Saturday, June 28, 2008

In God We Trust?

She's not one to speak her mind. She keeps her own counsel. But sometimes life becomes so frustrating that she has to say something. This is one of those times.

What has her upset is "how all the public buildings and places have to remove anything that has God's name written on them, such as 'In God We Trust.'"

This is a terrible testimony to the power of those who don't believe in God, she says. The wreckage resulting from such atheistic connivings is a plain as day! "...look and see," she says, "what is happening around the world and the United States. I can only speak for the U.S., but we were united by God's goodness and His word."

I guess she thinks that at a time in the past we were united under the Christian God and now we are not.

Unfortunately, this concerned citizen does not specify exactly what we should expect to see as a result of our disunity from God, so a reader can fill in the blanks. Fundamentalist Christians would no doubt point to the usual doings of the devil -- abortion, homosexuality, prayer in the public schools, etc.

Others, though, with a broader view of things might reference the preemptive and illegal war in Iraq instigated for the purpose of obtaining Iraq's oil. Initially a botched attempt, it now appears the oil barons will win, their no-bid contracts soon to be signed by Iraqi officials. How many people have had to die because we did not trust god to provide the oil to the oil companies in the first place?

In Afghanistan, a resurgent and powerful Taliban is rearing it's evil head. Maybe we should have left our army at home and knelt in prayer, trusting God to bring American-style democracy to that country.

Our economy is in the toilet. Jobs are disappearing by the thousands, and hundreds of thousands of homes are in foreclosure. Taxes are insufficient to provide for basic needs such as fire and police protection. Is this the result of not trusting the Christian God?

The Constitution of the United States has been abrogated by the very leaders sworn to uphold its provisions. Did we not trust in God enough? Torture is now an approved method of coercion so far as the Bush administration is concerned. Does God allow such things to happen because we fail to trust him?

While it may seem that the "evangelicals" in our country are neither as numerous nor as powerful as we thought, there are still too many people like this woman who blame the American people for not trusting God, symbolized by the lack of slogans such as "In God We Trust" posted in appropriate places. I cannot recall, however, when that particular slogan was normally found on "public buildings and places."

The poor soul has no clue as to what this country is about. The problem is not a lack of trust in God. God simply doesn't enter into the equation. While it is true that many of our political and business leaders have mouthed such pieties in profusion down through our history (and continue to do so), this country has never depended upon God, but upon the Constitution. And there is nothing of any god - Christian or otherwise - in that document.

When the Constitution was not enough, of course, we called upon the Army.

But the Constitution is not enough when individuals dedicated to enriching themselves as opposed to serving the people are put in charge. As we have seen in excruciating detail, the Constitution can be circumvented with aplomb by ingenious and clever and powerful people of evil intent. Perhaps we've "trusted" in God too much or in people such as President Bush who have claimed to "trust" God but behaved like the devil!

"'In God We Trust' was added to the nation's currency by a bill sponsored by a Dixiecrat congressman named Charles F. Bennett ... [a member of the secretive, fundamentalist group known as The Family]. Bennett, a self-styled ethics crusader, saw himself as a small-government man; God and the dollar would redeem the nation, if only Congress would unshackle them. 'Congress can't remake the soul of America,' he'd say, a notion he evidently though justified his opposition to civil rights."

Congressman Bennett offered the opening prayer at the second Presidential Prayer Breakfast (now known as the National Prayer Breakfast) "at which Supreme Court chief justice Earl Warren--then still a conservative--declared that separation of church and state was fine, so long as 'men of religious faith' were in charge of a country he described as 'a Christian land, governed by Christian principles.'" [from The Family by Jeff Sharlet]

Strange, isn't it, that even when we wrote "In God We Trust" on our coinage our problems were not solved! Adding "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance didn't change anything either.

But people haven't given up trying. In Toledo, Ohio, a group of true believers gathered at an Exxon-Mobil station to pray down the high price of gas. Before that happened, though, the pastor of Toledo's First Seventh-day Adventist church, Mike Fortune, drove members around the station in the church's van. A little magical lap.

Fortune then led the group in prayer: "We know you love us like crazy, Lord. We just ask in your name if you will work and intervene. We also want you to bless this gas station and its owners."

Rocky Twyman, founder of what's called "Pray at the Pump," joined hands with the folks gathered and sang "He's got the gas prices, in his hands..." to the tune of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Twyman sermonized that "God is telling us to stop depending on ourselves so much and trust in him."

So far as I know, gas prices did not decline. But a couple of trucks that drove in to fill up, saw the group of pray-ers and turned around and drove away. As you might guess, the station owner was a little pissed. "I just lost a diesel sale, so I'm not happy about that," he said.

Ah yes, trust in God, that's all we need. Say a little prayer. Try some magic. Still unanswered, though, is the question as to why such religious wailing is necessary if indeed the Lord "loves us like crazy."

This whole silly business gives me gas.

Evangelicals losing ground (or are they?)

This is from Mainstream Baptist, via Talk2Action.

Christine Wicker has published a new book, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation. In this book, she suggests that the American public has been conned into thinking that evangelical Christians are a large and significant percentage of our population.

Using statistics and reports from evangelical groups and organizations, Ms. Wicker shows that evangelicals comprise about seven percent of the U.S. population and that percentage is going down, not up.

"For the past thirty years, 7 percent of the population has swayed elections and positioned itself as the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. By puffing its numbers and its authority, it has gotten legislation passed that opposes the popular will and has divided the country into acrimonious camps. It has monopolized the media so effectively that other religious voices have been all but silenced. It has been feared and loathed, revered and loved. It has been impossible to ignore. But underneath its image of power and pomp, the evangelical nation is falling apart. Every day the percentage of evangelicals in America decreases, a loss that began more than one hundred years ago."

The second idea Ms. Wicker discusses in her book is the "desire that she and millions of other Americans have for a faith that does not require them to surrender their intellect." For millions of members of mainline denominations that has never been the case. Evidently, the Southern Baptist milieu is somewhat less susceptible to reason.

With regard to her statistical information that the percentage of evangelicals is dropping in this country - let us hope she is right. Enough is enough!

But there is a huge problem. The evangelical power in the United States is held in secret, by a group of leaders who confess Jesus as their model, but this Jesus is not the Jesus who ended up on a cross. This Jesus is Paul's Christ who rules from the seventh heaven. This Jesus is a Jesus who gives power to those who seek him - the power to rule nations and peoples - all for the glory of god, of course.

This evangelical group is known as The Family. The story of The Family is told in all its chilling detail in Jeff Sharlet's new book called The Family. These evangelicals are not the side-show freaks that inhabit the world of the Pat Robertsons, the Falwells, the Dobsons, the Hagees, or the Parsleys. These evangelicals walk the halls of Congress and sit next to or on the thrones of the rulers of the world. These evangelicals seldom if ever make the headlines. They don't wear their faith on their sleeves, but work behind the scenes, in prayer cells, in legislative chambers, on presidential staffs. These evangelicals believe their mission is to rule the world for God.

They are very dangerous.

McCain's Fortune (magazine)

My copy of Fortune magazine arrived a couple of days ago with a full-cover spread of a meditative John McCain next to the inscription "How I'll Fix The Economy." Below that is this note: "The candidates talk about what they'll do to get America rolling again."

There's not much question about Fortune's preference for president.

About McCain, Fortune writes "As a maverick Senator, he took pride in just saying no to everyone's wish list. But as a presidential contender, he's become a tax cutter and defender of mortgages." Well, the last part may be true, but the "maverick" bit is right from the McCain playbook.

About Obama, Fortune says: "He slammed big companies and free trade in the primaries, But Barack Obama insists he just wants to show corporate America some tough love." Huh?

Bloggers around the country have responded to Fortune's paean to McCain. Liberals claim that McCain's notion that Islamic extremism is the great threat to our security is an indication he knows nothing about the economy and wants to turn the election into a referendum on national security.

Conservatives tend to agree with McCain's assessment of the terrorist threat and play down his lack of economic knowledge.

We rant and rail much about the power of the corporate entities, and perhaps their perfidy has become extreme in recent years, but this country has always been ruled by the corporate elite and the corporate elite has always beat up the common man - except when the union movement was vital and strong. Today, corporations are feeling the power as the unions are weak shadows of their former selves and the peon is once again at the mercy of those at the top who really don't give a damn about anything except money and power.

So it isn't surprising that Fortune magazine strongly favors McCain. Under McCain, those with fortunes, leaders of the corporate world will move ahead unimpeded as they seek even greater fortunes and more power. And McCain, assuming he's a nice boy, will end up amply rewarded if by nothing more than the plaudits of the power-brokers he aimed to please.

You can read numerous opinions and comments on the Fortune article here.

"Endorsements R Us!" - John McCain

(Photo of US bombers laying 'em down in Vietnam)

First it was John Hagee, the mental cripple from San Antonio. Next came Rod Parsley, the deranged con man from Ohio. Now comes the best of the rest.

We're talking, of course, about people who have endorsed John McCain for president of the United States. It isn't relevant that McCain has "dis-endorsed" both Hagee and Parsley and that they, in turn, "dis-endorsed" McCain. The fact remains that both of these religious wackos thought McCain the best candidate to serve their particular and egregious dreams for our country and McCain was so greedy for the presidency, he actually sought out their endorsements!

The "dis-endorsements" would never have happened if the media and not finally been pressured into revealing the hokey creepiness of Hagee and Parsley.

McCain, as you no doubt have read, has a new "endorsement." This from none other than the man who was McCain's "jailer" when he was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Tran Trong Duyet, 75, said he would give McCain his vote if he were an American voter.

According to Tran, he and McCain were "buddies." Tran claims further that McCain was not beaten and/or tortured -- that McCain made all of that up. Tran says he and McCain would get together when Tran was off duty and McCain would correct Tran's English and they had a great old time. McCain had a wonderful sense of humor, says Tran.

McCain is also "tough," says Tran. " ... In all of our debates, he never admitted that the war was a mistake."

What a guy! And what endorsements. Two off-the-wall TV preacher-crooks and now his Vietnamese communist warden! Can't get much better than that!

Oh, right, we forgot. McCain also has the endorsement of 99 percent of all the lobbyists in Washington, D.C. (Just kidding. It's probably true, though.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

McCain in a plain wrapper

Peeling back the wrapper:

Think Progress charts how McCain's tax plan is another giveaway to the richest among us. The information derives from an analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. This analysis shows just how much each of the presidential candidates stand to gain from their respective tax proposals.

Under the McCain Tax Plan, John and Cindy would save $373,429. Barack and Michelle would save $49,329.

Under the Obama Tax Plan, John and Cindy would save $5,641. Barack and Michelle would save $6,124.

Charlie Black, the eminent lobbyist serving as McCain's top go-to-guy, has been quoted as saying that another terrorist attack would "be a big advantage" for the McCain campaign. When questioned about Black's comment, McCain said "I cannot imagine why he would say it. It's not true."

Hmm. Keith Olbermann noted on his MSNBC show that back in 2004, McCain personally offered the suggestion that a little terrorist activity might help the Republicans. "...a Connecticut paper quoted McCain as saying during a local campaign stop that thanks to the release of an alleged al Qaeda tape, 'Bin Laden may have just given us a little boost.'"

A major question, raised by Chad at BuzzFlash (along with many others) is why McCain has not called for Black's resignation? Chad suggests the fact McCain has not fired Black impeaches McCain's character.

From BuzzFlash: "The assassination of Benzair Bhutto in December was an 'unfortunate event,' says Black. 'But his [McCain's] knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us.' As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. 'Certainly it would be a big advantage to him,' says Black."

According to Chad, "It says a lot about the McCain campaign that he hasn't called upon Black to resign, and it says quite a bit about Black in that he didn't voluntarily offer to resign."

Alex Koppelman at further unwraps Mr. McCain by informing us that McCain has missed the most votes of any senator during the 110th Congress. Koppelman dramatizes the issue by noting that "At this point, he has missed more votes than even South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson, who couldn't work for almost a year after suffering a brain hemorrhage in late 2006."

Koppelman refers to an article at Think Progress showing that McCain was the "Senate's most absent member in April of this year..."

From the Washington Post we learn that McCain has missed 367 votes during the 110th Congress, 61.4 of the total, which Johnson has missed 311 votes. Obama is in 3rd place, missing 259 votes.

Then, of course, there's issue of McCain's "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley, fanatical television evangelist from Ohio. McCain also called Parsley his "moral guide." This particular relationship did not get the same media attention that McCain's relationship with John Hagee did, but it is just as telling and an important reminder as to the kind of person John McCain is...underneath all that "hero" stuff.

No one with any sense of reality believes that McCain, "an Episcopalian-turned Baptist-of-convenience" (as Sarah Posner so neatly puts it), would go to Parsley for anything but his endorsement in order to garner the votes of the poor folks who are sucked into Parsley's game of emptying their pocketbooks. In other words, McCain's sucking up to Parsley is as much of a sham as his shameless kneeling before John Hagee!

Parsley is an uneducated con man/huckster who has thousands of fools following him. He tells them if they send him money God will richly bless them and fill their cups to overflowing with financial abundance.

Parsley is a goofball who speaks in tongues, a faith-healer who claims he can break homosexuals from their "bondage," who knows when Christ is coming back, despises humanists and secularists and believes God has called him to help America with its heavenly mission - the destruction of Islam.

Parsley endorsed McCain after McCain came begging. McCain, belatedly (after hanging on to it for three months), rejected Parsley's endorsement. Parsley then withdrew his endorsement of McCain.

Isn't this fun. McCain is endorsed by two of the grossest religious freaks in the country--Hagee and Parsley--and tells the world how wonderful they are and how happy he is to have their endorsement, and then, only when the media uncovered the rot under their shiny surfaces did McCain back away.

McCain's problem is that he'll call anyone great, a "spiritual guide," a "moral leader," etc., if he thinks that will bring him more votes. He rejects these creatures of the night only when it becomes a stop-loss situation.

Let's wrap up McCain in November and send him back to Arizona and the beer biz.

Global Warming Gotcha!

Bottom is the Pasterize Glacier in Austria in 1875.
Top is the same glacier in 2004.

It isn't news that the Bush administration has not only played down the threat of global warming, but has actually fought even the most timid attempts to do something about it.

This very week, The New York Times reported that an e-mail from the Environmental Protection Agency sent to the White House suggesting greenhouse gases be taken seriously was deliberately ignored. Adding injury to insult, the White House then ordered the EPA to write another report more in line with the Bush administration's hands-off approach.

Another recent report, this by the CNA Corporation, a non-profit group aligned with the U.S. military indicated that "climate change is a very serious threat to national security." It is likely this report will also be ignored by Bush and friends.

Unfortunately, while more and more Americans have become attuned to the dangers the world faces from global warming, there are still too many who get their news from right-wing radio commentators who spew their trash-talk out onto the airwaves baffling the benumbed and the dumb.

One young man told me the other day that global warming is a myth. There is no danger, he says. Coastal areas of the United States are not about to be washed away by the rising seas. When I pointed out that the evidence is massive and that the great majority of scientists are in concurrence with not only the threat of global warming, but with the rapidity of change which is occurring, he told me that the scientists can't be trusted because their funding and thus their livelihood is based upon their global warming "discoveries." If they told the truth--that global warming is a myth--they would thus lose their funding and their livelihood.

This is not, I think, an unpopular view among many in the mythical "heartland" who deny reality because they are unable to think the unthinkable -- that maybe "everything" is not going to be all right.

James Hansen, one of NASA's top scientists, began warning about global warming 20 years ago. Today Hansen's warnings have taken on a new urgency. Our only hope, he says, is "drastic action."

Hansen appeared before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming this week to state unequivocally that we have gone way past "the dangerous level" with regard to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Because the Earth's atmosphere can handle the current load of man-made carbon dioxide for only about 20 more years, we must take action now. Hansen said that "We're toast if we don't get on a very different path," and will be visited with mass extinction, the collapse of the ecosystem, and rapidly rising sea levels.

One of the major creators of carbon-dioxide emissions are coal-fired power plants that fail to install capture mechanisms. The world can no longer afford to utilize such power plants.

But there is no easy way to shut them down without a major effort on the part of the world's leading nations. Such an effort is not in the offing: a recent report indicated that many countries around the world are at this moment actively engaged in constructing coal-fired power plants, including the United States and Great Britain.

I have just finished reading Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth - The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It." This is a sober, descriptive and challenging work, which effectively destroys the arguments of the naysayers. No one can read this book without beginning to understand the scope of the problem because Mr. Gore has included scores of photographs and diagrams and charts to buttress his argument about the danger of global warming, which is not so much "argument" as it is a plea for action.

The NASA scientist, Hansen, noted that the "tipping point" so far as the destructiveness of global warming will be seen in the Arctic, and "We see a tipping point occurring right before our eyes. ... it's occurring exactly the way we said it would."

Within the next five to ten years, the Arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer, said Hansen.

Or maybe it will occur this year!, in a report by Alan Duke of June 27, notes that "The North Pole may be briefly ice-free by September as global warming melts away Arctic sea ice, according to scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. ...

"It's a 50-50 bet that the thin Arctic sea ice, which was frozen in autumn, will completely melt away at the geographic North Pole."

One of the things that has astounded these scientists is the rapidity of change! Five years ago, they would not even have considered the possibility of North Pole ice melting in the summer.

Furthermore, these scientists insist this is not merely part of a regular historic cycle. "It's not cyclical at this point. I think we understand the physics behind this pretty well ... We've known for at least 30 years, from our earliest climate models, that it's the Arctic where we'd see the first signs of global warming."

Now scientists are further warning that because the sea ice (and the glaciers) are melting so much faster than anticipated, we can expect rising seas to begin damaging coastal areas around the globe in just a few years.

We may be too late, but Dr. Hansen and other climatologists believe we have a small window of opportunity to turn things around...but time is of the essence.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration is more interested in fighting wars of empire for oil to enrich its members and its friends than it is in preserving the Earth for our children and grandchildren. And the attitude prevalent among the Bushites is still too common among the masses.

It doesn't help that morons like Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, keep getting elected to Congress. Inhofe, a far right extremist, believes global warming to be a myth. In a recent statement he said that "Hansen, (former Vice President) Gore and the media have been trumpeting man-made climate doom since the 1980s. But Americans are not buying it."

Unfortunately, for the rest of us, global warming isn't a religion in which you can choose to believe or not. Global warming is a real as a 9,000 foot cliff and we are walking straight to the edge with little sign that we even know the cliff is there. To walk off the edge of the cliff ... well, you know what happens then.

(FYI - An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore is available at Barnes & Noble at a reduced price.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

God and Country

July 4th will bring a panoply of "patriotic" extravaganzas in cities and towns across the United States. Many of these will celebrate, not only the "birth" of this country, but also the jingoist notion that the Christian god has an excessive and enduring commitment to America so long as the American people thank him at every public gathering for making us such a wonderful nation, inscribe "In God We Trust" on our money, recite "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and post the Ten Commandments on the walls of our public buildings, etc.

We must also obey his "laws," which millions of people have been told by the extreme Christian right are anti-homosexual, anti-liberal, anti-abortion, anti-women's rights, anti-peace, anti-Islam, anti-stem cell research, as well as pro-Bush, pro-Republican, pro-Christmas creches in the public square, pro-war, pro-"family values," pro-prayer in the public schools, pro-conservative political values, etc.

The flip side of that patriotic coin is that bad things are sure to befall our nation if we don't do all of the above. Jerry Falwell spoke for many when he said, "I do believe, as a theologian, based upon many Scriptures and particularly Proverbs 14:23, which says 'living by God's principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame.'"

And because Jerry believed those words, he could go on to claim, following 9/11, "... the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen."

An even more extreme example of Christian-American jingoism comes from the mouth of TV evangelist, Pat Robertson, who, on August 22, 2005, called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela. Robertson thought such a murder was a righteous cause "Chavez was bent on exporting 'Communism and Islamic extremism across the Americas.'"

On this upcoming Fourth of July, the Jaycees of our community will sponsor a "God & Country Day" which will tie together all of the above sentiments. God is identified specifically with the United States as if He were the "founder." The underlying assumption is that our belief in and obedience to God is what has made our country great.

God & Country Day is a nod to God to ensure that he will continue to "shower his blessings upon us."

This will be the 39th year the Jaycees have sponsored a God & Country Day. So far as I know, there will be no sermons by local preachers, but there will be many symbols in words and music of the presumed connection between God and the good old US of A.

You will not hear about the ravages of war in the Middle East. No none will give a speech about the culture of corruption in Washington. There will be no pictures of those who have died or who are about to die to serve the pursuit of Iraqi oil by the oil barons in the White House.

There will be a "Freedom Run," "bounce houses and other rides for the children, vendors and crafters for all ages, food of all types, and musical guests for all to enjoy.

"The day ends with a spectacular fireworks show that must be seen to be believed."

Certainly there is nothing wrong to gather on the Fourth of July and celebrate the birth of our wonderful country. The problem derives from the double pretense that our country can do no wrong, and that somehow God loves our country or the people of our country more than, say, the people of Saudi Arabia.

In fact, if you are a Christian you believe that Jesus was not only the "son" of God, but was, in fact, God himself. And the God believed in by the Christians down through history has been the Jewish God who early on established a covenant with the Jews which stipulated he would be their God and they would be his people.

Now tie that to the fact that Jesus was a Jew born of a Jewish mother and you cannot escape concluding that the Christian God is Jewish.

Not only so, but the Jews are the "chosen people" according to the Bible. So, if there is any country in the world that would have claim to God's special love and attention it would be Israel.

But then again, many have claimed that God did not "choose" the Jews because they were so wonderful, but to give them a mission: To proclaim his wonderful, life-giving Law (Torah) to all the nations.

If that is the case, God is not the god of any one particular nation, but of all nations and he must love all people equally. America isn't any "better" or more deserving in his sight than any other country, nor is Israel. God loves Cuba or Venezuela or China or North Korea or Iran just as much as he loves the "god-fearing" USA.

This equality stuff is sure hard to deal with isn't it? Especially when we've always thought we were God's favorites! How does one sing "God Bless America," and not include the rest of his people--all the men, women and children of the Earth?

And how do you justify bombing people whom God loves? If you're a Christian, the question becomes even more poignant: How can you you justify bombing people whom God loves and for whom Christ died?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Flat tuition at the University of Florida - Poor kids screwed!

The Tallahassee poohbahs are considering leasing out Florida's highways. This would, of course, dump an asset of the people of Florida into the hands of a private company which will, you can be sure, raise the tolls so that they get rich and the people of Florida get screwed.

The Tallahasee poohbahs, being mainly Republican, are also flip-flopping on the matter of drilling for oil off of Florida's coasts. For years, even the Republicans have fought this desecration of our coast, citing the certainty of black gobs of tar washing up on Florida's pristine beaches. Now, these same Repugnicans are saying it's no problem - my god, you can't even see the oil rigs 14 miles off shore.

They have no shame!

The word today is that those in charge of things at the University of Florida in Gainesville are considering a flat tuition rate. Every student, the ones carrying a full load, or the ones taking just a few classes, will be charged the same tuition!

The reason for this descent into insanity is described in the usual bureaucratic double-speak as "budget constraints."

The president of UF, Bernie Machen, had the gall to claim that flat tuition would "entice students to take more classes per semester." Oh, stop laughing. He's the prezident of the University. Would he mislead the people?

He also said, "We need to look at other ways to get the resources and that's why the flat tuition model is worthy of consideration."

Horse hockey! He might just as well say raising the tuition to $100,000 a year "is worthy of consideration." Or, better yet, cutting back the sports programs would be "worthy of consideration." Or, the one I like, slashing the salaries of the president and all the coaches is "worthy of consideration."

Why is it always that when bureaucrats are involved the poor get screwed and the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful?

Flat tuition will not, entice students to take more classes. My god, there are thousands of students out there in the academic wasteland who are slaving away at one of two jobs so they can afford one or two classes! What about the young woman who works 50 hours a week at the local burger joint for minimum wage which leaves her just enough money to pay the rent and take one course?

Many years ago, as a young man, I worked full-time and took a few courses in the evening in order to complete my last two years of undergraduate work. It took me four years, but I did it! I would never have been able to do it if I'd had to pay tuition for a full load.

Guess who proposed a flat tuition four years ago? Jeb Bush! The governor who descended to Florida from Connecticut with an ex-president for daddy and more money in the bank than most of us would see in ten lifetimes!

There isn't any question that the University, like just about every other public entity is struggling to make up for deficits caused by the economic downturn and the goofy policies instigated by the Republicans in Tallahassee. One of the first things that happened when Jeb took office was the elimination of a tax on the richest people who live in Florida.

And I don't have any answers, except the suggestions above. But please, please, stop screwing the students and especially the poorest and most needy students. Must Republicans always balance the budget on the backs of the least among us?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Alligator Alley getting snapped up

I've driven Alligator Alley (a 78-mile stretch of I-75) between Fort Lauderdale and Naples, Florida since it was a narrow, two-lane race track guaranteed to cause several wrecks every day. Some years ago, Alligator Alley underwent a major renovation to become a four-lane divided toll-road which made moving from one side of the state to the other ever so much more pleasant.

While the expansion from two to four lanes did cut down the number of accidents - especially at night, drivers tended to push past the speed limits and bodies still piled up beside hunks of crumpled metal strewn across the concrete or off into the Everglades.

I suppose it was inevitable that with Republicans ruling the Statehouse and a Republican sitting in the governor's chair, Alligator Alley would be leased off to some private company which will make a fortune off the backs of Florida residents who already pay taxes for their roads as well as millions of visitors who deign to double their trouble in the middle of the Florida swamps.

What is it with Republicans in government who don't want to govern? Or maybe it's because they are bought and sold by corporate entities that this kind of a thing is as maudlin as mere payback.

Florida state officials are preparing "to lease a 78-mile state highway that runs across the Florida Everglades to a private company." And this is just the beginning. These Tallahassee trolls are looking down the road (so to speak) to do the same with the Sunshine Skyway bridge across Tampa Bay and the Beachline Expressway near Orlando."

It seems our taxes are insufficient, or thought to be insufficient, or maybe it's just old-fashioned greed on the part of our political poohbahs.

Here's the plan: Give a private company a long-term lease of 50 to 75 years. The private company puts a bunch of bucks into the state treasury (the amount of which will be immediately erased by tax breaks for the wealthy), and the private company makes an even bigger bunch of bucks by raising the tolls on a regular basis over that 50 to 75 years.

What a deal! Take a state asset, lease it out long-term to a private company whereby the state has no further financial advantage, but the private company makes a fortune.

Even Charlie Crist, who actually fooled some of us into thinking he had some feeling for the regular folks, is fer it!

I think the toll now is $2.50 one-way. If this goes through, you can bet your bippy the toll will be $4.00 the next year, $8.00 the year after that, and then hang on to your hat. You may have to switch to old Highway 41, which is still two lane and hell on wheels!

What will these Republicans think up next?

Hubba, hubba, Hubble!

The first two chapters of the biblical book of Genesis contain two variations as to how the ancients thought of creation. Those poetic visions, along with other creation poems in the Bible, may be beautiful and meaningful to some people, but they were never meant to be taken literally. They were not and are not scientific explanations as to how the Earth was created.

More beautiful and more wondrous and more exciting are the insights that science proffers as to the creation, not merely of the Earth, but of the universe itself.

The Hubble Space Telescope, first launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1990, has provided all of us "a conduit to the cosmos." Neil deGrasse Tyson, in an article in Parade Magazine, June 22, 2008, notes that the Hubble has already been operable longer than intended, and a thus a "new servicing mission" is underway to extend Hubble's usefulness for several more years.

Hubble is not up in space alone, either, says Tyson. "About two dozen space telescopes of assorted sizes and shapes orbit the Earth and the Sun. Each of them provides a clear view of the cosmos that is unobstructed, unblemished, and undiminished by Earth's turbulent and murky atmosphere."

These various telescopes "detect bands of light invisible to the human eye ... Entire classes of objects and phenomena in the cosmos reveal themselves only through one of more of these invisible cosmic windows."

Black holes, which we hear so much about, "were discovered by their .... radiation that was generated by the surrounding, swirling gas just before it descended into the abyss." But most important is the fact that these telescopes have been able to "capture microwave radiation--the primary physical evidence for the Big Bang."

The Hubble telescope operates differently in that it sees the universe "using primarily visible light." It's images "brought the universe into our backyards, or rather expanded our backyards to enclose the universe itself. It did that with images to intellectually, visually, and even spiritually fulfilling that most don't even need captions."

Because of Hubble, we've been able to view "planets, dense star fields, colorful interstellar nebulae, deadly black holes, graceful colliding galaxies, the large-scale structure of the universe" ... [and] Hubble's scientific legacy is unimpeachable."

Perhaps the most wondrous of Hubble's gifts is that it has allowed us to settle "the decades-old debate about the age of the universe." Before Hubble, the data were so confused and muddled that the astrophysicists could not arrive at a consensus. "Some thought 10 billion years" while others doubled that to 20 billion.

No longer. "Hubble enabled us to measure accurately how the brightness varies in a particular type of star that resides in a distant cluster of galaxies. That information, when plugged into a simple formula, tells us their distance from the Earth. And because the universe is expanding at a known rate, we can then turn back the clock to determine how long everything was in the same place."

We know now that the universe came into existence 14 billion years ago!

Hubble has provided a great deal of other significant information to which we never before had access, perhaps the greatest of which is simply the wondrous and incredible magnificence that is the universe!

Hubba, hubba Hubble!

Faith-based fraud in Florida

Under Jeb Bush's governorship, so-called "faith-based" organizations in Florida thought they'd died and gone to heaven. Bush doled out government jobs to a variety of incompetent organizations -- competence always seemed to take a back seat to "faith-based."

Unsurprisingly, lots of them didn't work out too well.

This story is about one so-called faith-based outfit in Central Florida called Florida Faith Inc. It is supposed to be a nonprofit engaged in assisting people who are threatened with foreclosure on their homes.

They assist people all right. They assist them by relieving them of their cash which is promptly put into the coffers of the folks running Florida Faith Inc. One woman said she was promised help to fend off foreclosure, and was even hired by Florida Faith Inc., but she was never paid for her work and she lost the fee she gave Florida Faith Inc. to save her home, which "was sold on the steps of the Marion County Courthouse in April."

The owner of Florida Faith Inc. is Mary Redford. She, along with her husband, Bernie, claim to be "foreclosure mitigators." While they profess that Florida Faith is a nonprofit organization, they are not registered with the IRS. The Redfords have also said they have ties to United Way, but the United Way says not so. Ms. Redford told a housing authority director that she was a HUD certified housing counselor, but that turned out to be false. She has also falsely claimed to be associated with a local mortgage firm.

Ms. Redford claims that some of her clients are happy with her services.

Ms. Redford also claims to be a Christian and says she has "a calling from God to do this." Florida Faith is, she says, a Christian organization.

It may be a Christian organization - a Christian Florida Faith fraud.

Just one more in a long line of Christian Florida faith frauds!

Bush administration rewriting the evidence

The Bushites have always felt it was their prerogative to rewrite the Constitution to suit their ill-conceived desires. Now they want to rewrite the evidence.

Evidence is evidence is evidence.

Not to Bush and gang.

For years, Bush and his gangsters have relied on certain "evidence" to justify their treatment and disposition of the Guantanamo detainees. "Military review boards relied on it to justify holding hundreds of prisoners indefinitely without charge. Justice Department attorneys said it was thoroughly and fairly reviewed."

They now claim they need to "rewrite" their evidence against the folks in Guantanamo.

When the Supremes determined that the detainees do indeed have the right to challenge their imprisonment in a civilian court and not only in front of military tribunals, the Bush gangsters figured they might need to "fix" the evidence so as to cover their nasty little unconstitutional tracks!

The government gangster lawyers claim (with straight faces!) that all they want to do is rewrite the evidence so that it is more "factual." So the evidence wasn't "factual" all this time, even when the government gangsters were saying it was "thoroughly and fairly reviewed"?

The evidence the Bushites are concerned with consists of "the government's accusations and summaries of the evidence that was presented to the military review panel. The records were filed in federal court in many detainee cases in 2004 and 2005, before Congress stripped those courts of the authority to hold hearings."

It is very likely that the bulk of this evidence provided by the Bush gangsters is tainted. Attorneys for the detainees, after looking it over, said that much of it was "hearsay cobbled together from bounty hunters and border guards who accused people of being terrorists in exchange for reward money."

Once again, we get a bit of a taste at how deep and how pervasive corruption runs through the Bush presidency.

Once again, we shudder to think how easy it would be for one of Bush's gangsters to "legally" make any one of us disappear into a black hole for years with phony, manufactured "evidence," presented to a military tribunal. All they need is a neighbor who says you're a "terrorist" because you won't cut a tree limb hanging over his yard. Goodbye!

The reason the Bush gangsters want to rewrite the evidence is that they might be in trouble with the law. They have held people for years with "evidence" created out of thin air or by paid liars. The Bush gangsters are now forced to provide "evidence" before civilian judges to justify locking these people up behind the Guantanamo barbed wire.

The Bush gangsters thought they could get by without obeying the Constitutional mandates but the Supreme Court finally called them on their illegal actions. They also thought they could lock people up with jerry-rigged evidence "reviewed" only by their friends and cronies. It now turns out the world is going to get a look at that "evidence."

It's no wonder Bush and his gang want to rewrite the rules so they can rewrite the evidence so they can stay out of jail where they belong.

There's more here.

Gingrich threatens loss of cities

Glenn Greenwald, writes at about "Newt Gingrich, supreme fear-monger."

The substance of Mr. Greenwald's article is that Newt Gingrich, known for single-handledly destroying bipartisanship in the United States Congress as well as being a prominent philanderer, is also a "supreme fear monger."

Over the past several years, Gingrich has spoken on numerous occasions in various places, warning that "we will 'lose a city' unless we give up our core constitutional liberties."

Thus on June 16, 2008 on Face the Nation, Gingrich described the recent Supreme Court decision (which, as Mr. Greenwald notes "held that our Government can't abolish the constitutional guarantee of habeas corpus and must provide minimum due process to people before locking them in cages for life,") to be "the most extraordinarily arrogant and destructive decision the Supreme Court has made in its history."

This is because, according to Gingrich, it "could cost us a city. And the debate ought to be over whether or not you're prepared to risk losing an American city on behalf of five lawyers."

Greenwald responds: "Casually threatening Americans with the loss of a city unless they allow their Government to violate core constitutional guarantees is deranged fear-mongering in its most unadorned form, exactly what every two-bit tyrant tells his country about why they must be deprived of basic liberties. But what makes it all the more notable is how repeatedly Gingrich invokes this same deranged formulation in order to argue for a whole array of policies he supports -- we better accept what Gingrich wants or else we'll 'lose a city.'"

Thus, the New York Sun on November 29, 2006 quoted Gingrich as saying we have to give up our First Amendment rights -- free speech -- "in order to fight terrorism ... " or again we might "literally lose a city. ...

"Either before we lose a city or, if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city," warns Newt, "we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people."

On September 7, 2006, Gingrich argued "for a harder-line against Iran," because appeasement means "we will potentially lose a city."

Mr. Greenwald provides several other examples of Gingrich's "fear-mongering," using the threat of "losing a city." Unfortunately, as Greenwald points out, that kind of fear-mongering is effective - it works. Thus, Bush could attack Iraq with the support of most Americans and Congress.

Mr. Gingrich has a mind which is not merely authoritarian or radical, but "extremely disturbed," says Greenwald, rightly. He quotes Jonathan Turley, a professor of law who had this to say about Gingrich's warnings that we will "lose a city" unless we rescind the First Amendment:

"We saw that with John Ashcroft not long after 9/11, when he said the critics were aiding and abetting the terrorists. There is this insatiable appetite that develops when you feed absolute power to people like Gingrich.

"And people should not assume that these are just going to be fringe candidates, and this could never happen. Fear does amazing things to people, and it could lead to a sort of self-mutilation in a democracy, where we give up the very things, the very rights that define us, and theoretically, the very things that we are defending."

The professor is right on! Unfortunately, we've already given us some of our basic rights, witness the caving of the Democratic Congress to Bush's demand for telecom immunity and further authorization to spy on American citizens, pretty much at will!

So what is Gingrich all about? He must know that what he says is merely fear-mongering. If he doesn't, he is a true moron, and should be hauled off to a place where they put out-of-control crazies in white jackets.

Could it be he's positioning himself for the next Bush to come along; the next tyrant who would destroy the fundamental precepts of the United States of America? Maybe Gingrich sees himself as John McCain's Rudoph Hess?

Read Mr. Greenwald's entire article here.

What does McCain really believe

An article at, dated June 20, by Viveca Novak and Justin Bank, titled "McCain's Power Outage," details a number of McCain's flip-flops regarding energy policy. The subtitle of the article is "Contradictions and misstatements short-circuit McCain's energy policy pronouncements."

For example:

McCain "said that ending a moratorium on offshore oil drilling 'would be very helpful in the short term in resolving our energy crisis.' But according to a government report, offshore oil wouldn't have much of an impact on supply or prices until 2030."

"McCain tried to paint Obama as an opponent of nuclear power, yet Obama has said he is open to nuclear energy being part of the solution and has supported bills that contained nuclear subsidies."

McCain 'has soft-pedaled the 'cap' portion of his cap-and-trade proposal for greenhouse gases, even denying that it would be a mandate. The cap is a mandatory limit, however, and McCain even says so on his Web site."

"McCain's new ad, running this week, rightly says that he bucked his party in supporting action on climate change years ago. But its images of windmills and solar panels are misleading in that he supports subsidies for nuclear power, which isn't pictured, and opposes them for wind and solar energy."

"McCain continues to say that a suspension of the federal gas tax will lower prices for consumers, though hundreds of economists say he is wrong."

You can read the entire article here which gives substantial detail on McCain's confusing and ever-changing statements, as well as detailed source information.