. On several occasions during his MSNBC program, Tucker has indicated that simply seeing or hearing certain people will lead him to "involuntarily cross his legs"...an inference that there are individuals who would willingly emasculate him. The funny thing, most of these people are women...such as Hillary Clinton and Nancy Grace.

On a new gadget called a Hillary Nutcracker:

CARLSON: I don't know, but that is so perfect. I have often said, when she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.

During a discussion about Hillary Clinton:

CARLSON: Boy, she scares me. I cross my legs every time she talks, every time. Pat Buchanan, Melinda Henneberger, thank you very much. No, it's true. It's involuntary. I don't mean it, but I do every single time.

CARLSON: Oh, every time, involuntarily. It's like those pictures you see of the soccer goalie when they're about to get the free kick. That's me when she talks. I can't help it.

On Nancy Grace:

CARLSON: I don't want to be on a long car trip with her. She scares me. I cross my legs involuntarily every time she comes on the air.

Nope, not finished yet. On August 10th, while interviewing Brad Luna of the Human Rights Campaign regarding the Logo/HRC Democratic Candidate Forum, the discussion shifted to John Edwards and his answer to a question about how he would react to having a transgender employee. Carlson quickly focused upon...yep, you got it...his "boys" and the terror he associates with the thought of their removal.

Given Tucker's preoccupation, it seemed appropriate to offer my own list of situations and circumstances that lead Mr. Carlson to inadvertently cross his legs.

Number Ten

Using one egg to crack open another.

Number Nine

Seeing a squirrel scurrying up a tree with a mouth full of acorns.

Number Eight

Watching his children play with their wacky clackers.

Number Seven

Peeling and removing the seed from an overripe avocado.

Number Six

Watching the neighborhood kids playing with their hackey sacks.

Number Five

Watching an automatic cherry pitter race through enough cherries to make a pie.

Number Four

Receiving a pair of deep fried hush puppies with his seafood combo at Captain D's.

Number Three

The mere thought of a steely busting up a cluster of marbles inside the circle.

Number Two

The entire process of making sausage...from the meat grinding to the stuffing of the casings.

Number One

Watching his wife make a cup of tea by dipping a tea bag into a hot cup of water.

Tagged as: Brad Luna, Hillary Clinton, Human Rights Campaign, Larry Craig, Logo Democratic Forum, Nancy Grace, Tucker Carlson

Daniel DiRito | August 29, 2007 | 4:15 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 28, 2007

Sen. Craig, Bathroom Sex, & The Broad Berth Of Bias genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Broad Berth Of Bias

I'm always fascinated by the reaction to stories like that of Senator Larry Craig...the Idaho senator who plead guilty to disorderly conduct following his arrest for lewd behavior (he was basically charged for allegedly soliciting sex from a male police officer) in a Minneapolis airport restroom.

A number of reactions are exactly what one might expect given the political persuasion of the senator. Craig has been an opponent of gay rights for the duration of his service in the senate...opposing gay marriage and hate crimes legislation and basically voting the family values platform without fail. Therefore the accusations of blatant hypocrisy have been loud and they've been warranted.

Craig's actions are a repeat of an all too familiar script...powerful anti-gay leader gets caught in pathetic pants down gay situation and then begins the process of denial. In that regard, it is difficult to sympathize with these men given their propensity to victimize gays through their very public and influential positions...all the while living closeted gay lives in secret...frequently exhibiting a history of engaging in tawdry anonymous sexual encounters on the sly.

Here's where it gets tricky...no pun intended. In the rush to comment on the situation, the door is kicked open to all types of erroneous assertions...assertions that emanate from the bias, prejudice, and judgment that comes with the topic of homosexuality.

Generally speaking, the comments from the gay community are straightforward and they speak of vindication and the utter hypocrisy exhibited by those individuals who have made a career of championing the vilification of the gay lifestyle. The gay commentary also includes expressions of dismay with a society that stigmatizes homosexuality such that some individuals are unable or unwilling to expose their gay identities and therefore succumb to the deception and the detachment that accompanies such incidents.

In this particular instance, the commentary from the gay community has also included a degree of outrage that the Minneapolis police department is targeting consensual gay sex as a matter of criminal activity...the point at which it becomes complicated and also where we begin to see the infiltration of bias.

As I've read the many comments on the situation...both from the left and the right...it became obvious that there is a void in understanding an important fact of gay life. Gays and those familiar with the gay community seem to understand that there is an unspoken communication code amongst gays...one that allows them to identify each other. It exists because identifying another gay individual isn't a matter of simple gender identification...and it can be a matter of life and death.

As we all know, the vast majority of society is heterosexual and therefore the accepted pattern of courtship (the means by which people make connections...be they flirting, dating, sexual, or the predecessor to marriage) is between a man and woman. As such, it is expected that men and women will make advances towards each other in order to express interest. These behaviors are well known and easily identified.

On the other hand, those within the gay world have created their own method of courtship...a method that is necessarily more clandestine and far less obvious. That method exists because gays realize that if they were to approach courtship randomly...with the presumption that all others were homosexual...they may be subjecting themselves to the likelihood of anger and even physical danger. The bottom line is that advances of a gay nature are not an open and socially accepted behavior. Gays cannot act upon attraction without first evaluating the potential that such an approach will be welcomed.

The only clear exception to this may be the gay bar...a safe environment that mirrors what heterosexuals find in virtually all of their travels. It is a place where gays can let down their guard and feel safe to express interest in others with little reason for worry. At the same time, any heterosexual who has ventured to a gay bar...and found themselves the object of flirtatious advances should have an appreciation for the daily gay experience. Fortunately, heterosexuals in a gay bar generally needn't feel their physical safety is threatened should they mistakenly make an advance towards a member of the opposite sex. Gays, on the other hand, would not likely find the same in a straight bar.

Let me point out one other consideration...the issue of stereotypical behavior. Many heterosexuals struggle to understand some of the mannerisms of homosexuals...with effeminate behavior being the most obvious. My own anecdotal analysis suggests that it is simply another way for a homosexual to expose their sexual preference to others without the need for the subtleties of a secret code. If one is gay and one wants to maximize the number of individuals who will know as much in order to increase the potential for others to come forward and identify their similar orientation, then acting in stereotypical ways may simply be a successful alternative strategy.

Hopefully, those who may have been puzzled by this apparent secret code of communication that was exhibited by Senator Craig will now have a better understanding of the underlying dynamics that foster it. The bottom line is that if one is never forced to adopt such strategies, one would likely be oblivious to them...but that doesn't nullify their existence.

Now factor in the additional considerations of men like Senator Craig...considerations that go beyond the above mentioned realities. The senator and other closeted individuals must make the same judgments...but they are also focused upon avoiding the acknowledgment or exposure of their sexual preference. Essentially, they are seeking others in similar situations, or at the very least, individuals who they can reasonably assume to be desirous of a limited and/or secretive encounter...whether that be a conversation, a date, sex, or an ongoing relationship.

Let me draw an important comparison to heterosexuality...one that begins to expose the unfair bias that is often triggered by events similar to that of Senator Craig. The best way to understand the actions of Craig is to think about the heterosexual man or woman that is looking for an affair. They must be able to secretly identify an individual who will be receptive to their advances, respectful of their need for discretion, and willing to be complicit in hiding the relationship...whether it is strictly sexual or something much more or much less.

In reading the commentary on the Senator's actions, some have chosen to view his actions as perverse, sick, twisted, and indicative of all that is wrong with the homosexual lifestyle. Let me be clear...I am not defending the actions of Senator Craig...I am simply suggesting that they are not unique to homosexuals. The problem is that some of the characterizations have sought to identify the Senator's behavior as exclusive to homosexuals in order to condemn the gay lifestyle.

However, Craig's motivations are mirrored in the heterosexual community in those individuals seeking to conduct clandestine affairs. All one needs to imagine is the man who frequents the area of a city where prostitutes can be found or that travels for work and can be found in the hotel lounge seeking a one night encounter. If one chooses to characterize such actions as perverse, sick, and twisted...so be it. I am simply suggesting that there are those who hope to attach such a label to homosexual behavior while avoiding the same insinuation with regard to heterosexuals. Deception and cheating are the same wherever they occur.

As to the legitimacy of targeting such behaviors in the restroom of an airport, I think one can make the argument that it is, in fact, an unfair assault upon homosexuals. Again, I'm not suggesting that I find anything remotely appealing about airport bathroom sex...nor am I suggesting that it represents a healthy expression of anyones sexuality. At the same time, I can identify numerous other venues...venues that are not intended for sexual encounters...but that are clearly used as the means to achieve a sexual encounter...amongst heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.

Everyone has been to a concert where two individuals meet up and engage in sexual activity. The same can be found at sports events (think Nascar and bare breasts), wedding receptions, house parties, amusement parks, beaches, airplanes (think mile high club), high school dances, pool parties, public parks, and other venues too numerous to mention.

The question is whether "lewd behavior" is targeted at such venues...and by that I mean that police officers are assigned to engage others who may be seeking to use a venue to solicit sex...not just security staff that might put a stop to such behavior should they encounter it in the course of their responsibilities. I seriously doubt that the police assign a woman officer to attend a concert in order to catch men who solicit her for a sexual encounter...just as I doubt officers would be found at the other venues mentioned with the sole purpose of identifying individuals who are desirous of a sexual encounter. I think the distinction is that these other venues may have employees who are supposed to put an end to such activities if they are encountered...but they are not assigned to entice such advances in order to bring charges.

Again, I have no particular sympathy for Senator Craig...I am simply suggesting that there may well be a double standard at work with regard to homosexual contact. Frankly, it should come as no surprise since we commonly hear expressions like, "I don't care what they do in private but I don't want it flaunted in my face". Further, we have gone so far as to institutionalize such stigmatization of homosexual sex. The best example is found in the military with the policy called Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In other words, gay sex must be behind closed doors and it mustn't be discussed or exposed to the public at large.

In the case of these airport encounters, apparently closed doors are not sufficient...and the mere insinuation of a sexual interest is grounds for charging an individual with an offense. I personally find the prospect of restroom sex distasteful...but no more than I would find the prospect of sitting next to a couple engaging in sex at a concert or on an airplane or at a Nascar race.

Unfortunately, society still struggles with the notion of homosexual sex and the situation with Senator Craig points out the apparent double standard that exists. Granted, the locations gays may choose to find such encounters may differ from those chosen by heterosexuals...but that may simply be a function of the other societal taboos that are at play and that make it more difficult for gays to express an interest in another individual.

The fact that Senator Craig is a hypocrite remains...but there is also an element of hypocrisy that isn't solely reserved for the Senator...hypocrisy that is evidenced in the tacit endorsement of heterosexual encounters while portraying homosexual displays of a sexual nature as wrong, vile, disgusting, and illegal. That hypocrisy simply suggests that society still has a long way to go.

In the meantime, the actions of Senator Craig as a U.S. Senator simply help foster such bias and prejudice...and it makes his behavior as a Senator all the more offensive. His actions in the Senate are an affront to decency and they make a mockery of the responsibilities that should accompany positions of leadership. The fact that he is likely gay simply makes his political actions all the more detestable.

Tagged as: Bias, Gay, Heterosexuality, Homophobia, Homosexuality, LGBT, Senator Larry Craig, Sexuality

Daniel DiRito | August 28, 2007 | 9:17 AM | link | Comments (4)
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August 27, 2007

At The Airport With Sen. Craig: Preparing For Takeoff genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

Sen. Larry Craig

Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) recently plead guilty to disorderly conduct in relation to an incident in a men's restroom in a Minneapolis airport. According to the undercover policeman who made the arrest, Craig's behaviors were consistent with previously witnessed actions intended to solicit sex from the officer.

Craig's office released a statement indicating that the Senator erred in handling the situation without the benefit of legal counsel but that he had done so while hoping to quickly resolve what he characterized as a he said, he said misunderstanding.

Craig’s arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.

A spokesman for Craig described the incident as a “he said/he said misunderstanding," and said the office would release a fuller statement later Monday afternoon.

According to the incident report, Sgt. Dave Karsnia was working as a plainclothes officer on June 11 investigating civilian complaints regarding sexual activity in the men’s public restroom in which Craig was arrested.

“At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area," the report states.

Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times, and Karsnia noted in his report that “I could ... see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall divider."

Karsnia then held his police identification down by the floor so that Craig could see it.

Craig stated “that he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that his foot may have touched mine," the report states. Craig also told the arresting officer that he reached down with his right hand to pick up a piece of paper that was on the floor.

“It should be noted that there was not a piece of paper on the bathroom floor, nor did Craig pick up a piece of paper," the arresting officer said in the report.

Senator Craig has been a staunch supporter of an amendment to ban gay marriage and he is also opposed to the adoption of hate crimes legislation. He joins a growing list of Republicans, religious leaders, and social conservatives whose obsession with all things homosexual seems to suggest they possess a suspect and sullied set of values.

One need not be an expert on airport sexual encounters to be capable of interpreting suspicious behavior that is clearly of a sexually suggestive nature. Further, I'm sure the officer involved in the incident was well trained in identifying such actions.

Generally, I try to reserve my twisted humor and my occasional penchant for crude commentary for my closest friends...but this situation is a classic comic set up that simply demands a response.

As I read the Senator's explanation...the one that stated, "he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom", I have to admit the first thought which entered my mind was to wonder which way the Senators feet were pointing...and that of course led me to wonder if Mr. Craig may have improperly positioned himself on the toilet...you know...such that he was on the receiving end of things.

In defense of my illustrative imagery, the article did indicate that the Senator was being investigated for lewd conduct...I simply allowed my mind to fill in the blanks and embellish the scene.

Now if you'll excuse me...I need to wash my hands and jump in the shower...I'm feeling a little less wholesome all of a sudden.

Tagged as: Closeted, Hypocrisy, Idaho, Lewd Conduct, Senator Larry Craig

Daniel DiRito | August 27, 2007 | 6:28 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 24, 2007

Richard Dawkins: The Enemies Of Reason - Part IV genre: Hip-Gnosis & Video-Philes

The following video clips are the second part of the second program of The Enemies Of Reason, a multi-part series by Richard Dawkins that recently aired in the UK. The first half of the second program can be found here (Part III).

The first program can be found here (Part I) and here (Part II).

In this second program, Dawkins focuses upon alternative medicine and the many areas that have burgeoned in recent years. He seeks to understand why these type of practitioners continue to attract clients.

Dawkins posits that the appeal of those who practice alternative medicines is the attention to the individual's psychological needs...something he calls a placebo methodology...a focus on comforting the patient and spending time addressing each patient with a level of individualized depth not often found in scientific medicine.

Readers can find more detail on the issues discussed by Dawkins in the first program as well as a link to some additional information on the topics at the above link to part one of the series.

From the original posting:

Richard Dawkins, the author of the recent book, The God Delusion, has unveiled his latest endeavor in a series just recently aired in the UK. The series tackles the many threats to reason found in our daily lives.

In two programs, Dawkins looks at astrology, psychic mediums, and the many other superstition based fields which he contends promote the degradation of rationality and an avoidance of reality...all of which threatens the many advances that have resulted from the scientific method and serve to undermine civilization.

During the program, Dawkins actually uses the scientific method to demonstrate that those who present themselves as practitioners in these various fields are little more than charlatans who have made a business out of praying upon the irrational thoughts and desires of people seeking easy answers to our complex human experience.

The Enemies Of Reason: 2nd. Program - Part Four

The Enemies Of Reason: 2nd. Program - Part Five

Tagged as: Alternative Medicine, Astrology, David Colquhoun, Rationality, Religion, Richard Dawkins, Scientific Method

Daniel DiRito | August 24, 2007 | 8:56 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 22, 2007

Richard Dawkins: The Enemies Of Reason - Part III genre: Hip-Gnosis & Video-Philes

The following video clips are the first part of the second program of The Enemies Of Reason, a multi-part series by Richard Dawkins that recently aired in the UK.

The first program can be found here (Part I) and here (Part II).

In this second program, Dawkins focuses upon alternative medicine and the many areas that have burgeoned in recent years. He seeks to understand why these type of practitioners continue to attract clients.

Dawkins posits that the appeal of those who practice alternative medicines is the attention to the individual's psychological needs...something he calls a placebo methodology...a focus on comforting the patient and spending time addressing each patient with a level of individualized depth not often found in scientific medicine.

Readers can find more detail on the issues discussed by Dawkins as well as a link to some additional information on the topics at the above link to part one of the series.

The second half of the second program (Part IV) will be posted in the next couple of days here at Thought Theater.

From the original posting:

Richard Dawkins, the author of the recent book, The God Delusion, has unveiled his latest endeavor in a series just recently aired in the UK. The series tackles the many threats to reason found in our daily lives.

In two programs, Dawkins looks at astrology, psychic mediums, and the many other superstition based fields which he contends promote the degradation of rationality and an avoidance of reality...all of which threatens the many advances that have resulted from the scientific method and serve to undermine civilization.

During the program, Dawkins actually uses the scientific method to demonstrate that those who present themselves as practitioners in these various fields are little more than charlatans who have made a business out of praying upon the irrational thoughts and desires of people seeking easy answers to our complex human experience.

The Enemies Of Reason: 2nd. Program - Part One

The Enemies Of Reason: 2nd. Program - Part Two

The Enemies Of Reason: 2nd. Program - Part Three

Tagged as: Alternative Medicine, Astrology, David Colquhoun, Rationality, Religion, Richard Dawkins, Scientific Method

Daniel DiRito | August 22, 2007 | 12:36 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 20, 2007

Mama's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Poor genre: Econ-Recon & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

Health Insurance

UPDATE:

More good news for parents and children! The Bush administration, in conjunction with China, sought to limit the testing of imported products for lead contamination...which includes children's toys.

From McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration and China have both undermined efforts to tighten rules designed to ensure that lead paint isn't used in toys, bibs, jewelry and other children’s products.

Both have fought efforts to better police imported toys from China.

Now both are under increased scrutiny following last week’s massive toy recall by Mattel Inc., the world’s largest toymaker.

The Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts, consumer advocates say. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.

“The overall philosophy is regulations are bad and they are too large a cost for industry, and the market will take care of it," said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMBWatch, a government watchdog group formed in 1983. “That’s been the philosophy of the Bush administration."

Today, more than 80 percent of all U.S. toys are now made in China and few of them get inspected.

“We’ve been complaining about this issue, warning it is going to happen, and it is disappointing that it has happened," said Tom Neltner, a co-chairman of the Sierra Club’s national toxics committee.

So not only does our President oppose providing health care to children in need, he has no problem exposing them to the risks of lead poisoning...so long as its good for the economy...you know...the robust economy that has allowed China to gain a virtual stranglehold on U.S. currency.

From a public relations standpoint, I can't imagine a worse scenario given the recent confluence of events. Here we not only have the Bush administration issuing a change in policy designed to limit the number of children who will have access to health care during a Congressional recess...we have a report that the same administration has put the health of these same children at risk.

I'm not sure how one could make the situation worse...but perhaps if we give it a day or two, the powers that be can announce another measure intended to assure Americans that George Bush is nothing short of Mr. Scrooge. I can't wait to see what the administration may have planned for Christmas. Perhaps the government can assure the voting public that there will be a lead laden toy in every child's Christmas stocking?

___________________________________________________
ORIGINAL POSTING:

The Bush administration loves children...really they do. First they promoted and passed No Child Left Behind...and failed to properly fund it. Then they agreed to provide insurance for children living in households that are unable to afford health insurance...and followed that with a new set of guidelines designed to limit the number of children eligible for the program.

Perhaps this is just a tough love message for children...one that is intended to let them know that there is no time like the present to get out there and find a job...you know...like the Bush twins did. It's also possible the President is hoping to spare children the scourge he felt when political opponents joked that the Bush family had lived a life of privilege...complete with a silver spoon. Regardless, nothing says I love you quite like punishing innocent American children.

Administration officials outlined the new standards in a letter sent to state health officials on Friday evening, in the middle of a month-long Congressional recess. In interviews, they said the changes were aimed at returning the Children’s Health Insurance Program to its original focus on low-income children and to make sure the program did not become a substitute for private health coverage.

After learning of the new policy, some state officials said today that it could cripple their efforts to cover more children by imposing standards that could not be met.

As on other issues like immigration, the White House is taking action on its own to advance policies that were not embraced by Congress.

In the letter sent to state health officials about 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dennis G. Smith, the director of the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations, set a high standard for states that want to raise eligibility for the child health program above 250 percent of the poverty level.

Before making such a change, Mr. Smith said, states must demonstrate that they have “enrolled at least 95 percent of children in the state below 200 percent of the federal poverty level" who are eligible for either Medicaid or the child health program.

In his letter, Mr. Smith said the new standards would apply to states that previously received federal approval to cover children with family incomes exceeding 250 percent of the poverty level. Such states should amend their state plans to meet federal expectations within 12 months, or the Bush administration “may pursue corrective action," Mr. Smith said.

Completely ignored in the issuance of this policy statement by the Bush administration is whether or not insurance is available to a family or whether a family has the means to afford the cost of such insurance. Even worse, the letter indicates that some children must be dropped from the program in order to meet the new guidelines.

The fact that this new policy rationale attempts to portray the issue as a matter of choosing between private insurance and that which would be provided by the government program is laughable. Reality tells us that the choice is actually between having any insurance and having no insurance.

I'm sorry, but this is the same administration that routinely justifies the United States invasion of Iraq as a moral necessity intended to end the mistreatment of the Iraqi people by the Hussein regime. Maybe this new policy letter should have instructed the parents of uninsured children to pack up and move to Iraq...that country where the American compassion compass continues to matter.

Those parents who fail to understand the decision to limit the availability of health care need to understand that the 10 to 12 billion dollars being spent each month in Iraq is for a noble purpose...one that our president believes is in keeping with his divinely inspired mandate.

After all, it should come as no surprise that this President only takes orders from his heavenly father. As such, its really quite simple...all these parents need to do is convince their uninsured children of the need to pray a little more frequently.

Tagged as: Childrens Toys, China, George W. Bush, Health Care, Insurance, Lead Poisoning, Poverty

Daniel DiRito | August 20, 2007 | 8:19 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Bill Moyers On The Karl Rove Departure genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Video-Philes

In the following video clip, Bill Moyers provides a fitting footnote to the Rove legacy...an honest assessment of the man behind the manipulations. Moyers outlines the basis of the Rove strategy and he also explains the carnage left in his wake.

Moyers closes by pointing out that Karl Rove, a man who routinely utilized the religious beliefs of others for political gain, actually didn't hold those same beliefs. Regardless, in a defiant demonstration that old tricks die hard...Rove still chose to invoke god as he spoke on the White House lawn with the President.

That, my friends, is a testament to the insincerity that will likely anchor the historical account of the Karl Rove legacy. It will also cast an indelible shadow over the Bush presidency and its propensity to place politics ahead of policy.

Tagged as: Bill Moyers, George W. Bush, Karl Rove

Daniel DiRito | August 20, 2007 | 6:14 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 18, 2007

Richard Dawkins: The Enemies Of Reason - Part II genre: Hip-Gnosis & Video-Philes

The following video clips are the second part of a multi-part series here at Thought Theater. The series will provide Richard Dawkins' two part program titled The Enemies Of Reason. The first posting can be found here...and it includes more detail on the issues being discussed as well as a link to some additional information on the topic.

From the original posting:

Richard Dawkins, the author of the recent book, The God Delusion, has unveiled his latest endeavor in a series just recently aired in the UK. The series tackles the many threats to reason found in our daily lives.

In two programs, Dawkins looks at astrology, psychic mediums, and the many other superstition based fields which he contends promote the degradation of rationality and an avoidance of reality...all of which threatens the many advances that have resulted from the scientific method and serve to undermine civilization.

During the program, Dawkins actually uses the scientific method to demonstrate that those who present themselves as practitioners in these various fields are little more than charlatans who have made a business out of praying upon the irrational thoughts and desires of people seeking easy answers to our complex human experience.

The Enemies Of Reason: 1st. Program - Part Three

The Enemies Of Reason: 1st. Program - Part Four

The Enemies Of Reason: 1st. Program - Part Five

Tagged as: Astrology, David Colquhoun, Rationality, Religion, Richard Dawkins, Scientific Method

Daniel DiRito | August 18, 2007 | 9:40 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 16, 2007

What If God Is Sick & Tired Of Our Arrogance? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation

Arrogance

Do you ever see a headline in a newspaper or at a site online which catches your attention, but for some reason you just can't convince yourself to read the content? I saw one of those headlines yesterday and while I didn't succumb to reading the article at that moment, I broke down and read it today.

As to why, well, initially I wasn't completely sure...perhaps curiosity...maybe boredom with the lack of other eye catching news...but then I took the time to explore what the headline said that turned me off...as well as led me back to the article. Following the title and some relevant excerpts below, I'll attempt an explanation.

Dutch Bishop: Call God ‘Allah’ To Ease Relations

AMSTERDAM - A Roman Catholic Bishop in the Netherlands has proposed people of all faiths refer to God as Allah to foster understanding, stoking an already heated debate on religious tolerance in a country with one million Muslims.

Bishop Tiny Muskens, from the southern diocese of Breda, told Dutch television on Monday that God did not mind what he was named and that in Indonesia, where Muskens spent eight years, priests used the word "Allah" while celebrating Mass.

"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem."

A survey in the Netherlands' biggest-selling newspaper De Telegraaf on Wednesday found 92 percent of the more than 4,000 people polled disagreed with the bishop's view, which also drew ridicule.

First, a bit of background. The climate in the Netherlands has been rather volatile since the death of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. Van Gogh's work was critical of Islam and his murder, viewed to be an act of retaliation, increased tensions with the immigrant Islamic community.

The comments of the Bishop were intended to be a conciliatory gesture to the Islamic community and I don't doubt his sincerity. Unfortunately, the irrationality which permeates the circumstances leading to the Bishop's remarks comprise the basis of the angst I experienced when first reading the headline.

With nary a thought, I knew if I read the article it would not only lead to frustration, it would serve to remind me why I find religion to be such a baffling exercise in contradiction as well as a perpetual source of human conflict. Having now read the article, I can attest to the fact that it easily met my stated expectations.

Here's my dilemma...and perhaps someone will be able to offer the insight necessary to unburden me. Let's assume that the Bishop's followers...no, let's go so far as to say that all those in the Netherlands who currently use the term god...suddenly acquiesce to the use of the term allah. With that assumption, would those who believe in the tenets of Islam suddenly shed their animosity towards other religious persuasions?

Conversely, if all those who profess an allegiance to Islam in the Netherlands suddenly conceded to use the tern god instead of allah, would the anger directed at those who embrace Islam suddenly evaporate?

I'll answer my own questions. In both cases, I would respond "of course not". In providing this answer, I point to the utter insanity that exists with regards to religious beliefs. Here's the point...on some hypothetical level, most people would assert and agree that there is only one god or one allah. At the same time, the actions of the majority of religious people suggests that there must either be numerous gods or allahs, or that a majority of the world's population undoubtedly believes in false gods or allahs.

Even more perplexing, each religious group is certain of the infallible nature of their belief in their god or their allah...which also means they are certain of the invalidity of the beliefs held by the remaining majority of human beings. In holding this view, the world therefore has numerous minority populations who are convinced that they are justified in condemning all others, justified in their efforts to impose those laws that support their beliefs and nullify the beliefs of their adversaries, and justified in pursuing and prosecuting plans to prevail.

So in the end, while I commend the effort of the Bishop to be magnanimous, I wouldn't hesitate to bet the farm on the following. If you put the Bishop in a room with a Mullah to discuss religion and tell them they may not leave the room until such time as they agree on one god or one allah...and of course that also means they must agree that there can only be one set of values or mores for living a proper life...the two of them will never emerge from that room. Further, if the door to that room does open, it will likely mean that only one of the two men remains alive and able to emerge...and he will do so while espousing that the one true god or allah had granted him the strength to prevail.

As such, I don't know how to conclude anything other than the fact that civilization has and will always be on the verge of utter chaos and constant conflict. When I acknowledge that thought, I find myself more convinced that god or allah are nothing more than creations of the human mind designed to enable one man to negate another.

Lastly, as a person fond of logic, reason, and rationality...I find myself imagining what a god or an allah might be thinking...were he or she to actually exist...as he or she watched us humans interact. In that exercise, one would be hard pressed to reach any plausible conclusions.

Let's start with the assumption that god or allah has a sick sense of humor and we're simply here for amusement. That would mean that he or she has devised a world such that his or her existence will remain unproven to us humans because he or she has chosen as much. In this model, the amusement would arise when he or she whispers clues into enough ears to pit us all against each other. The amusement would presumably emanate from us remaining in conflict on a perpetual basis. Unfortunately, as an all knowing being, we wouldn't actually be amusing because god or allah would already know what we were going to do. Therefore amusement fails as an explanation.

Two, if we believe that god or allah created humans...then he or she would have done so with the full intent that we be imperfect since he or she, in his or her perfection, could have made us perfect. Therefore, if one were god or allah...meaning one is all knowing...creating imperfect beings while knowing the outcome of said creation would ultimately serve no purpose. It couldn't entertain because he or she would already know the script. So what other reasons might explain our creation?

If we assume we are the product of a deity's creation, then his or her creation would never become perfect of its own volition since it would have been knowingly created with chosen or selected flaws. That would mean that he or she would have to fix us for us to serve any meaningful purpose in our association with a perfect being. If he or she intends to enact the fix...since we humans could not do so by design...because if we could, we would have to already possess the capabilities of a god...then why hasn't he or she already affected the fix and what reason would suffice for him or her to keep us around in a perpetually imperfect state? I'm not sure there is an answer that makes sense.

Further, if we assume that he or she is gradually revealing more answers to us over time...then that would have to happen through god or allah's selection of certain individuals since we wouldn't possess that ability innately. That means that those of us who were not chosen would actually serve no purpose and we would always remain reliant upon the ability and willingness of those chosen to know more, to share it with us.

However, in our imperfection, we would never understand what god or allah had revealed to the chosen few; we would have to believe them as a matter of faith. However, since god or allah already knows our imperfections, god or allah would know that we were incapable of knowing how to decide what we should believe as a matter of faith. Therefore, making some people capable of understanding more and providing them clues or knowledge would do little more than fuel controversy and conflict.

In other words, our enlightenment would ultimately still have to be given to each of us by god or allah electing to alter the imperfections we were created with. That holds true if we're to receive enlightenment as a matter of faith through others or if we're each to be given more knowledge directly from god or allah.

In the end, we humans cannot explain or understand the notion of a god or allah outside of our human existence...which leads us to define god or allah in human terms and which means our perceptions will always be flawed. At the same time, in our imperfections, we will always disagree as to who is more right. Moreover, logic tells us that our imperfections will preclude any of us from ever being able to prove what we believe to be right.

Therefore, in our efforts to define god or allah, we actually insult the very god or allah we think exists. When we presume to know god or allahs intentions, we diminish god or allah by falsely elevating ourselves. Knowing as much ought to instruct us to spend our time understanding each other and making this existence as palatable as humanly possible...for all of us humans.

If there is a god or an allah, he or she would already know that such a goal is the noblest practice and the highest pinnacle we can achieve with the abilities he or she had provided to us. I'm not sure any higher being would be amused by our preoccupation with assigning them a name...let alone an identity of our human making. Perhaps its time that we humans focus on that which is within our grasp?

Tagged as: Allah, Catholicism, Faith, God, Humanity, Islam, Religion

Daniel DiRito | August 16, 2007 | 11:57 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Richard Dawkins: The Enemies Of Reason - Part I genre: Hip-Gnosis & Video-Philes

Richard Dawkins, the author of the recent book, The God Delusion, has unveiled his latest endeavor in a series just recently aired in the UK. The series tackles the many threats to reason found in our daily lives.

In two programs, Dawkins looks at astrology, psychic mediums, and the many other superstition based fields which he contends promote the degradation of rationality and an avoidance of reality...all of which threatens the many advances that have resulted from the scientific method and serve to undermine civilization.

During the program, Dawkins actually uses the scientific method to demonstrate that those who present themselves as practitioners in these various fields are little more than charlatans who have made a business out of praying upon the irrational thoughts and desires of people seeking easy answers to our complex human experience.

The topic is beginning to garner attention and those interested in knowing more about this growing trend may want to read an article found at Guardian Unlimited titled The Age Of Endarkenment. The piece is written by David Colquhoun.

From The Guardian:

The enlightenment was a beautiful thing. People cast aside dogma and authority. They started to think for themselves. Natural science flourished. Understanding of the real world increased. The hegemony of religion slowly declined. Real universities were created and eventually democracy took hold. The modern world was born. Until recently we were making good progress. So what went wrong?

The past 30 years or so have been an age of endarkenment. It has been a period in which truth ceased to matter very much, and dogma and irrationality became once more respectable. This matters when people delude themselves into believing that we could be endangered at 45 minutes' notice by non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

It matters when reputable accountants delude themselves into thinking that Enron-style accounting is acceptable. It matters when people are deluded into thinking that they will be rewarded in paradise for killing themselves and others. It matters when bishops attribute floods to a deity whose evident vengefulness and malevolence leave one reeling. And it matters when science teachers start to believe that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago.

A minor aspect of the endarkenment has been a resurgence in magical and superstitious ideas about medicine. The existence of homeopaths on the high street won't usually do too much harm. Their sugar pills contain nothing and they won't poison your body. The greater danger is that they poison your mind.

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I highly recommend the article as well as the Dawkins series. Over the next few days, I will post the remaining video clips of the Dawkins program. The first video clip below is an interview with Dawkins which will provide the viewer with a basic understanding of Dawkins' views as well as primer on the content of the program. It is followed by the initial two clips from the first program.

An Interview With Richard Dawkins On The Enemies Of Reason

The Enemies Of Reason: 1st. Program - Part One

The Enemies Of Reason: 1st. Program - Part Two

Tagged as: Astrology, David Colquhoun, Rationality, Religion, Richard Dawkins, Scientific Method

Daniel DiRito | August 16, 2007 | 10:23 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 15, 2007

Sam Harris On Religion At Aspen Ideas Festival - Pt. II genre: Hip-Gnosis & Video-Philes

Sam Harris, the author of The End Of Faith and Letters To A Christian Nation, recently appeared at the Aspen Ideas Festival, a forum for dialogue on numerous topics sponsored by the Aspen Institute.

The following video clips are the second part of a two part posting here at Thought Theater. The first posting can be found here. In his presentation, Harris touches upon a number of issues with regards to religion...offering both a primer on the historical basis of religion and the doctrines it embraces as well as the impact religion has in society.

Harris, not unlike Christopher Hitchens, points out that the absolute nature of most religions serves as a dangerous and divisive force in society. Harris also argues that acts of altruism and goodness are not dependent upon a belief in god or an affiliation with religion.

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Tagged as: Aspen Ideas Festival, Morality, Religion, Sam Harris

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2007 | 1:08 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 12, 2007

Sam Harris On Religion At Aspen Ideas Festival genre: Hip-Gnosis & Video-Philes

Sam Harris, the author of The End Of Faith and Letters To A Christian Nation, recently appeared at the Aspen Ideas Festival, a forum for dialogue on numerous topics sponsored by the Aspen Institute.

The following video clips are the first part of a two part posting here at Thought Theater. In his presentation, Harris touches upon a number of issues with regards to religion...offering both a primer on the historical basis of religion and the doctrines it embraces as well as the impact religion has in society.

Harris, not unlike Christopher Hitchens, points out that the absolute nature of most religions serves as a dangerous and divisive force in society. Harris also argues that acts of altruism and goodness are not dependent upon a belief in god or an affiliation with religion.

The second half of this posting will appear in the next few days.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Tagged as: Aspen Festival, Morality, Religion, Sam Harris

Daniel DiRito | August 12, 2007 | 9:13 AM | link | Comments (1)
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August 10, 2007

Christopher Hitchens On Freedom Of Speech genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

The following video clips are from an appearance by Christopher Hitchens at the University of Toronto's Hart House Debating Club. The topic for the evening was, "Be It Resolved: Freedom of Speech Includes the Freedom to Hate."

As always, Hitchens offers an eRudyte and impassioned defense of the freedom of speech...often defending the right of those who seem indefensible to speak their minds...but at the same time demonstrating that the fundamental value of supporting freedom of speech warrants such a defense.

While many may find Hitchens views on religion offensive, there is no doubt that his intellect is a valuable contribution to an important dialogue...and one would be hard pressed to refute his ability to craft a logically sound argument.

More importantly, Mr. Hitchens willingness to hear the arguments of others and to engage in dialogue and debate is evidence of his commitment to the principles he espouses.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Tagged as: Christopher Hitchens, Freedom of Speech, Religion, University of Toronto

Daniel DiRito | August 10, 2007 | 4:30 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 3, 2007

Abstinence Only Plans Ineffective...And Detrimental? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood

A large study of abstinence only programs in the United States indicates that the plans are ineffective in preventing sexual activity and may actually be detrimental since they fail to provide adequate sex education. The study confirms prior findings...

Tagged as: Abstinence Only, HIV, Morality, Religious Right, Sex Education, STD's, Teen Pregnancy

Daniel DiRito | August 3, 2007 | 4:54 PM | link | Comments (1)
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August 2, 2007

Thoughts On The Loss Of Life In Minnesota genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances & Hip-Gnosis

Tragedy elicits many responses...often automatic reactions that we rarely seek to understand...and that is as it should be given the shocking nature of the assault upon our psyche and the overwhelming grief that will certainly follow. As I watched...

Tagged as: Atheism, Bridge Failure, Death, God, Minnesota, Mortality, Religion

Daniel DiRito | August 2, 2007 | 12:00 PM | link | Comments (0)
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