The Presidential Portrait: Pliny's Selection

This week President Bush's official portrait was unveiled to the public. We here at Wayward Skeptics thought it might be interesting to review some of the submissions which didn't get selected.

What do you think?


Bill O'Reilly VS Bill O'Rights

the season... While visions of sugar plums dance in the heads of some, Dreidels spin, Kwanzaa candles burn, and Festivus festers, Poor old Grinch must battle against the ghost of Christmas past circa 1791.

Oh what havoc doth it wreak and the legal conflagration, against the promise and establishment of a Christian nation. Correcting as it did a flaw in the original with freedom from religion well interspersed, did not spell out the converse until the addition of the First.

To hear O'Reilly tell, the celebration of Christmas is on a highway to hell. Every holiday joy we ever knew, is endangered by the ACLU.

And all because of liberal heart's bleedings, that Merry Christmas be replaced with Season's Greetings. Ignore does he, retailers' bottom line needs, make them reluctant to alienate any potential shoppers' creeds. More likely is it that an Ad man's reason, has more to do with saying 'Happy Holidays' this season.

So before we answer his call for battle to rally, should we not take a moment to review the actual legal tally? Is Christmas really under attack, or is Grinch O'Reilly really just an opportunistic hack?

To be sure no nativities on public squares reside, but every church and many homes display them with pride. And not just Christian icons rule this holiday plethora, for in some windows safely shine menorah. So rather than support and swallow the Grinch's swill, score one for the important Bill.

On this Sunday which serves as a holiday preamble, many worship together thanks to The good Bill's protecting our right to assemble.

In homes where trees sparkle, stars shine, packages wait and lights abound, not because of Bill O'Reilly but thanks to Bill O'Rights do those freedoms remain on solid ground.

No one works to prevent your Christmas from being what you will, but just don't ask it paid for from the public till.

all know playing the victim has a certain cache', but Nero's dead many a year so the notion's passe. You go where you want, say what you want, believe what you want and can pray all your days, but that Bill O'Rights says that we cut it both ways.

So before you give in to the Grinch's false impression, know that in homes and hearts where Christmas really should live there is no repression. So go off and celebrate any way you think fine, and begrudge not the fact that I shall choose mine.

Now as we sit warmly by the tree, my daughter at the piano playing holiday tunes , snow swirling outside, so much in the world seems right, So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Fab Festivus, and Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night...

But before I can go in peace after trying to make my prose sleeker, I must amend my words in light of the advise of our friend Seeker. As he rightly chastised me for missing the Solstice and Eid al-Adha, to my litany of well wishes I am really quite glad to go ahead and add ya...


Moral and Ethical Consistency

One of the things I try to do in my life, with widely varying degrees of success, is to apply the principle of moral and ethical consistency when I'm considering my position on a topic. What's that mean? It's a form of intellectual fairness doctrine that I find easier to illustrate with a couple of examples rather than a philosophical position statement.

How many people give to charity around Christmas time but never the rest of the year? Is hunger more acute over the holidays? What percentage of Americans send relief money overseas but would walk over the homeless on our own streets? How many of us rant and rave about our freedom yet cast a blind eye to injustice toward others?

How many NRA members also belong to the ACLU? Since many claim that their defense of the Second Amendment and its protections of the relationship between a boy and his guns is based in large part on the need to be ready to defend freedom, why not support an organization which was created to defend all of the Bill of Rights? What percentage of Second Amendment supporters who claim to be willing to die to preserve the original wording of this addendum to the Constitution are in support of a new Amendment to limit the definition of marriage? Many who would recoil at the stereotyping of gun owners would seem to have no compunction badmouthing those dreaded liberals who think that the rest of the Constitution is pretty important as well. Of course this doesn't apply to everyone but this is a classic example of the kind of thing I'm talking about. It becomes a somewhat circular argument unless you accept the notion of ethical and moral consistency. If you think the Constitution is fine the way it is, then you cannot support any modifications. If you want to see it modified for some purpose unpredicted by the founders, then you have to accept the fact that any part of the Constitution is tentative as well - including your personal favorite parts. That's moral and ethical consistency. Of course the founders told us how they viewed the matter by creating a method (just hard enough to pull off) to evolve the document in the first place. (I find it hard to imagine any of the wealthy property owning founders attending a modern gun show and writing the Amendment as it is today...). The point here is not to bash gun owners but merely to try to illustrate an example of how we often seem to have no problem being inconsistent in our beliefs.

I'm curious what others think about this. For me, this attempt at balance allied with empathy is my ideal approach to complex issues. And it's one I often fail miserably attempting.


The War on Christmas

We are raising the ante in our culture war against Christmas. My local cell of agmystics is planning a devastating volley against St Nick and the baby soap* On Christmas eve at precisely midnight we strike - none of us will show up for any midnight church services! The media will be in a twitter.

(The baby soap: When my daughter was 31/2 her grandparents gave her a very contemporary nativity scene. She was playing with it and when my father in law asked her what it all was she described all the pieces except for the soap which was a bit of a mystery. We finally figured out that the little figure of a baby embedded in the manger thingy looked just like a bar of soap to her. From then on over the years we have always referred to it as the baby soap... Another reason I'm going to hell....)


Update on posting progress

I'm working on three new posts and they are taking a lot of time since I have to have great references or Ed will slap me down ;). My history of religion, 'tree of strife', is a big one and taking some time to perfect. I'm also going to post a short (very) story that I wrote at some time soon but I will warn you all ahead of time so you can take appropriate precautions.

On a short takes note - the Grinch is already hard at work this season. The Governor of Washington allowed an atheist group to put up a sign in the Capitol in response to the numerous other Christmas icons that were everywhere else. The Grinch was ranting up a storm as he prepares once again to create a tempest in a teapot about the alleged war on Christmas.