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Archive for the ‘Side B’ Category

The month of April, according to the folks over at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is Fair Housing Month.

There’s even a link provided by HUD that describes what the Fair Housing Act is. Officially known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act basically bans a home seller or landlord from discriminating against a buyer or renter on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Originally, this post was going to be about the exceptions to this law. I was going to title this post “The Discriminating Discriminator”, but then I came across something bizarre enough to make me rethink my post. Something bizarre enough to share.

In 1988, an amendment was added banning discrimination against anyone with a handicap. Seems simple enough. The law even goes into detail as to define “handicap”. Title 42, Section 3602, paragraph (h) of the United States Civil Code (USCC) states:

(h) “Handicap” means, with respect to a person—
(1) a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities,
(2) a record of having such an impairment, or
(3) being regarded as having such an impairment,

Again, seems simple enough…until you read the Notes section for this part of the USCC.

The Notes section states, in part, that “neither the term ‘individual with handicaps’ nor the term ‘handicap’ shall apply to an individual solely because that individual is a transvestite.”

Huh?

Double-Huh?

Who was it that ever thought being a transvestite was a handicap akin to a “mental impairment”?!?

Oh…up until May of last year, the bible of the psychological profession, the DSM-IV, thought so. The latest version, the DSM-V, has removed “gender identity disorder” as a mental illness.

Here’s another thought. Since someone took the time to put those Notes in the USCC, I wonder if there was ever a moment (after 1988 but before May 2013) when a transvestite attempted to buy/rent a home and the seller/landlord refused. Then, did this transvestite file a complaint claiming discrimination because of his “disability”. Hey, it was defined in the DSM-IV as a “mental disorder” so here was the transvestite’s one opportunity to use that moniker to his/her advantage. In the court case that followed, did the judge rule for the transvestite, which then prompted legislators and/or HUD officials to add the Note.

There’s a story here. Just wish I had the time to ferret it out.

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I can only start this post off by saying that Japan – like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of the rich – are very different from you and me.

I’m old enough and cynical enough to not be surprised that there is a website whose membership are people trying to have extra-marital affairs. Husbands and wives have had wandering eyes since marriage became a social institution. So, no, the fact that a company like Ashley Madison exists is not enough of a thing to make me write about it. (Side Note: Now that I have had to search for Ashley Madison on this computer for this post, please excuse me for a moment while I erase my browser’s memory lest my wonderful wife accuse me of ill). However, the fact that over a million citizens of Japan have become members of Ashley Madison in less than nine months is an item of note. You can find the full story here. Japan is now the fastest country to reach the one-million membership mark. The United States took a year and Brazil took ten months. I had absolutely no clue that the Japanese were so interested in coveting thy neighbor’s spouse, but according to the linked story, “There is a tradition of wealthy men taking mistresses in Japan and its male-dominated society has provided plenty of outlets for married men to find casual sex.” Just to make my eyebrows rise in surprise again, the story ends with this observation, “…84 per cent of Japanese women in the survey believed an affair worked as a plus for their marriage.”

A follow-up question I would have is “How?”

From love (or lust) to employment, comes this news from the island nation of Japan that their premier crime organization, the yakuza, have launched a web site with the purpose of increasing their membership. You can read the full story here. I actually surfed on over to The Onion to make sure that this wasn’t a fake news story that other news outlets had bought. Hey, it’s happened before! No, apparently it’s on the up-and-up that an up-and-coming goodfella can use his (or her) browser of choice and sign up to be made.

How many hackers working for the police do you think are trying to break into that website and see who is signing up?

I’ll finish up my tour of the weird tales of Japan with two words: bijinesu neiru. Translated as “business nail”, it appears to be all the rage among Japanese worker drones who want to be less dronish. You can read the full story here. I’ll just leave the story here without comment save for the thought that I would pay dearly to see Warren Buffet sport a bijinesu neiru.

Of course, the trend is not new and should have been named the Penn Jillette nail. Jump here to find out why.

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A Frozen Tundra of Theories

Earlier this week, I posted my thoughts about a theory making the rounds of the Internet about how the Disney movie Frozen is a conspiracy put forward by the House of Mouse to turn children into homosexuals.

Since the gentleman who floated that theory offered up no actual evidence for his rant, allow me to do the same and state for the here and now that Frozen is actually a movie that…

…teaches children the evils of the gold standard;
or
…is a stunning repudiation of the metric system;
or
…is a gateway studio to lure unsuspecting kids into Touchstone Pictures.

All kidding aside, let me show you what can happen when you actually offer up evidence for a crackpot theory or two. Here and now, let me state for the record (and with tounge firmly placed in my cheek) that the Disney animated movie Frozen is actually a promotion of misogyny.

As proof that this movie actually shows a hatred and dislike for women allow me to remind my reading audience that there are only three speaking roles for human females in this movie. There is Elsa, the older sister. There is Anna, the younger sister. Finally, there is Elsa and Anna’s mother, the Queen.

Of those characters, they are either killed outright (Queen), threatened with death (Elsa by orders of the Duke of Weselton and, later, at the sword of Hans, Anna by Hans’s refusal to help), or are killed but come back (Anna). Other than a dunking in water (Hans) and being exiled from Arendelle (Duke), there is no consequence for the murderous activity of any of the male characters.

So there you have it, my proof that Frozen is anti-woman.

Of course, there is also proof (read: reading what you want to see) that Frozen is an allegory of the story of Christ and is thus pro-Christian.

At the start of the movie, the audience sees Anna and sees how she wants to build things (such as a snowman). A carpenter likes to build things also and Jesus was a carpenter.

Jesus was tempted in the desert and Anna is tempted by Hans’s offer of marriage.

After Elsa goes off by herself and builds her ice castle on top of a mountain, Anna tracks her down and gives her a sermon on how she needs to stop the blizzard. Jesus also gave a sermon on a mount.

Anna comes to aid of a wrongly-accused woman (her sister) just like Jesus came to the aid of Mary Magdalene.

And now the coup de grace

At the climax of the movie, Anna is turned to ice and is therefore killed. However, she comes back to life through the power of love. Jesus also died and came back to life because as 1 John 4:8 states “God is love”.

So there you have it. With actual elements from the film, I can spin it so that Frozen can be both anti-woman and pro-Christian.

It really is too bad Mr. Swanson couldn’t have come up with any evidence to support his theory that Frozen would turn his daughters into lesbians. It would have been extremely easy (as I have shown above), but I guess that would have meant actual mental effort on his part.

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A Hate Frozen in Bias

I’m going to start this post with a story. At the international school that my trio of children attend here in Bangkok, my middle child, Jared, has a foreign language teacher that he cannot stand. Jared finds this teacher to be unfair, capricious in his punishments, and unhelpful when asked for advice. At first, I thought my middle child was being his usual stubborn self, but after a few interactions (i.e., back to school night, parent-teacher conferences, emails), I can verify that Jared’s teacher is rude, paranoid, obnoxious, unable to hear criticism, and basically should find another method of employment. Because of my new-found attitude toward this teacher, I now view everything this teacher does through the lens of my own dislike for him. In all subsequent electronic correspondence with this teacher, I now read his words with his sarcastic, defensive tone, which colors my emotions of what the teacher is trying to convey. I realize that. I understand that. I try to modify my displeasure towards this teacher, but it’s tough.

My displeasure towards this teacher taints his input and so the output I take away is sullied by my bias. It’s coming to the point where the teacher could say, “Jared is fantastic”, but I would read that praise as ironic.

I understand this issue is mine and I need to work on it. An article I recently read in BBC News showed me that I am not alone in allowing my hate to bias me, but at least I’m working on it. The same cannot be said for Kevin Swanson.

When I first read this article on the BBC’s website, I at first could not convince myself to click on the link to read it. I simply could not comprehend that anyone would go so far as to say that the Disney movie Frozen had a “gay agenda”. You can read that story here.

Well, I finally did click on it and it was even worse than I thought.

Kevin Swanson, a talk show host, makes the claim that not only is Frozen part of a conspiracy to turn kids gay, but that this movie is “…evil, just evil.” Oh, but why take my word for his word when you can leap on over here and read selections from his diatribe.

If you’ve read Swanson’s comments and if you’ve read the BBC News article, you notice that Swanson offers up absolutely no evidence for his allegation that Frozen promotes homosexuality. None. So, with no evidence to back up his claim, where does Swanson’s claim come from?

It comes from the same place where my displeasure for Jared’s teacher originates. It comes from bias.

For someone who is so biased against gays (as an example, this article makes the claim that Swanson wants homosexual behavior criminalized), it makes sense that he would see everything in popular culture through the lens of his bias. Just like I read the teacher’s emails with my biased view against him, Swanson’s view of movies is colored by his bias.

That doesn’t make it right, it just makes it irrational.

I should lean into my irrationality and remember the words of Mark 12:31, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

I wonder if Swanson is aware of that passage.

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TIME to Navel Gaze

It is sometimes difficult to come up with new things to post about when my past themes provide so much material also.

Back in September, I wrote about the differences between the covers of TIME magazine that Americans see and what citizens in the rest of the world see.

Last week saw yet another wonderful example of my previous thesis that the editors of TIME “think the State-side readers are morons.” I can only again surmise that the powers that be at TIME who decide what graces the cover of that magazine think that Americans are not interested in the world at large and only care about what happens in their land between the “sea to shining sea.”

Last week, the covers that appeared on the magazine that people in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the South Pacific could see looked like this…

Time_LastWeek_International

The cover shows the aftermath of the central square (called the Maidan) in Kiev, Ukraine, after the president of that country, Viktor Yanukovych, fled. This flight was due in part to the mass of protesters who had camped in the Maidan demanded a more pro-Western lean to the country. Yanukovych titled towards Russia and so there was conflict.

The popular uprising of a European country on the doorstep of Russia that includes the overthrow of its elected President is (and rightfully so) big news. The cover of TIME even admits that the drama is not yet over.

So do what those living in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City see on their covers of TIME? This…

Time_LastWeek_USA

They see a cover about an event that happened in October of 2013. Granted, Stephen Brill’s article about how a group of people rescued the technical failure that was heathcare.gov (the on-line portal that allowed people to sign up for President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act) is a wonderful read, but it’s an event that happened a full five months ago.

To sum up, international readers of TIME see what is happening now in the larger world and which poses questions about the future.

State-side readers of TIME see themselves…in the past.

I have a feeling this trend of TIME will only continue.

As a final thought, I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who sees this habit from TIME.

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Living abroad has given me the opportunity to view my country of birth through another lens. I have written before about how my perceptions of life in the United States has changed since I moved abroad.

I have also written in the past in this e-space about how I do not like e-books.

This post takes those two concepts and combines them into one.

While I don’t read books on my e-reader on a regular basis, I have found a new non-Angry Birds thing to use my electronic reader for. I use it now to read magazines. Rather than wait the week or two (or three or four or five) it would take my currents events publication to arrive in Thailand, I have opted to have the latest and greatest issue dropped into my e-library. While I enjoy reading about the latest tomfoolery occurring in Washington, D.C., New York City, or Cedar City (Utah), the latest issue I received from TIME magazine gave me pause about said magazine and how they view their audience.

The latest issue (Vol. 182 No. 12) from September 16, 2013, that was downloaded on to my tiny screen has a cover story about paying college athletes. Nothing odd about that as the college football season is starting up in the States so it seems like a timely topic.

However, when I was at our local Thai store, I saw the Asian edition of TIME and was confronted with a different cover. Here, look for yourself…

One of these things is not like the other

One of these things is not like the other

So the international editors of TIME thought that a piece about Russian President Vladimir Putin should be on the cover. Well, that makes sense too as Putin has been vocal about not attacking Syria for their alleged use of chemical weapons.

But why? Why is there such a difference between the covers of the American edition of TIME and the non-American versions?

I surmise this is because the editors at TIME think the State-side readers are morons.

Here America stands on the brink of yet another war in the Middle East and one the main global players, the Russian President, stands opposed to such a military adventure. This might be a good time for readers from Hawaii to Maine to know more about Mr. Putin, the ex-KGB agent, the man who thinks the chemical attacks in the suburbs of Damascus was done by the rebels. So, it might seem like a good idea to hook the reader into this serious issue by placing Putin’s face on the cover so that the impulse magazine buyer would want to buy TIME. Apparently, the editors at TIME think that people around the world are interested enough in this issue and this man to put Putin on the cover. Also apparently, the editors of TIME don’t think Americans are that interested and resorted to putting a picture of a college athlete on the cover to attract U.S. readers.

I would tend to think that American readers are smarter than that and would be interested to pick up TIME if they same Putin on the cover. But that’s why I’m not an editor.

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When Bill Clinton was President (and even before), those opposed to him wasted no time or effort to tar and feather him by associating him with the following scandals…

Whitewater – a real estate venture gone bust;
Vince Foster – the Deputy White House Counsel who killed himself in 1993;
Troopergate – allegations from the days when Clinton was Governor of Arkansas; and
Gennifer Flowers.

This constant cry of scandal and misdeed led to an interesting conclusion.

When something scandalous actually did show up, the affair with Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment and trial that followed, the public had Clinton “scandal fatigue” and shrugged. Clinton was acquitted by the Senate and he left office with an approval rating of 66%. By comparison, Ronald Reagan finished out his second term with an approval rating under 60%.

As George Santayana put it, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Such is the case with those who oppose President Barack Obama. Whether it is those who…

…question his birth certificate;
…question his religion;
…question his affiliation with pastor Jeremiah Wright;
…question his patriotism; or
…call him a socialist,

…those that call for the impeachment of the current occupant of the White House are falling into the same trap that captured the opponents of Clinton.

When something actually does show up – such as Benghazi and the Issa hearings or the IRS controversy – the public just shrugs and passes it off as more GOP crying wolf…or Kenyan…or Muslim.

Just once, I would like to see an opposition party keeps its powder dry and pounce at the right time…not simply at every whiff of blood in the air.

I have such large expectations.

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