Saturday, January 21, 2012

Media & Journalism Are Not Synonymous...

Media bashing is a strong predilection of many.  I often argue against such bashing because I see an inclination to bash anything and everything simply because a differing position is proffered.   But I have found that arguing against the general bashing of the media is difficult given the level of journalism so often demonstrated.  Therein lies the rub, I find myself defending the indefensible because "The Media" is too often not journalism.

Last night on the Republican Presidential Primary Debate, CNN's John King asked Mr. Gingrich, "...would you like to take some time to respond..[?] to allegations from his ex-wife Marianne Gingrich that he wanted an "open" marriage.  "Would you like to take some time to respond," REALLY?!?  CNN, the media outlet which probably had more to do with the taking down of the Iron Curtain than any other force in the West, THIS is a question for a Presidential Primary Debate?

I have no interest in knowing anything about Mr. Gingrich's actions in his marriages.  His fidelity, or lack thereof, is not what I would consider an issue.  However, his blatant hypocrisy on the issue, trumpeting "family values" while having extra-marital affairs, that has some merit as a political issue.  John King's question to Mr. Gingrich however, was an entertainment media question, not worthy of any journalistic comparison.

"Was it hypocritical of you to lead the impeachment of President Clinton while you were having an affair?"  That's a journalistic question.

Or, "You have admitted to numerous adulterous affairs including one to the woman you are now married.  Your ex-wife has pointed out that while you were cheating on her, you were giving political speeches accusing Democrats of undermining the institution of marriage.  How do you explain that hypocrisy, sir?"

Or, "In this campaign you have said you would fight for a federal ban on same sex couples being allowed to get married.  How can you justify passing judgment on other people's marriage, when you're own marriages are the kind of ethical mess described by your second wife on ABC News today?"

When politicians (or want-to-be politicians) stand up for a particular principle and then in their personal life they act counter to that principle, that matters to me.  That is a demonstration of a type of ethics which I am not inclined to desire in my elected officials.  When politicians do not attempt to stand in judgment of my personal life, then I have no desire to know about or judge theirs.  For then they are demonstrating adherence to that Libertarian ideal which I greatly admire, 'stay out of my personal life and I'll stay out of yours'.  Which is to say, "Don't Tread On Me."

To discern whom we feel is most deserving of our vote, We The People require journalism.  Prurient interest in an individual's sex life to feed a media entertainment industry?  Bash away.

Christopher Dinnes
USNS Pililaau, T-AKR 304
Newport News, VA

Disclosure: I lifted the hypothetical debate questions from Rachel Maddow, as heard on her Rachel Maddow Show, Friday, 20 January, 2012.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Votor Fraud and Naked Emperors

Ernest Hemingway's statement that good writing requires the writer to have a 'built-in automatic crap detector', is a fundamental principle which can be applied with equal accuracy to any action or endeavor, especially political discourse.  While there have been any number of things from varying factions on the Left which didn't pass my smell test, my attention today is on broad based, party platform ideas, behind which an entire Party, either Party, unites.  The Republican Party will almost always get the heat from this because we all know that the Democrat Party won't unite behind a good idea, much less an idea which has no basis in reality.  Voter I.D. legislation that is so championed by the Republican party is a perfect example.  This is part of their platform.  Republicans at the State and Federal level are actively pushing for, or have succeeded in passing, legislation requiring Voter I.D's.

There is only one problem.  There is no problem.  There are no statistically significant examples of voter fraud to be found that would have been PREVENTED by the requirement of a photo I.D.  None.  Zero.  Here is a column by Michele Malkin where she slams the Left for silence on the subject of voter fraud.  She cites a number of alarming statistics to support her call to arms over voter fraud.  Here is an article which lists a number of other claims of voter fraud by the Right.  But when the statistics and legal records are examined, when one looks at the issue seeking actual, statistically significant evidence of ANY voter fraud that would have been prevented by the requirement of a photo I.D., one simply finds nothing.  Here are links one, and two, for examples of the kind of research upon which the results of my smell test were/are based.

The emperor has no clothes, folks.  There has been no voter fraud which would have been prevented by a requirement for photo I.D's.  With no fraud to prevent, is there any reason to legislate a voter I.D. requirement other than to keep those least likely to have a photo I.D., i.e. Democrats, from voting? 

With NO FRAUD TO PREVENT, I can not discern any other reason.

Christopher Dinnes
USNS Pililaau, T-AKR 304
Newport News, VA

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Miracles, Christians And An Individual's Faith

I recently came across a video clip of Rick Santorum where he, in speaking against gay marriage, used the analogy that a glass of water is a glass of water and calling it a glass of beer, does not make it a beer.  The point he was trying to make was that calling gay marriage, "marriage", does not make it marriage.  (The video clip can be seen here.)

Really?  A Christian using an argument that water can't be turned into an alcoholic beverage?

My intent here is not to beat up Mr. Santorum over a poorly chosen analogy, other than to make some humorous hay at his expense.  But his analogy does highlight a logical view of our society which I use to base my Life's choices.  For you see, I don't pretend to be a Christian.  But my wife is and I'm a member of our parish.  I attend Mass with her.  I have supported the religious community of which I am a member with the fruits of my labor and the actual sweat of my brow.  Some time back, my wife and I were talking about Communion and I expressed how amazed I was at the number of Catholics who don't believe that Communion IS the Body and Blood of Christ.  (Numbers described here.  A more recent survey here.)  Even I as a non-Catholic/non-Christian have no problem wrapping my head around that "miracle".  My wife then asked me, why then do I not take Communion?  To which I replied, "Out of respect for your faith."  Her faith says that one can not take Communion unless one believes, is, and does certain things.  Which I don't and am not.  But that has nothing to do with my belief in the reality of that which I am witnessing, and to no small measure, supporting.

Just because someones belief is different from my own, does not necessarily make their belief any less real.  By the same token, nor does it make my belief any less real.  The rules by which the Catholics run their faith are their rules.  THIER rules, which work for THEM.  (Although I do believe that many Catholics need to work on this whole Body and Blood of Christ thing.  It is a bedrock principle of the faith.)

My faith is not diminished by the actions of others.  Yet I am on a path, not in a static point in time.  The actions of others do influence the steps I take and therefore the personal growth which I experience.  By the same token, my marriage is not diminished by the actions of others.  Anyone who contends that the actions of others negatively affects their marriage, I feel is contending the illogical and ignoring the value of great faith and love that exists elsewhere, but all around us.

I leave this with a final point that is NOT humorous hay.  Does anyone truly believe that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) would have somehow made Newt Gingrich adhere to that "in sickness and in health" clause of his contract with his wife as she lay battling cancer in the hospital?  (In all fairness, I believe it must be stated that the oft repeated story that Newt served his wife with divorce papers while she was recovering from cancer surgery, is untrue.  Here is an informative article on the subject.)  I certainly don't believe that Mr. Gingrich's life choices would have been any different had DOMA been the law of the land at the time.  But I do believe that if we, society, really want to pass a law that will "strengthen the institution of marriage", then there is only one law we can pass that will do so.

Criminalize adultery.  I believe that if Mr. Gingrich had spent a few months behind bars cooling his hormones, he might have been a bit more inclined to honor his vows.  But that's just me, believing that my marriage is not negatively affected by the actions of others and the only way that some people can be made to honor their contracts is with the threat of punishment.

Christopher Dinnes
USNS Pililaau, T-AKR 304
Newport News, VA

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wikileaks Equals Terrorism Like McCarthyism Equals Justice

Let's keep in mind that nothing Wikileaks has published from this trove of cables they obtained, was not first published by mainstream media outlets.  NOTHING!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a brief comment on my Facebook page regarding a 'shared' Glenn Greenwald column about the hue and cry over Wikileaks.  A few days later, a friend of mine sent me an email containing an article by Gonzalo Lira also on the subject of Wikileaks.  (I just now read the article, which does more to illustrate how my life has been and why I don't write more often, than anything I could say.)  Here is a link to the original post by Mr. Lira.  I'm glad I found the time to read it.  The following quote is his:

"McCarthyism is the arbitrary labeling of an individual as belonging to a widely and justly abhorred group, a labeling carried out by a powerful official but without any evidence and without due process, resulting in the systematic intimidation, isolation, and even ruin of that individual."

While I also disagree with Julian Assange and Wikileaks' basic premise, in that I firmly believe there are secrets which need to remain so, the concerted persecution/prosecution of Assange and Wikileaks terrifies me.  The conservative political/social bloc in our country has ceded to our government almost carte blanche ability to do whatever it wishes to a person or group, without check, balance, nor oversight, once the government labels said person or group as a terrorist.  That this willingness to cede power can come from a political/social bloc which so loudly beats the drums of being anti-big-powerful government, I find... astounding.

The Patriot Act: The gift from the Anti-Big Government folks that can allow McCarthyism to reign unchecked.  To be fair, there are plenty of Pro-Big Government folks (yes, you may interpret that as Democrats) who also support(ed) The Patriot Act.  It is the hypocrisy of being ANTI-Big Government but being FOR ceding unchecked power to the government which I find so astounding.

My life, my job, and my ability to keep my family safe are dependent upon secrets being kept.  There is plenty that I REALLY don't want to know.  But I want SOMEONE to know other than the wielder of power.  Someone to say, 'whoa there big fella', step on back, you're out of line, we need to follow a little due process here.'

You know, Checks and Balances.  That pesky little principle upon which our Founding Fathers based our Constitution.  For all those folks who beat the drum of being for 'Original Intent' regarding the Founding Fathers, their ability to overlook this I find even more astounding.  But I suppose they should be forgiven.  For if Rupert Murdoch hasn't told them to think about it, it just doesn't make their radar.

Christopher Dinnes
USNS Pililaau, T-AKR 304
Corpus Christi, TX

Update 29 DEC 2010: Here is a link to Ron Paul interview on the National Review where he minces no words defending Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Update 31 JAN 2012: Here is a link to an article by one of the lawyers representing Julian Assange and Wikileaks, which provides an excellent perspective.  We pardon those who committed torture, but we prosecute those who told the world we were doing so.  Really?  This is for what America stands?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Defense of Marriage Act: Defending Marriage from....

The Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA): Defending marriage from... what? The same political forces that gave us the Defense Of Marriage Act also attempted to amend the U.S. Constitution to "defend traditional marriage". During Senate hearings on the proposed Constitutional amendment, Senator Cornyn (the senior Senator from Texas and one of the leaders of the charge towards a DOMA constitutional amendment) called the anti-DOMA position "my marriage doesn't affect your marriage" a myth (scroll down the link to section titled Honesty). Interestingly, Senator Cornyn calls this a "myth" because, "...A casual attitude toward divorce and cohabitation has had serious consequences for the institution of marriage in the last 20 years. Redefining marriage in a way that reduces it to a financial and legal arrangement of adult relationships will only accelerate the deterioration of family life". (Senator Cornyn is quoting the Archbishop of Boston, Sean O'Malley.) Senator Cornyn hinges his unwavering support of DOMA on the principle that society needs stable families to raise children and without DOMA, stable families will exist in ever decreasing numbers.

Ernest Hemingway coined the phrase, "built-in automatic crap detector." Mine goes off with bells and whistles screaming as I read the reasons for support of DOMA and a DOMA Constitutional Amendment. I can not fathom on an emotional nor intellectual level how my marriage, between Alma (female) and myself (male), can be affected by anyone else's marriage. I suppose I could LET someone else's marriage affect mine. But then the responsibility would still be mine for letting the affect take place. Moreover, I would think that for an affect to take place, a predilection for the type of affect would have to be present in the first place. For instance, if I were repressing issues with my sexual orientation, then perhaps someone like Senator Larry Craig (Republican, married to a woman, three children) having sex in airport bathrooms with other men might have an adverse affect on my marriage. Or if I were simply cavalier about my marriage vows, perhaps someone like Governor Mark Sanford (Republican, married to a woman, four children) having an affair with a woman in Argentina might have an adverse affect on my marriage. However, neither of these two hypocrites, nor any of the other hypocrites of the same ilk on both sides of the political aisle, have the slightest affect on my marriage. (I use Republican examples, as that is the party beating the DOMA drum as part and parcel with their political platform.) If Alma and I were the last or only married couple on earth, I can't imagine our relationship being any different. I'm pretty sure our marriage vows did not contain the caveat, "...so long as there are other married couples around for you to emulate." A good thing our vows didn't contain that caveat since the divorce rate in this country has been hovering around 50% my whole life. Emulating other people in their marriages could have quite the adverse affect on our or any marriage...

I can find no statistical evidence that is contrary to the statement that children do well in stable families regardless of the sexual orientation of their parents. The key word? Stable. (There is a well-rounded, general article here from the Toronto Star on the subject and another from Salon.com here.) There is paranoid ranting regarding the dangers of same-sex couples raising children, of which an example can be found here, but I can find no legitimate statistical evidence supporting that paranoia.

If DOMA supporting politicians are really interested in protecting and supporting stable marriages, why are they so fixated on the sexual orientation of other people? While I could postulate that they are repressing some degree of fear regarding their own feelings, (in the extreme of this, we have the 'Senator Larry Craig' link above), I'll save following that path for another blog post. The bottom line is that the divorce rate in this country has been hovering around 50% since the 1950's, long before Bob and Bill, and Lisa and Mary began to push for legal recognition of their relationships. If DOMA supporting politicians are REALLY interested in protecting and supporting stable marriages, I can think of a law, which if passed, would actually decrease the divorce rate in this country.

Criminalize adultery.

Of course, we would probably have to lock up most of Congress. Which explains the loud and protracted blaming of "evil, gay lifestyles" destroying family values. But to actually support a law which would reduce the actions of those people in marriage which do the most to destroy the family values and stable marriages which we need to raise stable children? To actually say that society has a vested interest in the stability of marriage and therefore if you unzip your pants or raise your skirt, society is going to punish you? Oh no, we can't have that... We'll just blame the gays.

Hypocrisy is the only sin.

Christopher Dinnes
USNS Yano, T-AKR 297
Violet, LA

P.S. For any of my poly-amorous friends and readers, don't get your dander up. I define "marriage" as a blood binding contract between spouses, given before children, family, friends, society and/or whatever one perceives God to be. The terms of any other marriage contract other than my own, are not for me to judge. I feel that I have barely enough time to dedicate to what my marriage deserves, much less to be concerned about anyone else's. Which is kind of my point. If everyone focused on their own marriages and kept their respective sexual organs where they were supposed to be, the preponderance of divorces in this country would be limited to abusive situations and the need of a DOMA would rendered moot.



Update 17 JAN 2012: I came across what I think is a great article about the suitability of gay parent.  It can be found here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sarah Palin and Flying Donkeys

I have a good many friends who are deeply religious, decidedly Republican, and totally enamored of Sarah Palin.

On the first score, I can respect anyone's religious beliefs (or none). While I might think they are crazy for believing as they do, I am comforted and humbled in the knowledge that they feel the same about me.

On the second score, that's just politics. For myself, I always strive to communicate with everyone in a manner that highlights our unity and downplays our differences. This comes from my deepest held belief that there is always far more unifying us, than dividing us.

But on the third score, I am truly mystified. This is a woman who was campaigning to be the person one heartbeat away from the button that ends all Life as we know it.

Ms. Palin gave a speech on November 6th, to thousands of pro-life supporters in West Allis, Wisconson. In that speech she cited an urban legend as a "disturbing trend," claiming the Treasury Department had moved the phrase "In God We Trust" to the edge of the new presidential dollar coins.

Excuse me? This would be a SUGGESTED alteration that NEVER happened. (There was a different alteration that ultimately did happen which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican President.) Ms. Palin uses this "controversy," however false, to conveniently illustrate how a tyrannical, God-destroying, secular big government (controlled by liberal Democrats one would suppose) is against humble God-fearing folk like herself and those to whom she was speaking. (This urban legend Ms. Palin cited most likely originated with a 2006 story on the website WorldNetDaily.)

If one chooses to believe that our government is a tyrannical, God-destroying, secular beast, so be it. One has that right. I've carried myself into more war zones in defense of that right than I care to remember. But if one is going to make political hay making that point, at least take the trouble to find and present defensible facts in support of the point.

I don't let my best friends get away with repeating such patently untrue urban legends. For someone who campaigned to be Vice-President of the United States to lend her considerable political weight to validate a patently false urban legend? As my wife would so eloquently say, "When donkey's fly."

Christopher Dinnes
USNS Yano, T-AKR 297
Violet, LA

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When A News Outlet Is Not

Recently there has been much brouhaha regarding the Obama Administration not regarding Fox News as a news outlet. In much of the discussion from both/all sides of the issue, there seems to be an 800 lb. gorilla in the room about which few are talking. There is nothing wrong with news outlet reporters, personalities, correspondents and anchors expressing their opinions about the news they are reporting. There is nothing wrong with a news outlet hiring all their personnel, organizing and editing all their shows around a particular political and social view. There is even nothing wrong, at least legally, with naming such a concerted, narrow view as "Fair and Balanced". Opinions and news reporting are concepts that are almost impossible to separate. All of us of a certain age remember the day Walter Cronkite expressed an opinion against the Vietnam war. That day was undoubtedly the death knell of American support for the war effort. Some might argue that Walter Cronkite was out of line in his opinion but few would question his ability to report the news as a result of having expressed his opinion.

That which makes Fox News an opposition political outlet to the Democrat Party and the Obama Whitehouse rather than a news channel has nothing to do with any editorial bias on their part, real or imagined. What makes Fox News an opposition political outlet rather than a news channel is that they are expending their money and resources actively organizing anti-government street protests. Example one. Example two. Example three.

THAT, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the difference.

Christopher Dinnes
USNS Yano, T-AKR 297
Violet, LA

P.S. For anyone interested, here is a very well spoken video commentary (i.e., reporting & OPINION) by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about this 800 lb. gorilla. Regardless of whether one is a Fox News junkie or not, Ms. Maddow should not be dismissed merely because she is liberal, or gay, or works for MSNBC. She is a Rhodes Scholar. She has a degree in public policy from Stamford and her Ph.D. in political science from Lincoln College at Oxford. Regardless of what one feels about her political bent, Ms. Maddow has the intelligence and talent to make a rational and lucid argument to support her views of the news as she sees them. She deserves respect and an honest listen for those reasons alone.