Monday, October 31, 2005
Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and now Samuel Alito?
Hmmm, 5 Catholics and two Jews out of 9 justices? Sounds to me as if the protestants need affirmative action if they are going to get on the Court.
How did this happen? Could it be that the only intelligent Christian attorneys are those educated by the Jesuits? What happened to Kenneth Star? Or have the evangelicals begun to suspect that educated Protestants become evolutionists?
Does religion matter? How can it not? We keep hearing that religion is the basis for morality, at least that is what the believers tell us. Can a child attend Catholic schools for six years and not be effected? Is it possible to accept mass and NOT feel a need to respond, postively or negatively, to the rulings of the Pope?
Will anyone ask Alito how he feels about joining a largely Catholic body?
Does this mean that Ash Friday will be a court holiday?
Sunday, October 30, 2005
All of this excitement about the indictment of Scooter I Louis Libby has left me despairingly looking for a note of humor.
Perhaps there is humor, or at least good news, in the cable news industry. The Industry has every reason to revel in and encourage the blame game. The indictment is great news for advertising prices, Wall Street should be cheered by a huge increase in money coming into the coffers of Time Warner, NBC, and, of course Mr.
I do wonder if TW, CNN and Faux are totally uninvolved in making the news today. After all, how long can they sell a blonde girl in
Still, there must be something funny in the image of the Greatest Nation being governed by a Gumpish, likeable fool. When Rove and
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) has a surprising answer. Founded by a reformed fundamentalist,
Myissues with cloning are not solved by West’s trick. We should worry about the power science can give to the convinced. Wasn’t it
There is more to look forward to. Imagine an endless succession of
The unfortunate truth is that the fundamentalists have led us all to misplace the debate. Disposing of a conceptus is something women do normally ... only 1/4 of all embryoes survives through the first trimester. If the religious are so righteous they should fund drug research into saving this massive loss of lives. I am far more concerned with a modern Werner von Braun misusing the biology than I am about Michael West's solution of an insignificant ethical dilemma.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Of the following list, whom would you describe as "barbaric?"
Mahatma Gandhi vs. Ozma bin Laden
Chief Seattle vs. Pope Pius IX
Marcus Aurelius vs. Theodoric
Confucius vs. Marx
Montezuma vs. Cortez
the current Pope and the current President of China
Squanto vs. the Pilgrims
Of course, my list is anecdotal. It would be equally easy to tilt such a list toward the Abrahamites. What pagan society has invented vaccines, created red cross, or conceived of democracy? Could Jefferson, ML King, the enlightenment, have arisen in Africa or China. My answer is facile .."why not?" One need not demonize (to use a common phrase) Christendom to question the Western depiction of pagans.
In his wonderful little book, Arrow of God, Chinua Achebe describes the religion of a Nigerian village during the period of early British colonialism. This religion had been intentionally agreed to, actually created by the elders six generations before in an attempt to decrease strife between the tribes. The hero of the book, the head priest, is attempting to deal with the attractions of the Christian missionaries and their colorless God. As depicted by a Achebe, the village God is very real, literally the soul of the people, motivating morality and family life. In contrast the colorless Christian God is a tool of the missionaries used to pry a Achebe's son away.
The Achebe story is all too familiar to Jews who have suffered from Christian evanagelism. Even during WWII, Chrsitian kindness was temepered by the forced conversions of our children to the religions of their hosts. Teh horror stories of Jewish children stolen by Pious IX are infamous. The Muslim world has been better, although depriving us of the rights to vote, wear clothing of our own choice, or to accept converts. In contrast, Jews who have lived in pagan societies, including India, China, and even amongst Native Americans, have been treated with respect.
The anti-pagan bigotry is not uniquely Christian. With all due respect to the Prophet, his tolerance of Jews and Christians does not excuse his intolerance of those who worship the sun or moon. Islam's claim to tolerance stops short of accepting Buddhism, never mind accepting worship of Manitoba, Siva, or Thor.
Bertrand Russel made much the same argument in his essay, "Why I am not a Christian." The philosopher damned the Jews for our invention of an exclusive truth. Judaism, however, has never had the opportunity to practice the kind of intolerance that comes with a Universal Church or the Ummaya of Mohamed's world conquering successors. Rather, living as an often persecuted minority, we have developed a unique passion for religious freedom reflected in the prominent roles Jews of the 19th and 20th centuries played in the labor and civil rights movements.
I would like to offer a theory. Historians tell us that the Jewish scripture was assembled or perhaps written during the period from 500 B.C.E. on. This is the period of ascendance of Greco-Roman society. It seems to me that the chauvinism of the Jewish culture, most probably represents an effort to protect the Jewish people from Greco-Roman society rather than a statement of elitism. We, the Jews, are unique .. the pagan (non- Greco-Roman) people who survived.
Greco-Roman culture became Christendom. Christianity as formalized under Emperor Constantine was a state religion. That religion represented not only Roman power but Roman civilization. 200 years later, with his successful conquest of Mecca, the Prophwt brought civilization to Arabia. Like Constantine, Mohammed taught the unity of the state and religion. He created a social system, Islam, built on the premise of the great wisdom of those entrusted with interpretation of the Koran. Koranic law, as interpreted by Mohamed's success ors the Caliphs ruled from Spain to Indonesia.
I vote for joining the pagans.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Dinosaurs still exist.
It is well known that deep in the forests of Brazil there is an area yet unplumbed by humans except of one tribe of women, the Amazons. The Amazons have domesticated their lizard-like friends. You should taste an Amazonia
omelet. One egg feeds the entire tribe!
The Amazoni are, BTW, Jewish and direct descendents of the women who provided Cain's wives. They survived the flood by riding from present day Syria to West Africa on the backs of aquatic dinosaurs. Their great story is told by the Great Song. This beautiful song takes on year to recite, with different verses for every day of the year. The Amazoni language can not be written and even Amzoni who have learned to read and write Portuguese insist that a written version of the Song would not be faithful to the original tale given to Zipporah by G-d.
You might ask how can they be Jewish if they were isolated from the rest of humanity since the flood? For that you need to understand that the Torah never claims to be complete. Just as it does not mention the Maine Lobster, it never mentions the experience of Zipporah, the prophet of the cavern. She received a separate set of commandments from Hashem during the great Exodus of the Amazoni from their enslavement by the black skinned Bantu or Nigeria. As sung by the cantors, Zipporah gathered the last of the dinosaurs and the Jews of Africa onto a great arc and rode the seas all the way to the mouth of the Amazon.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
3,000 children dying each day of starvation, according to the NY Times. Shoah, Holocaust, shame .... Jesse Jackson in New Orleans complaining that not enough people are being housed on the cruise boats, Bush chopping bush at Crawford, Nazis .. we aren't Nazis, they are. Hitler did it. Stalin gave me no choice. My niggers love me. We brought them Jesus. All we do is go along.
Yom Kippur is not about confession. That Roman Catholic ritual is about me, about how I deal with my guilt. Yom Kippur does not offer forgiveness
Nor does Judaism offer salvation as a reward. The Bal Shem said that he had no need of paradise if he loved God in this life. But in Judaism love for God is not a good deed. Loving God is a nice thing, like being blessed by the priest at confession, but loving God is not itself a mitzvah, a good deed. The law, ethics, good deeds, obligations to others ... these exist regardless of rewards.
But how can I talk of rewards when 3,000 children starve to death every day in Niger?
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
A photographer in a Texas mall was arrested for taking lewd shots of women and children. Apparently under Texas law you are committing an offense if, a) you're taking a picture of a person who hasn't given you consent to do so, and b) that picture is for the sexual gratification of any person.
My knee jerk reaction is to protest the photographer's rights. After all, photogrpahy is a form of expression and is, therefore, guarnateed under the First Amendment. In contrast the right of privacy, as the Bushies keep telling us, is NOT in the Constitution.
I also wonder why the camera is an issue. Would the cops have acted differenblty if the perp's camera was empty? ... or just out of focus? What if instead of a camera the perp was using a sketch pad and creating lewd drawing of women and children in the crowd. Would that be acceptable?
Or ... suppose I am sittin in the mall and as I sit there, a very beautiful woman walks by. I write, "she is has such beautiful breasts, if only I could strip of that blouse. Her name must be Mrilyn, I can see her in a negligee, a sheer negligee, her hands bound, her feet in mules with 4 inch heels, kneeling before me ...." "If only she would bend over ...."
Disgusting? Is it only disgusting if it is written down or expressed as a photograph? Would it be legal to think these words or only to write them? If someone sees me staring at Marilyn and she complains, do the cops have a right to see what I am writing?
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
I just read that the Swedes have awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine. They gave the prize to two Australians for figuring out that peptic ulcers are caused by bacteria. Why the Swedes? Why ulcers? Why Australians?
Consider the alternatives. Here in the US the Nobel has become the ultimate academic degree. In the United States everyone gets a bachelor's unless they qualify to play basketball. After that we give out master's and Ph.D.s. Oh yeah some folks get MDs, DVMs, TDs, NDs, and ODs. Actually if you decide to become a lawyer, here in Washington state we give you a JD and California awards MDs to anyone who gets an OD. OK?
In reality, the US does recognize a gradation of importance within the Ph.D.. Ph.D.'s in rocket science, for example, are recognized as being far more difficult to achieve then, let's say, Ph.D.'s in college athletics. Any Ph.D. from MIT is more important than, well more important than almost anything ... other than being selected in the football draft. Of course the tile "coach" far exceeds the title "doctor" in importance but few Ph.D.'s aspire to become coaches. What is more prestigous than being a coach?
Back to Sweden. Why Sweden? Actually the Nobel could be given in any of several European countries as long as that country is politically acceptable to the United States. We Americans are the most important pople in the world, but we recognize the greater prestige of the European Ph.D.. Certainly, an Austrian professor of psychiatry with a beard and an obsession with oral sex has more prestige than any UCLA graduate. Ph.D.s a from Oxford and Cambridge and the Left bank (France's main unoversity) are highly respectable as well. All Americans know that the best mathematicians come from Russia and that Asian scientists are very clever but not original. In contrast the English are smart and original. Certainly the Nobel prize could be located in England. It could not, however, be located in Germany, France, or Spain. Germany, as we know, has always been filled with guys that make horrible wars and lose them. The French always lose wars as well, because they disagree with the US of A and are cowards. The Spanish? Don't be silly.
So that leaves Sweden. The Swedes must have a lot of fun deciding who will get the Nobel prize. Has anyone ever made a movie about this? Imagine the dialogue:
Hans: I propose that we give this year's award to Mendel.
Katrina: Isn't he dead?
Christopher: But the Pope just made Mendel a saint. Under Swedish law we cannot discriminate against a spirit simply because it is passed on can we?
Per: (why do we have Catholics on this committee?) This is silly. Who would shake the King's hand? Remember the amateur golfer who won last year's Scandinavian Golf Association? She wasn't dead but she was from California! She said she could not participate in a ceremony in Stockholm in January! Too dark!
Per: In any case, I understand that Mendel faked his data. Look, we need to choose a scientist who shows real courage. Think about Galileo, Curie, Pruissner, .....
Katrina: Courage? Since when is courage important in science? Shouldn't we give an award to Lee Hood?
Goran: Hood? What did he discover? Besides he's an American!
Ahmed: I agree with Goran. Hood is too American. Besides it was guys like Phil Green and Hunckapillar who made it happen! Besides, if we want to award a prize for quantitative genomics shouldn't it go to Botstein and Lander?
Goran: Ahmed, you surprise me! I thought a physiologist like you would help us steer away from fashionable molecular biology! Isn't anybody doing anything clever in rheology? peristalsis? mastication?
Christopher: Mastication? Goran you can't be serious? They can't be anything new in eating food?
Katrina: I think Goran has an idea there! We keep giving the Nobel Prize for things nobody in the public understands. This is supposed to be a prize for Medicine! As they say in the US medicine isn't supposed to be rocket science. It should be simple!Per: and courageous! Simple and courageous! That kind of Nobel prize should really get the public's attention. I don't think there's been a movie about the Nobel Prize in medicine since that Paul Muni flick about Pasteur. Don't we have a Pasteur today?
Ahmed: I have an idea! There are these two guys in Australia not just in Australia but in Perth....
Goran: (I knew adding a Turk would liven things up!) You mean the guys who figured out ulcer disease? Didn't one of them actually swallow the bacteria?
Katrina: Didn't King Carl-Gustav have an ulcer? I think we have our choice!
And so it goes. Each year the wise faculty of the Karolinska choose the Nobel list for the entire world. These two Australians will proceed from the isolation of Perth in the summer to the mid winter darkness of Stockholm and thence to platforms around the world lecturing not only a peptic ulcer disease but on the courage to follow one's own convictions. This prize sends a message that not all great science is accomplished by large teams. It sends a message that even in the era of the genome grande, small science can still succeed. Somehow I believe that this year's award reflects as much on the unique national culture of Sweden as it does on the worldwide culture of science.
So what is this about Father Joe? When I was a kid, we lived in an Irish-Italian Catholic neighborhood. My dad was the Jewish physican (there was a Catholic doctor too for when patients were not sick) and Father Joe the parish priest. My dad was a handsome young war veteran. Some of his female patients would come to the office seeking marital advice. After all Jews are less inhibited than Catholics, don't you know? This embarrassed my father who sent the patients on to Father Joe for counciling. Father Joe, it turned out, was rather good at marital counseling and gave practical lessons. Eventually, Cardinal Cushing discovered Father Joe's activities. Cushing sent the good father to Columbia as a Maryknoll missionary. Courageous folks, the Maryknolls ... leading peasants against the oligarchs. It used to be called "Liberation Theology." As far as I know, Father Joe disappeared. The last time I saw Father Joe, he (secretly) gave me last rites when it appeared I was going to die from a bleeding ulcer. So I associate Father Joe's courage with the courage of these two Nobelists.