Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On the subject of Christianity and freedom...

One of the favorite verses (or, at least, one of his favorites to quote when we're arguing about the issue of statism!) of my cousin Will would have to be the first passage of Romans 13. He seems to interpret this as an endorsement of totalitarianism and the "mob rule" of 51% Majority Democracy. Realizing that we DO NOT live in a "democracy", but rather a Constitutional Republic", I tend to disagree with him quite often on this subject.

In my personal opinion, the constitution is the ultimate legal authority in this nation, and it is one of the greatest gifts my Almighty God ever bestowed upon me. It also trumps the decisions of every cop, district attorney, legislator, and judge...with the notable exception of when our federal legislature properly acts to modify it.

As such, this constitution has the final say, which gives me that warm fuzzy feeling inside when I disregard those who act OUTSIDE their lawful authority of the constitution...and, in my own opinion, the Bible is backing me up on this.

While I understand that this nation was founded by people who readily identified themselves as "Christian", I do not buy into the baloney spewed forth by and their ilk, who claim that this nation was founded as a "Christian nation". Simply put, history tells us it wasn't...and our founders had good reason for doing so.

Even within the basic general umbrella of "Christianity", under which I personally fall, there is a great deal of disagreement over beliefs once you get past the general observation that Christ is our Lord and Savior. My uncle's church physically demonstrates a belief and reverence toward Christ by drinking wine every Sunday, but my grandmother's church declares the mere act of drinking to be a sin. The list could go on, but I think you see where I'm going with that.

Our founders instituted a secular (read: NOT ATHEIST, NOR CHRISTIAN) government that allowed each person to worship as he saw fit. This was the entire purpose of the First Amendment's "Establishment Clause".

I am a taxpayer. I am an ANGRY taxpayer. I am what the IRS would (and probably has!) labeled as a "Potentially Dangerous Taxpayer"! As such, I hate to see my money being wasted on things that are prohibited by the constitution...mainly, because I hate to see an entire third of my paycheck being stolen from me before I eve get a chance to pull it out of that little envelope.

My anger toward unnecessary taxpayer expenditures run the gamut. Among the things I'm very upset about are unconstitutional aggressive wars, welfare hand-outs, "wars" against bumpersticker slogans like poverty, drugs, et cetera.

Also, there are public expenditures at our local level that fly in the face of the US Constitution, since the First Amendment has been incorporated to the Several States via the SCOTUS. Infringements of our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceable assembly don't typically waste money that wouldn't be spent while I do plenty of bitching about these infringements, I understand that they aren't really wasting money in most cases.

As far as the First Amendment goes, the infringement that seems to always seems to be costing the most money occurs when our right to religious freedom is stepped on. I am a Christian. Most of the people who actually take the time to read this also identify themselves as "Christian". However, even though people who claim Christianity as their religion may be the "majority" in this nation, they are not the ONLY taxpayers in this nation.

We all have a right to not be forced to engage in publicly-funded displays or endorsements of religion...yes, even if it's a "Nativity Scene" in front of city hall. I personally don't have a problem with that, nor do I honestly have a problem with any other religion's public displays, as it's not costing me money. What DOES cost money, however, are legal battles that get fought when people offended by government-endorsed public displays of Christianity are willing to take them to court.

Personally, I never really cared about the opinions of others, so long as it was simply an OPINION...and not something that actually affected my life. However, there are a good many taxpaying Americans who actually ARE offended by the notion of Christianity.

To put yourself in their shoes, I'll would you feel if your local city government decided that, instead of putting up a nativity scene during the winter holiday season, it instead allowed a Wiccan organization to put up a lighted pentacle in observance of the Winter Solstice on the courthouse lawn?

You and I both know that many otherwise decent Christians would, out of ignorance, start foaming at the mouth and organizing protests against such "devil worship"...even though every Wiccan I've ever had the pleasure of meeting followed a personal set of morals that is more "Christ-like" than the majority of Christians I know.

People love bashing the ACLU over the fact that they had the audacity to sue the federal government, in order to have a large and obtrusive cross removed from the gates of a US Military cemetery on grounds that it violated the establishment clause...and, yet, what these same people continue neglecting to mention is the fact that the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THOSE BURIED THERE ARE JEWISH!

Imagine if your husband, brother, or son were buried in a military cemetery that had a Muslim crescent and star emblazoned on the front gates? Would you feel like your constitutional rights had been violated?

The fact remains that our government is simply NOT permitted to endorse religion in any form or fashion...and, while a law may not have been passed that specifically endorses religion, TAXPAYER-FUNDED ORGANIZATIONS, AGENCIES, AND BUREAUS ARE ALSO FORBIDDEN TO ALLOW RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS, PRACTICES, AND/OR RECOGNITION AS A MATTER OF OFFICIAL POLICY. The reason for this, of course, is what I have been getting at since the early part of this boils down to our government forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for these agencies.

The moment a law is passed granting our government the right to tax a citizen or business, any organization or agency receiving tax dollars is prohibited from endorsing or officially recognizing any particular religion if one religion is shown preference over another.

This is, whether it suits our purposes or not, the LAW OF THE LAND. Our constitution is a gift from God, and we should respect it. Our religious beliefs belong in our churches, our homes, and our hearts. We are allowed to exercise our personal religious freedoms anywhere we choose, unless it requires taxpayer money to do so.

You wouldn't like it if views you didn't agree with were forced upon you, while being paid for with the taxes stolen from your paycheck, so please don't expect others to sit down, shut up, and smile as you force your beliefs on others while forcing them to pay for it. Our government, and everything it owns, is in reality actually owned by ALL American citizens...Christian or otherwise.

Friday, April 16, 2010

When the shit hits close to home...

If you know me, you know that the "War On Drugs" hits very close to home for me, in so many ways. My youngest brother was a convicted felon before he was old enough to have a driver's license, due to crimes committed in an effort to support his drug addiction and our state's willingness to try children as adults so politicians can get votes.

The War on Drugs is responsible for a particular incident in my own life that, ironically, was both the biggest reason for my decision to enlist in the United States Marine well as being the cause of my getting booted for fraudulent enlistment. The real irony? I had, at that point, never even smoked a cigarette. My "experimentation with drugs", at the time, consisted of taking a single sip of champagne at a wedding when I was twelve.

In the past week, there have been three incidents that severely trouble my heart.

I was made aware of the first incident via a friend of mine working for the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office. I was told of how a classmate and mutual friend of ours had gone down a different route, and had somehow gotten tangled up in methamphetamine.

The second was a major bust involving nine people in Brazoria County (including a girl I didn't personally know, but was known by friends of mine) involving the meth trade.

The third incident is, tonight, a "web-first breaking news" story about 16 high school kids being arrested for drugs at Columbia High School in West Columbia, TX today.

Now, before I go any further, I'll come right out and say that I am "old school". I was born in the latter part of the Carter administration, which means that Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign was coming about in full swing when I entered the first grade.

My mother, a drug abuser, was also a registered nurse...which means I had access to her textbooks when I'd go to visit as a youngster. Me, being the introverted little shit that I was, liked to read a lot....and I learned quite a bit about the effects of drugs. I also went to a public high school, and had health class. I knew drugs were bad for you.

The thing that really taught me what was up, however, was having a father to teach me. I distinctly remember driving through Houston one day with him as a teenager, and we had stopped at a gas station. If memory serves, it was because he needed a beer, but I suppose that's probably not important. Anyhow, there was a toothless bum wearing a ripped t-shirt in the middle of February, begging for change. My father looked at me and said, "See that? That's what drugs do to you." Needless to say, I've got enough problems, I never felt the need to complicate them with a crack pipe.

Obviously, there are all manner of crimes assorted with drugs. You get murder, robbery, and theft when people can't afford their fix, can't pay their drug debts, can't report being ripped off, et cetera.

You can't open a newspaper today without reading a story about this happening last night. Mexico, formerly an impoverished nation that relied upon American tourist dollars, is now even poorer because Americans are afraid to travel there. In Ciudad Juarez, the drug cartels have reportedly completely taken over and now essentially own the city.

Right here in America, people are being arrested in record numbers for drug offenses.

Is it worth it? Not quite.

Drugs are bad, m'kay? Meth, coke, smack, et cetera will KILL YOU. If it doesn't kill you while you're doing it, it's going to kill you slowly over an extended period of time. Everyone with half a brain knows this.


If you're too ignorant to know that snorting anything made out of anti-freeze, rat poison, diesel engine starting fluid, et cetera isn't bad for you, making it against the law won't help.

Does it suck to have some crackhead rip off your shit? Of course it does. Are our drug laws working? Hell, no!

Imagine, if you will, that meth, smack, coke, pot, et cetera are instantly legalized in this nation. What happens?

Instantly, a full 20% of prisoners are no longer the responsibility of the American taxpayer, because they don't stay locked up for the nonviolent offense of merely being in possession of, or selling, drugs.

Then, the majority of our law enforcement resources are freed up, because we don't have years-long investigations into someone selling meth from their backyard lab. Assaults drop when drug debts gone bad are handled in the courts. Tax bases are instantly multiplied, because dealers get out of the black market and start selling in regulated markets. Drugs become harder for the average teenager to get, because dealers know they have to ask for ID or go to jail.

Most normal people don't smoke crack, snort meth, shoot smack, et cetera. Those who choose to do it will continue to do it, regardless of evident by what I've seen this past week. You can't legislate intelligence. I wouldn't snort coke if it were legal. Would you?

So where does drug legalization and regulation leave us? Less expense, more resources. This allows our law enforcement agencies to go after that crackhead that stole your shit.

I read yesterday about nine people getting busted for a "meth ring". The investigation lasted for more than a year, and tied up resources from several jurisdictions. Before the news was even printed, someone else had already fired up another meth lab, because methheads aren't going anywhere. Seriously, you can cook it up in a 2-liter bottle as you drive down the street. You ain't gonna win that war!

So now, a select nine people have been arrested. Millions of tax dollars were pissed away to do this. These people have lost everything but their lives, if convicted. The charges carry a mandatory ten year sentence, with a maximum of LIFE IMPRISONMENT. Their property has been seized. Their families are destroyed.

Did it put any kind of dent in the meth epidemic we're facing in this nation? Hell, no. It didn't even put a dent in the meth problem IN THIS COUNTY. Someone else already had a batch cooking up before the high these people were responsible for had worn off. "Getting meth heads off the street"? Give that bullshit to someone who might buy it, because I know better.

"Injustice" occurs when our laws do more harm than the potential harm they are designed to prevent.

Just like an accidental head injury, you may recover from a meth addiction. You may not. That's the chance you take when you decide to snort meth. You can arrest a dozen people per year (which is far better than our local authorities are doing) for cooking meth, and you'll have ten dozen others who are ready, willing, and able to take their place the next day.

I don't know the people who got busted...their lives may have been salvageable, they may not have been. However, I will say this to the law enforcement agencies responsible for the busts:

A) You did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to stop the meth issues in this county.

B) You have completely destroyed the lives of nine people, as well as the lives of their loved ones.

C) You have cost the taxpayers of this nation, and specifically this county, an immense amount of money with this "intense investigation", and again, you truly accomplished NOTHING.

D) With the mandatory minimum sentencing of the charges, you have saddled this nation with at least five million dollars worth of expenses in nothing more than incarceration for these people. This doesn't cover expenses relating to court costs, appeals, et cetera...and certainly doesn't even get started on the millions of dollars spent on the initial investigation.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Why the US will never "win" in Afghanistan...

There are several reasons why the US will never win, but here are the "top three" in my not-so-humble opinion.

A) The Afghan people are, for the most part, unwilling to simply quit.
B) The US military is unwilling to utilize nuclear weapons, or any other strategy that will result in the complete and total annihilation of the Afghan people.
C) The US military has completely failed to define what constitutes "victory".

Now, please allow me to clarify a few things.

The Afghan people, historically, simply refuse to be conquered by anyone. If you doubt this, please see the entire plot of Rambo III. It just ain't gonna happen, they'd rather die than live as a subservient to an outside government. Do they, largely, hate the Taliban? Of course...but they hate the American government even more. Not "American culture", per se, as plenty of them enjoy Big Macs and iPods, but rather, the government that has propped up every major war in that region for the past hundred years. As part of our anti-communist efforts, we essentially created Al Qaeda. As part of our anti-drug efforts, we gave millions upon millions of dollars to the Taliban. As part of our anti-terror efforts, we have killed (knowingly or unknowingly) an untold number of innocent civilians. Teenage boys who happened to know someone that knew someone that made a phone call to a guy who drove a cab for Osama's cousin have been imprisoned, tortured, and/or killed without any valid justification. Things like these create an intense hatred for the US government, as well as for the armed men who fight under its flag.

While we kill many more men in Afghanistan than we lose, we must keep this in mind: NOT EVERY AFGHAN MAN WITH A RIFLE IS HOLDING THAT RIFLE BECAUSE HE HATES AMERICAN CHRISTIANS WITH FREEDOM. Some simply hate American soldiers who work for the same government that accidentally killed his entire family with a UAV drone attack on a funeral procession. I don't know about you, but that would make me want to pick up a rifle and shoot back. How would you feel? When this war started almost ten years ago, there less than 50k people who identified themselves as "Taliban". That's slightly less than the combined populations of Angleton and Lake Jackson, TX. That's it, and it certainly wasn't concentrated in two cities. In 2008, there were around 11,000 Taliban. In 2009, there were 25,000.

What does this tell us? I don't know about you, but it tells me that our efforts in Afghanistan are helping to actually "build" the Taliban. When we seek out to destroy something that others sympathize with, you will find support amongst these people. When you kill innocents, either knowingly or unknowingly, you will add to the strength of your enemy because the loved ones of that person you killed will likely hate you for it. When the state of Texas executes a man, it often does not simply kill a kills a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, et cetera, and these relatives are left behind. When our military kills a man in Afghanistan, it also kills a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, and a nephew...and these relatives are also left behind. When the person you kill is an innocent goat herder that happened to "look like a bad guy" when he got shot, or was part of a wedding party that was mistaken for a terrorist training camp on a satellite photo, you're doing nothing but inspiring vengeance.

When we are unwilling to exterminate the entire population, and the people we leave behind would rather die than surrender, we do nothing but breed enemies...regardless of how righteous our fight may be.

Of course, our biggest problem in Afghanistan is, quite simply, our complete and utter failure to define what constitutes "victory" in Afghanistan. Until we actually know what "winning" consists of, how do we know if/when we've "won"?