Three for Thurman

Like many folks, I often tune in to YouTube.  Yesterday, a commercial came on and I was displeased to find that it was a staggering eighteen minutes long, much longer than the video I wanted to see.  Now, normally I’d simply reload the page, but when I discovered that it starred Uma Thurman, I decided to give it a shot.  In general, I appreciate Thurman’s films, except for the absolutely dreadful Batman & Robin.

I thought it was quite good and discovered two more short films with Ms. Thurman which you can find below.

I’m not quite sure why Jameson Irish Whiskey is crafting these projects, but I think they are entertaining and, although not political, I hope you’ll find them interesting as well.

The Palestine Problem

Image found on Wikipedia of the conflict
Image found on Wikipedia of the conflict

A guest post from Ninan Mathulla

Palestine is an international issue that has so far eluded human wisdom to solve it. It is impossible to reason and come to terms when emotions are entangled with the issue.

From the Palestinian view point there is no justification for the plight and sufferings of the Palestinians. They were evicted from land their ancestors have lived for thousands of years where their parents and grand parent’s graves are located. None of the Justice codes of the present day civilized countries can justify what has happened and is happening. So this is an issue that has evaded human wisdom so far in solving it. Eminent diplomats and statesmen sincerely tried to crack this nut with all the ammunitions in their arsenal, and of no avail.

Before we can get to the root cause of the difficulty in solving this problem, we have to turn to lessons from history. The solution to the problem depends on the answer to the question, to whom does the land belong? What is the criterion used to determine ownership. The land belongs to the person who is the cause behind it. Who is the cause behind it? Is it created or just formed through Big Bang. Scientists admit that nothing comes from nothing, and there must be a reason behind everything. With this argument we have to admit that God must be the reason behind the land. Now you might ask who created God. Our knowledge of God is limited to what is revealed to us by God. If you have something in your mind and you do not want to reveal it, there is no way to find it out. Same way the mystery is unsearchable for the time being.

Based on a person’s knowledge, understanding and experience, one can believe either way. But the truth is only one no matter what a person believes. Our faith can change as our understanding change.

So if the land belongs to God, the owner has every right to give it to anybody. If you learn history, God gave this right to different cultures at different periods in History. Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and the ten empires that came after the Roman empire, the last being the British empire are all cultures God used to hand over this right of ownership. God is the author of history, and God allowed each culture a certain point in time to rise, reach its zenith and decline and set. Vestiges of all these cultures are still around us, cherishing and nourishing the memories of their glorious past. If they try to go back to the old boundaries, it is racing against time, and of no use other than bloodshed. None of the ruling cultures in the countries of the world today are inhabitants of the land they are ruling. Their ancestors moved in from elsewhere, and subdued the inhabitants that came their earlier. Some are trying to rewrite history and prove that they were the original inhabitants of the country to establish a claim for the land.

Now what claim the Israelites have on the land that they claim as their own? God let the Canaanites rule the land initially, and then removed the Canaanites and gave the land to Israel for a certain period. Assyrians captured the northern kingdom and took the Israelites captives and settled them elsewhere in the kingdom. They brought other races and settled them in the Northern kingdom of Israel, and the mixed race was called Samaritans. Next God allowed the Babylonians the rulers of the world. They took the Southern kingdom of Judah captives and took them to Babylon and settled them there, and brought other races from elsewhere and settled them in Judah. Next God made the Persians the rulers of the world, and Cyrus allowed the Jews to come back to Judah and settle there. Romans were the rulers of the world next. In AD 70 Titus destroyed the third temple built by Herod the Great, and Jews were scattered all over the world to be a blessing for others, to literally fulfill the prophecy to Abraham, “Thou shall be a blessing”. Before that Christ was born in the family of Abraham and spiritually all the cultures of the world are blessed with the faith in Christ for victory over death, and for eternal life. After the Romans God allowed the children of Ishmael, Abraham’s son through Hagar the Egyptian maid to be rulers of the world through first and second Caliphates.

Now you can see that God allowed different cultures to rule over others. Did God give the land to the Israelites to hold on to it for ever? The answer is No. If so, they wouldn’t have to live in distant places as slaves. So their argument that in Bible the boundaries of their land were such and such, and so we have a right to the land will not hold any water. Do you allow the Persians and Italians to go back to their old boundaries?

Now what claim the Palestinians have on the land they lived before? God in his mercy allowed their ancestors to live there for thousands of years while the Jews were evicted from there. They have no permanent right to this land. Land belong to God, and God can give it to any culture God wants, no matter how close one culture try to hold on to it.

This understanding will take the pride away from both groups, and help to untangle the emotions attached to the issue.

Now after thousands of years, God allowed the Jews to come back and settle in the land through evens in history. God is the author of history. The Palestinians and Jews are cousin brothers. The Palestinians are children of Abraham through Kethura and Ishmael. The only difference is that they are of two different religions.

What is the tradition of Abraham to resolve a conflict between him and his brother’s son Lot? Instead of fighting over the land and killing each other, Abraham was ready to make Lot happy and settle the issue. Both got their share of the land. They didn’t kill each other.

Abraham was of the noblest character. He stands way up for us to reach in his character. When the king of Sodom ask Abraham to keep all the plunder that he brought back after defeating the enemy kings, Abraham’s reply is strange. I will not take a string or sandal from it, lest one day you say that I enriched Abraham. Abraham had so much faith in God that his life was secure in God. Now insecurity is rampant everywhere. Even if the whole world is under control, still some are insecure and want more possessions and wealth. The root cause is a lack of faith in God and His provisions.

Palestinians need to settle the issue by negotiating with Israel with the understanding that it is God’s hand that allowed them to settle in the land. Israel needs to consider Palestinians as brothers and look to Abraham, their great Grandfather and his tradition to resolve this conflict.

If I have to sleep peacefully, I need to make sure that my neighbor is not hungry. Same way if I provoke my neighbor, I can loose my sleep.

The United States can take the initiative to compensate the Palestinians with the help of other nations. Make sure that their reasonable hopes and aspirations are fulfilled. Bless others to be blessed. Be a blessing to others for your generation to be blessed.

I like to conclude with a story my father told me when I was eight years old. This is a story familiar to Jews.

Ornan (Aravana of Bible) and his brother were doing joint farming. Wheat was harvested and divided equally on the threshing floor. Ornan’s brother went home to rest leaving his brother to watch for the wheat.

While his brother was gone, Ornan said to himself. ‘My brother is younger than me. He has more wives and children. Since he is very proud he will not accept if I offer a portion from my share of wheat to him’. Without anybody watching, Ornan took a portion of the wheat from his share and transferred it to his brother’s share.

Now, Ornan’s brother came back. Leaving him to watch over the wheat, Ornan went home. Ornan’s brother said to himself, ‘He is my elder brother. He has helped me on many occasions. If I give him back he will not take it’. Without anybody watching, Ornan’s brother took a portion of the wheat and transferred it to Ornan’s share.

Heaven was keenly watching this strange behavior- a moment Heaven and Earth, or the vertical and horizontal met together.

They started to move the wheat to their homes. After a while they noticed that the quantity of wheat was not coming down. When they remove wheat, the same amount was still left there. Now they were forced to reveal what happened, and the wheat stopped multiplying.

It is here that Psalms 133 is fulfilled. “It is very good and pleasant when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore”.

It was on this threshing floor that the first temple that Solomon built. In the book of Chronicles it is recorded that King David took a census of the people from his own pride to show his majesty. 70,000 people perished. David saw the angel of God standing on the threshing floor of Ornan (Aravana) the Jebusite with drawn out sword against Jerusalem.

Prophet Gad approached David, and asked him to build an altar on the threshing floor of Ornan. David bought the land from Ornan and built an altar there and sacrificed to the Lord and worshiped. Solomon built the first temple on this threshing floor. It is believed that this is the spot on Mount Moriah that Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac. God pointed the Holy land to David to build the temple.

Hope one day the Israelites and Palestinians will come to terms, and live in peace as brothers. Skill in action is in removing the emotions from the issue. Then things can be viewed in its right perspective.

Ninan Mathullah is a graduate of The University of Texas, Houston, in Health Sciences, and holds a Masters Degree (Industrial Fisheries) from University of Cochin, in Science. Currently he is working as a Microbiologist in Public Health in Houston, Texas. He is the Founding President of Community Association for Public Service (CAPS), a growing Community and charitable organization in Houston. He is married with wife Mercy and children, Jerry and Joel.  You can find his website at http://www.bvpublishing.org/

GOP Declares GOP Victory

Every so often I receive political emails that can only be considered a complete waste of electronic ink. Today, after the first senatorial debate in Virginia, I got such a message.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced that they have picked a winner.  Drumroll please…why it is none other that Republican nominee Ed Gillespie. What a surprise! While they are at it, I wonder why they didn’t declare the sky to be blue or that tomorrow the sun will rise in the east.

Who do they get to write these emails and why to they think it is important news for a Republican organization to declare the Republican a winner?

Now, I don’t mean to pick on the Republicans here. I’ve seen Democrats and Libertarians do likewise. But such an action shouldn’t be considered news either.

Earlier this week I attended a meeting of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors. During the public comment period, dozens of folks got up to speak regarding the issue of illegal immigration. And, if I am being objectively honest, I thought a self proclaimed son of Irish immigrants gave the best speech. Now did I agree with his position? No. Nevertheless, I thought his delivery and arguments were well crafted.

There is a temptation to fall into the trap to declare that the person with whom you agree is the clear victor, but I’m hoping we can aim for a little more objectivity. I must confess, I didn’t watch the debate because the organizers excluded one of the candidates. Therefore, I cannot offer any thoughts as to which of the two candidates performed better. Maybe it was Warner, maybe it was Gillespie. But, I encourage you to figure that out for yourself.

Debating Injustice

IMG_2458
Ed Gillespie

On July 14th, Republican Senate candidate Ed Gillespie sent out a press release announcing that he has accepted an additional three upcoming debates at JMU, UVA, and George Mason.  As the notice goes on to say, incumbent Mark Warner has only agreed to one debate thus far.

When I saw this email from the Gillespie campaign, the question that first popped into my mind was, will all three of the candidates who will be on the November ballot be allowed to participate?  The answer, unfortunately, is no.  As was the case in Virginia’s gubernatorial race last year, at this point the Libertarian Robert Sarvis will be excluded.

I must confess that I think denying a spot to one of the candidates is a great injustice.  After all, how will voters be able to learn about all of their choices if all are not allowed the same opportunity to participate?

Ron Paul's official congressional photo as found on Wikipedia
Ron Paul’s official congressional photo as found on Wikipedia

I was blissfully unaware of these exclusionary policies until I went to work for Ron Paul in 2007.  On January 6th, two days before the 2008 New Hampshire Republican primary, my boss, Ron Paul, was not permitted to take part in this final debate.  Despite Fox News’ intentional efforts to erase him from the spotlight, he still managed to win one county in New Hampshire.

Photo from Gary Johnson's Facebook page
Photo from Gary Johnson’s Facebook page

In 2012, it was Gary Johnson’s turn to fall under the thumb of exclusion.  Even though he was the former Governor of New Mexico, he was only allowed to participate in two of the Republican debates.  What was equally curious was that Herman Cain, who has never held elective office and dropped out of the race before any vote was cast, was invited to every single one.  How can anyone make the claim that this is fair?  Given he was so routinely ignored, (coupled with some philosophical differences) who could fault Johnson for leaving the GOP and joining the Libertarian Party?

Robert Sarvis at the 2014 LPVA convention
Robert Sarvis at the 2014 LPVA convention

Getting back to my main point, after I heard that Sarvis would be excluded, I contacted a number of the host organizations and venues to voice my disapproval and to discover why they think it is acceptable to only allow certain candidates a voice.  Let me share with you one response:  “In my communications with the campaigns of the two major political party candidates,  the question of whether or not Mr. Sarvis would be invited was a point of discussion.  Both campaigns had stated that if Mr. Sarvis were to be invited to participate in the debate their chances of agreeing to accept the invitation was unlikely and actually committing was even less likely.”  Can you believe it?  Apparently both the Warner and Gillespie campaigns don’t wish to engage with Robert Sarvis.  And should a host allow all of the campaigns an equal place on the stage, apparently the Warner and Gillespie campaigns will boycott, choosing instead to take their ball and go home.  The two words that come to mind to best describe this situation are arrogance and cowardice.

Over a week ago, I contacted both the Warner and Gillespie campaigns seeking an official comment on this issue.  Although both indicated that they would offer a reply, thus far neither has done so.

Let’s set aside our personal opinions about Robert Sarvis for a moment and look at this situation objectively.  What if a debate host decided to exclude either Republican Ed Gillespie or Democratic Mark Warner?  I would assume that a large segment of the population would declare the event a farce and object loudly.  Or what if Gillespie and Sarvis colluded with each other to prevent Warner’s inclusion?  Again, that would be wrong, would it not?  Couldn’t either of these two scenarios easily end up swaying the election in the favor of one of the two candidates who were allowed air time?

Friends, as I pointed out in an earlier piece, Virginia election laws make third party and independent candidates jump through extra hoops.  To make matters worse, they then end up excluding these non two party candidates from airing their political opinions in public forums.  Doesn’t this make you angry?  If not, what would you say if the shoe were on the other foot, if they decided to do the same to your candidate of choice?  What if in 2012 they said no to Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?  The ends do not justify the means!

Where is the justice in these exclusionary debates?  I hope that the Warner and Gillespie campaigns will do the right and honorable thing.

125 to 1

As many of you may have heard, I will be on the ballot for Harrisonburg City Council this November.  There will be six candidates and I am the only one running as an independent.

In order to qualify, I needed to collect the signatures of 125 registered voters in the city.  It was a task that required a number of hours spread over several days.  Although it isn’t that difficult to garner 125 signatures, I discovered that a fair number of people aren’t registered to vote even though they think they are, are registered someplace else than where they think, or their penmanship is so poor that their information is unreadable.   Thus, although I turned in around 150 signatures originally, I was required to go out again and collect more.

By comparison, how many signatures did the Republican and Democratic candidates need in order to make the ballot?  Well, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections, the answer is only one, the signature of their respective city party chairman.  This difference might leave you scratching your head.  It doesn’t really seem fair that independents and third party candidates require a signature drive but Republicans and Democrats do not, does it?

Now, I have no objections to requiring candidates to collect signatures in order to make the ballot.  After all, doing so shows that he or she has at least some element of support or campaign structure.  But to have this system where the Republican and Democratic candidates get a leg up on their competitors seems a bit off to me.

Now you might say, sure, it might not be right that there is this system whereby some candidates are required to jump through extra hoops and are treated as second class, but 125 signatures isn’t all that much.  Well, hold on to your hats because it is about to get worse.

Besides our local races, we are also electing members of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate this year.  Assuming you are a Republican or Democratic candidate and you are not nominated via a primary, you only need the signature of the appropriate party chairman according to the State Board of Elections.  Independent and third party candidates need 1,000 signatures to make the ballot for House and 10,000 in order to make the Senate!  This high threshold discourages folks from running as acquiring as much as 10,000 signatures requires significant campaign structure, party backing, and/or money in order to meet the mark.  Again, the rules are strict, but they wouldn’t be that bad if they were applied equally to all candidates irrespective of party; unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’m of the opinion that more choices creates a richer and more dynamic political system where voters have a greater opportunity to support and elect candidates who are more in line with their values.  Regrettably, as the system has been set up and maintained by the two major parties, there is a strong incentive to squelch competition to preserve their own power base.

So, let me ask you this question:  Is it simply too much to ask that everyone be treated fairly and equally?

The 4th of July

Politics is everywhere, and the 4th of July is no exception.  In the morning, I attended the parade in Staunton, VA.  The largest political group in attendance was the Republican Party.  They were promoting Ed Gillespie, Bob Goodlatte (who walked the parade), and, to a lesser extent, Marshall Pattie.  The Augusta County GOP marched with a banner as well.  Interestingly, although Emmett Hanger is the Republican incumbent, his parade float was detached from the rest of the Republicans.

Libertarian House candidate Will Hammer also walked the parade as did a number of Libertarians holding banners and passing out information for Robert Sarvis and Hammer.

The Staunton Tea Party, situated right in front of the Libertarians, also had a pretty sizable group.  I could not find a Democratic float or anyone walking for them, though it is possible that I missed them.

10501644_10152254477791915_5009266293520778121_nThen, in the evening, Harrisonburg held their parade.  Ed Gillespie attended this event as did Bob Goodlatte, Will Hammer, and four of the six candidates for Harrisonburg City Council.  I must say that I was delighted that even though many people were out of town, I still had seven other folks walk beside me as we promoted Joshua Huffman for Harrisonburg City Council.

All in all, I thought the events went well, the weather was a reasonable temperature and we avoided rain unlike previous years.  I hope your 4th went well.

Pattie Announces

State Senate candidate Marshall Pattie on left
State Senate candidate Marshall Pattie on left

In Waynesboro yesterday, Marshall Pattie announced that he is running for the 24th District seat in the Virginia Senate.  A little over thirty people attended this brief conference.  Presently, Mr. Pattie serves on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors.

Since 1996, the 24th district has been represented by Emmett Hanger.  However, his support of a handful of tax increases over the years and his recent push for Medicaid expansion has drawn the ire of some conservative groups and voters.  He last faced a Republican challenger in 2007, when he bested businessman Scott Sayre by less than a thousand votes.

The timing of Dr. Pattie’s announcement might seem curious given that the Republican primary is almost a year in the future, but considering the rumors of two other candidates potentially challenging Senator Hanger, presumably Dr. Pattie wished to get a jump on his possible opponents and possibly clear the field for a one-on-one showdown between himself and the incumbent.

The 2014 elections may be far from over, but the 2015 election season has begun in the 24th.