Andrew Tavani

December 5, 2007

Pot, Please Meet Kettle

Filed under: General — Andrew @ 6:12 am

Viewing President Bush’s news conference yesterday regarding the NIE, which reported that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago, was an exercise in utter frustration and I’m not just talking about the torrents of blood pouring from my ears hearing the president struggle to pronounce the word “nuclear.” I’m talking about the frustration in having to watch and hear President Bush accuse Iran of being “dangerous” ad nauseam. No less than four times during the course of the press conference did President Bush emphasize how dangerous Iran has been, how dangerous Iran is and how dangerous Iran will continue to be.

President Bush’s continuous labeling of Iran as a “serious danger to peace” is exasperating given that Bush is so starkly unaware of the irony in his assertions, even when White House reporters reminded him that the U.S. is still fighting a war in Iraq, still engaging in violence. It’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black. When the recent policy record of the U.S. is compared with the recent policy record of Iran, invariably the U.S. record is one of violence, death and mayhem, a “serious danger to peace,” if you will, while Iran’s is a record of tasteless rhetoric and grandiose threats. Iran is only a tepid danger to peace when compared with the U.S., however unpleasant that idea might be for some Americans.

President Bush asserted that the tones and actions of the Iranian government are isolating the people of Iran. Speaking of tone, the tone of yesterday’s press conference was a familiar one for President Bush: stubbornness. Bush stated that, despite the findings (outlined in the NIE) that Iran is less of a nuclear threat today than it was four years ago (and probably couldn’t develop a nuclear weapon until 2015), he will not modify his position or his policy on Iran. That variety of blind loyalty to an ill-advised agenda has been a trademark of the Bush administration and is hazardous to the interests of the U.S. and the world at large. America does not need to pick another war in the Middle East.

The next few days will be telling as the international community reacts to the NIE. Hopefully, the people of the U.S. will not become isolated due to the repeatedly obstinate tones and actions of the American government. As America begins to select new candidates for president, it’s incumbent on all of us to demonstrate to the rest of the world that America is not as narrow-minded and dangerous as President Bush makes our great country look.

September 26, 2007

Stop the Bitching!

Filed under: General, Politics, Culture, New York City — Andrew @ 12:41 pm

NYC Council Member Darlene Mealy from Brooklyn is on a mission to outlaw use of the word “bitch” in New York City. Believe it or not, in July, she actually introduced a resolution to the city council aimed at banning use of the word citywide. Knicks coach Isiah Thomas breathed new life into the issue last week when he suggested, in his video-taped deposition, that it is permissible for a black man to refer to a black woman as a bitch, but inappropriate for a white man to do so. On Sunday’s edition of ABC 7’s “Up Close” with Diana Williams, Council Member Mealy responded to Thomas’ position, stating “(It) don’t matter, white, black, purple, pink. It’s still derogatory.” When asked whether it was okay for a woman to use the word, she said, “No, it’s not.” I’d like to take exception with Council Member Mealy on this issue.

Before I do, though, I propose that from now on, when discussing a potentially racially-charged topic, we should exclude the proverbial purple, pink, green and blue people from the dialogue until we actually discover races of people whose skin tones appear to be those colors. Including these non-existent races does nothing but dumb down the race conversation.

 American citizens are guaranteed freedom of speech regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. The First Amendment isn’t open to some city council member’s simplistic interpretation of what, when and how a word is “derogatory,” or the interpretation of a basketball coach. Isiah Thomas should know we all have the same right to use the word bitch as he does. After all, bitch is a pretty versatile word. lists four definitions of the noun “bitch” and two definitions of the verb “bitch.” Council Member Mealy should consult the dictionary and look up a new word: context. Government officials who try to legislate taste never seem willing to grasp the concept of context.

Obviously, the issue of calling someone a bitch can be complicated in the context of a sexual harassment law suit. But, Council Member Mealy’s sweeping resolution to ban the word is so exceedingly stupid that it’s almost innocuous. Does Council Member Mealy envision a new “Bitch Squad” division of the NYPD that will patrol the city for people who use the word? If so, how will they name the new squad if it’s illegal to use the word bitch.

It’s insulting and perverse that the people of New York are paying Council Member Mealy to attempt to abridge our most inalienable right as Americans. It’s also a galactic waste of taxpayer money.

August 15, 2007

Save Yankee Stadium

Filed under: General, Sports, New York City — Andrew @ 6:13 pm

Back in January, a good friend of mine showed remarkable prescience with his selection of the August 4th Yankees game against the hapless Kansas City Royals for our group of friends to attend. Lucky us, we saw history when Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th career homerun, a towering shot into the seats just over the left field fence. The historic day prompted us to wax nostalgic on several topics while sipping our nine dollar beers: we reminisced about the long gone days of when a beer cost only seven dollars; but, mostly we discussed the rich history of the Stadium.

I remember the first time I saw a ballgame in Yankee stadium, about eight years ago. Upon entering the massive structure, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the great players who have contributed to the arena’s fabled lore. Yankee Stadium opened in 1923 and, as you know, quickly became known as “The House That Ruth Built.” In addition to the parade of Hall of Fame baseball players who’ve played there and all the baseball drama that has unfolded on the field, Yankee stadium has hosted everything from college football, to boxing, to concerts by rock titans U2 and Pink Floyd, to what is widely considered to be one of the greatest pro football games ever played: the 1958 NFL championship game in which the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants 23-17 in overtime.

As we sat perched nearly at the top of the right field upper deck in the humid summer air, my gaze was drawn to the construction of the new stadium underway across the street, a symbol of the impending demise of the Stadium. It’s a shame the city hasn’t declared the Stadium a historic landmark to be preserved. I’ve written before in this space about the similarities between New York City and Rome, the eternal city. Yankee Stadium is our Colosseum. The next generation would be better served if their parents could take them to visit the hallowed venue where we gathered to enjoy our national pastime, where we could get a beer for the bargain price of only nine bucks, where American sports legend was born. Long after baseball is out of fashion, won’t our generation have undermined its own credibility if there are pictures and glowing articles about what a great place Yankee Stadium was, but no actual stadium to see because we haphazardly wrecked it?

These days, we wantonly erase our history in favor of increased revenue and, ironically, trite credit card commercials dictate to us what is priceless. Isn’t Yankee Stadium a place that is genuinely priceless?

June 20, 2007

Great for New York & Great for America

Filed under: General, Politics, Culture, New York City — Andrew @ 2:51 pm

Mayor Bloomberg  Will he or won’t he?

Despite major articles within the last year in Rolling Stone and New York magazines about the prospect, I’ve always reluctantly filed the idea of a Michael Bloomberg presidential run under the heading of “wishful thinking.” Until now. New York’s brilliant Mayor Michael Bloomberg has officially ended the formality of his Republican affilitation the very same week that he and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger grace the cover of Time magazine. The cover story highlights the two “politicians’” non-partisan, proactive and highly effective public records and contemplates the possibility of a Bloomberg-Schwarzenegger ticket in 2008. What could be more indicative of an imminent campaign?

Frankly, I cannot think of a more competent candidate for the job given the country’s current administration and current crop of politics-as-usual presidential wannabes. Finding the proper successor to President Bush is at the heart of the upcoming election. Therefore, Mayor Bloomberg’s greatest strength may be his fiscal acumen. He is a self-made billionaire, in sharp contrast to President Bush, who had little real-world experience not predicated by his father prior to taking office. I find it rather easy to place confidence in a guy who was able to create such vast personal wealth and equally as easy to trust that, because of that wealth, he will be practically impervious to the special interests that influence so many other politicians.

Anyone leary of Mayor Bloomberg’s relative lack of political experience should consider that New York City, in its complexity and magnitude, is something of its own small country. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Mayor Bloomberg made the colossal task of turning around the city’s tattered economy seem almost easy. Following the Bush administration’s reckless (perhaps criminal?) fiscal policy, who is better qualified than Mayor Bloomberg to clean up the country’s fiscal mess? A President Bloomberg would help restore America’s credibility with the international community. Having a president who is preceded by a reputation for accountability would be a welcomed change and could begin to establish America as a country fostering a more intellectual bent.

Few candidates (excluding Al Gore who is not yet a candidate), if any, have demonstrated a vision and commitment to the issues of global warming, public health and gun control more than Mayor Bloomberg. His devotion to those values has made New York City prosper. It’s reasonable to think similar results are possible for the country at large.

Alas, now I worry that if Mayor Bloomberg formally enters the race I’ll have something new to file under wishful thinking: what is obvious to many New Yorkers - that the fiscally conservative, socially liberal Mayor Bloomberg is clearly the best choice to lead America into the 21st century - might not be obvious to most American voters.

June 5, 2007

What I Think About The Dowitcher

Filed under: General, Politics — Andrew @ 7:16 pm

Brownback  The Dowitcher

During the May 3rd Republican debate, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback was one of three presidential candidates – along with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado – to have raised his hand when the panel was asked if anyone among them did not “believe” in evolution. Last Thursday, the New York Times published an Op-ed column by Senator Brownback titled “What I Think About Evolution.” The column was Brownback’s chance to address his position on creationism and evolution with “nuance” and “subtlety.” If by “nuance” and “subtlety” Brownback meant doubletalk and hokum, then he achieved his objective with flying colors.

Brownback tries his best to straddle the issue in the column, which reads like it was written by a staff spin doctor. In consecutive paragraphs he sings the praises of science and reason and then derides the scientific method as having shortcomings that only “faith supplements.” He urges people of faith to be “rational,” and then eschews rational thought himself passing off cloudy language like, “Man…reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order” as fact and that, “aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge.”

I’m surprised society dwells on the creationism vs. evolution issue regarding presidential candidates. The Biblical creation story amounts to little more than a campy child’s tale and should be treated accordingly. The media don’t inquire about the candidates’ positions on the tooth fairy! Anyone over age ten who is attempting to pass off the creation story as factual is either pandering to the religious right or wildly unfit to lead the country. Frankly, my mind is open to the idea of a higher intelligence and even to the possibility of some oversight in the evolution of the universe. But, blind faith that “we” were created from dust in God’s image and likeness is the height of human arrogance and an assumption that if there is a God he is remarkably vain.

Senator Brownback used 861 words in his Times Op-ed column – prime newspaper real-estate – to inform readers that he believes in “microevolution” but any other theory of evolution should be “rejected as atheistic religion posing as science.” He used zero words to address issues relevant to the country’s problems (of which we certainly have no shortage) or enlighten readers on his platforms. I knew little about Senator Brownback prior to (or after) reading his column, which prompted me to research him. After doing so, the most positive news I have to report about Senator Brownback is that, of all the 2008 candidates, he has the most interesting last name, defined by as “the dowitcher or red-breasted snipe.”

April 13, 2007

The Marginalizing of Free Expression

Filed under: General, Media, Life — Andrew @ 4:20 pm

the I-Man Big mouth; but also the inspiration for…

As a long-time Howard Stern listener, I am an unlikely candidate to be a defender of Don Imus. But when Imus (or anyone) is unfairly targeted in a modern witch-hunt and then fired for what amounts to a poor choice of words, some clarity is in order. Frankly, I find Imus to be an old, boring, curmudgeonly blow-hard who should think twice about making fun of people’s appearance considering he bears such an uncanny resemblence to Super Macho Man from Mike Tyson’s Punchout!!. But, I’ll put my personal opinion of Imus aside for the time being. While Imus’ remark was ill-advised and not funny, it simply did not warrant him losing his entire career.

Super_macho …this classic video game character?

Firing someone - whose job it is to speak - for unsavory speech is a scary precedent to set, particularly when it is largely predicated by an increasingly dangerous speech police and its self-appointed commissioner, the Rev. Al Sharpton. In a demonstration of staggering intellectual dishonesty, Sharpton hijacked the issue and exploited the Rutgers players as much as Imus did to achieve his two-fold agenda: his own opportunistic self-aggrandizement and the downfall of Imus.

sharpton Is this guy really a Christian or is that B.S.?

Sharpton, who has - to say the least - a questionable “career,” is a Pentecostal Minister, licensed at the age of ten (ten!?!) and publicly presents himself as a Christian. The Biblical Jesus, the ostensible model for Sharpton’s life, championed forgiveness and preached on the virtues of the Golden Rule. Sharpton ignored the very tenets of his alleged value system and instead pursued the vilification and downfall of Don Imus with unforgiving tenacity. Perhaps, under the precedent Sharpton has set and according to the ethic of reciprocity, the next logical step should be the revocation of Sharpton’s minister’s license. Sharpton’s conduct in this case, and historically, has been more becoming of an extortionist than a clergyman. I’m curious how he reconciles that fact, or if he pauses to do so. If Sharpton wants to be a bully in the marketplace of ideas, then, for the sake of intellectual honesty, he should dispense with the Christian/Reverend pretense. And if he wants to be a Christian, then he should dispense with the extortionist tactics. As a result of Imus’ firing, we – the media, corporate sponsors, network executives, people who value free speech – allowed ourselves to be bullied by a man with no moral credibility. That’s as sad a commentary on society as it is on Sharpton.

19th century British philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty, “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” Sharpton would be better served if he pondered those words and prioritized free expression over his personal agenda.

On principle, I’m willing to allow my personal sensitivities to be superseded by the greater good free speech affords us. And perhaps that’s the crux of this flap. Evidently, most people can’t or won’t place the greater good above their own sensitivities and tastes. I find that to be incredibly arrogant. I, for one (as a writer and American) will not recognize Al Sharpton, or any individual, as the absolute arbiter of what is acceptable speech. Will you?

March 10, 2007

To Catch a Journalist Impostor

Filed under: General, Media, Culture — Andrew @ 11:21 am

Chris Hansen  Is this guy impersonating a journalist?

There are few television personalities more insufferably pompous and obnoxious than NBC’s Chris Hansen, who despite having earned several awards in journalism, has now been reduced to impersonating a reporter for the newsmagazine, Dateline. Hansen is the point-man for Dateline’s continuing series “To Catch a Predator,” a sting operation on which the show collaborates with the watchdog group Perverted Justice and law enforcement in numerous jurisdictions across the United States. The hidden camera investigation ensnares pedophile suspects red-handed using a coordinated effort that begins with internet chats between a “decoy” posing as a minor and a suspect and ends with police arresting the suspect. It’s a laudable cause.

Therefore, it’s a shame that Hansen and NBC continuously use Dateline to exploit and sensationalize a newsworthy issue for the purpose of generating Nielsen ratings, while mocking the concept of integrity along the way. Each week Dateline exposes an alarming number of creepy (almost exclusively) men, from all demographics, engaging in inappropriate sexual conversations with a Perverted Justice decoy, who the suspects believe is an underage boy or girl. Suspects unknowingly wander into the trap, a house rigged with hidden cameras, police hiding out in the back yard, an adult actor hired by Dateline (who appears to be underage) and the always overzealous Chris Hansen, who is none too shy about injecting himself into the middle of the lurid story.

What transpires next is an exhaustingly perverse scenario. The actor typically invites suspects into the house for a drink, or something equally arbitrary, engages them in small talk and even sometimes asks the suspects to completely disrobe. Meanwhile, in gleeful voice-overs, Hansen apprises viewers of the suspects’ full names, professions, hometowns, marital status and the number of children they may have. Hansen wreaks destruction on the families of the assailants and does so shamelessly, with the tone and enthusiasm of a stand-up comedian, not a newsman.

SPAT_Dateline_Predator Bad reality TV?

Eventually, Hansen surprises the suspects with a self-aggrandizing entrance and subjects them to a litany of questions, seemingly designed to humiliate more than they are designed to gain any legitimate insight into pedophiles’ minds. I find myself wondering who is more perverted: the men who show up apparently expecting to have sex with a minor or Hansen, who seems all too comfortable yucking it up with them. Finally, Hansen has his big Allen Funt moment when he announces that he’s “Chris Hansen from Dateline” and camera operators and sound engineers wielding boom microphones flood the room.

The reporting on Dateline: “To Catch a Predator” is seldom unbiased. Despite occasionally admitting that decoys prime suspects with chats that can span weeks and months, no equal time is ever devoted to scrutinizing the methods of the decoys and addressing whether those baiting tactics cross the line into entrapment. In fact, Hansen never even so much as mentions the word. He is too busy presenting only the most salacious and shocking excerpts of the online chats and pornographic pictures the suspects often email the decoys. Surprisingly, many suspects who show up to the house and are interviewed by Hansen are familiar with the “To Catch a Predator Series” and admit to having watched the show on NBC. The specter of becoming fodder for an episode of Dateline doesn’t appear to deter these men from engaging in what appears to be criminal activity. Rather than investigate why suspects are undeterred by the risk of national humiliation, or if the method employed by Perverted Justice and Dateline is effective, Hansen takes the opportunity to read back to the suspects, in a snarky voice, excerpts of the dirty chats.

Instead of investigating whether neighbors in the communities used by Dateline have concerns or objections to Perverted Justice and a media outlet setting up shop, Hansen repeatedly shows blurred pictures of men’s genitalia obtained during the sting. When one suspect, an assistant district attorney, refused to surrender to police and committed suicide (which NBC aired during the February sweeps period), Hansen never pondered whether Dateline’s insatiable lust for ratings cost an innocent family its father, husband and son. Doing so would leave less time for his dramatic teases of upcoming episodes. On next week’s installment, Hansen, ostensibly interviewing himself, tells viewers in his own words what was going through his mind when he came face-to-face with the predators.

Hansen or one of Dateline’s drone studio anchors (Stone Phillips and Ann Curry) often justify the show’s existence by spewing predictable platitudes about protecting children. Protecting vulnerable children in our society is of paramount importance. However, it’s highly irresponsible for Hansen and NBC to exploit people’s perversions and sicknesses and then package that exploitation as the gold standard for protecting America’s youth so General Electric, NBC Universal’s corporate parent, can realize massive profits. Just because a person is a pervert of galactic proportions and a potential pedophile doesn’t reasonably make him available to be drafted into an NBC army sent to battle FOX’s American Idol juggernaut, Dateline’s Tuesday night timeslot rival.

If executives at GE and NBC were genuinely concerned with the welfare of children, perhaps they would require Chris Hansen to engage in something that remotely resembled television journalism. And perhaps GE wouldn’t be so quick to reap profits, milking the concept both on TV and Dateline’s Web site with Hansen’s blog. Moreover, GE and NBC could run the episodes as a public service announcement, commercial-free. Or the corporation could donate the show’s profits to a charity that cares for sexually abused children. And if GE and NBC are not compelled to raise Dateline: “To Catch a Predator” above the level of tawdry reality television, would it be too much to expect them to dispense with the transparent “journalism protecting the youth of America” pretense and be forthright about their agenda?

February 16, 2007

Neglected Blog

Filed under: General, Media, Life — Andrew @ 2:53 pm

 Beyonce SI Cover Girl

Well, I’m getting the year off to a late start here on the blog. And for that reason and because of the arctic freeze we’ve been plunged into here in New York, which is also being experienced over much of the rest of the country, I’m going to show off a little skin to the people (thankfully, not my skin). Hopefully this will help make it feel a little like summer.

 First off, the editors over at Sports Illustrated have finally put their thinking caps on and chosen the delectable Beyonce Knowles as the cover girl for the 2007 edition of the famed Swimsuit Issue. SI’s overall relevance has waned these last years, what with the rise of the ESPN empire, and the relevance of the annual Swimsuit Issue has also waned thanks to the rise of lad mags, like Maxim and FHM, which basically print a swimsuit issue every month. My guess is that SI had to dig deep into their gold buillion vaults to pay Beyonce for this, but it will prove to be a wise move as she is one of the hottest famous women out there.

With Beyonce, SI has taken me back to the early days (at least for me) of the Swimsuit Issue. I had a subscription to SI from when I was about 10 years-old until I was about 17 or 18. I remember longing for that glorius Wednesday in February, when the Swimsuit Issue arrived in the mailbox. It was the one day a year I made sure I picked up the mail, to ensure that the issue wouldn’t be censored by my parents. Yes, those were fine days. The days of Elle Macpherson, Kathy Ireland and Rachel Hunter to name a few of my favorites (all three of whom graced the ‘94 cover, incidentally). For one day in the middle of the cold and barren winter of the Northeast, it seemed like summer. This year’s pictures of Beyonce make me nostalgic for those long gone days. Enjoy these few shots of Beyonce’s exquisite beauty and to see the whole spread, go here.

beyonce1beyonce4beyonce3 Yep

Next on the agenda is a very amusing PETA video. I should note that I am in no way a vegetarian and I don’t necessarily espouse many of PETA’s positions. However, I do think PETA’s voice in the marketplace of ideas is important and everyone should at least give their philosophy some consideration. Especially when they make videos like the following. This video is certainly titillating because a woman is disrobing while she is giving a mock state of the union address–quite frankly, I don’t know what she was talking about, but…–however, it’s pretty funny because (in a very amateurish way) the producers of it cut in shots of the members of Congress from the real state of the union standing to applaud every time she makes a point. The style, low-budget editing and the funny overuse of the applause reminds me of stuff we use to do on The Anti Show. You can view it right here. Enjoy.


December 9, 2006

The Missing Recommendation

Filed under: General, Politics, Culture — Andrew @ 1:55 pm

Iraq Study Group Report They forgot one key suggestion

At last, the findings and recommendations of the Iraq Study Group were presented to President Bush and made public Wednesday. The assessment by the ten-person panel is peppered with phrases like “grave and deteriorating” and “violence is increasing in scope and lethality,” to demonstrate that the panel has, at least, been paying attention to news reports. The panel rightly acknowledged that there is no “magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq.”

Two of the group’s major recommendations are for: the U.S. to “launch a new diplomatic offensive to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq”; and for Bush to threaten Iraq with reduced “economic and military support…if it fails to meet specific benchmarks intended to improve security in the country.” The first of those recommendations seems reasonable and necessary to hopefully mitigate further disaster in Iraq. The second of those seems downright insulting to the Iraqi people, tantamount to: “We came in and defecated on your head. Now, figure out how to make a pretty hat out of our stinking excrement or we’ll punish you.”

Not surprisingly, what wasn’t recommended - because panel co-chair James Baker is friend of the Bush family and the study group isn’t really “independent” - was the impeachment and removal from office of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, which would underscore U.S. sincerity of a “diplomatic offensive to build an international consensus.” Removing our current political leadership would allow us to practically pursue a new course with new leadership and doing so would be a symbolic gesture to the international community that the U.S. regrets having so colossally blundered in Iraq and is committed to resolving the problems it has created. Yes, we’ve already admitted that Bush has blundered - why else would Congress specifically appoint a ten-person panel to “study” the epic mess he’s made?

Everything the Bush administration has done - including and subsequent from the lying about the need to invade Iraq - has been wrong and has led to the death and injury of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. And it’s been paid for with the money of future generations’. Ironically, those generations will not only be in debt, but they will be in danger thanks to the Bush administration’s reckless policies. Their unmatched record of ineptitude amounts to high crimes and misdemeanors and their impeachment and prosecution not only would send the right message to the world, but more importantly, to the American people.

Therefore, I guess this column is really an open letter to my representative, Charles Rangel, urging him to initiate the impeachment process (not the draft) and to my Senators, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, urging them to support and finish it. We cannot truly have a genuine change of course if the current flawed leadership isn’t held accountable. A different course of action is a job for a different leader with different ideas. 

September 19, 2006

Papal Fallibility

Filed under: General, Life, Culture — Andrew @ 7:18 pm

Pontiff Religious leaders dressed in silly costumes like this…

Just when I thought no one paid any serious mind to a word the Pontiff says anymore, Muslim extremists have started burning effigies, calling for his death and even killing people in the wake of a papal lecture. The disgruntled Muslims’ gripe is that Pope Benedict XVI disparaged Mohammed when he quoted the late 14th/early 15th century Byzantine Emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, who was critical of Mohammed’s “command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The Pope went on to quote the Emperor who said, “To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.”

Perhaps extremist Muslims have a marginal reason to be annoyed, despite that they seldom protest anything reasonably and they certainly haven’t begun to do so now. But, the people who really should be taking exception with the Pope’s analysis are Catholics. A major theme of the Pontiff’s lecture was that of the age-old conflict: faith versus reason. For all the boring verbiage he churned out on “reason” the Pope demonstrated a tragic inability to exercise even the remotest semblance of reason.

Cleric …OR like this should NEVER be taken seriously

The Pope’s observations would be cogent had they not emanated from the leader of a religion that governs its congregation and attempts to convert non-believers with flagrant threats and intimidation. Extreme Islam may indeed threaten people with jihad and death. Fundamentally, Catholicism threatens people with the concepts of sin and hell. How is the Pope, who flaunts himself as a philosopher, able to overlook such an obvious similarity? Granted, the Muslim threat is more immediate on an existential level, but the Catholic threat of eternal damnation is more ominous. How can Catholicism hold any validity if it depends on threats to convince the “reasonable soul?” If extremist Muslims were smart, they would make that argument instead of engaging in all the demonstrative pyrotechnics and violence. Unfortunately, as is par for the course with religion, only a few are thinking for the masses.

That is the real issue exposed in this controversy. The vast majority of people in the world believe in some form of organized religion–a world in which we are more technologically and scientifically advanced than at any other time in our civilization’s history. Even intelligent, educated people believe in religion, seemingly without giving it the slightest scrutiny that they give virtually ever other area of life, no matter how inconsequential. Would you buy a stock because someone tells you “God” says this stock is on the move?

As world citizens, we condone tremendous death, carnage and plain foolishness in the name of organized religions and deny ourselves progress and even simple human pleasures because of a steadfast belief in something written in an old book. Furthermore, many of us enslave ourselves to antiquated and divisive loyalties to religious symbols like Jesus and Mohammed. Only when people think independently and free ourselves from the trappings of traditional organized religion will we be able to chuckle at and move on from the musings of people like of today’s religious leaders, who are tantamount to clowns. We owe it to ourselves to improve upon our worldy existence, the only existence of which we have any proof.  

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