Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My thanks

for being nominated for a 2008 UU Blog Award in the category of Best Political Commentary - Best of class
. It is especially meaningful to me as I’m a conservative, and therefore a contrarian in nearly any Unitarian debate- which leads me to believe that this nomination is truly a tribute to my writing skills, rather than a popularity thing. I’ll do my best to live up to that honor in the future.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is morality genetic?

There is a truly fascinating article in the New York Times magazine, The Moral Instinct , that deals with the difference between morality and social customs, whether a sense of basic morality is genetic, how one tells whether a given issue is one of morality or custom, and much more. Why can't we hear more of this sort of thing from the pulpit instead?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The oddest quiz yet...

The web is full of fun quizes, but this one is a bit... outre. Would you eat your buddies? Don’t look at me like that- you know you’re going to take the quiz too. I was rated at 44% likely to.

Reminds me of a juvenile joke from decades past- make a reservation at a restaurant for five under the name of Donner. When they call “Donner, party of five,” you tell them “It’s just four now- it was a long wait.”

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thoughts on Barack Obama and race politics

I have a theory that the success of Barack Obama is part of a third stage in race relations in America- and a very welcome one.

The first stage was the natural integration occurring in the 50s and 60s, led by people of conscience and the churches- and I’m proud to note the Unitarians were an important part of that stage. More progress was made in the 60s than those who did not live through them might be aware of. Sports were integrating, led by courageous team owners; TV was starting to cast Black and Hispanic roles, and even occasionally the lead roles- “Julia”, “The Cisco Kid”, “The Bill Cosby show” (his two early shows, not the one from the 80s), “I Spy”, others. The military had been ordered by several Presidents to integrate. Colleges were voluntarily starting to reach out. But progress simply wasn’t deep enough or fast enough.

The second stage was integration forced by laws and court orders. Council and Congressional districts were redrawn to get more minority representation. (curiously enough, this resulted more in party guarantees than racial ones; historically, Blacks would vote for a white Democrat over a Black Republican, and Black Republicans were elected by majority white but majority Republican districts) The equal opportunity and housing laws, affirmative action, etc., were very effective, but caused emotional backlash. The backlash wasn’t totally racism, but also the strong contrarian streak in the American psyche; Americans hate being ordered around and told what to do, even if it’s the right thing to do.

The third stage is made possible by the fact that the majority of the country is young enough to have never lived through the horrible conditions of the first half of the last century. A 30 year old today has grown up in a world where “race” simply doesn’t mean what it did when people my age were growing up. They live in a world where race is merely “a” factor, not “the” factor; a world where a white Marshall Mathers can be accepted by the rap community or a Tiger Woods is accepted in the golfing community- or a Barak Obama is being judged on his issues and character. Obama is running as an American, not as a representative of his race; he is not asking for votes because it’s “his turn“, and people are responding. The 93% white Iowa caucuses picked him because he’s the fresh face, the symbol of change, not the symbol of race.
Many people don’t realize that the March of Dimes wasn’t always devoted to fighting birth defects. In fact, it was organized for the express and only function of fighting Polio, but then the unexpected happened: Polio was cured. Rather than disband an effective organization, they selected another illness to fight. It is my hope that in the future, when all us dinosaurs with bad memories of the past die off, the same thing will happen to groups like the NAACP.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

UU questions about God asked and answered

As more and more UUs start their own blogs, we occasionally run into the phenomenon of one blog post asking a question that another blog post answers. For example, at Transient and Permanent, the question is asked, Do Unitarian-Universalists Think Less of People Who Use the Word “God”? .

Meanwhile, over at “Heretic, Rebel, Thing to Flout”, in the post UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM AND PAGANISM--Faith, Ritual and Metaphor , Patrick Murfin tells us “Inclusion of some pagan rites, whether historically accurate or cooked up in some Victorian eccentric’s garden, does not alarm me if the practitioners do not believe that they are literally invoking specific gods, goddesses or spirits who will perform specific tasks or expect the congregation to do so. While there are Wiccans out there—and other organized and semi-organized pagans and neo-pagans—who really, really do believe that every incantation uttered is both real and true, those are not the folks who are comfortable being part of a UU community any more than a Christian who literally believes he/she is consuming the body and blood of Christ in communion will be comfortable.”

Clearly, there are UUs who think less of those who speak of God- at least, if they believe what they are saying. If you’re only toying with someone’s sacred scriptures in order to draw a metaphor, that’s ok... but you’d better not mean it! Wiccan or Christian, if you truly believe, you’re not welcome here! I had thought we didn’t discriminate because we had learned the lesson over the centuries the heart ache and violence that it leads to... but I’m learning the truth is that we don’t discriminate because we don’t take anything seriously enough to care.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Cuumbaya endorses candidates

We here in Indiana have no say in the picking a candidate process. Oh, we have primaries, but since they're held in May they're far too late to make any difference. That being the case, I thought I'd state my preferences now and see if the country agrees.

I come from a Libertarian/Goldwater style Republican baseline. In my case, that means a strong but not aggressive foreign policy; fiscally, a limited government, business regulations only to safeguard the employees and public's health and safety and stop fraud; tax policies that encourage growth and savings; social issues, liberal/libertarian- as long as it neither bloodies my nose nor picks my pocket, as the saying goes, it's none of the government's business. Illegal immigrants? Find a way to mainstream the ones already here; they're not hurting anything. How to stop new ones? How about admitting that Mexico is as corrupt, brutal, and oppressive as many a regime we pontificate about in the third world, and pressuring them to reform, become a country their citizens WANT to live in? Iraq? End it, yes, but not precipitously; leave it stable enough that we don't betray those who are risking their lives to help us- don't have another post-war bloodbath on our conscience like we did in Southeast Asia. Other issues are extrapolated from the principles above, ask if you want to know.

This being the case, obviously none of the candidates from either party fit the bill. But politics is the art of the possible; the next President WILL be one of them. So I'll pick one from each party, starting with the Republicans. only three are even close: Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain. Ron Paul is TOO much the Libertarian; his version of foreign policy boils down to building a wall around the US and errecting a sign that points out and says "Here there be monsters". His call to dissolve the Fed and return to the gold standard is foolhardy- he's out. McCain's stand on the war is good, especially banning torture; but McCain-Fiengold is unconstitutional in my view, and he's had his part in the free-spending congress- he's out. Hobson's choice, my pick is Giuiani.

Among the Democrats, all but two are non-starters for me: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Obama is simply too young; intelligence must be tempered with perspective. Additionally, his stated stands- he doesn't have enough experience for us to tell how he'd vote- are too fiscally liberal for me. The most conservative candidate in the Democratic crowd, God save the mark, is Hillary- so that's my pick.

My dream candidate? I voted for favorite son Dick Lugar in 1996, but as long as we're dreaming... what's Baroness Thatcher doing these days?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A roundup of inconvenient truths of 2007

Since Al Gore won the Noble Prize for his championship of the Global Warming issue in 2007, I thought it would be a good thing to revisit the climate news of 2007.

Mr. Gore, of course, says that the anthropogenic nature of Global Warming is established science; he must have missed this story, U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007
, which begins “Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called "consensus" on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.” That story came as no surprise to those who had read the Survey stating “LESS THAN HALF OF ALL PUBLISHED SCIENTISTS ENDORSE GLOBAL WARMING THEORY; COMPREHENSIVE SURVEY OF PUBLISHED CLIMATE RESEARCH REVEALS CHANGING VIEWPOINTS”

One of the papers, no doubt, was this one from the Danish National Space Center, refuting previous claims that Global Warming is unrelated to Solar activity. They found that by taking readings from the Troposphere and the deep oceans rather than more variable surface readings, global temperatures track Solar activity exactly. This agrees with previous findings from NASA that Mars and Jupiter are undergoing climate change as well.

That report also noted that Solar activity, and Global Warming, have been static for the last few years, which agrees with the fact that once again, hurricane activity has not matched Al Gores predictions. According to the NOAA Hurricane Center , "The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season produced the predicted number of named storms, but the combined number, duration and intensity of the hurricanes did not meet expectations” In fact, the number and intensity are lower than they were a hundred years ago .

In short: Contrary to the “consensus”, climate news from 2007 was good.