Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Native Americans and You

Native American Treaties...what are they?

Well, if you're like the standard American, you're not likely to know a whole lot about the complexity and status of Native Treaties.  Many years ago, we European whites and other nationalities moved into a seemly vacant land.  We found people who lived here, engaged them in commerce, trade, and other activities to gain a foothold.  Later, as a new nation, we entered into treaties with various native peoples.  This was so unique that it was given lip service in our Constitution:

"The Federal Government shall have the power to regulate commerce between the several states AND the Indian Tribes."
The Constitution: Article 1, section 8

Now, let's skip ahead to the modern day.  We, the United States of America have written over 600 treaties with Native Tribes over the years.  We've broken pretty much all of them.  But, today we're doing much better than we have in the past and a lot of bad blood is being forgiven and set aside.  There is, however, a lot of other kinds of bad blood that exists now.  How many of you have been to a Native American owned casino?  Did you all know they don't pay state taxes on those?  They're not subject to state regulation of any kind.  The reason: The Supremacy clause of The Constitution, Article 6:

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

The above means that Native Americans, their commerce, their reservations, their resources, and anything to do with Native Lands are under the direct pervue of the Federal Government.  States can't touch anything on Native Lands unless are either A) Invited to do so by the tribe, or B) Permitted to do so by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Now, why am I making commentary about Native Treaties.  Because, I find it offensive when someone says "They should pay taxes like everybody else."  I'm sorry, there is no justified reason to state that.  We, as a civilization came in and displaced them, shoved a treaty into their noses, and at many occasions coerced it signing.  Now, talking about citizenship, Native Americans are not "citizens" in the same definition as you would think.  They are, federally dependent individual nations which are fully sovereign with a few minor exceptions.  The aid they get from the Federal Government is BY TREATY mandate...meaning it's not welfare like you would think of the kind that someone applies for with their state welfare office.  Many of our Native Treaties also included provisions to provide for the day to day needs of the people's we displaced.  In many cases, that included food, medical care, and shelter.  This was a contractual agreement between two parties in exchange for the transfer of ownership of lands they have inhabited for thousands of years.  On that note, it's important to remember that, while yes, they don't pay taxes on the activities they do, we as a society are their custodians now.  We entered into this deal with our eyes open, though, I will say that we were likely the short-sighted ones in the long run.

 When you see a Native American, you see a person, fully blooded and truly unique just as the next person.  They do what they can to preserve their cultural heritage and their ancestral lands (what few of them are left), and maintain some dignity after a relatively short period which brought their abundant, rich, and numerous cultures to near extinction.  They are peoples that we can learn from.  With their help and their guidance, we can build a stronger country for everybody.


War is Terrible, Not Glorious.


We, as a nation, cannot continue to be like "The Fire Nation." It is not the right or the duty of anyone to spread our culture to the rest of the world. It is our duty, as a nation, to live as a nation based in peace, ready to defend our rights from outside aggressors, and to ensure stability by creating strong ties with other nations. A ready and able defense is a good thing. A ready and able standing army with obscene amounts of money and weaponry...not so much. We must scale back our defense spending to levels consistent with the current state of geopolitical affairs. Achieve victory in conflict with the minimum amount of necessary force, engage in war only when attacked, never harm women, children, elderly, and visible non-combatants. 

War is not something to be glorified, it's not something to be desired. War is something we should be engaged in with great hesitation and reluctance


“If tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” 
James Madison


“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” 
James Madison



“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” 
James Madison


"It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it."
Robert E. Lee



Monday, September 24, 2012

A Progressive Minimum Wage

The wage is a mechanism that gave great flexibility to modern commerce.  It allowed people engaging in business relationships to trade a medium that gives access to resources instead of resources themselves.  Wages ran into problems when they because so small that people were literally unable to support themselves with what was available.  This was, in many ways worse than being a slave or worse than living on a Lord's farm during the Feudal Age in Europe.  At least then, your master or owner allowed you to care for your basic necessities.  We now are running into a time where the minimum wage no longer meets the needs of our citizens to maintain a minimum standard of living.  

The minimum wage, in it's day, was designed to ensure that the unskilled could find work that would support their basic and most necessary needs: housing, Food, the basic amenities of life.  In 1971, the minimum wage translated into a real dollar wage (the inflation-adjusted wage into today's dollar) of approximately (assumed 40 hours * 52 weeks) $20,000 a year.  Now $20,000 a year today is enough to live in a basic manner.  Most major areas have rudimentary housing available that can be sustained by a $20,000/year salary with very little effort if you live within your means and perhaps a little frugally.  But, in today's day, the wage of $7.25/hr is very much incapable of sustaining a minimum standard of living.  Currently, the minimum wage, with the above same calculations only grosses $15,080 per year.  With the costs of housing, food, medical care, and transportation going up by record numbers every year, we must consider the affect this is having on society.  Currently, if you're single and you work 40 hours, you may qualify for SNAP after a state's deduction.  


So arguments against the minimum wage are the following:  


1.  It increases the costs of businesses.


2.  It's a disincentive to do quality work because of the lack of ability to leverage higher wages in exchange for better performance.


3.  It standardizes wages across several industries.


4.  It can cause unemployment.


5.  It causes a small increase in other wage categories forcing businesses to raise their wages to compete with minimum wage jobs.


6.  Hurts business profits constraining the ability of businesses to expand.


Now, the arguments above are pretty standard for most people opposed to or opposed to increases in the minimum wage.  However, there are some things you need to consider about these arguments.


1.  It does increase the costs of businesses...however, keeping the minimum wage in pace with purchasing power is important to ensure that people who are not falling further and further behind the curve.  Such a problem will cause more people at minimum wage to qualify for public assistance.  If the goal of conservatives is to keep people off the public dole, then, they should be encouraging higher wages to keep that hope alive rather than letting people pay abnormally low wages.  Furthermore, with less people on the public dole, that means lower tax demands from businesses and tax payers in the long hall.


2.  Wages are not the only benefit gained from hard work.  Many times, even in companies that pay minimum wage, there are promotion opportunities.  I would hope that any company seeking to raise a worker up to a higher tier of responsibility would warrant higher wages.  The benefit of promotion or benefits are perhaps better incentives than just a raise.  Simply put, this is the company trying to be cheap...usually unnecessarily so.


3.  It is true that the minimum wage does standardize the wages for many industries.  But such a standardization is kind of a non-issue.  You cannot expect someone to work for 5.15/hr, as the minimum wage would still be at if it had not been raised during the Bush Administration to 7.25/hr.  There is a point where the minimum wage becomes nearly unpalatable and is regarded is highly unjust.  Many businesses will pay minimum or just slightly above minimum if they can get away with it.  It's simple psychology.  With a shortage of jobs and a surplus of workers, there's no bargaining power to negotiate a higher wage.  So, many businesses can get away with paying whatever minimum is, because they know people will take it out of desperation.  The minimum wage loses it's buying power every year due to inflation, and, as a result...people are more and more unable to get ahead and move up.  While many conservatives will say "If they don't like the wage, they'll need to find another job."  And while that sounds all well and good, it's not an excuse for paying the least amount the law will let you.


4.  The argument that "it causes unemployment" is used OVER and OVER again by conservative economists, but, they leave out one very important piece of information.  The statement "It causes unemployment" is true ONLY when the Job seekers vs. Job creators are in Equilibrium with each other.  Personally living in a state with a high minimum wage, Washington State, I can personally attest that businesses, while they hate the minimum wage at $9.04/hr, they pay it, and they still hire just fine.  Furthermore, Washington's unemployment rate has been in step with the national average if not actually slightly lower.  The assertion that the minimum wage causes unemployment is under most scenarios, false.


I recommend the following articles in support of my claim in item 4:


http://thinkprogress.org - Minimum Wage does not affect job creation even in hard economic times.


http://www.epi.org/ - Employment and the Minimum Wage—Evidence from Recent State Labor Market Trends


http://www.epi.org/ - Job Slayers or Fact Slayers? The Wall Street Journal’s flawed argument against raising the minimum wage


5.  Just like with union wages in a particular area, non-union wages actually get dragged up with union wages indirectly, the same is true with the minimum wage.  When you raise the floor of wages higher, workers will often refuse to accept employment where their wage is only slightly above minimum wage.  So, to give further incentive, employers will raise their wages proportionately to make sure that prospective employees don't feel their being paid, what is viewed as, the bare minimum.  So this is actually a good thing for all wage earners up to a certain level.  It also creates some wage competition where, if a worker feels a job that requires less energy pays only a little less than the job they're seeking, their bargaining power is increased because if they choose, they can go work for a job with less scruples for a little less or the same money and make just as much.  This forces employers to be more competitive on wages closer to the median wage.  


6.  I will concede that businesses will have increased costs in the short term from an increase in the minimum wage.  There is definitely no debating that point.  However, what other businesses will have to realize is that, a minimum wage increase can actually increase another business' profits and in retrospec, their own as well.  By requiring higher wages, more people are moved into a more middle-class income level giving consumers more disposable income to spend on things beyond the absolute minimums.  Businesses fail to realize that their own low wages are actually a self-perpetuating problem.  Low wages equal low costs, but low wages also equal low amounts of disposable income, which lead to lower profits, and lower expansionary outlooks as well.  The wage issue is something to be approached with careful considering, as to not over-mandate wages, but also under-mandate them either.


Now, to move onto the actual meat and potatoes of the point of this article:


The progressive minimum wage is a function that may or may not be practical, however, I hope that someone of some influence reads this, and perhaps puts some of my assumptions to the test to see if it'd work out.  Now, just like an income tax, which I believe should be based on net profits (Including payouts to investors and and not gross profits just as I would favor a Single-rate tax system that leaves a lump of income not subject to taxation.  The same should be for the minimum wage.  There are reasonable justifications for having a lower minimum wage to foster growth in small business.  


There are many small businesses which lack the capital to pay a full livable wage.  And I'm reasonably sure that the good and hardworking small business workers/owners would indeed love to pay employees a livable wage.  However, to foster growth in a small business, I would like to see a progressive minimum wage which incorporates size and profitability.


A business which makes only a little money should not have to pay huge minimum wages in that it will hurt their ability to be competitive.  So, based on post-tax profits, the minimum wage should be determined at a set rate.  For companies that have larger post-tax profits, their minimum wage obligation should be much higher.  Now, many might say "What right does government have to tell a private business how much in wages they have to pay?"  My answer is this:  If a business is allowed to pay a bare minimum wage that doesn't even provide for a minimum standard of living and leaves the worker asking the public dole for assistance.  It has now it becomes a government issue.  Walmart is notorious for helping it's workers get on the public system because they refuse to pay livable wages and provide good working conditions.  While Walmart does pay higher than most retailers, they also provide lower amounts of hours, meaning that, the hourly rate is semi-competitive, but the time worked doesn't provide for enough income for a person to live in a semi-reasonable manner without public assistance.  It seems reasonable to me, that companies, such as Walmart which net $16 Billion in profits (2012) world wide, has a moral obligation to share more of it's profits with it's employees.  Just because you own a company doesn't mean you don't justly compensate them for the work they do.  I don't know how many have worked retail, but, it's no the easiest of work to do.  Walmart pays from about $7.55/hr to as high as $11-12/hr for hourly managers.  Hourly managers are generally full time, but associates are usually not, and given that their average hours are somewhere between 20 hours and 32 hours, depending on the store and region, They don't even make the $15,080 per year which is the salary someone at $7.25/hr would be making with 40 hours of work per week.  Ultimately, the goal of the minimum wage is to keep people off the public dole and help them build their finances to be self-sufficient.  Keeping the wage at 40% of median wages does not help bring the poor into the middle class.  People who's basic needs are met will stop trying to meander the system for more.  They will start working on other areas of their lives for self improvement.  In areas of the country where the cost of living his even higher, it's an even bigger problem.  The problem being where single bed apartments cost $1000 or more a month or two bedroom apartments cost nearly $1600 or more a month.  Someone making minimum wage cannot afford that kind of rent.  


The progressive minimum wage is a workable solution to ensure that businesses who are starting out don't drown under an excessive wage obligation, and have room to grow into a successful firm, while also raising the income floor for people who work for very successful companies who disproportionally disperse their profits.  The case for a more progressive minimum wage ensures an increased standard of living for the poor and lightens the load and burden on the welfare system which should be serving those that are truly unable to work.  Welfare benefits given to people that are essentially at, what I would call, full employment simply means that full employment's wages are not high enough and need to be brought up to par.  















Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Ire of a Liberal

I am genuinely appalled at how badly built the social safety net is built in our country. People have zero compassion for people that are less fortunate. I'm so sick and tired of people saying "it's not my problem, or, I don't want to pay this, or they're just a bunch of freeloaders." No, if you say crap like that, you are a freakin' terrible person and you have no heart. If you think that people on welfare WANT to be on welfare, you're ignorant or just plain uninformed about anything. The most successful nation on Earth can't keep people housed, fed, and sheltered because we have too many freakin' greedy, corrupt, and plain heartless people. If jobs were abundant, housing cheap, and incomes at reasonable levels instead of what they were...and corporate bosses that were actual human beings, we'd have a much kinder society. But in a society where someone makes 30 million dollars for being FIRED, or stockholders liquidate their employees' pensions due to bankruptcy, or corporations and rich people buy Republicans to pass tax cuts and subsidies for them and tax breaks for them, I'm sorry, but, I call horse-S**T. It's time that Americans wake up. The social safety net will be rebuilt to truly help those that cannot help themselves. Many of us are spoiled, many of us have families, but there are thousands of people across the country that did nothing wrong and that are still homeless, underemployed, starving, and other bull of that nature. It's been proven over and over that charity is too inconsistent to maintain a social safety net of it's own. Being dependent on people's generosity is not sufficient to bring people out of homelessness and into lower-middle-class. Regularity and consistency is what is necessary to build up a person's stability. If you don't like the safety net, move somewhere else where you can be greedy and heartless

Monday, September 17, 2012

Romney's 47% remarks are loathsome.

How many of you pay no income taxes each year?  Did you know that because you pay no income tax, you are now dirt to Mitt Romney.  You're dependent on the Government, you're a waste of resources, you're not worth investing time into.  My friends, such a remark is deeply offensive to us who, through mostly no fault of our own, have to use a government program to make ends meet.  How cold can one be to say that 47% of those that pay no taxes are worth nothing?  How many of those on welfare want and wish to not be on welfare?  How many people wake up each morning go "Gee, I can't wait to get my welfare check so I can be a social leech on society."?  Yeah, not many people think like that.  If you truly do think that, then shame on you.  But, 99.9% of people one welfare are generally good people who just got into a bad rut in life.  And all they need is something to keep them treading water until they can get back into the job market.  If Romney thinks that he can marginalize a demographic that pays no taxes and uses welfare to score him political points, he's SORELY mistaken.  There are plenty of people in the bottom 47% who vote for him out of principle even though it does not represent their financial interests.

Shame on him for acting like a self-righteous opportunist, and it's time that he get that message squarely in the face.  Vote NO for Mr. Romney, and tell him his remarks are deeply inappropriate and highly offensive.

The Republican Establishment Hypocracy

So, the infamous Rush Limbaugh stated on his show that Welfare recipients are turning out in droves to vote for President Obama, which is not entirely accurate.  Ezra Klein wrote in Wonkblog about how Mr. Limbaugh is stating that voter turnout for the poor is huge, and that Republicans have to turn out just as much.  However, Mr. Limbaugh kind of forgot to look at the data regarding turnout for those making less than $15,000 per year.  In Klein’s article, (linked here), he clearly shows that the poor are turning out quite a bit less for voting as opposed to white collar workers.  Now the point that I’m trying to make, is that Republicans are contending that Democrats are trying to buy votes with social programs.  

But, isn’t that what Republicans are also trying to do by promising tax cuts?  Doesn’t promising tax cuts to the richest American citizens and companies also constitute vote-buying…according to their logic?  The numbers showing a lack of increased voter turnout would suggest that the increased spending in Food Stamps and other welfare spending as not had the effect that Republicans contend that it has.  However, it appears that promising lucrative tax cuts and light enforcement on reuglation has worked a great deal, causing the Republican coffers to overflow with money for Romney's and other Republicans' re-election campaigns.  So, in a nutshell, Rush Limbaugh’s call that Obama is buying votes with welfare dollars is utter and staggeringly terrible hypocrisy.  Republicans have done more to buy votes from the wealthy in exchange for deregulation, lower taxes, and lighter enforcement of existing regulation than any party in history.  For example, According to Opensecrets.org, The Center for Responsive Politics, "Individuals and political action committees affiliated with oil and gas companies have donated $238.7 million to candidates and parties since the 1990 election cycle, 75 percent of which has gone to Republicans."  Feel free to read the whole list here.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Born a Gay and Born Again



            I remember back when I was about seven to eight years old, and, realizing that there was something much different about me as a person.  Now, granted, I never knew this AT that age, but…looking back on it as an adult, it was very much evident.  I was not like all the other boys on the playground.  But, I still played with friends, I threw balls at people, I played 4-square on the pavement, I smacked teatherballs as hard as I could, and I definitely didn’t mind being a bit rough when the situation called for it.  It was a hot day, probably about 95 degrees out.  The smell of chlorine filled the air as my family decided to take a dip in the local pool in Waterville, WA.  Waterville was and is a small hamlet of a town up on top of Pine Canyon which also served as the county seat of Douglas County.   The community was tight-knit and the town sat as an island in an ocean of wheat fields for as far as the eye could see.  I remember vividly that I was always fascinated with the male form.  Now that’s not to say I was sexually attracted to the male form, more that I was just fixated by it.  Now at the time, I had no idea really what that meant, but, I remember just going with it and not really dwelling on it much.  But, as far as I remember, that was my very first instance of being attracted to the male form. 
            Now, the title of this chapter, “Born a Gay and Born Again” is meant as a word play off a popular adage that is often uttered by those opponents of homosexuality and is more a mantra or a slogan to spread the idea that homosexuality is some kind of curse.  To quote Mandy Moore’s character from the movie “Saved” starring Maculy Kulkin, Mandy Moore and Mary-Louise Parker, “You’re not born a gay…you’re born again.”  And this slogan is often repeated over and over again in circles that generally are either fearful of homosexuals because they don’t understand them, or by individuals who refuse to acknowledge what it truly is.  And, if you haven’t seen “Saved”, you should.  It’s a fantastic movie and really brought several tears to my eyes as I watched it.  And not because the gay boyfriend got his guy and his new baby at the end, but because it wrenched my heart about what kind of pain homosexuals who come from Christian backgrounds must be feeling.  And in many ways, that same pain is reflected in my life, though I would safely say at a much smaller level.  But the pain is still there. 
            Now what have people said about homosexuals?  Doug Bachelor, a pastor which publishes a popular Seventh-day Adventist sermon series every week on the program “Amazing Facts” in his sermon “A State of Dis-grace”, often referred to homosexuality as a fleshly perversion, a choice of a man or woman to engage in sexual deviance against the natural order, against the design of God, an act that is declared to be “an abomination” (as cited in Leviticus 18:22).  He furthermore equated such feelings as lustful and sinful, fleshly, and utterly empty and non-purposeful beyond self-gratification.  He further contends that prayer and discipline can drive those inclinations away.  Now, to be fair, I do believe that prayer can solve a lot of problems…and I won’t diminish the fact that there are many, many gay men and lesbian women who have overcome that aspect of their life and have gone on to pursue healthy and heterosexual relationships with wives or husbands respectively.  But is such a requirement necessary to “be saved”?  I say not, and I’ll explain why in a later chapter. 
            On the flip side, there are many pastors such as Reverend Carol E. Meyers of the United Methodist Church in Iowa Falls, IA who, in a sermon delivered July 31, 2011, stated that she openly disagrees with her own organization’s view on homosexuality, believes it’s not a choice and that it is biology.  Further, she concedes the fact that the Bible did not address the issue of wholesome homosexual relationships.  That Jesus himself has never directly and explicitly spoken on the subject of homosexuality anywhere in any red-letter section of scripture, red-letter scripture being the accepted belief that those words were spoken by Christ himself.  She also believes that scripture on the issue of homosexuality should not be accepted in a literalist interpretation, and that more understanding of science is needed to truly understand the issue.  Further, in her sermon, she expresses that the acceptance of homosexuals is by far the most important social justice issue of our day.  She also acknowledges that she would like people to consider the issue carefully and thoughtfully, using reason along side of scripture to come to a reasonable and just viewpoint. 
            From a biological point of view, according to a study published by the Best Practice and Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in Sept 2007, the process of the selection of gender identity (that is, the sex a person thinks he or she is psychologically) is developed in the womb concurrently but independently of the physical sex characteristics, such as the penis and testes or the vagina and the ovaries.  This means that there can be a differential between the physical sex of the child and the psychological mindset of a person’s gender identity or as the study put it, “a case of ambiguous gender at birth”.  Further, the study concluded that there were indeed structural differences in the brain between heterosexual and homosexual brains related to sexual orientation and gender.  This is but one study in a sea of several studies on the subject of sexual identity and gender identity. 
A Cold Hard Truth
            I have drawn from my observations that the religious community's disposition towards homosexuals is a cultural phenomenon and not a religious one. Though, it originally was fueled by religious rhetoric. In Leviticus 18:22, It says to "Not lie with a man as a woman, for it is an abomination." People just naturally drew their own conclusions about why it's an abomination.  The word “abomination” was often used to describe things that are ceremonially forbidden.  The word “abomination” is used throughout Leviticus for things that we would regard are minor or even inconsequential.  Furthermore, for some reason, the word “abomination” was given so much more weight than what it deserved in our language and in other romantic and Germanic tongues.  The word does not bear any implication of fervent condemnation nor does it imply any kind of divine judgment or divine consequential severity.  It’s simply a word that means ceremonially forbidden.  During the times before the Exodus (Israel's departure from Egypt), it was common for some of that nation to participate in fertility and storm-god worship because of the harsh climate. Asherah is the Canaanite goddess of fertility while Baal is the Canaanite god of the storms. The worship ceremonies of these two gods were commonly sexual worship, as there was a deep relationship between the two gods roles. Sexual worship included homosexual relations as well as heterosexual relations, orgies, and bestiality. So when Moses was giving the law to the people, Leviticus had many regulations about cultural conduct. This verse "Do not lie with a man as a woman" is nested within several verses governing sexual behavior. That particular section of scripture was to dissuade the Israelites from falling into systems of worship such as fertility and storm god worship practices. If you look at the opening words in Leviticus 18:1-5, the passage is setting up a few things: The speaker, the audience, and the intent.  The speaker is Moses, speaking what God told him to speak.  The audience is the Children of Israel, and the intent is to dissuade the Israelites from slipping into systems of worship that were normal the areas where they were and where they are heading. (Armstrong, Karen; A History of God, p. 46-47).  Canaanite fertility goddess worship was the primary thing that God wished to prevent from happening while they were wandering in the wilderness. 
            Leviticus 18:1 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.
            These statutes were very, very specific in purpose and design.  The abomination isn’t the homosexual person.  The abomination is the sacred sexual rites of the Baal/Asherah, the worship system where-in God is not worshiped.  Further, it’s the sacrificing of babies and children to heathen gods in reverence.  The abomination is that God has to share his people with another god or goddess. 
The Cities of Sin – A Fallacy of Meaning
            Sodom and Gomorrah.  Two cities of the Old Testament that made such an impression on Christianity that we have words today that use those words as roots for describing detestable things such as the word “sodomy”:
           Sodomy, as defined in the dictionary is “Sexual intercourse that is not the union of the genital organs of a man and a woman. The term is most frequently applied to anal intercourse between two men or to sexual relations between people and animals.” (American Heritage Dictionary)
            Why then would good Christian persons want to be involved with each other in such a way?  Well, for one thing, the word’s definition is in direct relation to a story within the Book of Genesis.  Here’s a brief synopsis of the story.  Sodom and Gomorrah were such horrible cities that God desired to destroy it.  The cities were the worst of everything in the world.  Horrible and detestable things happened there and the Lord knew about all of it.  Abraham pleaded with God, that if he found 50 righteous people, that God should spare the city from his judgment.  The cities were so evil that God could not even find 10 people to stay his hand.  So finally, Angels of the Lord were sent to visit Lot and his family.  The angels were intent on not spending the night in Lot’s house, but, Lot knew how bad things were at night, so, he persuaded the Angels to stay with him.  When night came, it was the scene out of a zombie-apocalypse movie.  Elderly, middle-aged, and young men and boys all came out of the woodwork.   Only instead of wanting to eat the two visitors; they desired to have sexual relations with them.  And this wasn’t a “hey, you two, let’s go have a threesome or something” type of proposition.  This was a “Send those two men out so we can gang-bang them” situation.  It was really bad for everyone.  The Angels actually had to pull Lot back inside to save him from the mob, and the Angels smote the whole mob with blindness.  At that moment, the angels told Lot to leave with his family and do not look back at all.  Flee and don’t stop til you reach the next town.  So, after Lot and his family was safe, Fire and Brimstone rained from the heavens destroying both cities.  I encourage you to actually read the entire story which starts at Genesis 17:1 and ends at 19:29. 
            So, the point of the story is this.  The images here are awful, terrible and abominable.  The act of homosexual relations portrayed here are that of true sodomy, rape, molestation, and sexual slavery.  Such acts were detestable things even in that day.  God did not smite the cities with fire and brimstone because of the homosexuals.  God smote the city because of all of its evils.  The lust, gluttony, pride, control, and other roots of sin made those cities the worst places on earth.  But homosexuality in of itself is the act that is singled out and persecuted.  It portrays an image that homosexuals like to gang-rape people at random, that they abuse and molest and engage in all kinds of other evil and terrible things with innocent and pure people.  And homosexuals are instantly branded as immoral because of the imagery from this story.  The idea of this story is to show a preview of what the world may descend into in the end days as believed by contemporary Christianity.  It is not an instant demonization of homosexuals, but it has been taken as such.  And as a result, it has created a prejudice of homosexuals that has permeated throughout the ages to the modern day man and woman.
A Path of Righteousness
            So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matt 7:12 NIV).  For God so loved the world that he gave is only begotten son, that he whomever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  (John 3:16 NIV)  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.  (Luke 10:27 NIV) 
What did Jesus say about homosexuality?  Well….nothing actually.  There is no verse in the Gospels spoken by Jesus that directly references homosexuality in any form explicitly.  Then why do people believe it’s wrong?  Well there are a few answers to that question.  First, there’s the aforementioned misinterpretation of Leviticus’ verses on the topic and the descriptions of forced sex and rape from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Many Christians mistakenly confuse the speaker of those verses as Jesus.  Many will use God/Jesus/Bible interchangeably.  But, such a practice is in fact academically and contextually inaccurate.  Furthermore, there is a general cultural uneasiness about homosexuals in general which are mostly cultural holdovers from old Europe and whose views on sex and sexuality were transplanted here in the United States during the period of mass immigration.  Furthermore, only specific civilizations overlooked such aberrations in human sexuality and even openly embraced it.  Such civilizations were that of Greece and later the Roman Empire.  In the Christian tradition, St. Augustine of the 5th Century wrote that the Church should impose very strict and very rigid regulations regarding sexual conduct.  Such regulations, such as prohibitions on doing even the most innocent of things such as handholding or other safe expressions of desire, were strictly regulated and were highly reactionary.  Such regulations were in direct response to Augustine’s own sexual appetite which was quite voracious.  To this day, Augustine’s views on sexuality and marriage are heart-felt doctrine and the status-quo in most Catholic and Protestant circles to this day.  Augustine’s writings, such as a treatise he wrote called “The Good of Marriage” elevated the status of marriage to a divine institution, well beyond the simple legal union of two persons.  Such justifications for the elevations of marriage to this level of reverence are largely due to the fairly great amount of poetic imagery in the 66 cannon Bible.  Then unification of Adam and Eve in Genesis 4:1 is one example.  The “marriage” of Jesus Christ to the Church Body, or what is allegorically called, “the bride” is another example, and one that is repeatedly used to provide a visual and real-world relationship between God and Israel, and later Jesus and the Church of the New Testament.
            But again, what does this have to do with Jesus and homosexuality?  I have established that there are strong cultural attitudes towards homosexuals, and that those attitudes have unintentionally skewed and twisted scripture’s meanings that lead people to conclude that gays and lesbians will not be saved.  I have one challenge for you:  prove it.  Or I have a better idea, let’s see where in the New Testament it says that gays and lesbians need not apply for salvation.  Did Christ say in his ministries, “Those gay people aren’t goin’ anywhere near my pearly gates” or any serious meaning of that sort?  Nope, he didn’t.  Paul in the Book of Romans did make a remark about men and women who gave into their fleshly lusts for one another and forsake each other for the lustful desires of each other instead of the natural use of their fleshly parts.  To completely make Romans 1:18-32 make sense; let’s put the section in its proper context. 
            Romans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
            Paul is making statements about idolatry in this passage.  His remarks aren’t about homosexuality nor are they about men sleeping with men, and women sleeping with women.  Paul is talking about men and women who knew Jesus Christ as Lord, and then fell back into their old worship system worshipping idols.  Paul is basically saying that after hearing the message of Jesus Christ, going back to an old system of worship is just as unnatural, or another word for this is customary, as men who are heterosexual sleeping with other men and the same with women who are heterosexual sleeping with women.  Such acts are not natural from a culturally accepted gender-roles point of view.  The word “natural” is not used, in this context to denote what nature deems as proper.  Further, Paul’s statements were not spoken as a condemnation of monogamous same-sex relationships, but, as a condemnation of people who hear the Message of Christ, then forsake them, and return to their old beliefs worshipping idols.
            When referring to sexual sin such as lust, the sin isn’t in the act, but the heart in which the act is committed.  And this isn’t inconsistent with what Jesus said about lustful hearts such as Matt 5:28 “…But I tell you if anyone looks at a woman to lust after her, he has already committed adultery in his heart with her.”  And this verse doesn’t talk about real love; it talks about its counterfeit, lust.  Nowhere in recorded Biblical scripture does it ever discuss the validity or invalidity of committed same-sex relationships based on true agape love.  That is, love that has no bounds and is unconditional.  Further, the other reason such relationships weren’t discussed is because they were so rare at this point in history. 
Context is Everything
            President Obama gave a speech in Roanoke, VA on July 15th, where he stated that “…you didn’t build that business, we did.”  The Republican Party jumped on that statement like a swarm yellowjackets attacking a rotting carcass.  The next two weeks after that statement was uttered, you couldn’t log onto Facebook without seeing someone linking some satirical picture, be it the Pyramids at Giza or the Great Wall of China or some other great work or wonder or business with the words captioned “you didn’t build that” and a picture of the President photoshopped into it looking up at whatever “you didn’t build.”  What the Romney campaign and the Republican Party as a whole forgot to mention is that the speech he gave was talking about how business persons had help along the way.  Teachers, police, fire services, and roads were all paid for by public investment, giving said business owners the ability to engage in their trade or firm.  Most reasonable people will agree that context is very important to understand someone’s intended meaning…otherwise we risk misinterpreting something someone said.  And that mistake can be very costly.
            Often, we run into people who will manipulate scripture to twist it to their type of understanding.  Before I go on, I will address one question that I already know is being asked out loud in your head as you read this book.  “Gabe, aren’t you doing that to favorably present your position on homosexuality?”  And the answer is no.  Twisting scripture means that you’re deliberately attempting to directly alter the definition of words or the context of scripture to achieve your own ends in a manner that you know is untrue or dishonest.  But also, to fully understand scripture’s truth, we must look beyond the face of just the words, and look a little deeper and ask “why”.  Why was that written?  Why would God decree that?  Why did this prophet say this or do that?  Why, Why, Why?  Without “why”, we wander aimlessly accepting what we’re told something means without doing some homework to see what it actually means.  The approach I take when looking at scripture are things like Audience, Speaker, and Culture.  To understand Leviticus 18:22 and other similar verses, we need to look at the culture that Israel lived in before entering the covenant with Yahweh.  We look at scriptures before the verse and after the verse to gain the correct setting, the scene, the circumstances, and most importantly the context.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Blog entries below are in reverse order of publication

So, the note after this one is the oldest so far.  From here on UP, it'll be in the proper sequential order.  I was cutting and pasting these from my Facebook page.  So anyway, ENJOY!  And of course, comment, leave feedback, etc....

Christianity and Realizations

It takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be Christian or any other religion for that matter. Here's whats not logical to me. Atheists believe there can be no god because you cannot (in their view) perceive God with all 5 senses. But here's the flaw in their logic. God is a super-natural being, so why would you be able to with all 5... Read More senses in the first place. To propose that you can only perceive God all 5 senses is not logical. To perceive a Super-natural being through natural means does not make sense. So, faith walks into the picture where we perceive God because not of what he looks, tastes, feels, smells, or sounds like. We perceive God because he makes life complete for every Christian, and it is through our example and every day living that people see that. Never condemning people, never judging people, just living to serve people, standing ready to pick them up when they stumble and be a friend, comrade, and shoulder. Our best witness is to live our every day life as Christ did. Never shoving our beliefs down peoples' throats, condemning them of their sin, or judging their actions, as we are not qualified judges to do so. There is always a context, a reason, and motive that we are unaware of and unable to perceive. 

To those of you who are on my friends' list who have been wronged by selif-righteous Christians, All I want to say is that is not what Christ had in mind for anyone is this world. It is for no man to judge your actions. 

Christianity is not a religion, its not a society, it is an individual walk of life for a single person. Church is designed to bring those people together where they can share their individual glories and triumphs in their life, and give Glory to God for those triumphs. Where they can come together for causes and missions that serve the common good: Serving man as Christ did. 

It is deeply painful for me when I personally meet people who have told me "yah, i used to be a Christian, then this happened, or that happened to me, or this person hurt me....etc etc." I say in the back of my head "Thats not the way it should be, never that way." So those of you who were hurt by Christians, I want to ask your forgiveness that my way of life was used as a means of hurting you. That you were ostracized as a person because of who you are/were, had a view that you didn't agree on, because you are/were gay or bi or a lesbian, because someone used Christianity to further their own selfish goals and you fell victim to it. Their judgment will come and justice will be yours. The Lord has a way of bringing things around full circle on those who are unjust to others. If there was one thing that the Lord ALWAYS delivered on, was being just to those who were taken advantage of, abused, or hurt deeply. He has a way of helping you deal with that pain, and bringing peace to your life.

Christianity isn't a "go to church" event, or even a social event. Its a daily transformation that takes work, effort, discipline, and a conscience desire to change the way you think, behave, and react instinctively. The Bible is not a rulebook full of boring rules and stuffy traditions. Its a guide filled with actions and feelings that you should already be feeling, impulses you should already be wanting to act on, and ideas that you should be discovering. The idea is that you follow Christ, these things should already be happening. 

On a final note: those who claim to be Christians can be tested in a very easy way. By their fruits you shall know them. What that means is that by their actions, behavior, and way of thinking, will reveal their true person. And from there, you can decide.

Christ did not judge during his ministry, he lived, and help others live even better than he. So why should I judge if he didn't. It is the mandate of every Christ follower that they serve believers and non-believers equally if not the non-believer more so. That we should make living on this earth a bit easier for every person we come into contact with. And walk by faith as much as by walking in Christs footsteps and example.

Serve with a giving heart, and blessings pour out in abundance. Its not how much, its what heart it is done with.

The Employee Illness Protection Act

The Employee Illness Protection Act

Definitions

Employee is defined as any non-agricultural employee as defined by Washington State Law.

Insurance is defined as any underwritten health policy that requires a premium be paid at a regular interval which covers services relating to health and/or dental care and maintenance. 

Employer is defined as any entity which employs a person for the purposes of working for that entity's interests.

Sick or Illness is defined as a state of condition in which a person's health is not in homeostasis caused by exposure to micro-organisms, physical injury of any kind which causes a person to be unable to work with reasonable accommodation, or any mental condition which my impair a person's ability to function in a manner that is safe and with standard mental function which is able to be diagnosed by a medical professional.

Doctor is defined as one who is medically licensed to practice medicine in the State of Washington.

Preface

The purpose of this law is to protect employees who attempt to take responsibility for their own health and protect the health of those they work with and serve by ensuring that such actions of responsibility do not result in an employee being disciplined, censored, or terminated. It is also designed to help prevent the spread of work-borne and food-borne illness by employees.

Body

1) No employer shall, through threats of disciplinary action, coerce an employee who is ill to report to work. This includes threatening a poor evaluation of an employee's work performance, reduction in pay, reduction in hours, changing or altering the nature of the employee's work, or any such related action deemed to be derogatory.

A) However, in regards to evaluation of an employee's work record, the employer MAY keep note of sick absences for the purposes of determining promotion and advancement as sick days may impact a business' ability to further its goals.

2) No employer shall require a doctor's note for an employee who is absent from work for three (3) or fewer scheduled working days within a work-week (Sunday through Saturday) with the following exceptions:

A) The employee has health insurance of any kind that will not create a financial burden for the employee.

B) The employer may require a doctor's note if the employer pays for the doctor's note. If this is the case, the employer must pay for the visit up front or request the office bill the employer directly.

C) The employee is a student in a state or private institution of higher learning and has access to a student clinic run by the institution.

3) Any employee fraudulently calling in as sick may be subject to immediate dismissal by their employer without notice if one of the following are true:

A) The employee admits it to their employer or is heard admitting it by their employer.

B) The employee is witnessed in public areas in which a normally sick person would not be. I.E. the employee is seen with their friends at the mall or movies or in a public area engaging in recreational activities that would not be engaged in if said employee was sick.

*) The employer is encouraged to seek an explanation from the employee in question before terminating an employee for this purpose.


4) Employers may not terminate an employee who attempts to protect the health of his or herself and those around them by refusing to work sick.

5) Any Employee that is ill for more than (3) three days, is required to get a doctor's note for their employer if requested to do so.

A) The requirements in Section (1) are lifted after the 3rd day of illness and the financial burden is solely the employee's responsibility.

6) Employers who violate this law are subject to a minimum of a $3000 fine per violation, and are subject to civil court action by the employee for violation of their rights under this law with a minimum judgment of $2,000+ court expenses. Other factors may increase the judgment to a maximum of $7,500.

Addendum

1) This act does not cover self-inflicted substance abuse side effects such as hangovers and other related conditions. Employees who are sick due to intoxication are not protected by this legislation unless the employee is using a controlled substance with a doctor's prescription in proper dosage who's warning label expressly warns the user of said drug to not engage in activities which may endanger his or herself and others around them.

2) This act does not apply to employers which are under contract through labor unions. The worker will contact the labor union for their specific rules relating to staying home from work due to illness. In the event that Labor Union rules are more relaxed than the contents of this law. Any parts of this law that have greater requirements than Union contracts supersede those contracts specific requirements.

3) This act does not apply to public employee's of any kind unless they are not represented by a union. State-created government entities such as counties, cities, municipalities and localities' employees are protected by this act and are afforded all the rights and protections there-in provided they are not represented by a Union.

4) Tribal lands' employers are exempt from this law as it has no jurisdiction over them. However, the tribal governments are encouraged to adopt this law in hopes that it helps people within tribal communities feel more secure in their place of employment.

5) Any Tribal member who works off the reservation area IS protected by this law and is afforded all its protections.

6) All workers who physically work for a contracted labor job in the State of Washington, but who's company is not based physically in Washington are afforded the protections of this law. The contractor is subject to the obligations of this law as a condition of accepting contract agreements in this state.

My Critic Review of "The Last Airbender" - M. Night Shamalyn - July 3, 2010

So me and Kyle Kollmann went to go see "The Last Airbender" yesterday. Now, Kyle, in his infinite wisdom decided to look up the critic reviews for this film, which received a dismal D+ from the "real" critics, and a C+ from actual people who went to go see it. 

Now, you may ask..."Why should I go see this then if it got such horrible reviews?" Because, if you're a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which Nickelodeon made, then you will enjoy the action-filled, breath-taking special affects which permeate this wonderful work. Shamalyn's attempt at fantasy was, in my opinion, well done. Now, like most introductions to a new world/universe, they can start somewhat slow. This movie, definitely wasn't any exception. We follow Aang along in his adventures, his own personal quest of self-acceptance of his destiny, and the growth of his companions Katara and Sokka. IGN's own review looks like it was written by an Oxford film reject, as it shows his sheer ignorance of the animated series' plots and episodes. The tragedy of Prince Zuko was greatly depicted along with his internal struggle to find a place in his disgraced world. As the sequels of this movie unfold, I'm sure we'll be graced with more character development from Prince Zuko and his uncle who is an honorable and wise general who counsels his disgraced nephew throughout the film. (who's character I LOVED because of his sense of honor and integrity). 

The adventure in the movie does move somewhat slow, some of the dialogue is somewhat cheesey. But again, its made for children and young adults, so, what an adult critic things of an adolescent film is somewhat irrelevant unless he can speak from that perspective. Aang is a young child, the voice and actor is well-placed to play that role, and furthermore, has a great message of honor, integrity, and morality that accompanies it.

A lot of the first 20 episodes were filler, character development, and travel; so of course, to move the main plot along, quite a bit was cut out. During one segment of the movie, when Aang reaches the Northern Water Kingdom, he resides there for about 3 weeks where he learns to master the Water-Bending technique. So reasonably so, the episodes which encompass this 3 weeks were cut for time reasons. 

Furthermore, as Kyle and I were walking back to my car, we discussed how so few movies exist that depict actual magical battles. IGN's analysis criticizes the excessive magical battles throughout the film asking "though how many balls of fire and wind can one really stand after a while?" Honestly, the same can be said for war films which we see people blown to pieces, or sci-fi movies/series where all they do is fight for a whole season (DS9, season 7 anyone?) So criticizing the amount of war engaged in is totally irrelevant as well, because the battles had purpose and meaning for moving the plot along. But he also forgot to mention the very cool waterbending, which there was a great deal of as well. Battles which depict two wielders of whatever element of fantasy they utilize (magic, bending, etc) are SO hard to find these days. Lord of the Rings: Return of the king was a great disappointment in this department. The Theatrical Dungeons and Dragons movies had a little bit of it, but alas, what it had in special affects it lacked in plot and story. So I was pleased to see a strong epic story with malleable characters, built on a strong introductory foundation

The musical score is of particular enjoyment, as it invokes strong epic feelings and great peaks of awe in conjunction with the film's imagery. When they approached the gates of the Northern Water Kingdom, the score plus the visual gave me goosebumps of awe. 

Finally, before you decide to listen to reviews written by IVY-league, snobbish critics, go see it for yourself and make your own judgment. I found the movie extremely enjoyable, and fun, something I would take my kid to see (if I had one that age, or at all for that matter), and don't let yourself be taken back by the drop off at the end of the movie; because they will be making more, I assure you!

Thanks, And make sure to look for Kyle Kollmann's own review which hopefully will surface around sometime this evening.