Our Supremely Disgusting Court

Yesterday (June 28, 2011), the U.S Supreme Court struck down a California law that restricted sales of violent video games to people 18 and over by placing hefty fines on the sale of such items to those under that age. See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/28/us/28scotus.html . The law was clearly intended to attempt to resist the rising glorification of violence in our society, something that this blogger has often reflected on. The Court found that the principle of "free speech," as manifested in allowing children to play games in which they fantasize perpetrating all manner of ultra-violent acts on an endless series of victims, outweighed the possible ill effects of young people immersing themselves in endless hours of gruesomely violent fantasy play. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia reasoned that there was no tradition in the USA of censoring portrayals of violence. He rejected the proposition that restrictions on video violence were comparable to restrictions on pornography.

I am saddened and disgusted by this turn of events. It is such a pathetic verification of the old criticism of American culture as a twisted world in which violence is valued and sexuality is repressed. Your kid spends his free time in games in which he can kill ten thousand people an hour, hack them to pieces, set them on fire, run them over with tanks? Perfectly fine. Show one woman's naked breast or vagina to a thirteen year old? Criminal act. Backwards priorities, to my thinking. The hippie saying, "Make love, not war," may have originated in America but it never reflected the majority mindset, and still does not today.

Again, I hope that all branches of Paganism will not side with the dominant trend in America toward glorification of violence. We are going down a very dark road, I fear. A culture that values sadism, cruelty and brute force over all else cannot have a very bright future. Worse still, the evolution of our military is toward the use of remote controlled drones that are operated very much like video games.
See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/world/20drones.html. So, the young kids who grow up on violent video games will be perfectly suited to be the conscienceless, long-distance video game soldiers of the future. Perhaps the final result will be for the some video game corporation, say Hyperviolence Inc,,to take over the US military and run it as a subsidiary, feeding the live footage of people being shot or blown up by our brave drones in places like Pakistan and Yemen back into the games for every patriotic citizen to enjoy, the younger the better. Why not do the same with police and security services, and have the whole country under a brave new regime of video violence: pay-per-view law and order.

At least there was good news in New York about gays and lesbians getting the right to marry.

Freedom And Liberty In A Democracy Require A Truthful Political News Media

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Grandparents Day for one of my grand children. The kids closed the event in the gymnasium by singing, with gusto, "My Country 'Tis of Thee".

Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" in 1831, and the song served as a de facto national anthem of the United States before the adoption of The Star Spangled Banner as the official anthem.

The words go like this...

"My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!"

The song ended with the kids beaming with patriotism with the words "Let freedom ring". With the words still ringing off the gymnasium walls I thought about what those words actually meant..."let freedom ring".

I was struck by how few countries in the history of our world have actually accomplished a true freedom and liberty for its people. For a moment I was deeply humbled and grateful for the opportunity to live in a country where our freedoms and our liberties are actually protected by law.

As I went about the rest of my day I couldn't get those words out of my mind..."let freedom ring".

A country that is truly grounded in freedom and the protection of liberty for its people does not allow black-and-white extremism and the radical ideologies of political extremists to enter its main stream political system.

There will always be extremists in a democratic country that allows freedom of speech, but when those extremists are allowed to become part of the political governing body of a country, it almost always results in the Hitlers and Mussolini's of the world removing the freedoms and liberties of the people who voted them into office.

History is full of examples of how easily a totalitarian government can come into power and mute the ring of freedom for its people.

The Nazi movement did not suddenly spring into power in German politics overnight...it was an extremist totalitarian movement that relied on the growing support of the German citizens.

A democratic government protects the freedom of speech but it holds a very high standard of truth and accuracy in its news media so its people can make informed political and economic decisions.

Totalitarian governments rely on the ability to lie and distort the truth so they can inflame the emotions of the people and blind them to the truth.

I have had a growing concern that our country is encouraging and allowing dangerous political extremists to enter our mainline political system. When our news media is allowed to knowingly report lies and intentional distortions as "truth", when political extremists are allowed to publicly malign the character of those who disagree with them in the news media, our country is headed in a very dangerous direction.

An intentional distortion of the facts is called a lie in my home.

Allowing anyone to publicly maligning the character and integrity of someone simply because they disagree with you is a dangerous violation of that person's right to free speech and their personal liberties. In my home I call such behavior abusive.

Unfortunately, I see this kind of behavior growing. It is virtually impossible to know any more what is truth and what is an intentional distortion or an intentional lie in our news media coverage.

A morally credible news media reports facts to the best of their ability. They hold themselves to a very high ethical standard. Especially when reporting political news when our country is entering an important election.

I would like the next generation of children to sing the words "let freedom ring" knowing that they are living in a country that honors that concept.

Our political process is in a shambles, extreme political ideologies are rampant in Washington, and our news media is leading the ideological charge that threatens to silence the "ring of freedom".

Allowing extremism in a country's mainline political system, and allowing a country's new media to lower their ethical standards in what they report as "truth", is a very dangerous path for any nation that wants "freedom to ring".

Looking to the East

Friends, isn't it true that we are all divided beings? Don't we all have internal conflicts, mixed loyalties, inner contradictions? I have been reflecting on some of my own, and this is leading me to a new course of action. Over the last twenty or more years, I have been a student of Norse, Celtic and Baltic mythology, also of Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. Born in the USA, I have lived in Iceland and Lithuania, and also in Japan. I see value in the nature-centered spirituality of the Western Pagan traditions, but I am also drawn to the search for higher levels of consciousness and a deeper understanding of the nature of reality in the Eastern traditions. Sometimes the pendulum swings one way for me, and sometimes it swings the other. Just now, the East is calling me.

This is partly because I have been feeling so disenchanted with what I know of American Asatru. I don't mean to stereotype or throw everyone into the same pot under the same lid, but my experiences have led me to believe that what most--not all, but most--American Asatru followers are most concerned and motivated about is preserving an idealized version of European ethnic heritage, reaching back to a fabled time when, in the Republican Senator Trent Lott's words, "we didn't have all these problems" about diversity, multiculturalism and the mixing of races. A nice white Viking society, pure as the driven snow in whichever Germanic country you prefer.

I have been feeling queasy for a long time about how this comes way too close to comfort to the very ugly tradition of racism and white supremacy. Now I just want to get away from this. It's not what I have known as Asatru in Iceland or Sweden or with German Heathens that I have met along the way. This is not to say that there are no racists in those lands, which would be a ridiculous statement, but simply that in those places, I have met a good number of Asatru followers with a clear, analytical, comprehensive understanding of the need to completely renounce anything that approaches racism. For knowing such people, I am grateful. I just wish there were more like them in the USA, but I think American Asatru is on a somewhat different track, certain clear-minded exceptions aside. And of course I don't like the implicit or explicit militarism in much American Asatru, the "worship of the war god" as discussed in past postings.

Celebrating ethnic heritage or playing GI Joe in Viking drag is not the primary thing that I want out of religion or spirituality. I want to feel close to nature and in touch with some kind of absolute reality. Recent contact with members of the Hare Krishna-Krishna Consciousness movement and a branch of Tibetan Buddhism known as Diamond Way have made me think seriously of how these traditions all use methods of mind-stimulation to reach higher states of consciousness where they experience Something that could be called Krishna, or Buddha, or Mind, or what not, but something that gives them peace, joy and clarity. I have always been a piss-poor failure at any kind of meditation, but now I am moved to try again.

Ultimately, I would like to somehow combine these different pathways, perhaps,to put it humorously, chanting "Hare Odin" or visualizing Thor's hammer as the thunderbolt that flashes enlightenment! Or, leaning to my Lithuanian side, maybe it will be "Hare Velnius" and Perkunas as the bringer of enlightenment. Now I am really going to be on the shit list of people who are committed purists, but you know what? I don't care. This kind of mixing and matching may not be to everyone's taste, but as a person torn between East and West, it makes perfect sense to my perfectly divided self. I also know that the past history of religions involves plenty of borrowing and blending, so it's not like I am in the first person in history to have these wicked thoughts and heretical urges.

I would be interested to hear of similar thoughts,experiences or experiments that others have had.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Finding Your News Niche - Staying Current With Political Trend News

Finding what is current in Politics both in your local area and abroad can be a bit more difficult than what one would normally have the time for, hence the need to niche news and information websites.

These sites provide the reader with a 'tip of the iceberg' view of the news category that the reader is looking for and are great timesavings for those just interested in a specific category of news such as Current Political Trends.

Whether you are interested in the events going on with the President of the United States, White Hose Policy, The House of Representatives or a new bill that is going through congress, you can find it at a political news site. It will be much harder to find elsewhere.

In Current Politics, things are always moving and moving fast. And the changes in the news are usually more 'social' than technical.

For this reason, a way to keep track of the news stories is critical. And much more than just subscribing to all the Political News feeds that you'll find.

A lot of the news sites out there are of very good quality. Extremely polished layout and well designed. The challenge a lot of readers looking for subjects such as politics for interest are the fact that most headlines and popular news is not the deep reaching subjects and articles that niche sites can provide.

For example: If a political issue becomes more gossip, it is likely to make it to the headlines for a day, but what about the policies that were being negotiated that would affect your business a year down the road? You could find out much more quickly at a political niche news site.

A Political Niche News Website will aid in:

1) Staying on top of current political news.
2) Better time management when reviewing politics in the news.
3) Allow for more granular searching on the various news stories involving politics.

So there are a lot of benefits to niche news sites for the reader.

So if you want a more targeted news experience, check out some of the niche news sites online.

There are a lot of them and some times hard to find but if you use the search engines wisely and include all of the pertinent keywords as well as some creative variations in your search, you would find the site you are looking for.

Recent Economic and Political News Filling You With Anxiety and Got You Down?

Spring break from college has arrived and Daniel's kids are home for the break. Conversation quickly turned to the anxiety and stress over this years upcoming graduation and the outlook for jobs.

Daniel's oldest son has experienced racing heart episodes over the fear of the unknown. Jobs are scarce and the atmosphere surrounding the rapid change of the country to unfamiliar economic conditions is taking its toll emotionally.

What about these student loans. How will he ever be able to pay them back if there are no jobs? Starting pay of graduates has been declining and the quality of jobs available have fallen. That is a lot of stress and anxiety on young people just starting their lives as self-sustaining adults.

As parents we experienced similar situations coming out of college during the Carter administration depression. The first job we took out of college were compromises on our chosen career choice. We felt anxiety as we waited in long lines at the Career center waiting for our turn to interview employers visiting the campus. Many times we were shut out as the maximum number of interviews filled up. This was back in the days when we had to stand in line to sign up. No on line ability back then.

Using Comic Books to Illustrate Political News

Some say that "Captain America" and "Superman" were little more than symbols of American patriotism, calling citizens to accept the call of duty for their country and do something larger than life. Superman fought the Japanese during WWI and Captain America punched Hitler in the face during WWII. However, today's political news resounds through the comic graphic novels world in an entirely different way now. Some dark comics came out of the Reagan years, but superheroes have been plunged into all-out civil warfare against their own governments.

On October 8th, 2008, just before the November elections, John McCain and Barack Obama starred in their own comic books published by IDW Publishing, only it was nothing like you would think. Even though "Savage Dragon" publicly endorsed Barack Obama in a recent issue, the IDW publications were presented as objective, illustrated, political news biographies of the two nominees. It has been described as "heavy on the facts, light on opinion." The McCain book featured art by Stephen Thompson and writing by Andy Helfer (who also did "Road to Perdition" and "A History of Violence") and the Obama book was illustrated by Tom Morgan and written by Jeff Mariotte (who has done Superman, Spider-Man and Star Trek comic book series).

"We didn't do anything that is sensational here," said Scott Dunbier from IDW. "We're stuck to the facts." Dunbier added that graphic novels have proven extremely effective in reaching and educating people. "We're not in the business of doing textbooks," he clarified, "But I think comic books really do have the great potential to inform and teach and do more than just standard superhero comics." Fans can pre-order the books through their website or visit Uclick to view the comics over their cell phones.

Political Blogs: Untapped Potential for Debating Election and Campaign News

The political party-based system in the United States, in combination with advances in social media and information technology, should present a perfect opportunity for open and helpful debate of the issues facing us today. Instead it seems like the political views that we hear on many political blogs, other social media sites, and chats that follow news articles are so tainted by hyper partisan dgma and inflexible rhetoric that debate and respectful discussion is almost impossible.

Whether you are a democrat or a republican, liberal or conservative, or anything in between, a rational and open discussion of the facts, historical precedents, and theories behind the decisions the political parties are proposing would add real substance to the political discussion. As with any debate, this kind of factual information about political news and views might confirm what you already believe, or it might even sway you to look at the issue differently.

On an even more important level, open, honest, and respectful debate of political issues including the economy, entitlements, healthcare, and taxes, would work to bring us all together - while liberals and conservatives might still not agree afterwards, a sense of mutual respect and understanding would improve the tone and help open the door to compromise between the republican party and democratic party.