June 24, 2005

A New Religion - Shustism

Imagine there’s no heavens
It’s easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
- John Lennon

Let’s think outside the box again, take off our blinders, and challenge our thought processes. Imagine you were born and raised on another planet, and only recently landed on Earth. Of course all aliens from outer space speak English, so you easily tap into our culture, our media, our art, our society, and our politics. After the first ten minutes you’re curious about this strange phenomenon known as ‘God’. You see it everywhere… “In God We Trust”... “God Bless America”... “Acts of God”... “Thank God!”

“Who’s this God person?” you ask.

“Oh God’s not a person.” is the reply from your trusty space companion.

“What is God?” you ask. “And why do they refer to God as ‘him’?”

“Looks like God is some kind of ‘higher being’. I see them gathering by the hundreds in meeting places and ‘praying’ to this ‘God’. They think God created this planet and everything on it. They call that notion ‘Intelligent Design’.”

God & Fairy Tales

When we were very little, our parents provided some fantasy for us in the form of Santa Claus. For the first few years of our lives, we actually believed in Santa, that he came once a year on Christmas, and gave us presents. When we started losing teeth we actually believed that there was a Tooth Fairy who replaced our molars for money overnight while we slept.

But then we started to grow up and learned the ways of Mom & Dad, and came to the realization that these are all just ploys of our Parents… except for one. Why do we logically dismiss the fairy-tale fakeness of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, & the Easter Bunny, but continue to believe in God as a ‘higher being’ who works in mysterious ways and will accept us into heaven when we die if we’ve been ‘good’? Anyone who’s supposedly seen God is dead, so what proof is there that God actually exists?

Religion Divides

Over the last several thousand years the people on planet Earth have been sharply divided, and the lines of this particular division are along our beliefs in God. Each ‘religion’ has their own view of what God is, and all of the accoutrements that come along with those beliefs. Each religion thinks their beliefs are the right ones. Each religion has their own ‘book’ (‘Old Testament’, ‘New Testament’, Koran, etc) to guide them. Each religion thinks their people are God’s ‘chosen’. In many countries an official religion even controls the government. And unfortunately over the years, religion has also been the basis of bigotry, hatred, wars and even genocide.

At this juncture the closed-minded “Religious Right” are probably demonizing me as a “Godless Liberal”. I guess that’s their prerogative, and they certainly have the ‘right’ to say so given our First Amendment’s freedom of speech. But I’m not trying to demonize religion. I’m trying to put it into perspective.

Religion has a lot of upside, too. On the whole I’d like to think that most (if not all) religions are based on the ‘righteous’ principles of love, caring, brotherhood, mercy, family, learning, growing, community, tolerance, and treating others with respect. So, what does ‘God’ have to do with it?

I have my own beliefs too (perhaps I should start my own religion – I’ll call it Shustism). I do believe in those ‘righteous’ principles and that everyone should live their lives adhering to them. However, I believe that God is merely a symbol of those righteous principles, not a ‘higher being’ responsible for the ‘intelligent design’ of our universe, who’ll condemn me to eternity in ‘Hell’ after I die if I don’t live my life exactly as the Church commands. God is in our stories (which I also believe are largely fairy tales) as a way of communicating & teaching those principles.

God is also used as a tool. It’s the “Fear of God” that motivates many people to behave the way they do. And don’t get me started about the Televangelists and how they’ve raised money manipulating their followers by using ‘God’ as a tool.

The ‘Morals’ of the Story

Given my beliefs, why should I have God shoved down my throat? God’s written on our money (“In God We Trust”). God’s in the Pledge of Allegiance our children say every morning in school to profess their patriotism for our country. Every 7th inning I hear that God has ‘blessed’ our country. But, why is God in the White House? Why is George W. Bush our president again because of his born-again Christian beliefs? Why are millions of my tax dollars going to religious Christian organizations?

So here’s my message. Separate ‘church’ and ‘state’. Our founding fathers, who delicately crafted our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, were extremely careful to make sure that NO religion would be infused in our government. Instead, they ensured that each and every American would be free to practice their own religion within the limitations of not interfering with other’s rights.

So, go ahead and practice your own religion… as much as you want… Just don’t impose your religion on me. Don’t tell me what’s ‘moral’, ‘immoral’, or ‘righteous’. Take God off our money, take “...under God...” out of our pledge of American patriotism, and don’t send my hard-earned tax money to religious organizations, which by definition are openly discriminatory. There are too many other worthwhile secular organizations that need it.

June 17, 2005

Two Kinds of Republicans

All this talk of Richard Nixon and Watergate has got me thinking. At the time ‘Tricky Dick’ brought major scandal to the presidency, I was not politically astute. I wasn’t paying attention enough to realize just how corrupt Nixon was. I was too young then and didn’t have a real solid sense of politics, but I had a feeling that Republicans were not the ‘good’ guys.

I actually started loathing Republicans back in the early 80’s when Ronald Reagan came to power. As soon as I heard about “Trickle-down Economics”, I knew Republicans were not to be trusted. How could anyone, in ‘good’ conscience, base the United States economic strategy on helping rich people get richer, in anticipation that they’d drop some of that extra money and the poor and middle-class people could pick it up? Not being one of those rich people, I couldn’t find any sense in it.

I always thought there was something fishy about our hostages in Iran being released minutes after Reagan was sworn in, and I’m certain that both he and his veep (GHWB) were part and parcel to the Iran-Contra scandal. But for some reason, neither Reagan nor George Herbert ever got burnt on Iran-Contra. And now Reagan’s legacy, right or wrong, real or imagined, is that of ending the ‘cold war’. (Those of us in the know, know that Reagan had very little to do with that outside of that famous quote…”
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”. Communism in the USSR was doomed to end in spite of Reagan).

So here we are now, barely scratching the surface of the 21st century, and the Republicans are squarely in charge. After 8 years of Democratic executive rule under Bill Clinton, the Republicans now control all three branches of government. After 8 years of our most thriving economy, a balanced budget, the lowest unemployment rate, and the highest number of people lifted from poverty, the Republicans are setting our country’s direction. After 8 years of solid governmental regulatory oversight to protect citizens, the Republicans have systematically repealed regulations to expose citizens to predatory industrial practices.

But I digress. The purpose of my article is to articulate how I classify Republicans into two categories. So, here it is:

Category #1 – The Ignorant

There are so many people in this country who are simply not paying attention. This is your typical American who may watch the evening news a couple times a week (probably Fox News), hear a few sound bites from Dubya, Darth, Rummy or Condi, and actually believe the crap that they spew. Like when
Cheney recently said that the Insurgency was in “… its last throes…”. Not even he could have possibly believed it as the words left his mouth, but I’m sure there are millions of sheeple around the country who heard that and assumed the war was almost over.

These people are the Ignorant. They think all of the detainees in our Guantanamo Bay prison are terrorists and deserved to be tortured, when actually
only 39 have been convicted of terrorist activities while hundreds have been illegally and indefinitely imprisoned without due process. They think the war in Iraq is justified because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, was a direct threat to our country, and was working hand-in-hand with Osama bin Laden on the 9/11 attacks. These people don’t read. They don’t even know about the Downing Street Memo which proves that Bush lied to the American people by “… fixing the intelligence around the policy…”. And they blindly trust what they hear from bullshitters like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, not realizing that 90% of their crap is pure lies.

These people haven’t bothered to peek under the covers to understand the impact and ramifications of this Administration’s policies. They don’t realize the correlation between our spending on the wars in the Middle East and the budget cuts in our domestic programs. They don’t realize
the pure corruption and conflicts-of-interest in Bush’s appointments and decisions. They don’t know about Bush’s business failures before he became Governor of Texas, how he rose to power on the money and influence of his father’s name.

Category #2 – The Evil

Then there’s the type of Republicans who are intelligent. They’re not ignorant. They know exactly what’s going on and want it that way. They’re benefiting from the Bush Administration’s policies. After all, while Bush has overspent the federal budget by more than $400b a year, he’s bound to make a number of friends. Perhaps they work for a defense contractor. Or, maybe they’re Evangelical Christians who will blindly support any Republican as long as they purport anti-abortion, anti-gay, and abstinence-only causes.

These people are benefiting from Bush’s big-business agenda. Perhaps they work in the energy industry and benefit from
Bush’s deregulation policies that allow for massive amounts of waste & pollution to be discharged into our air and water (I dare any Republican pundit to compare the ‘Clean Air Act’ to W’s ‘Clear Skies Initiative’). Or, perhaps they’re in that top 2% of our economic ladder, and actually benefit from the tax cuts because they don’t partake in any domestic services and don’t pay any extra fees that offset them. Oh yes, there are many people out there who know of the corruption behind the Bush Administration and condone it. They’re part of that corruption machine.

Whether it’s ignorance or evil, Republicans are unhealthy for America. Republicans are the ones who’ve driven the biggest wedge between the rich and the rest of us. Republicans are the ones responsible for the decimation of our economy, our environment, and our civil rights. When I think of Republicans beyond the current Administration, I think of Newt Gingrich, Jesse Helms, Tom Delay, and Bill Frist. I think of stolen elections (2000 & 2004), drilling in ANWR, Enron, the Downing Street Memo, and ‘
Swift Boat Veterans for Deception’. When I think of Republicans I think of corruption, deceit & hypocrisy.

Wake up sheeple! Come back over from the dark side and help us rebuild the America our forefathers envisioned. You know… the America where everyone has equal rights… Where our elderly, our veterans, our needy & our children are taken care of…. Where we’re free to practice our religion or not practice any religion… Where we’re free to say anything without fear of governmental retribution… Where we treat people in foreign lands as partners instead of adversaries or enemies… Where we’re not hell-bent on world domination

June 10, 2005

Thinking Outside The Box: Marijuana Is The Solution, Not The Problem

As the Supreme Court put the screws to those ‘evil’ pot smokers out there, I got to thinking about one of my longtime ideas for changing the world. I have a lot of these ideas, and once entertained the notion of compiling them all in a book. I even have a working title - “Outside The Box”. I want to challenge people to take their blinders off and relax their boundaries of thinking. Think “Outside The Box”. Don’t dismiss ideas because “It’s always been that way” or “That’ll never fly”. Humor me… for just a few minutes.

Decades ago in our country’s evolution our elders went through a period called “Prohibition”. Some religious do-gooders decided that alcohol was “The Devil’s Poison” and outlawed it. For many years, while the police & courts tried to enforce this stupid law, people everywhere were trafficking and drinking alcohol within the ‘Black Market’. Eventually the government realized they couldn’t suppress it any longer and decided to legalize alcohol and profit from it as well from massive taxes. So, here’s my question to you, the reader:

Why is marijuana any different than alcohol?

No argument that smoking Marijuana, outside of its medicinal value to those already sickened by cancer, glaucoma and the like, is unhealthy in most respects. But so is alcohol. No argument that smoking Marijuana has affects on one’s personality, judgment, response-time, and breath. But so does alcohol.
Over 85,000 Americans each year are killed in alcohol-related accidents, murders, and domestic violence. I question if many those people would still have been killed if the perpetrators were ‘high’ instead of ‘drunk’. In fact, I would challenge anyone to argue that Marijuana is any worse for you (or society) then alcohol. So here’s my whacky idea:

Legalize, regulate, & tax Marijuana

Our society doesn’t have to condone it. And we can surely regulate that only those over the age of 18 are permitted to smoke it. Otherwise, what would be the harm? Just imagine the worldwide benefits if Marijuana was legalized and taxed. Just imagine what the infusion of a new multi-billion dollar industry would do for our economy, and other’s around the globe. Just imagine the jobs it would create. Just imagine the problems and headaches it would alleviate by not having to police, prosecute, and punish those who just want to get high. I have absolutely no doubt that legalizing Marijuana would be a boost to our economy, and many others. And the tradeoff is that some people would be high on occasion, instead of (or perhaps in addition to) drunk. That doesn’t mean we’d want them to get behind the wheel of a car in that condition, mind you.

So, what do we need to do to make this happen? We need to get to those idiots who decide for us what is moral and what is immoral. These are the same people who profess that all life is sacred in their quest to outlaw abortion, and then cheer on the war in Iraq where over 1600 American soldiers have died and countless Iraqi civilians have lost their lives. These same pro-lifers advocate for capital punishment as they sit down to a nice steak dinner (I’m sure they’re not all vegetarians, so they’re regularly killing animals). These are the same people who want to ‘protect marriage’ by making it illegal for gay people to make the ultimate commitment to their life-partners, yet they have multiple divorces. These are the same people who want religion infused in our politics, yet regularly break one or more of the Ten Commandments (You couldn’t convince me for one minute that these people aren’t having extra-marital affairs, downloading music, pirating software, or saying “God Dammit” every now and then). Who are they to impose on me what is moral and what is immoral?

And so, dear reader, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Marijuana is NOT immoral. It’s the solution of many of our problems. It’s not the problem. The real problem is that we have idiots, brainwashed from the religious-right, deciding for us the line between moral & immoral. Wake up sheeple!

June 06, 2005

Welcome To World War III

Perhaps I’m the first to say that we are now deep in the throws of World War III. Go ahead… take a look at what's going on around the world and deny it. This is not your typical World War, because in the previous World Wars there were large countries allied together on two distinct sides. The Allies & The Axis! Battles & fighting! Good ol’ fashion, down & dirty, deadly (yet profitable), WAR!

This is a different kind of World War, but still two distinct sides... the United States and a few staunch allies, versus most of the Muslim world. The Muslim foe is scattered and sometimes hidden & elusive. But make no mistake about it - we ARE in a world war.... thanks in no small part to George W. and his band of neo-conservative thugs.

How did we get here?

Perhaps it started with The Project for the New American Century’s charter of world domination. After all, we HAD to bully over 130 countries into hosting our huge military bases. Perhaps it was fueled by Dubya's short-sighted invasion of a sovereign nation, which was NOT a threat to our national security, which decimated countless innocent Iraqi civilians. Perhaps it was Dubya's declaration of the "War on Terror", knowing full well that such a declaration would create a quagmire of fighting that can't possibly end. Perhaps it was fueled by the scandal of Abu Ghraib where the Arab world learned how we tortured their brethren.

As long as George W. Bush is in the White House, with his "stay the course" mentality.. er... ‘leadership’, we will be fighting this "War on Terror" on many, many fronts. Whether it's on the homeland or abroad, whether it’s suicide bombers or airplane missiles, this conflict cannot end. Sooner or later we'll be invading Iran, North Korea (well maybe not, there's no oil there), Syria, Libya, and so on. We gotta spread “Democracy”! We gotta be the world's policemen! Freedom is on the march!

Here’s your wake-up call

Now you parents out there take note. Our military will be stretched very thin to support World War III. And with all the horror, fighting and casualties, young kids won't be rushing to sign up for duty voluntarily like they did in the good old days when they were trying to finance their way through college. You know what that means... Yup... We'll be forced to re-institute the Selective Service. Parents - prepare yourself for the Draft!!

So for all you idiots out there who voted for George W. Bush in '00 and especially in '04, make sure you say to yourself: "Yes, I'll gladly send my son/daughter to the front line in Iraq!”

How's that for terror?