The Chosen Frozen

Screenshot of my blog, The Chosen Frozen

As you may or may not know, I am a blogger for The Jerusalem Post, which is the major daily English-language newspaper in Israel. My blog, The Chosen Frozen, appears on their website, JPost.com. I blog about Judaism, life as a convert, politics, diaspora issues and events, and much more. Check it out at http://www.jpost.com/Blogger/Ryan-Fagan

Review: Gentleman’s Box

A new start-up company out of Detroit has launched something called the Gentleman’s Box.  Gentleman’s Box is a premier subscription box that for $25 per month sends you a uniquely themed box full of products for guys.  Each box contains 4-5 hand-selected items along with the latest issue of GQ magazine. 

I was intrigued so I signed up to receive the first ever box, which arrived today. 

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Gentleman's Box logo on top of box

I opened the box and was presented with instructions on how to “Unbox like a true gentleman.”

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Inside was a card with the month and theme on it and a breakdown of the items and retail prices of the items

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This first ever box contained the November issue of GQ, USB cufflinks (yes… Cufflinks with USB drives), stitched socks, facial cleanser, and a plaid skinny tie.  Total retail cost of this box’s items: $78.  Cost of box: $25. A good deal, right?

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I spent some time Googling the various items to try and see if the listed retail prices are legit, since only the GQ has a price listed on it.  For the most part, it seems like its not just a marketing ploy.  The tie lists for 26ish on various websites, the Billy Jealousy face cleanser checks out at $6 for a 2 oz bottle.  The socks are around $12.  The only thing I can’t find a price anywhere when Google searching for is the USB cufflinks.  The brand is unknown and I highly doubt they are the $100 pairs I see on Amazon.

Anyway, I am glad I tried out this service.  Its not bad for $25 per month.  I may occasionally subscribe to get some new guy things.  As for now, I cancelled.  I am taking a wait and see approach to see if the item quality improves or declines as the service takes off.

Praying for Israel

Back in February, I had the pleasure of visiting Israel for the first time.  I saw firsthand the beauty of the scenery and the people.  I saw Jews, Muslims, and Christians living together… Eating in the same restaurants, shopping in the same stores, and being friends with each other.  I saw and experienced some of the finest hospitality I have ever witnessed.  Met some of the nicest people I have ever met.  Ate some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten.  Viewed some of the most beautiful scenery my eyes have ever seen.  I saw a modern country with modern people coexisting together.  I never felt unsafe.  Never heard an air raid siren. 

It pains me to see and hear about the current situation going on there this week. I don’t care what religion you are or where you live… When you visit Israel you develop a connection to it.  Maybe people who only see what the 24 hour news channels show dont understand because they have never been there… They think its always the way it is this week… But once you have been there, especially in a time of relative calm like when I was there in February… You want to keep going back.  You see that it isn’t always rockets and kidnappings and bombs.  I want things to get better there because I want to return.  Its an amazing place with amazing things and amazing people that are capable of living together peacefully while freely practicing the religions they practice, be it Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Baha’i, etc…

I’m praying for peace to return.  I love Israel. 

If you haven’t been there. Go there. 

If you have been there. Go again.

Wanna help the poor? Give them some money!

In May 2009, a small experiment involving 13 homeless men took off in London. Some of them had slept in the cold for more than 40 years. The presence of these street veterans was far from cheap. Police, legal services, health care: Each cost taxpayers thousands of pounds every year.

That spring, a local charity decided to make the street veterans — sometimes called rough sleepers — the beneficiaries of an innovative social experiment. No more food stamps, food-kitchen dinners or sporadic shelter stays. The 13 would get a drastic bailout, financed by taxpayers. Each would receive 3,000 pounds (about $4,500), in cash, with no strings attached. The men were free to decide what to spend it on.

The only question they had to answer: What do you think is good for you?

“I didn’t have enormous expectations,” an aid worker recalled a year later. Yet the homeless men’s desires turned out to be quite modest. A phone, a passport, a dictionary — each participant had ideas about what would be best for him. None of the men wasted his money on alcohol, drugs or gambling. A year later, 11 of the 13 had roofs over their heads. (Some went to hostels; others to shelters.) They enrolled in classes, learned how to cook, got treatment for drug abuse and made plans for the future. After decades of authorities’ fruitless pushing, pulling, fines and persecution, 11 vagrants moved off the streets.

The cost? About 50,000 pounds, including the wages of the aid workers. In addition to giving 11 individuals another shot at life, the project had saved money by a factor of multiples. Even The Economist concluded: “The most efficient way to spend money on the homeless might be to give it to them.”

What if this pilot program has broader implications? Societies tend to presume that poor people are unable to handle money. If they had any, people reason, the poor and homeless would probably spend it on fast food and cheap beer, not on fruit or education. This kind of reasoning nourishes the myriad ingenious social programs, administrative jungles, armies of program coordinators and legions of supervising staff that make up the modern welfare state.

We like to think that people have to work for their money. In recent decades, social welfare has become geared toward a labor market that does not create enough jobs. The trend from “welfare” to “workfare” is international, with obligatory job applications, reintegration trajectories, mandatory participation in “voluntary” work. The underlying message: Free money makes people lazy.

Except that it doesn’t.

In recent years, numerous studies of development aid have found impressive correlations between free money and reductions in crime, inequality, malnutrition, infant mortality, teenage pregnancy rates and truancy. It is also correlated with better school completion rates, higher economic growth and improvement in the condition of women.”The big reason poor people are poor is because they don’t have enough money,” economist Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development, wrote in June. “It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that giving them money is a great way to reduce that problem.”

In the 2010 report “Just Give Money to the Poor,” researchers from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development give numerous examples of money being scattered successfully. In Namibia, malnourishment, crime and truancy fell 25 percent, 42 percent and nearly 40 percent, respectively, after grants were given. In Malawi, school enrollment of girls and women rose 40 percent in settings where money was given with or without conditions on its use. From Brazil to India and from Mexico to South Africa, free-money programs have flourished in the past decade. More than 110 million families in at least 45 countries benefit from them.

It is time to apply these lessons to rich but increasingly unequal societies. A world where wages no longer rise still needs consumers. Middle-class purchasing power has been maintained through loans, loans and more loans. The Calvinistic reflex that you have to work for your money has turned into a license for inequality.

Legend has it that while Henry Ford II was giving a tour around a new, highly automated factory to union leader Walter Reuther in the 1960s, Ford joked: “Walter, how are you going to get those robots to pay your union dues?”

Reuther is said to have replied: “Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?”

No one is suggesting societies the world over should implement an expensive basic income system in one stroke. Each utopia needs to start small, with experiments that slowly turn our world upside down — like the one four-plus years ago in London. One of the aid workers later recalled: “It’s quite hard to just change overnight the way you’ve always approached this problem. These pilots give us the opportunity to talk differently, think differently, describe the problem differently.”

That is how all progress begins.

The Cult of “Republicanity”

It’s no secret that I don’t believe many conservatives are actually Christians.  And I damn sure don’t believe the GOP represents real Christianity at all.

So I think I will use the term “Republicanity” as the religion I believe these people actually worship. 

Republicanity is a blend of cult-like religious beliefs mixed with political ideologies.  It’s neither a true political party, nor a real religion—it’s both.  It’s why so many conservatives cling to being a Republican as tightly as they do being a “Christian.”  To many of these individuals, they treat their devotion to their political beliefs with the same conviction as they do their faith.

For them to dare question Republican talking points is tantamount to questioning their belief in God.

See, real Christianity is predicated on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.  You know, that whole helping the poor; giving to the needy; accepting one another; loving thy neighbor; forgiveness; hope and not judging others.  Basically, principles that aren’t beholden to one specific faith or religion — instead, they’re what I think are representative of good human beings.

You don’t have to be a Christian to believe in the values for which Christianity stands.   The values I believe in transcend religion to the very heart of human kindness and decency.  I believe people of other religions — or of no religious affiliation whatsoever — can share these common values as good people.

Yet, when it comes to many conservatives, they don’t represent any of these values.  Their entire political movement is based on fear, hatred, judgment, anger, paranoia and disdain for those who are different.

Hell, the only “Biblical” values I ever see followed by many of these people is their opposition to homosexuality, abortion and church attendance.  (By the way, all three of those are issues which Jesus Christ never spoke about.)

See, you can say the Bible is your book, without actually being a Christian.  Jews aren’t considered Christians, but they believe in God and follow the Bible.

What conservatives have is a “religion,” if you will, built by two completely contradicting systems of belief.  First, their political ideology comes from Ayn Rand — someone who thought religion was stupid and those who followed it were idiots Then their social ideology is taken from a few handpicked excerpts from the Bible.

The reason why I view these people more like cult followers than anything else stems from the fact that their economic and social ideologies are complete contradictions of one another.  How does it make any sense to claim religious “moral” principles socially while at the same time supporting economic policies created by someone who opposed all forms of religion?

It makes absolutely no sense.  In fact, the only way anyone could believe such idiocy is if they were a part of some brainwashed cult following.

Think about it.  These people really believe they follow Jesus Christ by hating most anyone who isn’t just like them.  They really think that Jesus Christ — someone who spent his life helping the poor and the needy — would support massive cuts to programs that help the poor and the needy while protecting tax breaks for the rich.

These are people who complain constantly about their quality of life, then vote for Republican politicians who support policies which make their quality of life worse.

Many of these people base their entire spirituality off church attendance and how much they hate gay people.  Because, you know, same-sex marriage will ruin the sanctity of marriage — according to millions of conservative heterosexuals who’ve been divorced (often multiple times).

When I think of all the idiocy and contradiction within the conservative movement, “cult” is about the only term that properly describes what I see day in and day out with conservatives, because they’re damn sure not Christians.

They belong to a cult I call Republicanity.

My Favourite News Sites: Grand Forks Herald

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Published in Grand Forks, North Dakota, it is the primary daily paper for northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.  It has the second largest circulation in the
state of North Dakota.  The site is not very “flashy” but it is easy to navigate and I like to stay on top of news in the area of my alma mater, the University of North Dakota.

http://www.grandforksherald.com

My Favourite News Sites: Haaretz

Keeping the ball rolling with my showcase of all my favourite news websites is another Israeli site, Haaretz, which is the website of the largest English language paper in Israel.

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Haaretz

Haaretz (Hebrew: הארץ‎) (lit. “The Land [of Israel]”, originally Ḥadashot Ha’aretz – Hebrew: חדשות הארץ‎, IPA: [χadaˈʃot haˈʔaʁets] – “News of the Land”[3]) is Israel’s oldest daily newspaper. It was founded in 1918 and is now published in both Hebrew and English in Berliner format.  It’s editorial leaning is center-left.

Haaretz operates both Hebrew and English language websites. The two sites offer up-to-the-minute breaking news, live Q&A sessions with newsmakers from Israel, Palestinian territories and around the world, and blogs covering a range of political standpoints and opinions. The English online edition receives an average of two million visitors per month.

http://www.haaretz.com