Saturday, April 26, 2008

God and Gas and a Little Prayer

(Thanks to Rawstory for pointing me to this tale at

Why Rocky Twyman, a public relations consultant, church choir director and community organizer from Washington, D.C., was in San Francisco is unclear.

Here's what he did when he got there: He held a prayer service at a Chevron station, praying to the Christian God for cheaper gasoline. Twyman had held a similar service back home in Washington a couple of days earlier, and by this time has moved on to do it again in an Oakland church.

"God," says Twyman, "is the only one we can turn to at this point. Our leaders don't seem to be able to do anything about it. The prices keep soaring and soaring."

While Twyman believes prayer is the last resort, he suggests you not get too wordy or flowery in your prayer. God may not appreciate that. Just say "God, deliver us from these high gas prices."

I wonder if there's a timeline for God to answer?

Twyman is not your usual run-of-the-mill nutcase. He has done lots of interesting things, including trying to get Oprah Winfrey nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. A really good thing has been his involvement and success in getting African-Americans to become bone marrow donors, as for a long time, "racial and ethnic minorities have been underrepresented on the national donor registry."

And when it comes to praying for gas, he says that's just the beginning. People need to "walk more, leave those cars at home, and carpool. We have to become more practical."

But he's convinced that God can bring down the price of gas because God has done some wonderful things in his life. But we have to pray; we have to ask God to do it.

Okay, but as we've said on several occasions, all the scientific studies done on intercessory prayer indicate it doesn't work. And when God can't even heal a young mother of cancer and lets her die at age 24 leaving behind two young children and a bereft husband, why should she care about gas prices?

It would seem that if there is a God out there somewhere, and if, as we're told, this God loves us, that she ought to know how people are suffering from the high price of gas and do something about it without being begged.

What kind of god needs to be begged?

In Florida the Voucher Fight Continues

(Photo is of Patricia Levesque)

We really had hoped we were done with this damn nonsense. It was not to be. This unique, goofy, Florida thingy called the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which meets once every 20 years, has concluded its work and approved seven constitutional amendments for the ballot in November.

One of these amendments has to do with school vouchers which we thought were voted down. Not so. Out of nowhere the voucher issue reappeared and was approved by the commission, and if the voters approve, vouchers paid for with taxpayer dollars will be doled out to people who want to avoid public schools and go to private and/or religious schools.

Back in 2006, the Florida Supreme Court bombed Jeb Bush's voucher program, by rightly concluding that the state constitution mandates a "uniform" system of education and vouchers violate that provision by giving state money to private schools that don't have to conform to the same standards as public schools.

Tied in with this is another item the commission is putting on the November ballot. This would "remove the constitutional ban on using taxpayer money for religious or faith-based programs."

Can you imagine what will happen if the voters approve that? Every Reverend Tom, Dick, and Harry will have his or her sticky fingers in the Tallahassee money pie!

Now some people think Jeb Bush is smarter than his brother, George. That's probably true, but it really doesn't tell us much. Just about everybody's smarter than George. But Jeb is no genius, either, and he comes out of the same "ultra-nutty conservative" mold as George does. Jeb thinks, same as George, that taxpayer money should be doled out to religious groups that are doing good things. Religion's a good thing, isn't it? So, what's the problem.

The first problem is that both Jeb and George are talking "Christian" religious groups. That's where they want your tax money and my tax money to go.

And Jeb is just as full of crap as is George. WhenJeb heard the commission had reconsidered and decided to add the voucher amendment, he was very happy, and immediately whined that the Supreme Court shut down his 2006 voucher program, which he called "successful" (it involved 700 students!), "partly under the tortured reasoning that a better education from a private school was unconstitutional because it was different than the education provided by a public school."

Well, not really. The Court just followed the state Constitution. The problem is not the Supreme Court. The problem is that neither Jeb nor George care much for constitutions. The Court voted the way they did because the damn plan was illegal! Now, that may not bother the Bush brothers, but it bothers a lot of the rest of us. And a lot of the rest of us are not happy when tax money which ought to be going to already struggling public schools is given to students to attend St. Smithens by the Swamp parochial school!

Interestingly, this proposal, which we said had been defeated earlier, mysteriously reappeared and was approved. Evidently, there was some vote-switching. Probably some deals were made behind closed doors.

It should also be noted that one of the more powerful members of the commission is Patricia Levesque, who just happens to be the executive director of an organization called the Foundation for Florida's Future," which is a right-wing Jeb Bush "think-tank." Do you think a little "arm-twisting" went on behind the scenes?

Now, if these two amendments pass, we're sliding down that ol' slippery slope of establishing religion. As Dan Gelber (D-Miami), the House Democratic leader, says, "We [Florida] will be the first state, I believe, to create a mandate to publicly finance private education.

"I think if you asked the average Floridian whether the people they were hoping would provide relief and reform to Florida's dysfunctional and inequitable tax system spent a minute of their day on vouchers, they would be shocked. I think this is as wrong-headed a proposal as the commission could come up with."

Just in case you're saying well, you live in another state so this kind of right-wing deviousness does not apply to you, check out what your state legislature is up to. These folks don't go away. They hide but soon reappear in some other incarnation, but the end result is the same: Get government money for religious (Christian), faith-based schools or other groups.

And finally, to show just how stupid this all is and how it really has nothing whatsoever to do with the desire of Jeb Bush or Patricia Levesque or anyone else to provide our children with quality education -- all the studies that have been done comparing public schools with private and/or religious schools show there is very little difference in quality between them; and in some cases the private schools come off worse than the public schools. That takes into account, of course, that students attending private and/or religious schools are generally more academically oriented, and have a lot more money than the "average" public school student.

Wait a minute! If they have a lot more money, why should the state have to pay for them to go to private schools?

Wait another minute, why should the state support any private or religious school or other institution?

Newt Gingrich, Sleaze Personified

Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Republican attack dog, the sleaze of Republican politics, was asked 10 questions submitted by readers of Time magazine. The questions and Newt's responses are in the May 5, 2008 issue.

Gingrich's sleazy life has been well-documented over the years, so we won't rehash the same old story, except to note that he is the author of a new book, a World War II novel, called "Days of Infamy," and by asking, "Isn't it interesting that this particular draft dodger took it upon himself to write a war novel?" It's too bad he couldn't rely on personal experience. Maybe he should have written a novel about a political wannabe who avoided the Vietnam war by obtaining various deferments.

While Gingrich has been trying, at least publicly, to rehabilitate himself in the past few years, some of us have long memories and don't take kindly to Time magazine pretending he's some sort of national statesman and providing him with a platform to further promote that pretense.

The last question asked of Newt was this: "Why did you decide not to run for President?"

Now, he could have told the truth and said he realized that his past would rise up to bite him and very few people would vote for a sleaze like him. But this is what he said instead, and you have to give the guy credit for his world-class chutzpah!

"The scale of solutions we need for the next 20 years is so enormous that I could not both do what I'm doing and run for President. I may someday run, but I think my primary contribution is to go to the root of the problems, to try to understand the scale of change we need."

Consider the ego of someone who implies the presidency is not quite as important as what he is currently doing - figuring out the size of the solutions we need by getting to the root of our problems, and then determining the size of change we need? Or something. Sounds like a job for a god!

It also sounds impressive? But it's goobledygook! It's what a person says when what he thinks or says no longer carries any weight; when no one cares.

Write another novel, Newt, but this time write about something from your personal experience.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Humans Almost Were/Are Extinct

The AP story about humans and their past near-extinction by Randolph E. Schmid has made the rounds of most media outlets but has created surprisingly little comment.

It's a fascinating story. Schmid tells us that "an extensive genetic study suggests" that we human folks were almost extinguished about 70,000 years ago. A separate study by researchers at Stanford University estimates that the number of human beings may have dropped to 2,000 before an expansion began in the early Stone Age.

The reason for this was a "climatological shift," brought on by a number of severe droughts in Eastern Africa.

It's all pretty dramatic. Spencer Wells, of the National Geographic Society noted how the study showed "the extraordinary power of genetics to reveal insights into some of the key events in our species' history. Tiny bands of early humans, forced apart by harsh environmental conditions, coming back from the brink to reunite and populate the world. Truly an epic drama, written in our DNA."

"Who would have thought," asks Paleontologist Meave Leakey, "that as recently as 70,000 years ago, extremes of climate had reduced our population to such small numbers that we were on the very edge of extinction"?

Not I.

Makes me wonder about the future, though, as scientists are predicting that we will see many more severe droughts around the world, the result of climate change.

Just four years ago, a noted researcher from New Zealand warned that "humans face extinction by the end of the century."

Professor Peter Barrett, the director of Victoria University's Antarctic Research Centre, said "After 40 years, I'm part of a huge community of scientists who have become alarmed with our discovery, that we know from our knowledge of the ancient past, that if we continue our present growth path, we are facing extinction.

"Not in millions of years, or even millennia, but by the end of this century." [My emphasis]

The problem, quite simply, is global warming. In 2004, Professor Barret concluded that the increase in global temperature was already then responsible for "increased storminess, loss of species, spread of deserts, and tropical diseases, and disturbed ecological balance from excess CO2, an example being the Amazon rain forest."

Lest you think this is just one mad scientist raving: "The scientific basis for the earth's climate warming beyond the variations of the last 1,000 years is set out in the assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change..."

The IPCC includes the elite of the elite and involves over 1,000 climate scientists from over 100 countries "and has based its ... reports ... solely on data from peer-reviewed scientific publications. It reaches its conclusions by debate and consensus, noting the level of uncertainty in its key statements. It is therefore the most authoritative source of information on earth on global warming."

So, friends and neighbors, what has the IPCC discovered? By the end of this century, the average global temperature will increase substantially, perhaps by as much as 3.4 degrees centigrade. But another study, more recent, has upped that figure to about 4 degrees centigrade!

"This represents a huge shift in climate - the earth last had this temperature ... around 35 million years ago, before big ice sheets formed on Antarctica."

However, the latest studies show that the changes are occurring more rapidly than anyone expected! The Arctic is warming faster than predicted and this means the acidity of the oceans is increasing and that means sea-life will be imperiled. Furthermore, the west Antarctic ice streams have begun to speed up, which increases the rise of sea levels.

Scientists have further discovered a "Runaway release of gigatonnes of methane from the huge reservoir of solid methane hydrate beneath the ocean floor (and this has triggered super-warmings in the ancient past)."

Plus, there are again sudden "lurches in temperature in the North Atlantic region, which in the prehistoric past have dropped temperatures in Western Europe and the east coast of North America by 6 degrees centigrade in a few years.

Global warming caused by greenhouse gasses is increasing more rapidly than scientists predicted even a few years ago. Unfortunately, the warning in 2004 by the finest group of climate scientists in the world, the IPCC, that human life could become extinct by the end of this century has been all but ignored by the only groups that can do anything about it - the nations of the world.

We don't have much time, and the problem is growing exponentially. That means the most important question for any candidate running for president of the United States to answer is this:

"In light of the warning that global warming may actually cause the human race to become extinct in less than 100 years, what do you plan to do about it?"

Gideons Infect Our Public Schools

Preface: Gideons International is an organization that has as its purpose the distribution of as many Christian Bibles as possible. For 100 years they have distributed Christian Bibles in various locales around the world, but are best known for the ubiquitous "Gideon Bible" one finds in hotels and motels.

In Alabama: School officials in Athens, Alabama, in response to a threatened lawsuit, have forbidden the Gideons International organization from distributing Christian Bibles in the public schools. Previously, every year, the district held a "Bible distribution" for 5th graders.

In Michigan: The school superintendent in Wayland, Michigan, told Gideons International to halt its "annual" distribution of Christian Bibles to 5th graders. The Gideons have been giving away Christian Bibles in this school district since 1990.

In Tennessee: In Warren County, the Gideons International group distributes pocket-sized copies of the New Testament to 5th-graders at Dibrell Elementary School. The Gideons have been doing this for 20 years in Warren County. The district does not plan to change things, based on the notion that the kids don't have to take a copy of the New Testament if they do not want to; they can leave the room.

Now think about this: You're a fifth-grader. Your parents are Jewish, or Buddhists, or Hindi, or Wiccans, or Muslim. You do not want a copy of the Christian New Testament. If you ask to leave the room, you know your peers will laugh and tease you about being "different." Fifth-graders do not like to be teased and laughed at by their peers. You take the New Testament and grit your teeth.

The principal of Dibrell Elementary, Sherry Trotman, thinks that's just fine. I think Ms. Trotman should find another job where she doesn't have to work with young people.

In Louisiana: A federal judge ruled "that the Tangipahoa Parish School Board violated the First Amendment by allowing Gideons International to pass out pocket Bibles to Loranger fifth-graders during school hours last year."

According to Judge Carl Barbier, "the practice is unconstitutional under multiple legal standards in federal case law testing whether government and religion are too closely entangled."

Furthermore, "The distribution of Bibles was 'ultimately coercive' on an elementary school child, 'a religious activity without a secular purpose,' and 'amounted to promotion of Christianity by the School Board.'"

You think?

In Louisiana: A lawsuit has been filed against the Rapides Parish School Board in Alexandria, Louisiana alleging that a Muslim elementary school student "was forced to accept a Bible and participate in a 'Jesus game' in school and was told by classmates that she would 'burn in hell.'"

In this case, the principal called a fifth-grade class to his office on December 14, 2000, where he handed out Christian Bibles and wished each of them "Merry Christmas."

The Muslim student, said "No, thank you" to the principal when he presented her the Christian Bible. The principal told her to "just take it" and because she felt pressured by the principal, she accepted the Bible.

In West Virginia: At some time in the past a court ruled that West Virginia's practice of putting religious and nonreligious material on a secondary school table where students could walk past it was not appropriate for grade-school children as "they might not understand that the school board was not endorsing any of the materials."

The above cases represent just a few of these kinds of incidents where right-wing Christian organizations attempt to impose their beliefs and materials upon impressionable school-age children in our PUBLIC SCHOOLS!

And isn't it interesting that in spite of the fact that in case after case, the courts have ruled that these kinds of activities violate the Constitution, and breach the wall of separation of church and state, pious right-wing Christians still insist on breaking the law?

I guess they believe that the "ends justify the means."

Or they agree with the ultra-right Christian dominionist and theocrat, Bill Bright, founder of the Campus Crusade for Christ, who said "God has been sending plagues on the American Nation because of the Supreme Court decisions on school prayer and Bible readings."

Actually, he may be right. But the "plagues" whereof he speaks are himself, Gideons International, and all of the other right-wing poohbahs who think they are above the law and are actively trying to gain positions of power in our society the better to infect our society with their particular fundamentalist Christian views.

A pox on all their houses!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

McCain Can't Seem to Find the Truth

Media Matters reports that Mr. McCain lied about Mr. Obama's response to Jimmy Carter's infamous Hamas meeting.

Some of the Media (e.g. an MSNBC blog) reported that when Jimmy Carter announced he was going to meet with Hamas, Obama criticized Carter for meeting with a terrorist organization. Then McCain attacked Obama for "not condemning Carter's visit more sternly."

The problem with this is that McCain did not just attack Obama for being too mild in his criticism of Carter, McCain "misrepresented Obama's position on Carter's meeting with Hamas, falsely suggesting that Obama 'approve[d]' of the meeting." That was an outright lie!

Here's what McCain said on the April 16 edition of Fox News' Your World: "Senator Obama does not have the experience to make the right judgment as to how to deal with terrorist organizations, obviously. Otherwise, he would never approve of such a meeting."

That is just plain dirty politics from a dirty old man who doesn't even know the basic differences between the ethnic groups in Iraq! Right judgment, my tush!

In fact, before Carter headed off to meet with Hamas, Obama's campaign office released a statement that said Senator Obama "does not support negotiations with Hamas until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements."

In Pennsylvania, Obama told a group of Jewish leaders that he did not agree with Carter's decision to meet with Hamas. "Hamas," he said, "is not a state. Hamas is a terrorist organization."

It looks like if McCain, God forbid, should get elected, we are going to be subject to at least another four years of evasions, distortions, and outright lies by the leader of the land.

Everybody Has to Hate Someone!

(Photo is St. Basil's, Red Square, Moscow by bcplaces)

In Russia, the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church, with the backing of the Russian government and its secret police, is fighting tooth and nail to stop the establishment of other, non-Orthodox church groups.

Proselytizing by Protestants is almost totally banned, and Protestants who dare hold worship services are harassed by agents of the government often resulting in those worship services being shut down.

The Russian Orthodox Church has, for all practical purposes, become the "official" Russian church/religion. This has been accomplished with the blessing of President Vladimir V. Putin, who often appears with Patriarch Aleksei II, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, on television networks controlled by the Kremlin.

Stories coming out of Russia tell of Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, Pentecostals and others being verbally and even physically assaulted by officials of the Orthodox Church and/or the government.

One Orthodox priest said in a sermon that Protestants were heretics "who cut Christ's robes like bandits, who are like the soldiers who crucified Christ, who ripped apart Christ's holy coat."

It's hard to believe that Russia's Protestant population is much of a threat, consisting of only 2 million people out of a population of 142 million. But they are, and in spite of the government's insistence that freedom of religion is respected in the country, the "heretics" face continual pressure.

All of this is to be expected, of course. History shows clearly that anytime a religious group gains enough governmental power to enforce its will on the people, it will do so, and it matters not the cost in good will or blood. The motto has usually been, "Convert 'em. It they won't convert, kill 'em!"

Up until fairly recently, anti-Semitism has been a major and unpleasant reality in Russia. Thousands of Jews have left Russia for other, more welcoming countries. But Putin has denounced anti-Semitism, and at the present time there is something of a renewal among the Jewish population in Russia.

That is very good news, of course. The question is whether or not it will last. The bad news is that anti-Semitism has been replaced by anti-Protestantism, and also, to some extent, anti-Catholicism.

I guess everybody has to hate someone.

Katharine Graham's Washington

Katharine Graham, author and former owner of the Washington Post, died in July of 2001 at the age of 84.

Ms. Graham had lived most of her life in the city of Washington, D.C. As far as Ms. Graham was concerned, Washington, D.C. was the greatest city in the world!

In her second and final book, titled Katherine Graham's Washington, she looks back at the city that she loved and tells stories about the city and its people, covering the period from 1917 to 2001.

She said "I was privileged to have been so often over my many years in Washington if not in the center of the rich life of the city, then at least hovering near. My father always taught me that with privileges come responsibilities, and I began to think that my unique perspective over eight decades might be of some interest to others who love our capital and would like a fuller glimpse into the constituents of this place we call Washington."

Well, I don't know Washington well enough to love it or not love it, but I'm always interested in learning more about the cast of characters that have inhabited the city from its inception as our nation's capital.

In the "Foreword" to her book, Ms. Graham further explicates what the city has meant to her:

One of the happy results of my backward glance at this city that I love is that, despite all the changes, it reminds me of some of what lasts in Washington, what endures--including society, civility, great men and women (and some colorful rascals), and devotion, respect, and good work."

When I read that my first response was "Is she talking about the same Washington, D.C. that I know?" Then I remembered she died before she was able to experience all the "benefits" of the Bush administration.

Today, one would never describe Washington, D.C. as a city of "civility, great men and women..." although you might write several lengthy essays on the not-so-colorful rascals! And it is hard to fathom how in 2008 one could use the words, "devotion, respect, and good work" in a sentence that contained the words, "Washington, D.C."

That's all very sad. But that's the way it is!

Hitler's Values and The Christian Right

Jerry Falwell may be gone, but his son, Jonathan, is alive and well, and perpetrating the same combination of political/religious horse hockey for which his father was famous.

In an article titled, "Our Dishonest Nation," Jonathan refers to a GAO report of a few weeks ago that revealed a high level of corruption among some federal employees. These employees had used government credit cards to purchase non-government items. A lot of money was involved. I think most people would agree this is all very disgraceful and those involved should be punished.

Jonathan, however, jumps from that particular and specific instance of government malfeasance to "imagine" that this kind of corruption is endemic among "businesses around the country." Why he moves from federal employee corruption to business corruption is not clear, but then he confuses the issue further by making another leap to castigate the whole nation: "We have become a nation increasingly comprised of me-first citizens who have no problem using deceitful practices to satisfy their personal needs or to enhance their lifestyles."

I'm don't think it is logical to conclude that because some federal employees engaged in "deceitful practices," we are "a nation .... of me-first citizens." I don't think its fair, either.

Nevertheless, because Jonathan has decided we're all bad, he has to ask the questions, "Where did America go wrong?" and " can we alter this course?"

Well, you know what's coming. The real problem, says Jonathan, is that all this badness reflects "our nation's continued departure from its Judeo-Christian heritage." .[I've got to say I've really come to hate that term - Judeo-Christian. I don't know what it means anymore, and I don't think people like Jonathan have a clue, either] Anyway, Jonathan continues: "This nation was founded on biblical principles, and those principles largely sustained us until about a half-century ago."

That would be hilarious if poor Jonathan wasn't serious. What "biblical principles"? The one that says kill all the natives, steal their land, enslave millions of Africans, and lynch people of dark skin? The biblical principles that gave us the Jim Crow laws? Or how about those that insist we work pre-teens for 12 hours a day, seven days a week? Perhaps he means the biblical principles that gave us the right to support ruthless dictatorships throughout Latin America in order to steal coffee, and bananas and oil? And how about those robber barons whose names still grace the marquees of many of our largest corporations? What biblical principles did they live by?

Jonathan thinks because we've "turned away" from the Ten commandments and other "biblical principles," our country has literally gone to hell: our people are "more dishonest and deceptive. Crime has risen, our schools have failed and our culture has become vulgar and crude." Oh, and don't forget how those nasty homosexuals are perverting our children!

Jonathan believes "it's all related to the ouster of God from our schools, our media and our society."

What can we do? Jonathan says we must start "a Christian uprising ... to confront and address the culture with reason and the truth of Scripture..." That's because "There is no hope apart from Christ." Pat Robertson, Jonathan Falwell (like his father before him) and others would say that the U.S.A. was founded as a Christian nation, and to save ourselves, we must "reclaim America for Christ!"

Is that the answer?

Let's take a look at what was considered to be a "Christian" nation; a nation based upon Christian principles; a nation that thought so highly of its churches it made them official and supported them with tax monies - the nation of Germany, circa the early 20th Century.

In spite of much rhetoric portraying the Germans as atheists, nihilists, or neo-pagans, the German census of 1939 indicated that 90 percent of the German people were, in fact, Christian: 54 percent were Protestant and 40 percent were Roman Catholic. Only 3.5 percent were neo-pagan "believers in God," and a mere 1.5 percent were atheists!

Six years into the Hitler era, Germany remained a very religious country, and a proudly Christian country. The Christian faith was enshrined in its political identity, and considered part of the nation's destiny.

Catholic and Protestant churches retained their status as official state churches throughout the war. "Religious education remained a part of the state education system, chaplains served the military, and theological faculties remained funded and active within the state universities. Article 24 in the Nazi Party Program always professed 'positive Christianity' as the foundation of the German state."

Adolf Hitler was brought up in a devout Roman Catholic family. He was a Catholic "in good standing" until his death. Many of those Hitler brought into leadership positions were Roman Catholics, including Joseph Goebbels. It is estimated that at least 1/3 of the German army, police force, bureaucrats, railway personnel, prison guards, etc., were Roman Catholic. Protestants made up an even larger percentage of these groups.

The point is, that the Nazis, far from being irreligious or atheistic, were quite religious and devoted to their respective churches.

It should be said, however, that initially the German churches -- both Catholic and Protestant --stood in opposition to Hitler and the Nazis. In the early 1930s, the Catholic hierarchy ruled that Catholics could not be members of the Nazi party.

That all changed in 1933 when the Papal Nuncio Pacelli (later to become Pope Pius XII) and Hitler signed the Reich Concordat of 1933. Hitler was determined to gain the support of the church, if possible, and thus in the Concordat promised to respect and protect the Catholic church in Germany. Concurrently, in his "My New Order" proclamation to the German nation on February 1, 1933, Hitler said:

"The National (Nazi) Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family, as the basis of national life." [My emphasis]

You can see that any one of a number of American Christian right-wingers could give that exact same speech today (omiting any Nazi reference, of course) and thousands of the devout would jump up and down for joy and shout "Hallelujah!"

When the church joined with the Nazis, (the Catholic bishops lifted their ban on membership in the Nazi Party shortly after the Pacelli concordat) both Protestants and Catholics enthusiastically supported the Nazi regime. Protestant and Catholic churches provided the Nazis with church records to better determine which Germans were Jewish or had "Jewish" blood and which did not so all Jews (including those who had converted to Christianity) could be sent to concentration/death camps. The churches blessed their members who went off to fight for Germany and told the faithful to pray for a German victory.

Ordinary Germans were accustomed to looking toward their churches for guidance and thus "gave their total commitment to the nation's cause; not only because of deep-felt fears of the terrible price (that) nonconformity would bring or the warm surge of satisfaction accompanying nationalistic or patriotic identification with the war effort, but also because [their] most cherished religious values had been called into play to encourage [them] to take [their] post 'on the field of honor' 'in the defense of Volk and Vaterland.' (the people and the fatherland)."

Change was in the wind by 1936, however, and Hitler moved to separate church and state, fearing the potential power of the churches. Thus, we have the spectacle of the Nazi Party demanding that churches remove the swastika from church newsletters and church altars. This led to loud protests by the church leadership. "Pastors who had placed the swastika on the altar, next to the cross, claimed the swastika was a key element in the religious life of the congregants. Church officials who placed the swastika on the masthead of their church newspapers meant thereby to proclaim their support for the regime."

Note carefully, that the churches didn't turn their backs on the swastika. They were forced to give it up by the Nazis.

For most of the war, however, the churches continued to support Hitler and his policies. Further evidence of this support is found in the role and responsibilities of Catholic and Protestant chaplains who served the German military forces. How did they reconcile their religious beliefs with what they saw happening in Germany and in the other countries Germany invaded and captured? For example, did the hundreds of Catholic chaplains serving on the Eastern Front, in the thick of the slaughter of innocent Jews, believe that the actions of the German soldiers and the SS were wrong? Did they give these soldiers and blackguards Holy Communion? Did they hear the confessions of these ruthless killers?

Did they call them to repentance?

Probably not. One source says that "...the great majority of German military chaplains, Catholics and Protestants, 'weighed in on the side of the perpetrators, condoning and blessing their crimes through words, actions, and silence. One of the most obvious manifestations of this function was the provision of group absolution for soldiers.'"

There are at least two other things to consider that reinforce the sense in which Nazi Germany remained a Christian nation with the support of religious authorities, including the Vatican.

The first has to do with the Roman Catholic "Index of Forbidden Books," which today is defunct. In the early 20th century, however, it was an important adjunct to the Vatican's enforcement of Catholic morality around the world. A "good" Catholic would never read a book that appeared on the Index.

In 1933, Hitler's vile treatise, "Mein Kampf," was to be found at the top of the German best-seller lists, alongside the Bible. "Mein Kampf" was never placed on the Index! Yet, it was clear, even in the early 1930s that if any book published since the invention of the printing press deserved to be on the Index, it was "Mein Kampf"!

The Protestant Church was as culpable as the Catholic Church, but lacked a pope. The Nazi-loving Protestant bishop, Muller, who had been placed in authority of the non-Catholic churches, was chosen precisely for his approval of the Nazi regime. There were a few Protestant clergy who did publicly voice their disapproval of Hitler and his gang, and a number of them paid for their disloyalty by imprisonment and/or death, one of the more famous being Deitrich Bonhoeffer (though his "heroics" are muted by his anti-Semitism).

And in spite of the fact that Hitler thought Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church, to be one of history's greatest theologians and even though he borrowed Luther's suggestions on how to deal with the Jews, and even though Hitler continued year after year to murder millions of innocent people, the Vatican failed to call him to account at any time during his reign!

But fifty years previously, the Catholic Church had declared that priests who cooperated with Chancellor Bismark against the Catholic Church were automatically excommunicated.

Excommunication is the ultimate Roman Catholic punishment as it removes a person from the grace of the Church and the grace of God and consigns one to eternal condemnation in hell.

Hitler was never excommunicated; he was never threatened with excommunication! In fact, the only high-ranking Catholic Nazi to be excommunicated was Joseph Goebbels. He was not excommunicated for his involvement in killing millions of people (mainly Jews), however, but for only one reason: He married a Protestant woman!

Shortly after the end of WWII, the pope did excommunicate all communists. He "crushed the liberal 'Worker Priest' movement in France." The Nazis he left alone except when he put the Vatican to work 'underground' to get some of the worst of the Catholic Nazi war criminals out of Europe to safety -- often in Latin America -- using Church resources.

In Germany, in the 1920s and 1930s, Christians in general were supportive of values like discipline, punctuality, cleanliness, and respect for authority. These were some of the values promoted by the Nazis.

Generally, in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, Christians were very much opposed to "godless" Communism. Opposition to Communism was another Nazi value. Hitler liked to present himself as a strong anti-Communist.

In the 1920s and 1930s in Germany, Christians generally rejected "modern tendencies toward urban, secular culture...They did not like the fast lifestyle of the roaring twenties or the open, democratic practices of the Weimar Germany, which advocated freedom of speech and belief and practiced tolerance toward the culturally diverse. Hitler attracted Christians by criticizing the liberalism of democratic government and by advocating a tougher, law-and-order approach to German society. He opposed pornography, prostitution, abortion, homosexuality, and the 'obscenity' of modern art, and he awarded bronze, silver and gold medals to women who produced four, six, and eight children, thus encouraging them to remain in their traditional role in the home."

Please understand that I am not equating the Christian Right with Nazism, but when you look at the list above it appears that much of the Christian Right in America today would be right at home in Nazi Germany. They share many of the same values promoted by Adolf Hitler!

Nazi Germany, according to the criteria promoted by the Christian Right, was a Christian nation.

Somehow, I don't think that's what Jonathan or the others want to hear, though.

A Word of Contrary, Contraceptive, Papal Advice

This is for all you struggling parents, burdened with too many children, who have not enough money or time, and who feel your internal resources are increasingly inadequate to deal with your many daily responsibilities.

In other words, this is for those of you who are going quite mad trying to be good mothers and fathers.

"Contraception contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love." -- Pope John Paul II

Isn't it wonderful when a celibate priest who's older than the hills, who's never had children, who has no money problems, who has servants to meet his every demand, tells you that if you are to have sex properly, you must risk pregnancy?

Why would he say something so inane or insane? Can you find anything in the Gospels of the New Testament where Jesus the Jew speaks of "the full truth of the sexual act," or forbids his followers to use contraceptive measures?

It's all so silly. And what is "the full truth of the sexual act"? Orgasm? If so, any sexually active person knows the "full truth of the sexual act" is much more likely to be realized when contraceptive measures are in place!

Maybe by 2108, the Roman Church will have arrived in the 21st century! But don't count on it!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Who To Believe - Rice or Carter?

Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, says she warned former president Jimmy Carter not to go to the Middle East and told him specifically not to contact Hamas.

Ms. Rice is quoted as putting it thusly: "The United States is not going to deal with Hamas and we certainly told President Carter that we did not think that meeting with Hamas was going to help the Palestinians."

You may notice that this second statement is kinda murky; that nowhere there does she tell Jimmy not to to go where he was going to go or do what he was going to do - "...we certainly told"...? Sounds like she isn't real sure...

But, never mind 'cause the White House said Rice was right! There! That settles it!

Not really.

In response, former Prez Jimmy Carter said that Rice is a liar. Well, he put it a bit differently, and being a Baptist and all, he likes to say things nicely. So his Carter center in Atlanta issued a pissy little statement that said "President Carter has the greatest respect for...Rice and believes her to be a truthful person. However, perhaps inadvertently, she is continuing to make a statement that is not true."

Hee, hee!

Actually, I thought Carter was wrong to go traipsing off to visit with Hamas leaders because as we've said before, not only is Hamas a terrorist organization and not a political party, it steadfastly refuses the right of Israel to exist.

One cannot "negotiate" anything on Israel's behalf with anyone or any organization that denies Israel's right to life.

I'm sure Carter knew that, which means he must have thought his super powers of persuasion would cause the Hamas SOBs to see the light.

Didn't work.

However, in the final analysis, as they say, if I had to pick someone most likely to tell the truth, it would be former president Jimmy Carter. If I had to pick someone most likely to lie to cover her ass or the ass of the Bush administration, it would be Condoleezza Rice.

Or maybe, like in August of 2001, Rice and Bush and cronies decided to ignore the briefing that said Carter was a wild hair and something needed to be done about him.

Nothing was done and Carter flew off to do his thing.

What to do now? The only solution is to lie. The Bushites have the "big lie" perfected. That's one thing they do well. In fact, that's the only thing they do well!

Clinton Wins - Nastily!

Hillary won Pennsylvania. No biggie. She was supposed to win in Pennsylvania. She was supposed to win big! If a ten-point spread is considered "big" by the pundits, she did all right.

Now, some media persons are running around asking "What did Obama do wrong?" as if he was supposed to win. Never underestimate the stupidity and mendacity of the U.S. media!

Hillary won, but she and Bill were not nice.

Back when Obama won the South Carolina primary, some folks thought Bill Clinton tried to scare away white voters by comparing Obama's win in this race to 1984 when the South Carolina primary was won by Jesse Jackson. In the last day of the Pennsylvania campaign, Bill told a Philadelphia radio station that somehow he was the victim of "tactics designed to galvanise African Americans to back Obama. "And we know," he said, "from memos from the [Obama] campaign and everything, that they planned to do it all along."

Obama was rightly puzzled. "So, former President Clinton dismissed my victory in South Carolina as being similar to Jesse Jackson, and he's suggesting that somehow I had something to do with it? I have no idea what he meant."

I don't think anyone has any idea what he meant. But I don't think it mattered. The point wasn't to make sense, the point was to scare away whites by comparing Obama to Jesse Jackson who has become persona non grate among many white people.

Then Hillary played tough girl, and that wasn't necessary. First, she released a TV commercial with photos of Osama bin Laden which concluded with the question, "who do you think has what it takes?" The implication, of course, being that no one is tougher than Hillary when it comes to confronting terrorists.

In an interview with ABC, when asked how she'd respond if Iran launched a nuclear attack on Israel, she played the "tough" girl card again: "I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran. If the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

Jesus H. Christ! What ever happened to diplomacy? To seeking peace? To disarmament? To the notion, proven over and over again, that nobody "wins" a war?

In that sound bite, she sounded just like George W. Bush and his "Axis of Evil crap! And this from a woman who goes to Bible study and prayer meetings to pray to the "Prince of Peace" with the powerful folks who comprise The Family and run the world! Maybe she was just trying to impress them.

May God, wherever she is, help us!

Stupid Is as Stupid does!

(Face of Jesus illustration by BBC)

Three really stupid people have been in the news the past several days.

The first is a New York cabbie.

Maybe it was all the super-religiosity surrounding the pious presence of Pope Benedict XVI in New York City, but some superstitious Catholics think they see the face of Jesus Christ on a ceiling tile above a hospital bed at St. John's Queens Hospital.

Junior Rodriguez, a cab driver, was laying in that hospital bed in room 232 when he looked up at a stain on the ceiling and saw what he thinks was the Christian savior. "There was Jesus, looking down on me," he exclaimed. The face of Jesus was right there in that stain.

Some members of the hospital staff think Junior is right, and they now call room 232 the "Jesus room."

(I'd recommend that if you live in the New York City area and have to go to the hospital, find a hospital other that St. John's Queens Hospital. I mean, do you really want to be cared for by people who see Jesus' face in a stain on a ceiling tile?)

The most amazing thing, however, is that no one in the world has a freaking clue as to what this Jesus (assuming there really was such a person) looked like. His visage has never been recorded in writing by anyone, ever! His face is blank, in other words.

Just as blank as the minds of people who see his face in ceiling tiles, clouds, toasted cheese sandwiches, or on the shadowy wall of a building!

The second really stupid person is a Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli. He has a thing about flying through the air tied to nothing but a bunch of balloons.

Last Sunday he strapped on 1,000 helium-filled balloons and took off, trying to break a 19-hour record and raise money for a spiritual rest stop for truckers in southern Brazil. He has not been heard from, or seen, since. The balloons have been found. The priest is considered missing at sea.

Father di Carli has done lots of dangerous things, like mountain-climbing and running around trying to survive in the jungle, but this was not one of his smarter moves.

The good reverend may be a nice guy and he may be strong and he may be brave, but that doesn't make him smart!

Hopefully, he will be found alive.

But there must be better ways to get high!

The third stupid person is a bungee jumper. I do not know his religion. Not that it matters, because stupid people come in all religious flavors.

This guy jumped from a 165 foot tower at the Paradise Bungy Location, in Acapulco, Mexico. At the bottom of his jump was a large tank of water.

He climbed to the top of the tower, and when all bungied up, he jumped. The bungee cord broke. He kept going into the tank.

He survived and when assisted out of the tank, seemed to be in good condition.

I will never do a bungee jump. I'm not stupid and I know the tank of water will disappear right when the cord breaks!

George W. Bush and the Almighty

George W. Bush is considered by some to be a man of "faith." Others think he knows not what "faith" means. A few are quite sure he's just plain stupid. Molly Ivins, God rest her soul, said he was a moron.

To help you decide, we're posting a few "God" comments from G.W., culled from a list of 50. I thought these were some of the "best." You can read all of them here.

1. "I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did." - Sham el-Sheikh, August 2003.

2. "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job." - Lancaster, PA, July 9, 2004

3. "I'm also mindful that man should never try to put words in God's mouth. I mean, we should never ascribe natural disasters or anything else to God. We are in no way, shape, or form should a human being, play God. - Washington, D.C., Jan. 14, 2005

4. "God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us as a powerful message that people who wonder about their future can hear." - Los Angeles, CA, Mar. 3, 2004

9. "And there's nothing more powerful in helping change the country than faith -- faith in Dios." - National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, May 16, 2002

13. "We can never replace lives, and we can't heal hearts, except through prayer." - Enterprise, Alabama, Mar. 3, 2007

16. "I couldn't imagine someone like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah." - White House, Dec. 10, 2007

17. "I see an opportunity at home when I hear the stories of Christian and Jewish women alike, helping women of cover, Arab American women go shop because they're afraid to leave their home." - Washington, D.C., Oct. 4, 2001

19. "I did denounce it. I de- I denounced it. I denounced interracial dating. I denounced anti-Catholic bigacy...bigotry." - In response to people unhappy with his visit to the far-right Bob Jones University in South Carolina, Feb. 25, 2000.

Below are some additional "God" and non-God statements from G.W. Bush provided by readers of Times Online:

"This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while." - Sept. 16, 2001

"I really appreciate leaders from around the globe who have come to share in prayer with us today. It reminds me that the Almighty God is a God to everybody, every person." - 51st Annual Congressional Prayer Breakfast, February 6, 2003

[G.W.'s father said this in response to a question at a press conference: "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."] (The problem runs in the family!)

"I appreciate that question because I, in the state of Texas, had heard a lot of discussion about a faith-based initiative eroding the important bridge between church and state." - January 29, 2001

Here are a few more familiar "Bushisms" most of which are not directly related to God:

"For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible - and no one can now doubt the word of America."

"Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

"I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don't always agree with them."

"I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe - I believe what I believe is right."

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier - so long as I'm the dictator."

"I'm the commander - see, I don't need to explain - I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being President."

"Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world."


Freedom of Religion or Freedom From Religion

(Photo at right is of Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey)

A great many of our local, state and national representatives, duly elected by the people of the United States to uphold the Constitution, fail to understand that the United States of America is not about the business of praising the Christian god, nor worshipping the Christian god, nor supporting the Christian god, nor following the laws of the Christian god, nor even believing in the Christian god.

They further fail to understand that it is not in their job description as representatives of all the people to try to impose a belief in the Christian god upon their constituents, or force their constituents to support the Christian god in any way. Somehow they missed the class which taught that our founding document forbids the establishment of religion.

A surprising number of our elected poohbahs do not have a clue as to the contents of our founding document--the Constitution. Not satisfied with the freedom to worship the god of their choice in whatever manner they choose on any particular day(s) they select, they have determined that they have a Christian god-given duty to clobber the rest of us with their particular religious pathology.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the state of Florida.

Mike Fasano is probably a nice guy; the kind you'd like to sit down and have a beer with on a hot Saturday afternoon. He's just got some strange ideas. Mike Fasano is a senator in the Florida State Legislature, a Republican from New Port Richey, and a dedicated member of the Roman Catholic Church.

Perhaps it's the Roman Catholic connection, as that institution always fights to impose its beliefs upon all the people of every country where it has a presence, so it's easy to see why Fasano, a "good" Catholic, thinks it's the duty of the state of Florida to support programs dedicated to his Christian god.

Like many, if not all, states today, Florida has a myriad of "specialty" license plates. Over 100. Many are innocuous, having to do with such things as saving the manatee, or supporting the Special Olympics, or memorializing the Challenger space shuttle, or promoting a college or professional sports team.

But Florida, also like most other states, has been invaded by the Christian Right and through a variety of devious schemes has approved other, inappropriate, and unconstitutional "specialty" plates.

For example, a deeply religious Marion County Commissioner by name of Randy Harris, who evidently didn't do enough to mess up Marion County, decided to see how he could muck up things on the state level. He's the one responsible for the "Choose Life" plate which is essentially a middle-finger to pro-choice folks even though the Choose Life organization insists they merely want to promote the adoption option for pregnant women who may otherwise seek an abortion.

Last year, the "Choose Life" plate took in $805,350! That's an incredible sum when you think it came in $25 at a time! But you do see that sickening yellow plate everywhere which serves again as a reminder just how powerful the Christian Right is in the state of Florida.

But that's just one plate giving obeisance to the Christian god.

We also have a "Family Values" specialty plate. This bunch got $56,625 last year to help support Sheridan House, an organization offering a variety of assistance programs to people in need. It is based in Davie, Florida, and while it no doubt does good work, it is a specifically Christian organization.

There's another plate with the title, "Parents Make a Difference." This is part of The Gathering, USA, Inc., and operates under the flag of "Lifework Leadership" in Florida. They offer "leadership development from a Christian world view, based on the life and leadership of Jesus Christ." This bunch received $49,825 from the license plate program.

A related specialty plate is the one that proclaims "Family First." Family First is less outwardly Christian, but is definitely "spiritually" based, referring to the Bible and biblical words like "stewardship," and referencing people like Mother Teresa. They provide a variety of helps related to families and family relationships. Their take last year was $176,225.

Back to Mike Fasano. He has introduced Senate Bill 734 which would create four new specialty plates in the state of Florida. The first of these is a tennis license plate which would urge people to "Play Tennis," and the monies derived from said plate would go to the Florida Sports Foundation. I have no clue why Fasano thinks such a plate is needed. Generally, people who play tennis have a more money than the rest of us, so why do they need a license plate?

The second plate is a Lighthouse Association license plate. The words, "Visit Our Lights" would appear on the bottom of this plate, and any funds raised by this plate would be put into the coffers of the Florida Lighthouse Association, Inc. This plate may have some validity in that lighthouses in disrepair are probably low on the state budget's priority list.

The tennis and lighthouse plates may be kinda stupid and probably unnecessary, but not particularly harmful.

The third plate proposed by Senator Fasano takes the level of Florida legislative religious pandering to a new level of absurdity! This is the "I Believe" plate. "The word 'Florida' will appear at the top of the plate and the words 'I Believe' will be printed at the bottom of the plate." The background will be a beautiful sunrise and superimposed on that will be a cross in front of a stained-glass window.

Monies received from this disaster would be given to the Orlando-based Faith in Teaching, Inc., a decidedly Catholic group which has as its goal the promotion of faith-based education [read Christian] in the state of Florida.

The final and just as moronic an idea from Senator Fasano is an "In God We Trust" plate. It is important, thinks Fasano, that people be able to read the words "In God We Trust" on the back of the car in front of them. Some of the funds from this plate would go to the In God We Trust Foundation, Inc., "to fund educational scholarships for the children of Florida residents who are members of the United States Armed Forces...." Money from this plate will also be given to "provide educational grants to public and private schools to promote the historical and religious significance of American and Florida history." (Whatever that means!)

There is no question the "I Believe" plate and the "In God We Trust" plate are unconstitutional, (as are the other aforementioned "religious" plates) for they openly support the establishment of religion. Florida's ACLU director, Howard Simon, thinks the idea of a state-approved tag with a cross should jolt Florida's legislators into rethinking the whole "crazy" system of specialty license plates.

The state of Florida has become a collection agency for a variety of religious, specifically conservative Christian groups, who hide their real identity behind specialty license plates. This is NOT the business of the state of Florida!

The unfortunate thing is that what is happening in Florida is happening in many other states across the country. The Religious Right in its various incarnations has risen to infect the political process with its machinations and duplicity. It's like a huge rock tumbling down a mountain, increasing in speed and force and no one has either the will or the power to stop it.

What should be obvious is that we don't need any more freedom of religion in this country; what we really need is freedom from religion!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Selling the US Down the Rio Grande - by George W. Bush

Greg Palast said it was a secret. Not quite or at least not all of it was a secret.

The North American Leaders' Summit met yesterday in New Orleans for the fourth and final time. Ben Feller of the Associated Press wrote an innocuous article about it saying that Bush intended to be "trumpeting trade over the 'scare tactics' of economic isolation."

Remember the first rule when Bush says something: Don't believe it!

The summit was planned for New Orleans two years ago, says Palast. It "was meant to showcase the rebuilt Big Easy, a monument to can-do Bush-o-nomics. Well, it is a monument to Bush's leadership: The city still looks like Dresden 1946, with over half the original residents living in toxic trailers or wandering lost and broke in America."

But that's not the focus of the real story Palast has to tell. This meeting was kept under wraps until the last moment because it was "ordered" by what Palast calls "The North American Competitiveness Council." He's really talking about the head honchos of such companies as "Wal-Mart, Chevron Oil, Lockheed-Martin and 27 other multinational masters of the corporate universe."

So, at the behest of these powerful executives, the leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico gathered in New Orleans to find out the desires of their corporate masters in order to better serve them. The main wish of the big bosses is "harmonization," says Palast. That means "making rules and regulations the same in all three countries. Or, more specifically, watering down rules -- on health, safety, labor rights, oil drilling, polluting and so on - in other words, any regulations that get between the Council members and their profits."

Palast uses the example of pesticides. Wal-Mart and agri-businesses don't want to reduce the amount of poison they use on the food they grow so the honchos "harmonize" U.S. and Canadian pesticide standards to meet Mexico's standards. Hah!

The expectation is that when the three national leaders meet privately with their corporate bosses, they will "expand the 'NAFTA highway,'" ... which "some fear ... will allow a new flood of cheap Mexican products into the US and Canada."

That's not it, says Palast. "Their hunger to expand the NAFTA highway is to bring in even cheaper Chinese goods."

The most fearsome thing about all of this is not merely the secrecy but the fact that our lives are being manipulated in every which direction and we don't even know. All we see is the result: a tanking economy, global warming, American jobs exported all over the world, inflation, sky-high oil prices, etc., etc.

As Palast says, "...there is no United States of America nor Canada nor Mexico - at least as we like to imagine ourselves in our national fairy tales: self-governing democracies run by we the people or nosotros el pueblo. There's just the diktats of the North American Prosperity Council. Get used to it.

Palast has much more to say and you can read the entire essay here.

Pat Robertson & Reclaiming the Holy Covenant

The Christian Right is forever talking about "reclaiming" America (by that they mean the United States of America) for Christ. What the hell are they talking about? When did the US of A ever "belong" to Christ?

Well, Pat Robertson and others of his ilk think "America" is 400 years old and that it all began on April 29, 1607. Depending on which Christian Rightist you read, the story goes something like this:

"On April 29, 1607, chartered by the Virginia Company, three English ships landed on Cape Henry, Virginia, the first stop near what would become the first permanent English settlement in America. As Captain John Smith and Vicar Robert Hunt set foot for the first time on Virginia soil, they set the flag of England in the sand naming it Cape Henry. Further up the beach, they planted the Christian cross dedicating the New World in prayer."

Or, like this:

"On April 29, 1607, on the shores of Cape Henry, Virginia, English settlers erected a large, wooden cross, knelt in prayer, and dedicated America to Almighty God."

Last year about this time, Pat Robertson was among many Christian Rightists celebrating the 400th anniversary of America's birth as a "Christian" nation. This is what CBN said: "In remembrance of the 400th anniversary of this sacred moment, join Pat Robertson and the CBN staff in reaffirming this solemn covenant in accordance with Matthew 24:14."

You were also invited to join in with "My Covenant Promise," which went like this: "In remembrance of the 400th anniversary of this sacred moment in time, we reclaim the holy covenant of 1607 and we reaffirm that America is dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ, for His glory and for His purpose, and to confirm our mission as described in the prayer of our forefather: ... the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World, but the entire world."

CBN is once again "celebrating" the "sacred moment in time," and the "covenant promise." Once you've rewritten history, there's nothing like pressing the issue!

It's all a bunch of pious malarky. For one thing, in 1607 there was no such thing as "America," or the United States of America. There was only what the English settlers called the "new world," but they hadn't a clue as to what the new world really involved.

Furthermore, the settlers weren't much worried about claiming this unfathomable "new world" for Christ or anyone else! Vicars and priests could worry about that stuff. They were more interested in surviving - in finding food and shelter, and safety from the deep, dark secrets of the forest and and dark-skinned natives who lived in the forest.

Three ships left Blackwall, England (now part of London) in December of 1606 and headed off to set up a settlement in the Virginia Colony, later to become Jamestown. It was a long trip but they finally "reached the New World at the southern edge of the mouth of what is now known as Chesapeake Bay.

There were 104 men and boys, which included 39 ships' crew aboard when they left England. After 144 days at sea, 103 arrived safely in the New World. Upon their arrival on April 29, 1607, Captain Christopher Newport, named the site Cape Henry, in honor of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales and eldest son of King James.

When they landed, the chaplain Robert Hunt (Church of England), offered a brief Anglican worship service and they set up a cross at the site called the "first landing." Some of the men went off to explore the area and ended up in a minor skirmish with a few Native Americans.

Most every group of would-be colonists arriving from England in the New World was accompanied by a chaplain of the Church of England. One of the jobs of the chaplain was to offer prayers of thanks for a safe arrival both aboard ship and on land.

To pretend that these settlers had a burning desire to "dedicate" the New World to God or Christ or Buddha, or that they "claimed" the New World for Christ in some kind of solemn covenant, is stretching the truth beyond any semblance of reality.

And what do the descendants of the Native Americans think of this pietistic rhetoric? Ken Adams, chief of the Upper Mattaponi tribe, says this: "The word annihilation, the word Holocaust, the word atrocity comes to mind when I think of 1607"

That makes sense as "Of the estimated 14,000 to 15,000 Native Americans who lived in the area around the Jamestown settlement in 1607, nearly 90 percent were wiped out within a century, mainly from small-pox, typhus and other Old World diseases inadvertently brought by the colonists and to which the American Indians had never been exposed. Some also died in fighting with the settlers."

Native Americans do not wish to celebrate the Jamestown settlement. They do not celebrate Robertson's 400th anniversary. Bill Miles, chief of Virginia's Pamunkey Indian tribe, one of about 40 tribes that lived in the area in the 17th century, says, politely, that "We are certainly proud to be Americans but from our perspective we don't feel like the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement is something to celebrate or commemorate."

"When the English boats arrived on our shores, that was the beginning of the English taking our land away from us," said Miles. "We fed them and they decided they wanted our food so they took it away from us, and they wanted our land and they took that away from us."

Jamestown was also the site where the first African slaves arrived in 1619.

On the 401st year following the English arrival in the New World, perhaps rather than "celebrate" claiming the New World for Christ which led to a holy hell for the people who had resided in the land for 10,000 years, Christians should shred their clothing and put on sackcloth and ashes and mourn the terrible results of their "claiming" the land and preaching the gospel!

Florida Teachers, Creationism, and Ben Stein

We've mentioned before the idiotic piece of legislation proposed by Ronda Storms, a Republic state senator called the "Academic Freedom" bill, which would "protect" Florida science teachers who would rather teach creationism than evolution.

This is just another attempt by the Christian rightists to evade the law. Florida science teachers are to teach the "theory" of Evolution. This bill would protect teachers who don't want to do that, but would rather teach creationism or intelligent design, or creation by the Great Spaghetti Monster.

So, what's the point? Creationism or intelligent design or creation by the Great Spaghetti Monster might be terrific theological concepts and anyone can believe any of this stuff if they so desire. It is not science, however, it is religion. We don't teach religion in science classes. Go to church if you want to get religion!

And it doesn't make any difference what Ben Stein believes. Ben Stein, the great scientist ... oops, no, he's a TV guy - an actor and game-show host - has, with funding from the ultra right, put together a "documentary" called "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." This so-called "documentary" tries to make the case that academics who want to write about and teach intelligent design are muzzled and thus suffering from a lack of academic freedom.

Stein simply doesn't know what he's talking about and boringly reiterates all the creationist nonsense. He really goes nuts, though, when he tries to argue that Darwinism leads to euthanasia, abortion, eugenics and Nazism. Sure it does. Don't you remember Hitler ranting over and over again how Evolution is the foundation of the Third Reich?

I've got an idea: If you're a science teacher and don't want to teach evolution, go to seminary and become a preacher; but whatever you do, get the hell out of the public schools and go to a private (religious) school where you can teach theology in science class and pretend that it's really science.

Please, leave our young people alone with your non-intelligent design and creationist junk. They've got enough problems trying to get along in the world without knowing nothing of the fundamental base for all scientific areas of study.

Seize the Day You Abstinence Supporters!

(Photo of Tony Perkins, FRC Wingnut)

Back in February, the Family Research Council (an ultra-right bunch of Christian wingnuts) "helped to host Abstinence Day on the Hill, where students and teachers came to D.C. to educate members and their staff about the benefits of abstinence programs."

But there is a fly in the ointment! All those people "out there" pushing for teenagers to have as much unprotected sex as possible are "mustering their forces--led by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)--to gut abstinence programs."

The FRC is up in arms and wails that "some of those testifying against abstinence education support 'comprehensive sex education' programs, which often teach young teens to engage in highly risky sexual behaviors and fail to provide information on condom failure." But that's not all! Some of the witnesses to be called by Waxman "support children's sexual and reproductive health services without parental consent, the use of emergency contraceptives over-the-counter, and the radical view that abstinence violates human rights."

Waxman's "target is the Community Based Astinence Program and the Title V abstinence state grant program."

It isn't difficult to pick out the obvious lies and the mischaracterizations in the nonsense above put out by the Family Research Council. It's fascinating to me, though, that not only do they lie with ease, but that they insist on continuing to promote programs that have been clearly shown not to work!

The Christian Right is never concerned about evidence, of course, unless that evidence supports their viewpoint. And in this case, they don't even mention the fact that every study thus far shows abstinence programs are simply ineffective and a waste of time and money.

One year ago, a national study authorized by Congress in 1997, "concluded that abstinence-only sex education, a cornerstone of the Bush administration's social agenda, does not keep teenagers from having sex. Neither does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom."

Sarah Brown, executive director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said about the report, "There's not a lot of good news here for people who pin their hopes on abstinence-only education. ... On every measure, the effectiveness of the programs was flat."

Or, as Martha Kemper, a spokeswoman for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, said: "Abstinence-only was an experiment and it failed."

Get this: "The federal government spends $176 million a year on abstinence-only education, and millions more are spent every year in state and local matching grants." Did that stop the Bushites? Nah. Harry Wilson, a poohbah in the Department of Health and Human Services said the administration is gonna change nuttin, honey! "This study isn't rigorous enough to show whether or not [abstinence-only] education works."

Of course not.

Once again, the Bushites wouldn't want reality and truth to impact their misguided programs to impose their views on the American public!

But, Henry Waxman and Committee may change the way the Bushites do abstinence-only business! That's what's got the wingnuts in a tizzy. It's hard to defend a program that spends all that money with nothing to show for it. Unless you start thumping your Bible.

Actually, I think we ought to follow the money. Some of the states have pulled out of the program realizing it is a failure and taking the progressive view there's no point in throwing good money after bad....but...where else does the money go? How many Christian right wing groups are out there using government funds to promote abstinence-only education?

The answer, I believe, would tell us why the FRC and the Bush administration is fighting to keep a worthless, proven failure of a program in operation.

(Go to Advocates for Youth for comprehensive info on abstinence-only education)

Monday, April 21, 2008

John McCain - A Hollow Man?

This is from an article by Alexander Cockburn on CounterPunch, which purports to tell "What Really Happened When He Was a POW?"

Mr. Cockburn notes first of all, rightly, that McCain has been treated with kid-gloves by the media "for years, ever since he wriggled free of the Keating scandal and his profitable association - another collaboration, you might say -- with the nation's top bank swindler in the 1980s."

Ever more curious, however, is the way in which the press "avoids the topic of McCain's collaborating with his Vietnamese captors after he'd been shot down."

Cockburn believes that McCain's behavior as a prisoner is crucial, and indicates great instability and thus McCain's proximity to the White House could be disastrous - if he were to be elected. He tells how one Republican senator, Thad Cochrane, has stated he "trembles" to think that McCain might find himself "in the Oval Office with his finger on the nuclear trigger."

Doug Valentine, a man with intimate knowledge of the Vietnam War as well as "the POW experience" - his father was a Japanese POW in the Philippines during WWII, "has assembled the dossier" on McCain's conduct as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. CounterPunch is running it in their current newsletter, but you need to subscribe to view it.

Cockburn, however, provides some excerpts from Mr. Valentine. These accuse McCain of collaborating with the enemy, and that, he says, "is a legitimate campaign issue that strikes at the heart of McCain's character. . .or lack thereof ...

"The question is: What kind of collaborator was John McCain, the admitted war criminal who will hate the Vietnamese for the rest of his life?

"Put it another way: how psychologically twisted is McCain? And what actually happened to him in his POW camp that twisted him? Was it abuse, as he claims, or was it the fact that he collaborated and has to cover up?"

Valentine tells how McCain was brought to the infamous Hanoi Hilton where he was interrogated. "By McCain's own account, after three or four days he cracked. He promised his Vietnamese captors, 'I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital ..."

Realizing that McCain's father was a U.S. Navy admiral, and that McCain was one of America's elite and thus of great propaganda value, the Vietnamese took him to a hospital, and it was there he was quoted in the Hanoi press as divulging specific military information such as the name of the aircraft carrier on which he was based, how many U.S. pilots had been lost, the number of planes in his particular flight formation, and information regarding the location of rescue ships.

For a period of three years, McCain collaborated with the North Vietnamese. They treated him kindly and he responded in kind.

Valentine says "This is the lesson of McCain's experience as a POW: a true politician, a hollow man, his only allegiance is to power. The Vietnamese, like McCain's campaign contributors today, protected and promoted him, and, in return, he danced to their tune . . ."

(See also this News By US for more details of McCain's capture and subsequent treatment)

Corruption is the Bush Administration

(This info comes from an article by David Barstow of The New York Times.)

Heads should roll! In 2005, Amnesty International named the Guantanamo Bay detention center "the gulag of our times." That's because UN human rights experts were alleging new abuses of the detainees by the U.S. military. Many people urged that the Guantanamo Bay detention center be closed.

The Bush administration responded to this criticism the way it usually deals with criticism -- either by denying the allegations entirely, or "proving" the allegations are wrong. In this instance, the Bushites tried to prove the allegations were wrong. Here's how they did it.

They gathered a group of retired military officers, which they called "experts," which they knew could be depended upon to spout the party line. They flew these officers down to Guantanamo Bay on one of the jets usually used by Dick Cheney. They were then led on a "carefully orchestrated tour" of the detention center to provide them "information" to offer as "proof" that all was well in Guantanamo when they appeared as "experts" on national television.

It's a truly tawdry affair that is ongoing. The military officers "are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as "military analysts" whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world."

But these "analysts" are not, in any sense, objective observers or commentators. They are used by the Pentagon to twist facts as necessary to present the Bush administration's war performance in a favorable light.

This Pentagon propaganda machine began at the same time as the Bush began the buildup to war with Iraq. And, as we said, it is ongoing. It seeks "to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air."

Note this carefully: the connections between the analysts and the military contractors are never divulged to the viewing public! The viewer never is told that the "expert," or "analyst," is a paid shill for a military contractor that benefits from the war.

"Collectively, the men on the plane [in 2005] and several other military analysts represent[ed] more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members, or consultants."

According to The New York Times, the data clearly shows that the Bush administration has used these analysts to "shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks. The analysts put forth administration propaganda that sometimes they knew was "false or inflated."

David Barstow says that "A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis." Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News Analyst, said "It was them saying, 'We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you.'"

Now, if all this is true, heads should roll! Those responsible within the Bush administration should be held accountable! These actions are not to be deemed as of little consequence and brushed aside for they strike a crippling blow to the heart of our democratic system!

Unfortunately, nothing will happen, no one will be held accountable - to our everlasting shame and disgrace as a nation!

This is one more example of how the Bush administration is fundamentally flawed and rotten to the core. Future historians will marvel at the manner in which truth, justice and the Constitution itself were corrupted from 2000 to 2008, and how that corruption was enshrined as national policy under George W. Bush!

$10 Billion but no Cigar, er...Terrorists...

Everyone, it seems, but Mr. Bush and the leading lights of his administration knew that the 9/11 attacks were coordinated and carried out by terrorists, most of which came from Saudi Arabia, and were linked to the famous Saudi person, Osama bin Laden. Mr. Bush, following the advice of his god, who spoke to him, decided the way to catch these terrorists and punish them -- which he swore he would do -- was to invade Iraq, depose Sadam Hussein, and steal all of Iraq's oil.

From the viewpoint of an oilman, which Bush pretends to be, it wasn't all that bad a plan; he could avoid bombing his Saudi friends, the Saudi Royals, and he could fool the American people by pretending Iraq was a
hotbed of terrorism!

The problem was it had no chance of capturing and punishing the terrorists, as the terrorists were not in Iraq, did not come from Iraq, had no connection with Iraq, and Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

That incredibly stupid decision by Mr. Bush has led to a five-year war which has destroyed the country, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, forced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to flee to other countries, killed over 4,000 U.S. military, resulted in an Iraqi civil war, brought about the intervention of the Al Qaeda terrorist group which had no interest in Iraq previous to this misguided adventure, destroyed the U.S. economy -- and the end is not in sight.

What's truly puzzling is that everyone knows that the perpetrators of 9/11 lived for years in Afghanistan, moving later across a mountainous 373-mile border into Pakistan's unpoliced tribal areas, which is where many believe Osama bin Laden is "hiding," and making video tapes to tweak the nose of Mr. Bush.

Is there something wrong with this picture? The Associated Press reported a few days ago that "Terrorists are still operating freely in Pakistan along the country's Afghanistan border, despite the U.S. giving Pakistan more than $10.5 billion in military and economic aid, according to the Government Accountability Office. The AP also said the GAO said that "the U.S. lacks a comprehensive plan to deal with the terrorist threat."

You think?

Wait, what are we doing in Iraq if Osama and his friends are hiding out in Pakistan? And isn't Pakistan supposed to be one of our allies in the so-called "war" on terror? If we had to invade Iraq for some reason, why didn't Pakistan take our money and hunt down bin Laden, instead of just taking our money?

The Defense Department, naturally, disputes the claim that the U.S. does not have a plan. Of course we have a plan and it's being implemented says Gordon Johndroe, of the National Security Council. We're doing a lot to deal with the terrorist threat in Pakistan. "We devote resources to health, education, economic development, political reform, as well as going after al-Qaida with the Pakistani security forces."

Hmmm...some plan, the end result being that the Afghan farmers are in hog heaven, because they're making big bucks growing poppies which are turned into feel-good drugs and sold all over the world and ... the US of A!

After seven years, and $10.5 billion dollars, we not only financed the poppy growers, but Osama's running free, and the GAO discovered "that al-Qaida had regenerated its ability to attack the United States and had succeeded in establishing a safe haven in Pakistan's border area."

So, tell me again why we are in Iraq...and why did we give Pakistan $10.5 billion?