Thursday, May 05, 2005

Promoting the Voice of America's Young Adults *bump*

Hey this is a chance for anyone 17- to 25-years-old to be nationally published.

Right now we are accepting submissions for the title below. So write something theologically focused and send it in. Send us something conservative. Send us something liberal. Send us something completely off the wall. Send us anything that inspires you. Then what? Sit back, relax, or whatever you do, and wait to see if you are selected for national publication. This is a grass roots project that has garnered some national exposure including features on CNN, MSNBC, and three times on CSPAN Book TV. This is a pretty sweet deal and doesn't have to require much of your time. Just so you know -- if you have issues with the submission agreement, let us know and we'll work to accommodate you and get your voice out to America.

What We Think: About God

There really has never been a book like this. We are compiling essays, personal reflections, journal entries, short screen plays, poems, and brief quips on any theologically oriented issue. So far these include: Which party would Jesus support; is the term “Under God” unconstitutional; does God exist; what does it mean to have faith; can an atheist have Faith; what gives life meaning; what is an appropriate role for religion in government; Bush, religion, and politics; and these include, but are not limited to, the following: does God Exist; what is God; what gives your life meaning; what Is the Role of Religion; are there absolutes; and the list goes on. Questions of faith tend to be timeless as will this book. That said, we are planning on releasing it in 2006 and possibly in 2008 as well.

For more information or to submit please visit:

You may also send your submissions to us directly at:

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Out of the Office

We'll be out of the office until the 27th. We'll update the site as we can while on the road.

What We Think: Young Voters Speak Out

We stand at a crossroads – a pivotal juncture. Many say we chose the path of apathy. But there are 34 million 18- to 24-year-olds who contend otherwise. We are, in fact, as socially and politically engaged and polarized as the general American populace. Of the more than one thousand American deaths in Iraq thus far, nearly half have been our closest friends and peers; yet, there remains to national forum through which we can express our political and social thoughts, ideas, and reflections.

Dean and I compiled this book with the hope that it would be such a medium. We don’t want our voice to continue the long fading trek into the nebulous abstract of what might have been. Many presumed that our voice was never spoken, when in reality, it was simply never heeded. A part of the problem is this: In taking their cues from polls, the media become that Roman inn-keeper Procrustes, infamous for cutting paying patrons’ legs in order that they might fit pre-manufactured bed sizes. In many senses, the media cut out the foundational legs of our ideas, cloaking the true substance of what we way. Our complicated message is reduced to a 10 second-sound bit, a fractionalized vague remnant of the original, and sent back to us. We’re then asked how we feel about it. It’s in a way the devil and the deep blue sea: Either we accept this bite and are disingenuous regarding our feelings, or we reject it and are bitter and apathetic. After reading What We Think, I hope you come to understand, as I have, that our perceived apathy doesn’t represent a fundamental uncaring. Instead, it reflects the fact that we’re told how to relate to politics and society without being given a forum to express our views. The fact is that as young adults we neither understand nor perceive the world as the O’Reillys, Matthews, Hannitys, et al…

That said, thematically consistent in the submissions published and unpublished, is a search for truth. Irrespective of political persuasion, these young talented writers want more than just a hypothetical, dogmatic truth. On the whole, they want a comprehensive understanding of truth on a panorama of issues. In these submissions there is true optimism, a candid yearning to believe in something, be it a presidential candidate, a political system, the media, and so on. In instances, submitters grapple with whether or not they can believe in something while disagreeing with some of its foundational and superficial components.

What We Think: Young Voters Speak Out captures 18- to 24-year-olds in their ideological chrysalis. The writer, while they have articulated beliefs and political persuasions seem to be intellectually synthesizing, rationalizing, and reflecting on what they have been raised and told to believe. It’s difficult to make palpable, but on the whole, the trend of my generation is one of an optimistic, assertive dialectic, in which the bottom line is ideas. It’s the most inspiring thing I’ve been a part of. Imagine one day realizing that your generation, those responsible for the world’s future, are everything you hoped they could and would be. I’ve realized it.

The submissions in this book are but a tangible reflection of what has always existed. Long before they were anthologized, these ideas, these truths, and these passions, they found residence in the hearts and minds of those published and unpublished. Here I am reminded of a Michelangelo anecdote. He claimed to create nothing. Instead, he said he simply freed what already existed. In that same sense, I think all of us who have participated in this book have created nothing. We have simply given what already existed its fated right to do so.

This book doesn’t speak for 34 million 18- to 24-year-olds, maybe not even a majority. There are many remarkable submitted insights not included in this compilation. And I understand the futility in generalizing about the thinking and rationale of our demographic; only as a collective can we speak our many minds. However, What We Think: Young Voters Speak Out is an opportunity for us, in our own words, to tell America and the world how we care, that we care.

This is a remarkably well-written, young-adult treatise on America. Read it as you wish; take from it what you can. Realize as you read, there are dozens of worlds, realities, and truths in these pages. Allow them to sink in before moving on. If you do, I’m confident tat you will realize, as I have, that we are the next great generation. We are the reason the U.S. and world has always existed, for embedded within us are the truths past. Here is our voice. Do yourselves a favor, give it a listen.

Long-Term Presence in Afghanistan

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai announced at a joint press conference with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that his country will be sending a formal request to President Bush concerning a long-term strategic relationship between the two nations. For The New York Times article, click here.

The long-term strategic relationship could include economic assistance, military and police training, and likely a US military presence.

I support our long term involvement in Afghanistan, but I feel we have to keep any military presence there modest and positive. We should increase the number of economic development officials who can work with the new government to create a stable economy. However, we shouldn’t let our continued presence in Afghanistan endanger our relationship with our own military. We need to dramatically step up recruitment processes to relieve military members who have been overseas past their official contract dates.

American Bio-Terrorism


US accidentally engaged in bio-terrorism by shipping off 61 samples of a deadly flu virus around the world, and in an attempt to terrorize ourselves, sent off 3650 samples to laboratories in America. The virus killed between 1 and 4 million people back in the 1950’s. Don’t panic though, most of the labs have been warned. Further, all these labs are used to getting shipments of virus strains (although not always this deadly) and usually take precautions anyway. For more on the story, click here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

US Trade Deficit At All Time High

The US trade deficit hit an all time high for the month of February, reaching $61.04 billion dollars. The number is up 4.3% from a 58.5 billion dollar trade gap in January.

For the full story go here.

Oil and Chinese textile imports are pointed to as the big factors causing the increase. U.S. textile and clothing manufacturers have convinced the administration to look into re-imposing quotas on Chinese products.

Imposing quotas would not be the appropriate avenue of action. Forcing the Chinese to float their money on world currency rates instead of fixing the exchange rates would be appropriate, although it is not a solution in and of itself as is pointed out here.

None of the real solutions are painless. The US Dollar has been on the decline for the past three years, but it would need to drop even more in order to appropriately discourage importation of products that the US already makes domestically. Interest rates will have to increase as well, encouraging an increase in savings. Either way, every house hold will have to accept a flat-line standard of living with little increase.

An alternative to all the proposals above would be to attack the other side of the issue: the oil price increases. In November the US imported 19.6 billion worth of petroleum. If that is the amount the US is paying for ONE month, lets take that nearly 20 billion and offer it as a national reward to the best plan or invention or method to reduce the US’s dependency on oil by some percentage, possibly 25%. You would have Colleges, Universities, and private companies scrambling to compete for money.

Unfortunately, the answer of how to reduce our dependency on oil is likely already out there. We as a people are willing to spend the extra money for imports of Chinese textiles, but not willing to spend the extra cash on simple energy saving products. What we actually need is for an administration to actually give the situation value by paying attention to the issue. The administration responsible for cutting our oil dependency in half will go down in the annals of history more prominently than an administration that reforms Social Security.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Flyer for Submissions: If you are a student or professor, feel free to print off copies of these page sized flyers and put them up around campus. Print them off on lowest quality setting to save ink.

Gang Member Reform

April 10th, 2005: CNN’s Anderson Cooper ran a special report entitled “Homicide in Hollenbeck” about gang life in Hollenbeck portion of LA, California.

Anderson Cooper interviewed a gang member named Kiki. The man is a 26 year old Hispanic member of the White Fence gang. His gang can trace its roots back to a church sports group started back in the 1930’s. Kiki had some interesting comments and reflections on gang life and gang ethics. Most uniquely Kiki maintains the dream of some day going into the Marines and taking his gang skills to an honorable pursuit. “I’d rather die a hero than a statistic,” he said. Kiki keeps the dream alive even though he knows he can’t get into the army with his criminal record holding him back.

His comment got me thinking on the topic.

Please notice the following is very rough, consisting of no more than 4 minutes of reflective though. Further, my reflections raise questions rather than propose solutions.

If the requirement of possessing a record free of felony convictions were negotiable, perhaps a special unit of the military could be dedicated to reforming gang members who want a second chance.

Once in a gang, it is particularly hard to get out of the gang. You almost need a complete relocation program to remove you from the reach and influence of your gang family. Being able to go into the military would provide reform minded members a chance to get far away from the negative atmosphere of gang life.

Gang members traditionally have a high level of group loyalty. If done properly, the loyalty and sense of family could be transferred to whatever military unit they were assigned to, maintaining the tight knit feeling of some military groups.

Gang members already have some of the skills necessary for success in military operations and often lack a fear of death. With proper training and conditioning, former gang members would be a fearless and effective military tool.

Military life would be a steady job and source of income. Once former gang members completed their service, they will have been away from gang life for 6 to 8 years. Further, they will have money to relocate to an area free of gangs and may possess skills learned in the military that would allow them to get a real job somewhere.

Here are some possible problems and doubts I have:

First off, you might not be able to dedicate just one unit to gang members, it would likely be best to split them up. Splitting them up would further remove them from the atmosphere of gang life and possibly keep infighting to a minimum if members from rival former gangs were represented in the same unit.

There might be some mistakes in the profiling of these individuals. I have some reservations about putting high tech military weapons in the hands of former drug dealers and murderers. The program would require constant psych profiling to map the progress of these men/women.

Any thoughts or questions? Feel free to post your ideas in the comments section.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Understanding Military Service

The US Supreme Court has refused to halt military extensions of service, validating the military's refusal to let some servicemen and women file for their discharge after their formal contract expires.

The full story can be found here.

I am pro military. I have even tried to join the military in the past but was turned away due to a medical condition (migraines) I no longer suffer from, but that taints my medical records. But I do not know that I support keeping soldiers past their contract against their will. I wouldn't want force a body guard to fulfill his entire contract if he didn't want to work for me. I wouldn't feel very safe. Better job packages need to be created to increase the recruitment and retention rates that include increased pay and benefits. It may not be the cheapest solution, but I don’t know that keeping men against their will is a solution at all.

Young adult voters make up the vast majority of the military's ranks. So everyone should understand what they getting into when they sign up. I would like to see more young adults volunteering for military service, but with the possibility of coercion being applied past their contract obligations I feel that many potential recruits may be turned away by the idea.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Got Spam?

For the first time in US history, a man has been convicted for internet spam. The man was sentenced to 9 years in prison. Read more about it here.

It should be noted that his crimes were not so simple as just spam, so those sending unsolicited emails shouldn’t be too worried over this conviction unless you are anywhere close to his scale of operations. He was a scammer, using his mass mailings to con people out of thousands. Most notably, the point of law that Virginia got him on was that he sent out these emails without informing people of his real identity. People sending off emails using their true identity have no fear of having police breathing down your necks. It was estimated that Jeremy Jaynes was responsible for 10% of all the spam in the US. Quiet admirable for just one man.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"Congress Shall Make No Law..." Part II

I have the answer.

As a matter of practice, there is no guarantee of a citizen's right to bear arms. Unbelievable!

How does this work. Well, as a matter of constitutional law, the federal goverment cannot "infringe" on a citizen's right to bear arms. Great. However, state and local governments can, may, and do. Some have barred citizens from possessing arms of any kind.

For me, the issue has nothing to do with partisanship. And I don't care to weigh in on the arms debate. I just CAN'T believe the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment applies only to the federal government and not to states. They have incorporated -- affirmed that these Amendments apply to states as well as the Federal Government -- the majority of Amendments in the Bill of Rights, save the second and the third (the one about housing "troops"), at least as far as I know.

In case you're wondering, this is only relevant for the Amendments preceeding the, I think, 14th. All Amendements subsequent to that applied to the states as well. So, there is no need for incorporation. I have no concretized rationales for the courts' arbitrary Amendment incorporation practices. I mean, is there a criteria frieze for Amendment incorporation?

Here is the point. Theoretically, and consistent with the rulings of the Supreme Court, states and cities can, and in some cases do bar ANY and ALL citizens from bearing arms. The federal government can do nothing about it. There is one rural town, Morton Grove, Illinois where that's exactly what happened. Here is the brief. The U. S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case (I am told), and the law was upheld.

Don't be fooled. Your right to bear arms is not guaranteed. Please contact me with questions or comments. Here is a contact number for the NRA as well:

"Congress Shall Make No Law..."

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Right. The Second Amendment. Here’s the question. Is it constitutionally guaranteed? A friend, who was passed this information second-hand by a university professor, correctly argued no, at least not federally. What? The Second Amendment has never been incorporated into the constitution. That is to say, at least as I understand it, it has never been explicitly affirmed “legitimate” as binding for states by the U.S. Supreme Court. Here are five Supreme Court cases, the only five I am told, that deal directly with the Second Amendment. In my perusing glances, I noticed nothing that would lead me to the contrary. Check it out.

I spoke to the NRA today and asked them about it. They said that Court rulings had indeed affirmed the binding constitutionality of the 14th Amendment. So, I asked them about cities and towns that forbade residents from housing or possessing fire arms of any kind. She used New York City as an example. She said that individual states, counties, and cities legislate and adjudicate their own “gun” laws. Here’s a problem. In those cities or small towns that forbid individuals to bare arms of any kind, why isn’t federal supremacy being exercised? If indeed the Second Amendment is a binding provision of the Bill of Rights and Constitution, how can individuals be universally prohibited from possessing firearms?

One possible explanation I’ve come up with is this. In cities, particularly large ones, the interests of public safety must be weighed against the enforcement of a constitutional guarantee. Maybe some area judiciaries believe that an interest in the “general welfare” of the citizenry outweighs an individual’s right to their freely exercise their second Amendment. Maybe the Supreme Court can hold that those best able to weigh those interests are the local and regional courts legislatures.

In smaller communities, however, where it is more difficult to support such an interest, it seems like Supreme Court intervention should be permissible and would be justifiable. Not having a chance to address those grievances at the national level, when the issue is one of constitutionality, seems to violate due process. The state judiciaries, legislators, and members of the executive branch are not empowered to adjudicate the constitutionality of the second Amendment. If they’re in fact being empowered to do so, and if they are being allowed to weigh the individual interests against their constituent citizenry, the Supreme Court should at least say so explicitly. If I’ve overlooked something or you have suggestions or comments on this, please let me know.

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