Saturday, March 22, 2008

One More Downhill Step for John McCain

This has mostly missed the national media. John McCain, about two weeks ago, headed to New Orleans to make a major speech behind closed doors to an ultra-secret, ultra-conservative, ultra-just about everything organization known as the Council for National Policy.

Normally, no one gets into their meetings. Even the mice have to check out. But McCain got in! And the press, which normally receives no word of this club's goings-on, somehow heard about the meeting with McCain. The CNP, displeased, finally agreed that the press could sit in a separate room and listen to the speech. Big whoop!

Have you heard anything about this event, or did it get sucked down that black hole of "important news that needs not be reported to the people"?

The Council for National Policy was founded by Tim Lahaye, the ultra-right fundy end-times scribbler, author of the "Left Behind" novels, along with other ultra-right nuts like Paul Weyrich, who helped to put together the Heritage Foundation.

The CNP is "a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives" in the country. They meet three times a year. No one knows where. A copy of the rules obtained by the New York Times says "The media should not know when or where we meet or who takes part in our programs, before or after a meeting..."

Power is what this little club is all about. They are power seekers, power builders, power users. They want power because their reason for existence is to recreate the United States into a right-wing theocratic state under the rule of their god!

Although the membership list is supposed to be a closely-guarded secret, it does include James Dobson, Paul Weyrich, Holland H. Coors (the beer magnate), Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, among others.

What the hell was McCain doing in the courtyard of the CNP? Well, he was courting their favor, and pandering for their votes. It's rather interesting, that, according to People for the American Way, back in 1987, LaHaye was the national co-chair for Republican presidential candidate, Jack Kemp. LaHaye had to resign, however, when it was revealed that he had written a number of anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish sentiments. He called Catholicism a "false religion" and said the Jews "brought the judgment of God upon themselves and their land" by rejecting Jesus.

Why would McCain want the support of such people?

He wants to get elected, dummy, and he'll do whatever it takes. Again!

Sam Harris, Barack Obama & Religion

Sam Harris, erstwhile non-believer, in a recent essay praised Barack Obama for his very spiffy speech. Harris used words like "truly brilliant," and "inspiring." I agree.

The point of this brief essay by Mr. Harris, however, was to note that the mess Obama finds himself in relative to the Rev. Wright "has as much to do with religion as racism--and, indeed, religion is the reason why our political discourse in this country is so scandalously stupid."

A question many are asking: Why didn't Obama get out of Wright's church?

Well, he couldn't, says Sam. Someone might question his faith in Jesus. Suspicions could arise, such as: "Might the Senator from Illinois be unsure whether the Creator of the universe brought forth his only Son from the womb of a Galilean virgin, taught him the carpenter's trade, and then had him crucified for our benefit?

"Few suspicions could be more damaging in American politics today."

Harris has more to say, referring in particular to Christianity's role in enabling slavery in this country, as well as uniting Whites after Reconstruction "in their racist hatred and the black community in its squalor..."

You can read the entire article here.

Wright and Wrong and John McCain

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is wrong, almost everyone agrees.

How could he say all those bad things about our beloved country? How could he imply that maybe the United States has not always given black people a fair shake? How could he possible think that maybe our foreign policy in some perverse way played a part in the 9/11 attacks?

No question, the Rev. Wright was wrong about some things. But perhaps he was right about other things, too.

This essay, however, is not about Wright and wrong per se. Rather it asks the question whether Barack Obama is being held to a higher or different standard by the media and by the voters, than is, say John McCain.

We all know what Wright said, or supposedly said.


Rudy Giuliani is no longer running for president. But is everyone aware that Rudy Giuliani's priest has been accused in grand jury proceedings of child molestation, as well as hiding the molestation of other people?

Giuliani did not renounce him when he was campaigning for president and this priest is still on Giuliani's staff.

Is everyone aware that the late Jerry Falwell said 9/11 was America's fault because America allowed gay people to have rights as well as liberals and feminists?

That didn't stop John McCain from proudly accepting Falwell's support, nor did it stop McCain from speaking at Falwell's university's commencement.

Is everyone aware that John Hagee has called the Roman Church the "Great Whore," that he claims the anti-Christ will be a Jewish man from the European Union, that all Muslims are trained to kill and will serve as part of Satan's army at Armageddon? Do people know Hagee said that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for the sins of the people of New Orleans?

Hagee thunders that if the U.S. does not pass a constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as only between a man and a woman, all kinds of evils will befall us -- incest, polygamy, "and every conceivable marriage arrangement demented minds can possibly conceive. If God does not then punish America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."

Is all of this too much for John McCain? Not in the least. He solicited Hagee's endorsement and when he got it he said he was glad to have it!

Does anyone even know the fruitcake from Ohio, Rod Parsley? Does anyone know that Parsley believes that the United States was formed, in part, in order to destroy Islam? Islam, says Parsley, is a really bad religion with a "demon spirit," and is anti-Christ. According to Parsley, we are already involved in a war against all Muslims. And Parsley, who claims the mind of god, wishes to set up god's government right here in the United States; a theocracy. That would mean, for one thing, that adulterers would be prosecuted.

Not long ago Parsley likened Planned Parenthood to the Nazis. Parsley has also implied that the U.S. government "was complicit in facilitating black genocide."

Now, what kind of outrage would that have prompted if spoken by the Rev. Wright?

McCain, however, calls Parsley his "spiritual guide."

Why, you wonder, is Barack Obama required to fall all over himself over and over again to deny, renounce, recant, dispute, and disparage the remarks of Rev. Wright and John McCain gets a free pass with regard to all the religious hate-mongers that have gone to bat on his side?

Could it be as simple as racism? Or could it be that our media is so frightened of the power of the religious right, they're cowed into silence?

Whatever, it sure as hell ain't Right!

Puryear - Prison Profiteer to Federal Judge

His name is Gustavus Adolphus Puryear (no, I'm not kidding)!

He has almost no courtroom experience. In fact, in his whole life he has tried the grand total of two cases. According to an excellent article by Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones, "The last time he litigated a case in federal court was more than a decade ago."

What he does have is experience as a Republican hack. He was on Cheney's 2000 debate-preparation team and returned to Cheney's side in 2004 to help the shot-gunner get ready to debate John Edwards.

In the mid-90s, Puryear was counsel to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. At the time, the committee was investigating the Clintons regarding their fund-raising. Fred Thompson, erstwhile 2008 presidential candidate, was the Chairman.

While Puryear's courtroom experience is pretty much non-existent, he has been involved with the criminal justice system. For the past seven years, he's been the general counsel for the Corrections Corporation of America, a Tennessee company. He's made millions of buckaroos.

CCA gets sued on a regular basis. Puryear is in charge of those in charge of defending CCA against inmate litigation. CCA has lost on a few occasions; in 2000, in South Carolina, the company got slapped with a $3 million fine for abusing juvenile offenders.

According to one judicial watch organization, Puryear has a reputation for not liking civil lawsuits, especially those filed by felons.

Would you appoint this man to be a federal trial court judge? Would you apppoint this man to be a federal trial court judge for the Middle District of Tennessee?

Probably not. Would the Bush administration appoint this man to be a federal trial court judge for the Middle District of Tennessee? You bet your ass!

Why? Well, sheesh, he's done lot's of good work for the Republican Party. He belongs to the really fancy, discriminating Belle Meade Country Club and he's the director of the Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville. No, he probably couldn't tell you what the inside of a courtroom looks like, but, hey, so what?

Heck, another year or so of really good work as a federal trial court judge and he'll be ready to head to the Supremes. He can sit on the opposite end of the bench from Clarence Thomas.

The Holocaust Journal (Lest We Forget) - Germany 1944 (I)

[Photo: Brutalizing a Polish Jew - Just for fun.]

Germany 1944 (I)

Auschwitz. May 24, 1944: Two thousand Jews arrived at this death camp from Hungary. One of those Jews, a young boy, had the number A-7713, tattooed on his left arm. He was from Sighet, a Romanian town, under Hungarian control. His name was Elie Wiesel.

Wiesel survived Auschwitz and went on to become one of the world's great writers. "At Auschwitz," said Wiesel, "not only man died, but also the idea of man....It was its own heart the world incinerated at Auschwitz."

In 1986, Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize.

August 4, 1944: Anne Frank and her family were betrayed and arrested by the SD (Security Police). One month later, on September 4, the Franks, along with over 1,000 other prisoners, were forced to board the last Auschwitz-bound train from Westerbork.

Upon arrival at Auschwitz, 549 of the Jews were gassed immediately. Anne Frank was somehow spared and sent to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp inside Germany. She died from typhus in March of 1945.

While the Allied forces advanced upon the Germans during 1944, and gassing operations at Auschwitz were slowing down, over 600,000 European Jews were murdered because they were Jews!

Other highlights from 1944: At the I.G. Farben synthetic-rubber and oil plant at Auschwitz, a worker could expect to live 3-4 months. In the coal mines, life expectancy was one month.

King Gustav of Sweden and Pope Pius XII pressure Hungary to stop deporting Jews.

A judge, Raphael Lemkin, writes a book called Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, where he tells of how the Nazis ruled and termed in barbarism. He is the one who coined the word, genocide, from the Greek "genos," which means nation or people, and cide, which means to kill.

* January 10 - Professor Victor Basch and his wife are murdered near Lyons, France, in retaliation for the killing of a French collaborator by the French resistance.

* January 12 - The Gestapo arrest Frau Hanna Solf, the widow of the former German ambassador to Tokyo, and her daughter four months after attending a resistance tea party. Both Frau Solf and her daughter were part of the anti-Nazi German resistance. The tea party had included a Gestapo spy.

* January 22 - President Roosevelt is pressured to create the War Refugee Board.

* January 25 - The governor-general of Occupied Poland, Hans Frank, writes in his diary that out of 3,400,000 Jews in 1941, only some 100,000 remain under his control.

* February 20-25 - U.S. air forces battle German flyers and the U.S. establishes air superiority over Western Europe.

* March 1944 - The Nazis move into Hungary. Oskar Schindler's kitchen-untensil factory is near by and Schindler works constantly to keep his employees from being arrested and deported.

* March 5 - Max Jacob, 60, a Catholic is made to wear the Yellow Star. He dies of pneumonia at Drancy, France. Jacob was a godson of Pablo Picasso.

* March 6 - Emanuel Ringelblum, a historian and Warsaw Ghetto archivist, is captured by the Gestapo in the "Aryan" part of Warsaw. He and his family are tortured and killed.

* March 7 - Anne Frank notes that "he who has courage and faith will never perish in misery!" She was so very, very wrong!

* March 14-April 2 - the Nazis sweep Greece for Jews hiding on the mainland to deport them to Auschwitz.

* March 19 - Hungary cedes to German authority. 725,000 Jews in jeapordy. The SS begins the deportation process.

* March 22 - About 100 Jews escape a camp in Belorussia and leave behind an explosive charge that kills 10 SS guards. Most of these Jews avoid capture and join a resistance group.

* March23 - A Jewish partisan in Poland blows up a German military train carrying armored cars.

* March 24 - President Roosevelt sends a warning that all those guilty of war crimes will be punished.

* April 1944 - The German priest, Max Josef Metzger, who had pled for a new German government in 1942, is executed at Brandenburg, Germany.

To be continued...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Freedom in Saudi Arabia

Freedom in Saudi Arabia means you're free to do what the government tells you to do.

Some find that out the hard way. Fouad Al Farhan is/was a Saudi Internet blogger. At the top of his blog appeared these words: "Searching for freedom, dignity, justice and equality."

Al Farhan is now in jail. Al Farhan, 32, was arrested on December 10 of last year, charged with "violating nonsecurity regulations." The last I heard, he was being held for interrogation in Jeddah. So much for "freedom, dignity, justice and equality!"

Interestingly, his blog continues with posts by his friends. One of these posts says Al Farhan was picked up because he "wrote about political prisoners in Saudi Arabia" and would not apologize. But his writings also encompassed the desire for political freedom and he criticised government officials and government institutions.

According to Rasha Abdulla, an assistant professor at the American University in Cairo, the Internet has been available to the public in Saudi only since 1999. "Saudi Arabia is one of the strictest Arab countries," said Abdulla. The Saudi authorities want to "protect the Saudi citizens from the inappropriate material on the Internet."

Bullpoop! Like all dictatorships, they claim to be "protecting the people," in this case, by blocking pornography and violence. The reality is they block what they perceive as errant political views, and other news that would counter the reality existing within the country of Saudi Arabia!

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. Its legal system is beholden to Sharia (Islamic law.) Thus, all citizens must be Muslims. People of some other religions may live in Saudi, but they cannot be citizens of the country. If you are Jewish, you don't even want to try to move to Saudi! There is no freedom of religion. Islam is the only allowable religion.

Saudi Arabia is of the Sunni persuasion. Muslims that question the Sunni interpretation of things can find themselves in very serious trouble.

Saudi Arabia is strongly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

The laws are based upon an especially strict version of Sunni Islam, called the Hanbali school. This is a problem for the country's approximately 2 million Shi'a Muslims.

A Muslim cannot convert to another religion and one may not try to make a convert. Conversion is considered apostasy and is punishable by death if the person does not recant. A schoolteacher was tried for apostasy in 2004. The charge was reduced to blasphemy. He got three years in prison and 300 lashes!

Shi'a Muslims are subjected to various levels of discrimination. They have little political or religious freedom and are often harassed by government officials.

Mail and other shipments to Saudi are routinely opened and inspected.

Religious education in all schools is mandatory. Strict standards of social behavior are rigorously enforced. Businesses must close during the five daily prayer observances. The clothing a person wears must meet specific guidelines. Men and women not married to one another may not socialize. No Christmas gifts of New Year's gifts are allowed. Valentine's Day is considered a "pagan Christian holiday."

Rules are enforced by the official Mutawwa'in and by vigilantes. They have authority to detain a person for 24 hours for violation of proper dress and behavior standards.

It is not unusual for Muslim preachers, paid by the government to use violent anti-Jewish and anti-Christian language in the sermons. In a number of instances, Mosque speakers prayed for the death of Jews and Christians.

The law reads that all children of male citizens are Muslim, regardless of the country or the religious tradition in which they were raised. The government also applies this law to non-Muslim, non-citizen mothers and denies their children the right to choose their religion.

In light of all of the above, you will be glad to know that the rite of marriage is available in Saudi to very young children. According to the March 19 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, "An 11-year old boy has married his 10-year old cousin in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

The boy, Mohammed al-Rashidi and his cousin will "seal" the marriage they contracted under sharia law and move in together after a ceremony this summer.

Mohammed, says "I am ready for this marriage. It will help me study better."

Well, of course it will. And why didn't we think of that? Maybe, from here on out, in the United States, we should require all 11-year old boys and 10-year old girls to be married. Children of that age often have a hard time studying. What a boon it would be to be married!

A final note. Iran is Shia. Iraq is under the control of the Shia Muslims. In the past, Iran and Iraq have been bitter enemies, their mutual rancor culminating in a 10-year long war. During that war, the U.S. armed and supported Saddam Hussein. Now, Iran is making overtures of friendship to Iraq. Iraq is responding in kind.

The Sunni insurgents are most unhappy with the way things are going and seem to be intent on blowing up the country. They have been armed by the United States!

Al-Qaeda is Sunni. Saudi Arabia is Sunni. Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden is from a huge Saudi Arabian family. Some say Bin Laden and his group have received funds and support from the Saudi poohbahs. The 9/11 hijackers were trained in Saudi.

But figure this one out: al-Qaeda is blamed for a number of terrorist attacks within Saudi Arabia.

Whatever. It would appear that one of the last countries to be a close ally of the United States would be Saudi Arabia.

Except for the fact that there is still a ton of oil buried beneath the Saudi Arabian sands!

It's all very confusing.

It's so confusing that only a total idiot would consider invading and trying to occupy one of these countries!

What's Happened to the Terrorist Alerts?

Before 2004, we were innundated with terrorist alerts - those color-coded thingys from the Department of Homeland Security.

It's seems they've vanished into thin air, although you can, if you wish have the DHS send you an email when there is a terrorist alert. If it wasn't too late, I suppose you could then hoist your own color-coded flag in front of your house.

The alerts haven't disappeared altogether, though. I have discovered that the U.S. was on a high level of alert in both June and September of last year. Maybe I was sleeping, but I can't recall anybody waving colored flags around warning us of impending danger.

Not that I want them. The color-coded flags symbolize the gross stupidity that is endemic to the Bush administration. Why would you want to advertise to the world's terrorists whether our guardians are awake or asleep at the wheel?

Greg Palast notes that when we show the whole world a yellow flag it tells the whole world we think the threat is minimal and that there are no special inspections of passengers of cargo traveling by air. "Isn't it nice of Mr. Bush to alert Osama when half our security forces are given the day off?"

Guess what? Israel doesn't use color-coded warnings.

Palast says that "America is the only nation on the planet that kindly informs bombers, hijackers and other berserkers the days on which they won't be monitored.

"You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to get a jump on George Bush's team."

Then he suggests there are only "three possible explanations for the Administration's publishing a good-day-for-bombing color guidebook.

1. God is on Osama's side.
2. George is on Osama's side.
3. Fear sells better than sex."

The Bush, Rove & Schwarzenegger Nazi Connection

[Photo is of Prescott Bush, grandfather of George W. Bush]

You may have known this and forgotten it, or you may have never heard about it: the past ties that link Bush, Rove and Schwarzenegger to the Nazis.

What you read here is not meant to imply that the trio of Bush, Rove and Schwarzenegger should be held responsible for the sins of the fathers, or their grandfathers, but the connections are interesting.

And, who knows, those connections might explain a few things.

None of this is new, but it has received very little play in the mainstream media. A few years ago, The Guardian (U.K.) did a comprehensive story based on information taken from the National Archives which showed that the grandfather of George W. Bush, a Republican senator from Connecticut, was nothing more than "a creepy front man for industrialists who bankrolled and built the Nazi war machine." [My emphasis]

Prescott along with Averill Harriman set up the Union Banking Corporation (UBC) back in the 1930s. "Bush was a founder and director and owned one share, valued at $125." But the UBC was not what it appeared - it was a shell, owned by a Netherlands bank, with anonymous real owners who turned out to be a German family by name of Thyssen.

"The Thyssens were a preeminent German business family that dominated the nation's iron and steel and coal businesses and were crucial to bankrolling and building the Nazi war machine." It started with "Young Fritz Thyssen ... infatuated with Hitler, ... joined the Nazi party in 1931." Young Fritz was a great find. When the Nazis got into financial trouble, Fritz came to the rescue.

"By the late '30s, along with Harriman's Brown Brothers Harriman, which claimed to be the world's largest investment bank, Bush had bought and shipped millions of dollars of gold, fuel, steel, coal, and U.S. treasury bonds to Germany."

Now, before war broke out, this was not illegal. But it sure as hell didn't look good from a moral or ethical perspective. As John Loftus, a former U.S. attorney has said, "This (UBC) was the mechanism by which Hitler was funded to come to power, this was the mechanism by which the Third Reich's defense industry was re-armed, this was the mechanism by which Nazi profits were repatriated back to the American owners, this was the mechanism by which investigations into the financial laundering of the Third Reich were blunted."

Also of interest is the fact that on October 20, 1942, the U.S. government ordered the seizure of Nazi Germany's banking operations in New York City, which were under the direction of Prescott Bush. The government used the "Trading with the Enemy Act of gain control of the UBC.

Loftus further notes that the Bush family tried to "spin" their involvement in various ways by saying UBC was owned by a Dutch bank and it wasn't until the Nazis conquered Holland that they became aware of Nazi control of the company. Bush supporters use that same "spin" to justify the fact that the Bushes got their money back after the war.

Loftus says, that is "absolute horseshit." They always knew...they were a crucial part of it from the onset...

Karl Rove, who served as George W. Bush's mastermind for many years, has similar ties to the Nazis.

Rove's grandfather was Karl Heinz Roverer, the Gauleiter of Oldenburg. He was also the Reich-Staffhalter--Nazi State Party Chairman--for his region.

In addition, he was a partner and senior engineer witht eh Roverer Sud-Deutche Ingenierurburo A. G. engineering company, which built the Birkenau death camp "at which tens of thousands of Jews, Gypsies, dissidents and other (sic) were slaughtered en masse."

On to Schwarzenegger. One year after the Nazis seized Austria, Schwarzenegger's father, Gustav, volunteered for Hitler's infamous Strumabteilung (SA) -- the brown shirts - stormtroopers. This was six months after the brown shirts were instrumental in the Kristallnacht attacks throughout the German Jewish community.

According to the Vienna daily Der Standard, "Gustav, a high-ranking Nazi, brought up the bespectacled, rather frail boy [Arnold] with an iron fist and quite a few slaps in the face." It is said that Arnold's father wore the same type of moustache as did Adolf Hitler.

Some of us recall when ABC News told of a 1977 interview with Schwarzenegger in which, when asked whom he admired, said "I admire Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it."

Obviously this was a major mistake for Schwarzenegger. To try to atone, he gave a goodly amount of money to the Weisenthal Center in Los Angeles. And he renounced Hitler. But we all know that frequently when we blurt out something, that is exactly what we mean.

Finally, Schwarzenegger was also a close friend to the Austrian Karl Waldheim, at one time the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Even after Waldheim was excoriated for his Nazi associations, and for the fact he had taken part in Nazi atrocities, Schwarzenegger refused to renounce the friendship. He is quoted as saying, "My friends don't want me to mention Kurt's name, because of all the recent Nazi stuff and the U.N. controvery, but I love him and Maria does to, (sic) and so thank you, Kurt." (from "Arnold: An Unauthorized Biography")

It is easier now to understand why Bush would say he would like to be a dictator, and why he likes to call himself "the decider." Rove's callous, devious, underhanded political shenanigans are also better understood in the context of his background. And Arnold, well, maybe he just doesn't know any better. He's an actor, for god's sake!

The Holocaust Journal (Lest We Forget) - Germany 1943 (IV)

Germany 1943 (IV)

Throughout Europe Jews tried to hide from the Nazis. They hid in basements, in attics, in cupboards, in secret nooks and crannies. They were sometimes assisted by Gentile friends and occasionally by complete strangers.

Most people are familiar with the story of Anne Frank, who, with her family were secreted away in Amsterdam, and supplied with enough essentials to survive by a Gentile, Miep Gies.

Some convents and monasteries hid Jewish children. In the north of Italy, a Father Niccacci assisted Jews with forged identity papers and helped them find work and a place to live. The entire village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in France, led by its pastor, Andre Trocme, worked at protecting and hiding Jews.

It was more difficult for Jews to find hiding places in Eastern Europe. The Poles tended toward anti-Semitism and often turned Jews in to the Nazis by revealing their hiding places. Some did help the Jews, however, including Irene Gut Oppyke who hid 12 Jews in the home of a German officer for whom she worked as a maid.

And in Wlodawa, Poland, a Jewish man by name of Yankel, lived for one year in a hole in the floor of a barn while the barn itself was home to German soldiers.

* October 2 - The Danes save about 7,000 Jews from Nazi arrest. The first Jewish paratroopers land in the Balkans. These Jewish paratroopers are ordered to first help organize non-Jewish underground units for the British. When that's complete, they can help other Jews, but without any support.

* October 4 - SS chief Heinrich Himmler, in an address to senior SS officers, says that killing is hard but necessary. However, they should never talk publicly of the killing of Jews.

* October 6 - Helen Manaster is a Jew but posing as a Catholic. She is pregnant and having labor pains when two Gestapo agents get her out of bed for questioning. She remains calm and they tell her to go back to bed.

* October 13 - Italy declares war on Germany. Various weapons--knives and hatchets--as well as warm clothing, are handed out secretly at the Sobibor death camp.

* October 14 - The inmates at Sobibor start a revolt and try to escape. Of the 600 Jews in the camp, 200 are killed by gunfire and exploding mines; 300 escape; 100 are recaptured; 200 flee to join Soviet partisans. The Jews kill 11 SS guards as well as a couple of Ukrainian SS guards.

* October 16 - The Nazis search house-to-house for Jews in Rome. 477 Jews hide in the Vatican. Another 4238 are hidden in convents and monasteries throughout the city.

The German ambassador to the Vatican praises the Holy See for "perfect evenhandedness" in its treatment of Germany and the Allies. He asks what the Pope will do if the Germans continue to deport Jews from Italy. The Vatican Secretary of State says "the Holy See would not want to be put in the position of having to utter a word of disapproval." The Pope would not want the German people to think he had "done or wished to do even the smallest thing against Germany during this terrible war."

* October 20 - The UN War Crimes Commission is established.

* October 25 - Himmler orders the destruction of the Jewish skulls and skeleton collection at Strasbourg.

November 1943 - The anti-Semitic U.S. State Department official, Breckenridge Long, continues his campaign against the Jews by lying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He tells the committee that the U.S. has admitted 580,000 refugees since 1933. He implies most of these are Jews and remain in the U.S. Actually, less than 200,000 remain in the U.S. and many of the refugees were not Jewish!

* November 1 - Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill sign the Moscow Declaration. There's no mention of Jews or gas chambers.

* November 9 - Guy Gillette, a U.S. senator, along with representatives Will Rogers and Joseph Baldwin introduce a resolution calling upon the president to set up a commission to devise a plan to save the Jews still alive in Europe.

* November 28-December 1 - Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill meet at Tehran to begin planning a British/American invasion from the west.

* December 23 - U.S. Secretary Henry Morgenthau's staff tells him that the U.S. State Department's attitude is "no different from Hitler's attitude."

Late 1943 - Himmler orders the Belzec camp be destroyed. Sobibor and Treblinka had been destroyed. At all three camps, the land is plowed under and settled by Ukranians.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Winning is everything!" - John McCain

This is not a "Dear John" letter. I'm not leaving John McCain. I didn't plan to vote for him in the first place.

His latest misstatements, however, would have certainly unsealed the deal if I had planned to cast a ballot his way!

A couple of days ago:

In Amman, Jordan, Joe Lieberman steps up close to McCain and whispers in his ear, "'Extremists,' dummy, not al-Qaeda!"

Joe had to do something as McCain had blundered badly! Trying to promote his faux foreign policy expertise, McCain several times said that Iran (which is a Shiite country) was assisting al-Qaeda in Iraq. That statement was incorrect every time he made it.

Al-Qaeda, you see, is of the Sunni persuasion. The Shiites and the Sunnis don't sit down at the same table. They like to kill each other, though. A Shiite would never assist a Sunni. Thus, a major problem in Iraq is that the government is run by Shiites, supported by a Shiite military. The Sunnis are unhappy about that and they tend to blow things up when they're unhappy. Boom! And then the Shiites, mightily pissed, blow up some Sunnis. Boom!

[Someone might mention to our prezident that is called a "civil war!"]

McCain said he was "concerned" about the fact that Iranian "operatives" were "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."

The press pressed him to expand on that. He did, much to his embarrassment: It was "common knowledge," insisted John, "and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate."

Lieberman corrected him. John was all wrong, again!

Unfortunately, McCain doesn't know what he's talking about. He should have realized that the reason Iran and Iraq have been making "nicey-nice" of late is because they are both of the Shiite persuasion, and believe that together they may be able to shut out the Sunnis [and the Kurds] altogether.

McCain doesn't have a clue. So much for foreign policy experience!

Let's return, momentarily, to the days of 2000 when McCain was fighting Bush for the Republican nomination. Way back then, McCain didn't have much use for the paragons of the Christian Right.

You may recall that Bush, utilizing below-the-belt politics, crushed McCain in the South Carolina and Virginia primaries. Bush had all the fanatics below the Mason-Dixon line in his pocket: Bob Jones III, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell. To ensure that they stayed there, Bush even went so far as to hold a rally with the extremist, Bob Jones, in Greenville, South Carolina.

McCain was so angry at Bush and at these Christian Rightists that he attacked both Robertson and Falwell, calling them "agents of intolerance." Bush, said McCain, was nothing more than a "Pat Robertson Republican."

Ouch! McCain's anger grew and his temper flared. In fact, in 2001, he was approached by Democrats who tried to persuade him to switch parties. In 2004, there were feelers out wondering if he'd consider becoming Kerry's vice presidential running mate. McCain declined both times.

In 2008, however, McCain has, in Christian religious terminology, backslid bigtime!

Being the ultimate opportunist, essentially amoral when it comes to politics, McCain has been all over the map, and on his knees begging for the support of crackpot Christian Rightists who have shown little enthusiasm for his presidential bid.

He has pandered to Dobson, to Hagee, to Parsley, to Robertson...some of which he called "agents of intolerance" not so long ago. Now their intolerance has been forgiven and forgotten. "Please give me your support," McCain pleaded. And most did.

An even more telling and appalling situation has been McCain's flip-flop with regard to the way the U.S. treats its prisoners, and the use of torture.

About two and a half years ago, Nat Hentoff wrote an article called "A definition of patriotism," in which he praises McCain for his stand against the mistreatment of terrorist suspects, and specifically his stand against torture.

On July 20, 2005, McCain introduced several amendments to the $42 billion Pentagon bill for 2006. His amendments were designed to halt the abuse of detainees held by the U.S. government.

Hentoff writes, "Affirming American values, McCain's first amendment would have established 'the Army Field manual as the standard for interrogation of all detainees held in the Department of Defense (DOD) custody.'"

McCain directly addressed the issue of prisoner abuse in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan.

McCain also offered an amendment that would require every foreign national, detained in a DOD facility, be registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross. "This will help us," said McCain, "eliminate the problem of ghost detainees we faced in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in which other government agencies held unregistered detainees in a facility operated by our military."

McCain went on, eloquently: "I believe this provision to be just basic common sense, and I can hardly see how anyone could object ..."

Alas, the White House did object! Frist was ordered to pull the entire Pentagon spending bill off the floor immediately in case the Senate go crazy and pass the bill with the amendments.

But McCain had a third amendment up his sleeve. This would have banned the "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of anyone in American custody." As Hentoff points out, this is "the very language of the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which this country has ratified."

Then John, again eloquently, spoke to his amendment on the floor of the Senate:

"We are Americans and we hold ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people no matter how evil or terrible they may be ... President Bush understands that the war on terror is ultimately a battle of ideas, a battle we will win by spreading and standing firmly for the values of decency, democracy and the rule of law. I stand with him in this commitment."

Well, that comment was very calculating! John knew full well that Bush understood no such thing, that for Bush the so-called war on terror was nothing more than an excuse to try to grab Iraq's oil, and that Bush knew from nothing about "a battle of ideas."

Nor did Bush intend on "standing firmly for the values of decency, democracy and the rule of law." He intended, right along, to do just the opposite.

Why, then, would McCain offer those amendments, knowing the Bush administration did whatever the hell it wanted to when it came to detainees and torture?

Was he trying to embarrass Bush, knowing that Bush would never sign a bill with those amendments included? Was this "pay-back time?"

But the really big question, the ultimate question, the question that raises questions about McCain's fundamental character is why did he change his mind and become an advocate of torture?

How could McCain make such grand and moving statements about how the United States lives by certain humane values and then turn around two and a half years later and urge President Bush to veto a law that forces the government to use the Army field manual (as per his first amendment in 2005) and forbids the use of torture such as waterboarding on detainees held by the government?

The answer is predictably simple. McCain is running for president. As I've said before, McCain will do almost anything to become president. If it means to support George Bush, a man he despises, in Bush's campaign to allow the torture of prisoners in American custody, so be it.

That's very, very sad. Unfortunately, it is also consistent, historically, with how McCain has climbed the political ladder.

To put it another way, for John, winning is everything!

Bush and Iraq - He Still Doesn't Get It!

Yesterday, on the fifth anniversary of the disaster in Iraq, Bush said he doesn't want to "jeopardize the hard-fought gains" of 2007.

What planet is this guy living on?

It appears he believes that if he says something outrageous enough, often enough, more than enough people will believe him. Thus, this to a group of military honchos, plain soldiers and diplomats: "The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary, and it is just. And with your courage, the battle in Iraq will end in victory."

There's more along those lines: "Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al Qaida out."

What a horrendous twist on the truth! Bush conveniently doesn't mention that al Qaida had no presence in Iraq before his so-called war!

Bush basks in "undeniable successes." He rejoices in how we have "come so far and achieved so much."

All of which is total bullshit, of course!

Finally, this worst prezident ever, said that "War critics can no longer credibly argue that we are losing in Iraq, so now they argue the war costs too much."

No, Mr. Bush, they're not arguing. They're laying out, for everyone to see, the cold, hard facts. And while you may think that borrowing $3 trillion to invade and occupy a harmless country is nothing, we're no longer buying the snake oil you're selling, and we're mad as hell that you've sold this country down the river of imperialism, militarism, greed and stupidity.

The party's over, Mr. Prezident. No one believes you anymore.

Preachers and Politicians Praying

On a number of occasions, I have written about what seems to me to be the clearly unconstitutional practice of offering prayers at official political gatherings such as national congresses or state legislatures.

Obviously, what I thought about the matter made absolutely no difference and the practice continues unrestrained in Washington, D.C. and no doubt all of our state capitols.

In spite of the fact that the United States is most certainly not a Christian nation, Christians have more or less ruled the roost in many communities for many years, and have almost nonchalantly assumed the right to set the religious parameters for a variety of venues.

Thus, we have a long tradition of public piety. Preachers pray before legislatures, before school boards, before city councils, before county commissions, before football and basketball and baseball games, before rodeos, before races, before banquets, ad infinitum.

Preachers usually pray after hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning strikes, and other "natural" disasters.

In most cases the preachers doing the praying are Christians of one sect or another. And, the more conservative the sect, the more likely the prayer will conclude with the words, "In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord," or something to that effect as they believe that without the name of Jesus attached the prayer will be ignored by the guy in the sky.

Occasionally, a Muslim, or Rabbi, or other religious poohbah will be invited to say a public prayer, but that happens only in communities where they have a substantial constituency, or where they are known to be innocuous enough to offend no one.

It's all very inane. What is the purpose? Does anyone believe that a god is going to care that some display of public piety is made in his/her name? Is it necessary that a prayer be made before some kind of action can be effective? Are there going to be better laws because some guy in a collar or kippah said a few pious phrases? Actually, it would seem rather clear that prayers before a legislature meets may be detrimental to sound legislation being passed!

And have you ever opened your eyes and looked around when these prayers are being said? Oh, boy, a whole lot of folks are simply not participating and appear very bored and wish they could get it the hell over with so they could finish their business and go play golf.

Nathaniel Hoffman, of the Boise Weekly describes what happens in Idaho. "Every day at Idaho's temporary statehouse, broadcast over loud speakers, you can hear prayer. Sometimes it's the House chaplain recalling the travails of Daniel or perhaps dipping into a New Testament reflection. Or maybe it's the Senate's pastor asking for divine guidance in matters of state."

Hoffman says the prayers often end with some reference to Jesus.

He tells us that in 1983, the U.S. Supremes gave the thumbs-up to legislative prayer in Nebraska. They reasoned that "To invoke divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws is not, in these circumstances, a violation of the Establishment Clause..."

There are a few legislators in Idaho that aren't happy with the Jesus stuff. And they've mentioned to the House chaplain that not all people share the same faith. His response was, "They don't have to listen."

Other lawmakers don't bother to come to the prayer session at all. And some work on their laptops while the exercise in piety is happening.

Hoffman, not a believer, says "We stand tall in the press gallery, heads unbowed, lips unmoving, emotions ping ponging between agnostic contempt and a desire to rip off our shirt, revealing a thick, imagined chest-sized Star of David tattoo."

I don't think that's probably the response our pious chaplains were hoping for. But, what do they expect when they push Christian prayers on people who are not Christian? And how does that glorify the one they claim to worship?

Again, I refer to the New Testament passage where Jesus says clearly and unambiguously that his followers should not be like the hypocrites who get a high by addressing the almighty in the public square. Rather, he says that his followers should pray in secret, like a closet, maybe, and God, who sees in secret, will reward them in secret.

[As the photograph shows, even Hitler made it a point to pray publicly!]

What about a religious Jew? Are there any guidelines for such a person?

Perhaps. The prophet, Micah, offers some advice which might still be appropos:

"He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" (MIcah 6:8)

There you have it: Do justly; love mercy; walk humbly with your God.

Nothing about prayer at all!

I have nothing to offer followers of other religions. Well, maybe this, the same advice I'd give to everyone: skip the praying. Get to work.

The Holocaust Journal (Lest We Forget) - Germany 1943 (III)

Germany 1943 (III)

* August 1943 - Armed resistance by Jews transpires at the following slave-labor camps: Sasow, Poland; Lackie Wielkie, Poland; Jaktorow, Poland; and Konin, Poland. In every case, most of those who resisted are killed.

* August 2 - At Treblinka, Jews revolt using a variety of weapons; 350-400 of the camp's 700 inmates escape; all except for 100 are hunted down and murdered.

* August 7 - By this date, almost all 50,000 Jews in Salonika, Greece have been murdered.

* August 17 - Allied forces defeat the Axis forces in Sicily.

* August 25 - At a labor camp in the Ukraine, SS troops choose 24 attractive Jewish women, aged 17-20, for an all-night SS orgy. One of the girls attempts to escape and is shot the next day. The other 23 are murdered soon after.

* August 28 - The Nazis declare martial law in Denmark and end the Danish-German agreement that forbids assaulting Danish Jews.

* September 1943 - The American Council for Judaism issues a proclamation that Jewishness "exists in a religious sense only, and that attempts to establish a Jewish homeland would be disloyal to the homeland nations of individual Jews."

Hundreds of Jews escape from Vilna, Lithuania. Vitka Kempner, a Vilna partisan blows up an electrical transformer in the city, and then travels to Olkiniki, Poland and helps burn down a turpentine factory.

Three Jewish partisans in Paris kill Karl Ritter, "aide to Nazi slave-labor chief Fritz Sauckel."

* September 3 -8 - The Allies invade the Italian peninsula. Italy surrenders to the Allies and the new Italian leader signs an armistice with the Allies.

* September 5-6 - Twelve freight cars filled with shoes taken from murdered Jews are delivered to a warehouse in the Lodz Ghetto.

* September 8 - Italian forces surrender at Rhodes. The Germans move into Athens.

* September 10 - The Nazis occupy Rome.

* September 20 - At Szebnie, Poland, 1,000 inmates are trucked to a field and shot with machine guns. The bodies are burned and the bones are tossed into the Jasiolka River.

* September 22 - The Generalkommissar of Belorussia, Wilhelm Kube is assassinated in his sleep by a bomb left under his bed by a maid, a member of the resistance.

* September 25 - The Soviet Army captures Smolensk, Russia. The chief rabbi of Athens, Eliahu Barzilai, disguises himself as a peasant and escapes from the city.

* September 28 - 29 - Jews living in Rome are ordered to deliver 50 kilograms of gold to the Gestapo. Pope Pius XII offered to lend 15 kilograms of gold if the Jews could not obtain the full amount themselves.

More tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When Is a War Not a War? In Iraq

Today is the 5th anniversary of the Bush misadventure in Iraq. Over 300 blogs are involved in a "blogswarm" against the war. You can review and read what these bloggers have to say here. There is also a link on the sidebar of this blog.

What follows is my contribution to the March 19 Blogswarm.

The so-called war in Iraq is not a war. It never was a war. Our Iraq adventure has been circumscribed by two events: an invasion and an occupation.

Patrick Cockburn of CounterPunch explains the invasion, which began on March 19, 2003: While there was some conflict and some resistance, he says, by and large the reason the allied forces marching to Baghdad "had an easy passage ...[was] because the Iraqi army did not fight. Even the so-called elite Special Republican Guard units, well paid, well equipped and tribally linked to Saddam, went home."

Cockburn says the media coverage was "highly deceptive because it gave the impression of widespread fighting when there was none." In the north, Mosul and Kirkuk "were captured with hardly a shot being fired." In the area around Baghdad, "Burned out tanks littered the roads" which made it seem as though there had been much heavy fighting. Not so. In most instances, the Iraqi crews had left their tanks to go home before they'd been hit.

It was all too easy, says Mr. Cockburn.

It wasn't a war, says I.

And the rest, as they say, is history. A history of an occupation gone horribly wrong. Picture this: Bush, sitting in the Oval Office is informed the invasion was a success. He looks around with that little smirk of his, as if embarrassed, then turns to ask Rumsfeld and Cheney, "Ok, what do we do now?"

None of them have a clue.

So, on the 5th anniversary of this horrific, misguided adventure, 160,000 troops remain mired in the bloody chaos of Iraq. They are not fighting a war, they are trying to keep the peace. Keeping the peace, however, is an impossible task because the Bush administration's inept policies have brought the country to its knees, culminating in a full-blown civil war.

Four thousand Americans are dead. Thousands more have been maimed and crippled, their lives shredded into painful days and hopeless nights. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed or wounded. Millions of Iraqis have fled the country. As many as 50,000 Iraqi women, some as young as 13, have turned to prostitution in other countries because they have no other way of surviving.

Chevron is making huge profits from Iraq's oil fields. If the oil bill pushed by Bush/Cheney is passed, Chevron not only will continue to make huge profits, but will be protected by the U.S. military. And wouldn't that make Condi Rice happy, seeing as how she was on the Chevron board a few years ago and even has an oil tanker named after her?

Some observers claim that about 40 percent of those who comprise the Iraqi workforce have no income and are jobless.

Doctors such as Ni'man Mohammed in Baghdad, fully expect a cholera outbreak this coming summer.

The infrastructure of the country is devastated. A French paper tells how Baghdad is covered with sewage - "One of three sewage treatment plants is out of commission ... sewage is forming a foul lake so large it can be seen 'as a big black spot on Google Earth.'"

In some neighborhoods, the water pipes are so old that they cannot pump sufficient water to satisfy minimum requirements for life.

Electricity is almost non-existent. Even though those in charge have spent billions of dollars since the invasion, the national grid is only capable of producing enough energy to provide about two hours of continuous power a day. Iraqis have been warned to not expect improvement until 2011.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children have been orphaned; perhaps as many as 4 or 5 million.

The government is splintered and splintering as various factions face off against each other. The government functions only in a minimal way.

As Mr. Cockburn says, "Baghdad today is a collection of hostile Sunni and Shia ghettos divided by high concrete walls. Different districts even have different flags. Sunni areas use the the old Iraqi flag with the three stars of the Baath party and the Shia wave a newer version, adopted by the Shia-Kurdish government. The Kurds have their own flag.

Bush and company never understood the depth of the divisions in Iraqi society. They still do not. Or they do not care.

Again, from Patrick Cockburn: "After the Sunni guerrillas blew up the Shia shrine in Samarra on 22 February 2006 sectarian fighting turned into a full blown civil war. Mr Bush and Mr Blair strenuously denied that this was so, but by any standard it was a civil war of extraordinary viciousness. Torture with electric drills and acid became the norm. The Shia Mehdi Army militia took over much of Baghdad and controlled three quarters of it. Some 2.2 million people fled to Jordan and Syria, a high proportion of them Sunni."

Scott Ritter says "Iraq is dying; soon Iraq will be dead. ... "any hope of a resurrected homogeneous Iraqi nation populated by a diverse people capable of coexisting in peace and harmony is soon to be swept away forever."

The so-called "purple finger revolution" of January, 2005, was a joke. It didn't prove Iraq had become a democracy as the Bushites bragged for it was a sham election that "produced a government trusted by no one ..."

And so the war goes on. Not our war, the civil war. And Americans continue to die and be maimed in a futile attempt to keep the peace between enemies whose identities and loyalties are continually shifting and evolving and among people whose most hearty wish is that we would go home!

Into this chaos comes John McCain, not to campaign for the presidency, he says, but on a "fact-finding" trip. He wears a flak jacket (or flack jacket). He meets with the Deputy Prime Minister and with the top U.S. military honcho. Nothing is released as to what they discussed.

McCain, not campaigning (well, except for that photo-op in London and several photo-ops showing him in his flak jacket) says he's worried that "militants in Iraq might try to influence the November general election."

How would they do that? Persuade the voters to choose the Democratic candidate?

Part of the reason for the trip was to get a better picture of the situation in Iraq. He said the Americans were not getting a "full picture" of how things are improving in Baghdad. But as bombs went off in the city, and when reporters asked him about his statement that it was safe to walk some Baghdad streets, he became a bit "testy." He did, finally, admit that when he traveled he was escorted by U.S. military units.

He must have missed some vital pieces of that "better picture." McCain claimed that operatives out of Iran are "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back" to fight U.S. troops in Iraq. That is not true as Iran is mostly Shiite and al-Qaeda is Sunni.

On several occasions, he said that Iran was supplying al-Qaeda. Again, not true. Evidently Mr. McCain is not aware that Iran, which is mostly Shiite, would not supply or assist al-Qaeda, a Sunni militant group. If anything, Iran may be assisting Shiite extremists in Iraq.

Let's hope he's not elected president as we do not need another leader totally ignorant of the people and the history of the region!

Even worse, McCain really believes, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, and five years of total failure, that the U.S. can ultimately make things work in Iraq. He's willing to commit troops toward that endeavor for 100 years!

God help us!

But no one exemplifies the arrogance and brutishness that has resulted in the Iraqi disaster more than Dick Cheney. He, too, stopped over briefly in Iraq, meeting with the head honchos, and speaking the same gibberish that he's spoken for the past five years.

Things are coming along swimmingly, he said. The Iraqis have made important advances, he said. There's been a dramatic improvement in security, he said (that just before a bomb exploded nearby!)

Cheney restated "unwavering U.S. support for the Iraqis as they continue down what he called a 'difficult but historic route to democracy.'"

That's all bullshit, of course.

What's the answer? Maybe we could start by impeaching our lying, immoral president and vice president who got us into this mess. As I recall, Bush gave the American people close to three dozen different reasons why we had to invade and occupy Iraq, every single one of them a lie.

But impeachment or not (and with so many spineless Democrats in Congress it looks like impeachment is not going to happen), we must bring the troops home, now!

Josh Holland cites an article from the Washington Post on the findings of U.S. military contractors in five Iraqi cities. You could say we are not the Iraqis favorite people:

"Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of 'occupying forces' as the key to national reconciliation."

The answer, then, is not the Bush/Cheney/McCain answer. They didn't even get the question right. One of Cheney's stops on this latest Iraq trip was the office of the Prime Minister where the discussion centered on "negotiations ... to spell out the legal basis for the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi territory ... the so-called 'status of forces agreement.'"

That's exactly what most Iraqis do not want - the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi territory.

Scott Ritter, discusses the competing groups within Iraq, and says that the "winner will be the Sunni resistance [opposing the current Shia leadership] ... as it continues to exploit the chaotic death spiral of post-Saddam Iraq for its own long-term plan of a Sunni resurgence in Iraq.

"That the Sunni resistance will continue to fight an American occupation is a guarantee. That it will continue to persevere is highly probable. That the United States will be able to stop it is unlikely.

"And so, the reality that the only policy direction worth of consideration here in the United States concerning Iraq is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American forces ..."

And it won't do to say that civil war will erupt if we leave - civil war is underway! In fact, back in 1920, British forces occupied Iraq. David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, warned that if the British army was withdrawn from Iraq, there would be civil war. The British presence, thought Lloyd George, was necessary to cool the conflict between the Iraqi factions.

Lloyd George was wrong, just as our King George is wrong. What happened in the 1920s is that the factions quit fighting each other and united in a revolution against the British occupation forces.

Iraq is a no-win situation for the United States. Bush and company do not learn from previous mistakes, and as this is written are planning for a more or less permanent U.S. presence in Iraq. And that, say some folks, could result in a replay of Britain's experience.

The "war" in Iraq, which is not a war but involves an occupation force serving as a police force, could become a real war - the U.S. against a united Iraqi front (sponsored by Iran, Iraq's new "friend" in its fight against the "great Satan!"

The Iraqi people want us gone. Iraq's national security advisor has asked for a timetable as to complete American withdrawal. "The vast majority of Iraq's parliament, religious leaders and political leaders want to know when the U.S.-led coalition troops will leave." (from Erik Leaver and Raed Jarrar, "Iraq's Sectarian Bloodshed 'Made in the USA.'"

The only viable option: Complete. Withdrawal. Now!

The Holocaust Journal (Lest We Forget) - Germany 1943 (II)

Germany 1943 (II)

The ghettos continue to be emptied and the Jews deported to the death camps. In the Warsaw Ghetto, about 700 Jews staged an ultimately futile resistance, but a number of Germans were killed and wounded. As word spread about the Warsaw uprisings, many Jews were elated that people were fighting back.

The Polish resistance did not assist Polish Jews because so many in the resistance were anti-Semitic. The United States and Britain, although aware of what was happening, were silent.

* April 27 - In Italy, Ezra Pound, the noted American poet, continued to air his anti-Semitic rants. He said the Jews were rats, bedbugs, worms, parasites ... who give off a terrible "power of putrefaction."

* April 29 - While en route from one prison to another near Krakow, Poland, Jewish women attack their male SS guards. Two escape, but most are killed.

* April 30 - 2,000 Jews from Wlodawa, Poland arrive at the the Sobibor death camp and immediately attack the SS guards. All the Jews are killed by machine guns and grenades.

* May 1943 - The Soviet Army advances against the Germans in Eastern Europe. Again, anti-Semitic US State Department officials delay the license necessary to transfer money to allow the escape of 70,000 Jews from Romania.

* May 1 - Inspired by the Warsaw uprisings, a number of Jewish writers and artists get together in the Vilna (Lithuania) Ghetto for an evening of poetry, the theme being "Spring in Yiddish Literature."

* May 6 - The grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, tells the Bulgarian foreign minister to send Bulgarian Jewish children to Poland instead of Palestine.

* May 19 - Eleanor Rathbone, in the House of Commons, attacks the British government for its lackadaisical attitudes toward the Holocaust and says that if the Allies refuse to help, they are complicit in the death of the Jews.

* May 24 - The Germans stop their U-boats from sinking Allied Atlantic convoys.

* May 30 - Dr. Josef Mengele begins his duties at Auschwitz. Known as the "Angel of Death," Dr. Mengele specialized in twins. While anyone with a deformity was immediately killed, twins were sent to Mengele for "painful and grotesque experiments."

* June 5 - 1266 children under the age of 16 are deported from Holland to Sobibor. When they arrive, they are gassed immediately.

* June 21 - Himmler orders that all Jewish ghettos in the USSR be "liquidated." August Hirt, a German professor, rounds up 103 Jewish men and women at Auschwitz. They are sent to a camp near Strasbourg, France where they are gassed. Their bodies' soft tissue is removed and their skeletons are hung in the Reich Anatomical Institute of Strasbourg for the study of the Jewish race.

July 1943 - The American Women's International League for Peace and Freedom says that the American people and the American government are guilty of atrocities "because they are complacent cowards covered 'with a thick layer of prejudice.'"

* July 10 - Allied forces land in Sicily.

* July 11 - Hitler's secretary, Martin Bormann, send out a directive that henceforth all mention of Jews must not mention any "final solution," but rather that Jews are being used for various kinds of labor.

* July 17 - Bishop Theophil Wurm of the Evangelical Church in Wurtemberg transmits a letter to the Nazi headquarters in which he asks that the persecution of "members of other nations and races" be stopped immediately.

[The Nazis set up Jewish orchestras in the death camps. These orchestras would play happy songs as the trains rolled in with their human cargo, which would ease their fears. Auschwitz had six orchestras. In a camp in the Ukraine, the Nazis had a special tune composed called "Tango of Death" which was played as prisoners were marched to the killing ground.]

* July 22 - The plan to help 70,000 Jews escape from Romania is finally shot down because Roosevelt does not want to upset the British who strenuously objected to it.

* July 23 - The Germans lose the biggest tank battle in history at Kursk, Russia.

* July 25 - Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascist dictator, resigns. He is arrested.

* July 28 - A Polish-Catholic resistance fighter, Jan Karski, who had been in the Warsaw Ghetto, comes to the U.S. to share what he knows with American leaders. He realizes during his interview with President Roosevelt that the latter already knew a great deal about the Holocaust.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

From the Wingnut Front Lines - The Family Research Council

You may have heard the ultra-Right Christian wingnuts are losing ground, losing influence, losing touch with their base.

Not so, says Tony Perkins, prez of the Family Research Council. In fact,Tony along with Bishop Harry Jackson has written a new book called "Personal Faith, Public Policy," which argues the Christian Right is not losing anything, but "is growing and rejuvenated."

At a National Press Club gathering, Perkins boasted that "The range of issues on which its [Christian Right] leaders are willing to take a stand is expanding, and we are building new coalitions as we seek to lead the way with biblically-based solutions to the nation's problems. In the book [Personal Faith, Public Policy], we lay out a comprehensive strategy to bring people together across racial and denominational lines to address the most urgent issues, including life, defending marriage, religious freedom, immigration, poverty, racial reconciliation, and the environment."

Aren't you excited that they're seeking "biblically-based solutions" to our country's problems? That could mean that if things got too bad, Tony and his ilk would seek out the most righteous person and he/she would build an ark and take two of every kind into the ark, and then blow up all the dams around the country to flood the country and kill the rest of the people who, because of their failure to live up to God's biblical laws, deserve to be put to death.

That's how God did it; a "biblically-based" solution!

But I want to be on the ark!

Let's look at these issues more closely from the viewpoint of the FRC. "Life," of course, means no abortions. "Defending marriage," is code for no gay marriage. "Religious freedom" refers to the Right's desire to pray in public schools, post the Ten Commandments in courthouses, etc. "Immigration," well, can't have all those illegals getting all those government benefits, right? "Poverty" should be the dealt with by churches and other non-taxable entities, not the government. "Racial reconciliation" - frankly, I'm not sure where they mean by that. The "Environment," is not really a problem as liberal scientists can't be believed and the world will end shortly anyhow.

Two issues deserve a bit more discussion here. Homosexuality and gay marriage drive Tony and his Christian Right compadres straight up the wall! Tony likes to promote what he calls "family values," but, unfortunately, his "family values" leave some families - like gay families - out in the cold.

Pam Spaulding tells a story in an Alternet post of Tony and the FRC pissing around in the northeast. Seems a gay couple got married in Massachusetts. They are now in Rhode Island and want a divorce. The problem is that Rhode Island doesn't recognize their marriage. It's up to the courts to determine if the marriage can be dissolved in Rhode Island.

Tony and his FRC got in the act by filing a brief which argued that Rhode Island cannot recognize the marriage (in spite of the fact that Rhode Island has no law forbidding same-sex marriage).

Here's FRC's reasoning (or non-reasoning):

"Following the logic of the applellants and their supporters, man/animal marriage and man/deceased woman marriage must be permitted under Rhode Island law simply because the General Assembly has not expressly prohibited it."

Pam, incredulous, asks this question: "Tony and Co., when you are able to explain how animals and corpses can grant consent to enter a union of any kind, please let us know."

[She also notes that this so-called "family values" organizaton paid $82,000 to "David DuKKKe for his mailing list."]

But there's more. These wingnuts really do have many loose screws!

Jonathan Merrit is studying for his master's degree at Southeastern Seminary, a Southern Baptist school in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is "called," he says, to some form of Christian ministry.

Jonathan is concerned about the environment, specifically the impact of global warming.

Jonathan was "rebuked" by Tony Perkins who believes that the "environmentalist movement promotes abortion and homosexuality." What?

Perkins more or less admits to the realilty of global warming but thinks nothing should be done to halt it as that would delay the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Mugsy, from Brave New Films, says Perkins says "you should be prepared to be Raptured, not 'throw away the keys to your SUV and jump on the Al Gore bandwagon.'"

I knew that! But I guess I'd rather ride the Al Gore bandwagon than the Wingnut Express!

Can Irish Priests Drink and Drive?

There is a move afoot in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to lower the legal blood alcohol level for drivers. The recommendation is that the current 0.08 percent level be dropped to 0.05 percent.

That sounds reasonable unless you're a priest. Priests are obligated to consume all consecrated wine that is not distributed at Mass. In many instances, that could be an almost full chalice, which would render the priest drunk under the new blood level standards.

Complicating the issue is the fact that some priests serve several congregations. They say Mass in one parish and then drive to another, where they say Mass again, and may drive to a third and say Mass a third time. God, they must be roaring drunk by then!

This recommendation to drop the legal blood alcohol level for drivers got a lot of attention, a lot of publicity and a lot of comments.

The situation was exacerbated when the Rev. Brian D'Arcy, a priest from Enniskillem, said this to the Irish Times: "I don't like to use the word wine, as it is Christ's blood in the Eucharist -- but it still has all the characteristics of wine when in the blood stream."


Here are some of the comments received:

"Surely the blood of Christ would not contain sufficient alcohol to put the priest over the limit unless either Christ had been on a bender or transubstantiation isn't true?"

"If the wine does not taste like blood, does not test like blood in what way can it be said to be blood? What is the point of Jesus/God arranging for the wine to be blood and at the same time arranging for it to be totally indistinguishable from wine? What exactly is the point? At what stage in the digestive process does the blood of Jesus turn back into wine, or doesn't it? "

"...So what is it [this Eucharist thingy]? Well, even though it's concealed behind a facade of pious ritual replete with hymns and incense, and even though it might be disingenuously under-pinned with a lot of metaphysical or theological mumbo-jumbo, it is essentially cannibalism..."

"'Drunken Irish priest' is a tautology."

"The teaching on transubstantiation is a Roman Catholic invention...The fact that thousands of priests WORLDWIDE get drunk with 'holy hangover' is already an abomination to the Lord. What they drink is simply that--alcohol."

"Transubstantiation = Paganism."

"Unsubstantiated transubstantiated bulldust."

"In Holy Communion, we receive the Glorified Body of Christ....that was transfigured at Tabor, that rose from the dead, that passed through closed doors, and multilocates at will...Therefore in the chalice we have ...the living Body of Christ: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity...By making Himself edible, Christ is able to fully assimilate us such that St. Paul could say truly: I live now not I but Christ liveth in me."

"Let's not forget that Jesus was a Jew, as were all his disciples. And for a Jew drinking blood is an abomination. A Jew would no more drink blood than he would eat pork..."

"With all due respect, I'm forced to say this shows how impossible it is for a logically thinking, common-sense person to argue rationally with believers of a religious faith...if you can believe in magic (and let's be quite clear's magical if water changes to wine), you will literally believe anything. End of discussion."

Here endeth this post.

The Holocaust Journal (Lest We Forget) - Germany 1943 (I)

Germany 1943 (I)

By January, 1943, only 55,000 Jews (out of 400,000) remained in the Warsaw Ghetto. On January 9, Himmler visited the ghetto and ordered that another 8,000 Jews be deported to the death camps. When the Germans tried to carry out that order they were met with armed resistance by the ZOB [Jewish Fighting Organization].

Zivia Lubetkin, who helped found ZOB, survived the Holocaust and wrote of her experiences in a book, "In the Days of Destruction and Revolt." Lubetkin says that, although outnumbered, they fought back: "We ... actually witnessed the German conquerors of the world retreat in fright from a handful of young Jews equipped only with a few pistols and hand grenades."

But on the Passover eve, April 19, the Germans returned. About 700-750 Jewish fighters drove the Germans back using guns, grenades and "Molotov cocktails." The Germans then set fire to the ghetto. It was not until May 16, however, that the Germans were able to declare the ghetto no longer existed.

Lubetkin escaped through the sewer system to the "Aryan" side of Warsaw and lived to fight another day.

Jewish resistance sprang up in other camps and in other areas. Jews everywhere began to realize there was no escape, so they would resist until they were killed. Himmler, aware of this, decided to speed up the destruction of Jews in the Lublin area of Poland. On November 3, 1943, the Nazis corralled 42,000 Jews and shot them. One historian said this was "the single largest killing operation against Jews in the entire war." The Germans gave it the code name, "Erntefest," or "harvest festival."

In 1943, 400,000 Jews would be murdered by the Germans.

Also in 1943, Himmler is named Reich minister of the interior. Pope Pius XII says the only thing the Vatican can do is pray for those who are oppressed. The SS pays "designated prisoners" three cigarettes for hanging other prisoners. During the war, BMW made plane engines at a Dachau subcamp using slave labor. The United States, by now well aware of the scale of the Jewish massacres, still refuses to admit Jewish children to America.

* January 3 - The Polish president asks Pope Pius XII to publicly denounce the German killing of Jews. Pius says nothing about the Jews nor about persecuted Polish Catholics.

* January 4 - The SS orders all human hair shaved from Jewish heads in the concentration camps be sent to the firm of Alex Zink at Roth, Germany, for processing.

* January 14-24 - Churchill and Roosevelt meet at Casablanca to discuss an Allied invasion of Europe.

Roosevelt, however, suggests that the French government in North Africa discriminate against local Jews just as Hitler did in the 1930s. Roosevelt said that "the number of Jews engaged in the practice of the professions ... should be definitely limited to the percentage that the Jewish population in North Africa bears to the whole of the North African population." Additionally, Roosevelt said that keeping just a certain percentage of Jews in the professions "would further eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore toward the Jews in Germany..."

* January 17 - Bishop Konrad Grag von Preysing is the only Roman Catholic bishop in Germany actively opposing the Nazi regime.

* January 23 - Libya is liberated by the British.

* January 27 - The US Army Air Force (8th USAAF) launches the first America air raid on Germany.

* January 30 - Ernst Kaltenbrunner takes over for the late Reinhard Heydrich. He is just as evil, if not more so, than Heydrich.

* February 2 - The German 6th Army surrenders to the Soviets at Stalingrad.

* February 6 - In a report to Himmler of items taken from Jews at Auschwitz and other camps in the Lublin area: 155,000 women's coats, 132,000 men's shirts, over 6600 pounds of human hair.

* February 10 - Anti-Semites in the U.S. State Department send notice to the U.S. legation in Switzerland that the American consul should no longer send information about Jewish atrocities to private persons in the U.S.

Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau's staff calls the cable of Feb. 10 "the most vicious document we have ever read," designed "by diabolical men" and meant to hide information about the "Final Solution." They also said, "We don't shoot [Jews]. We let other people shoot them, and let them starve."

State Department employees involved in refugee policy were described as "an underground movement ... to let the Jews be killed."

* February 13 - The Romanian government offers ships to the Allies to transport 70,000 Jews to new areas. The offer is rejected by the U.S. and the British.

* February 22 - The Bulgarian government agrees to deport 20,000 Jews from Macedonia and Thrace. About 11,000 are actually deported.

* February 27 - Early March - After public protests by non-Jewish wives, Jewish men arrested in Berlin are released - Goebbels and Hitler are afraid of public disorder. One must raise the question as to what might have happened if large numbers of Germans had protested the persecution and killing of the Jews.

* March 1 - A huge "Stop Hitler Now" rally is held in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

* March 10 - The SS orders all Bulgarian Jews to be sent to Poland. The Bulgarian government resists and the Bulgarian Jews are saved.

* March 13 - Dissidents try to blow up Hitler with explosives hidden in brandy bottles on Hitler's private plane. The bottles do not blow.

* March 23 - The archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, tells the House of Lords that England should get rid of all quotas on Jewish immigration into Britain.

By the spring of 1943, Nazi kill squads have murdered some 2 million Jews in Eastern Europe.

April - 1943 - Pope Pius XII says that Jews are "demanding and ungrateful." The Bermuda Conference, called to supposedly fix the refugee problem, ends up doing nothing. In fact, the U.S. and British representatives decided ahead of the conference to downplay Jewish atrocities. They just didn't give a damn!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Right, Righteous, Republican Rascals

It is no secret that there are a bunch of right, righteous, Republican rascals trying to take over our government and install a theocracy modeled according to their interpretation of the Bible.

In such a theocracy, because they define the United States as a "Christian" nation, any constitutional barriers to that would be removed, as would any constitutional barriers to the melding of church and state. Laws would be based on the Old Testament which means that homosexuals, adulterers and other biblical miscreants would receive the full brunt of godly punishment - some Reconstructionists have even called for the death penalty.

With the meltdown of the Bush presidency, the recession which has arrived in spite of Bush's denials, the ungodly war in Iraq which seems never-ending and sucks up huge gobs of borrowed monies, the program of the Reconstructionists or Dominionists, as they are sometimes called, has been delayed slightly.

Kevin Phillips, in his book, "American Theocracy," notes how [in the late 1980s and 1990s] the Republican party emerged "as a powerful vehicle for religiosity and church influence, while state Republican parties, most conspicuously in the South and Southwest, endorsed so-called Christian nation party platforms.

"These unusual platforms, ... set out in varying degrees the radical political theology of the Christian Reconstructionist movement, the tenets of which range from using the Bible as a basis for domestic law to emphasizing religious schools and women's subordination to men."

Phillips points to the 2004 platform of the Texas Republican Party. "It reaffirms the status of the United States as a 'Christian nation,' regrets 'the myth of the separation of church and state,' calls for abstinence instead of sex education, and broadly mirrors the reconstructionist demand for the abolition of a large group of federal agencies and departments, including the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency."

If the Texas Republicans had had their way in 2004, the United States as we know it would have ceased to exist. That bothers me just a little bit!

The danger posed to our Democracy by these right, righteous, Republican rascals is no idle threat. And while the advancement of their cause may be delayed, it is not stopped.

Democracy is extremely fragile. It's destruction and replacement by right-wing Christian fascism, while not certain, is certainly possible. That, too, can happen here!

Judge Nixes Graduation Prayers in Texas

In Round Rock, Texas, the school district allowed high school seniors to vote whether or not they wanted prayers said at their graduation ceremonies. Seniors at three high schools voted "Yes." Seniors at a fourth high school voted "No."

On behalf of several parents and a former student, the ACLU sued the school district claiming that "prayers at a school-sponsored event violated 'the boundary between church and state that is necessary in a pluralistic society."

U.S.District Judge Sam Sparks ruled that the school district may not hold an election or vote by students "to have a prayer, benediction, invocation 'or other religious communication' in any graduation unless the Supreme Court rules in future cases that such votes can be held."

"Thank God!" said God!

The judge could not have ruled otherwise, for indeed, such prayers are unconstitutional. But you have to give him some credit because Texas is overrun with Right, Righteous, Republican Rascals.

Evolution is Racist says Ham

You remember Ken Ham. He's the guy in the clown suit with the clown theology who believes that God said "Shazam!" and everything was created in six days about 6-12,000 years ago.

Ham's the guy who thinks some guy named Noah floated around in a big boat with two of everything for 40 days and 40 nights (well, that's one story) while God murdered every other creature in his creation.

Ham is the guy who built the Creation Museum, a place where dunderheads can go and get their fix of creationist nonsense so they can better deal with all those rabid, racist evolutionists.

Wait! Did he say racist?

Yup. Ham and another guy by name of Charles Ware, who is prez of Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis, Indiana, have written a book called "Darwin's Plantation: Evolution's Racist Roots."

In this tribute to nonsense and snake oil, Ham and Ware claim that evolution inspired the Nazi belief in racial superiority and the murderous policies of ol' Joe Stalin in the USSR.

This is true! Really!

Ham believes, fundamentally, and first of all, that evolution is bad, bad, bad because it contradicts a literal interpretation of the Old Testament stories in Genesis. He doesn't deal, so far as I know, with the other, more poetic creation stories in the Bible.

Ham says that Darwin's theory re: natural selection elevates some races "higher on the evolutionary scale" and others "closer to the apes." That's racist, says Ham.

Ham also says that Darwin did not start racism, but "did more than any person to popularize it."

Ham and Ware should be laughed off the planet. They provide an excellent example of the kind of immoral, amoral, stupid, ridiculous, nonsensical crap that "evolves" from people dedicated to upholding thousand-year old mythical constructs that have no scientific relevance whatsoever.

These men are so stupid they think humans and dinosaurs coexisted! Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education in California, noted that Hitler seldom, if ever, spoke of evolution.

She said that "Darwinian evolution is based on natural selection, which means that any population can adapt to its environment." Even idiots like Ham and Ware ought to be able to look around and grasp the truth of that. Hell, I've had to adapt to the knowledge that there really is such a monstrosity as a "creation" museum in the United States!

Scott also said that "The ironic thing for the creationists is that Hitler grounded Aryan superiority as a God-given quality."

In fact, Hitler believed that God was behind his policies, that he was carrying out God's will. And much of his hatred for the Jews was given a framework and impetus by the Protestant reformer, Martin Luther.

I've said before so many of these creationists and intelligent design people are liars. They keep insisting that their formulations have nothing to do with religion when they have everything to do with religion.

Even Ham is a liar, claiming that his organization, Answers in Genesis, does not advocate teaching creationism in public schools.

Maybe the corporate construct that makes up Answers in Genesis is not out "advocating" the teaching of creationism in public schools, but I'll guarantee you that every single person affiliated with this freakish outfit would jump at the chance to present the "truth" of creationism to public school kids if they got the chance!

Heck, maybe Ham is right. But if so, he'd be in the group "closer to the apes."