Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

My "world famous" turkey call:

I will leave it at that for today... Have a safe and happy holiday!
See you in line about 4am tomorrow.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I pledge allegiance to....

The original pledge of 1892:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Please note the original version was written by a socialist Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy.

In 1924 there were "concerns" that all the imigrants might get confused about which flag they were pledging allegiance to. The words "of the United States of America" were added at that time.

In 1954, with the communist scare, the words "under god" were added.

For a more complete history of the pledge CLICK HERE to visit a page written in 1992 by Dr. John W. Baer.

The big controversy today is if the words "under god" should be removed. The answer to this is actually quite simple, so to make it more difficult I will answer with a question, "Was the addition of the words unconstitutional and therefore the inclusion of the words unconstitutional?"

Well, let's take a look at that question...

The first amendment of the constitution

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.

"Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". The founders were quite explicit as to what this means: Equality for all means preference to none. This is where we get the separation of chuch and state from. It is not only stating freedom of religion, but a freedom from religion as well. This is what is known as the Establishment Clause.

Ok, now that we have read what the constitution says we need to look at how we determine if it would then be found unconstitutional.

The supreme court's test of Constitutionality under the establishment clause, per Lemon v. Kurtzman:

1. The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;
2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.

If ANY of the three points fails, the action is unconstitutional.

Let's put the question at hand to the test:

1. The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose: FAIL
2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion: there could be an argument on if the effect was "primary", but it clearly advances a religious ideal
3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion: an argument again could be made on the term "excessively", but it is clearly "entangled"

There are points that could be argued on points 2 & 3, but point 1 was a clear fail.

This all makes it pretty apparent that the words "under god" in the pledge is unconstitutional. Unconstitutional means they should be removed.

America is a Constitutional Republic. What that means is that our government is designed to express not only the will of the majority (democracy), but also to simultaneously protect the unalienable rights of minorities and the powerless. That is an extremely important point because it is the constitutional protections of minorities and the powerless that add civility, humanity, and decency.

Some people argue that if someone doesn't like the words in there they should just not say them. The problem with that is it doesn't solve the problem of it being unconstitutional. just imagine if rather than "under god" the pledge read "without god". Would the same people be complacent just not saying them?

I believe I have covered that part of the issue fairly completely. After reading this post, if anyone still has a problem with the words being removed I recommend them re-reading the post. Keep re-reading the post till you either realize they should legally be removed or you tear up your voter registration card, either outcome would work.

Enough with facts, let's get to my opinion on a related point... Why even say the pledge at all?

I understand if you are in the military or any other government occupation it should be required of you to say, understand & uphold the pledge. I just don't believe it should be (or is) required for a common citizen.

You can be a citizen of this country and hate the country as well. You may even have no allegiance to the republic. Our constitution gives us the right to speak out against our leaders, question athority and even burn the flag. This is a good thing and these are the freedoms our ancestors died to preserve. We can't pick and choose our freedoms or else we are not truly free (the good news is you have the freedom to dissagree with that statement).

So, if an everyday citizen doesn't have to say the pledge... why make our children recite it in school?

Using the Bellamy salute (the original hand gesture for the pledge until Roosevelt changed it in 1942)

One answer is that it is a government brainwashing tactic... force the little ones to recite their devotion and obedience to the country and thereby creating good little obedient sheep that don't question government's control over them.

The new government school uniform
To some extent this may be true, but I don't believe that, even if it is, it would work.

To little kids these are just words and they don't know or understand the meaning behind them. So the good news is they aren't subject to subliminal messages or the brainwashing effect. The bad news is, they still make them recite it. They don't understand the meaning, so why? Penn Jillette said, "We show more love learning the intellectual principles that our country is based on than memorizing a pledge." and suggested an alternative. Penn suggested that schoolchildren recite the bill of rights instead of the pledge.

Let's not stop there... do you know how many people don't know at least the preamble to the constitution.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

So let us add that on as well. I say we should have the kids not only recite both the preamble to the constitution and the bill of rights every day, but they should actually learn them as well. Some will ask what is the real difference here... unlike the pledge which promotes acceptance of government control, the constitution (especialy the bill of rights) teaches us that we have the right to freedoms, to question and not obey the government. This puts the people, not the gavernment in control.

There is a balance of power issue here. Maybe there government likes the focus on the issue of the words "under god" so it blinds people from the larger issue at stake here... freedom & power!

The constitution & bill of rights... these are possibly the most important reading materials any citizen of this great country will ever read. If we don't study them, learn them, value them and fight for their preservation we will see them stripped away from us. Some would say this has already been happening, bit by bit & law by law.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

UP & Star Trek

I rented two movies today and have to say I would recommend seeing both. One is a definate "buy it"! The first I will speak of is the UP

You pretty much know if it says Pixar it is going to be exceptional. The just keep coming up with great storylines that are so touching, even to someone as sarcastic & callas as myself, that you can’t help but get enthralled with it.

This movie was so sweet and sad that I watched it a second time today so Tricia could see it. Not really knowing anything on the story of this movie in advance due to an exceptional job of the studio not giving away hardly any information thru the trailers. I get sick when I see a movie trailer and then know the whole story, or they give away key elements or plot twists… Quit that! I'm not going to go into any more details on this movie, just see it.

Skip rental on this one and just go ahead and buy it, especially if you have kids or grandkids.

The second movie was the new Star Trek flick.

I must first say that I am not a big Star Trek fan, I’m not really even a small Start Trek fan. (As I’m typing this Return of the Jedi is playing on my plasma screen) I hated the original TV series (other than for a joke) & the first movie sucked (pretty much because it was like a big screen version of the TV series). As the movies progressed they got better and better, partially due to better storyline and mostly due to larger budget and much better special effects. The Next Generation TV show I actually enjoyed (great visuals for a TV show!). The problem I had when that storyline moved to the big screen was the same issue as the first movie… it was like paying money to go to the theatre to see the exact same thing I was watching on TV for free! That is when I started to lose interest in that series. I saw a few episodes of Deep Space Nine and it wasn’t bad, but I never really got into any of the other series.

I watched this new version of Star Trek and was very impressed. The movie had a great story line and good flow. The special features quickly pointed out that they “broke the rules” and looked at the Star Wars movies because they wanted that type of pace to this film. (Yes, I’m still grinning at that one… go ahead, try to wipe the smile off my face)

Anyway, it really worked and they made the best Star Trek ever! I mean it, better than any big or small screen version/episode I have seen. I liked how they got around the pesky difficulties Lucas had to deal with when making his prequels… Don’t want to have to worry about pissing off some fan because your new movie doesn’t match all the other films, books, lore and whatever other fake reality (remember, this is FICTION people) someone has dreamed up for it? Create an event that alters the course of time and the future! Hey, if they can do a mind meld they can do that.

Another enjoyable feature of the film was the great choice of cast to play each role. They did an outstanding job with the characters fitting the original cast that hit it’s summit at the end of the film (very rare) with a perfect Bill Schatner entry, walk, talk & attitude.

The role of Spok was played well and the relationship build between he and Kirk was entertaining.

It was enjoyable to still be able to go, “The one in red is not going to make it”

and hear the famous lines that you just grow accustom to hearing in a Star Trek flick. I think there was enough in this film to please both the die hard Trekkie as well as the non fans. Seriously, everyone should see this… If nothing else, it’s just a great action movie.

Plus, this film made green chicks hot again!

If you are a Star Trek fan you may want to add this to your collection, otherwise I would suggest renting it.

Enough of that… back to watching Star Wars.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

I want to first take a moment to say thank you to all my fellow veterans and current service men & women out there! No matter what branch of the military (and this is one of the few times I will do this, normally I will throw in some branch specific humor here) you serve or used to serve under. I want to take the opportunity of this day to make sure you know that I appreciate all you do and have done every day of the year!!! Note- every time anyone wakes up in this great country of ours they are able to do so in part due to you, whether they want to recognize or appreciate that fact or not.

Speaking of appreciating our men & women in uniform:
I saw this Associated Press article picked up on the CBS website (what was I doing there?) today and had to share it...

(AP) MILWAUKEE (AP) - A Milwaukee Army reservist's military identification earned him some street cred Tuesday, when he says four men who mugged him at gunpoint returned his belongings and thanked him for his service after finding the ID.

The 21-year-old University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student said he was walking home from work about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday when he was pulled into an alley and told to lay face down and with a gun to his neck. Four men took his wallet, $16, keys, his cell phone and even a PowerBar wrapper from his pants pockets, he said.

But the hostile tone quickly changed when one of the robbers, whom the reservist presumed was the leader, saw an Army ID in the wallet. The robber told the others to return the items and they put most of his belongings on the ground next to him, including the wrapper, the reservist said.

"The guy continued to say throughout the situation that he respects what I do and at one point he actually thanked me and he actually apologized," said the reservist, who asked not to be identified Tuesday because the robbers still had his keys.

The reservist said he asked the men, who all had hoods or hats covering their faces, if he could get up and they said he could before starting to walk away.

"The leader of the group actually walked back, gave me a quick fist bump, which was very strange," he said.

Talk about a military discount!

Now, I could go into how this was a very bad business decision on the gang members part, or how they obviously were not stealing out of necessity if they could so easily give the items and cash back. No, I want to discuss the more important and obvious issue here... What the flying rat fuck were they going to do with a PowerBar wrapper!?!?

For that matter what was the reservist going to do with it? I would think something since he actually had it on him at the time of the robbery.

I'm trying to envision a scenario where it would seem logical to have a PowerBar wrapper on your person, or most any wrapper for that matter. I mean, this guy didn't just find a golden ticket to grant him access to Wonka's fantasy chocolate factory & a lifetime supply of candy treats. Did he sneak the PowerBar as a worktime snack at his place of employ, obviously void of any trash recepticles, slipping the evidence of his fireable offense into his pants to avoid yet another trip to the human resources office? Is he working on wallpapering his apartment with wrappers to then video himself electric shocking his genetalia while eating a PowerBar in hopes of a prize winning submission on Maybe his pockets were filled with different wrappers and the PowerBar wrapper just happened to be the one that was stolen... and if so why would they take the PowerBar wrapper over let's say a KitKat wrapper or a Fast Break wrapper? How many wrappers could he have had on him... 50... 100? What kind of wrapper whores are we letting into our military? I think this is a much larger concern than sexual orientation.

So, what is the going rate on the black market for a PowerBar wrapper anyway? How much drugs would the muggers get in trade for it? Am I missing something here? Maybe the wrapper tastes better than the actual PowerBar itself (that wouldn't take much. I had a pizza a few years ago that would have tasted better if I had ate the box and thrown out the actual pie). I think I may have an aneurism trying to figure this out.

Speaking of holidays, filmaker M. Moore is trying to get his latest movie out for release by December 25th. "Black Christmas" will be bashing Santa due to his discriminatory policy of leaving gifts for the nice boys & girls while leaving coal for the naughty. He shows how this is really a ploy by the oil companies and all those other evil people who work for a living and support the country and the U.S. economy.

I bet Moore could take "It's a Wonderful Life" and re-edit it so Mr. Potter was good big government and George Bailey was an evil freethinking personal property rights lobbyist and in the end the country was ruined due to George with the help of his corrupt right wing religious associate who was obviously more concerned with getting his own wings than anyone or anything else... Hell, I could re-edit it to do that. People need to realize that documentaries and other movies are presented, many times, with an agenda and what they portray are totaly subject to what the filmaker wants them to portray which is not always the truth & certainly hardly ever the whole truth.