Sunday, August 29, 2004

Athletes in Advertising

The 2004 Summer Olympics are coming to a close. For the gold medalists, at least those from the U.S., lucrative endorsement contracts may be in the future. These athletes may soon be paid huge sums...millions of dollars, to advertise anything from cereal to athletic shoes to viagra. And whenever anyone purchases any of these products, part of the price that we pay goes to paying for this expensive advertising, whether we want it to or not. Bought any running shoes or other types of athletic footwear lately? Hah!! You could almost buy a used car for less. And the price is so high because...great athlete so-and-so is making millions to advertise it. And it isn't just Olympic athletes...many professional athletes, who already make millions just for playing a sport (that's material for another post) get paid even more for advertising something. And when we the consumer go to buy a product, some of that money goes to pay for that advertising. If we don't want to contribute to the wealth of some overpaid athlete or other celebrity, the only choice that we have in the matter is to avoid buying products that are endorsed by them. This may be difficult or in some cases nearly impossible to do, but if we are willing to take a little time to do some research, we can save ourselves some money and keep some money out of the bank account of someone who already has ten times more money that we'll ever see in out lives.

--So Sayeth The Shack

The Gay Rights Issue

I am not gay, nor do I know personally any gay people. Therefore, I am writing this from a position of relative ignorance, but with a desire to understand things. I will be looking at both sides of the issue, and probably coming to no definitive conclusion.
The issue of gay rights, especially the right to marry, has been in the news quite a bit over the past year. Some states, cities and counties have passed laws to legalize gay marriage. Some ministers and others have gone ahead and performed such marriages even without legalization. Some churches even have gay minsters. Meanwhile, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was voted down. It is also becoming an election issue as President Bush opposes it while Senator Kerry seems more open to it. Most of those who oppose gay marriage or any kind of gay rights do so on moral or religious grounds. These people feel that it is morally wrong, even a sin, to be gay, and that legalizing gay marriage would further enable the sinners. According to some Christian beliefs, enabling or allowing a sin is itself a sin, so that by legalizing gay marriage or giving other rights to homosexuals, the rest of us also become sinners (accomplices, if you will…like buying a gun and giving it to a murderer.) Interestingly, there is nothing in the Ten Commandments about homosexuality, just “ Thou shalt not commit adultery”. Of course, without the benefit of marriage, homosexuals have no choice but to commit adultery. In this case, legalizing marriage would actually help them to avoid a sin.
Let us leave behind the religious and moral aspect of this for a moment and turn to the “natural” aspect. Even ignoring religion, church and scripture of any kind, homosexuality seems “unnatural”. The main purpose of sex, whether in humans or in other species, is to create more of that species. Without this, the species would die out. Homosexual sex cannot result in pregnancy, therefore it can be viewed as being against the natural scheme of things, whether it is a sin or not.
Now let us return to the “sin” aspect of this matter. Committing a sin involves being able to make a choice between right and wrong…knowing that something is wrong and choosing to do it anyway. Gay people claim that they cannot make such a choice…that they are “born gay”. Of course, I could say that I was “born angry’, because I have a predisposition to having a bad temper and flying off the handle with little provocation. But that doesn’t make it right or OK. That doesn’t give me the right to force my anger and bad temper upon others. It is a personal problem or fault that I have been struggling all of my life to overcome and correct. Some people would say that it is a chemical imbalance in my brain or perhaps my environment or life experience that makes me the way I am, and so it is not my fault that I am an angry person. This may to some extent be true, but that still does not make my occasional intense outbursts of anger acceptable to other people. In the same manner, is it OK to be gay because of a chemical imbalance or one’s life experiences or environment? Or is something that has to be lived with and maybe overcome eventually (like my bad temper). Or, is it, as some say, a genetic variation and impossible to control, no matter what. (Like one’s nationality, skin color or gender). If it is really the case that people are “born gay”, that they have absoloutely no control over the matter, then being gay cannot be a sin, and we should go ahead and grant them equal rights in all things, including marriage. I do not believe that this premise has been scientifically proven or disproved yet, however, and, until it is, perhaps we should not be so hasty in passing legislation or constitutional amendments in either direction. We should instead be trying to find out whether or not people are “born gay”; whether or not being gay is something completely and totally out of their control. Once we have the answer, then we should act accordingly. In the meantime, we should be treating homosexuals just like other human beings…they way we all deserve to be treated…with respect, courtesy, love and compassion, and without judgment.
Comments as always are welcome, either here or by e-mail

--So Sayeth The Shack

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Here's One Of The Reasons "They" Hate Us

Guardian Unlimited Guardian daily comment Palestinians want an end to their solitary confinement

This is despicable. I do not condone the terroristic attacks staged by the Palestinians, but after reading this, I can certainly see some of the hate and hopelessness that fuels these attacks.

--So Sayeth The Shack

Friday, August 06, 2004

What difference would 5 or 10 minutes have made?

According to a news report on Thursday, August 5, 2004, Senator Kerry criticized President Bush for remaining in the classroom for several moments after being told about the World Trade Center attack on September 11. Really, Mr. Kerry, in the overall scheme of what was happening at the time, what possible difference could these few minutes have made? Absolutely none. You are a fool to think otherwise and even more of a fool to speak out against the President's actions. It was too late to prevent the attacks. It was too late to prevent the aftermath. Furthermore, a sudden exit of the President from the classroom would likely have startled the young children. I commend the President for his calmness in the face of what was happening at the time and I criticize Senator Kerry for trying to make an issue out of it.

--So Sayeth The Shack

Sunday, August 01, 2004

The High Price Of Convenience

We have it far too easy in our society. When I was a young lad, there was no internet, no cell phones, no cable TV in most areas, (no VCR’s, DVD’s or Tivo either) and most businesses were closed at night and on Sundays and holidays. We had to discipline ourselves to do things when we were able to. To shop when stores were open, to wait until we got home to make a phone call, to go the library to look up information, to write and mail a letter and wait for a reply rather than using e-mail, and to watch a show when it was on rather than recording it. We had a limited number of TV stations to pick from rather than the hundreds that many of us have access to now (and there’s still nothing on that’s worth watching). Now we can do our grocery shopping in the middle of the night, and any other kind of shopping online at any time. We can make a phone call from anywhere to anywhere at any time. We can access information online 24/7. We can send someone an e-mail with the click of a mouse, or exchange instant messages with anyone across the planet.. We can record TV shows to watch later, or rent or buy movies to watch when it is convenient. My purpose here is not to suggest that these things, in and of themselves, are bad. Certainly, it is hard to argue against all of these conveniences. But is our society any better for it? I don’t really think so. Many of these services represent extra items in our budgets: anywhere from 10 to 50 dollars a month for the internet (depending on whether you have a basic no-frills dialup or satellite broadband or something in between), a similar amount for cell phone service depending on how many phones you have and how much you use them, and a minimum of 25-45 dollars a month for cable or satellite TV service. (DirecTV’s full package plus every sports subscription could probably run you over 200 dollars per month). While these items were originally viewed as luxuries, they are now commonplace in most households, even necessities, if you will. So we are spending an extra 45-145 dollars a month or more on these “necessities”. Has our income increased that much? No wonder there are so many more bankruptcies these days. In addition to the extra drain on our bank accounts, some of these services require some people to work nights, weekends and holidays. If you’re going to buy groceries at midnight, for example, someone has to be there to run the checkout. Back in the day, most people worked some version of 9-5 weekdays, though some factory workers had rotating shifts. Most people had weekends and holidays off. Holidays were for family. Sundays (or Saturdays) were for church. Other weekend time and evenings were for household chores, family and relaxation. We have much less of this time now as we are required to spend more time at work for the sake of the convenience of others. (And the bank accounts of our bosses) Yes, convenience has a high price, both in terms of money and in terms of less tangible but even more important things, such as the time we spend with our families and the time we spend just resting and relaxing. And, with all the convenience, it strikes me that many of us have less patience and less discipline than people did a generation or two ago. We expect things right here, right now. We are unwilling to wait for anything. It is a catastrophe if the cable is down, the internet won’t work, or we can’t make a cell phone call.


The Trouble With Politics...Is Money!!!

The trouble with politics and the entire “democratic” process is that there is far too much money involved. This is especially true for both the Democratic and the Republican Parties, mostly because they each have plenty of money, and less true for the smaller parties, such as the Green Party, Libertarians and others, because they have rather little money. The odds of a third party candidate being elected president are virtually nil, and one of the reasons is that they simply don’t have the billions of dollars to spend on advertising that the big guys have. Another reason is that a lot of voters just don’t have the guts to vote for someone who “has no chance of winning”. Sure, in this country, anyone can be president, as long as they first are rich. Despite campaign finance reform in recent years, there is still plenty of money being thrown around at the conventions and during the campaigns. Some of this money is not given directly to the candidates or their political parties, but instead is used to “wine and dine” the candidates and others. During the Democratic Convention last week, ABC News covered some of the “extra-curricular activities”, huge expensive parties thrown by heads of corporations and other rich folk to entice various politicians to vote “their way” or to at least get their cause heard in Washington. Some of these parties were actually going on during the convention when the attendees should have been out on the convention floor!! We are paying these people to represent us but instead they are going to parties!! (I am only picking on the Democrats here because their convention has already happened…I’m sure the Republicans will be no better). What it comes down to is that those of us who don’t have a lot of money to give to the candidates don’t count for much of anything. Yes, they need our vote to get into office, and they will say and do virtually anything and spend oodles of money to get that vote. But once in office, we are like the proverbial “chopped liver”. They don’t need us anymore and couldn’t care less about us. We might as well walk to the edge of the earth and fall off into space; it wouldn’t matter to them. Once they get rich and powerful, they no longer know or care what it’s like not to have money and power and they no longer care about those who don’t have money and power.

We call this nation a Democracy, but as I see it, it is a Democracy for the rich, and basically a dictatorship for the poor. We are lulled into thinking that we can have some say in the making of laws and policy. We can write letters to our elected officials (be sure to enclose a big hefty check though!!) Unless we find some way to separate the money from the political process, we will never again have a government “ of the people, for the people and by the people”.