Tom's Thoughts

Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Net Neutrality

I'm going to continue to blog, even if I have nothing important to say, as long as the Net is the way it is and before Congress turns it over to the corporate Titans.

Let Freedom Ring!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Reminder

The Fourth of July is coming, so I wanted to share the following as a reminder of where we stand as Americans. This is the most "liberal" document ever written:

The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies

Presented by the Indiana University School of Law—Bloomington

The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows:

New Hampshire

Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton


John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island

Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery


Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York

William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey

Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark


Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross


Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean


Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton


George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina

William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina

Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton


Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

For additional information about the Declaration of Independence, see these sites:

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

On Amending the Constitution

I have pondered why some "conservatives" are so eager to amend the Constitution at the drop of a hat. After all, isn't preserving (or rather conserving) what we have the foundation of conservatism?

Actually, I think "conservative" is a misnomer. We'll figure out what terminology to use some other time, maybe.

Two Constitutional amendments have failed in the Senate in the past week, ploys to rally the base for November, since the Republicans have nothing positive to run on.

But the question I pondered at first is, why go after amending the Constitution?

As a high school friend of mine used to start out saying, "The way I've got it figured is" they aren't happy with the liberal documents the founding fathers gave us. The Bush Administration is trying to emulate King George III's actions as described in the Declaration of Independence. Read it point by point, and you will see how the current George is trying to put himself above the law, impose the military mindset on the civilian population, and leave us vulnerable to attack just the way the Declaration lists.

As for the Constitution, those infamous liberals George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, etc. gave us a document that doesn't fit with the way the Republicans want to run our government. They don't want a separation of powers; they want a sovereign President Bush, with the Congress and Extreme Court standing by as rubber stamps, the way Parliament was for King George. They aren't comfortable with having a separation of church and state as defined in Article VI and Amendment 1. They aren't comfortable allowing people to disagree with them as Amendment 1 guarantees. They aren't comfortable allowing people with whom they disagree to have the privacy guaranteed in Amendments 4 and 9.

Therefore, they want to chip away at the Constitution, piece by piece, getting ever more intrusive into the private lives of the citizens while playing lip service to "getting the government off our backs." What they want is the government off big business' back while snooping into citizens' privacy more and more.

It's time to mount a major push to restore democracy to America. As the Constitution says, Congress must guarantee "a republican form of government." Let's elect people who will take government away from the current monarchists and restore it to the people for whom it was intended.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

On Sexuality

Research has shown that those who scream the loudest about homosexuality are the least secure in their own sexuality.

Maybe that's why I haven't addressed it here, at least not that I can remember.

Those who want to use the Bible to justify their anti-gay prejudice should be careful. Nowhere does the Bible explicitly condemn lesbian sex. For that matter, the Leviticus law does not forbid incest between a father and daughter. Funny thing, huh? At least I encountered that last observation in a mystery novel. I'll have to do further research on that before I start teaching my Old Testament class this fall.

The Leviticus law does condemn working on the Sabbath. How many of those who use the Old Testament to condemn homosexuality go shopping on Sunday? How many refuse to?

Marriage in the Bible was between one man and as many women as he could afford. Slavery was an accepted part of the world in which they lived, so no one in the Bible condemned that peculiar institution, either.

So be careful how you use--or misuse--the Bible. Remember Jesus: He said not one word about homosexuality in the Gospels. Instead he spoke verse after verse, chapter after chapter about money, and about the exploitation of the poor by the rich. I would like to keep the same perspective. After all, what would Jesus do?

Monday, June 26, 2006

On Insurance

One of my co-workers had his homeowners insurance cancelled on a ten-day notice because he filed one too many claims in too short a period of time, even though he cancelled the last claim.

His mortgage company (bank, whatever) requires that insurance, and as such institutions are wont to do, they would find the most expensive insurance possible and impose it on him if he didn't come up with other coverage. He had to scramble around, but he found another company. Then he pulled out all his life, auto, and other insurance from the first company and transferred it to the second. I would, too.

Insurance companies have us by the short hairs. We have medical care rationed in this company by who is able to afford the best insurance. Then some faceless accountants in some anonymous office dictate to our highly educated physicians what health care they are allowed to give us. Waiting times for surgeries and other procedures are no better in this country than in England, France, Canada, or any other more-advanced country that cares what happens to its citizens.

I won't go on about that. Instead I have a further rant: Auto insurance.

In order to buy a car, or even get a license to drive, we have to have purchased insurance from some huge insurance conglomerate. Then, if we get a speeding ticket, how much does it cost our insurance company? Not one more red cent. But they jack up our rates, anyway. And it's all legal.

But then, if we do get into an accident, even if it wasn't our fault, they jack up our premiums again, enough so that we pay them back every cent they spent on our repairs over the next three years. So they are wealthier, and we are poorer. And the government requires their hands in our pockets.

While I'm at it, I remember some years back the church I attended used to take inner-city children to summer camp every year, giving them a positive experience they could keep with them forever.

But they had to stop doing that because the liability insurance became too expensive. As a result, these children were deprived of this positive summer experience. How many would have been influenced by that to resist gangs, etc. if they could have gone? I have no idea. But if one child's life took a turn for the worse, and if one innocent person gets hurt or even killed because of that, I have to believe a just God would hold the insurance company executives accountable for that in the next life.

Insurance companies are not in the business of paying claims. That is just an unpleasant but necessary sideline for them. They are in the business of collecting all the premiums they can.

God have mercy on their souls.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

On Courage

I was eligible for a ministerial deferment during Vietnam, but I rejected it in order to regiser as a conscientious objector. I was willing to go to jail before I would go into the military. I could have run to Canada, but I didn't. I stayed and registered my protest.

I needed to get that out in order to say what I have on my mind now. The lily-livered cowards that are running this country are destroying what it means to be an American.

Our deserter-in-chief Bush went AWOL from the Air National Guard as soon as they started the drug testing. The power behind the throne Cheney took five different deferments. His oldest daughter was born exactly nine months after it was passed that fathers could be deferred.

Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, Rush Limbaugh, George Will--the list goes on and on of those who are thumping their chests most loudly in favor of continuing the obviously failed military policy in Iraq but who never served a day in uniform. But they are full of, "Let's you and him fight."

Chicken Hawks is the term for these people. Now, I didn't serve, either, but I have the courage to step forward and state that I did not support that war, nor do I support this one.

But the Administration, in addition to being a cowardly lot themselves are trying to turn America into a pantywaist nation, shrinking from shadows. Whenever anyone speaks up against the war in Iraq, or against the blatantly illegal and unconstitutional spying program on Americans, or the unconstitutional Patriot Act, or any other unconscionable act, they scream, "9/11!" "They attacked us on 9/11! We've got to root them out!"


If they were so concerned with keeping America safe, they wouldn't neglect port security as badly as they have. They wouldn't play bureaucratic games with Home Security resources.

But look: We're Americans, dammit! We don't give up our precious rights because someone is screaming about a booger-man lurking. We don't stand still for government snoops prying into our personal business. I don't care if there are Al Qaeda cells in the United States. You ain't gonna find them by looking through my library records, nor anywhere else that's none of your business.

We had fifth columnists in America during WWII, but we didn't give up the rights our ancestors died for to try to pretend to root them out. Neither will we stand still, or rather roll over and assume the position because Big Daddy in Washington says, "There out there!"

We as Americans are through putting up with lies. Osama bin Laden went to the Saudi Royal family asking for permission to take out Saddam Hussein. They didn't give him permission. Instead they called in the Americans, and Osama has been chewing around our edges ever since. But he isn't the enemy Germany or Japan was in the 1940s, and he never will be. The Bush Administration dropped its candy when it deserted its hunt for this criminal and went after someone a decade and a half earlier they had been arming and toasting. Furthermore, it was someone George W. Bush himself admitted had nothing to do with 9/11.

But dammit, we're not going to become like Taliban victims, afraid to show our faces in public, afraid to admit our true feelings lest some Federal agency might be listening.

No. We're not cowards like the Bush Administration. We're Americans.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

People's Republic of Corporate America

I have used this phrase repeatedly in my former job and in my present one. But I think it might be a good idea to clarify what I mean.

Countries that call themselves "People's Republics" or "People's Democratic Republics" or some variation on those labels give lip service, even in their constitutions, to empowerment of the proletariat. They claim that working people rule in their countries.

In reality, however, a closed group of commisars rule everything and put on airs calling themselves "comrade." If a commisar makes a mistake, he (and it is almost always a he) deflects the blame down to the workers, claiming that some lower level functionary or even front-line worker made the mistake and is not in tune with the spirit of the "revolution."

In corporate America, they give lip service to "empowering workers," and "entrepreneurial spirit" while anyone with a new, unique idea is squashed. The tight group of commisars (correction: managers) run everything, and they brook no dissent from the ranks. If a big manager makes a mistake, it rolls downhill to some lower level functionary, or even to the front line workers, criticizing them for not buying into the corporate mindset.

See the similarities?

Furthermore, in "People's Republics" if policies prove wrong, the people suffer, but the commisars never are held accountable by anyone, since they are interlinked with each other to keep blame away.

In corporate America, if policies prove wrong, and the company's stock price tanks, the CEO still walks away with multi-million dollar compensation packages, and their interlocking boards approve it. Especially since he (and it usually is a he) serves on their boards where they are CEOs.

The kleptocracy that run "People's Republics" is indistinguishable from the kleptocracy that runs corporate America.

Ergo: The People's Republic of Corporate America.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

On Torture as a Tactic

Over on Glenn Greenwald's blog, "Unclaimed Territory," he has this quotation:

"... there is now a widespread tendency to argue that one can only defend democracy by totalitarian methods ... These people don’t see that if you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you. Make a habit of imprisoning Fascists without trial, and perhaps the process won’t stop at Fascists." - George Orwell, The Freedom of the Press

One of the comments points out that June is Torture Awareness Month.

Research, experience, and reason tell you that torture DOES NOT WORK as a means of gaining information. And what other use is there for it? Every TV show on every network (wherever it happens) depict torture being effective in eliciting information. But out here in the real world, it doesn't work that way. If you torture someone to the point they're willing to confess to the Crucifixion, then how good is the information they give you?

Look at the experience of John McCain. The North Vietnamese tortured him to give them names. He gave them the starting lineup of the Green Bay Packers. That worked till they realized they had been deceived. But he was able to hold out till what information he was able to give was no longer of any value.

The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been there so long that any information they may have now would be totally worthless, even if they were able to determine these were enemy combatants. This hasn't been proven. In fact, it appears the Bush Administration is so scared of the truth that they won't try hard to find out whether these are true enemies, or just some unlucky souls turned in for the bounty. Think about it. If they were offering a bounty of some fabulous sum to turn in enemies in your midst, how many people do you know who would turn in random names just to get the money? This is what happened in Afghanistan, and so innocent adults and children wound up in captivity at Gitmo.

No contact with family, no contact with the outside world, no recourse to legal counsel, no hearings before military or other tribunals showing charges against them. Is it any wonder suicides took place last week? I won't say this was why or that the Pentagon's spin is wrong, but I do know how I tend to feel.

Anyway, back to the point: If you believe the Administration is justified in using any means necessary or convenient to "protect" us from "terrorists," if you are so cowardly and afraid of asserting yourself as a strong American that you give all your liberty over to the Bushites, then just let me ask you one question. Would you feel as comfortable giving the same power to a President Hillary?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Christian Nation?

I want to know why "Christian" is now synonymous with "Conservative" and "Republican." As I stated in a (much) earlier post, the Bible has much to say about personal morality, it is true. But it also says much about our responsibility to God's world and the people and other creatures who live there.

So, if this is such a "Christian" nation, why the big push to post the Ten Commandments in public (i.e. tax-payer supported) places (as opposed to posting them on one's personal property, which no law forbids) and not the Beatitudes? After all, Paul went to great lengths in his letters to point out how the old laws (the first of which are the Decalogue--Ten Commandments) no longer apply to us who are free in Christ. So why push the old Jewish Law rather than the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Maybe it's because Jesus still makes us uncomfortable, just as he did the religious leaders of his day. Imagine telling Richard Mellon Scaife to give all he has to the poor. He's too busy giving it to the "think tanks" that disparage the poor.

If you count the verses Jesus had more to say about the responsible use of money than about any other subject. Some day I may count those verses and see if it's true what someone told me, that he has more to say about that subject than about all other subjects put together. And Jesus said it was wrong--flat wrong--to enjoy your riches while people were outside your door doing without. Are you listening, Walton family? I refer you to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in the Gospel of Luke.

It's a lot easier to sit back and cast judgments at people whose lifestyles don't match ours (or whose lifestyle we're secretly attracted to) than it is to live the life of discipleship that Jesus calls us to do. Research shows those who make the loudest noises about homosexuality are those who are least secure in their own sexuality. I figure it's either that or else it's easier to condemn the sins that don't tempt us.

If this were the Christian nation some want to proclaim it, then there would be no hunger. Everyone would share freely, and the government would see that food was distributed to everyone who was in need.

If this were truly a Christian nation the air and water would be pure, because we would take seriously our stewardship of God's earth.

If this were truly a Christian nation there would be health care for everyone at an affordable rate, rather than the most expensive and inefficient health care system in the developed world.

If this were truly a Christian nation, stores would be closed on Sunday, not because they were required to by law, but because people would not shop that day out of respect for their faith.

I could go on, but this is a good start. How well are we living up to what we profess? Do we really worship God or Mammon? When the Commonwealth of Virginia got rid of some outdated laws, they found they had reactivated a law requiring employers to give employees the day off for the day the employee observed the Sabbath. They wasted no time in calling a special session of the legislature to repeal that law. After all, it interfered with their worship of Mammon.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Smokescreen Distractions

The morality-deficient Congressional leadership along with the ethically-challenged Bush Administration are putting forth sops to their base in a desperate bid to hold onto power this election year.

First up is a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. Big whoop. They are making noises about "activist judges" again, ignoring the activist judges they have appointed and confirmed who are tearing up our Constitution. No one believes this will pass both houses, much less be approved by 3/4 of the states.

My thoughts: The government ought to get out of the marriage business altogether. They should issue licenses for people to form legal partnerships with each other for such things as medical decisions and survivorship, etc. Then let the churches define marriage. If a church wants to unite a homosexual couple and call it "marriage," then let that church do so. If another church refuses to recognize this as a marriage, then that is within that church's rights. Get the government out of it altogether.

Next will come a flag desecration amendment. This amendment itself desecrates the flag and all it stands for. We are a free people, and we don't have to fear people who disagree with us. We are Americans, and we don't have to cower before anyone, giving up our rights for the illusion of safety. If this means some people do offensive things, then we are a big enough people to handle it.

Besides, how many flags have you ever seen burned in protest in this country? Me neither. Yet in the incindiary atmosphere of today's politics I can see danger. A decade or so ago there was a picture on the front page of the Fayetteville Observer-Times showing a Scoutmaster demonstrating the proper way to dispose of a damaged or worn-out flag. It is done with a respectful burning, and he was demonstrating the proper ritual for this disposal. Now, if he were to run for any political office, his opponents would scream that "He was shown on the front page of the paper burning a flag!" Do you find it more pitiful or disgusting?

What this amounts to is a cynical ploy to get their brainwashed dupes out to the polls to vote them back into power. They don't have enough positive ideas to put forth to attract public approval, so they manipulate their base to get them out to vote their side back in.

It also amounts to finger-wiggling. I once read that if you want to capture a snake or lizard, you wiggle your fingers rapidly in front of their face while slowly bringing your other hand around to the back. They can see only rapid movement, or else they think only rapid movement is any threat. Meanwhile the hand moving slowly to the back can grab them while they are distracted.

The Republicans are using these amendments the same way. While getting the public all excited about non-issues such as gay marriage and flag-burning, they are stealthily taking away our freedoms, indeed all that defines us as free Americans. Watch the slow hand, not the wiggling fingers.