Saturday, December 19, 2009

Funny Jab at How to be a Good Republican

Ann Richards on How to Be a Good Republican:

1. You have to believe that the nation's current 8-year prosperity (under President Clinton) was due to the work of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but yesterday's gasoline prices are all Clinton's fault.

2. You have to believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own.

3. You have to be against all government programs, but expect Social Security checks on time.

4. You have to believe that AIDS victims deserve their disease, but smokers with lung cancer and overweight individuals with heart disease don't deserve theirs.

5. You have to appreciate the power rush that comes with sporting a gun.

6. You have to believe...everything Rush Limbaugh says.

7. You have to believe that the agricultural, restaurant, housing and hotel industries can survive without immigrant labor.

8. You have to believe God hates homosexuality, but loves the death penalty.

9. You have to believe society is color-blind and growing up black in America doesn't diminish your opportunities, but you still won't vote for Alan Keyes.

10. You have to believe that pollution is OK as long as it makes a profit.

11. You have to believe in prayer in schools, as long as you don't pray to Allah or Buddha.

12. You have to believe Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde were really faithful husbands.

13. You have to believe speaking a few Spanish phrases makes you instantly popular in the barrio.

14. You have to believe that only your own teenagers are still virgins.

15. You have to be against government interference in business, until your oil company, corporation or Savings and Loan is about to go broke and you beg for a government bail out.

16. You love Jesus and Jesus loves you and, by the way, Jesus shares your hatred for AIDS victims, homosexuals, and President Clinton.

17. You have to believe government has nothing to do with providing police protection, national defense, and building roads.

18. You have to believe a poor, minority student with a disciplinary history and failing grades will be admitted into an elite private school with a $1,000 voucher.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Proud to be a Liberal

Kudos to my bro Chris for sharing this link with me. I share most of the following beliefs with Mr. McKinley as to why I am a liberal. Enjoy...and then comment and tell me why I am going to hell. This will be fun...

Proud To Be Liberal - Why Liberal values are American values
By Brian Elroy McKinley

"You are a contentious person....and probably a Liberal," started a recent response to an article I published on abortion rights.
Contentious? Possibly.

Liberal? Absolutely.

Seems these days Conservatives have convinced themselves, and some of the American public, that being a Liberal is akin to being a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. While this may be a great smear tactic for an election year, to believe such a notion proves that the believer is uneducated in the fundamentals of the American political system. Our nation was founded on Liberalism. Embodied in the Declaration of Independence are its three tenets: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." The very term, itself, is taken from the same root as the second of these precepts. To be a Liberal is to defend the freedom - the Liberty - of all people who make up our great nation. To be a Liberal is to trust individuals and families to run their own lives as they see fit. To be a Liberal is to create a nation where anyone can excel if they are willing to do the work.

In order to understand the true nature of Liberalism, and to dispel the misconceptions fomented by those whose agenda is counter to our freedom, I will detail the tenets of Liberal thought and dispel the misconceptions so often put forth by Conservative rhetoric.

Liberalism is "Life." It is freedom from physical dangers that can kill or disable us. The Liberal believes it is a nation's job to protect its citizens from physical harm, whether from external sources, such as hostile nations, or internal ones, like crime, disease, or hunger. Without the solid ground of physical wellbeing, our nation and its citizens cannot enjoy the benefits of being free. Liberals believe in a strong military, well suited to defend the nation. Liberals believe in good laws, hard-working police, and a just legal system to protect its citizens from crime. Liberals believe in affordable health care for everyone, to keep our people strong. And Liberals believe in the availability of food and shelter for its needy, not as a hand out but as a reasonable step in moving all Americans toward self-reliance and the freedom that comes with it.

Liberalism is "Liberty." It is the freedom to do as your conscience dictates without impeding another's rights. Fleeing oppression in mother Europe, our founders established a nation where personal belief and self-determination are protected, not persecuted, where hard work is rewarded, not demanded, and where each person is bestowed with the ability to better his or her life because of citizenship, not class. Liberals believe in freedom of speech to protect us from political oppression. Liberals believe in sound regulations to protect us from economic oppression. Liberals believe in just laws to protect us from social oppression. And Liberals believe in quality education to protect us from the oppression of ignorance.

Liberalism is "The Pursuit of Happiness." It is the freedom to create an environment where the individual can excel. What is freedom if it cannot be used to better our lives? A truly free society must be one where its members can rise above their limitations and expand their futures. We call it "The American Dream," and it's alive and well in the heart of the Liberal. Liberals believe in equal opportunities for all to rise above our means. Liberals believe in equal opportunities to rise above our education levels. Liberals believe in equal opportunities to rise above our social status. And Liberals believe each and every family should have an equal opportunity to make this world better for their children.

Based on these tenets, we can see that Liberalism is not the monster it's made out to be by the opposition. It is pro individual and pro family. It is pro community and pro country. Liberalism is, by its very definition, the heart and soul of what it means to be an American. It stands against tyranny of any kind, whether international or domestic. It works to remove abuse and fight crime. And it strives to eliminate the idea of a wasted life by not wasting resources and opportunities.

By this time someone might ask, "if that is a Liberal, then what is a Conservative?"

Liberals and Conservatives received their names for good reasons. Just as Liberals get their label by standing for Liberty, Conservatives get their label from the desire to "conserve" a style of living. They, too, claim they are fighting to conserve our personal rights and our economic opportunities, but they do it with a different ideal than the Liberal. The term they use for the difference is "values." Values are norms or codes by which people live their lives. While most Americans share some common values, such as the right to own property and the right to protect our families, we also have many divergent values with which we raise our children. So if we try to impose values into the political framework of the nation, we are forced to ask, "whose values?" And in the search for such absolutes, we must also ask, "which generation's values?"

As the nation ages and new generations take over leadership, the values of its population change. Where once a woman was valued for how well she cooked, cleaned and entertained, today's women are gaining recognition that they offer as much, if not more, to the work force than men. Where once African Americans were forced to live as second-class citizens, now they have a legal status equal to that of whites, even if we still have a ways to go in actual practice. Changing values brings confusing times for many - especially for those who believe that America was better with an older set of values. These people want to "conserve" a style of American living they believe once existed, what they call, "traditional family values." They want to conserve the system that they believe made America wealthy and strong. Unfortunately that also means they want to force all of us to live according to their values.

Conservatives don't really fight for our rights - they fight for what they think our rights should be - putting limits on our freedom of speech in order to "conserve" an older, more traditional norm of what should be said. Conservatives don't really fight for our family values - they fight for what they believe our family values should be - putting limits on our behavior, even behavior between consenting adults, in order to "conserve" an older, more traditional view of acceptable personal activity. Conservatives don't really fight for our income - they fight for little or no regulations - putting limits on our ability to be treated fairly by large companies, who if left without restriction, can form monopolies that choke out competition and drive down wages.

Conservatives are willing to curb our freedom of speech if it clashes with their interpretation of "traditional" values, values from an older time where woman were in domestic servitude to men, where child abuse, sexual abuse, wife abuse, and homosexuality were all kept locked in closets, where minorities were second-class citizens and discrimination was free from incrimination, and where the inability to plan a family's growth meant an explosion of mouths to feed - a population explosion that today threatens to bankrupt our nation's retirement funds. The Conservative position, therefore, is inherently contradictory. You cannot be for legislating away freedom in the name of "family values" and also claim you are protecting individual and family rights.

As new generations have placed their own values into the laws that govern our land, Conservatives have sought to fight back by limiting the size and power of the government. Conservatives are willing to give away the very power needed to protect our liberties in the work place. Their idea of a smaller, less-intrusive government means a return to the days where business decisions and profits were more important than clean air and clean water, where a business could abuse its employees without incrimination, and where minorities and women could be passed over for jobs or paid less then white males for the same jobs. Again the Conservative position is at odds with itself. You cannot claim you are fighting for families at the same time that you allow the family bread winner to be overworked and underpaid and allow neighborhoods to be overrun by non-regulated big business. The Conservative would effectively shift power away from the people, who can elect public officials to fight for their rights, and into the hands of private businesses, who need not answer to the public when making decisions that affect us all.

Because Liberals fight to protect every citizen from having other people's values imposed on them, Conservatives like to label Liberals as being evil. The following list shows what Conservatives like to say against Liberals, and then goes on to show why such assertions are false:

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-family.
However . . .

Conservatives want to define what your family should be
Whereas . . .
Liberals put you in charge of your family
Liberals support your right to define what your family will be
Liberals fight for your family's rights against economic and political oppression

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-business.
However . . .

Conservatives are pro-money, but that often translates into monopolies, which hurt small business and competition, which hurts us all
Whereas . . .
Liberals protect small businesses by regulating the larger ones and by breaking up monopolies
Liberals protect workers in order to create a healthy workforce that will help businesses grow

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-religion.
However . . .

Conservatives are often for one dominant religion, and are, therefore, against others
Whereas . . .
Liberals support complete freedom of religion and from religion so that all citizen are free to choose the manner in which faith is a part of their lives
Liberals strive to keep government completely out of a family's religious choices

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-freedom.
However . . .

Conservatives want to stop homosexuals, stop abortions, stop the women's movement, and stop freedom of expression through the use of censorship
Whereas . . .
Liberals leave it up to the parents to teach such values to their children
Liberals believe each person or family should be free to choose how to behave as long as it does not interfere with another's rights

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-morality.
However . . .

Conservatives are for one specific kind of morality
Whereas . . .
Liberals are for the morality of free choice, where each person or family decides their own values
Liberals want the government to protect our freedom to choose what is important to us rather than to impose the laws and codes of another's morality

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-military.
However . . .

Conservatives see the military as a means to impose their values and standards on others
Whereas . . .
Liberals see the military as a vital protection of our freedoms and our liberties, giving us a space in which to pursue happiness
Liberalism's Stance on Specific Issues

With the desire to promote Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as the central motivation, the Liberal always defends these tenets when deciding how to stand on a particular issue. The following will show why Liberals often take the stance they do:

Abortion/Contraception - Liberty means the freedom to control your body, your reproductive system, and your future.

Affirmative Action - Liberty means having fair opportunities for those in society who are discriminated against.

Education - Liberty means the freedom to learn in order to build a better future for yourself, your family, your community, and your country.

Environment - Liberty means the fair use of our nation's natural resources for all citizens. Where possible, without unreasonable restriction to private enterprise, the government should strive to protect our natural environment so all can enjoy its bounty.

Gun Control - Liberty means the freedom to protect yourself, your family, and your property, with deadly force if necessary. People have a right to keep guns for such a purpose. People also have a right to use guns in sporting activities and in the event that citizens should be called on to form a citizen militia. We do not, however, have a right to own all the latest people-killing technology. The People, through the government, can restrict some of the more deadly weapons being sold today.

Health - Liberty means the freedom to overcome physical limitations in order to better yourself, your family, your community, and your country.

Regulations - Liberty means the freedom to live and work in an environment that best allows individuals and families to grow in the pursuit of happiness. Bad air, bad water, bad living and working conditions only stifle that liberty.

Sexuality - Liberty means the freedom to share mutual intimate affection with the person of your choice, regardless of gender.

Substance Abuse - Liberty means the freedom to decide what you put in your body. Unless the use of a substance is a danger to unwilling victims, its use should be kept legal. In situations where use of a substance may or may not effect bystanders, regulations - such as in the case with tobacco - should be enacted to protect the bystander without denying the individual's choice to use the substance. Smoking and non-smoking areas in public places are a prime example of this.

Taxation - Liberty is found within a system. That system does not happen by itself. It is created and supported by us, the People, and it is funded by our labors. The money we pay in taxes is what allows us to thrive in Liberty and work in fairness. Reasonable taxation is necessary because without it, many of us would find it difficult to get paid even a fraction of what we are paid now. And those who benefit more from the system should expect to pay more to help support it.

Women's/Minority Rights - Liberty means the freedom to be valued and judged on talent and work, not on the physical characteristics over which we have no control.

In closing let me state that freedom sometimes brings situations we don't like. Some people will choose to use their freedom to engage in activities that go against our personal values. It is a great temptation to use our democratic rights to try and enshrine our own personal values - whether they come from religious or humanistic origins - in the laws of the nation. The inherent problem with this is that when Liberty is restrained by any one group's values, even if that group represents the majority of the population at the time, it can easily be changed from one generation to the next, meaning that you could be forced to live under someone else's values as easily as you might force someone to live under yours.

The only true defense of our values is the defense of our liberties.

If you don't want to be forced to live under a foreign set of values, don't force others to live under yours. Instead, fight for the freedom to believe as you want while others believe as they want. Freedom of choice, as long as it does not infringe on another's rights, is the foundation upon which this nation was built. Liberalism is the ideology that strives to defend that freedom for everyone. And for that reason it pleases me to no end to state that I am proud to be Liberal.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Top Ten Surprising Results from Global Warming

as per

10. Aggravated Allergies

Have those sneeze attacks and itchy eyes that plague you every spring been worsening in recent years? If so, global warming may be partly to blame. Over the past few decades, more and more Americans have started suffering from seasonal allergies and asthma. Though lifestyle changes and pollution ultimately leave people more vulnerable to the airborne allergens they breathe in, research has shown that the higher carbon dioxide levels and warmer temperatures associated with global warming are also playing a role by prodding plants to bloom earlier and produce more pollen. With more allergens produced earlier, allergy season can last longer. Get those tissues ready.

9. Heading for the Hills

Starting in the early 1900s, we've all had to look to slightly higher ground to spot our favorite chipmunks, mice and squirrels. Researchers found that many of these animals have moved to greater elevations, possibly due to changes in their habitat caused by global warming. Similar changes to habitats are also threatening Arctic species like polar bears, as the sea ice they dwell on gradually melts away.

8. Arctic in Bloom

While melting in the Arctic might cause problems for plants and animals at lower latitudes, it's creating a downright sunny situation for Arctic biota. Arctic plants usually remain trapped in ice for most of the year. Nowadays, when the ice melts earlier in the spring, the plants seem to be eager to start growing. Research has found higher levels of the form of the photosynthesis product chlorophyll in modern soils than in ancient soils, showing a biological boom in the Arctic in recent decades.

7. Pulling the Plug

A whopping 125 lakes in the Arctic have disappeared in the past few decades, backing up the idea that global warming is working fiendishly fast nearest Earth's poles. Research into the whereabouts of the missing water points to the probability that permafrost underneath the lakes thawed out. When this normally permanently frozen ground thaws, the water in the lakes can seep through the soil, draining the lake, one researcher likened it to pulling the plug out of the bathtub. When the lakes disappear, the ecosystems they support also lose their home.

6. The Big Thaw

Not only is the planet's rising temperature melting massive glaciers, but it also seems to be thawing out the layer of permanently frozen soil below the ground's surface. This thawing causes the ground to shrink and occurs unevenly, so it could lead to sink holes and damage to structures such as railroad tracks, highways and houses. The destabilizing effects of melting permafrost at high altitudes, for example on mountains, could even cause rockslides and mudslides. Recent discoveries reveal the possibility of long-dormant diseases like smallpox could re-emerge as the ancient dead, their corpses thawing along with the tundra, get discovered by modern man.

5. Survival of the Fittest

As global warming brings an earlier start to spring, the early bird might not just get the worm. It might also get its genes passed on to the next generation. Because plants bloom earlier in the year, animals that wait until their usual time to migrate might miss out on all the food. Those who can reset their internal clocks and set out earlier stand a better chance at having offspring that survive and thus pass on their genetic information, thereby ultimately changing the genetic profile of their entire population.

4. Speedier Satellites

A primary cause of a warmer planet'scarbon dioxide emissions is having effects that reach into space with a bizarre twist. Air in the atmosphere's outermost layer is very thin, but air molecules still create drag that slows down satellites, requiring engineers to periodically boost them back into their proper orbits. But the amount of carbon dioxide up there is increasing. And while carbon dioxide molecules in the lower atmosphere release energy as heat when they collide, thereby warming the air, the sparser molecules in the upper atmosphere collide less frequently and tend to radiate their energy away, cooling the air around them. With more carbon dioxide up there, more cooling occurs, causing the air to settle. So the atmosphere is less dense and creates less drag.

3. Rebounding Mountains

Though the average hiker wouldn't notice, the Alps and other mountain ranges have experienced a gradual growth spurt over the past century or so thanks to the melting of the glaciers atop them. For thousands of years, the weight of these glaciers has pushed against the Earth's surface, causing it to depress. As the glaciers melt, this weight is lifting, and the surface slowly is springing back. Because global warming speeds up the melting of these glaciers, the mountains are rebounding faster.

2. Ruined Ruins

All over the globe, temples, ancient settlements and other artifacts stand as monuments to civilizations past that until now have withstood the tests of time. But the immediate effects of global warming may finally do them in. Rising seas and more extreme weather have the potential to damage irreplaceable sites. Floods attributed to global warming have already damaged a 600-year-old site, Sukhothai, which was once the capital of a Thai kingdom.

1. Forest Fire Frenzy

While it's melting glaciers and creating more intense hurricanes, global warming also seems to be heating up forest fires in the United States. In western states over the past few decades, more wildfires have blazed across the countryside, burning more area for longer periods of time. Scientists have correlated the rampant blazes with warmer temperatures and earlier snowmelt. When spring arrives early and triggers an earlier snow-melt, forest areas become drier and stay so for longer, increasing the chance that they might ignite.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flashback Friday: Cover Song Edition

I recently had an argument with a friend about a cover song that I thought was better than the original. He disagreed. I'll let you decide.

And for the record, I don't get Bob Dylan. Just because he played Woodstock doesn't mean he's a just means he's old.

Knockin' on Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan

Knockin' on Heaven's Door - Guns n Roses

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?

Happy Veterans Day. Thank you to all who have served.

Here is a story to remind us of our priorities on this day of rememberance and appreciation.

On November 11, 1999 Terry Kelly was in a Shoppers Drug Mart store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. At 10:55 AM an announcement came over the store's PA asking customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us.

Terry was impressed with the store's leadership role in adopting the Legion's "two minutes of silence" initiative. He felt that the store's contribution of educating the public to the importance of remembering was commendable.

When eleven o'clock arrived on that day, an announcement was again made asking for the "two minutes of silence" to commence. All customers, with the exception of a man who was accompanied by his young child, showed their respect.

Terry's anger towards the father for trying to engage the store's clerk in conversation and for setting a bad example for his child was later channeled into a beautiful piece of work called, "A Pittance of Time".

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Face of the Republican Party, part II

Okay, some of you were a little upset at my shenanigans when I recently called a religious nut the face of the Republican party. Fair enough, I was mocking an idiot and associating many of you legitimate Republicans with lunacy. Okay, let me make amends.

Who better to represent you than the highest ranking Republican in Congress? I present to you, the House minority leader, John Boehner.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Founding Fathers and Religion

I have been getting increasingly frustrated in seeing the attempted indoctrination of the American public into believing that the Founding Fathers established a Christian nation. Added to recent headaches, I have seen various blog posts linking to this artist's painting depicting Jesus holding the Constitution with many of the founding fathers and patriotic matriarchs following Him. Imagine my hilarious chuckles to see the likes of Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson supporting the Constitutional Christianity...

I guess that brings us to a need for definition on who are considered the "Founding Fathers." I suppose we should start at the inception of the phrase "founding fathers." It was President Warren G Harding who first coined the phrase along with his testimony in his religiously laced inaugural address in 1921: "...I must utter my belief in the divine inspiration of the founding fathers. Surely there must have been God's intent in the making of this new-world Republic."

The irony of one whose political career was riddled with unethical behavior and scandal playing on the emotions of God-fearing people does not escape me. It kind of reminds me of another recent President, but I digress...

The most blatantly obviously, and hence, most frequently quoted in this debate is from the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1797. Article 11 states: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility [sic], of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never have entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Well, forget that, Neo-cons will say. It was written by an Enlightenment freethinker. I know, I know, the Dark Ages were ruled by authoritative religions and the Enlightenment brought about philosophical atheists. As the religious conservatives would say:

Evidence rejected.

How about the 10th President of the United States (get out your history books) John Tyler? Is he authoritative enough? He said the following in an 1843 letter: "The United States have adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent -- that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgment. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mohammedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma, if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political Institutions."

Well, we can forget forget him. He was the first President born AFTER the adoption of the US Constitution, so I guess that technically disqualifies him from personally knowing the intent of the founding fathers. He was a big proponent of states rights so you Neo-Cons should love him, unfortunately, that also means he sided with the Confederacy...but that may still bring some Neo-Con love anyway.

Evidence rejected.

Alright, how about George Washington? Does he count as a Founding Father???? In a letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island in 1790: "The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy -- a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support ... May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants -- while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid."

But, George Washington had his famous prayer and was a member of the Episcopal Church.

Evidence rejected.

Washington, like many people in colonial America, belonged to the Anglican church and was a vestryman in it. But in early America, particularly in pre-revolutionary America, you had to belong to the dominant church if you wanted to have influence in society, as is illustrated by the following taken from Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia, by Bishop William Meade, I, p 191. "Even Mr. Jefferson, and George Wythe, who did not conceal their disbelief in Christianity, took their parts in the duties of vestrymen, the one at Williamsburg, the other at Albermarle; for they wished to be men of influence."

In the book Washington and Religion by Paul F. Boller, Jr., we read on page 92, "Washington was no infidel, if by infidel is meant unbeliever. Washington had an unquestioning faith in Providence and, as we have seen, he voiced this faith publicly on numerous occasions. That this was no mere rhetorical flourish on his part, designed for public consumption, is apparent from his constant allusions to Providence in his personal letters. There is every reason to believe, from a careful analysis of religious references in his private correspondence, that Washington’s reliance upon a Grand Designer along Deist lines was as deep-seated and meaningful for his life as, say, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s serene confidence in a Universal Spirit permeating the ever shifting appearances of the everyday world."

On page 82 of the same book, Boller includes a quote from a Presbyterian minister, Arthur B. Bradford, who was an associate of Ashbel Green another Presbyterian minister who had known George Washington personally. Bradford wrote that Green, "often said in my hearing, though very sorrowfully, of course, that while Washington was very deferential to religion and its ceremonies, like nearly all the founders of the Republic, he was not a Christian, but a Deist."

George Washington coupled his genuine belief in Providence with action. After the American defeat at Germantown in 1777 he said, "We must endeavor to deserve better of Providence, and, I am persuaded, she will smile on us." He also wrote that we should take care to do our very best in everything we do so that our, "reason and our own conscience approve."

William and Mary professor David Holmes, after 40 years of religious study, compiled his research and concluded that while many of the founding fathers were associated with certain Christian denominations of their time, he noted a relevant distinction between membership and belief in denominational interpretations and doctrines. “These men fit the category of men of faith though that faith is different from the faith of most Christians today.”

It is akin to the countless numbers of people who when asked their religious affiliation will claim Catholicism yet when asked about regularity of attendance or level of doctrinal belief and adherence, the truth reveals itself.

In my argument I will not disagree that the founding fathers saw inherent good that came from religion. Even George Washington, in his farewell address noted this: "Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them."

In a article on this very topic, writer Michael Lind notes: "In Washington's day, it may have been reasonable for the elite to worry that only fear of hellfire kept the masses from running amok, but in the 21st century it is clear that democracy as a form of government does not require citizens who believe in supernatural religion. Most of the world's stable democracies are in Europe, where the population is largely post-Christian and secular, and in East Asian countries like Japan where the 'Judeo-Christian tradition' has never been part of the majority culture."

Which brings us back full circle. Does having a nation of Christians make us a Christian nation? Simply because the majority of the founding fathers affiliated with Christian denominations does that make this a Christian nation? Does is make The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution Christian documents? Does God than approve of everything that was done in this country with the protection and interpretation of the Constitution by Christian judges and voting bases?

I suppose not anymore than Microsoft being an atheist company, Wal-Mart a Presbyterian corporation, IKEA from being a Lutheran company, Cargill from being a Methodist company, or Dell from being a Jewish company...or maybe they are simply because of their founder's religious affiliations?

Evidence rejected.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2009-2010 NBA Predictions

With the start of the NBA season tonight, here are my pre-season predictions.

Eastern Conference playoff teams:
1. Orlando Magic
2. Boston Celtics
3. Atlanta Hawks
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
5. Chicago Bulls
6. Philadelphia 76ers
7. Detroit Pistons
8. New York Knicks

Western Conference playoff teams:
1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Dallas Mavericks
4. Utah Jazz
5. Denver Nuggets
6. Portland Trail Blazers
7. New Orleans Hornets
8. Memphis Grizzlies

Eastern Conference Finals:
Boston Celtics vs Orlando Magic - Orlando wins in 7

Western Conference Finals:
Los Angeles Lakers vs San Antonio Spurs - Lakers win in 5

NBA Championship:
Los Angeles Lakers vs Orlando Magic - Lakers win in 6

Here is your FoxNews loving, Glenn Beck following, face of the Religious Republican Party

Embrace your core voting populous Republicans...this is why I get so frustrated when organized religions attempt to use their influence in the political sphere.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Books 2009-10...Part One- Traditional

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to read. People are also surprised that I can read multiple books at the same time. For instance, I usually have a book in each bathroom (right now I have a Salt Lake magazine in one and a Men's Health in another). I typically am reading one book and one or two comic book graphic novels.

Right now I'm reading:
1. Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power by D. Michael Quinn
2. JLA - Deluxe Edition Volume 2 by Grant Morrison
3. Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume.

However, after a recent book reorganization I decided to take the time to establish a book queue and set out my readings for the foreseeable future. If you all have suggestions that I should add to my list please comment and tell me.

Here are the traditional books I've read so far in 2009, followed by the four I plan to finish by the end of 2009.

1. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
2. The Godfather's Revenge - Mark Winegardner
3. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
4. The Wild Within - Paul Rezendes
5. Ethics in America - Lisa Newton
6. Act of Treason - Vince Flynn
7. The Holy Secret - James L. Ferrell
8. The Book of Lies - Brad Meltzer
9. Slavery Attacked: The Abolitionist Crusade - John L. Thomas (Editor)
10. The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown
11. Man's Search For Meaning - Viktor E. Frankl
12. A Child Called "IT": One Child's Courage to Survive - Dave Pelzer
13. The Lost Boy: A Foster Child's Search for the Love of a Family - Dave Pelzer
1. The Measure of a Man - Sidney Poitier
2. Underboss - Peter Haas
3. White Fang - Jack London
4. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

Those should take me through the end of the year. Here is my 2010 Book Queue but are in no particular order:

1. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
2. The Three Musketeers - Alexander Dumas
3. Martin Eden - Jack London
4. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
5. The Prince and the Pauper - Mark Twain
6. A Journey to the Center of the Earth - Jules Verne
7. The Time Machine - HG Wells
8. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll
9. The Sword of Shannara Trilogy- Terry Brooks
11. Seven Summits - Dick Bass & Frank Wells
12. Live From Death Row - Mumia Abu-Jamal
13. Ben & Jerry's: The Inside Scoop - Fred "Chico" Lager
14. Born to Believe: God, Science and the Origin of Ordinary and Extraordinary Beliefs - Andrew Newberg & Mark Robert Waldman
15. By the Light of the Moon - Dean Koontz
16. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
17. The Tales of Beetle the Bard - JK Rowling
18. The Stand - Stephen King
19. A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir - Donald Worster
20. Columbine - Dave Cullen

Stay tuned for Part 2 when I go over my comic book reading...

Rainn Wilson's Guide to Halloween Pranks

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Religious Freedom and Dallin H Oaks

Before I taint you with my opinion on the issue, please click HERE to go read Elder Oaks talk in its entirety. I guess I would have ignored it completely as I did the homophobic rant of Elder Bruce C Hafen nearly four weeks ago but there seems to be a FoxNews type of push (repeat something frequently enough and the masses will take it as truth) by the LDS hierarchy to solidify their position among their doubting flocks on how to justify their archaic "separate but equal" position targeted at yet another "less valiant" categorization of people.

Let me start off by saying that I really don't think I need to say anything about it (but I will). It speaks volumes by itself. Seeing as how the official position of the LDS Church is political neutrality, Elder Oaks must have been reading from some of those politically neutral books layering the shelves of the Church-owned Deseret Book stores by the most fair and balanced man on the planet, Glenn Beck. Elder Oaks utilizes Brother Beck's argument tactics to a tee.

I realize that disagreeing with Elder Oaks is sure-fire apostasy because it was, of course, Elder Oaks who counseled against criticizing Church leaders and even went so far as to say that "It does not matter that the criticism is true" (Ensign, Feb 1987, 68). Mormon dogma is such that once a leader joins the Quorum of the Twelve or The First Presidency, the herd will generally accept their words as infallible revelation from God's mouth.

Oaks begins under the premise that religious freedom is under attack and targets two main enemies as his oppressors. Gays,, wonderfully predictable. Not to mention that everything he states as a fear of what COULD happen to religious people by liberal gay legislation is exactly what religious people embrace as inspired laws which are currently discriminating AGAINST gay and lesbian citizens. The hypocrisy is astounding...

Another thing, I know I've already blogged on this before but Elder Oaks has brought it up yet again. Have you ever known people that couldn't live without drama and/or crisis in their lives? Well, modern Mormons have a persecution complex. Joseph Smith once said, "I should be like a fish out of water, if I were out of persecutions." I think modern Mormons seek out opportunities to be seen as a persecuted group. It lets them feel connected to their pioneer stories of yesteryear.

And so it is, even in the most obvious of situations, as Mormons again stand so clearly in the wrong, on yet another civil rights issue, we find Elder Oaks trying to convince the flock to see themselves as the oppressed and persecuted. Even funnier, knowing the historical treatment to blacks by the LDS organization, do we find Elder Oaks trying to strike comparisons of current Mormon suffering to "the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South."

The bulk of my frustration is a personal and continuing disappointment in the faith I grew up with. I've decided against going into a point by point dissection of why I disagree with Elder Oaks. Those who know me also know where I stand. To scrutinize his address seems a pointless endeavor, as I have learned from recent Facebook discussions. Most people's minds are already made up on the issues and have no intention of even entertaining new ideas. There are those who are incapable of recognizing any merit in my statements simply because they would refuse to see the content of my dissent and focus rather on my apostate actions in disagreeing with an apostle.

My greater disappointment is that nearly every time I take two steps closer to finding a way to co-exist as an active member and faithful dissident (to steal the name of one of my favorite semi-retired blogs), something like this happens to push me further away. I guess I've been holding to the Christian hope that things will reach resolution instead of reaffirming my doubts and fears about how to maintain good standing in the Church.

"The guarantee of the free exercise of religion..." is how Elder Oaks defines religious freedom. He makes the point frequently that the right to belief has been generally protected but that the right to exercise one's belief is what is being attacked.

I ask again for anyone to answer:

1. Can you give me an example of liberal and/or atheistic legislation that has impeded the conservative religious citizen's ability to exercise their religion?
2. How does allowing two consenting tax-paying citizens to get married affect your ability to exercise your religion?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Some of you have asked the question:

Are you going to post a blog about the recent talk from Dallin H. Oaks delivered at BYU-Idaho?

My answer is...maybe.

I'm waiting until I can do so without causing blood vessels in my brain to explode in frustration. Hopefully it will be soon. In the meantime, I hope you all will enjoy another dose of Jon Stewart discussing H1N1 fear-mongering.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

U.S. Spending Allocations

Bro, my issue with the Republicans is they always knock the Democrats for excessive spending but the facts clearly show that our national debt rises with Republicans. Who knows what it will do under Obama but judging from the mess he inherited, let's just hope it doesn't get worse. I'm not saying he is the "be all, cure all", I'm just saying I like where it is headed. Remember, the auto and banking bail outs were on Bush, not Obama, even if Obama now takes credit for them. If they ever begin to take a turn for the worse, you watch Obama begin to remind everyone that Bush was the one who did it though.

I have no problem supporting responsible military spending. I want to support my vets and current service men and women. But let's look at the data. 44.4% of all taxes go directly to military spending while only 2.2% is invested into the education of the leaders of tomorrow. Even as a die hard red blooded American Marine do you not have issue with spending nearly half of all the collected taxes to fund our military?

Even if you added up all of the collective military spending for every country in Europe, we still spent 28% more than them. Russia, our communist enemies? We spend 10 times what they do on military. Communist China? We spend 6 times more than they do.

If you added up what every country in the world spent on military (except for the United States), they collectively only spent $51 billion dollars more than the United States did.

I'm just asking this: To maintain our dominant status as top dog, do we have to outspend every one by such a large margin? Can we not invest more into education and science?

What I'm really calling for is that our elected officials be more fiscally responsible with the excessively high tax rates we pay. Military spending, in the light of the leadership errors in Iraq, the Cheney inspired Halliburton monopoly and the expensive mercenary branch of the U.S. military (Blackwater or Xe or whatever they change to next), and the 44.4% seems the most high profile target. But I'm not just picking on military expenditures.

NASA, for instance. In this time of economic downturn, I find it highly illogical to be spending nearly $80 million in tax payer funding to send a missile into the moon hoping to find evidence of lunar water in the debris. Not only that but let's take some Ron Paul advice on shrinking the unnecessary weight out of our federal government...

If you cannot see either image clearly, just click on each image to visit the site origin to see it in larger print.

U.S. Military Spending vs The Rest of the World

Allocation of our U.S. Tax Dollars - Pie Chart

The Raw Data

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Just need to clean out my blog post queue...

Here is just a bunch of random things that I haven't been able to fit in yet.

Did any of you see this hit on Sportscenter?

This is the guy that is adding 50 pages as a preface to Darwin's The Origin of Species. See my friend Jared's blog for details...

Whole Gecko eaten by ants in under 2 minutes (sped up):

JawKneeYeah doing an acoustic parody of Taylor Swift's Love Story:

Barney Frank slaps down a conspiratorial kook at town hall meeting:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

More from Captain Lunacy...

Glenn Beck on President Obama's use of the teleprompter (he begins to address it specifically at about the 1:08 mark):

Glenn Beck and HIS use of a teleprompter:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thomas Paine quote on Deism

"There is a happiness in Deism, when rightly understood, that is not to be found in any other system of religion. All other systems have something in them that either shock our reason, or are repugnant to it, and man, if he thinks at all, must stifle his reason in order to force himself to believe them."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Review - The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (no spoilers)

I will try and give this review keeping in mind that many of you have not yet finished this book. I liked the book but I guess when you are expecting an A+ and receive a B- effort, one cannot help but be slightly disappointed.

Let me just address a few points.

1. Robert Langdon. Maybe it has been to long and I am forgetting who Langdon was as a character but I don't seem to remember him being an arrogant whiner as much as he is in this book. I seem to remember a guy who, though he was an expert in symbology, was rather open-minded to the idea that he could be wrong about what he knew and open to learning to ideas. In TLS, he came off very close-minded to alternative interpretations about what he thought he knew.

2. While appreciating the depth of research that was done in preparation for TLS, Dan Brown all too frequently used internal thought dialogue of Robert Langdon to lecture the reader. Despite my eagerness to learn the material, trying to picture Langdon divulging extensive mental lesson plans in the face of crisis grew annoying quickly.

That being said, I finished being overall satisfied but not blown away like after reading The Da Vinci Code for the first time or subsequently with Angels and Demons.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flashback Friday - Dan Brown Edition

Since I am currently enthralled in Dan Brown's latest Robert Langdon adventure The Lost Symbol, I thought we might do our first literary Flashback Friday and ask:

What was your favorite Dan Brown book?

Digital Fortress (1998)

Angels and Demons (2000)

Deception Point (2001)

The Da Vinci Code (2003)

Personally, my favorite was Angels and Demons. We'll see if The Lost Symbol can surpass it...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Flashback Friday: That we may never forget...

Those that were lost will never be forgotten.

Thank you to those who serve and protect...

Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning):

Monday, September 7, 2009

Transcript of President Obama's speech

Prepared remarks of President Obama’s back to school event

Here are prepared remarks that President Obama is to deliver at noon ET Tuesday at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia.

Source: The White House

Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."

So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility. I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn. I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.

Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork. I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had.

There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in. So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future. That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.

And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it. I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.