Sunday, May 31, 2009

Youth Pastor arrested

GregoryNies Gregory Nies is (was) the youth pastor at Lititz United Methodist church and is (was) the Republican Candidate for mayor of Lititz. Now he’s nothing, and with good reason too. He’s been promiscuous before. I’m not clear if it was with another 12-year-old girl.

According to the affidavit, police first talked to Nies about the allegations on May 7 at his home "during the course of an unrelated investigation." Police asked Nies if there was any truth to a "past allegation" involving him and a female member of his former church.

Nies admitted having an "inappropriate relationship" with the alleged victim, according to the affidavit.

Nies is looking at 50 years. He is accused of a lengthy series of sexual assaults on a 12-year-old girl, including charges of cyber sex. Did I mention he was running for mayor?

via Youth Pastor Watch on SLOG

My camera loves Alex


I spent some time organizing my photos last night. I found several hundred shots of my niece Alex. All of them are beautiful, none of them show teach. I shot this one yesterday. I’ve come to the conclusion that my camera loves Alex.

Coaxing a smile from Alex is the hardest part. Even when her smile is a frown like in this shot. I can almost hear her say, “Uncle Joe…”. I don’t she’s 15 now, which means I still have a few years to shoot her before she moves off for college. Perhaps one day I will see her teeth.

I had to post something pretty to combat the ugly in my last post. I need some balance.

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He’s not a Christian

George Tiller was murdered in church today. A man walked in and shot him for being a physician who provided abortions. When this topic comes up with my Christian friends, I guarantee I will hear something like this, “Whoever shot George Tiller is no Christian. “

When I mention that  Tiller’s murder was a religious execution and a prime example of Christian extremism. They will argue that no true Christian engages in terrorism. When I point to the evidence that suggests that anti-abortion Christian organizations push people to acts of desperation, they will disavow all knowledge of these organizations and further claim that whatever organization they support would never condone murder. It’s all bullshit. By claiming the murderer is not Christian, they step away from any responsibility for the murder. By stepping away from the more radical anti-abortion organizations, they can still protest abortions with a clear conscience.  In my heart I know they gave a silent cheer at news of the murder and wrote another check to support the cause.

Vjack has a quote on his blog that is troubling. He picked it off twitter.

Karma is a beautiful thing. Cheers to the hero who sent George Tiller where he belongs...straight to hell.

People write what they feel. I’m tired of appealing to the “good” Christians in an attempt to get them to influence the bad. They won’t do it. We need more blogs like Atheist Revolution focused on covering Christian extremism. I’m up for it. What about you?

R.I.P, George Tiller – Thank you for having the courage to live your convictions.

Pastor gets state prison

YMCA “Pastor” Guy Carlton Jones is heading to prison on rape charges. I use the term "pastor" loosely here. Carlton appears to be the type of criminal who becomes a pastor to gain access to children. In other words, Carlton is a sick man that used any means, including acting as a pastor, to gain access to children.

“He sought her out and based on his prior conviction for sexually assaulting a young child the current behavior is disturbing. He violated many forms of trust that night, the child’s, the child’s family and his own family,” said Assistant District Attorney Samantha Cauffman, referring to the most recent crime in Upper Providence. “The child’s family is very pleased that the court proceedings are finally at an end.”

This one needs to stay in prison for a long long time.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

OK, I'm intrigued

I was browsing kinnering pictures on flickr when one caught my eye. I followed it to this artist, and then to her website, and then on to her blog. I looked up and an hour had slipped by. I think I read her whole blog. Next, I plan to buy something on CrumpArt’s Etsy page. I think I’m hooked. I like her work.

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I learned a new term today at a party, kinnearing. It was explained to me as taking a picture without looking through the viewfinder. I was surprised. I've been taking these types of shots for years and had always thought of it as a version of street photography. In fact, I took a few kinnearing shots earlier in the day. I was not happy with the results. My best shot is shown below.

I want your wheels

I did some research and found the story of the origin of kinnearing. It lead me to a blog called Yarn Harlot and a August 2007 post called I was Kinnearing.   It’s an odd little post, but it apparently kicked off a craze, Flickr and Google Image Search show a few examples. How did I miss this? I guess I’m not the internet hipster I thought I was.

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Inconsiderate or unconstitutional

My Christian spammers started sending this story to me this morning.  A San Diego pastor and his wife have been told to stop holding a weekly bible study in their home by the county government. On the surface, it seems wrong. But I do not agree with the religious zealot who feel their constitution rights were trampled upon. No, to me it’s a classic land rights issue. The local government would need a strong case to convince me their actions are legitimate.

I read the comment thread. It was hard to wade through for obvious reasons (like this).

California needs the cash because of their greedy habits, material obsessions and uncontrolled spending, etc. Why should the rest of us sacrifice our ways (bible studies) to bail you out. Learn to control your lavish lifestyles... maybe you need to join a Bible Study group to humble yourself.

- Spoken by the Christian in the split level 4,000 square foot home with a BMD in the drive way.

Digging through the comments I found the real story. Neighbors complained about the weekly prayer meetings with 15 or more people parking on a cul-de-sac. They’ve been holding the meeting for five years. As a cul-de-sac dweller myself, I can testify that the local house church packs them in on a regular basis and parking is a problem.  But he minds his business and I mind mine, so no worries. All I can conclude from my reading is that the title of my post should be changed to Inconsiderate and Unconstitutional.

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Blogroll Update: Introducing Angie the Anti-Theist

In the author’s own words.

Angie the Anti-Theist explores with humor cults in America, the experience of being an atheist single mother, the ongoing series "Chatting with a Mormon Missionary", and excerpts from my upcoming book "Exodus from Zion" about growing up in a faith-healing cult in America.

Please drop in and welcome our newest member to the team.

If you would like to join the blogroll, click here.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

A victim’s statement

I had an odd day today. My inbox was filling up with Catholic hate mail, people were leaving rude comments on my blog, and I had lunch with two Christians who were interested in talking about clergy sexual abuse.

I have filters setup to delete the hate mail, so no worries. The rude comments were fun. I can be just as big a jerk as most people who comment on my blog, so that worked out too. But the lunch with two Christians was different. One man was a former catholic who told me the story of his wife’s 30 year sex abuse saga. She had been molested and then vilified when she reported it. The entire process took years and caused horrible physiological damage. The pressure caused the man and his wife to leave the Catholic church to join the EV Free Church in Fullerton, where they found a friendly new home.

He went on to talk about how his new church had handled a similar scandal. They were open with the church membership, separated the accuser and the accused, and separated the accused from the church until the issue was resolved.I told him they had handled it correctly.

We went on to discuss what to do when Christians admit feeling a desire to molest children. I suggested they be treated like addicts and that they be kept away from children. I suggested offering the addict a chance to serve in a capacity that does not involve children, like feeding the poor or cutting the lawn. They took the advice back to their church.

We went on to talk about atheism. I’ll cover that in another post.

Near the end of my odd day, a victim posted a link to his press release in the comments to my post on Clergy sexual abuse and missionary work. In a compelling statement, he recounts how he came to bring an abuse accusation against Rev. Kevin Hederman. I’ve reprinted it below.

It is interesting to note that people are starting to talk about other accusations from Henderman’s past. As I suspected, the story is unfolding in a way which points to moving a priest around until they found a home for him in Belize. It is a scary thought.

DWI writes

To: IwasinNAM, j22, anne839. I have first had knowledge of Fr. Kevin’s sexual abuse because it was in my family. It happened on one of his famous trips like the on that IwasinNAM spoke of and yes we have known Fr. Kevin from the early 1970’s. Fr. Kevin is a homosexual that preys on young adult men. You put me and the three of you in a room with Fr. Kevin and I will mention one name that will bring him to his knees.

John Doe 115 posted his statement in the thread of this article. He posted a link in the tread of this post. I’ve attempted to contact him to get permission to re-post his press release, however I’ve subsequently discovered the document is in the public domain. So here we go.

John Doe 115’s statement

This is my statement that was submitted to the press. Read it, find the case, read the case, make your own conclusions:

"Unfortunately this letter is almost two decades in the making. At a time of crisis in my life, when I was a teenager, I sought help and advice from the person I thought could best help me. I went to see the one priest that I truly identified with, a man that I thought really understood what it means to be a teenager in an all-boy catholic school. I met Father Kevin Hederman while he visited CBC to say mass numerous times and at other functions facilitated by the high school. After 9 years of Catholic Grade school, I had been baptized, received first confession, first Communion, became an alter boy, was confirmed, and went to mass every Sunday as we were taught. I even considered the priesthood seriously while in grade school, but decided that I did want to marry and have children. We were also taught to respect God and the reverence of the Priesthood and the Church.

Father Kevin was known to be a person you could call on to help, and he served the church where I went to high school, and he was funny. He spoke in language that was unusually casual and caused me to believe he was the “cool priest”. I didn’t have a lot of friends at CBC and my parents and I didn’t see eye to eye, which is often the case as a teenager, it’s part of growing up.

I went to see father Kevin because I felt I didn’t have anywhere else to turn at the time, and I knew he would understand my teenage angst because he was such a nice man, and a priest, and a man respected by many, including me.

After I left the rectory, I left a little more confused than when I arrived, and it made me upset because I wasn’t quite sure what had occurred. I really didn’t know what to do with the events that occurred.

After years of wrestling with this information internally, wondering if I was making more out of something than necessary, I continued to bury the thoughts and forget about them. Then one day, when I had an appointment scheduled to see a psychiatrist, the events of what happened with Father Kevin came back to me again, and it finally dawned on me, that maybe something more terrible had occurred than I originally allowed myself to believe.

It was at this point I looked up SNAP on the internet and called all of the local people involved early in the morning, probably in the 5 to 6 am time frame. I wrote an email of the account to David Clohessy and met with my Psychiatrist later that day and mentioned the events of the incidents with the priest and my psychiatrist confirmed my unfortunate revelation.

This is when my journey began, and better yet, my healing began.

My reason for coming forward is to make people aware of this individual, if he could do so much to me in so little time; God knows what he is doing in another country dealing with children, and who else he has hurt here locally.

Please come forward and talk to someone, talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist, or call SNAP, you can remain anonymous. I am coming forward because I’m afraid if I don’t, there will be more and more victims.

As I mentioned, I spent many years ignoring the actual facts that any rational person from the outside looking in, would easily spot as abuse. When it is you that it has happened to, in my case, I asked, was this really so bad, did he really mean harm, did I really suffer that greatly? Were these events really his intention? I ask these questions back and forth every day, and the simple facts state that I was abused, I am just now coming to terms with this and it makes me angry that he has been allowed to continue to serve as a priest under the circumstances.

In closing, if you had an experience with a priest or person of authority cloaked in “religion” etc that you often wonder whether or not it was appropriate, please come forward, speak with SNAP, you may remain anonymous, and it will begin your healing process. I am a respected member of the community and am coming forward because I believe it is my DUTY to warn people of this priest. My main drive in life is to do what’s right. I am coming forth anonymously and so can you. This crime has no economic, ethnic, social, or medical boundaries. Every one of us knows somebody who has been abused by a clergy member; they look just like the people standing next to you.

I still love Catholicism and appreciate the church’s teachings, but it is the history of the church to hide and conceal this information that has allowed this priest and many others to continue to abuse your sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, relatives, and friends, and until the church feels enough “pain” they will continue to operate by protecting the abusers hoping to protect the church, it will only cause more heartache and abuse to occur. I urge the church to really take this on, and get rid of ALL priests credibly accused and or convicted of abuse once and for all, by not doing this and by not looking for transformation with this horrific problem, it will cause the church to continually lose its credibility and members, and ultimately destroy the Catholic Church if massive efforts are not done to correct this problem.

John Doe, 115

I am not sure my faith would survive this kind of abuse. Hell, my faith did not survive my youth, but that is another story.

John Doe, I offer the comment thread on this post to you. I will not interfere, delete, or block any comments. Use it as you will. Post what you want.

And one last thing, I also found out that one of my sisters, her husband, and her adult son, have started to attend Cornerstone Community Church. I can’t remember hearing the word church from my sisters lips in over 30 years. There are fun times ahead I’m sure. Like I said, it’s been a weird day.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Deacon Accused Of Sexual Abuse

What is a deacon anyway? I’ll have to look it up. Anyway… Curtis Allen is alleged to have raped a 13-year-old boy who was a member of Bethel Temple Church of Christ.

Allen faces more than a dozen charges including sodomy, rape, assault, and child abuse.

Baltimore City Police say it all happened inside the former deacon's home in the city's Park Heights neighborhood.

The police are looking into his relationship with other children. Let’s hope he did not hurt any other children.

Choir director liked to play with the boys

Dale K. Tucker faces additional charges related to his alleged illicit relationship with a 15-year-old boy.

Dale K. Tucker was charged Thursday in Allen County Superior Court with three additional counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Tucker, 57, of the 3900 block of Stone Creek Run, had been charged Monday with one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and four counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.

This one is classic. A choir director gets unsupervised one-on-one time with a young boy based on a desire to teach music. How often does this happen? I”m betting it happens all the time. Should it be allowed? No.

Mojoey’s rules to avoid clergy sexual abuse. Rule 1 – No private music or counseling sessions.

Pastor charged in parish theft

The theft was only $300K. I mean, come on people. It is almost pocket change.

The conservative Colorado Springs pastor who broke away from the Episcopal Church to form a new Anglican congregation in May 2007 now is accused of stealing $291,000 from Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish.

The Rev. Don Armstrong was indicted on 20 counts of felony theft by an El Paso County grand jury Wednesday. He surrendered to authorities Thursday but was soon free on bond, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department.

No sin here, move along, move along.

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Happy Utah Man is a dirty ole pastor

Happy Utah Man is the online screen name for a pastor accused of exposing himself on webcam to an agent posing as a 13-year-old girl.

Investigators with the Internet Crimes Against Children taskforce said 67-year-old William Blanscet, was so aggressive in an online chat room with an agent posing as a 13-year-old girl that they are worried he has done this before and are asking parents to talk with their children tonight.

Blanscet is known by his screen name "Happy Utah Man" and is a pastor at the Church of God of Prophecy at 425 North 700 West in Salt Lake City.

I had two thoughts upon reading this. One, I never want the job of an undercover agent.  Two, they best put Blanscet on suicide watch.

Clergy sexual abuse and missionary work

In the United States, Christians collect money to fund missionaries who bring the word of God to the darkest corners of the world. My friend is busy collecting donations for missionary schools and medical clinics in Uganda. To him it is noble work and I understand why he does it. Yet I find story after story of abuses tied to Christianity and missionary work. You don’t have to look far for unsound advice, or the practice of what I call hostage Christianity. That is, offering superior medical care with a price tag of religious indoctrination. It’s all wrong, but I am conflicted by the dichotomy of the obvious benefit versus the visible harm.

I don’t write about this subject much. I think I should. It has bothered me for a long time. My news filter delivered a story that ties missionary work to clergy sexual abuse, so I think the time is write about it.

Rev. Kevin Hederman is the subject of a lawsuit alleging he abused a teenage boy in the 90’s while serving as pastor of  North American Martyrs Church in Florissant, Mo. Hederman now works in Belize as a missionary.

Hederman met the teenager, then a student at Christian Brothers College high school, when Hederman occasionally celebrated Mass at the school's former campus in Clayton, according to the lawsuit. CBC has since moved to Town and Country.

During one visit to Hederman's residence, the priest instructed the teenager "to lie prone on the floor and then Fr. Hederman engaged in inappropriate and unwanted sexual contact with the plaintiff," according to the lawsuit.

Is it too much to hope that the Catholic Church would exercise appropriate due diligence by investigating Hederman’s activities in Belize? And why is he a missionary in predominantly catholic Belize anyway? It sounds like a scam to me.

Catholics, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Belize

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An odd bit of e-mail

I get a lot of odd e-mail. This came in yesterday.

Here's why you will burn in Hell for eternity minus one (because only heaven is infinitely long).  The word atheist is a sin, because it's "i" before "e" except after "c" and when sounded as "a" like in neighbor and weigh.  If only atheist was spelled correctly all atheists might be lounging in clouds wearing white togas, right?  Missed it by that much, ninety-nine (remember Maxwell Smart?)

I normally don’t write back. But I’m temped to write Flexcrush1 and ask what the hell he has been smoking.

Steve Harvey hates us

Just a few days ago I wrote about how infrequently Christians use the “Atheist have no morals” argument with me. I should have known better. Steve Harvey mouthed the argument on the Tyra Banks show. The blog Is a Bigot captured his words for posterity: Steve Harvey – Atheists Have No Morals . His phrasing nauseates me. Moral barometer my ass.

You can leave a message for his radio show at his e-mail bag. I made my comment a few minutes ago.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Review: Terminator Salvation

I am a die hard science fiction fan. I prefer books, but I love movies too. I’ve been a fan of the Terminator franchise since the original hit the theaters back in 1984. It has stood the test of time. I still enjoy watching it. There is something about the pace and storyline that hooks you and does not let go. I won’t go into my problems with the emo version of John Connor in the Sarah Connor Chronicles. 'I’m glad to see the show go. It was hard to watch emo boy go through his adolescent paces without wincing. The Terminator movies on the other hand, they always keep me coming back.

I saw Terminator Salvation on Saturday with my family. The movie was exciting and filled with breathtaking special effects and non-stop action. This is good because the movie lacked a few other things, like a cohesive plot and believable supporting actors . When I complained to my son that the John Connor (Christian Bale) character was weak and underdeveloped, he pushed back that the movie was all about the new prototype terminator named Marcus (Sam Worthington). Apparently my son made an emotional connection with Marcus. I must of missed it.

The real measure of a movie is our conversation after we walk out of the theater. My wife and I both commented on Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) perfectly white teeth. We were confused about how one gets caps when robots rule the planet. And then there was the scene where Conner trips a mobile terminator unit… don’t ask, it was totally unbelievable.  I had trouble with Conner’s memory. Did he forget his youthful interaction with the Schwarzenegger version of terminator? The lack of consistency bothered me. One last point, if judgment day was a nuclear event, where is the radiation sickness?

Don’t get me wrong. I liked the movie. I’ll buy it when it comes out of DVD. I’m sure I’ll watch it several times. It’s good enough to keep my attention and worth the 10 bucks to see it in the theater. Just don’t go expecting to see a Star Trek level movie.

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Baptist, pastor, and convicted pedophile

BillyMasters It flows together. It comes off the lounge smoothly. It’s like I’ve said hundreds of times before. Billy Master is all three.

A 66-year-old man in DeKalb County is charged with first-degree sexual abuse following an alleged incident involving a 12-year-old boy.

Billy Masters, of Aroney, was reportedly a preacher at Harvest Baptist Church in the Kilpatrick area. The boy was a member of the church congregation.

This isn't the first time Masters has been in trouble with the law for sex charges involving children. He was convicted in 2001 of sodomy.

I have trouble with the facts in this case. Billy Master is a convicted pedophile and yet he was working Baptist pastor. How does this happen? He is a convict and a registered sex offender. What idiot was responsible for his background screening? Or more likely, what idiot hired him despite his background? We will never know. I’m sure they’ve already circled the wagons.

Prayer kills

Doing is always better than praying. Especially when the doing is calling 911.  Leilani Neumann killed her own daughter when she exercised her religion in an attempt to have God heal her daughter’s ills.

Mom found guilty of reckless homicide

A Marathon County jury deliberated for about four hours before convicting Leilani Neumann, 41, of Weston. She faces up to 25 years in prison, but no sentencing date had been set.

She remains free on bond and declined to comment after the verdict was announced.

Neumann's daughter Madeline died from untreated diabetes on March 23, 2008, surrounded by people praying for her. When she stopped breathing, her parents' business and Bible study partners finally called 911.

Why is she free on bond? If there is justice in America, this nutball would begin serving her sentence today.

Near the end of the article is this quote:

Neumann's stepfather, Brian Gordon, said his stepdaughter did nothing wrong in trusting in God to heal her daughter.

"We should have that right in this country," he said.

I think we all share the right of reasonable care in the raising of our children. That right does not include negligence. In America, we go to prison when we let an innocent person die, even if it is through our own ignorance or superstition.

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R.I.P. Jay Walter Bennett

Few bands mean more to me than Wilco. My friend Richard turned me on to them a long time ago. They remain one of my favorite bands. Jay Walter Bennett left the band after Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but I still think of him as part of the band. I am sad to report that Bennett passed away last night.

You were right about the stars. Each one is setting sun.

- Jesus, Etc - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Ouch. My heart hurts.

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Science is cool:

I love birds. I’ve enjoyed bird watching since my youth. I’ve kept track of my sightings in various journals and field guides over the years, but I don’t have one comprehensive list. I’ve always wanted to do something about it. I found a few weeks ago. I plan to start entering my sightings via their handy interface after my next outing.

eBird's goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers. It is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence. For example, in 2006, participants reported more than 4.3 million bird observations across North America.

How cool is that?

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Deep Thoughts is five years old

On May 10th, Deep Thoughts turned five years old. I've written 3,271 posts covering a wide range of topics. My favorites subjects are photography, music, building an online Atheist community, and Hypocrisy. Of course, I post on just about anything that crosses my mind, which makes my blog somewhat of an oddity in the atheist blogsphere. But that’s ok, my blog is a hobby, not a profession.

I started on May 10, 2004 while in a hotel room in Berkeley. I was there to watch my son graduate. I had a few hours to kill, so I popped over to Blogger in an attempt to understand why everyone was so keen on Blogging. I chose the name Deep Thoughts as an homage  to Jack Handey. I’m a fan of his work. Like this one:

The beaver was probably the last thing God ever invented, because after he made it he just said “It don’t get no better ‘n that.” (Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you, God is a hillbilly.

I still laugh like a kid when I read these. I think that’s why I love them so much. They are so stupid I can’t turn my eyes away. I am compelled to read another, and another.

I was attending graduate school at Pepperdine University back in May of 2004. I was a 40 something stodgy adult in a school full of razor sharp young minds. Hell, at one point I even met the daughter of a women I knew from high school. I was out of place and under a lot of stress, my blog became a release. It grew into a hobby over time.

My fourth post was about a Berkeley professor named Hatem Bazian. He made a public speech calling for an Intifada in America and I did not like it. It was the first post to generate a comment. A week later I received my first hate mail. Soon after, hate mail arrived droves.  My first death threat followed near the end of the month. I’ve collect about 50 in five years.

I came out as an atheist on June 14, 2004. Nobody noticed. I also started the Carson Ugly photography project with this photo. It’s been one of the things I love about blogging. I can take a picture and write about it. Few things give me more pleasure. I did not realize that people would not like my photos, the criticism is still hard to take. The criticism about my writing, although deserved,  I simply laugh off. I’ve worked hard to improve my writing skills since starting to blog. I’ve come a long way on a road that still has many miles to go.

I adopted a focus on hypocrisy after one Christian insisted that as an atheist, I had no moral grounding. Hypocrisy Watch grew out out of a desire to disprove the notion that Christians posses a moral grounding simply because they believe in God and use the bible as a magic moral compass. The notion is preposterous. 'I’ve accumulated 508 stories of debauchery carried out by religious leadership.  The evidence is so overwhelming that I no longer hear the argument. But I have another motivation for Hypocrisy Watch, one which I have not written about. I decided to focus clergy sexual abuse after being contacted by lawyers in a lawsuit against the church I attended as a youth. The choir director had molested six children from my choir. One committed suicide, several other suffered from long term mental health problems. I was spared. I think because, even as a young teen, I was man-sized and imposing. While the victims were smaller children from troubled homes. I was asked to keep quite “for the good of the church”. I said bullshit.

I don’t consider Deep Thoughts an atheist blog. I leave that to the serious likes of Atheist Revolution, The Friendly Atheist, and God is Pretend. They do a much better job maintaining a coherent focus. Rather, I am an atheist blogger who likes to help build the online atheist community. The Atheist Blogroll is a labor of love and my gift to my fellow bloggers. I am grateful for the help and support of my online fiends in this effort.

I have one question that picks at my mind. How long will I continue to blog? I don’t know the answer, but I hope it’s a long time.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Atheist Revolution: Catholic Responses to Irish Child Abuse Conspiracy

Vjack nails it with a post on the Irish child abuse scandal.

Confronted by mounting evidence of the scope of their crimes, a conspiracy to protect the perpetrators from prosecution, and a growing public outcry (at least I sure as hell hope it continues to grow), some Church officials are issuing apologies while others are simply continuing to ignore the issue. In this post, I will examine some of the statements which have been issued so far by Church officials, former Church officials, and assorted Catholics speaking out.

I encourage you to visit Atheist Revolution and read the whole post. It will piss you off. I am sure of it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Christians Disgusted At Google Fossil Logo

Go to Unreasonable Faith read the post and comments. I dare you to keep a strait face.  People can be so dumb.

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No pay, no play

Some Virginians  have learned the hard way that working for a tax exempt religions institution does not pay when they are laid off.

Carol Bronson, who was laid off from her secretarial job at Temple Emanuel synagogue in Virginia Beach, said she was told her unemployment claim was denied because the tax exemptions for religious organizations under Virginia law include an exemption from paying unemployment taxes...

It seems that faith-based organizations are exempt from unemployment taxes. Now, with the economy in the dumps, Christians who have lost their jobs are adrift without a safety net. The solution is obvious, remove the tax exemption.

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Gideons Provide Bibles to Texas Students

"I am not atheist — I believe in God," she told "But I just don't want any religion forced on my child at school. That's why my child goes to a public school."

I am not used to common sense on religion coming from FOX News or Texas.

Gideons are distributing bibles to public schools in Frisco, Texas. School administrators said they allowed it to stop more aggressive proselytizing taking place on public sidewalks outside of their schools.

Frisco Independent Schools allowed Gideons International to display Bibles on tabletops in all 13 of the district's middle and high schools last week. Officials say it didn't violate the law, but some parents say school is not the place to be offering the Good Book.

"I was never notified by the schools that they were going to allow this. I was a little shocked,"…

I have a suggestion, how about a good old fashion book burning? Or simply turn the fire house on the pests, or rotten eggs. They will eventually get the message. Of course, my point it that school officials should have addressed the real issue rather than appeasing these nutballs.

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Military burns unsolicited Bibles

American Military personnel burned bibles rather than pass them on to Afghans. I wonder if this would have happened under the Bush Presidency?

Such religious outreach can endanger American troops and civilians in the devoutly Muslim nation, Wright said. "The decision was made that it was a 'force protection' measure to throw them away, because, if they did get out, it could be perceived by Afghans that the U.S. government or the U.S. military was trying to convert Muslims," Wright told CNN on Tuesday.

Something tells me yes.

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Methodist pastor acquitted of indecent assault

It does not happen often enough. I remember a case last year, and one the year before.  I write a lot of posts about truly evil people who prey on the innocent. Why I find one who is innocent, it give me hope.

Michael Clair Garvey stood trail for indecent assault and institutional sexual assault against two woman. A third alleged that Garvey offered her money to pose nude.  He is specifically alleged to have fondled a breast, administered an unwanted tongue kiss, and rubbed his groin against the buttocks of a woman filing papers.

Blair Hindman, the attorney for the Rev. Michael Clair Garvey, said he believed the most persuasive evidence in the two-day trial was testimony from the Rev. Garvey's wife and his former family practitioner that the pastor suffered from erectile dysfunction and low testosterone.

The Rev. Garvey, 59, is pastor of Coolspring United Methodist Church in Coolspring and Ramseytown United Methodist Church in Knoxdale and has continued to serve there since charges were filed in August 2007.

What I find troubling is that he was allowed to continue as a pastor while he awaited his trail. A paid leave of absence is the appropriate course of action in a case like this.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A review of the California Academy of Sciences

CAS - why is he so pale?

On my personal goals for 2009 is to visit 12 different museums. I visited the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on May 16. It was an amazing experience. Since it was a new space, I though a review from the point of view of a fat middle-aged mildly enochlophobic/claustrophobic museum loving atheist would make for a perfect post.

I’ll start with parking. It’s underground. Need I say more? I drove down what I describe as a French tunnel. If’ you’ve ever driven the rabbit warren of tunnels underneath Paris, you know what I mean. A long  tunnel connects from the street to a parking structure directly under the entryway of the museum. The parking lot is large, well lit, and because we were early, empty. For the trivial fee of $15, I parked for the entire duration of my visit.

We bought tickets at the ridiculous price of $24.95 per adult, and $19.95 per teen. For our party of four adults and one teen, we paid nearly $130. This is steep for a museum visit. In fact, it is about $100 more than I’ve paid to visit any other museum.

The California Academy of Sciences is new. You feel it when you walk in through the large plate glass doors. The space feels fresh and relevant. The energy is real. You can feel the excitement generated by the staff and eager visitors. I was happy and disoriented at the same time. It felt like my head was on a 360 degree swivel. I was trying to take everything in while not wanting to miss a thing.

CAS - My favorite science thing

We headed straight for the Morrison Planetarium to secure tickets for the first screening of Fragile Planet.  As we waited for tickets, we gazed down into the Steinhart Aquarium’s Philippine Coral Reef exhibit. It is a stunning top down view of tropical fish that reminded me of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There is something peaceful about watching fish. I love it. The day was off to a good start.

We had an hour to kill before the first showing of Fragile Planet so we visited the four-story Rainforest exhibit. We knew something special was about to happen as we watched a giant fish leapt from the water and eat a beautiful blue butterfly. It was one of those moments where people point and yell. A “real nature” moment as my son referred to it.

CAS - a flower

The museum staff regulates the flow of people into the Rainforest exhibit so that the it  does not become too crowed. We waited five minutes for our turn. Later in the day, people would wait an hour or more.  When our party entered, my misery started. You don’t realize it at first, but the rainforest is hot and humid just like the real thing. Plus, you are in a glass cage with heat lamps near the top of the exhibit.  To say I freaked out would be a little to harsh, but the little voice inside my head which threatens my sanity in situations like this kept yelling for me to get out of there. I fought the urge to run. 

I know I’m stressed when I stop taking pictures even when presented with unparalleled beauty. The Rainforest exhibit is amazing. I saw things that I never though possible in a natural history museum; but I hated every moment of it. The worst moment came near the top when I realized the only exit was a crowded elevator. Near the top the heat increases to a point where it felts oppressive. I was sweating through my clothing and starting to worry about my health. I felt like I was in a sauna with no way out. And the people… it would have been much worse if it were crowded.

CAS - big fish

As it was, waiting in line for the elevator ride down took forever, yet in reality it was only a few minutes. But then, entering a hot crowded elevator seemed like some ghoulish last attempt to make me freak out. I closed my eyes and missed the best part of the exhibit, the wow moment when you see the backside of the aquarium.

I enjoyed the Morrison Planetarium's presentation of Fragile Planet. I was a sweaty mess sitting in my seat. The cool air conditioning helped to cool me off. The smell of the shoes from the people behind me was annoying. I felt sorry for the lady below me who had her head between my feet. I’m sure she skipped lunch.

My wife gets motion sickness under some conditions. She closed her eyes 10 seconds in. I developed a queasy stomach after a few minutes  but found the discomfort well worth the experience. Fragile Planet paints a picture of of the vastness of our universe in a way I’ve never experienced before. I found it refreshing.

CAS - that's a big fish

After the Planetarium we entered the pits of hell known as the Steinhart Aquarium. Whoever designed the walkways did not take into account crowds. The walkways are narrow, do not flow well, and often dead end. There is no logical flow to the exhibits. It was maddening. And here I must admit, I freaked out. After 20 minutes of trying to see the exhibits, I found myself pressed into corner by a few dozen people. It did not matter that the exhibits were amazing. Nor did it matter that I love fish. I needed to get out and I did. CAS - look at the fishI sat on the only bench I could find in front of the albino alligator exhibit. It took another 20 minutes for my head to return to normal. I watched freshwater turtles and alligator gar swim in a beautiful open aquarium. It was nice and peaceful.

CAS - kid picks a winner

The rest of the exhibits are natural history oriented. I enjoyed walking the various exhibits but found the display dedicated to Galapagos Finches particularly enjoyable. The natural history exhibits cater to children with interactive games that tech key environmental concepts and touchable exhibits spread throughout.

In general, the museum is worth a visit. It is unique enough to warrant a special trip.  The rainforest is beautiful in way that is hard to describe with words. The focus of a mix of kid friendly exhibits and adult oriented displays make the visit enjoyable for everyone. I left a sweaty tired mess, but I had blast in the process. My last word… the admission price is too high.

Monday, May 18, 2009

We did not bond


I am a big friendly guy. I talk to people. I try to get their stories. In this case I failed. The woman who rode this 1990 Harley Davidson, would not pose with her bike. She did not want to be photographed. I wanted to shoot her. Only, at the time I thought she was a he. It was only after I spoke to her that I realized that the tattooed and rugged looking person fueling the bike was a woman, and she did not like me.

She let me shoot her ride. She’s owned it for two years and it is her weekend pride and joy. I can see why.

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Public show of support for accused could send wrong message

I struggle with this issue myself. What do you do when when somebody you respect is charged with a heinous crime? When the victim is a child and the accused a priest, it is easy to say, "Look at all those foolish people." But if I am honest with myself, I would not turn my back on a friend. That is not to say that I would claim his innocence. But I would stand by him until the end. At least I hope I would.

This is why I am troubled by this article. It’s message is political.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said vocal support for accused child molesters sends a damaging message to others who are being abused, whether at the hands of a priest or a parent: Don't tell. No one will believe you.

At the heart of every accusation is the victim and the accused. A trial is deeply personal experience.  The accused priest is not the church, he is just a man. If his supporters feel the need to visibly express their support, I support them. Of course, I look forward to the press interviews after the bastard is convicted.

In this case, Rev. Antonio Cortes is alleged to have sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy. Cortes used the classic, get the boy drunk and use God to get in his pants technique. I think they teach that in seminary

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Science is cool: The Galactic Center of the Milky Way


I think I like vimeo better than uTube.

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Cheesus - I named him first

cheesusIIa A Dallas couple found the likeness of Jesus in a Cheetos. They've name it Cheesus. I wanted to point out that the real Cheesus appeared in Houston back in March of 2008. This new Cheesus is second-rate imposter.

Sara recalls the discovery. "I was putting them in my hand and I had eaten most of the ones in my hand, and one was left lying there. And I said, 'Oh my gosh, look at this. It really looks like a person in a robe praying.'"

Um…. I closed my right eye and squinted with my left. I don’t see Jesus. Sorry.

Dan and Sara Bell, the owners of Cheesus II, plan to sell it on eBay or eat it.  They have not made up their minds.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tanpopo and beer

A beer at Tanpopo

I was not ready for an adventure yesterday when I happened into Tanpopo in San Francisco for a dish of ramen noodles. My son and daughter-in-law love the place, so after a long day spent at a crowded museum, I set my world right with an ice cold Sapporo and some quite time with my family. The meal was perfect. I made a mess with my noodles, but I’m so used to it that it did not bother me. My 14-year-old son was mortified, but everything I do embarrasses him, so I did not really care.

I mentioned the word adventure for a reason. I write about the things I do and the people I meet here on my blog. It is one of the favorite parts of my blogging addiction. I get a lot of feedback from people who ask me how I manage to have so many of this little adventures. I want to share something that happened, or actually, something that did not happen, so that those of you who are curious will better understand.

Midway through our meal an apparently infirm old man entered the restaurant asking to use the phone to call his grandson. The staff was reluctant, the old man was persistent. They offered directions to a pay phone instead. I watched the situation closely while reaching for my cell phone. I was not about to let an old man wonder off to find a pay phone. At that moment my wife nudged me and said, “Help him, he needs to make a call.” I knew the nudge was coming, it always comes. And there it is. I help people because I want to help and I am not afraid to act. And, I help people because I know my wife would want me to help, and I want my wife to respect me. I have adventures because I watch people and offer to help those who are in need if I am able. I do it all the time. Sometimes it backfires and I get cussed out, but sometimes it works, and I get a story to tell.

This time, the old man made his own way. His grandson was at the bar already and too deeply involved with the beautiful Japanese girl sitting next to him to notice his grandfather. It was a touching reunion, full of Sapporo and hugs. My beer was good too, but not as good as my noodles.

Earthquake and panic

Well now... I've lived in Los Angeles all my life and I still hate earthquakes. Take the 4.7 shaker that hit at about 8:30 this evening for example. First, my dog starts barking at the sky. I yell for him to shut up. Next, I ask my son, “What is that noise?” He is too busy playing Xbox to answer. The sound is akin to the roaring or jets, or the low rumble of a passing freight train, only the noise is omnidirectional, and unnerving.

When the earthquake finally hit, it was not the side-to-side motion that we’ve come to expect. Instead, we lifted upward and fell back downward in a sharp motion. It was intense. My wife started to scream for my son from the back of the house. I yelled my standard, “Get under the table.” I remembered the Northridge quake where the earth was moving so much we had trouble getting under the table, and then we stayed there a long time out of fear that our house would fall on us. We all met in the dinning room. Everyone was taking at once. It was obvious that the moment had passed. We were all relieved.

I’m known among my co-works for being the fasted man under a table when an earthquake hits. I was ready to repeat the performance, but there was no need. We all took a deep breath and started to guess the size. I called a 5.3. It ended up as a 4.7. I guarantee that I will not sleep tonight. Each aftershock will wake me and keep me on edge wondering if the shaking will escalate into the big one.

My son was back on the Xbox within 5 minutes. He has his priorities straight.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Blogroll Update: Introducing Cycle Ninja

Cycle Ninja is our first atheist Ninja. How cool is that? The author was kind enough to provide an introduction.

In the author’s own words:

My name is Paul, I’m a cradle Catholic-turned-skeptic who blogs about whatever I like.  As the name implies I am an avid cyclist (with more enthusiasm than talent, I hasten to add), but over the past year and more, the focus of my little corner of the web has solidified into its own purpose.  Unlike friends and family, my blog is not devoted to my kids (don’t got nun), my job (hello, Powerball?), or my particular obsession.  My mind is fertile enough that I can’t focus on just one item of interest.  Primarily, my blog is therapeutic.  It gives me a place to get out all of the things I’d like to say, but would get in trouble for if they actually made it to the surface.    Lots of cynicism and sarcasm, but the occasional glimpse of human emotions, too.  Cycle Ninja is heavily influenced by the writings of Andrew Sullivan, and thus the blog is a scattershot of news, politics, atheism, and just general ranting about whatever gets my goat.  And yeah, occasionally bikes.

Please drop in and welcome our first Ninja to the team.

If you would like to join the blogroll, click here.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blogroll Update: Introducing Fish Tells

Fish Tells, or An Honest Journey Through Mormonism to Intellectual Integrity, was kind enough to provide an introduction.

In the author's own words:

My parents raised me into the Mormon church, including a mission. On that mission to Barranquilla Colombia, a chance encounter with a fellow passerby introduced skeptical thoughts into my brain for the first time. I shelved those thoughts for years, until recently when I moved back to Utah, and those items on the shelf began to fall off and hit me in the head

Follow my personal & spiritual journey out of Mormon doctrine plus the social and family aspects involved.

Please drop in and welcome this fine new blog to the team.

If you would like to join the blogroll, click here.

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Sublime Reunion - Saw Red feat. Rome & Kat

I needed something to brighten my day. Sublime has a new lead singer, and he's good.

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Blogroll Update: New Members

We’ve had a few new members join the Atheist Blogoll in the last two weeks. The new blogs are listed below. I’ve started to Tweet each new blog as it is added. Follow me on Twitter if you’re interested.

New Atheist Blogroll Members:

I’ll be removing some inactive blogs today. I’d say we are hovering around 870 active members.

If you would like to join the blogroll, click here.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Buckeye pastor indicted

Pastor Charles Lawrence Carfrey is a stain, or perhaps I should say that he is alleged to be a stain. No… I have it wrong. Carfrey is alleged to have raped four young girls and to have kidnapped another. I just think he's a stain.

Police believe Hinkley threatened and bullied some of the witnesses in the case and attempted to hide evidence. She refused to comply with a search warrant and fought police when they tried to arrest her, police said.

Carfrey started as a pastor in Oregon in 1990 and moved to Buckeye in 2000 or 2001, police said. He is accused of fondling women and teenagers in both states during counseling sessions.

His pastoral certification also is in question. His degrees are from a diploma mill, officials said.

Seriously, Christians, what the hell? A history of abuse, a make believe degree, and storefront church. What kind of screwed up thinking does it take to become this man’s congregant? I’ll never understand.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A problem with Evolution

I attend a long meeting once a month. I sit in the same place, next to the same man, month after month. I rarely talk. When I do it is always because some system is not working or some such. I spend a lot of time listening to some very smart people discuss running our business. Like the man who normally sites next to me. Except, now I’m not so sure because  at a break in the action he said the words, “I have this problem with the Theory of Evolution.” I told myself to let him explain without interrupting. I’ll attempt to translate his argument below.

He said some like this:

I don’t believe in the Theory of Evolution because it does not explain how complex things like the heart and lungs were created. They are just to complex to have appeared by accident. And where are the things we evolved from that are missing hearts and lungs. And how did they appear in the first place? Evolution does not explain how life first appeared, so it can’t be trusted. I can understand how a fingernail might grow longer, but not how a heart developed. And evolution is just a theory, it is just an idea. Other ideas give a better explanation. And Darwin never explained were life came from so...

He went on for a while, but my mind clicked off.

I explained that the origin of life on earth was not covered in the Theory of Evolution.  That if he were interested in that field of study he should look up abiogeneis. I explained definition of a scientific theory and why it is often confused with a person’s best guess at how something works. I even explained the Theory of Evolution in a  general sense. 

He eventually asked me if I believed in the Theory of Evolution. I’ve been asked this so many times that I have an answer memorized. I know when Christians asks this question they are really asking if I believe in Darwin instead of Jesus. I told him, “I accept the Theory of Evolution as the highest order of scientific true. It is the best explanation that fits the facts.” He looked at me in an odd way and shook his head. I am sure he will have more questions next month.

This is how I witness. What about you?

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Pastor convicted of raping 14-year-old

Pastor Yves Jerome was convicted on sexual assault charges. He raped a a 14 year old girl from his church who he was baby sitting.

As police investigated her disappearance, they found a picture she drew for a class project with the word "Abuse" and a depiction of an adult man asking a girl to marry him and her response, "I'm only 14," the affidavit said.

The girl returned home, and later told police Jerome came downstairs from his home into the basement apartment she shared with her family and forced her to have sex with him two nights in February 2007. At the time, the girl's mother was on a trip to Georgia and had asked Jerome to look after her children.

Pastor Jerome is likely to spend the rest of a short an painful life in prison.

Ex-youth pastor gets plea deal

In yet another story of Christian hypocrisy, former youth pastor Charles Miller admits to child pornography charges.

Miller -- who remains in federal custody -- has signed a plea agreement admitting that he knowingly received photographs of "an actual minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct" via the Internet.

Thankfully, he goes down for a 15-years stretch in federal prison.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Things that make me feel good

There are a few things that I do that make me feel good about being alive. They don't happen often enough, but when they do happen, I live off the memories for a long time. I collected two good memories today.

My wife returned from an appointment this morning to tell me the local Boys and Girls club of Buena Park was having a recycling drive. She asked me to take up our cans. I’ve been slowly working my way through a mass of cans for a few weeks now. When I started the task, I had 40 bags waiting to be crushed. I had a system. Crush the cans until I fill a 30 gallon plastic trash can, then go collect my $30. In the process I was cleaning out the garage too.

I grabbed the eight remaining bags and drove to the Boys and Girls club. I was greeted by five enthusiastic children who competed with each other to carry the sticky bags. I was overwhelmed with their sense of joy. The cans were important to them. They were grateful for the donation. It made me feel good. There were smile all around. It also made me add the club to my list of charities. They do good work.

The second thing I did today was volunteer to work at a US Post Office food drive collecting donations for the Second Harvest food bank of Orange County. I worked with a team of 6 people from my wife’s employer to fill a semi-trailer with donations brought in by postal workers from the local community. We had to transfer food from postal trucks up to a loading dock and then up into a semi-trailer. It was backbreaking work. After three hours, I could barley lift my arms. But it felt good and the people involved were great. I’m ready to do it all over again (after I recover).

My day was great. On top of these great memories, I won two skins in a great game of disc golf at sunrise. it is evening now, and I’m moving through a six-pack of Dos Equis at a fairly good clip . I’ll sleep like a baby tonight.

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An end to abstinence only education?

I was reading Politico this afternoon when I saw a post by Ben Smith titled, An end to abstinence only, in black and white.  The main point made me so happy that I clapped my hands.

In reference to a passage from the President’s budget:

This Budget eliminates funding for Community-Based Abstinence Education, the mandatory Title V Abstinence Education program, the Compassion Capital Fund, and Rural Community Facilities.

Did I just read the last gasp for federally funded abstinence only sex education programs? I sure hope so.

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Nutball Alert: Colleen Hauser

MedWheel2 Collen Hauser is the latest in a long line of religious nutters who are willing to sacrifice a child in pursuit of their faith based, or in this case, “traditional healing” methods. Her son has Hodgkisn’s Lymphoma. The mother and son are refusing chemotherapy out of a misguided belief that traditional remedies gleaned from the Internet and via a Native American religious organization called Nemenhah.

"Danny clearly made up his mind. He's not doing it,'' Colleen Hauser, of Sleepy Eye, Minn., testified on the opening day of a trial over whether a court should order the boy into medical treatment against the family's wishes.

They plan to refuse treatment even if ordered by the court. Which means when Danny Hauser dies from the disease, Colleen Hauser will be able to practice her insanity in prison.

What does the State do in a case like this? Take custody of the child away from his parents and force the treatment? Colleen Hauser is crazy simply for forcing this decision on others. Not to mention the damage she is inflicting on her child.

I have a proposal. Why not compromise? Let Danny have the chemotherapy and treat him with a traditional herbal remedy too? Heck, it’s even called medicinal marijuana. Everybody wins!

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