Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Random Fun News!

1. A Worthy Cause

As a general blogging rule, I try to stay away from suggesting to readers that they donate money to specific causes. Personally, some people of the mass-emailing variety just have that it's-a-good-thing-I'm-here-to-remind-you-to-give-to-the-needy attitude that assumes you aren't already donating your spare dollars to worthy causes.

I don't want to do that. But, in case you haven't heard of it before I would like to let you know of this cool that site one of my friends recently alerted me to. It allows donors to give money directly to teachers to help them carry out proposed educational projects that the school could not otherwise afford. In its own words:

" is a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, whom we call Citizen Philanthropists, choose projects to fund."

The teachers requests are touching in their simplicity. For instance, one teacher was asking for money for jump ropes to teach her students about physical education while another teacher was requesting money for special seating for students with autism.

I thought it was pretty cool to see how you can make a direct positive impact when you combine even small amounts of money with other people.

2. Bold Assumption

During the last presidential debate, the one with the "townhall" format that supposedly favors John McCain, many viewers noticed a condescending assumption John McCain made about a man who asked him a question. Specifically, a young African-American man asked the candidates a question about the economy. John McCain began his response by telling the man "You've probably never heard of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before this [economic crisis]." In the background, Obama kind of chuckled, as did the man.

The man who McCain questioned, it turns out, is named Oliver Clark. On NBC, Clark took a minute to respond to McCain's out-of-touch assumption:

"Well Senator, I actually did. I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person. I have a bachelor degree in Political Science from Tennessee State, so I try to keep myself up to date with current affairs. I have a Master degree in Legal Studies from Southern Illinois University, a few years in law school, and I am currently pursuing a Master in Public Administration from the University of Memphis. In defense of the Senator from Arizona I would say he is an older guy, and may have made an underestimation of my age. Honest mistake. However, it could be because I am a young African-American male. Whatever the case may be it was somewhat condescending regardless of my age to make an assumption regarding whether I was knowledgeable about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

In general, I didn't find the "townhall" format to be favorable to McCain. I found his insistence on invading the personal space of the questioners to be awkward and that he constantly referred to them as his "friends," I found to be cheap politics-as-usual. Obama, perhaps because he wasn't trying too hard to create an Average Joe Sixpack narrative, came off both as more genuine and more in touch with constituents.

3. The Marriage Defender Who Opposes Prop 8

Although he continues to oppose marriage equality in general, David Benkof has written another opinion piece specifically opposing Proposition 8. On October 13, Benkof re-iterated his criticisms of the organized movement that some of the "mainstream, major backers of the ballot measure" are offensive and anti-Semitic.

I have written before of some of the dishonest and mean-spirited propaganda that the Prop 8 movement relies on and I applaud Benkof for doing so as well. For instance, he cites the "youth-friendly" iProtectmarriage site's irrelevant and fear-mongering reference to the high HIV/AIDS rates among gay men as well as the site's "age-old" scare-tactic of acting as though "man-boy love" will be legitimized if gay marriage becomes legal. Benkof is right when he notes that these tactics have no place in honest, civil discourse. Such propaganda is meant to rile up the masses and, whether intentionally or not, these "arguments" perpetuate hatred of and the vilification of gay men and lesbians.

That the Prop 8 movement utilizes the Alliance Defense Fund, a self-described Christian "ministry" masquerading as a law firm (or is it a law firm masquerading as a ministry?), should frighten all of us who do not subscribe to the tenets of fundamentalist Christianity. That this law firm/ministry refuses to hire non-Christians, even the ones who agree with them on conservative social issues, demonstrates that there is simply no place for religious and spiritual diversity in this group's ideal (Post-Second Coming) world.

It's funny, you know. Before Benkof realized these things about the Prop 8 movement, marriage defenders loved citing his pieces. They couldn't get enough of this gay man who renounced his homosexuality and opposed same-sex marriage. These same folks are, strangely, nowhere to be found now that Benkof is rendering critiques of the professional "marriage defense" crowd.

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