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Archive for October, 2010

I’m a little late to the game here, but the Portland (Maine) Press Herald issued an apology for depicting local Muslims observing Eid on September 10.  Apparently, a photograph of peaceable practitioners of Islam engaging in an activity mandated by their faith and protected by the First Amendment is “offensive” and “insensitive” if it occurs anywhere near September 11.

For anyone who is still confused about why this is FUCKED UP, let me offer a parallel.  Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 people on April 19, 1995.  Timothy McVeigh was raised Catholic.  Do Oklahoma newspapers still depict people celebrating Easter when it falls on or near April 19?

Some might argue that the 9/11 bombers were motivated by religion and McVeigh wasn’t (and in fact, McVeigh’s Catholicism seems to have waxed and waned).  I think the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world would take issue with the assessment that the 9/11 hijackers shared mainstream Muslim beliefs.  This was a perversion of religion, not an exercise of the religion itself.

Let me be perfectly clear.  Personally speaking, I am pretty down on religion.  I think religion undermines personal conscience and, like any social institution that substitutes its own morals for individuals’ morals, it can compel people to do atrocious things.  And while I can’t claim to know for certain, I happen to think it’s also delusional.  The best I can say for Islam is that it’s no more bloodthirsty a religion than any other, which is far from a ringing endorsement.  (Christianity, after all, has the blood of colonized people the world over — not to mention the innocence of many an altar boy — on its hands.)  But most of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims I know are lovely people who consider generosity and good works the proper observance of their religion, even if I disagree with them about many of the particulars.

I love the Bill of Rights.  I really, really love it.  It’s the heart of a system of government that doesn’t always get it right, but comes damn close a lot of the time — more often than I sometimes give it credit.  And I’m proud to live in a country where the number one right (that’s correct, folks, it was #1 for a reason) is the right to speak, assemble, and worship freely.  It pains me to know that a few loudmouthed bigots want to restrict the very freedoms our government is legally obligated to protect.  These imbeciles aren’t literally attempting to establish a state religion, but when newspapers can be compelled to publish apologies for reporting on the free exercise of religion, we have an environment that favors some religions over others.  And that’s not acceptable.

So screw you, Portland Press Herald.  You should be ashamed of yourself.  You had a chance to stand up for freedom of religion and freedom of the press, and you blew it.

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Usually I like reading the Citizen Cohn blog on The New Republic — well, I like it when Jonathan Cohn’s writing.  But today: a piece of absolute drivel from Ed Kilgore, writing about a Jerry Brown aide calling Meg Whitman a whore.

The “whore” controversy, stupid as it may seem, represents a whole host of semi-subliminal issues. The subtext of the Brown staffer’s slur was Whitman’s decision to exempt police officers from one of her few specific proposals for reducing debt and spending, the elimination of defined benefit pensions for public employees. If she did that to secure a key endorsement, that’s worth knowing. The claim also undercuts another key Whitman talking point, her effort to make her unprecedented personal spending on her campaign a badge of her independence from interest groups, in sharp contrast to the union-dependent Brown. On her own part, the Republican candidate is frantically trying to turn this into a gender issue, for the very good reason that she’s a pro-choice woman fighting a pro-Democratic gender gap. She’s certainly not the first female candidate to seek to benefit from perceptions of puerile or insensitive indicators of chauvinism by a male opponent.

I don’t even know where to start. First of all, I’m not aware of any indication that Whitman has tried to make this a gender issue; she made a statement lamenting the use of “slurs and personal attacks” in politics.  Secondly, I’m sorry, but when you call a female candidate a “whore,” the subtext isn’t any fucking debate about exemptions for spending cut proposals, the subtext is that you’re calling her a whore because it’s an easy slur to remind everyone that she’s a woman.  Perhaps Kilgore just isn’t familiar with the fact that, despite those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, female politicians still aren’t taken as seriously as male politicians.  “She’ll push the button while she’s PMS-ing” ring any bells?  Guess what, you asshole, these ARE puerile and insensitive indicators of chauvinism, but you’re too mired in privilege to get it.

God.

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all right, breast cancer awareness month, I’M AWARE of breast cancer.  i’ve seen the commercials, i read the articles.  i have loved ones who’ve fought breast cancer.  i get that the komen foundation is rolling in dough.  and cancer is godawful, and early detection is crucial.

breast cancer kills approximately 40,000 people per year, and it gets October.
colorectal cancer kills 50,000, and it doesn’t get its own month.
lymphoma kills 75,000, and it doesn’t get its own month.
lung cancer kills a whopping 223,000.  TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE THOUSAND.  and… you get the picture.

for a moment, let’s think beyond cancer, because the median age of death for all of these cancers is upwards of 68.  and i’m not saying that 68 is old enough to put folks out to pasture — my dad is 68, so i certainly don’t want to see 68-year-olds dropping dead — but let’s just put this in perspective: cystic fibrosis patients die at a median age of about 23 years old.

now, by itself, cystic fibrosis is rare.  it kills a few hundred americans per year.  but cumulatively, rare diseases (those that affect fewer than 200,000 americans) afflict a total of 30 million americans.  you know what needs awareness-raising?  all of these rare diseases, for which research is woefully near-absent.  not diseases whose various advocacy groups have the resources to waste money on multi-million dollar boondoggles to raise “awareness” instead of funding research.  if half the money that’s spent on breast cancer “awareness” were spent on research for rare diseases, people would be healthier.

so i’ll go to the doctor each year like a good little girl, and perform breast self-exams when i think to do it, and in a few decades i’ll have all the mammograms my insurer will pay for.  but no, i’m not going to change my facebook status, and no, i’m not going to wear pink for a disease that happens to have better PR than most.

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