Saturday, December 6, 2008

WAR on Christmas

I ran across this recently:
War on Christmas

I am always troubled by being told some how I am fighting a war on someone else's holiday by encouraging inclusion in my approach to December. As a kid there was a season, starting with Thanksgiving and going through New Year's Day that was simply called The Holidays. On Thanksgiving Day WPIX showed March of the Wooden Soldiers and that marked the start of a time when everyone seemed to enjoy the spirit of the holiday. Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas filled the community and all seemed to have the same power for sharing joy. The few Jews in my hometown would celebrate Hanukah in the proper time and people respected and enjoyed the moment.

But today when someone says Happy Holidays there are those right wing nuts who think it is an assault on American values. There are those who think it is an affront to all that is good. Inclusion is what this country is about, but not to the right wing. They fear the ideas of others. It is a challenge to their weak minded faith, much like the existence of Jews in the Middle Ages was a challenge to the corrupt church, so they killed the Jews whenever they could. Today it is more about marginalizing the anyone who doesn't think like they do, making them some how Anti-American. That is comical to me.

I believe the true war on Christmas comes from consumerism. Christmas to Christians is about the birth of Jesus, the savior, the changer of destiny. How could a religious tradition that holds that so dear allow it to become about 1/2 off sales at Target?

I think the fictional war on Christmas is being fought only from those of little faith trying to cover their ears and sing when anyone brings up the rich diversity of our nation. Sad, because in a highly homogeneous society in 1973 we understood that while there were those who were "other", they had a place at the table. Too bad someone is trying to pull away the chair.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Noise

So the election is over and now the noise changes but doesn't end. Attacks on President-elect Obama for choosing Rahm Emanuel is the beginning of what I fear will be a dissection of every appointment he makes. Larry Summers will have to revisit his horror of the things he said about women at Harvard, though the right wingers who are bringing it up already defended him back then. I see the mud Obama would have to fight against. Even Glenn Beck, a person who I believe is a hypocrite, was fighting his own listeners who say that the President is not their President. That he had no authority. There is even a movement to impeach the President-elect. I am not sure of the standing they are using. But deep down I wish the noise would stop, but it won't. Look out, I feel bad that there will be no honeymoon for this President. Let's hope that he is as good as we think he can be and rise above this.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A landslide possible?

Senator Obama stopped in Indianapolis today, election day, to rally voters, supporters and to maybe ignite some undecideds. What is remarkable is that has no time in the last several elections has Indiana been in play. It is a contested state this year. That to me is amazing. I hear stories of long lines, I hear families arguing over who to vote for and a friend gave me a glimpse of why there are still 7% who have not made up their minds. I find it amazing that at this time, as I actually vote for someone and not against the other one, that so many Americans are becoming part of the process and taking it seriously. Who ever is declared the winner tonight, this country has won, if for no other reason than we have had a election that people paid attention to and learned how to pick leaders. Maybe this will be the start of an engaged electorate.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bill Maher

I watched Bill Maher's attempt at a documentary on Religion called Religulous. He spends most of the movie interviewing people to better understand or perhaps to skewer faith. He argues that he is going after the people who are absolutely certain, and also tries to juxtapose mythologies of different religion to ask why one set of myths (for western culture The Bible) is better than other sets of myths (including other ancient near-East text) that influenced the writers of the Bible. Maher fails miserably at what could have been a wonderful opportunity to point out how religion itself has become boiled down to a set of stories that most adherents feel deeply did not occur. Yet it is all they have and it is this simplistic view of religion that has Maher at times angry and provides great comical fodder. Yet he can't seem to go beyond the ridicule of the most elementary kind of religious expression.

At one point he visits an institute in Israel where Rabbis try to invent ways to allow traditional Jews to use technology that would be normally be forbidden on the Sabbath. It was clear to me that this was a grand opportunity to discuss the idea that perhaps religion is not about getting around the rules, but understanding the meaning of some rules. And perhaps how they might change with each generation. But Maher laughed it off, not digging deep he simply poked fun.

I think Maher is looking at religion like most in Western culture, the religion they remember from elementary school religion classes. Heaven and Hell, Baby Jesus, Moses on the mountain, Apples and Honey, Easter Eggs. A religion where incredible stories of miracles and fun holiday traditions feed a childhood imagination that as we age we begin to question but rarely find a good answer. Some faith traditions have interpreted over time what the stories mean and how they can be teaching tools for how to live our lives. Certainly, sitting in the center of the Hebrew Bible is a cornerstone of building a society. Albeit a religious society based around sacrifice, but even that changed over time, including being argued against by the prophets later in the history of the faith. What Maher and most of his belief system fail to understand is that you can take a faith tradition seriously and yet not believe that the stories that were created to explain the unexplainable were true stories. As one teacher of mine once said "The stories in the Bible are true, they just didn't happen that way". We mine the meaning and create a way of living, a culture, that grows out of what the ancient wisdom tries to teach us. We don't have to believe in a celestial hall monitor that watches over us looking for us to screw up. But we can believe that an attempt to understand our existence, that faith in something greater than ourselves can have value, as long as we examine it from what we know about the universe. I think there are rich religious traditions that understand that God may not be the God of the Bible, or the theologians of old, but something that is understood differently as we unlock the knowledge of the world. Too often people don't want to explore the deeper meaning so they either disconnect from the reality they see or simply hold two mutually exclusive thoughts in their head. I believe both set one up for failure to thrive as a human and leads Maher to so easily attack religion as if it were monolithic.

One point Maher complains that more people have been killed for religion and uses Christianity and Islam as an example. The problem with this is that it isn't simply religion. In both cases and in many others in the past when religion and government combine and a sin against God is a crime against the state violence can only be the solution. That, connected with a government supporting the idea that they have the one true answer, zealotry leads to persecution and forced conversions and events like the Holocaust. Governments that have religion as the driving force of the society can not be wrong. Killing the "infidel" is not murder, it is keeping the society safe. It is a government holding on to power in most cases using religion as a club. Often distorting the faith.

I believe intellectually honest religion is a good thing for people personally and for society as a whole. But Maher doesn't want to look that deep, no comedy in nuance. So laugh with Bill at Scientology and zealots but I encourage you to examine your own thoughts. What do you believe? Why? How do you reconcile it with the world you live in? Look deep, there is a lot of good in a faith tradition, but bring out the wheat and leave the chafe. You will be better for it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bailout Needed? YES

There is a rumor going around the internet that we should take the $700 Billion and invest in the people giving them all a check. Leave Wall Street to hang and companies to die. The thinking if that giving money to the people will make them start paying their bills. This is laughable.
Giving it to the people will do absolutely nothing. If you divide the money by every American, it comes to about $2300, how does this help someone who is 3 months behind in an $1100 mortgage payment they can't afford anyway? It won't stimulate the economy and yes it is our money that we are borrowing. I have no idea where an earlier poster came up with the $400 K scenario. What this does is to support the collapse of a banking system that for good or bad holds up the rest of the economy. With out loans, small business doesn't thrive, big business can't function, and people can't operate in a world that many live month to month. Yes stupid loans were given out when money was plentiful and there was insurance on risky loans. But the holders of that insurance didn't put away enough money to cover them, banks didn't want to continuously foreclose and there is a housing glut in many parts of the country so the structures themselves are not worth what is owed on them. This bailout will create a whole new way of our economics working. At least I hope in the end it does. The government should take over failing companies, hold the boards and management responsible for negligence and seize all assets to avoid anyone walking out with any severance. Investigations should be done on any illegality and it should all be done in the light of day. The gov't should have a plan for reselling assets at fair value as quickly as possible and using that money pay off the price tag. When the economy is strong again, and it will be, there should be significant tax reductions across the board. As for programs to help people buy a home, in the future there should be far more oversight in how those loans are processed and how much money is given away. The government should have strict controls to avoid predatory lending and frankly ridiculous lending. I don't see this package as simply throwing money at the problem. Giving every American $2300 would in fact put money in people's pockets but will they pay their past due loans or buy a flat screen? I don't know. What I do know is that if we do nothing we risk a total collapse of monetary systems around the world and frankly I don't want to learn Chinese.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Oh Sarah, we hardly know you....or do we.

So Senator McCain chose the Alaska Governor to be his vice-presidential pick. Sarah Palen, a young exciting conservative who spent some of her tenure fighting the corrupt party in Alaska. It is amazing to me just how little she is known, seemingly even by Senator McCain. But she is a darling of the right-wing, pro-gun, pro-life, pro-death penalty (yes I get the irony), Pro-drilling, anti-polar bear, and yet some people think she was picked to woo the Hillary democrats. That is a insulting move. It suggests women are going to vote for anyone of their gender despite being the opposite with them on issues is silly at best but clearly a slap in their face. But I think the pick was even more sinister. I think that a woman on the ticket gives McCain the ability to call the Democrats misogynistic if they attack Palen, even for cause. That is how to get at the women who supported Hillary. They will say that they dissed Hillary and now dissing another woman. So in some ways poor Sarah is a woman being used not for her skills or for her political prowess but for bait to the left. McCain simply needed a woman, her conservative bona fides are just icing. Isn't their a word for a woman who is used in this way?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama/Biden '08

Why do I think Senator Obama made the right choice in Senator Biden for the Vice-Presidential pick? Well, while the critics think a Washington insider like Biden shows a sense of terror on the part of the capaign it makes perfect sense to get an older established, highly partian, Dem to act as the Obama attack dog. Biden can certainly do that. Beyond that he is a smart, somewhat articulate voice with a huge amount of foreign policy experience and a real understanding of the bigger parts of the Washington game. One can not change something one doesn't understand the rules to, so Biden adds to Obama in a way that Dick Cheney added to the current President. Back 8 years ago, when the GOP decided they wanted someone with a name and someone who could be cast as the anti-Clinton, GWB was the popular choice. The son of a pure Washington insider, he was seen as the maverick who went into the family business but did it in a way that created more of a rouge approach. He was clean, Christian and wanted to be a compassionate conservative (too bad the wheels came off that notion). Dick Cheney was the guy who could be demonized but added the foreign policy experience, the Washington connections, and gave pause to those in the GOP and independents who saw Bush as the frat boy who was next in line. Cheney was able to create a ticket that had the best of both worlds. I think Biden does that in the same way.

Democrats are going to vote, for the most part of Senator Obama, Republicans are for the most part going to vote for Senator McCain. There is about 10-15% of the population that waivers week-to-week about who they will vote for. Biden was chosen for them. I see a 5 point bounce coming in the daily tracking polls and a 10 point bump by Thursday night. (of course that will be erased quickly by the rise of the GOP convention and the attacks on Obama/Biden) But I think there will be some to look closer at this team. 70ish days to go. I can't wait.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Saddleback Event

I was surprised that Senator Obama chose to enter into the psuedo-debate that was the Saddleback conversations with Pastor Rick Warren. Someone suggested that it would be a great way to show people he is not a Muslim. What is amazing to me is that anyone thinks he's a Muslim. Could it be because the crazy right-wing keeps questioning that? I think if someone knowingly perpetuates that he or she should be investigated for voter fraud.

As for the forum, it was pure silliness. Sen. McCain didn't come across as genuine, he sounded like a bumper sticker machine. It is easy to make such declarative statements but that is not how one governs. Sadly most Americans don't get that.

Senator Obama should take some of Senator McCain's answers to the first debate.

I could just hear him:

"Senator McCain, it is believed that Osama Bin Laden is in Northern Pakistan, not quite the gates of hell. Tell us all how you will be going there to get him."

"John, if human rights begin at conception, what do you tell a young girl who is pregnant by her father when she doesn't want to carry the baby to term. Why should she have to give up her human rights for the rights of the fetus?"

"Should there be an investigation into every miscarriage to make sure that the mom did everything right to protect the human rights of her child?"

"Sir, you spout a lot about morality and the failure of your first marriage. Tell us how soon after meeting Cindie did you start sleeping together? Were you married? Do you think that you are a good role model for our youth?"

Those who want to be bumper sticker politicians should be forced to answer real questions. But according to many Sen. Obama lost because of nuance and details. So sad when our society is all about nuance and compromise.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Quiz

I found it interesting, but most this I didn't learn in high school:

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Politics and Islam

Recently there have been more reports of Senator Obama seemingly shunning the Muslim community. Staffers kept women with a Muslim headdress out of an important television shot and Mosques have been asking the presumptive Democratic nominee to come visit which he has refused. I think this says a great deal about our society and how we look at Islam. It isn't that Senator Obama is trying to avoid Muslims because HE thinks there is something wrong, he is avoiding giving fodder to the anti-Muslims crowd who continue to paint him as a secret Muslim. Daily I see someone say something that tries to link him to not only Muslims but Islamic extremists. If 9-11 and the aftermath taught us anything that the American people can't nuance their racial prejudice. Many people were harassed, assaulted, and some killed for simply looking like Arabs.

Obama, as well as many Americans, know that most Muslims are peaceful, but we will make them less so if we marginalize, discriminate against, and abuse. Obama will likely have to address this head on. Perhaps a speech in Detroit with a large Muslim crowd outlining why racism hurts the way the campaign works. Maybe he can invite people like Glen Beck to tell us how his race and religious are a factor and then play Beck crying when Gov. Romney was attacked for his Mormon beliefs.

The simple fact is that Senator Obama's race, his name, his family religious history and his current faith tradition will be a factor for some. Some of that may even be legitimate. But most is just crap. Too bad that is what helped win the last several elections.

Monday, June 23, 2008

John Freshwater

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/06/20/teacher.cross/index.html

(CNN) -- School administrators in Ohio voted Friday to begin the process of firing a middle school teacher accused of burning a cross into a student's arm and refusing to keep his religious beliefs out of the classroom.

The Mount Vernon School Board passed a resolution to terminate the employment of John Freshwater, an eighth-grade science teacher for the past 21 years.

Freshwater, according to an independent report, used an electrostatic device to mark a cross on the arm of one of his students, causing pain to the student the night of the incident and leaving a mark that lasted for approximately three weeks.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, the student's family has filed a lawsuit.

Freshwater was also reprimanded several times for refusing to move his Bible from his classroom desk and teaching creationism alongside evolution, according to the 15-page independent report. The report also cites evidence that Mr. Freshwater told his students that "science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner."



This guy is a nut and if he did this he should be charged with assault. But what is more troubling is that so many people teaching science don't seem to understand science.
It turns out a study reveals that a large percentage of science teachers seem to discount evolution on the whole and teach creationism as a valid alternative:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13930-16-of-us-science-teachers-are-creationists.html

Teachers often say, while they teach it they don't believe in evolution.

Evolution is not a matter of belief, it is a matter of science. There is clear and present evidence for evolution. Replacing it with a belief in something else without evidence is not science. While there are various aspects of Evolutionary theory that continue to be studied, tweaked, enhanced and discounted the fundamental theory has lived up to its predictable expectations. If you are teaching biological science and reject evolution you need a career change. Oh and if you are a public school teacher, and you really want to be a preacher, get out of the classroom.

I think that we need a national science revolution. We need to focus our energies on creating true science literate individuals. So much misinformation causes people to not fully comprehend what is true science and what is pseudoscience. I think an educated population is much better than a ignorant one swayed by half truths and out right lies. Some people call it indoctrination. Funny, one is encouraged to question science with evidence. Can we say that about the ID crowd?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Expelled????? Really

There is a new movie out that is getting some press called Expelled. The idea behind the film is the Creation Science is being blocked out of Science classrooms by what is being called Big Science. This movie has some credibility because of Ben Stein, the actor/politico/pitchman who has become a bit of character to many age 21-45. While he use to write for Presidents Nixon and Ford, he also is famous for saying Bueller, Bueller Bueller (if you don't get the reference ask a friend).

Well, the movie is out and I hope that if you see it that you will at least see that from much of the press there was some deception in its creation. However one of the most interesting stories came out of one of the scientists that was interviewed in the film who went to a screening and was not allowed in. Read details here: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/03/expelled.php

Too often the debates in this country are black and white. At a time when we should be seeking a better understanding of truth we are struck by the growing community who calls science Godless or draws connections as this movie does between the theory of Evolution and the horrors of the Shoah (Holocaust). As a Jewish educator this movie offends me on its face. But the deception used to get scientist to seemingly endorse its message is unforgivable. I hope that in the long run this movie will be seen for what it is, propaganda.

Sorry for the rant, but this really got to me.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Barack HUSSEIN Obama

Many people recently have come under fire for using Senator Barack Obama's middle name. It is clearly an attempt by right wing nuts to link him to his Muslim ancestry and some how to terrorism. While Hussein is a powerful and common name in the Arab/Muslim world, the soft minded people who chose not to vote for Senator Kerry because of the Swift Boat ads or because they thought he was French (I did hear that) are the one's being targeted. Daily someone tells me Sen. Obama is a closet Muslim, ready to hand over the US to his Muslim partners. While I find this fantastical thinking disturbing it works and the right wing noise machine seems to encourage it in one voice while attempting to denounce it in another. It is clear to me that this take is troubling and certainly just another ploy by them to tarnish someone with lies.

But I was wondering, could the US elect a Muslim President? Could there be a different faith in the White House besides Christianity? We have flirted with Jewish candidates in the past, and I am quite sure there were a few atheists among the so-called Christian Presidents. But I have to ask is there any real advantage to having someone with a good Christian upbring in the White House. President GW Bush and President Carter probably wore their faith the most on their sleeve and seemed to live it out more in their walking around life. Both show good Christian cred, but neither was a great President, both probably make the most people's list of worst in the last 100 years. (there were a few dunderheads in the 1800s but that is like comparing running backs now to the leather helmet days).

You see maybe we shouldn't care what religion some is or isn't and see their character, their desire to lead us in an appropriate direction. To fight to protect America and Americans not only from foreign terrorists but from other forces that allow for poverty, depression, hate and fear to thrive so well in this country. Perhaps we should be less concerned about which language they call to God in, and more about what they say when they all to us.

Barack Hussein Obama, I don't know if I want him to be President, I still support Senator Clinton, but I could easily pull the lever for him in November if he is the chose of my party, even if we find a prayer rug in his closet.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I let this blog go dead but I am back.

I think now that the politcal season is what it is I think I will be back writing.

Coming soon more insight on social issues and politics.

A Tale of Two Scandals

While anyone who knows me knows I feel the Republican party has many problems and it is in fact ready to die a painful death at the hands o...