Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Frankincense & Myrrh and Biblical Lore Surrounding the Birth of Jesus

Today I'm going to republish this post, which I originally wrote in 2005. I'll write again on Friday. Merry Christmas to all!

In the Christian tradition of Christmas, we often see nativities that display Mary, Joseph (if you're lucky), some shepherds, baby Jesus in a manger (of course), angels, assorted barn animals and... wise men and the camels they rode in on. What's wrong with this picture?

The wise men didn't show up until Jesus was living in a house (see Matthew 2:11). Of course, Mary and Joseph were only staying in the stable temporarily. It's to be assumed they'd want to move out and get back home as soon as possible. (IMHO there's something else wrong with this picture, but I'll discuss it at another time).

Why were they in the stable?

Because there was a census taking place (see Luke 2) and all citizens were required to return to their birthplace during that census. Bethlehem was where Joseph was from and so naturally he took his pregnant fiance with him for the census because once you were engaged, you were seen to be as good as married. Since all the houses and inns were full, they ended up staying in the stables.

This was probably very common (though not much fun) for many of the travellers at that time. And because homes and inns were often structured around the animals, there wasn't much privacy. The animals were kept below, and some households lived in a level up from the animals, but exposed to the animals at all times.

Excavations have shown an arrangement where the house was made entirely out of mud and stone with a large pit in the middle of the house where the animals were kept. Then another level (up and out from the animal level) was where the family slept and cooked their meals. Picture it as shaped almost like a bowler hat, upside-down. It was often a convenient way to live because animals are warm in the winter and warm air rises. Often families slept on the rooftops in the summer.

So, Mary and Joseph were probably sleeping downstairs, but within sight of others who were staying upstairs. Not a lot of seclusion for an expecting mother.

There are four gospels in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and each was written for a slightly different audience and by different authors, so each touches upon only what he thinks is important. Mark and John don't even feel that Jesus' childhood is significant, so there is no discussion of his birth.

The only mention of the wise men is in Matthew 2. Why is that?

The Book of Matthew was specifically targeted toward the Jews. The aim of the author was to tell the Jews that it was OK to believe that Christ was the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament. Since the Old Testament prophesies pointed to Jesus as being King of the Jews, it was very important to establish his lineage. How do you do that, if you're Matthew?

You discuss Joseph's ancestors, since the right to kingship is passed through the father's side. Mary also seemingly had a royal lineage, and it's possibly detailed in Luke (although there's debate about that).

You also discuss how important his birth was to everyone, and how it was heralded and even indicated by signs: "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him." (Matt. 2:1-2)

So who were these magi, where did they come from, and why did they bring " of gold and frankincense and myrrh"? Matthew doesn't give us a lot of details.

We know they came from the east but we don't know how long they travelled to get to Jerusalem. So, they probably would have been of middle eastern or asian descent.

Frankincense and myrrh are both resins (dried tree sap) that come from trees of the genus Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrhh), which are common to Somalia. But that doesn't necessarily indicate that any of them were from Africa (which was west of Jerusalem) since traders went everywhere. It also doesn't exclude any nationality, since people were known to travel far away from their birthplaces.

They all were considered to be very wise and possibly practiced some form of magic (the word magi is the root for the word magician). There's no indication that they were kings, and so I would definately question the hymn "We Three Kings" (although I still love it).

They probably would have studied together, and they must have taken their beliefs very seriously if they travelled so far to worship Jesus so it might even indicate a buddhist monastery. We simply don't know.

We know that some of their beliefs probably included astrology, since they took the star seriously. However, perhaps the star would have been taken seriously by anyone at the time but most people didn't guess what it indicated. We have no knowlege about it's appearance, so we can only surmise.

Additionally, we have no idea how many magi there were. They probably represented a community, and there may have been as little as 2 or they could have numbered in the hundreds. They certainly impressed Herod when they approached him, and it wasn't always easy to get an audience with him! In fact, Herod was impressed enough to kill every male (age 2 and under) in Bethlehem in order to eliminate the competition (Mary and Joseph had already whisked Jesus away to Egypt for a while).

Why the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh? I have been burning frankincense and myrrh daily, and it smells wonderful. But not only were they burned for fragrance, they were used in toiletries and oils. They were products that were very expensive, and they would have been considered a frivolity for anyone less than royalty. These were gifts that were fit for a King. And thus Matthew's case was made.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bush's "Right of Conscience" Rule: Why it's a Mistake

In typically sneaky George Bush fashion, he has issued a last-minute rule, to be published today in the Federal Register, which will take effect the day before he leaves office. It's a rule that guarantees "doctors, hospitals, and even receptionists and volunteers in medical experiments the right to refuse to participate in medical care they find morally objectionable."

This is an obvious attempt to shield those who do not believe in abortions from performing or participating in one. And being an abortion opponent, I empathise. But this ruling has a much wider-sweeping range of possibilities than the short-sighted George Bush has ever considered.

What if an emergency room doctor refuses to treat a potential murderer or other criminal that he finds "morally objectionable"? And what if that doctor turns out to be wrong and an innocent person dies? What if he's right: Does that make it ethically OK to leave someone bleeding to death in your emergency room?

What if a receptionist refuses to announce a patient because she knows he's gay? Or living 'in sin' with someone? Or merely of a different faith than hers?

This will put the medical community in terrible conflict. As we know, you aren't supposed to ask personal questions during an interview. But how else are you to discover if your new receptionist believes that all Catholics are "of the Devil"? Under this new rule, you need to know before you hire her, obviously.

And what will need to be revealed to volunteers in medical studies? Will every study now have to have moral arguments published by opposing analysts, so that the volunteers remain fully informed and can exercise their right to choose? What if halfway through the study they suddenly change their minds due to a change in conscience? Will all their data be destroyed? Will this ultimately invalidate or prolong studies, thus adding to costs?

Will all pharmacists be able to refuse to sell someone condoms if they think that they're using them for the wrong purpose? Will they be able to refuse to dispense medications which can heal or ameliorate sexual diseases because they think that those diseases are a judgement from God?

As usual, George Bush has leaped before he looked. Let's hope that Barack Obama will be able to quickly reverse this rule once he assumes office.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Caylee Anthony

By now, I'm betting that everyone's heard of Caylee Anthony's disappearance and her mother's (Casey Anthony) arrest here in Orlando, Florida. However, if you don't know the details, let me sum them up quickly. (If you want a detailed investigation into the case so far, I recommend that you go here).

Casey Anthony was apparently over-indulged and pampered by two very gullible parents. As a result, she led a very self-absorbed lifestyle which included promiscuity that would make Paris Hilton blush, alcohol and drugs (and lots of them), lying, and stealing, among other things. In other words, Casey has the typical sociopathic profile.

Casey's three-year-old daughter, Caylee, got in the way of her chosen lifestyle. As a result, Casey finally decided that motherhood wasn't for her, and she killed Caylee to take care of the problem.

A month after Caylee's disappearance, Casey's mother (Cindy) suddenly realized she hadn't seen her grandchild in a while. She panicked and called the police. During the ensuing investigation, the police were lied to so much by Casey that it almost seemed that she was lying for the simple joy of it. Which is why it is no suprise to hear that Casey's career goal in life was to become a politician.

Just kidding. Casey is even slimier than most politicians. Note that I said most.

Obviously this made the police very suspicious. So, they did some investigating and found rotting corpse fumes and decomposing hair in Casey's trunk.

Although Cindy Anthony had originally called the police to report Caylee's disappearance, and had said hysterically that there was a horrible smell in Casey's trunk, she suddenly changed her mind.

So at this point, Casey's family sprang into action and claimed that the smell in the trunk was probably just a rotting pizza (I don't know who their pizza company is, but I recommend against eating any if it gives off corpse fumes).

During all of this, Casey was in and out of jail on various charges the police kept throwing her way in an attempt to drag a confession out of her or hold her until enough evidence was accumulated. Casey, in an obvious attempt for star billing at the Oscars, gave an award winning performance as The Grieving And Worried Mother until pictures showing her partying after Caylee's disappearance strained everyone's credulity.

Finally the police had enough. Loaded with enough information to sink a luxury liner, they arrested Casey for Caylee's murder. However, Casey could rest somewhat easy, as repeated search attempts had not turned up little Caylee's body.

Until a week ago, when someone stumbled across Caylee's corpse in the woods.

Upon hearing of the discovery of Caylee's body, Casey reportedly went into hysterics. This was only natural, as a corpse is the best murder evidence that there is, and Casey knew her chances of getting away with the murder had just been drastically lessened.

The results are not official yet, but there is no doubt in anyone's mind that this corpse is Caylee. It remains to be seen if Casey's gullible parents are going to continue to try to defend their sociopathic daughter or not. Perhaps their loyalty will falter when we learn why there was duct tape wrapped around the child's skull.

Or perhaps the Anthonys will continue in a deluded state, claiming that somehow someone murdered Caylee, for unbelievable reasons of their own, and then conveniently ditched the child's body in the Anthony's neighborhood.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Homosexuality & The Bible

Today I am co-authoring this with a guest blogger and well-known published author whom I will call "Calliope". Over the weekend, Calliope shot a recent article in Newsweek over to me with some comments that I will be incorporating into this piece.

And... For those of you who merely want an argument, be sure that you really understand what is being said before you wade into the fray. This is something that you will need to examine thoroughly before you weigh in. This is not simply an 'interpretation' issue: The evidence is clear.

You don't have to like what the Bible says - that's OK. But if you claim to believe in the Bible, you must deal with it. Don't like it? Fine - try another faith: Be my guest. I do not believe that the sun will stop shining if you choose another faith (or no faith at all).

NOTE: This is not a discussion of whether gay marriage should be allowed in the USA. That was discussed earlier in another post here. It is only a discussion of the Biblical view on gays and gay marriage.


On December 6, 2008, Lisa Miller wrote an article in Newsweek titled "Our Mutual Joy." It is a pitiful attempt at deliberate misinterpretation and tampering of scriptures in order to fit an agenda. To start out her salvo, Lisa uses examples of polygamy and apparent lukewarm recommendations of marriage:

"Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so."

But the truth is drastically different. As Calliope writes:

"Just because the Bible records some cases of polygamy does not mean that it approves of polygamy. The pattern established in the Bible by God (and often repeated) is one man, one woman (Genesis 3:24, Eph. 5:31). Church leaders in the New Testament are to be the husband of one wife (I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6)."

In addition, many Jews and Christians over the years have pointed to the spicy heterosexual Song of Solomon (a.k.a. the Song of Songs) as a role model of an ideal, passionate marriage. It is hardly the stuff of prudes, as the bride and groom extol each other's physical attributes in great detail. They also discuss the raptures of the physical side of marriage.

And although the apostle Paul himself said (in the New Testament) that marriage was not the first and best choice, it is important to remember the situation at that time, when people were regularly being persecuted for their faith: Marriage and families complicated matters even further (ask anyone who is currently a missionary). And yet we know that at least one of Jesus' disciples (Peter) was married. So were Paul's compadres, Priscilla and Aquila.

The New Testament also spells out how husbands and wives are to treat each other. This was unique at the time, as women were almost always regarded by most people as a step-up from the slaves and without rights.

So, Lisa is woefully wrong. She is not merely cherrypicking scriptures to fit her agenda - she is ignoring so many facts that she is in danger of being asked to work on O.J. Simpson's legal team.

For instance, Lisa mentions that Jesus condemns divorce, but claims that this was a way to allow men the option to cheat on their wives. Lisa completely neglects The Divorce Clause.

What is The Divorce Clause, you ask?

In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus says “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”

At the time of his pronouncement, Jesus was addressing only men. However, this is traditionally interpreted as a rule that applies to both men and women. Additionally, it was a protection for the women at the time, since men were readily divorcing and remarrying women at their own convenience during a time when women could not easily fend for themselves and had to live according to their husbands' whims.

Lisa goes on to state "...while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman." This is an utter falsehood.

I'll grant you that the Bible doesn't start with a dictionary which includes the definitions of every word used in it. That's because it doesn't have to. It uses terms and ideas that were universally accepted then.

If a Jew had walked up to a fellow Jew during Old Testament times and tried to argue that marriage could be between two people of the same sex, the best response he could hope for would be a hearty chuckle. The worst response he might encounter would be a very public death at the hands of an angry mob.


Because the Bible was and is very explicit in it's stand on homosexuality.

Calliope notes:

"Homosexuality is clearly condemned, both in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:22, Genesis 19 with Jude 1:7, etc.) and in the New Testament (Rom. 1:21-27; I Cor. 6:9-10, etc.) To teach the contrary is the ultimate in Scripture-twisting.

Also: Are we to assume that God has changed His mind about homosexuality? Malachi 3:6 "I am the Lord. I do not change."

This is also said about Jesus Christ in Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ is the same: yesterday and today and forever."

But Lisa writes "...the Anchor Bible Dictionary notes that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women, "possibly because it did not result in true physical 'union' (by male entry).""

This goes back to the 'lack' of a dictionary at the beginning of the Bible. Again, everyone knew what homosexuality meant, and it was used for both sexes.

In Romans chapter 1, the author speaks of God condemning evil people and punishing them. In Romans 1:26, we read "For this reason, God delivered them to degrading passions as their females exchanged their natural sexual function for one that is unnatural." Obviously the Bible doesn't regard homosexuality as a reward, but as something to be ashamed and horrified about.

Lisa also attempts to dismiss the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality by saying that it was only present in the Old Testament, but the book of Romans is in the New Testament and it invalidates her claim.

Lisa furthers her falacious arguments by adding " scholars have argued that his condemnation of men who "were inflamed with lust for one another" (which he calls "a perversion") is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery."

This would only be argued by a 'progressive' scholar who doesn't know what language the Bible is written in, and chooses to disregard it. The word for 'lust' here in the original language means just that - a sexual desire.

Going back to her attack on traditional marriage, Lisa triumphantly declares "Monogamy became the norm in the Christian world in the sixth century; husbands' frequent enjoyment of mistresses and prostitutes became taboo by the beginning of the 20th."

Nice statistics for Lisa, if true. But they're not. Simply because something is practiced does not make it acceptable, and cheating on one's spouse was never acceptable or sanctioned by the Bible. (The problem with the issue of polygamy was dealt with earlier in this post).

Lisa attempts to wind up her article by writing "We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual, but we can read it for universal truths as we struggle toward a more just future."

Really? And what selective truths would that include? When do the restrictions against parents marrying their children become passe? When do we decide that it's OK to have sex with a goat because we choose to believe that this is no longer applicable to modern times?

One cannot take what one chooses from a religion and then leave the rest. At that point, it becomes a different religion entirely. So, if Lisa has decided to censor the Bible, cutting out passages at will, then I recommend that she start The Church of Lisa. It certainly will no longer be recognizable as Christianity.

The issue is not as simple as Lisa would like to portray it. This is the reason that churches are battling within their ranks. It is why the Episcopal church now has a major split.

Lisa then tries the worn out "What Would Jesus Do?" card. She writes "In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins..." Not true. Again.

As Calliope points out, Jesus says he doesn't change. And he also makes it very clear that he does not tolerate all forms of sin because he's just a nice guy who wants everyone to get along. In fact, Jesus was a pretty unpopular guy among many at the time of his arrival on the scene. Crowds don't repeatedly seek to kill someone who is preaching tolerance of everything. Where Jesus showed tolerance was his acceptance of anyone who repented from evil and believed he was the Messiah.

Somehow, I doubt that Lisa believes that.

In her article, Lisa sums up her position in one sentence: "Ozzie and Harriet are nowhere in the New Testament..."

She is, of course, correct. And neither are Adam and Steve.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Process Server

Perhaps you remember Zen, my former friend and tenant who got on drugs (along with her son) and trashed the mobile home I owned and rented to her.

Because Zen wasn't paying rent, I repo'd the home to find quite a mess. The total in past rent and damages was well over what I was given, but I was still given a substantial sum.

After the court ruling, Zen told many people that "you can't get blood out of a stone" and made it very clear that she wasn't going to pay me a dime. Why would she, when you have to pay good money to get totally awesome drugs? Drugs aren't cheap, ya know.

Then she disappeared, so that she couldn't be summonsed to court to enforce the judgement.

It's taken some work, but I found her address, in a town that's several cities away. I need the money now, just as I needed the money then (she somehow is under the false impression that I'm fabulously wealthy). So, I re-opened the case, paying fees to do so and have her served once more. I even drove by her residence to make sure she indeed lived there (she does).

On Monday I got a notice in the mail that the Sheriff's Department couldn't serve her and 'no such person' lived at that address. Knowing that this wasn't true, I contacted the sheriff's process server.

The process server told me that when he had gone up to her apartment complex (which is a hippie enclave of some kind) that the man who answered the door said that Zen didn't live there. The tenant added that HE had lived there for seven years, and he would surely know. So, the process server gave up. (Note to everyone involved in a case in Hillsborough County: Don't use the sheriff's process server - find a private one.)

So I had a long discussion with my best friend, Pov, who felt that he should drive all that way early in the morning to see if she'd moved or if she was just dodging the court (bless Pov for caring enough to do that, when other people slept warm in their beds... including me).

Pov was there before 6 AM, in enough time to see her car and the lights go on in her apartment. I called him to check on what was happening and he told me, asking me to call the process server to see if he could return now that we KNEW she was there.

I called the process server, but he told me that he's only paid to go out and try during that one period of time, and he couldn't do a thing unless we waited for his supervisor to OK it. His supervisor's shift began between 10-12 AM. It was 7:45.

So I did some research, and called a nearby private process server, "Sue", at 7:45 in the morning. And woke her up out of a sound sleep.

"Call me back in half an hour, OK?" she asked sleepily. I agreed, somewhat disgruntled. I wanted Zen served before she disappeared.

I cheated a little: I called at 8:12. And at 8:17.

At 8:25, Sue called back, somewhat understandably irritated but hiding it as well as she could. When I had explained the situation to her, she said she was willing to go out there and serve Zen as soon as she had her coffee and a quick shower. In the meantime, she asked me to fax her the paperwork.

I did. Then I called her to see if she'd received the fax. "Uh, let me get out of the shower, first, OK?" Sue asked patiently.

Meanwhile, I had Pov on the phone, letting him know what was going on. Pov reported that Zen was still there.

Sue called me when she was on her way. I gave her Pov's number so that they could coordinate. In a short while, Pov called me gleefully.

"She went roaring up to Zen's door in a sparkling new Mustang," he reported. "So because she didn't look like a cop, Zen opened the door to her and she handed Zen the paperwork - Zen's been served!"

I danced around and whooped a lot, and then called Sue to tell her she was a goddess.

Then I called Pov back to celebrate a little more. His voice echoed strangely. "Where are you?" I asked.

"In a gas station bathroom, if you don't mind," Pov snapped. "You try sitting in a car for four hours without being able to go to the bathroom. If I'd had a jar in that car, it would be full!"

Now I'll see Zen in court in January. Contrary to what many people think, I can dock her pay - so it's not so easy to dodge what she owes me. Zen's used to landlords who don't care and can afford to write off such large sums. I can't do that.

It's time for Zen to pay up.

Friday, December 05, 2008

One President? Two Presidents? Or None?

In the Washington Post article today, titled One President? Two Presidents? Or None?, Dan Froomkin points out something that many of us have been pondering. It makes interesting reading, and I'd like to recommend it today, instead of writing myself.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Beginning of Martial Law

The moment that the news hit the stands, "the excrement hit the air-conditioning" *. The news of 20,000 troops being assigned to the USA caused a great furor as it "threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military's role in domestic law enforcement."

Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Cato Institute began sounding warnings over this.

Immediately a new report was released, inevitably warning of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) attack that is going to come our way. And news organizations picked up the story, linking it to the first story (except the troop number immediately dropped to 15,000).

The government is scrambling to justify a military build-up within its own borders. It's hoping that the American Public will be gullible and frightened enough to agree that this is in our best interest.

But it is not in our best interest. Not at all.

This is the same attempt the government made when it initially justified The Patriot Act. Two years ago, I wrote in my article The Dangerous Encroachment Upon Our Liberties:

"I hear so many people say scornfully, "Oh The Patriot Act is no big deal. I'm willing to sacrifice something to be safe" or "*I* have nothing to hide! Who cares if they're eavesdropping on my telephone and email conversations?"

It isn't a question of what you have to hide, or what sacrifices you are willing to make. Instead, it is a question of what we, as a nation, are willing to pass down to our children and future governments which we know nothing about. That's what the Founding Fathers worried so much about, and that's why they crafted a Constitution which is now being violated repeatedly. They didn't want to leave any loopholes that would allow a despotic government to arise."

The government is frightening us with both real and imagined terrors. But are we chidren to be so manipulated and malleable?

What price freedom?

This latest abuse, again initiated by George Bush under the auspices of The Patriot Act, brings us one step closer to Martial Law. It is in direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which was put in place to protect us. It is dangerous, and we are fools if we allow it to happen.

*Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus

Monday, December 01, 2008

Florida's Natives Left Holding the Tab

I have had a lot of experience in the political arena, and I'm well-read and educated. However, I had absolutely no idea that our Federal government's economic vision was predicated on continual growth (an unrealistic vision at best). And it became another, though lesser, surprise when I found out that Florida's government did, as well.

Florida at one time was an absolutely beautiful state, untouched by many. Over the years in certain areas it has become polluted and overcrowded, with too much unchecked growth raping the land, and dwindling water supplies. The Tampa Bay area now lives under constant watering restrictions when at one time there was always enough for all. We steal water from our northern cousins, who groan and complain but cave to the greater interest.

We environmentalists were unheard, as the almighty dollar drove us forward.

Condos and entire "communities" * were built on the shores, blocking and destroying beach views and even preventing access to beaches that once belonged to us all. We natives began to be charged for access to our own beach in Clearwater, when and if we were ever lucky enough to find parking.

Homes were also built on former farmland and protected wildlife areas which magically became unprotected. Schools were built to house the children of these new interlopers, shopping centers and restaurants were built to cater to them, and the government cheered because there was more money to spend.

Now schools are closing, property values are dropping (thankfully) which alleviates the taxation we natives have been subjected to (as the newbies have driven the costs up). And the government has discovered, much to it's unfettered surprise, that growth in Florida has finally abated.

This is a mixed blessing: I am tempted to jump up and cheer, because this may finally cause the government to re-evaluate its policies toward growth and the environment. But we know that government is generally ineffective and, like the worst doctors, they always treat the symptoms - never the disease.

In the meantime, although we have increasing elbow room, the roads aren't as crowded, and the remaining 2% of the undeveloped land in this area can breathe a (temporary) sigh of relief, the fact remains that we are also seeing job losses and less money, overall, in our economy.

This means that we natives, once elbowed out and ignored, will end up being the ones stuck with the tab as the encroachers move on to new territory to conquer.

The Floridian government must both cut back spending and find some way to increase revenues. There aren't many ways to do that. Taxes and the Florida Lottery are, in fact, the only way.

The Terrifying Tax would be a State Income Tax, followed by increased property taxes dished out to a populace that is barely able to scrape up enough to pay exorbitant yearly bills. Currently, taxes in the Tampa Bay area seem to be averaging around $2,000 a year for a standard, older and smaller home. I have no idea what the Mega Houses are being taxed at, but it must be significantly higher.

And yet for the Floridian government to keep Florida appealing, they will hesitate to raise property taxes in a state where homes are being abandoned left and right. And a State Income Tax would make people think twice before they moved here to become part of the blood-rich system that the parasitic government feeds upon.

So the current thought is to turn to a "Sin Tax". I love the idea, but there is much wrong with it.

Sin Taxes traditionally are taxes levied upon "sinful" items such as alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling.

A tax on cigarettes would be a welcome thing to me, as I'm a chronic asthmatic who is forced to smoke at the hands of total strangers. There are times I'll walk out of a store and be immediately subjected to a cloud of smoke, as the store employees are standing around outside, taking that 'necessary' cigarette break. Walking out of a store and into an asthma attack is something that no one should be subjected to. A cigarette tax would lessen the chances, as it would drive down consumption.

Let me restate that: It would drive down consumption.

You see, Sin Taxes only work if they're applied to lifestyle choices that remain constant. But in tough economic times, people cut back on their indulgences. Additional taxes may only encourage them to cut back further, thus bringing in no additional revenue to the state coffers.

On the other hand, Florida's 34-cent-per-pack cigarette tax was the fifth lowest in the nation last year, according to the Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, and hasn't been raised since 1990. It certainly wouldn't hurt to consider this tax before we consider others.

However, thanks to the government's unrealistic expectations, we now must consider something. I only hope that it will be something which will not punish those of us who never asked for all of this.

*Communities are all the rage here, both gated and ungated. What are they? A builder buys up a chunk of land and squeezes as many oversized houses into that area as possible. This results in homes that are sometimes only feet apart, with windows open to each other so that your neighbors' business becomes your own overnight.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving: The Juxtaposition of Church and State

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the Separation of Church and State.

Some people find it surprising that I prefer to keep the mention of religion out of the classroom (as well as formal prayer). But I feel that way because I don't want to have other religions crammed down my throat and I would heartily resent it if someone tried to do that to my child. If you don't want to hear about Christianity, that's fine by me as long as I don't have to hear about Christian Science or the Jehovah's Witnesses.

However, as a country, we're not honoring this. Although Christianity has been gagged, bound, threatened and stifled in many places, we are increasingly seeing cities that allow a raucous Muslim call-to-prayer (known as 'adhan') to be broadcast over loudspeakers from their mosque five times a day. The cities that are being subjected to this include Hamtramck, Michigan; the ancient English city of Oxford; St. Louis, Missouri; Harvard University, Massachusetts; and more. I doubt we'll see this list narrow, either.

If we are to allow adhan to be broadcast in public, then it's time to rescind the laws restricting shows of Christian faith, as well. Let's have a glorious religious free-for-all under the label of "being open-minded" and give everyone a fair and equal chance at this.

No? Do you think we're letting the genie out of the box and it's time to stuff it back in once more?

Believe it or not, the Pilgrims would have agreed with you. But only to a certain extent.

The Pilgrims didn't believe in pure freedom of religion, or the Salem witch trials would never have occurred. They were peculiar people, for the most part, and religious zealots of even their own time. However, they did not forcibly convert the Native Americans. Instead, they attempted to proselytize them and, as we know, shared the First Thanksgiving dinner with them.

The Pilgrims were very black and white in their beliefs. They were literalists when it came to Biblical interpretation. This meant that (in contrast to the Salem witch trials) at times they were also highly charitable, such as when they appropriated abandoned Native American food but paid the Native Americans for it when they finally met them six months later. They also wanted to be allowed to practice what they believed, without interference from the government.

That's why they left England.

So, I believe the Pilgrims would have compromised with other faiths as long as those other faiths left them alone to do as they pleased. What they would not have wanted, however, is any encroachment into the way that they practiced their beliefs. And therefore, the Pilgrims would not have wanted to be located within the sound of adhan.

I find it gloriously strange that we still celebrate Thanksgiving in this country. It was the first holiday ever celebrated here, and it's entirely an American-made holiday. And yet, it is a holiday formed for a very specific purpose: To thank the Biblical God for everything he has given us and done for us. And, to pretend differently is to alter history.

So, as you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner, ask yourself why we are still allowed time off to celebrate a holiday that is steeped in religious meaning. And then be thankful that we modern Americans haven't messed it up.


Monday, November 24, 2008

George Bush Can't Leave Fast Enough

Although I don't approve of Barack Obama, I am still excited at the prospect of fresh blood in the White House. He has proven himself to be smart enough to surround himself with seasoned Clintonistas, even though his appointments nullify his "Change" mantra.

Of course I would have preferred someone more moderate, but at this point it is tempting to hope that anything is better than our current nothing, George Bush. And therefore I hope, and have been praying, for Barack Obama now that he has been elected.

In the news today, Bush is overseas to potentially wreak a little more havoc before he's forced to vacate on January 20th. After that, who knows? Is he currently lining up his next gig, and if so, who wants him and why?

And what are his last minute plans? Wouldn't it be interesting to be a fly on the wall of the Oval Office as he puts together his list of final Presidential Pardons? Who will be included on that list?

Looking over Bush's myriad scandals, I believe that he will cull out of that group the following people for pardons:

1. John T. Korsmo
2. Scooter Libby *
3. Alberto Gonzales
4. Janet Rehnquist
5. Joseph Schmitz
6. Lurita Doan
7. Alfonso Jackson
8. Karl Rove
9. Richard Armitage
10. And finally, Dick Cheney is a possibility.

Let it be noted that there are times a Presidential Pardon is issued because the President realizes that further scandals and prosecution may be on the way, and I feel that these people have the potential for that even if they're not currently convicted or under investigation.

I'm sure that there will be a number of people added to this, and although I haven't included anyone attached to the Abramoff scandal, it's quite possible that those who were involved in it (which numbered at least 5-10 high ranking officials) may be included in the pardons as well. The only reason I feel that Bush may hesitate here is that issuing a pardon tends to indicate a President sanctions the behavior. Therefore, Bush will probably be advised to pardon only those who were acting in his best interest alone.

What is of great concern is the fact that Bush, who is notoriously war-happy, may decide to bomb Iran last minute, or participate in some other form of militaristic chest beating. This isn't to say that Iran doesn't richly deserve it. However, it would be a futile exercise this late in the game.

Bush currently has very few supporters left, and even the largely gullible religious right has come to realize that his claim to be a Christian was simply an attempt to pander to them. His current approval ratings hover around 28% or less.

If Bush wants to ensure any positive positioning in the history books whatsoever, he needs to exit on tiptoes.

*Yes, Bush already gave Libby a partial pardon. Many suspect it was only partial because Bush and Cheney felt a strong need to distance themselves from the man who was merely doing their bidding. But out of loyalty, Bush may now fully pardon him.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Obama: The House Negro?

First a personal note: I apologize for not writing on Wednesday. I am currently considering some life-changing alternatives and I haven't had much time this week.

Many liberals were shocked when Al-Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a statement that referred to Barack Obama as a "House Negro". If you haven't seen the actual entire video, I recommend that you do, instead of watching edited parts or listening to others interpret it. It's not very long.

It is quite interesting.

Frankly, since Obama has always been a good friend to Muslims, I question why al-Zawahiri released this statement at this time. I find it most peculiar.

I initially wondered if this was due to a misguided hope that they will help Obama's image in some way by distancing themselves from him.

But I quickly discarded that idea, because al-Zawahiri is so extremely insulting. In the video, he upholds the racist extremist, Malcolm-X, as a role model for American blacks, and includes an excerpt of Malcolm-X scornfully claiming that there are only two types of American blacks: The rebels and the House Negros (who served their master directly and often spoke for him). And al-Zawahiri makes certain that there is no doubt in anyone's mind that he thinks that Obama is a House Negro.

Obviously this goes to show how out-of-touch al-Zawahiri is with American culture. This is surprising, as he is supposedly an educated man with a master's degree.

However, you really have to understand a culture by living in it. Like all terrorists, al-Zawahiri sees America in almost a cartoon format with extremes and absolutes. So he hardly has an accurate understanding of America and its people and he believes this antiquated statement by a man with fringe beliefs to be accurate.

What's really comical is to see how some liberal pundits are reacting. They're speaking in shocked tones about al-Zawahiri's racism, as if boorish behavior is not to be expected of terrorists. And I wonder how these liberal pundits really view these terrorists. Do they secretly believe them to be "freedom fighters" who live civilized lives in between the occasional murder of innocents? Do they truly think these terrorists have principles or scruples about societal nicities?

But my true question is... why?

Why would al-Zawahiri release this statement, and release it now?

As I said before, al-Zawahiri labors under many great misconceptions of the USA. I believe that this is his attempt to challenge Obama to think outside the box, and be something other than that "House Negro" he accused him of being. Al-Zawahiri is telling Obama that he will respect Obama only if the USA changes it's policy toward terrorists.

At this point, Obama has little choice. He can no more afford to favor Al-Qaeda than he can favor conservative policies. And ludicrous insults are not a way to encourage Obama to fall in line. For al-Zawahiri, an effective message would have been a more simple, congratulatory one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Malls

As many of you know, I have a small side business selling goodies on Ebay. When I'm not dealing with known wholesalers, I go on regular shopping trips, rushing through myriad malls and flea markets in myriad towns, in search of bargains that I can sell at a higher price on Ebay. These are, hopefully, bargains that not just anyone can find.

These pell-mell shopping trips have me walking through level-after-level of mall-after-mall and give me the same amount of exercise as a triathalon.

So this last weekend, I went on a long excursion which involved driving from the Tampa Bay Area to Gainesville, Florida (2 1/2 hours) to Atlanta, Georgia (5 1/2 hours) to Jacksonville, Florida (5 1/2 hours) back to the Tampa Bay Area (3 1/2 hours). May I add that it was literally freezing in Atlanta, which is something we Floridians aren't accustomed to. Bleah.

While in Atlanta, I went to the safe areas (there are certain areas in Atlanta, just as in Miami, where a white person should not set foot if they want to remain unmutilated). These are the nicer areas, where there are bound to be international travelers, locals, and wealthy business people.

Many malls were dead. The ones that weren't dead had people milling about but not buying much. Every store boasted a sale, and some stores had all their merchandise marked at half-off.

In one 'busy' mall, an anxious salesperson in a high-end shop begged me for news elsewhere. "Is it like this everywhere you've been?" she asked, when she learned I was from Florida. I said it was. "I think it's going to get even worse," she said in a strained voice. "If it's this bad now, I am frightened to see what it's like in January."

I did see more activity in the outlet malls. I went into a booming cookware store, where the three sales clerks were rushing about haphazardly, trying to ring and service all the customers who were packed into the store.

"Wow, you are busy," I said in surprise.

"Yes," one girl answered breathlessly. "We never expected this to happen - it's not like this anywhere else!"

My bet is that during a poor economy, people cook at home more, so the money that might have been spent on luxury items is being spent on blenders, mixers, and bread machines.

The luxury stores are hurting. I saw almost no one in any of the sunglass and jewelry stores except for Whitehall (a.k.a. Lundstrom) Jewelers, which is going out of business and has some amazing markdowns. Even then, the markdowns weren't amazing enough: People were milling about, looking, but not buying.

It's bad. We'll only know just how bad it is when we see the Black Friday sales figures.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The News Media & The Fairness Doctrine

After months of my stating that the majority of the news media is very liberal (and the arguments that ensued), their bias has once more been made clear here in an article titled "MSNBC retracts false Palin story; others duped." The title speaks for itself.

In October, (a highly respected source) reported:

[This] study found that in the media overall—a sample of 43 outlets studied in the six weeks following the conventions through the last debate—Barack Obama’s coverage was somewhat more positive than negative (36% vs. 29%), while John McCain’s, in contrast, was substantially negative (57% vs. 14% positive). The report concluded that this, in significant part, reflected and magnified the horse race and direction of the polls.
Another story here also gave us the breakdown of the various news channels, and their particular type of bias. Interestingly, it says:

Online, meanwhile, polling tended to drive the news. And on the front pages of newspapers, which often have the day-after story, things look tougher for John McCain than they tend to in the media overall.

And finally and most importantly, did this story on the percentage of stories devoted to each candidate. Needless to say, Obama was heavily covered and portrayed in a positive light. A graph near the end of the story displays the obvious disparity, using these hard numbers.

This begs the question: Why is the Fairness Doctrine even being bandied about? And if it's passed once more, will the government be forced to add conservative talk shows in response?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Joblessness and the Bail-Outs

As many of you know, I've been looking for something better for at least 6 months. At this point, I am blessed enough to be somewhat choosey and I don't have to jump at just anything.

But there is so little to select from, that my time is better spent doing household projects. If I couldn't find something to do, I would go quietly insane. Amazingly, there is so much to keep me busy that I wonder how I'll find time to work full-time again.

I recently knit and donated seven hats to Save the Children's Knit One, Save One, and have a couple blankets made and set aside to donate to our local Pregnancy Center, which helps needy mothers.

I do this because not everyone is lucky enough to have a little set aside for times like these. And although I don't have any money to spare, I do have time and energy to help in other ways. This is the time for us to rise above ourselves.

Today Bloomberg reports that:

Initial jobless claims increased by 32,000 to a larger- than-forecast 516,000 in the week ended Nov. 8, from a revised 484,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The total number of people on benefit rolls jumped to the highest level since 1983.
And these figures do not reflect those of us who are barely making it, and are not making any claims on the government. Yet.

Barack Obama came out almost immediately after his election to say "Oh, and the economy? Well, I know that you elected me to change things, but don't expect miracles." And then he immediately hired all of Clinton's former advisors.

Change... right.

And now the government is talking about another big bailout, and another major expenditure of taxpayer dollars, to save failing automotive manufacturers. Has no one heard of Tucker, Plymouth, DeLorean, Hudson, AMC, Duryea, Morris & Salom, American Austin / American Bantam, etc.?!

Going in and out of business is the American way. If you succeed, you get to keep the profit. If you fail, you don't. It's that simple. We do not need to create a country where the government has ownership of such major companies or is willing to bail them out due to bad decisions that they should be responsible for. The last time I looked, this isn't what our flag looked like.

The front page of the St. Pete Times trumpets that "if Detroit's Big Three fail, say goodbye to 3 million jobs, $151 billion in personal income, $60 billion in tax revenue."

We know, we know. Business failure hits people hard. But it always has. Is it really up to the government to cushion the blow for them, but not for other failing businesses? Is personal welfare bad, but corporate welfare good? Where do we draw the line?

I thought we didn't believe in welfare as being the superior option in life. And the last time I looked, we were a Republic, not a Socialistic or Communistic country. But the lines are being blurred, and we are in danger of something even worse than a severe recession.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Rahm Emanuel

Because I am a moderate in many ways, I have an assortment of many friends from both sides of the issues. And I certainly do my best to understand both sides, whenever possible. But due to this, there are times that people are shocked when I have an opinion that is set in stone which I will not waver from.

Like the cuddly rabbit from Monty Python's The Holy Grail, I can, at times, be quite surprising:

But here is where I will surprise few people: I don't like Rahm Emanuel, Obama's pick for Chief of Staff.

During his acceptance speech, Obama made it very clear that he wanted the country to unite once more. After all, he was elected by at least 53% of the populace, but 47% didn't want him. He knows he must represent all the people. He is a highly intelligent man, and should realize that he does not want to aggravate almost half of the country. Hopes were that he would govern cautiously, from the middle.

However, with his appointment of Emanuel, it is looking as if his agenda is something entirely different.

Emanuel is noted for his hotheaded behavior, vicious partisanship, and liberal use of the "f" word. According to his Wikipedia bio:

Emanuel is said to have "mailed a rotting fish to a former coworker after the two parted ways." On the night after the 1996 election, "Emanuel was so angry at the president's enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign, grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting 'Dead! ... Dead! ... Dead!' and plunging the knife into the table after every name." His "take-no-prisoners attitude" earned him the nickname "Rahm-bo".
He has always been unlikeable and controversial.

In the first months of the Clinton Presidency, Hillary Clinton maneuvered to have Emanuel fired. Clinton's chief of staff, Mack McLarty, instead demoted him from political director to the press office. Although Emanuel eventually worked his way back into the Clintons' good graces, House Republicans always hated him for his rabid partisanship.

Recently, Emanuel "...served on the board of directors of the federal mortgage firm Freddie Mac at a time when scandal was brewing at the troubled agency and the board failed to spot "red flags," according to government reports reviewed by"
This is the guy that Obama wants to head his new administration?

It doesn't bode well for any attempts toward unity.

I admit that it was very smart of Obama to appoint a Jew to head up his staff. It may help to dispel his reputation as a racist who is more than willing to throw Israel under the bus.

But those of us who are wise in the ways of politics and history know better. After all, even Hitler had Jewish Nazis.

Does this sound harsh? Sometimes facts are harsh things, indeed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Summary of Election 2008

To My Liberal and/or Socialist Friends

Congratulations. Barack Obama ran a brilliant campaign, he is an impressive orator, and highly intelligent as well as very hard-working. In many ways, he earned the Presidency.

Now you can move on to another blog, as the rest of this particular post is intended for someone else.

To My Conservative and Moderate Friends

First, the bad news:

The Democrats have control of Congress. But it should be noted that this is despite Congress' abysmally low ratings. Why is this? Obviously the American electorate wanted to send a powerful message to those who reign: "It's the economy, stupid." And apparently our current crop of voters don't understand that they aren't changing the face of Congress at all. What they believe to be 'change' is more of the same.

Control of Congress and the Presidency means that the Democrats have the ability to alter the face of America even more, with little-to-no checks and balances. We know that 'change' is not always a good thing and there will be many instances of change in the wrong direction as well as the right one.

We now have a racist for a President.* It's as if we suddenly woke up and found David Duke at the helm. In addition, we have a great deal of documentation to show he's unethical, as well. It doesn't bode well for our relationship with Israel. And it remains to be seen what it may do to us internally.

So what is positive in all of this?

The Economy is Bound to Get Better in the Short Run

That doesn't mean that Obama would have been any better at leading the nation than McCain would have been. But we will be riding on the wave of enthusiasm that comes with any change of administration. The fact that Obama is so different than Bush is bound to create a powerful sense of change. At first.

We Will Get Out of This War

The majority of us believe that the war's dragged on too long, with too little gain and too much expense in dollars and (more importantly) lives. Yes, we're doing better over there, but it came too late in the game.

We are not the World's Policemen, and we are not paid to be. It is time to get out.

We Will Have National Health Care

Many conservatives are scared of national health care. Although I understand the reasons, I don't agree with them. I do believe that national health care is needed, and I do not believe that the new administration will be able to create a program that will be an absolute failure.

Neocons (and even conservatives) have been trumpeting the terrors of socialized medicine for a long time, so it's natural to be afraid. But Big Business has run the show for too long, and many of us have suffered at its hands. Although this will negatively affect insurance and perhaps pharmaceutical companies, it is in the best interest of the people.

I lived in Sweden for a time, where they have national health care. I was actually hospitalized there (for free) and was very impressed with their kindness and competency. I do believe it is possible to make it work. It is not perfect, but no system is. And, it's been embraced by so many other civilized nations. If it didn't work, it wouldn't be in place. I grant you that it may not always work well, but I do believe it's better than our current system.

The Supreme Court

At this time we should remember that our Founding Fathers did build in a Supreme Court to supposedly serve as a speedbump to them taking great strides in a socialist direction. It is not supposed to be subject to voters' whims (although it is, indirectly, as all justices are appointed by the President). For now, it is likely that it will not undergo much change, and with any luck, that may make a slight difference.

A More Educated Electorate in Four Years

Over the next four years, we will all be at the mercy of a very left-leaning Democrat party. For many of us who remember the Carter years (I was a young child then) it's a scary thought. But those who don't know history are bound to repeat it and we will see new lessons learned over the next four years. This may shape the nation into a more educated electorate and may open the doors to a better system in four years.

The News Media

Although the news media has been slavishly devoted to Obama, we can hardly blame them after years of George Bush bullying them into servitude. To have a truly free press, they must be unfettered. And we need a free press to tell us the various sides of the issues out there. I hope and believe that Obama will allow the press to have more access to him and his administration, whether he agrees with their agendas or not.

This isn't to say that we shouldn't be alarmed about the looming return of "The Fairness Doctrine", which is a dichotomous term at best. We can get into that discussion at a later time.

Conservatives Get to Re-Group and Re-Vamp Their Parties

The Republican Party has grown far away from its constituents. So many have become disenfranchised that they have either gone Independant, gone to another more conservative party, and/or crossed over the line to vote for Obama out of spite.

Many conservatives were urged to vote for Barack Obama to send a wake-up call to the Republican Party. Although I didn't agree with this extremist view, I would have done it if Hillary would have been at the helm, since she was less left-leaning than Obama.

Why is the Republican Party failing? A new breed arose in the Republican party called neocons and these neocons became what the Democratic party was in the 70s - corrupt, influenced by the almighty dollar, in thrall to Big Business, with an increasing deafness to the voices of the people.

If the Republican Party has learned their lesson, they can win the White House back in four years. But if it remains as it is or grows even more liberal, it will never have any influence in America again.

* Obama is anti-Semite: His Muslim friends report this unanimously and we have additional independent reports that back this up, as well. He sat in Jeremiah Wright's church for over twenty years, as Wright preached racial hatred against white people. There is no room for racism in national politics, no matter what color you are. We can only hope that he will be able to rise above these base feelings.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The 2008 Election

By now, I doubt that there's a single 'undecided' left in this nation. If any remain, they have the intelligence of a brain-injured hamster, and should not be allowed to drive or make decisions for themselves.

Many people believe this election is all sewn-up in Barack Obama's favor. Although there is certainly reason for this belief, there are also reasons against it. For one thing, everyone is relying upon polls. However, as many people have been arguing today, polls are peculiar things. They are easily skewed by:

1. The pollster asking loaded questions. (Ex. "Mrs. Smith, if I were to tell you that Barack Obama eats babies, would you still vote for him?")

2. A certain type of person that is willing to answer the pollster. Studies repeatedly show that conservatives eschew pollsters. People who shy away from this are, frankly, a conundrum to me. My own parents refuse to answer such phone calls, feeling them to be a horrendous nuisance. They are voting tomorrow, but will be voting for a conservative alternative to McCain.

3. People who want to deliberately confuse the polls. These are the mischief makers who want to throw a wrench in the works and they'll happily lie to do so. My grandmother would give the name of her dog and make up wild stories to any unfortunate telemarketers who would call her. She found their reactions vastly amusing.

4. People who don't want to admit that they're voting for the uncool guy. Let's face it, Obama is The Flavor of the Moment. Even Bruce Springsteen gave a concert for him, proclaiming "I want my country back!" (I'm not sure whom he thinks he's taking it from).

Obama is beloved by the media, and we have been repeatedly told that the only reason he could lose is if there are enough racists to vote against him. (Hmmm. Could it be his liberal politics, just maybe?)

Of course there are racists on both sides, but it's obviously not a significant problem for Obama, or he wouldn't have had as much money flowing into his coffers as he has had.

So: What to Do?

Ignore the polls and get out and vote! And then kick back, pop some popcorn, apply butter liberally, grab your remote, and channel surf between the various news stations all night. This promises to be a very exciting race to the finish line.

And While You're Watching the Incoming Results...

Please consider keeping your hands busy knitting a cap for an underprivileged infant. Knit One, Save One is a program sponsored by Save the Children.

Let me immediately admit that I can't knit. But I am able to pretend to knit by using a knitting loom that you can find at your local craft store.

The initiative is asking knitters and crocheters to take three steps before December 31, 2008:

1) Knit or crochet a baby cap.
2) Write one personal note to the new President asking him to lead the way to save millions of babies globally.
3) If possible, donate $10 towards a "Newborn Care Kit" to help parents better care for newborns.

However, this does not mean that you have to say it's OK to continue to send foreign aid overseas when our own poor are suffering at home. Tell the new President that charity begins at home, and ask him to demand that more accountability be attached to aid that is sent to other countries. Right now, too much aid gets into the pockets of the warlords, dictators and thugs - and not enough gets into the hands and mouths of the truly needy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Participating in Things of Eeeeevil

Last Sunday, I went up to "Constance", a little seven year old girl in our church who is simply adorable and is everyone's favorite. She was playing around on the piano between services, and when she stopped and turned around, I said "Constance, are you excited that Halloween is almost here? What are you going to be for Halloween?"

"I'm not going to be anything for Halloween," Constance said solemnly. "The Bible tells us not to part...part...participate in things of eeeeevil."

"Er, uh, yeah," I said, thinking quickly.

You see, many Christians are divided on this subject. I've always felt it was fine for my kid to trick-or-treat, and I even encouraged it. But there is no doubt that over the last 35 years or so, Halloween has become a much darker holiday than the Halloween of our childhood (or our parents' childhoods).

Because so many people now associate Halloween with violence and evil, many Christian parents are discouraging or outright banning their kids from what was once merely a way to dress up for a night and get free candy.

"Why would you ask me something like that?" asked Constance, curiously. It was a pretty reasonable question, really. From her point of view, I was asking if she was going to be truly naughty, and I sounded as if I was encouraging that.

"Well," I answered, "Some people think it's OK to trick-or-treat and some don't. In our family, we never minded it, but we've always understood why other people don't want to."

"Did you ever trick-or-treat?" she asked, watching me closely.

"Yeah, all the time," I admitted. Her eyes widened as if I'd just confessed to killing babies and drinking their blood. "BUT," I added quickly, "it was different in my time."

"How?" she asked, genuinely wondering. "Didn't you have skeletons and monsters then?"

"Yeah, we did," I admitted, "But it wasn't as real as it is now. It's gotten really gross since we were little. When we were kids it was more like... like cartoons! We never saw anything really scary or nasty back then." (I didn't tell her about the Jimmy Carter costume that I once saw, which was both).

My kid finally stopped trick-or-treating this year, but it's only because he's over 6 feet tall and people frown on adult-sized trick-or-treaters. He didn't really mourn the loss, as he's also grown to dislike the holiday and feels it's become way too sadistic.

We went to the Bush Gardens Howl-O-Scream last year, but we both grew quickly disenchanted with such joyous celebrations of violence and cruelty. At that point, we decided we were done with the holiday, although we still give out candy and snacks for now.

And, like many other people, we have yet to decide how much of this we want to continue to sanction. And, if we continue to participate, are we (as little Constance fears) participating in things of eeeeevil?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pov Moo in New York City

My best friend Pov Moo went to a major function in New York City on Monday, and I loaned him my fabulous camera for the trip. He stayed in the Dream Hotel near Central Park and Times Square. We thought we would share some of his adventures and photos with you. (Just wait 'till you hear what took place at the NBC Studios...)

There are a lot of pictures here, but I really wanted to share the feel in a comprehensive way.

The first batch of pictures were taken at or near Times Square on Monday night:

He passed M&Ms World on his way back to his hotel room:

The next morning, Pov set out at dawn to capture New York City at near freezing temperatures.

One of the first things he went by was the NBC Studios, where they were filming The Today Show:

As Pov was rounding the corner, he knocked into a woman with short blond hair. He apologized automatically, and then realized he'd just bumped into Pink, the rockstar. Her bodyguards immediately began demanding identification as Pov extricated himself. Pov is always getting himself into situations like this: I don't know how he does it.

Afterwards, Pov took some shots of Pink in the Today Show studio:

Radio City Music Hall:

The weather couldn't make up it's mind and there were light snow flurries at times as well as just plain, cold rain:

He went past St. John the Divine Cathedral (Episcopalian) and even went inside, but the inside shots were too dark, so we can only share the exterior shots:

Rockefeller Center:

Chinese Bagels:

New York Asses (see the billboard):

Gamer's Mecca: