The 9/11 Cross Issue

Well, as you may have heard, an atheist group is filing a lawsuit to stop the display of a cross at the 9/11 Memorial. The cross itself was a piece of the World Trade Center that happened to form a cross shape and land in a cross-like position. It’s utter coincidence and I’m sure there were many of these, but, well, you know Christians.

Here’s my thoughts on this, and they’re pretty simple: If it’s on private property, the atheist group needs to knock it off. You can display whatever you want on private property. If, on the other hand, it’s on public property, that’s a different matter. Under previous court rulings, you can indeed display religious icons and such on public property, but if you do, you have to allow all religions.

Now I actually think that would be an ok compromise for a memorial. You can have a Christian cross, a Jewish star, a Muslim crescent, a Hindu wheel, a…oh, wait. A Muslim crescent?

Yes, let’s imagine the hue and cry that would errupt from that. You think it was bad during “Ground Zero” “Mosque” “Debate”? Just imagine if you had a Muslim symbol at the 9/11 memorial! Never mind that a lot of Muslims worked in the towers and died along with everyone else. I think Fox News would collectively explode.

So bottom line: if this is on private land, the lawsuit needs to stop. If it’s on public land, the cross needs to go away or you have to allow all religions, including Muslims, to display their religious imagery. I’m comfortable either way.


No Soda For You!

New York City is putting forth an effort to stop people from buying soda with food stamps. The idea here is that only uneducated, unhealthy, poor people would want to drink soda, and that drive is so strong that the government must stop them from doing so if they are using food stamps.

This is a bullshit argument. I’ll be the first to agree that drinking soda constantly is not healthy and not something you should do. But I don’t think the government should tell people what food and drinks they can and can’t buy with food stamps (beyond alcohol, which is already prohibited). I’ve been on food stamps in the past. I bought soda when I had them, but it wasn’t a huge part of my expenditure. I spent far more money on pre-prepared frozen dinners and the like.

Even now when I buy my own food and drinks, I seldom buy all that much soda, except…

Well, except that I like my caffeine. Every day on my way into work I get a Diet Coke refill of my giant 54oz mug. I almost never actually drink more than half of it, but it’s good to have and helps keep me going. I don’t like coffee and I don’t like tea, but I do sometimes want the jolt of caffeine, and soda is the way I get it.

Now I note with great interest that no one seems to be suggesting we ban coffee or tea from being bought with food stamps. But those don’t carry the same stigma as buying soda with food stamps, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t. They aren’t necessary beverages, after all, and I think most people who drink coffee do it for the buzz.

As far as I’m concerned, if we’re going to ban things because they aren’t as healthy as they might be, let’s ban soda, coffee, any cereals where sugar is the first or second ingredient, any snacks, including chips and cookies, sugar itself and basically anything other than fruits, meats and vegetables. Well, except that there’s people who think meat is bad and unhealthy, so let’s ban that, too.

Ultimately food stamps are a very good thing and while I think there’s legitimacy to banning people from buying alcohol with it, anything else that’s food or drink should be left alone. People, even the poor, will generally make decent food choices if they know what those choices are, have access to them and know how to make them. Perhaps a better idea would be to mandate a course on smart-shopping and basic cooking before getting food stamps. That’d be a hell of a lot more productive.

Religious Freedom for All (Except Muslims)!

You all know that I’m an atheist. I think religion is fundamentally bad, and then even the so-called “good” religions promote an environment of sloppy thinking and lies. I will be a happy person the day that less than 1% of the world’s population claims belief in any religion or spirituality. I have zero desire to see it continue to be a part of the human experience in any way other than the historical and mythological.

That said, I’m also an American, and I strongly believe in our Constitution. I believe that people should have the right to worship whatever god/s they want to, without fear or favor from the government. I truly, deeply believe that all religions are equal (in that I think they’re all equally wrong), and must be treated the same under our laws.

This apparently puts me in the minority and makes me a member of the radical left, as does my belief that torture is always wrong and anyone born in this country should be a citizen.

As you may have guessed, the genesis of this article is the Cordoba House project in New York City. This project would create a Muslim community center, a concept not dissimilar to the YMCA. It would be located two-and-a-half blocks from the site where the World Trade Center used to be, in a neighborhood that already has a mosque, and would contain an art gallery, swimming pool, restaurant and, yes, a worship center. It would replace a building that most recently was a Burlington Coat Factory store. It’s what many people like to call “The Ground Zero mosque”, because that has a nicely paranoid ring to it.

I think this project is a splendid idea! I think that giving Muslims a place where they can go and hang out is no bad thing, especially for the young ones. It’ll help continue to mainstream Muslim culture in America and might give non-Muslims a place where they can go to see a message that’s so very different from the kind of message that bin Laden and his like love to push. It also sends a very strong message abroad that our nation, as George W Bush once said, is not at war with Islam. It shows that we truly practice what we preach when it comes to our Constitution.

Sadly, as mentioned, this puts me in the minority. People like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich have come out in heavy opposition to this project, with Gingrich saying that as long as no churches and synagogues are allowed in Saudi Arabia, we shouldn’t allow this place to be built. I hope my readers understand the stupidity of that comment, but in case there’s any who don’t, allow me to point out that sinking to the level of Saudi Arabia is not, perhaps, what we should be doing.

I understand and appreciate the idea that some people find this location to be insensitive. I get that, I really do. But it doesn’t matter in the long run. You can petition the organizers of the project to move it, or offer to help them find a different place, or whatever. But ultimately it’s a matter of law, and the law says that there’s no reason this place cannot be built.

Yesterday when discussing this with a co-worker he asked the question of whether the KKK should be allowed to sponsor a highway cleanup operation near a major civil rights landmark. I said that, absolutely, under the law if they meet all qualifications they should be allowed to. It’s tacky, it’s horrible and it’s awful, but it’s a matter of law and freedom.

Under our law you don’t have the right to not be offended. You don’t have the right to not have your feelings hurt. This sometimes leads to things people don’t like, such as Nazis being allowed to have a little gathering in Skokie, Illinois, or Fred Phelps and his gang of idiots protesting at military funerals. The law is the law and you have the right to be an offensive jackass. Other people don’t have the right to not be offended.

There’s something to be made about the name of the project: Cordoba House. It refers to Cordoba, Spain, a city that was once capital of the Caliphite of Cordoba back when most of the Iberian peninsula was ruled by Spain. It was a great time of intellectual flowering for the world, especially since most of Europe was mired in the dark ages. It was also a time of great religious tolerance, where Jews and Christians were allowed to practice their faith. True, they had to pay extra taxes Muslims didn’t, but at least they were tolerated.

Mind you when Spain took over following the Reconquista in 1492, one of the first things they did was kill or kick out everyone who wasn’t Christian. Yes, this was during the thousand year period when Islam was the more tolerant faith.

I think it’s good that Cordoba House will evoke the name of this great city and the religious tolerance it represented and I think it’s very, very sad that we have so many of our government officials and politicians who are unwilling to back religious freedom in this country. Once you start saying that one religion should be treated differently from all others you start going down a very slippery slope that leads to some very dark places. I don’t want my country to go to those places. When it comes to choosing freedom and equality, I’ll take that every time, and if people’s feelings get hurt, that’s unfortunate, but the law and our freedom is more important.

A Mosque in New York

So in a ruling that came as no surprise to those of us who know something about the Constitution, NYC has ruled that a building intended to be turned into a Muslim community center will not be granted landmark status and as a result, the project can go forward. This is a good ruling and it’s one that upholds the freedom our country stands for.

Of course I say that, but I’m not someone like Sarah Palin or Newt Gingerich. I’m not someone who is running as a Tea Party Republican. I’m not the kind of person who claims this building is at Ground Zero (it’s not), or that blames all Muslims for the acts of a few insane ones. I’m instead a person who values religious freedoms and who understands that we can’t say “We’re not at war with Islam”, and then try to pull shit like this.

The bile spewed out over this issue has been particularly unpleasant. I’d like to say I expected better of our people, but I don’t, not really. We’re a nation of reactionaries who demand that our politicians be the most reactionary of all. They’ll follow any trend that’s even remotely likely to result in them getting votes.

But I have a compromise. If we are to not allow Muslims to build near Ground Zero then, by logic, we should prevent other religious groups from building near the grounds were their terrorist acts occurred. So let’s ban any Christian buildings within, say, a two block radius of Centennial Park in Atlanta, where a Christian terrorist planted a bomb. That’s just off the top of my head, of course. I’m sure there’s many other Christian terrorist sites around the country.

Of course that won’t happen because we all “know” Christianity is a religion of peace (despite what recent and long-term history tells us), and we all “know” that Islam is a religion of violence. Neither of these things are true, but that’s what the narrative is, and against narrative reality fights in vain.

Mass-Media Nonsense! – Flight 1549

Eventually you'll see Christian glurge talking about how people in this pic are walking on water and were saved by God. It's a wing, you fuckers!

Eventually you'll see Christian glurge talking about how people in this pic are walking on water and were saved by God. It's a wing, you fuckers!

This may be the shortest turn-around time ever for me on something involving the media acting like a pack of morons. Yes, I’m going to be talking today about Flight 1549, which ditched into the Hudson River the other day.

First off, let me state that the pilot of the aircraft deserves every bit of kudos and praise he’s getting, as does the rest of the flight crew. Water landings are, at best, dodgy and being able to pull off one where no one is even seriously injured is damn impressive!

So impressed am I by that that I find myself pissed when the media refers to it as “The Miracle on the Hudson” or variations thereof. There’s a couple problems I have with this and the first is, why do we need to brand every story? Why not just tell us about the damn thing without giving it a title?

Second, what miracle? It was incredibly good training and no small amount of luck. If you want to talk about miracles, look at the fact that not one, but both engines of the plane were apparently nailed by birds. The odds against that are pretty good, but no one calls that a miracle. As the recently knighted Terry Pratchett once put it, “Just because it’s not nice doesn’t mean it’s not a miracle.”

Third, of course, we have the wall-to-wall coverage of the story for a full twenty-four hours. Look, CNN and the rest, just tell us what happened, call in a couple aviation experts and then spend some time talking about other things. Unless there’s nothing else more important going on anywhere else in the world, you should not spend this much time covering a story like this. It’s soft news at its most annoying, especially given how many other more vital things are happening.

But I know better than to expect anything to change. I can dream, though. I can dream.