Monday, January 31, 2011

Our enemies are organized

Scientology is serious and they are much better organized that us. And Scientology is just one player in the market from minds. Do you ever get the sense that it is an uphill battle? I do

Via Gawker.

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I saw paparazzi and celebrities

My wife and I attended the Laker’s game yesterday. They played the hated Boston Celtics. We were lucky in that our tickets were for a swanky private booth and allowed us to enter through the VIP entrance on the back side of Staples Center. The VIP entry area was flanked on both sides by crowd control fencing; behind which stood an intimidating photo(2)lineup of all male paparazzi. I checked out their gear as I walked past. It was impressive. Some photographers were loaded for bear, while others had amateur rigs. My guess it was a mix of professionals and amateurs. What they all shared in common was their look. It was unappealing. They looked like lowlife bums. It was not what I expected.

In short order Andy GarciaAnthony Kiedis, and walked within 10 feet of me. A half-dozen more celebrities followed. At least they were treated like celebrities and to me looked vaguely recognizable. It was defiantly on the surreal side. I can tell you this – celebrities are a short bunch. Except James Worthy! He was tall and still looked fit.

The paparazzi, well let’s just say that I would never want to be one. photoThe yelled, danced, and waved their arms in a desperate attempt to attract the attention of the celebrities.They looked untrustworthy and seemed unfriendly. Their presence was annoying. I can see why celebrities hate them. I wonder if it pays well?

We walked past Ed Asner later in the day. He was short and seemed pissed. We closed the day with a Kobe Bryant. I took an iPhone picture of him getting in his car. He had just taken the time to put his daughter in a child seat. I took the photo with no joy. I am not a fan, but I did cheer for him once during the game. We lost. Not that it mattered much to me. This was the first Laker game I’ve watched in 7 years.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pastor Aaron Witcher convicted

Aaron WitcherPastor Aaron Witcher, who was also known as “Pastor Soulja”, took a plea deal in his child molestation trail by pleading guilty to two counts of rape. He faces 5 years to life in prison.
The charges stemmed from a Roy police investigation in which Witcher was alleged to have begun a sexual relationship with a teenage girl during the summer of 2010. The investigation began in early August, after a Roy police officer found the two in a parked car and became suspicious.
Under questioning, police said that the pair eventually acknowledged that their relationship was sexual.
Let’s hope the judge delivers a righteous sentence – 25 years maybe.

The comment thread on my original post is interesting and worth read. I’m sure there a people who think pastor Witcher is still innocent despite his innocent.

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Youth pastor Michael Norris indicted

It’s more bad news for Pastor Michael Scott Norris. He’s already facing charges that he molested two young children. Now he faces 17 child pornography-related charges.

The grand jury returned the indictment Wednesday charging Michael Scott Norris, a former youth minister and Bible camp counselor, with 11 counts of production of child pornography relating to sexual tapes he allegedly produced of a 10-year-old girl and her 11-year-old brother, whom he met at church.

Norris is being held in Clark County jail. Norris has been held in jail pending his trail, because he has had to wait until the federal government released his porn tapes to his defense attorney. It took four years.

Norris is 44. He’s likely to face a long prison term on the child molestation charges. The Federal child porn charges will assure that Norris dies in prison as an old man.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I’ve been following Egypt all day

Why is it that I have to watch Al-Jazeera to find out what is going on in Egypt? The news is mixed. People are dying in a bid to escape the oppression of their own government and all we get is news of Charlie Sheen and his coke fueled sex binge. What is more important FOX, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and ABC? Do you really think it’s Sheen?

Given the circumstances, I can’t help but think of the song Wake Up by Rage Against the Machine.

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A tribute to Specialist Jose A. Torre, Jr.

I never knew Jose Torre. By all accounts Specialist Jose A. Torre, Jr. was a good man. I knew his uncle, another good man who was senselessly murdered years ago. His aunt Debbie was my family babysitter back in the day. I knew his mother too. She was a friend of the family from my days at Artesia high school. The only tribute I can offer is placing this video here on my blog so that Google will index it and hopefully assure a front page return for people searching for information about him.

My condolences Candida.

I know too many people who have died in the wars. I hope the wars end honorably, and soon.

Pastor Enoch Jermaine Hill’s conviction overturned

Pastor Hill was sentenced to five years in prison in May of 2007. The Maryland Court of Appeals found that interrogating officers violated pastor Hill’s rights by creating an improper inducement (pdf).

The statement to a suspect by an interrogating officer that the victim did not want the suspect to get into trouble, but instead wanted an apology for what happened, is an improper inducement. Any subsequent statement made by the suspect in reliance on that inducement is deemed involuntary and inadmissible as a matter of Maryland non-constitutional common law.

Pastor Enoch Jermaine Hill is free pending a decision by the prosecutor to retry the case. Since the dissenting opinion was clear regarding the admissibility of Hill’s other incriminating comments, let’s hope the re-file the case.

The verbal guile exhibited by Detective McLaughlin in his thirty-minute questioning of Hill, which followed Hill’s recorded telephone conversation with the victim, did not cross the line into the prohibited territory of promises, threats, or inducements, such as would render Hill’s interview statements involuntary under Maryland common law principles. The suppression judge and the Court of Special Appeals got it right.

Hill admitted to apologizing to the victim while on the stand in his trail. Let’s hope the prosecutor has the guts to retry the case. The transcript of the telephone call between the victim and Pastor hill should be enough evidence to put him away.

I don’t practice Santeria

got no crystal ball… what a great song. Back to business – we have our first case of clergy sexual abuse involving that odd religion known as Santeria. Pastor Miguel Leon was found guilty of 37 counts of sex acts and endangering the welfare of a child. Two teen brothers were the victims. MiquelLeon

Prosecutors said Leon told the brothers, 14 and 16, that by performing sex acts with him, they would acquire spiritual energy, power, and a higher level of enlightenment. The victims were abused from December 2008 to July 2009.

Leon will serve 20 very hard years in prison.

I need to add this one to my PowerPoint deck. Never let your son participate in a private religious ritual with a Santeria pastor. But then, it seems like common sense to me.

Pastor Jones flies first class

I enjoyed lunch with my wife today at a local Mimi’s restaurant. The cobb salad is yummy. While eating I overheard a group of religious men planning for a big gathering of churches. They were going over the various strength and weaknesses of proposed speakers. One name, pastor Jones, was mentioned again and again. Apparently pastor Jones is a very good public speaker. The problem, pastor Jones will only fly first class. There was no talk of how this is inconsistent with the message of Christ. No, instead they talked about how to get him to LA on the cheapest flight. They talked like religion was a business and pastor Jones was a product. They were looking at keeping their costs down so they could maximize their profits (donations). Religion has lost its way.

Let’s assume that pastor Jones flies to public speaking venues a few times a year. Pastor Jones is not earning any more for flying first class. He’s is costing more. The money goes to his comfort and his ego. The money is essentially wasted to satisfy the base needs of a man of God. How does that make any sense? Would Jesus have flown first class? I don’t think so. Jesus would have rode an ass, walked, or hitch hiked. Would Jesus have made the trip to headline a fundraiser? Um… no.

So why do it then? Why do our religious leaders fly first class? Why do churches waste thousands of dollars so that a pastor’s fat ass can sit in the front of the plane? Don’t churches have any concern for the waste? Or is this all business? You can feed a lot of hungry people for a thousand dollars.

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Christopher Hitchens on the Tea Party

Hitchens says it so well. I would I could do the same.

The Vatican reaches out to atheists

The Vatican announced a new initiative. They want atheists to participate in a meeting or two in Paris. They want to open a dialog with us. And then they want to convert us to Catholicism, or something worse.

"I believe that the church should also today open a sort of `courtyard of the gentiles' where men can in some way hook on to God, without knowing him and before having gained access to his mystery," Benedict said in Dec. 2009.

The Pope’s goal is is to turn back the influence of secularism. He’ll do this by co-opting secularists (and atheists). Participate at your peril.

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Chicken and waffles plus a side of insensitivity

The story of UC Irvine offering a meal of chicken and waffles to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day was all over the local news here in Los Angeles. My initial reaction on hearing the news was typical for me. I simply said WTF. How could anybody be so insensitive? Here is a link to the story as told by the L.A. times.

A last-minute decision to serve fried chicken and waffles at a campus dining hall in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. was a regrettable choice and lacked sensitivity, UC Irvine officials acknowledged Wednesday.

The meal was served at Pippin Commons on Jan. 17, the first day of UC Irvine's 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr. symposium. The theme of the three-day campus event was "Uniting Our Voice for Change." Past speakers have included Julian Bond, the late Dick Gregory and the late Yolanda King, the civil rights leader's daughter.

The menu and a sign in the dining hall reading "MLK Holiday Special: Chicken and Waffles" were pulled together at the last minute by a chef and other cafeteria staff members, said UC Irvine spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon.

I don’t normally write about racism or racial insensately, but this one struck a cord. I’d recently had the same conversation with a naturalized American of middle eastern ancestry. He’d basically said that all African American’s eat Chicken and waffles as a means of celebrating Dr. King’s birthday. I patently explained the stereotype. He eventually understood by point, but his views are based on thinking that African Americans are a different than their white counterparts. It’s like how we think of the Chinese and French as different peoples. I explained that In America, we are all Americans although many of us took a much different path to get here. The memory of his comments resurfaced when the news of UC Irvine's flub hit the airways. I have trouble understanding how people think this way.

For example. Dr. King’s Birthday is a national holiday. As an American I take a great deal of pride in remembering Dr. King as a great American on par with Lincoln and Washington. He helps define, and helped redefine, what it means to be an American. I don’t see the holiday as black or white, I see it as American. I understand that African American’s view Dr. King as a cultural hero. I would too.

As for food, the last time I checked my African American friends (and daughter-in-law) eat the same kinds of food as I do. There is no African American stereotypical dish or cuisine, we eat American food, which also happens to be highly regionalized or something handed down through your family. If you grew up in the south your food preferences are different than if you grew up in LA, but it’s all American food. Heck, even the Mexican food I love is a regional LA specialty and therefor part of the American food scene.

I’m an Irish American, although by now any semblance of Irish culture is several generations removed. That is to say, I am an American with ancestry reaching back into the 1870s or so. I’m married to a naturalized American of Filipino ancestry. I love the story of my wife’s birth in the Philippines and her subsequent immigration to America. I’ve adopted Filipino culture as my own. My children are at home at Filipino gatherings and at my generic American gatherings.

My son married an African American classmate from Berkeley. The joining of our families was flawless. Learning about each other has been as much fun as celebrating our kids marriage. My family and friends now encompasses people of many races and backgrounds. Some are recent immigrants, some have been here for generations, and a few are thinking about becoming Americans. It’s all good. My life is richer for it.

Chicken and waffles – I love them. I think of them as classic American comfort food. I love the fact that I can go to Roscoe's in Long Beach with my friends to celebrate life by enjoying a good meal together. It’s part of what makes our country great. We will make mistakes along the way, let’s try to learn from them so we can continue down this road together in friendship, and with good eats.

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Pastor Michael Clare indicted

Michaelclare1Pastor Michael Clare (Myspace), of the Harvest Worship Center International, was indicted on first degree rape charges after DNA linked him to the victim. The victim, a 12-year-old girl when the abuse started, became pregnant at age 15. Clare was originally arrested in June of 2010 on a lesser charge.
Prosecutors say the Rev. Michael Clare has been indicted on first-degree rape and other charges. The pastor at Harvest Worship Center is being held on $50,000 bail. His lawyer's name was not immediately available. 
Clare was arrested in June after the girl told her family about the relationship. He was originally charged with second-degree rape, but a grand jury increased the charges Friday.
Clare is also the principal at Harvest Preparatory Academy. The victim was a member of his congregation. Clare is a native of Jamaica.

Analysis is difficult in this case as many of the facts have not yet made it to the press. However, one big factor to consider is the nature of Pastor Clare’s leadership at Harvest Worship Center. He was the head of the church and the school with little direct oversight of his activities or authority. As we know by now, this scenario is unwise. When you give spiritual authority to a pastor and he also holds the reins of power, abuse of some type is much more likely to follow

*** Update 2/1/2014

Pastor Michael Clare sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Counting down the hours

I cannot believe I would say this but I found myself counting down the hours until I could return to work. I’ve been in training for three days. I actually want to get back to work so I can try out some of the things I learn.

Pharmacists & Ted Leo playing Counting Down the Hours - (a better version)

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When we look back 50 years from now

When we look back at this time in American history 50 years from now people will think America lost its collective mind in large part because of the idiocy of Sarah Palin. In response to President Obama’s use of the term “Sputnik moment” in last night’s State of the Union address, Palin asserted that Sputnik bankrupted the Soviet Union and was therefor an inappropriate motivator. She, of course, completely misses the point and manages to get Soviet history completely wrong too.

Palin responded, "That was another one of those WTF moments when [Mr. Obama] so often repeated the 'Sputnik Moment' that he would aspire Americans to celebrate. He needs to remember that what happened back then with the former communist USSR and their victory in that race to space, yeah, they won, but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it led to the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union."

D’oh – historians, please be nice. Many of us understand that she is not smart enough to lead us. We are just waiting for the rest of America to come to the same realization.

I was waiting for Greta Van Susteren to ask the million dollar question: Sarah Palin, what was Sputnik?

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Michele Bachmann d’oh

D’oh. That’s the word that comes to mind with I hear the name of political heavyweight wannabe Michele Backmann. It’s things like this…

More at Pharyngula.

Did anyone make it though her Tea Party response to the Sate of the Union Address?

Youth pastor Jacob Conder convicted (again)

It’s true. Former youth pastor Jacob Allen Conder was convicted for the second time in two months. His first conviction came in January on charges he molested a young girl at a sleepover. Other victims came forward during the investigation, which resulted in his latest conviction. Conder is a serial child molester and former Baptist youth pastor. If you read this blog you know he’s in good company.

The Daviess charges stem from a sleep-over at the church. A 15-year-old girl accused Conder of touching her inappropriately, which led to two other girls coming forward with similar charges.

The analysis here is simple – do not let your daughter go to a sleepover with the youth pastor. Don’t do it – ever. The is simply no reason to send your daughter off into the arms of a child molester. I’m even opposed to allowing a sleepover with the youth pastor if their is adequate supervision. Remember this. If the youth pastor is a man, the he has normal male urges. A pajama party with teenage girls is bait. Are you willing to use your daughters as bait? There are so many other safe ways to develop their character.

Youth pastor Chris Furey convicted

ChrisfureyThe former youth pastor at Cottonwood’s Emmanuel Fellowship Church pleaded guilty to a reduced set of charges. He’s going to spend some hard time in prison.

Under the plea agreement, Furey faces eight charges. They include one count of sexual conduct with a minor, one count of attempted sexual conduct with a minor, four counts of luring a minor for sexual exploitation and one count of sexual abuse.

Furey will spend at least 9 years in prison, a lifetime of probation, and he must register as a sex offender. If I read the news correctly, he could get more prison time.

The church involved has not disclosed much about the case so my analysis is limited. One failure mode is obvious. The teen victim and her pastor exchanged 100,000 text messages over four months. An alert parent could have tripped to the high volume of text messages and started asking questions. Several cases of clergy sexual abuse have been identified this way. As for the church, a technology policy and monitoring is in order. The expectation of privacy for a youth pastor should be near zero. Active monitoring of social media interaction and information technology would catch offenders and force the message that inappropriate use is forbidden.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I’m learning to be a better me

I’m on light posting for a few days. My employer has me in a professional develop course and it’s taking all of my available time and attention. Yesterday was 7:00 am to 10:00 pm. Today looks like a repeat, although with slightly less classroom time and slightly more mandatory social time. When you add that to the need to keep up with things at work, I’m to tired to even read my comments.

I’ve learned that I am a type A personality and introverted (no surprise), and that I’m well liked by my employees and my bosses, but that I’ve got some work to do with my peers. I can write a book of my own on some of the course content, but the parts where we practice perception, awareness, and reading people are new to me. The social dynamic in the class is a mini course all of its own. I’m enjoying myself.

Updates to follow.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

But he’s a church goer

I grow tired of the press an their insipid stories about people being good because they go to church. The latest story comes from Chicago where they interviewed the family of accused cop killer Jahmell W. Crockam. The quote…

Crockam, whose nickname is "Sav" or "Savage," has been charged in the separate slayings of Officer Christopher Matlosz, 27, and Justin Williams, 20. Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford termed Matlosz's killer as having "no soul."

"How can someone say this boy has no soul? He goes to church every Sunday," said Crockam's aunt, Raquel Pressley.

No soul? He goes to church? WTF people. This is not news. This is not even meaningful information. Why is it that going to church and being a good person are linked? We have ample evidence that church going people commit heinous crimes. It’s all so frustrating.

When people say “he has no soul” what is meant is that the person is defective and is lacking a normal sense of morality. Going to church has nothing to do with a soul or a sense of morality. Going to church is a family and social obligation that is endured until ones real life can reassert itself. In this case, the real life of Crockam allegedly included killing a cop. Nice fail church. Perhaps you should lay off the old testament.

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Pastor Larry Martin arrested

It looks like another pathetically sad end to the long career as a Texas pastor. Larry Gene Martin of Palestine was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. The girl was 12. He claims he loved her and wanted to make her his bride.

Martin reportedly preached for decades in churches all over the state, and that has authorities looking into the possibility that there could be more victims.

Martin's 50 years of preaching may have ended at Faith Bible Church, down a side road off FM 315 in Palestine. That's where authorities say he pastored the family of a 12-year-old girl.

Assuming the girl’s parents would not allow a marriage until she reached legal age, pastor Martin would be 74 at the time of his fantasy wedding. I think the death of his wife may have affected his judgment. Either that or molestation is part of his psychological make up and he’s left a trail of abused children across Texas. The police think so.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Waiting for justice in the Hammons case

Pastor Carlton F. Hammons is a convicted child molester, bank robber, and former druggie. He was convicted on child molestation charges back in October of 2010, but he has yet to be sentenced. His sentencing date was moved out to March. It’s his third delay. He’s been out on bail since his conviction. Hammons is not stranger to delay, it was his strategy during the trial phase too. I wonder if the delays have anything to do with his being a pastor or is he just a snake trying to avoid a 10 year stretch in prison?

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Photography fail… again

Each day I make a decision about bringing my camera gear with me. When I have a busy travel schedule I find it inconvenient to lug it all along. I did 160 miles on the road yesterday. I had conference calls planned for my drive time and an intense meeting schedule while I was visiting sites. I opted to leave my gear at home. Oops. At noon I found myself stuck in the middle of a Los Angeles biggest breaking news story. And I mean stuck – I sat for one hour waiting for the police to release my traffic lane while they searched for a gunman who shot a school police officer. I could have shot hundreds of interesting photos and perhaps even made a few media sales – I made follow-up call instead. Oh well… I’m calling it a photography fail.

Note to self – Don’t mess with the police when they are responding to a police shooting. They seemed a little amped up.

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Youth pastor Matthew Porter arrested again

I posted about youth pastor Matthew Porter in 2008 when he was arrested for video taping teen girls as they were showing at his rental house. He pleaded out to 9 counts of voyeurism. If figured that was the end of him. He was set to do time as a pervert in a Florida prison. How many people survive that intact? I figured that would be the end him. No – the Baptist freak came back for another round. But this time he allegedly has a senior fetish.

Granbury police arrested Matthew Christopher Porter, 33, of Granbury, after he was identified in one of the photos trying to adjust the camera. Porter, a volunteer associate pastor at The Church at Granbury, was a chaplain at the nursing home, police said.

Read more: Ex-local pastor faces voyeurism charges in Texas

Wait wait wait – he was working as a pastor and was the Chaplin at a nursing home! Don’t arrest Porter – arrest the people who hired him without a background check. Heck, a background check was not necessary in the case – all they needed to do was a Google search for Pastor Matthew Porter. My posts for his original crime are still on page one.

Secular government fundie governor

The first thing my wife said to me last night was, “Did you hear about Alabama’s governor?” I had. He’s fundie nutball.

On the day of his swearing-in, Alabama Republican Gov. Robert J. Bentley raised concern among the state's non-Christians by declaring that people who had not accepted Jesus Christ were not his brothers and sisters.

Why do I call him a nutball? That’s easy. He does not understand his role as governor. He represent all of his constituents, not just the Christians. I know of at least one Atheist in Alabama. I’m sure it pissed him off too. I’m sure there are Muslims, Jews, and Hindu’s too. The most plausible explanation is that Bentley is blinded by his faith – blinded to the needs of his state. Why did they elected him?

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pastor Otis Holland arrested

OtisHollandPastor Otis Holland was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a minor under the age of 14, and a minor under the age of 16. This pastor sounds like a peach.

According to the police report, the alleged sexual assaults occurred on five occasions in a limousine and at his Henderson residence from April 2008 through Dec. 25, 2009. The victim's parents had allowed her to go to Holland's house under the pretense that she was receiving counseling.

The girl described to investigators numerous sexual acts Holland allegedly performed on her, according to the police report. At one point, she told police she saw a video camera in the "secret" back room where Holland is accused of assaulting her.

There are two known victims. The police are looking for more. I thought this line was odd - According to arrest reports his congregation of about eighty meets in the lobby Rob's Tax Service on Hacienda and Eastern. Here is a little common sense advice from Mojoey – never let your daughters take counseling from a pastor who runs his church from the lobby of a tax business. I mean, wtf? Are people that dumb?

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Youth Pastor Keith Dickerson’s trial starts

KeithDickersonI missed youth pastor and firefighter Keith Dickerson. He was arrested in May of 2008 on charges he raped a 4-year-old girl and a woman.

Jeffersontown Police aren't the only ones looking for answers from Dickerson. According to the indictment, he's charged with distributing obscene material to a minor, incest, sodomy and sex abuse of a girl, under 12 years old. It is a case Louisville Metro Police have been handling since last May. Chief Jack Reckner of the Jeffersontown Fire Protection District says he learned of the investigation after Dickerson got an unusual delivery this March.

The wheels of justice turn slowly. At the pre-trail phase is underway. Lawyers were arguing the important of his role as a youth pastor. I think that’s important, especially if he’s allegedly sodomizing 4-year-old girls.

Charles Reed sentenced

Charles Reed drove a bus for Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. He was a devout servant of the lord - and a pedophile. Reed took an innocent 14-year-old girl to his house after church and raped her. The girl had a broken leg at the time. Reed reprehensible crime screwed with his victim’s head.

The victim's sister-in-law said the girl has changed since the sexual assault.

"She cannot bring herself to go to church," she said. If we drive within a block of the church her breathing gets short and she hyperventilates, the girl's sister-in-law said in a victim impact statement.

The mother of the victim read a statement in court written by the girl, who is now 19.

"I don't talk to anyone. I stay in my own little world away from my family and friends," her mother said.

The victim thought it was her own fault for a long time and didn't tell anyone. It still bothers her to go near the church where Reed raped her, the victim's mother said.

Reed was also sentenced for the molestation of a 4-year-old girl. She too bears scars.

The sound of footsteps scares the victim - she could always hear his footsteps when he came to her room to molest her. She now sleeps with a radio on to drown out sounds such as footsteps, according to court documents.

I have a feeling the sound of bubba’s footsteps will soon terrify Charles Reed. He’s 67 and will spend most of the next 22 years in prison. I bet he makes it to 72.

Introducing The Grumpy Atheist

Please join me in welcoming one of the newest members of the Atheist Blogroll, The Grumpy Atheist.

Greetings fellow travellers,

This is a brief introduction from myself, the writer of the Grumpy Atheist blog.

My blog's purpose is probably best summed up by it's subtitle 'Exploring Unreal Nonsense In The Real World'

It is a cynical but often humorous exploration of the ridiculous phenomena that is religion.

It is an attempt  to persuade any doubters or believers to think about what they've been spoon fed and to see how absurd it looks when viewed from any other angle.

For those interested, there are my writings about the serious reason for atheism, as well as recommended readings. Other stuff includes my writings about Japan, since I live here now, which I hope you will find fun.

Yours respectfully and godlessly,

The Grumpy Atheist

Are you interested in becoming a member? Visit the Atheist Blogroll resource blog for more information.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Introducing Humanitarikim

Please join me in welcoming one of the newest members of the Atheist Blogroll, Humanitarikim.

Hello!  My name is Kim.  Please stop by my blog Humanitarikim, and join me in a journey through the blogoshpere.  My tag line is "Just a girl hoping for change".  I believe that we all deserve to feel loved and accepted for who and what we are.  My intent is to help change the perceptions and ideas of others to create a better world for us all, one blog at a time.  Some may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Are you interested in becoming a member? Visit the Atheist Blogroll resource blog for more information.

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Introducing Random Excurse

Please join me in welcoming one of the newest members of the Atheist Blogroll, Random Excurse.

Hey guys,

I'm Fatima, and I recently started blogging at  Random Excurse. It's more of a substitute diary that's been spruced for secrets. I write about general topics that pique my interest and don't really have a theme of sorts. My transition to Atheism is also recent because, well, I had only recently started taking my religion seriously. (It helped that my dad was critical of religion).

My writing skills are still raw and I would like to extend a warm welcome to readers, be they critics or enthusiasts. Your opinion is welcome as my understanding of several things is limited and it would enrich my knowledge base. So if you have a moment, stop by my blog, and see if you like what you find there.

Thanks to mojoey for this amazing opportunity! I can't remember the last time I was able to openly discuss religion (or anything for that matter, human rights, women's roles, traditional families, etc) with someone without the headache of dealing with the subject matter tactfully for fear "blasphemy".  I know that's a bit cowardly of me, but I hope that a flaw you all can overlook, tease me about but not hold it against me.

Are you interested in becoming a member? Visit the Atheist Blogroll resource blog for more information.

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Say it ain’t so pastor Lewis Givens

LarryGivensI want to give people the benefit of the doubt. I want to think that a pastor who works at a church named after MLK is a good man. But then I read a headline like this: Man accused of assaulting student also a minister. But wait, there is more.The student, and nine year old girl, is mentally disabled. And, pastor Givens was recently profiled in the Racine newspaper as a role model for others. This story is going to end badly.

Givens is pastor of Martin Luther King Church of Christ, 1131 Douglas Ave., according to the Insider News article and ads the church ran with the publication. Numbers listed in the church's ads and on a sign on the building did not work. One number had a recorded message that it did not accept incoming calls, and all other numbers were disconnected.

Geez – you really can’t trust anyone these days. Go ahead. Tell me he was framed. I can’t wait to hear this story.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Attempted conversion of Normal Bob Smith

Via Jews for Jesus are on my list.

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Photo a day – Devils


My wife and I walk the monthly Long Beach Flea Market at Veterans Stadium. It’s two hours of meandering through folk art, collectables, and antiques. We talk while tripping on the odd people who frequent the event. I shoot a lot of photos. It’s great fun. Today’s photo take was poor as my new Nikkor 18 to 105mm lens broke. The autofocus stopped working (or never started), so I had to resort to manual focus. Apparently, I’ve lost this skill.

My odd moment of the day came when I found myself surrounded by 5 tall men. I’m 6’2”. It’s rare to run into one person who more than an inch or two taller than me. Running into 5 very tall men (6’5” or better), all apparently unrelated, in one small section of the flea market, was disconcerted. I turned around after taking a photo to find myself the smallest man in a crowd. It felt wrong.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

I’ll have a latte with a side of Jesus freak please

imageI have a friend who’s dream is to open a Christian coffeehouse as part of his ministry. I’ve always recoiled at the idea privately. There is something about the tranquility of a good coffee shop disrupted by the minions of Jesus that sets my teeth on edge. I’m afraid it would be a bad scene. I could not enjoy a cup of coffee with the burden of Christian love hanging on every sip. My thoughts never strayed to the possibility of abuse though. It did not occur to me that a Christian coffeehouse could be a place where children are at risk.  Enter the pedophile…

Christian activist and “minister of Jesus’ Michael Frediani was arrested in Springfield, Massachusetts for failing to register as a sex offender. He managed Holy Grounds Coffee Shop where he served free coffee to teens in exchange for conversation. This minister of Jesus raped an 11-year-old child in New York. It gets better, nutball pastor Scott Lively owns the place.

Frediani had identified himself as “Michael Free,” when he was interviewed last Friday by The Republican at the coffee house. At the time, Frediani said he was a “volunteer manager” at the coffee house, assisting the owner, controversial pastor Scott Lively.

You remember Scott Lively right? He one of the overtly bigoted anti-gay pastors. This is what he had to say about his convicted pedophile coffeehouse manager.

“Having been a pastor a long time, and having known many people with a rough past, it doesn’t surprise me he has a rough past. That he has a criminal record. A lot of Christians are former criminals. That’s the beauty of the salivation of Christ.”

Translation – I don’t care about his background. He’s a Christian now so all is forgiven. Move along sheeple.

I should also point that Lively stated the Coffeehouse was not a business, but that it’s was a church. Of course. the church ministers to school kids and Michael Frediani was managing it for him under an assumed name. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. .

I wonder why Lively did not do a background check? That seem reasonable in a situation like this and something I would expect from a responsible community leader. Maybe that’s why he did not do a background check, because Lively is neither responsible or a community leader. It’s something to ponder.

Just in case you think this pedophile deserves a break, consider this. Frediani was allowing kids to use the coffeehouse as a hangout for kids cutting school. You do the math.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sarah Palin and blood libel

I listened to Sarah Palin’s response to the Tucson shooting at lunch today and did so again this evening. When I first heard her use the phrase “blood libel” I shuddered. I know the term. It’s an artifact of history that I’ve sited as a low point in Christian history many times before. I scratched my head and wondered what she meant by its use. It’s easy for me to jump to the conclusion that Palin is simply dull and does not know what her words mean. But then - she has speech writers. Her use of blood libel was deliberate. If she is trying to paint her position as similar to an innocent Jew accused of murdering children to use their blood, then she’s way off the mark. She’s not an innocent bystander. She’s a player. Her game is influence. She’s spent the last two years trying to influence others, and so did her Tea Party movement. When the press (and bloggers) starting making links between vitriolic rhetoric, gun site graphics, and political violence, they naturally pointed to the source, Sarah Palin.

Is Sarah Palin to blame for the horrible events that occurred in Tucson last Saturday? Did she guide the actions of Jared Lee Loughner? Did she help point the gun that killed so many innocent people and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords? I say no, Sarah Palin is not directly to blame. She cannot be held directly responsible for the actions of a man who appears to have mental health issues and may well be a complete and total nutball. However, I think Sarah Palin may be indirectly responsible. The term I’m looking for is “partial culpability”. How culpable? I don’t know. Is she 10% culpable or is it 50%. We will find out as the investigation unfolds. I think we may find some level of culpability, even if it is simply vilifying Giffords. Palin promoted the climate of hate the fed Jared Loughner. She pushed the lunatic fringe to action. She called for a revolution, why is she surprised that somebody answered?

I am a criminal

In our nation of laws – I find myself constantly running afoul of stupidity. California enacted a new law on January 1st.

Paparazzi caught driving recklessly will have a misdemeanor offense added to their record and could face up to six months behind bars and a $2,500 fine.

I’m obviously not a paparazzi, yet I’ve was stopped 4 times in 2009 for shooting pictures from my car. In each case I was stopped at a traffic light and not shooting while moving. The police hassle me. I’m obviously a 1) Pervert, 2) terrorist, or 3) stalker. In truth I’m none of he above. I shoot urban ugly. When I show them what I shoot they shake their heads and call me crazy. I’m afraid that will change now that they have a reason to arrest me. All they need do is call me a paparazzi and say I was driving recklessly. This one will be interesting.

I hate stupid laws (among other things). Speaking of stupid…


Do I really need to see another god loves you reference on the back of a Cadillac? I shot this in Carson with an LA Country Sheriff in the next lane. He waved.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Learning to shoot gymnastics

My cousin invited me to attend a gymnastics event called the Pack 10 Showcase over the weekend at UCLA. Her daughter is a gymnast. I took my cameras and shot over a thousand photos. Most are not so good. My excuse… I had no feel for the events, nor could I anticipate the athletes movements. And in a lot of cases, I was distracted by the very movements I was trying to capture. Gymnastics live is breathtaking and beautiful. I found myself watching the event through the lens and forgetting to push the shutter.

Here are a few shots.



And my favorite…


I learned a few things too. Apparently UCLA is very good at gymnastics, and so is Oregon State. Also, female gymnasts are among the best trained athletes I’ve ever seen in person. And finally, gymnastics on TV is nothing like gymnastics live. I would pay to see an event like this again.

I also learned a lot about photography. Take the picture above. If I could have figured out how to blur the background the shot would be much better. Or, if I could have shot from the ground instead of from the stands down, the shot would not have the crowd, which would have helped. gymnastics-2Also, taking my light meter would have helped. Getting a reading was a real pain. I underexposed everything. Take the shot above for example. I had to fix it in post production. And the last thing – shooting at 7FPS is hard to do. Of the 1000 shots I took, 600 are useless. Photography is about timing. If you rely on the 7FPS to capture the image, you will miss it (except for the shots above of course).

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Thoughts on murder and a book called Focus

I started reading Focus by Leo Babauta last Thursday. By Friday I had decided to follow Leo’s advice and disconnect from the web for a few days. I stopped checking email, Facebook, blogging, and Twitter by Friday evening. I slipped a few times. I made a few Twitter posts during a few off moments, mostly during during meals via Foursquare. But that was it. I achieved my goal of disconnecting and felt pretty good about it. Late Sunday night my wife commented that it felt like we re-connected this weekend. I felt the same way. Focus is a great read. I highly recommend it.

Disconnecting had its price. I missed the murder and mayhem associated with the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It was hard to pass up the feeding frenzy, but pass I did. Instead I listened to a few news reports and tried to come to terms with the different thoughts running through my head. My first thoughts were a reaction to violence. I abhor violence. It makes me ill. While the story unfolded I thought of the families involved and the pain they must feel. It is not something I ever want to experience.

I understand why people pray at times like this. I felt no compulsion to pray, none at all. Instead I felt small and helpless. My heart broke a little as the news described an unnamed nine year old victim, and again as the death toll increased. It’s a gruesome process waiting to hear news of the dead.

I have a lot of friends in Tucson. I was worried about them. I wanted to do something to lessen my fears but chose to let my fears go. There was nothing I could do. I would find out about my friends in due time.

At some point early on my wife asked me who a thought was capable of an act like this. I told her it was a nutball or a true believer, or both. She asked about motivation and I moved toward politics and the Tea Party. I knew enough about the situation to understand the Sarah Palin and her ilk had pointed the full power of the Tea Party straight at Rep. Giffords. I felt the connection – nutball, true believer, and Tea Party. I don’t think I was too far off the mark. I forgot racist.

I’m interested now and I’ll follow the case until it fades away. It’s the politics I’m worried about. The Tea Party and it’s rhetoric have me worried. I think both sides will use the event to rally their troops – but the Tea Party will continue to sew hatred and discontent no matter what happens. And that’s what really makes me sad. The future looks bleak unless we stand up to their bullshit.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Introducing Fish of Gold

Please join me in welcoming one of the newest members of the Atheist Blogroll, Fish of Gold.

Fish of Gold is a miscellaneous assortment of opinions, experiences, gripes, complaints, queries and stories on various topics including politics and religion. The author is a lifelong skeptic, a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation ( and firm believer in the separation of church and state.

Are you interested in becoming a member? Visit the Atheist Blogroll resource blog for more information.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Zeikos Multi-power battery pack review

I picked up a Zeikos multi-power battery pack for my Nikon D300. The price was $54 via Amazon. The D300 has a theoretical limit of 8 FPS. I’ve only been able to get 4 or 5 in most tests. With the extra power I expected 8 FPS, and I got it. I ran a set of AA batteries through the several tests and got a consistent 8 FPS in each test.


I was afraid of buying an aftermarket product at such a discounted price. The Nikon version goes for $242. I took the risk and can honestly say that I am please. The Zeikos unit is solid and professionally made. Plus, all of the buttons work like they are supposed to work.

The only trade off I see is the pickup in weight. Of course this is offset by the coolness factor of of the professional looking rig. I think I can handle the extra weight.

I’ll have a chance to test out the rig this weekend. I have floor seats at a Gymnastics match at UCLA. I finally get to see my cousin compete. I’m excited and do not want to miss a shot.

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But I thought it was the body of Christ?

Parishioners who received Holy Communion may have been infected with Hepatitis A. I don’t understand how the works through. I mean its holy and the physical body of Christ. One would think that god might just miraculously disinfect the wafer.

This bit is funny.

Officials did not offer details on the source of the potential contamination, but said that the hepatitis A virus can be spread by consuming food or drink that has been handled by an infected person.

That would be the priest who handed out the wafer and/or how many other people?

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Political assassination in Pakistan – because of Islam

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by his bodyguard. The assassin used a submachine gun at close range. Governor Taseer never had a chance. He was murdered because of his moderate views.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the guard had told police that he killed Mr Taseer because of the governor's opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law.

So that’s it? You die in Pakistan because you oppose a draconian blasphemy law? Is it Islam or a screwed up culture that drives people to this madness?

What he really died for was an act of compassion.

Mr Taseer made headlines recently by appealing for the pardon of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Bibi was sentenced to death… for saying what exactly? Even if she escapes death by hanging there is a price on her head. Her family is in hiding, presumably forever. Pakistan can go hang – this is simply immoral.

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Monday, January 03, 2011

How many books did you read in 2010?

My boss hit me up with his reading list today. He read 31 book in 2010. I did not record my actual reads for 2010 so I killed some time this afternoon going back over the books on my Kindle, Audible, and my bookshelf. I know I have at least 14 because I’ve read the all of the Dresden files, including the collection of short stories. I counted 11 finished on my Kindle, plus 15 in my Kindle archive. I listened to 5 more books on Audible. And on the printed book side of things, I read 7. So that’s 52 for me.

The best: I am not Serial Killer by Dan Wells,The Maze Runner by James Dashner and The Checklist Manifesto by Atu Gawande.

The worst: The 4-Hour-Workweek by Timothy Ferries, The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

I’ve started of 2011 by finishing Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy and I’m halfway through Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry.

As always, I am curious about what you are reading…

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My favorite blogs of 2010

People ask what blogs I read all the time. I get the question at least twice a week. The truth is that I am not much of a blog reader. I try at times, but I find I do not have the time to read as many as I would like. But I keep track of those a read on a regular basis. It’s a short list. I’m skipping the business oriented blogs out of fear that I will bore you with a project management geek fest. This is my list. You may find it odd.

  • Zen Habits – I’ve read Leo Babauta since the first month he started blogging. He takes simplicity a little farther than I am willing to go, but I like his ideas.
  • No 2 Religion – I feel like Martin is my central California cousin. Plus he’s a frequent commenter here on my blog so I can’t help but follow back to see what he’s writing about.
  • Atheist Revolution – This is the best Atheist blog available (IMHO). I read every post.
  • Pecan Pie – A new entry to my reading list this year. I find the writing good, the stories interesting, and the possibility of pie is hard to beat.
  • Toomanytribles – What can I say? Tribs is an amazing photographer and an atheist too. I read every post and check out each one of her photos.
  • CaroLINES – This is my favorite weekend read. I look forward to it every Sunday.
  • No Longer Quivering  - The sleeper hit of 2010. This blog is one of the best available.

Oops – I forgot Conservative Babylon. – it’s amazing!

I have a question for my Atheist readers. What is your pick for best Atheist blog? I’m thinking about doing a survey to capture the results. Would anyone be interested in helping put it together?

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Best Firefox extension of 2010: Readability

Ok – I'll admit that I don’t know how long this Firefox extension has been around. I found it in 2010. It’s called Readability. It strips everything out of a blog post and replaces it with an easy to read version. I love it. It’s simple, easy to use, and effective. If you read a lot of blogs, I’m sure you will find this helpful.

What was your favorite Firefox extension?