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Welcome to Off on a Tangent, the online repository where I share my creative endeavors with the world. Inside you will find fiction, news, commentary, poetry, music, and more that I have produced over the years and am still producing today. I am always open to feedback, so please don't hesitate to contact me or leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Obama: Eligibility and Faith (Updated)

Posted April 25, 2011 7:01pm ET

Barack Obama, Certification of Live Birth

I’m not one of those radical right-wingers who thinks President Barack Obama (D) is a Kenyan-born Muslim bent on the destruction of America. No. It is possible that Obama is accelerating our national destruction, but he is doing so with failed Keynesian economic policies and his own apparent lack of historical knowledge. I do not believe he is doing it on purpose, or that there are any diabolical conspiracies behind it all.

But the festering claims that circle through the far right—that he was born in Kenya and is thus ineligible to be president, and that he is a Muslim—just won’t go away. I have ignored these two controversies, for fear of giving them any additional attention, but they have continually boiled near the surface anyway. It is time to address them head-on. Here are the facts:

Is Obama a ‘Natural Born Citizen’?

The State of Hawaii, through its official process, has certified that Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. While the U.S. Constitution never specifically addresses what level of faith the federal government must place in the decisions of the states, it does require that states trust one another’s documents: “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State” (Article IV, Section 1). Considering that the states are the keepers of birth records, it stands to reason that the citizenship requirement is satisfied when one of the states certifies it as being satisfied. Hawaii’s official certification of Obama’s place of birth is the final word on the matter unless accusers can present some kind of indisputable proof that Hawaii’s records are in error.

In June 2008, the Obama campaign produced a copy of the his Hawaii ‘Certification of Live Birth’ document. This is the kind of document that is usually provided when people request a copy of their birth certificate from their respective state authorities; it is not an original, but an official document stating that the original exists and providing its most important information. This document is good enough to certify your citizenship for the purposes of getting a U.S. passport, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be good enough for anything else. continued… →

On Holy Saturday: Silence

Posted April 23, 2011 2:06pm ET

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began.… He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him—He who is both their God and the son of Eve.… ”I am your God, who for your sake have become your son…I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”

– from a Holy Saturday homily
ca. 2nd Century A.D.

I love the introductory text from this quote: “today a great silence reigns on earth.”

Yesterday, Good Friday, we remembered the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. We remembered his false condemnation. We remembered his suffering on the cross—a sadistic Roman torture device designed to inflict the maximum pain and humiliation possible. We remembered his prayer for the forgiveness of those who were putting him to death. We remembered his mother, Mary, looking on as her son suffered, being commended by Christ to the care of St. John the Apostle (of note, the only one of the twelve Apostles not to die a violent death) and to becoming the spiritual mother of all the faithful. We remembered him giving up his spirit and dying, to be interned in-haste in a pauper’s tomb before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. We remembered that, in Christ’s death, all of our sins—no matter how awful they may be—can be forgiven. It is a day of expectant sorrow.

Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, we will remember Christ’s triumphant resurrection from the dead. We will remember the women discovering the empty tomb. We will remember Christ appearing to his Apostles, so unexpectedly that at-first they do not even recognize him. We will remember that, through Christ’s triumph, we all now have the opportunity to receive the gifts of resurrection and eternal life. It is a day of joyful celebration.

But today? Today is quiet. The King is asleep. Christ descended to the dead, to free the worthy souls that had gone before and triumph over death and evil, but none of that was happening here on Earth. The action moved from the natural to the supernatural, from life to the afterlife. On Earth, the Apostles waited in silence, expecting the triumphant resurrection but somehow not really sure if it was going to happen. This is a striking parallel with our daily lives today: We hold out hope but, like the Apostles themselves, our faith is weak. The final triumph is still somehow unexpected; it still lies beyond our comprehension.

Today, we remember our position in the story of man’s salvation. The deed is done; good has triumphed over evil in the death and suffering of Christ. But we are still here on Earth, suffering, sinning, and disbelieving. We are unsure of what we have seen, or what will happen next, and we doubt the truth of what we have been told. We live somewhere between Good Friday and Easter, somewhere between the earning of our salvation on the cross and our receipt of its spoils. Today, we contemplate what we have seen, and fall woefully short in our human frailty of properly understanding it, or even believing it. In the middle of an epic story of miraculous, supernatural events, today is quiet…because today we look inward, at ourselves.

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Posted in Articles, Religious

Sen. Ensign to Resign May 3 (Updated)

Posted April 21, 2011 8:33pm ET

Sen. John Ensign

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) announced this afternoon that he is resigning from the U.S. Senate effective May 3. Ensign admitted in June 2009 that he had an affair with Cynthia Hampton, the wife of one of his top campaign aides, and has since been under investigation for a number of possible criminal or ethics violations. The alleged violations each related directly to the affair, including $96,000 in payments to the Hampton family and conflicts of interest relating to Doug Hampton’s lobbying firm.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Election Commission both dropped their investigations in late-2010, but the Senate Committee on Ethics appointed a special council in January to continue its work. Ensign announced in March that he would not seek reelection in 2012 and suspended his campaign committee, but claimed that the scandal had no bearing on his decision. At the time he stated, “If I was concerned about [the ethics investigation], I would resign.”

States have the authority to set their own procedures for replacing a U.S. Senator who leaves office during his term. Under Nevada law, Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) will have the authority to appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of Ensign’s term. Some are already speculating that Sandoval will appoint Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV 2nd), as Heller was already running to replace Ensign in the 2012 election. If Sandoval appoints Heller to the Senate, that would trigger a special election to fill Heller’s seat in the House of Representatives.

Update 4/27/2011: Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) has appointed Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV 2nd) to fill Sen. John Ensign’s (R-NV) seat in the U.S. Senate. There will be a special election to fill Heller’s seat in the U.S. House of Representative.

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Posted in Briefly, Reports

Hebdomas Sancta: Holy Week

Posted April 19, 2011 10:46pm ET

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

– Philippians 2:5-8 (RSV)

Beginning on Palm Sunday—this past Sunday—the universal church entered the holiest week of her liturgical year. During this week, we remember the climax of the story, the center of the ancient faith, the very core of our beliefs. We remember Jesus Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), the first Holy Eucharist (Holy Thursday), the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ (Good Friday), and Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Easter Sunday).

On its face, the whole thing seems absurd. We are worshiping a man named Jesus who lived and worked in a backwater Roman-occupied territory, was betrayed by a member of his closest inner-circle, got caught in a wave of political and religious scandal, and was sentenced to die a gruesome, torturous death at the hands of the occupiers. The story seems to end with his dead body locked away in a borrowed tomb. Even in the earliest days, Christians recognized that this story of our faith would be difficult for many to take. The writers of Holy Scripture record the disbelief and skepticism of the people, and prophesied that the very same disbelief and skepticism would dog the Church until the end of time.

The Gospel according to St. John records that, prefiguring his real presence in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus told the gathered crowd, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6:53-56, RSV). In response, ”Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’…After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:60, 66, RSV). The teaching was so hard, so unexpected, so implausible—that we would be expected to eat Christ’s body and blood in the form of bread and wine—that people simply walked away.

And what of Jesus’s death on the cross? It’s the ultimate anti-climax. The hero dies at the hands of brutal enemies who hated him so much that, even is his suffering, they mocked him viciously. His followers abandon him. Even St. Peter, the man whom Christ appointed head of the Apostles, the rock upon which he would build his Church, one of his closest friends, denied three times that he even knew him. St. Paul explains that the crucifixion—the moment at which Christ died in atonement for all of our sins—is the center of our religion, but also said that it would also be a stumbling block to belief. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles…” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23, RSV).

The faith is not one of signs, or wisdom—though each has a place in it. No, the faith is one of suffering and, ultimately, rising above our fallen, human condition. That’s what we celebrate this week. We celebrate the depths of darkness and suffering, because we know that through that suffering comes our forgiveness, and our salvation.

Posted in Articles, Religious

Five-Day Cruise to Bermuda

Posted April 16, 2011 9:29pm ET

Melissa and I spent this last week on a Royal Caribbean five-day cruise. It left from Baltimore, MD on Monday afternoon and arrived in Kings Wharf, Bermuda mid-day Wednesday. We then left Bermuda mid-day Thursday and returned to Baltimore on Saturday morning.

This is the fourth time we have been on a cruise, but our first time cruising out of Baltimore, our first time on Royal Caribbean, and our first time to Bermuda. Previously we have cruised twice to Alaska on Holland America (out of Seward, AK and Victoria, BC), and once to the Caribbean on Carnival (out of Ft. Lauderdale, FL).

All-in-all we had a great trip, despite a rocky start in Baltimore, and it was good to get away for a week and relax. Bermuda is a lovely place, at least what we saw of it, and—as always on cruises—we had a lot of fun and a lot of good food. Read on for details and a ton of photographs! continued… →

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Posted in Life, Photos, Products

Site Programming Note

Posted April 10, 2011 9:59pm ET

I will be on vacation this week and expect to have only limited access to the Internet. As such, there probably won’t be any new content going up on Off on a Tangent. Sorry :-).

In the mean time, you’re always welcome to peruse my archives or check out my links page.

Stay tuned; I have a number of items in the hopper including a review of my new cell phone (Motorola Droid 2 Global), plus I’m sure I’ll have a lot of photos from the vacation. See you on the other side!

Posted in Life

Driving Down the Dollar

Posted April 8, 2011 9:40pm ET

While the headless chickens in Washington debate-to-the-death over exactly how quickly to bankrupt the United States, giving countless civil servants and federal contractors a serious case of heartburn in the mean time, the other upcoming economic crisis continues apace. You see, we are under two immediate economic threats at the moment, both of which have been brewing for some time.

First, the burgeoning national debt and record-breaking annual deficits—already dangerous under President George W. Bush (R) and greatly accelerated under President Barack Obama (D)—are unsustainable. This is what the politicos are fighting about in the Capitol tonight, although they are debating between two grossly insufficient plans. I have talked that to death elsewhere over the last few weeks.

Second, and possibly more pernicious, is the poor monetary policy of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. Through a constant stream of bailouts, stimulus plans, and ‘quantitative easing,’ the Fed has been injecting billions upon billions of dollars into circulation. The total now stands somewhere over $4 trillion in dollars printed out of thin air under some heretofore unknown economic theory that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has yet to explain to us. Traditional economic theory would indicate that a massive influx of money into an economy will result in the devaluation of that money, but Bernanke and his cronies clearly don’t subscribe to traditional economic theory.

It’s a shame, because there are creeping indications that the traditional, tried-and-true, trustworthy economic theories of old might be, you know, trustworthy. I’ve talked before about how peoples’ real cost of living has been creeping upward, weighed most heavily by skyrocketing food and fuel costs that are artificially excluded from the government’s consumer price indices. Now, surprise of surprises, some foreign debt-holders—particularly those in Asia—are desperately trying to unload U.S. dollars from their portfolios because the dollar is increasingly viewed as ‘toxic.’ In other words, they don’t want to hold on to dollars because they expect the dollar to lose its value.

Hold on, folks. It looks like we’re in for a bumpy ride.

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Posted in Briefly, Opinion

The Budget: Pick Your Poison

Posted April 5, 2011 12:34pm ET

The United States government’s fiscal year begins on October 1 each year, and runs until September 30 in the next. What is supposed to happen is, some time before October 1, the U.S. House of Representatives crafts a federal budget, negotiates its passage with the U.S. Senate, passes it, and sends it to the President to be signed or vetoed. If it’s signed, it goes into effect on October 1. If it’s vetoed, the process repeats until the Congress produces something the President will sign (or, less likely, until Congress has enough votes to override the veto).

When October 1, 2010 came along, however, the Democratic super-majorities in the House and Senate had failed to produce a federal budget. Rather than risk the political fallout of passing another budget with a record-breaking annual deficit mere months before an election that already wasn’t looking good for them, the Democrats punted. They passed short-term continuing resolutions to keep the previous year’s budget—and its record-breaking deficits—in-place, and hoped and prayed the American people would fall for it. Judging by the outcome of the 2008 Congressional elections, the strategy failed.

Now the House is in Republican hands while the Senate remains in Democratic ones. President Barack Obama (D), then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 8th), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had an opportunity to pass an FY-2011 budget over a powerless Republican opposition. They did not do so. Now, they must play ball with current Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH 8th) and the Republican majority in the House, including a ‘Tea Party’ wing that demands drastic, necessary federal budget cuts. continued… →

DC Excursion

Posted April 3, 2011 10:11pm ET

My sister Kristen came up to visit for the weekend. On Friday we went to Joshua Hoover’s great reception down at Carbon in Washington, DC. Then, yesterday afternoon (Saturday), we went down to Hains Point and the Tidal Basin ostensibly to see the cherry blossoms. Of course, one cherry blossom looks the same as any other as far as I’m concerned, but whatever.

It was a little chilly and it rained part of the time we were there (and even hailed a little), but then it cleared up and was a bit better. I brought my camera and took a bunch of photos. Some are of the blossoms, but, as usual, I mostly focused on other random stuff. Pictures below! continued… →

Posted in Life, Photos

April Fools Site: ‘Off on a Tangent’ is Developing

Posted April 1, 2011 11:59pm ET

On April Fools Day 2011, Off on a Tangent displayed with a modified template that showed all colors in the inverse like a photographic negative. The announcement read as-follows:

Just a quick site maintenance note: I’ve uploaded the negatives of some new updates. They may take up to 24-hours to develop. In the mean time, you may need to use a negative viewer to see the site properly.

Sorry for any inconvenience!

In case you are wondering, I do all of my web development in 120 format on a Mamiya m645.

Click to see how it looked!