Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Evil Girl Scouts

According to NPR, Indiana Representative Bob Morris has claimed that the Girl Scouts are an anti-family values organization. He claims they are in league with Planned Parenthood. His claims, based on internet research, fly in the face of both Planned Parenthood's and the Girl Scout's denials.

My Gut Reaction: Is Rep. Morris's next bout of internet research going to claim that the Twin Towers were brought down by the Illuminati.

Analysis: This story is an example of how extreme some fundamentalist Christians are. In the face of clear denials from both organizations, Rep. Morris draws on some far right website to argue that the Girl Scouts have become a "corrupt" feminist organization. This kind of bizarre suspicion and conspiracy mongering is downright disturbing, as it suggests the type of intolerant paranoia that spawned the Inquisition.

For the record, it is worth noting that the Girl Scouts officially steer clear of issues related to human sexuality. To quote NPR's report from the Girl Scouts' website: On the specific issue of sexuality, it states that both the national Girl Scouts and the state chapter "believe that issues related to human sexuality and reproductive health are best left to parents or guardians to discuss with their daughters."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Legal Gay Bashing in Cameroon

A young man in the Republic of Cameroon, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, has been sentenced to three years imprisonment after being convicted of being a homosexual, Amnesty International reports. According to his lawyer Alice Nkom, police arrested Mbede because they considered his hair style to be too feminine.

My Gut Reaction: So the only safe way to go through Cameroon is to wear a crew cut?

Analysis: The BBC reports that Cameroon police claim they caught Mbede and another man having oral sex in a parked car. Even if that is the case, they simply should have been charged with lewd conduct, rather than being persecuted as homosexuals.

What makes matters worse is that Mbede has been held in Kondengui Central Prison in Cameroon's capital, where he is at high risk of violence from other prisoners due to his supposed homosexuality. Three years could conceivably be a death sentence for him.

Luckily, the international community has taken notice. Amnesty International has issued a call for people to write to the Cameroon government and ask for Mbede's release. I urge anyone reading this to go to their website and do so. Human Rights Watch has also condemned Cameroon's actions.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Stupidest Pro-Life Video EVER!!!

On Youtube, I just discovered what is arguably the stupidest pro-life video I have ever seen. It doesn't just have fanatical religiousity or implicit misogyny. The whole reasoning of the video is flawed.

Here it is:

My Gut Reaction: FAIL!

Analysis: There is so much wrong with this video it is difficult to know where to begin. First, the video argues that the financial crisis is due to a lack of population to purchase items. Apparently, sub-prime mortgages and irresponsible actions by investment bankers had nothing to do with it.

Furthermore, this argument ignores a number of drawbacks that would come with an increased population. For starters, a larger population would also mean increasing infrastructure costs, including but not limited to schools to educate all these children. You would also have to factor in the fact that many of the aborted children come from poor households, and in some cases would likely draw on welfare payments.

Finally, the solution to the problem, as framed by the video, would be simply be to allow more immigration so that consumers would come to the United States. Removing a woman's right to choose would have nothing to do with it.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Repression in Egypt

In the midst of growing violence, Egypt's rulers are cracking down on organizations committed to fostering democracy in the country. They are planning to try forty-three foreign employees of international NGOs for illegally working with Egyptian democracy activists. Among those groups whose offices have been raided are the International Republican Institute, which is loosely affiliated with America's Republican Party, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, affiliated with the Democratic Party.

My Gut Analysis: I can see wanting to drive the Republicans out of your country, but this is rather extreme.

Analysis: The Egyptian government claims it is just enforcing Egyptian laws by prosecuting unregistered international groups. They can also point to the rather unsavory reputation of some of the NGOs in question. For example, the International Republican Institute has been accused of involvement with the 2004 Haitian coup by critics including former US Ambassador to Haiti Brian Dean Curran.

However, human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have stated that this is just part of Egypt's effort to suppress democratic activists. Furthermore, the NDI points out that it did in fact register with the Egyptian government. The supposed law violations are just an excuse to further repress the Egyptian people.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that these actions could result in funding cuts to the Egyptian government. One hopes she'll have the guts to follow through and stop taxpayer money from going to these thugs.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Fishing in Hell

Village fishermen in Sierra Leone are facing a new threat in addition to rough seas, as foreign fishing trawlers have begun illegally fishing in their waters. The trawlers have depopulated the local fish, and there have even been incidents of small canoes, called kru, getting swamped with fishermen drowning. As the BBC reports, these incursions are endangering the livelihood of villages in Sierra Leone.

My Gut Reaction: Never mind illegal fishing. If the trawlers are so negligent that they end up swamping and killing small fishermen, we're getting into the area of manslaughter.

Analysis: The BBC report follows two fishermen, Ishmael Kain and Kaba Kain, as they go fishing to feed their village. They find that the trawlers have caught virtually all the native fish in the area, including catfish, barracuda, and sea bass. Until recently, the fish had been plentiful, but now that the trawlers have come, they are few and far between. This is not a matter of mere profit, as they are dependent on the fish to feed the village.

This is just another case of the exploitation of third world country's natural resources. Leaving aside the environmental damage of large scale fishing, the illegal fishing is wiping out the food source of an entire village, and probably many other villages in the same area. The trawlers come in the dark of night in order to avoid being caught by authorities.

More alarming is their apparent disregard for the lives of small fishermen. As Ishmael and Kaba testify, their nephew died when one of the trawlers struck their boat after warnings to slow down. Legal authorities, whether in Sierra Leone or the international community, should not tolerate this kind of disregard for human life.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Seattle Cult

The Stranger, an alt-weekly in Seattle, has published an article by Brendan Kiley about a creepy megachurch in their area. The Mars Hill Church has gained a reputation for completely controlling the lives of its members and for essentially stalking people who try to leave. Former members describe incidents of Mars Hill leaders contacting their new churches and even the parents of people they were dating.

My Gut Reaction: I may not be a huge fan of organized religion, but I know the difference between a church and a cult. This, my friends, is a cult.

Analysis: Admittedly, the word cult is a very loaded term, and my use of it in this case requires some degree of explanation. I am not trying to argue that Mars Hill is some sort of Jim Jones / David Koresh style disaster where all the members will end up killing themselves.

Rather, Mars Hill, based on the article, is a cult in the sense that it tries to control its members' lives and has a manipulative leader. Let's start with the domineering leader, one of the sure signs of a cult. Pastor Mark Driscoll is the head of the church, which is based to a large extent on his teachings and books. He was one of the founders of the church, and gained control after one of the founders left and other church leaders were fired. Former members report being reprimanded after even jokingly critiquing Pastor Driscoll.

More disturbingly, Mars Hill appears to set out to control its members' lives. For example, it tells its members not to associate with people who have left the church. People who have left the church report being suddenly cut off by friends. It has also made moves to heavily indoctrinate children as young as two years old, all using materials designed by Pastor Driscoll.

Some might object that The Stranger is an extremely liberal paper with atheist writers such as Dan Savage. However, a number of evangelical Christians in the Seattle area have come out against Mars Hill. Many of their testimonies are gathered at this website. It's always a bad sign when there are enough angry former members of church that they form their own website.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I do not know what is sadder: the fact that some conservative commentator was so stupid they felt the need to pick a fight with the Muppets, the fact that we need the bloody Muppets to speak truth to power against Fox News, or the fact that some conservative blogger will probably go berserk over this video.