Saturday, June 7, 2008

Biblical anti-Semitism in Australia

It's hard to fight anti-Semitic thinking and behavior when said thinking and behavior is explicit in the New Testament and has not only been taught to the uncritical masses in the churches for the past 2 millenium, but has been acted out ad nauseam annually on stages and screens in various "Passion Plays" around the world.

The Gospel of Matthew's the worst, where at an unhistorical evening trial in front of the chief priests and the Sanhedrin, the High Priest puts words in Jesus' mouth and then accuses him of blasphemy and the council members condemn him to death while spitting at him and hitting him. Matthew is the Gospel where Jesus is brought before Pilate who ends up washing his hands of the whole business and the "Jews" cry out "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

And then those awful words that have authorized sick minds to commit the most horrible atrocities in the name of Christianity, "His blood be on us, and on our children!"

It's no wonder so many Christians believe the Jews killed Jesus!

Many scholars today are in agreement that the stories of Jesus' trial and crucifixion in the New Testament are not historical. They contradict each other on major points, for one thing. For another, the Sanhedrin would never hold a trial at night. Additionally, the charge of claiming to be the "Messiah" was not blasphemous, and would not have concerned the religious leaders at all.

Unfortunately, while these tales are fiction created to serve the needs of a particular religious community of the time, they have also served to create a 2000-year legacy of hatred and horror for the Jewish people, culminating in the Nazi holocaust--the final confirmation God does not exist.

Still, the legacy of hatred and horror continues. In Australia, Jewish leaders are concerned that a visit by Pope Benedict XVI "could incite anti-Semitism." Benedict is arriving in July and Aussie Catholics have planned a "Stations of the Cross" procession. Because of criticism by the Jewish community, the number of stations has been cut back from 14 to 8, but they have left in the worst of the bunch which depicts Jesus being condemned by the Sanhedrin.

Vic Alhadeff, director of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, thought it possible that some of the 500,000 pilgrims viewing the procession may find justification for expressions of anti-Semitism. A resolution by the board noted that "The historical and biblical questions surrounding the notion that there was a formal Sanhedrin trial argue for extreme caution and, perhaps, even abandoning the device."

It appears the feelings of the Jewish leaders will be ignored. A spokesman for the organizers of the procession said that "we've accommodated them [the Jews] where appropriate, but we're unable to change the New Testament. Ultimately, we're acknowledging that Christ was crucified for and by all sinners."

Rubbish! That's not the lesson the faithful will receive from this procession. They will be told again the Jews killed their savior! Furthermore, the Catholic church, just like all the others, picks and chooses what it wants to believe, follow and emphasize in the New Testament depending upon what particular doctrine they want to stress.

So why the Stations of the Cross? Why not a dramatization of Jesus preaching the "Sermon on the Mount"? Why not a reenactment of Jesus teaching in a synagogue? He was a Jew, after all! Why the constant and unremitting emphasis on death when Jesus is supposed to the giver of life?

It's crazy in the south

A letter to the editor. From a woman in an 55 + community.

"With God," she begins, "all things are possible. ...

"So I call," she continues, "to consider supporting Hillary Clinton. Why? Throw all the mud in the trash which comes from the camp of the ungodly. How can I say this? Our Lord said, by their fruit ye shall know them. Therefore, the godly do not trash others. It is so easy to see."

Did you get that? Do you see? But it's important, she says, to avoid the media and let the "Lord" guide us "in these critical times."

Critical they may be, but they're gonna get better because the end of the world is coming.

"These times are about lies and deception. Look at global warming. Man's deception would have us believe the junk, while God would have us understand we are nearing the end of this earth age and are going to see it. How exciting for those who understand."

Really exciting. Oh, one other thing: the churches are telling lies.

And Hillary is God's choice for president.

Our letter writer lives in Florida, the deep south. She doubtless came from somewhere else. Maybe Texas. Except for the part about Hillary being God's choice for the White House, the woman sounds a lot like Bush giving a speech about the "axel of evil." That would be global warming.

How exciting for those who understand?


(It's a long time from June to November!)

Tom DeLay calls Obama a Marxist

I thought the Cold War was over. Are there any "Marxists" anymore other than some delayed adolescents in Latin America? And what exactly is a "Marxist?"

What follows came from Think Progress. You won't find out what a Marxist is, but you will find out what Tom DeLay is!

Tom DeLay (pictured left) you will recall, is a former pest controller from Texas who finagled his way into fame and fortune in the U.S. House of Representatives, preaching Jesus the whole time he was scamming the voters and filling his pockets with buckaroos from crooked friends like Jack Abramoff.

He's no longer in the House but he may soon be in jail. He is currently facing charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money. It's too bad he hasn't yet been charged with all of his crimes.

Tom DeLay built a career on phony piety and a pretense of conservatism. He has used his position as a bully pulpit to attack those who reflect real family and moral values. He recently was heard on the right-winger Mike Gallagher's radio show, where he once again proved himself to be a fool.

Gallagher, of course, is just as despicable. He started things off by impugning Barack Obama's motives and integrity. Gallagher said of Obama, "it's as if this were a guy who's desperately trying to cover up what seems to be the kind of old school Marxist, radical liberal failed ideology."

Now, anyone who would make a statement like that is suffering from some kind of illness. But there are a lot of sickos who listen to Gallagher, so he can get by with it. He is saying absolutely nothing. What in the world is an "old school Marxist?" And exactly what does he mean by
"radical liberal failed ideology?" Maybe he was momentarily confused and was thinking of the Bush administration and meant to say "radical conservative failed ideology."

DeLay, however, agreed that Obama is some kind "of old school Marxist." "Absolutely," said Tom.

DeLay said that "the other weakness that he [Obama] has is that nobody knows him. And if McCain does not define him as what he is -- hey, I have said publicly, and I will again, that unless he proves me wrong, he is a Marxist."

Well, that sure sums it up. Actually, I think that unless DeLay proves me wrong, he is a Muslim. Or maybe a dog!

The only "Marxist" that Tom DeLay ever heard of had the first name of Groucho.

Karl Rove and the Israel connection

Karl Rove has been working as a "commentator" on Fox News for many weeks. At the same time he has been serving as an advisor to John McCain. Fox News didn't bother to inform its viewers of that connection until just a few days ago, and then did so only under pressure.

Fox News, the voice of the Bush Administration!

Well, Mr. Rove, who hopefully will soon be indicted and jailed, may be going to work for Benjamin Netanyahu over in Israel. That's according to Israel's Channel 10. It seems nothing has been decided as yet, but Rove's name is on a short list of "strategic consultants" that Netanyahu is considering hiring if he should mount a campaign to depose Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

We know exactly what kind of person is Karl Rove. The question is: What kind of person would hire Mr. Rove, given the kind of person he is?

And what does that say about Benjamin Netanyahu?

Nothing good.

Cheney and Regime Change in the Middle East

The threads holding together the fading Bush administration are beginning to unravel. Scott McClellan was but the first of many "insiders" who, for one reason or another--perhaps to cleanse their souls--will tell stories confirming what has been obvious for some time--the Bush presidency has been an exercise in power restrained by neither law nor reason.

The Real News Network has one of these stories told by Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff. Mr. Wilkerson, a retired army man, now serves as an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary, teaching a course on national security.

Wilkerson takes issue with the Bush administration's policy toward Iran. As presented by Secretary of State Condi Rice, this policy holds to the position that there can be no diplomatic talks with Iran until Iran stops its nuclear enrichment program. That, in Wilkerson's mind is "absurd."

"Setting such conditions is a route to no talks at all."

Aha! Therein lies the rub. The Bushites don't want talks with Iran. When Iran made a "serious approach in 2003 to talk ... Cheney made the State department turn it down."

Why? "The plan was for regime change throughout the Middle East."

Is it possible that, given the fatal failure of the Bushites' preemptive strike against Iraq, and the monstrous consequences which have resulted for both Iraqis and Americans, that this misguided fool of a prezident would dare try another "regime change" in Iran?

Jesus, McCain and Obama

The following was written by Brad Jacobson at Mediabloodhound, a terrific site, full of wit and wisdom and satirical fun. The article was also cross posted to Scholars and Rogues.

Jesus Denounces McCain, Endorses Obama

In a stunning turn of events Thursday, the Son of God endorsed Barack Obama for President while rejecting and distancing himself from presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.

Outside an Applebee's off the New Jersey Turnpike in Paramus yeserday, Jesus Christ told reporters, "Look, it's been a very divisive primary season between Barack and Hillary. I thought my support would aid the healing process and help unify the Democrats."

Asked if he was a registered Democrat, Jesus replied, "I'm actually registered with the Green Party. But no amount of faith and prayer will get their candidate elected." Christ clarified, "I perform miracles, but there are limits."

Why come out against John McCain?

"You don't have to be the Son of God to prophesy McCain wants to carry out Bush's third term," said Jesus, wearing a flag pin affixed to his traditional white robe. "Incidentally, maybe one of you guys can tell David Brooks there isn't a salad bar at Applebee's. Schmuck."

Later in the day, before Jesus took the stage to endorse the Illinois senator at a campaign rally in Arlington, VA, Obama said, "Well, I'm certainly not perfect, and I won't be a perfect president. Michelle has told me throughout the primary season, "You're not the Second Coming, Barack." And though she's right, I am proud and honored to tell you today that Jesus is by my side in this campaign for the White House. And I'm not speaking figuratively, Arlington. Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from the celestial realm, the Prince of Peace, the Mack Daddy of Nazareth, the original change agent - you know him, you love him, many of y'all even pray to him - let's give it up for Je-suuuuuuus Christ!"

Jesus plans to stump for Obama throughout the Bible Belt and other religious hotspots across America. But Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was quick to tamp down the sudden flurry of rumors about an Obama/Christ ticket.

"Of course we're thrilled to have the support of Jesus," says Plouffe. "And he would certainly make anyone's vice-presidential shortlist. But we've promised not to say anymore on the subject until we announce Barack's running mate."

On last night's Special Report with Brit Hume, Karl Rove, whom Jesus referred to as "Satan Lite" at the Arlington rally, told Hume, "We know Jesus is a very recognizable brand. But he has no prior campaign experience. So the jury's still out on his impact. How is Christ on the stump? He may be a skilled shepherd, but does he have that fire in the belly for the rough and tumble of campaigning? As my father used to say, Brit, just because you can turn water into wine, it doesn't mean you can build a birdhouse."

But on MSNBC's Countdown, Rachel Maddow pointed out some specific benefits of Jesus' direct support and counsel. "Well, for one thing, Obama doesn't have to worry about finding a new church to join until after the fall campaign. What will be really troublesome for McCain and the GOP, though, is they can't have it both ways. The[y] can't question Obama's faith in Jesus Christ while the Son of God is literally riding shotgun on the 'Yes We Can' express."

Speaking with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room, Candi Crowley cautioned that the big endorsement may backfire.

"In the end, Wolf, this may turn out to hurt the Illinois senator more than it helps him. We know Barack Obama is already vulnerable on national security. So I'm not sure how having the blessing of a guy who coined the phrase 'turn the other cheek' is only going to help him," explained Crowley. "And you can bet that Republicans will be combing through Jesus' past sermons, which include, just for starters, not only extreme preaching of non-violence but also impassioned instruction to, and I'm quoting Matthew 5:44, Wolf, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.' Now, in the middle of the war on terror, it's hard to see how McCain won't hammer Obama on this."

Commenting on The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly said, "Look, we all know that Jesus means well. He always has and that's who he is. Fine. But here in the no-spin zone, we also can't ignore the facts. And the truth is, this guy was a radical going back to his original days on Earth. A hippie and an anarchist who couldn't hold down a job. Jesus Christ, again, a fine lord and savior. I give him full credit for that. But this guy single-handedly created the welfare state and he's the prince of appeasement. Trust me, Neville Chamberlain ain't got nothing on Jesus."

Whatever impact the endorsement might have, the White House was not happy about it.

Asked about Jesus' rejection of McCain and support for Obama, President Bush said, "That's, uh, just not the Jesus I know. It's really heart-breaking. In other words, I was once born again. Okay? And, uh, now I'm feeling a little unborn."

White House press secretary Dana Perino echoed the president's sentiments during this afternoon's press conference.

"Well, it's puzzling and sad. This not the Jesus we know." Perino added, "And, frankly, his actions are not consistent with the guidance he's given us these past seven and a half years in the White House. Invade Iraq. Tap your phones. Torture's fine. Don't listen to the American people or the rest of the world. So now, after all this time, he's suddenly not George Bush's personal Jesus. I'm not buying it. And neither should you. I think he's done grave damage to his credibility in the mind of most Americans."

Jesus also dropped by The Late Show with David Letterman to read "Top Ten Reasons I'm Not Endorsing John McCain," which included: "Every time I see that blinky eye flutter, I can't help but think, 'Helter Skelter! Helter Skelter!'" "Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran." "Three words: Secretary of Peace." "He is Bush on steroids, with a prostate the size of Texas." "His middle name is Sydney." "He's Dr. Strangelove without the German accent and advanced degrees." And the number one reason? "He called his wife a cunt."

A new 527 ad hit the networks this morning, attacking Obama's latest endorsement:

VISUAL: Series of photoshopped pictures of Barack Obama and
Jesus Christ gambling in Atlantic City.

VOICE-OVER: He calls himself the Son of God. But who really is
Jesus Christ?

Born to an out-of-wedlock mother and absentee father, Jesus
was a direct product of the welfare state and later became a
drain on the occupying Roman Empire.

Barack Obama says he's proud to have Jesus by his side.
Maybe that's because Barack Obama would've fit right in with
Jesus' ultra-liberal, sandal-wearing, appeasing flock or those
Ivy League, latte-drinking Wise Men.

While John McCain is committed to winning the war in Iraq
even if he has to kill every last Iraqi to do it and nuke Iran back
to BC, Obama's closest spiritual advisor, Jesus Christ,
continues to preach, "All they that take the sword shall perish
by the sword."

Tell that to Ahmadinejad, Jesus.

Barack Hussein Obama. Jesus H. Christ. Two appeasers in a

Don't roll the dice with our national security.

This message was paid for by Swift Boat Clergymen for Truth.

Charles Crist, the Republican Florida governor who's often mentioned as a possible running mate for John McCain and is rumored to have dropped the "h" in his last name to avoid unfavorable comparisons to Christ, called Obama's acceptance of Jesus' endorsement "the most unholy example of political pandering" and Jesus "a flip-flopping, frankincense-and-myrhh-tea-sipping elitist."

"The fact is, there are many things we don't know about Jesus. Things we're supposed to take on nothing but faith," charged Crist. "We do know, however, that he came to the aid of prostitutes, drug addicts and beggars - the worst of society. And that he healed lepers, the blind, epileptics, a paralytic, a man with dropsy, cast out demons entering a herd of swine, and raised Lazarus from the dead. All well and good, until you consider he had no degree in medicine and no professional training. Which really calls into question his judgment. I call on Senator Obama to denounce Jesus immediately."

Friday, June 6, 2008

Jeb Bush and public financing of religion in Florida

Jeb Bush is like a bad penny. He served two terms as governor and screwed things up in a manner typical of a Bush, but he keeps coming back! He's been hiding in the shadows manipulating things behind the scenes by using cronies he put in place before he left Tallahassee and which Governor Crist has not had the good sense to give the boot. But now, as they say, his chickens have come home to roost and they're making a mess!

We've written before about the desire of the religious right to get public money for their various misadventures in Florida and how old Jeb was their money pot constantly promoting faith-based organizations and operations, including schools.

Jeb has, in 2008, been instrumental in getting two nasty initiatives on Florida's November ballot "that would eliminate the state constitution's strict church-state separation provisions, mandate funding of religion and water down language requiring a quality public school system."

Maybe Jeb is just another extra-ardent convert. He turned Roman Catholic after he wed his Roman Catholic wife. The Roman Catholic Church is noted for its belief that the nation or state in which they operate should provide them special privileges including exemption from taxes and government funding of their operations. Perhaps Jeb has adopted that view.

We should note, though, that his brother Georgie is some other kind of Christian and he thinks along the same lines as Jeb: faith-based "initiatives" are wonderful. Maybe they're both trying to get in good with God?

Actually, many of the fundamentalist Christian groups have taken a page from the Roman Catholic playbook and are working with the Romans to get public money for their schools and other religious enterprises.

Florida has a no-aid provision in its constitution, and rightfully so. It says that public funds cannot be used to support religion! That's pretty easy to understand and it fits nicely into the plans of our founding Fathers who fought the establishment of religion tooth and nail as many of them had experienced what life was like under the thumb of a religion established and supported by the government.

The Bushes, though, don't like it. George recently "urged states to delete the [no aid] provisions from their constitutions." That's actually an unusual step for George. If he doesn't like something in the Constitution, he normally just ignores it and dares Congress to do anything about it.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State warn that "If the state provisions are removed, [we can] expect an avalanche of funding proposals that will benefit religious schools and other ministries, and state regulation is likely to be weak of non-existent.

"That's been the case in Florida. In 2003, Sami Al-Arian, a founder of Tampa's Islamic Academy of Florida, was indicted on charges that he was the North American leader of the Palestinian Jihan, a terrorist group. Yet, according to the Palm Beach Post, more than 50 percent of the school's revenue came from a state-subsidized scholarship-funding organization. ...

"In 2004, the newspaper reported that 55 percent of Bush's 'Opportunity Scholarships' [vouchers] were going to private schools with no accreditation. ...

"Still, [Jeb] Bush bitterly fought demands for accountability. His spokesperson said only parents with vouchers should be involved in the decisions about which schools to select.

"The Bush constitutional revisions are so sweeping that a wide variety of religious ministries will be eligible for state aid, not just religious schools."

Lest you think the above is endemic to Florida or Florida's problem, note that "If Florida adopts the Bush brothers' approach, major political campaigns to do the same in other states are certain."

Actually, I think you can take it to the bank that these religious right shysters are already about their dirty work in a number of states.

South Carolina: a Jesus Christ state

They tried to get a "Christian" license plate in Florida and failed. But, like lousy relatives, they'll be back to try again. "They" are right-wing Christian loony-tunes who think God can't handle things by herself so they've got to offend as many people as they can by forcing fundamentalist religion down their throats.

They tried in South Carolina and won! South Carolina voted for Jesus Christ! South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, the state to fire the first shot of the Civil War, the state that loves to fly Confederate flags from its flagpoles, the state that wants the Ten Commandments posted in public places, now has a Christian license plate, which features a cross. Just another link in a long chain of historical actions of which to be ashamed.

Maybe most everyone in South Carolina is a fundamentalist Christian, but I don't think so. There are many good people in the state who don't feel this overwhelming need to make asses of themselves and they go to church, too! Some of them are Lutherans. Some are Roman Catholics. Some are Methodists and Presbyterians. I don't know, but there may even be some Baptists in the bunch.

I would guess there are other people in South Carolina who follow other religions, confident of their truth and efficacy. There are doubtless Jews, and Muslims, and Buddhists, and Hindus and members of Wicca and probably a few of those goofy Scientologists. It is also likely that there are people in South Carolina who profess no religion; who are agnostics or atheists.

All of the above are now considered second-class citizens. Only fundy Christians get to have a cross-incrusted license plate to let all the other drivers out there know that they have the true belief in Jesus Christ and everyone else traveling the wide roads of other religions along the wide roads of South Carolina are on the wide road to perdition.

The sovereign State of South Carolina has now officially established fundamentalist Christianity as the religion of the state.

Surely the courts will shoot down this brazen act of monumental stupidity!

Buzzflash's GOP Hypocrite of the Week names a "GOP Hypocrite of the Week," usually on a weekly basis, which is quite reasonable. There are, however, "so many Republican hypocrites," and "so little time."

This week's GOP Hypocrite of the Week award goes to a man who's won it over and over again, George W. Bush. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that there are so many other GOP hypocrites riding the political trail, G.W. would likely be given the award in perpetuity.

The reason for bestowing this "honor" on good ol' Georgie derives from a commencement speech da Bush gave at Furman University. Said speech is chronicled by Scott Lehigh of the Boston Globe.

Da Bush, riding on the pony of personal responsibility told those who were commencing, "You have responsibilities to your fellow citizens, your country, your family, and yourself." He also said, "A culture of responsibility means being accountable to your families and to yourself."

Uh huh. Like hisself. Responsible. To the country. To the people. Right.

The da Bush unwittingly (how else would da Bush do it?) played standup comic. He warned the graduates not to amass too much debt. He really did. This is true. I'm not lying. He said, "You can strengthen our country by showing fiscal discipline in your lives. It may sound funny coming from a visitor from Washington, D.C., but it's important to your futures and the future of our country."

Do not, said da Bush, "dig a financial hole that you can't out of. Live within your means."

Holy crap! or as Mr. Lehigh said, this little sermon by da Bush "was so mind boggingly dishonest coming from someone who has violated his most basic responsibilities to the American people over and over again.

"Bush lecturing young adults on responsibility is like the happy hooker promoting abstinence to teens."

Why are all those people around the world laughing at us?

McCain on spying and executive power. Uh oh. Flip-flop!

Glenn Greenwald, author of the magnificent book, Great American Hypocrites, published an article at on June 3 which lays out in sharp relief how McCain the flip-flopper, flipped on the issue of "spying and executive power."

Back in December of 2007, Charlie Savage of The Boston Globe sent a questionnaire to all the presidential candidates "on executive power, spying and torture." Greenwald notes that "McCain explicitly refused to answer whether he thought there was 'any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that . . . is unconstitutional."

But, on the question as to whether the president has "inherent powers ... to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes," McCain answered in a manner "completely at odds with the Bush/Cheney/Yoo view of executive power."

Here's what he said: "There are some areas where the statutes don't apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is."

In response to a related question, McCain said: "I don't think the president has the right to disobey any law."

That, of course, is in direct opposition to the Bush administration's belief that the prez can spy on Americans without warrants even though the law forbids such surveillance! As Greenwald points out, McCain's answer was identical to those give by Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Ron Paul, and Barack Obama.

"But that was December. Now that McCain is desperate to shore up the support of right-wing extremists, he just gave the exact opposite answer yesterday." It was part of a heated discussion "among right-wing executive power fanatics" and began when a McCain rep said "that McCain opposes telecom amnesty in the absence of probing hearings and an apology from the telecoms." This is "a reversal of McCain's January vote for full telecom amnesty without those conditions."

Oops. The McCain campaign said McCain has not changed his mind and all the reports that he said something at one time and said something different at another time were due to "negligently written" newspaper stories that "displayed a reckless disregard for key facts, and that 'John McCain's position on immunity has not changed. Period.'"

Flip-flop. On June 2, the McCain campaign gave the National Review another statement to clarify old John's views on executive power and spying. In that statement McCain supports the "FISA modernization bill passed by the Senate without qualification. He believes no additional steps should be necessary to secure immunity for the telecoms ... "and neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001."

So, in December McCain supported the position supported by the ACLU. Now, the ACLU is the devil, which is what his right-wing supporters believe. Last December, McCain said the presidents must obey the law, "no matter what the situation is." Now he says that Bush and the telecoms were within their rights by disobeying the law, i.e., spying without warrants, because of 9/11.

McCain either forgot what he said in December or he lied back then or he'll believe anything he needs to believe to obtain the necessary votes to become prezident. Evidently, it's the latter. Here's more of McCain's statement to the National Review:

"We do not know what lies ahead in our nation's fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution."

But as Greenwald points out, "In December, McCain said there was no such thing as Article II power to order surveillance in violation of FISA and agreed that, when it comes to warrantless eavesdropping, 'federal statute trumps inherent power.'"

As we have seen, the Bushites over the last seven years have taken the view that "when it comes to national security, war and foreign policy . . . nothing can constrain what the President does -- not even laws enacted by the American people through their Congress. John McCain is now embracing those extremist theories in full."

Uh oh! Flip-flop! McCain does it again.

Bush lied, thousands died. When's the trial?

File this under "Not news," or "We knew it long ago."

On June 5, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report that said Bush lied about the reasons he wanted to go to war against Iraq. The report uses the word "misstated." Bush and his top advisors "misstated Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism and ignored doubts among intelligence agencies about Iraq's arms programs as they made a case for war."

According to Senator John Rockefeller of West Virginia, the Bushites "led the nation to war on false premises."

Jesus H. Christ! This is news? Not! It's just five years plus too damn late!

And the Bushites are still lying through their teeth! Here's what White House mouthpiece Dana Perino said: "We had the intelligence that we had, fully vettted, but it was wrong. We certainly regret that and we've taken measures to fix it."

How does Perino sleep at night?

The Bushites made up intelligence when the "real" intelligence didn't fit their goals! And they regret nothing, have not admitted anything, and I can't imagine what "measures" they would take to fix "it," when so far as the Bush administration is concerned, there is no "it."

The entire report is worth reading, but make sure you have a strong stomach.

Okay. Bill Clinton lied about getting a BJ. He was impeached by the "family values" party, many of which were engaged in extra-marital affairs even as they told the country what a terrible man was Mr. Clinton. Bill Clinton lied, but no one died.

George W. Bush lied, and thousands have died.

The only really important question now, is when does his impeachment trial begin? And second related question, not quite as important, but of interest is where will he serve his time as a war criminal?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Waving the Confederate flag?

Close to where I-75 and I-4 meet in Tampa, Florida is a new tourist "attraction" offered by none other than the "patriotic" and "historic" Sons of Confederate Veterans. It is a 20th century Confederate flag the size of an 18-wheeler blowin' in the wind (the flag on the right - photo from MyFox 13, Tampa Bay).

Thirty feet high and fifty feet long, waving from a 139-foot flagpole, and lit up at night, drivers traveling either I-75 or I-4 can watch this atrocity with amazement as they run into each other setting off bursts of smoke and flame to "honor" those folks who thought slavery so important they attacked their government setting off the most horrendous war in U.S. history!

This flag is part of a larger project to fly Confederate flags across the state of Florida known as the Confederate Veterans' Flags Across Florida project, although I don't know why anyone would lay claim to the name "Confederate Veterans" as there are none still living.

Florida, like other southern states, contains a number of inhabitants who are still licking their great-grandfather's wounds. Some of them haven't yet conceded defeat. Lee's surrender was a travesty. It's because of these people Confederate symbols have hung around way too long. The seal of Hillsborough County, where the new truck-size flag will wave, included a Confederate flag until 1994. Hillsborough County sign regulations carried a Confederate flag until 2004. The Confederate flag flew at the state capitol in Tallahassee until the year 2000!

So who are the Sons of Confederate Veterans? It's a national outfit that got started 102 years ago, and claims to be an "historical, patriotic and nonpolitical organization dedicated to ensuring that a true history of the 1861 to 1865 period is preserved." The group, which is open to "male descendants of Confederate veterans, has about 1500 members in Florida and when not flying their flags they are actively promoting a "Confederate Heritage" license plate; so far without success.

Are these "sons" of Confederate veterans worried that flying the Confederate flag might be deemed inappropriate and even racist? Well yes, but they don't give a damn. Doug Dawson, the Florida division commander, says he knows that big ol' flag flying up there 24 hours a day is gonna cause some waves, but "We can't do anything but explain to people what the truth is. If they don't want to accept that, they're closed-minded, and Jesus Christ couldn't change it."

Shore enuf!

It's fairly breathtaking to realize that in some underlying fashion, a number of people wish to fight the Civil War all over again in an attempt to secure a different outcome. Meanwhile, they've dedicated themselves to revising the history of the Civil War. (Notice these Confederate folks don't much care for that term, Civil War. They refer to it as the Rebellion or the War Between the States, when they were treated so badly they were forced to attack the United States government, just, well, you know, to maintain their "honor."

They'll tell you all they wanted to do was go their own way and own their slaves and who the hell did Lincoln and those other Yankees think they were, telling them they had to obey the laws of the land? And how dare the Yankees bring gunboats into southern waters?

It wasn't really about slavery anyway, it was about states' rights, right? Here's what one southern fried redneck had to say about the issue:

"The Confederate flag represents the same principles and values as the original U.S. Betsy Ross flag : Constitutional limited federal government, States rights, Resistance to government tyranny, and Christian values and principles. As America experiments with socialism, secular humanism, and globalism, the Confederate flag is a fitting reminder that Southerners fought to preserve these values and principles. Lincoln and the North fought against the principle of self government. Northern victory changed America from a Constitutional Federal Republic to a Democracy with Socialist leanings. Lincoln and the Northern radicals were the true Rebels. They broke the original Constitution and Bill of Rights. They are guilty of treason."

The writer continues on this revisionist track to finally argue that the Confederate flag represents "a classical civilization with colleges and universities, art and literature, superior statesmen..." blah, blah, blah, so "It deserves to be honored, respected, and remembered just as the classical civilizations of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome are."

There is no end to the argument. The south began the war to keep its slaves by firing on Fort Sumter in 1862. It was the first and yet, in many ways, the final shot for a section of the country despairing of the fact it's agrarian society was being left behind by the greater northern industrial sector. The states' rights argument was bullshit from the beginning and is bullshit today. The south was going south and thus slavery became the symbol of their refusal to change.

So, at the beginning of the 21st century, 143 years after General Robert E. Lee laid down his arms in surrender, the South rises again in the form of a flag the size of a semi waving in the breeze in Tampa, Florida, a bitter reminder that over one half million dead wasn't enough to resolve the issue in the minds of these descendants of southern sons who marched off to save slavery but ended up merely dying amidst the hellish battles that laid waste to a major portion of what our writer above called a "classical civilization."

Finally, it should be noted that the flag they are waving at the junction of I-75 and I-4 near Tampa is not the "proper" flag. This "rebel" flag never flew over the rebellious states and never represented the rebellious states, aka the illegal and unrecognized Confederate States of America.

The "stars and bars" (shown above left) was the first flag of the rebellion. The second flag, also known as the "battle flag" was a square flag "having the ground red; thereupon a saltier [sic] of blue, bordered with white, and emblazoned with mullets of five-pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States."

There were a number of other Confederate flags down through the years. The one flying in Tampa is a 20th century concoction; a combination of the Battle flag's colors with the Second Navy Jack's design. It is not the Confederate "battle flag"!

If anyone gives a damn.

Texas battles old fossils of creationism

This is a model of the Pteranodon longiceps - "Remains of this species were found in
the Niobrara chalk, laid down about 85 million years ago on the floor of a broad sea
way that covered much of mid-continental North America. ... Some Pterosaurs had
a wingspan as large as a modern F-16 jet fighter, yet would probably weigh no more
than a person due to the hollow bones and a super lightweight construction ideal for soaring.

The fight is on, just about everywhere. Creationists continue to rattle around state after state like bones in a closet. They just won't stay quiet. Now them bones are rattling around Texas. Laura Beil tells about it in an article in the June 4 edition of The New York Times.

The fight is centering on science textbooks. The creationist/ID kooks want the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution taught in public schools. It's another sneaky little ploy to introduce their godly "science" under the guise of real science. The ploy comes courtesy of the creationist Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington.

In Texas, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that seven of the 15 members of the State Board of Education are creationists, think Intelligent Design is delightful, and have the backing of the governor, Rick Perry, a Republican (of course!) One more creationist and they have a majority and can turn back time in Texas at least 6,000 years!

The problem whereof we speak is that as Texas goes, so goes the nation. As Ms. Beil says, "What happens in Texas does not stay in Texas: the state is one of the country's biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are loath to produce different versions of the same material. The ideas that work their way into education here will surface in classrooms throughout the country."

One thing you can say, these creationists are as slippery as serpents!

Dr. Don McLeroy is a dentist from Central Texas. He's also the chairman of the State Education Board. He's also an "orthodox" Christian who thinks the debate between evolution and creationism is a debate between "two systems of science."

"You've got a creationist system and a naturalist system," says the tooth driller. And that, of course, gives away the plot. A creationist system must necessarily posit a creator, and a creator is a god and thus religion sneaks into the science lab. All because a DDS is chairman of a State Board of Education. Why would a dentist be chairing any state board of education? Why isn't an educator in that position?

McLeroy has obviously forgotten whatever science classes he took in college - assuming he went to a real college and not some bible school with a dental lab. He thinks the Earth is only a few thousand years old--not 4.5 billion years old which real scientists can demonstrate to be the case. He says he believes "a lot of incredible things. The most incredible thing I believe," he says, "is the Christmas story. That little baby born in the manger was the god that created the universe."

The tooth driller can, of course, believe any damn thing he desires. That does not make it true, nor does it become worthy of inclusion in a science textbook.

And again, this dentist, like so many other creationists, fails the truth test. He doesn't believe that evolution is true or that it ever happened, but he believes a baby born in a manger 2000 years ago in Palestine was, surprise, surprise, the god who created the universe, but the reason he wants creationism taught in the public schools "is not based on religious grounds."


Dan Foster, also a self-described "orthodox" Christian, and the former chairman of the department of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says he's afraid that if the state board votes in favor of the creationist position Texas will be "labeled scientifically backward." You think?

Dr. Foster, notes correctly, that science and not the bible belongs in public school classrooms. To bring in views that would question evolution, says Foster, "puts belief on the same level as scientific evidence."

But that's exactly what some people and organizations are trying to make happen! The Institute for Creation Research, sensing that Texas is vulnerable, being a hotbed of the religious right and conservative Christian fundamentalism, applied for permission to award graduate degrees in the state. (Graduate degrees in what - "How God maketh the Earth and all that Is?") That application was rejected just last April, but the Institute plans to appeal - naturally.

Again, one must ask the question as to why these creationist/ID folks insist on imposing their religious beliefs on public school students? There are plenty of home-schooled children--the great majority of which are some type of Christian--who are using these materials now. Many fundamentalist religious schools also employ Creationist nonsense in their science classes. Creationism receives an enthusiastic welcome in many fundamentalist and/or evangelical church Sunday Schools.

Why do Creationists and proponents of ID try to coerce, through deviousness and outright lies, state boards of education and district school boards to include their specifically religious notions into science curriculums? How many courts have to rule that Creationism and Intelligent Design are religious in nature and are therefore banned from the public schools before these clowns crawl back into their time-machine and retreat to the Middle Ages?

The McCain train's leaving the tracks

John McCain lies so casually and so sincerely, that reporters, who like to think of themselves as "hard-nosed" and "cynical," are often conned by the Senator. Or, maybe they don't want to hurt McCain's presidential chances because he gives them candy on his plane.

Sam Stein at The Huffington Post has glommed onto a couple more of McCain's misconstructions. I use the word, "misconstruction," advisedly, to give the Senator the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's not lying; maybe his memory is going and he simply doesn't recall what he has said and done in the recent past. As my mother aged, she could remember in detail events that happened 50 years previously, but she couldn't remember who she talked to ten minutes before.

Yesterday, McCain was in Louisiana and told reporters that he had backed "every investigation" into the government's incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina. That is not true. So either he lied or he misconstrued because he's losing his mind. The fact is that John McCain voted two times against the creation of a commission to investigate the Katrina disaster!

Mr. Stein points out that a couple of months ago, McCain used those two votes as examples of how he was fighting wasteful government spending. Oops. He must not have misconstrued, he must have been outright lying yesterday!

What McCain said last April, was "I will not vote for projects and programs and bills that are laden with pork-barrel projects that waste taxpayer's dollars."

But things get worse for old John. Earlier in the day, a reported asked him if he was familiar with a bill introduced by Senator Obama calling for international divestment from Iran.

McCain said: "No, I am not familiar with it at all. I do not know if it passed the senate or had any hearing or anything else. I had, so, literally thousands and thousands pieces of legislation are proposed each year. I know what he did. He voted against the Iranian revolutionary guard being declared a terrorist organization."

Poor John. Obama's bill was given overwhelming support in the House. A Republican, Dick Shelby is holding it up in the Senate. In fact, as Stein points out, "two McCain surrogates, Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Rep. Eric Cantor, are co-sponsors of Obama's measure despite, on Wednesday, ripping Illinois Democrat for not having the experience to deal with Iran."

The McCain train is leaving the tracks!

The "real" war in Iraq

Chris Hedges has a new article at Salon called "The real consequences when America is at war." It is a very difficult piece to read because the truth of the war in Iraq is not only so insanely brutal and pointless, but unveils a bloody and ongoing denial of the highest American values - freedom, justice, mercy, truth, and honor.

Hedges claims that while "We may not want to admit it, ... the war in Iraq is now primarily about murder."

Our troops are driven by fear and stress "to view everyone around them as the enemy. ... The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed, over time, to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents.

"Civilians and combatants, in the eyes of the beleaguered troops, merge into one entity. ... They are dismissed as less than human. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing -- the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm -- to murder -- the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you.

" ... The savagery and brutality of the occupation is tearing apart those who have been deployed to Iraq. As news reports have just informed us, 115 American soldiers committed suicide in 2007. This is a 13 percent increase in suicides over 2006.

"American Marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. ... The politicians still speak in abstract terms of glory, honor and heroism, in the necessity of improving the world, in lofty phrases of political and spiritual renewal. Those who kill large numbers of people always claim it as a virtue. The campaign to rid the world of terror is expressed within the confines of this rhetoric, as if once all terrorists are destroyed, evil itself will vanish.

"The reality behind the myth, however is quite different. The reality and the ideal tragically clash when soldiers and Marines return home. These combat veterans are often alienated from the world around them, a world that still believes in the myth of war and the virtues of the nation. They confront the grave, existential crisis of all who go through combat and understand that we have no monopoly on virtue, that in war we become as barbaric and savage as those we oppose."

Hedges takes us to the people and places in Iraq we seldom, if ever, see. He helps us better understand those who wear the uniform of the United States, the violence they live with day and night, and the often unseen but deadly enemy which frequently takes the form of innocent Iraqi civilians.

The article is built around the following major sections:

War as betrayal.
The legions of the lost and damned
Punishing the local population
The algebra of occupation
The plaster saints of war

You will find the entire article here.

When you've finished reading this article I think you will, if an American, feel the need to scrub yourself clean. You will also ask why in the name of all that is holy and decent those men and women who deceived us about the war on terror, so they could incite their own war of terror, are not dethroned and sitting behind bars.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Republican Party in Action

It's come to this: we no longer can believe anything we are told by the Republican Party. The Republican Party speaks out of both sides of its mouth. The Republican Party cannot be trusted to serve the people. The Republican Party uses the government to enrich itself and its patrons. The Republican Party is a black hole with neither integrity nor a moral core.

I borrowed the following from a Daily Kos post of about two months ago. It is a series of 10 quotations by people who pretend to speak from a position of righteousness and morality.

1. "[Capital punishment is] our society's recognition of the sanctity of human life." (Senator Orrin Hatch)

2. "President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale." (Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales)

3. "It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right ... [N]ow you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife." (Senator John Cornyn)

4. "You know that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran? Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran...Ha Ha Ha Ha! Hee Hee Hee! Ho Ho Ho Ho!!!" (Senator John McCain)

5. "We just want the Jews to be perfected." (Ann Coulter)

6. "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. ... There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'" (Bill O'Reilly)

7. "And so, General (Odierno), I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq." (President George W. Bush, March 2008)

8. "I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the Day of Judgment, and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans. (John Hagee)

9. "Let me begin by thanking your founder, Pastor John Hagee. I would describe Pastor Hagee with the words the Torah uses to describe Moses, he is an 'Eesh Elohim,' a man of God because those words fit him." (Senator Joseph Lieberman)

10. "The insurgency is in its last throes, if you will." (Vice President Dick Cheney)

All of the above, with one exception, were spoken by members of the Republican Party, the "family values" party, the party of the people, the "conservative" party. Senator Joseph Lieberman is the exception, having assumed the mantle of an "independent." In truth, however, he has become a de facto Republican.

Obama hits back at McCain's blunder

Several days ago, John McCain "mistakenly" said that the United States had drawn down Iraqi troop levels to where they were before the so-called "buildup." The Washington Post used the word "mistakenly," which given the WaPo's past pandering to the "maverick," was likely purposeful to give the impression that he really knew what he was talking about but was momentarily "mistaken."

Bah, humbug!

McCain's ignorance was made obvious to all in what he said to reporters: "I can tell you that [the troop increase] is succeeding. I look you in the eyes and tell you it's succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr City are quiet and it's long and it's hard and it's tough and there will be setbacks."

You'd think he'd shut up when he doesn't know whereof he speaketh! But, noooooo. The facts are, as the Obama people quickly pointed out, that troop levels are around 150,000 which is quite a bit more than the 130,000 of pre-surge days! Furthermore, the Pentagon said last February that its goal was to get troop levels down to 140,000 which is still 10,000 short of what McCain claims they are now!

McBush, following his leader's lead, refused to admit he made a mistake! My god, this is deja vu! "I said," he said, "we have drawn down. And we have drawn down!"

The Republican poohbahs said it was just a matter of semantics. But any fool knows that isn't the case. It's about knowledge and McBush doesn't know what he should know.

As Obama said, "anyone running for commander in chief should know better." In reference to Republican claims that criticism of McCain was nitpicking, Obama said, "Well, I don't think tens of thousands of American troops amounts to nitpicking....It's time for a debate that's based on the truth, and I can't think of anything more important than how many Americans are in harm's way."

We should also note that on the very day that McCain claimed things were calming down in Mosul, 30 Iraqis were murdered via suicide bombings in the Mosul area.

The "god" of evolution

Some clown who says he's a former biology teacher wrote an op-ed piece in today's local paper claiming that evolution is an "adult fairy tale." He thinks that to be fair all kinds of ideas should be presented in the classroom so that students can "think critically and draw their own conclusions." I wonder if that would include the evidence for The Great Spaghetti Monster? Do you think he would think it "fair" to include Muslim beliefs about the origin of life? Or how about the beliefs of the Aztecs? Why not include Hindu traditions?

If he was a biology teacher, he must have been home-schooled, and he must have taught at some "religious" academy!

This misguided soul goes on to say that "Intelligent Design can be taught without bringing God into the classroom." Sorry, that is 100% wrong. But, even if it were true, Intelligent Design is not science, has no scientific support, and is rejected outright by 99.9 percent of scientists around the world. The only so-called "scientists" who support ID are unable to get their papers published in any reputable scientific journal!

He claims that because Intelligent Design is barred from science classrooms "academia" (whatever that means) is being dishonest. The truth is actually the opposite. To claim that Intelligent Design is not religious at its core is fundamentally fraudulent. One cannot have Intelligent Design without an Intelligent Designer, and once you've said that you've postulated what can only be described as a deity, and thus proven that ID is all about religion and has nothing to do with science.

This writer, frustrated because he can't insert his "god" into public school science classrooms, says that "evolution is a religion and those who preach it and practice it bow down to their own God."

He isn't only ignorant about science in general, he's also totally ignorant about both religion and evolution. Evolution, of course, is simply a scientific way of discussing the origins of life. Because it is the only scientific theory as to the origin of life that works, i.e., can be demonstrated and verified, it is the theory that scientists use as a model to study the planet and its people.

Evolution does not posit a deity for it has no need to do so. God, so to speak, does not enter into the equation. But, because it is a scientific theory and not religious hokum, if there should arise evidence for the involvement of a deity in the origination of life, the theory of evolution would necessarily be modified to include that deity.

Religion has nothing to do with science and has nothing to do with evolution. Religion references beliefs and suppositions which cannot be proven but are matters of faith. That's not necessarily bad, but as we know there are many religions and many gods and all of them claim to be the one true faith. That cannot be. If one is true, all the rest are false. But we have no method of determining which one, if any, is true. There is no "evidence" for any of them. Thus, for a believer, it all comes down to a choice and faith. I can believe in Zeus, Osiris, Mithras, Caesar, Yahweh, Jesus, Christ, or any other "divine" figure, but I do so with no verifiable proof of my god's validity.

To claim evolution is a religion is irredeemable stupidity. We must hope to whatever deity you choose to believe in that this guy never ends up in a public school classroom!

McCain is a phony

John McCain, the so-called "straight talker" is talking crooked again! He accused Senator Barack Obama of voting "to deny funds to the soldiers who have done a brilliant and brave job" in Iraq. McCain was referring to a 2007 piece of legislation which was to pay for the Iraq war. Obama opposed it because it failed to include a timetable for troop withdrawal.

Obama said at the time that this bill would provide President Bush with "a blank check to continue down this same, disastrous path."

McCain, being the "dirty talker," made Obama's vote sound like he was against our men and women in service.

It is just fascinating and quite disturbing to find once again that the MSM, this time in the form of Beth Fouhy and Devlin Barrett writing for the Associated Press, give McCain a free pass. They write that Obama changed his mind about the need for a troop withdrawal deadline, which seems to me a reasonable thing to do, while at the same time fail to mention McCain's numerous votes in the Senate that can only be classified as hostile to our people in uniform.

While Obama's negative vote was largely symbolic, McCain's votes hit directly at the hearts of those serving out country. As pointed out in the post, "McCain's brain drain," McCain voted over and over again against increasing assistance to veterans and just recently voted against providing the GI bill to those returning home from service in the Middle East.

In fact, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave him a "D" grade in response to his lack of interest in the needs of our service men and women.

But, the Main Stream Media, instead of taking McCain to task for his lousy support of our troops, references a modest and understandable change of mind on the part of Obama; a change an Associated Press article claims, with absolutely no evidence to back it up, was the result of "pressure from the Democratic Party's liberal wing." Note also the intended slam at "liberals," as if being liberal is a bad thing.

Listen carefully: if it wasn't for the liberals over the past 60-70 years, this country would be in much worse shape than it is now. It is the liberals that gave us Social Security and Medicare, and the GI bill, and all those other social programs which have helped our middle income citizens share in the American dream.

It has been the so-called conservatives that have fought all of these liberal programs tooth and nail for the past 60-70 years! They've had their most success in destroying the middle class, and increasing the wealth of the ultra rich in the past 7 and 1/2 years under the G.W. Bush administration.

David Neiwert of Firedoglake tells how in some California cities we now have "Middle-Class Hoovervilles for the 21st Century." In Santa Barbara, "12 parking lots ... have been set up to accommodate the growing middle-class homelessness." These lots are made available for people working at low-income jobs but do not make enough to rent an apartment to sleep in their cars.

He tells of Harvey, working part-time for $8 an hour. She does draw Social Security but her income is still insufficient to rent a place to live. She sleeps in her car and hopes to be able to afford enough gas to drive to her job.

Something similar to this happened in the late 1920s, and the places people lived were called Hoovervilles. Neiwert suggests we call these 21st century homes for those unable to afford even the cheapest apartment, Bushvilles.

This is what the conservatives have wrought. And John McCain is as "conservative" as they come. He is not a "maverick," nor is he a "straight-talker." He has not only not supported our troops in the Middle East, he has consistently voted against measures that would have provided proper care for their medical, mental health and housing needs!

McCain is a con artist and a flip-flopper who is abysmally ignorant as to the Middle East and the Iraq War, and thus will only make the Middle East mess worse. Furthermore, because he promises to follow Bush's economic policies, he will continue to decimate the middle class even as the number of Bushvilles increase in the cities across our fair land.

Lock 'em up and Toss the key!

(Photo is of Mike Gallagher)

Thanks to Think Progress for the following

This goes back a couple of years, but is worth reviving as an example of the inability of some media "pundits" to grasp the fundamental concepts of our Constitution.

On December 19, 2006, on Fox News, "talk radio host Mike Gallagher said the U.S. government should 'round up' actor Matt Damon, 'The View' host Joy Behar, and MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann and 'put them in a detention camp until this war is over because they're a bunch of traitors.'"

Gallagher was angry by Behar's statement that Time magazine "should have chosen a controversial 'Hitler-type' like Donald Rumsfeld as its Person of the Year. Gallagher said Damon should also be incarcerated because he 'attacked George Bush and Dick Cheney'; he didn't explain why he wanted to imprison Olbermann."

The transcript indicates clearly that Gallagher hasn't a clue as to the basic nature of our government and our founding documents.

"Gallagher: You know, it's a little bit ridiculous that we continue to watch these TV stars and movie stars who smear our leaders. I just wonder, Rob, if you'll think for a moment what our enemies think of seeing TV personalities compare the outgoing defense secretary to Adolph Hitler. I mean, you know, conservatives never get a pass. Strom Thurmond is wished a happy birthday by Trent Lott and the sky falls in on Trent Lott. But Joy Behar goes on national TV and compares a good man like Rumsfeld to the evilest man in the world and nobody, you know, there's no repercussions for Joy Behar. I think we should round up all of these folks. Round up Joy Behar. Round up Matt Damon, who last night on MSNBC attacked George Bush and Dick Cheney. Round up Olbermann. Take the whole bunch of them and put them in a detention camp until this war is over because they're a bunch of traitors.

Thompson: They're not traitors, they're Americans. And you know what the great thing about America is you get to say what you like and you don't get thrown into detention camps.

Gallagher: No, you don't."

Maybe Gallagher is merely stupid. Or maybe he flunked civics and American history while in school. Or maybe he's just mean-spirited. Or maybe he's such an ideologue that he is not capable of seeing things clearly.

Possibly he's been bought off. Earlier in the year, Gallagher was one of five "conservative" talk show hosts who received an invite to meet with the prezident at the White House.

The irony is, that if any persons should be arrested and detained for "high crimes and misdemeanors," those should include George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for they have blatantly conspired to defraud the American people and violate the United States Constitution.

Perhaps it would be enough to send Gallagher back to school. (Although Keith Olbermann has given Gallagher his "Worst Person in the World" award!)

To die for

(Photo of Pete Geren, Sec'y of the Army)

Saturday, May 31, 2008: 972 men and women graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at Westpoint, New York.

The person who was ranked 967th in the class gets to run for president in 30 years.

Since last year's graduation, 11 West Pointers have died "in service to their country." Army Secretary Pete Geren told this year's group that they were courageous and they would be defending the "transcendent" ideals of the Constitution. He also warned them that "There's always a personal cost in your profession of arms. Your willingness to bear the cost ennobles you, your calling and this gathering," said Mr. Geren.

Most of the graduates will head off to Iraq or Afghanistan. Geren said they have a chance to "make history."

Many of them are eager beavers.

But who is this Pete Geren to send these young men and women off to die? Well, he's a lawyer. He was a businessman and attorney in Fort Worth, Texas. He served as a U.S. Congressman from Texas. He joined the Department of Defense in 2001. For a time he was acting Secretary of the Air Force, then assistant Secretary of the Army, and now he's the big cheese.

He's a Bush crony, obviously. So far as I can discover, he's had no military experience. He may be a very nice person, but being a lawyer and part of the Bush administration makes that unlikely.

How does a Fort Worth lawyer get to be the United States Secretary of the Army and send young men and women off to die in a misguided military adventure that has utterly no value to our country or any other country?

And I wonder what "personal cost" he has borne for his country?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

McCain's brain drain

What follows are some more or less random musings on the presumed Republican candidate for president, John McCain.

In his book, The Real McCain, Cliff Schecter quotes a "High-ranking Senate staffer" who said:

"Whenever we see anyone wearing their flip-flops, we say, 'I see you have your McCains on today.'" (p. 21)

Schecter takes a hard look at what McCain, the "heroic" veteran, really thinks of US military men and woman by examining his votes on bills relative to the welfare of our troops. "...a look at merely two years worth of those votes would tempt even the most charitable person to wonder what Senator McCain has against our troops."

For example: In 2005, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduced a bill to increase veteran's medical care by $2.8 billion in 2006, and another which would have provided $10 million for "readjustment counseling services" for vets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2006, Akaka asked for $1.5 billion for veteran's medical care, plus $430 million for VA outpatient care and treatment.

McCain voted in opposition to all of these proposals.

There's much more:

Senator Dodd proposed more funding to assist in rehabilitating the buildings at VA hospitals around the country. This bill mandated a "minor rollback in the capital gains tax cuts that the Bush administration has given to the richest one-fifth of 1 percent of Americans. " McCain was in opposition.

In 2006, Senator John Kerry, along with Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), offered a resolution "to require the redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq in order to further a political solution in Iraq..." This proposal received 13 votes and John McCain's vote was not among the 13.

A year earlier amendments were suggested that would have funded additional medical care and readjustment counseling for Iraq vets suffering from mental illness, PTSD, or drug addiction. McCain voted in the negative.

There were several other bills introduced in the Senate to assist veterans and McCain voted no on all of them. McCain's latest "no" vote was in response to Senator Webb's recent bill to provide our current returning veterans with GI bill benefits.

Schecter says that the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, "the country's first and largest Iraq veterans group, has made McCain's nonsupport of and lip service to America's active military and veterans much easier to identify."

IAVA researched 155 votes taken since September 11, 2001 on legislation having to do with veterans and their families. Each senator was given a grade based upon how IAVA determined
their support for veterans.

There were no A's. Thirteen Democratic senators were awarded an A-. Twenty-three were given a B+, only one of which was a Republican. ...

"The worst grade received by a Senate Democrat was higher than the best grade granted to a Republican. How did IAVA grade John McCain, the guy who everyone thinks of as Mr. Defense and Mr. Support the Troops? He got a D."

Maybe McCain's problem with supporting our men and women in uniform goes back to his days at the U.S. Naval Academy. In an article titled "Middie McCain More Moron than Maverick," Alec Sokolow asks and answers this question:

"What do you call the person who graduates fifth from the bottom of his class at Annapolis? The Republican Party nominee for President.

"That's right, Senator John McCain actually graduated 894th out of 899 middies at the Naval Academy. Only five other crew cuts achieved less than John McCain did in his class at Annapolis. And he was the son and grandson of U.S. Navy Admirals! He was a legacy, which means they probably had to keep his sorry dumb ass in the Navy!"

Sokolow offers much more about McCain's brain drain, which you can read here.

Schecter, too, makes a point of McCain's Annapolis stint in a brief biographical sketch included in The Real McCain (pp. 6-7 ff).

Speaking of McCain at Annapolis, Schecter says "His career at the academy was undistinguished in the usual sense--by accomplishment, say--but quite memorable in terms of rebelliousness. He was a proud member of the Century Club, an exclusive group of miscreants who had accumulated a hundred or more demerits. He also boxed for three years on the navy team where he was less a boxer than a fighter. ...

"After graduating, McCain trained as a naval aviator in Pensacola, Florida, and in Texas at Corpus Christi. He was a little wild; it was peacetime, after all. Was McCain aimless? Undistinguished? 'I generally misused my good health and youth,' he later said of those callow years ... As an aviator, he struggled with his flying. After surviving two years of flight school--and one test flight crash into Corpus Christi Bay--McCain became a Navy pilot."

And the rest, they say, is "history."

But it is often "history" read wrong. McCain still plays the "maverick," the good old boy who likes to sit around and drink booze and tell off-color jokes. He uses the "f" word a lot. But he is not a "maverick," and his career in the U.S. Senate, except for one or two instances, is notable for its lack of accomplishment. Throughout most of McCain's Senate years, he has prudently followed the Republican "party line." He has not, in any sense, been a "maverick," or "straight shooter." In other words, his Senate service is just about on a par with his college years at Annapolis.

Sokolow asks, pertinently, this:

"After the last eight years of entitled stupidity and stupendous incompetence by a likable but belligerent, stubborn legacy with major father issues, can we afford another 40 watt light bulb flickering dimly in the Oval Office? Do any of us really want to live in a country where our present--the leader of the free world--finished 894th in anything having to do with rankings of brain power or performance? Stupid is as stupid does. Run, Forrest, Run."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Anglicaning for trouble in Zimbabwe

(Photo of Ugandan Anglican clergy by BBC)

According to an article by Libby Purves onTimesonline, "nearly all Anglican churches in Zimbabwe have been forcibly closed by police."

For someone from the paradisaical land of Florida, US, the situation in Zimbabwe is very confusing. It might be funny except it is so sad.

The man who was or is the Anglican bishop of Harare, the capital, Nolbert Kunonga, is a supporter of "Mr. Big," President Robert Mugabe. Kunonga claims that he has broken from the Anglican communion because the Anglican communion has become apostate by not properly condemning homosexuality.

The Anglican Church disputes that. The Anglican Church says Bishop Kunonga was dethroned and in response the rascal "promptly occupied the cathedral, grabbed the church money, and made dozens of his friends bishops."

So the Anglican Church replaced Kunonga with Bishop Sebastian Bakare.

Unfortunately for the Anglican Church, that did not have a big impact on Kunonga. In fact, according to The New York Times, the Zimbabwe "Supreme Court ordered Kunonga to share dozens of churches in Harare, the capital, with followers of Sebastian Bakare ... [but] church officials and parishioners said the police had continued to harass and lock out the bulk of the city's Anglicans.

"'The police have continued to brutalize our people, which is sad,' said Bishop Albert Chama, the dean of the Anglican Province of Central Africa. 'This is political interference. I'm sure the police are getting orders from above. They're protecting Kunonga."

There will be a presidential runoff election in Zimbabwe on June 27. Of course the police are protecting Kunonga. Kunonga supports the president. So the president sent in troops to protect Kunonga's position against the other "legitimate" Anglican bishop.

Zimbabwe has two problems we want to avoid in this country. Unfortunately, in spite of our constitutional separation of church and state, we have been caught up in both of them.

In the United States, as in Zimbabwe, orders of the Supreme Court have been ignored by the president or executive branch with neither penalty nor reprisal! One example is the Climate Report the White House was ordered to release four years ago. For four years, President Bush ignored a direct order of the Supreme Court. The White House released the report the other day only because of intense political pressure.

The second problem has hit us more tangentially than head-on. The president in Zimbabwe is able to utilize the police to strengthen his political position by locking out the opposition. He simply had the police lock the churches of a bishop opposed to his regime.

Not long ago, the Bush administration attempted something similar. The White House tried to shut down a perceived "enemy," an Episcopal (Anglican) priest in Pasadena, California, by sending in the IRS with accusations he was using the pulpit to make political pronouncements and thereby threatening to take away his church's tax-exempt status. The Bushites went after this priest because he was, in their opinion, speaking negatively of Bush's god-instructed war in Iraq.

In this case, the Bush administration's perverse hypocrisy is blinding. While Bush's IRS minions are knocking on the door of an Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, fundamentalist right wing Christian churches throughout the rest of the country are blatantly and openly working to get Bush re-elected to the presidency. This effort was so obvious and so patently partisan that even a few mega-church pastors complained that the "evangelical" wing of the Christian Church had become another political wing of the Republican Party.

There's ultimately only one answer that will suffice: As I understand it, the law now reads that a pastor or religious institution may not openly endorse a political candidate or political party. That means a pastor cannot stand up in his pulpit and tell the people he thinks Mike Huckabee is God's candidate for president. The church cannot publish literature suggesting to parishioners that God wants them to vote for Mr. Huckabee.

That's no longer good enough. The law should be changed to read that under no circumstances may a clergyperson or a religious organization (that would include such groups as Focus on the Family) so much as hint that one political candidate or one political party is more acceptable to God or to Zeus than another candidate or party. Clergy and religious organizations may not engage in any political activity whatsoever as clergy and religious organizations.

That means a clergyperson can, from the pulpit, discuss an unlimited bunch of biblical and spiritual stuff -- immorality, irreverence, and sexual deviance, etc., as well as the need for social responsibility, political involvement, and the fact that the Bible claims God desires mercy not sacrifice, or that Jesus said "Do unto others..." but that clergyperson cannot say that one candidate or one political party is closer to meeting God's requirements than another.

Nor may a religious group publish voter's "guides," or provide transportation to voting precincts, the latter being fraught with the unstated expectation that such a benefit be repaid by voting in the "right" way.

Clergy and parishioners may, of course, vote and pass out leaflets in the neighborhood like anyone else. A clergyperson, in the privacy of his/her home, or as an anonymous flag-waver on a street corner, may comment on the political situation to his heart's content. He may not, however, stand in front of a group and say, as a clergyperson, that he endorses Joe Blow for dog-catcher!

If John Hagee publicly proclaims he endorses John McCain, Hagee's tax-exempt career is over! If Jeremiah Wright says he endorses Al Sharpton, he'll get a visit from the IRS. If James Dobson says that McCain is not qualified to be president, his tax-exempt status is gone, and Focus on the Family becomes one with all us poor folks who fully fund the work of the government.

So be it!

Monk-ee business

(Photo of Christian monks in Jerusalem - by Terragalleria)

In Ken Follett's extraordinary two volume epic which depicts English life at the beginning of the 2nd millenium, the Priory of Kingsbridge plays an important role, for the priory was one of the most important monasteries in the land.

In those days, as in most cases today, monks took vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, although they were often more honored in the breach. In those days, as now, Monks provided for their own upkeep in a number of ways; sometimes by begging, by raising crops or making items for sale, and/or quite often by levying a tax of food or goods on the people.

Monks spent their time, not only maintaining their physical bodies, but also enhancing their spiritual life. When not actually working at some task, they were at worship and/or prayer, or engaged in less holy pursuits, such as gossip, drinking, sleeping, and in some cases, sexual assignations.

As I read through "The Pillars of the Earth," and "World Without End," I remember being struck by the thought that the monks of the Kingsbridge Priory were, for the most part, superfluous and a burden on the community they served. The only redemptive role connected to the monastery was the hospital run by the nuns.

The Kingsbridge Priory was located close by the Kingsbridge Cathedral, and relied upon the people to provide their subsistence. There was a smaller monastery in the woods, part of the Kingsbridge Priory, where the monks grew the food they needed and made the clothing they wore and created whatever else was required for survival. These monks also accepted "gifts" from the people within their sphere of influence.

What do monks do? Not much. They didn't do much in 1100 and they don't do much today other than arrange to perpetuate their own survival.

In Sparta, Wisconsin, for example, live a group of six monks of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank. These gentlemen have figured out a way to resign from the world and still make a fortune from it.

They sell office products. Last year they sold $4.5 million worth of office products. According to an AP article by Emily Fredrix, "The sales are needed ... so they can survive and continue their good works."

Ms. Fredrix tells of other monks in Oregon "who store and ship wines for wineries and others who make goat's milk hand creams and soaps to pay for their ministries. In Canyon, Texas, nuns at the St. Benedict Monastery, sell what they call "'Praylines' - a combination of pecans, cream, butter, and, as the sisters note, prayer..."

"Many still cling to the usual -- such as making fruitcakes and caramels - but their wares are getting more exposure thanks to inclusion on LaserMonks' Web sites, which sell items made by religious workers."

The monks in Sparta do good works with the money they earn. After the $150,000 per year (from which they take a tithe of 15-20 percent) they take out for operating expenses, they give the balance to various charities.

Cistercian orders follow St. Benedict's rule which says that monks should live by works. They may receive donations, but are not to make more than what they need to survive. Actually the monks in Sparta make quite a bit more than they need to survive, but, as noted, turn those profits over to charitable institutions. This allows "them to continue living away from communities so they can immerse themselves in religious life but still be able to make money."

The thesis, of course, is that "religious life" is a good thing, a positive thing, a thing of value.

What does a "religious" life consist of? In Sparta, Wisconsin, it consists of "monks [who] live together, cook their own food and take care of the grounds. They pray eight times a day, sometimes for as long as 40 minutes, and chant in Latin.

"They pursue hobbies, such as painting, playing with their two dogs ... [and] They even have a workout room, where [they watch] James Bond movies while exercising."

I wonder if they get a bit titillated by James' well-endowed, scantily clad female friends? Would that be "an occasion of sin?" the monks "never lose sight of their Catholic religion. Their Web site also accepts prayer requests with several dozen or more coming in a day. The requests are printed and stacked several inches thick on a wooden table outside the monastery's sanctuary. The monks look through them, pick a few and keep the requests with them during the day.

"People who are sick, people who need a job, a 12-year old who wants a pony, and in our own way, we offer those up to God ... It's kind of having a virtual way of having someone care about you."

Why, in the 21st century would anyone get the idea that there was something objectively "good" about living apart from the human community? What is "good" about it? What is good about a "religious" life defined as cooking your own meals, taking care of the grounds, praying for 40 minutes at a time, chanting in Latin, playing with your dogs, exercising, and carrying around prayer requests from people you do not know and have never met for which you will pray if you remember and have time?

Hell's bells, I know lots of folks who cook their own meals, take care of their grounds, play with their dogs, exercise, and sometimes when life gets tough, they pray all day, not just 40 minutes. I don't know many who chant in Latin, though. Maybe that's what make "religious" life special?

Furthermore, is a prayer more likely to be heard by the deity if recited by a monk than a regular human being?

This monk-ee business appears rather weird and like something that would be most appealing to misfits who are so psychically damaged they can no longer abide normal human contact. It certainly isn't any kind of "normal" lifestyle.

Christians still acknowledge the value and validity of much of the Hebrew bible and if there is one constant taught by the Jewish tradition it is the value of engaging the world and seeking to make the world a better place.

The Jesus of the Gospels is ambiguous on the matter, at once telling his disciples to minister only to the people of Israel while in another place says they are to go to the whole world. Nowhere does he say they should withdraw from the world to play with their dogs and pray.

The religion of Christianity, however, was infiltrated relatively early with people who couldn't stand other people and withdrew to sit on towers or live in caves or gather together in monasteries and nunneries with like-minded brothers and sisters to pray and play with their dogs.

But one need not look to some religious "authority" - either book or shaman, to understand that for the great majority of people, monk-ee business represents an aberration of life as it should be lived. And while we all experience a strong need to "get away from it all" at one time or another, we know, existentially, and from scientific studies, that our psychological and physical health is related in a number of ways to the people--male and female--with whom we live in relationship.