Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Absolute Sincerity

April 21, 2009

I keep thinking I will someday be able to overcome the fact that the world is full of bloody hypocrites, especially where morality is concerned. But I just keep coming up with new gripes.

I don't have much to say, except that I was speaking t
o someone about the supposed controversial comments by Miss California in the recent Miss America Beauty Pageant. I performed a Google news search just to check it out, and lo and behold, right on Fox News.com, I see a picture of a hot babe in a swimsuit.

Apparently there was a story. I am sure she was Miss California. Supposedly she lost because she thinks marriage should be between a man and a woman. For some reason, I wasn't really interested in reading.

Snap! Sorry - I got a little sidetracked. So let me get this straight. Someone enters into a pageant where the only real reason anyone pays attention is to look at hot chicks in bathing suits, and then she is a hero because she thinks gay marriage is wrong? Does anyone see the glaring contradiction here?

I know I am being incredibly cynical here, but I am not backing down on this one. People who rail on gay marriage (and I'm not saying it's wrong or right - it's not the issue here), saying it is going to cause the disintegration of society, are probably many of the same people who watch scantily clad women in bikinis on TV, drooling, and trying to find rerun videos on YouTube after the pageant ends because they haven't fantasized enough.

The Miss America Pageant is nothing but a way to make women objects. And if we're going to make moral judgments, then the pageant has to be just as immoral as two people of the same sex wanting to form a union together. I guess what it comes down to is there are not that many gay people out there, compared to the big business out there geared toward the number of people who will spend their time and money to look at swimsuit models strutting their stuff, and then acting like they watch to see what the hell said models think about world poverty.

Let me put it another way: when you prance around practically naked in a swimsuit (if you can call it that), you probably don't have much room to talk about your opinion on morality.

Such hypocrisy has the potential to make one ill.

Update: (4/22/09) Well, what do you know, a woman (Caroline Heldman) who agrees with me. Of course, pervert Sean Hannity and his two male guests want the controversy to go on as long as possible, so they can continue to show pictures of babes in bikinis as much as possible. Of course, these "manly" men more than likely feel they are superior to Heldman just because they are men.

Her argument is just too much for them to handle. The pageant is degrading to women. So what? They're hot, and Hannity wants to watch them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day Tomfoolery

April 15, 2009

Finally it is here! Tax day! What does it all mean? Well, really for me, nothing. However, there are some significant occurrences going on around the country. I hate to draw attention to the foolishness of some radical conservatives out there, but today is the day where Fox News utterly and unabashedly abandons any claim they may have had to being "fair and balanced."

In several areas of the country, conservatives are gathering to protest tax increases, and government expansion. Really, these rallies will be nothing more than anti-Obama demonstrations. And Fox News has gone out of its way to promote it all the way. The irony is that millionaires and billionaires are organizing the events, making them look like the "parties" are a spontaneous grassroots phenomenon. In the end, the rich are just trying to incite the people, draw attention to something inconsequential, and grow richer as a result.

But enough about taxes. Let's go for a much more global view of matters. I understand the supposedly logical viewpoints that support less taxes and less government. Theoretically, it would be awesome to have government pretty much out of our lives. Compulsory charity is not the best way to provide for those in need, for sure.

However, the facts are undeniable: over three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. The poorest 40 percent of people account for 5 percent of global income, while the richest 20 percent account for more than 75 percent of global income. One in two children lives in poverty. 1.6 billion people live without electricity.

The stats go on and on. The point? The wealthy (and most people in the United States, even poor college students like myself, are wealthy relative to people in other parts of the world) continue to take more and more of the goods. While technology and means to distribute basic goods to those in poverty continue to improve, it seems the number of poor people continues to expand.

Even if we can't save all the poor in the world, how do we justify the number of poor, starving, adults and children, in the wealthiest nation ever to exist on earth?

I am not going to be the one who says capitalism is a terrible system, but it has its flaws, and I think saying "it's absolutely the best system hands-down" is probably a stretch. As a Mormon, reading in the Doctrine and Covenants about the United Order and Law of Consecration, it is hard to read and imagine that God's way is just naked, free-market capitalism.

From section 104:
15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
16 But it must needs be done in mine own away; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the bpoor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
17 For the aearth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be bagents unto themselves.
18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the aabundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the blaw of my gospel, unto the cpoor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in dhell, being in torment.

Sounds like the rich who are selfish with their wealth possibly may find themselves in the same place as the rapists, murderers, and sexual predators of the world, but who knows. Either way, if one studies the Law of Consecration (and no doubt we fail to live it today because we are just as selfish as the Saints who first received the law), there is no doubt that the gap between the CEO of such-and-such company and the person who works at the laundromat for five dollars an hour would not be nearly as wide as the gap surely is today.

I don't want to hear, "if the government didn't take so much of my money, I would be more charitable." That's bogus. Before you start using that argument, start counting the number of cars, televisions, DVD's, iPods, computers, etc. that you have. Not to mention the endless amount of junk sitting in boxes in the garage that hasn't seen daylight since the 1980's. Although it is not wrong for people to have relative comfort in their lives, there is no doubt that most of the interest we have in possessions is merely modern day idol worship.

So the tax-day tea-baggers can participate in their rediculous shenanigans, and people can keep quoting platitudes like, "give a man a fish, feed him for a day," and the government can at least continue trying to do what the rich of the world simply refuse to do: allow those who wouldn't otherwise have a chance to have some semblance of a respectable life for themselves, and for the generations that follow.

And while it may not be quite as lamentable as starving humans, Fox News will continue to claim it is fair and balanced, and a lot of people will probably still believe it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gun Violence: Where's the Outrage?

April 7, 2009

I am no gun control freak. I admit, I have only handled and shot a gun once in my entire life. My father did not take me hunting when I was a child. We did not have guns in our home, and the mere idea of me owning a gun and storing it in my house frightens my wife to death. But I am in no way a proponent of getting rid of all guns.

However, it has struck me as odd how the recent violent episodes of gun violence in various parts of the country have sparked so little concern - from the news media, from gun-control advocates, or from anyone else, as far as I can tell. Click here to see a list of the latest bloodbaths.

Coming from Wyoming, it is no surprise to me that high school students in the past routinely carried rifles and other arms in their vehicles while driving to and from school. It never occurred to me at the time the danger this could pose to me or other students. This even after experiencing a shooting at my own school when I was in the seventh grade in Sheridan, WY.

Then came the brutality of Columbine. I am not completely sure, but since that incident, I don't think high school students are allowed to drive with weapons in their cars to school. Some probably still do, but they better not store them above the back window of their pickup. Columbine seemed to have the affect of changing the way a lot of people thought about the use of firearms.

There have been several other incidents since Columbine that have sparked disbelief and horror in us all, school shootings, sniper shootings, etc. Even with the shootings at Virginia Tech about two years ago, it seemed the discussion was very heated on how to combat these types of occurrences.

Yet, with the several killing sprees that have erupted over the last month and a half, these discussions seem to have vanished. It may be because of the fear that was hatched with the insidious misinformation that President Obama would take away our guns if he were elected. I honestly don't know. But it seems to me, the more incidents that happen, the more discussion should be had, not less.

One good argument (really the only argument I've heard so far) is that with too much coverage, these violent crimes encourage copycats, which could only increase the incidence of these acts. But there is a way to cover the issue without practically glorifying the killer, as I felt may have been the case with the Virginia Tech gunman. I recently heard of a group of young people in Casper who were discussing suicide on a MySpace board. It would be silly for the authorities who learned of this to say, "well let's just pretend it isn't a problem, because we might be glorifying the participants." Something had to be done in that instance, and something probably needs to be done about these shootings. Nothing is going to happen if no one will even entertain discussion.

No doubt there are lobbies out there trying to curtail the right to bear arms. No doubt they want to stop people from owning and storing guns in their homes. But I don't know where they are right now. It is just curious that at a time when our president supposedly wants to take away guns, and when the media supposedly are riding along in his bandwagon, that somehow the media have collectively turned a shrugging, indifferent shoulder to the multiple massacres that have recently unfolded.

Why the apparent refusal to at least discuss that there may be some correlation between the increasing number of innocent deaths, and how gun laws are in force today? That includes discussion of whether it would have made people more safe if there had been a gun in the building where the killer opened fire. Has the discussion become so polarizing that people are avoiding it all together? Or, as the CEO of the NRA recently put it, are the ones with the guns making the rules currently? Is it because the economy is hurting, and people have more important things to worry about?

I have a lot more questions than answers. However, since I began writing, I found that ABC is going to do a special shortly on the violence that has happened over the last year. Maybe they will do what should already have happened - begin a dialogue about what is going on, why it's happening, and what possibly can be done to change the situation.

There was another mass killing over the weekend in Graham, Washington. That apparently brings the number of mass killings to five in the last eight days. It is very disturbing that these killings are happening. It is also very disturbing that no one seems to care too much about it all.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

Elton John in Laramie

April 3, 2009

Sir Elton John is gracing Laramie with his presence today, as part of the Shepard Symposium for Social Justice. While he may not be my favorite solo pop artist of all time, he is right at the top (I think Billy Joel would be my #1 favorite). I still remember listening to him for the first time when I was three of four years old at my cousin's house, and I have been a fan ever since. He is a legend who has written a lot of great songs, and it seems the more outrageous the glasses over time, the cooler he got.

Of all his songs, I think "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" is my all-time favorite. That may be partly because of the many times I sang the chorus, "laughing like children, living like lovers, rolling like
thunder, under the covers!" with my scout troop on various activities and excursions, much to the chagrin of our troop leader. Check out the official video on YouTube. It's great! I'm sure it will be a great concert tonight.