Monthly Archives: January 2013

TSA Harrasses Poor Elderly Women

I intend to opt out. I always do. It’s not that I think going through the body scanner will give me cancer or that I’m claustrophobic – it’s because I think the TSA is a bloated and ridiculous government institution. Thus, I decide to demonstrate civil disobedience by forcing some poor agent to waste his time rubbing his hands all over my body to ensure I am not planning on blowing up an airplane

The Dangerous Old Lady

Today was different though. There was an elderly Japanese women about a half dozen people in ahead of me. By the way she was looking around I could tell she was nervous. A lot had changed since the last time she was in the airport. She was nervous and unsure about the new procedures instituted by Homeland Security.

Her turn quickly came to enter the body scanner. We have to be sure she’s not a terrorist. Take away her walker, take off her shoes, and shove her through the line with the rest of the heard. It’s mandatory.

The scanner beeped. She moved back. Everyone is irritated – in a hurry. She looks confused. A second attempt, the scanner peeps. “Empty your pockets ma’am.” The TSA agenda holds his hand out making a cup shape indicating she should fill his palms with whatever is causing the alarm to be unsatisfied. She has no idea what to do.

Coins. Coins. Coins.

The poor old women reaches in her pockets and pulls out a few coins and soon the TSA agent is satisfied and instructs her to try again. The alarm sounds again. The process continues several times. Meanwhile a long line of frustrated people is building.

The TSA agents finally decide to put us through the normal “X-Ray scanner”. We heard through like good slaves and I’m happy I don’t have to opt out. I save a few minutes – though I was slightly looking forward to some poor soul feeling me up for a couple of minutes.

I gather my things: shoes, belt, laptop, coat, and everything else that might be used by a terrorist. On my way down the stairs headed toward my gate I see an upset old women escorted by a TSA agent. The TSA agent’s head is down, almost ashamed. The poor old women can barely walk so the agent is helping her move along at a slowly with her arms wrapped around her waist. Looks like she finally made it through, but not with her dignity.

My Problem with the TSA

I don’t hate TSA agents as people, but I hate the entire organization’s institution of groupthink policy. No individual agent is allowed to use a bit of common sense or human decency. They obey the rules like sheep even when it’s obviously wrong. They follow orders.

I’m reminded of the stories told by former Nazis or the Youth Soldiers under Communist China when later in life they recount their stories, the things they did to people, and can’t believe it. They were “following orders”. They “thought they were doing the right thing”. Caught in the moment, brainwashed, told by those in power it’s their mission – so they violated human rights.

Of course I’m not saying the TSA agents are Nazis, but their thinking is the same. Do they even realize how ridiculous it is – the amount of dignity and liberty they are stealing from the people. They have an ounce of power and plan to use it – some of them abuse it. Sometimes I wonder if we will look back on history and examine the noble sounding institution “Homeland Security” and realize that was the beginning of the end for liberty in America.

I don’t want to sound like an insane person, a radical, but a quick examination of history shows this pattern again and again. Noble sounding institutions formed under the guise of “protecting” the people – to take a way a few freedoms for the common good – which eventually develop into the very institutions that enslave the people.

Warrantless wire taps, body scanners, internet spying, indefinite detention without trial, kill lists, drone attacks, disarmament, taxation, the list goes on. Taken as a whole it’s easy to understand why many people do not trust their Government. Should they?

How to have a relationship with an Atheist

My wife is Catholic. She was born and raised in church. She finds comfort in the community, the family bond, and the idea that God is actively involved in her life – keeping her safe. She enjoys the traditions, loves Christmas time, uses prayer as a form of meditation when life is tough. She’s also married to a non-believer. Me.

My wife is aware of my agnosticism and honestly she doesn’t like it. She can’t relate to my way of thinking. She says I’m all logic and reason with no emotion. Of course that is partially true, but on the same token I fail to understand why she is pure emotion. In a way we balance each other out nicely. I remind her to think it through while she reminds me to have a heart. I don’t think this dynamic is unusual in a relationship.

Discussions on Religion

Sometimes we have brief discussions about religion, but I’m a bully. My thoughts are logical and well thought out – I have data points and examples to prove my thesis. My wife relies heavily on the emotional aspect, faith, and why religion just “feels” right. We quickly realize we aren’t speaking one another’s language and aren’t likely to convince the other of anything.

I don’t want my wife to be Atheist though. There’s something about her conviction that I really love. If religion is where she finds her source of strength and balance who am I to take that away. She’s peaceful and doesn’t use religion as a weapon – overall it’s a positive thing in her life. I suppose it’s no different than the way I use my own thoughts and moments of meditation to get through life.

Finding Happiness with Difference

Sometime people wonder how a believer and a non-believer can live a happy life together. The two ways of thinking seem almost diametrically opposed to one another. They’re not.

We still share the same morals. In principal I believe that many of the moral lesson taught by Jesus were good ones – just as I believe the lesson taught by the Buddha or Gandhi are good. So often instead of focusing on our difference – I focus on what works for us.

Good and Bad on Both Sides

While I am basically against the brainwash of organized religion I do not deny that there are good and bad people on both sides of the religious spectrum.   The Priest that married my wife and I is one of the most wonderful people I have ever met. He is thoughtful, educated, and everything a man of the cloth should be. Carl Sagan, an Atheist, was by all accounts also a great man. I’ll bet if the two of them met they would have a lovely conversation.

I think my overall point, from a non-religious perspective, is that life is more about who you are as a person than what your particular beliefs are. Be a good person – religious or not religious. That is how my wife and I treat our relationship (though we’ve never officially said that). My wife is a wonderful, caring, beautiful person – much better than me. I try to be a man of integrity who puts his family first – treat people with respect. We both WANT to be good people, that’s an important step.

What about the Kids?

How will I raise my kids? I’ll raise my kids with truth and without bias. I’ll teach my children what the historians say, I’ll teach them to about the world’s religions, and a variety of viewpoints. My wife will undoubtedly teach them about Christianity, the tradition, the love, and the comfort of religion. Both are important.

I have complete trust in my future children’s ability to choose what life suits them best – without my wife or I forcing them into anything. What is important to me isn’t if my children are Christian’s or Atheists, but rather if they are good people.

Giving my children the ability to think for themselves is the greatest gift a father can give. Along with that comes the trust that my future children can make decisions for themselves. Love, support, trust, and freedom – that is what my children will receive. I don’t think anyone can ask much more than that from their parents.

Where they fall on the religious spectrum will be up to them.


Thinking about a Photo

There’s a photo on my desk from the first time I left the United States. In the photo I’m riding in the back of an old truck sitting back-to-back with a smiling man I don’t remember. The frame has wooden trim with black metal supports giving each of the corners stability.

In the background of the photo is Honduras. There is a thick overgrown forest. Adjacent to the forest are a few homes. One is green and the other a pinkish color. Each has tiny dirt driveway.

We are going somewhere, but I don’t remember where. The wind is blowing my hair. My eyes are squinting, the sun in my eyes, and I have a slight smile – not quite a smirk. I’m trying to keep my balance because the roads are bumpy.

Behind the camera is my Grandma. All the photos I have from that trip were taken by her.

I haven’t spoken to my Grandma in over a year because I have disconnected myself from that part of my family. You see – I don’t speak to my Dad because he failed as a husband and father. He chose drugs and himself.

My Dad lives and works at a motel in rural Alabama owned by my Grandma.  He has easy access to Meth and plenty of other drug addicts. Some of which he swaps sex and stories with while high. Technically, he is still married to my mother, but now she lives alone in project housing. I blame my father for being weak and having poor character. I blame my Grandma for enabling him and making excuses for his behavior.

Now I do not speak to any of them.

Still – here on my desk sits a nicely framed photo, a memory I quite enjoy. The wind blowing my hair.

Jesus the Sun God?

There are undeniable correlations from religion to religion. For example, almost all religions have a flood story. In the story the creator flooded the earth because of our bad behavior, but a few chosen were spared and left to repopulate the earth. This theme can be found across the Globe from the Mayans, the Greeks, and of course in Christianity.

Some might argue these correlations are evidence of the truth of the story. Obviously the flood happened because sparse populations all across the globe are talking about it. Right?

Maybe there is some truth to that, but I think a more likely scenario is that over time these legends and stories have been borrowed and integrated. It’s important to remember that much of religion and culture is based on oral tradition – and if you’ve ever played the telephone game (where you pass a sentence around a group of people until it gets back to the original person and laugh at how much it has changed) you know that ideas and “truth” can change drastically in a short period of time.

Historicity of Jesus

One thing a lot of people fail to realize is that the history and story of Jesus was not written down until almost 100 years after his life and death. Most of these stories (some compiled in the bible) come from corespondents and letters written by Christians. (i.e., Letters of Paul).

Some people have the mis-understanding that the Paul, John, Matthew, etc. from the books of the bible are eye witnesses – Jesus’s disciples. This is just not accurate. No Priest or Pastor would disagree with me there. So ask yourself: how much of the story was changed, exaggerated, mis-remembered, and manipulated after 100 years of oral tradition?

Edit: The information to follow is highly disputed and for the most part subject to interpretation. After you watch the video give this website a once over and decide how serious to take it.

In general, describing Jesus goes something like this:

1. Born of a Virgin
2. Performed Miracles
3. Known as the light, the truth, God’s Son, etc.
4. 12 disciples
5. December 25th: Star of Bethlehem, followed by three kings on his birth night
6. Sacrificed himself for the sins of the people
7. Resurrected after 3 days

It turns out this story, like the flood story, is pretty common. See the video below.

The PodTruth Show: Episode # 2 – Data Liberation!

Atticus and Holden discuss big Government and the fight to liberate data, taxi drivers, executive orders and a swap a few stories about about life.

Direct link to the .mp3 file.

Subscribe to the PodTruth Show via RSS feed or iTunes.

The PodTruth Show Episode #2

Hurricane Sandy Relief – More Conservative States Actually Receive Federal Aid than their Liberal Counterparts

I ran across this Wikipedia article today that listed each state by net contribution per capita. Those with a negative net contribution per capita (in red) actually receive more federal aid per person than they pay in tax dollars.

Rank State Revenue (millions) Population Revenue per capita Spending (millions) Spending per capita Net contribution per capita
1 Delaware $16,858 864,764 $19,494 $6,234 $7,209 $12,285
2 Minnesota $78,697 5,197,621 $15,141 $40,075 $7,710 $7,431
3 New Jersey $121,678 8,685,920 $14,009 $63,972 $7,365 $6,644
4 Connecticut $54,236 3,502,309 $15,486 $32,378 $9,245 $6,241
5 New York $244,673 19,297,729 $12,679 $157,789 $8,177 $4,502
6 Illinois $135,458 12,852,548 $10,539 $88,669 $6,899 $3,640
7 Nebraska $19,043 1,774,571 $10,731 $13,986 $7,881 $2,850
8 Rhode Island $11,967 1,057,832 $11,313 $9,077 $8,581 $2,732
9 Texas $225,391 23,904,380 $9,429 $171,766 $7,186 $2,243
10 Colorado $45,404 4,861,515 $9,340 $34,828 $7,164 $2,176
11 Massachusetts $74,782 6,449,755 $11,595 $61,028 $9,462 $2,133
12 Arkansas $27,340 2,834,797 $9,644 $22,454 $7,921 $1,723
13 Nevada $19,619 2,565,382 $7,648 $15,474 $6,032 $1,616
14 California $313,999 36,553,215 $8,590 $260,422 $7,124 $1,466
15 North Carolina $75,904 9,061,032 $8,377 $65,863 $7,269 $1,108
16 Wisconsin $43,778 5,601,640 $7,815 $38,177 $6,815 $1,000
17 Washington $57,450 6,468,424 $8,882 $52,455 $8,109 $773
18 Georgia $75,218 9,544,750 $7,881 $71,079 $7,447 $433
19 Ohio $105,773 11,466,917 $9,224 $105,214 $9,175 $49
20 Kansas $22,311 2,775,997 $8,037 $22,737 $8,191 ($154)
21 Michigan $69,924 10,071,822 $6,943 $71,652 $7,114 ($171)
22 New Hampshire $9,304 1,315,828 $7,071 $9,764 $7,420 ($349)
23 Oklahoma $29,325 3,617,316 $8,107 $30,686 $8,483 ($376)
24 Pennsylvania $112,368 12,432,792 $9,038 $117,151 $9,423 ($385)
25 Oregon $23,467 3,747,455 $6,262 $25,242 $6,736 ($474)
26 Florida $136,476 18,251,243 $7,478 $147,091 $8,059 ($581)
27 Tennessee $47,747 6,156,719 $7,755 $51,456 $8,358 ($603)
28 Indiana $42,668 6,345,289 $6,724 $47,254 $7,447 ($723)
29 Utah $15,064 2,645,330 $5,694 $17,158 $6,486 ($792)
30 Iowa $18,437 2,988,046 $6,170 $21,649 $7,245 ($1,075)
31 Missouri $48,568 5,878,415 $8,262 $55,564 $9,452 ($1,190)
32 Wyoming $4,725 522,830 $9,037 $5,355 $10,242 ($1,205)
33 Idaho $9,025 1,499,402 $6,019 $10,946 $7,300 ($1,281)
34 Arizona $35,485 6,338,755 $5,598 $48,012 $7,574 ($1,976)
35 Louisiana $33,677 4,293,204 $7,844 $43,036 $10,024 ($2,180)
36 Vermont $3,806 621,254 $6,126 $5,579 $8,980 ($2,854)
37 Maryland $53,705 5,618,344 $9,559 $70,617 $12,569 ($3,010)
38 Kentucky $23,151 4,241,474 $5,458 $35,927 $8,470 ($3,012)
39 Puerto Rico[5] $3,549 3,941,459 $888 $16,798 $4,262 ($3,374)
40 South Carolina $20,499 4,407,709 $4,651 $37,056 $8,407 ($3,756)
41 Montana $4,523 957,861 $4,722 $8,497 $8,871 ($4,149)
42 Maine $6,289 1,317,207 $4,775 $11,850 $8,996 ($4,221)
43 South Dakota $4,766 796,214 $5,985 $8,280 $10,399 ($4,414)
44 North Dakota $3,660 639,715 $5,721 $6,766 $10,577 ($4,856)
45 Hawaii $7,666 1,283,388 $5,974 $14,062 $10,957 ($4,983)
46 Alabama $24,149 4,627,851 $5,218 $47,889 $10,348 ($5,130)
47 West Virginia $6,522 1,812,035 $3,599 $17,067 $9,419 ($5,820)
48 Virginia $61,990 7,712,091 $8,038 $110,105 $14,277 ($6,239)
49 Mississippi $10,869 2,918,785 $3,724 $30,616 $10,489 ($6,765)
50 New Mexico $8,346 1,969,915 $4,237 $22,418 $11,380 ($7,143)
51 Alaska $4,287 683,478 $6,273 $9,378 $13,721 ($7,448)
52 District of Columbia[6] $20,394 588,292 $34,666 $43,475 $73,900 ($39,234)

As a fiscal conservative I find it a bit ironic that many of those states that claim to be the most conservative actually receive the most federal aid per person. I find it even more troubling that these same conservatives are complaining about the approval of Sandy relief paid for by tax dollars.

Undoubtedly the Sandy relief comes with a ton or pork barrel spending attached to it, but I say it’s better the money goes to Americans who need it rather than senseless wars. In fact, maybe we conservatives should take a look at the aid received by our own state before we start complaining too much.

I’m all for bitching about federal budgets and over spending, but I’m not going to accuse a fellow American, one in the Northeast states affected by Sandy, for being irresponsible for not having enough hurricane insurance. They need and deserve the help. I say we praise the Government for helping people – then condemn them for drone attacks on citizens. Not the other way round.

Suicide Culture: Why the Media Feeds us Gun Control

The Gun Control debate is getting a lot of attention. There have been two mass shootings in recent history so everyone is focused on prevention – and rightfully so. No one wants to hear about another school shooting. No one.

With all this attention on Guns I can’t help but feel like we are missing something. Something important. There’s a bigger issue at hand – one that isn’t sexy and doesn’t generate the controversy needed to sell ads. It’s mental health.

Mental Health and Gun Control

What did both of the shooters from Aurora and Newtown have in common? They were both mentally unhealthy. In fact, over half of gun related homicides are suicides. Another giant chunk of gun related homicide is criminal on criminal shootings. So why are we so focused on Gun Control when the clear problem is a cultural and mental health problem.

What’s wrong with our culture? What is driving people to choose death over another day at work or with their family? Maybe it has something to do with the pressure we put on each other to meet these unobtainable expectations. Maybe it’s our haste to diagnose someone with ADD or ADHD and put them on medication instead of dealing with a hyper kid. Maybe it’s both.

What Japan taught me about America

About a year ago I took a trip to Japan – the former suicide capitol of the world. The work culture there is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. People were like zombies, consumers of production, on the train commuting to and from work. Some people look miserable – no life in their eyes. Production and dedication to work are their priorities.

In one of the most wealthy nations on earth – where money and all that shines is what matters – people are miserable. I suddenly saw in Japan all the things I could never see in myself as an American.

Media Spin and Real Questions

I wonder what else we as Americans are failing to see about ourselves. What is the root of our own self inflicted mental health disease. Why did two young men decide killing a handful of random strangers was a better option than their own lives. What’s going on here and why aren’t we asking these questions. Instead we turn toward the media to blame guns.

A fun way to debate is to draw heavily on stats. One popular stat is that England had only 39 gun related homicides compared to our 11,000 or so. However, when you look at our total homicide rate per person, our crime rates, and account for suicide – Great Britain is arguably worse off than we are. If the ultimate goal was to reduce violence and crime what did Gun Control ultimately solve? Nothing.

Don’t blame our lifestyle. Don’t blame the pop culture indoctrination. Take care not to look to closely at the way we perceive our own self image – the way the media told us we should look. Don’t examine the medications we are feeding our children because some of us are too lazy to parent. If we start asking too many questions, good questions, the media can’t sell Pfizer and Victoria Secret ads.

In the end it’s all about revenue – that’s why the media feeds us Gun Control.

Gun Stats: Gun Deaths by Category

Since I couldn’t find a chart I liked – I created this one. Seems like if we could do something about mental health issues and gang violence we could almost ignore guns all together. Why are so many people committing suicide? Why are so many people turning to gangs. These are the real questions we should be asking.

Is gun control the solution? I don’t think so. Here are the facts so you can decide for yourself.

Gun Deaths by Category


1.Total Firearm Deaths: 31,672
2.Total suicides by firearms: 19,392
3.Justifiable Homicide (self defense by citizen against felon): 201
4.Justifiable Homicide (by police against felon) 343
5.Accidents: (2010) 851
6.Gang related (2010) 8880

Thoughts on Obama’s Message about the Debt Ceiling

Here are a few thoughts on Obama’s address on Gun Control and the Debt Ceiling.

Obama Passes Fault to Congress

Obama says that raising the debt ceiling isn’t a license to spend more money, but rather authorizes the Government to pay debt already accrued. Essentially, if Congress raises the debt ceiling the Government can pay the bills. If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling our bills go past due and we default.

If what Obama is saying is true and “Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize [the President] to spend more, but allows [the Government] to pay the bills” then what is the point of the debt ceiling in the first place? If the Government budgets and spends more money than the allocated debt ceiling allows, approves that budget, then doesn’t the Congress already expect and know in advance based on that budget that they will be FORCED to raise the debt ceiling? What is this argument about and why is everyone acting like it just crept up on us?

If you don’t want to raise the debt ceiling then do not authorize the budget in the first place.

Executive Order

Obama also seems to be imply he will use executive order under the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling if Congress fails to act. I’m not sure if he is bluffing to get Congress to act or if will actually do it.

I’m not sure what’s worse – Congress telling the President “Fuck you.” to prove a point or the President using executive order to ignore checks and balances.  Either way sounds bad.

My Proposal

Is it possible to create a sustainable budget that doesn’t require congress (or the President) to raise the debt ceiling? If not – then what the hell are we doing wrong?

The President isn’t fooling anyone when he pretends that the current budget is all Congress’s fault. He pushed and advocated for more spending just like almost everyone else. His hands are as blood stained as any congress person. So the predicament is everyone’s fault. Can we really sustain a cycle of bad budgets, raising debt ceilings, fiscal cliffs, and repeat? I don’t know.

The solution? You tell me.

A Quarter Century of Living

Today I am 25 years old. Strange. It’s strange how the things that were important to my 5 or 10 years ago mean almost nothing to me now. I remember when I was 15 the only thing I cared about was earning a starting spot on the high school football team. When I was 20 I could barely afford to put gas in my car, but I was having the time of my life in college learning new things and drinking cheap liquor. Life is an evolution I suppose.

My focus has changed over time, but at my core I think I’m still the same person. I can’t place what it is that makes me – me – but I know it’s there. There is still that same voice in my head talking things through, the way I operate is still the same, the way I solve problems and get through the day – all the same. I like that, it almost feels nostalgic. Like, “Hey there old friend, hello me.”

I remember growing up at home things were tough. When things became unbearable I used to say to myself “I wonder what things will be like in 5 years?” Then I would imagine – Maybe it would be a Tuesday, I would be in school with friends, things would be good. I guess it was my own version of “things always get better with time” or “nothing lasts forever”.

There’s a lot more certainty now, but it’s still strange asking myself that same question – I’ll be 30 – I might even have a kid. A son or daughter begging me for attention. I might live in another country writing on this little blog about the mountains of Guatemala while sipping a cup of coffee. I like that.

Arch - Antigua, Guatemala

Time passes so quickly, but when I think in detail of every instance of life I have lived over these past 25 years it’s almost overwhelming how much can happen. Best friends come and go, your goals change, responsibilities come and go, everything changes, nothing changes. Life is a funny thing like that. I still have t-shirts from middle school, but some of my best friends from high school and college I dont’ know anymore. Seems strange. I guess many things in life are a function of convenience as much as they are importance.

But here I am. Drinking a cup of freshly ground Guatemalan coffee I bought a few months ago in Antigua. In my office, my quiet sanctuary inside my own home, taking the day off for no particular reason at all. Life is good.