Archive for the ‘Argumentative’ category

Turkish Court Bans Headscarf In Universities — Again

June 6, 2008

This really pissed me off.   I’m going to Turkey for a few months on vacation; it has always been my dream vacation.  I think about it as a crossroads of modern human history, where so many civilizations have made their mark on the world, a mark whose beauty is reflected today in the diversity of the Turkish culture.

That’s why I was so pissed off by the news report today that the Turkish High Court overturned a legal change issued by Prime Minister Erdogan that would allow women to where the headscarf at Turkish universities on the grounds that the change violated laws protecting Turkish secularism.

Read that sentence again.  The purpose of the overturned legal change wasn’t to require women to wear the headscarf; it was to allow women who choose to wear it to attend a Turkish university. 

I know the history of Turkey is complex and that there is a strong general desire to protect secular laws from religious extremism, but this isn’t a question of zealotry or “Islamism” or security.  It is a question of liberty, justice, and equality.  Secularism can be maintained while preserving individual liberties.  These kind of laws cannot be made to assuage irrational fears; think about where the U.S. would be if lawmakers and courts never took a stand against irrational and often ignorant public opinion. The decision of the high court is appalling because Turkey is trying so hard to kiss EU ass and prove that it is progressive, yet refuses to pass laws securing individual liberties for it’s own citizens (the other well known grievance is the strict code of expressive censorship Turkey enforces). The courts are also considering banning Erdogan and his widely popular AKP party from politics altogether…they have banned entire parties in the past and are expected to do it again here.  

Obviously there are many other countries in the same boat, but I guess I just expect more from Turkey.  I am also especially sensitive to human rights violations that are validated by the courts…I place a lot of faith in court systems as the guardians against corruption, and I feel indignant when they instead become the purveyors of it (I wrote about a similar story a few months ago regarding a US supreme court decision).

Here’s hoping that Turkey can be a place where all people are afforded equal rights, and that any protests that result from this decision are widespread, yet peaceful.

Mexican Donkey Jailed 3 Days… For Acting Like an Ass

May 22, 2008

Ay Dios Mio.

If you’re gonna punish an animal like a human, shouldn’t the animal be given human rights?  I highly doubt the Donkey was Mirandized, or even given a phone call.  And good luck providing him with a jury of his peers…I’d love to voir dire that one.

Not only that, but I have evidence proving that the Donkey was drugged and incapacitated against his will prior to the alleged assault, and therefore cannot be held responsible for his actions:

PETA would have a field day with this. 

McCain’s Pastor is Way Crazier than Obama’s

May 14, 2008

They’re all over a web, but here’s a video of McCain’s Pastor, Rod Parsley, on a rant about his view of America’s sacred mission. 

WTF is up with all these crazy pastors?  Obama’s pastor flipped on him and this dude Parsley is straight-up deranged.  There are some key differences, however, between the two Reverends and the candidates they are linked to. 

Obama’s pastor didn’t have a rep for being crazy until he turned on him, and when he started making all these crazy comments, Obama went out and publicly renounced him.  McCain never renounced Parsley despite making comments that were far more hostile and egregiously inflammatory.  On the contrary, He has actually welcomed the support.  Moreover, seeing as this is not a case where there is some kind of feud or rift between the two (as with Obama/Wright), I cannot imagine that Parsley just came up with this crazy shit recently… I’d wager that he’s been “preaching” (more like spewing) this crap from day 1.  I don’t know about you, but the thought of a guy who has a decent shot at becoming the president of the United States sitting down in church (as I would imagine he has, as he brings up religion and spirituality quite often) listening to Parsley say the kinda stuff he said in this video, nodding and hallelujah-ing and going through the motions and coming back the next week, it just makes me a little queasy.  And by a little I mean a lot. Don’t you think that if Rev. Wright never publicly insulted Obama, or even if he actually still supported him, but made the same kind of comments  as Parsley makes regularly, Barack Obama would renounce any ties with him immediately? 

I think he would. 

Who knows, maybe these pastors are just gloryhogs who want their day in the limelight.  But these dudes don’t preach in front of empty seats, so maybe we should look a little closer to find the root of the problem.  It’s a cryin shame that these politicians would probably catch more flack for not having a pastor than they would for having one who is a malicious psycho.

How sad is that?

My Jury Duty Adventure

May 14, 2008

They got me.  After years of evasion, including several name and address changes, fake social security numbers, and 4 years of college just so that I could qualify for the student exemption, they found me. I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  No one can escape from…Jury Duty! (queue evil foreboding organ music]

I spent a few hours trying to think of ways to get declared exempt, which has become increasingly difficult in the NYC court system.  With my job and education, I couldn’t get the language exemption, and I’m not over 75 or whatever that age rule applies [there is no age limit for jury duty, but those over a certain age have the choice of declining].  I tried making a helmet out of foil and wearing my shoes and shirt the wrong way and taping a plastic parrot onto my shoulder, but in NYC, I realized that I would pass more for a hipster from the East Village than for my intended mentally-disabled exempt-ee.  Deflated, I just sucked it up and went to Queens County Criminal Court to start what would be a long day, finding some solace in my paid reprieve from work.

The first day was long and boring…200 people spending all day in a room waiting to be assigned to a case.  Once that happens, the pool of jurors for a specific case get sent to a court room to be questioned by the judge and the attorneys (in a criminal case, the attorneys would be a defense lawyer and an assistant district attorney).  There were so many jurors that my turn to be questioned didn’t come until 4pm the NEXT DAY (I came early the next day and waited..and waited…).  Finally, selection was over.  I was the last juror picked.

[quick sidebar:  during the first day of jury selection i was sitting behind an annoying woman who kept trying to make converation with everyone, except that she was rude and loud and no one wanted to talk to her.  Everytime the lady in charge would excuse people who claimed that their english wasnt good enough for jury duty, this lady would slap her knees and bitch about how “these immigrants are disgusting! they come here and dont wanna learn the language.  They spit on our great country and we have to clean up after them! Bla bla bla bla bla, I’m a whore, a lousy  wretched whore!” At least that’s how I remember it.  I shot spitballs into her hair all morning.]

Jury selection was brutal.  But then the case began.  And contrary to what both lawyers said to us during opening statements, the next few days actually did play out a lot like an episode of Law & Order. (I’m pitching a new idea to NBC…seeing since Law & Order has so many versions on TV already, I have begun writing a script for the latest volume –  Law & Order: Pissed Off Jurors.  Starring myself of course.  Open auditions next week for the role of sassy Court Officer.)

The case sounded boring at first – the defendant was indicted on the charge of bail jumping, a class E felony.  During trial, however, it was revealed that the defendant violated her bail not just for missing one court date, but by trying to jump ship so as to never show up at all; the defendant was brought into custody 8 months after the bench warrant for her arrest was issued.  And while the exact nature of her original charges were not specified (due to the hard-fought wins of the defense during pre-trial motions to suppress that information for fear of prejudicing the jurors), it was revealed during witness testimony that there were no less than 8 counts brought against her, a number of them felonies. 

The drama reached a climax when the ADA was conducting her direct examination of the former attorney of the defendant.  That was a risky call because her own witness, as a former representative of the defendant, had motive to be hostile and withhold information on the grounds of attorney-client privilege.  And hostile she was, though she proved no match for the ADA in the battle to see who could get the most flustered.  The ADA got so hot n bothered by the countless sustained objections and the obviously fabricated ignorance of the witness that she looked as if she might, at any second, charge the box and ninja kick her in the face (I was hoping she would; I noticed that the court officer had a taser handy).  Instead, she resorted to yelling over the calls from the judge to cease her improper line of questioning, and after being reprimanded by the judge for her lack of self-control, she unleashed the soliloquy of all soliloquies, explaining to the judge that we were all here to find the truth but no one could handle it, and how this was supposed to be about justice but she’s not being allowed to ask the questions she needs to ask…basically blaming the court for everything short of ozone depletion just because she couldn’t figure out how to properly phrase her questions.  She even turned around and started yelling at the trial spectators, and asked the judge to throw them out because of their constant snickering (they were laughing at her).  I felt really embarrassed for her, but I couldn’t help but feel excited by all the drama. As a fellow juror put it, “They put hot sauce on it today, boy!”

This is just about how it happened, more or less…

Yes.  Jury duty was spicy.

I won’t dwell on the deliberation, but that part was exciting too and I took an active role in explaining to the other jurors the deductive approach we had to take in order to reach a fair verdict, as well as my personal opinions on the case.  In other words, I used a stern tone and menacing glare (framed by my dark evil arab eyebrows) to render them my mental slaves and subsequently instructed them to find this chick GUILTY.  It worked in swaying all but one of the holdouts who kept insisting that the judge had something against the defendant, forcing us to take another whole day to deliberate, locked up in that dreadful musty back room. I was pissed, but she would not relent, and we went back and forth.

She eventually had a change of heart.  (I had a taser, too.)

The verdict? Jury duty is cool!  I give it a rare “whatchu talkin ’bout Hasselhoff?”  thumbs up. 

John McCain: 5 Things You Need to Know

April 25, 2008

Prepare to be shocked.

I just received a startling news revelation that there is a person running for president not named Obama or Clinton!

YES, John McCain is not a myth.  He is real.  And with all the crazy infighting between the Dems going on — I’d be surprised if this thing gets settled in a way that does not involve mudwrestling or a contest to see who can tell the best yo-mama joke — this McCain character actually stands a chance in a general election.  Which means that we need some dirt on this dude to find out what he’s all about.

And what better source than the amazing Jon Stewart?  With his assistance I will begin my McCain bashing, as it is never too early to sully the reputation of a future adversary. Stewart’s McCain highlights on a recent episode of the Daily Show  include the following juicy tidbits, along with my own ruminations:

McCain does NOT wear an American Flag lapel pin! What gives? Nazi bastard.

McCain cares deeply about civil rights and plans on being a pillar of the black community.  This is evidenced by the fact that he recently went to Selma, Alabama, home of the landmark civil rights march, for a speaking engagement about civil rights….in front of a crowd composed almost exclusively of white middle class citizens.  He was also later seen standing next to a black woman singing in a church, with an awkward smile and an alarmingly sweaty brow.  This man obviously loves black people.  He also has firmly stated that slavery was probably a bad thing and that he has seen the entire Roots mini-series, twice.  Now that is impressive. 

Personally, I’m not buying it.  You wanna see how he really feels?  Let’s see what happens when his daughter Meghan comes home one day with a big black dude she met at a G-Unit concert.  My guess is that Papa McCain’s 71 year old heart skips more than a few beats.

71. Jesus. There is a minimum age for presidential candidates, so why cant there be a maximum? This dude was born in the 30’s.  I’m afraid he might randomly enforce a food ration in anticipation of the next Great Depression (which, judging by the current value of the dollar, we might already be in).

McCain has a Reverend even crazier than Obama’s!  That is quite an accomplishment.   Actually, Rev. John Hagee is not McCain’s Pastor but is a prominent one who’s support was sought after by the McCain Campaign.  Hagee has been quoted as calling American Muslims disloyal, and thinks Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment against New Orleans for being the Sin City of the south.  The difference here is that McCain totally stands by the endorsement from this jerk. How can he do this, but then also go on record as saying that Katrina was a terrible disaster that deserved much more attention and government assistance than it received? How can he be proud of this endorsement?

John McCain looks like and may actually be a leprechaun.  It’s true.

What if he’s not a nice leprechaun that helps you find gold and marshmellowy cereal but an evil leprechaun like from the movie Leprechaun with Jennifer Aniston!  This possibility can’t be ignored.

Lucky Charms my ass. You’re going down, McCain.

The Libelous Label of “Organized Religion”

April 16, 2008

Do you really believe in what you think you believe in?  Do you really believe in what you say you believe in? 

There were so many ways that I could begin this conversation, but I started with those two questions because of the Pope’s visit to the US and the articles Ive been reading recently about how people flock to see him and be blessed by him, and about how others have angrily protested the Vatican’s inaction regarding the implementation of stricter policies governing the handling of priests found guilty of sexual abuse. I was also thinking about someone I overheard in the pantry at my office, speaking to another person about how good his bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich was this morning, and laughing about how “bad” a Jew he was.

What does that even mean?  I wonder if he has ever thought about what it means to be a “bad Jew”, about what the word “bad” means in that context, or even about what the word “Jew” means, in any context.  These words could easily be replaced with “good” or “practicing” or “moderate” or “Muslim” or “Christian” or “Hindu”.

I’m a Catholic.  I heart Jesus.  If it wasn’t for him being born, I wouldn’t have gotten that PS3 for Christmas.  Crap, it’s Lent…I should give up something important to me…OK, no green skittles for a week.

I’m a Muslim, but I loves me a cold beer every now and then.  And that interest I’m collecting from those bonds I bought?  I’m gonna take that to Vegas and let it ride.

Obviously I could continue on that thread for a while.  I just find it strange, these labels we throw around all the time, terms that do little to define who we are and what we believe, even if the terms are meant to do just that – classify us into groups of “organized” “religion” that are supposed to unite those who claim to believe the same things.  But do these labels really serve to unite us?  Or do they just cram a bunch of people under a roof that is inherently fractious? And do not the walls supporting that roof divide us into separate rooms? And does not that roof obstruct our view of the heavens, where the history of our origins lie – the origins that unite us all?

Man, there are so many directions I can run with this, I don’t know where to start.

You may wonder why I quoted “organized” and “religion” separately.  I just think that these words that we use to classify ourselves are thrown around far too often without any thought being given to what they actually mean.  Good luck using a dictionary — I tried looking up “religion” online, and the results were incredibly diverse, and in many cases, stunning.  Does religion have to be a collection of stories and verses that are carved in stone, and whose message we are obligated to embrace as a means of avoiding divine wrath?  Why do so many people equate adherence to a specific set of doctrines with virtue? Why are we so eager to exalt our own beliefs as a singular, one-way path to salvation?

I believe that religion is a highly personal relationship between an individual and some other being, or force, or any other greater power or feeling that that individual chooses to acknowledge.  I believe that an individual’s religion is the totality of his or her philosophies and feelings towards that being and the connection they have with it.  In turn, I believe that this relationship is so unique that no two people in the world believe in and act out those beliefs in exactly the same way, and therefore, no two people have the same religion.  For example, suppose there are two brothers who both call themselves Muslim and believe in the Qur’an as the source of divine knowledge.  One brother believes that every word of the Qur’an, without exception, is divine, and he chooses to practice it as strictly and literally as he possibly can.  The other brother uses the Qur’an as a guide to model his life after, but disagrees with a few aspects of it, or refuses to adhere to one or two codes of conduct (e.g. canon dictating how inheritance should be distributed amongst family members).  By choosing to ignore or expressing doubt in even a single verse of a book that is supposed to be the preserved and complete word of God, he is actually expressing doubt in one of the most fundamental principles of Islam – that the Qur’an as a text is divine.  That cannot be understated; something cannot be almost divine or partially divine, and by choosing to believe in 99% of a text claiming to be 100% divine, the second brother is implicitly rejecting that text’s central claim to divinity.  And while it may seem that the doubt that the second brother harbors regarding one or two specific passages out of an entire text amounts to only a small fracture in his devotion to that text – in this case, a devotion on which piety is utterly dependant – a small fracture in a divine text is one through which the entire universe can pass.  I believe that it would be wrong to say that the two brothers have the same religion, and that, one way or another, this example can be applied to us all.

Accordingly, if we all have a different religion, how can our religions be “organized”?  I don’t think they can be, nor do I think we should strive to make them so.  We do not all have to believe the same thing in order to be unified; on the contrary, I believe that such a philosophy inhibits unity by creating an us/them mentality.  I have met so many people in my life who say that they were born into a religion, as if it was a genetic attribute, and people who claim to be a member of a religious organization yet openly admit to disagreeing with many aspects of that religion.  If you do not believe in it, then it is not your religion.  I think that if religion is merely something you affiliate yourself with rather than something you truly believe in, then you cannot honestly and conscientiously call yourself a practitioner of that religion. You can only be a practitioner of your own religion, because consciously or not, your practices – the very way that you live your life – are a reflection of what you believe, and what you believe is in fact your religion.  Unity is not achieved through conformity, but rather by accepting and embracing each other’s individuality; ironically, our differences are the one thing that we all have in common.

Bracketology Bullsh*t and the REAL March Madness

March 19, 2008

nba-madness.jpg

Freak College BBall and filling out brackets you stole from your favorite sportswriter (with a few tweaks of your own based on teams whose jersey colors you like the most).  College sports aren’t intimate enough.  Weird schools Ive never heard of with names like Texas Christian Southern Baptist Marxist or Western South Dakota or George Winthrop Davidson Billy Bob Bubba Mason or Sacred Heart of our Father and Mother and Baby Mama and cousin RayRay or American Eagles  (I think their mascot’s name is Abercrombie) are far too meddlesome and keep me from caring about sports at that level.  College sports were created so that students at schools with campuses way out in the boondocks can have something to channel their energy into other than weed, cocaine, fornication, drunk driving, frat hazing, cow tipping, and quad streaking – basically, to prevent Old School from being the school’s official recruitment video.  Follow it if you have nothing better to do, but know this: it does not compare to the NBA playoff chase. 

The Western conference playoff chase is one of the closest ever, where only a handful of games separate the top seed from the bottom seed, where every game has huge playoff implications – we’re not talking about positioning here, we’re talking about a team finishing more than 10 games above .500 and not even in the damn thing.  That’s not even mentioning the fact that so many of the huge powerhouse matchups this month have featured top teams that were part of recent blockbuster trades, either by sending out key pieces for aging superstars and praying to God that they won’t end up in the geriatric ward before the end of the season (Mavs, Suns), or by extorting a rival GM with a naked picture of his wife in the backseat of Stephon Marbury’s jeep in order to get him to send over his team’s best player in exchange for garbage (Lakers – that is the only viable explanation for the Pau Gasol trade).  That adds a huge dimension of drama to these already meaningful games, as all of these trades were made for one reason – to turn already good teams into title contenders.  Out east you have Boston (which did its superstar shopping in the offseason) and Detroit making legitimate claims to be the best team in the league, Philly refusing to rebuild and making noise with a cast of spare parts (but winning against some quality teams on the way), Orlando widening the gap up top on the watermelon-lookin shoulders of Dwight the beast Howard, and of course BronBron putting up intergalactic numbers to keep his team in the pack.  Throw in the Houston Rockets and their amazing and recently ended (more like murdered) 22-game win streak (second all-time in league history); AI going back to the franchise he [re]BUILT in Philly to battle the feisty Sixers and the other AI; Glen Taylor, owner of the worst team of the league, calling out KG now that he left to play for the best team in the league; and the Kobe/LeBron/Chris Paul/T-Mac/Jamal Crawford MVP race (Crawford plays 53 minutes a game for the Knicks, and there are only 48 minutes in the game. that’s value.), and NCAA sports just can’t match this type of drama…this type of MADNESS.