Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Misinformation Superhighway

There's an odd chart that seems to be floating around the interwebs these days. It shows the percentage of National debt increases under Presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama.

Based solely on the numbers shown from this chart, it's safe to say that the Republican Presidents are the villains of the story. With absurdly high percent increases, Reagan clocks in at raising the debt by 155%, Bush Sr. by 55%, Clinton 37%, Bush Jr. 115%, and Obama 35%.

You can find that chart here, on Nancy Pelosi's Flickr page.


To tell you the truth, I don't know which is worse. The fact that Nancy Pelosi has a Flickr account, or that this graph is essentially worthless for proving the point it seems it was meant to prove; that under Democrat Presidents the National Debt has only raised a teeny tiny amount in comparison to the heinously evil amount those dastardly vile Republican Presidents have raised it.

When I first saw it I thought, "Wow."

Then, just to be sure, I used Google to do what Google does best; Google things.

Just by punching in a few words and clicking the mouse here and there, I came up with these facts.

When Ronald Reagan was sworn in, in 1980 the National debt was $712 billion. When he left office in 1988 it was approximately $2 trillion.

When President George H.W. Bush was sworn in, in 1989 the Reagan debt remained and by the time he left office in 1993 the National debt was, and I'm rounding up here, about $4.4 trillion.

So Clinton came in, starting with $4.4 trillion in debt and at the end of his Presidency in 2001 had added about $1.5 trillion to the debt, and at the end of his Presidency and the beginning of George W. Bush's, the total debt was approximately $5.7 trillion. (Yes, Clinton did pay down some of our debt. But from the 1993 fiscal year we were at $4.4 trillion, increased to $5.7 trillion at the 2001 fiscal year mark.)

When W. left office in 2009 the debt was $10.6 trillion.

It's September of 2011 now, nearly October, and the national debt, according the live calculator, is $14.7 trillion and rising.

Under President George W. Bush's eight years in office our debt increased by $4.9 trillion. Under President Barack Obama's three years so far, the debt has increased $4.1 trillion.

I learned all of these things just by using Google, which is powered by this thing called "The internet." You may have heard of it.

Wait, but the graph says that under W. the National debt went up 115%, and under Obama it's only gone up 35%. Doesn't that mean he's spent a lot less money? 35 is so much smaller than 115. 35 pieces of pie is so many less pieces of pie than 115.

Ah, the deceiving abilities of percentages.

I'm not using these numbers as a way to hi-five one President over the other. Our Country has a spending problem, period. What I do want to do with the information, however, is inform people. See that? The INFORMation INFORMs the people. Weird how that works.

But from the looks of it, information, as Bruce Campbell might say, doesn't mean "but two things right now: Jack and shit. And Jack left town."

See, information should mean a lot. But the bigger problem today, yes, bigger even than our National debt, is this rise of the Misinformation Superhighway. A rip-roaring ride through the "interwebs", as the kids say, to places we thought we'd never go. Yes, the Misinformation Superhighway! If you're willing to believe in a place that exists only in your mind, well, the Misinformation Superhighway takes you there. You can even bring your friends!

Scrolling through the Facebook comments alone on the graph Pelosi had posted, (I originally saw it on Facebook), it was astounding how much Democrats were touting those percentages as victories. As if they meant something they didn't actually mean. It's safe to say that most people who saw that graph assumed the percent sign was actually a dollar sign, and that the increases made in the national debt were in dollars and not percents.

Well that was wrong. And everyone who assumed that was wrong.

But hey, it's the internet! The one place you don't actually have to be held accountable for what you say because, if someone calls you out, you can delete their comments, or remain silent, or delete the post altogether.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. How many issues do you think people feel they are actually informed on and, in reality, aren't even close to the truth? I'm going to say a lot.

And this graph, posted by Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, current House Minority Leader, was meant to do what? Make the people believe Obama has spent oodles and oodles less than any President so far?

He's spent $.8 trillion less in three years than Bush Jr. spent in eight. Congratulations?

Someone like Pelosi, in such a high and respectable position, should have the guts to post things like the truth. Instead, she'd rather fuel and perpetuate this discordance between parties because, why exactly?

Both parties do it. Both parties have done it since the beginning and will continue to do it until the end. This is just one example of how easily misled the public can get because they've simply taken someone at their word. Do you know how easy it is to do the research for yourself? Why it's as easy as saying to yourself what everyone seems to be saying to everyone else these days, "Just Google it."

I'm not trying to persuade you on how to place your vote, I'm just trying to encourage you to think for yourself. This debt misconception is massive. And I'm sure there are gobs of policies you could throw in my face about Democrats versus Republicans, or vice versa. But that isn't the point. The point is, we all have brains. I think it's high time we actually started using them.

If I wanted to get to Mexico and I asked someone for directions and they told me to get on the I-5 North, to take it all the way up past Washington and boom, I'd be in Mexico, and I followed these directions, would I get to Mexico? Nay. I'd be in Canada. If I'd wanted to party it up with the gang from Degrassi I'd have asked how to get to Canada. But I wanted to go to Mexico.

Now I know what you're thinking. "That is an absurd example."

But do you know what I'm thinking?

"No it's not."

Whoever that Jack was who sent me the wrong way told me to hop on the wrong highway, and I listened to him. I didn't go to Map Quest to confirm the directions, or Google Maps, I just trusted him because he seemed like an honest guy with a wife and kids and two dogs and a pretty house with a nice smelling rosebush out front.

But I should have thanked him, then did the research on my own just to be sure I wasn't being led in the wrong direction. Ultimately, my being misled was no one's fault but my own.

Stop taking people, especially Politicians, at their word for everything. And when you listen to someone without doing any thinking for yourself, stop blaming everyone else when you discover you've been misled. It's time to accept some responsibility, not in that you were tricked, but that you allowed yourself to be tricked.

I like to believe people are good. But some of them aren't always too interested in being good and are more interested in getting ahead or servicing themselves. Be aware and careful of these people. You don't want to end up lost, miles and miles from your goal, stuck in traffic on the Misinformation Superhighway thinking, "Where am I and how do I get back?"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Step One: Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Today marks an historic event in our Nation's history. (Bet you've never heard that before.)

Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been officially repealed. For many it's a time that marks our drawing ever closer to true equality, and for several others it marks the end of our Country as we know it.

The latter are usually easy to spot by their constantly referring to anyone in the LGBT community as "The Gays".

Though it's a big step, in the grand scheme of things it's still only step one. There is still much to do to help bring us closer and closer to Universal tolerance.

The biggest concern I've heard from people inside and out of the Military is that having homosexuals serving threatens the comfort of straight men and women. Never think I'm ragging on our Military, I have the utmost respect for those who serve and believe you should too. They've got the guts to do something the majority of us are too scared to even think about. But the issue is that many think by having homosexuals in the Military means they're going to actively try to make others gay, or partake in copious amounts of sexual harassment.

It's simply not true.

Too many people in the world have this view of gay people as if they're this devious group of sneaky little demons who are seeking to turn the rest of the world gay, and that apparently if you're gay you're an enormous horn dog who will pounce on anything as if you had no standards whatsoever.

Come on. They're not animals for God's sake. Despite someone's sexual preference, science still remains. Straight people are horny too you know. And too many people think that simply because this has been repealed that everyone who is gay in the Military is going to throw their hat off and shout it from a mountain top. You realize it's not easy being different right? That people get beaten to death for being gay? And you think all of a sudden their going to be skipping around, weilding a gun saying "Here I am!"? The sad part is, many of those who are gay and in the Military who are also in the closet will be staying there because they don't want the torment they know will come from people who are intolerant to them.

More so than we needed to repeal DADT, we need to end this mindset. This is still an ongoing battle. Just because someone is gay doesn't make them less human. Their blood runs red just as ours does. And I find it hard to believe that a man or woman would plunge themselves into a hateful world making a conscious decision to live a life that means they'll be shown a tremendous amount of discrimination and incivility. Who in their right mind would choose this?

Someone who wishes to serve their Country should never be turned away, especially in times such as these. And just because you have to shower together doesn't mean they're going to be standing creepily in the corner leering at you. Get over yourself. You think because you have to share a bunk means they're going to try and slip in there next to you, or keep you up at night chit-chatting about boys?

I think the hardest thing for people to do will be to block out the caricatures the rest of the world has created for us about gay people. Like all of them are trying to re-design our family rooms and get us to wear color palettes we never imagined we'd wear.

Stop it. Just stop it.

When someone stereotypes you, it bothers you right? Well there you go.

You know, a person who shows prejudice is showing a little of what's going on inside of them. Surely a person who is right with themself has no need to project onto others some feelings of insecurity. (See yesterdays post about getting a spine.)

Repealing DADT is important not only because it allows someone to serve their Country regardless of sexual orientation, but because it sets a standard for our Country that we're not willing to accept segregation anymore. We're looking to the future, to promote equality and civil rights.

I honestly cannot see any valid argument as to why we shouldn't allow a gay person to serve their Country. If you see a problem with it, I'd love to hear it.

Being gay is not a choice, but being hateful is. What kind of person do you want others to see when they look at you? When your time has come to pass, do you want them to speak in your favor, or say you "loved" people but did so conditionally?

If you're going to say you want peace then you'd better be prepared to accept the fact that peace means acknowledging others for being different than you. DADT is step one. Love does not work on your terms. You don't get to say you love only some people, that's called hypocrisy. Love simply is. It is a Universal constant which means you show goodness and kindness to not just the select few, but to everyone. If you find conflict with this, then you don't really know what love is.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is dealing with an issue far beyond only the Military. It's dealing with an entire group of people that have been around since the beginning of time. Believe me, gay people aren't just popping up from nowhere. A lot of folks think that "back in the good ol' days" there were only a few gay people and today there is this evil looming over people, one by one making them gay.

Wrong. Gay people have always been there, we just didn't know it because if we did people would never have let them leave their homes.

Focus on what it takes to promote equality. It isn't conditional love, I'll tell you that much. It's unconditional. We must be unconditional people to find how harmful conditions can be.

A lot of people say God speaks to them and tells them to do things. When we listen to them, more often than not we think, "This person is crazy." What if I told you he speaks to me too? He tells me that we must love one another as we have been loved. Plain and simple.

If that makes me crazy then so be it. But I'd rather be crazy and tolerant than sane and bigoted.

Repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell is step one. You know what step two is. Lay down the dogma of your life and get out there and do it. Practice what you preach. If you preach peace, then do it. If you preach love, do it. If you want equality, show it.

No excuses.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where Are Our Spines?

Yesterday I pulled a Sound Byte for the show from "Real Time with Bill Maher". It was said by, you guessed it, Comedian Bill Maher. Here it is:


It's 1:41 in length. Just watch the whole thing.

So the key moment obviously is Maher's calling Christians people who "hate charity and love killing." And a "faith based lynch mob."

I'm a Christian. I certainly don't hate charity, absolutely don't love killing, and feel that calling the entire religion a "faith based lynch mob" is a bit of a dirty generalization. I know a lot of Christians who aren't the tpes of Christian people like Maher think they are.

But here's my actual point.

Who cares?

I can think of a lot of Christians who would be offended by this, sure, but Bill's a comedian. He's telling a joke. I'm not personally a huge fan of the guy but I respect his line of work because I also consider it my own. It's comedy.

The issue with the Nation in recent times hasn't become an increase in our spewing of hate speech, that's been around since the beginning of time, we've just got a delightfully modern media network to remind us of its presence on a 24/7 basis. The real problem has quickly become an increase in our inability to have a little self confidence, to be self assured. We're losing our spines. So many are too antsy to jump the gun and pounce on any form of speech that seeks to get a rise out of us and make some big media firestorm out of it.

I'm not saying we should let everything slide, but you know what, people are people. They say hateful things sometimes, in fact, comedians even say mean things in a joking way to get laughs and, you guessed it, ratings and publicity. But instead of focusing on being offended and traveling further down the trail of being sue happy and overly sensitive, why aren't we focusing on what really counts; how to be happy.

You know the ye olde saying, turn the other cheek, etc. etc. That's hard to do, trust me, I know, I get it. But how often do you lay your head down on the pillow at night and lose sleep over something someone said to you, about you, or about a community you belong to? I mean you seriously stayed awake because you couldn't let it go. On the flip side, how often does someone say something mean or hateful and you hit the hay resting easy because you know, in your heart of hearts; how much damage can jerkoffs like this ACTUALLY do to your spirit?


We need to stop focusing our energies on counter attacks and focus it inward, on strengthening our spines and standing up. Someone with a weak spine walks around hunched over, someone with a strong one walks around upright and tall.

Remember when our parents told us to ignore the bullies and they'd go away? Or the phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me"? I get that these are a little cliché, but a cliché is what it is because there's truth to it. It wouldn't last as long as it does unless it made some sense right?

If someone shows you intolerance and you show it back, what does that bespeak of you to the rest of the world? They'll see you as intolerant. Some might think it's just, but those that do will suffer from a warped sense of justice defined by you and your actions or people like you. Sure you're getting revenge on the person who offended you, but what are you doing truly? If your desire is to promote peace and awareness, do you think you'll do so effectively by taking an eye for an eye?

If someone shows you inolerance and in return you show tolerance, now that takes guts. Taking them to court is a waste of time and money.  All because they hurt your feelings? I don't mean to make excuses for people who say horrible things, but why are you giving them what they want? Their fires are fueled by our giving them the reactions they want. Once we've done that they've won. It's as simple as that.

But what does it take to make you sure about yourself? Yes, it is difficult to turn the other cheek, but imagine what you'll do if you address the issue in a public way without practicing hate speech yourself.

To be perfectly honest, I would say that it's becoming harder and harder to call myself a Christian. There's this weird hate going on out there in our politically correct society that demands we respect the minority and show some odd sense of contempt for the majority. If someone is a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Muslim, Jewish, Athiest, Agnostic, etc. then we'd better hold our tongues. It's hate speech if we make jokes on their behalf (unless of course we belong to them), but it's A-Okay if we jokingly ridicule the masses because screw-em', they're all hateful, bigoted, lynch mobs who vote Republican and love money.

Come on. We're not all the same. You should know that better than anyone. We're all our own individuals and differ from everyone else on many levels. But rather than moan and complain that we should be allowed to make fun of those in minorities, why don't we just seek to stop it altogether? Because the fact of the matter is, at our core, we're all human being. There is no minority, there is no race, there is only the human race and that includes all of us. And the best place to start spreading peace is within yourself. For what shines bright within you will surely shine bright without you.

Why is it okay to stick up for certain groups and popular to shun others? And why is society allowing this? People are going to be Democrat and people are going to be Republican. People are going to be Religious and people are going to be Athiest. So some people are going to have differing opinions, that's life, suck it up and deal with it. Stop taking things personally. No one's looking through the lens of the camera and calling you out. They may be calling you to a challenge, but the real challenge is addressing the issue while simultaneously showing love for that person. Talk about how to blow some minds.

Nothing feels better than when someone attacks your beliefs or way of life and you walk away unscathed because there is no doubt in your mind about who you are. If you feel threatened, legitimately, then it may be time to reassess. Only the threatened respond with threats. Believe me, people do take notice of those who are right with themselves. That MUST be step one. If you spend all your time trying to solve the woes of the world and take not a minute to solve the woes of yourself, you'll never reach your goal. There will always be problems in the world, but there doesn't always have to be problems within you. You'll be of much better use to the world if you know who you are, what you stand for, and how to successfully go about doing it.

Don't be silent to injustice, to the ailments of your life, but understand that the best way to combat these is with a little self confidence. Sticks and stones may break your bones but a strong spine makes you stand tall and is good for your brain and thus, your life. (Or something smart and witty like that.)

If we complain all the time, we'll never learn anything and we force others to comply with our, sometimes, ridiculous demands. Look life's hard, we all know, and people can be nasty, but some days you've just got to bite the bullet, take one for the team, and suck it up. There's a time for sensitivity and there's a time for strength. I'm telling you that both are important but one is used as a crutch more than the other. Take a wild guess as to which.

And boom goes the 21st Century.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cracked Up

 Cracked Up

You See,
Is not quite all
It's cracked up to be.

Brilliance will flow
From this cup,
You know.
The chalice of being...

Cracked up.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Do Not Open Until 9/11/11

I found a letter buried deep in my heart. Written on its envelope were the words, "Do not open until 9/11/11." This morning I opened it. This is what it said.

"My Children,

I watched it happen, ten years ago today. Just as I've watched many things happen throughout time.
Many a finger have pointed to me. I should have stopped this. If I am who I am, if I Love as I claim to Love, why then did I sit idly back and let this nightmare play out?

Many years ago, I made a decision. And this decision, it seems, is something to be seen as for better or for worse. I decided...to let you decide. If I wanted what I wanted, then I could never force any action on anyone. I wanted you to decide for yourself how you felt, how to act, who to be, what to do, and ultimately how you were going to live your life. Finding happiness is up to you.

But I'm still here. Don't think I never act. Though remember that your actions have consequences. If you decide to hurt someone, don't hold me responsible. I'll take the blame because it helps others cope, but I do not force you to do the things you do. I do not work for evil.

Ten years ago, when the towers fell, don't you know what happened to me? Don't you see I also lost my children? They were mine too. I loved them more than anyone could ever know. And don't you think it broke my heart to watch it happen? You don't think I weep, but surely I can, and I promise, I do.

And those who committed this...they were also my children. And I watched for years as they went about all these things, as they twisted my nature in their minds, as the adults around them polluted their hearts with misunderstanding, hate, and rage. And it wasn't that there was nothing I could do about it, but that when I decided to let you decide, I had to accept that some would choose good and others evil.

I pound my fists against the wall when these things happen. For thousands upon thousands of years I've watched my children slaughter one another for all the wrong reasons. More often than not I am that reason. What they think I want could never be further from the truth. You think I want bloodshed, violence, and pain? How could I ever want those things? I want you to be happy. You're my kids. My flesh and blood. My everything, and I love you so much.

But unfortunately, as for free will, it becomes all or nothing. Either I give it to you, or I don't. There is no in between. And so I made it yours. I accepted that some would abuse this gift. And as you know, many have.

But I love you. I love them even, those who do evil, as much as you'd probably like me never to say those words, I do. I do not love who they became, but I loved who they could have become.

I want peace. I want love. I want understanding. But if I forced it on the world then there would be no value to your life. You would have no purpose. You would be a robot. And I don't like robots. When you tell a robot you love it and it tells you back, you know that it doesn't really share the sentiment, it is only programmed to do so.

You are not programmed. As much as I want those to say they love me, I am prepared to hear the cries of those who hate me. I am good. I promise. I am kind, I am peaceful, and I am loving. But I am torn. Robots mean peace. Sure that is the goal...peace, but a controlled outcome is worthless. There is nothing to be gained from existence if it simply is.

Those who were taken from you ten years ago are with me now. That too I promise. Break away from this idea that if they belong to this church or that church or did not belong to any church, then I would be so terribly selective in who I take with me.

I have taken them all. If there is one decision I have left to myself it is this.

I work in ways you will never understand. There is so much, too much, to be explained in a lifetime. So why would I hold my children at fault for not understanding something they may not have had time to realize?

If you are to know one thing about me, it is this: I am Love. Not just that I do love, but that I am Love. Truly. Purely. And Love accepts. Love understands. Love is patient. Love is kind. Perhaps you know the verse. But also know that I would never ask you to hurt one another. I could never desire such unrest.

I will never force you to do the right thing, just as I would never force you to do wrong. But I am asking you to do what is good, in every day you live, in everything you do, I pray you do what is good.

Many pray to me, but don't you know I do the same for all? I pray.

Many have faith in me, but even more than this I have faith in you. I have faith that you know the difference between right and wrong, and I pray that you make the right decision.

There is always time. Time for you to Love one another, for Love is of...me. If you do, I promise you will see a change for the better. Do not give up.

In time, this date will become just another day on a child's calendar. It is not their fault. Do you still weep for the crusades? I do.

To you, to those who have lived though this, you shall never forget. But to those who shall forget with time, as that is what time allows us to do, I will keep this promise: I will never forget.

I will never forget the ones you lose, in this tragedy or in any other, internationally, nationally, personally. You are not simply in my heart, you are my heart. And how could I ever forget such a thing as my own heart?

A lot of people insert my name into places it does not belong to justify certain behavior, to get away with saying certain things. Well, I have done this for you to tell you if any try to do this in a dark context, they truly do not understand who I am. I am asking you to help them do so. Would you believe that I would ever say, 'I am misunderstood?'

I am.

If I am Love, then it must be that...

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

God hates no one. Put down your signs.

I love you.