Aug 21: 1/5 think Obama is Muslim?
Aug 20th, 2010 by Sam

2010-08-21-samantha-clemens.Mp31 in 5 Americans believe Obama is a Muslim?? What is wrong with this country? If you oppose his policies, then fine. Oppose them. But this made-up stuff?

The Rev. Franklin Graham Says President Obama was ‘Born a Muslim’

“I think the president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name,” Graham told CNN’s John King in a televised interview that aired Thursday night.

Doesn’t seem to matter WHAT anyone says… The truth about Obama’s birth certificate

In June, the Obama campaign released a digitally scanned image of his birth certificate to quell speculative charges that he might not be a natural-born citizen. But the image prompted more blog-based skepticism about the document’s authenticity. And recently, author Jerome Corsi, whose book attacks Obama, said in a TV interview that the birth certificate the campaign has is “fake.”

Obama a Muslim? Rumors gain steam, defying facts

NEW YORK — “President Obama is a Muslim.” “He’s not an American citizen.” “He wasn’t even born here.”

Blame it on the media, or on human nature. All presidents deal with image problems – that they’re too weak or too belligerent, too far left or far right. But Obama also faces questions over documented facts, in part because some people identify more with the rumormongers than the debunkers.

Are Americans total numbskulls?

God help us. Could so many Americans really be that dumb, ill-informed, paranoid, gullible and goofy? It must be tricky being Barack Obama, winding down the U.S. presence in volatile Iraq, trying to keep Afghanistan from degenerating, pondering war with Iran, even as, according to the latest bulletin, one in five Americans thinks he is a Muslim.

Why not just believe he’s an alien from outer space? Or a Manchurian Candidate, programmed by, say, the Chinese to bring America to ruin?

Crazy times.

It’s also dismaying that so many Americans are opposed to the mosque near Ground Zero. In America you can worship wherever you want, regardless of religious belief. We protect religious minorities here. This isn’t merely the law: It’s a core value. This goes back to the Pilgrims, I seem to recall. The backers of the mosques are the good guys, the ones who preach tolerance. There should be no hedging on this at all from American leaders: If we can’t allow a mosque in lower Manhattan we might as well close shop for good and turn out the lights.

The Distorted Lens of Islamophobia
Aug 11th, 2010 by Sam

What if we saw Christianity through the same lens that distorts Islam?

Many people have persuasively argued over the past several years that Islamophobia weakens our security and threatens our values. The fact that Muslim Americans strongly denounce terrorism, prove their patriotism, and serve their communities and nation every single day has been demonstrated in ways large and small. Yet anti-Muslim hateful speech still thrives.

SOURCE: AP/Mark Lennihan This building near Ground Zero in Manhattan is the proposed site of a future 13-story mosque and Islamic cultural center.

Mar 13: on the radio – AIG pay and Glenn Beck annointing himself
Mar 12th, 2010 by Sam

What’s on my mind…

  • Warren Buffet pay*, AIG pay, teachers’ pay, government employees on strike in Greece pay;
  • “Glenn Back annointing himself spokesperson for Christianity”, or, “Jim Wallis says social justice IS a religious issue”

What’s on your mind?

* or, why I adore Warren Buffet…


Should you be legally required to show your face?
Mar 2nd, 2010 by Sam

Five European states back burka ban

Do you think people should be legally obligated to show their faces?

More than half of voters in four other major European states back a push by France’s Nicolas Sarkozy to ban women from wearing the burka, according to an opinion poll for the Financial Times.

Cultural divide: women of different faiths in a street in Blackburn, Lancashire

Feb 20: Does walking away from a mortgage = ‘restructuring debt’?
Feb 19th, 2010 by Sam

On my mind….

  • Is it wrong for a corporation to ‘restructure’ (default) their debt?  They do it all the time.  If not, why can’t people walk away from their mortgages?
  • How Christian Were the Founders? – Texas, textbooks, religion, power, separation of church and state
  • Abstinence education – recent research sez that it works – the more abstinence is emphasized, the less likely kids are to report they had sex within two years of the education.  You suppose some kids aren’t reporting accurately?  You think some kids accurately report more than others?
  • Right-wing Tea Partiers – fact-based?  not so much.  getting bigger?  yep.  problem or distraction?  you tell me…


Jeff Dorchen and his segment, Not to be rude, but…


Jan 9: Profiling, body scanners, & Wall Street pay
Jan 3rd, 2010 by Sam

  • Racial profiling of passengers on airlines:  Does it work? (no)
    • Here’s the post of a conservative radio host named Scott Allen Miller who made the point beautifully in 2006 – check out his Profiling pop quiz – pictures of various people – pick out the terrorist.
    • Here is a summary of the issues from Jack Rice, journalist and former CIA Officer.
    • And here are the results of a study published in Scientific American that show racial profiling is no more effective than randomly choosing from the general population.
  • Body scanners: Do you want this job??  looking at virtually nude real bodies??  what will this do for the fashion industry?  the porn industry?  LOL…
  • Let’s unleash the Power of the Free Market on Wall Street Pay – here’s how!


Liberate Yourself and Enjoy the Holidays
Dec 19th, 2009 by Sam

Thoughts from  Cause and Effect World:  Don Leka

I want to share with you something that our family decided several years ago that has made all the difference in our enjoying the holiday season. Namely, we all agreed to stop exchanging gifts at Christmastime.

When we removed the economic burden and joyless hassle of shopping and wrapping and sending consumer items to each other, we found the freedom to concentrate on the other, should I say the real, purpose of the holidays. You know, getting together with friends and family, celebrating the religious or spiritual aspects of the holidays, enacting or creating traditions to commemorate this special time of the year.

If a situation arises that truly calls for some sort of gift-giving gesture, we make a charitable donation in the name of the gift recipient – say to a homeless shelter, or to one of my favorites, Heifer International. Nothing compares to telling someone you gave a goat in his name to a needy family in Ecuador.

But what about the kids? Isn’t Christmas for them?, you may ask. Well, my modest proposal is intended to reduce suffering, not enhance it, so if you are worried that the kids would be sorely disappointed if they were denied a long-anticipated morning devoted to tearing open numerous packages, then go right ahead – just make it for the kids only. But you might consider just what lessons your kids learn from this ritual, and whether some alternatives are better. Try simple changes such as giving presents at unexpected times over the holiday period; this random schedule can also make it easier to avoid or explain the myth of Santa Claus.

Of course not everyone wants to decline being part of the shopfest. If you enjoy the bustling crowds and you are eager to arrive at the shopping mall at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, this proposal is not for you. But in our family, the day after Thanksgiving is for sharing a leisurely dim sum lunch at a Chinese restaurant – now that is my idea of a great holiday tradition.

Then there is the holiday dilemma: real Christmas trees or fake? There is no dilemma for my daughter in Boulder, Colorado. She goes out and finds an attractive dead branch, perhaps 4 or 5 feet long, and strips away any remaining leaves. Then she and her two kids set up the branch and place all their decorations on it. The economics and the symbolism are far superior to wondering which exploitative seasonal tree industry should receive our dollar. And I think it looks terrific.

Please don’t take my commentary as a traditional rant against the commercialization of Christmas. Retailers have every right to try and hijack the holidays for their purposes. But it is not your patriotic duty to go along with them and let them do it.

And I am not here to denounce materialism in modern life. If you want to own lots of things, maybe to play with them or just look at them or display them to impress other people, go right ahead, with my blessing

I have a more subversive message buried within this proposal of not giving gifts. That is, God did not command, request, or even suggest that you give somone a gift at Christmastime. God has confirmed to me that she never said any such thing. That goes for all the holiday traditions, which are 200 years old or less. But whether a particular tradition is ancient or a Disney invention, you have the power to pick and choose which traditions are worth keeping and which are a drag. That power is liberating, and I commend it to you.

The approach I am describing with respect to Christmas is to decide for yourself what parts make sense to you and make you and your family happy, and then ignore the parts that do not make sense or make you unhappy. The reference point is your own common sense, not what you are told or what everyone else is doing.

In fact, I confess to following this approach in just about everything. But this recommendation becomes controversial when one moves to areas that are governed by tradition and obedience to authority. The epithet “cafeteria Christian” comes to mind when you start choosing for yourself which parts of dogma to accept and which to reject. You especially run afoul of those members of the priestly class who do not want to give communion to those people whose political views are contrary to the priest’s dictates. But the notion of deciding for yourself about religious practices has a distinguished history. Just read Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter 14, which is usually summed up in the phrase “God Alone is Lord of the Conscience.”

And if you decide to join the folks who make their own decisions, based upon reason and common sense rather than upon tradition and authority figures, all I can say is Welcome to Cause and Effect World.

Happy Holidays everybody.

Don Leka

Nov 7: Fort Hood massacre; “Good To Be God”, by Tibor Fischer
Nov 7th, 2009 by Sam

Segment 1

Fort Hood massacre. Florida massacre. The Dr. Tiller killing. Terrorism? Alienation? Religious? Hopelessness? What do they have in common? What is different? With unemployment is such bad shape, will there be more of these?

Segment 2

What does it mean to be good? And, should it be encouraged? Or, does that make it a career move, something you do like file your taxes or wash your hands in a public restroom? British novelist Tibor Fischer talks about his new novel “Good to Be God.” Yup, it’s about a guy pretending to be God, a British guy no less, in Miami. Who is trying very hard to be good. From a review in the Guardian:  “When was the last time you saw hardened drinkers pass around a novel that asks some big philosophical questions?”


Sherwin Wine – a brief encounter, a lasting impression
Jul 26th, 2007 by Sam

How many times do you have an encounter with someone that, while brief, stays with you and makes your life better?  Sherwin Wine had that effect on me and judging from the reaction to his recent tragic death, he has had that effect on many others.  Loving comments about him and his life abound, like:

“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the death of one of the greatest Humanist leaders of the 20th Century: Sherwin T. Wine, the 2003 American Humanist of the Year.”  Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, Greg Epstein, Chaplain

“A titanic voice of reason and humanity has been stilled.  One of the very rare instances whence loss is, perhaps, somewhat mitigated by the legacy…”  People For Change

You can learn more about him and The Society for Humanistic Judaism here.  The New York Times marks his passinghere.

My encounter with Sherwin, yes, I feel I want to call him Sherwin though I barely know the man, was at the Humanist Conference that took place in April 2007 in Cambridge, MA.  Taking place shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings, I arranged for Sherwin to be on a nationally syndicated radio show hosted by Todd Feinburg.  Todd’s listening audience is politically and socially conservative, religious, and had been talking about God, blame, and finding comfort in the face of tragedy in the preceding days.  I thought that it would be interesting for them to hear what humanists, naturalists, people who believe in the natural world, had to say.

I had heard Sherwin speak and knew that he would be wonderful, but this short interview, short interview that has now been listened to by so many of his loving friends since his passing, is an inspiring, touching, challenging statement about finding comfort while looking at life as it is, without rose-colored glasses.

Sherwin was on the show for only about 15 minutes.  However his comments inspired a passionate discussion for the next two full hours which can be heard here and here.  This is remarkable, since radio shows generally switch to new topics each hour.  Truly there is a hunger for, as Sherwin called them, ‘issues of ultimate concern.’

K-StayingSane.jpgWhen the interview was over, he immediately turned his attention to a colleague and friend who was going through severe medical difficulties and pain while eating lunch, attending to me, then going back to the conference proceedings.  In the midst of it all, you got the feeling that Sherwin connected with people in meaningful ways both one-to-one and when speaking with a broader audience.

In his book, “Staying Sane in a Crazy World: A Guide to Rational Living,” Sherwin addresses issues of ultimate concern.  A review of his book says it this way:

“‘Life is unfair. It often does not give us what we want. More often it does not give us what we deserve. There is too much death, betrayal and frustration. There is not enough love, happiness and hope. It is quite clear that the universe does not conform to the human moral agenda.

“‘A just universe is also a meaningful universe. It is also a sane universe. An unjust world is a meaningless world. It is also a crazy world. Staying sane in a crazy world is not easy. It requires a special kind of human ingenuity and determination.’

“Sherwin Wine explores what it means to cope successfully with an unfair world. The first step is to dismiss illusions that hide the reality we must face. Being rational and realistic is not a cold response to life. It is tied to the passion for personal strength and dignity.

“Wine develops the ten steps to sanity. These steps are answers to certain fundamental questions of life. What is happiness? What do I need to do to be happy? How do my fear, anger, love and guilt fit into my search for personal dignity? What does it mean to be ethical in a world that is less than ethical? How can I find the strength I need to cope with the problems of my life?

Staying Sane in a Crazy World is a fresh and somewhat outrageous new approach to the search for meaning in life. In an age when it is fashionable to give people answers that they want to hear but cannot use, Wine provides less fashionable — but more effective — answers to the fundamental issues of the human condition.”

Finally, I’d like to share another quote of Sherwin that I am glad to have found and anticipate coming back to:

“There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.

The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.

This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies.”  Rabbi Sherwin Wine, Wisdom Quotes

Even though I only briefly met him, I feel both lucky and cheated.  Lucky that my life has been enriched by him.  Cheated that this person, this ‘self’, this unique individual is gone, that I will not have another chance to speak with him.  Sherwin had said he would be on my radio show.  Now, this can’t happen.

Nevertheless, he does live on in us naturalistically – his ideas, part of what was in his brain, are now in our brains, for our enrichment, for our enjoyment.  Which we will now pass on.

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