CBS Sunday Morning: Weird Juxtapositions

CBS Sunday Morning, in general, continues to be the epitome of excellence in television. This particular Sunday morning, April 27th, they aired an excellent piece on Jeremy Hall. Jeremy Hall is a soldier in the U.S. Army who in his second tour in Iraq faced persecution from fellow soldiers and superiors for his lack of superstitious beliefs. This persecution necessitating a personal body-guard and, eventually, a trip stateside. The reporting on this subject was up to Sunday Morning’s high standards.

Following the commercial break, the next piece was a commentary by Ben Stein. Yes, Ben Stein, mouthpiece of the creation science supporting documentary Expelled. Mr. Stein was commenting on the situation with the polygamist cult in Texas. He likened the state assault on an institution that was illegal and immoral to the Nazi’s. I find it particularly heinous that Mr. Stein associates anyone with whom he disagrees with Hitler’s Nazi party. As he did with evolution proponents in Expelled. Further, Mr. Stein appears to feel that the state of Texas should continue to turn a blind eye to the persecution of women and children as they have for decades.

In both cases it points out the responsibility of the state, actually the responsibility of all of us, to provide for the safety and well being of the minority. In the case of Jeremy Hall and others like him, the military as an instrument of the people of the United States has a responsibility to represent the people of the United States. All of them. Even the 16% who don’t believe in a supernatural deity. The state of Texas, after many years of turning a blind eye, finally took its responsibility seriously for the children of FLDS church. By bringing those children out of that corrupt society, where adult men can take young girls as their brides and women have little or no rights, they have fulfilled the promise of our secular society.

“The laws of humanity make it a duty for nations, as well as individuals, to succor those whom accident and distress have thrown upon them.” –Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1807. ME 11:144


Free Speech Taking It On The Chin

It’s been a bad month for free speech and, apparently, some people with very, very sensitive feelings.

The comedian Kathy Griffin, proving that you don’t have to make fun of pedophile priests to be edgy, dissed the semi-mythical figure of Jesus during her acceptance speech at the Emmy awards. Lampooning the disingenuous winners who attribute their success to their deity, Kathy Griffin cracked, “A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award, I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. … Suck it, Jesus, this award is my god now!”

Reaction to this was swift. The Catholic League condemned her quip as “hate speech” and members of Tennessee’s “Miracle Theater” posted a $90K full-page add in USA Today stating, “Enough is Enough”, referring to the entertainment industry’s supposed anti-Christian bias. You might think that people who were content in their blessings from a personal relationship with the Lord of Heaven, might have taken a more “sticks and stones….” attitude. Well, maybe a backwater professional Christian theater group doesn’t often get the opportunity for that much national attention, do they? I guess they could, if they donated that $ 90,000 to feed children or build a school, or something.

Under pressure from these groups, the TV Academy has opted to cut Griffin’s remarks from the broadcast.

There is a lot that can be said about remark itself. Like how it goes to the very core of comedy, holding up to your face that which is common and revealing it as absurd. That really isn’t important. The important point is that entertainment, satire and public speech should be protected. They are foundational to a free society and the repression of said speech, is the tipping point of a very slippery slope indeed.

Griffin’s response, “I hope I offended some people. Am I the only Catholic left with a sense of humor?” I have a strong suspicion that Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, the cast of Monty Python and Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G), to name a few, would say it is her job to offend people.

But wait, there’s more… “Sally Field’s anti-war remarks were censored by Fox” on and “Why Did Fox Censor Sally Field’s Emmy Speech?” from

A far more troubling incident occurred yesterday when the Senate passed a resolution expressing outrage at a advertisement in the New York Times with the bold heading “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” Where does this outrage come from, a collective guilty conscience? (“How Dare You”, Michael Kinsley,, Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2007) is a liberal lobbying group with millions of members, it has consistently opposed the war and the current administration. Where is the surprise? Why was it more important for the Senate to take time to respond to an advertisement than supposedly finding better ways to improve the lives of Americans? Where is that same commitment to healthcare, to the economy, to education, to the soldiers and veterans that come home damaged?

Is it really so troubling that a group opposed to the war is skeptical of a report which paints a positive picture of our recent actions there? Is it un-American to be unconvinced?

Republican candidate for president, Rudy Giuliani, ripped Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, for not voting to condemn the message. Using a tactic that has become so commonplace in the Bush years, Giuliani condemned Clinton’s skepticism as turning her back on the troops. Clinton, a member of the Armed Services Committee, is probably privy to many more reports on the situation in Iraq than a former Mayor. It would seem more reasonable for Giuliani to ask, “If she’s unconvinced, what am I missing?”

Again, there is a great deal in the content of the messages from Kathy Griffin and that is worth discussing and is incredibly important to the times we live in and our future, but that is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN, IF OUR FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS SUPPRESSED.

I was going to finish up with a quote attributed to Voltaire about freedom of speech. You know the one, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life your RIGHT to say it.” Unfortunately, the exact wording is hard to pin down and there seems to be a question as to whether he said it or it was a paraphrasing of his personal attitude. It is not found in any of his writings.

Instead, I will wrap with a quote that I know belongs to the magnificent French poet, philosopher and satirist known under the pen-name of Voltaire. “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O, Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.” (Voltaire / 1694-1778 / Letter to M. Damilaville / May 16, 1767)


By the numbers

Last night while stretching before Karate, the conversation turned to the situation in Iraq (as it often does). I made the gruesome, and probably tasteless, joke that at least the travesty we’ve created there can’t go on forever. Since the civil war, our actions and the ramifications to health and welfare will decimate the population to the point where there’s no one left to fight. To this a friend, more knowledgeable and cynical than I, replied, “How do you know that the birthrate is below the death rate?” I don’t.

Today, I read the following headline, “US-led forces killed 32 suspected militants in a raid on the Sadr City district of eastern Baghdad, the US military said today.” Thirty two dead on suspicion.?  Why is it that we don’t react to this? Apparently, 9 civilians were also killed, although it may not have been important enough to distinguish if they were part of the 32 or additional.

I don’t remove myself from the callous crowd, I feel like I’m just as bad. I’m just popping my head up to look around.