Sunday, August 17, 2008

Keep Your Religion Out of My Politics

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." -Thomas Jefferson

I'm always intrigued when discussing religion in America. Reading about religion; its rules, mysticisms and derivations always come as inspiring to me. These things are a pinnacle of human creation and imagination. I will always see religion as a man made tool, complete with man made rules.

Thankfully, and according to our First Constitutional Amendment, saying things like I just did are free for me to do. I don't have to worry here in my Westchester bedroom, watching for assassination attempts from true believers. Easily I can sit here and talk about how I think the entire establishment of religion is bullshit. Each derivation of it, monotheistic and polytheistic; these "theories" of how the world is, was, and will be, were deduced to help answer questions that a typical human could not. Religion gives guidance to the weak, and it gives pillars for those who need them, to lean on.

My personal philosophy: nothing and no one is dogmatic. It's impossible to know everything or have the answer to every question or be correct all of the time. Even mathematically speaking, the probability of such a person or a faith existing is astronomical. To therefore, believe in a religion is to believe in a philosophy that, over time, has called ITSELF dogmatic. You are acknowledging that someone else has called themselves a demigod, which in turn, challenges your own credibility or intelligence.

In Judaism, Jonah was swallowed by a whale, lit a fire in his belly, and was coughed out. Christians believe that after God took one of Man's ribs to create Eve, a talking snake warned them of what not to eat. Muslims believe that death in the name of Allah, brings you 72 virgins. As adults, I hope we can all laugh at these stories as others often sadly take them at face value.

Again, I believe religion, all religion, is to be ridiculous, pious, self-loathing, and a tool that attempts to possibly bring stability to what is the chaotic nature of Man. I'm comfortable saying that as my own set of beliefs. Others, of course, not only like to respect their religious traditions, but they lean on it as part of a daily routine. In all honestly, I have no issue with that. Having your own personal and private fait
h is completely fine, and even if I disagreed with it (I think its sad and foolish), a habit like that is protected under our same Constitution. I would never argue that one shouldn't be allowed to pray in their own personal way or nature.

Today, that's not my issue. My issue has to do with the first paragraph and the top of the page; Separation of Church and State. Now, we know that there is no talk of that in the Constitution, however it was a direct quote from one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson. He used the 1st Amendment to justify it, and believed it to be a key in keeping our nation together. The reason I agree with him, simply put, is due to our nature as Americans. Being an American doesn't mean eating Apple Pie and watching fireworks, or waving an American Flag after exiting your 2008 Cadillac Escalade (with, naturally, would be bigger and better than your neighbors, who you are in a strict competition with for the biggest and fastest vehicle), no, being an American means coming from a different background from everyone else, and been allowed to come to a new land to find a hybridization between that "old" culture from your homeland, and the melting pot, tossed salad type culture that exists here. Everyone of us, aside from the few Native Americans that still are alive today, are a product of this hybridization, and it is the glue that binds us together. Naturally then, for all the things we have in common, systemically, we must have many things about us that are all different. That first thing, is religion.

This is the point of my conversation with you. We are not a homogeneous country in terms of religion; we can't be. I am Jewish. Many of my friends are Christians. My best friend is Protestant. My girlfriend is Catholic. I have worked with Muslims. I have partied with Pagans.

Here, in America, we are not from the same place, and do not have the same theories on life. That is why I believe in a separation of Church and State, just like Thomas Jefferson did; how can we force everyone to unite under 1 of these specific religious banners, when so many of us do not believe in it to begin with? In this country, without question, we are a majority of Christians. Should everyone have to believe in Christianity however? For Protestants, should they have to believe as Catholics do? Should all Jews pray in the same manner? Should Sunni and Shiite Muslims worship in the same mosque? The answer is absolutely not. Common-sense wise, knowing that there are so many different branches of faith (and the lack of faith) in this country, doesn't it make sense to keep religion out of the government? How could EVERYONE be represented at once? Thinking about ridiculous claims like Virgin Birth and the conversation between God and Muhammad in Mecca, can't we realize that faith truly has nothing to do with man's intelligence, but has everything to do with Man's emotion and timid, frightened nature? Shouldn't faith be left for our places of worship, and intellect be left for the election of our governing leaders?

When discussing religion and politics together, religion truly blinds us from the all of the truth that's involved. I believe that religion acts as the shepherd to the truly weak sheep that live among us. Government leaders would love us to act in that similar type fashion when discussing their policies; unquestioning, forever loyal, and willing to give and do whatever is asked. This is why in the last 20 years in American politics, religion all of a sudden has come out of the private homes of millions of Americans, and landed on the ballot. Starting with Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell; they ushered in this new age of religion affecting politics. Could you imagine an Atheist candidate today? They'd be laughed at. One of the first questions any politician today must answer, is "Are you a man of faith?" Can you think of one candidate that hasn't been "in touch with their own personal faith" from the past two decades?

This, my friends (quoting John McCain's introduction to ANY speech), is where it hurts me the most. Reading about how Barack Obama and John McCain had a "debate" in a Megachurch just turns my stomach in a multitude of ways. To begin with, how is a Church a reasonable place for a political debate? Again, if I was to talk about intelligent dialog, the LAST place I'd think that would occur is a place that believes in the Earth and Universe forming in 7 simple days (or that humans lived among the dinosaurs, when there are hundreds of years of archaeological evidence that contradicts it). On top of that, isn't it sad to see "the best" candidates we could find both pandering to the Evangelical right? Politicians cannot get their mouth off the dick which is the radical Christian conservatives. What upsets me the most, again as a member of a minority religion, who also has Atheist views, is that if these two puppets can speak to a Reverend in a Megachurch, aren't they going to be visiting Mosques? Or Synagogues? Will they even been going to other Churches from different derivations of Christianity? Probably not, and the reason for that is for the amount of money Evangelicals have invested in our government for again, the past 20 years. Bluntly speaking, if you are going to represent "faith" in this conglomerate of cultures that we are, then you better represent each and every one of them. If not, THEN DON'T PANDER TO ANY OF THEM. Favoritism will come back to haunt you, that I can guarantee.

Truly, I just don't understand what questions like "When do you believe life begins in a baby," has any relevance in the political landscape. Even if a president wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade, they couldn't. Yes, who they vote in as a potential Supreme Court Justice is important, but doesn't that never ending agenda overshadow other, more important things going on today? Yes, abortion isn't a great thing to do, but what about the killing of Iraqi's and Americans in Baghdad? How about the murder and raping of millions of Africans throughout the entire continent? The totalitarian rule of Communist China? Even discussing the sad superficial society we've become would be an improvement. Answering questions about one's own "faith" takes time away from true issues that exist, like current murder, genocide and war that is occurring while these ridiculous religious topics are being discussed.

I truly wish that more people, even ones of faith, realize that not all of us have that faith. Thankfully, in America, citizens do not have to. Our governing bodies shouldn't have to worry about that then either. Leaders shouldn't be judged on their religion; they should be judged solely on their policies. Maybe it's a pipe dream to hope that our leaders will stop making policy based off of religion, just to make a voting bloc happy. Maybe then, that's something I might have to strengthen my faith in. Until I SEE any reason to, I do believe I'll remain completely and utterly devoid of any of it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Search for Foreign Fuel

Just to piggyback on an earlier discussion; oil in this country, if found through offshore drilling, would truly have little to no impact on fuel prices in this country. Republicans have made us believe that if we don't drill in offshore locations, that we're leaving tons of energy behind, and not capitalizing on easy fixes. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Don't count my numbers too perfectly (it is past 1 in the morning), but I believe there are 300 million acres given to the oil companies to use for drilling in offshore locations. That sounds like a lot doesn't it? Republicans don't want you to know that. They want you to know that another 200 million acres are desired for drilling as well (which is what the argument is about). The problem; that last 200 acres is specifically protected by the EPA. Basically what I'm saying to you, is the Congressional Republicans want every last location possible to drill. 300 million acres just isn't good enough.

Another reason why this conversation is bullshit. We'd be drilling offshore, not for crude oil, because in many of these locations it doesn't exist in that form. We'd be mining for shale oil, which is a completely different product to start with. First off, not as much usable oil can be attained using this method, or the proper techniques don't yet exist to get the oil out of the shale in a financially responsible way.

The last bit of ridiculousness having to do with the oil we "might" get from our offshore shelves, is the distribution of it. With the way things are, we can't just grab some random oil, and sell it off. It doesn't work that way. The system is set up just so that ALL the world's oil, from multiple different countries, is filtered through OPEC (or the countries, mostly in the middle east, that produce the mass amounts of crude), and they decide how much oil to release for general consumption. No matter what you find, or get, OPEC must regulate it first. We're still dealing with foreign countries telling us how much power we're allotted, even when it's the power we're finding!

Basically, the offshore drilling that the Republicans are "threatening to shut the government down over," have to do with drilling in an added 200 million acres on top of the 300 million they've already been given, drilling into EPA protected lands, drilling for a product that we truly can't use anywhere near as well as crude, and are not telling the American people the major problems we'd have to deal with in regards to OPEC. Sad, mis informative, and true.

An Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi

Dear Madam Speaker,

I have to start out by saying how disappointed I am in not just your approval rating as the first Democratic Congress in quite awhile, but in the changes of heart that have taken place during your tenure as Speaker of the House.

Let me start again. Aside from the President and the Vice-President, you are the ranking politician in all of Washington. Not a bad transition from former house wife. It's ironic that Cindy Sheehan, another former house wife, might be challenging you for your seat in the upcoming Senate election. However; you are a politician ma'am, same as everyone else in DC. What politicians are supposed to do, is to stand up and voice the concerns of their constituents. It is seemingly a plain and simple job. I'm not that naive, and I know that nuance usually doesn't go in the same sentence as either the words plain, or simple. I'm sure your job is a stressful one; a job that leaves you sleepless many of the nights you've held it.

The fact is that being the Speaker is your job. Considering your sex, you might be the most prominent Speaker of all time. I know it's unfair that you've probably had more of the spotlight on you than you deserve, but again, this is Washington.

Being the representative of your constituency is truly the description of your job. This open letter to you is written by a constituent who is quite unhappy with the fruits of your profession, and of your tenure.

I'll start by talking about the broken system in which you work. Times change, and at this point in American history, your party, the Democrats, are looked upon with general disdain, and are considered to be the "weaker" of the two major parties. This is because in politics, as they're played today, compromise and a willingness to change are viewed as not having concrete and sturdy values; it's viewed as being weak near the core. The party in which you represent is considered to be a party that has no values, no morals, and no backbone. I, a registered independent, didn't want to believe this. However, your actions as of the past few days have made me change my mind.

Like most people who might lean to the left, I was happy to see a Democratic majority in Congress. I took you at your word when you said you'd end the Iraq War. It's coming on 2 years since you made such a declaration. We are still at war. In fact, we're in a two headed war; other problems such as Iran and Russia cannot truly be addressed as they should, due to the amount of funding and attention paid to Iraq and Afghanistan (not that I think the war in Afghanistan is without reason). I have seen numerous bills come through Congress, having to do with time tables and plans for escape. I commend you on that. However, due to Bush's veto, you gave up and allowed the President to get the bill he wanted. What type of message does that send to your constituency ma'am? I shallow attempt to do what you said you would... a quick failure, and then you give in and fold? Republicans were in power for so long because that is exactly what they didn't do; Republicans have the knack for sticking to their guns... whether it helps them or damns them. People see that as strength. People see your quick willingness to give into political demands, and therefore see you as weak. Watching your back break which such rapidity hurt to see. "Compromising" the way you did, hurt your party, your public approval rating, and your credibility.

I see now, another opportunity to take a stand, and you are not taking advantage. The offshore drilling issue is one to champion. When first mentioned by your Republican counterparts, your attitude was one of stubbornness and one of conviction; you knew that no relief would truly come from it (for at least a few years anyway), and if any did... it'd be just a few cents. We all know (the informed of us anyway) that offshore drilling, or what it should truly be called, THE DRILLING OF ENVIRONMENTALLY PROTECTED LANDS, is unnecessary, and just like No Child Left Behind; it sounds great, but truly does nothing helpful. The oil companies have plenty of places to drill off the coast, it's not as if they have no drilling areas (as they'd have you believe). The companies want it all however, and we all know that the Republicans in Congress today have no problem helping out a Fortune 500 conglomerate.

Again, I applaud your desire not to waver, and not to allow the Republicans to misinform, and then call a vote on ill informed material. I read today however, that due to a Republican threat to "stop the government," you're willing to change YOUR POSITION, and allow them to get the ridiculous vote they request (I say it's ridiculous because they again, say things that just aren't true, or don't give all the details, and then request voting proceedings). I'm appalled. A request Ms. Pelosi; let them stop the government. It won't happen. It's a bluff. The only way to get respect ma'am, is to stick to your values, no matter what. Let's discuss them, that's fine. But to give in due to a threat from the opposing party is flat out ridiculous, saddening and a slap in the face to all that voted your party members into office in 2006. I truly hope that you DON'T rethink your position; that you stick to your convictions, for at least once during your term.

I appreciate your time, and thank you.

Responsibility... Anyone?

I read an article in the paper today in regards to parents being punished for their teens drinking alcohol in their own houses. I mention this not because of the bullshit nature of this article, but because of how I feel this is dichotomous to our own national situation. It is amazingly similar to the one that exists today throughout all of America.

This is a bullshit article because, quite frankly, who cares if a kid has 3 or 4 beers in his own house? I don't even care if a kid gets shitfaced in his own house. The issue of underage teenage drinking is dismissive simply due to the fact that kids have always looked to drink and that's been a preteen taboo for quite some time; every known culture has taken a drug of some sort.

The issue isn't the kids drinking; the problem is that many of these parents are getting penalized legally for the actions that their kids have taken. These are the same parents, leaving home themselves to get blitzed on "business trips" on Friday and Saturday night, joining MAAD on the weekdays, and then making their children "promise" to not get drunk and let their friends drive, while the parents themselves are either absent or apathetic to the situation. The core problem is this; no one wants to accept responsibility.

I use this topic as a backdrop. Responsibility is easy to pin on someone, but hard to take yourself. Almost like that sickening cherry cough medicine mother made you take as a child; you could barely get it down, but once the gag reflex calmed, a sense of accomplishment was felt, along with the relief that was so desperately desired. Responsibility is something like that.

I look at the leadership of this country and I see a lack of responsibility. I look at the Bush administration, who declared that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled WMD's... which was proven wrong. What responsibility did Bush and his cabinet face? None. In fact, America as a nation reelected him. Anyone else, any other CEO in any other business would have had to resign as per that near trillion dollar gaffe.

After 9/11, a man like Jerry Falwell was recorded ON LIVE TV, saying that we were attacked because of God's revenge, due to our acceptance of gays and lesbians, and the work of the ACLU. Did he even apologize, or at least acknowledge ignorance before he died?

On a side note, shouldn't all religions apologize for thinking they are better than the
one that came before them?

Pre- 9/11, Condi Rice was given a memo in regards to "Osama bin Ladin determined to attack the United States." No penalties for her, or for others like CIA leader at the time, George Tenet? To a degree, don't they have to answer for their lack of action on the subject?

I can't speak upon all the red tape and government intricacies, but everyone, EVERYONE from Bush, to Mike Brown, and all local and state government agencies should be tried and convicted for their complete screw up, which was known as Katrina. I'm a 27 year old kid who watched the Weather Channel, and I knew what was going to happen. How could they have not? I'm sorry, but saying that some people deserved it because they didn't, or couldn't get on buses... not acceptable.

I could continue, but I won't. I'll end by saying this; there is nothing truly harder to do, than to say "I made a mistake." It is one of the core elements of being responsible. Most politicians won't do it; and the one's that do are often looked down upon as weak (that's you John Edwards, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton). The others, who won't apologize, and don't accept responsibility, are typically seen as stronger or "standing for something" (Bush and Cheney). I'm not sure who to blame for this; our ignorant selves, the politicians or the media, but I know this; responsibility comes back to haunt you, and it is truly the good people in the world (if "good" is truly a subjective ideal) who are willing to accept their mistakes and learn from them, to become better people and more talented leaders.

Or, you might just get mother in trouble. It's rough when there is someone watching you from above.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Would Write This, But I've Been Contracted Out

I'm curious to your opinions on the war in Iraq. It's been known as a few things: first it was to get rid of the WMD's that Saddam Hussein had (what the fuck exactly is a WMD? Are they chemical/biological weapons, nuclear weapons or something else we've yet to hear about). Second we we're told what a tyrant he was (a decade ago when we were his ally in the Iran/Iraq conflict, if you didn't know), and third, that the Iraq's wanted "freedom" (which was, truthfully, the election of people from the same sect of Islam as the majority of constituents, and wasn't anything to do to with the values or political ideals of the candidates). All three have plenty of holes in them, are are worse than I'm sure the government issued body armor.

What is known, factually, at least about this war, is that truly, this is not a war between different Iraqi sects, militias and insurgents (I won't sure the word "terrorist," which I'll explain in another blog) against the United States forces. It just isn't. This is a war between those aforementioned Iraqi groups and the American issued contractors. Now, what is a contractor you say.

Honestly, contracting shouldn't be a terrible thing. Sadly though, it has become one. Contracting, or the paying off of others to do jobs for you, isn't hard to find, even here domestically. If I wanted a new roof on my house, I'm not doing it. For a fee, I would contract a roofing company to do it for me. Sounds normal? However, the issue is that this administration is contracting more companies to do more things in Iraq than any other presidency has done in any other war, in the history of America. We also aren't just contracting things like roofs over in Iraq (which means that an Iraqi company can't do it). Companies such as Blackwater are contracting bodyguards for important diplomats.

A few months back if you recall, Senator John McCain went into a Green Zone shopping area and declared it perfectly safe. He did so with body armor and a Blackwater brigade behind him. Not a US Army brigade, but a grouping of contracted, Blackwater bodyguards. All diplomats are forced to have brigades like this behind them. Blackwater has taken control of the business of patrol. Scarier enough, Blackwater is the top contracting firm, when it comes to Iraqi casualties ( Odd group to have as your "protection." What also upsets me about this, is money. Does a company that provides an alternative to the army... for bodyguards and protection, cost all that much? Honestly, they do, as told on

Using Blackwater instead of US troops to protect embassy officials is expensive. Blackwater charges the government $1,222 per day for the services of a private military contractor. This is equivalent to $445,000 per year, over 6 times more than the cost of an equivalent US soldier...

Since the beginning of this war, the company Blackwater has received $1,024,519,018 ( I find this to be appalling; we are taking money out of the pocket of the desperate-to-help-his-country marine, and giving it to employers of a company who basically charge EXTRA for the same work. SIX TIMES EXTRA. When Republicans who are in favor of contracting and act faux "patriotic," is this even discussed? A real patriot would want these corporate venom out of our battlefields! I don't think it's alright to discuss free market ideas when we are talking about the military security of our country... do you?

I have no issue with the contracting of talented people to help with jobs that can't easily be done by the surrounding people. However, when these groups are "awarded" no bid contracts (usually, contractors underbid one another and are chosen for whomever gives the best deal... here that does not occur, and certain companies are just given the job, almost always due to political or social connections), it only makes it worse, and gives the head of the contracting firm more and more cash. It also puts smaller firms out of business (again, making a competitive free market economy impossible to upkeep).

I have a problem with the contracting of governmentally sensitive positions being given to the lowest bidder (if there's even a bidding at all). Jobs like, the protector of politicians, should be done by our own raised and grown US Military... not a company selling bodyguards. However, it gets much worse from this point.

"Many Blackwater operatives have been given immunity in cases brought to court, which has been granted out personally from the Bush White House." (

What statement does this make to our troops, and to the average citizen? It tells me that Bush's first eye glances towards his contracted friends, and not to United States troops, the latter whom he fawns over and people love with such a brute naiveness. The bigger question, is what is the connection the Bush administration has to Blackwater?

The owner of Blackwater, is a man named Erik Prince. Erik is an Evangelical Christian Conservative (sound familiar?). His father been known to have close friendship's with very pro-life people, such as Gary Bauer. Now Erik's sister, Betsy, was the head of Michigan's Republican Party until 2005. She married a man named Dick DeVos. In 2003, Forbes claimed DeVos was worth $1.7 billion. Why is this important you ask? Well, the company owned by the DeVos's has been responsible for giving $7.5 million to Republican candidates since 1990. They have also given to many other groups, including Focus on the Family. Erik Prince himself has donated near $150,000 to many Republican candidates. Prince also worked as President George W.H. Bush's intern for 6 months (

Wrapping up; the parallels Erik Prince and his family, have to the Republican Party, along with agreements he has with the current Bush policy (demonizing of Gays, opposition to the Clean Air Bill), is enough reason to have quite the suspicion.

Why is a guy who owns a company that basically guts our own military from within getting privilege, money, and special rights from our President? Blood is thicker than water. That's your answer. It's sad to see that our President is giving money to a guy that undermines our troops, due to their familial financial contributions, and their ability to see eye to eye on some "important" issues. Now the real question is, how is it possible that major media outlets haven't made more mention of this? Within this crime, is the real one.

Welcome to "A Citizen's Resistance"

Welcome to the first installment of "A Citizen's Resistance."

It's come to a point in our nation's history that I feel we're at a crossroads: we're somewhere in between what we came to know as the United States of America, and now what we are now evolving into. I feel, and have felt for quite a time that the opinion of myself and other's in my age grouping (25 - 35) truly need to be spoken, and that for a few reasons; first we're the next generation, and in 20 years it'll be our country, second because of the unbelievable events of the past few years, and the lack of communication about it, and third due to the fact of the frightening percentage of people in this country that either don't vote, or don't talk about politics on any level (state, local or federal).

I'll be the first to admit that as a 27 year old, there are plenty of things I have yet to learn. However, there are other things I have strong opinions about, and there are tons of happenings going on today that leave me quite breathless. I see things as the Iraq War, the importance put onto religion (not just Islam, but all 3 of the major religions), the filling of our multiple 24 hour news outlets with ridiculous tabloid stories, and the sad apathy that grips our nation, at least on both of our coasts, as all things that only make our country weaker, dumber and less empowered.

People today care about themselves, their clothing, their bank accounts and their possessions more than they care about their leaders, the impoverished and the happenings in other countries that easily directly affect us. Ronald Reagan once said that it was morning in America. I sadly see it as a mourning of America; a mourning of the once loud, proud nation for now a self-indulged grouping of either people who care too much about their Church, people who just flat out don't care, or people who have something to say, but just never get the gusto to actually say it.

There are plenty of issues in our country, any of which can effect us in countless ways. Just the changing of the average overall temperature one degree can cause a world of difference in many simple scenarios. One can only imagine how the changing of Middle Eastern power, types of fuel and government representatives can truly effect us as a whole.

All of these topics I'll be discussing and arguing in the future. I look forward to continuing this column, and I look forward to you reading it.