Letters from the Lunar Outpost

The avaricious man is like the barren sandy ground of the desert which sucks in all the rain and dew with greediness, but yields no fruitful herbs or plants for the benefit of others.
- Zeno, Greek Philosopher (B.C. 335?-264)

Monthly Archives: April 2013

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.

My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.

I’ve played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you’re in the league, and I haven’t been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates’ teammates. Or one of your teammates’ teammates’ teammates.

source: Sports Illustrated

Jason Collins, Sports Illustrated CoverIf they had been the ones who made the choice, the gay community could not have picked a better man to be the first openly gay athlete in American big league sports. Seriously, how eloquent is this guy? Please do click the link and keep reading. It’s a great read. For all Jason Collins gifts as an athlete, the man is equally gifted with words.

Depending on where you mark the beginnings, Major League Baseball has been around for about 140 years, the NFL is seven years shy of 100, and the NBA will turn 67 in June. Through those three leagues and hundreds of years combined, no active player has come out until now. That is how hard the unwritten code of the locker room was cast. They may as well just have had a sign over the door of the locker room of every sports team in America that read, “NO GAYS ALLOWED.”

Jason Collins just showed a lot of courage to come out the way he did today. We’re not talking courage on the level of Jackie Robinson, Collins won’t face a level of hate anything near what Robinson faced in being the first black man to play in the major leagues, but as far as heroes and heroines go, in one day, I would say the man is already of a larger magnitude than say, Ellen DeGeneres, who came out in a comedian / entertainment community which already had it’s fair share of openly gay performers. This is not to take away anything from Ellen (whose act is surprisingly about as clean as Bob Sagat spinning jokes on America’s Funniest Home Videos) but beloved as Ellen may be by the gay community and supporters of gay rights, what Jason Collins did today was a giant leap forward compared to Ellen’s step out of the closet.

Myself personally? I’m so straight, I once french kissed a guy on a bet and felt even more straight after that kiss because I felt nothing whatsoever in it. I only have eyes for women and nothing but women. I also have a lot of Christian friends who I respect who truly believe that homosexuality is a sin. I will continue respecting them as long as they also live up to Jesus’ teaching to “hate the sin, love the sinner”.

That is their belief, they think homosexuality is a choice and a sinful one at that, and I will respect my Christian friends who believe this even though I have seen with my own eyes plenty examples of people who I believe were born gay. Sure, some people might make the choice as a conscious decision, a choice that they would rather live the alternative lifestyle, but who among us hasn’t also known a two- or three- or four-year-old kid that you already knew was gay many years before they might figure it out themselves?

There are conservatives and there are libertarians. I am much more the latter than the former, but for my conservative friends who believe in “traditional marriage”, I ask you to try to imagine being born different as I give some major props to Jason Collins, because today, he became the first major leaguer to have the courage to come out and say, this is me, and I am who I am.

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I just woke from the strangest dream.

I know there was quite a bit leading up to it, but my recollection starts mid-dream, and my wife and step-daughter are there at a school, Megan’s in her wheelchair and Rayna’s there cheering and we’re in the infield of a track stadium, coaches mulling around, athletes running the track, and I decide to kind of fade away into the crowd and try to discreetly exit the scene.

I remember jogging around handball courts at the school.

My plan is to head to the liquor store. It doesn’t take Freud to interpret this part of the dream, but yes, my wife is a Muslim and I occassionally (perhaps more than occassionally) rebel against her wishes and look to get away from it all and have myself a little rendezvous with John Barleycorn.

My plan was to grab a 40 oz. beer, but I suddenly realize that all my money’s back at home, so I have to turn around and double back around the school and make my way back to our house. The dream is lucid right here, because we do indeed live behind a school.

I’m in the house and I’m running up a flight of stairs and now the dream is turning surreal as I’m in a house that’s no longer the single-level, two-bedroom home we live in and there are five, maybe more bedrooms here.

I’m opening doors, and I’m curious why they have so many bedrooms in this house when half of them are empty. I remember how clean the empty bedrooms look, devoid of furniture, the carpets freshly vacuumed and the vacuum tracks are nice and straight without a single footprint to mar them.

Then I hear a knock at the door. As I scramble back down to the bottom of the stairs, the door is already slightly ajar and I see a big hand coming around and grasping hold of the side of the door. I try feebly to push the door back closed, but I’m not willing to slam the door on this intruder’s hand and I get the sense there’s no point in even trying to overpower the intruder and shut the door.

Through the door step two giant figures, each of which practically fills the door frame on their own. They’re wearing police uniforms, but I barely take notice of the uniforms, I’m transfixed by the angelic face of the one giant police officer in the lead. For all his size, he has the face of an angel and his hair is the slightly curly, cherubic, bushy-type hair you see in the paintings by Rafael.

Rafael's Angels

It’s too early in the morning and the dream is too fresh for me to try to photoshop it, but picture Rafael’s angels in police uniforms.

In the manner of the trained police officer, the two cops are equally soothing and stern as they make it clear it’s in my best interest to just do as they say and lie down peacefully. As much as every fiber of my being wants to resist, no way do I want to fight them and rack up some charges for assaulting a police officer, so they manhandle me (gently) and now I’m on the ground.

In walk the doctors wearing the white lab coats straight from central casting. They tell me everything’s going to be fine, and out comes the needle and I know they want to sedate me so they can take me away. “NO! I don’t want to go!” I try to squirm but the cops have my arms pinned firmly to the floor.

The needle goes in and I can feel the cool fluid entering my veins. I’m determined though, I’m so sane I’ll just keep pleading with them even as the drug kicks in. “This is a mistake, I’m totally fine, just let me be, I’m not harming anyone and I’m not breaking any laws.” And I go on and on. I’m impassioned in my pleas, but I make sure not to come anywhere near to sounding hysterical as I see the doctors are taking notes on my every comment.

Now the drug starts kicking in and I’m trying hard not to slur my speech, telling them that’s not fair, it’s the sedative that’s making me lose control of my lips . . .

This is all a big mistake I tell them. I’m asking them to reconsider, I’m begging them, beseeching them, and then I woke to the sound of my own voice pleading with them not to take me away.

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So we now know who the scumbags are who perpetrated the bombings at the Boston marathon . . .

Law enforcement officials identified the suspect still on the loose as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge, Mass. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was identified as the man killed during an encounter with police after an armed carjacking of a Mercedes SUV in Cambridge.

The brothers’ alleged motive in Monday’s bombings remains unclear, but in the last several months, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had posted videos to YouTube indicating his interest in radical Muslim ideologies.

The family appears to be originally from the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, and two law enforcement officials said there is a “Chechen connection” to the bombings. Chechnya has been racked by years of war between local separatists and Russian forces and extensive organized crime since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

source: Washington Post

As I woke up to the breaking news this morning, before I heard anything else, as soon as I heard the name “Tsarnaev”, I knew as sure as I was breathing that the Boston bombing had been the work of Chechens.

The Tsarnaev brothers are the first Chechen Muslims to make an attack on the West.

The Tsarnaev brothers are the first Chechen Muslims to make an attack on the West.

The latest act of radical Islamic terror in America has come from a Chechnyan region that has been a breeding ground for terror in Russia for many years. Most of us have heard of the the hostage taking at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater which resulted in over 120 deaths and the Beslan School Massacre where over 350 people, mostly children, were slaughtered, but the list of savagery from the Chechen separatists in Russia doesn’t end there:

  • An August 1999 bombing of a shopping arcade and a September 1999 bombing of an apartment building in Moscow that killed sixty-four people.
  • A bomb blast that killed at least forty-one people, including seventeen children, during a military parade in the southwestern town of Kaspiisk in May 2002. Russia blamed the attack on Chechen terrorists.
  • A December 2002 dual suicide bombing that attacked the headquarters of Chechnya’s Russian-backed government in Grozny. Russian officials claim that international terrorists helped local Chechens mount the assault, which killed eighty-three people.
  • A three-day attack on Ingushetia in June 2004, which killed almost one hundred people and injured another 120.
  • Street fighting in October 2005 that killed at least eighty-five people. The fighting was in the south Russian city of Nalchik after Chechen rebels assaulted government buildings, telecommunications facilities, and the airport.
  • An attack on the Nevsky Express, used by members of the business and political elite, in November 2009 killed twenty-seven people.
  • In March 2010, two female suicide bombers detonated bombs in a Moscow metro station located near the headquarters of the security services, killing thirty-nine people. Islamist Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the bombing; he had also claimed responsibility for the derailment of the Nevsky Express.
  • Two days after the metro station bombing in March 2010, two bombs exploded in the town of Kizlyar, in Russia’s North Caucasus, killing at least twelve people.

source: Council on Foreign Relations

And now this.

I can remember my Russian friend Yuri, and every time he would get drunk, he would speak of the Chechens as “monkeys” spitting the words out with a level of contempt I couldn’t comprehend.  I would try to reason with him and tell him you can’t paint an entire people with one single broad stroke. Years later, I still believe you can’t hold a whole group of people responsible for the actions of a radical minority, but now I understand much more where the disgust that many Russians hold for Chechens stems from.

So now, the Chechen brand of Muslim terrorism has reared it’s ugly head for the very first time here in America. After the 9/11 attacks, our dear president’s pastor of 20 years, was shouting with glee that America’s “chickens were coming home to roost”, but this time, you can’t even try to blame this this on American policy in the Middle East.

Despite Obama’s tepid response to the Russian invasion of Georgia, for the most part, in the post-Cold War era, the United States continues to act as the counterbalance for freedom against Russia’s attempts to reconquer it’s former empire. Obviously, the blood lust these Chechens have for indiscriminately killing innocent people is a compulsion that far outweighs any geopolitical reality. This is not about politics, this is a case of jihadists looking to kill any infidels from the West they can find.

When Bush spoke to the nation at a joint session of Congress just days after the 9/11 attacks, he said this:

Americans are asking, “Why do they hate us?”

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.

These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us because we stand in their way.

We’re not deceived by their pretenses to piety.

We have seen their kind before. They’re the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way to where it ends in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies.

source: Washington Post

Our current president and his administration are more concerned about acting as apologists for Muslim radicalism than telling the truth the way Bush did, going so far as to cast the Ft. Hood shooting as “workplace violence“, the administration bending over backwards not to mention the words Muslim or Islam a single time in its 86-page report on the shooting, and in the case of the assassinations in Benghazi, even embracing the ridiculous in trying to paint it as a “spontaneous attack” over a virtually unseen YouTube video instead of calling it for what it was: a well-coordinated attack by Muslim extremists.

Right now as I’m watching the news, MSNBC is trying to spin this as some sort of homegrown terrorism because these men lived here for a few years and they’re suggesting maybe it’s just a coincidence the brothers came from the terrorist breeding grounds of Chechnya, invoking Newtown and the possibility both brothers suffered from mental issues.

Our current president will never come out and call it for what it is, but this latest attack shows there was truth in Bush’s words – this was not political and yes, they really do hate us for our freedoms.

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In terms of the burden it places on Americans, our 74,000 page tax code is a monstrosity that dwarfs the Washington Monument in size.

In terms of the burden it places on Americans, our 74,000 page tax code is a monstrosity that dwarfs the Washington Monument in size.

How many millions of hours do you think Americans spend on government paperwork every year?

The answer is staggering. It is measured not in the millions of hours, but in the billions — 9.14 of them, to be exact. Suppose that we value one hour at $20 (a conservative estimate). If so, the government imposes an annual reporting cost of more than $180 billion on the American people.

NY Times

The article was written by Cass R. Sunstein, who goes on to say:

There is reason to be hopeful. From 2009 to 2012, I led the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the Paperwork Reduction Act. (Yes, there is such a thing.)

As part of President Obama’s continuing effort to streamline regulatory requirements, we took a series of quiet but aggressive steps to cut pointless red tape. In the last decade, the estimated paperwork burden peaked between 2007 and 2009, and while it remains far too high, we were able to chip away at it.

I’m still trying to get over the shock that the Obama administration has given anything other than a token thought to trying to reduce the massive burden of paperwork and red tape the government lays upon our people and businesses, but when you consider that tax preparation costs this nation 9.14 billion hours in lost productivity, we need to do far more than just chip away at the problem.

President Obama has spent a lot of time talking about the need for people to “pay their fair share.” Turns out Obama’s fair share this year was 18%. Shouldn’t we all follow the example set by our dear leader and pay the same?

Our obscenely massive and convoluted tax code is the breeding ground for all that is evil in D.C. In a single stroke, a flat tax of 18% would put a stake through the heart of the legion of lobbyist vampires selling out average Americans for special interests and corporate welfare.

If our most patriotic president‘s fair share is 18%, may we all be just as patriotic and pay 18% as well. Now that would truly be fair.

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Team of Rivals
Doris Kearns Goodwin