Archive for August, 2011

Why Minutiae Might Not Matter

Posted in current events, opinion, politics, pop culture with tags , , , , , on August 31, 2011 by Kyle Fleming

Everyone knows that words matter. All it takes is a simple turn of phrase or a well-placed capitalization to make a point. In reading Penn Jillette’s new book, God, No! and Other Signs You May Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (book review coming Friday), Penn makes his atheism apparent not only by stating it several times throughout the book (and constantly name-dropping Hitchens and Dawkins), but also by refusing to capitalize the words “god,” “lord,” and “savior” when referring to Christianity.

It’s undeniable fact that words can be used for good or evil. It’s also an undeniable fact that, for the most part, people are reading into an agenda or argument that really isn’t there.

I was referred to an article on the Huffington Post where Sean Hannity ridicules President Obama’s intelligence because he mispronounced a word three times in a recent speech, pronouncing “corpsman” as “corpseman.”

I’m a firm believer of “things happen.” Sometimes you know how words are said but not how they’re spelled. I’ll freely admit that I had never seen the word “indictment” until I reached college, and felt like an idiot when I asked the person next to me what an “in-dickt-ment” was. I had used the word several times in conversation, and have heard it whenever the news was on in the background, but I had never seen the word. Obama probably had a similar situation. I’m not saying he did, I’m not saying he didn’t, but at this point, anything is possible.

I found another instance of this sort of nitpicking while browsing through the Fox Nation Twitter feed. It brought me to a tweet with proof that Obama can’t write. The link leads to an article from the American Thinker, which accessed a letter from 1990 that Obama wrote for the Harvard Law Record. Jack Cashill, author of the article, says that the letter is “classic Obama: patronizing, dishonest, syntactically muddled, and grammatically challenged.”

Common sense would lead me to think that the article is poorly worded and rambling, with many spelling and grammatical errors, indicating that Obama wrote this letter in a drunken rage, and probably used the word “poopyheads” a few times in reference to critics of whatever he was writing about. But it’s much worse than that. To quote the article:

In the very first sentence Obama leads with his signature failing, one on full display in his earlier published work: his inability to make subject and predicate agree.

“Since the merits of the Law Review’s selection policy has been the subject of commentary for the last three issues,” wrote Obama, “I’d like to take the time to clarify exactly how our selection process works.”

If Obama were as smart as a fifth-grader, he would know, of course, that “merits … have.” Were there such a thing as a literary Darwin Award, Obama could have won it on this on one sentence alone.

Really? A common grammatical error? That’s proof that Obama can’t write? Funny story–I can use the same tactic against you in the very same article:

Although his description of the Law Review’s selection process defies easy comprehension, apparently, after the best candidates are chosen, there remains “a pool of qualified candidates whose grades or writing competition scores do not significantly differ.” These sound like the kids at Lake Woebegone, all above average. (Emphasis added)

Clearly, if Cashill had done ANY kind of research, he would know that Garrison Keillor’s fictional Minnesota town is spelled Lake Wobegon. Clearly, anything Cashill wrote in this article can’t be trusted and should wholly be ignored if he can’t even spell a well-known fictional town correctly.

The point is, sometimes the little things matter, but for the most part, they don’t. Gaffes happen, and they shouldn’t be constantly thrust in the spotlight, because all it does is clutter the airwaves for more important issues.

It’s like the old saying goes, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words can prove that you’re an incompetent loser.” Or something like that.

Advertisements

Politically Faithful

Posted in politics, religion with tags , , , on August 30, 2011 by Kyle Fleming

Last night, on the MSNBC show “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” stand-in host Michael Smerconish, along with contributors Richard Wolffe and John Heilemann, discussed the contents of Bill Keller’s New York Times article Asking Candidates Tougher Questions About Faith, which states that, despite the uproar stemming from asking Tea Party Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann how she defined being “submissive” to her husband (as dictated by the Bible), the American media, as well as the American people, should be asking tougher questions about a candidate’s religious beliefs. Keller’s point was that it doesn’t matter the religious beliefs of the candidates, but whether they, to quote the article:

[place] fealty to the Bible, the Book of Mormon… or some other authority higher than the Constitution and laws of this country. It matters to me whether a president respects serious science and verifiable history…. I do care if religious doctrine becomes an excuse to exclude my fellow citizens from the rights and protections our country promises.

This sentimate was echoed by Wolffe, who said, “Journalists have the right to ask any questions of these Presidential candidates or of anyone in public life. The question really should be more precicely focused [on] what their religion does to their positions on policy, on public affairs, on events in general…. Bachmann is making lots of pronouncements about her religion, how it affects her worldview. It’s perfectly acceptable to go after that….”

While I’ve only had an opportunity to vote in one Presidential election in my lifetime so far, I’ve never really understood why a candidate’s religious views mattered in the public debate. Maybe I’m one of those “weird people” who care more about what a candidate is going to do to benefit the American people rather than which church they’ll attend on Sunday morning. Maybe it’s strange to make sure that the person I vote for is someone who has common beliefs about the issues that are important to me, rather than how often they pray to the “right” God.

However, I also believe that the candidates should be held responsible for the statements they make. If someone is going to say that a cultural event or a natural disaster is a “sign from God,” I’d like to know why they believe that, and if at some point they backtrack and say that it was just a joke, I’d like to know what prompted them to say it in the first place.

A person’s religious beliefs shouldn’t be thrust into the limelight. I’m a fan of “live and let live” as far as religion goes. But if a candidate is going to flaunt their religious beliefs as a political tactic, then absolutely they should be questioned about it. If they’re confident enough to publicly state their beliefs, they should be confident enough to answer questions about it, no matter what the questions are.

Bill Keller went a step further, sending a list of questions to the GOP candidates about their religious views, even going so far as to send specific questions to the candidates. Some of my favorite questions on the questionnaire:

  • If you encounter a conflict between your faith and the Constitution and laws of the United States, how would you resolve it?
  • Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench? What about an atheist?
  • To Rick Santorum: You signed a pledge circulated by the Family Leader, an Iowa conservative group, promising “personal fidelity to my spouse.” Do you think cheating on a spouse disqualifies a candidate from being president?
  • To Mitt Romney: In your 2007 speech on religion, you said that “freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” Where does that leave unbelievers, in your view?
  • These are not “gotcha questions.” These are questions that are important to a great majority of Americans. They’re questions based on statements that the candidates have made, and they should be held accountable for them. They’re questions that need answers. And if they don’t answer them, as Bill Keller says in the end of his article, “let’s keep on asking. Because these are matters too important to take on faith.”

    Gotta Say It: Lady Gaga at the VMAs

    Posted in opinion, pop culture with tags , , , , , on August 29, 2011 by Kyle Fleming

    First off, don’t judge. I tuned into the VMAs to watch Adele, and never changed it, then never changed it for the replay. I also didn’t want to tweet a bunch about the VMAs, but I sent 17 tweets. I feel bad, I really do. But I stand by the Justin Bieber one. Those glasses looked stupid.

    Second off, I don’t want to write about Lady Gaga. I really don’t. I was a fan, but now I believe her eccentricism has gotten in the way of her creativity, and she’s become a joke. I honestly believe that. She can make all the messages about loving others and being yourself that she wants. Those are great messages to hear. But when your messages are overshadowed by the collective groan of, “Aw geez, what’s she gonna wear/say/do THIS time?” you’re doing something wrong.

    That being said, kudos to Lady Gaga for jumping that over-the-top outfit ship.

    See, Gaga has been known for her crazy outfits. Every awards show begins with, “What will Lady Gaga wear?” She’s shown up in bubble dresses, meat skirts, a giant egg. Everything about the show–awards speculation, moving tributes of music stars that are no longer with us–is eclipsed by the news of Gaga’s outfit or antics.

    Then, for some reason, everyone started hopping on the Eccentric Train. Bright colors, weird fabric bunching, reflecting crap, stupid stuff on top of the head, all of that was suddenly in vogue. More and more new artists are coming up dressing as crazy–sometimes even crazier–than Lady Gaga.

    Then we get to this year’s VMAs. Nicki Minaj showed up as a stuffed-hippo-ice-cream-disco-ball. Katy Perry wore pale pink with circles and triangles, and ended the night with a cube on her head.

    And Lady Gaga showed up as a dude.

    I’ve always said that one day Lady Gaga would show up to an awards show dressed in a black cocktail dress with her hair pulled back into a bun. Apparently, “black cocktail dress” to Lady Gaga means “a dude.”

    In a way, I’m proud of Gaga jumping that ship. She’s built a career on individuality, and just when everyone is hopping on her bandwagon, she jumps off and starts something new. To me, being her alter-ego, Joe Calderone, was out there, but some say it’s a logical step. Everyone wants to be her, so she’ll be something new.

    Lady Gaga, while I don’t exactly understand why you do what you do, you do some great things. Keep being an innovator, keep doing your thing, because you’re sending out a powerful message for those who choose to listen to it.

    But seriously, that awkward moment when you almost kissed Britney Spears? Enough of that. That’s just creepy.