Monday, December 28, 2009

Movie Review: Religulous

Yesterday, I watched Bill Maher's Religulous. I did it not because I want to disprove religion, which he does, and Islam, and Judaism, but I wanted to know what he was all about. I did know a bit, but it's just really interesting to see public figures and paid religious professionals stumble and bumble with questions with obvious answers if they were really honest. But they can't answer the real answer because it doesn't mesh with their lifestyle.

One section I found particularly interesting was the chapter on the DVD entitled "God and Country" if I remember correctly. Bill started the section by asserting that in Jesus' world view, there is no room for nationalism. This is one point where I agreed with Bill immediately. As a true follower of Jesus, there is no "God and Country." There is only God. You want to be a patriot, whatever, but your allegiance lies with God alone when it all comes down.

If you like to see religious people squirm, you'll like this movie. Beware, if you are a conservative Christian, or a very religious person, this movie will make you squirm. It made me sick to my stomach to see all these people claiming to be Christians rather than defending the truth, defending their religion. It was horrific to hear all the really bad answers.

Overall, I'd give this movie about 7/10 based on how it was done, editing, writing etc. But if you are a Christian, this is a must see just because you need to be exposed to this kind of thing.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Made in the USA Product of the Day

Today's product: DeKuyper's Sour Apple Pucker.

Man do I love this stuff. You see, I drink a little bit of alcohol because statistically speaking, moderate drinkers do better in life, have more fun, make mor money, live longerr etc. But I don't like wyne or beeer. So back win I were a teenager (shhhhhh!) I discoverd appel puker nd is gud stiff.

Plush as wee al kno, Jesus drank two!

P.S. This post demonstrates simulated drunkenness. I was a no point impaired in most of the usual ways. "What the eff does that mean" you say? Exactly.

Question of the Day

Question: Where did Coffee come from?

Answer: I can't figure this one out. It's like somebody went out in the forest, found this small spindly tree and said "Hey, lets pick these fruits off here, but don't eat them, strip the fruit off the seed and then dry the seed. Then bake it, now I know what you're going to say, but stick with me, this is where it gets good. After you bake it, grind it up real fine. Then run hot water through it, then drink the water, but make sure to drink it while it's still hot otherwise it will taste just as bad but it will be cold. It will wake you up in the morning just as good as say, an apple, but you don't have to worry about flavor or worms."

I can figure out how we got wine, but how we got coffee is beyond me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is Satan Green by Thomas D. Rowley

Is Satan Green?

By Thomas D. Rowley*

In the three years since PBS’ Bill Moyers asked “Is God Green?” the answer from American Christendom has become a resounding “yes!” Proclaimed by everything from eco-friendly Palm Sunday fronds to the soy-based, Kermit-hued ink in the Green Bible, God’s color has been decided.

But what about Satan’s?

I know. I know. Talk of the devil these days is déclassé. Too fire-and-brimstone for our post-everything mindset. Plus, everyone knows he’s red with horns, tail and a pitchfork. Right? But what if C.S. Lewis were still uncovering missives from that diabolical Undersecretary of Temptation, Screwtape to his nephew and Junior Tempter, Wormwood? What might that reveal about Hell’s slant on the environment? With apologies to Lewis, perhaps something like this…

My Dear Nephew:

I see a certain despondence in your last correspondence. The long-delayed awakening of Christians to the Enemy’s directive to steward the Earth has gotten you down. Particularly, the awakening of that pesky group called evangelical Christians--a label that writers of the New Testament might well have thought redundant! Do not let it. As with all surges of that army, this, too, can be redirected. Confusion is the order of the day, dear Wormwood. Confusion!

To begin with, keep striking the chords that have proven so successful for us already. Keep your patients focused on the politics of it all--feeding the notion that the Enemy simply could not mean them to side with those they growlingly call “tree-hugging liberals.”

At the same time, nag them with doubts about science; keep them asking, albeit subconsciously, how something associated with abortion and evolution (thanks to your good works, Nephew) could ever be trusted?

Play, too, the note that says “it will all burn anyway, and the sooner the better.” Ah, there’s nothing finer than bad theology mixed with hopelessness for turning them aside.

Finally, addle their puny brains with false dichotomies: Surely, they cannot evangelize and care for the poor, for example, while also stewarding nature! Needless to say, you must keep hidden from them the indisputable facts that nature sings so disgustingly of the Enemy who created it and that upon nature the poor of the world so heavily depend.

As always, keep them from thinking deeply on any of these matters. There lies our undoing! Instead, fill their minds with the busyness of life—the grocery list, the children’s piano lesson or the church committee meeting. Should you detect a serious thought forming, however, simply give a nudge that now is the perfect time to text message, email or turn on some enlightening talk radio. Oh, how I love that last one! What victories it has given us!

Should these attempts fail to keep them off balance and ignoring the Enemy’s directive, we, too, can become green—at least our own shade of it. Here, I, of course, mean money, that ancient yet infallible tempter. How they love their money! Forgetting as they so laughably do that it is not theirs and that the Enemy has warned them again and again about what He ridiculously refers to as idolatry. I’ve also learned of a new shade of green developed by our labs: that of the perfect green lawn. How delightful! The illusion of health and beauty fostered by poison, copious amounts of precious water, and the weekly toiling behind a deafening, fume-belching machine! Brilliant! Simply, brilliant!

Above all--and I really shouldn’t have to warn you of this--keep them from opening that dastardly book the Enemy gave them! Rare indeed is the patient who can be retrieved once he has devoted himself to study there.

Finally, make sure to keep our correspondence secret. Human ignorance of our plans is one of our very best weapons. Nevertheless, should this letter leak to the press, I am confident that misunderstanding and emotion (never forget the power of emotion) will cause such a disturbance that you and I will be dismissed as the depraved imaginings of some witless human writer.

As always, your affectionate (and green if need be) uncle


*Rowley is Executive Director of A Rocha USA, a nonprofit conservation organization mobilizing Christians to steward the Earth. For more information, please see

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Don't Give Thanks for the Food, Pray Against it.

I have recently been formulating a blog about praying against our food for all the things it does to us and to everyone, but I guess PETA beat me to it.

Anyway, back to my idea.

Of course it is good to thank God for sustenance he has given us, but before we are too thankful, let us be reminded of what our food does to us and the rest of the world.

Our Father in heaven,

Thank you for the blessing of this food you have placed before us. While we eat, let us remember the 35,000 children who starve to death every day.

Be with the starving people all over the world because crop land is used not to grow food but fuel for our gas guzzling cars.

Lord, remember the people affected by factory farms whose manure and antibiotic runoff destroys streams, and creates superbacteria that our bodies cannot defend against.

Protect us from the chicken litter that contains known toxins and human carcinogens that enter our food supply when they are used on plant crops and when the dust blows into our homes.

Protect our children from the air pollution created by factory farms and the transport of factory grown meat to market that gives them asthma.

Heal us from the effects of pesticides that lower our intelligence, lower our fertility, and cause birth defects.

And bless all the people of the world who have to breathe in the particulate matter, mercury, lead, cadmium, and radioactive contamination that is produced by the coal power plant whose power we used to cook this food.

We pray this in Jesus name,

Pray like Satan's about to get you.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Made in the USA Product of the Day

We all should know why it's important to buy products made on our shores. It keeps our jobs here and keeps us from bleeding money as a country.

Today's product, Maruchan Ramen.

I love this stuff, I've eaten literally thousands of packages and it is my favorite brand.

And it's CHEAP!!!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Disconnect

My wife and I delivered some coats and things to an event where poor and/or homeless people come to get coats and a meal in a local park. I happened to meet a person there who if you'll remember had gotten quite caustic with me on Facebook when I decried her gloating over killing the health bill. She had demanded that I list everything I had done to help the poor to make me prove that I was better than (or maybe as good as) her in doing such things. I flatly refused and she she tore me up, calling me a hypocrite and laying down insults in her status updates. Remember, this was because I wouldn't tell her, not because I had nothing to tell, just because I wouldn't. She insulted liberals, me, and even one of her friends who agreed with me that bragging about our works was not appropriate.

Of course I believe that the work she does with the poor is admirable, but I can't help but think about the disconnect that this demonstrates to me. And forget that I think she's a poor example of a Christian. It just seem strange to me to outwardly be so generous, but inwardly be so caustic. To give coats to poor people and yet vote for measures and representatives who will make more poor people.

Now I know of course that she will disagree and say that I am the one who is making more poor people, but tell me, who's favorite representatives are for free trade which allows us to ship the jobs to other countries?

I'm under no delusion about the ramifications of what I believe. If my goals were enacted, it would absolutely make some people poorer, the rich ones. I believe in progressive tax policy which readjusts the distribution of wealth to a greater proportion of the population. If I can provide health care to the poor on the backs of the rich, I'll do it. No man is an island. No man becomes a millionaire without someone else doing a bunch of the work.

But, my goals and beliefs are consistent. I advocate for a tax policy that distributes the wealth more evenly among the classes, and I also advocate for the disadvantaged. I don't help the poor and then actively advance policies that will swell their ranks.

It's not productive.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Carbon Dioxide, Global Warming, and Pollution: What to do, what to do.

I was discussing global climate change with one of my professors, who also happens to be my mentor, at school the other day. He is a Civil Engineer, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, specializing in ground water. So I asked him what he thought about climate change and the like not knowing what he would say because he is also a Christian and I wasn't sure what his opinions were. Let me qualify that by saying as you know that many Christians, especially here in the Bible belt are conservatives and conservatives tend not to be on the global warming bandwagon, so I just like to feel around usually before I make an ass of myself.

Somewhat surprisingly, what he told me was extremely similar to my own beliefs on the subject. He said that he tended to be somewhat cynical but was not trying to discredit the science. I was excited.

So we talked about the true pressing problems in the world. We talked about one of the climate reports that said if we don't do something in the next few decades, by 2050 some people were going to be displaced or something. We also compared that to how a billion people in the world have no access to clean water and how two billion have no access to sanitation. We talked about how many million people die each year from diseases related to lack of clean water.

And I have thought about this before, I've even blogged about it in passing, so I decided to blog about it again, but in more detail this time. I want to enumerate the real exigent issues and how they relate not only to our world, politics, people, but also to how I live out my faith through those things.

Let me start by saying that I'm not a "climate change denier" nor do I want to be bellicose toward this issue. I am most certainly not against science, but I think there are a few things not adequately explained by the popular climate change theory, scientifically speaking. I do definitely line up on the side of the issue that says pollution has got to go, it's bad, it's not loving our neighbor as ourselves when we pump the sky full of toxic substances. However, carbon dioxide is not a toxic substance, you inhale a little and exhale a bunch with every breath. Nor do I find it to be the major component of greenhouse gases on this planet. I also feel that the sun causes much of our climate change though I believe man probably has something to do with it. But finally, I don't believe it to be the most pressing issue of our day, and though it may cause rising ocean levels, possibly displacing millions of people, millions of people are already dying because of things that are far easier and cheaper to fix.

Water woes are set to become far more visceral an issue than climate change. The primary thing a culture needs to become great is water. Without water, many people cannot live in tightly packed cities, and without sanitation, disease will run rampant. A civilization cannot thrive unless it has water. So in this age where in America, we flush 1.6 gallons of purified drinking water down the crapper just to wash away a 3 ounce turd and less than 3% of the water purified for supply to our houses actually enters a human body, why are we not focused on providing water to a billion people who don't have it? Why are we so focused on an invisible menace while ignoring a manifest obstacle?

Well, I don't know. Maybe it's sexier. Maybe it's a way to be better than other people. "I have a smaller carbon footprint than you." Maybe people don't really care about other people.

I'd like to think of myself on a lot of issues as a progressive. I think of it this way, I'm not a conservative because I don't think we should go back to something that was better than it is today. I'm a progressive because I think it's never so good that it can't get better tomorrow. I like progressive taxation, conservationism, social justice, and many other progressive ideals. I want things to change, I want them to get better.

For instance, the United States is still about 50% reliant on coal for electrical power. Aside from the issue that coal is about the most carbon intensive form of energy generation, there are a crap ton of other reasons why it's the most horrible of all ways to make power. Look at it from the cradle to the grave. Massive amounts of devastation are wrought to collect the coal at the beginning of the process. Mountaintop removal destroys wild land, mines drool water pollution, and dams that hold tailings from the mines collapse and kill people and ruin watersheds. Most coal is transported to power plants by diesel trains which though quite efficient provide the US with an incredible 10% of its nitrogen oxide pollution. At the plant, the coal is burned, releasing hundreds of tons of toxic metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead which lead to all sorts of diseases from lowered IQ's to full on birth defects and destroying fisheries. Leftovers from the burning include fly ash which gets piled up in heaps which can collapse and make a huge mess as we have recently seen. From Genesis to Revelation, coal power is bad. It's bad for health, for safety, for beauty, for nature and just really really bad.

Despite being a little cynical of the imporance of carbon dioxide in the world, I am most definitely for climate change legislation for the simple reason that it will probably prevent scores of new coal power plants from being built and will hopefully choke off existing ones. With the populist swell against coal that already exists, coal plants are being abandoned left and right. Hopefully, more of the same will happen if Carbon Cap and Trade comes to be.

Also understand that I am an avid reader of Treehugger and Mother Earth News. Both are excellent avenues for finding ways to consume less and for highlighting the real problems with consumption and pollution in the world. They still focus an inordinate amount of time on climate change, but that's their prerogative.

I guess another reason why climate change gets more press is that it's too easy to be against climate change. It's hard to go to a foreign country to provide water purification, but it's easy to be pro-climate. You don't really have to do anything. Its unfortunate, but people will always be lazy, self centered and apathetic. We all know it's so much easier to do nothing rather than something.

If ocean levels rise (they haven't risen much so far, but we'll see, I'm young) yes, millions of people will be displaced. However, as I've mentioned before there are already bigger problems. But people can move. People have the ability to move. 20,000 years ago, ocean levels were 130 meters below where they are today. The earth is constantly in flux. Tides can fluctuate tens of feet every day in some places. Saying that ocean levels can rise is describing the occurrence from an extremely human centered point of view. I'm sure the rise will be quite welcome to brackish water swamp creatures. We can adapt, we will adapt. One day we will run out of coal. Truth be told, all that coal was once free atmospheric carbon dioxide anyway.

What really needs to happen is for us to leverage our resources in such a way to make a sustainable way of living for future generations. People need clean water. People need food. These problems are a trifle in cost compared to the costs of mitigating climate change, but they will be ignored in favor of sexier problems, ones people see on TV and in disaster movies.

I don't care about carbon dioxide. Yet I pursue sustainable living, renewable energy, waterless toilet technology, and the like. Why? Because the pollution, the real pollution that I make travels around the world and causes my brothers and sisters and neighbors to suffer.

That's not loving others like I love myself. That's just loving myself.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Question of the Day

Question: What's with moonhoaxtards?

Answer: Every conspiracy needs a nut, every nut needs a conspiracy. I'll call that a "diamond in the rough" paraphrase of Proverbs.

I coined a new phrase:
"May you live long enough to reload." - WiredForStereo

P.S. That's a Halo reference.
Eat your heart out Spock. (That's a Star Trek reference.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Question of the Day

Question: If you are listening to music and you sing along with the backup singers, is that a sign of low self esteem?

Answer: You tell me.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Did Jesus Drink Alcohol? Wine? Or was it non-alcoholic?

For some reason after 2000 years there's still question as to if Jesus actually drank wine or not, so I've actually waited a while to answer this question because I wanted to get it right. Now I think I've got enough evidence so I'm going to go about this a few different ways. I've talked to pastors, professors, home brew beer makers, and made wine and mead myself. I've heard a bunch of arguments, and I've even heard if from the pulpit of several churches including First Baptist of Bentonville. I've actually even heard that the wine Jesus drank was nonalcoholic. So let's explore this.

First of all, let's talk about grape juice. It may surprise you to know that there really was no such thing as grape juice before about 150 years ago. This guy named Welch (that's right) came along and figured out that you could Pasteurize grape juice and refrigerate it and it wouldn't ferment. In fact, he even advertised and sold it as alcohol free communion wine. Until that point, virtually all communion wine was in fact wine.

I've also taken time to get a scientific perspective on this question. I've spoken to University of Arkansas microbiology Professor Dr. Timothy Kral about this subject and he has had quite a bit to say and in no uncertain terms. It goes like this. There are wild yeasts (single celled organisms of the fungi kingdom which produce alcohol as a waste product) which naturally grow on grapes. When the grapes are pressed, the yeasts begin to reproduce and rapidly consume sugar and oxygen in the juice until the whole mix becomes anaerobic. At this point, the yeasts cease respiration as a means of energy production and expand to fermentation as a sole means of survival. They feed off the glucose (sugar) and other nutrients in the mash until one of two things happens. First, they either run out of food, or second, alcohol (waste product) kills them off. Some yeasts can stand a higher alcohol content that others, but just about all yeasts can stand above 10% which is well higher than beer. The yeast completely spread throughout the liquid fermenting the sugar into alcohol. Since alcohol is a toxic waste product, it then preserves the entire batch and it can be stored indefinitely. I asked Dr. Kral if it were possible to keep the juice aerobic to keep the fermentation from happening and possibly make non-alcoholic wine. He said absolutely not. Firstly, if the juice were kept completely aerobic, it would spoil and no one would drink it because it would be nasty and disgustingly acidic. Secondly there will always be some yeasts in the mix making at least some alcohol.

Let's look at the Bible. One of the best known cases is the wedding at Cana when Jesus turns water into wine. There are several arguments here. Some say that the bad wine was wine wine while the "wine" Jesus makes and everyone likes so much is actually grape juice. There are a few problems with this. First, logically, which wine is good wine? The rule of thumb is generally the older the better. Any grape juice more than 6 hours old is wine. Better wine is older wine. Jesus made the better wine. Secondly, this even took place around the time of Passover, in the spring. Grape harvest is in the fall. Without pasteurization, refrigeration and hermetically sealed containers, all grape juice is completely fermented into wine by this time. There would have been some mighty suspicious people if Jesus showed up with grape juice. No, Jesus made the good wine, the aged high alcohol content good wine.

Jesus also tells a parable about wine skins. He says that if you put new wine in old wine skins it will burst the skins. He is right. "New wine" or freshly squeezed grape juice will begin to ferment immediately releasing carbon dioxide. A sealed container not able to stretch (an old wine skin for example) will burst within hours. A new wine skin will be fresh and able to stretch and so won't break. But there's another clue in here. Only a sealed container will have the possibility of bursting. Why would it be sealed? Because if it wasn't, it would not ferment and it would rot and ruin the wine and the skin. Jesus knew you had to seal the container to make wine, wine that has alcohol. There wasn't any uncertainty at all, Jesus was talking about real wine.

Finally, think about the cultural perspective. Ancient cultures, the Jewish culture especially, used wine ubiquitously. It was the only way to purify water. Paul told Timothy to mix some wine with his water because of his stomach. Paul knew well as did everyone of the time that the alcohol in wine stopped stomach ailments which as we know now is due to the the killing of the microorganisms by the toxic alcohol. Think about what the main ingredient in hand sanitizer is. Wine or beer was the only way store or purify water. Many sources of water were polluted, especially near cities and the alcohol in wine was the only thing beside boiling that the ancients could use to kill the stomach bug.

The Jews were very much into wine. One of their official prayers basically says "Dear God, we like grapes, amen." Jesus was a Jew. Though there were some Jews, the Nazarites, who never consumed any wine or alcohol or grapes or anything, Jesus was not one, he was a Nazarene, they're different. The Nazarites eschewed even grapes because they as well as modern day scientists know that if you have grape juice, you have wine, it happens automatically. The yeast grows on the grapes, you can't escape it. In fact, it is general practice to boil wine after mixing it because you want to kill all the wild yeasts so you can add special breeds or blends to get just the right taste. You can't have unrefrigerated juice without having wine. Jesus most certainly drank real wine. He drank real wine with alcohol in it. Science says it, history says it, culture says it, the Bible tells it, logic dictates it.

Before 150 years ago, there was no big argument about whether Jesus drank grape juice or wine because everyone understood the reality that there was no such thing as grape juice. How ignorant some of us have become.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First Entertainment Review: Dexter

I already do movie and book reviews, but I like some other things too, so I decided to review them too. Entertainment reviews will be less specific and may contain anything that entertains, not just movies or books. Today, I am going to review the TV show Dexter starring Michael C. Hall.

Dexter appears on Showtime, and as such contains material not appropriate for many people, however, I don't watch it for the visual content. I watch it for the exploration of morality it represents.

Story: Dexter Morgan is a police blood spatter analyst by day, and a serial killer by night. His father, a police detective, realized what he was when he was young after he adopted him when he began to kill small animals. His father trained him to be extremely discreet and to kill only those who deserved it. Thus, Dexter avoids prison and serves a useful purpose by cleaning up what the justice system misses. Oh, and he also gets to be the most successful prolific serial killer in the world.

The question of morality comes when you understand what Dexter is. If we are really honest, Dexter is a cold blooded murdering psychopath. Well, maybe he's warm blooded. But properly understood, he doesn't kill for the justice in it, that's just a side effect. He kills to sate his "dark passenger" mentioned in the novels and recently more often on the show. One of the novels explains the dark passenger like a malevolent spirit or ancient god, though that specific novel was unpopular due to the spirituality therein.

Much of the show evolves around the "code" Dexter's father Harry taught him. The code keeps him from getting caught and keeps his activities in the realm of a service rather than a menace to society. In the first season, the main villain is Dexter's long lost biological brother who for the same reason is likewise a psychopath, only without the code, tries to kill Dex's sister, so he kills him. In the second season, Dexter's exploits are discovered but he gets lucky when his mistress frames someone else for him, so he has to kill her. In the third season, he reluctantly accepts an apprentice of sorts who won't follow the code and kills in anger, so Dexter kills him. Also in the third season is a Nicaraguan torture expert who though he says he tortures to extract information, really just does it because he likes it. He tries to kill Dexter so Dexter kills him. Now we have the fourth season where the villain is a long time serial killer and has been exposed in the first episode, and I'm not sure how it will play out, but I think Dexter will kill him.

I really like this show. They could really cut down on the swearing and nudity, but the gore seems pretty accurate generally speaking. I swing back and forth between for and against the death penalty, but it really comes down to being for it for all who deserve it regardless of race or economic status. As you may know, nearly all cases of the death penalty are executed upon people of the lower classes, and that's just not right. So pragmatically, I'm against the death penalty as law. But it would be a very interesting situation indeed if there were a guy in the world who kills only murderers and rapists. This show is definitely not for minors, and not for the squeamish.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Questions of the Day

Long day of discussing (arguing) some things with a super hard core conservative.

Question 1:
What do you call the guy who backs out of the argument first?

The loser.

Question 2:
What's the point of believing the Bible is inerrant, infallible, etc. if you don't read the f@ck!ng thing?

F@ck if I know.

Tell me how it went.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Which Christian Nation?

I've been trying to explain to people why the United States is not a Christian nation. My focus in doing this is trying to convince people that many of the main figures of the Founding Fathers were not Christians, or not Evangelical Christians, or at least not the kind of Christians we have today. We do have wonderful Christian figures who have done great things throughout history such as William Wilberforce, but our country is no more a Christian nation than if you walk into a garage you are a Volkswagen.

In that vein, I found some quotations from our founding fathers and I did some research to check their validity. First is Thomas Jefferson. For the uninitiated, he actually wanted to see the end of the Christian faith and favored more of a universal moral gospel.

"Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man." Thomas Jefferson

This quotation is a paraphrase of the original here (emphasis mine):

"...those who live by mystery & charlatanerie, fearing you would render them useless by simplifying the Christian philosophy, the most sublime & benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on man, endeavored to crush your well earnt, & well deserved fame." - Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Priestley, Washington, 21 March 1801

Religions are all alike -- founded upon fables and mythologies
The Christian God is a being of terrific character - cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust

Also: "But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." Thomas Jefferson

Next Ben Franklin. He was really a Deist, known by some as a champion of generic religion, and claimed by several denominations, he did not affirm some extremely vital tenets of faith in Jesus such as: salvation, hell, Jesus Christ’s divinity, and he believed in the goodness of man.

"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." Benjamin Franklin

And Finally John Adams.
This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it

"The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." John Adams (To be perfectly fair, this one is also credited to George Washington, so it may be one or both.)

The overriding principle here is that even if each and every one of the founders were born again evangelical Christians, the goals of the US as a country and the principles of the American Dream do not mesh with true Christian principles. We are promised "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and all these "freedoms" bandied about by the politicos of today. The Bible doesn't promise us any "freedoms." The Bible promises us death, imprisonment, and torture. So as you can see, our country was not founded solely on Christian principles and more importantly, it is not a Christian nation. We even have separation of church and state, something that not even Switzerland has. Our country was founded as a nation where there is freedom of religion, which may be somewhat of a Christian ideal, but Christianity functions best under persecution. But, freedom of religion does not equal Christian Nation. Nor is there anything in there about freedom from taxes, liberals, homosexuals, or Asian automobiles.

What has been done in the name of being a Christian nation by a self proclaimed born-again president has done incalculable damage not only to our country, but especially to the true faith of Jesus Christ. Wars started in the name of a god are the kind of thing done in Islam, not in true Christianity. Our politicians need not soil the name of God by proclaiming publicly that attacking a sovereign nation without just cause is "the will of God" because it is no such thing.

Please do some research. Faith's only worth is found in the object toward which it is directed. Faith in politicians who tell you what you want to hear is useless.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gleaning, Aliens and the Bible

In the story of Ruth (in the book of Ruth) we see Ruth doing something called "gleaning" which is collecting leftover crops from the fields after harvest. This was part of the Mosaic law and it was required that the harvesters of the crop not harvest the corners and edges of the field or pickup anything they had missed. This was done so that the poor and aliens in the land could come and glean the fields and get enough to survive.

How different it is today in this "Christian Nation."

Right here I'm not trying to take any particular side on the immigration debate. My simple solution would be to recall every US service person and piece of equipment and base and set them up along the boarders and coasts of the United States of America. Surely we could cut the military budget by like half and use that money for all sorts of things. The military personnel could be border guards as part of their training and practice. How many countries have military bases all over the world like we do. I'm not against a strong military, I just want it here, right here, and only right here. We are not world police and we don't need myriad bases in other countries. There are no German air bases on US soil are there?

But we need to treat immigrants better. They are among the protected classes that the Bible warns about caring for. The illegal immigration problem wouldn't be a problem if employers weren't breaking the law and hiring them in the first place. Think about it. Pedro says to Manuel "Hey vato, you wanna go up north?" To which Manuel replies "And do what, there ain't no trabajo no more." But instead we focus on getting the little guy. It's the wrong approach. It's like sitting on a lawn chair next to a light bulb at night and wondering why there are so many moths. Turn off the light. You can't control the moths, you can control the light, it's very simple. You can't control the immigrants, you can control the employers.

Simple enforcement, go to a construction site or job site or factory. Do some random citizenship checks. If you find an illegal, arrest the foreman, arrest the CEO shut down the operation. Do that about five times with major media coverage and you'll find the immigration problem quickly disappearing. But don't take it out on poor Pedro, he's a good hardworking guy, he just wants to support his family.

Controlling activity with government is done consistently wrong, especially by conservatives. If you want more efficient cars, don't tell the car manufacturers to make more efficient cars, raise the gas tax. If you want more efficient houses, raise the price of energy. Don't get all up in Manuel's business, arrest his illegal employer and make Manuel get a green card.

The problem is not illegal immigrants, it's illegal employers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Moses Doesn't Love Me

You may have seen this guy standing in a public place "preaching" at the top of his lungs at passing college students. You may have seen him at the University of Arkansas, the University of Central Arkansas, Oklahoma State University, or some other public place making a mockery of Jesus Christ and a fool of himself.

His name is Gary Bowman, but students often know him as Moses at the U of A or Preacher Bob at some other campuses. He seems to try to evangelize students and faculty, but let me deconstruct his intentions for you.

His primary purpose seems to be to incite anger and draw fodder for lawsuits. In fact, in 2003, the University of Arkansas had to pay him over $30,000, and there have been quite a number of different lawsuits over the years against a variety of organizations.

Secondly, his evangelism is really nothing more than the kind of thing you might hear from Westboro Baptist Church or some other inflammatory group. You see, when you talk to someone about Jesus or share your faith with them, you meet them on their level, you empathize with them and show that you care for and have love for them. On the other hand, what Mr. Bowman does is talk past you, over you, around you, and through you. He doesn't care about you. Just walk up to him and try to talk to him in a reasoned calm and compassionate way. He'll most likely continue preaching at the top of his lungs while you are still standing next to him.

He doesn't just ask you to follow Jesus, you have to follow Jesus in his way, and his "Jesus" isn't the same one the rest of us know. To be okay with Gary, you need to be a "tongue talker" a Pentecostal Holiness person, and you better not even occasionally drink or smoke. None of these things, of course, is biblical.

And definitely don't try to engage him in the same way he tries to engage you. You can find a YouTube video which clearly shows Mr. Bowman calling the cops on a student with a bullhorn. He knows his rights, he knows the system, and he will use every opportunity to use it against you while using it for his own purposes.

So what to do? Ignore him. Leave the nuts to argue with the nut. He wouldn't come back if he didn't get a rise out of people. He's not doing God's will, he's gratifying his own sick need for attention. Jesus wouldn't call you a whore.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Review: "Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God" by Francis Chan

I just finished reading (listening to) Francis Chan's Crazy Love. I downloaded the audio book read by the author from iTunes and it's a good listen at about four and a half hours. It cost about two bucks less than buying it, plus there wasn't the hassle of needing to leave the house or paying taxes or burning gas to go somewhere to pay too much for it at the local Christian bookstore (no names.)

The first three chapters of the book are kind of a foundation for what the whole book is about. I woke up a little sick this morning and decided to take a long hot bath as I often do when I'm sick. So between last night and the bath, I listened to about the first four or five chapters. Apparently I stayed too long in the bath because I got out and threw up all the grape juice I had been drinking. The first chapters left me with a feeling of "yes I know that." He was talking about how great God is and how much he loves us and how the story of the universe is really about him and not us. Very important stuff. One point that struck me was about our relationship with Jesus and how we should seek that first. He quotes statistics about how most Christians pray only a couple of minutes a day and watch TV for four hours.

But later on came the real good stuff. You know the kind of stuff that you sit and listen to (or read) and you know in your soul that what is being said is the truth and that all these years I have been making excuses for not taking certain parts of what Jesus said literally. I was sitting in the Civil Engineering lounge in Bell doing my homework and listening to the meat of the book and I started to cry. I have always lived in marginal houses and have always wanted to build my ultimate dream house, an earth sheltered ultra efficient super sustainable house that would have virtually no utility bills and would be the paragon of virtue in a green world. But I realized that if I were going to follow Jesus and give what he wants me to give, I don't think I'm ever gonna get my house. I'll never be able to fulfill many of the dreams I've had growing up the way I did. I already know I'm not going to be rich and I'm okay with that. But will I ever get to live in an efficient house? Will I ever ever get to own an electric car? Do I get to see my dreams come to fruition?

I want to be a Christian, I want to be a disciple of Jesus, but the question is, what will he ask of me? And when will I have to tell my wife about it? How much do I give? How much is enough? Can there be too much?

I want to do what is required of me, but I don't want to do the minimum. And my flesh tells me I certainly don't want to do the maximum. I don't want to go the Financial Peace way and simply save my way into financial security, that's not what Jesus calls us to do.

Francis goes through a near comprehensive list of what it is to be a lukewarm Christian. He says there won't be any lukewarm Christians in Heaven. I recently encountered a lukewarm Christian or two when they demanded that I prove my care for the poor by telling them everything I had done for the poor. And as he read through the list, I thought, I do more than all of those, I give more money, I give more time, I serve more, I'm less demanding, I'm less worldly, but in the end, what is enough? What on God's green earth am I supposed to do exactly? What do I do?

Much of the last half of the book I spent waiting for the punchline. I waited for Francis to tell me what it was that I was supposed to do to fulfill God's will. Was I supposed to sell my house? Am I supposed to give all my possessions to the poor? What do you want Francis, I'll do it!!! If you tell me to sell my house I'll do it. If you tell me to be a nominal Christian and give sparingly to missions, I'll do it, just tell me. Neither poverty nor riches, I'll do it. Do you want me to save up and retire early so I can be a volunteer at my church for the rest of my life? Do you want me to move into the city... never mind, I don't want to do that. But anything else Francis, I'll do it. How is my life supposed to be? I don't want to just do enough so I don't feel guilty anymore. I have enough guilt already.

However, in typical fashion in nearly all Christian books, Francis didn't tell me what to do. He did give me a few examples though, including Shane Claiborne and Rich Mullins (though I would like to remind everyone that Rich would probably still be with us if he'd been wearing his seat belt.) And they are great examples, even Shane is a real Christian Greenie like me, but he doesn't get to live in a super insulated house either. He lives in the city and plants trees in toxic waste sites and feeds poor people.

Lately I've been coming to the conclusion that I'm not supposed to be a goer, but a sender. I like that, it's comfortable, it's nice, it doesn't require me to step out on a limb or be adventurous or anything, and maybe I might get a foundation or a building or something named after me. WHAT THE HELL AM I SAYING?!? Actually, just skip the second sentence in this paragraph, it was entirely untrue and only said to make a point, I've never felt that way. But now, I'm wondering what I really am supposed to do. I'm left with the last thing God definitely told me to do and that was to become a Civil Engineer. He hasn't really told me anything since then, not that I haven't asked him to, but we haven't really been close lately in all honesty.

Am I supposed to live on my engineer's salary? Do I drive that electric car? Do I build that house? Do I do short term missions like my Hydraulics professor, you know the one I wanna be like when I grow up? The big question is, did God make me with the inborn desires that I have, the car, the house, the wind turbines, the third world water filters, or are these my way of trying to slip into the file cabinet of "just above mediocrity?" Should I really have been crying about not being able to have the house? And it's not just the house, do I really have to give up all that I want to do with my life? Should I sell my $110,000 house and buy a $55,000 house and give the rest to the poor? I already live in a house that's a square foot and a half bigger than exactly half the size of the average American house, how much further down do I need to go? Can I build a 600 square foot really efficient house to house my wife and future four to five children (two adopted?) Can I have an electric car or can I convert my 24 year old mini pickup to electric and use that? Or should I sell my cars and ride my bicycle the nine miles into town? Or should I sell my house and live in a 600 square foot apartment in town? Do I sell everything, give it to the poor, live in my truck and have my wife leave me? Am I supposed to keep blogging, can God use that?


Fantastic book, I give it 10/10. Read it, if it doesn't change your life, you should really think about shooting yourself because you're just wasting your time anyway. $5.95 on iTunes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Libertarianism in One Lesson by Mike Huben

Libertarianism in One Lesson by Mike Huben

One of the most attractive features of libertarianism is that it is basically a very simple ideology. Maybe even simpler than Marxism, since you don't have to learn foreign words like "proletariat".

This brief outline will give you most of the tools you need to hit the ground running as a freshly indoctrinated libertarian ideologue. Go forth and proselytize!


* In the beginning, man dwelt in a state of Nature, until the serpent Government tempted man into Initial Coercion.
* Government is the Great Satan. All Evil comes from Government, and all Good from the Market, according to the Ayatollah Rand.
* We must worship the Horatio Alger fantasy that the meritorious few will just happen to have the lucky breaks that make them rich. Libertarians happen to be the meritorious few by ideological correctness. The rest can go hang.
* Government cannot own things because only individuals can own things. Except for corporations, partnerships, joint ownership, marriage, and anything else we except but government.
* Parrot these arguments, and you too will be a singular, creative, reasoning individualist.
* Parents cannot choose a government for their children any more than they can choose language, residence, school, or religion.
* Taxation is theft because we have a right to squat in the US and benefit from defense, infrastructure, police, courts, etc. without obligation.
* Magic incantations can overturn society and bring about libertopia. Sovereign citizenry! The 16th Amendment is invalid! States rights!
* Objectivist/Neo-Tech Advantage #69i : The true measure of fully integrated honesty is whether the sucker has opened his wallet. Thus sayeth the Profit Wallace. Zonpower Rules Nerdspace!
* The great Zen riddle of libertarianism: minimal government is necessary and unnecessary. The answer is only to be found by individuals.


* Libertarians invented outrage over government waste, bureaucracy, injustice, etc. Nobody else thinks they are bad, knows they exist, or works to stop them.
* Enlightenment comes only through repetition of the sacred mantra "Government does not work" according to Guru Browne.
* Only government is force, no matter how many Indians were killed by settlers to acquire their property, no matter how many blacks were enslaved and sold by private companies, no matter how many heads of union members are broken by private police.
* Money that government touches spontaneously combusts, destroying the economy. Money retained by individuals grows the economy, even if literally burnt.
* Private education works, public education doesn't. The publicly educated masses that have grown the modern economies of the past 150 years are an illusion.
* Market failures, trusts, and oligopolies are lies spread by the evil economists serving the government as described in the "Protocols of the Elders of Statism".
* Central planning cannot work. Which is why all businesses internally are run like little markets, with no centralized leadership.
* Paternalism is the worst thing that can be inflicted upon people, as everyone knows that fathers are the most hated and reviled figures in the world.
* Government is like fire, a dangerous servant and a fearsome master. Therefore, we should avoid it entirely, as we do all forms of combustion.


* The FDA is solely responsible for any death or sickness where it might have prevented treatment by the latest unproven fad.
* Children, criminals, death cultists, and you all have the same inalienable right to own any weaponry: conventional, chemical, biological, or nuclear.
* All food, drugs, and medical treatments should be entirely unregulated: every industry should be able to kill 300,000 per year in the US like the tobacco industry.
* If you don't have a gun, you are not a libertarian. If you do have a gun, why don't you have even more powerful armament?
* Better to abolish all regulations, consider everything as property, and solve all controversy by civil lawsuit over damages. The US doesn't have enough lawyers, and people who can't afford to invest many thousands of dollars in lawsuits should shut up.

Libertarian Party

* The Libertarian Party is well on its way to dominating the political landscape, judging from its power base of 100+ elected dogcatchers and other important officials after 25 years of effort.
* The "Party of Oxymoron": "Individualists unite!"
* Flip answers are more powerful than the best reasoned arguments, which is why so many libertarians are in important government positions.
* It's time the new pro-freedom libertarian platform was implemented; child labor, orphanages, sweatshops, poorhouses, company towns, monopolies, trusts, cartels, blacklists, private goons, slumlords, etc.
* Libertarianism "rules" Internet political debate the same way US Communism "ruled" pamphleteering.
* No compromise from the "Party of Principle". Justice, happiness, liberty, guns, and other good stuff come only from rigidly adhering to inflexible dogmas.
* Minimal government is whatever we say it is, and we don't agree.
* Government is "moving steadily in a libertarian direction" with every change libertarians approve of; no matter if it takes one step forward and two steps backwards.
* Yes, the symbol of the Libertarian Party is a Big Government Statue. It's not supposed to be funny or ironic!

Political Debate Strategy

* Count only the benefits of libertarianism, count only the costs of government.
* Five of a factoid beats a full argument.
* All historical examples are tainted by statism, except when they favor libertarian claims.
* Spiritually baptize the deceased as libertarians because they cannot protest the anachronism: Locke, Smith, Paine, Jefferson, Spooner, etc.
* The most heavily armed libertarian has the biggest dick and thus the best argument.
* The best multi-party democratic republics should be equated to the worst dictatorships for the purposes of denouncing statism. It's only a matter of degree.
* Inviolate private property is the only true measure of freedom. Those without property have the freedom to try to acquire it. If they can't, let them find somebody else's property to complain on.
* Private ownership is the cure for all problems, despite the historical record of privately owned states such as Nazi Germany, Czarist and Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China.
* Require perfection as the only applicable standard to judge government: libertarianism, being imaginary, cannot be fairly judged to have flaws.
* Only libertarian economists' Nobel Prizes count: the other economists and Nobel Prize Committee are mistaken.
* Any exceptional case of private production proves that government ought not to be involved.

Yes, I know this is completely pejorative, but that's kind of the point. How can we properly criticize anything without a little bit of laughing at it? I know some libertarians, and I like most of them, but I'm not one. These were some funny reasons hidden in a bit of sarcasm, so don't get on my case too much, if you are a libertarian, attack the charge, not the messenger.


Monday, September 7, 2009

The Unfulfilled Life of a Blogger

Hello everyone, all five of you who read this blog regularly.

I don't know about you other bloggers, but this experience has left me a little bit frustrated. First of all, and not surprisingly, not that many people are interested in the same things I am. There are relatively few people out there who like composting toilets. There are some who like electric cars, but not many. There are plenty interested in politics, but few are both Christians and not conservatives.

To my dismay, the majority of hits on my blog are related to what is the most accurate Bible translation. Of course few people are looking for what is really the most accurate Bible translation, they just want to argue about it. The second most common subject is "The Shack" by Paul Young. This is not bad, I just wrote those posts years ago.

I have a confession to make. I got into a Facebook argument yesterday despite my previous abandonment of Facebook. It was mostly about the health care debate, but arguing with conservatives nearly always gets very messy. They don't play fair. They can be kind of mean. They make too many assumptions. One such assumption what that because I was for health care reform, that I was also pro abortion. So one guy went on this big fallacious post about how all I was doing was dancing across the skulls of dead babies. He reminded me very much of Sean Hannity who despite being disproven always keeps using the same arguments even when his facts are completely off. The same guy kept saying that I was part of the Emergent Church and a liberal which I am not. This serves to reinforce my belief in the exclusivity of the right. Either I'm one of them or I'm a bleeding heart liberal. Unfortunately I got in an argument with a person who could well be defined as a loudmouth. Arguments between loudmouths and knowitalls don't end well. I only hope she doesn't decide to pull a Sarah Palin and try to get me fired from my job (seriously.)

What I really want from this blogging experience is what I see on other blogs. There's a post, then comments with supporting and opposing views. There's some thoughtful discussion and some flaming too, but generally things go in some direction. But my position is just so unique. I'm a Christian, moderate, centrist, environmentalist, etc. etc. etc. But I get consistently labeled a liberal which bugs the crap out of me. I am always reminded that the right gets it wrong and the left doesn't get it. But people who get things wrong are much more virulent than the ones who don't get it. So it this point, it pretty much takes a super majority on any subject for liberals or progressives to get anything done. And though I'm not a liberal, years of republican filibustering and do nothing partisanship make me want to see the democrats get something done. They did win the election, they should get some results.

I just want people to be interested, is that too much to ask? They can like or hate it, but just somebody care! I'm kidding. No one said this would be easy. And yesterday was really hard. But oh well. I'll keep plugging on and no one caring. Maybe when I get to elected office my opponents can use this blog to claim I'm a flip flopper or a socialist or some other equally ludicrous nonsense.

Have fun.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Be a Christian First, American Second.

As Americans, we often take many things for granted and when making decisions and forming opinions, we often misplace our priorities. I was speaking with a good friend of mine the other day and we were discussing different forms of democratic government ranging from republics to socialist states. He opined how he had not spent much time thinking about a social democratic type of government but his basis for forming the opinion was formed largely on the foundation of how many freedoms he had to give up.

So I went to the Bible (figuratively, I was driving, kinda hard to read while you're driving.)

I said "The Bible doesn't promise us any freedoms (politically.)"

Holy Crap what?!? You mean my freedom to do such and such isn't guaranteed by Almighty God in his inspired word? No. In this physical temporal natural world, there is no such guarantee, and our freedoms are provided only by ourselves and our government system.

This American view that we are guaranteed all these "freedoms" is something that is doing a lot of damage to what could be a great thing in this country. The political discord sown by the right through the Christian Right to the gullible masses is hindering bringing health care to the poor, something the Bible explicitly endorses. Doing it the wrong way you say? Well sure, the "right" has had all the opportunity in the world to do it "right" and has instead opposed providing anything to anyone but the rich, and especially not the the most needy, both of which the Bible explicitly condemns.

I just recently heard a pastor (not in front of church) talk about tired he was of all the "spiritual" people he knew up in arms simply because Obama is president. He was talking about these people going so far as to set up "safe houses every 20 miles" I guess so if we get universal health care they can hide from it or something.

Be followers of Jesus people. Hate your country, hate your freedom, hate your political party, hate your ideology all for the aim of following Jesus. A lot of people hate conservatives, a lot of people hate democrats, but when it comes right down to it, it's really hard to hate Jesus. Our english Bibles sometimes gloss over the fact that the word for "servant" in the New Testament is perhaps better translated as "slave" or "bond servant" which means nearly the same thing. Freedom is not our goal, freedom is not our salvation, freedom is not our reward, Jesus is. To be his "servant" is to be his "slave" and slaves have no freedom. So when Jesus gives you a government, make the best of it. Revolution is not a Christian ideal, it's Marxist, and Marx was not a Christian.

So no matter how many freedoms you think you may have to give up (not likely many or any) when we become a more (believe it or not, we already are quite a bit) socialized nation, just remember, it doesn't matter. Like my dad always said "it doesn't amount to a hill of beans." Because there are Christians in every country in the world, in communism, fascism, socialism, totalitarianism, monarchies, constitutional monarchies, Islamofascism, theocracy, democracy, republics, emirates, territories, dictatorships, and anarchies. And the last thing that really matters in the world is what Americans think because we've lost all the respect in the world we had earned, and no one gives a burning sh!t about what we think. But as Christians, some fantastic things can and will be done.

Because Jesus never bombed brown people.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Scooters and Flat Tires

It's hard to be on campus for any significant period of time without seeing a scooter with a flat rear tire. I don't mean broke down flat, I mean riding around with a really low tire.

I don't understand why people don't take care of the obvious. Though scooters get great gas mileage, I can only imagine how much of it they are losing by running around with flat tires. Additionally, the abnormal wear level is quite apparent and tires are not cheap.

This is just another example of something people need to pay attention to. We all must do our part to make the world a better place, and we start by simply doing things right.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Walking in the Valley

I was recently looking around the internet of some video of defamed christian comedian Mike Warnke because though he is a complete out and out fraud and liar, at least he was funny. I came across a video of him where he had just recently appeared on Jim Bakker's latest TV show broadcast from Branson. They were making small talk and then they said something that caught my attention.

They talked about how all their friends had left them when they "walked in the valley" and only Jesus stuck around to help them through.

They are both full of shit and here's why:

As you remember, Jim Bakker was in charge of a huge media broadcast and televangelistic empire. He also owned a big christian themed theme park. All this until he screwed a 21 year old church secretary. That and the tax evasion and the truth about how much money he and his wife were taking home from the ministry ended his tenure at PTL and landed him in prison.

Mike Warnke may or may not have a more dubious history, it's hard to tell. Claiming a conversion from satanism, Mike started a ministry based around his comedic tellings of personal anecdotes and some Bible stories. Mostly he could be described as a huge liar who is responsible for most of the fear of demons and satanism known in American Christianity today. The problem was, he was not collecting money for a rehab facility for victims of the church of Satan, no such facility existed. Although there wasn't a high profile sex scandal accredited to Mr. Warnke, he did marry five different women, not because of the biblical ground of infidelity, he was the adulterer. His end came from a Christian magazine's expose detailing how his claimed personal history was false, his stories untrue, and his money came directly from the pockets of his followers.

When I think of walking in a valley, I think of dark times in my life when I felt far from Jesus. I remember times of depression and listlessness. What I do not consider walking through a valley is lying, cheating, and stealing my way into prison and disrepute. That's called being a filthy bastard. And while Jesus loves filthy bastards too, he intends that they should admit their failings, ask for repentance, and change their life. I'm not so sure that Mike Warnke has done that. And Jim Bakker will always have done what Jim Bakker did.

Yes, when you do bad things, really bad things, and drag all sorts of people into it, your friends will leave you. But don't act all persecuted. The Bible talks about people forsaking you because of Christ, not because you're a bastard. If you are a bastard, your ass deserves to be left all alone in the cold. We can forgive you, yes, but forgiveness is not forgetfulness. Just because I forgive you does not mean I should let you back in my house. Just because you have paid your "debt to society" does not mean that you have paid your debt to all those you wronged and hurt and took advantage of.

So walk in your valley, and may Jesus be with you, but don't complain when all the people you were a bastard to won't talk to you anymore.

Do they really hate the poor?

I was talking to one of my setup guys Sunday morning about the pending health care bill and he was spouting off the typical disinformation that has been floating around lately. I was trying to explain to him how he was mistaken (with a growing amount of frustration as you might imagine) and I tried to use a metaphor as I often do. I know he has about a dozen brothers and sisters and so I hypothesized that he must know how difficult it is to obtain health insurance for that many people.

What happened next positively astounded me.

He though I was accusing him of being poor.

He really did, and not only that, but he took offense and completely refused to carry the conversation along any further. Now I'm a bit more educated on this guy than most because his family history is a matter of public record. I read his mother's book. I know for a fact that his family home was foreclosed upon several times while he was growing up. I also know he was fairly young at the time, so he may not remember, but all this is beside the point. Not only is being poor not something to be ashamed of, but as a Christian, care of the poor should be high on his priority list as one of the faithful.

As someone who did grow up legitimately poor, I am seriously concerned about the implications of this conversation. And I hope and pray (yes really pray) that it is not the case that conservatives hate poor people. And I hope and pray that this is not a growing trend among churchgoers. However, the disdain I see for the impoverished in our country gives me pain. And I hear it almost exclusively from the right.

The same thing happens in all sorts of situations. It's about dehumanizing the opponent so you can feel better about destroying them. From whom do you hear all sorts of arguments against the poor? You hear that they are poor because they are lazy (Limbaugh.) You hear about welfare moms driving Cadillacs (Reagan.) You hear about drugs and alcohol. While all of these things may exist, in reality the vast majority of the poor are working poor. They are people who have jobs and live in crappy apartments or homes, drive well used (crappy) cars, and still don't make much money. But if you can convince people that your enemy is a horrid filthy creature, than you can convince them that the horrid filthy creature will always be a horrid filthy creature, and even if you gave it a bath and a meal, it would still be a horrid filthy creature. Hitler did it with the Jews, so we know it works. The truth is, most people considered "poor" don't get welfare because they simply don't qualify. They are honest hardworking, poor.

It is completely disgusting to me to listen to people who were never poor talk about poor people. You people simply have no idea what you're talking about. I grew up poor and I know for real what it's like to take the abuse from people who have more money, are better dressed, and think they are generally better than you. I know what it's like to eat shitty government peanut butter. I know what it's like being cold, and being unable to turn up the heat. I know what it's like having to sleep in the same bed with your two brothers and piling all the dirty clothes on the top of the blankets because it's going to be really cold tonight. I know what it's like for the water heater to go out and not get another one until someone buys one for you. I lived in a house without carpet. I lived in a house without a phone. I lived in a house with an outhouse out back because there's no septic tank. When I was a child, just about the only time I saw a doctor was when I had severed body parts. Don't talk to me about poor people, because you have no idea what you are talking about. You talk but you are like a clanging bell. You are a neighbor's constantly barking dog.

And for the guy who got offended at the idea that he might be poor? You just swiftly exited the list of people I respect.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The L Curve

Throughout the nineties, incomes of most people grouped by education achievement went up. After the Bush Tax Cuts, everyone's median income began to go down (except perhaps those with Associate's Degrees.) This shows the continuing race to the bottom and the shipping of jobs overseas. During this time, the number of millionaires didn't increase much, but the amount of wealth accumulated by those millionaires increased dramatically.

While Americans are continually told that our country is the most wealthy, it is in fact not per capita. The truth is, each citizen of Switzerland on average makes more than what each American does by the equivalent of about $10,000.

But what is even more surprising is not the top 10% or even the top 1%, it's the top 0.000267%.
View this.
This is known as an L curve. You've heard of linear curves, parabolic curves, and exponential curves, but this is even better. Think of an L lain on its side. The side of the L sticking up is the income of the ultra rich. Yes, I know, L's aren't curved, but just stick with me. The best example of this is a demonstration of incomes as dollar bills stacked on a football field created by David Chandler.

"Chandler visualized the yearly income of each American as a stack of one hundred dollar bills (10 cm. = $100,000) and then arranged the stacks, slimmest to fattest, in a line that spanned the length of a football field. On his imaginary field, the stack of bills at the 50-yard line is 1.6 inches high ($39,000). At the 95-yard line, the pile reaches 4 inches ($132,000). It is not until the 99th yard line that the first millionaire appears (40 inches high). Then, just before the goal line, a line spikes up vertically to a height of thirty miles – over 4 times the elevation of Mt. Everest. This line represents the top 0.3% of Americans with incomes up to $50 billion dollars."

Please check out for a sweet graphical depiction of this.

I know most of you didn't grow up poor (but some did and you'll understand this better.) When you're rich, they give you money just for having money (this is called interest.) When you're poor, they take money from you that you don't even have just because you don't have it (this is known as insufficient funds.) And somehow the rich (read Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Bush, Cheney, Reagan, and every other politician you know) have convinced the more gullible of you that tax cuts for the rich actually bring in more money and stimulate the economy. And that raising taxes on the rich kills the economy and redistributes wealth. In fact, when the lower classes are more free from an oppressive burden of taxes, and not tied like indentured servants to their employers, they innovate and move up into the middle class where the real purchasing power is. And yes, it does redistribute wealth because instead of rewarding the rich for being rich by lowering their taxes, it removes the punishment for being poor by removing their oppressive tax burden. It gives the poor the freedom to move up on the social ladder because they can look up and see that the rungs aren't missing.

One last thing, Americans obviously don't know the first thing about progressive taxes. Let me explain it as simply as I can. If the tax rate on $40,000 to $49,999 is 10% (for example) and the tax rate on $50,000 is 20%, then if you make more than $50k here is how it works. If you make $49,999, you pay 10%. If you make 50k, then you pay 10% on $49,999 and 20% on $1. The rate doesn't go up the whole way if you make a dollar more. Thus people misunderstand Obama's tax plan. If you make less than $250k taxes don't go up, but if you make more than $250k, taxes only go up on what is above $250k. That $250k stays the same. Let me put it this way, if you make $20k, and you pay 5% taxes on that, you're paying $1000 which hurts real bad. But if you make $1,000,000 and you pay 40% taxes, then you still have $600k and you are not hurting at all. I'd much rather earn one million and pay 90% taxes than earn $20k and pay no taxes at all. This is the reality of the income disparity.

This is the reality that you need to think about when you choose a tax policy politician like I did when I voted for President.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Way Electric Vehicles Should and Will Be Done!

The biggest, and perhaps only problem beside cost with electric vehicles at the present time is range. Though 90 percent of all commutes are less than a hundred miles, or a run of the mill electric vehicle's range, sometimes you just want to go on a road trip, or to visit the in laws or something like that.

Enter the hybridizing trailer.
What this trailer does is add a small engine with a generator to the electric vehicle to make it in essence a series hybrid. The greatest part about it is that when it is not needed, it can be removed and stored. The Chevy Volt on the other hand includes the engine inside the envelope of the car which adds several hundred pounds of weight that needs to be dragged around when it is not in use. It would be better to use a trailer and to use that weight for more batteries to raise the car's electric only range to something a little more impressive than 40 miles. On the other hand, the Volt is very convenient in the fact that it is a stand-alone turn key machine.

Here, you can see a number of important parts. To the left toward the rear is the engine. From what I can gather at and other sources the engine is a 500cc Kawasaki Ninja engine which is very convenient because it is water cooled and produces good power in a small package. Toward the right rear is the radiator with electric fan. This is most likely powered by the engine's native 12 volt alternator which charges a battery to power its own starter and electronics. On the right side is the electrical box and controller, and in the front is the 9 gallon fuel tank. A very handy feature of this little trailer is its electronically controlled steering feature which steers the trailer for you when backing up since it is so small, you can't really see it in the mirrors.

This trailer has an output of around 20 kW DC which is enough to power the car at highway speeds as long as the trailer has gas. Because the engine runs at peak efficiency and constant load, it gets about the same gas mileage as the Toyota Rav4 gas version would. Look up the Tzero, it used the same kind of trailer, but was much more sporty.

If I were working on a project like this (and I certainly hope to some day,) I would do a few small things different for the sake of utility. Firstly, I would use a small diesel or turbo diesel engine specifically designed for generator duty to maximize efficiency and fuel economy and to be able to use biodiesel, the easiest and most sustainable biofuel to make. Secondly, I would make the fuel tank a bit larger, though how large, I do not know. On one hand, it would be great to have like a 20 gallon tank because I do make cross country trips from time to time, but there might be the possibility of the fuel going stale because not all of it gets cycled through between trips. Third, I'd build the trailer with some cargo space, or make the generator a unit that can be switched between trailers so as to be able to use the cargo space of a larger trailer. It would also be nice to be able to use the same generator as a back up generator for a home renewable energy system by simply plugging it in to your battery bank and hooking into the battery charge controller. I guess that would actually be a benefit for the large fuel tank as well.

These types of systems are how I see liquid fuel being used in the future. For most people, the trailer is only used for long trips, and it could be shared between families like sometimes I've seen done with a boat. You might go to your friend's house and say "Hey, I'm goin' to visit the family next month, can I borrow the Long Ranger?" "Sure bro, just bring it back with a full tank!" Or perhaps you could rent one from Uhaul.

Steps to electric cardom.

Would it have been worse?

The gospels make a number of references to punishment for sin being so bad that it would be better if the person were never born.

So I got to thinking, what if that concept applied to the abortion issue? What if, for those aborted babies, it were better that they were never born? What if abortion were the prophetic fulfillment of those verses?

Now I know a bunch of you are going "oh my gawd, what did you just say?" But just stick with me for a second. Don't get your panties all in a bunch yet.

Just set aside your preconceived notions and just for a second, act like what I said is a valid argument. Just for a second. What if for those aborted babies, it is literally better that they were never born? What if they were all destined for hell anyway? What if it were better that they never came into the world and now they are little babies in heaven?

I've never been particularly keen on the idea that unborn babies go to heaven, but I'm not against the idea. I'm not against it, but I'm not for it. But think, many, most, or maybe all the babies lost to abortion would have been raised by non-christian families, or single parents, and would never have become Christians and would have been destined for eternal punishment anyway. What if it were God's will that they be aborted so that he would not have to see that happen to them?

Now, please understand, I am completely against abortion, I've made that fact abundantly clear, but I do want to ask the hard questions. So answer the question, leave a comment. Let's discuss this, talk me down, tell me what you think.

What if it really is better that they were never born?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nissan LEAF

This is the Nissan LEAF.

This is part of the future of cars.  It is a Battery Electric Vehicle, or BEV.  It will give you about 107 horsepower or 80 kW.  With a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 87 mph, this car will satisfy about 90 percent of all trips made in the United States.  It has multiple charging options including the quick charger (currently every expensive) that can substantially charge the battery in 30 minutes.  

As I've mentioned before, the limitation in quick charging BEV's is not the car itself, but rather the incapability of the plug to keep up.  I did the math on one electric car, I don't remember which one, but it had a quick charge time of around 10 minutes.  That means for those ten minutes, it had to be pulling somewhere in the range of 250,000 watts.  As a comparison, my on-demand water heater pulls 28,000 watts at the most.

If you know anything about electric cars, you know that their most important benefit lies in their operation costs.  As far as fuel goes, you should spend less than one fifth on fueling an electric car compared to a gas car of similar size.  There's also no need for oil, fan belts, transmission fluid, air, fuel, oil, or transmission fluid filters, emissions systems, exhaust pipes, mufflers, or power steering fluid.

A few options I'm looking for in an electric car, the ability to accommodate a generator trailer for longer trips, and a minivan.  That said, I'm not in the market for a car, and hopefully, there will be a suitable electric or two mode hybrid minivan when our Corolla wears out.  By then, we plan on owning a few more children and a minivan will be necessary.  

Electric is the only future we can really count on.  Electricity has a multiplicity of sources including home generation.  The technology is here, the feasibility is here, it's just about getting the products here.  Myself, I'd be happy to buy the parts and build one of my own.  Fortunately, prices are coming down and with the Obama government being at least somewhat in support of EV's, there is light at the end of the tunnel.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Find some common ground in the abortion debate.

I was out mowing the lawn today and as usual, I was thinking of ways to solve problems in the world, because that's what I do.

So here's what I came up with.

The abortion debate as you know is a heated one, and I feel that most of the discord comes from both sides' unwillingness to actually do anything about the problem. Secondly, both sides are entirely unwilling to come together to solve the problem and are unwilling to make any sort of concession or give up any power.

First the democrats. The democrats need to stop fighting so much for choice and start fighting for social change. We need the kind of social change that tells a young woman that there are better options than killing the baby. The democrat mission statement or whatever it is says safe, legal, and rare. We have save and legal, let's actually work on rare now.

To get anywhere, the conservatives must give up control. What I mean by control is that conservatives seem to want to go about the problem by controlling everything, especially things they got no business controlling. They must give up the gay marriage debate. That single issue is the one that tells the rest of the world that conservatives (and by extension Christians) want to control you and what you do in your own private life. There is no scriptural basis for such a supposition. Sinners will sin, and Christians must allow sinners to do what sinners do. It is not nor has ever been our job to with the law correct others' sinful behavior. Remember, the major corrections meted out by Jesus were all directed toward the religious leaders of the day.

Unfortunately, the conservatives are not going to win this battle. You cannot legislate your version of morality. You cannot call someone immoral simply because they disagree with your version of morality. In case you have missed it, over time, governments and laws just about always trend in the liberal direction. It's the new, the progress, the adventure in people. We find new and better ways to do things, and so we do them in those ways. The old, the tried and true things will slowly pass away. The key is to work within the progress to affect positive change.

Do what's best, work together.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why so many Anti-Depressants?

Use of anti depressants has nearly doubled in recent years. Why? Well, availability, but there are other factors also.

I blame most of it on media and political scare tactics. If you watch the news in California, you'd think that the apocalypse was happening every evening at 5 and 11. Conservatives especially sell their brand using as much fear as possible, 9/11, terrorists, immigrants, gays. Be afraid!!!

A buddy of mine just sent me a link to a YouTube posting of "The Obama Deception." He said that he was up late at night worrying about what it contained. If I were apt to believe that sort of thing, I might be up late too, but this is only one conspiracy theory about a single group, the Bilderberg Group. The dude who made the film completely forgot about the other major conspiracy theory controlling the world group, "The Family." Don't forget them, they're supposedly in control of everything too. But wait, aren't the Jews in control of everything? No, no, it's Skull and Bones who runs the whole show. Um, I think.... The Illuminati?

Forget it people, there's nothing you can do to change any of this. Why worry about it? Will worrying change anything? Let's ask Jesus. That's a no.

The bible overtly states that God places our leaders in power, and that we are supposed to follow them. Does that mean we blindly do what ever the government asks of us like the Bush administration postured? Also no. We live in a democratic society that allows for freedom of dissent and for elections of politicians. So use your legally provided right to vote and protest and do so.

Like I wrote about before in the trans american highway post or whatever it was called, or the North American Union or whatever, none of this ultimately matters. The world is full of wicked people and wicked governments and they will do what they will do. It is our duty as Christians to live here and to go about the King's business. Remember, Socialism hasn't killed Christianity, neither has Communism, Capitalism (though it tries more covertly,) "The Family", Bilderberg, or Focus on the Family. If any of these nefarious organizations really is in control, you can bet the first thing they won't allow on our soil is war. When I look at the Socialism of Europe, I see better health care, better overall health, less poverty, and less death (everyone complains about government control and not being able to chose your doctor and everything else, but I've seen a different side, I grew up with nothing, American health insurance can't hold a candle to socialized medicine when you have nothing.) Atheistic Communism is a problem, but not one I see happening here. Anyway, I don't know where I was going with this.

The point is, all this is temporal. To the fear mongers, it has always been the end of the world, gays, the economy, communism, isolationism, abortion, global warming, taxes, who gives a shit. It's always been the end of the world, and as long as you keep listening to these people, it always will be and you'll always be scared. And you'll always be sucking down Zanax and Prozac. But you know what? I won't. Because I'm not scared. Forget peddling fear and conspiracy theories to me, because I'm not buying it. I'm not afraid. I can be just as useful for Jesus in a booming economy as I can in a recession. Capitalism or Communism don't make a difference. Hell or high water, you know where I'm going with this.

Just read the Bible people, why do I have to keep writing about the simple stuff printed right there on the page, "Don't worry about tomorrow for tomorrow has enough problems of its own."

Jesus lived in a society with a supreme powered far away Caesar, it didn't bother him.

Monday, August 3, 2009

100,000 Miles in a Toyota Corolla

It's been four years and we've passed that milestone.

So what's it been like? We could only have asked for a better car if we were richer. But a Corolla perfectly fits our family, and there could not be a more cost effective and reliable fit to our needs. It is literally the best car to have in our situation.

A long time ago, I did a simple cost comparison between a Corolla and a Prius and the Corolla came out on top, but that was with a gas price of $4. Of course, when prices go up, the Prius will be a better and better option, and newer ones get even better mileage. When the Prius gets plug-in capability, it will jump way ahead. There is also the option of the Matrix. The Matrix shares the platform of the Corolla, but because of reduced aerodynamic efficiency of a hatchback, it gets two less miles per gallon. To my eyes, those are the only real options beside going smaller as far as cars go. Someone at church just got the four door Yaris, and it looks really good too. Though it probably has a little less towing capability and less storage.

Someone did sideswipe my wife only five weeks after we got the car, so that got fixed. I hit something on the freeway that broke off the passenger side mirror. I bumped into a few curbs, an engine, and bumped the front end on the ground on a bad driveway. That last part actually created the most annoyance, the front end doesn't seem particularly strong, that's my only complaint, but you'd never know it if you didn't run into something. We had someone back into the driver's side front fender too. My bass amplifier rolled across the back seat and broke out the window.

Maintenance wise, the car has been a dream. I have used Amsoil in it since 500 miles, and so I've only changed the oil about six times. It still runs perfectly and the oil doesn't get black even after over 20,000 miles. I recently did some non routine maintenance, I added some freon to the AC which returned its functioning back to refrigerator quality like when we first got it. I also changed the cabin air filter which was way easier than I thought it would be. It was full of lint and leaves and dust. I think we are on our third set of tires, no complaints there. I think we need a new oxygen sensor though, it seems like it should get better gas mileage sometimes. But that's to be expected that this age. We've had to replace no lights, the brake fluid is still nice and clear, and I think we are still on our original radiator juice.

One complaint I have is I wish there were more control over the heat/AC system. I wish you had complete control over whether or not to use AC on defrost, or whether or not to bring in outside air. I wish those things weren't automatic like they are. I also wish the headlights were more easily adjustable. I was able to burn the original transmission fluid by pulling a heavy trailer over the great divide, but I changed it with synthetic, and everything seems to work just fine.

To save energy, I disabled the automatic feature of the headlights, that eliminated the running lights which I feel just wasted energy. So now we have to turn on the headlights manually, but it's the same way for every other car I've ever had, so I don't even notice. I added a hitch and wiring specially made for the application in the back, and that works great too.

A good car, I expect to do two more of these updates. Look for them every four years.

Where I Want to Go When I Die.

No, this isn't about heaven, it's about what I want to be done with my body when I die. Consider some of the ideas I have and think about what would be best for your remains when they become remains. I liked when Twain used "remainders" in Huck Finn.

So, one of the commonest ways people's corpse's pass in the the great beyond (or beneath) we all know if we've been to a funeral. The person dies, is confirmed dead by some sort of medical professional, is put on ice to allow time for arrangements to be made, is embalmed, placed in a nicely upholstered metal box, which is sometimes sealed, and then buried approximately six feet beneath the surface of the earth in some nicely mowed cemetery with a granite headstone, maybe foot stone that's carved or something. Or often times people are cremated, which is for the uninitiated, burned. For a good demonstration, burn a hamburger until it's ash. Just like that.

As a green person and a Christian (Christian first though,) I have a few problems with the status quo as well you know. My first problem is with all the pomp and circumstance of all the funeral and the big to do with grave markers and all that. What's the point of a grave marker or a tomb stone. It's to tell who is buried here, but why is that important? Do you think that people deserve to know where you were buried and what your name was and that you lived from when to when? Why? Who cares where you were buried? If you were important enough to be remembered beyond your family members, then you should probably be mentioned in a history book somewhere in which case, no one is still gonna care where you were buried. Headstones are pointless except to the overly sentimental. If you've been to a grave yard of any age, you'd know that. After a century or two, they're just rocks again. And for the funeral, buy some good booze, get some good food, and have a party. Remember me, then get on with your life.

The next problem is the embalming. Formaldehyde is a really nasty carcinogen and with our dead, we bury a whole bunch of it every year. That stuff can then get into water supplies. But what is embalming even for anyway? It keeps people pretty looking for a few days (or decades if done right) so we can look at them at their funeral. I'll tell you right now, I don't want a bunch of blubbering distraught family members gawking at my dead ass, so let's just skip that part.

And then we put the dead people in a steel coffin that is sometimes hermetically sealed. If the conditions are right, you know what happens then? The coffin explodes, throwing pieces of grandpa all over the grave yard. Ok, that's probably an exaggeration, but a sealed casket can pose some problems when the body begins to decompose. Really, what's the point? I'm dead. Dead things are meant to decompose and become part of the earth again. What's all this crap about "protecting grandma?" She's dead, she doesn't need protection. What a waste of money. What a waste of resources. What heights of self centeredness. Save the steel and build an electric car in my memory, if I were alive, I'd appreciate that a whole lot more.

So you spend $9000 on grandma so she doesn't rot, and a metal casket that will keep her from rotting, then what do you do but bury it in the ground where things have quite a tendency to rot? If you really want to keep grandma around, have her thoroughly embalmed like Rosalia Lombardo and put her in a glass case in your hallway. Let her scare the kids from time to time.

On the other hand, there's cremation. It offers some benefits in that the volume of grandma's remainders is greatly lessened, and thus her container. You can move her around, put her on the mantle, or drop her out of a boat or plane out to sea. However, to roast grandma to cinders, you'll have to expend enough fuel to drive a car 4,300 miles not to mention all that air pollution (most importantly mercury from her teeth) that you'll expel into the atmosphere.

What's the best option?

Let me explain the best option, and let me offer this as my last will and testament as it pertains to my burial. (I do have a will, and no you don't get anything.) There are two options, one likely being far more socially and legally acceptable. The first option would be to be composted like you all knew I was going to say. Composting dead bodies is quite simple, you split the abdominal cavity open and pack the corpse in rotted sawdust and allow it to decompose for a few months. This would have several benefits where it pertains to people's need for souvenirs. You could keep grandpa's skull (complete with his overbite) on a shelf instead of an urn. Other bones could be made into walking sticks or chandeliers with wondrous accompanying stories. And you could spread the resulting compost on your land to feed the next generation of raspberries, apples, or just grass. The second option would be a simple ecologically friendly (and most importantly cheap) burial, wrapped in nothing but hemp cloth or a simple soft wood box and then buried in the ground at a suitable depth. A suitably long lived tree could be planted as a memorial and it could feed on my nutrients for the next hundred years. It would probably be a good idea to have mercury amalgam teeth removed also so they don't pollute the groundwater. In both cases, I would eschew any sort of embalming or preservation other than freezing.

I know some of this may seem a little foreign to you, but think of how many of the humans that have lived on this planet are buried, rotted and forgotten in unmarked graves. Heck, Mozart was so poor that they just dumped him in a big hole with a bunch of other destitutes. The thing is, the Bible says that the dead are forgotten, and the memory of them passes away. And the most important thing is that I'll be dead, and I won't care. Not long after that, you'll be dead too and you'll have no need to remember me at all.

We're not that important in the world. It seems to me that all the practices and rituals we shroud death with in modern American culture are ways of trying to draw attention to ourselves, even if we're not the ones dying. It is proper and effective to deal with grief, to grieve and move on. If you're dead, you're dead, no amount of crying will change that. I understand that you'll miss me, and if you die first, I'll miss you. But I want for you to remember me by what I've done, and who I was, not just because I existed. If I was a good father, then mourn the loss of a good father, but if I was a bad one, then piss on my grave, go home and get on with your life in the comfort that I won't be a burden anymore. If I die first, I don't need a sepulcher for my widow to cry at endlessly when she needs to be finding another husband to take care of her. You know I'm utilitarian, I'll be dead, and I won't need any of this.

I'm not dead yet, but when I do die, remember me for the honest bastard I was, and don't sugar coat my memory. That would be a disservice to the honesty I strove to preserve in life.