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, 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…).

Battle Royale

The “media” has apparently been all over this supposed “battle” between Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’sMad Money,” and Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show.” The whole thing started last week with Jon Stewart lambasting the financial news network for not seeing this crisis coming, while they were telling their viewers to “buy, buy, buy” a variety of stocks, including the companies that would fold in the coming weeks.

Well, the “media” made with it and ran, calling it a battle between Cramer (whom Stewart referred to, yes, but certainly didn’t focus on) and Stewart, culminating in Cramer coming on the “Daily Show” Thursday night for a looooooong interview…with Stewart, in the end, beating the crap out of Cramer.

Honestly, Jon Stewart is the best interviewer on television, as he can get away with asking almost anything and making his guests look like idiots. I really felt sorry for Jim Cramer. It’s an excellent interview and shines new light on the issue. You all should watch it!

Note: The video above is part 2 of 3 (the most interesting part, I think), but the whole interview is really good.

More politics…why not?

All the shenanigans around Sarah Palin’s nomination just baffles my mind. There’s a huge double-standard out there coming from the right-wing…check out the following video to see some evidence…

It’s stunning…

(Yeah…”The Daily Show” is getting another Peabody…guaranteed…)

Update: Here’s a nice run-down of some “fact checks” from all the lies from Palin’s speech last night, too… And if you want a less liberally-leaning list of facts that were distorted from the GOP convention, here’s a list from the Associated Press

Update #2: As was pointed out on another blog today (in a comment…so I can’t cite it…): Jesus was a Community Organizer, and Pontius Pilate was a governor! 😛


“She’s got to. She’s a Democrat. She must prove she loves America, as opposed to Republicans, who everyone knows loves America: they just hate half the people living in it.”

— Jon Stewart; “The Daily Show,” August 26, 2008

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Firstly, that whole episode of “The Daily Show” last night was pure genius. They are in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, providing their characteristic “coverage” of the speeches and news surrounding the event. This is the kind of thing the writers/producers of the show win a Peabody, and surely this election cycle will be no different.

Secondly, I have been watching some of the speeches, but at the very least, the “big name” speech of each night, including Michelle Obama (as described in the video above) and Hillary Clinton.

Michelle Obama is a badass and I’d love to see her in a debate with Cindy McCain, ’cause it’d be brutal and sad. I like that she doesn’t take any crap from people, and that she has a mind of her own. Watching Laura Bush speak…very occasionally (what…she talks?)…is very uninspiring, and mostly boring. Michelle wrote her own speech (according to Rep. Harold Ford) and delivered it as well as her husband would have. Beautiful, inspiring words…and yes, she’s patriotic…

Hillary Clinton spoke last night and, while I wasn’t quite as “inspired” as I was by Michelle Obama’s, it was still an excellent speech that held the tone of party unity admirably. From the outset, she expressed her support for Obama and the party as a whole, discussed her accomplishments in the campaign, and even stuck it to McCain as, perhaps, only she could. I’m glad she’s putting this “divided party” thing to bed, thankfully not providing a spectacle for the pundits to tear apart and report on for 25 hours a day (not a typo). Either way, it sounds like most people were very impressed by her words and that she’s a team player, which will probably just make her more powerful within the party than she ever would have been as President.

Only a few months left!