Monday, December 24, 2007

Taking the CHRIST out of Christmas - REPOST

I wrote the following Christmas post two years ago. But not much has changed in my heart since then. So rather than recreating the wheel, I decided to just do a repost. Enjoy!


Yet another Christmas has come and gone. It's funny to think about all the changes I'm made from this time last year to the present day; from all the personal challenges that I've faced this year concerning my faith, to the issues surrounding love life, to the changes I've made in my attempts at growth. But some parts of me have remained the same. Namely, I'm still boycotting the concept of Christmas.

I must make it clear that I'm not, in any way, in opposition to the birth of Jesus Christ (although He wasn't born anywhere near December 25th). Rather, I'm boycotting the commercialization of Christmas. I'm really getting annoyed by it all. Mostly, I'm annoyed by all the people racing to the stores, looking for the best sale, making out lists of what to get and what they want, and supporting the lies about a magical jolly fat man who travels around the world to bring gifts (who seems to forget the poor and starving children of the world every year. But, I digress..).

Last year, I went to Miami for Christmas. While I was walking through downtown, I saw an interesting headline for an article from a progressive newspaper with the title "Merry Giftmas". Though I only saw the headline, I could infer what the article was about. It gave me a pretty good chuckle.

When I think about Christmas, I think about the Magi who went to see Jesus. It's not so much that they gave Jesus gifts (although their gifts were hot in the streets!). It's that they did acts that honored Him. They traveled from a great distance solely for purpose of worshipping the baby Jesus; and doing so in spite of the orders of King Herod. It should also be noted that they risked their lives by not reporting back to Herod about the baby they found. In essence, they made a brave and honorable sacrifice for what they believed in. It was their act -- not the gifts -- that mattered most. But what about us? What do we do today? Instead of honoring God, we get caught up on what to buy or what we want to receive from others. We fail to put actions behind our beliefs (James 2:17).

I often hear people say "we need to put Christ back in Christmas". I disagree. Instead, we should take Christ out of Christmas and place Him in our hearts where He belongs. This is a year-round concept that shouldn't be reserved for one day. As for the holiday that we celebrate on December 25th, let's call it for what it really is: "Giftmas". I mean, that's what it's been reduced to, right? For all of you who may think that my ideas are too sacrilegious or blasphemous, answer me this: Have you ever found the word "Christmas" in the Bible? Have you read anywhere in the Bible where Jesus' birth was ever celebrated during His life, through His death or after His resurrection? Hmmm...?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for celebrating Christ, family, and togetherness. But let's not get in the habit of dishonoring the birth of our Savior by trippin' about some material crap that will only keep up satisfied until we get newer stuff.


Whether or not you're a Jesus freak, I'm happily declaring that I AM! So for me, Jesus truly is the "reason for the season." But just in case He isn't for you, still keep in mind that life's common denominators are love, family, friends, and togetherness; not the stuff you can neatly wrap and fit under a tree with lights (which, I still maintain to this day is fire hazard. I'm just sayin...). It's not about the giving; it's about the living!

Have a blessed and safe holiday season! See y'all in the '08! Go Blue!


Thursday, December 20, 2007

War on Fear

This week federal, state, and local officials all collaborated in making a huge gang bust in my hometown of Flint, Michigan. Bringing down the Pierson Hood gang, as they call themselves, has been said to be a critical move in alleviating criminal offenses currently plaguing the city.

Yesterday, a friend and I were talking about this bust and the significance it can and/or will have on the city and – indeed – the nation. She seems to think that this bust is a perfect application of HR. 1279 [109]: The Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act of 2005 which passed through the House two years ago, but has not been voted on by the Senate. This anti-gang bill along with the recent efforts in Flint are said to be battles in the so-called "War on Gangs".

Frankly, I’m not as optimistic.

Whenever I hear about a new "War on (fill in your own fear-generating phrase), I cringe. Not only do these "wars" provide the breeding ground for bigotry and other potentially harmful implications to certain individuals, but they also allow politicians and officials to create and legitimize a corrupt and exploitative agenda.

For as long as I can remember, "war" catchphrases have been used as a subterfuge for politicians to effortless gain support for insipid (at least I think they are) and resource-depleting programs (you can’t argue with that one. I dare you.). But, as a consistent trend, each of these initiatives have failed miserably; largely due to the negative implications that rose from them. LBJ’s “War on Poverty” did nothing but create an increased dependance on "the government" to fix everything. Obviously, that hasn't work very well. Richard Nixon’s "War on Drugs" only made getting medicine from Pfizer more expensive than getting weed from your neighborhood Nino Brown. Most recently, Dubya's "War on Terror" has only led to a universally-uncontested removal of our civil liberties and an expansion of the very terrorism we claim to be fighting.

The process for creating these wars is simple. To start, an enemy has to be established. But it can’t just be any simple enemy. It has to be an enemy that is undeniably harmful. Islamic fundamentalists easily fit into this equation, but it can be virtually anything we consider threatening. From there, a description must be made about enemy in the worst case scenario. This will undoubtedly cause the general public to be scared out their wits. From there, launching a campaign against that threat will be sure to gain support, even if our way of life is compromised in the process. And don't think of going against that agenda. If you're brave enough to oppose the steps done to combat these issues (at least according to the Prez ), you’re with that enemy.

The unfortunate consequence of allowing these "wars" to materialize is that we fail to realize just how flawed they are. Rather than sending them back to manufacturer as defective items, we casually sit back and watch them fail; especially if they appear to be successful once in a while. Sure, the "War on Drugs" may have brought down a big-time kingpins like Frank Lucas. But "illegal" drugs are cheaper, stronger, and much easier to come by now than ever before. Poverty rates may have initially declined during FDR’s tenure, but rising costs, inflation, the ongoing mortgage crisis, outsourcing, and shifty labor markets continue to create a neo-generational age of poverty. The War on Terror has done nothing but give the feds the ability to arrest and detain without probable cause, deny Constitutional liberties, keep us from taking hand lotion on an airplane, and use "excessive interrogation techniques" on suspect. None of which, I should note, have made us any of us safer. Now, even when Flint's gang bust was successful (depending on how you define "successful"), it will most likely add to a growing incarceration rate without also addressing the core problems of why people join gangs and commit crimes in the first place.

Oh, eff it. I think I’m going to start my own "War on Fear" campaign. It should be a real doozy. Do I have any takers?


Monday, December 17, 2007

More holiday fun

Probably one of the more entertaining versions of "12 Days of Christmas" I've heard in a while.

If I'm not careful, I might just get in the holiday spirit after all.


Friday, December 14, 2007

In the news

Just in case you haven't been following the news (watching Dancing with the Stars and all), here's a roundup of some of the more interesting stories I’ve seen in a while:

The phone is on, but nobody's home
According to reports, an Icelandic teen was able to figure out the President's personal phone number and gave him a call. The teen, posing as the president of Iceland, left Bush a message requesting him to return the call. Though the Secret Service finally caught on to him, the kid (as far as I can tell) has not indicated how he came across the phone number. Some say he got it when Jenna Bush called the Prez on the Ellen DeGeneres show; while others suggest that he just simply outsmarted White House security and officials. Either way, this kid is brilliant.

Cookie Jar Contempt
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee -- by a 12-7 vote -- approved criminal contempt resolutions against former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. Six months ago, the Committee requested Rove's public testimony on the now infamous attorney firings and issued subpoenas for internal White House documents. As the custodian of such documents, Bolten was cited for refusing to hand them in.

Frankly, I don't think that anything is going to come out of this. Though the resolutions are expected to move to the Senate floor, I don't think any actions will be taken this year. For that matter, I don't think the Senate will have enough momentum to do anything at all.

Gonzo wins award for "Lawyer of the Year"
Former Attorney General Alberto "I don't recall" Gonzales has been honored as the 2007 "Lawyer of the Year". Initially I thought to myself "WTF?!" But when I saw this report from the Associated Press, it all started to make sense to me.

As it appears, the American Bar Association doesn't necessarily recognize the most outstanding lawyer each year; just the one who is the most newsworthy. Think of this way: when Time Magazine voted Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and -- yes -- Dubya "Persons of the Year", it wasn't necessarily because they were the best people in the world (certainly not as cool as you and I apparently were one year). They just made the most noise. That being said, Gonzo truly deserved this award.

Gore finally catches up to his award
Speaking of awards, Nobel Peace prize winner and "former President" Al Gore has made environmentally-friendly improvements to his home. Uh…can you say “about time?” Maybe I'm just being a hater, but when Gore received the Nobel prize for his recent documentary about global climate change, maybe we should've been looking at him as one of the biggest culprits. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to hear about his award. But when you think about how lifestyles don’t match up to sermons, the preacher tends to lose credibility.

Another shock jock back on the air
This story is a little old, but still worth mentioning. Hip Hop disc jockey DJ Star (real name Troi Torain) is back on the air after being fired for comments he made about a rival DJ. Torain was released from a popular New York radio station last year when he threatened to sexually assault and urinate on his rival's then four year old daughter. This dude made Don Imus look like Ghandi by comparison.

Now, we all know my stance on free speech. But, come people: where's the outrage? Threatening children? For real?

Congressional holiday plans: Stay at work?
I just read an op-ed piece from the Washington Post citing the potential plans of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in keeping the Senate running during the Christmas break to stop the Prez from making blind appointments in certain vacancies. Reid organized these special sessions before. He may try it again.

Personally, I think Congressional work should be a year-round job anyway. These clowns typically put us in situations that don’t rest. Why should they get to?

Ex-CIA official chimes in about waterboarding
John Kiriakou, formerly of the CIA recently revealed that not only was waterboarding used in interrogations with suspected terrorists, but that the process was directly approved by the White House.

While all of this was going on, current CIA director Michael Hayden was called into an unpublicized meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee to offer testimony about the process. He is publicly claiming that the Committee knew about the CIA's interrogation techniques, while they claim to have no knowledge of it. Clearly we have a case where somebody or EVERYBODY is lying. So, you can expect for this to be the first of many more hearings.

I'm torn on this story; mostly because it involves two groups whom I frequently have a hard time believing: greedy corporations like Halliburton and alleged rape victims. Halliburton is currently under fire from accusations of rape by former contractor Jaime Leigh Jones. Jones, a former employee of the billion dollar contracting firm, released a story about how she was gang raped by some of her co-workers, locked away in a storage unit without food or water, and how the company tried to cover it all up.

On one hand, I wouldn't be suprised if this story wound up being true. Halliburton is notorious for raping you and me as American taxpayers. So why stop there? But on the other hand, I wouldn't be suprised if this Jones girl is an opportunist; using the unimaginable (and untouchable) idea of being raped as a chance to either get even with her former employer or to get famous from her screenplay. I dunno.

A Slow Food Nation?
Apparently Los Angeles, plagued by obesity and diabetes, is making a push to ban fast food restaurants from the area. The proposed ban was approved by the council's Planning and Land Use Committee even though two city officials indicated that more work was needed on the proposal.

Honestly, I'm confused by this one. Rather than committing more resources to promote health (exercise facilities that don't cost a fortune, better/safer parks, less expensive health food stores, etc.) the city wants to ban fast food joints?! Somebody pul-LEASE explain that logic to me. I must be slow or somethin'.

Though some studies have suggested that fast food is addictive, this hasn't been as universally accepted as being as truthful as cigarettes being addictive, for example. Until these studies are universally accepted as truth, the city council needs to factor personal responsibility somewhere into this discussion. Sheesh.

“Liberty City 7” terrorists not so terrorizing
According to reports, none of the seven suspects connected to plans of terrorism in the Sears Tower were convicted. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about this story, but I will say that this seems to represent a failed attempt to get people so scared about terrorism that they commit kneejerk reactions. The resources devoted to manipulate our thinking and to make these guys out to be bogeymen worked; apparently until they got to court.

New Jersey abolishes death penalty
By close votes of 44-36 in the state Assembly and 21-16 in the state Senate, New Jersey has become the first state in over forty years to abolish the death penalty. Governor Jon Corzine has indicated that he will sign the bill, effectively making it state law.

I’m not sure what to think about this decision. On the one hand, I’ve always maintained that the death penalty is a barbaric and archaic way of issuing justice; especially considering the number of falsely convicted people executed in recent years. Still, the argument can be made that some of the criminals who were indeed guilty of brutal crimes lost their right to life. But I guess I still believe that a lifetime of losing your freedom (and not being pampered with our hard-earned money; like many convicts are) can be a fate worst than death.

Ike Turner dead
Ike Turner, the infamous rock and roll pioneer is dead from unexplained circumstances. He was 76. Turner was known just as much for his Greatest Hits on Anna Mae Bullock and his Greatest Hits on the pipe as he was for his Greatest Hits in music. Maybe he got a bad rap; maybe he didn’t. Interestingly, Tina didn’t have any comments.

As always, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what's going on in the world. As more stuff surfaces, I'll be sure to offer my two cents. So keep tuning into to "Inside Andre's Head"; the most trusted source in news. The Hippie Conservative is the second most trusted source; albeit a distant second. :)


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Wedding Crasher

Food for thought: While other people's children continue to suffer in the streets of Iraq, the President's child is getting married.



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Bushism Schism

Over the years, folks have had a field day with our current President. Between the way he's been bungling the war, his insanely massive and irresponsible spending, his unwavering support of corrupt cronies, screwing up speech after speech, making toilet paper out of the Constitution, and being an overall moron, Bush has failed the citizens to whom he's beholden time and time again. Thank God he's almost out of the White House.

Still, I can't help but to wonder if he could run for office one more time, how many people would vote for him again. Sadly, I think the numbers would be pretty high.

What say you?


Friday, December 07, 2007

Masters of the Universe

Though I haven't quite finished my thesis yet (I'm about 80% finished. Give a brotha a break), I can finally announce that I'm all finished with classes! I's a graduate!

Yeeeeaah Boi!


You said what?!

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I was just over to Hippie’s spot (He’s back on the blogging scene. Yeah, you have me to thank for that.). In his latest piece, he posted a YouTube clip of an old episode of Crossfire; the political and social debate program. On this particular episode, there is a heated exchange between Washington Post columnist John Lofton and the late recording artist Frank Zappa about free speech. Interestingly though this clip is quite a few years old, the debate over free speech is still brewing today; with a different cast of characters, of course.

I make no bones about it; I’ve always been a fan of the 1st Amendment. In fact, it’s the very concept of free speech that has allowed me to host this blog for as long as I have. In other nations, having this type of clearinghouse for discussion would likely get me dragged outside of the city walls and stoned. Whether my commentary has centered around spirituality, social/cultural happenings, politics, or just your average Monday morning water cooler discussion, the Constituition does its job in allowing me a considerable forum to speak and be heard. As it does with the rest of you...

However, what the First Amendment does not…and I repeat…DOES NOT do is protect us from certain types of consequences we might face for expressing ourselves; namely criticism from other people. I can post virtually anything I want on my blog (at least anything not in violation with security); citing my first amendment rights in the process. But similarly, my readers -- barring any censorship I can do as this site’s administrator -- also have the rights to call me out for what I say. Future employers have the right to use the content of this page to make decisions on my employability. My mother has the right to be pissed and knock me upside the head if she read some of the stuff I’ve written on my blog. Simply put, the First Amendment protects our rights to speak freely. It does not shield us from the backlash that may occur from doing so. When Don Imus, for example, was fired because of his comments about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team (only to later be rehired, as I predicted), it wasn’t because he broke any free speech laws. The government didn’t detain and convict him on charges of violating the Constitution. He simply lost his job because of the consequences of his free speech. Supporting sponsors -- fearing public boycotts -- pulled out of him faster than (insert dirty insertion jokes here).

So whether you're a complete free speech advocate, only in favor of free speech when it applies to you, or a loon out to censor EVERYTHING, we all need to take a chill pill. Let's not get things twisted: the government can’t constitutionally barge your door down and arrest you for having an opinion (though, the Patriot Act is freakishly close to allowing that). But before you try to cloak yourself in the First Amendment, that doesn’t mean that your brother, sister, or best friend can’t attack you in a different way. It is within a their rights to challenge you on different things; even if those things were a product of you exercising your rights.

Attack my comments all you want. It's a free country... least for now.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A little holiday fun

OK, I admit: I'm not exactly a Christmas spirit-y type of person. I'm also not a fan of too many Will Ferrell gigs outside of his SNL days. But this clip from "Elf" always gives me a little holiday chuckle for whatever reason.