20 October 2012

Romney Debate Statements That Could Hurt His Bid

During the past two presidential debates between Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, the GOP candidate made potentially detrimental statements that have surprisingly received no criticism.

There are two statements that were stand-outs as potentially damaging to Romney’s campaign:
  • “I believe that we are all children of the same god.”
  • “Free markets need regulations to work.”
Children of the Same God
There are several obvious reasons Romney’s statement that he believes we are all children of the same god has the potential to damage his campaign. In a nation filled with a population that increasingly declares itself to be nonreligious, atheists, and polytheistic pagans, his statement alienates all those who fall into these categories.

More damning to his campaign, however, is that he uses that reference to the “same god.” Why would this be so problematic? Romney is a devout Mormon. All too many polls show that upwards of 65 percent of Christians in America do not consider Mormonism to be a form of Christianity. Keeping in mind how tightly he sticks to his Mormon beliefs, one can only imagine how many Christian may have bristled at his assertion, which is normally received well-enough when coming from some of the world’s longer established monotheistic religions.

Free Markets Need Regulations

In the first presidential debate, the questions focused on domestic policy. This, of course, centered strongly on the economy. In this debate, Romney clearly stated that “free markets need regulations to work.”  If only the media had panned to a shot of Paul Ryan cringing at Romney’s statement.

In choosing Ryan as his running mate, Romney obviously hoped to garner the support of Tea Partiers, but even more specifically, the Ayn Randists who continuously call for the end of regulations. Those who cling tightly to the ideas and warnings that Ayn Rand presented in “Atlas Shrugged” truly believe that the world is worse off because of all those pesky regulations. Things like, bans on child labor, minimum wage, environmental standards, and such.  

No Mention in the Press?
With all the flak Romney received for his Big Bird and binders full of women statements, it’s a wonder that he didn’t receive much more biting criticism from his base for his free market regulations and same god statements. Of course, it’s not all that surprising. After all, Obama has yet to get called out with any significance for his blatant violations of international laws and war crimes committed under the auspice of drone warfare. Why should Romney be any different?

05 February 2012

Morally Opposed to Pet Ownership


Before beginning, I feel it important to explain what I mean when speaking of morality. I mostly ascribe to the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. His views on morals are frustrating to most, but I’ll do my best to explain his most basic premise as succinctly as possible.

Kant believed that morals were individual, specific to each person. Only after intense consideration should a person commit to a moral. Once a person sets their moral code, any deviation from it is to be considered an immoral act. Others should not set morals for others.

Taking my leaning toward Kantian ethics into account, this blog post explains why I don’t have pets outside of a couple fish. Fish, ironically, are pets that I don’t mind keeping because the kind I get are generally short-lived when found in their natural habitat. Now, on to the post…

I'm morally opposed to pet ownership.

My moral opposition to pet ownership is a personal thing that I've told almost no one about because it makes me appear like a jerk.

While I do morally oppose pet ownership in general, it's not a morality that I would ever expect others to adopt. I do not criticize those who do not agree with my point of view.

The positive connection that pets of all sorts, even snakes and spiders, grant their owners is undeniable. It's been shown over and over again that humans benefit immensely from the symbiotic relationships they form with many of our fellow Earthly cohabitants.

Pet Ownership Weakens Species
From an evolutionary standpoint, I'm morally opposed to pet ownership because I feel it's greatly weakened other species.

Most of the genetic health defects that domesticated felines and canines suffer are a direct result of human-propagated breeding practices. We've selected those traits we prefer and bred for them. This is why we have such a wide breadth of physical appearances, or "breeds," of cats and dogs.

Ever notice how most mutts look alike? That's what dogs would look like if we left them to their own devices. In Mexico, there is a class of citizenry that serve as deep evidence of this. Canines that roam through most cities, towns, and villages who will befriend but rarely allow themselves to be turned into pets.

So many of the health issues that pets suffer are human-induced, resultant from everything from breeding practices to what we choose to feed them. Our most prevalent pets, cats and dogs, are not allowed to live as nature intended. They have become dependent upon human beings for their very survival.

Some pet owners go to great lengths to provide a diet that most closely mimics what they would get in nature. Most notable in these efforts is the raw food diet. But just as tanning lamps are okay in the short term for sun-deprived peoples, it's not an authentic long-term solution.

“Buried” Alive
This section is a little more gruesome and fantastical, but it wouldn’t be the first time a pet was to die because its owner died first.

  • What would happen to all the pets of the world if humans were to all drop dead one day?
  • Would they have been better off for having been cared for by owners?
  • How would they escape the confines of their prisons so that they could hunt?
  • Would they have the skills necessary to hunt for food?
  • Would they die and wither alongside our unwatered houseplants?

Pet Ownership Is Slavery
Some believe that pet ownership is an assertion of domination over nature, that it's a form of slavery. From my perspective, I find the claim hard to dispute.

From cats to cows to chickens, we have domesticated creatures to serve us and ousted those too difficult to tame. That's a huge part of the reason that North American bison were almost completely eradicated. They weren't as easy to push around as cows.

Domestication is the very act of destroying a creature's natural birthright. Pet ownership and all its practices deny creatures their natural birthright. In the natural world, we are all born free.

Friendships over Pet Ownership
Like St. Francis of Assisi, I believe it is possible to form strong bonds with the creatures of the Earth without asserting our dominance. Personally, I have a truly rewarding friendship with the family of scrub jays who live in my neighborhood and all I had to do was talk with them.

Dogs Trip Me Up
Dogs are a rare exception to my moral opposition to pet ownership. Historical evidence dating back as far as 33,000 years ago reveals a natural companionship formed between man and canine.

Dogs chose to join up with human beings. But they didn't choose to be controlled. That was humanity's doing.

For myself, I occasionally consider seeking canine companionship because I love dogs. They are so personable and fun to be around. They make me feel good, and they are far more considerate than cats.

Too Much Unnecessary Responsibility
Then I stop myself when I think about what a great responsibility it is to take on a furry companion. There's the obvious need to feed and care for them.

While it makes me feel wrong inside to dominate others without their consent, I cannot tolerate those who do not teach their dogs discipline. I would feel obligated to break my dog’s natural urges because to live in society, cohabitants must follow some base rules.

Like no shitting wherever you please and no destroying others material goods and no willfully inflicting pain on others. If you're going to cohabitate with another species... well, you know the saying "When in Rome..."

A Persistent Stray Would Test My Morality
That's not to say that compassion wouldn't strike should an animal naturally come to me in search of care or companionship. I would love the creature and probably invite it to join our family.

Going out to seek an animal to blend into our family? That I can't do.

Tolerant of Others Pet Ownership
I'm not going to hold it against others who choose to engage in pet ownership. The fact is that pets like cats and dogs have been so deeply integrated into our societies that it behooves us to care for our cohabitants.

I could never start a campaign to end pet ownership. The emotional connections that form between pet and owner are so positive and rewarding for both.

As for me, I will be content to be without interspecies companionship.

25 December 2011

Jesus Is Not the Reason for the Season

With growing smugness year in and year out, Christians love to tout that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

What a clever slogan. I mean it. From a marketing perspective, the slogan is gangbusters. This makes sense to the average Christmas observer. After all, it’s baby Jesus’ birthday.

The intent of this post is not so much to try to convince you that Christmas is a sham. On the contrary, the purpose is to pique your interest and entice you to explore the customs that most of you practice at this time of the year.

That said, this post will sting to those who cherish Christmas and who cling tight their belief about the holiday.

I’d like to start this post with the smart-ass, half-true observation that the season of winter (or summer in the Southern hemisphere) happened well before the time of Jesus. Now, for the many reasons that Jesus is actually not the reason for the season.

It’s Not Jesus’ Birthday
This is the number one reason that most do not know or refuse to recognize: Jesus was not born on December 25. Although the bible doesn’t specify an exact date for Jesus’ birth, most objective scholars agree that all the clues point to a spring birth. That’s why there was no room at the inns, because it was time for the census and that required everyone to return to their place of birth in order to be counted.

It’s Saturn’s Birthday
When the Catholic church was just forming as the dominant (and for a long stretch of history, the only) form of Christianity, they chose to celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25 because they knew that the pagans they were attempting to convert would never give up their cherished tradition of Saturnalia.

Many Mid-Winter Holidays Aren't Christian
Celebration of the Winter Solstice is the oldest known celebration in the history of homo sapiens. Today in the United States of America, people celebrate all sorts of holidays that relate to either their religion, ancestry, or rejection of past traditions within the last two weeks of the year. Such major holidays include Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Yule, and the increasingly popular Festivus (Thanks, Frank Costanza!)

Most Christmas Traditions Come from Other Religions
The decoration of Christmas trees dates back to Wassailing, a pagan tradition of decorating one apple tree in mid-winter as a fertility rite for the entire orchard. Holly and mistletoe date back to Celtic mythology and Druidic rituals. Lights are an integral part of Chanukah. Santa Claus’ origins reach as far back as the Greek’s Basil of Caesarea. And gift giving goes back as far as Saturnalia.

Gifts: WWJD?
One last word that is meant more as a criticism of the hypocrisy that runs rampant throughout Christianity: Jesus would reject the unabashed consumerism that has come to mark Christmas. If more Christians rejected the consumerist version of Christmas and gave even half as much to the poor and downtrodden regardless of their religious beliefs as they do to friends and family, the world would be a much, much better place.

A Final Word
With or without Jesus, the winter holiday season would still exist and thrive because it is a down and opportune time. Nature can’t be cultivated at this time in most regions of the northern hemisphere. The crops have all been harvested. Cold weather has taken hold along with the long, dark days. What else is there to do but relax and revel with friends and family? Jesus is most definitely not the reason for the season. To insist he is, rejects the pluralism that makes this world so very beautiful.

18 June 2011

The Alphabet ala Google

Go to Google, type in a letter, and a list of Google's best guess will appear. The following list documents which results appear at the top for each letter of the alphabet.
A is for Amazon
B is for Best Buy
C is for Craigslist
D is for Dictionary(.com)
E is for Ebay
F is for Facebook
G is for Google
H is for Hulu
I is for IRS
J is for Jackson County*
K is for KDRV*
L is for Lowes
M is for MapQuest
N is for Netflix
O is for Oregon Unemployment*
P is for Pandora
Q is for quotes
R is for Rogue Community College*
S is for SOU*
T is for Target
U is for USPS
V is for Verizon
W is for Weather(.com)
X is for Xbox
Y is for YouTube
Z is for Zillow
* Indicates geotargeted results. I encourage anyone who lives elsewhere to see what these letters return and to report them so I can make the list as universal as possible. Thanks.

01 June 2011

Contradictions: Sports Lovers Who Espouse One World

A Prius rolls up to the local food co-op. A bumper sticker in the bottom left corner of the back window brightly blazes the words "ONE WORLD." On the right side of the window, a die-cut football helmet with a particularly aggressive team logo proudly declares who the vehicle's owner supports. The driver steps out of his hybrid. His hair is cut short, bleached and angrily spiked with so much gel it's flaking in the breeze. He wears a football jersey that matches the team sticker on the back of his window.

He runs into his neighbor in the meat section. His fence mate attempts to spark a conversation about how great it is that the co-op provides nothing but locally raised, free-range chicken. The jersey-clad man stops his neighbor mid-sentence to rib him about the neighbor's football team's surmounting losses on the field. The neighbor rolls his eyes, dismisses the sporty man's derision and resumes his original topic of conversation. The sporty guy waves off his neighbor and exclaims for all to hear that he wouldn't want to talk about football either if he rooted for losers.

Flash forward to a day of the week in which none of the man's favorite sports are telecast. The man is now at the local gym. He's now sporting his favorite basketball team's jersey. He resists the urge to dribble the basketball he carries as he scans the workout room for someone he knows. Then he spots him. His workplace's sole "black" man. This man is in the middle of an intense set of bench presses as the sporty guy approaches him.

No, the guy doing the workout is not interested in playing basketball. He's in the middle of his workout routine. The sporty guy doesn't buy it. The workout guy is just afraid he won't live up to the hype that his skin tone conveys. That's what the sporty fellow spews as he dodges and weaves around the guy working out. The guy with the barbell rolls his eyes at the accusation. The tank-top jersey guy chalks up the other man's refusal to play as a victory. His coworker knows a winner when he sees one. Then he proceeds to hit the court to play a game of one-on-three against some middle schoolers. When he beats them, he declares another victory. This time it's a point for the "old" guy.

Everywhere he goes, this sports lover creates divisions. If you root for the same team as him, play the same games as him, talk about the same divisive sports as him, you are part of his "us" clan. If you don't like sports, if you don't accept his challenges, you are one of "them." The lines are clear with him. There is no gray, only black or white, only with him or against him.

He spews this your team/my team attitude, mostly under the guise of good clean fun, but always while in close proximity to some piece of media that exclaims "one love" or "one world." Never does he recognize the contradiction. It's difficult to call him a hypocrite, because he's unaware of what he's doing. He wants to believe that a world can be at one with each other, but he loves sports too much to look deeply at how fully it contradicts the very message of unity that his bumper stickers and occasional t-shirts espouse.

His favorite sport makes this contradiction all the more stark. He's always ready for some football. The months between the Pro Bowl and preseason play make life seem less vibrant, less worthy of his exhilaration. There's no strife, no division to spur on any excitement. Sure, there's baseball, but that sport's so dull and so devoid of any hard-hitting action that the very notion of its existence seems ludicrous to him. He needs it brutal. NASCAR fills that void on occasion, when the driving results in some nasty pile ups. Still, it's not the same. He needs something reminiscent of battle, and football fulfills his need without fail.

For him, nothing quite beats jumping up and down screaming at the altar of his television. His tie-dye Bob Marley tapestry sprawled wide as a backdrop with the words "One Love" beaming down upon the clash of helmets and grunts.

10 November 2010

Brontë - Is It "tee" or "tay"?

A couple months ago, I started to work as an audio proofer at Blackstone Audio. As a writer, this gives me an unparallel opportunity to do the one thing that all writers should do aplenty: Read, read, read.

When I proof a book, it's my job to not only ensure that words are pronounced correctly, but to back up the narrator's pronunciation if an alternative exists.

I've already missed some mispronounced words because of imperfections in my own pronunciation lexicon. So if a word, especially a name, causes me to pause, I look it up. Even if I'm pretty certain it's right.

Currently I'm proofing a book on writers who were hypochondriacs. Among the writer's is Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre.

Today, I hit a snag. I couldn't find a source to back up the narrator's pronunciation of "Brontë" as "bron - tay." I knew it had to be an acceptable way to say her name. I'd heard it said that way many, many times and mostly from literature professors. Still, I couldn't find any online sources that cited that pronunciation.

They all pronounced it as "bron - tee."

Luckily, the head of the sound studio, the one to make these sorts of calls said it was definitely "bron - tay" and a fellow proofer backed him up.

Score! I could move on.

Still, I couldn't shake it. I needed to know why I could not find "tay" as a proper pronunciation. Was this a case of misinformation being propagated on the internet? I dug deeper.

As it turns out, "Brontë" may be pronounced as either "tee" or "tay," but "tay" is given as the secondary or alternative. Either is acceptable.

Here is the link to one of the reputable sources:

Some other social-based sources, like Answer.com, brought up a good reason as to why "tee" is the proper pronunciation. To paraphrase one post, think of the appearance of "ë" in names such as Chloë and Zoë. It's always "ee," never "ay."

Now, here's the interesting thing I observed. I checked the books we have in the audio proofing room and those that were published before 1984 cite the pronunciation as "tay," not "tee." However, those that were published after 1995 provided the "tee" first, "tay" second.

This has me wondering if the name was mispronounced for so many years until a reputable scholar came along and pointed out the fallacy (if indeed there ever was one), and now the big guys like Merriam-Websters have both rectified the error and compromised by allowing "tay" as an alternative.

There has to be an intriguing story behind this change. Does anyone know it?

28 October 2010

Words Are Fun #10

"Thin slice by thin slice"

My sons asked how I ended up eating so much of a bundt cake, and this is how I described how I had done so. The phrase might not "look" that fun, but it's hecka fun to say out loud.