Saturday, June 21, 2008

Freshwater tainted in Mount Vernon

It started at least 11 years ago but came to a head last April. John Freshwater has been a science teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School in Mount Vernon, Ohio for 21 years. Actually, he's been kind of a science teacher. He's also been teaching his fundamentalist version of Christianity, and knocking the theory of evolution.

In his classroom, Freshwater, led by Jesus, posted a copy of the Ten Commandments on his door, as well as other religious posters on his walls, and placed copies of the Bible around his room. On his desk he kept a well-worn copy of his "personal" Bible.

The Mount Vernon School District told Freshwater to remove the Ten Commandments poster and the other posters and place his Bible out of sight. He took down the posters, but kept his personal Bible on his desk.

Dave Daubenmire, a Christian Right extremist who heads up an organization called "Minutemen United," defended Freshwater, claiming "This is not a religion issue; this is a free-speech issue. He didn't take the Bible to read to anybody."

Freshwater, in a news release, said "Thousands of citizens in this community have built their lives on deeply held religious convictions, and it is for them I stand today."

He also stated that "That Bible is me. I want my Bible on my desk because that is me."

Ah, but there's much more to this than Freshwater's Bible on his desk. Although he claims to be a science teacher, he is, in fact, more of fundamentalist preacher. Even Daubenmire admitted that Freshwater "has taught his students about the 'holes in evolution' and intelligent design."

Freshwater also provided Creationism pamphlets for his students.

God, Freshwater insists, is responsible for creation. "In one class, Freshwater used Lego pieces to describe the beginning of the world. He dumped the pieces, then asked students if the Legos could assemble by themselves."

(That would seem to indicate that in spite of his Bible on his desk, Freshwater is Biblically illiterate. In the book of Genesis, God is said to have created from nothing: "When God began to create heaven and earth--the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water--God said, 'Let there be light"; and there was light. ... ")

The Freshwater taint spread and finally the school district decided to hire an independent firm to investigate the allegations against him. Superintendent Steve Short issued a statement on April 22, which said "The allegations against Mr. Freshwater are very serious. This is not about his personal Bible on his desktop. It is about the totality of his conduct."

Short also said that Freshwater is alleged to advance religion in his classroom and teach his personal beliefs about the Bible and ignores the approved curriculum.

A family suing the school district because Freshwater burned their child, said in a fax from their attorney that, "We are religious people, but we were offended when Mr. Freshwater burned a cross onto the arm of our child. This was done in science class in December 2007, where an electric shock machine was used to burn our child. The burn was severe enough that our child awoke that night with severe pain, and the cross remained there for several weeks. ... We have tried to keep this a private matter and hesitate to tell the whole story to the media for fear that we will be retaliated against."

Of course they will. They're up against fundamentalist Christians who have god on their side!

Other allegations against Freshwater are that he conducted prayers and participated in a healing session while a monitor for a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This is against school policy and federal law--teachers monitoring these kinds of groups may not participate or offer prayers!

Perhaps the most serious complain against Freshwater was that he had used "an electrostatic device to burn crosses onto students' arms."

The firm of HR on Call, hired by the school district to investigate the allegations against Freshwater, worked for all of May and most of June and have now issued their findings, part of which follows:

1. Mr. Freshwater did burn a cross onto the complaining family's child's arm using an electrostatic device not designed for that purpose. While there did not appear to be any intent by Mr. Freshwater to cause injury to any student, he was not using the device for its intended purpose. Contrary to Mr. Freshwater's statement he simply made an "X" not a "cross," all of the students described the marking as a "cross" and the pictures provided depict a "cross."

(Note that Mr. Freshwater lied!)

2. The Ten Commandments together with other posters of a religious nature were posted in Mr. Freshwater's classroom. Most were removed after Mr. White's letter of April 14, 2008, but at least one poster remained which Mr. Freshwater was again instructed to remove on April 16, 2008, but did not do so.

3. Several Bibles were kept in Mr. Freshwater's classroom including his personal Bible on his desk and one he checked out of the library placed on the lab table near his desk. Other Bibles that had been maintained in the room were removed by the time the investigators viewed Mr. Freshwater's room.

4. Mr. Freshwater engaged in teaching of a religious nature, teaching creationism and related theories and calling evolution into question. He had other materials in his classroom that could be used for that purpose.

5. Mr. Freshwater engaged in prayer during FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meetings in violation of the district's legal obligations for monitoring such organizations.

6. Mr. Freshwater participated and possibly led a prayer during an FCA meeting that concerned a guest speaker's health. There is no conclusion as to whether such a prayer was a 'healing prayer.'

7. There is no evidence Mr. Freshwater made statements about FCA members "being the saved ones" nor was their any corroboration to the allegation Mr. Freshwater gave FCA members Bibles for them to distribute. He did have two boxed of Bibles in the back of his room.

8. Mr. Freshwater gave an extra credit assignment for students to view the movie "Expelled" which does involve intelligent design.

Linda Weston, the district's director of teaching and learning, indicated to the investigators that she had been with the district for 11 years and has had to deal with a number of complaints about Mr. Freshwater from fellow teachers, his students, and parents during that time. She said she had reported these incidents to the proper officials but they took no action.

Science teachers at the Mount Vernon High School have said that Freshwater has been so negligent in his teaching of evolution they were forced to re-teach the subject to his students when they arrived at the high school.

Yesterday, the school board voted 5-0 to fire Mr. Freshwater. "Board president Ian Watson said the board will proceed with termination at its meeting on July 7, unless Freshwater files a written request for a hearing within 10 days of receiving notice of the board's intent to fire him."

But even before the school board published its decision, threats were in the air. Minutemen United have threatened and now followed through on launching a petition to recall the entire school board. Daubenmire, founder of Minutemen United and Freshwater's friend claimed the whole thing was a "witch hunt."

You can read more about Minutemen United here. A fairly typical, though more activist Christian Right group, they claim to "have set Jesus as their standard of behavior and source of wisdom." Actually, they wouldn't know Jesus if he bounced off their heads!

Their petition is unlikely to have much of an impact, other than further dividing the community - but you know, they're just following Jesus' example!

A couple of thoughts. This Freshwater clown should have been fired years ago. The Bible on his desk was thought by some to be a minor thing, but I'm not so sure. It would be a very powerful symbol to middle school students, and a conflicting one. It was a message to his students! How should they react to this very religious person? What did he want from them? Should they, too, carry a Bible? Should they believe what he says about the Bible? A decent human being would have immediately placed the Bible in his desk. By refusing to do so, he should have been fired!

If he did not want to teach evolution, the honest thing would have been for him to quit and find a job in a parochial school where he could teach creationism/intelligent design. It was deceitful to use his cover as a science teacher to fill the minds of gullible students with fundamentalist Christian beliefs. For that deceit, he should have been fired!

He lied about the cross. For burning a cross into a student's arm he should have been fired. For lying about it he should have been fired.

It is fascinating to me that so many fundamentalist Christians like Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, George Bush, David Vitter, Jim Bakker, etc., lie so easily. The Freshwater investigation team must have known that because Freshwater lied about the cross burnt into the student's arm, he would lie about his FCA participation. If Freshwater could have been trusted to tell the truth, all they would have had to do was ask him, "Did you offer a prayer for healing?"

So the Freshwater case wasn't merely a minor squabble between a teacher and his administrators. He was about a man who engaged in a long-term pattern of lies and deceit in order to press upon his students, not the science he was supposed to be teaching, but his personal religious views.

If he was an honest man, he would slink off into the shadows and seek a position where he was authorized to teach his fundamentalist Christian views.

Because he is not an honest man, we'll no doubt be treated to his appeal and more accusations that his dismissal is the result of a "witch hunt" only because he is a Christian.


Don't want no guvermint!

Most days the newspaper in my town prints a "priceless" letter to the editor written by someone who had the misfortune of hiding in the closet when brains were given out. Quite often, the only thing these writers accomplish is to expose their ignorance and illiteracy.

The author of one of today's letters to the editor whines about how the American people constantly whine about how the government isn't doing enough to take care of them. He also whines that Obama is a really bad candidate for president who will bring the wrong kind of change, raise taxes and increase the size of the government.

"Wake up, America. Grow up, America," he says. We can't expect the government to do our job for us, he says.

But this is is the best part: "My dream candidate is one who will take the government off my back and out of my life, one who will lift the burden of the entire system from being my responsibility. I am not strong enough to be responsible for every person in this nation. Who is responsible for me? I like being responsible for myself. Just get out of my way. Leave me alone. ... "

First of all, this sounds like someone who too often listens to the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly. No one expects him to responsible "for every person in this nation." But we are a community, and a fundamental obligation of a member of a community is a shared responsibility for all the members of that community.

But let's see what would happen if we got the government out of his life. First of all, he might have to give up his home if it was connected in any way to the FHA, or if he bought it with a VA loan. He would certainly want to pull his money out of the bank, for it would not be insured and if the bank went bust, he would, too.

He would be back driving on dirt roads which he would have to create out of the wilderness, as the government wouldn't do it. Street lights and stop signs would also go. Public schools would bite the dust, including many of the major universities of this state and the nation. Oops. Forget about checking your mail box. No mail for you today - or ever!

I wonder if this person is getting Social Security or Medicare. That's gone! Any G.I. benefits? Bye, bye. How about air traffic control? Crash! Police? Not any more! And what if this poor soul finds himself out of a job because his company went bankrupt? Would he want unemployment benefits to help lift the burden while seeking other employment? Not available! And if he was really hurting, he'd have to panhandle on the street corner because food stamps would be a thing of the past, as would all other forms of welfare.

Public hospitals? No. Public clinics? No. EMS services? Tough! Speed limits on the dirt roads? Make up your own!

Public libraries? No, they're government entities, too. And we'd have to get rid of all housing inspectors, so our friend better know how to build a house properly or it may come crashing down on top of him. Food inspectors? He'll love salmonella!

What would he do during a hurricane or tornado or other natural disaster? All those government agencies that provide assistance would be no more.

And how do you suppose this dear, deluded person would react if and when this country was invaded by a foreign entity? There would be no military--no Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard to fight for and protect him.

The famous B-grade movie actor, Ronald Reagan once said that government was not the solution to our problems it was the problem. Reagan was wrong about most things and he was really wrong about that!

Government is not the problem. Government is essential to every community, every state, every nation. What we need is good government; government led by those who want to serve the people, not themselves! We need government that upholds the laws and enforces the laws fairly; that is open and honest. We need government comprised of the most talented folks we can find--who are well-educated, as non-partisan as possible, pragmatic, and committed to the Constitution of the United States.

(We also need to remember that in spite of the pandering poohbahs beating the anti-tax drum, we can't have government without taxes, as those of us who live if Florida are finding today to our dismay!)

We have not had that kind of government for at least seven and one-half years. It's time, not to get rid of government, but to clean house, to once again commit to the proposition made by President Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address that ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Sorry, Charlie!

(The photo shows McCain and Crist in the Everglades. McCain expressed his commitment to Everglades restoration, and then tried to explain why he voted against Everglades restoration on two different occasions!)

If Charlie Crist ever wanted to be president, he's blown it as far as Florida's concerned! When elected governor of Florida, Charlie was considered a great antidote to Jeb Bush's overblown self-righteous style and pandering to the Christian Right. And Charlie actually began to move in directions other than those taken by Jeb. It is said that on occasion, Charlie didn't follow the Republican Party line.

And it is true that when he first began his campaign for governor, Charlie stressed his commitment to forever block drilling for oil off the Florida coasts. When all those floppy Republican presidential candidates came limping in to ask Charlie for his endorsements last year, he told them that one of his most important priorities was to keep Florida free from the stain of big oil rigs off Florida's shores.

Slowly, though, the wheels have come off Crist's no drilling platform. It has become increasingly obvious that he's just another in a long line of pols with empty souls greedily slurping at the trough of presidential waters.

Just about as soon as the news hit the streets that Charlie may be on McCain's short list for the vice presidential slot, Crist began backsliding.

Crist, who follows McCain McSame like a little puppy dog whenever McCain McSame deems it wise to visit the Sunshine State, now says he is "open" to the possibility of drilling for oil off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico!

He explains that he has changed his mind, not because he wants to be McCain's vice presidential running mate and McCain has flip-flopped to now favor drilling for oil off Florida's coast, but because he is so concerned about the poor folks of Florida who are having to pay $4 for a gallon of gasoline. How can they get to Disney World? To MGM? To Universal Studios? To NASA?


Charlie, no dummy, knows very well that opening the Florida coast for oil drilling is a disaster in the making! He knows full well that even if drilling operations began today and went full bore for ten years, we still wouldn't see a change at the pump. He also knows full well that if we could extract all the oil from the Gulf and everywhere else in America, the sum total would serve our needs for about 10 months!

Flip-flop! He'll fit in just fine with McCain McSame.

Unfortunately, he's gonna lose a lot of votes from people who care more about Florida's beaches than they do about making the oil companies richer.

And if McCain McSame decides on someone else as his vice presidential running mate, Charlie's chances at re-election in Florida just dropped through the floor.

Sorry, Charlie!

It's always been about the oil!

Agitprop says:

"Nobody could have predicted that two sociopathic former oil executives, when put in charge of the only superpower in the world, would invade a sovereign oil-rich Middle Eastern nation for the benefit of the oil companies:

From The New York Times:

"BAGHDAD - Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

"Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP - the original partners in the Iraq Patroleum Company - along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq's Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq's largest fields, according to ministry officials and an American diplomat.

"The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.

"The no-bid contracts are usual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India..."

No-bid contracts?

Is anyone surprised? Of all the many reasons we were given for going to war with Iraq, the one that was not mentioned, was, in fact, vehemently denied by the Bushites, was oil! Yet, many of us knew from the beginning. No other reason made sense, especially when compounded with the lies of the Bush administration.

The NYT says, "There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract."

You think?

One result of this is that now Bush, McSame, Charlie Crist, Mel Martinez, and all the other politicos in the pockets of the oil barons can stop harping on drilling off the pristine Florida coast!

We can use the Iraqi oil ten years down the road!

McCain - twisting in the wind

This is from Media Matters...

Tucker Bounds, who speaks for the McCain Campaign, said "Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain believes in keeping his word to the American people, and he will undergo public financing for the general election."

Ho, hum. Notice how it sounds like McCain's having some kind of dastardly operation? "Undergo?" Is public financing, using $84 million of taypayer money, that painful?

What Mr. Bounds did not say, of course, is that McCain "previously indicated that his decision over whether to take public financing if Obama opted out would depend not on 'keeping his word' but on whether it would be financially prudent to do so. Indeed, McCain senior adviser Charlie Black reportedly said, 'We could sit down in July or August and say, "Hey, we're raising a lot of money and maybe we should forgo it" ...'"

It isn't a matter of "keeping" one's word to the American public. It's a matter of making a financially-wise decision. Obama changed his mind (which he should be allowed to do -- McCain changes his mind two or three times every hour depending on which way the wind is blowing) because it made sense to do so. We're not talking about solemn "oaths" here, we're talking about a financial decision that impacts, not the American people (except in a very positive way--they don't have to pay for Obama's campaign!), but merely how Obama raises money for his race to the White House.

Ah, yes, McCain loves to twist things around for his own benefit.

The fact is that McCain is not raising enough money to opt out of public financing. He has no choice!

Another fact is that Obama is raising big bundles of moolah, enough so that he can be the first candidate ever to opt out of public financing since the law was changed in 1976!

The other thing that needs to be published loudly and clearly (which so far the MSM is strangely silent about) is that Obama is receiving the bulk of his money, not from corporate interests, but from the people - the regular folks out there on the seaboards and in the heartland!

Stuff that in your pipe, McCain!

The Texas Christian Republican Party

It's official.

Christian fundamentalists have co-opted the Texas Republican Party. The name should be changed to Texas Christian Republican Party.

The implications of this for Texans was spelled out by the Texas Freedom Network.

1. For Texas Christian Republican Party members, the idea of separation of church and state is a "myth." Christians would be given "favored-person" status in Texas.

2. The First Amendment's provision against governmental endorsement of religion (specifically the Christian [fundamentalist] religion) would be voided.

3. The Texas Christian Republican Party would turn the government into an ally in its fight against "sound science and medical research." As TFN notes, "Public schools would be required to teach religious doctrine, such as 'intelligent design'/creationism, in science classes. Medical research involving embryonic stem cells, which scientists believe offers real promise for treating patients with medical conditions like cancer and Parkinson's disease, would be criminalized."

4. The teaching of medically-correct information regarding contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases would be forbidden in the public schools. The only sex education allowed would insist on "abstinence until heterosexual marriage."

5. The politicized State Board of Education would decide the content of public school textbooks based "on the personal beliefs of whatever majority" was in control. The State Board of Education would also reintroduce censorship to Texas schools, thereby ensuring that all material pass the Christian "sniff" test.

6. Taxpayers would be hit for the cost of subsidizing private non-religious and private religious schools "through vouchers and tax deductions." These schools would be largely on their own without oversight or control and thus able to avoid the education standards required of public schools.

7. Woman would be marginalized as they would lose "their right to make decisions regarding their reproductive health." Forget abortion services; persons providing abortions or receiving abortions would become criminals. There would be no abortions for any reason, not even to save the life of the mother. In some cases, "access to various forms of contraception would be barred or restricted. In addition, the government would make it harder for women to divorce and escape abusive relationships.

8. Discrimination against gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgenders would become state policy. "Government would be empowered to imprison and/or fine adults who engage in even private, consensual sexual intimacy with other adults of the same gender. GLBT's would be denied the right to adopt children and they would be stripped "of any right to custody of their own children." The final insult is they would find their visitation rights eliminated or greatly reduced.

Read more here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

McCain - fueled by oil, law breaker, late to love his country

Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films reports that the Center for Responsive Politics has learned that John McCain "has accepted over $1 million from the oil and gas industry." Furthermore, a number of his "top advisers have lobbied for big oil, which is why he now acts in their best interests, opposing environmental legislation and alternative energy plans.

Greenwald also says that the Center for American Progress Action Fund accuses McCain of receiving "millions in donations from the same oil, coal, nuclear, chemical, utility, and auto companies that helped the Bush administration create its energy plan--a plan that has raised gasoline to $4 a gallon."

The above may also explain that one of McCain's newest proposal is to build enough nuclear plants to put one in every state!

The MSM has also pretty much ignored the fact that McCain is probably breaking the law relative to campaign financing. While we have the laughable and incongruous situation in which McCain accuses Senator Obama of changing his mind and not taking millions of taxpayer dollars to fund his campaign for the presidency, McCain himself may be violating the law.

The chairman of the Federal Election Commission "has taken the position that McCain cannot legally opt out of public financing during the primary season without FEC approval, meaning that every day that McCain spends beyond the limits of the public financing system -- which he has already exceeded -- he could be breaking federal law."

The FEC wants McCain to explain how he obtained a $4 million line of credit back in November. If he secured that line of credit based on the promise of public money, that would make him guilty of a criminal offense which includes penalties of stiff fines and up to five years in prison. Actually, "Under the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act, violators could face fines up to $25,000 and up to five years of jail time."

Evidently, McCain has not been forthcoming about these concerns, but David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist said that McCain did obtain that line of credit "secured in part by the promise of federal matching money for the primaries."

The "straight-talker," ain't talking about this at all!

Mrs. McCain, Cindy, the beer baron's daughter, has seen fit on several occasions to make snide references to a comment Michelle Obama made about being proud of her country for the first time in her adult life.

Cindy likes to say that unlike Mrs. Obama, she's ALWAYS been proud of her country.

Cindy ought to keep her big mouth shut, because her husband has a tendency to say lots of stupid things which will eventually come back to bite him. Here's one instance of that very thing. Last March, on FOX, McCain said he didn't love our country until he was captured as a POW in Vietnam:

"I didn't really love America until I was deprived of her company."

Back in 1999, he said pretty much the same thing (which means it is probably part of his well-rehearsed war hero saga):

"It wasn't until I was deprived of her company that I fell in love with America."

Let's see, McCain went down in the jungle to be captured by the North Vietnamese when he was 31 years old. As AMERICAblog says: "So McCain was fighting for our country, a country he didn't love. And we're supposed to respect the military service of a man who didn't love his country. Then why was he fighting?

"How is that different from what Michelle Obama said? Mrs. Obama said the for the first time in her adult life she was really proud of our country. McCain said that he never loved our country before the age of 31. ... And another thing. Michelle Obama is the candidate's WIFE. John McCain wants to be commander in chief of a country he didn't love."

May the McCain campaign crash and burn!

McCain now says G.I. Bill is swell

Was it really just a few weeks ago that McCain was adamant in his opposition to the new G.I. Bill sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb, a Vietnam war vet?

In fact, when Senator Obama suggested that McCain might want to treat our soldiers "with honor and respect" by supporting the new G.I. Bill, McCain became angry and his famous temper flared and he shot back that he wouldn't stand to be lectured by a person "who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform," as if that's the only honorable way to serve one's country!

McCain defended his opposition to the bill by claiming it would provide too many benefits for veterans and they would want to leave the service to take advantage of the bill's provisions, thus weakening our military effort.

Now, anyway you look at it, that's one hell of a sick rationale!

But McCain, the war "hero," [with feet of clay] tried to claim the high road saying that he would take "a back seat to no one in my affection, respect and devotion to veterans." You can tell he really means that when he says he'll leave troops in Iraq for 100 years or more and that it really isn't important to bring the troops home, and then opposes the G.I. Bill!

But the tables turned. In a rare move, George W. Bush changed his mind. Or someone changed it for him. He now he says he won't veto the "veterans education benefit," which is "part of the war funding supplemental."

The House has voted in favor of the G.I. Bill, by a vote of 416 to 12!

Next, it goes to the Senate.

What does John McCain say? Last month, when he was still opposing the G.I. Bill, McCain couldn't find time to be in town when the Senate passed its version of a war funding emergency supplemental, but he said he was against the benefits for veterans because he was afraid "it would affect military retention rates."

McCain did not vote; he was absent.

Today McBush, aka McSame, issued a statement saying he now supports the new G.I. Bill and lauds the deal made by the White House and Congressional representatives that ties together not just the new G.I. Bill provisions but also $21 billion in domestic spending.

While we fully support the new G.I. Bill and hope it becomes law, we find it extremely depressing to watch this man who would be president flop around like a dying fish as he calculatedly panders for votes!

Flip-flop! Whatever Mr. Bush wants, Mr. McCain wants.

MediaBloodhound exposes new McCain website

This just in from the MediaBloodhound:

The Wounded-Courier:
McCain Camp Launches

In response to charges that John McCain's presidency would amount to a third term for George W. Bush, the McCain campaign debuted a new website today,

The homepage explains, "Though John McCain does agree with President Bush on the necessity of the war in Iraq and staying there to get the job done, seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade, immunity for telecom companies' illegal wiretapping, not speaking with our enemies, offshore drilling, limiting legal rights of detainees, targeting Iran for attack, school vouchers, banning same-sex marriages, opposing increased education benefits for veterans, making current tax cuts permanent, the economy, healthcare, expanding genetically modified food production, and eliminating habeas corpus, or that he voted 95% of the time with the president in 2007 and 100% of the time in 2008, Senator McCain differs greatly with President Bush on a wide variety of issues."

The site goes on to list many of their divergent stances:

* President Bush drinks his coffee black; John McCain drinks his coffee black with one sugar.

* President Bush openly supports torture; John McCain, a fighter for the power of perception, publicly decries torture but supports it while voting in the Senate.

* President Bush prefers Jen; John McCain prefers Angelina.

There's much more. Please go here for the entire satire; it's beautiful and right on!

An October surprise?

There are those who believe that come October, the prezident and his neocon friends have a surprise planned for the people of the United States - an attack on the sovereign nation of Iran!

Ray McGovern writing for Consortium News, suggests that such an attack is coming, at some point in the near future. There won't be much in the way of a warning, just "boom!"

"This time," says McGovern, "it will be largely the Air Force's show, punctuated by missile and air strikes by the Navy. Israeli-American agreement has now been reached at the highest level; the armed forces planners, plotters and pilots are working out the details."

McGovern refers to a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, issued as he came out of an hour and a half meeting with President Bush on June 4:

"We reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat. I left with a lot less question marks [than] I had entered with regarding the means, the timetable restrictions, and American resoluteness to deal with the problem. George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it, and intends to act on that matter before the end of his time in the White House."

Cheney has pushed for air strikes against Iran for some time, and while his efforts have so far been unsuccessful, he continues to beat the drums for war. And it is reported that Cheney and his friends control the flow of information to the White House.

McGovern asks the hypothetical question as to whether Bush is unaware of the possible ramifications of war with Iran. And he says,

"Well, this is a president who admits he does not read newspapers, but rather depends on his staff to keep him informed. And the memos Cheney does brief to Bush pooh-pooh the dangers."

The bad news is that "Iran can retaliate in a number of dangerous ways, launching a war for which our forces are ill-prepared."

It appears the only way to stop Bush is through the process of impeachment. "Senior officers trying to slow the juggernaut lumbering along toward an attack on Iran have been scandalized watching what can only be described as unconscionable dereliction of duty in the House of Representatives, which the Constitution charges with the duty of impeaching a president, vice president or other senior official charged with high crimes and misdemeanors."

The data is there. Dennis Kucinich has laid it out for the world to see. Congress is out to lunch.

Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. What hell hath Bush and company wrought?

Please read Mr. McGovern's article here. Another article which conveys the scope of Cheney's duplicity is here.

What's a fertility doctor to do?

Okay, you're a fertility doctor and you believe in a skygod who tells you what you can and can't do as a doctor. For example, you can inseminate some people, but not others. Your god says inseminating Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, even followers of Wicca is fine just so long as they are not unwed members of the female persuasion or lesbian or anything in between.

What's with that? Obviously your god must not like unwed females and lesbians and does not want them to have any children unless they conceive the old fashioned way, which for a lesbian is a decidedly unattractive option.

And how did you come to the understanding that your god forbids you to inseminate unwed females and lesbians? Do you have a holy book in which such insemination is specified as a sin? Do the holy prelates in your religion who claim to speak for your god tell you that your god forbids doctors to inseminate unwed females and lesbians?

Maybe there's a special oath for such physicians like yourselves - a "hypocritical oath," which applies to certain really religious doctors; an oath whereby you promise to treat some folks so long as they have the proper marital status, the right color skin, speak the right language, go to the right church, and disavow actions thought to be inappropriate by your religious poohbahs? Does the hypocritical oath take precedence over the Hippocratic oath?

Lest you think this is all hypothetical game-playing, I refer you to the North Coast Women's Care Medical Group in California. Back in 1999 or thereabouts one Guadalupe Benitez from Oceanside, California filed a lawsuit against two doctors and the aforementioned clinic who refused to inseminate her because the faith of the doctors prohibited insemination on unwed females. The clinic and the doctors believe their refusal is justifiable due to the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

Benitez, on the other hand, claimed that she was denied the procedure, not because of her "civil status," e.g., unwed female, but because she is a lesbian.

In 2004, a trial court ruled that Benitez was in the right, but a year later an appeals court reversed that decision. Damn activist judges!

The doctors' lawyer claims that "creation and termination of life are two areas in medical care in which freedom of religion could be invoked."

Benitez' lawyer, on the other hand, argues that doctors can't pick and choose: "...refusal of treatment on religious grounds must apply to all medical cases, not on a selective basis," i.e., because one is homosexual.

The case is now on the way to the California Supreme Court. The extremist Christian right no doubt has their legal guns in place to go to war for god.

I suppose one of the first questions to ask is if these doctors have ever inseminated an unwed female previously. If so, their case goes out the window. We should also ask how they knew that Benitez was a lesbian. Did they ask specifically about her sexual orientation or did she volunteer that information?

Whatever legal and religious gobble-de-gook these doctors have wrapped themselves in, you have to wonder if maybe they're more about playing god than practicing medicine. Who the hell do they think they are to assume that either an unwed female or a lesbian can't be a terrific mother?

Who knows, the child of an unwed female or lesbian might grow up to be a real doctor and treat all people, regardless of marital status, race, creed, or sexual orientation!

A more complete discussion of this case is available here.

Hagee's non-apology

(Photo of TV preacher, John Hagee)

This from Bruce Wilson at Talk2Action.

John Hagee sent a letter of apology to the Anti-Defamation League last week for a sermon in which he preached that God sent Hitler to drive the Jews to Palestine.

The ADL accepted the apology.

But there's a big problem. The sermon, said Hagee, was "decades old," [it was preached in 1999.] Actually, "the sermon in question," was given between September 24, 2005 and January 1, 2006. And the latter sermon is still sold today on Hagee's website.

Hagee pronounced that "Hitler was an agent sent by God to force Europe's Jews, with persecution and Holocaust, towards Palestine. The allegedly, divinely-mandated real estate red-lining of Jews, claimed Hagee ... is 'God's top priority.'"

So Hagee's "alleged wildly misleading or deceptive apology letter to the ADL resembled in nature a press release that ... muddied the waters. Hagee's letter was sufficiently vague that the Pastor could not be accused, technically, of lying but Hagee's letter to the ADL, citing the wrong sermon, could be seen as an extremely misleading non-apology, especially considering that John Hagee's Ministries still sells the three sermon set, 'Countdown to Crisis," which contains the late 2005 sermon in which Hagee made the controversial 'God sent Hitler' claim."

Unfortunately, as Mr. Wilson says, "a number of media outlets picked up the story ... [including] Haaretz and the New York Times, [both of which] declared Pastor Hagee had truly apologized, and over the next few days other Jewish media publications entrained and inadvertently sanctioned the inaccurate account: The Jerusalem Post, the JTA News Service both announced Hagee's 'apology.'"

So it goes in the world of wingnut, anti-Semitic Christian TV preachers who try to use Israel for their own convoluted and mistaken prophetic pronouncements.

Lies, lies, lies! And bomb, bomb, bomb Iran! Armageddon is coming. The Rapture is nigh. God's gonna get you!

Read Mr. Wilson's entire article here. You will also find numerous related articles here.

Bones, BS and Ken Ham

A writer for the Guardian in the U.K. tells of his experiences traveling about the country with Ken Ham, the creationist wingnut who head up the wingnut religious site, Answers in Genesis, and is responsible for the medieval atrocity, the mis-named creation museum in Kentucky.

Our writer says spending time with Ham "is a profoundly disorienting experience.

"He inhabits a world that was created in six days, is around 6,000 years old and that started out with a pair of humans sharing a garden with every kind of animal on the planet - including fruit-eating dinosaurs and cuddly vegetarian tigers."

All of this is based upon a literal interpretation of the the book of Genesis.

Ham has been in England pushing his version of reality upon the ignorant and the unsuspecting. Without too much luck, evidently, as the crowds that came to hear him tell his tale of non-scientific nonsense, were relatively small: 600 at one place; 250 at another.

This creationist preacher tells audiences that the Bible is true and science is all wrong. When asked about "radiometric dating methods applied to rocks from thousands of locations around the earth [which contradict the notion of a young earth]" and about the fact that radiometric dating relies "on the rate at which certain radioactive forms of atoms decay, and point to a 4.5 billion-year-old planet," Ham says that can't be right as it contradicts the Bible.

Simple, right?

Ham also said, "Ninety per cent of those dating methods actually contradict the idea of millions of years and billions of years." That is a lie, and Ham knows it's a lie!

Ham is full of this kind of unmitigated horse-hockey, but where he really shows his colors is when he claims that without god there is no purpose and meaning in life, and that people without god have nothing stopping them from killing their neighbors, having abortions, choosing to become homosexuals or becoming drug addicts.

[Hmmm. George W. Bush believes in god and he has been involved in killing hundreds of thousands of people. Cheney's daughter believes in god and she's a lesbian. Rush Limbaugh believes in god and he's a drug addict.]

For Ham, it all comes down to this: "...if you start cherry-picking from the Bible (including dismissing Genesis as a metaphor) then you are a slippery slope to moral ruin." What he doesn't say or suggest, of course, is that everyone cherry-picks the Bible. He's no different.

Our writer concludes: "It's the familiar insulting and false idea that humanists and atheists are inherently amoral because we don't have a big God-shaped stick poised over our heads to beat us if we misbehave. Ken Ham's vision of a frugivorous T rex sharing Eden with Adam and Eve requires some breathtaking intellectual dishonestly to sustain it. If this is the foundation for his moral edifice, I want no part of it."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The stain on the house

George W. Bush, perhaps the most incompetent, most ignorant, most corrupt president this country has ever seen, always tried to pretend to be something else. From the very beginning, in 2000, he attempted to portray himself as a "uniter, not a divider," a "compassionate" man, a candidate with concerns for the people, with ideas that would improve our country, someone who could protect our country.

He didn't express himself very well, usually sounding like the moron he is, but he did try. Unfortunately, it was all a lie!

On January 14, 2000, in South Carolina, he said: "This is still a dangerous world. It's a world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mential losses."

On Larry King Live, December 16, 1999, Bush sai:, "Gov. Bush will not stand for the subsidation of failure. There needs to be debates, like we're going through. There needs to be town-hall meetings. There needs to be travel. This is a huge country."

On Meet the Press, November 21, 1999, he said: "I think it's important for those of us in a position of responsibility to be firm in sharing our experiences, to understand that the babies out of wedlock is a very difficult chore for mom and baby alike. ... I believe we ought to say there is a different alternative than the culture that is proposed by people like Miss Wolf in society. ... And, you know, hopefully, condoms will work, but it hasn't worked."

This quote is from U.S. News & World Report, April 3, 2000: "I think anybody who doesn't think I'm smart enough to handle the job is underestimating."

One of my favorites is this from December 20, 2000: "I am mindful of the difference between the executive branch and the legislative branch. I assured all four of these leaders that I know the difference, and that difference is they pass the laws and I execute them."

But the promise that was waylaid becomes painfully clear here with this statement in Des Moines, Iowa on January 15, 2000:

"The administration I'll bring is a group of men and women who are focused on what's best for America, honest men and women, decent men and women, women who will see service to our country as a great privilege and who will not stain the house."

Mr. Bush you failed. You brought cronies and dunderheads and incompetents and liars and deceivers and cheaters and thieves; most of the people you brought have not been decent men and women. And they did not see service to our country as a great privilege, they saw it as an opportunity to serve themselves and their friends.

You have left, Mr. Bush, an indelible stain on the house!

When will the war crimes trials begin?

This from Think Progress, dated June 18, 2008.

At a meeting of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights on June 18, which was a hearing on torture, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson confessed to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) "that over 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody, with up to 27 of these declared homicides."

Nadler asked Wilkerson this: "Your testimony said 100 detainees have died in detention; do you believe 25 of those were in effect murdered?"

Mr. Wilkerson responded: "Mr. Chairman, I think the number's actually higher than that now. Last time I checked it was 108, and the total number that were declared homicides by the military services, or by the CIA, or others doing investigations, CID, and so forth -- was 25, 26, 27."

Nadler asked: "Were declared homicides?"

Wilkerson replied: "Right, starting as early as December 2001 in Afghanistan."

Nadler again: "And these were homicides committed by people engaged in interrogations?"

Wilkerson: "Or in guarding prisoners, or something like that. People who were in detention."

Nadler: "They were in detention, not trying to escape of anything, declared homicides by our own authorities."

According to Think Progress, "A February 2006 Human Rights First report found that although hundreds of people in U.S. custody had died and eight people were tortured to death, only 12 deaths had 'resulted in punishment of any kind for any U.S. official.'"

These are war crimes! How can this go unpunished? Have we become the enemy?

Erik Prince, Blackwater and Sharia Law

(Photo of a Blackwater plane. © Bill Shull)

Blackwater is the name of a private contractor providing mercenaries and equipment to help fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater has also been employed by the CIA.

Some people call the Blackwater mercenaries "thugs," and claim they think they are above the law, that they can do pretty much whatever they want, even kill without reprisal, and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it, or even want to do anything about it! That's the kind of power Erik Prince wields in the corridors of corruption known as the Bush administration!

Erik Prince owns Blackwater. He is a "good" Christian and a friend of the prezident so he's mostly untouchable even when he breaks the law or does bad or stupid things. He's a former Navy SEAL, too, so that makes him a "hero." Oh, he's also very, very rich.

Blackwater has a subsidiary called Presidential Airways. Presidential was under contract with the U.S. military to fly cargo and personnel in and about Afghanistan. On one such flight, a Presidential plane, Blackwater Flight 61, went down in the mountains of central Afghanistan, killing three soldiers and the three-man crew.

The widows of the soldiers sued Presidential Airways. The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the crash on Presidential because of it's "failure to require its flight crews to file and fly a defined route," as well as failing to ensure that its crews obeyed all of the safety policies of not only Presidential Airways but also the Pentagon and the FAA.

Sounds kinda cut and dried, right? Wrong.

Presidential Airways tried to get the suit dismissed on the grounds that "legal doctrine holds that soldiers cannot sue the government, and the company was acting as an agent of the government."

Didn't work. Several federal judges threw that argument out the window last year.

So last April, Presidential went to a federal judge in Florida (a Bush appointee?) and asked to have the suit dismissed "because the case is controlled by Afghanistan's Islamic law." If the judge agrees with that line of reasoning, it will be dismissed. Additionally, the company is planning to request that the suit be tossed on the grounds that a court should not mess in military "decision-making."

Well, if you can't get where you want to go by one route, try another. Blackwater is skilled at that. Here's the thing: If the judge agrees with this Sharia law business, the suit is over. Under Islamic Sharia law, a company is not responsible for the actions of it employees when they are doing their job.

How nasty can you get? When Mr. Prince was questioned about why an American company working for the U.S. government being sued by American citizens should be decided by Islamic law, he said:

"Where did the crash occur? Afghanistan."

Of course. We knew that. And if one of Blackwater's "soldiers" rapes an Afghan girl, then Mr. Prince would argue he should be tried in an Islamic court, right? Right?

Or, as Attaturk said at Firedoglake, "If this becomes well-known, the GOP's corporate base will become fundamentalist Muslims faster than you can say Mecca Oil & Gas."

But what about the widows?

Bush may convert to Catholicism?

(Photo of Bush praying. Or maybe it's gas)

George convert to the RC's? Well, why not, Jeb did! Didn't do much good. He's still just as big a schmuck or worse than before his conversion.

Vatican sources (don't you love that? What Vatican sources? I don't know!) claim that George may switch from his Methodist/Episcopal fundamentalist born-again religion to papal pontification. In fact, "Several Italian newspapers cited Vatican sources suggesting that Mr. Bush may be prepared to convert."

Well, the Catholics can have him. Maybe they could put him up in a villa in Rome. Heavily guarded, of course, with steel walls, steel doors, and windows made of steel bars. Those Swiss cops ought to be up to the challenge. Laura could come and visit every once in awhile and the Pope could slip communion to him through the slit in the door.

Tony Blair jumped ship in England, so I guess it's only proper for Bush to do the same thing. They both have blood all over their hands.

All of this speculation came about because Bush and Benedict "held an intimate meeting in Rome," talking together for 30 minutes in the Tower of St. John, a "private area in the Vatican gardens," that dates back to the 12th century. That's appropos too, as Bush would probably be much more at home in the 12th century. He could pretend he was a knight and forget he's just a failed oilman who stole a couple of elections.

The get-together in the Tower was very special, though, and indicated that "Benedict wanted to reward Mr. Bush for the 'warmth' of his reception at the White House earlier this year." Sources (there's that word again!) say that the two have grown close recently.

One problem, though, is that the Pope doesn't much care for the war in Iraq. But he might overlook that because Bush is against abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research," and he wants to "protect" marriage by amending the U.S. Constitution. Those are all pretty important issues to god and the Pope.

Bush, on the other hand is said to be pretty impressed with Catholic stuff. He appointed a couple of Catholics to the Supreme Court. He also hired a bunch of Catholics for his staff and there's a rumor that he had a priest come in to bless the West Wing.

Actually, it wouldn't be much of change for George. He doesn't have a clue about religion anyway. He's supposed to be a Methodist and goes to a Methodist church in Texas, but attends an Episcopal church when he's in Washington (what, there's no Methodist churches in D.C.?), and then he talks about being born again, all of which indicates some confessional confusion.

But there is the problem of the presidential library which is planned for the campus of Southern METHODIST University in Dallas. That could cancelled, maybe, and moved to the Vatican. Perhaps it could be placed in the Pope's secret garden. It seems most of the regulars at SMU don't want it to blemish their campus anyway.

Stay tuned.

Knocked out for Christ

(Photo of Matthew Lincoln from Charisma Magazine)

J. Lee Grady, the editor of a Christian Right rag called Charisma Magazine, wrote an article called "Bam! Pow! When Prayer Ministry Gets Violent."

Just when you think you've heard and seen everything, the fundys surprise you. Of course, I've watched these healer con artists on TV, and they bang someone in the head and he/she falls back to be caught, hopefully, by a couple of goons and everybody's waving their arms and talking gibberish (they call it "speaking in tongues") and then they pass the collection plate and God's will is done! Hallelujah!

It seems, though, that there is one guy here in Florida (where else?) who tends to get a bit too violent, even for the Holy Ghost! J. Lee Grady, thinks that "Lakeland Revival leader Todd Bentley's unusual prayer methods have triggered questions about Holy Spirit etiquette."

Yes, you heard me right. Adult, supposedly sane people are discussing the "etiquette" of a Holy Spirit!

Bentley heals on God TV every night and gives Jesus the credit. He just gets a bit carried away. A couple of video clips from one of his sermons have surfaced which have raised some questions about just how crazy this whacko really is.

"The sermon, preached in Lakeland and posted on YouTube, features Bentley demonstrating how he (1) banged a woman's crippled legs 'like a baseball bat' on a stage; (2) tackled, mounted and choked a man to free him from a demon; (3) shoved a Chinese man to the ground to pray for him (causing the man to lose a tooth); (4) kicked an older woman in the face with his biker boot to heal her; (5) 'leg-dropped' a pastor-a professional wrestling tactic, popularized by Hulk Hogan, in which the aggressor jumps in the air and lands on his opponent with one leg outstretched."

Bentley, a tattoed "evangelist," tends to shout "Bam! Bam!" as he prays for the sick and those who claim to have been instantly healed.

Now the story gets weird. Grady, while questioning his methods, defends the creep. He says he knows people have been healed in Lakeland. One woman got rid of cystic fibrosis just by sitting through one of Bentley's services. Another man was healed of his sleep apnea as he watched the Bentley revival on TV.

"Jesus is most definitely still in the healing business," says Grady.

But "hitting people is wrong, period!" You think?

I think the SOB ought to be in jail for assault and battery. Holy Spirit, my ass!

(The question is raised, of course, as to why in god's name Jesus can't heal people without some con man getting up on a stage, ranting and raving and beating people in the head to knock them to the floor? If there really was a Jesus in the healing business, I know lots of folks who need healing, many of them small children dying right now in hospital beds of cancer and other diseases that only the worst kind of evil tyrant would allow. Send Jesus around, OK? Have him check into the Arnold Palmer Hospital for children in Orlando or maybe the oncology ward at Shands Hospital in Gainesville.)

Which leads to another story all over the blogosphere. This one comes from Tennessee, the state of country music, moonshine, and true believers in a Jesus who can heal just about anything if you get the right evangelist in the right church.

Matthew Lincoln, a 58-year old recording engineer is suing the nondenominational Lakewind Church in Knoxville, "claiming he was severely and permanently injured when church 'catchers' failed to assist him during a prayer service last year."

This religion business is dangerous stuff!

Lincoln wants $2.5 mil because the church "catchers" did not catch him when he "fell out in the spirit." Normally, Lakewind "typically positions altar workers behind parishioners who receive prayer to catch them in the event that they experience 'dizzying, fainting or falling in the spirit.'"

Well, they didn't catch Lincoln who says he fell backward, conked his head of the "carpet-covered cement floor with the back of his head and back." This "aggravated a degenerative disc disease in Lincoln's neck and back that he had 'reasonably recovered' from before the incident."

Not only so, but Lincoln's wife is also suing the church for $75,000 "as a 'derivative action' that resulted from the 'loss of consortium, loss of services and companionship of her husband." What, he doesn't hang around the house anymore? No more sex? He won't do the dishes?

The churchly lawyers profess the church is innocent. The church's insurance company, Zurich in North America refused the claim because "the church did not have a duty to catch him and because Lincoln's account of the incident was not completely factual."

I'd say if you're gonna mess around with a Holy Ghost you'd better be prepared for whatever happens. I also think that if god wanted Lincoln to be caught, she would have caught him. And that makes me wonder what Lincoln did to get god pissed?

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

Christian Right headlines about gay marriage in California:

"Homosexual Marriage Threatens Survival of Western Civilization."

"Tragic Day for America as California Begins Court-Imposed Same-Sex Marriage."

"California Same Sex Marriage, Court Mandated Sin Against God."

These are typical of what you'll find on the various Christian Right Websites. They would like us to believe that the end of the world is upon us. Anthony Esolen, one of the wingnuts, has a book out called "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization," in which he claims that over the past hundred years we have adopted the position "that law is simply what we make it--and whatever we want is all right."

That is very bad, says Esolen, because "It divorced us culturally from traditional values and morality, as we see daily in the call for homosexual 'marriage.' Californians may not notice the results of homosexual marriage tomorrow, but the concept of marriage will eventually be destroyed, weakening the state and the rest of the world."

Esolen is one of many so-called Christians crying "The sky is falling, the sky is falling!" Rick Scarborough, president of the extremist Vision America Action, says homosexual marriage in California is "another body blow to the institutions of marriage and the family by judicial autocrats."

Scarborough, however, is a dishonest person. Among the lies he tells is that homosexual marriage in California is going to "impact everything from adoption to public-school curriculum. Church-based agencies will be forced to place children with same-sex couples or get out of the adoption business. The schools will be required to teach that there's absolutely no difference between a family with a mommy and a daddy and one with two mommies, or two daddies."

None of that is true, although it wouldn't be so bad if it were true. In fact, in many cases a family with two mommies or two daddies may be more effective in raising a child than a family with one mommy and one daddy. What makes an effective family is not the number of males or females in the family structure!

Phil Magnan, president of something called Biblical Family Advocates, says that "California has slid off its foundations into moral anarchy." He lies, too. He claims the "California Supreme Court has not only ignored the current laws of California, but have forsaken God who has given them the responsibility to uphold righteous laws, not degrade the institution of marriage which even represent Christ and the church."

Obviously, this wingnut has no clue as to what this country is all about. It is not the "responsibility" of the California Supreme Court "to uphold righteous laws;" their responsibility is to uphold the California and U.S. Constitutions! Magnan's extremism is scary. He says that the "homosexual community" is now using the government "to force their bedroom upon the general populace. [Whatever that means!] They will not be satisfied until they have sodomized the entire culture, including the family, schools and even the church which should be a safe haven for children, not hedonistic indoctrination camps."

For Magnan this is a moral crisis, and he quotes the prophet Isaiah to warn that California has "brought evil on themselves."

Before we rend our garments and begin wailing at the heavens, let's look at the institution of marriage. Because most anti-gay people consider themselves Christians and because they frequently quote specific passages from the Hebrew bible to bolster whatever point they wish to make while at the same time ignoring the great multitude of Biblical laws and traditions, we'll take a brief look at marriage as it evolved from ancient Biblical times down to the present day.

Hayyim Schauss writing about ancient marriage says "In biblical times, people were married in early youth, and marriages were usually contracted within the narrow circle of the clan and the family. It was undesirable to marry a woman from a foreign clan, lest she introduce foreign beliefs and practices."

Usually, the fathers made the marriage arrangements. The sons were the most important so far as the family was concerned because there was an expense involved - a price called mohar. In the case of a daughter, the father received a dowry.

Furthermore, because women were considered property, the daughter was usually not consulted about who she was to marry until all the arrangements had been completed.

Right wing anti-gay extremists ought to be further aware of the fact that polygamy was common in the "good old days." The Patriarchs all had multiple wives, plus often took women to bed as they pleased without making them part of the family. King Solomon, as everyone knows, had 700 wives and 300 mistresses (concubines.)

Hayyim Schauss says that "Until late in the Middle Ages, marriage consisted of two ceremonies which were marked by celebrations at two separate times, with an interval between. First came the betrothal; and later, the wedding. At the betrothal the woman was legally married, although she still remained in her father's house. She could not belong to another man unless she first was divorced from her betrothed. The wedding meant only that the betrothed woman, accompanied by a colorful procession, was brought from her father's house to the house of her groom, and the legal tie with him was consummated."

Christians will recall from the confused and contradictory birth stories of Jesus that Mary was said to be betrothed to Joseph. In other words, she was legally married to him.

The Hebrew view of women began to change even before the Babylonian exile. Gradually, "women came to be regarded as endowed with personalities just as were men." About a hundred years ago "an actual Jewish marriage record during the period of the return from the Babylonian exile was discovered--the oldest marriage contract in Jewish history. The marriage ... [took place] among the Jews of Elephantine and Assuan, at the southern border of Egypt. ...

"According to the marriage contract, [the wife] had equal rights with her hsband. She had her own property which she could bequeath as she pleased, and she had the right to pronounce a sentence of divorce against [her husband], even as he had the right to pronounce it against her. All she had to do was to appear before the court of the community and declare that she had developed an aversion to [her husband].

Another interesting point is that while most Jews lived monogamous lives, polygamy was not banned among Ashkenazic Jews until the "10th century C.E. by Rabbenu Gershom, Meo Ha-Golah (the light of the Diaspora)." In Sephardic communities polygamy has never been outlawed ..."

If nothing else, all of the above indicates that marriage has evolved through many transitions over the years. And we haven't discussed any of the hundreds or thousands of other marriage traditions in the other cultures around the world.

Stephanie Coontz, in an article titled "The Heterosexual Revolution," argues that the anti-gay Christian right is too late. Traditional marriage has already been stood on its head, but it wasn't the gays and lesbians that did it, it was accomplished by heterosexuals.

"Heterosexuals were the upstarts who turned marriage into a voluntary love relationship rather than a mandatory economic and political institution. Heterosexuals were the ones who made procreation voluntary, so that some couples could choose childlessness, and who adopted assisted reproduction so that even couples who could not conceive could become parents. And heterosexuals subverted the long-standing rule that every marriage had to have a husband who played one role in the family and a wife who played a completely different one. Gays and lesbians simply looked at the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too."

Coontz notes that "traditional" marriage was upended "200 years ago, when Enlightenment thinkers raised the radical idea that parents and the state should not dictate who married whom, and when the American Revolution encouraged people to engage in 'the pursuit of happiness,' including marrying for love. Almost immediately, some thinkers, including Jeremy Bentham and the Marquis de Condorcet, began to argue that same-sex love should not be a crime."

But, says Coontz, same-sex marriage "remained unimaginable" for several reasons. One was that marriage had a couple of functions that couldn't be fulfilled by same-sex couples, one being to provide children for the labor force and the other that "traditional marriage imposed a strict division of labor by gender and mandated unequal power relations between men and women. 'Husband and wife are one,' said the law in both England and America, from early medieval days until the late 19th century, 'and that one is the husband.'"

This was believed to be the "law of God," and the fundamental nature of humans. "It stipulated that a wife could not enter into legal contracts or own property on her own. In 1863, a New York court warned that giving wives independent property rights would 'sow the seeds of perpetual discord,' potentially dooming marriage."

Coontz reminds us that in many states the laws proclaimed the husband to be "head and master" of the family until the 1970's. The man had to support the family and the woman had to "keep house, nurture children, and provide sex. Not until the 1980's did most states criminalize marital rape."

Ms. Coontz remembers, too, what many of us have forgotten -- that when the traditions were gradually dismantled, the far right howled in protest, claiming that these changes would lead to the unraveling of marriage.

And they did just that. But they didn't destroy marriage...what they did do is open "the door for gay and lesbian couples to argue that they were now equally qualified to participate in it."

One young man, a self-professed fundamentalist Christian, said that the "laws" in California were passed by non-Christians and negatively impact his life in an Eastern state. That simply baffles me.

Not so long ago, the former governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, when asked about gay marriage, responded forcefully that marriage was between two people, and the state had nothing to say about who should or should not get married.

I think Ventura's right. Marriage is a contract two people (usually two, although we're finding a number of multiple-marriage communities in the United States). The state does not marry anyone, nor does the church. The church simply "blesses" the marriage contract two people have made with each other, and the state provides the legal framework for that contract to protect the partners in a marriage.

So, in California, hundreds of couples who have been married for years, were able finally to "tie the knot" legally. Kathi Gose, 52, who wed her partner of 11 years, Karen Briefer, 45, said "We are so happy, we can't stop smiling."

Most delightful was the symbolic marriage of Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 84, in San Francisco. They had been married in 2004 in "contravention of state law," and the marriage was later invalidated.

Joy was lighting up the state, in spite of the attempt to Christian rightists to spread their gloom and doom.

I was delighted to find that when I text-messaged God for her reaction, she sent me a picture of a big smiley face. Unfortunately, when I tried to show it to my friend, it disappeared!

Peter Montgomery, writing for the People for the American Way Foundation, wrote that "some people are greeting the newlyweds [in California] with a campaign of lies and misinformation about marriage equality."

Montgomery noted the "myths" and the "truth."

One myth perpetrated by the Christian right claimed that churches in California would be required to perform same-sex marriages. That is simply not true!

Another myth said county clerks can pick and choose which marriages they will officiate. The truth is that county clerks are civil officials who must follow the law. A civil marriage is not a religious ceremony--it's a legal contract. County clerks cannot pick and choose!

A third myth states that the Supreme Court had no right to authorize same-sex marriages. Again, the truth is that the California Constitution "requires equality under the law for all Californians," and the justices acted properly to upold that requirement.

Finally, there is the myth that this is bad for marriage. We've dealt with this one extensively above. The fact is "This is great for marriage! When two people love each other and want to make a lifelong commitment to care for and be responsible for each other, they should be able to get married. Starting today, marriage will be stronger, not weaker. Stopping some people from getting married doesn't help anyone's marriage--it only hurts those who are discriminated against and their families."

We've all heard that pious clap-trap that "The family that prays together, stays together." The Christian right has published a good deal of anecdotal "evidence" that Christian couples are more likely to stay married and have fewer marriage problems than non-Christian couples.

That is false! Studies by the Barna Research Group show that "Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnostics experience."

George Barna, president of the Barna Group, said:

"While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing."

Which reminds me of what a Baptist minister once said: "The church is the only army that shoots its soldiers."

So, when the paragons of the Christian Right - self-righteous haters of homosexuals - claim that gay marriage will destroy your marriage or my marriage or "traditional" marriage, or any of that nonsense, remember that if any group is doing damage to the institution of marriage these days it is most likely to be the people sitting in their pews on Sunday mornings!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The end of the American dream

Lewis H. Lapham's article "Estate Sale," in the May 2008 issue of Harper's is a definitive expose of how the American dream is ending - not with a bang, but with a whimper as a First World Country slides slowly into Third World status.

Mr. Lapham begins: "Not being expert at the interpretation of economic data, I'm never sure which leading indicators point in which direction, but when every morning's newspaper offers a further proof of the bankrupt American dream, I'm prepared to believe that somewhere near at hand there is a piper waiting to be paid."

What he reads in the papers is this: "informed financial opinion ... bearing witness of the pride that goeth before a fall, generating the portents of doom--the American dollar sinking to record lows against the euro, the capital and credit markets reduced to a state of paralysis, hedge funds vanishing into clouds of blown-back smoke, home mortgages abandoned in the Arizona desert, banks drowned in pools of toxic debt, yet another American corporate sweetheart (department store, hotel chain, record label) sold to a syndicate of Chinese communists or into the seraglio of an Arab emir.

"When the appalled bystanders find themselves momentarily at a loss for words, they move downstage and run the numbers. The national debt pegged at $9.4 trillion (up from $6.4 trillion in 2003), running expenses of $16 billion a month for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (the eventual cost projected at more than $3 trillion); $4 trillion borrowed since 2002 using homes as collateral, the value of American real estate diminished by $1 trillion in a matter of months; losses of $600 billion to be incurred by investors holding debt instruments backed by specious credit. American assets in the amount of $414 billion sold to foreign buyers in 2007, the Federal Reserve on March 11, 2008, cleansing the wounds of the New York banks with $200 billion in liquidity and then, a few days later, allotting $30 billion for the salvage of Bear Stearns. ..."

It is no wonder that "Our creditors in Europe, Asia, and the Persian Gulf (from whom we currently borrow $2 billion a day to export the blessings of democracy to Iraq) begin to suspect that the American modus operandi doesn't lend itself to the trustworthy management of global empire. ... "

It has come to the selling of the United States. "Except for a few fragments of homeland defense (weapons-grade uranium, the runways at Ronald Reagan National Airport) nearly everything in the American estate sale (shopping malls, universities, telephone companies, movie studios) could be sold to almost any buyer whose name the lawyers knew how to spell. ... "

But being a third-world country won't be so bad, says Lapham, to comfort us. "Third World countries are by no means as unpleasant or as dangerous as they can be made to seem by the editorial writers at the New York Times.

"The United States has been ridding itself of its First World status for as long as it has been privatizing its critical infrastructure (a.k.a. the common good), at the same time despoiling the natural resource embodied in the health, welfare, courage, and intelligence of its citizenry. Over the past eight years, under the absentee landlord economic policies of the Bush Administration, the stepped-up rate of disinvestment has resulted in... Third World confusion and mismanagement... "

And, we can be certain, counsels Mr. Lapham, that "advanced industrial nations" and "the bankers in Hong Kong and Mumbai [will] expect sincere proofs of 'accountability' as well as earnest attempts to strengthen the currency and occasional repayments of outstanding debt."

To cite another, ancient, cliche, the party's over.

There may be a way out, though, as Mr. Lapham has already, with tongue in cheek, hinted. We merely "recast the United States as a developing nation," thus "Our liabilities become assets." That would carry the "excitements of an emerging market." Foreign investors wouldn't know what anything was worth--"how much oil is under the sand in Utah, if the chinook salmon will return to the Sacramento River, who holds the mortgage on the Brooklyn Bridge ..."

And that would mean that "foreign money [could] be counted upon to assign value to commodities that the natives believe to be worthless ... it's conceivable that the Arab sovereign wealth funds might wish to collect, as rare specimens of an exotic breed, ornamental American CEOs prized for their capacity to turn gold into lead. Priceless objects unavailable for purchase with MasterCard, capitalist action figures embodying the treasure of the Christian West, to be as proudly displayed as the peacocks in the gardens of Doha and Riyadh."

(Lapham, Lewis H., "Notebook: Estate Sale," Harper's, May 2008, pp. 9-12)

Circumcision is a joy, says baby

In recent years, circumcision has become somewhat controversial among certain Jewish people. Groups against circumcision have established themselves to provide information and support for those Jews who refuse to accede to this ancient custom. In fact, more and more Jews are deciding to forgo that little ceremony for junior on his 8th day.

A gentleman by name of Jeremy Kuper has written an article, "To snip or not to snip," which argues in favor of circumcision. He decided to put his son, Little Jesse, through the procedure and says there is "no indication that anything bad happened to him on the day that he lost his foreskin."

Hmm. What was a kid, 8 days old, supposed to say? "Hey, dad, I don't think this is such a good idea. It hurts like hell. Get that old fart away from my penis? or maybe, "Circumcision is a joy."

Kuper goes through all the pros and cons and comes out a pro. Most Jews continue the practice to this day, but not all. And down through history, there have been a number of Jewish groups that refused circumcision for one reason or another.

When all is said and done, there is no medical benefit in circumcision and no medical benefit in not being circumcised.

Some uninformed souls equate male circumcision with female circumcision, which Kuper says is not proper. Female circumcision is a "horrible practice ... now largely banned." Then he quotes a doctor Toubia who argues "that the term female circumcision 'implies a falacious analogy to non-mutilating male circumcision.'"

Wait just a minute. Male circumcision is non-mutilating? Cutting off the foreskin is not a mutilation? Please! It sure as hell is!

The other place I take issue with Mr. Kuper is this statement:

"You can't argue with a practice that has been around longer than England, and Christianity." I think he was trying to be funny, but whatever, that is truly a stupid sentence. What he is saying is that if something has been around longer than there has been an England or before the inception of Christianity, it is beyond reproach.

I don't think so. And he probably doesn't either. His editor should have caught that.

One final note: Before you cut off a male's foreskin, get his permission - Jewish or not.

For more information, click here.

A fruitcake and The Great Fruit Inspector

Steve Carney has written a book called "The Great Fruit Inspector: The Judgment of God."

Steve Carney, as you shall see, is a fruitcake.

First some background. Carney has a "Bible teaching and writing ministry" which "grew from his ministry in intercessory prayer." There is the first clue: All actual scientific studies of intercessory prayer show intercessory prayer not only doesn't work, but with regards to sick people who know they are being prayed for, it makes things worse - the sick get sicker.

Where did Carney learn enough about the Bible to be able to teach it to others? Well, he is said to be a graduate of the Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which really doesn't create a lot of confidence is his biblical knowledge.

The Rhema Bible Training Center was begun by a whacked out Pentecostal preacher by name of Kenneth Erwin Hagin. Hagin had no formal Biblical education or training whatsoever. That does not mean he was not intelligent, nor does it mean he wasn't highly motivated to make money and a name for himself in fundamentalist religion.

Born in 1917 in McKinney, Texas, Hagin supposedly was a sickly child because of a deformed heart and an incurable blood disease. In 1933, bedfast, Ken had a powerful conversion experience during which he claimed to have died three times. Each time he died he saw "the horrors of hell."

Hagin wasn't through dying though. It happened again in 1934 but this time he evidently didn't need to see hell and was brought back to life by "the revelation of faith in God's Word."

Of course he was.

In 1936, he started preaching. No education. Just started preaching. He went on to pastor several Assemblies of God churches in Texas, and in 1949 "began an itinerant ministry as a Bible teacher and evangelist. No education. Pretty soon he was on the radio and his organization blossomed by the establishment of a Bible correspondence school and a "prayer and healing center."

There were problems, though. He was accused of plagiarism and in one instance he admitted he had plagiarized but said it "was actually proof that his teaching ... [was] from God." Of course it was.

Heresy is common among Pentecostal and other fundamentalists, largely because they all believe a little bit differently and thus their orthodoxy is somewhat fluid. Hagin was charged with introducing "gnostic heresies" by Judith Irene Matta. The whole business is technical and stupid and who cares, but it does show that not all was well in Hagin-land.

Hagin died of heart disease in 2003 but his ministry continues under the guidance of his son, Kenneth W. Hagin.

This is the fundamentalist milieu out of which comes Steve Carney. According to a blurb for his book, Carney is said to be "called to turn our nation to truth, revealed in the Bible. Though controversial, his topics confront and convict believers to kindle a deeper passion for Christ."

Of course he is.

The book is titled "The Great Fruit Inspector." This GFI is, in fact, God! And Mr. Carney warns that "the Age of Judgment can be seen on the horizon." Of course it can. Carney will go on to spell out what the "age of judgment" means for all of us, and he knows about this because "his revelations about God's corrective involvement in the affairs of modern man was given to him in a season of deep intercessory prayer."

Maybe "deep intercessory prayer" drives people insane?

Anyway, "Tragedies intensify," says Carney, "as the birth pangs of a woman." Oh, that's original! But also there is 911 (sic) and Katrina and the War in Iraq. "Each calamity is like a warning sign: Caution: danger ahead! Warning: rebellion is hazardous to your health. Beware: the soul that sins, it shall die. Detour: change direction in your life and live!"

None of this is original stuff. It's the same old quackery that fundys have been preaching for god knows how many years.

Carney says that as global disasters come upon us we have to try to determine if they are the result of God's judgment, blah, blah, blah!

But there on the horizon, not only the Age of Judgment can be seen but also "the light of God's kingdom."

This nonsensical theological garbage has nothing to do with anything but why does he call god the great fruit inspector? Well, god is going to check the fruit in his churches and if the fruit's no good he's gonna start pruning with big pruning shears and oh, my, it's not gonna be much fun, and you'll sure wish you had stopped sinning and being a bad person.

"Fruit," you see refers to god's children in the churches who are supposed to be about doing god's work, which in most cases means convincing other people of how bad they are and how they are going to hell unless they accept Jesus in their hearts.

Steve Carney and his book are not worth fussing about. But Carney is one of literally hundreds of thousands of these crackpots who roam the country spinning their ignorant theologies while conning money out of the trusting and unsuspecting.

The really bad part is that Carney and his fellow snake-oil salesman posing as preachers along with the dupes who follow after them form a large part of the base of the Republican Party.

I'm not sure what can be done, but we need to be aware these people are out there and that they are active and that they are a danger to our Democratic system and we need to challenge them and call them for the fruitcakes they are!

And wouldn't you think if god had something to say to the world he could do it without relying on ignorant, uneducated religious shysters?