Friday, March 28, 2008

Right to Life, HealthCare, and Happiness

Next fall, we're all going to be making a decision on who we think should be running the country. Should it be the Republicans? Should it be the Democrats? Should it be Ralph Nader? (I can't even write that without a little snicker). No matter what, when I go to the poll I will be voting against somebody. This I already know because I don't like anybody who is running. And, as always, I will be voting for the person I think will do the least amount of damage to the country I love. A sad state of affairs, but there it is. 

I must say, I think I'm grateful to the "liberals" for eschewing that particular name for themselves in favor of "progressives." It never ceases to amaze me how somebody can be called "liberal" when they're so against liberty. At least now that they're called "progressive" it's accurate... they're progressing - towards a goal I dislike, but they're progressing anyway.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton is running on a platform of "centrism" -- or so she says. Of course, there's nothing centrist about her health care proposals... Hillary might as well change the preamble to read, "that among these are life, health care, and the pursuit of happiness," because when she's finished there will be very little "liberty" left.

Hillary wants to limit what Americans pay for health insurance to no more than 10 percent of their income. If you're currently paying 20% of your income on health insurance, then this might sound very good to you. But - there's a catch. Those people who currently self insure? Those folks who are now free to do as they please, go to the doctor, pay the bill and move on without paying 10% of their income to a business they despise? Yeah, those people will be REQUIRED to pay no more than 10% of their income to that business. 

Hillary also said that she prefers to set the cost limit at a single level for all Americans rather than varying it by income. I hear this and it sounds like code for a large number of Americans being insured by the government rather than by the private industry. But it gets better... because by the time Hillary is finished, the private insurance industry will be so heavily regulated that it might as well be government run. 

Take, for instance, the statement that it "might be appropriate" to require insurers to spend a heavy proportion of every premium dollar on health care as opposed to overhead and profit. Again, sounds nice... in a way. Insurance companies are supposed to be covering people - that's the whole point, right? Well... no. Not really. Insurance companies are COMPANIES. They are there to make a profit. That's actually the point. They need to try to produce a product that will sell to the public, but their bottom line is to make a profit. It's a business, for crying out loud. If you require that insurance companies spend 85 cents for every dollar received in premiums on pay-outs, what will happen to the premiums? Well, you'd think they might need to increase... insurance companies do have a good bit of overhead, you know. But WAIT! Hillary will CAP premiums... and regulate companies... and make life generally miserable for any private insurance company. Why would they choose to stay in business under conditions such as these?

As for raising the money needed to cover the cost of Universal Health Care, Hillary said, "I'm a big believer in raising tobacco taxes. You know, when we were working on the Children's Health Insurance Program, that's the funding stream that the Congress came up with, which was bipartisan, which worked out very well. At some point, there's going to be diminishing returns. But, sure, why not? I don't have any objection to that."

I have to say, I loathe smoking. I used to be a smoker, and for some reason I can't stand to be around the stuff now. There is virtually nothing about it that appeals to me. Smoking is dreadfully unhealthy and leads to illnesses. Taxing smoking makes sense in that it will discourage the practice, leading to fewer people smoking, hopefully fewer health problems, and less irritation for me. That said, it's important to keep in mind that the majority of smokers are lower in income and cannot afford the tax, but will continue to buy the cigarettes anyway (just as they do lottery tickets). If they're continuing to smoke at a higher cost, and something else gives (perhaps the healthier foods?) it can lead to MORE health problems. And then there's the issue where you've convinced so many people smoking isn't worth it that most tobacco companies are out of business and the tax is gone... and then the government has to come up with a new cash cow. 

Hillary Clinton is under the (I believe) mistaken impression that government intervention in health care will reduce costs and improve quality. This idea is so laughable to me that I cannot even begin to go there. Where has she been living for the past fifty years??? Has she not been in Congress for some of those years, watching the overspending?? What can she possibly be thinking in making such a stupid statement?

Hillary's plan to cover all uninsured people would, supposedly, maintain the private insurance system and mandate coverage for all legal residents. What a hoot. The only people who escape the clutches of Hillary Clinton are those people here illegally. Of course, government insurance very similar to Medicare would be available to all consumers. Whoopee.

And now get this: "Refundable tax credits would help make the newly mandatory policies affordable for low and middle income workers. Small businesses would receive tax credits to encourage them to offer insurance to employees. Large companies would either have to offer health benefits or pay into a pool that would finance subsidized coverage." It sounds to me like even in the planning it's turning into a bureaucratic nightmare. 

Now see if this makes sense: "Mrs. Clinton has pegged the cost of her plan at $110 billion. About half would come from savings generated by improvements in prevention, chronic disease management and electronic record keeping. The remainder would be produced by rolling back President Bush's income tax cuts on people earning more than $250,000 a year." What?!? If the cost of the plan is $110 billion, how can you pay for half of that with "savings generated by improvements in prevention?" If you save, it doesn't cost as much! This makes no sense to me. Can anybody explain it? And I happen to know a few people in that $250,000 a year income bracket who would be none to pleased about their "tax cuts" going away. They're already paying far, far, far too much in taxes!

Mr. Obama, who also is for universal health coverage, believes that the uninsured would be insured if it were more affordable. I can attest to this fact for myself. Being uninsured, I would certainly take some insurance on if it wouldn't break me to do so. But I don't consider 10% of my annual income "affordable" for health coverage. Hillary calls Obama's argument "just specious." Plausible, but wrong. She calls people like me "free riders," young and healthy workers who can afford coverage but choose to spend on other priorities. Well, I can attest to the truth to that as well. Were I to choose to make health insurance a priority, I could afford to purchase it. I simply don't see the sense in spending hundreds of dollars a month for nothing. See, for me to get a health insurance policy for my family would cost me $400 per month. And what would that cover? Nothing. We would have a yearly deductible of $10,000. So I would be unhappily handing over $4800 per year for the pleasure of filling out paperwork and paying all my own medical bills anyway. I don't consider myself a "free rider" as I PAY ALL MY BILLS.

Because of people like me, Hillary Clinton wants to make insurance "affordable" by her standards -- and then require me to get into the system. She calls this a "mandate." How would she enforce it? Not sure yet... but she says garnishing wages is an option. Another is having people monitored by government agencies and automatically enrolled if they don't choose to do so on their own. HUH?? Really? She also said that at some point "it might be necessary to impose penalties to encourage compliance." Nice.

Now get this: "Mrs. Clinton said reducing the cost of health care would be crucial to the next president's ability to keep Medicare solvent. The program's trustees projected this week that the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would be exhausted in 2019." So let me get this straight. The government has had an insurance plan called Medicare. Medicare is going to be bankrupt in 2019. So... the solution to this is to hand more insurance responsibility to the government?? Does this make sense to anybody?? 

In case you haven't guessed by now, I think I'll be voting against Hillary Clinton. I don't like McCain, but I'll vote for him. It's kind of like getting older... in many ways it's not much fun. But it's certainly better than the alternative.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What Am I? Obsessed??

Not another post about Obama!! Well... yeah. But see, he's in the news constantly! And he keeps coming to Charlotte! And people swoon over the man... and I really don't get it.

Tell me - does he say anything that really makes sense? I have a series of quotes of his taken from a New York Times article. I'm going to look at each one and see if he's saying anything at all:

We need a leader who can finally move beyond the divisive politics of Washington and bring Democrats, independents and Republicans together to get things done.  

Uh... okay. What things? And how can you move beyond the divisive politics of Washington when people disagree? Will we stifle debate? Nice sound bite... but there's not really much substance there.

Senator Clinton's argument in this campaign has really been that you can't change the electoral map, that it's a static map and we are inalterably divided, so we've got to eke out a victory and then try to govern more competently than George Bush has. My argument is that if that's what we're settling for, after seven or eight years of disastrous policies on the part of the Bush administration, then we're not going to deliver on the big changes that are needed.

Okay, so he's saying that he believes he can get the entire country to vote for him, rather than having the country split down the middle. Or, at the very least, he believes he can get the majority of the country to vote for him. He's not interested in settling for an eked out victory... and he's once again promising some "big changes." There's really still incredibly little of substance in here, though. How will he change the electoral map with his policies? By not sharing them with anyone? Making everybody guess?

Barack Obama has the most liberal voting record in the Senate. According to the NYT, Barack Obama was number one and Hillary Clinton was 16th. Given that, you might think that there's a vast difference in their voting records... I mean, first for liberalism and 16th? But no - their votes differed only 10 times out of 267. I'm beginning to think that perhaps the Democrats are stronger ideologues than the Republicans!! One of their main differences? Obama opposed designating the Revolutionary Guards in Iran as a terrorist organization. The Revolutionary Guards are a large part of the insurgency in Iraq, fighting against our troops there.

Barak Obama, promising a new and less ideological approach to politics, says that he understands the criticism of his voting record, but says that Senators end up on one side or the other because the Senate is so polarized. He says, "The only votes that come up are votes that are purposely designed to divide people. It's true that if I'm presented with a series of votes like that, I'm more likely to fall left of center than right of center. But as president, I would be setting the terms of debate." Ah! Finally a quote of some substance!! Scary substance, but substance nonetheless. Barak promises a less polarized feel to Washington by "setting the terms of debate." I don't know about you, but I'm not too keen on a president bringing "unity" by stifling his opposition. 

What I'm certain about is that people are disenchanted with a highly ideological Republican Party that believes tax cuts are the answer to every problem, and lack of regulation and oversight is always going to generate economic growth, and unilateral intervention around the world is the best approach to foreign policy. So there's no doubt the pendulum is swinging.

This quote can be classified in the "if you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it" category. First of all, the Republicans overtax Americans just as the Democrats do. Republicans are possibly more inclined to cut taxes than Democrats are, but they are just as bad about spending money they don't have. Secondly, Republicans don't think that a lack of regulation and oversight is going to generate economic growth. But they have enough common sense to know that regulations tend to stifle growth, and oversight turns into a bureaucratic mess. Unfortunately, the Republicans forgot this particular rule when they came up with the stupid "No Child Left Behind" law. And third, we did not unilaterally go into Afghanistan or Iraq. No matter how many times you repeat this, it's simply not true. We went through the United Nations and brought with us a coalition of over 30 nations. 

The Democrats have to seize this opportunity by showing people in very practical terms how a different set of policies can deliver solutions that will actually make a difference in their lives. I think the jury is still out right now. 

Perhaps the jury is still out because the people are still waiting to hear the testimony. There has been a lot of talk about Universal Health Care. Some people definitely appear to want to see something like that happen. But even some of those people are wondering how a country such as ours, deeply in debt already, is going to pay for it. Others are considering the nightmare of government-run health care. I see government housing... and if my health care starts to look like that, I'd rather figure out what's wrong with me at home. (And in the interest of being completely honest and fair, I tend to lean that way already - I'm scared to death of doctors.)

According to the NYT, Obama "insists that while his core values are progressive, he himself is not ideological. His policy differences with Mrs. Clinton are limited and his proposals are solidly in the mainstream of Democratic thought." This says nothing. Well, it says something, but what it says is impossible. An ideology is: 1. the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group. 2. such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, along with the devices for putting it into operation. Given this definition, is it possible for a political figure to not be an ideologue?? Can you have a body of belief and not be guided by it? If you're a conservative, you're naturally a conservative ideologue. If progressive, a progressive ideologue. How did ideology become a bad word?

Last but not least: I'm interested in solving problems as opposed to imposing doctrine. I see a lot of convergence of interests among people who in traditional terms are considered to be divided politically.

Barack Obama is one of two things. He's either a master of double speak (or maybe just a sayer of it, not a master of it) or he's a complete fool. Either he knows exactly what he's doing, or he really cannot recognize that if he's imposing a "progressive" agenda he's still "solving problems" by imposing doctrine. The larger question is: will the problems truly be solved, or will we be creating new ones to go with the old?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Singin' With the Angels... Again?

Barack Hussein Obama (perverse pleasure here in using his full name - duly noted), is once again being touted by the New York Times as singin' with the angels. Well, they didn't use that particular phrase, but from the way their editorial went, you could almost imagine the bright light that must surround the man everywhere he goes -- as well as the halo prominently perched atop his head. 

As pretty much everyone is aware, Barack Obama has come under some scrutiny because of his ties to Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The not-so-good reverend is the pastor of Obama's church (of twenty years) and has been spoken of by Obama as his "spiritual advisor." Apparently something in Wright's preaching was what brought Obama to his Christian faith -- and he has looked to Wright as his advisor for many years since. 

The New York Time's editorial is titled "Mr. Obama's Profile in Courage," and is nauseating in its praise of Obama's oratory abilities. Comparing Obama's explanation of his connection to Wright with Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, they said of Obama, "It is hard to imagine how he could have handled it better." 

Mr. Obama had to address race and religion, the two most toxic subjects in politics. He was as powerful and frank as Mitt Romney was weak and calculating earlier this year in his attempt to persuade the religious right that his Mormonism is Christian enough for them. 

It was not a moment to which Mr. Obama came easily. He hesitated uncomfortably long in dealing with the controversial remarks of his spiritual mentor and former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who denounced the United States as endemically racist, murderous and corrupt. 

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama drew a bright line between his religious connection with Mr. Wright, which should be none of the voter's business, and having a political connection, which would be very much their business. The distinction seems especially urgent after seven years of a president who has worked to blur the line between church and state.

Say wha-? First of all, you gotta love the fact that the NYT will get a dig in there on a Republican while praising the Democrat hero. I'm no fan of Mitt Romney (just look to earlier posts to see the intensity of my dislike). And I can say that calculating and pandering to the said calculations appears to me an accurate portrayal of the man. But to suggest that Obama isn't calculating? Give me a break! He's trying to figure out how to win an election, which is full of calculations -- and then pandering to those calculations. If he calculates better and more subtly than Romney, then so be it. But he's still calculating... and he has a good bit to do. He has to figure out how to convince the black community that he's black enough (which just cracks me up) and he has to convince the religious people that he's Christian and not Muslim (also a bit funny) and now he apparently has to convince the American people as a whole that his views on America and politics are not influenced by his spiritual mentor of twenty years. 

And for the record, the NYT has understated Wright's sermons just a bit in their description. He didn't just "denounce the United States as endemically racist, murderous and corrupt." That puts an incredibly nice face on the things he said from his pulpit. Wright calls America the USofKKKA. He claims (talking about young black men) that "the government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike law, then wants us to sing 'God bless America.' No! God DAMN America!" He claims that we have supported state terrorism against Palestinians and Africans - and now we are indignant that what we have supported overseas has been brought to our shores (911), calling it "America's chickens coming home to roost." He says, "Who cares what a black man has to put up with every day in a country controlled by rich white people... Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country and who lived in a culture that was controlled by rich white people. The Romans were rich. The Romans were Italian, which means they were European, which means they were white.... Jesus taught me how to love my enemies. Jesus taught me how to love the HELL out of my enemies, and not be reduced to their level of hatred, bigotry and small mindedness."

Whew!! I wonder what his sermons would be like if he were reduced to the white's level of hatred and bigotry? Oh - and a side note to Rev. Wright. Jesus wasn't black. He was Jewish. 

Now that we have knowledge of what the Rev. Wright's sermons are like, I have to take issue with the NYT's statement that Obama's religious connection is none of our business. Obama's religion is clearly politically driven. How can you draw a line between religion and politics if the sermons preached are on politics? How is it possible that the NYT would not see that Jeremiah Wright's teachings have no line between church and state? I believe the answer to this is clear. They see it -- but they also agree with the Reverend's statements... that America is racist, evil and corrupt. They think that a socialist government will create a more utopian existence, righting past wrongs and equalizing an America where wealth is divided along racial lines. 

But wait... Barack Obama is black, isn't he? He has money, doesn't he? His wife is black, isn't she? She also makes great money, doesn't she? For some reason, a reason I don't know, Obama and his family have been spared the "Uncle Tom" label. But what of Condoleeza Rice? What of Colin Powell? Or Oprah, for crying out loud?? American privilege isn't racially divided. It's divided by achievement. This is not rocket science. 

But moving on... The editorial goes on to say:

Wisely, he did not claim to be unaware of Mr. Wright's radicalism or bitterness, disarming the speculation about whether he personally heard the longtime pastor of his church speak the words being played and replayed on YouTube. Mr. Obama said Mr. Wright's comments were not just potentially offensive, as politicians are apt to do, but "rightly offend white and black alike" and are wrong in their analysis of America. But, he said, many Americans "have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagree."

Mr. Obama's eloquent speech should end the debate over his ties to Mr. Wright since there is nothing to suggest that he would carry religion into government. But he did not stop there. He put Mr. Wright, his beliefs and the reaction to them into the larger context of race relations with an honesty seldom heard in public life.

Mr. Obama spoke of the nation's ugly racial history, which started with slavery and Jim Crow, and continues today in racial segregation, the school achievement gap and discrimination in everything from banking services to law enforcement.

Well, yes. Obama is right. Many of us have heard things from our pastors with which we disagree. However, if they are consistently spouting things which we find offensive, we either address the offense and right it - or we remove ourselves from the church and thus the influence of the offense. We certainly don't remain in the situation and tout that offensive person as our spiritual advisor!

And how can the NYT editorial board think that there's nothing to suggest that Obama would carry his religion into government?? This must be one of the most ludicrous things I've heard yet. If his religion influences his thinking and his life, he will bring it into the office and thus into government. If it doesn't influence his thinking and his life, it's worthless.

Obama is correct that America has a history regarding race relations that is ugly. It doesn't do any good to deny it - it's there. But to say that racism is still alive and well in America doesn't do justice to America's progress. To suggest that an "achievement gap" in schools is due to racial discrimination reduces a complex problem to one of skin color and is highly inaccurate. To suggest that racial segregation is somehow prompted by bigotry and hatred is also reducing something complex, having to do with cultural preferences, to a "problem" of skin color and bigotry - and is also highly inaccurate. To make the assumption that there is a racial problem in law enforcement simply because there are more blacks incarcerated than there are whites is ludicrous. This brings me back to the Rev. Wright's statement about the three strikes law... and the conspiracy theory that the government is providing the black people with drugs so that the government can incarcerate them. Oy... 

And the NYT ends their editorial by saying they don't know how effective Obama's words will be - but the one thing that's certain is that "he raised the discussion to a higher plane." I guess I must just be one of the schlobs who refuses to make the distinction between religion and politics... because I don't see it.  

Saturday, March 15, 2008

David Mamet

Ever heard of him? I hadn't... I have heard of his movies, but I didn't know his name. Maybe I am just not all that good about reading the credits on films...

But David Mamet is a playwright. His work has included Glengary Glen Ross, The Verdict, Wag the Dog, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Speed-the-Plow, Oleanna, and Ronin. He currently writes for a television show called The Unit. Many of his works are, according to his admirers, morally ambivalent.

Mamet recently, while working on a script focused on politics (November, Barrymore Theater, Broadway), started thinking more about politics. Best to just quote from his essay:

I wrote a play about politics. And as part of the "writing process," as I believe it's called, I started thinking about politics. This comment is not actually as jejune as it may seem. Porgy and Bess is a buncha good songs but has nothing to do with race relations, which is the flag of convenience under which it sailed. 

But my play, it turned out, was actually about politics, which is to say, about the polemic between persons of two opposing views. The argument in my play is between a president who is self-interested, corrupt, suborned, and realistic, and his leftish, lesbian, utopian-socialist, speechwriter.

The play, while being a laugh a minute, is, when it's at home, a disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free market economics) are less than those of government intervention.

I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

Ouch!! Safe to say that his liberal friends aren't too happy with him right now. In fact, one liberal used-to-be admirer wrote that Mamet is free to do as he likes, but what worries him is the "effect on his talent of locking himself into a rigid ideological position." This seriously cracks me up, since what Mamet has done has unlocked himself from his previously rigidly held ideological position... but whatever. 

After a bit of discussion in his essay about his previously held belief in the "general goodness" of people, Mamet talked of his change of mind:

For the Constitution, rather than suggesting that all behave in a godlike manner, recognizes that, to the contrary, people are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests.

To that end, the Constitution separates the power of the state into those three branches which are for most of us (I include myself) the only thing we remember from 12 years of schooling.

The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

This is really good stuff!! The writer who used to be a fan and is now a critic of Mamet (based on political ideology alone) says at the end of his diatribe, "But his talent as a dramatist springs from his fascination with democratic speech and his own divided nature. He may pose as macho man but he has always shown an incredible awareness of human fallibility. I just hope that, in leaning to the right, Mamet doesn't destroy the very qualities that have made him America's best living dramatist." 

Whew!! You'd think he'd gone and gotten religion or something! It's amazing what divisions politics will create among friends... It seems to me that it shouldn't be a big deal if a talented person has different political leanings. Their talent isn't born of their politics. I cannot stand watching/hearing Susan Sarandon give her political opinions. But I think she's an amazing actress. I also watched Million Dollar Baby and thought it an incredible movie - well done, amazing. It also made my moral radar buzzer sound for weeks after I had seen it. The talent of the writers, directors and actors wasn't affected by the message of the film. The message of the film was just bad. 

Liberals and Conservatives alike could stand to be a bit more forgiving of their counterparts. Like a divorced couple, it's impossible to reconcile if we're refusing to talk to one another and using the issues of the day to get back at one another. Respectful communication is key. (That said, "respectful communication" cannot mean that one side feels disrespected if the other disagrees and thus has the right to stop all communication.)

I have often said, corruption is rampant - it matters not whether there's an R or a D after your name. It matters not if you're Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, or Muslim. Corruption is a human quality. End of story. This is why we have our system of government. This is why things aren't perfect in the world. 

Replacing our capitalist government with a socialist government won't equalize anything. It's impossible to equalize. It's impossible to be fair. Anybody who says otherwise isn't living in reality. But we should be willing to reasonably and rationally discuss these things with people who don't think like we do.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A New, Fresh, Adventurous Version of Christ

Yes, I know... here I am. Blogging twice in one month on Bible stuff. What's up with that? Well... what's up with this?!?

Another new translation of the Bible... and I thought the Poverty and Justice Bible was unique. This one is - well, you'll just have to read on...

The "version" of which I write is called "Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the scriptures." It's put out by the ONE community and it "aims at a new fresh and adventurous translation of the early Christian scriptures. It is designed both for mature Christians and for those who have limited experience of traditional Christianity or may have found it a barrier to an appreciation of Jesus." Hmmm... 

I would be one of the first people on this planet earth to tell you that "traditional" Christianity isn't maybe all it's cracked up to be. Much like the scribes and Pharisees of yesteryear, we have our own in-house issues going on. It matters not your denomination, sect, or creed - none is perfect, no not one. But I'm always wary of those who think the scriptures themselves are what needs tweaking, not the humans involved in the process of living out their lives (hopefully for Christ) as best they can (or not). 

I'll give you some examples of what I mean by "tweaking the scriptures." 

Mark 1:4, NIV: And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Good as New: John, nicknamed "The Dipper," was "The Voice." He was in the desert, inviting people to be dipped, to show they were determined to change their ways and wanted to be forgiven.

Mark 1:10-11, NIV: As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

Good as New: As he was climbing up the bank again, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds. At the same time a pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God's spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, "That's my boy! You're doing fine!"

Oh, and that one just deserves a comment. Seriously. No... actually, for that one somebody deserves a spanking. That's just pathetic! "That's my boy, you're doing fine?" Seriously?? And Jesus took a pigeon as a sign that God was well pleased?? A pigeon??? Where are they coming up with these ideas?

Matthew 23:25, NIV: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self indulgence.

Good as New: "Take a running jump, Holy Joes, humbugs!"

And there's a little understated eloquence for you!

Matthew 26:69-70, NIV: Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said. But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.

Good as New: Meanwhile Rocky was still sitting in the courtyard. A woman came up to him and said: "Haven't I seen you with Jesus, the hero from Galilee?" Rocky shook his head and said: "I don't know what the hell you're talking about!"

A little artistic license there...

1 Corinthians 7:1-2, NIV: Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

Good as New: Some of you think the best way to cope with sex is for men and women to keep right away from each other. That is more likely to lead to sexual offenses. My advice is for everyone to have a regular partner." 

1 Corinthians 7:8-9, NIV: Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Good as New: If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated.

Well, I guess that's about all that's needed from me. What do you think? Good as New??

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The NYT on Spitzer

Well, it's all over the news now. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has fallen. And fallen kinda hard. I watched last night as they played the tape of his apology over and over again on the news and I thought, "Wow. That's an interesting apology... he says he betrayed his family in a private matter... and he said that politics is about big ideas, not about individuals - basically making the statement that anything he has personally done wrong is pretty much irrelevant since he has some 'big ideas.'" Then I was ready, willing and able to go on with life as usual -- not needing to wallow in the sexual deviancy of another leader.

But this morning I was reading my daily dose of the New York Times and there was not only one article on the matter, but three. Apparently they're a bit ticked off. And not only were there multiple news articles regarding the issue, but they dedicated an editorial to it as well. And that is what got me going this morning.

First of all, it's so rare that I agree with the NYT on anything, I always think it needs to be recorded somewhere when I do. And I agree with them that Eliot Spitzer was wrong in saying that he had only betrayed his family in a private matter. When you're in a position of leadership, a betrayal of your family by breaking the law is a betrayal of the public as well. You are breaking the laws that you are sworn to uphold. I also agree with the NYT in that he was wrong in stating that politics is about only big ideas and not about individuals. The "big ideas" that one has tend to get overshadowed by the bad behavior of the person putting them forward. 

So you have to picture me - ME... certainly not a fan of the NYT, just blown away that I agree with the first few paragraphs of an editorial of theirs. Because certainly Spitzer is one of their own. He's a big government guy... the types of reform he talks about are things near and dear to the NYT's heart. Amazing that they would be seeing so clearly to write paragraph after paragraph that I can agree with!! But, alas... the editorial began to deteriorate somewhere towards the middle. And in these few paragraphs, the NYT editorial board tells more about their values and actions than the values and actions they imagine others to have.

A further tragedy here, beyond the personal one of the Spitzer family and the damage he has done to the reform cause, is that Mr. Spitzer's targets are now relishing their tormentor's torment. Those on Wall Street who fumed at having to make their world fairer for ordinary shareholders can now chortle with satisfaction in their private enclaves. For New York Republicans, who have blocked some of the most important reforms in Albany, it is hard to imagine the private glee - especially at a moment when they are fighting desperately to hold their majority in the State Senate.

What a statement that makes about the reaction of the people who sit on the New York Times editorial board whenever there is a Republican caught up in some wrongdoing. I guess there must be some relishing and chortling going on behind those closed doors... perhaps a moment or two of "private glee." Well, no... the glee is never all that private, as it usually comes out in the writing of the board. 

Regardless, I think it's incredibly sad that yet another politician has betrayed his family's trust and the public's trust - and that yet another politician appears to have not a clue about ethics and morality. It doesn't matter whether there's an (R) or a (D) after the person's name. The lack of ethics and morality is rampant. You'd almost think they were a bunch of human beings with power - getting high on it - or something. 

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Poverty and Justice Bible

The Bible that reveals God's passion
"Almost every page of the Bible speaks of God's heart for the poor. His concern for the marginalized. His compassion for the oppressed. His call for justice.  The poverty and Justice Bible megaphones his voice as never before. Using the clear Contemporary English Version (CEV) text, it highlights more than 2,000 verses that spell out God's attitude to poverty and justice. And at the core of the groundbreaking Poverty and Justice Bible are in-depth studies and practical suggestions on what we can do to tackle poverty and injustice in our world today. The Poverty and Justice Bible. You know God cares for the poor. Now you can know how much."

Wow. Sounds incredible! Quite the sales pitch, wouldn't you say? I always knew that God cared for the poor -- but I think I'll need this copy of the Bible in order for me to know how much. Never before has this been available to me!! Huh? Well, honestly, I decided that something this goofy needs further investigation. So here goes...

According to the Poverty and Justice Bible's website, the inspiration behind the new printing came from Rick Warren. (And, no offense to Rick Warren, but that alone is enough to red flag it for me.) Apparently, Rick Warren "discovered" that there were 2,000 verses in the Bible on poverty... and he couldn't believe he had never noticed them before. Silly him! Huh! I don't believe that's true. I believe that he hadn't counted them before, but I'm pretty sure he noticed they were there. And then Bono of U2, the other major United States theologian, pointed out that the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor and then referred to the 2,000+ mentions of poverty in the Bible saying, "that's a lot of air time!" Of course, knowing that this particular work was thought of and funded by such thinking folks... but no. I'll still do more looking at it. :-)

Also according to the website, there are 50 in-depth studies in this Bible - all based on scripture. The studies you can do range from "equality to education," from "farming to fair trade," and from "wages to water." So I looked at their sample studies. They're hardly in-depth, and their content is somewhat questionable. 

For example, there's an "in-depth" study on the media. The study criticizes our celebrity-obsessed, trivia-driven world...  and then goes on to criticize specific shows like "Big Brother" and "X Factor," neither of which I can comment on because I have not seen either one. From the bit of TV I do watch, though, I would imagine that they might have a decent reason for criticizing these shows. The study goes on to say that wise people know when to laugh and when to listen. They take wisdom seriously and understand the need for understanding. Then there's a "dream" section where you're supposed to reflect and, apparently, dream a bit. This particular dream requires you to launch the Poverty and Justice TV channel and figure out the schedule. Then there's a "do" section... and this is where they really, really lose me. I'll quote it in its entirety: "Identify your ignorance and do something about it. Use the media to stretch your mind and make you wise. Seek out wise writers, respected reporters, intelligent entertainers - and learn from them." Really?!? This is your solution?? And all this is supposed to be an in-depth study on Proverbs 14:6-9, which says, "A mocker seeks wisdom and never finds it, but knowledge comes easily to those with understanding. Stay away from fools, for you won't find knowledge there. The wise look ahead to see what is coming, but fools deceive themselves. Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation." Frankly, any "Bible study" that tells me to go to the media to  make me wise...oy. And intelligent entertainers?? What's up with that??

Then there's a study of Romans 13:8-10. This passage says, "Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God's law. For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting - and any other commandment - are all summed up in this one commandment: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God's requirements." Considering this passage, one might assume the study to be related to LOVE in a big way. But not really... the study is entitled "Sun" and is about (I kid you not) GLOBAL WARMING and its affect on the poor. And I quote: "Paul was a great traveler... I wonder, if he were alive today, would he be zooming around Turkey on the Asia Minor equivalent of EasyJet?Would he be insulating his tent and reducing his carbon footprint? ...The Bible says that God will end the world and not Global Warming. But that doesn't mean we can ignore it. Experts argue about the effects of climate change, but, like so many global disasters, it will probably be the poor who suffer the most." It goes on to say that if we truly love others, we care about their living conditions and that means changing our lives so as not to damage theirs.  "Monday to Saturday matters. Sing as loudly as you like, but hypocrisy will shout louder. Nice song, shame about the lifestyle."

And last but not least, the study on Amos 5:21-24, which says, "I hate all your show and pretense - the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry." So... God isn't interested in the burnt offerings and grain offerings and choice peace offerings of His people. Why... but let's see what the study says in explanation... Ah! According to the study, this passage is a study on the WORLD. God created man and woman - and a role for them. Humankind was appointed to take care of the land and to look after it. Today, we aren't looking after it because "deforestation and urbanization are growing at an unparalleled rate. Care of the earth is replaced by exploitation." But a cursory glance at even just verses 25 and 26 show that God wasn't interested in their offerings because the people were more interested in their pagan gods (Sakkuth and Kaiwan) than they were in Him. The "dream" section of this in-depth study says, "On which bits of land can you have an impact? How would you like them to look?" And the "do" section? "Cultivate a relationship with your garden. Show it you care." Oh, my. I don't really think that's the point of the biblical selection. Do you?

Ah, well... as Rob Bell so eloquently states: "The real danger in our world may not be people failing to read the Bible - it may be what happens when people actually do read it..." This quote is also taken from the web site promoting the new Bible version. I'm sure that he must have said this meaning it in some positive way. And I've been trying to wrap my brain around what that might be for quite some time now... just having trouble getting it digested.

All that to say that I don't think I'll be spending my money to get a new Bible. My old one should do just fine.