Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vanquish Ignorance! ( part 1 )

 My intellect was soundly perturbed by this most absurd of all paintings.  ( Go ahead take a look!)

 It was particularly offensive to my brain because I am professional artist, and I am an enthusiast of American history.  Thusly I attempt to base my world view on fact, rather than the mindless passionate ravings of infotainment prophets like Glenn Beck. This painting seems to indulge in a fictive history and biased politic.  Thomas Jefferson gave us the key for vanquishing false perceptions for freedom's sake. 

Educate the whole mass of people...they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. 

 Books like Cleon Skousen's Five Thousand Year Leap which linger in a factual famine, clinging to a biased world view, do little to objectively educate the whole mass of people. For the record, I'm a Jeffersonian Libertarian, but these clowns draw close to those ideas with their lips, but their hearts and facts are far from it.

So, allow me to assist in your enlightenment dear reader.  

The painting depicts scores of historic luminaries basking in the light of Jesus. Furthermore his extremely religious right/neo-con bias is so palpable you can almost feel the atheist professor shoving Darwin down your throat. (because there are no religious people who also believe in evolution!) Like the rantings of a Fox news host, this depiction is based in dubious opinion and fallacious claims.  In case the visual message wasn't overt enough, he provides an illuminating  artist statement (under the painting) to explain his design.

In essence it says that The separation of church and state is bad and that the founding fathers were "passionately religious and saw the hand of God all around them." To prove his point he provides quotes from some of our most esteemed early leaders about God, thus "proving" his point.

Any slightly comprehensive investigation reveals that the men and women in this painting present a patchwork of faith and non-belief, both in and out of the Christian tradition.  They were also most assuredly committed to a separation of church and state.  Furthermore, any attempt to intertwine religion with state would be a catastrophe for civil and religous freedom.  The Founding Fathers were all too aware of this as they had just freed themselves from such European tyrannies.  

The artist of this work presents the most facile investigation of history, utilized to purport ones own bias as supreme. Let us investigate each quote and the man behind it to see if they really were "passionately religious" and proponents of a Christan republic relying on religion as it's necessary counter part.  

We'll begin with my hero Thomas Jefferson.

God who gave us life gave us liberty. And Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God.

Jefferson did indeed believe in god, however his god was much different form that worshipped by Christians of his time and today.  Like many of his intellect and status, he was a deist. Thus, he believed in a supreme being who created the earth, and like a clock maker tightened the springs and let the whole earth take motion and operate. He confessed, To Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, his appeal to Unitarianism, which has no dogma or specific belief system. 

That was the extent of his religious convictions, he did not favor Christianity, nor did he believe that Christ was the Son of God, but a great moral teacher. In a letter to John Adams he commented.

The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.

Furthermore, he edited the New Testament and removed all metaphysical references, like the Resurrection, miracles, and the virgin birth.  It was privately written, but can be purchased today under the title "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth".

Dose he strike you as a "passionately religious" man.  

How about the separation of church and state?

Jefferson was the greatest champion of a separation of church and state. He has engraved on his grave stone,Author of the Virgina Statue of Religious freedom.  This prevented a domination by any religious institution over the people of the state.  Furthermore he was the author of the phrase separation of church and state in an letter to the Danbury baptists in 1802.  Furthermore his ideas of liberty and freedom derived from Anglo Saxon common law, not Roman or Christian ideas of a republic. He authored the following.

... the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or knew that such a character existed.

Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.

Furthermore he expressed his disdain of religion intertwining itself in government. He related in letter to Jeremiah Moor the following.

The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.

To Alexander von Humboldt he related the following,

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.

There is a mountain of  primary source documents that attest to Jefferson distrust of organized religion, his desire for a separation of church and state and his rejection of Christianity.  So even if there was a vast liberal conspiracy to paint Jefferson as a freethinking secularist, the documents speak for themselves.  Seek for thyself.  

Yet, Jefferson was supposedly inspired by Christ himself to write the Declaration of Independence. Facts say otherwise.  The other founders fall into faiths similar to Jefferson's.  

Stay tuned for more founding fathers in part II


Monday, February 16, 2009

Chavez no se va

Congratulations to the power hungry and likely dictator for life Hugo Chavez for destroying one of the last modicums of democracy left in Venezuela. So I suppose that persistence pays off, if you don't get your way, then try try again. What's sad is that he parades a banner of leadership for the people while his megalomania is so transparent. He's done enough intimidation, censoring, and political bullying to make Mao feel jealous. Good job Hugo; Adolf ,Joseph and the boys are so proud.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Age of Reason

First, let me congratulate our new President, Barak Obama. Although, I don't agree with his economic ideas, it appears that he will renew some of our civil liberties and revive some of our national image in the world. I am optimistic, even if he turns out to be a miserable president he would still be leagues better than the last individual to occupy the oval office.

That being said, it appears that "Baraknaphobia", as aptly coined by Jon Stewart, seems to be deeply entrenched and running rampant in certain branches of pseudo-journalism. I'll let you guess which cable info-tainmet channel is guilty of such crimes. What's particularly gnawing about their juvenile attempts to cast the President in a quasi-demonic light is not their palpable desperation, or unfounded illogical bouts of ad hominems, but their lingering delusion that George W. Bush was a conservative. I just read a column by Jack Hunter in the Charleston City Paper . It nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes, I didn't think there was any true conservative left in journalism. He actually used rational and logical reasoning to elaborate a very lucid argument. To briefly summarize his point, he says Bush was very successful at expanding the size and power of the Federal government, attacked intellectualism and destroyed our national image and security abroad. This is to say nothing of his disregard for the constitution and civil liberties. In short he sullied the title "conservative" and perhaps paved the way for the ultimate demise of the GOP. It's my opinion that if Republicans continue to use such tactics they will find their way sitting next to the Whig party in the attic of history.

Ultimately my point is that I'm not the only one crying in the wilderness for a modicum of sanity. Its nice to know that Mr. Hunter is their too, along with all those delightful chaps at the Cato institute and the Campaign for Liberty. What's sad is that the greater portion of those who defend the former president take the drivel that falls from the lips of so called conservative pundits at face value. They live in an alternate reality devoid of reason and facts, called cable-news networks. A magical land where red faced talking heads yell at each other in order to create fantastic theater to amuse and entertain the viewing public. Here, defending their party lines simply means increasing their bottom line. Every fiery piece of rhetoric they spew, no matter how supercilious, increases their chances of landing on them the New York Times best seller list. It's not Journalism it's a farce. Although, I do have to give them points for being true capitalists. Jefferson said "Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." People will not be educated with a steady diet of MSNBC or Foxnews.

"I'd turn off my TV if i were you" -attributed to Tom Jefferson

This is why Mr. Hunter's article was so welcome. I admire simple logic. I also enjoy forums in which people can simply debate issues like civilized individuals, showing respect and deference to those of differing opinions. Here's another idea, why don't we go into a discussion with the thought that we might be wrong? We might learn more that way. This is another item that I hope President Obama will bring, a return to a forum of debate based upon mutual respect and an exchange of ideas. Who knows what that might bring?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Case for Mary Jane

Today people in the state of Michigan will find the ballot measure Proposition 1 when they step into the voting booth. This concerns the legalization of medical marijuana. I don’t live in Michigan and will not suggest how they should vote, but I support this measure based on simple facts. It would benefit our nation, not just the state of Michigan.

For those of you conjuring an image of me as a longhaired Berkley-ite hippy traipsing about with flowers in my hair singing folk songs, I applaud your originality, but truth is stranger than fiction. I have short hair, I live in Texas and for the record, I have never nor do I ever plan on using marijuana. I also abstain from alcohol tobacco, and any other harmful and addictive substance. That is a personal choice based on my health and moral values. I also, in no way endorse their use. So on what paradoxical conundrum do I support proposition 1? None of the arguments against this particular weed stand scrutiny.

The first fallacy is that Marijuana as a harmful drug. It is true that smoking pot is far from intelligent, but looking at statistics it is far less of a danger than many legal substances sanctioned and subsidized by our Federal government. According to the CDC there are approximately 440,000 annual deaths each year that are smoking-associated within the USA. That figure is 1.2 million deaths in Europe according to the European Heart Network. The WHO states that smoking is estimated to cause 10 million deaths per year worldwide by 2020. Those are grim butchers bills for a legal substance sanctioned by our government.

How about Alcohol? Over than 100,000 deaths in the U.S. are caused by excessive alcohol use annually. Causes of death are direct and indirect. They include drunk driving, falls, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and stroke. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse states that Alcohol kills 6½ times more youth than all other illicit drugs combined. Once again, a very bleak substance that is lethal to thousands yearly.

So naturally, in order to merit illegality, marijuana must have catastrophic figures representing an epidemic of death and dismemberment. The truth is far different. The US Drug Abuse Warning Network states that ”An exhaustive search of the literature finds no credible reports of deaths induced by marijuana. (DAWN) records instances of drug mentions in medical examiners' reports, and though marijuana is mentioned, it is usually in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Marijuana alone has not been shown to cause an overdose death.” So once again, in case you missed it that number was zero. Cigarettes kill 440,000 Alcohol kills 100,000 and the nefarious cannabis kills 0. Which one do you think should be illegal?
The next argument is that marijuana is a terrible gateway drug that leads to harder substances like heroin or cocaine. Once again lets look at the facts. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Youth who drink alcohol are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than those who never drink alcohol. Similar statistics could be said of cigarettes. We could infer that experimentation of stimulants of any kind in some instances leads to curiosity about more dangerous ones. However, a 12-year University of Pittsburgh study alleges that marijuana is not a “gateway” drug or that it predicts or eventually leads to substance abuse. Again, tobacco and alcohol seem to be greater proliferates of hard drugs.

The issue that marijuana is associated with criminal behavior and violence is actually a case for its legalization. The prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s created an environment in which organized crime thrived. Upon its repeal all crime related to alcohol trafficking naturally ceased and along with it all the liquor wars fought between gangs.
There is a financial toll levied by our drug laws. The FBI statistics show that arrests for marijuana possession -- not sales or trafficking, just possession -- totaled 738,916. By comparison, there were 611,523 arrests last year for all violent crimes combined. Those 738,916 people would not be burdening our criminal justice system if we legalized marijuana. It is estimated that in California alone marijuana related offenses cost the state over $100 million dollars annually.

Further statistics indicate the cost of our drug war at $42 billion. This figure comes to us according to a new study by researcher Jon Gettman, Ph.D. Our current marijuana laws cost us $10.7 billion in direct law enforcement costs, and $31.1 billion in lost tax revenues. This astronomical cost could completely avoided if we realized that this drug is far less dangerous than its legal counter parts.

The moral argument is more abstract than others that can be assailed with statistics. It is clear, however that we are duplicitous in regard to concerns over health. Our misguided hypocrisy clearly favors industries with lobbying power in our legislative branch. Still doesn’t legalizing marijuana seem to send a mixed signal to our youth if we don’t want them experimenting? I affirm that this is a moot argument. We as parents should be actively engaged in teaching our children about the dangers that exists in the world regardless of what our government thinks. We should stop having our government legislate morality and make sure that it’s addressed in under our own roofs rather than under the rotunda. I don’t want my family constrained under someone else’s morality, and neither should you.

People Be Heard!

I am glad to say that I voted early and avoided the long lines at this historic moment in time. As you might have guess I did not vote for the good senator from Arizona, I also didn't vote for "that one" ( the glib McCain reference to the honorable Senator Barack Obama). I took Dr. Ron Paul's advice and went third party! Unfortunately there really was no organized movement behind a singular candidate and our tiny voice will be crushed if not all together ignored by the greater public. Oh well, I still let my diminutive whisper float into the torrent of the shouting amongst the Dumbpublicans or the Repuliscrats. I suggest you do the same, VOTE!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Once and Former Republican

As the eight-year catastrophe of the Bush administration rides with their patented willful obliviousness into the hazy sunset; it is advantageous to remember that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Eight years past, I found myself impassioned for the idea of a smaller less intrusive government. This was seemingly echoed in the rhetoric of George Bush's overall platform in 2000. His critique of President Clinton's involvement in nation building in Serbia and Bosnia resonated with my desire for America to focus on America. The cries for fiscal conservatism and prudent government spending looked like the responsible course of action. His apparent straight forward language, although rustic, appeared genuine; as if honesty could find it's long lost way to the steps of the white house. He appeared to cherish the constitution and planned to uphold the true ideals of democracy. Naturally this registered Republican voted in his very first election for the man from Texas. After the dust had settled over the long and arduous electoral battle, he reign victorious, and the rest is history. We stayed out of world conflicts and wisely invested our money on our own failing schools, roads and bridges. We respected the constitution and reduced the wasteful spending on the federal level then reveled in the financial benefits that made us all prosperous. Well, it would have been nice.

Now, I sit in mystified bewilderment. What happened to all the promises and talking points? Today the Executive Branch enjoys power never before extended to the branch. They have made precedents for disregarding the constitution and civil liberties of American citizens. They've condoned torture, lied to their own party members to engage in a foolish war, and wildly spent taxpayer money on thinly veiled imperialist endeavors that would make some mild dictators cringe. This doesn't even begin to mention the doubling of the national debt since Clinton, and the recent nationalizing of banks complete with billions of dollars for them to horde as they please. This president has done more to increase the size, spending, and debt of this government than any executive in the recent past, without leaving us with reasonable positive results. We are much closer to becoming a socialist state because of this "conservative" president. In short everything they have done is almost the exact opposite of what they promised.

Vote for us, were conservatives! ( muffled laughter erupts)

So the question then becomes who abandoned whom. I find that my ideas on the free market and small government have not changed. I still oppose expanding our international empire while ignoring our own failing infrastructure to be reprehensible. I think nationalizing banks is not only a temporary band-aid but also an example of the incompetence of this administration and it's party. So, if this system operated under any semblance of the laws of reason and logic, I would still be a conservative, but Bush wouldn't be. I feel like Don Quixote the seeming lunatic in a story full of real ones. Speaking of that...

The good Senator from Arizona has adopted all of those wonderful hollow promises once uttered by the current President. He must have found them in a waste bin somewhere on Pennsylvania Avenue. Commitments of reduced government spending plume like billowing clouds of promise from the Senators aged lips. Staunch orations of smaller government and hunting down of pork barrels, fills every last sound bite. Yet the simple truth is they will continue the standard operating procedures of the last occupant of the oval office. This serves to color me somewhat skeptical. Not withstanding the emphatic rejection that Sen. McCain is a carbon copy of George Bush, his current line of policy proposals serve to only perpetuate the unreasonable abandon of reality that holds Washington like vice. So, should I vote for McCain? Well, Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, uh well uh you can't fool me again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Shut off your TV and read a book!

Recently I've had the dubious pleasure of having access to cable once again. I spent several years without the amenity. I have to say that I didn't pine for it during it's absence. Now that it's returned I find myself drawn as a moth is to the flame. I suppose there was something in my generation that swapped the warm glow of the hearth with the blue flicker of the idiot box. It made us feel comfortable. I can't say that my comfort can be sustained much longer by this strain of media. I will openly admit that there are many entertainment programs that I profusely enjoy. That being said, utilizing the television for your primary source of information is a severe error in judgment. The Walter Cronkites and Edward R. Murrows have long left us to be prayed upon by the ringmasters of infotainment. News has become a circus with flying snappy graphics, theatrical music, Ken dolls and most damaging of all, half informed attempts at transmitting facts and informed opinions.
The obvious culprit is Fox News, but the blame should not be placed with them alone. CNN and MSNBC also share in the ridiculous antics that have become what Americans have come to accept as reputable news. We focus on the fact that Fox is too Right wing or that CNN or MSNBC is too far to the left. These are essentially non-issues when confronted with the fact that these stations invest their time and effort into making the news a veritable orgy of exploding logos and bellicose arguing guests. It's no longer a healthy debate, it's a boxing match that doesn't require pay per view. The defense to this new trendy style of news is that Americans have shorter attention spans and perhaps the unwillingness to utilize their centers for reason. They want the short sound bit that's quick crisp and delivered by a sharp suited beau with perfect teeth. The problem with that is issues are almost never simple, that's why they are called issues. Abortion, the Iraq War, the Economy, and a long list of other important issues are complex and deserve to be studied and carefully analyzed. To simplify them into absolutes is not only wrong but an insult to rational human thought.