Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Election 2008 and the Evangelical Dilemma

The Christian Right (Religious Right, whatever you want to call them) faces a dilemma at the moment and I'm not sure they even see it...

In 1979 when Rev. Jerry Lamon Falwell, Sr. founded the Moral Majority, the Christian Right in America entered a golden era of political influence. Leaders like Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson (to name just a few) wanted to bring America back to God, and wanted government to reflect the values of the Bible.

The most heated issue on the Evangelical plate is abortion. Sure, they're against gay marriage, have strong views on educational issues (like prayer in school, vouchers, the teaching of evolution, etc), and want to see God incorporated more into government with things like the posting of the Ten Commandments in courthouses. But abortion is THE issue.

The dilemma they have is that Democrats (like me) all belong to a party that supports a woman's "right" to choose to have an abortion. That's the consensus of the Democratic Party. there are individual party members (like me) who don't believe in abortion; but the Party does. So the Religious Right can't support a Democrat. But none of the Republicans this go around are particularly interested in religion. Economics, yes; religion, no. Except for one: Mitt Romney.

I said that I don't think the Christian Right see their dilemma. What I mean is that the Christian Right thinks that their dilemma is that they don't have a really good candidate to support. Rudy Giuliani is leading in most of the national polls among GOP candidates. But he's not very strong on abortion (and he's been divorced umpteen times). I think their dilemma is that they could end up embracing Romney as a candidate. Romney is leading at the moment in Iowa and New Hampshire; if he wins those races he could gain a lot of momentum...

Don't misunderstand me. This is analytical, not emotional. I don't have a problem with Mormons. But if the idea originally was to take America back to God, the Christian Right ought to be skeptical about the whether a Mormon doing that. Why? Without making this a profoundly theological discussion,
  • Christians (especially members of the Christian Right) believe that Jesus Christ was God Incarnate (made into a human being); Mormons don't.
  • Christian believe that Jesus died to rescue us from a hopeless bondage to sin; Mormons don't. Mormons believe he came to live a good life, teach, and set an example for us to follow.
  • Christians believe that we get to Heaven by having faith in Jesus and trusting in the fact that he died for our sins; Mormons believe that we get to Heaven by being good (an error that half the books in the New Testament, particularly Galatians and Hebrews, were written to refute).

Mormons aren't Christians. Mormons find this statement offensive. Unapologetically, I regret that. But in years (centuries) past those who believed as Romney does would have been called heretics.

The dilemma for the Christian Right? Do they embrace a heretic who is against gay marriage and shares a few other political goals with them, or do they embrace someone they disagree with but who at least pays lip service to the fundamental truths of Christianity, or do they stay home on election day?

The irony, if they end up endorsing Romney, is that he's not that strong on abortion...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Writing Online

I write. I have for as long as I can remember.

I understand there's a correlation between hypergraphia and Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE). I have TLE, but it is controlled (I haven't had a seizure in 15 or 16 years); and I think I love to write before I had my first seizure at 14. Fyodor Dostoevsky is supposed to have had hypergraphia, so that's not bad company to be in. But I don't think my own drive to write can be described as "an overwhelming urge." I just like to write...

The Internet provides a lot of opportunities to write. Some of them pay money. Years ago I wrote for Suite 101 about Appalachia. I think they paid me something like $15 a month for a minimum of two articles each month. I later wrote for the Suite about special education issues on a couple of occasions and every once in a while I get a few dollars from them in my paypal account for stuff that's still online.

In 1999 I went to work for About Dot Com. About was more intensive. They paid a minimum that changed from time to time. But the goal was to attract enough traffic to be paid "by the hit," or visitor. I spent eight years with About - first as the "guide for Southeast Asia for Visitors (part of their Travel Channel) and later covering the continent of Asia as a whole - Turkey to Indonesia, Tokyo to Tel Aviv. About had a payment model that included growth incentives after the New York Times Company bought them in 2004 (I think, maybe 2005). I made $7,000 or $8,000 as a minimum per year writing from my living room in my spare time for them. There were years when I made closer to $12K and a particular year when I made $20K.

Guess I'll make that third pot after all...

The trouble About Dot Com was keeping up. In 1999 the goal was to present other people's content, to point readers to things we'd found online and "pre-surfed" for them. Over time the emphasis changed to creating our own content. Then links away from our sites began to be discouraged. In 1999 we had to FTP our files after we'd written the HTML (the computer language that makes pages look the way they do on the Internet) ourselves. Over the years About developed tools (kind of like forms) that we used instead. Then the tools would change and some content would have to be reworked, reformatted. A great deal of time got spent changing stuff we'd already written just to keep in looking right - oh, and learning to use new tools. Then came the image gallery tool and the emphasis on pictures. This year the focus began to shift to video formats. The New York Times Company doesn't want you to have to read as much, so maybe video will take over in the future. (What's a hypergraphic to do?) My relationship with About came to an end a few weeks ago after eight year (which is, like, 56 years in Internet time). I outlived a huge number of people there. It's been something of a relief...

At the moment I write for Creative Weblogging. Their page on venture capital investment in China is a fun gig and pays okay - about $6 a blog post for me. The potential is there to make a couple of thousand a year. China Venture News is the site...

Not so profitable is Helium. I have seven articles online at Helium. All of them are technical articles about education. I've made seven cents at Helium in the eight days they've had my stuff. When you've earned $25 they pay out to your Paypal account. So at the current rate I'll get my first check in 2014. One downside: they ask for all rights forever to anything you submit. That might be okay for technical articles (I can always right something else about 504 Plans or Down syndrome); but for creative work it sucks.

Of course, if you just want to see your name on the Internet, there are plenty of sites on politics and the like where you can post comments. Raising Kaine is an example of one here I've posted recently.

I'll probably fid other opportunities to write online. And this isn't an exhaustive list of stuff I've done. But you get the idea...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Tomatoes Are Out

Lemon Boy TomatoThe tomatoes are out. I put them out today - 14 this year. That's not as many plants as last year but it will probably do for us.

I know what you're thinking if you don't live around here: "You waited until May 20th to put your tomatoes out?" Well, it was 33°F here Friday morning. We've had frost as late as May 31st at our house. I almost put them out last weekend. Maybe they would have lived through the cold...

Yellow Pear TomatoI was pleased this year to find an heirloom tomato called "yellow pear" on sale locally. I put some out a couple of years ago and they were great - nice taste, and the plant produced quarts and quarts of the little thumb-sized things. They have a nice taste and they dress a baby spinach salad up very nicely. I put out two plants.

Mr. Stripey - the Hillbilly TomatoI put our three Mr. Stripey tomato plants. Mr. Stripeys are irregular in shape and two-toned. They grow to be fairly large and look beautiful sliced on a plate. But last year they all blighted and I'm not sure we ate a single one of them. Maybe we'll have better luck this year. I put out three plants.

Early Girl TomatoesOf course I put out some Early Girl plants as well. Early Girl tomatoes turn very red and come to maturity in about 60 days. We'll probably be eating a few of them by mid-July. I have three of them.

What's left? Three Lemon Boy plants (yeller tomatoes taste the best), a Pink Beefsteak, and two Big Boy hybrids.

Here's wishing for a good growing year and the first frost of Fall to hold off until late October of November...