Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chatting with Moses, Vol. 2: Agnosticism & Revelation

Had some more fun with a rabbi over @ Once again, I've removed the rabbi's name for the sake of anonymity:

Me: In G-ds view, is it worse to be an atheist, agnostic or idol worshipper?

Rabbi: Welcome. I'll be with you in a moment...what's on your mind*

Rabbi: I really do not know

Rabbi: because ultimately each of those 3 are worshipping themselves

Me: I would assume that the worst would be to be an idol worshipper since it involves an act.

Me: How is agnosticism equivalent to worshiping one's self?

Rabbi: because they cannot bring themselves to worship a higher being that they claim they cannot understand

Rabbi: so they are worshipping themselves

Me: But to worship something means to hold it as a holy object or deity. Agnostics don't do that. They don't worship at all.

Me: Whereas idol worshipers do.

Rabbi: We are still connected. As I am currently chatting with 5 people please be patient.

Rabbi: yes they do worship, they worship what they think is their intellect

Me: But that's like saying a doctor (regardless of if he's frum or not) is worshiping himself if he's unsure as to how to perform a certain procedure. I don't understand the connection between uncertainty and self-worship.

Rabbi: uncertainty is a gimmick the agnostic uses, he cannot let go of himslef to believe, nothing to do with uncertainty

Warning : You have been inactive for 4 minutes. Unless there is a resumption of activity, in one minute you will be automatically disconnected from the AskMoses chat system.*

Me: Well, if the agnostic is not certain of any particular theology, what else is he besides "uncertain"? Perhaps this person has difficulty in believing something that he or she is unable to experience, be it physically or spiritually. What else is that person to do but be uncertain?

Me: In other words, I don't think that just because someone finds it difficult to believe in G-d, that they are automatically "caught up in themselves".

Rabbi: I have not forgotten about you. We are currently experiencing high volume of traffic, please continue to hold.*

Rabbi: that is an excuse. Agnostics go to the doctor and take medicine on pure faith, they have no idea if it will work or how it will work. An agnostic uses faith on a daily basis, just when it comes to G-d all of a sudden they don't know and can't go further

Me: What? I don't think there's even a comparison! The results of medicine can be proven in numbers and other statistics. The existence of G-d can not.

Rabbi: they maybe can be proven, but the patient has not studied these proofs

Me: But the doctor has. And the doctor can assure the patient that all will be well if he or she takes the medicine.

Rabbi: but the patient is still working on faith

Me: Yes, but it's not faith in some deity which can't be seen. It's faith/assurance in a doctor which can directly tell the patient the benefits of the medicine, person-to-person.

Rabbi: what difference does it make in what the faith is, it is still faith for that person

Me: But it's a different kind of faith. Faith in science isn't really faith. It's about probability. If I tell you there is a 99.999% chance that a certain medicine will help you, you'd probably take it if there is verifiable proof of this claim. G-d, on the other hand, doesn't work like that. No numbers are given. It's all on you. It's quite a burden. And many people aren't willing to take that blind step.

Me: I guess what the root of my question is this: How is an agnostic expected to find G-d if he or she is the kind of person who values rational thought over faith?

Rabbi: is history faith

Me: In certain ways, yes.

Me: At least the re-telling of history.

Rabbi: so you do not believe in history?

Rabbi: did George Washington exist

Me: I'm doubtful about certain parts of history.

Rabbi: how about Aristotle, did he exist

Me: I don't see why not.

Me: Sure.

Rabbi: why do you say he existed

Me: Because to my knowledge there are no respectable claims that he DIDN'T exist. The claims that he DID exist far outweigh any possible claims that he DIDN'T. Plus we have books written by him, books by others which quote him etc.

Rabbi: how do you know he wrote them, maybe they are a fraud

Me: Maybe they are. But most qualified historians would argue otherwise.

Rabbi: and what makes them qualified

Me: Knowledge of what is known of history, which has been passed down throughout the centuries.

Rabbi: and how is the Torah any different?

Me: Fair point. But then I would ask: How is the Qur'an any different?

Me: (And the Kur'an is more recent)

Me: *Qur'an/Kur'an however you spell it

Rabbi: I have no knowledge of the Koran and for all I know it may not be different, a totally irrelevant issue to what we are talking about

Me: It's not irrelevant. You're saying that the Torah was passed down through history and should thus be considered fact because of this. I would then put forward the instance of the Koran, or even the recent books of Scientology. I'm not debating whether or not these books existed, if that's what you're asking.

Me: An agnostic would say that the Torah is a part of history just as the Koran is; just as the story of Humpty Dumpty is etc.

Rabbi: I said nothing of the Torah being passed down, these are your views and you are trying to impose them on me

Me: Okay, okay. What then was your point in asking "How is the Torah any different?" Maybe I didn't understand your line of questioning...

Rabbi: BTW, how is Humpty Dumpty part of history

Me: Because it's folklore. It's a part of a culture.

Rabbi: last I checked folklore is NOT history

Me: Well, is the "blood libel" against the Jews part of history? Yes. Just because it's a made-up story doesn't mean it's not a part of history.

Rabbi: the blood libel is not folklore, and the libels were not based on fact, but they still happened

Me: Correct. But the story that Jews would kill a Christian boy to make Matzah (absolutely bizarre and unfounded) existed. And that was the basis for the libels.

Me: Thus making it a PART of history.

Rabbi: correct, and so what

Rabbi: so you had a few anti-semites making up a story

Me: Couldn't the same be said about the nonsensical book of scientology?

Me: ...or Islam? ...or Christianity?

Me: And with this following of logic, the agnostic has a justifiable claim to believe that Judaism may be dubious as well.

Rabbi: no comparison whatsoever

Rabbi: may I ask you how many people allegedly saw jc resurrected?

Me: I know very little about Christianity. I don't know.

Rabbi: 5

Rabbi: allegedly claimed to have seen this

Me: Okay. What's your point?

Rabbi: how many people heard the revelation that started the mormon religion?

Me: 1, I believe.

Rabbi: correct, Smith was the only one

Me: Okay...

Rabbi: how many people saw the revelation at Mt. Sinai?

Me: Good point, and my friend countered that with this: How many people saw Abraham go on the mountain to kill Isaac and NOT Ishmael (or vice versa)?

Me: In other words, how can we prove that the Muslim claim is wrong and the Torah's claim is correct

Me: There's no way, really.

Rabbi: I am not talking about Abraham and it makes no difference to what I am saying

Me: I think it does, but okay..... The whole nation of Israel saw the revelation @ Mt. Sinai.

Rabbi: how is it relevant, please

Me: Because the Torah could say that ____ saw this. But another book can say that ____ saw that. I use the example of Isaac & Ishmael because it's a conflicting opinion between the Torah and the Koran. One says Avraham binded Isaac. The other says Avraham binded Ishmael. The lay person would find difficulty is laying claim to one over the other.

Rabbi: Judaism is not based on Abraham taking Isaac or Ishmael, it is based on the revelation at Mt. Sinai

Me: Fine. But the notion of conflicting stories between the Torah and Koran comes up, meaning that if one is proven to be true, the other holy book is thus rendered false and made-up.

Me: So suppose the Abraham/Ishmael story is somehow proven to be true, then that means the Torah is false.

Rabbi: how do you propose to prove something that happened over 3000 years ago, either way

Me: I don't! Not at all! But a lay person (not bound to either Judaism or Islam) judging between the two stories can come to the conclusion that since there are conflicting narratives which alter the religion itself, AT LEAST ONE of these religions is automatically false (by process of elimination).

Me: 2+2 = 4 & 2 = 2=5 can not both be true.

Me: * 2+2 = 4 and 2+2 = 5

Rabbi: but the Abraham story is not the basis of Judaism, so it is not relevant

Me: But if there's even ONE story in the Torah which is untrue, that essentially renders it completely false since it comes from G-d and should thus be "perfect".

Me: This applies to any other presumed holy book which "comes from G-d" be it the New Testament, the Koran etc.

Rabbi: you are fixating on this and it has nothing to do with the revelation at Mt, Sinai

Me: Okay. What's the point you're trying to prove regarding the revelation @ Mt. Sinai

Rabbi: I asked you about that event and you throw in this side issue that cannot be proven one way or the other

Rabbi: that it was an event witnessed by three million people

Me: That's my point!

Me: Neither can the revelation!

Rabbi: you are changing your tune now

Me: Neither Akeidat Yitzchak NOR the revelation can be proven.

Me: Wouldn't you agree?

Rabbi: before you said, "good point"

Rabbi: now it is not a "good point"?

Rabbi: you changed your mind pretty quickly here

Me: No, it's still a good point.

Me: But it leads to my connection with the Akeidah.

Me: Whether it's an entire nation or 0 people, neither story can be proven true.

Rabbi: so how do you compare an event witnessed by 3 million people to the Akeidah which had 2 people

Me: Because neither of the two can be proven to be true.

Rabbi: so where is the "good point"?

Me: The good point is that, like I said, whether it's an entire nation of 3 million people or 2 people... the story can still not be proven to be true.

Rabbi: you have an amazing ability to twist words to mean whatever works for you at the time

Me: Okay, okay, let's back up for a second.

Rabbi: Aristotle was seen by how many people?

Rabbi: but you have no problem BELIEVING he existed, or at least that is what you said before

Rabbi: of course you can now show me that is really not what you meant before

Me: It's not a question of belief in the same sense that it would be with an invisible deity.

Rabbi: so I will be patient and wait to hear your new interpratation of Aristotle

Rabbi: did Aristotle exist?

Rabbi: yes, no , maybe or "I don't know", which one is your answer?

Me: I don't have a new interpretation of Aristotle. Generally speaking, there's one solid belief that Aristotle existed. Theology on the other hand, has thousands if not millions of different opinions.

Me: I don't see the connection you're trying to make.

Rabbi: of course you don't, because you do not want to, but I will perservere, if you want me to

Rabbi: did Aristotle exist?

Me: Sure. If you've got the time.

Rabbi: Aristotle, yes, no, maybe? Which one?

Me: I rely on the proof that he did. So I would say "Yes".

Rabbi: and the proof is based on a number of people seeing him, correct?

Rabbi: plus things that he allegedly wrote and people claiming that he indeed wrote them

Me: Correct.

Rabbi: correct?

Me: Yes.

Rabbi: so, let's say that 10,000 people saw our friend Aristotle, I have no idea of a real number, but let's use that number, that is for you (and me) pretty good proof that he was real?

Me: It's not necessarily the number of people who saw him that's of importance.

Rabbi: so what is important?

Me: For instance: If 0 people see a hermit who lives alone in the woods, does this mean the hermit does not exist?

Me: Quality/Quantity. I think that what is important is the quality of proof.

Rabbi: zero people does not prove or disprove, how does that help our friend Aristotle?

Rabbi: and what proof do we have for Aristotle?

Rabbi: quality wise?

Me: Sculptures. Writings by himself and others. New ideas attributed only to him.

Rabbi: and why could not a small group of people get together and perpetrate a hoax and he really never existed?

Me: Technically they could have.

Rabbi: OK, so why do you believe that it is not a hoax?

Me: That's where you get into conspiracy theory region, and most would label you crazy.

Rabbi: many people have labeled me crazy, I can handle that :)

Me: Ha!

Me: Okay, but then the same could be said about 9/11 and so on...

Me: It's a very marginal opinion.

Me: Another example: There are still people who believe that the earth is flat.

Rabbi: but why is it marginal, how does something go from being marginal to being mainstream

Me: That's a difficult question to answer.

Me: Proof, I suppose. The more proof you have for something, the more support you have for your claim.

Rabbi: how do you have more proof

Me: Well suppose you have hearsay/word of mouth of something... That's not enough. But if you locate a document or sculpture of something, that proof has more validity and credibility.

Me: Levels of proof, I suppose.

Rabbi: really does not take away from the conspiracy theory, does it

Rabbi: ultimately you say if it sounds plausible and you have no great reason not to believe that it is true, it is probably true

Me: In other words, if I tell you that Mr. X said "such and such" You might believe me. But if I bring you a video of him saying it, you have more proof.

Rabbi: videos definitely help, but we had no videos back then

Me: Maybe G-d should have waited a few more years... ;D

Rabbi: plus today banks will not accept attached documents in an email but they will acceopt that document as a fax, one is easier to forge than the other

Rabbi: wouldn't have much free will then, but that is another discussion that we are not going there now

Me: Okay.

Rabbi: as it is very late

Me: Am I keeping you?

Rabbi: so, ultimately, things that happened a long time ago are hard to prove

Rabbi: yes?

Me: Is it too late?

Rabbi: but if they sound plausable and we have no reason to think there is a hoax going on, then we tend to believe, yes?

Me: Sure.

Me: There still might be a doubt in the back of your mind, but you push it aside.

Rabbi: I am filling in for another scholar for the last 3 hours, so yes, it is late. Soon I will conk out, sorry

Rabbi: correct

Rabbi: so, all I am saying is that the more people that witness an event the more likely I am to believe that that event happened

Rabbi: John Smith is one guy, I am skeptical

Rabbi: the 5 apostles, only 5, I am skeptical

Me: But none of those people ever spoke to you.

Me: The 3 million.

Rabbi: teh Koran, no clue as I have no knowledge about it

Rabbi: none of the people who saw Aristotle spoke to me either and I will take a wild guess and say that they did not speak to you either

Me: True, but we have documents from the people around them. The 3 million Jews who witnessed the revelation left nothing behind.

Rabbi: last I checked, the Torah scroll looks like a document to me

Me: Yes, but it wasn't written by the 3 million Jews.

Rabbi: imagine the following scenario

Rabbi: you are at a rally. There are 20 people that showed up.

Rabbi: The next day the paper says that there were 2000 people, you say, wait a minute, that is a lie

Rabbi: they can't get away with such a brazen lie

Rabbi: the Jews were at Mt, Sinai and they told there children and grandchildren the same story

Me: Well, technically they can.

Rabbi: otherwise we have an amazingly big conspiracy that has never been carried out by any other group

Me: Can you prove it was 3 million and not 30?

Rabbi: every religion known to man has started with a handful or less of people claiming a revelation, Judaism is the ONLY one which has the 3 million people claim

Rabbi: prove, sure, the same way I prove Aristotle

Rabbi: and it is now midnight and I am actually beyond tired, and I can prove that by collapsing now, but you cannot see me collapse, so I hope you believe me

Rabbi: COme again, but I really need to go now

Rabbi: sorry

Me: Heh. Maybe I'll come back another time and we can pick this up.

Me: Sleep well!

Rabbi: it was interesting chatting with you, even though it does not seem that I got anywhere

Me: It's still nice to be able to talk to someone about these things. Few people could bare dealing with so many questions without giving up within 10 minutes.

Me: ;D

Rabbi: w ehave been doing this for 100 minutes

Rabbi: come again

Rabbi: take care

Me: Thanks.

* automated/computer response

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chatting with Moses, Vol. 1: Voting & Democracy

Had some fun tonight with a rabbi over @ I've removed the rabbi's name for the sake of anonymity; anyways, check it out:

Me: Who should I vote for? Barack Obama or John McCain?

Rabbi: Welcome. Please type your question and I will respond shortly.*

Rabbi: How do you know that I am the right person to ask?

Me: Halachically speaking, that is. Politics aside.

Rabbi: The shulchan aruch says nothing about it

Me: Clearly. But based on the knowledge gained from studying the Torah and other sources, which of the two are the "better" choice. Who would Moses vote for? ;D

Rabbi: Moses didn't believe in democracy

Me: That's true. I've once been told by a rabbi that in fact, democracy is incompatible with the Torah to begin with.

Me: So does that mean that frum Jews shouldn't vote? I believe the Pirkei Avot also mention straying from government, correct?

Rabbi: We don't give voting advice here one way or the other

Me: I'm not really asking for advice. Strictly based on the blueprint set forth by halachah of various sources, is it preferable that we disassociate ourselves with government and/or voting, or should we in fact get involved (by voting, supporting candidates etc.)?

Rabbi: We are still connected. As I am currently chatting with 5 people please be patient.*

Rabbi: I have not forgotten about you. We are currently experiencing high volume of traffic, please continue to hold.*

Rabbi: I will not give opinions on this matter

Warning : You have been inactive for 4 minutes. Unless there is a resumption of activity, in one minute you will be automatically disconnected from the AskMoses chat system.*

Me: But I thought you said that Moses opposed (or "didn't believe in") democracy. So that would lead me to believe that we should oppose it too. Right?

Rabbi: I just made a statement it wasn't meant to direct you on your voting

Me: Fine. So forget voting, then. On the issue of democracy: is it true that it is incompatible with the way in which the Torah and other scholars teach us to structure our lives as a community

Me: ?

Rabbi: In some ways yes

Me: How do we reconcile this conflict?

Rabbi: We don't have a choice in the matter

Me: What do you mean? Even Yisroel is ruled as a democracy, and that's supposed to be our homeland. Would it be too far-fetched for frum Jews in Yisroel to demand the abolishment of democracy in the homeland?

Me: Surely we have a choice in THAT matter: Israel.

Rabbi: I really don't want to continue this conversation

Me: I understand it's an uncomfortable topic of discussion, but wouldn't you admit that it's a fair question to be asking? The fact that no one is willing to answer these questions (I've asked other Rebbeim as well) is very unnerving...

Me: Hello?

Me: Alright..... well, shavua tov........... ;-|

* automated/computer response

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Applying Then to Now: 'Chicago 10' (A Film Review)

I'm an 80's baby. I can't reminisce over the passion and energy of my parent's generation; I can only revel in its mythical aura, retrospectively, somewhat enviously. Activating the youth and mobilizing a movement, the luminary rebels and anti-war rabble-rousers of decades past took to the streets, literally, to demand their rights and actualize a new wave of young visionaries to carry the flag. To many people my age, this seems like ancient history. Too often has my generation been labeled "complacent", "egotistical" or overly "cynical." Truth be told, however, these critiques aren't too much of a stretch. But the way in which our society is built, this cynicism and complacency has clearly been facilitated by the constant bombardment of celebrity gossip, steroid controversies and other nonsensical, trivial tripe - all while masking the real issues, such as health care, education, the economy and the dreadful black hole that is the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our "authorities" have done nothing to stir up the youth, and the few leaders who have expressed interest in carrying on this mission, have gained little to no traction from both the media and the people. In the words of Black Thought from The Roots:

When the leaders is posers, we needing some soldiers
'Why? (What's Goin' On?)'

This weekend, I went out to the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles to check out 'Chicago 10', a documentary about the Chicago Seven (also known as the Chicago Eight ... confusing, I know), a collective of protest leaders who were charged with conspiracy and other trumped up allegations. The group comprised of the following activists: Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, John Froines and Bobby Seale. The film does a masterful job of contrasting nearly forty-year-old footage of speeches, marches, protests and other important scenes, with the notable court room scenarios and hysterics that took place during the actual trial. The scenes in the court room are animated, as there is no video recorded footage of the actual hearing(s). Panning in and out of the court room, director Brett Morgen shows how real it truly was out on the streets. Footage of nightstick-wielding police officers hammering away at peaceful protesters is a tough sight to see. The image of an elderly woman chanting "We Shall Overcome" while getting shoved into the back of a police van will make you cringe and make you internally recite those three famous words from N.W.A.

Viewed from a historical perspective, the film captures that raw energy and emotion that burned so bright roughly four decades ago. To many, it seems like this flame has long been extinguished. But the director and music department made a wise choice in selecting their soundtrack. Archival video of Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin and the other leaders delivering their passionate orations over the guitar riffs and chants of Rage Against the Machine, for instance, make the experience feel contemporary and very real for this moment. In fact, a climactic moment of the film, for me at least, involved a very significant protest scene with an equally fitting audio backdrop. The image of scores of people stomping through the streets and parks of Chicago, blended with the anthemic rallying of Eminem's 'Mosh' felt so palpable. So real... So now... The director's choice of including the famous "Fuck Bush" felt quite suitable, to say the least. ;-D

The film takes you to a far-out place in the past, while keeping you comfortable with the fun animation technology and provocative soundscapes of the present. The message of the film is very powerful and reminds me of that great Patti Smith song: "People have the power!" Like the Black Thought quote that was mentioned above, it's evident that it all comes down to the people. Only we have the ability to change and shape our destiny. Gandhi once said: "We must become the change we want to see in the world." Borrowing from this philosophy, Barack Obama recently exclaimed: "We are the ones we've been waiting for!"

The message of hope, the message of change... it's real.

It's real... if you want it.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Message from Fidel Castro [February 18th, 2008]

Comandante Fidel Castro issued a statement today, resigning himself from office, yet retaining his revolutionary force and "reflections." He posted his message on Cuba's leading newspaper, Granma, today. Here is the article from the website, translated in English:

Dear compatriots:

Last Friday, February 15, I promised you that in my next reflection I would deal with an issue of interest to many compatriots. Thus, this now is rather a message.

Fidel Castro RuzThe moment has come to nominate and elect the State Council, its President, its Vice-Presidents and Secretary.

For many years I have occupied the honorable position of President. On February 15, 1976 the Socialist Constitution was approved with the free, direct and secret vote of over 95% of the people with the right to cast a vote. The first National Assembly was established on December 2nd that same year; this elected the State Council and its presidency. Before that, I had been a Prime Minister for almost 18 years. I always had the necessary prerogatives to carry forward the revolutionary work with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people.

There were those overseas who, aware of my critical health condition, thought that my provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006, to the position of President of the State Council, which I left to First Vice-President Raul Castro Ruz, was final. But Raul, who is also minister of the Armed Forces on account of his own personal merits, and the other comrades of the Party and State leadership were unwilling to consider me out of public life despite my unstable health condition.

It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-à-vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of me, and I felt reluctant to comply.

Later, in my necessary retreat, I was able to recover the full command of my mind as well as the possibility for much reading and meditation. I had enough physical strength to write for many hours, which I shared with the corresponding rehabilitation and recovery programs. Basic common sense indicated that such activity was within my reach. On the other hand, when referring to my health I was extremely careful to avoid raising expectations since I felt that an adverse ending would bring traumatic news to our people in the midst of the battle. Thus, my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle. I kept saying that my recovery "was not without risks."

My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s all I can offer.

To my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by electing me a member of the Parliament where so many agreements should be adopted of utmost importance to the destiny of our Revolution, I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief.

In short letters addressed to Randy Alonso, Director of the Round Table National TV Program, --letters which at my request were made public-- I discreetly introduced elements of this message I am writing today, when not even the addressee of such letters was aware of my intention. I trusted Randy, whom I knew very well from his days as a student of Journalism. In those days I met almost on a weekly basis with the main representatives of the University students from the provinces at the library of the large house in Kohly where they lived. Today, the entire country is an immense University.

Following are some paragraphs chosen from the letter addressed to Randy on December 17, 2007:

"I strongly believe that the answers to the current problems facing Cuban society, which has, as an average, a twelfth grade of education, almost a million university graduates, and a real possibility for all its citizens to become educated without their being in any way discriminated against, require more variables for each concrete problem than those contained in a chess game. We cannot ignore one single detail; this is not an easy path to take, if the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society is to prevail over instinct.

"My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, much less to stand in the way of younger persons, but rather to contribute my own experience and ideas whose modest value comes from the exceptional era that I had the privilege of living in.

"Like Niemeyer, I believe that one has to be consistent right up to the end."

Letter from January 8, 2008:

"…I am a firm supporter of the united vote (a principle that preserves the unknown merits), which allowed us to avoid the tendency to copy what came to us from countries of the former socialist bloc, including the portrait of the one candidate, as singular as his solidarity towards Cuba. I deeply respect that first attempt at building socialism, thanks to which we were able to continue along the path we had chosen."

And I reiterated in that letter that "…I never forget that ‘all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn."

Therefore, it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.

Fortunately, our Revolution can still count on cadres from the old guard and others who were very young in the early stages of the process. Some were very young, almost children, when they joined the fight on the mountains and later they have given glory to the country with their heroic performance and their internationalist missions. They have the authority and the experience to guarantee the replacement. There is also the intermediate generation which learned together with us the basics of the complex and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution.

The path will always be difficult and require from everyone’s intelligent effort. I distrust the seemingly easy path of apologetics or its antithesis the self-flagellation. We should always be prepared for the worst variable. The principle of being as prudent in success as steady in adversity cannot be forgotten. The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong; however, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century.

This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’ It will be just another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful.


Fidel Castro Ruz

February 18, 2008

5:30 p.m.




Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Art of Flip-Flopping

Flip-flopping! We've heard all about it in the political world. It's a humorous word, a fun title to throw around. "Such and such is a flip-flopper." "Oh, he flip-flopped on such and such issue." In an era where politicians are more meticulous than ever to say the right thing, or better yet, not say the wrong thing, charges of flip-flopping arise both left and right. John Kerry was criticized as a flip-flopper back in the 2004 elections for his position(s) on the war in Iraq (or Afghanistan? Sorry... I get 'em mixed up sometimes...)

But I've noticed something particularly prevalent or noteworthy in the way in which Democrats and Republicans have flip-flopped. Let's take two textbook flip-floppers from both sides of the political spectrum. On the left, we've got war veteran John Kerry. On the right, we've got Olympics-saver (shudder) and apparent business mastermind (though he blew millions on his futile campaign) Mitt Romney, a.k.a. "Mittens" (© Rachel Maddow). As we're told, John Kerry flip-flopped on the war, arguably our generation's most trying and important decision. First completely for it, Kerry's support for the war began to dwindle, paralleling the sentiments felt by much of the American public. He soon took a stance against the war, blaming president bush (that's right, I don't capitalize his name) for deceiving the people of this country into a war that should have never been authorized in the first place. Kerry made a strategic mistake and was visibly sorry for his blunder. By most accounts, it was this apparent sign of weakness which led the country to once again support the man - who brought us into this senseless war in the first place - to a second term in the White House! What a shame! I've been grieving ever since...

On the other corner of the ring, we've got a guy like Mitt Romney who has flip-flopped on nearly every possible issue: from abortion and gay rights, to stem cell research and gun laws. You name it, Mitt Romney has disclosed varying opinions and beliefs on nearly every topic that's up for debate. What I've drawn from this is a distinct difference between the way(s) in which Democrats and Republicans flip-flop. While Kerry flipped on a strategic issue (the pressing urgency of the war), Mitt flipped on moral issues. (For more Romney flip-flops, check out

Examine the following scenario to understand where I'm coming from here: Suppose I were to tell you that such-and-such attacked our country and we were going to respond. You would probably support that, right? Pretty straightforward. Now what if I were to tell you (after some time, of course) that in fact the information I once disclosed to you was proven to be false. You would rethink the war strategy and further examine the reason(s) for initially preparing an attack on a country which now, with proper evidence, has been wiped clean of being the original "culprit." Inevitably, this would mean that you'd be backing down from your original position on the conflict. Pretty simple and straightforward, right? Not every one has the foresight to be able to determine from the get-go that the planning of the war was faulty and that there in fact was no need to initiate what would later on be seen as a violation of everything that this country stands for. Only few individuals and great leaders such as Barack Obama possess this powerful quality (one of the several reasons why I support him for his 2008 run for the White House).

Now in this demonstration, picture yourself being either pro or anti-gay rights, pro or anti-gun rights, whatever. Pick any social/moral issues you'd like and make a decision. Now imagine holding the opposing sides of all of those arguments. Pretty difficult, right? I mean, to me, it's a bit of a big deal if you can flip-flop on a moral issue over night, just like that. To me, it's resembles proof and a sign of a flimsy and unstructured moral compass: a recipe for disaster. But as we've seen, this is exactly what the Republicans are able to do with ease. For a Democrat, holding true to one's moral and ethical virtues is just that: a virtuous quality and an emblem of patriotism. To Republicans, morality has been proven to be purely debatable, interchangeable, and over all simply up in the air. Republican embarrassments like Mark Foley and Larry Craig are proof of the moral hypocrisy/ies which continue to spring forth from the GOP. These are the same people who praise Jesus with the same tongues used to bash gays or other victims of GOP mayhem. What would Jesus think of all of this? I posit that Jesus would show utmost love and outreach for our gay brothers and sisters rather than shunning them, and even worse: vilifying them! What would Jesus think about torture? What would Jesus think about the innocent Iraqi civilians who are raped and murdered daily in this global farce for "Democracy in the Middle East." The question is inevitable: What Would Jesus Do? Personally, I think he'd get down on his knees and weep for humanity.

This country's right-wing political ideology is possessed by the stranglehold of the religious right, many of whom are Evangelical Christians. These people preach the words of Jesus, yet apparently rarely seem to understand the great Jewish carpenter's basic principles. Jesus' Sermon of the Mount says: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Have Republicans EVER followed this advice? Perhaps. Perhaps only in the competitive and grueling dog-eat-dog world of business. I digress.

The point I'm trying to make is that I've noticed the ease by which Republicans are able to completely flip on moral issues. I write this post only hours after John McCain flipped on one of the issues which I originally applauded him for. As Crooks & Liars recently pointed out/featured, John McCain, the poised candidate for the Republicans in November, is pandering to his base by falling back on all his previous opposition to torture. You know, this is the guy who was himself tortured during the war which proclaimed him a POW and national hero. Differing himself from other Republicans, here was a man who not only stood up for his moral belief that torture was not something America should subject itself to doing. Here was a man who actually EXPERIENCED torture for five years as a prisoner of war. Of all the topics which he could have possibly flip-flopped on, torture sure as hell shouldn't have been one of them. But the Republicans never cease to amaze us, huh? Torture, the brutish violation and abomination of human rights. Torture, which McCain was subjected to for five years of his life. Such a pressing and dire issue like torture is somehow STILL a position which can easily be thrown around.

Simply amazing... Am I the only one who sees it like this? I hope not. Kerry flip-flopped on the strategies and logistics of a war which was initiated by an administration which has lied to us for years. Republicans like Romney and McCain on the other hand, take folks like Kerry to task, yet feel free to jump all over the place over moral issues. If you ask me, that's completely illogical and doesn't add/stand up to a sliver of normalcy. When will they learn?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tupac Shakur: 'Words of Wisdom'

One of my favorite poems by Tupac Shakur. It's a song with two verses and plenty of great political adlibs. Here are just the verses:

This is for the masses, the lower classes
Ones you left out
Jobs were givin', better livin'
But we were kept out
Made to feel inferior, but we're superior
Break the chains in our brains that made us fear yah
Pledge allegiance to a flag that neglects us
Honor a man that refuse to respect us
'Emancipation Proclamation'? Please!
Nigga just said that to save the nation
These are lies that we all accepted
Say no to drugs but the government's keep it
Runnin' through our community, killing the unity
The war on drugs is a war on you and me
And yet they say this is the Home of the Free
You ask me? It's all about hypocrisy
The constitution? Yo, it don't apply to me
And Lady Liberty? Stupid bitch lied to me
This made me stronger, no one's gonna like what I'm bumpin'
But it's wrong to keep someone from learning something
So get up, it's time to start nation building
I'm fed up, we gotta start teaching children
That they can be all that they wanna to be
There's much more to life than just poverty

Amerikkka, Amerikkka, Ameri K K Ka

Words of Wisdom
Based upon the strength of a nation
Conquer the enemy armed with education
Protect yourself, reach for what you wanna do
Know thy self, teach by what we've been through
Armed with the knowledge of the place we've been
No one will ever oppress this race again
No Malcolm X in my history text, why is that?
'Cause he tried to educate and liberate all Blacks
Why is Martin Luther King in my book each week?
He told Blacks if they get smacked, turn the other cheek
I don't get it, so many questions run through my mind
I get sweated, they act like asking questions' a crime
But forget it, 'cause one day I'm gonna prove them wrong
Now every brother had to smother on the welfare line
The American Dream, though it seems like it's attainable
They're pulling your sleeve, don't believe, 'cause it'll strangle yah
Pulling the life of your brain, I can't explain
Beg as you can obtain from which you came
You swear to your mother that you're living in equality
Forgetting your brother that's living her apology
Thought they had us beat when they took our kids
But the battle ain't over till the Black man sings
Words of Wisdom
The battle ain't over till the Black man sings
Words of Wisdom

...Amerikkka's Nightmare...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Robert Wexler Confronts Condi Rice

As reported on Crooks & Liars (gotta love 'em), Florida Rep. Robert Wexler took Condoleezza Rice (a.k.a. A Bitch Supreme a.k.a. Auntie Tom) to task for the Bush administration's bullshit that led us to war. He grilled her...

Meanwhile, Roger Clemens and steroids gets more media coverage...

America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?

Herbie Hancock on Tavis Smiley [February 13, 2008]

MP3 @

'Jaweh and Allah Battle' by Allen Ginsberg

Another great Ginsberg poem:
Jaweh with Atom Bomb
Allah cuts throat of Infidels
Jaweh’s armies beat down neighbouring tribes
Will Red Sea waters close & drown th’armies of Allah?

Israel’s tribes worshipping the Golden Calf
Moses broke the Tablets of Law.

Zalmon Schacter Lubovitcher Rebbe what you say
Stone Commandments broken on the ground
Sufi Sam whaddya say
Shall Prophet’s companions dance circled
round Synagogue while Jews doven bearded electric?

Both Gods Terrible! Awful Jaweh Allah!
Both hook-nosed-gods, circumcised.
Jaweh Allah which unreal?
Which stronger Illusion?
Which stronger Army?
Which gives most frightening command?
What God maintain egohood in Eden? Which be Nameless?
Which enter Abyss of Light?
Worlds of Gods, jealous Warriors, Humans, Animals & Flowers,
Hungry Ghosts, even Hell Beings all die,
Snake cock and pig eat each other’s tails and perish
All Jews all Moslems’ll die All Israelis all Arabs
Cairo’s angry millions Jerusalem’s multitudes
suffer Death’s dream Armies in battle!
Yea let Tribes wander to tin camps at cold Europe’s walls?
Yea let the Million sit in the desert shantytowns with tin cups?
I’m a Jew cries Allah! Buddha circumcised!
Snake sneaking an apple to Eden -
Alien, Wanderer, Caller of the Great Call!
What Prophet born on this ground
bound me Eternal to Palestine
circled by Armies tanks, droning bomber motors,
radar electronic computers?
What Mind directed Stern Gang Irgun Al Fatah
Black September?
Meyer Lanksy? Nixon Shah? Gangster? Premier? King?
one-eyed General Dayan?
Golda Meir and Kissinger bound me with Arms?
Buchenwald sent me here! Vietnam sent me here!
Mylai sent me here!
Lidice sent me here!
My mother sent me here!
circumcised, my father had a coffee shop in Jerusalem
One day the soldiers came and told me to walk down road
my hands up
walk away leave my house business forever!
The Israelis sent me here!
Solomon’s Temple the Pyramids & Sphinx sent me here!
Abraham will take me to his bosom!
Mohammed will guide me to Paradise!
Christ sent me here to be crucified!
Buddha will wipe out and destroy the world.
The New York Times and Cairo Editorialist Heykal sent me here!
Commentary and Palestine Review sent me here!
The International Zionist Conspiracy sent me here!
Syrian Politicians sent me here! Heroic Pan-Arab
Nationalists sent me here!
They’re sending Armies to my side -
The Americans & Russians are sending bombing planes tanks
Chinese Egyptians Syrians help me battle for my righteous
house my Soul’s dirt Spirit’s Nation body’s
boundaries & Self’s territory my
Zionist homeland my Palestine inheritance
The Capitalist Communist & Third World Peoples’
Republics Dictatorships Police States Socialisms and Democracies
are all sending Deadly Weapons to our aid!
We shall triumph over the Enemy!
Maintain our Separate Identity! Proud
History evermore!
Defend our own bodies here this Holy Land! This hill
Golgotha never forget, never relinquish
inhabit thru Eternity
under Allah Christ Yaweh forever one God
Shema Yisroel Adonoi Eluhenu Adonoi Echad!
La ilah illa’ Allah hu!


Genesis / 'America' by Allen Ginsberg

While I currently run a popular hip hop blog, I feel like I need something fresh. Something to supplement (or complement?) my other site. It's finally time to begin this more personal, politically-driven blog. Thankfully the name wasn't taken. I've been planning on doing something like this for a long time. In fact, back in 2006 I began a blog like this but failed miserably. Now that I've gained experience with using Blogger and feel comfortable with writing as a hobby, the time has come for 'Quite Serious.' For those that don't know, the title of this blog originates from a poem by Allen Ginsberg (see header ;-P). The line is taken from a particularly powerful poem called 'America', one of my all-time favorites. The poem itself is both wild and wise, featuring plenty of humor and honesty. But what grabs the reader (me, at least) are the lines near the end, which are bolded below. They grab you; more than this, they scream at you. America! This is quite serious! Indeed, I believe that while Allen was commenting on life until his passing, he was also visualizing the intellectual and rational descent of America and Americans. The notion of an "American Dream" is truer now more than ever - not that opportunities are as plentiful as they once were, but rather that we are all slumbering in la-la land. We've gotta wake up; we must 'Howl' and scream and shout for what we believe in. I'm "getting right down to the job." This blog is a labor of love above all, and I hope that all who pass through can gain something positive from it. We live in this great age where blogs have become so influential; it'd be a crime NOT to voice our opinion. So that's exactly what I'll do. I may not always be right, and my thoughts may not even always be coherent. But at least you'll know that I'm serious.

Now without further ado, acquaintance yourself with this great piece of American art, Allen Ginsberg's 'America'. Read it with an open mind and an open heart:

America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come back it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I'm doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven't read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over
from Russia.

I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven't got a chinaman's chance.
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals
an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 miles and hour and
twentyfivethousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underpriviliged who live in
my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I'm a Catholic.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his
automobiles more so they're all different sexes
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they
sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the
workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party
was in 1935 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother
Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have
been a spy.
America you don're really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power mad. She wants to take
our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader's Digest. her wants our
auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?

I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts
factories, I'm nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.