Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Democrats for Life and the 95-10 Initiative

I ran across a group called Democrats for Life and their 95-10 initiative, which they believe would reduce the number of abortions in the United States by 95% over 10 years. I agree that this is a worthy goal, and that we have spent far too much time arguing about the morality of abortion and not enough time trying to deal with the reality of unwanted pregnancy.

Although I don't agree with Democrats for Life on every issue, I think their 95-10 initiative is a great start. I made a few editorial revisions to reflect my take on these points, and here are the results:
  • Enact an advertising campaign in each state to provide a toll free number that will direct a woman to organizations that provide support services for pregnant women who want to carry their children to term and/or direct women to adoption centers.
  • Direct the Centers for Disease Control to collect accurate data on why women choose abortions. Within five years of enactment, the CDC will present its findings to Congress.
  • Provide grants to school districts that are in need of funds to administer effective, age-appropriate pregnancy prevention education.
  • Provide grants for universities and colleges to support pregnant women; provide resources and support to help women continue their education if they keep their child or make an adoption plan for their child. These grants will help universities establish an on-campus office for counseling, referral, and parenting services for pregnant women and daycare services for parents.
  • Provide information on the accuracy of prenatal genetic testing to pregnant women who choose to undergo these tests. There can be false-positive results, indicating a problem when the fetus is actually healthy.
  • Repeal the sunset on adoption tax credits and make them permanent.
  • End the discriminatory practices against pregnant women in the health insurance industry by removing pregnancy from all “pre-existing condition” lists in health care.
  • End the discriminatory practices against women in the health insurance industry by requiring insurance coverage for birth control, and by providing coverage for birth control to Medicaid recipients
  • End the discriminatory practices against pregnant women by ensuring that women with healthcare coverage do not experience undue burdens in their access to and payment for health insurance.
  • Require pregnancy centers and women’s health centers that provide pregnancy counseling and that receive federal funding to provide adoption referral information.
  • Require any women’s health center or clinic that provides pregnancy counseling or abortion services to provide accurate information on abortion and the adverse side effects to a woman’s health. Patients do not have to accept the materials if they do not want them.
  • Provide grants to nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations for the purchase of ultrasound equipment to provide free examinations to pregnant women needing such services. This equipment will be operated by licensed professionals.
  • Offer additional federal funding for programs that have received grants by the Department of Justice for providing counseling and shelter for women and children in crisis pregnancies. The leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder.
  • Prohibit transporting a minor across a state line to obtain an abortion, unless the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, or the abortion was necessary to save the life of the minor. Requires states that have parental notification to inform parents of state statutory rape laws.
  • Call for Congress to Fully Fund Federal WIC Program. Estimates say that every dollar spent on WIC results in $1.77 to $3.13 in Medicaid savings for newborns and their mothers.
  • Provide Grants to States to Promote and Implement Safe Haven Laws. Forty-six states now have some type of safe haven legislation. (The following states do not have safe haven legislation: AK, HI (Vetoed 7/2/03), NE and VT.) Most of the laws designate hospitals, emergency medical services, fire stations and police stations as safe locations.
  • Require adoption counseling in federally funded maternity group homes and teaching of parenting skills.
  • Mandate SCHIP coverage for pregnant women and expand coverage to pregnant women through Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and to newborns through the first full year of life.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Barry Goldwater and the Pharisees

On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.

--Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), September 16, 1981

Bill Winter and letters to the HR Herald

I found last week's letters in the Highlands Ranch Herald about Bill Winter's challenge to Tom Tancredo to be quite interesting. One writer wasted no time in trotting out the L-word, accusing reporter Robyn Lydick of a "liberal slant," whatever that is. The writer didn't see fit to provide any examples of bias, though, but did manage to include several misrepresentations. The writer claimed, "She even allowed Mr. Winter to accuse Rep. Tancredo of running a 'Crusade,' which is an obvious anti-Christian statement..." However, the actual quote from Bill was, "I'm not on a crusade and I don’t have an agenda." This Christian didn't sure see any mention of Tancredo in that quote, or any attacks on my religion, either. In fact, a group called "U.S. Border Control," which often reports favorably on Tancredo's immigration-related activities, has a highly complimentary story about Tom and his “crusade.”

Another writer twisted Bill Winter's comments about Tancredo's failure to represent the interests of the Sixth District into a diatribe about "pork" spending. Despite the fact that Colorado houses several large military installations and defense contractors, for every dollar Colorado sends to Washington, D.C. in taxes, only 80 cents comes back in federal spending! It sure doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask what Tancredo has done for his district, but Bill was attacked for simply pointing out this disparity!

It's not surprising that Tancredo's votes don't match the views of his constituents on jobs, education, health care, the environment, or national defense, since most of his money comes from PACs whose interests are diametrically opposed to the needs of real people in our district. As for pork spending, Tancredo talks a good game, but his voting record is nearly 100% aligned with the champion of pork, Texan Tom Delay, who is currently under criminal indictment for corruption. We should also note that Tancredo has been one of the top recipients of campaign cash from Tom Delay.

There is nothing biased about making sure that everyone in our district knows the truth about Tom Tancredo. This is a man who has pledged to abolish public education, who has publicly backed terrorists in Iraq, who lied when he said he would only serve three terms in Congress, and who accepted tainted cash from Tom Delay. It seems to me that we’re the ones who deserve an apology – from Tancredo.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Ohio moves to create a police state

Ohio governor Bob Taft is poised to sign new legislation that would allow police to resurrect one of the Gestapo's favorite phrases -- Show us your papers!

According to Channel 5 News in Cleveland:
The lengthy piece of legislation would let police arrest people in public places who will not give their names, address and birth dates, even if they are not doing anything wrong.
That's funny, I always thought that the first and fourth amendments amendments to the United States Constitution prohibited such abuses. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the Republican-controlled legislature in Ohio would come up with something like this. After all, it was massive vote fraud by Republican officials in Ohio that resulted in Bush's "re-election" in 2004. If they weren't worried about stealing an election, it's not likely that they give a damn about the Constitution, either. To be fair, not all Ohio Republicans support this idea. For example, Rep. Ron Hood (R, Ashville) said:

I applaud efforts to go after terrorists, but let's not hurt the good guys in the process. I don't want to see these Gestapo tactics get a foothold in the United States, let alone here in Ohio.

And, it's the darndest thing, but the so-called liberal media hasn't exactly been all over this story. I wonder why not...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Now it happened that at this time Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be made of the whole inhabited world. This census-the first-took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David's town called Bethlehem, since he was of David's House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

Now it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night. An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, 'Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.' And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours.

Now it happened that when the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us.' So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them.

As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told.

Luke 2:1-20, Jerusalem Bible

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bush plans to continue breaking the law

After admitting on his Saturday radio address that he ordered the NSA to violate the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and spy illegally on Americans, Bush said that he would continue to do so.

It seems that democracy and the rule of law are just fine for Iraq, but we can do without both here in the good ole US of A.

If this is not the time for drawing up articles of impeachment, I don't know what is. I am sick and tired of Bush's attitude that US law and the Constitution do not apply to him.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bush defends violating 4th Amendment

Let's review the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Now from Reuters:
President George W. Bush defended a secret order he signed allowing for eavesdropping on people in the United States, as he fought on Saturday for the renewal of the anti-terror USA Patriot Act...

He insisted his role as commander-in-chief gave him the authority to allow the surveillance. He said the program was constitutional, was reviewed by legal authorities and that leaders in Congress were aware of it.
Let's think about this. The NSA is not part of the military, so I'm not sure what being commander-in-chief has to do with anything. Further, I think we need to let the courts decide whether it's constitutional, not Bush. Especially when he says things like, "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

From FAS:
The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) ... prohibits the NSA from deliberately eavesdropping on Americans either in the United States or overseas, unless the agency can establish probable cause to believe that they are agents of a foreign government committing espionage or other crimes. When any communication to, from or about an American is incidentally intercepted by the NSA in the course of intelligence gathering abroad, the law says, such information cannot be disseminated within the government and must be destroyed within 24 hours unless it contains "a threat of death or serious bodily harm" to some person.
So, we have president who said publicly that he wanted to be dictator, who believes that he can do whatever he wants because he is "commander-in-chief," who says that he can do whatever he wants to anyone labelled a "terrorist," who flouts U.S. law and the Constitution whenever it suits his purposes, and who claims that he is the final judge of what is and is not constitutional. Am I the only one who sees anything wrong with this picture?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast; tell my people of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and are so delighted to hear the reading of my laws -- just as though they would obey them -- just as though they don't despise the commandments of their God! How anxious they are to worship correctly; oh, how they love the Temple services! 'We have fasted before you,' they say. 'Why aren't you impressed? Why don't you see our sacrifices? Why don't you hear our prayers? We have done much penance, and you don't even notice it!'

I'll tell you why! Because you are living in evil pleasure even while you are fasting, and you keep right on oppressing your workers. Look, what good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. Is this what I want -- this doing of penance and bowing like reeds in the wind, putting on sackcloth and covering yourselves with ashes? Is this what you call fasting? The kind of fast I want is that you stop oppressing those who work for you and treat them fairly and give them what they earn. I want you to share your food with the hungry and destitute. Clothe those who are cold, and don't hide from relatives who need your help.

If you do these things, God will shed his own glorious light upon you. He will heal you. Your godliness will lead you forward, goodness will be a shield before you, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then, when you call, the Lord will answer. 'Yes, I am here,' he will quickly reply. All you need to do is to stop oppressing the weak and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day.

Isaiah 58:1-10

Monday, December 12, 2005

Referendum C wins big in Highlands Ranch

I just finished an analysis of the precinct level vote counts for Referendum C in House District 43, which includes most of Highlands Ranch. HD43/Highlands Ranch voted for Ref C by a margin of 54% to 46%. So much for the Ranch's reputation as a conservative bastion. I have always known that Ranch residents were committed to good schools, quality healthcare, and a state infrastructure that provides a welcome environment for business and jobs.

I think it would be instructive for voters in HD43/Highlands Ranch to be reminded that their representative, Ted Harvey, was opposed to the measure. Warning: link goes to John Andrews' website.

Also, in 2004, voters in HD43/Highlands Ranch approved issues 4A and 4B, as well as Amendments 35 and 37, and they voted down Ref A. Ted Harvey was against all of the winning issues, and in favor of Ref A.

I would be interested in hearing comments from Mr. Harvey about why he is so out of touch with the voters in his district.

Men and Women

A friend forwarded these to me over the weekend. I thought they were pretty amusing.

She's sitting at the table with her gourmet coffee. Her son is on the cover of the Wheaties box. Her daughter is on the cover of Business Week. Her boyfriend is on the cover of Playgirl. And her husband is on the back of the milk carton.

"Cash, check or charge?" I asked, after folding items the woman wished to purchase. As she fumbled for her wallet I noticed a remote control for a television set in her purse. "So, do you always carry your TV remote?" I asked. "No," she replied, " but my husband refused to come shopping with me, and I figured this was the most evil thing I could do to him legally."

I know I'm not going to understand women. I'll never understand how you can take boiling hot wax, pour it onto your upper thigh, rip the hair out by the root, and still be afraid of a spider.

While attending a Marriage Seminar dealing with communication, Tom and his wife Grace listened to the instructor, "It is essential that husbands and wives know each other's likes and dislikes." He addressed the man, "Can you name your wife's favorite flower?" Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, "It's Pillsbury, isn't it?

A couple drove down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither of them wanted to concede their position. As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats, and pigs, the husband asked sarcastically, "Relatives of yours?" "Yep," the wife replied, "in-laws."

A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day... 30,000 to a man's 15,000. The wife replied, "The reason has to be because we have to repeat everything to men... The husband then turned to his wife and asked, "What?"

A man said to his wife one day, "I don't know how you can be so stupid and so beautiful all at the same time." The wife responded, "Allow me to explain. God made me beautiful so you would be attracted to me; God made me stupid so I would be attracted to you!

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning. The wife said, "You should do it, because you get up first, and then we don't have to wait as long to get our coffee." The husband said, "You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee." Wife replies, "No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee." Husband replies, "I can't believe that, show me." So she fetched the Bible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says.........."HEBREWS"

A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. Suddenly, the man realized that the next day, he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), he wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me at 5:00 AM." He left it where he knew she would find it. The next morning, the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 AM and he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn't wakened him, when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed. The paper said, "It is 5:00 AM. Wake up."

Verizon's latest Christmas present

Verizon announced recently that it was ending contributions to the pension plans of nearly 50,000 management employees, and reducing health care benefits for current and future retirees. Employees will be forced to depend on highly unreliable 401(k) plans to fund their retirements.

Executive management was not affected by this announcement. Verizon's 2005 proxy statement shows that Verizon has set aside over $40 million in pension funding for its five highest paid executives, and will continue to fund their accounts. In addition, Irving Seidenberg, Verion's CEO, received over $11.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2004. He is not required to fund his own 401(k) plan, apparently.

Having watched half of my 401(k) balance evaporate in six months after AT&T bought my employer (MediaOne) in 2000, I can't say that I blame Verizon employees for being skeptical about the motives of their employer.

By the way, Bill O'Reilly says Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Obama says Republicans practice "Social Darwinism"

From Reuters:

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Republicans controlling the federal government practice Social Darwinism, a discredited philosophy that in economics and politics calls for survival of the fittest, according to a Democratic U.S. senator. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, a fast-rising Democratic star, told Florida party members that only a philosophy among Republicans of sink or swim explains why some Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans still live in cars while Republicans in Washington prepare next week to enact $70 billion in tax breaks.

"It's called the 'Ownership society' in Washington. This isn't the first time this philosophy has appeared. It used to be called Social Darwinism," Obama said late Saturday at the Democrats meeting at Walt Disney World. "They have a philosophy they have implemented and that is doing exactly what it was designed to do. They basically don't believe in government. They have a different philosophy that says, 'We're going to dismantle government'," Obama said.

Republicans running the federal government believe, "You are on your own to buy your own health care, to buy your own retirement security ... to buy your own roads and levees," Obama said, referring to flood barriers that gave way in New Orleans during Katrina last August...

Social Darwinism applies Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection from biology to human culture. Popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the theory advocates free competition and a minimalist role for government in society. Darwin himself rejected the application of natural selection to human society...

I guess Darwinism is OK when it is used on poor people. Just don't teach it in our public schools.

The War on Christmas and anti-Semitism

It seems to me that there is a broad streak of anti-Semitism running through the efforts of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh to promote their phony "war on Christmas." O'Reilly and Limbaugh are still preaching their made-up message that liberals have somehow managed to oppress the Christian majority in the United States. In fact, the quest for the almighty dollar is the real reason for the transformation of "Christmas" into the "holiday season." Retailers don't want to miss out on a single sales opportunity, so they have morphed their advertising to use generic language that might appeal to more customers.

One only needs to look back to the 1920's and 1930's and the rise of fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany to see the same sort of nonsense that O'Reilly and Limbaugh are spouting now. Nazi Germany was an extremely religious society where lack of Christian faith was simply not acceptable, and atheists and Jews were put into concentration camps. In Fascist Italy, Catholicism was the official state religion and Catholicism was taught in the public schools. A common thread in fascism and Nazism was the imaginary threat to "Christian purity" posed by liberals, who insisted upon religious tolerance, free thought, and respect for other cultures. And just who were these liberals? They were Jews.

Think Progress has an excellent recap of the latest rhetoric here. Of course, now that O'Reilly has named George Soros as the financier of this imaginary war, things can only go downhill from here.

TR on the "unholy alliance"

"Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day."

                    -- President Theodore Roosevelt, April 19, 1906

What do you think? How is Bush doing so far?

Politics and the Troops

The Washington Post reported this on Friday:
Greg Kelly of Fox News is pursuing a story no one else seems to want to touch. On Tuesday, he filed this report: "Twice last month in speeches to military audiences, the president attacked Democrats and fired back at their accusations that pre-war intelligence was manipulated by his administration. . . .

"The attacks against critics at military settings may have put troops in the awkward position of undermining their own regulations. A Department of Defense directive doesn't allow service members in uniform to attend 'partisan political events.' . . .

"Several members of the military told FOX News that Bush is inviting the troops to take sides in a partisan debate in his speeches.

" 'This is a very bad sign,' said retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, who led Central Command in the early 1990s and is an administration critic. 'This is the sort of thing that you find in other countries where the military and political, certain political parties are aligned.' "

Kelly apparently isn't done with the story. Here he is asking a question at yesterday's press briefing :

"Q Scott, this is going back a little bit, but we've received some complaints from soldiers, both former and current, about the Tobyhanna speech and the Elmendorf, Alaska speech. They cite their own regulations that say U.S. soldiers cannot participate in partisan political activity. But when the President attacked Democrats, they are -- they feel like they were put in the position where they're supporting a democratic cause in uniform. Does the President feel --

"MR. McCLELLAN: Who said that? I think the President was talking as Commander-in-Chief to our troops and talking to them about the war that we're engaged in.

"Q Well, he was talking about Democrats, as well. 'Some Democrats who voted to authorize use of force are now rewriting the past.' He said, 'It is irresponsible Democrats --

"MR. McCLELLAN: That's true.

"Q -- 'claim we misled them.'

"MR. McCLELLAN: Now, I notice -- now, I notice they're not making those same claims recently.

"Q Well, nevertheless, does the President feel like it's appropriate to inject the troops into what is, I think, quite clearly a partisan debate?

"MR. McCLELLAN: No, I disagree. The President is the Commander-in-Chief. No one has been more involved in this war on terrorism than our troops and their families. And our troops understand the importance of the mission."

Here are the transcripts of Bush's remarks at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska on November 14; and Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania, on November 11. At the air force base, for example, Bush said that "some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They are playing politics with this issue and they are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy."
It seems that Bush really wants fascism to be on the march, not freedom. Thankfully, our military consists of honorable men and women who are fully capable of seeing through these despicable acts, and who have sworn to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution. Pray for them. Please.

The Christmas Story

Religious has an interesting summary of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth here. I have excerpted parts of it below:
  • Gospel of Q: This gospel was written circa 50 CE, probably before any of the books that became the Christian Scirptures (New Testament). Although it has been lost, theologians have been able to reconstruct its text. It does not mention Jesus' birth as being in any way special. One can assume that the Christians at the time had not yet developed a birth myth.
  • Writings of Paul: These were probably written a few years after the Gospel of Q, and pre-dated the remaining gospels by up to 5 decades. He makes reference to Jesus' birth in two passages. In both cases, the virgin birth and the miracles associated with the birth were not mentioned. Jesus was presented as having a normal birth:
    • Galatians 4:4: "But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law."
    • Romans 1:3: "...Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh."
  • Mark: This gospel was written by an unknown author circa 70 CE. He apparently knew nothing about miraculous events associated with Jesus' birth, and thus did not record any in his writings. If he were aware of them, he certainly would have mentioned them.
  • Matthew: This was written by another unknown author, probably a Jew who lived remote from Palestine. He wrote the Gospel circa 80 CE, presumably after some of the early Christian movements had invented miraculous traditions associated with Jesus' birth. Most of the elements associated with this myth appear to have never happened:
    • Matthew 1:1: The author traces Jesus' genealogy from Abraham. He lists Jacob as being Jesus' grandfather. This conflicts with Luke, who lists Eli. Jesus' line is traced through Solomon, son of David. Luke traces the Messianic line through Nathan, son of David. The author lists 28 generations between David and Jesus; Luke says it was 41.
    • Matthew 1:18: The virgin conception of Jesus by Mary is an obvious myth. The Gospel of Q does not mention it. St. Paul not only does not mention it, but implies that Jesus' birth was normal. The author of the Gospel probably invented the virgin birth so that the story of Jesus' could compete with the magical conception of many heroes and gods in surrounding Pagan religions: e.g. Horus (circa 1550 BCE), Zoroaster (1000 - 1500 BCE?), Krishna (circa 1200 BCE), Indra (circa 750 BCE), Buddha (circa 600 BCE), Mithra (circa 500 BCE), Quirrnus (circa 550 BCE), Attis (circa 200 BCE), Adonis (born in Bethlehem many centuries before Jesus).
    • Matthew 1:22: The author cites a passage in an ancient Greek translation of Isaiah. The translation was an error: it substituted "virgin" for "young woman." Matthew and Luke probably felt compelled to go along with the expectation that Jesus' mother was a virgin.
    • Matthew 2:1: The story of the Magi coming to Palestine to give homage to the King of the Jews appears to have been freely adapted from the story of Mithra's birth. He was mythical Persian savior, also allegedly born of a virgin on DEC-25, who was worshiped many centuries before Jesus' birth
    • Matthew 2:7: Herod inquired as to the exact time that the star appeared. According to Matthew 2:16, this was to learn exactly when Jesus was born, so that he could have all of the male children of a suitable age in the Bethlehem area murdered. Since he later ordered all of the children under 2 years of age slaughtered, Jesus must have been living with his parents in Bethlehem for many months by the time that the Magi arrived - perhaps at least a year. If Jesus had been just born, then Herod would have ordered only newborn infants killed. This conflicts with Luke 2:39 which states that when Mary was ritually purified 40 days after the birth, that the family returned to Nazareth immediately afterwards.
    • Matthew 2:9: The story element which has the Magi following a star is obvious mythical. Any star or super-nova or comet or alignment of planets would obviously be tens or hundreds of millions of miles away from earth. In order to serve as a marker for the house in Bethlehem where Jesus was, it would have to be only a few hundred feet above the town.
    • Matthew 2:11: The author presents Joseph and Mary as being residents of Bethlehem, living in a house. This conflicts with Luke's account which describes Jesus' parents as residents of Nazareth and only temporary visitors to Bethlehem
    • Matthew 2:13: The author describes the family fleeing to Egypt. No record of this is seen in Luke. It was apparently added to the gospel in order to match the prophecy in Hosea 11:1 that the Messiah must come out of Egypt.
    • Matthew 2:16: Herod's extermination order is certainly a myth, as described above.
    • Matthew 2:23: Joseph and Mary bypassed Judea and settled in Nazareth. The prophecy that "He will be called a Nazarene" does not exist in the Hebrew Scriptures.
  • Luke: This gospel was written by an unknown author circa 90 CE. He was probably the only writer in the Christian Scriptures who was not born a Jew. Originally, it was believed that the author of Luke and Acts was a physician. But recent analysis of the text indicates that his medical knowledge was typical of any educated person of his era. The Christmas story that we see portrayed in plays and pageants is most often taken from this gospel. Matthew's mention of the Magi is then tacked onto the end. Some suspicious elements from Luke's birth story are:
    • Luke 3:38: As noted above, Luke's genealogy cannot be reconciled with Matthew's.
    • Luke 1:26: The description of the virgin conception is, as described above, an attempt to make a mistranslated prophecy from the Hebrew Scriptures come true. Alternately the author might have incorporated a birth tradition invented by his religious group in order to make Jesus appear to be a great hero or god, like those of the surrounding religions in the Mediterranean.
    • Luke 2:1: The census never happened.
    • Luke 2:2: Even if a census did occur at the time of Jesus' birth, the people would not have been required to return to their ancestral home. That would be a totally impractical arrangement. If it happened this way, all work throughout the Roman Empire would stop. Some people would have had to travel for months to return to their ancestral home. The transportation infrastructure could not possibly have handled the flood of travelers.
    • Luke 2:5: Joseph would not have taken Mary with him, even if he had to go to Bethlehem to register. Only men were enumerated or taxed, so there was no necessity for her to accompany Joseph. Mary's pregnancy was in its 9th month at the time. She would not have been in a condition to travel.
    • Luke 2:8: The author seems to have invented the shepherds; the latter do not appear in Matthew.
    • Luke 2:39: The author describes Joseph and Mary as being residents of Nazareth. This is probably true, but conflicts with Matthew's story which has them living in Bethlehem, and only deciding to go to Nazareth because it would be too dangerous to remain in Judea.
    • Luke 2:39: Luke describes them as going directly from Bethlehem to Nazareth. This conflicts with Matthew's account which has them fleeing to Egypt and only returning after Herod died. At least one of these accounts must be wrong.
  • John: This gospel was written by one or more authors circa 100 CE. The writers would have certainly been aware of the birth stories of Matthew and Luke. But they seem to have rejected the stories as myths, and not worthy of being incorporated into their gospel.
What is the point of highlighting all of these discrepancies? Once again, it is to point out the folly of literal interpretation of the Bible and and of insistence on biblical inerrancy. Any enterprise that involves humans can never be inerrant, so why do so many on the right persist in such a fruitless cause?

But, that does not mean that we should reject all of the events associated with the Christmas season, just because the Gospels are seemingly contradictory or just plain wrong. They were intended to tell us the story of Christ's humble birth, which has inspired Christians for centuries. The Son of man was no friend of the rich and haughty. He was the Prince of Peace -- a poor commoner and the son of a carpenter and his young wife.

That is the real Christmas story.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"Christians" physically assault professor

CBS News reported that two assailants attacked a University of Kansas religious studies professor who had planned to teach a course next year that was critical of creationism and intelligent design.

Apparently, the attackers referred to the class while beating the professor with their fists and a metal object.

Somewhere Jesus is weeping. Again.

Monday, December 05, 2005

So much for the American worker...

The Center for American Progress published this analysis of the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Inflation-adjusted weekly earnings in October were 0.7 percent lower than in March 2001. Today's figures from the BLS show wages continued to be flat or even lower than at the start of the business cycle in November. ...for production, non-supervisory workers, the vast majority of workers, ...weekly earnings actually fell by 0.1 percent, before the effects of inflation are even taken into account.

Importantly, without stronger, prolonged, broad based employment growth and a clear turn around in wages, middle-class families will continue to struggle under a mountain of debt amassed over the past few years. In the second quarter of 2005, the last period for which data are available, households had to spend a record 13.6 percent of their disposable income to service their outstanding debt. In the third quarter of 2005, all banks reported that the ratio of consumer loans, including credit card debt and other consumer loans, that were in default rose to over 3 percent for the first time in more than two years.
I don't know about you, but pretty much everybody I know is worse off than they were when Bush took office. Even though I now work for a major aerospace firm, I spent 18 months on the street looking for a full-time job between 2001 and 2003 and had no choice but to take the salary they offered me. I won't catch up to my pre-Bush salary for another couple of years at least.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Real Story of Christmas

Thanks to Corrente for this tidbit from the History Channel. Note the last sentence:
In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America's new constitution. Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
It was interesting to see that with all of O'Reilly's noise, Fox's own website didn't contain a single reference to Christmas, using generic references to the "holiday season" instead. Of course, after this little bit of hypocrisy was pointed out by the blogosphere, Fox made a rapid editorial revision to the site and plastered references to Christmas everywhere.

Physician, heal thyself.