Sunday, December 26, 2010

We had a White Hanukkah and a White Christmas

Hanukkah was in early December this year and we had an inch and a half of snow on that Saturday. What was unusual was that it stayed cold and the snow stuck around for a week. That just doesn't happen in the Piedmont of North Carolina in a normal winter. Anyway, we had a white Hanukkah which was kind of nice. In typical Southern style an even smaller snowfall (0.8", 2 cm) meant no mail delivery due to icy roads on a Thursday 11 days later. It doesn't take much to shut things down here.

Well... we all know that Christmas is a much bigger deal for a lot more people than Hanukkah is in the United States, and that is especially true here in the South. The last time it showed on Christmas was 1947. Raleigh had 0.4" (1 cm) of accumulation before midnight last night so it was officially a white Christmas. Of course, the snow didn't stop at midnight...

As of an hour ago we had 8" (20.3 cm) of snow with another inch or two possible by midnight tonight. Raleigh (RDU airport), last I heard, had 6.5" (16.5 cm). A little to our north and east heading up towards Roanoke Rapids they already have 15" (38 cm) and snow is still falling. That's a big deal around here and the whole state of North Carolina is under a state of emergency. It's below freezing so we are also under a black ice advisory for tonight and tomorrow.

Much to my amazement the road I live on has already been ploughed. They usually clear the main roads around here on the first day but a little one like mine usually takes a day or two more if things don't melt away. So... despite the icy conditions as things refreeze and state government asking people to please stay home cars are flying up and down my street. Idiots! I hope the accidents they cause don't block my road tomorrow. There is only one road out of the community I live in.

I shoveled a path out to the street from the front door. I also cleared the area in front of the garage where the snow piled up just in case. I don't have to go anywhere tonight so I am staying home. I'll make a nice dinner and give the ferrets a good, long playtime. There is nothing so important that compels me to go out and drive on black ice.

My best friend is up north with her family and she insists she is still driving home on Tuesday. Somehow I don't think so. The area she's in is supposed to get 15-20" (38-51 cm) of snow tomorrow. Sure, the interstates will likely be cleared by Tuesday but the roads to and from are another matter. There won't be much melting by Tuesday anywhere between here and there. The forecast is for more cold weather with a warm up starting on Wednesday.

Anyway, I hope those who enjoy a white Christmas are happy. I hope everyone is having a great holiday season, whichever holiday(s) you choose to celebrate.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

In The Garden

This year we've had 92 days above 90°F (32°C) crushing the old record for really hot summer days, which have now dragged on into the fall. Today's forecast calls for a high of 95°F (35°C). The hot weather has been great for some plants in my vegetable garden but not so good for others. Overall, so far, it has been a successful year and I've been able to eat lots of home grown organic produce. I've had fresh tomatoes, hot peppers (habanero, jalapeno, cayenne and banana peppers), sweet peppers (bell and banana peppers), three varieties of eggplant, zucchini, okra and an assortment of fresh herbs.

The hot weather seems to have been especially good for the hot pepper plants. In past years I've planted as many as four habanero pepper plants which produced more than I could eat. I give any excess produce to friends and neighbors but everyone is afraid of the habaneros. They think they are just too hot. This year I grew just one plant but it turned into a huge habanero bush, the largest I have ever seen, and I am getting as many habaneros as I ever did in the past. Fortunately I've learned how to control the heat. For example, I had brunch with my housemate and cooked omelets and potatoes. In my veggie omelet I diced up half a small habanero without the seeds. That added just a little bit of a kick and a really nice flavor. I'm using habaneros in just about everything you can imagine this year, cooking with them more than ever before, and really enjoying the results. I also made my own habanero salsa for the first time this year and it came out really good.

In general I've had plenty of fresh veggies constantly since late June. (OK, tomatoes and peppers are fruits but you know what I mean.) Around here we sometimes get well into November without a freeze even in a normal year so I hope to get another couple of months of production out of the garden. However serious global warming may be and however much Americans seem intent on denying it or ignoring it, at least this year's garden is one small short term benefit.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Meaningful Fast

Tonight at sunset is the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Observant Jews fast for 24 hours and go to services. It is meant to be a day of prayer, reflection and repentance.

There are three forms or good wishes I see around Yom Kippur every year: a wish for an easy fast, a wish for a meaningful fast, and the more religious Gmar Hatima Tov, a wish that the person receiving the greeting is inscribed in the book of life for good.

While roughly 70% of Israel's Jewish population is categorized as secular I read this week that only 6% refrain from observances during the High Holy Days. I believe it is the same for many American and other diaspora Jews who disregard observance during most of the year. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are different.

So... if you are observing the Yom Kippur holiday this year, may it be a meaningful fast and a meaningful day for you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The HP Mini 110 Netbook: Almost One Year Later

Last October, after my third Sylvania netbook failed, I took the refund I had received and bought an HP Mini 110 netbook as a replacement. I ordered directly from HP and customized the little machine to my needs, choosing a 16GB SSD over the 160GB conventional hard drive. I also chose to upgrade the machine to 2GB RAM but did it myself with after market RAM rather than pay HP's rather inflated price for memory. My system came preloaded with Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) and HP's now defunct Mi interface. I've now had the machine for just short of 11 months and I am still completely pleased with it.

In my various articles about since late 2008 I've had numerous comments about how netbooks are really toys, how they are underpowered, how they can't do real work, and so on. I have a one word reply: nonsense! Oh, perhaps they are underpowered when running Windows, a bloated and overly resource hungry operating system. Running Linux, as in any of a variety of distributions, there is nothing I can do with my desktop that I can't do with my HP Mini 110. Video editing? No problem. Compiling software? Yep, just fine. Writing with the little, built-in keyboard? I do it all the time. The netbook isn't as fast as the desktop when I use resource intensive applications, of course, but the portability has made it a constant companion for me.

I also write Linux distribution reviews now and again for either O'Reilly or DistroWatch. The net result is that I have installed and tried probably far too many distributions on the little machine. All of them except for openSUSE 11.2 worked well. (I have not tried a newer openSUSE version yet.) I did find some distros require that a parameter be passed to the kernel in order for the installer to boot properly.

The most frequent complaint I've read online from folks who install Linux on the HP Mini 110 is that some have problems getting Broadcom 4312 wireless to work with some distributions. I've found that Ubuntu works out of the proverbial box and on others I need to add the proprietary Broadcom STA (wl) driver. Some distributions package the driver (i.e.: Pardus) but most do not. If you are relatively new to Linux you probably want to stick to Ubuntu or one of the derivatives that use the Ubuntu repositories. The Pardus wiki also has good instructions for getting wireless and the 3G modem going. If those instructions are clear to you then Pardus is another distro that is quite easy to use on the Mini 110. A more advanced user who is comfortable at the command line, with editing configuration files, and with compiling software should be able to make almost any Linux distribution work well with this system. I am currently using SalixOS 13.1 as my primary Linux distribution on the netbook. That is, as always, subject to change.

It did take me a little while to get used to the keyboard but the small size was not the issue. I don't mind a small keyboard. This netbook actually has larger keys than my old full size Toshiba laptop did but the keys aren't beveled: they are completely flat. Until I got used to typing on the HP I made more errors with this keyboard than I did with the smaller Sylvania netbook. Now that I've had the HP Mini 110 for 11 months I can type at full speed on the keyboard and it seems perfectly natural to do so to me.

The screen on the Mini 110 is bright and easy to read even without my reading glasses. Battery life is OK, at something under three hours, but I have not upgraded to the long life battery pack. I am still using just the stock pack that came with it. The Sylvania was better in this respect.

In summary: everything just works for me and works well. The HP Mini 110 is rugged enough to go anywhere and it has been 100% reliable for me. I like the SSD because the system is all but silent and the performance seems to be every bit as good if not better than a conventional hard drive.

Why write about a discontinued netbook now? Well, for one HP has a very similar model (the Mini 210) for sale. Second, there is always the used market. Finally, I've actually used the thing long enough to write in an informed way. It's a pity HP no longer offers Linux preloaded. If they did I would recommend their netbooks to anyone.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shana Tovah

This evening at sundown is the start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It is also the beginning of the High Holy Days for Jewish people, 10 days of reflection and penitence. It is the start of the year 5177, a year that is shaping up to be interesting to say the least.

I would like to take a moment to wish everyone Shana Tovah. May the coming year be happy, healthy, prosperous and sweet for you.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque? What Ground Zero Mosque?

As the debate about the building of a mosque and Muslim community center in lower Manhattan rages on I have to wonder how much of this has been deliberately fueled by the media for their own profit. I can understand why ideologically driven opponents of the project would falsely label it a "ground zero mosque" to prey on the emotions surrounding the attack on 9/11/2001. The problem is that much of the press, both on the left and right, are willing accomplices who sensationalize the story to sell papers or boost ratings.

The fact is that there is no mosque proposed for the site where the World Trade Center stood, or ground zero. There is no Muslim community center proposed across the street or around the corner, either. It's two blocks away. That isn't "in the shadow of ground zero." (A hole in the ground doesn't cast a shadow, does it?) The project, when completed, won't be visible from ground zero. If and when the Freedom Tower is finally built if you go way up on a nice, high floor then you will certainly see the new Park51 community center among the many other buildings in lower Manhattan.

The Associated Press, to it's credit, sent out a memo instructing staff not to use the phrase "ground zero mosque". Some other news organizations, including The New York Times and MS-NBC have scrupulously avoided misleading people about the location as well.

Well-intentioned people of good faith can disagree on this issue. There are arguments that can be made on both sides that are not representative of bigotry or intolerance. I have my own opinions which I will be sharing at length. Before I do that, though, let's at least agree to stick to facts and not allow hype and hyperbole to inflame what is, by nature, a heated discussion.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius On Healthcare Reform

On tonight's PBS Newshour Judy Woodruff interviewed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding the status of the healthcare reform law which passed earlier this year. They discussed both the court challenges and what the new law means for Americans. I thought Secretary Sebelius did a good job presenting how the law will benefit most of us.

There was one part of the interview, about the misinformation spread by reform opponents (read: mainly Republicans) that I found both a bit surprising and more than a little disheartening. From the transcript:
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Well, when you think about what happened to seniors during the course of this debate, it borders on outrageous.

Seniors, I would say, were really targeted with a whole series of misinformed statements that were designed to scare them about the law, to get them to actually call on their members of Congress and Senate to stop it, starting with everything from death panels, which still most seniors think are part of the Affordable Care Act.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that right? Most seniors still think that?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Absolutely. The recent polling says that seniors think this actually was passed into law. Seniors think that there is a change in their guaranteed benefits under Medicare.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The guaranteed benefits are not only stronger than ever. We're going after fraud and abuse in a way that has never been focused on. And the Medicare solvency is much stronger than it was before the law was passed.
More than half of seniors still believe there are "death panels"? Amazing and truly sad.

Folks, find out the truth for yourself. Visit and find out what is really in the law.

The full transcript and video of the interview with Secretary Sebelius is available on the PBS Newshour webpage.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Congressman Bob Etheridge on Health Care Reform

One thing I have repeatedly said about the Health Care Reform bill that passed this year is that if people really knew what is in it the vast majority would be all for it. The one thing President Obama failed to do was to explain the law in clear terms. Perhaps a month ago Congressman Bob Etheridge (D-NC) did precisely that on an oversized postcard sent to constituents. I live in Mr. Etheridge's district so I received the mailing. I've decided I should share it.

For the skeptics out there: yes, this is campaign literature. Having said that, fact check the statements Congressman Etheridge made and you will see that everything he says is true. Here is the text:

Better plans at lower costs.

Brings down costs. Limits premiums, reduces out of pocket costs, and bands caps on benefits. In North Carolina, family premiums will be $1,570 - $2,240* less than without health reform.

Takes care of children. All insurance will cover maternity benefits, eliminate pre-existing condition exemptions for children, and allow young adults to stay on their parent's plans until 26.

Ends discrimination. Currently, women and minorities pay as much as 50% more for coverage. Reform makes it illegal to charge more for some groups than others, and expands access to preventative care.

Lower out of pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

No Co-Pays For Checkups. Covers 100% of the cost of preventative care to keep you healthier.

Makes Medicine Affordable. Immediate 50% discount on brand name drugs and a $250 rebate if you enter the "donut hole." Over time it totally eliminates the coverage gap.

Strengthens Medicare. Reduces average cost for Medicare beneficiaries by $400 and extends the life of the trust fund by a decade so beneficiaries get the benefits they were promised.

*Senate Finance Committee estimate based on CBO, 11/30/09

There it is in simple terms. There is no government take over of healthcare. There are no "death panels" and it won't kill granny. It does NOT increase the deficit. It is simply much needed regulatory reform.

Please, don't believe Fox News or right wing talking heads. Look into it for yourself. You'll see that Congressman Etheridge is doing what the President should have done all along: laying out the facts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finally... The President Speaks Out About the Failure to Extend Unemployment Insurance

Yesterday President Obama finally spoke out about how all but two Republicans have been blocking the attempt to extend unemployment insurance in the U.S. Senate. I wrote about this two months ago, but... hey, better late than never. It takes less courage and less in the way of leadership skills when you probably finally have the votes to end the filibuster. Mr. President, is that the reason for the delay?

I'm still glad President Obama spoke out and did so forcefully. Perhaps even more important was that the President finally called the Republicans out on their rank hypocrisy.

The reason this has been held up, according to Congressman John Boehner, not because Republicans oppose extending unemployment, but rather because the measure wasn't paid for and would add to the deficit. Funny, Republicans are all for extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, which will add $685 billion to the deficit, but are against spending $33 billion to help middle and working class Americans who can't find jobs. If you take away the Bush tax cuts and the cost of the two wars President Bush got us into we'd have still been running a surplus until 2008. We would have had seven more years with no deficits at all.

Oh, and while the Republicans have been playing politics with people's rent and mortgage payments and other essentials over 2.5 million people have lost their unemployment benefits. Nearly one third of American families now include someone who is unemployed, and a frighteningly large number have been unemployed for a long time.

Let's also be very clear about something: most people who are unemployed long term right now really do want to work. In most cases it's through no fault of their own. Here are three articles which explain why:
We have millions of people who now face a truly daunting task when it comes to finding work. Surely in the richest country in the world we can help these people get by until the do land on their feet. We also, in time of high debt and deficits, do not need to maintain tax breaks for the wealthy. It seems like affluent Americans did just fine in the 1990s under Clinton era tax rates.

I hope people are taking note of which party is looking out for working people who have been hit hard by the recession and which is looking out for the wealthy and will vote accordingly in November.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

To anyone here in the U.S. who reads my blog: a very Happy Fourth! It's Independence Day and I would like to encourage and challenge everyone to do more independent thinking. Look at what the media presents or what politicians say to you with an oh-so-critical eye.

Again, a very Happy Fourth!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

101 Degrees Of No Fun

WRAL is predicting a high temperature of 101°F (39°C) for the Raleigh, North Carolina area today, including where I live. They report: "...we will probably see the warmest day so far in this heat wave, the warmest so far this year and the warmest since June 10, 2008, when we saw 101 degrees at RDU." (RDU is Raleigh-Durham International Airport.) It's also very humid. The air quality is not good today, with high ozone levels. I am feeling it in the forum of sinus issues typical of my seasonal allergies and a raw, sore throat. I do need to make a quick run to the market but otherwise, fortunately, can work from my nicely air conditioned home.

Pardon me if I wax political... A heat wave like this is not evidence of global warming. We've always had heat waves and there have always been unusually hot days. What is evidence, indeed proof, of global warming is a sustained increase in the average temperature of the planet over a number of years and a continued warming trend. We have that data and yet there are those, for political reasons or out of plain old greed, continue to deny that global warming exists or that it is a problem despite all of the scientific evidence.

The worst part is that these naysayers, those who ignore science for profit or simply because they just don't want to pay a bit more for energy in the short term, are having their way. Here in the U.S. our Congress is poised to ignore the President's energy proposals and do precisely nothing about global warming or our dependence on oil, even in the wake of the worst oil spill in history.

I really, truly believe our children and grandchildren will curse us for leaving them a decidedly unpleasant planet to live on. They will call us greedy and stupid and they will do so with plenty of justification. Indeed, if things continue to go unchecked I expect that our grandchildren and great grandchildren will have a very difficult time indeed. Of course that can still be avoided if enough people demand action.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Remember To Thank the Republicans

The U.S. economy continues to struggle and unemployment remains right around 10%. The job market really hasn't begun to improve yet. Despite this more than a million Americans are about to lose their unemployment insurance benefits. The House passed the bill to extend unemployment but a combination of all the Republicans and a handful of moderate or conservative Democrats have stalled things in the Senate.

So, come Wednesday, if you've been unemployed for a while you may have real problems paying the rent or buying groceries. Others may not be able to make mortgage payments and run the risk of losing their homes. If you are one of those people please remember who is responsible for this and give those Republicans and conservative Democrats the thanks they deserve come November.

Oh, remember that stimulus bill to boost the economy? You know, the one that the Republicans claim did nothing at all. Well... it may have paid for teachers in your local school system. It turns out states would have had to layoff huge numbers of teachers last year but didn't have to thanks to the stimulus bill. Of course, Republicans tell us this was terrible for the budget deficit and no matter how bad the economy still is, well.... no more stimulus for you. The net result is that close to 100,000 teachers are expected to or already have received pink slips as stimulus funds run out. Of course, this is fine with right-wing Republicans who have been trying to undermine the public school system for decades. If you can't afford private schools for your kids that's your problem.

So, if come the fall some excellent teachers are no longer at your child's school, class sizes are simply huge and the quality of instruction declines please be sure to thank the Republicans the way they deserve to be thanked in November. If you or your spouse or a member of your family is now going to join the ranks of the unemployed be sure to thank the Republicans for it as well.

I listened to both news stories on NPR this afternoon with absolute disgust. Right now there is an insane "throw the rascals out" mentality in this country, with the far right and the Tea Party crazies leading the call to defeat all incumbents. By all means, throw out those incumbents who ignore the needs of ordinary citizens. Those would be the conservatives. Let's keep the ones who have actually looked out for the American people, particularly those who are hurting in this economy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Hypocrisy Behind Religious Justifications of Prejudice and Discrimination

Following up on my post about The Rising Tide of Intolerance In America I'm going to pick on one of the most popular targets of bigotry and discrimination in our society today. When people from the Christian right and also some in the Orthodox Jewish community argue against equal protection under the law for the gay community they often seek to justify their prejudices with the Bible. In order to do so they have to pick and choose selected texts to believe in and follow and others, the ones which are inconvenient, are often ignored.

This was amply demonstrated some years ago in an open letter to radio personality Dr. Laura Schlesinger, an observant Jew, who railed against homosexuality and used "G-d's word" as her justification. Fortunately some people have actually read the Bible, and the link I provided above annotates the letter with the actual scripture. Here is the well-known letter once again:
Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.
So... when I see the religious right protesting outside of Red Lobster against the abomination of eating shellfish I'll start believing they are truly sincere about "G-d's word" and not just hypocritically justifying their own bigotry. After all, they once used the Bible to justify institutionalized racism in America as well.

The Rising Tide of Intolerance in America

This past week we've had Rand Paul, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky and a Tea Party favorite, call for businesses to have the right to discminate against, well, anyone they want. Yesterday John Stossel on Fox News was defending Paul's call for repealing part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the "right to discriminate." To me that is defending the absolutely indefensible. I'm watching the rising tide of racism and all sorts of intolerance with disgust. In the wake of current right wing efforts to justify and legalize discrimination of all sorts I thought it was time for me to take a stand.

I believe in equal rights and equal protection under the law for all Americans. I really don't care where you or your family or ancestors are from. It doesn't matter what religion you believe in or if you believe at all. I don't care what color your skin is. I don't care if you are male or female. I certainly don't care about your private life or who you are attracted to. When it comes to the law we should all be equal.

Politicians like Rand Paul or Tom Tancredo, who called for a return to Jim Crow era literacy tests at the Tea Party Convention earlier this year, strike me as more than a bit phony when they claim they aren't racists. When you defend racism or call for undoing the laws that ended institutionalized de jure racism in this country then what are you if not a racist? Tolerance of and defense of racism is, in and of itself, a form of racism.

The Tea Party movement isn't "beautiful" as Sarah Palin would have us believe. The radical libertarianism of Ron and Rand Paul would turn back the clock on civil rights 50 years or more. I have studied history and know full well that during times of economic difficulty there is a growth of fringe political movements, especially those on the far right. That phenomenon isn't unique to the United States. What is unique to our country is the fear raised among the ignorant and small minded on the far right by the election of an African-American President. It has magnified and multiplied the growth of the far right to something far beyond the fringe into something truly dangerous to American freedoms as we have known and enjoyed them.

Am I accusing all Tea Party supporters of racism? Consider the enthusiastic applause former Congressman Tancredo received in Nashville for a speech that David Duke would have been proud of. Consider the defense of Rand Paul. If Tea Party supporters aren't racist they are at least tolerant of the racism in their midst. Once again, tolerance of and defense of racism is, in and of itself, a form of racism. So, yes, I am most certainly making that accusation. I will repeat it often between now and the November elections as well. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes it isn't popular at all. There is a truly ugly undercurrent of racism and intolerance in the Tea Party movement that keeps rising to the surface.

Some friends have suggested I shouldn't speak out. Doing so, they say, might hurt my business or my chances of going back into a corporate job rather than working freelance. I shouldn't "limit" my opportunities. Frankly, if someone would discriminate against me because I believe in equality and tolerance then I really don't need their business and don't want to work to promote theirs.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hag Sameach! Happy Passover! A Zissen Pesach!

I hope everyone reading this has a great Pesach. For those of you who aren’t Jewish and don’t know much about the holiday, Pesach (Passover) is the celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt as told in the biblical book of Exodus. It’s all about freedom, something which is always worth celebrating wherever we find it. My greeting says Happy Holiday in transliterated Hebrew, Happy Passover in a funny little language called English, and A Sweet Passover in transliterated Yiddish.

Pesach is also about the food! Really good homemade matzo ball soup is to die for. I’ve also have some Israeli chocolate this year and some triple dipped bittersweet chocolate covered matzoh.

Oh, and for my Christian friends out there, a Happy Easter as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The S Word

I almost have to chuckle when conservatives use the word socialism as if it's a curse. They accuse Democrats in general and President Obama in particular of being socialists. Either they have no idea what socialism is or else they really do know but assume their audience is ignorant.

Here are a few questions for those conservatives: You are opposed to socialism? Hmmm... do you want to get rid of Medicare? It's a government run, socialist program that most Americans, including many who consider themselves conservatives, support. How about public libraries? Public safety, as in police and fire protection, that are government run? Public schools? Social security? All those things are examples of socialism, good common sense socialism. All are socialism which most Americans would not want to do away with.

Every successful western democracy has a blend of capitalism and socialism for its economic system, including the United States. The only differences are how much of each. Frankly, we need a bit more socialism in this country. I originally wrote much of this as a response to a conservative in a political discussion online. He accused me of advocating "moving to a failed system of socialism". Socialism has nothing to do with failed systems in eastern Europe or elsewhere. It certainly has nothing to do with Communism or Marxism or the old Soviet Union.

I've often said most Americans don't know what socialism is but the more I think about it the more I realize I've probably been wrong to say that. After all, the good people of Vermont elected Bernie Sanders, an avowed small s socialist, to the U.S. Senate. Oh, and yes, I consider myself a socialist, in a decidedly small d democratic sort of way, much like Senator Sanders.