Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses...

As normally happens while pondering a topic to write about, my thoughts about immigration have changed several times, and will probably flip flop around some more as the days go by.

At first, like most Americans, my reaction was, "The hell with them! They're illegal and they need to be sent home!"

After all, if you entered this country illegally you deserve to be sent home with your tail between your legs. Rode out of the country on a rail. Thrown in jail. Strapped to an ant hill with honey on your butt! Right?

This is not such a cut and dried topic though the more I think about the variables that come into play on this issue. Let me first tell you of my current position, then I will go into what I think needs to happen in the future.

When I heard about people protesting in the streets and carrying Mexican flags I was pissed off. I also get mad when I hear we are bending over backwards to change everything in this country to the Spanish language, and forcing our schools to lean toward Mexican immigrants in their teachings.

Point blank, I agree with Theodore Roosevelt when he said,

"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

Or Henry Cabot Lodge,

"...Let every man honor and love the land of his birth and the race from which he springs and keep their memory green. It is a pious and honorable duty. But let us have done with British-Americans and Irish-Americans and so on, and all be Americans - nothing more and nothing less. If a man is going to be an American at all let him be so without any qualifying adjectives, and if he is going to be something else, let him drop the word American from his personal description."

As I watched the recent demonstrations with everyone wearing white to symbolize peace, and with the overwhelming majority of the flags now being waved being American, I felt proud to be an American. These people are demonstrating that they are not here just to infiltrate this country, many of them truly want to become Americans.

It's difficult to see immigrants, illegal or otherwise, waving the American flag and literally screaming to this country that they want to become Americans. How can we not embrace a people who are doing what Americans have been doing since this country was founded? They want a better life for themselves and their families. Like those immigrants who have come before them, they see that better life in America.

The problem now becomes how do we proceed with our current dilemma? We've certainly got a whopper.

Here is what I think should happen if I were king.

First, and foremost, we need to seal our borders once and for all. This is not just to keep people from immigrating to our country, but we absolutely need to prevent criminals of all manner from entering. I don't care if we build a wall, lay land mines, or create a moat of rabid gerbils, it has to be done, done now, and done right.

Second, as much as everyone hates this thought, we need to somehow allow those people who are currently here now to integrate into our country. The music has stopped, they all have a chair to sit in, the game is over. Is it fair to others who have waited in line? No, but it's a harsh world.

Don't get me wrong, these people should not be completely off the hook.

Once we recognize them as immigrants they need to take courses to learn English, and should have to pass the same test as anyone who wishes to become a citizen in this country. I don't even care if the government pays to educate them. The caveat will be that their educational focus will be English, and no other direction. You learn our way, or it's the highway!

Third, it's time for the employers to start supporting this country as well. No more looking the other way. You hire a person who has entered this country illegally, and it can be proved in court that you did this knowingly, your heading to jail on a Federal charge and your business becomes the property of the government to sell so they can pay the cost to imprison you. The penalties must be severe enough to make these folks think long and hard about hiring illegals.

Finally, after all of this hand-holding, compromising, expense and hard work to Americanize these recent visitors, if you are becoming a new citizen of this country you should have a probation period where you had better keep your nose clean and not commit any crimes or you're out of here! If you are booted from the country for committing a crime, you NEVER get to return, not even to go to Disneyland or visit Mom. We see you again, and you're in jail for a very long time.

This country can be compassionate, but we need to be hard when required.

The Statue of Liberty has inscribed on it the following poem of which most people in this country seem to have forgotten.

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Annoying The Faithful

On The Roost Tsykoduk wrote an article titled, “Is faith allergic to sunlight?” in response to criticism from a reader called, “Obidavekenobi” that, “The percentage of your posts that deal with bashing the Christian religious world view is rather high. It sometimes disturbs me.”

Since most of you know that I love a good discussion on religious topics I just could not resist weighing in on this one. By all means head on over to Tsykoduks site and read the full discussion, but since my reply to this article was long-winded, as usual, I thought I would post it on the Handbasket as an article as well.

So grab a soda, swallow some Exedrin, and be prepared to once again read my seemingly inexhaustible ramblings on religion, faith and the zealots who perpetuate the ongoing saga that affects us all.

You seem to demand ‘proof’ for everything, and anything less than that is ‘blind faith.’ - DaveJustus replying to Tsykoduk

According to Dictionary.com, faith is,
Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.

An example of this type of faith is something like having faith that air will be around for a long time. You are confident that it will be around because you know truthfully that it is around now, and has been around in the past.

You can have faith in a person to do something for you because in the past they have always come through for you when needed.

Blind faith, on the other hand, is believing in something without any proof or track record. Following the writings of people from long ago does not warrant faith, it warrants blind faith. The exact religion is irrelevant. Most man-made religions require blind faith because they offer you intangible hope for the exchange of your obedience to their laws, rules, or teachings. It really is that simple.

By researching many religions throughout the world we see similar stories that have been created by humans used to explain things like their natural surroundings, their existence on this planet, and why they should be in power and control over what you do.

Have you ever spoke to someone who has quit smoking and now seems to be a zealot over their new found freedom from the nasty habit? They are elated and wish to share their success and happiness with others. Normally at the expense of making everyone else around them nutty in the process, especially people who still smoke.

I have undergone a similar transition when it comes to religion, and I think this is what is going on with Tsykoduk as well. It's not that we enjoy “bashing” other religions, we just want people to learn exactly what being the follower of a religion means.

I feel that in a way following a religion you have not studied deep is slavery to an idea others made up a long time ago. I continuously find it amazing that people refuse to learn about their own religious system, and are literally blind to its teachings without even knowing what they are agreeing to. To me, these people are blissfully ignorant.

Be Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, Wiccan, or whatever floats your boat, but actually study a learn what it is you're giving your life over to. Many people attempt to discuss this topic based on how they have always lived or believed, not because they have any substantial proof to back up their religious choice.

Good intellectual discussions on religion intrigue me. Poorly thought out religious mud-slinging does not. I'm not a religious person (oh really, never would have guessed). So unless you roll up your sleeves and bring out the big guns on why you believe how you do, there's no need to discuss religion with me.

My views are simple because after digging deep into a multitude of religions for the past 20 years or so, my belief is direct, and my resolution firm. I will not follow anyone, or any religious doctrine, without good cause. I have yet to find that cause, so my belief is in the natural world. I place my dedication to those things that I can influence, and try to act as a positive force in this world.

At times this is sometimes interpreted as an attack on religion, because the religious folk get very offended if you point out the short comings of their belief instead of sitting down in their “thinking chair” and providing a well researched point of discussion on why I am incorrect in my observation.

Our freedoms are not to be taken lightly, I will defend to the death a persons right to believe and practice that belief any way they wish short of harming others. You will never see me champion the cause of removing those rights.

When a religious zealot even whispers the possibility of preventing someone else from exercising their own rights, or attempts to force their belief system on others, then I take offense, and so should all of you who want to retain these rights. I'm not just fighting for the freedom of Christians, but for Buddhists, Wiccans, and those who worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Hmmm, perhaps I over-extended my two cents.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

We Are Not Amused

I like a good cartoon as much as the next guy, but when I find one that offends me I simply stop reading or looking.

All I can think of when I see people rioting over the content of a cartoon is that these people must really be lacking in meaningful things to do in their lives.

I understand that the cartoon in question represented their religious icon in an unfavorable manner, but why go on a rampage around the world? What possible influence do they think this will have other then demonstrating to the rest of the world that they are completely misguided lunatics?

Let's try to focus this topic where it might make more sense.

If you are Muslim, and someone of your faith created a cartoon to make fun of Muhammad, then you can shun them, kill them, or whatever Muslims feel they should do to make this right. Go crazy in your own little world.

Now, if people who are not of your faith create a cartoon making fun of your prophet, ignore them. They don't believe as you do, so they don't understand, nor care about, how they portray the prophet in anything they do. You should not care either, because you can view them as unenlightened dolts.

When someone placed a crucifix in a jar of urine and called it art, the Christians did not riot in the streets, killing people and generally being unruly now did they? Let's not even go into the large number of Christian cartoons that have been drawn constantly pretty much since cartoons have been in fashion.

The point is that just because someone else does not share your view of what is right and wrong concerning your religious beliefs, it does not give you the right to take to the streets killing and rioting as if you were some crazed mental patient.

It is precisely this type of attitude that will distance your message, and that of the prophet Muhammad, from others. Would Muhammad want his people to be known as uncontrollable idiots? I think not. Being a follower of any religion comes with a responsibility to show that religion in a positive light.

Many people already feel that the religious zealots of just about any religion attract unfavorable attention and don't really want them around. Christians don't want to be known for those who kill people in the name of their religion any more then Muslims want to be associated with those who flew planes into buildings in the United States.

What is so hard about practicing your belief without the need for violence?

Zealots who think violence will help get their message across to others are no better then criminals who commit violent acts, steal and murder. Like those criminals these zealots should be treated appropriately in the same fashion as their behavior. A religious belief based on killing everyone who does not believe as you do is not an enlightened philosophy, it is a barbaric throwback to a darker time in the evolution of society.

Personally, I don't think making cartoons that poke fun of anyone's belief system is an appropriate use of your time. When drawing cartoons some folks feel as though the medium used excuses the need for civilized behavior. Even some attacks on political issues have overstepped the bounds.

There will be those of you who will scream about the freedom of speech. Go right ahead. Freedoms go hand-in-hand with responsibility. Just because you have a freedom does not mean you can throw common sense and intelligence out the window and abuse the freedoms you enjoy. Being free to be an ass does not necessarily mean you should be.

I am not telling cartoonists they are banned from creating such cartoons, nor would I dream of stifling their right to the freedom of expression. What I am trying to say, is that perhaps a little self-restraint should be used before touching pen to the paper.

At the end of my writings I tend to leave you with the proverbial “nutshell”, and this one is no different.

In the case of the cartoonist vs. the Muslims, neither acted in accordance with the laws of common sense.

This world is getting smaller by the day and we all need to learn to get along and play well together. Those who feel the only acceptable action is to kill others who are different then they are need to just hop off this planet because you are not compatible with modern civilization. If you don't want to remove yourself from the gene pool then I'm certain eventually others will perform this community service for you.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Don't Discount This

Is it just me, or does it seem like everything is on sale these days?

Some stores literally have just about everything on sale in one form or another. 10%, 20%, 50% off! Don't you wonder why they do this? Because they know psychologically we're a bunch of sheep to be toyed with that's why. Like Pavlov's dogs we see a sale sign and think hey, I can save a lot of money on this so I should buy it now.

I'm willing to bet that somewhere a store is having a legitimate sale and trying to get rid of stock, such as an older product they no longer want to carry, but it seems like this is becoming an unusual thing rather then the norm.

I saw an advertisement on television last night where you could get a $200 discount for installing some awning on your home. Have you bought furniture lately and seen the huge sales they offer? Car lots/manufacturers always deal with you and drop thousands of dollars off the price of a new car as long as you ask a few questions.

My question is, why are stores adding this huge markup on their products to start with? Apparently because some of you out there are stupid enough to pay them the full price! Your willingness to overpay by thousands of dollars on products helps them to offer discounts to smarter people.

Seasonal holiday times are an excellent way to see this stupid/smart consumer system in action. The stupid spend hundreds of dollars on decorations leading up to a holiday while the smarter of the flock hang back, resist temptation and head to the stores after the holiday and, like vultures feeding on carrion, purchase the leftovers at a huge discount like 75% off. Sure you have to wait until next year to decorate with your new treasures, but it's a small price to pay for what you save.

Yes, the pun was intended.

Another form of selling trickery that lure the stupid like moths to a flame, is the mail-in rebate. I can't tell you how many times I have bought a product amazed at the price after the mail-in rebate and then never mailed in the dang form.

Since I am notorious for not mailing in the mail-in rebates, I don't have much personal experience in these matters, but I have heard that many times these forms are ruthless in making you jump through a variety of hoops, dotting “I's”, crossing “T's”, cutting something out of the product box. Some have even reported sending all of the requested information into a company only to never receive a dime in return.

I'm willing to bet that your information is then used to send you all manner of SPAM, both electronically and conventional.

Yes, in case you have not guessed it by now, there have been many times that I have been a member of the stupid consumer club. I buy things on sale (how can you not when almost everything is on sale these days?), buy things with mail-in rebates, and felt that happy tingle when I see the large “ON SALE” signs.

Living in a capitalist society I don't foresee this changing anytime soon. Overall it's not really a bad thing, but remember that it's us against them. The consumers against the stores. We want to keep as much of our money that has not already been taken from us in taxes, and they want to transfer as much of our earnings that they can out of our accounts and into theirs.

As long as you know the rules and objective of the game you can learn to play without sitting on the injured bench too many times.

Don't kid yourself though, the game is not the minor leagues, the companies we make our purchases from are playing hardball. They spend a large portion of the money we donate to them on learning new methods to make even more profits.

Think “big oil” is ever going to release their current hold on gas prices? They're making money like crazy at the moment and they show no signs of backing off. Now we get excited if the price of gas is barely over $2.00 a gallon. I can remember when this was considered to be outrageous.

It's a world driven by us, the consumer. We are trying to fight back as we turn to ebay to find more bargains and try to purchase things with prices a bit closer to reality, but in the end you must go into the trenches and do battle with the salespeople.

Keep a firm grip on your wallet and mind. Try not to get too giddy when you see those magical words, “FOR SALE”, and whatever you do, mail in those rebates!

Monday, January 16, 2006

"Hey, look what you did to my pants!"

It would seem that when new things come along that people want, thieves just invent new ways of liberating them from the original owners. If you're paranoid about podjacking then you may want to be more discreet when listening, or now watching, you favorite media experience.

Enter PodLocker. This new device is designed to help you secure your new Christmas toy from others who would like to remove your listening pleasure and give it to the less fortunate. This new device is actually a sleek looking carrying case and security system all built into one.

The PodLocker can clamp to a table or desk with the provided clamping mechanism, or connect to just about anything else with its Master Lock carabineer style combination lock.

I can foresee this to become the accessory of choice on school backpacks.

One precaution though, once you attach something that thieves are hunting for to solid surfaces, these surfaces may become collateral damage. So if you're planning on dangling your status symbol from your britches, don't be too upset when someone comes along and rips your pants off in an attempt to make your pod part of their collection.