Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lake Local School District in Ohio Makes Belief in God a Goal

There are few things that can get under my skin like the education system in America. We do not do enough to teach our kids about the real wonders in the world through logical inspection and we fail miserably to teach them to respect or understand history. Schools that respect the secular requirements of our government fail to impart the importance of these subjects. What education are we denying children when they are educated by a school district that makes “belief in god” a goal in their mission statement?

Lake Local School District in Ohio dismissed the constitution, and the history it is based on, and wrote in their mission statement, “belief in god” as a goal for their students. Not only is this illegal, it is intellectual negligence on the part of the school district.

It’s imperative that American students understand why the First Amendment was written and the continuous reinforcement of its wisdom that has happened since its ratification. It is impossible for a school district properly impart that knowledge when it thumbs its nose at the law it has the duty to teach.

I’m not the only one to notice the failure of the Ohio education system in the area of history. The 2006 report from Fordham Institute on education excellence gave Ohio a D for their Social Studies Content Standards which covers United States History.

I can only guess what the science curriculum of a school district which pushes belief in god looks like, but in order to meet their goal of “belief in god”, there must be academic skimming taking place. Any conversation about the scientific method must be free of any god slant or it’s not the scientific method. It is impossible to critically examine the world with the presupposition that god exists. When there is a conflict between god and science, which wins when belief in god is a stated value of the school district?

It’s the responsibility of everyone who cares about the education of our children, as well as the future of our society, to take seriously these incursions into the academic system. Slipping the children of Ohio into a dark age is not just disastrous for them. It’s disastrous for all of us.

Having pockets of populations that are less education than others in the same country can not only lead to government issues, but it can lead to exploitation of the people of lesser education. School districts that allow religion to influence their teachings have higher teen pregnancy, teen STD, and dropout rates. Due to the gaps in their education, they are more vulnerable to financial predators, religious exploitation, and exploitation in personal relationships. They also lack perspective to vote in their best interest and the best interest of the country.

A school district that disregards their duty to their pupils should not be met with simple silence. They need to have the consequences ring in their ear. We, as caring, involved citizens need to speak out for the health and well-being of these children. We must tell the Lake Local School District that their unethical, illegal, immoral behavior has not gone unnoticed and will be met with the resistance it deserves.

I already wrote the Lake Local School District, my letter is below. Please take the time to click the link at the end of this article and write a polite but passionate letter to the Lake Local School District. Together we can apply the pressure to stop the intellectual hemorrhaging in Lake Local School District.

Contact Lake Local School District

Hello Lake Local School District,

It disappoints me whenever I hear about an elected body disregarding the constitution of our country, but it shocks my sensibilities when it is a public school district, like Lake Local School District. A school district should concern itself with teaching what is reasonable, provable, and factual. It is utterly unethical, not to mention illegal, for you force even the most sanitized version of religion on your students. It may go against your personal beliefs, but everyone in this country, including your students, has the right not to believe in god.

It seems that you should be aware, as a public education district, that this country was founded on the idea that government and religion should not mix. History has spoken with a bull horn about the consequences of blurring the line between religion and government. It horrifies me that children in your district may not be taught to respect their own rights and the rights of others because you taught them that it has no value.

How can you, with any sincerity, teach the true meaning of the constitution if you so willingly take no notice of it? How can you teach your students to be law abiding, constructive members of society, if you so willfully ignore the first law of this country?

I value the constitution and our free education system. Do not dismiss your duty to your pupils because you can’t separate your personal convictions from your duty. If you were unable to do your duty as a government official, you should not have run for office. Once elected and put in office, you have a duty to all the citizens of this country to do the right thing. I trust, now that you have been made aware that you have violated the rights of your students, you will quickly abandon this effort and act in the manner they deserve.

I will leave you with the words of some of our founders that I hope you take their words to heart.

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." - Treaty of Tripoli signed by President Adams and ratified unanimously by Congress.

“Question with boldness even the existence of a god." - Thomas Jefferson (letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787)

I await your changed decision,
LaRae Meadows

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Is it Ethical for the Free Thinking Community to Bite Our Tongues and Allow the Religious to Stop Progress?

I wrote an article against Kissimmee Florida’s City Council’s attempt to put “In God We Trust” on their city seal. The day after the article was written the Kissimmee City Council decided to quash the motion and their attempt to make their town a mini theocracy ended. A few days later, a man from Georgetown, Texas named Dave Atkinson wrote me a series of emails on the topic. His comments summarize the fear that many atheists have about being tolerant of even the nicest religious ideas. He left me asking myself; is it more damaging to society to refuse to confront religious ideas or to greet them with hostility?

The first email from Destructive Dave, as I call him, arrived on August 8th. At first he does not sign his name at the bottom of his emails.

To: LaRae
From: Dave
Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 2:23 PM

LaRae Meadows, you are an over educated idiot. People like you should be kicked out of the country, in the near future that might be possible. I cannot wait until that day..............

To: Dave
From: LaRae
Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 5:54 PM

You have such a problem with the fact that I've read the constitution and know the history of this country that I should therefore should be kicked out of the country? That makes perfect sense. You know who should stay here? People who love the country enough to not read the constitution, not understand its founding and have no education. Sounds like a winning plan. You inspire me to think less, understand less and be more of a patriot for doing so.


PS. What is the appropriate level of education? At what point does someone become "over-educated" to participate in discussions important to the future of their country?

To: LaRae
From: Dave
Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 5:57 PM

remember the day will come, and we will look for you...........................................

To: Dave
From: LaRae
Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 6:07 PM

Are you threatening me? I'm terrified. Or are you speaking to me of the rapture? If you are speaking of the rapture, you obviously haven't read the book that explains what will happen. You won't look for me, nor will god. You'll go to heaven and I'll stay here. Bummer. All the "over-educated idiots" will be here on a bigot and Christian free earth. Sounds like everyone wins! Oh, and let me add........................................................................................................................................ as that seems important to you.

Best Wishes on the Rapture,

At this point I became interested in who was writing me and I Googled his email address. I wanted to know who I was talking to and if I should be worried that he might actually try to come for me in the future(not a concern anymore). I found out his vital statics and a bit more. It is also right about here that I lost my patience.

To: LaRae
From: Dave
Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 8:37 PM

Let me get this correct, you are a Christian, and you are against having "In God we Trust" on a city seal. It sounds like you are the enemy within- that has too much time on her little hands. Without these words the US is already on her ride down hill and will continue to fall into the hands of the people that will take away your rights to setup web sites like yours-yet you fail to recognize this. That's what I mean about being over-educated with very little common sense. I know you struggle with this as do many people; you lack the ability to get the big picture- you simply run your pie-hole and should be in the kitchen cooking something to eat. You truly must be from California, a state that is about to go bankrupt with the world's 5th largest economy? Gee wonder how that happens, must be that your people out there lack common sense- to balance a budget? We can go back and forth forever but you are still an educated idiot with too much time on your hands. The majority of people will keep “In God we Trust”- even on our money and no matter how much you protest this, it will continue to stay there. So blog and blog but “In God we Trust” will remain and people like me will be your opposition….........

To: Dave
From: LaRae
Sun, Aug 9, 2009 at 7:57 PM


I know how to read books - even the bible. Important books are good to read. Not just books though, I suggest reading important historical documents, like say, the Constitution. It's obvious that LBJ High School didn't teach you enough.

You might consider picking up a history book and see what happens when you combine religion and government. It's happened over and over again in the world, with deadly results.

Our founders, who gave us the right to be free from religion in our government, knew what they were doing. They took the time to become "over educated idiots with too much time on their hands." You cannot love your freedom to practice your religion if you do not understand that the separation of church and state is what allows you that freedom.

You don't have the right to make the government adhere to your religion. No one does. Your right is the opposite. You have the right to go to the government and be free from religion. So, no one can force you to pray to Allah, Zeus or chant a Buddhist chant. I'm sure you don't want to go to the city council and pledge allegiance to the flag, under Allah, do you? I don't think you'd want the government in your church, would you? Once a cucumber becomes a pickle, it can never be a cucumber again.

Yet, you demand that the rest of society pray to your god, that you violate their right, a right you so freely enjoy. This separation protects everyone else from having to pray to your god, against their will, when conducting the business of government or participating in government. My rights aren't protected by letting zealots force me to pray to their god, it takes my right to separation of church and state away.

It's the first law of this country. Along with the freedom of the press, it was so important at the founding of our country that the founders put it in the first law. The first one. They didn't wait until 2 or 3 or 4. Even though they had such diverse ideas about religion - all the way from atheists to devout Christians, they could agree that their religious ideas had no place in government.

You seem scared that storm troopers are going to go and gas a church and lock the doors so you can never enter again. No one is taking your right to pray away, no one is stopping you from going to church, or praying at home, or by yourself. Could you please show me one single example of a Christian being told they couldn't pray - except as a government agent?

Today, our mixing of religion and government has damaged our country. I think a man who hails from Georgetown, Texas, the state with the highest teen pregnancy rates, teen STD rates, one of the highest crime rates and per capita poverty rates should see what religion is doing to the government of his state. While you wave the morality flag and the religious high ground, you commit acts of terrible negligence against your citizens. So while you're going around, worrying about our state, you allow your state to wallow in griefs that could be fixed if you just learned something about how humans behave and what actually works.

Yes, California is in a terrible budget problem. Mostly because we pay more in taxes to the fed then we take back. States like yours take our money to pay for your religiously driven neglect, while giving more to charity, volunteering more, giving our citizens a better quality of life, producing most of your food, giving most of the industry start up money for the country, inventing more and housing most of the brains of this country. I'd put my bankrupt over-educated-idiot California citizen against your meagerly educated religious citizenry.

People like you don't deserve to live in this country. You suck up its rights, do nothing to protect them, try to erase them from other people while giving yourself lordship over them. You think you know what's best but you don't take the time to learn. That isn't what America is about. If you took the time to become a slightly less uneducated backwater hick from America's intellectual dumping ground, you'd see the value of the separation of church and state.


To: LaRae
From: Dave
Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 6:45 PM

Mrs. california-Larae,
You’re a real nice piece of work that should stay in cal because that is where you belong, history is one of my favorite subjects, loved it in college. I am proud to be an educated Hilly Billy, and I am very aware of what the constitution says and very aware of what can happen if state & church get too mixed. I still believe that you have too much time on your hands, and you need another hobby instead of protesting "In God We Trust". To research me must mean that I got under your skin, your lecturing me is actually kind of funny and means that you are not used to getting any opposition to your web site and statements. No matter what you say your educated state will go bankrupt and ours will survive, with all the amenities that go with it, crime, pregnancies and STD's. On the other hand your bleeding heart state will fail in the near future and all your efforts will have been in vain; thus, "In God we Trust" will remain. Sounds kind of neat. Come on you know that all democracies’ have a life expectancy and usually end up in dictatorships, regardless of what is done- remember "Rome"- Julius, etc. You appear to be a young lady that believes that your protest will lead to something- (change) and that you will have made a difference, but in the end it is out of your hands- just like mine. Most people just read your protest and kind of feel sorry for you, and the people that agree with you-- because the high probability that Kissimmee will add “In God we Trust” to their logo- will be successful - and you probably cannot stop it- regardless of your effort. Therefore you should embrace it- and this will make you feel better inside, your quick anger and detail of me means that you are obsessed with this activity. Being so obsessed about not having “In God we Trust” written on anything “state” will cause you to have health problems in the end. I make a motion that you support “In God we Trust” and you will be spiritually enhanced. Your present status will leave you unhappy and unsatisfied……….


To: Dave
From: LaRae
Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 8:18 PM
Mr. Georgetown Texas Dave,

The day after I wrote the article, Kissimmee quashed the motion to add "in god we trust" to their logo. The mayors office wrote me personally to tell me they aren't doing it anymore. So, you are wrong, yet again. I'm not surprised. It seems to be a theme. So yes, what I did mattered, gave me joy, and didn't change a thing because we have a separation of church and state. I just defended it as we all have been called upon to do.

I find it deeply horrifying that you know what happens when you mix religion and government and you still want to do it. You know it's wrong and you want to do it anyways. You know its results: unchecked power, killings, murders, war, famine, fear, hunger, tyranny and yet, you still want to do it. You know history has judged such nations as monsters who must wear badges of shame and disgust for generations, and you advocate to do it anyways. That is the textbook definition of a sociopath.

You are a perfect example of why people like me are scared of religious folks. When you think the end is coming, when you honestly believe it will happen in your lifetime, your priority isn't preserving this world or ensure peace or freedom for your people. You can do whatever you want because it won't matter when the Apocalypse comes. Honor - who needs it? Duty - for idiots. Morality - I'll just repent when Jesus comes. What does it matter that your behavior is both criminal and harmful when you know you are with god and the world won't be here anyways.

I have higher moral standards than you. I believe I have a duty to my co-citizens, my country and my earth. God or no god, we have a responsibility to the people around us to act with care and concern. I refuse to discard the greater good because some unsupported book from two thousand years ago has been taken to say that some day soon the world will end. The apocalyptic world view reeks of moral decay and it damages our country.

People like you don't deserve to live in America. You toss away your rights as quickly as you were born into them and strive to strip the rights from others who value them. It is repugnant.

Rev. LaRae Meadows

If you would like to use my title in the future it isn't Mrs. It is Rev. Please get it right or don't use it at all.
I am in fact a reverend of every church that will ordain me online. There are six. So I am a reverend six times.

To: LaRae
From: Dave
Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 9:49 PM

Mrs. Larae,
like I said your type needs to stay in cal/ny where you belong, your life is spent typing words and reviews, you may win a few battles here and there like in Florida but that does not mean that you have won. yes, you should be concerned, honestly. now we are getting to your real thought process behind your agenda "some unsupported book from two thousand years ago" that's all I needed to know because that is where your heart is and that is where you stand and that is who you are; and that is why you are easy to deal with...........................


Mrs. or Rev? it does not really matter now does it........................

To: Dave
From: LaRae
Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 10:44 PM
Mrs. davE,

I wasn't aware there was a hidden thought process behind my agenda and reviews. I wasn't hiding anything. You scare me. Your beliefs are dangerous. As long as I can, I'll defend the rights of all citizens, even while petty people misspell my name, threaten me and call me by the wrong title.

I will continue to "type my words and reviews" and making people like you face the consequences of your actions. Your beliefs are harmful to the world and to this country. You know what damage you are doing and you do them anyways. That is a disgusting snub at your own humanity and shows little regard for humanity as a whole.

There will come a day when you wallow in a puddle of your shame, just like your parents did about segregation, their parents did about equal rights, their parents did about suffrage and their parents did about slavery. I can say with all confidence that your day of reckoning will come long before mine.

- End Emails

Destructive Dave never wrote back. Much to his credit, he allowed me to have the last word. His disturbing emails inspired deep introspection on my end. I have been fiddling with my tolerance of theists for about a year. I strongly believe that people should have the right to practice their religions peacefully whenever and however they choose as long as they don’t try to use the government to promote their religion, but a democracy can’t be separated from the beliefs of its people.

I know that a self-governed country will always be influenced by its citizen’s personal beliefs. So, even if a government takes no official stance on religion, religion can still significantly influence the government. As history has shown time and again, when you allow religion to creep into government, the results are catastrophic to a particular group, or the whole society. Do we, as “over-educated idiots” neglect our country and society when we fail to confront religious beliefs as we would any other beliefs? Can we afford to allow these ideas to breed in our country, even though, by their nature, they are destructive? Do we encourage or entice the animosity toward non-theists when we treat such a vital part of their identity with no more respect than we would any other beliefs? Are we selfish when we consider our own personal treatment, bite our tongues and choose not to confront these beliefs?

Spelling was cleaned up in the emails.

Doctors Say Yes To The Public Option

On August 20th, a collection of doctors in Santa Rosa, California, assembled on a corner and lobbied the public to support the public health care option. reporter, John Stiffler, interviewed some of the doctors and created a video. What do you think?

Doctors Demonstrate for a Public Option in Health Care Reform!!! from Jon Stiffler on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Inglourious Basterds Review: Bloody Good

The Inglourious Basterds are sent into occupied France to “kill Nazis”, and killing is what they do; along with everyone else in the movie. Quirky dialogue, multi-dimensional characters, and special attention to the aesthetics wraps the audience in a unique movie-going experience.

Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) assembles a team of Jewish-American soldiers called the Inglourious Basterds, to be dropped into France to commit guerilla attacks on Nazis. In nearby France, perfectly mannered, linguistic master Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Watlz) has been tasked with seeking out and exterminating all of the Jews left in France. It is in this roll that Shosana Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) meets Colonel Landa. It is the crush German war hero Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) has on Shosana that throws all the characters together in a horrific series of events that only war can justify.

The first ten minutes of Inglourious Basterds will rile even the most stoic. It’s calm dialogue and sparkling appearance drives the overall tension to an almost unmanageable level. By the end of the first scene, I was confused about the morality of the situation, angry at almost all involved, and had given myself sore arms from clenching my fists. Tarantino pulled his line and I was hooked.

There is no shortage of dark in Inglourious Basterds. People get their faces blown off, Wild West techniques of enemy torture are used, and historic sore spots are poked with pointy emotion sticks. Even though scenes erupt into violence with notice and foreshadowing, a gasp could be heard from across the audience. Writer-director Quentin Tarantino doesn’t shy away from exaggerated, unflinching expositions of violence.

Col. Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz, is repugnant, ruthless and vicious. His dialogue is frighteningly elegant, and is nearly always disturbingly calm. Yet, every time he is on screen, there is yet another reason to admire him. This adoration left me feeling dirty and a bit disgusted with myself. There is nothing more disturbing than finding something commendable in a character you want so badly to condemn.

Landa, Raine, The Inglourious Basterds, Shosana and Zoller are woven into each other’s lives one string at a time. It isn’t until about halfway through the movie that the audience really understand the scope of their relationship and its consequences. It isn’t until the end of the movie that the true nature of all of the characters is confirmed.

Inglourious Basterds’ cinematography makes it almost possible to smell the blood and perfume. It’s easy to feel like you are actually in the presence of evil or beauty when the camera refuses to look away from the violence or glamour. There is a ruthless use of angles, lighting and shadow to create a world almost impossible to escape.

The graphic depictions of violence might be difficult for many thinner skinned people to handle without complaint. Still, the depth of character, quirky interactions and stunning visuals might win over many people who would otherwise be put off by the violence.

Inglourious Basterds’ unmistakable visual style, off-kilter dialogue, unfolding story line and violence is a feast and an embrace of our savage nature.

Monday, August 17, 2009

District 9 Review - Pretty and Plot-thin

District 9
When aliens come to earth and are unable to leave again, they are forced into a slum in Johannesburg, South Africa, in an area called District 9. Amazing visuals allow District 9 to capture the audience’s attention in an inescapable trap. The shallowness of the plot may be the only tool given to the audience to get out.

Aliens land on earth, malnourished, and their mothership in shambles. They are herded into a tin hut community while humans try to figure out what to do with them. After twenty years of tension between the aliens and the humans, the government gives full authority to MNU, a multi national corporation, to evict the aliens to a tent community two hundred kilometers away. They put a sniveling, weakling, corporate bureaucrat, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), in charge of the move. Due to international law, MNU must notify the aliens of their eviction and Wikus is sent into the field to do the notifications. While out in the field, Wikus gets new insight into the needs and plight of the aliens, even though he struggles not to submit to his feelings.

The aliens in District 9 are computer generated into live action scenes. The team of alien animators do an extraordinary job of making the aliens seem as tangible and realistic as the human players on screen. The lighting of the prawns (a slang term for the aliens) in many of the scenes give texture so real, it is as if they could reach out and you could feel their exoskeleton roughly rub against your skin.

District 9 is shot in a mix of documentary and live action styles, blended seamlessly together. The documentary is about Wikus and how he is betrayed. This documentary gives perspective to the story of the aliens, and invests the audience in both sides of the story. At first it seems a bit piecemeal, but by the end, the reason for the mixed style offers the audience something to take away.

Even given the emotional investment by the viewers, the story is little more than a two hour long chase scene with explosions and firefights. There is an emotional component, but it reaches as deep into the audience as body lotion. Every time it seems there could be a question of morality, or a moment of emotive genius, it is blown up, shot or runs away. The take away at the end of the movie I mentioned earlier is as valuable as what you’d probably get as a wedding favor at a redneck wedding.

A thinking person would find District 9 wanting more and frustrated with the half-given plot. A person who just wants to watch things blow up, see things go boom and escape their lives for a couple of hours will have a great time at District 9.

One, Two and a Few Sentence Movie Reviews

It has been a crazy couple of weeks and writing has not come easily so I just threw together these short reviews of GI Joe, Julie and Julia, Away we Go, and Aliens in the Attic.

Aliens in the Attic

After an hour of dimwitted dialogue, the alien planet the antagonists hail from becomes a viable option to escape the mind-numbing effects of this movie.

Away We Go
A surprisingly mature look at love, relationships, successes and changes in life with poignant acting that leaves the audience completely satisfied.

Julie and Julia
A sort of sweet movie, that is sort of entertaining with a sort of interesting cast about sort of interesting people.

GI Joe – Rise of the Cobra
When some super weapon is stolen from a battalion of American army soldiers by a woman in 3 inch wedges attached to a low cut, skin tight, patent leather one piece jumper, the GI Joes are assigned to get it back. Nearly every character has a flashback, some have multiple flashbacks. Yeah, that’s pretty much it – that’s the whole thing. GI Joe? More like GI Joke.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Open Call For New Local Contributors is a non-profit, micro-local news agency that relies entirely on our community of volunteer writers, photographers and videographers. We are looking for new volunteers to expand the scope of Empire Report. We want different age ranges, political views, genders, sexual orientations and ideals to join the team of volunteers. We are looking for people to write about local sports, politics, wine, events, business, and entertainment or anything else you are passionate about.

We want to hear your special stories. For example, have you been arrested, survived cancer, are a teenager, lost your job, have a special needs child or another special story.

We also have a need for people in each geographic region – such as Sebastopol, each section of Santa Rosa, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Cloverdale, Asti, Healdsburg, Windsor, Roseland, Petaluma, Penngrove, or any other town or region.

Volunteering for Empire Report is a great way to stay connected to your community, gain recognition, and make a difference to everyone in your area. It is our goal to cover those issues that are important to our community. If you are a Petaluma pothole expert, we want to read your report. If you have strong feelings about annexing Roseland, we want to hear your opinion. Your view matters to us and to the people in your community.

In return for your expertise and efforts, you will get a page where you can give a bio, a link to your business or group, and the opportunity to write about things the other local news sites would never publish.

If you are interested in contributing, please write and tell LaRae what you would like to cover, if you would like to write, do video or take pictures and a little bit about you. Thank you in advance for understanding that we are all volunteers and can’t offer payment to our contributors at this time.