Saturday, April 20, 2013

What a week, man.

So like most of the rest of the country, I followed the events that played out in Boston this week with great interest. I have both family and friends living in the city and its surroundings, none of whom were directly affected by Monday's tragedy, but were definitely inconvenienced by Friday's lockdown. While I am glad that both of the identified suspects are now accounted for, the hunt for the younger brother that consumed most of the daylight hours yesterday left a very bad taste in my mouth, particularly after I learned that the suspect would not be read his Miranda rights.

I have little sympathy for Dzokhar Tsarnaev, who appears at this point to have been the willing accomplice to his older brother's plans for mass murder. He may not have been the primary instigator, but he went along with it and whatever a court of law finds him guilty of it will be well deserved. However, as the first "terrorist" attack on U.S. soil since 9/11/2001, this offers us the chance to do things correctly when it comes to the legal process and to show to the rest of the world that the blundering and overreach that followed in the wake of 9/11 will not be repeated. Unfortunately, the shutdown of a major American city to apprehend one suspect, and to then state the intention to not read that suspect (who last I heard is still in serious condition), who is a U.S. citizen, the rights he is entitled to as an accused person under the law if and when he recovers tell me that the police state is still alive and well in the supposed land of the free. I hope cooler heads prevail here, and that we eventually do stay true to our principals, but events thus far have not inspired much confidence.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Camp Quest blows up the internet

So the internet (or at least my particular corner of it) has been blowing up since about this time yesterday about an incident involving Camp Quest Oklahoma and a Tulsa area restaurant that agreed to host a fundraiser for them, but then aborted it an hour into the event (it was supposed to go from 4-8 PM) when the owner claimed to have just found out that the camp served children primarily from non-religious families and that most of its volunteers identified as (gasp!) atheists. As many of you know, I have for many years volunteered on the board of Camp Quest of Minnesota as well as the national organization Camp Quest Inc., so this has really touched a nerve with me. To see a fellow camp franchise treated in such a poor fashion is incensing and serves as a reminder of exactly why I devote so much of my free time to the Camp Quest movement. I am not sure what was going through the restaurant owner's head when he decided to pull the plug on the event (and as always in a controversial situation like this there are conflicting reports of what exactly was said to the CQ OK organizers), but apparently he claims that he had no idea of what Camp Quest was really all about until he saw the flyers that patrons were bringing in to take part in the fundraiser. Flyers that he (or his staff) had approved weeks before the night of the event. And of course the owner has gone on the record saying that he was motivated to abort the fundraiser by his "Christian philosophy".

Appropriately this owner is now neck deep in a PR shitstorm of his own making because, as anyone who has been paying any attention at all to recent history knows, that is what now happens when you openly engage in anti-atheist discrimination. If he had called the CQ OK folks the day before the fundraiser, or even a couple of hours before it started to tell them he had issues with letting a bunch of paying customers who also happened to not believe in any god through his doors, that would have been defensible (but just barely). The true cravenness here is squashing the event after it had already begun, when some people had already come to the restaurant, had eaten and paid for their meals with the expectation that 10% would go to CQ OK, and had left; and people who had already invested time and energy to attend the fundraiser were arriving and had to be told it was not happening. Now I am not sure how good the food is at Oklahoma Joe's BBQ in Broken Arrow (note that there are other restaurants in other cities that have the same name, but are NOT affiliated with this one), but I imagine most of those planning to attend had scheduled their evening around the fundraiser and were at least expecting a decent meal as part of the bargain. So not only has this guy shortchanged needy kids (the money raised was to help fund scholarships for campers), but he has screwed up a bunch of people's dinner plans and proven himself to be a lousy businessman in the process. He deserves everything that is coming to him.

Finally, while it pains me that the CQ OK folks had to go through this, and I and other volunteers try our best to keep Camp Quest as a whole away from the front lines of the culture wars (camp is nothing if not a safe haven for kids from just this type of assholery, many of whom have to endure some version of it on a daily basis), there is at least the silver lining that because of the publicity this is generating, CQ OK is going to take in a massive amount of money (including a $5000 matching grant from the Stiefel Foundation) that will dwarf what the proceeds from the original fundraiser would have been had it not been marred by this act of idiocy.