Monday, January 30, 2006

The War on Gays

2004 was a dramatic election year where the American public made a strong moral statement. Puritans are back! Several states passed marriage amendments that essentially prohibit homosexual unions and Ohio's contribution went a step beyond by effectively rendering all relationships that aren't sealed with the government's approval as invalid. So not only did the state tell gays they can't marry, the state also said that it won't respect common law relationships either. Isn't Ohio great?

Now it seems that there is a push to stamp out homosexuality in its entirety. The same folks who decided to impose their morals on the government's interpretation of marriage are now exerting tremendous pressure on organizations and business that are allegedly gay-friendly.

The pressure is coming in the form of boycotts and demonstrations. It ranges anywhere from simply bullying small local businesses into compliance to boycotting the companies who advertise on networks that feature gay friendly programming. These groups seek out businesses that directly market to the gay community through gay-oriented publications and demand that the advertising be pulled. Sadly it's worked. One major automotive manufacturer decided to terminate marketing programs that were directed toward the homosexual demographic. They claim that it was simply a business decision, but it's quite a coincidence.

The reason the far right is engaged in a war on gays is because they seem to think that there is some sort of conspiracy out there. They call it THE GAY AGENDA (insert dramatic music here). THE GAY AGENDA, if you listen to the religiots explain it, is a massive plot to turn everybody gay. Shows like Will and Grace make homosexuality seem normal and portray homosexuals as likeable people while other programs simply try to cram gratuitous homosexuality down your throat. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy goes so far as to encourage men to live a homosexual lifestyle which will eventually lead to homosexual behavior. We simply can't have that.

They tell outlandish stories of far away school boards that actually have classes that teach kids how to be gay. Although a little bit of research reveals that the only education in our public schools that even broaches the subject of homosexuality does it in a manner that asks students to respect their homosexual peers and demonstrate a little tolerance. Perhaps that's the first step in becoming gay.

A similar story surfaced shortly after 9-11 depicting the horrible state of affairs in California when schools started teaching the Koran. How dare they? Well, it wasn't quite that dramatic. School officials decided to take proactive steps in averting potential hate crimes against Muslim students so a comparative class was offered that demonstrated the similarities between Islam and Christianity. It wasn't religious instruction, just a little cultural sensitivity lesson. No big deal. And after the religious right had its time on the soap box the fuss subsided.

Religiots insist that homosexuality is a choice. They believe that it's a rebellious expression and the goal of homosexuals is to create more. The fact is that a lot of homosexuals do make an effort to reach out to kids. The goal isn't to recruit straight kids into homosexuality, but rather to let the gay kids know that they aren't alone. Most gay adults anguished over their sexuality throughout their youth and many do so well into adulthood.

The self-destructive behavior so often attributed to the so-called GAY LIFESTYLE; the drugs, the alcohol, the irresponsible sexual behavior; is not indicative of homosexuality but instead is the product of a traumatic childhood. It's what happens when a person is subjected to extreme emotional torture and psychological abuse. There are plenty of straight people who indulge in the same sort of behavior.

The fact is homosexuals want what straight people want. That's a stable loving relationship with a person they find both attractive and intellectually stimulating. There's nothing twisted or sick about it. They just happen to be wired to desire such a relationship with somebody of their own gender. The goal is not to force homosexuality on anybody, if anything it's to get straights to stop imposing heterosexuality on them.

Homosexuality is not a choice. No more than heterosexuality is. I'm straight. I can't say that I'm proud of it and at times I can see decided advantages to being gay, but I'm not wired to find another man sexually attractive. If I were stuck on a tropical island with another man for five years I doubt that I would find him attractive. I never once thought that I might enjoy being gay.

To assume homosexuality is a choice means you have to acknowledge that heterosexuality is a choice as well. I never made that choice. I know there was a time when I said girls were yucky, but mostly that was a defense mechanism so I wouldn't have to talk about romantic issues with my parents. The easy way out was to claim that I wasn't interested in girls but the reality is that I can't remember a time when I wasn't attracted to them. I've had hundreds of crushes on hundreds of girls through the years but never once had the same feeling for a guy. Not even for Brad Pitt.

If sexuality were a choice then you would have to struggle with the decision at some point. I can't recall a time when I was pawing through the JCPenney underwear section and could have gone either way. Somehow I doubt that anybody has. Not one gay person has ever told me that they made a choice. They always knew they were gay, even if they tried to deny it. Deep inside they always knew the truth.

Still the religiots insist it is a choice. They know it is. Which makes me wonder if they are all homosexuals who force themselves to live the heterosexual lifestyle. That's the only way they could possibly believe that it is a choice. A true heterosexual would never leap to such a conclusion.

It makes sense that the people trying to stamp out homosexuality are actually repressed homosexuals. Clearly they aren't comfortable with their own sexuality and seeing homosexuals expressing themselves publicly drives them crazy with envy. Why should other people get to enjoy the forbidden pleasures of homosexuality when they're holding back those same feelings with everything they've got?

Homosexuality is not evil and frankly it doesn't seem as though god had too much of a problem with it either. Back when he was laying down the law to Moses he talked about lying, stealing, killing and used a few commandments up on worship but god never made mention of homosexuality. As abhorrent as the religiots like to make homosexuality out to be, it's not even one of the seven deadly sins. And the underlying theme in Jesus' teachings was to mind your own business.

There must be better things to rage against. Homosexuality doesn't hurt anybody and if it is a sin then let god deal with it. Judge not lest ye shall be judged, right?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sports world demonstrates a dramatic racial bias.

There are some white people who like to think that racism isn't as much of a problem as it is an excuse. With so many regulations enacted on behalf of minorities, most companies won't risk the penalties associated with imposing racial bias. In some cases, these people would argue, the well-intentioned goals of affirmative action actually impose racism on whites..

That's true to a degree, affirmative action has certainly helped minorities gain access to government jobs and certain educational opportunities, and whether or not it's fair or even beneficial can be debated, but racism is still a very ugly reality in this supposedly great nation of ours. It could be worse and not all that long ago it was. Much worse. But that doesn't mean we should ignore a glaring problem.

We should be cautious in drawing parallels between the real world and the sporting world. Life in the real world is nothing like life in the sporting world. Personalities are different and the tasks at hand rarely compare in spite of so many executives struggling to liken the mundane world of day to day business to the exciting world of athletic competition.

When it comes to race relations in this country, however, the sporting world has been a wonderful study of where attitudes lay. Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier in baseball, which was the most popular sport in the country at the time. He traveled a rocky road but he kept his head down and eventually won the hearts of fans. He showed whites that there wasn't anything to fear and inspired blacks to rise up and fight racial injustice. More black players followed and their success made it easier for white coaches and athletic administrators to embrace black athletes in other sports.

It wasn't easy, and it took a while for every sport to become fully integrated. It wasn't that long ago that the so-called experts firmly believed that black athletes lacked the mental ability to be successful quarterbacks in the NFL and fans are quick to villainize a black athlete who steps out of line. However, we have reached a point where athletes are not judged by the color of their skin, but rather the ability they bring to the playing field. Nobody hesitates at the prospect of drafting a black quarterback anymore and nobody thinks twice about signing a black athlete to a lucrative endorsement contract.

However, the bias is still there. This year 10 NFL teams found themselves looking for new head coaches. As of this moment all but one of those teams has hired their new coach with the Oakland Raiders supposedly holding out for Steelers' assistant coach Ken Whisenhunt. If they make that hire, which seems likely, that will conclude the hiring frenzy with all but one of the hires being white. The lone black coach given a job this year hardly counts as a breakthrough hire as Herm Edwards simply transferred from the Jets to the Chiefs. No new black coaches made the final cut.

The final numbers really aren't that bad at first glance. Of the 32 NFL teams six (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Arizona, Kansas City, Chicago and Indianapolis) feature black head coaches but in a league where the majority of the players are black and have been for over 30 years 19% doesn't cut it. Not when most NFL coaches have at least a few years of playing experience under their belts.

The NFL, however, is painfully aware of the paucity of black coaches and is proactive in developing programs that help bridge that gap. That is not the case in the NCAA. Which might explain the availability of black NFL coaching candidates. There are 117 division 1-a programs but only three black head coaches. What's even more alarming is that there are only about a dozen black assistant coaches who have attained the rank of coordinator, which is typically the stepping stone to a head coaching position. Unlike the NFL, the NCAA is not working hard to change that. The NCAA simply doesn't have any authority to oversee the hiring practices of member universities.

The problem is not one of malicious racial bias. There is no reason to believe that athletic directors and college presidents are conspiring to deny black coaches access to employment at the collegiate level. More likely the problem is an issue of latent racial bias or simply a matter of racial loyalty. In some rare cases there might be a calculated decision to exclude black candidates. Universities depend on contributions from community leaders as well as wealthy alumni and, particularly in the deep south and the Midwest, the people holding those purse strings might harbor a little bias and unduly influence the university in selecting a white candidate. But by and large, this is not standard practice. The name of the game is winning. Period.

Some believe this sort of unintentional bias is what influenced Notre Dame to break tradition and send Ty Willingham packing before he had fulfilled his five year contract. Notre Dame supporters like to think that the unexpected move had more to do with a sense of urgency in making room for hot coaching prospect, Urban Meyer, but Meyer seemed to have absolutely no interest in the Notre Dame job. Ty Willingham was the first Notre Dame coach to be fired for performance before he had completed his first five years on the job. Hopefully Ty's skin color was only coincidental but you have to wonder. Bob Davie did a pretty lousy job at Notre Dame and he got five years. By contrast Ty Willingham seemed to be doing a better job than his predecessor and he was given his walking papers.

Notre Dame isn't alone. When Ohio State fired John Cooper the candidates interviewed as his replacement were all white. Ohio State seems to be quite equal opportunity with former Heisman hero Archie Griffin holding a key role in the athletic department and Ohio State did hire an African American athletic director to replace the departing Andy Geiger, but you'd still figure that Ohio State would have interviewed a black coaching candidate or two. Alabama stirred up a hornets nest when they passed on hiring Sylvester Croom as their head coach in favor of the less qualified Mike Shula, but it's hard to believe that Alabama would have allowed race to be the deciding factor.

It's staggering to think about it. In sports race is no longer an issue on the playing field. The Heisman trophy is awarded to the best college football player in a given year and since Ernie Davis shattered the color barrier back in 1961, 24 of the next 44 winners were black. When Rush Limbaugh took a cowardly back door jab at the significance Donovan McNabb's race played in his popularity, fans expressed their outrage and the obese blowhard was forced to resign immediately or suffer the humiliation of being physically thrown out of the ESPN studio by Tommy Jackson.

That's why it's impossible to believe that the dearth of black head coaches in college and professional football is a calculated decision. I simply can't imagine that anybody conscientiously chooses to exclude a black candidate from contention. The racial bias being applied is not malicious.

If the person making a decision is white, he or she is automatically going to feel more of a kinship with another white person and if everything else is equal the white candidate is going to get the job over the black candidate. It happens in sports and it also happens in everyday life.

In spite of laws prohibiting discrimination African Americans are denied employment, promotions and recognition for accomplishments for no other reason than race, even though the people responsible are completely unaware they are discriminating. In some cases the racial bias is blatant and clearly a violation of civil rights legislation, but in most the racial bias is all but impossible to prove.

That's the case in the NCAA and the NFL. There's no documentation that substantiates any racial bias, but at the end of the day when you crunch the numbers you have no other explanation. White people still call the shots and black people get left out in the cold.

So how can we rectify this? How can you possibly address racial bias when it is not intentionally applied? The solution lies within individual honor. Whites, particularly those in positions of power, should force themselves to examine race whenever it is a possibility. Whether you're hiring you're next football coach or an assistant sales manager, you have to stop and ask yourself what you would do if every candidate was the same color. If you have a reservation about a black candidate you have to consider if you would have that reservation if he or she happened to be white.

People do it all the time. The black applicant is a job hopper while the white guy is ambitious. The female prospect is emotional while the male counterpart is passionate. If we are ever going to find true racial harmony in this country we're going to have to be honest with ourselves. Until we do we've got problems and very little to be proud of. The NFL and NCAA simply reveal the ugly truth. The question is whether or not we will accept it and take action to correct the problem.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Silent No More.

Rod Parsley is a televangelist. That is to say that he shamelessly exploits weak-minded people and their loose belief in biblical scriptures so that he can acquire their money.

Parsley is not highly respected in religious circles because his knowledge of the bible is limited and his interpretations of scripture are often blasphemous. Parsley consistently twists biblical passages to suit his own agenda of acquiring wealth and power. Recently, Reverend Rod has expanded his efforts to politics. His book Silent No More is a rambling call to arms for Christians to take control of the government and impose theocratic rule over the land. Parsley hopes that he would somehow become the emperor of this bold new empire.

The political slant has brought Parsley under fire, but not from the raging liberal lunatics one might expect. Pastors throughout Ohio have asked the IRS to investigate Parsley's finances and political contributions because they believe that Parsley has crossed a line that would revoke his tax exempt status.

Granted, the move might very well be a little jealous sniping from pastors who would love to claim a piece of Parsley's empire for themselves, but the reality is that Parsley's inflammatory rhetoric has long angered mainstream religious leaders. Parsley doesn't use the pulpit to spread the word of god, but rather to espouse his own narrow views as divine providence.

Churches have enjoyed a tax exempt status for years but it's time to review that status and treat churches as the for profit businesses that they have become. Rod Parsley is a great example of somebody who has pocketed millions of dollars under the guise of spiritual instruction. He lives in a million dollar home, owns several expensive vehicles, travels the world in a private jet and wears thousands of dollars worth of clothing and jewelry.

However, Parsley is not the exception, but rather the rule. While it's easy to take shots at somebody preaching a fringe message, mainstream churches are just as guilty of turning a profit and not paying taxes. One only need to look at one of the most successful international corporations of all time, the Catholic Church.

For centuries the Catholic Church has imposed its will over governments around the world and used everything from tithing to poor boxes to grow a vast financial empire. The CEO of the Catholic Church is the pope and his senior vice presidents are the various cardinals stationed at key locations throughout the world. Make no mistake, they live like executives complete with salaries, expense accounts, company transportation and a set of benefits that would make Bill Gates envious.

Religion is a business. Some churches offer religious services for which people pay a fee. Sometimes that fee is a voluntary donation to the collection plate, but other services such as baptisms, weddings and funerals come with a set price. Other churches offer more than just services. Some sell books, records, tapes and DVD's on the internet or over a toll free number. You can also buy a number of inspirational trinkets to keep for yourself or to give as gifts. No matter how you cook the books, money is changing hands. A portion of that money always goes to people in need, but not before the church officials take their cut.

The irony is that this is not what Jesus Christ had in mind. How can a religion based on the teachings of a man who threw the merchants out of the temple so shamelessly deal in money?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Billy Crystal's enormous ego...

There was a time when I really liked Billy Crystal. Then he became a big star, hosted the Oscars and now his massive ego seems cry for attention. Once again the Academy Awards will have somebody other than Billy Crystal hosting the show and once again Billy Crystal is telling anybody who will listen that the Academy begged him to make time to host the annual festival.

When Steve Martin took the job a few years ago, Crystal commented that he could have done better. Last year Chris Rock played host and handful of stars took offense to being needled at their annual hooray-for-me party. Now the Academy has tapped Jon Stewart to host this years gala and Crystal is taking time out of his busy schedule to make sure Stewart knows he was not the first choice.

Stewart is a funny guy with a quick wit and a dry sense of humor. He might be the kind of guy who takes this gig and runs with it. A one time MTV hack and failed late night talk show host, Stewart got a crack at a regular paying job when the Daily Show needed a new host. Stewart stepped in and the cult show picked up steam and became a national powerhouse. Under Stewart The Daily Show has gone from scraping the bottom of the barrel for guests to lining up some of the biggest stars in the business.

Through it all Stewart has proven that he has a brilliant sense of humor and excellent timing, and his experience rubbing elbows with the glitterati will help him make this year's presentation a success. Crystal might think that he's always the first one to be called to host the Oscars, but Stewart is the fresh presence the stodgy event needs. Crystal can go back to tending his ego and working on his boring little projects.

As for the Oscars, who really cares? Do we really need to have an entire show dedicated to patting actors and actresses on the back for getting paid way too much money to read lines? The Academy has proven that the awards are truly meaningless, how else can you explain Marisa Tomei winning an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Presidential Duties.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety".
-Benjamin Franklin

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
-Thomas Jefferson

Our country was built on the concept of freedom... not freedom as a privilege that can be sacrificed at the leisure of the government, but freedom as an inalienable right that should never be compromised, but since 9-11-01, George W. Bush and his administration have gone out of their way to characterize freedom a privilege that might need to be compromised in order to protect this country from future terrorist attacks.

Recently, Bush answered his critics by explaining that he was not going to discuss issues pertaining to the classified operations of our government in the midst of this war on terror. He has stated that his job is to protect this country from terrorists and that he can't compromise that project. However, that's not his job at all. Consider the Presidential oath of office:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

There is nothing wrong with fighting terror, spreading democracy or privatizing social security, as long as the Constitution is upheld but once the President forsakes the Constitution he is dangerously close to committing treason. Bush might think his narrow re-election granted him a "mandate" but when he stepped up to the inaugural podium in January the job description didn't change. Constitution first, everything else is secondary.

There are those who defend Bush and claim that the rules have changed. They submit that only those who would threaten the United States have anything to fear from Bush's ambitious security agenda. It's a logical argument, but such an argument is nothing new. Jefferson was wary of tyrants. He knew that even in a democratic republic such as ours the conditions were favorable for tyranny. All a president had to do was frighten the public and the constitution was his to destroy. Bush has taken the tragic events of 9-11 and used them to undermine basic constitutional principals such as due process in his egomaniacal war on terror.

The public has no access to any records pertaining to the domestic theater of this war on terror. If the Department of Homeland Security deems a person a suspected terrorist all proceedings are conducted in secrecy. The public doesn't have access to any information on warrants issued, arrests made or the judicial progress of any given case. The Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General are at liberty to release only the facts they deem appropriate for public dissemination.

The Bush administration has released information that The Department of Homeland Security has thwarted several terrorist attempts since 9-11, but how can we trust this information? Suspects are arrested, detained and denied counsel. Who knows what methods of interrogation they are subjected to? We are given general descriptions of the thwarted attempts, but the details that would help substantiate the claims are deemed sensitive to ongoing investigations and therefore classified.

The two cases that have been made public involve Nuradin Abdi, a Somali native who is accused of plotting to blow up a Columbus, Ohio mall and Iyman Faris who pleaded guilty to plotting to sabotage the Brooklyn bridge by cutting it down with blow torches.

The facts in these cases may or may not be true, but since both men were detained for unusual periods of time and denied legal counsel. Most of the alleged evidence is sealed so the public has no way to examine the legitimacy of these accusations. Some would say that Faris pleading guilty is all the proof one would need, but if there's no way to verify how these men were treated while being detained, how can we be sure?

It's hard to imagine our own government stooping to depths as low as torture, chemical lobotomizations or threatening a persons' loved ones but then again, why all the secrecy?

There's no doubt that fighting a war is a lot easier when you don't have to play by the rules but that's why we have the Constitution. It's not supposed to be easy. Our leaders are supposed to answer to the general public and we're supposed to be the good guys.

The problem is not what is happening now, but what can happen in the future. We have seen what happens when fear and prejudice are exploited to give the government too much power. Are we on the precipice of a new age of McCarthyism?

Some people assume that only those breaking the law have something to fear, but the problem with corruption is the eventually everybody is at risk. It happened during the Red Scare. People used the accusation of communism for everything from getting even with an ex-lover to putting a rival businessman behind bars. How long before somebody uses the accusation of terror to further their own personal agenda?