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This whole “War on Christmas” thing…

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For some reason, this week marked the first time in 2010 that I heard mention of this year’s “War on Christmas,” first in church and then in the “Daily Show” clip embedded above.  At church this past Sunday, it was proclaimed twice (not by the pastor) that we should all remember that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and that we should all say “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays.”  In the clip above, Jon Stewart highlights Fox News’ personality Gretchen Carlson as going off on the city of Tulsa, OK for changing the name of their 70-year-old annual “Christmas Parade” to the “Holiday Parade”…back in 2009…

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the frustration.  Christmas is a holiday celebrating Jesus’ birth and, thus, is a Christian holiday.  And this Christian holiday has been hijacked by all these other groups, including the atheists that believe in Santa Claus, or the Jews and their Hanukkah celebration.  We should all stand up against this onslaught and proudly exclaim “Merry Christmas” to everyone, and help ensure that we get a “Merry Christmas” back instead of the more generic “Happy Holidays” (you know, ’cause there’s only one real holiday…so we can’t make it plural). <end sarcasm here>

As the last half of the video above suggests, this trend is hardly new.  If you watch many of the old classic Christmas movies, including “Rudolph,” “A Christmas Carol,” “How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” etc., you won’t find much mention of Jesus.  Only “A Charlie Brown Christmas” comes to mind in mentioning it at all, with the iconic recitation of the Christmas story by Linus, but that still only lasts a few minutes compared with the rest of the plot line.  Why, exactly, these TV and radio personalities are so uppity about it in recent years is beyond me.  It’s been happening for decades.

What Carlsson, and many, many others, fail to understand is that Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t actually born on December 25th, and that the date was (likely?) chosen by Rome because of other festivals occurring around the Winter Solstice; or the fact that Hanukkah predates Christmas by almost two centuries.  These people miss  the fact that the very idea of “Christmas” has become something more to the general population of the world.

A time of peace.  A time of giving and sharing.  A time of remembering and helping the less fortunate.  A time for friends and family.  A time to end hostilities between you and your neighbor.  A time to think back on those that have gone before you, and a time to watch new lives grow.

Whether or not you ascribe the holiday to Jesus, Santa, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or someone/something else: shirley these are tenets we can all agree on.

I’d be willing to bet that Jesus would rather you love and remember your neighbor, instead of getting caught up in saying “Merry Christmas.”  He’d want you to say something.  And mean it.


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Jon Stewart had Michael Specter on “The Daily Show” last night, a staff writer for The New Yorker who’s out with a new book, “Denialism.” The sub-title for the book explains what it’s about: “How irrational thinking hinders scientific progress, harms the planet, and threatens our lives.” The interview is about 7 minutes long and covers a wide range of topics, but he mostly focuses on medicine, genetically modified food products, and vaccines.

He begins highlighting how 62 million people have gotten the H1N1 vaccine with no deaths or serious injury, despite half of American adults saying they won’t vaccinate their children or themselves because they believe it to be unsafe. Specter goes on, citing a friend of his that read the book, but still said she wouldn’t vaccinate her child for polio because “there is no polio anymore.” This is true, but only for the United States: polio is still around in other countries where airplanes travel. Similarly, 200,000 people died last year from the measles, another “forgotten disease,” and while none of them were in the United States, it’s not like it would be hard for the disease to spread here.

Specter also talked about how Vioxx “killed” 55,000 people (which, he points out, is the same number of Americans killed in Vietnam), yet Vioxx was never determined to be the sole cause of the deaths: just correlated. Those people had all kinds of other cardiovascular risk factors as well that likely contributed to the deaths. There were millions of other people that were on it and were just fine and benefited from the drug’s actions. Later in the interview, he points out that 45,000-50,000 Americans die in car accidents each year, but we don’t sue the automobile industry or stop using them like we did to Merck after the Vioxx scandal hit. He says, “We know if we lowered the speed limit 10 miles, we would save 8,000 lives, but, we want to get to the mall, so it’s something we’re willing to do.”

The whole vaccine thing just boggles my mind, honestly. A lot of it goes back to the idea of “over-parenting” (there was a nice article in Time Magazine a few weeks ago on that other can o’ worms), where we try to protect our children and ourselves from everything, when statistically, we’ve never been safer than we are now. Vaccines, according to Specter, are probably the single most important health achievement in human history next to clean drinking water, at least so far as the control of disease goes. And yet, there are people out there that continue to believe, against all scientific evidence, that they’re unsafe.

There are a wealth of other crazy beliefs that could be pointed out, of course, like those that don’t believe global warming is occurring (despite all scientific analysis saying it is)…or that mercury in vaccines causes autism, or that the Earth was created in 6 days, or that humans lived with dinosaurs, or that evolution isn’t real, or that the Earth is flat….and so on, ad infinitum…

Ignoring science certainly isn’t the answer. Humanity has developed knowledge over the generations that they’re supposed to use, preferably for the good of everyone. Picking and choosing the science you believe in is ridiculous. If you don’t believe in evolution, then you shouldn’t be allowed to use electricity: science has given us electricity and evolution, and if you won’t take one of those, you can’t have the other.

It’s a pity that rule isn’t enforced, as it would prevent all The Crazies from posting on the internet…

To Put Things In Perspective

I really like Jon Stewart’s compilations off right-wing hypocrisy (you know, like when Bill O’Reilly says that it was the Nazis that went in and disrupted meetings…when, at the time, he was talking about Democrats… I doubt he still agrees…), which is why I post this. It’s a few minutes into the video, but the rest of it is very much worth the watch, anyway.

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It just puts things in perspective, better than I’d heard elsewhere thus far.

On a side-note, Rawstory.com had a blurb up about how Jon Stewart is actually loved (well, “respected,” at least…) by many Neoconservatives, including Bill Kristol.

From the article:

“‘There is genuine intellectual curiosity,’ [Cliff] May told New York [Magazine]. ‘He’s [Jon Stewart] a staunch liberal, but he’s a thoughtful liberal, and I respect that.’ May isn’t the only conservative gushing about Stewart. While the movement professes a disdain for the ‘liberal media elite,’ it has made an exception for the true-blue 46-year-old comedian. ‘He always gives you a chance to answer, which some people don’t do,’ says John Bolton, President Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations and a Fox News contributor, who went on the show last month. ‘He’s got his perspective, but he’s been fair.’ Says Bolton: ‘In general, a lot of the media, especially on the left, has lost interest in debate and analysis. It has been much more ad hominem. Stewart fundamentally wants to talk about the issues. That’s what I want to do.’”

The author of the Rawstory article calls Jon Stewart “this generation’s Mark Twain,” and I think I’d have to agree.

McDonald’s Feeds You on your Break?!

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Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis (R-O’Fallon) has been making a few headlines around these here parts because of her newsletter June newsletter that stated the following:

“Who’s buying dinner? Who is getting paid to serve the meal? Churches and other non-profits can do this at no cost to the taxpayer if it is warranted … Bigger governmental programs take away our connectedness to the human family, our brotherhood and our need for one another … Anyone under 18 can be eligible? Can’t they get a job during the summer by the time they are 16? Hunger can be a positive motivator. What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals? Tip: If you work for McDonald’s, they will feed you for free during your break.”

A variety of “liberal rags” picked up on this, including our own Riverfront Times (where she was voted “Ass Clown of the Week”…hehehehe…), and Keith Olberman’s show, “Countdown.”

For a more amusing take on it, however, I leave you with Stephen Colbert, above. He talks about her for the first minute or so and then goes on to discuss Mark Sanford (which is also funny, but not really pertinent to Rep. Davis).

Anyway, I’m just glad she’s not my representative.

Side-Note: Davis was also mentioned in an article yesterday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch saying that she, and a few other Missouri Republicans, have been attending meetings called by a California Dentist, Orly Taitz, that calls Obama’s citizenship into question. And even if his birth certificate is genuine, she says “he can’t be president because his father was Kenyan.” Seriously.

Huckabee’s “Daily Show” Interview

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Mike Huckabee was on the Daily Show last week and I finally got to watch the episode this past Sunday (as we were in Kansas City for the rest of the weekend…had a great time!). The interview ran long, so the episode didn’t contain the whole thing. With the wonders of the interwebs, however, it has all been posted to their website!

Huckabee and Stewart had a lengthy discussion on the issue of abortion. While I disagree with Huckabee, I can at the very least appreciate this interview as a thought-provoking and well-mannered discussion on a complicated issue.

I will take issue with one specific part of Huckabee’s argument here, however. Around the 3:20 mark in the video above, Huckabee defines the point at which “life” begins. “I believe life begins at conception. 23 chromosomes from a male and 23 from a female female create a DNA schedule that’s never existed before…biologically and scientifically it’s irrefutable that that’s when life begins.” Now, one could make a philosophical argument about what exactly life means and what it looks like, but I will instead refute the whole “biologically and scientifically it’s irrefutable” part of his argument… Just because two halves of DNA have been put together to make chromosomes, you do not have “life.” Even if you have one cell, you do not have “life.” Even if you have a group of cells, you do not have “life.” [Note: Huckabee goes on to address whether we consider it "human life" or not, but doesn't elaborate much on that] As Wikipedia states, in order to be considered “alive,” one must meet certain criteria, including homeostasis, organization, metabolism, adaptation, growth, response to stimuli and reproduction. You could say that a cell is capable of doing those things (and yes, indeed, a cell is capable of doing those things!), BUT it’s only capable of doing those things in the controlled environment of a uterus. That’s the ONLY place. Other single-celled organisms, like bacteria, are capable of doing it in all kinds of places (that’s the very important “adaptation” part of the definition of life).

As another example, I work with cell culture systems, which essentially means that I grow cells in a flask that I give specially-made growth factors and nutrients to keep them “alive,” before I allow them to “die” and see how that happened. So, yes, from a technical standpoint, they have “life” (otherwise, you can’t get “death”). However, these are just cells. If I took them out of that flask, they would not survive. They would never be productive. They would never grow into an organism. This is the problem with Huckabee’s (and the Pro-Life movement’s) argument, in my opinion. If you took sperm and egg and did not implant them into a uterus, you would never get a child. Even if you took a fetus out of the mother, it would not survive on its own. That’s, at least, where the difference lies for me. Obviously there are many that disagree with that interpretation, but that’s usually where I put “the beginning of life:” the point at which an individual can survive (perhaps with help from an incubator) outside of the mother. That point is somewhere around the end of the second trimester, or early third trimester, if I remember correctly. And this is why I generally go against late-term abortions (and so do many Pro-Choice individuals).

I do, however, agree with the future implications that Huckabee puts forward, especially talking about “value of life” as a whole. He sees it as a slippery slope. He uses the example of people in nursing homes, as your children would refer to you as an “inconvenience” or as an “interruption,” the same things that are frequently said of the possibility of having children when they aren’t desired. Jon Stewart eventually goes on to try and reframe the argument as a sovereignty issue for the Pro-Choice camp (i.e. you don’t have control over your body…the government does). Both of these two points are valid and discussed at length in the interview.

For those that care, here’s Part 2 and Part 3 of the extended interview. The whole thing is something like 15 minutes long across the three parts.

The whole thing is a complicated issue and neither side will ever fully agree on it, I’m afraid. But, interviews like this hopefully foster greater understanding between both sides, as the issue is discussed intelligently and reasonably (unlike many other discussions around the internet…).