Saturday, April 5, 2008

Republican Offenders

Tommy Korioth, from Austin, Texas who is responsible for the delightful blog, Basket of Puppies, has a wonderful post dealing with "the Republican Culture of Corruption..."

He has spent many hours documenting Republican offenders, and has now completed the task and produced a list of 272 offenders, 60 of which are pedophiles.

Click here to go the the Republican Offenders site.

[The seal on the right is from Tommy, too.]

Yoffie to Hagee - "Get Lost!"

In 1914, the talk was of Armageddon; "...military recruiting posters showed St. George, St. Michael, angels and even Christ in the background."

The British spoke of Kaiser Wilhelm as a threat to world civilization, "against which God had marshaled his chosen island people [the English]. The most extreme blessing of the cannons came from the bishop of London, A. F. Winnington-Ingram, who called the war 'a great crusade--we cannot deny it--to kill Germans.' He advised The Guardian that 'you ask for my advice in a sentence as to what the church is to do. I answer MOBILIZE THE NATION FOR A HOLY WAR.'"

"But when the Armageddon of 1914-1918 brought forty million deaths instead of Christ's return, the embarrassment was not limited to flag-bedecked Anglican churches or nonconformist chapels that had joined in the parade. Religion in general seemed to have failed, and British church attendance shrank - and then shrank again.

"It is not hard to imagine something similar happening in the United States by 2030 or 2040 as two or three decades of cynicism claim religious as well as economic and political victims. Evangelicalism under George W. Bush probably expanded to levels of adherence and belief that it will be unable to sustain much further into the twenty-first century. However that will certainly not happen overnight, because the end-times imagery of the early twenty-first century--from tsunamis and terrible hurricanes and the AIDS crisis to the rise of Iraq, followed by China, the trauma of oil, and even financial panic--lends itself too well to religious end-times explanation to dissipate in the face of anything much less than a World War I equivalent."

-- from American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips

If John Hagee has his way, we will not become enmeshed in anything so mild as a World War I equivalent, but a nuclear horror that is simply unimaginable, that can not be contained or sustained by the human mind. Unless you're crazy, like Hagee.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said something the other day that has long needed saying. Thank god, someone finally had enough temerity and courage to spit it out:

He essentially told John Hagee to "get lost!"

At a convention of Reform rabbis in Cincinnati, Yoffie said that Jewish groups need to disassociate themselves from Hagee's CUFI (Christians United For Israel) because of Hagee's extremist views. Yoffie said Jews should avoid Hagee's "Nights to Honor Israel" because Hagee is opposed to a two-state solution and his expressed disdain for Roman Catholics and Muslims.

"...I cannot accept the argument from Jewish leaders that they can endorse CUFI events, appear as speakers at these events, accept CUFI money and still distance themselves from the positions that CUFI embraces," said Yoffie.

Furthermore, Yoffie noted that CUFI "rejects a two-state solution, rejects the possibility of a democractic Israel, and supports the permanent occupation of all Arab lands now controlled by Israel."

Rabbi Yoffie hit a few raw nerves and there was the expected backlash. I have heard the rationale numerous times that Israel needs all the help it can get and should take all the help it is offered no matter the source. That to me is morally repugnant. You are what you eat, so to speak. If you keep feeding your face with tainted food, you will get sick. Money from Hagee and the CUFI is tainted - tainted by hatred, by bigotry, by terrorizing millions of people all over the world with end-times nonsense, and, yes, even with anti-Semitism.

Yoffie is right, but there is so much more! Hagee is not the "friend" that Israel needs. We've gone over some of this before, but it evidently needs repeating. In his book, Jerusalem Countdown: A Prelude to War, Hagee wrote that the Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves by rebelling against God. Furthermore, the Holocaust was the method God used to force Jews to move to Palestine.

According to Hagee's view of the Christian Bible, most of the Jews in Palestine will be killed in the apocalyptic battle which Hagee's group is trying to make happen because it is a precondition for the "Rapture" which will swoop Christians bodily up into Heaven. Jews, unfortunately, will not be "raptured."

Hagee, like so many TV evangelists, talks out of both sides of his mouth (that's a nice way of saying he's a liar). CUFI would like everyone to believe that it seeks peace and a strong Israel and is committed to Israel's defense. But less than two years ago, at a CUFI's inaugural, Hagee said,

"The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West...a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation [...] and [the] Second Coming of Christ."

Later, in a editorial for Charisma Magazine, Hagee said this preemptive attack should use nuclear weapons.

Ladies and gentlemen: These are not the words of a sane man. They are the words of a lunatic, a madman, an insane person!

How can Jews cozy up to such a person who claims to love them, but says this:

"It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God's chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day...

"Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come rises from the judgment of God upon his rebellious chosen people."?

Hagee at times has been said to believe in a "dual covenant" theology which means simply that because of God's covenant with Israel, Jews do not need to accept Christ to be saved.

Hagee has more or less refuted that, but seems to want to take away the sting by proposing that maybe, perhaps, some Jews will be saved - if they follow the Torah.

Finally, Hagee is not a friend to the Jews. He will befriend the Jews because of their role in his fantastical end-times schema. But that's where it ends. The Jews are all going to die a horrible death unless they confess that Jesus is Lord.

And after the great battle of Armageddon, Jesus will rule the world from a throne on the Temple Mount. Hagee has said over and over again that this all is going to happen soon, that many people alive now will experience the Rapture. ... "when you see what's happening in America and the world it doesn't take long to realize that God is proclaiming through the voice of nature that we are approaching the coming of Jesus Christ in the clouds of heaven."

Hagee has also said that World War III has begun ... "the final countdown has begun."

Once again, the man is insane. But to Joe Lieberman, he's quite a guy. Lieberman said CUFI is "miraculous" and thinks he can "see God's hand" working through it. Lieberman would put Hagee right up there with Moses, a "man of God" -- who has become a "leader of a mighty multitude."

And John McCain, poor John, who now is so sorry he voted against establishing a national day of honor for Martin Luther King, Jr., thanked John Hagee for his spiritual guidance, because, said McCain, "it's hard to do the Lord's work in the city of Satan."

Hmmm... Hagee said God took out New Orleans with Katrina because New Orleans was full of queers. Why in the world would God mess around with a sinking city full or queers when he just as easily could have done away with McCain's "city of Satan" -- Washington, D.C.?

Thank God for Yoffie. Finally. He got it. Show Hagee the door. He's not a friend. His money is tainted. He is crazy!

Florida's Religious Right Wants Taxpayer Money

The constitution of the State of Florida contains this provision:

"No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution."

Sounds good to me.

Jeb Bush, who like his brother George, flaunts the law when it serves his purpose, was successful in getting a school voucher plan passed a few years back when he was governor of Florida. It allowed students in failing schools the option of transferring to private (religious) schools on the taxpayer's dime.

The Florida Supreme Court rightly shot down that voucher plan, which on its face was unconstitutional. Jeb knew that, of course, but thought he could pull one over on the Florida yokels. I mean, his brother finagled the presidency twice, which obviously proves you can fool the people big time, over and over again!

Some years ago, the Religious Right, as it took the shape of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition and Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority announced explicitly that they intended to take over the government of the United States, change that damn constitutional provision about separation of church and state and establish a Christian government.

They said they would do it this way: They were going to elect their people to positions of power at every level of government - city councils, school boards, county commissions, state legislatures and state commissions, governorships, national representatives and senators, and eventually the White House itself.

Unfortunately, they've achieved a certain amount of success. George W. was their biggest prize, not because he was particularly religious, but because he was dumb enough to be molded by right-wing pressure and could easily be directed to do the will of the Christian nationalists, and/or dominionists.

Some pundits claim that the Religious Right is in retreat, humbled in defeat and is no longer a threat. So-called Christian "evangelicals" are looking for a new and different approach to dealing with the problems of the nation and the world.

Don't believe that for a minute.

There are two attributes most descriptive of the Religious Right - tenacity and deceitfulness.

[Please understand that I'm trying not to use the term Christian Right - for a couple of reasons. One is that the Religious Right includes a lot of people on the fringe of religion, not necessarily Christian. Karl Rove, for example, is not noted for his religious faith or practice, but he is still a prominent player in the Religious Right.

Secondly, many people in the Religious Right who claim to be Christians or even "super" Christian, do not fit my definition of Christianity. You can call them pious, prayerful, pitiful, fraudulent, freaky fundamentalists, but, in my opinion, you can't call them "Christian."]

The Religious Right in Florida is both tenacious and deceitful - they have a tendency, like a bad penny, to turn up again and again. Defeated in one area on one issue, they regroup, metastasize, and slither unnoticed into an issue to work their nastiness.

We wrote a few days ago about the current session of Florida's Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, a group that meets every 20 years. At that time it appeared they had the votes to put the school voucher business on the November ballot, but that didn't happen; the motion failed by one vote.

Here's where the tenaciousness comes in: [Note that for a Commission motion to pass, it must get 17 votes.] The voucher thing failed. The Religious Right came right back with another motion. The Commission voted 17-7 (!) to replace the Constitution's "no-aid" provision (mentioned above) with this:

"Individuals or entities may not be barred from participating in public programs because of religion."

That's the deceit part. How many Florida voters are going to understand that convoluted, innocuous sentence? It sounds like the state will set up programs and you can't be turned away because of your religion.

But that's not what it's all about. It means that the state will be allowed to fund, with taxpayer money, religious groups doing their thing in the state of Florida!

The Commissioner raising the most hell and the one who sponsored the above motion is Patricia Levesque, a religious rightist who formerly served as Jeb Bush's education advisor. She cries that unless this is passed, all kinds of good programs will be wiped out! "...millions of dollars of public programs are at risk," she warns.

In other words, let's use Florida tax money to establish and propagate "faith-based" providers of services.

Where does this notion come from? Since when does any state in the United States of America have the right to fund "faith-based" providers?

It is said that the Constitutional provision that forbids using tax money for religious institutions was the result of anti-Catholic bias. That may well be the case, because I would guess the provision was put into the Constitution to protect public money from the greedy hands of the priests. The Roman Catholic Church has historically believed that it should be supported by whatever state it finds itself in and invariably lobbies for public funding.

So, that's a non-issue. Today, we have not only the Catholic Church, but Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod institutions, all kinds of independent, fundamentalist, sectarian groups trying to dip their hands in the till.

None of them - not one - deserves a single penny of taxpayer money for any purpose!

The idea that so-called "faith-based" institutions can do a better job than the government in terms of providing services is nonsense and based upon not one iota of evidence, but upon a theology that believes the church should be part of the government and should receive support from the government.

Let's throw a log on the fire. This assumption is always, in a right-wing "Christian" state like Florida, that we're talking primarily about "Christian" institutions when we talk about providing monies to "faith-based" groups. There's a good reason for that - the huge majority of these "faith-based" groups have some connection to the name, Christian.

For example. with regard to the vouchers that let students in failing schools transfer to private schools - 80% of the private schools to which students transferred were Christian institutions.

I have a feeling, however, that if you asked Ms. Levesque, whether or not she thought other religious groups, such as Jews or Hindus or Wiccans, or Muslims would be considered "faith-based" and eligible for state money, she would turn pale in horror.

From what I have read about other countries--Sweden, France, and England, specifically-- Muslim communities, as they grow in size and strength, demand they receive special treatment from the government. They demand they be able to teach their version of creation, their version of law; they demand they be able to wear their religious garb; they demand the state provide special schools for their children so they won't be tainted by non-Muslims.

That would be no problem under the constitutional revision proposed by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission! "Individuals or entities may not be barred from participating in public programs because of their religion."

What a mess!

Hopefully, the good voters of the State of Florida will be wise enough to send this provision to the dumpster where it belongs!

The title of Christopher Hitchens book comes to mind, though I'd revise it like this: "Too often religion poisons everything."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Women Priests - Sometimes you have to rewrite the rules

Many of Christianity's problems arise from the fact that it is patriarchal, hierarchical and juridical.

While those attributes are descriptive of Roman Catholicism, many other Christian sects share them to some degree.

In Roman Catholic Christianity, males rule the roost; the established hierarchy, unopposed, runs the machinery; and church law defines what is required, allowed, and demanded of adherents. It is not possible for a group of Catholic lay people or clergy to gather together, discuss issues, and make decisions, unless those decisions are approved by the male hierarchy and are in line with the laws laid down by male hierarchs or their predecessors.

To become a member of the Roman Church or to remain a member in good standing of the Roman Church, you must agree to accept the structure of the institution and to obey the laws of the institution and to affirm your faith in all of the religious precepts of the institution.

Other, more democratic church organizations, would seem to allow more freedom, but that may be illusory. For example, if a group of lay people and clergy from the Southern Baptist Convention gathered together to discuss the issue of abortion and concluded that the state has no innate authority to deprive women of the right to an abortion, it is likely that the group would be asked to modify their views so they are more in line with Southern Baptist teaching or find another church home.

In recent years, an increasing number of Christian churches have decided that women are real people and should have all the rights and privileges of other people (e.g. males) in their organizational structure. Women now serve as pastors and priests and bishops in several Protestant church organizations. The wall of male hierarchical authority has been breached - not universally, of course, but sufficiently so there will be no turning back.

It is very difficult for Christian churches, of whatever persuasion, to make fundamental changes in either belief or structure. That in spite of the fact that the Christian creedal formulations and basic ecclesiastical ideas were in process over a period of many years and during those years there were literally hundreds of Christian groups who held a variety of beliefs about Jesus and about God.

As the so-called orthodox gained power, however, and as a church institution began to take shape, Christians increasingly were defined, not so much by their actions, but by their beliefs. "Orthodoxy" gained the upper hand, and other views were declared heretical.

Orthodoxy insisted that to be accepted into the Christian community you had to confess that Jesus Christ had been crucified (to save you from your sins), buried and raised from the dead by his Father God, etc. The specifics varied from place to place, and time to time, but the expectation remained the same - you were a Christian if you believed certain doctrines about the heavingly redeermer, Jesus Christ.

Gradually, the Jewish Jesus (Yeshua) of the Synoptic Gospels, who lived for the Torah, was forgotten and disappeared from view, replaced by Jesus Christ, a mythical heavenly redeemer.

Paul and his followers proclaimed that the old Covenant between Yahweh and the Jewish people had been abrogated and that God, the father of the Lord Jesus Christ, had established a new covenant for all people (not just Jews); one which demanded faith, not obedience; belief, not works. This new covenant proclaimed that God the Father (a much different god than the Yahweh of the old Covenant) offered salvation, i.e., eternal life (which the old Yahweh never offered) to those who professed that God the father killed his son on a cross as a sacrifice for sin, (Yahweh, of course, abhorred child sacrifice!) then resurrected the son, and in the final act took the son up into heaven to rule with him forever and ever.

Obviously, I'm making a number of points here. The one I want to stress, though, is that Christianity, by stressing the importance of faith, or belief, soon established specific matters of faith and specific items of belief as fundamental to the new religion. And before long, they were set in stone, no longer to be denied or modified.

One of those beliefs was the dogma still held today by the Roman Church that only males are qualified to be priests and bishops. The qualification is a matter of genitalia. The rationale goes like this: Jesus was a male and had a penis. All of his disciples were male and had penises. Priests and bishops for 2,000 years have been males with penises. Ergo, God hath ordained that only males (with their penises) can attach to the holier than thou class of clergy within the domain of the Roman organization.

[Please note that this rationale ignores the evidence that in many places during the first years of the church's existence, women did play important and significant roles within the church. Paul calls women his "co-workers," and one of them he refers to as a deaconness, and another an apostle. In the very early years, Christians met in homes owned by women which likely signifies they held some position within the group. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene describes a Christian community in which Mary Magdalene is regarded as a disciple, a leader and a teacher. By way of a negative reference, Tertullian, an early church father in Africa, became very upset at a woman he called "that viper," because she baptized. He said "These heretical women, how audacious they are. I mean they, they teach, they baptize, they preach, they do all kinds of things they shouldn't do. It's horrible, in short." By the 2nd century, however, at least in more orthodox circles, women were ostracized from leadership positions, probably because they were much too threatening to good order, e.g., male domination and power.]

Authority, ultimately, yields to power, the power of those under the authority. Authority is a gift, which means it can be rescinded. Authority can be coerced or extorted, of course, but that is not real authority. Real authority derives from the power of the giver. I have known sports coaches who were aghast when their players revolted and refused the coaches' instruction. The players took back or rescinded the authority they had given the coach. The coach could coerce that authority by threats and intimidation, but even if he won, he lost, for he regained not authority, but power, and was all the more hated for it.

Sometimes you will hear people speak of the authority of an "office" or a position. The person occupying the Oval Office has a certain authority by virtue of her office as president. That is true only to a point. If a president abuses or misuses her authority, the people rescind her authority and, divorced from the office, she loses her authority. The people no longer respect her, or obey her, or heed her instructions.

In the Roman Catholic Church power resides with the clergy, in particular the bishops, and preeminently, the bishop of Rome.

Many millions of the Catholic faithful grant to their clerical leaders, authority. These faithful will listen to the hierarchy and will believe the hierarchy as if their word was the word of god itself, and they will obey the hierarchy. The faithful thus transmit authority to the bishops and by so doing validate their power.

However, this arrangement is becoming more and more unsatisfactory as millions of other Catholics have withdrawn the authority they had given their clerics and that effectively relieves the clerics of their power. When the priests and bishops pronounce abortion to be a mortal sin, they shrug. When the priests and bishops claim that the use of condoms is wrong, they roll their eyes and go about their business. When the priests and bishops insist that clergy must be unmarried, they walk on, unbelieving. They may have deep affection for the Roman Catholic Church but have concluded that the patriarchal, hierarchical, juridical structure has failed and is no longer valid (if it ever was) for the times in which we live.

Meet the women of the Roman Catholic Church who have taken back the authority and thus the power they once gave to the bishops to determine who is eligible to attain the priesthood. Meet the women who, realizing the bishops were more about abuse of power than the sharing of the gospel, retracted their grant of authority to the hierarchy which shifted the power in new and different direction.

Before we go further, we must note the consequences of such actions. The bishops, perhaps not realizing they no longer have authority or power, may very well issue threats of excommunication and eternal damnation in an attempt to bring these women back in line. They may very well damn all those who assist these women or receive the sacraments from their hands.

In fact, the bishops have already done so. But it's too late. Their authority has no teeth.

The women are the women of The Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement. It began in 2002, on a boat in the Danube River, when seven women were ordained as Roman Catholic priests. Since then, it has grown steadily. Fifty people, including six men, have been ordained, 37 from the United States. Another 100 or so have signed up for the formal "pre-ordination" training.

Here is the mission statement of the North American contingent: "Roman Catholic Womenpriests is an international initiative within the Roman Catholic Church. The mission of Roman Catholic Womenpriests North America is to spiritually prepare, ordain and support women and men from all states of life, who are theologically qualified, who are committed to an inclusive model of church, and who are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to minister within the Roman Catholic Church."

Last November 11, Patricia Fresen, one of the four bishops of the movement, ordained two women at a synagogue in St. Louis. Fresen was for 45 years a Dominican nun, and a former seminary professor in South Africa. She expresses surprise at the numbers of interested people. "We have a lot of new applicants," she said. "I now have five assistant program coordinators, and we can barely keep up. It has amazed me."

Many of the women involved have long histories of service within the church, serving in parishes, archdiocesan offices, health care organizations or educational institutions. Most of them are older and have felt for a long time they were called to the ministry. As the years have passed, they've concluded that the patriarchal, hierarchical, juridical model of the church is not going to change, so they have acted, giving themselves authority and empowering themselves to do what they believe is most representative of Christianity.

One particular incident provides insight into the kinds of religious communities women priests might create. About seven years ago, the Spiritus Christi Catholic community in Rochester, New York ordained a woman, Mary Ramerman. Spiritus Christi not only supports priestly roles for women, but celebrates gay unions and offers Holy Communion to non-Catholics, which is a juridical issue (i.e., Church law forbids non-Catholics received Holy Communion in Catholic Churches.) Generally, the Women Priest Movement also discourages titles for priests and bishops and requires no vow of obedience!

Church "authorities," failing to realize they were bereft of power as their authority had been rescinded, formally excommunicated the seven women ordained on the Danube River. The decree was signed by none other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now better known as Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican has not responded to more recent ordinations, but Archbishop Raymond L. Burke in St. Louis formally warned two women planning to be ordained which meant that if they went ahead with their plans they could be cast out of the church. [Update: He has since carried out that threat.]

No matter, for his authority and power are compromised: As Gerry Rauch, a resident of St. Louis said when told of Burke's threat, "Burke is a paper tiger."

Opposition to the WomenPriests is expected from the hierarchy as well as many of the laity. Yet the women report that they have received support from many male priests and that three bishops in good standing have ordained women bishops. Bishop Fresen notes that her own ordination "was duly documented and notarized, with a record of those present, along with copies of the three bishops' apostolic successions (with her name at the end) signed and sealed in a bank vault whose location ... is known only to a few."

While women priests cannot serve in most Catholic churches, many see themselves as serving "people on the margins." Fresen notes these are those many Catholics who, according to church law are barred from receiving the sacraments: those who have divorced and remarried without obtaining an annulment by the church; gays and lesbians living with partners; those who have had an abortion or supported abortion rights; couples who use contraceptives in open defiance of the church's ban.

Whether this movement continues to grow and develop is still to be determined. What it does indicate clearly, however, is that the patriarchal, hierarchical, and juridical model, if not under siege, is certainly under review. It may signify a breakthrough whereby more and more people will grant themselves the authority and power to rewrite the rules so they can better represent the faith they serve and the institution through which they serve.

In many ways, the Roman Catholic Church is dying: the sex-abuse scandals have rocked it to its foundations; fewer and fewer men are committing to the priesthood; and a growing number of the faithful are refusing to heed the authority or the dictates of the hierarchy.

There is a popular phrase that says "rules are made to be broken." I'm not sure that's true, but I don't believe that rules are necessarily sacrosanct, especially rules that were established eons ago in another time and another place.

Common sense seems to dictate that periodically we need to revisit our past in light of our present and our future, and realizing that the rules were written by people just like us, we take it upon ourselves to rewrite the rules!

[Thanks to the National Catholic Reporter for some of the information contained in this essay.]

For additional information go to:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A World Under Water, Already Drowned

"Jesus, even had he been Yahweh incarnate, could not have apprehended or comprehended a globe that might seem to him a world under water, already drowned, as if even Yahweh's first covenant, with Noah, had never been cut." ["Jesus and Yahweh - The Names Divine" by Harold Bloom.]

The following are just a few comments from readers of an AOL story on global warming:

Man made global warming is a myth created by marxist ecofreaks to bring down capitalism.

Dumb asses......this past winter one of coldest on record........!!!!!!!
Get a real job. Eleminate social programs and get this country back to work.
Stop Whining you frickin libs....

What a waste of time, seriously, if global warming is happening (hard to believe since this was the coldest and snowiest winter in 20 years) its not caused by humans. besides in the 60s and 70s they were predicting GLOBAL COOLING and said that the average temperature would DROP by a few degrees...make up your damn mind already you so called "scientists" or else just go back to making robot girlfriends and leave the way people run their lives alone.

DUH DUH DUH..... Last night Ted Turner said within thirty years we will become cannibals because of Global Warming...
When I hear people Like Ted Turner or Al Gore speak it makes me want to start my SUV and let it run in my driveway..
Perhaps if you find spokes people that are not insane, perhaps people like me might takeit seriously....

Hey, the founder of the Weather Channel - a noted meteorologist - rebukes the Global Warming scare... look it up!!! Global warming is not a new or 'emissions' related event. The Earth has many cycles of warming and cooling as natural occurrences. Right now, we are in COOLING! Greenland got it's name because it used to be ...well.... GREEN during the warming period of the 500-1000 AD. Do you homework people!

From the moronic quality of those comments, you would be hard-pressed to believe that their authors even read the article.

The story described how a group of state attorneys general are suing the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to force the EPA to obey a 2007 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supremes said that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are air pollutants as described under the Clean Air Act, and therefore the EPA must follow the procedures outlined in that act to reduce those pollutants.

In the court filing, 17 states said the EPA has done nothing to comply with the Supreme Court's order, and asks that the EPA be forced to take action within 60 days.

Amazingly, there are still people in the United States who believe global warming to be a myth or, if a problem, not a serious problem. From the comments noted above, it is likely that these are people who obtain their information from the Republican National Committee, Fox News, or Rush Limbaugh.

Consider, if you will, information related to global warming from real scientists.

National Geographic Magazine tells us that the Arctic sea ice is melting at a record rate. As of September of 2007, the ice cover had shrunken from its previous low in 2005, "by an area larger than Texas and California combined, opening sea routes usually limited to ice breakers. In 1979, September ice extended 2.78 million square miles; last year it was 1.65 million.

Up until just recently, scientists believed that global warming would melt the year-round polar ice cap by late in this century. New studies indicate the meltdown is coming much sooner, and that the polar region could be open water by the summer of 2030. Another oceanographer, using another model, claims the Arctic as we know it will end in 2013.

AOL noted that a record amount of Greenland's ice sheet melted this summer -- 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark. And for the first time on record, the Northwest Passage was open to navigation.

Here are other prognostications from that report as to what the future holds:

* A climate change report from earlier in 2007 predicts that sea levels will increase seven to 23 inches by 2100, speeding erosion and threatening coastal land. We will discuss this as it affects Florida a bit later.

* A U.N. report also estimates that global warming will cause a temperature increase between 3.6 and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, with the best estimate around 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

* Uncommonly warm winter weather will play havoc with many European ski resorts. A University of Innsbruck study suggests that due to an average 3 percent decrease in Alpine ice, glaciers in the Alps will melt away by 2050.

* Britain's Meteorological Office reported in January that 2007 is likely to end up the warmest year ever recorded to date. El Nino and high levels of greenhouse gasses have raised global temperatures enough to break the record set in 1998.

* More than 100 cold-dependent species are in trouble. Polar bears have started dropping in numbers and weight and emperor penguin populations have shrunk by a factor of 30 in some areas.

* Central American harlequin frogs have lost 67 percent of their population in the last 20 to 30 years. Their warming environment has become a breeding ground for a fungus that is deadly to the frogs.

* One study says that the average global temperature has risen to the warmest level of the past 12,000 years. Temperatures are only 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit below the maximum temperature of the past million years.

* Two studies released in March 2006 found that despite the increasing snowfall that comes with global warming, Antarctica's ice sheets are losing far more surface area than the snow is adding.

* The rate of ice melting doubled between 1996 and 2005.

* Some 4 million acres of mature trees in Alaska have been killed by spruce bark beetles. Scientists believe that warmer temperatures have allowed the beetles to breed and mature twice as fast as normal.

* Sugar maple trees are migrating farther north out of New England as temperatures rise, putting a dent in the maple syrup industry.

* Mosquitoes that carry malaria or dengue fever are moving into formerly inhospitable areas at higher elevations. Global warming is expected to increase the range of mosquitoes and the virulence of their diseases.

* More than 250 people died in a heat wave that baked much of the United States in 1999, and in 2003 extreme heat waves killed 20,000 people in Europe and 1,500 in India.

* Scientists believe global warming will increase the risk of wildfires, such as this 2003 California blaze that burned more than 300,000 acres, by raising temperatures and causing an earlier spring.

* Rising temperatures are to blame for increased rainfall and more extreme flooding. In the United States, annual precipitation has increased between 5 and 10 percent since the early 20th century.

* "Bleached" coral reefs that protect coastal areas and harbor some of the most colorful life on Earth are dying prematurely because of warming ocean waters and higher levels of carbon dioxide.

Back to rising sea levels. If you live in a coastal region, this information is not to be taken lightly. All indicators are that global warming is melting glacial and sea ice much more rapidly than previously thought, which is one reason the seas are rising to levels unprecendented in recent millenia. Thermal expansion plays a role also. Water expands as it warms. As the upper level of the ocean gains warmth, the sea level is pushed higher.

Along Florida's gulf coast these are some observable changes occurring now: In Levy County, at the Waccassassa State Park, palm trees are falling over dead due to rising saltwater. Near Naples, at the Rookery Bay Preserve, freshwater marshes have been invaded by salt-water mangroves. Inland marshes are being replaced by salt water ponds in the western part of Everglades National Park.

According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, "...scientists studying the phenomenon see it as a harbinger for major changes in the state's geography submerging islands and turning swamps into open bays. Those changes alone can create a serious economic impact on businesses such as fishing."

The Tampa Bay area is also noticing a rapid increase in rising sea levels. Mike Savarese, a marine science professor at a Florida Gulf Coast University, says that the increase can be difficult to notice because of replenished beaches and sea walls. But the evidence is quite clear in wilderness areas such as state and national parks. Savarese said "...we're seeing some real indications of change out there."

It's time to sound the sirens! Those states with long coastal areas are going to be the most affected by climate change in the near future. As we've seen, the changes are ongoing at present and it appears they are increasing more rapidly previously believed.

Unlike the moron who thinks so little of Al Gore that if Al Gore talks about global warming he wants to go start up his SUV and let it run, there are things we can do, and we've heard about them a number of times. Besides our personal actions to use less fuel and conserve more energy, perhaps the most important thing is to elect people to our local, state and national offices who understand the problem and intend to take action to deal with the problem.

Al Gore is setting the pace for most of us. He is about to reveal a $300 million climate change program, known as "The Alliance for Climate Protection," which is a public advocacy thrust to get the facts to the people which will then lead to a push for national policy changes. At the moment, our elected officials are overcome with inertia, and appear incapable of and/or unwilling to deal effectively with the problem.

Gore is putting his money where his mouth is. He is donating all the proceeds "from the Oscar-winning documentary, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' the best-selling companion book, his salary from the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and several international prizes, such as the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, which adds up to more than a (sic) 2.7 million. Paramount Classics, the documentary's distributor, has pledged 5 percent of the film's profits to the group, and some of the money raised through the 2007 Live Earth concerts will help the campaign, along with Gore's proceeds from an uncoming book on climate change."

Private donors have already come up with about half the money needed for the entire campaign.

It is distressing and sad that global warming, or climate change, has become a political issue. Instead of playing a leadership role in facing up to what is undoubtedly the greatest threat ever to the well-being of our planet, the Bush administration chose to not only deny the fact of global warming, but to actively hinder efforts to deal with it. The reason, of course, is that what is required, such as emission controls of greenhouse gasses, would have cut into the bottom line of Bush's corporate cronies!

Can you imagine what it would be like to have a president who received international acclaim and was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing to the world's attention the incipient threat of unmitigated disaster in the form of global warming?

Instead, we have a president who is a complete doofus, who has failed at every single thing he has tried, and instead of solving problems, has created new ones and who, instead of international acclaim, has become an international pariah, and deserves the only prize that accurately describes his tenure in the White House -- the Booby Prize!

One last thing: If you are planning to buy a home or condo along Florida's coastline, you may want to rethink that decision, for we are soon to be a "world under water, already drowned." You see, Yahweh may yet cancel the covenant with Noah.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Holocaust Journal (Lest We Forget) - Finale

[Photo is the U.S. Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.]

In 1951, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, established Yom ha-Sho'ah on the 27th day of the month of Nisan.

Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948, thus celebrates its statehood, on Iyyar 5.

In Israel, at 8 A.M. on Yom ha-Sho'ah, sirens scream for two minutes. The Holocaust Chronicle explains it this way: "...the sirens sound multiple warnings: Be vigilant; do not take Israel's existence for granted. Be realistic; do not assume that the Holocaust will never be forgotten, let alone that genocide is a thing of the past. Be undeceived: do no suppose that Israel's existence 'makes up' for the Holocaust. Be careful: do not imagine, at least not easily, that the state of Israel reaffirms the covenant between God and the Jewish people. Be clearheaded: do not preempt the Holocaust by making its evil instrumental, the means that somehow produced a 'greater good.'"

* 1947 - The former prime minister of Slovakia, Jozef Tiso, an ally of Hitler, is tried and executed. According to a 1956 report, Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat dies in a Soviet prison.

Throughout 1947 and following years, many trials are held for Nazi judges and officials and others allied with Nazism. Some are sentenced to death, some are imprisoned and some are acquitted. Too many escaped justice!

* September 8: British troops turn tear gas on Jewish refugees from the ship, Exodus.

* November 29 - The United Nations votes to partition Palestine to create a Jewish state. Palestinian Arabs are very much opposed.

* 1948 - Pope Pius XII suggests mercy for all Nazi war criminals condemned to death. General Lucius Clay rejects his suggestion.

* May 14 - The British mandate to rule Palestine expires. Palestine is divided into the state of Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. Within hours, the United States grants recognition to Israel.

* May 15 - Egyptian and Jordanian forces invade Israel.

* December - The UN establishes a Genocide Convention which asks members of the UN to resist groups who seek to destroy people on racial, ethnic, religious or national grounds. The US refuses to sign, probably because of the forced segregation within the U.S.

* January 7, 1949 - A cease-fire is called in Israel and in the settlement that ensues, Israel gains 50 percent more territory.

* May 23, 1949 - The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) is established.

Down through the years, many Nazis escaped justice and fled to other countries. A number went to South America, assisted by the Vatican. For example, about 60,000 Nazis made it to Argentina, at least 1,000 of which were members of the SS. Some came to the United States. The more notorious were hunted down and many were brought to justice. Others were never found, or died in exile.

In October of 1980, a law creating the United States Holocaust Memorial Council was passed unanimously by the U.S. Congress. This council sponsors fund-raising events for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum officially opened in April of 1993 in Washington, D.C.

Hagee, Robertson & Falwell,, Voices of Darkness & Insanity

[Photo from the Manga Bible]

Humans have always stood awestruck before the power of nature. Mostly they have attributed storms, and thunder and lightning to the whims of a god or multiple gods.

In ancient Greece and Rome, however, there were those who strove to interpret nature's tempests via observation and human reason. Plato and Aristotle, as well as a number of others, noted that thunder and lightning were natural occurences and it was not necessary to attribute them to divinities.

In Rome, Lucretius and Seneca and Pliny came to similar conclusions, and although none of these ancient sages devised a theory that would be acceptable today, their work represents the beginnings of scientific thought.

That all ended, however, when the Christian church was enthroned as the religion of the Roman empire, one of the most tragic events in human history. Think about all the wonderful discoveries that would have been made by men of science if the Church had not shut down scientific study in favor of a "sacred science based upon the letter of Scripture and on theology?" Where might we be now in terms of medicine, cosmology, psychology, biology, anthropology, etc., if men had been able to observe and reason and create working hypotheses without having to rearrange truth to conform to Biblical mythologies and Churchly doctrines?

It was the church father, St. Augustine, who laid out the basic principle with which all theoretical suppositions must agree:

"Nothing is to be accepted save on the authority of Scripture, since greater is that authority than all the powers of the human mind." [My emphasis]

A self-proclaimed infidel said that, because of Augustine "there were developed, in every field, theological views of science which have never led to a single truth--which, without exception, have forced mankind away from the truth, and have caused Christendom to stumble for centuries into abysses of error and sorrow."

Thus, Tertullian, an early father of the church, introduced the biblical "truth" that lightning was the same as the fires of hell. For years the Church taught this as truth, and pointed to the sulpherous smell that sometimes accompanied thunderstorms as proof.

St. Ambrose insisted that thunder is caused by the winds breaking through the solid firmament [heavens], and cited as his "proof" this sentence from Amos: "Him that establisheth the thunders."

In the sixth century, Cosmas Indicopleustes concluded from his reading of the ninth chapter of Hebrews that "the earth is a flat parallelogram, and that from its outer edges rise immense walls supporting the firmament."

He also believed that because the Psalms speak of "waters that be above the heavens," there are solid arches bearing a vault "over the terrestrial universe" and that vault contains "the waters." The vault has windows which are the "windows of heaven" in Genesis, and they are opened and closed by angels when God feels like sending or withholding rain upon the earth.

The Church thought this to be a tremendous contribution to human knowledge and it served as orthodox doctrine for many years.

Another theological man of science was Bede the Venerable. He developed an understanding of the earth, the firmament, angels, waters, ice and fire from the Bible. His theory surmises that the air in the lower heavens is filled with "humid exhalations ... sent off from the earth and that in this are lightning, hail, Snow, ice, and tempests, finding proof of this in the one hundred and forty-eighth Psalm, where these are commanded to 'praise the Lord from the earth.'"

Many would-be scholars used Bede as a point of origin. One such claimed that earthquakes and tides derive from the leviathan mentioned in the Bible. The leviathan holds his tail in such a way that it is burnt by the sun. He gets angry and tries to grab the sun and the motion of his indignation shakes the earth. The tides are caused by the leviathan drinking huge masses of waves and then belching them forth creating an alternating suction and belching motion.

By the beginning of the ninth century, the theory that the firmament [heaven or sky] was made of ice had become widely accepted. That's how the heavens can hold up the "waters above the heavens." This notion was par for the course for centuries and taught in various manual and catechisms.

In the 12th century, scholarship had evolved but had not improved. One father of the Church attempted to understand the Psalmists "arrows of the thunder" as being derived from a dry vapour coming up from the earth where it meets the heat of the upper air, and then colliding with a cloud, turns into rain, which becomes like flour that's turned into dough but being too hot to be extinguished is sharpened at the lower end "and so blazing arrows, cleaving and burning everything they touch."

Albert the Great, said the thunderbolt is not merely fire, but derives from black clouds that contain a lot of mud. When the mud is baked by intense heat, it forms a fiery red or black stone that falls from the sky, tearing beams and crushing walls. Albert said he had seen that happen with his own eyes.

The situation does not get better in later centuries. Theological scientists began to speak of God's divine wrath as causing lightning, hailstorms, hurricanes, etc. This was not really new, as churchly authority had always insisted that God was the cause of all natural events (and unnatural events!).

Some specifics: Villani, a Florentine historian, said that the floods and fires which wracked the city of Florence resulted from the pride the citizens felt for Florence, and their lack of gratitude for what God had given them, the latter referring probably to the fact they didn't really care much for religious ritual.

Cesarius, a Cistercian monk, told of a number of ways that God brandishes his powers. He claimed that a steward of his monastery was threatened by a robber, but the steward prayed and there came a clap of thunder that sent the bandit fleeing in fright. Cesarius relates also how 20 men in a Saxon theater were struck down because of their perfidy, but a priest was spared, not because he was better, but because God respected his profession. In another example, Cesarius says that the priest of Treves went to ring the bell to announce a storm when a bolt of lightning hit him, tearing his clothes off and consuming parts of his body, showing as a result that he was being punished for the sins of vanity and unchastity.

Divine interference in the affairs of humans was a staple of orthodox thought. The English reformer, Tyndale, noted that it thundered and rained when God gave Israel a king. A religious soul in Germany, angry about the new Gregorian calendar claimed that God was against it because "violent storms raged over almost all Germany during the very ten days which the Pope had taken out for the correction of the year, and that great floods began with the first days of the corrected year."

Many Catholic and Protestant theologians expounded on how the thunderbolt was one of God's favorite weapons to chastise or punish the disobedient and the ungodly. For example, Pastor Georg Nuber in Protestant Swabia wrote a book of "weather sermons" in which he proclaimed that storms, floods, droughts, lightning, and hail are direct punishments from God for human sins. There are five sins that God especially hates, says Nuber, and he punishes these with lightning and hail: impenitence, incredulity, neglect of the repair of churches, fraud in the payment of tithes to the clergy, and oppression of subordinates."

Time moved on, but again, not much changed. At the dawn of the 18th century, a famous Swiss mathematician said that the elements are without a doubt the voice of God. Increase Mather in New England preached about "The Voice of God in Stormy Winds." He said he knew several blasphemers who had been struck by lightning.

In 1870, the Bishop of Verdun bemoaned the fact that the drought which had so devastated his diocese was due to the fact that the people had broken the Sabbath.

All of the above is prelude. In the 21st century millions of the minions of the churches, temples and mosques still believe that the tempests and their acompanying miseries are related in some way to the god in which they believe.

There has been one major change, however. Religious believers today are less certain that God sends the thunderbolt, or the lightning or the tornado, or the hurricane as punishment for sins - either of commission or omission. While they may still refer to them as "acts of God," the majority clearly think of them in more natural terms, as acts of "Mother Nature," this cosmological creature being god-like, but not god herself.

What is truly fascinating, however, is that when a tempest touches down to wreak death and destruction upon a community or an area, the survivors tend to talk about how god saved them; how the deity somehow invaded the tornadic space to reach out a saving hand and pull them free of danger. They have absolutely no evidence of this, except for the fact that they're still alive. I've heard preachers, too, speak in those terms - thanking God that he spared the people who were spared.

The question that seldom, if ever, gets addresssed, however, is why God spared the ones he did and not all the people? Were the other folks greater sinners? Were they so old they didn't matter anymore? Were they of the wrong religion? And the related, perhaps more important question, is simply this: Why did god reign down all that death and destruction in the first place?

There have always been ministerial or priestly quacks. It is our particular misfortune to have so many in this great land. I'm speaking now of the likes of John Hagee, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and others who follow in the 2000-year old churchly tradition where ignorance is preached as truth, and where the mantle of Biblical inerrancy defiles both science and reason.

In some basic ways, these preachers have never left the dark or the middle ages. They would be right at home in the 6th or the 12th century. And while they are accepting of the numerous technological benefits that science has provided our modern age [note their cars, homes and toys], they decry the substance of scientific thought that made such things possible, and impose upon their followers a theological "science" more at home in the dark ages or the middle ages than the 21st century. They seek answers to our problems in ancient theological writings, which may be of historical interest, and even have great value as literature, but have no value whatsoever in understanding the world in which we live.

Thus John Hagee claims Hurricane Katrina was punishment for the sins (mostly homosexual) of the people of New Orleans. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell both spoke of 9/11 as being God's wrath wreaked upon the United States for such perceived ills as homosexuality, and abortion. Robertson has also threatened Disney World with God's elemental destruction because of its openness toward gays.

What's extremely disturbing is that there are thousands of others walking in their footsteps; fundamentalist preachers who read the Bible through the lens of a perverted and twisted theology, who exhibit no knowledge of either the biblical writings or human history, yet proclaim god's will for our nation and the world.

It gets worse. John Hagee, captive to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, thinks he can turn to a monstrous piece of ancient scribbling, The Revelation of John in the New Testament, and through a tortured, incomprehensible and nonsensical exegisis conclude that we are living in the "last days," that the so-called "armageddon" is just around the corner, and that we must attack Iran in order to bring about the so-called "rapture."

This kind of "theological science" was wrong in the 3rd century, the 6th century, the 9th century, the 12 century...and it is wrong today.

It is literally insane for someone to not only actually believe these things but urge our political leaders to act upon them! We can only conclude that John Hagee is mad.

Hagee and the others promote all their perversions in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish person of the first century of the Common Era who most assuredly would have had nothing to do with any of these people, but rather would cast them from his presence, with words similar to these: "Be gone, I never knew you!"

(Thanks to Andrew White for much of this information.)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Michael Mukasy aka Alberto Gonzales

Glenn Greenwald, in an article titled, "Michael Mukasey's tearful lies," says that Mukasey "has conclusively proven himself to be an exact replica of Alberto Gonzales -- slavishly loyal to every presidential whim and unbound by even the most minimal constraints of truth while serving those whims."

Greenwald refers to a speech Mukasey made in San Francisco last week in which Mukasey committed "multiple falsehoods," and revealed "a pretty startling new revelation ... about the Bush administration's pre-9/11 failure that requires a good amount of attention."

The lies are pretty much what you'd expect from someone tied to the Bush White House. But the "new revelation" is most interesting. Mukasey claimed that before 9/11, "We knew that there has been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn't know precisely where it went."

Greenwald wants to know why. A warrant wasn't needed. If the Bushites knew that a terrorist-type person was calling the U.S., why in god's name didn't they listen in? And as Greenwald says, "Mukasey's new claim that FISA's warrant requirements prevented discovery of the 9/11 attacks and caused the deaths of 3,000 Americans is disgusting and reckless, because it's all based on the lie that FISA required a warrant for targeting the 'Afghan safe house.' It just didn't."

Please read this very important article in its entirety here.

My Jesus is better than your Jesus!

Have you ever wondered why Jesus comes in so many flavors? In this country alone, we preach and promote hundreds of different Jesuses.

And it goes without saying that my Jesus is better than your Jesus!

Even within the same sect, people claim their Jesus is different from and better than, the Jesus worshipped by other sect members. In the Roman Church, for example, there is a Jesus of the Vatican who is pretty rigidly Catholic on most things. In Catholic colleges and universities, you'll find everything from an historical Jesus to a mythical Jesus none of which care much whether you're Catholic or not. The various orders in the Roman Church all understand Jesus a bit differently and speak of Jesus in different ways and believe Jesus demands different things of them.

On the Protestant side, some denominations profess a specific creed, such as the Apostles' or Nicene Creed. In those dogmatic affirmations, Jesus is identified as God. But for most people, the creeds are not something they worry about. In mainline Protestant groups some folks may think Jesus is God, but a lot of others conceive of Jesus as a really nice guy who doesn't demand very much of anyone -- just that they go to church a couple of times a year and put a couple of bucks in the offering plate.

But then there are those who insist it is important to understand Jesus in a particular way. For example, a few weeks ago in our town, the Protestant Episcopal Church split. A large percentage of the membership felt that the national Episcopal Church was no longer preaching the true Jesus because they accepted gays as members and as clergy. So this group took their Jesus and started their own "Anglican" church where you can be sure as hell they won't have gay priests because their Jesus thinks that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

What's interesting, though, is that the people who stayed at the old church did so because they understood Jesus to be welcoming of all people, including gays. Their justification for staying was the same as the justification of those that left: This is what Jesus wants us to do.

Both can't be right, can they?

Then you've got the Baptists. There are almost as many different kinds of Baptists as there are breeds of dogs. And they all define Jesus differently. The largest group of Baptists are wrapped up in the Southern Baptist Convention, which thinks of Jesus pretty much as a white, southern, anti-gay, anti-abortion, Republican.

In some of the northern Baptist groups, Jesus is more likely to be a Democrat. In the black Baptist churches, Jesus is seen as a fighter for civil rights and a leader in the battle against oppression. Some black Baptist churches hang pictures of a black Jesus on their walls.

As you move further off center, you'll find conservative groups like the Pentecostals where Jesus is pretty rabid about homos and abortionists and speaks in tongues and uses loud, rock and roll music in worship. He is almost always a Republican.

The same is true in the growing crop of independent mega-churches. Some of them, however, have also made Jesus into a super salesman, or gift-giver. Just turn your life over to Jesus and he will give you anything your little heart desires. This Jesus, while again homophobic and anti-abortion and a Republican, is also kind of like Santa Claus - and you don't have to wait until Christmas; just pray.

Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale, has authored a number of books, some of which have earned him various prizes. A few years ago, he wrote Jesus and Yahweh - The Names Divine, a fascinating study which is designed to help us re-think our understanding of Jesus [and Yahweh.]

First of all, he differentiates between Yeshua of Nazareth, "a more-or-less historical person," and Jesus Christ, "a theological God." Yeshua of Nazareth, Bloom says, is not historical but "more-or-less historical" because "nearly everything truly important about him reaches me from texts I cannot trust."

Nevertheless, from the texts he cannot trust, Professor Bloom stresses that Yeshua was first and always a Jew - nothing more, nothing less. And that fact is critical.

"Jesus Christ," on the other hand, "is a theological God presented by rival traditions: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, normative Protestantism--Lutheranism, Calvinism, and their variants--and sects old and new, many of them American originals."

Bloom says that for most Christians, Jesus Christ is not Yeshua but this theological God. For most Christians, Jesus is not to be understood apart from the "mysteries of the Incarnation and the Resurrection." But while those "mysteries" define Jesus Christ, they are not essentially related to the man, Yeshua of Nazareth.

Yeshua of Nazareth has been lost in a theological and historical haze.

Although most scholars today recognize that Yeshua was Jewish, says Bloom, Yeshua has been transformed: "he is American: he is multi-everything. We may as well have a Southern Baptist or a Pentecostalist or Mormon or Muslim or African or Asian Jesus as a Jewish one. ...

"[Jesus'] personalism is nineteenth-century American ... Eighty-nine percent of Americans regularly inform the Gallup pollsters that Jesus loves each of them on a personal and individual basis."

How can this be, wonders Bloom, when the Synoptic gospels clearly indicate that, so far as Yeshua was concerned, it all began and concluded with Yahweh alone.... If there is a single principle that characterizes Jesus, it is unswerving trust in the Covenant with Yahweh." [My emphasis]

And that, says Bloom, is the basis of Judaism. "No Jew known at all to history can be regarded as more loyal to the Covenant than was Jesus of Nazareth. That makes it an irony-of-ironies that his followers employed him to replace the Yahweh Covenant with their New Covenant." [My emphasis]

What happened to Yeshua? How was he taken over and transformed by early Christians into something unrecognizable - no longer Jewish but a Greek mystery redeemer; no longer an upholder of the Torah, but a replacement for the Torah; no longer a practicing Jew but a denouncer of the Law; no longer a prophet preaching that salvation issues from obedience to Yahweh, but rather a priest who insists salvation is a gift given for simply believing in his own mythical death and resurrection; a gift that can be repeated over and over in the ritual eating and drinking his blood - the very idea of which would make any Jew toss his cookies!

How did we get from there to here - from Yeshua of Nazareth to all these Jesuses hanging around today? And what do all our various Jesuses mean? And can any one of them provide a way out of the morass that engulfs our planet?

Not so long as my Jesus is better than your Jesus.

Maybe Christians need to re-read the Synoptic Gospels with new eyes and heads free from the theological Jesus. (The Gospel of John must be excluded as it was written much later than the Synoptics and in John, Jesus has already been transformed into a gnostic, mystery redeemer.) And even though these texts can't be "trusted" because they are evangelical tracts written to entice people to believe and have never been verified by an independent source, they offer the only information we have about Yeshua of Nazareth.

Who was he, really, according to Matthew, Mark and Luke? Is a mutual understanding of Yeshua possible if we leave off the theological framework that reconfigured him into a Christian god that displaced the old Yahweh with a new and improved version?

And is there anything Yeshua can teach us as to how to live in relative compatibility as one human race?

Or will it all end with a bang and a then a whimper - "But, my Jesus was better than your Jesus!"

The Holocaust Journal (Lest We Forget) - Germany 1946

Germany - 1946

The verdicts at the Nuremberg Trials were announced on October 1, 1946. Nineteen of the defendants were found guilty. Hjalmar Schacht, minister of economics, Franz von Papen, vice-chancellor of the Nazi government, and Hans Fritzsche, who headed the Propaganda Ministry's radio division, were acquitted.

Twelve of the defendants were sentenced to death by hanging. Seven got jail terms of 10 years to life.

That did not end the trials, however. Thousands of trials took place in various countries. But because of the number of people involved, there was no way to bring to justice everyone who was guilty of genocide and/or war crimes. The trials, did, however, show people all over the world the terrible horrors that the Nazis wreaked upon Jews and others.

* 1946 - Several noted Nazis, including Karl Haushofer and Otto Thierack commit suicide. Some 96,000 former SS troopers swear in affidavits they knew nothing of the horrible crimes committed against Jews and other people.

* February 3 - Friedrich Jeckeln, the SS man in charge of the Soviet Union and the Baltic Republics, is hanged in what was the Riga, Latvia ghetto.

* March - Members of a Jewish concentration camp orchestra play classical music and songs from the ghettos for persons involved in the Nuremberg Tribunal at the Nuremberg Opera House.

* March 12 - The former head of the Nazi-controlled government in Hungary is convicted of war crimes and executed.

* March 14 - In Warsaw, Polish gangsters stop a car carrying the British flag and shoot four people they think are Jews.

* March 19 - Chaim Hirszman, one of two survivors of the Belzec death camp, testified about the horrors at the camp in Lublin, Poland. Shortly thereafter he is murdered by anti-Semitic Poles.

* March 26 - Polish anti-Semites murder a group of Jewish leaders traveling from Krakow to Lodz.

* April 21 - Five Jews are murdered near Nowy Targ, Poland.

* April 24 - Also a Nowy Targ, Poland - 5,000 Jews attending a funeral for the five Jews are taunted by Polish anti-Semites.

* April 30 - Seven more Jews are murdered by Polish anti-Semites at Nowy Targ, Poland.

* May 1 - The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry recommends that 100,000 Jews be allowed to enter Palestine. The British refuse.

* May 25 - Switzerland agrees to cough up $58.1 million in gold to help rebuild Europe. Even though the Allies know this gold was stolen from Jews and other Nazi victims, the Allies say nothing. (Switzerland has between $300 and $400 million in looted gold.]

June 1946 - Two Jews are murdered in Biala Podlaska, Poland. All the other Jews leave town.

* July 4 - A Christian child disappeared from Kielce, Poland. Polish anti-Semites launch a progrom against the Jews. They kill 42 Jews. The Christian child is found unharmed. In other areas of Poland, progroms against Jews continue. Following this violence, 100,000 Polish Jews leave Poland for Palestine, the U.S. and other countries.

* July 11 - Cardinal August Hlond says it was the Jew's fault that they were murdered.

* July 22 - Jewish guerillas bomb the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was being used as the British headquarters.

* August 13 - The British establish "detention" camps on Cyprus to contain Jewish refugees who were not allowed into Palestine.

* October 1 - The first Nuremberg Trial verdicts: Found guilty were Hess, Speer, Raeder, Donitz, Kaltenbrunner, Streicher, Frank, Funk, Schirach, Ribbentrop, Rosenberg, Goring, Frick, Sauckel, Seyss-Inquart, Jodl, Keitel, and Bormann (in absentia).

* October 11 - The Nuremberg Tribunal turns down the appeals of all convicted defendants.

* October 15 - Hermann Goring commits suicide a few hours before he is scheduled to hang.

* October 16: The following are hung at Nuremberg Prison: von Ribbentrop, Julius Streicher, Wilhelm Frick, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Hans Frank, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and Wilhelm Keitel. Their bodies along with Goring's are burned in the Dachau ovens and their ashes are thrown into the Isar River.

* December 11 - The United Nations General Assembly validates the judgments of the Nuremberg Tribunal.

To be continued...

My vote was not influenced by his money!

From today's newspaper:

"Darryl Rouson, a Taxation and Budget Reform Commission member expected to win a state House election next month, said last week that donations from pro-voucher groups did not affect his vote on a plan asking voters to remove the bar on using taxpayer money for religious-based schools and groups."

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

The leading voucher activist in the state of Florida, John Kirtley, "paid for mailings to help Rouson win Tuesday's primary election..."

"Rouson said Kirtley's group did support his campaign but that they never discussed Wednesday's commission vote."

You have to wonder how stupid these people think we are. You don't need to have a discussion in a smoke-filled back room to influence a vote. How disingenuous is it for Rouson to say that he knew of Kirtley's support but because they never talked about the voucher vote, he was not influenced to vote Kirtley's way?

Just before the commission voted on the issue, Rouson was approached by Ron Meyer, a lawyer representing the teacher's union, who begged Rouson to vote against the bill.

"'I just can't do it,' Rouson said, as he walked away from Meyer."

And he wasn't influenced by Kirtley's support at all. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

(Note: This happened in Florida. It is presented here because you can bet your bippy the same thing is happening in most every state in the Union.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Creationist Cry: "How Can This Be?"

A 16-year old by name of David Wentz from Port Huron, Michigan decided to do a little snorkeling in the St. Clair River last August.

While flitting about in the water, he spied what he thought to be a weird-looking rock . It was about three inches long. He brought it home.

Whoa! said his father, "It's a shark tooth." (His father watches the Discovery Channel on TV).

They took the tooth to Michael Gottfried, a paleontologist at Michigan State University. Gottfried confirmed David's father's evaluation. The tooth came from the "megatooth" shark, scientifically known as Carcharodon megalodon, a species that went extinct about 2 million years ago.

This shark was not something you'd see at Sea World. It grew to 60 feet long and ate about 1,500 pounds of food (whales and other big fishes) per day.

Gottfried said that people swimming in the St. Clair River need not worry. This tooth was probably carried and dropped into the river by someone at some point in the distant past. There are no sharks with three inch teeth in the river now!

"But how can this be?" asks the creationist. "The earth is only 6,000 years old. The Bible tells me so!"

A related story comes from Madrid, Spain. A human fossil was found in northern Spain last year, along with stone tools and animal bones. Scientists estimate the fossil is close to 1.3 million years old.

The fossil, discovered in a cave, is a small piece of jawbone, and "is the oldest known fossil of a human ancestor in Europe and suggests that people lived on the continent much earlier than previously believed."

Now, all you creationists, read this carefully: When real scientists discover data or information that negates what they have believed, they change their minds and establish a new theory or working hypothesis!

Back in 1997, human remains were found that led to the naming of a new species: Homo antecessor, or Pioneer Man, very possibly a common ancestor to Neanderthals and modern humans. This Homo antecessor lived about 800,000 years ago.

This new Spanish fossil is likely from the same species but indicates that people lived on the European continent much earlier than was previously thought. Eudald Carbonell, director of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleo-Ecology and Social Evolution, claims this fossil leads to the conclusion that "hominins which emerged from Africa and settled in the Caucasus eventually evolved into Homo antecessor, and that the latter populated Europe not 800,000 years go, but at least 1.3 million years ago."

Carbonell, however, does not believe this ends the discussion. In fact, he fully expects to find human fossils in Europe that reach back 1.8 million years.

"How can this be?" cries the Creationist. "The earth is only 6,000 years old. The Bible tells me so!"

In Florida, Follow the Money

A six percent sales tax is levied on a variety of goods and services in the state of Florida. At the same time, many goods and services in the state of Florida are exempt or excluded from a sales tax.

The reason some goods and services are not taxed is largely due to the fact that swarms of lobbyists spend many hours and big bucks to schmooze state legislators to help them better understand the needs of the lobbyist's well-heeled, politically-connected clients.

The message is: If you want to get re-elected, don't mess with our exemption and/or exclusion.

In 2008, there are close to 300 exemptions costing the state almost $36 billion, according to a draft of the 2008 Florida Tax Handbook. On the other hand, the state receives only $21 billion from goods and services that are taxed.

We've got a big problem here, and I would guess other states are facing a similar problem. The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission is proposing to drastically cut taxes by eliminating the property tax for public schools. Just how damn idiotic is that?

That represents a hole of $8 - 9 billion. The Commission is suggesting that the lost revenue could be made up by forcing the legislature to plug sales tax exemptions and tax some services.

This proposal is strongly opposed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. It is likely to be shot down. Here's one big reason: The foxes are in the henhouse. The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission includes 8 lobbyists and four members with ties to the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

The list of sales tax exemptions covers three full pages in itty-bitty type in the Florida Sales Tax Handbook. Here are some items currently exempt from paying a sales tax:

Ostrich feed (even though there are no Ostrich farms currently operating in Florida!), airplane parts, boiler fuels, taxicab equipment, newspaper advertising inserts, pesticides, movie theater concession rent, the Golf Hall of Fame, bottled water, charter fishing boats, farm equipment, printing supplies, professional sports stadiums, fill dirt, human organs, commercial fishing nets, bank services, legal services, radio, TV and cable companies, skyboxes, cane poles and fishing rods, the International Game Fish Association World Center...

Some items are essentially untouchable: nobody is going to tax grocery items, heating fuels for homes, prescription drugs, charges for hospital rooms and meals, medical services...these are exempt from a sales tax and they're gonna stay that way.

The other problem is that the people receiving many of the exemptions mentioned hire lobbyists who exert great power over our Florida legislatures. They help our legislators conveniently forget they're supposed to represent the people and fool them into thinking that powerful corporate interests have the people's interests at heart. Our legislators are afraid to tax the corporate interests lest they suddenly find themselves out of the legislature and back on the street peddling life insurance.

For example, back in 1987, the state tried to tax lawyers, barbers, real estate agents and advertisers. The caused a huge political tsunami. Eight months later they repealed those taxes.

What they did to make up the lost revenue is raise the sales tax from 5 to 6 cents. No matter, several legislators lost their jobs and Governor Bob Martinez failed at re-election.

It's a conundrum. Florida has a service-driven economy, but does not tax services. Hundreds of goods do not pay a sales tax.

Here's a partial list of the exemptons and exclusions from It also shows how much each could have paid toward this year's budget: (in millions of dollars)


Electricity for manufacturing - $71.3
Charter fishing boats - $63.5
Boiler fuels used by industries - $55.3
Bottled water - $42.3
Newspaper and magazine inserts - $41.3
Farm equipment - $33.8
Ostrich and livestock feed - $27.9
Free advertising publications - $24.7
Boats docked temporarily in Florida - $5.0
High school and college stadium skyboxes - $ 0.9


Lawyers - $658.8
Architects and engineers - $511.1
Radio-TV broadcasts - $168.5
Accountants - $272.0
Barber and beauty shops - $87.3
Dry cleaners - $64.6
Data processors - $52.8
Health clubs and golf courses - $30.9
Taxis and limousines - $22.4
Athletic and theatrical agents - $19.5

Again, these are partial lists. The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission is studying the matter. If the commission decides to fill budget holes by increasing taxes on some goods and services, their recommentations will be placed on the ballot for November 4, to be decided by the people.

Hopefully, by the time it is all over, the people will have realized that in order for the state to provide services for its residents--such as schools, roads, bridges, health care, police, courtrooms, judges, prisons, etc., it must be able to fund those services, and in spite of the
anti-tax talk that is so popular these days, the state receives those funds from taxes--in one form or another.

Hopefully, the people will not be fooled into thinking that the answer is not to eliminate many of these exemptions and exclusions, but to raise the sales tax. A high sales tax hurts the poor the most. But because the poor cannot hire lobbyists to look after their interests in the state capitol, they are usually the ones to get the shaft.

Maybe this year will be different. But don't count on it.

Bakker, Bakker, Bakker's Man

You remember Jim Bakker. You remember PTL. You remember Heritage USA. You remember Tammy Faye.

You remember how it all went bad back in the 1980s. You remember the women (and men). You remember how Bakker got it on with Jessica Hahn. You remember how Praise the Lord ministry collapsed, and how all those people who paid $1,000 for "lifetime partnerships" giving them free lodging at Heritage USA lost it all.

You remember how Bakker spent almost five years in jail for mail and wire fraud and "for diverting millions of dollars in partner fees for his personal use and promising more free lodging that the PTL ever could have provided."

PTL (aka Pass the Loot) may be long gone, but Bakker is back. Out of jail, remarried, and hanging in Branson, Missouri. He's got a TV show called, naturally, the Jim Bakker Show, and he's busy building hisself a mega-church called Morningside.

The stupid and the gullible are showing up just like in the old days. Many of the faithful think Bakker was set up, railroaded, falsely-accused, whatever. He's their man, he's their way to God. Many of these lost money with the old Bakker, but they're gonna try it again with the new Bakker. They have forgiven him.

Now Bakker says he did wrong. He even wrote a book about it. He says he's had a change of heart. Morningside Church is called "A Place of Refuge." It consists of a Christian retreat center and retirement community and is being built on 600 acres of land owned by Jerry Crawford who overflows with gratitude for Bakker because he believes Bakker helped put his failing marriage back together.

There is a large main building which Bakker plans to use as the home of his Jim Bakker Show and other operations. But some things never change. The Jim Bakker Show provides Bible study and/or discussion with his wife, Lori. But at the end of the program, Bakker begins the con: Please send a $1,000 "Builder's Club" donation to help with the down payment on Grace Chapel. Fools that send $1,000 will receive a "Builder's Bible" as a "love gift."

If you send $5,000, you'll get a "donor's name placed on an 'Amazing Grace' plaque." And, don't forget, the ministry needs donations in order to stay on the air.

Steven Reynolds from The All Spin Zone says that on April 10, Bakker told his audience "We need to preach the Gospel now. These are the times of the Bible."

The times of the Bible? Which times? The times of Moses? The times of David? The times of Jeremiah? The times of Jesus? The times of Paul? Which times?

Yep, Bakker's back! Back with the same old crap. And yes, he was wrong before and he's wrong now and a lot of folks are gonna feel the pain in their hearts and their pocketbooks when it all comes tumbling down, again!

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

[Photo is of SS women at Bergen-Belsen]

June 1945 - Buchenwald has become a displaced-persons camp. Jews residing there establish Kibbutz Buchenwald, an agricultural training center to help young Jews make a go of communal life (kibbutz).

In the U.S., polls indicate that most American still think of Jews as a greater threat than either German or Japanese Americans.

* June 14 - The British arrest Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Nazi Foreign Minister.

* June 30 - July 14 - An exhibition of photos taken at the death camps is put together by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Washington Evening Star. Ninety thousand people view the exhibition in Boston and the midwest.

* July 25 - Kurt Gerstein, who headed the Waffen-SS Institute of Hygiene in Berlin, hangs himself in prison.

* July 30 - The Allied Control Council takes over the administration of Germany.

* August 1945 - The 22nd World Zionist Congress demands that Britain allow 100,000 Jewish refugees to enter Israel. Britain refuses and this leads to a violent uproar in Palestine.

* August 6 - The United States drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

* August 9 - The United States drops an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.

* August 11 - Anti-Jewish uprisings occur in Krakow, Poland.

* August 27 - The Allies interrogate Hermann Goring.

* September 2 - Japan surrenders. World War II is over.

* September 17 - November 17 - At Luneberg, Germany, 48 of the administrative staff at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp are put on trial. Eleven are sentenced to death and are executed, and 23 are put in prison.

* October 1945 - The founder of the so-called Confessing Church, Pastor Martin Niemoller, sets forth the "Stuttgart Confession of Guilt," which maintains that the German people are collectively guilty for the Hitler regime.

* October 10 - The NSDAP (Nazi party) is abolished.

* October 25 - Anti-Semitic Poles attack Jews in Sosnowiec.

* November 15 - December 14 - 44 of the Dachau administration are tried; 37 are sentenced to death.

* November 19 - Anti-Jewish riots erupt in Lublin, Poland.

* November 20 - The Nuremberg Trials of top Nazi war criminals begins.

* December 1945 - In Kosow-Lacki, Poland, Polish anti-Semites murder 11 Jews. In the U.S., a sociologist by name of Oliver Cox, says that "Christians in the United States regard the Jew as 'our irreconcilable enemy within the gates, the antithesis of our God, the disturber of our way of life and of our social aspirations.'"

* December 22 - The American Displaced Persons Act benefits Nazi war criminals by facilitating their immigration to the U.S. On the other hand, the act actually discriminates against Jews. As this bill is discussed in Congress, many government officials express the anti-Jewish feelings.

** 1945 - 1950 - Six million Jews are dead. Between 250,000 and 300,000 Jews survived German concentration camps. Another 1.6 million Jews not in concentration camps made it through alive. During these years many Jews immigrate to Palestine/Israel, to the U.S., to Canada, to Belgium and to other countries.

To be continued...