Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crackpot Agenda

Recent excellent piece by Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone....
The GOP's Crackpot Agenda

The top Republican candidates share a single, radical vision: to trash the environment, shred the safety net and aid the rich.

Read more:

Hyperbolic?  No.  Not when you actually listen to the circus otherwise known as the field of GOP Presidential candidates.  Willard wins Florida tonight and he gives another speech, just making shit up about Obama, as usual.  It's so obvious he's lying.  You can SEE him lying, complete with goofy facial expressions.  So it looks like the GOP's standard-bearer will be a charter member of the 1% club.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Insider trading?

I can't believe that "insider trading" by the U.S. Congress is still legal!  For some reason, I assumed it had been outlawed when most other forms of "insider trading" had been outlawed.  

But nooooo, it's going to take a new law to "...require members of Congress and high-ranking staffers and federal employees to abide by insider trading rules that apply to everyone."


That doesn't sound too good.  Making Congress obey the same laws that everyone else has to!!??  Where will it end?!

Surely there must be some rules already in place?  Ethics, conflicts of interest?  

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Do you Skype?  The wife and I have just recently signed up for the service.  You can make Skype-to-Skype video and audio calls for FREE.  Now, I know that this is not exactly a new technology.  We're not first-adopters.  We let the technology get settled and refined before we dive in.  

We hooked up with my nephew, his wife, and their 3-month old baby girl recently.  We were in Arkansas, they were in D.C.  The immediacy of a live video signal is pretty cool.   That was a decent video signal, and we weren't really on a very high-speed internet signal.  Now, back at home, we clock at 25Mbps, and the signal should be much better.

Do I know you?  Do you Skype?  E-mail me.  We might just be tempted to pay them a few bucks to be able to have a group video.  

The only real drawback to Skype that I see is that it is ultimately owned by that ultimate of sleazebags, Rupert Murdoch.  

Alternatives are Google Talk (all you need is a Gmail account and a webcam) (and of course a high-speed internet connection) ...

and Qik Video (an Android app), also free and they don't benefit Republicans.  (I think)

Award-winning carrots?

Hey, this is kinda cool.  It just "might" get me to visit the Rodeo this year.  Might.  I know that our carrots are awesome.  Hmmm...

Fundraising opportunities      
Do you think you have the best collards around or maybe your carrots are just outstanding.  Here is an opportunity to prove to the world what you already know.  The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has added a horticulture competition to their event and they are inviting gardeners to enter their best fruits and vegetables.  This is a new competition with cash prizes.  1st place $1000, 2nd place $750 and 3rd place $500.  You can find the rules and entry form here.  The rules for the cut edibles (vegetables and fruits) are still being written so don't worry to much about what is in the rule booklet.  What is listed is a copy of the floral arrangement rules.  Entry deadline is Feb 3, 2012.  Please send questions to Linda.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Funny and strange

The creativity continually bubbles up from humanity in different places and different forms







Ken Lay's condo

A couple of years ago, Swamplot, a Houston real estate blog, started a series of posts about Ken and Linda Lay's condo penthouse that had gone on the market for sale.  This choice piece of real estate was the last of 18 properties that Ken and Linda owned.  Poor babies. 

The asking price was a lofty $12.8 million.  That's a lot of coin for me, but not for the 1%.  They held a "private sale."  Perhaps not surprising, it didn't sell.

The price was soon cut to $11.9 million.  Then to $10.25 million.  

Then it disappeared from the real estate listings.  What happened?  Did someone buy it?

Nope.  It just reappeared on the market, now listed at $6.395 million.  Whatta bargain!

What's not to like?

Some highlights of the property:

360-degree skyline views
corner balconies
12,287 square feet
5 bedrooms
4 full bathrooms
5 half bathrooms
6 elevators
10 parking spaces
$10,182 monthly maintenance fee
The entire 33rd floor of The Huntingdon, a condo hi-rise at 2121 Kirby Dr.

A little rich for me, still.  Is there any lesson to be learned?

See the entire real estate listing here, and read the entertaining and informative posts about it on Swamplot here.  Ken better be dead.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Yes, I watched President Obama's State of the Union address last night.  Stepping back a bit, I have a hard time seeing how anyone can disagree with much of anything he said last night.  The opposition to Obama's policies has simply become reflexive, no matter what Obama might say, and this is an absurd thing to be doing.  

President Obama has bent over backward further and more often trying to compromise with "the other side" than any President I've ever seen, but all he gets in response is vitriol and the back of the hand.  It's so mindless, it leads me to believe that a lot of it must be because the man is "black."  He's really only 1/2 black, but even that leaves no room for Republicans to compromise.  

The text of the entire speech can be found here.  It's a good read, and reading it this way makes the speech a whole lot shorter than being interrupted 50 times by cheers, jeers, and standing ovations.

Or, you could watch the whole thing ....

Immediately after the speech, I heard a couple of Republicans mindlessly repeat, "Obama is taking the country in entirely the wrong direction."  The wrong direction?  Stupid fucks. WTFU.  Here's a short snip:

Let's remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren't, and personal debt that kept piling up.
In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn't afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people's money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn't have the authority to stop the bad behavior.
It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hard-working Americans holding the bag. In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect.
Those are the facts. But so are these. In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we've put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that never happens again.

Poor Mitt

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stephen Colbert

This guy is a genius.  A comic genius too.

Mitch Daniels

Hey, I forgot all about Mitch Daniels serving in Duhbya's OMB.  D'oh!

(snip) from Consortium News article by Robert Parry...

A New York Times’ article about the choice of Daniels noted that “the sight of Mr. Daniels on national television is sure to raise wistful ‘if onlys’ in a Republican establishment that had put the governor at the top of its wish list for a White House run.” But that article – like others about Daniels – leaves out a salient fact about his alleged “fiscal conservatism”: as President George W. Bush’s original budget director, Mitch Daniels helped create today’s fiscal mess.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels
Daniels oversaw the federal budget as it was making its historic reversal from a $236 billion surplus – then on a trajectory to eliminate the entire federal debt in a decade – to a $400 billion deficit by the time Daniels left the Office of Management and Budget in June 2003.

Plus, because of proposals developed on Daniels’s watch – such as tax cuts favoring the rich and unpaid-for projects, including the invasion of Iraq and a new prescription drug plan – the fiscal situation of the federal government continued to deteriorate over the ensuing years, becoming a trillion-dollar-plus annual deficit by the time Bush left the White House in 2009.

Read the rest here.

Year of the Dragon

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Revisionist History

I've been wondering if someone was going to address the pure fabrications that I hear coming from the pieholes of the GOP presidential "candidates."  Do they think they can just say anything in the world and not have it questioned?  Can you just make up any old shit you want, regardless as to whether or not it's true?

GOP Campaign Trail Filled With Revisionist History

by Peter S. Goodman
I've just returned from a sojourn in an alternate historical universe, which is to say I've been in South Carolina, listening to the Republican presidential candidates.
These people have managed to distill modern American times down to a deliciously accessible account that goes something like this:
In the beginning there was Ronald Reagan. He was so awesome! He slashed taxes and fired pencil-necked bureaucrats, whose sole function was to antagonize salt-of-the-earth business folk. Money rained from the sky. Then Barack Obama arrived and screwed up everything. He wrote new rules designed to tie the economy in knots and kill jobs so he could realize his true aim, expanding food stamp dependency, as part of his plot to turn America into a socialist, nanny state-governed Loserville.
If you're wondering what happened to those years when the country was run by a pair of guys named Bush (and someone else named Clinton in between), they have been airbrushed out of this updated Republican history. So have a few seemingly pertinent events connected to their tenures: the dismantling of key financial regulations (particularly by Clinton), a massive redistribution of wealth to the richest households engineered by George W. Bush, and a failure to address stagnating wages and lost job opportunities for most workers all along the way.
Oh, and a nearly apocalyptic financial crisis that arrived on W's watch, prompting taxpayer bailouts of behemoth Wall Street firms while delivering the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
On the Republican campaign trail, none of these little details have been making it into accounts of recent times, because they collide with the narrative guiding the proceedings. Though Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Perry (before he dropped out) have been sniping about all sorts of tedious little things, in the main they have been reading from the same script: Everything bad that ever happened resulted from too many taxes and too much regulation. Everything good comes from deregulation, and handing gobs of money to rich people and corporations.
If you think I'm exaggerating, you have clearly been intelligent enough to occupy your hours watching something more enlightening than the Republican debates (a list that might include both "Jersey Shore" and reruns of people smacking other people with chairs on the "Jerry Springer" show). But my cartoonish account is really only a little more cartoonish than the things Republicans have been saying about what has happened to our economy as they wander South Carolina in pursuit of votes.
The other day, at a candidate forum in downtown Columbia, the state capitol, Newt Gingrich looked out at a room full of business people and boasted about the supposedly key role he played in forging supply-side economics, the school of thought that says tax cutting is the answer to every policy question. He burnished this "credential" by noting that he had been right there alongside Reagan and Arthur Laffer in the engine room of supply-side thinking.
This is a little bit like saying that you were the guy on the deck of the Titanic, hollering, "Full speed ahead!" long after the iceberg loomed. Laffer is the economist who popularized the notion that cutting taxes increases government revenue, a doctrine that has stood the test of time about as well as drowning people to find out if they are witches.
Rare is the credentialed economist who still asserts that cutting taxes generates additional revenue, an idea so patently at odds with common sense that only someone with a doctorate could have suggested it. Greg Mankiw, a conservative economist who served in the George W. Bush administration as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (and who is now an adviser to Romney), uses a chapter of his widely assigned economics textbook, "Principles of Economics," to challenge the idea that lower taxes produce higher revenues.
But never mind the theory. Take a look at actual history, as distilled in a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Reagan, leaning on advice from Laffer, slashed marginal personal income tax rates by 25 percent between the fall of 1981 and the summer of 1983. Tax revenues subsequently dipped, and the federal deficit expanded. During the sweep of Reagan's presidency -- an era now held up as a paragon by the same crop of candidates who claim to be fierce deficit hawks -- federal spending outstripped revenues by more than $1.4 trillion.
Taxes and deficits are not the only subjects that have come in for wholesale revision in the Republican account. Four years after speculative excesses on Wall Street nearly brought down the financial system, the candidates appear to have forgotten all about it. How else to explain their repeated vows to immediately repeal Dodd-Frank, the financial regulatory reform law adopted in an effort to prevent a repeat, while offering no alternative?
Rick Perry and Gingrich, the candidate Perry endorsed as he dropped out of the race on Thursday, have both made repealing Dodd-Frank a primary talking point. Romney has said he would do the same, though he has expressed some desire to retain portions of the law.
Like perhaps every piece of enormous legislation to emerge from Congress, Dodd-Frank is a fat mess of a law, one seemingly understood by no one in its entirety. It is filled with contradictory provisions inserted by one lobbyist or another, presenting federal agencies with a dog's breakfast of regulations that must be written to implement it. The law will not prevent another crisis, because it is so mind-bendingly complex that the financial industry will game it to suit its proclivities.
But does anyone not paid to do so seriously maintain that Dodd-Frank is so flawed that the circumstances that existed pre-crisis would be better? Do we really want to double down on market fundamentalism and let Wall Street have another go in the casino, unsupervised, while playing with taxpayer money?
Don't ask the Republican candidates, because they have eliminated the crisis from historical memory, skipping all the way back to Morning In America, when everyone worked, no one was poor, the stock market only went up, and taxes existed only in the Soviet Union.

Golden Loves Guitar

Ah, the silly things they put on YouTube these days.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chris Bonno

Chris Bonno is an old college buddy of mine from my days (years) at the University of Houston.  We had a lot of fun running Channel 6 on campus.  I have some fond memories of one of our shows called, "Sex on Six."

After graduating, Chris moved to Hollywood, where he began a stand-up comic career.  He's been traveling lately with Hal Sparks.  Chris is also an artist, has created several short films, had some bit parts in TV shows, and now, a lead role in a movie, "Guns Don't Kill People."

Guns Don't Kill People Trailer from Ivan Ehlers on Vimeo.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hooray Jessica!

Hooray for Jessica Ahlquist of Rhode Island!  She protested a "prayer banner" hanging in her high school, and won! 

And so we see yet again what happens when someone stands up for separation of church and state.  They get screamed at, insulted, and threatened.  It would seem that church people are just not comfortable enough with their own religiosity;  they insist on openly displaying their religion and ramming it down everyone else's throat, too.  Sounds to me like they are insecure in their own faith.  They don't have much faith so they insist on outward displays of belief.  It's pathetic.

And what part of Matthew 6:5-6 do they not understand? 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation warmly congratulates 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist, whose federal challenge against a prayer banner hanging in her high school in Rhode Island prevailed when U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux ruled the banner must be removed immediately. The banner is titled “School Prayer,” addresses “Our Heavenly Father” and ends with “Amen.”

Lagueux not only ruled in Jessica’s favor, but noted in his decision that she “is clearly an articulate and courageous young woman, who took a brave stand, particularly in light of the hostile response she has received from her community.”

The petite Jessica, a shy teenager with backbone thrust into a huge controversy, was named FFRF’s Thomas Jefferson Student Activist awardee last year. She wowed and charmed the 34th annual national FFRF convention in Hartford, Conn., on Oct. 8, when she accepted her $1,000 scholarship in person and recounted her experiences. (Read or listen to speech, “Teen stands fall for First Amendment,” November Freethought Today.)

In her speech to FFRF, Jessica noted that many students and parents reacted angrily from the start to critics of the school’s unconstitutional prayer banner. When she and others spoke up again the banner at several meetings, reactions ranged from angry glares and murmurs to gasps when she identified herself as an atheist. “Someone’s trying to destroy God,” was one reaction. Classmates would scream “God Bless You” in her face if she sneezed, and she lost some former friends. When her town’s mayor, at an unrelated event in the school auditorium, pointed to the prayer and said, “I would like to see that prayer stay exactly where it is,” the entire auditorium erupted with ovations, cheers and applause. “I sat there and tried not to cry,” she recalled. One day she and a friend were removed from class after rumors of violence. Another day she remembered, “I went home crying.” 

Jessica noted that despite the hostile climate and the fact that “people don’t want to be associated with me,” last fall she started a secular student club.

Lagueux ended his decision:
“Over the many years of its history, the Supreme Court has turned to the words of the Founding Fathers and the framers of the Constitution to support varying interpretations of the Establishment Clause. Many chapters have been devoted to Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington and even Abraham Lincoln, and what their expectations were for the public religious practices of this nation. This Court has tried to resist the temptation of injecting lofty rhetoric into this opinion, but nonetheless was moved by the words, as quoted in Schempp, of Roger Williams, the founder of our state, who left the Massachusetts Bay Colony in pursuit of religious liberty.
There goes many a ship to sea, with many hundred souls in one ship, whose weal and woe is common, and is a true picture of a commonwealth, or human combination, or society. It hath fallen out sometimes, that both Papists and Protestants, Jews and Turks, may be embarked on one ship; upon which supposal, I affirm that all the liberty of conscience I ever pleaded for, turns upon these two hinges, that none of the Papists, Protestants, Jews, or Turks be forced to come to the ship’s prayers or worship, nor compelled from their own particular prayers or worship, if they practice any."
“We warmly congratulate Jessica for standing up for our Constitution. This is a lawsuit that should not even have been necessary. What Jessica endured in order to bring an end to this obvious First Amendment violation shows how essential it is to keep religion out of our public schools, where it creates only mischief and divisiveness,” said FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Romney's tax returns

Gee, what COULD Mitt Romney be hiding by not releasing his tax returns?  The final proof that he is of, by and for the 1%, perhaps?  Or something even more nasty?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

King of Bain

This video is "paid for" by the "Winning Our Future" PAC, which backs Newt Gingrich.  Pass the popcorn!!

Click here.  The entire video is only 28 minutes.

I'm glad to see Romney getting tarred with the 1% tag.  He deserves it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Arian Foster

Yes, I have been caught up in "Texans Fever" like many fellow Houstonians.  I haven't watched this much football since I was a kid growing up in East Texas, when we idolized the Dallas Cowboys. 

One vivid memory from that time is sitting impatiently through church on Sunday mornings (brainwashing!), knowing that we were going to jump in the car as soon as services were over and head to Dallas to watch a game live in the Cotton Bowl.   Those were the longest sermons in history! 

Here's a nice profile of Texans running back Arian Foster.  Sounds like a really cool guy.

Texans' Foster proves he's no ordinary NFL player
by Steve Campbell

Arian Foster arrived in the NFL almost unnoticed, with a point he was willing to go to great lengths to prove. One of the telltale signs that Foster was well on his way to proving he wasn’t the crazy one for believing he could flourish at football’s highest level came during a December 2010 game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Undrafted out of college, relegated to the practice squad for much of his first professional season, Foster was on his way to leading the league in rushing. During the second quarter of a Ravens victory at Reliant Stadium, All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis cornered Foster to say, “I love the way you play the game.”

The two struck up a friendship at the Pro Bowl and met up again at the ESPYs award show, talking for hours afterward. They have gone back and forth on the phone this week, knowing full well they’ll meet again on Sunday when the Texans face the Ravens in an AFC divisional playoff game.

“H’s driven by a different burning inside,” Lewis said. “He was an undrafted guy with a lot of talent, so he’s fueled by something different. Any time you add that type of fuel with talent, you get Arian Foster.”

Many sides to him

It turns out Foster, 25, is fueled by something different to be something different than the cookie-cutter NFL star. Here’s a former University of Tennessee philosophy major whose name is an abbreviated form of Aquarians. Foster is half African-American, half Mexican-American, and he dabbles in poetry and writing song lyrics. He is an unmarried father of a 2-year-old daughter, Zeniah, whose mother speaks German. He embraces yoga and New Age teachings, bowing after touchdowns as an ode to Eastern culture.

When the Texans had an open date in November, Foster visited New York to examine first-hand the Occupy Wall Street movement. He raised some eyebrows during an offseason talk with high-school students when he told them, “There’s always going to be somebody who says you can’t do something. Usually that somebody didn’t do what they wanted to do with their life. I tell kids all the time, ‘Don’t listen to adults.’ ”

He frets about the perils of conformity, yet his chosen profession – the one a seventh-grade teacher mocked as too unrealistic to contemplate – is one that frowns on free thinking and individuality.

“There are laws you have to abide by, and I acknowledge those laws,” Foster said. “But more often than not, people let the laws define them rather than really asking questions and pushing the limits. That’s how we grow as people, as a human race, really: We push limits of those boundaries.”

Tweet’s the word

Arian Foster is a Twitter devotee, reaching out to more than 130,000 followers to initiate discussions that can range from lampooning fantasy-football fanatics to discussing the meaning of life or the importance of money. When Foster did a reenactment of the “Dream Shake” move of Rockets icon Hakeem Olajuwon to celebrate the Texans’ first touchdown of the playoffs, it was the result of a discussion he’d had with his Twitter followers earlier in the week.

“There’s really not one thing you can describe him as,” said Foster’s brother and personal trainer, Abdul. “He’s not just a football player. He’s not just a father. He’s not just a brother. He’s not just a hard worker, a creative mind and spirit. He’s all of those, and some more. He’s not just bound to the football field, those 100 yards. That’s why I say he’s a great human spirit.”

Just don’t mistake Foster for some sort of float-through-life gadfly who stands for or commits to nothing. When somebody in the Twitterverse asked last week what the key is to success, Foster offered this answer: “Defining what success means to you, then being willing to die for it.”

“People think I’m joking when I say I’m willing to die for it,” Foster said. “I’m not joking. I’ll literally run until my heart stops. My training, my preparation, it doesn’t seem that serious to somebody else. But it is to me. The name on my back means something to me – the legacy I want to leave not just on the field, but off the field.”

Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison describes Foster is studious and inquisitive in team meetings, saying, “To say Arian is a quick study is an understatement.”

That would be the same Foster who one day alarmed receiver Andre Johnson with an unexpected text-message. Figuring there must be something serious at hand, Johnson got treated instead to a picture of Foster feeding some ducks.

Some people say he’s different,” Johnson said. “He’s a cocky guy, but I don’t think he’s cocky in a bad way. He has always had a chip on his shoulder because he wants to prove he’s a great player. I think he’s doing that.”

The Twitter profile of @ArianFoster offers a succinct summation of the many layers to him: “I am an aspiring human being. I don’t take life too serious, none of us make it out alive. Understand the universe, you’ll understand me.”

Foster has more than 2,300 tweets to his name, offering glimpses as to the assorted place his minds go. Sometimes he’ll hint of the inner struggles of trying to make a name for himself in the NFL: “I have such an addictive personality. I’m either all in, or all out. What a beautiful curse.”

Embracing the city

Four days before the first playoff game in franchise history, Foster tweeted: “Houston, you’ll never know how much love I have for you. You’ve changed my life forever. And I am forever indebted.” Houston is where Arian Foster, who once saw his divorced mother pawn her wedding ring to feed the family, began to make a name and place for himself.

“I’m a believer in spreading a lot of positive light,” Foster said. “Some people, I feel like are put here to help out other people. I’m in a fortunate position to have people’s eyes and people’s ears on a small scale. Any chance I get, I just try to spread any kind of positive light I can.”


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Founding Fathers

This country is not, nor I hope will it ever be, a "Christian" nation.  All these religious extremist Christian fanatics need to just STFU.

5 Founding Fathers Whose Skepticism About Christianity Would Make Them Unelectable Today
Thomas Jefferson believed that a coolly rational form of religion would take root in America. Was he ever wrong.

January 10, 2012
by Rob Boston

To hear the Religious Right tell it, men like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were 18th-century versions of Jerry Falwell in powdered wigs and stockings. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Unlike many of today’s candidates, the founders didn’t find it necessary to constantly wear religion on their sleeves. They considered faith a private affair. Contrast them to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (who says he wouldn’t vote for an atheist for president because non-believers lack the proper moral grounding to guide the American ship of state), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who hosted a prayer rally and issued an infamous ad accusing President Barack Obama of waging a “war on religion”) and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (whose uber-Catholicism leads him to oppose not just abortion but birth control).

There was a time when Americans voted for candidates who were skeptical of core concepts of Christianity like the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus and the virgin birth. The question is, could any of them get elected today? The sad answer is probably not.

Here are five founding fathers whose views on religion would most likely doom them to defeat today:

1. George Washington. The father of our country was nominally an Anglican but seemed more at home with Deism. The language of the Deists sounds odd to today’s ears because it’s a theological system of thought that has fallen out of favor. Desists believed in God but didn’t necessarily see him as active in human affairs. The god of the Deists was a god of first cause. He set things in motion and then stepped back.

Washington often employed Deistic terms. His god was a “supreme architect” of the universe. Washington saw religion as necessary for good moral behavior but didn’t necessarily accept all Christian dogma. He seemed to have a special gripe against communion and would usually leave services before it was offered.

Washington was widely tolerant of other beliefs. He is the author of one of the great classics of religious liberty – the letter to Touro Synagogue (1790). In this letter, Washington assured America’s Jews that they would enjoy complete religious liberty in America; not mere toleration in an officially “Christian” nation. He outlines a vision of a multi-faith society where all are free.

“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation,” wrote Washington. “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.”

Stories of Washington’s deep religiosity, such as tales of him praying in the snow at Valley Forge, can be ignored. They are pious legends invented after his death.

2. John Adams. The man who followed Washington in office was a Unitarian, although he was raised a Congregationalist and never officially left that church. Adams rejected belief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, core concepts of Christian dogma. In his personal writings, Adams makes it clear that he considered some Christian dogma to be incomprehensible.

In February 1756, Adams wrote in his diary about a discussion he had had with a man named Major Greene. Greene was a devout Christian who sought to persuade Adams to adopt conservative Christian views. The two argued over the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. Questioned on the matter of Jesus’ divinity, Greene fell back on an old standby: some matters of theology are too complex and mysterious for we puny humans to understand.

Adams was not impressed. In his diary he wrote, “Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity.”

As president, Adams signed the famous Treaty of Tripoli, which boldly stated, “[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion….”
3. Thomas Jefferson. It’s almost impossible to define Jefferson’s subtle religious views in a few words. As he once put it, “I am a sect by myself, as far as I know.” But one thing is clear: His skepticism of traditional Christianity is well established. Our third president did not believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, original sin and other core Christian doctrines. He was hostile to many conservative Christian clerics, whom he believed had perverted the teachings of that faith.

Jefferson once famously observed to Adams, “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

Although not an orthodox Christian, Jefferson admired Jesus as a moral teacher. In one of his most unusual acts, Jefferson edited the New Testament, cutting away the stories of miracles and divinity and leaving behind a very human Jesus, whose teachings Jefferson found “sublime.” This “Jefferson Bible” is a remarkable document – and it would ensure his political defeat today. (Imagine the TV commercials the Religious Right would run: Thomas Jefferson hates Jesus! He mutilates Bibles!)

Jefferson was confident that a coolly rational form of religion would take root in the fertile intellectual soil of America. He once predicted that just about everyone would become Unitarian. (Despite his many talents, the man was no prophet.)

Jefferson took political stands that would infuriate today’s Religious Right and ensure that they would work to defeat him. He refused to issue proclamations calling for days of prayer and fasting, saying that such religious duties were no part of the chief executive’s job. His assertion that the First Amendment erects a “wall of separation between church and state” still rankles the Religious Right today.

4. James Madison. Jefferson’s close ally would be similarly unelectable today. Madison is perhaps the most enigmatic of all the founders when it comes to religion. To this day, scholars still debate his religious views.

Nominally Anglican, Madison, some of his biographers believe, was really a Deist. He went through a period of enthusiasm for Christianity as a young man, but this seems to have faded. Unlike many of today’s politicians, who eagerly wear religion on their sleeves and brag about the ways their faith will guide their policy decisions, Madison was notoriously reluctant to talk publicly about his religious beliefs.

Madison was perhaps the strictest church-state separationist among the founders, taking stands that make the ACLU look like a bunch of pikers. He opposed government-paid chaplains in Congress and in the military. As president, Madison rejected a proposed census because it involved counting people by profession. For the government to count the clergy, Madison said, would violate the First Amendment.

Madison, who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, also opposed government-issued prayer proclamations. He issued a few during the War of 1812 at the insistence of Congress but later concluded that his actions had been unconstitutional. As president, he vetoed legislation granting federal land to a church and a plan to have a church in Washington care for the poor through a largely symbolic charter. In both cases, he cited the First Amendment.

One can hear the commercials now: "James Madison is an anti-religious fanatic. He even opposes prayer proclamations during time of war."

5. Thomas Paine. Paine never held elective office, but he played an important role as a pamphleteer whose stirring words helped rally Americans to independence. Washington ordered that Paine’s pamphlet “The American Crisis” be read aloud to the Continental Army as a morale booster on Dec. 23, 1776. “Common Sense” was similarly popular with the people. These seminal documents were crucial to winning over the public to the side of independence.

So Paine’s a hero, right? He was also a radical Deist whose later work, The Age of Reason, still infuriates fundamentalists. In the tome, Paine attacked institutionalized religion and all of the major tenets of Christianity. He rejected prophecies and miracles and called on readers to embrace reason. The Bible, Paine asserted, can in no way be infallible. He called the god of the Old Testament “wicked” and the entire Bible “the pretended word of God.” (There go the Red States!)

What can we learn from this? Americans have the right to reject candidates for any reason, including their religious beliefs. But they ought to think twice before tossing someone aside just because he or she is skeptical of orthodox Christianity. After all, that description includes some of our nation’s greatest leaders.

Rob Boston is senior policy analyst at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.