Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Obama Was Born In America. Period.

I think “birthers” – the people who believe Barack Obama was not born in the United States of America - are, frankly, a little nutty. Obama’s birth certificate has been produced and it has been verified over and over that President Obama was born in Hawaii, after it became our 50th state. There are two videos below that both show this information, plus more, confirming the information on Obama’s US birth. Yet, there are some people who, for whatever reason, refuse to believe it. My opinion is that these non-believers, these “conspiracy theorists,” are suffering from a case of severe brain damage, maybe with the side symptoms of racism and irrational fear.

Decide for yourself. Take a look at Jon Stewart’s commentary on the matter, which, while humorous, is right on target. I have also included the recent NBC Nightly News story, where Brian Williams takes a serious look at this issue, hopefully answering the question once and for all.

Will the “birthers” go away? Probably not, because brain damage often can’t be reversed.

Jon Stewart “The Born Identity”

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Recipe for Stupidly: Gates + Cambridge Police + Obama

President Barack Obama took immediate heat for his comment during a press conference that the Cambridge Massachusetts police "acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home” when they arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. for disorderly conduct after he forced open a door at his own home.

The question here is – was anyone really stupid? The answer is YES, everyone was.

The Cambridge Police, legitimately responding to a call from a concerned citizen about a burglary in process, did the right thing by checking things out. But, they met their match when they came upon Gates, who is highly educated about many things, including the law. Sergeant Crowley admits that he asked Gates to step out of the house, and this may have been Crowley's mistake. Any halfway intelligent person knows that once you step out of your home, the police can arrest you. I suspect that Gates knew that was exactly what Crowley was going to do. Since Gates knew he was in his own home, I don’t blame him for not wanting to cooperate on that issue.

However, the reports from the police go on to indicate that Gates was uncooperative from the get go. It is possible that Gates’ behavior only made the police more suspicious that Gates was a burglar.

Adding fuel to the fire was President Obama’s response during a press conference; a truthful, non-politician response that used one “stupid” word.

A side issue here is the concerned neighbor who called in the burglary, who apparently doesn’t even know what her neighbor looks like.

In my opinion, everyone in the situation acted without completely engaging their brains. If the police account is correct, Gates should have kept his cool, but Sergeant Crowley should not have found it suspicious that Gates refused to step outside. You do not have to step out of your house when the police ask you to, period. Crowley should know this and this should have raised a flag that he was not dealing with just some stupid burglar. If Gates' account is correct, then the police overreacted and they should have backed off when Gates showed he did live in the house. President Obama was asked a question about the matter, admitted he knew Gates personally, and Obama responded as anyone with a personal connection and personal experience with encountering police would respond. He gave an honest, unedited answer, unlike most politicians. His choice of the word “stupidly” was probably not the right one, but it was directionally correct. This is one of those cases when the forthright president should zip his lips and give a noncommittal answer until he gets all the facts.

I have the utmost respect for the police department, but also understand that they are human beings too and sometimes they make errors in judgment. Maybe in this case, if rumored radio transmissions from this event are made public, their judgment may be vindicated. But, based on what I have read about this situation and from the extensive TV coverage, it seems to me that in this case, the police didn’t like the fact that Gates challenged them. Imagine if the police, who are armed. approached YOUR home, asked YOU to step outside, and didn’t like the fact that you refused (which is your right to do so) – how would you feel? This, in my opinion, may be the bigger issue here over the claims of racial bias. The police should be respected, but citizens also have rights. The police should be held to a higher standard because they are supposed to know and follow the law. In this case, it seems to me that when police are armed and they approach someone who is in their own home, that the police exercise extreme caution and make sure they follow the law to the letter. They should also develop thicker skin and not get suspicious when a citizen knows the law and choses to follow it. People should continue to repect the badge, but make sure they know their own rights. Knowledge is power.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Remembering “One Giant Leap for Mankind”

Today is the 40th anniversary of man’s first landing and taking steps on the Moon. Maybe because I have seen it replayed on television so many times the event seems like it only happened yesterday. But it truly does seem like just yesterday that I was a 14 year old kid, sitting glued to a black and white television with my parents and my sisters and brother watching the event. I can close my eyes and see us all in the living room, and remember the feelings of excitement that I had when Neil Armstrong took his first “small” step. The last time the family had spent so much time together glued to a television event was when President Kennedy had been assassinated. The moon landing was a completely different event from the Kennedy coverage, as the moon landing was not a time to mourn, but a time to celebrate the achievements of the American people, especially those who were involved in the program.

There are some people out there who say the moon landing was faked. Personally, I don’t understand how anyone could not believe it was real. When I search for information on the moon landing hoax, I can also find many web sites that disprove and discredit all the conspiracy claims. Yet, some still refuse to believe in the facts. I would like to ask the consipiracy believers that if landing on the moon was so easy to fake, why didn’t the Russians or anybody else do it first?

Landing on the moon fell out of favor and the program was later discontinued, likely due to the high cost and the low rate of return on the investment, and frankly, lack of interest. I guess once you’ve been to the moon and take your share of moon rocks and moon dust, there really isn’t anything compelling to bring a person back. I am sure that someday, if/when unmanned missions can show that the moon itself has value to those of us on earth, people will find a reason to go back. There are talks of manned missions to Mars, and despite the fact that I am all for space exploration, I think until we are able to reliably land something on Mars more than one or two times (there have been many failures to date), then we should continue to send unmanned probes to do reconnaissance.

Some people say the whole moon landing was a waste as we got nothing from it. Far from it, I say. It likely helped in the rapid leaps we made in technology over the years. But more than that, it made people feel that almost anything is possible, and shows that human beings can accomplish just about anything to which they put their minds.

When I look at all the leaps mankind has made in these last 40 years, it may not have been possible without Neil Armstrong’s one small step. And while I watched coverage of the even on various shows over the weekend, and also today on Wechoosethemoon.org I can still feel the excitement as if it was 40 years ago. It still makes me feel young.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

The Media Canonization of Michael Jackson – For Their Own Benefit

Enough of the Michael Jackson coverage. Enough.

The media, who was quick to vilify Michael Jackson during his trial for child (sexual) abuse years ago, has now gone in the other direction, giving constant coverage to his recent death, portraying him as a near saint.

There is an unwritten rule that one should not speak ill of the dead. The media, in this case, has gone almost overboard to follow this rule, covering Michael’s musical accomplishments and life as if he were a god, and wiping away any of the other “strangeness” that permeated his life. For me, I rarely follow silly rules.

Michael Jackson was a talented entertainer. Yet to me it seemed clear he was troubled. His bizarre Neverland ranch with its carnival rides and super-secure bedroom with a tiny secret room in his closet, his constant cosmetic surgery, his now apparent drug abuse – all seem to be signs that this was a man who needed mental help. He appeared to have been surrounded by sycophants and “yes men” who had no power or desire to get help for this seemingly troubled man. I suppose as long as Michael Jackson was making money for them, no one wanted to rock the boat.

The media never hesitated in the past to cover the strange life of Jackson. But now, because it can bring them more viewers, the media is ignoring the past and going overboard in praise to Jackson in his death, in effect fueling the desire for people to attend his memorial. So many people want to attend the memorial at the Staples center; over a million had registered for tickets, yet fewer than 9,000 people could be selected. The city of LA is concerned that many people will still descend on the area in order to be a part of the memorial and that chaos may ensue. If course, the big television media outlets are sending some of their top people to cover “THE EVENT” because, after all, they want it to be a big deal. It would mean more viewers. It will also give the media another chance to canonize Jackson into entertainment sainthood.

I will admit that, at one time, Michael Jackson was a pivotal entertainer who was hugely popular. But in all honesty I can’t think of one piece of music that he has done in many years that is memorable. In fact, the music industry seemingly has passed him by long ago. Maybe, like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson had his core group of die-hard followers who, through thick and thin, thought he was still a superstar. And these are the people to which the media will cater for now. Likewise, I suspect that Michael’s family could very well be working behind the scenes right now to find a way to milk the fans’ love for Michael for years to come, with the media speculating that Neverland will be a destination for fans just as Graceland is for the fans of Elvis. Even in death, people can find a way to make a buck.

But give the media time. After the “king of pop" is buried, the media will turn their attention to the seedy side of Michael Jackson’s life and begin to expose it and tear it apart. After all, a person can’t be canonized as a saint until the devil’s advocate has his/her turn. Based on what has already been exposed and/or speculated about Michael in the past, the media will have many months of even more coverage. It’s sad really, with all the things going on in the world that this death seems to occupy so much of the media’s time. What they may not realize is that while people are talking about Jackson's death, many people I encounter comment that they are tired of the story already and they want the media to move on. And they will, after they have played their devil’s advocate role and squeezed out every last drop of the story. For me, while I extend my sympathies to Michael’s family on his death, I won’t be spending any time mourning him or glorifying him – or watching any of his memorial coverage on TV. There are more important things – and people – in my life that are more deserving of the attention.

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