Friday, November 28, 2014

ebooks vs print books

I have nothing against ebooks. I have read novels on my iPad. But I still prefer print books. In particular, when I read a print book over a period of time, I like watching the bookmark inch its way from the beginning to the end of the pages.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Non Fiction

Normally, I never read non-fiction books. I always felt like I was reading a text book for a class and was immediately overwhelmed by a mixture of boredom and unwanted responsibility. However, in the last few years, I've started reading more non-fiction than fiction. Maybe it's a sign of age. More likely, it's because my interest in what's going on politically and socially in America has grown. As I start to look beyond my own cocoon, I want to get a clearer understanding of why this country is the way it is.

I've recently picked up two excellent non-fiction books. The first is "Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate" by Ginger Strand. She examines how the highway system changed America, adding mobility, but also destroying neighborhoods, isolating the poor, and setting many communities adrift. She does this by using different mass murderers who used the highway system to conduct their crimes. In the chapter about Charles Starkweather, Strand includes a quote from a reader to the Washington Post commenting on how the country's push for consumerism and mobility had changed us. The reader said, "The things are getter better; the people are getting worse."

The second book I picked up is "This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral plus plenty of valet parking in America's Gilded Capital" by Mark Leibovich. Funny and depressing in equal measure. I'm a long time fan of the Daily Show so I love sharp clear-eyed political humor and Leibovich delivers the goods. The thing is, I was halfway through when I had to put the book down and stop reading. Not because it had lagged or got boring, but because it was just to damn true about the self-serving greed of the people who run our government. The concept of politicians as public servant has become a cynical joke. Still, don't let my sadness stop you from enjoying Leibovich's excellent book.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

NFL and the Ray Rice debacle

Here is a rough sketch of my opinion of the Ray Rice/NFL scandal. Players treat their wives and girlfriends like footballs to be thrown, kicked, and carried around like a prize. The NFL needs to start dealing with this problem. They've turned a blind eye to spouse abuse for years. But its not just the NFL. The U.S. Justice system needs to be more serious about it as well.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Eat Less Chicken, Believe Less Bullshit

Truett Cathy, the founder Chick-fil-a, closed on Monday. I wish I made that up, but a friend of mine came up with it. He was an American success story. Good for him. And good for him that he maintained his religious beliefs while running a business. His stores were closed on the Christian Sabbath. However, the famous “closed on Sundays” thing annoys me. My grandfather ran a grocery store in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was open on his Sabbath, Saturday, because his clients were predominately Christian and they did most of their business that day. He would have gone out of business if he had closed on his Sabbath. It’s much easier to stand by your religious beliefs when you live in a country where your religion is the majority. It wasn’t that much of a sacrifice for Chick-fil-a to be closed on Sunday, especially in the South, home of the Bible Belt. So I say it's no big deal that Cathy closed his stores on his Sabbath.

I know it doesn’t seem right to pick on the man when he just died. That sort of rudeness is usually left to Fox News. Just tune in when someone with an opposing political position dies and you will hear such disrespectful drivel that you will think their mommas didn’t teach them how to behave properly. But I have a personal reason for not liking Mr. Cathy.

I worked for a printing company in the early 80s. The owner was a born again Christian. He tried repeatedly to convert me and I reminded him repeatedly that he was out of line. I didn’t know the owner was this way before he hired me or I wouldn’t have taken the job. But once I was there, finding another job took time and I couldn’t afford not to work. I wasn’t in a position to close myself all week to maintain of my Jewish beliefs.

My owner would print any Christian job for free and then charge secular clients double to make up the difference. One of those free Christian jobs was the church newsletter for Truett Cathy’s church. It was my job to put the newsletter together for printing.

For over a year, the newsletter was obsessed with the movie “Chariots of Fire.” According to Cathy’s church, the central message of the movie was that Christians were morally superior to Jews. The devout Christian runner in the movie didn’t run on Sunday. The Jewish runner didn’t care what day he ran. When the two men faced each other in the same race earlier in the movie, the Christian won because God favored him over the Jew because the Jew refused to accept Jesus. The church had an article every week repeating this idea in different ways. It didn’t matter that “Chariots of Gods” hadn’t been in the theaters for over three years. There were other similar anti-semitic articles in the newsletter. At times it felt like that the only time the church wasn’t insulting the Jewish faith was when they were praising Truett Cathy.

One could claim that Cathy didn’t write the articles so he might not have agreed with their anti-semitism, but he wouldn’t have been a member if the church didn’t reflect his way of thinking. Which brings me to the other reason why I don’t care for Mr. Closed-On-Sundays-Because-I’m-Such-A-Big-Christian, which was his anti-gay comments that brought out all the smug Christian haters to his stores to buy his chicken sandwiches. Or was it his son who said the hateful shit? It doesn't matter. The son learned from this father. The point is Cathy acted as if his beliefs gave him the right to disrespect other’s beliefs. And I have no respect for someone like that.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Reasons why Jews are the best

1. The people in the Jewish Bible are so popular, they appear in other religions' bibles.

2. Jews can turn a circumcision into a party.

3. Jews have made suffering an art form.

4. Haters be hatin' because Jews be God's Playas.

5. Jews can make that phlegmy "ch" sound which is almost as cool as Latin people's rolling "r" sound.

6. Jews invented the Bagel, the single greatest bread product in the world.

7. Jews don't recruit. If you aren't born into the religion, you have to take a test to join.

8. Jews wrote the Ten Commandments.

9. Some of their members have gone on to become deities.

10. Jews agree to disagree with themselves.

11. Jews don't take themselves seriously, except when they do.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Happy Birthday April

Happy 40th Birthday April.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Is that you, Jesus?

This religious pamphlet was left on my porch a while back. I was amazed at how much Jesus looked like a white American suburban man who goes to the gym regular and drives an SUV. I even like the way the artist drew the part in Jesus' hair. It's interesting how the image of Jesus has been changed to fit the local culture. I don't see other religions doing this. Jews don't depict Moses as a black hat Hasidic scholar. Buddhists don't depict Buddha as a shaved-head hipster in skinny jeans and wool cap drinking a latte. But Jesus gets turned into what everyone wants him to be. I almost feel sorry for the deity.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Let’s pretend that we need guns for the reasons we say we need them.

I’m not against gun ownership. I’m not against someone owning a gun for protection, hunting, or target practice. It’s when people cite Second Amendment whenever the subject of gun responsibility is dared mentioned that I become frustrated. They yell Second Amendment and no more discussion is allowed.

If I understand this correctly, the intention here is to own as many guns as possible in case America becomes an evil dictatorship and the citizens must rise up against the government in the name of freedom.

Okay, let’s say that happens. An evil dictator has taken control of America. Don’t insult me by saying Obama has already done it. The right has labeled him with so many conflicting titles: weak, overreaching, communist, socialist, Muslim, racist, etc. etc. etc. All I hear is white Republicans bitching about having a black Democrat president. No, let’s say we get a real dictator in charge. It’s up to the American people to overthrow him.

Who do we fight to regain our freedom? The American Armed Forces, of course. You know, our troops, the guys we’re always supporting. They’re trained to not ask questions, but to follow orders no matter who is in charge. You might argue that they are our sons and daughters and would never fight against their families. Where do you think the soldiers in repressive countries come from? They aren’t shipped in by mail order.

And we’re not talking about any armed forces. We’re talking about the biggest military in all history. A military that gets more money to buy bigger and more sophisticated death delivering toys than all nations combined. I don’t care how many guns we buy or how powerful, the military always keeps the best stuff for themselves. A well-armed civilian militia wouldn’t last a day against the U.S. Armed Forces.

If that weren’t bad enough, the same people who yell Second Amendment every time anyone mentions responsible gun ownership are the same people who freak out every time anyone mentions scaling back even a tiny bit on the gushing money spigot to the Pentagon. In other words, the people who claim they need their guns to defend themselves against the American government are the same people who make sure the American government has enough firepower to crush them.

I don’t think the American government wants to take away your guns. They also don’t want to take away our cars. They don’t make us get a driver’s license so that we can’t drive. Nor do they build transit systems to prevent you from owning a car. The second amendment also mentions “a well regulated militia” not a bunch of gun nuts who refuse to accept responsibility for their firearms.

All gun control people are asking is that gun owners be responsible. Using the Constitution as an argument is in my mind an admission that gun owners know they are being irresponsible. I’d like to see a study to find out how many gun owners are also bad drivers without car insurance. They probably don’t think they need insurance. They’re absolutely certain that they know what they’re doing and the real problem is all the other drivers on the road who keep getting in their way. Sure such thoughts are a dangerous fantasy. But so is the one about defending their freedom against the American government. There are more responsible ways to drive and there are more responsible ways to stay free and there are definitely more responsible ways to own guns.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Right to Discriminate

I actually can understand the frustration of religious groups after the defeat of Arizona SB 1062. They feel their religious freedom is impeded by being forced to do business with people who they feel violate their religious beliefs. But that's the price you pay for being in a free society. Everybody gets treated equally. Gosh darn it all.

I can come up with many examples of why the Arizona bill and others like it are a bad idea, but there's one that always sticks with me. In the Christian Bible, Timothy 2:11-15, it says in part: I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

Wouldn't that mean that a any business that claims to be a good Christian business can deny promoting a woman into a management position because it would violate their religious beliefs? I mean its right there in the bible so if the Christian CEO is going to true to his faith he is forbidden to promote a woman even if she were the most qualified candidate. And what if she had an MBA and the type of innovative ideas that increase his business tenfold? Sorry, sweetie. The bible won't allow him to let you speak to any male employees with authority. But anti-discrimination laws forbid the CEO from doing that. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen on certain levels, but companies aren't allowed to do it blatantly. 

Which brings me to another point. What are all these Christian women doing speaking for the church or for political parties ? Shouldn't they be at home remaining quiet and being submissive to their men? Sarah Palin, get back in kitchen and make Todd a sandwich. 

Anti-discrimination laws force all of us to deal with people we don't care for whether for religious or personal reasons. Using religion as an excuse is really a disservice to religion. I get so tired of religious leaders claiming that their religion is all about love your neighbor, but somehow that's kicked to the curb when it comes to wedding cake for a gay couple. 

My grandparents ran a grocery store a long time ago. They were Jewish, but at the time they had the store only my grandmother was observant. Saturday was the store's busiest day. It was full of Gentiles needing groceries. My grandfather could have stayed closed that day because it was the Sabbath. He could have said selling to Gentiles on the Sabbath was against his religious beliefs. But he worked. My grandmother sat in the back room and watched him work on the Sabbath. One Saturday, she got up and started helping. He asked her why she would work on the Sabbath? She said he needed the help and they needed the money from the Gentiles to survive. Sometimes religious discrimination is a luxury you can't afford.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Monica Made Me Blue

Recently, Senator Rand Paul accused former President Bill Clinton of “predatory behavior” by having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. His point in bringing up this old scandal was to cast doubts on a Hillary Clinton presidency. How could we feel comfortable with Hillary in the White House with Bill the predator on the loose? I suspect Hillary chose to stand by Bill and fight to preserve their marriage for reasons more political than personal. It’s such a common stance taken by the politicians’ wives that it’s become a stereotype.
            Despite the reason why Hillary stuck with Bill, the point is she stuck by her man and Rand Paul is attempting to gain political points against her for doing so. He’s basically blaming the victim. And Republicans wonder why they can’t connect with women?
            In a way, I’m glad Rand Paul brought up the Lewinsky Scandal. It reminds me of why I began to support the Democratic Party. Before Bill Clinton became president, I didn’t pay much attention to politics other than to be disgusted with the entire system. If Richard Nixon taught us anything, it was to never ever trust the people who claim to be “public servants” especially those at the top of the political food chain.
            Despite my distaste, I always voted. The way I saw it, you couldn’t complain about our leaders if you didn’t cast your vote. But I refused to pick a party. For one thing, there weren’t enough to choose from. Red or Blue? That’s no choice. I refused to support one party. I called myself an independent. I was just as likely to vote Republican or Democrat, depending on the candidate I thought would at least attempt to do good things for the country.
            I voted for Clinton. I believed that he really did feel our pain. When he got into office, he tried to make good on his promises.
            But then came the Whitewater investigation. If the Clintons had done something illegal back when Bill was governor of Arkansas, then I felt it definitely needed to be fully investigated. And was it ever investigated. The legal maneuvering went on forever and the Clintons kept slipping loose. This also seemed stereotypical of most political scandals.
            And then Kenneth Star signed on. When he couldn’t find anything on Whitewater, he went fishing for anything he could get on Clinton. He spent years and over 30 million dollars to finally find an intern who’d given the president a blowjob and then he managed to get the president into lying about it under oath.
            I’m sorry but what did Lewinsky have to do with Whitewater? Starr gave some bullshit excuse about there had to be some kind of illegal behavior and he was duly bound to uncover it. Give me 30 million dollars and unlimited time and power and I’ll dig up dirt on Mother Teresa. In other words, with enough resources and determination, you can get anybody for something. But what the hell did it have to do with the original intent of the investigation? Where was the connection with Whitewater?
            There was none, so why did it happen? So that the Republicans could get Clinton on something. Anything. They didn’t care about the office of the president. They didn’t care about the damage and the cost to the country. They just wanted to score a political victory against their opponent.
That scorched earth mentality is what made me forever distrust the Republican Party. I believe they should never be trusted. Their leaders should be hounded over the most minor of details. Their policies should always be blocked. With my one small vote, I will always vote against them. If that was their plan all along, to turn people like me against them permanently and to turn us into Democrats, then job well done.
I have a conservative co-worker who once explained to me why Bill was rightfully impeached. It took him ten minutes to explain the legal reasons. When I asked what it had to do with Whitewater, he refused to answer. And when I asked him to explain the legal reason why the Supreme Court voted to deny the voters of Florida to have their votes counted in the presidential election that gave George Bush his victory, he also refused to answer. He was gleeful about catching Bill in perjury and downright disdainful when discussing how the election was stolen. He to me is the typical Republican. May his party to never have one of their own sit in the White House again.
I’m kind of glad Rand Paul brought up the Lewinsky Scandal. He reminded me of why I’m blue.