Monday, July 26, 2010

On Hiatus

CF Editor, Tim Killeen, will be taking a hiatus of indefinite length to work on another writing project. During that time, we won't be updating. Thanks for all your support and feel free to peruse our archives and continue to comment.

Ridiculous Video of the Day

You don't need a lead-in for this.

Not All Criticism Is Hateful


Yesterday, David Harris wrote an open letter of sorts at Huffington Post to the "chorus of chronic, compulsive critics of Israel" and displayed a false choice that seems to be used again and again in the Middle East dialogue: either you support everything Israel does or you hate Israel, side with terrorists and might be anti-Semitic. This attempt to stifle legitimate debate is both dishonest and ridiculous.

Because Harris doesn't actually point out exactly who he considers to be within the "chorus" to whom he's writing, it can only be assumed that he means critics of Israel generally. Harris writes:

Your narrative is pre-cooked, airtight, and impervious to reason. It's filled with a hatred of Israel that eludes logical explanation, a blindness that shuts out any contrary evidence. For you, Israel can do no right other than to close up shop and call it quits, while the Palestinians, your hallowed victims on a pedestal, can do no wrong.
If it's true that Harris is writing to all critics of Israel then he's either misunderstanding criticism or being disingenuous. People don't criticize Israel because they hate it, they do so because they understand that Israel, as a democracy in the Middle East, can do better- like any country can do better- than it is now. Those in the Palestinian territory can, indeed have, done much wrong. Lobbing rockets into Israel is wrong, period. Running to Hamas for governance was wrongheaded (though understandable in the sense that Hamas has done a very good job of making itself look charitable to the people). But allowing settlements to move onto innocent people's land and failing to properly vet targets for civilians is also wrong and it's not hateful to say so.

Harris continues:

Could it be that your real ideal is a Hamas-run society, with its all-enveloping political and religious suffocation, relegation of women to the status of virtual male property, intimidation of the tiny Christian community, unadulterated anti-Semitism, and reverence for the cult of violence?
No! He's absolutely missing the point. Just because there's a two-sided struggle and a criticism is made of one side doesn't mean the other side is necessarily right. Two sides can both be right and wrong on certain things. To think otherwise would be to oversimplify complex international relations. Of course, violence, anti-Semitism, religious persecution and female subservience are wrong. And Harris has a great point that many critics spend so much time criticizing Israel that they forget to criticize the other side; but that doesn't make their critiques of Israel any less valid. More of an effort should be made to point out each side's flaws- but we must admit that each side has flaws.

Harris goes on to point out other places where critics fail to criticize both sides equally in an attempt to say that this proves critiques of Israel to be wrong- it doesn't. Israel, like every country, has made mistakes. It's alright. I'm American- I get that. Hamas, Hezbollah and other similar organizations are certainly much worse: they call for violence, an eradication of an entire country and a distorted view of religion to bring hatred and intolerance further. But that's not all critics.

Why isn't it legitimate to point out flaws on each side? Why can't the discussion be full? Why try to link Israeli critics all together in one bunch? It's intellectually dishonest and impedes the progress of a peaceful settlement. I'm not saying that it's the only thing that does, but if we can take one road block out of the equation, why not try?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ridiculous Video of the Day

You used to get this excited at Christmas. Now it's just over the fact that Friday's here- and, thank God, you keep it to yourself.

(p.s. That remote control car really gets the shaft).

Do You Know Your Stuff?


Last weekend I was at the farmer's market with a friend picking up produce for the week. Here in Chicago we get local produce from other parts of Illinois, as well as Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. As we walked around looking for the stuff we needed, I told her to check for any tents of farms in Michigan (of which there were a few). Faithful readers are aware that I grew up in Detroit and that I do what I can to help the desperately hurting economy in Michigan.

This got me thinking about purchasing with a purpose. It is, of course, all the rage these days. People buy locally-grown things to help their local economy, to get things fresher and to cut down on emissions for shipping. And with the latest Gulf Coast disaster, people have looked to what they purchase for ways to help out the economy down there. I've written several pieces on the subject, such as drinking local beer, a brewery in New Orleans offering a good solution, using your vacation dollars to stimulate struggling economies and purchasing goods to help international development. But how much do we really think about what we buy?

I usually think about the origins of produce, beer and wine, coffee (to an extent) and sometimes clothing. But I purchase a whole lot more that I never think of. Where was my Ikea bookshelf made? Where was that candle on that shelf over there made? Where were the shoes I'm wearing made? What about the bread I had with dinner, where was that baked? Of course, 9 times out of 10 your answer will be "China," but there are ways around that (not that China's a terrible place).

Lots of businesses make some quality stuff in areas that could really use your purchase. There's a candle store up the street from me that I've never gone to (I usually just grab whatever's cheap at Walgreens and will make my place smell less like a bachelor lives there). There may be a furniture manufacturer in North Carolina teetering on laying off another worker; or a Wisconsin dairy farmer who's having trouble making mortgage payments. Sure, these things may be a little more expensive- and that's no little thing these days- and will take a little bit longer to track down, but it's certainly worth the effort. I hear a lot of arguments about people getting something for nothing through "entitlements," but I hear very little about an obvious alternative solution to help pick them up: buying the stuff they make. You'll probably buy something this weekend, give it a thought- get to know your stuff.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ridiculous Video of the Day

You remember the recorder, right? You had to "learn" to play in the 3rd grade. Well so did this guy. Magical.

A Round Of Applause For Shepard Smith


FOX News personalities like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck often bemoan the way their network is treated by the Obama Administration and by other media outlets. They take the criticism against them as being some sort of left-wing conspiracy against a not-left-leaning news network. Of course, they're wrong. The criticism that "FOX News isn't news" comes from the fact that they don't perform straight journalism, but give a platform for conservative politicians and ideologues to say their piece. (There's nothing wrong with that, it's just not journalism).

At the forefront of this reactionary charge is Sean Hannity who complains day in and day out that FOX is bullied by the Left and belittled because it won't kowtow to the Obama Administration. Shortly thereafter, Hannity chums it up with Newt Gingrich (who he seems to have on at least once a week) and pleads with him, again, to run for President in 2012.

A new opportunity for Hannity to contradict himself has been with the Tea Party crowd, who he obviously fawns over, though claims he's just covering them straight. On Tuesday night, Hannity was all over the the Shirley Sherrod story, even bringing on Andrew Breitbart to discuss what terrible racist hypocrites sit on the Left. Of course, Hannity was wrong and was once again simply lobbing up softballs for conservative activists to swing at.

One person who didn't do that, however, was Shepard Smith. In the dismal news failure that is FOX, Smith stands out as a principled and strong journalist. When the truth of the Sherrod story broke, Smith explained that his show, Studio B, had refused to discuss it the night before because they didn't trust the source (Breitbart's and didn't know enough about the video to run it- knowing that doing so would lend it credit.

This isn't the first time that Smith has shown true integrity amongst the conservative apologists at FOX. In 2009, when so-called "torture memos" were declassified and shed light on the way the CIA and others interrogated suspected terrorists, FOX did all it could to make excuses and create wiggle room for what is and what is not torture. Smith, however, refused to play such a game and stated simply "This is America, we don't torture." He even got so angry about it, at one point, that he inadvertently dropped an f-bomb. Smith, of course, is right. This is America. We don't torture. End of story. It's not a conservative thing or a liberal thing. Just like editing a tape to make someone look like a racist is neither conservative or liberal- it's just wrong. I love to give credit where it's due, and Shepard Smith deserves credit. Well done.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ridiculous Video of the Day

It's all in the editing. Sure, these remix trailers have had their day in the sun (and then some), but this is one I really didn't see coming. Bravo.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why We Hate The Poor, Part III


On Monday and Tuesday, respectively, I wrote Part I and Part II of this piece. This third installment, I suppose should really be titled "Why We Don't Hate The Poor," but for continuity's sake, I'll stick with the above caption. Loyal readers (who are much appreciated) have read my former pieces on social entrepreneurship and its growing role in creating innovative approaches to age-old problems. (For those who haven't, read here, here and here). These organizations, and the written pieces I've found them through have actually caused me to continue my optimism despite parts 1 & 2 of this piece.

It's always sobering to read that 50 million homeless or near-homeless people live in your country. It isn't like I didn't know they existed- I see them every day all around the city- but to consider that 50 million is roughly the size of Chicago, Los Angeles and Manhattan times three really puts things into perspective.

However, not all is lost. The internet alone has created great new opportunities for philanthropists and volunteers to get involved in issues they care about and make an immediate impact. Sites like The Hunger Site and Free Rice have sprung up to allow quick and easy solutions for people looking to make a difference. In addition to these sites, locally based organizations have also become more and more prevalent, using new and innovative approaches to tackle problems like homeless and hunger. This, of course, is on top of the tried-and-true methods that really have helped thousands of hungry and homeless people throughout the years like food banks, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and religious charities.

Even corporations and corporate players have gotten into the mix. Whether a corporation donates money, time and resources to a charitable endeavor for PR purposes, in response to consumers' growing demands for corporate social responsibility or just to be good corporate citizens is beside the point. More and more, we see major corporate institutions sponsoring philanthropic outreach and if they get good press for it, they've earned it. On top of corporate actions is the work being done by billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. While tycoons have often been generous in the past (Carnegie, Rockefeller), the current group is not only giving millions away, but also devoting so much of their time to the effort.

Yes, homelessness is a problem. It's a major problem. It won't be solved nearly fast enough for the millions living through it today and tomorrow. However, our society arcs toward progress and, as has been proven in technological and social achievements in the past, we eventually solve whatever issues to which we devote our efforts. But it's not going to happen easily and it won't happen without hard work. A gentle prod toward your state, city or federal governmental representative probably wouldn't hurt either.

Ridiculous Video of the Day

This Taiwanese animation explains how Steve Jobs took the Darth Vader internet role from Bill Gates and created an iPhone dictatorship. In fact, it explains it (I don't know what the heck this woman is saying) in eerily matter-of-fact dictation- much like someone reading the news. (Full disclosure: I'm a notorious Apple-hater). Is that David Arquette as Jason Chen?!