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A Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

I am writing so that I can learn first-hand what motivated you to say the following at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month:

And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhi, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

I am concerned about your contentious remarks as well as the message you sent.

First, the use of the metaphor “high horse” was particularly egregious.  If anyone was on a high horse, it was you—lecturing the audience on the supposed misdeeds committed in the name of Christ.

Second, do you honestly believe what you said above, particularly the phrase, “…remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” or were you simply speaking off the cuff?  If the former, then how do you respond to Bill Donahue’s call for an apology for that remark?  Do you understand the history of the crusades well enough to make a blanket statement like that?  Furthermore, do you equate the instances you mention above with the terror perpetrated by ISIS in the Middle East?  Soldiers and sailors have spoken about how evil these terrorists are.  I’d like to hear that you are giving the soldiers and sailors the leadership they need to defeat this enemy instead of hearing about how this enemy is not unique in world history.

Lastly, did you believe that your audience needed to hear this message?  Do you have some specific knowledge of Christian leaders in this country who are condoning or allowing terror to be committed in the name of their religion?  I admit that the general message of rooting out evil in our communities is a good message, and one that is appropriate for the leader of this country to deliver.  America should continue to be a light to the world.  I’d like to believe that your contentious remarks were simply ill-considered.  I know that some in the media have already judged them to have been spoken from malice or ignorance.

Please respond to my questions as I would very much appreciate learning your intents and purposes first-hand rather than inferring them from second and third hand sources.


Casey Barker


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21 Things New Yorkers Should Know About the Rest of Us

ImageMy New York friend liked the article, “21 Things You Have to Explain about New York City to Out-of-towners,” by Dave Infante, and I ran across it last night on my Facebook wall.  The article proudly told of the unique and great things that New York City offers, but it also implied that those who don’t live in the Big Apple are hicks.  It’s natural and fine to be proud of one’s city.  And I am almost certain that I am a hick.  So below are my 21 responses to Mr. Infante and his New York City readers, to show them that being a hick has advantages.

  1. South Street Seaport is completely irrelevant  I don’t know what South Street Seaport is.  I guess it is irrelevant to me, too.
  2. Nobody goes to the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, or Rockefeller Center, either  We have cultural sites out here, too.  They’re Civil War battlegrounds, historic ranches, etc…, and they’re beautiful.
  3. Yes, it’s always this loud. No, it doesn’t “bother” us  All the big cities I’ve been in are loud.  Quiet is nice, too.
  4. You have to walk faster than that  I agree with you, there.  We all have important things to do.
  5. Our bars close at 4am every night  That’s great.  I have work in the morning.
  6. Cabbies don’t take advantage of tourists  Maybe if you had your own car, you wouldn’t need a cabbie.
  7. We don’t call it the “Big Apple”, and we barely even call it “New York” or “NYC”  Sorry, I missed that one.
  8. The Italian food in Little Italy is terrible  Try San Diego’s Little Italy.  Or try searching on Yelp.
  9. Streets are short, avenues are long, and it’s a grid  OK.  Our streets aren’t paved, and there is a scrappy cat or dog lurking on every corner.
  10. Yes, it’s true: we basically all live in glorified closets  That’s too bad.
  11. Everybody jaywalks  We don’t have paved streets, so we obviously can’t afford crosswalks.
  12. That annoying TV in the back of your cab?  We like to talk to our cabbies, but only when our cars are in the shops.
  13. There’re certain times that you will not get a cab  Like if everyone’s car broke down at once?
  14. Beyond hot dogs and pretzels, do not be afraid to eat from carts  We do, everyday.  I bet your truck tacos are made with flour tortillas, topped with something fancy and unrecognizable, and cost five dollars.Image
  15. That smell? It’s piss  Gross.  We have the smells of dairies and farms, where you get all of your fresh milk, meat, fruits, and vegetables.
  16. The city is empty on Summer weekends  You’re welcome here.  We grill in our backyards in the summer.
  17. We only eat at Katz’s Delicatessen when we’ve been at one/many of these bars  To each his own.
  18. No, the Hamptons aren’t “right there”  How does anyone get there if no one has a car?
  19. Don’t talk to us about the Knicks  I won’t.  I don’t like basketball.  By the way, the Yankees didn’t even make the playoffs last year.
  20. We find absolutely nothing weird about buying groceries at a bodega  Neither do we, except here it’s called Walgreen’s, and it’s open 24 hours.  You just need a car to get there.
  21. Watch out for street-corner slush lakes  Well, if you fall in, just drive to the nearest Walgreen’s, and buy new pants and socks.  Oh yeah, no one has a car.

When New York City becomes too much for you, you are always welcome here-in Oxnard, Visalia, or any of the other great cities in America.





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Fans of Climate Change

I found this article about how a people’s perceptions of cold weather are influenced by their views on climate change.  But what about people’s perceptions of warm weather?  I’ve recently begun to hear things like, “It’s unseasonably warm today.  How can people still not believe climate change is happening?”  Or, “It’s January.  There’s no snow on the ground.  Must be climate change.”  I’ve said these things facetiously, but I am surprised to hear them stated with any seriousness.


It’s Hot Out There.

First, who doesn’t believe that climate change is happening?  Even conservatives, the supposed climate change denialists, cite the fact that climate change has happened in the past, and will continue to happen regardless of what actions people take to stop it.

Second, just because it’s warm does not mean that climate change is happening.  The earth has warmed on average less than two degrees Fahrenheit in 100 years.    Can a person even feel the difference between a 74 degree day and a 76 degree day?  Were you expecting a snow day, and instead had to put on shorts?  Oh sorry, climate change happens!

Alas, I know what people mean when they say climate change.  They mean climate change caused by greenhouse-gas spewing, greedy businesses and corporations.  If it is a leap to say that climate change is happening because it’s warm today, it is more than a leap to say that man is causing climate change because it is warm today.

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“A History…”: Book Review

I’ve read Paul Johnson’s, “A History of the American People,” and I enjoyed it.  I consider Paul Johnson to be an entertaining, informative, and thorough writer of history.  Below are the most interesting items I learned from this book.9780060930349_p0_v1_s260x420

  1. America has been a world economic power since its beginning.  In fact, it was a superpower before 1900.  Even before America became a country, Benjamin Franklin misled England about the colonies’ prosperity to avoid further regulation by the king.
  2. Certain events in American history were inevitable.  America’s economic prosperity and Britain’s waning interest in managing their empire made America’s independence inevitable, given time.  The war just hastened it.  Slavery: Given the North’s economic superiority and the economic un-sustainability of slavery, slavery would’ve ended in the United States, given time.  And the movement west was inevitable, given America’s rapid growth, and despite all Government attempts to slow or control that movement.
  3. Speaking of the Civil War, it started when democrats refused to recognize the 1860 election of Lincoln as president.  Imagine that.
  4. While World War I was a watershed in world history, the Great Depression is a dividing line in United States history.  It is remarkable how little Government interference and influence in business, and the lives of ordinary Americans, there was in the early 20th century and before.  Paul Johnson shared a comment by Thomas Sowell that the United States has replaced progress with justice as its overarching goal, and that this has led not to justice or progress, but only to conflicts of rights.  What an interesting commentary on modern America!
  5. Alexander Hamilton was a great driving force behind America’s rise.  He made it possible for America to repay its war debts and achieve the prosperity we have today.
  6. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were surprisingly ineffective presidents.  The former’s actions led to the War of 1812.
  7. True modern politics began with the campaign and election of Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Machine of Martin Van Buren.
  8. Harry Truman was a democrat that I admire, and Joseph McCarthy was a Republican that I don’t.
  9. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was largely based on Herbert Hoover’s progressive and socialist policies.  Roosevelt’s popularity, and the recovery from the depression, was a mostly due to luck which has plagued presidents from time to time.  Another stroke of luck was the Cuban Missile Crisis and the apparent victory achieved by John F. Kennedy.  This really cemented his popularity and legacy.
  10. John F. Kennedy’s dad was very influential in his election as president, bribing media members to write favorable stories about Kennedy (or to refrain from publishing favorable stories about his opponent), altering and rewriting history to give Kennedy a legacy, etc…  His dad chose Jackie for him.  There was evidence of large-scale voter fraud, especially in Chicago and the Daley machine.  It was one of the closest elections in history.  Imagine that.
  11. Kennedy was also a womanizer, even bringing prostitutes to the White House.  Lyndon Johnson was everything Kennedy was, and also a crook.  In fact, Daniel Inyoue helped to cover up Johnson’s criminality in one case.
  12. Richard Nixon was a very effective president.  His achievements included befriending China and resupplying Israel during the Yom Kippur War.  Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were ineffective, but mostly due to an imperial Congress, encouraged by its apparent victory in Watergate.

I’ve learned a lot of surprising history, and I’ve also reinforced previous knowledge.  I think I’ll read more.

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The Pope’s Politics

I love Pope Francis.  He drives a Ford Focus.  However, I have been apprehensive about his political ideology.  My apprehension has been based partly on what the pope himself has said, but also based partly on what has been reported about him.


Pope Mobile

The Pope’s politics came into question most recently in November when he released an 84 page apostolic exhortation.  The Guardian reported, “Pope Francis calls unfettered capitalism ‘tyranny’ and urges rich to share wealth.”  The Washington Post reported similarly on, “Pope Francis’s stinging critique of capitalism.”  Is the Pope truly anti-capitalist?  Is he anti-liberty?  Is he a Progressive or a Liberal?  I reserved my judgement of him, mostly because I respect a man of his stature.

Good news today, though.  This is what Pope Francis said to his conservative critics within the Church:

“Marxist ideology is wrong. But in my life I have known many Marxists who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

I’ll even give him his point about Marxists being good people: they aren’t really dangerous unless they have power or influence.  But this issue is not settled.  For while the Washington Post and Guardian headlines above are certainly hyperbole, the following comment from Pope Francis is telling:

“Today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”

Evidently, the Pope means for government leaders to interfere in the free-market, and to restrict it.  Liberals like to interfere with the free market, so as to redistribute income and wealth.  They like to restrict the free market so as to narrow the wealth gap between rich and poor.  They abhor the accumulation of wealth.  However, Liberals should also pay attention to what else Pope Francis had to say:

“I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine.”

So redistribution of wealth is a part of the Church’s social doctrine.  And I agree: generosity is in fact a Christian principle.  On the other hand, the accumulation of wealth and material goods appears to fly in the face of Christian principles.  One other thing about Liberals, though: they are against religion and religious values–especially Christianity and Christian values–in Government.  So why do they advocate for the Government to be re-distributors of wealth?  On one hand, Government leaders are not to pray in the course of their official duties, much less to legislate or enforce Christian values.  On the other hand, these same leaders are supposed to govern with the Christian values of generosity and wealth redistribution espoused above by the Pope.

The above line reasoning may appear contrived , as it reflects the false value of  “Separation of Church and State.”  There is a practical reason, though, why governments should not redistribute income or otherwise interfere in free-markets.  If history tells us anything, it is that people with undue power will use that power for their own benefits, and NOT in pursuit of altruistic Christian values like generosity or compassion.  The main point of this post is to show that the Government should not be in the business of redistributing incomes, as this is the church’s work and the church’s values.  But it is also to show that it is absurd to think the Government interferes in the free market, redistributes incomes, etc… for altruistic reasons.

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Barack Obama has Zero Baseball Knowledge

Glenn Beck was having fun with this story on his radio show today.  Apparently, Barack Obama could not say whom his favorite White Sox player was growing up.  In fact, he could not name ANY White Sox player.  Obviously, the fact that he can’t name a White Sox player shows that he is not really the White Sox fan that he has purported to be.  This is a little silly, because this story is from 2010, Obama did not “grow up” in Chicago, and being a White Sox fan, or not, is not important to the job of President of the United States.  But seriously, he couldn’t think of a single name?

I began to make a mental list of White Sox as I drove to work.  Minnie Minoso is the first name that came to my mind.  I had thought that Minoso was part of the 1959 Go-Go Sox who lost the 1959 World Series to the Dodgers.  But he spent the 1958 and 1959 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, returning to the Sox in 1960.  He was an eight-time all-star and had two at-bats with the Sox in 1980, when he was 54!  Jack McDowell was on the Sox in the 1990’s; I remember him giving the bird to Yankee fans.  But that was while he was a Yankee, not a Sock.  And Frank Thomas.  And Paul Konerko, whom the Dodgers traded for Jeff Freaking Shaw, and who has 431 career home runs.  To be fair, though, let’s look at a few players who were active for the White Sox in 1985, when Wikipedia says that Obama arrived in Chicago.

bainesHarold Baines had a career thought by some to be worthy of the Hall of Fame.  His career spanned 21 years, with six all-star games and 384 home runs.  He was drafted by the Sox in 1977.  Who could forget Carlton Fisk (I almost did), who left the Red Sox in 1981 and was signed by the White Sox?   While his best seasons were with the other Sox – he was a seven-time all-star from 1971 to 1980 – he did have some good seasons with the White Sox – he appeared on some MVP ballots in 1983, 1985, and 1990.

In my mind, the name that is associated most intimately with the mid-eighties White Sox is Ozzie Guillen.  He was the Rookie of the Year with the Sox in 1985.  The light-hitting shortstop also had recent fame as the manager of the Miami Marlins.

Even the most dispassionate White Sox observer could be expected to know one or two of these names.  Maybe it is silly to make hay out of the fact that Barack Obama could not name any White Sox players.  On the other hand, George Bush never claimed to be a basketball fan.

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RezaIt was a relaxing morning.  I was reading this story, linked by Drudgereport, in which John Dickerson, an Arizona pastor, reviewed “Zealot” by Reza Aslan.  Dickerson wrote that, “in reality, it [the book] is a religious person’s opinion about Jesus—from an adherent to the religion that has been in violent opposition to Christ for 1,400 years.”  So it was from this point of view that Lauren Green of Foxnews interviewed Reza Aslan.  It was why she asked,”[as a muslim], why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”

While I was reading this story, my wife was watching a video of the Foxnews-Aslan interview which had been linked on Facebook.  The video had been posted by a person who has made anti-Christian statements.  The poster, and other commenters, were clearly critical of the interview.  I believe their criticisms were motivated only by their violent opposition to Christians like Dickerson who do not mince words about their faith.  Furthermore, I believe that Reza’s credibility is in question since he has misrepresented his scholarly credentials.  Not surprisingly, those who don’t like the lineup of conservative talk show hosts on Foxnews have used this episode to excoriate Foxnews for their anti-Muslim bias.

The above story rubs me the wrong way as a Christian and as a Conservative.  But it is also funny for the predictability of the reactions from different communities.  Maybe I would feel differently if I actually read the book.

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