Friday, August 6, 2010

Religious hatred behind mosque opposition

A group started by noted hatemonger Pat Robertson (the story I saw called it a “conservative” group; doesn’t that go without saying?) has filed a lawsuit in what will no doubt be a long, expensive, but ultimately fruitless, attempt to stop the construction of an Islamic center a couple of blocks from Ground Zero. The action comes after the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee unanimously refused to block demolition of a 152-year-old building that stands in the way of the project. Those proposing to build the Cordoba Mosque have made it very clear that their goal is to foster peace and understanding between Islam and people of other faiths. That didn’t stop one goofball at the committee’s hearing from holding up a sign that said, “Don’t glorify the murders of 3,000. No 9/11 victory mosque.” And Rick Lazio, a former Republican congressman now running for governor of New York, took the opportunity to do a little demagogueing, accusing the Islamic group’s imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, of being buddy-buddy with terrorists. He noted a “60 Minutes” interview in the wake of 9/11 in which Rauf said the attacks were in some part sparked by U.S. policies in the Middle East. Of course they were. Does anybody really doubt that the United States’ constant support of Israel against any other interests in that region just might have fostered some anger and resentment? One question I have for mosque opponents is this: Exactly how far must a mosque be from Ground Zero? Is is four blocks? Six? Eight? The distance from Ground Zero really isn’t the issue. It’s the hatred by many people of all things Muslim because of the actions of a militant, violent fringe of that religion. As an online poster noted recently on the O-R website, these folks won’t be calling for a ban on Catholic churches near grade schools because some priests raped children. Apparently, the central argument that will be made in the Robertson group’s lawsuit is that the landmarks panel “acted arbitrarily and abused its discretion.” No, it didn’t. It acted dispassionately, rationally and intelligently. The mosque opponents should give that a try sometime.

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Kagan’s on the court

Elena Kagan won approval of the Senate this week to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, marking the first time three women will be on the panel. The vote was relatively predictable. Kudos to Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Lindsay Graham, Judd Gregg and Richard Lugar for putting politics aside and voting for Kagan for the only reason that should matter: They found her to be a well-qualified candidate for the court. And then there’s supposedly Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the lone member of his party to vote against Kagan. In response to critics of his vote, Nelson said, “Are they from Nebraska? Then I don’t care.” In other words, “Can they vote for me in the next election? If not, I don’t care.” There’s nothing wrong with a lawmaker breaking with his party. In fact, independence is a valuable quality in a lawmaker. But it’s not independence that Nelson is displaying. It’s pure politics. He’ll be facing re-election in a couple of years in a conservative state, and if there’s anything remotely controversial about an issue, you can expect Nelson to vote with the Republicans. He might as well just switch parties and make it official. Then there’s Scott Brown, the Republican senator from Massachusetts, who had the most hilarious explanation for his “no” vote on Kagan. Brown said he thinks Kagan is “brilliant,” but he voted against her because she lacks courtroom experience. I have no problem with someone thinking that members of the top court should have a judicial background, but Brown’s explanation was ludicrous. He said, “The best umpires, to use the popular analogy, must not only call balls and strikes, but also have spent enough time on the playing field to know the strike zone.” That’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. First, that’s not a popular analogy. In fact, I’m guessing no one has EVER heard it uttered before in human history. Second, an umpire doesn’t have to have any experience as a player to be a good arbiter. All an umpire has to do is understand the rulebook and apply it accurately and fairly. Brown comes out of this looking like a boob. In other words, he’s perfect for the Senate.

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Gay OK

Justice was served this week in California, where a federal judge struck down the clearly discriminatory Proposition 8, which had invalidated the state law allowing same-sex marriages. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker got it exactly right when he said that opponents of gay marriage, primarily the loving, caring religious right, were motivated only by their ill will toward gay people. Said Walker in his ruling, “Proposition 8 played on the fear that exposure to homosexuality would turn children into homosexuals and that parents should dread having children who are not heterosexual.” That’s definitely what was on display. Fear, stupidity and hatred. The “holy trinity” of right-wing Christianity. There are reports that Judge Walker is, himself, gay. How did Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush not spot that when they nominated him to the federal bench? Kidding. Anyway, this issue isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Eventually, it will reach the Supreme Court, and how that turns out is anyone’s guess. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Alito, Scalia and Thomas won’t be in favor of gay marriage. But whatever the case, the final outcome is inevitable. There will come a day when gay people in this country can marry just like heterosexuals. And that will be a great day.

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Monday, August 2, 2010

He's still an idiot

You would think that with memories still fresh of his little incident with police officers in an alley where a teammate was allegedly relieving himself, Jeff Reed might try to avoid causing a stir. You would be wrong. In an interview with the Post-Gazette, the Steelers kicker is whining about the way he's being treated in contract negotiations. Reed claims that somebody in a higher-up position with the Steelers lied to him about getting a long-term deal. Reed told the P-G that team President Art Rooney II has advised him that such a contract won’t get done before this season gets under way, in part because the team had to ante up some millions to hire Flozell Adams to replace injured offensive tackle Willie Colon. Here's what Reed told the newspaper: “It’s one of those things. Life is not really fair. I’ve experienced that a few times in this league. I honestly feel that if you perform ... you need to get compensated for it.” For the record, Reed will be compensated this year to the tune of $2.8 million. For kicking a ball maybe eight or 10 times a game. Most people would feel really blessed to have such an arrangement. Fact is, Reed is an excellent field goal kicker. At the same time, he’s very average in the kickoff department, and he has repeatedly conducted himself like a buffoon. Maybe the Steelers just want to wait to see if Reed can go a year without acting like a horse’s ass in public. You know, maybe avoid going 12 rounds with a paper towel dispenser, and stop having run-ins with the boys in blue.

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What a schmuck

If you want a few laughs, reading about a sex scandal generally is not the first thing that comes to mind. But Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino’s testimony last week in the case of a woman accused of trying to extort millions from him to keep quiet about a sexual encounter in a restaurant provided some moments of hilarity. I'm sure Pitino wasn't trying to be funny when talking about his dalliance with Karen Cunagin Sypher (shown above) in 2003, but it sure turned out that way. Here are a few paragraphs from an Associated Press story:

Pitino testified Wednesday that he meet Sypher on July 31, 2003, at the restaurant, where he had gone following a golf outing.
Pitino, who is married, said he bought Sypher a drink and the two exchanged small talk after the restaurant closed.
When he got up to leave, Pitino said she whispered something, unzipped his pants and the two had sex “very briefly.”
"Unfortunate things happen," Pitino said.

That's good comedy right there. I can just hear Pitino after his wife found out about the hanky-panky: "Well, honey, I was minding my own business in a restaurant when this lady unzipped my drawers and an ‘unfortunate thing’ happened.” I'm guessing Pitino didn’t think it was very unfortunate at the time. Or maybe he just thought it was unfortunate that the sex was very brief. But is that really something you want known? “Fastest Gun in the West” isn't a good nickname when you’re talking about things that go on behind closed doors. Bottom line: Pitino did something slimy, and Louisville, by continuing to employ him, has made it clear that wins on the basketball court, and money, are more important than having someone of good character leading the teenagers and early 20-somethings on the team.

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Politics via PSA

If you've been watching the news on WPXI-TV lately, you've no doubt seen "public service announcements" featuring Allegheny County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty. In the ads, Flaherty touts the work done by his office’s weights and measures division in making sure Allegheny County residents are getting the lunch meat and gasoline they're entitled to. That's all well and good, but what is interesting is that the so-called public service announcements are paid for by the Friends of Mark Patrick Flaherty political action committee. In other words, it's a campaign ad disguised as a PSA. If it were a real public service announcement, perhaps a simple video made by someone in Flaherty's office and offered to the local TV stations, WPXI most likely would run it for free, though not in the middle of the morning and evening news shows, which are prime advertising time. Heck, he probably could have gotten one of the WPXI talking heads to do the voice work on a real PSA, but that doesn't get Mark Patrick Flaherty's face on the screen in front of voters who might (will) be asked to cast their ballots for him as he makes a run for a higher office. Flaherty might contend that he's not currently running for anything. Well, I'm willing to wait and see. If Flaherty never runs for county executive or some other office that would constitute a "promotion," I'm a liar. If he does, we'll know what these "public service announcements" were all about.

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