The Rick Mathes chain letter

More fan mail from my family and friends who keep sending me stuff that you’d think they wouldn’t forward their liberal, tree hugging, hippy relative who lives in the land of “The Gays” and doesn’t even own a car. Can you imagine? No car?! I mean, he rides a bike to work! The most recent is a letter written by Rick Mathes about his run-in with a Muslim imam at a prison workshop. The letter asserts:

  1. The Muslim religion is the fastest growing religion per capita in the United States, especially amongst minorities.
  2. That Muslims are assured a place in heaven by killing an infidel.

I’m really not even sure where to start, but I’ll give it a shot. So here are a few counterpoints to this letter. Feel free to pass them on to your own friends and family if and when you get this chain letter.

  1. Actually, the fastest growing religious identity in the United States is “none”. In fact, the number of people describing themselves as having no religious identity has doubled since 1990.
  2. The definition of infidel (a term originally coined by Christians to describe Muslims during the Crusades) is “a non-believer”. Most Muslims generally accept that Christians and Jews believe in God, which makes sense when you take into account that Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in the same God. The major sticking point is exactly who the messiah is; Jews don’t believe he/she has come yet, Christians believe it was Jesus and Muslims believe it was Muhammad. It should also be pointed out that the Old Testament is the Jewish Torah and that Muslims believe both the Torah and Bible to be the gospel of God.
  3. Don’t miss the page, which includes a reversed version of the letter and refutes the claim the minister was talking to an actual imam.

Bill of Non-Rights

A family member of mine sent me one of those ultra-patriotic/conservative mail forwards that was, essentially, a “Bill of Non-Rights” that included a bunch of “get off your lazy ass and get a job” language and two things, in particular, I find laughable.

This is an English speaking country. We don’t care where you are from, English is our language. Learn it or go back to wherever you came from!

I submit that this country, from the very beginning, was multi-lingual and multi-national. I know for a fact that my ancestors didn’t speak English when they arrived, rather they spoke German and French. America is not, nor has it ever been an English-only speaking country. In fact, about 28 million Americans over the age of 5 speak Spanish at home. There’s nothing wrong with being bilingual. In fact, that’s pretty cool if you ask me.

You do not have the right to change our country’s history or heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith, or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE TRUST is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable with it, TOUGH!

Where to start? How about with the fact that “In God We Trust” wasn’t added to coins in America until the Civil War. Also, there’s that pesky fact that “One nation … under God” wasn’t added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954.

Now, please, let’s stop with the preposterous assertions that we’ve always been an English-only Christian nation. The truth is we’ve always been a multilingual multicolored nation and it’s only getting moreso. California, for instance, became the first state in the union in 2000 to be a minority-majority population (meaning there’s more of “them” than “us” if that’s how you think).

Maybe a better solution is to follow the Bill of Rights as they are, which guarantee the right to speak any language you want and practice any religion you want. And, guess what, it’s actually been like that from the beginning.

Term 'Civil War' is inadequate term for Iraq

A new Pentagon report said some elements of the war in Iraq fit the definition of civil war, but the term “does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict.

What I read from this is that the situation in Iraq is much worse than a simple civil war. In fact, with the meddling ways of Iran and Syria it probably is much worse than a simple civil war. Throw in a little religion and a thousand years of bikering and you’ve got yourself something that the term ‘civil war’ “does not adequately capture the complexity of …”.

The problem, of course, it’s that it’s our complex conflict. We’re the ones that messed everything up and we’ve got to at least try to fix the mess, which is why I don’t support an immediate troop pullout. What I do support:

  1. Actively engage Syria and Iraq on all fronts.
  2. Add strict deadlines to a phased reduction of forces so the Iraqis are forced to step up and start policing their own state.
  3. If all else fails, bribe Turkey into letting us create three states out of Iraq. If you didn’t already know, Turkey is vehemently against an independent Kurdistan.

God, please kill my daughters

The state of Texas is up in arms about the fact that the governor had the nerve to require that the HPV vaccine be given to all 6th grade girls. The nerve! A vaccine that prevents cancer?! Given to my daughters?! Blasphemy!

Their reasoning? It promotes promiscuity. Please. How about you do what every other self-respecting parent does when faced with an uncomfortable situation with their children: lie. Tell them it’s a vaccine that prevents cancer and leave it at that. How about having a responsible conversation about safe sex instead of pretending that your daughter is different and won’t have premarital sex.

I’ll let you in on a little secret; 9 out of 10 Americans practice premarital sex. That study includes women from the 1940’s as well so you older folks can’t get all holy on us younger people.

My vote is every girl is vaccinated and we cross our fingers that cervical cancer and HPV is abolished in the same manner that polio was for our parents.

FBI snooping did not follow "rules"

To absolutely nobody’s surprise the Justice Department’s inspector found the FBI to be guilty of “serious misuse” of the power’s granted to it via the PATRIOT Act to secretly request a person’s financial, banking and phone records. What I find laughable is that the audit says that there were no indications that any of the activity “constituted criminal misconduct.”

I find this laughable because these rules are actually laws governing how the FBI can use these powers. They’re not guidelines; they’re law. Normally, when a person or entity doesn’t work within the letter of the law they’re guilty of criminal misconduct in some form or another. How this isn’t the case here I’ll never know.

On a slightly higher note it is refreshing to see a head of a public agency take fully responsibility for the misconduct of their agency. Mueller, the head honcho of the FBI, plainly stated, “”I am to be held accountable.”

I’m looking at you Bush. I’m also eyeing you Cheney.

Stem Cell Research

Today came the news that President Bush, for the first time in five years, has actually vetoed a bill presented to him. He finally broke down and used his veto power to veto a bill that would allow people to donate unused embryos to science.

“This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others,” Bush said Wednesday afternoon. “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it.”

Currently, people can either donate their unused embryos to barren women (so called “snowflake” babies) or have them destroyed. How is that any different than the supposed taking of an innocent human life he talks about with regards to science?

Hello? Is anybody paying attention?

I’ve been meaning to write up a few things about things that are currently going on in the news that absolutely shock me. Today I was tipped over the edge by news that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales says prosecuting journalists over leaks is a possibility.

  • Gonzales Says Prosecutions of Journalists Are Possible – I hope he plans on prosecuting Robert Novak first thing. The chilling effect and erosion to our first amendment rights if this comes to fruition is staggering and alarming.
  • Wired news publishes AT&T documents – The phone companies turned over your phone records to the NSA so the government could mine that data for suspicious activities without a warrant. In fact, they didn’t even bother to get a FISA warrant, which are handed out like candy. Fuck you, get a search warrant like the constitution tells you to do.
  • Some Republicans want to make crossing the border without papers a felony. Where the hell are we going to put these people? The prisons are so overcrowded that we regularly let convicted rapists and murderers out too early. This simply doesn’t make any sense.
  • Bush wants to use the National Guard to patrol the border. These are the same men and women are have spent months in Iraq away from their families. These are the same men and women that are trained to do the following: kill people, repair tanks, blow shit up, recover from national disasters. On top of it they’d be patrolling the border in 2-3 week shifts. I don’t know about you, but doesn’t it make more sense to, you know, hire real border personnel?

Does this make sense to anybody? Why aren’t people alarmed by the possibility of prosecuting journalists? Why aren’t we questioning stupid ideas like putting National Guardsmen on border patrol? Why aren’t we calling for the resignation and impeachment of a President that has repeatedly broken the law to spy on his fellow countrymen?

General of 82nd Airborne Division wants Rumsfeld out

There is a growing chorus to oust Rumsfeld and it’s coming from a large group of retired generals. Possibly the funniest part of this ongoing story is the White House’s response.

The White House has defended Rumsfeld, saying he is “doing a very fine job.”

Who is in a better position to critique how well Rumsfeld is performing as the leader of the Department of Defense? A bunch of policy makers who’ve never fired a gun in their lives or the leader of one of the most elite fighting forces in the world who’s been fighting wars for 30 years?

No Protesting Allowed

America is supposedly the world’s standard for freedom and democracy. If you were to play a drinking game where you had to take a shot every time Bush said “freedom” or “democracy” during this upcoming State of the Union address you’d be on the floor by the end of the first sentence. Well, if you were to actually read the various laws already on the books you’d know that the federal government could care less about freedom or democracy for the most part.

There are two bills right now that are pretty upsetting to me. One called USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act Of 2005 and the other Secret Service Authorization and Technical Modification Act of 2005. A few excerpts from these two bills.

There is hereby created and established a permanent police force, to be known as the `United States Secret Service Uniformed Division’.

… make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony …

willfully and knowingly to enter or remain in any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area of a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance

by inserting `willfully, knowingly, and’ before `with intent to impede or disrupt’;

The first one, from what I can tell, basically creates a uniformed federal police force that can arrest anyone at events of “national significance” on suspicion of committing a felony. The second one appears to make it illegal to “impede or disrupt” events of “national significance” if you’re within a posted/cordoned off/restricted area. Okay, I get the cordoned off and restricted areas as I assume this is where significant targets are, but what are “posted” areas? What would stop them from making the entire venue a posted area and then arresting anyone who shouted “Fuck off Mr. Cheney!”?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

It’s time we quit worring about the terrorists and start worrying about our own government. If you think they aren’t creating laws like this just so they can exploit them in the way I’ve described you’re insane.

Update: Peace activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Tuesday in the House gallery after refusing to cover up a T-shirt bearing an anti-war slogan before President Bush’s State of the Union address.

DeLay pwn3d

Is it a sad state of affairs when shows “Category 5 Wilma prompts evacuation” as the top story and “Arrest warrant issued for DeLay” is the *second* story down on the sidebar (below “Weakened dam stable but ‘extremely volatile'”)?

A Texas court issued a warrant Wednesday for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to appear for booking, where he is likely to face the fingerprinting and photo mug shot he had hoped to avoid.

The Smoking Gun will be there in 5, 4, 3 …