June 30th, 2013


Bench Marks

Before I get to the meat of this post, I want to start off with a little Bible lesson for you all.

Abraham, the father of the Israelites, had a little tradition for himself.  Every morning, he would have breakfast with some random traveler, sharing his meal and his time as a testament to what a swell guy he was.  And this went on for a while.  Then, one morning, the random person coming by sat down and revealed he was a pagan.  (Given that Abraham lived in a region crawling with pagans, it's kind of surprising it took so long for one to happen by.  But I digress.)  Abraham refused to dine with someone who did not believe in and/or respect his God and threw him out.  God then appeared to Abraham to give him a Gibbs-smack.  God's message was simple -- "Would it have killed you to just be nice to the guy and have breakfast with him?"  In other words, there's a lot of good people in the world who the only difference between them and you is they worship differently than you.  So be nice to them.  Be friends with them.  Don't be an asshole just because of different beliefs.

Now, I also want to mention the fundamental philosophy of democracy at this point.  The whole point of democracy is not majority rule, even though a lot of people subscribe to that dangerous oversimplification.  The point of democracy is to come up with a set of mutually agreed upon laws that enable people to do as they wish as long as it doesn't interfere with other people.  You can paint your house hot pink with blue polka dots, but you can't do that to your neighbor's house.  It comes down to the basic lesson of the Torah, the lesson Jesus taught and Christians call the Golden Rule -- "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow."  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Everybody still with me so far?  That's good!

So, let's head on down to the little town of Starke, FL.  A bunch of Christian activists set themselves up to be trolled, and now they're paying for it.

The whole thing started with the trend in the American South of erecting a granite monument to the Ten Commandments on government institutional grounds (granite == lasts forever and is heavier than shit, basically making it too inconvenient to relocate).  Remember the hubbub in Alabama?  Despite there needing to be a separation of church and state, people are suing for the right to go around it or just flat out ignoring it.  Starke, which is best known for being the home of a prison for death row inmates, is a religiously conservative town that wanted to jump on the bandwagon.  The Community Men's Fellowship erected a granite monument on the courthouse lawn.

Ten Commandments Monument

The fellow in the picture above is not one of the supporters of this little action.  That is David Silverman, president of American Atheists.  They sued to have the monument taken down, saying it violates the separation of church and state.  The Community Men's Fellowship, however, had an ace up their sleeve.  The monument was not technically on court grounds.  It was on public grounds, in what is labeled a "free speech" zone, where people can say what they want without government interference.  In fact, was pointed out to the Silverman during mediation that the American Atheists could have their own monument there if they so desired.

Three guesses what happened next.

So, this weekend, the American Atheists unveiled their own little monument to their beliefs in the vicinity of the Ten Commandments monument.  Check this out:

Atheist Bench

(This shows you how my mind works.  I saw the picture, and the first thing I thought of was Adams College from Revenge Of The Nerds.)

You will notice that the monument is a bench.  Silverman expects that to be the first thing you notice.  "When you look at this monument, the first thing you will notice is that it has a function.  (Yeah.  Trolling.  -- G)  Atheists are about the real and the physical, so we selected to place this monument in the form of a bench."  The bench features quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams, and (naturally) Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the founder of American Atheists.  It also mentions the penalties for violating the Ten Commandments, which involve stoning someone to death (which I think is more a shot at politicians who routinely break the Ten Commandments and either hush it up or use their religious affiliation as a shield than anything else).

Naturally, this invited protesters, although they were few.  About 200 people attended the unveiling, and other than a small smattering making Bible quotes and playing Christian country music, the crowd was generally supportive in that, "Well...okay.  Why not?" kind of way.  You know, the way this is supposed to work.

If we Christians have the right to express our religious beliefs, others have the same right.  My beliefs aren't any less just because someone either believes differently (Islam) or doesn't believe at all (Atheists).  If people want to express these thoughts, let them.

Like I said, the gathering was fairly sedate.  But I do worry that some extremist nutballs are going to try something to it just because it offends their delicate sensibilities.  So my message is simple:

If you truly believe in the Bible, believe that it is a historical document of the time of God, believe that it is, in fact, the Word Of God, then you must remember the story of Abraham, and how God told him the right thing to do is respect other's differences instead of forcing your beliefs on them.

Christians should act like Christians.

They Just Don't Give Up, Do They?

NEWS ITEM -- The Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, which just saw their Proposition 8 case thrown out by the Supreme Court and DOMA run through the shredder, has filed an emergency petition with the the Supreme Court to halt California's same sex marriages because the decision is not yet legally final.

Let Me Tell You Why That's Bullshit

New On Amazon: Paula Deen's Just Desserts

"When you hear the name Paula Deen, I don't want you to think of the word 'butter'.  I want you to think of the word 'hope.'"

...yyyyyyyyyeeaaaaaah...about that....

In the world of business, it's called "doing a Ratner."  Gerald Ratner entered the family businesss of jewelry shops called Ratner's in 1966.  He built it up to a successful chain of jewelers around England in the 1980's.  Some people found the stuff a bit tacky and kitschy, but it was popular with the public and it sold well.  All he had to do was not fuck it up.

Then, on April 23, 1991, Ratner was giving a speech at the Institute Of Directors.  Among the things he said were, "We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?", I say, "because it's total crap." He went on to say how people buy his shit just because of the cache of the name.

Well, that was it.  Reporters gleefully wrote up what he said, and the company Hindenburged.  Warren Buffet once famously opined, "It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.  If you think about that, you'll do things differently."  But a lot of people don't do that.  Business heads will periodically do a Ratner, destroying their thriving empires just because they couldn't keep their mouths shut.  Keith Cochrane, CEO of Stagecoach bus lines, did an interview with Forbes magazine where he compared US bus passengers to riffraff.  Ivan Seidenberg was the head of Verizon's cell phone division in April 2005 when, during an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he bitched, "Why in the world would you think your (cell) phone would work in your house?  The customer has come to expect so much.  They want it to work in the elevator.  They want it to work in the basement."

And now, our newest inductee, Paula Deen, celebrity chef.

Now, yes, I think Deen is a racist asshole.  Just not for the reason everyone is heaping on her.  I want to get into this because of a discussion with my dad.  He said he was disappointed that she made a slip and used the N-word and now she's being vilified.  It wasn't until further into the discussion that my dad saw the point and started condemning her as well.

Deen was being sued by a former employee.  The case was set for trial, and Deen couldn't wait to give her deposition.  Yeah, she was that confident in how things would work out.  This is actually the problem with hubris -- how does Paula Deen, who is so business savvy that she kept the fact that she was diabetic secret for years because it would undermine her credibility (and then only announced it after she got a big endorsement deal from a diabetic drug company) think that she could say the things she has and no one would bat an eye?

Now, the reason everyone is dogpiling her is because she admitted that she uses the N-word in her restaurants.  There's actually a deeper problem here than people are realizing.  She uses it because the black people on her staff use the word.  This is the problem.  There has been a long debate about black people owning the word, stripping it of its power to offend, and white people using it.  Black people today use the word as a term of endearment, completely disregarding the word's racist origin, and frustrating people that are very much aware of the word's legacy.  As a result, a culture is generating that doesn't understand why the word should be banned from human speech.  No one should be surprised that people that they say shouldn't use the word do use the word.  Your usage conveys acceptability, you can't have it both ways.  Either the word should not be used by anyone, or it can be used by anyone.  Richard Pryor, who popularized its usage, eventually changed his mind and decried it.  Listen to him.

Now, if you want to hammer Deen as a racist, there are far more blatant examples in her testimony that prove it.  Her reaction to being asked if she actually used the N-word was basically, "Sure, I do.  Doesn't everybody?"  Uh, no.  Especially in big city areas.  Her casualness (I could just imagine her going, "Oh, yes.  We barbecue, play tennis, use racial slurs.") is shocking.  Once again, she is so aware of her reputation, she kept her diabetes a secret.  She maaaaaaybe could have mitigated the damage had she said it was a long time ago and she knew it was wrong and insensitive.  Instead, she said that even though she uses the N-word, she hates discrimination.  Once again, the word has racist origins.  This is like your big brother giving you a swirly and saying he's doing it "out of love."

The most damning comment, however, was Deen's fantasy about recreating a Southern plantation wedding.  "The whole entire wait staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. And I remember saying I would love to have servers like that, I said, but I would be afraid that someone would misinterpret (it)." Goddamn, girl, ya think?  One of the most hated, ugly periods of American history, and she wanted to use it as a theme for a party.  Get fucked, asshole.

Deen being a hypocritical opportunist should come as no surprise.  She claimed God told her to go public with her diabetes, but said in a later interview, "To say I'm a very religious person, I can't say that, because I don't go to church.  But I'm a very spiritual person.  I knew that the opportunity to share would present itself."  And that opportunity came with a hefty paycheck.

During the discussion with my dad, he said that Deen was surrounded by a culture who felt the word was okay and she was just blending in.  "If it's wrong for her to use the word, it's wrong for them to use the word."

I agree, I told him.

Then, he actually said, "I mean, it's not like she wanted the waitstaff to dress like slaves or something."

Ah, you apparently did not read the deposition.

"...you mean, she actually did?!?"

I recounted the testimony about the "really Southern plantation wedding," and it was like a switch got flipped.  Dad now feels Deen deserves all the abuse she's getting and deserves to see her empire fall apart.

Because anyone can spin words.

And actions always speak louder than words.
Just One More Thing

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: Well, More Of An Update, But Still

Earlier this morning, I wrote that the idiots still trying to halt gay marriage had filed an emergency petition to stop any marriages from being performed because the ruling wasn't "legally final."

The fine and upstanding bbovenguy has sent me an article from the LA Times web site that says the petition flopped, and the marriages are still on.

Thank God for readers keeping tabs on what I write, and thank God justice prevails.