Monday, May 24, 2010

First Post via The iPad

This is my first blog post via the iPad. So far, this app has crashed twice. Not a great start. But I blame the program and not the hardware.

(Come on, you had to know that I wouldn't blame the iPad, no matter the problem.)

Will I use this to post? Maybe. It's just as easy to post via email. But for moderating and managing the blog, yeah, this might be helpful. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's Everybody Draw Mohammad Day.

And I can't explain it any better than Greta Christina has already done:

This is my drawing of Mohammad.
Greta drawing Mohammad

I wish I were a better artist, and could draw something other than a stick figure. But I actually kind of like its purity. If a simple, entirely undistinguished, smiling stick figure with the word "Mohammad" above it can be so offensive as to earn me a possible death sentence... that makes the whole silly idea seem even sillier. And I like the fact that it's a photo of my hand actually making the drawing. Gives it a certain punch, I think.

Today is Everybody Draw Mohammad Day: an event in which people around the world... well, draw Mohammad. We're deliberately violating the Muslim law against creating images of the prophet Mohammad -- a law that some radical Muslim extremists are attempting to enforce with violence and death threats. On everyone. Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Draw-Mohammad-PromoActually, strike that. It is a law that some radical Muslim extremists are successfully enforcing with violence and death threats. Everybody Draw Mohammad Day was instigated by Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris, after Comedy Central cut a portion of a South Park episode following a death threat from a radical Muslim group. And this is hardly an isolated incident: when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran the cartoons of Mohammad that sparked violent protests around the world, many news publications declined to publish the cartoons in question, despite their obvious newsworthiness. Many newspapers still won't publish them. And when this self-censorship happens, the Muslim law against drawing Mohammad has successfully been enforced.

Today, along with hundreds of people (hopefully more), I'm drawing Mohammad.

I want to explain why.

That's more or less what I'm doing today. I realize that.

I'm doing it because, in some cases, offending people's sensibilities is, in and of itself, a valid point. And this is one of those instances.

The idea that the rules of a religion ought to apply to people who don't follow that religion? It's flatly absurd. As Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist so brilliantly pointed out, "You never hear about Hindus walking into McDonald's and telling the manager they're not allowed to use beef products anymore. If they did, we would laugh it off. We'd say that's absurd because non-Hindus don't have to follow their rules."

But that's exactly what these radical Muslim extremists are doing. Despite the fact that they will happily violate the Hindu rule against eating beef, or the Orthodox Jewish rule against interfaith marriage, or the Yazidi rule against wearing the color blue, they nevertheless feel that it is their right, and indeed their duty, to enforce the Muslim rule against drawing Mohammad -- even on people who aren't Muslim. Using violence, and threats of death.

Mohammad cartoons-thumbAnd it is not possible to effectively protest this by simply saying, "This is wrong." The only way to effectively protest this is by violating the damn rule. If we all wring our hands and say, "Oh, yes, this is terrible, how dare these terrorists use violence and death threats to enforce their religious rules on people who don't share them" -- and still nobody will break the damn rule because we're afraid they'll hurt or kill us -- then their terror tactics will have worked.

I'm drawing Mohammad to send a message to Muslim extremists -- and other religious extremists -- that their terror tactics will not work.

I'm drawing Mohammad to reject out of hand the attempt to make criticism of Islam -- or of any other religion, for that matter -- off-limits, simply out of fear of violence.

I'm drawing Mohammad because many people feel comfortable critiquing, or poking fun of, or indeed commenting on, any other religion... but avoid doing any of this with Islam, for fear of violent retribution. And I refuse to allow myself to be extorted in that way.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, I'm drawing Mohammad to spread the target around... so there are so many people drawing Mohammad, the terrorists can't possibly go after all of us.

InfidelThis is a point made by Ayaan Hirsi-Ali -- former Muslim, current atheist, target of a fatwa for her outspoken blasphemous criticism and defiance of Islam. In a piece she wrote about the South Park/ Comedy Central incident -- and about the seriousness of the death threats against the show's creators -- she asked, "So what can be done to help Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone?" And she answered, in part, "Do stories of Muhammad where his image is shown as much as possible. These stories do not have to be negative or insulting, they just need to spread the risk. The aim is to confront hypersensitive Muslims with more targets than they can possibly contend with."

That's the point.

And there is no way to make that point without actually violating this rule.

Perhaps you think that going out of your way to offend a cherished tenet of people's religious beliefs is... well, offensive. Hurtful. Perhaps you think that secular groups and others organizing "Draw Mohammad" protests are engaging in anti-Muslim or anti-Arab marginalization. Perhaps you think that deliberately breaking another religion's sacred rule, with the sole and stated purpose of breaking that rule, is a form of religious bigotry. Or even just childish jerkitude. A lot of people think that: moderate Muslims, and others.

To them, I say... well, Claudia commenting at Friendly Atheist said it way better than I could, and I'm just going to quote her: "The day drawing a bloody stick figure isn't something you have to do while looking over your shoulder. The day cartoonists don't have to build panic rooms in their homes (!!) for a rough picture of a dog with a mans head. The day dozens of people don't die (again !!) because of some cartoons. On that day, I will agree that the secular group is just being immature and hurtful."

Is it hurtful to deliberately poke people's sore spots with a stick, just for the sake of doing it? Yes. I don't think it's a very nice thing to do, and I don't generally do it.

But is it far, far more hurtful -- not only to certain individuals, but to every individual in the world, and to society as a whole -- to use violence and death threats to frighten people away from criticizing your religion, and to force obedience to your religious views on the entire human race?

By a thousand orders of magnitude, yes.

And in this case, the only way to oppose the latter is to engage in the former.

There's something I want to say here: words that keep brimming up in my head and won't shut up. I'm reluctant to write them down; I cringe a bit at the thought of posting them; they've become such a cliche that it's embarrassing to even think them. I never imagined that I'd say these words as anything other than a joke. I never imagined I would say them with any sort of sincerity or passion.

But if we don't draw Mohammad, the terrorists win.


Atheist-cartoonI don't normally go out of my way to offend people's religious sensibilities. I'm perfectly willing to do so, obviously: most of what I write here offends somebody's religious sensibilities, and of course I know that most of my atheist writing is deeply offensive to many religious believers, simply because it is atheist. But offending people's religious sensibilities, while it's something I'm willing to do, is secondary. It's a side effect of the fact that I'm making some point. It's rarely the point itself. I rarely offend people's religious sensibilities just for the sake of it, simply because people find it offensive.So here's mine:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Don't Be Proud of Your Ignorance

Obama: iPad, Xbox Turn Information Into A 'Distraction'

HAMPTON, Va. -- President Barack Obama, addressing graduates at historically black Hampton University on Sunday, said that it is the responsibility of all Americans to offer every child the type of education that will make them competitive in an economy in which just a high school diploma is no longer enough.

Moreover, Obama said, the era of iPads and Xboxes had turned information into a diversion that was imposing new strains on democracy.

"You're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't always rank that high on the truth meter," he told the students. "And with iPods and iPads, and Xboxes and PlayStations -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it's putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy."

(Continues at link)

Obviously, as anyone who has read my recent posts knows, I am a huge fan of the iPad. So yes, I'm a bit biased here. But this sort of celebrated ignorance on the part of the President is disappointing.

His near-boastful admission of ignorance reads to me like the people in the early 90's who would say, "oh, I don't even know how to turn a computer on," and sound somewhat proud of that fact. It's no crime nor sin to not have complete control of all technology, but to brag about what you do not know seems stupid to me.  And if he really doesn't know how to use an iPod, why would he give one to the Queen of England?

But to the bigger allegation, that these devices are distractions or, worse still, peddlers of disinformation, I would remind the President that the same has been said of every media format since the beginning of time. Surely the first cave wall drawing depicted one man's interpretation of an event rather than an unbiased telling of it. Unfortunately, at the time, there were very few choices for alternative media.

The delivery system is not the problem here. And blaming the messenger does nothing to address the real issues. In fact, the President's clumsy speech should have stressed the need for critical thinking, not been an example of the lack of it. Perhaps the President should have been in my meeting with my IT Manager, who told me that he had read more news in the first week with his iPad than he had in the entire month prior. And maybe the President should utilize the amazing new apps designed exclusively for the iPad that provide more than just text for any news story. They also include links to source material and other related stories, so I can verify data and read it in the context of other relevant data.

I expect better. I certainly expect a President who knows better than to demonize technology.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mad Men and Marines

Tonight, Ric and I start Mad Men, Season Two. I expect we'll burn through all thirteen episodes by Sunday evening.

Despite that distraction, I will take the time to write about my experience yesterday at My friend's retirement ceremony. It was truly amazing.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Open-Mind Challenge

Blame my friend, Tony. It's his fault that I am embarking on a new challenge. I'm reading Glenn Beck's book, "Arguing With Idiots."

I say it's his fault because he is directly responsible. He appealed to my vanity and said that, as he was reading and agreeing with things in the book, he kept thinking, "that sounds like something Hulsey would say."

What could I do? I promised him I would read it and share my opinion with him. And then, me being me, I decided that sharing my opinion with everybody via my blog and Facebook was much more my style.

So, I'm starting to read it tonight. I'm going to keep an open mind and give an honest assessment of the book. And if I like it, I may even film a clip of myself tearing up a little as a tribute to Glenn.

Okay, I tease. I tease. But I really will keep an open mind and give it a fair chance. Wish me luck.

Random Question

Why is it the less someone has to say, the louder they insist on saying it?

Monday, May 3, 2010

I'm a changed man.

I held out as long as I could. But once the iPod Classic came out with a 160 gig drive, I had to have it. And once I bought my first Apple product, I was a goner. And now, with the iPad? Well, I'm a changed man. I love, love, love this new toy. I think the whole world should have them. I want my Grandfather to get one so he can finally get on Facebook. I want my Aunt Sue to get one so she will web surf and email while watching her old movies. I want everyone I know to get one so they will understand why I am going crazy over mine.

I'm a changed man. I heart Apple and I heart this iPad. There, I admitted it. And it didn't hurt that bad.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Arizona Law is Already Working

Anyone else read this article?
New Arizona law forcing hard choices on migrants

(Reuters) - With Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants looming, Guatemalan Samuel Roldan is swapping the family's battered Chevy Suburban, which he feels marks them out as low-income migrants, for a smarter, more corporate-looking Nissan.

"When you have an old car (covered) with stickers for a Spanish-language radio station ... it's only logical that they will think you are Hispanic and you don't have papers," Roldan said.

Roldan is among an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in the Mexico border state carefully weighing their options on Monday, three days after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the United States' toughest immigration measure into law.

Slated to take effect 90 days after the current legislative session adjourns, the measure backed by Republicans in the state legislature requires state and local police to determine if people are in the country illegally. Critics of the law say it is a mandate for racial profiling.

The law, which also makes it a crime to transport illegal immigrants and to hire day laborers off the street, has sent a jolt through the undocumented workforce in the state, the principal corridor for illegal migrants entering from Mexico.

Some like Roldan, 34, who has a steady job as a warehouse worker and three U.S.-born daughters in Phoenix schools, plan to stay put, lower their profile and wait to see how the law will affect them.

Others, like Mexican day laborer Jesus Aguilar, 52, say the measure leaves them few options but to leave Arizona and try their luck elsewhere.

"Since the law says that people hiring undocumented day laborers will get fined, no-one wants to (hire) us," said Aguilar, who early on Monday was among some two dozen migrants touting for landscaping and building work at a day labor site in north Phoenix.

"We are thinking of going to Utah or New Mexico ... Here it is just too racist," he added.


The law has raised fears that Hispanics will be racially profiled and police will actively hunt down illegal immigrants, who are estimated to number about 10.8 million in the nation and are the backbone of the shadow economy.

It is also expected to spark a legal challenge and has become a hot issue in the run-up to the mid-term congressional elections in November, when Democrats will defend their majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The new Arizona state law seeks to "discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity" in the desert state, and Hispanic activists say it is already having a marked impact.

"What is a father to do if, in 90 days, they can be stopped by any police officer and questioned ... when their family is at home and their kids in school?" said Elias Bermudez, the founder of Phoenix nonprofit Immigrants Without Borders.

"That's going to create havoc, so a lot of them are saying, 'Look, before they pick me up, I'd rather leave the state of Arizona either to another state or back home,'" he added.

Migrants who spoke to Reuters on Monday said they would bide their time and see how the law is implemented in the next weeks and months before making their moves.

During that time, Roldan said he and his wife Gladys would stay home as much as possible, to further minimize their exposure to police, and would decide later whether to move to another state.

"We have already got some boxes ready ... so we are prepared," he added.

For Mexican day laborer Rodolfo Espinoza, meanwhile, it was simply time to go back home to work as a fisherman on the Pacific coast of northwest Mexico, where he has a wife and four children.

"This new law gives us no other option than to leave ... I'm going back to Mexico, where I feel more comfortable," he added.

Some people I know are linking to it to explain their opposition to the Arizona law. Honestly, I don't get understand that at all, because if anything, the article shows that the law is needed and is already working. Let's review, shall we?

Some like Roldan, 34, who has a steady job as a warehouse worker and three U.S.-born daughters in Phoenix schools, plan to stay put, lower their profile and wait to see how the law will affect them.

The man is here illegally. And he's working in a warehouse. So how is his employer paying taxes and reporting his income? He is committing identity theft or he has fraudulently obtained a social security number of his own. Either way, it's a crime.

"Since the law says that people hiring undocumented day laborers will get fined, no-one wants to (hire) us," said Aguilar, who early on Monday was among some two dozen migrants touting for landscaping and building work at a day labor site in north Phoenix.

No one wants to hire you? Good. Hiring illegals and paying them cash off the books is a crime, and it sounds like the law is having its intended effect.

"We are thinking of going to Utah or New Mexico ... Here it is just too racist," he added.

No, it isn't racist. It's the law. And it's long been the law, only no one was enforcing it.

"That's going to create havoc, so a lot of them are saying, 'Look, before they pick me up, I'd rather leave the state of Arizona either to another state or back home,'" he added.

Again, this is exactly the intent of the law. So I'd say it's already working.

For Mexican day laborer Rodolfo Espinoza, meanwhile, it was simply time to go back home to work as a fisherman on the Pacific coast of northwest Mexico, where he has a wife and four children.

"This new law gives us no other option than to leave ... I'm going back to Mexico, where I feel more comfortable," he added.

Yep. It's working.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Courage Campaign? Smear Campaign is more like it.

I received this via email:

On Sat, May 1, 2010 at 10:08 AM, Rev. Eric Lee, for Courage Campaign <> wrote:

Rev. Eric Lee, California president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, has a very important message to share with you regarding the new law in Arizona that enables racial profiling.

We stand with Rev. Lee and the thousands of people marching today in 80 immigration rallies across America for the right of every person to live their life free of racial injustice.

Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign

Dear John --

I've spent my life fighting institutional racism. That's why it outrages me to see it happening now just across the border from California.

Arizona -- the state that for years refused to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday as a holiday -- is once again targeting people of color. Arizona's governor just signed SB 1070, a law which allows police officers to question anyone they believe to be in the country illegally based on nothing more than "reasonable suspicions."

And now this law could have a devastating impact on California as well. Republican Senate candidate Tom Campbell -- who could face Sen. Barbara Boxer in November's election -- just came out in support of this draconian new law that turns Arizona into a police state.

In fact, Californians have already been targeted. According to ABC 30 TV news, a truck driver -- a U.S. citizen of Latino heritage from Fresno -- was pulled over last week by Arizona police and arrested simply because he didn't have his birth certificate on him. The same could happen to any of us if the Arizona law is allowed to stand.

Tom Campbell, who wants to be one of California's two U.S. Senators, doesn't see a problem with that. On Wednesday he told the Sacramento Bee " I support [the law]. I don't believe it deserves the negative attention it received." Tom Campbell believes the Arizona law to be constitutional. However, there is nothing constitutional about the bigotry of racial profiling.

I don't support it -- and neither should Tom Campbell. That's why I'm joining the Courage Campaign and the California Federation of Teachers in signing a letter to Campbell showing him that Californians will not accept his support for Arizona's racial profiling. Sign here now and we'll hand-deliver your signature to Campbell. DEADLINE: Tuesday, 5 p.m.:

Tom Campbell's support for the law is out of step with the rest of California.

Polls show Californians support President Obama's plan to secure our borders and provide a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants. That is the just and sensible approach to this issue.

Californians do not support racial profiling, and they do not want law enforcement to waste their time asking for people's papers instead of chasing down violent criminals. But Tom Campbell does.

We have to hold Tom Campbell accountable. Join me and add your name to the Courage Campaign and California Federation of Teachers' letter -- tell Campbell you won't let him take California down the dark path of racism that Arizona has followed. DEADLINE: Tuesday, 5 p.m.:

Thanks for taking a stand for justice and fairness.

Rev. Eric Lee
California President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference

And this is my response:

Sorry, gentlemen, but this email is appalling to me. "Reasonable suspicion" is not racism nor is it bigotry. It is a necessary and vital part of any police officer's job. There are hundreds of court rulings defining how and when it should be applied, and law enforcement successfully does just that everyday when engaging the public. Why allege that they will now, suddenly and instantly, lose all integrity and ability to properly evaluate situations? I am truly disgusted by the anti-law enforcement tone of this rhetoric.

You can be sure that I will be volunteering on this issue, but not in such a manner that smears police officers already doing a thankless job.

Please remove me from any future mailings. I no longer wish to be associated with your group.

John Hulsey

It seems opponents to this law must rely on lies to fight it. "Reasonable suspicion" is not institutional racism. It's a vital tool for law enforcement. Imagine an officer sees someone walking out of a backyard gate holding a television and putting it into the back of a car waiting in the alley. And that person sees the officer, dashes around to the driver's seat and speeds away, leaving the back gate wide open. "Reasonable suspicion" tells the officer that the person may have broken into the home and stolen the television. Is that the only possible explanation? No, of course not. But the officer must rely on his experience, his training and his "reasonable suspicion" and act accordingly. So why the pretense now, that someone officers are going to lose all sense and integrity?

And the accusation that law enforcement will now "waste their time asking for people's papers instead of chasing down violent criminals" is ridiculous. This isn't about verifying immigration status instead of catching criminals. It is about not having to ignore immigration status while trying to serve and protect the public.

This issue is going to heat up no matter what. But attacking the law by insulting the integrity of law enforcement and the intelligence of the rest of us is only going to make it worse.