16 Days To Go: The (Non-Deadweight-Loss) Joy of Christmas

A search for “Christmas” on Google News today yielded headlines like “Christmas donations falling short for children in low-income families” and “Time dwindling to help needy for Christmas” and “Salvation Army strives to fill Christmas needs” and “US charities face deficit during holiday season.” Here at Trading 8s, we have several ways to rectify that:

  1. Donate to Avow Hospice, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or Serento Gardens Alcoholism & Drug Services.
  2. Add your name to our petition to waste less food this holiday season.
  3. Support the fight against AIDS by buying the Killers’ new Christmas song “Happy Birthday Guadalupe” and purchasing some of your Christmas presents from Product Red.

That same search will also yield a few articles like “Bell ringers find joy in helping others.” That has been a consistent finding here at Trading 8s, too (here, here, and here). Don’t miss out on that rewarding feeling.

17 Days To Go: Christmas — er, Holiday — Confusion

The Christmas-Holiday debate has reared its ugly head once again. This time, President Obama is getting an earful from Christian Americans for omitting the word “Christmas” from the White House holiday cards (and, to a lesser extent, for sending less than half the number of cards that George W. Bush used to send). Do those liberal atheists know no bounds in their mission to secularize our Christian nation?

Seriously though, critics have a worthy opponent in the President. They cannot brand him as just another Jesus-hating Democrat. Barack Obama has been very forthcoming about his devout Christianity. He has touted his admiration for long-dead theologians whom most Christians don’t take the time to read. He has been every bit as proud of “finding Christ” as his predecessor. He has earned praise from George Lakoff, E. J. Dionne, and their contingent of values-minded Democrats for explaining his political views in the vocabulary once reserved for “compassionate conservatives.” He opened his heart to the world in his books, and in so doing he expressed the kind of inner struggle with religion that we all experience at some point but few admit.   Continue reading “17 Days To Go: Christmas — er, Holiday — Confusion”

18 Days To Go: Hanukkah as a Cautionary Tale

As a columnist, I know that David Brooks would prefer that I not start this post with his conclusion. When you craft a column, you live in the proud fantasy that the only proper way to tell the story you told is in the precise chronology that you told it. Bringing the conclusion to the beginning of the story simply won’t do. My apologies to Mr. Brooks, but I hope his provocative final paragraphs will entice you to read the whole thing, if only to see how he gets there:

Generations of Sunday school teachers have turned Hanukkah into the story of unified Jewish bravery against an anti-Semitic Hellenic empire. Settlers in the West Bank tell it as a story of how the Jewish hard-core defeated the corrupt, assimilated Jewish masses. Rabbis later added the lamp miracle to give God at least a bit part in the proceedings.

But there is no erasing the complex ironies of the events, the way progress, heroism and brutality weave through all sides. The Maccabees heroically preserved the Jewish faith. But there is no honest way to tell their story as a self-congratulatory morality tale. The lesson of Hanukkah is that even the struggles that saved a people are dappled with tragic irony, complexity and unattractive choices.   Continue reading “18 Days To Go: Hanukkah as a Cautionary Tale”

20 Days To Go: Esse Quam Videri (“To Be, Rather Than To Seem To Be”)

If Alex keeps writing this well, he’s going to put me out of my job. Just saying. — AWO

by Alex Nakahara

My girlfriend recently had to write a paper on this question: “Can we be sure that our visual experience tells us how things really are?” Everyone struggles with this question at one time or another, usually after watching The Matrix. What can we be sure of in a world where ‘reality’ is constantly being redefined?

As an engineer, I have an overly pragmatic answer: Who cares? If I’m nothing but a computer chip that thinks it’s a brain inside a nutrient vat that believes it is actually a person walking around in some virtual reality, is it any different for me than if my flesh and blood is real? No, until Morpheus slips me a pill in my rum and coke. Since I don’t usually get that lucky at the bar, why fret about it?   Continue reading “20 Days To Go: Esse Quam Videri (“To Be, Rather Than To Seem To Be”)”