Thots and observations about our culture  2012-2013

Gun maker swears on the Holy Bible

This full-page ad ran recently in a popular monthly magazine. But rifles and the Bible? Selling rifles seems about as far from the teachings of Jesus Christ that you can get. Of course, the ad is probly aimed at the conservative Republican FoxNews Christian gun owner who won't see the contradiction nor the insult to God.

Thomas Jefferson was a wise man. May we emulate his rational thinking.

This may be the most intelligent take on the appropriateness and validity of the US Constitution. It is a centuries-old document that should be a guideline, not a rule. It was written for a culture and mindset that was completely different from the one surrounding us today. Yet, some non-thinkers want this old Colonial-era document to dictate affairs today. The 2nd Amendment about a well-regulated militia and the right to bear arms was written in the context of single-loading muskets, concern over foreign intrusion, and slave uprisings; none of which apply today. If any government (including the USA) tries to overtake America, one's automatic rifle will be useless.

A scary candidate
Believing in something more powerful than ourselves can provide great comfort for some individuals. That's fine. As long as those individuals avoid imposing their personal beliefs on others. Even no matter how strongly they feel that that other person needs to believe the way they do. This is why an inclusive government tries to keep religion's influence on policy to a minimum. That is a fair and just way to conduct affairs of state for a nation of vast religious diversity.

Constitutionally ignorant
Paul Blair is the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He is free to preach politics and endorse candidates from his pulpit (as he has done), but he is then not free to accept tax-exempt status from that same government (imagine how much of our debt could be reduced if we simply taxed the big business that is religion). If we could get government out of churches then pastors and church leaders could get involved in politics and the tax revenue to government debt and services would be worth millions. More info

Historically ignorant
Pastor Blair is the leader of Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ. Now, remember, that Oklahoma was originally populated by native tribes (and relocated tribes) with their decidedly non-Christian belief systems. If Oklahoma is going to be reclaimed, then it would revert to native beliefs, not Christianity.

Pastor Blair is running for the Oklahoma State Senate (again, he lost in his first bid). Look at his campaign logo. Yep, there is his church steeple with a cross on top and a flag flying from the steeple. The cross is above the flag and the flag (government) is emanating from the church. This is frightening. Can you imagine what would happen to freedoms in America if we became a Christian fundamentalist theocracy?
Another reason to keep religion out of government is that we won't be able to agree on which religion should dictate policy. There are hundreds of Christian denominations alone, even if we ignore the belief systems from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and all the others that are represented in Oklahoma.
Paul Blair is a Baptist and will likely incorporate Baptist creed and beliefs. As a state senator, I doubt Pastor Paul Blair would be able to govern in an unbiased manner for Jews, Muslims, and non-believers (each of whom Paul is required to believe will suffer for all eternity in Hell).

Candidates should not be elected primarily because of their "Christian values." We experienced that with George Bush, who turned out to be delusional and dangerous for America.
Tip: Please vote to keep religion out of government.

How $255,000,000 of our tax dollars was spent
Last year, the US Army made an unusual request to Congress: Stop sending us tanks. But, legislators ignored that and approved a defense appropriations bill that included $255 million for 42 new M1 Abrams tanks. With 2,300 M1s already deployed around the world, and 3,000 more sitting idle at a base in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, the military said it simply didn't need any more. But Ohio politicians pushed for the extra M1s, so as to keep open an 800-worker plant in the state. "A lot of lawmakers stuff funding into defense bills that could benefit their district," said Steve Ellis, of Taxpayers for Common Sense. Republican Jim Jordan, whose district is home to the tank plant, insisted that he supported the program for reasons of national security. "I think it's in the best interests of the US to defend our country."
From The Week magazine, October 2012

Some random thoughts about the slaughter of schoolchildren
I am disappointed that the USA (you and I) spends so much money on defense and military to train young people to kill. Much more than any other nation, more than any other federal department or service; creating a culture of killing, violence, and arrogant bullying.
Disappointed and disgusted at how powerful the NRA has become. Disappointed that so many members of Congress accepted donations from the NRA and supported their agenda instead of addressing the regulation of automatic/non-hunting weapons.
Disgusted at how many Americans feel the need to own guns that rapidly fire multiple rounds.
Disappointed in people, political parties, and organizations that exploit fear to achieve their goals.
Disappointed that people still believe and preach that this is a free country. If it was truly free, too many selfish, ignorant, rude, or greedy people would exploit others for personal or corporate gain. As a result, we are all required to obey numerous laws and regulations. Some we may not like.
Disappointed that so many in the world think the USA is a psychotic ruthless bully, rather than the 'greatest country in the world'.
Sad to accept the reality that many Americans need religious beliefs to feel better about themselves and have hope in their lives.
Pleased that so many asked why God chose not to intervene. Did he hear the innocent children scream? Did he watch the blood splatter onto their horrified faces? Did he hear all the prayers from the rest of the school to intervene ("we locked the door, recited the Lord's Prayer, and prayed for the children")? Why did he choose to ignore his worshippers? And doesn't his refusal to help go against all that most people believe that he is: all-loving, all-seeing, all-powerful, all pure goodness?
Disappointed that so many others said it was because God was not allowed in school. Is God really weaker than a school or government? If people so choose, then God is in the schools. God is faith - that can't be removed, nor can prayer be legislated. The Supreme Court simply ruled that a public school can't favor one religion over another by leading a prayer or display of just one religion - they never "kicked God out of school". Students still pray to and worship God in their hearts in school. How sad that so many people, Mike Huckabee included, don't understand the nature of faith or prayer.
So disappointed that a pastor in Tennessee claimed that "humanism" in schools taught the Connecticut shooter "to be God" and that "he can just go blow away anybody he wants."
Disappointed in popular video games that require the player to kill in order to win. And earn more points for killing efficiently and quickly.
Disgusted that some people propose adding more guns, not less. That arming teachers and training them to become shooters will help. Imagine if there were armed people in the Aurora theater - if others had stood up in the darkness and started firing, who would know who was the gunman? There likely would have been even more deaths.
Very sad that so many families were torn apart. That their Christmas will be so hard. That such innocent children had to die such horrible deaths.
So pleased to see a former student, Clinton Fields, post on Facebook wearing this shirt from Feed Just One.

Believe there is good in the world. Be the good in the world.

It is impossible to pin this crime on a single factor (gun access, mental health care, mother-son relationships, divorce). There are numerous complex reasons that led to this action. Here's what I plan to do:
• Acknowledge that some of the blame is on our permissive and violent culture and accept responsibility for my participation.
• Stop promoting violence in movies, arcade games, and sports; stop admiring violent people as 'heroes'. I have stopped paying money for movies that glorify violence. Violence in media is okay (Forrest Gump was a good movie) but glorifying violence for the sake of a thrill or special effect is not okay. That I no longer support.
• Encourage and motivate people to think for themselves: question authority, stop taking rumors at face value, conduct research, and to think more deeply and thoroughly.
• Continue to boycott FoxNews and encourage others to do so.
• Get involved in government: vote, write letters, question actions, research candidates and issues, discuss issues with others.
• While maintaining support of the essence of the 2nd amendment, support legislation to minimize access to guns that quickly fire multiple rounds.
• Continue to educate people about the harmful delusional faith in the occult.
• Support efforts for peace, not war; for a kinder gentler culture; for more altruism, less selfishness.

Is God a comic or just cruel?

A former employee raped a 13-year-old girl in a church stairwell at Victory Christian Center, a megachurch in South Tulsa. He also admitted to forcible oral sodomy of another child and making a lewd proposal to another 12-year-old child. He apologized to the girls, then summarized a Bible verse in which Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. No one's perfect," the 20-year-old said. "I'll admit to everything I did. I want to go to prison." Five other employees of the church, including the son and daughter-in-law of the head pastor, face charges - accused of waiting two weeks to report the rape of the 13-year-old girl.
Victory Christian Center is a worldwide ministry with 17,000 members. The rapist used the expected safety of the church environment to meet and solicit his victims. The 13-year-old's mother is suing; accusing employees of trying to cover up the abuse by not reporting the rape to authorities while it did its own investigation. She says the church was more interested in damage control and attempting to make her daughter feel as if she was to blame for the assault.
When I was a Christian, these acts baffled me - it didn't make sense to worship an all-loving God who would allow his innocent children to be harmed. As an atheist, the ugliness in the world makes much more sense.

God watched what happened in that stairwell as the man forcibly raped the girl.
Questions: Was God smiling? Did he enjoy watching? Did he consider intervening? Did his perfect plan for that girl include the trauma of rape? Did his insistence that we have 'free will' override the safety and health of his innocent children?

A horrible message

Messages such as this - posted as wise sayings - are a major reason why I have evolved from a devout Christian to an atheist.
The mind is a lousy master, but a wonderful servant!
The human mind is capable of much more than just being a servant and obeying superstitious myths. Notice that across the street is a Middle School - I wonder what those teachers think of this message across the street. Teachers strive to enlighten young people and encourage them to use their minds to question, research, and explore.

Signs of the times

   Wisdom from the Dalai Lama

99 percent of Oklahoma in a severe drought
By Bryan Painter, The Oklahoman, August 3, 2012 (edited by Jim Watson)

Tyler McDowell, pastor of Cowboy Cross Brand Church in Stillwater, offers a reminder: "We need to pray for rain, and expect it to happen. There's nothing that takes Him by surprise, and there's nothing that's out of His control. So the best thing that we could do is ask Him and rely on Him. It's kind of a bittersweet deal because it's the only choice we have, but it's the best choice we can make." The Stillwater area has gone 47 consecutive days with less than a quarter of an inch of rain on any one day.
"The main thing is everybody's just worried about having enough water for their cattle and their horses, but people are getting worried about not having much hay again," McDowell said. "This year we had a good spring and it looked like things were looking up, but it seems like now we're really back in it."
"The thing is, we ourselves can't do anything about it," McDowell said. "Really, in times like this, faith is the most important thing."

Jim's observation
They are praying for rain to the same God who caused the drought as part of His Glorious Plan. Are they telling God His plan stinks and they want Him to change to suit their needs? Seems you can't have it both ways - either you believe everything (including drought, cancer, tornadoes, and earthquakes) goes according to God's plan and prayer won't matter or you pray because you believe His plan sucks.

When will we say "That's enough - No more displays of stupidity"

If I had a black marker with me, I could have blackened in the extra O. It wouldn't have made the bumper sticker printer, the distributor, the retailer, nor the purchaser any smarter; but, at least, the rest of us wouldn't have to be reminded of our current FoxNews culture of tolerating and encouraging stupidity. I notice that these types of errors are more common. Some reasons:
• Ignorance or less education, lack of knowledge to know better.
• Not caring. People notice the error but don't care enough to correct it.
• Stupid, just not intelligent enough to spot errors.
There is an upscale coffee/tea house in Edmond, All About Cha, whose elaborate menu is full of spelling and grammatical errors. When I pointed it out to the owner, he acknowledged that he was aware of the errors (and he was willing for me to proofread the menu before the next printing). What I don't get - why didn't he have someone proofread the menu before the initial printing. He knows he doesn't have a good command of English, yet he didn't seek help. Is it a pride issue? Its such a simple solution.

Below: some examples from Facebook. Note: If you are not amazed at the level of stupidity in America, check out people's comments on Facebook.

Observation: Our culture displays an increasing number of symptoms of stupidity.
Tip: Have someone proofread your work. If you are too stupid to know when proofreading is needed, please do not work in a sign shop or printing firm, and certainly not as a designer.

The US of Dumerica
Last weekend, at the park down the street, a young father was teaching his son how to ride a bike. The son saw my two greyhounds and asked if he could pet them. I said, Sure. His dad joined us and commented to his son, "Them dogs is the fastest of all dogs."
Them dogs is the fastest of all dogs.
I am getting so disgusted at how our culture has accepted and tolerated stupidity that I wanted to say, "Excuse me, correct grammar would be 'These dogs', not 'Them dogs' and since 'dogs' is plural, it would be 'dogs are some of', not 'dogs is'. What happened - did you just skip school or not pay attention?
Of course, park etiquette kept me from berating this ignorant man in front of his son. But, I get closer to the day when I will have had enough and I start to let people know that their stupidity will no longer be tolerated.
I realize, due to Fox News, Governor-Quit Palin, George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and the like, that our culture is more tolerant of stupidity. I, too make mistakes. Often, I will get an email providing an alert and a better way to say something. I am appreciative of that. Why, in a community, can't we watch out for each other? Why do we assume that once one leaves school, they can no longer be corrected and educated? Maybe I will start to speak up and work at minimizing ignorance.

Wisdom from Stephen Colbert
If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy and then admit that we just don't want to do it. -The Colbert Report

Disturbing news
According to a recent Gallup poll: 46% of Americans believe in creationism - that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.
This is disgusting and shameful. I wonder if there is a correlation between sheep who are afraid to think for themselves and the rising acceptance of stupidity in America. Reams of evidence that humans had their origin millions of years ago versus evidence that states 10,000 years from an old book of folk lore. Almost half of Americans are willing to ignore scientific evidence, logic, and reason and believe the old book.
From The Week magazine, June 2012

An effective anti-war image

This is now a single mom, facing life ahead with the son she clutches so tightly.
Deaths of US soldiers in Iraq: 4,486
Wounded: Official 33,184; Estimated 100,000
How many families impacted?
The War on Terror is just a PR campaign so we can feel better. We can't really fight terrorists, it's impossible - they're everywhere. All we can do is surrender our freedoms to the police state. - Seth

Another Bible-believer who hasn't read the Bible

He has a tattoo of the verse in Leviticus that has a reference to homosexuality being an abomination. A few verses later in Leviticus 19:28 is this verse (New International Version): Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.

How do you know heaven exists? Sometimes I wonder if it's just wishful thinking.
I enjoy reading Billy Graham's column each morning. Following is Dr. Graham's answer to the above question. You decide if Graham has clarified the answer:
One reason we know heaven exists is because God has put within our souls a yearning for heaven. Down inside, we all sense there must be something beyond this life - and that feeling is almost universal. The Bible says God "has also set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
But the main reason we know heaven exists is because of Jesus Christ. He is the divine Son of God who came down from heaven to redeem us from our sins - and the reason He did this was so we could go to heaven when we die. If heaven doesn't exist, then there was no reason for Jesus to die for us. And if heaven doesn't exist, then Jesus' promises about heaven aren't true.
But heaven does exist - and by His death and resurrection Jesus proved it! More than that, His death and resurrection are the final proof that His promises about heaven are true, and that some day we can go there.

As more people evolve to a more rational way of thinking and accept that religion primarily provides comfort and social inclusion, Billy Graham's column becomes nothing more than a quaint humor column, not to be taken too seriously.

Facebook Status Update Awards

Okay, we have embraced Facebook and welcomed it into our lives - it has become a major influence and powerful manipulator of public opinion. We already give awards for many entities in our culture - it seems time to initiate the same for Facebook.
Name: Facebook Status Update Awards
Nickname: The Zuckers
Purpose: To recognize and reward those who embrace the medium of status updates
     • Get a Life - Updates that are too mundane, pithy, and trivial
     • What about me? - Too self-centered
     • Who gives a shit - Useless observations and opinions
     • Get your finger off the key - Overuse of !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and other punctuation marks
     • Its just not that funny - Inappropriate use of LOL
     • Too much pussy - Too many silly kitten/cat videos
     • WTF? - Unbelievable, just doesn't make sense
     • Winklevoss - Swiping an update and claiming it as your own
     • Stop yelling at me - INAPPROPRIATE USE OF CAPS
     • Wish I'd thought of that - Truly thoughtful witty and clever
     • Big Bang - Novel, unique, never read before
     • LOL-S - Actually laughed out loud - seriously!
     • Family time - Sweet and sincere
     • Shakespeare- Well composed and well written

What to call this phone thing

Calling it a phone just seems so inadequate. They are all computers. All have cameras, email, web browser, and personal management software.
Desktop and laptop make some sense - the names describe where they're used. But, I'm not sure we have settled on cultural names for the tablet and the phone. I am considering iJobs and iSteve, to give proper credit to the onw who brought all those technologies together into one product.

12 million dollars each day
As much as $60 billion in US tax dollars - $12 million a day - has been wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade from lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and corruption, according to the Commission on Wartime Contracting, established by Congress in 2008.
Overall, the commission said spending on contracts and grants to support US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to exceed $206 billion. Based on its investigation, the commission said contracting waste in Afghanistan ranged from 10 percent to 20 percent of the total. Fraud during the same period ran between 5 percent and 9 percent of the total.
One Senator said, "It is disgusting to think that nearly a third of the billions and billions we spent on contracting was wasted or used for fraud."
The commission cited numerous examples of waste, including a $360 million US-financed agricultural development program in Afghanistan. The effort began as a $60 million project in 2009 to distribute vouchers for wheat seed and fertilizer in drought-stricken areas of northern Afghanistan. The program expanded into the south and east. Soon the US was spending a $1 million a day on the program, creating an environment ripe for waste and abuse.
US military authorities in Kabul believe a small percentage of the $360 million was garnered by the Taliban and insurgent groups. Most of the money was lost to profiteering, bribery and extortion by criminals and power brokers.

Blinded by their faith
A family lost their son to suicide. After scolding his poor grades, the son went upstairs to his bedroom and blew his head off. The father commented that he questioned God and his faith, but then put logic aside and trusted God's almighty wisdom and restored his faith in his savior. This is the question I asked them on their website: Letter to
Hi, thank you for your inspiration. I need some help with some better understanding.
I realize that God has a Perfect Plan for each of His children and that His Plan included your son, his horrible death, and your suffering (and the intense suffering of all parents for whom God's Plan includes a violent death for a child). I can accept that - when we choose to accept the Lord's Plan, we must accept it all, the good and the bad. But, I don't understand why so much violence, death, and suffering fits the plan of a Loving-God for His children. Maybe I don't need to understand.
Where I need help - I have a hard time choosing to worship such a cruel Father - one whose Plan is for us to experience such intense hurt and loss. We state that He loves us and that He is all-powerful; but, why should I honor, respect, and worship such cruelty?
Do you have any tips on how I can worship such a God?

From comments about The God Complex
Don't you realize that it's a trap? Religion is a test of your sense of morality. If you reject it because you realize how immoral it is then you pass the test and win your? freedom from superstition. If you fail, and adopt the sort of morality that allows you to, for example, persecute people you don't know, then you are made into a slave in this life, and punished in the next one. It's up to you to think about what is really right or wrong and make a choice.

From Ed Hensley on Facebook
I was raised a fundamentalist Christian. In my search for the most correct Christian church, I read about early Christian manuscripts and read the bible completely multiple times. This resulted in my realization that the bible is not the word of God. The God of the old testament is an evil monster. There is no justification for his evil actions. Much of the old testament that is omitted by Sunday school teachers is bizarre and clearly not the work of a perfect God. Genesis is as reliable scientifically as Egyptian, Greek, and Roman mythology. The new testament is better, but there are over 100,000 discrepancies among early Christian texts. The new testament was edited first in 170 AD when Irenaeus limited the multitude of contradictory gospels to the 4 we know today and was edited again from 325-367 AD. Martin Luther put books known today by Protestants as the Apocrypha in a separate section in 1534 AD because he did not like the Catholic doctrines justified by 2nd Maccabees; Luther also expressed doubt about Hebrews, James, Jude, and the Revelation, so he moved those books to the end of the Bible. These are facts that historians can't deny. How can anybody claim the bible is the word of God?

From James Randi
I suggest that we might want to depose this incumbent God and start dealing with The Real World. He's proven - time and again - to be cruel, capricious, and vindictive. He drowns, crushes, burns, and starves millions of us every day. He created cancer, viruses, and germs to invade and destroy our bodies as He sees fit, and uses them very effectively. In His wisdom, He directed those in charge to impede stem cell research so that such a powerful approach would not be available to us and He wouldn't have to strain the Divine Intellect to disarm that defense. We amuse Him as we flail about vainly trying to appease Him. I vote that we dump Him.
The power of god is all around us: Katrina, 9/11, tsunami, Iraq and Afghanistan, Joplin tornado. Since 2000, God has been directly responsible for the murder of thousands, most of whom were innocent, and including children and babies. While we may not understand nor be comfortable with his methods, we must respect, worship, and fear his awesome power as a brutal murderer.

God allows college student to die after tweeting, 'Thank you God'
A student at Gardner-Webb University, who was in a religion class, has died after she collapsed in class on her 21st birthday. She had tweeted that day, "Thank you God for another year of life." An emergency medical technician who is a student in the class helped with CPR until an ambulance arrived. Patterson died - she was a senior majoring in religious studies.
By The Associated Press, January 2012

Why do so many 'Christians' not follow the teachings of Jesus?

Tim Tebow is a great sales rep for atheism. He reminds us each game just how ignorant many Christians are - is there a Bible verse in which Jesus instructs us to demonstrate our faith in a showy display in front of millions of people? There are, however, verses such as these:
Matthew 6:1
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Matthew 6:5-6
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. - New International Version, 1984
But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. - New Living Translation, 2007
Luke 5:16
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. - New International Version, 1984
But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. - English Standard Version, 2001
Reading the Bible is a great way to become an atheist again.

The truth about 'secular' America
As America has become more secular in recent decades, "most indicators of moral and social health have gotten better, not worse.,"
Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune, January 12, 2012
Religious conservatives insist that feminists, liberals, and gay marriage have undermined traditional morality, and that only a return to our Christian roots will cure what ails us. American culture is sick, and secularism is the cause of our disease.
But all evidence suggests that this view is not only backward - it's wrong.
America has become more secular in recent decades; "most indicators of moral and social health have gotten better, not worse." Crime has plummeted. Teen pregnancy is down by 39 percent. Divorce rates are dropping. Abortion rates among adolescents are half what they used to be.
Which states continue to have the biggest social problems? The Bible Belt states, not the supposedly sin-ridden blue states. Mississippi has the nation's highest rate of church attendance, and also the highest murder rate. Liberal Vermont's murder rate, on the other hand, is 25 percent of the national average. Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, has the nation's lowest divorce rate. So please, spare us "the moral decline fairy tales." Secular America is doing just fine.

Friendly reminder

Please do not drive 45 miles an hour down a freeway on-ramp when the freeway traffic is going 70 miles an hour. Those on-ramps are designed to give the driver time and distance to get up to freeway speed to merge with the flow of traffic with minimal disruption.

Obeying God
• Michele Bachmann said that she felt a "calling" to seek the GOP nomination. "I've had this calling and tugging on my heart that this is the right thing to do. And that's really what that means. It means that I have a sense of assurance about the direction I think that God is speaking into my heart that I should go."
• Herman Cain says that God told him to run for president. "I prayed and prayed. I'm a man of faith, I had to do a lot of praying for this one, more praying than I'd ever done before in my life. And I finally realized that it was God saying that this is what I needed to do."
• Thank God that both of these delusional (voices in their head) people are no longer doing what God told them to do.

Listen up, you fat cats
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.
You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.
You built a factory and it turned into something terrific. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is that you take a hunk of that and pay it forward for the next kid who comes along.
By Elizabeth Warren, From
Adbusters magazine


People have rights. Ideas don't have rights.

Wisdom from the internet: Every ideology must be subjected to open, free discussion in regard to its value, without fear of reprisal. In a civilized society, no idea - religious, political, or philosophical - should claim any special treatment, or be set beyond the reach of rational evidence.

Institutional ignorance

This article in The Good News magazine has so many errors that I just had to write them:

DATE: November 14, 2013 • TO: • SUBJECT: The rotten apples are rotten
Rotten Apple #5 states, "ban prayer and Bible reading from American public schools."
Certainly you know this is not true. Prayer, a personal conversation with God, can neither be legislated nor banned. The Supreme Court ruled that a school cannot appear to support or favor one religion over another. Prayer was not banned. But, you knew that. So, I must assume you wrote that lie to inflame your readers. Shame on you.
How can God be banned? He can't. He lives in the hearts of His children - he cannot be removed from school. And I suspect you know that, also. Now, I can no longer trust any statement I read in The Good News.

Their reply
DATE: November 18, 2013 • SUBJECT: Hello
Hello James,
Thanks for your input.
I believe you misunderstood the fifth point of the article I wrote.
Of course prayer is not banned from our homes or private meetings, but previous to the Supreme Court decision, prayer was made in the classroom, just as the pledge allegiance.
The supposition was, as our founding fathers thought, we were a Christian nation. But now we are increasingly becoming a more secular country. We have freedom of religion according to the First Amendment, but it was not evert the intention to have freedom from religions. Perhaps you feel more comfortable with what is happening in our society, but such court decisions as not having school prayers do have serious implications for future generation. I hope you do not judge all the content of the magazine because of this point I made, which is part of U. S. history.
Thanks again,
Mario Seiglie

My reply to his reply
DATE: November 19, 2013 • TO:,
1. I quote your words: "ban prayer and Bible reading from American public schools." What I understand is that you either meant to mislead your readers or you, and the editors, chose the wrong word - 'ban'.
2. You say "prayer was made in the classroom". Prayer is still 'made' in the classroom - students are still allowed to pray in American public school classrooms. Here's an important point: school sanctioned prayer was impersonal and insincere - it was from the PA intercom or read aloud from the front of the room. That is not prayer the way Jesus taught us. The prayer that is in the classroom today is from individual students - personal and sincere - prayers the way Jesus prayed. Not only is there still prayer in American schools, but it is better prayer, more Christ-like.
3. "as our founding fathers thought". It is impossible for you to actually know what the Founding Fathers thought.
Your article and your response show me that The Good News is not concerned with facts and educating it's readers with truth, but has jumped on the bandwagon of modern Christian victim folklore. A bit disappointing, but understandable.

1. They took another lesson from FOX News, repeat a lie over and over (Fair and Balanced) and ignorant readers will believe it. Here the lie is A Magazine of Understanding. Well, it is true, since the understanding they desire is of their particular agenda, not facts or truth. But, get prepared - we are entering the season of religion's cries of the innocent abused victim, otherwise known as The War on Christmas.
2. Because intelligent Christians realize that neither prayer nor God can be banned, Mike Huckabee's ignorant and ill-informed statement may have cost him his place in the Presidential campaign.
3. The article states that after the Supreme Court decision (that removed insincere impersonal prayer and replaced it with more sincere individual prayer), there was an accelerated rise in all manners of societal ills. I contend that that rise began when our nation changed it's national motto from E Pluribus Unum (From many, one) to In God We Trust.
4. I canceled my subscription to The Good News.

Please don't be this wasteful

This table appeared to be the scene where two people ate lunch. There were 24 napkins on the table - 21 unused napkins in a pile and 3 used ones on the table. The restraunt, by health code, probly cannot reuse the pile of napkins - they must be discarded. Three napkins for 2 people seems about right, but 24? 12 each? How thoughtful, considerate, and caring were these diners?

America's priorities

Side-by-side news stories from October 29, 2013: 29 billion for 3 new ships, 5 billion cuts in food stamps.
• Marking a new era for fighting war at sea, the Navy spent $29 billion (of our money) for just 3 ships, almost 10 billion per ship. Weapons (killing machines) on board include: two Advanced Gun Systems which fire rocket-powered computer-guided shells that can destroy targets 63 miles away; a new missile launching system capable of firing 80 missiles, including Tomahawk cruise missiles and Seasparrow surface to air missiles; and two Seahawk helicopters or four unmanned aerial vehicles.
• On November 1, a $5 billion cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program resulted in the loss of nearly 1.9 billion meals in the next year. The cuts will put a strain on millions of families struggling with food insecurity, hitting them right before the holiday season.
Lesson: A nation (in massive debt) that spends 29 billion dollars for 3 elaborate and sophisticated killing machines and cuts assistance to feed it's hungry citizens is making a clear public statement about that which is important.

A worthwhile effort destined to fail

Maybe stupid people are entertaining. Maybe there are more of them than we realize. Maybe we enjoy watching stupid people bloop and blunder. Maybe we feel better about ourselves when we see there are people stupider than us. Maybe, we are the problem, not the stupid people we are making famous.

The original, more appropriate, motto for the USA

The USA Founding Fathers declared our national motto to be E Pluribus Unum which translates from Latin as 'From many, One.' A nice sentiment and appropriate for the new nation that was trying to unify states with differing values (slavery, state's rights). Adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782, although never codified by law, E pluribus unum was considered the de facto motto of the United States.
But, during the Cold War, we were so scared of those mean Russians and their god-less values that, in 1956, the United States Congress passed an act, adopting "In God We Trust" as the official motto. But, Americans worship many different gods, not just one - In God We Trust is a divisive phrase, unlike E Pluribus Unum.
Maybe putting our trust in God isn't working - now we are a nation with high rates of murder, abortion, teen pregnancy, hatred, violence, and global bullying and torture. Maybe our trust has been misplaced.
We should act as civilized reasonable people who can address our own problems rather than turning them over to an invisible being in the sky. Yet, to revert to the more beneficial original motto, the ignorant delusional forces would viciously attack and defend their inane, divisive, and useless phrase.

A movement to replace the 1950s motto with the older, more inclusive one. Facebook page.

America the Bountiful

Some of these photos may elicit a chuckle, but they're meant to highlight a growing (!) concern in America. Often, obesity is a symptom of insecurity, low self-esteem, or a personality disorder. Maybe we should not idolize coaches (as leaders, mentors, and role models) if they're fat and excessively out of shape. Why do we tolerate such behavior? When will we say 'enough is enough'. Being tolerant of those different from us is, usually, a healthy trait and a positive way to see the world. But, sometimes, maybe we should just be disgusted. Obesity affects personal health, health care costs, and productivity. But, to address it, we should probly look at the underlying causes, rather than promoting yet one more miracle diet. Addressing causes might mean better education and more aggressive involvement by teachers, political leaders (other than Chris Christie), doctors, nurses, and clinics.

New chair sizes: American & Regular.

Whoa, what is this rack?

Was wandering around the campus of the University of North Texas and came upon this sculptural column. I assumed that it was for skateboards - that made the most sense on a college campus next to a bike rack. Sho nuf. Researching it later, I found these images for the product:

Farther down the bike rack was this bike repair station. I had seen these before at Oklahoma State and other campuses. A cool idea - to provide tools and a support bar for making repairs.

An effective graphic image

The formula for Hate. Fear is the catalyst and the flame that stirs up the ignorance that is contained until it boils over and results in an expression of hatred.

I live in fear that someday I will be caught.

God knew!

This guy worships a God who will let children go to bed hungry, but will make sure there is his favorite burger joint in the Atlanta airport. What ego. And arrogance. And lack of compassion for others. Is there anything about this thank you to God that Jesus taught us to do?

Let me see if I have this right
• I can write a 3-page letter, and put it on my front door.
• That same day, someone authorized by the government will stop at my house and pick up that letter.
• The letter will then be transported anywhere in the country.
• It will then be hand-delivered to the front door of the person I wrote the letter to.
• This cross-country trip will take 2-3 days.
• It will cost me 46 cents. About 2 quarters.

And some people bitch because that is so expensive. 46 pennies!

The United States Postal Service is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution. The USPS traces its roots to 1775 during the Second Continental Congress, where Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. The cabinet-level Post Office Department was created in 1792 from Franklin's operation and transformed into its current form in 1971 under the Postal Reorganization Act. The USPS employs over 574,000 workers and operates over 260,000 vehicles. The USPS is the operator of the largest vehicle fleet in the world. The USPS is legally obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality. The USPS has not directly received taxpayer-dollars since the early 1980s with the minor exception of subsidies for costs associated with the disabled and overseas voters.
Sidenote: If the Post Office is ever to make a profit, it absolutely must be removed from under the control of the US Congress.

Jim's speeding ticket

The drive home from Colorado took me down I-25 to Raton, New Mexico and then southeast towards Amarillo, Texas, where I would spend the night. Just before getting to the Great State of Texas (that's the way we were taught to write that), I went through Clayton, New Mexico. I had already passed the Capulin Volcano and other small towns where the speed limit dropped from 70 to 30 or 40. I suspect some of those are intended as speed traps to get unsuspecting drive-thrus to pay a 'donation' to the city. Well, it seems to work. I am very alert when I drive. I avoid driving out of habit - I don't always use a turn signal (only when there is someone I need to communicate with). But, as alert as I was, this officer was better - he was well-hidden. By the time I noticed him behind the trees, it was too late. I pulled over immediately. I was already on the outskirts of town. The speed limit lowered in town, but then returned to 50 and then 70 at the edge of town.

A ticket for speeding is just no big deal. Really.
• Sometimes, I choose to speed. It is entirely my decision. I accept the consequences for my actions. I am willing to pay the ticket in exchange for my decision to drive higher than the posted limit.
• I am very alert when I drive. But, sometimes, I miss spotting a police car. They sometimes play the game better than I do. Congratulations to them.
• The issuing officer is doing exactly what we ask him to do, exactly what we pay him to do. He is doing his job - and doing it well.
• Since the officer was doing a good job, I am very courteous and polite to him/her. That usually pays off in reduced fines - in the Clayton case above, he clocked me going 54 in a 40 zone, but lowered it to 44 in a 40. The citation I mailed back clearly showed the 5 crossed out and replaced with a 4. How kind of him. And I thanked him for that.
• Once I get home, I pay the ticket as soon as I can and then put it out of my mind. It's done. Over. No big deal. I see it as just making small donations to cities and towns who play the game well.
I am often amazed and disappointed how angry some people get at getting a ticket. They fucked up, not the officer. Maybe they are just mad at themselves and too proud to admit it.

Jim's Prayer Book
Lord, I read in your Holy Book that you have commanded us to sell all of our possessions.
Heavenly Father, you know that I can't sell my iPhone (or give it away.)
Am I destined to suffer in Hell for all eternity?
If I lease the phone, would it technically not be a 'possession'? Would I then be okay?
Oops, new wrinkle, I'm going to exercise the Free Will you gave me - I'm not selling my air conditioner, either. Nor my coffeemaker.
Lord, do you hate me because I choose to not obey you?
Faithfully awaiting your answers.

Exercising the Free Will that God gave to us all
Why do so many people choose to worship a God who would:
create a tornado, send it to an elementary school in Moore, Oklahoma, and just watch as it causes a concrete block wall to tumble onto innocent children killing seven of them, while many believers were praying to him for safety?
watch a young man in Connecticut slaughter innocent schoolchildren and who just watched their faces get blown off and splattered onto their classmates, while many believers were praying to him for safety?
create a tsunami, send it to populated areas, killing over 200,000 innocent men, women, and children, while many believers were praying to him for safety? (The tsunami was a result of the poor job God did in creating the earth - his continental plates are still scraping by each other.)
watch airplanes fly into buildings when he has the power to veer those planes off their intended courses, while many believers were praying to him for safety?

Why choose to worship a God who is that murderous, incompetent, and evil?
To worship such an evil God so that one can feel better about their problems and their acceptance into heaven seems just too selfish and insensitive to the families of the thousands of murdered people.

"The system didn't work!" and "Justice wasn't served!"

Justice means that Martin's killer would be arrested, go to trial, and have a verdict administered by a jury. All of that happened. The system did work.
Zimmerman admitted that he shot Martin. That was not in question. The trial was about whether he acted in self-defense. And, maybe Zimmerman didn't act in self defense, maybe he is a murdering racist. But, that isn't the process. The process is which legal team plays a more convincing game of determining blame. If people are upset, maybe they should be upset with the legal system of high-paid lawyers who twist the system to their advantage. Maybe they should be upset with their peers (the jury) for being too ignorant.
Maybe there should be a civil case, maybe other avenues for clarification should be addressed. But, that won't change the outcome of this trial.

Some factors to consider
• Racism does permeate our culture
• America is a segregated society.
• Americans are often motivated by fear, insecurity, and competition.
• The USA is a violent culture. We abort fetuses. The Gun Lobby is powerful. There are, on average, 35 violent murders every night in America, almost 20 times higher than in any other country.

So why the anger here?
• Racism? if Zimmerman was black, not Hispanic, this would have been just another black-on-black murder, like numerous others that happen every day. Not front page news.
• Entitlement? Are we spoiled? If we don't get what we want, we just whine and throw a tantrum?
• Group hysteria reflecting a larger frustration with the economy, disappointment in a black president, the heat, societal racism, unreasonable drug laws?
• A social movement? Protesting is a community activity that helps bring people together. It gives meaning and purpose - to get involved in a cause greater than us.

Some people confused emotion and empathy for a young man with the law and the justice system of trial by jury.
• People who post on social media get their information from the media, their friends, Internet posts, and speculation.
• The six women on the jury got their information from witnesses, detectives, police officers, and evidence.
Which group is more prepared to pass judgement that follows the law?
(I also wonder if some of those who disagreed with the verdict did so on grounds of sexism - that a jury of all females couldn't possibly get it right.)
As we've seen too many times, the ignorant masses get prominent media coverage, drowning out the calm voices of reason.

The upside
Hopefully, this event will encourage a dialogue and action towards addressing some of the above issues: racism, the legal system, the economy, gun laws, violence, and entitlement.

My Thursday evening Facebook post
The Zimmerman trial was not a murder trial. Zimmerman admitted he killed Martin. It was not about skittles, hoodies, OJ Simpson, walking home, neighborhood watches, or who should carry guns. It was not even a trial to determine if the Hispanic Zimmerman was a racist or had a bias against Blacks. The trial was to determine if Zimmerman acted in self-defense - did he fear for his life at the hands of Martin. Did Martin pose a threat or attack Zimmerman. That was the question that was decided.

So, why all the protests and anger?
• People can march against racism in America.
• They can fight sexism (an all-female jury couldn't get it right!)
• Protest the weaker performance by the prosecutors.
• Protest Hispanic immigration.
• March out of respect to honor a slain child.
• Feel sadness and empathy for Martin's family and for the state of race relations in America.
But, to protest the outcome of this trial? There are just no grounds for such a protest. The jury listened and ruled what they believed to be the best judgment, according to the laws of Florida and the USA. That's the system and George Zimmerman benefited. His lawyers just did a better job. George Zimmerman did murder a young black man. But, in the eyes of the law, he acted in self-defense and is allowed to go free.
One can choose to feel frustration, disappointment, and anger. But please be mindful to whom that energy is directed.

A response to days of 100 degree temperatures

If long hot summers become the norm, we will need to adapt and seek ways to make it more tolerable, safe, and comfortable.
Here are some thoughts:
• Clothes: wear sandals, no socks or short socks; wear shorts, but not thick, layered cargo shorts; wear StayCool fabrics and more breathable fabrics.
• Cars: put valuables in the trunk, leave the windows down for air flow. Buy cars in light colors to reflect more heat.
• Transportation: install more canopies in parking lots, plant more shade trees along parking rows, use more public transportation, and add shade shelters at bus stops.
• Landscaping: plant grasses that better withstand heat and drought and require less watering and pesticides; embrace xeriscaping (dry) to use less water.
• Roofs: use light colors to better reflect heat. Ventilate attics.
• Structures: install awnings and shade structures on houses and buildings.
• Haircut: shorter and cooler, wear ventilated and wide-brimmed hats.
• Shade: use parasols/umbrellas to shade pedestrians.
• Outdoor activities: schedule earlier in the day and later in the evening; slow down and take siestas in the heat of the afternoon; get used to lawn care noise earlier in the morning and later in the evening.
• Garage: leave door open and open attic stairs for ventilation. To enhance the view of an open garage from the street - make it look more like a carport.

Wisdom from a Facebook post
I often hear that, for many people, God is necessary in their daily lives because, through God they find the strength to overcome the struggles of daily life. The wonderful thing is that when you finally recognize that God doesn't exist, the only thing left to realize is that the strength formerly found in God was within you the whole time. You have all the healing powers of hope, determination, and optimism within yourself. All you needed was to cast off the useless weight of religion to truly enjoy it.

Two thoughtful questions for Billy Graham

How do you know heaven exists? I really want to believe in heaven, but I wonder if it's just wishful thinking. - K.D.
Billy Graham replies:
One reason we know heaven exists is because God has put within our souls a yearning for heaven. Down inside, we all sense there must be something beyond this life - and that feeling is almost universal. The Bible says God "has also set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
(Answer translation: because we just feel it.)
But the main reason we know heaven exists is because of Jesus Christ. He is the divine Son of God who came down from heaven to redeem us from our sins - and the reason He did this was so we could go to heaven when we die. If heaven doesn't exist, then there was no reason for Jesus to die for us. And if heaven doesn't exist, then Jesus' promises about heaven aren't true.
(Answer translation: because Jesus, a character in an old book that is also the only source of Heaven, says so)
But heaven does exist - and by His death and resurrection Jesus proved it! More than that, His death and resurrection are the final proof that His promises about heaven are true, and that some day we can go there. He declared, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25). The Bible also says that because of Jesus Christ we have "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:4).
(Answer translation: because Jesus and Billy Graham say so)

So, how do we know heaven exists? Because we just feel it and because a character in a book says so. That's it, according to Billy Graham, America's most respected Christian guru. No more evidence, no other reason. We just feel it.

If Jesus is going to return some day and make the world a better place, why doesn't He go ahead and do it? The world is so messed up that I can't understand why He doesn't return now. - F.R.H.
Billy Graham verbatim answer:
One of the Bible's greatest promises is that one day Jesus Christ will return - and when He does, all the evil we see around us will be destroyed, and He will rule the world in perfect justice and peace. The Bible says, "In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13).

We can barely imagine what that new world will be like, but you can be sure it will be far more glorious than anything this world offers us right now. Diplomats negotiate peace treaties -- only to see them broken. Humanitarian organizations try to meet the needs of those who suffer -- only to be overwhelmed by new disasters or evil rulers. On a personal level, we seek security and happiness -- only to have our hopes dashed by circumstances beyond our control.

But all that will be changed when Christ comes again. Evildoers will be judged; injustices will be made right; wars and conflicts will cease. The Bible says, "Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

Why, then, is Christ's coming delayed? One reason, the Bible says, is because (finally, Graham responds to the question) God wants to give as many people as possible an opportunity to repent and believe (see 2 Peter 3:9). Have you made your commitment to Christ? Don't delay, but put your faith and trust in Him, and then make it your goal to live for Him every day.

Comment from Jeania
When we think of the suffering Jesus endured, ours is nothing, with his help, we can endure. We are anxious for his coming and at the same time, we want all to come to the knowledge of his saving grace. God knows best.

Three paragraphs of bullshit propaganda and then a weak and illogical answer to the question.
Using Graham's logic, Jesus should never return, since the longer he waits, the more people there will be.

WTF is wrong with Americans (from an internet post)

• In the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, there is free universal access to higher education. They know that education is the ultimate investment in the future. In addition to not having any tuition fees, all students receive a monthly grant to help cover their living expenses.
Of course, that does result in higher taxes. But, free education reduces social inequality, and greatly benefits both individuals and society in the long run. An educated populationequals a strong, stable state, ready for the future. So, the investment is well worth it. It's really s simple as that - just WTF are we Americans thinking?
• We make our own young people go into often crippling debt - just to become educated - and just as they're trying to get started in life. In 2013, Congress has voted to increase the interest rate which will increase the debt for young educated Americans.
• We've unleashed hundreds of expensive for-profit 'schools' to prey upon our own citizens.

• We spend more on our prisons than on our students.
• And, among the top 15 countries by military expenditures, we're number 1, and spend as much as the other 14 countries combined!
Meanwhile, our politicians and corporations fool many of our citizens into fighting to keep it that way. It's all a recipe for a lost generation at best, and a nation hurtling toward decline and eventual unraveling.
So, when is enough going to be enough for America?

Dear Lord,
The tornadoes you created and sent through Oklahoma have nothing to do with our free will, so the destruction and death must be part of your glorious loving plan for us. I realize we, your children, can not always understand your will, but, I pray that you amend your perfect plan to suit me - please alter the path of your mighty tornado to miss my house. Thank you.
In the name of your son, my savior, Jesus Christ,

"People are trapped. You are going to see the devastation for days to come," said a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. "Send your prayers heavenward because there are people fighting for their lives."

Prayer is okay if you keep it to yourself.
It's when you impose your beliefs on others that it gets tricky. I realize many people find comfort in believing in a higher power to help calm their fears. Whatever one does, within reason, to heal physically and mentally can usually be condoned. But, demanding others to do the same is a bit too conceited - telling others to pray to one's personal belief system.
In response to a woman who said she was praying for the tornado victims, a Facebook commenter replied, "If prayer worked (and superseded God's will), there wouldn't have been a disaster like this in the first place."

Why I'm glad I'm no longer a Christian
A Christian has to believe that the creator of the universe created tornadoes as part of his glorious plan for the world. The tornado that devastated Moore OK is not a result of free will, but is a part of God's glorious plan for our lives. A Christian has to worship a God that ignored the prayers of the trapped students and teachers and watched as 7 children suffered and died in their school building.
A Christian has to believe that God is all-powerful but consciously chose to just watch as innocent schoolchildren got their faces blown off in an elementary school in Connecticut.
A Christian has to also believe that God allowed the planes to hit the World Trade Center resulting in thousands of deaths and a long, deadly war. He knew all this because he's all-knowing and all-powerful. But he chose to just watch the planes and he chose to watch the people on board pray to him and he saw the anguish on their faces.
If Christians choose not to believe these things, then they are Christian by name only, not by faith.
A Christian has to believe that 1 billion Muslims will suffer for all eternity in hell. Muslims have to believe that 1 billion Christians will suffer all eternity in hell. An atheist believes that not a single person has to suffer for all eternity in hell. No one.

Living in the heart of Tornado Alley

May 19, 2013, Sunday morning: I and a friend had a great brunch at the new Whiskey Cake restaurant at Penn Square Mall in OKC. The weather was so nice, we sat outside on the covered patio. I left for home at about 2:00. I had to mow the back yard before the arrival of a forecasted storm later that afternoon. While mowing, I noticed the sky turn dark and the cloud movement increase. I kept checking the sky as I later took the dogs for a walk. At one point, I looked up and the clouds were rotating in a large circle over my head. Holy shit! That looked bad. I went inside and led the dogs into the closet. I had earlier readied the closet floor with pillows and cushions. We got in and the dogs lay down (photo below). They stayed quite calm. I, however, got a bit scared. This closet was not much protection.

The sound of the storm increased and there was a bit of hail. The power had gone off, I could not get info from the television. I was following the weather maps on a couple of iPhone app sites. It looked like we only had to get through another 5 or 10 minutes. After that, I slowly slid open the closet door. It looked quite calm out. We got out and went outside. The power came back and the TV popped on. They mentioned that a small tornado had touched down about 3 miles away. The damage was fairly minor (well, not to that one guy who lost half of his roof) and there were no injuries. This was the very beginning of the tornado that continued east and grew into a monster, destroying much of a trailer park near Shawnee (photos above). Every spring tornado season, I think about installing a storm shelter. Now, I definitely will. I won't go through another season sitting scared in a closet.

Monday morning, we thought the worst was over. Just another day of thunderstorms, maybe some severe in the afternoon. The morning was beautiful and sunny. I did some more yardwork. Watching the weather coverage that afternoon - there was a tornado that went through Moore, about 24 miles south of where I live. But, no word on how strong it was. Then, as the storm passed and the sky cleared, the news helicopters aired live aerial views, including the elementary schools. It seemed quiet and serene from the air. It wasn't.

An issue I now fully support
Install storm shelters in every public school in Oklahoma.
With communication capabilities. handicap accessibility, and large enough for all students and neighborhood residents.
Yes, it will be expensive. The USA spends more on the military than the next 10 countries combined. We can pay billions to attack Iraq and maintain military bases all over the world. Yet, we won't spend money to protect children in school in Tornado Alley?

Celebrating birthdays and giving gifts

Definition: A birthday is a day when a person celebrates the anniversary date of his or her birth. The full story.

Rational thoughts from Ken Ilgunas, who walked along the Keystone XL pipeline.

The whole idea of someone dying for my sins does absolutely nothing for me. If I killed or committed adultery or did something undeniably bad, what difference does it make if someone else died for these sins? How does dying for my sin and my future sins, make my sins any more forgivable? Why does this crazy story work for so many people? And what's all this obsession with sinning? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don't sin. I drink to be merry, I lie for the sake of social harmony, and I lust because I'm stuck with a 29-year-old male's body. I don't feel guilty for any of the above, as they aren't wrong, and when I do something wrong, my conscience catches it and I do my best to not do it again.

I didn't get the sense that Pastor James was preaching to me out of a sense of compassion, or that he truly cared about the fate of my soul. Rather, converting me was only a sort of game for him to play. In his church, sitting on his couch, in my dusty clothes, he did not see me as his equal, but as someone he could wield power over. I was little more than sport to him.

I sat there quietly, politely listening, while thinking to myself, "I'm smarter than all you fools." I knew that Pastor James, so blinded by his faith, would never have an intellectual discussion for the rest of his life.

I was once a person who would scoff at the idea of becoming Christian, and while I will never become a "believer," I've started to think it might be possible, one day to join a progressive, gays-allowed, we-interpret-the-Bible-metaphorically, let's-not-rape-the-earth church, if just to embrace the sense of community and heighten my sense of charity that these churches so admirably do.

How much longer before America grows up and does the right thing?
A Pew poll released last week reveals that 52% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal, while only 45% oppose it. That's an 11-point upswing since 2010. According to a recent FBI report, US law enforcement officials make a marijuana-related arrest every 42 seconds. That's 750,000 people per year caught up in the Drug War net on marijuana alone. With millions of people facing prison time or legal quagmires and billions of dollars spent enforcing marijuana laws, Americans finally seem to be coming to a logical conclusion regarding their country's out-of-control Drug War.

"There will always be some people who are less evolved in their thinking about marijuana and want to hold on to the past," said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, "but [this poll shows that] most Americans are ready to move forward and adopt a more sensible, evidence-based approach. Marijuana prohibition is on its last legs. The degree to which it has failed is simply too obvious to ignore."

A 2013 bill in the US House of Representatives would end the federal prohibition of marijuana and allow the states to make their own marijuana laws, taxing and regulating the drug as they would alcohol. Unlike the more than half of Americans who support marijuana legalization, however, only 13 of the 435 House members - less than 3 percent - have signed on to the bill.
The full essay

During 30 years of teaching, the most common excuse for not meeting a project deadline was, "I didn't have time.”
I would ask, "Did you sleep last night?" Of course, they did. I then pointed out that they obviously had time. After some disgust on their part, they would admit, they actually did have time. What they really meant was that the project was not a high enough priority among all the options: eating, sleeping, socializing, games, work, laundry, and homework.
We constantly, throughout the day, make decisions and choices on how we spend our time - we prioritize that time since there is rarely enough of it to do everything we want to do. I have time to iron my shirts, I just don’t want to. “I’m not going to edit your résumé, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice and we can waste it or we can prioritize and use it efficiently.
Changing one's attitude from the lie "I didn't have time” to the more accurate and honest "I chose to do other things that were of a higher priority" is quite liberating. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.

It isn't Please or Thank you. It isn't How are you? to open the meeting or What are the next steps? to close the meeting. No, the most important phrase you'll ever say in a meeting is: How can I help you?
There's no better way to show that you care about the person you're meeting with than to genuinely ask him/her what you can do to help. There are two possibilities for responses:
• The person will tell you, thereby giving you an opportunity to help, after which the person you helped will feel compelled to return the favor, and help you.
• The person won't tell you, instead politely declining, but then she will still feel like you care, and will be emotionally invested in helping you.

Either way, establishing that you care and that you're there to help is a powerful emotional bond. It is through helping that you gain trust, and eventually, influence.
If it seems simple, it is. It doesn't matter whether it's a customer, a prospect, or a colleague you're meeting with - we all like to be cared about, and we all can use some help. Just make sure you're genuine and never contrived. Ask in your next meeting, "How can I help you?"

By Dave Kerpen, Chairman of Likeable Media

"I took up two spaces." (pause) "I'd better hurry!"

I was sitting outside at Starbucks with the dogs, having a breakfast sandwich and an Americano. This car pulls in, right over the line and out steps a woman who, noticing my dropped jaw, looks back at her car and admits she took up 2 spaces. Then, stepping towards the door, she says she'd better hurry. Normally, this time of the morning, the lot is full. Fortunately, the extra space wasn't needed while she was inside. Maybe she just needed extra room to get back into her car. Her hands are full of drinks - she needs an exterior cup holder.

Note: the iPhone is a great tool for taking covert photographs. One can easily fake a texting or video-watching motion and snap the photo by pressing one of the volume buttons on the side of the phone.
Below: more examples of selfish ego-centric self-centered me-me-me narcissism that is so prevalent today. Notice that each asshole also parked close to the door.

I suppose that these people, and thousands more like them, place their own desires (no door dings on my car, please!) above being considerate of others. They may think that they have 'earned' the right to do as they please.

Dang that iPad habit

On the flight to Oklahoma from NYC, I was looking out the window. I wondered what town we were looking at - so, I tapped the glass to bring up the map settings window so I could turn on 'Labels' which would add the layer of text over the map. Oops, it's a fucking window, not an iPad. Why are these planes not equipped with iPad windows? There could be a camera lens behind each iPad to capture the image beyond and display it on the screen. Then I could access it and have all the functions to manipulate and access info.
Or, I could do a better job of separating reality from my digital universe.

But, wait, maybe it could work. The screen could be much larger than an iPad. Instead of windows cut into the fuselage exterior, there would just be a row of camera lens along each side of the plane. The safety video could be shown on the pads before takeoff. In case of an accident, evacuation instructions could be displayed. Here's an example applied to a truck on the highway.

There is a camera on the front of the truck and the rear door panels are large screens, projecting the image the truck sees in front.

Why I don't put on my seat belt when I start the car.
Because it's dangerous.
I strive to have as many things in my favor as possible when I drive. I want to avoid an accident by limiting distractions and encouraging alertness. The windows are not tinted, there are no decals on the windshield that might obscure part of the view, and I drive cars (since the 1970s) in which I sit up high for a better view. So, here's the problem with putting on the seat belt when I get in - the belt constricts my movement when I turn around to see behind the car while backing out of the driveway or a parking place. So, I don't put it on. Once I put the car in Drive, then I put on the seat belt. Every time.

A great idea! Spicy Ketchup

Just driving down the street, listening to Shakira when I notice the marquee at Whataburger. My response is immediate - that is a brilliant idea. We love ketchup and we love salsa. Pow! Put the two together. Both are dipping condiments and both are tomato-based. Why hadn't someone thought of this years ago?

I have always put pepper on my fries, so a ketchup with a bit of peppery hotness was an easy transition. The burger was bland, but the Spicy Ketchup was quite good.

I normally do not eat at Whataburger because of the slogan painted on the window, shown below. The saying, added to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950s, is a symptom of stupidity. Those that promote it can't even explain what it means. Is the nation indivisible? Bull. Our nation has always been divided. Even after 9/11 brought most of us together, we were still not completely undivided. I am reluctant to patronize a place that displays its stupidity on their window (and seems to be proud of it.) I suspect they are just trying to promote their Republichristian beliefs in hopes of attracting more Okies to spend money there.

Another small way to make things better

For some reason, I looked inside some trash can somewhere and noticed that the can was full but it was full of empty cups. An empty cup contains lots of air that takes up volume within the limited interior of a trash bag. It was an easy transition to the notion that if these cups had been flattened, they would take up much less space. So, now, I flatten empty cups before putting them in the trash can.
• Increased capacity of trash cans.
• Less trips to empty the trash can.
• Less liners used - less plastic wasted.

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