“Peter Parker Always Wins the Rematch”

Spider-Man has always been one of my favorite super-heroes. Now, I’d probably give that title to the original Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly, and several members of the Bat-family have edged in there, but the Spider-Man comics are still among of the few that I pick up every month.

Last year, Amazing Spider-Man ended with a twist on issue #700. Peter Parker and Doctor Octopus had switched bodies, and Ock’s body, ravaged by disease, had only hours to live. Peter, in Otto’s body, died, but not before making Otto (in Peter’s body) relive the important moments in Peter’s life. Affected by what he’d seen/experienced in those memories, Doctor Octopus swore to continue as Spider-Man. He would carry out Peter’s responsibilities and, arrogantly, swore that he would do it better than Peter had, as the Superior Spider-Man.

As the Superior Spider-Man, Otto started “well,” at least by his own standards. Using technology that he’d developed as Doctor Octopus, he monitored the city without needing to endlessly patrol the way Peter had done. He used the police to deal with those threats that he wasn’t needed for, and he used his knowledge of his foes (and ruthlessness that Peter would never have used) to stop super-villains easily. Adding insult to injury, Peter, as a ghost in Otto’s mind, witnessed all of this, and, ultimately, was wiped out in issue #9, after Otto discovered him.

Since then, Otto’s arrogance has grown. He used mind control technology to turn the Sinister Six into his crime-fighting slaves (which ended, predictably, poorly). He’s taken over the old super-villain prison, The Raft (by blackmailing the mayor after it was shut down). He used his secret stashes of money to hire minions. He’s filled the city with “Spider-Bots” to monitor everything.

As of Spider-Man #24, he was joined to the Venom symbiote (after removing it from “Agent Venom,” Flash Thompson), and set out to prove that he could do what Peter Parker couldn’t, using his superior will to control the symbiote and use its power to fight crime even more “Superior-ly” than before… leading to a confrontation with the Avengers…

Spoilers for Superior Spider-Man #25 and forward below the cut.
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Bumper Sticker Politics

“Florida sends a black woman to prison for 20 years for firing a warning shot, and frees a white man for killing a black boy. How’s that for justice?”

There’s a picture floating around Facebook with the quote above on it, masquerading as serious commentary on the state of criminal justice in our nation today. Unfortunately, this picture and quote IS symbolic with a major issue with our society, but it’s not the issue that the posters think it is.

First, I’ll briefly address the image itself.

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are beyond stupid, especially when they’re linked simply to whether a gun was used in the commission of the crime. Marissa Alexander’s sentence is absurd, but is entirely the fault of the hoplophobes in the state legislature who passed the mandatory-minimum gun law, not the jury or judge involved in her case (and CERTAINLY not the jury of Zimmerman’s case).

Speaking of the Zimmerman case, it’s unfair to classify him as simply white, and Trayvon was not a boy (the media’s penchant for showing pictures of him from years ago notwithstanding), but a young man. It’s not really fair to say he was a boy 1. Additionally, a jury found that the prosecution in Zimmerman’s case had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the shooting of Trayvon met the criteria for the crimes they were charging.

Both of these cases are rife with issues that can and should be discussed, but there’s so little difference between the two that conflating them like this is comparing apples and oranges.

This oversimplification of very complex (and important) issues is a major problem with Facebook and Bumper-Sticker politics. These kinds of comparisons are perfect for trivial comedy shows like The Daily Show, or the quick “hit and run” cleverness that you can see on bumper-stickers, typical Facebook posts, or tweets, but they shouldn’t substitute for actual discussions between people.

The problem with modern society is that so many people are afraid of actually discussing issues, instead substituting careful consideration of issues with funny quips and strawmen. I raised an issue with a relative’s casual dismissal of the use of vile racial epithets, and was accused of attacking her. People get angry and defensive when one attempts to question their strongly held beliefs, and I hate the fact that people who refuse to give issues serious contemplation are permitted to vote. If your stance on an issue is based purely on whose Facebook image had the funniest quip, how can you truly be trusted with one of our citizenry’s most important duties?

One of the reasons I have given up on traditional political parties is that the “us vs. them” mentality often leads people to give up on thinking about issues, instead simply jumping to a position based on what The Other Guys are doing, and then rationalizing that position with whatever logical fallacies happen to be at hand. This isn’t just a problem for citizens, but also for politicians.

  1. Just ask any 17-year-old male how they’d feel about you calling them a “boy.” For extra credit, ask a BLACK teenager how they’d feel about it…

The Lord Our Government

With the Supreme Court hearing, not one, but two cases on gay marriage, my Facebook feed has, predictably, become a hotbed of opinions on the subject. Many of the more vocal folks on my friends list are loudly proclaiming their support for gay marriage, and their belief that marriage is a right. It isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge believer in giving people equal protection under the law, and, insofar as I support the registering romantic relationships with the government at all, I am in full support of allowing that registration to happen regardless of the gender(s) of the individuals in the relationship 1. If one is a consenting adult, one should be allowed to be legally bound to any consenting adult of one’s choosing.

Back to my point, though, marriage is not a right. Rights are a fundamental building block of civilization and are a major part of what it means to be human. The Declaration of Independence says it best 2, “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Keep in mind, this is not the document that established a new government; it is the document that established on what basis the colonies were choosing to leave the British Empire.

The idea expressed there is that there are certain rights that are ours simply by virtue of our humanity. Governments can (and often do) infringe upon those rights, but that is an indictation of the immorality of the government in question, not a repudiation of the right itself. Rights are basic, fundamental building blocks of civilization itself. Being civilized, to me, means acknowledging and respecting the rights of other human beings.

To me, the primary Right, the One Right That Rules Them All, is the right to own property. Before anything else, you own your life and your body. From a Christian perspective, granting us that ownership, the freedom to control those things and make our own decisions, is the core of what makes us special among God’s creations. Because we own our bodies and our lives, we have the right to self defense (which, as its corollary, gives us the right to own and carry weapons for the purposes of that defense (and/or the defense of others)). From those most basic of rights spring our rights to our beliefs (including religious beliefs) and the right to express those beliefs.

Marriage 3 is a legal construct. It does not exist outside of the state. As rights are a fundamental concept that supercede the existence of government 4, a legal construct created solely by a government itself cannot be a right. By declaring a legal construct such as marriage to be a right, you are saying that government can create rights. If government can create rights, rights that are endowed upon us by our Creator, then the government must be God.

This is the major philosophical issue that underpins most of my political beliefs. Human rights determine what a government can or cannot do. The government cannot define what my rights are. Government recognition of a marriage does not make that marriage moral 5, socially acceptable, or “real.”

I will not bow down to “The Lord Our Government.”

  1. In fact, I’m in full support of allowing that registration regardless of whether the relationship in question is truly romantic. If Billy Mack and Joe decide they want to legalize the fact that they are “the loves” of one another’s lives even though they’re both heterosexual, more power to them.
  2. Whether Jefferson and others involved in drafting the document lived up to the lofty ideals expressed is a separate discussion from the power of the words in the document itself and does not detract from the rightness of the Declaration.
  3. Legally speaking, anyway; legal marriage is a separate concept from marriage in the eyes of God or a community. Since we’re explicitly discussing the idea of marriage as it exists with respect to the state, I’m only concerned with that definition of marriage here.
  4. Indeed, as stated in the Declaration, violation of these rights is a reason to alter or abolish a government: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
  5. Peter Lizon‘s marriage may have been legal, but it certainly was not moral.

The Curious Case of the Coddled Coach

Several days ago, a story broke in Clay County about a basketball coach under fire. The coach, Scott Gibson, was accused of ignoring earlier hazing incidents, allowing the situation to deteriorate to the point where one student ended up hospitalized “with staples in his head, a concussion, a bruised tailbone and facial lacerations.” I attended Clay County High School some time ago, and know a number of people who work within the school system in the county, so the story caught my eye.

The story has continued to spiral, however, as Clay County Superintendent Kenneth Tanner stepped in to defend the coach.

“This wasn’t the coach’s fault. When he suspected some horseplay was going on, he inquired about it and spoke with the kids as a group and individually. He looked into the details and dealt with it and felt there was nothing to report,” [Tanner] said. “He made admirable efforts to find out if anything was going on, and he was assured there was nothing. We have spent a great amount of time on this, and we’re trying to put it past us now.”

This statement highlights much of what I consider to be wrong with public school systems in general. Superintendent Tanner seems to believe that Gibson did no wrong in this situation. I see three possible situations, none of which leaves Gibson completely innocent. From best to worst:

The first situation is that Gibson was aware of the hazing incidents, but felt that his discussions with students were sufficient intervention. The Gazette article quickly shows the issue with this scenario.

State code requires that school personnel report any incidents to administration immediately. Any willful neglect of those duties allows the school board to dismiss “any person in its employment at any time.”

Emphasis mine.

If state code requires school personnel to report all incidents to administration, it seems that would indicate that Coach Gibson was not given the prerogative to decide for himself whether to report the incident(s). Assuming he was aware of the prior incident where he allegedly walked into the locker room, turned on the light, and walked out while hazing was occurring, he should have reported it.

That said, if Gibson felt he had reason to believe there were hazing/bullying incidents going on but that he had dealt with those incidents sufficiently, he may be derelict in his legal duties or in his judgment, but he at least tried to do the right thing. And that is the best scenario.

The second scenario is that Gibson was simply unaware of these incidents. From the descriptions of the alleged interfaces, this was not a one-time, relatively minor incident. The hazing this young man faced (and, presumably, other students have likely faced, as “hazing” seems to imply an ongoing issue) is alleged to have been fairly serious – serious enough that another student felt the need to beat him pretty brutally when it was discovered he had reported it. In this scenario, Coach Gibson, a man who has been hired by the state to teach teenagers and coach them, is apparently incompetent, having been completely unaware of the misbehavior of his charges.

I never played any sort of organized sports in school, but I am not unaware of the alleged benefits that team sports have. Playing on team sports should provide some degree of an ego-check on students, and it (in theory) gives young people another interested adult who can help to shape them into “team players”, both literally and figuratively. If Coach Gibson is so out of touch with his players that he is oblivious to hazing going on within his team, I question his fitness to continue as a coach for impressionable young men.

The third scenario is that the coach was aware of the situation, and did not see the need to intervene. I call this the Joe Paterno scenario. In this scenario, either Gibson completely underestimated the seriousness of the hazing (despite a great deal of publicity of similar incidents in recent years) or even felt that it was a rite of passage. Regardless of the situation, if he was aware and disregarded the issue, he condoned the activities, either explicitly or implicitly.

So, we have three scenarios. Either the coach tried to handle the situation and failed, was completely oblivious to the unfolding situation and its seriousness, or was complicit in the situation. In none of these situations did the coach himself or the school system as a whole meet the goal of protecting this student.

Despite this, Superintendent Tanner feels that it’s best if we “put it past us now.” This man is the head of the school board, a board which is tasked with running the Clay County school system. Ostensibly, that puts a great deal of responsibility for the safety of Clay County’s students on Tanner’s shoulders, and his willingness to blow off a serious situation and deny that the coach in question was at best derelict in his duties is disturbing to say the least.

Intellectual Honesty

In the lead-up to this election, I watched this video:

In the video, Obama supporters are asked about a number of actions that Barack Obama has taken, under the guise of these being promises that Mitt Romney made on the campaign trail. These horrible actions, described by one supporter as something only a psychopath could support, are suddenly okay when the true origin of the actions is revealed. “Well, he’s Barack Obama. I’m sure he had a good reason.”

It’s very, very easy to watch this video and simply scoff at the fact that these Obama supporters are low information voters who simply don’t care about issues as much as they care about the President Obama cult of personality. There is some truth to that, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is something that happens all across the political spectrum. There are many examples, on the left and the right, of individuals simply disregarding something they’ve complained loudly about, just because “their” guy is now in power.

That’s actually one of the reasons I decided to archive and restart this blog from scratch. I’m hoping to really just examine the issues outside of where they fall on the left/right spectrum, apply my own principles, and explain where I stand without worrying about whether “my side” agrees with me or not.

Jumping Ship

In the lead up to yesterday’s elections, I realized how little I actually cared about the outcome of the presidential election.

I still consider Barack Obama to be one of the worst Presidents we’ve ever had.  If nothing else, he has a tendency to stoop to actions (e.g., “subtly” flipping off his political opponents) that play well with younger voters but demean the seriousness of the office he’s in.  I just couldn’t see voting for Romney as anything but a distinction without difference.

In all the areas that matter, politically, the Republicans have swung leftward, becoming Democrat Lite.  In the areas that matter spiritually, culturally, and morally (e.g., the areas where the government has no business), the Republican Party tries to cling to its base.  This allows the Democrats to paint every Republican policy with the same “conservative extremist” brush. This is how the Tea Parties, devoted to a strict adherence to the Constitution and fiscal responsibility, somehow got painted as extremist conservatives, when their policies should have been fairly non-controversial (for everyone outside of the Beltway).

I’m not registered as a Republican, but I have voted for them quite often in the past because their policies in the areas where the government actually has a legitimate concern, by and large, are slightly better than the Democratic policies.  As of today, I’m done with the Republican party.  This is not because of the loss in yesterday’s election, but rather because I realized that I didn’t care about that loss.  I may still vote for individual Republican candidates, but only if they can prove to me that they’re actually better than the alternatives – even those from a third party.

All that said, I’m relaunching my blog.  I’ll be discussing issues in general, and try to focus more on local elections and their impacts.  We’ll see how long this lasts (I haven’t had a good track record with blogging lately)