Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nuclear power - going out with a bang or a whimper

[Photo is of cooling towers at French nuclear plant]

Nuclear power is all the rage. Lately.

Bush, McCain, Obama, Pelosi and numerous other political poohbahs have praised the possibilities of meeting our energy needs by going nuclear.

Nuclear bespeaks danger. Nuclear is not a topic for casual conversation. Going nuclear means we can go out with a bang, or we can go out with a whimper.

As more and more unstable regimes develop nuclear arsenals, the chance of going out with a bang increases exponentially. As more and more countries seek to go nuclear to satisfy their energy requirements, the chances of going out with a whimper rise in proportion to their number.

There is a new nuclear plant on track to be built in Levy County, Florida. Many people in the area are not happy about that.

According to an article by James Ridgeway, titled "4.5 Billion Years in Provence," energy companies are enthused about nuclear energy "especially when it is fueled by substantial government subsidies. In a country that hasn't broken ground on a new nuclear plant since the 1979 near-meltdown at Three Mile Island, on June 30 the US government's Energy Information Administration listed 19 license applications to build commercial nuclear reactors under review of anticipated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The number is expected to exceed 30 by the end of near year."

That's rather frightening in itself, but Ridgeway continues: "The NRC has hired 400 new staff to deal with the flood of applications, and 'streamlined' the process for siting, licensing, and constructing new nuclear plants."

I have big problems with the word "streamlined" in the same sentence with "siting, licensing, and constructing" ... we're talking about NUCLEAR plants! Living in north central Florida, I don't want them "streamlining" anything relative to the new plant in Levy County!

Ridgeway notes that many nuclear enthusiasts are looking to France for validation of their nuclear dreams. Even John McCain, who, not so long ago attacked France for opposing the war in Iraq, is now kissing that nation's ass, so to speak. McCain went to France last February and came back convinced that if the French can "generate 80% of their electricity with nuclear power," the U.S. can, too!

Ah...not so fast. Last month, there was "a leak from a cracked pipe at a nuclear fuel plant in the southeastern Drome region ... the leak was small and had not contaminated groundwater."

On July 7, that was not the case when "75 kilograms ... of untreated liquid uranium were spilled at the Tricastin nuclear plant in the Vaucluse, north Avignon." All persons located in that part of Provence were told not to drink, swim or fish in the water.

According to Mr. Ridgeway, "Incidences of radioactive contamination are common in France, which has had no more success than any other country in solving the intractable problem of radioactive waste. At the Tricastin site, for example, about 770 tons of nuclear waste have been buried for the past 30 years, and four smaller incidents took place in 2007 alone..."

Greenpeace, in 2006, found that contaminated groundwater threatened the Champagne vineyards of eastern France. And in Normandy, the "radioactivity was more than seven times the European safety limit in local underground aquifers, which are used by farmers for their dairy cattle in a region renowned for its Brie and Camembert."

Radioactive waste from spent fuel rods is a danger for 240,000 years! "Depleted uranium, the byproduct of the enrichment process, is even more robustly radioactive, with a half-life of 4.5 billion years."

This next comes in the "did you know?" category. Reprocessed plutonium is further along on the danger scale -- "and [is] far more easily utilized by terrorists." Nuclear waste is shipped "secretly" all over Europe. La Hague, where large amounts of "highly radioactive nuclear waste" are stored, is "an especially devastating target for a terrorist attack."

La Hague, and Sellafield, "its more notorious British counterpart ... releases low-level radioactive waste into the air and sea. Several studies have found elevated levels of childhood leukemia around the Normandy site."

Mr. Ridgeway continues to describe how "Areva--the French state-owned nuclear giant responsible for the waste sites in Normandy and Champagne, as well the two plants that had leaks this month--is positioned to take full advantage of the US nuclear revival."

Areva has already obtained "several major contracts to supply fuel to current US nuclear facilities, and signed on to build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant in Idaho. ...

There's much more, including Ridgeway's observation that this push to go nuclear derives in part from Dick Cheney's 2001 (secret) Energy Task Force.

Follow the money and you'll find out who's benefiting from all of this -- many of which are closely-related to or involved in the Bush administration.

Ridgeway also notes that the French are rethinking their commitment to nuclear energy. "Anti-nuclear protests seem to be on the rise in France, against both new nuclear plants and the high-risk transportation of radioactive fueld and waste."

Is nuclear energy a necessity? Are there other options out there? Are those other options off the table because the Bush administration has already committed itself to the corporate pirates who will make out like the bandits they are in the surge to go nuclear?

When push comes to shove, we do NOT know yet all of the ramifications of going nuclear! We do KNOW that it's dangerous as hell and that accidents happen and that we might "accidentally" end up raising a generation of children, all of which suffer from maladies such as leukemia!

It appears likely that if we choose to go nuclear, we will go out, either with a bang, or with a whimper.

What should sane people do?

Please read the entire article by Mr. Ridgeway here.

Rudy Giuliani - Repugnican keynote speaker

[Photo of Rudy in drag]

It is official: Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, will be the keynote speaker at the Repugnican Convention.

Here's a laugh. The theme of the Convention is "Country First," and all four days will be dedicated to "service, reform, prosperity and peace."

How do these Repugnican hypocrites keep a straight face? And how in god's name can they continue to fool so many millions of Americans into thinking that the Repugnicans will best represent their interests? It's a conundrum!

It would appear that the theme of "Country First" comes from McCain and friends, or what's more likely, McCain stole it from the convention planners. You will recall, how, when asked to define patriotism at Saddleback, McCain said "country first."

Unfortunately, that's one hell of a poor way to define patriotism. One's country may have devolved into a war-mongering, fear-mongering, totalitarian state - much like the United States under the Bushites. Patriotism, in that instance, would not be "country first," but would better be defined as a re-dedication to the basic principles upon which the country was founded!

"Country first" as a definition of patriotism would be a much better fit in China that the U.S.!!

McCain, of course, is no intellectual, so he's lucky to chew gum and walk at the same time. Nevertheless, to say that "country first" is a good definition of patriotism is simply stupid -- UNLESS you are part and parcel of the would-be dictators who are running the country!

"Service? Reform? Prosperity? Peace?" My god, these are the very items that the Republican Party has made a mockery of. In the Republican playbook, service has been replaced by greed. Reform has been changed to institutionalized corruption. Prosperity? Well, look around at the price of gas, the steadily rising inflation, at all the people out of work, houses being foreclosed, the homeless wandering about with dazed looks on their faces. And peace? That's rich, as we used to say when I was young and innocent. Peace, according to the Republicans, means never-ending war. But it does make the weapons-makers rich.

Back to Rudy.

In 2006, the disgraced Ralph Reed, who had the unmitigated gall to run for governor of Georgia, invited Rudy Giuliani to be a keynote speaker for a campaign fundraiser at the Westin Buckhead in Atlanta.

This is what jhutson said about it all on talk2action:

"The religious right talks about adherence to high moral standards, and castigates politicians who do not adhere to its professed values - most of the time. But when it is expedient politically and financially, religious right leaders such as Ralph Reed like to cozy up to bigwig politicos, even those who wipe their feet on so-called issues like 'the sanctity of marriage.' ...

"Just how desperate does ... gubernatorial candidate Reed have to be to court and count on the support of a pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-gun control, divorced Catholic politician from New York who has confessed to having sex with his cousin on a regular basis over the course of 14 years?"

Hutson notes that Reed blasted a judge in Fulton County, Georgia for dishonoring the "sanctity of the institution of marriage' because he knocked down Georgia's gay marriage ban.

"Well," Hutson continues, "Does Reed's definition of sanctified marriage include a man and his third cousin? Well, what about a man who married his third cousin, Ms. Peruggi, then had the marriaged annulled after a brief 14 years as soon as he 'discovered' (in the midst of an adulterous affair with Ms. Hanover) that his wife was not his third cousin, but actually his second cousin? What about a man who has an annulment, marries his lover waiting in the wings, and then ends his second marriage with another adulterous affair?"

Now everything said so far about Reed's willingness to snuggle up to Giuliani could be said about the Repugnican Party as a whole and the Repugnican Convention in particular. Rudy, or as some call him - the "cross-dressing, 'blatant adultering cousin-fucker' (BACF) with a comb-over"- will be the keynote speaker for the Republican Convention.

And what do you say about a man who is denied the Sacrament of the Eucharist in his own religious institution because he flaunts the beliefs of that institution?

What do you say about a man who unabashedly uses his complete failure as mayor to protect the citizens of New York to promote himself at every opportunity?

You say "Keynote Speaker!"

How desperate are these Rupugnican hypocrites?

Joe Biden - man for the times

As everyone knows by now, Senator Barack Obama has selected Joseph Biden, U.S. Senator from the state of Delaware, to be his running mate.

Joe Biden is the right man. A member of the Senate since 1972, Biden serves as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations. Previously, he has served as chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary.

Biden, a Roman Catholic, brings wisdom and experience to the Obama campaign. Biden is a liberal, thank god, with a commitment of those liberal values that put people first. He believes the government is neither evil (as per Reagan), nor the conduit for siphoning the country's assets off to the rich (as per Bush and company). Rather the government is the organism by which the needs of the people are met and the opportunities to live in mutually supportive roles are provided.

In his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Biden will be able to offer focus and insight to Senator Obama as together they take up the task of healing the wounds created by Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and all the other neocons who saw the world, and specifically the Middle East, as a playground for their war games.

Biden - a great choice!

Susan Eisenhower backs Barack!

The granddaughter of the late Dwight D. Eisenhower, general of the U.S. Army and president of the United States, has decided to support Senator Barack Obama in this year's presidential election.

Her decision to leave the Republican Party did not come easy. But the reasons were compelling. Most had to do with the mess that Bush and the neocons have made of their opportunity to lead the nation.

Ms. Eisenhower says that "McCain and [the] Bush White House have learned little in the last five years. They mishandled what became a crisis in the Caucusus, and this has undermined U.S. national security. At the same time, the McCain camp appears to be comfortable with running an unworthy Karl Rove-style political campaign."

Then she asks the pertinent question: "Will the McCain operation, and its sponsors, do anything to win?"

Ms. Eisenhower expresses the concerns tearing at the hearts of millions of Americans. "We are disliked overseas and feel insecure at home. We watch as our federal budget hemorrhages red ink and our civil liberties are eroded. Crises in energy, health care and education threaten our way of life and our ability to compete internationally. There are also the issues of a costly, unpopular war; a long-neglected infrastructure, and an aging and increasingly needy population."

Today's Republican Party, says Ms. Eisenhower, has been "[H]ijacked by a relatively small few ... [and] bears no resemblance to Lincoln, Roosevelt or Eisenhower's party, or many of the other Republican administrations that came after. In my grandparent's time, the thrust of the party was rooted in: a respect for the constitution; the defense of civil liberties; a commitment to fiscal responsibility; the pursuit and stewardship of America's interests abroad; the use of multilateral international engagement and 'soft power'; the advancement of civil rights; investment in the infrastructure; environmental stewardship; the promotion of science and its discoveries; and a philosophical approach focused squarely on the future."

By so saying, of course, she implies clearly that today's Republican Party is devoid of all of those characteristics, an empty and vapid shell of its former self.

While I believe Ms. Eisenhower's view of "old" Republicanism is seen through too "rosy" glasses and also fails to consider how the rabid religious insanity of the Christian Right has impacted the Republican Party, she certainly lays out a view as to how things ought to be, a view which has been systematically rejected in every instance by Bush and company!

Ms. Eisenhower has announced her support for the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama. "I am convinced," she says, "that Barack Obama is the one presidential candidate today who can encourage ordinary Americans to stand straight again; he is a man who can salve our national wounds and both inspire and pursue genuine bipartisan cooperation. Just as important, Obama can assure the world and Americans that this great nation's impulses are still free, open, fair and broad-minded."

I couldn't have said it better myself!

(Some of the material for this essay was taken from a Washington Post article which you can read here.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wylie, Texas School Board - breaking the law for Jesus

[Photo is of the "Christian" community, Wylie, Texas]

I've told this story before, but it is applicable again. The junior high school attended by my youngest daughter in a Houston suburb included prayers to Jesus as part of their daily morning announcements. I protested to the principal, pointing out that such prayers were illegal and that I didn't wish my daughter exposed to them.

The principal basically told me to bug off. He didn't care if what he was doing was against the law or not. He would continue to praise Jesus in the morning.

Unscrewingtheinscrutable pointed me to another Texas story...this one from the town of Wylie, a little burg near Dallas/Ft. Worth.

"Imagine the surprise of the Wylie, TX School Board trustees when during a bond meeting, School board member Ralph James tried to begin the meeting with a recitation of ... The Lord's Prayer. He had got out 'Our Father...' when bond committee member Mikki Lewis stood up and said very loudly, 'Excuse me?'"

While Ms. Lewis' husband is a Roman Catholic, Ms. Lewis is Jewish. She said " wasn't on the agenda, and it surprised me. I wasn't there to pray or practice my religion."

The committee, wanting to play "fair," elected to hold a "moment of silence" rather than a prayer. That really didn't solve the problem for Ms. Lewis so she wrote to the superintendent in order to facilitate some sort of discussion as to the place of prayer at a School Board meeting.

The superintendent did not respond, but one of the School Board trustees, Sue Nicklas, did, and here's what she wrote, in part (read it and weep, you lovers of inclusiveness and our Constitution):

"I must share with you first and formost (sic) that there are many people who are praying for you. In ten years as a trustee of the Wylie school board, you're the first parent to complain about a prayer, and the very first person in my 68 years that has ever had the audasity (sic) to interrupt God and one of His children in prayer."

Ms. Nicklas also said that the agenda for school board meetings wasn't set by Ms. Lewis. "We are elected by the people ... in the community," said Ms. Nicklas. Furthermore, Wylie is a Christian community.

Therefore, said Ms. Nicklas, "You go with the culture and customs of the community."

We have done a mighty poor job teaching American history, civics, and the Constitution in the United States, for Ms. Nicklas is not unusual, but represents millions of people who consider themselves to be "patriotic" Americans while at the same time denying the fundamental principles upon which the nation was based. (These principles were NOT the Ten Commandments!)

As Brent Rasmussen put it to Ms. Nicklas at unscrewingtheinscrutable: "Christianity isn't 'more equal' than every other religion out there, and because of the First Amendment, U.S. citizens have a reasonable expectation that we won't be preached at by our elected officials. Quite frankly, no one gives a flying fudge sickle about your self-righteous proclamation about 'many people praying for' Mrs. Lewis. Jesus! How arrogant can a person get anyway?

"...Sue: You don't get to be 'more equal' than everyone else. You don't get to have the privilege of including your own personal wacky religious rituals in public meetings. Period. The end. Yes, yes, even if you have the wink-wink nod-nodded at it for 10 years. Just because you and your fellow Christian theocrats have been breaking the law for ten years does not magically make it legal."

I think that sorta says it all. Be aware, though, that what happened in Wylie happens all over our country every single day schools are in session.

It would probably be wise, therefore, that you're damn careful not to interrupt God and one of His children at prayer!

Rasmussen's entire article is here.

Dr. Berringer and the lying stones or beware of wanting too hard to believe

"Dr. Johann Bartholomew Adam Beringer (1667-1740) was a Senior Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Wurzburg in Germany. Like many physicians of the time, he cultivated an interest in natural history. In particular, he was intrigued by what was call the study of oryctics, or 'things dug from the earth.' Today we would call this the study of fossils, or paleontology."

In 1725, three boys he hired to scour nearby Mt. Eivelstadt and bring him any interesting things they found, turned up with three stones, one of which had "a stylized image of the sun," while the other two bore "images of worms."

As the months went boy, the boys brought him close to 2,000 stones on which were found images of plants, insects, bird, snails, astronomical objects, and even Hebrew letters. Dr. Beringer was not only interested in these items but puzzled. In 1726, he wrote a "treatise about the stones, in order to bring them to the attention of other scholars." That's a typically scientific approach to such a matter.

Much of Beringer's book mused on the origins of the stones; theories as to where they came from. He suggested maybe they were "relics of the Great Flood, or whether they were the product of 'the marvelous force of petrifying moisture.' He even wondered whether they were the work of man. For instance, could the stones 'be ascribed to the superstitious art of the heathen Germans?"

In the end, he decided there were too many of them to be man-made or part of a hoax. So, they had to be produced by nature. He just didn't know how.

"According to legend, just as the first copies of his book were rolling off the printing press, the boys presented Beringer with a final stone, one which had his own name carved in it. Finally, he realized that he had indeed been the victim of an elaborate hoax. Humiliated, and in a state of panic, Beringer frantically tried to buy up all the existing copies of the book."

Beringer had been fooled by two of his colleagues, a Professor of Geography, Algebra, and Analysis and a by the Privy Councillor and Librarian to the Court and the University.

He took them to court and won.

The two colleagues created this complicated and lengthy hoax because they hated Beringer for being "so arrogant" and acting like he "despised them all."

Beringer lived for 14 additional years, and wrote two more books. The hoaxers, however, did not fare so well. One died within four years and the other finally had to leave Wurzburg as a "cloud of dishonor" followed him around.

Here lies the lesson: Beware of "the danger of wantonly pursuing unsupported hypotheses."

[Most of the above was taken from an article at musuemhoaxes. You can read the entire story here.]

Father Jeremy Davies - an exercise in exorcistic futility

Thanks to PZ Myers at Pharyngula for pointing me to this.

Welcome to the Dark Ages!

Father Jeremy Davies is a 73-year old Roman Catholic priest "of Westminster, the leading diocese of the Catholic Church of England and Wales."

We may be living in the 21st Century, but Father Davies never made it out of the Dark Ages! The good reverend believes that "Promiscuity, as well as homosexuality and pornography ... is a form of sexual perversion and can lead to demonic possession."

Among the reasons for the "explosion of homosexuality in recent years," according to this clerical screwball, "is a contagious demonic factor."

Of course. Why didn't we discover this before?

But, this aging celibate ("an Oxford graduate who is also a qualified physician"), doesn't stop there. "Even heterosexual promiscuity is a perversion; and intercourse, which belongs in the sanctuary of married love, can become a pathway not only for disease but also for evil spirits."

We must warn our vulnerable young people about these dangers, cries Davies.

Part of the problem, too, is "that Satan is responsible for having blinded most secular humanists to the 'dehumanising effects of contraception and abortion and IVF, of homosexual "marriages,"' of human cloning and the vivisection of human embryos in scientific research. Extreme secular humanism, 'atheist scientism', is comparable to 'rational satanism' and these are leading Europe into a dangerous state of apostasy. "

Father Davies has even written a book.

Hopefully, no one will ever read it.

What could an old cleric who believes in demons, thinks that sexual intercourse is a "pathway" to "disease" and "evil spirits," who is convinced that homosexuality and pornography lead to demonic possession, who has faith in the notion that life begins when sperm meets egg and thus contraception is "dehumanising," possibly offer people living in the real world in the 21st century?

If you want to believe in demons, look to the comical Father Davies, for he really worries about "demonic" sex. And, as they say, the devil's in the details.

But that's just the opinion of some "rational satanists."

Read PZ Myers here, and more on Father Davies here. There's more on Davies' problem with Yoga here. Read about his "authoritative" tract on exorcism here.

Jindal and Jesus

Bobby Jindal, the ultra-right, wingnut Christian governor of Louisiana, loves Jesus and just knows that he's going to heaven because Jesus has saved him for all of his sins.

Well, here's a sin I don't think Jesus is going to overlook, and it has to do with demeaning God's creatures under the guise of "faith."

Jindal will NOT renew an anti-discrimination order generated by former Governor Kathleen Blanco. This order banned a variety of types of discrimination and harassment in all state offices, "including discrimination by race, sexual orientation and political affiliation." It expires today.

Jindal, who, as we said, loves Jesus and insists that his faith plays a major part of his day-to-day decision-making (I mean, he couldn't imagine going through a day without his god by his side), stated (with a straight face, no less!) that he won't renew the order because discrimination is already prohibited by state and federal laws and "he doesn't want to create additional special categories by executive order."


But then we find out the real reason: Jindal was concerned that such an anti-discrimination order would create problems for faith-based organizations and their contracts with the state!

You wouldn't want to take away the right of a faith-based organization to discriminate, would you? I mean, most of these faith-based groups are of a fundamentalist Christian mindset and fundamentalist Christians just can't have non-believers or wrong-believers working for them as they do God's good work!

Hey, don't blame me. The people of Louisiana voted this fruitcake into office. (Want a sleepless night? Supposedly, he's on the short list for McCain's vice presidential running mate!)


Iraqi troop pullout - so who's unpatriotic now?

Not so long ago, when Senator Obama stated his objective of removing all combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of his taking office, the White House and Same McCain went ballistic. My god, you'd think Obama didn't want to win the war, said McCain. Obama would rather run for president than win the war, said Surely McCaine. Obama is one unpatriotic SOB, implied the flip-flopper-in-chief!

Bush and the rest of the Repugnicans danced around on that same bandwagon, even insisting that when Iraqi PM, Nouri al-Maliki, went on record as approving Obama's plan that al-Maliki must have misspoke! He must not have understood what he was saying. He couldn't possibly agree with Obama! "He's our man!" cried the Bushites.

Oops! All those "patriotic," self-righteous Repugnican clowns are slowly chewing their words today. Turns out that the Iraqis and the Bushites are drawing up a plan to remove all U.S. fighting soldiers from major Iraqi cities (not the country) by next June.

What went wrong that the "patriots" have suddenly turned "unpatriotic," no longer demanding that the U.S. "win" the war? And what will McSame have to say?

Could it have something to do with an upcoming election, which involves an electorate increasing pissed off about the entire costly mess in Iraq and who just might vote Democratic if there isn't some sort of attempt to bring it to a close?

The whole deal could collapse, of course, as the Bush people are hammering in a number of "conditions," which include the stationing of U.S. combat troops in the countryside in an "overwatch" role. Not only so, but a number of Sunni Iraqis don't like the plan, mostly, it seems, because it was developed under a Shiite government, but also 'cause they don't like Bush or his crony, Condi Rice.

Also of note, is that while the Iraqis are insisting that there be NO permanent U.S. bases in their country when the troops leave, the Bushites have their own plan which calls for about 58 permanent bases!

You may find this fact of interest: Congress has not yet been "informed" of the plan and the Bush administration will not submit the agreement for formal approval.

Kings, as you know, do not ask permission from subordinates!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The McCains - challenged by the truth

This is also from John Avarosis at Americablog. It describes how "McCain lied about his wife Cindy meeting Mother Teresa."

John asks:

"How do you not remember, or remember when it didn't happen, that you met Mother Teresa? Even worse? How do you remember, incorrectly, that that is how you adopted your daughter? Here is what McCain's campaign Web site used to claim about his wife, Cindy:

"'Cindy led 55 medical missions to third world and war-torn countries during AVMT's seven years of existence. On one of those missions, Mother Teresa convinced Cindy to take two babies in need of medical attention to the United States. One of those babies is now their adopted daughter, 15-year old Bridget McCain.'"

Avarosis reveals that the story is not true. "Mrs. McCain, it turns out, never met Mother Teresa on that trip. (Once contacted by the Monitor, the campaign revised the story on its website.)"

There's more to the story of Cindy McCain's involvement with the American Voluntary Medical Team - her own charity. It's an old story now, but perhaps has some relationship to the McCain's penchant for avoiding the truth.

It was while working with AMVT that Ms. McCain became addicted to Percocet and Vicodin and stole those drugs from AMVT, her own nonprofit medical relief organization.

Tom Gosinski was hired by Cindy in 1991 and served as the director of government and international affairs for the AVMT. During the summer of 1992, he noticed that Cindy was acting erratically. "In his journal, he wrote that he and others suspected the boss was addicted to painkillers and might have been stealing them from the organization."

The July 27, 1992 entry in Gosinki's journal reads like this:

"I have always wondered why John McCain has done nothing to fix the problem. He must either not see that a problem exists or ... not choose to do anything about it. ... There is so much at risk: The welfare of the children; John's political career; the integrity of Hensley & Company ...

" ... During my short tenure at AVMT I have been surrounded by what on the surface appears to be the ultimate all-American family. In reality, I am working for a very sad, lonely woman whose marriage of convenience to a U.S. Senator has driven her to: distance herself from friends; cover feelings of despair with drugs; and replace lonely moments with self-indulgences."

Cindy fired Gosinksi in January of 1993 claiming "that AVMT was having financial problems and couldn't afford him."

John McCain seems to be devolving from a true American "hero," to a stuttering shadow of inanity, as his past rears its ugly head revealing a tragically-comic old man, involved in a race which, win or lose, will destroy the myth he has so carefully created and cultivated.

You can read the full story by Amy Silverman here. Avarosis' article at Americablog is here.

Ann Coulter, reputation killer for Krist

If you read the Bible as literature, you understand that it is a collection of stories, tales, and sagas which metaphorically tell the same basic story over and over again: What humans see as "good," is not what God sees as "good," and therein lies the dilemma explicated in legends and myths throughout the "good book," beginning with the myth of Adam and Eve.

What humans see as "good," is too often evil in the sight of God.

Perhaps one of the most evil people on this planet today is Ann Coulter. I don't think that is hyperbole. It is impossible to talk of Coulter without referencing evil. From my understanding of the biblical perspective, what Coulter sees as "good," God sees as evil.

News Hounds describes her latest foray into the morass which involved the public and purposeful defamation of the character of Senator Barack Obama. In other words, she lied in order to denigrate Senator Obama in the eyes of the world. She did this while appearing on FOX News. Obviously, that does not speak well for the Repugnican propaganda outlet.

From News Hounds:

"FOX News trotted out the ethically-challenged Ann 'Boombox' Coulter to speak on behalf of Christian values on last night's (8/18/08) Hannity & Colmes. In critiquing Barack Obama's comments in Rick Warren's Saddleback forum over the weekend, Coulter falsely and outrageously claimed that Obama wants to make sure babies born after a botched abortion will be killed. [This story, by the way, is being given serious attention in a variety of place, including AOL!] Then, after a coquettish remark to the married Alan Colmes, Coulter boasted about 'madly flashing' Sean Hannity during the forum.

"Hannity, who quite happily supported pro-choice Rudy Guiliani, has been on a roll attacking Obama over his vote against an Illinois law that would have protected infants after a botched abortion procedure. As Media Matters has noted and Colmes later did, too, Obama's opposition to the Illinois bill was due to the fact that he felt it threatened women's right to choose while criminal statutes already in force protected infants."

Obama's position, by the way, has been verified by the State of Illinois!

As the discussion continued, "Coulter falsely said about Obama that he 'wants the doctors, you know, chasing (an infant born after a botched abortion) through a delivery room to make sure it gets killed."

One must remember, however, as News Hounds reminds us, that "Coulter has repeated called for murder, unlike Obama. She has 'joked' about poisoning Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and assassinating President Clinton and Senator Lincoln Chafee..."

If that's not evil...

Please read the entire News Hounds article here.

How many houses? McCain forgets...

Old story now, but still funny. Nobody seems to know exactly how many houses are owned by the McCain duo, John and Cindy. I saw a little cracker house in Cedar Key, Florida (above photo) with a sign indicating the owners are the McCains, but I think it is another McCain family. One never knows, though.

See, even ol' John isn't sure how many homes he owns. When asked the question in an interview with Politico on August 20, John said, "I think -- I'll have my staff get to you. It's condominiums where -- I'll have them get to you."

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) thought McCain has six houses. David Axelrod, chief strategist for Obama, mentioned seven. Some think the number is eight.

We all know that McCain is incredibly rich, what with his wife's fortune estimated at $100 mil. So, he can afford four, six, seven, or more houses. The number really doesn't matter. The fact that he can't answer a straight-forward question does.

I don't think it's his age -- he's not that old! I think it's his mind.

Wait, the housing crisis gets even more humorous. As John Aravosis noted at AmericaBlog, "It only took the McCain campaign three hours, or so, to invoke John McCain's former POW status to defend him from attacks regarding his gaffe yesterday in which he couldn't remember how many houses he owns. You see, the McCain's campaign campaign explained to the Washington Post today, McCain was a POW..."

Aravosis describes how it went down, according to Ben Smith at Politico:

"McCain aides referred back to McCain's time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam in defending him from the mockery over his houses.

'This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison,' says spokesman Rogers."

Somehow we knew it'd come down to that - the Hanoi Hilton again!

Will James Dobson support McCain?

The following is from Mark Nickolas at The Huffington Post.

On February 17, 2000, James Dobson issued a statement in opposition to Gary Bauer's endorsement of then presidential hopeful, John McCain. Here is part of that statement:

"Speaking as a private individual and not as the president of Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson expressed disagreement yesterday with former presidential candidate Gary Bauer's endorsement of Senator John McCain as Republican nominee for U.S. President. The Senator has offered no assurances that he intends to appoint a pro-life running mate or pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. Indeed, he voted for pro-abortion Stephen Breyer and pro-abortion ACLU-activist Ruth Bader Ginsburg for that Court and for David Satcher for Surgeon General, who supports partial-birth-abortion. McCain also voted in support of President Clinton to expand fetal-tissue research.

"Furthermore, McCain has accepted huge contributions from the gambling industry and apparently is comfortable with the proliferation of gambling in American society. He has also accepted large contributions from producers of alcohol. McCain is in favor of combat assignments for women in the military, and has sought and received enormous financial and political support from the Log Cabin Republicans and other homosexual activists. McCain also supports Most Favored Nation status for the brutal regime in China, and voted against our nation's monitoring of Communist Chinese commercial fronts operating in the United States. He seeks to appease the bloated Federal public school bureaucracy and has refused to support vouchers.

"'The Senator,' Dobson said, 'is being touted by the media as a man of principle, yet he was involved with other women while married to his first wife, and was implicated in the so-called Keating scandal with four other senators. He was eventually reprimanded by the Congress for the "appearance of impropriety." The Senator reportedly has a violent temper and can be extremely confrontational and profane when angry. These red flags about Senator McCain's character are reminiscent of the man who now occupies the White House.'"

Ain't it fascinating how some things never change? Mr. Dobson, with whom I almost never agree on anything, said it right re: McCain's character. Now, seeing as how McCain's character is no different in 2008 than it was in 2000, do you think Dobson will see fit to endorse Senator Obama?

Nah...even an adulterous, profane, violent-tempered liar tied to the alcohol industry like McCain is preferable to a moral, ethical black Democrat! Right?

The oil drilling scam lives on

This thing just won't die.

John McCain, who did a little photo op on an Exxon platform the other day (to show, I'm sure, his "great concern" about the high price of oil), along with millions of other morons in this country, continue to believe and promote the notion that we have gazillions of gallons of oil beneath our offshore waters, hidden under the Alaskan tundra, or shot through shale in the American west. All we have to do is drill, and shazam!, our gas tanks shall overflow and our troubles will be over. It's kinda like magic!

Not only so, but we'd better get all that oil before other countries, bad countries, like China suck it up. Sen. Larry Craig, the Repugnican from Idaho (and Minnesota bathrooms) warned back in 2006 that China might soon be drilling in waters off the Florida Keys. According to, "people like California congressional candidate Tom McClintock see the oil rigs now." McClintock wrote this month that "'The vast oil fields off the coast of Florida that American law prevents Americans from developing are now being drained by the Chinese government drilling in Cuban waters.'"

McClintock must be stupid or devious. Are the Chinese drilling in the "vast oil fields off the coast of Florida," or are they drilling in Cuban waters? Is there an American "law" that forbids Americans from drilling in Cuban waters?

McClintock is full of horse hockey, and everything he says is false, but it plays well to the hoi polloi who are terrified that gas prices might go even higher and their standard of living might be compromised further.

In spite of the latest BS promoted on the Internet by the Repugnican wackos, even if drilling were started today, it would be years before we'd see any oil! A spokesman for the government's Energy Information Administration estimates that "it would take at least five years to begin production in U.S. waters [not Cuban waters!] in the eastern Gulf of Mexico ... The process often takes longer."

Furthermore, the recent claims that the amount of oil to be recovered is so vast we could immediately cease relying on oil from the Middle East, is patently untrue. "The EIA says U.S. waters in the area contain 3.82 billion barrels, half our annual national consumption of 7.6 billion barrels. But it would take decades to extract. If the offshore drilling ban were removed in 2012, the EIA states, it 'would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.'"

Another crazy claim currently making the rounds is that "Alaska has more oil than the Middle East." NOT true!

On Alaska's North Slope, which includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, "[I]t can take two or three years to drill a single exploratory well ... because drilling is only possible for a few months at a time in the winter, when the permafrost is frozen hard enough to support equipment." There are other problems, too, such as transporting the necessary infrastructure, the need for "thick gravel 'pad[s],' acres in size," and pipeline corrosion.

"The EIA forecasts that if Congress opened up the ANWR, it would take eight to 12 years go even start production."

The EIA also estimates that because drilling is so difficult and/or impossible in so much of the area, "about 10.4 billion barrels of oil can be recovered from ANWR, just over a year of American consumption. Saudi Arabia has about 260 billion barrels of proven oil reserves."

Maybe the Saudis have just a tad more oil than Alaska? You think?

The plentitude of oil in the so-called Bakken Formation is another story the wingnuts are spreading as the gospel. The Bakken Formation is a "layer of rock underneath North Dakota, Montana and southern Canada." Rush Limbaugh, that drug-addled "rocket scientist" has claimed that "'175 billion to 500 billion barrels of recoverable oil' are located in the Bakken ..."

And all the numbnuts solemnly nod their heads.

NOT so! "Companies are drilling in the Bakken, but an April survey from the USGS reported approximately 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels of oil could be extracted using cutting-edge technology, or about six months of U.S. consumption. Moreover, says Richard Pollastro, a geologist who led the USGS survey, 'that's what is technically recoverable, not necessarily what is economically recoverable.' Essentially, oil prices would have to increase for companies to extract it at all."

So much for Limbaugh. And all the other wackos for whom truth and science and reality are words that never penetrate the fantasy world in which they live and die without learning a thing!

Cheap oil is of the past. Hell, oil is soon to be of the past. Our only option is not more drilling, but to develop a variety of alternative sources of energy.

Most of the above information was derived from an article by Peter Dizikes writing at You can read the article in its entirety here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lieberman will speechify at Repugnican Convention

Joe Lieberman - what can one say about this weasel of a man? Traitor to the Democratic Party; opportunist; blind servant to the lame McCain; dedicated to inane pedantry and noxious war-mongering...

Which leads to an Associated Press release from yesterday speculating upon McCain's possible VP candidates:

"His [McCain's] top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional choices mentioned include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent."

Lieberman is off on a trip to the Republic of Georgia, Poland and the Ukraine. It is reported that McCain plans to meet him south of Atlanta. Nah...just kidding. The reason for this trip, however, is known only to whatever deity Lieberman worships. Perhaps it is to show McCain's foreign policy concern? Maybe it's to blow smoke in Russia's face? Maybe it's because McCain isn't sure where to find these countries on a map or if they are even countries.

It's good to know that some Repugnicans aren't too happy about Lieberman speaking at their convention. I don't know why. He's one of McCain's closest friends and he's been out and about praising the old man while blasting Obama.

It might be good for the good guys if McCain named Lieberman to be his VP. That would throw a little traitor into the heroic mix.

On John McCain, war hero and senator

One of the best posts I've read dealing with John McCain's "heroism" in Vietnam, scholarship, and temperament is found today on Down With Tyranny and is titled:

People Who Know McCain's Mettle The Best Are The Least Likely To Vote For Him

It begins thus:

And we're not just talking about ex-wives and abandoned children and other shunned family members and the fellow Republican senators who loathe and distrust him. Sure Thad Cochran (R-MS) famously told the media that he's worked with McCain for over 30 years and that "the thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me." But it is the people who have served with McCain who have watched him puff himself up and exploit his military serviced who are the ones most eagerly flocking to Obama. You may have read last week that troops deployed abroad have contributed 6 to 1, Obama over McCain. They know McCain is an irrational warmonger itching for a fight and that he doesn't have the temperament to be Commander in Chief.

Read the entire post here - scroll down.

China's opening Olympics ceremonies - a paean to the state

[Photo from Clive Rose/Getty Images]

Generally, the opening ceremonies at this summer's Olympic games in Beijing have received plaudits and accolades from around the world. Oh, there was a bit of sniping as to how some of the fireworks may have been digital simulations, but overall, the ceremonies were considered a magnificent tribute of China's creative and technological prowess.

It wasn't easy. The ceremonies involved a cast and crew of some 15,000 people. They required a great deal of "sacrifice and suffering." Some of the "performers were injured, fainted from heatstroke or forced to wear adult diapers so the show could go on."

Gillian Wong, writing for the Associated Press, tells of martial arts student, Cheng Jianghua, who was one of 2,200 "carefully chosen pugilist prodigies" who performed at the opening ceremonies. Cheng and his pals "spent an average of 16 hours a day, every day, rehearsing a synchronized tai-chi routine involving high kicks, sweeping lunges and swift punches. They lived for three months in trying conditions at a restricted army camp on the outskirts of Beijing."

Not a few performers said their training was so difficult it left them with various injuries sustained "from slipping during rain-drenched rehearsals or fainting from heat-stroke amid hours of training under the relentless summer sun."

But it was worth it, says 17-year old Ren Yang. "When we performed that night, all that I could feel in my heart was joy. Pure joy."

I can't help wondering if American youth would accept orders to train in such a rigorous manner; to quietly accept injuries acquired during training; to live in a "restricted" barracks far from the action; to wear adult diapers to ensure that the "show could go on"; all for the glory of the country that is the United States.

Perhaps here is a clue to the difference between the two countries. In China, a totalitarian country, the state is all. In China, the state is the object of adoration and respect; the individual's worth is directly related to his/her value to the objectives of the state.

In the United States, hypothetically, at least, the individual comes first. We the people form the government; we are the government. The state has value only in so far as it serves the needs of the people. If the government should fail in its duty to serve the people, we have the constitutional right to overthrow the government and install another in its place.

I think I like our system better.

Understanding the Bible

Fundamentalist Christians are noted for their literal interpretation of the Bible. They believe that God "authored" the Bible (both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament) either by dictating to the writers, or filling them with the Holy Spirit to jot down the proper words. Thus, there can be no error of fact or opinion in all of scripture. The world of biblical criticism is rejected out of hand and thus is a foreign world.

Fundamentalist Christians, when reading the Bible, begin with their theology, and strive mightily to make the Bible conform to that theology.

They dismiss the massive amount of study and conclusions made by biblical scholars over the past 300 years.

Thus, the Hagees, Parsleys, Robertsons, Dobsons, et. al., can and do make the Bible say whatever they want it to say.

Consider the following, excerpted from Thomas L. Thompson's Mythic Past -- Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel (MJF Books, New York, 1999). Thompson is a noted biblical scholar, who believes the Bible must be read as literature, not as history.

"The long preoccupation of biblical studies with the question of origins has led to many distortions in our understanding of the tradition. Today we no longer have a history of Israel. Not only have Adam and Eve and the flood story passed over to mythology, but we can no longer talk about a time of the patriarchs. There never was a 'United Monarchy' in history and it is meaningless to speak of pre-exilic prophets and their writings. The history of Iron Age Palestine today knows of Israel only as a small highland patronate lying north of Jerusalem and south of the Jezreel Valley. Nor has Yahweh, the deity dominant in the cult of that Israel's people, much to do with the Bible's understanding of God. Any history we write of this people will hardly resemble the Israel we thought we knew so much about only a few years ago. And even that little will hardly open to us the Bible's origins in history.

"Our history of biblical tradition has come topsy-turvy. It is only a Hellenistic Bible that we know: namely the one that we first begin to read in the texts found among the Dead Sea scrolls near Qumran. I have argued that the quest for origins is not an historical quest but a theological and literary question, a question about meaning. To give it an historical form is to attribute to it our own search for meaning. Biblical scholarship used to believe that we might understand the Bible if we could only get back to its origins. The question about origins, however, is not an answerable one. Not only is the Bible's 'Israel" a literary fiction, but the Bible begins as a tradition already established: a stream of stories, song and philosophical reflection: collected, discussed and debated. Our sources do not begin. ...

"We can say now with considerable confidence that the Bible is not a history of anyone's past. The story of the chosen and rejected Israel that it presents is a philosophical metaphor of a mankind that has lost its way. The tradition itself is a discourse about recognizing that way. In our historicizing of this tradition, we have lost sight of the Bible's intellectual centre, as well as of our own."

Can you imagine the pain the world would have been and would be spared if people began to understand the Bible, not as history, but as literature; as a "philosphical metaphor of a mankind that has lost its way"?

Could we not begin, then, to come together and ask, not what the Bible tells us about human origins, but how to live together in comity and mutual benefit?

Imagine the possibilities!

The Bush administration's environmental end-run

[Photo of Bald Eagle by wildnatureimages]

When the Bush administration doesn't want to play by the rules, it makes up its own, new rules.

Time magazine (Aug. 25, 2008, p. 13) notes that "The early 1970s were a golden age for U.S. environmentalists, with a wave of proposals passed into law that transformed the way Americans thought of their air, their water and their natural resources. The crown jewel of that legislation was the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which has helped iconic animals like the gray wolf and the bald eagle rebound to healthier numbers. Once a species is classified as endangered, no federally approved project affecting the animal--like a highway or a dam--can go forward without an independent scientific review."

The ESA has long been a thorn in the side of the Bushites because it flies in the face of their commitment to green light any corporate project that has potential to create a profit.

Amanda Terkel, at Think Progress, writes that "The Bush administration has been attempting to bypass or kill the Endangered Species Act for years. Recently, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff used his power to waive federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, in order to expedite building the U.S.-Mexico border fence."

A little over a week ago, on August 11, "the White House proposed an overhaul that could gut the ESA. The new rules--which could go into effect in as few as 90 days and won't need approval from Congress--include measures that would allow federal agencies dealing with projects affected by the ESA to bypass an independent review. And that means the evaluation of whether an action harms an endangered species would be made not by trained biologists but by bureaucrats." (Time, Aug. 25, p. 13)

As pointed out by Ms. Terkel, "This measure mirrors legislation proposed in 2005, by then-Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), a close ally of Jack Abramoff [and, I would add, one of the most anti-environmental members of Congress in its long history!]. ... Pombo's GOP-majority House cleared his bill, but it failed to go anywhere in the Senate. Bush is now bypassing Congress to push the legislation forward before he leaves office."

The rationale for this change was explicated by the Bush Interior Secretary, Dick Kempthorne, and it is provides a glimpse into the corporate mindset of the Bushites, who see, even our precious natural resources, as simply a means of increasing their wealth.

According to the AP, "...Kempthorne said ... the changes were needed to ensure that the Endangered Species Act would not be used as a 'back door' to regulate the gases blamed for global warming. ... The draft rules would bar federal agencies from assessing the emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats.

"It is important," said Kempthorne, "to use our time and resources to protect the most vulnerable species. It is not possible to draw a link between greenhouse gas emissions and distant observations on species."

This moron speaketh nonsense even as the Polar Bear fights for its life on the melting Arctic ice! This moron underplays the onslaught of global warming which is knocking on the world's door in order to allow his cronies to pile up the cash in their vaults! This moron, who is responsible for ensuring an environment (including the various species) survive for our children and grandchildren, wants to allow the destruction of that very environment.

Again from Time: "It's ironic that such a proposal should be made just when millions of Americans are worrying about, and acting on, the most pressing environmental challenge they will ever face--climate change. ...

"... it's hard to avoid the conclusion that with less than six months in office, the Bush Administration is set on dismantling some established environmental protections while it has the chance. Like a forest lost to arson, the damage could take years to repair."

If it can ever be repaired. Once a species becomes extinct, the species is "non-repairable" - forever!

Is there no way to stop these criminals who occupy the highest offices of our land?

The Bush administration's "torturous" road downhill

[Photo is of Iraqi being tortured at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad]

The following is excerpted from an article titled, "Inhuman Resources," appearing in the September 2008 issue of Harper's magazine, pp. 23-25.

("From the minutes of a Counter Resistance Strategy Meeting, held October 2, 2002, at Guantanamo Bay. ... Jonathan M. Fredman was a CIA lawyer. ... Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver was a staff judge advocate for the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo Bay. The other participants, whom the Defense Department declined to identify specifically, were members of the Guantanamo general staff.")

LTC. PHIFER: Harsh techniques used on our service members have worked and will work on some. What about those?

MAJ. LESO: Force is risky and may be ineffective due to the detainees' frame of reference. They are used to seeing much more barbaric treatment.

COL. CUMMINGS: We can't do sleep deprivation.

LTC. DIANE BEAVER: Yes, we can--with approval. We may need to curb the harsher operations while the Red Cross is around. It's better not to expose them to any controversial techniques. We must have the support of the Department of Defense.

JONATHAN M. FREDMAN: The CIA is not held to the same rules as the military. In the past, when the Red Cross has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD has 'moved' them away from the attention of the Red Cross. Upon questioning as to their whereabouts from the Red Cross, the DOD has repeatedly responded that the detainee merited no status under the Geneva Convention. The CIA has employed aggressive techniques on less than a handful of suspects since 9/11. Under the Torture Convention, torture has been prohibited by international law, but the language of the statutes is written vaguely. Severe mental and physical pain is prohibited. The mental part is explained as poorly as the physical. Severe physical pain is described as anything leading to permanent, profound damage to major organs or body parts. Mental torture is described as anything leading to permanent, profound damage to the senses or personality. It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong. Any of the techniques that lie on the harshest end of the spectrum must be performed by a highly trained individual. Medical personnel should be present to treat any possible accidents. The CIA operates without military intervention. When the CIA has wanted to use aggressive techniques in the past, the FBI has pulled its personnel from the theater. In those rare instances, aggressive techniques have proven very helpful.

BEAVER: We need documentation to protect us.

FREDMAN: Yes, if someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used, regardless of cause of death, the backlash would be severely detrimental. Everything must be approved and documented.

("At this point a discussion ensued about whether or not to videotape the aggressive sessions, or any interrogations at all.")

'Tis a slippery slope we travel. The above does not represent the United States in which I was raised and came to love. The above represents the banality of evil, and all that I loathe and detest about totalitarian governments that hold themselves above the law and the need to behave morally and ethically.

The above could occur only with the approval of the Bush administration and the criminals that sit in the seats of power. It represents the Party which, with mind-blowing hypocrisy, claims to be the Party of God, family values, and morality.

John McCain voted to continue the use of torture.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

McCain's "reluctance" is something to talk about

John McCain, legendary war hero, continually claims he is "reluctant" to talk about his prisoner of war experiences. He then immediately begins talking about his prisoner of war experiences.

Now, we could understand his reluctance if he was asked to discuss his marital infidelities, or his record at the U.S. Naval Academy, or how he crashed five planes while a Navy pilot, or his ignorance about Sunnis and Shiites, or that he doesn't know there is no country called Czechoslovakia anymore, or about the 100 or more lobbyists working for his campaign, or his continual flip-flopping on issues--especially since he decided he wanted to be prezident.

One thing McCain is NOT reluctant to talk about is his Vietnam experience!

Again, from Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report:

"Last week, when the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, a close Bush ally, publicly questioned McCain's character, the McCain campaign responded by highlighting McCain's background as a prisoner of war. When Dems attacked McCain's healthcare plan in May, McCain responded by noting his background as a prisoner of war. Asked by a local reporter about the first thing that comes to his mind when he thinks of Pittsburgh, McCain responded by talking about his background as a prisoner of war.

"And all of this, of course, dovetails with the McCain campaign running multiple television ads talking about McCain's background as a prisoner of war, literally including interrogation footage in the commercial.

"This hard-sell wouldn't be quite so odd if McCain didn't go around saying that he's reluctant to talk about his Vietnam experience.

"McCain became visibly angry when I asked him to explain how his Vietnam experience prepared him for the Presidency.

"'Please,' he said, recoiling back in his seat in distaste at the very question ... McCain then collected himself and apologized for his initial reaction.

"'I kind of reacted the way I did because I have a reluctance to talk about my experiences,' he said, noting that he has huge admiration for the 'heroes' who served with him in the POW camp and said the experience taught him to love the U.S. because he missed it so much.

"'I am always reluctant to talk about these things,' McCain said."


Coneheads "R" Us

It was supposed to work like this, according to the solemn testimony of the Reverend Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church:

Each candidate would appear before the Rev and 2,000 or so spectators and would have the same amount of time and would be asked the very same questions.

So far so good. Senator Barack Obama appeared on stage and answered Warren's questions to the best of his ability. During the session, the Rev told the audience that Senator John McCain had been "safely placed in a cone of silence" and was unable to hear what was being said.

That's when things began to go downhill. It turns out that McCain was not only not in the so-called "cone of silence," but was actually "in his motorcade on the way to the church as Mr. Obama was being interviewed by the Rev. Rick Warren."

But Warren, supposedly unaware of this, said to McCain when he came on stage, ""Now, my first question: Was the cone of silence comfortable that you were in just now?"

McCain answered, "I was trying to hear through the wall."

When Warren was interviewed by CNN on Sunday, he appeared to be surprised to find out that McCain was not at the church during Obama's interview.

It is not surprising that some folks think maybe McCain was listening in on the Obama interview. Some folks think that McCain perhaps answered Warren's questions too well.

That suggestion upset McCain spokeswoman, Nicolle Wallace, who insisted that McCain had not listened to the broadcast while being transported to the church, nor did he hear any of the questions. She said, "The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous."

Notice how she slips in that "prisoner of war" bit as if a POW is above a little lying if it will help him become president! McCain lies all the time so his word means nothing at this point. Nor does Nicolle's word mean much. She is, as Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report put it, "a veteran of Karl Rove's shop."

Did he or didn't he hear the Obama interview? We'll probably never know. It is possible that McCain could say with a straight face he didn't hear the questions or answers, while failing to acknowledge that he was told what they were by an aide - Ms. Nicolle, perhaps?

Nah...that would be presumptuous of me. McCain, a war hero and POW, would never do that!

The legendary "character" of John McCain

Rick Warren, the megachurch pastor who has assumed a god-like, mega-celebrity status, said that while he wouldn't tell people how to vote, they should consider a candidate's character when making their decision. Character is very important, he said.

Evidently, Warren believes atheists have no character because he did say he wouldn't vote for an atheist. Atheists refuse to acknowledge their need for a god outside of themselves and Warren believes the job of president is too big to go it alone. One needs a skygod to tell him/her what country to invade, and when, I suppose.

One could not tell if Warren was subliminally pushing McCain or not. But McCain likes to talk about the character thing, implying that he has it and Obama does not.

Let's consider McCain's character by reflecting upon a story he likes to tell. He told it again, in fact, at Warren's Saddleback forum.

(You know, of course, that McCain continually says he doesn't want to talk about his "heroism" and "bravery" in captivity. That's what he says, anyway, immediately before he goes into yet another self-serving rendition of his Vietnam experience, which is looking more and more like the stuff of legend.)

The latest version goes like this: "One night, after being mistreated as a POW, a guard loosened the ropes binding me, easing my pain. On Christmas, that same guard approached me, and without saying a word, he drew a cross in the sand. We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas."

All the elements of legend are there: the stilted language, the drama, the assuming of motive on the part of the guard.

McCain, it turns out, is something of a fan of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The following comes from a story about Solzhenitsyn and his time in the Soviet Gulags:

"As he waited, head down, he felt a presence. Slowly he looked up and saw a skinny old prisoner squat down beside him. The man said nothing. Instead, he used a stick to trace in the dirt the sign of the Cross. The man then got up and returned to his work.

"As Solzhenitsyn stared at the Cross drawn in the dirt his entire perspective changed. He knew he was only one man against the all-powerful Soviet empire. Yet he knew there was something greater than the evil he saw in the prison camp, something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that hope for all people was represented by that simple Cross. Through the power of the Cross, anything was possible.

"Solzhenitsyn slowly rose to his feet, picked up his shovel and went back to work. Outwardly, nothing had changed. Inside, he had received hope."

You can draw your own conclusions, but it would appear that McCain or one of his acolytes, has lifted the Solzhenitsyn story and adapted it for the North Vietnamese confinement of Mr. McCain.

After McCain returned to the states, he wrote a 12,000 word account of his prison experience, but that account does not contain this powerful and dramatic story of the guard drawing a cross in the dirt.

"Steven Waldman notes that McCain's recounting of this story has changed over the years and 'has gradually morphed from being about the humanity of the guard to being about the Christian faith of the guard and John McCain."

In McCain's retelling the story at Saddleback, he may have inadvertently stumbled. He talks of two different experiences with this same guard. In the first experience, he says the guard simply lossened the ties that bound him. The second experience came at Christmas (conveniently) and the same guard drew the cross. The problem is that McCain was transferred to a different prison in the early part of December. While the timeline is unclear, it seems highly unlikely that the same guard followed him to his new place of confinement.

Two other items:

1) McCain has claimed he became a fan of ABBA's "Dancing Queen" before he was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese. The problem is that "Dancing Queen" did not come out until two years after McCain was released from captivity!

2) For nigh onto 40 years, McCain has offered up in print and verbally one of his favorite POW stories. Last month, he changed the story in a rather important manner. Here's what happened:

A reporter asked him what was the the first thing that comes to his mind when he thinks about Pittsburgh. McCain laughed, and said, "the Steelers. I was a mediocre high school athlete but I loved and adored the sports but the Steelers really made a huge impression on me particularly in my early years."

That's when McCain segued into his POW "war" story: "When I was first interrogated and really had to give some information because of the pressures, physical pressure on me, I named the starting lineup, defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers as my squadron mates."

The reporter asked if he could do the same thing today and McCain said he could not.

The reason he could not is because according to the previous renditions of his bravery and mental sharpness which befuddled his Vietnamese captors, McCain did not name players from the Pittsburgh Steeler football team, he named players from the Greenbay Packers!

McCain's campaign has said the candidate made a was the Packers.

Now, please explain that! How could he make such a "mistake"? As noted, for 40 years he's been telling this tall tale and suddenly "mistakes" the Steelers for the Packers. If that's true, and McCain becomes president, we've got one hell of a problem.

So much for the character issue!

Good news from the Southern Baptists

Onenewsnow reports that the Southern Baptist Convention is declining. In 2007, the SBC had the lowest number of baptisms since 1987. In 2006, the SBC recorded 364,826 baptisms. In 2007, they scored only 345,941; a drop of about 5.5 percent.

Woe is us!

That's not all the bad news, either. Although the SBC added some 473 new churches in 2007, the dunking decline is indicative that the church is not growing as it should be growing.

What to do?

Well, Dr. Thom Ranier, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, believes too many don't take the so-called Great Commission seriously (you'll find the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 - where Jesus is supposed to have told his followers to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Of course, most biblical scholars argue that Jesus said nothing of the sort. He was an observant Jew. Any notion of a "trinity" would be totally foreign to him. So, that verse was inserted in the Gospel of Matthew at a much later date, when the trinitarian formula had become standard.)

None of that matters to the Christian wingnuts, of course. And Dr. Ranier moans the fact that Southern Baptists are "not very excited about being saved, redeemed, forgiven, and having the blood of Jesus shed for us. It just seems like that's a ho-hum thing to us."

We can hope.

The best thing so far as many are concerned would be the continuous decline of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is a fundamentalist behemoth, unrepentantly anti-female, homophobic, and rejects most all of the biblical scholarship of the past 300 years.

Furthermore, the president of the SBC ("Southern Baptist President - fraudulent credentials"), Johnny Hunt, is a fraud. He "identifies himself with the title 'Dr.' and lists two accredited educational institutions on his personal Web site from which he did not receive a doctorate. Yet he is often identified as having degrees--degrees that come from two diploma mills."

Unfortunately, a 5.5. percent drop in baptisms is simply insufficient. Let us pray that god in heaven will dry up the baptismal waters in SBC churches.


A new church due to divine intervention

More wingnuttery!

In our locale, a fundamentalist Christian group has been meeting in rented space for a number of years, all the while growing in membership.

In 2005, the church spent $3 million to purchase land along one of the area's major highways. The church now believes it is ready to build its own facility. One of the church members, who just happens to be part of the construction company which has been hired to build the new church, says that it was "divine intervention [which] has led them to a permanent home."

So, I guess we can thank god for that.

But, you'd think the Lord would lead his people to property that was not located at the bottom of a huge and very stinky landfill!

Artificial insemination and divine direction

It's always amazing to observe how people so easily attribute their particular wants and needs to an imaginary skygod.

The Christian right is up in arms over a recent ruling by the California Supreme Court that "barred doctors from invoking their religious beliefs as a reason to deny treatment to gays and lesbians." Christian News Wire, for example, claims that physicians' constitutional right of "religious liberty" of physicians has been abrogated.

This is the case about which we wrote several weeks ago, which involved one Guadalupe Benitez, a lesbian, who was denied insemination by Christian doctors because of her sexual orientation.

To put it in perspective: Physicians, who claim to be of the Christian faith, on the basis of some ancient, obscure writings -- time, place and authorship unknown -- determined that their god in heaven would be angry at them if they artificially inseminated a lesbian woman.

But now the State of California has told the docctors, "You can't do that because we have laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

The Christian right disagrees - vehemently - citing the guarantee of religious freedom in the Constitution.

Let's turn it around: A Christian woman, unable to conceive, goes to a fertility clinic for consultation, evaluation and artificial insemination. The doctors find that there are no mitigating factors but refuse to inseminate her because of their religion. They are members of the New Earth cult which is hostile to Christians because, written on a tree in a forest many years ago (the tree is now lost), was a message proclaiming Christians to be an abomination to the New Earth goddess.

What would be the reaction of the Christian right in that instance? Would the wingnuts argue that the New Earth doctors should be allowed to discriminate against Christians?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hurricanes, the faithful and the power of prayer

[Photo of folks fleeing the Florida Keys on August 17 '08]

Surveys that deal with the religious beliefs and practices of Americans are notoriously inaccurate. There is often a discrepancy between what people say and what they actually do. For years, various polls have indicated that about 40-44 percent of Americans say they attend religious services on a weekly basis. But when that data is compared with statistics from church records, the percentage drops to somewhere around 20 percent.

The website, Religious Tolerance notes that "Public opinion polls generally do not report real opinions or events. They report only the information that the individuals choose to tell the pollsters. Quite often, their answers will be distorted by a phenomenon called 'social desirability bias.' Pollees answer questions according to what they think they should be doing, rather than what they are doing."

Nevertheless, Americans by and large are a religious people. The Washington Post reported last June that about 92 percent believe in a god or universal spirit and over half pray once a day. Additionally, information derived from the Pew Forum on Religion indicates that "Most Americans believe that angels and demons are active in the world, and nearly 80 percent think miracles occur."

About one-third of Americans are convinced they have "witnessed a divine healing of an illness or injury.

One would think with all this religiosity, believers would take a rather relaxed view of impending hurricanes and their offspring, tornadoes. God, by definition, is all-knowing and all-powerful. Prayer is a method of manipulating God to suit one's desires. As a hurricane approaches, it should be simply a matter of praying to God to cancel, disrupt or re-route the storm.

The faith of most believers appears to be rather weak, however. They may pray, but remain unconvinced that God can or will do anything about the coming storm. Thus, they make the same preparations as non-believers.

Today, in Florida, we are watching the approach of Tropical Storm Fay, soon, it seems, to be called Hurricane Fay. With a few exceptions, residents and visitors in the Florida Keys are hitting the road north, fleeing the inexorable churning of this natural disaster. Throughout the state, people are buying up food, water, gasoline, propane, generators, and plywood. Those who have storm shutters are busily covering their windows. The two stores we visited yesterday had already been cleaned out of water.

It is likely that at least 20 percent of Floridians attended church over the weekend where they prayed for exemption from the wrath of Fay. From my observation, however, many more skipped singing praises to their deity in favor of going it alone. (The stores were jammed!) After all, didn't someone promise that "God helps those who help themselves"?

Maybe the "faith" of most Americans is an illusion?

There are always exceptions, of course. And rationalizations. When Hurricane Ivan hit the Cayman Islands in 2004, it's "mountainous waves and 200-mph winds mangled about 90% of [the island's] homes." A lot of people did a lot of praying before Ivan arrived. Rita Bush, a taxi driver, said "This is a very religious island, and we did a lot of praying before the storm. It didn't stop the hurricane from coming, but it's given us courage, hope and faith to rebuild."

In other words, God couldn't or wouldn't change Ivan's course or intensity, or shut it down completely, but now that it's over, the people can thank God they're alive and for some reason garner "courage, hope and faith to rebuild." That's a big jump of faith! Why would God knock the stuffing out of the Caymans only to give the people "courage, hope, and faith"?

In other cases, people gave in to delusion. Hurricane Dean was headed directly for Jamaica in 2007. Jamaicans prayed desperately for the storm to turn away from the island. It didn't happen. Jamaica was devastated and at least nine people died.

But Hurricane Ivan did a wobble in 2004. A Reverend Carmen Stewart claims that Ivan turned because of the people's prayers. And it wasn't the first time, say the rev. "It has happened time and time again. I know people have been praying and I don't see any other reason why it (the hurricane) would make such a drastic turn.... God hears prayer."

Well, not really. While Hurricane Allen, a category 5 storm did wobble around the island, Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 did not, and as we said, Hurricane Dean made a mess. Maybe the people didn't pray hard enough. Or maybe God was out to lunch that day.

But it's not just Christians or god-believers who give up reason in favor of delusionary "faith." Tracey Johnson is a witch. She lives in Petal, Mississippi. When Hurricane Katrina approached, she said "wards" (whatever that means) over her store and her trailer home. Although places around her were destroyed, she sustained only the loss of a 6-inch water pipe, which, of course, was the result of her magic. Not only so, but she also believes that her collection of tarot, pendulums, runes, herbs, stones, Raven Flight Dragon's Blood, oils and potions helped "heal" people after the storm.

Other witches also turned to magic to ameliorate the effects of Katrina. Starhawk, a witch involved in "modern Earth-based spirituality," claims that "On the night before the hurricane was due to hit, I made a ritual with a small group of friends to support the spiritual efforts that I knew were being made by priestesses ... all over the country. That same night, Christians were praying and Orisha priestesses were working Oya and the hurricane did shift its course, slightly, and lessen its force, down to a Category Four."

It's amazing what can happen when you combine Christian faith with witchcraft!

Then, of course, we have the judgmental types who believe that God uses nature's violence to shower his wrath upon the evil ones. John Hagee, the wingnut preacher from San Antonio, Texas, has said that Katrina was God's judgment upon New Orleans for the city's decadent ways--referring especially to homosexuality.

Hagee isn't alone. Michael Marcavage, the director of an off-the-wall website called Repent America says that "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city ... New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin.

"We must help and pray for those ravaged by this disaster, but let us not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long. May this act of God causes us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God."

Then there's something called "Christian Life and Liberty," an anti-abortion group. They urge that Christians "Pray God's Hurricane helps save America, and destroys Florida abortion centers."

"Lord bring forth Your Wind upon these death centers!"

"If you are a Christian patriot who loves your country, then please consider praying, imprecatorily, that God might be pleased to use His Hurricane (the Act of God called 'Wilma') to destroy some of Florida's 73 child-murder-by-abortion centers..."

One wonders why Christians should pray that God would destroy just "some" of these abortion centers? Why not pray he destroys them all? If he can destroy "some," why stop short of total victory?

By way of explanation: "Imprecatory praying is praying for God's righteous judgment to come upon His enemies. Those who murder the innocent in Florida's 73 child-sacrifice-by-abortion centers are the enemies of God ..."

So, we have one group of the faithful who are realistic. They know they can pray until they're blue in the face and nothing is going to change. Tropical Storm Fay which, according to the expert's predictions, will soon become Hurricane Fay, will continue on its relentless path raining down its fury on theist and atheist alike.

This group is likely to pray, however, that God will give them strength to withstand the storm and put the pieces of their lives back together after the storm.

That's kind of a luke-warm faith.

Then you have those who are convinced that they can change the course of the storm by their prayers. It doesn't always work, but once in awhile a wobble occurs in their favor which they immediately attribute to their prayers which manipulated the deity into doing their will. Included in this group are the pagans and witches who rely on magic to obtain the same end. They, too, are convinced that their machinations had some effect on, if not god, then Mother Nature.

Finally, we must put up with the weirdos who want God to use the hurricane to blast away those they perceive as evil and wicked, either for promoting abortion or homosexuality. These folks are just plain nuts and very limited in their scope as to what constitutes sin.

If they had any sense, they'd ask that Fay, whatever she becomes, head right toward Washington, D.C. and take out the entire White House, most of the Congress and every damn lobbyist in town! I mean, c'mon, if you want to deal with sin, you've got to go where it all starts!