Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tax-exempt churches and fundamentalist ethics

A friend went looking for an ethical fundamentalist Christian church and couldn't find one.

That's because for most of these groups the ends justify the means. The "ends" or goal is a government under the rule of God as defined by fundamentalist theocrats which they see as crucial to the future welfare of the United States. In fact, these wingnuts believe that God will punish the US of A severely if his "laws" continue to be broken and/or ignored.

Under the current laws of the United States, churches, because they are nonprofit and tax-exempt, are forbidden to endorse political candidates. This law, which numerous fundys find unhelpful and are unhappy about, is frequently simply ignored. Increasingly over the past quarter century, fundamentalist Christian churches have crossed the line to endorse, in a variety of ways, political candidates which they feel would best turn this country into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy.

It is amazing that Christian pastors and their churches that blatantly violate the law have the gall to criticize politicians and others -- even other Christians -- who hold different political viewpoints.

This is the result of a crucial metamorphosis that has taken place in this country. Fundamentalist and evangelical Christians have traded their faith for a radical political ideology. Fundamentalist Christians and many evangelical Christians no longer base their political views on what their religion teaches, but their religion is now defined by this radical political ideology.

For example, Jesus said, if someone offends you, turn the other cheek. That suggestion would never be considered in Christian Right circles. So far as the Christian Right is concerned, the appropriate response to being offended is "Bomb the son-of-a-bitch!" (That's why they supported Bush's war in Iraq!)

Jesus said, when you pray do not be like the hypocrites who love to pray in public so people will see them and think them to be especially pious. Go into your closet and pray in secret and your father who sees you do this will reward you. Today the Christian Right hires lawyers to run roughshod over the Constitutional idea of separation of church and state by getting judges to allow prayers "in Jesus' name" to be said at public, non-Christian gatherings--graduation ceremonies, football games, legislative meetings, etc.

Jesus said that his followers were to give to the government what was due to the government and to God what was due to God. Today, an entire Christian Right movement, hostile to the Constitution, believes nothing is "due" our government and is in the process of attempting to literally overthrow our system and institute a Christian theocratic coercive government.

Their motto? Jesus rules!

We could give numerous other examples as to how fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity has literally turned itself inside out and become, no longer a faith stance, but a political platform concerned primarily with taking control of the government; abolishing a woman's right to choose; denying young people appropriate and accurate sexual information; forcing the teaching of non-scientific crap called Creationism and/or Intelligent Design in our public schools while at the same time denying and deriding the most significant scientific theoretical model in history, evolution; forcing Christian public prayer in the public schools; posting the Ten Commandments in public venues; praising those who engage in preemptive warfare against a non-threatening country; seeking the destruction of another religion, Islam; yearning for the End Times when all non-Christians will be destroyed and/or sent to an eternal hell of fire; supporting the death penalty; demanding long prison sentences for minor drug offenders; supporting tax breaks for the rich; denying universal health care for our citizens; supporting corporate lobbyists and Wall Street bankers both of which work to destroy our middle class; the dismantling of the public school system; etc., etc.

In other words, Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals, have essentially tuned into the Republican Party!

And in blatant defiance of the law, they openly endorse candidates for president. In fact, in recent weeks we have been hearing some Christian Rightists urging churches and pastors to make public political endorsements for the express purpose of forcing the Federal Government (IRS) to show its hand.

For example, according to Rob Boston at The Revealer, "a recent episode of Christian Right leader Janet Folger's 'Faith2Action' radio show" did just that. "...a VP of the Christian Right powerhouse Family Research Council announce[d] that FRC is working with the Christian Right Alliance Defense fund [the same group that is threatening legal action to halt the California Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage], to develop pre-packaged election-year sermons on Christian Right issues for pastors across the country. So far, so legal. 'Then,' the FRC guest continued, 'finally we're gonna be doing a candidate comparison message that is going to ask pastors to cross the line.'"

This story also made The Wall Street Journal. Street Prophets tells how it ran:

"A conservative legal-advocacy group is enlisting ministers to use their pulpits to preach about election candidates this September, defying a tax law that bars churches from engaging in politics.

"Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Ariz., nonprofit, is hoping at least one sermon will prompt the Internal Revenue Service to investigate, sparking a court battle that could get the tax provision declared unconstitutional. Alliance lawyers represent churches in disputes with the IRS over alleged partisan activity."

As noted, the thought is that this conflict will create a legal situation which will end up in the US Supreme Court and with the ultra-conservatives now dominating the court, conclude with a decision favoring the Christian Right, dismantling the wall of separation of church and state.

As we have said, fundamentalist and evangelical churches as well as fundamentalist politicians have been engaged in violating our election laws for some time. And one of the worst of the politician offenders has been none other than Arkansas doofus, Mike Huckabee. Huckabee garnered the support of many Southern Baptist and other fundamentalist/evangelical groups during his run for the Republican nomination. He continues to make appearances in churches of that ilk [probably setting up for a run at the presidency in 2012] and almost always mixes politics and religion. He's the one who suggested that if the Constitution and fundamentalist theology conflict, it is easier to change the Constitution than the laws of God.

Consider one church, specifically, the Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. About a year ago, Will at "The Refugee Baptist" reported that Pastor Jack Graham insists his church [Prestonwood Baptist] does not endorse political candidates. Will said, "Horse muffins." I think he meant "bullshit!"

Anyway, Will looked up "endorse" in the dictionary and discovered the word has three facets to its definition.

One is "to approve." Will says Pastor Graham thinks that when a politician comes to his church and says something like "I'm not looking for your endorsement. I endorse what you believe. I endorse your values," that does not consist of a church or pastoral endorsement. Will thinks it sure stinks of "approval," though.

A second facet is "to support." "Mike Buster, executive pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church, recently agreed to help raise $100,000 for Huckabee and says it's not hard to find donors now. 'I've raised $30,000 in the last three days," he said...'" Does supporting a politician by raising money for him/her seem a bit like an endorsement?

The third facet is to "sustain." When Buster was asked if he'd reach his $100,000 fund-raising goal by the year's end, he said, "Oh, by the end of the month. There's an amazing momentum just in the last two or three days that has swept the country. I'm sensing it."

The facts show clearly that Prestonwood Baptist Church enthusiastically endorsed Mike Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination, even to the extent of raising a significant amount of money for his campaign. The church approved, supported and sustained him. If that isn't an "endorsement," Mike Huckabee is a Commie!

This is also a good example as to the metamorphosis discussed above: Fundamentalist Christians turning from faith into political operatives for an ultra-Right radical cause, and adopting the Republican Party to carry out their agenda.

It is also a good example as to the lack of ethics on the part of the fundamentalist/evangelical cadre of churches. Ethical behavior is swamped and sunk by the wave created by the ends/means justification. Anything goes if it is for "Jesus." But it isn't for Jesus, it's for a political cause that many people, including other Christians see as antithetical to everything that Jesus taught according to the Gospel records.

Thus pastordan at Street Prophets quotes C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance:

"Houses of worship belong to divine authority - they are not the property of either political party. The Alliance Defense Fund's call for pastors to break the law represents the height of irresponsibility. They are putting churches across the country unnecessarily at risk to costly and time-consuming investigations that could result in harsh financial penalties. Putting churches in legal and financial jeopardy seems a bizarre way of defending religious freedom, which the ADF claims to defend.

"But there is even a greater issue at stake in this campaign than violating the law. When religious leaders endorse candidates from the pulpit, they weaken both the sanctity of religion and the integrity of democracy. The IRS allows - and the Interfaith Alliance encourages - religious leaders to speak out on the important political issues of the day, but when clergy endorse specific candidates or parties in their official capacity, they abuse their pastoral authority."

Pastordan, in agreement, says "Damn skippy." Well, partly. Unfortunately for the Interfaith Alliance, it is still operating in a religious mode, calling for legal and ethical behavior from churches and pastors who no longer understand or care about those concepts. Because they have the "word" from God, they decide what is legal and ethical, or what should be legal and ethical, and operate accordingly.

Their goal is to impose and enforce the will of God as they understand it upon this recalcitrant nation, whatever the cost. They are not interested in the one they claim to follow, they have a new leader or leaders embedded in the form of the Republican Party. The metamorphosis is so complete they are no longer able to distinguish their own beliefs and practices from the beliefs and practices of the Jesus of the Gospels, even though in many cases the two are diametrically opposed.

Thus, in their confused mental state, their Jesus commands: outlaw abortion; bomb Iran; bring democracy to Iraq; hang Saddam; kill the Muslims; pray in public; set creches in town squares; hang the Ten Commandments in courthouses; hate homosexuals and deny them their rights; don't help build up the public schools, do everything you can to tear them down; teach your children that everyone not a fundamentalist Christian will burn in Hell forever; Jews killed the savior; Fundamentalist Christianity is the only true religion; don't have sex; if you do have sex, don't use a condom, and the list of inanities goes on and on.

This problem is not going away. Jeff Sharlet, author of the new book, The Family, tells how "Christian fundamentalist candidate comparisons [were] distributed in churches for the 1952 elections. Regional papers denounced them, but they didn't make the national news back then, in part because they appeared bi-partisan ... they endorsed both Republicans and Democrats -- whoever promised to be a 'Christian' candidate, instead of an American one."

Nowadays, so far as our Christian Right friends are concerned, there is only one party with "Christian" candidates - the party of Jesus, the Republican Party!

The only answer I can see is a multi-pronged attack on these fundamentalist political animals by other religious organizations. I don't think the Roman Church will be much help as it has several ties to the fundys -- sex education and abortion, for example -- and the Catholic Church has never had a problem with a theocratic state. Democracy is not a good word in Catholic theology. Theocracy is where its at.

Quite frankly, what's needed is a strong, extended, very loud and very public attack on the fundamentalist/evangelical political alliance by the mainstream Protestant organizations. These denominations have sat on their behinds too long. And because mainstream Protestants have said almost nothing publicly to denounce the fundamentalist political stance, the latter have co-opted the "Christian position" in the eyes of many if not most people in this country.

Thus, for a number of folks "Christian" has become a negative word; it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But then again, maybe the mainline folks are no longer in the game. Maybe they have nothing to say. Maybe they, too, have become infested with the fundamentalist cockroaches.

Whatever, we're in for some tough battles ahead. The Constitution is under constant assault on many different fronts by millions of people who believe that God is behind them and giving them strength and will reward them with eternal life for their service to him - which in this case consists of turning the United States of America into a fundamentalist Christian theocratic state.

About 30 years ago, fundamentalist leaders such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell gave us fair warning. They said clearly and publicly they intended to set in motion an operation which would take over every governmental structure - from school boards to the presidency of the United States. They weren't just shooting blanks. They've accomplished much of what they promised. And they ain't done yet.

So, I guess we'll have to stop them. Won't we?

A Hagee Sermon - Jesus is coming back and he's pissed!

This is from Matt Taibbi's book, The Great Derangement, a "must-read."

Chapter 7, titled "Bible Study," and Matt describes a Sunday morning at Hagee's San Antonio Cornerstone Church. Hagee, he says "is an orator of unusual ability. His physical form is clownish, Hagee being a round, fat man, but he can preach up a storm, with the ability to zoom "back and forth from wry folksy humor to humility to booming fire-and-brimstone hellfire and back to humor again with effortless ease."

On this particular Sunday, Hagee was beginning a new sermon series - a trio of messages called "The Edge of Time," which would "help reveal to us the mysteries of 'God's clock' and unravel the 'advanced mathematics' of the Bible, in this way helping us to understand that 2007 was going to be a 'special year' in God's plan. I got the distinct impression," says Matt, "that Hagee was hinting that something big was going to happen soon, End Times-wise."

Hagee was off and runnning, first discussing a "mysterious" woman referred to in Revelation 12. It wasn't the church, and it wasn't the Virgin Mary. It was Israel! How did he determine that. Taibbi says it "had something to do with some previous scripture involving Joseph and Israel carrying eleven stars--only Joseph himself was the twelfth star, or something like that."

Taibbi is amazed. "It was an awesome thing to watch, the way Hagee just dove up to his neck in all this hilarious horseshit and passionately sold the audience on it actually meaning something with a perfect deadpan delivery. The audience cooed."

Then he talked about the Four Horsemen, and warned that the Pale Horse is the "color of rotting flesh" and "will be given the power to destroy 25 percent of the population. This is going to happen during the Tribulation. You do not want to be there."

Hilarious horseshit to some, but dead serious business to others. Unfortunately, Hagee is crazy and none of this has anything to do with anything. He is making it all up in his own freeze-dried brain. And isn't it interesting that so many of these TV preachers love to talk about death and destruction? All the time!

Taibbi says that Hagee moved on to another tack and began talking about the "Christ of Revelation" who "is built like the Rock and roams the universe braining sinners with lead pipes."

Hagee roars, "'He is going to rule with a rod of iron!

"'How is Jesus going to crush secular humanism and liberalism and anti-Semitism and atheism? ... He is not going to ask the Supreme Court to put the Ten Commandments up in our courthouses. He is going to tell them, and they will bow down to him like children.'"

Taibbi says "The crowd roared."

"'And those judges who let men get married--he is going to cast them down into the pit of Hell to be roasted for all eternity like they deserve!'"

How sad that this fat, overblown, godforsaken phony preaches this crap to millions of people who then send him money so he can not only live like a king but continue to spew this sewage over the airwaves week after week.

Hagee and his ilk make one think that perhaps there is a devil wandering the Earth creating disharmony and hatred. I'm not suggesting that he's the devil, but he is certainly doing the devil's work. And for Hagee to suggest that his message is somehow related to the Jesus found in the Synoptic Gospels is irresponsible. There is no connection! Even though we know very little about the Jesus as represented in the first three Gospels, we can extrapolate easily enough that if confronted with Hagee, he would say, in the words of Peter, "I never knew the man."

And, as we said before, because so many people are taken in by this fat, overblown, brain-dead fraud, it may be horseshit that he preaches, but ultimately, it isn't hilarious. For Hagee also preaches the need for a nuclear conflict to set the stage for the End Times. As unbelievable as it seems, Hagee has the ear of Prezident Bush and other national Republican leaders, and Hagee has been pushing for several years to instigate a war with Iran as such a war is part of the final scenario that Hagee has concocted from his reading of so-called "prophetic" passages in certain books of a collection of ancient manuscripts known as the Bible.

We don't know who wrote these books. In some cases we can guess when some of the books were written, but for most of them there is no certainty.

To use scattered and incomprehensible pieces of these ancient materials to construct a scheme of the End Times is crazy! To believe that there is any reality in such a scheme or any truth in Hagee's preaching is even more insane.

This type of fundamentalist Christianity is sheer madness.

P.S. Nothing happened in 2007. Furthermore, why would anyone think that any God would give Hagee, a certified fruitcake, "inside" information as to "the mysteries of God's clock," and/or the "advanced mathematics of the Bible"?

Bob Shaffer - Where is Colorado?

One of my favorite bloggers at Scholars and Rogues calls a Colorado GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate "Bobblehead Shaffer."

There's a reason for that. Bob Shaffer "has launched a new TV ad telling us how he's the change Colorado needs. It's a pretty spot, which features ... [a] scenic shot of Mt. McKinley..."

Oops! Mt. McKinley is in Alaska!

As Scholars and Rogues asks: "Sweet fancy Jesus, does this braying jackass even know what state he lives in? ...

"We need a change, all right. Specifically, we need to change to a candidate who can find Colorado on a map..."

[The ad has been removed from YouTube.]

According to the Democratic National Committee, Shaffer is an "oil industry shill," who has made millions working for the oil corporations. It's reported he's done more for folks in the Ukraine than he has for the people of Colorado!

Shaffer is also another Repugnican who can't seem to get his ethics straight...he's one of those guys who went off to the Marianas on a fact-finding mission courtesy of Jack Abramoff...Shaffer had a great time fishing, playing and being wined and dined while the people working in the Mariannas' sweat shops got screwed by Shaffer, Tom DeLay and Abramoff's other friends...

You can read more and see the ad here.

Einstein and God

For years I have read Christian Right material that claims Albert Einstein was either a closet-Christian, or became a Christian on his death-bed, or at least believed in a god who created the universe.

This material lacked evidence for its claims, but the lack of evidence never has had affected what the Christian Right says or does.

Well, here's some evidence. But the Christian Right ain't gonna like it.

In January 1954, a year before he died, Einstein wrote a letter (in his own hand) to Eric Gutkind, a philosopher. In this letter, Einstein commented relative to his belief in God and the Bible:

"...the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

So much for Einstein's religious views.

The letter sold at a London auction for $404,000.

"My God," said God.

Huckabee, the not-so-funny joker

Mike Huckabee is a blundering doofus, a Baptist preacher with no church, a political charlatan who drags behind him a bunch of dimwitted, self-righteous Christian rightists who think they have a commission from God to re-form the American government in accordance with the laws laid down in the Torah.

Huckabee also has "hoof-in-mouth" disease. He tends to speak without thinking. He thinks he's funny.

He's not.

ABC News reports that Huckabee was addressing the annual National Rifle Association meeting in Louisville, Kentucky this week. Old Huck, the bumbling Baptist, made an "off-color" joke! From backstage came a loud bang.

Huckabee, grabbing the moment, said "That was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He was getting ready to speak. Somebody aimed a gun at him and he...he dove for the floor."

The Republican Party really is full of morons who want to be president! This clown thinks he has what it takes to be president. Maybe he could be president of the NRA, but we don't need another bumbling fool in the White House!

What this shows, of course, is that Huckabee remains a born-again racist, and is not above playing to the racist sentiments held by too many Americans even in 2008. The fear of violence against Obama is real and our history is replete with instances of crazy people shooting those of our leaders engaged in the fight against injustice and discrimination. That's why the Secret Service has been protecting Obama from his first days on the campaign trail.

The Huffington Post has run an "update" on this incident:

"Roughly five hours after making comments about someone aiming a gun at Obama during an NRA speech, Huckabee issued the following statement:

'During my speech at the N.R.A., a loud noise backstage, that sounded like a chair falling, distracted the crowd and interrupted my speech. I made an off hand remark that was in no way intended to offend or disparage Sen. Obama. I apologize that my comments were offensive. That was never my intention.'"

Another crock of crap! What other intention could Huckabee have had? There is only one reason that someone would make a remark like that: to disparage another in a racist manner.

Huckabee is not only a phony politician, he's also a liar.

[What is rather humorous is that Huckabee actually credited Obama with having brains and good sense. Certainly, he meant to imply that by diving to the floor, Obama was a coward. But anyone who doesn't hit the floor when someone's pointing a gun at them is stupid. So, if Huckabee was trying to say he, a great gun-loving patriot, would stand unafraid when someone aimed a gun at him, he merely confirms that he really is a bumbling idiot.]

Maybe McCain forgot or maybe he's just a hypocrite

McCain has blasted Barack Obama for a couple of weeks now by twisting Obama's words in an attempt to show him as an "appeaser," willing to cower to the desires of terrorists such as the Iranian president and Hamas.

Now it may be that McCain is just one nasty SOB. People close to him since high school tend to characterize him that way. In fact, his nickname in high school was McNasty. While I think he is a nasty SOB - McCain has shown his terrible temper and penchant for foul language numerous times, even on the floor of the Senate - I think in his criticism of Obama, McCain shows himself to also be a major hypocrite!

The Huffington Post posted an article yesterday titled "EXPOSED: McCain a Complete Hypocrite on Hamas!" Here's the introductory part:

"Two years ago, in an interview with James Rubin for Sky News, Sen. John McCain expressed a willingness to negotiate with the terrorist group Hamas -- the very group that McCain has been relentlessly using to smear Sen. Barack Obama over the last several weeks.

"Rubin has written an op-ed in Friday's Washington Post about his exchange with McCain, and The Huffington Post has obtained exclusive video. Here's the key excerpt:

'RUBIN: "Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?"

'MCCAIN: "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."'"

McCain a nasty, rotten, hypocritical appeaser!

Read the entire article here.

The voters win - three times!

Here's some good news - for a change!

Steven Rosenfeld, writing for Alternet, says "Voting rights activists won three big battles this week."

The first one, which we discussed in a recent post, occurred in Missouri when the Missouri state legislature went home "without taking up a controversial voter ID bill."

The second battle won was in Arizona where "The Department of Justice settled a lawsuit with Arizona that will force the state of offer welfare recipients the opportunity to register to vote."

And thirdly, is simply wonderful! White House crony nominee to the Federal Election Commission, Hans von Spakovsky, "withdrew his nomination." Yeah!

Read Rosenfeld's entire article here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jews have dead souls - John Hagee

Bruce Wilson has researched the not-so-reverend John Hagee in depth. Wilson has compiled some of Hagee's crazier notions in a report appearing on Talk2Action. You will want to read the entire article.

Meanwhile, here are some excerpts:

1. Jews are not "spiritually alive." Wilson writes that he has "a copy of John Hagee's 'Prophecy Study Bible', which makes quite clear Hagee is talking about all Jews now living - whom Hagee singles out, from among all other non-Christians on Earth, to note that they specifically do not have living souls. Indeed, Hagee says the souls of all Jews now living are dead. Dead souls. McCain endorser John hagee (sic) says Jews have dead souls."

2. "Hitler and the Nazis were sent by God, to chase Jews back to the land of Israel. Because that's where God intends them to be. So, the Holocaust was a gruesomely inefficient system of divine 'persuasion', and Hitler and the Nazis were doing 'God's work'. But Hagee also depicts this divine ethnic cleansing imperative as a future project: it will happen..."

3. "In Hagee's 2006 'Jerusalem Countdown', Hagee says anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust, were and are the fault of Jews - a divine curse for worshiping idols."

There is much more in the article, which you can read here.

I find it interesting that on numerous occasions, representatives of the mainstream media have tried to scrub John McCain clean by reporting that McCain has said he doesn't agree with everything that John Hagee says.

They neglect to report McCain has not repudiated Hagee's endorsement and in fact has praised Hagee.

More importantly, the mainstream media ignores the story as to how McCain literally begged Hagee for almost a year for his blessing.

New Bible Park in Tennessee

It is very discouraging to discover that we have so many biblical illiterates in our midst. Biblical ignorance is a growing epidemic largely due to the Southern Baptists, mega church pastors, independent "Bible" churches and especially the fundamentalist TV preachers who don't know the difference between Ezekiel and Jeremiah the bullfrog. They spew their crap out into TV land and their followers lap it up as if food from the deity herself.

Thus we have seen the construction of a Creation Museum, which is an incredibly stupid monument to ignorance and superstition yet draws thousands of people to ooh and aah about nonsensical mythological figures and events which have no historical basis whatsoever, and become even more convinced, in spite of literally tons of evidence to the contrary, that the Earth is 6,000 years old, and that humans and dinosaurs roamed the Earth together.

Now, to complement the Creation Museum, we have a Bible Park under way in Tennessee which will be at least as idiotic and in some ways, even more stupid than the Creation Museum. The Bible Park USA in Rutherford County, Tennessee, "is a non-denominational Bible-based themed attraction depicting well-loved Bible stories and providing an authentic historical representation of life as it was in ancient times in the Holy Land."

According to the Bible Park website, "The Park is without a particular religious ideology or theology and does not promote specific religious beliefs of any kind; instead, it is designed to bring to life history of Biblical times and stories from the Holy Bible."

That is all nonsense, of course. The entire operation is built on a fundamentalist, literalist view of the Bible, which treats Biblical stories, persons and events as historical, which in many cases is simply not true.

There is to be a "Galilean Village" that "depicts life in Galilee in the days of Jesus. ... Some of the stories from the Old Testament include: The Creation; The Parting of the Red Sea; Noah's Ark; Abraham and Isaac of Mt. Mariah; and others.

"The New Testament is represented by the birth of Jesus, the Crucifixion and Resurrection; the Garden of Gethsemane; and others."

Altogether, when completed, the Park will depict 50 Biblical stories.

Unfortunately, the entire operation is a bad joke. It reinforces in the minds of gullible and ignorant people a serious misunderstanding of the Bible and because it treats allegory, legend and myth as literal history, misses the point of much of what the Bible says. The two creation stories in Genesis were never meant to be taken literally, but are mythical interpretations as to how god was involved in putting together the world as these ancient people knew it.

There is literally no evidence whatsoever of the Hebrews ever being in Egypt, much less crossing a parted Red Sea. And the Egyptians kept voluminous and complete records of both minor and major events in their land. Additionally, the Hebrew words do not translate "Red Sea," but "sea of reeds," which, if one takes the story as history, gives it an entirely new location.

There was no tower of Babel, no flood, no Noah's ark, no Abraham and Isaac. Nazareth did not exist in the first century C.E. The birth of Jesus is pure legend. There is a total absence of evidence for either the crucifixion or resurrection of someone named Yeshua.

So you can play around with these Biblical stories all you want, but in the end that's all they are -- stories; not history.

I can just imagine what the Yahweh of the Bible, thundering on the mountain, would say about this Bible Park travesty. And I have a hunch I know what he would do: Bible Park USA would come to the same flaming end as Sodom and Gomorrah!

Gay Marriage OK in California

The California Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision on May 15, 2008 ruled that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as do opposite sex couples according to the California Constitution.

While gays celebrated throughout the state, angry Christian Right poohbahs and organizations declared they will fight this ruling and they will win. As one Christian rightist said under his breath, "No goddamn queer's gonna marry another goddamn queer if I can help it!"

The Christian Right has long complained that gay marriage is a humongous threat to traditional marriage. Many of those making the most noise have been hypocritical serial adulterers who actually have had little use for "traditional" marriage, or have been involved in criminal and unethical shenanigans, such as Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Rush Limbaugh, John Hagee, etc.

But I've never been able to figure out exactly how gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage. Christian Rightists like Pat Robertson, John Hagee, James Dobson and others never really explain the "threat," but instead refer to the Bible, which in their literalist view appears to be anti-homosexual and so they oppose gay marriage because they've concluded if the Bible is against homosexuals, then their god has to be against gay marriage, and their god can't seem to handle the problem by herself, so they've got to pitch in and beat up gays to help god keep good order in god's country, the U.S. of A.

Then again, maybe it just offends their sense of propriety. Or maybe they're unsure of their own sexuality and so gay marriage raises issues in their minds they'd rather not confront.

The California's Supreme Court ruling had some interesting things to say regarding a religious tie-in: "affording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs."

But that's not really the problem for the Christian Right. The problem is that the Christian Right does not accept the overwhelming testimony of science that homosexuality is not a choice. In their view the Bible, as usual, trumps science: people choose to become homosexuals, therefore, homosexuality, as the Bible says in Leviticus is an "abomination," and thus homosexuals are deviants who must be denied their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The Christian Right wingnuts believe they have a mission to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us or god will send down horrible plagues and other misfortunes to punish us.

Read more here.

We need another terrorist attack, says Rumsfeld

This from Attaturk at Firedoglake:

"More from the DOD [Department of Defense] document dump shows Rummy & the Washington Generals to be complete sociopaths:

'An ongoing exploration of the documents related to the Pentagon's "message force multipliers" program has unearthed a clip of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggesting that America, having voted the Democrats back into Congressional power, could benefit from suffering another terrorist attack, and doing so in the presence of the very same military analysts who went on to provide commentary and analysis of the Iraq war.'"

This occurred at a "valedictory luncheon Rumsfeld hosted for those analysts on December 12, 2006." In attendance were "Brian Williams and other talking heads' best military analyst buddies."

Read more here.

Obama a monkey? Only in Georgia

The human race is evolving, but ethically and morally, it's in a downward spiral. And although the huge majority of people in the world confess some religious faith, religion has failed miserably if its purpose is in any way related to the betterment of society.

At Mulligan's Bar and Grill in Marietta, Cobb County, Georgia, you can buy the above T-shirt depicting Barack Obama as Curious George, the monkey from the children's books. Just ask for Mike Norman: not Normal, but Norman.

Norman is no stranger to controversy, often hanging "provocative, ultra-conservative political slogans ... on signs out front (of his bar). Norman says he got the T-shirts from someone in Arkansas. He also says he's had calls about the T-shirts and orders for the T-shirts from around the country.

Certainly this fruitcake has the right to hang controversial signs in front of his bar. He also has the right to sell these T-shirts. But in this case, "right" doesn't necessarily translate into "should."

Such a display not only illustrates that Norman is a racist and a rather sad example of human depravity, but also that we have a long way to go in this country toward the realization of the truth that we are all, under the skin, brothers and sisters.

It appears that the facade of Cobb County, Georgia has been updated since the 1960s, but not it's heart.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is actually conducting an online poll asking what people think of the T-shirt. You can choose "It's racist," or "It's fine."

"It's fine" is winning!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

McCain's lobbyist lies and ties

McCain, the so-called Maverick, the straight-arrow, the one who after getting kicked around for his shenanigans in the Keating scandal, said he had been converted and would never, ever tie in with a bunch of lobbyists and allow them into his inner circle, has been caught again.

Did you read about this in the media?

Leonard Doyle, a journalist for The Independent in the UK, reports that "Two top aides to the Republican presidential nominee John McCain have been forced to resign over their ties to the Burmese military junta, providing yet another embarrassment for Mr. McCain who is trying to present himself as the scourge of special interests in Washington."

Mr. McCain may still get away with his masquerade as "the scourge of special interests," as our media just can't seem to tell the truth about ol' John, their buddy who bullshits with them as they travel around campaigning.

Doyle does point out rather neatly, though, that McCain is a fraud, presenting a facade that has little or no relationship to reality.

Now these guys that resigned were not licking stamps or sealing envelopes. Douglas Goodyear was the fellow going to run the 2008 Republican convention. He was "connected to a lobbying firm that has represented Burma's military leaders."

Wait, stop right there! What the hell's that about? Burma's military leaders are some of the worst nasties on earth. They rule with an iron fist, and shoot or jail anyone who has the temerity to question anything they do! So what's a lobbyist for these clowns doing on McCain, the "purity" candidate's staff? Not only so, but why is a lobbyist for these clowns given the job of running the Republican convention?

Ah, shucks, the U.S. media may not know or care, but as Mr. Doyle points out, everyone else knows that "While Mr. McCain publicly portrays himself as a crusader against special interests, many of his closest advisers are former or current lobbyists." (My emphasis.)

So, let's see: Doug Davenport, former head honcho for DCI (DCI also had links to the Burma bastards) and a McCain aide, quit. Charlie Black, McCain's campaign chief, quit, too; not his McCain job, but from the chairmanship of his lobbying firm, "BKSH Worldwide, a subsidiary of Burson-Marsteller which is run by Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's former chief strategist, who resigned after another lobbyist controversy."

This is one hell of an incestuous business!

But I think we've heard enough about Mr. McCain, the "maverick," the "straight-shooter," the anti-lobbyist, the one who never changes his mind, etc., etc.

When you look at McCain closely, you see the only things he's got going for him are his wife's money, the media, and the fact he got shot down in Vietnam and then told the North Vietnamese everything they wanted to know.

Other than that, he's just another right-wing Washington insider, one of the upper-crust, a tried and true member of the elite, with a spine that bends whichever way he thinks profitable for his career.

Contractual treason & the Republican response

(The following is from an article titled "Contractors Gone Wild" by Bruce Falconer at

Falconer's article is dated May 2. He refers to testimony given by "three whistleblowers before the Senate's Democratic Policy Committee (DPC)." Said testimony "stands out for the sheer outrageousness of their accusations--namely that U.S. private contractors looted Iraqi palaces and ministries, stole military equipment, fenced supplies destined for U.S. troops, and even operated a prostitution ring that may have contributed to the death of a fellow contractor."

Falconer says in spite of the "salacious" nature of this testimony, it has been basically ignored by the media.

Naturally. It's much more important, so far as our media is concerned, to report Obama's bowling score, or that he had the audacity to play pool, which Chris Matthew's sneered was only for elitists these days!

The first man to testify, an ex-ice plant operator for KBR, said ice was so valuable in Iraq it "was regularly stolen and bartered for other goods." That meant our troops did not get the ice they needed. In one case, Marines about to head to the desert, requested 28 bags of ice. They only got three because the ice foreman "was trading ice for DVDs, CDs, food, and other items at the Iraqi shops across the street." Ice tally sheets were altered to indicate more ice had been handed out to the Marines than was actually the case.

Frank Cassady, the former KBR ice plant operator, also said he saw his "colleagues returning to KBR's camp with equipment they had stolen from the U.S. military, including refrigerators, artillery round detonators, two rocket launchers, and about 800 rounds of small arms ammunition."

Cassady reported this. Marines, with dogs, searched the camp and recovered their property. Cassady was jailed for two days in his tent by KBR security people and then "spent another four days in 'protective custody' before being transferred, against his will, to work in a laundry."

Linda Warren, who likewise worked for KBR said that when she arrived in Baghdad, "she was shocked by the number of contractors involved in criminal activity. 'KBR employees who were contracted to perform construction duties inside palaces and municipal buildings were looting.'"

It was a sophisticated operation that included a system to move stolen goods out of the country to be sold on eBay. Ms. Warren said "They stole artwork, rugs, crystal, and even melted down gold to make spurs for cowboy boots."

Ms. Warren complained to her superiors. For that egregious act, she lost her vehicle, she was spied on, she lost access to the telephone and the Internet and finally was transferred out of Baghdad.

Arguably the worst testimony came from Barry Halley, a former project manager for Worldwide Network Services, based in Washington, D.C. Halley claimed his site manager in Iraq, a "'major defense contractor,' moonlighted as the leader of a prostitution ring serving American contractors in Iraq that indirectly caused the death of a colleague."

Halley said his colleague was shot while riding in an "insecure" car. If he had been riding in an armored car, as he should have been, he would have survived. But the armored car was in use--by his site manager, transporting prostitutes from Kuwait to Baghdad.

Mr. Halley further noted that whistleblowers often jeopardized their jobs by speaking out against these kinds of abuses. "There's a no-talk, no-speak policy in effect in Iraq about what goes on."

This DPC hearing came about "two weeks after the military awarded a 10-year logistical contract worth up to $150 billion to DynCorp, KBR, and a third firm." This was, in fact, the 13th hearing established to investigate fraud by contractors in Iraq.

The DPC cannot pass legislation, but it can refer accusations and information to the Department of Justice and the Pentagon's Inspector General. That doesn't seem to have any impact at all. Senator Byron Dorgon from North Dakota has been trying to establish a bipartisan commission that would have some teeth to further investigate the kinds of revelations heard this week.

Guess what? "Senate Republicans have blocked the measure."

And so it goes. We have heard for years now of the fraudulent and criminal actions of contractors who have been given huge amounts of money to perform services in Iraq. Nothing has been done.

It is no wonder the people sit in awe of the parasites they have elected to public office. The government is moribund, unable to act even when confronted by massive criminal offenses on the part of those working for the government.

The prezident and his crooked cronies repeat over and over again how we are in a war! Our country is at war, they say, as if that justifies anything and everything they wish to do. And one thing they wish to do is overlook the treason on the part of their buddies running the corporations that are stealing and looting from occupation forces and corrupting the process of rebuilding that we are supposed to be about.

When a country is at war and an individual or a corporation steals military supplies to use or resell at a profit, that is treason. The punishment for treason is death.

Unless, of course, you're a Republican contractor with ties to the White House. The the punishment is more and bigger contracts.

Here's an interesting article from the Marine Corps Times

Another article dealing with this issue from the Chicago Tribune

One more article detailing contractual fraud and abuse by CBS News

Note the dates on the above articles. Ask why nothing has been done.

Lieberman - a loose cannon

(Thanks to Steven Benen of the Carpetbagger Report for some of the information below.)

Senator Joseph Lieberman is a loose cannon; no one is quite sure what he is going to do or say, next.

For example, Lieberman proudly pronounces that he would consider giving the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention this fall. In fact, he would do just about anything to help McCain win the presidency. But Lieberman's pandering didn't end there. He "also praised Rush Limbaugh for his 'love for our country and support for our troops.'" Lieberman claimed that the fat, fatuous, phony "...has a big voice but he has heart (sic) that is even bigger." (I think he meant to refer to Limbaugh's ass!)

Lieberman still holds the chairmanship of the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. About a month ago, Harry Reid, the Democratic poohbah in the Senate was asked if Lieberman's stupidities would make his removal as chair of that committee a probability. Reid said, "No."

One month later, Reid is talking to Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, and in that conversation Reid implies that Lieberman's "ownership" of his chairmanship is not guaranteed. When asked if Lieberman could do something so idiotic that he'd lose that chairmanship, Reid said, "Yes, of course."

Everyone knows the Senate is an exalted form of a "good old boys" club where everyone's scratching everyone else's back and deals are made behind closed doors in what used to be smoke-filled rooms, but now smell of stale sweat and taste of fear.

So when you ask why in god's name is Lieberman still chairman of that committee, you get an answer like the one given by Dick Durbin, the Majority Whip: "...I can tell you time and again, he's been there when we've needed him."

Maybe so. But he's not there now and he hasn't been there for quite awhile. After seeing Lieberman prancing about the Middle East with his dumbness, McCain, and listening to him feed McCain answers when McCain gave his clueless stare, the Democrats controlling the Senate should have kicked his disloyal butt back up to Connecticut.

Lieberman used to call himself a Democrat. He's not even close these days. I think the word usually used for what he's done is "traitor." Show the clown the exit!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Celebrating those Ten commandments

Rob Boston has a great article on Talk 2 Action about religious right Congresspeople who think it is part of their elected duties to showcase the Ten Commandments (and they're not even Jewish!).

Seems that Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, just don't much care whether or not the Ten Commandments get a big play in Washington or anywhere else. Or maybe they think Congress has more important things to worry about.

Boston set the scene: "Gas is inching up to $4 per gallon, rice has doubled in price, home foreclosures continue to spiral and more that 80 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

"What's to be done? According to the Religious Right, it's time for a Ten Commandments Weekend!"

Bill Murray, another anachronistic moron of the Christian Right is connected with something call the Religious Freedom Coalition, and he's pissed at both Pelosi and Reed for their "unChristian" attitude. It's because of those two, says Murray, that "We can't get these [resolutions authorizing a Ten Commandments Weekend that recognizes all ten as the source of our country's laws] out and open and celebrate the Ten Commandments."

Boston notes Murray's a liar. Murray and his church and any of his religious right friends can celebrate the Ten Commandments as much as they wish in any way they wish. Nobody's stopping them.

Furthermore, says Boston, "the resolution is dishonest. The Ten Commandments are not the source of American law. Our laws were informed by many sources - Roman, Byzantine, the Napoleonic Code, European Common Law, etc. Many of these systems of law had religious components, but those features long ago were discarded in America, where separation of church and state is the law of the land. ...

"Secondly, Congress has probably shelved this resolution because it's a waste of time. There are more pressing things to deal with. Polls show Americans are worried about the economy, their jobs, gas prices, home mortgages and so on. The polls don't show people clamoring for a Ten Commandments weekend."

And all the people said, "Amen!"

Read the whole of Mr. Boston's article here.

Bush bullshit about golf

The following is from Media Matters. Rajesh wrote the following on Eric Alterman's "Altercation."

Name: Rajesh
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

George Bush in an interview today about the sacrifice he made for the war:

"US President George W. Bush said in an interview out Tuesday that he quit playing golf in 2003 out of respect for the families of US soldiers killed in the conflict in Iraq, now in its sixth year."

When in 2003?

"The US president traced his decision to the August 19, 2003 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, which killed the world body's top official in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello."

Interestingly enough, he played golf 3 months later:

"Bush's last round of golf as president dates back to October 13, 2003, according to meticulous records kept by CBS news."

The decision was tough that he made his decision in August 2003 and continued to play until October 2003. Now, that, that's sacrifice.

I think Rajesh nailed it. One has to wonder about our moronic president who is so clueless he has no idea how this garbage about his "sacrificing" golf sounds to the families of the 4,000 plus men and women who have died in his perverted attempt to boost American imperialism in the Middle East; or the 30,000 plus who have been wounded; or the million and more Iraqis who have paid the final sacrifice on the altar of Bush idiocy.

The collapse of military morality

It seems that no one has a moral spine anymore. We've reported previously on a story that has been mainly non-reported - the Pentagon's illegal propaganda campaign. So far as I know, the major broadcast networks have yet to mention this incredible breach of trust with the American people. (They wouldn't want to jeopardize their "access" to the seat of power, you know!)

The story first appeared in The New York Times on April 20. It explained how in a covert propaganda campaign, the United States government, "embedded more than 75 retired military officers -- most of them with financial ties to war contractors -- into the TV networks as 'message surrogates' for the Bush administration."

According to Media Watch, these so-called analysts "collectively appeared or were quoted as experts more than 4,500 times on ABC, ABC News Now, CBS, CBS Radio Network, NBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, and NPR."

All of this is a clear violation of U.S. law.

According to an article by John Stauber at PR Watch, "Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro and three dozen colleagues have sent a letter to the Department of Defense Inspector General calling for an investigation of this 'propaganda campaign aimed at deliberately misleading the American public."

Good luck with that! As they do with most everything they see as a threat, the Bushites will simply ignore the letter and our milque-toast Congress will sputter and fume and do absolutely nothing.

Persons interested in further information may go to the official Pentagon website where some 8,000 pages of documents related to this propaganda exercise have been made available:

Aliens, the Roman Church, and the Truth

Maybe you've never been wrong,
But then I can't believe a word you say.
The things that don't work
are the important things to have wanted.

-- From the poem, "Glass," by Laurel Snyder in "The Myth of Simple Machines"

* * * * *

Question put to youthful, but calcified Roman Catholic: "Has the church never been wrong?"

Answer by youthful, but calcified Roman Catholic: "No, the Church has never been wrong on matters of doctrine. Not once in 2,000 years. An unparalled (sic) record in humankind."

* * * * *

The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes is a Jesuit. He's also the director of the Vatican Observatory. He is a scientist, sort of. An astronomer, more or less. He thinks science (especially astronomy) and religion are not contradictory.

Funes opines that the Bible is not a book of science. He even believes in the Big Bang theory relative to the creation of the universe. There is quite a bit of evidence supporting that theory. In fact, it is the most obvious explanation of the creation of the universe to date. But Funes, being a Christian, also believes the theory that God was behind the Big Bang. There is no evidence to support that theory.

It is fascinating, however, to hear a Roman Catholic scientist/priest admit the church was very wrong about Galileo. Galileo, born some 400 years too soon, was also an astronomer, like Funes. At that time the Vatican knew from nothing about astronomy and Big Bangs. The Vatican believed that the Earth was the focus of God's attention and therefore the Earth could not revolve around the sun, but rather it must be the case that the sun revolves around the Earth.

Galileo insisted he was right, however, and the evidence showed clearly that the Earth revolves around the sun.

So the Church did to Galileo what they tended to do with all those who disagreed with its "truth." They brought Galileo to trial and said he was a heretic (bad) and forced Galileo to recant his truth.

Big mistake! Sorry, oh calicified one. Funes said that this "incident" regarding Galileo "caused wounds." That's putting it mildly, as they say. Funes also said that "The church has somehow recognized its mistakes. Maybe it could have done it better," said Funes, "but now it's time to heal those wounds and this can be done through calm dialogue and collaboration."

Of course, it wasn't until 1992 that Pope John Paul said the church's action against Galileo was the result of "tragic mutual incomprehension." It took a long time for the church to admit failure. And they still didn't get it right. It wasn't "mutual" incomprehension; there was nothing "mutual" about it. It was rather the result of the church's singular "tragic" incomprehension!

You will be glad to know, however, that the Rev. Jose Gabriel Runes, Jesuit priest/scientist, has authorized all good Catholics to believe in aliens. I guess he didn't want to get behind the eight-ball on this one. If aliens start floating down from spinning, round discs, he wanted to ensure that Catholics knew they could actually believe what they saw with their eyes.

The whole business is pretty silly. Runes thinks that life may have developed elsewhere in space, and that's possible, but he goes on from that possibility to conclude that they would be our "extraterrestrial" brothers and sister. They would be part of God's creation.


But then again, maybe the church is wrong here, too. Maybe we'll discover to our terror, and extraterrestrials are created by a demi-god, a being that is an anti-god? Maybe those aliens floating down to earth from circular, spinning discs are up to no good and want to destroy the Earth?

It's interesting, though, that the Vatican believes the possibility of alien life to be of such importance the director of the Vatican Observatory pronounces his take on it, thereby giving the OK to Catholics who might see aliens in the future. I would guess that most Catholics around the world are pretty excited to know that the church has now given them permission to believe what they see with their own eyes.

That has often not been the case!

The Great Derangement - a must read!

Matt Taibbi's new book is on the shelves. Taibbi, the national affairs correspondent for Rolling Stone, will stir your juices and light your fire, as he tells "A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, & Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire."

Here are a few excerpts describing what he discovered traveling the country.

On our governing body, the U.S. Congress: "Excepting a few, rogue, quixotic members who eschewed the usual campaign donors, Congress was mostly a highly advanced, finely tuned mechanism for turning favors into campaign donations and vice versa. It was a system of formalized political tribute not at all unlike that of the old Supreme Soviet, where the daylight hours were occupied with 'political debates' about how the USSR could best aid socialist friends in Mozambique or confront American racism in the South, while behind closed doors fat bloated party functionaries conducted the real business of divvying up military contracts and highway concessions."

On the essence of Bush's America post 9/11: "It all came together for me one day when I tried to imagine the whole thing from the point of view of Osama bin Laden. Here he had gone through all the trouble of attacking New York City, and how did the victim nation respond?

"Well, its government responded by counterattacking the wrong country and passing a whole host of insane laws that had nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism; its president responded by encouraging its citizens to buy Chevys and go on vacations. Then, when it came time to ask why the attack happened, the president announced that it had happened because the terrorists, well, those folks hated our freedom. Examining this rationale, the mainstream press did not denounce Bush's reasoning as the preposterous horseshit it was, but instead tripped over themselves en masse in a desperate attempt to find new ways to compare their leader to Winston Churchill. Months later, bin Laden himself had been forgotten, and the country moved on to denouncing the real enemy, culminating in the banning of French fries from the congressional cafeteria."

Taibbi sums up: "The Great Derangement is about a stage of our history where politics has seemingly stopped being about ideology and has instead turned into a problem of information. Are the right messages reaching our collective brain? Are the halves of that brain even connected? Do we know who we are anymore? Are we sane? It's a hell of a problem for a nuclear power."

Get your copy of "The Great Derangement" today at Amazon or other fine bookstores.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ha, Ha. Hagee hocus-pocus

The poor not-so-reverend Hagee has had to eat his words, sort of. Finally. More or less. He must have been a growing embarrassment to the Repugnican nominee. So he said "Out of a desire to advance a greater unity among Catholics and evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful."

Ho, hum. Notice he doesn't say that he was wrong. He's just a little sorry if some tight-assed Catholics got upset.

Hagee wouldn't know the "common good" from the Boston Commons.

It is interesting that one area in which I sorta, kinda agreed with Hagee was some of what he said about the Roman Church. He suggested that the Crusades were evidence of anti-Semitism and they were certainly that and much worse. They evidenced one very nasty expression of anti-Semitism -- the slaughter of Jews.

Hagee also suggested that Catholic anti-Semitism influenced Hitler's anti-Jewish feelings and that, too, is very true. We've discussed previously the utter failure on the part of the Vatican to take any action against the Nazi regime's treatment of the Jews. We've noted that while Hitler remained a Catholic in good standing until the end, and that many of his top military and civilian aides were Catholics, the Vatican did not see fit to excommunicate any but one: Joseph Goebbels was given the boot because he married a Protestant, not because he was instrumental in the murder of thousands upon thousands of Jews.

Hagee, in all candor, was telling the truth, although he might have berated the Lutheran's for their revered Dr. Luther who provided Hitler with an outline for the Holocaust.

The not-so-reverend Hagee blew it, though, when he used phrases from the book of Revelation to describe the Roman Church. He said it was "the apostate church," and the "great whore." He now "understands" better that the author of Revelation (unknown) used those terms as "a rhetorical device long employed in anti-Catholic literature and commentary."

What a crock! There is absolutely nothing in the book of Revelation that has anything whatsoever to do with the Roman Church or any other currently existing institution. Hagee's problem is that he is no scholar. He's a fundamentalist. He does not read the publications of real biblical scholars because if he did he would know they believe that terminology refers not to the Catholic church but to Rome and the Roman empire.

William Donohue, the right-wing president of the right-leaning Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, thinks that Hagee is pretty wonderful for apologizing. Donohue accepted the apology and said, "I got what I wanted. He's seen the light, as they like to say. So for me it's over."

Donohue also said that "What Hagee has done takes courage and quite frankly I never expected him to demonstrate such sensitivity to our concerns."

Oh, Bill, you're such a fool! Hagee hasn't seen the light. It doesn't take courage to apologize. He's not demonstrating sensitivity to your concerns!

This is all politics, of course. Hagee was beginning (finally) to get pounded in the press for being a world-class jackass. He was becoming a detriment, not a help, to Mr. McCain. So, he issued an apology, which, as we noted, doesn't come close to admitting he was wrong.

Hagee hasn't seen the light, he's simply kicking the political football up the field. His little apology takes no courage whatsoever as it relieves him of some of the political pressure he's been feeling.

So far as "seeing the light," I'll guarantee that if you get Hagee alone in a room with a bunch of Texas "good old boys" you'll soon learn what he really thinks about the Catholic Church!

But, it all makes for a good story, and now people are less likely to point to the McCain-Hagee relationship with disdain. People might even begin to think that Hagee's a pretty good guy after all. So what if he believes with approval that God destroyed New Orleans because of an impending gay pride parade. So what if he wants the U.S. to start a nuclear war with Iran so the end times will begin and Jesus will come back and all good Christians like Hagee will be raptured to heaven which the rest of us and all Jews (except "messianic" Jews) will burn forever in hell.

They want McCain to lose...

There are those on the right who would like to see McCain lose the election; in fact they are working toward that end now, according to Robert Novak of the Chicago Sun Times.

In an article titled "Evangelicals, Huckabee allied to sink McCain?", Novak says McCain "has a problem of disputed dimensions with a vital component of the conservative coalition: the evangelicals."

That's not really news. We've read about James Dobson and others threatening to boycott the election if McCain is the Republican nominee. We hope they do. We hope a many millions of the wackos and wingnuts on the right boycott the election! Stay home!

What I thought more interesting was the mentality of some of these kooks as described by Novak. Theirs is a mentality so distorted by mendacious religious concerns, they have no sense as to what this country is about or what it stands for. They are twisted, grotesque, figures of religious hatred and bigotry.

Thus, writes Novak, "An element of the Christian community is not reconciled to McCain's candidacy but instead regards the prospective presidency of Barack Obama in the nature of a biblical plague visited upon a sinful people." This "element of the Christian community" does not consider itself part of the "sinful people," of course!

Behind this notion, Novak suggests, might stand the no longer fat figure of the reprehensible Mike Huckabee (Novak didn't say "reprehensible." I threw that in because it was seemed apt.) Novak says that while outwardly Huckabee is strongly supportive of McCain, "credible activists are spreading the word that Huckabee secretly allies himself with the bitter-end opposition." Furthermore, critics of Huckabee's 10-year tenure as governor of Arkansas "say he is all too capable of playing a double game."

Now, for the best part: Someone in the wingnut Christian right whom Novak believes believable said Huckabee has "embraced the concept that an Obama presidency might be what the American people deserve. That fits what has largely been a fringe position among evangelicals, that the pain of an Obama presidency is in keeping with the Bible's prophecy."

This would all be quite hilarious except for the fact that many of these religious freaks already have insinuated themselves into various federal government crevices where daily they wreak their bitter harvest.

To believe that an Obama presidency is somehow a punishment on the American people for their unfaithfulness to a self-described despicable Christian deity, is lunacy. To actually live one's life thinking that an Obama presidency is somehow related to some ancient prophetic nonsense as recorded in a "book" that is 1500 plus years old, written by an unknown person in an unknown place, which has utterly no relevance to 2008, is indicative of a serious disconnect from reality.

Unfortunately, these people are not going away. They're talking about Huckabee for president in 2012! They want a man who will re-write the Constitution according to the laws of their dastardly god, a goal that Huckabee has promised to promote. These are people who yearn for a return to the Dark Ages.

It will take a great deal of hard work by honorable, ethical people to defend this land from these Bible-thumping fruitcakes. We must elect educated, principled, liberal, open and intelligent people in order to ensure a livable and sustainable world for our children and grandchildren.

Cindy says no

In 2004, the Bush-besotted media cried out in chorus for the release of Teresa Heinz Kerry's tax returns. She's a woman of wealth - like Cindy McCain. She didn't wanta do it, but to help her hubby on his presidential quest, she agreed. No big deal.

In 2008, the McCain besotted media are mostly mute with regard to Cindy McCain's tax returns in spite of the fact that Hillary and Bill Clinton as well as Barack and Michelle Obama have both opened their IRS files to public scrutiny.

Cindy McCain, worth some $100 million in beer money, was asked on the "Today" show when she'd let the world see her tax returns, and Cindy said, "Never."

Steven Benen, of The Carpetbagger Report, says he really doesn't much care, except for the fact that her refusal is "absolutely relevant in this presidential campaign."

For one thing, McCain, who pretends to be concerned about "transparency and disclosure, has gone out of his way to ensure that all of his assets are in his wife's name." The one and only reason a politician does that is because he doesn't want anyone to know what his assets are!

Secondly, "McCain has always relied on his wife's wealth, and has always 'mixed business and politics.'" Cindy's refusal to let go of her returns makes it appear as if "they have something to hide."

The third reason, which we alluded to above, I think most important of all: "...the shameless hypocrisy of it..." The Republican National Committee created a great fuss about seeing Mrs. Kerry's returns. So, says Steven, "if we hold the McCains to the standards set by the Republican Party, they [the McCain's] owe the public some additional information."

It is unlikely, given that McCain is a pretend "maverick," who lies with ease, and flip-flops like a beached whale, that we'll ever see Cindy's IRS paperwork. The media, too busy kissing the ring of the Republican nominee in their adolescent adulation, will not push the issue.

And thus, in typical Republican fashion, the people are again kept in the dark as to information which might help them make an appropriate decision.

Monday, May 12, 2008

If Al Gore had won...what might have been...

Here is a story for all Americans who care about their country, who believe in the promise of their country, who weep because of what their country has become and for what might have been...

"The Presidency of Al Gore, 2001-2009," by Norman MacAfee at The Huffington Post.

Mr. MacAfee, imagining, begins this way: "On January 20, 2001, Al Gore, the candidate who won the most votes, becomes the 43rd president of the United States.

"President Gore follows up on the many urgent warnings from the intelligence agencies that Osama Bin Laden is determined to strike in the United States. The 9/11 planners are caught, and their plots are aborted.

"In Afghanistan, the Taliban warns that it will destroy two giant 1,500-year old statues of the Buddha in the Bamiyan Valley. Much of the world sees these serene figures as symbols of wisdom beyond time, but they offend conservative Muslims. Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke talks with the Pakistani foreign minister, who reminds him that Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and suggests that if aid to the poor there is increased, the Buddhas will be spared. Gore calls the American Buddhist actor Richard Gere, who immediately raises $50 million for the Afghan poor, and the Gore administration promises $5 billion in direct act over the next five years. The Taliban agrees to preserve the statues. ...

"Republicans are squawking that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a threat to the safety of the country, that he has weapons of mass destruction. Gore asks the United Nations to send its weapons inspectors back into Iraq, and after six months of searching, they find none. Saddam is in what Eliot Weinberger calls 'the "autumn of the patriarch" mode: holed up in his palaces writing his trashy novesl, and oblivious to the details of government.' Gore brokers a deal in which Saddam's novels are translated into English and published and he agrees to slowly loosen up some of the restrictions on the Kurds and Shias and bring them into the government."

Etc. It is a fascinating, if disconcerting, read. My god, what might have been! Instead, we got stuck with this moronic cowboy strutting about on the world stage not knowing a desert from a dessert, and worse, not giving a damn!

Click here to read MacAfee's dream.

How much did the war cost, Daddy?

One of the things for which George W. Bush (and his cronies) will be noted in the history books is his ability to lie and dissemble effectively; so effectively that an entire nation was deceived as to one of the costliest military adventures in history.

Veronique de Rugy tells all about it in her article, "The Trillion-Dollar War," at Reason Magazine (reasononline).

Assuming that Bush's request for $196 billion for the fiscal year 2008 will be granted, and counting the recently-approved $70 billion in bridge funding, "then the total price tag for America's present wars will rise to at least $822 billion, approximately 80 percent of which will be spent on Iraq. That surpasses the cost of the Vietnam War ($670 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars). And the Iraq portion dwarfs the $50 to $60 billion cost predicted at the outset of the war by Mitch Daniels, then director of the Office of Management and Budget."

(Daniels, however, was merely parroting Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (among others) who laughed at the notion that invading Iraq would be expensive--they didn't consider $50-60 billion "expensive.")

de Rugy notes that "These runaway costs do not include a single dollar from the Pentagon's annual operating budget, which in 2008 reached a whopping $481 billion. If the war were being accounted for based on a rational, transparent budget process instead of an opaque and politicized shell game, Americans would be painfully aware that we are now in the seventh year of what the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has called a $1 trillion war."

(Note, however, that at least one recognized economist has estimated the the total cost of these misguided wars will eventually total $3 trillion!)

de Rugy asks, "How much money is $1 trillion? Enough to pay for the entire 1976 federal budget, adjusted for inflation. Enough to write a check for $37,500 to every Iraqi man, woman, and child. Enough to buy 169,492 Black Hawk helicopters, or 455 stealth bombers. Enough, in nominal terms, to pay for the entire federal government from 1789 to 1957. And it's 10 times more than what specialists predict it would take to eradicate malaria once and for all."

You can read the entire article here. Veronique de Rugy has spelled out in detail, not only the incredible stupidity of the Bush adminstration, but also its duplicity. For example: "Five years into the Iraq conflict and seven years into Afghanistan, the administration and Congress have buried all of the explicit funding--totaling more than the spending on either the Korea or Vietnam wars when adjusted for inflation--in emergency supplementals." [My emphasis]

Remember that when Bush or some other Repugnican repository of idiocy says that we cannot afford to have health care for our elderly or our children, or we can't afford to repair our country's decaying infrastructure, or we can't afford to hire new teachers and build new schools, or we can't afford to take care of those with no resources of their own...or...

What a waste! What a terrible shame! What a blot on the history of our country!

How Republicans win elections

Republicans win elections by disenfranchising voters likely to vote Democratic. That's how they won in 2000, and that's how they won in 2004 and that's how they plan to win in 2008.

Now they may be nasty, but Republicans are not stupid (sometimes), so they don't simply erase people's names from the voter rolls (except in Florida)! They establish a "legitimate," if unethical method of achieving the same goal.

One of the big "threats" perceived by many people today is the threat of illegal immigrants taking over the world, or at least the US of A. Both Republican and Democratic politicos have pandered to this threat, and have promised to do something about it. The trouble is, nobody is sure just what to do. The illegals provide a tremendous number of services in this country, and send much of the money they earn here to help their families back home.

Well, the Repugnicans have come up with a plan that is being implemented in several forms in a number of the states. Again, they are never so crass as to say that they want to disenfranchise people who might vote Democratic. Instead they talk about the huge problem of fraudulent voters; people who are able to vote only because the method of determining qualified voters is unable to identify persons who are legally eligible to vote.

They're going to be able to pull this off for a couple of reasons: One is that the state legislatures consist of people who want to keep their jobs and thus will vote for anything that will convince their constituents they are doing something about "those damn immigrants." The second is that the US Supremes, consisting of a bunch of Bush appointees and thus "neocon-driven" instead of Constitution-driven, recently upheld a law which forced voters to prove their identity with a government-issued ID.

In the "show me" state of Missouri, legislators are expected to approve a proposed constitutional amendment which would allow election officials to demand proof of citizenship of anyone wanting to register to vote.

And yes, these legislators say the problem is "those damn illegals," and this'll stop 'em in their tracks! They don't want "illegal immigrants ... affecting the political process." so happens that this measure would probably, no doubt, certainly, disenfranchise many thousands of people who are perfectly legal but can't immediately put their hands on proof of citizenship.

In some 19 state houses, similar bills are been discussed and are strongly supported in Florida (naturally!), Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

Much of the above was taken from The New York Times article, "Voter ID Battle Shifts to Proof of Citizenship," by Ian Urbina, has an excellent overview of this battle to keep illegals (read Democrats) from voting.

He refers to a Missouri Republican representative who complained that current voter ID requirements were simply inadequate. Utility bills prove nothing, he said. That's why proof of citizenship is so crucial.

But...Ian Urbina notes that "From October 2002 to September 2005, the Justice Department indicted 40 voters for registration fraud or illegal voting, 21 of whom were noncitizens, according to department records."

Wow, what a horrible problem: 40 people in three years, half of which were not citizens! No wonder the Republican legislators in all these states are scurrying about to toughen up voter ID laws!

We know that the Republican Party was responsible for massive voter fraud in 2000 and in 2004. Why didn't the Justice Department do something about that?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Relics, ignorance, superstition & magic

(Photo of Mary's dress - at Aachen)

Relics, for those persons not steeped in the ignorance and superstition of the Roman Catholic Church, are artifacts deriving from the mythological Christ or the legendary martyrs and saints of Catholic Christendom.

Early on, the Roman hierarchy realized that the processing of relics could be profitable to the church. If a church could claim the bones of an early martyr or saint, those relics tended to draw larger crowds (and, of course, more money). In our day, people have been known to walk a mile for a Camel (cigarette), but in the Dark Ages pilgrims would walk for days and hundreds of miles to be able to view a piece of the cross.

Not much has changed over the years, as we shall see.

The trade in relics grew enormously during the Middle Ages. Monte Burke, in a article, says that it was in the Middle Ages that "Catholic pilgrims returned home from the Holy Land with tokens of the burial places of martyrs or of the martyrs themselves. These relics were believed capable of working miracles."

Relics were also thought to provide a direct connection to the saint. Pilgrimages offered a way that people could have their sins forgiven and cut their time in Purgatory. "For many pilgrims, coming face to face with relics was the most terrifying and awesome experience of their lives."

The Protestant reformers of the 16th century were antagonistic toward relics. Martin Luther, for example, believed "the veneration of relics was tantamount to idolatry and a symptom of a church gone astray."

Today the Roman Church has officially banned the sale of relics. But that has done little to stop the trade in relics. It works out well for the church, as it can piously claim that the trade in relics is against church law, while at the same time, in a variety of ways, it promotes the trade and profits from the trade.

Here are some of the relics adored or up for sale today:

"A small reliquary cross containing tiny fragments of the bones of saints embedded in wax. It was sold in June 2007 by Christie's for $31,000." (Reliquaries are "vessels that contain relics. ... A beautiful reliquary puts a relic into context. It gives it a different impact.")

Aachen, Germany was "Europe's most important pilgrimage destination during the Middle Ages after Rome and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In Aachen today you can see a 2,000-year-old dress promoted as the dress worn by Mary when she gave birth to Jesus. Aachen also has "Jesus swaddling clothes, a cloth used during John the Baptist's beheading, and the waistcloth Jesus wore during his crucifixion."

Since 1394, Aachen has provided pilgrims an annual opportunity to view these relics.

Last year, Timesonline reported that "Fragments of a cassock worn by Pope John Paul II are being offered for sale to the faithful ..."

Said cassock has been cut into 100,000 pieces to "satisfy demand."

The sale is operated by the Vicariate of Rome, a group promoting sainthood for John Paul. It's a profitable little scheme, and entices additional believers by providing a "holy card" with a prayer to "obtain graces through the intercession of John Paul II."

The Vicariate gets around the ban on sales of relics by soliciting donations rather than demanding a certain price. These "donations," of course, go to "cover costs, with any surplus going towards the cost of John Paul's 'cause for sainthood.'" They don't mention what their "costs" consist of. It would be interesting to know what the people operating this scam put in their own pockets.

Monte Burke describes an "antiques arcade on Manhattan's Upper East Side," which contains a small store run by Amanda Broomer. "Broomer sells the skulls of martyrs ($4,500 each). She sells the teeth of saints ($300). For $975 you can get what may be a tiny splinter from the cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified...

"Other items in stock include, ostensibly, pieces of the body of Saint Therese, the Little Flower, made into paste; clothing worn by St. Anthony of Padua; and a 'touched' nail, meaning a nail that once touched a nail from the Crucifixion."

Broomer claims she has three bone fragments from St. Francis of Assissi, and expects those will be soon sold.

Burke notes that relics are classified by grade. "'First class' pertains to body parts of saints--a fingernail of the Apostle Paul ... or a strand of the Virgin Mary's hair. Items (supposedly) touched by Jesus often are first class. The second class encompasses the relics of lesser figures--Mother Teresa's tennis shoes. The third class has items hat have touched something first-class--the 'touched' nail described above, for instance."

You may recall that last year we wrote about "tragedy" that occurred in Calcata, a small town 30 miles north of Rome, Italy.

Back in 1983, the parish priest announced that "This year, the holy relic will not be exposed to the devotion of the faith. It has vanished. Sacrilegious thieves have taken it from from home."

The village priest had been keeping this relic "in a shoe box at the back of his wardrobe." No one knows what happened to it. Some think the priest sold it; others claim it was stolen, perhaps by the Vatican.

Now this wasn't just any old relic. "It was the foreskin of Jesus Christ, the snipped-off tip of the savior's penis, the only piece of his body he supposedly left on earth."

Here's the story according to David Farley of Slate:

"It was discovered in Calcata in 1557, and a series of miracles soon followed (freak storms, perfumed mists engulfing the village). The church gave the finding a seal of approval by offering a 10-year indulgence to those who came to venerate. Lines of pilgrims stretched from the church doors to beyond the walls of the fortress town. Nuns and monks from nearby villages and monasteries made candlelit processions. Calcata was a must-see destination on the pilgrimage map."

Things changed a few hundred years later, however. When a "rediscovery" of a holy foreskin was revealed in France, "the Vatican decreed that anyone who wrote about or spoke about the name of the holy foreskin would face excommunication. And 54 years later, when a monk wanted to include Calcata in a pilgrimage tour guide, Vatican officials didn't just reject the proposal ... They upped the punishment: Now, anyone uttering its name would face the harshest form of excommunication--"infamous and to be avoided"--even as they concluded that Calcata's holy foreskin was more legit than other claimants."

Farley continues: "In the late 1960s, government officials, worried that crumbling cliffs and threatening earthquakes might doom the village, decided to build a new town." Some hippies bought up the old town and became interested in the foreskin relic and began writing about it and pretty soon the church sat up and took notice.

About then, the priest brought the relic from the church to his home. Neither he nor his predecessor will talk about it. Farley thinks it is possible that Vatican thieves stole the foreskin, or perhaps the priest brought it to the Vatican himself.

The holy foreskin got around. During the Middle Ages, there were as many as 12 to 18 foreskins in various European towns. It was said to make sterile women fertile. Henry V had the foreskin in Chartres sent to England to assist his wife deliver the child who would become Henry VI. It is said that St. Catherine of Siena, supposedly the "spiritual" spouse of Jesus, wore his foreskin around her finger. Then there's the sexy St. Bridget who claimed an angel gave her the foreskin and when she would put bits of it on her tongue, she would feel "orgasmic-like sensations throughout her body."

It is amazing that in the 21st century there are people who adore, revere, venerate or otherwise pay attention to the supposed bones of "saints" long dead, or pieces of cloth from a so-called "martyr," or a splinter of Jesus' cross, or a dress supposedly worn by the mythological virgin called Mary or more correctly, Miriam.

It is possible, but unlikely, that some of the bones resting in some reliquary are actually related to a person who lived at a certain point in time. There are no pieces of the cross, however. There is no dress worn by Mary. There is no foreskin of a first-century Jew called Yeshua.

In 2007, Aachen had over 100,000 pilgrims and tourists show up to view its collection of relics. It is said that many of these people do not believe the relics are real, that "Most modern day Catholics emphasize relics' importance as symbols rather than their belief in supernatural powers."

Christian Weisner, who represents the We Are Church organization, a group advocating the reform of the Roman Church says that relics are "a form of superstition." But he isn't willing to come right out and say relic veneration is pure nonsense. He thinks that some good comes of "pilgrimages, praying and meeting other believers ... Belief needs emotional things. At the same time we have to use our brain, we need reason."

Yes, we need reason. Lots of it. Unreason or irrationality rule in too many areas of our life today. Religious people, true believers, fly airplanes into skyscrapers convinced that is the will of God; the prezident of the most powerful and supposedly most scientifically-advanced nation in the world invades a non-threatening country because God told him to do so; a Protestant pastor claims that a nuclear war (involving Iran) is necessary because that will result in the second coming of the mythological Christ; certain Christians pray for days at a time believing their pious efforts will entice their god to notice their insignificant little lives and help them make it through their boring and meaningless days and dark and gloomy nights...

And it is sad but true that even in the first decade of the 21st century, some Roman Catholics traipse the world to buy or venerate the bones, hair or clothing [which are more than likely not real] of ancient and legendary and long-dead persons believing that these relics have special powers that can affect their lives and also that by so doing God will love them more and noting their devotion, will accept them to live eternally in his presence when they die.

All of these religious beliefs and practices are based on ignorance and superstition.

And the veneration of relics, including the relic of the Bible, is to believe in and practice, magic.

Here are a few sites dealing with Roman Catholic relics:

The Veneration of Holy Relics

Relic Santorum

Apostolate for Holy Relics

Authentic Relics of the Saints