Communique No. 2: Unfair Elections, “Haughty” Cuisine, and Much More

Egyptian Unity

Communique Number 1 from Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces signalled the beginning of the end for Hosni Mubarak. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I think I might actually enjoy blogging this way–you know, the whole bi-weekly thing. I just never thought I’d swing that way. I’m a firm believer in the idea that free creativity ought to be counter-balanced with a healthy dose of structure and I’m already seeing the benefits of applying that concept to my blog. Of course, I don’t know how “creative” any of the things I have to say in this post are, but you get my drift.

Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve changed the name for these posts. They will now be numbered communiques. It’s a meme typically associated with coups: when a military junta comes to power, they will often initiate communication with the population through numbered communiques, such as what Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces did on February 10, 2011. Even so, I wouldn’t read too much into the change. More specifically, I’m not suggesting I’m the leader of a coup–I just like the theme.

900 DOLLARS FOR A MEAL?

eleven madison park amuses

Who wouldn’t want to pay $900 for these delectables? (Photo: goodiesfirst)

A couple of issues ago, I was reading an article in the New Yorker about the times and trials of Eleven Madison Park, a 900-dollar-a-meal joint in the Big Apple. Yeah, you read that right: 900 fucking dollars for a meal (per diner, I might add, and that’s not even including the wine). What’s more, there’s apparently a whole industry of these unfathomably expensive haute cuisine restaurants around the world frequented by people suffering from an utter lack of creativity concerning how to spend their hopefully vast personal wealth. I’m pretty big fan of the New Yorker, which I love primarily for its cartoons, political and social commentary, and in-depth reporting pieces. But, occasionally, there’s something in there that just literally doesn’t compute with my proletarian mind. This would be one of those situations–sorry, rich folks.

I mean, at the risk of forever destroying my cosmopolitan street cred, I just can’t take that seriously. I balk at the idea of spending $25 on a meal. Granted, I don’t own a hedge fund or a diamond mine, but, even if I did, I’d hope to retain good enough sense to know that spending $900 (or more, at some establishments) is both grotesquely ostentatious and incomprehensibly stupid. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I spent $900 on a meal knowing that I could have taken that money and fed several starving Third World villages for several months (if not years). And, again, it’s granted I’ve never been a position where eating at a $900-a-meal restaurant was even feasible, but what could possibly make any one meal worth that amount of money? We’re talking groceries for a family of 10 for a month. Sure, there might be a few rare truffles from an isolated Alpine valley that made their way into the sauce on top of that equally-rare bird that was boiled in melted snow from the top of Mount Blanc, but seriously? Common sense must be left at the door when entering a place like that.

But, anyway, to each his own, I guess. That’s one threshold, however, that I’m just glad I’ll never have to cross–physically or metaphysically.

THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS IS STILL EVIL

English: Barack Obama delivers a speech at the...

My vote for this guy will have absolutely no bearing on the election whatsoever. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Since I decided to cast my vote for Barack Obama on November 6, I’ve known from the beginning that my vote will be essentially meaningless. That’s what I get for living in one–if not the–most politically conservative states in the Union. To get an idea of how conservative, President Obama didn’t carry a single county in the state when he was elected in 2008 and Oklahoma was the only state where that happened. While there is a latent racist element present in his lack of support within the state–particularly in rural areas–it’s mostly because Oklahoma is a heavily religious state and statistics show the most churched people tend to vote Republican–a fact that baffles me to no end, but that’s another discussion.

The reason my vote will be meaningless is, of course, because presidential elections are decided by the Electoral College, a holdover from a time when the leading figures of the day were concerned that the common folk wouldn’t have access to all the necessary information in order to cast an informed vote for the national leader–they also wanted to even the playing field between big states and small states. The solution adopted by the Constitutional Convention in 1787 was to have people cast votes for Electors who would make that decision for them with the understanding that their decision would be more informed. Anyway, there probably was some justification for that system in the 1790s when communication was much slower and critical information much less available than it is today but it’s almost truistic to say it has outlived its usefulness. The ultimate result of the Electoral College today is that unless you live in a Swing State, you have little to no chance of being a real part of determining the outcome of an election.

So, obviously there’s a need to reform to electoral system in the U.S. Sure, amending the Constitution to provide the framework for direct popular election of the president would be a start, but the brokenness and polarization of American politics is rooted in far more than the Electoral College. The downside to a winner-take-all system of electing public officials is that it leads to the situation we have now: a narrowing of the band of the political spectrum actually represented in government and an entrenched two-party system. Reforming that system would require such a radical change to the federal structure of American government that I’m not sure what the ramifications would be or even how you’d go about doing it. At any rate, being in the position of having to choose the lesser of two evils is never fun: Mitt Romney would be a terrible choice for president but, then again, Barack Obama–the man, for example, who gave us the NDAA, told us not to worry, and promised he’d never abuse it–is no unblemished angel himself. But, what’s a progressive to do? Democracy is a slow and messy process and it’s impossible to win every battle. You just have to take it one step at a time.

REALITY DOES NOT NEGATE THE MESSAGE OF MYTH

This is a recreated vector image in SVG. The o...

You know, it happens. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I was thinking the other day about something that’s probably more of a pet issue for me than for most. I think it’s important because of how destructive it can be. Most who know me know that I’m not a big fan of religious conservatives. While they generally are very good-hearted and well-intentioned people, they also tend to be plagued by irrationality and are often belligerent about it. Generally speaking, it’s hard to have an intelligent discussion with one because they’ve somehow been so convinced–or convinced themselves–that they’re right and must defend the “Truth” in the name of God that to argue with one is almost like attacking the core of his or her soul. The black and white lenses through which they often view the world almost makes intelligent discourse difficult at best, especially if they occupy the white and people not like them are in the black. Anyway, I could talk about that all day.The pet issue, as it were, is the ongoing and utterly inane public policy debate in the U.S. over whether the various and often-contradictory “theories” lumped together into an idea called “Creationism” should be granted scientific parity in public school classrooms with the well-supported Theory of Evolution. That argument in itself is incredibly dense: what people mean, for example, when they say “Creationism,” has great baring on how scientifically plausible it is. My intent isn’t to dive into that discussion here, but to to address a very limited and particular aspect of the philosophical questions involved. While there are many–myself included–who believe in theistic evolution, there are a great many (far too many) people who continue to hold that Genesis contains in its early chapters a literal recounting of how God created the world. It, of course, doesn’t contain that but for many this is a make or break issue: I was there when the leader of the largest McChurch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, told his congregation that unless they believed in a so-called “literal” interpretation of Genesis, then they probably weren’t true believers. That’s a stumbling block many people can’t overcome–because, as should be obvious, it simply isn’t true–and the result is that they often simply reject the whole of Christianity as a hoax.

Many have told me I shouldn’t worry so much about this and that it really doesn’t matter that much anyway, but I continue to hold that it does–a lot. The fact that such a wide swath of Christianity stubbornly refuses to accept overwhelming scientific evidence makes the whole look like a bunch of ignorant buffoons and creates a barrier between the Church and educated, rational people. I realized that, at the core, perhaps what makes these stalwarts so hesitant to move away from that “understanding” of Scripture is a fear that doing so somehow undermines the truth of the Faith. The fact remains, nevertheless, that reality doesn’t negate the message of the mythology. Understand that literally what people are arguing over are timelines (six days vs. an ongoing process, 6000 years old vs. 4.5 billion years old) and that’s not even what those stories are about. I mean, here’s what it really boils down to: the purpose of the Genesis Creation story is to show that the Earth, life, and ultimately Man were created by God intentionally and for a good purpose (a revolutionary concept in an age when most people believed creation myths suggesting the existence of the world was an accidental side-effect of a couple of gods duking it out). Is that truth–namely, that life has purpose–contingent on a particular timeline? Of course it isn’t.

Anyway, all this could very well be an oversimplification, but the real point I want people to get is that there’s nothing wrong with believing Scripture is true; just don’t believe it’s true for the wrong reasons. As I’ve said before, truth is not dependent upon accuracy.

Ephemera

13 thoughts on “Communique No. 2: Unfair Elections, “Haughty” Cuisine, and Much More

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  5. I gotcha on David Boren; “Dan” is so close to it, I thought they were one in the same. His farther really must be getting up there to have served as governor in the 70s.

    I have to tell you; I’m really not that opposed to the use of drones, as long as they’re trying to use them in a way that cuts down on the killing of innocents. It certainly better than shooting missiles at targets without much accuracy. Those drones are responsible for killing a lot of terrorist that would love to kill us.

    As far as the American citizen; he was already known to be a terrorist so I give Obama the benefit of a doubt on that one. Not saying I want it to become a regular practice targeting American citizens as that could lead to the destruction of our democracy, but an isolated situation as this one, where the target was a terrorist, it’s different.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think Obama is doing everything right but I’m comparing him to a long line of presidents since I was old enough to remember and he comes out on top, besides John F Kennedy who I was only I nine when he was shot (oops, I pretty much revealed my age there).

    In the end, if we don’t want to see a Romney presidency – which I certainly don’t – then we had better get to the polls and cast our vote for Obama, and not stay home. As far as us gay folks, we should be motivated more than others, especially since a second term for Obama very well might lead to gay marriage being legalized nationally. I’m too old and set in my ways for it but I would love to see it for my younger gay brothers and sisters, including you.

    • “As far as the American citizen; he was already known to be a terrorist so I give Obama the benefit of a doubt on that one.”

      Man, I’m sorry, but that’s ground I’m just not going to concede. Whatever crimes al-Aulaqi may or may not have been personally guilty of, he was still a citizen of this country just as you and I are and, as such, was entitled to a trial by a jury of his peers–even if accused of Treason–as spelled out in Article 3, Sections 2 and 3 of the Constitution. Killing him amounted to a deliberate assassination of a citizen of the United States on foreign soil and was illegal under the laws of this country. Even if the President and the CIA never do it again, it sets a precarious precedent going forward if–possibly, even if–they aren’t held to account.

      Plus, the fact is that drones do kill innocents. Scores upon scores of them. Even the death of one innocent in the pursuit of the guilty is a travesty beyond measure and runs contrary to the entire basis of English common law and, by extension, the American concept of justice. Consider the outcry if the collateral damage of drone strikes were American citizens. The fact that we, as a country, can force ourselves to stomach the loss of countless innocents all in the name of pursuing terrorists is beyond grotesque and damningly hypocritical.

      On a side note, I should point something out: I don’t want you to take this as a slight or anything of the sort because that’s at all how I mean it. While I am a strong supporter of a whole range of gay rights, I personally am not gay. Not that it matters one way or the other from a public advocacy standpoint, but just so you know. I support gay rights because I believe government and politics is necessarily secular and there is no reason from a secular political standpoint to deny LGBT individuals equal protection from discrimination or the right to marry the person of their choosing. Anyway, I guess it’s a pretty stark condemnation of straight men that more of them don’t have the guts to support full rights for their fellow citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation.

  6. Roy-Gene,

    It is my understanding that there are more Democrat voters in this state than Republicans, but they are highly social conservatives. The problem for most Oklahomans is that they are so uninformed and misinformed. I am sure the day will come that Democrats will once again rule Oklahoma, all we need is a good Okie politician who can communicate our message.

    • Of course what would be really great is if we could get true progressives (a label Democrats often don’t live up to). =)

      If I could, I would vote Green in this election but Jill Stein probably won’t be able to get on the ballot.

      • Roy-Gene,
        Explain to me what you describe as a “progressive”. What difference does a “progressive” have with a Democrat?

        I consider myself progressive because I believe in growing as a society and not staying ignorant because of religious beliefs or just plain stubbornness, as many Republicans seem to do. I mean growing by becoming more enlightened and reaching for a better understanding of the world and all of its diversities. Moving forward and excepting the faults of the past and learning from them to become a better country. This is my definition of “progressive” but maybe you have a better definition.

        I think the biggest problem with most Democrats is that they are wimps most of the time and they don’t stand up to the Republicans, which in turn allows the Republicans to get the better of them.

      • I would think all of those things would be encompassed with the progressive worldview, but progressive political positions are far more concrete: they would include robust environmental protection and public funding in green energy; high emphasis on funding for public services including public education and infrastructure; opposition to infringements on civil liberties including warrant-less wiretaps, extrajudicial killings of American citizens abroad, police brutality carried out against peaceful protesters; and a host of other issues.

        Someone like Dan Boren (retiring OK District 2 congressman and a Democrat) fails miserably in all of those regards. He opposed the closing of Guantanamo, opposed withdrawing from Iraq, voted against the Affordable Care Act, is a member of the NRA, and was a co-sponsor of FairTax legislation. The two-party system tends to force a narrowing of the political spectrum actually represented in government and because the Tea Party has pushed the GOP so far to the right, the Democrats have moved with them on a lot of issues. Don’t forget it was President Obama who signed into law the NDAA for FY12 that included provisions allowing for indefinite detention of American citizens without a trial, extended the Bush tax cuts, and defended the use of warrant-less wiretaps. Anyway, point being that a person can be a Democrat and be anything but a true progressive. =)

      • Roy-Gene,
        I agree with and support all of those positions that you mentioned. There are some things I’m more passionate about – such as religious freedom, and that includes from religion. I am also very passionate about equality. I have strong feelings about America’s involvement in foreign policy, and I think America’s involvement should be more about humanitarian causes, such as hunger, disease and extreme poverty; these should be what America is about, not military might. I just wrote an article about my feelings on that subject.

        Talking about hunger; world hunger is at the top of my passions, especially hungry children.

        I believe Dan Boren was governor of the state, many years ago. That was when Democrats actually controlled the state. I wasn’t involved in politics at all at the time as I was quite young, so I don’t know what he really was like.

        I also realize that Obama has continued some of the Bush policies. I also give him some benefit of a doubt that possibly he knows things now through security briefings that has made him change his mind about some things. I think we need to allow some.

        I do think he has fulfilled many of his campaign promises, probably more than some of his predecessors. I also think a second term would be much better than the first. I also think he has done more for us gay people than he has any other minority, so he surely has my support there. I do think there are certain things that he will get done in his second term, like the end of the Defense of Marriage Act and his American Dream Act.

        As far as the Tea Party; worse thing that could happen to our government.

      • You’re thinking of David Boren. He was governor back in the 70s and was U.S. Senator in the 80s and 90s. He’s currently the president at OU. Dan Boren is his son whose been serving as the congressman for District 2 since 2005 but he’s not seeking reelection this year.

        Obama has been very good in a lot of ways and he’ll definitely do a far better job than Mitt Romney, but he’s done some things are that decidedly and inexcusably bad for American democracy. The FY12 NDAA contains things that are terrible for civil liberties and no amount of intel or secret briefings justifies his signing them into law; he continues to utilize drone strikes abroad and personally placed the name of an American citizen (Anwar al-Aulaqi) on a CIA kill list. I’m not one to excuse stuff like that so even though I’ll still vote for him, he still has some things to be held to account for.

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