Saturday, April 19, 2014

Read the Bible. Or not!

Read the Bible goes the mantra.  I've heard it from my youth.  For whatever is wrong in your life, you can find answers and help in the Bible, they said.  Sometimes, in church services, I heard people describe in graphic detail what horrible persons they were and how they changed into being nice persons after reading the Bible. 

Football players and other athletes write Bible verses on their faces, as if such a godly "tattoo" will give them greater skills or soften the blows they must endure or somehow call the ungodly to repentance and faith. 

Religious people, especially Christian fundamentalists, love to quote specific verses or passages to bolster their beliefs or supercharge their endeavors to convert family and friends.  "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," [Philippians 4:13] is a favorite!  "You must be born again," [John 3:16] is another. 

But there is a problem.  Reading the Bible can have often have a negative effect.  A lot of it doesn't make sense.  Much of it is untrue.  There are many stories which deal in sex and violence.  Some passages are just plain depressing.  One might come quickly to the conclusion that the Bible is severely overrated and best be left alone.

Furthermore, for the past 300 years, biblical scholars have probed the Bible's depth; they have mined it's innermost secrets.  They have studied not only the text itself, but the environment out of which it came and the authors who gave it life.  Said scholars have concluded, among other things, that for the most part it is not an historical document.  It is a compendium of modified legends and mythologies which were common in the Ancient Near East.  The major characters and their stories as described in the Hebrew Bible are legendary in character and not to be taken literally.

The creation stories are fiction.  The Noah story is fiction, cobbled together from an old Mesopotamian story.  Abraham and Isaac and Jacob - all fiction.  Joseph and the multi-colored coat and the trip to Egypt and all that ensued:  fiction.  Moses is fiction.  The Exodus is fiction.  The conquest of the land of Canaan - fiction.  King Solomon, fiction.  King David, fiction.

None of that is unexpected nor bad in and of itself.  However, if you take seriously many of Yahweh's commands, you can get mired in a bog of misery.  You would have to stone your children to death if they failed to observe the Sabbath.  You must continue to mutilate the penises of little babies.  You can justify keeping slaves and having multiple wives (the latter if you're a man).

But, how can one continue to believe in a God that is so jealous and so filled with wrath that he counsels the destruction of entire civilizations and such atrocities as murdering one's male enemies, raping their women and smashing their children against rocks?

The story of Abraham's almost sacrifice of his son on the mountain indicates that child sacrifice was not unusual in Israel.  The story explains why child sacrifice is no longer practiced and that Yahweh no longer requires such an atrocity to satisfy his blood lust.

Valerie Talerico, in an article at Alternet, describes in further detail, stories of sex and violence in the Hebrew Bible, all of which might discourage the suggestion that you should "read the Bible."  What follows is her retelling of the tale of Abraham's cousin Lot - a gruesome and disgusting person! 
Lot (Tragedy).  Lot lives in the shadow of his cousin Abraham. Lacking Abraham’s fortitude, he makes his home among the soft, degenerate citizens of Sodom until two angelic visitors set off a chain of events that will change history. When a mob of gang bangers demands that he hand over the guests, Lot finds his courage, upholding his duty as a host and offering the mob his young daughters instead. Pleased with Lot, God intervenes, striking the marauders blind and letting Lot know He will destroy the city.  As Lot’s family flees, Sodom explodes in a cataclysmic eruption of sulfur and stone. Lot’s wife looks back—perhaps a sign of misplaced loyalties—and is turned to a pillar of salt. Lot himself ends up a drunk, living in a cave with the two daughters who take turns having sex him while he is passed out.  But even out of the depths of depravity, hope emerges in the form of grandsons, who, we are told, become the fathers of great nations. (Genesis 19). 

The entire article is here.

Lap Dancers, the CIA, Pay-offs, and BP's Deepwater Horizon

By Greg Palast  |  for Truthdig
Friday, 18. April 2014 

From his investigation for Channel 4 Television in the newly released film, Vultures and Vote Rustlers.
There was CIA involvement through a company called Mega Oil. They were shipping in arms under the cover of oil tools.
The BP executive was explaining to me how the CIA, MI6 and British Petroleum engineered a coup d’état, overthrowing an elected president of a nation who was “not favorable to BP.” The corporation’s former Vice-President, Leslie Abrahams, is pictured here, holding an AK-47 in front of BP headquarters in Baku, Azerbaijan.  Like most of the other BP executives I spoke with, he proudly added that while he was working for BP, he was also an operative for MI6, British intelligence.

The conversation was far from the weirdest I had in my four-continent investigation of the real story of the Deepwater Horizon.
The BP oilrig blew out on April 20, 2010, four years ago this Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Obama Administration officially OK’d BP’s right to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And two weeks ago, just to assure the company that all is forgiven, the U.S. Department of the Interior gave BP a new contract to drill in the Gulf of Mexico––right next to where the Deepwater Horizon went down. At the same time, the forgive-and-forget U.S. Justice Department has put the trial of David Rainey, the only BP big-shot charged with a felony crime in the disaster, on indefinite hold.

The Deepwater Horizon blow-out incinerated eleven men on the rig and poisoned 600 miles of Gulf coastline. What political fairy dust does BP keep in its pocket to receive virtual immunity from the consequences?

To understand what really happened in the Gulf of Mexico, and how BP became a corporate creature beyond the reach of the law, British television network Channel 4 sent me on a four-continent investigation through a labyrinthine funhouse of bribery, lap-dancing, beatings, Wikileaks, a coup d’état, arrests and oil-state terror.

I found the cause of the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon seven thousand miles from the Gulf in the ancient city of Baku, the Central Asian caravan stop on the Silk Road.

For the interview with agent Abrahams and the full story of the Deepwater Horizon, see, Vultures and Vote Rustlers, the documentary which will be available as a download without charge for the next two days courtesy of the not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund.

The literal source of Soviet power until 1991, Baku has been exporting petroleum for 3,000 years. As the Soviet Union shattered into pieces that year, BP set its sights on the city. It is now the capital of the new nation of Azerbaijan, which sits atop the biggest untapped oil field in the world, right beneath the Caspian Sea.

A coup for BP
BP Chairman Lord Browne flew into Baku as soon as the young state elected its first president. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher joined him via the “Iron Lady,” a plane the corporation outfitted especially for her. At a state dinner, Browne handed BP Vice-President Abrahams a briefcase and showed him the contents: a check for $30 million. Browne then gave the check to the president of Azerbaijan.

Still, the new president remained “not favorable” to BP’s demand for control of the Caspian oil, so MI6, the CIA and the corporation went into action. The spy agencies armed and empowered the former Soviet KGB chief Heydar Aliyev, who in 1993 overthrew Azerbaijan’s elected government. Once he became dictator, Aliyev named himself president for life and within four months signed a no-bid deal to give the reserves to BP.

BP and MI6 man Abrahams was instructed, he told me, to “smooth the way” for the deal by taking Azeri officials to London in Lord Browne’s jet for weekends of lap-dancing and other entertainment. By Abraham’s own estimation, he paid over $3 million in additional cash bribes to make certain BP would have no trouble.

I should note that Abrahams broke no law: bribery by a British subject was legal then. BP did not deny the pay-offs when I questioned them directly, and MI6 officers proudly confirmed the coup d’état’s purpose of locking in the offshore deal for BP.

Quick-dry, quick-kill cement
What does this have to do with the blow out of the Deepwater Horizon?

This: It is now well established that the disaster occurred when the cement used to cap the well failed, allowing explosive methane gas to fill the rig and transform it into a sinking fire ball.

But this was not BP’s first cement failure and explosion. Just 17 months earlier, BP’s Caspian Sea Transocean rig suffered exactly the same fate.

The cause of the two blow-outs was identical. In the Caspian as in the Gulf, BP laced its cement with nitrogen gas. The nitrogen bubbles sped up the drying of the mixture, saving BP half a million dollars a day on rig rental charges. But in offshore high-pressure zones, nitrogen-spiked cement can fail. And it did. Twice.

Question: Why in the world was BP allowed to use this insanely dangerous “quick-dry” cement just after a failure in the Caspian? Answer: A cover-up––via threats, beatings, arrests, bribery, perjury and the complicity of the U.S. State Department.

I only learned of the prior blow-out because of a coded message from the Caspian Sea received from one very nervous eye witness. To get the evidence, I flew to Baku and headed across the road-less desert to find more witnesses.

But we had been ratted out. My crew was placed under arrest by Azerbaijan’s secret police. While they demanded our film, I was allowed to keep my pen, which was actually a hidden camera. (I’ve learned a few things from Maxwell Smart.)

How do you keep a monstrous blow-out from going public? As one of the arresting cops told us with odd pride, “BP drives this country.” It drives it with cash. Robert Ebel, former chief of oil analysis for the CIA, estimates that at least $140 million of payments by BP for Azeri oil has gone unaccounted for. Where did it go? Notably, the Aliyev ruling family lives like pashas despite the president’s official salary of $100 a month.

Oil worker advocate Mirvari Gahramanli said she was beaten by police for raising questions. In case I doubted it, she showed me photographs of a dozen cops slamming her with long clubs.

What’s worse, while I was tossed out of the country (it would have looked bad to throw a TV reporter into a dungeon), my witnesses disappeared.

Wikileaks and oily lies
Just five months before the Deepwater Horizon spill, BP Vice-President for Gulf Exploration David Rainey testified before the U.S. Congress that the company had drilled offshore “for the last 50 years in a manner both safe and protective of the environment.”

BP’s testimony was a lie. The Caspian rig blew out a year earlier.

But the lie was good enough for Congress. Based on Rainey’s assurances, legislators pressured the Department of the Interior to drop objections to plans for drilling in the Gulf’s deep waters.

Withholding information from Congress is a felony crime. But Rainey has one heck of a defense: the U.S. State Department was in on the cover-up.

Deep in the pile of confidential State Department cables released by one courageous U.S. soldier, Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, we have the notes from a secret meeting between the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Anna Dearse, and the chief of BP’s Caspian operation.

The hugger-mugger was demanded by BP’s American partners, Chevron and Exxon.  The U.S. oil companies had complained to the State Department that they were no longer getting their piece of the Caspian loot and BP wouldn’t tell them why. (You’ll remember that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a member of Chevron’s board of executives.)

In the memo, which you can see in our film, Vultures and Vote Rustlers, the U.S. Ambassador provides the details of the blow-out of the bad cement on the BP rig.

The State Department kept schtum, not even warning U.S. safety regulators. And Exxon and Chevron’s chiefs joined BP’s Rainey in the mendacious sales pitch to Congress, testifying, despite their knowledge, that their offshore drilling methods were safe as a game of checkers.

Justice is not always abused: David Rainey was indicted for felonious obstruction of Congress. However, the charge centers on a relatively minor falsehood: his alleged understatement of the amount of oil bursting into the Gulf. Neither Rainey nor BP will be tried for the deadlier lie to Congress -- the prior blow-out caused by the penny-pinching quick-dry cement -- because the U.S. government is itself complicit in the cover-up.

Blow-backs and blow-outs
And that’s why we are seeing the red carpet rolled out for BP in the Gulf once more.

When the U.S. government participates in the corruption of other democracies, when it authorizes bribery and ignores police-state tactics to benefit from business deals, the sins of empire can come back to haunt the nation. In the CIA’s world this is called “blow-back.” What was covered up in Baku has killed Americans in the Gulf, and it will likely continue to kill.

And bribery does not simply stay “over there.” American officials are not as different from the Baku bandits as they may like to believe. The agency in charge of regulating BP’s drilling in the Gulf, the U.S. Minerals Mining Service, was rife with watchdogs who, like their Azeri counterparts, took backhanders and pay-outs from BP. And when I say BP was in bed with the regulators, that is not a metaphor: a BP lobbyist was sleeping with a chief of the agency.

Don’t bother sending David Rainey a file in a cake: the BP man won’t get two minutes of jail time. His trial has been suspended indefinitely.

Immunity from law is not new to BP. As I reported two weeks ago, BP was the main culprit in the disaster caused by the Exxon Valdez grounding. The company walked away without paying a dime to the victims. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon, a few tenacious attorneys have ensured the corporation pays some compensation in the Gulf. But that money comes nowhere close to the damage it caused and will do nothing to harm the company’s bottom line.

The oil is still there
Today BP has declared Gulf waters clean, as if Mother Nature were just a toilet you can poop in and flush. But I’ve been to the Gulf shores. Dig down ten inches in the shoals off Gulfport and you’ll hit Deepwater Horizon crude.  Biologist Rick Steiner tells me BP’s poisonous sludge will remain just under the surface for another 40 year. Hidden––just like BP’s crimes.

For the original article and much more of Greg Palast, please click here.

Keystone Progress Daily Funnies .: Mitch McConnell's Equal Pay Solution from Funny or...

Keystone Progress Daily Funnies .: Mitch McConnell's Equal Pay Solution from Funny or...: Mitch McConnell’s Equal Pay Solution with Peter MacNicol from Peter MacNicol   Mitch McConnell offers a solution to eq...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Saviors of the world

Easter is nigh. Pagan mythology lives on in millions of Christian churches around the world!
The above graph was taken from a wonderful article by the Secular School Teacher (which appeared at Daily KOS). You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pathetic, Pompous Politicians and Other Losers

There's something about the south that breeds insanity.  I'm not saying that Bob Marshall, a Virginia Republican running for Congress, is insane, but if not, then he's an idiot and something of a monster.

Karoli, writing at Crooks and Liars, notes that Marshall once expressed the thought as to how "'disabled children'" [were] some kind of bizarre divine punishment.  Now the Washington Times is reporting that Marshall has concluded "...that incest exceptions in abortion bans are unnecessary because sometimes incest is 'voluntary.'"

So, a young girl, raped by a male member of her family should bear the child because, as Marshall suggests, she may have been a willing participant.

What a pathetic creep!

This man is not a creep, but a true statesman.  I'm talking about former Supreme Court Associate Justice, John Paul Stevens.  Stevens has gone on record as saying that the 2nd Amendment does not apply to every individual but only to those serving in the military.  The 2nd Amendment should be changed thusly to more adequately express the beliefs of those who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights:

"A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed."

I can hear the NRA howling already!

Do the pathetic politicians in South Carolina care about the needs of the people - about good health care, good roads, good police and fire protection, safe drugs, safe food to eat, etc.?  Not so much.  They're too busy harassing the populace with their mindless fundamentalist religious crap and ultra-right political nonsense.

Thus, according to ThinkProgress, in what is doubtless an end-run to define life as beginning at the moment of conception, a state Senate committee has "voted to expand the state's so-called 'Stand Your Ground' law to approve the use of deadly force to protect a fetus.  The proposal would grant pregnant women protection from prosecution if they were defending their 'unborn children,' defined as 'the offspring of human beings from birth."

Lord, what a bunch of nut-cases.  I wonder, in the whole rotten history of South Carolina, if there has ever been a pregnant woman who shot someone she feared would harm her unborn child/children?

But I think I'm right in suggesting there are a lot of homeless families and hungry children who have neither shelter, nor food nor health care in South Carolina.  What do the politicos of the state have to say about that?

The governor of Maine, one Paul LePage, gives idiocy a bad name.  The Maine legislature came up with a Medicaid expansion idea which garnered a bipartisan majority.  It was even sponsored by Republicans! 

The law would have provided health care to about 70,000 poor people in Maine.  The feds would cough up the full cost of the first year and then 90% of the cost in following years.

But LePage, who hates Obama with a passion, says he doesn't trust the government so he vetoed the bill. 

Here we go again!  Another goofball Republican woman wants to be president!  As if Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann weren't enough. 

This one hails from the south, though.  Tennessee.  Maybe it's the water.  Her name is Marsha Blackburn and she's a Congresswoman.  God help us!  Marsha, being one of the dimmest bulbs in the Congressional chandelier, claims that women don't want to be paid as much as men for the same work, denies the fact of global warming, and she opposed a domestic violence bill because for some strange reason it protected certain groups. 

Liberaland notes that one of her aides said she's a real leader and if there's a fight, she's first in line and "She's not afraid to go toe to toe with anybody."

Yeah, that's the sign of a really great leader.  Or a brain-damaged one.

Republicans in South Dakota must be drinking the same water as they do in Tennessee.  Senator John Thune, along with other Goofy Old Partisans, is concerned that Obama will tax cow farts.  These fine fustodians sped off a letter to folks in the Obama administration pleading that they not regulate cow farting as part of Obama's plan to fight global warming.

I'll bet a psychiatrist would have a field day listening to what these clowns dream up in their sleep!

Here's another possible GOP candidate for president.  She can see Carmel Valley from her home.  But there's a problem.  She tried to buy a home in Carmel Valley and lost it to another family.  What would you do if that happened?  You would probably go out and look for another home.

Not Kathy Rowe.  She got mad and then decided to get even.  So "she unleashed her fury by impersonating the woman in a sexually-explicit online advertisement that requested stranger men force their way into her house and 'take me while I say no.'"

A criminal complaint was filed.  But I know if Kathy Rowe decides to run as a Republican candidate for president, she'll ask everyone for forgiveness and the GOP establishment will congratulate her on being so forthcoming and ask everyone to vote for her because god loves her and she can build a bridge with government money between herself and her constituents and she can still see Carmel Valley from her home.

Do you remember when we sometimes thought of pro athletes as "heroes" of a sort?  They exemplified strength and determination and fitness and they may have had feet of clay but they were not burrowed deep in muck and mire.

Not so these days.  As I've noted before, professional sports - especially the more violent ones - have an over-abundance of thugs and gangsters. 

Tampa Bay (Florida) has a hockey team.  Don't know why, being in Florida, but they do.  It's called the Tampa Bay Lightning and lots of folks in Tampa are fanatical about them.  The Lightning's left wing, Ryan Moore, was arrested by Tampa police this morning and charged with a DUI.  The cops also found 1.3 grams of cocaine in his pocket. 

No big deal.  Maybe.  But maybe it should be.

Did you hear that ex-president Georgi W. Buski told a dirty joke during a civil rights speech?  Well, it wasn't so much dirty as just plain dumb, which is what one expects from someone who's just plain dumb:  In a speech, he said, wearing that goofy grin, "Former presidents compare their libraries the way other men may compare their, well..."

Ha, ha, ha.  The thing is, Bushki is the dirty joke.  And it was on us!

If you want to become a Christian prophet or prophetess and make buckets full of money from unsuspecting and ignorant rubes, here's what you do.  First off you get yourself on Teevee and hold an old worn Bible open to any place you want (nobody will ever see that page anyway) and then you warn the good folks in America (especially those in the heartland and the south and in the poor areas) that the country's in terrible danger because somebody or some group is going to attack us at some point in the future.

Now, you give this crap credibility by claiming that you "felt" or "heard" this message from the "Lord."  You can be referring to Jesus, or God or a British Lord, the Lord of the manor, the Lord at Ford, because the folks at home won't know the difference. 

A good example of this kind of idiocy comes from Cindy Jacobs who travels around the world and prophesies to "tens of thousands," including some world leaders.  Yikes!  Jacobs is a fruitcake who believes, according to Charisma magazine, she has the job of "reforming the nations of the world back to a biblical worldview."  Since when did the nations of the world ever have a "biblical worldview"?

Prophetess Jacobs says that a few months ago she "began to feel a great unease again about the safety of America.  When she prayed, she claims she "felt the Lord warning me that there were attacks being planned on America in attempts to strike terror in the heart of the nation." 

Well, she "felt" lots of other stuff, too, but this is pretty safe "prophesy." 

The kicker though is that she also "heard the Lord give "warning and admonition."  Of course she did or he did or they did.  Just beware, says Jacobs, for there are lots of "hidden" things to be uncovered.

Cindy lives a good life.  Makes lots of money.  Has a nice family.  And the Lord talks to her in various ways much of the time.  So she can "prophesy," or foretell the future.

It's the same old snake oil in a new bottle.

In Poland, a decidedly Roman Catholic country, a judge has issued a ruling which would allow The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to register as an official religion in that country.

The FSM church's website is here.  Check it out.  It's essentially a way to mock other religions and does that rather successfully.

Furthermore, considering the godawful doctrines of Roman Catholicism, the FSM is like a breath of fresh air.

If you have been fortunate enough not to live in the state of Louisiana, thank your lucky stars!  Their public schools have been infiltrated by right-wing Christianist teachings, the state is in dire financial straits; their governor is a Roman Catholic wingnut who has performed an exorcism; and now, a committee in the state House has approved legislation which would make the Bible the official state book.

The bill's sponsor, a dolt by name of Thomas Carmody, says this does not establish an official state religion, it just reflects the views of the founding fathers.  Like hell it does.  Here we have another dumbass elected official who does not understand reality and truth has no meaning for him nor does history for he thinks that whatever he believes is the truth.

I think dumbass Carmody needs to specify which Bible will become the official state book. There are hundreds of versions, hundreds of translations.  Will he make insist on the horrendously inaccurate King James version?  How about the Douay version?  Is he wanting the Jewish Bible?  Will he include the books the Protestants eliminated?  And what language would be used?  The original Jewish bible was in Hebrew (although there is also a Greek version - the Septuagint) and the New Testament was in Greek.  English just doesn't work very well if you really want to understand the text. 

The state of Louisiana has a ton of needs.  It sure as hell doesn't need an official state book and it sure as hell doesn't need the bible to be that book!  And Mr. Carmody needs a refresher course on the U.S. Constitution, for his proposed bill is a frontal attack on the Constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state.

You may not have heard of Rick Wiles.  I had not until I read an article in Daily Kos.  Wiles is a right-wing lunatic who has a radio show and has claimed "that expanded rights for gays prompted North Korea to threaten nuclear war, [and] that Columbine and Sandy Hook were carried out by 'mind control assassins' ..."

A couple of days ago his lunacy took a few steps further south.  He actually called for President Obama to be removed from office by a military coup:

"I warned in 2008," said Wiles, "that Barack Obama's mission is to instigate a second Civil War in America.  His regime is deliberately ripping the country apart and if the US Military doesn't take action soon to arrest Barack Obama and remove him and his regime from the White House, there will be no country left for the military to defend.  We are on the edge of collapse as a nation.  Jesus Christ is America's only hope.  Let us pray that Almighty God delivers us from this very real tyranny that seeks to persecute the saints of God."

The president is a Christian.  He has no "regime."  He does not persecute Christians but, in fact, and to my dismay has continued the Bush program of providing government funds to religious groups for their secular humanitarian duties.  Why would God want to "deliver" anyone from such an upstanding Christian man?  Furthermore, if the situation is so dire, then god, the omniscient, omnipotent one, would have no problem exercising his/her knowledge and power to rid the country of Obama and his regime. 

Or maybe this god thinks Wiles is a crazy fanatic who is best ignored?

And last but not least, Mike Huckabee again.  Huckabee wants to be president and thinks that if he disses the president at every opportunity his chances to attain the Oval Office will improve.  Now, if Huckabee should become president then we'll need to pray for deliverance.  The man lies as a matter of course, and has not a moral or ethical bone in his body.

The other day, Mr. Huckabe, in a speech, reflected on his experiences flying our airlines and mentioned how he is poked and prodded and investigated by the TSA and that has brought him to the point where he thinks there is more freedom in North Korea than in the U.S.

Perhaps we should start a letter-writing campaign suggesting that Huckabee find a North Korean airline, get a one-way ticket and head directly to Pyongyang where I'm sure he'll live happily ever after, free as a bird!

What a pathetic, pompous loser!