Archive for May, 2011


Jason Childs, currently the founder and director of the Center for Progress in Alabama, has written an article on the dangers the Religious Right truly pose to our open and free democratic society. What makes Jason unique is that he used to in fact be part of the fundamentalist christian movement. He went to Florida Bible College and also to Liberty University, both training grounds for the evangelical movement in America. If this came from a different kind of source I would more likely disregard it as over the top fear mongering. However it is very startling when someone who was once within the movement openly admits these types of things.

He writes “I was sure that I was right and that every other person not of my faith was going to burn in hell forever. I was taught that we as Christians should take this nation back, only to find out later that we never had it to begin with.”  This is the danger of religion, any strongly held religion, in that if a group of people think that they are right and everyone else is so wrong that they would be punished for all eternity then they somehow have the right to force their way of thinking on everyone else. We have seen this happen in other place, look at the Taliban of Afghanistan or Iran’s theocracy. We as a people need to be vigilant against politically powerful groups who think they have a monopoly on truth.

Jason became a truck driver after leaving his church structure after a divorce. “I began to notice a change in me as well. I started reading a lot of books that were not on the seminary reading list and listening to NPR as I was driving 10 hours a day. It was a great second education. I decided to return to Alabama and work to help all of the people of my great state, and to protect them from the oppression I was once a part of propagating.” When people are exposed to different worldviews, they understand they are part of a larger system. This is how fundamentalist and radical faiths hold onto their people – they insulate them from the rest of the world. We’ve seen this when evangelical churchs took part in massive burnings of books like Harry Potter or the Da Vinci Code; even books that shouldnt be threatening are deemed dangerous. We also saw this happen more recently with the pastor in Florida who thought it would be productive to host a large burning of Korans.

He further writes that “I want you to know that the fundamentalist political movement is the beginning of a cultural revolution that will take our nation to a very dark place. You have to understand that this has been methodically planned and is being carried out with the utmost vigilance. In accordance with their worldview, my old friends do not in the least care about what you think. They are against democracy, and they are seeking to end the rule of the majority in our great country. ” and “They truly believe that if you have not been “saved,” you are living under a curse and are incapable of knowing what is best and that because of this you should be ruled over. You should also know they do not believe that even centuries-old Christian communities (Catholics, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, etc.) are “saved,” only those who think like they do.” This line of thinking is very very dangerous. THIS is the importance of education for our children, THIS is the importance of the separation of Church and State.  The same people who will not grant basic civil rights to gay couples will also do their best to take away rights from anyone else that does not share their worldview. This is not America, this is a kind of foreign thought that can only be bred out of misunderstanding and hate.

Jason does end his post on a good note: “The good news is that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era in human existence. While we watch the revolutions across the Middle East, we are seeing a great truth: that people have within them the natural desire to be free. It is so sad that as the people of the world are fighting for freedom, we here in the United States are going in the opposite direction. The far right, under the control of fundamentalists, is declaring an all-out war on human progress.” We need to prevent this from ever happening here and remove the power that the Religious Right hold over our country. If a set of people do not understand the concept of freedom of religion and hate the thought of different world views, then they do not belong in the political process.

DISCLAIMER: This is not an attack on “religion” as a whole, far from it. It is a warning about a very specific group of people within a religious movement in the US. This is also not an attack on “conservatives” as a whole because I myself am conservative politically in many areas. Republicans need to go back to a time when they were not dominated by the evangelical movement, they need to become part of the political process again, and I believe some are trying. What we see now is the so called Tea Party that represents fundamentalist evangelical christianity with figure heads like Palin and Bachman who are so uneducated that they make up history to justify that they spout from their mouths.

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Al Jazeera just posted an opinion piece on the rise of regional cooperative powers as American global influence diminishes. This is a great piece, and it is very illuminating on on how current political structures are changing.

First off, I am more than happy to see the US take a back seat in at least some of global politics. I do not see it as America’s job to be the global policeman; it is about time that other countries stepped up to control their own destinies and regions. The US just doesn’t have the capability, militarily, economically, or politically, to have global dominance. What we see as American preeminence in the world I see as a delusion. In the Cold War, the world was split in two, a nation HAD to choose America or the USSR. With the collapse of Soviet power, countries are no longer forced into that position. A small nation may now look to regional powers or to forming alliance with its neighbors to succeed. As the article states, the European Union is case in point. Europe had been fractured and warring with itself for centuries dating all the way back to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. However, now nations like England and France and Germany are working together politically, economically, and sometimes militarily to strengthen the region. And the EU has succeeded in becoming the most powerful economy on the planet through these efforts.

The question is, can other parts of the world unite like this? It may be noted that the unique circumstances of the Cold War is what laid the groundwork for the unification of Europe. Are other regions of the world capable of a similar feat? I think yes. The African Union, though usually pretty ineffective, has taken regional steps to promote stability. They have sent peacekeepers into Darfur and other problematic regions of Africa, and I think that is a good start. The Middle East, too, is very capable of forming a regional union. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in WWI and the death of the last Caliph, the Arab world has yearned to be united under a strong political structure like it once had. I can easily see two to three major powers springing up in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States as well as Egypt as one, Turkey and former Soviet republics as another, and Iran and the surrounding nations in the East in the third. This is not to say that a stronger, larger regional power could develop, say the Arab Union (I know Iranians and Turks aren’t Arabs, just ignore the language issue). Although such a political union would take the demise of radical, sectarian governments such as Iran.

For those who disagree that the diminishment of American power is a good thing, I ask why not? Why is it America’s role to police the world? I do not believe it is our country’s duty to force its own political goals and beliefs on a foreign government who pose no direct threat to our nation. This means Iraq as well as Libya. Neither of these countries could hurt us in any way. Afghanistan is a more complicated issue but I think we have lost our justification to be there with the death of bin Laden. We need to focus on domestic concerns such as economy and immigration, among others.

I first heard about this story from my friend and co-worker, JT. His blog post on it can be found at http://wwjtd.net/?p=441. A student at Bastrop High School in Louisiana merely made the observation that a christian prayer at a public school graduation is unconstitutional and is discriminatory against non-theists and non-christians. After pointing this out, his school decided to comply and removed the prayer from the graduation plans. This is where it should have stopped. Instead, there has apparently been a ridiculous reaction to this, even though the school itself acknowledged that it was against the law.

A teacher at the school, Mitzi Quinn, stated that  there have been students who were atheist, agnostic and other non-Christian religions in the past who “had no problems” with the prayer.“They respected the majority of their classmates and didn’t say anything,” and  “We’ve never had this come up before. Never.” Okay… thats well and nice. However, that does not make it legal to have done it, not everyone of different worldviews and faiths have the ability or courage to stand up for themselves and others. This teacher continued on to insult the student by saying he has never contributed anything to his class or the graduation ceremony. One question, who cares? This is not relevant to the issue at hand but she felt she had to go out of her way to point this out, regardless of whether it is true or not.

The student writes that:

“Though I’ve caused my classmates to hate me, I feel like I’ve done the right thing. Regardless of their thoughts on it, basically saying I am ruining their fun and their lives, I feel like I’ve helped someone out there. I didn’t do this for me or just atheists, but anyone who doesn’t believe in their god that prayer to Yahweh may affect.

Moral of the story: though the opposition may be great, majority doesn’t necessarily mean right. Thank you for reading. Wish me luck at graduation.

EDIT: Well, it hit the fan a couple hours ago. They’ve already assembled a group of supporters at a local church and called in the newspaper. I’ve had to deactivate my Facebook account and I can’t reason with any of them. They refuse to listen. The whole town hates me, aside from a few closet atheists that are silently supporting, which I don’t blame them looking at what I’ve incited here. Thanks for the support though.”

Do I need to point out everything that is wrong in this statement? This boy has put himself on the firing line for those who disagree with a christian worldview. He is well within his rights to do so and those rights are guaranteed by the constitution of this nation. I cannot believe these people are attacking this kid relentlessly online and in the community. Where is their supposed christian faith that promotes peace and understanding? Surely they can’t claim their faith is justifying these attacks, yet they are.

This outrages me. This is what I and, many like myself, try to prevent from happening. We should NOT be hating other people because of their faith or lack-thereof. This is so completely ludicrous I don’t know what to say. There are other ways to show disagreement, there are other ways to promote your faith, and there are other ways to challenge a school’s decision. It is completely INAPPROPRIATE to attack a kid like this under any circumstances. If you disagree with the laws of the US, then too bad. You must acknowledge there are others, MANY others, who do not share your faith and that they are guaranteed under our system of fair treatment by public institutions. This means no prayer being held at a public school’s graduation ceremony, regardless of whether it is Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Pastafarian, WHATEVER. It is illegal and deal with it. Say a prayer before the actual ceremony if you want, you’re more than free to do so.

These people’s religion is not the problem. Their belief that they have the right to force others to participate in their religious conventions in the issue. They can pray all they want, just not at the ceremony, but apparently thats not enough for them. We need to support people who are brave enough to challenge issues like this. This kid’s own parents through him out of the house! As far as I’m concerned his parents should be charged with mistreatment and negligence since he is under 18. Thankfully he has caring siblings who are going to take him in. He may end up moving to Texas to live with his brother. This is unacceptable in American society if we want to be a free, open, and diverse nation.

Marilyn Davenport, a Tea Party member who sits on the Republican Party central committee of Orange County, California, recently emailed a photo of Obama and his parents as monkeys. The photo is below and the article this is from can be found here.

Should I point out how completely inappropriate this is for a member of California’s political system to be sending out such a picture? It is very obviously overtly racist, not to mention not funny in the slightest. I have been saying for a while now how racist, xenophobic, and homophobic the tea party is and this is only more proof of that. While you may say that she isn’t a major player on the national stage and therefore doe not represent the tea party as a whole, I ask you to consider politicians like Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, or Michele Bachman. This is no worse than inflammatory statements made by these leading politicians in the “movement”. I often consider myself to be conservative politically but these people do not represent anything I stand for or support. In fact they represent everything that is antithetical to me as an American.

Back to the main subject.  Ms. Davenport claims that she did not know depicting a black man as a monkey was racist. Really? If you are that out of touch with American society and taboos then you do not belong in the political system at all. Anyway,  I very much doubt her excuse. Throughout American history, black Americans have been depicted as monkeys and therefore inferior to the white population. This still goes on, all one has to do is listen to the KKK on the news occasionally or any other racist pig in the country. It is very obviously a very low racist insult that has no place in our political system. I do not like Obama’s politics but even so I do not make ad hominem attacks on him, his family, or his ethnicity.

There is no excuse for issues like this and we as a people should not be giving political space to bigots and racists. It is demeaning to America’s image and it is demeaning to us as a people. If you want to be racist then fine, do it in the privacy of your home. But as soon as you introduce it into the public political system then you have no place in it. This is not helpful to society, nor is it helpful in a political discourse. If you want to be a public figure, then do it responsibly and represent your town, state, and nation proudly as a mature, caring adult.

The Daily Mail Reporter in the UK ran a great article on the supposed Rapture Day of May 21, which can be read here.  It begins by describing how a 60 year old retiree sank his life savings of $140,000 into posting signs declaring the end times are nigh. I cannot even begin to describe my horror that this man has destroyed his future by blowing his savings on a made up event that will not happen. If this man has any family at all, then I feel sorry that they will now have to take care of him for the rest of his life because he will become a burden on them with no money whatsoever.  This poor man was misled by a preacher by the name of Harold Camping. This is the same man who declared the end of days in 1994 but claimed a miscalculation when is came and went without a rapture or planetary destruction.

Mr Camping claims to base his nonsense calculations on a supposed Biblical basis, which is full of a number of major holes, even in a general overview.  The article states that “according to them, Noah’s great flood occurred in the year 4990 B.C., ‘exactly’ 7000 years ago.” To begin with, a major flood in that period is just ridiculous and flies in the face a number of sciences and disciplines. For a historical example, Egypt had existed at this point in time as had Sumer (which is older) in the Western world, while China and India already existed in the Eastern world.  The “rise of civilization” occurred around 10,000 BC with the development of agriculture and language. Such preposterous ideas are also easily dismissed in the realms of geology, astrology, and in the dating of ice cores.

The article goes on to quote “In its second ‘proof’ the exact date is revealed by working forward from the exact date of the of the crucifixion – April 1, 33 AD.”  I will start by saying that 33 AD is the best guess by Biblical Scholars for the death of Jesus, however it is still a guess; especially considering that many scholars and archaeologists do not think Jesus as we know him existed, or if he did then he lived much later based on the evidence available in the Holy Land. Narrowing the date even farther down to April 1st is just making stuff up on the guy’s part. The date of Easter at the beginning of April has much more to do with earlier Jewish tradition as well as the Spring Equinox. Early christians celebrated the holiday in early April because they were able to tie it into Passover that way, they were also able to tie it into contemporary pagan festivals that happened during spring, such as Lupercalia. Early christians adopted earlier festival days into their calendar for numerous reasons, which I will not get into in this post.

If this pastor, Mr Camping, did even a little bit of research outside of his little world then he would realize that his ideas cannot stand up on their own. I do not have any issue with the man deluding himself, however he is deluding his entire congregation as well as attempting to delude people in areas where he is advertising.  He has so deluded people that they are willing to give up everything thinking that they will no longer be present on this planet in a week’s time. This man should be accountable for his actions that destroy and disrupt others’ lives, such as the story at the beginning of the post. This is why opposing viewpoints should always be offered to people, so that they understand more of the world and cannot be convinced by some guy with no evidence to back up his claims.

May 21 will come and go and there will not be a rapture, end of days, armageddon, or anything else one may want to call it. These poor individuals will wake up the next day and hopefully realize they have been deluded into one man’s crazy idea and I hope they will move on in their lives.  Although I do guarantee Mr Camping will claim that he misread again and will come up with another arbitrary date.

By the way, if you’re anywhere near Wichita, Kansas, you should check out Rapture Day. It is an event being put on by the Air Capitol Skeptics, an SSA affiliate. More information on their event can be found here.

To start with, I’ll give a disclaimer. I sometimes call myself a Libertarian because I tend to be fiscally conservative while also being pretty socially liberal. Therefore I am normally pretty torn on which candidates or parties to support. However, I am very firmly against much of  this new tea party nonsense.

John Kasich in Ohio, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and a few other recently elected governors rode the Tea Party train into office. They got elected based principally on campaign promises to limit spending and lower their states’ debt. At first glance, this sounds awesome! But fast forward a few months to current events. Kasich, Walker, and their counter-parts have now begun dismantling needed prjects and services in their states while tea partiers in Congress do the same. Our wonderful, friendly (read sarcasm) governors have decided to punish working and middle class families for the recent recession instead of focusing on where the problem was caused; politicians, bankers, and the stock market. Since I live in Ohio, I’ll focus on Kasich. Our brilliant governor decided to destroy the teachers’ unions and drastically cut wages for them. I guess he saw that teachers were to blame for the recession, with their evil deceptive ways to mislead students. I personally very much dislike the teachers’ union in particular for personal reasons and I tend to dislike unions as a whole. I feel that they had a time and place but they were now far too strong. I still feel like that, but the solution was not to destroy all their power, just dial it back a bit because unions as an idea are still needed.

Anyway, the union issue is not what caused me to write this post. I wanted to write this after I read a USA Today article this morning talking about high speed rail lines in the US. If you know me, then you know that I am a big supported of mass transit, similar to models in Europe and Japan. Such things would make it easier to travel across country and much cheaper with air tickets and gas prices ever increasing. The US Dept of Transportation had earmarked several billion dollars to several states to start building this needed piece of infrastructure. However, our dear tea baggers decided it was a waste of money to ease travel for their constituents and cut the projects even though earlier reports had detailed a profit coming off of the lines after they were built. In Florida, their tea bagger cut a project that was to create a line between Tampa and Orlando, which the Feds had promised them $2 billion for. After Florida rejected it, the money got split up between 15 other states actually doing the project.

The article also mentions how Wisconsin and Ohio both rejected the funds. Ohio was to have a high speed rail line connecting Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland. Our idiot governor has decided we don’t actually need that. Where does he get off doing that? All he is doing is causing residents of Ohio to have to spend more money to travel within the state. His supposed “budget balancing” is only taking money out of projects that are needed like schools and infrastructure. The federal government was granting the state money to build it so that Ohio wouldn’t need to shoulder the burden itself but I guess that meant nothing to him either. Instead of our state receiving it, it was distributed to other states who actually have intelligent leadership. Kasich and the others like him need to be recalled from office for the good of their states. Budget balancing is very clearly needed, but it must be done intelligently, and not focus on areas that would otherwise help or support the middle class.

I attempted to do this on Facebook a while ago and just didn’t. So I will post it all at once here instead

Day 1-Your first video game

-Starfox 64 (or something else on the N64 as that was my first home console)

Day 2 – Your favorite character

-A tie between Commander Shepard, Master Chief, Darth Revan, Altair, and Ezio Auditore

Day 3 – A game that is underrated

-Lost Odyssey

Day 4 – Your guilty pleasure game

-Pokemon

Day 5 – Game character you feel you are most like, or wish you were

-I wish I was Commander Shepard saving the galaxy against evil giant sentient machines

Day 6 – Most annoying character

-Peach in Super Smash Bros

Day 7 – Favorite game couple

-Shepard and Liara in Mass Effect

Day 8 – Best soundtrack

-Definitely the Halo franchise

Day 9 – Saddest game scene

-alternate ending of Mass Effect 2 where Shepard sacrifices himself for the galaxy

Day 10 – Best gameplay

-RPG: Mass Effect 1
-FPS: Halo Reach
-RTS: Civilization V
-platformer: Assassins Creed Brotherhood

Day 11 – Gaming system of choice
-console: Xbox 360
-handheld: DS

Day 12 – A game everyone should play
-MASS EFFECT

Day 13 – A game you’ve played more than five times
-Mass Effect, any Halo game, Dragon Age

Day 14 – Current (or most recent) gaming wallpaper
-Mass Effect 3

Day 15 – Game you’re playing right now

-Brink (in a couple days)

Day 16 – Game with the best cut scenes

-Mass Effect 1 and 2

Day 17 – Favorite antagonist

-Saren (Mass Effect), Darth Malak (KoToR)

Day 18 – Favorite protagonist

-Shepard

Day 19 – What is a game setting you wish you lived in

-The Citadel (Mass Effect)

Day 20 – Favorite genre

-RPG is my favorite, though I play many shooters

Day 21 – Game with the best story

-Mass Effect (duh!)

Day 22 – A game sequel which disappointed you

-Mass Effect 2, Fallout New Vegas, The Force Unleashed 2

Day 23 – Game you think had the best graphics or art style

-Crysis 2 was beautiful, Borderlands had a great style too

Day 24 – Favorite classic game

-Tetris

Day 25 – A game you plan on playing

-Lots: Mass Effect 3, Elder Scrolls V, Assassins Creed Revelation

Day 26 – Best voice acting

-Mass Effect

Day 27 – Most epic scene ever

-ending of Mass Effect with Sovereign attacking the Citadel

Day 28 – Favorite game developer

-Bioware (Bungie and Bethesda are up there too)

Day 29 – A game you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving

-Odyssey to the West

Day 30 – Your favorite game of all time

-Mass Effect

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Once again, the president of the United States will use his office to sponsor an event that directly encourages religiosity in this nation contrary to our laws and founding documents. To be clear; I have absolutely no  problem with prayer in the private sphere of life, anyone can pray in any way they want in their private time. If Obama and any other politicians want to pray, that is great but they do not have the authority to use their public office to sponsor such a thing.

To clear up any confusion, the Day was created in 1952. Similar to the time frame that “Under God” was added to our Pledge, which was in 1954. These are not old or traditional, they were added far from the founding of our nation and are clear violations of the first amendment. They were created during the Cold War, when the opponent was godless communism. In an effort to separate us totally from the USSR, certain American lawmakers decided to give our country a much more religious focus to show a more drastic comparison to the forced atheism of the Soviet Union. I even understand the rationale somewhat, the clear overriding fear of communism in the 50’s motivated many weird and terrible events such as the McCarthy witch hunts and the war in Vietnam. However this does not justify us in preserving these aspects of Cold War fear, we need to re-enforce our clear separation of church and state in this nation.

Last year, the National Day of Prayer was deemed to be unconstitutional, though Obama ignored that ruling and still held it. That decision had since been reversed this year but is once again being challenged in a higher US court. I am not targeting Obama specifically in this, it would be political suicide to ignore it. The religious right has renewed its efforts through the Tea Party to reinforce Christian ideology through the American government. Once again, I have no problem whatsoever of prayer being said within private homes or even in public by private individuals; as long as they are not using a public office to draw attention to it.

20% of the American population now identifies as “non-religious”.  Are we to continue the current policy of alienating them? Or should we try to be accepting of contrary points of view as our Constitution allows for? I say the latter, and to do so we need to roll back these Cold War religious policies. They are outdated and discriminatory in nature.

Recently several journalists and others in the American and European public eye have questioned whether we should be celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s death. A reason that the author of this Wall Street Journal article states is that we shouldn’t celebrate because al Qaeda is still around as a threat with or without their beloved leader. This is just utter crap, this is the man responsible for putting all the plans in motion to get the world to the point it is at today. His planning and support of the 9/11 hijackers caused thousands of innocent deaths, including those of Muslims and Arabs who had been in the World Trade Center. His actions leading up to that day galvanized a global movement and support movement  for radical Islam like we have never seen in the history of this planet. The man is a monster, if I had the choice, I would have wanted his body dragged through New York City while having people destroy it in any way possible. Had Hitler been killed midway through WWII, we damn well would have celebrated his death despite the fact that Nazi Germany would have still been a threat to us.

His death then gave rise to the fiasco over what was to be done with the body. In its effort to give him a “proper” Islamic burial, the White House pretty much angered everyone that they were trying to appease. Moderate Muslims around the world shouted that Bin Laden did not deserve a proper Islamic burial because his actions during his life proved that he was not a real Muslim. Meanwhile, radical Muslims, such as the Taliban and Hamas, claimed that a sea burial was not a proper burial after all and that the US had disrespected his body on purpose. It seems no one on the Islamic side was pleased. But now we have to deal with people in this country who need a conspiracy around every event that happens. Now these people are saying we never killed him or that he died a while ago and Obama made it up as a ploy. I’m not even sure how to respond to these people. I’m not remotely close to the biggest fan of Obama, but I can use politics to show my dislike for him without making stuff up. There is a reason we did not release the pictures, because it would be seen as even more disrespectful and taken as an insult. We saw this when the military released pictures of Saddam Hussein after his capture, it only caused more anger at the US.

Also as a side note, I believe Obama deserves very little credit for Bin Laden’s death. It was not Obama who collected years of intelligence nor was it he who infiltrated the mansion and carried out the mission. He merely authorized the strike after seeing the evidence. I believe this would have happened regardless of the sitting president at the time. This is not an insult aimed at Obama, I would say this regardless of the president or political party at the time. Giving the OK order does not qualify you to take credit and I actually do not believe he has, it is the media who is reflecting all the credit back upon him.

The Kotaku post here describes how Nintendo is planning on only including an 8 gb hard drive in their next console. If we are to take this seriously, then I can only conclude that Nintendo is fully out of the real world. In this modern age of gaming, hard drives are everything. Everything from smaller digital games to full retail downloadable games, not to mentions DLC such as map packs and add-ons, can now be downloaded to hard drives on the Xbox 360 and PS3. How Nintendo expects to compete like they recently claimed is beyond me. They can have HD visuals and large disc formats all they want, but if they do not understand the internet, then the console is doomed to be rejected by the “hardcore” crowd just like the Wii was.