Tuesday, August 17, 2010

So, about the Cordoba House community center...

Here's a question for you about the Cordoba House, which the Right Wing insists on calling "the ground zero mosque".

Why are we talking about it?

It's not because Imam Feisal is talking about it.

It's not because it violates laws, or ethics, or other constraints.

It's not because you can even *see* the durn thing from "ground zero".

We're talking about it for one reason, and one reason only: the Right Wingers in this country want to talk about it.

And rather than asking whether they "should" build the community center or whether they have "the right" to build the community center, we should instead be asking the Newt Gingriches and Sarah Palins whether they "should" be making a big fuss and a loud stink about a group of peaceful Muslims building a community center... even though it's clear that they have "the right" to do so.

There was no controversy; there was nothing to fight about. Not until the Right Wing invented a reason to attack out of whole cloth. And sure, they have the right to do that; the First Amendment protects speech as well as religion. But should they?

Should they attack peaceful Muslims who hate Al Qaeda, and who Al Qaeda hates? Should they act as if Muslims must be second class citizens, in Manhattan at least? Should they be acting as if this community center is some terrible affront to families of those who died on 9/11/2001? Should they be infantilizing the survivors by acting as if they can't handle a community center that's completely hidden from the site where the attacks occurred?

All this crap about religious freedom and stabbing in the heart is beside the point. That it's the rankest discrimination to attack the community center is obvious... at least, it is to anyone with half a brain.

The point is, why are we letting people who are trying to raise a big fuss raise that fuss? Why are we discussing this at all, rather than granting it the contempt it so clearly deserves?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A great idea!

Have you seen this?

I think it's a great idea. Mr. Gutfeld, go ahead. Open your gay bar.

Really. It's your money. Do what you want with it. I admit, I don't like the idea of anyone spending their money for the sole purpose of being a twit, but, hey, if that's what floats your boat, cool.

But I do hope you've considered your situation.

See, everyone knows why you're doing this. And not everyone's going to appreciate the idea behind it. And, so... well....

Have you toured gay bars in New York? I mean, *lots* of gay bars? Yes, even *those* gay bars?

Here's how I figure it. You open that gay bar, and one of two things are going to happen. Either lots of folks will go there to game you, to make that bar the kind of place that... well, let's just say you won't want to show the place off to your mom any time soon. Or no one will show up at all. You'll go out of business.

But hey - play your cards right, and you might just make a killing, with the hottest, nastiest, dirtiest gay bar ever.

You might want to explain these possibilities to your investors before opening night.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Yeah, Douthat's a twit...

A lot of people have pointed out that this is a lame column. And, they're right. "A bunch of people have this ideal, and if we don't fight for it by discriminating against gay folks, Bad Things Might Happen. Better the known damage happening right now than hurting some people's ideals, with unknown but scary damage in the future!

But I'm going to disregard the lame pathos inspired by Douthat's column, and instead point to the despicable lie he uses to end his column:


But based on Judge Walker’s logic — which suggests that any such distinction is bigoted and un-American — I don’t think a society that declares gay marriage to be a fundamental right will be capable of even entertaining this idea.


Judge Walker did not say anything about bigotry or being un-American.

Nothing.

But he made a decision that some people didn't like. And it's not enough to say that they disagree with his logic - they have to paint him as a bad person as well. "He's calling people bigots and un-American!"

See, that's the real bigotry, right? If people want to hurt gay folks, that doesn't make them bigots! And yet, here's this guy saying people can't keep hurting gay folks, and that means he's calling them bigots. He is the hateful one! He is the bigot!

Except it's all based on a lie. A lie intended to spread hatred of people who are different.

I'm sure there's a term for the hatred of those who are different. But I'm damned if I can remember it right now.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

On profiling

This is a perfect example of an idiotic meme about profiling.

Walter E. Williams starts off talking about how doctors use race and sex in determining health questions to ask and tests to order. Then he discusses how that's not "profiling" and the pulls this "gem" out of ... uh, the air.

There is no sense of justice or decency that a law-abiding black person should suffer the indignity being passed up. At the same time, a taxicab driver has a right to earn a living without being robbed, assaulted and possibly murdered. One of the methods to avoid victimization is to refuse to pick up certain passengers in certain neighborhoods or passengers thought to be destined for certain neighborhoods. Again, a black person is justifiably angered when refused service but that anger should be directed toward the criminals who prey on cabbies.


There's a lot that's wrong with this article. But let's look at the first thing first. What is "profiling"?

Profiling is the idea that criminals often follow set patterns. And when it is attacked, it is attacked when people who follow those patterns are targeted for attention by the police, not because they've done something wrong, but because they fit the profile.

Profiling was used as an excuse to make a stop, and then search for evidence of unlawful activity. It's a violation of the Fourth Amendment - we have the right to be left-the-hell-alone by the police unless there's a valid reason to bother us.

A lot of people (like Mr. Williams) whine about profiling as if it refers to never using patterns, and never thinking about statistics, because they haven't bothered to educate themselves about it. (Or, possibly, because they know what it is, but feel that it's useful to do some liberal bashing by pretending it's something it's not. And if Mr. Williams dislikes being thought of as potentially dishonest, he should only be angry at the Limbaughs, Becks, Coulters, and Breitbarts of the world, not at the cabbies - er, bloggers - who feel they've been burned too often to be trusting.)

But there's more to it than that. People who choose to engage in prejudicial behavior (refusing to stop for black people when driving a cab) *are* engaging in racist behavior.

Those who refuse to stop for a particular subset of black people - people who look like troublemakers, for whatever reason - aren't being racist. They are possibly prejudiced - it depends on how well-tuned their "looks like a troublemaker" sense is. I'm sure there are cab drivers who've been driving for years, who'll pick up someone who looks to most folks like a dangerous gang member, making a stop at the candy store so our "dangerous gang member" can distribute some sweets while visiting the local orphanage. And similarly, perhaps our hypothetical veteran driver will pass up a gentleman by the name of Macheath wearing such nice, white gloves without a trace of red....

The point is, there's nothing wrong with a cabbie getting scared of a fare, and deciding to take a pass, but there is something wrong with a cabbie making that decision based upon something innocuous, like skin color. To place that blame solely upon criminals is to ignore the cabbie's agency. We all get to make choices, including the choice to face our fears and determine how realistic they are, and modify them.

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