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Chantix… Day one July 3, 2011

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To be honest, I’m not sure how much I’ll update on my chantix experience. This blog is not really meant for me to write about me. But today I started Chantix, and thus my journey to quit smoking. I’m extremely nervous about it. I hate smoking and have for about a year now. But I feared that “crawling out of my skin” feeling. I tried to quit twice before and both times I was fine for a little while but caved in when I felt like I was going insane. So I went to the doctor and asked for chantix. For those that don’t know, chantix is a smoking cessation drug that blocks the pleasure receptors in your brain from nicotine. Over time, smoking feels like nothing and you don’t want to smoke anymore. I’m on day one and I feel very little difference, at one point today I found it easier to not go out and smoke. But that might just be psychosomatic. I very much want to stop smoking and I’m on my way. I’ll try and check back in at my quit day one week from today.

The Great Gay Marriage Debate… June 27, 2011

Posted by marchooks in Politics.
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I recently posted my objection to using religion as a basis of what I believed to be bigotry against gays on Facebook. I followed it up with a request to get one reason why there shouldn’t be gay marriage. The screen capture is below.

The Facebook Post That Started All of This

This sparked a lively debate on the comments section and I began to realize analyze what people were saying. First though, what sparked this thought process was a happen to walk by the television when a reunion of one of the Real Housewives of (not sure) was on. One of the women was a lesbian and the other said that the bible says that it’s wrong and that is what she too believes. I was appalled that no one challenged her on this. They took what she had to say as the truth. Then, New York passed a law allowing gay couples to be married in that state. And it came to the forefront of my mind.

First, I grew up in a Catholic family. I read the bible, went to church every Sunday and for ten or so years went to Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (a.k.a CCD) classes. Which if you don’t know, are the bible school of the Catholic religion. I grew up a religious person, firmly believing in God and yes. that gay people were sinners. I grew up and formed my own opinions. I soon discovered that gay people were not really any different than anyone else. And that they don’t fall in the stereotypes I knew. I discovered that I should care about my own shortcoming instead of worrying about the “sinners”. For background purposes, I am a straight male, 27 years old. So with full disclosure, I continue unabated.

First, I’d like to take on the “bible says gay people are sinners” point of view.  The two main passages I hear quoted the most are from Leviticus. They are Leviticus 18:6  “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female. It is an abomination.” and Leviticus 20:13: “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads” If you believe that scripture should be taken literally than there is no disputing that the Bible condemns homosexuality. And I am not going to argue that point.

What I instead argue is that you are cherry picking verses from the bible and saying that others are “past it’s time”. For instance in Letitivus 18:19 the verse says “‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.” I have rarely ever heard this and am sure more than a few have done it. There is also  Mark 12:19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.” Last I checked, this isn’t custom for women to do. If my brother were to die, I’m not going to marry his wife and have children with her. That is ridiculous. The bible is filled with these. There are passages that if a bride is not a virgin, she shall be stoned to death (DEUTERONOMY 22:13-21) and dozens more like it. The Bible is a book from a different age, to pretend that all of the customs and laws pertain to us in 2011 is ludicrous. And to choose which are and aren’t is ignorant. We as humans are flawed, and our interpretation of the bible is flawed to. None of us are perfect vessels.

Next up, is the “fabric of society will tear if Gays are allowed to be married” argument. I’m not sure how to even respond. The state of marriage in this country is bordering on flimsy. Almost half of babies born in America are born to unwed mothers and the divorce rate is near fifty percent. Allowing gay people to get married would do nothing to change those numbers.

And we can’t forget the “activist judges” argument. When Massachussetts and California legalized gay marriage by a court decision, many conservatives blamed the judges for ruling based on agenda than on legal precedent. And of course, you could argue that. But what it fails to recognize is that many conservative causes have been upheld by judges as well. And I never heard the “activist judge” charge get called when the ban on handguns in the city of Chicago was reversed. The conservatives applauded the change and recognized that a liberal Chicago would never overturn it on it’s own. Judges are one part of the Government the United States has. They have an ability to rule on laws and overturn them. In fact, since they don’t run for election, they can incite the most change or stay the course against public opinion. Brown v Board is a perfect example how judges had the ability to achieve what at the time, our elected officials were not.

In my Facebook post, I have asked for a logical reason against gay marriage. So far, I have not received one. I have received a lot of talk. I have received the argument that I should come up with a reason they should instead of why not. Well the reason is simple. It’s to allow homosexual couples the same rights that heterosexual couples have. From tax benefits, hospital visits, inheritance, to the dignity of being seen as normal. I don’t pretend to be an activist, I’m just a normal guy trying to see why something so illogical to me is overwhelmingly present in our society. Discrimination against gay people is wrong, no matter what your religion. And if you use the bible as a weapon of hate, you don’t understand God at all. The God I grew up believing in was the only one that could judge you. “let he without sin cast the first stone” is a oft-quoted, rarely understood phrase. I think in time, these people will see that they are on the wrong side of history and will regret their ways.

The Legacy We Leave… May 22, 2011

Posted by marchooks in In Honor of....
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I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Not in the morbid, woe is me type of way. But about the legacy you leave on earth after you’re gone. I try to live my life as a good person. To make others’  lives better and in turn my own. But I lay awake at night sometimes thinking about how I would be thought of if I died today. Would my funeral have 100′s or just a few? Would the people be truly heartbroken or just there for support and out of obligation? I’m not sure and I guess I’ll never know. But what sparked this thought was that years ago, I had a discussion with my father. He told me that everyone dies alone. It’s inevitable. But I didn’t believe that. In the truest sense, I suppose you do. But if you are a good person that people cared about, you don’t die alone. You die with others either by your side, or in their thoughts. When my Grandma passed away, she was surrounded by most of her family. We cried and held her hand. The room she died in, was filled with love. She was an amazing woman, and we loved her. And as she took her last breath she knew that she was loved dearly.

My friend Noah’s father passed away last year. It was a shock to me and to many others. I remember Noah calling me and telling me about the terrible news. He was obviously grieving but seemed to have a sense of peace about him. I immediately remembered all the times he’d mention his Dad. The funny stories, the obvious admiration he held for him, etc. I was impressed by him greatly and I only briefly met him. This Spring, he decided to run a half marathon on behalf of his father’s legacy in support of the a charity that supports relief for the disease that killed his Dad. The charity is called Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. As I watched the donations pour in I looked at the comments section. (the site is http://www.active.com/donate/napa11wisconsin/13forcy ) What I saw was an overwhelming love for this man. He was truly loved and is missed. I began to wonder what people would write if I was the subject of that wall.

It is this that makes me realize how precious the good people in this world are. The ones that care about you, love you and change your life. Cy Rosenthal was that man to many. And I too hope to have the impact on others that he did. It gets difficult, life gets in the way sometimes. But realize that grand gestures and memorable gifts are not what these people remember. They remember the little things. The phone call answered at 3am to talk, the show of support in a tough time, a quick smile or a simple hug. Taking the extra effort to make others happier is all it takes. And when we leave this earth, we will be remembered with love.

if you’d like to donate to Noah’s amazing cause please go to http://www.13forcy.com Any and all donations would be greatly appreciated.

Columbine Anniversary April 21, 2011

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Columbine Highschool

Today is the 12th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. A day I will remember, like many my age, for the rest of my life. I remember being in Acting class my Freshman year, a day like any other. Before class let out my teacher, Mrs. Sokol, told us that something terrible had happened but that our high school was very safe. We of course had no idea what she was talking about. This was an age before web enabled cell phones and internet that was pretty slow. I remember asking my friends if they heard anything, which they hadn’t. On the way out of school, I heard that a high school in Colorado had a shooting. I immediately rushed home to the nearest television and turned on the news. What I saw was a shocking display of carnage that shook me to my core. Columbine High School had suffered a tragedy where 12 students and one teacher were killed and two dozen were injured.

In the wake of tragedies, the public is left to ask questions. Why would these students do this? How come we didn’t see this coming? This left the media and others giving answers that never made sense. It was video games, or bullying, or bad parenting. But the problem is, there are no answers. When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed themselves, the answers died there. The cause of this tragedy was two seriously disturbed individuals that set out for infamy.

Looking back, it seems like a different world now. And with the events of September 11th, this shooting is often in the back of our minds. What my hope is today is to honor the ones that were killed and to never forget this awful day in American history.

Why We Need Another Martin Luther King Jr April 21, 2011

Posted by marchooks in American Society.
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I’d like to start out by saying, I am not African American. In fact, I’m white, from the suburbs and grew up in a middle class family. What I am though, is an observer of our society and the state is in. And with full disclosure made, I will continue unabated.

During the 1950′s in America an influential and charismatic figure emerged in our country. We was a preacher, and a son of a preacher with sharp looks, an educated mind, and as it would be seen, a fierce courage. His name was Martin Luther King Jr., and what he did for African Americans and this country as a whole forever changed its landscape. Most people know about the “I Have a Dream” speech or “The Letter From a Birmingham Jail” but what you may not know is the death threats he received and the constant danger he was in. Make no mistake, he knew that he would give his life for this cause and in fact he did. And on April 4Th, 1968 not only did he die, but a movement as well. A single white male, effectively cut the head off of the civil rights movement. In his stead there would be many that would try to stand up, but would eventually fail. From Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton have tried to fill his shoes. Although they may have had the best intentions in mind, there is truly something missing from both. When you hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak, your heart fills up with hope and courage. He had an inextricable effect on people.

As a look at the state of America more than 40 years later, especially the state of black America, I can’t help but wonder. Are we throwing away his legacy? Is black America going backwards? And if so, how? How did they let it slip away? If you look at statistics the rate of poverty among African Americans is at a staggering 24.3%. (2006; Census Bureau) One in four blacks is in poverty, and it is unknown how many are close to that poverty level. Compare that to Hispanics at 20%, Asians at 10%, and whites at 8%. You can also look to the high school drop out rate, worst for blacks in Wisconsin, is at 60%. I also, personally hear stories from teachers that have predominantly black students. I hear them tell me how much they enjoy teaching freshman the most because more than 50% of the students show up. And that black students are teased endlessly if they are studious because they are said to be “acting white”. I wouldn’t presume that these facts and observations come as a shock to the American public. The news we hear everyday, of the high rates of crime and the devastating poverty only serve as a fleeting reminder of the state of blacks in America.

I do not want this to seem like it’s an indictment of a race, in fact is a problem that has had numerous parties at fault. The American public has given up on a large segment of this population and in turn African Americans have grown bitter and resistant to any intervention, especially by someone who is white. If we look at Hurricane Katrina, this failing was under a great microscope. Two news reports show a stark difference in media coverage of whites and blacks.

Under two very similar photos shown above, we see that while white people are “finding food”, a black person is “looting”. The racism in our society is not as blantant as it was in the 1950′s, it was taken on an underground campaign. If the previous Presidential race has taught us anything, it is that racism is alive and well in America and it shows no signs of slowing, but perhaps growing more and more subtle. Between Bill Clinton’s remarks likening Obama’s win to Jesse Jackson’s in South Carolina to Pat Buchanan saying that white America has lifted up blacks with food stamps and welfare. Of course, Barack Obama is not being called a nigger by a large majority of people and he does not have the KKK standing outside of his house but the remarks I’ve heard about him have bordered on racism or alluded to it.

But unfortunately, there is another side to this issue. There is a trend growing among blacks that throws opportunity away. They have public school, scholarships, grants, and affirmative action in place to help along a society that is skewed towards white people. Yet, there is a segment that still drops out of high school, commits crime at a young age, joins gangs instead of an after-school program. And however young they are, it remains a choice. When young people had a choice in the early sixties of marching and getting a fire house turned on them, or staying at home hoping that it’d change, they’d march. When black women had a choice of walking miles to work or giving in to a corrupt system that forced them to the back of the bus, they walked. The choice then was to fight for equal rights, and so it is today. If a sect of society largely shows that they are unworthy, they will be treated as such. The inner city men that stand on the street corners selling drugs have a choice, however hard, to instead go to a college or seek out better opportunities.

As a result of this, we have the races at a standstill. With a section of white people not giving black people a chance, and in turn the black people not giving themselves one. This is not so different from the situation in the 1950′s. The outward hatred may be gone, but the scars and bitterness remain. What America needs to get past this is another Martin Luther King Jr.

We need a man that lifts up the hopes of African Americans while calling on whites to be the change. He’d call on us all to change the education system in inner cities and “black” schools to give an equal chance to all Americans no matter what color or creed. He’d call on all of us, to not feel pity or hatred for each other but to see an America where your skin color is not a predetermined destiny, but a symbol of pride and individualism. He call on us all to be better, because it’s what we deserve. We need someone to carry on his work, not only to keep African Americans from falling back but to lift them up. I’m not sure how Dr. King would effect us today, which is far different than a generation ago. I’m not sure anyone like him could withstand the scrutiny of today’s media or our ADD personalities but I do know that America needs him now, because I’m not sure we’ll be able to ever do it on our own.

Why Obama Will Win Re-election in 2012 April 19, 2011

Posted by marchooks in Politics.
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Lately, with the political climate heating up, a lot of people have been wondering whether Barack Obama will have a second term as President of the United States of America. Well, I always answer yes. The preponderance of evidence suggests that he will in fact be re-elected. To cut through all the partisan myths and lies I plan to lay out several reasons why he will be the President through 2016.

Number 1: He’s won before

He’s Barack Obama. This is the man who’s poetic speeches swept the country in 2008. The nation seemed crazed about him as a candidate like none other since John F. Kennedy. He was young, good looking and spoke of a nation most of us had given up on during the Bush years. In 2012, he’ll be making those speeches again. And it will be hard for much of the nation to forget why we elected him in the first place, no matter what facts get thrown into the conversation.

Number 2: His Team

David Plouffe is the best there is. He took a candidate known mostly for a great speech and turned him into a viable option for President. He handled holes in Obama’s resume like inexperience better than anyone expected. Most importantly though, he developed unconventional strategies that took down both Hilary Clinton and John McCain. In the primaries, he made Hilary Clinton’s team seem like bumbling idiots. For Super Tuesday, he worked out a plan that basically kept Obama afloat and developed a far reaching future plan that eventually knocked her out. If you don’t remember, Clinton and Obama were basically neck and neck after Super Tuesday. Clinton’s team predicted that would be their death null so they didn’t put much thought into states after that. Plouffe realized that this is where they could gain a sizeable lead and take home the victory. In the general election, Plouffe designed a plan that would keep McCain on his toes and defending his home turf instead of making inroads on the “leaning blue” states. This allowed Obama to win states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and many others. The plan was to not rely so heavily on Ohio and Florida like previous unsucessful democrats did (i.e Gore and Kerry). These strategies are one of the biggest reasons Obama is President today.

Number 3: Money

Obama is gifted in one thing above all. Getting people to cough up large sums of money. Through his outreach to the internet community, he broke multiple records for donations. In September 2008 he raised a staggering $150 million. He may not have the same kind of donors as before but I assure you, he will raise a ton of money.

Number 4: The Economy Stupid!

The economy is steadily improving. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was puttering along when Obama was elected, on the heals of a banking crisis, American car companies near failure and an ever dropping unemployment rate. The future seemed bleek. But throughout his Administration, Obama has improved the economy slowly. The unemployment rate is back to what is was during the end of the Bush Presidency and the DJIA has gone from 8500 to over 12000. This upward trend will only get better as the election draws near. Obama will tout that he brought us from doom and gloom to hope and progress.

Number 5: A House divided

The GOP is in two pieces right now. The Tea Party and everyone else. Polls are done that a large amount of Republicans in Southern states believe that Obama was not born here. Some believe that we should cut taxes to an all time modern day low. Taxes so low that the government would not be sustainable. This far right of the party can run this party right into the ground. Just like it almost did for the Democrats in 2004.

Number 6: Who’s going against him?

In years past, The Republican party seemed to have a guy waiting in the wings. Bush I then Bob Dole then Bush II and McCain after that. That’s the way it was run. Now in 2012, there is no apparent front runner. Palin has dropped in the polls because that hokey “I love America” thing only lasts so long before people ask for real answers. Palin has none. Romney, who is in my mind the front runner, has problems connecting because his Universal Health Care plan in Massachusetts and his religion. Getting through the GOP primaries is hell. You have to be so conservative that you risk alienating the general population. Right now, according to some polls, Donald Trump is in the lead. This shows exactly what is wrong. The GOP is looking for a hero. Someone they could rally behind to beat the “evil Obama”. Instead they will get a bunch of guys that couldn’t be McCain in the last primary and a reality TV host.

There are just six reasons that Obama will win re-election in 2012. I could have inundated you with more facts and figures but I didn’t want to flood the senses. I will dig deeper with future posts but there is a little to go over. If you disagree with the opinions I have given, please feel free to tell me.

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