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The Boy Scouts Need to Be More Like the Girl Scouts

The Boy Scouts of America needs to get it together.  No, I am not talking about their inability to make delicious cookies.

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The BSA has openly reaffirmed its policy against members of the LGBT community in their private organization.  They have removed gay leaders and scouts only to confirm that the organization’s leaders are backwards pieces of crap.

 

You can read all about the controversy on wiki’s page

As many of you know, or may not, I was an active scout all the way from Tigers to Eagle.  That’s right, I spent about 10 years in the boy scouts and worked very hard to reach the rank of Eagle, the highest ranking in the Boy Scouts.

Going through high school while trying to balance grades, social pressures and fun was not exactly easy with Boy Scouts as an extracurricular.   And as everyone knows, being a boy scout isn’t exactly the coolest thing to do around town.  Often it felt like I was leading a double life, trying to be the cool guy with my friends and then once a week and during outings, a scout.

As time filled in the gap between high school and my current position in life, I became more confident about my scouting history.  I had always been proud of my accomplishments and thought highly of my times in the Scouts.  And then I started to become aware of this little problem they have with the gay community.

What a bunch of idiots.  The Boy Scouts have so much to offer; so much that I, personally, have benefited from.  I would even like to have my kids someday experience scouting.  But their homophobia  is ruining everything not just for LGBT scouts but also for the rest of us that want to be proud of our affiliation.  Its almost funny that I used to not tell people that I was a boy scout because I didn’t want them to think I was uncool and now I still I don’t want to tell people but for an entirely different reason.

Then there was hope!

“The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents,” said a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, Deron Smith, in a statement. “This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/us/boy-scouts-consider-lifting-ban-on-gay-leaders.html

It’s not a full reversal from their previous stance but its certainly a big step in the right direction.  The board has since then punted their decision until at least May.  That’s not a great sign but we’ll just have to wait and see.

News came out today that a bill in California has been introduced to remove the tax exempt status for organizations that exclude gay members. Maybe that will push the organization in the right direction.

The sad truth is that this is not just a moral viewpoint to which the Boy Scouts are clinging. It all comes back to money and the fact is that by changing their policy, the BSA could, and probably will, lose millions of dollars from conservative donors. Almost 70% of Boy Scout units are chartered by faith based organizations.  The largest of which is the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with over 15% scouts represented. Most of these churches don’t exactly have an open door policy on gay members.

However the pendulum of popular opinion is starting to sway donors in the other direction, Merck, UPS and Intel have all pulled funding due to the BSA’s anti-gay policies.    We’ll just have to wait and see if the BSA can make the right decision in spite of the difficult short term funding problems it could have.

Lance is just like everyone else but is still a better athlete than you

Lance came out last week during a landmark interview with Oprah to reveal the truth: he doped. During each and every one of his 7 wins at the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong used some combination of blood doping, EPO, cortisone and testosterone to illegally boost his performance.

To anyone even casually following this saga over the past years, this news is shocking. Lance Armstrong spent the last decade systematically denying his use of PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) which involved him lying under oath, suing his accusers and deceiving his friends, family and the world.  After everything, he decides now is the time to set the record straight?

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In the interview, Lance tries to sidesteps questions about others involved in this deep dark conspiracy but Oprah is relentless about digging out the details.  Oprah repeatedly asks questions about Dr. Ferrari who was supposedly the mastermind behind the teams doping regiment, his teammates and how exactly everything went down: “Did you REALLY receive blood transfusions while staying overnight in hotels between stages of the race?  shoot EPO in the tents along the course while your fans cheered outside and store the empty syringes in coke cans? ”  “Yes, yes and I [Lance] take full responsibility.”

LanceBall

Snoooooooooooooooooooooooooreeeeee

Yeah, it’s a big deal that Lance finally came clean(ish) about his doping, drug smuggling, deceiving habit.  But is anyone really surprised?  The evidence against him was piling up at an alarming rate.  Virtually all of his teammates had testified against him.  The walls of his defense were crumbling for years.

Here is my question, is what he did really as bad as everyone is saying it is?  Obviously the lying is bad, as is the suing of innocent people for speaking out against him.  But is the actual taking of these performance enhancing drugs bad?  Should Lance Armstrong go directly to Jail??

If you look at the history of doping at the Tour, it is startling how prevalent the use of drugs seems to be.  Is finding new ways to dope and beat the tests just part of the contest? I am starting to think so.

This is a direct quote from the USADA decision against Lance Armstrong:

Twenty of the twenty-one podium finishers in the Tour de France from 1999 through 2005 have been directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations or exceeding the UCI hematocrit threshold. Of the forty-five (45) podium finishes during the time period between 1996 and 2010, thirty-six(36) were by riders similarly tainted by doping.

That means that only 9 out of 45 riders that made it to the podium during the 15 year period were clean.  There is a complete chart in the 200+ page report linked above.

The primary reason for disallowing the use of performance enhancing drugs is that they put people on an uneven playing field.  They also can be abused to the short and long term detriment of the athlete.  But if the Tour was as dirty as everyone is saying it was, who was Lance or any other rider, to think of PEDs as a leg up on the competition?  One could make the case that it is the requirement of the race organization to maintain the standards they prescribe.  They may not be able to catch the occasional outlier but surely if the majority of racers are breaking a specific rule, it is hardly a rule at all.

Lance is still at fault and should suffer the consequences.  I don’t know what those consequences should be but luckily nobody cares about what I have to say anyway.

If nothing else, at least SNL got some good material


Aaron Swartz, Hacktivist Commits Suicide at 26 – Where did we go wrong?

News was released today that Aaron Swartz died tragically on January 11 by suicide in his New York apartment.

Aaron Swartz, a wizardly programmer who as a teenager helped develop code that delivered ever-changing Web content to users and who later became a steadfast crusader to make that information freely available, was found dead on Friday in his New York apartment.

John Schwartz of the New York Times

Aaron_Swartz_at_Boston_Wikipedia_Meetup,_2009-08-18

Many people across the internet are weighing in to discuss who was to blame.  Larry Lessig, Aaron’s friend and one time lawyer, writes of the shame the federal prosecutors should feel for showing no restraint by charging him 13 felony counts.  Others are pointing their fingers at MIT for standing idly by allowing the prosecution to move forward with the case even when JSTOR decided they did not want to pursue charges.

As an alum, I can’t help but to feel discomfort with my former university and the role they might have played in this person’s decision to end their life.  Particularly because what Aaron was accused of doing, making information free and accessible, is so essential to the ethos, the absolute core, of MIT’s culture.

In the past, I have always been very proud of MIT and its ability to strike a balance between letting the students run free and maintaining legal and safety standards of the institution.  Frequently laws are bent, infractions overlooked and matters dealt with internally to protect their students.  Because what administrators at MIT acutely understand is that for the groundbreaking research and entrepreneurship to continue to flourish at the institution like it does nowhere else, students need to have the space to do crazy things, even if they aren’t completely within the rules.

Even though he was not a student, Aaron very easily represents many of the approximate 10 thousand students and staff at the institution that sit so precariously on the edge of brilliance.  It was Aaron this time but every year new classes come into the institution with the same attitude; the same naivety that allows them to  change the world by breaking the rules.  And every year, we are reminded of how delicate these minds are when we lose precious members of our community to suicide.

And so what happened with Aaron is sad on many levels.  We all lost an incredible person and MIT had a very serious, hopefully temporary, lapse in judgment.  Because in this case, MIT did not do what it should have done, protect its own, not just students but any member of the community.

While nothing will bring Aaron back, we need to make sure that the way MIT handled the prior events do not become data points in a trend.  For the sake of all current and future students, MIT’s administration must remember what the institute stands for above all else: that the hacker culture is important and those within it must be dealt with restraint for the culture and its members to survive.  By forgetting this, MIT chipped its moral footing and sadly saw the effects of another brilliant mind being trapped into a corner with seemingly nowhere to go.

Rafael Reif, MIT’s president, emailed this out to the MIT community that starts the long conversation about what could have been done better.  It’s a good start that will hopefully shine more light on what happened.

~Adam Leeb