Thursday, December 28, 2006

Rome vs. The United States (last chapter rewrite...this replaces religious book I was considering writing)

Please note: this is a work in progress.

What does the United States and Rome have in common?

When Julius Cesar led an 8 year campaign to conquer Gaul, modern day France, 50% of Gaul's population was killed. Another 25% of the population was forced into slavery for the Roman Empire. The remaining 25% served some use where they were and allowed to stay, but they were taxed.

My point of mention this piece of history is this, Rome was an incredibly brutal civilization. Rome was a country that relied entirely on military might, and Julius Cesar thought he acting according to god's will. Notice a similarity?

The United States spends more on "defense" than all other countries combined. Every action taken by our military is offensive, and over the last few decades, the U.S. military has been responsible for millions of deaths. You may also remember when George Bush made his statements about praying to god for answers before beginning the Iraq War.

The logic used to justify the War in Iraq is the same logic used to justify the War in Vietnam, which was, if we don't stop it there, it will come here. Obviously, the logic used back in the 70's was flawed because Communism didn't spread. Communism died because it's a viciously corrupt system, which doesn't grant individual people basic human dignity.

Basically, Democracy won out over Communism because culturally, Democracy recognizes the importance of individuals. However, the Democracy used by the United States is deeply flawed because we keep ending up in wars, which arguably do more harm than good.

In the end, Vietnam became a wound, which took over a generation to heal. Iraq is well on it's way to being the exact same thing.

After Vietnam, America didn't do anything to repair itself culturally to prevent the tragedy of another Vietnam. Special Interests of the Military Industrial Complex still had way too much influence in Washington. Politicians were still allowed to throw the American people further into debt. Presidents, who are only going to be around for a maximum of 8 years, can just absolve themselves of any responsibility by "passing the buck" thereby letting someone else clean up their messes. And finally, our income tax system, which forces people to contribute a portion of their income, adds to a perfect recipe for disaster that is destined to keep repeating itself over and over again in the form of pointless war after a pointless.

Can the United States survive living this way? The obvious answer is NO.

Just as Rome couldn't continue to slaughter and enslave, the United States can't continue to stop "the spread of things" whether it's communism or terrorism.

The point of The New Bill of Rights was to take a broad look at the different flawed aspects of American culture and the consequences thereof, while at the same time presenting the obvious solution, which would, in effect, prevent mistakes from being repeated.

I said in the second paragraph of this book, I was only going to write a script, which entailed the main character running for president. I didn't want this character to seem like he was "full of it." So, I started writing this book to give this character some substance. I ended up writing all about my own personal heartfelt political beliefs as naive as they may be, and I packaged them neatly into 10 new amendments to the Constitution, which is probably the exact same thing James Madison did.

When I began writing this book, it became abundantly clear, at least to me, I was writing about something, which is very important. I kept spending more time on it in an effort to totally make sure I knew what I was talking about--at least, that's what all my research has led me to believe.

When I turned 18, I became interested in politics; it was right around the time George Bush Sr. and Michael Dukakis were running for president. You might remember the scene where Michael Dukakis was riding around in a tank wearing that dorky helmet. I thought to myself, "This dude is acting just like the weasels I'm going to high school with, who are driving around in the Camero daddy bought for them, except this dude wants to be the leader of the Free World! Wow!"

Needless to say, I chose not to vote in the 88' election, nor have I voted since. It's not that I'm not patriotic--I honorably served in the Navy. I haven't voted because I have not seen any changes in America's political culture that would indicate, to me, voting is a good idea. To me, it always seems like a choice between "the lesser of 2 evils", which shouldn't be one's impetus for voting. I wouldn't say I'm cynical, but I do know when someone is "full of it" or not, and I recognize that politicians spend very little time dealing with the incredibly important issues in a way that is compassionate for all sides.

The New Bill of Rights might offend some people. Most likely, these people are the people who are making more than 10 million dollars a year and politicians who take lavish vacations on the special interest's dime. Everyone else will just notice things seem a little less dreary, they have more money, and they can travel more freely.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

"Sheaths of Wheat" at the Dallas Museum of Art

I spent a day at the Dallas Museum of Art recently. I'm a huge fan of Van Gogh, and they have an exhibition of his "sheaths of wheat" paintings as well as other notable painters of that time--peasant painting was huge in late 1800's! Who knew?

I have to say, I was more than impressed.

I had a lot of basic questions about Van Gogh's paintings--How big are they? How much paint did he use with each brush stroke? How did his paintings compare to the other impressionist painters of his day? Is there any color distortion between the photographs of his paintings and his actual paintings? What's the big deal about the french impressionist movement?

All my questions were answered.

One painting in particular that I thought was awesome was the painting by Robert Zunn called Harvest, 1860. The detail and the color were fantastic to the point where it looked surreal. The painting itself was huge, probably about 6' x 6'. It had billowing clouds and an endless wheat field set in the middle of a forest with the traditional peasants working the field. It's a very inspiring painting, and it's even more amazing to think the painting was painted more than 140 years ago, and it's just as brilliant today as it was back then.

There are a lot of great paintings at this exhibit. It's well worth the $16 bucks to get in and the $5 bucks to park.

I had never been to the Dallas Museum of Art before. I didn't know what to expect. They definitely have a good collection. Pretty much every great artist is represented, and walking through the museum is exactly like getting a lesson in Art History, and the layout of the museum itself is quite clever. Go there. You'll see what I mean.

Plus, there's a little known secret about me. The walls in my apartment are bare for a reason, and it's not because I'm too cheap to put up any paintings. I've had the idea for a while now that I'm going to do a series of paintings. Actually seeing Van Gogh's paintings in person was the missing piece of the puzzle before I was to begin this undertaking. He's one of my most favorite painters. I'm not saying I'll start tomorrow, but it's definitely something I've got planned to do at some point. It will probably happen as soon as I get completely tired of looking at the blank space on my walls.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What's so cool about selling a church?

I have a listing for a church, which I've been trying to sell now for some time. It's actually a very beautiful church in the heart of North Dallas.

It's a congregation of about 400 Black Southern Baptists, and if you ever attended a sunday service there you would be impressed. It's quite a moving experience--imagine a 50 person choir singing and a stirring sermon.

The 1st question people ask me is, "Why are they selling the church?" And, the answer is somewhat sad. Back in the early part of this decade the church had a charter school. The school had over 400 students and most of them where black.

Believe it or not, the neighbors attacked the school's charter. They said some of the kids where going off school grounds and vandalizing properties in the neighborhood, which may or may not have been true. In reality, whether there were or weren't a few bad apples at the school is irrelevant. The truth of the matter is, kids will be kids. It's why they are sent to school to learn to become functioning members of society. There really wasn't any specific issue that could not have been addressed and corrected, but the neighbors still fought the school, and eventually, they took the school before the City Council. Dallas City Council ended up siding with the neighbors, and the City of Dallas shut down the school's charter.

As you can imagine, the charter school was a major source of revenue for the church, and once the school left the church began to struggle. They also had a 38,000 sq ft building that couldn't be fully utilized.

Notice I haven't used the "R" word, yet. But, this neighborhood where the church is, is predominantly white, and they weren't seeking to reconcile any differences when they attacked this school. They saught to shut the school down, and they were successful.

Most of the congregation became disenfranchised after the school was attacked. A lot of the congregation had young children attending the school, and they had to fight to keep a charter so their kids could go to school. This is a trajedy.

Yes, these people were victims of racism.

So, selling this church will be some sort of vindication for these families because they will be able to move to a place where they are welcome, and they will have money to build a church they can be proud of.

My dream is to be able to walk into the new church one Sunday morning while the Reverend is giving a sermon and sit in the back pew. The Reverend notices me sitting back there and gives me a wink--I just sit back there and listen and look at all the families sitting there and know that I had a little something to do with it.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I've made the statement, "I'm not much of a wine drinker," at least a hundred times. Then, I tried Bearboat, which I completely loved. The trouble is, it's hard to come by. I've literally scoured the Dallas countryside looking for it to no avail. Yes, I just said, "scoured the Dallas countryside looking for it to no avail." You can buy it online for $16 bucks a bottle though.

Anyway, I couldn't find it any anywhere nearby, but I have finally found some pretty amazing wines to replace Bearboat, which are delicious in my opinion.

Benton Lane--Pinot Noir, Oregon, 2005
La Playa--Cabernet Sauvignon Rose, Chile, 2006
Times Ten, Merlot, Lakewood, 2003 (this one's kind of a toss up)

I think I can finally describe the kind of wine I like--I don't like "dry" wines--they make me feel like I should be chasing each drink with a sip of ice water. The wine has to be fruity, but not sweet. Also, I don't like wines where the alcohol (or ethanol) taste or smell is very prevalent. In other words, I like a light wine with a clean finish.

If a wine is earthy, bitter, dry, gritty, woody, or sweet, the chances are my glass will still be full at the end of the night.

Also, in regards to "pairing," like this wine goes well with steak, chicken, pasta or whatever, I sort of feel like a wine needs to stand on its own. Maybe, I'm wrong, but I'd like to think I would enjoy drinking a really good wine no matter what I was eating.

I suppose there's better ways to describe my wine preferences, but then again, I'm not much of a wine drinker.

The Mailing List for "The New Bill Of Rights"

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.--Environmentalist
Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic
78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603

George Bush--President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
NWWashington, DC 20500

Charlie Rose--PBS talk show

Bill Gates--Founder, Microsoft, Humanitarian
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
PO Box 23350
Seattle, WA 98102

Eric Schmidt--CEO Google
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

John McCain--Presidential Candidate, 2008 elections
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Diane Rehm--NPR Talk Show Host
The Diane Rehm Show
WAMU 88.5 FM
4000 Brandywine St.
NWWashington, D.C. 20016-8082

Warren Buffett--Founder, Berkshire Hathaway, Humanitarian
1440 Kiewit Plaza
Omaha, NE 68131

Barack Obama--Presidential Candidate, 2008 elections
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Hillary Clinton--Presidential Candidate, 2008 elections
United States Senate
476 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Al Gore--Documentary Filmmaker
2817 West End Avenue
Suite 126-161
Nashville, TN 37203

Oprah Winfrey--Oprah
Harpo Productions
PO Box 909715
Chicago, IL 60607

Will continue to update...