Government Shutdown A Prime Example of GOP Ignorance and Power Grabbing

Today is the 13th day of the United State’s government shutdown. Like the 1996 shutdown, it is also another example of an out-of-control Republican Party that has lost all touch with the American people. As I’ve written in previous posts, the GOP is only interested in winning at all costs, and refuse to concede even the slightest measure that might make the Democrat in the White House, or his party, look well.

This shutdown was as basic a power play as it gets. Speaker John Boenher and the Republicans may think they’re playing chess, but they’re coming off as street hooligans, more interested in smashing windows than in winning strategies.

The very premise of the shutdown speaks to the Republican’s pathetically desperate bid for control. Every fifth grader knows what the GOP brain trust apparently does not: there are three branches to the United States government, the executive, which enforces the law, the legislature, which makes the law, and the courts, which interpret the law.

If Congress passes a law, they are obliged to fund it, whether or not they agree with it. Any Constitutional issues regarding the law will be dealt with by the courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court, if necessary. The role of Congress regarding Obamacare has been met, and it is time to move on. The wheels of governance should not have been brought to a halt in the first place.

This disgusting Republican power play is an insult to the Constitution, and serves to display what Boenher and his party truly think of it.

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A Letter to Pope Francis

The full version of this letter was mailed to the Vatican offices, and is awaiting a reply:

July 22, 2013

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

Pope Francis:

My mother is a life-long Catholic. Your demeanor during your first address, and your subsequent words and deeds, have reaffirmed her faith. Thank you.

I, too, believe you will be a force for good in the Church and the world. If the request in this letter, then, seems a contradiction, please know it has come after much soul-searching and with all sincere respect.

I ask to be formally excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

As an unaware babe, I was washed in the sacrament of Baptism. As a young man, I made my Confirmation. I am 38 now, and of my own mind.

While I cannot abide the homophobia and misogyny endemic in so many religions, what truly made me ashamed to be a member of this body was the soulless, bureaucratic response to the cries of her abused children. Your well-intentioned Motu Proprio is not enough.

Is it too much to expect that ALL the men of God who closed ranks to protect men of sin forfeit their vestments, titles, positions and earnings?

Is it too much to expect that the families who reached out to Mother Church be treated with respect instead of further hurt?

Is it too much to have expected Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict or now yourself to convene these families and simply say, on behalf of the Church, “I’m sorry?”

Apparently, it is.

You see, then, Holy Father, why I find no warmth of comfort from this cold bosom?

The corruption and inaction of the Holy See has brought shame to holy sacraments. The officers of this Church have demonstrated that they find no value in its doctrine, and it is apparent the blood I was bathed in yesterday is not the same as the blood on their hands today. I want no part of this enterprise. So, I ask for excommunication, a reversal of baptism, a formal separation with this Church.

My soul will have enough blemishes to answer for on the day of heavenly judgment, but the sin of having done nothing while children cried out in pain will not be among them. I leave that burden with your unpunished men.

Best,

Stephen Sonneveld

 

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Petition seeks to curtail racially motivated profits

Hello:

My name is Stephen Sonneveld, and I have been writing about the Washington Redskins overdue name change for almost a year now.

I started a petition on the White House website to call for a measure that would support the seizure of any and all funds earned off racially motivated trademarks, which you must decide for yourself if you wish to sign.

The link to the petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/support-seizure-any-and-all-profits-earned-racially-disparaging-trademarks-such-nfls-redskins/0ZKrMkmD

I only had 800 characters with which to make my point, and that is fine.  Below is the complete text I would have liked to have seen land on the President’s desk, as it mentions the work of so many who are trying to do right by our Native American brothers and sisters.

Together, we will.

Best,

Stephen Sonneveld

———

Mr. President, Cabinet Members:

This marks the 81st year the racial signifier “Redskin” has been in use as a team name by the National Football League.

On the municipal level, Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray expressed to reporters in January that if the franchise known as the Washington Redskins were ever to return to the city, at least discussions of a name change would need to take place.

By spring, D.C. Councilman David Grosso introduced a resolution calling for a change to the “racist and derogatory” name.

On the federal level, Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega of American Samoa introduced a bill in March, cosponsored by 19 Members of Congress, that “seeks to cancel the federal registrations of trademarks using the word “redskin” (hereinafter “R-word”) in reference to Native Americans.”

In May, Faleomavaega and nine other Members of Congress, including the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus (Tom Cole (OK) and Betty McCollum (MN), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ), Gwen Moore (WI), Michael M. Honda (CA), Donna M. Christensen (VI), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Barbara Lee (CA), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)), sent a letter to NFL officials urging them to change the name on the basis that is it is not only hateful language, but for the Penobscot Nation, also a “reminder of one of the most gruesome acts of . . . ethnic cleansing ever committed against” them.

In the wake of this sea-change, Washington franchise owner Daniel Snyder was quoted by USA Today: “We’ll never change the name,” he said. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to the Congressional letter with poll numbers showing the name is popular, and echoed his comments from the Super Bowl press conference three months earlier that the team name represents respect and pride.

As an American, I wholly support Synder and Goodell’s First Amendment right to name their team whatever they wish, even if it is a known racist slur. As a man of conscience, however, I find it abhorrent that they profit from it.

Therefore, I am asking that the Obama Administration lend its support to a bill that would allow the federal government to seize any and all funds earned from disparaging racial trademarks on all official and bootleg products.

This would extend to television licensing fees and commercial revenue for any non-dramatic work wherein the branded mark is an essential part of the broadcast, i.e., televised games.

Using the mark, broadcasting the mark, and emblazoning it on merchandise are all protected acts under the Bill of Rights. However, PROFITING from a disparaging mark employed in the context of a non-dramatic work is not a Constitutional protection.

Mr. President, you have inherited an inordinate amount of problems, and I do not envy you; all the issues need to be addressed, all have worth, and this is but one more.

In 1961, the Kennedy Administration had the courage to break the racist hold over this very team, and create equal opportunity for African-American athletes. Why it has taken so long for our Indian brothers and sisters to be shown and granted equal respect I do not know.

Of all the stirring language from that era, these are the words I most wish did not ring true: “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”

It’s a new kind of slavery to profit from images of hate, and it deserves as fitting an end.

One year, 81 years. There is no better time to extinguish hate in all its forms than “the fierce urgency of now.”

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Aaron Hernandez and Chris Benoit coverage highlight the NFL Double-Standard

The following article was originally published June 28, 2013, at Bleacher Report (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1687472-aaron-hernandez-and-chris-benoit-coverage-highlight-the-nfl-double-standard). For the purposes of research and reference, this is how it appeared:

New England Pariots v Jacksonville Jaguars

On Wednesday, NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged “with first-degree murder in the execution-style killing earlier this month of Odin Lloyd, whose body was discovered in an industrial park not far from Hernandez’s home.”

Monday of this week also marked the six-year anniversary of the murder/suicide of WWE Superstar Chris Benoit, who took the lives of his wife Nancy, and their son Daniel.

The crimes are the crimes.

My concern is with the double-standard of sports and entertainment reporting concerning these events.

On June 24, 2007, the story blossomed from Benoit, a consummate professional, no-showing at a Sunday pay-per-view, to something terrible has transpired. The complete facts of the crime were not yet disclosed by the time “Raw” aired the following evening, only that the little family had perished.

In an unusual and unprecedented move for WWE, the broadcast emanated from an empty arena. Unfortunately, the organization was no stranger to losses. The great former champion, “Sensational” Sherri Martel had passed away two weeks before, due to a drug overdose at the age of 49. The WWE Hall of Famer was paid tribute with a title card, the same as had been done for other stars not on the active roster. But the show went on.

The “Raw” following the avoidable, accidental death of Owen Hart in 1999, from a stunt his widow later claimed he did not want to participate in, and the “Raw” and “Smackdown” following the untimely heart attack of Eddie Guerrero in 2005, were celebrations of those athletes. A moment of silence was followed by heartfelt, out-of-character testimonials, and wrestling match tributes, all in front of emotional crowds that shared in the mourning and the catharsis.

The testimonials for the Benoit broadcast were equally heartfelt, but the mood of the show was funereal, a portent to the conclusion no one had wanted to reach.

By the following evening’s “ECW” broadcast, the determination of the deaths was known and publicized. Vince McMahon began the broadcast with a simple address to the camera that Benoit would no longer be shown on WWE programming, and the company was going to return to what it does best, entertaining the fans.

McMahon did himself no favors, however, when WWE gave in to the pressure of speculation and posted a press release on their website proclaiming steroids had nothing to do with the Benoit murders.

A decade prior, the WWE Chairman had beaten a steroid rap that the federal government failed to make stick. The company had implemented wellness policies over the years, but it took the spotlight of Eddie Guerrero’s death (it should be noted, from natural causes) for WWE to begin a wellness policy in earnest, and is still in place today. That policy is part of what convinced the legendary Bruno Sammartino, a near 30-year critic of his former employer, to once again participate in WWE events this year.

In the context of 2007, however, that ill-advised—and, in light of McMahon’s previous court case, self-serving—press release regarding steroids did nothing to quell the media eruption over the Benoit murders, instead it only added to the confusion and fanned the flames of controversy.

Benoit’s good friend, WWE Superstar Chris Jericho, has gone on record over the years with comments such as “[Benoit] almost brought the entire industry down.” (Jericho’s views on Benoit the man have evolved as more information about the nature of concussions has circulated.)

I disagree that it was Benoit who almost brought the wrestling industry down; his murders/suicide were simply the weapon that sports writers and media personalities used to strike at a profession for which they had no care. The media attacks on professional wrestling were nothing less than a witch hunt, and I assure you I am using that phrase without hyperbole.

When postal workers killed their fellow mail carriers, the United States Post Office was not held to task as a party in the incidents. It would have been wrong to. Those terrible actions, and if you recall, there were enough shootings to coin the phrase “going postal,” were the actions of individuals, not of an industry.

Which brings me to Aaron Hernandez. There is no outcry at the NFL over this vicious incident. Talking heads are not demeaning footballers, or their profession. No one is on the air speculating if it was a matter of ‘roid rage.

In the latest development, NBC reported on Thursday that Hernandez is a possible person of interest “in the drive-by killings of two men last year.”

There is no media firestorm brewing over Hernandez’s former team, the New England Patriots. There are no effigies of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell burning over these callous crimes.

Yet, if a WWE Superstar, or any wrestler, for that matter, were involved in a drive-by shooting, media types would wonder aloud if Vince McMahon himself didn’t pull the trigger.

But don’t take my word for it. Last week, the phrase “wrestling death” scrolled across television screens and headlined articles in the wake of 5-year-old Viloude Louis’ death at the hands of her 13-year-old half brother, who was supposed to be babysitting her.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s spokesman Col. John Fortunato said the Louisiana boy “reported he started to wrestle with the victim and practiced “WWE” style wrestling moves on the girl.”

The Daily Mail reported, “[The 13-year-old] said that even when his little half sister said she was in pain, he continued to carry out the moves on her. Detectives added that he appeared to be enjoying talking about the assault.”

WWE, which has run “don’t try this at home” ads on all of its programming and home video projects for several years, was compelled to issue a statement amid the finger-pointing firestorm:

“The death of Viloude Louis is a tragedy and we express our heartfelt condolences. Authorities have already charged the accused with second degree murder and determined that this was not an accidental death due to a wrestling move. The facts of this case clearly point to a lack of parental supervision and a teenager who had a history of violent behavior toward his 5-year-old stepsister. It is illogical to conclude that the repeated, brutal and ultimately fatal beating of a 5-year-old little girl by a teenager could be confused with imitation of WWE action seen on TV.”

When a child injures their spine or dies of dehydration as a result of playing football, the NFL is never held responsible, the NFL is never called on the carpet, the NFL is never condemned for broadcasting their violent sports fantasies, this fake game of war called American football, every season.

Moreover, where is the outrage at the NFL when their own professional football players commit despicable acts?

There is none.

The NFL is just too precious, especially for itself.

League officials seem to believe football lives in an Imagination-land, too sacred to be sullied by the gritty or the obvious.

Football, Inc. makes a dog and pony show of the draft every year, conveniently ignorant to the fact that gambling via fantasy leagues is what is driving the interest in recent years.

The NFL embarrasses itself every year by promoting a team name based on a racial slur, and then deny that it is. No, in NFL Imagination-land, there’s no such thing as racism, only “tradition.”

In 2004, the NFL strong-armed ESPN to cancel their highly rated and acclaimed drama “Playmakers,” which focused on the lives involved in a fictional professional football team, including a manipulative owner, and players who abused drugs.

Apparently not understanding the concept of a television drama, then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, according to the New York Times, leaned on ESPN’s parent company Disney to ensure commercials for “Playmakers” would not air during NFL broadcasts.

 Although former NFL player Deion Sanders indicated the program “accurately depicted the dark side” of the League, Tagliabue spoke on high from Imagination-land, condemning the show as “one-dimensional and traded in racial stereotypes, and I didn’t think that was either appropriate for ESPN or right for our players.”

Yes, the same organization that has a team named “red-skin” complained about stereotypes.

Apparently from the same soapbox in Imagination-land, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie “told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “How would they like it if Minnie Mouse were portrayed as Pablo Escobar and the Magic Kingdom as a drug cartel?””

Once “Playmakers” was pulled from the air, the NFL released the audacious statement, “It was an ESPN decision and now we can all move on.”

Where was the media outrage in that instance, when the NFL deserved to be raked over the coals for acting on the fascist belief that their freedom of speech was the only speech that mattered?

Regarding felonious crimes, where was the media outrage at the NFL in January when Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then committed suicide? Why was the NFL not held accountable and put on media trial for the Belcher murder/suicide, just as the wrestling industry was put on media trial for the Benoit murder/suicide?

Where is the media scrutiny of the NFL when, in the very same week Hernandez is charged with murder, Cleveland Browns rookie linebacker Ausar Walcott was charged “with first-degree attempted murder, second-degree aggravated assault and third-degree endangering an injured victim”?

Why is the media not reporting on this dangerous trend of NFL players associated with criminal behavior?

I label it a “trend” because this is, after all, the third incident this week, lest we forget about Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent, who is in jail following a second positive drug test for marijuana. Brent is currently awaiting trial stemming from a Dec. 8 auto accident in which he “is accused of driving with a blood-alcohol content more than twice the legal limit at the time of the car crash that killed [Jerry] Brown, a Cowboys practice squad linebacker.”

Should I shake my fist in the fake rage such is well-practiced on cable news channels, and claim the NFL needs to be held accountable for an environment that is obviously fostering all of these criminal acts?

Though I find certain NFL officials such as Washington owner Daniel Snyder to be disingenuous, I, as a journalist, as someone with a certain amount of media cache, do not seriously blame the NFL for the actions of a number of misguided individuals any more than I blame the wrestling industry for the Benoit tragedy, or the Post Office for employees who brought guns to work.

The media attention on Hernandez is where it should be—on that individual, not his profession.

I only hope the wrestling industry will be treated as fairly and shown the same consideration, on the dread if and when.

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Thank you, Supreme Court

In December of 2009, I posted a video essay on youtube entitled “Should Gay Americans Have the Right to Marry?” In it, I stated:

“The real question is, Why should any American have the right to marry? The answer is that the courts must determine that there is no good legal reason to prohibit any two consenting adults from marriage.  The courts must conclude that the gender of one’s spouse is simply a matter of personal conviction; the same as marrying inside or outside one’s tax bracket; inside or outside one’s ethnicity; inside or outside one’s chosen faith.”

Last week, the Supreme Court handed down the historic decision that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

All the heartache, so many trials played out in courtrooms and homes, all leading to that definitive gavel strike.

I have said, in private conversations, that LGBT rights was the fight of our times, just as racial civil rights had been my parents’ generation. At long last, the turning-point legal battle in that fight has come to an end.

While I am relieved on that score, it is apparent that social progress in terms of accepting LGBT people is improving, but pockets of ignorance remain.

I recently saw the documentary “Wish Me Away,” about country music star Chely Wright’s painful journey to come out out of the closet, a move that has made her anathema in that radio format.

Only a few years ago, I vividly recall Wright’s hits, such as “Shut Up and Drive” and “Single White Female,” being staples of country music stations’ rotation. No longer.

Played her songs the other day. Sound the same.

Ironic that Nashville songwriters, country music radio stations and the country music industry have no moral issue churning out, profiting from and airing songs that glorify alcoholism, adultery, or taking revenge on people, yet they have a moral issue with homosexuality.

Violence and war have always been the vice of choice in western culture, and all sexuality taboo’d, so perhaps Nashville’s response to Wright should be no surprise.

All Nashville’s hypocritical, 180 turn on Wright highlights is the fact that morality, all morality, is just another word for opinion.

Morality is 100% complete emotion, whereas, the law must be 100% complete reason. It must be blind to everything but fact. The law is not moral in the sense that it dictates choices upon a populace, as religious law does. Nor is the law permissive.

In a free society as ours is, the law is structured to keep one individual’s rights from infringing on another’s. The law is structured to keep the peace of coexistence.

The Supreme Court determined that LGBT Americans have the right to be married, and no one has the authority to infringe upon it.

Thank you, Supreme Court.

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Ronald Reagan’s Gift to the LGBT Community

October 2, 2012

Editors
Newsweek

Editors:

Lists such as your 10 best presidents since 1900 are always a fun way to get people talking.

Personally, though, I don’t believe Ronald Reagan has a place on any “best presidents” list.

For one, there were sources within the Communist world, such as the Solidarity movement, which went a long way to destabilizing Red Europe, and it’s a shame the American media never gives them the credit.

Also, Communism only ended in one part of the world.  The other dominoes remained unmoved; there was no global rush to embrace capitalism or any other American ideology.

Ultimately, though, history will judge Reagan for his lack of response during the AIDS outbreak. A president has a responsibility toward every citizen, but when it appeared only the gays were affected, Reagan let them perish. The gift of Reagan’s hatred helped foster one of the greatest pandamics our civilization has ever seen.

For that, he failed us all as a president, and, to me, will always be an unconscionable man.

Best,
Stephen Sonneveld

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Letter to the U.N. to Put an End to Human Rights Violations Against LGBT Americans

July 14, 2012

Ambassador Susan E. Rice
United States Mission to the United Nations
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10017

Ambassador Rice:

I am a journalist who recently interviewed a gay entertainer for the Windy City Times.  He had mentioned having undergone six years of “reparative therapy” (also known as “conversion therapy”) and the detrimental effect being made to turn straight had on his psyche during those formative years, and beyond.

These practices were something I’d heard about through pop culture, and always in a comedic fashion, but upon looking into it and talking with my interview subject, I no longer find it a laughing matter.  As a matter of fact, I am appalled such camps and practices exist in a civilized society.

I won’t insult your intelligence by trotting out this psychiatric report or that.  You know as well as I do, as well as any reasonable person does, that one is born heterosexual or homosexual.  We are as we are made.

I call upon you, Ambassador, I call upon the U.N., to lodge a human rights violation against any organization that does such so-called therapy/ministry, and insist that the practice be banned in this country and around the globe. This is a human rights violation of the highest order.  To deny and defile a person’s basic right to be is the equivalent of being made to scrub the color off one’s flesh, and the true image of oneself from the mind.

I’m tired of headlines such as the recent murder of a teen lesbian couple in Texas.  Practices such as conversion therapy that preach homosexuality is something to be feared contribute to every slur spat and every bullet fired.

Remember the words Abraham Lincoln said: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”

As I would not want to be forced to change who I am, the very core of my being, I cannot abide it happening to my brothers and sisters.

They are Human.  They have Rights. They are being Violated.  You have the power to stop it.

Thank you,

Stephen Sonneveld

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