Gay Rights Groups Gear Up for Calfornia Battle

August 12, 2009

Equality California and Courage Campaign both have announced their deadlines for overturning the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages.  Initially I was reading  in the Wall Street Journal how EQCA decided it was best to delay efforts in the fight for same-sex marriage until 2012, but I decided to check a few other articles to see how they compare.

For starters, the WSJ article really reads as a downer, and I was initially upset since I’m pretty strong supporter of same-sex marriages.  Denying rights based off of sexual orientation is either discrimination or religion creeping into government, and in either case I oppose it. The article has line after line of how there isn’t strong support for a bill, it’s too soon, most groups agree, momentum will be lost, the battle will be waged over several years and so forth.

After looking into a few more articles, and checking the WSJ source, I discovered a much more optimistic picture was initially painted. The New York Times article headline reads, “Caution on Fighting Marriage Ban.” The article reads much clearer, and you get a better sense that two independent groups are trying to tackle the issue, but have differences of opinion on when to begin.

Courage Campaign, an online grassroots activism community, feels they have necessary support and donations to begin a battle for the 2010 ballot. Equality California, a more organized group with seven office buildings and a better website, would rather put pressure on 2012, claiming that a presidential bid will mean a larger turnout for younger voters, who traditionally vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

Although I can see EQCA’s rationale, Courage Campaign’s founder worded it perfectly by saying, “We are not going to let the calendar dictate people’s rights”

So I say let EQCA build up steam and a strong network of supporters over the next few years, but if Courage Campaign were to lay dormant in 2010 it would be a lost cause. They have to keep the fight fresh in people’s minds, even if that does mean a wasted ballot entry in 2010.


Tackling the First Sentence

February 15, 2008

The importance of the first sentence in a body of work, whether a political blog or a novel, can not be overstated. However important, it is very easy to misunderstand the goal of the first sentence. Instead of going on and on about what you should and shouldn’t do, we will learn together by picking apart some of the first sentences of the world’s best storytellers.

Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere
“The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.”

This sentence tells us about the setting, the main character and what to expect of the narrative. We know the story begins at night, within a half-days travel of London, the outlook of the main character, and that the narrative is in third person and past tense. This is a generic example, but it’s also a fine example of a developed world. Richard Mayhew and the world around him are alive.

Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron
“The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal.”

There are many things we don’t know about the story from this first sentence, and yet it tells us more than the previous example. We know it’s set in the future and in past tense, we don’t know who the main character is or what perspective the story is in. But the emphasis on how the world is equal “finally” gives us an idea of the story’s tone, narrative, plot and scope. All in one word.

Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler
“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.”

Arguably, the most important goal of a first sentence is to hook the reader, which Italo Calvino does flawlessly. This story, at least in its first chapter, is in second person, and it is about you, the reader, attempting to finish the book. The book itself is infinitely complicated, but the first sentence contains enough information to tell the reader where the work is heading.

Give it a Shot
As a mental excercise, go grab a couple books. One that you have read and one that you don’t know much about. Write down the first sentence from each and see how much information you can glean from the narrative. Hopefully, you’ll have as much fun as I do when I pick up a book.

Keep Obscene Material Away from Children

February 8, 2008

Today’s youth are being bombarded with same-sex couples and erotica laced advertisements, but BOOKS are a culprit that have been dodging regulation for decades.I like mine extra-crispy. If your priorities are arranged anything like mine, then you understand the importance of protecting the world’s children from the filth, obscenities and violence depicted throughout the modern media.

Warning: Explicit Content
Although many will complain that video game, music and movie rating systems aren’t doing enough, they will be hard pressed to find any system at all to prevent obscene books from reaching a child’s hands. Thanks to the unregulated nature of the First Amendment, any child has access to information that allows them to sell drugs, or themselves, on the street.

With this money in hand, they can walk into any bookstore and purchase even more mind-filth. As little Bobby or Suzie drops James Joyce or William Faulkner on the counter, the devil behind the counter won’t even go so far as to ask for ID before offering the defenseless child bargains on future pornography.

Public Pornographers
But it gets worse, not only are there no systems in place to prevent a child from purchasing this garbage, there are people who hand out this smut for free. These trash pushers, or libraries, only ask that the child give up their home address. We can only speculate for what reason, but it’s assumed to be for homosexual orgies/communist rallies/Ayn Rand.

While all of this is happening, our government is turning their back on us, with many public schools banning the most important book a child could ever read, the Bible. With the true word of God, as handed down to us by old men over the course of several editions, translations and hundreds of years, being kept away from these kids, how are they ever expected to turn into responsible adults?

Studies Prove It
The truth is they aren’t expected, with more and more research proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that exposure to violent, pornographic material as a youth leads to violent sex offenders. A University of Michigan study proved it. They have professors there, with degrees. In science. Probably.

More studies have shown that books may even be worse than The Internet. With 4.2 million pornographic sites online in the Internet’s 20 year history, we can assume that children have amassed over 273 million pornographic books since the beginning of early literature.

Fight For Your Right to Censor!
Don’t allow these pornographers like Mark Twain and Neil Gaiman to hide behind the constitution any longer, contact your legislators today about warning labels and a tiered rating system to prevent today’s youth from becoming tomorrow’s violent sex offenders!

Confusing Fantasy with Reality

January 22, 2008

Like the mythical Bat-Signal of yesteryear, Christopher Grant’s “Keighley Takes on Fox News’ SEXbox Sexpose” was a call to arms. In the embedded video, you’ll see Cooper Lawrence, a talk-radio psycholgist that loves to take aim at video games.

I’m not writing this article to repeat what Grant has already said; I’m writing it to criticize Lawrence’s clear misunderstanding of scientific studies and research. In the embedded video you will see her make the claim that a “recent” University of Maryland study showed that “boys that play video games can not tell the difference between video games and the real world if they don’t have real life experience.”

As a male skeptic that enjoys video games I found this a bit of a stretch. Would a University really try to make this outrageous claim?

Absolutely Not.

What Study?
The study she is referring to is one that was organized and handled by the Professor of Human Development at the University of Maryland, Melanie Killen. I’m still waiting for a response from Professor Killen on the subject, but I will assume good faith in that her study was performed to the best of her ability.

This study didn’t involve thousands of young children. It didn’t even involve “real life experience” or even if they knew the difference between real life and fantasy. The Washington Post, in their story Students See Video Games As Harmless, Study Finds is more accurate, but not much more. The post still sensationalizes the issue by claiming that 14-year olds, who are filled with wrath, consider themselves “immune to mayhem.”

Here’s how the study took place:
Professor Melanie Killen and two student researchers asked 100 University of Maryland students to participate in a study involving video games. Over the course of 45 minutes, these students were shown images from fake video games that bore a striking similarity to real games.

  • Image 1: Scantily clad women and brutish men playing violent games of golf. (Outlaw Golf?)
  • Image 2: A first person shooter where the enemies are terrorists. (America’s Army?)
  • Image 3: A sport surfing simulator. (Kelly Slator’s Pro Surfing?)

Afterwards, they were asked to answer a short list of questions, including their experience with gaming, whether the games depicted negative themes and harmful stereotypes, and whether the content could harm them or result in a negative consequence.

Not suprisingly, participants that had played games prior to the experiment claimed “it’s just like fantasy.”

The key to remember here is that the study was neither a large or a diverse sample. 100 college students is just that, only 100 college students. The same college students that probably did this study so they could fulfill an Intro to Psychology requirement or to earn extra credit. The same who sell their textbooks at the end of the semester for drinking money.

Final Word
For Fox News, Cooper Lawrence or Daniel de Vise of the Washington Post to claim that this study finds that a child’s view of reality is altered by playing video games is absolutely ludicrous. All the study said, was that people who play video games are more likely to believe the stereotypes in them aren’t harmful. Young boys aren’t confusing fantasy with reality, sensationalist journalists and radio talk show hosts are.

Do More Than Dream

January 21, 2008

It’s Martin Luther King Jr Day, but do any of us really understand what that means? Sure, classes are out so you have plenty of time to read this, and the library and post office are closed so I have plenty of time to write this, but what does it really mean to any liberal college student?

No Class
The holiday itself was signed into law in 1983 by Ronald Reagan, fifteen years after the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner’s unfortunate assassination. Ronald Reagan vehemently opposed the holiday, only signing because it was passed with such an overwhelming majority that it was veto proof.

Arizona, South Carolina and Jesse Helms all opposed the holiday. South Carolina even offering three Confederate holidays that federal employees could celebrate instead of MLKJr Day. In fact, to this day you can still visit Virginia today and celebrate Lee-Jackson Day, which commemorates the life of the Civil Rights leader alongside the leader of the romanticized Confederate General.

When King was shot on his hotel room balcony, the switchboard operator couldn’t be found to make the emergency phone call. They had suffered a fatal heart attack at the news of King’s death. There were over 60 citywide riots throughout the country after the news hit the press.

What could be so unsettling about a federal holiday? What’s so important about this baptist minister and his words?

We’ve all heard excerpts from his I Have a Dream speech, equally famous for its social commentary as its rhetoric, but many still don’t recognize the basic importance of this great man.

By Comparison
I’m twenty-three years old as I write this, and I’ll be twenty-four this October. Martin Luther King Jr earned his Doctorate in Philosophy at Boston University when he was 24. Later that same year, he became a minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. At 26, he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott that brought Rosa Parks, Civil Disobedience and Segregation into the national spotlight. At 35, he was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Integrity and Credibility
Dr King never admitted to being perfect. In the 80s it was discovered that he had plagiarized over a third of his doctoral dissertation. Boston University still found his paper to be of such great scholarly importance to not revoke his doctoral status. Had things gone differently, we’d still call him Doctor King. He had received over 20 honorary doctorates in his 13 year struggle for civil rights.

Departing Words
At his funeral, Dr King gave his own eulogy, the Drum Major Instinct Sermon. In the sermon, he said that he wanted to love and serve humanity, to clothe the naked, to visit prisoners, to be right about war, to feed the hungry and to try and love somebody.

A Loud Bible Thumper
His faith in God was phenomenal, and a case can easily be made saying that without faith, the world would never have had a MLK. But it was an exposure to a different culture entirely that shaped his civil rights strategy. When he visited India, he was able to meet with the Gandhi family. This is summarized best, by his speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, “In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

Dr King wasn’t just a case of a prominent black figure being in the right place at the right time. He saw injustices in the world, and he set out to correct them. But, by no means did he accomplish this alone; his voice and message empowered millions around the globe.

This Is Where You Come In
It’s a little late for any of us to do anything in the name of the holiday, but at this point you should understand that a day off is not what the holiday is about.

  • It’s about NOT sitting back and allowing things to continue.
  • It’s about making a difference using the voice God/Evolution gave you.
  • It’s about peace for everybody, not just liberal college students or rich, old, white men.

Find something you want to do with your life, anything at all. Give yourself an adequate timespan to do it. Find out all the little tasks and subgoals that make up the larger one. Then, and most importantly, do them.

Personally, I’m giving myself a year to clean up my drug problem.
(Why not end on a joke?)