Thursday, September 30, 2010

Moral Panic, and the Right's Culture Wars

Moral Panic is a term used in sociology, coined by Stanley Cohen and Jock Young back in the early 1970s.  I'm going to be really lazy here and deviate from my usual research, and just give you the definition from Their article on moral panic is a pretty good one, and tracks with what I know from other sources. The wikipedia article opens with a definition of moral panic that sums it up nicely:

"A moral panic is the intensity of feeling
expressed in a population about an issue that
appears to threaten the social order."

Moral panic, in sociology lingo, occurs per Cohen, when a
 "condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges
to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests." 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Christine O'Donnell, or a Telletubby- Which would be the better candidate?

Teletubbies are cute, and genuinely pure, and best of all, they don't say as many stupid things.

The political right has a fascination with telegenic candidates, apparently giving their physical appearance greater importance than their other qualifications, or lack of them.

The candidates' ignorance, and their stupidity, and their lack of the intellectual curiosity to research information prior to speaking, are appalling.  An example would be Christine O'Donnell, who recently happily, mindlessly babbled criticism that President Obama had violated the U.S. Constitution by granting titles of nobility to the various administration Czars. 

Never mind that Czar is a quasi-slang term for advisers, most often used by the press, but sometimes used by political figures, dating back to the 1930's and 1940's in the Roosevelt administration.

O'Donnell, who has delusions about being a legitimate contender for the Senate, representing Delaware, is apparently unaware that the term Czar is not used in the context of an actual patent of nobility.   I am amazed that O'Donnell hasn't criticized Obama for creating RUSSIAN nobility, rather than good old fashioned AMERICAN nobility. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Land of Nod

The Land of Nod is the land Cain (biblical guy, kills his brother) settled in and is east of Eden. It is also often referred to as that land of dreams, e.g. as we "nod" off to sleep.

It's the land where I go when I want to live in a fantasy world. It is where my mind wanders, my farcifal spirit walks, when I want to consider what the world could be like, good and bad, if we did silly things.

Last week, the Mayor of Enoch, in the Land of Nod, suggested we vote on whether left-handed people are allowed to breathe. After all, if they breathe, the rest of us likely will have less air in the Land of Nod, where air might possibly run out some day. And the Governor of the Land of Nod, well he last week had us vote on whether children should be allowed to grow, because after all, if they grow, their parents will be denied the right to keep their cuteness for as long as they want. Finally, the Dinosaurs are roaming around the "Big Dig" in the Land of Nod, looking for people to scare (RAWR!!!) into doing whatever the powerful people need, because after all, powerful people need a lot of help becoming even more powerful, in the Land of Nod. You see, in the Land of Nod, tyranny of the majority is entirely acceptable, and trickling money upward is a workable economic model. Whatever the majority wants today, they get. If the rich want to use Dinosaurs and scary stories to influence the majority into stripping away basic liberties, well, that's perfectly fine, because "that's how it ought to be", there are no moral imperatives nor anyone who worries about them, in the Land of Nod.

American Library Association's Banned Books Week

A tip of our blog-hat to, from our blog roll, for this information; for more information on Banned Books Week, please follow the linke to FindLaw:
(here is a 'teaser')

"By Tanya Roth on September 28, 2010 6:02 AM
'I never knew a girl who was ruined by a book'. -- James Walker
Nor a boy either for that matter. Yet even now, people seem to fear this exact thing. September 25 to October 2 is Banned Books Week in the land of the free. Each year since 1982, The American Library Association (ALA) has sponsored this week as a teaching moment to bring to the attention of all that some censorship, or attempts at censorship, still exist in the libraries and schools of our country."

Left or Right, Wrong is Wrong

UPDATE:  I wrote the following post before the news broke of an alleged attempt by James O'Keefe to engage in an attempted event involving a CNN reporter, a boat, and a lot of sex paraphenalia. O'Keefe denies having a role in this.  If O'Keefe is telling the truth - for a change - then this is a very wrong attempt by someone to treat O'Keefe in the same way he has treated his victims.  For more details, read about it here.  I find O'Keefe's claims that this really was an escapade generated by CNN, or the notion that the attractive CNN reporter had attempted to seduce weasel-faced, proven liar O'Keefe highly implausible.

I had intended the next item that I would review here on Penigma would be about the Republican 'Pledge' to/ with / against America (hint - it doesn't holdup well to fact checking), but instead, I think this merits comment first.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stimulate THIS!

Regular readers are familiar with my devotion to fact check sources.

I  love

I adore

I was delighted to see this in my email today; "New Fact Check Article: Did the Stimulus Create Jobs?".

Contrary to the FALSE claims by the Right this election campaign cycle, turns out ........... IT DID.


Today I Am Sad

My wife left for three days, and I'm sad enough for that, but I just learned that one of my boy-hood heroes has died.

George Blanda was the NFL's all-time leading scorer when he retired, which isn't too surprising for a kicker who played 26 years (until he was 49 years old!) - but what most folks don't know or remember, was the season which made me a Raider's fan. In 1970, as a 43 year-old, with a body beaten up by 21 prior seasons playing quarterback, Blanda brought the Raiders back from defeat 5 times late in the season, coming in as a replacement and rallying the team each time - they went 4-0-1 during those final games.

He was a warrior, persevering, affable, amiable and humble, and while it isn't something which most people will remark upon, I will. I truly admired his will and grit. Rest In Peace, George.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sex and Windex

"Cleanliness is next to Godliness."
2nd century Hebrew proverb
Rabbi Phineas ben-Yair
(per Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 14th ed.)

"Honni soit qui mal y pense." 
Motto, English chivalric Order of the Garter,
founded 1344
King Edward III of England

I have been following the Simon-Simpleminded-Simon-purity statements that are enjoying a new resurgence in the right-wing culture wars of the current season of political campaigns with alternating amusement and distaste.

While I bless and thank my parents often in my heart for having insisted that an attention span and ability to concentrate is like a muscle which must be exercised to remain strong, a premise I bring to many tasks..........there are certain activities which produce for me a tedium which is almost physically painful to endure. It is just one of the reasons, I -  along with many people - dislike the necessary task of washing windows.  Unlike other domestic tasks, there is no 'domestic godess' gratification in it; it is an annoying necessity to be reluctantly endured and gotten over with as quickly as possible.

Until recently, I just cringed when thinking of the smirking, leering pseudo-purity promoted by professional right wing political parasites like Christine O'Donnell who make a living off of saying any drek the right wants to hear.  Instead, in response to a news item about her anti-masturbation crusade on the news in the background, I played an old CD while washing windows, selecting the most lust-inducing music available in my collection.  In this case it was from 1991, a local group, Mick Sterling and the Stud Brothers.  My friend Sara introduced me to their music a few years ago (thank you Sara!) simply describing Sterling's vocal quality as 'beefy', but said with an edginess in her expression which implied much more.  I would describe the mixture of rough and smooth in his delivery as the auditory equivalent of a caress followed by the feel of a lover's fingernails lightly but firmly dragged across one's skin, making it tingle.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In the Age of Dinosaur Policies (and Persecuting Gays in the Military)

I turned 46 last week. It's not a momentous birthday for most people, for me it was a little wistful, I'm closer to 50 than 40 now. Closer to old than young.

I thought back this morning on the things I've seen, which honestly have been extraordinary in this age of change. I watched (as a four year old) Niel Armstrong step onto the surface of the moon. I watched race riots in Detroit, the Age of Aquarius, flower-power, an Arab Oil Embargo, our Embassy in Iran violated, the toppling of the Soviet empire symbolized by the tearing down of the Berlin wall, the advent of computers, cell phones, and microwaves, the opening up of China, and the age of the Internet (which may ultimately surpass all the others as being our "Gutenberg Printing Press" accomplishment). Frankly, it's a remarkable set of events and changes in such a comparatively short time. I sit here writing out my thoughts which someone on the other side of the world may read later this morning. When I was 25 years old, that concept was, well.. inconceivable.

When I was 25 years old I had been in the military just short of 5 years. At that time (1989), gays weren't allowed in the military, no matter what. You were asked as you enlisted if you were gay, if you answered "yes", that was it, you were done - no enlistment. We were still in the Cold War, but our military apparently felt it would be better off by preventing participation of gays. At that time (at least) the pretext for such a policy wasn't about perversion or mental illness, but rather that it might well be dangerous and disruptive to have gays in the military because the "red neck" nature of many in the military might cause them to be upset about, and maybe even violent toward, gays. The term of the day was that it was not "conducive to good order and discipline of the service."

This attitude was a stark change from when I was 5 (or when I was born). The attitude then was that gays were deviants, perverts, sick in the head, and any found in the military were normally summarily discharged as mentally unfit, but even worse there was a chance they'd be prosecuted for criminal conduct for violating sodomy laws the military still had when I joined it in the middle 80's. That attitude of revulsion and fear (and through fear, hatred) which created such laws and such views about gays still exists today in some parts of America. In America, in this age of remarkable change, some things haven't moved very far at all. Ask a social conservative privately about his or her view of gays, and many still comment that they are perverts and deviants, after all, "doesn't the bible say so?"

Since then, thankfully, our social conscience has moved forward. Somewhere between "Philadelphia" and "Brokeback Mountain" we began to see gays as human beings, rather than portraying them as "cowards" or deviants (well most of us anyway - see below). Somewhere between Rock Hudson, Gore Vidal (a WWII veteran) and Matthew Shepard, we began to see both that gays were admirable, even heroic, and that our "red neck" ways were not just something we needed to "quit" to quote the song, but were morally repugnant and ethically repellent.

Monday, September 20, 2010

In Defense of the Constitution of the United States of America

Sadly, Friday, September 17th, 'Constitution Day' and 'Citizenship Day', largely went uncelebrated and unremarked.  Although belatedly (sorry about that) I'm going to address it here, under the premise of better late than never.
For those Penigma readers who have enjoyed the '_________(day) in history' posts, the 'Penigma's  Day in History' blog is now linked in our blog roll, just ahead of 'Shot in the Dark'.  Please continue to be patient just a little longer, as it is at this time a partial list of past posts, but becoming more complete daily, and should be current fairly soon.
- Dog Gone

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tweedle Dumber, Twaddle 'Donnell

"American scientific companies are crossbreeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains,"
- Delaware's GOP Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell
2007, Bill O'Reilly interview

This is the woman that the GOP is endorsing for the senate seat previously held by Vice President Biden.  It is not the craziest thing she has said, not by a long shot.

So.........what is the reality that Ms. O'Donnell-the-Dumb got so very wrong?

You can read it here.  It has to do with chimeras used in stem cell research.

Tax Cuts for the Rich Won't Do What the Right Says They Will Do

Moody's Analytics, Inc. data were quoted in a recent Bloomberg article - read it here.

The article is very clear that an analysis of information all the way back to 1989, shows that tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 under Bush resulted in an increase in savings by the wealthy, not by more spending, not by more investment in new business or more jobs. One of the economists involved in the analysis, Chris Cornell, made the statement, “Spending by the top 5 percent of households seems much more closely tied to business- cycle issues than it does to tax-cut issues.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

They Are Not Your Friend

"Misfortune shows those who are not really friends."
from 'Eudemian Ethics'
384 BC - 322 BC

Putting the differences between the Republican plan as promoted by House Minority Leader, Republican Congressman John Boehner, and the tax measures re: the Bush Tax breaks advocated by President Barack Obama into a visual graph makes clear what it means by the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words.

Obama tax plan,on the left,with the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts
for all but the top 2 to 3 % ;
the Republican / John Boehner endorsed extension
of the Bush Tax Cuts, reflecting the disproportionate
tax advantages provided to the upper 2 - 3% of the wealthiest Americans

This becomes significant when you keep in mind that the tax cuts for the middle and lower income earners will directly benefit job growth and economic investment and developments; while the Republican large 'gifts' to the wealthy will not.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When the Right is Wrong; Failed Conservative Economic Ideology, and Republican Math That Doesn't Add Up

The 'Right' as represented by House Minority Leader John Boehner advocate for policies that favor the extremely wealthy few, at the expense of the rest, especially at the expense and decline of the core of this country, the middle class.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11th in History

We invite the readers of Penigma to come together to solemnly honor those who lost their lives on 9/11 at all locations of the attacks.  Please remember today those who were killed or injured, and their family and friends, in a respectful celebration of Patriot Day by flying all flags, but especially the American Flag, at half mast.  Please also pause for a moment of reverence at the hour of the first plane flying into the north tower, at 8:46 AM, Eastern time.

Also join with us, in an effort to prevent tragedies like this from happening in our future, here, or anywhere in the world, by promoting tolerance and understanding, and love for our fellow man, as a reflection of the love of God, and in replacing hatred and suspicion leading to violence with wisdom and restraint.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Take It on Faith

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population.
- Albert Einstein

Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad. (and)

Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst.
- Thomas Paine

It is in the continuing controversy over the 'ground zero' mosque-that-is-not-a-mosque being exploited by the right, by the likes of Newt Gingrich and and his Islamophobic ideologues;

in the horror of Koran burning by the unpatriotic, Unchristian, UnAmerican, ignorant bigots in Florida;

in the intensity of the emotions that accompany the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies, that we discover who we are.

September 10th in History

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

An Ugly Side to Christianity

"If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic" - Luke 6:29
The Church that Christ founded on Earth comes in all sorts of flavors these days. There is the Roman Catholic, there are the Orthodox branches, there are several "mainstream" Protestant denominations. And then there are... others.
Dove World Outreach Church, in Gainsville, Florida is an example of the "other". The "church" plans to publicly burn over 3,000 copies of the Qur'an in retaliation for the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center and Pentegon destruction. The church claims that it is a "total concept church", whatever that may mean, and that its purpose is to "stand up for righteousness and the truth of the Bible". The leader of this church, Terry Jones, has apparently forgotten to read that very Bible that he supposedly holds so dear.

In a CNN interview, Mr. Jones was asked about the Christian principle of turning the other cheek. To which he replied, "I think in deed that most of the time, we as Christians are indeed called to turn the other cheek. I believe that most of the time, talk and diplomacy is the correct way. But I always think that once in a while, I think you see that in the Bible, there are incidents where enough is enough and you stand up". (Emphasis supplied) Oh, really? I truly wish I could have been there to ask Mr. Jones to show me where Christ said that. I would dearly love to know where Christ said that Christianity was a "part time" faith, or that we can pick and choose which parts we don't like. I have searched, and I can't find that passage. His interpretation of the Bible amounts to heresy. Alas, this type of hypocrisy isn't rare in Christianity, and unfortunately, neither is the ugliness of Mr. Jones' message.
In my research to determine whether I could find where Christ condoned messages of hate and intolerance such as that of Mr. Jones and his "church", I DID, however, see several passages with which Mr. Jones and his church should be familiar, but have apparently chosen not to heed:
Luke 6: 27-28: "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."
Luke 6: 37: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
This "church", and others like it, are not spreading God's love. Their message to Islam is not a message of love and peace, the message that God commanded. Their message is one of hate and disrespect. This is the ugly side to Christianity, and Christians who truly believe Christ's word should publicly repudiate this "church", and the brand of hate they spew masquerading as Christianity.
Our Constitution grants Mr. Jones and his followers the right to believe as they choose. It does not, however, require us to stand silent when a church takes actions which betrays the Christian faith, which effectively ignores the Word of God, and which also will cause untold potential harm to come to the very troops that this church may cheer on in the "fight against the infidel". Gen. David Petreus, the US Forces commander in Afghanistan, has said that the burning of the Qur'an will give the Taliban a recruiting weapon, and will deeply offend those upon we depend for information as our allies.
All Christians, of whatever persuasion, should recognize that Christianity is not a religion of hate, nor is it a religion which encourages retribution. Nay, as demonstrated above, it commands love, and forbids retribution. We should pray for those who endanger their very souls when they listen to false prophets such as Mr. Jones, with his message of hate, as it is written, "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble." 1 John 2:9-10. The people of the earth are the Children of God. It is time to put hate aside, to rebuke those who spread these messages of heresy, and to walk in the path of peace.