Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving: The Juxtaposition of Church and State

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the Separation of Church and State.

Some people find it surprising that I prefer to keep the mention of religion out of the classroom (as well as formal prayer). But I feel that way because I don't want to have other religions crammed down my throat and I would heartily resent it if someone tried to do that to my child. If you don't want to hear about Christianity, that's fine by me as long as I don't have to hear about Christian Science or the Jehovah's Witnesses.

However, as a country, we're not honoring this. Although Christianity has been gagged, bound, threatened and stifled in many places, we are increasingly seeing cities that allow a raucous Muslim call-to-prayer (known as 'adhan') to be broadcast over loudspeakers from their mosque five times a day. The cities that are being subjected to this include Hamtramck, Michigan; the ancient English city of Oxford; St. Louis, Missouri; Harvard University, Massachusetts; and more. I doubt we'll see this list narrow, either.

If we are to allow adhan to be broadcast in public, then it's time to rescind the laws restricting shows of Christian faith, as well. Let's have a glorious religious free-for-all under the label of "being open-minded" and give everyone a fair and equal chance at this.

No? Do you think we're letting the genie out of the box and it's time to stuff it back in once more?

Believe it or not, the Pilgrims would have agreed with you. But only to a certain extent.

The Pilgrims didn't believe in pure freedom of religion, or the Salem witch trials would never have occurred. They were peculiar people, for the most part, and religious zealots of even their own time. However, they did not forcibly convert the Native Americans. Instead, they attempted to proselytize them and, as we know, shared the First Thanksgiving dinner with them.

The Pilgrims were very black and white in their beliefs. They were literalists when it came to Biblical interpretation. This meant that (in contrast to the Salem witch trials) at times they were also highly charitable, such as when they appropriated abandoned Native American food but paid the Native Americans for it when they finally met them six months later. They also wanted to be allowed to practice what they believed, without interference from the government.

That's why they left England.

So, I believe the Pilgrims would have compromised with other faiths as long as those other faiths left them alone to do as they pleased. What they would not have wanted, however, is any encroachment into the way that they practiced their beliefs. And therefore, the Pilgrims would not have wanted to be located within the sound of adhan.

I find it gloriously strange that we still celebrate Thanksgiving in this country. It was the first holiday ever celebrated here, and it's entirely an American-made holiday. And yet, it is a holiday formed for a very specific purpose: To thank the Biblical God for everything he has given us and done for us. And, to pretend differently is to alter history.

So, as you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner, ask yourself why we are still allowed time off to celebrate a holiday that is steeped in religious meaning. And then be thankful that we modern Americans haven't messed it up.


Monday, November 24, 2008

George Bush Can't Leave Fast Enough

Although I don't approve of Barack Obama, I am still excited at the prospect of fresh blood in the White House. He has proven himself to be smart enough to surround himself with seasoned Clintonistas, even though his appointments nullify his "Change" mantra.

Of course I would have preferred someone more moderate, but at this point it is tempting to hope that anything is better than our current nothing, George Bush. And therefore I hope, and have been praying, for Barack Obama now that he has been elected.

In the news today, Bush is overseas to potentially wreak a little more havoc before he's forced to vacate on January 20th. After that, who knows? Is he currently lining up his next gig, and if so, who wants him and why?

And what are his last minute plans? Wouldn't it be interesting to be a fly on the wall of the Oval Office as he puts together his list of final Presidential Pardons? Who will be included on that list?

Looking over Bush's myriad scandals, I believe that he will cull out of that group the following people for pardons:

1. John T. Korsmo
2. Scooter Libby *
3. Alberto Gonzales
4. Janet Rehnquist
5. Joseph Schmitz
6. Lurita Doan
7. Alfonso Jackson
8. Karl Rove
9. Richard Armitage
10. And finally, Dick Cheney is a possibility.

Let it be noted that there are times a Presidential Pardon is issued because the President realizes that further scandals and prosecution may be on the way, and I feel that these people have the potential for that even if they're not currently convicted or under investigation.

I'm sure that there will be a number of people added to this, and although I haven't included anyone attached to the Abramoff scandal, it's quite possible that those who were involved in it (which numbered at least 5-10 high ranking officials) may be included in the pardons as well. The only reason I feel that Bush may hesitate here is that issuing a pardon tends to indicate a President sanctions the behavior. Therefore, Bush will probably be advised to pardon only those who were acting in his best interest alone.

What is of great concern is the fact that Bush, who is notoriously war-happy, may decide to bomb Iran last minute, or participate in some other form of militaristic chest beating. This isn't to say that Iran doesn't richly deserve it. However, it would be a futile exercise this late in the game.

Bush currently has very few supporters left, and even the largely gullible religious right has come to realize that his claim to be a Christian was simply an attempt to pander to them. His current approval ratings hover around 28% or less.

If Bush wants to ensure any positive positioning in the history books whatsoever, he needs to exit on tiptoes.

*Yes, Bush already gave Libby a partial pardon. Many suspect it was only partial because Bush and Cheney felt a strong need to distance themselves from the man who was merely doing their bidding. But out of loyalty, Bush may now fully pardon him.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Obama: The House Negro?

First a personal note: I apologize for not writing on Wednesday. I am currently considering some life-changing alternatives and I haven't had much time this week.

Many liberals were shocked when Al-Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a statement that referred to Barack Obama as a "House Negro". If you haven't seen the actual entire video, I recommend that you do, instead of watching edited parts or listening to others interpret it. It's not very long.

It is quite interesting.

Frankly, since Obama has always been a good friend to Muslims, I question why al-Zawahiri released this statement at this time. I find it most peculiar.

I initially wondered if this was due to a misguided hope that they will help Obama's image in some way by distancing themselves from him.

But I quickly discarded that idea, because al-Zawahiri is so extremely insulting. In the video, he upholds the racist extremist, Malcolm-X, as a role model for American blacks, and includes an excerpt of Malcolm-X scornfully claiming that there are only two types of American blacks: The rebels and the House Negros (who served their master directly and often spoke for him). And al-Zawahiri makes certain that there is no doubt in anyone's mind that he thinks that Obama is a House Negro.

Obviously this goes to show how out-of-touch al-Zawahiri is with American culture. This is surprising, as he is supposedly an educated man with a master's degree.

However, you really have to understand a culture by living in it. Like all terrorists, al-Zawahiri sees America in almost a cartoon format with extremes and absolutes. So he hardly has an accurate understanding of America and its people and he believes this antiquated statement by a man with fringe beliefs to be accurate.

What's really comical is to see how some liberal pundits are reacting. They're speaking in shocked tones about al-Zawahiri's racism, as if boorish behavior is not to be expected of terrorists. And I wonder how these liberal pundits really view these terrorists. Do they secretly believe them to be "freedom fighters" who live civilized lives in between the occasional murder of innocents? Do they truly think these terrorists have principles or scruples about societal nicities?

But my true question is... why?

Why would al-Zawahiri release this statement, and release it now?

As I said before, al-Zawahiri labors under many great misconceptions of the USA. I believe that this is his attempt to challenge Obama to think outside the box, and be something other than that "House Negro" he accused him of being. Al-Zawahiri is telling Obama that he will respect Obama only if the USA changes it's policy toward terrorists.

At this point, Obama has little choice. He can no more afford to favor Al-Qaeda than he can favor conservative policies. And ludicrous insults are not a way to encourage Obama to fall in line. For al-Zawahiri, an effective message would have been a more simple, congratulatory one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Malls

As many of you know, I have a small side business selling goodies on Ebay. When I'm not dealing with known wholesalers, I go on regular shopping trips, rushing through myriad malls and flea markets in myriad towns, in search of bargains that I can sell at a higher price on Ebay. These are, hopefully, bargains that not just anyone can find.

These pell-mell shopping trips have me walking through level-after-level of mall-after-mall and give me the same amount of exercise as a triathalon.

So this last weekend, I went on a long excursion which involved driving from the Tampa Bay Area to Gainesville, Florida (2 1/2 hours) to Atlanta, Georgia (5 1/2 hours) to Jacksonville, Florida (5 1/2 hours) back to the Tampa Bay Area (3 1/2 hours). May I add that it was literally freezing in Atlanta, which is something we Floridians aren't accustomed to. Bleah.

While in Atlanta, I went to the safe areas (there are certain areas in Atlanta, just as in Miami, where a white person should not set foot if they want to remain unmutilated). These are the nicer areas, where there are bound to be international travelers, locals, and wealthy business people.

Many malls were dead. The ones that weren't dead had people milling about but not buying much. Every store boasted a sale, and some stores had all their merchandise marked at half-off.

In one 'busy' mall, an anxious salesperson in a high-end shop begged me for news elsewhere. "Is it like this everywhere you've been?" she asked, when she learned I was from Florida. I said it was. "I think it's going to get even worse," she said in a strained voice. "If it's this bad now, I am frightened to see what it's like in January."

I did see more activity in the outlet malls. I went into a booming cookware store, where the three sales clerks were rushing about haphazardly, trying to ring and service all the customers who were packed into the store.

"Wow, you are busy," I said in surprise.

"Yes," one girl answered breathlessly. "We never expected this to happen - it's not like this anywhere else!"

My bet is that during a poor economy, people cook at home more, so the money that might have been spent on luxury items is being spent on blenders, mixers, and bread machines.

The luxury stores are hurting. I saw almost no one in any of the sunglass and jewelry stores except for Whitehall (a.k.a. Lundstrom) Jewelers, which is going out of business and has some amazing markdowns. Even then, the markdowns weren't amazing enough: People were milling about, looking, but not buying.

It's bad. We'll only know just how bad it is when we see the Black Friday sales figures.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The News Media & The Fairness Doctrine

After months of my stating that the majority of the news media is very liberal (and the arguments that ensued), their bias has once more been made clear here in an article titled "MSNBC retracts false Palin story; others duped." The title speaks for itself.

In October, (a highly respected source) reported:

[This] study found that in the media overall—a sample of 43 outlets studied in the six weeks following the conventions through the last debate—Barack Obama’s coverage was somewhat more positive than negative (36% vs. 29%), while John McCain’s, in contrast, was substantially negative (57% vs. 14% positive). The report concluded that this, in significant part, reflected and magnified the horse race and direction of the polls.
Another story here also gave us the breakdown of the various news channels, and their particular type of bias. Interestingly, it says:

Online, meanwhile, polling tended to drive the news. And on the front pages of newspapers, which often have the day-after story, things look tougher for John McCain than they tend to in the media overall.

And finally and most importantly, did this story on the percentage of stories devoted to each candidate. Needless to say, Obama was heavily covered and portrayed in a positive light. A graph near the end of the story displays the obvious disparity, using these hard numbers.

This begs the question: Why is the Fairness Doctrine even being bandied about? And if it's passed once more, will the government be forced to add conservative talk shows in response?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Joblessness and the Bail-Outs

As many of you know, I've been looking for something better for at least 6 months. At this point, I am blessed enough to be somewhat choosey and I don't have to jump at just anything.

But there is so little to select from, that my time is better spent doing household projects. If I couldn't find something to do, I would go quietly insane. Amazingly, there is so much to keep me busy that I wonder how I'll find time to work full-time again.

I recently knit and donated seven hats to Save the Children's Knit One, Save One, and have a couple blankets made and set aside to donate to our local Pregnancy Center, which helps needy mothers.

I do this because not everyone is lucky enough to have a little set aside for times like these. And although I don't have any money to spare, I do have time and energy to help in other ways. This is the time for us to rise above ourselves.

Today Bloomberg reports that:

Initial jobless claims increased by 32,000 to a larger- than-forecast 516,000 in the week ended Nov. 8, from a revised 484,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The total number of people on benefit rolls jumped to the highest level since 1983.
And these figures do not reflect those of us who are barely making it, and are not making any claims on the government. Yet.

Barack Obama came out almost immediately after his election to say "Oh, and the economy? Well, I know that you elected me to change things, but don't expect miracles." And then he immediately hired all of Clinton's former advisors.

Change... right.

And now the government is talking about another big bailout, and another major expenditure of taxpayer dollars, to save failing automotive manufacturers. Has no one heard of Tucker, Plymouth, DeLorean, Hudson, AMC, Duryea, Morris & Salom, American Austin / American Bantam, etc.?!

Going in and out of business is the American way. If you succeed, you get to keep the profit. If you fail, you don't. It's that simple. We do not need to create a country where the government has ownership of such major companies or is willing to bail them out due to bad decisions that they should be responsible for. The last time I looked, this isn't what our flag looked like.

The front page of the St. Pete Times trumpets that "if Detroit's Big Three fail, say goodbye to 3 million jobs, $151 billion in personal income, $60 billion in tax revenue."

We know, we know. Business failure hits people hard. But it always has. Is it really up to the government to cushion the blow for them, but not for other failing businesses? Is personal welfare bad, but corporate welfare good? Where do we draw the line?

I thought we didn't believe in welfare as being the superior option in life. And the last time I looked, we were a Republic, not a Socialistic or Communistic country. But the lines are being blurred, and we are in danger of something even worse than a severe recession.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Rahm Emanuel

Because I am a moderate in many ways, I have an assortment of many friends from both sides of the issues. And I certainly do my best to understand both sides, whenever possible. But due to this, there are times that people are shocked when I have an opinion that is set in stone which I will not waver from.

Like the cuddly rabbit from Monty Python's The Holy Grail, I can, at times, be quite surprising:

But here is where I will surprise few people: I don't like Rahm Emanuel, Obama's pick for Chief of Staff.

During his acceptance speech, Obama made it very clear that he wanted the country to unite once more. After all, he was elected by at least 53% of the populace, but 47% didn't want him. He knows he must represent all the people. He is a highly intelligent man, and should realize that he does not want to aggravate almost half of the country. Hopes were that he would govern cautiously, from the middle.

However, with his appointment of Emanuel, it is looking as if his agenda is something entirely different.

Emanuel is noted for his hotheaded behavior, vicious partisanship, and liberal use of the "f" word. According to his Wikipedia bio:

Emanuel is said to have "mailed a rotting fish to a former coworker after the two parted ways." On the night after the 1996 election, "Emanuel was so angry at the president's enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign, grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting 'Dead! ... Dead! ... Dead!' and plunging the knife into the table after every name." His "take-no-prisoners attitude" earned him the nickname "Rahm-bo".
He has always been unlikeable and controversial.

In the first months of the Clinton Presidency, Hillary Clinton maneuvered to have Emanuel fired. Clinton's chief of staff, Mack McLarty, instead demoted him from political director to the press office. Although Emanuel eventually worked his way back into the Clintons' good graces, House Republicans always hated him for his rabid partisanship.

Recently, Emanuel "...served on the board of directors of the federal mortgage firm Freddie Mac at a time when scandal was brewing at the troubled agency and the board failed to spot "red flags," according to government reports reviewed by"
This is the guy that Obama wants to head his new administration?

It doesn't bode well for any attempts toward unity.

I admit that it was very smart of Obama to appoint a Jew to head up his staff. It may help to dispel his reputation as a racist who is more than willing to throw Israel under the bus.

But those of us who are wise in the ways of politics and history know better. After all, even Hitler had Jewish Nazis.

Does this sound harsh? Sometimes facts are harsh things, indeed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Summary of Election 2008

To My Liberal and/or Socialist Friends

Congratulations. Barack Obama ran a brilliant campaign, he is an impressive orator, and highly intelligent as well as very hard-working. In many ways, he earned the Presidency.

Now you can move on to another blog, as the rest of this particular post is intended for someone else.

To My Conservative and Moderate Friends

First, the bad news:

The Democrats have control of Congress. But it should be noted that this is despite Congress' abysmally low ratings. Why is this? Obviously the American electorate wanted to send a powerful message to those who reign: "It's the economy, stupid." And apparently our current crop of voters don't understand that they aren't changing the face of Congress at all. What they believe to be 'change' is more of the same.

Control of Congress and the Presidency means that the Democrats have the ability to alter the face of America even more, with little-to-no checks and balances. We know that 'change' is not always a good thing and there will be many instances of change in the wrong direction as well as the right one.

We now have a racist for a President.* It's as if we suddenly woke up and found David Duke at the helm. In addition, we have a great deal of documentation to show he's unethical, as well. It doesn't bode well for our relationship with Israel. And it remains to be seen what it may do to us internally.

So what is positive in all of this?

The Economy is Bound to Get Better in the Short Run

That doesn't mean that Obama would have been any better at leading the nation than McCain would have been. But we will be riding on the wave of enthusiasm that comes with any change of administration. The fact that Obama is so different than Bush is bound to create a powerful sense of change. At first.

We Will Get Out of This War

The majority of us believe that the war's dragged on too long, with too little gain and too much expense in dollars and (more importantly) lives. Yes, we're doing better over there, but it came too late in the game.

We are not the World's Policemen, and we are not paid to be. It is time to get out.

We Will Have National Health Care

Many conservatives are scared of national health care. Although I understand the reasons, I don't agree with them. I do believe that national health care is needed, and I do not believe that the new administration will be able to create a program that will be an absolute failure.

Neocons (and even conservatives) have been trumpeting the terrors of socialized medicine for a long time, so it's natural to be afraid. But Big Business has run the show for too long, and many of us have suffered at its hands. Although this will negatively affect insurance and perhaps pharmaceutical companies, it is in the best interest of the people.

I lived in Sweden for a time, where they have national health care. I was actually hospitalized there (for free) and was very impressed with their kindness and competency. I do believe it is possible to make it work. It is not perfect, but no system is. And, it's been embraced by so many other civilized nations. If it didn't work, it wouldn't be in place. I grant you that it may not always work well, but I do believe it's better than our current system.

The Supreme Court

At this time we should remember that our Founding Fathers did build in a Supreme Court to supposedly serve as a speedbump to them taking great strides in a socialist direction. It is not supposed to be subject to voters' whims (although it is, indirectly, as all justices are appointed by the President). For now, it is likely that it will not undergo much change, and with any luck, that may make a slight difference.

A More Educated Electorate in Four Years

Over the next four years, we will all be at the mercy of a very left-leaning Democrat party. For many of us who remember the Carter years (I was a young child then) it's a scary thought. But those who don't know history are bound to repeat it and we will see new lessons learned over the next four years. This may shape the nation into a more educated electorate and may open the doors to a better system in four years.

The News Media

Although the news media has been slavishly devoted to Obama, we can hardly blame them after years of George Bush bullying them into servitude. To have a truly free press, they must be unfettered. And we need a free press to tell us the various sides of the issues out there. I hope and believe that Obama will allow the press to have more access to him and his administration, whether he agrees with their agendas or not.

This isn't to say that we shouldn't be alarmed about the looming return of "The Fairness Doctrine", which is a dichotomous term at best. We can get into that discussion at a later time.

Conservatives Get to Re-Group and Re-Vamp Their Parties

The Republican Party has grown far away from its constituents. So many have become disenfranchised that they have either gone Independant, gone to another more conservative party, and/or crossed over the line to vote for Obama out of spite.

Many conservatives were urged to vote for Barack Obama to send a wake-up call to the Republican Party. Although I didn't agree with this extremist view, I would have done it if Hillary would have been at the helm, since she was less left-leaning than Obama.

Why is the Republican Party failing? A new breed arose in the Republican party called neocons and these neocons became what the Democratic party was in the 70s - corrupt, influenced by the almighty dollar, in thrall to Big Business, with an increasing deafness to the voices of the people.

If the Republican Party has learned their lesson, they can win the White House back in four years. But if it remains as it is or grows even more liberal, it will never have any influence in America again.

* Obama is anti-Semite: His Muslim friends report this unanimously and we have additional independent reports that back this up, as well. He sat in Jeremiah Wright's church for over twenty years, as Wright preached racial hatred against white people. There is no room for racism in national politics, no matter what color you are. We can only hope that he will be able to rise above these base feelings.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The 2008 Election

By now, I doubt that there's a single 'undecided' left in this nation. If any remain, they have the intelligence of a brain-injured hamster, and should not be allowed to drive or make decisions for themselves.

Many people believe this election is all sewn-up in Barack Obama's favor. Although there is certainly reason for this belief, there are also reasons against it. For one thing, everyone is relying upon polls. However, as many people have been arguing today, polls are peculiar things. They are easily skewed by:

1. The pollster asking loaded questions. (Ex. "Mrs. Smith, if I were to tell you that Barack Obama eats babies, would you still vote for him?")

2. A certain type of person that is willing to answer the pollster. Studies repeatedly show that conservatives eschew pollsters. People who shy away from this are, frankly, a conundrum to me. My own parents refuse to answer such phone calls, feeling them to be a horrendous nuisance. They are voting tomorrow, but will be voting for a conservative alternative to McCain.

3. People who want to deliberately confuse the polls. These are the mischief makers who want to throw a wrench in the works and they'll happily lie to do so. My grandmother would give the name of her dog and make up wild stories to any unfortunate telemarketers who would call her. She found their reactions vastly amusing.

4. People who don't want to admit that they're voting for the uncool guy. Let's face it, Obama is The Flavor of the Moment. Even Bruce Springsteen gave a concert for him, proclaiming "I want my country back!" (I'm not sure whom he thinks he's taking it from).

Obama is beloved by the media, and we have been repeatedly told that the only reason he could lose is if there are enough racists to vote against him. (Hmmm. Could it be his liberal politics, just maybe?)

Of course there are racists on both sides, but it's obviously not a significant problem for Obama, or he wouldn't have had as much money flowing into his coffers as he has had.

So: What to Do?

Ignore the polls and get out and vote! And then kick back, pop some popcorn, apply butter liberally, grab your remote, and channel surf between the various news stations all night. This promises to be a very exciting race to the finish line.

And While You're Watching the Incoming Results...

Please consider keeping your hands busy knitting a cap for an underprivileged infant. Knit One, Save One is a program sponsored by Save the Children.

Let me immediately admit that I can't knit. But I am able to pretend to knit by using a knitting loom that you can find at your local craft store.

The initiative is asking knitters and crocheters to take three steps before December 31, 2008:

1) Knit or crochet a baby cap.
2) Write one personal note to the new President asking him to lead the way to save millions of babies globally.
3) If possible, donate $10 towards a "Newborn Care Kit" to help parents better care for newborns.

However, this does not mean that you have to say it's OK to continue to send foreign aid overseas when our own poor are suffering at home. Tell the new President that charity begins at home, and ask him to demand that more accountability be attached to aid that is sent to other countries. Right now, too much aid gets into the pockets of the warlords, dictators and thugs - and not enough gets into the hands and mouths of the truly needy.