Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Ear of the Beholder

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“George Bush was the first UB president who THOUGHT that he spoke Spanish.” – Univision anchor Jorge Ramos on the Daily Show. Cracked me up when he said that.

Ramos was REALLY funny. He’s also quite influential in the Hispanic community with is platform at Univision.

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Rush Limbaugh and My Crisis of Faith

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Theological guru Rush Limbaugh is criticizing Pope Francis for speaking out against “unfettered capitalism,” poverty, growing economic inequality, and the “idolatry of money.” Limbaugh says the Pope is espousing “pure marxism.”

I’m having a crisis of faith. Thanks to the biblical insights and moral authority of Rush, I now realize that Jesus himself was a marxist. And as all good American Christians are taught, only capitalism in all its unfettered glory is truly biblical and God-ordained.

So, should I abandon my faith? How can I follow a lie?

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The Nerdification of Sports

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The US has granted visas to several online gamers as “internationally recognized athletes.” That way, these professional gamers–that’s what they do for a living–can come to the US for tournaments, just as tennis players do.

What’s next, “World of Warcraft” as an Olympic event? Will US high schoolers be able to letter in Starcraft II? Full-ride college scholarships for League of Legends?

When I was in high school in Arizona, they were working on making chess a varsity sport. Wearing a letter jacket for chess is basically telling real athletes, “Please beat me up.”

I was on the chess team, but I was also on the basketball team, which put me in that gray netherworld between Jock and Nerd. Perhaps I could have gotten away with sporting a chess letter. Alas, we moved before I could obtain a chess letter jacket (which would have happened before I got a basketball letter), so I can only wonder.

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In the Interests of Public Safety

Texting While Walking

A Japanese company makes a mobile phone with a “Safety” mode. If you try to use the phone while walking, you get an error message: “Using your smartphone while walking is dangerous. The phone senses you are walking. Please stop.” Of course, you don’t need to activate “Safety” mode. But still, it’s a good idea. The march of progress.

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From the War on Christmas Front

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Some of the best writing about my faith appears in the Huffington Post. I know, HuffPost is evil, a bastion of liberalism. That’s what conservatives are told. But in reality, though it’s predominantly progressive in outlook, HuffPost provides a platform for a wide spectrum of views.

A few days ago, they published an excellent article for a United Church of Christ minister called, “On Keeping Christ in Christmas.” An excerpt:

“There are still those who believe Christmas is under attack. I think they’re right. But I don’t think stores who have ‘holiday sales’ are the attackers. I don’t think it’s towns that remove Nativity scenes from parks. I don’t believe it’s public schools that insist that Jewish and Muslim and Buddhist kids not be asked to sing songs affirming a faith different from their own.

“I believe the greatest attack on Christmas has come from within. It has come from those of us who claim our greatest hope comes from the fact that God became a person of goodness, kindness, justice, and love. And who then act nothing like that person did….In short, keep Christ in Christmas by acting like Christians.”

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Christmas Cheer in the Nakatomi Tower

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As Christmas approaches, it’s appropriate to recall my favorite Christmas feel-good movie: “Die Hard.”

In the original “Die Hard” movie, Bruce Willis was the sixth choice for John McClane. It went through Arnold Schwarzenegger (it would have been a sequel to “Commando,” if you can imagine that), Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson before ending up with Bruce. I can’t really see Arnold crawling through ductwork.

The movie occurs on Christmas Eve. The head terrorist is Hans Gruber, a German. “Silent Night” was written by Franz Gruber, an Austrian.

In dubbing the movie for German audiences, the terrorists were turned into Brits. You know, Heil Churchhill!

The book was based on another book, which was also made into a movie in the 1960s. The star of that movie was Frank Sinatra. He had contractual rights to play the McClane role in the sequel, but turned it down. The movie then languished for many years.

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Choices, Freedoms, and Consequences

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It’s been a year since Newtown. Since then, guns have killed another 194 children ages 12 and under. You won’t find a stat like that in other countries. This isn’t, to me, an argument against guns per se. As a people, we’ve chosen to have a nation with lots of guns and easy access to guns. It’s just a trade-off in the name of freedom–more guns inevitably bring more gun deaths, and we’re apparently okay with that because we cherish guns so much. Similarly, there are trade-offs for having other freedoms–of religion, speech, travel, etc. Freedom is not free and painless.

In a recent study of 27 developed nations, the US had by far the highest number of guns per capita–88 guns for every 100 people. Switzerland was next, with just 45 guns per 100 people. We have 10.2 gun deaths for every 100,000 people, the Swiss have 3.8 such deaths (half the number of guns, roughly half the number of gun deaths). The numbers were pretty consistent through the list of countries–the lower the number of guns, the lower the rate of gun deaths. The only anomaly was South Africa, with a gun-death rate almost equal to the US.

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A Time for Everything. A Funeral’s Not It.

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It’s silly the way folks are upset that President Obama shook hands with Raul Castro at the Nelson Mandela funeral. That was not the time or place to indulge our regional squabbles. Obama was a guest in another country, paying homage to the life of a great man from that country. In a situation like that, when you go down a line of state leaders, you shake hands with the next person in line, tyrant or not, period.

Imagine if every country used the occasion to snub whoever they don’t get along with–China vs. Taiwan, India vs. Pakistan, Honduras vs. El Salvador, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran, Turkey vs. Greece, the US vs. Syria, Iran, Columbia, Nicaragua, North Korea…on and on. Imagine if, at the Ronald Reagan funeral, the Chinese leader refused to shake hands with the Taiwan leader, with all the world watching. We would have been upset. There is a time and place for everything under the sun. A state funeral may not be that place.

The Mandela funeral was not about the US and Cuba. It was about Mandela and South Africa. It was appropriate for the various world leaders, as guests of South Africa, to be on their best behavior.

By all accounts, best behavior prevailed….mostly. Ted Cruz walked out of the memorial service when Castro spoke. That was incredibly petty and immature. Then there was Marco Rubio, who said, “If the president was going to shake his hand, he should have asked him about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba.” You mean, just stop in the middle of the funeral and begin a political discussion? Not the time or place, Marco. Grow up.

By the way, President Obama’s speech at the funeral was excellent. I’m sure FoxNews will, as they always do, insist that his speech involved apologizing for America (I read his speeches and NEVER agree with FoxNews about this apologizing nonsense). I thought his remarks at the funeral were an excellent message for the world.

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Think About It, Guys

When it comes to traffic accidents, Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s highest death rates. In related news: Saudi Arabia doesn’t permit women to drive.

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Mass Killings by the Numbers

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The FBI defines a “mass killing” as four or more victims. This surprised me: mass killings happen about every two weeks in the US. There have been over 200 mass killings in the US since 2006.

A few other happy thoughts for the day:

  • Most mass killings involve breakups, estrangements, and family arguments.
  • 16% are public killings (like Newtown, Aurora, Columbine).
  • 25% involve a breakup
  • 57% of victims know their killer.
  • 25% are close family members
  • 75% of the guns used are handguns. Semi-auto rifles (like at Newtown) are used only 8.6% of the time–the same as shotguns, but less often than single-shot rifles (9.5%).
  • About 33% of killers don’t leave the scene alive. A quarter commit suicide at the scene, the rest are killed by police.
  • 94% of killers are men.
  • Average age: 31 for men, 33 for women.
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