Sunday, July 14, 2013

George Zimmerman Walks Free

A great many people will have an opinion on the George Zimmerman verdict.  The fact remains that a jury found him not guilty.  It does not sit well with me that Zimmerman is walking free, but I think the problem is that the jury had to decide whether second degree murder applied to this case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Second degree murder is defined this way:

second degree murder n. a non-premeditated killing, resulting from an assault in which death of the victim was a distinct possibility. Second degree murder is different from First Degree Murder which is a premeditated, intentional killing, or results from a vicious crime such as arson, rape, or armed robbery. Exact distinctions on degree vary by state. (See: murderfirst degree murdermanslaughter)
Anyone who has heard the call from George Zimmerman to 911 knows that the dispatcher told him he did not need to follow Trayvon Martin.  He chose to get out of his car and follow the young man, knowing that police were already on the way.  What we don't know for sure is whether Zimmerman started the violent confrontation, and that's where the reasonable doubt enters into the minds of the jury.

It sucks.  It seems Zimmerman should be charged with something, because as I've written in the past, if I were seventeen again, and I knew some strange man was following me down the street, I'd either knock on the nearest door and get the person to call 911, or I'd turn and fight.  Being young and hot-headed, I probably would have confronted the guy to make him think I'm not worth following anymore.  So maybe Trayvon Martin did start the violent conflict, but what the hell was Zimmerman doing following him?  Who the hell is he to confront someone walking down the street?  If you're in a neighborhood watch, you are there to observe and report, not stop people who are walking down the street because you think they look suspicious to you.

I'm not sure the charges fit.  I want them to fit, as I'm sure many other people do--we do know that it is true--beyond a reasonable doubt--that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.  It does seem that he should be charged with something, though.  Manslaughter.  Stalking.  Vigilantism--he was trying to replace the police by following Martin himself.  Something.  I consider Zimmerman's behavior to be dangerous to society, and I don't think he should just walk free, knowing that he definitely killed someone.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I bought another car from Enterprise

I needed another vehicle, and I bought it from Enterprise.  This time, I had the pleasure of working with Darnell Jamison.  Robby Batayah is now at the Warren location, and the Farmington location was more convenient.

If you have the opportunity to work with either one of the aforementioned individuals, please do--they were both outstanding.

Darnell went out of his way to accommodate me.  I couldn't leave the house, so he delivered the vehicle, and we signed the paperwork right there.  I know other dealerships do this for people, but Darnell stood out because he was very professional, courteous, and listened to my needs very closely, as evidenced by the vehicle he brought to me.  I didn't even have to go looking--the minivan he brought was perfectly suitable for my needs.  He wasn't pushy, as some salespeople can be, but when it came time to go through with the sale, he moved quickly and did everything he could to make sure it was convenient for me.

I will continue to do business with Enterprise in the future, whether it's for car rental or for a purchase.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why there aren't more women in the atheist community

Dusty of YouTube's "CultOfDusty" channel inspired me to write this post.  He was talking about how women shy away from the atheist community because the men who dominate the community with numbers (at least online) repel the women with inappropriate comments and misogyny.  I am not denying that at least anecdotally, Dusty is right; I have witnessed in atheist groups women appearing one day, then disappearing from the group by the next meeting because of overzealous flirtation and--let's face it--objectification.

However, I know several strong atheist women, and I don't think they are fewer in number than male atheists because male atheists are repelling them; if they have come to the conclusion that the claims of theists are false, they will be atheists whether they join the community or not.

I think there are simply fewer female atheists than male atheists, and I think that the statistics will change over time as women close the gap between genders in education and equality.  It is statistically true that the higher level of education a person achieves, the less likely that person is to be religious. It is relatively recent in human history that the expectation of women to go to college and pursue a career has become mainstream. I remember sitcoms where gender roles were challenged.  "All in the Family" had a scene that comes to mind where someone poses a question to Archie Bunker about why a doctor couldn't operate on a certain patient when the doctor wasn't the patient's father.  The answer, of course, was that the doctor was his mother--but it wasn't that common in the 70s, or even in the 80s.

It's becoming a lot more common for women to achieve higher levels of education, and that's wonderful.  I am also seeing a lot more young atheist women emerge on the scene...but we need to hear more of these voices, telling their stories and encouraging more women to come out.  We have a lot of prominent male names in atheism...but are we forgetting that Madelyn Murray O'Hair had a strong voice for atheism and separation of state and church?

You know what's great about the atheist community?  You don't have to be a leader to be inspiring (though several capable leaders have been women in atheist groups).  You just have to tell your story.  People want to hear it and read about it, because they often feel alone (less so these days, with the Internet; it was awfully lonely before the mid-1990s)--like everyone around them believes in what they can't accept as true, because their reason won't let them.  So tell your story.  Give other people courage to shed the bonds of faith and embrace reason.  Let them know your morals come from empathy, not from some Bronze Age, patriarchal, misogynistic, sexually repressed religion with a set of outdated rules that everyone except the most extreme zealots cherry-picks.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Prayer has never fixed anything

I know people in Oklahoma who are near the disaster area, and they have family IN the disaster area.  A friend on Skype showed me his friend's business, destroyed.  He showed me his family's area, where whole neighborhoods were devastated.

The people affected by the disaster have my sympathy--and some of my money now.  When a disaster strikes, I like to find out what I can do that will actually help people.  Give blood when appropriate, money when appropriate, volunteer time when possible.  I applaud people who have helped out in disasters, tirelessly and selflessly, and I encourage people to help in Oklahoma.

But please, if you feel the need to pray, keep it to yourself.

Here's the thing: every time a disaster happens, the media, politicians, and everyone who happens to be religious seems to want to encourage everyone to pray, or feels the need to say "Our prayers are with the victims."  What is the point?  Prayer certainly didn't stop the disaster from happening.  It's not going to fix a home or restore a business.  It's not going to heal the injured.  It's not going to bring back the children who drowned in a school in the disaster area.

Prayer doesn't fix a thing.  It never has.

Human labor, human kindness, human ingenuity, and human generosity have always been instrumental in restoring areas hit by disasters.  No miracles are taking place; human beings are coming together to make things better again.

If you want to pray, pray.  If it makes you feel better, by all means, go ahead...but do something to help, too.    Don't bother encouraging others to pray as if it's an important part of the disaster relief.  It's not.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On a mission

I had a friend make the claim that Fox News doesn't lie.  Although there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary all over the Internet for anyone who wants to bother doing research (complete with video evidence), I am making it my mission to prove that Fox does, indeed, lie.

I am picking one show every week and recording it on my DVR.  I will review each show, giving myself the weekend just in case, and review claims made by Fox News contributors and talking heads.  I will do my own analysis and prove my case.

I know this is like shooting fish in a barrel; this is the channel that scoffed at Hillary Clinton's medical condition, calling it "the Benghazi flu".  Is that a lie?  It's definitely a distortion of the truth based on a lack of information.  It's irresponsible journalism, at the very least.

Two other incidents come to mind immediately: they aired sound bites of Barack Obama on two occasions, omitting context that would change the understanding of the part they chose to show their viewers.  One was his infamous "you didn't build that" speech, where the context made clear that he was talking about roads, bridges, and other infrastructure businesses use that the taxpayers provide.  The other was an interview where he talked about immigration law enforcement and presidential powers.

In any case, I'm going to decide this week which show I will analyze next week.

Examples of Obama's bipartisanship

Recently, I had a discussion with a friend and co-worker who claimed that President Obama has never acted in a bipartisan manner in his relationship with Congress. This statement floored me, since I recall Obama giving in way too much to Republicans during the first couple years of his first term, so I decided to do some research and find examples of when President Obama has made bipartisan efforts. I should note that even with compromise, many bills did not pass because Republicans simply said no to them. Several made it their stated goal to make Barack Obama a one-term President. In spite of this strategy, several bills received bipartisan support under President Obama's leadership.

The Recovery Act:  A review of this 2009 bill's vote history in Congress will reveal that bipartisan support was necessary to pass it. It received a super-majority of votes.  This bill prevented a global depression.

The Lily Ledbetter Act::  Here is the vote history for this bill.  The legislation reversed a Supreme Court decision that changed the rules regarding when an employee can sue for pay discrimination.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal:  The bill that made it so homosexuals do not have to lie to serve in the military (lie of omission, in this case) received bipartisan support.

Debt Ceiling:  The Budget Control Act of 2011 received overwhelming bipartisan after a great deal of compromise between the Obama administration and both parties in Congress.

Wall Street Reform: Here is the Dodd-Frank Act's vote history in Congress.  Once again, bipartisan support.

Food Safety Modernization: This act passed in the Senate by voice vote, it received so much bipartisan support.

One could argue that members of Congress reached across the aisle to compromise, but the above are examples of bills where President Obama led quite publicly.  There are several other examples, but these all passed with a super-majority in the Senate.