Tomorrow the Frenzy Begins!

Tomorrow at noon, the free agency period for the NHL begins. A lot of big names have already shifted around the league, and more will definitely happen in the next coming days. Tomorrow, I will be semi-live blogging about my thoughts about the Free Agent Frenzy (in other words I'll be blogging on and off all day about my thoughts of the transactions). In the meantime, there were some moves that I'd like to highlight:

Mark Recchi to play another year in Boston
Mark Recchi has re-signed with the Boston Bruins for 1 year $1 million. I think that he has been a key part of the leadership for the Bruins. In 81 games, Recchi scored 18 goals-25 assists-43 points and 34 PIMs. I think the Bruins really value his presence more as a leader, although he still can get things accomplished on the ice at the age of 42.

Big Trade in Montreal
After letting go of Jaroslav Halak, the Canadiens may have found a replacement. The Canadiens have acquired the rights to Dan Ellis in a trade. In addition, the Predators get defenseman Sergei Kostitsyn and Dustin Boyd. I think that this is a big plus for the Canadiens to get a goaltender to play alongside Carey Price. For the Predators, it looks like they're trying to re-tool their team. After dealing off Jason Arnott and Dan Hamhuis, it's evident that the team is looking to rebuild.

Mike Modano will not return to Dallas
For the first time in 22 years, Mike Modano will be an unrestricted free agent. It was announced that the Dallas Stars will not re-sign Modano. Whether Modano will retire or not is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure that if he does return it will not be in Dallas. Also, if he does decide to play it will be in a similar reduced role as he saw this past season. Modano in my opinion should choose to retire unless he is okay with a role that is purely leadership with reduced ice time. There's not many teams, if any, are going to want him to play on a first or second line.

Blue Jackets sign Ethan Moreau
The other day the Edmonton Oilers put center Ethan Moreau on waivers. Today, he was acquired by the Blue Jackets. Moreau, who is 34, was the captain of the Oilers for the past 3 seasons. This now means the Blue Jackets' roster has 3 former or current captains: Chris Clark, Rick Nash, and now Ethan Moreau. I think this will add some additional senior leadership to the quad, but the team still needs a top forward and a top defenseman. I don't doubt that there is more in store for the Blue Jackets.

Rod Brind'amour Retires
One of the NHL's premiere leaders has called it quits today. After 21 seasons with the Flyers, Blues, and Hurricanes, Rod Brind'amour has officially retired. He played 1,484 games (16th All-time), and tallied 1,184 points over this time. He was the captain of the 2006 Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes. The big thing that will be remembered about Brind'amour is his uncanny ability to take face-offs. He had a 59 percent success-rate in face-offs over his entire career! Rod Brind'amour is an instant hall of famer in my opinion, and he will be missed.

We're seeing a lot of action and we're less than 24 hours out. Tomorrow could be pretty exciting!

July 4th Tea Party in Lafayette?

This upcoming weekend is July 4th, Independence Day, which is the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Because this is such an instrumental day in the country's founding, the Tea Party Movement is having events all around the country to celebrate. There's already been at least one controversy involving Tea Party festivities on July 4. With this being said, there have been no public concrete details on a July 4 event in Lafayette, IN. Many other groups have planned ahead, but it seems like the Lafayette Citizens in Action (CIA) is working the 11th hour.

According to their website's forum (which is fairly open by the way), they seem to have been planning this for awhile, but really have done a poor job of publicizing any details. I should not be surprised because their organizer, Donn Brown, is fairly paranoid, and I'm sure that he's expecting it to get crashed. The details that have been posted in their forum indicate the following will occur in no particular order:

1) There will be an opening prayer
2) The pledge will be recited, and the national anthem will be sung
3) Revile and possibly Taps will be played
4) There will be speeches (presumably Donn Brown will be one of them)
5) There will be around 1000 US Constitutions on hand.
6) American Legion and VFW will not be attendance

The location and time has not been announced, but presumably a press release is in the works. It seems like the Tea Party wanted more accomplished, but at this point I wonder if they can get it done on a small timetable. There are two speculative thoughts I have on this event, that I would like to share on why we may not have heard much about this event (Much of this is educated guessing):

1) Those damn liberals
I know the Tea Party Movement is scared to death of people infiltrating and crashing the event. If they keep the details less public, they figure no one will go that they don't want there.

2) Donn Brown has been campaigning
CIA organizer, Donn Brown, has been trying to get moving on his campaign for the Indiana House of Representatives. He held an event last night with volunteers, and I assume they may be working on GOTV or door-to-door initiatives.

What else that is interesting to note is that the Tea Party is following Hofstrader's idea of tradition is illustrated by these details. There's been a reciting of a prayer and pledge of allegiance at each event I have been to thus far. Whether I will be attending this Tea Party event or not will matter on details. Location and time have been conveniently missing, so I couldn't tell you at the moment. If I miss this one, I'm sure there will be many other events in the coming months.

Remembering Robert Byrd

This morning, Washington lost it's longest serving member in the Senate. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) died at the age 92 around 3am this morning. He was hospitalized last week from heat exhaustion. Byrd was on his 9th term (51 years) as a Senator, and represented the old guard in Washington. Byrd was also the President pro-tempore in the Senate, meaning he was third in the line of succession to the President.

Sen. Byrd was born into a family in poverty in 1917. In the 1930s and 1940s, Byrd was associated with the KKK. Throughout his Senate career, Byrd continually apologized for this association, and regarded it as a "youthful transgression". He insisted that he was not racist and had joined for the group's commitment against communism. Sen. Byrd joined the Senate after winning his first Senate race in 1958. In his first term, he led the filibuster for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He did so, because he felt it was an infringement on states' rights. As his career progressed, Byrd's views on civil rights moderated, and he became a supporter of many civil rights issues. Adam Clymer writes the following in The New York Times obituary:

He went on to vote for civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960, but when the more sweeping Civil Rights Act was before Congress in 1964, he filibustered for an entire night against it, saying the measure was an infringement on states’ rights. He backed civil rights legislation consistently only after becoming a party leader in the Senate.
Not everyone was sold on his support of being a civil rights advocate. Many calls on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this morning called Byrd a racist, and echoed past decisions and statements. For example in 2001, Byrd used the phrase "white nigger" on Fox News Sunday, which he immediately apologized for.

Byrd seemed to always represent the issues of West Virginia. Joe Holley writes in the Washington Post:
Most West Virginians had more immediate concerns, and Mr. Byrd strove to address them. On the Appropriations Committee, he pumped billions of dollars worth of jobs, programs and projects into a state that ranked near the bottom of nearly every economic indicator when he began his political career as a state legislator in the late 1940s. Countless congressional earmarks later, West Virginia is home to prisons, technology centers, laboratories and Navy and Coast Guard offices (despite being a landlocked state).
West Virginia has seen so much economic growth from the hard work of Sen. Byrd. He was also a strong advocate of safety laws with respect to coal mining, which was something that West Virginia's economy hinges on.

I think there will be a fuzzy remembrance of Sen. Byrd. I think in his West Virginia constituencies he will be clearly missed for his ability to bring home lots of money and aid for their economy. Amongst minorities, I don't think he will be missed much. Although he had a positive record for civil rights, many will not forgive him for the past he had in the KKK. What most people in Washington will miss about him is his expertise on legislative rules and leadership qualities. He was able to get people to work together from both sides of the aisle, even in today's polarized environment. He was the longest serving Senator in history with 51 years, and saw many changes over his career. I think it's possible that history will look upon him probably in a similar light as the late Strom Thurmond. Regardless of what people think, we should mourn this loss, because he dedicated a half-century to the service of the people of West Virginia, but more importantly, the United States.

A Rap Economics Lesson

This evening, this video was sent to me, and I would like to share it. Economics are not always the easiest universally understood topic. However, there have been two main schools of thought when it comes to mainstream economic theory. There's Keynes who believes in a philosophy of market steering, and there's Hayek who believes in a philosophy of free markets. Both of these have been the economic thought in the 20th century. Although I could sit here and explain both theories, I can just let them both battle it out. How about in rap?

Well, they've both laid out their cases, and it'll continue to be public debate. So who's right? I think both have great points, but it's hard to pick a side.

I loved this, and I hope you did too!

(Thanks you to Ryan!)

David Sanders' Promise on Lobbyists

Yesterday Democratic Candidate for Indiana's 4th District, David Sanders, held a press conference on Congressional Ethics. In his press conference at the Democratic Headquarters in Lafayette, IN, he made an interesting promise.

That's right, for every lobbyist he talks to, Dr. Sanders wants a constituent to be present. Dr. Sanders wants a constituent, because he feels that would keep him grounded while he is talking to lobbyists.

While many Americans are very opposed to lobbyists, many do not even understand their function. Lobbyists are a necessary evil for democracy, and will exist even if outlawed. Lobbyists, in some cases, are bad because they push for bad policy. Additionally, the brokering and bribery are all American citizens see sometimes, but lobbyists do more than that. Lobbyists can advocate and bring attention to causes that are unknown, yet important. Lobbyists can also help to weed out bad policy, because many have expertise in their field and their causes. They can be good assets if they are employed correctly, which is where there is inherent problems. Therefore, when concerned about lobbyists, it's best to vote for the candidate you trust most.

I like Sanders' approach on lobbyists. In this fashion, he will hopefully be able to ensure that the process is transparent. Also, because Dr. Sanders has also claimed that he wants to be very accessible to everyone, and his campaign has made a point to do so. Dr. Sanders has been attending various festivals, and going door-to-door for votes in the district. He sincerely wants to be involved in the communities of the district, and be there for the people. I think this illustrates that point to the extent that he wants what's in the best interest of the district's people. If Dr. Sanders can keep this promise, I think he will be able to help restore trust in the government in Indiana.

My Atheist Coming Out Story

Before I get to the post, I'd like to announce that this is my 300th blog post! I figured that I would make this post very special. There's only a handful of people that I've actually told this story you're about to read in its entirety. I never really have said this completely from start to end, so bear with me. This is an expanded version of the Formspring answer I gave a few months ago. I think that every coming-out story is worth telling, and that is why I am telling mine.

My family was always Jewish in a secular manner. We never were "crazy" with religion. I did, however, go to Jewish day school until 8th grade. We celebrated the holidays, and once in awhile went to Synagogue on Shabbat and holidays. When we moved to Cincinnati, I went to a private school that was not parochial. I had a hard time meeting friends, and I found a Jewish youth group where I made a lot of friends. When I was about 15 or so, I started to question fundamentals of the Jewish faith itself. Being in the Jewish tradition, this is a fairly normal thing that happens. They claim it's okay to question things and it isn't a big deal. So with that thought, I became a Communications VP in the Jewish youth organization. I was looking for answers, and I thought maybe this was a vehicle to do it.

When I was about 17 I was starting to really lose faith in the religion. I remember on the car ride for a college visit at Purdue with my Dad, we had a very long discussion about religion. I asked him why he believed. He said that being a doctor there are things that happen that he can't explain, and there must be a God or something like it. It was around that time that I found upset about religion for the first time. Same-sex marriage was made into an issue in the 2004 election, and basing it on the grounds of God and dogma was really bothersome to me. Also at a Jewish youth group convention I was told how John Kerry (who I was favorable to) was pro-Palestinian. I couldn't buy into it, because I didn't think Bush was overly helpful in the Middle East. It also seemed like people were basing their vote for Bush on the fact that he was "stronger on the Middle East". At my last convention, we were in a prayer service and as we were getting up to say a prayer over the Torah, and I thought to myself: "How is this not a cult?"

When I left for Purdue, I was thinking that I didn't really want to be overly Jewish anymore. I did go to Hillel a few times originally, just to give it one last chance. I went, and I really didn't feel comfortable about being there. I felt like all the people there were in the Jewish fraternity or sorority, and just used the Hillel as a recruiting tool. I didn't like this, and I was done with Judaism. For awhile, I was identifying myself as "Jewish, but I don't care" or not talking about it. My sophmore year, I had an RA who was very into CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ). He was widely regarded as a jerk, and he really pushed his religion hard on everyone. All he would advertise in the floor newsletter was the CRU events he was going to, and I took offense to it. I had a hard time dealing with his pushing Jesus, and we butted heads a lot.

In that first semester of that year, I changed my major and became a bit depressed. I realized that I didn't want to go to Hillel, and that I really didn't like Christianity because of my RA. I was starting to think that they're all going to sell me the same solution. So that second semester right around the end of February 2007, I realized I didn't like religion enough that I didn't want to ever go back to it. I came out to my roommate (who is still a great friend) as an atheist. The friends I had on that floor were very supportive of me and my decision. It was awesome to have that support network. My RA on the other hand, was not overly happy. I had always been the "trouble resident", but he would never write me up, and he told me once that it was because he respected me too much.

I drunk dialed my super religious cousin on Purim, which was soon after my coming out to my roommate. I ended up coming out as an atheist to him. He called me back the next day, and confronted me on it. This, I realized, was a bad idea. Firstly, he was considered somewhat of a hero in the Jewish Community because he had moved to Israel at one point. I realized that he also had a big mouth, and that I perceived my secret was now out in the Jewish Community. I figured I had some PR to do. I then called a few other people close to me from back in High School and told them, including a now ex-girlfriend. A few were supportive, others I have not talked to since. I came out to my mother over the phone about a week after this. She was supportive, and I was really scared to tell my Dad, who grew up a moderately Jewish home. I later told him, and he still thinks it's a phase. I told them not to tell anyone in the Jewish Community, and they've been fairly good about it. Overall they've been supportive.

I wasn't fully comfortable with the thought that I was an atheist at first, but I had realized after reading a bit about other religions, that I didn't fit into any of them. I was in fact an atheist. I met Rachel Tobias in fall 2008, who is now one of my best friends. She was a part of Purdue's Society of Non-Theists, and was trying to convince me to go to an event. In September 2008, I met Jennifer McCreight, and the rest of the Purdue Non-Theists at the Talk-Like-A-Pirate-Day event. Jen, Lauren, Shawn, and many others I have met through this organization have been some of my closest friends since then. As I've gotten more involved, I've realized that that atheism is right for me. I think going back to a religion in a full capacity would be too difficult and too conflicting for me.

There is another part of the story that I've been withholding details about, and have never really told anyone. It has a lot to do with why I got more involved. In August 2008, I became an RA. The first year I was an RA, I had a co-worker who came out on the second day of training as a hard-line Christian, and took a lot of pride in it. Over the next few days I got very annoyed with it, and even told him, that I felt very uncomfortable. Since the question had come up, I identified myself as an atheist. Things just became extremely uncomfortable, because I was a noticing a lack of neutrality with religion in general on staff. I was more or less the token non-Christian. I kept trying to tune his proselytizing out, but I couldn't because I still worked with him, and needed to keep an open line of communication. He periodically made comments that made me feel very uncomfortable. At one point in the year, it got so bad, that I reported him to a superior for chewing out a Jewish resident for not knowing why Easter was important. I then went to my bosses and told them that if he returned (which he was originally planning on it) the following year, that I would not. He did not return the following year, and things improved dramatically with the job. I had a lot more people that cared more about me as a person, and could put religion aside to work with me. As far as residents, they really respected me for being an open atheist, and many came to me to ask me questions about it. I still keep in touch with residents who were active in CRU in the hall (from my second year), because I consider them friends.

I felt that I needed to get involved, because what happened to me likely happens to others, and I want to help them. I'm much happier not believing in supernatural things. It really took a big stress off my shoulders to get out of religion. So in the past year, I've become much more involved in the atheist community. I really enjoy being involved and meeting other atheists. I really feel that since I'm now holding an officer position in the Purdue Society of Non-Theists, I can help people even more. Even if I'm just the Secretary, I think that I can still be an ambassador for the Non-theist community at Purdue, the surrounding area, and the community as a whole.

Come Meet Michael Oxenrider!

About a month ago, I ran into Democratic candidate Michael "Ox" Oxenrider at an art show. Well, I got to meet Ox earlier this week, and I'm pretty impressed with what he would like to accomplish. He's a cancer survivor, and has the courage to lead the district to economic recovery. He is very well read on current events, and knows what he wants to get accomplished. The problem is, he needs funding so he can campaign.

Tomorrow night, I will be attending one of his first fundraisers. is running for Indiana State Senate. He's a great guy, and you should come meet him! The fundraiser will be taking place at The Other Pub (3000 9th St.) in Lafayette. This is a great chance to come listen and meet Ox. Even if you can't give much, just come and meet him. He's a very approachable guy, and in a relaxed atmosphere, I don't think there's much better conditions to meet a candidate. I'll see you there!

The Stanley Cup, an Ally to LGBT

The Gay Pride parade in Chicago will have a very symbolic visitor. The Stanley Cup will make an appearance at the annual Gay Pride in Chicago. Blackhawks defenseman, Brent Sopel will be representing the Stanley Cup Champions. He will be attending the event with his wife and 4 kids. The fact that the Cup is actually appearing at this event is really incredible in my opinion. It shows that the NHL has moved ahead in leaps and bounds for non-discrimination, especially LGBTQ rights and anti-homophobia in sports.

Much of the recent increased movement for anti-homophobia in the NHL came at the event of the death of Brendan Burke, the son of USA Hockey and Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. In 2007, Brendan came out to his father, who was very accepting of him. Brian even attended the 2009 Gay Pride Parade with his son. In November 2009, Brendan came out to Miami University, and subsequently was leaked to ESPN. Brendan was serving as a video assistant for the university's hockey team. In the hockey community, Brendan was widely supported. From that point, Brendan became an advocate for LGBTQ rights and anti-homophobia in sports.

Unfortunately, in February 2010, Brendan was killed in an auto accident in Indiana. The hockey community as a whole mourned the loss of Brendan. In Toronto, and Miami University, there were moments of silence before their next subsequent games. In the olympics, team USA wore dogtags with "In Memory of Brendan" inscribed on them. Since Brendan's death, there has been increased awareness about the issue, and activism is growing. Brent Sopel, is marching in the parade in honor of Brendan.

For the NHL, this is a huge step forward from its history of intolerance. French Canadians, Blacks, Jews, and others were discriminated against throughout the early history of the NHL. There are countless examples and incidents. One that comes to mind is an instance of anti-Semitism that occurred in March 1968. Larry Zeidel, who was Jewish, fought Eddie Shack after being prompted by a slur. The fight was one of the bloodiest in NHL history. Discrimination still occurs to an extent in the NHL, but it's becoming rare. The NHL has a stereotype of being a "white league", when that could be further from the truth now. There are a lot of minorities represented in the NHL, now more than ever. The NHL has become a very global league, with players from all around the world.

I am happy that the Stanley Cup is going to be in the Gay Pride parade. I think it is not only good for the LGBTQ community, but the hockey community as well. I think Brendan Burke would be proud to see the Stanley Cup at a Gay Pride parade. The fact that the Stanley Cup will be there, is a testimony to how far the NHL has come in resolving its problems with discrimination. For a league that has seen a lot of intolerance this is a move forward. As an ally, this is something that I think is positive for everyone. Not only is this good exposure for hockey, but it's also a message that being out and a professional athlete is okay. Think about the positive messages that sends to younger LGBTQ individuals! Even the fact that Brent Sopel is bringing his family, means he's proud and honored to be there. Sopel, who has a wife and 4 kids, is showing that it's also okay to be straight and support the causes for LGBTQ rights. In conclusion, this truly means "hockey is for everyone".

Big NHL Trades From Last Weekend

Over the past few days, the NHL experienced a lot of movement in players. It has been the most active period of salary moving since the 2010 NHL Trade Deadline in early March. The 2010 UFA period does not open until July 1 and the draft is not until this weekend, however, many teams seem to be moving players around. I would like to highlight 3 of the largest moves.

1. Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis
Jaroslav Halak had a breakout year in Montreal. He is a big reason why the Habs made it so deep into the playoffs. This summer, Halak would have been a restricted free agent. Last Thursday Halak was acquired by the St. Louis Blues in a trade. Montreal would get two forwards: Lars Eller and Ian Shultz. St. Louis wins in this trade, because they got the high-quality goaltending that they wanted at a possible low cost. Halak, who will clearly get a raise, will probably work well in St. Louis, since they are a team that allows a lot of shots. On the other hand this raises a lot of questions for Montreal. Are they content with Carey Price as a starter or back-up? Are they moving Halak in favor of finding a possible starting goaltender in the UFA market? These are hard to answer now, but we may get answers to these questions as the free agency season begins.

2. Dan Hamhuis to Philadelphia
In a very interesting move, the Nashville Predators have traded Dan Hamhuis to the Philadelphia Flyers for RFA Ryan Parent. This move greatly favors the Flyers. Their defense has improved. The Predators I think are looking to re-work their roster, and I will address that with the Arnott trade below. Hamhuis in Philadelphia further strengthens, their very strong defense. It is a physical defensive unit, and Hamhuis will fit right in. I think that the Flyers are re-tooling themselves to win the Stanley Cup, and they seem to be listening to the age-old saying that "defense wins championships". Hamhuis, who made $2 million last year, will get a nice raise because he is only 27, and is nearing his prime.

3. Jason Arnott to New Jersey
In another bold move, Nashville traded away another high profile player, Jason Arnott. Arnott, the former Predators' captain, has been acquired by New Jersey for Matt Halischuk and a second round pick in next years' draft. Arnott would be making $4.5 million next season, and I see this as a cap-move by the Predators. By freeing cap-room from both this and the Hamhuis deal, the Predators now have $6-7 million more to use in the UFA market. I think they may make a move for a high quality forward, but it's hard to tell. Looking at the Devils, I think that New Jersey took Arnott because they will not look to sign Kovalchuk in the upcoming UFA period. Arnott has played in New Jersey before, and it might be a good fit for him. The Devils will be over the cap, and will need to move a player or two, but Arnott to them seems to be worth the risk.

With the draft upcoming this weekend, and free agency opening next week this might be just the beginning. We could see a lot of trades. Some are predicting this could be a very active trading draft. This leads me to ask, who else could be moved before July 1?

A Review of John P. Avlon's Wingnuts

About 2 months ago, I was watching C-SPAN's Book TV, and I stumbled across a Question and Answer session about the impact of hyper-partisanship on the electorate. It was a promotion for John P. Avlon's new book Wingnuts, which discussed that topic. Over the past week, I finally got around to reading this book. I finally finished it yesterday, and I thought it was a very intriguing look at hyper-partisanship in American politics during President Obama's first year. It analyzes both the left and right fringe groups, while looking for the root causes of populism and conspiracy theories in current American politics.

Before going further into detail, I should mention a word or two about the author. John P. Avlon is a proclaimed independent, and a former speechwriter for former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Now, Avlon writes for The Daily Beast, and is frequent a CNN contributor. He has written one other book called Independent Nation where he discussed the impact of moderates on the electorate.

In the book, Avlon makes the case that the combination of the election of President Obama and increasing polarization between the two parties has created a very scary political environment. This political climate has two parties that are mostly controlled by the fringe groups, or wingnuts, within. More or less, the crazies are calling the shots in public opinion. Even newspapers and networks are reporting pundit remarks as actual news. Some of these fringe groups are populist, others have regained their popularity. These groups however are not a new phenomena in American politics, because populist movements have been recurrent. In the book, Avlon discusses almost every group out there that has made noise in the past year or so. This includes Birthers, Tea Parties, 9/11 Truthers, and other groups that were new to me, or have not encountered.

What was great about reading this book, is that I could relate to it. Not only did I feel like I was comparing notes with John Avlon, I felt like I had found a lot of what he did. That is very reassuring. Many of the sources I did initial research with, were sources that he also started with. Throughout the book he talks about groups on both sides. Avlon spends much more time on right-wing groups, which has been a criticism of the book. In Avlon's defense, the right-wing has been much louder in this country since the election of President Obama. My criticism is that when he looked at left-wing groups, I felt there was a need for more explanation at times. I understand why he identified the groups he did, but I think much of this may have to do with the fact that he had a lot more on right-wing groups than left-wing groups, that he needed to include.

The book concludes with a simple message: we need to call out all the wingnuts on both sides, before it gets worse. Avlon contends that if this hyper-partisanship gets worse American democracy might be headed off a cliff. I completely agree with this. This is why there is a need for bloggers, moderates, and activists who are willing to call out Tea Partiers, and others. The biggest point Avlon makes is that the moderates in this country completely outnumber the wingnuts, so this is possible.

I highly recommend this book. If you are looking to understand the Tea Party's effect on politics, this is a great book. I think this book has helped me understand the origins of the Tea Party Movement, and how it's influence has exploded. It's a fascinating phenomenon that I am going to continue to look at. Avlon's book only addresses the first year of Obama's Presidency, and a lot has already changed in the time since this book was published. I really admire Avlon's work, and hope that you will too if you pick this book up.

God and Gushers: Obama's Oval Office Address and Reaction

Last night, President Obama delivered his first oval office address. In the address the President addressed the BP oil spill and the government response to it. President Obama made it very clear that BP will pay for the damage it has done, and that the cleanup from the spill will take years to clean up. The challenge President Obama explained that this disaster in the Gulf is just a reminder of why the need for cleaner and alternative energy resources are important. He likened this challenge to the Apollo Moon Landings and military production during World War II.

It wasn't his best speech, but I don't think there is much more that really needed to be said that had not been said previously. The speech did at times become a little general, but that is to be expected when you are looking to rally people around an idea. There was one part of the speech I do take issue with, and that is with the last portion of it.

I was okay with the part where he mentioned the "Blessing of the Seas", because that is a regional event on the calendar. However, I did get annoyed when Obama called on Americans to pray. As much as I didn't agree with President Obama's call to pray, I assume he was trying to reach out to Conservatives and others who say he is non-Theist (when he is not). This is the first time I can remember that Obama has done any proselytizing. I'm not going to much else other than this: Ideally, there should not be a need for the President to tell Americans to pray.

The reaction to this speech is a whole different story. Bill O'Reilly had Sarah Palin on his show, immediately following the speech.

So Sarah, how do you propose we "stop the gusher"? Is it this "common sense solution?" offered by The Midnight Review Between BP and the government they've been trying to find an answer. All she is doing is feeding into the conspiracy theories and narratives of the Tea Party. If there is something Obama wants to do as far as energy, they immediately jump to "cap and tax". So the only way is to let the companies drill where ever they please, without consequence? Palin then starts whining about how she put together a blue-ribbon commission (expanded government) to keep an eye on the oil companies. Might I add, she also seems a bit bitter that there's a moratorium on drilling in Anwar, Alaska.

Frankly, Sarah Palin's response is on par with a lot of right-wing responses i have heard. Many will defend BP, because they feel like the government can't do anything, yet they complain that the President has done nothing. Well, I don't think a Republican president would have handled it much better. The fact of the matter is, that we need to find alternative fuels, and if this situation does not illustrate this, I don't know what does. This isn't to say that we shouldn't be drilling, but we need to find other resources for energy. It's about time we start working on this, because many other countries have done this, and are finding better ways to create energy than us. Yes, we will still be drilling, but we will be doing other things to find energy resources that are not only cleaner, but viable in combination with oil. It's time we start trying to implement alternative energy in a transitional stage. The old adage about investing in the stock market holds true here, a diversified portfolio is strongest.

A Discussion on Alvin Greene

Alan Greene is the Democratic candidate for the Senate in South Carolina. He is an unemployed army veteran that lives with his parents. He has no backing from the Democratic party, and yet he won his primary with 60% of the vote. In his own words, he ran an "Old Fashioned Campaign". I have no idea what he means by this, but frankly, he is an embarrassment to his party. Let's start with this CNN interview:

There's a lot to say here. First of all the felony charge that Greene is facing is over indecency and showing porn to a college student. The second is that this interview with Don Lemon, really shows Greene's true colors. When Greene will not comment on his own felony charges, questions will arise. He is not in a position where he can shrug off those answers, especially when he lacks charisma.

Also, how does Greene expect to run against Senator Jim Demint (R-SC)? According to the Washington Post, Greene has raised no money and his opponent has raised nearly $3.5 million. It is nearly impossible to win a campaign with little funding, and with $0, Greene is already way behind in the general election. If I am in Sen. Demint's shoes, I don't even have to spend more than maybe half of the purse to win this race. All he has to do is remind people to show up to the polls, and he wins. Not to mention he does have to visit South Carolina once in awhile. So this will be an extremely easy race for Demint to win.

So what are the Democrats planning to do then? Firstly, the Democrats are suspicious that his candidacy was a plant by the Republican Party. Even Greene himself has said that he has never been a Republican. Additionally, the South Carolina Democrats are trying to get Mr. Greene to withdraw. He won't, according to many of the interviews he has given. There's also been a question of the validity of the campaign. For example, where did Mr. Greene get $10,000 to file his candidacy?

In response Vic Rawls, Greene's opponent in the primary, filed a formal protest. There's a possibility of irregularities in the voting. Michael Sheridan of The New York Daily Times writes:

Rawl cites election irregularities as a possible culprit. Greene won Tuesday with nearly 59 percent of the vote to his 41 percent, but the former candidate suggests voting may have been corrupted.

"Many voters and poll workers... continue to contact us with their stories of extremely unusual incidents while trying to vote and administer this election," Rawl said. "These range from voters who repeatedly pressed the screen for me only to have the other candidate's name appear, to poll workers who had to change program cards multiple times."
The Republicans have denied any involvement in tampering with the vote. So what now?

I think there needs to be a federal investigation. Although I am an outsider, I still see something wrong here. Firstly, why would this guy win an election if he hasn't raised a dime for his campaign? Secondly, could the vote have been fraudulent? I think that there is a need to investigate this, and I think there's a distinct possibility of vote tampering. Sen. Demint took 83% of the vote in the Republican primary. Hypothetically, if there was vote tampering, it was not in the Republican primary. Although it hurts the Democrats, I think it's necessary to investigate the primary vote. It is necessary for the people of South Carolina to know if these results were fraudulent or not. If they were fraudulent, then proper action can be taken. If not, the campaign should continue as scheduled. Although I'm not approving of Alvin Greene, I think that we should ensure that the election was not a fraud, because something just doesn't seem right.

(Thank you to Matt Kerns)

Touchdown Jesus Struck By Lightning

When I was talking to my little sister last night, she informed me on some really ironic news. Touchdown Jesus has been struck by lightning. No, I'm not making this up. The iconic Jesus statue in front of a reflecting pool at the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, OH has burned down by an act of God. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the following:

Fire crews were called to the church at 11:15 p.m. after several people phoned 911 to report the blaze as a severe thunderstorm swept through Greater Cincinnati, producing a spectacular lightning show, Peace said.
If you've never seen this roadside statue, here's what it looked like before it was charred:
Now if you look at the picture of what is remaining of the statue this morning, it looks like a metallic outline and supports. I have heard that the statue's construction cost about $500,000, so this church lost a rather large investment. There is no video of when the statue was actually struck by lightning, but I think I have found a lego reinactment.

I think it was more likely lightning struck the building to be honest. However, since no one saw it, we will never know?

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Bill Cunningham is Moving Up to Chicago?

Cincinnati might be losing a bigoted right-wing radio host, and that doesn't upset me for the moment. Bill Cunningham and co-worker Mike McConnell are leaving 700-WLW for WGN Radio in Chicago. While Cunningham has evaded the Cincinnati press, he did make an appearance on a WGN Cubs broadcast. Also, there have been test shows in Chicago. Cunningham has not explicitly stated that he is leaving Cincinnati, and has gone so far to say he is in limbo. Fox 19 is reporting that he is taping his new TV show in Chicago entitled "The Big Willie Show".

So what does this all mean, and how do I feel? First of all, let's suppose for a moment that Bill Cunningham leaves for Chicago for all of his media. For Cincinnati, this is great, because he won't make the city look awful. On the other hand, Cunningham will be closer to me, and that means I might likely hear more of his intolerant and bigoted rants. Secondly, being a conservative talk show host in Chicago he's going to have the platform to be crazier. Conservatives will take him as a very credible source on "corrupt Chicago politics". Also with Cunningham now on TV on WGN, he will have a wider reach for an audience, and will be more visible.

Here's the scary part about this, he's going to have an even wider audience. While he is syndicated all over the country, Bill Cunningham, is going to be additionally on TV to say stupid things. More people are going to hear and see him, and this means his later gaffes are going to make him even more popular. Think about how Glenn Beck has risen through the ranks, because it's very similar thus far. Small-time non-controversial DJ becomes popular enough to get into talk-radio. Then moves far right and gets prominent airtime on prominent conservative talk-radio outlets. This means that there will be even more access to his material, and it will only make conservative talk-radio crazier. Not to mention, Sean Hannity is good friends with Cunningham, so does that mean he will be making more of a presence in the Conservative news cycle?

I hope not. However, if it does happen that Bill Cunningham has more appearances in the Conservative news cycle, the appearances will look something like this:

Yep, he's loud and obnoxious, just like almost every other pundit out there. Except Cunningham has an overwhelming element of delusion attached to him.

1990s SNL Flashback

Last night I went down to Howl at the Moon in Indianapolis, IN for Jen McCreight's Godless Party. It was a lot of fun. I met some awesome people, that I hope I can keep in touch with. So, because I was down in Indy last night, and I'm going to be busy today, I thought I'd leave you with some great video clips from SNL. In a little bit, I'm going to be watching the World Cup with Aaron, and celebrating my "adopted brother" Phil Wrighthouse's birthday (he's 23). Enjoy the clips!

The first clip is from around 1994. Tim Meadows speaks on the NHL strike that occurred. One note to mention is that the MLB had a strike at the same time. The MLB would cancel the world series, the NHL on the other hand, had a 48 game season.

This second clip is circa 1991. It is a McLaughlin Group parody featuring Phil Hartman as Frank Sinatra. Sting plays Billy Idol, and the sketch also features Mike Myers, Victoria Jackson, and Chris Rock.

This final is another one from the Desert Storm era. In this clip, Adam Sandler plays the character Iraqi Pete. It was SNL's way to help the war effort, by having a character portraying all the worst stereotypes of our enemies.

There Will Always Be A Moon Over BP

The BP spill has really caught everyone's attention in this country. The one thing that I have been very surprised about, is that no one has brought up (in what I have read) the song "Moon Over Marin" by the Dead Kennedys. It's a catchy, yet very gloomy and sarcastic song from the 1982 album Plastic Surgery Disasters. The song is also very unique, being one of the first "surf punk" songs, which would become popular in the years following it. Being aware of the sarcastic nature of the Dead Kennedys, the song eerily applies to the major disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although their music is at least 25 years old, I think much of the Dead Kennedys' music is still applicable. The context of some of these songs, may be a stretch due to their age or topic. In re-reading the lyrics for the song "Moon Over Marin", I see this possibly as an American outsider in the shoes of BP CEO Tony Hayward. Yes my assessment might be slightly revisionist, but I see a parallel with both the current crisis and the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. Take a read, and see what you think!

The crowded future stings my eyes
I still find time to exercise
In uniform with two white stripes

Unlock my section of the sand
It's fenced off to the water's edge
I clamp a gasmask on my head

On my beach at night
Bathe in my moonlight

Another tanker's hit the rocks
Abandoned to spill out its guts
The sand is laced with sticky glops

O' Shimmering moonlight sheen upon
The waves and water clogged with oil
White gases steam up from the soil


I squash dead fish between my toes
Try not to step on any bones
I turn around and I go home

I slip back through my basement door
Switch off all that I own below
Dive in my scalding wooden tub

My own beach at night
Electric Moonlight

There will always be a moon
Over Marin

Blackhawks win First Stanley Cup in 49 Years

History was made last night, when the Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal in Overtime of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite how odd the goal was, the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. Marian Hossa, who was playing in his 3rd Stanley Cup Finals in a row, finally was on the winning side as well.

The Conn Smythe trophy, which is the NHL playoff MVP award, was awarded to the Blackhawks' captain Johnathon Toews. Toews scored 7 goals, 22 assists, with a -1, and 4 PIMs in 22 games. Additionally Toews had 5 game-winning goals in the playoff campaign. Initially, I disagreed with this decision. I thought taht Dustin Byfuglien or Chris Pronger deserved the award. My rationale for Byfuglien is that he had a very big impact for the team. In 22 games, Byfuglien had 11 goals, 5 assists, with a -4 and 20 PIMs and 5 game-winning goals. Byfuglien stepped up his game for the playoffs. Pronger on the otherhand was also a strong choice. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News made a decent argument as to why Pronger should be the MVP. Pronger was on the ice for almost 30 minutes every game, as well as providing a strong physical presence. In 23 games, Pronger scoredd 4 goals, 14 assists, +5, and 36 PIMs. Although he was fantastic throughout the playoffs, his performance last night was dysmal. As I think about it though, I am okay with the awarding of Conn Smythe to Toews.

So how did I do predicting the playoffs? In the East, I predicted 1 series correct out of seven. Althought tempted to pick against them, I picked the Penguins over the Senators in round 1. In the West, I predicted 6 out of 7 correct. The only series I incorrectly picked was the Kings over the Canucks in round 1. I did pick the Blackhawks, albeit over the Capitals, to win the Stanley Cup in 6 games, which happened. So overall, I was about 53% correct this year. Next up, is the NHL Draft next weekend, and then my favorite part of the NHL season: the dog and pony sh...I mean, the 2010 Free Agency period.

Overall this was a great season for hockey. Between the Winter Classic, a great Winter Olympic tournament, and a great Stanley Cup Playoffs, I think ice hockey is making a huge comeback in the United States. Not only were all three of these annual events very exciting this year, I noticed that hockey stories were not quite as overshadowed as usual this year. Being in rural Indiana, I noticed that more people were interested in the sport. I think a small part of that has to do with the proximity of Chicago, however, Indianapolis was one of the top 10 TV markets for the Stanley Cup Finals games on NBC. I think people like hockey, and that high ratings should indicate this. I would like to see better coverage by major media, including NBC. It's been a great season, and I'm looking forward to next year already!

UPDATE (10:34AM): NHL Live Tweeted that NBC's Game 6 ratings were 5.8; highest in 37 years!

Lord Stanley's Cup at Stake in Game 6

Tonight may be the last game of the 2009-2010 NHL season. If the Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Philadelphia Flyers, the Blackhawks will win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. If the Flyers win, the teams will play a sudden-death, game 7 in Chicago. What has been interesting about this series, is that the home team has won all 5 games. If we follow that trend, the math would show that the Flyers would win tonight, and the Blackhawks win the cup on Friday. However, hockey fans know that numbers are sometimes only relative in the game of ice hockey.

Michael Leighton is starting in net again for the Flyers. I'm not convinced that either Leighton or Brian Boucher is the right goaltender to get this job done. While Leighton's numbers are strong at home (6-0, .949 GAA), that doesn't discount the fact he has been pulled twice in this series. I think that while Brian Boucher is a good veteran goalie, the goaltenders are fizzling out. Not to say the Blackhawks are much better in net, but I think Niemi has played better in this series.

The Blackhawks on the other hand, shouldn't switch very much from last game. If they play the same way, I think they can't lose. Their play was way too strong for the Flyers to counter. Like I stated earlier in the series, I think the Blackhawks are a complete team, something that the Flyers had not seen. I predict that tonight we will see Lord Stanley's cup. If the Blackhawks win tonight, I think the Conn Smythe trophy winner would be Dustin Byfuglien or Chris Pronger. I am leaning more toward Pronger, because he has been involved in almost every goal that the Flyers have scored in the finals. It has been a great series, and I can't wait for a great game tonight!

Cincinnati Tea Party to Politicize July 4 Event?

Independence day, July 4, tends to be a holiday where people set off fireworks, eat hot dogs, and take advantage of the summer weather. In Cincinnati, OH its tradition to go down to Ault Park to go their festival. Because of a lack of sponsorship, there is a possibility that the event will not happen unless there's someone or some group that can step in. The Cincinnati Tea Party is attempting to be that group to help sponsor this year's Ault Park event. The fact that the Tea Party wants to organize it, has some concerned that the event will be politicized. The major concern is that this will cause attendance to not be as strong as in years past because of the Tea Party's involvement.

First of all, the Tea Party's involvement politicizes this event. Just their sheer presence makes it politicized. The group itself has taken blatant political stands. Especially this comment:

He said it disturbed him that the Tea Party has arranged for Steven Christopher, a Findlay, Ohio, resident and founder of the Hardin County Tea Party, to give a speech at Ault Park before the fireworks display begins. Earlier this year, Christopher had tried and failed to get on the Republican primary ballot for the Ohio attorney general's race.

"I fear that does politicize the event," Burke said. "There is no way to separate him from the philosophy of the Tea Party and their political position."

Robinson said Christopher will give an "inspirational talk" about the founding principles of the United States.
This is politicizing the event. I have no problem with the group sponsoring a tent. Many political candidates will likely do the same. I do have a problem with a Tea Partier giving a speech about the country's founding. If it were a political event, this wouldn't be a problem, but an inspirational speech about the founding principles will likely push it into a political direction. Christopher will be advocating an anti-federalist position, which is a clear political position. So this event would no longer be neutral if he wants to give an "inspirational speech".

Let the Tea Party just sit in their tent and watch the fireworks. If anyone should speak, it should be someone local. Mayor Mallory (D), or even someone on the Cincinnati City Council would be more appropriate. Bringing someone in from Findlay to speak at a Cincinnati community event, in my mind is a little inappropriate. That's more a political move than good intentions. Again, no problem with the Tea Party lending a hand for funding, but I do have a problem with them blatantly politicizing a fun, neutral community event.

Scott Arniel Expected to be Blue Jackets' New Coach

With about 2 weeks until the NHL draft, the Blue Jackets are expected to announce the hiring of coach Scott Arniel. Arniel will replace interim head coach Claude Noel. Arniel is a former NHL player from 1981-1992, playing for the Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres, and Boston Bruins. He played defense and in 730 games Arniel scored 149 goals, 189 assists, 338 points, and 599 PIMs. Arniel finished his playing career in the minor leagues playing until 1998 in the AHL and IHL.

In 2000, Arniel became an assistant coach for the Manitoba Moose. In 2002, Arniel would move up to the NHL, becoming an assistant coach for the Buffalo Sabres. He would coach under Lindy Ruff until the NHL lockout. In 2006, Arniel became the Manitoba Moose head coach. Over 4 seasons with the Moose, Arniel coached the team into the playoffs 3 of those seasons. The team was also over .500 in all 4 seasons. In the 2008-09 season, Arniel coached the Moose to be the runner-up in the Calder Cup Finals. He also won the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award, which is given to the AHL's coach of the year.

The expectations of Arniel by Jackets fans is going to be simple: get the Jackets into the playoffs. It's not too lofty of an expectation, but it's one he will have to meet. After a lackluster season the players, the fans, and the front office, want to see better. Everyone knows that the Blue Jackets have a highly talented team. In my opinion, this team had the potential to be a top 10 team last season. However, the breakdown with Ken Hitchcock occurred too early in the season for any quick fixes to take any effect. I personally, think Hitchcock should have been fired a month sooner than he was, but at this point that is moot.

I think Arniel is a great hire, and I think he will do well for this team. I trust Scott Howson, becuase he has done a fantastic job thus far. Howson, now a few years into this job, is making the steps in the right direction to make the Blue Jackets annually competitive. If trends of AHL coaches moving up to the NHL is any indicator, this is a great hire. Mike Babcock, Bruce Boudreau, and a handfull of other coaches have all been very successful when moving up to the NHL in the past few years. I wish Arniel the best of luck, and welcome to Columbus!

Dennis Seidenberg Re-Signs with Boston

Over the weekend, the Boston Bruins re-signed defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to a 4 year, $13 million contract ($3.25 million/year). Seidenberg would have been an UFA on July 1, 2010. Seidenberg is from Germany, has played 374 NHL games, and is 29 years old. He has scored 18 goals, 98 assists, and 152 PIMs in his 8 or so seasons in the league. This contract gives Seidenberg a bit of stability, since he has already played for 5 different teams. The problem this signing poses is that the Bruins are still $1.5 Million over the current salary cap. This isn't a problem, because the salary cap is projected to go up for next season.

Some may remember that earlier in the season, that I was advocating the Blue Jackets attempt to sign Seidenberg. This signing ends that idea, but I'd like to make a quick comment about it. I've realized over this time, that Seidenberg would not have been the best fit for the Jackets. Although he would fit most of what the Blue Jackets are looking for in a defenseman, he probably isn't the right fit, due to the price. I think the Jackets are looking for someone who won't cost as much. Anyway, good job Boston, for wrapping up a solid defenseman!

Todd Rokita Calls Military Service a Waste

At the Tea Party Immigration Forum I ran into a lot of important local political individuals. This includes volunteers from various campaigns. In talking to the Tippecanoe County organizer from David Sanders' campaign, I was told about a pretty strange statement made by Secretary of State Todd Rokita (R). Rokita, who is running against David Sanders (D), said that using the term "ultimate sacrifice" in reference to military service was wrong. Rokita would prefer to use the term "ultimate duty". Dr. Sanders tweeted about Rokita's gaffe, stating the following:

ToddRokita said at Indiana Veterans Home that sacrifice=waste. A soldier told me that it was NOT the duty of an American serviceman to die.
I also heard that he continued on to talk about economics and fiscal responsibility, on a Memorial Day event in a veterans home. That's not appropriate at a time where we should be honoring veterans for their service.

I take a lot of issue with Rokita's statement. If military service was the "ultimate duty" we would have conscription. The sacrifice that people make, when they enlist in the military is extremely big. Many are sacrificing a higher education, time with their families, and potentially their lives. The military is not an easy job, and it's not for everyone. Although I don't personally have the courage to be in the military, I very high respect for the job they do. Many of the servicemen and servicewomen who I have met and have served overseas are proud of their work. They also understand that not everyone can do it, and are grateful for the experience.

The other thing I think veterans and active service members will take great offense to, is to the notion that sacrifice is a waste when speaking about military service. If Rokita thinks sacrifice is synonymous with waste, I'd like him to tell that to the families with fallen soldiers. With this terminology, Rokita is implying that a life of a killed soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan is a waste. While I may disagree with the conflicts, a soldier's death is never a waste. What about soldiers who died during World War II? Are their lives "wastes" too? This idea that "sacrifice is waste" may be a part of Rokita's economic plan, but military service is never a waste. From what I understand, the veterans who were in attendance at the event were not exactly comfortable with Rokita's notion of their service as the "ultimate duty". I know I wouldn't be if I was in their shoes.

This is not the only time, Rokita has made a very questionable statement. Back in 2007, Rokita made a statement regarding black voters choosing Democratic candidates. Rokita stated:
How can that be?...90 to 10. Who's the master and who's the slave in that relationship? How can that be healthy?
This a very insensitive, if not racist, comment. He is implying that black citizens cannot make a coherent decision in elections. When Rokita tends to occasionally make comments like this one, I think he would be doing Indiana a disservice if elected. It really makes me question the content of his character. Is he really looking out for people who are different from himself? When Indiana's 4th District has many people of all different cultures, races, creeds, etc. and a representative would need to be able to look out for their interests too. I can't trust Rokita to be looking out for their best interests, with the statements I have heard him make in these cases.

Dr. David Sanders seems like an increasingly better choice for this district. I have not heard Dr. Sanders say anything insensitive, in fact I hear a lot more praise for him. Having met with Dr. Sanders, I think he is a much better candidate with a very open mind to new ideas. Todd Rokita, from these comments, seems very closed minded and unable to think about others who are different from himself. From other videos I have watched of Mr. Rokita, I am very discouraged by him. I think Rokita does not have the ability to relate to different people around the district. Being someone who isn't in the same demographic as Todd Rokita, I find this very discouraging. Dr. Sanders on the other hand, has gone, and continues to go door-to-door to meet people of all backgrounds in this district. Because of this activity I think Dr. Sanders has a stronger understanding of who is in this district. I also appreciate that Dr. Sanders understands that even though military service is a great honor and privilege, it is not the ultimate duty of Americans. Military service is, and should always be the ultimate sacrifice.

Non-Theists are a Threat to Freedom?

On Wednesday at work, I was listening to C-SPAN, and came across a speech that former United States Attorney General John Ashcroft delivered. Before I get into the questionable things he said about non-theists, let me just refresh you on who he was. Ashcroft was governor of Missouri from 1985-1993, and then a US Senator from 1995-2001. He is the only person in US Senate election history to lose to a dead candidate in 2000. Ashcroft served as the Attorney General in President George W. Bush's first term. He was criticized mostly for by many for using the fear of terrorism to advance policies that took away civil liberties. Currently Ashcroft is a distinguished professor at Regent Law School.

So because Ashcroft is an influential conservative mind, the Heritage Foundation brought him in to speak. Here's a small sample of some of the things he said.

In the usual fashion as seen by most conservatives, it's ok to take swipes at Godless liberals or Muslims. Although it was never mentioned explicitly, it's implied enough that I'm willing to say that he's attacking non-theism. Ashcroft was known in his time as Attorney General to make claims like this in the name of defending America against terrorism.

So let's explore this, are atheists really a threat to freedom? No. In fact, I think a statement like this is indicative of less freedom. If the implication is that the United States is a Christian nation, then this is definitely not freedom. It's a bit ironic how conservatives and Tea Party activists advocate for freedom, however on religion they all come to the same conclusion, Christianity. Not that they just want to be Christian, but somewhat impose it too. So is this a selective freedom that these people seek? So in other words: "We only want freedom that benefits us?"

Although I already dislike John Ashcroft, I think that this comment he made is still in disrespect to non-Christian believers in this country. He is continuing what he did as Attorney General, creating irrational fear of people different from himself and his supporters. It's the same divisive politics that not only destroy us internally, and creates irrational policy. Additionally, on the non-theist front, it hurts us a lot because it creates more hatred of us, especially in the eyes of the crazies. When combined with religion and anti-government groups, the politics are not going to look very good for us.

This is a political game that needs to stop, for any ideas like non-theism to garner any public support. This is something that can be blamed solely on former President George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and the rest of the neoconservative movement. I blame this on them, not because I'm liberal, but because it's something they championed, and it's still used effectively. Although there was a semblance of this divisiveness that occurred during the Clinton Administration, Democrats and Republicans actually worked together. Even after their time in office, the neoconservatives are still promoting this divisive political game. The major political parties in the country are polarized so much that the crazies on both sides are calling the shots. Politics and religion are two things that should never mix, because it creates irrational rifts in our politics. So thank you John Ashcroft for promoting more divisiveness in an already polarized political scene in the United States. Creating polarization is not good for new ideas to take hold, and unfortunately non-theists tend to be painted as extremists. Clearly this isn't true, but when the crazies call the shots in a polarized world, their views trump rational positions.

A Recap of the Lafayette Tea Party Immigration Forum

I did it! I survived another Tea Party event! Yesterday, I attended an immigration forum which was hosted by Republican candidate Donn Brown and featured Indiana State Senator Mike Delph (R-Carmel). This event was probably the most heated Tea Party event I have attended. This time, I attended the event with the Purdue Exponent Editor and Chief Zoe Hayes who was covering the story. There were over 100 people in attendance. The Tea Party demographics were indicative of poll results released by Quinnipiac back in March. There were mostly older and white individuals. There were minorities, but all of the minorities that did speak were in opposition of the Arizona Immigration reform. Of course Brown, who is also the leader of Lafayette Citizens in Action (CIA), was also handing out pamphlets and US Constitutions that I had seen at their events in the past.

Before the event began, handouts with Brown's talking points (link), and statistics (link) were circulated before the event. Brown mentioned that he wanted to hand out his talking points, so he wouldn't drone on the points, and address them as they came up. If you take a look at the talking points, most of them are very xenophobic and very in-line with Tea Party ideology. He made sure to make a mention that the Constitution was in question with this issue, as well as states' rights. On the other handout, the statistics, were interesting to look at. Just about all of his stats were out of date. Also, some of them were vague. For example, he identified that 27% of all prisoners in Federal custody (June 2005) were "criminal aliens". That is a very misleading statistic, because not all of them would be illegal. He was trying to paint a violent picture to the immigration issue. I think he was trying to say that immigrants are violent.

The forum started with the Pledge of Allegiance, similar to the other Tea Party events I have attended. Then Mr. Brown and Sen. Delph both spoke briefly on the issue. Sen. Delph spoke on the Indiana legislation he has been trying to push since 2007. The bill has made it through the Senate three times, however has died either on the floor of the house or committee before there was a vote. Then Brown spoke for a moment, and asked if anyone in the audience was Tony Del Real, a third panelist. As an aside, I would hope if you're organizing a panel, that you know all of your panelists beforehand. It sends a bad message if you don't know everyone on your panel. The issue that both Sen. Delph and Mr. Brown seemed to be raising were mostly on the grounds of national sovereignty, and then xenophobia.

The floor opened for questions and the racism emerged. I think Tony Del Real said this country was built on the achievements of immigrants. All of sudden there was a roar of people yelling "illegal immigrants". This was just the beginning. Someone got up in opposition and mentioned that the issue of cost was a concern to them, and many Tea Partiers said "we'll pay for it". A middle-aged man got up and talked about how his family has been here since the 1680s, and that he doesn't appreciate this whole "anchor baby" concept for immigrant status. Brown defended his statement by saying it was covered by the 14th Amendment, but that its intent was for the freedom of the slaves. He also said that he would not allow for "anchor babies" if he drafts legislation. Not to mention, Mr. Brown and Sen. Delph both said that if someone could not speak English it was a clear indicator of someone being here illegally.

At this point, I needed to say something, that I was thinking about as the middle-aged man talked about the "anchor babies". I got up, and the first thing I wanted to mention was a statistic that I thought that could get Tea Partiers thinking about how many people are actually in the US prison system already. Having done a large research project about the NIMBY effects of prisons in the state of Indiana, I know a lot about prisons. The state of California alone, incarcerates more people than France, Germany, and Japan combined (1). Although the study is nearly 10 years old, prison facilities and populations continue to grow (2). The biggest reason why there's so many people imprisoned is because of liberalized drug laws and mandatory minimums (3). Not to mention that prisons are a big drain government spending, something Tea Partiers tend to get upset about. Although they are good for economic development, we do imprison a lot of people. These numbers might also be old, but at least my information is mostly peer-reviewed. However, I digress.

However this is not the reason why I got up. I suggested that I be deported on the account that I am the by-product of illegal immigration. I told the story of my grandmother, a Polish girl who escaped the pogroms of Poland and the Nazis in the early 1930s. Her family (which wasn't small) snuck into the United States through Canada. My grandmother knew Polish and Yiddish, and clearly English was not her first language. I then discussed that because I'm a by-product of illegal immigration, that I shouldn't be here in the first place. Mr. Brown asked me where I was born, and I responded that I was born in the US. The other Tea Partiers started yelling that I'm legal, and that my mother was an "anchor baby". While she definitely is not, I find it funny that they I assume it was my mother, when it really is my father's family I'm talking about.

As I was explaining about my grandmother, I knew that if I mentioned somewhere that my late Grandfather was a World War II veteran I could basically get the Tea Partiers to stop attacking me. I mentioned this, and the room became a little quieter. As I was sitting down, Sen. Delph thanked me for my story, and said that we should be proud of my Grandfather's service in World War II. This garnered a small applause.

As the forum continued, there was more moments of racism and intolerance that was exemplified by both Mr. Brown, and the Tea Partiers. One thing that was said that really annoyed me was this notion of there is one correct American dream. Mr. Brown and Sen. Delph both mentioned that working for less than minimum wage is not freedom, and not "our" America. Mr. Brown even mentioned at one point that Native Americans should get off their reservations, noting that they lost and they should get over it. This was a response prompted over the fact that the Native Americans were here first, and that we conquered their sovereignty.

At the end of the forum, Mr. Brown invited Shelia Klinker to say a few words. If anything, I think people should have seen why Shelia Klinker should be re-elected. Mr. Brown invited her, and she came. At the end Mr. Brown invited her up to say a few words. She did, and the way she did it, made me think that Mr. Brown should lose the election right there and then. Shelia told everyone how she was friendly with Mr. Delph, and how they worked on positive legislation together. Her message was positive, in a room full of negativity.

After about an hour and 40 minutes of screaming and yelling, the forum ended. I wanted to stick around for a little bit and talk to people. I had an old lady come up to me, that I recognized as an employee of Earhart Dining Hall. She told me about how her family came in through Ellis Island, stressing that she came in legally. I did point out in my comment, that my Grandmother did escape pogroms in Poland in the 1930s. So, this whole notion that she should have come in legally is a moot point, because she would have likely been sent back if she actually tried to go through Ellis Island. Besides Tea Partiers are notorious for revisionism, and completely neglecting certain facts of American History. This is no surprise to me that they neglect this, because all history about Eastern Europe is evil and communist.

I also ran into a lady that I interviewed at the Tax Day Tea Party protest. She wanted my blog's website, which I gladly gave to her. Others that came up to me, thanked me for my comment during the forum. This includes Indiana Senator Jerry Altman (R-Monticello). Finally, I met James T. Hass. Our first meeting, was a He surprisingly was very nice, and I told him that I have no hard feelings over his response to my blog entry. I also offered that I would like to bury the hatchet over coffee. He offered to have a beer with me sometime, and I hope that we can do that in the near future. I did eventually run into him at Chumley's afterward, however, if Mr. Hass is reading this I would still like to go again some other time.

So What did I learn?
If anyone tells you that the Tea Party is neither angry nor racist, they are lying. This is my fourth Tea Party event, and I have heard overtly racist comments in each event. If you need to qualify race, by saying that you're not a racist, you're going to make a racist comment. The people speaking at these events in favor of Tea Partiers tend to use these qualifying statements. Especially when there were Hispanic individuals in the room, I think throwing slurs and other insensitive phrases were not in good judgment.

I think my point better could have been better. I was a little nervous of being torn apart, for the fact that I'm in opposition. So making it a personal story, I think quelled it slightly. Even then, I was still a little nervous. Everyone said I did well afterward, but when I do public speaking, I do hold myself to standards that might be a little too high. However, I do appreciate people telling me that I did well.

If it wasn't evident before, Donn Brown and the Lafayette CIA has a superiority complex unparalleled to anything else I have ever seen in politics. He is a bus driver, and pretty much thinks he's better than everybody because he reads American history books. Zoe has told me that even his business cards indicate he has already won the seat he is running for. This is weird, because Mrs. Klinker is the current representative. I know he wouldn't appreciate it if I called him a community organizer, but that's the role he seems to be portraying. There's a difference between being a candidate for an office and a community organizer for the Tea Party. Even if Brown was elected, I know that people who were not conservative would definitely contact other Congressional members first. I know I would if I was a resident there. Plus, he says a lot of racist and bigoted things which makes me believe that it would be a disaster if he wins. Not to mention the bus company he drives for services the University with the largest international student population in the country.

I know this was a long entry, but there was a lot to say here. I continue to be convinced that this is not a very inclusive movement. Also, there's a lot of intolerance and an unwillingness to compromise. This is not a good thing for American politics, especially when this country is hyper-polarized. I still think that the Indiana Tea Party is impotent, because many of their candidates are not even in races right now. Although they can still influence races, I think their influence is moot at the moment. Their events don't draw enough people that it would make too much of a difference. I would say the room was maybe 50-50 in opinion on the Arizona reform bill, and I'm measuring this by applause to speakers. In the end, we need to remember that we're all Americans, and that the Tea Party movement represents a fringe group that is loud. They are loud, but we will only know if they make a difference when the 2010 Election ballots are cast. In the meantime, I think much of their activity that they consider a success is more a matter of coincidence.

Works Cited
1-Cherry, Todd L. and Kunce, Mitch. 2001. “Do Policymakers Locate Prisons for Economic Development?” Growth and Change 32.3: p. 533-547.
2-Hooks, Gregory, et al. 2004. “The Prison Industry: Expansion and Employment in U.S. Countries, 1969-1994” Social Science Quarterly 85.1: pp. 37-57.
3-Schlosser, Eric. 1998. “The Prison-Industrial Complex” The Atlantic, December : 54-77.

A Return to Cincinnati?

I'm going to be home in Cincinnati this coming weekend. I'm leaving tonight, and will return to West Lafayette, IN on Sunday. I may even be driving as this is posting. My brother will be graduating from high school, and I'll be watching him walk across the stage. He'll be continuing his education at Miami (Ohio) University. I'm very excited for him! I will get to see a lot of family and friends that I haven't seen in awhile, which is pretty exciting. If you are in Cincinnati this weekend, and would like to try to meet up, please let me know. I have limited time, because there's a lot going on, but I would love to meet up with old friends, and others who I haven't seen in a while.

There may be a little less blogging the next few days, but don't fear I'll still try to update Twitter. Also, I'm going to make sure to keep on top of my Formspring account (Yep, I have one of those, just haven't really consistently used it in the past). I will gladly answer almost any questions you want to throw at me. The immigration Tea Party event is forthcoming this weekend. I should have it up tomorrow or Saturday, so stay tuned!

Something Rank in the Land of Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Penguins may be a crappy team in my humble opinion. I'll admit most of the reasons are: Sidney Crosby being the captain, Evengi Malkin getting away with murder, and Marc Andre-Fleury being an overrated goaltender. Well, for a moment, I'm going to actually be a fan of this organization. On June 10, the Pittsburgh Penguins are calling students to come to the rink and flush all 386 toilets in the new arena. This massive flush is a function of their student program, and it's being received fairly well. The big perk, is that these 125 fans will be the first to see the new arena! This massive flushing is not being done at random, it's in fact something every team is required to do. The Penguins just made it a public event.

Although I generally am not a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I have to applaud them on this event. It's giving people an opportunity to do something unique, and behind the scenes. As much as I love what goes on the ice, what happens behind the scenes is pretty impressive too. I like how they are bringing in the youth from a business standpoint. I'm sure the Penguins' organization are hoping the hype and excitement will translate into more interest about hockey. I really hope that this event is a success mostly for the growth of a great game, and a very unique program idea.

Donn Brown's Campaign Folly

Tomorrow night, I will be attending a "town hall" meeting on immigration, hosted by two Republican Candidates, including Tea Party candidate Donn Brown. As Donn Brown has done before, he has advertised this event extremely poorly. I'm almost expecting this event to be a solely Tea Party-esque event, because there is little-to-no advertisement of this event. Additionally he is the area's Tea Party organizer. Remember that last time, I went to an event where Donn Brown hosted, it was also very sparsely advertised. This indicates a number of possible ideas to me:

1) Brown's campaign is low on cash, and has a lack of advertising resources.

2) Brown is paranoid that non-Tea Partiers will show up.

3) Brown is attempting a poorly-run grass-roots campaign, that relies too heavily on word of mouth.

4)It's very possible that Brown thinks he has this race won, because Obama and Democrats are unpopular.

There is no way that Donn Brown will win this election. Why? Because Shelia Klinker is so loved by so many in this community. She's extremely active in the community and very well known by the people in this district. Mrs. Klinker would have to do something really bad for her not to get elected. I really hope some non-Tea Party people can come out, so I am not alone as a non-Tea Partier. He's really banking on the district to vote a party ticket. I don't foresee this, because its a midterm election, and more politically active voters turn out in those years. I don't think many are willing to get rid of Mrs. Klinker right now. Especially not in favor of this guy, who can't even get more than the 30, at most 50 people, he will attract tomorrow night. He's crazy, unintelligent, and I'm pretty sure tomorrow will only prove that further.

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