Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This is not separation of church and state

Our country has a so-called "separation of Church and state." Now, there are a myriad of opinions as to how this is found in the Constitution (it's not) or how it should be applied through the protection clause of the 14th amendment. Whatever it is, it is clear that there is no state coercion with regards to the churches or its membership.

Now, the left wants the US to emulate Western Europe because it is so enligthened and progressive and everything is better over there. Really? Well, one thing you WON'T have in the US if we follow Western Europe's lead is this: SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. And that would be bad. How bad is it? Well, take a look at this article of something happening in Germany:

Reserve Christmas Service Pews for Paying Congregants, Politicians Say
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
By Patrick Goodenough, International Editor

Berlin Cathedral, the German capital's biggest church, is handing out seat passes to members for Christmas Eve services. (Photo: Berliner Dom site)(CNSNews.com) – Germans who attend church only on high holidays such as Christmas should not be allowed to take pew space from regular church members, two politicians are insisting.

Seating room at the popular Christmas Eve services should be reserved for those who pay church taxes, Thomas Volk of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Martin Lindner of the Free Democrats told the Bild newspaper on Tuesday.

“I’m in favor of having church services on December 24 open only for people who pay church tax,” said Volk.

“Those who pay church taxes shouldn’t be like idiots locked out of their own churches during important services,” Lindner said. “Congregation members should be allowed to reserve seats ahead of non-members.”

Protestant and Catholic Church budgets in Germany are largely covered by taxes paid by all members of the respective churches, deducted automatically by the state. The right of recognized churches to tax members is enshrined in the constitution. Germans may opt out, but to do so they must also officially relinquish their membership.

As is the case elsewhere in Western Europe, church attendance in Germany is in decline. A Berlin newspaper, Tagesspiegel, reports that an average of just 17,000 people attend Protestant churches in the capital on most Sundays, while Christmas Eve 2007 saw almost 250,000 flock to services. Some 3.4 million people live within the Berlin city limits.

Past years have seen reported incidents of scuffling, as people elbow their way to seats before churches fill up.

After incidents at the Berlin Cathedral in 2006, the Protestant church – the city’s biggest – introduced a system of handing out free passes to members, guaranteeing them one of the approximately 1,650 seats.

This week’s proposal brought a sharp retort from church leaders, the Protestant Press Service reported.

The suggestion that only church tax payers be allowed to attend Christmas services was nonsense, said Ulrich Fischer, bishop of an evangelical Protestant church in Baden.

He noted that, according to the biblical account, the angels who brought news of Jesus’ birth to shepherds and encouraged them to visit the newborn messiah did not ask whether they had paid their temple tax.

Some commentators wondered how the suggestion would be enforced – whether aspiring church attendees would be expected to show their tax returns at the door.

The Deutsche Welle broadcaster remarked that Volk and Lindner seem “to have completely lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas.”

“The politicians may want to apply their market-oriented theories where they really belong, and look for a solution to overcrowded shopping malls instead,” it said.

And this is what some want to go to? Your membership in a Church has to be approved by the State? And then they can decide who can go and who can't at certain times of the year? Wow. This is what some want? Unless churches are forcing people to attend in this country (and they're not), this may be a solution. What ever happened to freedom of choice which the left espouses so much as its defining trait (but only for abortion rights, never for school choice, politicians, etc.)?

I favor the US model. That does not mean that I believe that certain opinions regarding the expression of religion in the public square are correct. I believe the state has a collected interest in maintaing the expression of religious faith in the public square, whether for politicians or for bureaucrats. I don't think we will follow Western Europe in this model, though I fear other things based on the Western European model will soon become a reality, but we should be on the look out for this. I'm pretty sure that when the choir of angels told the shepherds that they should see the newborn Christ in the manger, the angels didn't inquire first as to whether they were straight with their tax to the temple.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Tale of 2 Santas

I hate PC (political correctness, not PCs). It is oppressive and, ultimately, a penalty for thinking independently. Oh, gosh, we can't have that! Reminds me of when Principal Skinner gasps that there have been two independent thought alarms in one day. His respons: "2 independent thought alarms in one day. The children are overstimulated. Willi, remove all the colored chalk from the classrooms." To which Groudskeeper Willi replies, "I warned ye. Didn't I warn ye? That colored chalk was forged by Lucifer himself!" This PC movement, which proponents advocates as a way to avoid conflict and tear down walls, always builds walls up and discourages independent thinking so that no one's feelings can possibly be hurt and that self-esteem does not suffer. Well, here's another great PC moment.

Black, white Santas draw some criticism
Principal cites diversity of student body

By Andy Paras (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Friday, December 19, 2008

Students at St. Stephen Elementary School found out last week that Santa Claus can have the same skin color as them.

That's because two Santa Clauses — one white, one black — were invited to the rural Berkeley County school at separate times last Friday to take pictures with students of the same skin color.

Principal Willa Norton's decision to invite two Santas has drawn criticism from a few parents and from two civil rights organizations, which said the school shouldn't have divided the students by race without asking parents first.

Marguerite Lyons, who found out about the two Santas while picking up her son outside the school Thursday, said dividing the children by race smacked of prejudice. All the children should have seen one Santa, she said.

Now, I don't care what color the Santa is--I really don't. Granted, St. Nicholas is a German-Scandinavian import (despite the fact that, in real life, St. Nicholas was Greek/Phrygian). But forcing, yes, forcing children of one race to see the Santa of the same race, do the leaders of today's civil rights movement actually think that they are promoting the dream of Dr. King to have a "color-blind" society? How is this not a replay of segregation in the south of the 1930s, 40s and 50s? Now we have one Santa for white children and one for black children. Separate but equal. That was ruled, rightly, as discrimination in Topeka v Brown Board of Education reversing Plessy v Ferguson.

The principal's justification is lame--to show that no matter what color you are, you can do everything. That's fine, but to actually promote segregation at the same time! Let's be very honest--the leaders of today's civil rights movements: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Minister Farakhan, etc. do not want a color blind society. They want color everywhere. They want the color of skin to be on display everywhere. It's not colorblindness they are after. I would go so far as to say that civil rights for miniorities in this country have actually suffered a backlash under the leadership of these charlatans and self-profiteers and reverse racists (especially in the case of Farakhan).

What's even more alarming is this quote from the leader of the local NAACP chapter, Dot Scott: "I promise you, had you told the parents, you would have had some black parents take their kids to see a white Santa, but not one white parent would have taken their child to see a black Santa," Scott said.

Wow. What a statement! And it is the likes of this Dot Scott who dominate the modern civil rights movement. These leaders assume (just like Hillary Clinton did during the primaries and Jim Murtha insinuated about his western Pennsylvania consituency) that we needed the two santas at this school to justify that whites are, have been and always will be racist. I wonder who really is the racist here.

There needs to be an open discussion on race. In that vein, I do agree with President-elect Obama. But what we don't need is the institution of reverse racism, quotas and thought police to ensure a colorblind society. If virtue is compelled, by the government, by anyone, it is no longer virtue.

We have far to go. Legislating kindness doesn't work. In the civil rights movement, we are in the hearts and minds stage. There can be no more legislation to criminalize those who won't see skin color, no more hate crimes legislation. All this does is punish thought. Unfortunately, we are seeing the government move more and more closely to Orwellian control. Of course, it is done in the name of protecting people and doing what is right. What is right is to let people sort this out on their own.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Those who don't read history...

...are doomed to get their facts from Hollywood.

I love this quote. I post it at the end of my emails and I make sure that my students have this saying memory and entrenched in their skulls full of mush. Unfortunately, Hollywood has dictated how we understood history for the past 60+ years. It's ridiculous. Now out of the mouths of politicians, we are given this little tidbit of historical wisdom:

"America has failed to invest in its infrastructure for the past 50 years, and the bill is coming due." It's just flat-out not true. Investing in infrastructure, by the way, includes building new projects, and I know for a fact we have built new bridges. There are a couple of them down here where I live, one of them was falling apart because whoever designed the first one, it had wood pilings and there was some kind of mite, some kind of stupid bug that was eating the wood. They had to build a temporary bridge, shut down the main bridge, and then build a new main bridge. That's called investing in infrastructure. It happened in the past ten years.

"The situation is reminiscent of the ancient Roman Empire, which grew strong because of its advanced aqueduct system, but which fell into decline when that feat of engineering tumbled into disrepair."

OK, who said this? None other than the Governator himself, Arnold! Now, I don't recall any film that Arnold did where he played a Roman. He did play Hercules in Hercules in New York (one of his first roles and his voice was dubbed), but I don't think that counts.

Now the Guvernator is completely, completely, horribly, atrociously, egregiously mistaken and flat-out wrong. Rome did not fall because the Roman government failed to invest in its infrastructure. Have you been to Italy lately? Those aqueducts STILL work. Those roads are STILL being used. You ever heard the phrase "They don't build them like they used to." Well, hello!

What's worse is that the Governator is calling upon "his version" of history to justify why this country needs to invest in a radical federally financed program of improving roads, bridges, etc. Now, this is a separate issue but I'll just say that this is a state issue and should not be dictated by any federal administration and that includes the president-elect. Of course, the governator invoked Rome because everyone knows Rome fell and fell hard in the West in 476 though its doomed had been sealed since Alaric and his Visigoths came over the 7 hills in 410, sacked and burned Rome. It never fully recovered. So, Rome is invoked because we don't want to go that way do we? Because what happened after Rome? That's right, the Dark Ages! Oh, no. Not that! Even though most people are also historically ignorant about this time period as well (thanks a lot to Hollywood), people still regard that time period as one of barbarism, superstition, out of control religious zealotry, no technology. Rome, on the other hand, was the golden age.

This is nothing than pandering on behalf of the governator. If people were actually educated in history, they would call him out on it and blow so many holes in his flawed premise that it would make his head spin. Unfortunately, we are a country that revels and celbrates and rewards ignorance. And though hardly anyone reads what I write or cares, I'm right and as long as we continue to persist in our ignorance, then we will do nothing more than sign our liberties away and give rise to fascists who want to control us all under the pretense that they are doing such things to save us from ourselves. Wake up people and read! And put it into practice.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Politics as usual

The Ancient Roman Republic was the template upon which the American Republic was modeled. It was born, according to legend, because Sextus Tarquiniius, the son of the last king, Tarquinius Superbus (the Proud) abused his power and raped a noble woman, Lucretia, who was a woman of great chastity and virtue. Lucretia killed herself and her brother-in-law, L. Junius Brutus (the ancestor of the Brutus who assassinated Caesar) and Lucretia's husband, Collatinus led the Romans in revolt and displaced the Tarquins and the monarchy. From that point on the term rex, king, was utterly distasteful and sacrilege. A republic was set up in its place.

To curb the power of the once absolutist kings, the Romans instituted the position of consulship which was held by two men, both of which had veto power (to check each other), imperium (the right to enforce the death penalty) and the ability to command armies in the field. The further genius of this position was that consuls could only serve for one year, must be 42 years old and must have completed the cursus honorum, the ladder of honors prior to running. If a consul wished to be consul again, he would have to wait 10 years before standing again. The consuls were chosen by the centuriate assembly, which grouped Roman citizens by their property classes, the most propertied having the most electoral power while those who constituted the proletariat (the lowest class), though more numerous, had only one total vote at their disposal.

From 509 B.C. to 31 B.C., the Roman Republic stood. For the last 100 years, it had survived despite the constant on-again, off-again civil war. In theory, the Republic, having survived for about 500 years could have had 1000 different people form different families in control of the Roman Republic. This never happened. I suppose that it was its longevity was the one of the many reasons why the founding fathers modeled our republic on that of the Ancient Romans. Essentially, the Roman consulship was controlled for these 500 years by about 35 families. If you were a Metellus, a Scipio, a Licinius, etc. and ran for office, your chances of succeeding were exponentially improved. Once a person from a family reached the consulship, he ennobled his family forever and thus there was a greater chance that one of his descendants would have been elected. If a person, whose family was not noble, was elected, which was rare, he was called a novus homo, a new man. Such notable novi homines were Cicero, Pompey and even Caesar. The interesting thing is that the Latin word novus, also means "strange." The Romans were a conservative people and hated change. That's why the continuous on-again, off-again civil war for 100 years. They knew the system was broken, but refused to abandon it for something new, because there was no precedent.

OK, so what's the point of this history lesson. Well, the Romans obviously believed in the power of the name alone. Apparently, so do we. With all the speculation surrounding who would now occupy Senator Hilary Clinton's senate seat, assuming she is confirmed to be the next Secretary of State, one of the names that has consistently been mentioned is Caroline Kennedy. Today, the speculation is put to rest and Kennedy is now offically the choice to succeed Hillary at least according to this report; http://www.drudgereport.com/flashck.htm.

Caroline Kennedy has only her name. She has no resume. She serves on the board of several charities. She has a law degree and has passed the bar but does not practice. She really doesn't have to work considering that she has the Kennedy trust to live off for the rest of her life. But, despite her affability and other things, this woman has NO experience, none to fill a senate seat. She's not qualified. She has only her name.

The governor of New York has the authority to appoint the new person. Caroline apparently jumped right up and suggested she would be perfect. But here's the interesting thing--if this senate seat were to be filled by a general election, we wouldn't even be hearing Caroline Kennedy's name. Why? Because she couldn't run a campaing. Because her inexperience and her lack of doing anything would be ruthlessly and accurately portrayed by her opponents and she would probably have a snowball's chance in hell of winning. But since no election is going to happen, she expects the seat to be given to her. Why? She's a Kennedy.

Just like in Rome, where you would hope that the consulship could be more evenly distributed over the Roman citizenry, it's the same thing here. How long do we have to put up with the barrage of Kennedeys, Schrivers, Townsends, Rockefellers, Bushs in public office? Most of them are not qualified and are running on the basis of their family name.

If Caroline had actually run for the office, I wouldn't be complaining; she would be crushed because she has no experience and no discernable qualifications save for her good intentions. But she demanded the senate seat and the only thing that gives her consideration is her damn name.

We are screwed as a country. Cronyism is alive and well. Despite the era of change that is supposed to be ushered in with Obama, we see that, even with his cabinet posts, the close personal friends of the ones in power are the ones given power. And we, as a people, unfortunately, seem powerless to correct this.

Senators are the new reges of the Republic of the United States.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Day Keanu Reeves Stood Still

ALERT: Spoilers ahead.

If you haven't seen The Day the EArth Stootd Stiill, don't. Rather, you should see the original black and white film made back in the 1950s. It is much better and has much better acting and isn't so tainted by "the human race sucks" mentality which came through loud and clear for the full 1 hour and 45 minutes.

OK, the positives--there aren't any unless you're one of those "special effects make any movie good" thinkers. The special effects were good, but not worth the price of admission by a long shot.

OK, the negatives. Keanu Reeves, as the title of my blog implies, doesn't move in this whole picture. Sure, he goes from one place to the next, but there is no variation in his facial expression for the entire movie. Now, I know acting, period, is hard for Keanu "Whoa" Reeves, but seriously this guy had only one expression throughout. Now, that's either talent or proof that he can't distinguish one emotion from the next. Even, at the very end, when he is so "moved" by Jennifer Connelly's very lame pleas for mercy, his facial expression remains the same.

Jennifer Connelly whines throughout the film. There is nothing attractive about it or her.

Will Smith's kid Jaden stars in this. A new Haley Joel Osmont he is not; far from it. His "acting" was so contrived, he could have only graduated from the Keanu Reeves' School of Acting.

The original movie was much more suspenseful because you didn't know Klaatu's intentions. He was still making up his mind as to what the fate of the human race should be. In this version, the decision has already been made and there is not much sympathy to be found in Keanu Reeves at all, not even when he changes his mind or sees the inherent wrong in the plan.

In the original, man still has a chance to repent of his crimes whereas in this version, man's repentance is basically summed up in Jennifer Connelly's ad nauseam pleas that we can change. Maybe that's why Keanu Reeves' Klaatu is so easily persuaded, because he cannot tell the difference between true repentance and mere words.

One final point, there was no "Klaatu barato nikto" in this one. Oh come on! I thought for sure that those words would be in this version.

Save your money and don't see it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My new project--What the hell does this song mean?

Heavy Metal is a much maligned and misunderstood genre of modern rock and roll. Part of the reason is because a lot of it is, quite frankly, bad, if not really, really bad. The music, however, of Ronnie James Dio, who started out in Elf, then joined Ritchie Blackmore after his departure from Deep Purple to form Rainbow and stayed with him for three albums until agreeing to front Black Sabbath, which was now Ozzi-less (which wasn't a bad thing), for two albums and then struck out on a solo career. The name of the band was simply called Dio. Dio went on to put out several albums which typified the metal of the 1980s.

Dio's first single release from his 1983 debut album, Holy Diver, was the title track itself. This is a great song. It was even used in a very early episode of South Park! But what the hell does it mean? Here are the lyrics:

Holy Diver
You've been down too long in the midnight sea
Oh what's becoming of me
Ride the tiger
You can see his stripes but you know he's clean
Oh don't you see what I mean
Gotta get away
Holy Diver
Shiny diamonds
Like the eyes of a cat in the black and blue
Something is coming for you
Race for the morning
You can hide in the sun 'till you see the light
Oh we will pray it's all right
Gotta get away-get away
Between the velvet lies
There's a truth that's hard as steel
The vision never dies
Life's a never ending wheel
Holy Diver
You're the star of the masquerade
No need to look so afraid
Jump on the tiger
You can feel his heart but you know he's mean
Some light can never be seen

Now, I have no idea what he is talking about. Even my other friends who are in to Dio don't know. Erik Campbell, brother of my colleague and fellow Maiden-fan, John Campbell, who once wrote a great essay on "The Death of Satan" which is all about the heavy metal references to the Dark Lord,doesn't know. And I'd consider him to be one of the authorities on this subject. So, this is what I am going to spend my winter break doing. Sure beats doing actual work. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to email me.

Also, you may want to consider listening to the song itself and watching the video. Maybe that can add something to the interpretation.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Let's make this very, very clear--Obama IS NOT Christ

During the campaign, Barack Obama was often portrayed by media, social celebrities and even some prominent religious figures to be a saint, Christ-like figure if not the Christ himself. It was ridiculous. And unfortunately, this characterization has not stopped even though Obama is now the President-Elect. Tonight, On "Anderson Cooper 180", the following was reported as a segue before commercial:

COOPER: Well, ahead on 360: a speed bump for the presidential transition or just an awkward moment? The new first family asks if they can move into the presidential guest house early, but guess what? They're told, there's no room at the inn. Why? We will find out.

Now, the context is that the Obamas wish to move into the Blair household, ostensibly so that their kids can begin private school which resumes on January 5 even though the Obamas are not due to move into the guest residence, which is right across from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue until two weeks later. For some reason, they thought they deserve special treatment.

Now, anyone who is worth their salt intellecutally will see that Anderson Cooper, who, by the way, is one of the most disreputable, unintelligent, disingenous reporters out there, is absolutely making reference to Christ. George Bush then is the mean inn keeper who sends poor Joseph and Mary out to the cave where the Christ child will be born.

Obama is NOT Christ. He is NOT Joseph. He is NOT a saint. He is the President-Elect. I have yet to see signs of divine powers from him. Let's actually wait to see him perform some miracles in government and this recession before we confer the title of Christ the King on him and then tremble because Christ has come again as He said to judge the world.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Eternal Memory to Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, ALEXY II

The Patriarch of what is often called "New Rome", i.e. Moscow, so named because of the fall of the "second Rome", i.e. Constantinople in 1453 to the Turks, and the heresy of the "old Rome", i.e. Rome, reposed last night at the age of 79. The first man to hold the Patriarchal throne since the fall of communism in Russia in 1990, Patriarch ALEXY was responsible for a resurgence of the Orthodox Church in Russia, (re) building many churches and monasteries, many of which were destroyed in the purges of the Church, her priests and her property during the eras of Stalin and Kruschev. Though often looked upon as too complacent and agreeable towards Russian government policy and also very opposed to the Roman Pope setting foot in Russian land because of Rome's refusal to stop converting Russians to Latin-Rite Catholicism, Patriarch ALEXY II was very much a man who will be missed by the Russian Orthodox and the Orthodox faithful around the world. A locum tenens will be appointed within the next few days until a successor will be voted upon by the Holy Synod within the next six months. It will be very intersting to see who comes out of this as Patriarch. Though this will not be as watched as a Roman conclave to elect the Roman Pope, this event could hold significant implications for the Catholics and the Orthodox as the Patriarch of Moscow leads the greatest number of Orthodox faithful in the world (170,000,000 about).

Lord, have mercy on Thy servant, ALEXY, Patriarch of New Rome and All Russia. Grant him a place of repose, a place of verdure, where there is no longer any pain, nor sadness, nor death but life everlasting. +Eternal Memory! Vachaya Patma!