Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Sorry it's been awhile since I last blogged...my life has been pretty boring lately, and hence I've been too bored to actually write a blog post. Although, in my defence, I was out of town from Thursday to Sunday night (actually, Monday morning if you want to be technical), and so I couldn't blog.

So...in the news this week, local police officers are now going to have even more license to make eternal nuisances of themselves, as their job descriptions are now going to be expanded to "watching for precursor activity to terrorist activities" or something like that. (And an hilarious image of Barney Fife trying to apprehend a terrorist just popped into my head...)

From this article: "But this initiative represents the administration’s first thoughtful steps in fulfilling President Obama’s commitment to defining a lasting rule of law for this brave new world. We must make it work."

We "must"? Oh yeah, that's right. So we can be safe, yada yad. Right. I forgot that part. Of course, there are other options. Like, you know, we could, like stop bombing and invading sovereign nations without cause and stuff. You know. Be smart and courteous and all that good stuff. Stop hitting other children on the playground.

But oh wait. That would be the smart thing to do. We're Americans. We aren't smart, so we're not needed to be. That's right.

In that same vein, our government is now trying to control the internet- oh wait. Not control it...just make sure...you don't say something stupid, using the vehicle of fear. There goes half of my Facebook activities. Sarcasm? Out the window. Joking references to terrorism and your plot to blow up the 2011 Comic-Con? Don't even think about it.

You see, apparently the government has decided that Americans don't use phones enough anymore. We've all migrated to the internet, so now, naturally, the government is going to have to start imposing rules upon the internet. Well, to be fair, not quite rules. They just want to team up with social networking sites to get information about their widdle citizen's activities. Because we all need to be babysat, of course.

"Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages."

Mm-hmm. Because it's always good to tie the hands of independent companies that operate on the free world of the internet so that they have to cooperate. At least Google went into willingly.

Once again along that tack, the Obama administration (which is, of course, for terrorists and against anything akin to intel gathering or the wars) wants to have more control over banks, not for the purpose of money, but so that banks have to report money transfers out-of-country.

But always remember- Obama is soft on terror.

In a rather ironic twist, atheists and agnostics score the highest on a poll on American religious knowledge.


That's sad, Christians.

The midterm elections are approaching, which is rather...well, not exactly exciting, per se, since I am fixing to make a prediction about who's going to take the Congress. Before I do that, I'd just like to say that this prediction kind of stinks.

Because I'd really rather the Democrats lose their majority, but the Republicans not gain one.

I dream of a better world where the true interests of the people are represented by a four, five, six party Congress...

I dream big, in case you couldn't tell.

There's lots more I could talk about. But I don't really want to. I'm already depressed enough.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wall of Separation

‎"The wall separating church and state has functioned as a one-way wall, primarily restraining government and doing little to restrain religious individuals or religious organizations that are accorded the same rights to free speech, publication, association, a redress of grievance that other secular entities and individuals are accorded. So that has allowed religion to robustly serve as a moral code to the conscience of the country. No restriction on the ability of religion to speak to political issues, nor should there be. The limitations that are built in come the other way. The government cannot impose religious views on any person. Cannot choose up between religions, cannot choose religion over a nonreligion, can't endorse religious messages or oppose religious messages. It definitely shouldn't be funding overtly religious activity."
Rabbi David Saperstein, quoted in "The Holy Vote" by Ray Suarez

So I have to say: I agree with this guy. He states what I've tried to say numerous times quite simply and eloquently.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Short-Term Memory Loss

You remember Dory, the little blue fish in the Disney-Pixar film Finding Nemo? According to her, she suffers from short-term memory loss- an unfortunate predicament that leads to some very interesting plot twists along the journey she takes with the clownfish, Marlin.

Anyway. Hilarious fish aside, I am of the opinion that Americans suffer from a bad case of short-term memory loss. Why?

Maybe it's because American Conservatives seem dead-set on forgetting that their golden boy, George Bush, began the bailouts back in '08. Maybe because liberals consistently forget that they hated the wars not so long ago. Maybe because conservatives also always forget that not too long ago they were marked as possible terrorists...and then cheer on the deliberate expatriation of terrorists and the stripping of Constitutional rights from them.

Maybe all of that...

There's a video my mom found during the '08 election cycle. It featured parodies of George Bush and Clinton, with a "baby" John McCain and Obama, and Bush and Clinton were giving their two prodigies political advice. At one part in the song, they are singing about how their political plans are failing, people are getting upset...

"But if efforts at deflection aren't succeeding/And you feel that your career is on the brink/you've one trump card to play before conceding/As the details of your scandal become more than they can handle/They will surely seek relief and with memories oh so brief/With but one cycle of the news they'll find trivia to amuse/*gasp* Brittney's back in rehab!"

Yes folks, that is exactly what America is like. And this is what we're doing to ourselves.

Welcome to the world of one-week attention spans.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


So I figured it might be good to inject a little bit of humor into the blog for a moment...not only that, but I think this is a viable argument for amnesty. ^.^
(Notice the slight sarcasm. However, I will say that I've had some excellent burritos from ethnic Mexican people...ah, it's like heaven...)


Thanks goes to Megan of "The Mom and Wife Life" for her hard work and research on this article, originally posted on her blog. This subject is one that should be spoken about more often, but without the hysteria often provoked by conservative talking heads. So without further ado:

Sharia. It seems to be the new "buzz word" that people, particularly conservatives, keep getting all up in arms about. I am not going to say other people do or do not do their own "homework" because honestly I don't know, but as a Magic 8 Ball would say, "signs point to no." Why do I think that? Because it seems while this word is thrown around so much, largely as a scare tactic and a way to oppose anything having to do with the Muslim religion and culture in America, nobody I've come across personally can actually correctly define Sharia law. And so, to better grasp what it is in the first place, and why people are so opposed to it, I went in search of answers. And after hours upon hours of research, I still barely understand it. But here's my feeble attempt anyway, for whatever its worth.

The argument I hear by conservatives is that Sharia law is leaking into both American culture and her courts, and that the powers that be are allowing it, and that pretty soon Sharia "law" is going to basically take over America as we know it.

First of all, from my understanding, there is moral/personal Sharia - the moral, ethical, religious, and highly personal governance of one's own life by Sharia law. And there is legal Sharia - Sharia as it applies to legal matters. Yes, they are intertwined somewhat, but that doesn't mean they share the same function. The way I compare it to make it relevant to myself is the differentiation between Christianity being the framework by which I govern my own personal life, and the Constitution being the framework by which I abide by my country/culture's laws.

Secondly, Sharia itself is largely hard to define - both personal and court Sharia - because so much of it isn't "nailed down." Some comes straight from the Koran or other esteemed Muslim writings. But a lot of it also comes from.... Honestly, nobody knows where. It is based in large part on tradition and things accepted as "Muslim," however much of it appears nowhere in print. At least Christian Americans can say their convictions come from written sources - morally/personally from the Bible, and legally from the Constitution.

Read -here- for excellent information about this, including passages taken from the Koran and other Muslim writings. (Just be forewarned, some pop ups may come up when you click on the page...annoying and detracting, but I promise, the article is well worth the read.)

Now maybe its just bacause I am a Christian American, but I find the whole idea of a moral and legal code that isn't in written form unsettling. A code of any kind that isn't defined is one that is open to biases, corruption, usage for personal power and/or notariety, personal gain, manipulation, inaccurate translation and application...and the list is endless. Therein lies the fundamental flaw, in my eyes, within Sharia, and why I don't believe it will EVER be tolerated by or used for legal purposes within our courts. Even in matters pertaining to one's personal ethics. And here's why.

NO citizen in America, regardless of their religion, gets a free pass on murder (honor killings) or spousal or child abuse. Pre-meditated murder = life imprisonment or death sentence - end of story. People make the argument that honor killings have been permitted in America. This is absolutely untrue to the best of my knowledge. There is one case I know of where a man has been convicted and is on the run, but once caught, that man WILL be brought to justice for his heinous crime. Further, as for "eye for an eye retribution," that is also shot down hard by the Eighth Amendment's guideline for fair trials and justice to be carried out. "...nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." A court would never allow someone to enact retribution on another that is "cruel and unusual," such as, for example, crashing their car into someone because they killed their relative in a drunk driving accident.

In other countries, yes, some heinous acts of Sharia have been permitted or "swept under the rug" based on what I can only define as "religious exemptions." However, in America, that would be unconstitutional. It would be showing religious favortism, which is contrary to the Constitution's First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

This protects our rights to our religion, but it also protects one religion from being esteemed over another. To make an exception/exemption on a moral or legal matter which violates Constitutional law, would be in and of itself unconstitutional. So to permit or downplay honor killings, spousal abuse, child abuse, eye for an eye retribution, or anything else that is prosecuted by the law of the Constitution based on one's religion would be unconstitutional.

Still not convinced? Think of it this way... This is America. In America, regardless of whether or not you're a citizen of this country, if you're on our soil and commit a crime, you answer to our laws and legal process - NOT that of the country from which you immigrated or are visiting. And most, if not all, countries around the world have that same structure. Most other countries' legal processes/customs are a lot more harsh and their systems are a lot more corrupt and biased, but ultimately, you are to answer to the legal process of the country in which you commit the crime. It may not seem right, and it may not seem fair, but that's how it works. To ask that your own legal process be used in another country's courts is ludicrous to begin with! You would be laughed at for even asking!

But for the sake of argument, let's look at what would happen if we even tried to allow Sharia in our courts.

To cross-reference, here's the Sixth Amendment:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

And here's the Sharia. These references are taken from -Wikipedia- but have been collaborated by a number of other sources. I am going to break it down with my own comments/dissections.

-- Sharia courts do not generally employ lawyers; plaintiffs and defendants represent themselves.

So a Muslim wants to use Sharia. Great, then they waive their right to legal representation. In my opinion, that is a really stupid legal move, but okay, fine, that's their right. It probably won't work very well in their favor - it will make for a VERY weak case, since an "Average Joe" doesn't know the court system the way an attorney does - but whatever, that's their choice. If they want to waive the right and have little to no strong case and probably therefore lose their legal battle, then fine. No skin of my nose.

-- Trials are conducted solely by the judge, and there is no jury system.

So much for a "public trial, by an impartial jury." The Sixth Amendment pretty much shoots that down to begin with, which is enough right there. But for the sake of argument, even if it was decided that a jury not be present, that is putting your fate in the hands of one person - one person who may have missed things, has biases, etc. In my opinion, not wise.

-- There is no pre-trial discovery process...

This would not lead to a fair trial AT ALL! Things would be VERY skewed! Without a pre-trial discovery process, crucial evidence isn't obtained, so never entered into court. This could cause a guilty person to go free, or an innocent person to be charged. It is crucial to the process in order to maintain an "unbiased" trial! I just cannot foresee our courts, under constitutional law, EVER conducting a legal proceeding without it.

-- ...no cross-examination of witnesses...

Again, this is integral to the Sixth Amendment's guidelines "to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor..." And without cross-examination, you are only hearing one side of the story. This could either exhonerate a guilty party, or convict an innocent one.

-- ...and no penalty of perjury.

No penalty for lying?!? Well, if lying is permitted without penalty, then you know there will be a LOT more liars in court than there already are! Wow, can we say corruption of justice?? If this were ever to happen, then yes, that would be a scary thing, because it would undermine the entire legal fundamentals of American justice!

-- Instead of precedents and codes, Sharia relies on medieval jurist's manuals and collections of non-binding legal opinions, or fatwas, issued by religious scholars (ulama, particularly a mufti); these can be made binding for a particular case at the discretion of a judge.

Non-binding opinions? Issued by religious scholars? Made binding at the discretion of a judge? Did these stick out like sore thumbs to anyone beside me?!? This would mean an ever-changing, ever-open-for-discussion, nothing-set-in-stone legal system. The Constitution IS set in stone! It cannot be changed on the whim of one judge or religious leader, and is hard to misinterpret, especially since our legal guidelines are pretty airtight. I take comfort in knowing what (hypothetically) would be facing me BEFORE I stand trial, and not be at the mercy of the judge, based on what the religious "scholars" are telling him/her! And fortunately, with the Constitution, I can go into any court knowing what to expect, and knowing its not subject to change based on the "gospel" of any religious leader or the discretion of any judge. Shot down by the Sixth Amendment once again!

-- Sharia courts' rules of evidence also maintain a distinctive custom of prioritizing oral testimony and excluding written and documentary evidence (including forensic and circumstantial evidence), on the basis that it could be tampered with or forged, or possibly due to low levels of literacy in premodern Islamic society. A confession, an oath, or the oral testimony of a witness are the only evidence admissible in a Sharia court, written evidence is only admissible with the attestations of multiple, witnesses deemed reliable by the judge, i.e. notaries. Testimony must be from at least two witnesses, and preferably free Muslim male witnesses, who are not related parties and who are of sound mind and reliable character; testimony to establish the crime of adultery, or zina must be from four direct witnesses. Forensic evidence (i.e. fingerprints, ballistics, blood samples, DNA etc.) and other circumstantial evidence is likewise rejected in hudud cases in favor of eyewitnesses, a practice which can cause severe difficulties for women plaintiffs in rape cases.

Sorry for such a big chunk on this one, but it all makes pretty much the same points over and over, but better than I can, so there ya go. Basically, with Sharia law, any evidence other than verbal testimony is rejected. No forensics, no circumstantial, no written, nada. However, the majority of the most heinous crimes, such as murder, rape, etc., HAVE NO WITNESSES!! So we're supposed to reject forensics, physical evidence, cirumstantial evidence, and written evidence in favor of the testimony of a suspected murderer or rapist?!? Are you kidding me?!? Basically, all the evidence says the perp is guilty, but he gets off scott free because, well, he says he's innocent?!! Oh, and I'm sure his cronies testifying on his behalf are all credible witnesses who are telling the truth and were there to witness him raping some poor woman. Yeah...of course they were. And obviously, their testimony is better and stronger than the victim's because, well, they're men, and men are always so much more honest and credible. Of course they are. (That was sarcasm, if you couldn't tell.) Sarcasm aside, this would NEVER fly in an American court of law! NEVER! We find the evidence, process it, and USE it, and let the EVIDENCE have a voice. To silence the evidence is to silence the most credible witness.

-- Testimony from women is given only half the weight of men, and testimony from non-Muslims may be excluded altogether (if against a Muslim). Non-Muslim minorities, however, could and did use Sharia courts, even amongst themselves.

Yeah, that'll make for an impartial trial. Mm hmm. And besides, I'm sure all the women's rights activists will just roll over and let that happen! (Sarcasm again.)

-- Sharia courts, with their tradition of pro se (self) representation, simple rules of evidence, and absence of appeals courts, prosecutors, cross examination, complex documentary evidence and discovery proceedings, juries and voir dire (oath of honesty and honor) proceedings, circumstantial evidence, forensics, case law, standardized codes, exclusionary rules, and most of the other infrastructure of civil and common law court systems, have as a result, comparatively informal and streamlined proceedings.

This is Wiki's summary, so I'll offer mine. (Oh goody. As if you haven't read enough of my mumble jumble already, right?!) Basically, by my interpretation, their system is one entirely of "he said, she said." Nothing is concrete, and its highly biased and wishy-washy. It is open to interpretation, changes, corruption, selfish usages, and therefore, I'm sure, results in many (if not mostly) false convictions and exhonerations.

By contrast, the US Constitution is concrete. It doesn't change, it doesn't bend, and if implemented properly, cannot be penetrated by corruption or used for ones' own personal motives. Each person walking into a court knows what to expect. They know its going to allow them a speedy, fair, public trial by an unbiased jury. They know there will be witnesses who will be cross-examined, and forensic, physical, circumstantial, and written evidence will be allowed to speak for itself and for the victim.

Ultimately, Sharia itself - moral and legal - is different from person to person. Each person defines it differently, and since there is no concrete governing document (for either facet, but especially legal) by which to base, well, anything really, then I cannot believe it will ever come to pass here in America. How can something undefined overrule and overthrow the defined?

Bottom line, as long as the Sixth Amendment stands, then Sharia never will. And based on that, I don't live in fear of Sharia. Do I like it? No. Would I ever use it to live by in my own life? Never. Would I (given the choice) want to use it in a court of law? No way. But because of my Constitution, and the court system in my America, I don't live in fear of it. Sure, its an interesting time and world in which we live. But this is America. Its Constitution is POWERFUL, and I have faith in it and in my country, that it will never be torn down in favor of a system that is so fundamentally flawed, ineffective, and biased. That's not what America is about - not when the Constitution was written, not now, and (hopefully) not ever. I think we'd have to get both really stupid and really lazy before we'd ever practice Sharia in our courts, or permit the aspects of it which violate constitutional and human rights in our culture. And I like to believe we're smarter than that. ;)

Saturday, September 11, 2010


As I ready myself for the deluge of "God bless America's" that will inevitably find their way onto my Blogger Dashboard and Facebook wall, I thought I'd just say a couple words on the subject of 9/11.

1) Originally, I had resolved to keep politics out of this. I decided that was an impossible venture this year, especially since I've already been challenged on 9/11 this morning. Fun times. I possess the amazing skill of finding (and semi-starting) a debate before eight am...this is one of my talents.

2) 9/11 actually means my little brother's birthday more than the 9/11 most people think of...Gilbert was born on 9/11/02. The poor kid is going to have that hanging over his head for the rest of the life. He's a character though. Happy seventh birthday Gilbert.

3) 9/11 was sad. What's sadder is what came out of it- two wars that have eaten up billions of dollars and millions of lives that many Americans don't seem to care about because they weren't our casualties. The events of 9/11 have been hijacked by the leaders of the New All American Cult of War. They've twisted them, creating a reality wherein all of a religion was used as a scapegoat for the actions of a few radicals.

To end this on a happy note, I wish everyone a good day!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Economic Woes

The economy is still failing- at least, if you measure the success or failure of that sector by unemployment rates, which still stand at over 9 percent. This rate is increasing amongst high-tech skilled workers, who are getting laid off due to lack of work- and then their jobs are being given to younger people fresh out of college. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that many of these jobs are now being sent overseas, where there is a burgeoning job market for these kinds of talents, and where workers will do the same work for less than Americans.

As we know, high-tech positions and workers aren't the only ones being hurt by this recession, but I think there is some credibility to the argument that they are sometimes hurt more than less skilled laborers. If an electrician gets laid off, he can get a job somewhere else relatively easy, even if it isn't electrical. But if there is a drop from somewhere like Hewlett-Packard as a computer engineer to fast food...well, that just isn't good.

But you know, don't worry. Our fearless leader has a plan. He's calling for $50 billion to be put into a new infrastructure fund and for there to be a push to upgrade the roads and railroads of America, thereby creating jobs.

It's about time, if you ask me. Some of the stretches of interstate highway I've seen are absolutely disgraceful. (Still better than some stretches of highway between Lusaka and Livingstone in Zambia, Africa, but still pretty bad. ^.^)

This is one measure I think I could potentially agree with President Obama on. Our road and railroad system is due for an overhaul, and this seems like a good idea. It may or may not be wise during a time of economic upheaval as we're in, but at least it's Constitutional. I also think some of the logic behind the plan, that of hoping to prevent earmarks headed for transportation projects, is good. It might make our lawmakers more focused on important things. Or wait...maybe we don't particularly want that.

In any case (and all jokes aside), at least they're still trying. But there's one area that some are saying shouldn't be maintained, and they should stop trying.

That's the housing market. From this article:
"As the economy again sputters and potential buyers flee — July housing sales sank 26 percent from July 2009 — there is a growing sense of exhaustion with government intervention. Some economists and analysts are now urging a dose of shock therapy that would greatly shift the benefits to future homeowners: Let the housing market crash. When prices are lower, these experts argue, buyers will pour in, creating the elusive stability the government has spent billions upon billions trying to achieve."

In the Texas town where I live, house sales are crazy. You drive down a residential street, and you're almost guaranteed to see a house for sale. And these houses aren't selling. They're just sitting there on the market, waiting for someone with enough money to come along.

And as the article above pointed out, despite the billions of dollars the government has pumped into the industry, it hasn't helped. The housing market is still failing. Further, the government insured thousands of loans and credit for mortgages on new houses, and now those people are defaulting, costing us even more money.

Personally, I agree that they should just leave it alone. Experience shows us that oftentimes, when an industry like this goes down, it springs back up soon after. People have to have houses to live in, one way or the other, and they'll continue to buy them, just as they will food or clothes.