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25 December 2009
23 December 2009
A brief of the case is pretty straightforward. Ms. Pennline and her neighbors have disputed and opposed a change in her town's sewage system that resulted in a quarterly $ 45.00 assessment (i.e. tax) on their properties. After not paying the tax, Ms. Pennline found out the hard way that this assessment, because it was based on the sewage system and therefore a building code issue, resulted in her being dragged in front of a local magistrate. (Side note- for those of you that have followed this blog for some time you know that I hope a special place in hell is reserved for these idiots that are essentially political hacks dressed in judge's garb.) The magistrate, instead of allowing Ms. Pennline time to appeal the sentence or collect the necessary funds, was hauled off to the county Big House.
There are a couple of points to make about this incident. For one, when you read the article you can see that Ms. Pennline's $ 200.00 assessment has magically mushroomed into more that $ 1,300 in fines, fees and "court costs." This once again exposes the magistrate system for what it is- the organized extortion of Pennsylvania's citizenry at the barrel of a gun. That extra $ 1,100 is the money that supports the bloated bureaucracy of the state and pays the magistrate's wages. It is essentially one giant feedback loop that preys upon the weak and defenseless and is built to assure a speedy guilty plea and cash on the barrelhead.
Second, if this is how we treat our elderly citizens, God help us all. Ms. Pennline, again a 74 year old woman, was handcuffed and taken to jail without her medicines. Why was she made to suffer the intense humiliation of being handcuffed ? This is an elderly woman that probably tried to do the right thing her entire life, is scraping by day to day and is now treated like a common criminal. Were the constables (another class of unprofessional mercenaries living off the public dole) afraid she was going to beat their asses ? Or was it because it was just standard operating procedure. Yes, standard procedure which requires unthinking bureaucrats to fulfill their duties for the machine to grind along. How very German. And what happened to this woman in jail ? Was she forced to undergo the "standard procedures" that all prisoners need to endure ? I can only hope that some jailer had the decency and common sense to make this poor woman's stay as painless as possible.
Finally, what really upsets me is that this is Western Pennyslvania. Home of the Whisky Rebellion, of generations of frontiersmen and women that scorned the power of the state and took matters into their own hands. Where is the outcry over this case ? If this had happened 200 or even 100 years ago, I can guarantee that Ms. Pennline's fellow citizens would not be rolling over in pre-Christmas shopping induced apathy. They would have marched on the damn jail and demanded her release.
The liberal application of tar and feathers may sound like a lot of fun but would be frowned on in this day and age. Helping Ms. Pennline with her legal fees, however, is a great way to show some Christmas mercy while simultaneously showing these fascist bastards that all power resides in the people. Ms. Pennline's attorney can be reached at-
Matthew Keranko, Esq.
30 South Main Street Suite 102
Washington, PA 15301 Phone: (724) 225-6780
09 December 2009
I kid you not.
College football was one small slice of my life not regulated by the government. Now the feds will not only inspect my turkey, tax my cable television and regulate the standards for my television they will also determine who Penn State plays on New Year's Day.
Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) is responsible for this abomination and I hope the good people of Texas will vote his ass out of office shortly before they declare themselves a Republic. Barton proved the minimal IQ requirements for our elected representatives when he used the analogy of federal oversight of the telecommunications industry to prove his point of the need for federal regulation in college football-
""With telecommunications, you're dealing with AT&T and Verizon and Sprint, and in this case you're dealing with the SEC and the Big 12 and the Pac-10," Barton said. "It's the same basic economic model."
Even as an anarchist I can kind of see the point for some oversight of telecommunications. Telecommunications standards need to be established so that systems can interface with each other across state lines and oversight is needed to make sure that radio and television station signals do not interfere with local communications, with each other etc. But college football ? The article notes that critics say the current system is unfair. Too bad, go form your own Bowl playoff system. Now pass those nachos.
If you want to spend a few minutes reading the legislation, click here. The intent of the bill is-
To prohibit, as an unfair and deceptive act or practice, the promotion, marketing, and advertising of any post-season NCAA Division I football game as a national championship game unless such game is the culmination of a fair and equitable playoff system.
Okay, therein lies the twisted logic behind this complete waste of time. Barton argues that you can't call the game "a national championship game" unless it is the culmination of a fair and equitable playoff system. What about the NFL ? Are the Steelers truly "World Champions ?" I don't remember them playing teams from Europe or Asia last year during the playoffs. Same goes for baseball, which would actually be competitive because there are some very good teams outside of the U.S.
And with every bill, comes more regulation.
Enforcement Authority- A violation of section 3 shall be treated as a violation of a rule defining an unfair or deceptive act or practice prescribed under section 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B)). The Federal Trade Commission shall enforce this Act in the same manner, by the same means, and with the same jurisdiction as though all applicable terms and provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act were incorporated into and made a part of this Act.
A final note. Last time I checked, I noticed that the University of Texas is playing for the national championship. Will Mr. Barton lead the charge to invalidate their claim to be national champions if they win ?
02 December 2009
01 December 2009
This article raises a number of points. First, it further confirms my contention that Facebook is evil and will eventually lead to the collapse of the human race. Second, it confirms what I have read in other articles which is that insurers, law enforcement and government are all trawling social networking sites looking for intelligence. For whatever reason, many people feel a strange urge when the log into Facebook to immediately barf their innermost secrets onto the screen for the world to see. More troubling is how an insurance investigator can make such a subjective call simply based on the photograph of this woman and, for all intensive purposes, diagnose her as being free of depression and therefore eligible for work.
I have suffered from depression for many years and I can show you literally hundreds of pictures of me that appear to show an outwardly happy camper. That is what is so frustrating about depression and trying to explain it to those that have never suffered from it. Appearances can be deceiving to say the least. Beyond that, imagine what other subjective decisions can be made about you from somebody looking at the pictures that you have posted. Too fat ? Must never exercise, raise the health insurance premium. Smoking ? Whoa, better cancel that life insurance policy. Children are all muddy from playing outside..or are they being neglected ? Better call the local police.
We are all on a very slippery slope when life affecting decisions are being made by faceless bureaucrats who are lurking on the Internet. Paging Mr. Orwell...
24 November 2009
I've been off of my meditation schedule lately and it shows. I'm grumpy, can't focus and prone to unpleasant episodes of lashing out at others. I have found that when I mediate on a daily basis, I feel much more focused, at peace with myself and less prone to anxiety. If you've never tried it, I highly recommend it. Even 10 minutes a day can make a big improvement on your outlook on things and there is no need to tie it to Buddhism or any other spiritual belief if you don't want to. Just grab yourself some carpet and get to it.
20 November 2009
This article is a prime example of the fascist nature of the modern state. Instead of lauding Mr. Clarke for turning in the weapon and ammunition, which easily could have been found and played with by children, the authorities arrested him on the spot. A quote by the prosecutor should send shivers up the spine of all supposedly free men and women of the U.K.-
"Prosecuting, Brian Stalk, explained to the jury that possession of a firearm was a "strict liability" charge – therefore Mr Clarke's allegedly honest intent was irrelevant.
Just by having the gun in his possession he was guilty of the charge, and has no defence in law against it, he added."
This from the same nation that produced the Magna Carta ? No defence in law ? What about defence in common sense ?
Even looking at the case from thousands of miles away, it is evident that the weapon (a sawn off shotgun) was probably dumped on his property by an individual who had either used the weapon in a crime or feared he was about to be caught with it. For the state, what would have been the better outcome ? Some 10 year old finds it and accidentally blows off his friends head while they were playing with it ?
Reports like this make me very happy that we freed ourselves from the British Empire. Unfortunately, I don't think we are very far behind in terms of bureaucratic incompetence, blind adherence to the law and complete indifference to rational thought.
18 November 2009
Two observations stick out in my head. First, it was easier to get in and out of Pittsburgh during the G20 than on any other day except perhaps a holiday. While I fully expected roadblocks, protestors hurling molotov cocktails at barricades and burning tires, I was instead greeted by bored looking Pennsylvania guardsmen wearing what looked like size 4X body armor (seriously fellas, start doing some crunches.) The police and military presence was so overwhelming that it seemed to suck the spirit right out of the opposition. Second, I finally came to the conclusion that I have pondered for many years. Many "anarchists" that have shown up at these types of events are not anarchists in the traditional sense- rather, they are overprivileged little college aged brats intent on breaking things for the hell of it instead of trying to bring the masses to a positive message- namely, the spreading growth and power of the state at the expense of the little guy, the freedom of independent thought and action and the slavery of state dependence.
I'm all for opposing the uncontrolled growth and power of the federal government, the state government and even my local government. I oppose the global economic and political systems that have destroyed the rights of individuals all over this planet and exploited the many for the benefit of the few. Still, I can't figure out how breaking the windows of a local business moves the anarchist message forward. Instead, it galvanizes local resistance against the anarchist message. I warned anarchists for months about this.
I thought two protests were done well. Greenpeace hanging their banner on one of the city bridges won large scale media coverage much of which seemed to carry a message of grudging respect. Even the police interviewed about it had to admit it took balls to scale the bridge and hang a couple of hundred feet above the Ohio River. Many Pittsburghers saw the story on television and probably more than a few took the time to look a little more into the Greenpeace message. The Buddhist monk protests against Chinese oppression in Tibet and against the repression of monks in Myanmar were also extremely effective. The media showed the quiet strength, compassion and stoicism of Buddhism contrasted with the cold depravities of the state. I'm sure that many viewers were taken aback by the images of these protests- unarmed monks walking with serene and absolute focus contrasted against armed police and soldiers.
Pittsburgh is an especially provincial town with extremely tight family and ethnic ties- the absolute worst thing you could do was take actions that impacted the local populace. Sympathetic rioting from Pitt students certainly didn't help either. And what was the end result ? Local business guy cleaning up glass on television while his female employees explained how they hid behind the counter while they were under attack. Way to go guys, way to build public support. And how did this affect the G20 globalists ? It didn't. Perversely, it probably built support for the state and its promise of protection and tranquility (with the unspoken price of personal freedom and liberty.)And so, the struggle continues.
07 September 2009
06 September 2009
A recent development in Europe has given me some hope that a compromise that benefits everyone could be at hand. A joint Norwegian-German effort is testing a wind turbine at sea which is anchored to the sea-bed instead of being built in shallow water. The benefits to the power companies is that prevailing winds blow much harder and at a constant rate when the turbines are located far offshore (beyond the visual horizon.) The benefit to the environment is that more clean energy is produced, the turbines can be located outside of bird fly-ways and they cause no visual damage to the seashore since they could be positioned far out to sea. Although many hurdles exist before the turbines can be installed in large numbers, the technology looks promising.
To find out more about this project, click here.
02 September 2009
So, I decided to partner up with Google. Please tell your friends and family about my blog. Whether you love it, hate it or just can start the day without it, all proceeds from advertising will be donated to Rokpa International. This charity supports poor children in Tibet and Nepal and assists with everything from food and clothing to educational support. I researched charities for months before selecting Rokpa and am comfortable that they have the track record and strong finances to complete their objective.
Come on in and click away on those ads. Stick it to the man for the benefit of the little guy.
As a special incentive, I will match all site advertising revenues up to $ 500.00 for 2009.
01 September 2009
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review printed an article that hit very close to home for me today. The article is about a former mortgage broker named Richard Thomas who stole close to $ 1 million dollars from a local business known as Penntowne Mortgage Group. Mr. Thomas has successfully gained his 5th postponement in sentencing by the Federal courts.
I know the story well. I was the President and part owner of the company.
When I first read the article, I have to admit that I was enraged. How can somebody that has confessed to a crime continue to evade final justice ? How can the need for him to "counsel" his son regarding a possible football scholarship conceivably convince a judge to let him squirm out of sentencing once again ? What about my son and his needs ? What about my family ? What about the families of all those that lost their jobs because of this ? What about the families of all of our investors and partners that took the hit ? What about the members of the public that were preyed upon ?
Buddhist discipline aside, I was pissed. I ranted and raved in front of my wife. Maybe people are just animals and maybe the only thing we truly understand is theft, violence and total disregard for each other. Maybe we should just take from others, follow the law of the jungle and prey upon each other. Eat the weak, I got my mine, you go get yours. In fact, I'm going to take yours too. "I'm writing to the U.S. Attorney" I yelled. "That asshole needs to get the maximum."
My wife looked at me. She said "I can't believe you are saying stuff like this. You sound like me. The thing I always loved and hated about you was your sense of idealism."
Now there is something to meditate on. This crisis of the past 2 1/2 years has posed the greatest danger to me not in terms of lost money, endless creditors, lawsuits, sleepless nights and crushing stress. The greatest danger is that the situation could pull me down to the animal level of the individuals (yes, he had help) that committed this crime. If I was to allow it, this could destroy years of personal reflection and improvement. No, the ways of revenge and the gun are not the path to follow. To paraphrase the big guy, I will beat these swords into lotus blossoms, stay on the path and try to be a better person, husband, father, brother, son and friend. I'll take the higher path.
Tommorrow morning, right before sunrise I will meditate. I will meditate on sending forgiveness and loving kindness to Mr. Thomas and his family. I will wish him well on his journey. I will wish his family well. I will forgive him for what he did and hope that he will learn from his mistakes. I will let the past go and send loving kindness to him and his family, my friends and family and so on.
I'm not saying it's going to work ! But, at least I'll try. I've had meditative roadblocks on issues before. Sometimes it doesn't happen on the first shot, but these are the things that we must all work on.
25 August 2009
I'm sure that every anarchist group coming to Pittsburgh just lit up with the glee at the prospect of either destroying or replacing the sign with their own art work. A substitute sign along the lines of "Pittsburgh Hates Fascist Assholes" might be better suited, or perhaps "Free to a good home- Pittsburgh Pirates" for those hoping to export our team to someplace else. My pick would be "Japan- Stop Killing Whales" but I may have to get by with just wearing a tee shirt to that effect.
On a more serious note perhaps Bayer's marketing mavens can create a sign that simply says "Sorry" preferably in Hebrew, Russian, Polish, Czech, French (and a dozen other languages depending on the font size) for Bayer's activities during World War 2 and its role in Nazi Germany- something the company has not apologized for. Sorry, but I have a real problem with this company welcoming the G20 stooges to my city on my behalf, especially one built on such a terrible past.
21 August 2009
While driving home yesterday, I was listening to a local religious channel. Although I don't always agree with the tenets of the born again movement, the station usually has interesting phone in debates regarding religious issues. Yesterday, the debate was framed around how the release of Al Megrahi either reinforced, or was opposed to, the Christian concepts of forgiveness and compassion. More specifically, when we follow a religion that constantly speaks of these actions, how prepared are we to actually put them into action when faced with barbaric acts such as this ?
The callers were heavily slanted towards the Old Testament concepts of retribution and revenge and easily outnumbered the compassionate ones that argued that all men and women are deserving of compassion and the opportunity for salvation. There was some polite finger pointing from the compassionate camp which basically argued that if you call yourself a Christian, you need to express compassion regardless of the actions of the sinner for divine judgment was not the role of call in show participants. Although the arguments on both sides were interesting, I needed to remind myself that this wasn't some college dorm room bull session- at the root of the argument were 270 dead men, women and children who were obliterated by a deliberate, calculated and well planned murder. Turning the tables slightly, how do I view this as a Buddhist ?
I try to meditate on a daily basis. Before I meditate I try to think of a subject for that session of meditation and then focus on it as I begin. Today, I will meditate and send loving kindness and compassion to Mr. Al Megrahi in hopes that he will see the error in his ways and attempt to turn his heart from one of hate and death to one of compassion and love for his victims and their families. I honestly feel sorry for Mr. Al Megrahi because I believe the negative karma created by this crime will banish him to countless reincarnations on this planet in the lowest orders of existence. By extinguishing 270 humans, the highest goal for reincarnation, he has sentenced himself to countless lives of suffering and pain.
To the families of the victims I will send loving kindness and compassion in hope that they are gradually freed from the pain of their loss and consoled by the fact that their loved ones were reborn and now walk this earth once again. To the world I will send loving kindness and compassion that our stupid tribal conflicts will no longer escalate into the mass murder of others.
19 August 2009
I took this picture during a recent trip to West Virginia. It shows a portion of a wind farm stretching along one of the many ridge lines that cross this beautiful and secluded area. The picture was taken on a foggy, rainy morning in which mother nature thankfully obscured the scar that these wind turbines, and many others like them, have caused upon the wilderness.
For my family and me, the outdoors represents an opportunity to spend time together in various pursuits including canoeing, hiking and mountain climbing. It is a welcome departure from the daily grind, especially useful in prying the kids away from the television and Playstation in order to get some fresh air and exercise. Unfortunately, I have personally noticed a proliferation of these wind turbines from the border between Maine and New Brunswick, throughout Pennsylvania and now in West Virginia. (For a review of the wind farms in Pennsylvania click here on the industry's working group website- note that issues such as visual pollution and impact on local species are not addressed.) Since they are placed on areas of higher elevation in order to catch the most favorable winds, they have permanently damaged the landscapes in otherwise pristine areas. The visual damage that these things cause is one thing, the environmental damage they cause to migrating birds and local bats is quite another. Is it worth the cost ?
The wind farm debate has put environmentalists in an uncomfortable position. On one hand, the clean power generated by wind turbines makes sense when compared against more pollution intense methods such as natural gas and coal. On the other hand, the wind turbines are killing tens of, if not hundreds of thousands, of migrating birds according to various estimates including everything from migrating songbirds to raptors that misjudge the speed at which the turbine blades are turning. On top of these casualties are bats which are already under pressure due to habitat destruction and disease. While environmentalists wring their hands and try to come up with solutions ranging from migration pattern studies and other ways to prevent the destruction of wildlife I would like to offer another solution- blow the damn things up and sell the scrap.
Wait a second, you ask, how can a committed lover of the outdoors such as yourself oppose such a green way of generating power ? An article in a recent issue of the Economist nicely dovetailed with my own recent thinking on this matter. The article addresses the coming energy crunch in the United Kingdom and its analysis of the contribution of wind farms should cause even the most ardent green to stop dead in his or her Birkenstocks. Wind farms cannot replace the bulk energy generated by coal, gas or nuclear and the U.K. may be the first nation to host an Olympics illuminated by candles. In order to replace the power generated by old fashioned means, the entire nation of Wales would have to be covered in wind turbines.
If wind farms kill wildlife, mar the landscape and produce relatively tiny amounts of power, why the rush to build them ? As usual, follow the money. Tax dollars are being thrown at the wind industry by Congress and the President's vision of a new green economy. Industrial corporations, such as General Electric, which produce the turbines are benefiting from these subsidies as well as the opportunity to market themselves to the public as being concerned about the environment in general. Local and state politicians, such as Pennsylvania's Governor Rendell can loudly proclaim that the wind farms will create jobs (up to 85,000 according to the industry web site I linked above.) Landowners who have the acreage to lease to the power companies also benefit from having some of these behemoths built on their property. Opposition is light and scattered because environmentalists are quick to label anyone against this method of power generation as anti-environment. For a politician to actually have the guts to oppose this industry would be to risk political suicide.
Pennsylvania is literally awash in natural gas. The ability of drilling companies to now reach the gas within the Marcellus shale of Western Pennsylvania makes the idea of building more wind turbines seem infantile and purely for the purposes of propaganda to benefit politicians and energy companies. Yes, burning gas creates pollution but new technologies are making the process cleaner. In addition, the construction of a gas burning (or even nuclear) plant reduces the physical footprint of the production source to a few square miles versus thousands. It is time for us to question the motives behind this industry and to hold them (and their lackeys in state and federal government) accountable for the environmental impact of their decisions. Will the wilderness we leave our children be pristine or pockmarked by thousands of these damned things ?
11 August 2009
You can't even make this stuff up.
30 July 2009
"Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness- Walking the Buddha's Path" by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana.
"Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles MacKay.
"Our Dumb World" by The Onion.
"The Education of a Speculator" by Victor Niederhoffer.
22 July 2009
Pittsburgh is a small media market. I think that those that come to our city in September for the first time will be surprised at how small the city actually is both in terms of geography and quality of our local media. As competitors in a small market, the local media can be expected to increase the crescendo of hype to near Superbowl proportions by the time the summit kicks off. Whether it is police attacking anarchists, or anarchists attacking the police, it's all going to make for great ratings for them. Expect little, or no, analysis concerning the protestor's causes and lots of feedback from Uncle Stosh on the television callback lines- "Yinz are being too nice, beat all them anarchy people n'at."
As I stated in an earlier post, now is one of the few brief moments in history where the Anarchist message can gain widespread support from a public tired of government as it currently exists. The G20 can be a platform to spread this message to the populace and, for once, paint the governments of these nations as the enemy, not the anarchists, and not the rank and file police. Violence will only destroy this message. Violence on television will focus on a few anarchists breaking windows which will be the image repeated round the clock across the country. The message will be lost.
If you really want to screw the powers that be this September, join me and demonstrate peacefully. That will really piss them off.
14 July 2009
Aux armes, citoyens,
To arms, citizens
Formez vos bataillons,
Form your battalions,
Marchons, marchons !
Let's march, let's march!
Qu'un sang impur
May a tainted blood
Abreuve nos sillons !
Drench our furrows!
07 July 2009
The saturation media coverage has become annoying to say the least. The low point for me was when one earnest commentator said that Mr. Jackson was America's version of Lady Di- an unfair comparison, I thought, given that Mr. Jackson actually worked for a living. Another proclaimed "Thriller" to be the greatest album of all time. I could see that to some extent if the basis was sales, but there have been better albums from various bands throughout the years- Nirvana, "Who's Next," "Dark Side of the Moon".....we could debate this for days. The story of his death even managed to knock the situations in Iran and North Korea out of the news mix, and Governor Sanford of South Carolina must have seen his death as a stroke of good luck.
The fundamental thing that the media seems to be struggling with is that people die. No matter how rich, how poor, how weak, how powerful we are, we're all going to end up dead. I think this basic fact of life has been lost on our modern society. We think technology can conquer all. Unlike our ancestors, death seems like a remote thing that happens once in awhile, but something we really don't talk about. Our kids don't see it like they did in past generations- when is the last time your family laid a body out for a wake in the living room ? That remoteness has made it something alien, not to be talked about when in fact it is a natural part of our existence.
"Strive diligently, for all things must pass." These are the words of the Buddha on his deathbed. He knew he was about to die and he left this advice for his followers. They are good words for us as well. Live a good life, be diligent in whatever you do, be moral and upstanding in how you deal with other people, respect life and always try to do the right thing. I struggle to do these things everyday but it is that very struggle which makes us human. Just like Michael Jackson.
06 July 2009
It's nearly 4.00 pm and I haven't done much for a Monday. I read the news, did a little work and went to the gym. Another day in depression land. I've suffered from this damned disease for the past two years and I'm frankly tired of it. The fatigue, the racing thoughts, the sleepless nights and bouts of anger. Depression sucks. It's not an affliction that people can relate to unless they have it. There are no outward symptoms, no scars or bandages to point to. It's a daily battle in my head and lately the bad guys have been winning.
In the two years that I've lived with this, I really haven't missed a day of work or spent one in bed, although I've certainly thought about it. Nope, no quitting here. Get your butt out of the rack and hit the floor running. Trying to work while your mind is racing in a hundred different directions is not much fun. Throw in a big dose of anger, sadness and a sprinkle of self-doubt and you have a recipe for disaster. Imagine the exhaustion of fighting your own mind on a daily basis. That's the joy of being depressed.
Some stuff helps. My doctor is a good guy, actually spends the time to listen to your problems before heading off to the next appointment. He put me on Cymbalta which helped to calm down a lot of those racing thoughts. It has helped to some extent, as does exercise and meditation. Still, I know that I'm not who I was once. Happy, optimistic, hard-charging always looking for a challenge. I'm a shadow of my former self. My wife is a saint, always there for me and willing to listen. It isn't fair to her either that I'm this way.
Depression makes you think crazy things. At the worst of it, when I still lived alone, I spent one night in my bedroom closet wrapped in my poncho liner- gripping my loaded AR-15. I was sure "they" were coming to get me. Looking back on it, I'm not quite sure who "they" were but I'm glad some innocent person didn't knock on my door that night. The only place I feel totally safe and at ease is in the woods behind our house. I spend a lot of time back there, clearing vines and brush, pruning some of the trees and planting wildflowers. I've counted 23 species of birds, lots of deer, squirrels, groundhogs and chipmunks. Sometimes I just sit on my favorite rock and listen to the sounds of the forest.
So, another shot at beating this so I can get on with my life. More exercise, more meditation and I'm going to ask the doc to refer me to a shrink. Gotta eat better too. Two years goes by quickly, too quickly. I can't waste another two.
05 July 2009
Other charges were made for drug paraphernalia and underage drinking as well as assorted citations for vehicle code violations. I would like to take a moment to thank the Task force for making my point.
Let's run the numbers.
By my math, one arrest for sobriety violations out of 968 vehicles equals a success rate of 0.00103 %. Even the Pirates would be embarrassed by these kind of numbers. If we are a bit charitable and take into account that 10 drivers total were cited, we get a 0.0103 % "success" for a night's work of overtime, taxpayer expense, inconvenience to the public and invasion of their privacy. Keep in mind that the other 9 citations, were probably for such horrific crimes as not having current registrations, a busted headlight or other such transgressions against humanity.
Note how this number nicely corresponds with the 1 % success rate that most of these checkpoints produce as stated in my earlier post. Nice work fellas, you must be very proud of yourselves.
01 July 2009
This is a small victory against a theocratic system of government, masquerading as a democracy, which has imposed its religious beliefs upon its citizens (the article reports that 80 % of state lawmakers are LDS members.) It seems incredible that such a law would exist into the 21st century, but the LDS dominance of the Utah government has resulted in laws crafted for the "good" of its members, not the freedom of its citizens.
One troubling aspect of the repeal of the law is that the identification of bar patrons who appear to be under 35 will now be electronically scanned and saved in state databases. Ostensibly, this is being done so that state authorities can examine the records later on to see if any laws have been broken. The purpose of the original law was to shield LDS members from the evil of alcohol. This new scanning of identification could be a simple way for the LDS dominated legislature, working through the LDS dominated state police, to keep an eye on younger LDS members that may dare to venture from the flock.
25 June 2009
Adultery sucks. It's one thing that Buddhists, Atheists, Christians, Jews and Muslims can all agree on. Many cultures have both oral and written prohibitions against it, rooted in the ancient knowledge of humanity that screwing around on your partner is damaging to all involved, especially children. Mr. Sanford should be roundly condemned for his actions and deserves to suffer the embarrassment he has caused himself and his family. Adultery is a sign of cowardice. If he really loved his girlfriend, he should have been man enough to divorce his wife first. Instead, like most egotistical politicians, he wanted to have the best of both worlds. If the guy has any honor at all, he will resign as governor and go play with the tractor he alluded to in his emails.
Other politicians will pile on, but this sorry episode illustrates the problem with many modern supposed "servants" of the state. The long list of politicians, of both parties, who have been caught in these types of affairs just reinforces the fact that we are governed by a childish, immoral, unethical and arrogant class of elites that feel they are entitled to do what they want, whenever they want regardless of the consequences. Power is an insidious, corrupting force that has slowly destroyed this country and its citizenry's faith in government. This sorry episode just further illustrates that the time has come to bring the government to heel.
23 June 2009
Put aside the constitutional arguments for a moment. Ask yourself why we supposedly free Americans accept the fact that we can be stopped at a checkpoint, interrogated by the police as to where we have been and what we are doing ? Is this East Germany in the 1970's ? No, we have passively accepted the will of the state, not even with the test of the ballot, to stop us as we go about our legal, personal business. Now that the state has taken this right, it's not going to give it back. In fact, the state will use this entry to further encroach upon our rights as free beings. If you live in Florida, for example, you may even be required to give blood at a checkpoint.
Despite research showing that they are ineffective and cost prohibitive when compared to traditional policing, the DUI checkpoint has now become commonplace in the majority of U.S. states including Pennsylvania. The federal government supports this charade by granting tens of millions of dollars to local law enforcement to pay overtime to their officers and to buy new equipment to perform this heinous task. If you've ever seen your local law enforcement sporting a new trailer or warning lights for DUI enforcement, for example, it's a good bet that it was paid for with your fellow citizens tax dollars. Money too is the prime mover of Mother's Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) an organization with a multi-million dollar budget that supports DUI checkpoints and vilifies any politician brave enough to stand up and complain.
Should driving drunk be a crime ? Yes, of course it should be. Drunk driving endangers all citizens. The necessity of prohibiting drunk driving, however, cannot justify the routine impedance of free citizens going about their business whether in the day or night. It is time for all citizens to demand that this inefficient and expensive fascist attack on our rights be ended.
22 June 2009
Casinos enable to the state to prey upon its own citizens, usually the ones that have little disposable income that can least afford to lose it. Verbal gymnastics are used to describe the losses suffered by gamblers as "revenue" totally ignoring the devastation that this brings to families across the state. The glitzy lights and excitement of the casinos entice bus loads of geriatrics to stream into their maws, eagerly shoving their meagre assets into the machinery that diverts that money back to the state. Occasionally, a winner will beat the odds stacked against the visitors, giving false hope to the masses that they too can feel the rush of victory.
When you break it down, it really is sick (but not surprising) that politicians view their fellow citizens as cattle to be attracted by the bright lights, stripped of their money and then sent back out the door. At the same time, these same politicians will not abide any competition and will ruthlessly seek out and crush any gambling not approved, monitored and shared by the state. I'm all for freedom and believe that any adult has the right to gamble, drink, smoke pot- you name it. I just want the state to be honest and admit what they are really doing. Exploiting the citizenry, crushing competition and working in secrecy. Sounds like the mafia doesn't it ?
19 June 2009
- In his first public remarks after days of protests, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the outcome had to be decided at the ballot box, not on the street.
The Ayatollah has thrown his full support behind President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a move that could either calm the recent street protests or backfire with (hopefully) disastrous consequences for himself and Mr. Ahmadinejad.
While the U.S. media pontificates about the response of President Obama to the crisis, roundly lambasting him for a decidedly weak response, they seem to be missing the larger point. The street protests, met with gunfire by the regime and their supporters, is more about throwing out a corrupt theocracy than backing any particular leader. With a large, youthful and educated population yearning to be free, we can only hope that they will overthrow their government, drag the parasitic mullahs through the streets and build a new country based on individual rights rather than the oppression of the religious fascist class.
18 June 2009
- Among jackasses, the anarchists are the worst type and not just because they are poseur men (and women) in black. Nobody would vote for anarchism, for the simple reason that it can be fairly defined as the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. Er, no thank you.
Wow. Mr. Henry, a self admitted liberal and proponent of free speech, uses most of the article to bash those that would have the gall to protest at the G20 gathering. As for Hurricane Katrina, that was a poor example to use. The wave of crime that followed the hurricane was not the result of anarchy, nor can it be totally blamed on the government failing to respond quickly enough. People died in New Orleans because they, and their families, had been dependent upon the state for generations and were completely unprepared to fend for themselves. The state enslaves its citizens by use of law, taxes and hand-outs. If the government gives you something, it always takes something in return.
Mr. Henry does make a couple of valid points. Yes, Pittsburgh's citizens tend to be very proud and defensive of their home town. Trashing downtown is not going to win points in the hearts and minds of the average American sheep watching the evening news. For the first time in a generation, the combination of economic catastrophe, unemployment, disillusionment in government and the capitalist system has given the Anarchist voice some sympathetic ears to fall on.
I also agree that within any group of protesting Anarchists you will find a group of late teens, early twenties kids protesting for nothing deeper than the chance to be part of a group and break things. Hopefully, more mature voices will be heard in September and a more positive message can be sent to rouse the public from the stupor of the Obama enhanced nanny state.
17 June 2009
I've been to Nemacolin a number of times for business conventions. It was built by local boy made it big Joe Hardy who is famous for founding 84 Lumber, being a billionaire and marrying then divorcing hot young women. It's a nice place to visit but has a strange Disney World type feel to it. The main French Chateau inspired building looks jarringly out of place among the hills of Western Pennsylvania, but President Sarkozy might enjoy it. Plus he can compare notes with Mr. Hardy regarding their mutual taste in babes.
12 June 2009
- "If you take the 'thou shalt not kill' precept too far, you cannot protect your country. Historical fact shows that weakness in Buddhism," Kyoko said. "That's why we wanted to develop Buddhist teaching."
The Okawa's also believe that external threats from Korea and China justify a more proactive stance in the defense of Japan. Far from a fringe group, the Party claims 10,000,000 members and could have some impact on elections in October.
Buddhists in Japan calling for militarization is not as crazy as it sounds. All of the Zen Buddhist sects in Japan supported the Emperor and the militaristic Japanese government in World War 2 which inflicted horrifying atrocities upon the people of China, Korea and many other countries that were the targets of their imperialistic ambitions. While many Buddhists like to describe their beliefs as being based upon peace and love, and abhorring killing in any form, they have yet to come to grips with the actions of Zen Buddhists in World War 2.
I don't believe that Mr. Okawa's statements in any way tarnish or devalue the message of peace spread by the Buddha. As with many other philosophies and religions, the message can become perverted over time as individuals attempt to spin the teachings for their own gain. I hope that Mr. Okawa finds his way back to the proper path soon.
11 June 2009
Russia is simply running into the same economic constraints that all nations owning nuclear weapons must face. These weapons are horrendously expensive to design, build and maintain. You don't simply drop a missile in a silo and forget about it. They need constant maintenance and testing, not to mention security. Given Russia's dependence upon oil prices, which have only recently started to move higher, it is no wonder that Putin wants to get rid of some of these useless Cold War toys.
10 June 2009
U.S. strategic and diplomatic efforts, along with those of the United Nations, have been geared towards the prevention of the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons by certain nations. Although the nuclear genie is apparently out of the bottle in North Korea, the U.S. government is hopeful that a mix of diplomatic, trade and military efforts will be enough to convince the Iranians to shelve their nuclear ambitions. Although it would be heresy to state it in Washington D.C., countries such as Iran should be free to develop any nuclear weapons that they want. Why ? Because they too will learn what a tremendous waste of money and national resources these weapons are.
It is estimated that by the year 1998, the United States had spent $ 5,800,000,000,000 ($ 5.8 Trillion- no, that is not a misprint) on developing and deploying nuclear weapons (and the delivery systems for them.) This figure is from a 1998 Brookings Report which estimated that annual maintenance was at least another $ 35 billion per year (so add another $ 350 billion or so to come up with the total price tag to date.) These numbers are staggering to say the least and do not include the amounts spent by the former Soviet Union, China, India, Pakistan, France and United Kingdom on their arsenals (not to mention Israel and possibly South Africa.) Taken in total, these numbers could easily double the amount spent by the United States.
Critics will argue that it was the very existence of these weapons that prohibited the Cold War from becoming a shooting war. They say the very deterrence based upon the threat of global annihilation was instrumental in creating one of the longest periods of peace in recent history. While global conflict may have been avoided, a new type of war by proxy was favored to keep the superpowers from conflicting head to head- as evidenced by Korea, Vietnam, the Arab-Israeli wars, Indo-Pakistani conflicts, Nicaragua and Afghanistan. Although the United States and Soviet Union faced no destruction on their own turf, many other nations were mercilessly destroyed in the game of global domination.
As nations like Iran and North Korea will learn, the deployment of nuclear weapons is easily countered by more nuclear weapons being deployed by your adversaries and so on, and so on. The rapid escalation in the sizes of the U.S. and Soviet arsenals matched this spiral as new generations of weapons were deployed leading to new weapons to counter them and so on. Eventually, the arsenal sizes far exceeded any possible strategic use and became the tremendous drain on national expenditures that they are. Moreover, they are tactically useless to these countries. They are vulnerable to adversaries first strike capabilities and guarantee virtual annihilation if unleashed.
Nuclear weapons represent the pinnacle in man's never ending quest to develop better ways to kill other men. Antiseptic terms like CEP, throw-weights, first strike and others totally ignore the horrific capabilities of these weapons which make them so appealing to the madmen who covet them. One document I read as a young intelligence analyst still sticks in my head twenty odd years later. It stated how the Soviets second strike on U.S. cities would utilize biological weapons, smallpox in particular, deployed by ICBM to kill off any survivors crawling around in the rubble. This wasn't fantasy concocted by anti-nuclear proponents, it was hard intelligence. The complete lack of humanity necessary to concoct such a plan (and probably the U.S. counter plan) is beyond frightening.
I would use a completely different diplomatic approach in dealing with these nations. First off, cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal by 90 % and encourage all other nuclear powers to do the same. Use the fuel for the peaceful generation of power and then negotiate to eliminate another 9%. Demonstrate to the wannabe nuclear powers how useless $ 5.8 Trillion worth of paperweights really are. Fears of proliferation can be countered by methods to track the origins of the materials used to make weapons. Every potential nuclear weapon has a return address. Make it clear that any use of such weapons by terrorists puts their host nation on the hook for retaliation. Keep 1% of today's weapons around as a safeguard. That is still adequate to annihilate anyone foolish enough to use them.
The enormity of the cost of nuclear weapons is not the only staggering part. The other is the way in which the U.S. government spent money with little or no oversight from the American people. We were sold a bill of goods by our elected officials based upon fear and propaganda in the same way the the citizens of the Soviet Union were. The entire sorry affair is yet another example of the innate corruption of governments and the economic rape of their citizenry which they indulge in. Imagine the good that these trillions of dollars could have done. The United States could stand, right now, completely debt free and funding the development of medicine, hospitals and transportation throughout the world. Instead, it was squandered in the name of the balance of power. What a different world it could have been.
09 June 2009
Ask yourself how complete acceptance of gay marriage would directly affect you. For the life of me, I cannot. It doesn't in anyway weaken, invalidate or cheapen my marriage to the woman that I love. It in no way encroaches upon my rights or civil liberties which, incidentally, were never granted by a state or religion to begin with. It does not prevent me from participating in the commerce at which I work or the pastimes at which I play. I could honestly care less what my neighbors do in their own homes and lives as long as they afford me the same consideration.
I have read many arguments against gay marriage from a religious perspective. I respect the views of others and the passion with which they feel them. However, the liberties that we are born with as free men and women trump all religious arguments against gay marriage. The Old Testament has prohibitions against homosexual behavior- as well as many other arcane laws that few modern Christians or Jews even know about, much less practice. Thank goodness in my own case, my parents didn't have a handy copy of the Old Testament lying around when I came home late on a Friday night-
- If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid. (Deut. 21:18-21.)
If the Old Testament was truly dictated by God to Moses, why would it include a prohibition against homosexual acts ? Without going into theological gymnastics, it would appear that this would argue for a Deist point of view- God created the world and all living things upon it. Humans were given free will to go about their business and therefore divine laws were needed to guide them to live their lives. First, most modern Christians, especially those that are born again and converse with God, would reject the Deist argument that the world is basically God's model train display that he gave life to and walked away. Alternatively, given evidence that homosexuality has a biological causation we must conclude that God created homosexuals. This begs the question of why God would create homosexuals and yet ban their behavior. Does he have a really bad sense of humor or does he enjoy the shame and persecutions that these people enjoy ?
I would choose answer "c." Something created the universe, name him, her or it whatever you want. This brings to mind the Buddha's famous parable about the man wounded by the arrow. The Buddha asked a man if he was shot by an arrow would he enquire into who shot the arrow, the composition of the arrow etc. or would he ask a doctor to remove it. He answered correctly and the best path was to address the immediate problem and pull out the arrow. Instead of sitting around all day thinking about who shot the arrow, and bleeding to death in the process, think in the here and now and save the man. If God does exist, his true intentions and way of thinking are unfathomable. If he is a just and loving God, then he created everything- heterosexuals, birds, thunderstorms, homosexuals, you name it. All created things are equal and deserve equal treatment and respect.
From a civil perspective, homosexuals need marital rights in order to codify their rights especially in terms of property, living wills, decedents estates and employer benefits. All citizens regardless of sexual preference deserve these basic rights protected by law. Protecting the rights of homosexuals in no way infringes or reduces the rights of heterosexuals. But, you say, what about polygamy ? Actually, that's fine by me as well. As long as marriage is between consenting adults I could care less if you marry 1 woman, 3 women or another man. Want to marry your cousin ? Fine by me too. This is better regulated by families than the government.
If the religious crowd is dead set against the word "marriage" I would hope the gay marriage supporters would concede and allow it to be called something else. Let's get on with our lives. There are far more pressing issues facing us.
08 June 2009
- From an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. "The federal government backtracked today and decided not to seize the western Pennsylvania property needed to build a Flight 93 memorial, saying instead it would renew negotiations with landowners."
The federal government will attempt to negotiate with the landowners and pay them "fair value" for their properties in order to complete the memorial. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, however, does not rule out the use of eminent domain to seize the land stating that "I know that if we can't get it resolved, eminent domain is still a backstop." In other words, we will smile for the cameras and attempt to make nice, but make no mistake we are prepared to take your property if need be. Complicit in this scheme and present at the meetings with landowners was none other than Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Senator and political survivor extraordinaire. Thanks for standing up for your fellow citizens, Arlen.
The proposed memorial will consist of over 2,000 acres of land. For comparison, the Washington Monument occupies 106 acres and Arlington National Cemetery consists of a little more than 600 acres. Why is such an immense piece of ground needed to commemorate this event thereby necessitating the taking of land from private citizens ? Wouldn't a small park of say 10 or 20 acres and a monument be sufficient ?
Plans for the memorial design are here. Look, I'm no landscape architect and I have zero artistic ability but the design looks hideous to me.
05 June 2009
So let me get this straight. You are going to build a memorial to individual heroism in the face of terrorism by kicking your fellow citizens off of their property ?
04 June 2009
The Pittsburgh Penguins were born the same year as me, 1967. Like me, they've undergone a few changes in ownership, close brushes with bankruptcy and a will to fight on despite the fact that their fan base had dwindled. We've both been locked-out, cursed-out and nearly knocked-out by forces beyond our control but still we soldier on.
Many local, and national, news sources are starting to pick up on the whole "rust belt" Stanley Cup finals between two declining industrial towns. They point to Pittsburgh as what Detroit should aspire to, since Pittsburgh is (by their definition) so much further ahead. Here's a story from Detroit. And here's another from....Fort Worth ?? Pittsburgh is no longer a steel town, Detroit is no longer a car town. On and on and on.
What nobody wants to point out is that both cities were killed by the same gun- globalization. Pittsburgh's mills and Detroit's car manufacturing were both killed by political decisions. Both were done in by cheaper foreign labor and a government lacking the resolve to protect industries of national importance. I know, I know, you are screaming right now and jumping up and down- it was the unions that were paid too much, management that was paid too much, not enough innovation etc. etc. Believe it or not, I have an MBA and understand these things. In fact, I'm looking at it right now. Huh, nice. And where has globalization gotten us to ? Cheap Hyundais, and empty main streets in Detroit and Pittsburgh.
I remember when I was a kid heading home from the arena. On the right side of the road, sitting against the Monongahela River were massive steel works. Fire and smoke belched into the night sky. A vision of Hell but in some ways comforting as well. Roll down your window and hear the mill's roar, smell the stink. The slag piles were massive cliffs with burning saplings as new hot slag was dumped down the hill. I still remember that, small burning bushes in the night.
Ride up the River and the mills are gone. Redevelopment of office parks and technology companies. Mill towns are a shadow of their former selves. The Churches speak the names of where the workers were from- England, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Ireland, on and on. Except there are no parishoners. The kids have moved on. They are now living in enemy territory- home of the Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes. Towns with no hockey history, undeserving of even having a franchise. The homes of the suits and the fur coats, the place to be seen. But now that you can't win anything the pretty boys and girls have left the building.
Bring the teams back to where they belong. Working towns like the Original Six and their expansion brethren of 1967. We are the idiots still hanging on to a hope and a belief, a fierce love of where we are from and witnesses to how a team can briefly bring us all together. Pittsburgh is a strange place that way. A Bermuda Triangle of loyalty that can have have atheists hugging priests, conservatives hugging liberals and myself telling everyone to go fuck themselves. Good luck Pens, bring it on home.
03 June 2009
I've stood in front of a couple of these stooges over the course of my life, not for anything major but for annoying inconveniences such as parking tickets, speeding and once in handcuffs (charges dropped later, but that's another story.) If you've ever paid a fine in one of these offices and taken the time to look at your receipt, you will see a long list of beneficiaries making money off of your transgressions. Therein lies the answer to why this system exists- to make money. Any political hack, regardless of legal training or lack thereof, can aspire to this well paid position ($ 75,000.00 plus) and enjoy all the benefits of wearing the black robes and being called "judge."
Working hand in hand with the magistrate system is another anachronism which should be put to rest- the constable system. These soldiers of misfortune work for the magistrate system serving warrants and bringing the accused before their magisterial masters. Like their legal counterparts, these individuals are not the most highly trained or intelligent fellows but they too like the perks of wearing a uniform, having cool flashing lights on their cars and the legal right to carry a weapon in the course of their duties. If you ever see a fat, disheveled and armed man in a wrinkled uniform, it's a fair bet it's your local constable.
I once received a parking ticket in Washington County. I didn't pay it. They wanted $ 5.00 for being 10 minutes late on a 0.25 meter. Sometime later I received a notice of a bench warrant. A local constable mailed me a badly spelled letter that looked like it had been copied twenty or thirty times over at the local gas station. It stated that "time had run out" and I was facing imminent arrest. I even found his business card taped to my garage door. Wishing to avoid a Ruby Ridge type scenario over a $ 5.00 ticket, I caved into the Man and paid $ 60.00 to take my name off of America's most wanted.
On another adventure to magistrate land, I found myself in the office of another one in Westmoreland County. I noticed that there was a helpful sign in the office that promised discounts at the local hot dog shop to local law enforcement (the magistrate also owned the hot dog establishment.) Seeing that my fate could be decided by a discounted hot dog and fries, I plead guilty and took my lumps. Incidentally, I had eaten at the hot dog shop some time earlier. It sucked. I mean, how hard is it to make a good hot dog ? Especially if your primary business is selling hot dogs ? Anyways, I digress.
The state should not be able to sub out its functions to district judges, constables, for profit companies which collect local taxes, privately owned prisons or any other entity without direct civilian oversight (such as police review boards.) This entire sorry system should be scrapped. Barring that, district judges should be lawyers in the hope that they at least didn't sleep through some ethics training and their constable counterparts should be held to a higher training standard as well. Maybe we can start with how to wear a uniform properly.
02 June 2009
One aspect of the article that caught my eye regarded what the young lad was allowed to watch on television-
- Yesterday he bemoaned the misery of a youth deprived of television, football and girls. Movies were also forbidden – except for a sanctioned screening of The Golden Child starring Eddie Murphy, about a kidnapped child lama with magical powers. "I never felt like that boy," he said.
Forcing anyone to watch that movie should be investigated as a violation of basic human rights.
Another, far more troubling quote from the article-
- By 18, he had never seen couples kiss. His first disco experience was a shock. "I was amazed to watch everyone dance. What were all those people doing, bouncing, stuck to one another, enclosed in a box full of smoke?"
I don't know what's more frightening- the fact that this kid was basically imprisioned by a bunch of rabid monks or the fact that disco still exists somewhere in this world.
From the article-
- It would seem the police are in the business of monitoring any type of protest, march or activity that could possibility result in a hate crime incident. That means protests about native land claims, environmental protection, poverty, public debt and homelessness; issues that have been raised before during economic summits and Olympics are now fair game to be classified as potential “hate crimes.”
I've long thought it a bad move for Anarchists to align themselves with Leftist and Progressive thinking regarding free speech issues. This is the boomerang that we now face. The State, Left or Right, is the enemy of the people. Anarchists that fought for hate crimes legislation now risk being hoisted by their own petard as the State uses the same laws to target all of us. By the way, what exactly is a bias crime in Canada ? Does professing a love for Molson over Moosehead get you shipped off to the Arctic Circle ?
01 June 2009
- Hate crimes, by definition, are ones committed “against a person or property which is motivated solely, or in part, by the suspect’s hate/bias against a person’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability group, age or gender"
This small incident is reflective of the wider use of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act to stifle political debate and free speech by the government. How an anarchist book fair fits into crimes against any of the defined parties above requires an amount of legal gymnastics that is beyond me. The truth is that it has nothing to do with hate crimes against persons or property- the government fears hate directed at itself.
31 May 2009
In "God Is Not Great" Hitchens takes the matter of religion head-on arguing that it is a sham created by man to oppress and control the masses. He bases his argument on an equal examination of Islam, Christianity and Judaism with some other cults thrown in for good measure. He methodically examines the basis of the writings of these religions, their interpretation and the countless lives lost due to them. Hitchens' goes as far as to argue that introducing children to religion at a young age is tantamount to child abuse. Although it seems light on evidence and rushed at times, I liked the book and would recommend it to both believers and non-believers alike.
I was raised as a Presbyterian in a generally religion free family. Church was a once or twice a year trip based around holidays and beyond a period of study for the confirmation process, I can say that my upbringing was generally devoid of any great spiritual message. That being said, I was encouraged to do a great deal of reading on the subject, on the history of the church and the scriptures themselves. I always enjoyed discussing the subject with my father as we asked each other questions on subjects such as the formation of the universe, who created God, the apocalypse and the meaning of life. Despite the fact that I never attended church regularly, I found that I was better acquainted with the bible, and the history behind it, than many others that went every Sunday.
My belief in the Theravada school of Buddhism was a slow and gradual process based upon study and reflection upon the Christian beliefs with which I was raised. Old gnawing doubts about Christianity arose and were reinforced by the actions of others that I considered to be devout Christians. If Hell really exists, for example, how could a devout Christian who attended church every week and ate dinner with her priest a couple of times per month steal money from my company ? If Hell was real, and some absolute punishment awaited her in the afterlife, how could she reconcile that with her actions which violated a Commandment and destroyed my life ?
A more recent reinforcement of this line of reasoning was confirmed by the governmental report on the horrifying, and long-term, abuse of children at the hands of religious orders in Ireland. If God is real, and he is all-seeing and all-knowing, and eternal hell awaits those that commit such terrible crimes, how could these people (especially as priests who are supposed to really believe this stuff) commit thousands of acts of child abuse including rape ? How could a religious institution not only cover up their crimes but transfer them to new areas so they could begin their perversions anew ? Incidentally, if you have the time, and the stomach, you can read the report for yourself here.
I was attracted to Buddhism because of its lack of proselytizing and the Buddha's message that everything he said should be challenged and debated- quite different from the absolute authoritarian positions of the three great monotheistic faiths. Buddhism, at least in the original conservative Theravada school, can also be better described as a philosophy rather than a religion. The Buddha rejected all talk that he was a deity or possessed any supernatural powers- he was simply a man with a new way to ponder the mysteries of the mind and to bring a new system of ethics for us to examine. He really didn't care if we debated these ideas, embraced them or rejected them. Indeed, I am still not completely sold on the Buddhist philosophy and have major disagreements with the concept of reincarnation which cannot be proven empirically. I am free to examine this issue further, however, without the judgment of a Priest, Rabbi or Imman.
As someone who has sought shelter in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, I am always open to discuss my beliefs with friends and family. I am amused, but not surprised, by the reaction of others when I tell them that I am a Buddhist (especially by fundamentalist Christians.) Far from taking a step back and examining their beliefs from all sides, I have found fundamentalists deaf to any discussion of their faith and validity of mine. The lack of knowledge regarding Buddhism, and many other beliefs, is a testament to the public educational system of our country. I sometimes think that if I was a Satanist, my Christian friends would at least know what I'm talking about.
As a heathen Buddhist, I have found out that I am damned to hell, but those who are born again are on the fast-track to paradise. While they attack Buddhism as one hand, they refuse to examine the evidence regarding who wrote the old and new testaments, the contradictions in some of the stories and the process by which the so-called word of God was handed down through history. Otherwise intelligent people would would closely analyze the difference in cell phone plans seem completely willing to believe the Christian story hook, line and sinker.
Faith is a personal issue which I respect to a point. As long as it stays out of the public and political arena, I believe that we all can believe to worship, or not-worship, in our own way. The frightening thing to me, and one of the factors that drove me away from both Christianity and the Republican Party, was the rise of the Christian Right and its battle for dominance of the Republican message. There is a very thin line between a supposed republic and a theocracy and I fear that we are taking the first tentative step across it.
The other problem that I have with some aspects of religion, like Hitchens, is how it is impressed upon our children through a process of indoctrination. Rather than allowing children to grow up with a wide education in varying faiths and philosophies, they are taught a very narrow view of the world and shown that anyone outside of these views is wrong and worth of contempt. At best, this creates arrogance and feelings of supremacy. At worst, it convinces children to strap their chests with explosives.