Today is Religious Freedom Day

It’s January 16, Religious Freedom Day.

So act like a real American and mind your own damn business regarding other people’s faith or lack thereof.

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 15, 2010

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY, 2010

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION

Long before our Nation’s independence, weary settlers sought refuge on our shores to escape religious persecution on other continents. Recognizing their strife and toil, it was the genius of America’s forefathers to protect our freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice none at all. Many faiths are now practiced in our Nation’s houses of worship, and that diversity is built upon a rich tradition of religious tolerance. On this day, we commemorate an early realization of our Nation’s founding ideals: Virginia’s 1786 Statute for Religious Freedom.

The Virginia Statute was more than a law. It was a statement of principle, declaring freedom of religion as the natural right of all humanity — not a privilege for any government to give or take away. Penned by Thomas Jefferson and championed in the Virginia legislature by James Madison, it barred compulsory support of any church and ensured the freedom of all people to profess their faith openly, without fear of persecution. Five years later, the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights followed the Virginia Statute’s model, stating, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”.

Our Nation’s enduring commitment to the universal human right of religious freedom extends beyond our borders as we advocate for all who are denied the ability to choose and live their faith. My Administration will continue to oppose growing trends in many parts of the world to restrict religious expression.

Faith can bring us closer to one another, and our freedom to practice our faith and follow our conscience is central to our ability to live in harmony. On Religious Freedom Day, let us pledge our constant support to all who struggle against religious oppression and rededicate ourselves to fostering peace with those whose beliefs differ from our own. In doing so, we reaffirm our common humanity and respect for all people with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do more hereby proclaim January 16, 2010, as Religious Freedom Day. I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that teach us about this critical foundation of our Nation’s liberty, and show us how we can protect it for future generations here and around the world.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

BARACK OBAMA

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Good Memories of 2009, Day 9: Springsteen

I already blogged about this (with multiple videos), but in April I saw the best concert I’ve ever seen, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Phillips Arena. This wasn’t my first Springsteen show (and hopefully won’t be the last), but it was the best.

As Jon Stewart said a couple of years ago, “If you like joy, go see Bruce Springsteen.”

Good Memories of 2009, Day 8: Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters, The Video Game

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Written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, this is pretty much an official sequel to the first two films, and is a lot better than the movie Ghostbusters 2. A lot.

The original actors return to do their own voice and motion-capture performances. Bill Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as the intrepid foursome, Annie Potts as their nerdily hot secretary Janine, William Atherton as bureaucratic douche-bag Walter Peck, with Alyssa Milano and Brian Doyle Murray joining the cast as the new love interest and the mayor.

The player takes the role of the new guy, a young rookie stuck with the job of trying out the newest, untested equipment. That equipment of course includes the proton beam, the ghost trap, and the PKE meter from the films, but you get three new weapon types to play around with (the slime gun proving the most fun).

The game captures every element of the Ghostbusters franchise perfectly. The writing is sharp and clever. The performances are lively and dead on. The gameplay is tight and exactly what it should be. The locations are complex and colorful and highly destructible. And the ghosts are varied, entertaining, and multifarious.

The storyline is far better than I’d expected. It starts in familiar territory, with new encounters with old friends like Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and to be honest I had my doubts about that. But they fully rationalize the inclusion of the old stuff, making it an organic part of the present storyline, allowing you to enjoy the nostalgic encounters early in the game, then moving into lots of new, original material. I’m glad they did this. It was loads of fun blasting the Hotel Sedgwick to pieces, and the battle with Mr. Stay Puft proves to be even more epic and fun than it was in the first film.

Apparently the actors all had so much fun making the game, they finally agreed to do another film, and Ghostbusters 3 is set to start filming next summer.

I played this on the Xbox 360. It’s available on PC and Playstation 3, but if you’re deciding between the Xbox and the PS3 version, definitely go Xbox. The PS3 version’s resolution is 56% of the Xbox version (I base this on several online sources, not on my own observations, and I have both machines, so I’m not speaking out of any particular brand loyalty). There is a Wii version as well, but it’s effectively a different game, with more cartoony graphics.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Good Memories of 2009, Day 7: Avatar and Avatar

Avatar & Avatar

This was a year in which I got to enjoy two creations called “Avatar,” and how often does that happen? Perhaps it’s a sign.

The first was the Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender

The second, of course, was James Cameron’s science fiction epic Avatar, in theaters now earning a billion plus dollars.



Let’s talk the Cameron film first, saving the best for last. Continue reading

Bumper Sticker Omens and The Lost Presidency

You’re not the president of me!

I had a custom bumper sticker of that statement printed during the first term of George W. Bush’s malodorous presidency, and the sentiment grew stronger day by day by day throughout his entire reign. That sticker, and my Re-elect Gore in 2008 sticker, decorated the back of my Trooper the whole time, and were joined by an Obama 2008 sticker only after Barack Obama sealed the deal as the Democratic candidate once and for all.

After Obama took office, I tried to remove the sticker, but the adhesive was too strong. I kept intending to take some sort of solvent to it, but didn’t get around to it. I did, however, take a black permanent marker to the word “not” as a temporary measure, making it read You’re the president of me. I didn’t want anyone seeing the sticker and thinking it was meant for Obama. He was not my first choice ( I still maintain that Gore should have run, and was the right man for the job), but I voted for him and hoped he’d do great things. He got automatic points for replacing the worst fucking president this country has ever had.

Obama’s been in office about a year now, so it’s worth appraising what he’s accomplished done so far.

  • Abandoned a leadership role in health care reform, except when he has worked to cripple it (as in taking single payer off the table before the debate even began, making secret deals with the very corporate powers we need to de-power, stating support for a public option while actually working against one behind the scenes, and allowing Joe Lieberman and a handful of other congressfolk to seize control of the issue from the elected majority).
  • Refused to allow proper investigation into probable criminal acts perpetrated by the Bush administration, obstructed release of incriminating information about same, and an embrace of  the same sort of misuse of executive power that Bush specialized in.
  • Treated the progressive constituency that elected him with condescension and disdain while seeking over and over to court right-wing cooperation in “bipartisanship” that never gets anywhere, and has netted him only unflinching and uncompromising obstruction from those he’s trying to reach, as well as a widespread personal demonization from the conservative rabble that often walks the line of encouraging violence.
  • Scuttled from making any changes to help his LGBT constituency in any ways at all, contrary to what he’d promised.
  • Failed to follow through on his promise to close Guantanamo Bay (and when it does happen, shows every sign of continuing similar policies toward prisoners wherever they happen to be held instead).
  • Poured untold billions of taxpayer dollars into bailouts of the corrupt entities that (unregulated during the Bush years) destroyed our economy, without bothering to make them accountable for the money or what they did with it, while millions of Americans lose their jobs, homes, and financial security without help.
  • Unceasingly favored corporate/financial interests over the interests of the American people at large.
  • Increased our commitment to pointless, expensive wars rather than beginning an intelligent process of withdrawing our troops.
  • Buckled over and over in the face of partisan opposition, failing to stand strong as a president elected by a strong majority.

God, I could go on and on, but it’s wearing me out just looking back at this man’s record thus far. There’s still time for him to step up and do some good things, but at the moment, I couldn’t vote for him again regardless of who he may be running against, because he’s taking my vote for granted in a way I just will not support. He and his staff obviously figure they can count on progressive votes because, after all, who else can we vote for?

The answer, as far as I’m concerned, is (a) anyone who gives him a primary challenge. or (b) no one. My best case scenario at the moment is a strong Democratic challenger bumping him from office next time around, and keeping Democratic majorities in Congress that that person would hopefully actually use for the good of our country. Second best, and this is something I never would have thought I’d say, would be a Republican defeating him while Congress stays Democratic enough to hopefully prevent the Republican from doing too much damage. No politician should hold themselves above accountability for their actions.

And that bumper sticker?

Well, unlike my Obama sticker, it’s still on my truck. Over the months the black ink over the word “not” has gradually washed away. Now I figure maybe I couldn’t remove it because I wasn’t meant to just yet. Listen up, Barack:

You’re not the president of me!

And you won’t be until you start doing the goddamned job you promised you were going to do.