Saturday, February 16, 2008

Shreddding the Constitution (Or How the Terrorists Won)

(With thanks to Scarecrow at Firedog Lake and Keith Olbermann)

The U.S. Senate, by a vote of 68-29, ratified Bush's huge illegal spy program and gave immunity to the telecoms who have invaded the privacy of millions of innocent Americans.

Note carefully: Every single Republican Senator, so-called Independent Joe Lieberman, and 18 no-good Democrats voted in favor of this travesty. Here are the names of the Democrats. It would be wise to remember their cowardice and their willingness to shred the Constitution when they come up for re-election:

Bahy, Inouye, Johnson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Stabenow, Feinstein, Kohl, Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, Carper, Mikulski, Conrad, Webb, and Lincoln.

In concert, these clowns essentially voted to destroy the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads like this:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Here's how it will be done:

"The president can direct US spy agencies to intercept every e-mail, telephone or internet communication of every American and anyone legally in the US with only the most minimal safeguards ...
[notice 'every American']

"Acting without individual or particularized warrants from any courts, spy agencies can sweep up millions of communications without differentiating between those warranting surveillance and those not. Procedures for separating out totally innocent persons or communications that have nothing to do with foreign intelligence or any security threat to the US are minimal to non-existent ...

"Persons spied upon have no ability to determine what information the government has collected, or to affect what the government does with the information ...

"Telecommunication companies who participated in government's illegal spying activities, and those who ordered this, would be forever immune from any consequences for their actions and cannot be required to disclose what they did ...

" ... the Senate rejected an effort to make the bill the exclusive means by which surveillance can be authorized. So the President arguably can conduct further spying on Americans even without the minimal protections left in the Bill.

About 40 lawsuits have been filed against telecom companies by people who claim those companies broke wiretapping and privacy laws. This bill negates those lawsuits."

Timothy Lee, writing at, says that "The issue isn't whether Congress should block cooperation between telecom companies and the government when the National Security Agency wants to engage in eavesdropping on American soil. The debate is about whether that cooperation should be subject to judicial oversight, as the law has required for the last 30 years, or whether instead the telecom companies can simply ignore the law when the president asks them to ...

"Accepting this argument, as the Senate did ..., undermines the fundamental purpose of the warrant process, which is to ensure independent review of domestic spying activities. And the law was quite clear on this point. FISA makes it a criminal offense to 'engage in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute.'"

What this means was put very well by Christy Hardin Smith: " ... we are facing a crisis of leadership and character from the people we elect to be leaders. The Republican party is more interested in protecting the Bush Presidency from scrutiny, and thus, it's own party from factually sustained criticism than standing up for the rule of law. The Democratic party does not have enough members with stiff enough spines to withstand the GOP screechfest that would follow any factual assault on the Bush/Cheney illegal overreaches on legal and ethical grounds ...

"What we need are more people in Congress who put the rule of law ahead of their own political careers and their party interests, who are willing to stand up for what is right instead of what appears to be politically expedient in the moment ..."

Hillary Clinton, unfortunately, could not seem to find the time to fit the debate into her schedule and she missed the voting.

" ... Barack Obama voted with Russ Feingold, D-Wis., on all six amendments and the cloture vote, only missing the vote on the final bill after the outcome had become clear."

Now this mess goes to the House and the Repubs are already strategizing as to how to get enough weak-kneed, spineless Democrats to go along with their betrayal of the Constitution.

Bush, as usual, is crying "The terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming." He actually said, as if he expected people to believe him, that "terrorists are planning new attacks on our country ... that will make Sept. 11 pale by comparison."

The current bill expires today. Bush says he will not sign an extension. He wants all or nothing. The lily-livered Democrats in the House and Senate are saying, "Please, Mr. Bush, give us an extension and we'll figure out how to give you everything you want."

Bush said "Hell, no! I'll even postpone my scheduled trip to the foreign hinterlands in order to get the whole ball of wax now! 'Cause the terrorists are coming and we can't wait another day!"

Can't wait another day to give immunity to the telecoms? Please!

Well, now it looks like Bush has decided to wait another day. He's off to Africa and the bill hasn't been passed and the House is off for over a week and the country is gonna be terribly vulnerable to all kinds of terrorist attacks and it's all Bush's fault - as Olbermann put it, speaking to Mr. Bush:

"For the moment, at least, thanks to some true patriots in the House, and your own stubbornness, you have tabled telecom immunity, and the FISA act.


"By your own terms and your definitions -- you have just sided with the terrorists.

"You got to have this law or we're all going to die.

"But practically speaking, you vetoed this law."

Of course, as Mr. Olbermann so succinctly pointed out, everything that Bush said was "crap."

He quotes Richard Clarke: "Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year."

Olbermann goes on: "You are a liar, Mr. Bush, and after showing some skill at it, you have ceased to even be a very good liar."

Speaking to Bush and the House Republicans, (and those 18 weak-kneed Democrats), Olbermann pulls no punches: "The lot of you, are the symbolic descendants of the despotic middle managers of some banana republic, to whom "Freedom" is an ironic brand name, a word you reach for, when you want to get away with its opposite."

George W. Bush, like Adolf Hitler and every wannabe dictator since time immemorial, is playing the fear card; a tactic that has worked well. Scare the hell out of everybody with lie after lie after lie, and they'll let you do whatever you want, even, in the case of the U.S. of A, abrogate their precious U.S. Constitution.

When we shred the freedoms granted in our Constitution, the terrorists win!

Perhaps those people are right who think George W. Bush is al-Qaida's greatest ally!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Numerology and other non-science (nonsense)

888 is the number of Jesus.

Resolution 888, sponsored by Repub Congressperson Randy Forbes, would establish a particular piece of nonsense called "American Religious History Week."

If you're wondering why the resolution is titled "888", Google "Jesus' number 888." You will find that 888 is, for various reasons, the number assigned to Jesus. Here's one site to check out. Pretty sneaky, Forbes!

What i
s it with these fruitcakes?

Forbes introduced this travesty on December 18, 2007. It is promoted thusly: "Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as 'American Religious History Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith."

Oh, barf! That's the only appropriate response when you know what this is really all about.

The resolution is filled with so many lies that ol' George (Washington) and ol' Tom (Jefferson) and ol' Ben (Franklin) are spinning in their graves!

Chris Hedges, writing in The Nation, says the resolution is "an insidious attempt by the radical Christian right to rewrite American history, to turn the founding fathers from deists into Christian fundamentalists, to proclaim us officially to be a Christian nation."

He further says that "The resolution is staggering for its sheer volume of falsehoods about our history, our system of government and our democracy."

Unfortunately, many folks are gonna think this resolution is just great and they're gonna read the resolution and they're going to say, "I didn't know that!" and "Isn't that wonderful" and "Yes, we should teach this material in the public schools" all the time unaware that most all of what appears in the resolution is NOT true!

Chris Rodda notes that the resolution, "which purports to promote 'education on America's history of religious faith,' is packed with the same American history lies found on the Christian nationalist websites, and in the books of pseudo-historians like David Barton."

For a thoroughly detailed report on the substance of the resolution please read Mr. Rodda's article on Talk2Action.

Creationists on the move

Ken Ham, the bozo who founded Answers in Genesis, is over in England pushing to bring creationism to the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe!
Thankfully, some folks are fighting back. "In October, the 47-nation Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, condemned all attempts to bring creationism into Europe's schools. Bible-based theories and 'religious dogma' threaten to undercut sound educational practices, it charged."

But, trouble looms. A British branch of Answers in Genesis has managed to get its creationist non-science introduced into a number of state-supported schools in Britain. Here's how: "We do go into the schools about 10 to 20 times a year and we do get the students to question what they're being taught about evolution," said Monty White, a creationist leader. "And we leave them a box of books for the library."

Another bunch of bozos called Truth in Science has sent thousands of DVDs to every high school in Britain "arguing that mankind is the result of 'intelligent design,' not Darwinian evolution.

Something called the AH Trust, is planning to raise money to build a "Christian" theme park in northwest England with a huge TV studio for the production of "Christian" films, many of which will promote creationist nonsense and non-science.

But get this: Christians are not the only fundamentalists with creationist crap to promote. Thus Muslims have their own Quranic version of creationism! Hee, hee.

Here's what would make me angry if I was a common Englishman: The British government is taking over funding of about 100 Islamic schools even though they teach the Quranic nonsense. The British government is afraid to impose evolution on these little Islamists because it might be considered anti-Islamic!

Last year a notorious Islamic creationist in Turkey tried to get his fancy book, "The Atlas of Creation," placed in public schools in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain. The Council of Europe fought back and was evidently successful in stopping this plan.

So, now we have the spectacle of two groups of religious misfits, still living in the 15th century, trying to impose their 15th-century views on 21st century Europeans. What a mess!

Stupidity reigns. Incredible mythologies carved out of primeaval mud are passing as science. Delusional, well-funded, true-believers are working night and day to spike the tea of knowledge with their brew of ignorance and superstition!

Richard Dawkins, the Oxford university biologist and author of "The God Delusion," says he often speaks in the schools about the "marvels of evolution" but finds the students have already adopted the moronic creationist ideas.

"I think it's so sad that children should be fobbed off with these second-rate myths," said Dawkins. "The theory of evolution is one of the most powerful pieces of scientific thinking every produced and the evidence for it is overwhelming. I think creationism is pernicious because if you don't know much it sounds kind of plausible and it's easy to come into schools and subvert children."

Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, who helped release the Pentagon papers, and is a real hero in the eyes of many freedom-lovers, has dared release a YouTube video that takes a poke at creationism.

In the video, Gravel says "I am deeply insulted that in some areas that not only is evolution shunned but efforts are made to substitute it with creationism and all other kinds of teachings, which corrupt our youth... There's no foundation for this. I think it's unfortunate. We're regressing in these areas, and so I think we have responsibility to our children to provide them with the greatest scientific information available to all of us, and that begins with respect to evolution...

"I ... really exhort as public policy that we concentrate on keeping religion out of politics, and keeping a very, very strong separation between church and state. Otherwise you will take the oppressive nature of the state and marry it with the oppressive nature of religion, and that is the ultimate oppression of human beings."

It should be obvious, at least to anyone with a modicum of common sense, that our whole understanding of human life and the world is based upon the evolutionary theory.

To teach our children that the world was created 6,000 or 8,000 or 12,000 years ago by some imaginary being up in the sky and that humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth together and that there was a great flood that covered the earth except for one man and his family and two of every kind who floated around in a big boat is CHILD ABUSE!!!

One last (for today) piece in the creationist stupid puzzle: These non-scientists are putting out a "professional, peer-reviewed technical" magazine called Answers Research Journal. Bonnie Goldstein tells about it in her article "Peer-Reviewing the Bible" on

Usually, she says, "peer review is a valuable step in the publication of scientific research. Scholars submit new discoveries to academic journals, which, in turn, solicit independent experts to assess the reliability of the work."

But, the Creationists don't want real peer review 'cause their "peers" in the scientific community hold them in scientific contempt. So, the authors who submit articles to the Answers Research Journal "suggest who should review their work." Hee, hee. The purpose of this, of course, is, as Goldstein points out, "not to ensure that research meets academic standards of scientific inquiry, but rather to ensure that the scholar's conclusions conform to a literal interpretation of the Bible."

The Answers Research Journal is part of the "ministry" that operates the Creation Museum. It's chief editor is a creationist by name of Andrew Snelling. He specificies that contributors to his rag be certain that their research "is formulated within a young-earth, young-universe framework," and provides "evidence of faithfulness to the grammatical-historical/normative interpretation of Scripture.

There it is, clear as a bell. This is not about science, this is about fundamentalist Christianity. The parameters spelled out by Snelling are the opposite of what scientific research is all about. A true scientist he is not. Science is about discoveries that lead to theories or theories that lead to discoveries followed by the rigorous testing of those discoveries and theories, free of religious, political or philosophical constraints.

For a solid, scientific understanding of evolution and assistance in how to respond to creationist crap, go to

Considering both of the issues discussed above -- Resolution 888 and Creationism - the following remarks seem in order.

Retired journalist Bill Moyers (a Baptist minister) told a group at Harvard medical school that "one of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington."

Kevin Phillips, in his book, American Theocracy, explains what that kind of delusion means: "No leading world power in modern memory [other than the U.S.] has become a captive, even a partial captive, of the sort of biblical inerrancy--backwater, not mainstream--that dismisses modern knowledge and science. The last parallel was in the early seventeenth century, when the papacy, with the agreement of inquisitional Spain, disciplined the astronomer Galileo for saying that the sun, not the earth, was the center of our solar system."

That's where we are. Resolution 888 and Creationism derive from those who dismiss modern knowledge and science; who seek truth in a literal interpretation of the Bible. These religious Luddites or what I'd call "neo-Luddites," are found in the White House and in positions at every level of our government (including the military!), and in positions of responsibility throughout our land.

The original Luddites were opposed to technology. These neo-Luddites are opposed to any "truth," or knowledge, or science, not based upon the mythologies of ignorant Near Eastern tribes that spent most of their time fighting over territory and gods and women and camels and cattle and goats -- killing, and raping and pillaging, often with the blessing of the god they claimed was the "one, true, God," creator of heaven and earth.

Some things never change. Delusions rule.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stories of inspiration and perspiration

Here come de big bang

The Specious Report reports that a fellow by name of Chapman saw an image of the Big Bang in a slice of toast!

"I was just about to spread the butter when I noticed a fairly typical small hole in the bread surrounded by a burnt black ring," said Mr. Chapman. "...the direction and splatter patterns of the crumbs, as well as the changing shades emanating outwards from this black hole, were very clearly similar to the chaotic-dynamic non-linear patterns that one would expect following the Big Bang. It's the beginning of the world!"

Once the news about this incredible event got out, atheists from throughout the U.K. descended upon the town of Huddlesfield. One man gushed "I have always been an atheist and to see my life choices validated on a piece of toast is truly astounding."

One "disgruntled activist" was not impressed. "Seeing is not believing," he said.

"Hail Mary," said I.

Militant Killed Dead

The guy who was suspected of fomenting the attacks on the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks that killed several hundred Americans in the 1980's in Lebanon, has been killed in a car bomb in Syria.

Imad Mughniyeh is now cavorting with his 70 virgins.

Hezbollah blamed Israel for the killing. The Iranians are irate. "This action is yet another brazen example of organized state terrorism by the Zionist regime," whined the Irani Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mohammad Ali Hosseini.

Israel claims they didn't do it. Too bad. They should have done it if they didn't. And may they send many more of these terror-causing, murdering terrorists to Allah.

But isn't it just like the terrorists to blame Israel for terrorism?
Maybe the CIA did it?

Sheesh! I'd say "Well done" to whoever did it, and may Allah welcome Mughniyeh to paradise!

Or may someone else welcome him somewhere else.

One more reason we can't trust the Bushites

This came from Maggie Mahar on Alternet, but appeared originally on "Health Beat."

Copies of a CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) "study of environmental and health data in eight Great Lakes states that was scheduled for publication in July 2007" has been obtained by The Center for Public Integrity.
This report noted that "elevated rates of lung, colon, and breast cancer; low birth weight; and infant mortality" were found "in several of the geographical areas of concern."

The report was pulled just before it was scheduled to be released. At the very same time, "its lead author, Christopher De Rosa, [was] removed from the position he held since 1992." Why?

A Canadian biologist Michael Gilbertson has some ideas. The government is afraid of becoming liable because "The governments, frankly, in both countries [the US & Canada] are so heavily aligned with, particularly, the chemical industry, that the word amongs the bureaucracies is that they really do not want any evidence of effect or injury out there."

We have read about the Bush administrations efforts to rewrite environmental findings previously. We know that the Bush administration routinely advises scientists to revise their results if said results do not conform to Bush theology.

This is, clearly, another example of such governmental malfeasance!
The policy of the Bush administration was described perfectly by Mahar, "Corporate interests are protected--at the expense of the nation's citizens."

Please review the article in its entirely here.

The lying Christian right

On January 14, the first day that the Iowa House met in session, Imam Muhammad Khan of Des Moines, gave a prayer to the assembled politicos.

In the prayer, the Imam said a couple of things that got at least one person riled up.
He prayed first in Arabic, but began by saying this in English: "I seek refuge in God against the accursed Satan in the name of God, most gracious, most merciful." He made no mention of Iraq or foreign affairs, but called God the "master of the day of judgment" and asked for "victory over those who disbelieve."

The prayer went on for about four minutes and was fairly standard stuff. For example, he said "We ask that you guide our legislators and give them the wisdom and knowledge to tackle the difficult problems that face us today..."
He ended up by wishing the House members well on behalf of the Muslim community of Des Moines and Iowa.

Over on the Senate side of things, a Roman Catholic priest delivered the prayer. He didn't say anything controversial so far as I can tell.

But after the prayer by the Imam on the House side, one Republican, Gary Worthan of Storm Lake, via point of privilege got up and said he was offended by the prayer. That led to further discussion which led to the principals huddling together to work things out. Which they did. In fact, before the huddle broke up the Imam and Worthan hugged each other.

And life went on in Iowa.

Please note that Muslims clerics have been delivering prayers in the Iowa legislative branches for about five years.

Now, the Christian Right has grabbed on to this story and ridden it to the ground. What's interesting, though, is that in every Xtn Rite website I checked, the articles played up the Imam's remarks about "victory over those who disbelieve," and wept and cried about the terrible things that are happening in America because of our multi-culturalism and secularlism and how awful it was that a Muslim was praying in a state legislative session, and why can't everyone understand that we are a Christian nation and that God loves us more than any other people in the whole wide world!

However, not one mentioned the fact that this was not a big deal in Iowa. Not one mentioned the fact that the Imam and Representative Worthan talked through any potential misunderstanding and embraced following their talk.

In fact, the Xtn Rite has misrepresented the story in order to serve their own misguided religious and historical notions which are nonsense to begin with.

But...I must say that I find the prayer inappropriate. Not because it was delivered by a Muslim. I find any prayer in any state legislature inappropriate. Or, as another said, "It was inappropriate because America is a secular democracy with a Constitution that sure sounds an awful lot like we are supposed to keep religious lunacy out of official government business. It was inappropriate because, like any public expressions of religion by political figures, it is inherently divisive. It was inappropriate because it clearly disparaged nonbelievers, some of whom probably reside in Iowa. The fact that it was a Muslim prayer does not make it any more or less appropriate than a similar Christian prayer.

"This and many similar issues are easily solvable. End the practice of having public prayers of any sort in our state and federal legislative bodies. Let our representatives pray silently if they so desire..."

Sounds like a mighty fine idea, and very close to what Jesus said about saying your prayers in private and not in public! In fact, as I recall, the "Lord" of the fundys said clearly that God won't even listen to prayers uttered in the public square!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Secede or Succeed

Can the U.S. be saved?

The U.S. government is still thought by some to be utterly reliable. How this could be in the face of so much evidence to the contrary is puzzling. One particular penchant of the U.S. government is that it routinely breaks treaties signed by its representatives. If I recall correctly, the United States government has broken every single treaty made with our native Americans.

It should not come as a surprise, then, that the Lakota Tribes, "who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States."

Joshua Holland quotes Russell Means, a noted Indian activist: "We are no longer citizens of America and all those who live in the five-state area [Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming] that encompasses our country are free to join us."

I think I know something as to how they feel, although for other reasons. Under George W. Bush, the United States has, for many of us, changed into something alien, wrong, eerily distant from the land we had come to know and love, the land of the proud and the free.

That's why as I listened to Obama speak last night in Madison, Wisconsin, I was struck, emotionally, by a sudden surge of light, a vision of possibility. Maybe there is hope! Maybe Obama can make a difference. Maybe he can turn things around. Maybe Obama can pick through the trashy residue left in the wake of the Bush tragedy and find enough remnants of what this country once was to weave a new future of promise.

Somewhere I read about an American living in the Middle East who went to his favorite Yemeni barbershop to get a haircut. The barber, long antagonistic toward the U.S., mainly because of George W. Bush, refrained from his usual diatribe and said softly, "Maybe, if Obama gets elected, there is hope for America."

This is not a plea to vote for Obama. Not yet. I'm gradually moving to the position, though, that he may be just what we need. Obviously, he doesn't have all the answers. Hell, he probably doesn't even know all the questions. That's not necessarily bad. It will depend upon the people he calls upon to be his mentors and advisors.

We do need a Democrat, though. The Party makes all the difference. A Democratic president will have the opportunity to appoint thousands of people to significant positions, along with judges and others. Unfortunately, it will take awhile to purge the Jesus-freaks, ignoramuses, cronies and total incompetents that wander in great hordes through the offices of state.

Why not McCain? McCain doesn't come close to what this country needs in a president. He is a lost soul. A hero with an Achilles heel. He would love to be thought of as a patriot, but he is merely one more politico willing to sell his soul to become president. Watching him pander to the neocons and the Christian right, kneel down and kiss Falwell's ring (figuratively speaking), kiss Pat Robertson's ass (also a figure of speech) creates waves of nausea. His speech last night contained absolutely nothing of interest or importance. "He's all fired up," he said, grinning from ear to ear as he carefully read every single word on the prompter. I'm not sure he has a moral bone in his body. If I were his 96-year old mother, I'd watch my back! A "For Sale" sign could appear anytime.

Re: the Archbishop of Canterbury

Just the other day we wrote about this archbishop gentleman and his plan to allow Muslims in Britain to utilize, in some disputes, sharia or Islamic law. It's all part of a general notion he calls "plural jurisdiction."

Christopher Hitchens thinks even less of this idea than I do, if that's possible. You can read his article, "To Hell With the Archbishop of Canterbury" here. Maybe you'll agree with Hitchens when he calls the Archbishop "a fatuous cleric, who, presiding over an increasingly emaciated and schismatic and irrelevant church, nonetheless maintains that any faith is better than none at all."

Or, maybe not.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Praying the Jews to Jesus (in Latin)

From JTA: "A coalition of Jewish groups expressed disappointment at the new text of the Catholic Church's Prayer for the Jews.

"The prayer removes language considered offensive to Jews, including a reference to Jews' 'blindness' and a call that God 'may lift the veil from their hearts,' but still prays for the salvation of the Jews exclusively through conversion to Christianity.

"Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday [Feb. 5] unveiled the replacement for the Good Friday prayer in Latin, which is not used by most of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics."

The Jewish groups mentioned above said this new Latin version "appears to be a regression...We urge the Catholic Church to deepen its exploration of the full implication of Nostra Aetate's affirmation of the eternal validity of God's Divine Covenant with the Jewish People."

When the Italian Rabbinic Assembly heard about this revised prayer for the Latin mass, they took "'a pause of reflection'" in its dialog with the Catholic Church," according to an Italian newspaper. That's like telling your horse "whoa!"

A free translation of the prayer comes via Jewschool:

"We also pray for the Jews, so that God Our Lord may enlighten their heart, so that they will know Jesus Christ, savior of all humankind. We pray. We bend our knees. Rise. Omnipotent and eternal God, [you] who wants that all men be saved and know the truth, make it so that with the entrance of all peoples in Your Church all of Israel be saved. For Christ our Lord. Amen."


The Jewschool writer had, what seemed to me, an unexpected reaction to this. He referred to the Aleinu in which Jews pray that all people of the earth will leave their false gods and call upon the true God, and that all the wicked will turn to God, and that everyone everywhere will bend their knee and give honor to Adonai, our God.

In light of the above, the writer said he "had a strong feeling of pained familiarity" when he heard the new Catholic prayer for the Latin mass. He thought the core ideas in the Aleinu and the Catholic prayer were similar, the key difference being that the Catholic prayer refers specifically to the Jews and "all of Israel."

I don't think the core ideas are the same. The Catholic prayer is very specific that salvation comes only through entrance to "Your Church" (God's church -- the Roman Catholic church). One must "know" Jesus Christ and that can happen only through the Roman Catholic Church. That's not new teaching, that's centuries old. The Aleinu does not call for people to convert to Judaism or suggest that only through the Jewish religion can people be saved; it calls only for people to turn to the one, true God, which leaves a lot of leg-room, it seems to me.

And yes, I think this Latin prayer is a regression, a pandering to the pity party who lost their precious Latin mass so many years ago, who kinda liked all that mumbo jumbo 'cause it made them feel closer to God and who cares if they couldn't understand it; it's all a mystery anyway. And everyone knows the Jews killed Jesus!

Furthermore, that "key difference" our writer referred to is the deal-breaker. Muslims, at least in this prayer, are not singled out. Nor are Lutherans, nor Presbyterians, not even Baptists. And what about the real weirdos - the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses? They all get a bye, but not the Jews. The Church has beaten up on the Jews for 2000 years, blaming them for the killing of Christ which scholars have known for 300 years was definitely NOT the case, even if you accept the trial accounts as somewhat historical!

(Yeah, I know - a few years ago the Pope got around to a rather prissy apology to the Jews saying that God's church may have been wrong about the Jews killing Christ. Big deal. Ask the average Catholic in the pew what he/she thinks and I'll bet they're still blaming the Jews for their savior hanging up on that crucifix. Too little, too late!)

I like what my good friend Bob Poris said [tongue-in-cheek, I think] in reference to this new Latin prayer: "I am convinced that God speaks only Hebrew and has been angry at the use of Latin to address Him, so why should we care what the new language says. We know God doesn't listen to any but His Chosen People."

With more seriousness, Bob reflects on the continuing pervasiveness of anti-Semitism, even in the most unlikely of places, even among some Jews. As someone else said, you don't have to be a gentile to hate Jews...

Here's Bob: "Why do these comments not surprise any of us? We Jews have been blamed for almost all the ills of the world for centuries. Killing off huge number of Jews; expelling them; converting them has had no effect on the world's health, wealth, or well-being. The problems remain the same but those capable of solving them have been diminished by the death of so many Jews. In modern times, Spain and Portugal suffered from the expulsion of the Jews, many of whom were capable of reading and were educated in ways the general populace was not. Obviously the progroms of Russia also depleted the numbers of Jews that might have helped out in the sciences, business, education, etc. We know that killing three out of every five Jews in Europe deprived the world of six million Jews, many of whom were very proficient in many fields that benefited their countries.

"Now we have the tiny island of Israel in the sea of backward, poverty stricken Muslim nations. Israel went from poor and third world to one of the highest standards of living in the first world in a few decades! The scientific advances alone made in the past fifty years have already benefited mankind.

"In spite of all the historical evidence, Jews are still held back, despised, victimized, etc! The countries that expelled them after 1948 have not prospered. The neighbors of Israel have NO Jews. They do not allow Jews to own property or businesses, or practice their professions. They remain backward and dedicated to war to wipe out the Jews of Israel.

"What a shame!"


Monday, February 11, 2008

Mucking It Up

(Doesn't that picture make you cringe?)

Miracles or math? Mike Huckabee won the Kansas caucuses on Saturday. He thinks it was a miracle. He told the CPAC bunch "I didn't major in math. I majored in miracles, and I still believe in them." So are we supposed to conclude that God loves ol' Huck more than ol' John. But what about New Hampshire? Was Huck's loss there also a miracle. Maybe he shoulda majored in math?

Finger-lickin' stupid. In Kentucky, a State Representative named Charles Siler is sponsoring legislation to designate KFC's "finger lickin' good" chicken as Kentucky's official picnic food. Don't these dipshits have anything better to do?

Get the facts first! In Florida, Rep. Rick Kriseman, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, sponsored a House bill that would tax admissions to "adult entertainment" venues. The money generated was to assist Medicaid recipients in nursing homes and state mental hospitals. Not a bad idea necessarily, but Rep. Kriseman neglected to do his homework: adult entertainment venues, such as strip clubs, already pay a sales tax.

Here we go again. The folks in another storm-ravaged community, this one in rural Tennessee, claim faith is pulling them through. Those that were not killed praised God or a generic higher power for the fact they were spared. The pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee, reported that his people were thanking God that the tornadoes didn't kill more people. What? Was God responsible for killing some and saving some? And if he saved some, why didn't he save them all? Why'd he let the tornadoes come along anyway?

I kid you not! At the website of Artisan Publishers, you can buy "Anti Radiation Tablets" which "Will Help You Survive a Radiation Event!" I don't think they're talking about your dental X-ray.

What is this about? Do they know something the rest of us don't? Is this more Armageddon nonsense? Is Bush gonna send nuclear bombers over Iran? The "Recommended Book of the Month" at Artisan is "The Rapture Plot." I know something about what these nut-cases call the "rapture," but I have no idea what "The Rapture Plot" is about. Other "featured" products include books titled "The USA in Bible Prophecy," "Counterfeit Christianity," and something called "The Stone Kingdom."

According to, (a Xtn news site) when Darrell Green and Art Monk were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame recently, they both "praised God." Green is said to have said that he stayed with the Washington Redskins for 20 years because God told him to. He could have become a free agent, he said, the implication being that he would have made a lot more money. I'd sure like to know just how God told him to stay with the Redskins. How'd he know it was God speaking and not Roger Staubach? And why would god give a damn anyway?

Monk said his parents taught him how to have a "relationship with Jesus Christ" so that he could live his live "in a godly manner." I used to think I knew what that phrase meant. I don't have a clue these days. The most ungodly people I know claim to live "in a godly manner."

Two thousand eight hundred people (approximately) attended this year's National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton's International Ballroom. El Presidente Bush spoke. He said several things. He said prayer overcomes denominational differences. Really? Remember this is the guy that knelt to pray and turned the whole world against the United States! What has he been smoking?

He also said that God hears our prayers and answers our prayers, and "the more time we spend with God, the more we see that he is not a distant king, but a loving father." How does that work, exactly? I've been praying for eight years that the SOB would be impeached. Nuttin! Or, what does Bush mean when he claims that "when we answer God's call to love a neighbor as ourselves, we enter into a deeper relationship with our fellow man..."? Does that mean more troops or fewer troops, more bombs or fewer bombs? And why would anyone take seriously anything this liar says about God or love or prayer?

By the way, others in attendance included John McCain, Nancy Pelosi, the presidents of various countries, Joe Lieberman, Steny Hoyer (Majority Leader) and, would you believe, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho!?

Let's hear it one more time! We see "promising new signs of progress" in Iraq, says Defense Secretary, Robert Gates. Ho hum. Oh yes, we also have to wait to "see what the prospects are for further success in the next couple of months."

It's the same crappy old story that we've heard over and over again, year after year. Lots of progress. Just give us a few more months. The surge is working! BS!

Bush calls John McCain a "true conservative." Bush wouldn't know a conservative it if crawled up his leg and bit him in the ass!

We wrote about Bush's signing statements yesterday. During his "reign," the decider has issued more than 151 signing statements challenging 1149 provisions of laws. I think that's more than were signed by all previous presidents combined!

Evolution Weekend! Hopefully, you heard about this and perhaps participated in it. It developed from Evolution Sunday, held for the past two years. On Evolution Sunday, hundreds of pastors preached sermons on the compatibility of their faith and evolutionary science. Because these events were so successful, Evolution Sunday "evolved" (get it?) into Evolution Weekend.

Frederick Carlson explains that "Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of this discussion on this critical topic...A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their makes it clear that those claiming people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy."

Unfortunately, Evolution Weekend concluded yesterday. But there's always next year. It's nice to know that there are religionists out there who don't worship the Bible and understand that the mythologies promoted throughout that collection of ancient scribbling, which may have some religious significance, provide no scientific or even moral basis for understanding or living in our modern world.

God is in front! (Or maybe in back.) The Religious Right (which means the Christian Right) has exercised its considerable power once again. Congress has passed a law which orders that the phrase "In God We Trust" be moved from the edge to the back or front of the new presidential dollar coins.

This law, signed by Bush on Dec. 26, was hidden away in a $555 billion domestic spending bill, and pushed by none other than the Kansas neanderthal, Sam Brownback. Whole bunches of right-wing nuts have been crabbing about God's lack on presence on the coins for months.

One kookabee, Dave Stotts, who hosts the Focus on the Family program, "Drive Thru History", said "I certainly can't imagine growing up in a country and under a government that is atheistic and denies the existence and dependence upon God." You can only imagine what kind of "history" he is teaching!

I wonder if these dodos know that the phrase "In God We Trust" was not stamped on coinage until 1864! It was not mandated for paper money until 1957. In 1864, a Pennsylvania pastor pressured Congress to include the slogan as he felt the Civil War was God's punishment on our country. In 1957, paper money got the slogan to make sure God understood we were not evil communists or slovenly socialists, but lovingly pious capitalists.

But I'm still not clear as to which god we're talking about? Brownback's god is not at all familiar to me.

Huckabee a racist? You decide. Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate, tells about Huckabee's "unambiguously racist and demagogic appeal" in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Huck said this to his audience:

"You don't like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag. In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell 'em what to do with the pole; that's what we'd do."

(Nice Southern Baptist pastor talk, right?)

But Hitchens says this was racist for the following reasons:

1. The South Carolina flag is quite a nice flag and no "outsider" has ever told South Carolina to do anything with it.

2. The flag to which Huck was referring was the Confederate Battle Flag, first flown over the SC state Capitol in 1962, as a visible symbol of resistance to the civil rights movement. It is not now and never has been, the flag of South Carolina!

3. In the year 2000, the South Carolina legislature voted to take down the Confederate Battle Flag, and now you can see it waving over a memorial to deceased Confederate soldiers.

Way to go, yuckee Huckabee!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

True Believers Need Not Apply

Democracy can be a messy process, which is why we must not elect a "true believer" as president.

Democracy is a messy process because it requires listening to all sides and it recognizes the value and validity of opposing viewpoints.

Truth, in a democracy, is not something "out there" that we can attain, but what the majority decides is truth. The majority also determines how we should live out that truth as a nation.

In our particular democracy, the "truth" we live by is spelled out in the Constitution. That doesn't mean it is timeless truth; the Constitution has been amended 27 times (17 times since the original ten). So our truth may change. New ideas, new knowledge, new technologies all impact truth as we understand it.

Obviously, not everyone will agree as to what the Constitution means; interpretations will differ, just as people interpret Shakespeare or the Bible differently. But, and this is crucial, democracy can remain viable only so long as the interpretations, rights and values of our minorities are considered and given due respect.

We have a huge problem today because we have in our midst a large group of "true believers" who are either ignorant of our country's history and the Constitution, or would twist these things to buttress their own peculiar understanding of the truth, and would impose that truth on everyone else.

True believers are convinced there is such a thing as Truth. This Truth is absolute, eternal and unvarying. Rulers must know this Truth and all must do obeisance to it. Huckabee is a "true believer," [he wants to amend the Constitution to bring it in line with his interpretation of the Bible] and therein lies his appeal in states with large numbers of true believers.

Presidents who are true believers have difficulty with democracy. George W. Bush, by his own admission a true believer, acknowledged that he would have it much easier if he could be a dictator. George W. Bush has, on numerous occasions, called himself "the decider." This shows clearly he does not understand democracy or the Constitution under which this country is ruled. George Bush considers himself a "decider" as he has the truth. That's why he dislikes democracy and why he flaunts his disdain for democratic procedures, for the laws of the land, for agreements between people and nations.

For many of us, it is not surprising that under our true believing president we have seen an inexorable move toward a monarchial presidency - one which is not subject to the the Constitutional norms by which other people are constrained.

When he declares "I am the decider," Bush shows his astounding ignorance of the Constitutional separation of powers. In our democracy, and under our Constitution, Mr. Bush is most definitely NOT the "decider." Perhaps he slept through his civics, political science and American history classes.

Our Constitution mandates three branches of government: The legislative branch makes the laws - which means the legislators are the deciders! The judicial branch interprets the laws according to the Constitution. The Executive branch, and Bush should know this even though he obviously does not, enforces the laws.

A presidential true believer cannot accept such a system. Too many legislators do not know the Truth. That's why Bush may sign a law he doesn't like but immediately add a "signing statement," which proclaims he is above the law and will not obey the entire law or parts of the law he just signed; the law for which he is assigned an enforcement role!

That's also why Bush assumes he can spy illegally on American citizens and so order his minions. That's why Bush ignores information from his intelligence agencies that doesn't fit into his "truth." That's why Bush rewrites environmental studies that he disagrees with.

George W. Bush understands neither the concept nor the execution of a democracy.

The irony of all this is that Bush had the effrontery (when his initial charges of WMD in Iraq were shown to be false) to flip-flop and claim that the Iraqi invasion was to bring democracy to that country. Why millions of Americans didn't break out in hoots of laughter and throw the bum out of office is unfathomable.

In our particular democracy, we have agreed for the past 200 plus year to abide by the document known as the United States Constitution and it's first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights. Bush, the Decider, the man with the Truth, rejects that agreement. Thus, he authorizes the Writ of Habeas Corpus to be suspended on numerous occasions in order to detain and torture perceived "enemies" of the state. Secrecy becomes the norm. The people cannot be trusted to know what the government is doing.

If a decider is religious, then religious "truth" is injected into the government and its policies. For example, Bush identifies with right-wing fundamentalist Christians. Therefore he has appointed people to various offices based, not on their ability to do the job, but because they share the same religious "truth," that Bush claims to hold. Bush skirts the constitutional ban on mixing of church and state by providing funds for faith-based social enterprises. His religious truth provides justification for he and his cronies to forbid the distribution or even discussion of condoms in AIDS-torn Africa because condoms are considered a no-no by his religious "truth." He fights to overturn the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion, because his religious truth claims abortions are inherently wrong, thereby violating a fundamental conservative principle of keeping the government's hands out of people's private lives.

Because Bush's particular religious "truth" forsees the mythical godman Christ coming back to earth soon, he worries not about protecting the environment for future generations as there will be no future generations. Worse, his religious "truth" carries within it the notion of Armaggedon which could very well lead to a nuclear attack on Iran in order to bring about the end of the world so that Christ will return and kill all the bad guys and set up his righteous rule.

In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, true believers are convinced that they are obedient to god's will and therefore cannot be denied or stopped. That's fundamentally insane, but if the person so convinced is the president he or she may lead the country into a nuclear conflict certain that god is on his/her side and therefore cannot be defeated.

As the 2008 election approaches, each of the candidates should be drilled relentlessly on several issues:
1. What is their concept of the "truth"?
2. What is their understanding of the role of the office of the presidency in this democracy?
3. Will they use signing statements to ignore laws they don't like?
4. Specifically, how will their religious beliefs impact their decision-making (e.g. Do they "talk" to god, or does god talk to them?)
5. Do they accept the Constitutional provision for separation of church and state and exactly what does that mean to them?
6. Do they believe a president can spy on Americans without their knowledge and consent?
7. Do they believe that God will provide them direction and answers during their presidency?
8. Did their god create all people and does he/she love all people or are some people inferior?
9. Do they believe that people who do not believe as they do will burn in eternal hellfire?
10. Do they believe that sometimes the ends justifies the means, especially if it is god's will?
11. Do they believe that a godman is coming back to earth soon, perhaps in their lifetime?
12. Do they believe that the earth was given by god to be used and abused as humans see fit or do humans have a responsbility to take care of the earth?
13. Does their god follow the "trickle-down" theory, whereby huge tax cuts are given to wealthy in the hope that the wealthy will use their new-found riches to create jobs and benefits to the working-classes rather than buy new yachts?

14. If Christian, how do they understand Jesus' command to the rich young man to sell all that he had, give the money to the poor, and follow him?
15. If Christian, what did Jesus mean when he said his disciples should give to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar and to God what belongs to God.)

These are neither esoteric nor stupid questions. They go to the heart of our democracy. Truthful answers by the candidates would expose the true believers immediately. They could be written off as we know they would not abide by the Constitution.

It seems to me these are some of the questions we must pose to anyone who wants to assume the most powerful office in the world.

Some might say such questions violate the provision that there shall be no religious test for a candidate for office. This is not a religious test. Melissa McEwan put it this way:

"...I don't give a s... if a politician is a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Pagan, a Zoroastrian, a Scientologist, a Pastafarian (sic), or a worshipper of the Great Pumpernickel Loaf from the Eighth Dimension of the Planet Zorgon. All I ask from the people who want my vote is that they not attempt to legislate their personal spiritual beliefs..."

Answers to the above questions would clarify clearly how a candidate's personal spiritual beliefs would impact their role as President of the United States.

Eight years of a true believer "decider" as president has damned near ruined this country!