Saturday, March 29, 2008

Prayer Can Be Murder!

The effectiveness of prayer has been studied scientifically. The studies have proven conclusively that intercessory prayer, at least, does not work.

Intercessory prayer may, in fact, be detrimental to your health. People who knew that they were being prayed for became sicker than those that did not know people were praying for them!

Needless to say, religion which relies upon faith or something like it, has yet to acknowledge those scientific studies and intercessory prayer goes on around the clock all over the world. Some people say that God has answered their prayers, but there is no way to know that because there are no controls, and so it becomes merely anecdotal stuff and not evidence at all. It proves nothing.

Christopher Hitchens says religion poisons everything. That's hyperbole, but it poisons enough things to create a lot of problems for a lot of people. I know it can poison relationships. People often become spiteful and filled with hate for others who do not believe the same things in the same way they do.

It can also poison a child to the point of death. You've read the story, I'm sure.

A Wisconsin couple who really, really believed the Bible and really, really believed that "healing comes from God," let their 11-year daughter die an absolutely horrendous death because they were so damn stupid they waited for God to heal her instead of taking her to the doctor.

The girl's mother actually said, in a phone call to a relative, that she thought her daughter had gone into a coma, but "she's relying on faith."

The girl, had a treatable form of diabetes. She died from lack of insulin. That's a very slow, excruciating way to die.

The parents may believe in God, the Bible and Jesus on the Cross, but they are still murderers in the first degree!

The Attorney General Attacks Crooked Politicos

This is one of those "Believe it or not" stories.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey, said just a day or two ago, that he intends to really crack down on "crooked politicians and public officials."

Evidently, the Department of Justice had a plan to protect taxpayers' money. But someone arranged a "multibillion-dollar overseas contracting loophole."

Mukasey said that shouldn't happen. You think? And he's gonna get 'em! Uh huh.

He also said that corruption in government is really bad stuff. ... "it undermines the whole idea of government."

Wow! That's very insightful.

Now, I have a suggestion on how to remove the head of the corruption bug and thereby reduce dramatically the level of corruption in government: Start in the Oval Office, go next to the Vice President's Office and continue on down the line.

Get the prezident first, though, 'cause he's the one who blatantly, over and over again, brags as to how he is the law and therefore he doesn't have to abide by piddly-ass little rules, how they're for the common folk, and he's the "decider."

With him behind bars the crime rate would drop exponentially around the world!

The Not-so Green Zone

The Green Zone - In Iraq, the Green Zone is supposed to be the "safety" zone. It isn't. Every day, at any time, the Green Zone is vulnerable to rocket and mortar attacks.

"...American and British diplomats, Iraqi politicians, contractors and others struggle to go about their business - always aware that any time they are outside the most fortified buildings there is a chance to be injured or killed."

Many of our diplomats sleep on cots in the U.S. Embassy offices. It one should venture outside, he/she must wear protective clothing and helmets.

And Condi wonders why no one wants to serve in our Iraqi Embassy. Lately the State Department has had to resort to this kind of ultimatum: "It's Iraq or the door!"

But never fear, Mr. McCain says we are succeeding in Iraq.

Our Anti-Environment Environmental Protection Agency

Under the Bush administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has become anti-environment.

The leaders of the EPA should be put in jail and charged with endangering the life of the planet and the lives of all the humans on the planet.

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court told the EPA to get its act together. The court ruled that "carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is a pollutant subject to the Clean Air Act," and ordered the EPA to find out if CO2 emissions were related to global warming, and whether or not they put the public's health at risk.

The EPA has not obeyed the U.S. Supreme Court. I guess when the prezident doesn't obey the law, the EPA shouldn't have to obey the law, either! Now, the EPA says it won't be pushed around and it will get around to doing what the court ordered when it is good and ready to do so.

Here's what the EPA is going to do: Create a massive delay, a ruse, if you will, by asking the public to make comments about "the implications of regulating carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, on other agency rules that cover everything from power plants and factories to schools and small businesses."

Well, let's see, now. The public knows nuttin about this stuff. Scientists who have studied the problem of global warming for years, however, know quite a bit. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has forced the scientists to muffle their conclusions because those conclusions run counter to Bush theology.

Thus, the EPA isn't really interested in knowing the truth, the truth is readily available. The EPA is interested only in delaying their response to the order of the Supreme Court.

EPA poohbahs say that it's too bad but this process of obtaining public input could take many months. I wonder how much worse global warming will be many months from now? How many more huge glacial chunks have to break off and begin the process of raising ocean levels before the Bush administration drowns in its own rhetoric?

P.S. This is a related item. Not so long ago, the EPA closed down several of its libraries because, said the EPA, they weren't being used very much. That brought the EPA quite a bit of criticism. So, now the EPA says they'll reopen five of those libraries by this fall.

Why were they closed, really? Do you think it may have been because the EPA didn't want people to have access to records showing how the EPA has been pretty much a crony-run absolute and total failure under the Bush administration?

And isn't it interesting that the libraries will be good to go in the fall, right at the time we have a presidential election?

That seems nicely designed to take the heat off Bush!

But maybe, just maybe we'll elect a president in the fall who really cares about people and the world we live in.

Young? Old? You Lose!

The talk in Tallahassee, Florida these days is that if you're young or you're old, you lose! I would guess the same is heard in many state capitols. There's not enough money to go around. Budget cuts are the order of the day.

What to do? Well, if you're a Florida Republican legislator, you moan about how tough it is, kinda like Rep. Bill Galvano, from Bradenton. "The cuts are ugly. It is what it is. The state is not doing as well as it has in the past and it's impacting the health-care budget."

It's also impacting the education budget, and the criminal justice budget, and a bunch of other state programs. Nan Rich, D-Weston, voted against a Senate health-care budget. She said, "It's a devastating budget. This destroys the safety net for the people of Florida who need it the most. It was never a strong safety net and now it's gone."

Why is it that when our federal or state governments get in financial trouble, they immediately begin to cut people programs? If you're on Medicaid in Florida, you're in deep ca-ca. And if you are a transplant patient who needs life-saving drugs, go plan your funeral.

According to Karen Woodall, a social services lobbyist, the legislature could bring back the Medicaid program for hearing aids, glasses and dentures by eliminating the annual sales tax break for sports teams and facilities in the state. She put it this way:

"Hello, we're going to take away from people who live below the poverty line [their] eyeglasses, dentures, and hearing aids? But the golf hall of fame, and the Marlins, the Jaguars, the Heat and the fish museum will continue to get their annual payout."

Can't you just hear the pain in the voice of Rep. Stephen Wise, a Repub from Jacksonville? "There are tough, tough decisions. They're not for the faint of heart."

That's right - they're not for the be faint of heart, or faint of seeing, or faint of hearing! The old, the young, the sick, the crippled - they're the ones that will feel the pain of the budget cuts.

Florida surely wouldn't want to place a burden on its "poverty-stricken" professional sports teams by cutting their sales tax breaks!

The Holocaust Journal (Lest We Forget) - Germany 1945 (III)

May 1945 - The war has lasted 68 months. When the war began, Poland had 3.3 million Jews. By May of 1945, only one in ten was still living.

Thirty thousand prisoners are being moved from Austria and Warsaw. At Ebensee, Austria they are ordered into a tunnel containing explosives. They refuse to move. The SS are confused and afraid of the approaching Americans. The prisoners are not killed or harmed.

Germany's Education Minister Bernhard Rust and SS-Obergruppenfuher Hans-Adolf Prutzmann commit suicide. Martin Luther, former foreign ministry deputy, dies of heart failure. Martin Bormann, Hitler's secretary, is thought to be killed by Soviet troops as he tries to flee Berlin.

* May 1 - In the Fuhrerbunker, Joseph Goebbels and his wife, Magda, poison their six children and the commit suicide. In Sonneberg, Germany a Jew dances when he hears of Hitler's death. He is shot on the spot by a German guard.

* May 2 - Soviet forces move into Berlin, and German troops in Berlin surrender. German armies in Italy surrender. At the Neustadt-Glowen labor camp, the Jewish women find themselves suddenly free when the SS guards do not report for morning duty.

* May 3 - 9400 Jewish prisoners are put on board two ships at Lubeck, Germany. The Germans think they will die on board. British planes, however, believing the ships to be hostile, open fire and both ships are sunk. Survivors that swim for shore are shot by Hitler Youth members. 2400 of the 9400 survive. In Prague, the resistance battles the German openly.

* May 4 - The Allies take Salzburg, Austria. German forces surrender in the Netherlands, northern Germany, and Denmark. Theresienstadt is taken over by the Red Cross. The SS guards flee.

* May 5 - The camp at Mauthausen, Austria is liberated by the U.S. 11th Armored Division. They find 110,000 survivors, 28,000 of which were Jews. A mass grave contains 10,000 bodies. In Norway, German forces surrender.

The presiding bishop of the German-Catholic bishop's conference tells his priests to say a mass in Hitler's memory.

When a brutish German Kapo begs inmates not to turn him in to the Americans at the Ebensee, Austria concentration camp, he is beaten to death by three Jewish boys.

* May 6 - Ebsensee, Austria is liberated by the U.S. Army.

* May 7 - Germany signs an unconditional surrender at Eisenhower's headquarters at Rheims, France. The fighting ends at 11:01 P.M. on May 9.

* May 8 - V - E Day (Victory in Europe). The allies accept Germany's unconditional surrender. Hermann Goring is captured by the Allies.

* May 9 - Theresienstadt is liberated by the Soviets. Friedrich Kruger, a man responsible for the mass killings of Polish Jews, commits suicide. Prague is liberated - the last European capital to be free of the Germans.

* May 10 - SS General Richard Glucks, in charge of camp inspections is found dead at a hospital. German troops in Czechoslovakia surrender. Norwegian traitor, Vidkun Quisling is arrested.

* May 11 - The Reich commissioner for Norway, Josef Terboven, blows himself up with dynamite.

* May 19 - Philip Bouhler, an assistant to Hitler and in charge of killing the ill and insane, commits suicide with his wife.

* May 20 - 27 - Four Polish Jews return to their hometown and are killed by Poles.

* May 21 - The founder of the Sobibor death camp kills himself after the British take him prisoner.

* May 23 - Heinrich Himmler disguises himself and tries to sneak out of Germany but is recognized and arrested by a British patrol. Later in the day he kills himself with a cyanide capsule hidden in his mouth.

To be continued...

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Forgetful Mr. McCain

[Photo of McCain and Jerry Falwell - an agent of intolerance.]

McCain was way out west on Wednesday speaking to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. He said several things which might indicate that he would take a new and different road than President Bush when it came to working with other countries around the world.

"Our great power," he said, does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed. We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies."

McCain also said he wants to create a new global compact consisting of some 100 democratic countries "to advance shared values and defend shared interests." This would be known as a League of Democracies.

According to the Associated Press, "McCain also distanced himself from Bush by reiterating positions that run counter to the president: he favors a ban on torture, the quick closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison for suspected terrorists, a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty, a global nuclear disarmament effort and a renewed commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."

Well, it seems the AP is blowing smoke:

In 2007, McCain said that if elected president, he would reduce our nation's nuclear arsenal. But at the same time, he also said that "It's naive to say that we will never use nuclear weapons."

Mccain now expresses a "renewed commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty." That may be a good thing. I wonder, though, if Mr. McCain forgot that in 1999 he voted against the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty?

McCain has said he's against torture. The good senator from Arizona must also have forgotten that just a few weeks ago he voted against a bill that would have required the CIA to use only interrogation methods allowed by the Army Field Manual. When the bill passed, he urged Prezident Bush to veto it.

It must also have slipped the mind of Mr. McCain that in 1997 he voted against the Kyoto Treaty.

While Mr. McCain indicated he wanted to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, he forgot to mention that he wants to move the prisoners to the military maximum security prison, Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas. But then why in January of 2006, when expressing concern about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, did he say he didn't care where the prisoners were held - "in Guantanamo or Des Moines, Iowa."

McCain forgets a lot of things, and he goes flip-flop.

Up until just recently, McCain favored reform legislation which would require, among other things, that conservative groups reveal their financial donors. That got him in trouble with the right-wingers, and after they protested, he arranged to have that particular provision deleted.

Back in 2000, McCain said that Bush's tax cuts were a "sop to the rich," and he voted against them when Bush became prez. Last year, however, McCain voted to extend those same cuts.

In 1999, McCain orated that "even in the long term," he would not support the repeal of Roe v. Wade. But...flip-flop! In November of last year, he said he now favored repeal because "I don't believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. Wade."

In 2000, McCain became very angry with Sam and Charley Wyly. The Wyly's are Texas businessmen and they fed money to the Bush campaign which was used to produce anti-McCain ads. McCain said their "dirty money" didn't belong in national politics. Then Mr. McCain changed his mind, figuring, I guess, he could use a little of that dirty money. So he took $20,000 from them, and set them up to chair a McCain fund-raiser. [Unfortunately, the two brothers are under federal investigation and McCain had to give the money back!]

McCain evidently believes that national politics and state politics are different. He has voted against a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, while at the same time supporting an Arizona referendum that would have banned gay marriage in that state.

In 2006, McCain was quite clear that Creationism should not be taught in public schools. That was a flip from the year before when he suggested all points of view should be represented. But crazy is as crazy does: McCain is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a gathering sponsored by none other than the Discovery Institute, one of the major players pushing creationist nonsense.

McCain also can't quite remember what church he belongs to. In 2007, the AP reported McCain said he was a Baptist in spite of the fact he has, in the past, said he was an Episcopalisn. Note that he insisted he was Baptist while in South Carolina, a state with big bunches of Baptists. He kinda flip flops around from being a Baptist to being an Episcopalian. There is one way to find out - if'n he's not been dunked all the way under the water in a baptismal service, he's no Baptist!

McCain skipped Iowa when campaigning in 1999. He was anti-ethanol then. In 2006, McCain campaigned in Iowa. He was pro-ethanol then.

On the immigration issue, McCain has similar flip-flopping problems. In fact he is now very much opposed to his own McCain-Kennedy Immigration bill. At one time he thought illegal immigrants should receive Social Security benefits; now he doesn't.

McCain's call for working more closely with our democratic allies, and listening to what they have to say, sounds all right when you first hear it. But, think of how arrogant this must sound to the Europeans. The United States, in all its power and glory, is going to finally deign to listen to other countries. Why should they care? While the U.S. is still quite powerful, it is in deep trouble. We are mired in a god-awful mess in Iraq with no end in sight, and a growing mess in Afghanistan. Our economy is in the toilet. The dollar is sinking fast. Our internal divisions are creating great stress and anxiety. We are so deeply in debt that some wonder if that alone could sink us.

What does the United States have to offer these other countries? And, in the past eight years, they have learned that our leadership cannot be trusted to be truthful or forthright. In the minds of many leaders around the world the United States is a huge question mark.

Furthermore, McCain comes to this discussion with his own baggage. He has shown little inclination in the past to listen to or "respect" the views of our allies. In several TV appearances in 2003, McCain made derogatory comments about our allies. For example, he said that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq was nothing more than Schroeder's "us[ing] an anti-American card to get reelected."

He also complained: " And what I say is both the French and Germans and Belgians have vetoed, for the first time in history of the alliance, a planning for the emplacement of defensive weaponry in Turkey. I mean, that is unheard of. It's so far over the line that we've never seen anything like it. They've made clear their intentions to use whatever means to block our military action in Iraq no matter what we do. So they have to be, I think, treated for what is is, a -- an election ploy on the part of the German leader. And in the case of French, simply kind of classic French misbehavior."

I wonder if the Germans and the French remember these comments? McCain said that the French "remind me of an aging movie actress in the 1940s who's still trying to dine out on her looks, but doesn't have the face for it." Then he added, "[T]he cynical role that France is playing proves that if -- if you are not -- you cannot be a great nation unless you have purpose."

The New York Times reported in February of 2003 that McCain decried the French attitude this way: "The Lord said the poor will always be with with us, and the French will be with us too. ... This is part of a continuing French practice of throwing sand in the gears of the Atlantic alliance."

Mr. McCain is obviously a complex man. Also a confused man. And a forgetful man. We should remember, too, that his comments in Los Angeles did not signify a great departure from the policies of Mr. Bush. As someone else noted, "Bush's foreign policy approach has moderated significantly in his second term, with greater outreach to European allies and a willingness to strike deals with countries such as North Korea.

"In essence, McCain suggested he would embrace Bush's policies on terrorism, Iraq and Afghanistan while extending his willingness to meet allies halfway." That's not really any change at all.

For the rest of it, who knows? Today it appears that McCain is riding the same trail as Bush in terms of abortion, torture for terrorists, tax cuts for the rich, sucking up to the Religious Right, signing off on faith-based programs, defending the teaching of creationism in public schools, etc. McCain did say he would not use signing statements in the same way that Bush did, but he could easily change his mind on that issue tomorrow.

Mr. McCain forgets.

A final observation: If McCain should be elected president, he would be the second occupant of the White House in a row to frequently fail to speak in correct grammatical sentences! Yikes!

Gott Mit Uns

Soldiers of the German Wehrmacht wore belt buckles with the words "Gott Mit Uns" inscribed upon them: God With Us.

Robert Scheer at Truthdig has written an essay with this title: "Would God Ever Damn America?

He wonders what it would take for God to express his wrath on us as a country. He refers to comments made by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as well as comments by right-wing Christian poohbahs such as Pat Robertson and John Hagee.

Then he says this:

"I know what the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would say were he alive today, for it would be consistent with his denunciation of the Vietnam War in a sermon at New York's Riverside Church a year before his assassination. Recounting his difficulty in spreading the message of nonviolence and personal responsibility to the very ghetto youths that the Rev. Wright has worked with for four decades, King stated, 'I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.'

King delivered that speech the year that Wright ended his six years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy, for which he received three commendations from President Lydon Johnson, whom King was confronting. No doubt Wright was influenced by King's oratory decrying 'the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens ... in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.' And neither could Wright."

You can read the entire article by Mr. Scheer here.

Conservatives and School Vouchers

A few years back when I was much younger, the Christians of my acquaintance described themselves as "conservative," not only religiously, but politically. Their understanding of the word, "conservative," however, was a far cry from how it is used today.

Jeb Bush, who is really very much like his brother, George, attempted to "reform" education while governor of Florida. He failed miserably! But the "centerpiece" of Jeb's reform plan was known as "Opportunity Scholarship Program."

The first way conservatives today are different from what they used to be is that today's bunch dissemble and lie as a matter of course. This so-called "Opportunity Scholarship Program" is nothing more than a sneaky plan to give some students taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend a school of their choice. The way it worked was that students at "failing" public schools could receive vouchers to attend a private school. The voucher would be paid for by Florida's taxpayers.

Jeb was mighty proud of this illegal program. [It was illegal because the constitution of the state of Florida bans using public money for religious purposes.] An appeals court rightly tossed the program. In 2005, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the program "unconstitutionally created a separate, taxpayer-funded education system."

Years ago, conservatives fought tooth and nail any attempt to use public money to fund private schools. Of course, years ago Protestants and Catholics were quite hostile to each other, and conservative Protestant Christians believed that the only folks to benefit from public monies would be the Catholic schools.

The so-called German Lutherans (Missouri Synod) also ran a phalanx of private schools, but they were less enthusiastic than the Catholics about obtaining public funding because they were afraid the government would insist on having a say in how the schools were run.

Today, of course, thousands of conservative Protestant churches and organizations operate schools. They see public money as a means of increasing their presence and power. They are less afraid of government control for they have so many of their representatives in seats of power. Furthermore, public money is a foot in the door for obtaining even more perks from the government. Eventually, of course, their plan is to become the government.

Most of us in Florida thought the voucher issue was dead. Not so. You just can't trust these damn right-wing Christians to stay in their dark places. They come crawling out to wreak havoc every chance they get!

Jeb has reached back from his political boneyard through his appointees to what's called the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. This outfit voted 17-7 on March 26, "to give voters the chance in November to remove a constitutional ban on giving taxpayer funds to faith-based institutions."

This miserable motion passed only because "at least six of Bush's former employees or appointees are on" the TBRC. Seventeen members need to vote "Yea." Bah!

Ron Meyer, an attorney said it right: "They're just opening up a Pandora's box to a whole broad range of requirements to spend taypayer money to support religious institutions." Meyer also noted that the voucher pushers are playing with words to confuse the public: "They know if they put before the voters a straight-up question, 'Do we want vouchers to send students to private religious schools?' the answer would be an overwhelming no."

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, is a non-voting member of TBRC. Gelber believes that the wall of separation between church and state is vital. It is, he said, "the most significant part of our constititution....We're going to put something in the [state] constitution when I don't think anyone here has an earthly idea of what it will do."

Unfortunately, while Mr. Gelber and Mr. Meyer are right on, we are fighting people who don't give a damn. They aren't concerned about a wall of separation between church and state. They live to break down that wall! They don't believe in that wall!

They want church and state to become one and they want everyone to live under their ignorant, superstitious, and repressive rule.

The Holocaust Journal (Lest We Forget) - Germany 1945 (II)

As the Allies marched across Germany, the Nazis fled the concentration camps. Often they gathered the prisoners and marched them toward other camps. Most prisoners were too weak to walk, were denied adequate food and water, and they died on the road. Anyone who slowed up or stumbled was shot.

In many cases, the Nazis did not have time to hide their horrors. Allied soldiers entered the camps to find piles of rotting corpses lying strewn about. It was too much even for the most battle-hardened. One American G.I. said the first thing they noticed ... was the stench. "Oh, the odors. Well, there is no way to describe the odors....Many of the boys I am talking about now--these were tough soldiers, they're combat men who had been all the way through the invasion--were ill and vomiting, throwing up, just [at] the sight of this..."

* April 1945 - Henrich Himmler told a representative of the World Jewish Congress that the Jews and the Nazis should "bury the hatchet."

* April 4 - The U.S. 4th Armored Division liberated the concentration camp at Ohrdruf, Germany.

* April 8 - Jewish inmates are marched out of the Buchenwald camp. Non-Jewish prisoners are left to meet the Americans.

* April 9 - The U.S. Army liberates Dora-Mittelbau. A few inmates are still allive.

* April 10 - Adolf Eichmann visits Theresienstadt to revel with joy at all the Jews that were killed there.

* April 11 - Buchenwald is liberated by the Americans; 21,000 inmates are still living. GI's discover tanned and tattooed human skin. Also on this date the Americans liberate the concentration/slave-labor camps at Nordhausen.

* April 12 - Generals Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, and Omar Bradley visit the Ohrdruf camp, where the look at corpses and other Nazi horrors.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies. Vice President Harry S. Truman occupies the White House.

* April 13 - Soviet forces move into Vienna, Austria.

* April 14 - A Swedish diplomat, Count Folke Bernadotte, arranges the freedom of 423 Danish Jews held at Theresienstadt. Altogether Count Bernadotte saved 30,000 Jews, mostly from Ravensbruck.

* April 15 - The British arrive at Bergen-Belsen and find 60,000 survivors, and 27,000 unburied corpses. British forces close in on Bremen and Hamburg, Germany. Soviet forces are 35 miles east of Berlin.

* April 15 - 17 - A small group of British solders at Bergen-Belsen is unable to stop Hungarian SS guards from killing 72 Jewish and 11 non-Jewish prisoners.

* April 16 - The Soviet Army sets in motion its final assault on Berlin. French forces enter Nuremberg, the site of the mammoth Nazi rallies.

* April 19 - The Americans capture Leipzig, Germany.

* April 20 - Himmler meets with a Swedish diplomat to arrange for 7000 women (about 1/2 Jewish) from Ravensbruck to Sweden. Himmler is trying to burnish his image.

* April 22 - At Jasenovac, Croatia, 600 Jewish and Serbian prisoners revolt; All are machine-gunned to death except for about 80 (including 20 Jews) who escape.

* April 23 - The American Army liberates the camp at Flossenburg, Germany. Two thousand inmates are still living.

* April 25 - Soviet troops moving in from the east and American troops moving in from the west meet at Torgau, Germany.

* April 26 - The Soviets capture Brno, Czechoslovakia, freeing Oskar Schindler's Jews.

* April 27 - The Red Army liberates the camp at Sachsenhausen, Germany. About 2,000 inmates are still alive.

* April 28 - At Dongo, Italy, former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini is captured and executed by Italian partisans.

* April 29 - Hitler names Admiral Karl Donitz to succeed him as Fuhrer and president of the Reich. Joseph Goebbels is promoted to Reich chanchellor. Trapped in his Berlin bunker, Hitler dictates his final political testament which blames the Jews and their collaborators for the all of Germany's problems, including the war.

Mussolini's corpse along with that of his mistress, Clara Petacci, are hung upside down in Milan's Piazza Loreto and mutilated by a mob of angry citizens. The U.S. Army liberates Dachau, and discover 32,000 inmates still alive; they also find 50 railroad cars piled high with corpses. American troops, outraged by what they see, execute 123 SS guards.

At Allach, Germany, a number of Jewish refugees die after eating too much of the food brought by American soldiers.

* April 30 - Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide in their Berlin bunker. Hitler's valet and others carry their bodies to the Chancellery garden and set them on fire.

Allied troops capture Munich, Germany.

The Soviet Army captures the Reichstag building in Berlin. As the Red Army sweeps into the city, many citizens, frightened, tried to flee.

The Red Army liberates the Ravensbruck camp. Only about 2,000 inmates are still living.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Prince, Blackwater and the Law

Do you ever wonder why so many of these "Christian" right-wingers are such dastardly law-breakers? I suppose with god on their side, they believe they are exempt from the rules.

We referring here to the Blackwater organization and the guy who runs Blackwater, Erik Prince. Blackwater is a mercenary outfit hired by the government to do military work the government doesn't want to use soldiers to do. More importantly, like all of the privatization schemes the Republican blackguards promote, this one is just another way the Bush Administration can hand out billions of dollars of government monies to its crooked friends.

Erik Prince is the guy and a "prince" he is not. He's a secretive, ultra-right Christian conservative who has his hands in all sorts of pockets of power. His father was a very rich auto parts supplier and had close connections with many far-right Christian leaders, including Gary Bauer and Jerry Regier. When the old man died, the company was sold for $1.4 billion.

The whole family is a moneyed force behind the ultra-right. Erik's sister, known as Betsy, was active in Republican circles in Michigan and for a while served as finance chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She married Dick DeVos, son of the Amway multi-millionaire. In 2003, Dick was said to have a net worth of $1.7 billion.

Dick and Betsy give big chunks of moolah to the Republicans...and ultra-right causes: Since 1999, they have donated some $7 million into promoting school choice--vouchers, tuition tax credits for private schools, and charter schools.

Back to Erik. He's been involved in Republican politics since a kid. He interned at the Family Research Council and for six months served as an intern to George H.W. Bush. But in 1992 he went to work for Pat Buchanan because he thought the senior Bush too liberal -- he "saw a lot of thing...homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clear Air Act..."

Erik joined the Navy in 1992 and became a SEAL. For some unknown "personal" reason, his Naval career ended abruptly in 1996 when, at age 27, he founded Blackwater USA.

Prince is tied in to numerous organizations, either as an owner or board member, including Christian Freedom International, Bering Truck Distribution, Phase One Ltd., the Prince Group, Christian Solidarity International, etc. Blackwater owns Presidential Airways, and received a $2.43 million contract from the Defense Department to provide "aircraft supports." According to Dana Priest of the WaPo, Prince's air companies were involved in flying CIA detainees to secret CIA prisons in Europe.

Blackwater is a private security company that provides mercenaries for governments with the cash to pay. He is a war profiteer and answers to nobody. In Iraq his mercenaries are given duties that were formerly entrusted to U.S. military personnel.

On March 24, The New York Times described how "Blackwater Worldwide keeps outdoing its own mercenary record. Ranking Blackwater executives have used inside influence as administration fund-raisers to multiply their no-bid war contracts a thousandfold to more than $1 billion.

"Armed Blackwater guards redefined Ugly America for the Iraqi people last September in fatally shooting 17 civilians with impunity in a burst of 'spray and pray' panic on the streets of Baghdad."

In addition, Blackwater seems to have messed with their bookkeeping. Blackwater wants the U.S. government to believe that all 850 of its employees in Iraq are separate contractors and not employees. If that were true, which it is not, Blackwater could avoid about $50 million in payroll taxes.

Not only so, but Henry Waxman, chair of the House government oversight committee, was highly agitated to discover that $144 million worth of contracts that were supposed to go to small businesses, somehow got shuffled off to Blackwater.

The IRS says Blackwater's employees are employees, not independent contractors!

Erick Prince is no prince. It's just that being a Christian conservative and all, the Bush administration treats him, not as the crook he is, but rather as if he were royalty, which he is not!

A Wonderful Time in Baghdad Tonight!

Our leaders have been telling us for five years that the situation in Iraq is getting better and better and victory is just around the corner...just give them a few more months.

None of that has been true, of course. So, because things were going so well, we sent in more troops - a surge, if you will - to improve an already great situation. That has gone so well that now Bush and company are talking about NOT bringing troops home because they are needed to make sure that Iraq remains a free democratic country.

If things get just a little better, we'll all have a wonderful time in Baghdad tonight!

Except...there are "heavy clashes between government forces and Shiite Muslim militants in Baghdad and the southern port city of Basra...

"Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki issued an ultimatum Wednesday demanding that the militias surrender their weapons within 72 hours...

"Radical clerick Muqtada al Sadr ... responded by demanding Maliki leave Basra."

Then there's the problem of mortars being fired into the supposedly safe "fortified Green Zone." Only three U.S. employees were seriously injured. One round hit very close to Maliki's office. Do you suppose the militants were sending him a personal message?

The Mahdi Army-dominated neighborhoods in Baghdad are sealed off - which is making a lot of people angry as they cannot get to work, or send their children to school, or find medical help.

In Basra, the situation is just as bad, or worse. The people are staying inside their houses, the hospitals are barely functioning. By some counts, 33 people have been killed and 150 wounded in the fighting. But no one knows; it could be much higher than that.

And in Kut in the south, fighting raged between Maliki's forces and the militants with U.S. planes bombing targets on roadways and the homes of suspected weapons smugglers.

John McCain, of course, is parroting the Bush administration's position that every day things are getting better and better and we are "succeeding."

Time magazine, less optimistic, suggests the U.S. military may need to rethink drawing down troop levels. Where the hell have they been? The military's been saying for some time that it is highly unlikely they will send troops home.

Is it all worth it? What about the 4,000 that died? Not to worry, says our vice prezident, Dick Cheney. They were volunteers. (He must have just plain forgot that many of those were sent back not just for a 2nd tour but for a 3rd tour against their wishes!)...

Seeing as how we have become well aware of the fact that both Bush and Cheney are superfluous -- actually a detriment -- to good government, and seeing as how they believe the "war" in Iraq to be so terribly important, and seeing as how both of them dodged their military service - let's put them into bullet-proof vests and send them to Baghdad for a 12-month tour. They can redeem themselves for their previous cowardice and get a chance to put their money where their mouth is and fight for freedom and democracy in this most important country of Iraq.

The only problem I see is that Cheney might shoot an oil well thinking it was a militant!

Dysfunction as Policy

From Yesterday's Newspaper:

* The county school board reports that the revenue shortfall for the next school year will be $25 million -- more than twice what was originally estimated. (Fortunately, the school district has about $24 million in reserves. When that's used up, however...)

The reason for the shortfall is twofold: The state has cut school funding by $1 billion statewide; and the voter-approved property tax amendment reduces local taxes which provide funds for school operations.

* The cost of the 2010 U.S. census was initially set at over $11 billion. The Census Bureau, however, screwed up a contract for hand held computers. These technology problems might cost another $2 billion on top of the original $11 billion. In addition, the Census Bureau is looking to hire and train almost 600,000 temporary workers to assist.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said "What we're facing is a statistical Katrina on the part of the administration."

* The Pentagon has admitted mistakenly sending missile parts to Taiwan. Notice the word, "mistakenly." Four electrical fuses to be used on intercontinental ballistic missiles somehow got lost and shipped all the way to Taiwan.

This was a bad booboo, said officials, "because of its indirect link to nuclear weaponry and because of the sensitivity of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which China regularly denounces as provocative."

Well, I guess it was good they went to Taiwan and not to China.

* According to trustees for Social Security and Medicare, those programs are under threat of extinction because the monies to fund them are being depleted. The Social Security trust fund will be gone by 2041 and the Medicare trust fund will be used up by 2019.

Hey, we can't worry about Social Security and Medicare when we've got to fight the insurgents and rebuild everything we blew up in Iraq!

I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

No Missiles in My Backyard!

At the end of the Cold War, Russian operatives confessed that they had lived in fear of the United States for many years. They were afraid the U.S. might instigate a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union at any time. Thus, they believed they had to be prepared to strike back if that should happen. They were certain our insistence that our nuclear arsenal was only for defense was a ruse. They remembered Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They knew the United States was the only country that had actually used a nuclear weapon.

Their fears were realized, at least in part, when George W. Bush launched a preemptive invasion in Iraq, a minor player in the Middle East and of no real economic consequence and certainly of no military consequence. The Russians knew, as did much of the rest of the world, that Bush used cooked intelligence to justify his invasion.

Actually, Bush did more to damage America's reputation and image in that one stupid stroke than anyone would have thought possible. When visiting France last summer, I spoke with many French people who invariable said they loved America and the Americans but they didn't much care for our president.

The birds come home to roost, as they say. But we don't learn very fast. The United States is involved in a "Star Wars" program - one of the most expensive boondoggles to come down the pike. Known as the US national missile defense system, it "is a complex project which involves the production of new weapons, and the installation of US military bases in different parts of the planet."

The reality is that this "star wars" plan is wholly unnecessary, and instead of stopping a confrontation, may very well provoke one. It is one more instance where the Bush administration gets to give out huge bundles of cash to its friends in the war industries.

Here's the plan: First we install a radar system in the Czech Republic and then set up a base for interceptor missiles in Poland.

Problem #1: Those countries want neither our radar system nor our interceptor missile base. Most of the people in those countries are strongly opposed to these military adventures.

The other thing to consider, although it is never mentioned, is that the technology does not work!

Problem #2: Russia is highly pissed, fearing naturally that the U.S. may turn its missiles on that country. Instead, Russia has suggested that if the U.S. is afraid of Iran, it should use the radar systems already in place on Russian soil. The U.S. does not want to hear that and has avoided any agreement with the Russians.

In the Czech Republic, the people are taking to the streets. A movement is afoot to stop the plans for a radar system. An international petition is being distributed and a billboard campaign is underway to promote that petition. The petition argues that if the Czech government signs a treaty to which most of the people are opposed, it is not valid.

That could be a problem.

Maybe George ought to pray about it.

The Holocaust Journal (Lest We Forget - Germany 1945 (I)

Adolf Hitler, the madman instigator of so much evil, did not live to see the end of the war. At the end of April, 1945, he and his new bride, Eva Braun, killed themselves in his Berlin bunker.

German general Alfred Jodl signed an unconditional surrender at Rheims, France on May 7, 1945. Unfortunately, between January 1 and May 7, thousands more Jews were murdered by the Nazi machine.

Jews who survived the Holocaust were engulfed in other, enormous dilemmas. Many could not go home as their homes were destroyed. Often Eastern European Jews went home to renewed anti-Semitism and to find that their property was in the hands of hostile gentiles. Most of the Jews were in terrible health, and suffered from horrible nightmares.

These Jews also found that the nations of the world did not want them. In 1945, most of the Holocaust survivors had no choice but to remain in the displaced persons camps set up by the Allies. Conditions in these camps were less than satisfactory. In some camps the Jews were housed with Nazi collaborators and other anti-Semites and were subject to continual abuse.

Gradually the U.S. and other countries relaxed immigration restrictions. Yet, even in 1950, the DP camps housed 250,000 Holocaust survivors. Gradually they moved on: 142,000 to Israel; 72,000 to the U.S., 16,000 to Canada; 8,000 to Belgium; 2,000 to France, 1,000 to Britain, and some 10,000 to Latin America and other places.

* Germany 1945 - Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, suspected of anti-Nazi activity, was executed. The inspector of concentration camps, Richard Glucks died - probably a suicide. In Italy, Jews are given the right to citizenship.

* January 1-16 - The German offensive at the Ardennes Forest is stopped by the Allies, thus ending the Battle of the Bulge and ending any German chance for victory.

* January 4 - Fritz Elsas, the Jewish mayor of Berlin who was arrested in 1933, is executed at Sachsenhausen on this date.

* January 6 - Anne Frank's mother dies at Auschwitz.

* January 11-24 - Hungarian "Fascist Nyilas" thugs storm Jewish "protected" houses in Budapest, murdering Jews and throwing their bodies into the Danube River. Also in Budapest, the Nyilas gangsters attack the Jewish Orthodox Hospital and torture 92 patients, doctors and nurses, killing all but one nurse.

* January 12-14 - The Soviets succeed in breaking through at the Vistula River.

* January 16 - Soviet troops take Czestochowa, Poland.

* January 17 - Soviet forces take Warsaw, Poland and Pest, Hungary. In Budapest, 119,000 Jews are set free by the Red Army. The Reds arrest Raoul Wallenberg, suspecting him of collaborating with the Nazis.

* January 18 - The SS begins a series of huge evacuations of prisoners and slave laborers from various camps to other sites. Many thousands die from exhaustion and abuse on the marches.

* January 27 - The Red Army liberates Auschwitz. Seven thousand prisoners are still alive, including Otto Frank, Anne Frank's father.

* February 1945 - In the Ukraine, Ukranian nationalists hunt down and kill thousands of Jews. In Berlin, an American bomb crashes on top of the People's Court killing a fanatic Nazi judge, Roland Freisler.

* February 4 - Allied leaders, including Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, meet at Yalta to discuss "respective spheres of influence" after the war.

* February 13 - The Germans surrender Budapest. Hungary.

* February 15 - The Soviets liberate the slave-labor camp at Neusalz, Poland.

* February 18 - 500 Jews married to Christians are arrested and sent to Theresienstadt.

* March 1945 - Anne Frank, 15, dies at Bergen-Belsen.

* March 5 - The U.S. Ninth Army arrives at the Rhine River south of Dusseldorf, Germany.

* March 7 - The First U.S. Army crosses the Rhine at Remagen.

* March 12 - SS chief Himmler and his doctor sign an agreement that halts the killing of Jewish prisoners in concentration camps.

* March 19 - Hitler orders a "scorched-earth" policy so that Allied soldiers find a ruined Germany.

* March 29 - The Soviets occupy Danzig.

* March 30 - Russian forces enter Austria.

To be Continued...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bush's Easter Sermon

[The following was taken from an article in The Nation.]

On Easter weekend, Bush gave his weekend radio address to the nation. I didn't listen. According to The Nation, the prezident sounded "more like a pastor than a president."

He "quoted from and repeatedly referenced the Christian Bible. The address was every bit as religious in tone and text as those delivered today by the leaders of theocratic states that identify as having an officially-sanctioned faith."

On this Easter, Bush referred to remembering "a sacrifice that transcended the grave and redeemed the world," and "the gift that took away death's sting and opened the door to eternal life."

As Molly Ivins always said, the man is a moron!

He can believe any damn thing he wants to, but he is the president of the United States, a nation that encompasses millions of people who do not follow the Christian faith, and millions of people who understand Christianity in a much different way than he does. He's NOT the nation's pastor.

Unfortunately, he shows again how he really is not smart enough to be president of anything. Could there possibly be a more flagrant snubbing of the constitutional doctrine of the separation of church and state?

As noted by The Nation, Thomas Jefferson was quite clear on where the line was that separated church and state: He once wrote "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

Jefferson also wrote that "I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion..."

By now, many people have concluded that Mr. Bush is essentially amoral. So, his Christian references and proclamations in his Easter Sermon (address) must be calculated to profit himself or his party in some material way. Perhaps he feels this is preaching to his base, which will rise up and give him support for his economic and war policies--support that will carry over to his "prez in waiting," John McCain.

We'll probably never know what goes on in his feeble mind. Hell, we can't even get emails from the White House.

Vatican Word Games

When you're playing with magic, words become very important. If you don't say "Shazaam!" in just the right manner, the magic won't happen and you'll have to start all over again. It's hard and it's time-consuming so you want to try diligently to get it right the first time.

The Vatican knows all about this as it deals in magic much of the time. The National Catholic Reporter notes that on February 29 of this year the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a declaration which said that baptisms which used "gender-neutral" language were null and void.

Some Christian churches have gone "modern" and have tried to conduct their business in language that people can understand or makes sense. So, they have changed the traditional trinitarian formula from "In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" to "In the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier," or "In the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator and of the Sustainer."

Those are no-nos says the Vatican. And if you were baptized with one of those new-fangled formulas, you are not a Christian. But this is where it really gets hairy: If you were baptized with the more contemporary verbiage, and then were married, the marriage is also null and void - "no sacrament [of marriage] exists if both spouses had been baptized with an invalid formula."

Capuchin Fr. Tom Weinandy, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Doctrine, said that "'If you are not validly baptized,' and thus not validly married, 'a person needs to get rebaptized and remarried.'"

You may wonder what is the big deal! Well, "Revising the formula for baptism can 'undermine' faith in the Trinity." The Congregation says you must use the traditional wording for it is an "adequate expression of Trinitarian faith" and by using it one is following the command of Christ. "Approximate formulae are unacceptable."

Sheesh. For one thing, the only place we have this formula is in the Gospel of Matthew, the 19th verse of the 28th and last chapter. Jesus is giving his final commands to the eleven disciples and tells them to "Go forth therefore and make all nations my disciples; baptize men everywhere in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit...."

Secondly, this section of Matthew is widely disputed among New Testament scholars and many are convinced that particular phrase was added long after Jesus had departed the earth for it does not reflect a Jewish understanding of the world, but rather the theology of a well-developed church.

Thirdly, one can't be sure what the original wording was in any of the gospels, for we have no original manuscripts. The earliest manuscripts come many years after the Jesus event, and those show evidence that they have been re-written and reworked many times; passages have been changed; words, phrases, and verses have been both eliminated and occasionally added to the manuscripts.

If you want to be a Roman Catholic, you must follow the rules (or at least some of them). But to consider a sacrament valid or invalid based upon the incantation of exact and proper wording is paganism at its finest.

What's especially sad is that some people are going to have to be rebaptized and maybe even remarried, because the church insists the wrong words (although there's no difference in meaning) were intoned at their ceremonies.

Frankly, I think no sacrament should be considered valid unless the rite is conducted in Latin and the priest is wearing exactly the same kind of robe that Jesus wore. Wait! We don't know what kind of robe Jesus wore! That's right! And we don't know what words were used either, for the particular incident never took place. Indeed, the so-called "Great Commission" was added by the church many years after the Jesus of the gospels had disappeared.

God as an Hallucinogenic Experience

Benny Shannon is a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Benny has traveled all over the world.

On one of his travels, in 1991, he ended up in the Brazilian Amazon forest. For some reason he ingested ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic brew made from plants that grow in the Amazonian forest.

It was a very powerful experience. He attained, he said, "visions that had spiritual-religious connotations." (Whatever that means.)

The good professor has published a study suggesting Moses "may have been stoned when he set the Ten Commandments in stone." Shannon says that "psychedelic drugs formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times."

[That would explain a lot -- like how at one moment God is loving and kind and the next moment is telling the Israelites to invade, plunder, rape and kill whole populations. Do psychedelic drugs make you schizoid?]

Anyway, Shannon goes on to say that "The thunder, lightning and blaring of a trumpet which the Book of Exodus says emanated from Mount Sinai could just have been the imaginings of a people in an altered state of awareness."

Shannon notes that "concoctions based on the bark of the acacia tree, frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, contain the same molecules as those found in plants from which the powerful Amazonian hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca is prepared."

So when you read about how biblical folks "see" sounds, you can understand that to be another "classic phenomenon" arising from the use of these types of drugs.

Shannon doesn't believe that the event on Mount Sinai was "a supernatural cosmic event," but he doesn't believe the story is a legend, either. It was "an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics."

It's all very interesting. While I don't think that the Moses of the bible was an actual historical person, the drug use of ancient peoples is quite well established and the Israelites were probably no different.

Or the other possibility is this: Maybe the scribes and priests who wrote these stories or cobbled them together from ancient sources, were stoned themselves.

If so, did the concept of god derive from a hallucinogenic experience?

We're Succeeding Says McCain

Is "succeeding" the same as "losing?"

John McCain has been to Iraq eight times. On his most recent visit about a week or so ago, he looked around, listened to what the military told him and pronounced that "we are succeeding" and said that he wouldn't change the direction of our effort.

His Democratic opponents, says McCain, just don't understand what is happening in Iraq; they just don't see that Iraq is the "central battleground" in the fight against radical Islam. Obama and Clinton are naive and "dead wrong."

How does McCain know all this when on several occasions he provided evidence he didn't even know the difference between the Sunnis and the Shiites? Well, "I've seen the facts on the ground," opined the heroic senator.

That, of course, was the day after a roadside bomb killed four American soldiers and insurgent rockets blasted away in the U.S.-protected, supposedly-safe Green Zone, and another bunch of attacks killed 61 Iraqis across the country.

One of the definitions of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again when whatever it is you're doing doesn't work. Our leaders fit that definition very well. Now it appears that McCain wants to follow in their footsteps.

"Hup, two, three, four!"

A Fox in the Hen House

This from BS Alert: "Fox Entertainment Group Acquires Beliefnet."

Another one I missed. A story datelined December 4, 2007 says that the Fox Entertainment Group acquired Beliefnet, "a Web site that enables consumers to better understand their faith and build diverse spiritual communities by providing content and tools for a broad range of religions and spiritual approaches."

Just in case you mistakenly thought this was about religion, consider... Fox is certain this acquisition will help Fox Digital Media expand its "vast cable, TV and film brands online, and drive FEG's (Fox Entertainment Group) continued growth in the online market."

There's more. The acquisition gives Beliefnet "vast resources to further build and enhance its already popular brand. It also offers an online platform for FEG to distribute content from its extensive library and for News Corp. to expand its faith-based businesses, including HarperCollins' Zondervan and HarperOne brands, and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's faith-based programming initiative."

This is all pretty exciting for all those folks raking in big bucks by selling religious stuff. "The Faith and Spirituality market is strong and continues to grow. According to the Pew Internet Project, over 82 million Americans and 64% of all Internet users utilize the Web for faith-related matters."

Boy, Jesus really screwed up. He had a good thing going, but his marketing skills were nil. Can you imagine what he could have done if he had put together a really hip bunch of guys to make the rounds of Palestine with papyrus posters telling of his healing and feeding ministries?

They could have hired front people in all the towns who then could have briefed people in their communities on a daily basis what Jesus was up to, and when he might visit their village. They could have even expanded into some of the large Greek cities and really gotten some coverage!

Jesus could have benefited, too. He could have asked for a few donations to help provide for his needs and pay his staff. He could have expanded his operation into Egypt, Mesopotamia, Macedonia, even Greece. I'm sure he would have been able to afford a cart and a donkey; heck, maybe a little gold trim, even...and some new sandals; don't forget the sandals!

I'll betcha he'd have gotten so famous and powerful that the Romans wouldn't have dared hang him on a cross! They might even have added him to their pantheon. Or, maybe he could have bribed Pilate to bug off!

Oh well, at least now we have Fox Entertainment Group to push the spiritual message. In an "entertaining" way, of course. And FEG might make as much as the TV evangelists if they work at it!

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

[Photo is of children before they are executed.]

October 1944 - Some 15,000 Jews are deported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz. The Nazis begin death marches from Auschwitz [in Poland] to camps in Germany.

* October 4 - All of the women and children sent from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz are gassed upon arrival.

* October 6 - The Soviet Army moves into Hungary.

* October 6-7 - Jews who are forced to transport gassed corpses to crematoria at Auschwitz turn on SS guards using stones, picks, crowbars, hammers, and axes. They blow up four of the crematoria with explosives smuggled into the camp. A SS man is thrown alive into a furnace by Russian POWs. The SS fight back with machine guns and hand grenades. All the Jews are killed.

* October 13 - Soviet forces free Riga, Latvia.

* October 20 - The Nazis at Auschwitz burn documents that contain information about prisoners and their treatment.

* October 21 - U.S. troops take Aachen, Germany.

* October 30 - Anne Frank is transferred from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen.

* November 1944 - Jewish paratroopers from Palestine are dropped behind German lines. In Hungary, the government agrees to set up an "international Jewish ghetto" consisting of 72 buildings where Jews will be protected under the authority of the Swiss.

* November 4 - Soviet troops take Szolnok, Hungary.

* November 8 - The Stern Gang resistance fighters assassinate Lord Walter Moyne, the British minister of state in the Middle East.

(Throughout the month of November various Jewish paratroopers are caught and executed by the Nazis).

* November 21 - Allied troops take Saarburg, Germany.

December 1944 - France conducts a "Week of the Absent" to honor innocent people still held by the Nazis. Pollster Elmo Roper says that anti-Semitism is very strong in U.S. urban areas.

* December 11 - At Auschwitz III, Jewish slave-laborers celebrate Chanukah quietly.

* December 6 - The Ardennes Forest - Along a 40-mile front, 300,000 German troops gamble everything to attack the American First and Ninth armies, which consisted of many inexperienced, front-line soldiers. This comes to be known as the "Battle of the Bulge" because early German gains created a "bulge" in American lines.

* December 17 - The SS murder 86 American POWs in Belgium.

* December 26 - The German offensive in the Ardennes Forest stalls. The Germans fail to reach their goal of taking Antwerp, Belgium. About 250,000 German troops have been killed, wounded, or captured, and some 1400 German tanks and heavy assault guns have been destroyed. Germany will be on the defensive until the end of the war.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An Aging Star Blows Away Creationism

What do creationists do with stars exploding 7.5 billion light years away?

An aging star, in an heretofore unknown galaxy, blew up "in a gamma ray" 7.5 billion light years away. It's light finally reached Earth last Wednesday, March 19! [FYI: A light year equals 5.9 trillion miles!]

The light was powerful enough to be seen "with the naked eye."

The star blew up "when the universe was about half its current age, before Earth was formed..." Before it went boom, it "was about 40 times bigger than our sun."

How exciting is that?

It's really sad, though, to think that all those kids getting fed creationism will not be able to function very well in a world with stars exploding 7.5 billion light years away...I mean, the earth is only 6,000 years old, right?

The Ten Commandments Weekend

[This story comes from Chris Rodda at Talk 2 Action.]

The United States Senate has very little to do these days. Therefore, two members of that august body have come together to sponsor S. Res. 483, which is about "recognizing the first weekend of May as 'Ten Commandments Weekend.'"

The two members involved in this particular bit of idiocy are none other than the mossback from Kansas, Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican, and Joe Lieberman, the "independent" from Connecticut.

The resolution has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), along with 27 co-sponsors, introduced a similar resolution last August in the House of Representatives. According to Mr. Rodda, both of these resolutions "seek to promote the third annual Ten Commandments Weekend, an event instituted by the Ten Commandments Commission (TCC), an organization formed in 2005 in response to court rulings against the display of the ten commandments on government property."

Although I somehow missed these stupendous events, two Ten Commandments Weekends have already taken place, in the merry month of May in 2006 and 2007.

Rodda provides a glimpse at what TCC is all about. He says one of their goals is to promote the ten commandments, and make them the supreme law. But there's much more.

"TCC will become Watchmen for curricula being disseminated throughout American public high schools and colleges, specifically regarding the history of the Middle East and the current conflict that is biased toward Islamic interest..."

"With secular humanists waging their attacks at home, and the looming threat from the international radical Islam - people of faith become the line of defense - this is the Wall of Jerusalem,' and we are the watchman God has placed there."

Would you believe John Hagee is a founding member of TCC? Others on the advisory board include James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Rod Parsley and ex-Judge Roy Moore. Rodda says some TCC also includes some prominent Jews, including its founder, Ron Wexler."

Wexler, an Orthodox Jew, had some interesting things to say in a video message. TCC is "a grassroots movement to make a stop to radical Islam and to bring back the word of God, the foundation to the wall of Jerusalem."

He wants to enlist 5 million people in his cause because they can then "change that trend that is going to destroy America." You might wonder what is that trend.

Well, Wexler is convinced that our beloved country is about to be destroyed by "secular humanism and radical Islam."

An aside: It is fascinating to see an Orthodox Jew openly cavorting with people who believe him to be a lost soul, attached to the "old" covenant which has been abrogated by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and thus are certain he will spend eternity burning in hell unless he accepts Jesus as his personal savior.

What is especially frightening about all of this is that certain of our public servants--in this case two prominent and "powerful" senators (Brownback and Lieberman)--are promoting a program that is blatantly unconstitutional, and in their self-righteous moral fog, remain blissfully unaware they are tearing down the foundational structure of our country.

Secular humanism is no threat to our country. In fact, if these religious freaks are not reined in, secular humanism may be what saves this country.

And while radical Islam may be a threat to the stability of the world, when it comes to the stability of our country, I'm more afraid of people like Sam Brownback and Joe Lieberman!

The Pope Is Coming!

"The Pope is coming, the Pope is coming!"

If all goes well, Pope Benedict XVI will touch down at Andrews Air Force Base on April 15, 2008. This is his first visit to the United States and he plans to meet with President Bush, conduct Masses in Washington and New York, visit Ground Zero, and address the United Nations General Assembly.

Whatever else one may think of Benedict, you have to give him credit for renovating his persona from his pre-papal days. As the German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was known as the "enforcer," the one who ensured that papal doctrines were believed and obeyed. It has been said that around the Vatican people spoke of him in "hushed tones ... as 'God's rottweiler' and 'the Panzerkardinal.'"

No longer. Pope Benedict XVI hired a team of PR people who have worked to effect his transformation from an austere and rigid autocrat to an accessible, human and humane man of God. While not budging from traditional Catholic teachings on married priests, abortion, or the use of condoms, he has still managed to appear more pliable and accessible.

His papal aides have striven to expand the his influence so that his message will resonate with the faithful around the world. Thus, the Vatican newspaper has been updated and is now available online. There is a new emphasis on use of the media, the internet and satellite television to get the church's message to the public.

In addition, the papacy is taking the lead in establishing links to confront modern problems and controversies. Sometime this year, the Vatican will host a debate on Darwinism, evolution and intelligent design. In November, there is to be a summit on Catholic-Muslim relations.

All of this does not mean Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI has gone soft. While he's in the United States, he is expected to let Catholic leaders and officials exactly where he has set the parameters of Catholic faith and practice. He plans to tell those involved in Catholic education that he expects them to stifle "unorthodox" campus groups that favor abortion, or "planned parenthood," or embryonic stem-cell research.

In other words, nothing has changed but the facade. We are now in the 8th year of the 21st century, and old, celibate men wearing dresses and funny hats are still attaching to themselves power and authority in order to maintain control of an increasingly restive and rebellious church.

For most of us, it matters not that Benedict is "kinder and gentler." He may smile more and speak with a softer voice, but he remains, at heart, Joseph "the enforcer" Ratzinger.

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

Germany 1944 (IV)

Although Hitler ordered that Paris, France, be destroyed by German troops, the German commander of Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, ignored the order. The general believed that would be a wanton act of destruction with no purpose.

Choltitz surrendered his army to the French Second Armored Division, commanded by General Jacques Leclerc, on August 25, 44. The Second Armored Division was the first of the French forces to enter Paris.

* August 1944 - Nonobservant Jews in Berlin, who had been freed, are arrested again and deported to Auschwitz. Auschwitz III, which was a synthetic rubber factory, was bombed by Allied planes based in Italy.

* August 1 - The Soviets liberate Kovno, Lithuania. Non-Jewish citizens of Kovno murder a local carpenter because he had hidden Jews a few weeks earlier. A Catholic philanthropist, Guiseppe Pardo Roques, in Pisa, Italy is murdered by the Nazis, along with four gentiles and seven Jews he had sheltered.

* August 1 - October 4 - About 1,000 Jews working with the Polish underground mount a revolt against the Germans in Warsaw. The Allies drop supplies from the air, and suffer heavy casualties.

* August 4 - An SS sergeant and five Dutch Security Police, acting on a tip, discover Anne Frank and her family hiding in Amsterdam. All are arrested.

* August 9 - A train bound for Dachau leaves Warsaw on August 4. When it arrives on August 9, 2000 of the 3600 on board are dead.

* August 15 - August 25 - A general anti-German uprising occurs in Paris.

* August 20 - The U.S. Army Air Force bombs Auschwitz III. 127 bombers escorted by 100 fighters drop 1300 five-hundred pound bombs. One Allied bomber is shot down.

* August 23 - The Romanian dictator is ousted and Romania joins the Allies.

* August 25 - The Germans surrender in Paris.

* September 1944 - After an American bomber hits a factory at Auschwitz, SS troopers give inmates medical attention, flowers and chocolate. This is propaganda for the German media. Once these inmates have recovered, they are exterminated! Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, orders that a Jewish Brigade of Palestinian Jews be established. Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, is displeased.

* September 3 - Brussels, Belgium is liberated by the Allies.

* September 5 - The Nazis hear a rumor that Holland is being liberated and head for the hills. The day gets the name, "Mad Tuesday."

* September 15 - The Allies liberate Nancy, France.

* September 16 - Following a Communist coup, Bulgaria declares war on Germany.

* September 26 - Yom Kippur. At Auschwitz, 1000 young boys are gathered in front of Dr. Josef Mengele. Any boy whose head does not reach a board Mengele has nailed to a post is set aside for gassing.

The Nazis continue to deport Jews to the death camps. They murder thousands of Jews on a daily basis throughout Occupied Europe. The Nazis killed over one million Jewish children. Their brutality toward children was beyond belief. Because their mantra was that all Jews should work and children could not work they were usually exterminated immediately. "Preadolescents accompanied their mothers into the gas chambers, while babies were often tossed into pits filled with burning corpses." A young person who made it through the selection process became a slave laborer. Slave laborers were starved, beaten and literally worked to death. Many young children were subjected to inconceivably horrible medical experiments.

To be continued...

Monday, March 24, 2008

They Didn't Die in Vain?

Four thousand U.S. soldiers have given their lives for Bush's misguided adventure in La-La Land. Tens of thousands more lie crippled in beds of pain, their lives shattered beyond repair. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead and hundreds of thousands more have fled the country.

Bush and Condi Rice, in front of god and everybody, had the gall to say it was well worth it...these 4,000 didn't die in vain.

They didn't die in vain.

They didn't die in vain.

They didn't die in vain.

What did they die for, Mr. Prezident, and Ms. Secretary of State?

They didn't die for you two
They didn't die for me
They didn't die for freedom
Was it for democracy?

Or did they die for oil, Mr. Prezident and Ms. Secretary of State?

Did they die for your need to best your daddy, Mr. Prezident?

Did they die 'cause you wanted to be a "war" president, Mr. Prezident.

What did they die for if they didn't die in vain?

Dobson's Minions Con the State of Florida

Talk 2 Action reports on two bills currently before the Florida legislature.

These two bills breach, with impunity, the wall of separation between church and state.

House Bill 707 and Senate Bill 630 have been written in such a way that persons registering a vehicle or renewing their registration in the state of Florida, or applying for a driver's license in the state of Florida, may make a "voluntary" contribution to "Family First," a non-profit corporation.

What is this all about? Why should any agency of the government collect funds for a private, non-profit corporation?

Well, Florida First is the DBA for the Florida chapter of far-right-wing Christian poohbah James Dobson's Focus on the Family (Florida Family Council), and right-wing Christian poohbahs like James Dobson have a lot of followers and thus a lot of clout in the Sunshine State.

Obviously this is a violation of the United States Constitution. What I want to know is if Dobson knows about this. If he does, and I would guess he does, then he must answer for his willingness to break the laws of the land.

This would seem to be another instance of Christian theocrats moving in the shadows to insinuate themselves into high places the better to further their cause of eventually controlling the government itself.

You may check out these bills at the links below.

How to Get Your Faith Lifted

A Bush/Republican doctrine is thus: The government shouldn't be in the business of helping people, unless they are quite rich or mega-rich.

All other people should be helped by "faith-based" institutions, such as churches or other religious organizations. In fact, this is such an important part of Bush/Republican doctrine that during the past seven years the Bush administration has thrown millions of dollars at the sticky fingers of faith-based operators. How has that worked out?

Well, there may be some faith-based operations that operate in an unbiased manner to provide important services to needy people, but they seem hard to find.

The problem is that almost without exception, faith-based organizations have the over-riding goal of converting the world to their version of whatever religion they're pushing. Thus their "help" usually comes with strings attached. Like the soup kitchens of yore down in the bowery. If you wanted to eat, you had to sit through an hour or more of awful hymn singing, mournful prayer and hellfire and brimstone sermons. Not a bad deal for many people, but it still reeked of extortion.

The following story comes from Talk to Action. About 7 years ago, in Michigan, Joseph R. Hanas got nabbed for possession of maryjane. Pleading guilty he was informed that if he entered a drug rehab program, he wouldn't have to go to the clink.

Hanas found his way to Inner City Christian Outreach, an outfit sponsored by a Pentecostal church. When Hanas, a Roman Catholic, arrived at ICCO, his rosary and prayer book were taken from him; he was informed that Catholicism is a form of witchcraft and he could not see a priest.

When a relative of Hanas learned of his plight, she complained but was told that Hanas had given up his religious freedom when he signed up for the program.

Hanas reports that he was battered with the Pentecostal message. Forced to attend worship services, he also had to read the Bible several hours a day and was denied access to his attorney.

He also learned--surprise, surprise--that ICCO did not offer drug rehabilitation but referred their "clients" to another provider.

Hanas eventually sued and a federal court ruled in his favor, and an appeals court upheld the ruling. The court said that the violation of Hanas' rights was "flagrant" in that Hanas was facing jail if he was tossed from the program for disobeying the pastor's orders regarding worship.

It turns out that the court was well aware the ICCO was nothing more than a "Christ-centered Bible teaching program." There seems to be a sneaky connection between the court and ICCO.

Hmm. Let's see, Hanas rights were violated, he was denied access to legal representation, he lived in fear for his freedom, and he received no rehabilitation!

I am led to believe by sources in a position to know that this is par for the course in the world of Bush's "faith-based" fantasies.